#FeministFriday No. 13

One of the many great things about feminism is that it serves so many different purposes, and means something completely unique to everyone it touches. You don’t have to look much past the #INeedFeminismBecause tag on different social media platforms to see the diverse and eclectic needs people have from feminism.

For me personally, the biggest demon I’ve needed feminism to help me overcome is internalized misogyny.

I need feminism because when I wrote a blog post about independence and empowerment, it revolved around slut shaming and ridiculing a young woman I have never met.

I need feminism because when I wrote a blog post about independence and empowerment, it revolved around slut shaming and ridiculing a young woman I have never met.

Internalized misogyny is a terrible and normalized part of society that pits women against each other simply by being women. 

If you’ve never heard the term, internalized misogyny (sometimes called internalized sexism) is essentially what it sounds like. It is the belief by girls and women that the lies, stereotypes, and myths about girls and women delivered to everyone by an intrinsically sexist society are true. Everyone hears these messages from society throughout their lifetime; all women are stupid, weak, passive, manipulative, emotionally charged, with no capacity for intellectual pursuits or leadership.

A lifetime of hearing these things has two logical consequences. First, men will grow up believing it as fact and will treat women accordingly, protecting their male privilege by perpetuating the negative stereotypes.

The second consequence is that the same messages also stick to women, and we’re taught to act out the stereotypes all while doubting ourselves and other women, which in turn also perpetuates the stereotypes.

Here’s where it gets tricky, though. While there are still an unfortunate number of people who believe the “women are bad at math and are only good for cleaning and cooking and popping out babies and watching Lifetime” lie, those stereotypes are harder and harder to pass as absolute truth as the standard for the modern woman looks more like Olivia Pope and less like June Cleaver.

For me, it was always a much more insidious version of internalized misogyny. It was the mentality that I’d rather hang out with guys because “girls are mean” and that my semi-emo persona and aversion to the color pink somehow made me superior to girls that enjoyed traditionally feminine things. It was buying into the standard that a woman with a healthy sex life is a slut, and wearing revealing clothing is a sign of low self-esteem, and knowing as a certifiable fact that because I didn’t like Taylor Swift’s music it was perfectly fine for me to attack her character and make fun of people who did enjoy her music.

I knew I deserved to be equal to men; I just thought other women didn’t deserve to be equal to me. And that mentality is extraordinarily problematic.

It’s been two years, almost to the day, since I wrote Taylor Swift Doesn’t Like You When You’re 23. I read it now, and realize exactly how much I’ve grown since then.

I want to apologize to Taylor, and not just because her new album is amazing and I’m obsessed with it (yes Bridget, I still have your copy, and you might someday get it back). I want to apologize because I said horrible things about a young woman who lives under a microscope and has every aspect of her life picked apart and made fun of because she’s talented at what she does. No one deserves that, regardless of who they’ve dated or how they choose to express themselves.

I want to apologize to any girl or woman that I’ve ever targeted or affected — knowingly or otherwise — with my internalized misogyny. I am so sorry. You’re all excellent, unique individuals, and you are more than the stereotypes society has pigeonholed you into.

I’m not suggesting we’re all perfect. The possibility is pretty high that at some point in her life a woman will encounter another woman she doesn’t like — that’s fine, just as long as she doesn’t dislike the other woman solely because the other woman wears lots of make-up or is dating the guy she wants to date.

Girls are amazing. They have the potential to do almost anything; think of how much we could do if we spent the energy we use tearing each other down to instead support each other to be our best. Girls supporting girls are unstoppable.

How’s that for a new message?

Leave any questions or comments below, and see you next week.

 

#FeministFriday No. 12

I really like St. Patrick’s Day. Yes, a lot of the celebrations in the United States are kind of kitschy, and most people just use it as an excuse for Jameson shots and public intoxication, but I really like it. Part of it is the (admittedly botched) celebration of some of my family heritage, and a lot of it is a reminder of the incredible several months I spent living in Dublin. I always look forward to March 17th, and I always do something to mark the occasion.

Then this year, I saw this plastered all over social media:

Póg mo thóin, anti-choicers.

Póg mo thóin, anti-choicers.

Yes, some anti-choice activists chose to use St. Patrick’s Day as a platform to promote Ireland’s horrendous reproductive laws as something the United States should aspire to.

Let’s discuss why this is a terrible goal.

Abortion is illegal in the Republic of Ireland as a result of the heavy Catholic influence throughout the country. It’s also criminalized; someone receiving or performing an abortion in the Republic of Ireland can receive up to 15 years in prison. Northern Ireland has one abortion clinic that can perform legal abortions through the ninth week of the pregnancy; all other abortions are illegal, and someone receiving or performing an illegal abortion in Northern Ireland can receive life in prison.

Anti-choice activists like to tout that Ireland has a much lower maternal mortality rate than the United States as some sort of irrefutable fact that abolishing abortion is the forefront of reproductive health. Ireland’s maternal mortality rate is lower, about 10 in 100,000 to our 27 in 100,000, though the anti-choice activists fail to factor in population size and density, poverty rates, available healthcare (Ireland has had universal healthcare since 2004), and really any other possible contributing factors as to why this may be true, other than outlawed abortions.

I’m sure this is bothering at least a couple people by now, why do I keep referring to these activists as anti-choice? The movement is called pro-life, after all, so that’s what they should be called, right? Simply put, I refer to them as anti-choice instead of pro-life because the laws they’re fighting for will abolish the right to choose, not promote the welfare of every living, breathing human being.

I think one of the most common misconceptions that anti-choice activists spread about the pro-choice movement is that all we want to do is force abortions on people. Just abortions. For everyone. All the time. Abortions.

That’s not what we’re going for, I swear.

Pro-choice is about the right to choose for yourself what you do with your own body. That might include choosing to get an abortion, but it could also include choosing to not get an abortion. It could be choosing to keep and raise your child, or choosing to give the baby up for adoption. It’s choosing what kind of birth control to use, be it pills or shots or abstinence, or choosing a birthing plan you’re comfortable with. Most importantly, it’s also understanding that whatever choices you make for yourself — for whatever reasons you make them — may not be viable choices for someone else. Pro-choice is exactly what the name suggests: supporting the ability for everyone to make their own decisions. Free will, essentially.

According to anti-choice activists, this is not the dream we should have for our country. We should instead hope to be like Ireland.

So let’s look at Ireland for a minute. What’s really so bad about completely outlawing abortions? According to the anti-choice activists, “Ireland is doing a great job protecting women & children” which is right on par with their insistence that abortion is a painful, traumatic, and downright dangerous procedure.

Which — in case anyone was wondering — is just not true. Legal abortions are safe, regulated medical procedures. More men die from using Viagra than women do from botched legal abortions, and no one is trying to ban the use of erectile dysfunction pharmaceuticals. The danger of abortions comes from outlawing them: an estimated 47,000 women die each year around the world because they don’t have access to safe, legal abortion care.

In theory, Ireland should be full of happy families and healthy children. The thing about theories, is they exist in a vacuum. If a woman in Ireland needs to get an abortion she must choose to spend hundreds, sometimes thousands of euros to travel abroad for a legal abortion, or risk legal prosecution and worse by visiting an unlicensed practitioner domestically — and as much as anti-choice activists try to avoid it, sometimes abortions are a necessity.

Here’s the reality of outlawing abortions:

A child is raped and becomes pregnant. The child is too young to be carrying a pregnancy, because her body isn’t developed enough to properly cope with the impending changes. Abortions are illegal, so she is forced to carry the pregnancy. She suffers from multiple health problems, and delivers the baby prematurely and dangerously underweight. It will suffer from severe developmental disabilities, which will be the financial responsibility of a girl still in grade school.

A woman 17-weeks pregnant is suffering from a miscarriage. The fetus will not survive, but still has a heartbeat. The woman and her husband are not Catholic, but are forced to abide by Catholic beliefs as they plead with doctors to terminate the pregnancy throughout the three days she is kept in the hospital. Abortions are illegal, so doctors will not remove the dying fetus, and the woman dies from blood poisoning.

A woman trying to escape an abusive relationship becomes pregnant through rape. Abortion is illegal, but she requests an abortion on the grounds of being suicidal from her assault — something that is supposed to be taken into consideration for potential exceptions to the ban. Her request is delayed, drawn out, and finally denied, and she threatens a hunger strike to protest the decision. Local health authorities obtain a court order to deliver the baby prematurely, and in her 25th week of pregnancy, they force the woman to have a non-consensual cesarean section.

A woman who already has children is pregnant again. She suffers from head trauma and a blood clot early in her 2nd trimester, and is clinically brain dead. Doctors agree she has no chance for recovery, and the pregnancy has no chance of survival. Abortion is illegal, so her body is kept going with machines to use as a human incubator for a soon to be stillborn baby, rather than following the wishes of her living children, husband, and parents to say good-bye and get closure.

According to anti-choice activists, Ireland is a first world country that is doing a wonderful job protecting women and children and supporting the welfare of the living. They’re doing such a great job that Saudi Arabia has better reproductive health laws, to the point that the European Union has called Ireland out multiple times for failing to meet the standard for basic human rights.

I really like St. Patrick’s Day, and I love so many things about Ireland, but this nightmare is not the hope I have for my country. I hope that the United States continues to recognize me as more than a vessel. I hope that the government realizes that I should have more legal rights than a clump of cells. I hope that everyone, regardless of their personal beliefs, supports every living, breathing human being as deserving bodily autonomy.

Sláinte to choice, my friends.

Leave any questions or comments below, and see you next week.

#FeministFriday No. 11

Earlier this year, Ben Moynihan, a British teenager was sentenced to 21 years in prison.

His crime?

He attempted to murder three women because he blamed them for not being able to lose his virginity.

To be clear, the women he attacked were not women he knew personally, or that had rebuffed his sexual advances. These were strangers, aged 20, 45, and 67, respectively, that he stabbed in a series of random attacks because he blamed all women for the fact that he was a 17 year old virgin.

Moynihan left two letters for police, calling himself an “unhappy geezer” and detailing his crimes, saying,

All women need to die…Come and arrest me for God’s sake before I hunt for my fourth victim.

Investigators found additional writings in his “diary of evil” in which he wrote about his pain:

I was planning to murder mainly women as an act of revenge because of the life they gave me…And why do women have to be fussy when choosing a boyfriend, or cheating on them with others. I attack women because I grew up to believe them as a more weaker part of the human breed…I think every girl is a type of slut, they are fussy with men nowadays, they do not give boys like us a chance.

This is the part I find most disturbing, because the rationale doesn’t sound like an imbalanced attempted murderer, it honestly sounds like most men on the internet. It’s something you can see on just about any social media site, a guy upset because the girl he thinks he “deserves” isn’t interested — and rather than dealing with the rejection and moving on, he gets angry that she doesn’t fit into the role she’s supposed to fulfill.

There it is — women in neat little boxes. Ask any man and they’ll tell you: All women are weak. All women are subservient. All women are picky. All women are sluts. All women are cheaters.

And while men will read this and may get upset thinking, “It’s not fair to group everyone into that school of thought! Not all men are like that!” just remember that women everywhere are being grouped into those boxes — and we’re being killed because of it.

Yes, Ben Moynihan is an extreme example, but men putting themselves and their needs and wants before the actual humanity of women is pretty standard fare in our society. There are thousands of friendzoned nice guys hanging out on Reddit who can back me up.

Leave any questions or comments below, and see you next week.

#FeministFriday No. 10

Patricia Arquette made a memorable acceptance speech at the Academy Awards this year, leveraging her Best Supporting Actress win as a platform to say,

“It’s our time to have wage equality once and for all.”

The Wage Gap is a real issue, but for more reasons than $0.78. 

Am I glad she brought attention to an important issue? Of course. However, I would have been more glad had she not omitted a lot of important data, and a lot of actual people.

It’s usually at this point in the story that anti-feminists and other critics of the “alleged” wage gap like to pipe in. A lot of what they say has some merit, that this 78% statistic doesn’t take into account things like industry or education or experience:

“Women choose jobs that pay less!”

“Women work fewer hours than men to take care of their kids!”

“Companies pay women less because they might take maternity leave!”

On a surface level, these all seem like logical ways to explain away the “myth” of the wage gap, until you start to ask basic questions like “Why?”

Why don’t those jobs pay more? Why are traditionally female professions undervalued? Why are women more likely to be passed over for promotions? Why can’t men take equal responsibility for their children? Why are companies assuming all women want children? Or that all women can have children? Why don’t companies realize that some men can have children? Why don’t men demand paternity leave?

Statements like this that are used to “debunk” the wage gap can be boiled down to sexism and socially ingrained misogyny, and intrinsically fail at their goal of disproving the existence of a wage gap.

Want facts?

The American Association of University Women (AAUW) has been at the forefront of the fight for wage equity since 1913, and is as interested in the reasons behind the pay gap as they are eradicating it. In 2012 they published a report that looked at male and female workers one year out of college. The subjects were virtually equal in age, education, and family responsibilities, and the AAUW controlled for factors known to affect earnings, such as college major, occupation, and hours worked.

Even in those nearly identical scenarios, the AAUW still found an inexplicable 7 percent gender pay gap which only increased with age, affecting both women’s take-home pay and retirement accounts.

The average wage gap in the United States is $10,876, ranging from $5,850 in Washington, D.C. to an astounding $16,453 in Louisiana. Across the country, white women are making about $0.78 to every $1.00 a white man is making. But as I’ve already said, that’s not the only number I’m concerned with because the average white woman is still making a considerable amount more than the average Latina, American Indian, Pacific Islander, or Black woman.

Everyone’s heard about the 78%. How many of these other numbers have you heard?

wagegapbrokenupbyrace-011

Please note that this graph lumps in East Asian women with South Asian and South East Asian women despite there being a relatively large pay gap between those groups of women

I commend Patricia Arquette’s acceptance speech for starting a conversation, but it’s a conversation that needs to change. She told reporters backstage:

“It’s time for all the women in America, and all the men that love women, and all the gay people, and all of the people of color that we’ve all fought for to fight for us now.”

I mean…are there not gay women and women of color? If “we’ve fought for” them, as she says, the fight must be over and won. But is it really? Is the fight over for the women of color and trans-women that are killed simply for existing? Is the fight over for the non-white women making far less than white women regardless of their experience or education?

Feminism is not, and never has been, white women and white women alone. Despite the wage gap still favoring white women over women of color, white women remain the largest recipient group of affirmative action, and most people think pay inequity is a difference of $0.22.

Here is a woman being recognized with the highest honor in her craft, standing up at an Awards ceremony where most people of color in the room were snubbed (despite their equally impressive achievements), and she’s asking them to put aside their very real plight in order to help her.

This is why feminism needs to be intersectional (which will be a topic for another Friday), and exactly why the Wage Gap Issue can no longer revolve around 78%.

Please leave any questions or comments below, and see you next week!

 

Sources:

The Gender Wage Gap is A Chasm For Women Of Color, In One Chart (thinkprogress.org, 2014)

The Simple Truth about the Gender Pay Gap (aauw.org, 2013)

By the Numbers: A Look at the Gender Pay Gap (aauw.org, 2014)