Conservatives Attack Safe Spaces – You Won’t Believe What Happens Next

The concept of safe spaces is not new or exclusive to the 21st century, but in the wake of the 2016 presidential election, it has been yanked into the spotlight and become a central topic of debate all over social media sites and news outlets. In this post we will discuss the different arguments surrounding the safe spaces debate. We will start with a general definition of safe spaces, then move into analyzing the conservative argument against safe spaces and before presenting the counter to their position. Following that, we will move into the progressive critique of safe spaces. Lastly, we will explain why safe spaces are beneficial.

What are Safe Spaces?

Safe spaces on college campuses are meant to provide a space for marginalized students in which they can express themselves without fear of judgement or discrimination. LGBTQ+ students can act out their identity in a way that they are not always able. Sexual assault and rape survivors have a haven to go when experiences reminded them of their trauma in a way that provokes panic attacks. Students suffering from mental illness have a space in which they are temporarily protected from the outside world. Essentially, safe spaces are supposed to be places where students who experience forms of marginalization can go and deal with encounters of oppression before being exposed to daily life again. But how has this original designation of safe spaces changed and been distorted?

On November 17th, 2016 Fox News titled one of their articles: “Coddling Campus Crybabies: Students Take up Toddler Therapy After Trump Win”. This illustrates how many of the conservative arguments against safe spaces are carried out. Online, one can find a myriad of articles centered around the crying, whining students who cannot deal with real world problems and ideally should all be drafted into military service next week to show them that their current problems are basically worthless.

 

What do the Conservatives Have to Say?

Much of the pushback against safe spaces is based on the notion that they have gone too far in the wrong direction. The conservative side holds the belief that students retreat into them for reassurance of their beliefs while closing their eyes to opposing viewpoints in the interest of preserving their feelings.

The Tough Baby is a theory that explains how feminist critics invalidate and try and to dismantle feminist arguments. “The Tough Baby tells women to ‘toughen up’ and suffer in silence while at the same time deriding her and presenting himself as wallowing in wounded self-pity” (Tomlinson, 2010, p. 88). This uses infantilizing language used by conservatives that are anti-safe spaces while they are acting like children themselves. This is contradictory, as they are telling marginalized people to grow up and deal with oppression while they are exhibiting self pity and present themselves as being excluded while in a position of privilege. Tough Baby is a feminist theory that “both relies on and enacts such a binary system of oppositional dominance, treating its own rhetorical vehemence as justified, and that of the (angry) feminist as deplorable; its own position as invaluable, and that of the (angry) feminist as ridiculous; its own (or male dominant) sexuality as imperative, that of the (angry) feminist as foolish or perverse; its own possible excess as courageous, those of the (angry) feminist as outrageous” (Tomlinson, 2010, p. 88). Essentially meaning that feminist critics feel like their own viewpoints are the only valuable arguments and invalidates feminist discourse by saying it is infantile. However, what this argument does not take into account is the fact that there have always been spaces where certain language and topics are appropriate, and spaces where they are inappropriate. It does not necessarily mean that different opinions or their expression are condemned in every context, but rather that this might not be the space to voice them or even just voice them in a certain way. There can exist a discrepancy between ideas without the presence of discrimination. Hate speech is what is prohibited from a safe space, not a difference in opinion.

There have been certain examples that have come under much scrutiny through the conservative lense. One of the major ones was when a speaker on a college campus was to debate against rape culture which was met with immediate pushback and protests. We understand that rape culture is a topic that should not be debated, but this was a major issue in most of the articles we read. Students demanded safe spaces for anyone who might feel triggered by the topic of the debate. What many of the media outlets used as the reason for their critique was not the demand for the safe space itself, but the perceived reasoning behind it. Students had apparently asked for a space not only because the debate could have been potentially triggering for rape survivors, but also because they disagreed with the presence of anti-rape culture discourse (Breitbart News, 2016, New York Times, 2015). They pushed to have another speaker come on campus at the same time as the debate was taking place who would be going on to prove that rape culture exists. As the first event was constructed as a debate, a side that supported the existence of rape culture would already have been present, making their measures preemptive. The avoidance of difficult subjects is not how one learns how to deal with them, in fact one form of therapy used to help people overcome their fears is exposure therapy- literally meant to expose oneself to the thing that triggers us so that we best know how to handle it so we don’t continue to be triggered. The understanding of safe spaces has been warped in the sense that they are taken to be there to shield us off from controversial subjects even though that is not the case. Safe spaces are meant to give us tools to use to handle tough situations, not shield us from them entirely. In this unfortunate example, safe spaces appear to being used to silence discussion that might occur and reducing the chance for students to have their ideas challenged in a way that would spark them to have to strengthen their argument (Breitbart News, 2016; New York Times, 2015). Because of this morph in safe spaces, our generation has been accused of being childlike and unprepared to handle the real world because all we know is how to whine. This argument of calling the demand for safe spaces “whining” is not only infantilizing, but also speaks to a deeper misunderstanding of the issue at hand. They used to call it protest, but now conservatives would like to have everyone believe that racism, sexism, homophobia, etc. is basically over in this country just because of the existence of the Obamas, Hillary Clinton, gay marriage, etc. Everything that is still perceived as being a problem is brushed as of “whining” which is a complete disregard to the systematic oppression of certain groups. (Along the lines of: “We’re already all progressive, you’re asking for too much.”)

 

It is argued that we miss out on tough intellectual debates that could be sparked from people who think differently than us, people who would force us to really strengthen our arguments. One student named Adam Shapiro who, in response to being told by fellow students that he and others should declare their dorm rooms a safe space, put a sign on his door stating that his room was a “dangerous space.” (Breitbart News, 2016; New York Times, 2016) He claims he did this because “Kindness alone won’t allow us to gain more insight into truth. If the point of a safe space is therapy for people who feel victimized by traumatization, that sounds like a great mission” (Breitbart News, 2016; New York Times, 2015). He went on to say that the “fear of offending students has led to professors avoiding saying anything remotely controversial” (Breitbart News, 2016; New York Times, 2015). From this we can deduce that Mr. Shapiro would agree with having safe spaces for people who need to recover after being triggered but not for everything that sparks a strong emotional response that might be uncomfortable. What he struggles with, and what many seem to struggle with, is the fact that safe space culture has seemingly threatened free speech in academic spaces (New York Times, 2015). Being surrounded by like minded people is seen as self-fulfilling in that their ideas will just be repeated back to them, validating them and causing them, and our country, to be more polarized in its view. If liberals and conservatives don’t talk, they don’t learn how to handle each other’s views. This results in making both sides only more radical in their ideas after being affirmed in their beliefs from the people they surrounded themselves with. If they are both sheltered they will also not be prepared for the greater world where their beliefs will be challenged and they will not know how to stand up for themselves. This would result in distress and them eventually being pushed around and silenced. Hence the feeling of losing the freedom of speech. People need to be exposed to various viewpoints in order to form their arguments fully and to become a stronger person intellectually and emotionally. An article from the Atlantic titled “Silencing Religious Students on Campus” puts it eloquently when the author stated that the main reason people don’t want to speak their minds on tough topics is because they don’t want to be labelled as “intolerant or disrespectful” and that is what creates the feeling of being silenced (Atlantic, 2016).

What’s Good about Safe Spaces then?

When the conservative side attacks the concept of a safe space, it often becomes a personal attack and an attack on the morality and intelligence of an individual. Safe spaces are seen as places where people are stripped of their right to free speech and where people go to avoid opinions that differs from their own and only engage in ideas that echo each other. Thus there is the assumption that these individuals cannot handle differing opinions when that is not necessarily a sound conclusion. There are people on both sides of the political spectrum that do not engage with beliefs other than their own and it is not unique to people who seek out safe spaces. People choose to surround themselves with likeminded people in order to relate over similar ideas in everyday actions such as engaging with only left wing or right wing media or who one follows and unfollows on facebook due to political posts. If people only engage in like minded content then that inhibits growth and the challenging of ideas, but this does not mean that spaces that affirm and support similar ideas are not spaces of ignorance but of reflection. For marginalized groups, spaces that affirm one another’s ideas and experiences are ones that affirm one another’s existences in a society that does the opposite. In the context of feminist groups gathering to discuss women’s rights in the 1960’s, Pamela Parker Allen stated,  “It is not so much the words that are said in response that are important; rather it is the fact that someone listens and does not ridicule; someone listens and accepts a woman’s description of her life” (Allen, 1969, 67). Spaces free of judgment create room for the expression of ideas and experiences that may be of the minority and disregarded or not taken seriously in the greater society. Safe spaces allow for the gathering of resources and the sharing of dialogues that can help one navigate encountering opposition and more effectively gather for activism. (Ahmed, 2015)

Do the Progressives Have a Critique?

From a more progressive lens we see the critique of safe spaces being more centered around what the effect on the wider world is when we only designate certain areas or rooms as safe. The New York Times article states that “once you designate some spaces as safe, you imply that the rest are unsafe” (New York Times, 2015). This basically means that we are content saying that the rest of the world is fine being unsafe so long as we continue to have our designated safe spaces. Going against this rhetoric of accepting the rest of the world as unsafe, The New York Times goes on to say that “it follows that they should be made safer” (New York Times, 2015). In reference to how safe spaces will spread their culture to the greater world, bit by bit; making the culture of the world similar to that of safe spaces. If this trend follows in the footsteps of what the intended purpose of safe spaces, then there will be no problems with this change, although bigots might have some protests. However, if we continue to only relegate certain spaces be safe rather than make everywhere safe, we will essentially be self-segregating rather than making changes to our world.

Some Final Words

Although conservative views have many critiques about the validity of safe spaces, we as authors believe that the arguments that are used rest upon assumptions that are not factually informed and use harmful rhetoric. Therefore, we challenge the way they present their debate on safe spaces with feminist theory to bring to light the problems in their arguments and look at it from all angles. When we set out to write this article we hoped to present both sides and to show what the holes were in their criticisms. We wanted to help people understand why safe spaces can be beneficial to people who need to have their experiences affirmed and feel supported.

 

  • Julia Minker, Gwen Major-Williams & Sophie Kriegerowski

 

 

 

 

References

(n.d.). Retrieved December 11, 2016, from http://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2016/08/silencing-religious-students-on-campus/497951/

@. (2015, March 23). ‘Infantilized’ College Students Need ‘Safe Spaces’ to Avoid Scary Free Speech – Breitbart. Retrieved December 11, 2016, from http://www.breitbart.com/big-government/2015/03/23/infantilized-college-students-need-safe-spaces-to-avoid-scary-free-speech/

@. Ahmed. (2015, June 27). Against Students. Retrieved December 11, 2016, from https://feministkilljoys.com/2015/06/25/against-students/

Allen, P. P. (1969). The Small Group Process. In R. Baxandall & L. Gordon (Eds.), Dear Sisters: Dispatches from the Women’s Liberation Movement (67 – 69). New York, NY: Basic Books.

Shulevitz, J. (2015, March 21). In College and Hiding From Scary Ideas. Retrieved December 11, 2016, from http://www.nytimes.com/2015/03/22/opinion/sunday/judith-shulevitz-hiding-from-scary-ideas.html?_r=0

Tomlinson, B. (2010). Feminism and affect at the scene of argument: Beyond the trope of the angry feminist. Philadelphia: Temple University Press.

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Six Reasons Why I Love Feminist Theory

Six Reasons Why I Love Feminist Theory

I love feminist theory! I love it so much, some might even a call me a theory junkie. Butler, Halberstam, Foucault, Spivak…you name the author, and I probably love them–even if I disagree with them. Allow me to outline six reasons why I love feminist theory.

 

  1. It’s  Shady

Shade is the art of insulting. It’s creative, it’s subtle, and it intends to provoke a delayed sting. Maybe you will catch on to it immediately or maybe in a few minutes. You might even catch onto it in a few hours, days, weeks, months or even years. Derived from queer of color culture, shade was developed as a form of working on and against systems of power. At the time of its development, queer and trans people of color were not (and still are not) always allowed to explicitly express their disdain, for the risk of violence may be too high. Instead, they turned to shade, as a form of expressing their disdain in a safe yet satisfying manner.

Feminist theory evokes shade by using rhetoric to critique society in a way that is relatively safe and subtle, yet ultimately potent. For example, instead of saying, “anti-feminists are awful,” feminist theorists like Barbara Tomlinson focus on unpacking the rhetoric of anti-feminist’s arguments. That is shady because she appeals to anti-feminists’ need to be seen and heard while dismantling their power.

 

Shade is the art of insulting. It’s creative, it’s subtle, and it intends to provoke a delayed sting. Maybe you will catch on to it immediately or maybe in a few minutes. You might even catch onto it in a few hours, days, weeks, months or even years. Derived from queer of color culture, shade was developed as a form of working on and against systems of power. At the time of its development, queer and trans people of color were not (and still are not) always allowed to explicitly express their disdain, for the risk of violence may be too high. Instead, they turned to shade, as a form of expressing their disdain in a safe yet satisfying manner.

Feminist theory evokes shade by using rhetoric to critique society in a way that is relatively safe and subtle, yet ultimately potent. For example, instead of saying, “anti-feminists are awful,” feminist theorists like Barbara Tomlinson focus on unpacking the rhetoric of anti-feminist’s arguments. That is shady because she appeals to anti-feminists’ need to be seen and heard while dismantling their power.

2. It Can Subvert Anglo-Saxon Vernacular

 

Much of feminist theory is written in dense anglo-saxon vernacular. On one hand, that is detrimental because it remains inaccessible to many–especially those who need it most. On the other hand, it is subversive because it can draw on oppressive epistemological canons to help dismantle them. In other words, it uses the oppressor’s language to challenge the oppressor. The master’s tools may not dismantle the master’s house, but at least you can use the master’s language to both ensure they can hear what you are saying and push against the notion that oppressed groups do not posses the power to effectively challenge authority.

3. People are (more or less) Getting Paid to Drag Society

 

While most academic scholars are not getting paid millions of dollars for their work, many are still getting paid. Capitalism operates by conditioning humans to not challenge it, and it creates a system of consequences when one tries to. However, feminist theorists push against capitalism by getting paid to challenge it. That is subversive. That is shady.

4. It Offers Tools for Social Change

 

Feminist theory often serves as the foundation through which social movements are guided. They do so by offering readers with clear sites of intervention as well as a critical eye for detecting and dismantling threats. While not all theories may work, ineffective theories still can offer a window into how power operates, giving readers the tools to challenge power.  

5. It Pulls Out Receipts

 

One of the queerest things one can do is pull out receipts. Pulling out receipts means to unfold concrete evidence to counter a claim. It is queer because queer people have historically had to display receipts as to why certain aspects of society–whether it be heteronormativity, monogamy, compulsory heterosexuality, homophobia, etc–are harmful. We have had to continuously pull out receipts to stay alive.

Feminist theory does the same. Take Naomi Wolf’s The Beauty Myth, for example. From problematizing the shift of women’s beauty standards from curvaceous to thin to highlighting the harm of anorexia, the book uses a historical approach to present a long line of receipts as to why “beauty” is entirely socially constructed, and that the patriarchy determines the content of it.

6. Theorists Educate People on Their Own Time

 

So many oppressed groups face this familiar dilemma: people demanding them to educate them about their struggle. Worst of all, these “inquiries” demand that marginalized people educate on the inquirer’s time. As if we do not already have other things to do? As if that form of labor isn’t almost always excruciatingly taxing to begin with? However, the daunting task of educating others is fundamentally necessary for change. Sadly, marginalized people on the quest to liberation cannot go their entire lives without educating privileged bodies at some point or another.

That is yet another reason why feminist theory is so marvelous: authors get to do the taxing yet necessary labor of educating people on their own time. And they get to get paid for it. Best of all, they have more freedom to educate others about what they are passionate about instead of the topic being held at the whim of the privileged. Not only that, but theorists have more control over the narrative. Unlike discussing in person, objectors of a theorist’s claim cannot ask startling questions that intentionally throw off the theorist, meaning the theorist is more in control of the dialogue.

To put it frankly, feminist theory is thebomb.com. It’s shady, subversive, lucrative, and queer problem-solving that is designed to dismantle the patriarchy. It gives me the tools to imagine a better future and decolonize my mind. In short, it is the radical activism I need.

Why it is Not Time to Simply, “Move On”

By Alexa Holmes and Jenny Norris

The results of the recent election have brought forth many different reactions, emotions, and thoughts, and even though many are disappointed with the new President-elect, passive statements of acceptance have emerged. The notions of acceptance and positivity are often distorted in society, and many take on these views as a way to passively accept the cards they have been dealt, so to speak. However, claiming that we need to “move on,” “stay positive,” “keep an open mind,” and “calm down” only overlooks the incredulous acts and outright racist, sexist, and misogynist comments that our future president has made. What is even more incredulous is the fact that those making the “move on” claims are predominantly white, privileged, American citizens. This all seems rather bias. One contributor of The Odyssey, an online blog site that many college-aged students write, wrote a piece titled “Election 2016: Let’s Move On.” In the article, she states, “Respect the winner, and move on. There is no point in fussing over the results of this election; this only brings out anger and frustration, which the nation has already seen enough of these days.” Her statement seems to encompass the major problem addressed within this post, and will be the preface for all of the ways in which we will not “move on.”

        In understanding the complexity of these notions and the importance they hold, it is necessary to examine their function and what these notions reproduce. First, taking a passive stance reproduces the normalization of categories, in which a form of repetition takes place and marginalizes those affected. Judith Butler notes that as a society, we have the ability to create new categories and create new deviations from social norms. However, remaining within the spaces that have been constructed reinforces the allowance of the absurd behavior that the President-elect has demonstrated, and allows for the comfort of justifying one’s bigotry.

Second, through the trope of the angry feminist, we can recognize the function that anger plays and the productivity that an angry reaction can produce. Much of the responses surrounding the results have urged others to “calm down,” but through anger, we can resist the oppressions and use a voice to oppose the silence that seems overpowering. Audre Lorde utilizes this trope by stating that silence and passivity are not means of protection, but are instead a means of de-protection. By insisting that others are whining over the election or acting as “cry babies,” we are instilling notions of privilege in which those whining do not have the right to whine or be upset over the results. Marginalized groups and minorities do not have a respected voice in society, which is why using the trope of the angry feminist works to create a voice. However, it is necessary to note that often times when one is angry, the only voice heard is the anger, and the words/opinions are not heard. This becomes a point of contention because it demonstrates that even though one’s voice is powerful, it is the way in which one portrays her or himself within that power.

An incredibly telling quote from Audre Lorde’s Sister Outsider is “Tell them about how you’re never really a whole person if you remain silent, because there’s always that one little piece inside you that wants to be spoken out, and if you keep ignoring it, it gets madder and madder, and hotter and hotter, and if you don’t speak out one day it will just up and punch you in the face” (42). If we continue to allow the country to progress in a way that seems predictably damaging, our silence may literally get us punched in the face.

Third, the notion of cruel optimism, or the idea of false hope, is further depicted within the belief that moving on is the best option, as it perpetuates the need to make the best of the situation. Yet, shedding light on the positive aspects of what the new presidency holds only further enables the hate and fear that is being instilled within minorities or marginalized people. This does not work to change anything or push back against, and it reinforces the comfort that society takes in remaining unreasonably optimistic. In this case, being pessimistic may create change and may disrupt the ease in simply pushing things under the rug.

Reframing the idea of “moving forward” to one that is active and vocal can be done through intervention, conversation, standing with minorities, and through community-based efforts. Instead of using the act of moving forward to marginalize others, it can instead be used to pursue awkward conversations and can create the spaces for new thoughts or perspectives.  

So what is there to do other than move on from the election? Plenty.  Perhaps one of the most important things to do is to refuse to take part in, support, or normalize the acts of hate that have become even more prominent since the election.  According to article “‘Make America White Again’: Hate speech and crimes post-election” from CNN, in the first ten days after the election there were 867 cases of hateful harassment or intimidation in the United States reported, meaning there were countless unreported acts of hate as well.  So, instead of moving on, we must stand together against these acts of hate, and intervene when we see them taking place.  Huffington Post’s article “A Beginner’s Guide To Moving Forward In Spite of Election Grief” gives another piece of very important advice, stating: “Whatever kind of privilege you may have, whether it’s based on your gender identity, your skin color, your socioeconomic status, your religion or your sexual orientation… Understand your privilege ― and use that privilege in the service of others.”

Another important approach one can take is to educate oneself about groups facing marginalization, and take the time to understand the perspectives and experiences that they have. The more that people come to understand where those from different races, ethnicities, genders, gender identities, sexual orientations, and socioeconomic statuses come from, the less likely we are to further marginalize these groups. From the numerous acts of hate that have occurred since November 8th, it is clear that there is a lot of misunderstanding and even hatred towards people who are different from oneself.  This is why the importance of talking to people from different backgrounds, and really listening to their perspectives is so important. One of the most important pieces of advice given in the article “A Beginner’s Guide To Moving Forward In Spite of Election Grief” is to, “Listen, listen, listen”.

However it is not enough just to listen, one must take the knowledge they have gained through listening and use it to act.  To intervene when someone says “Move on” or makes a problematic statement is the most effective way to fight against their rhetoric is through intervening and disrupting.  As Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie states in her article “Now is the Time to Talk About What We Are Actually Talking About” in the New Yorker: “Now is the time to forge new words. “Alt-right” is benign. “White-supremacist right” is more accurate.” So instead of using phrases like “locker-room talk” that diminish the severity of Trump’s actions, disrupt them, call them as they are, sexual assault, or sexual harassment. She tells us to talk about not only the presidency, but those things that could be taken away under this presidency.  For example, talk about reproductive care and rights, talk about sexual identity and gender identity, talk about racism, talk about misogyny, talk about all of those things that the President-elect threatens to take away, or normalizes, or represents.

In calling things as they are, we open up Trump’s “black box.”  We begin to decode the language he uses for what it truly is, uncovering those values he stands for, but will not admit.  His refusal to denounce his endorsement by the KKK, his referral to all people of color as from “Inner Cities,” his building of the wall, his locker room talk, his choice of a Vice President, and the list goes on, are all coded language pushing real characteristics into the black box.  By calling his words and actions racist, misogynistic, homophobic, xenophobic, etc. we confront his language, and bring these characteristics out of the black box.  Hopefully, bringing this to light allows for more people to see his true colors, and not continue making excuses for him. Additionally, Barbara Tomlinson notes socioforensic analysis as a means of transforming the ways in which we read and critique writings. She states, “Transforming the terms of reading concentrates our analysis: we investigate how power infuses the scene of the argument. Socioforesnsic analysis requires us to ask questions about why the text exists, what it does, and what it does not do” (18). Her use of analysis points to the fact that we need to be vigilant in our critique of articles and texts that often overshadow Trump’s black box.  

Adichie also calls on news and media outlets to educate and inform, not spread bias or false news.  Therefore, until they do so, disrupt the norms of media consumption, find grassroots networks, refuse to support mainstream media that circulates fake or biased news.  One of the more popular ways of disrupting is by following the President-Elect’s appointments, and calling government representatives to urge them not to support these appointment, and tell your friends to do so as well. As Smith-Prei and Stehle states in their book, #AwkwardPolitics, social media is an exceptional medium for activism, and one that is readily available.  So, we should use our social media to disrupt, to challenge normalcy, to spread the word about calling our government representatives to challenge Trump’s appointments, and to spread information about the amount of hate crimes being committed post-election.  We can also use social media to create new trends, and shift the norm from #moveon to #moveforward. Disrupting normalcy in any way can help urge others not to move on, but to #moveforward.

https://www.theodysseyonline.com/@arielrundbaken

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/global-opinions/wp/2016/11/10/im-a-muslim-a-woman-and-an-immigrant-i-voted-for-trump/?utm_term=.1993f1676fff
^ Our “inspiration” for this post

Bibliography

Adichie, Chimamanda Ngozi. “Now Is the Time to Talk About What We are Actually Talking About”. The New Yorker. December 2, 2016. http://www.newyorker.com/culture/cultural-comment/now-is-the-time-to-talk-about-what-we-are-actually-talking-about

Butler, Judith. Gender Trouble: Feminism and the Subversion of Identity. New York: Routledge, 1990.

Lorde, Audre.  Sister Outsider: Essays and Speeches.  Trumansburg, NY : Crossing Press, 1984.

Toby, John S. “It’s Time To Move Past The Election And Focus On The U.S. Stock Market” . Forbes. October 22, 2016. http://www.forbes.com/sites/johntobey/2016/10/22/its-time-to-move-past-the-election-and-focus-on-the-u-s-stock-market/#7bf2fede6675

Tomlinson, Barbara. Feminism and Affect at the Scene of Argument: Beyond the Trope of the Angry Feminist. Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 2010.

Yan, Holly;  Kristina Sgueglia and Kylie Walker “‘Make America White Again’: Hate speech and crimes post-election” CNN. November 29, 2016.http://www.cnn.com/2016/11/10/us/post-election-hate-crimes-and-fears-trnd/

2016 Election: How it came to be and how we can change the aftermath

2016 Election: How it came to be and how we can deal with and change the aftermath

By Amber Williams and Alyssa Deem

Within the last few years, technology has become one of the main ways in which people have been  able to connect and communicate with other people. Social media, in particular, has helped to facilitate this digital connection of shared ideas and and culture by creating a space for people to talk about topics that concern their daily lives. Some of the different things that people like to talk about on social media are life milestones, events, entertainment, and of course everyone’s favorite, politics.

2016 was a big year for politics, which meant that it was a big year for social media. Everyone could not resist talking about the election where the first ever female was elected to represent a major political party, and man of 0 years was elected to represent the other one. It seemed like everywhere you went on social media there was a ‘new’ scandal that populated newsfeeds and blogs.

Some headlines read:

hillary-clinton-is-almost-certain-to-be-president

(Abramson, 2016)

While others read:

trump-grab-them-by-the-pussy

#neverforget

(Mthis-Lilley, 2016)

But wait, before we delve into the specifics for either candidate, let’s start from the beginning (of election night)…

On November, 9th 2016, millions of people went to the polls to vote for, arguably, the most divisive presidential candidates in election history. On that day, the nation was clearly divided between what we would call a racist bigoted baby and an eloquent woman with 35+ years in office. It was a big deal. Hillary Clinton was the first female elected official to be on the presidential ticket of a major political party in the United States. Clinton’s ability to run for the highest elected official position in the country shows how much progress had taken place since the beginnings of the women’s movement in the United States, which began in 1848 (“The Women’s Rights Movement,” 2007). However, this election raised many questions and insights, such as the concept that there is still a lot of work that needs to be accomplished when it comes to gender equality in the US. Although Hillary Clinton went where no other woman has gone before, throughout her campaign there were many incidents that occurred with the sole intention of reminding Clinton of where her ‘place should be.’ Trump’s campaign repeatedly pointed out how Clinton’s place was certainly not in politics, because after all, it is a man’s world. For people who disagree with this, look at the outcome of this past presidential election, and please tell us that we are wrong . Make an argument about how a qualified past US senator and Secretary of State with over 35 years of political experience was not elected over an individual nowhere near as qualified.

This campaign reminded American citizens, and women especially, that there remains a glass ceiling for women which serves as a limiting structure for the success of women in every established institution from government to the university. There is still something holding women back, some sort of power arrangement that remains established such that a woman who is the most qualified for a position in her field will be overlooked and replaced in favor of an older (or younger), less qualified, less experienced, and often times white, male. The fight for women’s right to vote was not the end of the struggle for women’s equality, it remains today in the fight for equal representation, equal opportunities, equal recognition, equal respect, and for equal consideration as human beings.

The presidential campaign is simply a modern representation of the archaic ideas which women fought, and are still fighting against in order to gain equal rights in the United States. The struggle for Women’s Rights in this country dates back to as early as 1848, when Elizabeth Cady Stanton proposed the ‘Declaration of Sentiments and Resolutions’, at the Women’s Rights Convention in Seneca, New York. The document garnered over 100 signatures– 68 women and 32 men– out of the 300 people who heard the statement (Five Things to Know about the Declaration of Sentiments). This call-to-action for Women’s Rights helped turn national attention to a long overdue discussion about women’s status in this country. The Declaration of Sentiments urges the re-conception of equality in the United States. It introduces a more inclusive language to the format of the Declaration of Independence and provides a template for how language and laws can be changed to directly include and affect women. A powerful statement, “Resolved, That woman is man’s equal – was intended to be so by the Creator, and the highest good of the race demands that she should be recognized as such,” has yet to be accepted into discourse and remains a contentious issue (“Declaration of Sentiments”). Meaning people still argue for the separation of men and women under protection of the law and refuse to accept a new, inclusive attitude and language to incorporate women into the United States Constitution.

Language is powerful in its use and misuse. Purposeful exclusion through language can have a similar effect to a directed attack. Excluding an entire group of people, an entire half of the population, silencing their voices and contributions, establishing a way of talking and writing so that it controls and limits their freedom of expression, is how men have been able to use the power of language to control women. Sexist language, as it applies to women, is one strategy that men have employed to belittle and demean women. Going back to the modern representation of male dominance in high power positions, the 2016 election again provides evidence for the power of female exclusion. Throughout her campaign, Clinton was the victim/subject of offensive and sexist rhetoric. For example, various news sources complained of Clinton being too ‘nagging’ and that her voice makes men want to ‘cross their legs’ (Alter, 2016). All of this criticism was on the basis of her voice. That’s it. This is what it would like for America to do:

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The simple fact that news, I repeat, official news sources are using sexist language to describe Clinton’s voice goes to show how much America is not ready for a woman to be in power. She was continuously discredited by people and the media, even though she has 35+ years of being in public office, more than Trump has in the common place of reality. Although Trump was, and still continues to be, heavily criticized  (check out his latest rant about an SNL skit about his excessive tweeting), he is also given a pass for the things that he says and does and is never fully held accountable for his actions (“Trump and Alec Baldwin Twitter Debate”). In sum, he’s a big baby that cries out whenever he feels neglected. We truly believe that America passed up one of the greatest opportunities that it was given — to elect its first ever female president into Office.

Instead of electing a powerful female official that could have represented hope for a new America, this country elected a figurehead of misogyny and xenophobia, a representation of true “tough baby” mindset, and gave him the most powerful position in the country (Tomilson, 2010). In place of Hillary Clinton and the positive idea that change is possible, we instead have a powerful man who refuses to admit his own privilege and tears apart the critiques of others who identify his privilege. Trump’s “tough baby” rhetoric relies on systematically demeaning others to make himself look better by comparison. His campaign highlighted Clinton’s flaws more than it highlighted his own policies or good qualities (if he has any) in order to draw the public eye away from the real debate at hand. The “tough baby” rhetoric, one that ignores the possible privilege that men hold that catalyzes their rise to powerful positions, is one that can be implicitly read into every action, speech, and response that Trump delivers. Draw the public eye towards Clinton’s privilege, ignore the idiocy of policy stances, ignore white male privilege, execute these strategies so that people will only see Clinton’s flaws and Trump’s false promise for change.  The election represented a choice between two ideologies: between the possibility of freedom and improvement and the return to an era of judgment and prejudice. If Hillary Clinton had been elected into office, the narrative of progress would have been elected with her. The fact that Donald Trump was elected supports the ideologies of his personal behaviors, the white supremacist ideologies of his followers, and the themes of homophobia, sexism, ableism, and classism that defined his campaign (“Dissecting Donald Trump’s Followers”) .

So why are Americans making such a drastic decision that will affect our foreign and domestic policies for years to come? How can someone with years of experience be overlooked for someone with none? Well, by calling one of them a Feminist, all of those suitable job qualities seem to just disappear. The trope of the angry feminist is used by critics to completely denounce the arguments, positions, and critiques of women (Tomilson, 2010). It is used to ‘remind’ people that women, feminists especially, are complaining about inequality that does not exist and does not really affect life as a whole. The angry feminist just wants to raise women above men and get better and preferential treatment than men. She complains about the rape epidemic in America? She must be an angry feminist. She argues that women are paid lower across the board in all areas of business? She must be a frigid, angry feminist. She wants equal representation in the US Constitution? That is an argument that only an angry feminist could ever make. See the problem? So if Hillary Clinton can be taken down with one label, calling her a feminist, how can a woman ever be president? If the fundamental quality of being a woman who wants to have equal representation and equal protection under the law is enough to prevent a fair election, then there is work to be done.

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What strategies can we use to break the chain of disenfranchisement, sexual harassment, and misogyny that connect to prevent women from holding elected seats in government? This current election choice actually provides ample possibilities and opportunities to go against the current state of affairs. We propose that the strategy of awkward politics be used to disrupt the order and encouraged acceptance of “the way things are” that has followed the election of president-elect Trump (Smith-Prei, 2016). Instead of trying to bear Trump’s presidency and accept the consequences, confront the issues directly. Ask Trump supporters why they support racist, ask them why they hate women, ask them why they are homophobic, ask them why they are afraid of people from other countries, confront the issues directly and without pause. Induce conversations which people want to avoid, question people’s logic, dig into uncomfortable talks about politics, and do not stop there. Join protests, tweet about it, share articles on Facebook, write on your Tumblr, spread the discontent and awkwardness to your friends and family. If we do not normalize this election, then maybe we could make the conditions which allowed this outcome to appear as abnormal as they really are. Maybe, just maybe, we can shed light on the disregard that Hillary Clinton received just because of her being a woman.

But why stop at just recognizing the inequality and injustice of the election? Why not spread the message through every avenue possible? The methods that this strategy requires are the same methods employed by pop-feminists. We can engage with social media and use Pop Feminism to help spread the message. The majority of people are already tweeting about and sharing this information, why not use these platforms to try and stop the spreading of the hateful rhetoric that Donald Trump has endorsed for (unfortunately) America? We as consumers engage in neoliberalist activities by using social media, a digital platform, as a way to share our thoughts and ideas on a daily basis with the rest of the world (Smith-Prei). As such, we can use this as a way to push our agenda when it comes to gender inequality in America. Here are some examples below:

Twitter:

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Facebook:

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How do we address systemic oppression? How do we figure out how to address gender inequality in ways that are both constructive and disruptive? We also propose the use of social media and feminist campaigns such as #ImWithHer, Representation Project, #blackgirlmagic, #FLOTUS, #yesallwomen, #masculinitysofragile, #LikeAGirl, #RapeCultureIsWhen, and The Everyday Sexism Project. Engaging in projects similar to these social media campaigns can reach more people, create more discussions, and hopefully produce more change as increasing numbers are exposed to their feminist messages and calls to action.

 

 

Sources:

Abramson, Jill. “Hillary Clinton Is Almost Certain to Be President | Jill Abramson.” Opinion. Guardian News and Media, 20 Oct. 2016. Web. 15 Dec. 2016.

Alter, Charlotte, Sexist Hillary Clinton Attacks Are Best Sellers, Time.com, June 6, 2016.

“Declaration of Sentiments.” Seneca Falls, New York. July 19-20, 1848.

Mathis-Lilley, Ben. “Trump Was Recorded in 2005 Bragging About Grabbing Women “by the Pussy”.” Slate Magazine. N.p., 07 Oct. 2016. Web. 15 Dec. 2016.

“The Women’s Rights Movement, 1848–1920.” History, Art & Archives: U.S. House of Representatives.  Office of the Historian, Women in Congress, 1917–2006. Washington, D.C.: U.S. Government Printing Office, 2007. http://history.house.gov/Exhibitions-and-Publications/WIC/Historical-Essays/No-Lady/Womens-Rights/.  

Five Things to Know about the Declaration of Sentiments, Smithsonian.com

http://money.cnn.com/2016/12/04/media/donald-trump-alec-baldwin-snl-tweet/index.html

Smith-Prei, Carrie, and Stehle, Maria. Awkward Politics: Strategies of Popfeminist Activism. McGill-Queen’s University Press, 2016.

Tomilson, Barbara. Feminism and Affect at the Scene of the Argument: Beyond the Trope of the Angry Feminist. Temple University Press, 2010.

http://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2016/09/dissecting-donald-trumps-support/499739/

 

 

 

 

Angry Feminists Take on Abortion

By Vincent Creer and Sammie Kearney

With Trump–an outspoken opposer of abortion–as our president-elect, it is important to rethink the state of abortion rights in America. Throughout his campaign, Trump has spewed anti-abortion rhetoric, going as far as saying, “women should be punished for having an abortion.” He also has the power to appoint conservative Supreme Court justices that oppose abortion, leaving a long-standing barrier to abortion access in the Supreme Court years after his presidency ends. Additionally, Ohio just passed a bill called the “Heartbeat Bill”, prohibiting abortions across the state from the moment the heartbeat of a fetus can be detected. The state’s current law generally bans abortions after a fetus has begun its 20th week of gestation. Since the heartbeat usually occurs about six weeks into pregnancy, this bill will cut a whopping 14 weeks from when someone can seek an abortion. Most people find out they are pregnant between weeks four and week seven, meaning people seeking abortions in Ohio will have little to no time to do so if this bill gets passed. If Governor Kassich signs the bill, or does nothing by December 17, 2016, the bill will become law by early next year. As CNN reports, this law was spurred, in part, by Donald Trump’s capacity to appoint conservative Supreme Court justices.

With barriers to abortion access like these on the rise, we have created responses to six popular anti-abortion arguments. In doing so, we are heeding Barbara’s Tomlinson’s work by centralizing rhetorical analysis because “shifting the terms of reading to think about politics and power rather than identifying and evaluating specific markers of textual affect offers a different set of interpretive possibilities” (Tomlinson, 32).

  1. Abortion is dangerous and unregulated, allowing it to be used as a contraceptive.

 

Their claim that abortion is not safe or easy could also be made about giving birth to any child, especially those that are unexpected and/or unwanted.

RU-486, or the abortion pill, “…isn’t safe or easy… It isn’t simple or convenient… It won’t make abortion rare ” (http://www.nrlc.org/abortion/ru486/). This argument relies on tropes of civility and contempt that work to regulate public discussion (Tomlinson 48). The notion that abortion pill is unregulated, so it is used and advertised as a contraceptive, relies on neoliberal capitalist politics of equality. This is supported by the neoliberal capitalist ideal that all products should be optimized for consumers, and tax dollars should not be taken away from folks who do not support these products. By implying that the erasure of this product would be the best for society as a whole, these folks are silencing the thoughts and experiences of folks with reproductive capacities who actually use, or may need to use, this product. This flattening of the experiences creates a certain problematic universalism.

  1. Those who choose abortions are often minors or young people with insufficient life experience to understand fully what they are doing. They will have lifelong regrets afterwards.

This argument relies on scare tactics and the sexist historical traditions that infantilize women, which implicates a general lack of emotional literacy in women and young people.

When thinking through this argument it is important to consider the way “… arguments are always situated in fields of power” (Tomlinson 3). Afterabortion.org focuses on the possible trauma that could occur after having an abortion. They specifically target teens who receive “20 percent of all abortions taking place in the U.S today” (http://afterabortion.org/2001/detrimental-effects-of-adolescent-abortion/). They use statistics about mental health and risk of suicide in teens as a scare tactic to intimidate teens that may be seeking an abortion. However, they disregard the possible mental health implications teens may face if having to carry an unwanted pregnancy full term. The assumption that teens are ill equipped to make decisions for themselves carries the weight of infantilization, and makes clear that the roots of sexism begin at a young age. It also ignores the possible emotional labor that is required of folks with reproductive capacities who cannot access abortion, especially give the weight of this labor at a young age.

  1. Men have a right to speak out against– and should speak out against– abortion.

This claim relies on sexist politics of power, control and rationality. It implies that men not being allowed to make decisions about other people’s bodies is unfair and unequal. It ignores the common idea that individuals’ bodies are their own to control.

This argument can not and does not assume its attempted neutrality (Tomlinson 45). Desiringgod.org argues that men have a right to speak out against abortions because, “If abortion qualifies as murder (and it does), then men and women alike have a responsibility to oppose it” (http://www.desiringgod.org/articles/seven-reasons-men-have-a-right-to-speak-out-against-abortion). The author argues that men are equal to women because of their role as fathers and because they were once in the womb themselves; this argument establishes the idea that men have equal right to control women’s bodies as they do to be inside them. The politics of control the author gets at are exemplified in the way the author calls on the existence of reverse sexism, which is not possible, as sexism relies on the historical oppression of non-male bodies. The author also relies on the hyper masculine notion that control of all bodies should be in the hands of “the stronger” man. They justify this argument through the idea that the uterus does not equate to moral judgment, which further implicates the sexist assumption that irrational qualities are inherent to women. This is exemplified when they write, “Sin finds refuge in unreason” ultimately tying unreason to the uterus.  

  1. Instead of having the option to abort, women should give their unwanted babies to the two million couples who cannot conceive.

This argument displays faux empathy for the impregnated person by negotiating a “solution” that will supposedly help both fetus and impregnated person.

This argument pretends to have both the impregnated person and fetus in mind under the guise of supporting both the fetus’ and impregnated person’s needs. In doing so, the speaker slyly asks “those who argue for social justice [in this case, abortion access] to set aside their concerns to meet a standard of the common good that simply does not include them” (Tomlinson, 58). In addition, this argument neglects to complicate the foster care system (such as how many foster care children experience abuse under the system; how it is complacent in the prison industrial complex; how qualified non-straight, non-cisgender, and non-monogamous partners are discriminated against in adoption, etc.) If you’re not willing to address these issues, then maybe you should rethink your devotion to this argument.

  1. Abortion expects nothing more of men, nothing more of medicine, and nothing more of society at large.

This argument relies on the rhetorics of betrayal, shunning feminists who support
abortion.

This argument relies on rhetorics of betrayal. As Tomlinson explains, the rhetoric of betrayal operate by a speaker positioning themself as a feminist and then creating a definition of what feminism means that strategically excludes different feminists. This strategy allows faux feminists to legitimate their stance by co-opting the position of the feminist to condemn feminists for not complying with what it mean to be a “true feminist”. Here, the speaker positions them as a feminist, claiming that the best way to fight for reproductive care is through asking for changes in medicine, men, and society at large rather than call for abortion. By strategically positioning oneself as a feminist, the speaker is able to better call pro-choice feminist to question their stance on abortion. Additionally, the speaker uses a binary/dualistic approach by assuming that one cannot push for both abortion access and changes in society at the same time. Lastly, abortion access does demand things of society and medicine; it requires both society and medicine to accommodate the needs of those with reproductive care. I would ask those who are argue this about their suggestions as to what the most marginalized people supposed to do as they wait for society to change without abortion access?

  1.  It’s NOT the woman’s body; the new human zygote has a genetic composition that is absolutely unique from itself.

This argument relies on science to evoke a sense of incontrovertibility when arguing that a woman has no right to determine what happens to the fetus.

This argument decentralizes the impregnated person’s needs by valuing the life of the fetus over that of the  the impregnated person. In doing so, it argues that the women has no right to decide what happens to the fetus. However, as NARAL states, “the fetus is totally dependent on the woman until viability, when it could live outside the womb, and it depends on the woman until it is born. The health of the fetus is directly related to the health of the pregnant woman, which is an additional reason why we need to work for policies that promote healthy childbearing.” The fetus is dependent on the impregnated person, so the impregnated person does, in fact, have a choice as to what happen to it.

Now that you have been equipped with some counters to anti-abortion arguments, we will leave you with some other ways to support the fight for abortion access.

  1. Donate to Planned Parenthood Access https://www.plannedparenthoodaction.org/issues/abortion
  2. Volunteer for an Abortion Access Fund https://abortionfunds.org/need-abortion/
  3. Donate to an Abortion Access Fund https://abortionfunds.org/need-abortion/
  4. Become a Doula https://radicaldoula.com/2011/08/02/how-do-i-become-an-abortion-doula/

References

Tomlinson, Barbara. Feminism and Affect at the Scene of Argument: Beyond the Trope of the Angry Feminist. Philadelphia: Temple UP, 2010. Print.

Smith-Prei, Carrie, and Maria Stehle. Awkward Politics: Technologies of Popfeminist Activism. Montreal: McGill-Queen’s UP, 2016. Print.

http://www.cnn.com/2016/12/07/politics/ohio-abortion-bill/

http://www.prochoicewisconsin.org/what-is-choice/talking-about-choice/pro-choice-responses.shtml

http://www.christiananswers.net/q-sum/q-life-all1.html

Baby Trolls

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As feminists, we have learned to “anticipate no small amount of misconception, misrepresentation, or ridicule” towards our work. The challenge that all feminists must face is how to use the reactions that we receive to fuel our projects and assure that our energy is not depleted by the anti-feminist attacks that are unfortunately inevitable.

On November 29th, we organized a walkout at Hobart and William Smith Colleges to bring students, faculty, and staff together to sign a petition that is working towards declaring HWS a Sanctuary Campus, an effort that would protect and provide resources for undocumented students on campus. Three local news outlets covered the walkout and posted the stories on their websites. One website in particular quickly turned into the scene of an argument, as people began to gather and make comments about the event and us.

While we often write off the slew of riled-up commenters at the bottom of an article as mere “trolls,” we have created a critical term to define the people who use the scene of the comment section to derail feminist efforts: Baby Trolls. The term is born out of a conjoining of the terms “troll” and Barbara Tomlinson’s term “Tough Baby.” Tomlinson defines the Tough Baby as a persona that treats their own rhetoric as correct, informed, and legitimate, and the rhetoric of the feminist as wrong, uninformed, and illegitimate–no matter what the feminist is saying. Baby Trolls function similarly to the Tough Baby, but the Baby Troll’s defining characteristic is its overwhelming hypocrisy in their rhetoric. Baby Trolls equate a woman’s political voice with whining and are sure to make their perception of the woman and the work she does known by whining and complaining themselves. As they throw a fit in their tiny comment box, they posit the woman as young and empty-headed and themselves as all-knowing and wise, using only their old age as evidence for their claims.

We are here to address the Baby Trolls who have addressed us, to examine what they have said and what they are trying to accomplish in their comments. So let’s get to it.

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The quote above is our first example of the Baby Troll persona. The commenter refers to us as “little kids,” demands us to stop being angry, to “STOP WHINING,” and recommends pulling up our “big boy and girl pants and [moving] on.” The Baby Troll’s attack demonstrates a deliberate moving away from our argument towards easier, more tangible targets–our age and our anger. The commenter enacts a system of oppositional dominance, positioning their own rhetorical vehemence as justified and ours as deplorable, invaluable, and juvenile, with hopes that we will see it as such and fall into silence as a result.

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There is a pattern in the rhetoric used by these Baby Troll commenters; this is the consistent remark of being told to “stop whining.” Upon reading the history of the word “whining” in the Oxford English Dictionary, we noticed a connotative thread in the use of the word. In texts from 1607 and 1853, the word is used to define the unpleasant sound of dogs: “The louder and shriller voice of a Dogge, is called barking, the lower and stiller, is called whining.” In connecting our voices to that of a puppy (not even a full grown dog, mind you), our direct words and demands are perceived as inaudible sound. We also cannot ignore the connection between whining and bitching, which makes our claims illegitimate because they are coming from the voices of, mainly, young women.

The rhetoric of the former and aforementioned commenters work to subvert our right to organize, to protest, and to speech. Our voices do not just become annoying to these commenters; our voices challenge their notion of reality, including the reality of their own, or other family members, immigration, as we seek to change the landscape of the country that they have so comfortably come of age in. We will not become comfortable in a landscape that systematically privileges some and threatens others. And we will certainly not appease the desire of our commenter by discarding our right to speech and becoming silent.

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We have defined this commenter as the anti-feminist eagle. He is anti-feminist because he is committed to a project of defining his masculinity in opposition to feminism. At the same time, he is displaying and taking pride in the power of his phallus, as he actively works to separate himself from feminists and their agendas by way of discursive denigration. To “depussify” is to erase women and feminism from politics through a deliberate silencing or even an extermination of women. He is an eagle because he is ardent in his imagination of what America is and what he wants America to be. To the Anti-Feminist Eagle, America will be strong only if feminists and those who are undocumented are eliminated and deported.

Women often face comments such as the ones above, but how might we, as women, resist them? One form of resistance could be through a process of reclaiming rhetoric. Reclaiming words refers to the process of taking back or re-appropriating a word once used to oppress a minority group by the majority. For example, queer was once a derogatory term, but now many self-identify as queer, many of whom were once oppressed by the use of the term. What might our world look like if more women reclaimed whining and embodied anger, terms used to suppress feminist thought and argument? Audre Lorde, a famous feminist, writer and activist, describes the uses of anger in response to racism in Sister Outsider. Lorde states:

Every woman has a well-stocked arsenal of anger potentially useful against those oppressions, personal and institutional, which brought that anger into being. Focused with precision it can become a powerful source of energy serving progress and change…But anger expressed and translated into action in the service of our vision and our future is a liberating and strengthening act of clarification, for it is in the painful process of this translations that we identify who are our allies with whom we have grave differences, and who are our genuine enemies.

Lorde provides a framework for using one’s anger and translating it into action. Instead of resorting to empty anger like the trolls above have, the way you channel your anger into action defines your allyship no matter your age.

When faced with comments such as the ones analyzed above, own your anger, and your age, and don’t remain silent. Continue to organize, continue to write, continue to do whatever you do to fight against and dismantle systems of oppression.

So Some Baby Trolls have tried to Slow your Feminist Roll: An Affirming Tool Kit for Resisting and Keeping Your Momentum:

  1. Audre Lorde’s essay, “Uses of Anger: Women Responding to Racism” http://www.blackpast.org/1981-audre-lorde-uses-anger-women-responding-racism
  2. For reclaiming yourself as a bitch (it’s a good thing to be, we promise!): “The BITCH Manifesto” by Joreen: http://www.jofreeman.com/joreen/bitch.htm
  3. For information on how to use technology to make awkward, thought and change provoking political moments: Awkward Politics by Carrie Smith-Prei and Maria Stehle
  4. For embracing your identity as an angry feminist and more on Tough Babies: Feminism and Affect at the Scene of the Argument: Beyond the Trope of the Angry Feminist by Barbara Tomlinson

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pence V. The Pussy

What’s the new VP have to do with my Pussy? Imagine you are addressing trumps cabinet – ask them “how many of you have Pussies?”  A total of four people would raise their hand … FOUR OUT OF 18!!  Should a group of mainly conservative, white men have a majority say over the use and ability of my pussy?!

Awkward politics are new ways to disrupt the linear evolution of not only feminism, but also many other social constructs and systems in our society.  For example, our government is moving in a linear pattern of evolution by following certain steps, abiding by certain laws, and not making any drastic constitutional changes, but rather by letting changes happen slowly and following theses steps and obstacles as if they were on a conveyer belt.  With the recent uncertainty that has arisen so quickly in our society through the presidential election, drastic changes need to happen, these changes have to happen through disrupting the linear evolution of systems and stopping the acceptance of the status quo.  When our country elected donald trump and mike pence as presidents and vice president, we set our count
ry back by about 70 years.  trump represents the most basic image of misogyny, homophobia, racism, xenophobia, pence isn’t much better.  pence made his position regarding the funding of Planned Parenthood and abortions very clear, he is making radical claims to eliminate Planned Parenthood and all it has to offer, but he focuses on the fact that they offer women a safe and healthy environment to have an abortion.  So in retaliation to these claims to cut back on Planned Parenthood and reproductive rights on women, people all over the country are donating money to Planned Parenthood under mike pence’s name.  With each donation you can donate in honor of a specific person and then Planned Parenthood will send that person a letter of thanks.  pence is receiving hundreds of thousands of letters to his office, thanking him for his generous donations to Planned Parenthood. These donations are also disrupting his plans for cutting back on Planned Parenthood because there is a large influx of money to Planned Parenthood, which helps the organization stay open and keep helping women as well as men get better public health care opportunities.

screen-shot-2016-11-16-at-3-27-06-pmThe donations to Planned Parenthood under mike pence’s name is also a collaborative idea, this act of activism and disruptions is a kind of community based activism, but is also intersectional between different categories of feminists.  You could identify as a marxist, or radical feminist, but both donate under mike pence’s name because it disrupts a larger system, that is the federal government.  This form of activism was quickly spread across our country and all sorts of communities.  It is a collaborative activism too because the idea and actions were shared over social media sites, like Facebook and Twitter, where different groups of people could see this activist opportunity to donate.  On these social media sites the protests circulated and this activism went viral. Amy Schumer with 5.4 million followers on Instagram, shared the protest to a large amount of people. Katy Perry with 59.2 million followers on Instagram, publicly shared her donation to Planned Parenthood and her reasons for it.

In modern feminism, the media is a platform for activism in which our own lived experiences and knowledge are produced and shared through digital and material forms. Feminists use the media platform to engage with other feminists in discussions that go viral and also vanish. Pop feminism both uses and critiques feminism through pop culture to provoke moments of political process and change. Today, activism can go beyond the local street and into national media outlets which can be shared easily and accessible through the internet. The act of collaboration on these social media sites contributes to the disruption in the space in which these protests take place, using social media spaces to share activist donations and forcing a large audience to observe these movements without much choice.  As we have seen in social media sites, like Facebook, it is hard to avoid people’s ideologies whether they are about religious, social, or political beliefs.

The act of giving donations to Planned Parenthood under pence’s name and sending the certificates of donation to his office are acts of disruption. This disruption is awkward because of timing, space and location. The disruption can be influenced by the speed at which messages and images spread in the digital age. In today’s world, the internet allows the circulation of messages to be spread faster than ever. Activism can be shared immediately with the click of a button. Once trump won, Planned Parenthood received 20,000 donations made in the name of mike pence in a span of a single week. The speed of these donations with such a large amount of people donating contributes to this disturbance, the disturbance of his political agenda to defund Planned Parenthood. It was almost an immediate reaction to the election results. The letters being sent to his office are disrupting his physical space, by over loading his mailbox, forcing him to sift through his mail, and slowing down his day to day routine. The idea of donations being made in his name for something he does not support disrupts pence’s political views. He has previously tried to defund Planned Parenthood and instead has become a huge honorary donor with hundreds of thousands of letter being sent to his office, an officer where he is supposed to be conducting his political agenda towards defunding Planned Parenthood, but instead he is receiving letters of donation to the organization.  

If you would like to contribute to this activist movement and awkward politic, then please donate to Planned Parenthood, in honor of mike pence.  

Planned Parenthood Donation

Smith-Prei, Carrie, and Maria Stehle. Awkward Politics: Technologies of Popfeminist Activism. Montreal: McGill-Queen’s UP, 2016. Print.