What does it mean to be a woman?


Apr 24

What does it mean to be a woman: Where does it all begin?

We’ve covered a lot of points in this blog up to this point. All revolving around the central theme of: What does it mean to be a woman?

There are plenty of things in society today, and throughout history that play into what it means to be a woman. 

A lot of these things affect the way we see ourselves as women. 

Where do you think these types of behaviors start? 

Do you think girls are influenced from a young age to think and feel the way they do when they grow up? 

What does it mean to be a woman?

Where does it all begin? 

Do you think Disney movies and the “princesses” that are portryed in them could have an effect on young girls today? 

Here’s what younger girls of today had to say when posed with the question “What does it mean to be a woman?” 

This video was custom made for this project and this blog! Please view, comment, and let us know what you think! Thank you!

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Apr 24

Disney Princesses

The culture under the Disney label has had so much influence on the feminine imagination and children’s perception of life for so many generations that it is not possible to study girl culture and women’s formation of identity without taking “Disney” into serious consideration.

In the early films, the princess was often the heroine of a traditional fairy tale. She maintained a certain standard of beauty, obedience and sweetness. Frequently, the early films feature a damsel-in-distress theme, where the heroine needs rescuing by a handsome nearby prince. 

Cinderella, for instance, is doomed to stay in her enforced servitude until she can escape by marriage. While these tales did draw on traditional legends, they quickly lost favor as the rights of women became a serious issue in America.

Characters like Cinderella, Snow White 

and Sleeping Beauty

Seem incapable of helping themselves out of their own troubles. They are all forced to rely on men for their escape, even trading themselves in marriage in order to get out of their unpleasant situation. 

In the 1980s the Disney princess was reinvented with the release of The Little Mermaid. While Ariel the mermaid does still marry her true love at the end of the movie, she is written as a rebellious and ambitious girl who plays a serious role in her own success. The enormous success of The Little Mermaid led to a tremendous revival, both for the Disney princess and the Disney animation department.

Soon, Disney princesses could do just about anything they wanted. Pocahontas bravely put her own life at risk to save an innocent stranger.

While the wily Mulan fought off an entire invading Hun army and saves China from total destruction.

Girls of the 1980s and 1990s were given a new set of role-models in these fiery princesses.

Which did little to diminish the enjoyment of the earlier princesses as well. Today, girls and boys can choose identity figures from the Disney canon that match their own preferences or ambitions, with Cinderella and Jasmine holding equal popularity among Disney princess fans.

The Disney princess is an important figure for more reasons that simply its influence on young girls. Disney films in general tend to feature female heroines more frequently than male heroes, for a variety of reasons. Some experts, like writer and Buffy the Vampire Slayer creator Joss Whedon believe that it is easier even for men to identify with a female power figure than a male one. 

Cultural gender stereotyping allows powerful females to remain more in contact with their weaknesses and insecurities, where typical male heroes are often portrayed as hard and consistently strong. Some suggest that the Disney princess provides a universal role model for viewers of both sexes, whereas a Disney princess may be more difficult to make accessible to a wide audience.

Do you think Disney Princesses have a direct effect on the way young girls view themselves?

We will discuss this more in our next post! 

Stay tuned for a video asking younger girls the question: What does it mean to be a woman? 

As always please leave your thoughts and comments! 

Thank you for reading!

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Apr 24

Pregnant Barbie?

"If you look she has a very miniature little wedding ring."

"They really wanted to make certain that you knew this doll was married and not an unwed teen."

"I mean isn’t this unreal?"

Is the pregnant barbie a good idea?  Mattel presented her as barbie’s longest friend that already has one child, and is expecting her second.  She is also happily married.  What image does this give little girls?  Will this make them want to have that image sooner than what is actually realistic?  Wal-mart actually pulled this item from the shelves because of the customers responses.  Does this say something about how Mattel, or even how Barbie thinks a woman should be like?  Do they think that a woman should be married, raise kids and keep having them, be beautiful and perfect all at the same time? (-Emily)

Are shows like 16 and pregnant, and toys like pregnant barbie portraying being pregnant at a young age as a positive thing? 

This girl will be featured again later!  How will she respond when asked the question “What does it mean to be a woman?”

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Apr 24

Barbie: A bad influence?


"I’m not saying Barbie gives people eating disorders, she’s just one factor that really plays a role in a young girl or boys development"

As a 16-year-old, Galia Slayen made a life-size Barbie out of wood, chicken wire, paper-mache and — of course — two big balloons as way to deal with her anorexia.

Now, four years later, Slayen is a sophomore at Hamilton College and is using the massive (but freakishly slim) doll she built to start a conversation about eating disorders and body image issues.

So, what would a LIFE-SIZED barbie look like?

Yikes! here she is, 39’ chest, 18’ waist, 33’ hips!

This is featured untel Mattels Frequently asked questions page: 

What are Barbie doll’s measurements? 

Barbie® doll is not scaled to human measurements. The Barbie® doll was developed after Mattel studied the popularity of paper fashion dolls (which had more adult-like figures than the dolls of the day) among children. Finding the marketplace receptive to the idea, a team of Mattel employees translated the paper doll concept into a three dimensional doll with life-like characteristics.

I think girls compare themselves to Barbie from a young age, and this can have a negative effect on their self-esteem. They compare their actual body size to the ideal body size projected by Barbie, and then they develop this idea that Barbie projects a realistic body type, which makes them think their body should look like Barbies. I think girls can carry this concept with them as they grow up as well, and this can cause them to focus on inadequacies they think they have, rather than on their strengths.(-Ashley)

Do you think it’s right that Barbie is portrayed with innacurate measurements when she is presented to younger generations of girls as a role model? 

What were your feelings about Barbie while growing up? 

Did you want to be just like her?

Did you play with Barbies? 

If so, did it have an effect on the way you viewed yourself as a woman, while you were younger or now? 

Let us know!

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Apr 24

Barbie: An Introduction

Barbie is a HUGE influence for younger girls. Because these dolls do play such a huge role for women, we wanted to take some time to really delve into Barbie. Her history, how she began, the effects she can cause. Barbie will be broken down and discussed throughout the next several posts. Once again we will be posing questions to you- we want to know your thoughts! 

How did Barbie get her start?

Did you play with Barbies when you were little?

Did Barbie have an effect on how you thought girls were ‘supposed’ to look?

If we were to ask Barbie what it means to be a woman what do you think her response would be?

The media bombards girls with images of allegedly perfect bodies, and Barbie reaches them from a young age. Her glamorous portrayal tells children and teens that she’s the ideal woman. However, most girls and women can’t live up to the image that Barbie projects, which many people believe negatively affects young girls and women. Despite her supposedly ideal image, Barbie was actually based on a character named Lili, a prostitute in a German comic strip. 

Before making her debut in toy stores, she was sold exclusively in adult shops.

In March of 1959 Mattel, Inch launched Barbie.

American businesswoman Ruth Handler is credited with the creation of the doll, and named Ken and Barbie after her own children. 

The rest is history.

What do you think the impacts of this doll are on girls of today? 

Let us know your thoughts, and stories!

We will discuss this further coming soon!

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Apr 23


Upon researching the definition of misogynistic, in order to better understand how the term was derived, I came across Philosophers throughout History who are now considered to be “misogynistic”. 

We’ve talked a bit about the term misogynistic so I thought I would share these quotes I found as to better show how the term has been formed throughout history.(-Ashley) 


The philosopher Otto Weininger freely admits his misogyny in his 1903 book Sex and Character, in which he characterizes the “woman” part of each individual as being essentially “nothing,” and having no real existence, having no effective consciousness or rationality.


The notable philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer has been accused of misogyny for his essay “On Women” (Über die Weiber), in which he expressed his opposition to what he called “Teutonico-Christian stupidity” on female affairs. He claimed that “woman is by nature meant to obey.” He also noted that “Men are by nature merely indifferent to one another; but women are by nature enemies.”


The philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche is known for arguing that every higher form of civilization implied stricter controls on women (Beyond Good and Evil, 7:238); he frequently insulted women. He is known for phrases such as “Women are less than shallow,” and “Are you going to women? Do not forget the whip!”[38] Whether or not this amounts to misogyny, whether his polemic statements against women are meant to be taken literally, and the exact nature of his opinions of women, are controversial.


Aristotle has also been accused of being a misogynist; He has written that women were inferior to men. For example, to cite Cynthia Freeland’s catalogue: “Aristotle says that the courage of a man lies in commanding, a woman’s lies in obeying; that “matter yearns for form, as the female for the male and the ugly for the beautiful;” that women have fewer teeth than men; that a female is an incomplete male or “as it were, a deformity”: which contributes only matter and not form to the generation of offspring; that in general “a woman is perhaps an inferior being”; that female characters in a tragedy will be inappropriate if they are too brave or too clever”(Freeland 1994: 145-46)


In the Routledge philosophy guidebook to Plato and the Republic, Nickolas Pappas describes the “problem of misogyny” and states

"In the Apology, Socrates calls those who plead for their lives in court "no better than women" (35b)… The Timaeus warns men that if they live immorally they will be reincarnated as women (42b-c; cf. 75d-e). The Republic contains a number of comments in the same spirit (387e, 395d-e, 398e, 431b-c, 469d), evidence of nothing so much as of contempt toward women. Even Socrates’ words for his bold new proposal about marriage… suggest that the women are to be "held in common" by men. He never says that the men might be held in common by the women… We also have to acknowledge Socrates’ insistence that men surpass women at any task that both sexes attempt (455c, 456a), and his remark in Book 8 that one sign of democracy’s moral failure is the sexual equality it promotes (563b)."

Does this make you think any differently of these Philosophers?

Why do you think these men made these kinds of statements? 

Do these quotes make you feel differently about what term misogynistic means?

Let us know!

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Apr 23

Just checking in!

We wanted to update again and give a little bit clearer of an idea of the kinds of questions we wanted to pose through this blog!

What does it mean to be a woman?

The term “woman” is typically used to describe the female form. 

It definitely means more than this though! 

We want to know what being a woman or a girl means to you and how it affects the way you see yourself.

We would like to discuss anything and everything that “being a woman” may encompass.

Some of the typical terms that are brought up when it comes to gender issues are:

Misogynistic- Of or characterized by a hatred of women.

Can you think of any examples of something that would be considered Misogynistic? 

Do you consider yourself to be a feminist? 

Why or why not? 

The historical meaning of gender is “things we treat differently because of their inherent differences”.

Most commonly, this is applied to the general differences between men and women.

What differences can you think of between men and women?

Do you think these differences create controversy?

In the 17th century Mary Firth was scandalised by wearing male clothing, smoking in public, and otherwise defying what is now known today to be gender roles.

The term gender role is used to define all things that a person says or does to discern themselves as having the status of boy, girl, man, or woman. 

It can include, but is not restricted to:

Sexuality, clothing, speech patterns, movement, occupations, and much more! 

How do you think these different things factor in to how women are defined? 

What do you think it means to be liberated and how does this relate to being a woman?

What connections do you see between chivalry, dependence, and domination? 

Are these distinct, or is this a slippery slope? 

Do you think Disney affected the way you percieve women?

Do you think the media portrays women in a certain way?

Anything else you come up with or would like to share! 

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Apr 20

Evolution of the swimsuit

We all know what bathing suits look like today but has anyone noticed how far they’ve come?

The first swimsuits consisted of bloomers and black stockings. Women didn’t swim in the ocean but rather ‘bathed’. Swimming was something that only Men did.


By 1910 things had begun to change. Annette Kellerman became the first famous female swimmer. She became even more famous by discarding the ruffles and heavy corset that went with bathing dresses when, between 1909-1924 she made 12 films. In five of them she starred as a leading lady either as a mermaid or action hero! She also performed underwater feats in men’s clothes and appearing unabashed in a tight, one-piece suit! (Scandalous!)

By the 1930s bathing suits had started to become more feminine and fashionable. One might even see a slight resemblance to the styles and fashions of swimsuits of today even. These suits led into the 1940s era of Corset-like swimsuits, which started to become a bit more revealing. 

This remained the standard of swimsuits until the 1960s when Two-piece bathing suits were starting to appear. 

Rudi Gernreich, who created the topless bikini a decade earlier, introduced the thong swimsuit in 1974. Although it gained popularity in Brazil, it was not widely accepted at the time in the U.S.

1980s- 1990s. The cut on the hip on the bathing suit becomes much higher. Pamela Anderson is shown here in the iconic, Baywatch swimsuit. 

It’s amazing how far we’ve come when we look at swimsuits of today. 

Even One-piece swimsuits hardly cover any skin! It’s interesting that as time has passed, more and more skin has been revealed! 

Why do you think this is?

Do you like the style of swimsuits of today? 

Do you wish one piece swimsuits were still widely accepted? 

Could the fact that clothes have become more revealing have something to do with women’s expectations in society in today’s world? 

Let us know!

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Apr 19

Does Product Advertisement Promote Sexism?

We flip through magazines, watch television commercials, and hear radio advertisements every day. All of these advertisements promote some sort of product or service. Is there something more behind some of the advertisements that are being placed in the media? 

This is a clip from the BBC comedy series ‘That Mitchell and Webb look’. This is not an advertisement, but a satire taking a different approach of showing how sexuality is displayed in the media. The view taken on in the clip is that advertisements geared towards women are only that of household cleaning supplies, or medical symptoms. Men seem to be advertised to with only alcoholic beverages, razors, or automobiles.

Do you think some product advertisements are displayed in a sexist manner?

Do you feel offended when certain products are advertised as solely for women?

There are plenty of advertisements placed in the media that revolve around the idea of ‘homemaking’ for younger girls. From a young age girls are flooded with products that promote the ‘housewife’ persona.

Do you think these types of Ads place a standard or expectation among younger girls?

If you saw this Ad as a child do you think you would have wanted to have this product?

This particular commercial was specifically labeled as “misogynistic”. I must have watched this video over 15 times trying to see if this was true, or if there could be a different explanation. The beginning of the video shows different men talking about how much mileage they’ve been able to get out of a car while using Goodyear Polyglas tires. The Ad then states “Polyglas means more than mileage, when your wife has to drive alone.” I can feel myself slowly start to raise my eyebrows in a sarcastic expression. The music begins to swell, becoming louder, and more dramatic. A seemingly pretty, yet frightened looking woman grips the steering wheel, white knuckled. Detour and stop signs flash warningly, pedestrians and confusing airport signs cause her obvious distress. Until thankfully, she arrives safely at the airport. A smile only appears on her face when she spots her husband. Scooting over quickly so that her husband can take the wheel the Ad claims “When a woman is at the wheel, Polyglas means more than mileage.” While I can understand how obviously sexist this may seem, I think this project is about more than just stating what seems obvious. Could there be a different approach to viewing this video? The whole advertisement is about safety. At the end of the video, when the man steps in the car he lovingly leans over and kisses his wife as the words “Polyglas means more than mileage” gleam in the background. Could this advertisement be simply trying to promote some sort of safety for women? Is this some kind of antiquated form of chivalry?(-Ashley)

I remained optimistic and hopeful throughout much of the beginning of this Ad. “I will eat some fruit as part of my breakfast.” I’m thinking to myself “Okay, he’s trying to get motivated here! Trying to get up out of bed to start the day, we’ve all been there!” Then at around 17 seconds I start to get confused. “I will say yes when you want me to say yes.” “I will be quiet when you don’t want to hear me say no.” Both of the men are staring into the camera in a sort of daze. Stone cold, non-complacent expressions stare out, almost as if at nothing. Are they talking about their wives? I start to wonder. “I will take your call. I will listen to your opinion of my friends.” Yes, they do seem to be talking about some sort of significant other. So far it doesn’t seem as if this is in a positive way but let’s keep going. “I will carry your lip balm” I’m taken aback at this part. The phrase is uttered with such disgust it almost makes me jump backwards. “I will watch your vampire TV shows with you.” I can feel the inevitable eye roll. Are you telling me women are the only ones who watch “silly” television programs? “I will take my socks off before getting into bed.” It almost seems as if the silence is the background becomes louder. “I will put my underwear in the basket” Indeed, the silence is almost deafening at this point. “And because I do this-” A shiny, new sports car grinds furiously into view. “I will drive the car, I want to drive.” “Dodge Charger, MANS LAST STAND.” The lettering almost covers the entire screen in bold white print. I felt laughter starting to bubble in my chest. This advertisement seems almost childish by the end. Like a toddler asking for a new toy. I think it’s perfectly okay for men to want a certain kind of car, or a new toy of some sort. I don’t, however, agree that it is okay to advertise this in a way that suggests they deserve expensive things for “putting up with women”.(-Ashley)

What did you think of the ads?

Offensive or harmless?

Are you affected by advertisements you see in everyday situations?

Let us know!

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Apr 18

Does Rap music belittle women?

This has been a fairly hot topic of debate for many years now. It has been stated that in many different Rap songs, women are depicted as sexual objects. Many have even gone so far as to say that these types of songs can have an actual debilitating effect on how men treat women. That since the lyrics portray women degradingly men are more likely to treat women with less respect. 

Do you think Rap music belittles women? 

Furthermore, do you think Rap music is sexually degrading towards women?

50 Cent- Candy Shop (Featuring Olivia)

I’ll break it down for you now, baby it’s simple

If you be a nympho, I’ll be a nympho

In the hotel or in the back of the rental

On the beach or in the park, it’s whatever you into

One thing that has always irked me in the back of my mind is that granted, yes, I will agree that it’s awful women are depicted in this manner in Rap songs. At the same time, shouldn’t there be another group of people that we point the finger to in these situations? Where do the women that participate in these music videos, these songs, fall in this situation? Should they be equally blamed for voluntarily participating in Rap music? (-Ashley)

Eminem- Love the Way You Lie (Featuring Rihanna)

Just gonna stand there

And watch me burn

But that’s alright

Because I like

The way it hurts

This song and video talks about and shows the physical violence between two people in a relationship. The song actually came out with a part 2, which is the girl side of the story and if you listen to both of them, it almost seems as if the violence is acceptable. It sounds like the girl is almost as peace with it even though she knows it’s wrong. What message does this send to women that are going through this? And what message does this send to the men that do it? (-Emily)

Katy Perry- E.T. (Featuring Kanye West)

Kiss me, ki-ki-kiss me

Infect me with your love and

Fill me with your poison

Take me, ta-ta-take me

Wanna be a victim

Ready for abduction

Should women be offended by these types of songs?

Does Rap music truly have an affect on how women are viewed in society?

What do you think?

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