Monday, December 7, 2015

Pecha Kucha

Social Justice Event #2

For my second Social Justice Event, I saw Encore Repertory Company's production of Mary Poppins the Musical on October 18th. This musical is much different from the movie regarding the character traits of each of them, but the story is almost identical with a few minor differences. I loved seeing this show because I had seen it years and years ago but when I finally saw it again, I realized how wonderfully feminist it is. The protagonist is a young adult woman who is career driven and single. Her character is so ahead of her time period and she has so many wonderful traits. She's sassy without regret, and she stands up for herself. The musical takes place during the women's suffarage movement, and I think that the nod to first wave feminism is really cool. I never would've known what first wave feminism is unless I had read the Rowe-Finkbeiner article.

Mrs. Banks is the complete opposite. She gave up her successful acting career to be a wife and a mother and throughout the show you see how she struggles with that. She feels unfulfilled and unappreciated, but then by the end of the show, she realizes that she doesn't want to go back to the stage, because being a wife and mother makes her happy and that being these roles can fulfill her life.

As I learn about feminism, one huge idea that I stand for is that no matter who you are, you should choose your life path and whatever it is, if you are a feminist, you are a feminist. I hate the idea that housewives are not feminists and that they are always unhappy. Some people love their lives as a wife and mother, and just because they don't have a career does not mean that they can't still stand for feminism. This class helped me to come to that conclusion and to begin supporting feminist housewives AS WELL AS career driven women.

Social Justice Event #1

For my first Social Justice event, I went to NYC to see Spring Awakening on Broadway on September 13th. This musical shows many of the themes that have been discussed in our class. In the story of Spring Awakening, sexual oppression, communication, and education in 1860's Germany are emphasized greatly. The female lead Wendla, asks her mother how her older sister got pregnant, and her mother refuses to tell her. Then, she has sex with the male lead, and becomes pregnant. Because her mother refused to communicate with her and she thought of sex as something taboo, Wendla wasn't educated on how a baby is made and therefore, she becomes a pregnant teenager in a time where that was unheard of. Her mother immediately makes her have an illegal abortion, which ends up killing Wendla along with her unborn child. These themes reminded me of the current sexual oppression that goes on in modern day America. Girls are slut-shamed and while sex is less taboo, it is looked down upon for a woman to have sexual freedom, which was talked about when Deirdre O'Donnell visited our class and presented us with her views on sexual freedom.

A basic historical element of Spring Awakening that I connected gender inequality with was that all of the boys in the show go to school. None of the girls are allowed to receive an education. When looking at the knowledge I have gained in this class, I realize that that isn't just "unfair." It's socially unjust and it sets women up to less than men. It reminded me of the Frye article that discussed how modern America sets people up to be in their economic and social class and that it makes them stay there.

Seeing this musical while taking this class created an entire new outlook on the story and the show for me.

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Tough Guise 2 and What Are Little Boys Made Of?

In Tough Guise 2, the point is made that feminism is not a female only movement. Men are essential allies in the feminist movement. A huge point made throughout the movie is how masculinity is based on violence. Men shouldn't cry, they should be strong and tough and be able to beat people up. The point is also made that when women act out, its about their gender, but when a man does, it's about their race. I completely agree with this. To relate this to Musical Theatre (like I always do of course), in the hit Broadway musical Chicago the two protagonists are Velma Kelly and Roxie Hart. Two women just convicted of killing their lovers. It is about female convict glorification, and on how they get off by being sexy and suave. A real life example of the "thug" stereotype is Trayvon Martin. He was killed by a neighborhood watch man for "looking mysterious." He had a hoodie on, and was of course, black. Since society makes young black people seem like "thugs" ready to cause violence, this man was paranoid and shot an innocent black man.

"What Are Little Boys Made of" by Michael Kimmel was a good read. "If all the boys are white and middle class, at least they're not all straight" and most therapists make it seem biological and urge "compassion and understanding before returning to the more 'important' stuff." This quote refers to the idea that not all boys are straight, and homosexuality is often touched upon but not stressed as a a natural thing for boys. This idea relates to Rich's views on compulsory heterosexuality. The idea that straightness is assumed in our society. Kimmel also quotes Kindlon and Thompson saying that our culture of "cruelty imposes a code of silence on boys, requiring them to suffer without speaking of it and to be silent witnesses to acts of cruelty of others." I strongly agree with this statement and I speak from personal experience. As a gay child growing up and finding myself, I was always rather feminine (by society's terms). I would turn blankets into dresses for myself and dance around my living room and I would always take on a girl persona when playing "family" or "sisters" with my friends. My father was ruthless in killing this self expression. He would yell at me to stop dancing. take off the dress, and get some friends who are boys. If I fell down and cried, I was told to get up and stop crying. I was told to eat bread because "it puts hair on your chest." Or I was told to "play sports with your brothers" because I was not a manly as them. Most of my childhood was spent upstairs in my bedroom, crying to myself and hoping that one day I could be free and love myself. This summer, I decided to do something for the child that cried in his room (and to give a big F you to my father). I took a drag photo shoot as Ellie Kook, a woman who loves herself, is free and happy. and never feels ashamed of who she is.


Back to Kimmel though, "men and boys are responsible for 85 percent of all violent crimes in this country, and their victims are overwhelmingly male as well." By teaching boys that masculinity is based on strength, athleticism, and violence, it is causing an outbreak of physical altercations and the adolescent "keep your hands to yourself" lesson is fading away. To me, masculinity is about what kind of man you are. Violent, hateful males are cowardly boys. Intelligent and accepting males are men.

Chicago the Musical- We Both Reached for the Gun

Above is a video for a scene in Chicago that shows the way that lawyer Billy Flynn teaches Roxie Hart to lie to the press to be found not guilty.

Cinderella Ate My Daughter by Peggy Orenstein

In Orenstein's "Cinderella Ate My Daughter," she explains how the princess treatment of little girls and the toys parents give their kids can teach children wrong lessons. She interviews several mothers on their views of Disney princesses and their tales, and most of them say that they like the clothes and the toys related to the princesses, but they don't like the tales themselves. To me, this is incredibly stupid. If you are letting your daughter wear the clothes of this princess and play with toys related to her but not letting her known the context behind them, then what lesson are you teaching her? Don't research before you buy? Don't look into issues before deciding on them?

Now it might sound like I'm over-exaggerating when I ask these questions. But this is the same as asking "what lessons will I teach my daughter (or son) by letting them watch Disney movies?" That she can only be saved by a man? That she should strive to be beautiful and find a relationship?

Kids will grow up, they will become teenagers, and eventually adults. Saying that their insecurities or failed relationships are based on them watching Disney movies is absolutely ridiculous. And by letting them play with the toy and wear her costume, you are still subjecting her to the body image of that princess, and the beautiful dresses and jewelry she wears.

To me, the stories are the most important part of a princess.

For example, Pocahontas. My favorite Disney princess, I'm absolutely obsessed with her. She loves nature and is adventurous. When she meets John Smith, she teaches him to be more open-minded and eventually falls in love with him. He jumps in front of her father to save him, NOT her, and then he is shot with the arrow. This causes major health concerns. When given the choice, she can either keep him with her so she can be with him, or let him go free to receive proper medical care. She gives up a relationship so he can be better off.

No to me, that teaches a way better lesson than letting your daughter wear a short Native American dress and play with Pocahontas and her animal friends.

Feminist Rankings of Disney Princesses

The above link shows the Feminist rankings of Disney princesses and why they show Feminist qualities.

Midterm Mapping

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Racism and Women's Studies

While reading Barbara Smith's article on racism within the feminist movement, I agreed with many of the points that she made. As a white man, I witness this racism daily and it is extremely relevant to my life. I have never been racist or discriminative of anyone because I am also a gay man, which is a blessing in the sense that I absolutely love my sexuality, but a curse in the sense that I am judged and discriminated against every day of my life. Smith mentions that "racist white women cannot be said to be actually feminist." If any woman is discluded from feminism, then the idea of equality itself cannot be included in feminism, which would crumble its entire foundation. "Anything less than [the] vision of total freedom is not feminism" says Smith. Unless feminism is fighting for all women, not just high class, white, heterosexual women, it isn't actually fighting for gender equality. Just equality for the "elite." She also states that "feminism is the political theory and practice that struggles to free all women" which supports my repeated thought that no woman should be left outside of the feminist movement. Without the support and inclusion of all women, there can't be anything truly accomplished for gender equality, and our society will become unbalanced. "Women's studies is a context in which white and third world women actually come together," a study that shows the unity of all women, no matter who you are.

Below is a link to Beyonce's essay on gender equality. As a black woman and a feminist, her views are extremely relevant to this article.

Beyonce's Feminist Essay

Cumpulsory Heterosexuality

In Adrienne Rich's detailed article on "compulsory heterosexuality" and "lesbian existence" she speaks about just how invisible lesbians are in today's society and how it is believed that people are supposed to be straight. Rich states that "the assumption that 'innately heterosexual' stands as a... block for feminism." This means that by society deeming all women as straight, they are completely deleting any other type of women from American society. "Lesbian existence has been written out of history or catalogued as disease." Lesbians have gone unacknowledged in history and lesbianism has been completely shamed. By deleting women who are lesbians from any type of public representation, is making "lesbian existence" invisible in society. It is so important for the feminist movement to include ALL women. She also states that "heterosexuality has been both forcibly and subliminally imposed on women." By society always characterizing women as heterosexual and glorifying the thought of a women being with a man, it's been made assumed by everyone that women need to be heterosexual. Rich says that "... heterosexual romance has been represented as the great female adventure, duty, and fulfillment." Society makes it so important for women to have a MAN. It's important to marry a MAN. To be as good as a MAN. Nowhere in our society does it glorify a woman being with another woman. We need to include these women in not only the feminist world, but also in the real world.

In this link, I've included an advertisement for Dolce and Gabbona. It is one of the only ads portraying lesbian romance for a high fashion clothing line.

Lesbian Clothing Ad

Monday, October 12, 2015

People Like Us

The "People Like Us" website was very interesting. I was particularly fascinated by the stories. Roberta was an example of a middle class woman who found a man who was in a lower class than she was. She obviously didn't care but his relatives gave her husband a hard time for becoming part of another class. This is a relevant representation of how social influences can keep people trapped in a class, or afraid to move upward. Karen was very interesting in the fact that she had a very mixed life between classes. Since she moved a lot, depending on where she was, she was considered lower or higher. It's interesting how different places have different social and economic classes. Ginny is supporting children off of a minimum wage job and avoiding government help, but her children are starting to catch on to the way they are different from other people. She works hard but is an example of a woman being kept in the lower class, unable to move upward. Charles is a rare case of a downward spiral from upper class to lower class. His decision to start his own life made him start over financially and give him a new standing in a low middle class position in society. Val was able to move up from her downward spiral, but her parents are another example of social influences regarding economic standing. She tried to pay them back but they did not want it and they resented her, straining their relationship.

It is very interesting how social influences and hard work affect a person's class.

People of New York

Above is a link to the Facebook page People of New York, where the stories of all different people of different social and economic classes are shared.

Kristof: Land of Limitations!

      Nicholas Kristof's friend Rick was born into a lower class family. At the age of five years old, his mother died and his father was a drunk, not very involved in his life. He lived with his grandmother along with three siblings, so sharing, compromising, and sacrificing was a part of his life from the start. He went through school with undiagnosed ADD. While he was a very smart guy, he didn't have the accommodations and help that he needed so he dropped out of high school, immediately giving him limited job opportunities. He went through marriages and divorces, having children to support and new expenses. After an accident at work that "mashed" his hand, he "survived on disability and odd jobs." He worked his entire life to take care of others and not himself. He had been taught that he was not the most important person from an early age. He was destined to fail from the Domino Effect due to the fact that he was of low income, had miniscule connections, and didn't get the proper medical care that he needed.

      Kristof mentioned that "what distinguished Rick wasn't primarily bad choices, but intelligence, hard work, and lack of opportunity." By not getting help for his ADD, he was immediately discouraged and didn't have anyone to help him, such as an aid, or a psychologist, because he didn't have the money to pay for those things. He was very smart, he just couldn't learn in a classroom setting. He worked hard his whole life to support children and wives, even giving up money for his ex-wife who needed medical help. He had learned to give up things for the people he loved and to work hard to support not only himself, but more importantly, his loved ones. And since he didn't have a college education where he was prepared for a certain field, he was thrown into the job market as a teenager and forced to make do with what he could find. 

      He was destined to be lower income since the moment he was born. Society just kept keeping him down, unable to rise above. 


Monday, October 5, 2015

Generation M: How Media affects Feminism

In the film Generation M, there are plentiful examples of how today's pop culture and social networks affect the women of modern day America. One of the most prevalent examples is the sexualized portrayal of women in music videos and publicized events. Jean Kilbourne explains how young women are mistaking public sexual representation of themselves as feminism, and a revolutionary way of acting as women. In music videos for musicians such as Christina Aguilera, the Pussycat Dolls, and Rihanna, these women are in extremely minimal clothing, moving promiscuously, and singing lyrics glorifying their sexual endeavors. While these women should not be ashamed of their sex lives, they also shouldn't be representing themselves as sexual objects, as if it is the only thing they have to give to society. Their fans should be focusing on their music, not now they look. By attempting to make themselves known and to gain fans, they are dancing in lingerie and singing about having sex, instead of focusing on their music and their artistry. They are mistaking feminism for sexual glorification. That mistake can be extremely detrimental to feminism. Just as the good, moral housewife who stays home is the sexist portrayal of women, the idea of a sexual objectified girl who is glorifying her sexual means is just as bad of a portrayal of women, This film also lets us into the lives of three preteen girls who are getting ready for the mall. As they start to apply their makeup and do their hair, they begin to resemble the makeup and hair of the celebrities in the current sexualized music videos, and as they listen to these artists' songs, they begin to imitate the dance moves that these girls do. It definitely opened my eyes to how the media and celebrities really do affect the lives of young girls and how they affect feminism.

Pussycat Dolls- When I Grow Up

Question: How has the sexualized portrayal of women changed or been enhanced throughout the years?

Saturday, September 19, 2015

Privilege: Gender, Race, Etc.

Throughout this short book, Allan G. Johnson specifically tackles the issue of privilege and the connection between race and gender. When he first mentions the differences between how white people and black people are treated, it became more and more real for me. I'm white. My best friend Mark is black. One time Mark and I were at my grandmother's house. My grandmother is by no definition a racist, but she does have very old fashioned views that make her feel better than African American people, man or woman. We were sitting at lunch and she started to ask him questions about himself. At first they were normal. Then he explained that he has all half siblings, because his mother had fallen in love with many different men throughout her life. My grandmother asked "Did she pregnant as a teenager?" and "So she isn't married?"

I was appalled.

If Mark was white and he had said that he had all half siblings, I don't think she would've jumped to conclusions, trying to make his mother's life seem inappropriate. She would've assumed his mom was married a few times, or his father had gotten remarried as well. She would've never thought that Mark's family was any less than her family. That's when racism became really relevant to my life, and every time I'm with Mark, I see the way that people treat me better than him. And it disgusts me. Equality means everybody. Black, white, woman, man, straight, gay, transgender, ANYONE. Anyone and everyone deserves equality.

"I felt how hard it was for me to talk about race and gender in that moment- about how the legacy of racism and sexism shapes our lives in such different ways, how my whiteness and maleness are sources of privilege..." (Johnson, 7)

Kim Kardashian Racism Experience

1.)Do you think that racism and gender privilege will ever become a thing of the past?
2,) How do you think sexual orientation ties into the topic of privilege?

Saturday, September 12, 2015

Modern Women: The Fear of Feminism

Ms. Lisa Marie Hogeland has many valid points throughout her extremely well written article, "Fear of Feminsim." In today's modern society, it is extremely valid that young women are afraid of the word "feminist." They are afraid to be judged and to be belittled just for believing in gender equality and feminine pride. When Hogeland mentions that young women are being "profoundly affected by the demonization of feminism," I definitely agreed. There are so many pictures and posts on social media making feminism seem like a bad thing, when in reality, it is just simply the fight for something that every human deserves- equality. There is a Twitter account called "meninist" where it idolizes men, and the belief that men are better than women. It is supposed to be mocking feminism, when in reality, it is just simply an unfair demonstration of masculine fear of feminism. 

I was very compelled when Ms. Hogeland brought up the social connection between feminism and lesbianism. This is such a relevant ppint to make especially in today's society. So many young women are probably afraid of feminism because of the stereotype that all feminists are lesbians. Which is NOT true. That statement as like saying that all men are gay because we are proud of our gender. It is ridiculous but an extremely popular stereotype in today's society. It's as if people are afraid that feminists think that they are better than men. Which is not true. Feminists think that they are equal to men.

It is sad that so many of these young women are being forced into society norms saying that feminism is a bad thing. It is not. Is is a scary thing and it takes courage to stand up for what you believe in. But it is also a great thing to challenge society and say "I am who I am. And I am equal to you.

The Waves of Feminism

While reading and familiarizing myself with Ms. Kristen Rowe-Finkbeiner's "A Tsunami in History" I found myself becoming more and more interested with the history on the Women's Movement that she was providing. I found it especially interesting that Abigail Adams encouraged her husband John Adams "'remember the ladies' while drafting the Declaration of Independence." This shows that even before the first wave of the movement, there were still women hoping for the chance of gender equality. When Rowe-Finkbeiner brought up the names of Harriet Tubman and Sorjourner Truth, I was pleasantly surprised because I had never thought of those women as feminists or advocates of the women's movement, but more as abolitionists and supporters in slavery escape. Later in the article when she brings up the excluding of African American women from the first and second waves, I couldn't help but think to myself that some of the first feminists were black women, how could they not have seen that? But of course, as Rowe-Finkbeiner states, women of color "were often (understandably) rebuffed because there was still the sentiment that black women should be working with black men on civil rights issues- they were torn." With the Civil Rights movement still going on or still very fresh in society during the second wave of the movement, it was hard to include colored women because they didn't know if they should be involved in such a white dominated movement.

I also found her personal connection to the movement extremely interesting as well. The fact that her great-grandmother had helped to run Planned Parenthood and help other women was very inspiring and captivating. The fact that her grandmother had been a volunteer nurse at the organizaton was also very cool because it showed that feminism is in fact a generational way of living. Women are not "just feminists." They are living a feminist lifestyle. By the time her mother had become apart of the movement, women were going to college and beginning to work their way into the work force. The generational gap between the women in her family was quite compelling, seeing how each women's actions had affected the life of the next.

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

The Moment That Defined Me


My name is Brooks Andre Shatraw. I am a seventeen year old gay man who is absolutely in love with Broadway and Musical Theatre. I am here at RIC majoring in Musical Theatre and hoping to one day actually star on Broadway. When I was nine years old, I decided to leave my life of athletics, filled with Hockey and Baseball, for a new life filled with dance, music, and acting. By starting Hip Hop, Jazz, and Tap dance, I gained a love of performing. I can remember singing since I could talk and acting out imaginary situations with my brothers at such young ages. Once I left my athletic life, my mom introduced the concept of theater to me. I had always loved seeing shows, but I had never imagined myself on stage until my cousin Dylan played a Lost Boy in Peter Pan. Once seeing a kid my age do something like that, I wanted to do it too. This led me to audition for Alice In Wonderland Jr. I was horrified. My mom drove me and I clung to her leg the entire time before I had to go on stage to audition. Once my number was called, I walked onto the stage with the lyrics page in my hand, my whole body shaking from nervousness. I introduced myself, and then sang my song. They liked me, I hadn't blown it, I was okay! So then they had me do cold readings from the script. This was my strength. I was very outgoing and flamboyant, so I read confidently with expression, and they thanked me for coming and let me go.

A couple days later, I was being babysat and the phone rang. We all rushed to the phone and she answered it.

"Hello? Is this Brooks Shatraw?"

"No, this is his babysitter!"

"Oh. Okay, well we're just calling to tell him that he was casted as Tweedle Dum in Encore Kids' production of Alice In Wonderland Jr.!"

"Oh my God, thank you so much! I will let him know right now!"

And we jumped up and down, I hugged her and my twin brother Bradley and we all celebrated my huge accomplishment.

That was the day that I knew this new activity was going to be really special.

As rehearsals went by, I was making friends, learning music, lines, and blocking. Before I knew it, Opening Night was upon us. I was so nervous, yet so so so excited. The show started and I took a deep breathe as the curtain opened next to us. As the lights shined on my face, the pit played the music, and we started to create the story onstage in front of this amazing audience. As we hit the last note of the opening number, something inside of me just switched on. It was like as if a fire was just being lit, or a refurbished cart was just being started after weeks of repairs. I knew right inside of me at that very moment that this activity that had become so special to me was, in fact, my new life. I was an actor. I was a theatre kid. I was, officially, a part of the amazing world that is "Musical Theatre."