By: Emma Stuart
Welcome to Back to Basics! In these posts, we break down feminist concepts for readers curious about feminist vocabulary, concepts, and ideas! Today’s question is:
“What is Patriarchy?”
Patriarchy is defined by Oxford Languages as “a system of society or government in which men hold the power and women are largely excluded from it.” Due to most modern societies being patriarchal, women are restricted access to the power and privilege that is attributed to men. Feminists and advocates for gender equality have consistently fought against the values that have been enforced by patriarchal societies.
“How am I impacted by the patriarchy?”
The patriarchy affects everyone in many aspects of our lives. It impacts the lives of women and men all around the world in countless ways but here are a few examples:
- Men are not allowed to show emotions, and if women do, they are ‘out of control’.
- Women are perceived as objects by the world.
- Sexual violence perpetrated to and by all genders, and sexual violence committed against masculine people is not taken seriously.
- Inequity of pay for preforming the same jobs.
“How can I oppose the patriarchy in my life?”
Tackling the patriarchy is not an easy job to do but here are some small ways that we can work against it:
- Make sure to educate yourself and keep your mind open to growth.
- Challenge the expectation of gender roles but continue to respect all gender expressions.
- Hold leadership accountable.
- Don’t be blinded by your anger, it is important to acknowledge your anger but don’t let it control you.
- Support all women, non-binary, and trans people’s careers, their success is your success don’t make it a competition.
The patriarchy is a constant presence in our lives, and it can be a great burden to bear. However, do not let it control your life and drag you down. Surround yourself with those who lift you up and support you to lighten this load. If you want to learn more about the patriarchy and its effects click here. And if you want to learn about more basic feminist topics check out our post on the myth of “man-hating feminists” , intersectional feminism, and body positivity.
Image Source: Francisco Ororio, Creative Commons
By: Alyssa Bradley
Gender equality starts at home. Current issues around gender, racial, and LGBTQ+ equality should be discussed with the younger generations, who can bring their visions for a better world to fruition. That is why it is important to teach children to grow up feminist. Feminists have the perspective that men and women should be equal when it comes to their rights and privileges. Make a commitment daily to be a role model for the society you wish to leave; this will enable your children to view the world through the lens of gender equity.
Children of all genders should be having more open and honest conversations about the personal struggles they encounter. Being comfortable discussing important issues with your kids can make them more confident and secure in themselves to prevent things such as abuse, mistreatment, or disrespect to others.
Dismantling systems already put in place like gender roles can be a good start to liberating your kids with a feminist mindset. Boys and girls should be able to engage in gender-neutral activities without fear of being seen playing with “a girl’s/boy’s toy”.
Another important tool to teach kids how to be feminists is to ask children to think critically about the world around them, especially the media they are exposed to. We are often surrounded by over-sexualized, gendered, and even violent content that can inhibit gender equity. Be honest about the effects these systems have on our world and teach children to be emotionally intelligent and vocal about their beliefs.
These teachings encourage both young boys and girls to respect and treat women the same as men and in turn not contribute to the misogyny of today’s society. While some might say that children aren’t to be involved in serious political matters we have to remember that the ideas that are instilled among children now will be what carries over in the future. Creating young feminists will propel the younger generations to enact positive change in the future. Anti-feminist behaviors are taught and not learned, so if more parents implement feminist ideals into their children’s lives, they’ll grow into individuals who will be part of a kinder, more feminist future.
By Morgan Clark
I recently saw a TikTok that made me laugh, but was actually kind of disappointing. In this TikTok the creator made fun of NASA for sending one of their female astronauts into space with 100 tampons… for just a single week!! Yup…100 hundred tampons. I could not help but laugh at that. NASA–a company that takes pride in having intelligent scientists and making ground breaking, world changing discoveries–sent this woman with a surplus of tampons for only a week. I had to look further into this.
In 1983 America sent up their first female astronaut, Sally Ride. This was a huge deal because many NASA scientists did not believe women were suited to be astronauts. Prior to Ride, there were requirements that specifically excluded women from becoming astronauts. These requirements included things like: having an engineering degree and graduating from jet pilot programs, which, during that time, the military did not allow women to do. This meant that by default, in order to be an astronaut, you had to be a man. This was challenged in the 1960’s by the Woman in Space Program, a privately funded project founded by two scientists who believed women were a better fit for space because they were able to fit more comfortably in the small, cramped spacecraft. Soon this project was turned into a program that resulted in 13 trained women who passed NASA’s selection test. Unfortunately, the program was abruptly canceled in 1962 which stopped the 13 qualified women from actually becoming astronauts.
It was in 1978 when Sally Ride and five other women were chosen to join NASA’s class of ’78. (After the suspicious shutdown program in 1962). Although Ride and her other female classmates were officially invited by NASA to take part in the program and go to space, they were met with some hesitation from the older astronauts. Being the first time that many of them had female co-workers it’s not all that hard to imagine why the men would be a bit put off. The new girls on the scene made it work though, and those like Sally Ride, pushed right on through to the top.
Ride was deployed to space with four crewmembers in June of 1983 on the Space Shuttle Challenger on mission STS-7. It was during this launch that NASA recommend sending 100 tampons with her for the week-long journey, and it they weren’t joking. When Ride was interviewed after her voyage she was mainly asked about the make-up she took into space with her. “Everybody wanted to know about what kind of makeup I was taking up. They didn’t care about how well-prepared I was to operate the arm or deploy communications satellites.” Sally stated in her 1983 interview with Gloria Steinem. Although Ride faced many obstacles regarding her sex, she went on to become a well-known astronaut. Not only for being the first American woman in space, but also by assisting in the investigations of the Columbia and the Challenger shuttle disasters. She also aided NASA in strategic planning and continued to do so until she retired. After which she became a physics professor and author. Ride passed away in 2012 leaving behind a legacy that is still inspiring young women everywhere.
By Emma Gilham
Mary Wollstonecraft’s A Vindication of the Rights of Women, written in 1791, questions societal norms placed on women in that time from a philosophical perspective. Chapter VI “The Effect Which an Early Association of Ideas Has on Character” focuses on the concept that women would never be able to experience true love and intimacy unless they were educated equally as men. She claims, as things were, that women had false ideas of what love would be as they couldn’t connect on an intellectual level with their potential partner, hence chasing charming but undesirable “rakes”. Wollstonecraft asks, “And how can they [men] expect women, who are only taught to observe behavior, and acquire manners rather than morals, to despise what they have been all their lives laboring to attain?” (126). In the 18th century, young, middle-class, white women’s education consisted mostly of learning manners, politeness and creating a demure, inoffensive persona. Therefore, that aspect of a partner was inherently valued more heavily Wollstonecraft argues. In the end, this hindered the ability of these women to experience real love and adequately navigate suitors. She laments, “…women are captivated by easy manners; a gentlemen-like man seldom fails to please them and their thirsty ears eagerly drink the insinuating nothings of politeness…” (127).
In the beginning of Wollstonecraft’s work, the reader may assume most of her points are outdated, as education systems have drastically changed and been standardized. Yet, her observations are still applicable to issues many of us encounter when seeking a relationship today. Consistently, people are charmed by someone only to later realize this person is not who they had thought. Are these simply mistakes that anyone would make or are womxn still conditioned to value surface level traits more in a partner? This chapter brings up many feminist ideological and philosophical questions. I recognize that Wollstonecraft’s work is probably the furthest thing from intersectional. However, it is important to ponder how the societal norms and constructs we grow up in influence our preferences in a partner, views on romanticism, or even our ability to love. For instance, many of the movies I watched as a child revolved around a marriage or a romantic relationship. Did this give me the impression that romantic love is more important or valuable than familial or platonic? We may never know, but asking these questions can help us better understand the things we do and the people we choose.
Reed, Ross. The Liberating Art of Philosophy: An Introduction. Cognella, Inc., 2020
By Morgan Clark
When you hear the phrase “sex-positive” do you ever think of who coined the phrase? I know I haven’t. Not until one of my team members sent me her pick for our social media campaign Phenomenal Feminist Friday. Betty Dodson was a pioneer of her time, a feminist who was a sexologist that taught women (and men) the worth of self-pleasure, as well as to embrace sex as something that is natural and healing.
Betty first started as an artist at the Art Students League of New York. There, Dodson was making erotic paintings and freelancing as an illustrator for lingerie ads. She then married an advertising executive but was soon divorced because she did not believe they were sexually compatible. At that time her artwork was not doing well in the industry. That’s when she began hosting workshops for women where she showed and told them how to please oneself.
BodySex was the name of the workshops she hosted. In these workshops’ women learned that vaginas came in different sizes, shapes and colors. Dodson believed that teaching women about their bodies, and how to navigate them, was her form of activism. Dodson said “If women could learn to pleasure themselves properly, they could end their sexual dependence on men, which would make everybody happy.”(New York Times, 2020). During this time Betty was vilified by conservative feminists. When teaching a class in Syracuse she was greeted with hissing after showing big displays of the vagina. But she continued to teach women about their bodies for several years.
In 1987 she published “Sex for One: The Joy of Self-Loving” which eventually became a best seller and was translated into 25 different languages. In this book she speaks about masturbation and how women should learn to view it. That it is a way to love oneself and a possible a way to heal oneself. She also writes in the book about techniques for masturbation using the instructions that she usually used in her workshops. Betty passed on Halloween this year but her works still continue to empower and educate women. BodySex will continue to be hosted several times a year via Zoom by Betty’s work partner Carlin.
Reading about Betty I know that she was very important during those times. To be that sexually liberated and free at those times took courage. I know that women were not as open about sex back in the day. Not knowing about orgasm and even about their own vaginas. I am glad that Betty was able to teach women that it’s okay to learn your own body. I think me and Betty would agree that self-pleasure should not be shameful but embraced, everyone should know what pleases them, even and especially sexually.
By Morgan Clark
November 7th, 2020 was an historic day for many people, including me. It was the day that a woman, a BLACK woman, was elected as the next Vice President of The United States. Kamala Harris has made history, not only by being a woman in the office, but being a woman of color elected by America. That statement alone feels so powerful to me. When I sat down and analyzed her win and what it means, it moved me to tears. America has not always been kind to people who look like Kamala Harris or who are darker than she is. Just a few months ago we were in the streets protesting to arrest the police officers who murdered Breonna Taylor, which is not the first unarmed black woman who has been killed by the police. During slavery, we were not even considered humans. We were forced to breed children instead of creating them. Children were taken from mothers and mothers were forced to breastfeed children that weren’t theirs. After emancipation, slaves were considered freed, but still faced oppression. During the 1800s women were not even able to vote. Many women fought against that law until the 19th amendment was passed. Women were able to vote, they just had to be white. Even during the fight for women’s rights Black women were over looked. It wasn’t until the Voting Rights Act was passed in the 60s that Black women were able to vote. This was also the time of the Civil Rights Movement. African Americans were advocating for the end of Jim Crow laws and equality. When it came to the important decisions the Black women were pushed aside, even though they were putting in as much work as their male counter-part. Even those in our communities have pushed us aside and tried to silence us. And although America has made progress in treating Black women better there is still a lot of work to be done.
So, you can see why having a Black woman in the Office moves a Black woman like me to tears. America has always tried to put women in a corner. Overlooking and overshadowing us, especially those of us with color. We are told that we are not capable of leadership roles because we are too emotional. And when they are in leadership positions, some play safe so they won’t come off as a b*tch. For black women, we are considered angry when we speak up in the work field. We must be the best versions of ourselves and live up to other people’s standards to get some of the same opportunities that those more privileged and sometimes even less qualified than us get handed. And that’s exactly what Kamala Harris did. She fought and worked hard and got all the way to the top. Her becoming the first Black Vice President in America sends a message to others out there. It tells young women that there is room for us at the table. It tells young Black girls that they are worthy and capable, no matter what she looks like. It tells me that there is some hope in America and the progression we have made over the past few years. Today I celebrate all Black women in America and let them know that I do see you.
By Abbie Lewis
Friday October 30th, our amazing staff member Morgan Clark kicked off our new program Phenomenal Feminist Friday, dedicating every Friday to a feminist of our choosing and posting why he or she is important to know about. I was doing my research for my feminist figure and got to thinking, what exactly is feminism? I know I’ve always considered myself one, but do I even know what exactly I’m claiming to be? I decided to do a little reading and figure out exactly what people think it is, what the actual description is, and to share it so that everyone can be on board.
The definition of feminism is “the advocacy of women’s rights on the basis of the equality of the sexes”. A lot of people are under the impression, I think, that feminism is a movement to make females elite or maybe to take away men’s rights. Feminism is only trying to put females on an equal playing field as men, and it’s ludicrous that that is something that isn’t already real in society. There’s a lot of people who genuinely think that woman already are equal to men and there’s no need for this movement or mindset whatsoever. I hate to say it, but that is probably their privilege talking and they probably haven’t ever had to work extra hard to prove themselves just because they are a different gender.
The wonderful thing about feminism is, you don’t just have to identify as a woman to be one. Lots of men, as well as non-binary people, out there consider themselves feminists and this is a wonderful thing, as everyone should be fighting for equal rights. Just because there is a negative impression of it sometimes, does not mean it is a negative thing whatsoever. Feminism is for all and being one can only move things forward.
By Morgan Clark
Mindy Kaling is a 41-year-old American actress, best known from the very popular TV show The Office. In the show she plays Kelly, a boy crazy, airhead, customer service representative. Kaling was born Vera Mindy Chokalingam, and she has made her way up in Hollywood in her own way without and despite not sticking to society’s standard. Kaling is the daughter of two Indian immigrants who met in Nigeria and moved to the United States in 1979. She grew up watching sketch comedy television which helped develop her humor. Shows like “Living Color” and “Saturday Night Live” were some of her biggest influences.
In 2001 Kaling graduated from Dartmouth College with a B.A. in theatre. After graduating she moved to Brooklyn, there she shared an apartment with a woman named Brenda Wither. Together they created a satire named “Matt &Ben”, which went on to win the best overall production at New York International Fringe Festival in 2002. Their play had two years of success in Los Angeles, and it was Kaling’s door to The Office. The producer of the show Greg Daniel recruited her to help write for the show when it began and from there she ended up playing Kelly from 2005-2013. She also directed many episodes and became executive producer of The Office after many years. She did eventually leave the show that brought her up into the Hollywood scene, when she did she went on to become the first Indian American woman to ever write and star in her own show when she wrote and produced The Mindy Project, a show, in which she stars, about a doctor who is obsessed with finding a man. The show was on for five years before ending in 2017.
Throughout her career Kaling has spoken out about feminism and women’s right. She’s stated that The Mindy Project is “unconsciously feminist” because she is a feminist. (The character is loosely based on her). Even when it came to hiring she made sure to keep her staff diverse with a talented group of women. She has spoken out about her opinions regarding Hollywood and feminism, including how she feels women should not be applauded for doing their job in Hollywood because it should already be expected. Her platform just continues to grow, as she has gone on to be in many movies such as Ocean 8, Late Night, and A Wrinkle in Time. And now she has written two books which detail her own life, and in doing so empower women to be strong and, most importantly, to be themselves. She has and will continue to speak up for women’s rights, especially within the entertainment industry.
By Jordan Tunks
With winter only a month away, colder air is upon us. With colder weather it is harder to go outside and enjoy the outdoors, but that doesn’t mean we can’t enjoy ourselves. This can be a great time to either get caught up on some reading, or begin reading the books you have kept an eye on throughout the year. Reading is a great self-care activity and allows you to get in touch with yourself and learn new things that you may not have known before. Books are also a great way to find encouragement and empowerment for women. In this blog I will cover a few books from a couple different categories. There are books from all different genres in the lists, you just need to find what you enjoy most.
The first category will be woman empowerment. Present over Perfect by Shauna Neiquist is a book about being present in the moment and living life how you want instead of trying to be perfect all the time. Trying to be perfect all the time can be mentally draining and is bad for your well-being. Living life how you want to live will be so much more rewarding than trying to be perfect. This is a good choice for women to read with all the responsibilities that fall on them. Sometimes it is hard to live in the moment and not think about the next big thing coming in life. It can be difficult to not be stressed over things in the future that cannot be controlled in the moment. This can be helpful in learning how to live in the present and let the future, stay in the future.
The second category will be self-love. A category than many women struggle with. The beauty myth: How Images of Beauty Are Used Against Women by Naomi Wolf. This book expresses the beauty myth of women that there is an obsession of physical perfection that traps the modern woman in an endless spiral of hope, self-consciousness, and self-hatred as she tries to fulfil society’s impossible definition of the flawless beauty. Women have such high standards set for them and they have no control over it. They are always seeing social media posts that make them compare themselves to someone that is completely different from them. This is very unhealthy, and this book can help guide and teach women how to love their body the way it is.
The last category is defining self-worth. Own your everyday by Jordan Lee Dooley dives into how to deal with disappointment, remove labels and escape from expectations, remove excuses and unnecessary stress about the uncertain future, and stop thinking that there is an exact path you must follow. This book can help you overcome shame, practice gratitude, and redefine success to fit your life. Women tend to pay a lot of attention to expectations that lead to more stress and anxiety. This book can help tackle this issue and allow one to live her life without always trying to please others and live for herself.
Books can be a great way to find motivation and encouragement from other women. There are a ton of books in different categories that can fit everyone’s lifestyle. Finding what fits best for you will open up a whole new world you may not have known about in literature.
By Abbie Lewis
As if this pandemic hasn’t caused enough trouble, women all around the world are once again being set back. An article in the New York Times discusses how women with children make up much of the unemployed people right now. Women make up 56% of the overall job loss due to COVID, even though, before the pandemic, they only made up 43% of the overall workforce. Experts theorize this is due to the already struggling stance of women in the workforce, as well as the overall societal expectation that women are still responsible for the care of the household and children. With daycares and schools closing or switching to all virtual, someone must stay home with the kids and in most cases, it’s the woman. With everything women have going against them in the world, this seems to just be another obstacle that will set us back.
I know what some of you are wondering: Are gender roles really still that relevant? The answer probably varies on who you ask, but the reality of the situation is, there is still a wage gap between men and women in the workforce, and there is still an expectation placed on women to be the caretaker of the home, which is why men have been slower to step down from their positions at work to help with child care during this pandemic. Why must it always be the woman who steps back in her career choices if it comes down to one parent in a heterosexual marriage needing to? It’s not just men being unreasonable, the answer is also entangled in some institutionalized issues. Such as, in America, it only becomes harder for a woman to get another job once they’ve become unemployed, even if it is because of a pandemic. A 2018 study found that even after 1 year of unemployment women stand to lose 39% of their wage. That is on top of the gap they already face by just being a woman when compared to their male counterparts. I guess it would make sense for the one who makes the most money to continue their job, and that is often the male, which is a whole other discussion relating to how women are still behind in society.
With this year being the 100th year anniversary since women were given the right to vote, you would think we’d be further in society than we are. While the pandemic was certainly a shocker that we didn’t think would ever happen, even without it, women fight daily for the chance to be held as high as men are, in society, but especially in the workforce. As a woman, it makes me want to fight harder than ever and do whatever I can to make a name for myself and all my fellow ladies everywhere. This pandemic is just another hurdle we must jump over, but let’s jump super high and show everyone what we’re capable of!