Trigger warning: discussion of rape, sex trafficking
The older I get, the more I realize just how big the steaming piles of sexist bullshit are that society shovels onto girls and women every single day. From princess culture to the multi-billion dollar “beauty” industry, making billions by telling women they are too fat, too wrinkly, and too ugly; from the Republican right’s incessant chipping away at women’s access to affordable birth control and safe abortion to now blocking the renewal of the Violence Against Women Act because of changes that would extend protection to gays, lesbians, immigrants, and Native American women — some days it’s hard for this feminist to get out of bed and face the day.
Last week, after sitting through the seemingly endless barrage of sexist Super Bowl XLVII ads, learning that sex trafficking is a serious problem in my state (I don’t know why I’m surprised, it exists everywhere), and reading the transcript of a YouTube video where a high school boy laughs and jokes about a girl at a party being passed around and repeatedly raped while she was unconscious, I’m losing hope that I will live to see the day where all people, regardless of gender, will be treated as equals and with respect.
Those who say we live in a post-feminist society are completely full of shit. Folks, it’s time to put on our hip waders and start shoveling. We have a lot of work to do. How are you helping to bring equality to all?
“[Feminists are] just women who don’t want to be treated like shit.” —Su, an Australian woman interviewed for the 1996 anthology DIY Feminism.
Feminism has become a dirty word. Girls today don’t want to say they are feminists, because the people against equal rights for women have, very successfully, painted feminism as a bad thing. These people convinced many that women are already equal, that there is no more reason to keep fighting. They portray feminists as ugly women spewing hate, rather than strong women standing up for what’s right. They use words like “feminazi” and say our movement is emasculating men, rather than empowering women.
Feminism is the movement for social, political, and economic equality of men and women. If you believe in those things, you are a feminist. I am a feminist.
Last year, I learned about the Girl Effect, an organization working to end poverty, stop the spread of HIV and curb overpopulation by investing in the health and well-being of girls in developing countries. Once again, I joined the Girl Effect blogging campaign to spread the word about this amazing organization and encourage you to get involved.
Here are some of the reasons why girls need your support:
One girl in seven in developing countries marries before age 15 (she often has no choice, the decision is made for her)
One-quarter to one-half of girls in developing countries become mothers before age 18; 14 million girls aged 15 to 19 give birth in developing countries each year
Approximately one-quarter of girls in developing countries are not in school
Compared with women ages 20 to 24, girls ages 10 to 14 are five times more likely to die from childbirth, and girls ages 15 to 19 are up to twice as likely, worldwide
75 percent of 15- to 24-year-olds living with HIV in Africa are female, up from 62 percent in 2001.
The girls of the world need your help. Watch this short video to see some of them.
A girl is not a commodity to be bought and sold. She is not a burden but a blessing. She is the future. All girls should have the right to choose if and when to get married, and whether or not they want to have children.
Girls are the answer, yet girls currently get less than two cents of every aid dollar. Let’s change that. Please support the Girl Effect today. You can make a donation, join the blogging campaign, and spread the word by telling others about the Girl Effect. You can also follow the Girl Effect on Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube.
There’s something so alluring about makeover shows. The dramatic reveal—seeing someone completely transformed with new clothes, new makeup, and a new hairstyle—draws me in every time.
Lately, though, I’ve been watching these shows with a more critical eye, and wondering if they do more harm than good.
Makeover shows are primarily aimed at a female audience, and most makeover candidates are women. What messages are these shows really sending?
Take the popular TLC makeover show “What Not to Wear,” for example. On this show, makeover candidates are “turned in” by friends, family, or coworkers for their sloppy, dated, or inappropriate wardrobes. If the candidate agrees to participate, she (it’s almost always a she) gets a free trip to New York and $5,000 to spend on a new wardrobe, provided she follows the wardrobe “rules” set by hosts Stacy London and Clinton Kelly.
Watching “What Not to Wear” taught me a lot about how to dress for my body type, which has given me more confidence and helped me stop seeing my curves as a negative thing. I like that Stacy and Clinton advocate embracing the body you have, rather than hiding it or feeling as if you don’t measure up to some arbitrary beauty standard.
On the other hand, there are some things about the show that bother me. The biggest one is that Stacy and Clinton’s comments about the candidate’s “before” wardrobe are often mean-spirited, making them seem like nothing more than bullies pressuring people to conform. Watch the video clip below and see if you agree.
Is the show really about helping the makeover candidate look her best, or about making her fit into our society’s definition of how a woman should look?
I also dislike how “What Not to Wear” and other makeover shows perpetuate the idea that a woman’s appearance is her most important asset. The makeover candidate in the video is an accomplished scientist, yet she’s being berated for not looking feminine, or sexy, enough. Is this really what we want to teach our daughters?
T.V. makeovers also always seem to involve a boatload of cosmetics and hair color, many of which contain potentially toxic chemicals. Most of you know I gave up coloring my hair this year, and I’m paying more attention to the ingredients in my cosmetics after watching the “Story of Cosmetics.” Many cosmetics are also tested on animals, a practice I’m vehemently against.
Then there’s the blatant consumerism. Does anyone really need a $5,000 wardrobe? Couldn’t we be doing something more important with our money?
In addition, at least on “What Not to Wear,” it seems no consideration is given to where clothing was made or under what conditions. For example, contestants are often encouraged to shop at H&M, which has made headlines many times for its questionable and unethical business practices. In 2010, the New York Times ran this story about H&M’s wasteful practice of destroying and throwing away unsold clothing rather than donating it to people in need.
On the What Not to Wear Facebook page, Clinton Kelly recently revealed only 1/3 of the guests on the show keep up with their new look. To me, that says the majority of guests on the show are perfectly happy with their “before” selves, and wish their friends, coworkers, family, and the rest of us would butt out and find something more important to worry about.
What do you think? Do you love or hate makeover shows? What types of messages do these shows send? Leave a comment with your thoughts.
The term “bitch” offends me, and it should offend you, too.
Bitch is a derogatory term, an insult. It’s not a badge of honor. It’s not cute. And it sure as hell isn’t empowering. It is a sexist term, meant to put women down. A bitch is a dog, and as much as I love dogs, I don’t think the term was ever intended to be used as a compliment.
BITCH. A she dog, or doggess; the most offensive appellation that can be given to an English woman, even more provoking than that of whore. ["Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue," 1811]
Bitch is just one of the many animal-related terms used to denigrate or objectify women: bitch, chick, pussy, tail, barracuda, shrew, cow…I’m sure there are others.
I enjoy Bitch magazine but dislike the title. I don’t think “reclaiming” or attempting to redefine negative words as positive ones ever works. If anything, I think using the word “bitch” as a magazine title only furthers the stereotype that feminists are angry, irrational creatures to be shunned and ignored. (Note to self: Kiss your dream of writing for Bitch magazine goodbye.)
The word “bitch” is tossed about so nonchalantly theses days on T.V., in movies, and in music—and I’m not singling out hip-hop here, it’s everywhere.
What message(s) are we sending our girls? That it’s not OK to be angry? Or to have a bad day? That women are nameless, interchangeable, and disposable?
I see this trend in my everyday life as well. On Facebook, I’m noticing more photos posted, by men and women, with captions like, “Shopping with my bitches” or “My best bitches.” Sometimes, the word “bitch” is followed with a heart or a smiley face, just to let the rest of us know they mean bitch in the nicest possible sense of the word. Please.
Repeat after me: Bitch is not a synonym for woman.
I vow to eliminate this word from my vocabulary (future rants exempted, of course), and I hope you’ll join me.
Violence against women is at an all-time high. Sexist language sends the message that women are less then fully human, and can help perpetuate violence.
From here on out, let’s all agree to call female adult human beings by the appropriate term: woman. Are you with me?
House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) has stated that this bill is a “top priority” for the GOP.
Top priority. Really? I seem to recall a lot of talk about jobs and the economy last November. I thought that was the top priority.
H.R.3 would set women’s reproductive rights back decades. According to the ACLU:
The bill would permanently deny abortion coverage to women who rely on the government for health care, including Native Americans, federal employees, women in the military, Peace Corps volunteers, poor women and women in federal prisons.
The bill would effectively eliminate coverage for abortion in the private market by making it more onerous for insurance companies to offer coverage for abortion and by imposing new taxes on businesses and individuals who purchase private health insurance plans that include abortion coverage.
It would change tax laws in order to penalize businesses that offer abortion coverage and prevent women from deducting medical expenses related to abortion care.
The bill would also allow public hospitals to refuse medically necessary abortions to pregnant women facing life-threatening emergencies.
The original text of the bill also proposed changes to the Hyde Amendment that would only allow federally funded abortion coverage to women who were “forcibly” raped (women who were raped while drugged or unconscious don’t count), and incest victims under 18.
Thanks for reading my blog. My name is Cheryl Breuer, and Peculiar Girl is about finding happiness by challenging social norms and stereotypes, and cultivating greater kindness and compassion. More about Cheryl