Feminist activism pertains to the seeking of social justice on all gender issues (particularly concerning what can be done to overcome inequality), and social justice is the idea of creating societies that are based on the principles of equality, human rights, and human dignity. Feminists work to bring about change through awareness of social injustices concerning women inequality and empowerment, and they bring to light many topics and issues women face.

Feminists work to address themes including media literacy, health and beauty, and women’s work. Media literacy is the application of critical thinking to media and pop culture. The stereotypes are known—the supermom, the sex kitten, the nasty corporate climber. Whatever the role, television, film, and popular magazines are full of images of women and girls who are “typically white, desperately thin, and made up to the hilt—even after slaying a gang of vampires or dressing down a Greek phalanx” (Media Awareness Network, 2010). Many would agree that some strides have been made in how the media portray women in film, television, and magazines and that the last twenty years have also seen a growth in the presence and influence of women in media behind the scenes. However, female stereotypes continue to thrive in the media we consume every day. There is media bias such as females usually being represented in human interest stories rather than in business, sports, or foreign affairs. Media can really limit the empowerment of women and girls in society, and it can directly/indirectly promote oppression.  Read More »

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Doing it #ForYourSelfie

In February, I started a project called #ForYourSelfie with the goal of taking back the selfie for the greater good. In my undergraduate women’s studies course, we had been given the simple homework assignment of taking a natural-looking selfie and bringing it to class. We weren’t informed about what we’d be doing with said selfies, but as we all shut our notebooks and packed up at the end of that class, the feeling of discomfort was perceptible. Now, if I’m being honest, I didn’t have much of an issue with the assignment. I wasn’t an avid selfie taker and I was okay with my “natural state” so I didn’t feel much anxiety about the task. The night before class, I was in the library and I remembered at the last minute that I needed to snap a selfie and print it out. So right there in the quiet room of our library, I took a picture of myself. My hair was in a bun, I had on a men’s flannel from our local thrift shop, and I had no makeup on. Those who know me will confirm that this is, indeed, my most natural state of being.

When we all got to class the next day, we were asked to take out our seflies. There was a collective intake of breath as everyone reached into the depths of their backpacks and dug out their pictures. We were told that we were to place our selfies on our desks, facing out, and that we would walk around in a circle and admire each others’ faces. As we walked, we were to write down one thing that we admired or liked about the person – whether it be about their selfie or about their personality – on a notepad that was left out next to the photo. The grumbling started up immediately but, eventually, we were all moving in a slow, clockwise circle around the room, just checking each other out. Afterwards, we talked about how this (and the actual taking of the selfie) felt. Like I said, I wasn’t a big picture taker to begin with, let alone a big selfie taker, and when it was my turn, I stated that my indifference towards selfies had made the homework assignment relatively easy for me to complete. I was a stark contrast to the rest of my classmates.  Read More »

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Bossy, Bitch, C*nt, Oh My! A look at women’s war on words

Women’s war of words has been brewing for decades. The recent bossy debate really brings attention to how the sticks and stones might just be the only thing hurting women. If you look at the social psychology of language, there’s a lot to be said about the sexist impact of words.

To the naysayers who think Sandberg, Beyoncé, the Lean In organization and the Girl Scouts of America are jumping to conclusions, social psychology’s Madonna-Whore dichotomy gives weight to the campaign’s argument. Sure there are such things as bad bosses, but what the dichotomy highlights is gendered sexism in language. From Sandberg’s perspective and many other women’s, women are either considered a good boss or a bossy (i.e. bad) one. The dichotomy highlights exactly that unfairness – women are either Madonnas (benevolent sexism) or whores (hostile sexism) and nothing in between. Yes, bossy, applied usually to women, is part of sexist vernacular.

The word bossy is so socially ingrained in our everyday language that it’s hard to detect its perniciousness. Unlike other demeaning words, no one is going to think to wash your mouth out with soap when you use it. The negativity it places on women is indiscernible, much like modern sexism. This might explain why there are no formal studies on its effects. It simply wasn’t on any researchers, academics or non-bossy people’s radar. Perhaps NY Magazine’s Ann Friedman might want to rethink her statement, “I’m all for encouraging girls to lead, but the term bossy is hardly a problem…” It took the female COO of Facebook, a plethora of female role models/leaders and a slew of Girl Scouts to notice that linguistics might impede their professional and economic advancement. I think they just earned a merit badge.  Read More »

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What we can learn from #CancelColbert

The debate about Stephen Colbert’s segment satirizing Dan Snyder’s racist attempt to make up for his racist sports team name has been complex, sometimes fascinating, and sometimes exhausting. It has split off into a hundred different threads of argument.

I want to focus on some lessons we can take away from the experience, regardless of whether you think the satire was effective or not, or what you think about hashtag activism in general or this campaign in particular.

White people don’t get to be the ultimate arbiters of what’s racist. There are white people (and people of color) who have stepped up to defend Colbert’s segment as satire that was exposing racism rather than perpetrating it. It’s important to check your privilege and realize that you aren’t experiencing the world in the same way that people of color are. It’s fine to disagree, but you also need to leave room for the fact that your opinion isn’t the ultimate overriding one, and to hear the perspectives of people of color rather than automatically shutting them down.

Intention is only one piece of the puzzle. Some people have dismissed the hurt that people feel in hearing racist terms because Colbert’s intention wasn’t to offend people. But if you are offended by racist terms, perhaps ones you’ve had thrown at you throughout your life, it doesn’t matter the reason they were used. Just because someone isn’t trying to be racist doesn’t invalidate another person’s experience of it. Whether you think this was a case of relying on lazy racist tropes or clever satire, it should generally be accepted that white liberals who oppose racism in general don’t get a free pass from criticism.  Read More »

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Real Men Buy Tampons, Right?

As a woman, I’m often ambivalent about going to a store when I need feminine products, but I happen to be married to a guy who LOVES going for me. (And this is not just a perk of marriage; he was cool with it when we were dating.) The more personal the item is the better.

Me: Can you get me some tampons? Him: Sure, No Problem.

Me: What about some Vagisil? Him: Absolutely, I’d love to.

Me: Oh and pick up a pregnancy test. Him: Wait, what?

Kotex tampons is asking fertile ladies to share their tampon ad if they have a brother, husband or friend in their life that is willing to go buy tampons or pads for them. Do you have a bro in your life that knows when you yell out, “…with wings too” will come home with the right pads and not a bucket of KFC?  Read More »

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