We the PEOPLE: Demanding Humanity through Language

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We’ve demonstrated quite a few times here at DDP that we’re particularly adamant in the belief that words matter. Language can shape how we feel about ourselves, how others perceive us, and even the tone and course of societal ideas. Language can be used to uplift individuals and communities, organize and inspire entire social movements, devastate our emotions, and yes, even as a tool for dehumanization.

Language is particularly important to social justice movements because it’s often used as one of the most insidious forms of oppression. Hurtful and oppressive language has been and is used by explicit racists, misogynists, and LGBTQIA-antagonists to assert superiority and to actively erode the will, mental health, and perceived humanity of the groups they antagonize. Thankfully the number of those people is shrinking (though can still absolutely be found, and are still a danger in our society), as is our general tolerance of the hate that they profess.

But oppressive and offensive language is commonly used by implicit oppressors as well, meaning people that say “lighten up” or “that’s just the way it is”. People who cling to biological determinism or who “don’t see race”. Everyday sexism, benevolent sexism, and microaggressions of all kinds can fall under this category. Implicit oppressors usually “don’t mean to offend or oppress” but that plausible deniability is what makes it so insidious. By not challenging the norms of an unequal society AND using language that apes or reinforces explicit oppressors we are only allowing that oppressive society to persist.

I’d like to talk now about one particular linguistic tweak that we can all make that will help us on the path to not being implicit oppressors, and that’s “people-first language”. Now, if you’re already familiar with this concept and are about to close this browser tab please stick around because I hope to also provide some nuance and complexity to the subject that you’ll appreciate! Continue reading

Five Feminist Reasons to Watch Orphan Black This Saturday

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The second season of Orphan Black premieres this Saturday on BBC America at 9 pm EST, and I am so excited that I want to tell you all about it. I think it’s the best show on TV right now, and definitely the most feminist. So here are five reasons why you should watch the season premiere on Saturday and/or mainline the first season immediately. This post contains some spoilers, but none of them are major plot points.

1. It showcases the talents of the incredible actress Tatiana Maslany.

Orphan Black is a conspiracy thriller about women who are the subjects of an illegal human cloning experiment, and have to struggle with how that affects their lives and identities. All six of the clones on screen are played by one actress, Tatiana Maslany, who makes each of the characters instantly distinguishable by her body language and speech.

Tatiana Maslany as six clones
Meet Helena, Alison, Rachel, Sarah, Katja, and Cosima.

2. It fails the Reverse Bechdel Test.

If you haven’t heard of the Bechdel Test, it’s a test of gender representation in media invented by the cartoonist Alison Bechdel. It has three criteria: a) there must be at least two women, who b) talk to each other, c) about something other than a man. Only half of all movies pass this test, most often because the female characters never talk to each other; they are defined by their relationships with men.

By contrast, female characters and their relationships with each other are so central to the story of Orphan Black that when talking with a friend I realized that Orphan Black not only passes the Bechdel Test, but fails the reverse of the Bechdel Test. We couldn’t think of a single time when two male characters talk to each other about something that isn’t a woman.

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Another Gosh-Darned Shaving Post

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Ways My Life Has Changed Since I Stopped Shaving My Armpits:

1. When I lift my arms, the breeze blowing through my armpit hair tickles. Takes me by surprise every time.

2. I use the term “luscious armpit kittens” way more than I used to.

Persian-Kittens

Accurate.

3. I no longer own razors.

4. That’s . . . . about it?

Seriously I’m not even sure this should be a post because literally nothing in my life has changed since I stopped shaving my armpits.

The sky didn’t fall. Strangers don’t point and condemn me in the street. (In fact, I’ve barely noticed a disapproving glance). Romantic partners didn’t recoil away in horror. Embracing my body hair hasn’t cost me a damn thing. And I guess that’s kind of my point.

Hairy armpits are often viewed as symbolic of a kind of “out-there” feminism – it’s just about one step before bra-burning, to most people. I certainly used to view them that way. The first time I saw a woman my age with hairy armpits (I think I was all of 19) I was shocked and fascinated and a little repulsed, all at the same time. I admired her bravery, but thought she looked weird, and wondered how she could seem so comfortable with herself when I got anxious about the stubble on my legs. She seemed almost like a different species of girl than I was.

For years – actual years – after I stopped shaving my legs, I continued to shave my armpits. I just wasn’t ready to be a member of that other species quite yet.  Habit reinforced hesitation, until one day . . . I just stopped. I threw out an old razor and just never bothered to get a new one. And now that I’m standing on the other side of this divide . . . I really don’t feel like another species at all. I’m just me. A little hairier. A little more ticklish, maybe.

How about you, friends? Do you have any non-stories to share? Any changes that you never saw yourself making, until you made them?

 

 

What We’re Reading 4/16/14

Not-All-Man! Voice of the Voiceful! Defender of the Defended! from listen-tome.com

Not-All-Man! Voice of the Voiceful! Defender of the Defended! from listen-tome.com

Welcome to another edition of What We’re Reading, our intermittent roundup of all the articles, videos, and images we shared with each other (and now with you!) this week. You are encouraged to share your own links in the comments. Bonus this week: a game!

Our Days of Rage: What #CancelColbert reveals about women/of color and controversial speech

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A Feminist Love Story

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Disney love hardly requires that you know each other! How romantic!

Disney love hardly requires that you know each other! How romantic!

“There’s no positive feminist alternative to the Disney model of romance,” an old friend told me late one night.

As is not unusual in conversations with me, the topic of feminism had come up, and I’d asked him whether he thought gender roles were a good thing. He responded by sharing a story of his own heartbreak: a relationship that ended after moving in together and falling into a pattern of contentious discussions about who should be responsible for which chore.

My friend seemed to be implying that gender roles make things easier, that the feminist model of each couple negotiating for themselves was more work. “We spent all our time in negotiations about living together, instead of just enjoying living together.”

I pointed out that it was more work for him to talk about it, but probably less work for her because the continuing inequality in household chore breakdowns means that, statistically speaking, women who don’t specifically negotiate otherwise tend to end up with an unfairly large chore burden. And of course, relying on gender roles for divvying up household chores only works for couples with one man and one woman.

Nevertheless, I think there was value in my friend’s observation about a feminist alternative to the typical romance narrative. It was a revelation to me, perhaps because I live in a bit of a feminist bubble: I think there is a feminist story of love, and perhaps we just have to do a better job of spreading it.

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“Avadim Hayinu,” We Were Slaves: An Open Thread on Passover and Social Justice

Greetings Disruptors!  Tonight is the first night of Passover, the Jewish holiday celebrating the Jewish people’s freedom from slavery in Egypt.  Some consider this narrative of freedom to be historical, others consider it to be a metaphor for the relatively greater religious freedom we enjoy in the modern day, and there are many other beautiful interpretations.  To those who will be celebrating, in whatever way that means for you, we wish you a meaningful and joyful holiday.
Alternatively, you could just tink of ways to integrate Beyonce lyrics into your Passover celebration. Thanks beyonceder.tumblr.com!

Alternatively, you could just think of ways to integrate Beyonce lyrics into your Passover celebration. Thanks beyonceder.tumblr.com!

To all of our readers, we think this is a great opportunity to pause and reflect on how the themes of freedom and slavery impact our lives.  What kinds of slavery, whether literal or metaphorical, do you think we as a society (or societies) still need to liberate ourselves from today?  What are some steps you want to take toward greater freedom for yourself, for others, or as part of a social justice effort?

Fuck All That Happy to Be Here Shit

Look, fuck all that happy to be here shit that y’all want me on. -Drake

Just Happy to Be Here. It’s what I call a line of thinking that can emerge in the mind of someone from an oppressed group who manages to nab a seat at “the table.” JHBH can creep up in a variety of contexts- “the table” might be a movement, a conference, an institution of higher education, or any number of entryways to opportunities, access, knowledge, and power. Maybe it’s a nonprofit that hired you, impressed by your knowledge of and lived experience with the issue it works to address. Maybe it’s an organization that is working to recruit people from a group that you identify with, and financed your membership and your attendance at national events. Maybe it’s a liberal arts college to which you were able to be admitted, despite the consequences of structural racism, thanks to affirmative action. Whatever it is, it has issues- but you don’t feel completely free to point out areas of improvements because you feel silenced, you want to fly under the radar, or you are genuinely happy that it got its shit together at least a little bit or you wouldn’t be there to speak to the problems at all.

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Appreciate a Female Comic Thursday

Hey guys girls and guppies, recently I was trying to Appreciate Some Female Comedy via Netflixxx and I watched an Amy Schumer (and three other female comics) special and was…underwhelmed. But I’m glad I did, because afterwards Netflix suggested I watch a special by my new best friend, Anjelah Johnson.

Anjelah Johnson is an actress, comedian, and former NFL cheerleader (FOR THE RAIDIERS! GO RAIDERS!) Her most famous role to date is a cast member on the series MADtv during its 13th season, but in 2009 Comedy Central hosted her one hour comedy special, Anjelah Johnson: That’s How We Do It, and she’s appeared in a few movies since then.

Here you are. I chose this video because my girlfriend and I have had this argument repeatedly, and RECENTLY.

Take the Red Pill: The Truth Behind the Biology of Sex

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Content note: this post contains images and language that may not be safe for work.

1. Introduction

I first learned about the social construction of sex from a lovely trans woman named Kiki.

She said, “You may have heard before that gender is socially constructed, while sex is biological. But I’m here to tell you that what you’ve heard isn’t true. Sex is socially constructed too. So are you ready for the truth? Are you going to take the red pill or the blue pill?”

Morpheus offers red pill or blue pill

Three years later, I was diagnosed by my gynecologist with polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS), which means that my body produces hormones intermediate between “typical men” and “typical women.” What I learned from Kiki gave me context in which to understand what this meant about my body and who I am. But it’s still very hard for me to talk about. My hormones affect me in ways that are hard to see, so even most of my lovers don’t know. I can count the number of people in my personal life who know this about me on my two hands.

I picked the red pill. If you read on, you can take the red pill too.

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