Miss America: I may have judged too quickly

January 31, 2013 § Leave a comment

I was browsing TV.com a couple Saturdays ago looking to catchup on all of the shows I didn’t have time to watch during the week when I happend across the “What to Watch Tonight” section. That is where I discovered that the Miss America Pageant would be airing that very night. After a quick text to a friend who I knew would be just as excited as I was, it was decided that we would be grabbing some snacks and settling in for a nigmiss_america_picht of bad commentary and fake smiles.

The excitement I feel every year when the Miss America Pageant rolls around stems not from my fascination or real interest in the beauty pageant world but instead from the confidence boost it gives me. I may not be acing my Numerical Methods class, but at least I’m not saying stupid things on television or parading around in a bikini, right? I used to think that these women were all the same. They all say the same things, have the same talents, and seem to fit into a single mold. But this year, I started to think that maybe I had judged this whole thing a little too quickly. I was pleasantly surprised when I actually thought I might really like one of the contestants. Miss New York, Mallory Hagan seemed very down to earth compared to the other contestants and got me to thinking that maybe these women are not as shallow as they can come across. On the surface, a pageant is a pageant and yes there are women walking around in ridiculously skimpy swimsuits, putting on some really ugly evening dresses, and performing the same talents as all the other contestants, but Miss Hagan seemed not too take all that as seriously as some of the other woman. She was loud, funny, and even surprisingly intelligent in her question response. Instead of becoming flustered and making a  huge gaffe for the newspapers to ridicule as is usually  the case, she  responded intelligently to a tough question regarding gun control. All of this got me thinking that maybe, despite its questionable relationship with feminism, the pageant might not be ALL bad.

Yes, I admit that it might take “poise” and “beauty” to an extreme that can detract from the hard work woman have done to make us more than just something to make the office look nicer, but I realized that some of these woman might actually be able to balance that extreme with doing some good with the position. I realized that, if I looked behind all the pomp and ridiculous circumstance, the pageant might really be able to have an effect on these woman’s lives, and through the organization’s charity work, on the lives of others as well. Am I saying that beauty pageants are great and everyone should place as much importance on how a woman looks? Of course not, I for one do not have the body of a Miss America Pageant contestant and would like to think I still have something to contribute to this world. All I’m saying is that instead of scoffing and settling in for a night of laughs and judging evening gowns, perhaps pageants and things of this nature have some merit and I should admit that. After all, aren’t these women working toward something just the same as the rest of us? And isn’t that really what women want the freedom to do: to work toward something without our gender holding us back? So, despite my initial judgment of the pageant as nothing more than a boost to my own ego, I’ve realized that just because it isn’t my “thing,” doesn’t mean that it’s necessarily bad “thing.”

– Kim U.


The Gender of Valor

January 25, 2013 § 3 Comments

Women in CombatWar is hard. We shouldn’t be making it harder.

This is the attitude of many Americans on the newly lifted ban for woman in combat.  In 1994, Les Aspin (Defense Secretary under former President Bill Clinton) signed a policy memo that excluded women from assignments to units below the brigade level if the unit would be engaged in direct combat. Although the ban has now been lifted, not everyone is ready for women in combat. Jerry Boykin, retired Army Lieutenant General and Executive Vice President of the Family Research Council, argues that men should not be forced to fight alongside women because it will distract from the mission, specifically because it will make soldiers feel awkward to defecate in front of the opposite sex:

Societal norms are a reality, and their maintenance is important to most members of a society. It is humiliating enough to relieve yourself in front of your male comrades; one can only imagine the humiliation of being forced to relieve yourself in front of the opposite sex.

Was it not societal norm to discriminate against colored individuals in the military? Was it not societal norm to exclude women from the military? Was it not societal norm to exclude homosexuals in the military? Is it not societal norm to exclude transgendered individuals in the military today? Societal norm is constantly changing, and it is irrational to halt progress on this basis alone.

Leon E. Panetta stresses that “not everyone is going to be able to be a combat soldier, but everyone is entitled to a chance…We are renewing our commitment to the values our service men and women fight to defend.”

General Dempsey states that by lifting the ban, “we are acting to eliminate all unnecessary gender-based barriers to service.” Dempsey reassures that “we will extend opportunities to women in a way that maintains readiness, morale, and unit cohesion.”

Will this lifted ban help further the careers of women in the military? Dempsey stresses that “we will integrate women in a way that enhances opportunity for everyone…this means setting clear standards for all occupations based on what it actually takes to do the job.”  Many Americans are concerned that women are not physically “up to the challenge” of combat assignments. However, gender-neutral standards will ensure that if women can meet those standards, then they are similarly fit for the specified duties.

Is having women in direct combat such a radical idea?  Israeli Defense Forces are the only military forces in the world with a mandatory military service requirement for women. Since the Israeli state was founded in 1948, women have fought in their armed The reality on the ground...forces. The 2000 Equality amendment to their Military Service law states that “The right of women to serve in any role in the IDF is equal to the right of men.” Now, women comprise over half of all military positions in Israel. It is ironic that, for a country that stresses freedom and equality as much as we do, that we are over a decade behind that of Israel on the inclusion and equality of women in combat zones.

Have women not already proven that they are ready and willing to serve in combat?  More than 150 women have died in Iraq and Afghanistan and over 1000 wounded in recent wars, fighting for our rights so that we can sit here and read blogs about whether they should be allowed to or not. Now this change is expected to open 230,000 front-line positions to women.

Dempsey said it best…”we all wear the same uniform, fire the same weapon, and more importantly, take the same oath.” President Barack Obama considers this yet “another step toward fulfilling our nation’s founding ideals of fairness and equality.” Let us make our all-volunteer force an all inclusive one. If women are willing to volunteer to defend our country, let us give them the rights that they are fighting for. Valor knows no gender.

-Brandi S.

Michelle Obama: A Strong Woman

November 19, 2012 § Leave a comment

As a young adult, I am very impressionable. Personally, I always feel as though I am trying to find myself. Just recently, I wondered if I was in the right major. I questioned what I wanted to do in my life. I pondered on what I saw myself doing in the future and if I was on the right path to that future. As many do, I looked for inspiration. I asked myself, “What do you want people to say about you?” When I try to think of women I see in the media who carry the characteristics I admire, few come to mind. The problem is that what someone shows us in the spotlight may not be their true character. However, I will say that there are a few people that I find admirable. There are women out there who are put in certain situations in which I personally don’t think I am strong enough as of yet to handle. I find these women to be true role models. One of my favorite women is Michelle Obama.

You may ask “why her?” Is it because of her husband? I will admit that he does have something to do with it, but it may not be what you think. There’s a saying that I’ve heard for years. It’s “behind every great man there is a great woman.” Whether someone is an Obama supporter or not is not the issue. I believe that Michelle Obama is a truly great woman. When I see her on TV or in the news, there is just something about her.

I remember watching actress Kelly Reilly in a couple of movies, and I thought to myself that there is just an air about the way she presents herself. Reilly, in my opinion, carries a somewhat regal air about her that shows a soft spoken and proper character.
Now I’m not saying that Mrs. Obama has a regal air about her, but I will say that the way she presents herself to the public makes me want to be like her. And before you say, “You see an air about her and so you want to be just like her? That doesn’t make any sense,” let’s just see.

So far from what I see, Michelle Obama is one to be admired. She is a mother of two children who adore her. The next time you see the Obama’s out for a family outing look at the way the kids look at her. I see the love of two girls for their mother and in return a see a mother’s unconditional love. To be a mother, you have to be strong. Being a parent is never easy, but I think that she handles it well. From what I know, she always put her daughters first and even had reservation about her husband running for office in fear of a negative impact it could cause on their children. To me, that characteristic is very special. To think of one’s children first, even if an once-in-a-lifetime opportunity is knocking at the door, is something all parents should do. She is a role model where her family is concerned.

Not only does she show me what an admirable mother she is, but also what an excellent wife she is. I see her as President Obama’s right hand. I see the support that she gives to her husband, even if she was against him taking up office at first. I see the love and care she has for her husband and the strength that she lends him. When anyone takes office, there will be critics and skeptics always trying to tear the person down. The media did not just attack Barack Obama, but her as well. Yet, I saw a woman who held her head up and continued forward. Both her and her husband continued leaning on each other and their family for support. Not many people could do that.
When one is the first lady, there is an image to uphold. I believe that Mrs. Obama does so very well. I often see her involved with charities and fundraisers as many do, but I see her more involved. Now that may just be me, but I think I see her more than the other first ladies during my lifetime. Maybe I am just paying more attention to her and the others did the same as she does, and if so that’s great. However, Mrs. Obama does put herself out there. She does a lot of work with kids, and I like to see those kinds of things because children are our future.

I will not say that Michelle Obama has been the strongest first lady I have seen. I consider Hillary Clinton to be just as strong. The way she handled the situation concerning her husband was admirable – a lot of people could not do that. To me that’s a different level of strength. Mrs. Clinton should also be admired with the way she came close to being the Democratic candidate for the 2008 Presidential Election. That is a wonderful accomplishment.

Nevertheless I will say that I see Michelle Obama as a true role model. She is intelligent. She has had a wonderful career. She has what I think to be a great personality. And she makes me want to be like her in the future. Michelle Obama is my inspiration.

– Erika K.

A Second Response to The Flipside of Femisism: Why Feminism Has Ruined America

November 16, 2012 § Leave a comment

Phyllis Schlafy’s new book (written with her niece Suzanne Venker), The Flipside of Feminism, has the feminist community in an uproar. In this new take on the negative impact of feminism on America, Phyllis suggests that the 1960s women’s revolution mImageovement ruined women and the country. What does Schlafy’s new view on feminism in America look like? Take a look at the five ways that feminism has ruined America in her opinion:

1. It hurt marriage. Women want to wait so that they can keep their identities longer and men are finding easy sex, taking away a big reason for marriage.

2. Undermines child rearing. More kids are in childcare where discipline is lax resulting in a “epidemic” of bad kids, childhood obesity, and bullies.

3. Two-income trap. With both husband and wife working it’s hard to live without life’s luxuries.

4. Undermines college sports. Title IX has ended many male-only sports at some colleges.

5. Emasculates men. It’s better to be a wuss than speak up or mouth off and face charges of harassment or chauvinism.

Schlafy and her niece attempt to highlight what “conservatives” think is wrong with feminism, but offer little insight on how to “fix” the aforementioned problems.

Venker states that “Feminism has sabotaged women’s happiness.”

What do you think?

Personally, if they say feminism did those things, I think ignorance wrote them.

-Brandi S.


Paving the Way for Women: A Spotlight on Supreme Court Justice Sonia Maria Sotomayor

November 8, 2012 § Leave a comment

File:Sonia Sotomayor in SCOTUS robe.jpgIn the spirit of election season, I thought it’d be ideal to highlight what has been done this term to increase awareness to women’s rights and equality. Sonia Maria Sotomayor came to mind immediately. Sonia has served as an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the Untitled States since 2009. She is the first Hispanic justice, the third female justice, and the Court’s 11th justice overall. George H.W. Bush nminated Sotomayor to the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York in 1991, and in 1997 she was nominated by President Bill Clinton to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit. In May 2009, President Barrack Obama nominated Sotomayor to the Supreme Court. Her nomination was confirmed by Senate with a 68-31 majority vote.

In her time serving, Sotomayor has had the opportunity to approve the 2010 Affordable Care Act (ACA*), an act that extends health care coverage and seeks to eliminate barriers to receiving affordable health care. This ruling has had a significant impact on women in the United States. Under the previous health care system, women can be denied coverage for the following: if they had breast cancer, a C-section, or have been sexually assaulted. Insurance companies can no longer deny women the rightto health care for reasons such as these. Women were previously being charged more for health care….simply because they were women. The ACA ends this unfair practice.

We can only hope to continue to increase women’s awareness and equality, not only within the health care system, but throughout all facets of society. It is women like Sonia Maria Sotomayor who help pave the way for our future.

– Brandi S.


GT Alumna on Final Shuttle Mission

July 13, 2011 § Leave a comment

Photo Credits: NASA

Georgia Tech Alumna and a 1996 graduate of the Materials Science and Engineering, Sandra Magnus is currently on the final NASA space shuttle mission. Magnus was the only woman in a crew of four and is one of 47 women to have flown in the U.S. space shuttle missions. Magnus is a NASA veteran, having flown twice before on Atlantis (2002) and Endeavor (2008). Prior to last Friday’s  launch of Atlantis, Magnus had flown 55 million miles and had spent over 5 months in the space.

For more information about women in space visit NASA’s page. And, for a fantastic graphic and blog post on women breaking through barriers in space check out Ms. Magazine’s blog.

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