Tag Archives: Gender

Why It Doesn’t Matter Much Whether You’re a Man or a Woman, for Happiness and Good Habits

genderWhen it comes to figuring out happiness and good habits, I don’t think it matters much if you’re a man or a woman.

It’s easy to assume that certain aspects of ourselves matter more than they do. For instance, birth order. People believe that birth order has a big influence on personality — but research has disproved this. Birth order just doesn’t matter for personality.

Now, whether you’re a man or a woman matters in some situations, sure.

But in general, in my observation, for any particular person, individual differences swamp gender differences. Continue reading

Women in Pictures: The Scary Truth about Women in Today’s Media

women“Today is National Women’s Day!” That’s how MeLissa greeted me this morning. “Hooray!!” was my first thought but as the idea began to process I wondered, what does that even mean? We should do something to celebrate, of course, but how? Intent has always included messages of feminism and sisterhood on the blog and via intents, but a lot of places don’t.

MeLissa and I recently attended a workshop for women with an interest in directing and we learned some startling statistics about the representation of women in media. The following facts come from the Geena Davis Institute  on Gender in Media which conducts various studies on the position of women in film and media.

  • Males outnumber females 3 to 1 in family films. In contrast, females comprise just over 50% of the population in the United States. Even more staggering is the fact that this ratio, as seen in family films, is the same as it was in 1946.
  • Crowd scenes in film and television are 17% female on average, despite women representing 51% of the world population.
  • Females are almost four times as likely as males to be shown in sexy attire. Further, females are nearly twice as likely as males to be shown with a diminutive waistline. Generally unrealistic figures are more likely to be seen on females than males.
  • Females are also underrepresented behind the camera. Across 1,565 content creators, only 7% of directors, 13% of writers, and 20% of producers are female. This translates to 4.8 males working behind-the-scenes to every one female.
  • From 2006 to 2009, not one female character was depicted in G-rated family films in the field of medical science, as a business leader, in law, or politics. In these films, 80.5% of all working characters are male and 19.5% are female, which is a contrast to real world statistics, where women comprise 50% of the workforce.

No wonder women need a day to be celebrated. Part of the reason feminism is still a thing is because of statistics like this. When the images our children and the general public are confronted with are women in secondary roles or as sexual objects it becomes ingrained for women to aspire to these positions and for society to treat them as such. To start seeing a change we have to start portraying the change. It’s as simple as screenwriters adding “must be half-female” into their scripts when writing a crowd scene. Last year the number one selling movie worldwide was The Hunger Games: Catching Fire, and it was the first time in more than 40 years that a movie with a female lead topped the annual box office.

Luckily, there are many women leading the fight to change the way media portrays (or fails to portray) women in film and television. Last weekend Cate Blanchett won the Academy Award for her portrayal of a depressed woman trying to stay afloat in her own life in Blue Jasmine. When accepting the award she said this, “To the few in this industry that are still clinging to the idea that films with women at the center are niche – they are not. People want to see them and they make money. The world is round, people.” Case in point: Blue Jasmine, Bridesmaids, The Heat. When Lupita Nyong’o gave her speech for her Best Supporting Actress award she also said, “When I look down at this golden statue, may it remind me and every child that your dreams are valid!” On the surface it is such an inspiring statement, but what it really depicts is the sad truth that there are many children whose dreams are diminished by mainstream media’s backward policies on gender, race and sexuality.

Emma Thompson has also announced that she’ll be spending 2014 making a documentary about women in film because she’s disgusted with the way things currently are.

While it’s inspiring to know there are so many professional women fighting to make a difference in women’s opportunities both on screen and behind the lens – these numbers are scary. Not only to myself and MeLissa who are aspiring screenwriters but to the world in general. Do I want my future daughters to watch cartoons where all the girl characters are still sex objects? I want to be able to name pop culture examples of women that have been in charge because of a combination of their intellect, compassion and beauty rather than how great she looks in a pencil skirt. I want my daughter to inherit a media landscape where Kathryn Bigelow isn’t the only woman to ever win an Academy Award for directing.

The numbers are changing, so we’re being told, but it isn’t happening soon enough – especially if some of them haven’t changed since the 40s. Today is National Women’s Day but every day should be cause for us to stand up and support each other and create a more viable place for women in media and film. Our stories deserve to be told, to be validated as much as our male counterparts. We have to keep up the good fight so can stop differentiating between “men” and “women” stories and instead train ourselves and the world to see them all as what they really are – human stories.

VOD: Stop Buying Your Daughters Dolls and Get Them Into Science

There’s a new girl power anthem, and Beyonce isn’t singing it – it’s your daughter. They are telling you they are tired of being cast as “Princess Maids.” They like colors that aren’t pink or purple. They are telling you they are tired of being typecast by the toys that are marketed to them, and it is time for you to listen.

The commercial is for GoldieBlox, a toy company out to show the world that girls deserve more choices than dolls and princesses. GoldieBlox was founded by Stanford engineer Debbie Sterling who saw a need for girls to have creative toy options outside “the pink aisle” of the toy store. GoldieBlox is a combined book series and construction set starring Goldie – the girl inventor. The idea is to show girls that they aren’t limited to playing house or Disney Princess – they have just as much ability and opportunity to build things and invent like toys geared mainly for boys encourage. When you consider that less than 3 out of 10 graduating science majors are girls or that only 1 in 10 engineers are females – it’s time to start looking at the messages we are sending our daughters, sisters, nieces and friends about what they can achieve in math and science.

The video recruited Brett Doar, who created the epic Rube Goldberg machine for an OKGO music video. Together with three young actresses they recreated a Rube Goldberg using various girly toys and household implements to show just how awesome it is for girls to stop trying on dresses and start using their hands.

Take a look, and please send it along to any possible future inventor who could use some empowerment.

Bradley Manning Announces Decision to Become a Woman

Bradley Manning, sentenced on Wednesday to 35 years in prison for releasing classified intelligence documents to Wikileaks, has come forward with a different kind of statement. A long time sufferer of gender uncertainty, Manning has decided to become a woman, now asking to called Chelsea Manning and referred to with the appropriate gender pronouns. In a statement released to TODAY, Manning wrote,

I am Chelsea Manning. I am female. Given the way that I feel, and have felt since childhood, I want to begin hormone therapy as soon as possible. I hope that you will support me in this transition.

Manning’s lawyer, David Coombs, has pledged to do everything necessary to ensure Manning receives the hormone therapy she desires.

But the Army responded that they would not comply with the request:

The Army does not provide hormone therapy or sex-reassignment surgery for gender identity disorder. The USDB has implemented risk assessment protocols and safety procedures to address high risk factors identified with the Prison Rape Elimination Act.

This is a challenging wrinkle to add to Manning’s already complex situation, but one that must be respected and even commended. Manning has shown her courage in the face of so many obstacles. Whether you agree with her decisions or not, we have to hand it to her for committing so fully to her values and beliefs and for being and acting in accordance with her truest self.

What do you think? Tell us your thoughts in the comments section below!

Toeing the “Blurred Lines” between Naughty and Natural

Screen Shot 2013-08-07 at 12.22.06 PMAs the title of this post may imply, I’ve got Robin Thicke’s summer sizzler “Blurred Lines” on my mind today. On a website like Intent.com that features subjects like tempeh recipes and chakra meditations, this might leave you questioning my relativity here. But ride out this thought with me for a minute.

Typically, the only blurred line I’m contemplating is the one surrounding the smell in my car. Is that sour yogurt? Or urine? Hmmmm… (Hey, I’m a mother of several and frequent carpooler, what can I say?) But I woke up early this morning humming Thicke’s hit song. So I came downstairs before the wolf cubs awoke and pulled his video up on YouTube. Now this is an altogether different kind of blurred line. I have three letters for you: H-O-T.

Woah.

The first time I watched the video, Robin, T.I. and Pharrell were “hey-hey-heying” to gorgeous models wearing nude illusion undies and clear plastic smocks. A little kooky but the quirk was surprisingly sexy.

After watching, I wanted to hear the song again so I pressed play for a second time and found myself watching the unrated version. WHAAAATTTT???? All the women are naked! At first I thought they were still in their nude lingerie. Nope. They were rocking out wearing only skin tone thongs and tennis sneakers. Oh, and a goat. (Huh?)

I admit I kind of liked it. But it disturbed me at the same time. I’m a modern woman after all, a mother of girls, a spiritual blogger. And I’m not ignorant of the dent a production like this could make in our gender’s progress **if we so allow it, which I’m not inclined to do**. But I’d be lying if I said I hated it.

Mod Carousel, a Seattle-based boylesque troupe, created a feminist parody featuring men in flesh-tone skivvies and honestly, I felt the opposite of turned on. I’ll go so far as to say I felt “the yuck”. They were being funny, of course, but somehow a woman flaunting her sex strikes me as intriguing while a man flaunting his sex strikes me as Cro Magnon. It’s hypocritical, I know, but hypocrisy plays a starring role in life, doesn’t it?

Oh, there are all sorts of serious opinions on this song. But I’m not sure Thicke takes himself so seriously. Based on his hilarious video remake with Jimmy Kimmel and his past seemingly-orchestrated, sort-of-embarrassing, made-me-cringe-while-I-watched-it interview with Chelsea Handler, I’m thinking he’s a bit of a goof, challenging the world to get real about their own feelings about sex.

I get the blurred lines. Not only between naughty and nice but also between naughty and nature. We women don’t want to be objectified. But secretly, we kind of do. We don’t want our daughters to base their collective self image on physical beauty, but good looks undoubtedly has an important place in our human experience. Those who don’t have it yearn for it and those who do have it work it to their advantage.

And then there’s just the sex of it all. Sex is in our nature. It’s part of our existence. But so many people, especially here in America, are ashamed to talk about it. It’s here that we toe that blurred line of sex and image and what is really offensive and what is just real. I don’t know the answer myself, but I imagine it’s part of life’s mystery that will forever be debated.

All things considered, as much as I love the song, the video makes me feel uncomfortable to watch. Is that because I’m a Puritanical New Englander and I’ve been nurtured to cover up my nature? Or is it because these men should be laying on a couch with David Duchovny trying to balance a sex addiction? I’m not sure if it matters, because whatever the reason, I love being a woman and I’m happy with myself the way I am – in a turtleneck and pants.

Oh, there are so many directions we could take this. What are you thoughts? Naughty? Or natural? Chime in below.

Can the Rise of the Feminine Create a New Civilization?

Not to be confused with women taking over the world, the rise of the feminine in our society is a powerful and potentially transformative shift. In this episode of “Ask Deepak” on The Chopra Well, Deepak Chopra is joined by scholar, philosopher and researcher Jean Houston to discuss feminine archetypes and how a rise in feminine qualities will affect the civilization.

The emphasis in their discussion is on archetypes, which shouldn’t be confused with actual female versus male traits. Any given human characteristic might be expressed by any given human being, and we are at a point in our evolution where essentialized beliefs about the sexes are outdated. But as symbolic systems, gendered archetypes can be potent ways of looking at global trends, and this is what Deepak and Jean discuss as a need for the “rise of the feminine.”

Add your thoughts to the discussion and subscribe to The Chopra Well!

 

Thumbnail credit: Leela Francis

Lessons From Trayvon: Raising Mixed Race Boys in the Face of Racism, Fear, and Inequality

Mariana_19 years old
Me at age 19

By Mariana Oldenburg

I have been reflecting on the Trayvon Martin case a lot. The fact that Zimmerman got away with murder angers and worries me because I am the mother of two ethnically diverse male children living on this planet.

Injustice, inequality, sexism, and racism are not just USA problems; they are global problems. I myself was harassed by the police in Europe when I was a traveling teenager. I was racially profiled because of my brown skin and wild curly hair. One of the police officers asked for my passport and after confirming that I was a 19-year-old tourist with a proper visa, he said “It’s just that we have a lot of undocumented Brazilian prostitutes arriving here.” And that was supposed to make me feel better? Thanks for the Brazilian part, but I did take offense to the disrespectful noun.

Just walking down the streets in Italy, men would yell “hey, Marroquina” (woman from Morocco). My Italian girlfriend explained to me that many of these women were immigrant sex workers and the men were wondering if I was available. At the airport in Spain, security officers picked me out of the line and scanned my creeper shoes because they thought I might be sneaking drugs in the soles of my shoes. All of these accusations were purely based on my ethnicity, gender, and appearance. As a female teenager I felt angry, impotent, and vulnerable, and even though I wanted kick them in the face with those very shoes, I knew I had to handle myself with dignity and keep it together, so that I could get on the plane back to the USA where I had been living since I was 15 years old. (And might I add that I am grateful to live in this diverse country.)

I may not be an African-American male, but I am Afro-Latina woman and I have experienced racism in Panama, Europe, and in the USA, repeatedly. I know how it feels to be denied good job opportunities based on where I come from, my age, what I look like, and because I am a woman. I have experienced racism walking down the streets in progressive San Francisco for holding hands with my husband. He was called a white pig and I was called the N word. Scott and I have had racist encounters with both white and black men because we are an interracial couple and those people felt we should not be together. If we changed our behavior to accommodate others’ ideas of who we should love, our children would not exist.

I have experienced racism from white people because they don’t know exactly what I am and that makes them uncomfortable. Then when they find out I am from Central America, and they hear me speak, they tell me “Wow, you speak English really well!” What did they expect? Why should I not have excellent command of the English language? This often happens to me. It happened to me just three months ago at a client’s office here in New Orleans. Back when I worked in corporate America in the Bay Area, I was the token minority woman who was fortunate to be able to reach senior level positions. At my last corporate job, HR even pointed out that they were happy to hire me because they believe in equal opportunity – yet in an office building of 250 + employees, only two of us were Latina.

I have experienced racism from black people who don’t like me because I am Latina or because my skin is not dark enough. I have experienced racism from Latinos who don’t like my skin because it’s not light enough. I have heard a couple of my white friends use the N word in the context of fear and anger. I have heard some of my Latino friends speak quite negatively about black people. I’ve heard some of my black friends speak with deep anger towards white people. I have had my black female neighbor call me a racist because I speak Spanish and I am married to a white male even though my father is a black Jamaican. (Hence my Afro roots that I am very proud of.) I myself have had to unlearn a lot of the colonialist brain washing that was impressed upon us in our Panamanian culture. In Panama, people of color were not allowed to go to a university until general Omar Torrijos changed that law in the early 70s.

Who is right? Who is wrong? What should I believe? Who should I be? The whole thing is very confusing, and back when I was younger, all these complexities of race and culture were extremely hard to navigate and comprehend. I continue to listen and learn, and I continue to be friends with all of my friends. I continue to learn about their history, their thoughts, their feelings, their beliefs, their cultures, their religions, and their truths, and I often engage in heated debates with them because dialogue is exactly what we need, even if we agree to disagree.

The part that troubles me the most about the Martin/Zimmerman case is that the failing justice system can be fashioned and manipulated to the point that it becomes a strategic game of knowledge and power, and of course, the power of money. I feel that every single human life is equally important and worthy of respect and happiness and should have a chance to reach their full potential – even if they annoy the hell out of me.

In cases like this it’s important to not get too distracted by the ongoing argument of racism. I suggest that we focus on a solution to the flawed justice system because the system is not working. Let’s talk about these events with our children at the dinner table, lets discuss it within our communities, our spiritual circles, and peers, and most of all, let’s get involved by telling our political leaders what we want, until we see meaningful change. Folks like Zimmerman exist because they choose to live in fear, and they teach their children the same things their parents taught them, that is, to live in fear and to hate. Let’s stop demonizing the youth. Let’s stop tainting their spirit with heavy dogma, mental slavery, guilt, the burden of the pain from the past, and colonialist ideas that simply do not support them as the loving and creative human beings that we were born to be. Let’s teach our children how to think and not what to think.

Why should I live in fear? Why should my friends question whether they should bring children into this world? That’s not a privilege; that is their right. Should I stop holding hands with my husband? Should I tell my son Diego that he should live in fear and that he should not wear his hoodie while walking down the street because some paranoid delusional fool might shoot him? Should he too eventually carry a gun and forget about our family values of love and nonviolence? How do I carry on as a parent?

I say we talk with our children honestly about the elephant in the room. I say we make a conscious effort to get to know each other a little better so that we may understand or at least tolerate each other. As a triple minority living in the United States and as a parent, I refuse to be distracted, deterred, or defeated by racism, and much less by the intimidation of hatred and fear. It’s evident that when it comes to racism, we have a long way to go, but in regards to the Trayvon/Zimmerman case, we musts demand that the government does away with the Stand Your Ground law.

I stand the ground of not giving up hope for a better world for our children.

Dustin Hoffman Breaks Into Tears Discussing Society’s Pressures on Women

Screen Shot 2013-07-09 at 10.22.16 AMThe notion of ‘beauty’ in our culture tends to be more limiting and shame-inducing than cathartic. What should be a soul-expanding experience of aesthetic pleasure gets confined to a manufactured pill box, forced down our throats by television, magazines, advertisements, the porn industry – you name it. We all suffer from this together as a society, but women, most of all, bear the brunt of the abuse.

In preparing to make the 1982 film Tootsie, Dustin Hoffman was determined to look as much like a woman as possible. If the audience had to suspend disbelief to follow the story, Hoffman explains in an interview with AFI, then it wasn’t going to work. It wasn’t until he looked at himself in the mirror, fully costumed as a female, that he realized the reality women live with every day. If Hoffman saw his female self at a party, he confesses, he wouldn’t give her the time of day. The realization brings him to tears. Take a look:

This might seem overly tidy. “Hey, Dustin Hoffman, try being a real woman for even a day and you’ll experience some truly gnarly things. And before you whine about not making an attractive woman, let’s think about what beauty really is.”

But his emotional response is more nuanced than that. Hoffman bemoans the socialized notions of beauty that kept him from approaching women who might have otherwise added to his life with wit, intellect, and grace. How many women, he wonders, did he miss the opportunity of knowing, just out of prejudice?

The question we would add to that is: Why do we as a society continue to let anything but our own hearts dictate what we find beautiful?

What do you think? Tell us your thoughts in the comments section below!

Trade Gender Roles and Fall In Love Again

Screen Shot 2013-06-17 at 12.18.25 PMSaving your relationship could be as simple as switching roles. Gender roles often lock us into predictable, repetitive arguments where no one makes any changes because who is listening anymore? A new sociological study from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee as published in the journal Gender & Society interviewed married couples who were affected by the recession with a gender reversal: Men who lost their full-time jobs (some continued to work part-time) stayed at home running the house and taking care of the kids while their wives brought in 80% of the income. The result was greater compassion and appreciation for each other.

Men who stayed at home could now fully empathize with what their female counterparts had been doing all along. And women who worked full-time outside the home although still psychologically involved with their households now better understood the stress of office politics and job pressure to keep production high that their men had experienced. Interesting, the economic downturn actually caused relationship recovery.

7 ways to transform your relationship by changing your perspective:

  1. Switch places for a weekend by taking over your significant other’s typical duties. You will now have the inside view of the other side.
  2. Establish a good credit rating at home. This means you don’t have to jump and do things your significant other wants you to do the second the command is uttered. However, if you promise to get to it later, make sure that you do.
  3. During a disagreement tap into your opponent’s value system and summarize his or her point of view to show respect. Then you can state your opinion.
  4. Keep on experimenting – especially as you grow older. Don’t be afraid of acting silly or awful. Take your cue from actors who often unleash their wild side on screen and get awarded for it.
  5. Create a safe haven in your home for open expression, allowing your beloved to discuss what’s bothering him or her. Don’t expect anyone to change their nature – they are not you.
  6. Connecting and showing compassion to your partner does not mean that you become a doormat or a low priority on your list. Make sure that you are in harmony with yourself and so, you can be in harmony with another person.
  7. Plan ahead for arguments and practice responding differently. Rehearse and revise the dialogue before the negative situation arises, so you don’t fall into those repetitive arguments going nowhere fast. You will now be able to address those “should have, would have said” statements.

 

Originally published September 2011.

Why Women Don’t Get What They Want

01 (340)Are you happy about the money you made last year?

If the answer is no, and you are a woman… read on. Trust me, sister, if you aren’t thrilled with the digits in your bank account you are not alone. The reason women aren’t getting more money is so simple and easy to correct that it might make you scream. But that doesn’t make it any easier.

Go Find The Culprit

I you don’t like how much money you are making stop reading this article right now. Go and look at yourself in the mirror. Gaze deeply into your eyes and say, “The reason I didn’t get what I wanted is because I didn’t ask.”

It is fascinating that even the most accomplished women are hesitant to ask for what they want. (Could that be you… it’s OK we are in this together.) Many women find the arena of asking a scary one. They are afraid that they will appear as aggressive if they ask for what they want. So, they avoid asking. Women are trained that being liked is more important than being successful. Part of this is due to our evolutionary pull to put our own well being second to our children’s needs. Asking for what we want feels counter intuitive. The result that following our feeling in this arena are devastating.

The 32% Woman Discount

Our bank accounts, businesses, and relationships pay the price. Women who don’t ask for the salary stand to lose more than $500,000 by age 60. (Men are more than four times as likely as women to negotiate their first salary.) In the current economic climate many women are so grateful to be offered a job that they accept what they are offered and don’t negotiate their salaries. She reported that women’s salary expectations between 3 and 32 percent lower than those of men for the same job. Hold up. Think about that for a minute.
The woman in the equation thinks that the value of her work is 32% lower than the man doing the same job.

Women Business Owners Get The Crumbs

Linda Babcock, an economics professor at Carnegie Mellon University, conducted research which confirmed what my experience working with women entrepreneurs. Lesa Mitchell has a superb column about the glass walls that are hindering women business owners.

Here is a statistic that is so shocking to me that it is hard to type: Women own about 40 percent of all businesses in the U.S. They receive only 2.3 percent of the available equity capital needed for growth. Male-owned companies receive the other 97.7 percent.

Women’s business guru, Ali Brown seems to be on a mission to change that statistic. Her article, “Are Women Less Tolerant of the Bullshit That Comes With Success” is a battle cry for women to empower themselves and get their business going.

See It To Be It

I am not the only expert seeing this phenomena. Professor Babcock taught negotiations and dispute resolution for years. She wondered why women weren’t achieving the same results as men. Then she had an epiphany. “It kind of hit me over the head,” said Ms. Babcock, who went on to research why women were much less likely to initiate negotiations.

Are you all riled up? Good.

Go Find The Change Agent

Go back and look at yourself in the mirror. Gaze into your eyes and say, “I can turn this around this around. I’m going ask for what I want at least once this week. ”

This could be very new territory for you. To help get you started here are 3 of my
inner marketing strategies to put to the test:

  1. Set Yourself Up To Win. The answer is no if you don’t ask…at the right time. Set up an appointment to talk before you ask them for what you want. They will be more receptive, and more likely to say yes.
  2. Men’s Magic Three + Three. Men love it when you ask for what you want. Most women don’t know how to ask. Be direct and give them your exact request. Include where, when, what. Leave out the why. It clouds your request. A great guy wants to help you; save you trouble and be your hero. Use the words help, save or hero and he will be even more likely to say yes.
  3. Play It To Say It. If you are asking for a big raise, write a script and rehearse. Use a flip camera to record your request to see how you come off. Rehearse it until you are comfortable.

What is something you have been avoiding asking for? How have you overcome your fear of asking? What advice would you give other women who are scared to speak up?

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