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Quick Hit: bell hooks and Melissa Harris-Perry at the New School

Two weeks ago, the fabulous Drs. bell hooks and Melissa Harris-Perry met for a public conversation at the New School in New York. Their conversation ranged from Renisha McBride, to stereotypes facing single mothers of color, to why it is that they write.

Parts of their conversation also reflected themes we have been exploring in our work on the experiences of girls of color, particularly Black girls, in schools. hooks pointed out that she is often characterized as being “difficult,” when she herself would say that she is precise. Harris-Perry explained that she is also often characterized as “mad,” and clarifies that she often is mad – but that she is mad about something, not as “an inherent aspect of [her] Blackness.” Read more »

Riot Grrrl’s Lasting Effect on Feminism

This week I attended the American Film Institute’s screening of The Punk Singer, a documentary about Kathleen Hanna, the lead singer of the Bikini Kill and Le Tigre. An outspoken advocate for women, Hanna made pro-women, pro-choice music during the 1990s and she witnessed sexual assault and violence against women at punk shows and experienced extreme sexism in the media.

Hanna was one of the frontrunners of the Riot Grrrl movement, which originated in Washington, D.C., and the Pacific Northwest. The movement stemmed from the sexism within the punk rock community, where women and girls were often physically injured and sexually assaulted at concerts, and many female fans didn’t feel safe participating in the things they loved. Read more »

5 Reasons Why International Women’s Day Matters

As both a feminist and women’s studies major, whenever I meet new people, I get asked some variations of the following questions:

“What do you with that?”

“Why is there no men’s studies major?” (UH, BECAUSE THAT’S CALLED HISTORY?)

“Women got the right to vote ages ago… Pretty sure the fight is over, no?”

“Oh, you’re a feminist? … Want to go make me a sandwich? Heh, heh, heh.” (Yes, I’ve actually been told this multiple times by multiple people)

Since International Women’s Day is now upon us, I figured there is no better time than now to address these questions (minus the last one – really, that’s a classic example of WHY we still need feminism) and bring light to why the work is still not over for women. Here are five reasons to remind us why International Women’s Day matters:

One) Girls all over the world are still struggling to gain access to quality education

Malala Yousafzai from Pakistan, at just 15 years old, is the youngest nominee in history for a Nobel Peace Prize. This nomination has not come without its share of horrors. She has fought nearly to her death to advocate for her right to education. However her story resonates with many girls all over the world across all cultures who still struggle to obtain the same education as their male counterparts. In the United States, pregnant and parenting teens face multiple barriers to gain access to education without discrimination. Based on their gender, girls all over the world still seem to have a difficult time accessing education without obstacles.

Two) People still don’t understand the severity of rape

The Delhi gang rape. The Steubenville rape case. Rape in the military. Why are we still so slow to act when it comes to rape? Why are we still blaming the victim? Why are we still perpetuating the silence forced upon the victims by not taking them seriously? Why do we click our tongues at rape cases around the world and deem them as barbaric while ignoring cases of rape in our country that are equally horrible? Lawmakers should really take biology classes after their grossly ignorant statements about rape and women’s bodies so that it becomes clear: Rape is rape, and no victim should have to prolong the trauma caused by such violation. Read more »

The One Time I Heard “That Job is for Girls” – and Liked It

Since today is Hillary Clinton’s last day as Madam Secretary, I couldn’t help but remember this precious moment of empowerment she helped inspire.

4th Grade Government Art!

4th Grade Government Art!

This time last year I was teaching 4th grade Writing and Social Studies in rural Louisiana, and we were knee deep in the Government Unit. We spent a lot of time going over the role of each of the three branches (in addition to singing the Schoolhouse Rock Constitution song on an almost hourly basis).

At the end of the lessons about the Executive Branch we had a discussion about which position you would want to have when you’re older. Most went with President. But Derreck, who could always be counted on for entertainment, slammed his hand on his desk and announced that he would be Secretary of State because then he could go to Poland whenever he wants (do not ask me where he got Poland from).

Well, Aja did not like his answer. She stood up and proudly proclaimed, “You can’t be Secretary of State because that job is for GIRLS.” Read more »

Malala Yousufzai Reminds Us What We’re Fighting For

Yesterday a Taliban member in Pakistan approached a school bus, asked for 14 year old student Malala Yousufzai, and when a classmate identified her, he shot her in the head and neck and injured two others. Malala was targeted for speaking out against the Taliban for murdering locals and closing girls’ schools at a time when the government seemed to be appeasing the extremist group. She is in critical condition, and doctors believe that her wounds aren’t life threatening. At this time, she appears to be doing well after having a bullet removed from her head.

Malala was featured in a New York Times documentary a few years back, telling reporters that she wanted to be a doctor; her father encouraged her to go on to become a politician. In 2009, she kept a diary series for the BBC, discussing her fears about going to school and retaliation from the Taliban:


I had a terrible dream yesterday with military helicopters and the Taleban. I have had such dreams since the launch of the military operation in Swat. My mother made me breakfast and I went off to school. I was afraid going to school because the Taleban had issued an edict banning all girls from attending schools.

NWLC’s Weekly Roundup: May 14 – 18

Up ahead in this edition of NWLC’s weekly roundup: a couple international stories along with a look at “best intentions” laws and how they can hurt pregnant women here in America.

First of all, can we take a moment to talk about Valérie Trierweiler, the new first lady of France? She’s already unwittingly endeared herself to some American women – here are just a few of the reasons why:

  • Ms. Trierweiler is one-half of France’s first unmarried presidential couple. Her partner – and newly sworn in French president to boot – is François Hollande.
  • She has no plans to quit working. Instead, she’ll continue her work as a political journalist.
  • Trierweiler is a working mother – she has three teenage sons, and like many working mothers she’s concerned about balancing her career and her family. “I’ve shared the fate of many working mothers, I felt guilty like them,” Trierweiler once said.
  • And the kicker – here’s another quote of hers: “I haven’t been raised to serve a husband. I built my entire life on the idea of independence.”

Of course, it’d be awesome if France’s new president (or any country’s for that matter) were a woman, so that we could celebrate her achievement and not just her status as wife or partner to the male president. But I still think Trierweiler sounds like she’ll be a breath of fresh air in her role as the partner to a head of state. Read more »

This International Women’s Day, Support CEDAW and Combat Gender Discrimination at Home and Worldwide

In 1979, the United Nations adopted the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW). In 1994, Hillary Rodham Clinton made the statement that “women’s rights are human rights” at the U.N. Fourth World Conference on Women. In 2012, gender equality has not been achieved and the United States is still one of six U.N. member states that have not yet ratified CEDAW.

CEDAW provides a blueprint for ensuring gender equality and combatting discrimination throughout the world. Countries have used it to pass laws that address domestic violence, sex trafficking, voting, and inheritance rights. At a special event on CEDAW hosted by the World Bank this past Monday, at which NWLC Co-President Marcia Greenberger spoke, international women leaders emphasized the importance of CEDAW as a tool to achieve equal rights for women everywhere and how U.S. ratification of CEDAW would strengthen the effectiveness of that tool.

Dr. Sima Samar, Chairperson of the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission, delivered a speech that outlined CEDAW’s accomplishments and its importance for advocates around the globe seeking recognition for the rights of women and girls. “The convention [calls] for societies to guarantee the legal status of women as complete human beings,” Dr. Samar said. As more countries ratify and implement CEDAW, international standards are raised which further aid women’s rights movements. Sameena Nazi, Founder of Potohar Organization for Development Advocacy, discussed her home country of Pakistan as an example of how the international standards established by CEDAW influenced the government to pass bills which outlawed sexual harassment and made sure that women are not deprived of their inheritance rights. Read more »

NWLC’s Weekly Roundup: February 27 – March 2

 Happy Women’s History Month! All throughout March, we’ll be sharing quotes on Facebook to celebrate, so watch our page. Also this week in our roundup: The Oscars and the Bechdel Test, public breastfeeding, and a new documentary on bullying in schools.

Via Feminisim2.0 – The 84th annual Academy Awards were broadcast last Sunday night. Say what you will about Billy Crystal’s hosting job, but a new video from Feminist Frequency hits the nail on the head about one of the most frustrating things about Hollywood: the lack of strong, fully-formed roles for women in blockbuster and award-caliber films. Specifically, this video takes a look at which of the films up for Best Picture passed the Bechdel Test. (Spoiler alert: not many.)

Read more »

NWLC’s Weekly Roundup: February 13 – 17

 This week’s been a tough one. I think we all know that. We started the week learning about the tipped minimum wage, stagnant at $2.13 since 1991, and what it means for gender inequity. Yesterday we dealt with a panel of five men testifying before a House committee about how birth control tramples their freedom of religion in addition speaking out against the Blunt amendment all week. And there was even more Senate obstruction on judicial nominations.

Sadly, I don’t have good news for you. After the jump are stories on low literacy rates and their impact on women, PETA’s latest ad, and some disturbing bills from the Virginia state Legislature. Read more »