The 39 Most Iconic Feminist Moments of 2014*

Amy Poehler feminism


“If you look up feminism in the dictionary, it just means that men and women have equal rights. And I feel like everyone here believes men and women have equal rights. But I think the reason people don’t clap is that word is so weirdly used in our culture.” ~ Aziz Ansari, on Late Show with David Letterman (October 2014)

I’ve been saving this for an end of the year post, but, well, life . . . so now it’s a beginning of the year post. I’m only listing a selection of the ones I liked the most. Enjoy.

from mic.com (*click link to see full list)

by Elizabeth Plank

In 1998, Time magazine declared feminism dead. Nearly 15 years later, it wondered if instead, perhaps feminism should be banned. Constantly on attack from all sides, feminism has spent the past few decades proving its importance and relevance over and over and over again. If there’s one thing history has taught us, it’s that the backlash against feminism will always be a measure of our success. That’s the thing with progress — it is perceived as a threat by those too weak to embrace it.Indeed, it’s clear 2014 was a historic one for feminism. Women stood up for their rights, challenged stereotypes, fought for recognition and took control of the dialogue. The following is a non-exhaustive list of some of the most iconic feminist moments this year:

1. Malala Yousafzai accepted the Nobel Peace Prize — and went straight back to chemistry class.

The Nobel Peace Prize is “not going to help in exams” Yousafzai joked to reporters after becoming the youngest person to win the award. In addition to advocating against violence, poverty and advocating for more access to education for women and girls, the 17-year-old activist has become a symbol of hope and proof that feminism really does have the power to change the world.

2. Mo’ne Davis made everyone want to “throw like a girl.”

When the 13-year-old Davis led her team to the Little League World Series, it’s safe to say she captivated the nation. Poised and confident, Davis was an instant role model for millions of little girls — and boys — and also was the first Little Leaguer to grace a Sports Illustrated cover.

3. Emma Watson stunned the U.N.

We knew Watson was destined for big things as soon as the U.N. named her as an official Goodwill Ambassador, but we had no idea how much of an impact she would have — and so soon — until she gave a speech highlighting the importance of gender equality and feminism. Although some feminists were disgruntled by a perceived lack of acknowledgment by the star of her own privilege, her public defense of feminism certainly started a conversation, sending the message that feminism is important and should be embraced by both men and women.

4. A survivor brought her mattress — and sparked a national movement.

Frustrated by what she saw as an unacceptable response from school officials to her alleged sexual assault, Columbia University student Emma Sulkowicz took matters into her own hands. As part of her senior performance art project, Sulkowicz announced she would carry her mattress everywhere she went until her alleged rapist was expelled.

It didn’t take long for others to notice, eventually sparking a national day of protest culminating in 28 mattresses being dropped in front of the office of Lee Bollinger, the university president, in a dramatic show of solidarity.

5. Jennifer Lawrence beat the Internet’s worst trolls at their own game.

It’s no coincidence the 4chan celebrity nude scandal targeted almost exclusively female celebrities. Culturally, we still view women’s sexuality as inherently shameful, making the exploitation of said sexuality one of the most effective ways we have to try to put women down. Lawrence, however, is far too strong a woman to be shamed by a few cowardly trolls hiding behind the anonymous cloak of the dark net.

She told Vanity Fair that those who attempt to denigrate women for taking intimate photos are the ones who should be ashamed. “I started to write an apology, but I don’t have anything to say I’m sorry for,” she said. Amen to that.

6. Women stormed the halls of Congress.

The 2014 midterm election may have been a “shellacking” for Democrats, but it also saw victories by a new wave of women, on both sides of the political aisle, ultimately increasing the ratio of female representatives greatly. A record 100 women will serve in the 114th Congress, and that’s something we should all celebrate.

7. A bro tried to defend catcalling on TV — and was totally shut down.

Although it’s rare to hear anyone describe a crime like harassment as a “compliment,” it’s always shocking to hear a man on television think he can get away with telling women how they should or should not feel about it. Amanda Seales did not take kindly to Steve Santagati’s suggestion that women should be thankful for the attention during a debate. From now on, every reaction to mansplaining will forever be judged against the flawless takedown that resulted.

9. Laverne Cox didn’t break barriers, she crushed them.

Laverne Cox, in addition to being an incredibly talented actress, has spent the past year helping to open doors for her transgender brothers and sisters. Some of her firsts included being the first openly transgender woman to garner an Emmy nomination for her role as Sophia Burset in Orange Is the New Black, a rare, realistic portrayal of a transgender woman in mainstream pop culture. Cox also graced the cover of Time magazine, shining a brilliant light on the talent of trans individuals and the growing strength of the transgender rights movement.

10. Taylor Swift had a feminist epiphany. 

After years of comments to the contrary, the superstar entertainer finally came out of the gender equality closet this year, confiding to the Guardian that she was a feminist all along (knew it)! Swift then set about proving her commitment to the movement, releasing a video for her single “Blank Space” that was described as a “dystopian feminist fairy tale.”

Indeed, over the span of only a couple months, Swift has been on something of a feminist tear, disproving stereotypes about feminists, calling out the music industry’s trivialization of women artists and giving thanks for the invaluable role of female friendships in her life. Oh, and can we talk about that VMA performance?

11. #YesAllWomen reached almost 2 million tweets in under four days.

Not all men assault, rape and harm women, but #YesAllWomen have to deal with the threat of being hurt every day. That was the rallying cry behind what may be the most viral feminist hashtag of all time. Born out of the tragedy that took place in Santa Barbara, California, it was an opportunity for women to speak openly  about the injustices that plague their lives. At one point, the hashtag trended more than Kim Kardashian’s wedding, proof that the conversation was long overdue and resonated with many.

Thanks to #YesAllWomen, the conversation about the shooting was seen through a gendered lens, something that the media has been reluctant to do for far too long.

13. Beyoncé danced in front of the world — and a gigantic feminist banner.Remember the bizarre spectacle that was last year’s VMAs? For all those wondering if they would ever get Robin Thicke’s gyrations out of their nightmares, Beyoncé’s 16-minute performance was quite literally a sight for sore eyes. The world’s biggest diva proved feminism wasn’t just accessible, it was cool. As Time remarked, the entire show was about women’s empowerment. From Swift’s lively performance with exclusively male backup dancers to Nicki Minaj’s assertive “Anaconda,” the performances gave many of us hope for a future music industry that respects and highlights its female talent.

15. Lupita Nyong’o forced Hollywood to take blackness seriously.After becoming only the fifth black woman to receive a best supporting actress award for her role in 12 Years a Slave, Nyong’o set off on a whirlwind awards tour, earning a Glamour Woman of the Year honor and the Essence magazine Black Woman in Hollywood Breakthrough Award. Proving that she was as brilliant as she was beautiful, Nyong’o’s speech on body image and blackness was deeply moving.

“I remember a time when I too felt unbeautiful,” she told the Essence audience. “I put on the TV and only saw pale skin, I got teased and taunted about my night-shaded skin.” The path to self-acceptance is hard, she noted, but finally coming to terms with the idea that beauty comes in many shades has changed her life.

24. Crafty crafters did amazing things in Hobby Lobby stores.

After the Supreme Court ruled in Hobby Lobby’s favor, effectively allowing the crafting giant to stop providing birth control in female employees’ insurance packages, clever and crafty feminists took to the aisles, expressing their frustration via pro-woman messages left in stores across the nation. The best part? Male customers also got in the fun. It’s good to know that you don’t have to be a lady to appreciate the responsibility of for-profit corporations to provide comprehensive contraceptive care.

30. The MTA took a stand against “man-spreading.”

In an encouraging move, New York transit announced in the fall it was beginning a campaign to combat the amount of space some men take up in public. The problem, sometimes known as “man-spreading,” “lava balls” or “subway sprawl,” will be tackled through awareness programs the MTA is planning to roll out in January 2015. While women may miss witty feminist Tumblrs like Your Balls Aren’t That Big, we certainly won’t miss having to deal with men’s wide-legged dominance on a daily basis.

34. Feminists finally got us talking about Bill Cosby.

Allegations against Cosby have been around for years, but for some reason (ahem, misogyny), the mainstream media took a while to actually star caring about it. But that all changed after comedian Hannibal Buress’ routine woke the not-so-sleeping giant of the feminist network.

Overnight, activists left the media no choice but to pay attention, a movement solidified after savvy Internet users hijacked a promotional chat, R. Kelly style. In the wake of this outpouring of support, even more women have come forward to tell their own stories of alleged abuse at the hands of the venerable comedian.

 

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“My own sex, I hope, will excuse me, if I treat them like rational creatures, instead of flattering their fascinating graces, and viewing them as if they were in a state of perpetual childhood, unable to stand alone.” ~ Mary Wollstonecraft, from A Vindication of the Rights of Woman


                   
“Men know that women are an overmatch for them, and therefore they choose the weakest or the most ignorant. If they did not think so, they never could be afraid of women knowing as much as themselves.” ~ Samuel Johnson, from A Journey to the Western Islands of Scotland and The Journal of a Tour to the Hebrides

Two things that belong together:

I really don’t know why I continue to be surprised and amazed at how much of the world still views and treats women. I mean, I’ve faced gender discrimination head on more times than I can count, so that this way of thinking is still so prevalent today really shouldn’t catch me off guard. But it does. The first part comes from an article by Kelly Koo on designtaxi.com, and it highlights the prevalence of misogyny just through popular search engines, and the second part comes from an unbelievable load of malarkey that I ran across on tumblr: The Case Against Female Self-Esteem

Ad Shows The World’s Popular Opinions Of Women Using Search Engine

By Kelly Koo, 18 Oct 2013

Gender inequality exists in many parts of the world—women are still being denied proper work, wages, education and healthcare in some places.

UN Women teamed up with Christopher Hunt of Ogilvy & Mather to come up with a series of thought-provoking ads that highlight authoritative attitudes towards women.

The ads show the real Google search results of search terms like “women need to”, “women should” and “women cannot”, revealing the abhorrent opinions that people around the world have about women.

The words “women shouldn’t suffer from discrimination anymore” and “women cannot accept the way things are” appear in tiny, white print that are barely legible, showing how these opinions are largely ignored.

                   

“Both porn and religion distort a person’s perspectives on women.” ~ Jesse Dangerously

So I clicked on a link on tumblr, and this is what I found:

Feminists can claim that women don’t need men, but their actions put the lie to that; they need us far more than we need them. Girls will all but die without masculine attention. Hell, I’m even starting to think that the feminist agita about “rape culture” is part of this as well. Pushing lies like the claim that one in three women will be raped during her lifetime and their constantly expanding the definition of rape are ways for feminists to indulge their desire for vulnerability in a way that doesn’t conflict with their view of themselves as “strong” and “empowered.”

At the end of the day, there are no Strong, Independent Women™. There are only shrews pleading for a taming. All the posturing, the pill-popping, the whining and demands for “equality”; they’re a cry for help. Girls don’t want the six-figure cubicle job, the shiny Brooklyn 2BR, the master’s degree, the sexual liberation, none of it. They want to be collectively led back to the kitchen, told to make a nice big tuna sandwich with extra mayo and lettuce, then swatted on the ass as we walk out the door.

I am loathe to include the author’s name or a link to his site mostly because I don’t want him to get any more attention because obviously this cretin would view any attention as good attention. But what I find truly ironic is that this guy’s byline is “The man who shouted love at the heart of the world.” Love? Really?

I read his entire post, and what it is full of is not love but outright misogyny under the guise of revealing truths about women. Right. What a bucket load of crappola. For example, he has this to say about self-esteem:

Most girls have done nothing to deserve self-esteem (emphasis mine).

In the world of men, respect—and by extension self-esteem—is based on actually achieving something of worth or having some kind of skill or talent. Are you a bodybuilder or jacked? Men and women will respect you because the effort to mold your body like that requires an enormous amount of work and dedication (emphasis his).

To say that bodybuilding is something more worthy of respect is just plain weird. He claims that “they [women] demand respect not based on their merit as people, but for merely continuing to breathe,” which is a sweeping generalization based solely upon the opinion of this supposed author. Facts are not present in this testosterone-laden screed.

I mean, this guy has the gonads to claim that “the vast majority of girls work useless fluff jobs” and that “if every man lost his job tomorrow, the country would collapse” (emphasis his). I think we’ve just witnessed via the government shutdown what happens when a bunch of men with self-important jobs think they are running the world.

There’s more (unfortunately).

He asserts that “‘confident’ women are incapable of viewing men as human beings” and that “women don’t want to have high self-esteem” (emphasis his), as if he has the data to back up such folderal. He doesn’t.

I really shouldn’t read things like this because it does nothing for my blood pressure or my migraines.

This guy is obviously intimidated by strong, secure women, and the only way that he can make himself look better is to claim to know what women really think and want (emphasis mine). His contention is that “so-called confident women are as threatening as a pile of dog turds.” Wow. So glad you clarified that for us.

This guy wouldn’t know how to have an adult conversation with an educated woman, or any woman (for that fact) with an IQ above 100. This philistine is only comfortable with the Barbies, the gigglers, the fatuous, silicone-enhanced superficial sex-kittens who can keep his massive ego stroked and stoked. He as much as says so: “I had this epiphany; the girls I’ve loved the most were the ones who were the most insecure, the most emotionally vulnerable.”

Pity the perspicacious woman who happens upon Mr. Machismo in all of his glorious XY splendor. It’s evident that lacks the depth to perceive that the brain is the most sexual organ of the body.

He further states that women want “nothing more than for a man to throw them over his knee, shatter the Berlin Wall around their hearts, and expose the lovestruck, bashful little girl within.”

Oh thank you kind sir (she exclaimed in her highest little girl voice). Why I never would have been able to cobble together such deep, insightful thoughts without your guidance.

Excuse me. I need to go and rinse my mouth.

Okay. I’m back.

So, in the end of his treatise on the female sex, he has this to say:

At the end of the day, there are no Strong, Independent Women™. There are only shrews pleading for a taming. All the posturing, the pill-popping, the whining and demands for “equality”; they’re a cry for help. Girls don’t want the six-figure cubicle job, the shiny Brooklyn 2BR, the master’s degree, the sexual liberation, none of it. They want to be collectively led back to the kitchen, told to make a nice big tuna sandwich with extra mayo and lettuce, then swatted on the ass as we walk out the door.

You know, this particular woman has no further time for such neanderthal thinking. I’ll just take my masters degrees (yes, plural), my experience as a program director, a writer, an editor and all of the rest, and bid him a not so fond farewell. He and I should never ever cross paths. After all, he is obviously not worthy.

Enough. More later.

Music by Aqua, “Barbie Girl”

“Hold fast to your dreams, for without them life is a broken winged bird that cannot fly.” ~ Langston Hughes

Anemone in Seventeen Parts by Oslo in the Summertime (FCC)

                   

“I have woven a parachute out of everything broken.” ~ William Stafford 

Friday afternoon. Way too warm for winter, 80’s.

That’s right, 80’s. Ugh. What’s so bad about this is that I’m certain that next week it will probably be in the 40’s. How is a person with sinus problems supposed to thrive in such an environment? It’s hot. No wait, it’s cold. No, it’s hot. The natural immunity that I have gets so confused that it runs and hides.

Kaleidoscope by ark (FCC)

As it is, I’m out of my Singulair, so my lungs are beginning to crackle again, and because of the hiccup in Corey’s job, I cannot get refills until this coming Thursday. By then, with the temperature changes, this gunk that had taken up temporary residence in my lungs may have come back for an extended visit.

Last night, the progress I had made in getting to sleep earlier vanished as I was unable to fall asleep until 5 a.m., and then I had very bad dreams about dead babies. So not cool.

Corey is working all weekend, which is actually good as it keeps his mind busy so that he doesn’t dwell on the still-unannounced departure date. His truck is finally working; of course, it needs gas, which isn’t going to happen, so while he’s excited that his truck has been fixed, he’s depressed that he cannot drive it anywhere. Of course, there are still a few other things that need to be done, not the least of which is to put new tires on it, but we’re planning to wait until he gets back from his hitch before that expenditure.

Meanwhile, life carries on, as it were.

“Fortune is like glass—the brighter the glitter, the more easily broken.” ~ Publius Syrus

So I’ve been thinking about things that break—real and imagined, literal and figurative. Not really sure why. What follows is stream of consciousness and random association, so be forewarned:

  • Crystal (too much)
  • Hearts (too many)
  • Promises (promises to keep . . .)
  • Words (is this the same thing as promises?)
  • Glass (looking glass? walking on broken glass?)
  • Eggs (secrets and treasurer inside a fragile box)
  • Families (far too many of these)
  • Concentration (too easily done)
The Twist by sebilden (FCC)
  • Fevers (hallucinations or reality)
  • Negotiations (power struggles)
  • Wings (fear of flying)
  • Codes (more secrets?)
  • Locks (the way in or keeping something out?)
  • Bones (corporeal fragility)
  • Habits (bad? broken enough?)
  • Contracts (see words and promises above)
  • Records (as in over and over, or in something to surmount?)
  • Speed of sound (can we travel this far this fast?)
  • Barriers (all of my life)
  • Rules (meant to be broken)
  • Spirits (see wings and hearts)
  • Glass ceilings (barriers for women)
  • Systems (this country)
  • Waves (crash down)
  • Deadlines (as in promises?)
  • Bodies (feel this too acutely)
  • Ties (promises? hearts? families? All of these?)
  • Covenants (more than a promise)

“I was never one to patiently pick up broken fragments and glue them together again and tell myself that the mended whole was as good as new. What is broken is broken—and I’d rather remember it as it was at its best than mend it and see the broken places as long as I lived.” ~ Margaret Mitchell

So what does all of this mean? In no particular order . . .

I spent a great deal of time in my 20’s trying to break the glass ceiling. I felt that it was my duty, to myself, to the women who looked up to me and those I mentored, and to women in general to take on the very systems that promoted inequity. I had indoctrinated myself in the whole system of feminism, the idea that there should be no inequality between the sexes, that people were people, regardless of sex, creed, color.

Kaleidoscope VI by fdecomite (FCC)

I have learned in recent years that feminism has taken on a new meaning, that the rules by which I lived may no longer apply. All of the unspoken promises that those of us on the frontline made to the cause, those ideologies have been overshadowed by something that is no better than the patriarchy that we fought so hard to replace. Feminism should not be about women being better; it should not be about lesbians being better. The whole point of the covenant that we made was that no one should be considered better or treated better or made to feel inferior.

I am sadly disheartened on several fronts: the young women who see feminism as a dirty word, associating it with women who don’t like men (not sexual preference, just in general), defining it as women who hate marriage, family, children. That’s not what it’s about, or at least what it used to be about. I also hate that so many of the young women who are enrolled in women’s studies curricula have made it an uncomfortable place for men. When I was seeking my women’s studies certificate as an undergraduate, the classes were filled with men and women, all who sought equity, more parity between the sexes, all of whom were dedicated to an idea that women could be whatever they wanted and that men could actively support this. It was a curricula that welcomed everyone, and it still should, but I fear that that is no longer the case.

So many barriers that used to hold women back—in government, in society, in all aspects—these barriers have been broken. They should not be replaced with new barriers, reverse sexism, if you will.

People. We are people, and as such, we can embrace our difference and similarities without building more walls.

“It makes my heart sick when I remember all the good words and the broken promises.” ~ Chief Joseph

Someone once said that a broken promise is better than no promise. I heartily disagree. A promise reflects the individual. One who is willing to make a promise is giving his or her word. To toss that aside thoughtlessly is to be careless with the essence of what makes us who we are.

Starspheres by Song_Sing (FCC)

When we marry someone, we make all kinds of promises, sometimes in front of large groups of people and sometimes in front of no one more than an official. In so doing, we bind ourselves, create a tie. When Corey and I wrote our vows, we promised to do things for each other, with each other. Time and circumstance should not change those promises. I don’t believe that either of us said those words lightly. Nevertheless, I would not be telling the truth if I did not admit that we have each broken pieces of the other’s heart, have each chipped away at that unspoken code to do no harm to those we love best. We are only human, after all.

Admittedly, I made promises to my ex, or we made promises to one another. In the end, our words ended up on the scrap heap of broken promises; our marriage on the pile of rocks where broken marriages go to die. Years later, I no longer feel the seething anger or intense heartbreak that I once felt, and time and distance have allowed me to see how much we were both at fault, how we broke each other’s spirits, and broke our covenant, which resulted in a broken and fractured family that has slowly rebuilt itself..

We move through time, salve our wounds, fix some things, but are unable to repair completely others. Too often we walk about in a fog, as if in a fevered ague, and only awaken when necessity forces us to confront what is before us.

“The tender heart, the broken and contrite spirit, are to me far above all the joys that I could ever hope for in this vale of tears.” ~ Charles Simeon

Years ago, when I was still teaching at ODU, I was standing on the kitchen counter, reaching for something, and I dropped a glass on the floor, which immediately broke into pieces. I looked down, saw the glass. This fact registered in my brain, but I still stepped down onto the floor in my bare feet and immediately cut a deep gash on the sole of my foot that required stitches.

Daisy Kaleidoscope by srqpix (FCC)

Why do I mention this? Because even with knowledge, foresight, we still take steps that are foolhardy; we still knowingly step into a pile of sharp edges, and then we are surprised when we are wounded. We enter into frays knowing that we might exit with wounds, yet still we do it, perhaps because we think that if we make it through to the other side, we have outpaced our own limitations, we have approached the speed of sound, come close to shattering yet another barrier. Or perhaps it is something much more simple: We are not careful enough, not mindful enough. We do not treat our hearts and our souls like the fragile eggs that they are, always believing that we can go just one step further, take one more chance.

We have no fear of flying, convincing ourselves that it cannot possibly happen to us, that is until it does, until our wings are broken, or at the very least, clipped. And what then? Does the reflection looking back at us become unrecognizable, distorted as if reflected from broken glass?

“The world breaks everyone, and afterward, some are strong at the broken places.” ~ Ernest Hemingway

Ultimately, this is a world of broken people, fragmented lives, and no matter what system we depend upon for support, we are all still imperfect beings. How we seek to attain perfection varies as widely as there are people on this planet. How we attempt to reach that state of grace is limitless.

And as I sit here now, contemplating the mutability of life, I am brought back to the corporeal as a stabbing pain shoots down my spine. And I know that even though my body is broken in so many ways, that I often do not recognize the person in the mirror as I glance quickly and then turn away, I also know with just as much conviction that the places in me that are broken have been stitched together with things that I have borrowed and stolen from everyone I have ever encountered:

Mushroom Flower by sebilden (FCC)

A bone of contention here, a sliver of spine there. I have amassed fragments and pieces, facets and slivers.

Sitting atop my jewelry box is a rather small Waterford crystal salt cellar, an individual dish for salt. My m-in-law gave it to me years ago, and it was my first piece of Waterford. She had received it as a present from an elderly woman to whom she delivered Mobile Meals. This vessel contains three small pins that I no longer wear as I have few occasions to wear suits. This tiny crystal container is perhaps one of my most treasured belongings, so I handle it with great care, probably more care than I take with my life as a whole.

Why do I mention it here? Because it is one of those things that I have amassed that is as much a piece of me as anything else. It does not serve the purpose for which it is intended, but if I were to  employ it for salt, it could hold my tears. Or I could stand at the edge of the shore as the waves break onto the sand and collect sea spray that would dry as salt, and fill it wave by wave.

For now, I allow it to contain memories, and I protect it and everything that it symbolizes, which, in the end, is all that we can do really—protect that which can be broken or mend that which has already fractured.

More later. Peace.

Music by Livingston, “Broken”

                   

The Opening of Eyes

That day I saw beneath dark clouds
the passing light over the water
and I heard the voice of the world speak out
I knew then as I have before
life is no passing memory of what has been
nor the remaining pages of a great book
waiting to be read

It is the opening of eyes long closed
It is the vision of far off things
seen for the silence they hold
It is the heart after years of secret conversing
speaking out loud in the clear air

It is Moses in the desert fallen to his knees
before the lit bush
It is the man throwing away his shoes
as if to enter heaven and finding himself astonished
opened at last
fallen in love
with Solid Ground

~ David Whyte