"Gender: To Be Determined" is collaborative, interactive blog brought to you by University of Denver students in Lindsey Feitz's "Introduction to Gender and Women's Studies" class.

If you are interested in gender, sexuality, and popular culture, this is the blog for you.

There's some incredibly smart, sassy, and saavy analyses that cover a range of topics we're discussing in class. Please feel free peruse our archive and join the conversation.

We'd love to hear your comments and questions!

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

"Bridesmaids": A Feminist Flick (Unit III)


              When I first started researching about the movie "Bridesmaids" I ran into a very interesting (but disturbing) article from the magazine Vanity Fair.  The title of the article is “Why Women Aren’t Funny” written by Christopher Hitchens.  He ends his introduction by asking the question, “Why are women, who have the whole male world at their mercy, not funny?”  I think we can all agree that we still live in a “man’s world” so what could Hitchens be thinking when he says women have the male world at their mercy?  Considering it is a proven study that women are still struggling against gender oppression (such as equal pay and gender equality in the workplace) I could only assume he was alluding to the sexual relationships between men and women.  My theory was confirmed when he later stated that women have no need to be funny because, “Women have no corresponding need to appeal to men in this way.  They already appeal to men, if you catch my drift.”  As ridiculously skewed of an outlook Hitchens has he is not alone, and the number of people who share the same opinion is reflected in the media today. This is why I praise the movie "Bridesmaids" because it is breaking down the barriers into a male dominated industry.  What a relief to finally watch a movie where the women were not only the main cast not being pushed aside as secondary characters, but more importantly women were represented in real perspective.  As writer Elizabeth Williams puts it, "Bridesmaids" is the “first female black president of female-driven comedies.”

              Why haven’t more movies like "Bridesmaids" been produced?  "Bridesmaids" grossed a total of $169,106,725 exceeding movies such as “Knocked Up” and “Superbad.”   Consider switching the cast of Bridesmaids with a group of males… Would you doubt it would have been just as great of a success?  Our nation is obsessed with dividing gender and many gender stereotypes have resulted from this.  As explained in the article, “Ladies and Gentlemen Femininity, Masculinity, and Identity”, when it comes to the media, a common notion is that women and men will always consume movies that are about men, but men will not consume stories that are about women or “chick flicks.” Maybe people actually do believe that women are not funny but it could also very well be that it is hard to see the truth exposed that women do partake in “guy humor” or “bathroom humor.”
               The producer of "Bridesmaids", Judd Apatow, was hesitant and considered they were “drifting into territory we should leave to the men.” Although it may seem all that needed to happen was to add a few explosive diarrhea and vomiting scenes to a movie with a female cast, there is much more to “Bridesmaids” that makes it a revolutionary movie.  Yes, the humor is grotesque and raunchy but the characters are still acting as modern day women dealing with problems in the female world.  The plot of the story revolves around a wedding with realistic female relationships.  The lead character, Kristen Wiig, is not a glammed up Reese Witherspoon or Jenifer Lopez.  Wiig’s character, Annie, and her other co-stars expose the side of women never revealed in chick flick movies (a few examples: Annie fixing herself up in the morning before the man she slept with wakes up, Wendi McLendon-Covey’s character, Rita, lamenting about her semen covered home).  The characters of "Bridesmaids" let women be seen as what we all have the potential to be… raunchy, gross, but at the same time humans with heart felt emotions. 

              How can we help to reform the media? One way as a consumer you can help women in the movie industry is by simply giving positive reinforcement.  Applauding the works of women can be done through buying tickets and increasing the box office results.  A high box office income can serve just as well as a protest.  If we want to compete for media structural reform we must encourage the head figures of the industry (who are usually men) that we want to see more of women in a comedic, but still realistic, representation.  Women have already proven that they can have a great impact on the industry from other successful female driven shows, like "Sex and the City".  All the media officials need is an economic incentive for reassurance and encouragement to create more female focused movies. 

“How to Reclaim, Reframe, and Reform the Media, A Feminist Advocacy Guide” by Jennifer L. Pozner.  “BITCHfest” 2006.

“Ladies and Gentlemen, Feminity, Masculinity, and Identity” by Lisa Miya-Jervis.  “BITCHfest.”

Mary Elizabeth Williams.  “Bridesmaids”: A triumph for vomit, and feminism.  Salon.com 

Rebecca Traister.  “Seeing ‘Bridesmaids’ is a social responsibility”.  Salon.com

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Some people just shouldn't have kids: Why the focus needs to be less on marriage and more on parenting. (Unit 3)

The facts are very basic.

There are many legal steps and requirements for a heterosexual couple to become married, yet NO requirements for them to complete before they have a child.

Think about that for a second- There are numerous marriage license laws in our country, yet there are no laws, no tests, no regulations in order to have a child. So, a man and a woman, no matter if they are the potential worst parents in the world, can produce a kid of their own.

Now, this is common knowledge that you are most likely aware of. What I am trying to convey here, though, is that when it comes to marriage and the family dynamic, our society and government is way too focused on who can get married when they should be way more focused on who can have a kid and become a parent. Also, recent reforms, trends, and opinions surrounding marriage have had negative impacts on children.

In this blog, I plan to do the following:
1. Express how lengthy the legal process is to obtain a marriage license and the marriage trends sociologists have observed.
2. Explain how these laws and trends are creating very negative effects on the children.
3. Show how government benefits available to people in need with children are being abused by some selfish people at the children's expense.
4. Explain why people in a marriage, and also single people, are not entitled to children.
5. Summarize what this means for us and list possible solutions to the problem.

As of march 2011, about 72% of married couples have children under the age of 18 (US Census Bureau), yet our country has no regulations for monitoring which married couples can have children and become parents.

On the other hand, when I searched for Marriage License Laws in the United States, I discovered hundreds of references listing the numerous requirements for each state in order to obtain a marriage license. For example, below is a screen shot to show how lengthy the list becomes for different states' marriage license laws.

Separate from the topic of marriage laws, are the marriage trends observed. In the article, The World Historical Transformation of Marriage, by Stephanie Coontz, she provides a list of various different ways in which marriage is different today than it was during our parents' or grandparents' eras. While her list focuses solely on the institution of marriage, I argue that these new marriage trends she lists are creating negative effects for children. I argue, this is due to the lack of focus by the government on restricting who has the right to reproduce or parent.

Below are listed 2 of her marriage trends and how they in turn can effect children negatively:

1.There are more legal gains and rights today for unmarried heterosexual or same sex partners. Also, it is becoming more common for in some cases for people to no longer need marriage licenses to be eligible to partake in duties of parenthood.
The issue here, which the government and researchers love to focus on, is not the sexuality or even gender of the parents, but it is the legal gains related to children that are being abused more and more by the newly benefitting unmarried couples. Do not get me wrong, though. For excellent parents who, for whatever reason, are not currently married, these legal gains provided for them are a very positive and necessary resource. Yet, sadly, it occurring more and more that unmarried couples, single parents, or non parents are reversing the system and are illegally collecting government gains intended for people who have children and legitimately have a right to and need the aid.Examples of potential legal gains and rights offered by the government can include food stamps, Cash Aids, medicaid, tax rebates, healthcare benefits, Welfare, and foster care benefits.
An example of this corruption in the system is the news story, Welfare Fraud Crackdown, where a man faced multiple felony charges in New York for illegally receiving food stamps and Medicaid benefits.

Now, it would be absurd to suggest taking away legal gains and rights to unmarried couples who need them. I suggest what needs to be improved is the exclusiveness to whom these benefits are given to. You've maybe seen the movies The proposal where a couple faking a marriage is questioned by the INS about the legitimacy of their marriage or License to Wed which shows the questioning process and background check of a couple about to be married. Well, where are these same background checks of couples wishing to have children? Where are the investigations to catch the people who have children only to reap the government benefits for themselves and not for their children? The government should not offer these benefits to any couple without first checking if they even need and will provide the benefits fully and honestly to their children. In some cases, this is already done, but not in all. The largest problem lies in the poor, or lack there of, follow up investigations on families. Background checks and investigations should be implicated not only before, but most importantly during the raising of the child to ensure legitimacy and correct usage of the benefits.

Pictures to the right: Movies such as "The proposal" and "License to Wed" show examples of two couples experiencing background checks in order to be able to legally married. If background checks are done on couples before marriage to check their legitimacy, then why are they not done before unmarried couples have a child?

Then, if couples attempting to scam the system to gain personal or illegitimate benefits are caught, the children could be saved from being raised by people that have no want whatsoever
to be good parents.

Another solution is to screen benefits more carefully so that government benefits are only going to the families with parents in true need of benefits and that they will use the money, for example, to benefit the child.

Just go on any search engine and search anything along the lines of "government benefits" and immediately pop up websites that are their own search engine for people attempting to receive each and every last benefit they may be eligible for, even if they do not need it.

These websites do provide an excellent resource for those in legitimate need, yet, when it comes down to who's pockets the money is going into, there is a rise of scammers reaping government benefits in which they are not eligible for or do not need. Way too many stories arise of people who overuse the system and receive additional non-needed benefits, and then in turn there are parents in true need who are not able to receive benefits because they were already given to illegitimate receivers. Prevention, not just investigation, of these acts need to be improved.

2. We are living in a reproductive revolution, which is allowing married couples to overcome infertility to be able to reproduce.
While this revolution has greatly beneffited couples who had previous trouble conceiving, this also creates a new attribute never before seen. The offsprings of the parents using reproductive treatments can now potentially have up to 5 different parents (a sperm donor, an egg donor, a birth mother, and the social parents who raise the child). (And yes, this definitely does happen). Having potentially up to 5 different parents affects the mental state of the offspring.

In a article discussing child development, the negative affects on children with absent parents include increased risks of psychiatric disease, suicide or suicide attempt, injury, and addiction. This study was done on children who were the offspring of only 2 parents where 1 parent was absent. If you can only imagine how much worse the negative affects are on the children from the reproductive revolution who have 3, 4, or 5 different parents and if 2 or more of their parents are absent or are never even revealed to the child.

With each parent the child does not know or is absent, the child loses another piece of their identity, emotional connection, and identification with that missing or unknown parent. Hence, where do we draw the line with reproductive therapies? When do we limit how many different types of donors can go into making only one child? When do we actually start thinking about the affects on the offspring and stop thinking only about the family conceiving the child?

("The world Historical Transformation of Marriage")

Why not all people should be entitled to have a child.

In the article, "What Low Income Mothers Say about Marriage," Kathryn Edin explains from a single mother's point of view the different reason's for not marrying. While I agree with many of the reasons made by the single mothers', I disagree with the reasons that don't have the children's well being at the center of its motives.

Some reasons low Income Mothers do not not marrying:

1.. Some single mothers had stated in the article that more women and even more men are choosing to not marry during the prime family building years for personal reasons.
The problem with this reason is that if mothers and fathers have the intention of getting married anyways when they reach their mid twenties, wouldn't it benefit the child/children greatly if they grew up in a family with a mother and father now? Now, I am not saying that single parents are bad parents, but rather I am claiming that many single parents struggle to provide fully financially, emotionally, etc to their child. Also, research tells us that majority of single parents end up at or below the poverty level, hence not providing as well as they would be able to if they chose to move the marriage up a few years (Edin).

2. Single mothers in the article also stated that if the child's father is unemployed, marrying him and keeping him in the house puts a strain on the mother.

While I am all for strong women and doing what you need to do for yourself without a man, I am also very passionate about equal visitation rights, especially for fathers. The problem with the above reason is that the focus, again, is not on the children, but rather only is on the mother. It is very possible that unemployed men that make bad husbands, can actually make excellent fathers. There would not be so many legal struggles for fathers fighting for their visitation rights if they didn't legitimately love their children and if it wasn't proven that a father's presence in a child's life is vital.

OK, But so what?

Beyond the reasons listed by single mother's in Edin's article, lie the more obvious reasons why not everyone should be entitled to have a child.

Here is a list of different types of real people who have every right that you and I hold to have a child:

1. People who have committed multiple felonies
2. Neglectful parents
3. Drug dealers
4. Emotionally and physically abusive husbands or wives
5. Rapists
6. Pedophiles

While each person in this world is entitled a mistake, let me ask you about this pretend scenario. If you had to pick between two men or two women whom you loved completely equally to have your child or to have child with, who would you choose? Would you chose the person with no criminal past, or the person who has a record of multiple felonies? Would you choose the person who was in the newspaper for the rape of a minor, or would you chose the person who has no prior offenses or convictions?

The point is, that all over the media, in books, and now a main topic of daily conversation are marriage reform and marriage rights. While the government is attempting to tweak the institution of marriage by revising the legality behind it or by reforming government benefits, what is really going on is the children are being ignored and sometimes even affected negatively.

When it comes to the theme of family dynamic, something needs to be done to somehow monitor who is allowed to have children and also to increase the screening on who is able to adopt or be in involved in child care. These are bold solutions, but steps can be made towards this direction.

Seriously, people, just shift your focus! While the politicians, media, and the public are too busy arguing over gay marriage, there's a homosexual couple out there waiting to get their chance to do one hell of a better job than many heterosexuals in raising children in a nurturing family environment.


Bilotta, Larry. "Statistics about Children and Divorce." BBB. Web. 07 Nov. 2011. .

Coontz, Stephanie. "The World Historical Transformation of Marriage." Journal of Marriage and Family 66.4 (2004): 974-79. Print.

Dornbusch, Sanford M. "Single Parents, Extended Households, and the Control of Adolescents." Child Development. 2nd ed. Vol. 6. Jstor. Web. 05 Nov. 2011. .

Edin, Kathryn. "What Do Low-Income Single Mothers Say about Marriage?" Social Problems 47.1 (2000): 112-33. Print.

"Families and Living Arrangements, Formerly Households and Families." Census Bureau Home Page. U.S. Census Bureau, Housing and Household Economic Statistics Division. Web. 07 Nov. 2011. .

"Marriage Rights and Benefits." Lawyers, Legal Forms, Law Books & Software, Free Information - Nolo. Nolo.com. Web. 07 Nov. 2011. .

"State by State Government Assistance Programs For Pregnant Women, Mothers and Children." Adoption Services. Web. 5 Nov. 2011. .

"Your Path to Government Benefits." Benefits.gov - Your Path to Government Benefits. USA.gov. Web. 07 Nov. 2011. .

Women in the Catholic Church (UNIT 3)

For centuries, the Roman Catholic Church has prohibited females from getting ordained, meaning females cannot officially become priests. This is a major issue separating liberal Catholics from conservative Catholics. Many liberal Catholics believe that excluding women from priesthood is wrong and somewhat absurd. They argue that there is no difference between men and women Catholics, and that women can be called to priesthood just as men can. Conservative Catholics believe that because Jesus’ twelve disciples were all men, that women should not hold leadership positions in the church.

Though many women do hold leadership positions in the Church, they are not as powerful as the positions that men are able to hold and practice. This enforces and creates patriarchy within the Church. In the article “Women Studies: Perspective and Practices” patriarchy is defined as a “system where men dominate because power and authority are in the hands of adult men.” It is this system that so many first, second, and third wavers fought against. So why is it still so widely accepted in the Catholic Church? Women are simply not allowed to become priests, even if they are more suited for the job than a man. Yet there are still some Catholic women who do try to become ordained priests. This, however, results in excommunication. The video below shows some of these women and their beliefs.


In the video, the women explain that they cannot hold higher positions in the Church merely due to the fact they are female. Not because they are less holy, not because they are impure, not because they are less qualified, but simply because of their sex. This completely enforces patriarchy, not even giving women a chance to prove that they can hold higher positions. To dedicated Catholics, this oppression is the equivalent of not allowing a women be in, or even run for, an office higher than the state level of government. This would create extreme outrage to both women and men today, so why have Catholics, men and women, accepted this oppression for so many years?

In Anna Quindlen’s “Still Needing the F Word,” she explains feminism as “belief in the social, political and economic equality of the sexes.” Keeping women out of priesthood goes against every aspect of feminism. How can Catholics who call themselves feminists accept this oppression of women in the Church? Feminism is something that was formally introduced with first wave feminism in the 1800’s. We are now over 10 years into the 2000’s and this concept has yet to be accepted or even recognized in the Church. As a Catholic myself I have seen all sides of the spectrum. More progressive Catholics see no problem with women as priests. Many right-winged Catholics, however, come off as plain sexist rather than conservative. Someone once said to me: “Women can’t be priests, that’s men’s work.” This is exactly the kind of talk feminists need to fight against.

It seems old-fashioned and wrong that there is such gender inequality in the Church today. It seems like there should be some sort of global uproar against this wide-spread oppression. There’s no reason why women cannot and should not be priests.

Past vs. Present (Unit 3)

Many people look back at the 1950s and think that it was an ideal time period. When you look more closely at the 1950s it is clear that women were not treated fairly at all. Women basically had to be married to have a life. They had to depend on their husbands to be the breadwinner while they stayed home and took care of the family and the home. Many of these ideas are still present in today’s society but at the same time many women have broken the mold and become independent.

In some cases women are marrying men for financial stability and becoming less independent. I come from a family where my mother is the breadwinner and my parents are separated. My entire life my mother has told me to go to college and get educated. She has instilled in me the values of being an independent woman and never having to be with a man because he can financially support me. I use her as an example because she has always been financially independent and has never had to depend on a man. Sadly this is not the case for many women. There is a link between the life of women in 1950s and women today. Work, family and marriage dependency and issues are and were present today and in the 1950s.

Marriage was a status symbol for women in the 1950s. In Stephanie Coontz’s article “What we really miss about the 1950s,” she discusses demographic issues such as the rising birth rate after the war and the lower educational rate as issues that led women to become dependent on marriage. The gender roles of the time period were that “nearly 60 percent of kids were born into male breadwinner-female homemaker families” (Coontz 7). Even today women are staying with men because they can support them financially. In “What do low income mothers say about marriage?” by Kathryn Edin, many women believe “the total earnings a father can generate is clearly the most important dimension for mothers” (Edin 357). Money is a huge factor for most marriages. Women are willing to let men be the breadwinners, which leaves themselves with very few options. This choice mirrors the lives of women in the 1950s. They got married because of financial stability that marriage offers to most women.

Not only is it finances that make women stay in a marriage but respect. Today many women believe “that respectability is greatly enhanced by a marriage tie a routinely employed partner” (Edin 359). Women are willing to stay in an unhappy marriage because of money and respect. This just doesn’t seem right when they can earn respect for themselves elsewhere and be financially independent. Without a husband in the 1950s “women were unable to take out loans or even credit cards in their own name and… they were excluded from juries in many states” (Coontz 15). Husbands were the key to many “luxuries” of the time. Today taking out loans and getting personal credit cards seem normal to women but back then it was not going to happen unless you were married. Women did not have options outside of marriage and they were stuck because they had to raise the family and did not receive education beyond high school.

In contrast to the 1950s more and more women are going to college and graduating today. This is completely opposite of women in the 1950s. The education rates of women in the 1950s decreased while a man’s increased (Coontz 6). Today women “have closed the college education gap and their graduation rate now eclipses men’s” (Stone 324). Women are high achieving and want to work to support themselves. In short they want it all. That includes a family and children. Compared to today very few children “had mothers who worked in the paid work force” in the 1950s (Coontz, 7). Women did not work as much or at all compared to women today. Now women are combining work and motherhood “in greater proportions than ever before: 77 percent in 2004. Over all, these trends show little sign of women reverting to 1950s stereotypes” (Stone 327). Women are showing that they do not need a man to support them and thus they can get married because they want to and not because they feel they have to. An example of the working mother is Miranda from “Sex and the City.” Miranda is a very successful lawyer in New York City and at the same time she is also a mother. She shows how women can have it all and make it work. Women deserve to be able to be mothers and have a job. It comes down to choice for these women.

Independence in all aspects of the word is what I have been taught by mother and what I will teach my future daughter. My mother does not have to depend on anyone and she wants the same for me. Women should want to be successful and independent. They need to know that they can change their lives if they have the want to do so. We can have it all if we work for it. It is sad to think that even today some women are living the life of women in the 1950s. That time period may look ideal but when you look under the surface you see how unfairly women were treated and how they were trapped. It seems that the actions and steps women are taking today show how they do not want to go back in time. They do not want the “cookie cutter” life like many of their parents had. Women have worked hard to gain independence and why should we give it up?

-Campbell Meister

Coontz, Stephanie. "What We Really Miss about the 1950s." (1997).

Edin, Kathryn. "What Low-Income Single Mothers Say about Marriage?" Social Problems 47.1 (2000).

Stone, Pamela. "Getting to Equal: Progress, Pitfalls, and Policy Solutions on the Road to Gender Parity in the Workplace." Pathways Magazine. Spring 2009.

The GI Jane of Soviet History (Unit III)

The Soviets do not seem to have many issues regarding gender equality in their history, as compared to the United States of America who promotes freedom and equality for all. The Soviets sent up the first female astronaut into outer space in the early 1960's (Valentina Tereshkova) and a couple decades before that, promoted their women in combat.

Among over a thousand red army women snipers during WWII, one that stands out is Lyudmila Mikhailivna Pavlichenko from Ukraine. It has been estimated that she killed 309 Germans during the Great War. Pavlichenko, as a sniper, served in general combat as part of the 25th infantry division. Her background consists of studies in History at Kiev University, and as a grinder. When she decided to join up for the war effort:

"The recruitment officer eyed her in amazement. She looked like a model, with well-manicured nails, fashionable clothes and hairstyle..." The same recruitment officer told Pavlichenko that she would be a better fit in the nursing field. (Yeah... I don't think so)

After the soldier was wounded in combat, she was not put back on active duty but instead became an "ambassador for the war effort," and a world-wide celebrity. This included visits to the states and Pavlichenko became the first soviet citizen to be received by President Roosevelt at the White house.

In one of Pavlichenko's speeches in America (1942) she said that, "Soviet women have complete self-respect, because their dignity as human beings is fully recognized. Whatever we do, we are honored not just as women, but as individual personalities, as human beings. That is a very big word. Because we can be fully that, we feel no limitations because of our sex. That is why women have so naturally taken their places beside men in this war."

Women in the United States are restricted from being snipers because it is part of the ASI (Additional Skill Identifier) which is considered ground combat, and anything that is ground combat means that women are prohibited. Women and ground combat is seen as against Christianity and God. In Christianity woman are placed as nurturers and bearers of life, whereas men are the takers of life. This notion supports patriarchal ruled society and that women are seen as objects. In America- A Call to Greatness, Chalfant compares women being in combat as equally sinful to breaking sodomy laws (which included homosexuality at the time the book was originally written- 1996) Protestantism still holds influence and is rooted deeply in the identity of this nation.

With the idea of protestantism and patriarchy, the U.S. Military and U.S. Nation are too caught up on "masculine ideologies of strength and belligerence," as noted by Barry Adam in The Defense of Marriage Act and American Exceptionalism. The military thinks that by having women in combat, it will depict the institution as feminine and weak. One of the same major reasons for which the military has discriminated against homosexual soldiers for so long. But despite the exclusion policy against women, in today's modern warfare women are "serving in real combat everyday and are vulnerable to being injured, killed, or captured." (McSally) In a New York Times article, Women at Arms: GI Jane Breaks the Combat Barrier, Specialist Veronica Alfaro fought in Afghanistan as a ground combat solider, without the title (of course). Alfaro gunned, drove, ran as a truck commander, and was a medic. The United States is being hypocritical and arrogant when it comes to gender-equal laws in combat.
Arguments that the military uses for why women should not be in combat are due to generalizations made instead of on an individual basis:

1) Women lack physical strength to be effective in ground combat
Physiology may place emphasis on men being naturally stronger than women, but there are many women that have the physical strength and capability for ground combat, AND many men that do not. It should also be noted that the army does not submit male recruits to physical strength examinations before assigning them to positions in ground combat. It is later tested if he will be able to perform his job properly based on his completion of training. I agree that with most women I know, they would not be physically
qualified for ground combat, but they probably aren't looking towards the military anyway. But there are plenty that could hold their own and be a challenge to an opponent. Combat position should be based on the individual, not based on generalization of sex.

2) Women's presence will decrease unit cohesions and therefore overall effectiveness

This means that a team with a woman would not be able to unite and bond properly, than they would otherwise without the woman. This whole concept supports that men cannot focus with a woman around. The blame gets placed on women, instead of dealing with male soldiers being the ones with the real issue. Veteran/Author, Martha McSally says that, "military cohesion is based on people's uniting for a common mission or purpose, and not based on the group consisting of a common race, creed or gender." Not being able to unite with your team and get the job done, is a personal issue. Not a "blame-it on-the-woman" issue.

3) Women JUST DON'T BELONG in combat
The proper role for a woman was to stay at home and be with the family (but that was also over six decades ago). The idea that women should not serve in combat, because it is a fundamental principle, is a load of bull. It is a woman's choice as to whether she wants to serve in combat, or does not want to serve.

Back to WWII and the Soviets, based on her efforts Pavlichenko became a Poster-Child for the period because of her heroism based on military skills. This conflicts with the ideology of the American "Damsel in Distress" that is depicted in Deploying Race, Gender, Class and Sexuality in the Iraq War. In the article, Private Jessica Lynch became the American Poster-Child for the war effort because she was a "hero of circumstance" and was promoted as an innocent victim held captive, that was rescued by strong male U.S. soldiers. This not only helps support that women have a passive role in the war, but also gives an example to the media and public of why women should not be in ground combat.

Pavlichenko held an active role in her war. And was seen as a hero. Most modern U.S. military women hold active roles as well, but do not receive the recognition and credit that they deserve. The nation needs to stop giving out reasons why women cannot be in ground combat, when in modern warfare women are being placed in the positions to act and serve in ground combat roles anyway.


Adam, Barry. The Defense of Marriage Act and American Exceptionalism: The "Gay Marriage" Panic in the United States.
Chalfant, John. America- A Call to Greatness. USA: Xulon Press, 2003 (139-141)
Feitz, L. & Nagel, J. Deploying Race, Gender, Class and Sexuality in the Iraq War.

Darian Royse

The New Challenge to Hegemonic Hip-hop (unit III)

by Nick Jones

Kalyn Heffernan, or MC T-minus Kalyn. is perhaps not who would expect to be taking the stage at Cervantes Ballroom for a typical Friday night hip-hop show. Even amongst the fellow underground acts that filled out the bill, Heffernan's local band Wheelchair Sports Camp stood out as unique. The only female-fronted group of the evening, they opened it up with blisteringly fast flows and infectious retro beats. The short set not only succeeded in getting the crowd dancing enthusiastically, but also challenged the gender expectations of modern hip-hop. While Wheelchair Sports Camp may sound like a tasteless joke, it is worth noting that Heffernan herself is confined to a wheelchair due to a rare birth defect, Osteogenesis Imperfecta. In a genre sorely lacking feminism, this 3' 6” lesbian is using her passion and talent to challenge stereotypes that have long been ingrained in hip-hop.

It shouldn't come as any surprise that hip-hop has perpetuated hegemonic masculinity, and often put female performers into strict molds. While underground artists make a point to be subversive of the status quo, mainstream chart-toppers demonstrate that heteronormative behavior is what sells best. This week, for example, places male performers in the top 4 spots of Billboard's Top Hip-hop/R&B Songs charti. Even Beyonce's song “Party”, number 5 on the charts, demonstrates cartoon-like gender relations. Belting out lines like, “I’ll give it all away/Just don’t tell nobody tomorrow/So tonight/I’ll do it every way,”ii she sings a total of 201 words in her most feminine voice, while her male guest stars rap 258 lyrics in lazy, masculine vocal timbres. Yet this single is the only of the top 10 attributed to a female performer. Of the other 9 tracks, women are rarely mentioned outside of connection to sex or their physical appearance.

Female vocalists and rappers aiming for the top spots are placed at the mercy of the gender conventions installed by their male peers. As Helen Kolawole observes, “A female rapper must be seen as conventionally attractive, and maintain an accepted degree of sex appeal, in order to avoid being branded a man-hater or lesbian.”iii Even when female lyricists address sexism, it is commercial disadvantageous to, “Cross the threshold into full-blown feminism, as their sexuality always remains their major selling point.”iv. Obviously, this cycle has created a stagnate view of gender relations, that hasn't changed much since the early 1990's.

Luckily, the diverse and progressive world of underground hip-hop has responded to this with heart-felt performers who sharply contrast the sexualized commercialism seen elsewhere. Wheelchair Sports Camp is a prime example, as Kalyn Heffernan has embraced her own individuality and received national recognition for her unique music. They have been noted by The Boston Pheonix as one of 25 hip-hop acts not to be missed at the 2011 SXSW music festivalv, and featured as a rising artist by Spin Magazinevi. Heffernan and her accomplices' talents and originality have routinely impressed those who come across their music. Her lyrics range in topics from social issues to poking fun of people's reactions to her wheelchair. As Westword Magazine has noted, “She is, at the core, a rapper first and foremost. She uses her rhymes and affliction together in a way that challenges the status quo”vii. Writing rhymes ever since she was 12, Heffernan has defined a musical style and social identity unlike anyone else, lending a unique perspective to her music. “I've been like addicted to hip-hop,”viii she told Westword, despite the prejudices she has confronted along the way:

Not just being a woman, but being a handicapped woman, being a lesbian woman, there's always obstacles, but I think I get treated equally very well. I think I have to go out of my way to do it. I'm assertive and up front.”ix

“When rap first appeared on the music scene, it was hailed... as a vehicle or social comment,” states Helen Kolawolex, and thus underground rappers like Kalyn Heffernan have risen to critique views of gender and sexuality. Dubbed queer-hop or homo-hop, a growing number of gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgendered hip-hop artists have become increasingly popular in cities across the country. The magazine Colorlines described this trend as, “Crop of openly queer rappers who have been making music for years. They’re talented, proud, but when it comes to mainstream media, they’re often ignored.”xi However, now these artists are finally getting the recognition they deserve and bringing an alternative attitude into hip-hop that doesn't rely on hegemonic masculinity as its central pillar. These performers are opening, or sometimes re-opening, avenues for musical artists of different sexualities, genders, and body-types. Much of what makes Wheelchair Sports Camp so refreshing, along with many other acts in this sub-genre, is that they offer the possibility of hip-hop coexisting with feminism. Perhaps some day soon, this grass-roots movement will influence mainstream media to adjust its heteronormativity and finally catch up with the times.

i "Top Hip Hop and R&B Songs." Billboard.com. Billboard, n.d. Web. 6 Nov. 2011. .

ii West, Kanye, Bhasker, Jeff , Knowles, BeyoncĂ©, Benjamin, AndrĂ© Lauren , Mills, Dexter, Davis, Douglas, and Walters, Ricky. “Party.”Lyrics. 4. Columbia, 2010.

iii Kolawole, Helen. "Sisters Take the Rap... But Talk Back.." Girls! Girls! Girls!: essays on women and music. New York: New York University Press, 1996. 8. Print.

iv Ibid

v Heffernan, Kalyn . "SXSW Travelogue: Wheelchair Sports Camp ." The Denver Westword Blogs. Denver Westword, 19 Mar. 2011. Web. 6 Nov. 2011.

vi Dodero, Camille. "Wheelchair-Assisted MC: 3 Feet High & Rising." SPIN.com. SPIN Media, 18 July 2011. Web. 6 Nov. 2011. .

vii Johnson, Ru. "Kalyn Heffernan of Wheelchair Sports Camp on rockin' the mike and making people think twice." The Denver Westword Blogs. Denver Westword, 30 Nov. 2010. Web. 6 Nov. 2011. .

viii Ibid

ix Ibid

x Kolawole, Helen. "Sisters Take the Rap... But Talk Back.." Girls! Girls! Girls!: essays on women and music. New York: New York University Press, 1996. 8. Print.

xi King, Jamilah. "Eight Openly Queer Rappers Worth Your Headphones." COLORLINES. ARC, 11 May 2011. Web. 6 Nov. 2011. .