Minnesota Feminists Speak Out!

The unofficial blog of Minnesota NOW


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Let’s Talk About Sexual Violence in the Military

The American military is an institution founded in patriotism and shrouded in the mystique of brotherhood and love of country. I’m grateful for the important and life-threatening responsibilities that the men and women of our military undertake on a daily basis. I also know that it’s something I could never do. The aim of this post is not to question the bravery of those who serve our country but to express my anger with how the U.S. military handles instances of sexual assault.

I read an alarming statistic the other day in my research about sexual assault in the military — a female soldier is more likely to be assaulted by a fellow soldier than killed in combat. Also, women make up 15% of armed forces, but 47% of sexual assault cases. Although women are ‘allowed’ to serve in the military along side men, in terms of their own bodily autonomy they are certainly not equal.

Soldiers — both men and women — who report sexual assault are subjected to lifelong consequences that affect their physical and emotional wellbeing as well as their career. Ninety percent of sexual assault survivors in the armed forces are involuntarily discharged. The perpetrators of these crimes aren’t usually punished in any way. In fact, 80% of those accused are actually discharged with honor.

I recently rediscovered an article in Huffington Post that lists 50 powerful and eye opening statistics about sexual assault in the military — and links to the original articles and research for your reference. I found that reading these statistics and other studies and watching “The Invisible War,” has made me realize how frequently sexual assault occurs in the military and that it’s a huge problem we have yet to solve.

We’d love to hear feedback from anyone who has served in the armed forces about their experiences with sexual assault — whether it was something you witnessed, experienced, or came across while you were serving. If you have something to contribute, please sound off in the comments or Tweet to us at @Minnesota_NOW using the hashtag #NotInvisible.

We are co-sponsoring a screening of the Invisible War on November 17th at St. Anthony Main Theater, and hosting a discussion with a panel of experts after our screening. If you haven’t seen The Invisible War, or even if you have, I highly suggest you make the time to watch it with us — we need folks from all perspectives to truly create a well-rounded discussion.

Get your tickets 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 all feminists here

Originally posted by Minnesota NOW activist Ami on her blog Minneapolitan Mademoiselle.

Something that I often find frustrating yet awesome about the feminist movement in America is the variety of people and issues that the movement encompasses. Over the years, feminists have fought many battles, resulting in many advancements for women. But theses battles have never been easy, and have often involved internal strife within the feminist movement. During the struggle for women’s suffrage (yes, I consider this an early part of the feminist movement; hate me if you want to), different groups – the most well known being the National Women’s Party and the National American Woman Suffrage Association – were fighting to secure the right to vote for American women. Though their end goal was the same, leaders of the two groups held different beliefs on many things and used different tactics to try to achieve their goals.

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Disagreement within the feminist movement is nothing new, and likely won’t be going away anytime soon. All feminists will never agree on what we as a movement should prioritize or what issues should be most important, because we’re all coming to the table with different lived experiences. While I engage in discussion and action around a number of feminist causes, violence against women is an issue that I believe is very important because of my experience working with victims/survivors. I blog and talk about VAW a lot. There are feminists out there who have different opinions, who think that other issues are more important. And I don’t get angry at them or tell them that the issues they care deeply about are less important than others. Why?

Because different issues are more important to different people because we’re different. Because all of the so-called little things add up to create a society and culture that requires us to still have a feminist movement. BECAUSE PEOPLE USE THIS ARGUMENT EVERY DAY TO SHUT FEMINISTS UP.

It usually goes something like this:

Feminist blogger writes a post about a topic of interest to them. People read the post. People leave comments like this: “Why do you complain about lyrics in a song that demean women when women are subject to honor killings in certain areas of the world?” or this: “There are more important issues in the world than the objectification of women in the media. Sex sells and that’s just the way it is.”
Or they try to change the topic of the conversation to something that THEY think is more important, which would be fine if you were writing your own post about something, but is generally considered an annoying way to de-rail a conversation.

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I’d like to apply this to something that happened recently. In case you haven’t heard, President Obama found himself in an awkward situation after he commented on the appearance of California attorney general Kamala Harris. His remark has been getting ‘mixed reviews'; some thought the comment was harmless and others thought it was sexist. I personally think he shouldn’t have made such a comment in a public, professional context – and that his tendency to make such comments about both men and women is annoying. A lot of blog posts and other pieces have been written on the topic, with many folks disagreeing about the nature/intent/effect/sexism of the comment. Discussion and even disagreement is fine with me, but I’m troubled by the dismissive tone of some folks, responding with phrases like “who cares,” “it’s not a big deal” or “there are more important issues.” (Obviously not all of the folks making such comments consider themselves feminists, but I think we’re all guilty of doing this at some point).

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I will admit to THINKING, ‘you’re overreacting’ in some situations, but I don’t police other feminists’ reactions or their choices to write about topics that interest/concern them because it’s not productive and it’s not really all that nice. Just my two cents…


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Gender essentialism and the feminist housewife

Cross-posted at Shannon’s blog The Radical Housewife.

 

Hi there!  My name is Shannon, and I am a feminist housewife.

 

This is me in my kitchen.  Behind my arm is –NO JOKE–a loaf of homemade gluten-free bread.  I am a housewife, and a damn good one!

Do you like my apron?  it’s from the HOTDISH Militia, a group that fundraises for abortion clinics with tasty casseroles–the acronym stands for Hand Over The Decision It Should (be) Hers.  I support affordable access to the full spectrum of women’s reproductive health services, including abortion on demand, without apology.  That’s feminist, baby!

Combine my job with my passion, et voilà: you get me, a feminist housewife!

I didn’t aspire to be a feminist housewife when I grew up.  As a child, I wanted to write books.  As a child, I assumed that writing books would magically make money appear.

Ha, ha.

Six-year-old Shannon can be blamed for her ignorance, but what excuse does Kelly Makino, a self-identified feminist, have?  From New York Magazine’s March 17, 2013 cover story “The Retro Wife”:

The maternal instinct is a real thing, Kelly argues: Girls play with dolls from childhood, so “women are raised from the get-go to raise children successfully. When we are moms, we have a better toolbox.” Women, she believes, are conditioned to be more patient with children, to be better multitaskers, to be more tolerant of the quotidian grind of playdates and temper tantrums; “women,” she says, “keep it together better than guys do.”

Oh Mrs. Makino!  You retrograde goofball, you.  In case you missed this lecture in Women’s Studies 101, let me break it down for you. Choosing your choice is feminist, sure!  But GENDER ESSENTIALISM IS NOT FEMINIST.

I can’t pick on only Kelly, though, for the author of the piece, Lisa Miller, makes some mind-boggling observations of her own:

I prepare our daughter’s lunch box every morning with ritualistic care, as if sending her off to school with a bologna sandwich made by me can work as an amulet against all the pain of my irregular, inevitable absences. I believe that I have a special gift for arranging playdates, pediatrician appointments, and piano lessons….

 

 

“The feminist revolution started in the workplace, and now it’s happening at home,” says Makino. “I feel like in today’s society, women who don’t work are bucking the convention we were raised with … Why can’t we just be girls? Why do we have to be boys and girls at the same time?”

Again, I must ask: what makes a girl a GIRL?  Is it a baby?  An apron?  A kickass banana bread recipe?  A Pinterest account?

What makes a boy a BOY?  A wife?

I made a choice to be my kids’ caregiver, but that choice wasn’t made in a vacuum.  My hubby and I had to weigh some very harsh realities.  Who made more money?  Who would probably ALWAYS make more money?  Who could count on consistent work for the next two decades?  If you guessed the BOY, you’re right!  You win a wife.*

Understanding how patriarchal capitalism works is feminist. GENDER ESSENTIALISM IS NOT FEMINIST.

For the record, I am terrible at arranging playdates.  My vag has nothing to do with it–I am not only forgetful, I hate using the telephone.  I’d rather bake you a rice-tapioca-soy flour loaf.  If you want our kids to hang out, you’d better have my e-mail–or better yet, Matt’s!

All of this is very funny in the echo chamber of the internets.  I really don’t care whether Kelly Makino, Lisa Miller, or hell, Sheryl Sandberg is a housewife or not.  I DO care when one pretty white New Yorker’s lifestyle is trotted out as “proof” that women are this or that and feminism is a failure blah blah blah, because you know that articles like these delight conservatives eager to push back on women’s rights,  especially reproductive rights.  Sen. Rand Paul, a 2016 presidential contender, has already said he’d support a fetal personhood bill that would outlaw abortion and many forms of contraception.  Without control over their fertility, women would be stuck in the kitchen making hotdish (and this is the important part) whether they want to or not.

It’s a future too horrible to contemplate.

Maybe I’ll cook a pie.  That would make me feel better.

 

*offer not valid for women

 

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