Wednesday News: Women, Women, and more Women (aka the tide is turning)
Merriam-Webster’s 2017 Words of the Year – It’s always interesting to see what words make Webster’s annual top ten list, and this year is no exception. Not surprisingly, it is politics that have driven much of the dictionary consultation this year, and the #1 word both embodies and transcends politicization: feminism. Which seems fitting, given that this year may, in hindsight, be seen as the year of women. Webster’s list is interesting, because they don’t just catalogue – they also provide some insight into when and why they are attention-getters. For feminism, there have been multiple avenues of interest, from entertainment to political pundits to the horrific but beautifully awesome #metoo movement:
More recently, lookups of feminism have been increasing in conjunction with the many accounts of sexual assault and harassment in the news. Many women have come forward to share their stories with journalists and many more women joined in on social media using the #MeToo hashtag to say that they too have been affected by such behavior. The string of breaking news stories regarding the resignations, firings, or dismissals of men who have been charged with sexual harassment or assault has kept this story in the news.
Today’s definitions of feminism read: “the theory of the political, economic, and social equality of the sexes” and “organized activity on behalf of women’s rights and interests.” – Merriam-Webster
Prominent appeals court Judge Alex Kozinski accused of sexual misconduct – This is definitely a case of when worlds collide, as Courtney Milan, former clerk to Alex Kozinski, has made public her own #metoo experiences with the 9th Circuit judge in an interview with The Washington Post, as well as a post on her website. I won’t quote anything of the harassment (triggering), but I encourage you to read the linked article for the circumstances of the Post‘s story and some of the particulars of Milan’s. And I will leave you with this quote from her own post, which provides some insight into her career change from law clerk and professor to Romance novelist:
In a private act of defiance, I didn’t just read romance novels—I began to write them. I wrote dozens of books where my characters had secrets that they could not tell. The secret varied—sometimes a heroine kept it; sometimes it was the hero.
I wrote books where women won, again and again.
I grappled with my own secret in fictional, changed form. Book after book, I wrote the happy ending I couldn’t quite reach myself. That the stories I wrote resonated with readers, I think, speaks to the fact that #metoo has been building for centuries.
I wrote about secrets for nine years, while I held onto my own. – CourtneyMilan.com
When Black Women’s Stories Of Sexual Abuse Are Excluded From The National Narrative – A good conversation between The Washington Post‘s Karen Attiah and NPR’s Lulu Garcia-Navarro on the systemic marginalization of black women (and, by extension, women of color more generally) in our national outrage over sexual harassment and assault. Black women are often perceived as less credible and less visible, diminishing their experience, disrespecting their experiences, and limiting the capacity to understand just how widespread these abuses of power are (and the less social and economic power a woman has, the less likely she will speak out or be granted remedy):
I think one thing about the #MeToo movement, a lot of it has been seemingly confined to, I would say, white collar professional jobs. So, if we’re wanting to include more women, we need to also be talking about the abuses that go on in sectors like restaurant workers, domestic help … Because again, what ties all of this together, regardless of income, regardless of status, regardless of color, really, is about the abuse of power. So, women of color who already have harder barriers in those professional circles, I think we absolutely do need to pay more attention to their stories, and part of that will be for us to start listening and to start taking women of color seriously. – NPR
Why Some Artists Are Never Separated From Their Work (and Why Louis C.K. Was) – Although this is a much more complex discussion than this Vulture article manages to convey, the central point about the differences between straight white men and everyone else is important: straight white men continue to enjoy the privilege of having their “art” viewed in distinction from their person (including bad behavior or destructive values). This separation is a privilege because it protects everything from economic security (no losing jobs, art objects continue to sell, etc.) to professional reputation to personal safety (think of the horrific threats made against women online who dare step out of their expected roles). Now that the tide is turning, we are seeing the revelations of sexual assault and harassment growing and extending into more professional arenas (for example, check out chef Allison Robicelli’s Twitter thread). It’s a terrible process, but women have taken the lead, and we can affect real change if we remain conscientious, inclusive, and collaboratively focused on the long-term project of dismantling patriarchy -otherwise known as feminism.
It’s no mystery that we think about and write about art differently when the artist is female; likewise, we write about art differently when the artist is queer or a person of color. It reminds me of the study from 2016, which analyzed New YorkTimes book reviews when written about male versus female authors — while male authors were more likely to be described with words including “argument,” “idea,” “politics,” “critic,” and “theory,” women authors were associated with words like “husband,” “sister,” “daughter,” “marriage,” “parent,” and “women.” Women’s work is individual and relational; it is about the person. Men, meanwhile, write about ideas and arguments. They can somehow stay separate. – Vulture