7 things that DO NOT make you a bad feminist

Between 2015 and 2017, I was a graduate student in the Women, Gender, and Sexuality Studies master’s degree program at Oregon State University. This was one of the most important experiences of my life, primarily because it gave me the strong foundation in the feminist knowledge that I knew I would need if I wanted to become a successful feminist blogger. Yet I also derived essential benefits from the experience insofar as it revealed to me how exclusive modern feminism can be. But as the great bell hooks reminds us, Feminism Is for Everybody.

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1. Being heterosexual

At some point in this long battle for gender equality, we got confused and assumed that meant that female-identified people who love and/or want to bang people of the male persuasion must exist in opposition to the cause of feminism. If the logic here is that it is because men are part of the problem, well, that’s as sexist as the problem itself. 

2. Being privileged

As an upper-middle-class (as long as I live with my parents, anyway) Caucasian, I’m privileged. I know that. What I don’t know, however, is why this has led people in the past to assume I’m “part of the problem.” Those who are not of color and are of wealth have perpetrated some abominable atrocities. But that doesn’t mean all people sharing one or both of these traits must automatically be taken as the enemy. A lot of us have our hearts in the right place and are eager to learn from people who are differently oppressed and work together with them to make things better. The need for sexual equality knows no income or skin color.

3. Being monogamous

Sexual liberation has been a critical element in feminism since the dawn of the second wave. But somewhere along the way, being sexually liberated became a requirement to join the feminist cause, and moreover, the definition of sexual liberation seemed to shift to exclude long-term, single-partner relationships, especially relationships with men (see above). But I call bullshit. True sexual liberation means feeling free to engage in whatever type of sexual activity you want (as long as it’s consensual) without worrying about how others will perceive it. It doesn’t matter if it takes place in the context of a committed relationship. 

4. Being cisgender

Shaving your legs, wearing makeup, or being in any way “feminine” whatsoever is NOT mutually exclusive with being a card-carrying feminist. True feminists realize gender roles are human-made, and so resisting freaking out over whether you’re conforming to said gender roles, by realizing certain traits are merely artificially coded “feminine” or “masculine,” is as feminist an act as I can imagine. As Martha Rampton of Pacific University’s Center for Gender Equity notes,

An aspect of third wave feminism that mystified the mothers of the earlier feminist movement was the readoption by young feminists of the very lip-stick, high-heels, and cleavage proudly exposed by low cut necklines that the first two phases of the movement identified with male oppression.

5. Wanting to get married

I’ve just about had it with the argument that a quote-unquote real feminist activist can’t dream of someday saying “I do.” Whatever your gender identity or the gender identity of your chosen spouse, the institution of marriage has the potential to be extremely feminist. After all, marriage, at its best, is about two people coming together as equals and promising to honor and love each other; and equality is feminism manifest. 

6. Wanting to have kids

It’s okay to want to tie the knot. The same goes for the desire to procreate. Motherhood isn’t inherently feminist, despite what some proponents of breastfeeding might have you believe; but it isn’t actively un-feminist, either: Most of the professors I studied under at OSU are parents, and let me tell you, they’re all veritable paragons of feminism. So, yes, I want to be a mom. I also want to shatter the patriarchy. Luckily for me, a feminist can do both.

7. Wanting to beat men at their own game

Second-wave feminists “rejected the ideal of inclusion because … they would only be vying for inclusion in a world built on men’s values.” This MO has continued to dominate mainstream feminism ever since. But while I am loath to tell anyone to “lean in,” let me just say there is nothing at all wrong with wanting to work in the same institutions as men, e.g., a traditional workplace, and surpass them in excellence. It’s totally OK to wish and demand that there be space for us women in the world we live in now.

Otherwise, in my humble opinion, we’re just letting those who benefit from the patriarchy off the hook.

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Why reproductive justice is routinely jeopardized

As a feminist activist, back in grad school and today, my pet cause has been reproductive justice — not reproductive rights, but reproductive justice, “the human right to maintain personal bodily autonomy, have children, not have children, and parent the children we have in safe and sustainable communities.” I’m quoting here from the website of the Sistersong Collective; they first coined the term to incorporate the lived experience of WOC

Now, I don’t mean in any way to co-opt this term or downplay the singular struggle of WOC and other marginalized women — especially given that many who share my identity of WWD are always in danger of having their reproductive rights violatedBut as we get further into the new millennium, there has been a unilateral erosion of reproductive rights for all women in the United States. And yes, that includes the college-educated, married, Caucasian ones. 

Contraception

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Our access to oral contraception and other methods of birth control is perpetually under threat, despite the passage of the Affordable Care Act in 2010. (Photo source: Adobe Stock)

Recently, word came down from our Beelzebub-in-Chief that as of Oct. 6, an interim rule was now in effect that, in the words of Aaron E. Carroll of the Times, “weakens the mandate for health coverage of contraception under the Affordable Care Act, giving more leeway to employers with religious or moral objections.” 

Terrific. Moving on.

Sex education 

The following is a passage from an article that ran last week in the Washington Post

 Abstinence-only education — which attempts to teach young people not to have sex outside marriage and often does not include material on birth control and safe sex — began receiving federal funding in the 1980s. Funding increased when George W. Bush was president. His successor, President Barack Obama, attempted to end the program and direct money to comprehensive sexual education, but the Republican-led Congress kept it alive. Now abstinence education gets about $90 million in federal funds annually, and this past summer, President Donald Trump cut more than $200 million in federal grants to scores of organizations that work to decrease teen pregnancy rates, which could affect sex education programs in some areas.

I did a massive research project on sex education during my freshman year of college. And I can tell you that AOSE, as opposed to comprehensive sexuality education, is, unequivocally, the worst thing you can do for your child if you want them to be in good health and stay that way throughout their reproductive lives. Keep this in mind.

Abortion

And that’s not all: Earlier this month, Congress passed a bill outlawing abortion taking place 20 weeks or more post-conception: It “would punish abortion providers with up to five years in prison for terminating a pregnancy after 20 weeks’ gestation.”

What motivates this? An interest in human rights for unborn children? Science tells us that’s not so: To quote a Mother Jones article from 2016, “The majority of the scientific literature on the subject finds that the brain connections required to feel pain are not formed until at least 24 weeks,” i.e., a full month later.

Now, you will recall that Roe v. Wade (1973) solidified legal protection of the right to have an abortion up to 12 weeks into a chronological pregnancy; by that measure, we’re no worse off than we were before. What I find troubling about this is that some of our lawmakers have now gone on the record vis-à-vis their feelings about expanding women’s rights related to reproduction — and they aren’t feelings of support.

It seems to me that this is part of a more significant, more insidious effort to create a culture that responds punitively to the exercising of one’s reproductive rights, which arises from an ultimate desire to revoke such rights — and with it, our reproductive justice — altogether.

A real-life ‘Handmaid’s Tale’

This past spring, my mom and I became obsessed with the adaptation of Margaret Atwood’s novel The Handmaid’s Tale that aired on the streaming service Hulu. Every Wednesday afternoon (she and I both work from home), we’d sit in the family room and watch the newest installment of this jewel of small-screen speculative fiction, pressing ‘pause’ about five times over the course of an episode to discuss the feminist implications of a particular moment or commiserate over how hauntingly close to home the show was hitting.

After watching the first few episodes (the initial ones were released simultaneously), my mom, who read the book years ago, asked me, a newcomer to the story, what I thought.

I told her that I liked it, but, of course, it wasn’t very realistic. In real life, I reminded her, we don’t have to worry about a backward revolution overthrowing the U.S. government, tearing up the constitution, and effectively reducing women to their reproductive function, allowing them neither jobs nor even hobbies requiring any appreciable amount of intellectual engagement.

However, my mom explained how in danger we, in reality, are in the current U.S. political climate of losing our liberty. And last week, she started saying out loud what I think many of us have subconsciously feared for a long time: that these moves to erode our reproductive rights exist to force women out of the market, i.e., the labor market. No pun intended.

By treating each attack on American reproductive rights as regrettable but existing in a vacuum, we inure ourselves to the concept of undermined reproductive justice as a normal fact of life under the fascist regime that is the Trump administration. If we’re not careful, we’re going to end up just like Atwood’s eponymous handmaids: isolated, powerless, and nothing more than glorified incubators

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Legislation by the U.S. government in 2017 is eroding our reproductive rights and creating a real-life ‘Handmaid’s Tale.’ (Source: Hulu via Uproxx)

7 reasons people with ADHD should work from home (ADHD Awareness Month post #3)

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People with ADHD who work from home get to sit wherever and in whatever position is most conducive to their productivity. (Photo source: Adobe Stock)

When I think about the best choices I have ever made in my life, two come to mind. First and foremost was my decision, three years ago, to quit my steady job at a newspaper and apply to the graduate program in WGSS at Oregon State University. But a close second was deciding not to go back to work after I graduated. 

Don’t get me wrong — I still work; just not in an office, and not for someone else: I’ve chosen instead to work as a freelance writer and editor to support myself as a feminist blogger. This is self-employment. And you know what? It is fan-freaking-tastic. Why? Well…

1. You make your schedule. 

One of my greatest downfalls as a ‘traditional’ employee was my schedule. If you have ADHD, you know what I’m talking about: ascertaining when your medications would be in effect and having to plan — or at least trying to plan — your working time around that. Unfortunately, my pill breaks very rarely coincided with my lunch breaks, because I would always unintentionally wake up very early in the morning — We’re talking 5:30, daily — and my morning medications only lasted four hours, maximum. But when you work at home and are self-employed, you don’t have to contend with human resources forbidding you from starting your workday before 9 a.m.; this is especially useful if, like me, you concentrate best in the morning. Also, this builds flexibility into your schedule for the doctor appointments and monthly (and, inevitably, often more than monthly) visits to the pharmacy that come with the territory of having ADHD and taking medication for it. 

2. You choose your position — your sitting position, that is.

Less noticeable to others, but still highly impactful to me, was the unspoken expectation that I would, you know, sit in a chair. When I was working at the newspaper offices, I often interviewed sources over the phone, and apparently, I — entirely unconsciously — used to lean back and twirl around in my swivel chair while doing so. It drove my boss CRAZY. What he didn’t realize, though, is that people with ADHD have the symptomatic tendency to sit in odd positions; that’s how we help ourselves concentrate. (I’m not entirely convinced that it would have made a difference to him had he known, though, to be honest.) At home, I can work sitting on a couch or lying face-forward on my bed under my weighted blanket, and no one can say boo.

3. You have fewer stimuli to filter out.

Newsrooms are obviously an extreme example of this, but traditional, brick-and-mortar offices are hotbeds of cacophony. That’s just the way it is. Ringing phones; copy machines; water cooler talk — you get the idea. Suffice it to say that such an environment is anathema to the ADHD brain. When working from home, by contrast, the only sounds you have to grapple with are the ones you make (see below), which is essential, because “Problems with external distractibility (noises and movement in the surrounding environment) … can be the biggest challenge for adults with ADHD.”

4. You have more freedom to listen to music/use alarms.

A weird thing about ADHD is that dealing with multiple stimuli of external sources, filtering them out and concentrating on your work, is virtually impossible; however, you can enhance your productivity through the use of one, single stimulus: music, of your choosing. I know from personal experience that listening to classical music can have a tangible positive impact on focus; I prefer baroque musicians, including Bach and Albinoni:


On a related note, while phone notifications and computer alert tones are distracting for EVERYBODY, for an ADHD people, such distractions are actually welcome when we have pre-set them to remind us of appointments and upcoming responsibilities. (Additional pro tip: I set my computer preferences to have my MacBook announce the time every half-hour. Try it! You’ll be amazed at your newfound punctuality and time-management.)

5. You aren’t required to sit through seemingly endless meetings.

Raise your hand if you have ADHD and have ever honestly thought you might die while being forced to sit through a long meeting. … Ha! I knew I wasn’t the only one. As I mentioned above, people with ADHD have a propensity to sit in odd positions and to move around if they are required to have sustained attention and direct it to one specific, often profoundly dull thing. Working at home, however, circumvents the requirement to remain stationary of that trope of brick-and-mortar skilled employment, the sit-down meeting. And it’s a good thing, too, because “Adults with the hyperactive presentation of ADHD often do better in jobs that allow a great deal of movement.”

6. You don’t have to contend with rush-hour traffic on your way to and from work.

This reason is pretty self-explanatory. Goodness knows we were driving distracted before ‘distracted driving’ was a thing. Luckily for us, no workplace outside the home means no driving to work, which means no risk of getting in a collision while driving to work — or exhausting all of our remaining focus trying to avoid it. 

7. You get more time with your pets.

This reason is relatively straightforward, as well. Not all of us have officially designated service animals, but pets regardless provide a genuinely crucial service. First of all, people with ADHD, including and perhaps especially young women, often have comorbid depression (I know I do), on which dogs have a proven ameliorating effect. And the petting of furry animals, such as cats and rabbits, has been shown to slow one’s heart rate and reduce anxiety. Free of the distractions of feeling depressed and anxious, it is much easier to get your work done! Don’t already have a pet? Adopt one from your local animal shelter. Easy!

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ADHD people who work from home get more time with their pets, reducing depression and anxiety and thereby improving concentration. (Photo source: Adobe Stock)

Why mobility is a free speech issue

On Monday, Sept. 25, according to the captioning of a HuffPost video,

Over 200 protesters gathered at a Senate Finance Committee hearing for the latest version of the Graham-Cassidy Bill, the latest effort to repeal and replace Obamacare, which would gut Medicaid and allow states to raise premiums on individuals with pre-existing conditions. Protests began as soon as the hearing did.

The next day, The New York Times ran an article with the following lede:

Saudi Arabia announced on Tuesday that it would allow women to drive, ending a longstanding policy that has become a global symbol of the oppression of women in the ultraconservative kingdom.

Other than the week in which they took place, these two events have something else in common: They both illustrate how mobility — or lack thereof — is a free speech issue.

Medicaid is crucial for mentally and/or physically disabled people wishing to live with agency and autonomy. Yet, as stated on the website of Disability Rights Ohio, “an individual with a ‘pre-existing condition,’ such as mental illness, may be denied coverage for that condition as long as other employees … are denied coverage for their pre-existing condition.”

So, in the absence of Obamacare, people with disabilities (PWD) may not be able to afford or have any access to subsidized medication or other essential kinds of treatment. Moreover, many PWD (*raises hand*) can’t work part-time jobs, or even, whether due to architecture or any number of other reasons, full-time jobs, making them inherently ineligible for company insurance. No employer = no employer coverage.

Obviously, speech isn’t always spoken or uttered in protest; a person may be born with a significant speech disorder or impairment, or simply have no desire to speak out on a particular subject on a given occasion.  But when a person with a disability wishes to exercise their right to free speech, it is absolutely (and, in the U.S., constitutionally) essential to allow it. Yet while it seems that healthcare has been saved, at least for the time being, this was not the first time that PWD were forcibly removed from a public forum simply for exercising their first-amendment rights; as such, it is likely not the last.

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U.S. Capitol Police arrest a protester. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

Mobility Matters

The New Oxford American Dictionary gives two definitions of mobility: “the ability to move or be moved freely and easily,” and “the ability to move between different levels in society or employment.” 

It may seem, then, that these PWD do have mobility; after all, the ones with physical handicaps are equipped with wheelchairs. However, although they may move easily, they weren’t being moved freely. Though they peaceably assembled, Capitol police stripped many of the protestors of their mobility by pulling their wheelchairs out of the room against their will, thus keeping them from advocating for the preservation of what they need to be socially mobile: Medicaid. 

‘Moving’ Forward

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A woman behind the wheel in Saudi Arabia. (Photo by Faissal Al Nasser/Reuters)

Assuredly, Saudi women are reacting so elatedly to the news because of the newfound agency it has brought them. And they apparently were not the only ones celebrating. To quote Ben Hubbard, “Saudi leaders … hope the new policy will help the economy by increasing women’s participation in the workplace.” 

What the my dictionary app fails to mention is that in its entry on mobility, the first definition begets the second: The ability to move freely and easily facilitates movement between different levels in society or employment. Whether they seek employment, or guaranteed well-being even in unemployment, all people, including and especially women and PWD, have the right to move or to stay right where they are, thank you very much. And we need to do everything we can to protect that right.