Minnesota Feminists Speak Out!

The unofficial blog of Minnesota NOW


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Equality & Safety: What the ERA Means to Me

As a self identified feminist, and an outspoken one at that, I often find myself in conversations concerning the validity of ‘modern feminism’. Many people think that women are ‘basically equal’ to men now, so there’s no need for feminism. That is absolutely not the case. Not only are women economically unequal to men in this country, but our rights aren’t even solidified in the constitution. This means that our rights can essentially be repealed by court decisions and in Congress if they so choose. So I thought in light of the upcoming Women’s Equality Day, I would like to take a minute and write about what constitutional protection through the ERA means to me and why I find it important.

First off, the ERA or Equal Rights Amendment reads as follows:

Section 1. Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any state on account of sex.

Section 2. The Congress shall have the power to enforce, by appropriate legislation, the provisions of this article.

Section 3. This amendment shall take effect two years after the date of ratification.

When I first heard about the ERA, I assumed it was going to be a long and drawn out packet of information. As you can see, it is not. The fact that the ERA is one sentence is symbolic for me. We’ve been trying to get this passed since 1923. One sentence added to the constitution would give all women equal constitutional rights, and 90 years later we’re still struggling to make it happen.

Women’s equality in this country still has a long way to go. Ask any woman who regularly goes out in public and I can guarantee you she’ll have at least one ‘street harassment’ story to tell you. It is unsafe for women to go for a run or jog alone at night, to walk to their car, or even to walk home after a night out because of the underlying threat of violence. And if that violence does occur, it is often the woman and not the attacker who is blamed because of what they were wearing, what they were drinking, or a litany of other offenses that you ‘should have known better’ than to do.

On top of that, women still make anywhere from 75-85 cents on the dollar (average is about 77 cents) to what men make in comparable roles with comparable experience. This gap is even more severe for women of color, who average 55-64 cents for each dollar. That’s economic inequality, and despite legislation that expressly forbids that kind of discrimination, it still happens. Passing the ERA will give teeth to the laws we already have in place, and will formally recognize the rights of women as equal to the rights of men.

These are just a few examples of why the ERA is important to me. Can you think of other reasons why you think it’s important? Leave them in the comments or Tweet them to us @Minnesota_NOW!

By the way, if you want to join us in a discussion about the ERA, join us on August 26th at Urban Growler! See the details here.


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Interview – Maya Dusenbury – Feministing.com Executive Director

By: Colette Hayward

Maya Dusenbury is a former Minnesota resident who now lives in the South and works for Feministing.com as the Executive Director of Editorial and Operations. I was able to get in contact with her because my professor, Van Dusenbury, is an Anthropology professor at Hamline University and we happened upon the topic of feminism one day in class. I was especially excited to interview Maya because I often look to Feministing.com for current news about women both locally and around the world. Maya actually wrote a short piece on Andrea Kieffer’s comment, which is where I found out about the whole incident Interview – Andrea Kieffer. I wrote up a list of questions for Maya to answer before we had our phone interview and I received a lot of great feedback!

I began our interview by asking her about her responsibilities as Executive Director of Editorial and Operations, and she had a lot to say. Her responsibilities include behind the scenes development, fundraising efforts, deciding what content is put on the site, editing the other bloggers’ pieces, and of course writing her own posts (at least one lengthy one per week). As I began to write my first blog I struggled with the topic, so when I asked how she decided what to write about she said she goes through many different email threads as well as posts about the things that Feministing’s readers want to know more about. Maya said that she would like to continue to work at Feministing.com until it is sustainable, but ultimately she wants to continue working on her feminist writing and hopefully one-day write a book or two.

Since women around the world have an amazing variety of topics that they are fighting for I also wanted to know what the hot topics were right now. In Minnesota many people worked hard to get WESA passed, and on Mother’s Day 2014 Governor Mark Dayton signed the bill into a law. The topics on Maya’s radar included abortion, reproductive rights, sexual violence, rape culture amongst young people, the work/family/life balance issue, lean-in conversations, and policies supporting family life, just to name a few. I also asked Maya what were a few things a “good” feminist should make sure they do and she provided me with a short list. “They should make sure they check Feministing everyday, along with knowing where they stand on Women’s Rights issues,” she also added, “Be humble and empathetic, really listen to others. Remain open-minded to the things you encounter, and always remember your privilege and try to understand other people’s perspectives”. I love all the things she listed because I think they are things I have improved on as a women’s studies major.

We wrapped up our discussion after talking a little about her parents’ role in her life as published anthropologists, and it was exciting for me to hear. Maya spoke very gracefully and had a lot of beneficial information to share with me. I will once again say how much I appreciate her and others taking the time to talk to me when I know they have busy lives going on. I would love the opportunity to talk and possibly collaborate in the future with Maya, Feministing, and organizations like these to help me further my knowledge and love for equality and progress. We may not be able to change the world over night, but there are powerful women and men out there who are helping this generation of feminists to be all that they can be and to help make their dreams a reality. Take a moment today to thank someone who has made a difference in your life, however small.I know there are many times where I couldn’t do it without them.


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Interview – Representative Andrea Kieffer

By: Colette Hayward

Andrea Kieffer is a Minnesota Politician and is currently serving in the House of Representatives. She is a member of the Republican Party and represents District 53B, including cities in Washington County. A University of Minnesota Alum, she is seen as an active figure in her community with many people having positive things to say about her. Representative Kieffer was also one of only four Republican House Representatives who voted to legalize same-sex marriage back in May of 2013.

In March of 2014 I attended my first legislative hearing; part of my internship involves public policy and I was excited to attend and see what all a hearing entailed. I researched a little bit of information about what I should expect and later that week I sat in on the Women’s Economic Security Act (WESA) committee hearing. If I’m being totally honest I wasn’t 100% sure what was going on the entire time, but it was interesting to listen to the brave souls who attended so they could share their stories in favor of the bill. When I was conducting my research, I read an article about a comment from Representative Andrea Kieffer regarding women that ended up becoming national news. Although I don’t think she intended for the comment to be taken so negatively many people did take it that way and that is when I decided I wanted a chance to talk with her.

Now, for the record, I will say that the purpose of this blog is not to shame her but rather to address the comment that was made and clarify her thoughts. Representative Kieffer was quick to respond to my emails inquiring about an interview and followed up with a phone call. Representative Kieffer made the point that there are two sides to every story, and as with almost everything in life, this is a thought to live by. If you haven’t heard exactly what she said the quote is, “We heard several bills last week about women’s issues and I kept thinking to myself, these bills are putting us back in time. We are losing the respect that we so dearly want in the workplace by bringing up all these special bills for women and almost making us look like whiners”. Now I can personally agree as a women’s studies major that a statement like this is insulting to women and coming from a woman in a power position it is hard – if not impossible – to swallow. When I questioned Representative Kieffer about this comment she said she, “still firmly believes it puts women back in the workforce,” but that it was early in the morning and she shouldn’t have used the word whiners.

We discussed a few other legislative topics and there were several aspects of the WESA bill that Representative Kieffer agreed with. She also discussed the minimum wage increase with me and made some interesting points. Regarding the WESA bill, she said that we need to remember the difference between equal pay and comparable pay, and what WESA asked for is comparable pay. I understand that equity pay is already common law, but I don’t think men and women are paid equally. She said the numbers are exaggerated when people say the pay gap is around 15%-20%, and that the reality is actually closer to 5%-6%. Whether the numbers are exaggerated or not a 5% pay gap is still one worth fighting for and I think that it is still an area that should be prioritized by politicians. Representative Kieffer sent me the clip of the hearing so I could hear for myself what she and others had said. I did listen to it and it helped solidify what I would put in my blog.

The moral of this interview is that we need to remember to listen to both sides of the story. Whether or not you still feel the same way after hearing both sides is irrelevant, but at least you are informed. I appreciate Representative Andrea Kieffer taking time out of her day to have an interview with me, and although we may not see everything in the same way, I can at least say I know both sides of the story. I hope this was beneficial for others as well and with WESA being signed into law I hope this blog post will help you better understand how discussions regarding the bill were framed.


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Selfies – Part 2

By: Colette Hayward

Part 2:

I recently wrote my first blog post on selfies discussing some of the problems I have seen in social media recently. As a person who does not take selfies regularly, I have a biased opinion because I am somewhat opposed to the idea. After some discussion with my Women’s Studies advisor, the point was raised that there are actually benefits to selfies. Selfies are taking over the world and I will elaborate in the next few paragraphs about the benefits rather than the faults as I had previously discussed in this blog post, Selfies – Part 1.

Typing “selfies” into Google will bring up a wide array of articles, blogs, and photos of people, many of which are of half-naked women. However, I also was able to find an article exclaiming that selfies are empowering women everywhere. Twitter and Instagram feminist users are using #feministselfie to label these photos and many bloggers are discussing the idea. The argument here is that individuals who might not fit into the typical white, thin, heterosexual societal norms are able to take a picture and post it online for millions of people to view if the individual so wishes. For people in minority categories, this is a huge step in the right direction. I see it as a way to tell the world, “This is who I am. Accept me or don’t, I don’t care either way.” Women who fit the beauty ideals of western culture might not understand the struggle other women have with taking photos and accepting their physical appearance as beautiful. I am a white female, but I am not thin. In fact, I think I would be considered obese if I asked a doctor. I have struggled with my weight for a long time and still have a hard time considering myself beautiful when I take a photo with my “skinny” friends. Feminism has been a way for me to escape the beauty standards and it has helped me realize I am beautiful even if I don’t look like the celebrities in magazines and on TV. On the blog Bustle, Amy McCarthy wrote, “take your selfies peeps—they’re one way to say ‘fuck you’ to the body standards that have made us miserable for so long.”

Recently, feminist website Jezebel wrote an article claiming that selfies are “a cry for help” and it created quite an uproar on the internet with women explaining how wrong selfies are. Jezebel’s Erin Gloria Ryan wrote that selfies are further forcing girls to conform to society’s beauty standards. This is the point over which people argued. I agree to some extent with Ryan because I don’t think the majority of selfies are taken spur the moment and posted online. Some of them are edited while others were preceded by twenty “bad” pictures. However, when used in the right manner, for instance the way Amy McCarthy does, selfies are absolutely not a cry for help. I appreciate what Ryan was trying to say but I think that she chose to stereotype all women and failed to see the groups of women who are using selfies to boost their self-esteem and feel more beautiful. The claim that women are the only people who take selfies is also absurd. I know plenty of men who take selfies and thoroughly enjoy it. Many of the outraged bloggers labeled Jezebel’s post as a form of girl-hate, which is something we are trying to eliminate not encourage. I think Jezebel could have written a piece that wasn’t so angry and the point would have been equally as clear!

The final point I am trying to make here is this: selfies are not going away anytime soon so accept them for what they are—a form of self-expression. If you aren’t a fan of the trend then don’t participate in it, but also remember it is unnecessary to shame other women who do enjoy them. Society already has so many other oppressing forces for women to face, why attack something that is helping some people feel better about themselves. If you really can’t get over the selfie trend then I think you should take a look at a new term, the “belfie”. I am wrapping up this post now, but before you type that word into Google just know it is a butt selfie, and many women are taking part in it. I think this is much more degrading for women and I also think it is centered around the beauty ideals that feminist women fight so hard to eliminate. The belfie is a new trend and I hope it isn’t here to stay because I would much rather get a selfie of my friend’s face than a belfie of her butt, or her new underwear, etc. Until next time…


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Selfies

By: Colette Hayward

Part I:

As a young feminist I have an interesting perspective on the world, women, LGBTQ rights, and anything that affects underprivileged, underappreciated, and underrepresented groups. The world right now is full of amazing men and women, many of whom think in a similar manner as me and are expressing those views largely through social media. I have never written
a blog about feminism, though I have actively discussed and regurgitated information I discovered around the internet. Blogging as a form of activism is tricky. It can be extremely beneficial for many reasons, one of which being that it is a personal collection of thoughts, reactions, rants, and perspectives on a variety of topics that can allow another individual the
opportunity to feel like they aren’t alone in the world. For my first blog as the Communications Intern at Minnesota NOW I would like to discuss the concept of “selfies” and how they are miraculously changing the world.

I would like to begin by saying that I am a twenty two-year-old female who doesn’t actively take selfies for the simple fact that I think they are annoying most of the time and not all that interesting. Thanks to cell phone apps like Instagram and SnapChat selfies are taking over the world. I didn’t realize how popular they were until I discovered that selfie was Oxford
Dictionaries Word of the Year in 2013. Hmm…apparently, I am not trendy enough to understand the purpose of taking hundreds of photos of myself and plastering them all over the internet. I am currently a women’s studies and anthropology double major and I honestly don’t know where people find the time to take twenty pictures in a row of themselves , hoping to find one good one to immediately post onto a social media site and looking for everyone to tell them how beautiful they are. Recently I saw articles about selfies causing a major lice epidemic due to people putting their heads together to get a shot of the group while one person awkwardly holds their
hand out to take the photo. Now this is worst-case scenario I realize, but it makes me think twice when bunches of people want to squeeze in for a photo together!

It should be common knowledge nowadays that social media sites can be dangerous for women and body image problems, but as with many women’s issues, it falls on deaf ears as far as attempting to fix the problem. Currently there is an IOS app called SkinneePix that promises to remove 5-15 pounds off your figure after you finish editing the selfie of your choice. They should just call it the YourFat app and see if that sells because that is what I thought of when I heard about it. I could preach all day long about how all women are beautiful and how important it is to be comfortable in your own skin, but I feel like the odds are against me when things like the SkinneePix app are created. It is Hollywood Photoshop for dummies and depressed is all I feel after investigating it further. Another report online discussed how selfies are causing mental illness now. Narcissism is the first thing that came to mind but alas it was actually about body dismorphic disorder. It sounds to me like the SkinneePix app is convincing women that they aren’t good enough, along with magazines, celebrities, and the rest of the popular media out there. I asked several of my selfie-obsessed friends how many photos they take before getting a good one and they all said quite a few, five being the smallest number.

Why are we evaluating ourselves so harshly and why are we concerned about a bad angle or a stray hair? I don’t have a solution to fix the selfie addiction that is spreading everywhere, but I do think women should rethink the way they evaluate themselves. Whether you are obsessed with taking selfies or completely repulsed by the concept, the reality is that they exist and in some cases have caused quite a few problems. Do me a favor and tell someone they are beautiful today. I have yet to find a person who dislikes hearing it and everyone is beautiful in their own way. Stop accepting society’s beauty standards as what you should expect from
yourself and see if it increases your own self-esteem. Remember what Aibileen Clark said in The Help, “You is kind, you is smart, you is important”.

 


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We’re disappointed with Minnesotans United PAC

Minnesota NOW and the Pro-Choice community as a whole contributed significant resources to the fight for marriage equality here in Minnesota. That is why we at Minnesota NOW were very disappointed to hear that the Minnesotans United PAC screens their candidates focused singularly on the issue of marriage for same-sex couples and that they will be providing funding to several legislators who have a history of voting for anti-choice legislation. We were told the Minnesotans United PAC will raise and spend resources to support legislators who voted for same-sex marriage – they have no other screens and are aware this model won’t work for all donors. We are truly saddened that the Minnesotans United PAC does not have our back when we need them. We are not equal until we are ALL equal.

We encourage you to direct your financial support to the Minnesota NOW PAC which screens candidates on all of our six core issues:  LGBTQ rights, reproductive rights, economic justice, racial equality, constitutional equality and freedom from violence. This will ensure your money is supporting a candidate that acts on all of your values, not just one.

The following 11 legislators are being made a priority by the Minnesotans United PAC and had a less than 100% rating from NARAL Pro-Choice Minnesota last session:

Representative Joe Radinovich (DFL)

of Crosby, Minnesota – District 10B

 Representative Tim Faust (DFL)

of Hinckley, Minnesota – District 11B

Representative Roger Erickson (DFL)

of Baudette, Minnesota – District 2B

Representative John Ward (DFL)

of Brainerd, MN – District 10A

Representative Pat Garofalo (R)


of Farmington, MN – District 58B

Representative Paul Marquart (DFL)


of Dilworth, MN – District 4B

Representative Jenifer Loon (R)


of Eden Prairie, MN – District 48B

Representative Jay McNamar (DFL) 


of Elbow Lake, MN – District 12A

Senator Branden Petersen (R)


of Andover, MN – District 35.

Representative Andrea Kieffer (R)

of Woodbury, MN – District 53B

 Representative David FitzSimmons (R)


of Albertville, MN – District 30B

Again, we urge you to support a PAC who truly has your back. Donate to the MN NOW PAC here.


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Meet our speakers on intersectional feminism

This year’s Minnesota NOW State Conference features the following theme: Love Starts Here, Love Starts NOW…..FOR ALL.

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This is a kinder, gentler version of the words writer Flavia Dzodan used when she famously declared on the blog Tiger Beatdown: “my feminism will be intersectional or it will be bull****!”  She wrote:

…while I am screaming at you, I am also asking, nay, DEMANDING that you scream with me. And I am asking that you become as angry as I have been…. Because without anger and without righteous indignation and without the deep, relentless demand for change, my feminism, YOUR feminism, everyone’s feminism will fail.

We are fortunate to have four activists from diverse backgrounds who are joining our conference for a morning discussion of intersectionality, its importance to the feminist movement, and how it will strengthen our collective goal of a more just, peaceful, and equitable world.

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FARHEEN HAKEEM is a leader, educator, and community organizer who has done extensive anti-oppression work in fighting Islamophobia and building solidarity in many activist communities.  She is currently terming out as National Co-chair of the Green Party of the United States. Professionally, she is Director of Membership and Communication for worker collective.  In addition, Farheen has been instrumental in including Muslim women voices in forums such as electoral politics, feminism, child welfare, leadership development, immigrant rights, and collective liberation.  As a joke, Farheen likes to say, “I wear many hats, but only wear one hijab.” Farheen was born and raised on the north side of Chicago, with her two brothers from immigrant parents. Her parents were small business owners. She graduated from a public high school and holds a Bachelor’s degree in Mathematics from Oberlin College.

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LIZA SCOTT  is an activist at heart, and currently works with the homeless at the Harbor Light Center-Salvation Army in Minneapolis. She has worked on a variety of issues that are important to her including, civic engagement in her American Indian community with the Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe, where she was Chair of Native Vote Alliance of MN (NVAM), advancing American Indian women in their communities and mainstream society through the White House Project, and most recently, worked as a community organizer in the exurbs and rural MN for Minnesotan’s United for All Families–the campaign that helped defeat the marriage amendment this past November.

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ANDREA JENKINS is a poet, writer and multimedia visual and performance artist. She has been a part of the local poetry community for several years, earning awards, fellowships and commissions during that time. She is a Senior Policy Aide to the 8th Ward City Council Member Elizabeth Glidden and serves on the boards of OutFront Minnesota, Forecast Public Art, and SMARTS. She has one beautiful daughter, Nia, and an equally beautiful granddaughter, Aniyah. Andrea co-curates Intermedia Arts’ Queer Voices Reading Series with John Medeiros. In 2010, Andrea was selected to be a Naked Stages Fellow, supported by the Jerome Foundation, to produce a one-woman show loosely based on her manuscript Black Pearl. She was also a 2010 Intermedia Arts VERVE grant recipient for spoken word poetry.

Roxxanne and Daughter

ROXXANNE O’BRIEN is a community organizer from North Minneapolis. MN NOW connected with Roxxanne through a Facebook page that she created called “Undoing Racism.” Roxxanne tackles the serious problems that plague her community ranging from corporate pollution, police abuse, unjust foreclosures, violence, disparities in education and jobs for people of color and inequities in our justice system.

For more information on the conference, including how to register, visit our website: http://www.mnnow.org/events/2013_conference.htm

Andrea Jenkins’ bio & photo from Intermedia Arts–the rest were provided by the speakers.  

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