International Women’s Day 2017 Roundup

Statue of a defiant girl standing in front of the Wall St Bull

Happy #IWD2017! Here’s a roundup of some notable stories and inspiration from women around the world. How are you celebrating today?

An asset management firm installs a defiant girl statue in front of Wall Street bull, sending a powerful message to women and girls everywhere. State Street Global Advisors installed the statue as part of its campaign to pressure companies it invests in to add more women to their boards. (via Business Insider UK)

The Guardian’s @LexyTopping live blogs #IWD2017 all day long: https://t.co/GJchZTzv6o

An Ohio Bookstore Flips Male-Authored Books, Displaying Them Spine-Out On Shelves (via HeatSt.com)

The FT is launching a new ranking for champions of women’s careers. Nominations are open to both women and men, in the UK and internationally. The list will be published 27 September, the same day as FT’s Women at the Top Conference. To nominate a champion, go to www.out-standing.org/heroes/ by May 5.

And from Twitter:

Trumpcare is a bad deal for women

We could have guessed the “Trumpcare” replacement to Obamacare–née the Affordable Care Act, for the 1/3 of Americans still unclear they’re the same–wouldn’t be good for women, the poor, or those with pre-existing conditions. Today we have an idea just how bad the damage.

The new plan will keep popular elements, like a ban against discriminating against pre-existing conditions, and letting kids stay on their parents’ insurance until age 26. But other key protections are gone, as is the penalty for failing to opt in. They’ll spin this as creating more “choice” for the American consumer and for individual states.

This L.A. times article breaks it down:

As of Dec. 31, 2019, ACA rules that required qualified health plans to provide hospitalization, maternity care, mental health services and other benefits would be sunsetted at the federal level. States would have the authority to set them instead. The impact on private, non-Medicaid plans would therefore vary by state. If a state removes maternity benefits, for example, that’s likely to make maternity coverage, among other services, immensely expensive, if available at all.

A tax on women

So what if I’m a healthy 27-year-old man and I don’t want coverage for maternity care? What if my state doesn’t mandate mental health coverage? That’s fine if you’re healthy or you can’t get pregnant. But if you’re living in the wrong state, it could mean way higher premiums for opting into higher risk pools.

So I hope you plan well in advance for that pregnancy–which carries an average cost of around $9,000 in the U.S. And I hope you’re willing to pay more for the possibility. This could be quite a burden for couples who try for more than a year to get pregnant–that’s a lot  of maternity coverage “just in case.”

And if you’re a woman who knows you DON’T want to get pregnant? Good luck with access to preventative family planning resources, as Repubs continue to threaten Planned Parenthood. This week Trump issued an ultimatum to PP to completely eradicate abortion services. Nevermind that abortions are a critical component of comprehensive family planning services for women, and are never paid by federal funds anyways.

Also on the subject of abortion, another lowlight of the AHCA covered in Fox News’ “highlights”:

Prohibits use of tax credits to purchase any plan that covers elective abortions. Currently if a health plan covers abortions it must collect a separate premium to pay for such procedures.

Yet another roadblock for women taking control of their health. Abortion coverage under Obamacare currently varies depending on the state, but plans in progressive states tend to cover the service. In the UK and other developed nations, abortion is covered by national health plans as a matter of course.

‘Trumpcare’ is a big step backwards


We already know that America has the worst record for maternal health of any developed nation. It’s tragic, but not surprising, that the GOP would propose a plan to let this gap widen. We need to be directing resources and policies to fix the problem for our mothers and children–not just redirecting money to benefit the already-privileged. The new AHCA and threats to Planned Parenthood just show how little regard Republicans have for the lives of actual women in America.

Emma Watson’s feminism must be evolving

Emma 2017 vs. Bey 2013
Spot the difference? Emma 2017 vs. Beyonce 2013

You’ve heard the news by now: vaunted feminist Emma Watson posed scantily on the cover of Vanity Fair, somebody (probably a man) tried to gotcha her on her feminism, somebody else (probably another man) tried to get Gloria Steinem to talk shit about her–despite the fact that Ms. Steinem eloquently shut them down on Emma already last week–and twitter went insane.

… it does behoove us as feminists to question the nature of the choices that we make.

Emma Watson says in response: “Feminism is about giving women choice. Feminism is not a stick with which to beat other women with. It’s about freedom, it’s about liberation, it’s about equality.”

So that’s true: the female body should be celebrated, not shamed. I love showing skin from time to time, and I’m thankful for generations of feminists before me that have made it socially acceptable for me to wear what I like, and socially unacceptable for men to touch and catcall and harass me because of what I’m wearing (or choosing not to wear.)

But I do believe there’s valid rationale hidden somewhere in the criticism–however tactlessly deployed to stir up drama around one particular woman whose contributions to feminism are undeniable. Hell, Emma Watson herself deployed this tactic, calling out Beyonce for her sexualised image in 2014:

“As I was watching [the videos] I felt very conflicted, I felt her message felt very conflicted in the sense that on the one hand she is putting herself in a category of a feminist, but then the camera, it felt very male, such a male voyeuristic experience of her,” Watson said during a conversation with journalist and actress Tavi Gevinson, as published in a 2014 issue of Wonderland Magazine.

 

Here’s the thing: it does behoove us as feminists to question the nature of the choices that we make. Nobody’s choices are made in a vacuum. If you as a woman are consistently making choices that play into society’s patriarchal expectations of femininity, it’s worth considering potential value in challenging those expectations, both within yourself and in confrontation with others.

But there is a difference between critiquing an individual’s choices and critiquing the dynamics of the patriarchal system. Women didn’t fight for feminism so that we could start modesty-policing each other.

Emma Watson is a feminist warrior AND a babe. There are better ways to engage in criticism of patriarchal constructs than a call-out culture that tries to gotcha women for failing to act in line with anybody’s expectations–regardless of who is setting those expectations.

And as Emma’s own feminist perspective evolves over time, I’ll be looking forward to her apology to Bey.

Why I won’t ever shut up about Hillary Clinton (h/t Dame Magazine)

From The Future Is Female—And Still Unrelentingly Misogynist | Dame Magazine:
(White) male media dominance drove the 2016 election narrative, helping to elect a dangerously incompetent POTUS over Hillary Clinton – and it continues to denigrate the powerful women following in her footsteps.

Love this article by one of my heros @sarahlerner.

Most (all) of us alleged “Hillbots” do have complex and nuanced opinions on HRC as a candidate. This is why the term grates on me so furiously: it’s not that I think she’s infallible. But the more that men (and women) on the left, and those self-described independents too smart to be susceptible to political bias, insist on picking her apart flaw-by-flaw, the more I will dig my heels in to support her. Because Hillary Clinton is a complex and multi-faceted human being, not some cardboard cutout of the Exceptional Woman. Men and women who ignore this subtlety, reduce her supporters to caricatures in the same way.

My Feminism Centers Women

I went to a wonderful talk this weekend put on by Guardian Live entitled: “Women’s Rights: Are We Slipping Back into the Dark Ages?” In the era of Trump, and scandal after scandal both in the U.S. and in the U.K., it sure can feel like it.

The panel was lively and hilarious, as feminist women tend as a matter of necessity to be. It was refreshing to hear the voices of women acknowledging the subtle misogyny that seems to have bubbled back to the surface.

I am not on board for any version of feminism that doesn’t place women’s issues front and center.

During the Q&A, one audience member asked a question: “how can we make men understand how patriarchy hurts them, too?” Now, it’s a valid and pragmatic question, and I know I’m overreacting, but so help me God if I hear another concern in women’s spaces about men’s feelings…

What I mean to say is that I’m of two minds: on the one hand, women are expected to center and protect men from their own emotions on a daily basis. Just once I want to see them take responsibility their own mental health and emotional well-being. On the other hand, there is surely value in making a pragmatic argument to men about the benefits of feminism.

The whole thing tastes to me a bit like the liberal hand-wringing in the wake of the 2016 US election: how do we broaden our appeal to the “white working class”? Well, first let’s acknowledge that it was never (just) about the economy. And if satisfying the WWC means abandoning “identity politics” (i.e. the things that matter to you if you are not white, or straight, or male, or middle class) then get me the fuck out of there.

So let’s go ahead and make an economic argument for feminism: the case for gender equity is already clear. So if all these “rational” men want to make the economically prudent choice, they can ally the fuck up. I am not on board for any version of feminism that doesn’t place women’s issues front and center.

That doesn’t mean we don’t need sisters in this fight who are willing to engage both men and women and educate them. But I personally try to be mindful about the language I use when talking about feminism, what its goals are and what we hope to accomplish as feminists.

My feminism centers women in a way that is unapologetically intersectional: I don’t believe we can dismantle patriarchal structures unless we stand with all women, celebrating and centering diversity in the women’s movement. It’s easy for people living in white middle-class bubbles, like the one I grew up in, to believe they are post-racial and free of class bias. But gender power dynamics pervade every single facet of societies (with the possible exception of certain prisons and military units) and so feminist critique is a powerful tool to talk to all kinds of people about all kinds of privilege and power dynamics.

A feminist movement takes all kinds: from the lesbian separatist womyn, to those women (bless them) that patiently explain to their male partners, for the umpteenth time, that the pay gap is real and a problem.

So yes, feminism can be for everyone. But my feminism acknowledges that the most expedient route to raise us all up, is to empower women of all classes, ethnicities, and religious backgrounds.

If you’re not angry in Trump’s America…

A week after the 2016 election, I was facetiming my sister to catch up and talk about Thanksgiving plans. She, her husband and my nephew (who just turned two 😍) would fly to Indiana to visit her in-laws and have lunch at our grandma’s house.

I told her Mom was really upset with Dad for not voting. Like, almost-walked-out upset.

Later, over Christmas, Mom and I would reflect on how this election radicalised us both. She’s since ridden a bus 18 hours to the Women’s March on D.C. and signed up to volunteer for the ACLU.

“Well, I didn’t vote for either of them,” Sissy said. “But I think she’s just making a big deal over nothing.”

“I don’t know. I have friends worried about the status of their marriages, or family members getting deported.”

“Well, I don’t think they have anything to worry about.”

I fired back: “Well, it must be nice not to have to live with the consequences of your decision, if you’re wrong.”

Unfortunately, as we know now: she was more wrong than right.

In the six weeks since Trump’s inauguration, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) forces, part of the Dept of Homeland Security, have been emboldened by orders to pre-emptively raid homes and attack otherwise innocent migrants, including children who until now have been granted legal status in the U.S. by the DREAM Act. The Huffington Post tells one young woman’s story, along with her personal testimony:

I don’t understand why they don’t want me. I’m doing the best I can. I mean I can’t help that I was brought here but I don’t know anything else besides being here and I didn’t realize that until I was in a holding cell last night for 5 hours. I was brought here. I didn’t choose to be here. And when I was brought here, I had to learn a whole new country and leave behind the one that I did know. And I barely knew that one. I feel, I strongly feel that I belong here and I strongly feel that I should be given a chance to be here and do something good and work in this economy. There’s so much that I can bring to the table, so much, like I can even teach music, I’m an excellent trumpet player you can ask my mom about any of that. I’m great with math, I speak Spanish. You know, there’s a lot of stuff that I can do for this country that they’re not allowing me to do. I’ve even tried to join the military, and I can’t do that. But, I mean that’s not the point, the whole point is that I would do anything for this country.

I can forgive my family and the countless people I know who either voted for Trump or abstained from voting for the only candidate with a realistic chance of defeating him. But today? If you’re not mad in Trump’s America by now, we see you. And it’s not a flattering look.

 

Source: Dreamer Arrested After Speaking To Media Will Be Deported Without Hearing, Attorney Says | The Huffington Post

Getting shit done – part 1

Last time we introduced good time management as a best practice for women who Get Shit Done in a world constantly battling for your attention. My first borrowed philosophy involves goalsetting around your Big Picture Priorities.

Pick Five Things

Everyone’s favourite crusty old billionaire investor, Warren Buffett, has as many brilliant ideas as he does creepy jokes about women (or “folksy tales,” as apologists have apparently taken to calling them.) Buffett’s philosophy on goalsetting goes like this:

  • Make a list of twenty-five things you want to accomplish–right now, this year, in your lifetime.
  • Circle five of them. Re-write this as your Top 5 list. These are your top 5 priorities, to which you should be devoting the majority of your time and energy.
  • What about the other list? According to Buffett:

Everything you didn’t circle just became your ‘avoid at all cost list’. No matter what, these things get no attention from you until you’ve succeeded with your top 5.

Sound harsh? We’ll cover compromise in part 6 but for now: stick to your top 5. Here’s my own Top “5” list, by the way:

1. get ur MBA, 2. start a startup, 3. be a activist, 4. be a human, 5. dont be antisocial, 6. make money maybe, 7. research and PhD someday, 8. speak good
now would be as good a time as any to confess that I speak to myself exclusively in the vernacular of internet memes

You will note that I’ve actually got eight things on my list, but “be a human” and “dont be antisocial [sic]” cover things like showering and calling my mom which I consider basic requirements of humanity regardless of my priorities.

Next time I’ll talk about my second borrowed philosophy, distinguishing the urgent from the important.

Impact investing for conservative Christians

Since joining the business world I’ve learned a lot about the ways people with money are trying to put that money to good use, for society as well as for themselves.

Most recently I’ve been wrangled into a conference at school on impact investing. Impact investing has been a buzzword for several years, with impact funds giving investors the choice to put their money towards firms that engage in good environmental, social, and corporate governance practices.

But what if you’re a savvy investor who simply cares about denying equal rights to the LGBT+ community? Well, don’t worry, because now, as Robin Wigglesworth writes for the FT, there’s an index fund for you too:

[Inspire Investing] uses a scoring system it calls the Inspire Impact Score to grade companies and select them for inclusion in its underlying BRI index and the ETFs, a methodology that removes any companies with “any degree of participation” in activities that “do not align with biblical values”, according to the prospectus registered with the SEC.

In addition to LGBT+ issues, so-called ‘Biblically Responsible Investing’ excludes companies affiliated with alcohol, gambling, pornography, and abortion. In this way target investors can rest assured those activities will remain the domain of only their very private lives.

Given the huge and growing corporate support enjoyed by the LGBT+ community worldwide, it’s difficult to imagine such a product gaining much traction.

Meanwhile, if you’re keen on putting your money towards enterprise that actually empowers women (regardless of sexuality,) then you might want to check out Gender Lens Investing, one more way to give your money to women.

Getting shit done – Part 0

At a meetup for women at Google Campus London this morning, I pitched my nascent blog for feedback. There were a number of women in digital branding and marketing, so it was a super opportunity to check in and get some advice.

We know bitches get stuff done, but how exactly?

I struggle with how to position this blog, because my own interests feel so wide-ranging, even within the scope of women’s issues: I firmly believe there is a difference between “feminism” and “women’s empowerment,” much as they may or may not overlap (something I’ll explore soon.) And I firmly believe both are important to women today trying to juggle their personal and political feminism with the realities of kicking ass in day-to-day life under patriarchy.

One topic that kept coming up this morning–and one that I find myself lighting up to talk about–is personal productivity. We know bitches get stuff done, but how exactly? In this post I’ll break down the tools I use to manage school, work, and those Big Life Goals.

  1. Pick Five Things
  2. The Important and The Urgent
  3. Get It Out of Your Head (Tools for Managing To-Do’s)
  4. But (Your) Emails!
  5. Aggressive Scheduling
  6. Take It Easy on Yourself

What we’re reading this month: March

Every month we’ll bring you highlights from our reading stack.

Equity and Activism Book Club Pick: This Is An Uprising

If you, too, have had it with liberals policing each others’ activism, This Is An Uprising is the book you’ve been searching for. The authors delve into a recent history of nonviolent activism and present various theories for the mechanisms by which progressive movements can bring about change. They take pains to reference empirical data that corroborates the effectiveness of methods like mass protests, strikes, and sustained engagement by as little as 3% of the population (movements can be effective with much less than 3% engagement, but above 3% engagement their chance of success is extremely high.)

Socially-Conscious Fiction Pick: The Underground Railroad

I wasn’t sure what to make of a book that seemed to feature an <i>actual train</i> as a stand-in for the Underground Railroad, but it’s actually a very effective device for conveying the reader from place to place. Up there with <i>Kindred</i> for me in its harsh, stirring portrayal of life as a Black woman in the antebellum South. You’ll be cheering for Cora every step of the way.

“I Told You So” Feminist Pick: Women After All

I’m always skeptical of feminist books written by men, but Women After All doesn’t really bill itself as feminist, per se. It’s an account of the biological and anthropological basis of women’s oppression, starting with the surprisingly enthralling mating habits of sea-slugs all the way up to modern-day quasi-matriarchal societies. I don’t necessarily agree with all of the author’s assertions about the biological basis of femininity (the logic gets a bit circular, here) but overall it’s a compelling narrative. And who can argue with a book that concludes that we need to give more power to women?