Tag Archives: Feminist

Favorite Feminist Heroes, Part 2: Gloria Anzaldúa

Our second installment in our Women’s History Month miniseries on Favorite Feminist Heroes comes to us from SIUE Director of Women’s Studies and Associate Professor of Philosophy Alison Reiheld. Don’t miss Part 1 from Sociology Prof Kiana Cox, and keep reading for more!

10-6-17 laughing

Alison Reiheld

My favorite feminist hero is Gloria Anzaldúa, who has been a big influence on me as a as my thinking has developed. Her identity as a queer Chicana feminist born and raised in the Rio Grand Valley on the US side of the border is reflected in her writing. Perhaps her most famous work, and certainly the one that most deeply affected me, is Borderlands/La Frontera: The New Mestiza. Another one not to miss is the anthology she co-edited called This Bridge Called My Back: Writings by Radical Women of ColorNot long ago, she even got her own Google doodle.   Anzaldúa considered the impact of crushing heteronormativity, of being perceived in America as Other, and the ongoing impact of colonialism on the lives of Mestiza women whose heritage includes both native peoples and European colonizers. She also worked from her experience of growing up with a chronic medical condition and provides food for thought for folks working in disability studies. As a result of these many intersecting identities, she felt that she lived in many worlds at once.  Rather than seeing this as a source of a fractured self, Anzaldúa developed the concept of border-crossing and bridge-building as metaphors for a productive way of existing in a diverse world with people from other groups and also across multiple group memberships. Border-crossing means being in deliberate contact with people who are different from oneself and working to understand their lives and needs, being able to live and be in community with many people.  Of course, there is a lot more to it than this, but we could all use a little mental border-crossing and bridge-building skill in this world of ours.

If you’re interested in how Anzaldúa’s work continues to live on after her death, check out the cool Podcast “Anzaldúing It” (“2 best friends + queer Latinx woes. Powered by echale ganas, tacos, cochinita pibil and Selena. Episodes come out every other Week!”) or this sweet half-hour long NPR show commemorating her work.  



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Is being sexy, and allowing one’s body to be revealed publically, unfeminist? Emma Watson (Hermione; Beauty) takes on this modern question

PART 3 of our series on gender, sexualization, and the media for Women’s History month.

In a series of photo shoots to promote  Beauty and the Beast and its star, Emma Watson, one seemed to stand out.  It was the Vanity Fair shoot, and in it one costume barely covered Watson’s breasts, with much of her chest and a portion of her breast showing.

emma watson vanity fair

Watson was accused by some of being anti-feminist for allowing this imagery to be produced and disseminated.

is actress and feminist emma watson a hypocrite

Such a critique matters immensely to Watson who has often been the face of celebrity feminism, including the UN’s He For She campaign which is aimed at bringing men into feminism. What’s more, it matters to a number of young women for whom Emma Watson is the face of not just celebrity feminism, but feminism per se.  See Buzzfeed’s “13 Times Emma Watson Totally Nailed The Whole Feminism Thing” for a bit of Watson’s background and profile. Now, we all know there are many feminism(s), but it’s pretty clear from that overview of Watson quotes that she adheres to one worldview that is unambiguously a type of feminism. Watson is familiar to young women for other feminist reasons, as well. Watson’s Hermione, in the Harry Potter films, was strong, brave, smart, dependable, and a bit full of herself at first.  Anyone who has read the books or seen the films has no doubt that without Hermione, Harry (and Ron) would have been dead many times over and Voldemort would be in charge of it all (though of all moldy Voldy’s many terrible sins, sexism was never shown to be one of them).

To this attack on her feminist credentials, Watson responded with indignation. Click here for a video of her response on March 5, 2017.  She said:

Feminism is about giving women choice. Feminism is not a stick with which to beat other women with [sic]… It’s about freedom, it’s about liberation… it’s about equality. It’s not *brief pause* I really don’t know what my tits have to do with it. It’s very confusing… I’m always just kind of quietly stunned.

If one allows oneself to be feminine according to classic gender norms, or to be portrayed in such a way that it makes one prone to sexualization by others, is that your responsibility? Philosopher Linda LeMoncheck says that sexual objectification is dehumanization, being treated as a mere body part or an object when in fact one should be treated as a whole person.  This is something somebody else can do to you regardless of what you do.  For LeMoncheck, it seems that it is only the objectifier who is to blame.  To be sexy is not the problem.  Rather, it is the reduction of a whole person to merely sexy by the viewer.  LeMoncheck, at least, would seem to agree with Watson that it is not anti-feminist to be sexy, though perhaps with different reasoning.

What do you think?

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A Brief List of Feminist New Year’s Resolutions

The Director of the SIUE Women’s Studies Program, Alison Reiheld, here offers a few of her own New Year’s Resolutions and those of some friends and feminist thinkers.

  1. I will wake up ready to fight, and have no truck with fascism.
  2. My feminism will be intersectional or it will be bullshit.
  3. I will take risks for what I believe in.
  4. I will use my power and position on behalf of those who don’t have as much.
  5. I will amplify rather than speak instead of or over.
  6. I will listen.
  7. I will be gentle with myself, and with others who are trying.
  8. I will be angry when I should be angry, in the right way, at the right time, at the right people, for the right reasons.
  9. I will do more calling in, as well as calling out.
  10. When I think of my own fleshy self, I will set my skeptical eye to watching for the filters of strange and damaging notions of what makes a body a good body.  I will focus on what my body does for me that I need it to do.  I mean, hell, it turns sleep and food and oxygen into motion and thought and water vapor and carbon dioxide. Behold it.
  11. Like Saba Fatima, I will stop backing down on what I know is right. I will not avoid confrontation to appease the powers that be.

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Feminist Songs…: Day 13, I said I was a boy; I’m glad he didn’t check

Our post today comes to us from Kate Norlock, a feminist and philosophy professor at Trent University in Canada, where she holds the Kenneth Mark Drain Endowed Chair in Ethics. Kate is the author of Forgiveness from a Feminist Perspective She responded to my call for feminist songs by nominating singer-songwriter Dar Williams‘ “When I Was A Boy.”  I yield the floor to Kate to say a bit more about the song itself.

–Alison Reiheld, Director of the Women’s Studies Program at SIUE

Dar Williams is a pop-folk singer who was especially popular with LGBT audiences in the 1990s. (Since another song of hers is “You’re Aging Well,” I want to emphasize that she has produced many albums and is still working today!)

dar williams

Her song “When I Was a Boy” was an influential hit from her debut album, The Honesty Room (1993: Razor & Tie). Today it’s considered her signature song.

No quick sketch can do justice to the reasons so many of us are moved by this song, but I can safely state the main reason it makes many listeners and readers cry. The verses build to a first-person account of the harms to women and men of a sexist and masculinist culture.

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