w o r d • Li t e r a r y m a
a z i n e • s Pr i n
a collection of feminist voices
w o r d • Li t e r a r y m a
a z i n e • s Pr i n
table of contents 01 Cornfield Paradise 02 Twirling 03 Hair Down There 05 When I First Met Neo 07 Pilates Room 224 08 Woman 09 The Governess, the Madwoman, and the Patriarchy 12 A Poem by the Girls of Chattanooga to Our Southern Grandmothers 13 Jason and the Tender-footed Temptress 16 Alice 17 Raleigh 18 Love in Spite of Bodies: Creating livable lives by uncoupling sex, gender, and desire 22 Leaves 23 Tips on Walking While Female 24 This Morning 27 She Never Understood Why 28 Spring Rain 29 Bound for Beauty 32 Fallen 33 Mirror 34 The Death of Dating 38 Touch 40 Notes to Self 42 The Hand of Eve 43 Laura Zamudio-Gonzalez: War, women and lessons from El Salvador Article Critique 46 Appointments 49 Danielle and Horseface 50 Christmas Morning 51 B端bs meets Bubba 52 Opening the Set 54 Mother Love 58 Mother and Son 59 From Rapunzel, Leaving Early
Kara Daddario Anonymous Carly Brush Mara Gordon Barrie Nussbaum Stephany Lewis Ashley Belton Marshall Bright Jason Gray Noah Breslau Kara Daddario Katie Eichner Elizabeth Yohlin Rhaisa Kai Anonymous Rivka Fogel Sol Jung David Wolfish Barrie Nussbaum Pauline Baniqued Cat Prewitt Josie Minton Rivka Fogel Shelby Prindaville Veliz Perez Kristen Franke Noah Breslau Lara Seligman Daniel Schwartz Shayne Wagman Ann Marie Meehan Catherine Prewitt Katherine Atkinson
Penn has an active feminist community...
a fact vibrantly illustrated by organizations and centers on campus, from the Alice Paul Center to the Women’s Center to the Penn Consortium of Undergraduate Women. Student groups thrive at Penn, and many of these groups either implicitly or explicitly deal with issues of gender and sexuality. When a group of feminist students came together in Fall 2005, what we thought was missing was feminist literary expression. And so we at F-Word set out to create a space for students to give literary and artistic voice to their ideas, feelings, opinions and insights on feminism, gender and sexuality. In that vein, we titled our publication “The F-Word: A Collection of Feminist Voices.” In looking to the past, we found inspiration in the form of a magazine called Pandora’s Box, which we originally set out to revive. Pandora’s Box was founded a decade or so ago by a group of dedicated students in the Women’s Studies department. These women had taken classes taught by Professors Rita Barnard and Margaret Mills and were heavily influenced by the works studied in these classes, texts written by Karen Finley, Holly Hughes, Diamanda Galas and other writers and artists. Pandora’s Box published the works of Penn women each year and was intended for a female audience. Noticing the void left behind when Pandora’s Box went out of print, a group of students, under the guidance of advisors Rita Barnard, Jennifer Snead and Shannon Lundeen, began to discuss how to shape and reform Pandora’s Box, which eventually became F-Word. Part of the shift in title and focus hinged upon a desire to incorporate a larger, more diverse group of both contributors and readers. We established our vision for the publication—to provide an outlet for writing or art pertaining to feminism (broadly defined as respect for all individuals regardless of gender or sexual affiliation). We received dozens of submissions for our inaugural issue and released that issue in January 2007. The magazine found a warm reception on Penn’s campus and we went on to release our second issue in October 2007, this time incorporating artwork in addition to prose, poetry, and academic writing. This publication would not be possible without the time, energy, and creativity of the students who comprised each editorial board. We acknowledge the tremendous progress feminism has made and yet we know that there is still more to be thought and said, written and photographed, captured and articulated.
corn field paradise by kara daddario class of 2008
Leaning out my window I whisper: I want to see the world before I die, baby, cause I’ve been dying to see the world. Then you smile because you know that I can write a million realities but my dreams are as strong as the scent of night wind. You told me you don’t know the universe but you could take me to your corn field in Iowa and I’ve never been to a farm so that sounds exotic. Today I fell down in my plush front lawn and looked up for the night and imagined I was in Iowa. I swept through a field of rough husks waiting for you to catch me before the seconds on my small wristwatch could notice that it is only sundials and air that determine an eternal end. The end. The one owned by religion and small things we cannot answer, the words you cannot say, the faces we have yet to know. And if I rely on this fate I might never bake a pie in an Iowan kitchen or smell hay rising from a red wooden barn. So since we might not have tomorrow, and I cannot have the world, I will dream for our corn field paradise
hair down there by carly brush
class of 2008
Last week, while having my monthly...
Brazilian wax, the esthetician asked me if I had a boyfriend. When I told her no, she seemed pleased, telling me, “It’s better not to, better you do it for yourself.” Perhaps I should have been surprised to hear this. There I lay, half naked on the paper-covered table, as this fiftysomething-year-old professional hair remover asserted her feminist leanings. But why should this be surprising? She was right: hair removal, whether waxing, shaving, nair-ing, epilating, or any other form, is something that any woman, feminist leanings aside, can and should have the freedom to perform, so long as she does it for the right reasons. But then again I shouldn’t have to justify my desire to have a hair-free vagina. While Susan Basow describes a vast majority of the 20% of women in her study who don’t shave as self-identified “very strong feminists,” who think “that women’s bodies are fine as they are, that women should not have to remove body hair, and that shaving is stupid,”1 I found it somewhat comforting that the number of women who regularly shave has risen from the 80% in Basow’s study to the 93% in Tiggeman and Lewis’s study.2 The new age of feminists, a class I consider myself to be a part of, has developed an understanding that eluded our predecessors: we should not ignore the differences between men and women in asserting our equality. We do not need to choose between hating men and becoming them. We don’t have to do either. We can have our cake and wax it too. And we women are not alone in our desire to achieve the “perfection” and “cleanliness” that hairlessness provides. Like women, men cling to the hair on their heads as a sign of evolutionary viability (despite the bounty of genetic proof that the baldness gene is X-linked), while discarding all other hair that could make them potentially evolutionarily vulnerable. That is to say, unattractive to others. My feminist bikini waxer has seen her fair share of a vanity practice in men that is eerily similar to my own female depilatory desires. She described her client base as mostly women, but with an increasing amount of men. And these men are not coming into the fancy Rittenhouse salon in which she works to get their faces waxed; they are taking advantage of her services in order to achieve a new standard in male vanity: the hairless chest and back. Ironically, this new stage in male self-improvement is almost never done for the sake of the man himself. Yet where are the “malenists” decrying the demand placed upon men for smooth, hairless perfection? The TV show Sex and the City was often at the forefront of sexual trends, perhaps best known for introducing the popular rabbit vibrator into common female and male vernacular.
In September of 2000, the controversial show aired its first episode on waxing, in which the women discover “the Brazilian” on a trip to California. Only two years later, an episode in which Charlotte’s boyfriend, at her request, gets his back waxed for a pool party shows that male waxing lags only slightly behind the female equivalent. Where no one sees men’s backs and chests in public environments (or rarely at least), the vagina is the only logical female equivalent. Not to mention the increased number of girlfriends who have reported the surprise of discovering that a new guy likes to shave down there as well. As a feminist, I often find myself walking the fine line between vanity and the feeling that I should be guilty over the amount of time I spend in such pursuits, as if caring about my appearance somehow minimizes my ability to stand up for myself and be a strong, self-actualized woman. Perhaps because I am in a younger generation of women than those surveyed by Basow, I still find it difficult to imagine a set of ideological principles so absolute that I would resist the activity of shaving. This is because I do not see such a stringent link between shaving and “femininity,” as Basow does. To me, though we as women shave different parts of our bodies than men do, the fact that the activity is so similar cannot be ignored, as it often is by researchers in this new and under-researched aspect of sociology. Endnotes
Susan Basow, “The Hairless Ideal: Women and their Body Hair,” in Psychology of Women Quarterly, Vol 15 (San Antonio: Blackwell Publishing, 1991), 83-96. 2 Christine Lewis and Marika Tiggemann, “Attitudes toward women’s body hair: relationship with disgust sensitivity,” in Psychology of Women Quarterly, Vol 28 (San Antonio: Blackwell Publishing, 2004), 381-387. 1
when I first met neo by mara gordon class of 2008
when I first met Neo, I couldn’t tell...
if she was a little boy or girl. She was only two or three, and her head was shaved. She ran around in the same too-big track jacket as all the other children at Kamogelo. Her eyes were bright and curious, her smile wide, but she was only one toddler in a sea of them. I didn’t know if her name was a boy’s or a girl’s. To my untrained American ears, the childrens’ Setswana names sounded only like syllables. I was an outsider in every way — color, class, country — and I couldn’t even get their names right. I was spending the summer working at an orphanage in Botswana, and I thought it would be the perfect do-gooder experience: ease my liberal guilt, explore the world, maybe even help out. The kids were cute, and I was willing to work hard. But I couldn’t get down the most basic part of being a good teacher: learn your students’ names. I studied the class lists and the kids’ artwork hanging on the classroom walls; I helped the older ones trace their own names over and over as a way to learn the alphabet. Thato, Lebo, Mpho — as politically correct as I wanted to be, I just couldn’t register the syllables. I felt disrespectful, even arrogant. Of course the American volunteer didn’t bother to learn her students’ names. Show up, teach them the language of colonizers and conquests; never pause to learn anything beyond a Setswana “hello” with an imperialist accent. The kids, such impressionable little linguists, learned my name — and my mannerisms — immediately. They called me Teacher in heavy accents so it sounded like “Teachaaa,” as they swarmed around me to touch my white hands and my straight hair. I learned how to tell them to sit down and line up in Setswana, but my accent was too comic to obey. When I got frustrated, I’d let English phrases slip out. That was the funniest to them: they loved to imitate the way I said “oh my God” when one little boy dropped his entire plate of stew, or “come back right now” when they ran out of my classroom. My foreign threats were meaningless. They loved my attention, but I was always an outsider, a novelty. Then I got a new name. Sister Margaret, the nun who supervised Kamogelo, told me I needed a Setswana name to truly feel at home in Botswana. I would be Neo, she said, because it translated to that which every woman is: a gift. It was like a little christening right there in the Kamogelo cafeteria, between scoops of porridge and food fights. Sister Margaret picked up the much younger Neo from her seat and placed her in my arms. A beautiful name for two beautiful women, she said.
I found myself gravitating towards my namesake in the weeks that followed. She was a face I could finally pair with a name, and I wanted her to understand, in some three-year-old way, that we shared something. “Lina la me ke Neo,” I would tell her. “My name is Neo.” She still called me Teacher. Sister Margaret told me that Neo lived with her elderly grandmother in a one-room house down the dusty road from Kamogelo. Her grandmother struggled to make ends meet and take care of her grandchildren orphaned by AIDS. Her story was like every other kid’s there, but in my mind, she was special. I brought her little gifts: an apple or some peanuts that I would tuck into her jacket pocket, or a pair of pink mittens I bought at a discount store. I would sit on the swing set at Kamogelo as the children played around me, fantasizing about one day being rich and financing Neo’s education in the United States. I wasn’t sure what I wanted to mean to this little girl — a big sister or a mysterious benefactor or a surrogate mother? On Neo’s tiny shoulders rested the responsibility for alleviating my guilt, my terrible remorse for being born in the first world, for having what she would never have. I wanted her to always remember me, the kind lakoa — white woman — who changed her life as much as she changed mine. When Neo really needed my help, though, I couldn’t give it to her. It was an ordinary afternoon on the playground, everyone kicking soccer balls in the dust. Neo was on the swing, and as toddlers are prone to do, she slipped off. She bit her lip hard as she hit the ground. She seemed more surprised than hurt, and started crying big tears right there in the dirt. I went over to scoop her tiny body up in my arms and rub her back with my palm. It should have been so simple. She was a child, I was an adult, and I should have been able to make it all better. But Neo was bleeding — not hard, but it scared her. She reached up to me, eager for reassurance. I couldn’t give it to her. Don’t go anywhere near blood when you’re in Botswana, people say, no matter the circumstances or your instincts. HIV is rampant, and little Neo — whose mother died of AIDS — likely was infected. I thought I loved her, I thought I saw her as a sister. I was too scared to help her. I felt like I was betraying an understanding between us, but my own health was more important. I wasn’t ready to be everything Neo needed.
pilates room 224 by barrie nussbaum
class of 2009
Arms outstretched, I exhale deeply. The air streams out of my lungs in spurts like it is scared to leave the confines of my body. I try to let the sounds of the rainforest chirping through the speakers bring me somewhere else. I try to let the instructor coax me into another place, somewhere beyond this mirrored room. I smile as the instructor tiptoes past places a cold palm between my shoulder blades, my eyes follow her sculpted body in the mirror weaving through the rest of the class. I envy the attention she pays them. I press my back against the blue plastic mat and close my eyes. She strides past, presses her palm to my belly. Spine to the mat, Feel it here. Yes. Yes I feel it, an unnatural mix of envy and love and a deep desire to be with her or just be her. Not knowing which, I catch sight of myself in the wall her reflection stares back knowingly.
by stephany lewis
the governess, the madwoman, and the patriarchy by ashley belton class of 2010
The feminism that permeates...
Charlotte Brontë’s Jane Eyre is subtle as its appearances go unnoticed through superficial readings of the text. Sandra M. Gilbert and Susan Gubar provide a feminist looking-glass through which to read Jane Eyre, particularly drawing attention to the otherwise overlooked character of Bertha Mason Rochester. Not just the madwoman in the attic, Bertha comes to symbolize Jane’s repression of desire — a product of the patriarchal society in which they live. In the passage that will be discussed, Jane describes her own feelings of restlessness, a product of this repression, and goes on to ponder the origin of these feelings. As she blames the limited liberties allowed to women in the social construct, we find Gilbert and Gubar’s theory applicable as it addresses this very issue by bringing Bertha to the forefront of it. Jane takes a sharp digression in the middle of the passage from narrating the happenings at Thornfield Hall to the topic of gender roles, or more specifically, the restricting nature of the female role and the resulting psychological conflict. Jane begins this discourse by expressing her dissatisfaction with tranquility, claiming that humans “must have action; and they will make it if they cannot find it.”1 Jane does precisely this — when feeling suffocated, she escapes via flight, or in the case of the red-room, she escapes through madness. Jane’s journey to selfdiscovery takes on a repetitive form through “a series of experiences which are, in one way or another, variations on the central, red-room motif of enclosure and escape.”2 It is when this need for action is not satisfied that restlessness builds to the point where the only option is escape. The species hungriest for action are those that are expected to be subordinate, quiet, and reserved, and resultantly feel restrained in their life situation. As the restlessness grows, so does the rebellion within oneself. Jane acknowledges this idea when she claims, “nobody knows how many rebellions besides political rebellions ferment in the masses of life which people earth.”3 Jane speaks specifically of women and the internal rebellion they must suppress on a continual basis to live in a patriarchal society. In such a society women are essentially homeless and suffer a “nameless, placeless, and contingent status.”4 They bear their husbands’ names and keep to the home, while the men live in the public arena and hold positions of influence. Jane argues against this assignment of roles when she proclaims, “women feel just as men feel; they need exercise for their faculties, and a field for their efforts as much as their brothers do; they suffer from too rigid of restraint, too absolute a stagnation, precisely as men would suffer.”5
From this standpoint, husband and wife cannot be separate and equal; a marriage is only truly equal when it consists of two minds that are one. This type of marriage is nearly impossible in a patriarchal society, which explains why Jane and Rochester must isolate themselves in order to achieve it. In an abrupt shift of topic, Jane quits her philosophical musings to discuss Grace Poole’s bizarre behavior: “I not infrequently heard Grace Poole’s laugh: the same peal, the same low, slow ha! ha! which, when first heard, had thrilled me: I heard, too, her eccentric murmurs; stranger than her laugh.”6 Of course that laugh is not Grace Poole’s, but that of Bertha Mason Rochester, Rochester’s first wife, and the madwoman in the attic as Gilbert and Gubar refer to her. For the description of such an enigmatic character to follow a discourse on the female experience, a discourse that seems random in placement, suggests a link between the two that, at this point, remains unknown to the reader. This juxtaposition goes unnoticed upon first reading the text, but clearly Brontë has an intent here: one should derive that Bertha’s laugh and strange murmurs, that is her madness, are a result of her inability to conform to society’s expectations of women, to silently surrender to the predetermined female role, or to live within the confines of a patriarchal society. Gilbert and Gubar go as far as to question whether Bertha might be a “living example of what happens to the woman who tries to be the fleshy vessel of the masculine élan.”7 Bertha is a casualty of the gender war, a tragic result of female frustration resultant from living in a patriarchal society. Bertha is not simply a single character, but a representation of the female dialectic, the psychological conflict constructed by the push and pull of gender roles. Jane is able to give this dialectic a voice, to explain Bertha’s struggle, which is akin to her own, in a sane and logical way. For both of these characters have psychological depth; Jane is the new domestic woman possessing both judgment and sentiment; Bertha is an example of the fallen aristocrat, whose judgment and sentiment have gone awry. Jane acknowledges the presence of those dark qualities in herself that are similar to those of Bertha. Jane admits, “the restlessness was in my nature; it agitated me to pain sometimes.”8 She finds solace from this restlessness in pacing back and forth on the third story, as does Bertha in the attic — this pacing being the physical evidence of mental conflict. While Jane engages in this act, she claims she is able to open her “inward ear to a tale that was never ended — a tale my imagination created, and narrated continuously; quickened with all of incident, life, fire, feeling, that I desired and had not in my actual existence.”9 Jane recognizes the limits of her situation, that being a governess, “she was and was not a member of the family, was and was not a servant,” and accordingly should learn to find emotional support within the self rather than look to external sources, i.e. Mr. Rochester.10 She therefore uses moments of introspection to experience emotional fulfillment. What Jane lacks in experience, she makes up for in her imagination. Through her imagination, Jane seeks refuge from the “many rebellions besides political rebellions,” and is able to attain satisfaction despite her limited means of psychological and emotional stimulation.11 Those feelings of repression and rebellion that Jane is trying to suppress take human form in Bertha. Jane’s anger personified, Bertha commits those acts for which Jane lacks the audacity, allowing Jane to remain in social convention whilst leaving Bertha the scapegoat. Yet Jane does not wish to be Rochester’s doll, dressed in jewels, “making pudding and knitting stockings” — Jane cannot marry Rochester until he recognizes her as a true equal, as a woman who is not “satisfied with tranquility.”12 In order for Jane to attain selfhood, she must resolve her inner rebellion, her silent revolt. This resolution takes symbolic form in the destruction of Bertha; only then is Jane at peace with her past, her restlessness gone, and her series of escapes terminated. Her final escape is with Rochester to an isolated otherworldly place where patriarchal culture ceases to exist and where they are but two minds, defined by neither gender nor social status. Originally the major impediment to Jane and Rochester’s relationship, Bertha becomes
the catalyst that ultimately brings the two back together. Bertha’s outrageous behavior forces Jane to address her demons, and it is Bertha’s demise that signifies Jane’s self-realization. And although Jane does not defeat the patriarchy, she does rise above it as she escapes from society’s constraints and retreats to nature, a place “unleashed from social restrictions” where Jane and Rochester can live in “a natural order of their own making.”13 Endnotes
Charlotte Brontë, Jane Eyre (New York: Oxford University Press, 2000), 109. 2 Susan Gubar and Sandra M. Gilbert, The Madwoman in the Attic: The Woman Writer and the Nineteenth-Century Literary Imagination (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1979), 341. 3 Brontë, 109. 4 Gilbert & Gubar, 364. 5 Brontë, 109. 6 Ibid., 110. 7 Gilbert & Gubar, 361. 8 Brontë, 109. 9 Ibid. 10 Gilbert & Gubar, 349. 11 Brontë, 109. 12 Ibid. 13 Gilbert & Gubar, 370. 1
a poem by the girls of chattanooga to our southern grandmothers by marshall bright class of 2011
We hate them a little bit, When they say â€œcoloredâ€? and We have to say shhht, shhht, shhht. The way they walk slowly, Hobbling on shoes and sidewalk Lipstick painting over Lips collapsed upon jaws Blush like fingerpaint Panty hose on in summer As they stare at the computer While we strike a pattern of clic clic clic What are you doing? Who are you talking to? Hands are old muscle wrapped in musty crepe paper Giving us a twenty dollar bill Guilt twisting our gut And how many times we roll our eyes Long distance calls just to say Fine, fine, fine No one says that anymore! To Granny, Mimi, Nana, Mil. And the breaking, breaking feeling Lung-punch, stomach-collapsing feeling When they die.
jason and the tenderfooted temptress
by jason gray class of 2009
Ilearned to fear the power of a woman...
at a very young age. My first experience with a woman was in kindergarten. Her name was Yolanda: a five-year-old with a reputation. At my public elementary school, women had their way with men every day. From kindergarten up, the ladies held the upper hand, and the men never questioned their authority. Perhaps the reason for this power dynamic was the common notion that women mature faster than men. Though I came to contest this theory later in life, I realize that in kindergarten I accepted it as a simple truth. But whatever the psychological underpinnings, at Shepherd Elementary it was a girl’s world, period; boys were pawns. In kindergarten, sex was everywhere. We slipped into our predetermined sexual roles with such ease; it was as if we had been playing this game for generations. Sex was both unfamiliar and instinctual. It was a vast, unexplored frontier and a well-rehearsed dance. At that young age, sex meant touching each other in the “no-no” places. But I think on a certain level we understood that we were fulfilling the early stages of our sexual training; that we were readying ourselves for the big leagues. Though we had no clue what we were doing, we felt the duty to bumble and fumble around until we got it right. For these reasons I tried to go unnoticed in kindergarten. I saw what was going on and it scared the crap out of me. Although I was one of the youngest kids in my class, I was also the tallest. Adults commonly mistook me for three or four years older, so I wasn’t babied as much as the other kids. They chose to ignore me. Most days, I could be found busying myself in a vacant corner of the classroom, blissfully aloof. Mrs. George, our loopy kindergarten teacher, had arranged the room with countless cushy corners and crevices, making my hermitage all too easy. Mrs. George made every day exciting. She was insane. Everything about her was caricatural, from her spiky, salt-n-pepper locks that stood straight up as if she’d been electrocuted, to the way she threw up her pale, bony hands and shouted “Spaghetti for brains!” whenever she forgot something. Her classroom was a wonderland. There was color everywhere, color for days. She managed to insert color into even the most unusual places, like cubbyholes and windowsills. That’s why I loved Mrs. George’s room: it was so easy to lose myself in the colors. Loners like me were sucked into the dizzying hues and never heard from again. Or at least not until recess. Most days I could be found playing with toys, or reading picture books, or coloring quietly. I was always quiet. I
Mrs. George was gazing intently at Mrs. Aguilar, unaware of what we were doing. Seeing that the coast was clear, I knew it was time to act. I thought about my most important “nono” place and decided that was out of the question, bully or no bully. So I settled on what I thought was the next best thing. It was now or it was never. I slowly reached for Yolanda’s hand. Clutching it by the wrist, I guided it around to my back and down, down, down until her fingertips grazed the waistband of my OshKosh B’Gosh jeans. I held it there, waiting. Horrified, she immediately snatched her hand from my backside. She stared at me in openmouthed disgust. Apparently, that wasn’t what she had in mind. Realizing that she would have to take the lead, Yolanda proceeded to lift up the front of my shirt, and stick her tiny hand underneath. Then she sort of poked and prodded around my chest and stomach. I wanted to vomit. I shuddered at the sensation of her bony little fingers against my underdeveloped torso. My heart beat against my chest. But I remained still. Yolanda looked ahead and pretended to be enthralled by the presentation. I clenched my teeth and waited for her invasion to be over. I knew I was in the heat of battle. I steadied my breathing, and did my best to focus on what Mrs. Aguilar was saying. Gradually, Yolanda became bored and withdrew her hand. Later that day, she told me we were now boyfriend and girlfriend. Our relationship lasted for the next few days, after which she broke up with me and moved on to her next victim. Everything changed that day. That was the day Yolanda yanked me out of my paradise of colorful crevices and into the real world. She forced me to engage in the game: the game of sex, love, attraction, relationships, heartbrokenness. And once I started playing, there was no turning back. I learned all the important stuff about life in kindergarten.
by noah breslau
by kara daddario class of 2008
It wasn’t at the local farmers market where you bought me summer strawberries because you forgot I was allergic. Or at the town square, drinking luke warm beer as we watched a too talented musician who would never make it out of this place. It wasn’t in the coffee store where I knew your section of the times and you knew I only drink coffee with chocolate syrup. It may have been on your porch where, exhaling a cigarette into the dense southern air, I wondered if you’d remember to water the plant when I’m gone. It became palpable at the wine bar when I cried for the dead quail on my plate and you told me that sometimes it’s alright to feel sadness for small things. I loved you in that moment when dusk crept into our car on a tree boarded highway and you told me that out here you often forget the universe exists.
kept my mouth shut from 8:35 a.m. until 3:15 p.m. each day. At school I was a soldier in a war zone. There were landmines at every corner. For me, those landmines were harrowing social interactions. But at home I was safe. From 3:15 p.m. each day until 8:35 a.m. the next morning, I was on military leave. In kindergarten, the women were by far the more aggressive warriors. Indeed, they were ruthless. They teased us boys, they poked and prodded us, called us names, stared us down. The baby-faced boys had it the worst; their babyish features made them completely unthreatening. To the girls, they were easy prey. I, on the other hand, had an essential weapon: my mature looks. Girls usually avoided getting confrontational with me because I looked like a big kid, and it freaked them out. So in this way, I managed to avoid direct combat. Enter Yolanda. Yolanda was the girl in our class with the nastiest mouth and the most “experience.” So she was doubly feared. Her glowing yellow skin made her stand out in a room full of rolling, romping five-year-olds. She was very pretty, but in a sly, foreboding way. She was pretty in the way Ursula, the sea witch in The Little Mermaid, was pretty when she morphed into a young woman to seduce Ariel’s Prince Charming. Yolanda’s uncommon beauty was just another of her many weapons. She could have her way with any man she chose. And she had already chosen most of the men in our class at one time or another. I, however, was the final frontier. Today was a special day. Leonardo Aguilar’s mom had come in to talk about her career. It was always fun to have a new and unfamiliar grown-up in the room. A visitor meant that we had to be on our best behavior; to me, that meant the sweet sound of silence. I beamed when Mrs. Aguilar came into the room that afternoon. “Quiet down, children. Please, quiet down,” Mrs. George cooed in a sing-song voice, while feverishly flapping her hands up and down. “We have a visitor!” Barely able to contain her excitement, Mrs. George began sheep-herding children to the center of the room, where she had already set up a chair in expectation of our guest. I started to wander over myself, when I heard: “Jayyy-sonnn.” She purred my name in long, heavy syllables. She said it so quietly that no one else could hear it, but with such distinction that it was unmistakable; sugar-sweet, with a slight Spanish lilt. It was Yolanda. I froze. Slowly, reluctantly, I turned my head in her direction. There she was, standing about ten feet away, beaming at me with big, bright eyes. Her seductive smile sent chills all through me. I awaited her next move. “Come sit by me,” she said. I was dumbfounded. She sauntered up to me. She then took my hand in hers and proceeded to drag me to the seating area in the middle of the floor. The rest of the class had already assembled on the floor, facing Mrs. Aguilar. Yolanda had timed it perfectly. Dragging me behind her like a prize, she took a seat at the very back of the group, out of everyone’s line of vision. She crossed her legs Indian-style and I followed. The plump Mrs. Aguilar teetered back and forth in her kindergarten-sized chair. I don’t remember what Mrs. Aguilar did for a living, but whatever it was, Yolanda was uninterested. Five minutes into the presentation, I felt a funny sensation on my thigh. I looked down to find tiny fingers dancing just above my knee. People respond to fear in very different ways. For me, it’s all about the stomach. It feels like a bear has gripped its giant paw around my stomach, and is squeezing the digested food within towards my body’s north and south exits. This was one of those times. I looked at Yolanda. She smirked at me, her eyes probing mine. She was expecting something. I was new to this game; she had played it many times. I stared back at her, unsure of what to do next. Annoyed, she began to thump her fingers harder on my thigh. Gradually, I understood. She wanted sex. She wanted access to a “no-no” place.
love in spite of bodies creating livable lives by uncoupling sex, gender, and desire by katie eichner
class of 2009
In her book, Undoing Gender...
theorist Judith Butler advocates for a world in which desire, gender, and biological sex are separate, and where everyone may create his or her own gender identity without fear of rejection or violence. Films and books that deal with gender, sex, sexuality, and transsexualism, including “The Crying Game,” “Boys Don’t Cry,” and Stone Butch Blues, often present implicit views that advocate for this sort of world. In particular, the relationships portrayed in these works suggest that love and desire can exist in spite of genitalia and the body, and that individuals should accept this fact rather than harbor prejudices against anyone outside their conceptual frameworks. These works are also a powerful argument against the stereotyping of desire; for example, the assumption that all butches must only be attracted to femmes, or that M to F transgendered persons must be gay and only attracted to other men. They suggest that love and desire exist outside of strict societal categories. I believe that if we are to create Judith Butler’s “livable lives,” works like those listed above serve as a first step by defamiliarizing the familiar and allowing viewers to questions their beliefs and to view love, desire, sex, and gender in a new way. In her work Undoing Gender, Judith Butler pushes for a world in which people may craft their gender identities and be accepted as human, regardless of what those identities entail.1 She claims that people determine who is human and who is not based on the ways in which individuals present themselves with regards to gender; that is, people judge the humanness of others based on the “perceptual verifiability” of their sex or gender identity.2 If the identity is ambiguous, illegible, and outside the realm of the usual, the person is labeled as non-human, and is marginalized. Butler believes that we must create a world in which people are not only allowed to create their gender identity, but also where we “…cease legislating for all lives what is livable only for some, and similarly, to refrain from proscribing for all lives what is unlivable for some.”3 Thus, “[s]elf determination becomes a plausible concept only in the context of a social world that supports and enables the exercise of agency.”4 Gender is a performance, and each person should be permitted to determine how he or she would like to perform, and have that performance accepted. The idea is not to be rid of gender, but to allow for and to accept all possible gender identities. In doing this, it follows that one should cease expecting both that a biological sex corresponds to a gender identity, and that a gender identity corresponds necessarily to a particular desire. “Love in spite of bodies” fits very neatly into Butler’s ideal
world of livable lives; if masculinity and femininity are separate from biological sex, desire ought to be separate from biological sex and from the agent’s gender identity as well.5 The works in question address these last three ideas. All three works present very strong cases for the need to create a world in which people may lead livable lives and, importantly, the need to provide a framework within which audience members may question their own beliefs about desire, sex, and gender. Fergus and Dil’s relationship in “The Crying Game” is touching at the same time that it is disturbingly complex and entangled. Fergus continues to love Dil and wants to be with her once he finds out that she has a penis.6 Fergus overcomes his initial disgust (manifested in his vomiting) and stays in love with Dil, despite his shock. All the while he grapples with his conception of her: he tells her, “you’re not a girl,” and she replies, tellingly, “details, baby, details.”7 Fergus had clearly always considered himself a straight man; in the beginning of the movie he had a relationship with Jude and he is at first repulsed by the idea that he desires someone who is biologically male. It turns out that this fact is just a “detail”—Fergus does not abandon Dil and continues to love and desire her, so much that he goes to jail for her. The viewer is deeply affected by this relationship and may be at once touched, repulsed, and confused. However, he or she might also question certain beliefs about sexuality; if Fergus is with Dil, does that mean he is gay? Bisexual? Do these categories even mean anything? Does it matter that he believed Dil was female when he fell in love with her? Does it matter that she performs femininity and presents herself as a woman? Is desire based on gender rather than sex, or is it based on either? What is it that allows Fergus to overcome his initial shock? Are there social conditions (such as his status on the margins of society) that allow him to be more open to this revelation than he might otherwise be? It appears that Fergus could fall in love with Dil because she is feminine, and that it is her femininity rather than her anatomy that matters. Dil is able to lead a livable life (at least within her subculture) because she is accepted as transgender by both her compatriots in the bar scene and the man she falls in love with. The movie has a happy ending—Dil and Fergus stay together; she counts down the days until he gets out of jail. This positive portrayal of a relationship in which desire is linked to gender performance and where love occurs in spite of biological sex acquaints the public with the possibility of such a relationship, and makes the idea less foreign. Dil and Fergus’s relationship provokes thought, and thought about such issues is the first step toward a world where they are no longer issues at all. In the 1999 film “Boys Don’t Cry,” there is a more tragic but no less touching portrayal of love in spite of bodies.8 When Lana discovers that Brandon is biologically female, she does not leave him, but plans to run away with him so they may start a new life together. She rails against her mother, John, and Tom, who think that Brandon is a freak and that she should not be with him. Yet Lana ends up marrying a man and has children; she is therefore “straight.” The viewer must question the origin of desire once more; can Lana love Brandon because he performs masculinity, and is Lana is attracted to masculinity rather than biological “maleness?” The answer here appears to be a definite “yes.” Their love, which endures in spite of the odds, makes the intolerance and Brandon’s brutal murder all the more tragic. Brandon cannot create a livable life for himself in a world full of prejudice and fear; movies like this, which raise awareness, expose people to the idea of transgenderism, and to the idea that sometimes anatomy is not important for desire. This is a continuation of the idea that beauty is only skin deep; love and desire develop for a person (and for his or her gender performance) rather than for a biological sex. The tragic end here emphasizes explicitly the need for change in a way that “The Crying Game” does only implicitly. Brandon is considered inhuman because of the gender role he has chosen, and he is killed for his transgression. We must create a world in which couples like Lana and Brandon may live happily, without ostracism, and without risk of violence: without what Butler would call “literal death.”9 Stone Butch Blues goes even farther toward denaturalizing ideas about sexuality, gender, and
desire, and even more firmly establishes the link between masculinity/femininity (gender performance) and desire. Jess remarks that “…what gets it for me is a high femme. It’s funny—it doesn’t matter whether it’s women or men—it’s always high femme that pulls me by the waist and makes me sweat.”10 She is attracted to the performance of gender, of femininity, the “high femme,” rather than to a particular sex. This is most evident in her relationship with Ruth. Although the two of them never have sex, they come close, and it is clear that they love and are attracted to each other. Yet, Ruth is a drag queen, a “gay man” and Jess is a stone butch lesbian. How can they be attracted to someone of the opposite sex? Desire is more complex than many make it out to be, and yet it is inextricably linked in this work with gender performance, although not with the gender performance of the agent (the “desire-er”), only the gender performance of the object of desire. The book is prescriptive in many ways, perhaps even more forcefully than “Boys Don’t Cry.” It firmly suggests that we ought not to assume that desire can only exist within certain structures, and that, for example, a masculine woman (butch lesbian) must desire a feminine woman (femme lesbian). Jess makes this mistake with regard to her friend Frankie, but later realizes her error and repents. Desire is not inextricably tied up with the gender role you perform. Both Frankie and Jess are butches, and Jess says, “…when we were younger, I thought I had it figured out: I’m a butch because I love femmes. That was something beautiful… You scared me. I felt like you were taking that away from me”11 Frankie replies: “I wasn’t taking anything away from you. But how do you think I felt when you told me I wasn’t a real butch because I sleep with other butches? You were taking away who I am.”12 Jess defined butch as someone who desires femmes, while to Frankie desire was separate from her butch gender performance/identity. Frankie says that being butch is who she is, but does not dictate whom she loves. Gender identity is separate from desire. They agree, eventually, that, “[y]ou and I have to hammer out a definition of butch that doesn’t leave me [Frankie] out.”13 Jess’s turnaround clearly demonstrates that there is a need for acceptance of all sorts of desire, even when it confounds our notions of how desire ought to function. This theme is further displayed in the tragic separation between Theresa and Jess. Theresa will not remain with Jess when Jess decides to start passing as a man, because she feels that being with a butch is important to her identity as femme. She says, “‘This is my life, and I’m damn brave to love who I love. Don’t try to take who I am away from me… If I’m not with a butch, everyone just assumes I’m straight…’”14 Theresa clearly believes that her desire for a butch defines her as a femme. This belief leads to a painful and heartrending separation between the two lovers. Jess is left alone, and the reader cannot help but wish that Theresa could accept Jess for who she is, and understand that passing does not make her a fundamentally different person. Theresa seems misguided in the same way that Jess was, although the former is concerned primarily with how her identity appears to others; it is important that they see her as a lesbian. It appears that Theresa’s concern for appearances preempts her love for Jess, a situation which is fundamentally unfair. The message is that we should not be concerned with how people fit us into categories, or how desire ought to function. We should feel free to love whomever we love, without fear of retribution from society and without our own prejudices and restrictions on how we think desire and love ought to work. In order for us to do this, society must change. Theresa must not feel that “…the terms by which [she is] recognized make life unlivable.”15 If it becomes nonsensical to immediately judge someone’s sexual preference based on his or her gender identity, the Theresa/Jess problem will no longer exist. Stone Butch Blues, “Boys Don’t Cry,” and “The Crying Game” all addresses similar problems with current conceptions of gender, sexuality, identity, and desire. In presenting these relationships (Jess and Theresa, Jess and Ruth, Brandon and Lana, and Fergus and Dil), each work allows readers/viewers to question their own beliefs about how the aforementioned concepts are linked. It is in this questioning, and in the sympathetic portrayals of these “abnormal” re-
lationships and “strange” people, that these movies advocate for the creation of Judith Butler’s livable lives. As people become more familiar with such situations, they will be less alien and “alternative” gender identities will start to be more accepted.16 Although these works continue to equate desire with the performance of gender, this is not inconsistent with Butler’s ideal world, particularly because the performance of a particular gender does not have to indicate a particular desire (that is, a masculine person can desire another masculine person, as with Frankie and her lover). This decoupling of desire, gender, and biological sex allows us to conceive of a world in which we may be whomever we choose, and love and desire whomever we do, without fear of stigma or retribution. In short, these works allow us to conceive of (and demonstrate the need for) Judith Butler’s livable lives. Endnotes
Judith Butler, Undoing Gender, (New York: Routledge, 2004), 2. 2 Ibid. 3 Ibid, 8. 4 Ibid, 7. 5 Unfortunately, an in depth discussion of this point is not possible in this paper. Suffice it to say that because Butler calls into question the “naturalness” of biological sex and the binary, it follows that having masculine or feminine traits would not cause one to necessarily desire either a male or female body, or masculine or feminine traits in a potential love object. 6 The relationship between Fergus and Joby, and the erotic triangle between Fergus, Dil, and Joby complicate Fergus and Dil’s relationship considerably, but this is still true. 7 “The Crying Game,” DVD. Directed by Niel Jordan 1992, Lion’s Gate, 2005. 8 “Boys Don’t Cry,” DVD. Directed by Kimberly Pierce, Fox Searchlight, 2000. 9 Butler, 8. 10 Leslie Feinberg, Stone Butch Blues, (New York: Alyson Publications, 1993), 274. 11 Ibid, 273. 12 Ibid. 13 Ibid, 274. 14 Ibid, 151. 15 Butler, 4. 16 This is something like the heretofore to unparalleled acceptance of homosexual relationships in Western society, brought on in part by the proliferation of “out” gays and gay couples, and positive portrayals of gays in the media. This is similar to the widespread acceptance of divorce following the proliferation of divorce, and positive (or at least nonnegative) portrayals of divorced couples in the media. 1
by elizabeth yohlin
tips on walking while female by rhaisa kai
class of 2010
Lonely Cleveland legs stroll down loathing Philly streets to the beat of her privacy Can I lick your yellow cheek Leaks from lips that are hidden behind an overgrown beard with strands of wisdom dispersed, though that color must not have gotten into his head Um, no thank you but I’m sure that you can find some other woman who will let you Spoken with a short, curt discourse Be aggressive enough as to not show fear but casual enough as to not step on his manhood and force him to prove himself to his wannabe giant status Make him stupid before his intelligence realizes it and by that time, you’ll be on a different path If you ain’t got nobody to eat you I sho will and I got a big one too, you’d know it if you saw it Stare back at him with noticeable disgust and roll your eyes in the direction of a scheduled train that’s taking much too long to come Long shorts with Tim boots were never attractive, brings unknown memories of slaves that were too afraid to run But his eyes certainly ain’t enslaved as they freely run up and down your body, destination North star signaled by the V and backwards C of your middle, tongue out to moisture lips and display his appetite Is this how you pick up your women? Quiet voice followed through with piercing eyes that repeat Can I lick your cheek cuz I’ll do it if you let me This dude must definitely be deaf to words and body language, unless you don’t matter enough to him to be heard Unpermissioned curves busting out of denim floods his special organ with venom as he nervously shifts from side to side Can I eat you out Yes you may, out of the discomfort I feel when you stare at me, out of the violation I feel as you ignorantly form words that equate my intellect, personality, soul, and body to a piece meat, as you make me regret the gender my father stamped You must take me as a ho Show your self-respect, let it be explicit, but keep your cool as this is the mask that your people have worn for decades to avoid the whip Doesn’t he see you past the pleasures of her treasures Does he see himself I don’t take you as a ho, you just look so good that I want to eat you He sees you as a piece of shit that he wants to digest in the highways of his bowels and flush into oblivion How could so many women fall for this The train comes I get on He moves on to another game
this morning anonymous
This morning, I weighed in at 109.8 pounds...
After nearly four months of the slow process of dieting, I have just passed the twenty pound mark, and am within a pound of my goal. I should be ecstatic. Instead, I can’t help but feel ambivalent about the prospect of reaching my goal, a goal that was once a distant pipe dream and is now just within reach. It is exciting to see my hard work pay off, to be complimented on something that I had a part in, to have taken control of my body, of my life. Yet the excitement is complemented by fear. Fear of maintenance, yes, but also fear of the implications of allowing my weight and eating habits to define me, and fear of being addicted to the sense of control that comes with massive weight loss. The fear of being fat, of not meeting my targets, that fear has subsided, replaced now with an emptiness that is quickly and easily filled by the other fears that I have hidden behind the neuroses of weight loss all summer long. In becoming healthy, I have placed myself at risk for the emotional unhealthiness that comes with a weight obsession. My body is thanking me by building muscle, gaining endurance, and losing mass, but my mind is at odds with itself, not sure how to react to the next phase in the process, the test of whether I can maintain my new self. Where I used to pride myself on my carefree attitude toward weight, I now pride myself on the willpower by which I turn down the foods I used to freely enjoy. To say that we are what we eat is missing the point. We are what we do not eat. And while I used to be a cheeseburger and fries, I have shed that girl and replaced her with a bag of carrots and a turkey sandwich, hold the bread. I never believed that I could become this person; I hated this person. When my friend promised that Weight Watchers would turn me into a person who loves vegetables, I didn’t believe her, mostly because I hated vegetables, and partly because I didn’t want to like them. I didn’t want to be that girl, the one who orders a salad on a date, the one who orders a salad at all. Was it really possible for a diet to change the way I felt about an entire food group, an entire lifestyle? I was skeptical. So when seven pounds into my diet I found myself ordering extra vegetables to go with my veggie burger, it took me a minute to realize the truth. I told myself this was a temporary affliction, that I would be back to pizza and chocolate cake in no time. Never mind that my heartburn and lactose reactions hadn’t appeared in weeks. Never mind that I looked and felt better than I had in years. More than missing the food itself, I missed the carefree ability to eat it, and I knew better than to expect that I would ever be able to go back.
My changed relationship with food was nestled deep inside the relationship with my body that I had unearthed, the mutual respect and admiration for the willpower of the other. Sure, my mind may want the freedom to eat junk food all day, but my body is nauseous at the thought. How can I pollute the body that has treated me so well for the past few months, ruin the new friendship I have just begun to discover? How can I turn my back on the body that has recently begun to assert itself as a part of my identity, refusing to continue to be hidden by fashion and an exuberant personality? The answer is that I cannot. For the first time in my life, my body is an important part of how I see myself, how I act, and what I eat; only one of these aspects is tragically slighted by the situation. The payoff of my good treatment has been huge. For the first time in my life, I can look in the mirror and be thrilled with what I see: the almost-perfect body, with thighs that don’t rub together when I walk, tight abs, a tiny waist, a chin that is entirely independent of my neck. But now that I am less than a pound away from my goal, how does this new positive body image, still in the infantile stage, change? What do I do when the only goal I have left is to stay the same? The journey to this point was a period of drastic change for me. First, at my mother’s prodding, I slowly accepted that my neutral body image was merely a denial of the facts. I was not fat, but I was not nearly as skinny or healthy as I could or should have been. I wanted to make a change, I just didn’t know where to begin. I had never committed to anything so large, let alone something that came into play at least three times on schedule each day. But I had come to my moment of truth. I knew that if I was to make this pledge, to stop eating most of the foods I enjoyed for four months at the very shortest, I would need an end in sight. Where would this end fall? Online, I entered my height into Weight Watchers’ website and was told that I could fall healthily between 109 and 130 pounds. Wanting to make the most of the experience, I promised myself a lofty goal: 109 pounds, the ultimate achievement. If I am going to do this, I told myself, I am going to make it count; I am going to put in every effort I can to transform myself completely. In entering my first diet relationship, I vowed that this would be the one. I knew that it would get tough, but I was going to make it last. Weight Watchers and I were going to go all the way. This decision would require not only a change in diet, but change in lifestyle habits as well. Freshman year, with the gym just a block away from my dorm, I rationalized that the guilt I would feel about a gym regimen would cause me to eat so much that it would counteract any possible effects of the exercise. So for two years, I avoided any cardio-related activity. Two years spent inactive, and I wondered why I was winded going to class. Sure, it was far away and I was often running late. But the real issue was right in front of my face every time I looked in the mirror. Ten pounds had somehow found their way onto my body on top of my already shapeless frame, landing in the most surprising places—my face, my hips, my chest—all places I could misattribute to genetics, age and a certain estrogen-altering pill. When I returned to the gym, armed with two sports bras and a video iPod (without which I may never have returned), it was only for short bouts. My sister, with whom I have always competed in the weight department, told me that if I ran in speed intervals, sprints interspersed with walking, that I could get away with staying on the treadmill for just ten minutes. Even this wasn’t easy at first, but it wasn’t impossible either. And it only took a few weeks of this before I realized I had the potential and ability to do more. Ten became fifteen, fifteen became twenty, twenty became thirty, thirty became forty. Turns out I had been right about workout guilt, only I wasn’t getting it from staying home; I was getting it from a twenty-minute cardio workout not being enough. Why sweat if I don’t do all that I can? But this scares me. My body doesn’t mind the work, and in fact feels much better afterwards, but my mind remains conflicted on the issue. On the treadmill, I switch between both speed and attitudes: on the one hand, the mind is bored, on the other, guilty for being so. I don’t push myself beyond my physical limit; I do only as much as I know I can handle. But what about when this limit
increases? When is enough enough? With my weight I have the luxury of having a defined goal, a number where I can pat myself on the back and tell myself “job well done.” I will not go below this goal, for understanding and fear of the obvious health and body image implications. But faced with the prospect of maintenance, I am grasping for a few more pounds to lose. I have gotten into the routine of weight loss, a set of behaviors I know I can shed when the process is over, yet the control I find myself clinging to in the uncertainty of my senior year of college is addictive. So how do I move into the new permanence of weight maintenance? How do I define my eating habits? How do I become normal again without failing? Will I ever be able to enjoy the foods I once loved without shame again? And what if the weight creeps back up on me? Am I trapped? I can’t help feeling that, while I am thankful for the way my body looks when I look in the mirror and my ability to dress in clothing I never would have imagined fitting me before, that I miss my relaxed attitude towards my body. That I miss the cleavage I hid my fat behind. That I miss the certainty with which I could look in the mirror and know what I was looking at, know that there was a permanence to what I was seeing. What scares me the most is the cloudiness with which I see the difference between the old me and the new me. The clothes fit differently or not at all, but the complaints are the same. I may appreciate my new abs, but I will never like my neck, and I will always wish there was a way to directly target love handles. Yesterday in the hair salon, my stylist commented on how much longer my hair had gotten. I knew she was right, but I could not see the growth, could not remember how it must have looked when I last saw her. My weight has the same effect. So used to looking at myself, I am physically incapable of truly seeing myself. This, more so than anything else, is what scares me. While I used to pretend I had a body image issue that made me look fatter to myself than I was, I continue to look in the mirror and only see my flaws, which makes me wonder if my wishful thinking has come true. But I am not stupid. I can listen to the numbers on the scale, the comments from my friends and family. I know when to stop, so I can now appreciate the foods I’ve been missing, in moderation of course. And the pride will return with time, and I will learn to balance diet foods with “normal” ones. I know all this. If it took twenty pounds for my body and my mind to meet and understand each other, they can continue to bond over the new challenges I face in trying to develop a normalcy. Challenges may bring us together, but handling routine can only make the bond stronger. And as for anyone who defines me by my mind’s attitude to food? They surely aren’t worth my body’s time.
she had never understood why by rivka fogel
class of 2011
she had never understood why, of all things, it was her mouth that he loved, one lipsticked bow when she was cover girl #5 fresh â€˜n sexy (such a coarse word, she thought), one liplined arrow when she was formal for the workplace, or grim (brothers grimm did cinderella always get her prince?), one angelina jolie, renee zellwegger, catherine zeta jones people ok seventeenpursedpainted grin stretched too far. it was her mouth he loved, as he chipped her tooth with her tube of queen latifaâ€™s #16, specially made for the brown-skinned princess
the hand of eve
by shelby prindaville
bound for beauty by david wolfish
class of 2009
A perfectly bound foot should...
have four toes wrapped beneath the distorted metatarsal to form the elusive three-inch “golden lotus” shape.1 The disfigured foot is undoubtedly the most salient image of Chinese women’s oppression. Foot binding is regarded as uncivilized, barbaric, and cruel by Western standards, yet the practice persisted as a staple of Chinese culture for over one and a half millennia.2 There are two key questions to answer: what caused foot binding to persist for so long and why did it end so abruptly? I will argue that foot binding was in both men and women’s selfinterest given the cultural and economic constraints placed upon Chinese women. Foot binding physically prevented women from entering political arenas and culturally prevented them from gaining the knowledge to liberate themselves. Women were secondclass citizens. Men spoke on their behalf, as they were considered too slow-witted to know what was best for them. Given the strong physical, cultural, and economic constraints on women, coupled with salient images of bound feet, it is not surprising that stereotypes of passivity and submissiveness followed Chinese-Americans to their new home. Long before foot binding became common practice, Chinese women were treated as second-class citizens. Women held negligible property rights, lacked education, and were pigeonholed as both mentally and physically weak.3 The Chinese culture “was not only patriarchal but also patrilineal, patrilocal, and patronymic.”4 Women, in contrast to the strong male, were associated with weakness. Foot binding manifested a deeply rooted cultural belief in women’s inferiority.5 Adaptations of Confucianism tended to be patriarchal and to enshrine women’s subordination. According to Susan Greenhalgh in “Bound Feet, Hobbled Lives,” Chinese girls were indoctrinated by the “Four Virtues” to accept their subordination. These virtues were: Woman’s Behavior: chaste and yielding, calm and upright Woman’s Speech: not talkative, yet agreeable Woman’s Carriage and Appearance: restrained and exquisite Woman’s Occupation: handiwork, embroidery.6 Women who obeyed these dicta were rewarded with wealthy and powerful husbands. Bound feet assured husbands of their wives’ conjugal fidelity and kept women from performing any act beyond cooking, cleaning, sewing, and dancing.7 This patriarchal structure became self-
reinforcing because “the family system demanded footbound wives to do its domestic and reproductive tasks; and footbound wives, physically constrained from doing otherwise, reinforced the power structures which strengthened the system.”8 The Foot Fetish Wedded to ideals of male economic, cultural, and physical domination, the footbinding phenomenon was also laced with explicitly sexual meaning. Foot binding was borne from men’s sexual fantasies and sexual misinformation was pervasive in China. Women were hounded by men to reveal the secrets of foot binding, even leading to the prostitution of their feet: men would pay prostitutes in order to let them touch her bound feet.9 Perhaps because men believed that bound feet made women’s vaginas more voluptuous, daring men would steal lotus shoes and masturbate with the shoe in hand.10 Furthermore, the lotus shoe valorized young girls as honorable, pure, and chaste, yet the aim of conjugal infidelity permanently immobilized them.11 It is important to note that the myths of foot binding remained unchallenged for centuries because a puritanical, repressive, and unscientific approach to human sexuality dominated Chinese culture.12 The Economics of Pain Although there is no clear consensus why the first prohibition, rescinded three years after its inception in 1642, failed, it is partially attributable to an ignorance toward the implicit economics of foot binding. Families feared that unbound daughters would remain unwed, thus they risked sanction in the interim to ensure that both the family and the daughter avoided poverty.13 The second set of reforms, however, effectively addressed economic concerns. A fortuitous series of events suddenly convinced husbands that “natural footed” wives were superior to those with bound feet.14 Missionaries and foreigners who visited China in the late nineteenth century were disgusted by the practice, considering it abhorrent and barbaric; thus, Chinese officials inferred that eliminating the custom would strengthen their economy not only by freeing women for political purposes but also for the economic benefits of doubling the workforce. After a wave of Neo-Confucian propaganda for preserving the natural human body swept through China in the early 1900s, bound feet abruptly lost their social standing.15 The second official ban of foot binding began in 1902 when Yan Xishan began a campaign to unbind (jiefang) the feet of girls under the age of fifteen.16 By 1908, public opinion had nearly fully reversed.17 Although the hundreds of millions of women who endured foot binding have passed away, their physical, cultural, sexual, and economic oppression remains vivid today. There are myriad economic reasons why Chinese girls would rationally choose to bind their feet were it not compulsory. From the start, families were disappointed by the birth of a girl. Girls could only honor their families by marrying a suitable husband, because females had little to offer the family in terms of market production.18 Foot binding and the attention that ensued gave women an opportunity to bring honor and respect to their family in the only way they could, through the “Four Virtues of a Good Woman.” Thus, due to the limited number of suitable husbands, girls were forced to compete among themselves for the best men. Men looked for characteristics signaling modesty such as small feet,19 which ensured immobility and conjugal fidelity, thus guaranteeing the husband that the children he provided for were of his own blood. Furthermore, since girls could not go to school because they were deemed mentally slow, foot binding was the only avenue through which they could exalt themselves, and their physical and mental disadvantages led them to depend on men to provide for them. Given this reliance, it is rational for women to take extreme measures to guarantee their own survival and comfort. Like battered wives, women with bound feet learned to be helpless and rely on their husbands.20 Once women had submitted to foot binding for their own security,
their capacity to work was greatly hindered and they were forced to produce children and household goods. Bound feet signaled femininity and morality to the community while women with natural feet indicated prostitutes or social pariahs.21 Additionally, wearing the hand-made shoes allowed girls to show off their family’s embroidery.22 Girls would enter formal competitions by having their feet judged in seven categories: compactness, slimness, angularity, arch, fragrance, softness, and linearity.23 Lessons for Today If tiny feet suddenly became fashionable, how many women would bind their feet if it guaranteed them powerful husbands?24 The same reasoning applies in America today as it did in China a thousand years ago: women will endure painful processes to gain social standing. Playing the role of the feminine, modest (yet attractive) wife has been pervasive in many cultures. The corset endured for centuries and stilettos are as popular as ever. The pleasure Western men receive from seeing women in uncomfortable high heels which elongate women’s bodies is not so different than the pleasure Chinese men derived from eyeing bound feet.25 Painful beauty trends fall out of favor when either more practical alternatives are developed (e.g. the brassiere) or they become too economically cumbersome (e.g. the lotus shoe). If any cultural practice impedes the economic development of a nation, the practice will tend to fall out of favor. If Nation X fails to criminalize clitoridectomies, other nations need only declare an embargo on Nation X and exclude it from multilateral agreements. In other words, culture has its price. It would not be surprising if the burqa and the hijab lost their popularity if their political and economic costs rose. Countries that fail to educate their women fall behind, while nations that shed their old customs emerge into global markets.26 Bodies and the clothes that cover them will always be heavily contested because they represent both the hope of liberation and the potential for subordination. Endnotes
Dorothy Ko, Cinderella’s Sisters: A Revisionist History of Footbinding and Every Step a Lotus: Shoes for Bound Feet (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2005 and 2001), 98. 2 Howard Levy, Chinese Footbinding: The History of a Curious Erotic Custom (New York: Alter Rawls, 1996), 17. 3 Fan Hong, Footbinding, Feminism, and Freedom (London: Frank Cass Ltd., 1997). 45. 4 Susan Greenhalgh, “Bound Feet, Hobbled Lives: Women in Old China,” in Frontiers: A Journal of Women’s Studies, Vol. 2, No. 1, Spring 1977, 12. 5 Hong, 5. 6 Greenhalgh,12. 7 Hong, 48. 8 Greenhalgh, 15. 9 Levy, 141. 10 Greenhalgh, 2, and Wang Ping, Aching for Beauty: Footbinding in China (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2000), 14. 11 Hill Gates, “Footloose in Fujian: Economic Correlates of Footbinding,” in Comparative Studies in Society and History, Vol. 43 No. 1, Jan 2001, 135. 12 Bodde Derk, “Sex in Chinese Civilization,” in Proceedings of the American Philosophical Society, Vol. 129, No. 2, June 1985, 168. 13 Ko, 52. 14 Fred Blake, “Neo-Confucian China and the Appropriation of Female Labor,” in Signs, Vol. 19, No. 3, Spring 1994, 693. 15 Erika Sussman, “Contending with Culture: An Analysis of the Female Genital Mutilation Act of 1996,” in Cornell International Law Journal, 31 Cornell Int’l L.J. 193, 1998, 67. 16 Ko, 52. 1
Sussman. Greenhalgh, 12-13. 19 Ko, 52. 20 Nancy Hirschmann, The Subject of Liberty: Toward a Feminist Theory of Freedom (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2003), 125. 21 Ko, 52. 22 Ibid., 69. 23 Ping, 3. 24 Ko, 9. 25 Levy, 17. 26 Nitza Berkovitch and Karen Bradley, “The Globalization of Women’s Status: Consensus/Dissensus in the World Polity,” in Sociological Perspectives, Vol. 42, No. 3, Autumn 1999, 486. 17 18
by barrie nussbaum
class of 2009
My brother grabs the milk while I slip on shoes to fetch the newspaper. I peel the wet wrapping back from printed pages, The cold morning sticks to the plastic and my fingers are smudged black after separating the sections. He reaches for yesterdayâ€™s scores and todayâ€™s weather. He finds it odd that I start with the obituaries. I skim over the Retired ad executive, 78 X-R&B singer, 82 Treasury employee, 67 but pause when I see Paratrooper, 18 killed by a car bomb in Iraq. I cannot look away. I gasp for an icy breath that shakes as I exhale. Sepia eyes in the photo stare back. I tear out the visiting hours. Ripping newsprint causes my brother to stop slurping the remains of his milk and glance up. Tiling his head inquisitively, he strains his neck to peak at the scrap of paper. There is a clanging as his bowl hits linoleum and I know he has made out who the face is. Cautiously, I slip my knuckles beneath his palm but he snatches it away angrily. His young eyes appear hollow and bursting at the same time. He storms upstairs angrily and the door slams I hear his red scream from two floors below. It is the cry of a boy who will never be the same.
by pauline baniqued
the death of dating is courting a lost art at the university of pennsylvania? by catherine prewitt
class of 2009
Strolling around Center City on a cold evening... a tale of two cities
in early December, when Rittenhouse Square is illuminated by a canopy of Christmas lights, and the surprising cold of early winter bites my nose and toes, I look into the windows of each restaurant I pass and see a buzz of warm energy inside. The Prime Rib, Rouge 99, and Saffron Café, to name a few, are full of couples, young and old, chatting over wine and dinner. Over in South Philly, Little Italy hosts the same fare, as diners are serenaded by accordions at Mamma Maria’s and by a trio of singers at Victor Café. In Old City, Buddakan and GiGi are teeming with activity. It’s date night in Philadelphia. But will any Penn students be found among the crowd of couples? Likely not. That’s because several blocks to the west of this scene unfolds a drastically different one. In University City, Penn students gear up for a night of party hopping. Large herds of guys and girls begin to fill the streets. Girls in slinky tops hide their bare arms and backs underneath long down jackets. En route from one party to the next, students march between row houses on Walnut and Spruce streets clutching red Solo cups. Inside each house, a sweaty crowd of dancers fills one room and a sweaty line for the keg fills another. The smell of beer pervades the humid air. Attempting conversation, guys and girls shout over loud music and a buzz of chatter. As the night progresses, there is more dancing than talking. And by the end of the night, there is more making out than dancing. By 2 a.m., the crowd has dispersed and the floor becomes visible again, through littered with empty Solo cups, beer cans and sticky spills. All of the guests have either gone home or have paired off, and the walls are lined with a few lingering couples, cooing over one another in the shadows. Upstairs in bedrooms, the tenants of the house, if lucky, have someone to keep them company for the night. It seems that this has become the norm for the way romance works here at Penn. Instead of the traditional Friday night date, in which two people get to know each other over a walk down town, dinner, and a movie, the majority of Penn students who are looking for love (or something like it) opt for a night out partying with their friends ending in a sloppy drunken hookup. Margaret, a Penn sophomore from Syracuse, NY, explains it in the following way: “Dating,” she says through a smirk, “or whatever semblance of it we have here, mainly goes like this: you make out with someone on a regular basis—it usually starts at a party – then as time progresses you get the drunken ‘Let’s go back to my place’ and then ‘Hey, why don’t you be my girlfriend
even though you know nothing really about me.’” This is the general consensus from students across Penn’s campus. Freshmen and seniors, guys and girls, Jews and Gentiles alike agree that the Friday night hookup is the new Friday night date. Nick, a senior from St. Louis, MO, thoughtfully names this phenomenon “the hookup zone.” “‘The hookup zone’ is this culture of casual sexual encounters that allows people to hook up with a number of partners, but that serves to discourage people from wanting anything more,” explains Nick. Sometimes, though, it can lead to something more. Long-term relationships, though rare at Penn, can result from an encounter at a weekend party. Glen, a sophomore, describes the romantic environment at Penn as “a dichotomy between two scenes: long term steady relationships, and random drunk hookups where people are looking for those relationships.” Lisa, a student from Los Angeles, says, “After I hook up with a guy, if I like him, I’d hope that it would lead to a date, and then maybe a relationship.” If Penn students go out on dates at all, it is usually after they have already been physically involved. Why? While perusing the Facebook one night, I came across a group entitled, “Bring Back the Date, UPenn Chapter.” On the group’s website, creator of the group, also a sophomore, further confirms the existence of this “hookup zone.” She writes the following:
Whatever happened to dinner and a movie? This group is for those who have wondered where the classic “date” has gone. At some point the whole calling, picking you up, taking you out, walking you home turned into 2 a.m. calls of “Wanna hang out tonight?” When your parents ask you if you’re dating anyone, do you sit there and try to figure out if that significant other who wants you to be their “secret friend” counts? Ever wonder how nights under the stars and swooning at guys whispering sweet nothings in your ear became waking up at sticky frats after a night of cheesy music and cheap beer, then doing the Walk of Shame home with hurricane hair? You don’t necessarily have to be a housewife-in-making or a patronizing elitist prick to be able to appreciate classy efforts once in a while. Yeah, I’m talking opening the door, pulling out the chair, flowers, maintaining eye contact, the whole nine yards. So if you’re sick of the whole booty calling sketchy-ness that has become college dating, join the effort!
A picture of the spaghetti scene from Lady and the Tramp accompanies the blurb. Suddenly, upon reading this call to action, I remembered the concept of traditional courting that we see in the movies—I remembered a seemingly far-off time when people got to know each other over a plate of spaghetti before they got to know each other in bed—I remembered the hundreds of award-winning date-worthy restaurants located just blocks from our campus that we’re missing out on! I began to wonder, what is it about Penn that makes courting a lost art? Why has hooking up become the precursor to a date, if a date even happens at all? Is the “hookup zone” universal among our entire generation, or is this concept singular to Penn? Location, Location, Location? As I set out to answer these questions, I began by talking to students from schools in other geographic regions. According to student representatives from each school, The University of Dayton in Ohio, Washington University in St. Louis, James Madison University in Virginia, The University of California at Santa Barbara, and Farleigh Dickinson University in New Jersey seem to have similar practices to Penn when it comes to relationships. “It’s like a reversal: Get physical, then get mental,” says WashU sophomore Mark, comparing contemporary dat-
ing practices to traditional ones. However, Hannah, a student at Maryville College in Knoxville, TN, says, “A lot of people date here recreationally.” She describes a dating culture that is strikingly different from Penn’s: “It’s pretty structured I suppose. The boy usually plans it and then if you have fun you go on another date. But you aren’t technically dating yet—you’re ‘talking’ first, then after several dates, you’re ‘dating.’ This is the silliest thing I know, but I like it because you get to know each other before it gets really committed.” She describes a date she went on where her suitor made her a picnic and took her up to the mountains. Hannah, originally from Spokane, WA explains, “It’s so formal here. I think it has something to do with the South and how they are mindful of manners and old fashioned about a lot of things.” Miss Independent Amanda, a sophomore at Trinity University in San Antonio, TX, explains that not all Southern schools follow this traditional code. “At Trinity, nobody dates. Either they are in a serious relationship or they are just random hookups.” She contrasts Trinity to Texas Christian University in Fort Worth, where several of her friends go, which is more similar to Maryville—she calls it an “I-came-to-college-to-find-my-husband type school.” The difference, she explains, between TCU and Trinity is the challenging academics and focus on career, which makes dating less of a priority. Students at Penn agree that a university that is more academically rigorous makes dating less common. “These types of students are always busy being hyper-motivated and often aren’t willing to make the sacrifices that are necessary for a relationship,” explains Penn sophomore Scott. Lisa says, “A big part of it is that people at Penn are concerned with individual success and are a lot more independent than the average college kid.” This independence makes students less likely to pursue long-term relationships of emotional attachment. Too Much Party Penn is known as “the social Ivy.” The party scene here sets Penn apart from other schools of its caliber. Many students hypothesize that this is another primary culprit that contributes to the death of the date here. Nick says, “Dating isn’t dead outside of Penn, but the party culture here has severely damaged the concept of courting.” Margaret affirms this, saying, “Alcohol makes people think the date is no longer needed. People are too afraid to ask out the person they like, so they’ll see them at a party and being drunk makes it easier to make the move.” Recalling a recent experience with a guy she likes, Margaret explains, “I was just too afraid to do anything when I was sober. I hate that you can only seriously let someone know you like them by getting hammered and attacking them.” Sophomore Emma explains it this way: “Courting isn’t dead, it just doesn’t fit in with the college lifestyle. Because the culture of partying and alcohol and drugs is so prominent at Penn, dating is not prominent. Also, it makes less sense to ask someone out when you see them all the time around campus. In the real world, you wouldn’t necessarily see these people on a regular basis so you have to ask them out to get to know them.” Emma suggests that dating is just on hiatus for these four years of our lives. iGeneration Students also point to two characteristics of our generation as contributors to “the hookup zone:” the apathy caused by the culture of convenience in which we live, and a lack of selfconfidence that the media has caused. “Casually hooking up is just more convenient than a date,” says Scott. “And we live in a culture of convenience.” Certainly. Our generation is relatively lazy compared to generations before us because technology has made nearly everything available at the click of a button. It
makes sense that this laziness would extend into our love lives. Margaret points to another generational factor: “Nowadays everywhere we turn there’s an image of some super-hot college student who is the ‘ideal,’ and people think that if they don’t look like that or if they aren’t the definition of ‘cool’ then they wouldn’t have a chance with the person they like.” She explains that the media has caused insecurities in both men and women of our generation, leading to an increased fear of rejection. Lisa confirms Margaret’s hypothesis, saying that her insecurities would cause her to feel less comfortable in a date setting than in a party atmosphere with alcohol. Are We Happy? “Well it’s not bad for instant gratification. But it does lead to a lot of mixed signals and unmet expectations from one side to the other,” says Mark of Wash U. This is an accurate blanket statement that Penn students can agree with. For those who aren’t looking for anything serious, the death of the date is a good thing. Others, however, long to break the mold. “It depends if I was purely attracted to her or actually wanted to get to know her,” Nick explains, “but there have been times when I would have liked to ask a girl out but all I felt I could do without looking stupid was ask her to my fraternity semi-formal. It’s just not a common thing to do, and people are wary of deviating from that norm and being perceived as obsessed or something.” Several students mention that dating becomes more common as they get older. Jake, a sophomore from Los Angeles, remarks, “I’d say it increases, although it’s still not that common. The increase over the four years just illustrates developing maturity.” Margaret further explains this: “Most freshmen come in and see all the freedom they have and kind of go crazy. As you get older you settle down and realize that hooking up with some random person every weekend is fun, for about a day. After that it gets old.” Margaret, still an underclassman, longs for something more than what Penn’s guys have offered her so far. “I’d prefer a guy to ask me out rather than wait to be drunk to make a move,” says Margaret, “because the drunken hookup isn’t sincere. How the heck am I supposed to know that he actually likes me? He probably just sees me as tonight’s hook up. If he asks me on the date I know he’s at least faking like he wants to get to know me first.” Speaking on behalf of the majority of her female peers, Margaret says, “I think we’d all prefer the date, but we know it’s not possible so we settle for the drunken hookup. Once again it’s that insecurity— that feeling of inferiority—the thought that ‘Shit, I’m not as hot as that girl over there, so why wait for a guy to be sober to like me. This is my only chance.’ I’m pretty sure every girl has thought that at least once, most more than once. I won’t deny it crosses my mind just about every time I go out.” The creator of “Bring Back the Date,” is onto something— it may be time to rethink the system.
*All names have been changed to honor the privacy of those interviewed.
by josie minton class of 2010
I need no other tonight to shelter me. A window hovers to the left of this bed, through it I see a glimpse of swaying sky, a guardian. Hours before daylight, clock blinking 3:42, thoughts like wisps of hair wave in my sight. My fault, my fault, I smiled too much at the party I must remember to stop smiling so much. It is a common man’s worldthis stranger has been told he can put his hands where he wants, but never by me. Lower back, freckled shoulder, nape of neck, his uninvited limbs show persistence; fight is futile against muscle so focused. A car somewhere is losing control. A record is skipping in my headDon’t let him touch my face Don’t let him touch my face I cling only to this sentiment as if it could offer safety. but it is merely a tin monkey banging cymbals, flashy and worthless. Sick smell of cigarettes and Red Bull. Weak wrists, absorbed in battle, curse an army of handsare there really only two? Eyelids crash down. Tears like paratroopers leap across my cheeks
without billowing silk to temper their fall. Taste of salt, one tumbles with deliberation onto my lips. Like a thief breaking into my conscious, I remember a dream from my pasta red dress dips low on my back, curly dark hair bounces on my freckled shoulders, pearls nestled at the nape of my neck. I hold tight to a gentleman, we spin and dip to music, sing off-key, fall in love under a viciously clear firmament. A place without fear. I jolt, suddenly alive, aware, ambitious. Like a drunken sloth, the strange manâ€™s inebriation now shows. A light pours in through the crack in the door, opportunity spills onto the carpet. I feel power in my ankles first, It slithers to my thighs, stirs nervousness in my navel and giddiness in my chestoffers strength, to loosen an arm, raise a knee, throw the bastard away, away, away. Startled, frustrated, with the knowledge he is less than half a man, he stumbles from the room, never to be seen again. Iâ€™ve proven untouchable. Hours pass, night lifts, no sleep. Through the window I see dawn, an anxious mother, wind through the grass, wake up the morning glories who have overslept, offer cups of coffee to the birds. Darkness saunters off, unassumingI whisper an unwavering thank you to the night sky, the only arms to hold me until morningechoing indigo, encompassing, with fingertips of gold like lanterns.
notes to self by rivka fogel
class of 2011
First, don’t use the Bounty paper towels near the gasoline-gray pipe that used to be your sink to wash the dishes you used to use when he came home for what you used to schedule to be the candle-lit affair you used the good china for. Grab the sponge with your callused hands; finger the dull red rag that has less holes than the blue, at least with bloodied nails that you bite too much, because that’s all that’s been in your mouth recently. Use the red sponge and the Windex (Jesus, Maureen, ever heard of dish soap!) but they’re only okay for the spoons, fine to chip away at the medium-rare yeah that’s how I like it meat at the center of the flowered? faded plates, until nothing is left but the dent in the middle because you can’t? don’t dig hard enough. Oh, and don’t
notice he left his (They call it a wife-beater, but you know he wouldnâ€™t even give you that dignity) over the kitchen chair, again as its three spindly knee-less legs almost crumple underneath the unexpected weight. Surprise, you think? scream, but not at loud where he can hear you; never out loud where he can hear you. And when he leaves to go to the movies, Maureen, Gawd, donâ€™t cry.
by sol jung
laura zamudio-gonzález ‘war, women and lessons from el salvador’ article critique by veliz perez
class of 2009
In War, Women and Lessons from El Salvador...
Laura Zamudio-González compellingly asserts the importance of accounting for the gender issue, notably in political reconstruction after conflict. Zamudio argues that gender issues are highly correlated with cultural and social tradition and, in turn, political institutions are often built and shaped by cultural influences that repress women. Hence, tackling gender inequality is only possible by breaking political tradition in patrimonial societies through the inclusion of women in political agendas, and through the creation of equal activist prospects immediately after war. Using the civil war of El Salvador (1981-1989) as the backbone of her argument, the author shows that gender issues must be faced directly with the arrival of political opportunity. However, her sole focus on this Central American nation restricts her contentions to merely secular and conflict-torn countries. Through warning against solely classifying women as victims of conflict, Zamudio delves into the ability of war to equalize the gender platform. She states that “armed conflict and the reconstruction process change social rules, the traditional labor division and opens the opportunity to rebuild political institutions.”1 According to her, it is imperative for women to be considered in post-conflict negotiations as contributors, not as victims, in order to achieve gender equality and inclusion. If a state fails to tackle the gender issue simultaneously with institutional reform, judicial improvement, and other economic and social issues after war, then the condition of women does not improve. The El Salvador civil war began in 1981 due to unequal land and income distribution in a country where the oligarchy owned more than 60 percent of the territory. In response, Salvadorian women abandoned socially imposed roles and became key members of the Farabundo Marti National Liberation Front in defense of the peasantry against the militia and the elites. Joined under the cause, they comprised 30 percent of combatants, providing support in logistics, radio communications, surveying and mapping, medical care, and training in literacy and political education.2 However, with the end of the brutal civil war, the Salvadorian government overlooked the participation of women in post-conflict negotiations as political reform, electoral improvement, and the rebuilding of the economy became the prime institutional issues. In conflict-torn El Salvador, political reform was thus considered before the gender issue and as a result, women were forced to return to their traditional roles. Zamudio establishes a causal assumption: accounting for gender inequality after conflict
paves the way for political egalitarianism, and her argument is strong in a civil-war torn country like El Salvador. However, with her exclusive focus on this Central American state, she fails to consider various alternative circumstances. Firstly, the author neglects situations in which international actors close the opportunity structure. For example, according to a UN report on Women’s Human Rights, Saddam Hussein’s Ba’ath Party ratified the Iraqi Provisional Constitution in 1970 in order to consolidate the party’s authority and achieve economic growth. This ensured women’s right to vote, attend school, run for political office, and own property. Due to economic sanctions imposed by the UN, however, the position of women within Iraqi society has deteriorated rapidly since the 1991 Gulf War. Female enrollment in schools has decreased with growing financial struggles, and new laws have forced them out of the labor force and into more traditional roles due to the constriction of the economy.3 Zamudio’s argument, therefore, does not hold true for internationally intertwined Iraq. She mostly looks inward into a Central American country where civil war is geographically bound, and free from restrictive impositions of exogenous agents such as the UN. This does not mean that the United Nations did not participate in the El Salvador conflict resolution. Unlike its role in Iraq, however, it acted as a helpful engineer of internal mechanisms and domestic consensus building, thereby opening political opportunity structures and allowing for the proposal of the gender issue.4 Frequently, with the presence of international actors that constrict an economy (as in Iraq) economic woes and the attenuation of poverty become the priority and gender issues are easily neglected. Furthermore, in ‘War, Women and Lessons from El Salvador,’ Zamudio neglects the importance of a highly influential variable in the modern world: religion. In Central America and most Latin American countries, religion plays a substantial role because of the perception of Catholic male priests as human links to God. In turn, this “confianza model” reinforces a patrimonial social order. Religion is even more influential in the Middle East, and states such as Iran fervently advocate the fusion of religion with politics, justifying the subordination of women with the word of God. Sura 4:34 in the Koran states,
Men have authority over women because Allah has made the one superior to the other, and because they spend their wealth to maintain them. Good women are obedient. They guard their unseen parts because Allah has guarded them. As for those from whom you fear disobedience, admonish them and forsake them in beds apart, and beat them. Then if they obey you, take no further action against them. Allah is high and supreme.
Assuming the opening of a political structure, how can women achieve socio-political equality if Islam manifestly states that they are inferior to males, and if religion is directly linked to governmental organization and policies? Are there other mechanisms apart from conflict that can pave the way for gender equality? Beyond Zamudio’s claim, social forces can indeed serve as potential avenues for gender egalitarianism. The author highlights the advantages of conflict as a creator of political opportunities, but fails to examine the gains that social movements can attain in the political arena without the presence of war. For example, since the 1980s, Algerian Islamic feminist organizations have persistently pushed for legal and political reform despite state arrests and condemnation as “social terrorists.” The Algerian women’s movement exemplifies the Muslim feminist position and has been largely successful by framing reform along religious lines. They have focused on a reinterpretation of Islam through a rereading of the Koran, and advocate the recuperation of their religion to undermine patriarchical distortions. Algerian women’s involvement in the judiciary has begun to increase; in 2001, women constituted 25 percent of judges and currently have five cabinet positions, the largest number in the MENA (Middle East and North Africa) states.5 The Algerian case proves that social movements can independently create their
own opportunities without relying on war to shift gender roles. Zamudio’s ‘War, Women and Lessons from El Salvador’ is distinguishable for acknowledging the importance of accounting for women, an unrepresented minority in international relations. Women have been traditionally underserved and historically unrecognized within the political arena, but Zamudio asserts the benefits of tackling the gender issue, notably during peace negotiations after conflict. Conflict as a political opportunity opener is a strong and persuasive argument in the author’s Salvadorian case study, but her thesis overlooks the powerful influence of religion and does not examine the possibility for other mechanisms to equalize gender platforms. How valuable is conflict as a political opportunity opener in the 21st century, when religious barriers suppress the inclusion of women in the aftermath of war? Are feminist social movements that are framed around religious recuperation strong enough to break down gender inequality? What other variables should modern society account for in order to challenge the gender issue? Zamudio’s sole focus on El Salvador leaves these questions unanswered, but nevertheless, serves as a platform that exposes the need to spring women to the forefront of international relations. Endnotes
Laura Zamudio, “War, Women and Lessons from El Salvador,” in Tyranny of Soft Touches: Interculturalism, Multiculturalism and 21st Century International Relation (Mexico City: Universidad Ibanoamericana, 2004), 125. 2 Zamudio, 128. 3 “Background of Women’s Status in Iraq Prior to the Fall of the Saddam Hussein Government.” (Human Rights Watch Briefing Paper, 2003), http://hrw.org/backgrounder/wrd/iraq-women.htm. 4 Zamudio, 128. 5 Valentine Moghadam, Towards Gender Equality in the Arab/Middle East Region: Islam, Culture and Feminist Activism (United Nations Development Programme, 2004), 74. 1
appointments by kristen franke class of 2010
The building I was looking for that day ...
apparently did not exist. My friend Laura had described it as “purple-looking” and “box-ish.” I was on my fourth trip around the block and had seen nothing of the sort. I could feel my nose tingling with frustration and decided that if I started to cry I was giving up and going home. And then I saw him. Laura had mentioned this. An old man in a fishing hat suddenly appeared on the sidewalk. His posters and picket signs identified the “purple-looking” building I had been looking for. Avoiding his gaze, I turned left and down the steep driveway, parked my Corolla, and went inside. The office was purple too. Everyone in the waiting room looked up as I walked in. It was obviously my first time. The woman in the Mickey Mouse scrubs behind the glass partition was annoyed that I had not made an appointment. She told me to sit and wait. “You’re lucky it’s not a Tuesday,” she said, not looking at me. Every woman’s magazine you could possibly imagine lay sprawled over the coffee table in front of me. I didn’t pick one up. I was too distracted by the girl across the waiting room. She had been here before. She even had company. However uncomfortable he may have been, her boyfriend had come with her. He wore a white t-shirt six times too big and denim shorts that reached his ankles. He wouldn’t stop shifting in his seat, but he was there. I wanted to cry. *** Sitting in the rocking chair in her blue-jean overalls, my mom looked like a little kid. My sisters and I sat with her in the living room on the leather couch, rubbing our feet against the oriental carpet. We were waiting for Dad to come home. It was a nightly ritual, waiting for him, but that night it was different. The four of us had been talking for hours, making plans. I didn’t really want Dad to come home just yet. The sore feeling in my stomach told me that Mom’s news wouldn’t please him. Two days ago they had been screaming at each other in that very same living room. Later that night Mom had come into my bedroom, mascara clumped in the corners of her green eyes, swearing that she’d had it for good. And then this happened. I could see that my mom was trying so hard to smile. She was leaning on our reassuring words, swallowing them up, making herself believe them. I was only thirteen, the other girls much younger. To us, an adventure was at hand. I told my mom for the fourth time that night not to cry. Her eyes were red. “I’m crying because I’m happy, Kristen,” she said, sniffling, her chapped lips breaking into a smile. “See?” The front door clicked and swung open. Dad was wearing a beige suit. I always liked him
better in navy. His face was cross, but we ran to hug him anyway. I tried so hard to make it feel like a normal evening. I breathed him in, his scent a combination of cigar smoke and copy paper, and remembered the last week when my sister and I had visited his office. Baby pictures of his three girls covered his desk, a pretty one of my twenty-something mom on the bookshelf. Everything was going to be fine. “What’s goin’ on?” he asked, his tone unusual. His face remained cross. We stared at Mom. I curled up into a ball on the couch. “I’m pregnant, Mark,” she said. No words. She had started to cry again. “We’re going to have another baby!” Her false happiness was disgusting. Dad looked at her, mumbled something unintelligible, and left the room. “Your daddy doesn’t think we should have a baby,” my mom snapped, loud enough for him to hear. “He doesn’t think two people who aren’t IN LOVE ANYMORE should bring a baby into the house!” I got up first, my sisters followed close behind. We left my mom sitting in the rocking chair, staring at nothing in particular. *** “When was the last time you were sexually active?” the nurse asked me inside the tiny examination room. The question caught me off guard. My mom didn’t know. My dad certainly did not know. But this notably large woman with cropped black hair and white shoes knew my big secret. I was talking about sex in a tiny room that smelled like latex, and I wished then that I didn’t have to have this conversation with some neutral woman in a smock. My mom wouldn’t understand, though. I didn’t expect her to. Her daughter was sleeping with someone four years her senior. He wasn’t her boyfriend. He had no desire to be. “Um, Friday?” I sounded like such a naïve little girl. I wondered what she thought of me. “And you’re here for birth control today?” she asked in a way similar to that of a retail assistant at the mall. “Yes.” I ran every contraceptive commercial through my head to prepare myself for the question I knew she would ask next. “What kind?” *** My mom wore a navy blue dress the next day. Makeup hid the dark circles under her eyes. Before she left for work that morning she came into my room and sat on my bed. Her fingers played with the rosary hung over the bedpost. The crystal beads made a delicate sound against the frame. It only took me a few seconds to remember the events of the night before. “Your daddy and I talked last night,” she said, pushing the matted blond hair behind my ears. Her voice lowered to almost a whisper. “We’re not going to have the baby.” I sat up, leaning my head against the wooden headboard. “You’re not?” I asked sleepily. “It’s just not a good time, sweetie,” she said, shaking her head. Her eyebrows crinkled. “I’m too old, anyway.” I tried to open my eyes a little wider, but they were still puffy from last night’s tears. Her face was certain. “Daddy and I are going to Clifton this afternoon. I set up an appointment. Everything is going to be all right.” She kissed me on the forehead and stood up, smoothing the wrinkles in her knee-length dress. I pictured a doctor’s office filled with women who didn’t want their babies. My mom was one of them, her knees crossed, her look stoic and sure. And I knew then that if it ever came to that, I’d be one of them too. “Mom?”
“Yes, sweetie.” “Are you and Dad gonna be OK?” Silence. Then, “Yes, sweetie. Everything is just fine. Time to get ready for school.” *** I stuffed the brown paper bag into my purse as I left the building. My hands were shaking as I fumbled for my car keys, but once inside the polyester seats eased my nerves. I looked up at the building in front of me and thought about my mom walking through those doors, her heels clicking against the pavement. I saw her sitting in that purple waiting room, wringing her hands, on the verge of tears. I was proud of her. Deep down I knew she’d be proud of me too. As I sat at the top of the driveway, I suddenly became aware of the old man in the fishing hat, his “Abortion is MURDER” picket sign waving in the December air outside my car window. I felt my face flush. The traffic cleared, and I floored the gas pedal, causing the tires to screech as I turned into the lane. I glanced into the rearview mirror just as the fishing hat fluttered off and into the street, revealing a head of wispy white hair. My eyes focused on the road ahead.
danielle and horseface
by noah breslau
christmas morning by lara seligman class of 2011
the dark cherry table sits atop cool checkered marble white black black white
a life size chessboard snow falls soft outside the window red tomato sauce bleeds onto that white tablecloth sheâ€™d cleaned with such care extravagant granite countertops radiate a cold stone gleam he stares at gray editorials and ignores the quiet steaming as the teapot boils over
b端bs meets bubba
by daniel schwartz
opening the set
by shayne wagman class of 2008
Feminism has croaked...
It has bit the big one, and now resides six feet under, spending its time pushing up daisies instead of pushing back socio-political boundaries. R.I.P. Women’s Lib. I came to this conclusion after stumbling upon one of VH1’s newest TV shows, The Pick-Up Artist. The premise, like most reality TV shows, involves a bunch of people living in a big mansion, with one or two getting eliminated every show if they fail to perform up to the host’s standards. The host, in this case, is a slicked-up, pimped-out, eyeliner-sportin’, vomit-inducing man (boy?) that calls himself “Mystery” and claims to be a master pick-up artist. His role in the show is to teach emotionally insecure, nerdy, self-absorbed men (boys?) to pick up chicks. It gets worse. Girls are called “targets,” body language is called “kino,” a group of girls is called a “set,” and starting a conversation with that group of girls is called “opening the set.” The men (boys, definitely boys) are encouraged to go out to bars and use kino to open sets and pick up targets. They are also given challenges such as buying lingerie for women and picking up exotic dancers. (Side note: the exotic dancers were never referred to as “targets.” They were just referred to as strippers. Apparently, they don’t feel the need to objectify these women any more than general society already has.) The grand prize: a year spent with Mystery, traveling the globe, and being taught how to be a Master Pick-Up Artist. It took me about two hours of watching this to convince myself that it was real, and that I was actually living in a world that objectifies women so blatantly without anyone complaining. For a while, I thought I was watching some show on Animal Planet about big game hunting. Realizing that it was VH1 and the big game was women at bars made me very mad, to say the least. I thought we had already gone through something called the Women’s Movement? What had my mother burned her expensive bras for when she was my age? Cause it certainly was not this. As of 2006, women still only earned seventy-seven cents for every dollar men made.1 Moreover, the hot topic in Women’s Studies today seems to be how we can balance a career and a family. So…we’re still expected to be the primary caregivers…AND have a thriving career like our husbands do (but only make 77% of what they make). Some would argue that hey, at least we GET a career this time around. But, for a woman,
having a career comes with some extra “benefits.” According to the Australian government’s Office for Women, 41% of women in Australia claim they have experienced sexual harassment in the workplace, as opposed to only 14% of men.2 Once again there is a double standard; we get to work, but we have to get hit on by our bosses and peers. Wherever we go, we cannot escape objectification. The workplace is dangerous for us, and now, thanks to what VH1 is airing these days, the home is as well. It’s no wonder one of my best friends, who in high school had repeatedly claimed that she felt her value as a person was determined by her ability to attract men, now has an eating disorder. According to Dictionary.com, feminism is “the doctrine advocating social, political, and all other rights of women equal to those of men.” Well, this is the old definition of feminism. The dead version. I propose a new version: women should get substantially MORE rights than men. It’s hard to have a career and be the primary caretaker! It’s hard to do your work when your boss is making comments about your figure or trying to feel up your chest! And it is very hard to do this while making only 77% of what men make! If we can have social programs like affirmative action that try to compensate a minority for unfair situational disadvantages, then I think we should do the same for women. So give me a raise, goddamnit. Or at least drive the kids to soccer practice. And don’t forget to turn off VH1 before I throw the TV out the window. Endnotes
Amy Joyce, “Now It’s Time For Women To Get Even,” in Washington Post, April 23, 2006. 2 “Sexual Harassment in the Workplace,” in Women’s NEWS, Winter 2004. 1
mother love by ann marie meehan
class of 2009
I picked my way gingerly across the strand...
made treacherous by a sea that heaved up its morning meal of shells and sea glass like broken china, then belched it forth across the black sand. Slick sea grass made the walk all the more perilous, but the risks seemed negligible when weighed against the beauty of the lonely beach and the smell of sea salt infusing my wet woolen sweater. Beaches in the west of Ireland are not places for the beautiful; they’re ideal places for awkward, sixteen year old girls. Wind whips your hair into your mouth, and the sea spume purposefully spritzes your skin, giving it a dirtysticky feel. But they are wonderful places to think. With a wicked wind, sand clouds and no chance of sun, there aren’t many reasons to come here except to be alone to think about what happened yesterday, after the injection. And before, when you still believed in Mother Love. I stared at the hand, not recognizing it. In less than an hour, it had inflated so much it looked like the billowing outstretched hand of the Underdog balloon in the Macy’s Parade. The steady throbbing seemed to buoy it up as if it would float up and away from me. “How could you let that happen?” she said softly, sharply, her eyebrows two waning moons suspended high above her eyes. And then, the subject was dropped. I checked off each day (pretending I wasn’t counting), hoping that tomorrow would be the day I’d wake up to find, once again, my cool, boney-fingered hand under my pillow. Each day, Mom tucked bread into the toaster and tossed tea bags into the teapot, then poured over the giant map of County Clare, charting her daily itinerary with towns and pubs, while I struggled to spread jam on my toast with my unfamiliar right hand and pretended she’d just forgotten about me. “I’m so sorry, Mom. But it’s not getting any better. It just throbs all the time, and it feels like it’s on fire. …I really think I need to go to a doctor.” I mouthed the words slowly, each one falling out of my mouth, ping-pong balls striking the slate kitchen floor. My hand and I were going to screw up her whole day; her itinerary now included, thanks to my carelessness, a trip to the doctor’s office, maybe the pharmacy, maybe even the hospital. I quickly recognized the angry mask she now wore. Frighteningly devoid of expression, it was worn only on the rare occasion things didn’t go her way. Her elbows were pinned tightly to her sides as if she were knitting, while her agile, bony fingers resembled two fighting crabs crawling at each other in her lap. “Maybe it just needs another day,” she murmured smoothly through the mask, daring me, for the first time, to challenge her.
Silently, I gulped back mouthfuls of dusty, dried moth-wings of guilt. I pushed down the real question I wanted to ask: why do I have to beg to go to the doctor’s? “Well. There goes the day. Are you happy with yourself?” she spit, and shot up out of the chair, striding towards the phone. “Get me Dr. Westerleigh please, Nora,” she told the local operator, and I felt my stomach fall again as I realized that soon, thanks to Nora’s eavesdropping, my mother would be pissed because the whole of Mowbray would know what the Beckwiths were doing today. It was just a ten minute ride from our summer cottage outside Mowbray to Hillery’s Point. But unlike Mowbray, a gossipy one-street village of row houses, gentrified Hillery’s Point was a sparsely populated seaside town of residential homes, a supermarket, a convent and school, a renowned golf course on expansive, festooned dunes, and the closest family physician within ten miles. Dr. Sylvia Westerleigh was a highly regarded and upstanding member of the community who, in her spare time, had managed to marry and raise a family. Mowbray’s gossipers said her practice was her life now, as she’d lost her two grown children to the lure of Australia’s underbelly and her retired husband to golf. Her house and office sat above the strand- a well appointed prized possession on a sea-bleached mantel. Our car swung up the long driveway, its tires crushed and ground the gravel in the small parking lot, announcing our arrival at the doctor’s surgery. I hugged my hot hand hard under my armpit, the poison pulsing into each finger, throbbing unbearably like swollen sausages ready to split their casings. Three whole days had passed since Mom had glanced at my hand, her face overcast, clouded with its implications. Mom switched off the ignition and sat behind the wheel of the car, her long jet-black hair quivering gently, cloaking her shoulders. “Mom?” She turned to me, her green eyes headlamps over the tight grate of her mouth, ignoring my hand, staring into my face, as if deciding whether I was guilty of getting myself stung or just dumb and innocent. “Come on, let’s get this over with. We’re wasting time. ” she said, pivoting and sliding out of the car, her cowboy boots kicking up gravel, the white lace hem of her prairie skirt skiffing the walkway. I stood on the path, studying the tidy whitewashed house and adjoining office. Boughs of wild fuchsia ambled along the carefully-crafted slate fence protecting the house from the road, where the house enjoyed a glorious view of the sea. Vaguely, in the distance, I could hear the breathless laughs and shouts of the convent girls playing in the schoolyard a few fields away, birdsong, startling me out of the silence surrounding me. A small, brittle woman answered the door, bony as fine china with eyes like sea glass long worn by waves. Wren-like, her intense gaze darted quickly from Mom to me, drawing attention to the fine red veins against the watery film of her eyes. Not a Mowbray woman, I recognized. Church of Ireland, a professional woman, wife. And a mother. Westerleigh. Old name, old money, old school. I stood silently, in awe of this woman who, despite her diminuitiveness, seemed to be so many important things all at once. “Mrs. Beckwith?” she said, carefully studying my mother’s unconventional attire and appearance with narrowed eyes. I felt my cheeks char as if flushed with the same wave of heat that pulsed through my hand. “Yes,” said my mother, extending her cool, confident hand for inspection. “Step in,” said the doctor, ignoring Mom’s hand, her eyes locking on mine. I felt Mom’s anger like a blowback, the insult of her hand being rejected by the doctor, as if it were somehow my fault. What did the doctor know about my mother that made her refuse her hand? I marveled. Rudeness, audacity, snobbery, ignorance? Or had someone told her something bad about Mom? An inexplicable tug pulled at me as my mother crossed the threshold in front of me and I noted the lavish extravagance of her blue-black hair flowing over her rear. Just ahead
of her, Dr. Westerleigh’s purposeful strides pulled us along like Alice’s Red Queen across the chessboard, revealing a determined stubbornness, latent under her genteel first impression. She led us through a small waiting room full of Reader’s Digests and old but fine leather furniture to the office, which I determined by the smell, now sported a fresh coat of peptic mint paint. Another odor prevailed; clean, green, antiseptic, mysterious, running counterpoint to the heady scent of the sea beyond the office window. We stood beside the examining table, and as she took my shoulders in the palms of her hands, her arms braced me as if steeling herself to receive my answer. I kept my hot, wounded mitt pressed against the small of my back, as if hiding evidence of my guilt from her. “What’s happened to your arm, my girl?” she said, her eyes riveted to mine. Carefully, I slid my bloated, obscene hand from under my armpit, holding it in the air, my baseball glove ready to catch a pop-up fly. Three day’s poison had transformed my hand and arm into a veritable weapon I could alternately use to strike someone or scare them off by the sheer awfulness of its appearance. The bee responsible for the damage was long dead, crushed under my heel three days ago. Uncharacteristically, I had showed as much mercy as the bee had for me. I had been petting and playing with a cat that had, moments before, captured a bee in her paw. The smart little thing had gotten rid of it by handing it off to me. Sylvia Westerleigh’s pin-sized pupils dilated at the sight of my hand; shock, then a glint of compassion preceded a look that I clearly recognized as anger. “When did this happen?” she barked at me. Her hands seized upon my wounded one, tracing the bulls-eye in the palm. “Three days ago,” I whispered, desperate for my mother not to hear, yet the telling seemed to provide instant relief, somehow, even to my hot hand. Doubt pricked like needles against the crown of my head. I let myself wonder: Why did she wait three days? Money wasn’t an issue, and the doctor was ten minutes away. Why wait? What existed of the doctor’s top lip disappeared under the weight of her bottom lip as she turned slowly towards my mother, poised, fixing her as cat does on a bird. Stillness lay like cotton-wool surrounding us, slowing the swing and muffling the steady tick of the pendulum on the office’s ancient wall clock. Carefully, Dr. Westerleigh slid a needle out of its casing, tapped it professionally with her neat fingernail, and proceeded to take aim at the poisoned arm. “This child should have been brought in three days ago. She’s having an allergic reaction. People die from this sort of thing, Mrs. Beckwith.” I cradled my wounded arm in my other arm at my mother’s side. Dr. Westerleigh’s needle gleamed, up-lit in the cold sheen of the stainless steel surgery table between her and us. Seconds ticked by. Lightheaded, I imagined my mother reaching out to wrest the needle from the doctor and jab it neatly through the doctor’s heart like a fencing foil. My mother’s loaded expression indicated that she would have no need for a target heart on the doctor’s crisp white blouse to take aim at. I searched my mother’s eyes for some hint of tears, or a quiver of tresses or lips; she stood stock-still, and it was then that I heard a far away hum, my grandfather’s words to my grandmother buzzing in my ears. Through his carefully trimmed white beard he said, “I tell you, that daughter of ours pisses ice-water. Always has. Cold as a witch’s tit, that child.” As if my memory had telepathically spurred her into action, she took aim and fired. “I brought her here for treatment, Doctor, not a lecture. I have four children, and I cannot know what each one has going on at every hour of the day and night. Especially since I rarely see them when we’re on vacation.” Victory played on her lips as she placed them together, her speech over. I knew what she’d really said. “Fuck you, Doctor. Mind your own business, thank you.” Dr. Westerleigh stared obliquely at my mother, then, as if writing off the round or reminding herself of her priority, she turned her attention to my arm. She gently slid the needle into
my wrist, and medicine and memory purposefully ebbed through my veins while I absently watched the window spill sunlight upon the polished jade tiles of the office floor. And then, it surfaced and poured out. The forgotten memory running parallel to this moment, ironically, the arm involved again. Six years ago, I’d tripped and fallen down the basement steps, and, two weeks later, Dr. Contilli had posed the very same question to me: “When did this happen?” Except that time, I didn’t have to respond to his question. Ex-rays don’t lie. That one showed that my broken arm bone had begun knitting itself together, as if it had known that it shouldn’t wait for action on my mother’s part. She’s a mother, but she’s not. Just because she has children doesn’t mean she wants the job. She’s stuck. The sound of Dr. Westerleigh’s spent needle on the metal tray signaled the end of my treatment, her concern for her patient subtly punctuated by a light pat on the small of my back. The prickly realization that it was the doctor comforting me, even after dosing me with the needle, well-springed resentment in me. It bubbled to the surface like the bee’s poison, rippling through me, unstoppable. If I were my mother, I would have been there three days ago. And if I’m sixteen and I realize this, what’s wrong with my mother, that she doesn’t get it? “Mother” is just a title like “Doctor.” But unlike a doctor, being a mother requires no license or qualifications. My glance fell upon the only object in the center of Dr. Westerleigh’s tidy desk- a crude clay paperweight with a child’s handprint splayed like a large starfish across it with the name “Jamie” written underneath. Three days later, my hand was back to normal. I can once again wrap both my arms around myself and pull my sweater tight and walk and think and get used to the idea of taking care of myself. Planting my two heels into the sodden sand and tipping my chin upwards to study the surf, I feel healed, ready for the next time. In the end, we’re our own mothers.
mother and son
by catherine prewitt
from rapunzel, leaving early by katherine atkinson class of 2010
II Enter Prince Charming Confidently climbing hand over hand Over hair over windowsill To rescue me. Not that such a heroic task Can be accomplished with haste. Sit, he tells me, Wait. When the witch leaves Each night I’ll bring you one silk scarf. With enough time, needle, and thread You will sew your freedom: A ladder to solid ground. Indeed. How gallant Prince Charming To devote his time To ease a maiden’s distress. Of course, loneliness is an affliction That I, His captive audience, Need no longer worry my pretty maidenhead about. Enter Prince Charming Smoothly forcing hand over hand Over mouth over bed To comfort me. Who is he kidding? Walled up here since age twelve And even I won’t fall for a line that bad. He may as well take his Carefully Rationed Silk Scarves And fasten me to the bedposts For all the mobility they’ll give me. First the hair thing Now this.
What does a girl have to do To get a fucking rope around here? III Witch Mother I wish I could better remember Your rare moments of tenderness, The times before all this When the magic was real. For what potion or incantation Could give me more strength Than those you gave to me with love: The taste of your milk And the words you whispered at my cradle To quiet me in the dark. But I have lost those memories. You should know that I’m leaving That in the end You, witchmother, lose Because I own the access. This road is private Closed, damaged, condemned. Don’t ask me to forgive you your trespasses. I claim the parts you travel to reach me As mine And with scissors or teeth I can use them to escape you. I will make my way in the forest You will find this tower empty Its stone face bald But for my golden locks, The heavy chains of dead cells Two stories long, Hanging down like some plait the barber forgot. The key? I am motherless. With a surgeon’s unflinching precision I will excise you from me Along with these other lifeless bits of my anatomy. The wound will be raw But closed, clean. And I will walk away from you Alone Lighter than I have been in years.
A Collection of Feminist Voices Spring 2008 Editorial Board & Body
Editor-in-Chief | Kristin Williams Associate Editor | Katie Eichner Managing Editor | Lindsay Eierman Treasurer/Secretary | Deeptee Jain Design Editor | Jasmine Fournier Academic Editor | Nellie Berkman Associate Academic Editor | Dalila Boclin Prose Editor | Ali Lapinsky Associate Prose Editor | Catherine Prewitt Poetry Editor | Kara Daddario Associate Poetry Editor | Chloe Castellon Art Editor | Sanae Lemoine Associate Art Editor | Yelena Baras Publicity Chair | Ariel Tichnor Associate Publicity Chairs | Dalila Boclin, Lara Seligman Penn Consortium of Undergraduate Women Liaison | Barrie Nussbaum Copyeditor | Sam Wishman | Body Members | Carrie Alexander Kate Benedict Carly Brush Mara Gordon Namita Thakker Meredith Weber
acknowledgements spring 2008
The F-Word editorial board extends its heartfelt thanks to our sponsors. These people and organizations have made our publication possible. We greatly appreciate their contributions, their expertise and their support. Thank you to
The Alice Paul Center: Shannon Lundeen The Center for Programs in Contemporary Writing: Al Filreis The Kelly Writers House: Jessica Lowenthal The Student Activities Council
how to submit
Submit to the Fall 2008 Fword...
We are looking for editorial pieces, poetry, academic essays, photographs, drawings, creative prose, personal essays, paintings and anything else! Anonymous submissions are allowed. All submissions from Penn undergraduate students are welcome, regardless of gender. Whether you have already submitted something for a class in the past, are working on a piece right now for a current course or would like to create something entirely new, we would love to check it out! Suggested maximum word length is 3,000 words (ten pages double-spaced). There is no restriction on artwork size or medium. Feel free to submit as many submissions as you see fit and in whichever mediums you would like. If you submit an academic piece, please be sure to include a works cited page and appropriate citations. Submission Guidelines To submit prose, contact email@example.com, To submit poetry, contact firstname.lastname@example.org, To submit academic essays, contact email@example.com, And to submit artwork, contact firstname.lastname@example.org. If e-mailing isn’t your style, you can also drop your work off at one of our submission boxes on campus. The locations: • The Alice Paul Center on the 4th Floor of Logan Hall, and • The Kelly Writers House, across from 1920 Commons (Computer Room, 2nd Floor)
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t h e e n d.
This is the Spring 2008 edition of the FWord, the University of Pennsylvania's Feminist Literary Magazine