November-December 2001

  • The Women’s Times

    A Joint Publication on the Status of Women And the Women’s Studies Program

    Indiana, Pennsylvania 15705

    Nov-Dec 2001

    Introducing Lauren

    Greetings, fair women, ladies, girls, gals, chicks, feministas, and fellow goddesses! My name is Lauren Eggert-Crowe, and I will be working on the staff for The Women’s Times this year. Right now I am a freshman majoring in journalism, but most likely I will be switching to English. I’ve always wanted to be a writer, even before I could read, so I am very excited about working for the newsletter! I hope to bring you lots of thought-provoking, moving, hilarious, and downright crazy articles. Here are a few things about myself: I have my own ‘zine called Galatea’s Pants, which I have been publishing for about two years now. My favorite book is The Mists of Avalon, favorite movies are Labyrinth and The Dark Crystal, and my favorite TV show is “The West Wing”. Also, you’ll find out eventually, I have a strange obsession with lemurs and an uncanny fetish for mehhing like a sheep. Isn’t diversity wonderful? ;)Love to you all and blessed be!

    Seventeen Magazine and the Disfigurement of America’s Girls

    by Lauren Eggert-Crowe

    As I browse through the magazine racks at Waldenbooks, I can see about ten glossy coverpages targeted at me, all sporting the face of some hot new celebrity, shouting at me in large friendly letters “Back to school savings now!” and “Does he dig you? How to read your crush’s mind” and “Hide me! Your most mortifying moments ever.” These all are supposed to reflect what I should care about, how I should look, and what my life should be like. Yet none of them even come close. The way these magazines portray the lives of young women makes me shudder because, I know how, “like, totally wrong “ they are.

    The problem is I’m in the minority. Too many girls are attracted to, and accept, the ideas promoted in magazines. They’re taught to believe that the models featured on the pages are the image of perfection and that the articles about fashion or makeup have as much pertinence to their lives as their inner personal growth and what’s going on in the world around them. They’re expected to identify with stories from girls whose only concerns are catching the eye of that hottie-of-the-week. Each page is a staggeringly false testament of what it means to be a girl, a woman, in the twenty-first century.

    The first and foremost problem with girl magazines is, like so many other magazines out there, they treat their audience as consumers. Around 1883, with the publication of LHJ, editors and advertisers realized that women were consumers, a new demographics group to seduce. They’ve capitalized on that realization ever since. Magazines are “targeted” at us, carrying ads for products the editors and advertisers think we should want. So naturally the magazines tote advertisements for mascara, Gap clothes, and Dawson’s Creek posters.

    But the ads aren’t limited to their page. Instead, they creep into the edit. Because there is enormous pressure on editors not to offend advertisers, the editorial content comes to resemble the ads. What results are loads of beauty columns about mascara, and a guide about how to dress like Katie Holmes. When you flip to a feature story about a girl who wrote and published her own book, you breathe a sigh of relief. Finally, something with substance! Then you look closer. She’s wearing a Gap shirt.

    Editors are doing more than trying to avoid offending their advertisers. They’re kissing their asses. One of the big questions you have to ask yourself when you pick up a magazine is “Are they treating me like a consumer or as a citizen?” Magazines often treat girls as the former. But oh, do they do it cleverly. With their “serious issues” content, magazines lure girls into thinking they understand their lives. Instead, they tell us what it means according to them. They pretend to celebrate the strength and power of girls on one page and on the next delve into an article on how to get a boyfriend. They tell girls they should be proud of their body on one page, and then proceed with a six-page fashion spread featuring tall skinny girls in tight clothes. Important issues are paired with acne advice. And both are treated with the same sense of urgency. These magazines are taking truths about life and mixing them with a sugar-coated complementary copy edit. They have sneaky editors’ notes that say “We understand what you want. We understand who you are. That’s why we have articles about important issues.” What they neglect to mention is that the bulk of their publications revolve around fashion, beauty, and celebrities: “Oh, by the way: These are important issues too.” Magazines like Seventeen and YM tell us being a girl means following the latest fashion trends, idolizing the latest celebrities, and caring as much about your makeup routine as about succeeding in school.

    As if that weren’t bad enough, girls are not only told what their femininity is, but also what it is not. Have you ever looked at ads for tampons or Midol? The heroine of the ad is first seen complaining about how much she hates her period, what a total nuisance it is. In the next “scene,” she is fresh and happy, flirting with boys and un-self-conscious, thanks to Playtex or Pamprin or whatever. Well gee I’m glad. How peachy keen for her. The most mysterious and beautiful part of womanhood, what allows us to be the givers of life, has been reduced to a petty annoyance that keeps us from wearing string bikinis and picking up hot guys. Who cares about the sacredness of the menstrual cycle? Dating and G-strings, now there’s the important things about being a girl!

    Too often editors have considered their readers as consumers first and as citizens second. In the case of girls’ magazines, the ramifications are serious. Girls grow up believing that the lives and images portrayed in magazines are something they should aspire to. And they often have a weak sense of self-worth after all the tips on how to“fix” their appearance. They think their lives should revolve around what the magazines say: beauty, clothes, and boys.

    Someday a muckraker will probably dig up my old Teen subscriptions and ask triumphantly “If you are so adamantly against teen magazines, why did you frequently buy them as a teenager?” The answer is simple. I cut out the pictures to paste in my own ‘zine, which has no advertisers to please, no expectations about what young girls should want, say, think, and be.

    Mulan vs. Sleeping Beauty

    by Jennifer Goss 

    From the time we are newborns, dressed in pink bonnets and blue baseball caps, we are conditioned to take on traditional social roles or ideas about how to live as a male or female. As our children begin to grow into little people, we start allowing outside influences about gender roles to find their way into our homes; often we seem to actively seek them out. One of the many places we allow this to occur is in the film industry. Many parents and guardians will spend a fun Saturday at the movies or in their own living rooms seeing one of the latest children’s films. But many do not realize the affect these films are having on the lifestyle choices their children are making and will continue to make the rest of their lives. The depiction of women in children’s films seems to follow most of the gender stereotypes that are held as traditional female roles in our society.

    Disney is one of the major companies that display these roles to our children. It is most unlikely that one could walk into an elementary school today and not see Disney characters pasted all over the students, right down to their sneakers. Not only does this show how impressionable our young children are, but it should also give us a reason to evaluate the material we impress upon them; it should give us pause to consider the values we want to instill in their lives.

    Times are changing and the roles of women today are as well. While most of the Disney movies portray women who embody traditional gender stereotypes, over the span of forty years changes have started to occur and we are beginning to see them even in film.

    In 1959 Disney’s Sleeping Beauty was released. Sleeping Beauty is the story of Aurora, a young princess who is put into a deep dark sleep through the spell of an evil fairy. The evil fairy, Uglyane, promises that on Aurora’s sixteenth birthday she will pierce her hand with a spindle, and on that day she will die. The fairy tale is one of a traditional woman. Aurora, whose name means dawn, is given three gifts from the good fairies, the gift of beauty, of song, and instead of death through the evil fairies’ spell, the gift of sleep until her true love is given to her. Not only does her name imply beauty and calmness, but also the three gifts she is given are the stereotypes our society often pushes on females—to look and sound physically attractive. Throughout the film Aurora is continually referred to as “little darling” and “sweet princess”, adjectives that portray women as quiet and mindless. She is not seen in a manner that allows her to think beyond falling in love. Aurora defines the “ideal” role of woman where quiet obedience and beauty are linked to goodness.

    When one looks past the portrayal of Aurora and on to other women in the film, one can see the stereotype of another sort of woman. She is a woman of power, but this powerful woman is usually ugly and evil as well. In Sleeping Beauty, the Fairy Uglyane plays the role of a powerful but evil old hag who is out to destroy Princess Aurora and her father’s kingdom. While she is a woman representing a domineering and independent role, she is seen as overbearing and wicked in our society. Not only does her name give off a negative connotation, but also all of her actions throughout the film leave the viewer with feelings of dislike for her. One could even say that the implications of this character suggest that any woman who is independent is morally unacceptable.

    Looking on to other Disney films, one can see many similar illustrations of women through films such as Cinderella, The Little Mermaid, and Beauty and the Beast. But recently, there are films being released that attempt to break traditional gender stereotypes. Disney’s Mulan, released in 1998, contrasts greatly with the traditional stereotypical roles previously established in films such as Sleeping Beauty. While a very strong undertone of a women’s traditional obligation is expressed in the film, the main character takes on traits that are attributed to men.

    Mulan is the story of a young Chinese girl who takes her elderly father’s place in the military at a time of war. The Huns are invading China and Mulan’s father is called to serve. She knows that her father is too weak to walk without his cane, let alone to fight in a battle. Late at night she sneaks out in her father’s armor, having decided that she will fight in his place dressed as man.

    Throughout the film Mulan is seen not only training alongside the other men in combat, but also surpassing them mentally and physically. She is not only swift she is also able to think on her toes, qualities that Disney had previously attributed only to men. She presents strategies and leads the group in saving the empire at key times in the war. She suggests that the men dress as women to distract the enemy and they thus make their way to save the Emperor.

    While the film represents a woman in a role that is nontraditional, as stated before, there is still present a strong undertone of traditional gender obligations. One of the first scenes begins with Mulan’s preparation to see the matchmaker who will decide on her life partner. In the Chinese culture a marriage can bring honor to one’s family, so much time is spent dressing the young girl. While she is being made “beautiful” the women sing to Mulan “Honor Us All”, a song that is clearly pushing the traditional characteristics on the young girl, including suggesting that a woman should have a “tiny waist”, “be calm” and “obedient”. It is spelled out that one of the uses a man has for a woman is “breeding” and the speed of work she can do at home.

    Towards the end of the film, when it has been discovered that Mulan is in fact a woman and she is thrown out of the army, she make her way into the city to warn the Emperor and army that the Huns are coming. However, she asks Mushu, a little dragon sent by her ancestors to guard her, why no one is listening to her warning, and his answer is that she is a woman now. The statement is a direct implication of the status a woman holds, she is to be seen and not heard.

    As one can see, watching a children’s film can be more than afternoon of fun. It can be an afternoon of conditioning our children to follow traditional roles. Adults often neglect to realize that a child’s actions are often modeled after what they are seeing at home, in school and yes, on the big screen!

    Listen Up! - music reviews

    by Dana Jerman

    Songs in A Minor Alicia Keys 

    Wasting no time in getting down to hip-hop business, Miss Keys starts up her intellectual venture in all elements of sensual groove with “Piano & I.” Her luscious speaking voice is showcased over a choral arrangement accompanied by classical piano, the root of which you ostensibly figure is both her inspiration and her means by which the soul-sassy “Girlfriend” and “How Come You Don’t Call Me”, the next two tracks, emerge.

    The background-vocal dominant chorus of the goose-bump infusing radio smash single “Fallin”: “I keep on fallin/in and out/of love/with you/I’ll never/love someone/they way I/love you…” If you haven’t heard it yet, walk into any local record store, leaf through a few racks awhile, do some browsing and its bound to find its way over the store’s P.A. Track five, “Troubles”, is a bit of a lacklustre number. It lends itself to a tired concept: the R+B ballad, with less than stellar lyric work. Even if the presentation was happening, “Troubles” is a droning piece. The funk wrought wa-pedal guitar work and bass line, as well as strings, auxiliary percussion (triangle) and chiming piano make Alicia’s “Rock Wit U”, an easy tune inspired from the song “Rock With You” from Michael Jackson’s 1979 Off The Wall album, a fantastic effort – fresh and demure. The rap-esque drum machine skip trip of “A Woman’s Worth” brings the real slow jam element into play and reveals just how much of that Mike Jackson influence (harmonizing work, especially) is taken to heart. “Jane Doe” is a real hip jam, but is only a step above the innovation (if there is any) behind “Troubles.” This is a large release for Alicia, at 14 tracks, and a few jams have managed to sneak in, like “Goodbye”, that almost detract from the deep-soul path that you hope the album will take, as it did in the beginning. Gentle reggae roots (with bongo percussion) pervade the tenth track. Then, track 11, a “Mr. Man” (duet with Jimmy Cozier) has a salsa feel and its melodic softer side makes you wonder if Alicia is finally getting this album back on track.

    A well-blended “Never Felt This Way” segues beautifully into “Butterflyz”, and it becomes clear that this album is drawing carefully to a close on the backbeat of “Why Do I Feel So Sad”. The Maya Angelou poem “I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings”-inspired lullaby quality of “Caged Bird”, the last listed track, is careful as it leads us into the extra track that lifts us out of the album and invites us to start it all over. What does she want to give to us with this roller coaster of an LP? If you like what you hear with “Fallin” and are a die-hard fan of that R+B sound, ala- Mary J. Blige, Mariah Carey and Destiny’s Child, then keep on keepin’ on.

    Everybody Got Their Something — Nikka Costa 

    Do not underestimate the power of subtle sassiness as epitomized beautifully by Miss Nikka Costa on her gem debut solo from Virgin Records.The hip-jamming groove of radio-single “Like A Feather” is followed up by the sweet vocal undercurrents (and a little help from a sample of “Car Thief” by the Beastie Boys) of “So Have I For You”, a gentle exploration into softer rock that makes way for the real lyrical and vocal drama (the first raucous display of such on the album) “Tug Of War”: “Cut to the truth and watch it bleed/and the wounds just what we need/its everywhere, if we dare/to trust the fall to lead you there” exists as the most striking writing that only leads us down the heartbroken-yet-hopeful path to more.

    “Everybody’s Got Their Something”, track four, opts for the wa-pedal funk dance element of “We Are Family” by The Association. The sweet brass fanfare in the background chiming over the chorus of “There’s A Time For Every Star” makes you think that they’ll be many more surprises packed into the 12-track effort. This includes two sort-of-songs: track 6 – “Nikka What?” – a tiny, 25 sec. techno rock slap in the face and, track 9 – “Nikka Who?” a tinier Nikka voice still sounding as mature and strong as ever from back in the day, over a light (presumably her father playing) blues guitar.
    Despite all the movement in and over emotions, her stop-and start emotional response is phenomenal. “Nothing”, a heartbeat of bass keeping track of the singing violin, Wurlitzer and wavy vocals, and “Hope It Felt Good”, a Lenny Kravitz-style, stadium-size awe-inspiring vocal presence topped with En Vogue-esque backings and “Free Your Mind” guitar-driven rock, makes these two prime examples as well as some of the choicest cuts on the LP.

    “Some Kind Of Beautiful” goes on to perpetuate the all-night soul-groove ass-shake party element that an album like this strives to foster. “Just Because” is really looking out for the slow-jam end of things, transforming the album elegantly into almost a Fiona Apple-like make-out, first-kiss experience. Followed up then by “Push and Pull”, this effect is lengthened. The last track, “Corners Of My Mind” is the magic final touch. Upside the croon of her sleepy, yet strict voice, is violin, wind chimes and rain and a plethora of beats that make music headlines in the mind and draw out the memory, in turn keeping her tunes in your brain like lovely velvet infections and hearty promises of a fruitful career to come.

    At the Audition For the Vagina Monologues

    by Jess Donald

    First of all I must admit that I was so excited about the Vagina Monologues coming to our campus, thanks to Doug Greene, that I could barely contain myself when I heard. Many of these monologues have changed my life, and my viewpoints of women, and over the past years, they have made me think about the phases of my own life and how my body is forever evolving. Last night’s auditions brought me to a new level—in the company of women free to speak on their behalf and on the behalf of others without the same freedoms. It was a sharing of experiences and a bringing forth of not only the happiness that our vaginas bring us, but also the pain that can come with them, the mystery, and the truth behind all the answers to the tough questions at hand.

    The auditions were amazing, each woman taking into herself, into her being, the story of another, and bringing forth new life to it. Every time I think of the scripts that were being passed around the room, I have this feeling inside me that is so difficult to describe. I am part of a group of women who are not afraid to stand up for their lives, for the lives of others.

    An aura of empowerment permeated the room as Juliane Maximo performed a piece about a woman entirely covered within a shroud; other women took part and spoke their minds with legs crossed or uncrossed, short skirts flailing and personalities shining through. Aggressive, assertive, young and old, with knowledge of the clitoris, with fear of it, too, all these elements were represented as we sat discussing and joking about how much our own vaginas meant to us.
    Throughout my time here on campus, I have learned a lot about myself and others; I found myself through my friends and the activities, such as this newsletter, that make up my life. Sitting there last night with my nerves wound tight and with hope for all women within my heart, brought my being to another level. It was liberating, enticing, amazing, just to be able to part of the auditions, and even if I don’t make it in, the experience of performing “My Short Skirt”, a saucy poem about defiance and independence, will stay within me forever. Tears fell from my eyes as women performed pieces about rape and entanglement, lost children, and pieces of their own vaginas falling off. I was moved, empowered, hurt, and impassioned all at once.

    For those of you who don’t anything about the Vagina Monologues, I encourage you to read them and to attend the performance on February 24. I hope that this article brings your attention to the wonderful performance and the stories that are captured within it, because we are part of the whole, and they, the women who answered, who speak through us in the monologues, are part of us.