Hannah Heers - n7507577

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Women's amazing bodies....
easy to see in others, but do we have more difficulty when trying to see the truth of this within ourselves?

I have been somewhat lost for words since Monday's lecture on women's amazing bodies. What has mainly got me so lost for words is this “buy-a-body” culture that just seems to be expanding at an alarming rate in westernised/developed (or do I mean industrialised?) societies…. Specifically I am talking about “designer vaginas”: labiaplasty.

Mainly because - I know that my body is amazing (as is any woman's body in its own right), I know that my brain is capable of some incredible feats (much more than the brain of any boy (hehe)), I am secure in the way I look, I am happy with my relationship status (single), all in all I think I am a fairly well-adjusted and content women – and yet I am not exempt from the pressure placed upon me (like every woman in our society) by the mainstream media of what a ‘perfect’ woman, a ‘perfect’ wife/girlfriend/lover, the ‘perfect’ life, or the ‘perfect’ body should look like. Nor am I/have I been exempt from the desire to pursue/achieve any and all of those things throughout my life.

I don’t really watch TV. I don’t ever buy glossy magazines. I see the occasional movie or television series which my housemates have on DVD. I have been known to say (as a woman who has relatively small breasts – but ‘small’ according to whose standards? My friends? No. My mother? Certainly not. Boyfriends? They would be kicked to the kerb faster than you can say “nipple piercing” if they had ever tried that one on. The Media? Pornography? ….. well, that’s a thought.) that I would get breast implants if I had an endless supply of money. I have been known to be on numerous diets or try new ‘fad’ weight-loss techniques. I have been a member of a gym and gone to Bootcamps. And I suppose all of these things seem somewhat normal (even expected) of me, a woman of 25 living in the heart of western culture. One thing I am completely unable to understand, however, is the craze of labiaplasty that I keep hearing more and more about.
I simply fail to comprehend how we go from condemning a practice such as this:

Female Genital Mutilation (a ‘cultural tradition’ in which girls younger than 10 are forced to undergo all across Africa, looked down upon by those of us who are educated and believe in not only women’s rights but human rights, health, equality and justice), but meanwhile are supportive of a practice such as this:

Female Genital Surgery – an emerging fashion (although I think I would be more happy using the term endemic) where women of any age, even those younger than 10 are encouraged question their own, natural body from a perspective of disgust and abnormality, to the point where they feel pressure to have it altered.

The link below is a very interesting perspective put forward by the ABC's show Hungry Beast which I came across.

Defending self-defence in a culture of relentless offense.


In the absence of a lecture this week, here is an interesting new (or, apparently not so new) invention which I happened to stumble across the other day.... its something which I found both utterly fantastic and somewhat worrisome – the RAPEX – is an anti-rape device designed to be concealed in the nether regions of women who believe they may be exposed to potentially dangerous situations where they may be raped. The device has little barbed teeth on its inside so that if such a dangerous situation does transpire, she has some method of defending herself.
I originally saw this on a friend’s Facebook page and, within about 30 minutes of the post, there were more than 400 comments remarking on the benefits and possible drawbacks of the device. At first, I was very supportive of the device. Especially for use by women in countries such as Africa (for whom it was actually designed) where the very real threat of being raped is basically at endemic levels. After I posted my initial comment on Facebook, which was essentially a tirade of commendations and support for such a revolutionary product, I got to actually thinking about the possible consequences of using such a device:
  1. Firstly, what happens if the woman (as many African women are known to be) is raped not just by one single man, but by a pack of men? I have to wonder what would be the outcome for the woman who’s “penis fly trap” of a vagina has just fought back on her initial attacker but who is still held or tied up by numerous other men? Surely this would only serve to anger the other men in the group, causing even more severe physical assault on the woman than would have initially been the case? Alternatively, if the woman is being raped by onlyone pent-up, testosterone-driven, one-thing-on-his-mind, hulk-ing, brute of a man and suddenly his penis feels as if its being bitten of by the mouths of a thousand pit-bulls…. Isn’t that going to make him just that much more angry/pent-up/vicious and dangerous? What if he knows where she lives? Will he (following the surgery required to actually remove the device) not seek revenge? Which leads on to my next thought…
  2. ...Does having a device such as this, whereby women are almost expected to have this protection on them at all times, does this not somewhat validate the “insatiable” and “uncontrollable” desires of men? Does this not perpetuate the concept that it is the woman’sfault if a man rapes her because she is too sexually appealing to be passed up? Or does it (will it slowly, ever so slowly) begin to change the culture among those men who commit these horrible atrocities that rape is not okay? Will it create a fundamental paradigm shift in those men towards the ultimate realisation that women do have the right to defend themselves and ought to be respected?
  3. Thirdly, at what kind of cost do these devices realistically come? Are each of these poor women expected to wear one of these RAPEXes every day of her life on the chance (as high as that chance may be) that she is going to be raped that day? These women – the desperately poor mothers who have to wait for emergency shipments of rice to arrive each month, these carers of over-crowded households in African slums, the women of multiple children to different men because they couldn’t afford to buy a condom to protect themselves from falling pregnant (and lets not even get started on the HIV thing) in the first place – are these women the ones who are expected to fork out for this form of protection? And if so, how are they expected to achieve that?

In short, I am still unsure about how I feel about this thing.... but something I will say is that some change, some movement (whether it be in the right direction or not, we wont know for a while I think) which causes some controversy and gets people talking is better than no change and nothing happening at all.

The fashion industry’s impact on body image and health

I couldn’t agree more with what was expressed in yesterday’s lecture – I find it utterly disgusting that the fashion industry (with guess who behind the steering wheel? Mostly men, would be my first prediction) not only creates a distorted reality for girls about what is ‘normal’ and what is ‘ideal’, and what is ‘desirable’ causing them to internalise somewhat inordinate self-perceptions, which manifest as diminished self-esteem and body dissatisfaction … not only do they do this, but then they use those disorders against those girls and women to then sell more products!?! How the heck to we let them get away with this?
Anyway, on to what I really wanted to say: which is that for me, I think that the focus needs to be moreso on the impact that the fashion industry, including advertising and mainstream pop-culture, has on grown women. I mean sure, young girls are certainly impacted and it is important that they psyche of the younger generations has awareness that you don’t have to be stick thin and picture perfect to be attractive/ successful/ destireable/ powerful or to have any other attribute you wish

Personally though, I think (and I had a discussion about this with a group of girlfriends of mine last night at dinner and they agreed) that it’s us girls in our 20- and 30- something’s who, in some way, are more impacted or at least feel the same impact as those young girls. After all it’s us 20- and 30-something women whose bodies actually begin to changedramatically and alarmingly. The bodies of teenage girls are, fundamentally, the prototype for the fashion industry… they are (for the most part) still petite with tiny hips and a straight frame… some would say… underdeveloped.

I find it interesting that there is kind of this somewhat of an expectation that as we grow up and (I guess) become mature (?), we somehow outgrow the longing/desire/belief that we should want to achieve those unrealistic expectations placed upon us by the men behind those images and become the pre-pubescently skinny, nymph-like, sex goddesseswe see in mainstream popular culture.

Personally, I believe that it has a lot to do with our parents. I can only talk from my own experiences here, but certainly I think that we are a product of our environment, and as such we will become what we are exposed to, in some way at least. My parents always told me I was beautiful just the way I was – the chubby (not fat, but certainly chubby), acne-prone, greasy haired tween and teenager. My parents taught me to love who I was and to be secure in myself. My parents taught me that I could achieve anything I wanted, no matter how I looked….. and yet my family (namely the women) were not happy, content or secure in themselves and I believe that it is this which has led me to have the body image issues that I have (and, I’m not going to lie, continue to) struggle with throughout my life.
So I suppose what I am saying is that I believe there to be more research, more statistics, more support and more…. LOVE!around for women – real women, grown up women, yummy mummies, curvy cougars, whatever you want to call us/them – to believe in themselves. Because, in my own personal opinion, it doesn’t matter one bit what the fashion industry says or does or shows us, if women (who are actually at the age where they are able to procreate) have security and love for their own bodies, this will be the thing that has the largest and most lasting impact on the next generation. But again, this is just my opinion.


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Extra! Extra! Abortion is a woman’s right! ...right?

Just quickly... on the topic of abortion, I am absolutely “pro-choice” - although I think this should be re-named “pro-woman” because it seems like women are the only ones capable of recognising the full spectrum of positives AND negatives in regards to abortion.
Meanwhile, time and time again, it seems to be men who bring it this concept into contention... men who think it’s their place to dictate to us whether abortion represents ‘the removal of a only “potential life” from a woman’s body’ or ‘murder’; whether it is a ‘moral’ choice or ‘the destroying of a soul’, no matter what the circumstances; whether it is ‘a woman’s right’ or if those women who choose this are just ‘copping-out’.....

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I think that it is important for women to be able to choose whether they have the capacity to bring a child, another entity whose entire being is 100% dependent upon her (at least for a few years) into this world. After all, it is such a crazy world we live in and only the mother (and I guess the father too ha-ha) knows how she feels about bringing a innocent soul into it, let alone her ability to protect, love,nurture and care for that innocent soul.

There is one important aspect of getting an abortion, though, that I think women really need to think long (but not too long) and hard about before making the choice to get an abortion. The possible psychological side-effects that abortion can have on the woman are huge (whether this is/can be proven or not is irrelevant). I believe this to be an issue which I think doesn’t really come into the debate enough (especially when that debate is so often preoccupied by moral panic, rather than logical argument).

Meanwhile, on the topic of choosing WHEN (and if at all) to have children...

Personally, I find the whole ‘gen-x’ downturn in fertility-rate both fascinating and inspiring. And if I'm being honest, I think that we’ll find that this is going to become more evident throughout Gen-Y (except for the whole baby bonus” thing where the government just throws money at you if/when you decide to have your first baby... which is just... well, SCARY really, when you think about it. I mean think about the array of problems that could emerge from this – kids growing up without that proper protection, love, nurturing or care that I was talking about earlier, all because their parents decided to have a baby so that the government could pay for their new flat-screen TV or MacBook... Hmmmm, could this possibly, just maybe partially explain the more recent boom of women in their 20’s and 30’s deciding to have kids? ....but anyway, that’s a whole other subject)... ahem... where was i?

I have many friends who, instead of ‘settling down’ to the typical marriage, career, a dog, kids, a mortgage, a cat, a fish and a holiday home (which was the life somewhat planned of them), decided to spend their youth exploring the world through travel or working in far-out places and under (sometimes) incomprehensible conditions. As I said, I find this kind of lifestyle totally and utterly inspiring. At the very least, I know that this is what I intend to do with my life.
Let us live, ladies, let us not be tied down by the constraints placed upon us by the patriarchal society in which we live.


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....just an interesting and light-hearted perspective i found on the subject...

I just wanted to write a quick reflection in regards to today's tute on the 'right' time to have a baby and the somewhat misrepresented concept of 'choice'. This one concept which seems to be continuously dangled in-front of the face of women as if it is the be all and end all of attaining the perfect, happy life. I find it so interesting, though, that when we are awarded that right… it is not really ours, because our ‘choice’ and its ramifications are constantly scrutinized, evaluate, judged, prejudiced against and stereotyped.
When we are bestowed the ‘right’ to make our own choices about significant life events, and if that turns out to be the wrong choice (or, even just not the best choice), it always manages to come back to bite us! I find it appalling that women have to continuously toe this fine line between the two brutal realities of ‘choice’:
  1. the fact that there will always be things in our life which are outside of our control , no matter what we would like to ‘choose’; in these circumstances we are expected to keep our head high, take it in our stride and accept our “failure”. Meanwhile,
  2. we are meant to remain in complete control of our lives, managing without difficulty all of the struggles and hardships that the world throws at us by making the right ‘choices’ even when no choice available to us is the one we wish to take.
Sometimes life just gets in the way and we have to do the best with what we’ve got! Unfortunately, this is not good enough for the judging eyes of our society.
We are expected to maintain this fine balancing act despite the stigmatisation and dishonour that might come along with our ‘choices’ without ever dropping the ball or visibly losing control. And then if we do (as inevitably we will, from time to time) we are assaulted with the retort “well that was your choice!”
I suppose what I am saying is that choice truly does always seem to come back to bite women in the end… as soon as it becomes apparent that she has made the wrong choice, even if the choice she made was the only one available to her.
As we have learned and discussed during the lectures and tutes so far throughout the semester: women make choices for many many (M.A.N…..Y) reasons. And yes, I would propose that for most of us, of the choices we make are influenced at least in some way by (you guessed it) the men we are surrounded by.
So….. how has it become acceptable to blame a woman for making a choice whether it be the right or the wrong choice (and if it does turn out to be ‘wrong’, who judges it as such? Our culturally accepted and patriarchally constructed norms?). Regardless of the outcome, undoubtedly she made that choice she made with the best of intentions, probably for either the direct or indirect benefit a man or to enable herself to better fit into the patriarchal social construction of what it means to be ‘woman’. So shouldn’t we applaud that woman for having the confidence in herself to put trust in the choice she made, rather than judging her, labelling her, stigmatising her and excluding her?
Just like men, women are not omniscient beings… we are always going to make mistakes! What is important is that we support each other through these mistakes. Because only by proving an enriching system of social support will women help each other learn from their mistakes, and grow towards reaching their full potential. Gosh, we certainly can’t rely on men to do this for us, this is obvious … It’s all on our shoulders, ladies.

Week 7

Changing gender roles don’t play well with institutionalised discrimination

I find it interesting that the study conducted by Correll et al. found that employers let the fact that a woman is a mother influence their decisions related to hiring and promoting, but did not discriminate likewise for men who were fathers. Does this imply that the mentality of many employers is that a woman cannot be a ‘good mother’ simultaneously to being a ‘good worker’? If so, I am quite disgusted and appalled. In this day and age, how can this possibly still be the way employers (im going to go right ahead and suggest that the people we are talking about are mostly men) think!?

It’s almost like women have to choose between achieving personal success and personal fulfilment… but nobody is willing to accept that those things go hand in hand. Maybe I am being naïve, but surely a happy medium can be achieved between a functional family life and a fulfilling work life for women just as it can be for men?! When watching the TED talk in today’s tute, I was interested with the statistic that the divroce rate is nearly halved in in households who really do equally share the responsibilities of family life. Surely then, couldn’t this situation of women getting discriminated against by workplaces be changed if we respected ourselves enough to marry a man who does his fair share around the house, with the kids, paying bills, cooking meals, doing housework and so on…

Maybe not immediately, maybe not within a generation… but eventually, if we make the choice now to set a good example for our kids about sharing the responsibility in relationships and achieving real equality in all aspects of our lives, then one day women will receive the true equality and real respect that they deserve. But we have to learn to respect ourselves first.

DV, TV and Underrepresentation

I just don’t know how I feel about the statistic that women are most often the victim of domestic abuse while men are most often the perpetrators, especially after Tuesday’s lecture.

I have to say, firstly, that I was so surprised to learn that ‘social control’ is actually considered a form of domestic violence. I know that there is much debate around what constitutes ‘abuse’, but I think this makes sense. I can’t say that I have ever thought about it – reading through a partner’s phone messages, restricting what they wear or who they see, questioning their daily movements and interactions, or giving them curfews when they go out – in this way before here, but it makes sense. And I have to say I was surprised. Do you know why? I think it’s because, when I look back on my own past relationships and analyse them using this perspective, it becomes apparent to me that I have probably been in quite seriously abusive relationships… and if I’m being really truly honest (as I feel we should be in this forum, and I hope that other women reading this post wont judge me for this), the perpetrator of this abuse may not have always been the other party.

That’s right, it was me. I have never ever seen it from this point of view before, and this is why I was more than a little taken aback by Tuesday’s lecture – because I always considered myself to be the one in the right. I can think of two relationships where the struggle for power and control between myself and each of those boyfriends at the time had become such that I was resorting to social control in order to enhance my own feeling of strength again; that which I believed had been taken away by them. It got to the point in each of those relationships where I would trawl through his phone, his emails and his private Facebook messages on a regular basis just to prove something which wasn’t there. But something which (I felt) they had created and thus (I felt) justified me in doing those things, because (I felt) I was the victim.

Now, I know that this, what I’m talking about here, is somewhat ‘tame’ in the massive spectrum of Domestic Violence which is a daily reality for many women… no, many couples… (Not that I am at ALL trying to diminish or justify the badness of these actions), but what I'm trying to get at is that I can see how it must sneak up on people – both the victim and the perpetrator. When I turn it around and look at it in terms of how Ifelt whenI was in those relationships, I think I can somewhat understand how domestic violence might start… perpetrators feeling victimised, feeling like the world/their partner owes them something, like they have something they must prove. And as we well know (and to go full circle) all of this comes down to control, doesn’t it…really. It’s about people feeling out of control in their relationship – whether they felt like this before they even entered that relationship (maybe they weren’t actually happy in their lives, and got into that situation expecting the other person to ‘fill their cup’ so to speak, maybe that relationship didn’t provide the positive dynamic they wanted/needed to grow and become a better person), or whether they felt like this as a result of that relationship (maybe their partner cheated on them, maybe their partner didn’t give them the affection/attention/security they expected or needed… the possibilities are endless) – that the distortion of ‘acceptable’ vs ‘non-acceptable’ behaviour becomes truly apparent. Both of these situations are situations that applied to me, but I realise now (after each relationship had come to an end (surprise, surprise!)) that it was I who was in the wrong, not them (well maybe them a little bit too, but that’s another rant). I have learned now that it is nobody else’s fault but my own if I consider myself to be the victim in any given situation, it is nobody else’s fault but my own if I choose to stay with someone despite negatives of the relationship.

So anyway, this brings me back to my initial point, that I'm just not entirely convinced by the statistic found by Grechand Burgess (2011) that women are primarily the victims and men the perpetrators. I feel like it is much too much of a difficult thing to measure – can you imagine the shame and potential social stigma that would be received by a man who reports his female partner for domestic abuse for any reason, let alone “because she goes through my phone messages”. By no means am I saying that this fair or right…I'm just saying. Human relationships are far too complex for us to be able to measure the prevalence of something like DV, especially in our closed minded, patriarchal society where men are taught to be men and women are taught to be ladies (and we all know about this construction of gender from previous lectures). I think the prevalence of DV is, sadly, much more engrained in our society than we might think – certainly more than we might measure – and that the differentiation between the genders may not be as wide as we think. Therefore the concept of women as victims, in this instance, might be a bit more of an over exaggeration than we realise.

lucky us girls are so good at learning from the mistakes we have made in the past :)


Self-medication…. Is it any wonder?!

As suggested in this week’s lecture, I have been keeping somewhat of an eye on the expectations, recommendations and so-called advice bequeathed upon women by the glossy magazines in shop fronts and supermarket “news” stands. And to be completely honest, the types of “life-improving” suggestions and “girls-only” secrets (I have to ask – how can something be a secret if it’s being broadcast on the front page of a tabloid for the masses to consume?) I have come across in the last week or so (I’ve never really been one for glossy mag’s) are completely ridiculous!!! In light of what I became aware of when I started taking notice of these titbits (pardon the pun) of I realised - goodness me, It’s really no wonder that women self-medicate the way they are known to do! The advertising industry, indeed, all types of media, are nothing but huge, globalised forms of propaganda! From every angle women are taught that their lives, their bodies, their very existence is fundamentally flawed. Even their way of thinking is flawed, if they have somehow transgressed the consumerist ideology… and that their only means of achieving true happiness, is through the uptake of images, messages and products provided by the media which creates their culture.

Several women who have been instrumental in my life have/had (what I would consider) problem behaviours associated with self-medication – whether that be alcohol, legal or illegal drugs… whatever. I have always had, I suppose, somewhat of a naïve perspective on these behaviours; I considered women displaying such dependencies as weak (“why cant she just stop?”), or lazy (“she just keeps drinking/smoking/taking drugs because it’s too hard for her to stop, but being too hard is such a terrible excuse!”) or selfish (“she’s damaging her body/relationships without any thought or care for any of the people who love her”). But from this week’s lecture, it has become blaring apparent that this is just their socially constructed reality – the reality they have been placed into in a society which expects everything of its women… except autonomy.

oh, and I just wanted to add this link that i found... it's a transcript from a discussion between Jean Kilbourne and a few other panelists on the subject of advertising and the incredible force it has on society.
I couldn't find a YouTube clip unfortunately, so you'll have to read the transcript. But it's well worth the read!