Love, Hope, Strength, Faith: Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure

By: Rhonda Nemri

It was last May of 2015, I signed up to do the Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure. I decided to join because most of my coworkers/friends had joined, and I thought to myself it’s for a good cause. I didn’t know anyone with breast cancer, but I still felt connected to it because cancer had affected my family. My father was diagnosed with bladder cancer in November of 2012, and had lost his battle in June of 2013. So the connection was highly there, as I related this race to the loss of my father from cancer. It was my first 5k for a cancer event. Even though it was an unrelated cancer it still pushed me to participate, and feel the pain those felt fighting breast cancer, and losing to it. 

This year as the Susan G Komen Race for the Cure approached it was different for me. I wanted to join not only because it was for cancer, but because my mother was diagnosed with stage 3 breast cancer in January of 2016, and is currently seeking treatment for it. I don’t share this with many people, but this event has prompted me to share my thoughts.

Signing up for this race I thought to myself I’m going to participate in this and experience it in a different light. I was supposed to meet my coworkers/friends for a pre race photo at our company office the morning of the race, which is only a few blocks away. I was running late, and thought I will just walk to this event alone and wait for them there since I was running a bit behind for the photo.

When I actually got to the event, I noticed so many people there dressed in full support for the cause. Women and even men all dressed in pink, children running around with supportive gear, and different booths set up for free items for supporting.

When I got closer to the main stage, they began their announcements, and upbeat music to get us in preparation for the race/walk. They announced that they would have a survivors parade, which entailed breast cancer survivors walking and cheering with signs that stated Faith, Hope, Strength, and Love. At that moment I felt very connected and tears rushing down my face. I wanted the tears to stop to avoid people staring, but it didn’t work. It was an overwhelming feeling I couldn’t control. After a few minutes I felt this positive vibe, and  then realized how many women and even men suffer with breast cancer. These survivors allowed me to see the strength in these women who have fought with it, but also those who have lost their battle. It did however give me hope and faith.

I’ve connected with these women and they didn’t even know it. I thought about my mother through this all, and remembered how strong she is. She doesn’t have an easy life, but she manages to wake up and get through her day fighting. Something I believe I may not be able to do if I were in her shoes.

I was alone for the most part of the beginning, and wondered if my coworkers/friends should be with me so I wouldn’t cry or break down. But I am glad I had that moment to myself. 

I was doing the 5k run, and most of them signed up for the 10k so I even ran alone. I kept thinking I don’t care about what time I would finish this race, I just wanted to finish it regardless of time. 

The race started at 8 am and run start time began at 8:03 am. As I was running I noticed all the different types of runners. The ones that were survivors, the ones that were running for the cause, and the ones that were running on behalf of those who lost their battle. I was the runner that was running on behalf of my mother who is currently living with this cancer and fighting it each day. It inspired me to keep running.
I passed my first mile, and felt I’m not going to stop. I did eventually stop for a moment to walk, but I kept going. As I was approaching the finish line I noticed those cheering me and the others near me to finish. I sprinted to the finish line and the tears came down. I was again alone and just noticed all those around me celebrating their finish. I was happy and proud for them, even though I didn’t know them. I grabbed my banana and water and sat on the cool grass watching those finishing the race.

When I finally met with my coworkers/friends I was happy to see them and high fived them for finishing the 10k. We took plenty of picture and danced a little. It was beautiful and an experience I won’t forget. I have done plenty of 5k races for different diseases, but this one in particular will always be one I won’t forget. 

Participating in these races allows you to give to the cause, as well as running for those who have fought and/or lost their battle. It actually pushes you to keep going. 

Ever since losing my father to cancer, and watching my mother fighting breast cancer, life has been seen in a different perspective. Cancer is a scary word, and we automatically think of loss. But we must continue to be there and fight with those battling it. Your world may be turned upside down, but eventually you will learn to see the beauty of life and how fragile it is. 

It’s a clichĂŠ thing to say “you never know when it is your last day”, but this is a true statement. I never knew I would lose my father at such a young age, and I never thought my mother would get breast cancer. But it has helped me to want to help those who may have experienced a loss, and going through grief. It isn’t easy to live with so much grief, but it shapes you to be a stronger and better person in such an unfortunate way. 

I’m thankful to know I am not in this alone, and there are many supportive people. I thank them for their existence in my life, they know who they are 😊

Check out the few pics from the event!







Happy International Women’s Day 2013

International Women's Day 2013

International Women’s Day 2013

Happy Women’s International Day! This is an important day for us women!. Each one of you have an ability to make a change, and inspire others. You have a voice, and you can be empowering. Do not let anyone tell you, you can’t be something, or do something, because you are a woman. Show that you are more than a pretty face, or a sexual entity. You are more than this, and you have a wonderful mind to share. I am glad to have read some of the most inspirational posts on WordPress. We have a wonderful opportunity to capture an audience that knows nothing, or a little about feminism, and women’s rights. Remember that even if someone disagrees with what you are saying, and is being irrational when debating with you about women’s issues, or anything else, just know you at least pushed them to think about the topic, and feminism. I dedicate this blog to the women, and mentors in my life that pushed me to be the best that I can be. I am grateful for the opportunities I have been given, even when I had a bit of doubt in myself.

Enjoy your day,

Rhonda Nemri ❤

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I Didn’t Ask For It: A Look At Sexual Harrassment and Rape Culture

By: Rhonda Nemri

Whistling, blowing kisses, grabbing, touching, cat-calling, these are a few of the things that most people don’t realize that it is the same as sexual harassment, or sexual assault. Women from all over the world experience some of these forms of assaults.

This usually isn't the case for a woman's response. But this surely does exists in today's society.

This usually isn’t the case for a woman’s response. But this surely does exists in today’s society.

If not, then the worst case scenario is rape.  As I look at all the possible ways that women have been assaulted, it is apparent that society doesn’t do much about the safety of women. It is always easy to just tell a young girl, or a woman to be careful when she leaves the house, or walking to her car because a man might assault her. You hardly ever hear anyone tell a young boy or a man to not assault or rape women or young girls. Growing up, I always noticed this coming from the opposite sex, and it is something that always gave me anxiety going to public places where men are gathered, and standing together. Even though those men may not have an agenda to harass me, unfortunately it is something that gives me anxiety because it occurs so many times. Being afraid that when I walk passed them they will grab me, speak to me with disrespect, or just keep staring at me as if they were going to do something to me, is not something I want to put on my list of things to do during my day. It doesn’t only happen when women are alone, it happens when there are groups of girls/women as well. I am very sure that I am not the first woman to speak about such topics, but lately I have been noticing a lot more harassment and discussions about rape that lead me to write about this. Hence the current gang rape of a young lady in India. Which sadly enough to say, is not the first time something like this happens. The neglect and abuse these women go through is nothing new, and government officials are not doing much to help women in these countries who suffer from rape, domestic abuse, and honor killings.

It was a few years back when I was first indulged in literature dealing with sexual harassment. As I was reading I came across many instances that I can and cannot relate to, however it did remind me of my own experiences of harassment’s. I do not know anyone that has been raped, but I sure do know a lot of women who fear going into public places because of the potential of being assaulted. There is a possibility that I know someone who has been raped, but that person may have not spoken up about it. Most women who get assaulted in settings such as school, work, or in public hardly ever speak up about such matters.  There is this shame, or disgust feeling that’s left with her, because social norms has taught her to believe that she is disgusting, or she asked for it because of where she was at, or how she was dressed. If she were to get assaulted by her male boss, she may not speak up about it due to the possibility she may be terminated, or not given the opportunities to excel in her career. Therefor if she keeps quiet then she won’t lose her job, and she can get promoted rather than demoted.

Back in 1991 a woman by the name of Anita Hill, went public in the courtrooms describing her experience of sexual harassment.  In 1980 Anita Hill received her Law degree from Yale. “She began her career in private practice in Washington, D.C. Before becoming a law professor, she worked at the U. S. Education Department and Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. In 1989, Hill became the first African-American to be tenured at the University of Oklahoma, College of Law, where she taught contracts and commercial law. She has made presentations to hundreds of business, professional, academic and civic organizations in the United States and abroad” (The Leigh Bureau).

Anita F. Hill

Anita F. Hill

Her story sparked controversy, especially attention from feminist groups who supported Anita’s claims of sexual harassment in the office.  She testified her story in front of an all-male senate regarding her assault from Clarence Thomas. She was working for Thomas, who touched her, and had sexual vulgar language. Anita was questioning her ability to speak up about such issues because not many people would believe her story, and believed she had some agenda to gain something.  Statements from Senator Heflin such as, “do you see, coming out of this, that you can be a hero in the civil rights movement?” At this point they believed that her idea of testifying was going to make her a prestigious woman in the African-American community. Their responses to her statement were creating a much more defensive climate than a supportive one, and made Anita Hill look delusional.

“In 1991, 6,883 people were willing to file claims with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). In 1998, the number was 15,618” (Doyle, 2011). At this point women in society began to feel a lot more comfortable speaking up about any sexual harassment.  This story of Anita Hill is very much looked back at today as a reminder that we are still in the same rut that we were in 20 plus years ago. Even though women all around the world have the courage to speak up now, there are still many who are left unspoken of these issues. Women shouldn’t have to be constantly told to be careful from people in public places because “they might rape you”, but rather men should be taught not thave predator-like characteristics towards women. A lot of today’s entertainment and musical industries promote objectification of women.  This helps perpetuate the idea of harassment, and becomes accepted by both men and women. I do not want to constantly walk in public thinking someone is going to follow me, or say something inappropriate. I shouldn’t have to walk fast trying to get a cup of coffee at Starbucks, or sit privately at a restaurant where no man will come by me and pressure me to talk to him as if I owe him this. A lot of women should speak up about such matters, and it is a lot harder for women in other cultures to speak up because being raped or sexually assaulted is a bigger controversy for her. Women who get raped in cultures such as the Middle East often get blamed for their rape incidents, or even tortured for not being “pure” anymore. This will leave her silent, and not speak up because she has more of a consequence to deal with, and that is whether she will be seen as human again or not. She will then live in a society that will often see her as trashy, a whore, or useless.

It is not always the case of what you wear that leaves men to think “she asked for it”. Women who are covered up from head to toe, or are dressed very decent get raped each day. It isn’t how she portrayed herself; it is how a man thinks it is his “nature” to take the opportunity to assault her. I am pretty sure there are men out there who do not have the “rapist” qualities, and that they respect women. This is great! But those are not the ones that we worry about. Rape occurs in many different ways, it happens when you are married, engaged, dating, not dating someone, strangers, friends, relatives, etc. People who often state “well they are men, they are supposed to act this way”, does not see the mockery in that statement. It leaves women in a place where she has to often secure herself, because of the possibility that she will be assaulted.

I’ve seen and heard stories about women who get followed into public places such as school, work, shopping malls, banks, etc. There are many issues that shadow the subject of rape. We need to answer the questions: What steps should we take when we hear someone has been raped? What views do we have of her after she has been harassed, or taken advantage of?  What kind of society do we live in that allows such statements as “she asked for it”? These are the question that we must find answers to, because if we continue to leave these questions unanswered, then we will always live in a society that constructs these gender roles of what makes a man a man, and what makes a woman a woman. A man shouldn’t have to feel masculine because of how tough he is, how many women he can sleep with, and how his nature is sexually aggressive because he is a man. Women should not be viewed as weak, frustrated, irrational, victims of sexual abuse, because “she deserved it”. No one deserves to be raped, abused, or assaulted, not man not woman. We need to remove phrases such as “Legitimate Rape”, and not create reasons that validate her rape experience as something “she wanted”. Let’s teach our young boys to not whistle at a girl as she walks, not to touch her if she doesn’t want to be touched, not to shout at her to come by him, and not to treat her as always a victim.  I often believe that even if we do not change these ways 100 percent right away, we can make progress each second, day, week, month, and year by changing the statistics of rape victims. If they are increasing as I speak, then we will live in a society whether American, overseas, or anywhere that will constantly allow rape culture.


Doyle, S. (2011). Twenty years ago, today. In These Time. Retrieved from

The Leigh Bureau. (n.d). Anita F. Hill biography. Retrieved from

“Hey You Guys”: A Discussion on Gender-Neutral Terms and Language

A lot of things that I see in my life intrigue me. However, it all depends whether or not it struck my attention or left some sort of curiosity. As a teacher in the communication and creative arts department, I find myself becoming intrigued by a lot of what my students say or write. The content in the course I teach deals a lot with self-reflection and personal experiences. I am able to incorporate material dealing with technology, interpersonal relationships, media, marketing, and of course feminism. As a communication instructor, I know very well, that I want to create a learning environment, and allow students to speak their mind, and allow others to become engaged in what they say in class. Teaching an introductory college course can be frustrating at times, especially when I teach a required course (meaning all majors must take it). Therefore, students don’t want to be there because they were placed in there, or students don’t like the course because they hate communication in front of an audience. Sure, I can see the irony in that, however, I believe students realize different approaches to communication, and understand their self a lot more, compared to their outlook of the class during the first week of the semester. This discussion will focus on teaching; however, it will focus on my students and their outlook on gender-neutral terms used in today’s society. Just recently I lectured on verbal communication, and how language creates power or powerlessness. Since I teach three classes in the fall 2012 semester, it was interesting to hear the different perspectives from student regarding language. It is safe to say that not all courses I teach this semester are the same. Each class has a different and unique personality. Which works well, however, it can be frustrating when students are quiet, or are too shy to respond to a simple question such as how are you? First I want to discuss how students transition from high school to college, then I will briefly touch on verbal language, and finally I will discuss the use of the word “you guys” in our everyday language using the “you guys” article by Audry Bilger from Bitchfest. You Guys Article

Transition From High School To College

Students always have a sense of purpose when entering college. They want to be successful, and someday become an asset to a company in their choice of field, because that’s what they believe is necessary. Most of all students are put in many situations of different learning environments, and take courses that range from many departments such as the math and science department, or the liberal arts and social science department. Students that come straight from high school, are students who mostly leave some sort of reminder in my head that I was once them; sitting in a classroom and very scared of just being there, and most definitely unsure of why I am even there to begin with. Those students however, have a difficult time coping with the college atmosphere. They are so used to high school, yet left alone in college and ready to adapt to new situations. I tend to believe that most freshmen students are not quite ready to adapt to the college setting. Most are afraid of speaking up because they are very much used to raising their hands, or being called on. Some students ask to go to the washroom, or to get a drink of water. Their mind-set is still on the high school mode, and to still find the need to ask permission to do something. I find that okay, however, what I tend to cringe on is the fact that high schools do not very much prepare students when it comes to articulation and writing. I know I wasn’t, and I am very sure a lot of other people I went to high school with weren’t prepared for college as much as we liked. This then allows me to reflect on the many instances that occur in my classroom. Students are not sure what to do when asked to critically think, and some even have the greatest answers but still want to answer vaguely.  Surely those who do speak their mind always do, which is much appreciated in the classroom, but those who barely speak up or hate speaking up always find a reason to appear nonchalant during discussions. They are already afraid of being a college student, so I have now pressured them to speak up and possibly feel embarrassed. I sure did feel this way, and I always had anxiety when I was called on. I find that students need to find our place in the classroom, and definitely should speak up if they really have something to add to the discussion. I tend to get blank stares, or disinterest in the course, but that is because I believe they don’t believe communication courses are important.

Verbal Language

As the weeks move along during the semester, the material begins to become more intense, and thought-provoking. Unless, they still don’t care about communication. However, these students at this time begin to see the relevance of the material to their own personal lives. I do discuss verbal communication, and how it very much relates to our powerful messages, and relation to persuasion techniques. I also believe that verbal communication is a wonderful aspect in our lives. Language is constantly changing, people are changing, and overall society is changing. The connotations of many words are shifting to newer and newer connotations. Our society is making up words like “cray” (crazy), and passing it along, and soon enough it will end up in the dictionary. Language is so powerful it can make someone feel a certain way to push them to change their behaviors, or attitude about something. During my lecture I ask students to define the terms ghetto, feminism, home, love, and baby. These are words we constantly hear whether in our relationships, or in the media. Most students defined these words differently depending on how they view the word, or where they came from that allowed them to define those specific words. I really enjoyed the definitions of the word feminism, because the word feminism sounds like feminine. This automatically triggers them to believe that feminism means feminine or femininity. Their connotation of feminism was soft, weak, equality, women superiority, activism, pushy, man haters, etc. I expected these definitions because as a feminist I hear those definitions all the time. As we move on in our society, words made up become part of our everyday usage, and we begin to not really realize the etymology of the word. When we define words like “ghetto” some of my students begin to chuckle, or some get offended. I ask them what does the word “ghetto” mean to you? For some it is hard to define it without seeming too offensive. Some relate it to the upbringing of someone who lives in a community that is filled with poverty, or some simply say the word is whatever they want it to mean. For example, a student stated if someone were to use duck-tape to hang a mirror, then that is considered ghetto. The word ghetto comes from more of the urban life, and living conditions of those who do not have the abilities to live the life of the first or middle class. However, some African-American students may get offended because the word ghetto is often associated with African-Americans. I believe that each person has their own frame of reference and perception of what words mean to them. They have their own connotation because this is how they see the word whether offensive or not. They have adjusted to the word, use it in a sentence frequently, and find it impossible to back away from using words that may or may not be offensive to others.

 I find it interesting when students tell me about the different slangs they have created. I feel that something goes wrong when we begin to latch on to slang, and start using it frequently. Those who frequently use slang to communicate have diminished the proper way to communicate, using the new words, abbreviations, and acronyms as their only way to communicate.  I can understand why this is happening, however, what I don’t understand is how some believe these behaviors are acceptable, just because they believe it is acceptable. Technology has played a huge role in the creation of slang, acronyms and abbreviations, because it has allowed those who do use text messaging or chat to speak in a quick way, and to shorthand everything, causing this to be their verbal language as well. Informal communication has become formal for the current young generation, and the thought of changing something they have adapted to is like telling them to stop listening to Justin Bieber; it just won’t happen. Language is a beautiful thing, but when tampered with, it becomes confusing, and a barrier for those who have English as a second language. Those coming from different countries and live in the United States are left confused and not sure what has happened to the English language. Of course those who do come to the United States begin to adjust to slang, and improper pronunciations of words. However, this is what continues the use of improper words, and words that have negative connotations to them.

Using the Words “You Guys”

This brings me to my discussion of the phrase “you guys”. During my lecture on verbal communication I discussed generic language. When we think of generic language, we think of words that have generalized both sexes using words that speak to both genders, but are more specific to one sex. Sayings such as “you guys’ was the main discussion in my class. I had them

Picture Credit to

read an article called On Language: You Guys, by Audry Bilger (2002). To sum up this article it basically gives the idea that using the phrase “you guys” when speaking to a group of both genders, has become an informal way of greeting people regardless if both sexes are present in the conversation or group setting. When we think about the problems in language we can say that the words “you guys” has been looked at, as a gender neutral word when greeting people, even if it is just a group of women and no men.  It also makes the claims that even as feminists we tend to use the words “you guys” even though we strongly believe in changing words such as fireman into firefighter, police man into police officer, and chairman into chairperson. Bilger (2002) stated that “during the same decades in which feminist critiques of generic uses of “man” and “he” led to widespread changes in usage-no mean feat- “you guys” became even more widely accepted as an informal and allegedly gender-free phrase (77).

I asked my students to read this article and answer some questions along with the reading before we met again. Of course some read, and some didn’t. I put my students in individual groups of 5-6 to talk it out. They were able to discuss it, while others surely didn’t see the relevance of this article to the course. Some of my students felt that I put them in groups so that they could agree on the questions and come to a consensus, so that they don’t have to critically think this out. Others actually discussed it and had debates back and forth about the usage of “you guys”. When it was time to debrief the article, some students were afraid to speak up. However, once the ball started rolling, it was hard to stop them from talking. What really brought me to discuss this was the fact that the majority of my male students still didn’t see why it would be a problem. Since I teach three courses, I would say overall out of the 70 plus students that I have, 50 of them are males. This semester is interesting because I am used to women being the majority in my class, and men the minority. Regardless of the amount of men versus women in the class, men will always try to dominate discussion in the classroom. Some men made some valid points however, they believed that because the term “you guys” is used frequently and in the dictionary, it makes it okay to use it. I agree that it will be hard to remove this type of language, but it isn’t impossible. Women in the class barely wanted to speak up because they felt vulnerable in this situation. They do not want to say anything that would harm their image, or make them look stupid or wrong. When they did, some of them were agreeing with the men, and other women were actually upset that they were referred to as a guy. One female student said something that stuck in my head. “Everyone is so sensitive about things like this, so I do not see it as a problem”. I believe that when we define the term feminism, we are often associated as sensitive, pushy, and emotional about wanting to be equal to man, or society thinking women want to be just like man.

My whole point of this discussion was not to force her to feel she needed to be persuaded to change by me, but to critically think about the language usage of “you guys”. I felt attacked by some male students when I stated “what if I called all of you girls and this was the way we communicated to both sexes, and it ends up in the dictionary?” Immediately some men said, in a high-pitched voice, “Well it’s not in there!” They were upset that I could consider calling them a girl, and not a guy. However, soon after, I stated that even though it may not happen, those who are called guys but are women and do not like it feel the same way as a male who is called a girl. I do not believe it is about sensitivity. I believe it is about proper language, and referring to both genders properly. The fact that it is used constantly doesn’t make it acceptable. I had a male student speak up, he was raged that I even assigned this reading, and thought that this article was a waste of his time to begin with. He really thought I would be offended. I wasn’t offended, however, I was offended that he didn’t take the time to understand my view-point, given the fact we have discussed frame of reference and perception in the course. He completely dismissed the point of the article just because he wanted to continue saying “you guys”. But in honesty, I would like to believe that when he does say the words “you guys”, he will refer back to what I stated in  the discussion, and think twice about the discussion we had as a class. I felt as if I were shut out by the majority of my male students, only because they felt I was trying to push them to think just like me. I am all for persuasion, however, I am more pushy for critical thinking than to think I just want to persuade them to change their language. Some even stated that calling someone “people” or using the term “you all” was weird for them. In each class, the discussions were different. Some had some great points, and others weren’t sure what they were trying to articulate. I believe articles like these highlight the fact that women are always looked at as the other. If both sexes are looking at the words “you guys” as not a problem, then our society is making clear way for other terms to be used to refer to women such as bitch, slut, whore, etc. The students that took the time to respond made interesting points about language, and how as a society we cling on to words, and continue using them, and soon passing them along. They were right on these points. But what I saw as a problem is that some students stated that using the words “you guys” should only be used in informal settings, and not formal. Saying this is like saying a four-year old can say the word bitch in front of family, but can’t say the word bitch in public in front of strangers. Whether informal or formal, saying “you guys” should not be used at all when referring to both sexes in a group setting.

If we keep convincing ourselves that it is okay, then we will continue to accept other objectification for women. I can admit I have used the words “you guys”, however when I do I am immediately conscious to what I just did, and I am not proud of it. What I surely hope to accomplish is that even when people use it, they still are reminded that they used it improperly, and that they will try to lessen the usage of those words.  I actually trained myself not to use “you guys”. When I do hear it frequently, I get irritated, even if it were women saying it. As a feminist, I am not trying to be so pushy about my ideas and thoughts about specific inequalities. My whole philosophy on life is to try to be as fair as possible. 


I wrote this not to vent, I wrote this to point out that we use a lot of words in the English language without really realizing the meanings, and whether or not it offends someone. What I wanted my students to get from reading this piece is that language is powerful. Language can hurt, it can satisfy, and it can intrigue. Being an educator is one thing that may sound easy, but it can be difficult. It can be difficult in the sense that not all students will understand, and not all students will like what you say to them. However, the whole point in education is not to push a student to think like the professor or instructor, it is to push the student to just think. Students and even teachers should think rationally, critically, and explore all meanings before making decisions. When words like “you guys” are used in the classroom or outside of the classroom, whether formal or informal, we create an invisibility of women, and make the usage of he, man, or guys as the norm, and only the norm. It is not to dismiss the male sex; it is to enhance the visibility of the female sex, and to let people see that women are people too. I know that may sound so sensitive, and peaceful, but it is what needs to happen in order to continue to become equal, or to become considered normal. After all, women have been fighting for hundreds of year for equality, why should we let the usage of the words “you guys” keep women from seeing that they are separate, and not a guy. If my students left class that day thinking about the words that debase women, and words that make women feel inferior to men, then I have done my job by enlightening them enough to think about the topic. We have the ability to stop obscuring women’s importance. Those who do not understand the word feminism or feminist will always have a negative connotation of what feminist want to reform, especially when reforming our language usage. As stated before language is powerful, and words in the English language seem to support male dominance, and is used to heighten male supremacy.

The thought that words like “you guys” doesn’t seem like a problem to some, is because this type of language has been accepted, and not seen as a change needed. Gender-neutral words have become part of our reality, and it needs to be reformed in order to create a new and supportive reality for women. A lot of people believe that if they support this type of reform, then they support feminism and become feminists, when they don’t want to be considered a feminist. To be considered feminists, one does not have to have any specific personality, physical characteristics, or hidden agenda. To be a feminist or pro-feminist, one has to accept that society creates unjust situations for women, equality has not been accomplished in all aspects, and that women or men believe that women should be able to have a voice and speak up, and to not be shunned by the world because she is a woman. I understand that my students are young, but that is no excuse to allow them to accept words that offend or insult. Even if people do not get insulted by the words “you guys”, it is still a negative way to address an audience full of women and men. These so-called “gender-neutral” terms are sexist, and are not just something to hide under the rug, and pile the mess.  I disagree with the fact that if women accept it, it is okay. The women that accept sexist language are the same women who accept objectification from men or society in general. There should be no difference between language and action. Our language is so important, because it is how we view society, how we share our thoughts, how we offend someone, and how we compliment someone. Language is action because it allows us to provide words that allow people to take an action, to change improper behavior, and to provide a better outlook, and opportunity for others.  Bilger (2002) stated that “feminist reform is an ongoing process that required a supportive community of speakers. The more we raise our voices, the less likely it is that women and girls will be erased from speech” (80). I am glad that some of my colleagues pointed out this article to me, so that I could engage my students enough to discuss their feelings and thoughts.


Bilger, Audry. (2002). On Language: You Guys. Bitchfest. p 76-80.

Double-Standard Versus Women

Double-Standard Versus Women.

Please feel free to read other publications/Authors from the Pastels Communication Journal.

Women versus Men in Higher Education: My Pedagogical Experiences Highlighted

By: Rhonda Nemri

Education is around us everywhere. We become educated through the many stages of our lives. Some have attended pre-school or day care all the way through their elementary education of 8th grade. Then we move along to four years of high school, and students become part of a different pedagogical way of learning. Students attending classes for 8 hours a day, forming long-term friendships (or not), sports, lunch, student body activities that bond the high school together and finally faculty and staff that are there. Then these students graduate and move along to higher education: college. College becomes a new experience for these students. For some it is a way to party and meet new people, and others solely believe that the college education is a key component in their success, with some slight partying and meeting new people. College becomes part of your new identity. These students elementary and high school days are over and are becoming a new person or still holding on to their high school years. However, as students become acclimated in their new classrooms, the classroom climate is different from the average high school classroom. You are now left alone, and possibly know no one around you. This tends to be one of the scarier moments when first attending as a freshmen college student. Nonetheless, the first day of classes is an experience that one wouldn’t forget. All the clicks you were once part of in high school is gone, and you are now on your own.

As an educator in higher education, teaching college students in the communication field has struck a very interesting nerve in my body. I notice many different things when lecturing, doing group activities, assignments, and class discussions. Getting a college degree has been and I am sure will always be one accomplishment in one’s life that is very dear to them. Including myself, when I first received my bachelor’s degree a few years ago, I felt it was something that I worked hard for and had many sleepless nights. However, that accomplishment was something I can still remember being a great step and pushed me forward to attend graduate school and become a college instructor. Being a teacher was something that I always wanted to become. At a young age I used to pretend with my younger sisters to play school. I was the teacher often, and they were my students. It felt great to feel as if I were in charge, and actually gave out assignments that they’ve done. Of course it was silly assignments, and from what I remember assignments pertained rewriting sentences from a book, and spelling words. At times pretend teaching seemed real for me, and the authoritative figure that I was to my sisters as their play teacher is what made me feel good.

As I compare my pretend teaching “position” to my now teaching position, being an authoritative figure and just that is not on my agenda as an educator. However, holding the authoritative position in the classroom is something that one must pertain, but to not only use your legitimate power to get attention. I have been teaching now for almost 2 years, and I just can’t seem to stop thinking about women in the classroom versus men in the classroom.  I will be discussing my experience being a young woman educator to college students, women and men in the classroom through my experiences, and how it has opened my eyes constructing new pedagogical ways of teaching.

My Teaching Experience and Image

A couple of years ago, I was just finishing up my Bachelor of Arts in Public Relations. My ability to communicate and become open-minded has been very much influenced by my peers and professors at the university. Standing in front of the class room was not an issue for me; however the thought roaming through my head was “are they going to even listen to me?” Being in the communication field has also pushed me to want to learn more. Therefore teaching a hybrid communication course is very much something I always wanted to do. This course consists of interpersonal communication theories, small group communication, persuasion, and how to research and construct an informative and persuasive speech. I constantly dreamed about my teaching position, and of course my sub-conscious tends to show me a vision in my dreams that doesn’t necessarily make sense or even true, however it did let me see what could potentially be a classroom. Being a young woman I believe has been hard trying to be heard and known for what I believe in. Being young and an educator to students whose ages range from 18-45 is one of the difficult tasks as an educator. Number one, the young students will look at me as their friend, and second the older student may tend to first stereotypically judge me as very young and uneducated, or someone who can’t possibly teach them more than what they already know because of my age. But it is interesting to point out that I never ever revealed my age to students. I kept that a mystery to them. Every semester when the first day of classes begins, my students tend to see two different people from the first day to the last day. My authoritative persona is definitely out. As much as I don’t like to intimidate students, I tend to come off that way because of my straightforwardness on the first day. Reading my policies out loud to them they tend to give me blank stares or are really scared because they are freshmen. I like to add a little sarcasm and humor on the first day. Humor tends to give them an ease, but at the same time the legitimate power is definitely there to establish a sense of stability in the classroom so that they don’t think I am just a young woman who doesn’t care for them. I find that my techniques for the first day have worked for me in my teaching career. I believe that as they view me as a woman and educated they tend to believe in my ability to help them with their college career. Although teaching is not all peaches and cream. Being a woman educator is not always positive because I do come across those “Wow I can’t believe they just said that to me” moments. Male and female students can look at me in different ways. I can definitely see the difference in the two, especially when they approach me. My philosophy in teaching is fairness. I try to be as fair as possible when it comes to both sexes. However not everyone is the same, and some come off as aggressive towards me when they don’t like what they hear.

I had many unusual and great experiences throughout the semesters that I have taught. One specific memory that stuck to me was from a male student who asked me a question that made me really think. As I was handing back their group projects, he asked me “How do you feel being a young woman teacher and handing back bad grades?… wouldn’t that make people hate you because you are a young woman?” At first I just didn’t think I could respond without seeming too aggressive, but of course I tried to handle it and made him understand that I grade everyone whether young or old the same way, everyone is treated fair, and me being a young woman shouldn’t  affect the way people perceive me in the class. From that moment I believe I put him in a place that allowed him to think about his question and my response. Of course I didn’t say everything I wanted to say to him, and I hated that feeling because there was so much I wanted to say. I don’t think students understand how much they impact teachers. I always tell them I am just like you: human. I am not a robot and yes I enjoy music, shopping, dining out, etc. The way they impact me in the classroom helps with my teaching and how I handle situations.

I am not sure how students really deep down feel about me, however student evaluations have helped me see their point of view. I get a lot of good ones, some are okay, and others are angry at me because of the grades they are receiving in the class. You can’t win them all, and this is something I had trouble figuring out because I wanted to at first win them all. I want them to all be successful, however that is ultimately their choice and how much effort they put in. My students do know I am into feminism, and that I am a feminist. It’s interesting to see that some of them are actually interested in feminism, and think that they offend me when they say something to me face-to-face that deal with women. I appreciate comments and suggestions. I don’t get offended or insulted unless they blatantly want to offend me on purpose or are just purely ignorant. Fortunately I haven’t come across a student who has insulted me. I am sure they might talk about me behind my back but that’s their choice. However, with all the great feelings I have comes with bad feelings. My image is a key component to how students view me. I have long dark hair, curvy, and petite, 5’4, and do have exotic features.

I dress professional most the time, unless it is an off day, and this is something that I believe has helped with how students view me. There is a small activity I do for perception and students have to guess and answer questions about me to see how they perceive me. This leads into my lecture of perception, since we tend to stereotype and judge others before we know them. I ask a question that’s states, “list the jobs you think I used to have”. The amounts of responses are funny at times, however they only viewed me in jobs that women tend to be a part of. They put careers such as, nurse, teacher, librarian, secretary, retail, and cashier. These responses were anonymous, so some felt like putting jobs that were definitely demeaning and sexist. But that’s just what I expect because it’s the phase of being funny, cool, and wanted to get a reaction from me. I tell them I will read off some of the responses, so they think I will mention the bad ones too, but I don’t give them that satisfaction.

Being a woman in the classroom has also struck some interesting thoughts. Male students will look at women teachers as either a sex object or motherly. But because women are often seen as either those two then this then occurs in the classroom. I find that if a woman is an older teacher, students will view her as more motherly than sexy, because the older woman teacher is symbolically representing a motherly figure to them, and is possibly the same age as their mother. When looking at older teachers (40-60s), students will have their own perceptions of who she is. She is not looked at the same way as a younger teacher.  But ultimately they create their own judgments and perceptions of women teachers. As women teachers, we have to have this image and unfortunately we have to meet some of the expectations of how we should look. If a male teacher is dressed down with jeans and a T-shirt or polo, students’ questioning his credibility is rare or not even questioned. But because they already view a male teacher as an expert and holds power, they don’t look at his image as a key factor in his abilities to teach. Our attire is very much part of our nonverbal. Our appearance projects a message to our students. Because we are educators we have to look presentable. I am not stating that male teachers don’t get judged because of how they dress, because they do. However, it is less likely in comparison to a woman teacher. I remember on a day I didn’t feel like wearing heels, I wore flats. I wanted to be comfortable because on that particular day students were presenting their projects. A female student gazed at me up and down and stated, “So you aren’t wearing heels today?” As if I am only supposed to wear heels. I kind of chuckled and said “Yes, I wanted to be comfortable”. I am sure male students look at my image and how I dress. But I feel sometimes the clothes I wear I am considered a “fashionable teacher.” Yes I love clothes and looking nice, but I don’t want to be solely known for my clothes. I usually get comments about my clothes from student evaluations, which should evaluate my teaching, and the course. But I get those evaluations that state “I loved the way you dressed up”, “I never seen you wear the same outfit more than once, you looked amazing”, or “Sometimes you dressed inappropriate”. I didn’t understand how I dressed inappropriate and wasn’t sure what they meant by that because I always dressed professionally, or dressed down on certain days because of the comfort level that called for those days of teaching. These students that comment on my clothes just seen me as a manikin advertising the newest trends. Then I question is it the age and the maturity level of these students? It is quite possible that it is, however I am convinced that my clothes and how I look has a big impact on my credibility and abilities to teach as a woman.


Women versus Men in the Classroom

I want to now move on to discussing male versus female students through my teaching experience. The ratio of male student versus female students in my course is interestingly low. In my courses it is predominantly women. This is not surprising since more women attend college than men.  According to the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), “between 1999 and 2009, overall college enrollment increased by 38 percent, from 14.8 million to 20.4 million. But, over that time span, the number of enrolled females climbed by 40 percent, versus 35 percent for men” (as seen in International Business Times). But from what I have observed in my classes, I tend to see female students different from men in how they react or respond in the classroom. In my classes I try to build a positive climate. Therefore, I allow questions to be asked, interactions with me during class and office hours, and students to get to know each other (sometimes end up best friends because of my course). I encourage students to speak up and express their selves in my class. It is not straight lecture which is always great because not only am I educating them, they educate me too during class discussion on certain topics.

During my lectures I tend to ask questions to the entire class. But what I noticed is that female students tend to mumble their answers or barely speak up. They sound unsure of what they are answering. At times when they mumble their words, I ask them to speak up. Usually they answer vaguely and don’t expand on their answers. My job in that situation is to help them expand and answer without being vague. When comparing a male student in that situation, they are very talkative and expand on their answers. Even when they answer the question wrong, they still feel confident about their answer. Male students tend to dominate discussions, whether there are more males or fewer males in the class. At times while a female is answering the question, but not accurately, a male student will jump to answer the question. This then causes women to not speak up again because she got shut down by the male student. When women speak in class they feel they must have impression management. Women have been taught to become silent when a man is present. By being taught this way, doesn’t help when she is either in the workplace or at school. Even though some women are very outspoken in their personal lives, by being a student they still feel the need to not speak up because they believe they are silly, vulnerable, and will be judged.

I also notice when a female students answers a question quietly and I ask them to repeat it they are afraid to answer it again. They believe that they are wrong, or make it seem that they didn’t even answer the question. They get easily embarrassed and shy. However, when female students turn in their assignments, their writing is absolutely amazing. They elaborate and have numerous pages of worthy analysis/discussion of theory/concepts from the course. Male students tend to be short in their writing, they are vague, and do not really expand on their thoughts. Some male students are also intelligent and share a lot with me too in their writing, but those male students are the ones who hardly speak up in class. But when they do answer questions, they don’t quite answer how a female does. They expand, and have provided good examples. Not saying female students are all like this, however, this is how they are the majority of the time. During class activities, I put students in groups together. It is random all the time, so this means it could be all male students together, all female students together, or mixed. What I notice is when all female students are together; they are talkative and manage to do the activity great. Conversely, when you stick a male student in that equation, female students are very quiet, and hardly speak up. Also one must think about the beginning of a semester. When you generally have students who always participate in the beginning of the course, the students who don’t normally speak up feel the need to not ever speak up since the talkative students will do that for them. However, I tend to pick students to respond when there is silence. If a student has talked too much I say, “Thank you for your willingness to answer, let’s give someone else a chance”.  The one thing that I am willing to do is help a student figure out the answer, and wait for them to answer. I don’t rush them and seem impatient. When a female student is chosen to answer, she seems flustered and begins to panic. Starts with an “umm” and pauses a few times, and then gives her two-word answer. When I ask her to elaborate she begins the whole cycle again, but this time I have given her a better opportunity to show her competence in the class by providing better examples.

When female students talk to me privately they are very open, and speak up. But still have tendencies to be shy and unsure of how they speak. Male students hardly ever see me during my office hours, and if they do it is to ask questions about their grades. I tend to get female students ask about assignments and how they can improve. This is great and what I want them to do. I believe that when I put myself in these women’s situation, I was the same exact way when I was an undergraduate student. I hardly ever spoke up, and if I did I was completely shy because I was afraid of what people would think of me. I barely participated and was always observing the course. Anytime there was a question asked I always formulated the answer in my head, and when no one would answer it, I still wouldn’t answer it even if I knew it was correct. I hated myself for it because I didn’t show my competence during class discussions, but only through my writing. I see myself in these woman students, and I do not get angry when they don’t speak up, because I’ve gone through with it too. Nonetheless, seeing woman student’s shut down because of males in the classroom is what makes me passionate about changing that kind of atmosphere in the classroom.

My Pedagogical Ways

Being an educator was something I always wanted to be as I mentioned. However, the reasons of being an educator when I was younger are definitely for different reasons now. I had an imagination turned into a passion.  I had no idea how I was going to be as a college teacher, but I believe this is my niche. I will always have great and bad moments when teaching, but I believe that’s what makes me want to be great at my job. I learn from each bad moment, and make it a learning experience for me. Even though I can get frustrated at times, I still see myself being an educator. I hope to encourage female students to want to be strong and open-minded and have a voice in the classroom and outside of the classroom. I feel the person I was as an undergraduate student has changed because I was encouraged by my professors to have a voice and to be heard even if I answer wrong. I know that men will always try to dominate the classroom with their side comments, answers, try to be cool and fit in, however I know that they feel they have to be that way because they believe it is their nature to be this way. Every class is different, and every person is different. I learned that I cannot be the same exact person in every class and that I have to be what I feel suits the class. Some classes are overly talkative, and others are very quiet. The moment those students leave my course at the end of the semester, my heart sinks, because I do tend to have the “motherly” actions of wanting to hold their hand throughout the way. Even though I believe I am not trying to mother them on purpose, it’s just my tendencies of wanting them to be successful and close to perfect.  But then again, I am happy that the semester is over and a new group of students come in to teach me something new. I love the comments at the end that state “You seemed intimidating in the beginning, but after I got to know you, I knew that wasn’t the case and I could talk to you anytime”. These comments I am grateful for and hope to reach out and make a difference, whether they tell me or not. The fact that women attend college more than men is amazing to me, but still we shouldn’t forget that women no matter what degree they obtain, women still get paid less than men. This is something that women have dealt with, and probably will deal with if change is not done. Being a woman and an educator has taught me to be a strong individual and has helped me through understanding people better because of the diversity in the classroom. Incoming freshmen students are not used to the college experience, so they think they have to sit in the classroom and follow policies, raise their hand, and only speak when told to. Then there is returning students who are afraid they are doing things wrong because they haven’t been in school for a while.

Teaching is not about dominating someone and showing them whose boss, it is allowing a student to become something more than what is expected from them. I will always have students who are ready for college, not ready for college, undecided about their destiny, or just there because they think it is the right thing to do after high school. With all types of ways students are I have learned that I can’t save all of them, however I can try. Understanding how the classroom works is something that educators need to know in order to successfully enlighten students. I know I am not an expert, and I need to learn more about teaching, and I am willing to. Some women whether young or older, will always feel the need to not speak up or be confident in what they say. I hope that one day this is not the case for them and that they express themselves with or without men present in the room. Even though I teach communication, I do understand that other fields have similar ways of how men and women are in the classroom or workplace. This definitely occurs in the male dominated careers such as engineering or mathematics. Everyone will find their way in this long journey. Some find it sooner than others and some find it later. I believe that everyone has a journey they are on, it just depends how bad they want to accomplish their wants and needs. I am definitely still on my journey, and once that journey finishes, another one will definitely come. So far teaching has become one of my journeys that I cherish deeply.


International Business Times. Why Are More Woman Than Men Going to College? Web.

My Hair, My Identity, My Security, My Protection: The Veiled and Unveiled Symbolism of Hair and Image

By: Rhonda Nemri

Since the day we are born, we either have a full head of hair, slightly full, or barely any hair. Ultimately we have hair. Our hair is symbolic to us. Virgin or pure hair, meaning never been touched by hair dye or chemicals infused to either make your hair flat, wavy or curly, is what makes your hair labeled as natural. “In simple terms, the average speed of hair growth is roughly 1.25 centimeters or 0.5 inches per month, being about 15 centimeters or 6 inches per year” (“How To Make Your Hair Grow Faster”).  Our hair is a valuable part of our body that we hold on to, whether we are male or female. Men are known to have receding hair lines, go completely bald, or have grey hair when they age. It is quite possible that men and woman can get grey hair at a young age due to genetic or stress levels. Women also lose their hair definitely during stress, use of products, pregnancy, or illness. It is not likely to see a woman going bald in comparison to a man, but it definitely occurs.

In order to fit the image that the top hair product corporations portray, you must purchase items such as relaxers, shampoo, conditioner, organic serum that nurtures the hair to bring back its natural oils, hair gel and mousse, hair growing kits, so on and so forth. There are many items to choose from and different brands that all promise you the same things: soft, unfrizzy, less splitends, and volume. But it is up to the customer to decide what brand fits them best. Advertisements on television, in magazines, and billboards portray the very images of how to sell their products using the very obvious advertisement technique; models. Advertisements make you feel like there is something wrong with your hair so that you can purchase your own hair regimen to improve the texture, softness, and shine, the same way as the model with perfect hair. Hardly you see women who have short hair advertising shampoo, hair spray, mousse, or gel. It is always women hair models (usually celebrities) with long, beautiful hair, in which their hair is most likely video edited to look natural and healthy. These very images that we see in ads, are the very images that affect are ways of thinking when it comes to how we should have our hair, and how we should take care of it in order to look beautiful. Which brings me to discuss the importance of hair and its symbols in culture and religion.

Cultural and Religious Symbols of Hair

The reason why I chose to write about this is because I see my hair as something very valuable, secure, and my protection. I see hair as something that is beautiful, but something that is symbolic for many reasons in society. From when we are young, we are familiar with what makes a man and what makes a woman. However, as a child you don’t really understand or grasp the full concept of the physical and biological factors of what makes a man and a woman; children just notice hair being a key factor. Boys have short hair, girls have long hair. In many cultures hair is very valuable, and we can definitely see the symbolism of hair through different cultures and religions. In Christianity, Islam, Hindu and, Buddhism both women and men cover their hair; however, it is much more likely to see a women covering her hair for religious, or cultural purposes.  In both Westernized and modern days the hijab/veil is quite familiar, and is used to cover a woman’s hair. In Christianity we see this with nuns who show their purity and commitment to God by abstaining from modernized clothing, and covering their hair and body.  Hair is also a symbolic treasure when a child gets baptized in the catholic or orthodox church. “After confirming the child, the priest cuts three locks of hair from his (or HER) head. This is an expression of gratitude for receiving God’s blessings in baptism and confirmation. Having nothing to give in return, the gift of his (or HER) hair is a symbol of strength like Samson) is a promise to serve God with all his strength” (“Baptism in the Greek Orthodox Church”).  Through Islamic traditions the hijab is seen in a different light, however does represent some similarities. According to Lane, the meanings of the word hijab are: “a thing that prevents, hinders, debars, or precludes; a thing that veils, conceals, hides, covers, or protects, because it prevents seeing, or beholding”. “The hijab also means a partition, a bar, a barrier, or an obstacle. In the Qur’an, the word hijab appears seven times, in five instances as hijab (noun) and twice as hijaban (noun). Neither hijab nor hijaban is used in the Qur’an in reference to what Muslims (and non-Muslims) today call the hijab, that is, a Muslim women’s dress code. In most cases, the Qur’an uses the word hijab in a metaphysical sense, meaning illusion or referring to the illusory aspect of creation” (Ruby 55).

Of course in different religions and cultures, the veil/hijab has its own connotation to some.  People view the hijab or veil as something that covers the woman’s hair in order to remove the male gaze. Perhaps it is to also remove one’s ability from seeing one of the most purest component of a woman or girl; her hair. However, I do have my questions and opinions about one’s idea of purity and sacredness to God is through a piece of fabric that covers the head of a woman or girl from the outside world. I believe that every woman should be able to choose who she is, and how she wants to be. Whether covering her hair or not. The controversial issues of oppression behind the covering of one’s hair are often portrayed through scholarly works, media, and books. I do not know what it is like to cover my hair, because I never tried it, but I often question why one chooses to cover something that is so beautiful, and have to feel they have to hide something in hopes of removing the chances of a man viewing you as a sexual object or gaze at you. I tend to believe with or without the veil the male gaze is quite present, and probably won’t go away. Some women, whether Islamic, Christian, Hindu, etc., have their own purposes of choosing to wear the veil for either religious purposes or their own personal choices. It could be their own protection and valuable entity that grants them piece, purity, and a closer connection to their identity and God. However, this is not why I am writing this piece. I am writing this to highlight what my hair means to me, how it is part of my identity, and what it means to others/society.

My Hair, My Identity, My Security, My Protection

I tend to look through old pictures of me and family members when we were children, and I noticed that I went through many phases with hair styles. I had very long hair that reached the bottom of my back, shoulder length hair, and even hair to my ears; the very famous bowl haircut. Although I didn’t understand that my hair was part of my identity, therefore if someone cut my hair really short, I didn’t care. I remember at a young age, probably 5 or 6, my cousin who is a year older than me was going to the salon to cut her hair very short; what I like to call the “boy haircut”; short and very easy to manage. I wanted to come along with her to the salon, and while I was there, I decided I wanted the same exact haircut. I don’t remember the exact reasons; however, I did know I wanted to be like her. When you are around the same people constantly at a young age and play with them, you tend to want to pursue and obtain the same things that they have to feel complete or significant. I don’t think I really understood what it meant to have short or long hair, I just wanted short hair.

After that part of my life, my hair was whatever my mother wanted my hair to look like, or if I needed a quick trim. Either bangs, short, medium, or long hair; this is what I had. I did at times have a say in what I wanted, but when I got to high school, I started experimenting with my own hair. I felt I needed to look a certain way, and hold this image that I tend to see other girls in my high school have. I never accepted my hair the way it was. I always dyed it lighter than what it naturally is, got a perm my junior year of high school, and somehow accidentally managed to dye my hair the color reddish/orange by my senior graduation. The girls I went to high school with had always dyed their hair or had curly hair. While in high school I believe whether boy or girl, we tend to go through the many phases when trying to fit in. I tried to be my own person especially through my personality and character traits. However, it was always about hair and image that I always tried to change to fit societal expectations. My hair however, was long in high school. I remember getting asked a question by a classmate, “Is your hair real?” I was taken aback by this question, and thought to myself, “Now why in the hell would my hair be fake?” I was naïve to even think that it was possible for women to add extensions or wear a wig. I just generally thought my long hair was easy to obtain. Of course that arrogance was soon diminished and I realized that hair is something important to one, because so many women try to add in hair that isn’t theirs to feel some security and fitting to what society expects from women.

As I mentioned, my hair after high school was always long. It was my shield, my protections, and my security. I remember in my first year of college I went to get a haircut, and it went all wrong. She cut most of it off. It went from my lower back to my shoulders. I didn’t quite understand why she did this to me, because I never asked for a short haircut, just a trim. As I ran my fingers through what I thought would be long wavy hair, it was gone. I cried for days trying to find ways to cover myself, and explain to people this wasn’t what I wanted, so that they don’t think this is how I wanted to look.

In present day, my hair is long and has its natural brown hair color. I get it trimmed every 6-8 weeks or whenever I have time to go get it cut. I usually maintain my hair certain ways. I don’t usually use a straightener or blow dryer unless I need to. I tend to let it air dry, and it has a little natural wave. I get numerous compliments on it a lot, or asked if it is real. I’ve even gotten offers to cut it all off and sell it. Some people tell me to never cut it, some tell me I should be in hair commercials, and others tell me to cut about 5-6 inches off. I appreciate the compliments, and try to be humble about it. I am known as the “girl with the beautiful long hair.” However, what really puzzles me is that people see my hair as who I only am. They believe my hair is a part of me and only me. If I were to shave off my hair, then I am no longer the person they seen before, If I cut it to shoulder length then I am still looked at differently, and if I kept it long, then this is the most accepting look for me. I tend to get people who tell me to chop it all off, and get a new style. However, as much as I do want to chop it all off and donate it; I can’t seem to mentally get myself to do it. It has become a part of my identity that I can’t seem to let go. It is my protection when I cry, it is my protection if I break out, and it is my protection from others to not ridicule me for having short hair. My dream is to cut it short without someone judging me for it being short. I tend to believe that without my hair, it is what makes my face look the way it is. Society tends to believe that hair is what makes beauty and that if you have a beautiful or well-structured face; then this is when short hair fits properly on you.  This comes to my question of the veil or hijab that one must think about. If a woman has a beautiful face (or what your own definition of what beautiful is), yet covers her hair, isn’t she still attracting the other sex? I often believe that the hijab is becoming part of our socially constructed society, and a fashion statement for some. One can appreciate the beauty of the preciously woven fabric that a woman puts on her head, however if she takes the time to properly place a beautiful piece on her head, then that contradicts what the hijab is stating. With these last few statements I am not demeaning the hijab/veils purpose, I am simply questioning why cover something so natural and beautiful with something so fashionable and beautiful? This then should go back to my statement of feeling some identity or connection with God, which is fine, however it is still amusing and very interesting to see how societal norms have pushed women to be and act a certain way to fit in the expectations of what a woman should look like, whether covered or uncovered.

The process of self-objectification is something that women tend to go through when trying to feel and obtain the image that society is expecting from women. “Self-objectification may be conceived of as one consequence of dominant sexist ideologies that justify and preserve the social status quo by gaining the compliance of women, despite the fact that gender inequality inflicts significant costs upon girls and women as individuals and as a group” (as seen in Calogero and Jost 224). Women will somehow feel they have to conform to societal roles and what each gender characteristic should entail. Since girls or woman should have medium to long hair, then this makes her a true woman. Anything shorter or comparable to what a man’s hair length should be, she is not seen purely as woman, she is seen as woman wanting to be masculine, because of her choice in hair length. I still struggle when trying to make the decision to cut my hair shorter than what it is. It will definitely be my choice if I want it short, medium, or long. It is part of my identity because I have made it part of my identity. I envy those women who do cut their hair short. I am sure it is an experience that is life changing for some, and it could be an empowering moment for them. This is something I am not sure why women do it, though, I want to do it because I want to be known for something else more than my hair, and perhaps a new look for me. I want to feel that whatever decision I made with my hair is because I want it, and not what society wants.

Women in the Middle Eastern culture (including myself) are often known for their dark, wavy, and thick hair. It is an attribute that should stick with them. One of the main desires for a man is for his wife to have beautiful hair. A woman’s soft, long locks bring a sense of security for both men and woman. It is fulfilling to have something wave from side to side and get blown in the wind to resemble the soft seductiveness of her persona. Trying to fit into something you are just not quite for is a hard thing to do. The statement I often hear is “why fit in, when you can stand out.” Which has some truth to it. As women, we need to find ourselves not condoning the patriarchal ways of what a woman should be. Though image is one of the most important aspects of our lives, and I am one to admit that I do have insecurities, however, I do realize that the insecurities I have are through the self-surveillance that I have about myself. Though each day I become more and more authentic, I believe women can be too, if they allow themselves. I don’t claim I know everything, but I can claim that these ideas and opinions that I pointed out do occur. There is also more to understand about the hijab/veils and religious values that I have not covered in here.  My hair is me, but not only me, it is my identity, but not my full identity, it is my security, not my insecurity. I do appreciate beautiful hair, whether long, short, medium, buzzed, curly, wavy, covered, and uncovered. I will continue to appreciate the compliments given to me about my hair, and think of it as something that is partially who I am. We all have something beautiful about us that we must appreciate. Appreciate it because you do, not because someone else appreciates it. Until then, I will continue to walk through the aisles of cosmetics stores looking at comparisons of shampoo, and continue to ponder the idea of cutting my hair short in the future.

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Baptism in the Greek Orthodox Church. Web

Calogero, Rachel, M., and Jost, John, T. Self-subjugation Among Women: Exposure to Sexist Ideology, Self-objectification, and the Protective Function of the Need to Avoid Closure. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. (2011) : 100.2, 211-228.

How to Make Your Hair Grow Faster. Web.

Ruby, Tabassum , F. Listening to the Voice of Hijab. Women’s Studies International Forum. (2006): 29. 54-66.

“I Want to Live the Fairy-tale and Princess Life”: A Deeper Look Into the Portrayal of Women in Disney

By: Rhonda Nemri

In the early 1920s Walt Disney created the beginning of something magical and fulfilling to childhood life; Disney animation. The production of animation has become a significant role in many people’s lives. Animations that were created starting from the early 20s’ still exist in our children’s story books/television. Animations were known as Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, Dumbo, Peter Pan, Mickey Mouse, Sleeping Beauty, The Jungle Book, Little Mermaid, Aladdin, Beauty and the Beast and so on. Adults have also enjoyed these animations that were made for children. Adults today still cherish these Disney moments and pass them along to their children in hopes of creating the magical and fantasy life children want to experience.  As an adult, I can recall the moments in my life as a child watching the different Disney productions that gave me the opportunity to have an imagination as a child.  Disney is used as a central piece for educating children, teens, and adults. Disney is consisted of television, radio, and print. “Dominating market power in entertainment mitigated by avuncular representation adheres to Disney in large part due to its primary production art form: the animated feature” (Artz).

According to Artz “the appropriation of cultural codes from traditional tales through visual metaphor, anthropomorphism, naturalized scenes and settings, and music are defining characteristics of Disney animation. Disney animation entertains and instructs because it offers a cinematic escape from reality by presenting recognizable narrative and imagistic fictions as if they were or could be reality (n.p.). The effect that cartoon characters have on the audience is substantial. Disney’s aim to their audience is to feel connected and wanting to be a part of this fantasy that in most cases won’t ever be a reality. These different movies or cartoon shows that are created are still shown, and will carry on its magical themes.  “Disney features do not become dated as quickly as other genre. Snow White, Bambi, Pinocchio, Peter Pan, and now Simba, Mulan, and Tarzan will likely thrill future audiences as their contemporaries” (Artz n.p.).  Mainly when you are a child, parents sit you in front of a television screen in hopes of enlightening the child for a moment and allow them to be part of the ongoing creations of Disney. Disney is a magical word. Products specifically for Disney have reached millions of people all over the world. In the 2011 fiscal year Disney’s net income increased 21% to a record $4.8 billion (“The Walt Disney Company Reports”).

With these different animations that have been around for decades, they have images and storylines for the viewers to be part of and allow the audience to connect with the different stories. A lot of times they have an emotional aspect to it to connect on a deeper level with these characters. However, the animations that has been out for decades and will probably continue to be read as stories for children’s bedtimes and shown on television, send off a message to the mass audience that must be questioned. Since a lot of the storylines for these animations deal with women, one must question the message and the portrayal of these woman characters. In this discussion, I will predominantly discuss The Little Mermaid, Aladdin, Beauty and the Beast, and Cinderella, and how it affects women/girls, given the fact that these characters are still relevant today.

The animations that have been mentioned earlier in this essay have been around for decades. They each have a specific storyline that seems to get the audience attached to these characters. The idea that the “realities” of these women or girl characters end up in a fairytale ending is what seems to generate the attachment to these animations. The commonalities between the characters are beauty, sexuality, domesticity, love, honor, and being a princess. Animations such as The Little Mermaid, Jasmine in Aladdin, Belle from Beauty and the Beast, and Cinderella, each have a specific story to their lives. With the different endings to each story, throughout the animation the objectification of these characters is presented. You might be thinking, “Well it is just an animation, there is no harm.” Yes it is just an animation, however these women characters is what young girls want to portray in their realities. Let’s first look at The Little Mermaid.

The Little Mermaid

Ariel is a beautiful, talented woman who ventures out in the sea. Her true passion is to be with Prince Eric, whom she ends up saving from an incident that led her to fall in love with him. What is striking about this love story is that she has to lose her identity in order to gain something, which is the Prince. The indication that women should give up her gifts and her desires to be with a man is problematic. Ariel must give up her voice (singing, aspirations and her love of music), and her fins to gain legs to walk in order to be with her Prince. However, with all that she has given up, the Prince still doesn’t want her and marries another woman. In order for Ariel to get her voice back she has to kill the Prince. She does not want to kill him, but is left between the struggling decision of either gaining the love of Prince Eric or getting her life back.  This is questionable since she went through far measures in order to gain the Prince, but makes it hard on herself to decide if she wants her identity back or to love. Ariel’s happily ever after requires her to be submissive and strip herself from anything she was passionate about to be with a man who didn’t want her. Ariel’s character shifts from strong independent to forcefully giving up something she loves to be happy. Looking in today’s society, women tend to change their body image in order to be accepted or loved. They augment their breasts, facelifts, and tummy tucks, which Ariel’s actions is a metaphor to 21st century actions. While looking at this cartoon, Ariel is not the only character that we can analyze. Prince Eric, whom seems to have the full package, is handsome, caring, loving, and holds the Prince Charming qualities that Ariel seemed to be intrigued by. However, Prince Eric fits the typical stereotype of what male Disney characters portray, and one that signifies the patriarchy.

Jasmine in Aladdin

Jasmine is a 16-year-old, who also has desires and wants in her life. She is beautiful and witty and has dreams of her own. She is the daughter to a Sultan of Agrabah. Jasmine’s character definitely represents the common Middle Eastern physical features. Dark long hair, olive to tan skin, and almond eyes that is seductive. Her father tends to suggest men to her to marry; however, Jasmine refuses any of the marriage propositions. She gets into trouble when spotted handing an apple to a young boy, but was accused of stealing from the village market. At this point Aladdin, whom disguises himself as a Prince because of a wish he received from the genie, tries to save her from getting her arm amputated. The two eventually fall in love with each other and she accepts the marriage proposal from Aladdin. Jafar, who has evil characteristics, represents the stereotypical angry, aggressive and forceful Middle Eastern man. Jafar exposes Aladdin’s dishonesty as a prince to Jasmine, and then exiles Aladdin to leave. Jasmine is then forced to become Jafar’s slave girl and turned into a harem concubine to wait on him. Aladdin then came back in hopes of saving Jasmine from the slave girl she has become. In order to get successfully rescued, Jasmine had to amuse Jafar by seducing him and pretending to fall in love with him, and then escaping with the genie lamp that Jafar took from Aladdin.

So now that I have given you a brief description of how the characters were portrayed, I will now offer an analysis and observation. First, Jasmine is a witty 16-year-old who spoke up about not marrying who her father wanted for her. However, the life that she refuses is thrown at her in a forceful way. She is to be seen as a wife and submissive. Her father wants to choose her lover, while Jasmine searches for her love in which it becomes Aladdin (the prince/hero).  This representation is highly relatable to the actual Middle Eastern girl/woman who is forced into a marriage with a man who she does not know or barely knows. Of course modernized traditions have changed a bit; but the concept of marriage is still similar to Westernized traditions. In an effort to rid this destiny, she runs away. She is also created as a seducer, sex object, and slave to Jafar. In the “Western imagination, the Middle Eastern harem was a place of sex, debauchery, slavery, miscegenation, power, riches, and sheer abandon” (Brookes). Jasmine was always running away from what is forced on her, although she is a heroine, she is still created as submissive, trapped in a life she doesn’t want, and princess. This is the common struggle with women today.  They have these lives that have been ascribed to them from when they are born. As soon as they are old enough to make their own decisions, women tend to struggle between wanting to be happy and wanting to make their family/society happy. It is hard for happiness to be equal, because there is always this forcefulness to a woman’s life to choose what society wants over her happiness. Here Jasmine is representing the Middle Eastern woman who has the voice and qualities to become whoever she wants, however she is still dominated by the male characters in this animation. It is socially constructed that women must marry at a young age, and in this animation Jasmine is 16. In American society marriage at age 16 is frowned upon; however in many other cultures or countries, specifically Middle Eastern or Mediterranean countries, marriage at a young age exists. Therefore Jasmine isn’t given the opportunity to grow as a woman; she is seen as a princess, daughter of a Sultan, and a future wife.

Belle from Beauty & the Beast

In the story of Beauty and the Beast is a very interesting one. This animation can easily allow for the audience to connect with the heroine; Belle. The plot starts with an enchantress who offers the prince a rose in exchange for a night’s shelter. When he turns her away, she punishes the prince by transforming him into a beast, and turning all of his servants into household and furniture items. The rose that she gave him symbolically represented his love. If by his 21st birthday he did not find love by the time the last petal has fallen, then he shall remain a beast for his entire life. Belle who represents many characteristics, is beautiful, assertive, but also has feminine characteristics such as nurturing and loving. She loved to read and was always at the bookstore or at home helping her father with chores. Her character was definitely different from the other women in this animation. She had goals to be something more, however other women were portrayed as bimbos, sexualized, mothers, or maids. In the animation, many men pursued Belle because she was very attractive and beautiful. She was definitely fancied by the male character Gaston. Gaston’s character is very arrogant, tough, and is a narcissist. He wants Belle to be his wife, and thinks he will get her no matter what because of his looks and physical features. Belle’s father Maurice who is an inventor, goes on a journey to a fair, however gets lost in the woods and captured by the beast to keep him hostage. Belle however shows up to the castle looking for her father. She offered the beast herself instead of her father to be a prisoner and held hostage.

Firstly we can see that Belle is a conservative, beautiful, and smart woman. The people in the village often saw her as weird because she often enjoys reading books and educating herself. This is something that is known in today’s society. Women who are educated and smart are not looked at the same compared to men who are educated and smart. Belle (and today’s women) is to represent beauty and domesticity. Anything other than that she was weird. In the first part of the animation we can see Belle as a loving and nurturing woman. She sings, and the sheep come to her because she is delightful. Which often, in Disney animation they represent women who often speak to animals. Just like Belle, she is capable of reaching out to animals because she is a woman who really has no voice. Throughout that scene strolling through the village, it is quite clear that all the women represented in that scene are domesticated. You can see mothers with children, maids, women cleaning, and the three young women who often lust over Gaston, which are sexualized. The women characters represent the social construction of what femininity is and what it should be.

Gaston represents the alpha-male. He dominates the village because of his physical features. He wants Belle and only Belle. Even though Belle refuses him, he still thinks he can get her. His character is a representation of the aggressive male whom uses his sexual-being to get what he wants. His prey is Belle and he is the predator that will fight for Belle. By Gaston doing this, in his eyes Belle is a sexual object that he must contain in order to fulfill his manly fantasies. Man needs woman in order to feel whole and subject. When Belle is a hostage in the beast’s castle, she has traded her freedom for fear. Belle becomes part of objectivity and accepts her place as a prisoner. The goal of the beast is to use Belle and to gain something, which is becoming human again and freeing himself from being a beast. When we think of a beast, we tend to think of one that dominates, and puts fear into people. The beast represented the male that is aggressive and violent towards women (oppressor). This is something that Belle needed to understand, and accept and see that the beast’s violent behavior and aggressiveness is something she had to get used to. Bestiality is then created between the two. Bestiality is known as “sexual relations between a human being and a lower animal” (“Merriam Webster Dictionary”). It is Belle that must learn and give up her norms of what love is, and to love a beast that represents ugliness and violence. It is her that must teach herself to accept what is given to her. After all it is the beast’s fate that relies on Belle’s openness to love him. It is not her beauty that gives him the freedom to become a prince and not a beast; it is the fact that Belle is a woman. Since she is a woman, this is what makes her a valuable entity to beast and makes him whole. Belle’s character represents the patriarchal structure of what women should be considered to be. She must be fearful of the male. Although Belle stands up to beast, she is still the other in the animation. There was a part in the animation where Belle decided to leave the castle, but then is surrounded by wolves and is about to get attacked. Beast sees this through his magical mirror and goes to save Belle from this disastrous moment. His motive is to become a hero, which Disney is most likely to represent in a male character. However, through this heroic moment, beast gets injured and Belle is only left to bring out the nurturing side of her. She takes care of his wounds and this then begins the loving relationship between beast and Belle.

From the beginning of the animation we see Belle as a feisty, loving, caring, and nurturing person. She does however stand up to the male characters in the animation, but during her first encounter with beast she was fearful and scared. She is a heroine in this animation, but is still left with the Disney representation of what a woman character should be. She is put in situations where she is in trouble, she is saved, she is domesticated, and nurturing. However, the Disney animation may seem to be circling around Belle, nonetheless the real story surrounds the beast’s journey in finding a woman to release him from his curse and to love again. Hence the title of the animation is Beauty and the Beast and not Belle and the Beast. The title is a representation of finding beauty in a beast and focusing on a “teaching” moment for the audience that beauty is a valuable treasure to have in order to love or to be loved. It is quite clear that Belle is portrayed as the other, and beast as the subject of the story, however Disney certainly attracts the audience, specifically women, to believe that this story was a fairy-tale ending and love story that allowed Belle to become a princess. This is the idea that Disney always has when creating a woman character. She will go through love, violence, nurtures, gives up her freedom, or something she enjoys; but these acts are okay since she becomes a princess. Which is ultimately a girl’s dream; becoming a princess.


Cinderella’s character also represents the beautiful woman who has wants and dreams in her life. However her stepmother and step sisters caused her oppressions. Cinderella’s duties are to firstly listen to her stepmother. She must clean, and become a servant to her “family” members. Her stepmother represents the witch-like characteristic’s that is forceful in order to gain something. Cinderella represents the selfless and motherly woman who is denied to become anything but a servant. She is also capable of speaking to animals such as birds and mice. This is also a representation of a woman who is incapable of associating with humans, and only has a voice when it comes to speaking to animals. She is also nurturing and mother-like with animals, which is why these animals tend to come to her with ease. With a ball coming up to attend to, the stepmother refuses to allow Cinderella to join them to go to the prince’s ball. The prince uses this ball as a way to find his future wife. Women dress in their best gowns and show off their beauty in hopes of getting chosen to be a wife. This sounds just like The Bachelor, where women are to represent beauty and have personality traits that fits the bachelor in order to be chosen and given the final rose and marriage proposal. The only way Cinderella was granted to go to this ball was to be transformed in a princess-like image, since her stepmother destroyed her original gown.

Her fairy godmother changed her destiny by turning a pumpkin into a carriage, and had the mice make her a new dress to look like the other woman who were attending the ball. She had the princess image and was ready to attend the ball. However her fairy godmother told her she must leave by midnight or else she will transform back into her old image. When she arrived at the ball she was able to meet the prince, and soon after the prince was falling for her. Of course this then becomes the fairy-tale story that every girl wants. Unfortunately for Cinderella the clock struck twelve and she had to run away from the prince, only to leave behind her glass slipper. The princes duty was to find the matching foot of his future princess in order to fulfill his destiny of being with his beautiful princess. The women in this story are obsessed with the idea of being the princess. They have to look their best, and they have to look like a princess. Cinderella, even though she is a loving and caring woman, and has a destiny of her own that she wants to fulfill, is still categorized in what a Disney princesses journey has to be like in order for her to be with her love; the prince. Cinderella was only viewed as an object in her stepmothers’ eyes. Of course this treatment to Cinderella was because she was much prettier than her daughters. However, Disney has created these characteristics on purpose, and possibly not to make it obvious that Cinderella represented a servant, but to showcase the socially constructed feminine roles of what a woman should be.  After all, Cinderella’s troubles and tribulations still lead her to a dream comes true and a happily ever after ending, which is becoming a princess to her prince charming.


Disney has become a significant role in many people’s lives. Adults are still attached to the very characters that gave them the meaning of fantasy and imagination. Disney allows those to take the animations realities and make them part of our fantasies, in hopes of it becoming our realities. Walt Disney has created a growing industry that has transformed into one of the biggest forms of entertainment. The most intriguing part of Disney, is the fact that it still exists whether old fairy-tales, or newly produced fairy-tales.

Although there are numerous researches on the effectiveness of Disney on the audience, I took this analysis as a way to really dig deep into something I was once and still fairly enlightened by. These Disney animations that I have discussed were animations that I grew up with. The little Mermaid was one of my favorites, and made me want to be a mermaid. Belle in Beauty and the Beast is a beautiful woman, smart and daring, something I was also intrigued by. Jasmine from Aladdin also held a beautiful persona about her. It wasn’t the idea that she was a princess that made me like her; it was the fact that she was beautiful. This then also points out that not only are these women princesses, they are beautiful, and something girls look up to, and try to be. Finally, I wasn’t really into Cinderella, but I do remember watching it on television. I didn’t like the fact that she was treated badly by her stepmother, however I did like the magical aspect of being granted a night of fantasy turned into reality for her. As a child I never really wanted to be a princess, I was just attracted to the beauty of these women, and how they did hold special qualities, that unfortunately are not highlighted as much. We should also notice how these women have only male characters in their lives. Their mothers are not shown, or even explained if they even have mothers in their lives. It is always the father who is projected more in these characters lives.

These are old animations that still exist in our society today. During Halloween the amount of princesses that little girls dress up in is amazing. The idea that these little girls want to be a princess is what is being taught to them at a younger age, and unfortunately carried with them throughout their adult years. Even though some of these woman characters represent a tough and beautiful characteristic, they are still portrayed as the other, and domesticated. The feminine roles are definitely presented in these Disney characters, the same as what a woman’s role represents today. Men characters in Disney represent the prince charming and hero that saves the day. He has masculine characteristics, and one that tends to dominate in the storylines and is the reason why these women become princesses. Women are seen as emotional, nurturing, and motherly characters.

These Disney characters do represent present-day women, and it is very interesting to see how it does affect young girls idea of what a fairy-tale is. Women tend to think of their love lives having a fairy-tale ending, or a princess-like wedding. Hence the puffy dresses, crowns, and limousine as the carriage that will transport her from her home to the castle (church, or banquet hall).  When looking at Ariel, Jasmine, Belle, and Cinderella, they all hold similar characteristics. They are beautiful, very petite and skinny, beautiful hair, batting eyes, domesticated, and finally they all are becoming a princess. However, in order for them to be that princess they all went through some sort of troubling situation to captivate that princess role. Their roles were always the other, and then created into a subject or something close to it. Disney animation affects young girls and women today because it makes them see that no matter how patriarchal ways affects their lives, or how objectified or domesticated they are, it is okay, because the final reward is finding true love and a fairy-tale ending. I cringe when I hear a mother or father call their daughter “my little princess” or “daddy’s princess”. The moment you call them a princess at a young age, the more these little girls begin to believe that she is destined to be a princess or treated like one. The idea that we want to project to little girls and even women, is that you do not have to be objectified in order to get what you want. There are ways to remove what society sees in you already, and women should not accept these socially constructed roles given to them or fulfilled in order to appear feminine. However, women should be able to choose how they want their lives and not what is expected of them. Yes, domesticity is something  women tend to fulfill because it does become our duties in the household, or to become mothers. However, if you are doing it because you choose to, and not because someone tells you it’s your job, then there is no harm in this. Disney is something that I am sure will be around for many, many years. I know that Disney Princesses will also be around, and stories will be shared. However, we have to be able to reject what these storylines are really trying to portray. Perhaps newer animations are in need in order to fulfill a better idea of what women should be. I am sure there are animations out there that do represent heroines who do not fulfill the princess expectations, but unfortunately they are not appreciated as much as Ariel, Jasmine, Cinderella, and Belle. I am sure the perpetuation of Disney will always exist, and I am not saying I will not watch Disney, I am just stating the portrayals of women in these Disney animations. It may be hard for some to let go of something that is so dear to them, but an alternative to making our young girls feel special/wanted is needed.

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Artz, Lee. Animating Hierarchy: Disney and The Globalization of Capitalism. (2002): 1.1 Global Media Journal.

Brookes, Douglass, S. The Concubine, The Princess, and The Teacher.: Voices From the Ottoman Harem. (2008). University of Texas Press: Austin.

Meriam Websters Dictionary. (2012). “Bestiality”.

The Walt Disney Company Report. (2011). The Walt Disney Company Reports Fourth Quarter and Full Year Earnings for Fiscal 2011.

The Misogynist Male Rapper vs Women Rappers: Objectifation in the Hip-Hop/Rap Industry

By: Rhonda Nemri

The four-pillars of hip-hop: Djing, MCing, B-Boying, and graffiti writing. Hip-hop was created back in the 1970s where poetic expression was given on the basis of life, humanity, poverty, love, etc. Hip-hip was the beginning of the “swag” that is well-known today in modern hip-hop. Just to name a few common hip-hop artists known as Run DMC, GrandMaster Flash and the Furious Five, The Fugees, Public Enemy and the hip-hop awareness group the Zulu-Nation. This was a beginning of a genre that will soon turn into a subculture of different motives and lyrical expressions. The subculture of hip-hop, which is known as rap music, has been around for decades, and it doesn’t seem to be going anywhere. Just like any industry, men and woman will take part in this type of musical genre, however the list of women in the hip-hop and rap industry is not extensive compared to the male dominated industry. Various woman hip-hop rap artists today are known as Queen Latifah, Lauren Hill, MC Lyte, Missy Elliot, Da Brat,Eve, Foxy Brown, Lil Kim, and Nikki Minaj. Even though some of these women do not rap today, they are still hip-hop sensations that still appear on the lists of “old-school” musicians. As Hip-hop has reformed into new ideologies and musical talents, its success today is amazing with how many hip-hop/rappers there are in this rising industry.

Growing up I always loved the old-school hip hop. The Fugees was one that I can recall, also Run DMC, Eve, Lil Kim, and many more. I mouthed off the words to their music, danced to the beats, and often blasted the songs with the catchy bass and rhythms. However, while growing up I was completely naive when trying to understand the lyrics and make sense of what they were talking about. In this article I will be focusing on the male dominated industry of rap, the objectification of women through rap lyrics/music videos, and how woman rappers have to maintain a feminine and masculine persona in order to be accepted in the hip-hop/rap industry.

Men in this industry are the big ballers, shot callers, and have the 20 inch rims on the Impala’s. The role of the male rapper is “swag”, “gangsta”, funk, lyrically empowered, lovers, haters, etc. When I name these things this does not represent the whole industry, however, it represents the majority of what we normally see in a rapper. The rapper has money, flaunts his money, cars, houses, women, and music. The “gangsta” image is represented in a rapper, and without the “gangsta” image then society sees this person as inexperienced, have nothing to offer, or no talent. Because rap is a subculture of hip-hop, hip-hop has not been recognized as much as people would like. When comparing rap and hip-hop, we can see a major shift of objectives. Hip-hop artist are lyrically poetic, empowering others and themselves, speak on the current issues of our world, society, love (including sex), religion, etc. While rap focuses more on the struggle in their lives, money, sex, cars, women, and the highest forms of recognition in this industry. It has went from a poetic expression to demonizing other artists and gaining a sense of purpose through stardom and recognition through lyrics. Yes, I do listen to rap, and I do think that the rap industry has shifted in the expectations. We have all types of cultures/ethnic backgrounds becoming rap artists. The images that are constructed are based on a brand that these artists create for themselves. By these images that are created, these artists have a self-fulfilling prophecy given to them by major labels, music studios/productions and their fan base. So why does image matter so much?

According to an American Psychological Association rappers suffer a large percentage of trying to maintain unrealistic self-images placing them at risk of a host of emotional and interpersonal problems (“The Onion” 1998). In any case that we go through, our image is important. Its how we represent ourselves through language, clothes, communication, etc. It is these things that create our image. Because this image is so important, they have to maintain it with the materialistic objects that they hold, including women. The phrase “Sex Sells” has been a phrase that is highly noted especially in any marketing industry when trying to sell a product/brand.

Women in the male dominated industry are seen in two ways. You are either (1). woman rapper/hip-hop artist or (2). a video girl. Shifting from the lyrically poetic form of expression, the rap industry has objectified women in ways that makes or helps their image appeal to the audience. Today rappers known as 50 Cent, TI, Young Jeezy, Jay Z, Kanye West, Twista, Busta Rhymes, Diddy, Eminem, have influenced the rap industry in many ways. Since I didn’t name all rappers, these are specific rappers whom have used their image and created a brand for themselves. Many rappers today sell vitamin drinks, energy drinks, cologne/perfume, clothing lines, and many more. They have a form of expression, however the objectification of women still exists in their lyrics and videos. For example 50 cent’s song “Candy Shop” explicitly relates women to a low rider car bouncing up and down:

“Wanna show me how you work it baby, no problem
Get on top then get to bouncing round like a low rider”

The reason why this piece of lyric is objectifying because it is relating women to a materialistic object such as the “low rider”. Another controversial rapper known as Kanye West has simply objectified women in ways not a lot have stopped to realize . In his song “Monster”, his expressions are clear that he is a “monster” and the “predator-like” image. This song was very intriguing to me when it first came out. I was always singing it, and waiting for it to come on the radio or listen to it on my iTunes. Sometimes I sing along not realizing the words I am singing. However, when I saw the video I was completely taken back from the metaphors used when portraying women as lifeless and dead, which Kanye (the monster) used these women as sexual pleasure and sexual objects. The most objectifying moment in that video is when Kanye held a woman’s head that has been decapitated. The metaphorically explicit lyrics and video has used woman as the desirable because she is dead or has no life left in her to even consider being a subject. Simone de Beauvoir discussed this in The Second Sex and stated:

“The situation under consideration is profoundly different-biologically, socially, and psychologically-for man and woman. For a man, the transition from childish sexuality to maturity is relatively simple: erotic pleasure is objectified, desire being directed toward another person instead of being realized within bounds of self. Erection is the expression of this need; with penis, hands, mouth, with his whole body, a man reaches out towards his partner, but he himself remains at the center of his activity, being, on the whole, the subject as opposed to objects that he perceives and instruments that he manipulates; he projects himself toward the other without losing his independence; the feminine flesh is for him a prey, and through it he gains access to the qualities he desires, with any object” (371).

Since Kanye considers himself the “Monster” then he is capable of doing monstrous things such as hunt his prey; women. With these objectifying acts, it makes women appear submissive and passive, because they are portrayed as the other in these scenes. As Simone stated about the instruments, it is apparent that Kanye uses his women as instruments. He is the actor, and women are acted on. This doesn’t mean he is the only one in his video that approves of such things. Jay Z, one of the most notable of the Hip-Hop era also condones this behavior because he too takes part of the lyrical expressions of the misogynist Kanye West.


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Sasquatch, Godzilla, King Kong
Lochness, Goblin, Ghoul, a zombie with no conscience
question what do all these things have in common
everybody knows I’m a muthaf-cking monster
conquer, stomp ya, stop your silly nonsense
none of you n-ggas know where the swamp is
none of you n-ggas have seen the carnage that I’ve seen
I still here fiends scream in my dream
murder murder in black convertibles
I kill a block I murder avenues
rape and pillage a village, women and children
everybody wanna know what my achilles heel is
LOVE I dont get enough of it
all I get is these vampires and blood suckers
all I see is these n-ggas I’ve made millionnaires
milling about, spilling there feelings in the air (shot at Beanie?)
all I see is these fake f-cks with no fangs
tryna draw blood with my ice cold veins
I smell a massacre
seems to be the only way to back you bastards up

You might ask, “Well Nikki Minaj also raps in this song, isn’t she a woman?” Yes, It is quite clear that she is a woman, however she is still portrayed in the video as two different characters. Her first character is the “Monster” who appears to destruct the other character the “Barbie” image that Nikki tends to go by in her rap career. It is also apparent that Nikki is not secure with her image that she already portrays, but wants her audience to see the “Barbie” in her, which is the feminine side. Nonetheless she also portrays herself as the “monster” who is dangerous and sexually destructive.

Watch Kanye West Monster video

Being a Misogynist is something that isn’t clear to some. However the moment you compare women to any materialistic object, or glorify the objectification of women through lyrics, words, or music videos then you are a misogynist. Weitzer and Kubrin stated, “that rappers whose songs portray women negatively are influenced by three major social forces: larger gender relations, the music industry, and local neighborhood conditions. The most diffuse influence is the larger gender order, which includes the cultural valorization of a certain type of masculinity. Hegemonic masculinity has been defined as attitudes and practices that perpetuate heterosexual male domination over women” (5). It involves ‘‘the currently most honored way of being a man, it requires all other men to position themselves in relation to it, and it ideologically legitimates the global subordination of women to men’’ (Connell and Messerschmidt 832).

Next, I will discuss women rappers roles in this industry and how their images are constructed in order to be accepted in this male-dominated industry. For hundreds  of years it has always been hard for women to do masculine things, especially doing the same job as a man. In the rap industry that has been around for decades has generally male rappers. As I mentioned earlier in this article the few women rappers and hip-hop artists, these woman had to portray a certain image in order to be accepted. Image and lyrics are two different things that occur when a woman is a rapper. When Queen Latifah first started her rap career, we can definitely see that the Latifiah from the earlier 90s to the Latifah today has drastically changed. When she first began, she was dressed a certain way. The baggy clothes, “gangsta” appearance, and masculinity is apparent. In her music video “Just Another Day” she appears more masculine, and has a tough image that is comparable to how a male rap artist’s image is. I am not negating her lyrical expressions or her success. However, one must question whether Queen Latifah’s rap career would still be successful if she held her most recent image as feminine, Cover Girl spokesperson, and one who gets top movie roles. This also stands with Da Brat, who also held a “gangsta” image and shows her rough and tough image. I wont talk about all the women rappers, but you get the idea. Today’s women hip-hop and rap artists are seen as both feminine and masculine. However, if a woman rapper was just feminine would she still be accepted without the masculinity image? Earlier when comparing Nikki Minaj to a “Barbie”, she holds the persona as feminine, but her lyrics are very much explicit and brings out the hardcore side of her. For example, in her rap song “Did it on ‘Em” Minaj stated in her lyrics:

“All these bitches is my sons
And I’m a go and get some bibs for ’em
A couple formulas, little pretty lids on ’em
If I had a dick I would pull it out and piss on ’em
Let me shake it off
I just signed a couple deals I might break you off
And we ain’t making up, I don’t need a mediator
Just let those bums blow steam, radiator”

Minaj also uses metaphor’s in her lyrics, however when she stated if she had a penis she would “piss on em”. Having a penis is a representation of domination, masculinity, and a representation of in control in society. In the Monster video Minaj is appearing as both masculine and feminine, but struggles between the two in order to fit in this industry. She comes off as pretty, seductive, and sexual in order to appeal to male and female audiences, however to be accepted as a woman rapper she has to be tough and tougher than the regular male rapper to be accepted in such industry. Before Minaj, Lil Kim was the master of seduction, sexuality, and a sex symbol. However she possesses the same qualities as Minaj in her lyrics. They too are explicit, seductive, and appearing as a hardcore “badass” in order to become accepted in the rap industry. For example in her song “How Many Licks” she stated:

“Dressed in all black with the gat in the lap
Lunatics in the street – gotta keep the heat
Sixty on the bezel, a hundred on the rings
Sittin pretty baby with a Cash Money bling
12 A.M. I’m on the way to club
After three bottles I’ll be ready to f*ck
Some n*ggaz even put me on their grocery lists
Right next to the whip cream and box of chocolates”.

In these lyrics it showed her seductive and sexual nature, however when she stated that men put her on a list next to their grocery list, not only do male rappers objectify women in their lyrics, woman rappers also relate themselves as objects in order to appear “wanted”, and submissive. She also uses her money and material objects as a way to show that these objects can be obtained also, just like the male rapper. Without the woman rapper having sex appeal in today’s society would be hard for her to be accepted in a world where beauty is a necessity in the entertainment industry. Women rappers, are given the opportunities to become rappers, however they must have a masculine, “gangsta”, and hardcore feel to them. They have to be unstoppable, untouchable, and looked upon as one of the “guys” to be known and accepted as an artist. I am not stating that women cannot have masculine characteristics. Because a lot of women can be androgynous, however the argument I am claiming here is that women have to look, act, and be a certain way in order to be accepted in such industry such as hip-hop/rap.

“There is evidently a conflict between the girl’s narcissism and the experiences to which she is destined by her sexuality. Woman will not accept her status as the inessential unless she becomes again the essential in the very act of abdication. Being made object, lo, she becomes an idol in which she recognizes herself with pride; but she spurns the implacable logic which makes her still the inessential. She would like to be a fascinating treasure, not a thing to be taken. She loves to seem a marvelous fetish, charged with magical emanations, not to see herself as flesh subject to seeing, touching, bruising: just so man likes woman as prey, but flees the ogress Demeter” (The Second Sex 350).

In recent articles I have discussed  women being an objects. However women must consider herself a subject in order to rid her from anything that objectifies her. Women have always been objectified in these societies. What is the message that these artists are trying to send? Some may view this as a petty issue that we have, however if we always objectify those through industries such as music, then objectification is surely happening in other ways and other industries. The fact that industries like these are supporting artists each and everyday is an indication that they realize these misogynist rappers is what’s supporting the industry in order to make a living. This also gives a bad name for those in the industry who stray away from the misogynist image, and relate to the issues that do affect us such as war, poverty, culture, love, and inspiration. Even Though I did not touch on a lot of the different rappers out there, objectification of women still occurrs within this industry, whether signed or unsigned rappers.


de Beauvoir, Simone. The Second Sex. Published in 1989

Connell, Robert W., and James Messerschmidt.  Hegemonic Masculinity: Rethinking the Concept. Gender and Society. (2005) : 19, 829-859

 Weitzer, Ronald and  Kubrin, Charis E. “Misogyny in Rap Music: A Content Analysis of Prevalance and Meanings.” Men and Masculinities. (2009) : 12.3, 1-28

Middle Eastern Culture & Feminist Views(April 18 Article)

By: Rhonda Nemri

We hold on to things that are valuable to us. The means of those things can stick with us forever, or they can be reconstructed into things we don’t want to be a part of. Our identity is shaped throughout our lives. Identity is everything to us. However, what happens when you want to reject the identity that has been ascribed to you since you were born? Culture plays a huge role in our lives, whether we like it or not, it is and always will be around us. As Simone de Beauvoir stated:

“One is not born, but rather becomes a woman. No biological psychological, or economic fate determines the figure that the human female presents in society; it is civilization as a whole that produces this creature, intermediate between male and eunuch, which is described as feminine” (The Second Sex 267).

Biologically women are seen as the child bearers, but socially, we our females, wives, mothers, and the other. Culture is not only based on whether you belong to an ethnic background, culture is the definition of your life through social, morals, values, norms, etc. We all have some sort of norms that we go by, whether it is norms we learn from family, friends, our careers,or societal norms. I will discuss the double-standard in general and then apply it to the Middle Eastern culture, how the double standard affects women today, and what it’s like being a Middle Eastern feminist in a male dominated culture.

One might think, “well the double standard occurs in all different kinds of cultures, including the American culture.” Yes, this is very true and sadly it does exist everywhere. As much as we can say women are equal to men; they work, go to school, they get to vote, etc. However, there are still societal issues that deal with a women that stops her from really indulging in the things she wants to do in her life and not what society wants her to do. The double-standard, is a standard that when comparing a man and woman, there are things that women can’t do, or get judged on because they are a woman, while the man is free to do whatever he likes without society pressuring him or judging him on his actions. We live in a socially constructed society, where men make the money, run the household, pay the bills, and there is no real biological factor for him other than procreating with a woman.

One of my favorite quotes by Simone de Beauvoir has a similar approach to the double-standard. “Man is defined as a human being and a woman as a female-whenever she behaves as a human being she is said to imitate the male” (Brainy Quotes, 2012). In other words, anytime a woman wants to step outside the box, in a socially-disruptive society, then she is acting like a man and not ladylike. In my personal experience, whenever I had an opinion of some sort or show any anger, I was told “all of a sudden you want to speak up and act like a man.”  In this patriarchal society that has been constructed on the bases that men are in control, it is hard for women to match up to a man. Women don’t want to be men; we just want to be recognized as equals to men. When growing up girls have always been told to act nice, sweet, pretty, play with dolls and act ladylike, while the boy is a rough, dirty, acts out, and should like cars and play with firetrucks. Anytime this girl acts like a boy she is considered what society calls a “tomboy.” If I were to ever play sports or act rough, then I was automatically considered a tomboy, but could never be androgynous, because girls should always act feminine and not both feminine and masculine.

A woman is to be looked at as honorable and no flaws or faults, where a man can have as many faults as he can and not be ridiculed the same way a woman has. Men having hectic sexual relations with many women make a man to be honored and accepted within the society. However if a woman were to do the same thing, then she is dirty, used, and will never be an honorable woman. Hardly ever men’s irresponsible actions destroy his social image: he is forgiven easily. A woman’s image at the same time is fragile and can easily get destroyed. This is painfully true, especially in my culture. 

Metaphorically speaking, in the Middle Eastern culture, a women is very fragile and if she breaks she cannot be fixed.She is just like a glass fixture. Therefore, if she does anything wrong she is doomed. In the Middle East, honor is on a high pedestal. This does go for both men and women, however if a man and a woman were to do the same exact mistake, the woman will be scrutinized and is dishonorable because she is a woman. Just recently, I read in an article about a woman in Morocco, who was raped by a man, despite the fact she was sexually abused, her family forcefully pushed her to marry the man who raped her. She had no choice, but because she dishonored her family the only thing left to do was marry him or be killed. Unfortunately, she committed suicide because of the fact that she was about to have a forced marriage. The problem with this is, the man would be let free if he were to marry her, while the woman is forced in a marriage because of something she had no control over. The word honor has been misused. It has become something where if a woman does anything to dishonor her family, she is then the shame of the family. While the man is allowed to be aggressive or sexually aggressive because it is the “man’s nature” to be this way.

The Middle Eastern culture has a set of norms, values and morals. A lot of Middle Eastern countries encompass Islamic doctrines. Christian Arabs have used this religion as their foundations for cultural norms.  From my personal experience, not all are this way, however most Arab families have strict tendencies and close knit traditions.  Religious and cultural values have a big impact on the Middle Eastern heritage.

A woman in this culture has a set of duties that she must fulfill in her life. This in-tales marriage and having children. She is also expected to be married by the ages of 18-24. If she is not married by this time, then something must be wrong with her. It is easy for her to be judged because she is not married. Often you may hear “No man will want her if she is old”, “She will not be able to have kids if she marries old”. But because it has been socially constructed that women must marry and bear children, then she must follow this. If these norms are not met then something is wrong with her. When I reflect on my life, I know that being married at a young age does not make me a woman. Because women in my family married before 25, this means I should too. I know that what I have chosen is not based off of my inabilities to be married or find someone. It is because I know that I want to fulfill my destiny by accomplishing my wants and not everyone else’s wants.

Men have their moments of being pushed to marriage, however not for the same reasons. When a man gets married it is so that he can come home to house that is clean with his wife standing there waiting to greet him at the door with dinner ready on the table. This doesn’t mean I have to do this, however, these are the reasons why many men are pushed to get married, so that their mothers can stop taking care of them, and their wife can. A man can get married at 35 and this is normal, while a woman who gets married at 35 is not accepted.

Even though this is occurring in other cultures including the American culture, in the Middle Eastern culture, marriage for a woman, is the definition of being a “real” woman. It is not until marriage that she is able to be rationale, make decisions, and go out when she wants to. Even though this type of freedom is given to her, she is still under the patriarchy when she marries her husband. Once she leaves her parents home, her parents are no longer responsible for her, and the decisions that she makes. It is now the husbands duty to take “care” of her. When we look back at the marriage process, for hundreds of years it is always respectful to ask for the woman’s hand in marriage. The groom to be must go to the father, and then when the wedding day comes it is the father who is giving his daughter away (hardly the mother). She goes from one patriarchy to the other.

There is this community of women who are married, who feel that they have something in common with each other. Whereas the single woman in the background has no idea how to wash dishes, make dinner, or make decisions of their own because she is not married. The sad part about all of this is that these are woman who think this way, because they have internalize the patriarchal ways of knowing as their own ways of knowing, and have rejected their own view of the world. These women only add to the double-standard that society already creates. 

The double-standard affects women because society has created this standard for how woman should act and be. If we continue to perpetuate these standards, then how is it that women are gaining rights and freedom? Why must a women be dishonorable if she is at fault? She is not allowed to make mistakes, while the man is able to make mistakes and it’s okay. We should be allowed to both be able to make mistakes and learn from them, and not be tormented and scrutinized for our mistakes. Yes woman can be doctors, lawyers, professors, etc. However, these women in these jobs are still discriminated against and still are in this box where they should act a certain way. Even though we are in these prestigious jobs, these jobs STILL pays us (women) less than a man.

Me being a Middle Eastern feminist has created issues for some. Because I do not follow the socially constructed ways a woman should be, then I am wrong. A lot of times I would be talking to people from my culture and the moment they find out I am a feminist, they have their opinions (which is fine) however they try to warn me to be careful when I speak up because if I do it the wrong way then I am acting masculine. This is the problem, and not only is this coming from men it comes from women also. I need to act feminine, so that I can find a man and get married. Because since I am a feminist, then it is going to be harder for me to be accepted. But why wouldn’t a man want a women who thinks, is intellectual, and wants to be free from anything that oppresses her? It is the fact of being empowered, and strong to face those who have little to no confidence in you.Yes, it is hard for my family to understand my motives, but it is only hard for them because they are only used to what they know, and what they want to know. Don’t get me wrong, I am respectful, open-minded to other views, caring, and loving. But, being a feminist shouldn’t be an issue, being a feminist made me a better, open-minded, accepting of others views, and empowered person. One needs to be open minded and not controlling of others lives. If women do not speak up whether they are middle eastern or any other culture, then they will always be stuck in what society wants them to do, rather than women deciding what they want to do. Since the Middle Eastern culture is rather dominated by men, it is always harder for me to reach those men to understand what I believe in. Since I am a woman, then I do not know what I am talking about. I believe that I have not rejected my culture completely, however I have rejected the ways that this culture thinks what is best for me. I do enjoy the music, poets, family gathering, food, etc., however this is not whats making me reject the culture, it is the socially constructed norms that I reject.

*Note: Anything italicized in this blog is taken from an article I wrote that is published in the  Communication journal called Pastels (Purdue University Calumet). I will give you the website of the Pastels to read the full article on the double-standard and also other articles written in this journal.

Please take a look at these websites that offer many author’s on Feminism in the Middle East.  Feminism in Jordan Feminism in Egypt Feminism in Palestine Feminism in Iran Feminism in Israel Feminism in Saudi Arabia Feminism in Lebanon

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