Why ‘Time’s Up’

The 75th anniversary of the Golden Globes was a feminist extravaganza. After more than 300 female celebrities—including Reese Witherspoon, Eva Longoria and America Ferrera—announced the launch of a network and legal defense fund to support victims of sexual assault, harassment and inequality in the workplace called Time’s Up, celebrities like Meryl Streep, Viola Davis, Zac Efron, and Dwayne Johnson sported black attire to show their support for and solidarity with the movement. Some female attendees s also chose to ditch their normal dates for activists: Amy Poehler, Michelle Williams, and Emma Watson brought activists like ‘#MeToo’ founder Tarana Burke, Marai Larasi and Billie Jean King.

But perhaps the most supportive moment of the night, though, was Oprah’s acceptance speech for the Cecil B. DeMille Award for lifetime achievement. Winfrey, who is the first black woman to receive that award, used this platform to highlight important issues related to both the #MeToo movement and her own experiences as a black woman. Oprah first did this by speaking about the personal impact of watching Sidney Poitier claim his Oscar for Best Actor 1964 as the first black man to do so.

“I remember his tie was white, and of course his skin was black, and I had never seen a black man being celebrated like that. I tried many, many times to explain what a moment like that means to a little girl, a kid watching from the cheap seats as my mom came through the door bone tired from cleaning other people’s houses…” Winfrey said of Poitier. “…and it is not lost on me that at this moment, there are some little girls watching as I become the first black woman to be given this same award,” she continued. The way Oprah incorporated the theme of intersectionality so seamlessly into her discussion of the ‘Time’s Up’ campaign shows just how relevant intersectionality must be in order to successfully promote any real change in the movement, and in any other political movement for that matter.

She then moved on to speak about Recy Taylor, a black woman sexually assaulted by six white men in Jim Crow Alabama, who died just over a week ago. Taylor never received justice for those wrongdoings, as is the case with many women who report sexual assault. Essentially, the whole idea behind the ‘Time’s Up’ movement is to put a stamp on the power that men hold over the systematic power structure and, in turn, victims of sexual assault. If there were people who doubted this previously, Winfrey’s moving use of anecdote should’ve almost certainly convinced them that something needs to change.

“She lived as we all have lived—too many years in a culture broken my brutally powerful men,” Winfrey said of Recy Taylor. “For too long, women have not been heard or believed if they dared to speak their truth to the power of those men. But their time is up.” Then she repeated, rather rousingly: “Their time is up!”

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The ‘Time’s Up’ campaign logo

But Winfrey still acknowledged “some pretty phenomenal men, fighting hard to make sure that they become the leaders who take us to the time when nobody ever has to say, ‘Me too,’ again.”

Despite overwhelming support for Winfrey’s speech, however, some viewed it as hypocritical given the media mogul’s past of supporting men who have since been discredited for the very offenses her speech rallied against. Most notably, Winfrey has been associated with Harvey Weinstein and takes credit for launching the career of celebrity psychologist Phil McGraw, who has faced numerous lawsuits and allegations of unethical misconduct. For example, British singer and songwriter Seal criticised Winfrey. “Oh I forgot, that’s right….you’d heard the rumours but you had no idea he was actually serially assaulting young stary-eyed actresses who in turn had no idea what they were getting into,” the performer wrote on Instagram about Winfrey’s relationship with Weinstein. “My bad. #SanctimoniousHollywood”.

However outside of these allegations, Winfrey’s speech has still been widely praised. Perhaps Oprah should’ve addressed this matter directly within the speech—it certainly could’ve prevented any accusations of hypocrisy in its aftermath. But with the overall message behind the speech being so relatable to every woman who has ever been victimised by a man; with its political characteristics and enthusing literary structure, it brings vivacious attention to the whole reason attendees wore black to the event in the first place. It put emphasis on the importance of the #MeToo movement and its protest and the attitude of those involved; encouraged people to listen—even those who may typically be reluctant to do so—and was a true reflection of just how tired women are.

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A Marine Le Pen feminism

Feminism supports all women: A statement that cannot be argued against nor dismantled. True feminism uplifts women to the point of equality. But when vital feminist beliefs are put to the test, is it really so inclusive?

When I heard that Marine Le Pen was running for President of France, I felt a flux of emotions. Both proud of how much women have accomplished, and embarrassed that it had to be somebody who held such bigoted values. Embarrassed that she was being portrayed as a representation of feminists everywhere: which she shouldn’t be, by any means.

At its core, feminism provides a platform in which people can show their support for gender equality. But the deeper values of feminism also lie with integrity, truth and an honest acceptance for humanity as a whole: nobody is excluded. Being a far-right and openly xenophobic candidate, supporting Le Pen seems to undermine everything that the movement stands for. She made no secret that she was appealing to women through her campaign either; her attempts had been obvious. Changing the National Front party logo from a flame to a blue rose ran alongside her evident attempt to dress down in order to appear more approachable and relatable to the everyday woman – a woman who feared that her job was about to be taken by immigrants; this xenophobic fear was one that Le Pen ingrained on her female followers throughout her campaign.

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A Marine La Pen campaign

To have a woman as President would be a notable feat. But that’s disregarding Le Pen’s true values: those of racism, intolerance and parochialism are something that feminism does not tolerate nor stand for. To say that one should support Marine Le Pen because of her gender is ignoring her character, and therefore dismissing the tolerant teachings of feminism at its most basic level. Yet many people appear to believe that all feminists should support her, despite her insularity and dismissiveness.

The far-right leader knew that she held a certain power over her feminist voters in that they didn’t want to seem unsupportive of a female candidate. Thankfully, Le Pen’s intolerance outshone any feminist values she claimed to have held. It goes without saying that she used her gender to give the National Front a veneer of respectability and modernity.

Paris feminist group the Femen movement claimed to have seen through Le Pen’s facade from the start of her campaign. They regularly intruded her public events, calling her a ‘fake feminist’ whilst having “Le Pen Top Fascist” written across their chests. They insisted that Le Pen was using women’s issues to push forward her xenophobic propaganda and that she had no real care for her women voters. In her 2017 manifesto, Marine Le Pen introduced 144 proposals in a 24-page long document: the word “women” only appears twice. To the Femen movement’s remarks, Le Pen called them “obscene harpies”.

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the Femen movement gate crashing a Le Pen public event.

Many women saw through the feminist facade Le Pen hid behind, and being a woman wasn’t enough to make her President. Instead, Emmanuel Macron won by a 66% landslide and promises to provide France with the unity this world so very much needs. Being a feminist does not mean that you are obligated to stand aside bigotry and hatred: even if that happens to come from a woman.

Can men be feminists?

According to the Oxford Dictionary definition of feminism, (“the advocacy of women’s rights on the grounds of sexual equality”,) the movement doesn’t appear to be something that is confined to one particular sex; inclusive and unexacting definitions that appear all over the internet seem to agree with this. Despite this, for some people, the argument still remains: Can men truly call themselves ‘feminists’?

Recently, I got the opportunity to speak to Game of Thrones actor and self-proclaimed male feminist, Sam Coleman, about whether or not men should brand themselves feminists, or whether they should be consigned to the ‘ally’ label merely because of their gender.

“I think people should be able to call themselves what they like, nobody can own words. I, personally, describe myself as a feminist. Why? Because I support, nay fight for, feminism,” Coleman told me. “It’s rather hypocritical to alienate support based on gender. That’s without getting to the fact that feminism is about gender equality and that includes men as well.”

To deliberately isolate an entire gender from the feminist movement would be a juxtaposition in itself, where campaigning is based around inclusivity and alliance. In doing so, the social justice movement would do itself no favours; I was more than surprised to discover that many feminists believe that men terming themselves ‘feminists’ is actually detrimental to the campaign. In an equality movement, I believe that inequality should be fought as one.

“Whilst being young, white and male puts me at the advantage of not really being discriminated against in terms of legal rights or employment, there have been times where I have been acutely discriminated against. My weight, for example, has sometimes led to prejudice from people, as has my sexuality,” Coleman tells me. When put into question, it’s important to understand why people may believe that the male privilege would act as counterproductive in the movement. “I understand my privilege,” Coleman says. “I have also been lucky enough to avoid a lot of the gender discrimination other young men and certainly most young women have faced due to my open and supportive home life and friendship circles, though I am fully aware this is not the case for a lot of people.”

Whilst being a male may limit your personal experience with sexism, it’s paramount to remember that everybody experiences different forms of discrimination in their own ways; that’s really what feminism is all about. “I think that anytime we get into a discussion about semantics, we miss the point entirely,” Coleman said. “Whilst I have witnessed very little obtrusive sexism, due mainly to the typically progressive nature of most of the people I interact with, I have seen acute sexism against women many times, because it is everywhere.”

With many failing to agree that men can freely call themselves feminists, I think it’s important to understand that feminism, as a movement, is made to be inclusive: that in excluding men, the terms of the movement itself are violated. Though on a personal level they may not understand the daily sexism that women experience, they can try to help us fight it; that gives them a right to call themselves ‘feminists.’

“Feminist Baby”

In a modern world where the new concept of feminism is widely frowned upon, introducing people to the true notion of the word early on is important. To promote its inclusivity and intersectionality is something that, more often than not, is forgotten about. On April 11, Loryn Brantz, a woman with a desire to abandon the status quo and change common conceptions of the word, published her third children’s book, Feminist Baby. Brantz lives in New York City, where she is a Senior Writer on staff at Buzzfeed, writing and illustrating about feminism, body image and other hearty topics. The book has captured the attention of many for its humour, distinctive illustrations and value of equality. I recently got the chance to speak to Brantz, and used the opportunity to understand why she felt that writing the book was of such importance.

Feminist Baby felt like it had been a long time coming,” Brantz told me in an email. “From as far back as I can remember, I’ve been trying to think of a children’s story I could tell that would positively impact the world… I wanted to write a book that I would want to give to my friends’ babies, and to my own possible future babies.” The specific idea for this book, though, hit Brantz when she was looking for a baby book related to feminism to buy for a friend’s shower; she was so inspired that she “literally ran home to write it,” she told me.

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Loryn Brantz
Brantz hopes that the book will align common misconceptions of feminism.

Feminist Baby aims to expose children to the idea of feminism; to familiarise them with the true meaning of the often misjudged and maligned word. The book does this through a variety of comics, which present feminist ideas in the context of a baby’s imagined life. “Feminist Baby chooses what to wear,” one page reads; “Feminist Baby likes pink and blue,” reads another.

“A lot of children’s media likes to beat around the bush and I think it’s time to be more direct,” Brantz said. “I’d like to think that if a child loves Feminist Baby, it will help them have a positive association with feminism later on in life.”

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Loryn Brantz
Feminist Baby is completely gender neutral.

The book is also unique in that it’s completely gender neutral. Brantz didn’t want to exclude boys from her intended audience, she said, because “they need to grow up with feminism and not be scared of it. It would be much easier to make progress with everyone working together.”

While Brantz has been waiting for the book to be released, she’s also been publishing comics that similarly feature the feminist baby protagonist, but target an adult audience instead. The comics use humour to subvert typically tired conventions such as the gender reveal, and baby’s first words. This same baby character has also been used in the context of political satire; one comic illustrates a baby’s refusal to be born whilst President Trump tweets.

Feminist Baby Loryn Brantz Kayleigh Bolingbroke
Loryn Brantz
Brantz has also made comic strips targeted an an adult audience.

Acquainting people with the word ‘feminism’ without provoking antipathy or fear is important; introducing babies to the word illustrates the true affability of feminism as a whole. Feminist Baby is not only fresh and neoteric, but shows people of all ages that feminism is not a word to be afraid of.

To women who don’t call themselves feminists

Recently, a Facebook post has been doing the rounds on social media. The post itself is riddled with remarks that bash both the feminist movement and feminists themselves, from “I do not feel I am a “second class citizen” because I am a woman,” to “I control my body.” Not only are these statements entirely oblivious, they are more worryingly a reflection on how a systemic patriarchal ideology has been drummed into many of us as a societal norm that doesn’t need changing.

The post was made as a retaliation to the recent Women’s March on Washington after Trump’s inauguration – the author of the post believes that she is “not a victim,” and thus didn’t attend the march. She also believes:

“I can make my own choices.
I can speak and be heard.
I can VOTE.
I can work if I want.
I can stay home if I want.
I control my body.
I can defend myself.
I can defend my family.”

But did she once stop to believe that the reason she can do all of this is because of the feminist movement? Through generations, women have been arrested, imprisoned, beaten and gassed just so that we can have the right to do any of these things. Women have fought, tirelessly, to give us the ability to be able to say any of those statements. Thankfully for her, some women do believe that marching, and protesting, and rallying make a difference, and they are the ones that have given her the ability to feel “equal.”

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Thank Emmeline Pankhurst for your right to vote. Thank Elizabeth Santon for your right to work. Thank Maud Wood Park for your access to prenatal care, and for giving you an identity that is built around more than who you are married to. Thank Rose Schneiderman for the fact that you are able to work in humane conditions. Thank Eleanor Roosevelt and Margaret Thatcher for your ability to work in politics and affect government policy. Thank Margaret Sanger for your birth control. Thank Gloria Steinem, Rosa Parks, Malala Yousafazi, Ida B. Wells. Thank your ancestors and your peers alike for fighting for half of the rights that you are entitled to now.

You may not see the overwhelming and immediate successes that feminism has brought about, but you unknowingly reap the benefits of them every single day. Benefits that strong women who have fought misogyny and pushed through patriarchy for generations have gifted you. I am fortunate enough to be able to write this freely; fortunate enough to be allowed a voice – a benefit that would not have been available to me some tens of years ago. You are wrapped up in your own delusion of equality; forced to believe that systemic patriarchy doesn’t exist.

And yes, women in third world countries are severely underprivileged and hold a disadvantage that is incomparable: but you are not equal either.

You still make less than a man for the exact same job. Men are still debating over what you should be allowed to do with your own uterus. You still have to pay taxes for having a period. You still have to carry pepper spray when walking at night, and you still wouldn’t dream of walking home alone. You still have to prove to the court that you didn’t provoke the rape, and that what you were wearing should have nothing to do with the fact that a man couldn’t keep his hands to himself. You are still being abused by your partners and murdered by your soul mates. You still have to suffer from depression as a side effect of birth control because there’s nothing equivalent for men as of yet. You still have to fight to breast-feed in public. You are still catcalled by builders; still sexualised; still objectified. You are still told you’re too skinny, or too fat. Or that you wear too much make-up, or not enough. You are still judged on what you look like instead of what you have in your mind. If you are a woman of colour, a gay woman, a transgender women, you are worse off than anybody else. We still tell our young girls that they are beautiful before we tell them that they are smart. We still tell them that “boys will be boys,” and that they’re only being bullied by them at school because they like them.

We are not equal: your daughters aren’t equal, your mothers aren’t equal, your friends aren’t equal. We are all systemically oppressed, whether you are from a third-world country in Africa or a wealthy city in England. But I get it, because by admitting that you aren’t equal then you would feel exactly like the “second-class citizen” that you claim not to be. You will believe that the rights you have at this very second are the rights you have always had, and that they’re enough. But luckily for you, there are women out there who believe that what we have right now isn’t enough, and that there’s still so much that needs to change before our gender is anywhere near equal. Your equality is an illusion, and I’m sorry to say that you’re not equal at all.

But you still see feminism as a dirty word, and it’s embarrassing to fight for equality when there’s really nothing to fight for – so don’t worry, the rest of us will do it for you.

White feminism

For those who choose not to identify as a feminist or as an ally, the common misconception is that everybody who brands themselves as either of those believes in fighting for the same things: wrong.

At school, I had been provided with what was seemingly a thorough teaching on the history of the feminist movement. I learntextensivelyabout leading icons: Emmeline Pankhurst, Millicent Fawcett and of their many attainments. As I prepared to sit my exam, I relished at the thought of all women having gained the right to vote by 1920. Outside of education, I was disheartened to learn that the only women who actually had the right to vote by this year were predominantly white. I learnt that the struggle of the vote did not end with the ratification of the Nineteenth Amendmentin some places, African American women were unable to freely exercise their right to vote up until the 1960s, over forty years later.

In theory, this coined the term ‘white feminism’: this branch of the movement fails to give feminists of colour a platform to discuss how gender inequality relates to racial inequality. It meanson basis levelthat the privilege a white woman holds because of her race is held at a higher level; that her feminism is more important because of the colour of her skin.

Other feminists aren’t denying that white feminist issues aren’t important: there’s no shying away from the fact that the gender wage gap and sexualisation of the female body are issues that should concern every woman. But exclusively, white feminism focuses only on this. The way a black woman experiences sexism and inequality is completely different to the way a white woman experiences inequality: while white women are making 79 cents on a white man’s dollar in the US, black women are only making 64 cents.

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The problem lies where white feminism denies to recognise issues of breast ironing in Africa, and police brutality against black women in the west. Many of the celebrities who publicly brand themselves as feminists hold—fundamentally—these white feminist values. Not only this, but the majority of feminist influences we see blazoned across the media actually are white. Emma Watson, Taylor Swift and Jennifer Lawrence are some but to name a few, and though these women are all inspirational in their own right, they fail to recognise and speak out on the struggles outside of white feminism. Though many black women speak out and use their voices to express their struggle, they are seldom heard.

When the presidential election came around, once feminist icon Susan B. Anthony was being praised as an inspiration, with women from all over America coming to place the ‘I Voted’ sticker on her grave whilst revelling in their proudness—this is the same woman, mind you, who claimed herself to be a white supremacist whilst she was alive.

When it was time for the results, a white feminist ideal shone through when 53% of white women voted for Trumpthis is a distburingly fitting example of white privilege has clearly taken priority over gender. But white women were quick to be applauded for speaking out on the results, even though we were the ones that led Trump to victory. And white women have always been applauded for speaking up on gender and race issues, from #BlackLivesMatter to #SayHerName: when black women do the same they’re labelled angry, or told that they’re over reacting.

Each women experiences her own form of oppression, but until we work together to demolish white feminist ideals and start helping all the women around us advance in their oppression too, we cannot truly label our feminism intersectional and inclusive. To only acknowledge feminism from one side, is truly opposing the meaning of feminism altogether.

What Trump’s win means for minorities everywhere

It’s the election result that nobody expected, and no sane person wanted—Trump won. And by a landslide actually, in the electoral college vote at least; he led 290 to 228. People are disappointed for a number of reasons, which I assume are clear. But one of the many barriers that Trump has already been put up against as President-elect is the fact that Hillary is actually winning the popular vote as I write this. This happens rarely in an election, and she’s currently taking the lead by quite a substantial number—as of November 13, she had a total of 60,981,118 votes. This averages out at 47.79% of the popular vote, which in layman’s terms means that she’s gaining more votes from each individual American than Trump. Understandably, people are arguing that this isn’t a reflection of true democracy. More people have voted for Hillary and thus she should win, simple. But it isn’t. And Trump said it best himself in a tweet that dates back to 2012, the electoral college is a disaster for democracy. There are currently numerous ongoing protests and debates to have arisen from this, but unless someone finds a loophole we’re all going to have to accept that Trump is going to be President of the United States and Leader of the Free World come January. And calling himself Leader of the Free World is going to be rather ironic, seeing as he wants anyone who isn’t a middle-class, straight white man to be anything but free. It’s no secret that Trump feels strongly about suppressing almost every minority, as he made clear in his campaign.

When talking about Mexicans, he claimed them to be rapists and criminals. He’s made it incessantly clear throughout his entire campaign that he wants to stop immigration to America—by Mexicans and Muslims in particular. He claimed he’s going to build a wall, and make Mexicans pay for it. About the ever important Black Lives Matter campaign, he claimed that “if black lives don’t matter, then go back to Africa”. He also made a bold claim as to say that he is going to ban all Muslims from entering the US, because they are all terrorists. If this isn’t the definition of tarring everybody with the same brush, then I don’t know what is. Throughout his campaign, he’s fed well into the Islamophobic propaganda and fearmongering that was already oh so prevalent in our society—he’s even said that he’s going to send back all the Syrian refugees that fled to America for safety; children and adults alike. But these aren’t the only minorities he’s been oppressing in his battle for presidency. Trump has made a number of ludicrous comments about women, the most recent being that he “grabs [women] by the p*ssy”, without consent. He’s also called them “beautiful pieces of ass”, and gone as far as to say that he would date his own daughter. Beyond this, he’s set to appear in court later this month regarding the sexual assault of a thirteen year old girl. And yet, 46% of women voted for him.

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And I think that is what sums up what’s most upsetting about Trump winning presidency. It isn’t that he won—it’s the fact that his overpowering message of misogyny, racism and hatred has resonated with so many people. That the work done by activists of all races, sexes and religions for so long has been totally and utterly renounced by this election. Ultimately, it all feels pointless. We’ve taken so many steps forward in society in recent years—we elected the first black president, twice in a row. This time round, a woman was in the running. And yet, a bigot triumphed.

It’s a scary thought for America: most of what Trump is suggesting he will implement as president will affect minorities not only in America, but worldwide. And for those who are saying that this won’t affect them, you are part of the problem, and more wrong than you could imagine. Once a powerful country sets a standard, the world will follow suit. And we haven’t just told the rest of the world that electing a misogynistic, perverted rapist for president is okay—the same has been suggested to men who approach women and feel as though they have sense of entitlement to them. The same has been suggested to the people who throw racial slurs at women wearing burka as part of their religion. The same has been suggested to our sons and our daughters, our future leaders.

It’s scary, and the fear is totally valid. But what we mustn’t do is cave in and just accept this. We mustn’t settle, and we definitely should not just brush it under the rug and move on like we are being told to do. It’s disheartening to say the least, but for the next four years we have to fight harder than we did before. African-Americans, Muslims, women—we must use our voices now more than ever. And if you happen to be a member of a particular race, sex or religion that is likely to be unaffected by this result, then you need to use your voice more than anybody else. Right now, you have ultimate privilege. You have more voice and power than most, and more than you know—use it for good.