In honor of Black History Month, schools across the country celebrated Black Lives Matter Week during the first week of February. This event was first conceived in October of 2016 at an elementary school in South Seattle. In September of that year, the school community gathered outside of John Muir Elementary School for a locally organized event, “Black Men Uniting to Change the Narrative.” This successful event inspired the Social Equality Educators organization to invite the staff at John Muir Elementary School to plan a citywide event inspired by Black Lives Matter: Black Lives Matter at School.
Though there were worries about the pitfalls of planning a citywide event, with the support of the Seattle Education Association, educators across the city came together on October 19, 2016 wearing Black Lives Matter t-shirts, speaking against racist practices in schools. The day itself was massively successful, sparking a similar event in Rochester, New York the following February.
Black Lives Matter at School
Inspired by the events of the previous year, this year the Black Lives Matter at School coalition came together to plan a week of events, culminating in three demands:
Ending the “zero tolerance” discipline and implement restorative justice
Hiring more black teachers
Mandating black history and ethnic studies in curriculum
Thousands of teachers signed up to participate in events during the week, supported by different curriculum and resources provided by the Black Lives Matter at School coalition. The importance of this event is twofold; it creates both mirrors and windows. Students who previously didn’t see themselves in curriculum finally do, and students who exist outside these communities get a window into the discrimination other students face.
Including events like this within schools is one step toward creating more inclusion and working against the white supremacist narrative that dominates in the United States. More and more research shows the importance of teachers as agents of change, especially in creating students who are more socially-justice minded. As these students grow to become adults, there’s hope they will be the element to change non-inclusive policies and structures.
As someone who benefits from white privilege, books have been my gateway into trying to understand the oppression of other cultures. Books are also a useful tool to include in classrooms, and they are important in helping to create social justice-minded students. Narratives featuring those not often a part of the master narrative (white-oriented stories) show students ways that they can make difference in their own communities.
There has been an influx of these stories within the young adult literature community within the last couple of years, representing discrimination many students face on daily basis. The five books listed below are good starting point for creating a more inclusive classroom library and also creating important classroom discussions.
All American Boys by Jason Reynolds and Brendan Kiely
One of the strongest aspects of this novel is the multiple points of view that it offers. All American Boys examines an incident of police brutality from the eyes of two teenage boys: Rasahd, a boy beaten for simply being suspected of shoplifting, and Quinn, who witnesses the beating. The book is supplemented with discussion questions at the end, making it a useful tool to use in the classroom.
The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas
I’ve written about this book before (twice actually), but the importance of Angie Thomas’s book can’t be stressed enough, especially when discussing inspiring social justice within the classroom. Starr’s journey to speaking out against the violence she witnessed can inspire other students to also speak out against injustices they see, like the teens speaking out against gun laws after the school shooting in Florida. Through Starr, students can see that their voices can be heard and can make a change.
How It Went Down by Kekla Magoon
The death of high schooler Tariq Johnson at the hands of an older white male throws the community into an uproar, with different accounts coming out about the day of the shooting. By presenting multiple sides to the story, Kekla Magoon is able to show how the truth can get obscured, touching on a storyline we’ve become all too familiar with. In a classroom setting, Magoon’s book can spark discussion about how we learn the truth in these situations to know exactly, to borrow the title, how it went down.
Dear Martin by Nic Stone
Dear Martin follows the story of Justyce McAllister, a student at the top of his class and set to go to an Ivy League school. All this doesn’t matter when Justyce and his best friend spark the fury of a cop while they’re out driving one day, leading to a media frenzy surrounding the conflict. Nic Stone focuses a lot on racial profiling in America, as well as toxic masculinity and gangs. Told in letters to Martin Luther King Jr., much of the subject matter Stone includes in her book is sure to spark interesting discussions within the classroom.
March by John Lewis
This graphic memoir is told in three volumes, following John Lewis’s participation in the Civil Rights Movement, framed by the inauguration of President Barack Obama. These three volumes show readers how many college students, students who were just a few years older than them, came together to be a part of social change. These books would work well not in just an English class, but a history class as well. This is a good supplemental narrative for learning about the Civil Rights Movement, coming directly from someone who was actually there.
Even just having these books in a classroom library can do wonders for students to be able to see themselves in the narratives you have available to them. If you’re interested in teaching any of these books, or participating in future Black Lives Matter at School events, below are resources where you can learn more:
On a recent Saturday night I was walking through Plaza Mayor, Madrid, near my home, and saw countless heterosexual couples holding hands, kissing, and caressing one another openly in public. What has always struck me when I see public displays of affection (PDA), particularly between heterosexual couples, is that for most of them there is no second thought of giving their loved one a kiss in a public space. There is no fear of negative glances nor physical or verbal harassment in the same way that queer couples will experience when daring to show PDA with one another.
There are several instances in my own life where displaying PDA with my partners has received negative comments. Most recently was an incident that took place in Chueca, a “safe” and gay friendly neighborhood where I live in Madrid. I had a date with a man and we were kissing passionately on the sidewalk, like many couples do here in this romantic city, and an older woman walking by us shouted a few times, “putos maricones!!!” (“Fucking Faggots” in Spanish). I immediately stopped kissing my date and felt ashamed. I also felt unsafe in this seemingly “safe” neighborhood with its throngs of rainbow flags and rainbow stickers on restaurant windows. It made me ask myself a few things such as: Why was this woman in a gay friendly neighborhood in the first place? And if this incident happens in a gay friendly neighborhood in Madrid, what are the consequences of PDA outside of this rainbow bubble?
Queer couples receiving backlash in urban-gay enclaves is not new and certainly not exclusive to Madrid. In fact, in Seattle, Washington, the city where I was born and raised, queer bashings and harassment have been on the increase in recent years, particularly in the gay-friendly neighborhood of Capitol Hill. In May 2015, a man was beaten and called gay slurs. Two weeks later a trans person was beaten in this same neighborhood. Local queer activists held a protest called “Not One More” in solidarity for victims of hate crimes. They marched the streets of Capitol Hill shouting messages of resistance and reminding people that it is a historically queer neighborhood. One organizer of the event boldly stated: “If you don’t like a gay neighborhood, why did you move to one?” The increase of LGTBQ+ violence in Capitol Hill is not coincidental given the rapid gentrification and in-flux of tech-bros moving into the historically queer neighborhood. Seattle is home to Amazon and Microsoft and has seen its population increase significantly in recent years as well as gentrification of its historically queer, Black, and Asian urban enclaves.
Another instance was my recent visit in Stockholm, Sweden with a person I am dating. We shared brief moments of hugging, hand-holding, kissing, yet there was still a hesitancy to fully embrace one another in public. Even in Scandinavia, a place with a reputation for being progressive about LGBTQ+ rights, he and I felt hesitant to fully show our affection for one another in a public space. At first I brushed this off as being cultural. I have had people tell me that PDA is not as common in Scandinavia, that people are slightly more reserved in comparison to Spain. However, I have not felt exclusively hesitant to show PDA in Scandinavia. I have felt it here in Spain and certainly in the USA, even in “progressive”, left-leaning cities such as Seattle and San Francisco. This boils down to being about the ways in which homophobia and transphobia operate in societies.
Laws can be passed in attempt to ensure protections for minoritized populations; however, it is even more burdensome to change the deep-seeded prejudices and perceptions of a society. One example being in Spain where same-sex marriage was passed in 2006 and same-sex couples can adopt children. Certainly this was a great accomplishment and one step of progress within Spanish society. Yet, queer people still face harassment even in “safe” queer neighborhoods. In the high school where I work, some students use derogatory slang words such as “marricone” (“faggot”) in everyday conversations and one time it was used against an effeminate male student in my class. The offender who used this word was reprimanded and suspended from school.
Kissing and PDA for queer couples are acts of resistance because it is quite clear that society is still uncomfortable with non-heteronormative relationships. I also want it to be clear that homophobia and transphobia are still big issues within “western” and “liberal” societies. Too often I hear stories about how societies outside the bubble of “liberal” cities and Europe are much more homophobic and backwards in thinking — and this runs the danger of not recognizing the societal homophobia and transphobia in our own backyard. Experts and policy makers need to remember to listen to the narratives and subjectivities of marginalized populations for which they represent. Laws are important, but we also need to understand the deep-seeded prejudices in a society take much longer to change.
Good Girls is NBC’s new show about three (usually) responsible, very busy women who happen to make one bad decision that puts them in an even worse situation.
We open with Beth (Christina Hendricks) sending her four kids off to school; Annie (Mae Whitman), Beth’s sister, is dropping off her daughter and discussing what appears to be a daily bullying incident, while Ruby (Retta) is watching her own child give an impassioned school presentation on women who are unrepresented in history books. We cut to the three characters meeting in a parking lot; there’s small talk about their kids, and then they slip on some ski masks.
Ruby’s daughter is suffering from a kidney problem that forces her to carry around an oxygen tank and which also requires a very expensive treatment not covered by insurance. Annie is a young, single mother struggling to make ends meet on minimum wage while also dodging custody threats from her ex who wants their androgynous “atheist” queer daughter to go to catholic school, while Beth, a homemaker, has just found out her unfaithful husband has run their finances into the ground.
In a moment of desperation, the three decide that in order to save their families they will do whatever needs to be done; in that moment, what needs to be done is rob the grocery store where Annie works.
In its short existence thus far, Good Girls has already been repeatedly compared to Breaking Bad, and not in a flattering light, and I get the sense that it might be because shows revolving around themes of crime are usually male dominated, and seeing three women headline the genre is threatening. In an interview with Variety, show creator Jenna Bans is asked about striking a balance of not turning the male characters into punching bags, and she aptly goes into all the ways the men in these women’s lives have messed up one way or another before being quoted saying, “So I think while they’re a little punching bag, a little more villainous in the pilot, we sort of move away from that pretty fast.”
Well, the men are awful and should be punching bags, but the truth is, they’re not that, because it’s not about the men, and that’s what makes this show so great.
Every moment of this show is dominated by the women, and their shared scenes are especially great — but I guess that’s what happens when you put Christina Hendricks, Retta, and Mae Whitman, three professional scene stealers, in a show together.
At its core, Good Girls is a story about three good people who do one bad thing, and the repercussions that come with it. The writing is solid, the acting is phenomenal, and its balance of drama and humor is perfection. It is not Breaking Bad, and it’s not a Breaking Bad ripoff. It is a show about women taking charge and taking the spotlight while the men are merely supporting characters. No tea, no shade, but maybe that’s why everybody is so mad at it.
One particular moment where Beth is forced to intervene in Annie’s imminent attack at the hands of her supervisor and store manager is particularly stellar as Christina Hendricks, who plays Beth, delivers a great monologue relating to consent and the toxic culture of men’s sense of ownership and privilege taking precedence over the rights of women.
It’s no accident that this is so relevant now given the recent uprising of the #MeToo movements and others relating to the exposure of sexual harassment and abuse by men in positions of power.
Jenna Bans has stated that the concept of the show came about during the 2016 presidential election, and her anger was the fire that fueled the pilot. Well, it shows, though there’s also a sense of holding back and that might be Bans being considerate of the fragile male ego, and that in itself could be the show’s only weakness.
Good Girls can stand to smooth out a very few sharp edges–I wouldn’t hate it if one of them turned out to be bisexual, but it’s got a sturdy foundation on which to grow. Don’t let the bad reviews fool you; it’s the right time for Good Girls. I think we can afford the risk of the shedding of a few male tears.
GOOD GIRLS Official Trailer (2018) Christina Hendricks NBC Comedy Series HD - YouTube
I’ve recently been watching Godless, a Netflix original series, and it has reignited a love of Westerns that I’ve had since I first saw The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly. This genre, and its subgenres, seemingly founded on traditional stereotypes of masculinity and violence might not appear to be obviously feminist viewing. But in Godless, so many of these characteristics are subverted, while the genre remains true to form. In Godless, we have, undoubtedly, the best Western subgenre — the revenge Western — but in a town full of women.
For the uninitiated, Godless starts off with Frank Griffin, an outlaw terrorizing the 1880s American West, hunting down Roy Goode, his adoptive son turned enemy. Roy hides out at a ranch in La Belle, New Mexico, a town mysteriously made up almost entirely of women. This is where the series focuses on the women who make up that town. There is as much focus on each character and each storyline as the next – everybody, it seems, has a story. What I love most about Westerns — the intense motives and the impeccable characterisation — is what Godless does best.
The series focuses primarily on the love and the hate between a father and son, and the struggle of the women of La Belle to protect their interests and their town. Taking the show’s name into account, it is interesting that what separates these two plotlines, the boys from the men, and the men from the women, is religion. It is ironic that what separates them in fact brings them together when Roy Goode’s campaign against the tyrannical preaching of his outlaw father figure crosses over with the struggles of small town La Belle. Even more ironic is the religious belief that women are akin to animals in their soullessness, while Frank Griffin talks of “the good book” and its teachings — teachings that, according to him, involve killing “gentiles.”
There are several key figures to be celebrated in Godless. The most obvious of these is the main (female) protagonist, Alice Fletcher, who is, above all else, a survivor. She cares nothing for the small talk of small-minded, small town people. As “a widow twice before she was 21”, she cuts a mysterious figure. She has broken almost every boundary, working on her own ranch as the widow of a Paiute husband, all while handling a rifle better than any of the few remaining men in town.
My favourite character is Mary Agnes, played by the politically progressive Merritt Wever. Mary Agnes, not Mrs Cummings – “I’ve returned to my maiden surname. Albert’s dead, there’s no reason for me to keep carrying his name around like a bucket of water” – is as independent as they come. When her brother Bill complains that she’s “not maternal no more” when it comes to looking after his children, she says “Bill, I loved my husband, may he rest in peace, and I love William and Trudy too. But I’m done with the notion that the bliss of me and my sisters is to be found in childbearing and caregiving.” For this alone, she’s my hero.
Mary Agnes perhaps breaks the most boundaries of all, particularly gender boundaries, as a trouser-wearing, girl-kissing, gun-toting, no-nonsense talker. She is a lover and a fighter – and one of the most complicated women we come across. In the second episode, “The Ladies of La Belle,” when J.J. Valentine, president of the Quicksilver Mining Company, is persuading the women to allow him to take over the mine in La Belle, she is the only one to stand up and fight for the right of the women to work their own mine and keep their own profits. She fights not just for her own ideals, but those of the women she lives alongside, saying “we built this place together. We gave up our old lives to build something new. . . And mister, we’re a lot fucking stronger than you think we are.” Although coming across as different, and although frequently misunderstood, she stands in solidarity with the women of La Belle and campaigns for their independence and self-sufficiency. She continues to smash the patriarchy, and the ego of J.J. Valentine, when she says, “I think you, sir, are naïve when it comes to understanding what we all been through, and just how changed we are on the other side.” On the subject of the women being changed, and just how they are all changed, the fact that Godless centres on women in the first place is a change. Their domestic lives and relationships are not a side note but in fact crucial elements of the various plotlines within Godless.
Bill McNue is a refreshing character who represents a fragile but very self-aware masculinity in the face of his failing eyesight. In his last ditch attempt to prove his worth and his reputation as “quite the gun” to protect a town that can’t respect him and win a woman he isn’t sure loves him, he searches for Frank Griffin. After finding him, it is, ironically, the loss of his shadow, and his own honesty, that saves him.
Roy Goode again presents us with a very self-aware masculinity – we are surprised when he backs down from a fight, saying that there “ain’t nothing scarier than a man with a gun. And ain’t nothing more helpless than a man without one,” and this is something we learn that Frank taught him. He is a sensitive character, emphatic and purposeful, and quickly becomes a father figure to Alice’s son, Truckee. But, in a series full of fathers that aren’t fathers, sons that aren’t sons, men who aren’t preachers and women who aren’t nuns, Roy breaks the cycle of emotional abuse first experienced and then re-enacted by Frank again and again as he asks, “tell me son – have you got a pappy?”
Frank Griffin is perhaps the most complex male character we come across. We learn of his own traumatic childhood, being taken in as a son by a violent and abusive father figure. He says, “I learnt to love Mr. Haight. He taught me with the stick and the bullwhip and the knife how to love. Same as I love Roy Goode now. For he’s my son. I chose him. And that is a more powerful bond, a more powerful love than being born into it. I aim to show him that love when we meet up again.” Here we see the emotionally abused and traumatised becoming the emotional abuser. Griffin creates an alternative family, founded on engineered co-dependence, where hate becomes love and love becomes hate until the cycle of co-dependency is broken.
In all of these interweaving plotlines, and amongst all of Godless’s characters, is the breaking of boundaries, and with that, all kinds of empowerment. Key themes of wilderness, various codes of honour and frontier justice, nomadic wanderers, and showdowns are all present as in typical Westerns, but in Godless, women, as well as men, are the subject — not the object — of the action, and it is the women of La Belle who orchestrate the shoot-out! As in all good Westerns, the good guys must win out, and for me, it’s all the different kinds of good guy and all the different kinds of love that win out and make this a modern Western worth watching.
I recently was in Boston and decided to swing by the Institute of Contemporary Art. It was Presidents Day which is apparently free admission day at the ICA. It was a horrible idea to go given that there were loud, unruly children everywhere touching everything but I’m glad I went because I discovered an artist whose work I wasn’t familiar with: Juliana Huxtable.
Up and coming women artists is one of my favorite things to talk about and I’m not quite sure how I wasn’t aware of Juliana Huxtable given that she is apparently quite the big deal in the New York art scene. As I walked around the mobbed ICA that day, I came across a stunning portrait of a woman and I immediately thought “If I can find a print of that, I’m buying it”. I then progressed into the next room to find a beautiful, lifelike, and amazing sculpture of, I assumed, a trans woman. I was struck by how no one was talking about the sculpture’s unconventionalness in terms of how women are typically represented physically in sculpture. The sculpture is striking and it was awesome to see trans representation like this.
‘ Untitled in the Rage (Nibiru Cataclysm)’ (2015)–Juliana Huxtable
It turns out both pieces of art were of Juliana Huxtable. The first piece is a self portrait. The sculpture was created by artist Frank Benson. Juliana posed for it.
‘Juliana’ by Frank Benson.
Both the New York Times and Vice have covered Juliana and her work. Both of those articles are well worth a read. They delve into Juliana’s life starting from when she was born intersex and subsequently assigned male. She had a religious upbringing in Texas which wasn’t without its challenges for a person of color. Her childhood was a struggle, abusive, and she was not seen for who she really was.
Juliana became part of the New York City Art scene. She is a writer, a DJ, a photographer, clearly a fashion icon (check out her instagram!), and truly an artist in every sense of the word. Her work challenges stereotypes of gender and pushes the limits of how we view femininity and sexuality.
A quote from the Vice article linked above illustrates the complexity of her work and how it addresses race and gender:
In Untitled in the Rage (Nibiru Cataclysm), one of her photographs on display at the New Museum, Huxtable revisions herself as a self-described “cyborg, cunt, priestess, witch, Nuwaubian princess.” For the unacquainted, the Nuwaubian Nation is a sect of the Nation of Islam that, according to Huxtable, “believes black people are the descendants of lizard aliens and created white people.” In the portrait, Huxtable presents herself in a futuristic world, which is far removed from the trauma and self-loathing of her childhood.
I did find that print of Untitled in the Rage. I’m actually going frame shopping today since the museum wouldn’t let me buy the framed version on the wall. If you’re in the Boston area, you should stop by and see Juliana’s work in person. You can follow her on Twitter here and on Instagram here.
Featured image: Credit: Juliana Huxtable Untitled (Psychosocial Stuntin’).
Another day, another sexual misconduct story surfacing in the news cycle. Oxfam International, an organization that states “The power of people against poverty,” has released several statements regarding sexual misconduct spanning many years.
The New York Times reported that in 2011, Oxfam Officials hired sex workers in Haiti while doing earthquake recovery work. The organization now acknowledges that officials were also accused of hiring sex workers in Chad in 2006, though this was not brought to light at the time. Oxfam has indicated that they fired individuals responsible in Haiti, yet never informed Haitian police.
It would be enough that workers were accused of sexual misconduct. And yet, these are workers with an aid organization designed to assist people in poor, extremely vulnerable situations that the workers exploited for their own pleasure. At intersections of race, ethnicity, socioeconomic status, and gender (to name a few), individuals in marginalized communities were targeted. It is reprehensible and disgusting, though sadly believable, that suddenly Oxfam is speaking out loudly against this a mere 12 years after it began. They share the action the organization took at the time, including creating a confidential “whistleblower” hotline and a task force dedicated to the prevention of sexual harassment. And yet, one can’t help but shake the feeling that like so many situations of sexual assault and harassment, individuals had to believe that they could explain it away, deny it, or mention it and hope it got buried in other news, then move on quickly rather than address these actions immediately and openly.
Penny Lawrence, Deputy Chief Executive of Oxfam Great Britain, has resigned over these charges. She states: “Over the last few days we have become aware that concerns were raised about the behavior of staff in Chad as well as Haiti that we failed to adequately act upon. It is now clear that these allegations – involving the use of prostitutes and which related to behavior of both the Country Director and members of his team in Chad – were raised before he moved to Haiti.”
Like so many sexual misconduct cases, the organization did too little, too late. They state repeatedly that they fired people involved, including the group’s country chief for Haiti, Roland van Hauwermeiren. As is sadly common, however, van Hauwermeiren became a high ranking official of an organization elsewhere who reportedly had no knowledge of his sexual misconduct charges. The charity stated that Oxfam “did not share with us any warning” regarding van Hauwermeiren’s history.
In this oh-so-familiar landscape where someone is actually (mildly) held accountable, they are able to transition to other work and completely land on their feet. Students accused of sexual misconduct on college campuses who can transfer elsewhere with no warning and employees able to do the same simply reinforces the idea that we don’t truly hold people accountable. What impact did getting fired have on van Hauwermeiren if he was able to secure a high level job in another charity?
I applaud some of the measures Oxfam has taken, but like many other situations it feels like the focus is and always will be on public relations rather than the gravity of what has occured. Can an organization designed to help people in need come back from this level of exploitation? Should they be able to? Perhaps it can open the door for society to demand real, lasting change and transparency. Or, perhaps they’ve used up all of their chances and the time is to withdraw support from this organization and those like it. Accountability is still a value that matters deeply from the individual level to the macro level, and I’m simply unsure that challenging an organization to “do better” is enough.
Feminist activism through performance art originated from the 1950’s by artists who expressed their feminism through their art. This new medium wasn’t male-dominated, which allowed greater freedom to experiment without fear of comparison to male artists. This type of performance activism is powerful because performance requires and provides physicality, a way to use bodies to engage people with important political and social messages. Humans are arguably visual beings, meaning art can express understanding and emotions that other modes may not. While in the 1960’s to 70’s performance art was focused on the individual conducting the art themselves, from the 80’s onwards it became about commenting on culture at large and male dominance within the art world. Some well known examples of these performances include:
Yoko Ono, Cut Piece (1964)
This performance involved a direct unveiling of the female body. This involved Ono sat silent upon a stage as viewers approached her and cut away her clothing with a pair of scissors. Through use of audience participation, Ono hoped to remove the anonymity associated with society’s objectification of women. This meant that the audience was forced to take responsibility for their actions and to reflect upon how passivity could potentially harm the subject.
Carolee Schneeman’s work Interior Scroll is one of her most famous works. She spread her naked self with paint, and climbed onto a table while striking the typical poses that models strike for artists in life class. She began to extract a long scroll of paper from her vagina, and began to read the text written on it. Schneemann has explained that the text came from a letter sent to a female art critic who found her films hard to watch. By using her body as a combined location of performance and source for a text, Schneemann rejected the fetishization of the genitals.
Ana Mendieta, The Silueta Series (1973-77)
Source: Untitled (from the Silueta series), 1973-1977, MCA Chicago
Ana Mendieta was born in Cuba but migrated to the US at age 12 to escape the Cuban Revolution. She often combined her body in land art installations and performances utilizing natural materials, plus her hair and blood. Mendieta’s own body was her muse—the only constant in her life when she experienced change in location, language, and ideology. One of her well-known works is Untitled (Facial Hair Transplants) (1976) in which she cut off facial hair from male participants and attached it to her own face, commenting on the performative nature of gender. Her work focused on issues of feminism, the body, cultural belonging, place, and mortality.
A recent example of such activism includes the ‘Girls of Revolution Street’. This is performed by Iranian women and men who took to the streets of Tehran to protest against compulsory veiling by removing their veils in public. This directly defies the law and social norms in context of a wave of anti-government protests since December 2017. The hijab became compulsory in Iran in 1979, prompting thousands of women to protest. The movement has circulated online with the hashtag: #دختران_خیابان_انقلاب (translated to #GirlsofEnghelabStreet, enghelab meaning “revolution” in English). Vida Movahed was arrested in December 2017 after a photo of her silently waving her hijab above her unveiled head went viral. She was eventually released in January. Movahed’s defiance was a mistaken representation for the nationwide protests. She had performed the act as part of her own protest for the White Wednesday campaign, in which Iranian women posted photos online of themselves wearing white while discarding their headscarves with the hashtag #whitewednesday. This was part of the My Stealthy Freedom movement founded by exiled journalist Masih Alinejad, who is against mandatory hijab for women.
Another recent instance includes China’s ‘Feminist Five’, who started a campaign that involved distributing stickers, staging sit ins and calling on police to improve their efforts toward cases of sexual harassment. One such performance included activists boarding trains, wearing metal bras and holding signs saying: “We can be provocative but you can’t be dirty” after the Shanghai subway authority responded to a groping epidemic by saying that “women should have some self respect and cover themselves up more”.
A more controversial example would be the Muffia, a British duo who perform in public with acts including posing as FHM models and flashing onlookers with fake pubic hair that they hide under coats; writing messages on each other’s bodies such as “Lose a few pounds” and “Eating disorders or a society of disordered eating?” Muffia are part of the wider collective of performance artists who have created work that includes intentionally behaving badly in public, opposing notions of suitable female behaviour or exploring the idea of femininity as a performance. As Cheri Gaulke, a feminist artist from Los Angeles said: “Performance is not a difficult concept to us women. We’re on stage every moment of our lives, acting like women.”
Despite the potential legal and physical dangers involved in these performances, these artists put forth a message that is difficult to ignore. The female body is subjected to the gaze and possession of everyone but the women themselves, which is thoroughly rejected and reclaimed through feminist performance. Katie O’Brien, one half of the duo that makes up Muffia, describes it best: “it’s hard work all the upkeep of being a woman – that is an absurd performance in itself.” Through the use of feminist activism and art, the expected performance that is dictated by society becomes one of revolution and reclamation.
I have to be honest. I have never read the Lev Grossman series The Magicians that the Syfy channel’s series of the same name is based on. I thought the books sounded like a cheap Harry Potter rip off and I am a huge Harry Potter fan. But then one day last month, I found myself in that situation where you have nothing to watch but you desperately want to binge watch something so I watched The Magicians and I quickly realized how fantastic it is.
The Magicians doesn’t take itself too seriously. It knows that it’s a knock off of so many other shows. They embrace it in a tongue-in-cheek kind of way with subtle and not-so-subtle nods to Harry Potter, The Chronicles of Narnia, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and so many other fantasy and sci-fi shows. The show has a compelling storyline, a diverse and talented cast (all of whom are stupid hot), and a whole bunch of feminism to boot. Who knew? All that on the Syfy network. Color me surprised.
Without spoiling too much, I’ll give you a general idea of what’s going on. The story begins by following the main male protagonist, Quentin Coldwater (portrayed by Jared Padelecki lookalike Jason Ralph), as he begins attending a magical school called Brakebills. Brakebills is a graduate school for older students. It’s no Hogwarts. Everybody is doing it with each other. They’re a bunch of horny magicians. Anyway, he meets his group of misfit friends and then it turns out that there’s a terrifying monster out to destroy magic. That’s essentially the plot of the first season. Lots of other devastating things, shenanigans, and plot twists have occurred in the series first two seasons and in this current third season. I won’t give them all away.
Here are a few feminist reasons to watch The Magicians:
Quentin Can Actually Recognize When He Isn’t the Biggest Badass
There’s a time in the first season when the situation calls for Quentin to kick some ass. Let’s just say that he realizes that he isn’t best suited for it and it turns out that Alice, the Hermione of the bunch, is the best woman for the job. He is able to put aside his ego and defer to her and it doesn’t come across in a self-serving way or as though the series wants a pat on the back for letting the female character shine because…
The Female Characters are So Essential to The Story
Quentin may have started out as the lead but this is an ensemble cast and Julia (Stella Maeve), Margo (Summer Bishil), Alice (Olivia Taylor Dudley), and Kady (Jade Taylor) have many of the most interesting and complicated plots. They have the strongest magical abilities, they interact with each other without always having a male character in the room, and their presence is not solely to advance the plot for Quentin or any of the other male leads.
Alice (Olivia Taylor Dudley), Julia (Stella Maeve), Margo (Summer Bishil), Kady (Jade Tailor), and Fen (Brittany Curran).
No Heteronormativity Here
I’m not sure any of the characters on The Magicians like labels very much but if I had to guess, I would say that Quentin is bisexual or maybe pansexual and that’s significant. How often do you see a bisexual lead? One of my favorite characters, Elliot, is, I think, gay, but sexuality is really fluid on The Magicians. I’m pretty sure that the hottest scene that has ever happened in the history of the world was Margo, who is truly a boss bitch and also seemingly bisexual, and the Pirate Queen eye fucking the hell out of each other.
Margo (left) and the Pirate Queen (right).
Margo Smashing the Patriarchy
Everytime Margo talks about the patriarchy, I swoon a little. On a recent episode, she encounters a man from another country. His culture is matriarchal. It takes Margo a second to realize what’s happening as the man describes how women take the lead in his country. He says, “Isn’t that the way it is everywhere?” Margo thinks on it for a second and says “Yes. Yes, it is”.
Margo has a lot of power in the series. Again, I’m trying to avoid spoiling it for you in case you care to have a binge watch but she becomes a queen in her own right and uses her power to dismantle patriarchy whenever she can.
Candis Cayne as the Fairy Queen
Candis Cayne is phenomenal as the Fairy Queen. Cayne is known primarily as a trans actor who actually starred in an episode of Grey’s Anatomy last week as a trans surgeon who proposed a new method of vaginoplasty. But, as we all know, trans actors can play roles where their sex assigned at birth has nothing to do with the plot. I’m happy to see that they chose her for this role because she shines. The Fairy Queen is an even match for Margo because they are both badass. She’s fierce and that “chalky twat” (according to Margo) really gives Margo a run for her money.
The Fairy Queen (Candis Cayne).
Those are all some compelling reasons to watch The Magicians but I haven’t told you the one bummer about it. There was a rape plot. Yeah, I know, as feminists we hate it when rape is used for entertainment purposes. However, I will say this, as much as I was like WTF?! and yelling at the TV when I saw where it was headed, I did appreciate their careful attention to the character’s experience after the rape. It wasn’t something that happened and then it was over (Game of Thrones). The character struggles with PTSD even now on the show. Much how it is for many survivors of rape, the character is, at first, completely destroyed by the experience but she finds healing and strength as she struggles to move forward. It wasn’t something that was made light of or forgotten about by the writers. The Magicians has a way of combining the fantasy genre and reality in a profound way.
So give this show a shot. I promise you won’t regret it. The Magicians airs on the Syfy channel at 9p on Wednesdays.
It’s undeniable that healthcare remains a centerpiece of the struggle for social justice. One of the most important mobilizations of feminists last year was to fight against disastrous healthcare reform plans in Congress, a fight we continue to this very day. That mobilization focused mostly on the broader picture of the disparities of the American healthcare system. It’s a notable target – there are so many things wrong with the American healthcare system, on a macro level, that it can feel impossible to organize against it. But we do so regardless.
Even stepping back from the bigger picture, on the most micro level possible – the personal one – the healthcare system can be dizzying to navigate, especially for women, people of color, and immigrants. There are countless examples of healthcare disparities – from high rates of death by heart disease for women, appalling treatment of mentally ill patients in the ER, and massive inequality in the treatment of people of color. With those neglectful practices and discrepancies at play, it’s not abnormal to be anxious or reluctant to engage in the system at all.
I know this all too well. After dealing with medical issues as a teenager, when my doctors told my mother that “young women like attention” and I was probably “faking it,” I was diagnosed with a rare heart condition – one that could eventually prove fatal. (So much for faking it!) Years later, dealing with an entirely different issue, I’ve had to relearn how to navigate the medical system with feminist self-care in mind to prevent that aforementioned anxiety and reluctance from interfering with my wellbeing. Here’s what I’ve learned.
Utilize Your Support Network
One thing that has been absolutely paramount for me in remaining healthy physically and mentally has been utilizing my support network. It was a fellow assault survivor who recommended my therapist to me, it was a friend who had been through an ordeal with a rare tumor who helped me prepare to deal with an oncologist.
Lived experiences matter. Our friends and family in feminist circles have a unique ability to give us advice tailored to our situations. They know what stresses us and they are able to help us through issues without trampling on our identities.
Furthermore, as a more basic tip – have those friends and family come up with questions for your providers with you. People who have a good idea of your background and your hesitations about treatment will help make you feel more secure – and there are never too many questions, whether you’re switching medications for PTSD or getting surgery.
2. Trust Your Gut
Systems of oppression thrive off of gaslighting us and teaching its victims to doubt ourselves. This feeds into healthcare disparities and can influence how we’re treated. We can become afraid to speak up in healthcare discussions, because we may be concerned that biases will let us be labeled negatively – drug seekers, hysterical, etc.
This fear is valid but entirely deceptive. You know your body better than anybody else. You are the only one who can describe your symptoms and experiences. If something feels wrong, then speak up – and if you aren’t heard, then you don’t owe a provider any loyalty. If a provider doesn’t trust your gut or listen to your input, don’t be afraid to seek out a second opinion.
3. Research Providers with Experience in Treating Issues Like Yours
There is absolutely no shame in researching your doctors, nurses, therapists, etc, before you engage their services. Your comfort is the most important part of your healthcare. If you’re a trans individual and your doctor refuses to stop misgendering you, that hinders your ability to trust that provider or be comfortable around them – so on, so forth. Making sure that your provider is willing to respect you, your identity, and your background is a super important part of having successful medical treatment.
Healthcare is a human right and a piece of our fundamental dignity. In the current political climate, one that aims to strip away that right and further degrade our wellness, it’s extremely important for us to fight for access to respected, comfortable treatment – and to assist each other when that’s difficult.
To put it simply, Bette Midler is one of the most fearless icons of all time. I’ve been a fan of the Divine Miss M for decades and, if I’m honest, I’ve been harboring a not-so-secret crush on her since I knew what a crush even was. (Luckily for me, I got the chance to confess my love to Ms. Midler at a book signing a few years ago.)
I’ve followed her career through the years, from her prolific music career to her incredible filmography to her heartfelt philanthropy. Midler is an incredible activist and ally, speaking out on such issues as environmental awareness, arts and education, feminism, and human rights.
In addition to all of the amazing work Bette Midler has done in her 72 years, she, like Cher, has also used her twitter account — @BetteMidler — as a platform for political awareness, online activism, and comedy gold. Despite recently taking some heat about a questionable joke made about Rand Paul, Midler’s twitter account has been a breath of fresh air and a source of humor and levity in these troubling political times.
It would have taken days to go through Midler’s account to select an assortment of her greatest twitter hits, but instead chose to focus on 2018. She has been on fire this year, and below are ten of her greatest feminist tweets.
Calling it like it is.
Remember the halftime show of the 2004 SuperBowl, when Justin Timberlake exposed Janet Jackson’s breast. #JusticeForJanet calls bullshit on the fact that Jackson is still being condemned for the wardrobe malfunction, while JT was invited to perform again at the 2018 Superbowl.
As philanthropist who has devoted time and money and heart toward arts in the school system, Midler understands the importance of art and music for youth.
Bette Midler, let me love you.
Her facial expression is EVERYTHING.
I mean, she’s not wrong.
Shots fired, Harvey Weinstein.
The opioid epidemic is not lost on the Divine Miss M.
In response to criticism about a joke she made about Rand Paul, Midler had this to say.
I can’t wait to find out else Bette Midler tweets this year!