Women

“Women: The Greatest Natural Resource.”

I recently finished reading a book entitled “Meena” by Melody Ermachild Chavis. Meena Kishwarkamel, founded RAWA, a woman’s organization that supported democratic ideas and woman’s freedoms in Afghanistan. The book has inspired me to seek after woman’s issues that I feel are meaningful and important in the support and development of woman’s rights and freedoms. I often find I gravitate towards works by women who have taken on challenging circumstances and made significant improvements in their communities and societies. Helping women find a place, find personal fulfillment, and develop strong identities is usually a common agenda in my classroom and in my choreography.

I have been inspired to consider agencies and organizations that are working towards positives changes for women in various countries around the world. Currently, my next choreographic project is brewing as I continue the research process of women and social change.

I am not interested in creating a new chauvinism for women. I don’t believe in one gender being greater than the other. Degrading men and their roles in society is only using the same system of power that has oppressed women. Breaking down power systems so genders can still be different yet equally valued is extremely important to me. I am interested in the power of combining talented women who want to contribute to causes and change in their local communities as well as combat issues through constructive collaborations.

Some of the questions I’m considering in the beginning stages of my research include the following:

In what ways are women oppressed in the public and social arenas in both western and non-western settings?
What are the examples of women and organizations that have made positive changes to increase freedoms and rights for women?
What are current issues that I feel are meaningful and worthwhile to explore in relationship to woman’s issues?
How can a strong women presence be developed without degrading and blaming male genders?
How can chauvinism be avoided even in feminist work and what agencies support these ideals?
What attitudes and behaviors support negative identities of women in their societies?
What organizations or power systems are most destructive to woman’s rights and freedoms?
How are woman’s “freedoms and rights” being defined and what definitions do I mostly connect with?
What agencies and agendas support ideals about woman’s rights that I can contribute to?
What women do I admire? What resources can I tap into to understand them and their interests?

This question list is elementary, I know. I learn best by starting simple and expanding from there. These ideas and questions will continue to develop through my own studies and creative explorations about women and issues affecting women now.

I would love any comments from all that may contribute to my list of questions as well as offer examples of inspiring women or stories in regards to woman’s issues.

Respectfully,

Kristen Jeppsen Groves

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9 thoughts on “Women

  1. Dang! lots of questions. that means lots of work. Good luck. I don’t have answers to any of those but you can admire me if you want. So glad I am done with school, but you, Val and Esther to have masters. Do you feel like a master of anything?

    • Joyce
      Your comment, “Do you feel like a master of anything?” totally had me chuckling. I think this is classic Joyce:)) and I certainly like you!
      As an older woman and grandmother I have found over the years that the more I learn and understand, the more I realize there is always more to explore and appreciate. I’m sure there are many that come to the conclusion that “I’m a jack of many things but master of none.”

      Kristen, your questions are broad and vast, but it has made me ask myself the following question-Do I as Terry, feel oppressed in any way? My first answer seems to be that yes, I do sometimes, but is it often due my own choices or lack there of. Not terribly profound is it. (SIGH) If I think about this further I may come up with something really amazing:)).

      • One of biggest challenges I see with discussing women’s issues is that often questions can be written as a way to make women feel oppressed or to make them feel they need liberation. That is not my intention at all. I know my questions are broad and I am gathering information and details; I will need to narrow my questions as others respond. If you could think what is is about your personal choices or why those choices are not chosen could be helpful to narrow some of my questions. Or it could simply be some pressures you personally feel and if those are healthy pressures or not and why.
        I think “liberation” in such a western world as ours because increasingly difficult because in the sake of “liberation” we can actually be limited from pursuing interests or responsibilities that inherently aren’t progressive enough. I think I’m trying to decide for myself what are “rights” for women, what “freedoms” do I want to support, what current “liberations” for women are actually limiting to them and create a negative impact on society. What are the affects of making non-western women more western and is that always positive? How does western perspectives for women repress other important cultural and religious beliefs?
        I need to keep identifying and narrowing some of my thoughts, and writing to women I trust and admire is one of the quickest ways for me to discover some answers to these questions.

  2. Good questions Kristen,
    To be honest, I haven’t thought much about women’s issues specifically, but here are a couple thoughts.
    Coming from the viewpoint of a teacher, I think that education, or lack thereof, is a good example of oppression for women. It’s not such a problem in the Western world, but it still is in many developing countries. This may limit a woman’s ability to be independent and self-directed. Having no education may leave a woman in poverty and at the mercy to oppressive cultural traditions (female genital mutilation, child marriages to adult men).
    The Grameen Bank was the first to give micro-loans to women to help them gain financial independence. There are many more such organizations now. The Central Asia Institute builds schools for girls in Afghanistan and other Arab countries. Maiti Nepal is an organization run by Anuradha Koirala to stop human trafficking of young girls sold into prostitution. She was just honored by CNN as one of 10 heros of 2010. There are plenty of organizations around supporting women.

    Your question – What are the affects of making non-western women more western and is that always positive? makes me think that you have your doubts about spreading the western woman ideal around the globe. What is the western woman ideal? The impression I get from the media is that of a mother who also works, preferably as a high-powered business executive or as the president of the United States. It’s like women will only be free and liberated when they are statistically proportionally represented in every occupation and receiving equal pay.

    I personally don’t feel oppressed as a woman, nor do I buy into the Western ideal. I think that true liberation is the ability to pursue your goals, whatever they may be.

    Joyce, I don’t really feel like a master of anything at all. Maybe if people started calling me “Master”, I’d feel more at home in the role. 🙂

  3. Oh, how wonderful! Thanks, Kristen, for giving me a reason to write some ideas out here….

    I’ve been thinking lately of ways in which women’s physical movement has been controlled or channeled over time and in different parts of the world. Sometimes through clothing, like the Indian sari, or 4-inch power stilettos, sometimes through customs, like feet binding. Gosh, just the ability to MOVE, and OWN my body is the greatest freedom I could ever hope for. And along with that, but perhaps the greater challenge – to have the right to define my body, NOT have my body defined to me by others.

    So, I guess I’m really talking about the BODY here. What does the female body “mean” in various cultures, how is that meaning derived, who is making that meaning? Who is challenging that meaning?

    (In “Reading Lolita in Tehran,” Azar Nafisi talks about her changed sense of physicality after being forced to wear the burqa – pg. 167-169 and 264-266).

    In my opinion, Western media is perhaps the greatest detriment to this freedom to own and define our bodies as women. I can think of numerous times traveling in non-Western countries when assumptions have been made about me and my body based on what has been seen about “American women” on TV shows like Baywatch and Friends. (Did I hear that Baywatch is the most watched American show outside the U.S.?)

    Postmodern choreographers challenged the objectification of women’s bodies by shifting focus from the “brava” and mystery of the perfectly-tuned technical instrument, to choreography rooted in more human, pedestrian movement. “I am like you and you are like me.” There was something egalitarian about it all.

    As a performer and as a human being, I am not AS interested in using my body to express someone else’s ideas/beliefs/political agendas/social perspectives as I am in expressing MINE. As a choreographer, I want to honor the stories and embodied experiences of women and other underrepresented populations. I want to give women the opportunity to use their body to express what is most meaningful to them. Taking ownership of your body, and using it to express what is most important to you…That, to me, is freedom. That, to me, is power.

  4. Kristen,
    Wow. To be honest, this list intrigues me, and overwhelms me. It seems so long since I’ve had the quiet to contemplate society, its innerworkings, and brainstorm solutions. It even hurts my head to even think about doing so. Haha. Thank goodness wonderful people like you are in the season of life where you can work on solutions of societal issues. All I can think of, in my realm of living and with my “simple” mind in my simple life is that a way women have contributed in the right way to changing society is, maybe you could say, PTA. Here is an organization comprised of mostly woman (not that it has to be). But woman, are, by eternal destiny, educators and primary nurturers. How do you discuss this without bringing eternal truths you know into a society that doesn’t know them? Wow. That must be difficult. I would need more practice in that were I in the working world. But I digress. So think of these PTA woman, in society working for better education, safety, etc. in the community, or even in government. But I love the PTA example just because these are mostly moms at home, taking care of their children, but expanding that care to society, and raising standards society of care. Here they have influenced. Like on city councils and state senates as well. Though going into bigger government most likely impedes their mothering one-on-one at home. When I was in the workplace, I honestly gave up hope that a real equality would be found in teh workplace between gender. No man likes to have a woman boss. Well. At least the majority are still threatened by this (because of “wear the pants” and “man of the house” earlier generation standards). If a woman boss is not respected, there is no way to prove that, to put it on paper, to show anything concretely. Even just woman teammates working in a cutthroat office to get ahead. A woman can’t prove their male colleagues were given more or bigger job opportunities, based on gender that is. And so, how? HOw can this really be improved? If there is really no way to “catch” the favoritism, judgment, not-giving-fair-opportunity issue. It can always be explained as loss of opportunity or passing of judgment or favoritism based on skill level, not on gender, but likely the gender issue greatly contributed. And then another thing, mother’s ARE more distracted perhaps when they have kids at home. Take to day care, the child gets sick, etc. The mother is primarily responsible for this where a husband has been expected to provide, unlike the mother. So the mother is “forced” to multi-task while trying to pursue a career, unlike a man perhaps. But this is specifically talking about mothers, not that this issue isn’t real of those who are woman but not necessarily mothers. It may be.
    Lots of rambling. I just don’t know. I just don’t know how to even start with a solution because how to prove the problem? You had SO many thought provoking questions. What a journey you are going on intellectually! I can’t wait to see where it takes you!
    I feel my thoughts are worth dirt. But anyway. Here are some mumbled, jumbled ramblings from a mother of less-sharp mind than in my college years. But HAPPY to be in this season!! Love you.

  5. Kristen,
    Your comment, “one of biggest challenges I see with discussing women’s issues is that often questions can be written as a way to make women feel oppressed or to make them feel they need liberation” is particularly insightful. Has feminism created a new power structure all of its own and is this helpful to women? That is a really big question. Unfortunately, we are still operating out of a zero-sum, either/or world: higher education, professionalization, family/home life. At least those are the inner pressures affecting me right now. How will I maneuver my need to create with my equally strong desire to be a mother? And who is saying that these are two mutually exclusive activities? This is a really important project.

    • Rebecca, Thank you for your thoughts and insights. I hope you will click over to the Artist, Interrupted Project site. From about three months of thinking, discussing, and writing this is the project and solution I have currently created to solve some of these solutions. If there are few venues that support women who desire families, who may also seek professional work or education, why are there not more organizations, projects and options for women who are choosing families and children as part of their life plan. The project has taken off quickly and our population is growing as many women are very interested in presenting artistic work, but they need a flexible format for family life as well as some professional experiences and support to continue making work. I think this project has great potential to grow.

  6. Have you read the Tillie Olsen book “Silences?” In it she explores the relationship between life’s circumstances, creativity, and the reasons for literary “silences” in both the acknowledged “great” authors and lessor know authors who had long interruptions or ceased to write altogether. Although written a while ago, it still applies to all forms of creativity.

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