Welcome to the latest installment of Ms. Opinionated, in which readers have questions about the pesky day-to-day choices we all face, and I give advice about how to make ones that (hopefully) best reflect our shared commitment to feminist values—as well as advice on what to do when they don't. This week, how to be the perfect feminist by accepting you're not the perfect feminist.
Dear Ms. Opinionated,
As a feminist I am always trying to stay up to date on news, research and blogs like Bitch. Lately, though, I have been feeling very muddled. I vocally criticize objectification of women in TV and movies, yet I am a huge fan of artists like Beyoncé and Rihanna who are marketed as sex symbols. I go on about the lack of coverage and opportunities for female athletes but I rarely watch women's sports myself. I tell my friends not to worry about their weight, but I get upset when I put on a few pounds. I confront sexual harassers on the street yet my sexual fantasies often involve domination by men. I tell myself that everyone is feminist in their own way, but it also seems that most activists and websites espouse a "right" way to be feminist. I can't help feeling that I am doing it wrong or not enough. How do I (and other women reading) reconcile all of these contradictions?
The administration Delhi Charter School of Delhi, Louisiana, ought to be red-faced right now. Why's that? Well, in 2006 the administration instituted a new policy: No pregnant students allowed in the classroom. The school reserved the (illegal) right to even force pregnancy tests on students. However, when the good ol' ACLU stepped up on the case, the Delhi Charter School claimed ignorance on the unconstitutionality of banning pregnant women from their halls and reversed their policy. Even without the government stepping in, the administration of the Delhi Charter School is guilty of body-shaming and slut-shaming their student body for ever instituting this policy, and certainly earned the honor of this week's Douchebag Decree.
In 1967, five years before the passing of Title IX (which required gender equity for sports in public education), twenty-year-old Kathrine Switzer ran the Boston Marathon. During the race, Switzer was physically accosted by race director Jock Semple, who tried to pull her out of the race by force (an act that, if we'd been around in 1967, would have definitely earned him a Douchebag Decree). Not deterred, Switzer went on to finish the Boston Marathon with an unofficial time of 4:20 (she was disqualified as only male runners were recognized as finishers). Her work in advocating women's rights in sports led to the official inclusion of women runners in the 1972 Boston Marathon and the first-ever women's marathon at the 1984 Olympics. Switzer's efforts to get women running spanned 30 countries when she founded the Avon Running Global Women's Circuit, a series of races for women.
HuffPo reports on Rachel Maddow's statement that "[g]ay people—generally speaking—have a responsibility to our own community and to future generations of gay people to come out, if and when we feel that we can." Do you agree?
Here's something I learned today: Elizabeth Blackwell, the first female physician in the U.S., gave a series of lectures in 1859 that emphasized the importance of physical
activity in the lives of girls-going so far as to define the first law of life as the law of exercise. Blackwell argued that a society that neglects that activity of girls-or, as the case may be, provides obstacles to it-denies girls "both happiness and life well lived."
It's 150 years later, and still, the freedom of American girls and women to live active, strong, healthy lives is still not on par with their male counterparts. Luckily, we have
another strong voice that is taking on Blackwell's legacy by taking the physicality of females seriously -- and without body-size hate.