Beautiful subject

we choose to learn in

a humorous way.


A muted topic,

extreme discomfort,

embarrassing shrugs.


Why is it that this

topic is of such

disgrace to many?


Intimacy? No.

Given options yet

limited knowledge.


Thoughts are constructed

to view this as wrong

when really, it’s not.


It’s corporeal,

it is survival–



The Female Orgasm,

acknowledge it not.


The Female “Uh-Oh”

The CWGA office has been buzzing these past few weeks in preparation for the “I ❤ Female Orgasm” event that took place last Wednesday! Our staff had so much fun planning it and we hope the students here on campus enjoyed attending the event as much as we did.

I wasn’t privy to what “The Female O” was all about until last year. But when I went, I loved it, and am now glad that I am in the position to be the one working to promote something I thoroughly enjoy. However, the reaction I had last year, compared to some of the reactions I got this year as one of the event coordinators, differed a lot. While I reacted in a simultaneously confused and intrigued manner when I first heard about the event, some of the reactions I received when promoting the event included shock and discomfort.

My thing is, why is an event like the Female O, which uses humor to discuss a truly important topic, being written off? The weirded-out looks people gave simply from me offering them a button or an advertisement at the Involvement Fair were a bit troubling. I almost wanted to scream, “People, it’s 2015! Women are taking control of their bodies! Women can openly express and enjoy sexual encounters, too! Get over yourselves!”…and maybe at some point I did (in intimate conversations with like-minded people, of course), but I have to understand (sigh) that people may not have received exposure to nonjudgmental frames of mind about these topics. Approaching female sexuality in such an open and positive way might have been a new experience for them.

It wasn’t so much that I didn’t like their reactions, but more so that I had a difficult time understanding why they were reacting the way they were. Perhaps they had been exposed to a society giving the message that, for the most part, women aren’t supposed to discuss sex openly or be as proud of it as men are (“unless it’s with their husbands”). With no positive messages to counterbalance these negative ones, how could they possibly understand or accept what the Female O was trying to accomplish?”

I support the Female O and the way they included different gender identities and sexual preferences across the spectrum within their presentation. I just hope that others will learn to be more accepting and willing to take the steps to educate themselves on the subject, and understand that women’s sexuality is just as important as any man’s.

Now, don’t get me wrong, based on the turnout there were definitely people who were welcoming to the cause and its good intentions—I don’t discredit that at all, and I understand that everything has exceptions. Something that made me happy was seeing people in the audience, who originally seemed reluctant to attend, thoroughly enjoying the program! Hopefully, this same kind of openness and change of heart and/or mind can become more universal, making “The Female O” and other events like it easier to accept.


Directed By Women

“Directed by women.” These are three very exciting and equally frightening words. Exciting, in the sense that since I myself am a cinema major here at Denison and would love nothing more than to be placed in that category someday. Frightening, in the sense that the idea of being a renowned woman director is so unheard of that it shocks people—in 2015… We aren’t as progressive as we seem, people. According to the report via Celluloid Ceiling (2012), “In 2012, women comprised

According to a report via Celluloid Ceiling (2012), “In 2012, women comprised 18% of all directors, executive producers, producers, writers, cinematographers, and editors working on the top 250 domestic grossing films,” and in 2013, that number decreased to 16%.

Women lawyers? Sure. Women doctors? No problem. These have become pretty normalized professions in our society today. But…women directors? The words don’t roll off the tongue quite as easily. Seems awfully outlandish.

“Really?! A woman directed that?!” Yes, women are just as capable of producing artistic film pieces as any man is. Ask Ava DuVernay, director of Selma (2014). Kathryn Bigelow, director of The Hurt Locker (2008). Or, a countless number of other women who have succeeded in the film industry. When you think of top tier directors, names like Tarantino or Anderson cross your mind. Craven, Spielberg, and Burton may also fall into that category. None of these last names are of women. Why is that?

My creative outlet has always been writing for the majority of my life. In high school, I was introduced to photography and filmmaking, so I happily added those to my bunch of artistic interests. Coming to Denison, I was able to get involved with more hands-on cinematography and film studies. I am very pleased to see that most of my cinema classes so far have either been an equal balance of males and females, or female dominated.

My passion for filmmaking and cinematography certainly goes deeper than me wanting to “prove people wrong” (although I do!). I love what I do, and although I have a long way to go, I think I’m damn good at it. So why wouldn’t I also want the well-deserved merit and credentials that should come with it?

Newsflash: I do want those credentials. I will get them. And so will others!


Confessions of a Part Time Feminist.

As a senior, and someone who has worked at the Center for Women and Gender Action for three years, it has been hard for me, as a black female to find the balance of my interest and dedication to feminism as well as racial equality. Is there even a balance to be found? I find myself stuck in between identities, and which I identify with the most. I’ve always described myself as being a “black female,” and I never thought about the fact that I always say black before female. This thought spiraled into many more.  Although I attended an all-girls high school, I never thought about feminism before I arrived to Denison. From 8:00 am to 3:30 pm I was surrounded by only women, and we were all able to recognize our own power because there were only us. While it was empowering to attend a school like this, it shielded me from the true gender disparities that exist in our society. Due to my experience in high school, I came into my feminist identity a bit late. One aspect of my identity that I have always been conscious of, however, has been my race and race relations in our society. I am now currently very aware of gender discrepancies and the fact that we live in a historically patriarchal society; however, I find it extremely more and more difficult to put my feminist hat on before my racial one.

 Let me explain why.

Perhaps, it is due to the way that power is set up in our society. Every single day, I look around and am reminded that I am a part of a group that is amongst a numeric minority in our country. I am reminded that as a black person in Granville Ohio, I can’t walk down the hill to CVS to find makeup that will suit my skin or hair products that are appropriate for my hair. Maybe it is because as Chief Minister of the Black Student Union, I am forced to deal with racial issues that arise on our campus on a daily basis.

Unfortunately, it is quite easy for the feminist side of me to lay dormant when I leave work. Unless, however, I see a rude Facebook post or an article that angers me. For example, over this past Thanksgiving break, I cannot think of a time where feminist issues popped into my head without seeing a Denison Feminist posting. I cannot, however, turn off my racial competency the way that I can turn off my feminist one. I want to make it perfectly clear that I always consider myself a feminist. I won’t stay silent when it comes to gender equality and the patriarchy that makes life hard for so many women. I am, however, trying to figure what, or if a balance exists between these two identities. Do I favor one over the other? Or is it due to the power dynamics in our society and the fact that our society tends to place more of an emphasis on race over gender?

I wish I had the answers.



Home is the warmest word…for some


The moment that you go on to a stage to give a speech, you feel your heart beating vehemently and your hands go numb. Or take the moment when your long-kept secret is unfolded. These moments of anxiety are short-lived, and by short-lived I mean they are trivial, compared to a kind of ceaseless, heavy, and obsessed anxiety. It comes to you not because you have done anything, like not doing well on an exam, that makes its arrival predictable, and there is no or few ways you can make it go away easily. You are forced to face it when deprived of proper tools, and try to survive, or not.
I am talking about the anxiety that is triggered by witnessing domestic violence, as a child. It may seem distant, or even strange to think about violence in a family for those that are lucky enough to be protected from it. But for those who are less so, violence is one of their siblings—the kind of sibling that is a million times worse than your little sister when she tears up your notebook. Home, the word that is supposed to mean love and warmth for children, becomes a frustrating, negative, and intimidating one. People may change, and family may become less frustrating and happier at the end of the day, yet the repercussion of violence for children is a crazy dog unleashed.

A girl, let’s call her L, once told me her story.

“I was always in my room when they fought, doing my homework or sleeping. The fight always started from a conversation between my parents. The conversation always ended up on the issue of money. My father was impatient and very poor at self-control, and my mother was blunt. When my father raised his voice, I was either awakened in panic or ready to hear a bloody fight. I still have a panic attack now, which looms from the bottom of my spine and hits my stomach, when my father raises his voice, even though they stopped fighting long ago……For a long time I couldn’t talk to males. Boys. Young men. Middle-aged men. Seniors. I expected violence and hostility every time I talked to other males. I could talk to my grandfather, because he is very kind and nice. I was also insecure. I was afraid that I would lose my family, as well as my toys, pens, and everything I relied on in the house. That’s why I value what I have so much right now.”
“You won’t understand”, she added, “These feelings are unbelievable if you have never been through them”.

But I wanted to understand her and people like her that witnessed (seeing or hearing) or experienced domestic violence as kids. According to futurewithoutviolence.org, more than 5 million children in the U.S were exposed to physical Intimate Partner Violence in 2012. Among all kids in the survey, about 1 out of 4 is exposed to family violence of all kinds, throughout their lifetime. L is not alone. Her “unique” anxiety is actually shared by many around us, but we are kept ignorant most of the time.

Anxiety is only part of the story. Kids like L are more likely than other children to suffer from cognitive, behavioral, social, and emotional problems. Children exposed to domestic violence are more likely to have a lagged cognitive development and perform worse at school. They are reported to have difficulty in trusting others. Some may be more likely to experience depression later in life. Boys exposed to domestic violence are more likely to engage in violence as adults, while girls when they grow up are more likely to be victims of violence (See more). These negative consequences create an unhealthy cycle that hinders general development of these children. What we should do for them should be more than pity—it is easy and kind to say “wow you have a miserable childhood. I am sorry”, but it is more helpful for people that have experienced domestic violence to receive love and support.

October is National Domestic Violence Awareness Month. Take action and spread awareness. Volunteer in local organizations around you. Advocate. Host a workshop. Post on Facebook. Hug your friends. Show your love. There are plenty of things we can do together, and we should do it not only in October.

National Coalition Against Domestic Violence
Futures Without Violence
The Effects of DV On Children
Domestic Violence and the Child Welfare System


How Do I “Love My Body” When No One Else Seems To?

“You’d be really hot if you were skinny.”

A male friend of mine, with seemingly good intentions, said this to me a couple years ago. In the context of our conversation this statement didn’t shock or hurt me as much as I now think it should have. What was my response, you ask?

“I know.”

That’s all I said. But I really did know; by the culture’s standards I’m not even close to “skinny,” but I’m not particularly “fat” by these standards either. So where do I fit? In size 10 jeans, actually, and those jeans look pretty great if I do say so myself. However, I didn’t always think this way.

Healthy body image campaigns often tell us that it doesn’t matter what people think about your body, it only matters how you feel. While I can say now that I love how I look and feel in my size 10 jeans most of the time, the morning after I heard, “You’d be really hot if you were skinny,” I got up early and went to the gym. What does this say about me? I shouldn’t care what people say or think about me or my body, right? So I then stopped hating my body, but started hating myself for caring about what people think about my body. Not a good alternative…

When I think back to that comment (which, honestly, is almost every day), I think mostly about my response. What I wish I could have said was, “Why can’t I be ‘hot’ and not-skinny?” I can’t think of any response my friend could have cooked up in that moment, because I don’t believe there is a legitimate answer to that question. There is no reason why a person cannot be attractive and have a large belly, or thighs, or arms. Yet ‘bigger girls’ are taught that they can’t be sexy or beautiful and that somehow they exceed some invisible boundary that our bodies are not supposed to cross. (Side note: Despite having just used it, I hate the phrase ‘bigger girls’. Bigger than WHAT?! Our language doesn’t even allow for body-positive talk when we categorize in terms of bigger and smaller.)

How have I mediated these messages from the culture? Luckily there are some new positive beauty campaigns and videos floating around the interweb these days, and so I’ve turned to pro-body messages that teach me to love not only my body, but all bodies. Some of my favorites include a slam poetry performance called “Fat Girl”, a clip from Louis C.K.’s show “Louie”, and a spoken story to a live audience. In addition to the Dove campaigns and things like Love Your Body Week (happening on campus October 20th-24th courtesy of EDIT and the CWGA), these videos have given me permission to love my not-skinny body and hope for a more body-positive future.

But how do we love all bodies if we prefer a specific type? Regardless of personal preference some ways to “love bodies” include respecting bodies, speaking kindly about bodies, and refraining from judging bodies and the people and identities inside them. I also believe that loving yourself and your own body can make it easier to love other people’s bodies too. I had to get in the mindset of accepting and celebrating my body for what it is. Once I did this I didn’t look at others’ bodies as often, I stopped comparing myself to others, and I stopped judging other people’s bodies. Everybody has their confident days and their not-so-confident days, but I’d love to see a campus where we respect and embrace the diversity of the bodies we’re so lucky to have as peers.

Suggested Viewing:

(Slam Poetry)


(“Louie” clip)


(Live Story)




Television & Liberal Feminism: A Response to “Why I Hate Myself for Loving Girls”

I have long been interested in questions of legitimate versus illegitimate feminism. Who is allowed and who is not allowed to label themselves feminist? What are the necessary qualifications? Are we feminists simply because we identify as such? Or is there some action required? If there are multiple, highly individualized definitions of “feminism,” then does it follow from this that there are multiple ways to be feminist? Are some simply “right” and others “wrong” or do they achieve or fail to achieve a “true” or “perfect” feminism to varying degrees? In academic language, these questions revolve around two feminist camps: liberal and radical. Radical feminism acknowledges the systemic nature of oppression and argues that, in order to make any real and lasting change, we must first change the current structures in place that support the mistreatment of specific groups of people. Liberal feminism, in contrast, encourages individual women to work within an oppressive system to attain some sort of vague—and perhaps illusory—personal “liberation.” I don’t mean to say that this effort is necessarily wrong or fruitless, only that the approach is quite different from the sort of feminism that a Women’s Studies major is accustomed to thinking about. The general attitude of liberal feminism is “You do you, girl.” Consider HBO’s show, “Girls.” For Lena Dunham, getting naked in every episode is a declaration of comfort in and love for her body in a society that tells her that she is fat and unattractive. Dunham’s character, Hannah, eats whatever she wants, dresses however she wants, says whatever and acts however she wants. All of this is a slap in the face to standards of ideal female beauty and femininity, and in this sense, it can be perceived as a powerful act of feminist resistance.

And yet, most characters continue to fall into typical gender roles/performances, sexualities, and expectations. In one episode, Hannah, who attended Oberlin College, says something along the lines of “I know I’m supposed to reject marriage as an archaic institution that’s rooted in patriarchy, but I don’t care, I just want a beautiful wedding with a beautiful white dress.” On the one hand, Hannah’s confession is a welcome relief for viewers who identify as feminists, but aren’t willing to sacrifice some of their most basic desires. On the other hand, it speaks to the limitations of the liberal feminist approach that we see on television. If viewers aren’t challenged to think differently about these issues, then they are free to remain complacent. In some cases, this complacency amounts to an active (if subconscious) perpetuation of systems of oppression, and this is what is truly troubling about Dunham’s feminism. Brenda Uribe discussed the most glaring example of this in her article below—the issue of representation. “Girls” only speaks to the experience of white, middle to upper class women. This show is bell hooks’ greatest fear—the antithesis of inclusivity and intersectionality. It intentionally blinds itself to difference in a way that is offensive to any viewer who, in one way or another, falls into the category of “other.” That’s not to say of course that we cannot take pleasure in some aspects of the show, even as we feel offended by others. But the question remains: Can it be said that the pleasure we take in Hannah’s resistant femininity is “feminist,” even as she so deliberately excludes the non-white, non-affluent, non-heterosexual, non-college educated from her supposed account of what it’s like to be a 20-something woman?

The answer to this question remains unclear to me. But perhaps when we ask whether “Girls” is a “feminist” show, we are asking the wrong question. Maybe instead we should ask: Does “Girls” challenge today’s normative behaviors, practices, and standards for women that only serve to harm them (e.g. notions of ideal female beauty & proper performance of femininity)?” If the answer is yes, then I can confidently say that “Girls” has had a positive impact on many women’s lives.


“Left-over women” in China—a misread story and gender oppression

Two years ago, I overheard a disturbing conversation in a barbecue restaurant in Beijing, China that made me realize how far people can go in playing the role of oppressors, even at a dinner table. It went like this:

Woman A: “Why haven’t you been married to someone? You have to hurry up, or no one will take you anymore. Men like young girls; especially those rich guys. “

Man B, who seemed to be the husband of woman A, kept nodding without saying anything.

Woman B looked down to her dish and said: “I don’t think I am that old.”

I agree with woman B that she didn’t look that old. First of all, woman A and woman B looked like they were at the same age, and I could not help but suspect that just because women A got married and regarded herself as part of the “mainstream”, woman A started to protect her interest by denying the value of her friend.

If you are still single at the age of 27 or older, and you are a female, congratulations! You will be labelled as a “left-over woman”(Sheng-nu) in China, a name coined by Beijing Women’s Federation, which is so obnoxious that it breaks down all the work you have done to be a better person in your whole life. Nowadays in China, in spite of the liberal signs such as education equality, women experience no less oppression than before the 1980 Chinese economic reform that opened the door to the world.

Yes, when the same-sex marriage movement marches across the land of western countries, women in China are educated to be prepared and get married as young as possible let alone what else they want as individuals. The stereotype of a left-over woman should look like a positive one here in the United States: college-educated, high-income, and liberal-minded individual who makes her own decision about life. Just imagine a girl growing up thinking she has done everything right and managed to climb up the socioeconomic ladder while all of a sudden, her parents, friends of her parents, co-workers, the media—simply the whole world, tells her that: “no, you are going the wrong direction. Go get married.” If you don’t listen to them, the constantly broadcasted stigma of a “left-over women” as well as the reputation that comes along would ruin your life and that of your parents. Thank God if you are economically independent and living a decent life, but if not, the economic as well as social pressure leads you one step closer to hell—since it is presumed that marriage entails children and children take care of their parents—how are you going to take care of your parents all by yourself and how are you going to support yourself when you get old without a child?

Indeed, one of the reasons why among “leftover women” are so many economically advantaged women is because only those women can afford to be left over. The financial disparity embedded in the social structure between women and men leaves women few choices. For self-preservation, most women cater to values dominated by elite men and managed to live a better life they otherwise wouldn’t have with ease. They try their best to be desirable to rich men with makeup and fake breasts, while a small number of women escaped from it by their outstanding skills at work, academic achievements, and hard work.

However, regardless of all these threats being imposed upon women, “leftover men” is the real problem. If you look at the table 1, you would notice that women in China aged from 30-34 constitute 3.4% of the never married female population, while the same number for the male population is 11.5%. It on one hand shows how powerful the “leftover women” stigma is that makes many potential “leftover women” surrender. On the other hand, a truth is unfolded: there are far more single men than single women in the “marriage market”, given the fact that in China, men outnumber women in general. In addition, if we look at the same numbers (age group 30-34) of Hong Kong, Singapore, and Japan for both men and women, it is striking how much people care about getting married as soon as possible in China(if you look at the overall numbers of both men and women). One of my speculations is that how early people get married and how much people eventually get married are related to how traditional values intertwine with economic development in a region, specifically, GDP per capita. It would be an interesting topic to look into for social scientists, but this is not the purpose of this blog.

table 1

(Table 1; source: http://www.statistics.gov.hk/pub/B1120017032012XXXXB0100.pdf)

So why does the society constantly remind people of the stigma a “leftover women”, rather than “leftover men”? Taken into account the “China’s Gender Gulf” described in Rob Brooks’ article “China’s biggest problem? Too many men.”, it’s easy for one to look at the graph and think:” Wow, there is an important agenda behind the whole “leftover women” shame thing, because the government might think since there are already fewer women than men, it would be worse if more and more women are unwilling to get married as soon as possible. Then the government has to worry about not having enough laborers in the market and the aging population.”

It is doubtful that this line of thought ever depicts the true story; however, it is certain that “leftover women” are the scapegoat of traditional values that give little weight to women’s rights, consumerism, and the problematic social structure at work. I am tired of seeing my female friends getting set up by their parents or relatives right after they step into college just because they are “at the right age of marriage”, as if this is the best thing they could ever obtain. I have also seen enough “leftover women” in my life that have to surrender to social pressures and go with whatever their parents arrange—blind dates, hanging up their photos in the park for other seniors that have sons to see, and so on. The most ridiculous (personal opinion) and the best illustrations of how media and consumerism are involved in the “leftover women” stigma is a TV game show in China called “If you are the one” (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/If_You_Are_the_One_(game_show)) and thousands of newly founded dating websites and agencies. It once again confirms that the image of “leftover woman” is a product manufactured by the society as a whole that has more entertaining and economic values than any real social concern.

graph 1

(Graph 1; source: http://www.cnn.com/2012/11/14/opinion/china-challenges-one-child-brooks/)


Bikini Season

It’s getting to be that time of year again. The birds are chirping, the flowers are blooming, and if I have to see another ad on getting ready for “bikini season,” my head will explode. On a quick Google search of the term, some of the first articles to appear had titles such as “7 things you can do now to get ready for bikini season,” “4 weeks to a bikini body,” and “How to Prepare for Bikini Season.”

When looking at pictures tagged with #bikini season on tumblr, I found a lot of disturbing pictures. There were the (unfortunately) common pictures of super skinny bathing suit models. There were some memes meant to be funny that showed larger animals, cartoons, and celebrities like Honey Boo Boo with the hashtag. There were also work-out pictures with captions about getting ready for bikini season. Finally, there were very disheartening posts that said things like “Keep Calm and Stop Eating” and “Need to Lose Weight.”

To me, this “season” is more depressing than the four months of frigid winter we had this year. One of the aspects I find most disturbing is the idea of a “bikini body.” This term implies that you have to have a certain body shape or BMI in order to wear a bikini. If you want to rock a one-piece or a tankini, that’s totally cool. The same goes for a bikini. In my opinion, if you have a body and you want to wear a bikini, then you have a bikini body. Those should be the only two qualifying aspects of having a bikini body. As a society, if we continue fat shaming and obsessing over thigh gaps, we are going to have even more of a problem with eating disorders, and from experience, I know that dealing with an eating disorder is difficult and heartbreaking.

Please respect everyone’s discussions regarding what they wear, and feel free to wear whatever makes you happy. So, get ready for the upcoming “bikini season” by appreciating your body. Get excited for warm, sunny weather. See you on the beach!




Why I HATE myself for loving GIRLS?

The popular HBO show GIRLS is about four best friends who navigate their life as they try to resolve their issues with family, lovers, work, and school. The main characters are: Hannah, Marnie, Jessa, and Shoshanna.


Hannah is the main character. She is a young, talented writer who seeks success quickly. Her often narcissistic behavior causes her to have complicated relationships with individuals.

Marnie is a talented musician who struggles to find a balance between the work she enjoys and work she is expected to perform. Her life is often focused on her unstable and unhealthy romantic relationships.

Shoshanna is a stylish, college girl, who is very innocent compared to the rest of the women. She is seen as being naïve and quirky.

Jessa is a bohemian, do it yourself kind of girl that rebels against society in order to find her own happiness.


I personally enjoy watching this show because it touches on serious and realistic life events that many individuals experience during their young adult life. The 30 minute episodes specifically focus on topics about friendships, sex, drugs, loss, and love. The characters themselves have different relationships with one another.

Unfortunately, every time I watch an episode I can’t help but think about myself in relation to the characters and their stories.  The four main characters are all able, white, and financially stable individuals. This creates a very narrow set of characteristics, making the characters and their stories exclusive to viewers who share their same qualities. The truth is that I cannot relate to them and it makes me angry because I like the show and some of the messages it provides.  Why is it that all four women must represent a very narrow representation of women in America? Why can’t there be women of color? Why are there no women of color especially when the women live in Brooklyn, New York!? Will it damage the show or create low ratings? Why do I still have to watch popular shows that have NO WOMEN OF COLOR as the main characters? NONE!

There is a lot of speculation in the feminist community about the show and whether or not it is feminist or has feminist characters. Even though the characters possess a range of dynamic traits and experience real issues, I feel that it lacks a strong feminist message. Most importantly the show lacks diversity, diversity of women from different cultures, religions, social economic backgrounds, and abilities. I personally believe that GIRLS has strong female characters, but it does not make it a feminist show. As a fan of the show, I will continue to watch it but I will not accept their narrow representation of women. Will you?