Racism and sexism is alive and well and rearing it’s unquenchable head once again!
Only yesterday, the US Treasury announced – in what will be a milestone for women and people of colour – that abolitionist WoC Harriet Tubman would grace the new $20 bill.
While the new bills won’t be available until around 2030 (or so the reports say), racists and sexists have taken to Twitter and other social media to lament the decision to represent blacks and women.
The biggest complaint I’ve seen so far is, strikingly, that Tubman doesn’t conform to modern (and often unattainable) standards of beauty. Many of the posts publicly found on Twitter question why Tubman’s “ugly ass” (that’s an actual quotation there, by the way”) should be on the bill;another claims, in what is evidently a racist trope, that Tubman belongs on food-stamps rather than currency. Shockingly, – in what can only be seen as a manifestation of the insidious nature behind sexism and racism – it seems even many people of colour are falling into this sexist rhetoric; as though having, say, Tyra Banks on the notes would have been more applicable and timely.
The more important question here, it seems, is why Tubman’s history is being relegated straight back to her physical appearance? Current ideology continuously positions women – of all races, ethnicity, and backgrounds – as relevant only according to the standards of beauty, physical appearance and attire they present; anything else which they may achieve during their lifetime is either an added bonus to this imperative or is, sadly, inconsequential.
So what does this treatment of Tubman reveal: that women continue to be regarded, despite their historical influence and present status, as relevant only as symbols of beauty in our culture. Tubman herself is quoted to have said:
I freed a thousand slaves I could have freed a thousand more if only they knew they were slaves.
It’s time to free women from this rhetoric, too.
A little over a month ago, we were all celebrating “Happy International Women’s Day” or some variation of that sentiment. Today, though, I doubt you’ll hear anyone exclaiming “Happy Equal Pay Day.”
Pretty obvious why, yeah?
Just to make the point abundantly clear: equal pay still does not exist between the sexes.
Despite three decades (or thereabouts) since the Second Wave filtered down and despite two decades of the statement “Feminism is Dead” and no longer relevant, women – I reiterate – are still not receiving equal pay to men.
Indeed, many third world countries, women and children are utilized as cheap labour accumulating pitiful wages alongside their male counterparts. Those so-called first world countries, many Western capitalist states, employ this slave/sweat shop labour abroad while denying women within their borders equal opportunity or wage. The National Organisation for Women estimates that even today women continue to earn only 79C to ever man’s dollar: and maybe us feminists are knitpicking over 21C difference when so many women suffer unbearable hours, horrendous conditions and loose change as a paycheck – but maybe it’s time to consider women everywhere as equally valuable as their male counterparts – as deserving of the same respect, wage, and opportunities.
This conversation, at this late stage in feminism’s history, in this so-called enlightened era for humanity, feels like flogging a corpse. There is nothing new that I can add to this conversation, there is no shocking revelation behind the facts that we know, that we’ve known for years now: and yet we still await that ultimate change in our society. The fact that a day has been laid aside for this sentiment – for it is, only a sentiment, and not an actuality – is nothing short of a smack in the face for women everywhere: for women of colour balancing two jobs and two children at minimum wage, for the college waitress living off of tips, for the sweatshop labourer slouched over in her cage. For women everywhere.
Happy Equal Pay Day, indeed.
It’s safe to say at this stage that Kim Kardashian-West is another of those controversial celebrity figures. She’s made it a habit of hers to “break the internet” in various ways – but mostly due to a stunning lack of garments and a fantastic figure (at least by culturally acclaimed standards of femininity). For many people she falls on the extreme end of most hated or pointless celebrity icon; she’s everything from a bad mother to a horrible role model and many would claim her celebrity status comes only from her infamous sex tape. But that tapes over a decade old and still the Kardashian Clan is a powerhouse family of multimillionaires, entrepreneurs and celebrity figures with Kim at its center.
So what is it about this celebrity figure that has her so reviled?
During her first pregnancy, magazine headlines accused her of letting herself go, completely losing her enviable figure, and failing to dress appropriately. Subsequently, she has been accused of being a “negligible” mother owing to her proclivity for stripping down and posing for the cameras.
Certainly, her nude magazine cover produced controversy – even with the majority of us googling to get a peak before detailing our disgust. More recently, a partially nude selfie (honestly, she covered some of the goods with strategically positioned black censor lines) posted on Twitter has vied to “break the internet” once more and mostly through a series of posts which begs the question: Why are we so bothered with a woman stripping down and consensually posting an image?
Certainly, the woman herself took to the keyboard to produce a post on the issue, calling for an end to slut- and body-shaming and asking that she no longer be judged for the sex tape which went viral over 13 years ago and calling: a perfect opportunity to add that, when it went viral, Kim Kardashian owned herself still, never wavering from the fact that, yes, she had taken part in a sex tape which was now in the hands of the world at large but she would not be made less because of it:
“I lived through the embarrassment and fear, and decided to say who cares, do better, move on. I shouldn’t have to constantly be on the defense, listing off my accomplishments just to prove that I am more than something that happened 13 years ago.
Let’s move on, already. I have.
The statute of limitations, so to speak, are up on this one and yes, it’s time to move on from judging women who practice self-love and self-acceptance. Ariel Levy’s raunch culture is indeed upon us and, well, so long as its consensual why does it produce such controversy? Honestly, I saw fewer reactions and less outrage when private images of celebrities were hacked and subsequently went viral in early 2015.
From a feminist perspective: Kim Kardashian’s actions present a form of self-acceptance and self-love for the female body so often denied to women in our culture. Between the media’s portrayal of women’s bodies as belonging to anyone but themselves; Kim Kardashian clearly owns herself. Her pride in and acceptance of her body, her desire and sexuality is stupefying to so many of us because it’s difficult to relate. It’s difficult to experience the female body as being so definitely our own and not belonging to the next generation which we might bore or the family we currently nurture and support or to the corporate media which continues to produce the female form as objectified, always obtainable and easily obtained.
I am empowered by my body. I am empowered by my sexuality. I am empowered by feeling comfortable in my skin. I am empowered by showing the world my flaws and not being afraid of what anyone is going to say about me. And I hope that through this platform I have been given, I can encourage the same empowerment for girls all over the world.
Kim K’s post, perfectly timed on International Women’s Day, celebrates her own self-acceptance and empowerment through self-expression even if it is in the form of a nude selfie.
The backlash against Kim K’s is not just the response of jealousy men and women or of concerned parents, it’s the call to arms of the patriarchal hierarchy reminding us that women aren’t supposed to feel such ownership or entitlement to ourselves. That we shouldn’t feel so deeply a sense of pride in our female forms so as to unashamedly share it with the world.
I feel so lucky to have grown up surrounded by strong, driven, independent women. The life lessons I’ve learned from my sisters, my mother, my grandmother, I will pass along to my daughter. I want her to be proud of who she is. I want her to be comfortable in her body. I don’t want her to grow up in a world where she is made to feel less-than for embracing everything it means to be a woman.
Her words, ultimately, are powerful and empowering for women, they may qualify her as a perfectly feminist role model for all women.
A want to take a brief moment to wish everyone a Happy International Women’s Day!
It’s important, today of all days, to give voices and lend ears to marginalized and invisible classes of women – be they lower on the economic scale, Latino, Black, biracial, transgendered, lesbian, bisexual or in any other position of struggle.
After all, International Women’s Day began it’s brief existence as International Working Women’s Day. Notice the important distinction there?
This celebration of women began as a celebration, specifically, of the working classes who are so frequently denied a vocal position and who are marginalized and excluded from participating in the bourgeois socio-political hierarchy of capitalist patriarchal culture (wow, that was a mouthful…).
March 8, historically, has been a date of strike and protest for working women: in 1985 women working in a NYC textile factory protested for better pay and working conditions and their basic human rights as workers – better pay was, as is usually for women strikers a core element of this protest – in 1908 women in a similar industry went on strike in honor of their foresister’s – once again fighting for the same rights.
It was in 1910 that Clara Zetkin proclaimed March 8th the day for working women to celebrate their histories and continue to struggle for improved working conditions, pay and basic human rights.
The fact is, these women are so marginalized they have been marginalized – once again! – from their own movement.
So today, I celebrate working women everywhere.
For more information
The beautiful Viola Davis just made history, as the first black woman ever to win an Emmy for Outstanding Leading Actress in a series. Her role in How To Get Away With Murder as Professor Annalaise Keating has been praised countless times since the series’ debut in 2014 and her role is appraised alongside those of Kerry Washington’s Olivia Pope on Scandal, Deception‘s Meagan Good and Taraji P Henson as Cookie in the massive series Empire and, of course, the notably diverse cast of Orange is the New Black.
Certainly, the growing visibility of coloured women on our screen is wonderful, with such shows dominating television ratings and challenging racist ideologies worldwide; but – and this there is no denying – the continued and ingrained racism which television and movie production companies and hierarchies continue to flout evidently hinder the existence of roles available for women of colour. And this is exactly what Davis emphasises.
As she takes the stage, resplendent and emotional in equal measures, Davis emphasises the lack of opportunities available for women in the entertaiment industry:
Let me tell you something, the only thing that separates women of colour from anyone else, is opportunity. You cannot win an Emmy for roles that are simply not there. (Davis)
In that moment, Davis captures the heart of her audience, both before her and watching on screen, and Davis continues to take her opportunity to challenge hegemonic beauty myths which establish white women as desirable and beautiful, by quoting Harriet Taubman’s still relevant words:
In my mind, I see a line. And over that line, I see green fields and lovely flowers and beautiful white women with their arms stretched out to me over that line. But I can’t seem to get there no how. I can’t seem to get over that line. (Taubman)
Davis continues to praising those that have withstood these racist ideals and created spaces for women of colour on screen and finally applauds those actresses who stand with her challenging these ingrained racist ideologies and proving women of colour worth their salt both on screen and off.
Women are forever apologising for themselves; for asking questions, for bumping into someone, for pretty much anything they can manage. As a matter of fact, studies have proven that women apologise much for frequently than men and often for no good reasons.
Pantene’s new web campaign encourages:
Strong is beautiful.
It’s the strength it takes to realize a dream, to speak a little louder, to stand up for what you believe in and to not apologize for it. Because when you’re strong on the inside you shine on the outside. And that’s what we want to recognize and celebrate!
Tell us how you SHINE STRONG using Facebook, Instagram or Twitter using #SHINESTRONG. Your message will be added to the Pantene #SHINESTRONG Gallery to inspire women everywhere.
Watch this minute one video in which President Obama, Vice President Biden, Daniel Craig, Benicio Del Toro, Dulé Hill, Seth Meyers and Steve Carell as they advocate an end to sexual assault.
The video, in a change from many mainstream reviews of assault and rape, places the responsibility of stopping rape on men – on the rapists and assaulters, not the victim:
‘If I saw it happening, I’d never blame her, I’d help her.’
and encourages people to be understanding and supportive of victims.
The video was published by the White House and includes a selection of prominent male figures, encouraging men to take responsibility for the rape epidemics all over the world.
In the video about, both President Obama and Vice President Joe Biden discuss the Council on Women and Girls and their joint desire to end violence against women.
President Obama says that as a government, and as a nation, we have the capacity to stop sexual assault, support those who have survived it, and bring perpetrators to justice.
Biden, who has long been an advocate for women’s protection from rape and violence, in the video states:
Freedom from sexual assault is a basic human right, no man has the right to raise a hand to a women for any reason, any reason, other than self-defense.
Furthermore, Biden encourages that women no longer be blamed for their assault; he correlates the survivors of rape and assault with those who have been robbed or attacked, and emphasises that these men and women are never asked questions such as ‘what were you wearing’, ‘did you cause this’ etc.
President Obama’s depiction of sexual assault and rape is empathetic, racial, ethnically, and sexually diverse in its understanding, and emotionally sympathetic towards survirours and their families struggles. Moreover, Obama highlights the severe self-doubt and emotional baggage associated with the aftermath of rape and how this can affect much more than just the individual:
It has to matter to all of us, because when a young girl or a young boy starts to question their self-worth after being assaulted and maybe starts withdrawing, we’re all deprived of their full potential. When a young women drops out of school after being attacked, that’s not just a loss for her, that’s a loss for our country.
What is evident here, is that President Obama is implying that the men and women who commit assault or rape damage more than just one individual life, couple, or family, but – furthermore – damage the nation in which they belong, to his great “shame.”
Vice President Biden emphasises:
No man has a right to go beyond no.
The first EU wide survey, by the European Union’s Agency for Fundamental Rights, has revealed some startling statistics regarding violence against women.
The research revealed that approximately eight per cent of Irish women experienced sexual violence since the age of 15; while the European average was 11 per cent. In terms of the Irish-based statistics, almost half (48 per cent) of Irish women experience sexual violence from a non-partner and, moreover, decided not to approach the authorities or any kind of support service afterwards. Two-thirds of these women emphasized that they did not go to authorities/support services because they felt prepared to handle the experience themselves or because the prepetrator was a friend/family member.
Director of Rape Crisis Network Ireland Fiona Neary said:
This survey confirms that sexual violence against women and girls is pervasive and pandemic across Europe.
Yet, since 2009 funding for rape crisis frontline services has been cut by 16.5 per cent with further cuts planned for 2014. Neary continued:
These cuts were to a sector that was already chronically under resourced and have been so unevenly distributed that in fact the centre with the lowest funding was cut by over 30%.
The visualisations below speak volumes:
Emotional response to the most serious incident of physical and/or sexual violence by a partner since the age of 15:
Experiencing any form of stalking from the age of 15:
In general, how common do think that violence against women is in your country:
Find the complete research here: http://fra.europa.eu/DVS/DVT/vaw.php