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Humor Perpetuates Patriarchy

I try to find the time each day in my position as the Director of the Margaret Sloss Women’s Center to read (or at least scan) the Iowa State Daily, an independent student newspaper. Some days are easier than other to accomplish this goal. The expansion of the paper to the Internet has made reading the paper much easier for me and I appreciate the addition of videos, blogs, and photos included online. One recent read of the paper caused a bit of frustration and disappointment for me and I would like to share my thoughts for your consideration.

The front cover the January 18, 2011 edition of the Iowa State Daily included a brief report of a female who reported a general assault in Welch Crown Center apartments. A second story corrected a misprint from the January 12 edition of the paper. A sidebar was incorrectly titled “Who Can Give Consent” rather than, “Who Cannot Give Consent.” The article connected to this sidebar was great – the additional press the misprint has given to the Iowa State Daily and our campus is perhaps less than desirable. The third article on the front page of the January 18th edition I would like to mention is title “Center raises stalking awareness” by Carmen Leng. The coverage on the front page of this edition on issues impacting women’s lives was phenomenal. The opinion page included a great article titled “Men and women stand to gain from feminism.”  The rest of the edition included articles on different athletic teams, research findings on the global carbon budget, advertisements, classifieds, horoscopes and Jokes for the Day. This is where humor and patriarchy come together and where I want to stop reading the ISU Daily.

The two submissions in Jokes for the Day on January 18 both take negative stereotypes of women AND men and uses these in the storyline to tell a “joke.” I can’t really use the word “joke” as a label, to me they both perpetuate patriarchy, dehumanize women (and men), and contribute to the rape culture that we live in. Now I know what you’re thinking, “Wow, feminists just can’t take a joke” or “You really need to lighten up.” To this I say, I can’t lighten up and I can’t laugh at words that continue to create an environment where we need to publish articles that were on the front page of the same issue of the ISU Daily. I see no humor in assault, stalking, and failure to gain consent when initiating sex. I see no humor in perpetuating the myth that women talk nonsense and can’t drive. And how said that a thing labeled a “joke” highlights the discount between a husband and wife – drinking is the way he can be at home with her? This is funny?

This is a campus-based newspaper where students are learning and preparing themselves for their future lives, careers, and ways to contribute to society. In the space of 3 1/4 X 4 inches the ISU Daily reversed the contributions made on the front page. My questions for the staff at the ISU Daily:

  • Where are you getting your material to fill the spaces on the Games page?
  • As journalists in training, what newspapers do you hope to work for where this type of humor is valued?
  • As sisters, brothers, daughters, sons, girlfriends, boyfriends and perhaps future partners and parents of daughters and sons – how do these “jokes” make you feel about your sex or members of the opposite sex? How would you feel if your daughters and sons attended a university where this type of information was thought to have printable value?
  • Can you tell a joke without offending a specific group of people? This takes a bit of thought and intelligence to accomplish.

Humor used to perpetuate stereotypes hurts. Humor used to hurt has no place in the ISU Daily. I challenge the staff at the Daily to stretch their thinking and develop skills that will serve them in their future as journalists. Find ways to support a campus climate where all feel safe, supported, and welcome.

Written by Penny J. Rice, Ph.D., Director of the Margeret Sloss Women’s Center. pennyr@iastate.edu

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Sloss House Preview

If you haven’t yet had the opportunity to stop by and see the Sloss House, you can view this youtube.com video, produced by the Iowa State Daily!

Thank you to everyone who made our reopening such a success!  The Sloss House has been re-warmed with over 70 people in attendance yesterday and we would like to invite you to spend more time with us at the house.

Door prizes from our drawing were awarded to:
Teresita A.
Chris P.
Gail F.
April W.

Congratulations and thanks again for showing your support at the Margaret Sloss Women’s Center!

Self-Love: need we say more?

Two Vagina Warriors were published in the Iowa State Daily today.  Because heterosexual sex has been a hot topic in the Daily the past couple of weeks, the Warriors wanted to respond with the notion that sex doesn’t always have to be with a partner and can be just as fulfilling (if not more so) on your own.  So here’s what our Warriors had to say:

By Ahna Kruzic and Liz Steinborn – guest columnists

In an attempt to ward off any criticism about being man-hating feminists, sex with a partner can be great. That said, the next 500 or so words are dedicated to the date that will never let you down: your own two hands and Duracell.

Guess what? Women touch themselves — and not just when they’re in the shower. Masturbation is a natural and empowering way to feel good about your inner-most self. We do it. We like it. Get over it.

My hands are perfectly capable of opening my own doors. They are also capable of getting into my own pants; I may or may not ask for help. But that’s for me to decide and you to find out.

Ladies first is good in theory and on paper. Sometimes, it’s good in bed. Most of the time it’s a half-hearted attempt at “seducing” us into letting you go all the way; it ends up being about you, not us. I can tell the difference between your best efforts at making me orgasm and you just wanting to get off.

Hot tubs and warm baths are great for self-love. And you ought to love yourself.

I can fake it and you can’t tell, because sometimes I’d rather just get it over with and go watch TV than have to put up with some lame attempt at mind-blowing cunnilingus. If you’re certain your partner has never faked it, check out the orgasm scene in “When Harry Met Sally,” it may change your mind.

I’ve been touching myself since kindergarten. So stop trying the crap you learned in men’s health magazines, and let me show you how to get it done.

Here’s a gender dichotomy to deconstruct: Women hate sex and men can’t get enough. Women hate sex because men can’t get us off — or at least aren’t very willing to try. Frankly, women spend more time talking about sex with their friends and preparing for it than our male counterparts.

Women: We would like to challenge you to speak out. Liberate your labia: Talk about your vagina and clitoris. Talk about touching it. Talk about what feels good and talk about what doesn’t. Your vagina will thank you.

And yes, we used the word “vagina” twice just then. Go ahead, say it. Because you shouldn’t be afraid to use the actual word for your genitals. Seriously.

Ladies, if you want to spend a satisfying night in, all it takes is clean hands, short fingernails, the Energizer Bunny and some comfy pillows — and explicit instructions for your roommate to knock. You can take as long as want. You can make it as quick as you want. And you don’t have to worry about any “refractory” periods.

For all you relationship people: Sex is only as exciting as you make it. Change it up, spice it up, but always do so safely.

If you think condoms are gross, stick with someone you can absolutely trust: yourself. If he won’t put it on, you shouldn’t have to put it in.

You can get from 0 to 60 in 30 seconds on your own. With someone else, you’ll have to allot 10 or more minutes unless you have a three-way with you, yourself and your partner.

Stay tuned for the next installment — The Gift that Keeps on Giving: Sex Toys and You.

Posted in , on Sunday, November 14, 2010 3:48 pm. Updated: 5:08 pm

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