Professional pounder of the patriarchy.

Archive for October, 2015

Terminology Every Feminist Should Know

Contrary to popular belief, feminists are not – gasp! – a hive mind. Sometimes, it’s hard to stay knowledgeable about all the issues your fellow feminists are tackling, and it’s even more demanding when you want to put a name to them. For this post, I’ve decided to compile a short list of key terminology (along with their definitions!). We all know the really important stuff, like what the patriarchy is, but what is POC an abbreviation of? What is a microaggression? What is womanism?

DISCLAIMER: This is IN NO WAY a complete and exhaustive list. My intention is to create a separate page for terminology unique to the feminist movement and to social justice activism, which I can continuously add to in the future. This is just a (hopefully) concise list of words I’ve come across frequently (and occasionally had to Google).

Cissexism (x) – Cissexism is a type of discrimination, often referred to as a “subtle” form of transphobia. Cissexist assumptions enforce the gender binary and exclude trans people. An area in which I’ve witnessed a lot of cissexism is in discussions about menstruation – it’s quite common to hear “Men will never understand how painful periods are!”. The speaker ignores/is unaware that not everyone with a uterus is female.

Intersectional feminism (x) – a type of feminist theory which encompasses the “intersections” between different forms of oppression – where racism, homophobia (biphobia, transphobia, etc) and sexism connect. It operates with the awareness that women deal with unique challenges in daily life, not just based on gender. The historic sexualisation of Black and Latina women is one example; the stereotyping of lesbians as “butch” or bisexual women as “promiscuous” is another. See also: my kind of feminism.

Kyriarchy (x) – Kyriarchy is a social system (or group of social systems) that are constructed through oppression and domination. It’s essentially a broader term than “patriarchy” – a society ruled by men – and encompasses oppression from all privileged groups.

Microaggression (x) – microaggressions are actions/statements that exclude or denigrate someone based on their race, gender or sexual orientation. They can be verbal or non-verbal, and they are often unintentional. It can be in a business environment, such as a woman having her point interrupted in a meeting, then a male colleague being praised for the same idea. They can be racist assumptions, no matter how “well-meaning”. Essentially, they belittle and silence the targeted person/people.

POC (x) – acronym for “people of colour”/”person of colour”, a term used to refer to anyone who is not white and does not benefit from white privilege. It frames the description positively and it avoids the use of a degrading or outdated adjective, such as “coloured”. Martin Luther King first used the phrase “citizens of colour” in 1963. You may also come across “WOC” – “women/woman of colour”.

Problematic fave (x) – I’ve discussed this at length in another post (a post that I plan to rewrite, actually). A problematic fave is a favorite person (usually a character) who has problematic views and opinions.

White feminism (x) – white feminism is a term referring to feminist activism that, unwittingly or otherwise, excludes women of colour. The feminists involved may not be white themselves, but usually they are – white people don’t have to think about racial prejudice on a daily basis. It very much focuses on one-size-fits-all feminism, accessible only to white, educated women. It’s the antithesis to intersectional feminism. A prime example of this is Taylor Swift’s refusal to accept Nicki Minaj’s critique of racism in the music industry, or what the media chose to call “a feud”. Another is the queen of white feminism, Lena Dunham.

Womanism (x) – Womanism is a social theory based upon the lives and experiences of Black women, aiming to change the gender-based and race-based oppression they suffer. The term was first coined by Alice Walker in 1979. Womanism is, in some ways, a response to how the feminist movement has alienated minorities throughout its history – something that many of us want to change through intersectional feminism. Womanism has allowed Black women to celebrate their culture in a way that feminism, sadly, has not.

Hopefully this (not so brief) list is helpful and alleviates some confusion! The terminology page will be up and at ’em in the near future. 🙂

tumblr_ntiey1lf1m1un6xpto3_r1_250

Now go! Use your new vocabulary!

Advertisements

Well Done, Sister Suffragette!

“We’re in every home; we’re half the human race. You can’t stop us all.”

– Maud Watts, “Suffragette”

layout.indd

Suffragette was released this month, and I went to see it last Friday. It’s definitely one to see with female friends/relatives, as it’s very much a story of women who inspire other women to participate in the fight for suffrage. (That said, there were several husbands in the audience!) I went with my mum and I’m not ashamed to say we both cried – but they were happy tears, I promise!

The cast are amazing; Carey Mulligan is just exceptional. Helena Bonham Carter, the Notorious HBC, forever my woman crush, is as fabulous as ever. Also, I couldn’t have chosen a better Emmeline Pankhurst myself – Meryl was born to play her (although I say that of every role she plays). She has a beautiful speech in the film, in front of a crowd of women and men, at which point I promptly burst into tears. I hardly ever cry at films – except The Lion King, that shit is brutal – but this moved me in so many ways and for so many reasons. It’s a powerful testament to the strength of the women who came before us, those early feminists living in desperate times.

The film is enabling more and more conversations about feminism. In fact, the best moment of the evening came after the film, when I was discussing it in the car on the way home. My mum told me how proud she was of the presentations I did at school on International Women’s Day last year – not that she hadn’t said so previously! – and that she knew it was “a personal battle” for me. (We then proceeded to cry a bit more.) It made me so immensely proud to carry the torch and to continue the fight for equality. I’d urge you to take your daughters and your nieces to see it, especially if they are young feminists who are struggling with the bad press that the movement receives. It will restore their faith tenfold.

Thumbs up, five stars, 10/10, would recommend. 😉

ahkmenrah

FGM Banned in Nigeria!

Legislation has been signed in Nigeria (x) to put a stop to female genital mutilation, a practice which involves the removal of the external genitalia without anaesthetic. It is deeply rooted in gender inequality and is intended to promote purity and modesty. It carries horrific health risks and, as you can probably imagine, is incredibly painful and traumatising.

This is a huge step in the right direction and it indicates the progress being made in the women’s rights movement of Nigeria. However, this doesn’t mean that the practice will be wiped out immediately – FGM is very much linked to cultural perceptions of female sexuality – but hopefully the legislation marks a turning point in Nigerian society. Laws have been passed to eradicate FGM in at least 23 of the 27 African countries where the practice is concentrated, although FGM is also found in the Middle East and Asia.

It’s a sign of fantastic progress, but the fight doesn’t end here.

The Dollar A Day Conundrum

Fab piece from Tumblr about inequality:

Say I’m 32 years old and you’re 22 years old.

In how many years will we be the same age?

Silly question, right? If you define aging as a process that stops at death, the only way we’ll ever be the same age is if I die first. If you don’t, then we’ll never be the same age. Every time you age a year, I also age a year. Since our ages increase at the same rate, you will never catch up to my head start. We have achieved a total equality of aging, but that does not change the permanent inequality of our age.

Okay, say I have a million dollars and you’re completely broke. If we both get a dollar a day, how long will it take you to catch up with me?

Now, this one’s even sillier, because if you have no other resources, your dollar a day is going to be eaten up by basic living expenses that it doesn’t quite meet, and I have an excess of money that can be spent on money-making opportunities that pay off far better than an additional $365 a year. I could literally burn the dollar I’m getting as part of our Totally Equal Income and still make more money in a year than you do just by sticking my money in the bank.

But still: both of us getting a dollar a day is totally equal, right? It means we’re being treated exactly the same.

And now, final problem:

If we have a world that contains structural inequalities, systemic imbalances, disproportionate danger faced by some, and unequal access to resources and opportunities, is “treating everyone the same” really going to result in equality?

Show your work.

By alexandraerin on Tumblr

oooh gif

Think on that, player.

Quote #7

“As soon as a woman gets to an age where she has opinions and she’s vital and she’s strong, she’s systematically shamed into hiding under a rock.”

– Sarah Silverman, actress, writer and comedian.

“The Feminine Mistake” – Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

Fantastic article from author and public speaker Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie (x). In it, she discusses her experiences of women being taught to shrink themselves (metaphorically speaking) and avoid confrontation. A family friend was idolised as the “perfect wife”; her identity was shaped only by the things she could do for her husband.

It troubled me that Aunty Chinwe’s perfection was couched only in terms of what she did for her husband, and not what she was. Not about her intelligence, her humor or how well she gave injections. Later, I would learn that Aunty Chinwe, born Anglican, had converted to Catholicism when she married Uncle Emeka. She transformed herself, became the person he wanted her to be.

This began to irritate Chimamanda – why would any woman allow herself to be patronised this way? – but later she realised it was part of a wider social problem. It’s a really interesting read. (Chimamanda also did an excellent TEDx talk on feminism (x).) I really like Chimamanda and her refusal to be silenced.

Aunty Chinwe looked astonished. “Just sit properly, my dear. Always sit properly like a woman.”

I realized that it was a ritual that had to be performed, this sitting properly. A ritual about female virtue and female shame. One of the many rituals for which you received mainstream approval if you just performed them and asked no questions. Sit like a woman was a small example of bigger rituals. Be quiet and gentle like a woman. Don’t be loud, don’t be angry, don’t be tough, don’t be too ambitious.

tumblr_inline_nniswzv3991r2255k_500