Burkini vs. Bikini

Earlier this summer, several French cities and towns including Cannes (of the Cannes Film Festival) and Nice have banned a popular Muslim swimsuit, the burkini.  This swimsuit, popular amongst Muslim women, covers the entire body except the face, hands, and feet. After several religiously inspired attacks across France, including a deadly attack in Nice on Bastille Day, French politicians urged the ban of the burkini. This is not an unprecedented move in France, a country that values secularism, and has already banned several other forms of headscarves. France is one of few countries that has full bans on burquas and niqabs and also a more widespread ban on other forms of headscarves in public schools. Now women caught at the beach wearing a burkini are fined or asked to remove the burkini.

Why do people across the globe have such a preoccupation with what women wear to the beach? Is it oppressive for a woman’s religion to dictate that she must be fully covered while at the beach? Or rather is it oppressive for the government to forbid a woman to dress modestly at the beach?

The truth is that women’s attire is scrutinized at beaches across the globe, and oppression can take many forms. Recently, I came across this image which points out the irony of the situation.

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I realize the captions here are in French. Basically, in the “lottery of indecency” the artist (@lasauvagejaune) is sarcastically writing social commentary about how the general public might reproach a woman dressed either in a burkini or in a mini skirt.

If a woman wears full covering at a beach, such as a burkini, she is ridiculed for being a prude, overly-religious or she is forced to remove it. However, on the other end of the spectrum if a woman wears too much makeup she may be considered slutty. If she reveals her breast or wears a short skirt she is considered immodest and shameful. Next week I will be going to a French beach where sunbathing topless will be completely accepted and no one would give me a second glance. However, if I tried to tan topless in Florida, it would not be the same case. It seems that no matter what a woman wears, unless it falls exactly within the prescribed “cultural uniform” she will face public scrutiny and disapproval.

Bend it like Beckham

As we prepare to watch the Olympics in just a few weeks, my mind goes back to the news headlines in late March centering around the wage gap between the US men’s and women’s soccer teams. In case you missed the debate, below is a funny rendition from the Daily Show of what’s going on:

So, what’s the issue? Well, each member of the women’s national team earns $1,350 for each game they win and $0 for a loss. Meanwhile, the men earn up to $17,265 for a win and $5,000 for a loss. While these numbers do vary drastically, there is more to the story than meets the eye. For one thing, the salary and benefits structure for each of the teams varies considerably. The women earn an annual salary while the men are only paid per game that they play. If a male player is asked to sit out for a game, he will not earn anything. However, if a woman sits out, she will still earn her annual salary. Even still, at the end of the day, the men are consistently earning much more than the women. Some estimates even show that the women earn only 1/4 of what the men earn.

The biggest argument against this I have heard over the past several months is that the men bring in more revenue so they should earn higher salaries. This was true in the past, but now the tables have turned. With a World Cup victory in 2015 and a hopeful Olympic victory in August, the women’s team has generated millions more for the soccer federation than the men’s team. This is a trend that is expected to continue. According to the New York Times the women’s team is expected to bring in about $5 million in profits in 2017 compared to a $1 million loss on the men’s side.

Those are a lot of numbers, and there are even more that make this such a complicated situation. (Check out this Wall Street Journal article, if you’re interested).Who earns more? Who plays more games? Which pay structure is more fair? The way it looks is that in the past the women were generating far less revenue than the men, so it seemed fair that they were earning less. However, now that the women are clearly more successful and driving profits, they should be the ones earning more money. It is only fitting that they filed this dispute. If US Soccer wants to keep the best soccer players in the world they need to pay them fairly. They cannot argue that the men are more successful either in victories or revenue. While the previous pay structure and disparity may have been admissible in the past, now is the time for change. The US Soccer federation needs to keep up. And in case you want to keep up, too, the women will have their first game on August 3rd. We wish them luck (and also fair and equal pay!)

“20 minutes of action”

Brock Turner. Does the name sound familiar? Most news articles refer to him as the “Stanford swimmer” or “olympic hopeful.” He is the man who brutally assaulted a woman outside of a fraternity party in January 2015. Rather than summarize the details of that day or the aftermath, I recommend reading what the victim herself has to say. In her letter to the defendant, she expressed herself both brilliantly and eloquently on a subject and event that is horrific and appalling.

This week Turner received his sentence. He was sentenced to 6 months in prison followed by probation. He was also sentenced to register as a sex offender for life. He was convicted of assault with the intent to commit rape, sexual penetration with a foreign object of an intoxicated person and sexual penetration with a foreign object of an unconscious person. News articles state that he faced up to 14 years in prison but received only 6 months. This is a shockingly light sentence. After the brutality he committed, and his lack of ownership or remorse over his actions, I am utterly shocked by the sentence. The judge defended his sentence by saying that anything longer would have a “severe impact” on Turner. Isn’t that the point? Shouldn’t jail time have a severe impact on the perpetrator of violence? Shouldn’t he be punished for his actions to a degree that would make him hopefully change? What about the severe impact his actions had on the victim? She has suffered a “severe impact” by no choice of her own. He too should face a severe impact as a result of his own choices and actions.

Below I have included a screenshot of the letter Brock Turner’s father wrote in response to his sentence. Dan Turner calls this a “steep price to pay for 20 minutes of action.” There are many actions that can be done in 20 minutes that deserve a steep price.

Brock Turner

What about a gunman who goes into a public place and kills dozens of people? That action, too, is committed in 20 minutes but deserves a “steep price”. Dan Turner goes on to say that he does not deserve this sentence because he has no prior criminal history. Well Dan Turner, we do not live in a society that gives everyone one freebie to commit a horrible crime. We cannot let every or any rapist or murderer off the hook for the first rape or the first murder. A perpetrator of violence must be justly punished for his or her actions.

Dan Turner seems to be perpetrating the cycle of privilege and patriarchy. Rather than disciplining his son or raising him to respect women, Dan Turner is more concerned that his son be able to eat a “ribeye steak.” Brock Turner appears to have grown up in privilege (white privilege, male privilege, socio-economic privilege), and unfortunately even today, his father believes that Brock should have all that he wants or do all he wants with no consequences, something that Brock appears to also believe. I can’t help but think that if Brock were black or a woman or impoverished that the judge would not have looked so favorably upon his case. It seems likely that Brock Turner’s position of privilege in society was a major factor in the sentence he received. This is wrong; no matter his race, gender, wealth, or swimming times, Brock Turner is responsible for his actions and should be punished accordingly. It would be a tragedy for someone with so much potential to spend 14 years of his life in prison, but the real tragedy lies in the fact that this would be the result of his choice to commit violence.

I am appalled by the crime Brock Turner committed in January 2015. I am appalled by the light sentence he received. I am appalled by Dan Turner’s response. But I love that the victim is courageously stepping up and speaking out. She refuses to be silenced and even in the midst of great suffering is offering hope for the future. Let us look to do the same.

The Intern

***Warning: There are spoilers in this post***

The Intern

 

Last weekend I watched the movie, “The Intern,” starring Anne Hathaway and Robert DeNiro. The film was written and directed by Nancy Myers (you know her from The Holiday and The Parent Trap). When I selected the movie to watch, I was expecting a light-hearted comedy, witty humor, and a good laugh. I got all of that, but I was surprised by the deeper theme of discrimination that appears throughout the movie. The Intern addresses the themes of sexism and ageism in the workplace right from the first scene. For the purpose of this blog I’m going to concentrate on sexism and how Anne Hathaway’s character, Jules, is portrayed in the movie.

 

The Good:

  • In the first scene of the movie we see Jules, the founder and CEO of a very successful clothing company, doing her job extremely well. She is clearly very busy, but she is shown as successful, smart, and well-liked. She bike rides past a small office birthday party and the other employees wave her in, wanting her to join the fun. I was pleasantly surprised to see that Jules is a kind, good-natured successful businesswoman. It seems that in most Hollywood movies with a successful businesswoman character, she is portrayed as harsh, unkind, and for lack of a better word, a bitch. (Picture: The Devil Wears Prada, The Proposal). Jules does not fall into that category. Rather, she is portrayed as a good CEO and also as a good mother and wife, who despite being extremely busy at work, still makes time for her family and cares about them deeply. By the end of the movie, we see that Jules is adequately balancing work, family, and other commitments. Also, despite pressure to hire a new CEO, she and others ultimately realize that she is best equipped and suited to run her own company, rather than bringing in a male CEO to do it for her. YGG. As a side note, at one point in the movie, Jules mentioned that her husband gave up a successful career in marketing to be at stay-at-home dad for their daughter. This is revolutionary for Hollywood and for most American families today. Usually when a parent is called to give up their career to raise a family, the wife is the one to do it. Here, the dad gives up his career and is shown doing a great job taking care of their daughter while Jules is at work. This is one of the first Hollywood portrayals of a husband sacrificing his career so that his wife might pursue hers.

The Bad:

  • The Intern gives very mixed messages about whether or not a woman can actually “have it all.” Can a woman be a CEO, raise a family, and still have time to grab dinner with friends? Jules is trying to do all of this, but throughout the course of the movie her life appears to be falling apart. She is stressed at work, working extremely late, her husband is cheating on her, and she barely has time to eat, let alone go out with friends. Jules receives very little support, especially from the other women in the movie. Her mother constantly has derogatory things to say about her job. The other moms at school snicker about her both behind her back and to her face. All of this adds up. While it may seem like the movie is finally portraying a admirable female CEO, at the same time the message seems to be that this life is impossible. In order to get here she has sacrificed her friendships, her relationship with her mother and daughter, her marriage, and her health (sleep deprivation, no time to eat lunch). While all of these are real struggles and certainly aspects of what makes it hard for a woman to succeed in business today, the movie makes it seem impossible. Watching the movie made me glad that I am not a CEO because all of the “side-effects” in Jules life seem like too much to handle. The end of the movie ties things up a little nicer, but I still left feeling like I had received many mixed messages.

Overall, I think the point is that our culture does not make it easy for a woman to succeed in business. It points out that women should be supporting and encouraging other women who are trying to do so, rather than bringing them down and criticizing them for the sacrifices they have had to make. We see that despite hardship it is possible for a woman to run a company and have a family at the same time. So, although there are some mixed messages in the movie, overall I think this movie was the first of its kind portraying a well-liked and successful female CEO. She is competent,  organized, creative, smart, and caring. Definitely worth a watch, both for the comedy and the deeper themes that will give your mind something to chew on.

Belle

First, watch the trailer above. This week Disney released their first teaser trailer for the new Beauty and the Beast movie featuring Emma Watson as Belle. This is a huge tease since the movie does not come out until 3.17.17, and alas out waiting continues. However, this trailer reminded me of all the reasons Belle is my favorite princess and has been since I first watched the animated Beauty and the Beast when I was 18 months old. Here are the reasons I have a major #girlcrush on Belle.

  1. Belle loves to read. She constantly has her nose in a book and is learning new things. I would certainly classify her as an intellectual princess.
  2. Belle does not settle. Throughout the movie Gaston harasses Belle, trying to get her to marry him. However, Belle will have none of it. Despite the fact that others girls in the town swoon over him at all times, she is not deceived by his good looks or charm. She sees that he is misogynistic and calls him out. At one point he says, “It’s not right for a woman to read. Soon she starts getting ideas, thinking…” Belle is not about men who act and think like that.
  3. Belle respects her father. When the rest of the town is mocking her father, Belle stands up for him and believes in him and his inventions.
  4. Belle puts others ahead of herself. When her father is sick and imprisoned by the Beast, she readily offers her own life in sacrifice. Even though this means she will lose her freedom and her chance at having friends and a family, she puts her father ahead of herself.
  5. Belle is kind. Belle is kind to all the others that live in the castle, quickly becoming friends with Mrs. Potts, Chip, Cogsworth and Lumiere. She plays in the snow with the Beast and dresses his wounds after he is attacked by wolves. She demonstrates true kindness throughout the whole movie.
  6. Belle is not a shrinking violet. She speaks her mind and stands up for herself when the Beast is being mean. He yells at her and she puts him right back in his place.

YGG, Belle. You put all the other boy-crazy princesses to shame. You are a role model in terms of Disney characters. I’m already looking forward to 3.17.17 to see the live action version of this story and this strong female princess.

The Women of Alcatraz

Alcatraz, located just over a mile from San Francisco, CA is one of the most well-known high-security prisons in America. Housing infamous criminals such as Al Capone and Robert Stroud, Alcatraz has been the inspiration for numerous books, movies and tales. Open for just 30 years from 1933-1963, Alcatraz was home to over 1,500 inmates at one point or another. Remarkably, not one of these inmates was a woman, and none of the guards were either.

I visited Alcatraz earlier this week and stopped to ask one of the rangers about this gender discrepancy. She informed me, “there were hardly any women’s prisons at that time. There simply wasn’t a need, as women were not the ones committing the crimes.” Despite what you might believe from shows like Orange is the New Black, these numbers haven’t changed a lot since then. Today, women are usually not the people committing hard crimes. According to the Federal Bureau of Prisons, today 93.3% of inmates are male. That means that the vast majority of of criminal behavior is committed by men. Further, women are more likely to be incarcerated for a non-violent crime (such as a drug related offense). What is it that makes men more likely to engage in criminal behavior? Is it something innate? Is it something they are taught? Obviously this could lead us into a never-ending nature vs nurture debate. As this is a very complex topic, I will have to address this more in a later blog post.

So, if there were no women inmates and no women guards at Alcatraz, were there any women there? Yes! In fact, hundreds of women lived on Alcatraz island. At any point in time over 60 guard families lived on Alcatraz, including women and children. It was a miniature society there with a post office, a general store, and even a Ladies Club. The children would take a ferry each day into San Francisco to go to school, and then they would come back to the island to play, do homework and eat dinner. Some of the girls who grew up on the island described it as “idyllic” and “fabulous.” Ann Burrows Eib, the daughter of one of the guards, even had her wedding on Alcatraz while it was still a functioning prison. Talk about an unconventional location for a wedding!

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This is one of the buildings the families lived in on Alcatraz. Room with a view!

Today, Alcatraz is populated mostly by tourists coming to see the prison remains. However, Alcatraz is also known for its flora and its bird population. See, the women of Alcatraz helped leave behind a legacy in the beauty they brought to the island. Before Alcatraz was inhabited there were few to no plants or flowers on the island. Then, the military and the families brought plants to garden that still exist today. The island is filled with exquisite flowers and plants everywhere you turn! This work was not done only by the women on the island, but they certainly had a large role, the fruit of which is still being enjoyed today.

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Brrr it’s cold in here

Thermostat

Today at work Brandon Smith (aka The Workplace Therapist) came to train us about how to influence and manage other people well. At one point during the training he said, “Ok, let’s talk about the temperature. Who in the room is cold?” Immediately EVERY SINGLE WOMAN in the room raised her hand (about 30 women). He then asked who was hot and 2 men raised their hands. Finally, he asked who was comfortable, and the remaining 18 men raised their hands*. None of the men in the room were cold and none of the women were comfortable (shocking statistics here!). His point had nothing to do with gender, and he didn’t even comment on it. Rather, he went on to give an example of how to address needs and find solutions. However, what struck me was the stark gender discrepancy in the room. Why was the temperature in the room set so that the men were comfortable but that ALL of the women were cold for the entire 6 ½ hours we were there? Perhaps you might argue that this is a one-off situation, a glitch or just a coincidence, but my mind jumped to the news article I once heard on the exact same subject. Check out this NY Times article.

Research shows that the typical office temperature is based on a formula that uses the average metabolic rates of men. To put some approximate numbers on it, commonly offices are set to about 70 degrees (preferable to men) whereas most women would prefer something closer to 75 degrees. When the formula was created most women did not hold office jobs, so this might have made sense. But now its 2016. Women are working, and office temperatures need to catch up. While this may seem like a minor discrimination, it is a discrimination that causes most men to be comfortable in their office all day and most women to be cold in their office all day. This is why I keep a Snuggie at my desk. This is why my roommate runs a space heater at her desk everyday, even when we are suffering through another Atlanta summer with 90-degree temperatures and 85% humidity. This is why my female coworkers make hot tea, just to have something to warm up their hands in between typing.

If we are serious about workplace equality, the conversation should not just be limited to which gender is filling which role in the company (though that of course is important!). We must also address the environmental factors that favor men over women. The small things that often go unnoticed are worth discussing and addressing. As much as I love my UNC Snuggie, I would rather wear it while watching a movie instead of while trying to be professional at the office.

*These numbers are approximate. I did not take an actual head count in the room. Additionally, it is interesting to note that my workplace does not follow typical gender statistics, as our firm has a slight majority of women.

Beginning to blog

Today I created this blog, YGG, as a platform to express my thoughts and share examples of women being just that: women. From the boss a** bi*** to the girl on the playground standing up to the bully, there are strong women all around making this world better and more equal for women. They are seizing opportunities, living life to the full and deserve to be recognized and applauded.

I am passionate about women’s rights and women’s empowerment and find myself in my free time reading books and articles, listening to music, watching movies, and having discussions about these things. This is an extensive topic, so I can’t cover everything in this blog, but I hope this will serve as a starting point or sounding board for others who have similar interests. For much of history women have been discriminated against or suffered under patriarchy, but I see evidence of change and hope for greater change. In this blog I hope to discuss examples of change and examples of women who are strong in so many different fields, united by the fact that when I see them and what they are doing, all I want to say is YGG.