by Amanda Feder
At 24, I found myself faced with a strange and alienating reality, particularly after having just finished the cliché college experience: I found myself having to put effort into finding a date. And then soon after, I found myself making a film about it.
Of course, the short I made, “Sex on Wheels”, is actually about a lot more than that. The film was meant to be a portrait of the bike community in Toronto, as seen through the eyes of an outsider (at 24, I didn’t know how to ride a bike). A running joke I had at the time was how not knowing to ride my bike was killing my dating life, and a series of random/wonderful events turned that idea into a film project.
I’ll spare you the semi-pretentious director’s statement that perhaps no filmmaker can avoid, highlighting all the themes and hidden messages and triumphs that they find in their work, even in something as light as “Sex on Wheels.”
At the end of the day, I found myself, a feminist, to be the director of a film that follows me trying to find a man. And it made me feel weird. Read more
by Jarrah Hodge
I received a review copy of Julia Serano’s newest book Excluded: Making Feminist and Queer Movements More Inclusive last fall, and I knew it was going to be particularly important. Serano’s last book Whipping Girl: A Transsexual Woman on Feminism and the Scapegoating of Femininity has been a hugely impactful book for many trans* people and feminists and was even named the 16th most important feminist book of all time by Ms. Magazine.
Moving into 2014, it’s clear this book – and the discussions it provokes – are more necessary than ever. Last year saw more than 790 individuals and 60 organizations sign on to the Statement of Trans-Inclusive Feminism and Womanism, but it also saw trans people continuing to struggle – often without wholehearted feminist support – for acknowledgments of basic rights and freedom from violence. It saw the unjust imprisonment of CeCe McDonald, Vancouver Rape Relief invite an anti-trans speaker to their December 6 memorial event, and British media harassing trans teacher Lucy Meadows, leading to her suicide. And literally this past week, a similar event occurred when Grantland writer Caleb Hannan outed a trans woman, Dr. V., and published a cruel, misgendering article even after her suicide.
The continuing injustice and exclusion should unite us as feminist and queer activists, rather than dividing us, and Serano’s book considers how we can get there.
The first part of Excluded is a collection of Serano’s essays since Whipping Girl, outlining exclusion within feminist and queer movements, including femme and bisexual communities, and at events like the Michigan Womyn’s Music Fest:
“I realized right there at the lake what a mistake many women from Michigan make when they insist that trans women would threaten their safe space, destroying a rare place where they feel comfortable revealing their own bodies. Because there is never any safety in the erasing of difference, and no protection in the expectation that all women live up to certain physical criteria. The only truly safe space is one that respects each woman for her own individual uniqueness.”
The essays are particularly helpful for understanding the big picture if you haven’t read Whipping Girl or experienced the kind of discrimination she talks about first-hand.
The second part is new material introducing Serano’s proposals for creating inclusion. Serano states:
“One-size-fits-all approaches to gender and sexuality – whether they occur in straight male-centric mainstream, or within feminist and queer subcultures – inevitably result in double standards, where bodies and behaviors can only ever be viewed as either right or wrong, natural or unnatural, normal or abnormal, righteous or immoral…we should distance ourselves from these one-size-fits-all models, and instead embrace an alternative approach – what I call a holistic approach to feminism.”
by Matilda Branson
I often wonder about how to engage young non-feminists in feminism. When I say “non-feminists”, I’m not referring to people who are sexist, or anti-feminist – I refer merely to the majority of the world who just haven’t come into much contact with feminist principles or gender equality/equity debates.
That is not to say they haven’t been touched by feminism in their everyday lives, navigating gender roles and societal norms, encountering sexism or discrimination at work, or facing the baby vs. career question. They have been shocked and appalled by Half the Sky, or have campaigned for LGBT rights – it’s just they haven’t been exposed to Feminism as a concept with a capital F, and might not go out of their way to read a book or article on it, or actively define themselves as A Feminist.
It’s not a bad thing, it’s just how it is. I used to do the very same – from a young age I was highly interested in all issues promoting gender equality in every sphere of my life, but when I was 15, if someone had asked me, “Are you a feminist?”, I’m not sure I would have given a downright “Yes”. All I knew about Feminism were the negative stereotypes: feminists don’t shave their armpits, they’re often vegetarian or vegan, never wear high heels and generally come across as a bit prickly.
I delighted in smooth legs and underarms, pretty summer dresses and loved my steaks cooked blue. A lifetime of exposure to these negative stereotypes left me unconsciously hesitant to actively embrace that Matilda Was A Feminist, at the risk of being mistaken as a bearer of those negative stereotypes. It took those formulaic years at university when one’s identity begins to take on a stronger form that I gained a more nuanced understanding of the many shades of feminism, and where I fit into it all, and how I could identify proudly and comfortably as a feminist. Read more
by Jarrah Hodge
I have joined at least 200 other feminists in signing on to A Statement of Trans-Inclusive Feminism and Womanism. The statement was crafted in response to a summer that saw several high-profile instances of feminist transphobia, including:
“the forthcoming book by Sheila Jeffreys from Routledge; the hostile and threatening anonymous letter sent to Dallas Denny after she and Dr. Jamison Green wrote to Routledge regarding their concerns about that book; and the recent widely circulated statement entitled “Forbidden Discourse: The Silencing of Feminist Critique of ‘Gender,’”signed by a number of prominent, and we regret to say, misguided, feminists have been particularly noticeable.”
This is all happening in an already hostile climate for trans people, including persistent mis-gendering of Chelsea Manning and continuing murders of trans people, particularly trans women of colour.
I’d encourage people to read the statement in its entirety and to sign on here, but I’m also excerpting a portion for this post. Thanks so much to the people who took the initiative to write this thoughtful statement and to the moderators going through the deluge of comments and signatures.
We, the undersigned trans* and cis scholars, writers, artists, and educators, want to publicly and openly affirm our commitment to a trans*-inclusive feminism and womanism.
We are committed to recognizing and respecting the complex construction of sexual/gender identity; to recognizing trans* women as women and including them in all women’s spaces; to recognizing trans* men as men and rejecting accounts of manhood that exclude them; to recognizing the existence of genderqueer, non-binary identifying people and accepting their humanity; to rigorous, thoughtful, nuanced research and analysis of gender, sex, and sexuality that accept trans* people as authorities on their own experiences and understands that the legitimacy of their lives is not up for debate; and to fighting the twin ideologies of transphobia and patriarchy in all their guises.
(full credit to Flavia Dzodan for writing the article the title alludes to: “My Feminism Will Be Intersectional or It Will Be Bullshit”, and specifically for her work supporting trans-inclusive feminism).
Logo for the 2007 Hollywood Father-Daughter Purity Ball, showing a heart. Inside the heart is a stick figure of an adult male holding a key and the hand of a little girl with a key-hole on her skirt.
Gender Focus welcomes new contributor Jennifer Geinosky! Jennifer Geinosky is an aspiring author, lifelong student, and brand new blogger bring her thoughts to light on her website: This Much I Know is True: A Place for My Thoughts.
Historically from virginity to marriage, we’ve witnessed the displaced ownership of women’s sexualities. Today, girls across the world are participating in “purity balls” where they dress to the nines to pledge their virginity to their fathers. I wanted to write a piece critically assessing these purity balls, since they relate to our discussion of sexuality.
To better understand the concepts that fuel the purity ball trend, we have to look at them independently. We must first address virginity. Our familiar notion of virginity has no scientific grounding or basis in reality beyond the meanings we’ve given it. We typically think any discussion of virginity refers to females. The idea that women “lose” something – their virginity – during their first experience of vaginal intercourse is problematic. Firstly, vaginal intercourse is a severely limited description of female sexuality. In a more general sense, “losing something” implies that something is misplaced by force or accident, in which both cases the owner lacks control. The language also implies that virginity is lost forever, never to be recovered or shared again.
The physical act that has defined a woman’s loss of virginity is the breaking or tearing of her hymen. In reality, this can occur at anytime between birth and death for a variety of reasons, and for some it never occurs regardless of sexual activity. While one’s first sexual experience can be a very special time, it can also be very awkward, confusing, or traumatic.
We’ve evolved to expand the definition of virginity to both males and females, and now consider it to be given and not just lost, but the definition is far from comprehensive and harmless. Read more
by Winter Black
Feminists are angry, feminists are feisty, feminists are funny, feminists are… lonely? Despite the fact that feminists tend to be quite open about their views, a lot of ladies are left feeling like they’re the only pro-women people in their small towns. Local feminist communities tend to lack, well, community. If you feel like you’re living in a city filled with purely misogynistic idiots or people who just don’t care, I can completely relate. I used to walk down my city’s streets passing by pro-lifers protesting outside my local abortion clinic, watch women get catcalled, hear slut-shaming remarks coming out of the mouths of my classmates and wonder why I was the only feminist around. Fortunately, I wasn’t the only feminist around and you most likely aren’t either.
Despite how little or closed-minded your town may be, you can almost always participate in or start up a feminist community. One obvious way is to join a local feminist group. If your town doesn’t have a feminist group, consider starting one yourself! Keep in mind, this may be too big of a commitment for you, so we’ll get back to this idea in a moment.
A more sublte way to get involved is volunteer work. Your city or town most likely has a local Sexual Assault and Crisis Centre, Women’s Shelter or Transistion House (for abused women), that could always use a little bit of help. If you don’t have the time to volunteer, you could donate! Women’s Shelters especially are constantely looking for donations of food, toiletries or blankets. If you’re unsure of what to donate, call them up or check their website to see if they’ve posted a list. Depending on how much time you can put into it, you could even set up a fundraiser. My local feminist group recently organized a coffee house fundraiser where we asked local musicians to play, local businesses to donate food and local teenagers to come enjoy the night for a small price at the door!
If volunteering isn’t your thing, then look around newspapers or listen to the radio to find out if there’s any feminist movie nights or events set up by local feminists that you could attend. This is a great way to learn more while meeting new lady-lovin’ friends. Read more
by Jarrah Hodge
I have had the best week ever. For those of you who don’t know, I’ve been a fan of Star Trek since I was a really little kid. There are few things I enjoy more than combining my passion for feminism with my love of Star Trek and other geeky things. That’s part of what led me to write my “Revenge of the Feminerd” column at Bitch blogs in 2011.
Anyhow, this week I found out my panel proposal for Geek Girl Con 2013, “Is Star Trek a Feminist Utopia?”, was accepted! Within a couple of days I had tracked down some other super cool panelists, including Tanya from Geekquality, Jamala Henderson from KUOW radio, and Mary Czerwinski of The Televixen and the DVD Geeks podcast. If you’re around the Seattle area in October, you should totally come check out Geek Girl Con. I’ve attended the last two years and am really excited to participate this year with these other awesome panelists.
As if that weren’t exciting enough, thanks to Mary I’ll also be coming down to Las Vegas in August to participate in her Trek Girls panel at Star Trek: Las Vegas!
Basically, I am as excited as a Ferengi rolling in a pile of latinum.
So now I have started the most fun homework project ever: an in-depth exploration of feminism and Star Trek, going episode-by-episode through all the series. If you’re a Trekkie and want to geek out with me, you can follow along at my new Tumblr, Trekkie Feminist. I’ll be doing slightly tongue-in-cheek episode recaps, shouting out some of my favourite women characters and poking loving fun at some of the failures in representation of women, people of colour, and LGBT people. I’m taking requests for specific episodes to watch and analyze, so if you have a suggestion, comment below!