TALKING ABOUT FEMINISM IN 2018
A popular topic in 2018 is gender inequality and sexism, with its own vocabulary and jargon. If you wish to express yourself accurately and participate in debates, then here is some valuable language input as well as cultural references you may find useful.
To introduce the topic, here´s a speech from British actress Emma Watson, where she addresses the United Nations and advocates for gender equality : “For the record, feminism by definition is the belief that men and women should have equal rights and opportunities."
So why has feminism become such an unpopular word? Why are women labelled as anti-man and unattractive for identifying as feminists? Does sexism affect men too? Emma makes some very good observations and highlights the fact that men´s lives are also impoverished by the imposition of gender constricted roles on them.
Emma delivered her speech a few years back, in 2014. Her HeForShe platform is still going strong these days, empowering young people to lead the change, galvanising as many men and boys as possible to be advocates for gender equality.
I love the positivity of Emma´s approach to this issue and how she includes men in the conversation. More recently we have had some dismal testimonies of celebrity women sharing their experiences of being sexually abused in the entertainment business. These testimonies have exposed a darker side of Hollywood and resulted in 2 social movements:
#MeToo spread virally in October 2017 as a hashtag used on social media to help demonstrate the widespread prevalence of sexual assault and harassment, especially in the workplace. Women from all continents have joined the movement sharing their own stories and demanding changes. In Japan where victim-blaming is the norm, women have founded the WeToo movement.
Time´s Up was founded on January 1, 2018, by Hollywood celebrities, actors, agents, writers, directors, producers and entertainment executives – in a coordinated effort to counter systemic sexual harassment in the entertainment business and US workplaces. It addresses the systemic inequality and injustice in the workplace that have kept underrepresented groups from reaching their full potential.
These are some of the celebrities who have spoken up about sexual discrimination, harassment and abuse: Jennifer Lawrence, Jennifer Aniston, Nicole Kidman, Reese Witherspoon, Michelle Williams, Meryl Streep, Alyssa Milano, Ashley Judd, Rose McGowan, Oprah Winfrey, Angelina Jolie, Gwyneth Paltrow and Taylor Swift, among many others.
Sexism refers to the prejudice or discrimination of somebody because of their sex. This system of beliefs can be conscious or unconscious. In sexism, as in racism, the differences between two (or more) groups are viewed as indications that one group is superior or inferior. Sexist discrimination against girls and women is a means of maintaining male domination and power. The oppression or discrimination can be economic, political, social, or cultural. Anne Pauwels (1998) examines how sexism works in language in her book Women Changing Language.
Feminism is a collection of movements and ideologies aimed at defining, establishing, and defending a state of equal political, economic, cultural, and social rights for women. This includes seeking to establish equal opportunities for women in education and employment. A feminist advocates or supports the rights and equality of women.
Toxic Masculinity: Adherence to traditional male gender roles that restrict the kinds of emotions allowable for boys and men to express, including social expectations that men seek to be dominant (the "alpha male") and limit their emotional range primarily to expressions of anger. Behaviours associated with toxic masculinity are also :domination, humiliation, control, emotional detachment and competitiveness.
Hostile sexism: The one most people think about. Openly insulting, objectifying and degrading women.
Benevolent sexism: Less obvious. Kind of seems like a compliment, even though it's rooted in men's feelings of superiority. It's when men say women are worthy of their protection (off the sinking boat first) or that they're more nurturing than men (therefore should raise children). It's restrictive.
Internalized sexism: When the belief in women's inferiority becomes part of one's own worldview and self-concept.
Catcall : make unwanted, inappropriate, suggestive comments.
Cisgender: A term used to describe a person whose gender identity aligns with the sex assigned to them at birth.
Gender fluidity: Not identifying with a single, fixed gender
Glass ceiling: a metaphor used to represent an invisible barrier that keeps a given demographic (typically applied to women and minorities) from rising beyond a certain level in a hierarchy. The metaphor was first coined by feminists in reference to barriers in the careers of high-achieving women. Minority women often find the most difficulty in "breaking the glass ceiling" because they lie at the intersection of two historically marginalized groups: women and people of color.
Gender roles: stereotypical jobs/responsibilities.
Grope somebody: to grab someone in a sexual place, often unsolicited .
Harassment: illegal behaviour towards a person that causes mental or emotional suffering, which includes repeated unwanted contacts without a reasonable purpose, insults, threats, touching, or offensive language.
Intersectionality: A theory that discusses how different forms of oppression, domination, and discrimination, such as homophobia, sexism, and racism interact with each other and how they affect people. This theory accounts for how various oppressions are experienced differently by different people. Intersectionality shows how oppressions are more complicated than a 1+1 equation.
Leer at somebody : to look at someone in an obviously sexual way.
LGBTQ: The acronym for “lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer.” Some people also use the Q to stand for "questioning," meaning people who are figuring out their sexual or gender identity. You may also see LGBTQIA. I stands for intersex and A for asexual/aromantic/agender.
Male gaze: A way of looking at the world through a masculine lens that views women as sexual objects.
Mansplain: when a man explains something to a woman in a condescending, overconfident way.
Manspreading: the practice whereby a man, especially one travelling on public transport, adopts a sitting position with his legs wide apart, in such a way as to encroach on an adjacent seat or seats.
Misogyny: Hatred of women.
Misandry: Hatred of men.
Misogynoir: Misogyny directed toward black women.
Non-binary: An umbrella term for people who don't identify as female/male or woman/man.
Patriarchy: A hierarchical-structured society in which men hold more power.
Privilege: The idea that some people in society are advantaged over others.
SWERF: Stands for "sex worker exclusionary radical feminists," referring to feminists who say prostitution oppresses women.
Talk over somebody: to talk loudly at the same time as someone else.
Talk down to somebody: to talk to somebody in a condescending way.
Transgender: A person whose gender identity differs from the cultural expectations of the sex they were assigned at birth.
Transphobia: Prejudice toward trans people.
Transmisogyny: A blend of transphobia and misogyny, which manifests as discrimination against "trans women and trans and gender non-conforming people on the feminine end of the gender spectrum."
Trigger: Something that forces you to relive a trauma.
Trigger warning: A statement that someone is about to experience challenging material that could potentially be disturbing (graphic, racially-insensitive, sexually explicit, etc.). The practice is controversial on college campuses.Yes means yes: A paradigm shift in the way we look at rape, moving beyond "no means no" toward the idea that consent must be explicit.
Victim-blaming: When the victim of a crime or harmful act is held fully or partially responsible for it. If you hear someone questioning what a victim could have done to prevent a crime, that's victim-blaming, and it makes it harder for people to come forward and report abuse. Groups working to eradicate abuse and sexual assault are clear: No woman is guilty for violence committed by a man.
Wolf-whistle at somebody: whistle in a suggestive way.
Women of colour: Women who aren't white.
10 FEMINISTS YOU NEED TO KNOW
Chimamanda Ngozi is a Nigerian writer of novels, short stories, and nonfiction. Download her essay We Should All Be Feminists (2014) in pdf here, or watch her TED talk here:
Naomi Wolfe - download her book "The Beauty Myth" here (free pdf)
Hélène Cixous - download her article "The Laugh of the Medusa" here (free pdf)
Simone De Beauvoir - download her iconic book "The Second Sex" (free pdf)
Germaine Greer - download her first book "The Female Eunuch" (free pdf)
Bell Hooks - read "All About Love: New Visions"
Doris Lessing - listen to an adaptation of "The Grass is Singing" by the BBC
Malala Yousafzai - watch her when she received the Nobel Peace Prize in 2014
Gloria Steinem - watch her explain why you should be a feminist
Roxane Gay - watch her TED Talk " Confessions of a Bad Feminist"
Men, I want to emphasize the fact that you are very much also included in this conversation, that gender inequality affects you too. Here´s actor Justin Baldoni explaining how his own vision of masculinity has evolved through the years.
MY OWN FEMINIST HEROES
To me, personally, Madonna, has been a source of inspiration since I was a child. I looked up to her as a role model growing up in a village where girls were educated to be housewives and caregivers. I was mocked for having any kind of professional ambition. Later in life, working in the music industry in London I have witnessed the appalling treatment that Madonna, the queen of pop, has received from male executives. It came as a true shock to see Madonna bullied and attacked for being a woman who defies female stereotypes associated with age. But she is a true star on a different league. Watch her at the Billboard awards, where she gives a very candid account of her life as a woman , which truly speaks to my heart.
I thank you Madonna for inspiring me through all my life, when I was 15, and still even today. You have liberated so many women! Watching that video I can see you overcame a lot of pain yet you fought to achieve your dreams against stereotypes and a misogynist culture. When I grow up, I still want to be like you. I also look up to singers Sheryl Crow and Tina Turner.
Now I ask you dear readers, to share with us who is your female or male role model, celebrity or not. Maybe is your mum or your dad. Do tell us who inspires you to be the best you can be and break all those invisible glass ceilings.