Tag Archives: feminism

Sound Reflection: Tell a Feminist Thank You

Cheers and thanks to you all!

Cheers and thanks to you all!

Today there’s a hashtag on twitter #tellafeministthankyou – so I’m going to say a few thank you’s to people who’ve taught me, or who keep me writing.

Thanks to my mom, Paula, for raising me as a feminist.

Thanks to MTR, because talking about feminism in his office made me better at what I do.

Thanks to Kenna and Lillian, for editing me, for talking theory and genuinely helping me learn more about what I think.

Thanks to my husband for being more of a feminist than he thinks he is.

Thanks to Jo Jo, Sailor, Jenn, Amelia, and all the other feminist burlesque ladies in my life.

Thanks to Orli, Kate, and Mary for discussions of feminist theology on a range of religious backgrounds.

Of course, thanks to my readers – because without you I’d just be writing into the void.

Being a feminist is more than just holding beliefs on your own, but about constantly interrogating your own thought processes and challenging the things you think in order to further your understanding of gender dynamics in society. I think all feminists are served best by the communities they involve themselves in, and the conversations they start within their communities.

Who are you thankful for? Who has helped you become a feminist?

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Filed under Feminism, Personal, Sound Reflections, Uncategorized

My childhood landscape involved shooting at dragons

Nerf is coming out with a line for girls. The Rebelle – and the first item in their line? The Heartbreaker Bow. It’s… well… Pink.

And it’s for girls.

And for those reasons, I want to hate it.

But the converse of that is this: The function of the bow is absolutely not any weaker than the other products made for Nerf, in fact it’ll pack the same strength behind it as the Nerf Elite darts. The company is making a bow and arrow set targeted at the female child market, and  I never thought I’d see that happen in my lifetime.

But I also think children are smarter than that. And in an age where we have children who are recognizing that there is more than just gender binary – where we do have children who realize their gender may be in flux, we need to stop marketing to children with “Boy” this and “girl” that. We need to just start making toys for children. 

So that the 6 year old girl who wants to hunt dragons (or rescue them, as the case was with me) can shoot a bow and arrow and wield a sword.

So that her brother can play with dolls or a tea set if he wants to.

So that the trans child who doesn’t have an easily identified gender market can play without fearing gender identification by picking up a doll or a Tonka Truck.

Children are smarter than we give them credit for, and really – what’s the difference between the Heartbreaker Bow and the Z Curve Bow except color?

I know that Nerf did market research, that they didn’t just slap pink packaging on one of their other models and call it For Girls, and for that I do commend them to an extent. But why do we need to slap pink on it at all? Why can’t girls play with bows and arrows? Why weren’t girls already part of that market?

In a world where a young woman can choose to enter the military, serve her country – and now go to the front line – we should be changing our perceptions, and maybe it’s a small thing, but the changes start with the toys we play with as children.

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In Defense of the Work From Home Feminist

I’m so tired of feminists judging each other.

I know I shouldn’t read the comments I know this, but when Jezebel posted their “Most Women Would Rather Kick Their Husbands to the Curb than Be a Housewife” post we all knew I wouldn’t be able to resist reading the comments.  After all, the comments are like watching an ambulance filled with hypocritical feminists crashing into Betty Friedan’s house.

Here’s the deal – I work from home. I write every day, the days I’m not writing are days that I’m stepping away from my computer so that my brain doesn’t fall out of my skull. But for the most part, I write. The last month or so I’ve been quieter on Feminist Sonar because I’ve been working on other writing projects which I’ll eventually get to write about here – but the point is, I’m working.

I’m also the only one at home between the hours of 8am and 7pm on weekdays.

My copy of the Feminist Mystique has not gathered quite as much dust as one might think when I say this – Being a feminist is not antithetical to the practice of being a housewife. Especially in a modern age where women have the right to choose what the best plan for their life is with regard to their distribution of work, sometimes it just works out better for women to stay at home.

Putting me out in the workforce is somewhat impractical – I’ve been trying to get a job over the last two years with absolutely no luck. Part of it is the economy in the NYC area, part of it is the fact that regardless of anti-discrimination law, most companies would prefer to hire a fully able-bodied worker than hire someone with hearing and visual impairments. So instead of continuing the futile fight to find a job, I’m choosing to work for myself.

Does this mean that I spend more time at home cooking and cleaning? Yes. Does it mean that in the first year of my marriage I have had to learn how to cook so that my husband and I can eat dinner together? Sure does.

Do I feel like less of a feminist because of the choices I’ve made?

At first I felt like I was “letting down the sisterhood.” I thought I was being a bad feminist for working from home. With time, I’ve come to see that this is actually not the case. I’m not being a bad feminist because I’m making choices with my partner. Now, if my husband had told me “YOU ARE GOING TO STAY HOME AND COOK AND CLEAN AND DO MY LAUNDRY.” I probably wouldn’t have married him, and I probably would have given him a very stern talking to.

The fact of the matter is, I’m not the only one getting crap for making solid choices about MY family. A woman I know who made the choice to stay home with her infant daughter rather than return to work as an attorney continues to be told that she made the ‘wrong” choice as a feminist. My understanding of feminism is that we are supposed to be able to make our own choices, and make them without being given ultimatums by the patriarchal system. Sometimes giving into the system is part of giving in to the patriarchy. By choosing to raise our children with feminist morals, by choosing to make my own way as a feminist scholar rather than giving in to the corporate machine – my housewifery is also fueling my feminism. It is giving me a chance to be productive in my chosen field without having to sacrifice my time to being a secretary. Isn’t that a more feminist action?

Perhaps, rather than chastising our fellow feminists for making choices they’re happy with, we should focus on the upcoming vote on the Violence Against Women Act  (Call your senators!) Perhaps we should all buy some Girl Scout Cookies to support an organization which helps young women grow into adults who can think for themselves. There are so many ways to be a feminist and not judge the choices of other feminists. I think that’s the next step.

We can learn a lot from the feminists of the past, but one of the things we can learn from them is where we’ve gone wrong, and where we can fix our theories and make them less judgmental for the future.

Borrowed from the Seattle Times – Why VAWA Matters

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A Giant Step for Women in the Military

The United States Military is placing more faith in their female soldiers today, and allowing them to enter combat positions. A step for equality, yes. While my anti-war sentiments may be in place, I still recognize that this is an important step for women who want to serve their country fully and equally as soldiers.

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January 23, 2013 · 3:26 pm

“They’re Trying to Help a Dead Girl”

The hacking collectivist group Anonymous released a video of the Steubenville football players who took a 16-year-old girl from house to house and sexually assaulted her. They simultaneously posted evidence on twitter, pushing the gang rape into the territory of pure unadulterated public torture.

Anonymous released this video on the same day the House of Representatives refused to vote to re-authorize the Violence Against Women Act.

Since when is it not in the best interest of the United States to protect women from violence? I have hope that when the next Congress comes into session we’ll have a different result, but I can’t get the feeling of fear out of my bones over this one.

The young men who are featured in the video of Steubenville are the kind of predators whom the Violence Against Women Act is supposed to protect us from. Sen. Patty Murray (from my state of Washington) put it best:

“The House Republican leadership’s failure to take up and pass the Senate’s bipartisan and inclusive VAWA bill is inexcusable. This is a bill that passed with 68 votes in the Senate and that extends the bill’s protections to 30 million more women. But this seems to be how House Republican leadership operates. No matter how broad the bipartisan support, no matter who gets hurt in the process, the politics of the right-wing of their party always comes first.”

There’s absolutely no reason for House Republicans to have done this. Absolutely none. This is an action which is shameful in the eyes of the state.

The actions of the boys in Steubenville may not seem related, but if we don’t expose this kind of behavior as violence, we’re not doing our jobs as a society to protect one another. This young football player is giggling about raping a 16 year old young woman. (Allegedly. Except for the part where there are photos.) This isn’t the only reason the two are linked. Even with VAWA we’re not doing enough.  Like the football team, people who are well-regarded in their communities tend to be above reproach when it comes to the issue of sexual violence. A woman whose husband beats her every night is less likely to be believed, if she reports it, when that husband is a well-respected man. It was the Violence Against Women Act which helped to institute marital rape as a crime in all the states of the Union, as prior to 1994, there were still some states which allowed it.

This kind of violence is unconscionable, and the fact that the GOP will turn its back to violence against women makes me question their privilege. I hope none of them have known women who have suffered at the hands of abusers,  that none of them have had to listen when they heard the story of a friend or family member who was raped or beaten. Because, if they had, surely they would have voted with their conscience rather than with their party.

Yes, the supporters of VAWA  are trying to help a dead girl. They are trying to help a lot of dead girls, all of them who needed help and didn’t receive it. I am sickened today by the notion that there are people in this country who are likely laughing along with the boys from Steubenville – and I hope you’ll reconsider if you cackled at his jokes about Marcellus Wallace and Obi Wan Kenobi, because at the root of those “jokes” is the willingness to condone violence against a person and to use her for her body alone.

We should all be helping to end violence. We should be doing better.

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How We Learn Not to Stand Up

I remember the first time that an adult made excuses for someone being mean to me. I remember when my training began to not know when to say no to people, or to not stick up for myself

I was seven.

I was being teased by a boy at school, and I was told “It’s ok. He’s doing it because he likes you.” I would be told variations on this theme until i was in high school. He likes you, it’s why he tries to following around at school. He likes you, it’s why he wrote an essay comparing you to Helen Keller. He likes you. It’s why he tripped you down the stairs. It’s why he stole your lunch. It’s why he tied your shoes together. It’s why he put plastic snakes in your backpack.

As an adult, if someone were to trip you down the stairs we would call it abuse. If someone follows you around, and refuses to leave you alone even when you ask nicely – that’s considered stalking. If someone puts plastic snakes in your backpack (even though you’re afraid of them) you’d call it  mean.

The notion of being liked because he’s teasing you wasn’t just told to me by family (in fact, I can only remember one adult in my family doing so) but I can recall instances where teachers told this to us. We were fed this line to create playground unity.

Other women I’ve spoken to in my age group have said the same. We have all been told that it is acceptable for people to tease us and make us feel sad, or hurt, or frightened – in name of being “liked”. I asked one of my friends if she had been taught this, and she said that it had taken so much work to stop making excuses when her feelings are completely rational and reasonable. We as women are taught to make apologies in our heads. We are taught to make excuses for those individuals who harm us.

We shouldn’t.

This idea that being liked is attached to teasing and meanness opens us up to abuse. Mostly, it opens us up to emotional abuse, because it feels the same as some of the teasing which we have experienced, and if in our hearts we are trained to brush it off, to think of it as cute, to make excuses for others… we don’t know how to say no when it is the most important thing we can say. Yes, it also opens us up to physical abuse, but in this case I think the more pernicious side effect is that of not knowing whether it’s emotional abuse – or teasing.

The instincts which are trained out of us aren’t just the ones that say “get out, get out, you’re being abused!”  They are the same instincts that teach us how to tell our partners we’re uncomfortable. I still get all nervous and uncomfortable telling my husband when he does something I don’t like. My voice gets all soft and quiet and I shift from foot to foot. I don’t actually need to be afraid, because we’re adults and we’ve made a commitment to be together – and yet I still get nervous that if I tell him I didn’t like the way he handled something on my behalf, I’m afraid he’ll divorce me. You see, these interactions don’t just hurt women – they hurt men too. From not knowing what’s an appropriate way to express affection, to having partners who don’t know how to express their feelings without fear – men are also those who deal with the consequences of being told “It’s just because he likes you”.

I’m not the only woman to feel this way. Asserting dominion over our emotions and our physical beings in relationships where we’re consensual participants still feels difficult, and I firmly believe that the root cause of this is how we’re taught to handle teasing and bullying as children. Without the tools to tell people “no” as children, we’re not able to do it as adults – and it’s harder to recognize the hurtful things from the harmless things when we never learned how to do that in the first place.

N.B.: Yes, teasing can be a way of being affectionate, and in many relationships it works. The difficulty of course is knowing how to use it and when, so that the laughter isn’t masking pain.

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Bullying – It’s not just for kids anymore.

I was bullied in middle school. I was the kid you made fun of.

Well, as an adult I’m tired of watching the scenes of bullying play out again and again and again. Over the internet, in workplaces, during lectures. And it’s not just about the middle schoolers anymore. It’s about adults.

And the bullying isn’t targeted at straight, white men. It’s targeted at women. Smart, vivacious, intelligent women. Women whose bodies are used to attack them. The bullying is anti-feminist rhetoric. It is anti-woman rhetoric. It  has in one instance been anti gay rhetoric. And it has to stop.

The one year anniversary of the Tyler Clementi suicide was last month. He committed suicide because his roommate secretly streamed a “romantic interlude” on the internet. Tyler Clementi was gay. His roommate outed him to the entire world, and as a result he jumped off the George Washington Bridge.  The individual who outed him was sentenced to jail for a mere 30 days. 30 days for outing someone, and causing them to jump to their death. 30 days for bullying someone into such a state of depression.

Amanda Todd was a fifteen year old Canadian girl. She is the youngest person I write about today. She posted a YouTube video about her experience of being cyber bullied as a cry for help. A year ago she started befriending people on the internet and was convinced to flash a topless photo.

One year later, a man contacted her on Facebook, threatening to send around the picture of her topless “if [she] don’t put on a show.” Terrifyingly, the stranger knew everything about her: her address, school, friends, relatives, and the names of her family members. Soon, her naked photo had been forwarded “to everyone.” – Huffington Post

She was found dead, bullied with the image of her own body, and the shame that she felt knowing that everyone had seen her topless. It is possible to bully someone to death, and both Tyler and Amanda are examples of how it is done.

But bullying isn’t just for teenagers and college students. Adult women are receiving the same kind of treatment.

” Anita Sarkeesian runs Feminist Frequency, and writes similar things to what I do, except that she critiques video games. After her kickstarter in order to fund a project called Tropes vs. Women in Video Games.  She seeks to interrogate the kinds of stereotypes which permeate gender dialogue in video games. And because of that, she has been attacked by the internet. The kind of bullying she has been the target of has made video games about punching her in the face, photoshopping pictures of her being raped by Mario, She’s not relenting because of the attacks, she’s standing up and telling everyone what is happening to her. But this doesn’t change the fact that this is what’s happening to her, and it’s scary. (Please follow the link. Anita has documented her harassment thoroughly, and as upsetting as the information is, I think it’s important for everyone to see it.)

This morning, I found out about yet another woman being attacked for speaking out against sexism – Rebecca Watson, a member of the skeptic community has been attacked for speaking out against feminism. In her own community. “It wasn’t until I started talking about feminism to skeptics that I realized I didn’t have a safe space.” she said to slate.com.

She had very good reason to say this, the paragon of atheist thought Richard Dawkins even spoke against her “whining” about female genital mutilation and sexism. But it was because of this that people said they’d like her to be raped and killed. And they laughed about it. But it’s when the tweets start getting personally threatening that I really begin to fear for her:

Wow. Okay. So now we’ve stepped away from creepy photos, and from obnoxious comments on blog posts and YouTube posts to actually threatening to grope a woman in an elevator. Ha. ha. That’s so funny.

Oh, wait. No it isn’t. And the conference mentioned in the tweet (which both Rebecca and Bill attended) took no mind of this threat and allowed Bill to attend, despite the sexual threat towards a woman in their community. Shouldn’t this be taken more seriously? Why is it that when women speak up against bad treatment, they are given no reason to think they’ll be protected by their communities?

Here’s the thing: I was afraid to write this article. I was afraid because I knew that I might be opening myself up to the kind of attacks that these women are receiving from the internet. That I might get dead body photos in my comments, that people may try to find me where I live. But here’s the thing – I believe down to the very fibres of my being that this behavior is wrong. I was bullied as a child and I refuse to be bullied now. If I see that something is wrong, if someone is being abused by society, or if they are being attacked because they speak truth about sexism, or feminism – I’m going to stick my neck out and stand with them. Because that’s the only way to beat the hordes of anti-feminists out there on the internet. The only way is to speak louder, rather than bury our heads in the sand.

So – what happened to Amanda Todd was cruel. What happened to Tyler Clementi was cruel. What is now happening to Anita Sarkeesian is unspeakable, and the fact that Rebecca Watson cannot feel protected by her own community is sickening. We have to stop allowing those who fear us to push us down, even if it means stepping a little closer to the flames of hatred.

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