Tag Archives: identity

How To Be A Woman

How To Be A Woman book coverThis is one of those how-did-I-not-find-this-until-now books: Caitlin Moran’s How to Be a Woman. Moran is irreverent and on-point, and I often laughed out loud while reading. She calls herself a “strident feminist” and puts forth several theories about feminism and sexism that I found pretty useful, such as:

  • If you’re not sure whether something is a feminist issue, ask yourself if men are spending time worrying about it.
  • Treating other people with courtesy goes a long way toward enacting a feminist world.
  • Responding to sexism by noting that a person has been “uncivil” is often an in-roads to a better conversation.

In short, Moran articulates a feminism that is both persuasive and possible–and it’s fun!

Oh, and if you don’t follow her on Twitter, you’re missing out.


Re-post: Transgender experiences of gender bias

The following is an excerpt from Jessica Nordell’s article “Why Aren’t Women Advancing at Work?: Ask a Transgender Person.”

Ben Barres is a biologist at Stanford who lived and worked as Barbara Barres until he was in his forties. For most of his career, he experienced bias, but didn’t give much weight to itseeing incidents as discrete events. (When he solved a tough math problem, for example, a professor said, “You must have had your boyfriend solve it.”) When he became Ben, however, he immediately noticed a difference in his everyday experience: “People who don’t know I am transgendered treat me with much more respect,” he says. He was more carefully listened to and his authority less frequently questioned. He stopped being interrupted in meetings. At one conference, another scientist said, “Ben gave a great seminar todaybut then his work is so much better than his sister’s.” (The scientist didn’t know Ben and Barbara were the same person.) “This is why women are not breaking into academic jobs at any appreciable rate,” he wrote in response to Larry Summers’s famous gaffe implying women were less innately capable at the hard sciences. “Not childcare. Not family responsibilities,” he says. “I have had the thought a million times: I am taken more seriously.”

Read the whole article.



On Anti-feminism

The basic concept for my dissertation came out of seeing young women (often students in classes I was teaching) say, “I’m not a feminist, but …” and then say something that totally seems like feminism to me. (“I’m not a feminist, but I believe in equality.” “I’m not a feminist, but the gender-wage gap makes me angry.” “I’m not a feminist, but I get tired of female politicians being held to a different standard.”) I created apparent feminism both because I wanted to put a face on feminisms for them and because I wanted them to know that they don’t have to self-identify as feminist for me to take them seriously and want to work with them.

On the first day of a women’s and gender studies class I taught a few summers ago, I wore a hot pink pencil skirt. On the second day, I wore dark jeans and chucks, and I asked the students if they’d noticed what I wore yesterday. Every single one of them had. By the end of the class, one student said that she almost dropped the class that first day because my outfit made it seem to her like I didn’t know what feminism was. For that student, at least, I managed to broaden the idea of what a feminist can look like. But I still wonder what cultural signals are telling people that a feminist can only be one thing–that a feminist can’t wear a pink skirt. Defining feminism so narrowly is exactly the opposite of its main message, which is that people can be and do whatever they want regardless of sex.

I’ve seen an increasing number of news stories, blog posts, and online conversations lately about “anti-feminism.” I’ve read a number of them, and the best I can understand is that the current “anti-feminism” movement is about hating anyone who identifies as feminist. This doesn’t make sense to me because feminists are extremely diverse; the only real organizing principles of feminism are a drive for a equality among all people (which seems like a pretty obviously Good thing) and an implicit assumption that sexual equality has not yet been achieved on a systematic scale (which is supported by overwhelming quantifiable data). But, apparent feminism is also about listening, so right now I’m trying to interpret these statements as the beginnings of worthwhile political conversations. In the meantime, I’ll just keep reminding people that “feminist” can mean a lot of things–and our personal interpretations of the word “feminist” are quite telling.


Girl Rising

Girl Rising is an important new activist movement to empower girls. Read more at their website, or view the trailer for the upcoming film below.

Robots and resumes

I’ve been warning students lately (both in classes and whenever I give this workshop with Dr. Guiseppe Getto) that they really need to make sure to use appropriate key terms in their resumes and cover letters (while still remaining truthful to their professional identities, of course). That’s because all the rhetorical smarts in the world won’t change a robot’s mind if the right term isn’t there. Once or twice, when I’ve said this and gotten disbelieving looks from students, I’ve wondered if I read too much scifi. But that’s not it, because look!

How to Make Sure Your Resume Makes It Past the Robots