Last week, I published the first part of a feminist glossary because an understanding of feminist terminology is vital to addressing our cultural issues with sex and gender. I began with basic terminology; although some of the concepts in this week’s installment are also relatively basic (such as ally and slut shaming), I’ve also included some more advanced terms here, the kind that you only bandy about after you’ve been immersed in feminism for a while. I’m sure I’ll think of some more terms tomorrow, and the next day—feel free to add your own in the comments!
We are in dire need of a feminist glossary: we should print one up on a flyer or brochure and post hundreds of copies in doctor’s offices, on subways, outside of movie theaters. Why? Because feminist terminology deals with the nitty-gritty of our everyday lives: it is the language that explains why a woman is fired for being too attractive (or not attractive enough), why Miley Cyrus uses black women as props in her performances, and why a teenage boy learns to discuss how to “get some” with his friends but is hesitant to mention his broken heart to anyone. Feminist concerns are at the core of every discussion about sex and gender, from national debates about working mothers to videotaped rapes posted on Facebook, from who can get married to who can access reproductive care to how to help a child have strong self-esteem.
Recently, a company named AR Wear made big headlines with a campaign to fund “anti-rape underwear.” The underwear are supposed to protect women from rape by being extremely difficult to remove. While the makers of the underwear had good intentions, their ideas about rape—and rape prevention—are all wrong. (For a wonderful, detailed explanation of how these underwear actually enforce rape culture, see this article by Tara Culp-Ressler.) In response to the AR Wear campaign, Impact Bay Area and Impact Personal Safety of Southern California (nonprofit organizations that teach self-defense classes) have come up with a fabulous campaign of their own: Go Commando. Don’t you love that name? And the tagline is just as awesome: Effective Self-Defense Training, Not Fear and Fig Leaves.
I’ve had the privilege to become involved with the Social Network Show: a groundbreaking radio show and online forum about best practices in social networking, including safety for girls and women. This is truly an amazing show—I have already learned so much in the few weeks I have been listening to it. The show’s guests are knowledgeable and fun to listen to, and I guarantee you will gain valuable wisdom about interacting safely online: how cyberbullies operate, what protections do and don’t currently exist in social networks, and what we need to do to move forward. This, my friends, is the new frontier—and the Social Network Show is on the cutting edge of it.
When you go to the Planned Parenthood website and explore their materials on pregnancy, you are presented with three choices: abortion, adoption, or parenthood. This way of presenting information makes perfect sense, as these are the three choices that a newly-pregnant woman faces. And yet adoption is not a word that comes up often in our national conversation. We’ve gotten ourselves so polarized around two of a woman’s choices when she becomes pregnant that we don’t usually mention the third. Sure, it’s understood that if we aren’t going to allow a woman to choose abortion and she really can’t or doesn’t want to be a mom, she could put the kid up for adoption. But how does that work? Who chooses it, and why?