Recently, SELF magazine shamed Monika Allen, a cancer survivor, for running an LA marathon while wearing a tutu. Oh, the editors weren’t aware that Monika is a cancer survivor, or that she made the tutu herself, one of many she makes for her company Glam Runners, which donates proceeds to Girls on the Run. The editors didn’t know any of that because they didn’t ask her about herself or the tutu—they just asked for permission to use her picture, which they ran in a segment called “The BS Meter” with a caption about a “tutu epidemic.” Hmmm… a segment called The BS Meter? Sounds more like fare for a tabloid than a magazine about healthy women. But that shouldn’t be too shocking–women’s fitness magazines aren’t really about supporting healthy women. They’re about supporting our cultural “beauty” standards, under the guise of “fitness.” Which means shaming women for our bodies and choices is fair game—in fact, it is the game.
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.