Intersectional Feminism and Maya Angelou

This post was written by Colleen, a high school student and new Minnesota NOW volunteer.

When discussing feminism, intersectionality is a very important aspect to consider. Intersectionality, or the study of intersections between oppressions/dominations/discriminations, is a key component to making feminism accessible and applicable to everyone. Feminism, at its core, is accessible and applicable to everyone; however, that fact is too often lost in translation, leading to harmful sects of feminism like “white feminism.” Intersectionality means that we, as feminists, fight for things like racial equality, LGBTQA+ rights, economic justice, disability rights, etc.  Intersectionality is a friendly reminder saying, “yoo-hoo! Feminism really is for everyone!” (side note: if you have not read Feminism is For Everybody by Bell Hooks, please do so immediately. It’s wonderful, enlightening, and a great example of the inclusivity intersectionality promotes.)

When I think of intersectional feminism, I think of Maya Angelou. For those of you who are not familiar with Maya Angelou, she was an incredible poet, writer, actor, dancer, and singer. In my eyes, she is one of the best examples of intersectional feminism to date. Her work– particularly, her poetry– radiates pride and love while advocating for the advancement of women and people of color simultaneously; her poem “Still I Rise” is a great example. Angelou draws on her own experiences of abuse and her insecurities to communicate the importance of raising awareness about all forms of abuse and body-image issues, as seen in her heart-wrenchingly beautiful essay collection named Letter to My Daughter. In her masterpiece poem “Phenomenal Woman,” Maya addresses the insecurities so many women and girls face and cites the individual spark and beauty found in every woman, simply because they are a woman.

It has been nearly a year and a half since Maya Angelou passed on, but her spirit and contributions to feminism, society, and the world will always live on. Appreciating, sharing, and spreading Maya’s works not only pays homage to a wonderful feminist, activist, and writer, but also encourages and promotes intersectional feminism. Share some of Maya Angelou’s works this week with friends and family– look up new poems, share your favorites, or discuss her books. Let’s honor an amazing woman and an amazing movement together.

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.

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.

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.

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…

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

 

A feminism of unity, not exclusion

By Andrea Sand, Affirmative Action Chair

4342024620403043736

I am a feminist, and I am a trans woman. I, unlike some, do not find these two parts of my identity in conflict. 

This is to Suzanne Moore, and her associate Julie Burchill, as well as a plethora of those first- and second-wave feminists who are regrettably stuck under a mountain of a rock and believe me to be a ‘man’, something I’ve never been in my entire life. I am not a “bed-wetter with a bad wig”, I am not a ‘dick in chicks’clothing’ and intersectionality is not stalling any arguments.

You’re staring HRT inthe face and not flinching? I didn’t flinch either when I started HRT almost two years ago; well, except when the needle goes in every week. You’ve experienced a lifetime of sexual harassment? So have I, interspersed with experiences of black eyes, broken noses, split lips,and bloody wrists. I am not bullying you, or am I? I may be, in the same way all those pesky gays are bullying straights for the right to marry, or how all us women are demanding to be treated as equals are bullying our male (and apparently female) oppressors.

It is pure audacity that Burchill and Moore consider themselves writers and thinkers, when a cursory Googling reveals that “cisgendered” is for people like them as “transgender” is for people like me. Cis and trans are terms we use from ancient times, it is not because it sounds like “cyst” or “cistern”; trans oppression of cis-gendered women is about as incensing as the Sandy Hook truthers, with about as much sense.

When I identify with ‘my people’, I cannot speak in terms of skin tone because those of my own skin color routinely persecute my people. I do not speak in terms of religion, because I was brought up in a religion that taught me my gender and sexuality were reprehensible. I do not speak in terms of sex, because the sex I was born in to routinely objectifies my people.

I do not speak in terms of anything other than gender, because I have never received hatred for who I am from those who buck the gender-binary, and they are who I align myself with in utter solidarity; what you say to my sisters and brothers is as good as saying it to me.

I fully agree with Vice President Joe Biden’s stance of my people’s discrimination being the civil rights issue of our generation. I’m not a punchline. I am not a joke. I am a person. I am sick of being marginalized and ignored, I am done being neglected by people who call themselves LGBT allies because that term was bandied around so much and so often with so little true understanding that nobody remembers the “BTQA~” that comes after “LG”.

LGBT equality is more than just about sexual equality, it is, at its basest form, true feminism: we are all equals on every level and should be treated with accorded respect and dignity.

tranarchist