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


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.

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.

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.

May You Have the Courage to Change the Things that You Can

I love Amy Poehler’s Smart Girls campaign. Everything she posts is so heart-warming and inspiring. It really helps you believe in a better life and, more importantly, a better society. This video is no exception. At a time when many people are setting new goals and trying new things, it is important to remember you can do anything you want to do. You might not be able to do it well, but you can at least do it.

No lame excuses like being too old or that society is too oppressive. You are the most powerful person in your life. So, as that old prayer says, may you have the courage to change the things that you can, the serenity to accept the things that you can’t, and the wisdom to know the difference.

If you need a reminder, click the image below to download your copy of the Smart Girls bookmarks.

Smart Girls Bookmark