“The Invention of Women:” A Review for Oyèrónkẹ́ Oyěwùmí’s Revolutionary Book

In 2011, Beyoncé asked, “Who run the world?” and answered, “Girls.” Almost a decade later, many of the protest signs at the Women’s March on Washington featured this same declaration. Worthy as it may be, Nigerian sociologist Oyèrónkẹ́ Oyěwùmí’s first book, The Invention of Women: Making an African Sense of Western Gender Discourses, which provides a deconstructive analysis and history of womanhood and gender—and their absence— in Yorùbán society, presents a strong case against the idea that “girls” are, and have been, a global and universal social category. As evidenced by the title, The Invention of Women, Oyěwùmí lays out how “the fundamental category “woman,” which she claims is “foundational in Western gender discourses,” “simply did not exist in Yorùbáland prior to its sustained contact with the West.” (Oyěwùmí x) Moreover, Oyěwùmí presents evidence for how the Western constructions of gender, as well as sex, were brought to Yorùbáland and implemented in such a way that they became salient social institutions that eventually led to the “patriarchalization” (86) of Yorùbán history and society and as a result, the subordination of what is now the category of women.

Before I begin to review and summarize the work of Oyěwùmí in The Invention of Women, I want to foreground her definition of gender as it forms the basis of her analysis. Oyěwùmí considers gender to be “an institution that establishes patterns of expectations for individuals based on their body-type, orders the social processes of everyday life, and is built into major social organizations of society, such as the economy, ideology, the family, and politics” (39).

The work of Oyěwùmí in her 1997 monograph takes the boundary pushing scholarship of sociologist Judith Lorber and others at the time who were focused on the construction of gender, and complicates it by noting that gender was not only socially constructed, but that it was socially constructed in the West and is therefore not applicable transnationally or transculturally. To set the stage for her argument, Oyěwùmí speaks to the characteristics of Western thought that allowed for the construction of gender. She contends that the somatocentricity (ix) of Western thought, in which biological determinism is the basis for the organization of society, coupled with the West’s “privileging of the visual,” (3) made the physical human body “the foundation of social thought and identity” (x) and thus subject to the creation of gender. Oyěwùmí makes it clear that in contrast to the West, Yorùbán society, prior to Western contact, did not privilege the visual sense or the body in its construction of sociocultural meaning.

Oyěwùmí then goes on to explain the ways in which Yorùbán society was organized absent of gender and sex. One key tenet of Yorùbán society that Oyěwùmí explains is the “centrality of the family compound,” rather than gender, “in defining the status of residents” (44). People who married into a household, or “ilé,” were known as “aya,” while those in the household were known as “ọkọ.” The “aya” was considered an outsider while the “ọkọ” was considered an insider and their relationship was ranked such that the “ọkọ” was “the privileged senior” (44). Overall, the hierarchy of Yorùbán society was based on age—with older people having the most status— and thus “social positions of people shifted constantly in relation to those with whom they were interacting” (xiii).

In the latter half of the monograph, Oyěwùmí speaks to the process in which gender was brought to Yorùbán society through missionaries and the imposition of the British “patriarchal colonial state” (123). Because “access to power was gender-based” in Britain, the British arrival in Yorùbáland led to the creation of “women as an identifiable category, defined by their anatomy and subordinated to men in all situations” (123). Oyěwùmí claims that one the most impactful aspects of colonialism that led to this subordination was the colonial educational system as it excluded those under the new category of women. This in turn led to the creation of a stark gender divide in terms of power, wealth, and status, which Oyěwùmí claims is an impact that is still felt in “the contemporary period” (128).

In the final pages of her book, Oyěwùmí widens her focus and criticizes the way in which “womanhood has been pathologized, at a global level” (177). As a result, Western feminists have assumed that the experience and subordination of women is universal without recognizing that this represents a “globalization of what was once a local Western preoccupation” (177). However, because colonialism imprinted gender and the category of women on Yorùbán society, Oyěwùmí speaks to the challenge of “present[ing] alternative ways of looking at anatomic sex-distinctions without pathologizing the female” (178).

I believe the greatest strength of Oyěwùmí’s The Invention of Women lies in the fact that it paints a holistic picture of Yorùbán society and culture before gender was introduced, as well as after colonial contact. As a result, I was able to understand the way in which specific cultural institutions were changed and perverted in the formation of male hegemony in Yorùbán society as a result of colonialism. Oyěwùmí also relies on primary sources, such as Yorùbán elders, to make her argument without preemptively imposing foreign cultural concepts, such as gender, on her research, which she claims is often the case with Western and Western-educated researchers. In her words, “Researchers always find gender when they look for it” (31).

A challenge I would levy on the work on Oyěwùmí in her monograph is the lack of elaboration on her very brief mention of homosexuality. In a discussion around sexual relations in precolonial Yorùbán society, Oyěwùmí contends that “homosexuality does not seem to have been an option” (63) without any further elaboration. Feminist, academic and human rights activist Sylvia Tamale, in her essay, “Confronting the Politics of Nonconforming Sexualities in Africa,” reveals that in many African cultures, there are examples of nonconforming sexuality while noting that “the context and experiences of such relationships did not mirror homosexual relations as understood in the West, nor were they necessarily consistent with what we may today describe as a gay or queer identity” (Tamale 35). Thus, without assuming the presence of homosexuality and nonconforming sexuality in precolonial Yorùbán culture, I wonder whether or not it is even possible to state that these sexualities were absent given Oyěwùmí’s evidence of the absence of gendered identities. In other words, how would nonconforming sexuality be conceived without the construction of gender? Additionally, Oyěwùmí claims that “issues of sexuality were not really issues of morality” (Oyěwùmí 64) until the arrival of Christianity and Islam. Thus, what is nonconforming sexuality when there is no conception of moral, normative and conforming sexuality? Nevertheless, I think Oyěwùmí’s work would be strengthened with a deeper interrogation of homo/nonconforming sexuality in precolonial Yorùbán culture in addition to a discussion on the impact colonialism had on notions of homo/nonconforming sexuality.

All in all, Oyěwùmí’s The Invention of Women is a fairly accessible and relatively short monograph that is not only vital to understanding how gender is constructed, but also vital in that it problematizes the supposed universality of the construction of gender. This book is suited for anyone interested in the intersection of gender and colonialism, for Oyěwùmí reveals how the colonial project in Nigeria was inseparable from the imposition of gendered identities and a gendered hierarchy. Finally, if there’s anything to take away from this review it is this. Next time you hear/say/think “Fuck the patriarchy!” think about the contributions of Oyěwùmí, and how they might inform your answer to this question raised by philosopher and art historian Nkiru Nzegwu: Is patriarchy a “valid transcultural category of analysis?” (21).

Feminine Mix-Tape of “Prom Queen” by Beach Bunny

The song “Prom Queen” was released on August 10th, 2018 by Lili Trifilio, who uses the name Beach Bunny, for her band. Trifilio began releasing music on her own in 2015, and began releasing music with her current band in 2017. None of Beach Bunny’s previous songs had reached 50 million streams on Spotify, but Prom Queen was a breakthrough. As of April 27th, 2022 the song has 218,116,371 streams, more than quadrupling her previous songs! 

The song addresses common teenage struggles of wanting to be thin, in general, and in this instance for the upcoming dance, prom. Trifilio sings about the social pressures of being thin, and placing too much weight on the actual weight of yourself. The song blew up on Tiktok, which is no coincidence considering Tiktok is a social media platform by majority used by the teenager/young adult community. The song resonated with many teenage users, who posted videos relating to the lyrics. The sound has been used 105,200 times as of April 27th, 2022.

Trifilio starts the song out with the line: “Shut up, count your calories” already alluding to her struggling with body images. As the song progresses, we get more detail, “Wish I was like you, blue-eyed blondie, perfect body” and “I was never cut out for prom queen” she explains how she isn’t stick thin so the public would never choose her to be prom queen. 

@harleysinthehouse

why can’t i be perfect like soooo many other people. it’s not fair. no matter how hard i try

♬ Prom Queen – Beach Bunny
This is just one example of the many Tiktoks, of teenagers relating to these body confidence issues.

She then starts talking about how she feels like she has to be thin for boys to like her. She expresses that through the lines “If I’m pretty, will you like me?” Following with “They say, “Beauty makes boys happy”. This is a common and such a sad societal norm that I think directly connects to the Fat studies we did towards the end of February. Specifically, the conversation we had in class relating to the Jezebel article about the history of deodorants and how it relates to diets. 

Just like advertisements made women feel like they had to wear deodorant to be attractive, and appeal to sexual partners, advertisements and media have done the same thing for body weight. The advertisers have invented a problem, not being stick-thin, in order to sell products, such as diet meal plans, or waist trainers, but in doing so, they’ve made a profitable income but also damaged our generation and so many to come. Teenagers are reached within the song prom queen, but people of all ages are so concerned with being thin in order to attract a partner, when in reality, by feeding into this, we are letting the advertisers win and profit.

Trifilio closes out the song talking about how she is starving herself and the final lines read “They say beauty is pain, you’ll only be happy if you look a certain way. I wanna be ok. I wanna be ok”. Trifilio wants to be comfortable in her own skin so badly, but because society tells her she must look a certain way, she is unsatisfied.

Lili, Trifilio. “Beach Bunny- Prom Queen (Official Video).” Youtube, Beach Bunny, December 31, 2018, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dc6SSu5pnHw.

Kot, Greg. “Meet Chicago’s Newest Rising Band Beach Bunny.” Chicago Tribune, 5 Feb. 2020, https://www.chicagotribune.com/entertainment/music/greg-kot/ct-ent-beach-bunny-0209-20200206-te2hfolpy5hxtaa3cei3st7gru-story.html.

    Book Review: Legalizing Sex: Sexual Minorities, AIDS, and Citizenship in India 

  

“Legalizing sex” by Chaitanya  Lakkimsetti reflects the everyday struggle, difficulties, and discrimination faced by the Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender Queer Kothi Hijara (LGBTQKHI) Community, on the social, political, and economic level in India. It presents the conservative, discriminative and unwelcoming culture of the LGBTQKHI community in India. Lakkimsetti introduces a new term “LGBTQKHI “instead of the renowned term “LGBTQ” where she includes men who have sex with men, the Kothi, and the hijra (MSMKHI), marginalized sex workers neglected by the government. Lakkimsetti effectively portrays the reality and the constant struggles of the transgender, sex workers, and the gay community in fighting for their rights and class in society. 

Lakkimsetti questions the ghettoization of sexual minorities in India. She questions the position of sexual minorities in society by presenting the everyday struggles of the sexual minorities. She collaborates with the LGBTQKHI community, several organizations, and the government to promote equal protection, control the pandemic, and fight for the rights of the marginalized sexual minorities. She reflects on the unsupportive government, its sardonic anti-homophobic laws, and a discriminative society in marginalization and stigmatization of the LGBTQKHI community. Her research and surveys around various parts of India such as New Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata, and Chennai gather the data on sexual minorities that reflects the reality of the discrimination in civil, political, social, and economic rights of LTBTQKHI people in India.  

She also reflects on the boorish nature of the government and how the pandemic shifted the position of sexual minorities in India. Sexual minorities once discriminated against and marginalized by the Indian government come to attention as “high risk “groups to combat HIV/AIDS to create an effective response in the mid-1980s. This book reflects on how unsupportive government, homophobic laws, and discriminative society have led to several social, political, and economic barriers to sexual minorities. Such barriers have left them with no choice but to fight for social, political, and basic civil and political rights demanded by the state government of India. It reflects the heterosexist perspective of society as demands and protests by the sexual minorities for their right results in shock to the government with how previously stigmatized and marginalized groups could stand up for themself and make demands.  

Chaitanya Lakkimsetti is a professor specializing in gender, sexuality, law, and citizenship. She is renowned for her studies in sexual and gender inequalities in a global context using transnational and intersectional approaches. Her expertise in the field of gender inequality has contributed to her book “Legalizing sex” where she successfully addresses the demand for political and legal change by the gender minorities in India. Her wider extended research on the sexual minorities in contemporary India has highlighted the contemporary struggle for social and political justice in relation to the anti-sodomy. She provides a social and political approach to ending the injustice and suppression of sexual minorities legally.  

The first chapter reflects on how sexual minorities are drawn into the category of “high-risk group” to develop a strategic approach to control the HIV/ AIDS pandemic. After the first detection of HIV/AIDS on sexual minorities, they are taken into serious consideration as a threat, blamed, hatred, and even punishment. The same marginalized group is later given a leadership position in combating the pandemic by the Indian government. The second chapter – “Challenging bare life” emphasizes abuse and incessant violence especially arbitrary police violence supported by the criminal laws against sexual minorities. It presents the ways in which sexual minorities negotiate for accountability and redirects the government’s attention towards the protection of the rights of marginalized groups.  

Chapter 3 “Empowered Criminals” focuses on the mechanism of resistance as a means for negotiations with the Government regarding the HIV/AIDS pandemic. It addresses the success of sexual minorities as they become able to gain the support of several HIV/AIDS organizations and from the federal state ministry of health. This chapter elaborates on legal acts as important implications for the rights of the sexually marginalized group. Lakkimsetti successfully scrutinizes the everyday policing of the non-generated class and emphasizes the struggles of gay groups and transgender/ Hijara focusing on two judgments. Those two judgments include the Indian supreme court, the Koushal that declared section 377 constitutional, and NALSA(National legal services agency) that granted rights to transgender people. The closing chapter “Interconnected rights” presents the need for cooperation and active participation among the sexually marginalized groups for the transformation of goals of sexual minorities with a focus on a welfare discourse. It includes the success of the sexual minorities who have been protesting against section 377 for two decades and finally supreme court of India makes it unconstitutional in September 2018.  

One of the greatest strengths of this book is that it successfully presents the reality of the constant struggles and fights for legal change by the sexual minorities in India. Through her experiments, research, interviews, and collaboration with several organizations is able to reflect on several homophobic laws, discrimination, and homophobic society resulting in discrimination, unfairness, and harassment of sexual minorities not only in India but in the entire world. She mostly emphasizes the homophobic laws in chapter two with how Such laws freely consigned sexual minorities to death by depriving resources and made it extremely harder for the sexual minorities to stand up for their right and place. She portrayed that such violence reveals the internal contradictions in the Indian government, the cusp of the juridical and biopower. She not only includes the difficulties and the suffocation of sexual minorities but also points out some success and positive changes that took place after the mid-1980s after the HIV/AIDS pandemic, a global issue. For example, in chapter one, she includes the repeal of section 377 in 2009, which marks a significant history for sexual minorities as a victory in a legal battle for their social, political, and economic rights.  

Despite some positive changes and success, she presents the reality of how the homophobic perspective of society remained the same, and they are still marginalized and stigmatized in today’s modern world. Although the author effectively communicates the struggle and reality and their oppression of LGBTQKHI people, it does not provide a fully comprehensive account of minorities such as lesbians and bisexual people. She emphasizes more on the Gay, transgender, hijra leaving behind bisexuals and lesbian community. Such has left a small room with not much understanding of the reality of bisexual and lesbian people and their struggle and class in society. It would be better if she had emphasized including all the sexual minorities in the category of the LGBTQKHI community and not just Gay, transgender, and sex workers. 

Overall, its intersectional nature provides the deep root stigma, discrimination, and struggles associated with the marginalized sections. The author does an excellent job as she helps us understand how activism can influence and change the different political discourses and the dominant politics in bringing positive legal change. She emphasizes how active cooperation, active participation, and fighting for a change play a vital role in achieving a goal. The book successfully presents the existence of discriminatory and biased laws against sexual minorities and encourages its views to thrive for a change and fight for rights and equality. I would highly recommend anyone interested in the field of sexuality read this book. 

Reference:

Legalizing Sex: Sexual Minorities, AIDS, and Citizenship in India, Chaitanya  Lakkimsetti , 2020

Book Review: Trans Medicine by Stef M. Shuster

Transgender and non-binary issues are beginning to come to the forefront of today’s world and access to medical care is one of the most important and nuanced matters for many transgender individuals. Adequate access to transitional surgery and hormones for those who want it is crucial to garnering equality and a comfortable life for gender minorities. While certain aspects of transgender care has improved and changed over the past century, there are still many complex issues that need to be addressed if transgender people are to have full bodily autonomy and access to adequate care. In their book, Trans Medicine, Stef M. Shuster discusses how transgender medical care has evolved from its beginnings in the early 1900’s to the more contemporary issues that the transgender population are dealing with today.

Continue reading “Book Review: Trans Medicine by Stef M. Shuster”

Book Review – Bodyminds Reimagined by Sami Schalk

Ondessa Kiliru-Liontree

Black literature is often criticized more heavily and held to a higher standard than the literature of other races. The lack of historical Black narratives has left many Black writers focused on constructing non-fictional literature and realistic portrayals to rewrite history and break down racist ideologies. Non-fiction has always and will continue to have a place in society, however, much can be learned and expressed through speculative fiction. Bodyminds Reimagined investigates Black speculative fiction as a necessary avenue to understand the implications of the intersectionality of (dis)ability, race, and gender. However, many Black authors criticize this hybrid genre and accuse other Black writers of betraying their mission. The question then arises, does Black speculative fiction have a place in Black literature and provide alternative modes for understanding oppression?

Continue reading “Book Review – Bodyminds Reimagined by Sami Schalk”

The Danger In The Silence

TRIGGER WARNING: THIS POST CONTAINS DISCUSSION OF TRANSPHOBIA & VIOLENT ACTS

Silence is a powerful thing, for its absence leaves space for endless interpretations. As a social species, when us humans are faced with the choice between silence and noise, we often find ourselves mute. We tend to prefer the easiest option, the one that leaves us feeling most safe and secure in the welcoming arms of the status quo. However, in recent years, silence has lost its false sense of security, as we have become more aware of the ways in which oppression so frequently masquerades as silence. This is because silence at the expense of those not given a voice is not neutrality, but complicity- and thus is the crime of Silence of The Lambs.

The irony of this early 90’s psychological thriller is that its heavily-praised dialogue is also its greatest downfall. It is obvious early on in the film that every detail has been meticulously crafted to create a gothic aura of simultaneous beauty and repulsion. This is particularly evident in the delivery of its metaphor-heavy lines and narrative motifs surrounding bodily transformation, forbidden attraction, and literal disguise. Everything about the film, from its gloomy scenery to the distinctive voices of the characters themselves, is presented with a sort of melodramatic flare that is actually most revealing of the screenwriters’ confidence in their ability to take on a theatrically camp approach to the horror genre. However, what could have been an artistic masterpiece instead became an arrogant overuse of problematic cliches when the writers failed to give their gender-ambiguous villain the same level of careful consideration as the cismale villain, Hannibal Lector. 

For anyone not familiar with “Silence of The Lambs,” it tells the story of a young cisfemale FBI recruit, Clarisse, who is instructed to enlist the help of captured serial killer and cannibal, Hannibal Lector, to try to catch an active serial killer, nicknamed “Buffalo Bill.” The reasoning behind this strange plan of attack is that Buffalo Bill has recently kidnapped a high-profile senator’s daughter- meaning that the FBI have now become so desperate to catch the killer and save the girl that they are left with no choice but to ask Hannibal Lector (a genius psychiatrist prior to his imprisonment), for his insight in creating a psychological profile of the killer in order to uncover his whereabouts and identity. 

At the beginning of the story, all the FBI knows is that this active serial killer has been removing large chunks of skin off of ciswomen’s bodies, and dumping their naked corpses in various locations. Lector discerns that the killer’s goal must be to create a patchwork bodysuit out of the skin he has collected, which is why he has chosen to exclusively kidnap and murder plus-size women. Aside from the problematic way in which the cis-male investigators discuss these women in regards to their size, this plot line could have been successful on its own. However, instead of continuing with their established theme of detail-heavy dialogue and carefully considered backstories, the writers chose the easiest and most problematic motive possible for Buffalo Bill: he is confused about his gender identity, and thinks that he must be “a transexual.”

Hannibal Lector & Clarisse discussing the profile for the active killer

The movie does make a point of having Clarisse say, “there’s no correlation in literature between transexuals and violence. Transexuals are very passive,” to which Hannibal clarifies that Buffalo Bill was not actually a transexual, he only thought he was because he hated his own identity. However, between the cryssalized moths that the killer hides in his victim’s bodies to the confidence he appears to exude while dancing in front of a mirror “tucked” in a woman’s robe and makeup, the writers seem to have no problem portraying all of the stereotypes that they clearly associated with transgender women. This, plus the lack of any character development indicating that Buffalo Bill was actually wrong in his newfound gender identity- and this initial conversation serving as the only reminder that Buffalo Bill was not in fact transgender- suggests that the writer’s decision to make this villain “not really transgender” was actually more of an afterthought to avoid accusations of transphobia, rather than another detail that actually benefited the narrative somehow. It was as if they thought they could undo all of the inevitable harm this character would bring towards transwomen, simply by adding a quick randomply placed line about the character not actually being transgender.

Buffalo Bill dancing & putting on makeup while his victim tries to use his pet dog to escape

This is exactly where the silence in “Silence of The Lambs” becomes deadly. The  writers find themselves unable to fully commit to either interpretation of Bill’s gender identity- meaning that the visuals of Buffalo Bill dancing naked create far deeper impressions in the audience’s mind than the single line spoken about Bill’s identity crisis. It is clear that writers did not give Buffalo Bill’s character near as much thought as Hannibal Lector’s character or even the movie’s minor characters, which still manage to contribute to the overall narrative. As Christopher Schultz states, the “narrative suffers from an error of omission rather than intent.” The effect is that most viewers interpret Buffalo Bill to be a transwoman, and this presentation confirms the problematic trope in the film industry that transwomen are men disguised as women for the purpose of committing violent acts towards women. This is further emphasized not only by the murders that Buffalo Bill commits, but also by the literal suit made of women’s flesh that he wears. 

Though the writers may have added the “Buffalo Bill is not actually trans” detail as an afterthought to avoid accusations of transphobia, this undermining of the gender a person chooses to present is actually incredibly harmful as well. This is because the other conservative argument against transgender people is that they aren’t actualy trans, they’re just confused- or even worse, that people who identify as transgender only do so because of some sort of childhood trauma that they have yet to deal with. In this way, the choice to invite the discussion of gender identity into this element of the narrative at all was a poor one, as its execution is harmless regardless of the way that the audience understands Buffalo Bill’s gender.

Sister Cindy’s Shaming: Funny or Harmful?

Cindy Smock, or “Sister Cindy” as she calls herself, is an Evangelical campus preacher turned Tik Tok user. She first gained attention when college students posted clips of her speeches on Tik Tok, inspiring her to make her own account. She currently has over 370,000 followers, and #sistercindy has over 194 million views (Fowler). The main subject of her Tik Tok content is encouraging college students, particularly women, to turn to Christianity and be a “ho no mo.” In many of the videos she uploads, she welcomes viewers to “Sister Cindy’s Slut-Shaming Show.” While many of Sister Cindy’s followers regard her as a comical figure, the shock factor she employs in her preaching through homophobic and misogynistic comments is harmful. 

Through a glance at Sister Cindy’s Tik Tok account, it is evident that her content is misogynistic and demeaning towards women. In nearly every video she uploads, she casually uses the words “slut,” “hoe,” or “thot,” as insults towards women. For example, when visiting college campuses, she often changes the names of the universities to incorporate the word “slut.” At the Louisiana State University campus, she renamed the institution, “Louisiana Slut University.” By insinuating that college students are sluts, Sister Cindy is weaponizing the word to be used against women and normalizing the slut-shaming that is common in society, particularly on college campuses. However, Sister Cindy is proud of her slut-shaming tendencies and makes it a common theme in her posts. In a different post filmed by a college student, she exclaims, “You are princesses made in the image of God. Yet, you’ve traded your crown to be a cock-sucker.” This is quite the opposite of sex positivity and guilts women into practicing abstinence. Sister Cindy, or anyone for that matter, should never use guilt tactics to influence other people’s lives. Furthermore, why is this hateful comment only directed towards “princesses,” or women? Why is it that women should feel guilty for engaging in consensual oral sex and men should not? Last I checked, oral sex is an act requiring at least two people. 

Another example of sexism in her uploads is found in a Tik Tok filmed by a student at the University of Florida. In this clip, Sister Cindy shouts, “Men, if you buy her one margarita, she will spread her legs.” This statement is incredibly insulting towards women. Not only does it perpetuate the view that women are sexual objects, but it also furthers the entitled belief held by some men that women are sexually indebted to them after buying them a drink. In addition, this comment is heteronormative and leads straight men to assume that all women are attracted to them and want to have sex with them, which is simply not the case. Finally, similar harmful views were expressed in a Tik Tok clip of Sister Cindy telling a college student that she is “an accessory to the rape crime on campus” because she is causing boys to get their “passions stirred up” (Fowler). This belief is so inherently false, that it should not require any explanation. The blatant disregard for holding men accountable in situations of sexual assault is destructive to anyone who views this post. It reminds me of the common argument in society that someone is “asking for it” based on the clothes they are wearing. Placing blame and guilt upon women seems to be a common theme in the media posted by Sister Cindy. Again, why is it that sexual assault victims should feel guilty for something that is out of their control and not their fault? 

If you thought her content could not get any worse, we have not even analyzed the blatant display of homophobia present in countless Tik Toks. For example, in one clip while preaching to college students, she orders, “Don’t do it. Don’t kiss a girl and like it.” In defiance of her hate speech, two women make their way through the crowd to kiss in front of Sister Cindy’s platform. Apparently, the act of two women kissing is a difficult sight for Sister Cindy, because she has to cover her eyes. In a second Tik Tok, Sister Cindy, with no shame, shouts to a young man walking past her, “Are you a homo? You kinda act a little effeminate there. You need to repent!” There are so many problems with this statement, it is a challenge to decide what to unpack first. To begin, a straight, cisgender person should never use the term “homo” to describe someone of the LGBTQ+ community. Second, Sister Cindy is reinforcing the societal gender expectations that men cannot be feminine and women cannot be masculine. And if that is the case, then that person must be a member of the LGBTQ+ community. Finally, telling someone that they need to repent because of their sexuality, something that is out of their control, is unacceptable. Religion should never be manipulated to discriminate against groups of people. People’s sex lives and sexuality are an intimate part of their lives and should never be a subject of criticism. Therefore, someone who posts homophobic content, like Sister Cindy, should not have a platform to project those hateful beliefs. 

To reflect, one’s values and beliefs should never be used as a weapon or a way of guilting others into adopting those practices. While Sister Cindy’s intention may be to educate college students, her comments are misogynistic, heteronormative, homophobic, and may even be classified as hate speech. Sister Cindy even admits that she expects to be removed from social media for her problematic comments (Fowler). If that is the case, what is Tik Tok waiting for?

Works Cited

Fowler, Kate. “Who is Sister Cindy? Evangelist Christian Preacher Turned Tik Tok Star.” Newsweek, 6 June 2021, https://www.newsweek.com/who-sister-cindy-evangelist-preacher-tiktok-star-1597651. 

I love this post and how it highlights the way that people will oftentimes use comedy to hide rhetoric that is actually very harmful. Although Sister Cindy is oftentimes funny, she’s still promoting a toxic culture that prevents women from embracing their sexuality. This is a super important topic and I’m glad that you’re shedding light on it!

Can Society Really Determine Perceived Genders?

Mastermind magazine produced this image of Willow and Jaden Smith in the 2019 fall issue. Mastermind magazine releases bi-annually and focuses on current events and attitudes of the younger generations. It is a space to be creative and display a range of talents and people. The intended audience ranges from young adults to millennials. This exclusive magazine was founded in 2017 and is available for purchase online and paperback. They chose to include Willow and Jaden in the 2019 issue because of their impact on gender expression, unique styles, and confidence as individuals. Willow and Jaden both actively participate and advocate within queer spaces. They also have developed into queer fashion, music, and film symbols. Willow and Jaden reinforce that beauty, individuality, and confidence does not have to fit into the narrow boundaries of what society portrays as normal and abnormal. As young, black, queer adults, Willow and Jaden represent the positive ways non-conforming people can live in our nation. As the younger generations become more accepting and educated on topics of gender and sexuality, we come to realize that beauty and gender have no particular features, shape, or color, and Willow and Jaden depict this with no remorse. The photograph from the magazine presents a symmetric reflection of Willow and Jaden gazing upward, hands identically pressed to their cheeks. They are challenging this notion of physical difference between men and women. If one did not know the Smith siblings prior, would the gendered differences be obvious? I believe this is the question they are forcing the audience to reconcile with and reflect on. This photograph examines the viewer’s bias and understanding of how gender functions as invented categorizations to divide people. 

Although intersectionality of gender and race play into the lives of Willow and Jaden, it does not consume this photograph. As a person of color, perhaps I brush over the fact of their blackness when gazing at the photograph, or perhaps it was looking for an intentional gender-directed reaction. However, I want to acknowledge the intersectionality in this photo as another product of social construction that produces real consequences. Willow and Jaden also come from a previously wealthy family which contributes to their success and ability to be openly unique individuals. Intersectionality plays an important role when discussing aspects of gender and sexuality because it often influences and dedicates the way we interact with it.

Willow and Jaden break down the gender norms and stereotypes associated with the binary in the photograph. As Jonathan Van Ness explains in his Netflix special, Can We Say Bye-Bye to the Gender Binary, gender is performed and enforced in society. This can be seen through the segregation of colors inflicted on people in society. Jaden projects a commonly feminine look with his pink eyebrows and hair. In the context of public expectation and presentation, blue is typically for boys, and pink is for girls. Pink has not always been associated with femininity. Pink was more of a boy’s color, if a gendered color at all, in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. People dressing in gendered clothes is a relatively new invention. Jaden proves in this photograph that people can dress, alter, and perform gender in any way they choose. It also connects deeper to the ideas of how the binary should project and display itself. Men are supposed to be tough and masculine whereas women are soft and emotional. Jaden and Willow’s gazes are identical with soft, innocent-like features. Neither of them is visibly wearing makeup, contributing to the vulnerable look. They both wear rings in the photo, revealing that jewelry does not belong to a singular gender. Willow does have earrings and a nose piercing, however, this just means that every individual is different. It is celebrating diversity, preferences, and choices between human beings. Willow Smith wears a similar short hairstyle to Jaden further breaking down the ideas of what is supposed to be masculine. Society loves to associate female beauty with hair, but Willow shows that beauty exists beyond long this. As Lorber explains, “​​For the individual, gender construction starts with an assignment to a sex category on the basis of what the genitalia look like at birth… A sex category becomes a gender status through naming, dress, and the use of other gender markers” (Labor 55). Gender is not determined by biological or psychological differences. There are no features that accurately reproduce the binary, but instead, it is a construction of our surroundings, interactions, media depictions, and upbringing. This calls to question the title of this photograph. If their names were not written across the page, neatly drawn into their boxes, would it be obvious which image was Jaden and which one was Willow? In a way, it feels as though the magazine wants to be progressive, but not to the extent of complete freedom. If the magazine did reject all gender norms, it would not have placed the lettering where it did. Alternatively, it could simply be educating viewers who are unfamiliar with the Smith siblings. There are multiple ways to interpret the purpose and placement of the title. 

Willow and Jaden Smith have become icons of the younger generation for their confidence, identity expression, and talent. Mastermind magazine exhibits Willow and Jaden’s beauty and originality in this edition. The photograph calls to question our notions of gender and forces us to reconcile with our constructed worldview. The upcoming generations are more and more open to diverse gender expressions, giving me hope that many adolescents looked to this photograph as inspiration, not with hostility. 

Feminist Mixtape: The Man by Taylor Swift

Taylor Swift’s pop anthem, “The Man,” is a catchy, upbeat song aiming to address the inequality between how female artists and male artists are treated and talked about. With a driving bass line, fun and catchy melody, and easy to understand lyrics, this song is able to reach audiences young and old alike. In her song, Swift discusses how every aspect of her personality, looks, actions, and decisions would be seen in a different way if she were a man. In our society there is a double standard between what is acceptable for men to do and for women to do. 

The line “They’d say I played the field before I found someone to commit to” addresses how when a woman cycles through multiple relationships before settling down with “the one,” she is judged differently than a man would be even though it is very common for both men and women to have many relationships. Swift changes this negative narrative by stating “And that would be okay for me to do” confirming to her audience that having multiple partners in life is normal and not something to be ashamed of.

Later in the song, Swift says “When everyone believes ya/ What’s that like?” This line is referring to the #MeToo movement and how women that come forward about sexual assualt, harrassment, and rape are most often doubted and questioned. Victim blaming is present in our society and is disproportionately against women more than men. 

The final line that stood out to me when listening to this song was “What I was wearing, if I was rude/ Could all be separated from my good ideas and power moves.” Women’s clothing is all too often equated with their success and the quality of their work. Instead of focusing on what women actually have to say or what their ideas are, the focus is on what she is wearing. Specifically, when female artists, actresses, or celebrities are interviewed the topic is almost always about what they are wearing, or how they look. In contrast, men are typically interviewed on what their acting experience was like, or what the song is about, for example. 

I connected this song to the reading by Lorber called “The Social Construction of Gender.” In the reading she argues that “it does not matter what men or women actually do; it does not matter if they do the same exact thing, the social institution of gender insists only that what they do is perceived as different” (Lorber 58). In “The Man,” Taylor is arguing that if she did not change anything about her actions but existed as a man, she would be perceived differently by society and treated better. Simply because we as a society perceive some actions to be more acceptable when done by a certain gender, it has become unacceptable to cross those made-up gender barriers. The issue is that there is no rhyme or reason for why we have these expectations for what different genders can or cannot do. The idea that what a woman is wearing determines her worth or success or how many partners a woman has had determines her value is a baseless belief that society has created. Taylor Swift is one of, if not the, biggest artist currently. She has an enormous platform and the ability to create change with the message she shares through her artistry and voice. This song is an attempt to address the disparities between how female and male artists are treated and spark discussion on how we can create change. Her feminism is not perfect and she can do a lot more to include intersectionality in her feminism and to use her priviledge uplift marginalized voices.

Theory of Praxis Assignment

After taking GSS 101, a theme that stood out to me was understanding gender as a social construct. Growing up I had a very limited mindset about gender and sexuality and accepted many of the ideas as they were presented to me. However, over the years I have understood more about the complexities and many identities within gender and sexuality. With this in mind, it led to me thinking about how I can use these ideas to influence an art piece for campus to spread awareness and normalize identities that aren’t ‘cis-gender heterosexual’. While there are already many sculptures, especially of bodies, around campus I wanted to propose a new sculpture of a body that implements the ideas of the diversity of gender identities and sexual orientations. My piece is inspired by the metal sculpture on campus by Jaume Plensa, titled Waves III. This piece is made up of letters from all different languages to signify unity and diversity. It is based upon cultural identity and the way that one individual holds a connection to a greater culture.

My idea is to create a sculpture on Davidson’s campus that intersects the ideas of gender as socially constructed as well as show the variety of identities among individuals. The sculpture would be made out of glass and would depict a human form, without genitalia, to represent an individual not tied to a gender. The position of the body would be arranged so that the arms were extended outward to signify openness of the individual. The idea is to show the complexities of humans and the many identities, both genders and sexual orientations that exist. The form of the body would be composed of words carved into the glass form of sexual identities, such as: “queer, bisexual, lesbian” and words associated with gender identities: “she, they, him, non-binary, trans.” And instead of the exterior of the form being perfectly smooth, shards of glass would poke out in all different directions to create an ambiguous body shape.The words would be repeated all over and done in different fonts to completely cover the entire form. The sculpture would symbolize the many identities that don’t receive recognition in a heteronormative society. This sculpture would work towards normalizing those identities that are not cis-gender heterosexuals, but also serve as a reminder of the hardships of LGTBQ+ individuals. The title of this piece would be “Complexities of Intersectionality” and would capture the chaotic and diverse nature of the gender and sexuality spectrum. While this sculpture wouldn’t explicitly touch upon identities within class and race that also affect an individuals experience, this would be the starting point to begin examining identities and start the conversation about other impacts on an individuals’ experience.

References:

https://www.davidsoncollegeartgalleries.org/uncategorized/seen-on-campus-jaume-plensas-waves-iii/

Theory To Praxis: Reconstructing Bathroom Labels at Davidson College

Davidson College is dedicated to “improv[ing] the Davidson campus climate for our transgender, genderqueer, and gender-variant students, faculty, staff, community members, and alumni” (LGBTQIA + resources, Davidson). However, much work still needs to be done to provide basic needs, such as comfortable bathroom stall usage, to the increasingly diverse student body. 

A Gender Inclusive Restroom Map can be found on the school’s website showing the gender-inclusive restroom options for the members and community of Davidson. At first glance, it appears that the school provides a wide range of gender-inclusive restroom options. After analyzing the map, all options are single-occupant restrooms which single out people who do not identify as cisgender. A few single-occupant restrooms on campus are still designated as either “male” or “female”. Shockingly, many places on campus designed to be “safe” places for students like Residence Halls (Akers, Knox, etc) and Student Life Buildings (Wildcat Den, Summit Coffee on Campus, etc) include no options for people in the LGBTQIA community who do not identify themselves as male or female. Academic buildings at Davidson College that do have single-occupant stalls tend to have them on the basement floor level. Students who need bathrooms not labeling them as “male” or “female” have a hard time accessing stalls quickly. 

It is evident that Davidson has a long way to go in creating a community that “welcomes and fosters mutual respect among all campus members” (LGBTQIA + resources, Davidson). I believe the best way to achieve this goal is by reconstructing bathroom labeling in restrooms at Davidson College. However, it is important to note that creating a safe bathroom environment that nurtures everyone’s needs will be a challenge and a long-term plan. To start, Davidson College should redesign the bathroom signs outside the door. Rather than having your typical ‘male’ and ‘female’ doll symbol, there should be a mixture of both figures where half is wearing a skirt and half is wearing pants. The same symbol should be used in all bathroom signs on campus. Changing the picture on a sign seems like a minor change, but is a big step towards creating a positive climate and raising awareness about gender diversity on campus. Along with labeling, the single-use bathroom should be changed from its traditional “unisex bathroom” title to “community bathroom.” Doing this, single-use bathrooms are rooted to meet everyone’s needs and eliminate the pressure of having to identify as ‘one sex’ as the term ‘unisex’ emphasizes. Using the term ‘community’ accounts for everyone on campus and eliminates gender and identity labeling. 

In the long run, Davidson can create a plan to create multi and single-community bathrooms on every floor starting in academic and residential buildings to provide options for everyone at Davidson and make basic tasks, like using the bathroom, accessible to all. Reconstructing the bathroom signs and labels is only the beginning. 

____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

 LGBTQIA+ resources. Davidson. (n.d.). https://www.davidson.edu/offices-and-services/diversity-and-inclusion/lgbtqia-resources. 

Theory to Praxis: Reimagining Greek Life at Davidson

As a school that was founded by white genteel slave owners and remained segregated until the 60s and all-male until the 70s, Davidson has a long history of elitism. Unfortunately, the college has done a poor job of repealing exclusive traditions and making the school as welcoming and safe as possible to people of all walks of life. One particularly glaring area of inequality is the social structure of Greek life on campus.

There are many things wrong with the status of Greek life at Davidson. Racial disparities are perhaps the most visible problem. My friend Michaela Gibbons is working on a project called Stories Yet To Be Told, conducting research on the history of Patterson Court Council (PCC) – the governing body of Greek life at Davidson. We have had many conversations about PCC this semester, and a lot of them have centered around PCC’s dominating whiteness. Kimberlé Crenshaw’s theory of intersectionality and Lorde’s “There are No Hierarchies of Oppression” (1983) emphasize that racial equality (and other equalities) are necessary to realize gender equality. All of the nine predominantly white PCC organizations have individual houses on campus, while the six PCC organizations for students of color must share space at the BSC (Black Student Coalition) house. This is clearly a problem for feminism, although solutions are somewhat difficult to propose. In this case, the simplest method to reduce white special power on campus may be to disband PCC or consolidate the predominantly white organizations.

Aside from racial inequality, another issue with Greek life at Davidson is its relationship to the gender binary. As a collection of organizations with membership based on male or female gender identification, PCC reinforces ideas that there are only two genders, which is clearly false when one understands Lorber’s perspective that gender is constructed. Since humans have made up the concept of gender, there is no reason to believe in all-or-nothing gender rules. And yet, PCC membership is exclusive to men and women. (Turner House, one of the eating houses, does allow anyone who is not a straight cis male to join, but this introduces the problematic circumstance of requiring people to out themselves). Furthermore, the predominance of “bristerhoods” (fraternity-eating house mixers) perpetuates heteronormativity. Requiring all PCC organizations to be open to all genders would be the easiest solution to make Davidson more feminist, although that would require converting some fraternal organizations to eating houses.

A final, and particularly glaring problem with PCC at Davidson is rape culture. We briefly talked in class about how society conditions males to violate and disrespect female bodies, and there is a prevailing willingness to let this slide. Society reinforces hegemonic sexual scripts, an orgasm gap, and poor understandings of consent, all of which lead to unequal sexual citizenship. This means that women have less power than men to make the choice to have sex. This is obviously problematic for feminism. At Davidson, PCC hopelessly perpetuates rape culture. For liability reasons, the school has strict rules about alcohol for parties at PCC houses. Because PCC organizations are too lazy or busy to plan detailed weekly parties and want to avoid strict scrutiny from the school, weekly parties are predominantly hosted at Armfield, the only residential space on campus where open consumption is permitted. Currently, Armfield apartments which host parties are exclusively rented by predominately white men with strong fraternity ties. This leads to constant sexual misconduct and a lack of safety at parties. Once again, it is not simple to find a solution to male ownership of party space at Davidson. However, some viable options would be disbanding PCC, creating more school-sponsored social events, and preventing Armfield apartments from having five male residents.

PCC is rife with inequalities, much of them a byproduct of Davidson’s elitist traditions. Thus, disbanding PCC and ending Greek life at Davidson is probably the most feminist solution. This would introduce a social vacuum for some time, but it couldn’t be any worse that the forced quarantine of the 2020-21 academic year.

Theory to Praxis: A Program that Teaches GSS Concepts to Parents

Growing up, we are taught by society that gender dictates our roles in society. However, societal pressure is enforced by the people around us, our groups, and our cultures. Using the concepts taught in GSS, parents could raise their children in a healthy, judgment-free space. Also, occupations that work with children should employ the ideas taught in GSS as well. This includes teachers, child psychologists, counselors, pediatricians, coaches, and daycare workers. By employing GSS concepts, children will not be separated into boys and girls during gym class, children will not feel pressured to act a certain way to fit their societal role, and children will not be bullied for being fat if HAES is taught and the BMI index is reconstructed or removed.

I believe the most notable impact would come from parents teaching their children. Thus, I propose that a program or intervention should be created that teaches parents about GSS concepts; this way we can prepare parents to not enforce gender roles and allow their children to grow and to discover themselves and their identities without the influence of social constructs. Deconstructing Society would be a program that focuses on talking about GSS concepts to parents or future parents to provide them with information that will be helpful while they are raising a child. Deconstructing Society will create conversations around heteronormativity, gender roles, and sexuality. The purpose of this program would be to inform parents of the social construction of concepts and to help parents learn these concepts to properly educate their children on similar topics and to provide a healthy environment for their children to thrive.

However, Deconstructing Society could also be used to reach other audiences. Although aiding parents with GSS concepts would help parents provide a judgment-free zone for their children, Deconstructing Society could be used in colleges to discuss topics, such as rape culture, hookup culture, and similar topics discussed with parents. This program’s focus would be with parents. There are certain occupations available that could employ this program. For example, a family therapist could use this program to inform parents on how they can be supportive towards their gay child. Ultimately, Deconstructing Society would help parents create a safe and healthy environment for their children to thrive without being restricted by societal views due to heteronormativity and gender roles.

Theory to Praxis: Ending Child Abuse and Building Resilient Families

Written by Anna Newman

Overview:

I will be implementing my knowledge of gender and sexuality studies, specifically on women’s rights, feminism, and rape culture, to plan a civic engagement experience over the summer. Through a collaboration with SAFEchild in Raleigh, North Carolina and Strong Girls United, the goal of the project will be to educate children on noticing and responding to child abuse appropriately before it escalates, while also learning more about the implications that domestic violence has on parenting.  

About the Partners: 

SAFEchild is a non-profit advocacy center that ensures children have a safe living environment, free from abuse. SAFEchild empowers the children and their families by providing counseling services and childcare. One important aspect of SAFEchild is a program they run called “Funny Tummy Feelings” which is a program that educates first-graders about noticing and appropriately handling child abuse when they see it or are subject to it. Funny Tummy Feelings has been implemented in the Wake County public school curriculum for first graders; however, the goal of this project is to expand Funny Tummy Feelings to the Strong Girls United program. 

Strong Girls United is a mentorship program for young girls which pairs collegiate athletes with elementary school girls and the groups meet to discuss confidence building, mental health, and new sports skills. I believe that Funny Tummy Feelings could also be a beneficial addition to the Strong Girls United curriculum. Unfortunately, rape and sexual abuse are pervasive parts of society, but one way to combat this is to educate about rape culture and the ways you can stand up to it and notice it before it escalates.

Connections to GSS:

This project will be focusing on providing children and mothers the skills needed to build confidence in response to child abuse and domestic violence. Confidence and mental resiliency begin at a young age, and if we can empower elementary school girls, we can empower an entire generation to put an end to domestic violence and child abuse. My research would overlap with several articles that we studied in class about feminism. In the article titled Committee on the Status of Women in India, the author discusses how marriage can become a “hindrance for women seeking career advancement” which demonstrates that a marriage with power imbalances is the basis for domestic violence and abuse of power. Betty Friedan talks in the Feminine Mystique that in the 1970’s, rape was not considered a penalty. Friedan also discusses the topic of women not being fulfilled simply by staying in the house, making beds, washing dishes, and cooking for the family, which relates to the lack of liberties that the woman has within a marriage. These hindrances that married women face are the basis for domestic violence and patriarchy. One notable quote from the Feminine Mystique is “when she stopped conforming to the conventional picture of femininity, she finally began to enjoy being a woman” (279). When women stop allowing their husbands to control and abuse them, they enjoyed being women. Additionally, bell hooks’ work called Feminism is for Everybody encourages the notion that equality is the goal of feminism, and the goal is not to subvert men. In relation to my book review on the book titled Medical Bondage, white male physicians were abusing enslaved women’s bodies by taking advantage of their position of power and conducting unsolicited gynecological research and painful experiments. The consequences of these experiments were destructive, both physically and mentally, for these women. The enslaved women’s experiences with the gynecological experiments parallel the domestic violence that women today face in abusive relationships. Abuse within a relationship affects the way a mother can parent a child, which demonstrates the vicious cycle of domestic violence at a young age starting with a lack of self-confidence, then getting wrapped up in abusive relationships, and to then raise kids in an environment filled with abuse and neglect. So, my goal for this project is to confront and help children notice domestic violence at a young age so that they can grow up to be confident people in healthy relationships. After doing an analysis on the film Moonlight in my writing class, it was brought to my attention that some abusive family dynamics are avoidable, while others are out of one’s control. In Moonlight, a young boy by the name of Chiron was being raised in an abusive and neglectful household because his mother was involved with dangerous drugs and did not have time for her child; however, the opportunities available for the mother to parent her child were lacking. While I’m doing my research, l will be sure to look at the context of the situation (what resources are available to the family?) versus judging the situation and the parenting choices. 

Limitations:

The limitation of this project is that Strong Girls United does not mention anything about transgender children, non-binary children, or gender-nonconforming children. This is a research question that l will be asking the SGU executive board in hopes that something is done to make the organization more inclusive of children of all gender identities. Part of feminism is creating equity across the genders, so this feminist project is aimed at creating equity for boys, girls, and gender non-conforming children. Overall, the goal of this project is to provide a form of mentorship for children seeking assistance with confidence, mental health training, and skills needed to confront abuse if they ever need to use them. 

Implementation of Plan: 

A few summers ago, my mom and l volunteered at SAFEchild and we babysat the children while their mothers were in a counseling meeting. I am hoping to resume my volunteering with SAFEchild by babysitting the children and then shadowing one of the leaders during the counseling meetings. I feel like I would gain another dimension of appreciation for the struggles that these families deal with by listening to the mothers speak. Also, it would be impactful to listen to the women’s stories of domestic abuse within their marriages and how this abuse impacts their ability to mother their children. 

After shadowing a counselor, l would ask one of the leaders/counselors at SAFEchild to be a guest speaker at one of the meetings with Strong Girls United. The counselor can focus on teaching a Funny Tummy Feelings course for the SGU children. The plan is to empower young girls by giving them to skills to notice and respond to child abuse in a confident way. One possibility of furthering my research experience would be to shadow a pediatric physiatrist to learn about the impacts of child abuse, neglect, and domestic violence on youth’s mental health.  

Feminist Mixtape: God is a Woman by Ariana Grande

by Chase Waldner

Ariana Grande Goes Heavy-Handed and Provocative in "God Is a Woman" | GQ

Pop icon Ariana Grande blessed us with a feminist masterpiece titled, “God is a Woman.” The title alone challenged many gendered stereotypes and the lyrics are a wonderful dive into female sexuality. Grande created something equally empowering as it is catchy. She reverses the patriarchal norm of male domination over women with lyrics like, “I’m tellin’ you the way I like it, how I want it,” and “And boy, if you confess, you might get blessed // See if you deserve what comes next.” Here, Grande is expressing the power she has over this man and how she is the one in control; something rare in heterosexual relationships. For most of history men have had all the power. They were the ones who owned property, and that sometimes included women. Nowadays, in the states at least, you can’t own a person but that power dynamic is still a festering pandemic lingering in our society. Women are supposed to be a submissive, pretty face. They are supposed to look good to attract a man and then stay home to raise their children. This translates to the bedroom as well. The expectation for heterosexual sex is male pleasure and fantasy, women are merely the vessel to achieve it. This is where Grande steps in to challenge the sexist norm and flip the script. She sings about female domination and pleasure; about women being the controlling force in both the bedroom and in life. She sings about the power she, along with all other women, have to take their deserved, rivaling spot in the fight for gender equality.