Socialist Resistance and Sisterhood by K_IngalaSmith

Last year I wrote a piece for Socialist Resistance.  I talked about my work for a feminist women’s charity working with women who have experienced men’s violence in the context of some of my thoughts about feminism and social class.

I have asked Socialist Resistance to take the piece down following their behaviour towards another feminist, Glosswitch.  You can read about what happened – and the piece that she was asked to write –  here.

As a working-class woman, my sex-class is as important to me as my socio-economic class. Women’s oppression is biologically based and reinforced by socially constructed gender.  Though not the same, there are similarities to the way that access or lack of access to material resources is reinforced and reproduced by the different life chances and opportunities afforded to a person on the basis of social class.
I will not turn my back on my sister.
The piece I wrote for Socialist Resistance, which was written in the format of an interview, appears below for anyone who is interested in the challenges of balancing feminist activism and work in the women’s sector.

Read more Socialist Resistance and Sisterhood by K_IngalaSmith

A Medieval English Islamophobic Romance, Written in the Daily Mail by @LucyAllenFWR


A few weeks ago, while I was busy with various things including signing an open letter written by my colleague*, I discovered in passing that a very small group of people I’d never met or spoken to were getting quite het up about my teaching of Medieval romance. This was, naturally, a bit of a surprise. My students seemed broadly quite positive about the course, so I put it to the back of my mind. But, this morning, I saw something on David Perry’s blog – Islamophobic rallies in Prague were attended by participants wearing the costumes of medieval Crusaders – and something suddenly clicked for me.

The criticism I’d received had come from a petition (I’m not sure whether to be insulted or pleased it’s only got 94 signatures, or rather less than a full lecture hall). The main critique focussed on our open letter, but I also came to a criticism – apparently written under the misapprehension that I’m a history lecturer, but clearly referring to my course:

“A more legitimate concern in academia should be that a history lecturer calling for this act of censorship thinks Medieval romance perpetuates Islamophobia –  a breathtaking a-historicism that really should have alarm bells ringing.”

At the time, I was bemused.
Read more A Medieval English Islamophobic Romance, Written in the Daily Mail by @LucyAllenFWR

On the question of radical feminism and women as an underclass by @saramsalem

Cross-posted from: Neocolonial thoughts and it's discontents
Originally published: 29.07.15

41ggc7o4IFL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_Radical feminism has always been a strand of feminism that I have been uncomfortable around. Part of this is because of my own internalized sexism that makes me shy away from very radical demands, especially in the realm of personal relationships, beauty standards, and so on. But a bigger issue I have had with it is its blatant Euro/US-centrism that makes it almost useless in contexts such as Egypt. I finally had a chance to read one of radical feminism’s most famous texts, “A Dialectic of Sex” by Shulamith Firestone. I have to admit that I was very pleasantly surprised, even as the text confirmed many of my problems with radical feminists. On the one hand, I see clear benefits in these kinds of texts – they are very clear in terms of identifying who is responsible for patriarchy and because of this they are able to make clear demands that movements can organize around. They also touch on parts of gender relations that other feminist strands tend to leave under-theorized, notably questions of love, relationships, and psychology. On the other hand, it is clear that these texts use European and American societies as the norm, and when they do mention non-Western societies it is usually to say that they are “more primitive” or that they are headed in the same direction as Western forms of patriarchy once they develop a little more. Some of the key differences I see between radical feminism and postcolonial feminism, for example, are in the ways that men are conceptualised, and how the family and culture are conceptualised. Another difference is that in texts such as Firestone’s that use Freud so heavily, there is bound to be the question of whether we can generalize about the “female psyche” across space and time. These are some of the questions I want to think through in this post. …


Read the full text here. 

Neo-Colonialism and it’s DiscontentsA blog by Sara Salem on Postcolonialism, Marxism, feminism and other conspiracies.  Twitter: @saramsalem

White people critiquing “White Feminism” perpetuate white privilege

If you are involved in feminist discourse online, the chances are that you will have noticed a particular phrase becoming increasingly common: White Feminism. Sometimes, a trademark logo will even be added for emphasis. The term White Feminism has become shorthand for certain failings within the feminist movement; of women with a particular degree of privilege failing to listen to their more marginalised sisters; of women with a particular degree of privilege speaking over those sisters; of women with a particular degree of privilege centering the movement around issues falling within their own range of experience. Originally, the term White Feminism was used by Women of Colour to address racism within the feminist movement – a necessary and valid critique.

Read more White people critiquing “White Feminism” perpetuate white privilege

Acacia trees and nostalgia by Eleanor Higgs

Cross-posted from: Eleanor Higgs
Originally published: 22.07.15
This post is a footnote to the point already made by Columbia PhD student @SimonMStevens (which I saw via Africa is a Country), about the ubiquity of the acacia tree silhouetted against an orange sky on the covers of works of African literature.I had my interest piqued by the collage Simon put together, and I wondered about what might be revealed by further comparison with non-fiction books on the topic of ‘Africa’. Because of my research interests, I narrowed my search to include books only about Kenya. Here is what I found:


Read more Acacia trees and nostalgia by Eleanor Higgs

I’m mad as hell and I’m probably going to take it a bit more, if I’m honest

Cross-posted from: No Humiliation Wasted
Originally published: 25.01.14

Well, people are shitheads.

The Guardian ran a blog post by a white man about why a photo of a white woman sitting on a chair made to look like a bound, near-naked black woman wasn’t racist, not even a little bit.


xoJane, a site I’ve written for and whose articles I’ve previously enjoyed, published a piece inviting readers to share stories about the “craziest” people they’ve ever met, i.e. people with severe mental illness. And readers responded in their hundreds because hahahahahahaha it’s so much funnier to laugh at people and perpetuate stereotypes than to have a smidgen of compassion.

Disabled women are twice as likely to be abused as able bodied women and on average earn 7p less per pound, yet many of the discussions I see and hear about intersectionalitymention disability as an afterthought, if at all, and most high-profile feminists seem to be more consumed by banknotes and pubic hair than disability rights.

This stuff makes me so mad. I want to to have increasingly fraught discussions on Twitter or in comment sections, to shout, to scream, to SMASH SOMETHING, to… Oh.

Read more I’m mad as hell and I’m probably going to take it a bit more, if I’m honest

“Je Suis Charlie”: The Lives We Value, The Lives We Don’t by @VABVOX

The morning of January 7, three gunmen, brothers Chérif and Said Kouachi, 32 and 34 and Hamyd Mourad, 18, stormed the offices of the Charlie Hebdo newspaper in Paris. The Kouachi brothers are alleged to have carried out what are described as point-blank executions of ten of the newspaper’s staff of journalists, including four cartoonists, as well as two police officers. Mourad, who turned himself in to police, was the getaway driver.

All three men are native-born Frenchmen. The Kouachi brothers have a history with police. Chérif had allegedly planned attacks on French Jews and both men have been linked to al Qaeda.

In addition to the 12 dead, 11 others were wounded. The death toll is expected to rise.

The assault on the paper and the massive number of casualties brought immediate responses worldwide, from journalists and editorial cartoonists who decried the attack as an assault on free speech, to political leaders–France’s President Hollande, America’s President Obama, the UK’s Prime Minister Cameron. Every response was in agreement–this was an attack on freedom and freedom of speech, an attack on the civilized world by those who are uncivilized.

US Secretary of State John Kerry–who speaks fluent French–put it succinctly when he said of the murders that they “are part of a larger confrontation, not between civilizations–no–but between civilization itself and those who are opposed to a civilized world.

A “civilized world.”

That is not the world in which I live–as a woman, as a lesbian, in the poorest big city in America where nearly one in two of us lives at or below the poverty level and which has more rapes and murders than any of the top ten largest cities. My life is under threat every day–the real threats that come from being a woman in a crime-ridden poverty-stricken urban environment and the sort promulgated on social media where one never knows if the anonymous person on the other end of a tweet may actually rape you or stab you or toss a lit match to your gasoline-drenched body as they propose doing in a public forum for all to see, unchallenged.

The world in which I and the majority of women live is the one in which a third of us–more than one billion women–will be a victim of male violence.

Just as the 12 people murdered at the Charlie Hebdo newspaper were.

Male violence is the out-of-control pandemic we refuse to name. We cite each new event of catastrophic violence as if it happens in a vacuum: the Paris massacre, the Sydney siege, the mass murder of a family in Pennsylvania by a former veteran, the shooting of two police officers in New York City by a man who had already shot his former girlfriend, the shootings of unarmed black men and women by police, and on and on and on.

We talk about the perpetrators of these acts and their victims in various linguistic constructs–some are deemed terrorists, some deemed mentally ill, some criminals, some just doing their jobs.

What we don’t say, what we never say is, “Yet another brutal incident of male violence.” Yet the common denominator is not white or black, Muslim or Christian, mentally ill or not. The common denominator is that these killers are men. At some point we have to strip away all the isms and races, ethnicities and religions and realize male entitlement promotes and excuses male violence and a male-run and orchestrated media refuses to acknowledge that incontovertible common denominator.

Within hours of the Paris attack, social media was pulsing with comments, many in solidarity with the French, others darkly accusatory of Muslims and Islam, all ignoring male violence. A range of hashtags trended on Twitter, the most viral of which was #JeSuisCharlie (I Am Charlie). The most disturbing hash tag was #KillAllMuslims–proudly started by a man.

As evening fell across France, vigils with massive numbers of people flooded the streets and boulevards of Paris and other French cities holding signs that read Je Suis Charlie and Pas Peur (Not Afraid). Similar vigils sprang up in other places around the world.

As an American who used to live and work in New York City and for whom 9/11 still resonates deeply, all such violence unsettles me. I don’t pretend to understand the killing of innocent people. It’s incomprehensible to me.

I don’t understand what drives male violence.

As a journalist, any attack on journalists or freedom of speech concerns me. Without journalists there quite simply is no truth. Those of us who are reporters bring the news to the rest of the world and often risk–or even lose–our lives in the process.

So the attack on a newspaper that used satire to address political and social issues in France and abroad was highly inflammatory and meant to send a message of silencing and fear.

While the massacre in Paris was being carried out, paramedics were clearing the scene of a car bomb attack in Sanaa, Yemen. In that attack, staged outside a police academy where students were lined up and waiting to enroll, 37 people were killed and 66 wounded. As in Paris, the death toll was expected to rise.

But while the world converged to decry the violence of the Paris attack, the attack in Sanaa didn’t even make it through the full day’s news cycle. By mid-day it was off the BBC crawl, which meant it was old news.

Which meant, again, that those lives were meaningless to the West, even though Yemen is third on the list of most-bombed sites by American drones, after Afghanistan and Pakistan.

No president spoke out against the loss of life. Not even Yemen’s president, Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi. There were no rallies. No tweets of solidarity. No hashtags.

Silence. Because that is how the majority of male violence is met: With silence.


In 2014, when ISIS was beheading journalists every few weeks, there were three beheadings of women in and around London. Two were categorized as “domestic” as the Muslim women were killed by their husbands and the third, of 82 year old Palmira Silva, while she was gardening, was considered a random act by a man who was described as mentally ill.

Two weeks after the beheading of Silva, two women were beheaded in their Oklahoma workplace in the US by a male co-worker who was also described as mentally ill. Another beheading of a woman a month later was listed as a domestic incident and her husband charged.

None of these beheadings of women was categorized as terrorism.

As those beheadings made brief, if dismissive, headlines, dozens of women and girls were beheaded by ISIS and a dozen more were beheaded by the government of Saudi Arabia–a close ally to both the US and UK. Those killings went unremarked, unlike those of the journalists which were decried by Obama and Cameron.

The perpetrators of every one of these beheadings–whether individual acts of violence in the West, or state-sponsored or ISIS-sponsored in the Middle East–was perpetrated by men but once again that fact was never a headline.

May never be a headline. Because we expect male violence. It’s incorporated into our view of the world. No one ever questions the sex of a murderer–that a killer would be other than male is anomalous.

We know who the perpetrators are.


As I navigated social media after the Paris killings, I found myself in a deeply emotional state that I could not articulate. I am not Muslim. There are no Muslims in my family. And while I do have Muslim friends and live in a neighborhood with a large Muslim population and a mosque only three blocks from my house, I am a Catholic and half my family are Jewish. There was no real link for me to the Muslim community.

Except perhaps that affinity the marginalized have toward each other in times of crisis.

I felt solidarity with the French–I knew this act of violence shocked them to their core because of its blatant brutality. And then, of course, there is the silencing of editorial voices–that can never be excused. As a journalist who has worked in daily newspapers my entire adult life, mostly working on stories that wouldn’t have been told without me, I know how precious the editorial voice is. Also, I have  friends and colleagues who are editorial cartoonists. Their pictures are often worth the proverbial thousand words.

And yet as the day wore on, I felt discomfitted and struggled to articulate why, even to myself, even as I cried watching the news footage of the massive rallies of mourners throughout France and beyond.

One colleague of mine helped me articulate what I could not. Signe Wilkinson, the editorial cartoonist from the daily newspaper where I was a reporter and columnist for years was on the local TV news repeatedly over the course of the day talking about the Charlie Hebdo killings and her own work as a satirist. Wilkinson was the first woman editorial cartoonist to win the Pulitzer Prize and her work is phenomenal. One of her previous cartoons was all over Twitter as it depicted Mohammed and some of his prophets laughing at a book of satirical cartoons. The message was Mohammed had a sense of humor even if his followers did not.

Wilkinson said she was not afraid and she also said people needed to understand that “a cartoon can’t hurt anyone.”

Except, actually, it can. A cartoon can promulgate an immeasurable amount of hate.

That was the clarifying moment for me.

I had supplemented my tweets of #JeSuisCharlie almost immediately with #JeSuisMusulman (I Am Muslim). I had added this before it was an actual hash tag because I felt some inchoate need to do so–and because I actually felt uncomfortable with #JeSuisCharlie. Not because I didn’t feel that solidarity with slain journalists; I absolutely did.

But because I knew the work of Charlie Hebdo–everyone in newspapers did. And I was, frankly, appalled by it.

I could only embrace #JeSuisCharlie in as much as I am a journalist and revere free speech. I tweeted #JeSuisCharlie because  I find violence both abhorrent and inhuman and these journalists had been slaughtered in their desk chairs. None had left their homes that morning knowing the next hours would be their last.

Because they were men–white men with privilege–they never considered male violence to be a threat to them.

Despite the solidarity I felt with the victims in the face of such brutality, what I was not, and am still not, is accepting of the kind of work Charlie Hebdo produced. And I am not fully convinced that such work is a useful or necessary editorial tool.

Two mornings before the Paris massacre I had seen a tweet on a close friend’s timeline that made my stomach churn–a quote attributed to Voltaire, “To learn who rules over you, simply find out who you are not allowed to criticize.”

Accompanying the quote was a cartoon of a giant hand crushing a plethora of people. But added to the original cartoon–which has a plain, unadorned  sleeve–was the Judenstar, the Star of David that Jews in concentration camps were forced to wear.

I was horrified. Horrified at the image and horrified to find it amongst my friend’s tweets. I replied to it–it was a retweet from a prominent Green Party politician in London–saying I found the anti-Semitism offensive and noted the Nazi connection.

Both my friend and the Green Party man apologized. They actually hadn’t noticed. They had both thought of the quote and image as anti-Tory. The original tweeter deleted it. But I left Twitter for the day thoroughly  unsettled by what had happened. The Hitlerian propaganda of the “vast Zionist conspiracy” had propelled the Holocaust and sent members of my own family to the death camps and others fleeing for their lives.

Throughout the rise of the Third Reich in Germany, it was editorial cartoons–depictions of hook-nosed Jews with tallis and long beards counting money while blond-haired Aryans stood by starving–that had bolstered the perception of Jews as the ruination of Germany, the source of the economic disruption that was actually caused by restrictions imposed by America and Britain after the end of WWI.

In the US, editorial cartoons of slack-jawed blacks with shuffling gaits and vacant stares bolstered the racism that permeated the country blatantly for two centuries. A casual foray to any white supremacist website in the US today  will find more of these anti-Semitic and anti-black cartoons–as if it were still 1815, not 2015.

You will find regrettably similar cartoons from Charlie Hebdo, the shuffling blacks from America’s most shameful racism replaced by a drooling, googly-eyed Mohamed stumbling through the desert with a camel. The hook-nosed Jews of 1930s Berlin can also be found there.

I can be a proponent of free speech and not  want to be party to that kind of editorializing. A friend said people needed to have a sense of humor about cartoons. But the people who say this all seem to be white, Western and almost wholly male. They are neither Muslims nor Jews. They are the people who if they are killed, get worldwide headlines and hashtags and a day of mourning. They are not the people whose names are never known. They are not the French Jews dragged out of their  houses in the center of Paris and put on cattle cars to Mauthausen concentration camp after having been informed upon by their Christian neighbors, nor are they the French-born Muslims shunted into banlieues–the Parisian slums where France hides her jobless refugees from French colonialism in North Africa.

Feminists know some lives matter more than others, because the lives of women are under constant threat worldwide and no one cares. Feminists know that theirs is the one political philosophy that has never killed anyone. Feminists know that if men didn’t respond with violence to everything, be it an editorial cartoon or a dinner not to a husband’s liking, the world would be a better, more livable place. Feminists know that until and unless we face the destructive, pandemic force that is male violence, there will always be lives that matter and lives that do not. We will know the names of white French men victims and never know the names of Muslim Yemeni women victims–even if they are killed for the same reasons.

We may say “pas peur” in solidarity, but it is a solidarity that if illusory and doesn’t actually include us. For women, for Muslims, for Jews, for anyone who comes from a marginalized group or class, “pas peur” can never be true. Those of us who are the real targets of violence–which is not the journalists of Charlie Hebdo, who are actually anomalous victims–are in fact, afraid. We are afraid precisely because we know our lives have little worth in the global hierarchy. We know there will never be massive vigils held for us or hash tags created to memorialize us.

The Paris shooting unsettled the world precisely because its victims were not the victims we usually see–and dismiss. And that is perhaps the saddest sidebar to this tragedy: that the violence will not end because we will never call it by its real name.

Feminists know the source of the all these brutal killings.When will the rest of the world catch up?


Victoria A. Brownworth is an award-winning journalist, editor and writer and the author and editor of nearly 30 books. She has won the NLGJA and the Society of Professional Journalists awards, the Lambda Literary Award and has been nominated for the Pulitzer Prize. She won the 2013 SPJ Award for Enterprise Reporting in May 2014. She is a regular contributor to The Advocate and SheWired, a blogger for Huffington Post and a columnist and contributing editor for Curve magazine and Lambda Literary Review. Her reporting and commentary has appeared in the New York Times, Village Voice, Los Angeles Times, Boston Globe and Philadelphia Inquirer. Her book, From Where We Sit: Black Writers Write Black Youth won the 2012 Moonbeam Award for cultural&historical fiction. Her novel, Ordinary Mayhem, will be published in February 2015. Her book Erasure: Silencing Lesbians, will be published in June 2015. @VABVOX


A Christmas Homily: On Being a Radical Christian AND a Radical Feminist by @VABVOX

A Christmas Homily: On Being a Radical Christian AND a Radical Feminist

by Victoria A. Brown worth

When I was a girl in Catholic school, I was told the early Christians spoke in code in order to protect themselves from arrest or being thrown into the lion’s den. Part of the code was to draw half a fish in the dirt. If the other person were a Christian, they would draw the rest of the fish and conversation could ensue without fear.

As a radical feminist who is also a Catholic and a Christian, I often feel the same way: The lion’s den of social media doesn’t compare with being eaten by actual lions, but it can feel quite brutal. Having been attacked by dozens of atheists at a time, I can attest to how exhausting these assaults can be.

I have also witnessed Muslim women I know–all of whom wear hijab–being badgered by both atheists and progressives telling them their religion is retrogressive and violent and abusive to women.

These attacks on religious women, nearly always by men, are often framed as atheist  mansplaining: “Don’t you know your religion oppresses women?”

A curious counterpoint follows these attacks: women direct message me with their confessions of being closet Christians–afraid even to state it publicly, instead drawing their half of the fish in my DM after seeing me affirm my own Christian beliefs. This happened most recently last week when a young woman I know–an outspoken feminist in real life–asked me how I was able to reconcile my feminism and my Catholicism.

“Teach me how to do this!” she implored.

My answer may seem simplistic, but if you have a belief system, there should never be a conflict. There is none for me–I believe strongly in most radical feminist tenets and I believe in most tenets of Catholicism. (Note, I say most.)

I get attacked just as often for being a radical feminist as I do for being a radical Christian. What is unsurprising is that those attacks are almost wholly from the same quarters: atheist men and liberal feminist women.

Both groups cite their concern for my mental health as well as my mental acuity. Am I, I have been asked, “insane” or “retarded”?

There is also concern about my lack of knowledge of the world and my own place in it, a marginalizing tactic straight out of Patriarchy 101.

The perception that only the ignorant believe in God is itself ignorant–and, I might add, classist, sexist and racist given that the overwhelming majority of the world’s believers are women of color. The perspective promulgated by atheists that atheism is somehow more evolved than belief in God is as offensive as it is inaccurate, ignoring as it does the vast array of scientists who also believe in God, from Galileo to Einstein to Hawking. Atheism is its own belief system, with its purveyors every bit as strident as any fundamentalist.

I was raised in a Socialist Catholic household by parents who were civil rights workers. In addition to the leaders of the black civil rights movement, my mentors were women who conflated their religious beliefs with their leftist politics, among them Susan B. Anthony, Jane Addams, Dorothy Day, Simone Weil and my patron saints, Teresa of Avila and Joan of Arc.

For me, feminism and Catholicism and leftist activism were always inextricably bound. Growing up in the era of Liberation Theology, I was fortunate to have models of feminist theologians from whom I learned a new way of viewing my own faith, starting with the work of the 19th century abolitionist women and their suffragist cohorts. But by the time I was in college, I had discovered–or rather, dis-covered–the work of Mary Daly and Sheila Collins, Rosemary Radford Reuther and all the many women in Latin America, nuns and lay women alike, who were melding their faith and their feminism.

These women validated the unarticulated reality that I had experienced as a girl in Catholic school: that women were the backbone of the Church. That women were the backbone of spirituality. That the activism of the female saints was not only just as impactful as that of their male peers, but in many respects they were the foremothers/foresisters of modern feminism.

Watching my parents civil rights work, much of which was inextricably bound to our parish and to the churches of the black men and women we (well, I was a small child, but our family) were working with and for clarified for me how integral God was to the work being done.

There is no writing by Martin Luther King, Jr. that doesn’t invoke Christ. Concomitantly the work of Malcolm X, often held up as King’s more radical brother in the battle for black equality in the U.S., was a follower of Islam.

For many, God propelled us into activism. For me personally, it was those female saints and Christ himself that made me a radical Christian feminist. Wooed by the literal fight in Joan of Arc and her refusal to bow to patriarchal mores, wooed by the refusal of St. Cecilia to become a concubine, wooed by the brilliant mystical writings of St. Teresa of Avila, I was certain that women played as keen a role in God’s plan as the male apostles whose names I seemed incapable of remembering past Peter and John.

As I delved deeper into the concept of feminist theology in college, meeting Mary Daly and interviewing her for the college radio station where I had the first lesbian feminist radio program in the U.S. for an hour on Sunday mornings, I saw that God was as much the divine feminine as the “He” we had been taught in catechism class. As Daly said, “Why indeed must ‘God’ be a noun? Why not a verb – the most active and dynamic of all.”

If our internalization of God–particularly for those of us who are radical feminists intent on smashing the patriarchy–is in activism, then how could feminism not be an outgrowth of faith? The synthesis of God and the work of making the world a livable place for women and girls, men and boys, was inextricable–Daly showed me that feminism did not requite that I  expunge it from my heart or my intellect. Rather she showed me that the two worked in tandem, each propelling the other–and me–forward into action, into the heart of the fray as Joan of Arc had done.

Activism drove me and Christ was my ultimate mentor. Jesus’s exquisite knowledge that the end of his activist journey was a slow, hideous and painful death from which he could not escape spurred me forward: if Christ could do this, how could I do less? How could I not fight every battle presented to me, work ceaselessly for a better world, a more equitable place, follow the dictates Christ presented in the Sermon on the Mount–a revolutionary treatise if ever there were one.

Following Christ means giving up a great deal. But following radical feminism demands the same. The over-arching thing that must be relinquished–the thing that contradicts every MRA, lib fem or atheist gunner–is ignorance. You can no longer ignore what is set in front of you. You cannot ignore the chasms between rich and poor, men and women, color of privilege and color of oppression. You cannot pretend.

Now perhaps in a fundamentalist religion or a male-centered feminism, ignorance is an imperative. If one acknowledges that we are all equal–which is the basic tenet of both radical Christianity/liberation theology Catholicism and radical feminism–then you cannot stand on the sidelines of either your faith or your feminism. You cannot ignore that people are dying in your very own city of starvation in the clear and abundant bounty of Western society. You cannot ignore that one billion women worldwide are victims of male violence. You cannot ignore the plight of the poor, the disabled, the oppressed. You have to be in not for a penny but for many, many pounds. You have to give up your life in service to your beliefs and you can never, ever take time off, because the criticality demands of your radicalism that you be invested 24/7. You can’t shrug off this rapist or that rapacious politician. You can’t flip past the photo of spikes being put in doorways to keep the homeless from sleeping there. You can’t pretend that FGM is a cultural thing that (white) Westerners should ignore.

You cannot ever stop fighting for what is right because you are not, as the atheists and MRAs and lib fems say, ignorant. You are ignorance’s obverse: you are keenly, hyper-vigilantly aware and you can never unsee all that is cruel and inhumane and immoral anywhere ever again. Mother Teresa explicated this clearly, “I have found the paradox, that if you love until it hurts, there can be no more hurt, only more love.”

I have always believed that God is love and I have always believed that feminism is love. How could those two loves not heal the world the way they have healed me?

Two weeks ago I had some surgery. It seemed to go well, but an infection set in almost immediately, hidden under the healing wound, showing little sign to either me in my own body or to my doctors. It spread rapidly and by Dec. 17 I was gravely ill. By Dec. 18, death was knocking. On Dec. 19 I had emergency surgery. Today, as I write this on Christmas Eve Day, I am home from the hospital and I am alive.

I am not saying that I prayed to be saved–although I did, madly–and I was saved, because millions pray every day to be saved from things as painful and horrible as what I experienced and are not saved. What I am saying is being on the brink of death yet again, I am reminded of the value of life, of the value of all that is left to be accomplished and that the purpose of our lives on this earth–whether we believe in an afterlife as I do, or not–is to work as diligently as we can to give to those who do not have what we have, to seek justice for those of us (including ourselves) who have been marginalized, to make a space for equity and equality for everyone, to end male violence. Mother Teresa said, “Let us touch the dying, the poor, the lonely and the unwanted according to the graces we have received and let us not be ashamed or slow to do the humble work.”

There is often no more “humble” work than feminism. But those of us who are feminists–true feminists–do it always and unflinchingly because lives depend on it. We cannot walk away. That work of feminism, or the work Mother Teresa spoke of, is how I put faith and feminism together in the same place.

No doubt some will come away from this saying I haven’t addressed individual issues that are fraught in both the Church and radical feminism. Perhaps not. But I reiterate that I said at the outset I didn’t believe in every tenet of either my religion or my feminism. But I believe in the construct of both my faith and my feminism. I believe that both work in a truly intersectional way to bolster my activism.

Every Sunday when I attend Mass, I am re-infused with activism–compelled to leave and do the work Christ set me here to do: save lives. Of women, of girls. Save men from their own violence. Save the marginalized from suffering and bigotry and oppression. This is my answer to the question of how do I meld my faith in God and my faith in feminism–through the example of Christ and the radical feminist theologians his pro-feminist activism spawned. The answer for me is the women who came before me, God and feminism inextricably bound together in their hearts and in their work. My admiration for all they achieved is immeasurable, as is my desire to follow in their footsteps. And those of their mentor, Christ.


Victoria A. Brownworth is an award-winning journalist, editor and writer and the author and editor of nearly 30 books. She has won the NLGJA and the Society of Professional Journalists awards, the Lambda Literary Award and has been nominated for the Pulitzer Prize. She won the 2013 SPJ Award for Enterprise Reporting in May 2014. She is a regular contributor to The Advocate and SheWired, a blogger for Huffington Post and a columnist and contributing editor for Curve magazine and Lambda Literary Review. Her reporting and commentary has appeared in the New York Times, Village Voice, Los Angeles Times, Boston Globe and Philadelphia Inquirer. Her book, From Where We Sit: Black Writers Write Black Youth won the 2012 Moonbeam Award for cultural & historical fiction. Her novel, Ordinary Mayhem will be published in February 2015. Her book Erasure: Silencing Lesbians will be published in June 2015.@VABVOX


Teenage girls invent app to track police violence



“14-year-old Parkview High School Freshman, Caleb Christian was concerned about the number of incidents of police abuse in the news.  Still, he knew there were many good police officers in various communities, but had no way of figuring out which communities were highly rated and which were not.  

So, together with his two older sisters: Parkview High School senior Ima Christian, and Gwinnett School of Math, Science, and Technology sophomore, Asha Christian, they founded a mobile app development company– Pinetart Inc., under which they created a mobile app called Five-O.

Five-O, allows citizens to enter the details of every interaction with a police officer.  It also allows them to rate that officer in terms of courtesy and professionalism and provides the ability to enter a short description of what transpired.  These details are captured for every county in the United States. Citizen race and age information data is also captured. 

Additionally, Five-O allows citizens to store the details of each encounter with law enforcement; this provides convenient access to critical information needed for legal action or commendation.”

Read more here. [x]


Women Rock Science: A site dedicated to celebrating the achievements of women and girls in science

Dear Feminists: I’m One of You! Please Don’t “Save” Me

On October 31, 2014 by feimineach

As feminism becomes more mainstream, there’s been a great deal of discourse online regarding different cultural perspectives for various feminist issues. The more I read through these discussions, the more I become aware of a trend among feminists, which is the idea that a Western society is the ideal that other cultures should strive to duplicate. “Why does your culture do that?” “Your culture is so backwards.” “Your culture is oppressive.” These statements, along with others that share similar sentiments, not only alienate a huge portion of the feminist population, but also create divides among feminists that really shouldn’t exist in the first place.

You may not realize it, but the idea that Western women are somehow “more feminist” or “more liberated” than women from other cultures has existed for a very, very long time. This phenomenon stems from the concept that can most basically be summed up by cultural imperialism: the idea that Western society is ahead of other societies, and these “other” cultures need to catch up. Not only is this claim false, it also enforces marginalization of all cultures that don’t follow a Western framework.

This sort of cultural imperialistic mentality is dangerous for a multitude of reasons, the first of which is quite simple: it encourages prejudice and racial stereotyping. A Pakistani woman dressed in traditional garb should not be written off immediately as “oppressed by her culture.” She is only celebrating the country she identifies with by honoring it in the simplest way possible: by dressing in the clothes that reflect her nationality. By assuming that anyone dressed in accordance to their ethnicity is somehow not as “liberated” as the Western woman, we set up a system where the West has to try and “rescue” these “culturally oppressed” women. Notice, for example, that the West is referred to as “Western” or “Western society,” while most other forms of society are “cultural,” “ethnic,” or “exotic.” All of this helps propagate the believe that Western society is the default, and all other groups are anomalistic variations.



“Western” feminists have got to get better at this. (A) not imposing their western cultural standards on others and (B) not quickly assuming that non-Western women must be in some way oppressed.
(Image: © Michael Morales/The Foothill Dragon Press.)


Feimineach quick-hitting the hell out of everything. occasional thinky blogging. [@grainnemcmahon]

Are you all about that bass? at I was a high school feminist,

(Cross-posted from I was a high school feminist)

Okay. So by now you’ve obviously seen the video for “All About That Bass” or at least heard the song on the radio.

In her video, Meghan Trainor sings that she’s “all about that bass” – a metaphor that I thought was pretty clever, as it points out that the “heavier” part of music is also the part that’s important in order for the music to have a good beat or be danceable. I’m not sure if that’s a common comparison, but I’d never heard it before. Yay for metaphors!


As she sings about the fact that boys like heavier girls and about feeling good about herself, she and her non-skinny backup dancers dance happily in pastel-colored clothing.

Like many viral sensations that also carry a message, responses to the video followed a pretty familiar pattern from “OMG best thing ever!” to “Stop acting like the video is so great – it’s really problematic!”

I didn’t really have any strong opinions on the topic until I saw a response video titled “All about that bass (body positive version)”. By changing some of the lyrics, the artist attempted to “correct” the parts of the original song that many people had seen as less-than-positive.


And while a lot of the criticisms of the original video are valid, I’m just not sure if they all need correcting.

To be clear, I am NOT writing a defense of the original video, which does have some pretty significant problems: namely, its use of AAVE and use of black women as props.

For a really thorough takedown of the race issues inherent in the video, including Trainor’s appropriation of the word “booty” and her objectification of black women, check out Jenny Trout’s article “I am not all about that bass”.

Further, it would have been more in line with the song’s purported message to include women with body types that could actually be called fat, and not just “not skinny”.

But, as Meghan Trainor herself has said, she is not a feminist. And at the end of the day, the purpose of the song and video are to make money.

What I do want to talk about here is some of the criticisms of the video that I’ve seen, specifically the “body positive” version that I linked to above.

For instance, the original song specifically celebrates heavier girls, saying that their bodies are “better” than thin girls’ bodies, so in the “body positive” version, the singer changes the lyrics to reflect that all bodies are beautiful.

Now, I do agree that putting down any body type is not terribly feminist. As this article points out, songs like Trainor’s aren’t about loving yourself unconditionally as much as they are about “shifting the ideal” from skinny to heavier, while retaining the exclusivity of such an ideal.

“Skinny bitch”: problematic or not?

However, when the majority of media messages that we receive every day celebrate thin women and deride heavier ones, is it really that harmful to have one song that turns the tables on the assumption that thinner is better?

This was the slogan of a Special K cereal campaign. Ads in the campaign featured answers like "joy," "optimism," and "grace." The fact that we're surrounded by assumptions like this in our everyday lives makes me wonder if the "heavy girls are better" message of Trainor's video is really all that problematic.

I mean, think about the media messages we see every day, where the fat girl in the TV show is a weirdo, loser, or funny sidekick who’s the good-natured butt of jokes. Diet ads promote the idea that women are happier after they’ve lost weight, more attractive, and more successful in life and love. Hell, studies even show that thin women earn more money than their heavier counterparts.

You can use all the quotation marks you want, but the message here is still crystal clear.

In the midst of a cultural environment that can treat heavier women this badly, is it really worth criticizing one song for celebrating their bodies?

The same thing goes for one of the other complaints about the original lyrics, which sing about how men prefer girls who are a little heavier. A lot of people argued that a truly body-positive song would not perpetuate the message that you are only beautiful or valuable if a man desires you.

And yes, of COURSE I agree with that! There are SO many things wrong with the idea that a woman’s self-worth should be based on her attractiveness to men. It’s patriarchal, heteronormative, and a whole slew of other words that are too long for me to think of before a second cup of coffee.

But again, in a world where girls have already internalized the message that being found attractive by men is something to be proud of, but that fat girls don’t get to be attractive, one song claiming the opposite might not be the worst thing ever.

I guess my main problem with the response video, where a thin girl sings about how all bodies are equally pretty, was that it felt like it was totally dismissing the point of the original video.

It’s like in elementary school when you’d have field day or something; the kids who won events would get blue ribbons, but everyone would get a green “participation” ribbon. I freaking hated those green ribbons. Because they felt like a patronizing pat on the head when there were still kids getting blue ribbons. They felt like a reminder that you weren’t ACTUALLY any good at running.

And to me, replying to “Fat women are gorgeous!” with “You mean ALL women are gorgeous” sometimes feels like you’re taking away someone’s attempt to feel like they finally got a blue ribbon.

What’s your take?

I’m Tired by @RowenaMonde

(Cross-posted with permission from Les Reveries de Rowena)

Douglas Coupland art at the Vancouver Art Gallery


“all the women in me. are tired.” – Nayyirah Waheed

When I read the above micropoem by Nayyirah Waheed, it resonated with me greatly. I couldn’t help but write down the things I was fed up with. What resulted was a litany of the things I wish would just go away.



I’m tired of the fetishization of the black body,
Of feeling unsafe as a woman, a black woman.

I’m tired of being told, both directly and indirectly, that my feelings don’t matter,
That I’m too sensitive.

I’m tired of reading in the news that ANOTHER innocent black person has been killed by the police,
Has been painted as a thug, a dangerous criminal due to their pigmentation,
Not given the benefit of the doubt despite overwhelming evidence in their favour,
I’m tired that four decades after Dr. King and Malcolm X gave their lives this is still going on,

I’m tired of black face, and of people trying to justify using black face,
The monkey jokes are really getting old now, can’t racists be a bit more original?
I question how others see me. Can I trust anyone? Do I have to deal with another co-worker begging me to wear my afro out for Halloween? Am I a costume?

I’m tired of having to prove my humanity, having to prove I do have feelings,
Tired of feeling helpless about all the missing Nigerian girls, the African Ebola victims who hardly get a mention in the media these days.
Race is the elephant in the room, we don’t want to admit it.
Canada isn’t ready to discuss race,
Instead we have this kumbaya attitude to everything,
Promoting our multiculturalism policy,
Comparing ourselves positively to the States, at least we’re not them, we didn’t have slavery.
Their comments make me invisible, my issues and concerns don’t matter.
Surely I have nothing to complain about in our mosaic society?

And Lord knows I’m tired of the same nasty comments every Black History Month from the people who don’t understand why there is a need for it,
No, we’re not trying to make others feel guilty, we are trying to reclaim our history and our pride.
When ancient African civilizations were accredited to mythical lost European civilizations, rather than to their rightful African owners,
When history has been whitewashed to exclude all people of colour,
Surely a month isn’t too much to celebrate our history?
A month isn’t even long enough to catalogue the great contributions people of colour have made, but it’s a start.

Sorry to tell you but you can’t use the n-word just because your partner is black,
I don’t care if you mean it in an inoffensive way, don’t use it in my presence.
And slavery is never funny, it just isn’t,
The watermelon and fried chicken jokes are getting old; who doesn’t like fried chicken or watermelon anyway?

I’m scared that one day I’ll go missing and the police won’t care,
I’m disturbed by the fact a black life is valued so low.

If people only knew what we went through, perhaps they wouldn’t be too quick to shut us down,
If they were us they’d be tired too.
They would see the need to fight for change, to push for dialogue, something!
They would find it difficult to not become jaded,
They would feel disappointed and frustrated when those in positions of privilege ignore us,
They would experience the great effort we put into exhorting ourselves, our children
In world that tells us we are ugly, worthless and are criminals
A world in which a few black people standing together constitutes a mob,
A world in which the worst linguistic contortions are made to depict blacks in the most negative light.
I’m tired of being a prop, a photo op, a representative for the entire black race,
I’m aware that I am being used and it’s not a nice feeling,
What I’d ideally like to do is hide away in my books and ignore what’s going on ,but I have to fight this.

All I know is I’m not going to stop talking about racism, sexism and other -isms until they are over and done with.
I don’t want my younger female cousins to have to deal with as much negativity as I’ve had to,
I don’t want them to suppress their feelings and thoughts to make others comfortable. Haven’t we been made to feel uncomfortable enough?
Shrinking ourselves so as not to alarm people,
Being afraid to occupy space, just in case…

I’ve now resolved to not worry about the names people may call me.
If they wish to call me strident, so be it.
Neurotic, I’m fine with that too.
There is a time in someone’s life and in history when enough is enough.
Being authentic to oneself is more important than popularity.
Fighting the status quo is more important than pretending everything is okay

Aluta continua


I’m a woman moulded and shaped by three continents; my life has always been about border epistemology: navigating between cultures.  My hunger for knowledge is insatiable, my dreams are big, but alas, my energy is limited. I’m a dreamer, an exhorter and  a comforter. I believe strongly in kindness, love, authenticity and in listening to the voices of marginalized people. Please expect some impassioned posts from time to time!

I’m a strong advocate of the arts, especially literature and music.  A better world would be one with more art, more people writing and creating. Africa will always have my heart.

Banana Envy – Notes on a Global Obsession at Americas Studies

(Cross-posted from Americas Studies)

The banana is one of the most popular and ubiquitous fruits in the world. Walmart sells more of them than any other product. The word “bananas” has entered our language not just to refer to the fruit, but also as a slang word for something crazy or bizarre. In terms of imagery it’s slippery skin has become a comedy staple. Moreover, its phallic shape has given rise to a myriad of sexual connotations. However, the banana is the eunuch of the fruit world being sterile after thousands of years of human interference. Despite being an ongoing hotbed of mirth and eroticism their lack of genetic diversity leaves them highly susceptible to disease, and therefore constantly on the brink of extinction.

Furthermore, the phallic banana is most often placed in the company of women of colour. A dangerous triad of primitivism, imperialism and racism have brought about a long history of associating people of colour and other colonial subjects with primates (think of monkeys often depicted with a banana in hand), and women of colour as highly sexed and deviant. Let us not forget the disturbing recent history of human zoos that haunt the world over in which Africans and Native Americans were held in captivity and placed on public display, often alongside other animals. Consider these racist stereotypes and you unearth a long history of discrimination that has seeped into pop culture.

Of course it must be noted that not all iterations of the banana are racist or even erotic. Some, like Gwen Stefani’s idiomatic use of bananas in “Hollaback Girl” is simply surreal and evades definition. However, the pairing of women of colour and the popular yellow fruit is rarely innocent and usually for the purpose of entertaining and, in some cases, “educating” armchair geographers whose knowledge of other races and cultures is rendered and shaped through biased publications.

In light of this I have compiled a Storify of just a few of the cultural expressions of the banana. These range from the innocent and comedic to the erotic and racist:


Americas Studies: This blog, Américas Studies is the product of an Irish feminist researcher in transatlantic dialogue with the Américas. It is grounded in my current experience as a doctoral candidate with posts about literature, film, feminism, and issues related to academia.

The reproduction of racialized systems of social control by @saramsalem

Over the past few days I’ve been reading two sets of texts and I couldn’t help but notice the striking similarity between them. The first text is Michelle Alexander’s The New Jim Crow, and the second set of texts are articles on human rights and democracy as the new standards of measuring how civilized countries are.

In her book Alexander argues that the prison industrial complex is basically a transformed version of the Jim Crow system. Her main point is that following the civil rights movement and the collapse of Jim Crow, white supremacy had to find a new way to maintain racial inequality. This was done through two related processes: the War on Drugs and the expansion of the prison system. In other words, white supremacy persisted in a different form, and is perhaps even more dangerous because it is not overt anymore. No one is speaking about race the way they did during Jim Crow; but the systemic effects are the same.

You can read the full post here.

Neo-Colonialism and it’s Discontents A blog by Sara Salem on Postcolonialism, Marxism, feminism and other conspiracies. twitter: @saramsalem