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Category Archives: feminism

I Don’t Need Feminism . . . Oh, But I Do!

A lovely share on Facebook showed up about the Tumblr “Women Against Feminism.”  In it, a series of mostly white young women hold up placards describing why they don’t need feminism.  Of course all of these placards are stereotypes of feminism.  And they will make you shudder:  Women Against Feminism. 

What freaks me out about the whole page is that these young women, who have not YET experienced discrimination, have enough time on their hands to rip apart a movement that is not just about empowering them, but also men.  The misunderstanding and misrepresentation of what feminism really is has clearly hit these Millennial’s or Generation Z’ers.

Fortunately a sarcastic response appeared #needthepatriarchy, which is hilarious.

But the bottom line for me, as an educator and a feminist, is how to fight off these horrible stereotypes that these young women have bought into.  Here is a great example:


First, there is an assumption that feminism is about victimization. Yes, feminism has been a movement that started rape crisis centers and domestic violence shelters, but it is not tied to victimization, but empowerment.

Second, sure, white young thing from the west, you are not oppressed.  But maybe your sisters of color are.  Maybe they don’t have economic access to the things they need, like reproductive health care.  Maybe there are poor people living in your town?  Maybe you don’t know because you never drive “over there.”  Maybe you haven’t had a job yet in the professional world where you got paid thousands of dollars less than a man.  Maybe you have never been raped or beaten by someone you just met or someone you thought you loved.  Maybe all of these things haven’t happened to you.  Yet.

I’m sorry your life is so boring that you have nothing better to do than develop a tumblr about how much you hate feminism.  What a drag.  Maybe instead of being a hater, you could go out and volunteer in your community and learn something about the world you live in.  Even the town you live in.  If you want to change the world or even the way that you think feminism is constructed, try doing something positive instead.

Because believe it or not girls, feminism has done more to help women and men in our world than your tiny hater tumblr will ever do.  And if you don’t think feminists are funny, you surely haven’t met anyone like me or my friends.#Ilovefeminism

Hobby Lobby Needs a New Hobby

The Supreme Court heard Sebelius v. Hobby Lobby, last week, which asks the justices to consider whether for-profit companies can refuse certain types of medical coverage, citing religious objections. Hobby Lobby President Steve Green stated, “We do not have a problem with contraceptives . . . it is those that are abortive in nature—that is when it becomes a problem for us.”

As women are now blessed to have full contraceptive coverage under the Affordable Care Act, the basis of this complaint, I maintain, is discriminatory in nature. Only contraceptives used by women are at question, like the morning after pill and the IUD. Hobby Lobby contends that these birth control methods are abortifacients, which they are not. Perhaps before allowing a case to come before the Supreme Court, the lawyers representing the organization should be required to take a class on how these methods actually prevent pregnancy.

The morning after pill prevents an egg from fertilizing but if the fertilized egg is already implanted in the uterus, it will not. Likewise, the IUD makes the uterus a hostile environment for the sperm so that the sperm can’t make it to the egg and the egg doesn’t want to hang out there.

Hobby Lobby is pushing, with this case, for corporations to be recognized as religious. Um . . . we already have that provision for not-for-profit religious organizations. They are called churches. And synagogues. And mosques. If the owners of Hobby Lobby want to go open a church and call it Hobby Church and not provide birth control and abortion to their employees, go for it. But you’re not going to make money off consumers who want to buy model air plane kits if you don’t obey the law like all the other companies.

Here’s some background on this company.Image

Hobby Lobby is a privately held, for-profit corporation with 13,000 employees. It’s owned by a trust managed by the Green family, devout Christians who run the company based on biblical principles. They close their stores on Sundays; start staff meetings with Bible readings, pay above minimum wage, and use a Christian-based mediation practice to resolve employee disputes. The Greens are even attempting to build a Museum of the Bible in Washington, DC. [Mother Jones, 3/21/14]

The Greens feel that they are being forced to pick between their religious convictions or pay penalties. This is why we have that lovely piece in our constitution on the “separation of church and state.” Where does one draw the line on religious convictions in these circumstances? What if a company is run by Christian Scientists who oppose all sorts of medical intervention? Then you’ll have no coverage. What if it is a company run by Jehovah’s Witnesses? You won’t be covered for blood transfusions or dialysis, for starters. Here we are again, at the precipice of a slippery slope. Let’s hope the Supreme Court, already divided on this one by gender (surprise!), makes a decision that keeps religious beliefs out of capitalism and allows women to have the same access to healthcare wherever they choose to work.

The Sex Object Test

My few followers know I’ve been planning a media literacy conference for the last year. It came to fruition this weekend.  Over 125 attendees attended the 16 workshops, two panels and a keynote.  The keynote was informative, compelling, depressing, and educational.  For those of you unlucky enough to miss it, I’m going to recap some of the information passed on to the group over the next few weeks. 

Dr. Caroline Heldman is a professor of Politics at Occidental College and bad-ass feminist. She is also a political commentator for MSNBC, Fox Business News, RT America, and Al Jazeera English.
Professor Heldman earned her Ph.D. in Political Science from Rutgers University and specializes in the American presidency and systems of power. She previously taught at Whittier College, Fairfield University, and Rutgers University. Professor Heldman graduated summa cum laude with a degree in Business Management from Washington State University, and has worked extensively in the private sector, including as the General Manager of Bio-Energy Systems and Research Manager for Consumer Health Sciences. Dr. Heldman’s work has been featured in the top journals in her field, including the American Political Science Review, the Journal of Politics, Political Psychology, and Political Communications. She co-edited the popular book, Rethinking Madame President: Is the US Ready for a Woman in the White House? (2007). Dr. Heldman’s work has also been featured in popular publications, including the New York Times, U.S. News and World Report, Ms. Magazine, The Huffington Post, and The Daily Beast. She has also been active in “real world” politics as a congressional staffer, campaign manager, and campaign consultant. Professor Heldman drove to New Orleans the week after Hurricane Katrina to assist with rescue and relief efforts. She co-founded the New Orleans Women’s Shelter and the Lower Ninth Ward Living Museum.

One of the major points of her talk “The Sexy Lie” was the notion that young people have been so saturated by women’s bodies being used as sex objects that they cannot discern when it is actually happening.  So she (and some colleagues, I believe) developed The Sex Object Test.  Use this to critically examine what you are seeing on TV, in the movies, and particularly in advertising.

1.  Does the image show only part(s) of a sexualized person’s body?

2.  Does the image present a sexualized person as a stand-in for an object? 

3.  Does the image show a sexualized person as interchangeable? 

4. Does the image affirm the idea of violating the bodily integrity of a sexualized person that can’t consent?

5.  Does the image suggest that sexual availability is the defining characteristic of the sexualized person?

And lastly,
6.  Does the image show a sexualized person as a commodity (something that can be bought and sold)?

If you can answer YES to any of these questions, you are looking at a person as a sex object and thus someone who is not a whole human being.  The prevalence of this type of advertising and marketing leads to not only women’s self hatred, but a continued dismissal of women’s power and leadership abilities in our culture.

If you find this fascinating, see her full talk here:  

We were blessed by the feminist goddesses to get to see her live and in person!

To see Tweets on the conference, search #educating4change. 

Educating for Change

It’s probably cheating, but I am one of the group of amazing feminists blogging for Soapbox now and did my first one last week on the Educating for Change conference coming up this weekend.  I have had no time to blog at all the past two weeks, so I post this in case you missed it!  

My first blog post with Soapbox!

Miley Cyrus: A ReCap

I’m not much of a television watcher these days.  Partly because I am getting ready to dump my cable that has gotten too expensive and partly because our TV lost the color red and everyone is green so we have to watch this tiny flat screen meant for our workout area. Thus, I did not see the VMA’s.

But I certainly followed all the hubbub about Miley Cyrus, former child star sweetheart, and so-called slut.  And I can’t say anything from a feminist, anti-racist point of view that has already been said, but I can put together a montage of my favorite commentary.  This is my favorite, sent to me by my feminist friend in Switzerland.

And here is another:

A Comedian’s Take On The Miley Cyrus Debacle Completely Changed What I Thought Of It

And lastly, one of my favorite sex bloggers, “Sex with Timaree,” writes this:  Sex with Timaree.

As you can surmise, from my favorite posts, there has been way too much slut shaming of this woman and very little discussion on who produces the VMA’s and who directs them.  This is a theatrical production, in many respects, that is choreographed and directed.  Ms Cyrus might have some artistic choice in what she gets to perform, but you can be sure that it was not her sole decision.

Now, let’s move on to the more serious issues of the world.  Bombing Syria? 

Solidarity is for White Women: A Re-cap

This past week, via Twitter, originally started by blogger Mikki Kendall, the hashtag “solidarityisforwhitewomen” trended as a statement that white feminism leaves out women of color.  (History behind solidarity is for white women hashtag).  (NPR Story) The hashtag went global.  I picked up on this trending and then got to watch it and learn.  I recommend you search #solidarityisforwhitewomen, but I have included some great examples. 

This story is nothing new.  This dialogue was part of my education in Women’s Studies, that women of color did not have a voice at the so-called feminist table.  Women of color were left out of this very white “problem that has no name” movement.  Women of color were left out of the suffragist movement.  Look around the tables where you sit.  What do you see?  I see that we are still not doing a good job at being inclusive.  My workplace is a microcosm of the world.  There are very few women of color on our faculty, or men of color, for that matter. 

Many of the tweets include great examples from media and pop culture that reinforce white privilege, power and white supremacy.   As someone who considers herself a social justice critic of media, I know, as a white women, I notice sexism instantly, but I have to continue to push myself to see the racism. This hashtag, this trend, is asking white women to do just that.  Push yourself, learn, and LISTEN.  Actively listen. It was listening to my friend Cynthia that got me interested in the drama Scandal.  When I learned the history of how few black women had held the lead in a network drama, I was shocked and appalled. (My take on that subject). 

I often criticize an artistic director friend of mine for not producing enough plays by women and people of color.  His response is that he produces a lot of shows by gay men and that he “can’t cover every cause.”  This is the kind of non-intersectional thinking that we get stuck in and one that gets perpetuated in our society. Last year I decided I couldn’t subscribe to theatres who don’t make an EFFORT, even just the slightest effort, to diversify their seasons.  What does this mean?  It means I’m not supporting the arts with my dollars.  I’m picking and choosing what shows I see instead of subscribing.  It means I’m not watching much television today because I’ve become too wary of watching something that misrepresents people. So what else can we do as white feminists who want to eliminate racism and end white supremacy? 

When I was teaching Women’s Studies, one question I always asked my students was “what if the women’s liberation movement of the 70s and the civil rights movement of the 60s had joined up?”  What if groups representing oppressed people weren’t divided up and given pieces of a pie to share? 

Mikki Kendall has a great article in XOJane this week talking about next steps. 

What this hashtag trend has done for me is to challenge me to be even MORE intersectional in my work with student and in my own thinking.  We’re starting out the semester by doing a privilege worksheet to lay this stuff all out on the table at once.  We’re running a social justice media literacy conference and I’m asking all the presenters to keep an intersectional analysis of race, gender, class and sexuality as the foundation for all their talks/workshops.

And I’m looking in the mirror, constantly reminding myself to pay attention and to call out that misrepresentation wherever I see it:  the workplace, the media, and in the theatre.

Now THIS is a Whale of a Tale

Yesterday on a friend’s Facebook status, I saw that a local music and arts festival, called The Whaling City Festival of New Bedford, was partnering with a local radio station, WHJY, to hold a contest called “Show Us Your Whale Tale”  (Whale Tale Contest).

A “whale tale,” for those of you who did not know (like me!), is when a woman’s thong rides up her low riders so you can see it.  The contest page provides a link to examples of “whale tales.”  (This was the least offensive one I could find). 

The mission of The Whaling City Festival is, “To host the biggest and best family oriented event in the Whaling City. With 44 years experience and a new President we have fresh, innovative ideas to help grow and improve with each year.”  I guess the new President’s “fresh, innovative ideas” involve some family-oriented butt cracks. 

The Director of Tourism, from the Town of Fairhaven, was called a “Puritan” for complaining about the contest.  All the comments on the WCF’s page link, above, are incredibly negative. 

The WCF posted this on their FB page, 8 hours ago, in response to the negative criticism.

“In light of recent development, we have reconsidered our sponsorship of the Whale’s Tail contest with 94 HJY.
Ultimately, the Whaling City Festival cares more about the family oriented activities, and brand than a marketing campaign. We also do not want to alienate anyone. We apologize to those we offended, as it was not our intention to do so. It was a bad mistake and we take full responsibility for it.
This decision was made in the past hour, and 94 HJY’s offices couldn’t be reached, so there may be a delay in the mention of WCF as a sponsor. Rest assured, it will cease.
In the future, we will maintain congruency with our advertising and marketing. We will make sure the promotions reflect our core values and something families can be proud of.
As always, we genuinely consider all feedback, criticism, and comments. We hope you will continue to provide these, so that we may continually improve.

What is most appalling about this entire tale, is that 1) the organizers of the WCF thought this was a good idea to market their event; and 2) that the WCF  has a board of directors or staff that include very few women, as they most likely would have said “hey, that’s not such a good idea(WCF Contacts) and 3) that this type of contest is even considered acceptable marketing for any organization, including a rock n roll radio station.  

One of the best things about Facebook is how quickly word can spread on any issue.  But even while the WCF has decided to discontinue the sponsorship with WHJY, the radio station has not yet taken down the link connecting the contest to the WCF.  The delay alone is another 8 hours or more of bad press.  And this supposedly 42 year old festival must be struggling anyway, as their entertainment schedule includes a blank calendar, less than a month before the festival is to open.  What’s that about?  

While the WCF has taken down their sponsorship, even though it still lingers on the WHJY page, feel free to drop the President a line asking how decisions like this even get made.


Supporting Women

I’ve been wanting to write about women not supporting women but was trying to find a way to do so without cutting too close to home, so to speak.   Being one not to hold something in for an extensive amount of time, especially if it is really bugging me, here goes nothing! 

This semester I have seen entitled and elitist behavior, by women, who call themselves feminists.  It’s shocking.  I talked with a close colleague about this and we discussed how this is so prevalent and troubling that it might be worthy of an article.  I am hesitant to recommend any of my students go into academia as a career.  Here I am, enjoying over 19 years of working with students and teaching in a public university, yet I would not recommend it.  Dog eat dog.  That pretty much sums it up.  And I recently talked with one of my alums who is in a Master’s program being chewed up and spit out by women who call themselves feminists in her women’s center. 

For me, this boils down to how we practice our feminism.  We can say we are feminists and have a definition of what that might be or look like, but how we behave toward other women is an excellent test.  Ashley Judd recently wrote a great piece about body image and the media and asked us to try to be better at not judging each other.  So there’s one step.  But treating each other with respect no matter what our job titles are is the next step. 

In the institution of higher education we exist in a caste system.  The support staff exist on the bottom, then the professional staff, than the faculty, than the administration.  But it’s really the faculty, I have found, that appreciate and perpetuate this system. 

Some recent examples of entitlement in action (names removed of course to protect the not-so-innocent): 

  • A message left on my voice mail referring to one of the sweetest and nicest colleagues I have as a bitch 
  • Demanding water before a talk
  • Being annoyed that we were showing a borrowed film to a group of middle school girls during spring break

I will stop there, because even one incident is too much.  What I have found is that the second you try to call someone out or confront their behavior they use the “ignorance is bliss” strategy and just don’t respond to you.  I have questioned the behavior of my colleagues and just not gotten a response.  It is so easy in this technological world of blogs, tweets, emails, and texts to simply ignore the text you do not want to deal with.  Hell, it’ll go away! 

I thought I wanted to teach full time.  I loved teaching and this was why I spent almost $70,000 to get my doctorate.  I did this while working full time and teaching as an adjunct.  And then I spent the next six years applying for every job I believed I was qualified for in New England.  But a dear friend recently said to me after another rejection “You are not one of them. You’re nice.”  What does this mean for the institution of academia, the very place where we try to teach our students to not only be critical thinkers, but also to become engaged citizens of their world.  How can we demonstrate that practicing our feminism isn’t just talk but action? 

You Can’t Be What You Can’t See

We’ve been showing this documentary, Miss Representation, as part of our Women’s History Month program, our theme being Women Enacting Change.  While this movie certainly has it’s problems. like the fact that the majority of the celebrities who speak in it are gorgeous stereotypical women, it’s underlying theme of how we are represented in television, the movies and in the news is significant. View the trailer here

We hosted a showing of the movie in New Bedford as part of a collaboration with other women’s agencies to a packed house.  Then we showed it to a group of middle school girls for a day long empowerment event with the YWCA and the AAUW.  Lastly we showed the entire movie on campus for anyone on campus or in the community.  The group of about 50 people was made up mostly of community women.  Some of these were mothers who brought their daughters to see the movie.  These young women were riled up by the movie. 

I asked them who in the audience identified as feminists and as some of them raised their hands, one girl said “I do now!”  This is my takeaway.  If one 90 minute film is going to help a middle school or high school girl identify with feminism then I need to show it everywhere.  I showed the movie to an 8th grade class the other day and while we were watching the clip, my college student who was there to help me lead the discussion whispered that she “feels that way too” in reference to women hating their bodies.  I let out a big internal sigh.  This woman already identifies with feminism and gets what the media is doing to us, but still can’t separate the message from the way it feels on the inside.  We need to start younger.

This is my new plan of action:  take this movie to young women. 

Here are just a few disturbing facts from the film.  

  • Women hold only 3% of clout positions in the mainstream media (telecommunications, entertainment, publishing and advertising).
  • Women comprise 7% of directors and 13% of film writers in the top 250 grossing films.
  • The United States is 90th in the world in terms of women in national legislatures.
  • Women hold 17% of the seats in the House of Representatives (the equivalent body in Rwanda is 56.3% female).
  • Women are merely 3% of Fortune 500 CEOs.
  • About 25% of girls will experience teen dating violence.
  • The number of cosmetic surgical procedures performed on youth 18 or younger more than tripled from 1997 to 2007.
  • Among youth 18 and younger, liposuctions nearly quadrupled between 1997 and 2007 and breast augmentations increased nearly six-fold in the same 10-year period.
  • 65% of American women and girls report disordered eating behaviors.

I hope you will support me in my plan to take this movie to young girls in Southcoast Massachusetts and beyond.  With your energy being sent my way, I know we can change the way media controls our lives, one girl (and maybe even one boy?) at a time. 

Oscar Smoshcar

I posted quite a bit on my Facebook this past week about the sexist, racist tradition in Hollywood called the Academy Awards.  Again there were no women nominated for best director. Here’s one article I posted:

And in general, I got a fairly good response to the reality of how the Academy is made up of mostly white men who make all these decisions.  (Sound familiar?  Congress?).  What really got me thinking, however, was one facebook “friend” who felt like it was women’s fault for going to the types of movies that aren’t good.  The suggestion was that as consumers, women needed to make better choices about what they watch and that would somehow affect who wins for best director.  Huh?

I’m not sure I buy this one.  It feels a bit like victim-blaming and I’m just getting tired of women being blamed for a patriarchal institution that runs Hollywood.  I agree that we need more women producing movies and you can be certain if I made enough money to finance movie making, I’d be first in line sending my best friend, Kristen Vermilyea, a fat check to produce some feminist movies.  Certainly Tina Fey is putting her money where her mouth is and supporting women filmmakers, but there is only one Tina Fey.  There is only one Oprah Winfrey.  There are way more white men with money deciding what movies are going to be produced and what they will be about.  Our stories don’t get told because they are not the “everyman” experience, whatever that is. 

So while I’m a fan of the fun extravagant night where we honor the best of the best in any industry, I’m just getting too cynical and old to enjoy this event that not only hasn’t changed since I was a little girl dreaming of myself up on that stage accepting my award, but has seemed to take four steps back in any representation of racial and gender diversity.  I boycotted it this year and I think that’s my new plan of action for the future, until Hollywood catches on that women are over 50% of this world and deserve that same representation in film. 

And isn’t all this too similar to seeing an all male panel decide what laws should be passed on birth control?  The backlash against women’s rights is all too prevalent and present lately and that sets a sad tone for the future for little girls I love very much. 

Side note:  If this is an issue you care about, come to our showings of Miss Representation on March 1 and 28th at 5:30pm at UMass Dartmouth’s Woodland Commons, or downtown New Bedford on March 8th at 6pm.  “You can’t be what you can’t see!”

my feminist praxis

critical reflections on my feminist praxis: activism, motherhood, and life

The Feminist Critic

Providing weekly critiques of theatre, film, books, politics and pop culture from a feminist perspective.