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.

Friday, October 3, 2008

Biden-Palin Debate

I apparently am alone in thinking Sarah Palin really stunk it up at the debate last night. Other commentators are using the “she didn’t fall on her face” test to say that she did fine. That’s just not enough for me. This woman is running to be the Vice President of the United States. The Vice President! Not fucking up isn’t enough for me to think she did a good job. It’s just not, people.

She failed to answer a single question related to the debate topics. When asked very pointed questions – such as which poses the greater threat: Iran or Pakistan – she couldn’t even answer that.

She wouldn’t touch McCain’s healthcare “initiative” that’s going to tax benefits. Experts estimate that taxation will put about 20 million more Americans without healthcare because employers won’t be able to shoulder the burden. So, no, Palin wouldn’t touch it. Why should she? The policy only shows how much the McCain-Palin administration would harm the average citizen.

It really pisses me off anyway that female candidates are so polarized. Hillary had to be the best all. The. Time. She had to be far better than everyone else to be taken seriously. Palin has to show up without a run in her hose and she’s good.

We’ve come a long way. I’ll give my feminist predecessors that. But there’s still a helluva lot of road to go before we’re equal.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

So Many Problems with LaBruzzo's Tubal Ligation Suggestion

Quite a few feminist bloggers – and some non-feminist ones, too – have posted in the past week about John LaBruzzo, a Republican (now, there’s a shocker!) representative from Metairie. In a meeting of Louisiana lawmakers, he suggested offering women a $1,000 incentive to have their tubes tied.

Wait, allow me to clarify.

He suggested offering poor women the incentive.

I have so many issues with what LaBruzzo is saying, some more relevant than others, that I’m not even sure where to begin. Let’s get started.

* The opposite, and more egregious to me, side of the LaBruzzo suggestion is that the state offer incentives for wealthy people to have more children. LaBruzzo and his attorney wife have only one child, the irony of which just blows me away.

* When pressed'>pressed on CNN about the fact that the poverty rate is higher in Louisiana among families without children than those with children, suggesting LaBruzzo’s idea isn’t about poverty at all, he can’t answer. He goes on some rant about “the media” because he has no answer for his obvious racism.

* And the fact that he’s smiling during the entire segment just pisses me off.

* If birth control were more readily available or if insurance were more affordable or universal or if parents living in poverty had other options available to them, then we wouldn’t need this “incentive.” There would be no need to pay people to have major surgery because they would be more in control of their lives anyway.

* Generational poverty isn’t the issue. He talks about how people are living on welfare forever and ever. In case LaBruzzo hasn’t noticed, all manor of restriction now exists for how long one can stay on various forms of welfare. And besides that, have you ever tried to live off the subsidies welfare provides? No one’s living the high life on it. People gaming the system may be, but the honest mom trying to raise three children with no help isn’t driving a brand-new SUV and eating shrimp. She can’t afford it!

* Besides that, find out why people stayed behind during Katrina. Many of them were hard-working, blue-collar folks who had to stay if the boss stayed or risk losing their jobs. Those deadbeats!

I have a long-standing desire to live in New Orleans, a city for which I have a strong fondness. When Katrina hit, all hope of my husband agreeing to that move vanished. When I read things like this – Metarie is just outside New Orleans – it makes me want to renew my efforts at home. There are jackass politicians everywhere, but Louisiana seems rife for them right now given the climate there since Katrina.

I hope LaBruzzo’s constituents will vote him out of office. It’s not because I believe this idea will become law. I don’t think it will get close. It’s more because he’s wasting his time and taxpayers’ money on this absurd discussion about paying for tubal ligations. It won’t happen, so cut the crap and spend some time doing something that could benefit Louisianans.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Changing My Name

I’m becoming Brandi Brown again. For the past four years, I’ve been Brandi Rhoades, but it’s just never quite fit.

When Brian and I were considering marriage, I intended to keep my birth name. Then we started talking about having children. Let’s face it: naming our children Brown Rhoades is just inviting ridicule into their lives. What to do?

When you’ve previously thought you wouldn’t have children, these discussions are fun and academic, but once you know you’re going to have a babe, they become more serious.

Somewhere in the midst of those conversations came a discussion of “family.” Brian and I have pretty radical ideas overall about what constitutes a family. Gay and lesbian couples. Single parents. Grandparents. Older siblings raising younger ones. Polyamory. We’re really open...when it comes to other people.

As it turns out, our family looks pretty fucking suburban.

We’re a nuclear family unit with 2 cats, a mortgage, soccer nets in the backyard. So when we were having this discussion somewhere in early 2004, when I was thinking of giving up my life as a radical because it was chaotic, Brian brought up the idea of family. If we all have different names, what does that suggest? Does it suggest we’re not really a family? Does it create problems and questions where none should exist? And why was I clinging to “Brown” anyway?

Brown is a common last name. In fact, the website of that name is home to a wedding planner, and I’ve heard rumors there’s a porn star with the name as well. Plus there was that girl on the Mickey Mouse Club when we were little.

Despite my current relationship with my dad, I didn’t grow up with him. I didn’t see him much growing up. And Brown hasn’t been my mother’s name for decades.

I toyed briefly with the idea of using Lambert or Snowden, two other family names that have more meaning to me. Brian and I talked about both using Dawson, which we got by playing around with the letters of Brown and Rhoades.

In the end I bought into the idea that it doesn’t matter what my name is; I know who I am.

Only – it does matter.

Names are important. They speak to who we are, and in the case of last names, we live in an area where having different last names indicates that we’re radically different from everyone around us.

Now that I’m returning into the feminist fold, I’m returning to Brown as well. I’m Brandi Brown. I always have been.

And as for my children, they’re becoming very attached to Rhoades-Brown.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Some Thoughts on Rape Kits

I was planning to write about how anti-feminist Sarah Palin is. I had a post outlined with notes ready to publish. I just couldn’t get over the scandal about the rape kits. I’ve read a dozen or so articles on the rape kits, and I’m still appalled.

In case you don’t know, here’s what happened:

In 1996, Palin became the mayor of Wasilla, Alaska. She soon fired the chief of police for an undetermined reason. The chief’s replacement decided that to cut the budget, the city would stop paying for rape kits. While he said in an interview from 2000 that he’d prefer the rapist pay for the kit, the cost fell to the victims. Palin signed off on the budget with this provision.

In 2000, the state of Alaska decided to make it illegal to charge complainants for rape kits. Wasilla was the only municipality known to be doing so at the time, according to some sources, and one of many according to others.

Now, Sarah Palin claims she didn’t know the city was charging for rape kits. One of two things is happening, and neither is ideal. Either she did know and accepted the charges, or she didn’t know and signed off on the budget without reading it.

I would like to provide a clarification because the articles online, even on supposedly reputable sites like, aren’t clear on this point. A rape kit is not a medical exam. A rape kit is a tool for forensic analysis. Charging for a rape kit is the same as charging the victim of a home invasion for the cost of checking for fingerprints.

After reading about rape kits, I started doing some digging. Does my commonwealth charge for them? I found out that in 2007 – yes, just last year – Kentucky legislators passed a law requiring a fund from the Commonwealth Attorney General’s office to cover the cost of up to 2 medical exams and a rape kit for victims. A bit late, to be sure, but I'm glad the provision's there.

What about other states? Well, it's hard to tell. When a state has a law, as Alaska and Kentucky do now, it's easier to tell that victims aren't footing the bill. When the state doesn't have a law, though, finding out it trickier. Other than calling up random sherriff's offices and asking, there's no real way to know. While I don't have much ground to call other states, you can do so. Call your local law enforcement office and ask.

If someone is raped, who pays?

If you find out it would be the victim, I'd love to know. I'm curious as to whether this practice continues - and if so, whether it will continue now given the coverage the Palin/Wasilla story has received.

Really, though, I want to know. I'll help you mount a campaign to get it stopped. Post a comment here with the municipality or shoot me an email: brandi @ featureresumes . com. I'd love to help.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Bitch magazine is a countercultural independent magazine billed as “the feminist response to pop culture.” The amazing women at Bitch provide readers edgy articles about feminism and how a feminist lifestyle fits into the larger culture. I’ve been working on beefing up my feminist credentials, and being published in Bitch is on my list right alongside Ms.

I finally worked up the courage to head to the website this morning to head over to see about querying. (I’ll be damned if that’s not necessary to get published there!) Imagine my horror when I went to their homepage and saw first, a wiener dog, and second a huge headline screaming “Save Bitch!” What? The Bitch needs saving? How can that be?

So I watched the YouTube video about the fate of Bitch magazine.

Then I went back to the homepage to see that supporters of the magazine contributed well more than the needed $40,000 and well before the deadline. Way to go, flush feminists!

But it did make me think. How long will it be before Bitch needs financial help again? Are independent-minded publications destined to financial instability forever? Aren’t there non-mainstream people with the funds to help?

I don’t know the answers to those questions, but I do know I want to be part of the solution. Though I’ve picked up Bitch here and there at the bookstore, I’ve never been a faithful reader. So this afternoon I’m ordering a subscription to the magazine. And in the next few weeks, I suspect I’ll be sending a donation as well.

I hope you’ll consider sending something in, too. Bitch needs, according to their video, $160,000 per year to put out four issues. As a whole, that’s a lot of money, but 8,000 people donating $20 can get them there.

Monday, September 15, 2008

What is a reclamation feminist?

To reclaim means to revert something to productive uses which is what I'd like to do with the word “feminism” and the idea of feminist activism. In the 19th century, feminism became synonymous with women's suffrage. Though that association wasn't entirely accurate, it worked. Suffrage is a worthy cause, even if identifying feminism with suffrage meant missing out on other relevant issues.

The second wave of feminism in the 1960s and 70s was a bit more complex. The most obvious single contribution to which to point is Roe v. Wade, which granted women (in theory, anyway) unfettered access to abortions in the first trimester of pregnancy. Women also gained entry to all forms of higher education and (again theoretical) into all professions. Women earned the right to make decisions about what would happen with their lives.

Somewhere along the way, though, feminism became associated with a sort of mainstream armchair liberal ideology that ultimately meant a refusal to examine data about various gender-based issues. This watered-down feminism also meant elevating all forms of oppression to the same field with a fear of discussing one over another.

Should feminists concern themselves with the rights of immigrants?

Absolutely they should.

They just shouldn't pretend that to care about women's issues primarily is bad or wrong.

Upper middle-class straight white women who pretend to understand the plight of lower-class Latinas living with the threat of deportation do feminism no good. They're not genuine.

By extension, the acknowledgement that some things are just wrong and unfair about the lives of upper middle-class straight white women isn't bad either. These women still face pay discrimination - a wage gap that in many cases exceeds that of their lower-class sisters. These women face sexual harassment, the dreaded "second shift" of domestic work, and seemingly immovable obstacles for juggling careers and families.

These issues are important, too.

After coming to feminism 15 years ago as a teenager, I've cycled from being timidly pro-woman to being a raging, man-hating, hairy-legged feminist to exploring alternative lifestyles and relationships as a show of solidarity with my sisters, and then to a retreat into the nightmare that is middle-class America.

Now I come to a new awakening.

I'm staking again my claim that sex is the most deep-seated category of oppression and that we, as women and men, must rise up to fight for equality and justice. I'm reclaiming feminism as my own and rebranding it to suit the needs of the twenty-first century without equivocation, apology, or fear of retribution.