Monday, April 30, 2012

How I Accepted My Hairy Legs

Mary Reed
WRC Volunteer

I stopped shaving my legs sometime last year. I probably haven’t shaved my armpits for two. It wasn’t a big deal at the time—-I was lazy and didn’t want to take the time out of the day to take a razor to my body. Even before then, I wasn’t exactly a regular shaver—I’d go without during the winter and only sporadically shaved during the warm months. It was something I thought I had to do before going to the beach, wearing a summer dress, or being intimate with a partner. I spent a lot of time being anxious about what other people thought of me instead of choosing what would make me happiest. Soon my legs were a point of contention. I still didn’t want to shave, so I spent a long time hiding them in pants, long skirts, and leggings. Swimming at the Rec Center became another thing that I barred myself from.

The weather a few weekends ago changed everything. Friday and Saturday were spent in pants. In my mind, my legs were a monstrous thick blonde forest. Exposing them beyond capris wasn’t even an option before the 80-degree weather decided to step in. The exact moment happened at Buffalo Exchange. I wasn’t going to buy anything because of my limited budget, but then I saw it: an 8-dollar summer dress. I immediately purchased it.

 Maybe I’d been oppressing myself for so long that I became numb to my own anxiety. Maybe I realized after two years that I lived in Portland and hairy legs are not uncommon. I’m still not sure the cause. But I do know that my legs were finally free to wave their hairs in the sunny weather; to relax out at the waterfront; to sigh a breath of relief. That was the goal the whole time— comfort. Now I wonder why I was so worried in the first place. Even if someone verbally expressed distaste at my choice, why is it any of their business? It’s not. It’s just mine.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Women’s Roles in the Zombieocalypse…
What should they be?

By Megan Coleman
Student Projects Assistant
Office of the Dean of Student Life
Enrollment Management and Student Affairs
Portland State University

What is a Matriarch? Merriam-Webster defines it as “A woman who rules or dominates a family, group, or state,” but society seems to have some preconceived notions on what types of women fit that category.

For those of you who are sci-fi buffs like me you will be familiar with AMC’s “The Walking Dead”. For those of you who are not obsessed with the impending zombie-apocalypse this show portrays just that. The show follows a small group of people as they struggle to survive the aftermath of some sort of viral outbreak that reanimates the dead. On the surface the show appears to be just another zombie story full of gore and fighting but if you dig just a little deeper there are some larger themes being examined. The show has tackled a few controversial issues such as the idea of suicide, murder, theft, as well as gender roles.

In the episode “18 miles out” we see two of the main characters in a heated debate about what a woman’s role should be. Lori is a mother, she was a homemaker before the outbreak and she was married to the sheriff who has assumed the leader position of their group. On the outside she looks like the a-typical matriarch of the group but there is another vying for her position. Andrea was an environmental lawyer before the outbreak; she lost all of her family and is now fending for herself. She struggles to fit in with the group at first but has befriended the men and has learned how to shoot and defend the camp and is portrayed as a very strong determined character.

Lori is unhappy with Andrea and insists that by going off with the men she is shirking her responsibilities onto the rest of the women. Lori tells Andrea she is being stupid and wasting everyone’s time and that she needs to come back and help the rest of the women with the cooking and cleaning. Andrea is livid, she doesn’t understand how that helps anyone when they are being constantly attacked by flesh eating dead people and that if they didn’t learn how to defend themselves they would be left vulnerable. The two never really come to an understanding and mostly agree to disagree but it raises some good questions.

My personal opinion is that gender roles are silly. I say do whatever makes you happy to the best of your ability (I suppose using discretion... if eating people makes you happy I may not be all that supportive…). Be a house dad, house mom, business tycoon, lawyer, professor, kindergarten teacher… I don’t think that gender should be an issue but would this change if the world was over? If all social conventions were thrown out the window would your idea of gender roles be swayed? I would like to think mine wouldn’t, I would want to be out learning how to defend myself from the hoards of the undead as well but the idea that its also women enforcing the stereotype was an interesting concept to me. With the exception of an episode from the first season where a husband tells his wife she would be doing more housework (and then dies soon after) there hasn’t been any overt gender bias by the men.

When it comes down to it, I think that Andrea and Lori are both matriarchs of their community. They are very strong women that others look up to and model their behavior after. Just because Lori is a more traditional person and prefers to stay at home doesn’t mean she is wrong. She is doing what makes her feel good and so is Andrea. Andrea seems to be portraying a more “modern” idea of what women “should be” trying to achieve. I think they both are doing important work that needs to be done and that the portrayal of the constant battle of what a woman’s role “should be” on national television offers a great learning opportunity as our generation is trying to sort out where we all fit. Hopefully the show can serve as a catalyst for people to explore their own ideas about gender roles and enable discussions about what preconceived notions people have.

Inquisitions of a Modern Day America

By Danielle Huxley
Chair of the Women of Color Action Team

Guessing one’s ethnicity has become passé. “Why take the time to go down the list? There are so many varieties”, ponders the inquisitor. A reconfiguration occurs; a scrambling of sentences to give the façade of freshness to generalizations of cultural masses. I can see the strain of the thought process go over my inquisitor's face. I am amused slightly because I am already well aware of the answer to the question that they seek. Should I help this person out? Nope. Why should I be the one to concede?

Oh, here come the compliments. “You have an exotic look. It’s unique.” I smile as a way of saying thank you for the faux compliment. “Where are you from?” This inquisitor has a fast transitional speed; right into the cross examination phase. I respond coyly but honestly, “All over.” This is actually true. Growing up I have never lived any place more than 18 months. “Oh, okay. But where are you from originally; your birthplace?” I answer. “I meant to ask about where your parents were born, originally”, frustration building for the interviewer. I am sure you can tell where this is going.

In the past I was more naïve and believed that it was my duty as an individual with a mixed ethnicity to identify first with that background. Through the years and the endless inquiring I had an epiphany. I decided to turn the tables and see how the inquisitor responded to an interrogation of them. The reactions I received on more than one occasion were of perplexity and in some cases irritation. Most were confused as to why I did not realize that they were “just white”. I pressed further with my questions about where their parents were born, originally of course. If it was within the states I asked about grandparents and so on. I was astounded that many did not know their ancestral tree like I did. So, why was I expected to know the answers to these questions? Why is it anyone’s business what my cultural upbringing was? The answer in short is it is not. Would knowing it change how they interact with me? For some yes, my cultural heritage was essential to form a bond.
America has a plethora of people from various other places. Sometimes they traveled from across the world to make this place their new home. In order to have some commonality with them why do we need to first know why they look like they don’t belong? I feel for those that are either new to this indoctrinated process or still have yet to find a way to deal with it.

I was on the MAX blue line the other day and there were two gentlemen that were at the initial stage of conversation. One had a very thick accent the other did not. The accented man asked a very general question about the other man’s day. The response that he received was not an answer, but rather a new question of, “So, where are you from?” The man responded, “Portland.” The other man raised his tone, “No, no way. I am from Portland and you don’t look or sound like me.” The other man having realized the true nature of the conversation gave in and stated his country of origin, although I cannot recall but it does not matter. “That’s more like it. One of my good buddies from college is from around there”, he stated with a satisfied tone. It turns out though through their curt dialogue that both men arrived to Portland within a few years of each other. The only difference was one came from another country and the other from a different state within the United States. The man with the accent never asked which state the questioner came from. It was not of concern to him. All he expected to have with his friendliness was a lighter toned conversation. The interrogated man got up to get off at the next stop and wished the other a good day. The inquisitor sat with a smug look on his face. My internal reaction was sadness and irritation. It distressed me to see another go through that and left me with wondering if the inquisitor ever knows how the ones they come in contact with are affected. My assumption is that they do not.