There’s No Such Thing as a Walk of Shame

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Remember when Tina Fey (via Mean Girls) told girls everywhere to stop slut-shaming each other? That was the first time I’d ever encountered the idea of slut-shaming, and it really resonated with me. But, for some reason, other people did not take to Fey’s message as much as I did. Slut-shaming is still widely accepted by some people, making women feel bad for their sexual exploits and giving men the opportunity to do the same. And, frankly, that’s bullshit.

How many of you have seen a woman walk down the street on a Saturday or Sunday morning, wearing a tight dress and heels, and pompously thought, ‘walk of shame’? Probably a lot of you. It’s almost a reflex. But, how many times have you thought the same thing when you saw a man walking down the street early on a Sunday morning wearing whatever stereotypical thing men wear to bars? (What do guys even wear out anyway? Collared shirts and too much Axe cologne?) You’ve probably never thought ‘walk of shame’ seeing him, have you?

For some reason, men and women are perceived very differently when it comes to sex in general, but especially when it comes to one night stands. Men are considered players or hot shots for it. Someone, upon seeing aforementioned man walking down the street, might nudge their friend and say, “Ya think that guy scored last night?” And it’s totally no big deal! Women, however, are seen as sluts, whores, and dirty scum who were probably too drunk or too naive to know better. It’s time to stop thinking that. Just stop! Seriously.

What is so shameful about leaving another person’s house in the morning? You don’t know what the person did. Maybe she had sex, but maybe she didn’t. Maybe she fell asleep on her friend’s couch after a super intense rom-com marathon instead of that rumpus party you think she attended. Not that it matters either way, because PSA: women are not asexual. In fact, they have sexual desires just like men. And aside from the fact that they’ve been told to be dainty and innocent since before they hit puberty, a lot of women actually enjoy having sex. Ideally both of the people involved in any situation where you might have thought, ‘walk of shame’ have just had a lovely night of consensual sex. They’re probably feeling pretty good about themselves, too. Why, then, should your judgemental stares and hushed words make them feel bad? Looking at a woman in that situation and calling her walk home shameful is a disservice to women everywhere, and unfortunately, it’s often women who are the guilty of this offense.

There are so many stories of girls who have been made to feel bad by other girls after an evening out that it’s hard to choose just one, but a particularly disturbing story was told to me by one of my good friends. She told me she had gone to her friend’s house across campus to study, but it got so late that she was afraid to walk home alone and the buses had stopped running. Like most girls would do in this situation, she decided to stay the night. Within the first five minutes walking home, though, she encountered a group of girls who stared at her and loudly whispered pointed things about what she must’ve done the night before. My friend had spent the whole night studying, but she spent the whole morning blushing in front of strangers and feeling uncomfortable about staying at her friend’s. She said every girl she passed made her feel dirty, judged, and almost as vulnerable as if she had walked home in the middle of the night.

The term “walk of shame” makes women embarrassed by their sexuality, even when their sexuality isn’t directly on display. It’s inherently negative and sexist, and it implies that a woman’s act of sexuality is something to be ashamed of. For so long women have been told to uphold some high standard of asexuality and innocence when it comes to sex. They are taught to hide their sexuality at all costs, but if you hide it too well, or are uncomfortable at the mention of sexual acts, a woman is considered prudish or boring. However, if she is overly sexual or scantily clad as decided by other people, she is considered whorish. Somehow, women are expected to find the perfect balance in their physicality so no one sees them as too sexual or too chaste, but men are almost never held up to the same standards.

So, when you see a woman walking home after a night on the town, don’t shame her. Remember Tina Fey’s words and consider the fact that if we continue to call out a woman when we think she is displaying an act of sexuality, we are only perpetuating the cycle of oppression feminists have been trying to claw their way out of since the first waves of feminism began, and we are only hurting ourselves. Walk on women, but don’t be ashamed. 


Hannah Levine

University of Michigan, Class of 2016

B.A. Creative Writing and Literature

Digital Studies Minor

What I Learned in Beekeeping School is…

The honeybee [read: feminist] is not only productive*, but is a symbol of cooperation, thrift, diligence, forethought, and healing. It stings only for defense purposes. (Avery, 2011)

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I’m a feminist and a beekeeper.  Currently, those are two of the most influential perspectives through which I live.  I’ve been thinking a lot about the overlap between these two lenses of my life, and I would like to share some of my insights and how I have come to understand their interactions. Sometimes it is easy for me to understand how they go together; other times, I struggle with how deeply they can conflict.  

A pronounced example of conflict between these two is the lack of female beekeepers. I am a fortunate, young lady beekeeper as I have, in my short career, been able to interact with some really incredible female beekeepers. Even the older male beekeepers that have mentored me are, in general, of a more feminist persuasion, for which I am grateful. And I assure you, the beekeeping community is transitioning from a bunch of bearded, old white men towards a younger feminist crowd. Now I’m about to say something you might be shocked to find in feminist literature. We need these bearded, old white men.  They have a lot of valuable information and experience with bees that is helpful for our basic understanding. However, they (and we) need our feminism to reveal the biases and untruths that are embedded in the patriarchal beekeeping handbooks, but also, more importantly, to discover how to make beekeeping more feminist.

The diversity of the current beekeeping community is highly nuanced and can be difficult to work with at times, but the ultimate goal of bridging the age and gender gaps between beekeepers to form a stronger apiculture community inspires me. I think the most confusing or frustrating aspect of the patriarchal, hierarchal beekeeping society is comparing it to the matriarchal, non-hierarchical bee hive with which beekeeping is concerned.

So, let’s talk about the matriarchy.

Widely, the queen bee is mistakenly believed to be the ruler of a hive of honeybees. While it is true that the other bees attend to the needs of the queen, she does not command the colony. The queen bee has a longer body that contains her eggs; she simply goes about her day laying thousands of eggs. An important and exhausting act, to be sure.  Besides the queen bee, there are worker bees, all of which are female. There is a small group of worker bees that support the queen in her egg-laying endeavors (I like to think of them as her midwives and doulas). Worker bees care for everything and everyone in the hive: nursing the young, foraging, building honeycomb, giving their lives (stingin’) to defend the colony, the list goes on.  It is the collective voice of these lil’ ladies that makes the decisions.  Both bees and feminism are founded in cooperation and to some degree so is (and hopefully even more so in the future) beekeeping.

There is a third type of bee that belongs to honeybee hives: the males. These are referred to as drones, are particularly large and fuzzy, and lack a stinger. They serve the one-time role of fertilizing the thousands of eggs a queen bee will lay in her lifetime.  In preparation for winter and the constrained resources that come with the season, the female worker bees kick the male drones out of the hive. I struggle with this aspect of hive organization because at first glance that seems to totally go against the idea of gender equality. Upon further contemplation, I realize the drones are not thrown out in preparation for winter simply because they are male, but rather because they don’t contribute anything other than the genetics embedded in their sperm.  Fertilization of a queen generally occurs in the early Spring, and the drones get to hang around consuming honey for six months until Autumn.  This all comes down to the principle of reciprocity found in the natural world. By not contributing to the collective good, the drones are unequal from the worker bees. But can they help this? Is nature beyond the scope of feminism?

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*The only thing I don’t like about this quote is the “hidden” capitalist message of a critter’s worth being based on their productivity. But that’s for another post.

Resources:

Avery, G.C. & Bergsteiner, H. 2011. Sustainable Leadership: Honeybee and Locust Approaches. Routledge: New York.


Tay-Tay Landeryou

Layout Editor, What the F Magazine

The Food Thing: on socially acceptable disordered eating, OR what I have in common with Mila Kunis

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Mila Kunis in Black Swan (via Daily Mail)

After about 5 years, I am finally beginning to own my experience with disordered eating. I choose the term “disordered eating” deliberately, as I was never diagnosed with or received treatment for any kind of eating disorder. But disordered eating – or a generalized “Food Thing” – was the/a major way that my depression manifested itself when I was 15 and 16-years-old, and while I’ve always been honest with myself about the difficulty of those years, I have always chosen – consciously, and then subconsciously – to gloss over the Food Thing.  Recently, I have started to interrogate why.

Here is a fact: between the beginning of my sophomore year of high school and the end, my weight fell from 145 pounds to 117. Instead of saying “I lost 28 lbs,” I wanted to list my actual weights, for two reasons: 1) these numbers, high and low, are burned into my brain forever, still, in some ways, representing a bad/good binary, and 2) to explain why it was so easy to convince myself I didn’t have a Food Thing.

All of this was happening in 2010, in the wake of the movie Black Swan, where much was being made in magazines of Natalie Portman and Mila Kunis whittling their bodies down to play hardcore ballerinas. I remember one specific article including the specific numbers: “To prepare for the role, Kunis went on a strict diet and exercise program and was down to 97 lbs from her normal weight of 117.” Mila Kunis is 5’3”.  The message I took from this article, intentional or unintentional, was this: 117 lbs, on a 5’3” frame, is normal and desirable. My ribs were not showing when I was 117. I still had muscle on my thighs. Most people – the people that noticed the change – told me I looked great. The only problem was that 117 was not normal for me.

The way that I had felt about my body for literally as long as I could remember – that it was too big, too slow, too lumpy, too whatever – was affirmed for me when I learned how much Mila Kunis weighed. Nobody had ever told me I was overweight before (probably because I wasn’t), but when my friends or family told me that I was beautiful the way I was, I thought they were just afraid to hurt my feelings or out of touch with reality. So I stopped asking. Instead, I sought out the answer I was seeking – that my body was abnormal, a problem – and held it as The Truth. Naturally, when I eventually hit 117, I was still not Mila Kunis. I was not happy. And I was hungry.

It is difficult for me now to recall these thought processes, because I still can’t see them as fully unreasonable. Even now, on bad days, I will occasionally think to myself that I would be happier in general if I were thinner. The first time I ever mentioned that I was “something like bulimic,” years after the fact, I felt like a liar. I am unable to remember a time in my life when I wasn’t dieting or thinking I should diet; so even now, it is hard not to see this period of my life as just another diet – and a successful one, at that. I have had trouble, for so long, admitting that disordered eating was a part of my experience, because at the time, and in ensuing years of therapy, it was a problem that I didn’t want to solve. I saw it as a useful skill I developed in the midst of bad times, a silver lining (other times in my life, horribly, I’ve silently wished for food poisoning, for a tapeworm).

I had to work backward in order to claim my Food Thing. For example, I had to recognize that I find it incredibly stressful when I hear other women talk about diets, even in coded language like “clean eating.” There is a sign in my barre studio that reads EARN YOUR BODY, and I realized that I couldn’t think about this phrase without disassociating: this, my actual body, is not mine. My body, my real one, exists in the golden future, with my dream job, etc., and if I mess up, I will not earn it.

This is a strange time for those of us with Food Things. The body positivity movement exists in harmony with Instagram fitness stars. It can make a kind of feminist self-confidence feel like something else I’ll “earn” when I have abs/visible clavicles/the trendy body part du jour. Furthermore, without the ability to call my experience a clear-cut eating disorder, I have trouble rationalizing my extreme reactions to what is commonplace (even if it shouldn’t be), e.g. conversations between friends about green juice recipes and shedding excess fat for spring break.

I recently confessed to my roommate that lately, because everyone around me seems to be on a diet, I was starting to feel the old anxieties stir. This conversation happened at a coffee shop, and at one point I got up to refill my water bottle. In the time it took me to walk to the sink, I overheard one girl saying “I am going to get so fucking fit this summer,” and another, at a different table, saying “I tried to make steak and mashed potatoes, which I know isn’t the healthiest…” They were, separately, fairly innocuous statements. Ten feet apart over a period of six seconds, though, they made my stomach turn.  

Our means of thinking about disordered eating are limited because our understanding of what a person with an eating disorder looks and acts like is limited. Our definition of body positivity is inconsistent. The messages we get from the media are contradictory and confusing, maybe now more than ever. Though I began to regain my regular eating habits as I went through therapy for the other stuff, and haven’t weighed myself in years, my messed up attitude about food is one of the only aspects of that time that stubbornly remains. How do you recover from something the world praises you for having? And if you don’t look sick, and you don’t feel sick, are you?

Right now, it feels empowering to me to even acknowledge that my Food Thing was a problem. To stop feeling like I didn’t “deserve” to see it that way. To realize that if I don’t see it as a problem, then I have to see it as my life.
And that is something I will never do again.


Hannah Engler

Editor-in-Chief, What the F Magazine

Watching the Detectives: On TV’s Finest and “Girl Crushes”

I’m not sure when I first noticed a very specific common thread in many of my favorite movies and TV shows. I think it was Scully – dear, rational Scully – who triggered my self-actualization. She would be proud of the scientific solidity with which I can now say: I fall in love with lady detectives.
There’s just something about Olivia Benson (Law & Order: SVU) wrenching herself toward justice despite her emotional involvement with a case, about Clarice Starling (The Silence of the Lambs) turning corners in basements and minds with self-assured precision, about Dana Scully (The X-Files) honoring friendship, wide-leg pantsuits, and the truth with unwavering reliability, that draws my eyes and heart in a way nothing else can.

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Olivia Benson (Mariska Hargitay) on Law and Order: SVU

I have thought about this pull at length and have decided the reason for my endless capacity to watch, talk about, and search out GIFs of these characters is the same reason there are so ridiculously many detective shows and movies in the first place. The crime movie and the monster of the week offer dramatic catharsis, but they also give us some highly satisfying role models. In almost all cases, our detective protagonists are unusually competent: by-the-book (or not) investigation skills, physical strength, and knowledge of the type of arcane classical references that serial killers apparently love — all rolled into one neat package!

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Clarice Starling (Jodie Foster) in Silence of the Lambs

This competence is (usually) just as prevalent in female as in male detectives, sometimes even more so thanks to the TV-enhanced womanly powers of intuition and wiles. This means that my lady detectives offer something that far too few female characters do: skill and career commitment combined with beauty and drama.

Maybe I focus too much on the beauty and the drama. Certainly Olivia, Clarice, and Scully are all pretty in a certain white, TV way. There are too few lady detectives of color, and I, I admit, have not sought them out as much as I could. I also feel traitorous for responding positively to the many ways that Hollywood puts even its most competent women in display cases. Every moment I spend dwelling on regal noses rather than substance, murder, and intrigue is a little victory for the patriarchy. Yet these moments are a part of my ongoing detective-watching ritual (I am still only halfway through The X-Files, so please do not tell me anything) that I would struggle to dispense with. Maybe in part because of the scarcity of these role models, I relate to my beloved lady detectives in a very personal way.

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Dana Scully (Gillian Anderson) in The X-Files

What I have described as love for these characters is often referred to as a “girl crush.” I am not a fan of the term. The “girl” qualifier makes female-on-fictional-female infatuation seem smaller and more trifling than other types. As with “man-crush,” there is also a certain, delicate homophobia involved with making sure everyone knows you don’t have, like, a real crush on a member of the same gender.

I do not have a “girl crush” on Olivia, Clarice, or Scully. For one thing, none of us are “girls.” They are savants, experts in their fields, servants of justice. I am a woman on her way to emulate them, at least in the sense that I will someday be able to tell people “I’m a medical doctor” before swooping in to provide my unfailing knowledge, possibly while wearing a pastel blazer and a brooch. I should note that I use “lady detective” jokingly (which only I am allowed to do) – attaching qualifiers to these fictional women’s occupations is just as condescending as “girl crushing.”

The fact remains that my relationship to these characters is more than a crush. Olivia, Clarice, and Scully are media role models of a type we do not see often enough. They are strong, competent, and ingenious. I want them to take me into their homes and lives and consult me as an expert on their cases and go out for sushi with me. But I also want to be them.
What is the proper name for this? I wish I knew.


Molly Munsell 

Community Outreach Chair, What the F Magazine

 

Your Dog is Racist

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“Your dog is racist,” two of my oldest friends told me this past winter break.

“No way. How can a dog be racist? It’s impossible,” I replied defensively.

But I was left questioning: could it be true? Could my dog be racist?

My mother got a new dog my sophomore year of college. Luna, an Australian Shepard – Border Collie mix, was a handful and in stark contrast to my childhood dog who preferred to lay on the couch while we watched TV. Luna barked, jumped, and seemed to have a mind of her own. That’s why when Charlie, my best friend’s black boyfriend, came over, everyone was put on edge by Luna’s erratic behavior. She barked furiously, glared her teeth, and would not leave him alone. Luna barely noticed the other white people in the room, and her actions have never been as severe towards white strangers she’s met.

My friends think of the incident as hilarious and humorous. They love laughing at Luna the Racist Dog. I don’t believe Luna is racist. A dog doesn’t hold the human capacity to discriminate on a social construct, such as race. That does not mean I’m proud of her behavior or the way my friends and I reacted. My dog’s ‘racism’, or projected racism, reflects our own discomfort with race. Because while I have known Charlie for years, I am still aware of his blackness.

Charlie reacted calmly to the whole incident. He attempted to give Luna a treat to calm her down. After a while, we situated ourselves downstairs, with Luna incessantly barking from behind a closed door. My friends and I laughed uncomfortably for a second and then proceeded with our retro-high-school hang out. It was then that I realized I’ve never seen things from Charlie’s point of view. Charlie has been in my life for years–he has come to homecoming parties, household hangouts and baseballs games–all where he was the only black face in the crowd.

I knew all these things objectively, but I never stopped for a second to understand what it meant. As a St. Louis native, 15 minutes down the road from Ferguson, I try too hard to deny my racism. In doing that, I also erase my ability to recognize the disparate effects of one’s race. I have no problem recognizing my white privilege but am uncomfortable dwelling on other’s lack thereof. There is a Broad City quote my friends and I often say to each other in regards to this:

“Do you know that you’re so anti-racist sometimes that you’re actually really racist?”

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Now, I would never want to step on the creative genius toes of Broad City, but I feel this describes my issue. I think I’m often too aware of meta-race theory, systemic racial issues, and patriarchal oppression that I fail to see race in real life. I get caught up trying to process feminist theory, I neglect to put it into practice.

I take note when a person of color walks in a room. I censor what I say to my ‘black’ friends and sink into my predominantly white world. Race makes me uncomfortable, and I am afraid of my racism. If human beings reacted like animals, I would have probably barked at Charlie as well. While I do wish I could stop Luna from barking, the problem wasn’t acknowledging race; the problem was how uncomfortable I was with my own discomfort. I don’t want to laugh at this, and toss it aside. I need to work on my issues with race, not in the classroom hiding behind specifically pulled quotes and politically correct language, but in real life with real actions. I’m uncomfortable with race my own and others, and it’s beyond time I start dealing with it.
Race is inevitable, and it’s beyond time that white people started dealing with it.


Becca Langsam

What the F Campus Coordinator

“I Know How to Run Without You Holding my Hand”: ‘Star Wars VII’ Destroys the Galactic Patriarchy

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Rey (Daisy Ridley) in Star Wars: The Force Awakens.

A long time in the future, in a galaxy far far away, casting a woman as the lead in an action film won’t be abnormal – and hopefully that future is right around the corner. Although complete gender equality will take a few more light years, there are times when sparks of hope flash before my eyes. This time, I found hope in Star Wars: The Force Awakens. Released in December of 2015, Episode VII of the phenomena challenged many people’s conception of female leads.

Fifteen light years ago, when all movies were still on VCR, I became infatuated with the first Star Wars trilogy. I loved being transported to the Death Star, Alderaan, and Naboo. I’m not alone with my love for this fictional galaxy. It’s been more than 30 years since Star Wars first blew up the box offices, but the cultural impact that George Lucas’s films had on society have been everlasting. Star Wars has a legacy unlike any other. The loyal fan base for Star Wars is galactically nerdy. When the second movie of the first trilogy (The Empire Strikes Back) was released in 1980, the worldwide box office reigned in $534,058,751 over opening weekend. Some may think that the first generation of Star Wars-lovers have passed, or don’t care enough about yet another sci-fi movie – but they’re wrong. The fans are as alive as ever. As proof: over the opening weekend for The Force Awakens the worldwide box office made $1,975,103,162.

I had a problem relating to the first trilogy back when I was five-years-old, because there were no female protagonists – only sidekicks and love interests. I wanted so badly to be Luke Skywalker, but it just didn’t seem to fit with who I was. I didn’t want to be like Leia – although she did have some moments of action, she was always an afterthought. I didn’t want to be like Padme and lose all my power once romantically involved with a man. Padme started out in Episode I demanding and receiving respect from Anakin (more famously known as Darth Vader) but by the end of Episode III she was beckoning to his every call, like many other supporting actresses do in action films to this day.  The past women of Star Wars have lacked authority and leadership because they were marginalized and objectified. I clearly remember wishing that there were stronger and more relatable females in Star Wars – but I had to wait until 2015 for this wish to come true.

Rey, the protagonist of The Force Awakens, has changed the game for girls around the world, and I’m ecstatic to know that there are little girls out in the world who are being exposed to Star Wars for the first time with Rey as the main character.

Rey is incredible. She follows the same lonely orphan, badass pilot storyline as Luke did. Director JJ Abrams did an unbelievable job in making Rey’s role seem natural and normal. There are many movies and television shows that have female leads, but when I watch them I feel like the producers and directors forced the woman to be in charge. Rey demonstrated that she has the right to be the leader. Throughout the movie she shows this by never doubting herself, never giving up, and being independently strong. Many female leads are also scripted to have a moment of weakness through their journeys, but Rey never batted an eye to being anything but the best. She’s also better than the male sidekicks – her power is driven by merit. She’s the best fighter, the best pilot, and the best natural leader.

However, it’s not just Rey who makes The Force Awakens a worldwide feminist phenomenon. The other female characters make this movie even more inclusive and emphasize the normalcy of women in powerful roles. Princess Leia is back in full force in The Force Awakens, as a strong and badass general. Not only is her character strong and independent, but so is the actress who portrays her–Carrie Fisher. When faced with backlash online that Leia hadn’t “aged well,” Fisher wasted no time in defending herself and women everywhere.  

Another female character, Maz Kanta, the ancient  alien that awakens the force in Rey, is another great female character that takes on new role as a sort of Yoda — a character who symbolizes power and wisdom. The beautiful and Oscar winning actress, Lupita Nyongo, plays Maz Kanta – and although I wish she could’ve been a human Jedi to create an even more diverse cast, having a female play the new Yoda is a great step in depicting women in cinematography.

Lastly, Gwendoline Christie, who you’ll know from her role as Brienne of Tarth in Game of Thrones, portrayed Captain Phasma,the head storm trooper on the new Death Star. And even though she is on the Dark Side, I was still rooting for her.

I can’t speak for everyone, but I am sick of princess, “damsel-in-distress” tales, nor am I interested in rigid gender roles. Instead, I’m interested in Jedi fighter pilots. I’m interested in female superhero roles, female survivors, and female warriors. Rey is believable but isn’t trendy – she’s genuine, and the fact that JJ Abrams saw that the actress Daisy Ridley was capable of carrying the most beloved space opera odyssey on her back means a lot. They saw, in today’s society, a demand for female film heroes.

Rey’s famous line, “I know how to run without you holding my hand” speaks to so much more than her male sidekick Finn. It speaks to the whole Disney universe that Star Wars now occupies – let the women rule the world too.


Dana Nathanson