A Picture of the American Sex Worker

A diverse group of protests advocating for sex workers rights. Front group holding a sign that says “sex workers rights = human rights.” By Rosemary Anderson

As I write this article, I want to make it known that the sex industry is not always positive for women and girls. According to the U.S. National Library of Medicine, sex workers around the world have a 45 to 75 percent chance of experiencing violence during their careers.

When sex workers do experience violence, they are not protected by rape shield laws and are not eligible for compensation funds.

Many see sex workers as objects, non-human, and second-rate members of society. This makes sex workers even more prone to being victims of violence.

Women are forced into sex work without their consent, others are forced into sex work because of financial situations, and some choose sex work as their profession.

Continue reading “A Picture of the American Sex Worker”

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A Hero in Her Own Words

A portrait of Margaret Witt in her air force uniform.
A hero for the LGBTQIA+ community is coming to the UI campus this week.

By Rosemary Anderson

America has seen firsthand the creation of discriminatory policies in its history, but it has also seen these policies be overturned in favor of equality. To this day, people are working hard to have their voice heard and represented in American society. But it takes a special person to destroy a prejudiced institution, armed with nothing but their own bravery.

Luckily for UI students, we have the opportunity to meet and hear from one of these special people: Major Margaret Witt – an activist, an author, a wife, and a woman who made way for LGBTQIA+ people to serve openly in the military.

Maj.  Witt had an exemplary career with the U.S. Air Force and Air Force Reserves until she was discharged in 2007 under the policy known as “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.” The policy prohibited known gays and lesbians from serving in the U.S. military and expulsed more than 13,000 gay servicemen and women already enlisted.

Continue reading “A Hero in Her Own Words”

Is Prenatal Gender Preference Healthy?

By Jolie Day

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“You have 3 sisters? Your poor dad!” This is a common reaction when I tell people that my family is almost all girls. Why my “poor dad”? Do they assume he is not happy with only daughters? Is the amount of estrogen intimidating? Do they think his life would’ve been better with the grace of a son? Why is my mom left out of this? I still can’t wrap my head around the insinuated preference for male children and the overall more positive perception of what raising a male child is like in our world.

When we think of male child preference, we tend to think of countries like India and China that have been markedly fixated on the economic prospects that a male child may bring and that a female might cost. These cultural norms are perpetuated through deeply ingrained beliefs that males will be more successful and ultimately benefit the family, whereas females are seen as a liability that may eventually lead to expenses such as a dowry, which a lot of families struggle to afford. In some cases, families will even turn to breaking the law to reveal the sex of the child during pregnancy and abort female fetuses.

In the United States, although not as severe, child gender preference has implications that not only effect how children of different genders are raised within a family, but also effects the likelihood of families staying together, proving more likely if there are male children. With new technological advances, it has also become easier for parents everywhere to potentially choose the sex of their child via preimplantation genetic diagnosis and in vitro fertilization. These preferences are affecting sex ratios, perpetuating negative stigmas about the worth of women and girls, and attributing to the different treatment of girls and boys within families.

Continue reading “Is Prenatal Gender Preference Healthy?”

“It Happens” Photo Series Challenges the Stereotypes Associated with Sexual Assault

By Olivia Heersink

(Trigger warning: the following post contains images and dialogue related to sexual assault.)

From the innocence of adolescence through adulthood, women in our society are internalizing fear and silence. Most women begin their preparations for sexual assault at a young age, and are well-versed in the precautions they must take before they reach adulthood. In fact, avoiding being raped is an epidemic for women in our society. On average, there are 288,820 victims of rape and sexual assault each year in the United States, alone.

We teach women how not to be raped rather than teaching men about consent, respect, and mutual sexual expression. Not surprisingly, this strategy is ineffective at best. Every two minutes another American is sexually assaulted.

Sex crimes are unique because they are extremely private yet prevalent. Every sexual assault is unique to the victim; yet so many women, and sometimes men, have had similar experiences. Falling victim to a sex crime is an experience that makes the victim feel ashamed of something that happened to their own body.

Continue reading ““It Happens” Photo Series Challenges the Stereotypes Associated with Sexual Assault”

Are Your Looks Grade A?

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By Jessica Bovee 

Looks matter. The media often covers the discrimination against race or gender, but attractiveness is rarely addressed. However, it’s a problem now, because the pretty people are benefiting. Not only are people holding the door for them, but now they are receiving the better grades and jobs.

Whether it’s at school or at work, people deemed more beautiful are getting the upper-hand in life simply based on their genetics. We may think teachers wouldn’t discriminate based on their students’ attractiveness, but one recently released study proves this unjust phenomenon.

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Dress Codes: the War on Women?

High School administrators are enforcing ever stricter dress codes, and many students believe their policies are outdated with today’s fashion and culture.  Administrators and society want to believe that by dictating what students wear, there are less discipline problems, girls are not as sexualized, and the playing field is leveled for students from low-income backgrounds.  In practice, however, these dress codes cause more problems, because the regulations are simply not compatible with today’s fashion, and many girls’ gets in trouble when they shouldn’t think the policies actually objectify girls.

High school dress codes overwhelmingly target girls because boys supposedly aren’t able to control themselves, and girls’ fashion is apparently too distracting. Dress codes are supposed to liberate girls from sexualization—however, they do the opposite. They take girls out of the classroom, embarrass them, and publicly shame culturally acceptable attire. I think it’s wrong to reinforce the culture of objectifying women and girls by allowing this type of sexism. Insisting that girls should cover up more objectifies them, and places the blame for their sexualization on them. Boys should learn how to honor and respect girls irrespective of new fashion trends. Girls aren’t asking to be sexually harassed and objectified, and it is wrong that schools are choosing to benefit the boys rather than allowing the girls to be comfortable with their clothes and body. We are not teaching boys how to be respectful, and are allowing boys and administrators to make fun of girls who are being punished for not even dressing inappropriately. For example, there was a recent story this year about a Kentucky girl being sent home from school because her collar bone was showing. According to Caroline Bolognia, “After receiving a phone call from the school about Stephanie’s dress code violation, Dunn brought her daughter a scarf to wear (The Ridiculous Dress Code Rule That Made This Teen’s Outfit Inappropriate,  Huffington Post). The incident didn’t end even after Stephanie put on the scarf. The male principal  said Stephanie was giving him “attitude,” and sent her home anyway.

High school dress codes need to be modified to provide a more fair evaluation regarding what girls can and cannot wear due to evolving fashion trends. School administrators should tolerate current fashion trends (within reason, obviously) and should hold boys accountable if they are disrespectful to girls. As Laura Bates, a Time magazine journalist, says, “It teaches our children that girls’ bodies are dangerous, powerful and sexualized, and that boys are biologically programmed to objectify and harass them (How School Dress Codes Shame Girls and Perpetuate Rape Culture, Time Magazine feel that girls are targeted due to male teachers and students feeling uncomfortable with their clothing. I personally think society is educating boys to think this way at a young age, to accept society’s perpetuation of the rape culture, and further ingrain negative patterns of sexualization and objectification. Society and the public school system are ingraining sexist attitudes in young men and boys by enforcing a dress code that restricts women.

The idea that dress codes establish an even playing field for all genders is a myth, because they are almost always targeted more towards women and girls. In a recent study conducted by Carrie Preston, a Boston University women’s studies professor, she claims that school dress codes rarely have positive effects on students. According to Preston, “It’s certainly going to give women the idea that the exposure of their bodies is a negative thing.” (How Dress Codes Make Things Worse for High School Girls, Boston.com). What Preston maintains is the dress codes are not beneficial to all they continue a cultural trend of being uncomfortable with the female anatomy. For example, “A high school in Shelton, Connecticut, banned backless, cut-out, and midriff style prom dresses eight days before the dance this week, drawing panic and anger from students and parents who say it’s too late notice to change the rules (“How Dress Codes Make Things Worse for High School Girls). Reading these stories from high schools around the United States alerted me to the problems that young women and girls encounter in trying to express themselves fashionably, hoping to not be shamed.

Young men and boys almost never get in trouble for wearing low saggy jeans, for example. I don’t think dress standards are justified when the sexes are treated unequally regarding dress code enforcement. Overall, even if dress codes are meant to be well intentioned, they establish sexist divides in American culture I believe school districts need to evolve their polices and enforce consequences for male students who choose to be disrespectful towards girls. The problem runs deep, however, and cannot be solved overnight.

On Being a Non-White Feminist

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So if feminism is supposed to be a movement of solidarity, why then is there still such a division amongst women? We are quick to recall Susan B. Anthony and Rosie the Riveter when we think of feminism, but often forget about Audre Lorde, Dolores Huerta, and Julia de Burgos. As a Latina, I have fought the struggles of both sexism and racism and feel that it is important to recognize that the two are very much interrelated. If as feminists we are going to fight for equality, it should be equality for all people– not just that of white women.

Being a woman of color, it has been difficult to “pick a side,” so to speak, when defending my rights as a woman and as a Latina. It is disheartening to me when I see and experience division between each of the movements. I’ll admit I was even a little discouraged at signing up to write for this blog when I went to the first meeting and was surrounded by all white females. I chose to stay to represent my underrepresented race, and am proud that I did.  Continue reading “On Being a Non-White Feminist”