Because I am a Woman

This blog is about sex-positivity, sex-ed, feminism, reproductive justice, birth justice, intersectionality, and activism. Because I am a Woman features articles, news, opinion pieces, digital media, and original information posts on all of the topics and more.

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Posts tagged "Feminism"

By: Erin M.

If you have a WiFi connection, you’ve probably heard of #BanBossy.

In case you’ve been hiding under a rock or on a mountain retreat for the last few weeks, #BanBossy is a campaign created by Sheryl Sandberg (the woman behind Lean In) and the Girl Scouts, which seeks to stop the word bossy from our vocabulary when describing women and girls.

The premise is that girls who are in leadership positions or take on leadership roles, even something as informal as being a team captain of a soccer game, are often labeled ‘bossy’ by their peers and adults. With the word’s obvious negative connotations and extremely gendered tilt (when have you ever called a guy ‘bossy?’), girls are then discouraged from taking leadership positions for fear of having the label attached to them. This is a subtle and far-reaching form of sexism where women are systematically labeled and judged for being strong leaders; a double-standard that men don’t have to deal with.

So #BanBossy was born. They created a PSA featuring a host of celebrities such as Jane Lynch and Beyonce, and in the process created a lot of controversy. In the weeks since, hundreds of articles have been written weighing in on if the campaign. Everyone from Fox News to mainstream-feminist figures have spoken out on the popular hashtag.

Even bell hooks took to Twitter to speak out against #BanBossy, creating a counter campaign, #bebossyandproud. There was a massive positive response to it, as many people sought to reclaim the term, rather than ban it.

So, what is my take on the issue?

It’s complex. Although I don’t have one solidified position on #BanBossy, I do have quite a few thoughts about it.

I understand the sentiment behind the campaign and in many ways, I agree with it. I too was called bossy many, many times when I was young, and I always felt that I needed to step down and not be so vocal when the term was thrown my way. ‘Bossy’ is another tool used to keep women in their place and encourage us to not ruffle any feathers.

On the other hand, I do think it can be reclaimed. The word isn’t so tainted or negatively contextualized that taking it back is absurd. There is power in reclamation and it’s important to keep that in mind beyond #BanBossy with other terms that are used as tools of oppression.

There is also a lot of privileged rhetoric being spouted through this campaign. Stylite hit the nail on the head with their article on how #BanBossy doesn’t include the realities of women of color and is based in white and class privilege. This made me think about the differences around language and experience those women of varying colors face. Trying to homogenize all women’s experiences is problematic, and always has been, because our other privileges (or lack thereof) shape our worldviews and experiences of what it means to be a woman.

Does #BanBossy homogenize? I think so. Even though it includes women of color like Beyonce and Condoleezza Rice, it is most definitely white-washed and references realities that are more real for white women.

#BanBossy to me, isn’t good or bad. I try to avoid binary thinking in all contexts and this is no exception. It has its good points and its bad. While there are definite improvements that it could make, the intention and sentiment behind it is good. The fact that we have mainstream campaigns like this, that being a feminist is becoming more normalized, and that we have so many people being thoughtful about this represents progress.

I also think about the criticism that Sheryl Sandberg has received ever since the release of her book Lean In. She’s been called classist, an elitist, and many have said her message is only applicable to rich white women. This is true, but she has also made it very clear she was targeting a certain audience (rich white women in business) and was writing from her own experiences. She doesn’t claim to be a professional feminist. That’s not an excuse for her to exclude or erase, but it is important to understand the context the book was written in.

I also wonder if Sandberg would be receiving this much criticism if she was a man. I don’t think so. Everyone would be giving him kudos for simply caring about women and that would be the end of the story. How we view Sandburg is rooted in sexism in and of itself.

Even if you don’t agree with #BanBossy, the point of the campaign was to make a statement, a wide-reaching one, and in this sense it was definitely successful.

Whether or not you decide to #BanBossy, at the end of the day, we still have a patriarchy to smash!

What do you think of #BanBossy?

By: Alexis M.

NOTE TO READERS: No I did not miss the Beyonce craze when her self-titled album first dropped late last year! Instead of writing up a really quick  and general review about first impressions, feminism and Beyonce’s latest visual album, I really wanted to immerse myself in the material that she had been creating for so long and think about the content.

There have definitely been lots and lots of well deserved hype around Beyonce and her feminism, not to mention a lot of really great reviews of her self-titled album. However, in this review I really want to dig deeper into one particular song on her album which struck accord with me which I believe did not receive as much attention from the general community: “Grown Woman.”

If you seriously have not heard this song stop everything you are doing and go check it out right now. This song is my number one feminist jam. The reason why I love it so much and think it’s equivalent to a number of Beyonce’s more explicitly feminist anthems is because of the content of the lyrics and the visuals presented. It is multi-faceted and contains layers upon layers of solidarity, confidence, assurance, independence and most importantly; trying to achieve your dreams.

Since this is a visual album, it is only fitting that I paint a descriptive picture for you. The video starts with a clip from Beyonce’s childhood where her and Kelly Roland are singing a song. Once the actual song, “Grown Woman, begins the camera transitions to  present day Beyonce dressed up in a huge pink dress and tiara. Sounds amazing right? Well things really start to get exciting with the opening lyrics:

I remember being young and so brave, I knew what I needed. I was spending all my nights and laid back day dreaming. Look at me I’m a big girl now, said I’m gonna do something. Tell the world that I’ll paint this town. Now I betcha I run this.

I was lucky enough to be brought up in a household where the sky was the limit for my brother and I. My parents have been relatively accepting of what we want to do and seldom put any limitations on that. However, many of my friends (and even an ex or two,) haven’t been so lucky. I know friends in school right now in program’s they hate, studying things they don’t like. Why? More often than not I hear the same answer “it’s what my parents wanted.” 

Growing up, I think a lot of girls are discouraged from engaging in activities that their parents, teachers, peers and society at large don’t deem “acceptable” for their gender such as contact/extreme sports, leadership positions, technology based interests, alongside countless others. This hinders women from being future leaders, professional athletes, entering STEM fields and discovering their true passions and interests. 

If I was a young girl hearing this song for the first time it would definitely give me a much needed confidence boost and the assurance that I am doing the right thing. Hell, even as an adult this song gives me some much needed confidence. When you have so many different messages bombarding you every day with conflicting ideas of what you should be doing, it can seem like a constant battle to please everyone. This song gives me the drive to push on and keep doing what I’m doing.

Throughout the video, we see clips from Beyonce and Kelly’s childhood and performances they did and the transition from childhood, to adolescence, to adulthood. By the end, we see Beyonce with her mother, Tina Knowles, sitting coolly on a couch.

I believe this visual highlights the influence that feminism has had on multiple generations of women. The one’s who have paved the way for other women in male-dominated fields, the ones who are still fighting to enter these fields and the women who one day dream to be in these fields. The ending visual also provides a multi-faceted view of feminism, as we see Beyonce sitting on a bed with 3 children, recognizing that success comes on various levels.

I think the message trying to be sent with this video in its entirety is that you can be successful in numerous ways. Being a mother and a caregiver is just as valuable as being a CEO (and vice versa),  and doing what you want is the most valuable thing you can do.

More importantly, doing what you want does not mean others can’t share in your success as well! Having Kelly Rowland in the video sends a great message to women and girls everywhere: you don’t need to discredit or disenfranchise other women to reach your goals.

The solidarity, boldness, and the overall catchiness of the song is what makes this my feminist anthem. Music is such an influential medium that floods our everyday lives, and I believe a song like this has been long overdue for women of all ages.

So when your parents discourage you from getting your motorcycle license, or when a fellow peer is skeptical in your ability to do extensive coding, or you just feel like the world is against you just remember this: You’re a grown woman and you can do whatever you want.

Want to hear more thoughts on Beyonce’s latest album? Be sure to check out this great podcast on the subject:

Hyphenated* Episode 5: Beyonce’s Feminsim and New Album

For me, feminism is a question: what truths are missing here? The feminist thinker and organizer should always be asking this question. What are we missing? Who are we excluding? How is our analysis true, but still limited by missing truths? For me this means feminism creates a posture of intellectual humility and a willingness to question ourselves as much as we question systems of oppression. I am always distraught to encounter feminists who are utterly sure of themselves and never willing to admit to their own need to grow, expand and change. That strikes me as inherently anti-feminist.

By: Erin M. 

It is no secret that sex education is severely lacking in most of our schools. Since parents often don’t know how to address the topic with their children, or don’t think the information is important for them to know (presumably because they don’t want their children to be having sex,) many kids end up not getting the vital information that they need. The result is that we live in a society where people are severely undereducated about sexuality and sexual health.

Although this post won’t be tackling the issues around sex education, we will be talking about some rather surprising information that you may not know about sexuality, that can change your sex life for the better!

Fact: 1 in 4 teenagers will contract an STI Each Year

Most people think that getting an STI could never possibly happen to them and you’re only truly at risk if you are promiscuous, which is far from true. In truth, 1 in 4 teens will contract an STI each year. You can contract an STI each and every time you have unprotected sex.

That’s why it’s important to practice safer sex. Using condoms, dental dams, or other barrier methods with each new partner is probably the best way to practice this. Really, the only time it is safe not to use a condom or dental dam is if you and your partner have each been tested, discussed it, and have not slept with anyone else since.

Also, communication is key! Talk to your partner- ask them if and when they’ve been tested and consider going to get tested together. Be honest about your status. Having had or having an STI is not something to be ashamed of.

Fact: 40% of women become pregnant before age 20
Teenage pregnancy is a lot more common than you think. This should illustrate why having access to reproductive health services is so important, both in preventing pregnancy and in terminating it.

Now, as you can probably assume, 40% of teenagers don’t want to have a child. Unintended pregnancy is, too often, the result of a lack of sex education. Teens aren’t learning about how to use or obtain contraception, they aren’t being taught about how to practice safer sex, nor are they learning about what can cause pregnancy (for example, there can be sperm in precum, meaning that any penis/vagina contact can put you at risk).

This fact alone is why we need access to comprehensive sex education.

Fact: You CAN still get pregnant on the pill
No form of contraception is fool-proof; if you’re having penetrative sex involving a penis and vagina, there is always a risk of pregnancy.

The birth control pill is one of the most popular methods of contraception out there, and there are two main types that can be used: progesterone only and combination (that use a combination of hormones) pills. If your pills are progesterone only, you must take it at the same time every day for it to be effective.

If you take the pill correctly, as directed by your doctor everyday, you will have less than 1% chance of getting pregnant. If you don’t always take it or take it correctly, the chances are more like 9%.

No one is perfect, so it is unlikely that you’ll take your birth control each and every day without fault. 

If you are using the pill and worried about pregnancy, consider using a backup method of contraception along with it. Since the pill is hormonal, you may want to use a barrier method, something like a condom or try pulling out.

If it turns out that the birth control pill is not the best method for you, there are plenty of other options out there. The most important thing to remember is to have conversations with your medical provider about what methods will be best for you, your body, and your lifestyle. 

Fact: Pulling Out Can Be An Effective Method of Contraception

Although you’ve probably heard that pulling out is not an effective way to prevent unwanted pregnancy, if executed properly, it can be a very effective method to use. Plus, it is free!

If you use it correctly each and every time, you have a 4% of getting pregnant within one year, meaning that it is 96% effective.

It’s those that don’t do it correctly that you always hear about- they have a 27% chance of getting pregnant within one year, making the pull out method only 73% effective.

The key for doing it correctly is communication! You and our partner have to really know your body and have an immense amount of self-control.

Check out this video to learn more about how to use this method if you’re interested.

Do you know of any other surprising facts about sex that were not included here? Reply or reblog this post and let us know! We will check-out everything included and add it in to our next post on the topic.

Feminist Art Friday Feature: Wangechi Mutu

Kenyan artist Wangechi Mutu uses her work to explore race, politics, and gender through a variety of mediums such as video, sculpture, and collage. Born in Nairobi, Kenya, Mutu moved to the United States for college in the 1990s. She went on to earn an MFA in sculpture from Yale. Matu now lives and works in Brooklyn, where her work was recently on display in a major exhibition at the Brooklyn Museum. 

According to the Brooklyn Museum:

Mutu scrutinizes globalization by combining found materials, magazine cutouts, sculpture, and painted imagery. Sampling such diverse sources as African traditions, international politics, the fashion industry, pornography, and science fiction, her work explores gender, race, war, colonialism, global consumption, and the exoticization of the black female body. Mutu is best known for spectacular and provocative collages depicting female figures—part human, animal, plant, and machine—in fantastical landscapes that are simultaneously unnerving and alluring, defying easy categorization and identification. Bringing her interconnected ecosystems to life for this exhibition through sculptural installations and videos, Mutu encourages audiences to consider these mythical worlds as places for cultural, psychological, and socio-political exploration and transformation.

To learn more about the artist and their work, try the following resources: