Thursday, October 23, 2008

We've Moved!

Reclamation Feminist has moved! We' have our own domain now, and you can read all about Reclamation Feminism - including being introduced to some new writers - at

I hope to see you there!

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

How to Find Victory for Feminist Causes

Back in college, I was a radical feminist activist. I truly fit the stereotype of the raging, man-hating feminist. I stopped wearing makeup and shaving my legs. (Yeah, my mom loved that!) I started using words like “tyranny” and “oppression” in every paragraph. (I think that embarrassed my mom.) I had a fling with another woman. (And that will be news to my mom.) I believed then that using the government to get anything for women, or people of color, or members of the GLBT community, was wrong. It was a waste of time. I believed in revolution outside the halls of the legislature.

Then I began to think that perhaps legal methods were best. Look at civil rights. Though there’s still work to be done, the various pieces of civil rights legislation passed in the 1960s did help. Using the interstate commerce clause of the Constitution, political leaders were able to make not hiring African Americans or serving them as customers illegal. (Please note that link's not Wikipedia. It's dKosopedia - a project of the Daily Kos.) It doesn’t mean African American workers are treated fairly or that practically every store clerk in America isn’t on heightened alert when an African American male teen comes in. It just means that legally people of color cannot be excluded from commerce.

Perhaps women could benefit from the same process. The Lilly Ledbetter Act, which would give women more latitude to sue their employers for violating the 1963 Equal Pay Act, would be a step in the right direction. Reinvigorating the campaign for the Equal Rights Amendment, a project of the Alice Paul Institute, would give legal teeth to various fights women face.

So I became a bigger advocate of legislation as a feminist battle until…

I found myself again disillusioned with the legislative process. I’m terrified of a McCain administration. Yet I believe a single-payer healthcare system, which would require the government, is best. What to do?

I now believe, in true Aristotelian fashion, that a combination plan is best. We need both legislative measures in place, and we need to work outside the established system to change people’s lives. How about you? Which do you favor? Why?

Monday, October 13, 2008

Road Signs, Gender-Neutral Language, and Sexism

I recently posted an ad for a blogger to join me at Reclamation Feminist. I’ll be moving the site to its own domain soon, and I want to grow the site as something bigger than just me sitting at home sharing my thoughts.

One of the people who applied sent me a sample with a story I hadn’t heard about before now. I was surprised actually. Not only is it an interesting feminist story, but it happened in Atlanta. I grew up in Georgia. I did my undergraduate work at Mercer University in Macon and was in graduate school at the University of Georgia. So I tend to keep up with what’s going on there.

But I digress.

The link was about Cynthia Good, the owner of PINK magazine. The magazine is headquartered in Atlanta, and Good pointed out to the city council that using “Men Working” on road signs is sexist. I recall vaguely this issue coming up elsewhere a few years ago, and I’m pretty sure some states now use a generic “people working” or “city workers on the job” or something similar. So Good’s idea wasn’t news to me.

According to the press release on PINK's website, the suggestion has been in effect since 1978 for road workers, and many states use people, workers, or flaggers.

The story did make me rethink how much we, as feminists, should care about semantics. I’ve read a number of essays recently suggesting that we shouldn’t care. A women's issues editor on a site I visit recently explained that using gender-specific pronouns isn’t a problem. We just shouldn’t give a damn if something says “he” instead of “one” or “he or she.” We shouldn’t care if something says “manned” instead of “staffed.” We shouldn’t care if an essays says “mankind” instead of “people” or “humanity.”

But you know what? We should care! It is important.

When we read, we internalize what we’re hearing or reading. We either actively oppose it, or we accept it. Studies on viewing violent pornography, for example, show that men who watch it internalize the message and become desensitized to violence against women even if the men at the beginning of such studies indicate an opposition to violence against women. Children playing video games do the same. They come not to care about the violence they’re experiencing the game and don’t react to it.

So, why wouldn’t the same be true for non-violent reading and watching? If you’re reading “he” all the time in a text about doctors, doesn’t that suggest to you – if only subconsciously – that “he” and not “she” goes with “doctor”?

Why do people think using gender-neutral language is so offensive? If you don’t have a problem with saying “men working,” you’re entitled not to care. But why get up in arms when someone else does care? If it doesn’t matter, then why not keep quiet and let the change take place? Of all the money the city of Atlanta spends every year, I don’t think buying a few new road signs is going to break the city’s budget.

A compromise would be to replace signs with new ones saying “people working” or to put gender-neutral language on the digital signs lining the interstates around the city. The digital signs are changed as traffic conditions change, so using gender-neutral language costs nothing.

Changing the signs does have benefits, though. It empowers girls and women who may consider a career in construction. It recognizes the contributions of the women who work in the field already. And it moves us one step closer to equality.

Words matter. It's time we stop backing down from that fundamental truth.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Found a 1st edition War Against Women!

There's just a little feminist celebrating I wanted to share with you. The only thing I have that falls under a "collection" are classic books. I started buying the classic in modern formats when I was in college. I bought classics of political literature - Machiavelli, Mill, etc. Then I started buying classic feminist texts, only once I went to graduate school, I couldn't afford my habit. So I started prowling yard sales and library sales to get first edition books because they gave me a feeling of connection to the past.

This weekend when I went to a library sale, I found a first-edition copy of Marilyn French's The War Against Women. I've read only excerpts of it and those were years ago. Marilyn French is my very favorite feminist author. In fact, I commented last week on my love of The Women's Room. I'm stoked over this find. I know I wondered around with a goofy grin after I found it, and I couldn't want to get home to share!

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Cook County Sherriff Refusing to Evict Renters

Though this isn't an entirely feminist issue, it's one of those areas where there is overlap since so many people in working-class neighborhoods (hence, renters) are single mamas. Kudos to the Cook County (Illinois) Sherriff (and I don't often say that about law enforcement). I'm glad someone is standing up for people who are being tossed from their homes as if their lives aren't being turned upside down.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

LA NOW President - But Not LA NOW - Supports McCain-Palin Ticket

Shelly Mandell, President of the Los Angeles chapter of the National Organization for Women, endorsed the McCain-Palin ticket yesterday. Greta van Susteren, of Fox News, ran a clip of Mandell claiming that Palin “supports women’s rights.”

I’m not sure what planet Mandell’s on to suggest that Palin supports women’s rights. She has not done anything to deal with rape and sexual assault (the rape kit controversy notwithstanding) in Alaska, which has the highest number of rapes in the country. She is opposed to abortion, even in cases of rape and incest. She supports the McCain healthcare initiative, which will leave 20 million more people without health insurance, many of whom will be women.

Mandell also said earlier in the speech that she’s not there as a representative of NOW, but as an individual.

That, my feminist friends, is a joke. Someone in such a high-profile position cannot represent only herself. She is taking a clear stand against the national group’s position. Kim Gandy has been stumping for Obama-Biden for the past month, and here comes the leader of one of the largest chapters of NOW saying that she’s supporting the other ticket. As an individual she’s free to support the candidate she likes, but she should not use her title as the leader of LA NOW to support Palin.

Beyond that, for the McCain-Palin strategists to present Mandell as an individual is disingenuous. They used her precisely because of her affiliation with NOW. If not, then why choose her? Why not choose one of the millions of other people in the country who support Palin?

Patty Bellasalma, President of California NOW, issued a statement explaining that the chapter’s support is not the same as Mandell’s support. I’m not sure how much good Bellasalma’s statement will be, but I hope it will work and that on-the-border feminists will understand that Mandell’s position is in conflict with NOW.

Reclamation Feminist's First Contest & Book Giveaway

When I read The Women's Room by Marilyn French in college, I fell in love with her! I loved this book and have it on my bookshelf, now well-worn.

What's your favorite feminist novel?

Leave a comment and the commenter with the most inspiring entry will receive a copy of Katie Willard's novel Raising Hope about 2 women who end up, by odd circumstances, raising a daughter together. The deadline for comments for the contest is October 20.