Blog 8: Remembering Anarcha, Lucy, and Betsey: The Mothers of Modern Gynecology

For this week’s class, we read and listened to pieces relating to how feminist activism can influence health and medicine. I wanted to focus on an NPR podcast (The Hidden Brain) titled, “Remembering Anarcha, Lucy, and Betsey: The Mothers of Modern Gynecology” featuring Vanessa Gamble and Bettina Judd. The podcast discussed how during the 1800s, a physician named Dr. James Marion Sims, known as the father of modern gynecology, practiced unethical experimentation on enslaved black women. There are currently 3 statues of Dr. Sims in the United States, and the podcast discussed whether these statues are right to still be standing. Dr. Sims experimented on both black and white women, the difference being that he didn’t use anesthesia when experimenting on black women because there was a common belief that black people could handle more pain than white people. While Dr. Sims did eventually solve how to fix the vesicovaginal fistula that many women tear after giving birth, many women suffered from his experiments.

As soon as I knew what was going on within this podcast, I immediately thought of the Nuremburg trials against Nazi physicians who experimented on victims of the Holocaust while resulted in a code of ethics to be put in place against human experimentation. I also thought of Henrietta Lacks, a black woman whose cells were taken without her permission because they multiplied at such a fast rate. Although within the medical field we’ve benefit from these unethical experiments, it leaves most people sick to their stomachs when they realize how we’ve gained this knowledge. From all three of these cases, with Dr. Sims, the Nazi experimentation, and Henrietta Lacks, we see that these people were experimented on because they were all treated like property and taken advantage of. In the podcast, Gamble mentions that black people are still not treated the same way as white people when they are in the hospital. I also think it’s fair to say that many people who present as poor, uneducated, and drug-addicted are not treated with the same respect in hospitals.

My mom, who is a licensed clinical social worker, works in hospitals often and constantly battles the healthcare system. She has found that when she hasn’t been at the hospital to advocate for my uncle who just had a heart attack that things have gone wrong or he hasn’t gotten the care he has needed. It’s a shame that people who are unconscious or not in their right state of mind in the hospital need professional advocates there to make sure that they get the right medication or are checking up on things that many healthcare professionals overlook or don’t have time to look into. Even family members who don’t understand the healthcare system are sometimes unable to advocate for the patient’s needs. It’s scary to think that the healthcare system, the people who are licensed to care for sick people, still needs revamping. My question based on this week’s podcast is, what other current issues in healthcare can we relate back to experimentation on enslaved black women by Dr. Sims?


Blog 7: the f-word

This week, our class read a piece by Dr. Jennifer Almjeld, a Writing, Rhetorical, & Technical Communication professor at James Madison University, called “the f-word: a decade of hidden feminism in kairos“. Professor Almjeld and some of her students conducted research on various texts and videos from the journal, Kairos, through a feminist perspective. They found that many authors went in-depth with feminist topics, but didn’t explicitly state “feminism” within their texts. Almjeld and her class discussed that using the word “feminism” should be an empowering term, and they came up with 7 characteristics that describe what feminist rhetorics truly is. The terms were embodied, voiced, positioned, multi-modal, validating, challenging, and empowering. They conducted studies based on their definitions of each word and analyzed how well the texts followed their definitions of the words. The three most important findings they found throughout their research were the gender of the author (or lack thereof), author credentials, and whether or not the Kairos authors specifically defined themselves as feminists.

Today, Professor Almjeld came to speak to our class about the piece, and I found many of her insights fascinating. The main takeaway I gathered, though, was that even she struggles with when to drop the “f-word” or not. I think many of my classmates, including myself, found this comforting because although throughout the piece she advocated for the use of the word feminism, she knows that it can come across differently to different groups, especially if you’re telling the wrong audience about it. Feminism can be a broad term, but Professor Almjeld encouraged all of us to find out what feminism means to each of us specifically, because over time it will develop and we will finally feel confident to tell others our definitions as well. She also mentioned that if she were to include another characteristic for what defines feminist rhetorics, it would be “unpopular,” especially given the political climate we face today. Speaking about feminism can be an unpopular thing to do, both for those speaking about it and those listening to people speak about it.

After reading the piece and listening to Professor Almjeld’s insights today, I wanted to offer a question for our class moving forward: do you all think it’s important to take a deeper look into the authors we will be reading for our annotated bibliography in order to get a better sense of their “feminist lens”? And if so, what should be the standard?

Overall, I really enjoyed reading Professor Almjeld’s piece and listening to her speak today; she shared some great insight and was hilarious as well!


Blog 4: Food porn objectifies “women’s work” instead of women’s bodies

For this week’s blog, I chose an blog titled, “Food porn objectifies ‘women’s work’ instead of women’s bodies” written by Tisha Dejmanee. Throughout the blog, Dejmanee discusses how the new phenomenon known as “food porn” attempts to displace the objectivity of women’s bodies for women’s ability to make food. Food porn fulfills an animalistic desire of hunger while also invoking an underlying sexual desire. Dejmanee writes, “These blogs reflect the digital identities of women who have been required to embody multiple contradictions—and look delectable while doing so.” She argues that food porn allows for women to promote their feminism through the digital sphere while also showing off the more traditional role of women in the kitchen. In closing, she says that even though many people enjoy looking at food porn, “we should also take a moment to recognize the skills it takes to maintain such a presence online and the potential for feminist subversion behind these outwardly indulgent depictions of cooking and consumption.”

Before reading this blog, I thought that the author would be bashing food porn as a digital art and pin it as an anti-feminist use of the digital sphere. However, I found this blog to be quite the opposite. Dejmanee just wants readers to recognize all the hard work that goes behind making this food, even though it’s satisfying just to look at (much like real pornography). Weirdly enough, I have thought about the people behind food porn before reading this, but I also never thought of that the creators were only women. She does argue throughout her blog that both genders have been known to create food porn; however, she says that many of the creators are “mompreneurs” who are trying to create a digital brand. The author raised some good points throughout the blog for sure.

This blog expands our understanding of feminist rhetorics and digital activism because it shows how some women have used the digital space to combine both their feminine qualities and feminist qualities. Dejmanee drew the conclusion that these women are using food porn as a digital activism in order to combine their desire for entrepreneurship and their love of traditional, domestic work. Before reading this blog, I had never considered food porn to be any type of activism beyond getting people to take pleasure in the food they create and eat, but I can now see how it is feminist digital activism.

[*sidenote: I wanted to include a photo of food porn for imagery purposes, but didn’t want to tempt any of my readers!]

Blog 3: Critical Blogging – Constructing Femmescapes Online

Before reading Andi Schwartz’s article, “Critical Blogging – Constructing Femmescapes Online,” I had no idea what a “femmescape” was. But after reading the article, I was reminded of the site known as Tumblr and how it plays a different role for every user, one of which happens to be a safe haven for people struggling with their gender identity.

When I first got my Tumblr account years ago, I used it to look at pictures from musicians and movies I liked, and usually re-posted things when I thought they were interesting or funny. But after further inspection of the site, I quickly realized that Tumblr allows people to feel like they can express themselves in a much different way than they can in real life, and in a way that I had no considered expressing myself online.

Schartz’s definition of femmescapes, which is “a network of public spaces through which queer identity is enacted, celebrated, and politicized,” pushed me to start thinking about what people who have been struggling with their gender identities did before Tumblr. If we understand Femme Tumblrs as what Schartz considers to be counterpublics, which is “a parallel discursive arenas where members of subordinated social groups invent and circulate counterdiscourses, which in turn permit them to formulate oppositional interpretations of their identities, interests, and needs,” then has it been applied before, and if so, how?

Back before the Internet, who were the femme bloggers? Because struggles with gender identity were a hushed topic and not to be broadcasted within towns or families, I wonder how these people “escaped” their societies back then. Did they write things down and pass notes? Hold quiet support groups? Ignore it all together?

Although we’ve come a long way and still have a long ways to go, I think it’s important to recognize how far we’ve come that these topics can be discussed freely online. I’m sure there have been and still are online bullies targeting these groups, but at least there’s a place to talk about these tough issues people are struggling with. It’s incredible that Schwartz can even pinpoint what a femmescape is and use scholarly sources to back up her claims. Because people are open to talking about their inner struggles online, it could help pave the way for more open, public discussions as well.



Blog 1: Beyonce’s Fierce Feminism

As I read the article, “Beyonce’s Fierce Feminism,” I kept thinking to myself about something I had heard recently about Beyonce. That her new album, Lemonade, which created the perception that Jay Z had cheated on Beyonce with “Becky with the good hair,” was all a hoax to make money. That Jay Z had not actually cheated on Beyonce. So while I read the article, every time it would say anything about critics jumping on Beyonce’s “sexuality” as a feminist, I just thought: $$$.

Obviously, as a performer, Beyonce is going to take on a different persona of who she is in real life. I think most people take on a different persona at work, it’s just that her work is in the public eye and happens to entertain people through music and dance. If she were to stop doing those things (which let’s be honest, I’m sure she enjoys because it’s fun to feel sexy), I think that gives into the notion that men are “in charge” more than the idea that Beyonce gives feminism a bad name or isn’t a real one. Why should she give up what she loves doing because it’s too provocative?

She also came out publicly several times to say she considers herself to be a feminist, so why continue ripping on what type of feminist she is? Feminism can sometimes be so fluid that it can be difficult to even grasp a basic concept, so I’m at a loss for why she is getting jumped on for everything she does in relation to it. All she is saying is that sexuality should be part of feminism and should not be only for males seeking pleasure.

As far as the racial element goes, I don’t buy into it. I don’t think Lady Gaga or Madonna are viewed as feminists anymore than Beyonce is. They’re all criticized for being too sexual with regard to performance. Anyone who sees sexuality as part of the culture of anti-feminism is going to see these performances as they wish to see them, and not think about the underlying goals of the performers. I don’t think race has to do with it.

I believe that many people overlook her strong desire to come across as a feminist who doesn’t man-hate. I liked the part about the “The Mrs. Carter Show World Tour” because I know it must piss people off she named her tour that, but since feminism isn’t about man-bashing, then why do people care? The tour was a celebration of her and her husband’s musical talents, and she is not weaker for having a husband. She clearly wants to take pride in her name, and as the article mentioned, it’s for her public persona and she actually goes by Knowles-Carter in real life, as does Jay Z.

Overall, I found it interesting that so many people are angry with Beyonce’s type of feminism, but I think those people might find her more interesting if they actually look at the undertones within her public persona.