5 Essential Feminist Words

Whether you are new to feminism or have been one for years, there are a lot of terms that get thrown around in the movement that you may not be familiar with.

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feminism” by Jay Morrison is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Whether you are new to feminism or have been one for years, there are a lot of terms that get thrown around in the movement that you may not be familiar with. Here are 5 essentials:

1) Feminism is the idea that all people are equal and thus should have equal opportunities in life. Feminism seeks to identify and dismantle barriers to equality.

2) Intersectionality was coined by Kimberlé Crenshaw in the 1980s. Intersectionality is the idea that people have more than multiple identities that interact to create overlapping disadvantages.

3) Gender norms are the socially constructed ideas of how men and women should behave, dress, and interact. Those who challenge or do not adhere to gender norms can face negative consequences such as bullying, shaming, or ostracism.

4) Mansplaining is when a man explains a woman’s area of expertise to her, particularly when he is less educated about it.

5) Patriarchy is the system whereby men (usually white men) hold the power and authority. Patriarchy usually excludes or discourages women from gaining  any type of power. It interacts with gender norms to create a rigid system of behavior and roles for men and women that neither can escape easily.

Of course, these 5 terms are not an exhaustive list of feminist language. Share more below!

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Saturday Tea & Feminism

#Brexit, breastfeeding, and more in this week’s Tea and Feminism link roundup

Well, Brexit is happening. As a recent immigrant to the UK, I’m interested to see how it will all play out economically and politically. I’m nerding out a bit to see how the process will actually work. The little details are fascinating!

Anyway, have a great weekend and enjoy these links! If you read anything good, share it, please!

(Also, as an aside, it bugs me that when I look for stock photos of women with tea it’s almost exclusively white women – even when I specifically search “African American woman” or “diverse women” *grumble*)

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Brexit is a feminist issue and women need to be equally involved in the negotiations. (The Telegraph)

In common sense news: South Africa’s Constitutional Court ruled that bursaries (scholarships) for virgins are unconstitutional. (BBC)

Another legal win for women: “Congolese politician Jean-Pierre Bemba was sentenced to 18 years in prison by the International Criminal Court on Tuesday for heading a 2002-03 campaign of rape and murder.” (Huffington Post)

Breastfeeding in literature. (The Millions)

A good review of Jessica Valenti’s new book. (New Republic)

 

The Challenge of Raising An Intersectional Feminist Son

I want my white, middle-class son to be an intersectional feminist.

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My son is a white male born into a middle-class family. He will likely be straight and cisgender. He is at peak privilege. I struggle with how to teach my son about the privilege he was born with. I want him to an intersectional feminist and an ally. Luckily, there are a lot of great resources out there to help.

Intersectional feminism is the many injustices faced by people with multiple marginalized identities. The most common example used is a Black woman, who faces discrimination based on both her race and gender. But it can include race, gender, disability, sexual orientation, gender identity, and more.

For my son, I am seeking out books and TV shows with diverse characters. Many children’s books feature animals or inanimate objects, but when the main character is human, they are generally drawn as white. When the representation of “baby” is  white, or all of the characters in a story are identified as male – even when they are animals or trains – it becomes easy to slip into the idea that white and/or male is the norm. It takes an effort to seek out intersectional representation, but it’s important.

Some great resources include:

As he gets older, I will continue to find ways to make inclusion and understanding a part of his life. Obviously, exposure to different people, cultures, and ways of thinking will be a big part of that.

I have always been a feminist, but I didn’t always have the language to express it. My early feminism was much more from a place of privilege. In the past few years, I have started learning about intersectionality. I have committed to reading more books by women and people of color. I am seeking out online intersectional spaces and listening to the conversation. Sometimes it’s uncomfortable, but learning to face my privilege will only it easier for me to explain it to my son. I will never be done learning, but I hope we can learn together.

 

Emma Watson is great, but…

I’ve watched Emma Watson’s speech at the UN to launch HeForShe campaign more than once since Saturday. I think it’s really wonderful – she specifically addresses men who are afraid of feminism and rallies them to become supporters of gender equality. The immediate backlash from the depths of the internet against her just reinforced the need for her message.

But.

Why is a young, wealthy, white woman spreading this message? Mind you, as a young, well-off, white woman, I’m not saying she can’t do a great job spreading this message (as indeed she has). I understand the reasons she was chosen – she’s UN Women’s ambassador, she has millions of fans who grew up with her as Hermione Granger, yes.

Basically, the UN knew that if Hermione – I mean Emma Watson, was speaking, people would tune in – Julia Zulver

BUT.

This is a message for men to be partners in feminism. This is a message for men who think feminism is dangerous, who think feminism is a threat to them. Men who know what feminism is and are comfortable with it are already on board. Men who are threatened by feminism, or think it is a movement to disenfranchise them, are the target of this campaign.

So why isn’t a man spreading this message? A man who is recognized as stereotypically “masculine.” A man that the opponents of women’s equality cannot call “pussy” or “weak.” A man who speaks their language, but can explain why gender equality benefits everyone. A man who says that oppressing women and girls is not “manly.” A man who is willing to understand his position of power in the world and is willing to learn to share it.

I admit, this has been buzzing around in my head for a few days now, following a conversation with a coworker who explained why she wants a man as the main speaker for a Violence Against Women event she is coordinating. Then, I read Julia Zulver’s piece and Mia McKenzie’s critique. Although they come at it from slightly different angles, their message is the same: Emma Watson is great,  but…

We need to pull the calls for feminist solidarity away from privileged white feminists.  Emma Watson as the voice of feminism just reinforces the exclusion of all of the other feminist voices out there: the voices that are not white, Western, cisgender, heterosexual, or wealthy. Does that mean if you are white, Wester, cis, hetro, and/or wealthy, you cannot be oppressed or fight for equal rights? Of course not. But it’s time to give the spotlight to those other voices. It’s time to listen to other perspectives, other ideas.

The people with the most privilege are centered in the discussion, while the people who are the most oppressed are an afterthought, at best. De-centralizing women in conversations about gender inequality isn’t good. – Mia McKenzie

So who should the UN have asked? If the campaign needed to be launched by a woman, why not the head of UN Women, Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka herself? As a black South African woman, she certainly has an interesting point of view on this topic. If they wanted a man, how about Archbishop Desmond Tutu? Or in keeping with the Harry Potter theme, Daniel Radcliffe? There are plenty of well-known men who consider themselves feminists.

Let’s let the lesser-known voices of feminism tell their stories. Let’s let feminist men, trans* feminists, non-white feminists have their say in a wider forum. Let’s have #HeForShe pave the way for a greater conversation around gender equality, racial equality, human equality. Let’s talk about breaking down the power structures that so many people do not even realize exist. Let’s make equal rights for everyone a priority.