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Sunday Feminist Discussion (30.4.23) summary – Media
We started the discussion talking about the differences between the media newspaper and social media. Whereas newspapers present ‘objective’ data and facts, social media can facilitate validating one’s own opinions by only engaging with and following people you agree with. In offline life, one’s opinions might be challenged more. The question was asked whether we (think we) choose media that confirm our bias.
In debates, some of us have made the experience that our contributions were dismissed as ‘only your own experience’ whereas they would rather rely on data to make a claim. Yet, this data can only be generated based on lived experiences. Theorising cannot be done without lived experiences. Social media allows people to share their lived experiences and make them accessible to others. Moreover, sharing ideas on social media does not require money/funding and thus allows many people to share their perspectives compared to traditional media such as newspapers. However, ‘free’ platforms where one is paying with one’s data and privacy are taking away the space for consent (Sara Ahmed). Social media companies are making money from disembodied conversations. It is important that conversations stay embodied in society.
We also touched upon the accessibility of media. Both newspapers and the internet (and thus social media) are not accessible to everyone. Compared to social media, newspapers are static.
We then discussed whether we are talking about the same when we talk about ‘feminism’ and ‘media’. One participant shared the observation that in the Netherlands, there seems to be a generation that thinks feminism implies that women are seen as better than men. How can we moderate this view which is not accurate looking at current feminism. It is rather a misconception, referring back to the first wave of feminism which pointed out that men and women are not equal (due to their position in society).
Another topic touched upon was the westernisation of feminism. We need a post-colonial feminism that acknowledges the complexity of feminisms and is not essentialising feminism into one. As bell hooks analyses: We have to identify the root causes of abusive powers that interconnect us. As long as these root causes are not addressed we ‘stay on our islands’. We often mainly hear white feminist voices and lack information on feminism in the Global South. Western feminism cannot be simply applied to the Global South. Yet, in the media only one perspective on for example the Middle East is applied. From the 1990s on, critiques in academia rose pointing out that feminism is westernised. However, this criticism should also take place in the media which should be de-colonised. White feminism should be challenged.
We then talked about education through social media (ourselves and others). Some of us share what we are reading but do not feel obliged to educate – people are responsible for themselves and no one is obliged to take on the emotional load for them. Yet, there is a felt pressure to engage in the discussion to expose people to feminist standpoints. It is a factor to consider in which people one wants to put their energy. On social media, one mostly talks to strangers. Another option than engaging in a discussion could be to live your own truth, living that example which other people can witness.
Relating to this topic, we talked about how to have difficult conversations. How do we start discussions? It takes some conversational skills to get to the emotional core of someone’s (harmful/hurtful) statement. Participants shared that they notice a fear of guilt and of changing one’s behaviour in some conversations. In such conversations, feminists can highlight that it is okay to make mistakes and that it is not expected that someone changes their behaviour right away. Put emphasis on the (un)learning process. We can make clear that we have shared the same struggle (e.g. ‘I have been sexist in that way, too). Also differentiating between identity and acting/behaviour can help.
This also led to talking about the so-called cancel culture which comes from social media into our offline lives. It comes with the question to what extent to give people room to grow and where to draw the line and cut harmful behaviour off. One participant referenced Angela Davis here who in her work describes what people have done for the feminist movement but also shows critique, e.g. pointing to sexist thoughts these people had.
We also talked about the origins of ‘cancel culture’, wondering if it is a term that was created by conservatives. It can be seen as an anti-feminist framing making it sound like something bad whereas it does make sense if you look at what cancel culture means. Is there harm in cutting people off when it prevents spreading hurtful words? However, cutting off can also lead to radicalisation. Moreover, cancel culture is not ‘culture’ but just the process of becoming more aware of inequalities and harmful speech/acts.
‘Woke’, ‘cancel culture’ and ‘feminism’ have become ‘bad’ words. How can we deal with that and what does it do to feminism? Meaning of words change during time, we can (re)appropriate them. In this context, we also talked about the hashtag ‘men are trash’. This hashtag is formulated to shock, to protest, to strike. We discussed whether it has to be radical to be heard. It has to be short to be an effective hashtag. ‘Men are trash’ is about the concept and the structure (patriarchy), not each individual. We didn’t have an agreement among participants regarding if it is helpful or not.
Another topic we touched upon was political views and feminism. Being leftist does not mean one is a feminist by default since we are socialised in a sexist society. Conservative does not necessarily equal sexist and liberal does not necessarily equal feminist.
Lastly, we collected what we would like to see more in the media. Amongst others, these are: more views on how patriarchy affects everybody; content on men’s liberation; how feminism can support gender identities; more visionary dreaming of how life could look like. Examples would be helpful here, e.g. seeing how parental leave is organised in different countries.
One participant shared that they would like to see less division. More unity rather than cancelling is desirable. There is no moving forward without discussion.
Some other aspects we talked about/some other questions that were raised
- The de-shaming process: How can we talk about shame?
- Need for a concrete action plan
- Struggle to find good (beginner) access to feminist literature & sources. Therefore we started to make a resource list which can be found below.
- Pakhuis de Zwijger
- OBA (openbare bibliotheek Amsterdam)
- Angela Davis: Women, Race and Class
- Emma – The mental load (comic). The Guardian has published an extract on benevolent sexism.
- Emma – The emotional load (comic)
- Carol Gilligan/Naomi Snider: Why does Patriarchy persist?
- Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak, works on post-colonialism
- Liz Plank: For the Love of Men
- Naomi Klein: This changes everything
- Jameela Jamil: I Weigh
- The Man Enough (Justin Baldoni, Liz Plank)
- episode Liz Plank: For the Love of Me
- Carol Gilligan > the male experience (philosopher)
- Toi Marie – radical black anti-capitalist feminist; de-shame creator content
Sunday Feminist Discussion (26.3.23) summary – Family
There is no denying that everyone has a different understanding of what a family is. So naturally, therefore, we all attach a different meaning to it.
According to the anthropological and sociological definition, family is the primary function of reproducing, biologically or sociologically, society. Thus, one’s experience of one’s family shifts over time. Family is everything, and at the same time, it can also be a lot.
First of all, let’s make a distinction between friends and family, if there is one. Some people can consider their family as friends and some consider their friends as family. There can be a genuine emotional bond with your closest friends that you might not have with your family members.
Sometimes friends become parents, and that can change the relationship. It can either create more distance or more bonding into one big family. At the same time, being friends with parents can remind them that they are more than the parents role.
Throughout our discussion, we talked about the idea of the conservative family. We referred to families where children often must treat their parents with absolute respect. However, at the same time, you don’t dare to share with them; you’re not very close to them. Some of us talked about how you only get love once you ‘behave’ in this kind of family. When seeking your parents’ approval may endend up in some manipulative relationship. We agreed that this is not what a family should look like.
We prefer that families won’t be closed units with tension and inauthenticity.
Making changes can sometimes be tricky and challenging, and to do so without offending anyone might be even more complicated. It can feel cagey in this type of family. We talked about how important it was to try not to feel guilty anymore about wanting a different image of the family than the one we grew up in.
Your family of origin is where you come from, there’s no denying that you can’t get rid of blood relativity, but you can decide which boundaries to place and how to live your life.
Consequently, we talked about some nontraditional ways of thinking of family, other than in terms of blood relatives. There are many alternative ways to the conservative heteronormative model of family that we are used to see in almost every representation of family in the media. For instance, children may be raised within a community, which refers to a multi-parenting structure. Women can access assisted reproductive technology nowadays which means they can become single mothers by choice. We also discussed the example of co-parenting in which, for instance, a single person is a co-parent with another couple, and all three are legal guardians of the child. Or a couple of people who are not in a romantic relationship who raise a child together.
Nowadays, there are many patchwork families due to the rise of divorces around the globe. New people may enter the family, and your environment may also change..
We agreed that the important thing about family overall is mutual care, and that ideally you feel around people who are family like there is no obligation and it is just natural to be around them.
We also talked about the relation of queer theory to the family. his theory stream discusses a new direction of family studies and the teaching of family theories. It attempts to present a model of curricular change for teaching courses on family studies and theories that shift from the exclusion of LGBTQIA+-parentsand compensatory addition of LGBTQIA+-parent families as disadvantaged to a focus on queer and intersectional scholarship and a continuing postmodern paradigm shift.
As we were mostly internationals in this discussion, many of us shared that Dutch society is way more diverse than our home countries most of the time. In many countries, societal pressure can be felt even harder. For instance, women at a certain age might feel pressured to be in a relationship due to these societal expectations. Our society is driven by romantic relationships and around the model of the heteronormative family. Most of us will feel pressured to be married and even have children.
Based on this model, a woman must be young enough to have children and build a family. Your children have to be biological, and you have the pressure to fulfill this ideal type of family. However, this representation isn’t ideal. Especially for mothers who will be the ones to do all the invisible reproductive work which is not treated as work, and for which they will never be rewarded for.
After discussing this societal pressure, we can conclude that there is a fundamental implication for society and the state in the family matter. After all, what would society look like without the structure of the nuclear family? The state could participate more in the care of its citizens and ease the pressure on the nuclear family. For instance, by providing accessible healthcare and free services from a young age to the elderly, such as nurseries, schools, and institutions for older people.
This raises some questions: Should children take care of their parents? Should the state have more care plans for older people? Should the state help people without others to care for them, to have access to elderly institutions?
On the question of society’s role in our lives, we talked about the distinction between the public and private sphere. Some argue that the household and family must be free from state interference. Of course, everyone is entitled to privacy. Still, at the same time, this will limit essential policies that can support women regarding violence in the household, for instance. Ultimately, human rights will always protect individual rights, and it isn’t easy to distinguish between private and public.
We observed that we’ve grown up in an individualist society. So, eventually, for people who raise children, the burden usually falls on one parent (the mother in heteronormative constructions). We’re no longer in a community mindset of helping each other.
Once again, cultural differences between countries were brought up. Someone shared that in Latin America, family is vital; you need to accept it as it is, and you might find excuses for your parents behaving that way. Then we talked about the term ‘tiger moms’ in China. According to Amy Chua, tiger mothers are mothers of Chinese (or other ethnic) origin who are highly controlling and authoritarian, denying their children free time, play dates, and push them towars many extracurricular activities to drive them to high levels of success at any cost.
We then focused on living abroad and how it affects our relations with our family. Most of us moved abroad and all had a different perception of how it affected our families. Some have felt closer to them, even by being far, and maybe created a different bond. Some felt that the direct cause of living abroad was their family.
We discussed passing a generational trauma from one generation to the other.
We discussed the roles children play according to their order of birth. Such as the older one will sometimes receive more responsibilities and expectations, and that can be a lot for a child to bear. These roles usually also affect us in adulthood later on.
From the way we were brought up, we concluded that in the future (those who choose to) we should learn how to raise children with love and care, decide how we want to be there for them, and understand that they have their own consciousness. Give them more voice, agency, and ways to deal with the power structure and adult supremacy.
Children are not extensions of their parents; they are unique individuals.
For conclusion, we were encouraged to create our own perception of what a family is. Overall, a family can be everything you want it to be, and the most important thing is being able to be yourself around them.
Sunday Feminist Discussion (26.2.23) summary – Body Image
Body image is often related too quickly to weight, but body issues can also be linked to skin issues, hair, body hair, skin color, sexual orientation, or age. In our patriarchal society, women are used to defining their worth around the male gaze and beauty standards that keep changing over time, making it appear impossible to meet society’s standards. For instance, we observed that people in straight relationships, especially women, are hyperfocused on their appearance, which can be traced back to the male gaze phenomenon.
We first talked about the relationship between weight and health. While health concerns concerning obesity were raised, others argued that many use this argument to justify fatphobia. A double standard concerning weight was mentioned, where during pregnancy, more weight is okay because you’re carrying life. Still, you need to ‘get back in shape’ as soon as possible, which tells much about society. Because society is very concerned with outer appearances, society believes this false causal relationship that being pretty equals being healthy. However, the appearance of a person does not necessarily tell you anything about their health. While there’s no denying that in terms of eating disorders, for instance, not eating is very harmful, it is not addressed the same way as being fat. In the end, it is essential to remember that being in a different shape than society’s ideal picture doesn’t mean you’re less of a person.
In the same way, it is essential to talk about the impact of social media, which can be harmful and beneficial simultaneously. For starters, social media reflects society and the standards attached to it. These standards, which are impossible to meet and keep changing, can be very harmful to teenagers and everybody using social media, scrolling through their Instagram feed, thinking this is what a normal body should always look like. Consequently, sometimes it feels like your body is not yours, that the way you see it depends on the interpretation that everybody has of it, whether they ‘approve’ it or not. This kind of behavior can affect your self-esteem and lead to body monitoring, which means always thinking about your body in space and how it can look to others. In this way, social media can be very harmful. However, we have seen over the past few years the emergence of the body positivity movement, pushing people to accept their body the way it is because all bodies are good and beautiful; the way we use words when describing our bodies is impactful. Perhaps a rethinking is useful, where we no longer talk about ‘flaws’ that we may have, but rather the different and unique features we all have.
Overall, the main question would be, what is beautiful? What does this word mean? Everybody has a different relationship with this word, so it is essential to deconstruct some patterns and try to think without society’s eyes. It feels like beauty often acts like a currency, in terms of relationships or even jobs, for instance, as you would have to fit into certain norms to access certain things. And therefore, the way you look can become an obsession for many people, especially in your teenage years when the body is naturally changing a lot. Moreover, family influence can have a lot of importance; whether it is a toxic environment or not, it will always have an impact because the parental figure is essential. Many of us have grown up in a toxic environment, making remarks about our bodies or what we eat. Therefore it is necessary to break this toxic cycle and teach the new generation to love their bodies the way it is.
Additionally, it is crucial to talk about this issue within the trans community as well. Indeed, this specific issue is called body dysphoria. As a trans person, it can lead to trying to cover up your body because it is important to be seen as your gender, depending on the type of clothes you wear, or simply your hair to be seen as a man or woman.
Age also became an exciting part of our discussion. Indeed, there’s no denying that older women disappeared from any form of representation; at some point, they are no longer portrayed in advertising, tv shows, and movies. For instance, Meryl Streep (the one and only) talked about how, at a certain age, she only got offers for specific roles, only witches (!). In contrast, George Clooney and Brad Pitt are still on screen as they were in their twenties and are playing key roles while being much older. In the same way, older women are less respected than men in general. Again, it relates to the expectation of women being ‘young and fertile’ to achieve ‘their role’ in society. And after that, it seems like they are not needed anymore.
Women’s bodies also feel like an economic argument for capitalist society. Beauty standards are often used as commercial strategies to get you to spend more money (hair salons, pink tax….).
Society tells us how we should feel about our weight, hair, sexual orientation, or skin color. We need to learn how to deconstruct these patterns and look for a new way to define our worth without looking at ourselves through society’s eyes. It is about building a new relationship with your body. Moreover, it is also about not defining your worth only upon how you look but instead looking at the things you achieve daily. In the same way, we could also try to address this to other people by complimenting their ideas and actions rather than the way they look.
Throughout our discussion, people came up with a few solutions on how to deal with possible body issues;
- Accept it first; love it after
- Trying to manage the way you feel about yourself
- Be compassionate about yourself and your body
- Choosing what you want to be for yourself
- Choosing which features you want to focus on
- Make sure to follow good role models
- Relearn your patterns, react, and speak up
Podcasts do go further on the subject:
- Aubrey Gorden and Michael Hobbes: Maintenance Phase. https://www.maintenancephase.com/
- Guru Shabd Khalsa and Tresla Friedrick: Yes and Body Politics
- Sophia Carter-Kahn: She’s All Fat, a fat-positive podcast
- Dalina Soto and Melissa Landry: Break the Diet cycle
- Asher Pandjiris: Living in this Queer body
Some Instagram accounts to follow:
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