Disney is Still Killing Feminism

“I can’t even watch television any more!” Kayleigh complained a couple weeks ago as we hung around on the couch during a rare bit of down time. “Everything I see just frustrates me!”

Women’s studies, we decided, was ruining our lives. Everything from tampon commercials to made-for-TV movies and Disney Channel reruns made our inner feminists cringe. Female actresses were complaining about petty and stereotypical situations, while fitting into the miniscule clothing laid out for women on the small screen and giving into the needs of boyfriends and male bosses.

We discussed the ways our women’s studies classes were polluting our minds, making it impossible to accept things at face value, turning us into what others may perceive as argumentative and bitter feminists, a stereotype we try hard to disprove. For Kayleigh, she was often made to feel guilty for her long-term relationship with her boyfriend, Jeff, who does not openly embrace feminist ideology. For me, I was made to feel guilt about putting on makeup and styling my hair in the morning.

There was only one solution: we ordered pizza and “bitched” — a term that clearly oppresses women, by the way — about the ways society portrays women while watching television and scrunching our faces in disgust as we saw pharmaceutical and dating ads that proceeded to push women into a socially constructed box.

It was not a good night.

Then tonight while I was getting my things together to come home for Thanksgiving, I sat down on the couch where Kayleigh was watching “Sister, Sister,” one of my favorite TV shows from my youth. “Of course they have to have the long-term boyfriends,” Kayleigh said.

And all of a sudden it was back in my mind. I began to pick apart the rest of the episode. The girls were called frivolous, and accused of only loving to shop and talk on the phone. There were two “cat fights” in the episode, and one of the twins ended the episode by skipping out on work to be with her boyfriend for the evening. It mattered more, she said.
I expressed my frustration to Kayleigh, who was watching silently on the next couch over. “Well, what’s the big deal about that one? It doesn’t always have to be career first, Maggie,” she said.

And she’s right. It doesn’t always have to be career first, but is this teaching young girls about the ways to responsibly juggle being in a relationship and being successful in the business field? No.

But when I relayed this thought to Kayleigh, she replied, “Tia and Tamera are actually really empowered women.”
This is true, too. I always thought of them as pretty independent young women, and I looked up to them as role models when I was younger. But this might be why it’s so problematic. If the “empowered” television characters are exhibiting these kinds of weaknesses to be seen by young adolescent girls, then what are these viewers going to think?

My guess is that they’re going to think you have to choose your battles. You can’t have your cake and eat it too, right? Well, I disagree with this. Granted this television show is more than a decade old now, and some advancements have been made in the genre, but I would love, love, love to see a likeable — hell, lovable — young feminist character that young women can look up to and admire.


Top Ten Reasons To Go Home For Thanksgiving

10.) To be quite honest, the last time you did laundry was the last time you were home — and that was in September. You can only go out and buy new underwear so many times in a semester without feeling like you’re wasting money. It’s time to finally bundle up your 50-plus pounds of dirty clothes, haul it home, and smell like the Snuggles Bear again.

9.) Turkey sounds really good right about now. Especially since there is no chance of it being served with blue-box macaroni and cheese or pepperoni pizza, the only two pieces of sustenance that have entered your mouth in the past two weeks…. Besides Diet Mountain Dew of course.

8.) You can actually get in your car to drive home for Thanksgiving. It’s been so long since you and your little four-wheel lady got to spend quality time together. At school, you’re always walking to class and you feel as though you haven’t given her the attention she deserves.

7.) You have a couple new “that’s what she said” jokes you can’t wait to test out on your dad, who truly appreciates these little zings — maybe even more than you.

6.) You have a feeling your parents’ new dog/cat/chameleon (whatever kind of pet they recently purchased in your absence) might be getting a bit too comfortable as an only child. You hear rumors that it sleeps in your bed, sits beneath your chair at the dinner table, and even responds to your name. It’s time you go home and set this step-child straight. You are in control here, and no four-legged critter is going to steal your spot in the family tree.

5.) Your liver has been working on overdrive for the last … um, well about 12 weeks now, and you have a feeling it could get some much-needed vacation at home. That is until Aunt Ellie shows up at the dinner table with a jug of hard apple cider and too many childhood stories to tell.

4.) It’s a reason to turn the heat in your apartment down to approximately 42 degrees for five days, so you can save on the bill for the month. Not to mention the fact that you can enjoy the heat of your real home at your parents’ expense. Turn the heat up to 75? Sounds like a great idea to me.

3.) As long as your sitting in your parent’s living room it’s completely possible to forget about the fact that you have 27 pages worth of papers due the next Monday, two tests on Tuesday, a creative project due by noon on Thursday, and approximately 12 hours worth of paperwork to accomplish during the following week.

2.) Your sister just bought the complete series of Sex And The City on DVD and is offering a bowl of popcorn if you share the love with her.

1.) You’ll probably get a free tank of gas from your parents, a twenty shoved in your jacket pocket from Grandpa, enough pie for a week, and one too many cheek pinches… Yup, there’s nothing like going home for the holidays.

Relative Nerdism

scenes0073.jpgOne of the biggest challenges I found when I began college was that, for the first time, I was going to have to make new friends. It was hard to decide which type of friends I was going to associate myself with. Having come from a small, rural community, I grew up attending a school where everyone knew each other. We shared more similarities than differences, and though we didn’t form one cohesive clique, we understood each other enough to at least appreciate one another.

Then I came to Syracuse. While to most it’s no metropolis, I felt as though I had just moved to Manhattan — residence halls with 20 floors, multiple dining halls, and an undergraduate population more than four times the size of my town. I was in a bit over my head. I had too many options to know what to do with. I could be in the dance club, the school newspaper, the a cappella choir — I could do anything I wanted.

I got to create my own identity.

So I went about carving my niche in a way I never would have expected. I got very involved in the honors community. While I had been one of the token honors students in high school, it was never the part of my identity that I would use to define myself. In high school I was an athlete — the captain of my volleyball and cheerleading squads. At Syracuse I would soon rise to be the head of the student honors community.

And after accepting this as my fate, I also accepted my nerddom. After all, I am a giant dork, something I have come to enjoy about myself. I spend too much time at the library, stay up late at night talking about feminism and human rights, and take great pleasure in hyphenating compound modifiers. I found my niche in the honors program, finding the place on campus where I fit in the best.

Me and the Honors Faculty… BFFWhen I’m in the confines of 304 Bowne Hall, I feel as though nothing can hurt me. I walk into the Honors Suite where literally the entire staff actually knows my name, offers me food, and greets me with a smile and a hug. But when I’m in other circles, I sometimes feel as though I am on the margin, searching desperately for the center.

I’m too nerdy for some of my friends. They’ll playfully joke about my overwhelming love of Jane Austen, the fact that I write books in my spare time, or even the fact that I thoroughly enjoy blogging. I’m the token smart girl in some settings. I get it at my sorority, I got it in my residence hall when I was an RA, and I even get it at work. I’m just a bit too dorky for the people who aren’t within my honors family.

Then this weekend I went to Denver, a city I have fallen in love with over the last three days. I’m here for the National Collegiate Honors Council’s national conference. I’m not going to beat around the nerdy bush — I’m here representing Syracuse University, and made a presentation to honors councils from other universities across the country.

I noticed when talking to some of the people I’ve met here — great people — that when I get surrounded by too many honors students, I start to feel as though I’m just not smart enough to be involved in the group. These students represent massive universities, have triple majors in scientific fields, write theses about literature I haven’t even heard of, and discover genetic abnormalities in microscopic organisms. What am I doing for my honors thesis? I’m writing a memoir. It’s less than earth shattering.

I don’t understand how I can be too nerdy for some people and not nerdy enough for others. But at the same time, it makes perfect sense. We live in a world of polarity, where dichotomies reign supreme. You are either the super-genius or the village idiot. It shows up in this sense, as well as others.Goofing Off in Denver

Life isn’t about dichotomies, though. Life is a continuous spectrum. Nerdiness, race, gender, sexual orientation, intelligence, beauty ⎯ all the ways people define themselves, can be seen, and should be seen, as a fluid stream, varying in intensity from one end to the other, not a rigid and constricted duality.

If we were able to turn this world into a place where we accepted all qualities of life to be part of a spectrum, there would be less identity crises, less Keeping Up With The Joneses, and less college freshmen freaking out about trying to fall into a “perfect-fit” college situation. No one is the same all the time, we live in a world with no absolutes, so why are we fooling ourselves?

Yea, I’m a nerd. I’ll admit it, but that’s not my full-time job, and when I’m in Denver I’m a bit of a slacker. Accept it.

(photos provided by SU Photo & Imaging Center and Colin Fanning)

Top Ten Ways College Kids Can Help Save The Environment

We have limited income, and according to polling statistics, we don’t really turn out to vote like we should. But there’s got to be some way college kids can help save the environment. Well, there is. In fact, there are 10.

10.) Stop exercising. One of the key problems contributing to global warming is the overwhelming amount of carbon emissions in our world. Let’s think about this. Carbon. What does that sound like? Oh yea, carbon dioxide. And how does that get out in the air? From us breathing of course. And when we exercise, our heart rate goes up, and so does the frequency of our breaths. Clearly the elimination of exercise from our daily routines can serve as a fool-proof way to save the polar ice caps.

9.) Cannibalism. Another major factor in global warming is the simple fact that our world is becoming overpopulated. We can quickly correct this by making a conscious decision to eat other people.

8.) Have more sex. Heating bills are the worst. I don’t know about you, but I like to wake up to a 68-degree room, something that doesn’t always happen at my off-campus house where my roommates will fiddle with the thermostat in the name of lower energy bills. If only there was some way college kids could stay warm all night long without having to foot a giant heating bill, or using unnecessary energy.

7.) Quit watching television. Upperclassmen — this one’s for you. You’ve come to the point in your collegiate career where you have risen to the top of the food chain in your extra-curricular activities or Greek organizations. You can officially haze underclassmen as your nightly entertainment. Don’t sit idly by the midnight glow of your television set. Instead make freshmen and sophomore students perform a sock puppet show in your living room, serenade you with the beloved songs of Neil Diamond, or act out the seventh season of Gilmore Girls.

6.) Start a cult. Cults are really great about sustainability. Your cult can grow its own pumpkins for decoration, carving entertainment, and food. A new college cult just getting off the ground would only need about five cows to survive an entire winter — and that includes beef and the necessary dairy products. Not to mention the cult recreation time you’ll schedule into your weekly meetings, where you knit scarves for each other, made entirely of the lamb’s wool you sheared earlier that day.

5.) Stop taking notes in class. Think about how many trees you could save by going an entire 15-week semester without taking a single note. Deforestation is a real problem in the world today, and every little bit helps. Save the rain forest by refusing to waste 200 pages of college-ruled notebook paper next Spring. You’ll thank yourself later in life when you’re able to chill with a sloth in the Amazon you helped protect.

4.) Buy a goat. Sure, it may be hard to convince your landlord (or RA) that a goat is a good idea, but if you really set your mind to it, I’m sure you can persuade them. After all, a goat will eat just about anything. Landfills are overflowing all over the world — just look at New Jersey — because people are consuming more now than ever. Another major problem contributing to the surplus of trash is that some people just don’t know how to separate their recycling. That’s okay. Goats can eat anything from newspapers, pet gerbils, unwanted dolls, old socks, and batteries to empty milk jugs. Keep our earth clean and use the goat trash disposal system instead.

3.) Buy in bulk. Reducing the amount of packaging we buy can really help the littering situation that our country is suffering from. Instead of buying a 30-pack of beer cans, choose a jug of moonshine instead. Don’t buy wine by the bottle; instead, buy a grapevine and make it in your bathtub. Simple steps like this can really help us keep our earth clean and safe for future generations.

2.) Hitch hike. I don’t know about you, but try as I might, I can’t seem to scrape together enough money to upgrade my 1996 deathmobile to the hybrid I would prefer to drive. What does this mean? Well, in addition to the fact that I am about 10 times as likely to die in a car crash as others with newer cars (seeing as my horn doesn’t work, there is an electrical circuit out, the passenger-side door flies open whenever it feels like it, and it squeals louder than a three-year-old on her maiden voyage of Space Mountain), my gas mileage isn’t so great. Instead of driving my P.O.S. back and forth to the beverage center to buy my moonshine, I should really start throwing my thumb up and grabbing rides wherever I need to go. The less cars on the road the better, right?

1.) Illegally download your music. What are CDs even made out of anyway? I’m not sure, but I think it’s safe to say they’re not exactly environmentally friendly. Between the actual disc, the jewel case, and the pamphlet that comes with the record, there is a lot of junk produced for these albums. Wouldn’t it make so much more sense to eliminate the raw materials, using Limewire and other P2P systems to steal the music instead? Unless your goat is hungry…