A Personal Blog!

Throughout my life, I’ve felt connected connected to women. When I was little, that showed up as a refusal to read books with male main characters and a getting in trouble constantly for physically fighting with boys because I wanted to prove that I was just as strong as they were.

That was long before I knew what feminism was, what the patriarchy was, how men (and usually, old white men) control our politics and media and corporations. But as I grew older, I learned. I was told that I could be anything I wanted to be; I was also told to be quiet, proper, ladylike. In the classroom I was valued for my brains but outside I was judged on my body, my femininity, my beauty. I also learned that though my opportunities were limited by my gender, I learned that there were other women with even fewer opportunities based on their race, class, nationality, sexuality, ability, and personal situations.

I’m ashamed to say that it wasn’t until high school that I really thought about feminism and what it meant. I knew the basics, of course, and it made me angry, but…I don’t know, I must have been preoccupied with other preteen dilemmas. Thankfully, one day, I snapped. I got angry, really angry, about the way the world thinks about women. I had already started an environmental club at my school, but it slowly evolved into a human rights club and then a women’s rights club because most of the other members were my friends who joined my club to support me and I was the president and all I wanted to do was rage about feminism and so that’s what we did. We got educated about an issue near and dear to my heart.

In my club we often watched videos like this one, and then read the comments and a) weeped/raged/lost faith in humanity/critically deconstructed every anti-feminist comment. We also watched documentaries like Half The Sky.

It shouldn’t surprise you that now I’m attending a women’s college and double-majoring in gender studies and political theory. I am still very passionate about making the world a better place by empowering women and by learning about the issues that affect women the most. And I feel like learning about empowering, inspiring women is beneficial in that pursuit, so feel free to keep reading my other blog posts and have a nice day!

Five American Female Inventors You Wish You Could Write a Thank You Note To

1. Ever ridden in a car in the winter without freezing your butt off? You have Margaret Wilcox to thank for that. While her designs have been improved upon over the years, the first car heater design was created by Wilcox in 1893.

“Aaah! Warmth!”

2. If you watched The Titanic recently, you might’ve noticed a distinct lack of these: life rafts. While the life raft is the invention that made Maria Beasley famous, another patent that she made in the late 1800s, a barrel-making machine, is the design that made her rich. She also designed a steam generator and a device that helps keep trains from being derailed. Thanks Maria Beasley!

“Help! I’m stuck in a Beasley life-saving doohicky!”

3. I don’t know about you, but I like food. Fresh food, specifically, so I am big fan of  Florence Parpart‘s invention, the refrigerator. In 1914 she came up with the idea that would replace the icebox forever. Of course, that was only after Parpart received a patent for improved street-sweepers. You go, Florence!

“If Daddy says he wants a sandwich, tell him we keep meat and cheese right here in Florence and he can go ahead and just make it himself, the lazy bastard.”

4. As a student attending a college in Western Mass, I’ve felt a winter chill or two. Thankfully, I can generally stay warm in buildings thanks to Alice H. Parker‘s invention: a gas-fired “heating furnace.” Her invention was the first step towards the central heating we use today. Parker was also a pretty badass woman because she was one of the most well-educated woman of her time and one of the lucky few African American women to attend college back then (Parker graduated from Howard University in the early 1900s). Thanks Alice!

Alice Parker and her heating furnace design

5. To some, she is known as “Queen of paper bags.” To others, she is “the female Edison.” To me, she is the incredible Margaret Knight. Born in 1838, Knight received 26 patents throughout her life. Some of her inventions were a paper bag machine (we still use the basic design today), a rotary engine, and a device to shut down machinery to keep it from injuring textile mill workers (which she designed when she was only 12 years old). I’m super impressed.

“I’m Margaret Knight, a badass female inventor and I’m glamorous to boot!”

So that’s what they did. Now it’s your turn. What are you going to invent?

Laverne Cox: How To Be a Woman

You probably know her because she was on the cover of Time Magazine. Or maybe you’re an avid watcher of Orange Is The New Black, a show which has the most diverse and incredible cast I have ever seen and in which Laverne Cox playing Sophia Burset, a trans inmate. Or maybe you just keep an eye out for incredible women. Regardless, you should know that Laverne Cox is talented, wonderful, and serves as an inspiration to women all over the world, and especially to trans women. She is, arguably, the most prominent trans celebrity today and she does a great job of showing that world is full of all kinds of different women.

What makes a woman a woman? As a student of the first women’s college in the US, I frequently take part in these conversations. What I’ve gotten out of my experience here so far is that there is no great formula for being a woman–we all look different, have different values, different languages and accents, different cultures, different hometowns, different sexualities, different sexualities, and different dreams. The only thing that holds us together is that we have come together on this beautiful campus to explore our true potential regardless of what the rest of the world have told us what we can and cannot do.

In September, my college’s president, Lynne Pasquerella, announced that Mount Holyoke College would finally admit transwomen in the upcoming years. Her words were greeted cheers and tears of happiness from the crowd. Most students share our president’s sentiment about the issue:

“Just as early feminists argued that reducing women to their biological functions was a foundation of women’s oppression, we acknowledge that gender identity is not reducible to the body.”

– Lynn Pasquerella

While most were happy to hear the news, some students and alumni were less than thrilled, believing that admitting people who are not biologically female would be injurious to this historic college’s history and mission. I believe the exact opposite is true: Mount Holyoke was created to offer a proper education to young women when traditional colleges would not admit them. Now, Mount Holyoke can continue the tradition by admitting and educating those who share the common experience of growing up in a world where they are automatically perceived as being less capable, and we, as the students at this institution, can in return use our educations to change the world for the better.

Benazir Bhutto: A Woman’s Place is at the Head of a State

In light of so many feminists insisting that muslim countries are far more misogynistic than western countries like the United States, I would like to point out that the grand ol’ USA has never had a female president. While that might change in a few years, it would be good to remember that Pakistan made Benazir Bhutto, a woman, their prime minister back in 1988.

As a woman leader, I thought I brought a different kind of leadership. I was interested in women’s issues, in bringing down the population growth rate… as a woman, I entered politics with an additional dimension – that of a mother.

Granted, Bhutto had some help from her father Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, who was a past leader of Pakistan. When Benazir Bhutto’s father was executed in 1979 under the rule of dictator Mohammad Zia-ul-Haq, Benazir became the head of Zulfikar Ali Bhutto’s party, the Pakistan’s People’s Party. Benazir Bhutto was frequently under house arrest and was even exiled but eventually was able to serve two terms as prime minister.

With that, keep Benazir Bhutto in mind the next time you want to make assumptions an entire religion or culture. Bhutto was a different kind of leader, a Muslim woman leader, who had a great deal of influence on politics and is not to be forgotten.

Lets Hear it for Some Queer Poets: Alix Olson, Andrea Gibson and Staceyann Chin

I am a poet and a lesbian, so naturally I am drawn to queer spoken word artists. These three artists have not only taught me more about the craft (while I’ve been a poet for a long time, I’m very new to spoken word), but they also taught me a lot about life, the subjects that anger and impassion me, and how to be brave enough to write about the things I care about. Let’s hear it for these fabulous poets.

Alix Olson

Alix Olson is one incredibly badass, feminist, queer spoken word artist. (She also edited a spoken word anthology called Word Warriors: 35 Women Leaders in the Spoken Word Revolution which changed my life, so if that’s your thing you should totally check it out!). You probably don’t want to listen to her without headphones at, say, work or your grandmother’s house. Unless you are hardcore like that; then, by all means, go ahead.

Anyway, her poems are focused on capitalism, feminism, queer issues, and are sharp and unapologetic, clever, and get my fingers snapping like they are possessed by the poetry devil. Hell, she may be the poetry devil (in a good way). The poem below is called “Gender Game.”

Andrea Gibson

Andrea Gibson may be my favorite spoken word poet of all time. If you want to make me cry, just sit me down, give me a CD of Andrea Gibson and watch my tears flow because Gibson’s poetry is beautiful, heart-wrenching, raw, honest, and unbelievably well-written and performed. Anytime I need inspiration for writing better prose I listen to her work and am completely inspired. I was lucky enough to see Andrea Gibson perform last year and you should too if you ever get the chance. In the meantime, here’s a video of Andrea Gibson’s “Honey”:

Staceyann Chin

Last year I got to see Staceyann Chin and holy crap was she amazing. I was a fan before I went to go see her, of course, but everything about her show was amazing, from the excerpts from her book The Other Side of Paradise (read it!), to her poems to her personality (she is so kind and humble and ridiculously cool, oh my goodness!). Staceyann Chin is a gem. Now, after reading The Other Side of Paradise, which is her memoir about growing up in Jamaica and exploring her identity as a half-Chinese, Jamaican lesbian poet, I am completely in awe of all she has done. I am so thankful that I know about her! Here’s “Not My Fault”:

Leymah Gbowee: Bringer of Peace

Last year, I took a college course about building peace in post-conflict societies. It was through that class that I was introduced to Leymah Gbowee through the documentary film Pray the Devil Back to Hell (2008). This film changed my life.

We live in a world where the power of women is constantly dismissed. The story of how Gbowee organized and empowered women to stand together in the non-violent protest that helped end Liberia’s bloody civil war, however, is a story that cannot be ignored. Last month, Gbowee visited Mount Holyoke College and I must confess that I have rarely felt so empowered (which is significant, because I go to a women’s college and female empowerment is a big thing here).

Gbowee’s work did not end with the war and she later founded the Gbowee Peace Foundation, was the co-Founder of Women Peace and Security Network Africa (WIPSEN-A), and continues to serve women all over the world. In 2011, Gbowee won the Nobel Peace Prize along with Ellen Johnson Sirleaf and Tawakkol Karman “for their non-violent struggle for the safety of women and for women’s rights to full participation in peace-building work.” With all that she had done, Leymah Gbowee reminds me that we all have the power to make important change, especially if we stand together with others who also have the will to fight to make our world a better place. But please, watch her TED video, and let Gbowee remind you of that herself.

(A few of the many) Cool Congresswomen of the US of A

October: Crisp winds, crunching leaves, pumpkins, pumpkin lattes, Halloween, etc. It’s my favorite month, and it’s flying by, which means one thing: Election Day is almost upon us. I am secretly relieved to be in Massachusetts and not at home because if I was still at home right now I would be dealing with pre-election madness as a financial intern for my congresswoman Michelle Lujan Grisham. I’ve been told that working for a political campaign in the weeks leading up to Election Day is thrilling, but it sounds stressful.

In support of all of those working for campaigns right now, singing out the desperate mantra “GOTV!” (Get Out To Vote) I’m going to tell you a little bit about the history of US Congresswomen.

From the years of 1789 to 1916, the House was chock-full of men. Republican Jeannette Rankin of Montana was the first woman to shake it up a little when she was elected to congress in 1917. She grew up on a farm, got a BS in Biology from Montana State University, and was then a schoolteacher, seamstress, and furniture designer until she went to the New York School of Philanthropy to study social work. Fortunately, she didn’t like social work, so she went back to school at the University of Washington in Seattle where she became involved in the woman suffrage movement. Then, to pacify her feminist and pacifist ambitions she ran for Congress, aided by her brother, and became famous for voting against US participation in World War I. Rankin was the only person to vote on US participation in World War I and World War II (she said “no” to both) and was allegedly a lesbian. How’s that for our first congresswoman?

Since then, Only 199 other women have had positions in Congress. Some of my favorite female members of the current (113th) US Congress are as follows:

Arizona’s Kyrsten Sinema (D) is the first openly bisexual person elected to Congress and is determined to end partisan gridlock in the congress and opposes the US-Israel alliance.

California’s Nancy Pelosi (D) of course has to be mentioned. As the highest-ranking female politician, and the only woman to have served as House Speaker, her popularity is well-earned.

California is also home to Barbara Jean Lee (D), the first woman to represent California’s 9th congressional district, first woman to represent California’s 13th district, and vocal pacifist. To top it off, she first went to college (at Mills College–Historically Women’s Colleges represent!) as a single mother with two children. Talk about strong women power!

Judy Chu (D), Representative of California’s 27th congressional district, was the first Chinese American woman elected ton Congress. She fights for women’s reproductive rights and in 2012 passed a much-needed resolution to apologize for the Chinese Exclusion Act (one of only four apologies issued by Congress to a group of people).

I love Colorado’s Diana DeGette (D) because she is Vice Chair of the LGBT Equality Caucus, Co-chair of the Pro-Choice caucus (she gets an outstanding approval rating of 0% from the National Right to Life Committee). And in 2005, she cosponsored a bill to lift President Bush’s limits on federal funding for embryonic stem cell research, which passed, and which then President had to veto the next day (his first veto).

Since my list is not even close to being complete yet, I’ll continue this list later. In the meantime, don’t forget to check out your own local political scene so that on November 4th you can get out to vote!