Tag Archives: women’s rights

Feminist Friday: Emma Watson, HeForShe and the UN

It’s really, really nice when women my age publicly refer to themselves as feminists.

I don’t know about the other millennials out there, but my peer group seems to be plagued with apathy posing as nonconformity. People my age refuse to call themselves liberal or conservative; Democrat or Republican; political or non-political. I guess they are under the impression that not taking sides is noble and enlightened, instead of uninformed and cowardly. I think my generation is either afraid of offending somebody or is simply convinced that speaking up really doesn’t matter. I, for one, know that my so-called feminist rants and liberal agenda can be off-putting. Occasionally, I do try to reign it in. But most of the time I just go for it. As Emma Watson recently asked, “If not me, who? If not now, when?”

As you can see from the preceding clip, Emma Watson of Wingardium Leviosa fame addressed the United Nations earlier this week. She was speaking on behalf of a new campaign that is striving for gender equality: HeForShe. There is so much I love about her speech. The way her voice quivers and wavers, so you know she is nervous and actually gives a shit. Her personal examples of the way gender has repeatedly hindered her and her friends. Her self-deprecating manner as she implores her audience to take her seriously, even if she is only the “Harry Potter girl.” But–more than anything else–I appreciate how she argues that women and men will never really be equal if they do not work together.

I include myself when I say that many feminists and gender activists often ignore or forget men. In my case, it is so easy to only hear the Todd Akins, Mitt Romneys and Rush Limbaughs of the world, that writing off all male input seems to be the best way to preserve my sanity. But that is not right. Because, to paraphrase Gloria Steinem, gender is a prison for women and men. Just like it is unfair to govern a woman’s body and to pay her only 75% of what she should be earning, it is unfair for men to be embarrassed for being their children’s primary caregivers or for wearing something “feminine.” Especially if it is this guy. HeForShe is laudable because it recognizes both sexes as valuable assets for feminism.

And, even though it should not have to be said, Watson and her cause make plain that feminism is NOT anti-men. Giving women power is not the same as stripping men of theirs. I want to say thank you to Emma Watson for being the rare young person to take a stand.  And I’m a little bit in love with her for being the rare young woman who knows what feminism means and is more than happy to give it her support.

(Images #1 and #2 courtesy of facebook.com) 

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Feminist Friday: “Modern Office with Christina Hendricks”

You know what really pisses me off? Stupid “rules” of etiquette that we are socialized to believe are natural laws of propriety. For example, I loathe the fact that it is “impolite to discuss money.” There is no intrinsic nastiness linked to talks about economy, taxes, disposable income and salary. A bunch of assholes a long time ago just decided to compare economic dialogue to bad manners and, voila, asking questions about your earnings was suddenly off-limits.

Here’s the truth: The U.S. is one of the most technologically advanced, rich and innovative countries on the planet. It is also probably the most backwards of all the industrialized nations. That is why there is such a huge disparity between the privileged and the poor, the haves and the have-nots,  the Koch brothers and the voters. From an early age, we are programmed to believe that anyone in our country has the ability to transform from Dick Whitman to Don Draper. But we also learn–in a more implicit manner–that money is something that classy people never talk about.

Look, I’m not saying that you should ask every passer-by in the grocery store what he or she makes in a fiscal year. That’s weird. But I am indicting the idiotic norms that prohibit us from learning about economic inequality and what constitutes an honest day’s wage for an honest day’s work. Being ignorant about how your paycheck stacks up against your counterparts’ is exactly how women still only make about 75% of what men earn. Like Joan Harris and Peggy Olson are our co-workers. We’re so afraid of offending somebody that we unwillingly let ourselves be exploited. If we don’t know the nature of the injustice, there is nothing we can do to rectify it.

In honor of my philosophy, check out this Funny Or Die clip from August 6, 2014:

http://FunnyOrDie.com/m/93go

Because, really, which is worse? Pointedly asking what your co-workers earn or living like it is still the ’60s? Honestly, if our employers cannot provide us with basic workers’ rights then we should be able to drink on the clock. Sounds like a trade-off to me.

(Image #1 courtesy of funnyordie.com; #2 courtesy of blog.emilyslist.org; #3 courtesy of dailymail.co.uk)

CANADA: LAND OF MISANDRY? NOT ANYMORE

This piece from The Belle Jar relates to my writings on Persepolis, The Eggs and Us: The Abortion Wars Rage On,” and “We Asked 22 Women Why They Take Birth Control And These Are Their Answers”. I’m woefully uninformed when it comes to international politics, so I found this post extremely illuminating and entertaining.

I hope you do too!

The Belle Jar

I think that we can all agree that the main problem with Canadian history is that men are just way too underrepresented. Take our money, for example. I mean, the queen is on all of our coins! What kind of misandry is this? Sure the five dollar bill boasts our old pal Wilfred Laurier, and the ten dollar bill shows everyone’s favourite confederation-loving racist Sir John A. Macdonald, and the fifty dollar bill has séance-holder and dog enthusiast William Lyon Mackenzie King and yeah, fine, the hundred dollar bill is devoted to Nova Scotia’s good ole boy Sir Robert Borden, but I mean, come on. Queen Elizabeth II graces all of our coins and our twenty dollar bill. Every time you open your wallet it’s just ladies ladies everywhere and nary a dick in sight*.

If you’re not seeing the feminist conspiracy that’s clearly at play here, then you must have taken the…

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Everyone deserves the right to choose (to listen to punk music)

“In the days of anarchy, it was freedom to. Now you are being given freedom from. Don’t underrate it.”

The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood

As of last Tuesday, the Alabama House passed radical restrictions on a woman’s access to safe, legal abortion in that state. This new legislation prohibits abortion once there is a fetal heartbeat. That means a woman cannot make the choice to be a mother after the first five or six weeks of her pregnancy. In other words, she might not even realize she is pregnant until after it is too late to make a decision.

This disturbs me for several reasons. If you have been paying attention to me at all, you probably have guessed that I am pro-choice and a feminist. So any law that restricts a woman’s personal liberties sends me round the bend. I also resent the hypocrisy. Not to completely generalize, but many anti-choice politicians are also the individuals who oppose government imposition on people’s individual freedoms. Don’t you think the freedom to make choices about your own body is just as important as the freedom to buy a gun? Finally, it pisses me off that so many of these anti-choice politicians block free access to condoms, birth control, and emergency contraceptives. Bottom line: If you want fewer abortions, make it easier to have fewer unwanted pregnancies.

Why am I going off on this political, probably controversial rant? Because I want to live in a society where I don’t have to worry about being restricted and repressed because of my gender. I don’t want to have to make a devastating decision, like the one Marjane Satrapi was forced to make.

In the course of Satrapi’s graphic narratives Persepolis I and Persepolis II, Marji leaves her homeland, Iran, twice.She loves her home and her family, but she can no longer bear the oppressive regime and the radically conservative views about women, their role, and their sexuality. In order to be who she is–independent, outspoken, stubborn, sexually agentic, a punk music fan–Marjane has to leave Iran permanently. She does not want to be compelled to wear a veil, practice a religion, act submissive, or hide her true self. Even if she is spiritual and understands why some women wear the veil, she resents religion being a government requirement. As Marjane grows as a person, the Iran she knew devolves into nothing but a memory. The new regime is not safe for an Outside Girl.

Forcing a woman to wear a veil, practice a religion, and prohibiting her from choosing her own clothes, makeup and music is different than denying a woman access to a legal abortion. What Satrapi experienced is an example of extreme government intervention into a woman’s life. Marjane’s very behavior is subject to punishment. But we, as a culture, should not get up on our high horse. The U.S. might seem like the land of liberty and individuality, but denying women the right to choose is not that far away from controlling the way they live their lives. Our plight is not as difficult as Marjane’s, but restricting one right makes restricting others easier.

We like to think of ourselves as a progressive culture, as a free country. But we also have debates about women’s rights on a daily basis. I have the emails from Emily’s List and Planned Parenthood to back me up on this. We’re really not so different from many of the cultures that we condemn as backwards or medieval. We might scoff at the way some countries treat their women, but are we really that far away from being like Marji? No one is making me practice Christianity, but the religious beliefs of some lawmakers seriously affect me and women like me.

Before Marjane leaves Iran for the last time, her mother tells her “You are a free woman. The Iran of today is not for you. I forbid you to come back!” Her mother is right. Even though Marjane loves her country and many of Iran’s customs, she cannot fit in. Marjane is a born rebel, an outsider. After all, as Jennifer Worth opines, for Marjane “the margin is clearly not a negative place, but quite the opposite; it is ultimately a place of freedom, where living on her own terms and performing her own journey is finally possible.” She enjoys being different from the crowd and basks in her own distinctive identity. Unfortunately, being an Outside Girl doesn’t just separate her from the crowd. Her otherness puts her in mortal danger. Marjane’s choice to completely be herself results in more than social ostracism; it marks her as a government subversive.

*Please be advised: I think everyone should have the right to do what makes them happy, but no one should force them into anything. I have no intention of insulting Iran or its people. And I do not wish to stereotype Islam or anyone who chooses to wear the Hijab. Just because there are a few extremists in one nation or religion does not mean that we should write off the entire community. I am only reiterating Satrapi’s story and trying to defend women’s rights around the globe. 

(Image #1 courtesy of progressillinois.com; #2, #3 and #5 courtesy of blogs.stockton.edu; #4 courtesy of  morningsidereview.org)