I grew up in the South, where sexism can be so aggressive it smacks you upside the head (or in other places), so naturalized it’s like the sun coming up in the morning. In the late ’80s and early ’90s, when I was coming into adulthood, open expressions of feminist ideas could earn you hostility that was often downright scary.
But reading feminist authors like Marilyn French and Betty Friedan when I was an undergraduate at the University of Georgia gave me a sense that the resistance I felt to the discrimination I saw around me was something to be nurtured rather than overcome. I learned that being a feminist in the South was tough — it meant you had to be quick, Protean, subversive, and you damn well better have a sense of humor, or you would not survive. It also gave me strength and pride to identify with a movement that could correct wrongs and rewrite a social script that didn’t fit me.
Hello BCIAW readers! I’m Skylar (thechargingsky.tumblr.com) - lover of all things feminist, Harry Potter and social justice related. I recently earned my degree in Gender and Women’s Studies with an emphasis on race and ethnicity, and am now working as a children’s counselor at a domestic violence shelter. A Los Angeles area native and constantly unpacking the borderlands (thank you, Gloria Anzaldua!) of my own racial identity, inclusion within feminism is so incredibly important to me and I’m thrilled to be a contributor for such an inclusive space!
As a socialist feminist, I enjoy writing critically about capitalism, neoliberalism and colonialism, as well as writing about pop culture and reproductive justice. I plan on eventually going back to grad school and continue the research I did for my senior thesis on racism within pornography!
Most importantly, my motto is “My feminism will be intersectional or it will be bullshit”
By: Ally B.
One of the most frequently asked questions we get here at Because I am a Woman are actually requests for homework help. Hey, I’ve been there myself. Maybe you’ve got a big assignment due and you just don’t know where to start, or you have a topic you want to explore but you’re unsure about how to approach the research.
Putting in the work can be difficult, especially when you’ve got two more seasons of Buffy to get to, (or is that just me). I totally get it, but before you hit “send” and direct that request for help to our inbox I’ve got some tips to help you get started on that assignment.
1. Narrow Down Your Topic: Many people go at their assignments with far too broad of a scope. Unless you were specifically assigned an essay taking a broad look at an issue, you likely want to narrow down your topic so you can come up with a strong and supportable thesis.
To do this, start with the general theme or topic you want to address. Then choose a more narrow topic within that larger theme. For example, if you are supposed to be writing about oppression, pick a kind of oppression to explore. This almost always provides a great way to apply whatever you are assigned to something you are interested in!
2. Research, Research, Research: Seriously, do your research. This is arguably the most important step to completing any assignment. You can’t hit your assignment ball out of the park without backing up that thesis we talked about earlier, and to do that you’re going to need to do some serious research. If you’re not sure exactly where to start, try looking at general resources that address your chosen topic and can help you set up the context for your essay. From there, look for more specific resources that address the main points you want your assignment to hit.
Not sure where to look? I’ve got some suggestions:
Google Scholar: This is basically my most trusted and favorite resource of all time. If you’re looking for academic sources, this Google Scholar is basically unparalleled. It will pull scholarly sources on whatever you need if you put in a fairly coherent search term. And the very best part? You can access the majority of the texts for free by looking at the multiple versions available— many of which include pdf versions of the text.
BCIAW’s Resources And Original Posts: If you’re asking us for help, chances are you’re looking for help dealing with a topic we frequently discuss. That means the first places you should start are our resources and original posts! We try to update these monthly, so chances are you’ll find something to help there. If not, try heading over to our main page and searching for a term related to your topic to bring up posts tagged with that term. We keep the very large majority of our posts, (yes even image posts) tagged so you can find them with ease.
Your Librarian: All hail the librarians, the keepers of resources and books and knowledge and other wonderful things. If you’ve got an assignment due, now is as good of a time as any to get to know your friendly school or town librarian. They can help direct you to applicable text sources that have that great book smell to them. They also know a thing or two about the digital databases your library can allow you to access. Just be sure to thank them when they open up all of those knowledge doors for you!
Once you’ve found a great text, don’t forget to give it a thorough read-over! Use the highlight function in pdf readers to emphasize important passages and quotes you want to use in your assignment, and try using the “add comment” functions to add in your own thoughts. If you’re reading a physical document or book, keep your notes separately — just be sure to keep track of everything you want to pull from once you actually start writing.
3. Outline Your Assignment Before You Start Writing. This isn’t how everybody writes, but if you’re having trouble organizing your thoughts I would highly recommend giving this a shot. Creating an outline can help you put some intention behind all of that research you did and give you a way to connect the dots before you hammer out the nitty-gritty details.
My personal method to outlining involves writing a quick paragraph or two that summarizes everything you intend to write in the larger assignment and hits all of your main points. From there, go back in and break that summary up into a traditional outline, adding in bullets with the information or sources you intend to use to back up those points you already wrote out. Another great way to add substance to your outline is to include any relevant quotes you came across in your earlier research. Give them their own bullet so you know which section they work best in!
4. Work It Out: Time to get writing! You probably already know the best way you write already, so I’m not going to get into too much detail here. If you get stuck, try not to get too frustrated. There are lots of apps out there that might be able to help, and you can always take some time for a bit of self-care, and then get back to work!
If all else fails, try free writing your essay for awhile. This usually means writing stream of consciousness without going back to edit and add-in your citations. Doing this is a great way to just get your thoughts out on paper (or the screen), and you’ll probably be surprised with the quality of what you come up with.
5. Edit, Then Edit Again: Once you’ve finished writing, you probably want to bail and turn on that episode of Buffy I was talking about earlier. Well, that is actually a great idea. Check-out of your writing and give yourself a break. Just don’t completely check-out. After you’ve taken some time for yourself, return to your writing with fresh eyes for a proper read-through and edit.
Nothing beats printing out your work and giving it the old once-over with a red pen, but at the very least thoroughly read through it and check for grammar, repetitiveness, and most importantly that you’ve made the points you’ve wanted to make and cited your sources appropriately.
If you don’t trust your own editing skills, have a trusted friend take a look at it for you. Having another set of eyes on your work can be intimidating, but I swear the product is almost always worth it!
By: Alexis M.
Allies are an important aspect of any community. Although men are directly affected by patriarchy as women are, men are also direct beneficiaries of this type of social order. To have male allies involved in the feminist community is extremely important because it shows solidarity within the feminist community and it puts a huge emphasis on male engagement in reversing and questioning the effects sexism has had on our society.
For clarity, an ally is an individual or group who join with other individuals/groups to achieve a common goal. For example, since the purpose of the feminist community is to combat sexism, male allies are people who join the feminist community to contribute to this goal as well.
It is so important to have allies in any community because it shows that this issues faced by that group are not just issues that that group as a singular entity needs to solve on its own. Rather, it’s a human rights issue which needs the help and support of other communities in order to resolve the current problems. Sexism is not just a women’s issue, transphobia is not just a trans issue, homophobia is not just the LGBTQ’s issue, racism is not just people of colour’s issue. They are all human rights issues which need to be addressed by all communities.
As someone who has a lot of male friends who identify as feminist or with feminist ideals here are a few tips on what they can do to be better allies.
Tip #1: Listen
To be an ally to a community is to be someone who is concerned with the treatment and issues that another group in society has. The best way to really understand issues in the feminist community is to be an active listener. Listen to the experiences of others and to the concerns they have, then take those concerns and experiences at face-value as legitimate.
You may feel the need to speak a lot in workshops, during group conversations and at meetings, and it’s great that you want to contribute to conversations about and with feminists, but be aware of how much time you are taking up. Your role as an ally is to help lift up the voices of others, but not to talk over them. Ask yourself: Are you dominating the conversation? Are you dictating it’s flow? Are you making it about yourself? Make sure you are aware of these things when you’re speaking in feminist spaces.
Tip #2: Self-Awareness
Speaking of awareness… self-awareness is key to becoming a better ally to the feminist community. This means being mindful of your presence, of the space you take up, of the way you speak and other things you may have not considered in your daily routine such as the privilege you have as a man.
Male privilege is essentially the ways in which men benefit in society over other groups based on their maleness. Examples of male privilege are not getting cat called while walking down the street, feeling generally safe walking home at night, being hired for a job because you are male even though you and other female applicants may have the exact same credentials, having your sex represented in multi-faceted ways in different forms of media, the chances of your personal mistakes/failure being attributed to your entire sex are slim… the list goes on and on.
The point of recognizing or checking your own privilege is to challenge the way you have interpreted the world and question ideas that reinforce gender norms. By checking your own privilege and realizing the advantages you have in social, political and economic spheres over other groups, you have already taken a big step forward in being an ally to the feminist community.
For more on how to identify your own privilege and call others out on theirs, don’t forget to check out our Feminist Dictionary entry on privilege.
Tip #3: Do Not Play Devil’s Advocate
As a philosophy major I can understand the appeal of playing devil’s advocate in hypothetical, philosophical situations/discussions, but when you’re dealing with the lived experiences of real people this is not okay.
If you’re coming into a feminist space to ruffle feathers, argue pointlessly and start a fight it is not the space for you.
Of course there are legitimate criticisms that can be discussed within a feminist community such as inclusivity, diversity, representation, etc. It’s great if you want to discuss those issues, but if you’re coming into a feminist space with the mentality that you need to prove someone wrong, then you really need to reconsider if you have sincere intentions for wanting to be more involved within the feminist community.
Tip #4: Get Active
A great way to get involved in the feminist community is to go to rallies, protests, workshops and events hosted by local feminist groups. Donate to a local women’s shelter and volunteer your time if you are able. Getting active is a great way to be a better ally because it shows that you want to be involved and want to learn more and do more for the community.
If you don’t have the time to be physically present at rallies or organizations that’s okay! There are plenty of amazing online communities that can help you get your start in feminist activism. Tumblr has a huge feminist community that was actually the first place which sparked my love of feminism. Consider creating a feminist tumblr or join a discussion forum on feminism. Everday Feminism has great online forums to help get you involved and connect you to other feminists!
Tip #5: Do Your Research
I cannot begin to count the amount of times that I have been used as a feminist encyclopedia for my male friends. I don’t mind being asked questions, but there comes a point where it becomes exhausting and irritating. Answering the same basic questions over and over again is not fun, and if you’re really interested in feminism then there is plenty of literature available at your disposal.
Do your own research, don’t make feminists explain why their oppression matters. Don’t make them prove to you that it is a legitimate concern. We don’t owe you that information. You owe it to yourself, however, to learn about these issues.
Tip #6: Call Others Out
If you see sexism being perpetuated by your friends or other people you know in your life, call them out on it. Explain to them that what they may be doing/saying is really harmful to women (i.e. catcalling, calling women inappropriate slurs, degrading women). Question their values and ideas, especially in spaces where women aren’t present.
For example, if one of your guy friends makes a joke about sexual harassment, rape, violence against women etc. tell them it isn’t funny. You don’t necessarily owe them an explanation as to why it isn’t funny but it couldn’t hurt to explain why exactly the jokes they are telling are problematic and harmful.
Being a feminist is a full time job and you can’t pick when to be one and when not to be. If you want to be a good ally, you need to be one in every space you are in.
Want to learn some more tips on becoming a better ally? Check out these articles:
Maybe you had hoped to find a job that allowed you to practice your feminism and social justice activism professionally, and it didn’t work out. Maybe your chosen field simply has nothing to do with your activism at all. Either is perfectly okay! You don’t have to work in the movement to be a feminist.
But just because your job isn’t feminist in scope doesn’t mean you can’t find ways to incorporate your social justice practices into the workplace. The best professional advice I’ve ever received was at a workshop on finding a job in the movement. One of the speakers on the panel immediately did away with the panel’s topic, telling the group that you do not need to work in the movement to have a feminist job. She told us that it is up to each of us to take the spaces we already occupy and transform them into something feminist. The speaker was right. You probably spend the majority of your waking hours at work, so why shouldn’t you transform it into the kind the kind of place you actually want to be in? We all deserve access to safe, supportive, and – yes – even feminist work spaces.