Thursday, February 4, 2010

Virtually Speaking

So as much as I have been enjoying SL lately I have been having a tough time finding exactly what to DO now that I have figured out how to change clothes and have joined activist groups that look interesting. I have been receiving messages from the groups about meetings and events and I have either felt like I am not prepared to participate or mix up the SL and RL times. One of the messages I received today when I just happened to be online at the right time was an invite to Virtually Speaking with Gloria Feldt, Lynn Harris, and Shelby Knox (here's the info). Feldt wrote The War on Choice which is a book that I have used for a few research papers in the past years so I thought I should check it out. I had some initial issues with sound and had to go through the Virtually Speaking radio blog to hear the discussion but I am really glad I did this. Of course I could have just listened to this talk online without SL but on SL the audience was able to type chat during the discussion which was a really great feeling. There are podcasts available from the discussion minus the audience input which is definitely worth checking out if you are at all interested in the topic. I thought I would include some of the comments that really stuck out, unfortunately I do not know which presenter said which comment.

When I finally got the sound working I heard one of them say "Feminists have more and better sex" which I thought was pretty awesome especially considering my earlier post about a few feminist theorists' thoughts about the incompatibility of feminism and heterosexual sex. I love when there are sex positive feminist discussions. Sex (either straight or queer) should not be seen as in opposition to feminism(s). Instead, feminism should allow for a greater discussion about sex and what the individuals want and feel safe with and enjoy.

The next discussion was about purity balls and one woman said how girls pledging themselves to a male god and to their father leaves no room for women's rights. Another woman asked that if a girl feels she must pledge anything, why not pledge to creativity and self worth? She then added that the idea of needing to pledge anything to a male god or your father is highly problematic but that there are alternatives to pledging virginity.

One presenter then went on to say that "femininity is a way of controlling." The imagery surrounding these purity balls are entirely about femininity and feminine qualities; the girls dress in white frilly dresses, their virginity and "purity" are celebrated, and so on.. This forced femininity is a form of controlling these girls, forcing them into this specific role. The presenter went on to say that women must be seen as "whole human beings... capable of making their own decisions," and these balls do not allow for that. If a girl wants to remain abstinent until marriage that's fine... as long as it's HER choice and she has not been forced into because of some ideal her father has for her.

At this point there was some great dialogue going on between the audience. Some were unaware of charity balls until this talk and everyone was really supportive in explaining it. The word "creepy" was used more than once about this phenomena.

One of the greatest comments from the presenters that I heard was when one of them was talking about her three year old daughter wanting to be a princess. Rather than telling her daughter this is "wrong" or "not-feminist" she allowed her daughter to continue with her princess dream but also challenged the typical little girl's understanding of a princess. She then told her daughter that she can be a princess but that to do this she must spend years studying foreign policy and learning at least eight different languages, and studying other topics important to national and political leaders. The audience response was unanimous with "LOL"s, "She's awesome," and so on.

Another important point that was made was in regards to how few young women wish to be identified as feminist. One presenter commented that it is important to examine how women's history is taught and how it leaves no room for role models for these young women to identify with themselves and feminism.

I am glad that I was able to participate in this. I will try to attend more live conferences and participate in group discussions more often. I could have just listened to the online radio version of this discussion but it was made interactive with SL through the audience chat. This way when there were issues of understanding or questions we could all help one another out. It also got a bit repetitive when some few vocal people became obsessed with discussing women's shoes. One guy said something along the lines "women should know better" many other audience members immediately took offense to what he said and the audience discussion began ignoring the three presenters. While this was not ideal, I could turn my attention to the presenters and keep an eye on the chat.

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