Intersectional Feminism: Because Feminism Is For Everyone

(The above image is from this article, which I also recommend reading, though I disagree with the idea of rejecting a widespread movement and ideal because some people in it are detrimental to the cause or simply don’t seem to grasp what the cause is about)

Feminism is great. It’s about opposition to the social and cultural forces that cause so much injustice in our world. Pernicious patriarchal societal forces tell people what they should and should not be, how they should behave, and how they should interact and regard one another, with many roles determined purely by the biological sex of the individual.

In other words, some things are for men and some things are for women, and in 99.99% of those instances, these socially prescribed gender roles favor men. Men getting paid more and having more power, with the lives of women revolving around men.

That’s patriarchy. It’s absolutely gross. It’s not a conspiracy by a cabal of bearded old men who sit around contemplating whom and how to oppress in order to keep themselves in power. For the most part, the presence of the patriarchy in the modern world is just the product of thousands of years of human stupidity. And a lot of tradition is involved.

And there’s a lot to it. This cultural force has an awful lot to do with men controlling families and, specifically, controlling their wives and daughters (and children in general being regarded as property). The modern and very real effects of patriarchy range from slut-shaming to street harassment to the many layers of rape culture to the proportions of men and women being much less than representative in most professions. It impacts how people are expected (and even allowed) to dress. It impacts what classes students are encouraged to take in school or what arts they may feel open to pursuing.

What the patriarchy does best of all is probably double-standards.

It’s wonderful that feminism exists to, essentially, be the solution that dissolves the patriarchy. All joking aside, feminism is not about women being better than men, or about women taking over the world and ruling it. Though the jokes are quite entertaining.

Like I said, entertaining.

Here’s the thing—for the majority of the Twentieth Century, study in the West of feminism (and, particularly, feminist movements) had to do with Western women. It had to do with white women. It had to do with straight women. And it had to do with cisgender women. Which is all great, if you’re a Western white straight woman whose female gender identity and expression happen to match up with female sex organs.

Not so great for, um, everyone else. In particular, women who are not white. If you point out that Third Wave feminism is noted for expanding the scope of the feminist movement to include Women of Color, LGBT women, and women from different social and economic backgrounds, then you’re right. But you should also consider that viewing feminism and the history of feminism from that perspective means that you are basically viewing feminism from a white/straight/cis perspective.

Unfortunately, as with a lot of LGBT Rights issues, sometimes a lot of important issues get overlooked when it comes to feminism—essentially, people who are campaigning for human rights and for social justice kind of forget to be inclusive. Sometimes, it’s a calculated PR campaign targeting an audience that may have a racial bias. And sometimes it’s an oversight.

If your feminism is not intersectional—if your idea of feminism does not consider and include people who are different from you—then you are not doing it right. I do not only say this because the demographic of “women” includes women of so many religions, ethnicities, nationalities, sexualities, body-types, and economic levels (though that should be reason enough). I say this because the patriarchal ideas of ownership and the ongoing fight for women to be recognized as peers and equals is very relevant to matters of racial equality and LGBT issues.

Unfortunately, while some people may not consciously view them as separate issues, some white feminists can neglect to include . . . well, everyone else . . . in their feminist promotions.

This article, regarding a topic on Twitter (#SolidarityIsForWhiteWomen), is really on-point (though it mostly just contains images of select tweets and a few editorial images).

Sometimes, you will see a promotional image or an image for an article about feminism discussing how feminists come from many different walks of life. The message loses some of its meaning when the image is of a bunch of white girls.

Sometimes, well-meaning feminists see religious garb worn by some women as oppressive. May the religion that gives a reason for a head-covering (I’m not speaking exclusively of Islam, here) be patriarchal in its origin and in many of its values? Absolutely. But being a feminist does not mean that you may not cover your hair, or your entire body—in fact, being a feminist does not need to impact any aspect of your appearance or what you do with your body, except that you should do it for you. A law requiring women to cover their heads? That is unjust. A woman wearing her own head-covering of her own volition, for any reason, is not a woman in need of rescuing.

Also, most uncomfortably of all, there is the White Savior idea. It’s the idea of a white person coming to the rescue of an oppressed racial minority. It’s a bizarre masturbatory, self-congratulatory aspect of white storytelling and it produces films like The Blind Side or The Help. You know, movies in which the message is “thank goodness that these black Americans had white ladies to fix their problems!”

Like I said: uncomfortable. It’s a problematic (and offensive) message.

Feminists should know better than most to be conscious of the privileges that they enjoy in society but others do not. That applies to straight feminists, cis feminists, wealthy feminists, and it certainly applies to white feminists.

Feminism is not just for any one group. Feminism wants to make the world a better place for everyone.

Feminism is for everyone.

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North Carolina Is Going To Get Better

Okay, it would be super awesome if my state would stop making the national news.

Like, if it’s for a hurricane, that’s one thing. That happens. North Carolina gets hurricanes, sometimes just along the coast, and sometimes fairly inland. That’s part of life.

Most of the time, no one gets hurt for that. The same cannot be said for the recent absolutely out of their mind actions of our state’s legislature.

Not only are so many people hurt by their legislation—teachers and students and women and families, in particular (I am not going to go into too many specifics but feel free to look them up and be horrified), but it fills hundreds of thousands of North Carolinians with a kind of dread and shame.

I don’t actually want to move out of this state. Okay, I’d love to live in or near Seattle, Washington, because my understanding is that Seattle has perfect weather and seems like a wonderful place to live for many reasons. But I really just want to live in NC (Asheville, specifically, though I’m not there just yet). I want to stay here and fight to make things better.

Have you heard of Moral Mondays? They’re protests against the ridiculous and, yes, immoral actions of our legislature during their most recent session (which finally came to an end). Protests held by people who don’t think that teachers should be stripped of their tenure. People who don’t think that anti-Sharia laws make that much sense. People who believe that women have the right to reproductive autonomy. People who believe in fair and open access to voting.

After a huge influx of ultra-conservative campaign funding here in NC from, basically, a sort of Koch Brother Junior, we have a Republican Governor for the first time in . . . well, in my memory, certainly. Pat McCrory included, as a campaign promise, that he was not going to sign any anti-choice legislation into law.

He broke that promise. I know—shocking to everyone.

We had an anti-Sharia bill that had anti-abortion measures added to it. There was a motorcycle safety bill that also had anti-abortion measures added to it. Both are ridiculous to the point of being farcical. But it’s not funny.

Remember the Stand With Wendy story? Well, that bill still ended up being passed in Texas. And, here in NC, we’ve been stuck with similar anti-choice restrictions. It’s so ridiculous that The Daily Show talked about it. There’s nothing quite like watching John Oliver talk about your state to make you really incredibly uncomfortable.

Here’s the thing—NC went back to “red” on the national map during the 2012 election (we were blue in 2008). We’re divided about a number of things. But the majority of North Carolinians are opposed to a lot of what’s going on. I don’t just mean almost everyone whom I know, or almost everyone who lives near me. I mean more than half of people who live in my state.

That means that there are Republicans who are unhappy with the extremes to which their representatives are going. And Republicans who are unhappy Governor McCrory for going along with it. They don’t like the bills and, consequently, they do not like the politicians who are putting them forward.

Governor McCrory’s approval rating has dropped this summer as a result.

I’m kind of glad about this. That sounds weird, and pretty heartless, because so many people are being hurt by this legislation. But you know how sometimes, people think that they want something until it actually happens? I think that that’s what’s happening, right now, to parts of my state. I think that there are hundreds of thousands of voters who wanted conservatives in office who are realizing that this is not really what they wanted.

And I think that we’re going to see some different election results in the future. And that things are going to get better.

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What Happened To Dexter (And Other Shopping Horrors)

I’m uncertain as to how to properly trigger warn the story to which I refer in this post. Aggressive anti-gay sentiment and action on the part of a burly stranger against a toddler, and it could be so much worse but there is a hint of violence. I’m glad that I read it but I am seething and also going to take a clonazepam and fantasize about justified homicide for a bit. Sorry—I don’t like chocolate, so that’s how I make myself feel better.

I read this story, by Katie Vyktoriah. It is well-written, and describes her wonderful son, Dexter, and a frightening and haunting outing that they took just a few days ago.

I’m not going to go through the story itself because it is a good idea if you read it. There are wretched people in this world.

This story could be a lot worse. Most upsetting stores-and-children anecdotes involve a parent abusing a child or a situation in which the parent is clearly abusive. Those are the stories that reinforce the suspicions that plague me at all times. Those are the stories that keep me up at night because that child, and millions like him or her, are trapped in homes like that, in legal systems too restrained by the democratic process and sickening cowardice to do anything about it—or allow anyone to do anything about it.

I’ll be honest, one of the many reasons for which I hate going to stores such as grocery stores during the daylight is that there are children there. I don’t dislike children—I’m good with kids and I’ve worked with children. But I always suspect parents of being bad parents—and, specifically, abusive—until proven otherwise. Every time that I see a child with a parent, I’m (usually subconsciously) looking for sharp looks or frightened expressions that might be clues that domestic violence is a part of their life. It’s not like on television, where victims of domestic abuse have inexplicably broken arms and black eyes and have fathers who look like drill sergeants. For every scenario like that, there are countless more situations of domestic abuse in which marks are rarely, if ever, left on the victim. Monsters who rule their homes through terror and violence.

And I am never surprised by them. Ever.

Do you watch Game Of Thrones? During the tense moments when Sansa is at Joffrey’s mercy, do you find yourself tensing up, holding your breath, waiting for what cruel thing he will say or what capricious act of violence he will order?

I do, too. But I feel like that many, many other times.

That level of apprehension is how I feel when a parent whom I do not yet trust is interacting with a child. Always. I become incredibly anxious, to the point where I’ll avoid watching a television show. And to the point where that is one of the reasons for which I am more comfortable doing my grocery shopping as close to midnight as I can manage (though there are endless benefits to this).

When I have friends whose parents I know were never violent, that’s great. It’s a relief.

And then I have friends who had violent parents. And I know that there are millions more out there, as confirmed by surveys and common sense. In many of these cases, the abuse goes unnoticed or unreported. In so many others, people are uncertain if it was even a crime.

Most articles about child-abuse will get someone or another defending the abuser or the abuse itself, excuses ranging from “well she’d had a long day” or “that child needed discipline.” There are people out there who are willing to give a voice to defend this horrifying evil that has been a reality for billions of humans—likely for as long as humans have existed.

I know that not every child whom I see experiences some form of violence at home. There’s a chance that as many of half do not. I am well-aware that both my natural tendency to consider various possibilities and my PTSD are tremendous factors in how I experience the world. That does not make child-abuse any less evil, or any less a nightmarishly widespread part of reality.

I can honestly say that that story really struck a chord with me, because I am so accustomed to suspecting wrongdoing on the part of the parents (and so often that suspicion is reinforced by confirmation), one usually thinks of strangers as a threat for child-abduction.

I am pleased that Dexter has a mother who (from what I gather) is a good mother. She certainly acted appropriately in the situation that she describes in the article. Calling the police is something that I strongly recommend—if he could be identified from the security tapes at the store, he could at the very least have his life turned upside down for a while. He could be identified by the press. Most importantly, if that wretched creature has children of his own, charges of assault on a random toddler in a store should most certainly trigger an investigation.

Tragically, current US law will not allow for this man to be fed to sharks (even though Shark Week is only a few days away). But the toddler in question, Dexter, is not trapped at home with this man. Dexter’s story is distressing, but will not haunt my thoughts like so many other stories do.

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Fictional Portrayals Of Sexual Assault

Well YOU find a better image to go with this headline that’s neither upsetting nor NSFW.

I don’t exactly keep it a secret that I am an enthusiastic fan of strong female characters. Whether they’re high-powered businesswomen, vampires, mothers, superheroes, sorceresses, or commanding armadas of interstellar warships, I love these characters. I love identifying with them (the vast majority of my favorite fictional characters tend to be women) and watching their stories unfold.

Unfortunately, part of the grim reality of our world is sexual assault. It happens and, unfortunately, not everyone who commits sexual assault is immediately fed to sharks and/or set on fire (if I were running for office, changing that would be one of my campaign platforms, though).

Sometimes, to create drama, to help readers or viewers to sympathize with one character (or to detest another), or as a part of character development, storytellers will put a sexual assault (successful or otherwise) into a story. A character’s backstory may involve being a survivor of sexual assault, or having witnessed it (especially happening to a family member). Or, a sexual assault may happen during the course of a story.

There can be very good reasons for having this as an element of your plot—I understand that. But I think that it is completely valid and usually preferable to have a female character be in physical danger that is not inherently sexual.

There are a few rules that I would like for everyone to please, please follow if this happens in a story (whether it’s a book, a show, a film, a video game):

1) Sexual assault is not sexy. It should not be sexy. It should not be titillating in the least. No one, including a preteen for whom anything related to sex is potentially exciting, who follows your story should find anything about the scenario appealing.

2) Why is the sexual assault happening? I mean this from the perspective of character-driven storytelling (why does this person want to rape this other person?), but I also want to know how and why this serves the story. If it’s purpose is to provide motivation for a male character to rescue and/or avenge the female character, then please stop being an ass and maybe stop writing. That may sound like I am overreacting, but that kind of story in which female characters lack agency and seem to exist only to provide various types of motivations and goals for male characters is not only overdone—it is toxic.

3) I hate to even mention this one, but it needs to be mentioned—please look at what sorts of people are involved. If you are having, for example, a black man sexually assault a white woman (literally or symbolically—though the use of certain alien species or fantasy races to represent different human ethnicities is a rant for another day), you probably should not. That kind of scenario obtains a gut reaction from certain readers or viewers because it plays into some disgusting racist beliefs and fears.

Beyond those three rules, there are a few things to consider when you wonder if you should write that into your story:

1) It is almost inevitable that sexual assault survivors will be exposed to this story. If this is going to be a widely-consumed work (like a major motion picture), millions of survivors will be exposed to it. Trigger warnings exist online for a reason. Do you really want to do that to your readers? Even if you include the event in your story, there are ways of including a rape in a story that will be easier on certain readers.

2) Is this going to change the way that viewers see the character who is sexually assaulted? I do not mean readers or viewers who will victim-blame or see the survivor as “dirty;” those people can go jump into a volcano. But will readers, viewers, and even other characters see this character in a new way, possibly wanting to baby her, or seeing her as less powerful because they have also seen her in such a vulnerable state? Is that really something that you want?

It is important to note, however, that a storyteller who has a sexual assault, even one that is not handled as well as I would like for it to be, is not necessarily a bad person. At all, even.

In fact, have you guys seen Hansel And Gretel: Witch-Hunters? It’s not the best film in the world, but it’s a thrilling and goofy film with a lot of easy gore (some films are gore films and undesirable, but I did not once cringe or wince at the blood and guts in this film—it was pretty fun).

There’s an unsuccessful sexual assault during the film. It was completely unnecessary and decreased my enjoyment of the film.

But it was not a remotely titillating scene. It’s a really upsetting and violent one.

However, and I won’t spoil who or how, but the way that the sexual assault is interrupted is the best. And I honestly think that that was a big part of why the scene was written into the screenplay. Because we get to see a bunch of rapists get beaten up and killed in various ways, including one whose head just gets crushed.

That I could watch all day long.

And a lot of writers will put people who commit horrible acts into stories with the intention of destroying those people within the story. Sometimes it’s a little unsophisticated and juvenile, but unlike a rape depiction, a scene of revenge against a rapist is always a treat to read or watch.

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