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T.I.: Violation of Women’s Rights Everywhere

By: Julietta Bisharyan

On an episode of the podcast “Ladies Like Us,” it was revealed that rapper T.I. visits the gynecologist every year with his 18-year old daughter, Deyjah Imani Harris, to check if her hymen is still intact. This statement was met with outstanding criticism across social media and news platforms as it is clearly a violation of human rights, specifically women’s rights. Harris even liked tweets condemning her father, which called him “possessive and controlling.” The podcast episode, hosted by Nazanin Mandi and Nadia Moham, has since been deleted from Apple Podcasts, and rightfully so.

Many found an issue with T.I’s “virginity testing,” a practice that is outdated and inaccurate. The stretching or tearing of the hymen can be caused by many activities outside of sexual intercourse. This includes sports, horseback riding, tampon use, and even doing the splits. Some women aren’t even born with a hymen, so to base a person’s virginity on a thin membrane is both illogical and damaging.

To this, T.I. disturbingly responded with, “Look, doc. She don’t ride no horses. She don’t ride no bike. She don’t play no sports. Just check the hymen, please, and give me back my results expeditiously.” This assertion that he holds a right to his daughter’s intimate information is beyond controlling and inappropriate. Virginity testing should not be done by any means.

T.I’s intrusiveness is highly problematic as a parent. Gynecologist visits already place patients in a vulnerable state. To have a parental figure demand personal information only ruins the child’s relationship with their parent more and detests children from confronting their parents about serious topics. As long as there is a conversation or understanding of safe, consensual sex, there is no need for an individual’s sex life to be scrutinized.

It’s important to note that safe sex is regarded as sexual activity in which individuals take precautions to protect themselves against sexually transmitted diseases or unplanned pregnancy. This implies the use of contraceptives as well as a conversation between the two consenting partners beforehand. 

Consensual sex involves a mutual agreement between both parties before engaging sexually. Consent is informed, voluntary, and revocable at any time. Consent is not possible when someone is incapacitated, underage, or unconscious. Parents should take responsibility in educating their children on how to practice safe sex and the importance of consent rather than dismissing taboo topics altogether.

Furthermore, establishing the absence of a hymen as a loss of virginity invalidates sexual activity beyond penetration. This age-old myth, therefore, seems to suggest that only heterosexual intercourse can determine if an individual is a virgin or not. This is damaging to LGBTQ communities as it constitutes sex as an act solely between a male and a female.

There is also a clear double standard when it comes to men and women and their sexuality. T.I. has previously stated,  “… I will definitely feel different about a boy than I will about a girl. And that’s just the God’s honest truth. I don’t think there’s any father out there who’ll tell you any different,” in reference to his sexually active 15-year old son. 

While men are praised for their sexual encounters, women are perceived in a negative light and often discouraged from engaging sexually, especially at a young age. If a woman engages in sexual activity with multiple partners, they are labeled as promiscuous. There is a disturbing level of hypocrisy behind T.I.’s parenting. It is one thing to be concerned about your child’s initial sexual explorations, and another thing to demand their intimate details.

T.I.’s parenting is also a representation of a misogynistic society that still prevails. Policing his daughter’s body implies that he has complete ownership of her, which is a dangerous notion. When an individual turns 18, legally, parents cannot have access to their child’s medical record and need to ask permission directly from the individual. Not only are T.I.’s actions harmful, but they are illegal. T.I. states that he forces his daughter to sign a waiver allowing him to see the results of her examination. Forced consent is not consenting and doctors should be able to recognize this as coercion. The extent T.I. is willing to go to obtain confidential information to possess her is dangerous. 

Time after time, women have fought for the full autonomy of their bodies. Whether it be reproductive health, issues of consent, and virginity, there is still an ongoing struggle to claim what is ours. At the end of the day, virginity is a social construct and cannot define an individual any longer. What one person’s idea of sex and virginity may differ from another. Women should be encouraged to safely explore their sexuality and themselves, instead of being regulated by parental figures or anyone else.

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Women’s Sports and the Media: Why is it so hard to find coverage?

By: Hayley Morris

If you’re a soccer fan, or simply a sports fan in general, you’ve probably heard about the remarkable strides the US Women’s National Soccer team has made in recent years. They have been wiggling their way into more widely broadcasted games on well-known networks, with 15.6 million viewers tuning in to watch them win the final at the 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup. They’ve made headlines by demanding equal pay for male and female athletes. They have inspired young girls all over the world to pursue soccer. But they’re an exception to the rule.

I don’t have to think back very long to remember the weekends when my dad would be flipping through channel after channel on the TV, searching for women’s soccer games for my sister (who played soccer) to watch, eventually landing on some obscure channel with a grainy quality. The men’s game would be available in HD, on multiple channels at once. And while women’s soccer has certainly made traction in the broadcasting network, the overall statistics in all sports categories show a much more gendered divide. While 40% of athletes in America are women, only 6-8% of total sports media coverage is devoted to them. Of the four major US Newspapers only 3.5% of all sports stories focus on women.¹ It bodes the prevalent question: why is it so hard for women to gain media coverage in the sports industry?

A large part of the issue seems to stem from the way sports are divided in terms of masculinity. The more masculine the sport, the less people seem to be inclined to watch women play. Women’s tennis, ice skating, and gymnastics, to name a few, typically have an easier time gaining an audience compared to women’s wrestling, rugby, and boxing. These are of course two ends of the spectrum when it comes to the perceived masculinity of sports, but the argument remains: when was the last time you watched a women’s rugby game on a major television network?

I’ve watched my sister switch from sport to sport over the years, shifting from ballet to soccer to softball to basketball to rugby, and with each new sport comes similar comments of how it’s unladylike to play such a physical sport, or why didn’t she just stick with ballet, or aren’t you nervous about the long term effects this will have on her body? Clearly, there is still the mindset in modern society that women should be slim and delicate, not muscular and heavyset. It’s no wonder then why major broadcasting networks don’t televise women’s sports: to a large proportion of the population, watching women participate in a sport that is aggressive and physical goes against the very nature of what a woman “should be,” and therefore makes the viewer feel uncomfortable. Broadcasting networks take these opinions into account and therefore focus on televising men’s sports as they know it will draw more views.

Others argue that the reason they don’t want to watch women’s sports is because it’s not as interesting as the men’s, and there lies another issue: the capability of a woman is still being compared to that of a man. Rather than observing women’s sports and appreciating the game in it’s own ways, women are consistently compared to the way men play the same sport. Women are criticized if they can’t be as tough or as quick as men, and the other skills women bring to the field are brushed aside. A prime example is the bias many hold toward softball, arguing the sport isn’t as interesting to watch and is easier to play because the field is smaller and the ball is bigger than in baseball. This viewpoint overlooks how one may appreciate softball for the quick reaction times players must have because the field is smaller and the strength needed to hit a ball that is heavier because it is bigger. When one considers the comparison of two sports from more than one angle, it becomes clear to see both sports are equally as challenging and thrilling to watch in their own unique ways.

Sports should not have to be played the same between men and women in order to be enjoyed. By buying into the sexist belief that women simply aren’t as appealing to watch as men, the media allows for the gender typing of sports to continue. This is detrimental to young girls who may be passionate about a certain sport, but grow up unable to find coverage of professional female athletes in the media. This also explains why a large proportion of girls quit sports, particularly in their teenage years, since they are told by society there is no profitable future for them in the world of sport. While boys are encouraged to play sports with the continued streaming of professional male athletes in HD with world renowned commentators in the background, girls are left with the scraps, trying desperately to search for other women as passionate about the sport as she is.

What needs to change is the mindset of modern society. Women are no longer adhering to the outdated societal stereotypes of the submissive homemaker, instead choosing to establish their own ground and pursue their own goals, and we need to begin to accept this change. Instead of clinging to the sexist hierarchy of the past, women should be praised and encouraged to participate in sports that have traditionally been male-dominated. This includes equal coverage of men’s and women’s sports on TV and other media. Without equal publicity in the media, women’s sports will continue to appear inferior to men’s. By providing equal coverage, women will be given the opportunity to attract sports fans and gain views, rather than being shut out from the sports fanatic world from the get-go. And by providing easier access to women’s sports, girls will be further inclined to continue to play. So it’s time to get over the fear of girls having muscle, playing fiercely, and sweating a little on live TV. The gender roles that have encapsulated the world for hundreds of years are finally beginning to break down—shouldn’t this apply to women’s sports too?

  1. Athlete Assessments, The Gender Equality Debate; A Boost for Women in Sport
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Can Shaving Be Empowering?

By: Claire Armstrong

In recent years, popular culture has reflected increased enthusiasm for celebrating women’s empowerment. Attempting to stay abreast of consumer attitudes, advertising has followed suit. Many female beauty and hygiene companies have attempted to shift their promotional style from one of an idealistic, unattainable beauty to one that aspires to embrace the entire spectrum of womanhood. Among these companies are multiple women’s razor brands, such as Gillette and Billie. In one commercial, Gillette makes the statement that “No one gets an opinion on why you shave.” The problem with this statement, though, is that it blatantly ignores the fact that many women do not want to shave at all, or that those who do shave are often only doing so because they do not feel comfortable with the societal repercussions women who do not shave often face. The women in the Gillette ad smile as they shave, enjoying the bizarre ritual of altering their bodies to conform to arbitrary beauty standards. But in reality, for most of us, shaving is a tedious, uncomfortable task that wastes time as well as water, and often leaves us with bloody nicks on our legs. 

In addition, most women’s razor ads feature women shaving body parts that are already free of hair, perpetuating unattainable beauty standards. Of course, every woman who looks closely at such an ad will be aware that the models had already shaved before filming, and are not naturally hairless and shaving purely for enjoyment. However, when we consume ads, most of us don’t stop to analyze what we are seeing and how we internalize those images. We simply let them wash over us. As such, the more we view ads featuring unrealistically perfect human specimens, the more we begin to feel that our own humble vessels are embarrassing, ugly, inferior. When we shave our legs, we may not think, “God, the woman in that Gillette commercial had smooth legs before she even shaved them, and mine are disgustingly hairy,” but we are subconsciously conditioned to feel ashamed of our body hair, even after we shave it. Our freshly shaved legs begin to feel like they are masking a dirty secret that will soon grow back. By showing women shaving already hairless bodies, the razor industry perpetuates the idea that body hair is a disgusting, shameful part of women’s bodies that is apparently so taboo that we can’t even see it being removed, even in a commercial for a product that would not exist if women were naturally hairless. 

Enter Billie, a relatively new razor subscription service that attempts to redefine what it is to market women’s razors. Billie’s commercial for their Project Body Hair campaign shows women blow drying and combing their armpit hair; lounging with their leg hair on display; and raising thick, full eyebrows. When the models are shown using the Billie razors, they are removing actual hair from their legs. We even see a shot of a Billie razor covered in freshly shaved body hair. Billie differentiates itself from the standard razor brand by acknowledging that not all women have the desire to shave, and their Project Body Hair ad clearly supports women who choose not to remove their body hair. It states “However, whenever, if ever you want to shave, we’ll be here.” But would any woman choose to shave if she had not been conditioned to believe she should?

Despite their attempts to appear rebellious and provocative, Gillette and Billie are both still operating within the confines of mainstream western culture. For decades, women have been expected to shave, and have been conditioned to be ashamed of their body hair. It is society’s view that a beautiful, feminine woman should not have body hair. Furthermore, the dominant cultural mindset is that all women should want to be beautiful and feminine; therefore, all women must want to shave. There are many women who claim that they shave for themselves, not to please other people. But if shaving was not generally considered a necessary practice for women to be deemed feminine, would these women who claim they shave solely for themselves still do so? I personally do not think that I would. I shave because I do not feel prepared for my body to be a constant statement against gender roles. I shave because I don’t want to be stared at by people who might notice my hairy legs. I shave because I don’t want to be “the girl who doesn’t shave.” Yes, I shave for personal reasons, but those reasons would not exist if I had not grown up viewing the hairless female body as beautiful and right. 

Audre Lorde once said, “The master’s tools will never dismantle the master’s house,” but the women’s razor industry is trying to do just that. However, as long as most women are shaving, society will have an excuse to judge and ridicule women who do not. Shaving can never truly be a feminist act because it originates from a place of oppression. The only way for us as women to break free of the limitations and expectations that we have been bound to for generations is to eschew them outright. The issue with these new “body positive” razor commercials is that they paint their brands as empowering to women, when in reality, the very concept of shaving undermines female empowerment and serves no purpose other than to push women closer to the conventional concept of what it means to be beautiful.

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On My RBF: I Swear I’m Nice

By: Christina Lee

 “There’s the look,” my friends point out when my face goes slack, my expression blank. My face naturally sits in a way so that my mouth rests in a small frown, my eyelids heavy in a supposed glare. Acquaintances and even present-day friends repeatedly tell me stories about how scary I was when they first met me, how unapproachable I seemed. My former English teacher once claimed that I looked disappointed in everything he said due to my blank expression as I sat in his class.

The truth? I have an RBF—a resting bitch face.

The viral video “Bitchy Resting Face” popularized the concept in 2013, and many celebrities including Anna Kendrick, Kristen Stewart, and Kanye West have brought this phenomenon of frowny-faced, unamused countenances to mainstream attention and “RBF” to everyday lingo.

As for us non-celebrities, we have simply found a way to identify our history of social misunderstandings—“Are you okay? Are you mad at me?”—with a convenient and often humorous label. We can now justify our bored expressions with an “It’s just my RBF,” and try to laugh it off.

However, creating a convenient label doesn’t change the idea that there still exist inconvenient social implications and potential gender bias within the nature of the term itself.

According to Marianne LaFrance from the Department of Psychology at Yale University, women do tend to smile more than men; this prediction can differ according to the social and cultural situations, but perhaps the nature of women, supposedly to smile more, can add to the level of discomfort or offense others feel when they catch them not smiling. Maybe they’re just having a bad day, right?

I know that regardless of the number of “bad days” I experience, one thing stays constant: my face. Why put a label to something I can’t change? Better yet, why label this phenomenon to imply my “bitchiness?”

Examining the facial feedback hypothesis, a psychological concept first developed by Charles Darwin and William James, suggests that facial expressions, whether they appear to be frowning or upset for example, may actually influence the emotions themselves. In other words, my face intensifies what I feel; my face in truth is adding to the bitchiness I’m feeling. Sure, I’ll give you this one—maybe I am a bitch.

Yet, we must consider the implications of attributing this phenomenon of unintentional scowls to the temperament of women. We must consider why LaFrance states that smiling “is the normative” among women, why women learn to smile more than their male counterparts to ease social situations and avoid appearing “cold.” Or why men are calm and collected, authoritative and justified, and seemingly exude a take-no-bullshit attitude when they are not smiling. Surprise, women don’t take bullshit either!

Only recently has it crossed my mind that out of all the other thirty students in my high school classes, I have been singled out as someone who should “smile more,” who is the “bored” or “scary” one—even more infuriating when my peers around me look just as bored, if not more. Perhaps the submissive and quiet nature of what the shape of my eye and the tint of my skin suggest adds to the prejudice that others demonstrate, or at least think, when I am in my tight-lipped, emotionless state. Perhaps my P.E. teacher took my silence as discomfort and thought that asking me why I don’t smile—“Aren’t you happy?”—would help me feel any less uncomfortable. I will admit that I can’t say for sure whether these perceptions of me are the results of potential gender bias, subtle racial stereotyping, or maybe the fact that I am just a scary person.

Regardless, it’s safe to say that I would appreciate it, and I’m sure others who have similar experiences will too, if you greet me politely, rather than commenting on my expression or mentioning how intimidating I am. Just say hi—I swear I’m nice.

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Placed into a Prophecy: An Examination of the Social and Psychological Roots of Gender Roles

By: Sarah Ansari

Let’s conduct an experiment; I’m going to list some words, and I want you to tell me what gender you associate them with: 

PHONE. BLANKET. CARD. BOTTLE. WHISPER. LAMP. BUNGALOW.

Now, I’m going to tell you a secret: these words were random– just things in my immediate vicinity or which came to mind. At least in English, there are no nomanatives attached to give the words “gender”, yet there’s a large chance that you were able to classify them anyways.

The examples I chose are fairly neutral, but when gender is subconsciously attached to words with negative connotations, we open up room for bias. When heard often enough, these bits of language hold a unique power to create a base set of expectations (also referred to as heuristics in psychology). Heuristics bleed into toxicity when we allow them to shape our implicit attitudes towards particular demographics, and in turn, grant prejudice and discrimination the ability to fester. 

This isn’t to say that words alone are the source of the social division between genders. If anything, they are symptoms of a long-running conflict of millions of factors that are difficult to boil down to any single instigator. Nevertheless, it is important to understand the history of gender roles and their impacts, and this article seeks to examine them from a psychological/social perspective.

Here’s the part where I bring in a super smart philosopher to make me seem more qualified: Judith Butler. Perhaps the most succinct summary of her discussion of gender occurs on the first page of her essay, “Performativity and Gender Constitution: An Essay in Phenomenology”. A quote from Simone de Beauvoir reads, “one is not born, but, rather, becomes a woman”. In other words, gender is performative, rather than solely biological.

And this is where someone jumps in to tell me that there are distinct physiological differences between [cisgender] males and females– and there definitely are! However, biology explains little of the divide between genders, and has become more of an excuse for the existence of sexism. (If you’re interested in data regarding the correlation between biology and the wage gap, here’s a resource: xxx.) 

Gender, according to Butler, is a “constructed identity” (like an actor playing a role) where the audience consists of society. An explicit comparison of gender roles to a theatre performance indicates that a pre-existing script must exist to dictate how a “cast member” should act. If the audience is not pleased with the performance, the actor is subject to social ostracization. 

In the previously linked article about biology and the wage gap, a chart displays the damage gender roles can have on a child’s future. In India, areas with access to shows that depict women in positions of authority displayed a sharp decrease in automatic preference for a son rather than a daughter. While this study focuses more on parental attitude, the portrayals of gender can just as easily affect a child’s perceptions of themselves and their capabilities.

For example, several studies (summed up in this report) show that children tend to be aware of gender only on a base level, but are free from stereotypes. As they learn more about expectations assigned to the male/female label, they gravitate towards gender-assigned objects and activities (such as girls to dolls, boys to trucks) more than children who did not see as much exposure. 

Flash forward a few years, and the internalized beliefs about what one should like or be good at impacts not only perceptions about one’s own capabilities, but also future career paths. This ties into another psychological phenomenon, known as the self-fulfilling prophecy. When people are repeatedly told that they are less capable of accomplishing something, they subconsciously turn to destructive behaviours that validate their self-perception. A boy who is told that nursing is a woman’s career, for example, might begin to feel anxiety when placed into a nursing class, or otherwise not bother to study for it (believing that he’ll be terrible anyways), and as a result, do poorly, thus fulfilling his self-expectations. Suddenly, we have a system where a man feels he must meet the ideals of the “strong provider” who rarely expresses emotion, and a woman thinks that there’s something wrong with her if she doesn’t want children. 

Many solutions have been proposed to combat gender roles, such as the abolition of gender itself. However, simply erasing the concept casts aside years of struggles and history experienced by both men, women, and nonbinary people. Perhaps the best starting point to enable future generations to overcome the stigma of gender would be to let them choose. When young, don’t tell kids what they should play with, or what careers they can have. Don’t tell them that “boys will be boys” or that they need to “man up”. Let them express themselves early on, and expose them to strong, gender role-defying characters, so that when they grow up, they are more certain in their own identity and less likely to fall into psychological traps. Social norms and culture always have the ability to change, provided that people are aware of them and take active steps to shift them, rather than turning society into a self-fulfilling prophecy of its own right.