Feminism: We’re Still Figuring It Out

Tavi Gevinson, as the founder and editor-in-chief of Rookie Magazine, allows women to be contradictions. Being a feminist, should mean the opposite of being put in a box. There are no rules on what you should like, how you should behave, or what you should do. Being a feminist, means embracing any of the opportunities of being a person that you choose. It means being dynamic, having flaws, and, most importantly, being free.

Below are just a few key points of her ideas. For the real thing, watch her TedX talk above, “Still Figuring It Out.”

  1. Strong Characters Are Dynamic, Not Perfect
  2. Women Are Crazy, Because People Are Crazy, and Women Happen To Be People
  3. Stop Underestimating Teenage Girls
  4. Feminism is a Discussion, Not a Rulebook
  5. We’re All Just a Bundle of Contradictions, Accept It

Leslie Knope’s Wall of Inspirational Women

I love Leslie Knope. She inspires me to be a better person, citizen, friend, woman, and really any other role I could play. Even though she is just a fictional character, the women who inspire her are real women with very real accomplishments. Below is a list of the twelve women featured on Leslie’s Wall of Inspirational Women, each of which has opened countless doors for the development of our society, especially in regard to the advancement of women. Which doors will you use?


Jeannette Pickering Rankin. #ParksandRec

Jeannette Pickering Rankin

I may be the first woman member of Congress but I won’t be the last.

Jeannette was the first United States Congresswoman, elected in Montana in 1916 and 1940. She was a lifelong pacifist and was one of fifty members of Congress to vote against entry into World War I in 1917 and the only member of Congress to vote against declaring war on Japan after the 1941 attack on Pearl Harbor.  Though her stance on these issues was wildly unpopular, she defended herself in saying, “As a woman, I can’t go to war, and I refuse to send anyone else.”


Nancy Pelosi. #ParksandRec

Nancy Pelosi

When I became speaker, they said, ‘I made history.’ I said, ‘We made history,’ now we have to make progress.

As the Minority Leader of the United States House of Representatives and the 60th Speaker of the United States House of Representatives, Nancy Pelosi (D – Calif.) is the only woman to have served as the House Speaker and is the highest-ranking


Madeleine Albright. #ParksandRec

Madeleine Albright

There is a special place in hell for women who don’t help other women.

When Madeleine Albright (D) took office as the 64th U.S. Secretary of State in 1997, she became the first female U.S. Secretary of State. In that role, she reinforced United States alliances; advocated for democracy and human rights; and promoted American trade and business, labor, and environmental standards abroad. In 2012, she was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Obama. Now, as someone who is fluent in English, French, Russian, and Czech and proficient in Polish and Serbo-Croatian, she serves as a Director on the Board of the Council on Foreign Relations.


Condoleezza Rice. #ParksandRec

Condoleezza Rice

It’s good to have female or minority role models. But the important thing is to have mentors who care about you, and they come in all colors.

Condoleezza Rice (R) is an American political scientist and diplomat. She served as the 66th United States Secretary of State, making her the first female black Secretary of State. She also served as President Bush’s National Security Advisor during his first term, making her the first woman to fill that position.


Hilary Clinton. #ParksandRec

Hilary Clinton

Too many women in too many countries speak the same language — of silence.

Hilary Clinton (D) is a former United States Secretary of State, U.S. Senator, First Lady of the United States, and First Lady of Arkansas. When she took office as a New York Senator in 2001, she became the first female Senator from that state and the first First Lady to ever run for public office. Running in the 2008 Democratic presidential primaries, Clinton won more primaries and delegates than any other female candidate in American history. In her concession speech, she said, “Although we weren’t able to shatter that highest, hardest glass ceiling this time, thanks to you, it’s got about 18 million cracks in it.” As the 67th U.S. Secretary of State, Clinton visited more countries than any of her predecessors. She used “smart power” to assert U.S. leadership and values abroad, by combining military power with diplomacy and American capabilities in economics, technology, and other areas. She encouraged empowerment of women everywhere and used social media to communicate the U.S. message abroad.


Bella Abzug. #ParksandRec

Bella Abzug

They used to give us a day–it was called International Women’s Day. In 1975 they gave us a year, the Year of the Woman. Then from 1975 to 1985 they gave us a decade, the Decade of the Woman. I said at the time, who knows, if we behave they may let us into the whole thing. Well, we didn’t behave and here we are.

Bella Abzug (D), nicknamed “Battling Bella,” was an American lawyer, U.S. Representative, social activist, and leader of the Women’s Movement. In 1971, she, along with Gloria Steinem and Betty Friedan, founded the National Women’s Political Caucus. After her successful 1970 campaign to become a member of the U.S. House of Representatives for New York, she declared, “This woman’s place is in the House – the House of Representatives.” She was later appointed to chair the National Commission on the Observance of International Women’s Year, to plan the 1977 National Women’s Conference, and lead President Jimmy Carter’s commission on women.


Dianne Feinstein. #ParksandRec

Dianne Feinstein

Women have begun to see that if I go through that doorway, I take everybody through it.

Dianne Feinstein (D) is the senior United States Senator from California and a former mayor of San Francisco. In 1978, she served as the San Francisco Board of Supervisors’ first female president, leading her to become the first female mayor after the assassination of Mayor George Moscone and City Supervisor Harvey Milk. After a failed gubernatorial campaign in 1990, she won a 1992 special election to the U.S. Senate. Feinstein was first elected on the same ballot as Barbara Boxer, leading the two women to become California’s first female U.S. Senators. Feinstein has been re-elected four times since then and in the 2012 election, she set the record for the most popular votes in any U.S. Senate election, having received 7.75 million votes. At the age of 80, Feinstein is the oldest currently serving United States Senator.


Michelle Obama. #ParksandRec

Michelle Obama

We need to do a better job of putting ourselves higher on our own ‘to do’ list.

Michelle Obama is an American lawyer and writer in addition to serving as First Lady alongside President Barack Obama.  In her roles as First Lady of the United States and the wife of a Senator, she has distinguished herself as a role model for women and an advocate for poverty awareness, nutrition, and healthy eating.


Janet Reno. #ParksandRec

Janet Reno

I’m not fancy. I’m what I appear to be.

In 1993, Janet Reno (D) was nominated and confirmed as the first woman to serve as the United States Attorney General. She served as the 78th Attorney General from 1993 to 2001, making her the second longest serving Attorney General since William Wirt in 1829. On April 17, 2009, Reno was awarded the Justice Award by the American Judicature Society for “her commitment to improving our systems of justice and educating Americans about our great common enterprise – to ensure equality under the law.”


Sandra O’Connor

Do the best you can in every task, no matter how unimportant it may seem at the time. No one learns more about a problem than the person at the bottom.

Sandra O’Connor (R) is a former United States Supreme Court Justice and a NAFTA adjudicator. She served as an Associate Justice from her appointment in 1981 by Ronald Reagan until her retirement from the Court in 2006. She was the first woman to be appointed to the court, the first female Majority Leader in the United States as the Republican leader in the Arizona Senate. As a federalist and a moderate conservative, she tended to approach each case narrowly without arguing for sweeping precedents. On August 12, 2009, President Barack Obama awarded her the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest civilian honor of the United States.


Olympia Snowe. #ParksandRec

Olympia Snowe

I’ve never backed down from a fight and I relish a good debate.

Olympia Snowe (R) is a former United States Senator from Maine, Chairman of the Senate Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship, First Lady of Maine, member of the United States House of Representatives, and a member of the Maine House of Representatives. Snowe is known for her strong sense of bipartisanship, ability to compromise, and influence on close votes.


Sally Ride. #ParksandRec

Sally Ride

I never went into physics or the astronaut corps to become a role model. But after my first flight, it became clear to me that I was one. And I began to understand the importance of that to people. Young girls need to see role models in whatever careers they may choose, just so they can picture themselves doing those jobs someday. You can’t be what you can’t see.

Sally Ride was an American physicist and astronaut. She worked with NASA from 1978 to 1987, making her the first woman in space. In 2001, she and her partner co-founded Sally Ride Science, a company designed to create entertaining science programs and publications for upper elementary and middle school students, with a particular focus on girls. The two women also co-authored six children’s science books to encourage children’s interest in science.

Feminist Spotlight: Kate Nash – “Stop Underestimating Teenage Girls”

Every celebrity has a sort of brand image, and Kate Nash’s image is one of the most dynamic I’ve seen. She is as fierce as she is girly and as cute as she is raw, but what makes her most relevant to this blog is her dedication to empowering girls.

Though I was already aware of the feminist focus in her songs and her presence online, I was still very much impressed when I got to see her in concert last week. One of her more notable tidbits surrounded her response to interviewers asking her if it bothered her that most of her fans were teenage girls. To that, Kate responded with a call to stop underestimating teenage girls. They’re smart and don’t need society telling them they’re not enough. Adding to that, one of the bands opening for her that night included girls as young as 14 years old, and Kate was more than willing to acknowledge them as her equal. Humanity is not a competition.

This understanding and appreciation for others is rooted in the peace Kate has found with herself. She firmly believes the reason she is where she is today is because she no longer cares about what society says she should do or who she should be. This idea is one she constantly promotes in order to challenge gender perceptions and inspire girls to participate in male-dominant fields, especially the music industry. To do this, she founded the Rock ‘N’ Roll for Girls Music Club, works with young self-harming women at The Wish Centre, and is a global ambassador for the Because I am a Girl Initiative.

Check Her Out: Below is a song that is not necessarily indicative of Kate’s usual style, but is definitely representative of her movement. Here, Kate references Gone with the Wind to inspire girls to be independent and respect themselves. “You know in Gone with the Wind at the end where she kills that guy and she goes off and says that speech, ‘I’ll never be hungry again,’ [and holds up] a turnip? It was like a really righteous moment. She was, like, ‘I’ll never be abused again.'”

Why More Women Are Not In Leadership Positions

It’s pretty obvious that there are a lot more leadership positions help by men than by women. While some believe this is of women’s choosing, its reality is a complicated issue with lots of social factors at play. Such factors, as indicated by thought leaders like Sheryl Sandberg, include:

  1. Differences in how girls and boys are socialized, causing women to be much less assertive than men.
  2. An inverse relationship between a woman’s success and her likability by both men and women. This is primarily due to the discord between traits linked to success (competitiveness, assertiveness, etc.)  and traits linked to female gender conformance (passiveness, niceness, etc.).
  3. The lack of available mentors for women in leadership positions. Often, men are uncomfortable mentoring women for fear of how it might be perceived by others. Since men make up the vast majority of possible mentors, this limits the likelihood that a woman will have a mentor.
  4. Women who pull back from their careers in anticipation of having children.
  5. Spouses who do not share household and child rearing responsibilities.
  6. Social pressure to be a stay-at-home mother in order to be a good mother.

Each of these factors leads to the situation outlined in the National Business Research Institute’s (NBRI) infographic below. While diversity generally leads to higher performance, many businesses are wary of hiring women and many women are uncertain of their own capabilities. The best way to overturn this cycle is by being aware of the factors producing it. For more detailed descriptions of these factors and how they can be overcome, I highly recommend reading Sheryl Sandberg’s Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead.


Feminist Spotlight: Jennifer Livingston – Stop Body Shaming Others


In 1981, Christine Craft was one of two U.S. women over the age of forty anchoring a newscast at a network affiliate. Then, when a focus group described her as “too old, too unattractive, and wouldn’t defer to men,” she was removed from her position. Appalled by this decision, Craft responded with a Title VII lawsuit, paving the way for women to continue developing their careers in the media even after showing their age. However, as evidenced by a recent situation involving Wisconsin news anchor Jennifer Livingston, progress is still needed in regard to attitudes.

In the following video, Livingston shares the comments one viewer expressed about her appearance and logically explains why such comments are not warranted. Although some reports covering this story cite her response as a melodramatic attempt to make a mountain out of a mole hill, her response appropriately connects this situation to the larger social pattern.

Fortunately, the small-minded attitudes stirring controversy over her remarks have not halted all progress for women in the media. For the first time in network broadcast history, two women are taking over as the co-anchors of a nightly news program. Due to their past accomplishments and success working as a team, Gwen Ifill and Judy Woodruff have been selected to co-host PBS’s long-running program, NewsHour. However, opportunities like this could not be possible without women like Christine Craft and Jennifer Livingston standing up for equality and respect. For this reason, Jennifer Livingston is this week’s spotlighted feminist.

Feminist Spotlight: Amy Poehler’s Smart Girls


I have to admit, when Amy Poehler was on SNL, she really wasn’t my cup of tea, a bit too crude for my tastes. However, when she began starring as Leslie Knope on Parks and Recreation, I couldn’t get enough of her. She was positive, determined, and capable of making a difference. I was in awe of her. Then, I discovered Amy Poehler’s Smart Girls. Turns out Amy Poehler was only typecast as Leslie Knope and is an even more amazing woman, if not just because she is real.

When you visit the homepage for Amy Poehler’s Smart Girls, you are greeted with a message explaining the organization:

“Here at Smart Girls, we believe that the cultivation of the authentic self is very important. We also believe that guidance is helpful as we try to find our way to ourselves. We hope to be of help in the exploration and discovery process.

This is where you might learn about something you would like to experience. You might learn about a woman you’d like to emulate. You might learn a new perspective or an unfamiliar custom or a new way to talk to yourself about something.

It is our hope that you will learn more about your truest self.”

The organization offers many opportunities for girls to inspire personal growth through learning the value of being nice, taking time to “treat yo self,” and getting video feedback from Amy Poehler, who, at least in the videos I watched, is completely down-to-earth without even wearing make-up. For these reasons, Amy Poehler is well-deserving of the happy feminist spotlight.