Womanism

You tried to change, didn’t you?

“You tried to change, didn’t you? Closed your mouth more, tried to be softer, prettier, less volatile, less awake … You can’t make homes out of human beings. Someone should have already told you that.” ~Warsan Shire
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The Good, The Bad, and the Aerie

For those of you who don’t know, Aerie is a store for teenagers and young adults that sells primarily bras and panties, as well as really comfy, nice pajamas. Aerie is an offshoot/subsidiary/child of American Eagle. Their customers are almost entirely young women (including me !!!) and their ads are entirely targeted toward young women and girls. Their most recent ad campaign is the This girl has not been retouched campaign. And I have to say, I’m liking it a lot so far.

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Check Out This A+ Magazine Cover

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As I type this on my phone keyboard, I stand in the checkout aisle of the grocery store, holding this stupid magazine. Every headline makes me cringe. I could go on and on about how magazines aimed at teenagers are just page after page of thinspo and vapid advertisements—but that topic has been done to death and I don’t have anything even remotely original to say. However, this isn’t just a teen magazine, this is Women’s World.

Every tag line smacks of idiocy. It’s all about kids and homemaking and losing weight. You’d be hard-pressed to find a “men’s” magazine (besides one that is marketed specifically for parents) that deals in any of this stuff in such detail.

No, really. I dare you. If someone can find me one then I’ll pay them with all the money I have.*

The taglines just get more hilarious as you read them. If I became “100 Lbs Slimmer” because of some miracle diet, I’d weigh ten pounds. If I lost 25 pounds every thirty days or so, as the headline so proudly proclaims, then at the end of six months I would weigh negative 15 pounds.

Also, does anyone know why is says “God Bless America” up at the top?

Then there’s the stuff to do with shopping and saving money on shopping, followed by the tagline for an article about fun back-to-school snacks for your kids, because we live in Mad Men where a bored housewife has nothing better to do than go grocery shopping and feed her two children.

Okay, I’m being unfair. I know we don’t really live in the 1960s. And I know that being a housewife can be a valid life choice. And I know that it’s probably physically impossible for me to lose 100 pounds.

Wanna hear what else I know?

This magazine is damn stupid.

I skimmed through it, and while I could be wrong, I’m about 99% certain that there was nothing relating to working or finances or (god forbid) some sort of outdoor sports. There wasn’t anything, really, besides kids and shopping and personal health.

I wouldn’t have any problem if this was specifically a parenting magazine, but what this magazine cover (and plenty of others of the same type) seems to be implying is that parent and woman are synonymous.

And yes, we now have American women at high levels of business, academia, and government—you name it. But, as we’ve seen in recent months, we’re still asking age-old questions about how to make women’s way in male-dominated fields, how to balance the demands of work and family.

~Hillary Clinton, Women in the World Conference 2013

Sure, this magazine cover is meaningless in the grand scheme of things, but it points to a bigger problem. Culturally, we can accept that women are valuable members of society for more reasons than just our functioning reproductive systems—it’s just that those reasons still have to include our functioning reproductive systems. It forces us to internalize the idea that while we can have some other purpose in life, our primary purpose hasto be for the production of children.

On the bright side, now I know how to make some really cool back to school snacks.

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*”All the money I have” is a grand total of zero dollars.

Good Vibes for Anita Sarkeesian

Anita Sarkeesian, the woman behind the Feminist Frequency youtube channel and winner of the Game Developers’ Choice Ambassador Award, has reportedly been driven from her house due to serious threats made against her.

What the hell?!
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Agency, Shaving, Bunnies, and Me

I remember the first time I ever shaved. It was my ninth or tenth Easter. The day before, my stepdad had given me a piggyback ride while I was wearing shorts, and I guess he told my mom that I had too much hair on my legs. On Easter morning, she approached me with a razor and made me shave my legs.
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Advertisements That Made Me Cry

It’s what my friends and I call my “special magical girl time” right now, and everything is making me very very overemotional. I’m too incoherent to be trusted with writing a halfway decent post right now, so here are some sobering, interesting, heartwarming, and/or uplifting advertisements that really did a number on me which I would really like you all to see. All except one are less than two minutes long, so they won’t take long and I hope they brighten your day or get you thinking.
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Dress Codes, Acid Throwing, and Validation of Personhood

For those of you not familiar with tumblr, it’s the website where the teenagers go to scream at each other about social justice and occasionally reblog pictures of their Starbucks drinks and call it art. I was on this site the other day when I came across a post showing pictures of an Pakistani woman with a scarred face conducting an interview with a man. The pictures were captioned with what was being said in the interview. He asked her how she got the burns on her face. She said that her husband, sister-in-law, and husband’s mother threw acid onto her. When the man asked if she then left her husband, she said that she tried to leave and couldn’t support her children on her own. In tears, she told the interviewer that she had to return to her husband’s home and make up with them, because she didn’t have anywhere else to go.

Acid throwing is (unfortunately) an incredibly prevalent topic in both feminist circles and the world at large. This horrible act of violence is commonly used by extremist groups as a scare tactic, trying to keep women and girls from receiving an education or from even having the nerve to show themselves in public at all. It is (at least, in my opinion) an issue that deserves a lot more time and a lot more action from all corners of social justice.

So, I already had the mentality that this is an issue that requires attention when I scrolled down to read the comment below; I couldn’t believe what I saw: “Meanwhile, in America, feminists are complaining about how dress codes are oppressive. You idiots have never experienced oppression, and pray you never do, because this is what it looks like.”

I was pretty pissed off when I saw that, but I honestly couldn’t quite figure out why. What this person was saying wasn’t exactly untrue—compared to acid throwing, dress codes (and things like slut-shaming which are intrinsically linked to them in my mind) are nothing compared to the horrors faced by women in other countries. But it just didn’t sit right with me. I shook the feeling off and went to read the next comment.

“As a South Asian American feminist, let me remind everyone that oppression is not a competition. Just because we fight one type of sexism doesn’t mean we don’t care about other instances of sexism that don’t affect us directly in our day to day lives. My heart goes out to this woman and the hundreds of other victims like her. I want to educate people about these kinds of incidents. I support organizations that help women like this. You may think that dress code issues are trivial, but they are related to a larger issue of women’s bodily autonomy, which affects women’s health and safety. So please, let’s try to bring awareness and bring about change instead of insulting entire groups of people because they are facing issues that are less scary than the one presented.[emphasis mine]”

I remember when I was first getting acquainted with the social justice movement, I would try and mentally map out (in a pyramid of sorts) who was least and most oppressed in Western society. Males who are straight, able-bodied, white, etc etc, obviously went at the top of the pyramid—in the space reserved for pharaohs or kings if this were history class. After that I thought white women probably came next. And then below that it got murky in my mind. Did gay people come next? What about trans people? What about trans people who were black? Were gay men above gay women or did they all take up the same chunk of the pyramid? I knew on some level that my logic was flawed (and I realize now that it’s just a pretty fucking stupid way of looking at things) but I didn’t know what was wrong with it. (This post was a huge help for me in understanding why.)

Now, if we as feminists are to believe in and fight for the personhood of all women, that means white women, and women of color, and women from all backgrounds and from all corners of the globe. Just because personhood and the trials of that personhood should not be overlooked because they come from a place of marginalization, does not mean the trials of personhood should be overlooked just because they come from a place of privelege. This ties back to my essay on the apsects of rape that feminists sometimes overlook. If a priveleged person is raped, that doesn’t make it any less of a rape. And if a priveleged woman has their bodily autonomy restricted or denied, that doesn’t make it any less of an issue. We have to stop thinking of the different sects of the social justice movements as separate and start thinking of them as one big whole.

Yeah, I fully realize that acid throwing is a lot more horrific and a lot more damaging than dress codes or slut-shaming. But both are infringement on women’s rights and both are infringement on the overall rights of human beings. I’m not saying that the issue of acid burning is less important than the issue of dress codes, because it’s obviously not—what I am saying, though, is that both issues are an important part of the same movement. Both issues deserve attention and both issues deserve action. Invalidating the experiences of one group of women in order to validate the experiences of the other is the wrong direction for the feminist movement and the social justice movement as a whole to take itself.

In order for the feminist movement to advance, it needs to represent a cohesive and united front. All acts that violate women’s rights need to be brought to light—we focus too much on the big picture of the progress we’ve made and forget that there are still so many battles to be fought. We shouldn’t be wasting our time fighting over who is more oppressed—we should be spending that time fighting for the rights of all women, and of all human beings across the globe.

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Recommended Reading:

Social Justice and Racial Invisibility

What Constitutes True Social Justice?

The Privelege of Just Being a PERSON: Whiteness and Race Anxieties

Racism in The Places We Deny

“I Deserve to be Raped” Signal Boost

So, I was on tumblr last night scrolling through my dash when I came across this video. I found it to be really powerful and an excellent (if a bit ranty) social commentary, and I consider this video to be a very important story.

There is a massive trigger warning for this video concerning sexual abuse, slut-shaming, and rape, so please watch at your own risk.

(there are no disturbing images or visuals in this video, it’s just her talking into the camera)

I am absolutely disgusted by the things people are posting in the comments of this video, which again could potentially be triggering so I am not going to post them here. If you want to subject yourself to the awful, misogynistic vitriol some of these bastards are spewing from their keyboards, then you can go and do that yourself.