While teaching my three daughters about the importance of speaking out and taking action for what they believe in, most recently around the white nationalists coming to San Francisco, I’ve had to confront messages they’ve received that there’s no point to protesting. My kids learn the “I have a Dream Speech in school,” but that time had a beloved hero and was a clear case of right and wrong, while the current political situation is less noble, more unclear. I work to counter that narrative, telling them that their own seemingly small actions do have purpose and meaning, but I never made an analogy that the MLK’s time was also imperfect. I didn’t realize the same critiques from white moderates waiting on the sidelines, who agreed with the goal of equality but weren’t willing to do much yet, were just prevalent back then. I’m going to share with my kids this op-ed by clergy from the New York Times: “Waiting for a Perfect Protest? Here are some excerpts:
“Thanks to the sanitized images of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and the civil rights movement that dominate our nation’s classrooms and our national discourse, many Americans imagine that protests organized by the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee and countless local organizations fighting for justice did not fall victim to violent outbreaks…
The reality — which is underdiscussed but essential to an understanding of our current situation — is that the civil rights work of Dr. King and other leaders was loudly opposed by overt racists and quietly sabotaged by cautious moderates. We believe that current moderates sincerely want to condemn racism and to see an end to its effects. The problem is that this desire is outweighed by the comfort of their current circumstances and a perception of themselves as above some of the messy implications of fighting for liberation. This is nothing new. In fact, Dr. King’s 1963 “Letter From Birmingham Jail” is as relevant today as it was then. He wrote in part:
I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the Negro’s great stumbling block in the stride toward freedom is not the White Citizens Councilor or the Ku Klux Klanner but the white moderate who is more devoted to order than to justice; who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice; who constantly says, “I agree with you in the goal you seek, but I can’t agree with your methods of direct action.”…
The civil rights movement was messy, disorderly, confrontational and yes, sometimes violent. Those standing on the sidelines of the current racial-justice movement, waiting for a pristine or flawless exercise of righteous protest, will have a long wait. They, we suspect, will be this generation’s version of the millions who claim that they were one of the thousands who marched with Dr. King. Each of us should realize that what we do now is most likely what we would have done during those celebrated protests 50 years ago. Rather than critique from afar, come out of your homes, follow those who are closest to the pain, and help us to redeem this country, and yourselves, in the process.”
Trumpitis has infected the USA but a side effect of this disease is that I no longer have to live in a reality that people claim is post-feminist. While this may not seem like much, when you’re a feminist blogger/ writer/ speaker/ thinker and people are incessantly informing you that your subject matter isn’t real, isn’t important, or doesn’t exist, it’s actually a pretty big deal not to crash into that wall of denial many times a day, every day. I can’t remember a time where 99% of my work towards gender equality wasn’t just pointing out that sexism exists.
I got into feminism in my twenties. Studying philosophy at NYU, I suddenly realized there was not one– not one— female philosopher in my curriculum. How could I be engaged in a search for truth and meaning that is void of any women’s thoughts, voices, or experiences? How, philosophically, did that make any sense?
Mind you, this was the 90s. Feminism, as a social movement, was not cool or hip. If you wanted to be those things, you were post-feminist. I think part of the reason my peers, women in their twenties, saw little reason for feminism is because, for some of us, inequality hadn’t hit yet. Still In low-level jobs, pre-kids, women’s gains were noticed more than our setbacks. Again, for me, this was not the case. I witnessed blatant gender disparity because I grew up in a very “privileged” world where men and women seemed like different species: all the men were running the world and all the women were dieting. As a kid, I’m not sure I saw anything “wrong” with this yet, but it struck me.
Though I don’t have to encounter, for the most part, people telling me misogyny isn’t real, I do get pushback, mostly from progressive men and white women, when I point out their sexism. Recently, a progressive male friend of mine posted on Facebook a meme of Kellyanne Conway captioned “Sewer Rat Barbie.” I commented something like: “There are so many reasons to criticize KC for her policies and words, but focusing on her appearance is sexist.” The guy responded that I was overreacting and had no sense of humor. Weeks later (and part of the inspiration for this blog) a New York Times headline came out that read: Sexist Political Criticism Finds a New Target: Kellyanne Conway. The NYT post came out after a Democrat told a joke — hahhahahahaha– alluding to KC’s position on a couch, that it looked like she was giving a blow job.
Here’s the thing: we will not get a woman president until white women and progressive men vote for her, until these groups make gender equality a priority. No matter how hard they search, white women and progressive men will never find a totally pure female candidate to vote for. I’ve blogged before about how many women who hated Hillary assured me they weren’t being sexist (and let’s remember here, yes, women can be sexist. As bell hooks writes “patriarchy has no gender”). They would campaign for Elizabeth Warren. She’s a woman, right? Well, yes, she’s a woman, but, um, she’s not running for president. That, my friends, is what made her so pure and perfect. She wasn’t tainted by ambition, the worst of all female traits. A powerful woman threatens the very foundation of our society and women and men are terrified of her. Recently, Vanity Fair posted: Elizabeth Warren Gets a Reality Check with the subhead: A new poll finds that while Donald Trump would easily lose to a generic Democrat in 2020, the president would wipe the floor with Warren.
In their book, Half the Sky, Nicolas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn argue that gender equality is the paramount moral challenge of our time. We must recognize the ubiquity of misogyny affects so much of America from who we choose as president, to the wars we choose to wage (or not wage) around the world. Until combating sexism is a priority for our citizens, leaders like Trump will rise to power.
To cope, I keep repeating to myself: “Self-care, self-care, self-care.” That’s how I’m managing to crawl out of bed, get my kids breakfast, drive them to school, and just now, I finished writing the last chapter of my book, a project that I’ve been working on for six years. While I have another voice in my head consistently telling me everything I try to do is pointless, all my work is for nothing, my actions have no effect, the poet Audre Lorde motivates me now: “Caring for myself is not self-indulgence, it is self-preservation, and that is an act of political warfare.”
Caring for myself is an act of political warfare.
Self-destruction, depression, hopelessness is so easy, but Lorde helps me see that is the self-indulgence. That is not to say I’m not grieving and crying and throwing up and in despair. But I’m also finishing my book and writing this blog. I also read this stat today:
The exit polls are in. Despite all of the fair and empirical reservations Black Women had on putting our future in a Clinton presidency for a second time, 91 percent of Black Women with a college degree voted for HRC. Without a college degree? 95%
Don’t believe the narrative that feminists who enthusiastically supported Hillary were out of touch with the “real” America. It’s just another story telling us that women’s lives don’t matter.
To pin this election on the coastal elite is a cop-out. It’s intellectually dishonest, and it’s beneath us.
We, as a culture, have to stop infantilizing and deifying rural and white working-class Americans. Their experience is not more of a real American experience than anyone else’s, but when we say that it is, we give people a pass from seeing and understanding more of their country. More Americans need to see more of the United States. They need to shake hands with a Muslim, or talk soccer with a middle aged lesbian, or attend a lecture by a female business executive.
We must start asking all Americans to be their better selves. We must all understand that America is a melting pot and that none of us has a more authentic American experience.
Do what you can to take care of yourself today. Please share you actions here, no matter how small.
Dear white women who didn’t vote for Hillary or who did so ‘holding their noses,’
You fucked up. I know ‘blaming women’ for Hillary’s defeat is yet another way to blame women, and where does that get us? I’m hoping the internalized misogyny will finally stop, because as long as white women choose the illusory safety of the patriarchy over the risk of supporting women, change won’t happen. Do you want change? Or do you want to keep electing presidents who are sexual predators, who multiple women accuse of assault, who confess to assault? Do you want this dark future for your daughters?
White women, I know it can feel like you’re in the “okay “category, like you’re safe and accepted, like you’re successfully hedging your bets if you label another woman a slut, or loose, or cheap, or ugly, or say her skirt is too short, she’s too thin or fat, wears too much make up, on and on and on but the patriarchy will never embrace you, will never value you, will never love you.
Yes, Hillary Clinton is flawed just like you are flawed. Just like every human being is flawed. Just like every presidential candidate is flawed. And no, Hillary’s flaws weren’t worse or more dramatic than those others, and previous presidents had the same email issue as she did and on and on. But Hillary is female, along with all those other flaws, and that meant you needed to risk standing by her. Instead, you turned away. Her campaign could not survive the drip, drip, drip of vitriol, the vitriol you let happen, because along with how you just didn’t like her, how you let people call her “crooked” and “corrupt” or a bitch, she was fighting a monster. When she needed you, your money, your stickers, your support, your good words, you abandoned her. The best you could give her was holding your nose?
Instead of supporting Hillary, you let the world humiliate her in countless, public ways. You punished a woman for being ambitious and following her dreams. Now, my three daughters have a completely different future than the one they would’ve had. I pray that the next generation will risk something you didn’t: choosing feminism over patriarchy. I hope to lead by example because my daughters are watching me.
If you want to know more about how #TeamPussy came to be, read my post. Here’s an excerpt about the art:
Our #TeamPussy cat is worn out and pissed off, but she’s a fighter. She’s going to be out there every day with all of you, working hard to make sure Hillary Clinton wins big on November 8 with results that even Donald Trump won’t dare contest. Please join her. Thanks, #pussies! Go team!
Here’s me in my shirt. The colors are off because the photo was dark so my daughter used a filter to brighten it. The cat looks gray, but she’s actually blue as you see above.
Like many of you, I feel stunned and sickened watching our country race backwards under the rubric “make America great again.” From #Repealthe19th (a sentiment you can only call fringe if Trump is fringe) to his hopes for mass deportation (“we have some bad hombres here and we need to get them out”) Trump’s effort to whip his angry, white, male voters into such a frenzy, they’ll stampede to the polls, terrifies me.
Team Pussy is a movement to get out the vote. It was created to mobilize and inspire women and men, young and old, to show up at the polls on November 8 to support women’s rights, that is human rights. Team Pussy comes at a unique moment in history. We’re on the verge of electing America’s first female president, a candidate who has worked tirelessly for thirty years to support women’s rights. Even Trump concedes she’s a fighter. We’re also in the midst of a national conversation about pussy. And it’s conversation that hasn’t always gone the way I’d like it to.
Pussy isn’t the problem, it’s the solution. By shining a spotlight on sexism in the USA, Trump has done this country a warped kind of service. His personal, overt disdain for women is exposing America’s national, covert disdain. Misogyny is so ubiquitous in our country that, ironically, it’s become invisible to so many citizens; it’s so normal and reflexive that we’re lulled into colluding with a system of sexism we hardly notice anymore. Don’t look away now. Instead, let’s ignore Scottie Nell Hughes and talk about pussy.
I first researched and wrote about “pussy” in 2001 after a male friend used the word to insult a guy who backed out of a business deal. Of course, I’d heard it before, possibly said it myself, but suddenly, it struck me as wrong to use it to imply cowardice or ineffectiveness. Why must we equate weakness with the female sex organ? Why have we for so long?
I began to wonder how one — how we — might take the wussy out of pussy.
Is it possible to change the meaning of the word, to restore to “pussy” its deserved glory? Could we use pussy as a compliment? Could pussy denote someone or something as cool or heroic or impressive? “Rosa Parks — what a pussy!”…
Pussy has so much potential, it’s a shame to limit it to the immature and derisive mocking of weak boys. Let’s give it a shot in the arm! I envision hit songs featuring “pussy” — “Who Let the Pussies Out?” or “The Real Slim Pussy” or “The Real Shady Pussy.” Hallmark-type cards that read “Thanks for being such a pussy!” Colloquial expressions: “You da pussy!” “Stand up and fight like a pussy!”…
And when, and if, Joe consummates his next business deal, I’ll be there to toast him, saying, “You’re so pussy.”
Flattered, he’ll smile.
I wrote the post before social media and “going viral” were phrases we all used, but I created a bunch of “Team Pussy” T shirts (at that time, just black with “Team Pussy” written in pink cursive) which sold out through my email in a few days. Though I was passionate about Team Pussy, I didn’t have the time or resources to dedicate to it, so I went on with life, trying to interject the word when I could. Fast forward to Trump’s video. People on social media started messaging me they were wearing their shirts or looking for their shirts. And then I watched the last debate and heard Trump asked if he would accept the results of the election, and heard him reply “I will look at it at the time.”
Let’s give the guy something to look at.The sides are so clear. You’re either on Team Pussy or Team Trump. Here’s a chance to make your choice loud and proud and inspire everyone who sees you. All merchandise features our cat and is available at our Team Pussy shop. Our favorite shirt looks just like the art posted here. Its reverse sides reads: “Vote Nov 8.” All shirts are high quality, 100% cotton with a navy blue background and come in fitted or straight cut. We also have gorgeous, durable white totes with red handles showing the same art and “I’m with her” on the reverse side. The T shirt with just the cat will be available soon. I saved 4 XL vintage “Team Pussy” shirts from 2001 and I’m making those available now at the store.
Feel free to use our Team Pussy art as your profile pic which we urge you to do at least until November 8! This image below is sized perfectly for your Twitter profile. Suggested intro Tweet: “Joined #TeamPussy to GOTV on Nov. 8. I’m with her.”
If you see a news story about someone doing something brave or cool, for example as Ijust did: Salma Hayek Claims Trump Leaked a False Story After Turning Him Down, then Tweet the story: “Salma Hayek is so pussy! #TeamPussy.” Nominate a #Pussyoftheday or give a shout out to one of your evergreen favorites: “Jessica Jones is so pussy! #GoTeamPussy.”
For Instagram, here’s art sized perfectly if you want to switch up your profile pic.
Post photos of you wearing #TeamPussy gear and our goal is to send you a free button or magnet once we get those in.
Our Team Pussy cat is worn out and pissed off, but she’s a fighter. She’s going to be out there every day with all of you, working hard to make sure Hillary Clinton wins big on November 8 with results that even Donald Trump won’t dare contest. Please join her. Thanks, pussies! Go team!
Time Magazine just published a post: Colby Student: Billy Bush Exemplifies the Hypermasculinity on College Campuses with the tagline “A student from Bush’s alma mater says not much has changed.” Here’s my story. Billy Bush and I went to the same boarding school, St. George’s in Newport, Rhode Island. You may have read about the school recently in The New York Timesor The Boston Globeor Vanity Fair because an investigation recently concluded that scores of students were raped and assaulted at the school, mostly during the 70s and 80s. While I was lucky enough not to be a victim of assault, this “elite” institution that supposedly educates “the best and the brightest,” like so many boarding schools was a bastion of sexism and racism, an old boys club where a culture of silence was encouraged and rewarded. The photo below is of me (on the left) and my friend, freshman year, in our high school yearbook from 1984. The caption reads “Todd’s toys.”
Todd was a senior prefect. The saddest thing to me about this photo is that I, at 14 years old, aspired to be liked, desired, by older boys, that I believed my value and worth was determined by whether or not older males– the guys with the power– were attracted to me. St. George’s did nothing that I can recall to recognize this sexism or to empower female students. To the contrary, the school seemed to condone misogyny. There was an annual event at St. George’s called Casino Night where all the new girls, mostly freshman and sophomores, dressed up as bunnies, as in playboy-type bunnies, complete with fishnet stockings and cotton tails on our butts. Our job was to sell the boys– who were fully clothed and pretended to gamble– candy and fake cigarettes. Casino Night was not a secret event, it took place to much fanfare in the school dining hall. Every teacher and administrator knew about it.
When I heard the Billy Bush/ Donald Trump tape I wanted to scream because it was like everything I learned in high school, the objectification of women and girls, the metamorphosis of teenager from San Francisco into a “toy” bunny plaything, was being reinforced by a would-be president of the United States of America.I felt ill and the nausea hasn’t left me since.
What are girls supposed to think and feel and be when we grow up surrounded by this kind of sexism, when it’s so normal that no one even notices it? When teachers condone it by never addressing it?
The links to the posts I wrote about St. George’s are listed below, though I removed the photos from the blogs. I had posted a photo, also from our 1984 yearbook, of a freshman girl dressed as a bunny on Casino Night. To me, the shame was on the school, not the girl, but when she told me she wanted it down, I respected her wishes. I took all the pictures of students down except for the one with me in it that you can see above.
Misogyny is so ubiquitous in America, paradoxically, it’s invisible. It’s in our schools and colleges and the air we breathe, but we don’t even notice it. I’m not 14 years old anymore. I have three daughters of my own now. I want them to have the right to control their own bodies, to find their value in their achievements not in how they appear to men, to be ambitious, creative, and inspired, to dream big and to acquire the skills to realize their vision, to be valued as people, not toys. That’s why I’m voting for Hillary Clinton for president on November 8.
To all women who loathe Trump but don’t like Hillary:
In the past week or so we have heard and seen an avalanche of (even more) unspeakable things come out of Donald Trump. Most of us are justly outraged by his attitude and actions toward women: Trump has proven he views us purely as sexual objects, reduced to—and rated ruthlessly on—how we look and our sexuality. Every day hundreds of women give myriad reasons they will not vote for him, and this is one of them.
Many of these same women also give reasons for disliking Hillary, however: she’s nauseatingly smug, she’s cold, she dresses like crap, she must be secretly lesbian. I have heard everything from “I hate those dorky headbands she used to wear” to “why can’t she stop making that awful grin-grimace?” And the number one reason I hear, time and again: I can’t vote for Hillary because she stood by her cheating husband.
At best the above statements would be right at home when judging a beauty pageant; they are all based on rating her appearance or sexuality. At worst, they’re the feminine equivalent of the oldest, most patronizing and paralyzing harassment we’ve each been exposed to forever: why don’t you give me a smile? Why don’t you dress like a girl? You think you can make [X] sexual choice? You asked for it! You’re a cold bitch, you’re a lesbian!
My fellow women: we have a chance to elect a female to the biggest power position in the world, and yet we are picking at her clothing, her smile, her sexual choices. We are basing our votes and the future of our country on our reaction to how she maintains her looks, her facial expressions, and her marriage.
Why do we do it? The simplistic answer is that sexual competition and judging – tearing down or eliminating other women – was traditionally our only source of power in most societies. Two-hundred and fifty years ago Laclos’ “Dangerous Liaisons” villainess, the Marquise de Merteuil, perfectly captured this primal female urge in her personal motto: “win or die.” For the few who have not read the book (or seen one of the film adaptations), the story can be summed up simply: women viciously destroy each other and the man wins. “When one woman strikes at the heart of another she seldom misses,” the Marquise flatly informs the Vicomte de Valmont, “and the wound is invariably fatal.” Indeed, all of the women lose big in Laclos’ tale, in particularly sexually-damning ways—Cecile, defiled, returns in shame to a convent; the Marquise is disfigured and humiliated into never showing her face or using her body again; and Madame de Tourvel is so shame-stricken and humiliated she simply dies (the ultimate sexual give-up) — while the man walks away, smirking, with all of the power in the palm of his hand.
Earlier in the 2016 election season, already disgusted with the playground taunts passing for politics, I tweeted a personal vow (which now seems hopelessly dated and innocent, given how things have circled the drain since): I will not talk about how women look for the rest of the season. I will not join in comparing Heidi Cruz to Melania Trump, I will not weigh in on Megyn Kelly, I will not critique the Trump surrogates’ clothing and makeup choices, I will not discuss Hillary’s wardrobe or everyone’s possible plastic surgery or the attire or looks of any of the reporters who are covering them. (Just to be fair, I am also not going to discuss Donald Trump’s hair, skin color, or hand size either, although I did relish that whole ridiculous defend-my-manhood exchange with Marco Rubio.) I confess: I fell off the wagon once and gleefully tweeted about Melania’s choice of the Pussy Bow blouse after her husband’s big sexual assault bomb dropped—but I have otherwise found the self-enforced ban to be very illuminating. I constantly have to censor myself: we are so conditioned to comment on and tear down other women it leaves one often speechless in finding another topic.
Once Trump paraded Bill Clinton’s accusers through the second debate and we were all newly reminded of Hillary’s marital issues I added an even more important personal ban to my list: I will not weigh in on another woman’s sexuality. Period. Does Hillary love Bill, or is it a marriage of convenience? Did she stay with him because she forgave him, because she secretly likes women better, or because she saw him as a stepping stone for her ambition? I personally hope Hillary has a rotating stable of pool boys at the local Country Club, but I will never say another word about it. I will not pass judgement on any woman’s marriage, I will not speculate on who or what gender she sleeps with, I will not entertain reports of her fidelity or lack thereof. Unless she (not her husband, her aide’s husband, her ex-husband, or any other man in her life) has broken a law with her own sexual behavior I will not form or voice an opinion. Women are not the keepers of morality, we cannot hold them responsible for any man’s sexual actions, attitudes, or behaviors. Furthermore, we cannot assume to know what goes on in their relationships. Most of us would never judge another woman for electing to divorce a cheater; why do we all feel we can condemn one for electing not to? How dare we judge any woman on who or how they choose to love, to divorce, to stay, to marry.
Which brings me back to “Dangerous Liaisons.” I do not think all women should automatically vote for Hillary because she’s a woman; that’s reductive and ridiculous. But every one of us needs to carefully examine our reasons if we choose not to vote for her: is our decision intellectually defensible, or are we allowing our Neanderthal brain, our vestigial sexual competitiveness to drag us into knee-jerk bitchiness? Do we disapprove of her policies or doubt her experience…or do we just dislike her marital situation, her sartorial choices, her personal presentation? And can we live with ourselves and our country if we let this particular man walk away, smirking, with all of the power in his tiny, little…ahem, with all of the power in his hands?
While I’m relieved to see America’s outrage at Judge Persky’s ridiculously light sentence for rapist and Stanford athlete Brock Turner, we’re reacting to one case of epidemic sexual assault in this country. Turner’s sentence is not an anomaly. In America, we accept rape culture. It’s normalized, and Persky acted the way judges do every single day.
It was two Swedes who reported Turner’s rape of this woman. Do you think two American frat boys would’ve done the same?
I’ve been reading Peggy Orenstein’s fantastic new book Girls and Sex in which author repeatedly references how the sex education programs in other countries are far superior to America’s curriculum, if we can call it that. One of the finest examples Orenestein cites is Sweden. How do most American kids learn about sex? Orenstein tells us the source of their education is porn.
What are American parents teaching their children about sex? What about violence against women?
I think we all know that Brock’s father argued his son’s life should not be ruined for “20 minutes of action.” Instead of teaching girls how not to get raped, when are parents going to teach their sons not to rape? How are parents going to teach kids to respect girls and women? What are you doing today to teach your kids about gender equality?