You Know You’re a Feminist When

  
If you believe women are equal to men, guess what, you’re a feminist…or so pop culture says. This slogan is part of an effort to make the “f-word” more accessible, to help closeted feminists come out…but at a certain point, doesn’t it just dilute the word?

Most people believe in equality – even if they lack the resources to understand what that means. Since gender is so engrained in our society, it’s hard to recognize sexism without someone showing you the way. And even then it can be hard  to reconcile that information with everything you already knew about “how things are done.” That’s why this pressure to identify as a feminist if you believe in equality seems like it’s just forcing people’s hands before they’re ready. And I’m not sure there’s any value in making people believe they’re there when really and truly they’re not.

Feminism is complicated and it’s hard to establish any one rule to identify other feminists, but I think it’s more than just believing in the ideal of equality. It means recognizing that gender is a social construct, that the world as we know it is sexist, and that sexism does not need to be tolerated. What this looks live varies tremendously and, as Lena Dunham explained, “A huge part of being a feminist is giving other [people] the freedom to make choices you might not necessarily make yourself.” So if your definition of equality doesn’t include that freedom, you might not actually be a feminist.

A Woman’s Place Is On The Money

Women on 20s

There are a lot of things I’m fine with staying the same. I’m not going to cringe if you say “mailman.” I’m not too concerned if you choose to go by “Mrs.” instead “Ms.” And until a couple weeks ago, I didn’t pay any attention to the design of US dollar bills.

Each bill features one of the presidents (with the exception of the $100 bill, which features Benjamin Franklin, and the $10,000 bill, which features Salmon P. Chase). Many of these presidents are also featured on our coins – so it’s hard to grow up in the US without being familiar with these guys. You might not know what they did, but you can sure as hell bet it was noteworthy. And you can bet they were all men.

Now, I’m not against celebrating the accomplishments of men, but I’m realizing how much recognition is displaced based on gender. As Gloria Steinham put it, “Women have always been an equal part of the past. They just haven’t been part of history.” If you’re still not sold, consider this example from Public Radio International: Finding the forgotten women who programmed the world’s first electronic computer. History may have forgotten the majority of women’s accomplishments, but it’s remembered enough for that not to be an excuse.

That’s where the “Women on $20s” campaign comes in. By pushing for a change in face on just one of those dollar bills, it’s hoping to ensure that all Americans have a daily reminder of at least one woman who has had an impact in shaping our country. That campaign is already in its final stages of selecting a candidate to be featured on the bill – and each vote will help it carry greater weight in Washington. Make sure you take the time to vote!

Sometimes Movies Revolve Around A Single Gender, Sometimes That Gender Is Female, And Sometimes That’s Okay

Maleficient

Even before Angelina’s portrayal, Maleficent has always been one of my favorite characters. She’s so witty and in control…so intentional. Of course, she was evil – but I had been raised on stories like Wicked and The True Story of the Three Little Pigs, so it felt okay to admire certain aspects of her persona…and I was more than delighted with the perspective provided by Maleficent.

As I would imagine any logical person would assume, this movie, designed to explain the relationship between Maleficent (a female fairy) and Aurora (also a female), focused primarily on two strong female characters. This probably makes sense to most people, but, as I have recently learned, not everyone.

In a post titled “The Importance of Gender Roles and The Problem with Maleficent,” one blogger writes about how men were snubbed in the movie – how Prince Philip’s role was so small he might as well not have even been in the movie at all. Well, that opinion is interesting to me. In Disney’s original telling of Sleeping Beauty, the only really developed characters were the fairies. Prince Philip’s role was minimal and Aurora only appeared for about 18 minutes in the 75-minute movie for which she was the title character. The real difference is that, while Prince Philip’s role remained the same, two of the female roles became much more dynamic.

Now, I could understand concern if this was the case for the majority of movies. It would absolutely be harmful to pretend all stories revolve around women and that women are the only ones daring enough to do interesting things. However, this is not the case. So to those who are offended by a single movie telling the story of two women, I invite you to put your ego aside and get over it.

Gender & Pronouns

Little Miss Mister

As feminists, we know gender is on a spectrum. We’re dynamic beings and trying to box ourselves off into male or female really isn’t helping anyone. I mean that’s a lot of pressure and who even wants to live up to those expectations anyways. It’s much more fun to just do everything you want without worrying if it makes you too masculine or too feminine.

But I must admit, as much as I believe this, it is very difficult for me to form my language around it. It’s so easy to associate pronouns with a person’s sex even though I know the meaning is closer linked to gender. So what can we do?

I’ve heard of someone who proudly identifies as an “it” – but that term feels like it sucks the life out of its subject. I don’t even refer to animals as it’s. More commonly, there’s the option of “they.” It’s grammatically incorrect, but it’s gender neutral. It tends to be my favorite for situations in which I’m trying to avoid gender…but I really just can’t get over that hankering for something that’s grammatically correct without imposing gender.

That’s where Wikipedia’s table of “Newly Invented Pronouns” comes in.

Newly invented pronouns
Elverson (1975)[45] Ey laughed I called em Eir eyes gleam That is eirs Ey likes eirself
Spivak (1983)[46][47] E laughed I called Em Eir eyes gleam That is Eirs E likes Emself
Humanist[48] Hu laughed I called hum Hus eyes gleam That is hus Hu likes humself
Peh[49][50] Peh laughed I called pehm Peh’s eyes gleam That is peh’s Peh likes pehself
Per[51] Per laughed I called per Per eyes gleam That is pers Per likes perself
Thon[52] Thon laughed I called thon Thons eyes gleam That is thons Thon likes thonself
Jee, Jeir, Jem[53] Jee laughed I called jem Jeir eyes gleam That is jeirs Jee likes jemself
Ve[54] Ve laughed I called ver Vis eyes gleam That is vis Ve likes verself
Xe[55] Xe laughed I called xem Xyr eyes gleam That is xyrs Xe likes xemself
Ze (or zie or sie) and zir (Germanic Origin)[56] Ze laughed I called zir/zem Zir/Zes eyes gleam That is zirs/zes Ze likes zirself
Ze (or zie or sie) and hir[57] Ze laughed I called hir Hir eyes gleam That is hirs Ze likes hirself
Ze and mer[58] Ze laughed I called mer Zer eyes gleam That is zers Ze likes zemself
Zhe, Zher, Zhim[59] Zhe laughed I called zhim Zher eyes gleam That is zhers Zhe likes zhimself

Any one of these words could be the solution to our problem. The only trouble is that hardly anyone would recognize them making it difficult to use them without adding an explanatory paragraph into your sentence; and by that point, is it even worth it?

To make any of these work, we’d have to limit the use to one…and probably get a celebrity on board. If one day, Ellen Degeneres started using Ze, the whole world would change. Regardless of how a person identifies, it would be much harder to impose any expectations and, on a larger scale, it would be much harder to have any stereotypes.

 

Makeup Optional and It Feels So Good

Jennifer Aniston

In a couple weeks, the movie Cake will be released featuring Jennifer Aniston free from any makeup – an experience Aniston calls “so fabulous—so dreamy and empowering and liberating.”

Personally, I’m really proud of her. She’s taking a stand against so many of the gender expectations in Hollywood, and the world in general, and demanding that her talent be enough – that a woman’s story maintain its value even as her sexuality is downplayed. Because #AllLivesMatter.

Regardless of whether you wear makeup or not, I hope that you can appreciate this victory for Aniston as well as the movie industry. We all have different challenges to face as we negotiate our gender identities, and each victory is worth celebrating.

The Bill Cosby Situation

Bill Cosby Meme

I was one of two people sitting in a waiting room when one of Bill Cosby’s alleged victims came on TV. Her interviewer set the stage by describing how one of the women had been consistently accusing Bill Cosby of these crimes for the past 20 years, but the woman in front of him was only just then coming forward. He asked her, “Why now?” She said she just wanted an apology, but the man sitting beside me spoke over her. “Money. She just wants money.”

Maybe that’s true. Maybe all of those women are hoping to get money. Personally, I think they went about it the wrong way if that’s what they were looking for. Bill Cosby might have been willing to pay them for their silence, to keep his reputation intact. But now? Why would he pay them? They’ve already ruined his reputation and paying them would only validate their claims.

Maybe some of them want money. Maybe some of them would refuse it. Maybe for them being paid in exchange for their rape would only be adding insult to injury. Maybe that money would make them feel that much more degraded.

I can think of a few more reasons these women might be coming forward. Maybe they want other women to know before they wind up in a room alone with him. Maybe they’re finally ready to be heard. Maybe they’re coming forward in solidarity for the women who came forward earlier.

Feminism is trending. There’s a reason the story is only now making headlines even though at least one of the women has been coming forward for years…You can’t just rape women anymore.

Maybe they do just want the money. But when did greed become worse than rape?

What to do with the word “Bossy”

I'm Not Bossy. I'm the Boss

Words matter. We know that, and that’s why we fight for equality in language. We’ve transitioned from saying things like postman and policeman to using more gender-ambiguous terms. Why? So that we can un-train our minds from limiting our own possibilities and the possibilities of others.

So what’s going on with the word “Bossy”? Seemingly, the word is attributed to women and girls far more often than it is to men and boys. When a man has high expectations and asks for what he wants, he is considered assertive, a strong leader, and at worst demanding. But when a woman displays the same audacity, it is off-putting and contrary to our stereotype of the gentle and therefore likable woman.


Own Bossy       Ban Bossy


As much as I know this a problem, I don’t believe in fully banning the word bossy. There is a very real meaning to the word that I believe belongs in our language. It’s important to be able to distinguish between strong leadership and simply bossing others around. And if we simply eradicated the word, wouldn’t another one just pop up in its place?

On the other hand, I also don’t believe in owning “bossy.” Yes, embrace the leadership skills that sexism has mislabeled “bossy,” but be cognizant of its real meaning. Feminism calls for collaboration and communication. It demands a leadership style built on mutual growth and understanding. It is not a movement that can justify pleasure in pushing others around.

That said, I call for a movement somewhere between “Own” and “Ban.” I know I’d need a catchier title, but for now, let’s just call it “Think Twice Before Calling Her Bossy.”

precision of langauge2