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REBECCA HOLLEB HALEY WITT MARIA PAZ LAUREN CLARK ALEXANDER FATATO
ANNIE PINKHAM LILY MIDNIGHT AMY FOSTER YUE SHU KAYLA STRONG-NIEVES
AYANNA DUBLIN JESSICA FORTIE AARON MOSKOFF ALEXANDER FATATO HALEY WITT
KAYLA STRONG-NIEVES LILY ELLEN DANI DUKE REBECCA HOLLEB XIAOPING SUN
DANA WINSLOW ARIELLE NELSON ELEANOR AGOOS OLIVIA ORIAKU RACHAITHAA SHETTY
APRIL LIM GABRIELLE POGGY LINA LOPEZ LALINDE COURTNEY REBELLO LAUREN CLARK
YUE SHU ANJU WATANABE AVERYL FREIMARCK HANNAH ROSENBAUM KOLBY Oâ€™BRIEN
MARIA PAZ MERCY MUNGAI SHARA TRAN SYDNEY HUDSON
DANA WINSLOW CARTER BECK VON PECCOZ LAURA KRAUSE DANI DUKE
COURTNEY REBELLO APRIL LIM LINA LOPEZ LALINDE AARON MOSKOFF ELEANOR AGOOS
OLIVIA LIN AMY FOSTER MEGAN SERGISON CARTER BECK VON PECCOZ ANNE PINKHAM
Contents EDITORâ€™S LETTER POLITICS INTERSECTIONALITY Women in Media
ith Nevertheless we intend to try to make a noble effort to talk about things your folks must have dodged from speaking about. The eccentricity of this magazine almost stunned us as we were assembling the articles. From slut shaming, gender stereotypes to transitioning, we packed in everything that you could want to know more about. Our goal was to offer you a unique take on what a lot of women’s and gender related issues could be like. Not only did we try to keep the stories as real as possible but also as relevant as it could get.
Top that up with our authors who come from varied background giving you a #NoFilter opinion on topics that are very close to their hearts. This issue is for everybody who wants to hear the truth and know more. We aim to promote an intrepid, energetic, forward-looking feminism, positive and empowering for every woman. A better understanding of the most avant-garde topics will definitely make the world a better place to live in, devoid of all hate in the current scenario. While we believe protest is important, we also believe that martyrs make ineffective activists, unstimulating debate partners, lousy lovers, and boring dinner guests. And that was why we aimed to make Nevertheless, a stimulating conversation around the dinner table that would include all of us. Cause after all the most important thing for change is the need to openly converse about the most trying topics. Hope you’re as enlightened, enabled, thrilled yet inspired as we were while we put together Nevertheless. Be Bold. Be Fearless. Be learned. Be Smart. Take Control. And most of all keep the wheel of conversation spinning. Your Editors,
“If you areneutral in times of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor” - Desmond Tutu
“When a man gives his opinion, he’s a bitch. When a woman gives her opinion, she’s a bitch.” - Betta Davis
“Feminism is not a dirty word. It does noT mean you hate men, it does not mean you hate girls that have nicelegs and a tan, and it does not mean you are a bitch or a dyke, it means that you believe in equality-” - Kate Nash
“For most of history Anonymous was a woman.” - Virginia Woolf
“This idea that males are physically aggressive and females are not has distinct drawbacks for both sexes.” - Katherine Dunn
“You cling to strife because the colonizing worm is buried deep in you...” - Carmen Giménez Smith
FRIEND OR FOE:
One Child Policy from a Feminist Perspective
of 2016, the nationwide maternal mortality rate has shown a 30.6% increase compared with 2015. (National Health and Family Planning Commission of the PRC) Given these statistics, the new policy has been blamed as irresponsibly persuading women to take the huge risk regardless of their own health conditions and treating women like tools for reproduction.
irst implemented in 1979, China’s one-child policy has
Also, there are concerns that having child at an advanced maternal
been constantly criticized by both the domestic public
age might largely increase the baby’s risk to have certain birth defects,
and feminists around the world for infringing upon
especially chromosomal abnormalities. For example, the most com-
women’s reproductive rights. Under this policy, many women
monly seen chromosomal birth defect, Down’s syndrome, is largely
were forced to terminate their pregnancies or get sterilized. Sui-lee
related to the age of the mother. Such evidence again casts doubt on
Wee, a journalist from the New York Times, reported that “from 1980 to
the government’s claim that having a second child is beneficial for
2014, according to official statistics, 324 million Chinese women were
both the mother and the whole family. In fact, some women were en-
fitted with IUDs. And 107 million underwent tubal ligations.” In 2015,
raged by the government’s propaganda and accused the government
under the pressure of aging of population, the Chinese government
of deliberately concealing the downsides of having a second child at
announced that beginning from January 2016, an adjustment would
an advanced maternal age.
be made to the one-child policy, which now allows all families to have two children rather than only one.
An old one-child policy slogan found in rural area
But they don’t want a second child, they want a boy
till even if giving birth at an advanced maternal age could be risky,
it’s still part of the women’s reproductive right to decide if they want The slogan reads “Take abortion as required or we (the one-child policy supervising commission appointed by the government) will pull down your house and take away your cattle”. This major change in the birth control policy has put an end to China’s history of government forced abortion and sterilization, which seems to be a great improvement in the living conditions of Chinese women. However, the reform was not welcomed among Chinese feminists and a majority of Chinese women. On the contrary, it has raised much concern for women’s social status being threatened by the upcoming baby boom and women forced to give birth to a second child under patriarchal coercion. Under such context, the reform has been constantly challenged by public opinions and some even argue that for Chinese women, a “two-child policy” is even worse than the notorious one-child policy. Women risking their lives to have a second child’
to take the risk to give birth to a second child at this age. However, in Chinese society, the underlying central conflict is that the new policy is not giving the reproductive rights back to women, but instead getting them exposed under the traditional patriarchal pressure of “giving birth to a boy”. In such a context, women are being victimized again, and the pressure from the family could sometimes be even more fearful than pressure from the government. In the winter of 2016, 10 months after the implementation of the new policy, a family tragedy hit the headlines of the newspapers. The criminal suspect, Aifen Zhang, cruelly killed her 4-day-old granddaughter just because she was a girl. According to the news report, the old lady had been eagerly expecting a grandson for her family, yet her son’s wife, Ling Hong, gave birth to a girl as her first and only grandchild in 2009. After the reform of the one-child policy, the family has been consistently giving Ling Hong pressure to give birth to another child, and Aifen Zhang even promised to help with babysitting and offer financial support to the young couple. After the birth of her second granddaughter, in desperation of “no successor for her son” and regret
he very first thing that Chinese feminists challenged was the
government’s imprudent encouragement for women at an advanced
for her former promises, the 54-year-old lady violently stamped on the baby’s head after failure in trying to find an adopter for the baby.
maternal age to have a second child, regardless of the great risk behind it. As stated in official documents, the main target population for this new “two-child policy” was women at 35-49, a range of age that would be considered relatively risky to have a baby. According to the records of Beijing Obstetrics and Gynecology Hospital, through November 2016, 82 percent of the expectant mothers at this hospital have advanced maternal age and increased risks. In the first half
Aifen Zhang killed her own granddaughter in the stairways of the hospital. The title for the news shown in the screenshot was “Mysterious
disappearance and death of a baby girl.” What’s more, some feminists expressed concerns about the threat imposed Indeed, if allowing people to have more children means more innocent
by this new policy on women’s rights to get educated. They are worried that
girls would be abandoned, murdered, or exploited as cheap labor forces
the end of the one-child policy might reinforce the domestic discrimina-
and tools for reproduction, then perhaps it’s better to just maintain the
tion against girls and deprive their chances to get higher education as well
current situation. High school biology told us that naturally the sex
as other privileges. This is because in quite a lot of Chinese families, the
ratio at birth should be around 1:1, and there shouldn’t be any differ-
resources are not evenly distributed between children of different genders,
ence between the statistics for the first child and the second child.
and boys usually get a better chance to get higher education since they
However, according to the statistics from the 6th population census of
are recognized as the “true successors” of the whole family, while girls are
the PRC(2010), in that year the recorded nationwide sex ratio at birth
usually considered as the future wives of some men from other clans. Thus,
for the first child was 113.73:100(male: female), for the second child,
ironically, the one-child policy might have improved the social status of
130.29:100; and for the third child, a shocking 161.56:100. In some
women in China by providing them access to higher education. The 6th
particular provinces and regions, the sex ratio at birth for the second
population census has shown that for people in their thirties and above,
child boosted to 168:100, and for the third child, 260:100. (Data-
the sex ratio of people with collegiate level of education is about 2:1. How-
base:http://www.stats.gov.cn/tjsj/pcsj/rkpc/6rp/indexch.htm) There is
ever, for people born in 1980s, this ratio suddenly dropped to approximate-
an undeniable need to ask what the stories behind these abnormal
ly same with the overall sex ratio, and for teenagers the ratio even reached
numbers are and what happened to all the disappeared baby girls,
0.9:1, indicating that more females are going to universities compared with
because obviously such statistics couldn’t be simply explained by mere
males. What might have contributed to this sudden change? As we all know,
coincidence given China’s large population. The best scenario would
the year 1979 is exactly when the one-child policy was implemented. Un-
be that these girls survived, but they were permanently deprived of
der the strict restriction of the government, a lot of families had no choice
their chances to go to public schools, to get a career, to get a medical
but to raise their daughter as their only child, and many believe that this
insurance or to get a marriage under the protection of the laws all
actually improved the living environment of girls and raised their chances
because they have no legal identity. A more realistic guess would be
to get higher education.
these girls were somehow aborted selectively, even if prenatal gender tests are actually banned by the Chinese government. Also, we should
We are fighting against both the government and our families.
notice that abortion at this stage of pregnancy when the sex of the fetus could be determined is harmful (sometimes even devastating) to a woman’s reproductive health. From this perspective, it’s not hard to understand why some utilitarian feminists – who focus on the actual
fter the announcement of the new policy, Heng Yi, a well-known femi-
nist writer, asked on Weibo (a popular social network in China about what
consequence of the policy rather than the ethics - have been strongly
her readers think about this adjusted “two-children policy”, and here are
against the adjustment of the one-child policy.
some comments with most likes:So why are women in China, especially those influenced by feminist thoughts, getting so resistant to marriage and reproduction? One possible explanation would be that by refusing to get married and have children, they are trying to escape from the violation of their reproductive rights by both the government and the patriarchal families. The underlying expectation for women to give birth to a boy from the families have turned the “freedom to have a second child” to a forced “if you can’t give birth to a boy as your first child, you must try harder the next time”, and the traditional Chinese family views (big paternal line families succeeded by only males), bias towards divorced and infertile women, and the weak legal protection have all contributed to make Chinese women extremely vulnerable to the pressure from both their families and the society. The one-child policy had shielded some of the pressure by offering the women a perfect excuse to refuse to give birth to another child if
“I don’t even want to get married. Second child? The government is day dreaming.” (626 likes) “A lot of pushy mother-in-laws on their way, I guess.” (477 likes) “The only thing I care about is when they will admit the reproductive rights of single women. I don’t want to get married, but I want to have IVF legally… ” (411 likes) “Who even needs a first child?” (334 likes)
they don’t want to. And now, under the double pressure of “giving birth to a second child” and “giving birth to a boy”, they have got nowhere to hide and escaping from marriage became their best choice to protect their reproductive freedom. “IT’S IMPROPER TO LABEL THESE WOMEN AS SUPPORTERS FOR THE ONE-CHILD POLICY. THEY RELY ON THE ONE-CHILD POLICY JUST BECAUSE THE NEW POLICY FORCED THEM TO SACRIFICE THEMSELVES AGAIN.” A FAMOUS FEMINIST ACTIVIST IN WITH IFENG
CHINA, PIN LV, COMMENTED IN HER INTERVIEW
NEWS, “YOU KNOW, NOBODY WILL EVER MISS THE PAST IF THEY COULD SEE A BRIGHT FUTURE.”
(From my perception, by the last quotation, Pin Lv indicated that those who missed the old one-child policy are not truly supporters of the one-child policy itself. They opposed the reform just because the new two-child policy could make the living conditions for women even worse in this country, and they felt strong uncertainty about the future because for women things are obviously not getting better.)
Reproductive Justice for All! Scratch that -
Reproductive Justice for only Some?
BY DANI DUKE
ella is distressed. She is getting ready to be forcibly impregnated, a fate which has been imposed on her every year since she reached puberty. She is tied onto a machine known as a “rape rack.” After she becomes pregnant, she gives birth to a baby who is immediately taken away from her. When, at just five years of age, her milk production slows down from overuse, she is seen as “spent,” and her miserable life is ended at just one quarter of what would have been her normal lifespan. Bella is a cow, and what she is put through is all legal. While this is an anecdote, this scenario happens every day. According to Farm Sanctuary, the largest and most effective farm animal rescue and protection organization in the United States, 9.3 million cows a year are used for their milk on dairy farms, and 2.5 million are slaughtered for meat. Feminists contribute to systems that oppress nonhuman animals, denying nonhuman animals the very same rights that feminists fight for, for themselves. Feminists need to take a stand against the reproductive control of nonhuman animals, especially the most vulnerable, least protected animals in our society: farm animals. Now, I want to acknowledge that, reader, you may be stunned at this point. Your defenses may likely have already begun kicking in, ready to defend your food choices, ready to defend your place in an invisible hierarchy that places you above nonhuman animals. But I ask you to listen to my case. Throughout the history of the reproductive justice movement, various groups have been left out of the conversation. Political activist and author Angela Davis articulates in Racism, Birth Control, and Reproductive Rights, “The historical record of this movement leaves much to be desired in the realm of challenges to racism and class exploitation.” In addition to racism and classism, the movement has fallen prey to ableism. Rosemarie Garland-Thomson, English Professor and co-director of the Emory College Disability Studies Initiative, has been fighting for the recognition of disability in feminist theory. She claims, “Repeatedly, feminist issues that are intricately entangled with disability - such as reproductive technology, the place of bodily differences, the particularities of oppression, the ethics of care, the construction of the subject - are discussed without any reference to disability.” These very issues mentioned: reproductive technology, bodily differences, oppression, ethics of care, and construction of how we perceive animals, are also entangled with our animal peers. The other group that has been largely left out of the reproductive justice movement are nonhuman animals, and that “ism” that has been unaddressed is speciesism. As found in Encyclopedia Brittanica, the oldest English-language encyclopedia still being distributed, speciesism is defined as, “practice of treating members of one species as morally more important than members of other species, and the belief that this practice is justified.”
Animal rights is a feminist issue, and feminists need to start taking note and taking issue with the practices they are supporting by their everyday choices. Animal agriculture, and specifically the dairy industry, denies nonhuman animals control over their reproductive systems. Cows are forcibly impregnated while strapped onto “rape racks.” Their babies are then taken from them so humans can steal their milk, according to Farm Sanctuary. When their production slows down, as a result of the abuse of their reproductive systems, they are deemed “spent” at around four to five years old, instead of their natural twenty to twenty-five year lifespan. They then get ground into beef. Forcibly impregnating a helpless being, taking away her babies, and repeating that scenario for rest of that animal’s life, until death, is inhumane. If we are to assume that identities are at least partially constructed, then what is it that separates us from animals? Humans are animals too. We all are a part of nature. Nonhuman animals, like humans, are sentient beings with the will to live, which nonbelievers can witness with their own eyes while viewing any undercover video of a terrified, wailing animal just before they are sent to slaughter. Should we oppress groups based on perceived differences? The idea of hierarchy, a socially constructed ranking system that makes us see groups as below us, is what allows us to justify oppression. When will feminists take this understanding and apply it to nonhuman animals? It is impossible to deny the significance of gender in animal agriculture. In her revolutionary book The Sexual Politics of Meat, writer, feminist, and animal rights advocate Carol Adams explains, “Female animals become oppressed by their femaleness, becoming surrogate wetnurses. Then when their (re)productiveness ends, they are butchered and become animalized protein.” While males are not safe in the animal agriculture system – for example, male chicks are seen as useless because they cannot produce eggs and so are gassed or thrown out in garbage bags to suffocate – this complete control and exploitation of reproductive capabilities effects specifically female animals. How is this not seen as a feminist issue? This is a basic fight for reproductive justice. In Katha Pollitt’s Pro: Reclaiming Abortion Rights, Chapter 4 is titled “Are Women People?” She argues that women are not at the center of the debate when speaking about women’s reproductive rights. Perhaps we can draw a parallel to the absence of animals as feeling beings when discussing our food. Pollitt writes, “These commonsense ideas sound radical also because women are not at the center of our thinking, even about issues so basic to their lives as control over their own fertility.” Her statement
can be applied to the idea that animals should have control over their reproductive rights as well, and as a result should not be used and consumed by humans for food. When we shift our thinking to consider who, in fact, these very policies affect, whether it is women
Photo taken at the Women’s March in Boston, Massachusetts on January 21st, 2017. Photo by Dani Duke
or animals, it becomes much more difficult to justify anyone else having control of reproductive systems but the owners of those very systems. Furthermore, Pollitt writes, “In the end, abortion is an issue of fundamental human rights. To force women to undergo pregnancy and childbirth against their will is to deprive them of the right to make basic decisions about their lives and well-being, and to give that power to the state.” Some may argue that as animals, human rights need not apply to them. Yet this hierarchy, the separation of human animals from nonhuman animals, is a social construction. We are all part of nature, and we are all interconnected. Animals feel pain, attachment, and bond with others. Just because they do not speak, or we do not know what they are thinking, does not mean that they deserve to be oppressed. Most people would not say it is okay to consume a fellow person because they could not communicate with us, perhaps because of a disability or because we do not understand their language. Then why is it okay to do so with a fellow being? In animal agriculture, an added element is the fact that we profit off of this oppression. Profiting off of oppression is an idea I would think most feminists, if not all, would consider repulsive and wrong. It’s time to extend that consideration to all beings, regardless of species. A fellow student in my Communications and Gender class last year insisted that including nonhuman animals in feminism would take away the attention that is necessary for gender-related issues regarding humans. Rosemarie Garland-Thomson addresses a similar issue regarding incorporating disability into feminist theory. She clarifies, “Introducing a disability analysis does not narrow the inquiry, limit the focus to only women with disabilities, or preclude engaging other manifestations of feminisms. Rather, considering disability shifts the conceptual framework to strengthen our understanding of how these multiple systems intertwine, redefine, and mutually constitute one another.” Replace “disability” with species and, in fact, consider how including our fellow animals can broaden our understanding, our compassion, and our definition of justice. As the famous Carol Adams so eloquently puts it, “Justice should not be so fragile a commodity that it cannot be extended beyond the species barrier of Homo sapiens.” It is time for feminists to wake up to the fact that there are numerous similarities between the oppression of women and the oppression of animals. Adams asserts, “Whereas women may feel like pieces of meat, and be treated like pieces of meat - emotionally butchered and physically battered - animals actually are made into pieces of meat.” Adams summarizes, “To feel like a piece of meat is to be treated like an inert object when one is (or was) in fact a living, feeling being.” What woman hasn’t felt this way? It is important to acknowledge the significance of our words, and where these sayings come from. Marla Rose, in her essay “Becoming a Vegan Feminist Agitator” which appears in Circles of Compassion: Essays Connecting Issues of Justice, describes her journey of realization that participating as a consumer in the meat, dairy, and egg industries was profoundly anti-feminist. Rose admits, “This is what feminists approve of and directly cause when we consume animals’ stolen milk and eggs.” She adds, “None of this challenges the status quo of ownership, of our “right” to their very physical bodies.” Subsequently, Rose decided to cease using her consumer power to support these practices. In a capitalist society, choices like this are powerful. This information can feel like a rude awakening to feminists. Adams notes this indifference, “Our participation evolves as part of our general socialization to cultural patterns and viewpoints, thus we fail to see anything disturbing in the violence and domination that are inextricable parts of this structure.” A feminist lens should be used to question normative assumptions, and to analyze the power dynamics between human oppressors and the oppressed animals. At a time when so many people are recognizing the interconnectedness of various forms of oppression and are widening their scope of care to fight for rights that do not directly affect themselves, animal rights have been largely invisible in this coalition. Possibly most illustrative of this point, animal rights was one of the major “rights” groups not widely represented at January’s Women’s March, where so many groups fighting against various forms of oppression came together. Feminists need to care about reproductive justice for all animals, become educated on the oppression of animals, and reject speciesism.
What is a white feminist and why are we critiquing them? haley witt
“I don’t really think about things as guys versus girls. I never have. I was raised by parents who brought me up to think if you work as hard as guys, you can go far in life.” – Taylor Swift
revolutionary feminist consciousness, many of them lesbian With one quote, Swift suggests to her audience that and from working-class backgrounds, often lost visibility as the feminism means being equal to a man. This type of feminism movement received mainstream attention.” White cis women only serves to perpetuate patriarchal systems that keep men have historically held the microphone for the feminist movein a status of power, as women must try to achieve that same ment. status. Also, where in this quote do trans women and men fit With this in mind, the issues with white feminism appear in? Disabled folks? Colored folks? This feminism can only apply in diverse conversations regarding justice. On January 21, 2017, to white, cis-gendered heterosexual women. This is white femi- women around the world donned their pink pussy hats and nism. took to the streets with signs declaring “PUSSY POWER” and In “Feminism is for Everybody,” bell hooks critiques “pussy grabs back.” On January 29, 2017, the people of Boston this compliance to patriarchal systems as “lifestyle feminism,” gathered in Copley Square raised signs that read “we are all where feminism has more emphasis on equality rather than immigrants” and “this is not America.” These movements reflect radical political upheaval of the patriarchy. In today’s femithe unrest and anxiety of the people in the wake of Trump’s nist discourse, this term more often appears as “white femipresidency. While empowering, declaring pussy power and nism.” Both terms define a type of privileged feminism, with associating womanhood with having a vagina excludes trans which feminists can situate feminism within the system of women from the conversation. In an attempt to paint America the white-hetero-capitalist patriarchy. White feminism is not a as a welcoming nation of immigrants, protesters ignored the condemnation of feminists who are white. It is a descriptor of history of indigenous genocide that proves that injustice towhite feminists who claim feminism without without an inter- ward colored people is, in fact, very American. These examples sectional view of feminism. To achieve not only equality, but of narratives, though well intentioned, reveal how these issues also empowerment, feminism must consider all identities in affect different people in different ways. From a place of privthe fight against oppressive patriarchal forces. This is intersec- ilege, intersectional challenges like race and gender are often tional feminism. overlooked. Hana Shafi defines intersectional feminism as “a type of feminism that focuses on the multiple oppressions people In “The Trouble with White Feminism,” Hana Shafi criface: gender, race, sexual orientation, gender identity, class, dis- tiques how white feminism is often savior-based and often ability and so on.” belittles women of color in ways that deny them a legitimate The origins of feminism are racialized. In the post-Revoice. Lila Abu-Lughod also speaks to the savior complex of construction Era, Susan B. Anthony and other women’s rights white feminism in “Do muslim women really need saving?” She activists resented the enfranchisement of black men while argues that “missionary work and colonial feminism belong in white women still could not vote. In her book White Women’s the past.” In the struggle to establish her own feminism, Shafi Rights and the Racial Origins of Feminism, Louise Michele found empowerment from intersectional feminism that “takes Newman argues that because “white women’s organizations into consideration the intricacies of [her] identity and the paroften refused to take action on their behalf, black women ticular oppressions [she] faces.” Given how deeply feminism is formed national organizations of their own” which “worked to intertwined with identity, we must take a comprehensive and gain for themselves the respect, safety, and physical safety that inclusive approach to folks who do not fit the white feminist society routinely accorded white middle-class women.” Thus, mold. This article aims less to define who a white feminist is, in its roots, mainstream feminism has been white. bell hooks but aims more to call for intersectional approaches to femialso speaks to the ways in which feminism has been limited to nism. The history of mainstream feminism is white, colonial, places of privilege. She notes that by the late 70s, “women with physically and financially privileged, and exclusive. Stars like
“If your feminism isn't intersectional I don't want it- that's some tay-swiftsquad-white-ass trash.” - @champangebeeson
Taylor Swift who preach feminism without considering diverse identities perpetuate patriarchal systems that ultimately magnify the voice of the white woman over the black, poor, disabled, or trans folks whose voices also matter. In order to claim feminism, we must claim intersectional feminism. White women are in a place of privilege that allows them to lift the voices of intersectional feminists. To quote Erin Wunker from Notes from a Feminist Killjoy, “one of my responsibilities, as a white, cis-gendered woman, is to learn how to be a traitor to the ‘joys’ of patriarchal culture that I experience, however unconsciously.” This is a call out of white feminists and a call for feminists who are white to adopt an intersectional feminist perspective.
How the Criminal Justice System Continues to Fail Minority Victims of Domestic Violence Lina Lopez Lalinde
ver the last quarter of the twenty-first century, America witnessed many manifestations of racism within the movement of domestic violence. As the experiences of minority and marginalized populations were repeatedly ignored, the experiences of white victims were often emphasized and highlighted. One particularly striking incident occurred when an episode of the CBS new program 48 Hours presented the stories of seven women who had experienced domestic violence as part of a discussion on the Violence Against Women Act of 1991. In the episode, there was only one black woman present among the majority of white women. Remarkably, the white women were all humanized for the audience, as personal stories of their lives and trauma were showcased. The one black woman presented in the program was left nameless, with only a picture of her beaten face depicted. Her story was left untold; the audience was robbed the chance to relate to her experiences. This is the reality of many minority women living in the United States today. Unfortunately, the consequences of this inequality go beyond a lack of representation on the television screen. Injustice against minority women permeates essentially every social institution in America, including the criminal justice system. As a result, the justice system deprives them the appropriate resources to deal with devastating experiences such as domestic violence. The experiences of these women represents an enormous failure on the part of the criminal justice system to carry out its essential duties by allowing prejudice and discrimination to influence their responses. Manifestations of general injustice against minority women include the countless political and social aggressions they experience daily as a result of being neither a man nor a white woman. Unfortunately, the experiences of individual minority women are oftentimes ignored in the pursuit of righting inequalities in gender (a movement dominated by white women) and race (dominated by black men). Distinguished feminist author bell hooks has written that â€œeven before race became a talked about issue in feminist circles, it was clear to black
women… that they were never going to have equality within the existing white supremacist capitalist patriarchy.” Legal scholar Kimberlé Crenshaw has echoed and expanded upon this idea by addressing the issue through the lens of intersectionality, thoroughly exploring “the ways in which race and gender intersect in shaping structural, political, and representational aspects of violence against women of color.” Crenshaw explains that at the nexus of race and gender, …the experiences Black women face are not subsumed within the traditional boundaries of race or gender discrimination as these boundaries are currently understood, and that the intersection of racism and sexism factors into Black women’s lives in ways that cannot be captured wholly by looking at the race or gender dimensions of those experiences separately. Proof of these concepts can be clearly seen through the treatment of minority women within institutions such as the criminal justice system. Too often, black and other minority women who seek justice and protection from the law after instances of domestic violence encounter damaging stereotypes, such as the belief that minorities are generally more susceptible to violence. This prevents them from receiving the services and protections they require and are typically offered to other (white) victims of intimate-partner violence. In essence, minority women who are victims of this type of violence often find themselves caught between a rock and a hard place. If these women seek the protection of the law, they may experience an unpleasant reception from the police who carry hateful stereotypes. If they attempt to press charges, they are often denied for not fitting in the accepted model of a battered woman and stigmatized within their communities. The legal system, similarly to the 48 Hours episode, will frequently ignore the experiences of minority women as victims of domestic violence. Gender, Race, Class, and the U.S. Criminal Justice System The historical relationship between minorities and the U.S. court system has been tumultuous, to say the least. While the experiences of minority men within the criminal justice system have been the topic of many discussions and debates in recent years, the experiences of minority women have largely been ignored. Their experiences can also not be explained and understood simply on the basis of either their gender or race independently. Regrettably, current domestic violence laws fail in many ways to address these issues of intersectionality. Some indicators of these failures relate to law enforcement actions against the perpetrators and include the significance of race or ethnicity in determining the effectiveness of universal intervention strategies, as well as the tendency to increase punitive measures against domestic abusers despite a lack of evidence that they improve the safety of victims. Universal intervention strategies, which include the mandatory arrest of an abuser, have not proven successful at deterrence in poor minority communities. In reality, studies have shown that in cases of mandatory arrest, there have been more occurrences of recidivism, or repeated offenses, when the abuser has been a minority and unemployed. Incidents of racially charged encounters between minorities and the police make these laws controversial, and often place abuse victims in danger of further violence. There is also a growing trend in the system of increased punitive measures, which unfortunately end up alienating both the victim and the abuser from the criminal justice system. This was
illustrated in the case of a Miami-Dade Country clerk of court requirement that abusers’ employers be contacted in cases of domestic violence. The issue with these types of cases is that this typically only results in the abuser being fired if they work low skill jobs, “where men of color are disproportionately represented.” In these cases, the victims are left are actually more disadvantaged since not only have they lost their economic support, but they also now face potential retaliation resulting from the abuser’s loss of employment. The tendency of the legal system to ignore the economic subordination of women and its effect on their vulnerability to domestic abuse further proves the way the institution has failed women of color. This economic vulnerability is perhaps the most differentiating factor in the experiences of domestically abused women. Because minority women are therefore typically dependent on their abuser for economic support, they are the most vulnerable of domestic violence victims. As a result, they are typically and increasingly restricted by gender roles, stigmatized, and “constrained by the competing forces of tremendous unmet need and very limited resources.” Finally, there is a problematic assumption not simply within society as a whole, but also within law enforcement, that women really are better off leaving their abusive partners and that they will be safer as a result. This belief that battered women can easily leave abusive relationships is an example of how traditional feminism fails to account for the experiences of poor abused women and is perhaps one of the most dangerous. Essentially, poor women must completely separate themselves from their partner in order to benefit from services and intervention. The issues with this include the fact that it is nearly impossible, economically, for them to escape with their children to safety, as they are dependent on the abuser. If they finally are able to leave, they are often at high risk for severe violence. Undeniably, black women who seek protection from the law for instances of domestic abuse are met with prejudices and preconceptions based on both their gender and their race. As many distinguished feminist theorists have pointed out, it is impossible to examine a black woman’s experience in society through simply the lens of either their gender or their sex. These two factors are compounded upon in systems such as that of law enforcement and the courts, which have thoroughly failed to protect women of color and have in fact played a large role in making their experiences within the criminal justice system troubling and difficult.
By: Ayanna Dublin
Mass Incarceration and the Impact of “Color-Blind” and Gender-Neutral Sentencing on Incarcerated Cis Women of Color By Annie Pinkham
Mass incarceration is the dark underbelly of the American criminal jus-
tice system; the United States represents just 5 percent of the world’s population, yet it now holds 25 percent of the world’s inmates. While it is largely ignored in mainstream politics, it represents one of the most dangerous threats to American citizens and their rights to life, liberty, and justice. What is even more egregious, however, is the intense, disproportionate, and intentional impact that mass incarceration has on people of color in the United States. In fact, there are more people trapped in the cycle of correctional supervision than there were under the yolk of slavery in the period before the civil war. As Michelle Alexander explains: “Like Jim Crow (and slavery), mass incarceration operates as a tightly networked system of laws, policies, customs, and institutions that operate collectively to ensure the subordinate status of a group defined largely by race.” While racial implications of a “carceral state” have widely been studied, much less work has been done regarding the gendered implications (and the intersection between the two). Women make up an increasing proportion of people behind bars (a 757 percent increase from 1977 to 2004); however, the majority of research regarding the criminal justice system has focused solely on male crime and male criminals. A partial explanation of this is that, with the exception of crimes like prostitution and small property crimes, women are less likely to be arrested, convicted, and incarcerated than men. Another aspect that is also quite important to think about is the fact that our criminal justice system has largely been constructed (and continues to be enforced) by men who, in most cases, have very little conception or concern with the experiences of women. The gendered nature of the criminal justice system (and thus the correctional supervision system as a whole) is only furthered by the implications of race and class, which also greatly influence who is incarcerated and how they are treated while they are there. This “matrix of oppression” that women of color (and particularly black women) face under the supervision of the carceral state further exemplifies the unique of experience “where systems of race, gender, and class domination converge.” As Crenshaw continues to explain in her theory of intersectionality, the connection between race, gender, class, and incarnation as systems of oppression cannot be ignored or overlooked. Unless feminist thinkers, activists, and policy-makers assess the issue of mass incarceration through the lens of intersectionality, a solution will never come. With that being said, what is the actual experience of incarcerated women of color? For the sake of space and time, this article will only examine cis women’s experiences, as trans women face an even more complex and layered interaction with and oppression within the criminal
justice system than can adequately be addressed here. The American criminal justice system, in theory, operates both as “color-blind” and as “gender-neutral.” As Michelle Alexander so compellingly argues in her book The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindess, the idea that race has been removed from criminal justice processes is categorically false. The War on Drugs and other “tough on crime” policies have led to an extension of racist efforts to control and, in the case of incarceration, enslave black and brown bodies. The staggeringly disproportionate imprisonment of people of color in the United States is not the result of well-intentioned policies in an effort to keep our communities safe, but rather the continuation of a historic process of discrimination and injustice. As for gender-neutrality, the situation isn’t much better. Federal sentencing guidelines explicitly prohibit the influence of sex and gender in sentencing. The introduction of such guidelines, when combined with the effects of other, largely racist policies like mandatory minimums, have negative gender consequences that not only impact individual lives, but entire communities. Female offenders are often mothers with sole or primary caregiving responsibilities for their children, a consideration that is widely ignored under the federal guidelines. The impact, therefore, is most felt by those entirely innocent of any crime – their children. The question must then be posed, how exactly is the system ensuring the safety and protection of the community? Particularly in the cases of non-violent, drug related crimes that, it is important to note, white women commit at similar rates free of such drastic consequences? It is also important to note the reasons why women are participating in crime. The most convincing explanation is economic marginalization theory, which suggests that the rise in crime rates among women (that then contributes to increasing incarceration) is a result of the growing financial instability of women. Therefore, the effects of incarceration are most felt by financially vulnerable women: those who are continuously marginalized by their gender, race, and class by the intersecting systems of oppression that dominate their realities. Furthermore: “Many sentenced women, particularly in drug conspiracies, are the wives or girlfriends of male defendants, and may find themselves involved in criminal activity because of the social and cultural pressures or occasionally as a result of more obvious means of coercion, such as battering.” The practical application of gender-neutral sentencing ignores these truths, resulting in the further marginalization and greater risk for women. It is also important to recognize that correctional institutions can, in some instances, provide women with safer spaces than they currently occupy: respite from abusive relationships, access to treatment for substance abuse, access to health care and relief from homelessness. Studies also suggest that women have significantly lower rates of recidivism or, in other words, rates of re-involvement with the criminal justice system through arrest, conviction, or confinement. That being said, the rates of recidivism are still quite high – nearly half return to prison. What does this mean for the future? For starters, we really need to rethink our criminal justice system. “Color-blind” and “gender-neutral” don’t work, in theory or in practice. Systems of oppression are not erased simply with words, but with intentional, hard-fought actions. Ending racist policing and sentencing policies are crucial in supporting vulnerable communities of color.We’ve also learned that gender matters, and a “one-size fits all” approach to crime with men and masculinityas the norm isn’t an adequate solution.,
“Incarceration didn’t change me. In many ways, incarceration galvanized me. The totality of the experience helped me.” - Roger Avary
For the Gods: Gender Performativity, Intersectionality, and Appropriation in Modern Drag Culture By Amy Foster
It all starts in a hot pink workroom on a television screen. Twelve contestants each make their grand entrance: with voluminous hair, an immaculate face, a gorgeous outfit, a big personality, and a spirited strut, each is recreating a version of ideal femininity. There are some exuberant greetings, some side eyes, and many words such as “she”, “her”, and “girl”. But then a metamorphosis sweeps through the room. In a flurry, hairpieces move from heads to stands, gowns and corsets are unbuttoned, fake eyelashes are unglued, pads are tugged out of shapewear, makeup is melted away, and almost magically, the room is (usually) filled with twelve cisgender gay men. To an average person, this deliberate crossing of gender boundaries could be alarming or deeply unsettling; to fans of the show RuPaul’s Drag Race, it’s both performance art, and a form of self expression called drag. With acknowledgement of the show’s large and ardent fan base, the messages about about gender and its intersections with race, class, and sexuality thatRuPaul’s Drag Race projects into our society are important, and need to be interrogated. Hold onto your lace front wig and make sure your face is beat for the gods, because things could get shady! In order to fully understand drag culture and its current manifestation on Drag Race, we need to know a little about, as RuPaul would say, drag’s “herstory”. Throughout human history, people have adopted the clothing and mannerisms of genders different than their own. From ancient myths such as Achilles’ protection as a girl on Skyros, to the countless named and unnamed women who have dressed as men to access male spaces and occupations. Gender theorist Judith Lorber asserts that “gender, like culture, is a human production that depends on everyone constantly ‘doing gender.’” Drag is merely a modern iteration of this intentional production of gender. The modern, performative drag that RuPaul’s Drag Race celebrates was born in the “Golden Age” of drag ball culture in New York in the 1980’s. This subculture was immortalized in the critically-acclaimed 1990 documentary Paris is Burning. Paris follows the lives drag queens, transgender people, and the queer community as they socialize, compete for titles in the balls, and navigate daily challenges. Scholar of intersectionality Kimberle Crenshaw asserts that people who “are situated within at least two subordinated groups that frequently pursue conflicting political agenda(s)” do
not always receive justice with efforts to address one aspect of the identity in isolation. Given their intersecting race, gender, and class identities, it is not surprising that many drag queens slip through the cracks of state protection. Instead of relying on the state, drag queens formed themselves into “Houses”, named after the idea of a fashion house. These houses provided a pseudo-familial structure for their participants, who may have lost the support of their biological families after coming out as queer or gender nonconforming. Research has shown that family rejection due to sexual orientation caused gay, lesbian, and bisexual youth to internalize problems, struggle socially, and even contemplate suicide. The drag houses of the era are a beautiful example of intentional queer family-building, which is echoed in the emphasis on “sisterhood” and “drag families” in modern drag. Due in part to the concept of houses, the drag community was and is tight-knit and even insular. Part of drag performers’ group identity is that they form, like for many marginalized groups, a unique speech community. Put more simply, the words and patterns of speech that drag queens employ set them apart from straight and even other queer speech groups. And what they’re saying is not meaningless, idle chatter: language is “the vehicle in which the meaning of drag queen values are perpetuated and passed down through generations of drag queens.” But what, exactly, are drag queens saying? One major topic of concern to drag queens is “fishiness.” During season 4 of RuPaul’s Drag Race, for example, this term comes up often and is used to denote how feminine a contestant appears to be. Contestants use this term about themselves, and also about other contestants, competing for who can be the most “fishy.” Not discussed on the show is the probable origin of this term. Some people in the USA believe that vaginas can have an odor reminiscent of fish. By using “fishy” to mean “feminine,” drag queens are equating women and femaleness with simply having a vagina. As Judith Lorber argues, gender is a social construction that we perform, and not inherently linked to biological sex. The way in which drag queens use “fishy” celebrates cisgender women with vaginas as the ideal, which therefore marginalizes transgender women, who are just as female but may not have vaginas. Another instance of transphobic language is the announcement video, which says “you’ve got she-mail!.” Shemale is a derogatory term for transgender women, often used in the porn industry. While both “fishy” and “she-mail” are
not used in the more recent seasons of Drag Race, their use reinforced transphobia, and contributed to the idea that transgender women are not real women. Besides concepts such as fishiness, RuPaul’s Drag Race tends to reinforce racialized stereotypes. A study found that during season three, “black and brown cast members were more often required to perform stereotypical racial identities” than their white and asian castmates, and that RuPaul called these identities “personality.” And in season four, RuPaul posits that Kenya, a Puerto Rican queen, would be more successful if she impersonated a Latin celebrity because of “the accent. Racialized stereotyping is clearly unacceptable: while a person’s race certainly shapes their identity and interactions with the world, acting in a stereotypically racial manner does not make up an entire personality or repertoire. Moreover, enacting racial stereotypes reinforces the damaging idea that that the group is homogeneous. Racial speech patterns also come into play in the form of African American Vernacular English, or AAVE. RuPaul has many sayings, such as the classic “If you can’t love yourself, how the hell you gonna love somebody else?” that are delivered with AAVE accent and syntax. Since drag queens comprise a speech group, the other queens also tend to adopt this accent, regardless of race. Studies have shown that Black AAVE users experience social discrimination, for example in finding housing. So when drag queens of white and other racial backgrounds appropriate AAVE speech patterns, they benefit from a feeling of belonging in the drag community, but do not experience the negative social effects that Black users face. AAVE appropriation is not unique to drag, but RuPaul’s Drag Race is one of its most visible sites. Setting aside its flaws, RuPaul’s Drag Race (and drag in general) is a fascinating site of gender transgression. Most of the contestants identify outside of drag as
RuPaul’s Drag Race
cisgender men, but on the show, pronouns are usually “she/her”. As RuPaul introduces every challenge, he states “Gentlemen, start your engines, and may the best woman win!.” This seemingly pronoun- confused sendoff catalyzes the transformation, and the queens begin work to become their best embodiment of womanhood. While drag queens strive to embody a stereotypical ideal of femininity, authors like Halberstam argue that drag performances disrupt the gender binary by creating identities that are neither male, nor female. Therefore, RuPaul’s Drag Race creates a genderqueer space where anything is possible if one has just the right amount of charisma, uniqueness, nerve, and talent. The ambiguously gendered space created by RuPaul’s Drag Race is not insignificant or trivial. A study found that 90% of gay and lesbian teens “specifically watch(ed) television looking for gay and lesbian characters as acknowledgement of who they were”. One can reasonably assume that transgender, genderqueer, or gender-questioning teens would also be looking to television for affirmations of their identities. RuPaul’s Drag Race is not apolitical; while employing racist, sexist, and transphobic elements, the show gives queer youth and even adults a space to see people like them represented, loved, and supported. Though fans should continue to interrogate Drag Race’s shortcomings, its position as a highly visible site of ambiguity and transgression affirms its importance in our modern cultural dialogue about gender.
get an “amen”?
HEAD OF THE TABLE Solange’s Powerful New Place in Music and Intersectional Feminism Laura Krause
This past year, Beyoncé Knowles released a stunning visual album that carried groundbreaking messages of empowerment and strength. Her talent is undeniable and she is worshipped by the general population. Also in the spotlight, but one slightly less bright, is her younger sister Solange. Her album, however, released shortly after Lemonade, was what I personally believe could be the greatest album of our time. A Seat at the Table, Solange’s 2016 release, has had a seat in the top 10 albums of the year in lists created by many renowned sources of media such as BBC, Time, and Billboard. It seems almost treasonous to say that any album is better than Beyoncé’s, but in regards to intersectional feminism, Solange has created a powerful work of art that is absolutely untouched.
Her album is an effortless portrayal of pride and steadfastness that is both unprecedented and admirable. While the songs are stunningly beautiful overall and individual works of art in and of themselves, the true importance in this album lies in Solange’s lyrics and the words spoken during the interludes between the songs. Beyoncé uses her love story as a means of subtly portraying her strength as a black woman, along with mesmerizing visuals that display the beauty of blackness - but Solange utilizes her lyrics to get straight to the point. There is no guessing with this album; her messages are abundant and they are blatant. She exudes pride in her blackness, describes both implicit and explicit racism, and calls out white privilege. If I were to quote every hard-hitting line from each song, frankly, I would have to write out the entirety of the album here.
Janell Hobson, author and professor of women’s, gender, and sexuality studies, suggested that “certain celebrities are articulating and, dare I say, theorizing critical issues pertaining to gender and its intersections with race and class for a mass audience.” With this album, Solange is doing just that. The songs she’s written and the interludes she’s chosen act as an ode to the oppression that Solange and black people have struggled through all over America and throughout history. In “Mad,” Solange repeats many times that she’s “got a lot to be mad about,” addressing the way she has been mistreated in multiple capacities in her life being both black and a woman. “Weary” is Solange’s ominous but truthful advice to her audience (black women), to “be weary of the ways of the world,” providing a clear warning that they will face oppression and discrimination in life. It also calls out the inexplicable power of the white race, specifically white men, saying “a king is only a man with flesh and bones,” pointing out that white people are absolutely no better than anyone else and that there is zero basis for their supremacy. In an interlude that features a recording of Solange’s mother Tina, she states “I’ve always been proud to be black [...] there’s such beauty in black people.”
“Don’t be mad if you can’t sing along, just be glad you got the whole wide world. This shit is from us. Some shit you can’t touch.” In this verse Solange slams white privilege, and declares that something - a piece of art in the form of this song (and album) - is for and by the black community, black women especially. Since the beginning of time, we have not allowed black women to touch all kinds of shit. In 1979, the Combahee River Collective, a black women’s news journal, stated succinctly that “race, sex, and class are simultaneous factors in oppression.” With slavery and Jim Crow laws, all their intricacies, and every instance of racism beyond these that we never learned about in school, it is clear that what Malcolm X said was true (and coincidentally sampled by Beyoncé in Lemonade)... Tina makes a statement here that really is seldom heard in mainstream media. She celebrates the quality that has caused the oppression
of her and her family for so long, and goes on to call out white people for causing it. “Because you celebrate black culture does not mean that you don’t like white culture [...], what’s irritating is when somebody says [...] that’s reverse racism [...]. Well all we’ve ever been taught is white history, so why are you mad at that? [...] That is to suppress me.” This is a powerful statement that is truly calling out whiteness, white history, and white supremacy. It is not necessarily common for someone with such a public voice to use it to point out the whitewashing of our society that occurs so much more often and severely than one may realize. Additionally, the song “F.U.B.U.” (an acronym for “for us by us”) celebrates black culture, calls out institutionalized racism, and once again points out white privilege. “When you driving in your tinted car, and you’re criminal just who you are” is a statement about police brutality and America’s deeply ingrained but incredibly toxic mentality that black people are criminals. Some of the most powerful lines, however, lie at the end of the song. “The most disrespected person in America is the black woman. The most unprotected person in America is the black woman. The most neglected person in America is the black woman.” Solange is taking a stand and placing her claim on something. She doesn’t beat around the
reminiscent of slave shackles, but reclaims the sentiment in a beautiful, appealing, and modern way. In an interview with Vogue, when Solange was discussing the making of the music videos, she says, “I wanted to present this super majestic and regal image of black people, black culture, and black street culture.” Solange sings “made this song to make it all y’all’s turn” in F.U.B.U., acknowledging her privilege as a celebrity and as someone who shares the powerful blood of Queen Bey and using it to pave the way for other black artists. She conveys her message in a time and place where it needs to be said, and she shows no mercy on those of us who cannot identify with her struggle. The non-inclusive feminism we are unfortunately so used to seeing is finally starting to be overshadowed by Solange’s carefully crafted representation of women of color in mainstream music. The album has been incredibly well celebrated, even winning the highest of music awards, a Grammy for best performance. A Seat at the Table has received rave reviews, such as Pitchfork’s statement that it “seems like a document of historical significance, not just for its formidable musical achievements but for the way it encapsulates black cultural and social history with such richness, generosity, and truth.” Entertainment Weekly similarly described how “Solange gets political by also making Seat stunningly personal and poetic.” The fact that the mainstream media is portraying such intersectional messages is definitely a leap forward. And in our current political climate, such pieces of resistance are
“I’ve always been proud to be black ... there’s such beauty in black people.” bush; she is straightforward and tells us point blank that this album is not for white people. This album is theirs. If you are a white or white-passing person, you can listen and enjoy the music, but we will never be able to sing those lyrics with meaning or understanding. We will never know the pain the black community has suffered. We will never understand how it feels to be discriminated against because of the color of our skin, or ultimately the combination of that and our gender. Now more than ever, in an age of implicit bias, explicit racism, and constant police brutality against people of color, we have no right to claim shit - it is their time and they have earned it. I could continue on for pages pointing out beautiful and powerful moments of outspokenness and empowerment throughout the album. These very few examples prove that this album as a whole is a brave, standout piece of pride and resistance. Though I do see it as a close second, I think Beyoncé’s Lemonade made for the perfect precursor to her sister’s album. Had Beyoncé not released her album first, I’m honestly not sure that A Seat at the Table would have received even close to the amount of recognition it has being in Lemonade’s wake. I think both sisters used Beyoncé’s position of influence to make their mark on society. They portray images and messages of strong, powerful, beautiful black women in the face of adversity. While Beyoncé’s visual album seems to focus on being visually captivating, Solange uses her videos to further her point. She even uses imagery in her music video for “Cranes in the Sky” - a line of women wearing dresses that are all connected - that is
necessary and powerful. It can be very easy for us to brush off the underlying meaning of music of this nature; when we are in positions of privilege it is much simpler to ignore the hard conversations because we don’t want to acknowledge that we are at fault and don’t want to feel like we are part of the problem. But Solange made her intentions difficult to ignore - and it is extremely effective. By listening to her songs and watching her videos, we can learn a lot and face some hard truths. Just by hearing Solange’s words, one is forced to acknowledge the harsh reality we live in. And even if we can’t sing along meaningfully, even if some of us will never understand the trials and tribulations of being black, even if many of you can never begin to imagine the struggles of being a woman, even for people who cannot relate to being a minority of some sort due to sexual orientation or gender identity or able-bodiedness or anything else, we can take in and appreciate art like this and do our best to use our places of privilege to make positive change. I really believe that the high-level exposure of this album and its messages is a beacon of hope. The way it brings so many social justice issues to light in the mainstream media, challenges white feminism, and calls out problematic behavior unapologetically, yet is still so accepted by the masses, is more than we ever could have hoped for only recently. A Seat at the Table is a small stepping-stone on the path to the day that we will no longer have to specify feminism as “intersectional” because it simply will be intersectional. We have a long way to go, but I think Solange has sparked the beginning of a mass redefinition of feminism, which will be inclusive of everyone.
The Problem With Celebrity Feminism By: Lauren Clark The 74th Golden Globe Awards on January 8th left a lot of people talking, but not about what shows walked away with which awards. Everyone was talking about Meryl Streep’s lifetime achievement award acceptance speech. The Washington Post called Streep’s speech an evisceration. Black Lives Matter activists proclaimed her to be a truth-teller and many other celebrities praised the three-time Academy Award–winner for the speech. I didn’t find myself feeling as empowered as all these people told me I would. Instead, I found myself wondering if people can tell the difference between charming speeches and words and actions that actually challenge the patriarchal structure that exists today. Streep used her celebrity to give a speech that framed the attitude a lot of people share about the Trump administration. She spoke to a liberal crowd about the foreign press and how media is a barricade against America’s bigotry. It was preaching to the choir, which is fine. A voice that denounces Trump and his ways is never a bad one. However, the praises over Streep’s speech don’t make sense to me. She gave a nice, liberal speech, but did not speak truth to power, as some claimed. She is not brave. Speaking truth to power is radical, and this speech was not. Radicalism demands and it is strengthened by action. Radical is Malala Yousafzai, a teenager who fought for access to education in Pakistan. Radical is Sandra Fluke, a law student, who urged Congress in 2012 to not pass a bill that would allow religious institutions to opt out of birth control coverage in their health insurance plan, saying, “We refuse to pick between a quality education and our health, and we resent that in the 21st century anyone thinks it’s acceptable to ask us to make this choice simply because we are women.” In this increasingly scary political climate, we cannot afford to mistake liberal speeches for the radicalism that is needed to fight the undoing of human decency. We need to recognize that in order to beat the bigots and misogynists that threaten the safety and freedom of Americans we must do more than celebrity liberalism does. If we are going to listen to speeches, we should listen to ones like “We should all be feminists” by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, as her words have power behind them. One
thing she says is, “I am angry. Gender as it functions today is a grave injustice. We should all be angry. Anger has a long history of bringing about positive change, but in addition to being angry, I’m also hopeful because I believe deeply in the ability of human beings to make and remake themselves for the better”. These are words that have power. Celebrity speeches are nice, but they will not save us. Another problem with celebrity feminism that needs to be addressed is brought up in the article by Janell Hobson. She quotes a different author, Andi Ziesler, in saying “Individual celebrities are great at putting an appealing face on social issues. But the celebrity machine is one that runs on neither complexity nor nuance, but cold, hard cash. How much can celebrity feminists do if their prominent voices emanate from within systems—the film, TV, and music industries, for starters—in which gender inequality is a generally unquestioned?” While I do think it’s nice to use a platform to bring attention to an issue, like Streep did, that only goes so far. These celebrities need to take action on the issues that are problematic, even if they do not affect them personally. Making this big speech and then going back to your mansion in a limousine is no way to enact change, and we should not consider it as such.
Award-winnner Meryl Streep giving her acceptance speech at the 2017 Golden Globe Awards. Source: Mirror
Painted by Ayanna Dublin
The Dark, Unspoken Secret Behind Those Little Golden Statues By Carter Beck von Peccoz When Moonlight (dir. Barry Jenkins, 2016) won Best Picture at the 89th Academy Awards, it was the first time a movie centered around LGBTQ characters had ever received the highest honor. It should come as no surprise to anyone that it won considering how it was hailed by Alissa Wilkinson of Vox as being “mysterious and open-ended and beautifully shot”, and that it received a coveted 99% on Metacritic. Based purely on logistics, the film was almost destined to win the award. However, receiving an award from the Academy is about so much more than pure critical acclaim, and instead should be examined through the lens of intersectional diversity and representation. TIME Labs reports that as of 2015, only 6.4% of all acting nominees since the awards’ inception in 1929 have been non-white. Similarly, a mere eleven LGBTQ people have ever won an Oscar in the acting categories and only one was openly queer at the time of their award. Compare that tiny number to IndieWire’s list of the ten straight actors who have won an Oscar for portraying LGBTQ characters on screen and a clearer picture of the issue begins to paint itself. “Playing gay”, as it’s known in mainstream Hollywood, has become a sure-fire way to receive an award nomination, and yet the number of real-life queer actors who receive these parts and subsequent nominations is negligible. The Academy Awards have always had a serious diversity problem, best illustrated by the dearth of queer-themed films receiving recognition. The many shallow portrayals of the LGBTQ community are also problematic, as well as the lack of representation of gay actors in Hollywood. It is for these reasons that Moonlight – a story about a young black man growing up gay in a poor area in Miami – winning the award for Best Picture is such a big deal. It is monumental purely because of the representation inherent in the film’s plot, depicting a multi-faceted character whose intersectional experience as a member of multiple minority communities is rarely portrayed or recognized in the film industry. Though the LGBTQ community has more visibility and widespread cultural acceptance in 2017 than ever before, its representation in mainstream films is still so severely lacking that a movie depicting those communities actually winning the award is an unheard-of accomplishment. Unfortunately, the Academy’s tendency to validate deeply flawed LGBTQ representation by granting awards to movies that perpetuate negative stereotypes stretches back decades. Rewind 26 years to 1991 and the release of another critically-acclaimed and Best Picture-winning film known as The Silence of the Lambs (dir. Jonathan Demme, 1991. The timing of this film coincided with what can be described as the modern era of Hollywood’s increasing (and ambiguously negative) depiction of LGBTQ characters. The Academy loved it, understandably, for it is truly one of the classics. Praised by critics such as The New York Times’ Vincent Canby for its depiction of an “eerie and complex relationship” that develops between the two primary characters, it was even honored by the Library of Congress for its “enduring significance to American culture” in 2011. Despite all its cultural significance, however, the five separate Academy Awards the film won failed to consider the deeply problematic depiction of the movie’s main villain, Buffalo Bill. Portrayed brilliantly by Ted Levine, Buffalo Bill was presented as a violent and sociopathic transgender person. Where the movie fails is in its overly-simplistic and flawed understanding of LGBTQ people, preferring to collapse the differences between subsets of queer identity (under which trans identity falls) into one “fantasy” idea: queer people as psychotic villains. Rather than explore the underlying issues of Bill’s mental illness, the real reason behind her psychotic behavior, the film chooses instead to demonize the stereotypical, mentally-unbalanced trans villain and use her to represent the entire community. With Bill representing the film’s only LGBTQ character, audiences were exposed to the then-common idea that transgender people are mentally disturbed and pathologically violent. In fact, up until 2012 gender identity disorder (now known as gender dysphoria) was listed by the American Psychiatric Association as a mental illness in the United States. The World Health Organization still designates gender dysphoria – the “conflict between a person’s physical or assigned gender and the gender with which he/she/they identify” – as a mental illness, though there are efforts being undertaken to remove that definition from the next edition of their International Classification of Diseases (ICD-11). These examples highlight the issue that transgender people face in society: they are personified as fundamentally confused, mentally unfit, or dangerous. That perception is continuously perpetuated by institutions like the Academy and reflects negatively on the larger queer community. This idea is the opposite of reality, however, as in 2012 a report by the National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs (NCAVP) revealed that transgender women were the victims of nearly 54% of anti-LGBTQ homicides. By heaping awards onto the movie, the Academy effectively legitimized and condoned the transphobia inherent in it and preserved the misguided notion that trans people are more dangerous than they are in danger. By refraining from developing Buffalo Bill’s character past the archetypal characterization of trans people so popular at the time, its creators and award-givers failed to adequately represent an entire subset of people. Visibility is the heart of the issue, for without proper representation the common discourse around trans people could not and still cannot hope to change. For Janet Mock, transgender rights activist and author of NYT bestseller Redefining Realness, it is paramount that young trans people be able to recognize their own experience in her book and in American culture in general. They can then understand that “there are whole systems of oppression” that contribute to the misunderstanding of being transgender in America, including the Academy. Nothing conveys legitimacy like receiving an Academy Award, and by showering accolades upon The Silence of the Lambs Hollywood only further propagated the fundamental misunderstanding of trans people that is so perfectly captured in Buffalo Bill’s character. All anyone can be expected to do after watching a serial killer slay women and wear their skin (to try to become the person she’s always
known herself to be) is to demonize those kinds of people in real life. Without more diverse representations of LGBTQ people and a deeper understanding of how trans people fit into queer culture, the discourse becomes “us vs. the other”. Fast forward 14 years to the 78th Academy Awards held in 2005 and you have a somewhat more positive portrayal of the queer community in the award-winning film Brokeback Mountain (dir. Ang Lee, 2005), though not without its own faults. Brokeback Mountain is notable for straying from the likes of movies like The Silence of the Lambs in terms of its LGBTQ characters, focusing not on the perceived sexual deviance or violent tendencies of queer people but instead on the love between two complicated and three-dimensional men. The two leads are painted as a somewhat modern Romeo and Juliet, destined not to find happiness with each other and instead to lead unfulfilled lives with the wrong people. Where the movie gets it right is in its honest interpretation of the different ways sexual orientation can be expressed, as one of the men presents closer to gay on the sexuality spectrum than the other, though labels are never actually used in the film. Here we have a classic example of partial representation, as the queer characters are presented as the story’s heroes and yet the words “gay” or “bisexual” are never even mentioned. Furthermore, there is a severe lack of intersectional diversity, a principle explained by legal scholar Kimberlé Crenshaw as referring to being a member of two or more different oppressed groups of people, like a queer person of color. Though the portrayal of LGBTQ people in Brokeback Mountain is indeed more positive than in years past, the fact remains that every primary character in the film is white and the two queer leads in question are male. This lack of intersectionality then makes it much easier for the Academy, a predominantly white institution (94% of the approximately 6,000 voting members were white as of 2015, The Economist reports), to affirm the film with accolades. Voting members are fine with granting awards to the “token gay” movie so long as the characters are white, don’t act “too gay” within the context of the film, and are played by straight, cisgender actors. Perhaps the best example of the inherent diversity problem within the Academy is that Brokeback Mountain received the Golden Globe award for Best Picture but was beaten by Crash (dir. Paul Haggis, 2004) at the Oscars. Though it was nominated for 8 Academy Awards, including Best Picture, the movie only ended up winning three. Though widely considered a snub by the Academy, this outcome fits right in with their tendency not to fully recognize diversity in Hollywood films even when it matches their narrowly homonormative ideals. Laura Kacere uses this term to describe the standard that “privileges certain experiences — those of White, middle-class, gay, cisgender and gender normative identities — as being representative of all queer experiences”. Though it had moved on from legitimizing the demonization of trans people to at least partially recognizing the value and beauty of relatively homonormative queer relationships, the Academy still exemplified a patriarchal power structure that fundamentally lacks and/or misrepresents properly diverse LGBTQ characters. It is this intrinsic issue the Academy has with diversity, both generally and intersectionally, that makes Moonlight’s Best Picture victory so monumental in 2017. Never has there been such a perfect example of intersectional diversity being recognized than in the triumph of a film about a gay black man’s struggle through life, especially over standard Hollywood darlings like La La Land (dir. Damien Chazelle,
Moonlight stars Barry Jenkins and Tarell Alvin McCraney. Source: IndieWire. 2016). The power associated with being able to legitimize an entire identity just by granting an award cannot be understated, nor can the importance of minority groups’ representation in American media, be they queer or otherwise. It is so fundamental to young people across the nation to be able to see themselves on screen and recognize the value and complexity of their diverse experiences, as well as for members of majority groups to witness the existence and struggles of marginalized communities. In awarding Moonlight with Best Picture, the Academy finally seems to be attempting to address its issues with diversity and convey a more inclusive message to mainstream America. Of course, this is not to say that there is no more work to be done, as evidenced by the fact that Moonlight is the first movie of its kind to be recognized by the Academy for its depiction of a three-dimensional gay black man whose identity does not solely revolve around his sexuality. As monumental an accomplishment as it is, 2017 should not have been the first year this happened. Additionally, Hollywood and non-oppressed identity groups must not fall into complacency and think that they’ve “solved racism/homophobia” just because one movie won one award. There are still deep systemic issues that must be addressed going forward. For example, it is still far too common for LGBTQ characters to be portrayed by straight and cisgender actors. In the last 4 years alone, there have been 3 separate films (Carol, The Danish Girl, and Dallas Buyers Club) produced about LGBTQ characters for which straight, cisgender, white actors have won Academy Awards. Furthermore, according to The Advocate there has never been a queer actor who has won an Academy Award for playing a queer character and only one openly gay actor, Ian McKellen, has ever been nominated for playing a gay role. Representation not only refers to the visibility of marginalized groups on the screen but also behind it, for casting practices can help create more widespread acceptance of LGBTQ actors. Unfortunately, the prevalence of out actors in Hollywood is only made more difficult by the social stigma attached to being queer and the inherent emotional difficulty in coming out of the closet. Still, accomplishments must be celebrated, and it’s true that significant progress has been made in the last twenty years regarding the presence of queer people in mainstream media. GLAAD reported that a record high 17.5% of major studio films released on the big screen in 2015 featured LGBTQ characters. There has been much to celebrate where queer visibility in Hollywood is concerned, but it’s important to remember that the fight never ends. Academy Award winner Viola Davis famously noted in her 2015 Emmy acceptance speech that “the only thing that separates women of color from anyone else is opportunity. You cannot win an Emmy for roles that are simply not there,” perfectly encapsulating the importance of visibility and inclusion. Representation matters.
By: Maria Paz In 2006, the internet exploded with a video simply titled “Evolution”. Its premise was simple, but the message has resonated with the over 18 million viewers who have watched since its upload. It starts with a woman sitting behind a camera and while the scene fast forwards, she becomes a distorted and unrecognizable version of herself, suddenly beautiful, younger, and more ideal. A concept that launched Dove’s “Real Beauty” campaign has given the company over 150 million dollars in media value alone. A groundbreaking look at the standards of women in the media, the video won two Grand Prix Lion awards at the Cannes International Advertising festival, and one Epica D’Or for advertising as well.
Clearly the audience deeply connected to the message behind the video, for after the Real Beauty campaign launched Dove witnessed a sales increase of no less then 4 billion dollars to date. With so much money and recognition being placed on the shoulders of feminism, the reasonable question has to be- when does it stop being activism, and start being capitalism? This is the question that brought on a new marketing term, and with it a way to reach half the population in an entirely different way- Femvertising. A term popularized by the prominent SheKnows Media, a digital women’s lifestyle media company. Who incidentally also created the first #Femvertising awards, designed to recognize companies putting a positive and feminist message into their advertisements. Now the term has gained popularity, being used in other renowned publications including Forbes, Huffington Post, and Time.
This term and Dove’s iconic Real Beauty campaign evolved into a decade’s worth of feminist advertisements with the goal of selling more and more product. It spurred on projects like the Always #likeagirl, that looks to rewrite the often sexist remarks about girls and sports like “you throw like a girl”. Verizon also jumped on the bandwagon with the “Inspire her mind” campaign, that seeks to remind girls that they aren’t just pretty, they are “pretty brilliant”. Together, videos from both of these campaigns have been seen over 68 million times on YouTube alone. It is in your face feminist advertising at its finest, focusing on young females and recognizing their potential to be beautiful, smart, talented, and able to purchase products. The main problem is that these advertisements and the companies that push them are sometimes so hypocritical it undermines the message worth spreading. However, maybe the real controversy in Femvertising is the very existence of the term itself. Because if we lived in a society that regarded women and men not only equally, but held them to the same standards, there would be no need for a term. The hashtag would die, and the very phenomenon would cease to exist. Switching to Ads that are inclusive, anti-sexist, and feminist would not be viewed as bold or ground breaking; they would not be reason enough for an award. They would be commercials like any other, celebrities like any other- advertising to the population as a whole. In a perfect society, femvertising would never change marketing the way it has now. But the fact remains, that Pantene uses the fact that women say the word sorry more then men to sell shampoo, Campbell uses female friendship and bonding to sell soup, and Swiffer claims Rosie the Riveter as their own in order to sell mops. Like Nancy Fraser, a leading writer in the relationship between feminism and capitalism, says- maybe its time feminists “end their dangerous liaison with marketization” before the movement is reduced entirely to a marketing strategy and clever hashtag.
This hypocrisy was pointed out when journalists from BBC, The Daily News, Huffington Post, and many more publications dug further into the corporation that runs Dove Beauty. Unilever, a transnational consumer goods company that owns over 400 brands and has products available in 190 countries, happens to also run body product companies like Dove and Axe. Both of these brands specialize in body care, yet are targeted to two very different consumer populations. Dove is specific for women and Axe for men, and the difference is not only apparent in its packaging, scents and products but also in its advertising. 1 company, 2 huge brands, and hundreds of contradictory ads. In one day, Unilever could run a commercial featuring brightly smiling and untouched “real” women for Dove, praising feminism and shattering body ideals. Yet, they also run obviously sexist and reportedly aggressive male oriented commercials. Numerous publications ranging from New York magazine, BBC, and The Guardian to several online blogs like SheKnows and Bustle- have dedicated entire articles to pointing out he aggressive nature of these ads. In one for example, two women TSA agents are so overcome with the intoxicating nature of body spray that they strip a man down completely naked and end the scene on their knees in front of him. This struck a very different not then the female empowerment Dove was commoditizing. For a while, this was hidden marketing strategies at their finest, with no one making the connection between the two companies. How could the average consumer know that these brands were owned by the same people, with such different marketing strategies in play? This of course did not last, especially when the consumer watchdog group Campaign for a Commercial Free Childhood began a letter writing campaign to Unilever accusing it not only of sexism but more importantly, of hypocrisy. If a corporation as large and influential as Unilever was so interested in shattering body norms, advocating for women and furthering the feminism movement- why wouldn’t they change the attitudes of all 400 brands and not just 1?
This idea of femvertising does not stop at commercials and billboards. The idea of branding feminism is being picked up by the worlds largest artists, a point that feminist author Janell Hobson pointed out in her article “Celebrity Feminism: More then a gateway”. She shows that feminism is not only flashed behind stars like Beyoncé but also a type of “feminism-lite” that does not cover the deep and important intersectionalties of the movement. Much like Dove, some are critical of the true intentions of these celebrities. These high profile influencers have the scope and reach to raise awareness of issues that aren’t as flashy as simply defining feminism in the middle of a song- issues of race, transgender rights, reproductive justice. However, would these controversial subjects sell as many tickets? Or would they polarize audiences. Much like Dove wanted to sell product, celebrities want to sell an image. An image that easily takes a stance on wanting equality, but isn’t as interested in devoting their time or efforts to furthering the movement. In her article, Hobson quotes the author of “We were feminists once”, Andi Zeisler, who claims that “the celebrity machine is one that runs on neither complexity nor nuance, but cold, hard cash”. This cash is what truly runs the world, even if the intentions of the company or the celebrity are pure. There is an upside to being a feminist in media, something that can be seen in the influx of money that comes with it.
In the end, Femvertising for Unilever is a strategy to sell soap and shampoo and nothing more. Their scope and reach could be universal and lasting, yet Dove has been the only company that they have truly pushed to encourage any sort of female empowerment. What would be more empowering than one of the most male centered and domineering brands, Axe, pushing a positive message about femininity and beauty outside of society’s standards? Yet the reason it does not happen is because at the end of the day, feminism would not sell products to men, that does not fit with Unilever’s bottom line. A study run by the company showed that only 2% of the ads run by Unilever show intelligent women, and a mere 1% showed women that were funny. The majority of the ads run by Unilever represent women in domestic roles. This bottom line did eventually compromise the company’s image, when the sexism in Axe advertisements was so apparent and offensive to social media followers that Unilever had to respond. In June of 2016 Unilever released a statement saying they would remove sexist stereotypes from all of the advertisements for any of their brands- a move that was viewed as bold by some and long over due by others, coming 12 years after the release of their first “Real Beauty” campaign.
“its time feminists “end their dangerous liaison with marketization”
WOMEN in STEM by Rebecca Holleb
“Based on the untold true story.” With this revealing phrase, we are introduced to the moving tale, Hidden Figures, where we learn of the revolutionary contributions of Katherine G Johnson, Dorothy Vaughan and Mary Jackson to an unprecedented event. Even though they played a pivotal role in enabling the first human to orbit the earth, these women were overlooked. Their invisibility was due their race and their gender. This is just one chilling example of the male dominated culture in the fields of science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM). Gender inequality in STEM is very real. This inequity must be addressed to maximize the development and potential impact of all scientific minds. Cecilia Payne-Gaposchkin is another example of a marginalized female scientist. This well-published pioneer was the first woman to earn a PhD at Harvard/Radcliffe in astronomy. She discovered new data in her research that contradicted the current dogma regarding atmospheric composition. At the time, the common belief was that the atmosphere of stars consisted of the same elements in proportion with the earth’s atmosphere. She found that stellar atmospheres were instead composed of primarily hydrogen and helium, with only trace amounts of the larger elements of the earth’s atmosphere. Unfortunately, Payne did not initially published her ground-breaking discovery because her male advisors did not believe her conclusion. One of these men actually published her data later and subtly took much of the credit for her work. She received mention essentially as a collaborator in an acclaimed paper written by her advisor.
success in this arena. Throughout her career, her gender limited the opportunities available to her, particularly in the area of career advancement. She detailed some of her specific challenges in a letter that she wrote in which she outlined her problems with the status quo for women scientists. She noted that her achievements did not get appropriate recognition from the University. She also stated that when she gave lectures, they did not appear in the catalogue with the lectures given by the men. Another injustice she suffered was that she was paid less than what she believed she deserved working at the Observatory. In this letter, she complained that, “I am paid for (I believe) as ‘equipment’.” She eventually received a raise, from $2,300 to $2,700. Even after the pay increase, Payne’s salary remained lower than a new male lecturer on the astronomy faculty who received $3000. Another example of Payne’s exploitation is the lengthy additional eight years it took before Payne was given a Corporation appointment.
I note it here as a warning to the young. If you are sure of your facts, you should defend your position.
Most women in the field of math, science, and technology, like Payne, are still given fewer opportunities, less credit, and lower pay than men for equal or superior work. Admittedly, there have been some initiatives to improve this intolerable situation. Companies in the STEM industries are actively setting goals to hire more women. While this is encouraging, significant gender-based inequities in pay and opportunity remain. Increasing awareness of this problem is not enough--we need definitive and swift action. Feminist movements are fighting to draw attention towards this issue. Beyond that, they are trying to understand the causes of these well-documented problems and work towards a solution. As M Fausto Sterling put it, “[Feminist theorist] have often come to their theoretical work because they want to understand (and change) social, political, and economic inequality”. Through understanding and logical but creative problem-solving, we can certainly derive a solution to this problem. After all, that is what STEM is about.
Payne-Gaposchkin set a positive example for all scientists, particularly women, as she continued her esteemed career teaching and research. She was a trailblazer for women everywhere. She was an innovator in her field who fought for and ultimately received recognition for her extensive body of work. All too often, women and their accomplishments get overlooked in the field of STEM. Payne provided a vivid example of the prejudices that women must overcome to achieve
While advances have been made since Cecilia Payne-Gaposchkin began her career, clearly there is still a long way to go before women’s STEM talents are utilized and celebrated at the same rate as men’s. Now that we have acknowledged and explored gender-based bias in the workplace, how do we fix this problem? One PhD dissertation examining the lack of women in engineering, suggests that women “perceive engineering as primarily a masculine profession and [researchers] have suggested
Payne-Gaposchkin reflected on this slight in her autobiography. As she looked back on the incident, she thoughtfully instructed future researchers:
that engineering may be in need of a marketing overhaul if the goal is to attract more women to the field.â€? This statement, while true, represents only half of the equation. The long-standing misogynist culture represented in this male-dominated field must be evaluated and changed before women are accepted as equals by the existing men who currently wield most of the control. Women need to â€œownâ€? their ability and remain confident and persuasive as they gradually impact the STEM community and a world of future scientists. They must have the creativity and courage to become scientific revolutionaries as well as revolutionaries in the workplace. Women can work side by side with men and impact the workplace in many healthy and family-friendly ways. Ultimately, to make the largest possible impact on gender inequality in STEM, the effort needs to start with young children. Young boys and girls should be taught to respect each other as equals and encouraged to appreciate their own unique talents as well as those of others. Individuality should be emphasized and success celebrated. Preconceived notions about what is possi-
ble should be discarded along with factitious and narrow-minded limits based on race, gender, or background. All individuals should be given adequate exposure and the ability to explore math and science. Everyone should be shown that STEM careers are a possibility for them. The creative elements of math and science should be emphasized to open the scientific arena to people who want to build, create, and explore in addition to those who prefer to crunch numbers. Currently the field of STEM is limited by its masculine culture. As the arena is opened to more creative and feminine influences, the community will benefit as a whole. Women and other talented individuals will bring more breadth into the field and expand their influence over time. The new opportunities will empower women and influence them and the scientific communities for the better. This effort will take time and persistence. We must remember and model our predecessors who quietly sent men into space and emboldened us to defend our positions when we were sure of our facts.
â€œMasculine and feminine roles are not biologically fixed but socially constructedâ€?
- Judith Butler
Age and the Trans Experience
by: Alexander Fatato
A good friend of mine, at the age of twenty, recently came out as a trans woman. My friend has expressed to me multiple times that she wishes that she got the chance to come out at a younger age than she did. She feels that young trans people that come out before puberty, or in their early teens, assimilate better and are able to feel like they belong. This could be a combination of access to hormones, familial acceptance, socioeconomic status, and mental health. I began to wonder how the age one transitions impacts the quality of life in trans individuals. It is important to acknowledge throughout this article that not all who transition in their preteens get the chance to receive hormonal treatment. Not all trans individuals receive sex reassignment surgery. Self-discovery is a process that is messy and can take a very long time. Every situation is nuanced and deserves understanding and respect. I would be hesitant to say that any part of this process is easier at a younger age. But I’d like to examine the differences between people who experience their teens as a trans person and those who come out later. Trans activist Janet Mock’s experience as a young person certainly barred her from coming out earlier than she did. However sure she was that she felt like a woman, her circumstances largely prevented her from acting on her feelings. The time period that she grew up in, her family, and perhaps her socioeconomic status all contributed to this reality. In her autobiography, Redefining Realness, Mock speaks on her preteen experience: “I was living in the murkiness of sexuality and gender. I knew I was viewed as a boy. I knew I liked boys. I knew I felt like a girl. Like many young trans people, I hadn’t learned terms like trans, transgender, or transsexual —definitions that would have offered me clarity about my gender identity”. Mock didn’t have the resources or knowledge to transition at this time. It led to confusion and future hardship throughout her teen years. This ultimately led to her becoming a sex worker for a short time in order to afford her surgery. Mock recalls this decision with regret, and nobody else should feel they must resort to such measures to afford their surgery. Similarly, a recent issue of National Geographic introduced the reader to a 17 year old trans woman named Emmie Smith, who said, “When [I was] 12, I didn’t feel like a boy, but I didn’t know it was possible to be a girl”. As important as it is to increase cultural awareness of the transgender experience, increasing early childhood education on gender expression could help solve a lot of issues and confusion that some young people face. Unfortunately, it will be difficult to introduce education reform to a largely uninformed public. The clear advantage of transitioning before one’s teen years would be the chance to offset the effects of puberty. When a trans person makes their way through puberty, they begin to develop features that, oftentimes, do not accurately represent themselves. The development of breasts or facial hair can be a traumatizing experience when the individual feels that it con-
“What keeps me going is that quest for just being able to be present and be myself. Not for people, but for me.” -Janet Mock
tradicts their identity. So, access to resources and education on gender expression are important aspects to consider here. The question becomes, what age is the right age to transition? Is there one? Can one transition too early? The New York Times recently published an opinion piece on these questions, featuring four people with differing viewpoints explaining their opinion. Norman Spack, a pediatric endocrinologist, cited research by the Dutch endocrinologist Dr. Louis Gooren. “[He] found that suicide was particularly high among male-to-female transsexuals. But he has said that more recent experience with patients who complete their treatment before the age of 20 shows they do remarkably better,”. Spack agrees with Gooren, and concludes that the criticism he receives for operating on children is ignorant to the benefits that he and others have found. Truly, this can be a life or death issue. Opposers of early transitioning often cite a child’s lack of maturity and understanding of consequences as their reasoning. Mark Angelo Cummings, a trans radio host and activist also contributed to the New York Times oped. He ended his article with this: “If one is going to transition, they should at the very least be old enough to vote and have a beer after work”. However, trans people who have transitioned as early as ten or eleven do not express regret in their decision. It would be irresponsible to lump transitioning in with voting and drinking, for these age-restricted activities are not essential to one’s identity. It is important to understand that no underage person’s identity is defined by their access to voting or alcohol. Additionally, in conversation my friend pointed out: “Medically transitioning is not a quick process. Before being prescribed hormones, individuals often go through intensive therapy. The hormones take four to five months to begin working, and their effect can be reversed if the child feels they need to stop the process.” For children who have successfully completed these components, many feel the need for surgery. Forcing children to wait until they are 18 or 21 for this surgery can indeed be deadly, and it should be our priority to help these children. Perhaps transitioning early does improve quality of life, and we should not restrict this opportunity from people. As soon as a child is able to articulate their hardship and understand themselves and their decision, nobody should be able to restrict their access to a potentially lifesaving procedure.
Nervous Car Rides and Invisible Closets: Coming Out and the Power of Labels
“So how’s John?” my mother asked me as we waited for
the green light. “He’s okay,” I told her. My mother checked her rearview mirror. I wiped my hands on my jeans, picking on a hangnail. “Has he come out yet?” she asked. I opened my mouth, and then closed it, and then opened it again. “Yeah, yeah he has.” “Good for him,” she responded. I nodded mutely. “So how was it? Was it okay?” I nod again. “Yeah it was, mostly. He was… he was really nervous.” I clear my throat. “About his mom. He... knew she would be really shocked.” My mom tilted her head to look at me. “Shocked?” She shook her head in disbelief. “Well, parents always know.” This would have been a perfectly normal exchange had I not felt like I was going to explode from the inside out, my innards transforming the well-loved interior of the 2013 Subaru Outback. When I type the phrase “coming out video” into the YouTube search bar, I get over 50 million results. The most popular video has been viewed over 27 million times. And whenever I scroll down to the tumultuous mixed bag that is a YouTube comments section, I see support, love, hate, rejection-- the anonymous internet allows for a level of honesty which we often don’t see in our everyday lives. And one comment that I never fail to see, on every single coming out video, is some variation of these questions: Why do you need to say this? Why are you labeling yourself? Why can’t people just be people? This common train of thought is a rejection of identity politics. Kimberle Crenshaw, a professor of law and the well-known mother of intersectional theory, describes the trend in liberal discourse that frames “identity categories” as “intrinsically negative [frameworks] in which social power works to exclude or marginalize those who are different”. People have said similar things
to me on and offline as well: that labels just divide us. But as Crenshaw notes, identity labels “can instead be the source of social empowerment and reconstruction”. We all have different experiences and perspectives, and identity labels can help to illuminate those experiences in a powerful way. My mother is well-educated, and socially very liberal. A middle school history teacher, she is vocally supportive of LGBT+ rights in her personal and professional life. I knew, when talking about John with her, that she was going to be accepting. The problem was, we were having very different conversations. Hers was sympathetic and impersonal; mine was not. Earlier that day I had decided to come out as bisexual to my mother in that very same car ride. Apparently parents don’t always know. If I had to pick an adjective to describe my mom’s reaction to my anxious assertion of my sexuality, it would be “surprised”. I had been agonizing over that moment for months, and the reality was not in any way what I had expected. She wasn’t angry or rejecting, possibilities that had crossed my mind, but I hadn’t seriously entertained. But she didn’t immediately declare her pride, reaching into the glove compartment to pull out a rainbow flag and a ‘love is love’ bumper sticker, either. I had to endure some awkward silence, some hesitating remarks about ‘phases’, and a face that screamed of pure, unadulterated surprise. When given a chance to talk it out, I am lucky enough to say that my mother was completely accepting of my sexuality. But there was no mistaking the fact that she was not in any way prepared to deal with the fundamental shift in her worldview that came along with my bisexual identity.
The reason my bisexuality was so surprising to my mother is the heteronormative nature of modern society. Even though my mother is not homophobic, and, when given a chance to adjust, was supportive of me, it had never occurred to her that I would be anything but heterosexual. From the moment I came home from the hospital in a pink onesie, she assumed that the eventual recipient of my love and affection would be clad in a complementary shade of blue. And she was not the only person whose expectations I violated by accepting myself and my identity; there’s a reason why LGBT+ people say that coming out is an endless process, not a singular event. Friends, family, coworkers-- almost every relationship calls for coming out on the part of the LGBT+ person in some capacity. Existing as an out LGBT+ person means, for many, a continuous violation of society’s heteronormative expectations. That violation can have many results, with varying levels of severity. I have been extremely privileged in my coming out experiences thus far. I have never been shut out by my family or friends, and I still have a roof over my head. Unfortunately, many aren’t so lucky. According to the Williams Institute of Law, 40% of homeless youth identify as LGBT+. This imbalance is overwhelmingly due to rejection of LGBT+ youth by their families due to their sexuality or gender identity. Other factors include physical and sexual abuse, which, according to the Human Rights Campaign, disproportionately affect LGBT+ youth. The violation of expectations of gender and sexuality can be dangerous, and sometimes even fatal. These issues are entrenched in heteronormativity, homophobia, and transphobia, and cannot be reduced to individual problems. It is not enough to address the bullying of one trans boy in his middle school gym class; we must work to acknowledge the societal factors that led to such situations, and address problems at a wider, systemic level. Identity labels and identity politics allow us to confront these issues on a broad societal level, recognizing patterns and allowing us to find solutions that make life better for everyone. Crenshaw asserts that the main problem with identity politics is that it often “ignores intragroup differences”. But one of the great things about identity labels specifically is that they can aide intersectional discussions by representing differences in experience. A Black, asexual trans grandmother has had fundamentally different life experiences than a white, pansexual cis man, or a Latinx agender teen. It is not enough for people to “just be people”, because we all have vastly different life experiences that are influenced by our social location. Understanding someone’s social location, most often expressed through identity labels, can help us to understand that person’s perspective. “The Woman-Identified Woman”, a 1970s lesbian feminist manifesto, explored the possibilities of a world where “sexual expression is allowed to follow feelings”, hypothesizing that then “the categories of homosexuality and hetersexuality would disappear”. But we do not live in a world where all genders and sexualities have similar experiences, or equal experiences. Therefore, identity labels are necessary in order to acknowledge those different experiences in a productive way. One uniting experience often determined by social location that isn’t caused by exclusively negative experiences is culture. Participation in a culture can often be represented by an identity label. For those of us in the LGBT+ community, our culture provides a unifying shared experience, fundamentally different than the cultural experiences of straight, cisgender people. I can’t wait to attend Pride for the first time this upcoming June and celebrate my identity with people who I know support my existence. I’ll get together with friends and we’ll paint our faces, wave flags, and dance until nightfall-- it will be a gay old time. The idea that people are just people ignores the unique, varied, and valuable experiences of participating in one or many cultures. If sexuality and gender labels did not exist, we wouldn’t have Pride, a space where we gather and celebrate our shared culture. Gender and sexuality are fluid. It can be challenging to find labels that resonate with us, or that feel freeing instead of limiting. But by using labels, we can acknowledge difference-- and acknowledging difference allows us to defend the existence of that difference. For asking LGBT+ people to “just be people” erases our voices as members of an independent and unique group of diverse people, and to me that sounds suspiciously like a closet. After spending eighteen years in one I can say, with confidence and pride, that I refuse to go back.
Where’s the Pink? By Kayla Strong-Nieves
Imagine stumbling across a dusty flash drive hidden away in the crevices of your top desk drawer. There's some washed out scribbled sharpie on the side that intrigues you enough to take a closer look. Upon inspection, you discover that the side is labeled with your name, followed by "ages 2-10." You plug it in and up on the screen pops a barrage of old photos with you as the center of attention. At first glance, you would probably notice something superficial, like your outfit. Were you wearing a dress or a button down? Were you wearing a tiara or a baseball cap? Maybe the next thing you would notice is the environment that your younger self was in. Perhaps you were sitting surrounded by a pile of presents on your birthday. What kind of toys did you get? Were you surprised with a Barbie or an action figure? What was the theme of your party? Was it the latest Disney princess or the most recent Marvel superhero? Hortense Smith, a prominent member of the Church of Latter-Day Saints, believes the answer lies in the gender you were assigned to at birth.A study found in the American Journal of Orthopsychiatry shows that within the first 24 hours after birth, differential gender expectations of sons and daughters are already formed in the minds of their parents. The children themselves are usually able to note the physical differences between a boy and a girl around the age of two. Children can label their own gender by three. Because of this discrepancy, between the time it takes to assign gender and learn it, parents usually have a block of time about two years long where they surround their children with gender specific clothing and toys that will late influence the child’s opinion of what is right and wrong for them to dress in and play with.
While it is very common for parents to gender their own children, it seems to be more common that outside observers gender children even further. Sociologist Judith Lorber gives a prime example in her work Paradoxes of Gender, in which a parent did not impose a chosen gender on their child, yet an outside observer immediately made rash assumptions. She wrote: “The child in the stroller was wearing a dark blue T-shirt and dark print pants. As they started to leave the train, the father put a Yankee baseball cap on the child’s head. Ah, a boy, I thought. Then I noticed
directly. This is one of the reasons that children stick to the gender they were assigned, even if they recognize themselves as another gender. This can make them uncomfortable, but they ignore these upset feeling so that they can feel “normal.” Normality allows these children to stay within a designated societal safe zone that prevents any social backlash - which could be detrimental at such a young age. Those who teach children about the severity of maintaining appropriate social statuses are generally parents. Though done in small ways, just as in teaching them to say “please and thank you,” if applied to gender this could be detrimental when the child may seek to diverge from the gleam of tiny earrings in the child’s ears, and as they got off, I saw the little flowered sneakers and lace-trimmed socks. Not a boy after all.” This kind of gendering is so commonplace that nobody would bat an eye if the child’s gender was assumed aloud. Even in the above example, the observer thinks that she is correcting herself by noticing the earrings and such and consequently reevaluating her original assumptions. Even then, though, she has no way to tell for sure, save asking the child
expectations. It is commonly known that a child’s parents are their first exposure to the societal expectations of what it means to be male or female. Children also tend to view their parents as the most important role models in their life. With these two facts existing relatively immutably in the easily moldable mind of a child, how can you expect them to diverge from the norm without feeling like they are committing some type of atrocity? According to neuroscientist Lise Eliot, when mothers play with their daughters, they focus on instilling fairness and cooperation. While on the other hand, fathers tend to instill in their sons, assertive behavior.
This behavior can be extremely damaging to children that are experiencing the feeling of not belonging in the gender they were assigned. Just like bestselling author Janet Mock, who is transgender and struggled immensely through childhood because she was treated as a boy even though it contrasted with how she wanted to be treated, children may not be able to see their true selves through the cloud of gender roles and expectations. Mock is the perfect example of the gender expectations of her parents influencing her outward behavior. As a child, she was unable to wear a dress, or aspire to be a secretary because those were things girls did, and not boys. She was smothered and caused to believe that her feelings were invalid, because every time she expressed something that resembled a reflection of femininity, her parents shut her down. Her father felt he was just trying to protect her, but at what cost? Why is it that society must have such rigid gender roles when there is an extremely large spectrum of possible genders and different desires for representation? One possible solution that can prevent this struggle is in the hands of parents. Instead of gendering toys, they can buy a range of toys that can be classified as both feminine and masculine. Instead of buying their children’s clothes, they can take them shopping and let them pick out their own outfits. The benefits of raising a child in an androgynous way are even proven to boost the child’s experiences. In fact, according to Susan D. Witt, a professor at the University of Akron, “Androgynous individuals have been found to have higher self-esteem, higher levels of identity achievement and more flexibility in dating and love relationships.” Now think back to your photos on that flash drive. Do you think it would look different if you were raised this way?
Painted by Ayanna Dublin
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i l u c s a M e c m i o x r o d T n y S
ry? Allowed to C n e M t ’ n e r A Why night By Lily Mitt
One of my favorite cartoons growing up was Batman. I loved waking up Saturday mornings to watch the Dark Knight defeat the bad guy and then disappear mysteriously in the night. A new take on the Batman universe is the show Gotham. It centers around young Bruce Wayne right after his parents have died. In the second episode Alfred, Bruce’s new guardian, finds that Bruce has been harming himself. Alfred then explains this to Commissioner Gordon who asks if Bruce is receiving professional help. Alfred says, “No psychiatrists as a rule… Bruce’s father gave me very firm orders was him and his Missus to die.” Wait what? Bruce just watched his parents get shot in the street at eleven years old and his father, knowing something might happen to him and his wife, decides he doesn’t need counseling? Commissioner Gordon expresses that exact concern and Alfred just says that they have to “Trust him [Bruce] to choose his own course, he is after all a Wayne.” We all know that Bruce becomes a hardened adult, bent on re-writing the wrongs of the world, serving up justice the way only a vigilante detective can. But at what point does Bruce sacrifice his mental health for fighting crime? Why is he pushed to “choose his own path”? Why isn’t he allowed to ask for help?
While this may seem like a story only found on TV, boys and men everywhere are struggling with their emotions. Men are taught to be tougher and to curb their emotional responses. While women are more likely to seek help for a mental disorder, men are more likely to keep it to themselves. In a survey of 2,500 people, 28% of men and 19% of women admitted to not seeking help for their mental illness1. Without proper treatment, mental health can decrease further and lead to higher rates of self medication, homelessness, incarceration and suicide. In our culture men are seen as unemotional, logical creatures. When something bad happens they do not mope and cry, they get even. In the Academy Award winning movie Moonlight, when the main character is assaulted by bullies he does not let adults intervene and help him. He walks into class and smashes a chair over his bully’s head. Not only is this apparent in the media, but also in real schools. Male students report getting into physical altercations 30% of the time, while women report getting in physical altercations 19%. Boys are taught to resolve their problems through physical force. Because of this many argue that men are naturally restrained and reserved.
“Crying is something that is seen as something women do a lot of, so it must be bad for men to cry....”
Neuroscientist Lise Eliot, however, disagrees. She argues that girls are socialized to express their emotions. Because they begin making connections to emotions in their brains from such an early age, women tend to be much more in tune with their and others’ emotions. Men, on the other hand, are socialized to disregard feelings and “rub some dirt on it”. They are told to “man up” when they cry or are called a sissy for expressing any emotion other than apathy. If men don’t learn to be expressive as children, it can be difficult for them to learn how to emote as adults. The Mask You Live In, a documentary about the mask men put up in our culture to hide their true selves, highlights a story about a man named Steven learning from his young son, Jackson, how to be sensitive. Being a single parent was extremely difficult for Steven because he did not grasp how to help his son through his feelings. Steven laughs about Googling ways to get more in touch with his emotions and how, through his son, he was able to get in touch with his emotions. But why are men taught to ignore their emotions? How come boys are encouraged to be tough? I think it is because femininity and things associated with women, like emotions, are seen as inherently wrong in our culture. Crying is something that is seen as something women do lot of, so it must be bad for men to cry, to emote. The devaluing of femininity and the patriarchal structure of our culture has not only led women to be oppressed, but also men. Men are not innately born to use violence in order to express how they feel, while women are wired to do the opposite. Men should be allowed to express and feel a wide range of emotions. It is incredibly sad that men are trapped by a system that was created for them to be on top. An argument many anti feminists use in order to devalue feminism is that it is inherently “man-hating”, arguing that all feminists desire to separate themselves from men or turn the tables and create a matriarchal society. Many men avoid the term feminist because of these connotations. What many do not grasp is that feminism can also work for men. Feminist spaces are about creating a equal world, free from oppression. They want to break down the patriarchal structure that our culture is fixed in. While men are often apprehensive about relinquishing their power, many don’t realize that the power they hold also keeps them in a box.
Author of “Act Like a Man Box” Paul Kivel explains that men are pushed into a rigid box that when they try to act out of, they are pushed back in with the threat of violence. Even parents fear for their sons safety if he expresses interest in something that is not “inside” the box. Boys have to toughen up or be at the mercy of society. Kivel argues that not only do boys feel constricted in society but also in their own relationships. Boys can never relax with each other in the box. It is all about competition and beating another person. Acting weak or actually forming a bond with someone can be extremely difficult for men. As children, parents fear coddling their sons. They want them to toughen up, even though young boys need physical affection just like any other human child.
For men, masculinity is seen as something they need, something they strive for. Society teaches them that masculinity is the ultimate power. Femininity is for the “weaker sex”. What our society needs to realize is that masculinity is not power. It is rigid, it is harmful, and it creates a toxic environment for men and women. Men need to feel emotions and express them to others and feel comfortable doing so. I hope one day we can live in a world where Bruce Wayne actually gets to grieve for his dying parents. That his pain is seen and attended to by the adults around him. If we really love our sons and fathers, we need to open up a space for them to feel vulnerable and not define a man by his ability to contain his emotions.
Sex Positivity and Intersectionality by
Eleanor Agoos Slut. Maybe you’ve used the word before, or maybe you’ve been on the receiving end of it. Maybe you wore a skirt that was ‘too short’ in eighth grade, and you felt your face redden as you heard the word whispered in the hallways. Maybe you slept with someone after senior prom and woke up to the word glaring at you from your cell phone screen. Maybe you heard Rush Limbaugh use it on his radio show to refer to a female graduate student advocating for reproductive rights. Maybe you heard it floating around your college campus the week after that girl from your biology class was raped. You’ve heard it your whole life, but what does it mean? To whom does it refer? Is it a girl who wears crop tops and short skirts? Is it a woman who takes birth control to prevent pregnancy? Or is it a college student who gets raped at a party? You did overhear someone saying that she was asking for it, after all.
Over There. Language, as it does, has evolved, but the denotation of these words have remained roughly the same. The persistence of words that denounce and police female sexuality over hundreds of years is indication of how deeply ingrained into English-speaking society misogyny has been, and remains to be. Many feminists advocate for a total abolition of such language, arguing that these words reinforce rape culture and patriarchy. In her book I Am Not A Slut: Slut-Shaming in the Age of the Internet, author Leora Tanenbaum argues that “calling a girl or a woman a slut reinforces sexist norms,” and even suggests that “‘Slut’ is best regarded as a toxic four-letter word that should be quarantined if not buried”.
But the persistence of misogynist slurs over centuries indicates that we won’t rid the English language of them anytime soon. Their ubiquity is almost overwhelming -- a high school The word slut is but one of a slew of words used to degirl can be labeled a slut for wearing too much makeup, even mean female sexuality dating back to the Middle Ages. Bitch, for if she hasn’t even had her first kiss yet. A man will pelt a womexample, has been used as an anti-woman slur since the fouran who rejects his sexual advances with bitches and whores. teenth century, serving to compare a woman to a dog in heat. A girl who shows too much cleavage in her Instagram photo is Whore was an Old English term used to refer to prostitutes, but dismissed by her peers as a ho. Women must walk on eggshells over time extended its definition to describe any overly sexual when navigating our sexualities, because if we’re too sexual woman with a perceived lack of morals. Slut first appeared in or not sexual enough, we fall into slut/bitch/whore territory. 1402 to describe “a dirty, untidy, or slovenly woman.” Over the No matter what we do, our sexualities or lack thereof will be past century we have seen whore be abbreviated into ho, which turned around and used as a weapon against us. So let’s fight more recently has evolved into THOT, an acronym for That Ho back: not by abolishing the language that has been used to
demean us, but by reclaiming it as our own. We have already seen prominent feminist figures take the first step: Beyoncé’s 2016 visual album Lemonade aims to challenge perceptions of black female sexuality, something that has been historically used as a tool of marginalization and shame. For centuries, black women have been stereotyped as impure and overly sexual, their bodies reduced to mere commodities. As feminist theorist and activist bell hooks notes, Beyoncé’s Lemonade, too, commodifies black bodies, but not for the purpose of shame or exploitation: rather, it serves “to seduce, celebrate, and delight -- to challenge the ongoing present day devaluation and dehumanization of the black female body”. Lemonade is a celebration of sexuality, of female sexuality, of black female sexuality. Beyoncé challenges these stigmas through visual media. The next step in reclaiming our bodies and our sexualities as our own is to utilize the most inescapable social institution that surrounds us: language. Remove the shame from these words, and what are we left with? A bitch is no longer bossy and arrogant, but powerful and self-determined. Sluts and whores are no longer figures of disgust, but independent women who enjoy exploring the wonders of sex and pleasure.
To reclaim these labels is to reclaim our power and our autonomy over our own bodies. As I say this, the 2012 teen romance musical film Pitch Perfect comes to mind. While it isn’t exactly a work of feminist literature, it does briefly touch upon the power of reclaiming slurs. When a larger woman auditions for a college a capella group and introduces herself as “Fat Amy,” her peers appear confused. “You call yourself ‘Fat Amy’?” asks one of the girls. “Yeah,” replies Fat Amy, “So twig bitches like you won’t do it behind my back.” Of course, body-shaming and slut-shaming are two different beasts. They certainly can feed into each other, but the history and connotations of the word ‘fat’ versus the word ‘slut’ are different. Nevertheless, the character of Fat Amy makes a relevant point. Bullies will always exist, and words used to bully will always exist. But we can take away a bully’s power by refusing to be ashamed. Fat Amy refuses to be ashamed of her body. Similarly, it is time for women to refuse to be ashamed of our power, of our sexualities. To change the connotations of harmful words, and to use them as tools to empower ourselves and our fellow women.
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