The JonTron Controversy and it’s Intersectional Implications

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I should preface this post by saying that it isn’t about gender. However, intersectionality teaches us that feminism is about more than just gender so I feel like the topic I’m about to discuss is still relevant to this class. The recent controversy revolving around JonTron and the reactions to it by people all across social media can tell us a lot about the underlying dictates that guide behavior in the society we live in.

So for those who don’t know, JonTron is a long time YouTube comedian who co-created the Let’s Play series Game Grumps. He’s a big-time internet personality with over 3.1 million YouTube subscribers to date who makes funny videos about video games and he is well loved within the online gaming community. However, JonTron has recently come under fire for several opinions on race and immigration that have recently come to light.

The biggest example of this was on March 14 when JonTron and another internet personality, Destiny, had a live stream debate about race and immigration in the United States of America. During the approximately 90 minute conversation, which I will link below, JonTron made several remarks that people have interpreted as racist. Among these were assertions that Mexican immigration is a high contributor to crime in the United States, black people are more likely to commit crime than white people regardless of socioeconomic status and that immigration should be curtailed in order to prevent white Americans from becoming a minority in America. And, to top it all off, he insisted that all forms of oppression in present-day America have been eradicated and that the idea that oppression is still happening today is an absurd myth.

Now, to be honest, I don’t want to delve into the back and forth of this debate (there’s a lot to sift through), but rather, would like to highlight that last statement and frame it in the context of the reactions to this video. The exact quote from JonTron is as follows: “People like me are supposed to listen to people like you chatter on about this – this oppression in America. It doesn’t exist dude. It doesn’t exist, there is no oppression.”

And in light of this and his other statements, there has been a lot of push back on both sides in comment sections and message boards all across the internet. There are a lot of people who say that what JonTron said was unforgivably racist and some long-time fans with this opinion have decided to unsubscribe from his YouTube channel. On the other hand, some long-time fans are sticking by him. They say that his statements weren’t indicative of a truly racist individual and that in the heat of the moment he simply said what came to mind even if he didn’t mean it.

It is this second group of individuals that I find most interesting. It is common for an individual, once someone they admire is cast into a poor moral light, to disbelieve that that individual is truly a bad person and make apologies on their behalf. I feel like this propensity, when it happens on a large scale (like it has in this case), illuminates something about widespread social conscience. All forms of oppression – be it racism, mysogyny, etc. – are fundamentally denied by members of oppressive societies. We deny that our heroes have bad moral character because we see ourselves in them and refuse to acknowledge that we might have bad moral character as well and I feel like this controversy with JonTron is a perfect example of that.

So, despite saying blatantly racist statements with no factual basis such as “rich black males commit more crime than poor white males” JonTron’s fans are still willing to argue that he is not racist so that they don’t have to face the racism that may lie within them as well. And this applies across all intersections of oppression – for instance, individuals who reinforce gender stereotypes (even in small ways) but refuse to acknowledge themselves as mysogynists. The issue with this pervasive mindset is that, if we as individuals are not able to recognize the issues within ourselves that contribute to social harm and oppression, we will never be able to fix them.

The Full Debate:

Other Sources:

http://www.wetheunicorns.com/news/jontron-lose-subscribers-racist-controversial

http://kotaku.com/longtime-fans-of-youtuber-jontron-say-they-cant-watch-h-1793382911

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Equestrian: How Male Privilege Shines Through in a Female-Dominated Sport

I currently compete on UMBC’s Equestrian Team and we show with the Intercollegiate Horse Show Association (IHSA) where riders are divided into different divisions based on the number of years riding and number of years competing. Looking through the programs of the classes and riders, it’s mostly females and there are three males out of 100+ riders that compete in the entire region that UMBC competes in, and I can even list them by name.

What’s really surprising however, is the fact that more often than not, the male riders (regardless of how good of a rider they actually are) get pinned higher than female riders who rode better than the male did. In fact, my high school came up with a name for it, we called it “penis points.” Basically, “penis points” are when judges repeatedly place male riders above better female riders in order to encourage them to continue riding and stay in the sport.

Um, excuse me?! Instead of placing everyone fairly we have to cater towards trying to keep male interest in this sport even though there is a large amount of male professional riders. If you look at who competed in the most recent Olympics for Equestrian, the majority of the riders are male. The main reason for this, from my own experiences and opinions, it’s so much easier for males to get sponsors and supporters to help finance their riding careers and to help them make it to those higher level competitions. One of the things that’s hard to come to grips with in riding is that talent can only get you so far. At the end of the day in order to make it to those higher competitions, you need that (usually expensive) really nice horse who physically can compete at those levels and has the potential to win at those levels.

Not only that, but it’s also much easier for a male trainer to get clients than it is for female trainers to get clients. I recently was gifted with a free lesson in a clinic put on by a well-known trainer. However after the lesson I realized that I got better instruction and coaching from my female trainer who I have come teach me once a month (when I can afford to have her out since I have no money) and I felt like my horse and I improved at least 10 times better from her $60 one hour lesson that I did in his $150 1.5 hour session.

I just find it extremely intriguing that male privilege can even weasel its way into a sport that is already female-dominated; that it can make it even harder for females to excel in this sport. I’m curious to hear what you guys think about this, as well as how this also happens in other female sports. I’m attaching two of my favorite pictures of Dreamer and I below.

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One of my favorite pictures of us! Dreamer doing something stupid and me cracking up about it.

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At the last show we competed in this summer where we won the Equitation classes!

Transgender “tricks”

In our latest reading, Schlit and Sterling propose that heteronormativity is a systematic, societal occurrence that hinders the well-being of transgender individuals. The authors discuss the results of a small sample study where co-workers of transgender individuals and the individuals themselves are interviewed about the process of “coming out” in the work environment. The reading also notes the prevalence of violence against trans-genders who are perceived to be “tricking” others. The idea is that society legitimizes violence against transgender people who do not disclose their biological sex to their partner.

Now, where society stands today, most people will not assume that another person might be transgender unless there are obvious physical or social signs. For instance, when my friends ask someone out on a date, we never discuss the possibility that his date may not be the biological sex that their gender matches. It’s just not a likely occurrence, so taking a heuristic approach is logical. No one I’ve ever met has pursued someone identifying as one gender and later come to find out their gender didn’t match their biological sex.

Now, since it can be assumed that most members of society will not be aware of the possibility that their object of affection, whether it be a prostitute, a casual hookup, or a longterm relationship could have an unexpected biological sex, at what point is this sort of thing considered a “trick” on the transgender person’s part? Should a transgender individual disclose this information before a sexual encounter, or should society be open enough to this chance occurrence to expect the unexpected in this situation?

I would make an analogy to someone being vegan at a cookout.

Say I’m having a barbecue in my backyard. I invite all of my friends, but some extra people show up. Since the cookout was advertised as a barbecue, it would be assumed that meat would be the focus of the meal. I have burger patties waiting on the grill and even include some for the extra people that are coming so they don’t feel like they are imposing or left out. But the extra people that show up are vegan. There’s nothing for them to eat and both of us become disappointed because I feel bad for them and they feel bad for me wasting patties. The entire situation could have been avoided if they let me know they didn’t eat meat in advance. It’s not that I specifically wanted to leave vegans out of my meal or that they were being malicious in their intent. It’s just that as a human being, I’m not going to base my assumptions on the small possibility that people coming to a cookout are going to be vegan and not eat anything.

The same goes for if someone I am dating turns out to be a biological male. I’m not going to be angry, but I’m going to feel disappointed confused as to why they hadn’t told me before the situation escalated to something sexual. It would be naive of them to assume I would be indifferent towards their sexuality if I’m obviously pursuing them as a heterosexual male.

Sexism Within Youth Sports

BabyJennaTo get started, I will give you some background about why I know so much about the activities of little girls, otherwise, you might lump me in with the “boy lovers” from Rubin’s Thinking Sex. I have played fast pitch softball for almost thirteen years for a plethora of teams. During that time, I played twenty-two seasons, for Havenwood Girls Softball, a recreational league in Pasadena. When I was nine years old, my dad took over the organization as President. He was handed the organization with less than fifty girls, almost no field and player equipment and more debt than dollars in the organization’s bank account. Today, there are over three hundred girls participating and the organization has plenty of funds and equipment for all of them. I have always been heavily involved with the organization’s success and solidified that six years ago by becoming the Player Representative on Havenwood’s board. However, with all the growth Havenwood has achieved, we have always had one deterrent, Anne Arundel County Rec and Parks.

“Anne Arundel County Recreation and Parks is primarily responsible for the provision of a comprehensive system of recreational programs for county residents and the preservation of valuable land in the form of more than 140 parks and sanctuaries”- (http://www.aacounty.org)

For years, Havenwood has maintained a mutually supportive relationship with Pasadena Baseball Club, whose primary consumers are boys. However, the extreme differences in Rec and Parks support between the two organizations cannot go unnoticed. For many years, Havenwood’s fields were located behind George Fox Middle School. Since the fields were on school property, Rec and Parks repeatedly stated they could not provide any renovations or maintenance for those fields and our program. We could not even get dirt! Fast forward to our annual joint parade with the baseball club. A county representative gets on the microphone and tells everyone, “Pasadena Baseball Club will get the fields behind the school and Rec and Parks will begin CONSTRUCTION on their new field and renovation to the existing school fields, after that season”. Not a single person that was part of this decision process notified Havenwood prior to this announcement or considered how this would affect the girls using those fields. However, sure enough, after that season, we were kicked out of our home and relocated.

The following picture was our best field in the best condition behind George Fox. 

our feild

The next picture shows the new field built for the boys in probably its worst condition, the off-season.

Boys feild

We also have difficulty with Recs in Parks showing the same amount of regard for our girls’ safety. One example would be fencing. Not only are there areas of fence where trees have fallen during storms and collapsed portions of the fences, but there are sections of sharp protruding fence. One of these dangerous areas is around our batting cages, an extremely high traffic area. Many coaches reported cuts and scratches of players and themselves while retrieving balls. Havenwood contacted Rec and Parks for repairs but received none. Eventually we had to fix the problem the best we could. Meanwhile, Pasadena Baseball was getting all new unnecessary fencing for their parking lot and every fence in their park replaced. Another example of sexism is when Rec and Parks finally provided infield dirt to our fields and it contained pieces of glass. The boys were given the same dirt, from the same trucks, which the county promptly removed and replaced, on their fields. After countless emails and phone calls we were left picking out glass from our field so our girls could slide again.

The following are some examples of glass found within the dirt.

Glass

Pasadena Baseball Club has had less teams and by extension less players than Havenwood for years. At a meeting with Rec and Parks, the county’s key representative stated, “the county recognizes that the Havenwood program is behind in appropriation of resources, however, Pasadena Baseball is given attention to renovate all areas of their park, because they have less than other baseball (i.e. boys) programs.” Considering they are given attention, while already being provided ten times the resources as the girls, that statement solidified there are two separate bars being set for each type of program. Therefore, I have concluded Rec and Parks biases are based primarily on the preconceived notions of gender and femininity like those discussed in class. I believe Rec and Parks see girls as inferior and weaker leading them to deny the need for further funding and aid. They see the boys as the standard for sports organizations and end up insuring they are thoroughly provided for instead of looking at the true numbers or making an effort to encourage girls to get out there and get dirty. Nevertheless, this will not stop Havenwood from growing and improving. One day, we will make “play like a girl” the standard.

 

http://www.leaguelineup.com/welcome.asp?url=havenwoodgirlssoftball

http://www.aacounty.org/departments/recreation-parks/about-us/

http://leaguelineup.com/welcome.asp?url=pasadenabaseball

 

Too Feminist or Not Feminist Enough?

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I’ve always considered myself to be a feminist, for as long as I can remember.  I recall speaking my mind on many women’s issues even when in elementary school.  I had attended a Co-ed Catholic school from 3rd through 8th grade and adopted some of my ideals from the nuns there; one in particular was a self-proclaimed feminist and made us refer to God only as God and not as He. I also was helped by this nun to fight for the girls rights to be alter-servers, just as the boys were allowed.

So growing up I always knew that my feminist ideals would expand and I had decided that, for example, if I chose to marry, I would be untraditional in the sense that I would not take on my husband’s last name and instead opt to keep my birth given name.  Many of my family members, namely my mother had a problem with this, but surprisingly my husband was one that did not care either way,  and even stated that “I know you, and I wouldn’t expect anything less from me…I have the privilege of being your husband and that’s all I care about.”  My mother on the other hand, said it was in “insult” to my husband and that it was “just a name, and it didn’t matter” and even exclaimed that “Your too much of a Feminist.”  Yes, I am a proud feminist and my name matters to me and I always said to those in opposition of my choice that “Just because I gained a man, doesn’t mean I should loose my name.”

So while on a Feminist Facebook site I voiced this very thing during a relevant conversation and stated that since I was pregnant I was giving my daughter my husband’s name rather than mine.  I received a large amount of backlash, mostly people stating I was “not feminist enough” because I should give our daughter my name since I was the one carrying her and going through the pains of labor.  I said as a feminist, it was my choice and it was important for me to keep my name but unimportant to me to carry my name on to the next generation.  So my question would be: Can’t, as a feminist, one choose to which degree they wish to express their feminist ideals?  And can’t others as feminists be in support of other feminists even if they may not agree on certain aspects?  Just exhausted by the constant judging and ridicule I receive based on my decisions as a woman.

 

“Not all feminists…”: Homophobia & Legitimacy in Modern Feminism

Some weeks ago I was on the phone with my father, when the topic turned to my class schedule. As soon as I hit Women’s Studies going down the list, he cut me off: “Why are you taking that as your elective? That’s the kind of thing where you only learn how to become a lesbian.” Naturally, I kept my mouth shut that I had already taken that particular elective by late middle school, but his comments still stuck with me. Why is it that feminism still has this kind of reputation, when nearly all of the feminists I had met have said some variation of “not all feminists are lesbians” in my presence?

Looking through history, it’s no accident that these two movements seem to interconnect. It seems that in many ways, just by virtue of existing, gayness among women is a threat to patriarchal systems. Some of the most prolific feminist scholars, many of whom we have already read in class, such as Audre Lorde and Adrienne Rich, are self-identified lesbians. Despite the many contributions gay women have made to feminism’s history, so too has there been a history of dissent. During the second wave of feminism, gay women, especially gender non-conforming and butch women, were considered the “lavender menace.” These women were considered a threat to the legitimacy of feminism, by not presenting themselves in a way that clearly aligned with femininity.

Though this wave, and it’s McCarthy-esque view of gay and GNC women has passed, we can still see echoes of this line of thinking in modern feminist ideas and behavior. When I hear other women decry “not all feminists are man-hating lesbians,” the underlying meaning doesn’t sound like “many feminists are straight,” but instead a rallying cry against the very possibility of being in any way similar to a gay person. Sure, not all feminists are hairy, man-hating lesbians, but are they the real target here? Why has this phrase become so ubiquitous if not to suggest that the gender non-conforming, the radical, and the woman-loving, groups least palatable to patriarchy, are a problem? I hope in the future, rather than dismissing the importance of lgbt feminists, we can move past trying to sanitize the women’s liberation movement and instead turn to eradicate the underlying homophobia that fuels this line of thought.

Sources/Similar Articles:
http://everydayfeminism.com/2015/12/not-all-lesbians-really-saying/

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/victoria-a-brownworth/why-do-straight-feminists-hate-lesbians_b_3695587.html

On The Gender Wage Gap

When you ask most people to put a number on the gender pay gap, the most commonly cited statistic is 77%, but I would like to assert that this particular statistic does not properly represent the proportion of money that women make to men for the same work(the gender pay gap in other words). Most people who support this statistic would then go on to state that this statistic is representative, citing the use of it by none other than the 44th President of The United states, Barack Obama, and the source of it, the US Census Bureau. My response would be that the methodology used to arrive at this statistic and what it actually represents does not properly control for several real life factors that affect salary that were properly controlled for in other studies that I would like to identify throughout this post.

To start off, it is important to examine the particular source of the somewhat famous(or infamous to some) statistic of the 77% gender pay gap, the 2011 consumer income report from the United States Census Bureau. This report arrives at the 77% wage gap by taking the total average of women’s wages as a proportion of men’s wages, which on the surface seems like a completely legitimate method of quantifying the gender wage gap. However, when we dig a little deeper, the main problem with this simplistic average is that there are a myriad of factors besides inherent sexism in our society that can influence this gap in wages, and this does nothing to isolate these factors. Now then, since we have at this point established that the 77% wage gap is statistically irresponsible to pose as an accurate model of reality, let’s examine what factors can be controlled for to provide a clearer, more realistic representation of the gender wage gap.

According to “An Analysis of the Reasons for the Disparity in Wages Between Men and Women”, the major factors that influence the gender wage gap are a greater proportion of women working part time, greater percentage of women leaving the workforce for childbirth/care, industry and occupational choices, age, number of children in home, leaving workplace for child care, large gaps in participation in the workplace, and workplace environment/policy preferences. As a result of these factors, the report states that these factors “collectively account for 65.1 and 76.4 percent of a raw gender wage gap”, and it leaves a adjusted wage gap of “between 4.8 and 7.1 percent”, and the report cites that more statistics on work experience and job tenure might narrow the gap even further, but the studies for this would be cost prohibitive. As per the credibility of this claim, this report was generated by the CONSAD Research Group for the US Department of Labor to provide a high level, statistical consensus on the gender wage gap by examining over 50 papers on the topic, so I would assume that the content of this report is among the most credible about this topic. This heavily diminishes the claim that women do not get paid less money for the same work as men, but does not invalidate it as there still is a gap there, and whether or not these factors have resulted from a societal bias or other completely harmless reasons is another conversation entirely.

I would like to conclude by voicing my own personal opinion on what can be done on mitigating the wage gap. When I look at these statistics, I see that a large sum of the gender wage gap seems to be in some way related to child care, so I think that the most important changes to mitigate the gender wage gap should be made focused around this idea. The two big focuses of this would be on implementing a system of maternity leave for both parents, and implementing a system of government subsidized day care to lessen the effects that having a child can have on the professional life of a mother. This would be in my opinion, more effective than focusing on the extremely difficult and slow process of inciting social change around the idea of mitigating inherent sexism that is extremely difficult to accurately quantify in the first place.

Here are my sources in case you are interested in reading 190 pages of analysis and statistics:
https://www.census.gov/prod/2011pubs/p60-239.pdf
https://www.shrm.org/hr-today/public-policy/hr-public-policy-issues/Documents/Gender%20Wage%20Gap%20Final%20Report.pdf