Some (Almost) Summer Lovin’ from the HCWC Blogging Team

Dear Readers,

Thank you for visiting the HCWC blog throughout the year! We launched the blog in its current form last fall and have thoroughly enjoyed this first step in creating an engaged online community for exploring women’s and gender issues at Harvard and beyond.

The HCWC blogging team will be taking a bit of a summer hiatus – we hope to put up posts periodically, but won’t be blogging on a weekly basis again until the fall semester. We would love for YOU to consider submitting a guest post, though! As you know, we welcome posts on a wide range of topics and of various lengths – from a few sentences to several paragraphs. We encourage you to contribute! Please email hcwc@fas.harvard.edu with submissions or questions.

Before we all head off on summer adventures, our HCWC bloggers would like to share brief reflections on the past year. Though some of us are graduating this May, we all look forward to continuing to build a lively forum via the HCWC blog in the years to come, and hope that you, our readers, will join us!

Cheers,

The HCWC Blogging Team

Lili ’12:
While I had read blogs for several years, I had never written a blog post before this academic year. I chose topics relevant to my personal feminist foci—politics, economic equity, and media—and tried to present them clearly. While I am very proud of how our blog has grown, both in terms of readership and in terms of post frequency, I would love to see reader input increase in the next few years. I included questions for readers in the hopes that they would answer in a comment, and therefore continue a conversation between the Women’s Center and the outside world. Aside from my fellow interns’ comments, however, this did not happen, and so “More interaction!” tops my HCWC blog wish list. I will be leaving Harvard and HCWC for Chicago and law school in the fall, but will continue reading. Thank you!

Suzanna ’13:
Worki
ng on this blog for this semester was a really enriching way to reflect on my feminism and work at the Women’s Center. It has given me the opportunity to articulate my thoughts, passions, and convictions on why I think gender equity is so essential (indeed, this is rare enough), but to be able to share it with my family, friends, and people whom I have never met was such a privilege. I’ve also enjoyed reading the reflections from my co-workers; while we don’t always agree, it was so wonderful to see what draws us to our work at the Dub-Cee. I hope to send some summer updates this summer, from my home-home in Maryland, and my travels to New York and Honolulu. Thanks so much for reading!

Bradley ’13:
Looking back on our first run with the revamped blog, I realize how blogs are really great for providing a reflective space while creating a sense of community at the same time. Much of my internet use in general revolves around different blogs, and I find that clicking around my favorites allows me to just breathe and take in something new, hilarious, outrageous, or inspiring.  I’m so glad that we as a staff have created a space to do that for all of the members of our community, both here on campus and beyond.

It’s reading period and I’m currently in the middle of writing a paper that uses feminist historian Joan Scott’s notion of gender history.  Scott talks about how using gender as a category of historical analysis opens up new ways of thinking about processes of change over time that account for the dynamic and diffuse nature of social and political power.  I think that through the use of this blog, we are creating a digital archive of gender by sharing our own encounters with the way that gender surfaces in many aspects of our lives.  If I’ve learned any lesson from blogging this year, it’s that creating our own narratives allows us to actively confront the ways in which gendered power affects our lives.

I’m so appreciative of the chance to read and respond to my fellow interns’ blog posts, as well as the opportunity to write my own.  I’m also so grateful for all of the readers who have dropped in to see what we have to see.  Thank you so much, and please come back in the fall!

Lindiwe ’14:
Dear Readers,

It’s been a long and lovely year. I would like to start by thanking you for checking in with us here at the Harvard College Women’s Center whenever you got the chance. I hope that you come into the new academic year ready to be shocked, humored, and informed by what we post in the near future.

Looking back on the year, it is hard to reflect on a single event as being the most meaningful or memorable for me. However, I would like to thank the Women’s Center and my fellow interns for constantly helping the continued development of my gender education, fueling a never-ending barrage of laughter, and helping me do things that, alone, I’d never have done.

I hope that you, dear reader, are looking down the barrel of a warm and sunny summer filled with good books, moments of utter spontaneity, and delicious meals!

‘Til September, Adieu!

Sunday Morning Talk’s Gender Gap

Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting (FAIR), which calls itself a “national media watchdog group,” last week published a report analyzing the demographic make-up of guests on Sunday morning news talk shows. Though the report summary, titled “Right and Early,” emphasizes the “conservative skew” of those talk shows, I will focus here on the aspect I find more troubling.

FAIR found that, during the eight months between June 2011 and February 2012, women made up only 14% of one-on-one interview guests and 29% of roundtable discussion guests. I must admit that I am not surprised by these numbers. I watch some of these shows quite often, when I can, and mentally “give points” to the shows that feature woman guests. Not many seem to, and this study confirms that.

This dearth of women is problematic for several reasons. First, in the 2008 presidential elections, two women played leading roles: Hillary Clinton and Sarah Palin. After the election, President Obama staffed his Cabinet with powerful women such as Clinton (Secretary of State) and Hilda Solis (Secretary of Labor). Second, in the 2010 midterm Congressional and gubernatorial elections, women were again a focus of much media attention and several women won governorships. Think of Christine “I’m not a witch” O’Donnell, who lost her Delaware senatorial race but gained a lot of publicity in the process. More importantly, remember that Nikki Haley (R-SC) and Susana Martinez (R-NM), who now serve as their state’s governors. Third, in the present election cycle, plenty of women—and women’s issues—have grabbed headlines. When Senator Olympia Snowe (R-ME) announced her retirement, the media bemoaned the loss of her centrist voice.  What some pundits call a “war on women” was in evidence when funding for reproductive health care services came under attack by many Congresspeople.

All of these cases show that women play an important, though still too-small, role in national politics; further, national politics clearly plays a large role in women’s lives. They, not male talking heads, should speak for themselves on Sunday morning television. These shows are important, both for the channels that air them (NBC touts its “Meet The Press” as TV’s longest-running program) and for the politicians who gain a crucial public platform through interviews on Sunday morning.

I do not have any easy suggestions for getting more women on Sunday “talkers.” However, some stations, such as MSNBC with its “Melissa Harris-Perry Show,” have made some progress in featuring more women, and those shows’ viewership numbers going forward might suggest to talk show producers that viewers will listen to authoritative women and to interviews with them. In the meantime, we as concerned media-consumers should get in touch with networks and tell them that, perhaps, if we do not feel represented on their airwaves, we will vote with our ratings-boosting eyeballs and watch TV elsewhere.

Jammin’ (Almost) Summer Jams

It’s going to get up into the mid 80’s today, I’m wearing my inaugural summer dress, and the chairs are back out in the Yard. All things good, right? Well unfortunately, we are approaching reading period / final exams and it is time to get re-motivated and re-focused. Some people might do this by a quick run around the Charles (good luck marathoners!), some people might write a reflective journal entry, but here at the Women’s Center we work it out through music–specifically, jams.

I hereby present, “Suzbob’s Groovin Guide to Get You Through Finals.” I hope you enjoy and feel free to add your own suggestions in the comment box!

Stage One: my girl B and “Move Your Body” 

“Finals? Totally do-able! After some jumping jacks, I’ll settle down and crank out this paper!” 

More Jamin’ Jams After the Jump! 

Continue reading “Jammin’ (Almost) Summer Jams”

What’s Going On

Harvard has a series of events on the horizon that aim to highlight gender related issues on campus and at large. The series began with the Take Back the Night Kickoff event on April 1st and will be brought to a close with a candlelight vigil the night of April 25th.

Events within the series that have passed include:

The Price of Sex: film screening

Queer Sex Etiquette: dinner and discussion

Hard Bodies, Soft Light: media and gender performance

Events still to come:

April 16- Epic Vagina @ 8pm, Sever 113

April 19- Love the Way You Lie @ 8pm, Sever 102

April 23- Gender-based Violence in Haitian Communities @8pm, Barker Center – Thompson Room

April 24- Men, Boys, and Healing @ 7pm, Fong Auditorium

April 25- Candlelight Vigil @ 8pm, Memorial Church Steps

Hope to see you all there!

Investment in Hu(wo)man Capital

My economics tutorial assigned a wonderfully informative and refreshing experimental study for our weekly reading just last week. In it, Robert Jensen and his team test the effect of increased availability of information involving job opportunities on investment in human capital in several randomly selected (to avoid bias within the experiment) communities in India. Are you ready for the unexpected, but much appreciated twist? The study targeted job opportunities available specifically to women.

Long project short, women between the ages of 18 and 28 saw a drastic decrease in unemployment, increase in average yearly earning, and, as a result, increased bargaining-power within the home. The change in the status of these women increased the value that society placed upon them. A trickle down effect ensued. Because these young women increased their worth (cringing at the thought that ones worth is financially determined), there was an increased investment in girls within these communities.

This increased investment in human capital was evidenced by a jump in school enrollment rates for girls between the ages of 6 and 15. Additionally, these communities saw an increase in the number of hours per week that girls, on average, spent on school work outside of the classroom. What struck me as particularly interesting was that health statistics for young girls also improved. Average BMIs increased, which lead, over the course of 4 years, to an increase in the average height of girls in these regions, and a decrease in pregnancy before the age of 19.

WOW! All of those improvements made to the standard of living of the female population just because of increased access to employment opportunity information. Jensen also reports relatively low costs of implementation of his program. I picked my brain to see how more of this could possibly be negative, and I came up with nothing. I would love to see global aid organizations implement for of these types of programs around the world… I’m looking at you World Bank, Clinton Foundation, Sangra, etc.

The Gender Games

Many of you may not have seen “The Hunger Games” in theaters or have read the books series, so I won’t spoil it for you. However, I would like to use this as an opportunity to think about how the young adult (YA) fiction genre might be the newest site for re-conceptualizing the way we think about women as protagonists. Could it be that the same entertainment market that gave us Twilight could now be paving the way for strong female leads in books and movies, or is Suzanne Collins, the author of The Hunger Games, just an anomaly?

I went to see The Hunger Games during its opening weekend without having read any of the books, and I was pleasantly surprised. Rarely do you see an action movie with a strong female lead who isn’t sexualized in some way. Katniss Everdeen, the protagonist of the film, is depicted as a woman whose sexuality is clearly a part of her identity; however, what we do get as far as romance goes leaves us guessing about her true desires and motivations, which adds a certain complexity to the film. Without giving too much away, I felt that the portrayal of Katniss, at least in the film, avoided reducing her to the object of men’s sexual fantasies.

Of course, that’s not to say that the movie was without its flaws when it comes to gender. Still, I’m reminded of a Women’s Week event that I went to where young adult fiction writers discussed the way that ideas about gender inform their writing. What I came away with was this idea that books featuring male protagonists have a universal appeal, while books with female main characters tend to appeal more to young women (and often repel male readers). “The Hunger Games” has a very broad fan base, but still explores how life in the universe of the franchise is complicated by gender.