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April 2001

The Women’s Times

A joint publication of the Commission on the Status of Women and the Women’s Studies Program

Indiana, Pennsylvania 15705

Volume 10

April 2001

A Word On Women and Friendship

by Jill Vivirito

There seems to be a lot of negative press about women and friendship. Remember Billy Crystal’s line from the 1989 film When Harry Met Sally, that “women and men can never be friends because the sex part always gets in the way”? Well, considering how often it’s been said that “women don’t really like each other,” I think Crystal’s line should have read that “women can never be friends with each other because…” And you can probably fill in the blank with the answer. Most likely words like “jealous” and “catty” will come to mind, which is no surprise; society has been telling women for years that they don’t really like each other. And if I didn’t believe it before, my 84-year-old grandmother has set me straight. A strong, dynamic woman, Grandma recently gave me the following advice: “Never trust women; They’re all backstabbers.” Considering the suffering and abuse my grandmother endured at the hands of my grandfather, whom I never met, it seems curious to me that in the end she holds the greatest contempt, not for him, but for the woman he left her for. Today Grandma has one good friend, a German woman named Anna who lives down the street. But she is the exception, Grandma says, “not like all the other barracudas.” If the message about women and friendship had failed to reach me through my family, however, there’s always the television to get it through. Just recently during a sleepless night of channel surfing, I stumbled upon an episode of Bill Maher’s show, “Politically Incorrect.” Playing the role of devil’s advocate, Maher started the discussion by asserting that “women are all haters.” One guest on the show, an author of a book about women and friendship, disagreed but conceded that women often distrust other women, seeing them as competition in one way or another. Although we have entered the Twenty-First Century, one thing is clear—women are still competing with each other for men, or at least for the attention of men. Believing that the prettiest girl wins, many women caught up in this cultural myth strive to be the “fairest of them all,” in hopes of winning the ultimate prize, which, of course, is the man/husband. In search of women like literary foremother Virginia Woolf who might actually like other women, (forget the sexual subtext; I’m talking friendship here) I set out on a mission. Lately I’ve been asking women everywhere their thoughts on the subject, and the answers, though varied, are interesting. My friend Karen, now in her fifties, told me that she didn’t used to like women. “Women can be nasty,” she said, “They’ll steal your man from you. You can’t trust them.” But now she feels differently. Three husbands and four children later, Karen says that today she enjoys a powerful network of women friends who are there for her in ways that men never were. Maybe friendship is something women mature into. Maybe seeing men as the prize is something women need to get past. Anyway, isn’t it time to shatter the cultural myths that are destructive to women’s potential? Maybe some women are catty and jealous “barracudas” as the stereotype goes, but so what? Should all women therefore accept the blanket stereotype? Why don’t we instead stand up for what we know to be true, the secret behind the lie, that women, more often than not, have always made the best friends?

Strong Women A Godsend

by Rachel Goss

As sources of inspiration, people often look to pop culture, literature or historical figures to draw upon. For women, however, this is not always so easy. Take the Bible, for example, a document which has affected Western culture at large. Regardless if it is your source of spirituality, it has undoubtedly shaped social values in this country as we know them today. What does the Bible say about women? Feminist hermeneutic scholars are beginning to look at the text in new ways, challenging traditional interpretations. The fundamental problem lies in the fact that there is no objective history. History is merely a collection of perspectives and in cases such as the Bible, it has been re-written, re-worded and even changed throughout time. When texts are re-interpreted this way, the original meanings become obscure.

Did you know that the first prophet in the Bible was a woman? Most people don’t even realize this because the text focus so heavily on men, such as Moses. But it is Moses’ sister, Miriam, in fact, who was the first person to be called a ‘prophet’ in the true sense of the term (Exodus 15:20). There are other strong female leaders throughout the Bible(though my focus in on the Old Testament). Deborah appears in Judges and her role is very important to the early Israelites. As a judge, she settles disputes and is a military leader who commands an army against the Canaanites and their leader, Sisera. One scholar calls her a “warrior woman”(Bellis 117). Later in the story, Sisera is victoriously killed by a woman who drives a tent peg into his head. Jael is considered a hero for this gruesome act and is praised by the poets of Judges who call her “the most blessed of women”(Judges 5:24).

Interestingly enough, another woman who has her enemy killed is considered perhaps one of the wickedest of women in the Bible. Jezebel, commonly used even today to refer to someone who is evil or a harlot, is someone who is strong, outspoken and in fact, loyal to her husband. Though her act was no more admirable than David’s,(who commits adultery and has the woman’s husband killed), she unlike David, has not been forgiven. This is probably because her deeds were done in the name of the ‘wrong god’. The writers of history were followers of Yahweh and took time the opportunity to villianize one of the their religious competitors, even if it meant hypocrisy. While Jael fights for Israel, Jezebel who is also a strong leader, fights against Israel.

It is clear from these few examples, that history is perspective of those who have triumphed and survived. Women are portrayed in many ways throughout the Bible, but to find the purest representations of them is a difficult task indeed. Regardless, the intent of the final editors and latest interpreters has impacted the way we view women today. Probably the paradigm of this is Eve, who is often used to blame the downfall of humankind, and warrants an article of her own. It is time to let go of misunderstood stereotypes and begin viewing women in a more positive light.

An Overview of the Feminist Student Art and Poetry Reading

by Jess Donald

I wanted to start this article out with this quote, because the women who brought their artwork and poetry to the reading on Friday, March 16, in the University Museum, have that fire. They were fierce, passionate and amazing. I read that evening and watched the faces of those who understood my meaning distort with half full eyes. I watched as Dana Jerman read her poetry to a roomful of people that understood her concept, that had held their daughters in their arms at one time or another. I saw within Sarah Smelter’s artwork, unending ties to each of us, colors that melted together and created the person you saw before you, reading loudly, sternly, with more emotion than I have ever seen before. I caught glimpses of time and energy, of life and questions answered through Lindsey Glass and her poetic words.

Yes, we only had four readers. Yes we only had one artist. Yes, we only read about fifteen poems, but within that time period each of our audience members entered our lives. The three other readers and myself, that stood up and said their piece about the world, created a fuller picture than in my opinion, any classic novel could ever. We, as poets and artists, screamed to our public via small lines, and short phrases. Passion encased in each carefully pronounced vow. We are the new generation of hands that literature and poetry will fall into. We are the new artists that hold brushes and paint when we are angry or frustrated, enthusiastic, sad, complicated by our lives.

This article is to say thank you to all those who showed their passion through their words and paintings. This article is to show appreciation to those who came and supported us. I want to present these women in the highest light that I can. I hope they realize that each of us holds within our values something different, but we are always able to express it. Thank you to all those who read, Dana Jerman, Sarah Smelter, and Lindsey Glass. I appreciated your help and I loved your work, not only does it inspire me, but it makes me realize that we are as fierce as we want to be, as passionate as we choose to be, and as outspoken as we push ourselves to be within this world that expects us to be silent to a point. I hope you continue writing and painting. We are the new generation of artists, here and spoken aloud.

A special congratulations is extended to Lindsay Glass, who won EGO’s Poetry Slam!

Woman to Woman, Face to Face Exhibit

by Jess Donald

Woman to Woman Face to Face, opened up our March events with great enthusiasm and an amazing new look at the latest work by and about women. The different pieces of art that created this exhibit fall under the categories of traditional to extraordinary. Each artist expresses their view of women, every piece different as every woman is unique.

The curators were Brenda Mitchell, Rosaly Demaios Roffman, and Theresa Smith. Through hard work, many emails, and phone calls, excavating artists of the past and present, and more time put forth than I could ever imagine, they brought this spectacular exhibit to us.

Each unique work of art enters the soul through mind, spirit, and body. Watching these different designs and pieces of lives communicate through mediums, such as hair, pottery, baskets, and so many others, you would be surprised how well they compliment each other. The entryway speaks of living in a time before our own, where music was written by hand and wood carved for beauty. All of the rooms were decorated throughout by high-heeled shoes that were glued together.

The pieces that were collected within these walls hold within them each of our spirits. The diversity of the artwork speaks of the diversity of women in our society. We are not made of one medium, nor are we created by machines, each piece of our being is as unique as this exhibit was. If you did not have a chance to see the artwork created by so many and brought to, arranged, and confronting you in Sutton, I encourage you to take the time, the next time you see a piece of artwork that inspires you to realize how much you, yourself are captured within it.

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