LGBTQIA+ History Gender Inequality

The history of non-binary genders is longer than you know

When Joan of Arc dressed for church, they wore men’s clothing.

When they took the sacraments, they had their hair short and wore pants.

When they fought for their God, they wore armor.

Many people resistant to cultural change will blame the newness of the terms used to define it. The newness of a label is often used to allude to the idea that it is an invention – something that is not true, but rather made up. This is the criticism that many people are applying to non-binary genders.

However, something that has been around since the 15th century cannot be rejected by society’s supposed perception of its “newness.”

As people assigned female or male at birth celebrate their androgyny, the patriarchy is fighting back, declaring gender identity a new construct that is fabricated by those who strive for a difference. It’s important to acknowledge that the newness of the term “non-binary” is not an indictment on its existence, but rather a celebration of its acknowledgment. 

Many people resistant to cultural change will blame the newness of the terms used to define it.

History is no stranger to the tales of people who are assigned female at birth (AFAB) who dress in men’s clothing to adopt more powerful positions in society.

For many people, the Disney adaptation of the myth of Hua Mulan might be the first time they consider nonbinary identities. While the term “non-binary” is never used in the family-friendly flick, in the title song, “Reflection,” Mulan proclaims, “I will never pass for a perfect bride or a perfect daughter…That if I were truly to be myself, I would break my family’s heart.”

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A 20-year-old movie certainly doesn’t indicate the newness of betraying gender roles, nor does the 1700-year-old source material.

Even earlier, in 1400 B.C.E., Hatshepsut ruled as Pharaoh in Ancient Egypt. Often regarded as one of the few female pharaohs to take the throne, the statues that survive her celebrate the strength of her rule.

She is depicted in a few different ways, from a woman wearing men’s clothing to a feminine face upon a man’s body. Hatshepsut defied the strict gender roles of ancient Egypt, and the statues that still stand are evidence of their defiance.

These examples are anecdotal, and often follow a common theme, of a person assigned female at birth (AFAB) defying the gender roles assigned to their sex to achieve something greater. However, even these examples hardly hold a candle to the rich history outlining people of a third gender.

History is no stranger to tales of people who are assigned female at birth dressing in men’s clothing to adopt more powerful positions in society.

This third gender, sometimes defined as neither a man nor a woman, is present in several ancient cultures, including Mesopotamia, the progenitor of written history.

During that time, people of the third gender, or Hijra, were in service to the gods they celebrated. In various cultures throughout history, from Hijra priests to eunuchs and virgins in the temple of Artemis, holiness has transcended gender.

It’s easy for detractors to rebut this by pretending that nothing of the sort took place in our current understanding of Western society. The notion of a third gender or “Mahu” is part of Polynesian culture. It can mean a gender between male and female, or gender fluid. In Hawaii and Tahiti, the Mahu people were highly respected in the indigenous culture as keepers of oral traditions and historical knowledge.

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Mahu people exist not only in the past but are an important part of queer culture in Hawaii today. 

The Navajo are a Native American people of the Southwestern United States. The Navajo people have a gender category called Nadleeh, which can refer to transgender people who have transitioned in one direction along the gender binary (having been assigned male at birth, and now identifying as female, or assigned female at birth and now identifying as male), gender-fluid people, and, of course, those whose gender presentation falls “outside” of the gender identity norms imposed by society at a large. The Nadleehi have a spiritual function and are inherently respected as tribal members within the Navajo culture. 

This stark difference in acceptance and perception was noted by Anglo-Saxon American anthropologists as early as the 1920s. In fact, Author William Willard Hill was surprised that Navajo society considered a transgender person “very fortunate,” unlike his understanding of Western culture, for which gender fluidity caused anxiety in mainstream society.

Gender has been used as an oppressive instrument for centuries.

It’s been used to highlight the difference between people, rather than highlight the inherent strength in us all. Strength of character is not something that is defined by maleness or femaleness. Strength is an attribute of the human condition to thrive when tested and fight for what we believe in.

The history of defying gender roles is as ancient as humanity itself.

That human condition is what drives people to discover what gender means to them. They are able to transcend the baggage of strict gender roles to achieve greatness.

The history of defying gender roles is as ancient as humanity itself, which leads one to question why people are so threatened by the nonbinary identification overall.

Why is it that the rich history of gender fluidity needs to be constantly torn down by censors and patriarchs of today’s “binary” culture, and rejected because of its newly-found public acceptance?

Perhaps, Joan of Arc and Hatshepsut knew something that everyone else did not.

Perhaps it’s important for us all to remember the wisdom they passed on through their life stories:

That to transcend gender is to harness the power of the gods themselves.


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Gender Tech Now + Beyond

I have multiple safety apps for women but it’s only a temporary solution

It’s 9:30 p.m. and the air is deliciously cool. The breeze urges my willpower forward as I race against the cursed sprinkler systems of two dozen greedy Californians. My sneakered feet pound the trusty suburban asphalt. I am so deeply cloaked in darkness that the occasional crunch my running strides produce could very well be empty snail shells…or simply tree appendages. But I don’t dare to stop to find out. Every five minutes, like clockwork, my pace slows to accommodate a frantic 180-degree head swivel. This practiced motion, a false comfort of safety, is a constant reminder of my prey-like state.

Prey. It’s the gendered role any and all women I know have played. It’s manifested into the universal experiences of being gifted a cutesy mace keychain, jogging with only one headphone in, or gripping your car keys like an off-brand Wolverine. These cautionary behaviors for women’s safety are socially conditioned into the play-by-play narratives of our everyday lives. The urge for women to adopt and embody risk-averse habits screams louder than assault prevention discussions.

Last semester I downloaded Noonlight, a personal safety app formerly known as Safetrek, after trashing an expired can of reassurance-mace. Like many other college students who waste away into the early mornings at libraries and department buildings, I held an insurmountable fear over the silent trek back home. The lure of Noonlight over other personal safety apps lies primarily in its simple and approachable interface: hold down its big, friendly button until safety is secured, and enter a PIN to confirm your status. If the button is released without a PIN confirmation, emergency help, including local police and your safety network, are notified immediately.

Similar free apps marketed towards women include Sekura, which provides the user with four buttons: calling for an emergency, sending your location, playing an intimidating alarm, and faking an incoming call. The fourth function calls to mind a TikTok trend in circulation a year ago, in which teens would create fake audios for Lyft and Uber passengers to use during uncomfortable situations. Following shocking assault reports covering 2017 and 2018, Uber introduced a number of new safety features, including ride verification and an emergency 911 button.

However promising these technological advancements may seem, I can’t help but notice the limited scope of sexual assault prevention within the broader number of problems that fuel threats to women’s safety, such as toxic masculinity or objectification of women. Where are the apps aimed towards holding perpetrators accountable and addressing gender role socialization? Why do we only impose upon women these imaginary curfews, dress restrictions, and behavior modifications? (Noteworthy examples include: avoid sleeping naked, avoid eye contact, and avoid “getting off at our bus or train stop if a man who has been staring exits at the same time.”) It puts the burden on women to keep taking on impossible, growing measures for their own safety that men do not have to consider. It normalizes putting us into a constantly fearful role of prey.

I shift into this role when I Google ‘Safety tips for women runners’, and briefly contemplate whether carrying a large stone in my hand (along with my GPS tracking cell phone, light-up personal alarm keychain, and 15+ self-defenses) will add or harm my choreographed escape from attackers. Like my dearly departed pet rabbit, I stiffen and adopt heavy breathing at the sight of approaching headlights or human figures; like prey, I scamper when harassed and flee when endangered. As a woman, prey has become my starring role–and this needs to change.

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Health News Gender Race The World Policy

Gig and part-time workers have been left out of the healthcare conversation in the United States for far too long

It is no secret that the healthcare system within the United States is flawed. In large contrast to other countries, there is no universal healthcare. As such, the U.S. government does not provide healthcare for most of its citizens. Instead, healthcare is provided by multiple distinct organizations. These include insurance companies, healthcare providers, hospital systems, and independent providers. Such healthcare facilities are widely owned and operated by private businesses. 

Millions of people are left vulnerable to falling through the cracks as public and private insurers set their own rates, benefit packages, and cost-sharing structures within the bounds of federal and state regulations. 

Employer-sponsored health insurance was first introduced in the United States in the 1920’s. This method indicates that employers might contract with private health plans and administer benefits for their full-time employees as well as their dependents. By 1965 public insurance programs such as Medicare and Medicaid were introduced as a means to compensate for some, but certainly not all, of the already existing flaws. 

Medicare ensures a right to hospital and medical care for all persons aged 65 and older, and later those under 65 with extreme long term disabilities or end-stage renal disease. On the other hand Medicaid, which covers around 17.9% of the American population, is state-administered and is meant to provide health care services to low-income families, the blind, low-income pregnant women and infants, and individuals with disabilities. Eligibility for Medicaid is largely dependent on criteria which vary by state. Individuals need to apply for medicaid coverage and to re-enroll annually. 

As of 2021, the U.S. ranks 22nd globally in terms of quality healthcare with countries like Finland, Japan, and Canada placing above it. In 2018, nearly 92% of the country was estimated to have health coverage, either through their employer or based upon other factors. That statistic leaves roughly 27.5 million people, or 8.5% of the population, uninsured. 

Those flaws intensify dramatically when it comes to the gig or part-time workforce. For one, it is no coincidence that struggles in regards to access to affordable healthcare also run along the lines of race, gender, and income in this country, just as it does with the countless other social issues which persist here. 

For one, those who work within a gig or part-time capacity are often not offered an employer-sponsored health insurance plan. Not to mention that they are also not salaried, so their income is often limited or unreliable, leaving these workers with little opportunity or access to the healthcare system that is in place. Such workers are either required to purchase their own health insurance or apply for Medicaid. Now, while Medicaid eligibility varies between each state, many people who are classified as low-income wind up making too much money to actually be an eligible candidate for the narrow assistance program. At the same time, however, many of the private health insurance plans are extremely expensive, leaving workers stretched thin financially or in danger medically.

This dynamic effectively allows for inequality to flourish. This is no surprise considering that the gig and part-time economy is mostly made up of minority groups, thus being complicit in the racially skewed power structures which exploit people based on their race, religion, gender, sexuality or socioecomic status. That includes single mothers, previously incarcerated people, immigrants and Indigenous, Latinx or Black adults to name a few. In fact, nearly a third or 31% of Latinx adults aged 18 or over earn money through the gig economy. This is compared to 27% of Black Americans and 21% of white adults.  

Workers rights groups in the gig and part-time sphere have been advocating in the name of things like workers compensation for various minutia including maintenance of drivers vehicles, the right to organize, access to 401K, paid family leave and proper employment classification, among other things. This is especially important when you consider that, contrary to popular belief, most people are not using their gig or part-time job as a “side hustle” to compliment their salaried and health-insurance sponsoring full-time position. Instead, this is likely their primary source of income, along with perhaps a second or even third job doing something similar. They are doing as much as they can to make ends meet and survive within a world and system which layers on barriers to their success and sustainability. One that fails to acknowledge their exhaustion and that remains complicit in their vulnerability. 

At the root of what workers are demanding is dignity on the job. 

Workers are fighting to dismantle the system of exploitation that has further isolated and damaged vulnerable communities across the country. To put this better into perspective: there is an unprecedented number of care deserts in the United States. Medical care deserts are best defined as a region which is more than 60 minutes away from the closest hospital. Nearly 1 in 5 residential areas in America, or around 640 entire counties, fall under this definition. 

Also affecting access to healthcare and employment status substantially are child care deserts. Child care deserts are areas in which there are little to no licensed child care providers. An estimated 51% of all residents in the United States live in a child care desert. Plus, child care is especially limited among particular populations such as for low-income families, rural families, and Latinx or Hispanic families. 

Each and every person is deserving of the right to proper healthcare, especially that which is free of the leaps and bounds of a system that oppresses and makes it extraordinarily difficult to access or afford. 

That said, the COVID-19 pandemic without a doubt boosted the telemedicine industry dramatically, putting more accessible and affordable healthcare on the map. A rainbow behind storm clouds, telemedicine has the potential to help people in many ways beyond what we saw over the past year. 

For one, people don’t have to worry as much about transportation, making virtual appointments not only cheaper but also less time consuming. Similarly, because such appointments can take place right from your home, the patient is offered a lot more flexibility to accommodate their work schedules and things like child care. Not to mention stressors in regards to scheduling, the possibility of domestic violence or even religion that can make traditional medical care difficult.  Therefore, due to its asynchronous nature, this intrusive care modality can be much less anxiety-inducing for patients. 

One telemedicine option, Alpha, has been offering such services for much longer than those which were forced into it by the pandemic. Alpha is a growing platform that allows for patients to receive primary care or talk therapy from home. It specializes in holistic treatments for women ranging from regular checkups to ongoing mental health appointments, nutrition and reproductive care – including postpartum depression – acknowledging that women often carry the burden of handling healthcare for their entire families (spouses, children, elderly parents, siblings, etc.) while also working. In this way, Alpha’s services are entirely patient led and personalized. 

Women’s health in particular is ignored, invalidated, and not taken seriously within the medical industry of the United States. Through the asynchronous telemedicine that Alpha offers, patients have a direct line of written conversation with their physician to ask questions or address concerns, unlike an in-person setting where phone calls are screened or a patient might see a different doctor each time they visit. This way, visits are much more private, personal, and accessible. 

Additionally, by allowing patients to pay with cash or in an a-la-carte fashion, the company stands by its mission to meet patients where they are. According to its website, Alpha has a few external/local partnerships in 43 states in the case that a patient needs a procedure done or to go to a lab to receive a test which cannot be completed from an at-home kit – remaining dedicated to combatting the issue of care deserts across the country. 

Alpha’s Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Jacobsen, highlighted a mission of the platform. “We educate patients on their medical condition. We are always involved with the patient because involving the patient in their care, making an informed and fair treatment plan and decisions about prescription medications is going to increase adherence to the plan by the patient.” 

 “And obviously,” Jacobsen continued, “support the relationship between the patient and the provider. We know that a good relationship with the provider actually shows better patient outcomes.” 

Alpha encourages all employers to consider health plans which include telemedicine, citing its inherent ability to provide a less stigmatized experience for patients. More specifically, much of the patient demographic using Alpha are people either without insurance or moving in and out of insurance.

“It is a great fit for gig workers and very convenient, given the fact that you don’t have to take time out of business hours.” Gloria Lao, co-founder and CEO, added, “you can solve your medical issues at midnight on your couch and still get cared for.” 

It is surely going to be difficult to return to fully in-person treatments after the pandemic considering the cutting-edge programs which have emerged and its potential to drive affordability. Perhaps, with a more urgent shift toward progressive politics in the United States and as the unions formed by workers across the country begin to catch fire, we can expect to see more attention focused on finally making healthcare accessible, affordable, and non-discriminatory.


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Health Care Health News Health Gender Wellness

We need to talk about prostate cancer

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), prostate cancer is the second most common malignant tumor. It is a non­dermatological tumor diagnosed in patients beyond the age of 50, which is also the second leading cause of cancer-related mortality across the globe after skin cancer. The lifetime risk of developing a microscopic, clinical disease and prostate cancer-related death is 30% in developing countries.

The prostate is a small walnut-shaped gland that sits below the bladder near the rectum, surrounding the urethra, the passage in the penis through which urine and semen pass. Most people are not sure what the prostate is, what it does or when to call a doctor if they think they might have a problem.

I reached out to medical experts and doctors in Pakistan to find out more about the disease. The overall elderly population of Pakistan currently stands at 10 million, half of which live in rural settings where health facilities are not as upgraded as they are in cities, according to the Pakistan Bureau of Statistics (PBS), 2017.

Dr. Shahzad Ali, an oncology consultant, said that prostatic cancer does not show early signs of physical harm unlike other forms of cancer.

“As cancer progresses, it spreads to the bones causing intense pain in the back, hips, and the pelvis,” he said, adding that there is still no robust medical arrangement that could detect the malignancy at its earliest.

“The cancer detection rate using prostate-specific antigen (PSA) measurements is between 2 to 4%.”

He further added that about 20% of men with prostate cancer will have PSA levels within the normal range. Therefore, PSA alone as a screening test is controversial.

“If digital rectal examination reveals a prostate that is hard and nodular accompanied with high PSA levels, then trans-rectal ultrasound scan (TRUS) and biopsy are indicated. Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and TRUS are for staging the local disease. While x-ray of chest and liver function tests are carried out for metastatic spread of the disease,” explained Dr. Ali.

Sohail Rauf, 61, was diagnosed with prostate cancer last year. To further understand the impact and toll it takes to battle this disease, I reached out to him.

“I am a diabetic patient and last year I was facing excessive urinary problems. I thought it was due to high diabetes so I went to a doctor only to find out that I was suffering from prostate cancer,” he said.

Rauf went through a physical examination, followed by a biopsy. A biopsy is the only way a firm diagnosis of prostate cancer can be made. “The doctor removed small samples of tissue from the prostate, using very thin, hollow needles guided by an ultrasound,” he said.

Rauf faces no hurdles in his day-to-day life after going through prostate surgery.

“I was asked to limit my consumption of red meat, including beef, lamb, and goat, and was advised to stop smoking and drinking alcohol.”

The doctor suggested he consume healthier sources of protein such as fish, skinless poultry, beans, and eggs.

Apart from these precautionary measures, Rauf is supposed to visit his consultant for the rest of his life for regular check-ups every six months.

In response to a question about delay in seeking medical care, Dr. Masood A. Sheikh, a urologist said, “Men with urinary symptoms are hesitant to discuss the problem, perhaps, because of embarrassment, believing that all of it is part of ageing or due to the fear of treatments such as surgery.”

The findings of the study on clinicopathological characteristics of prostate cancer suggest that there is also a need to improve public attitude regarding urinary symptoms in older age men and knowledge about prostate cancer in Pakistan.

The Distinguished Gentlemen’s Ride (DGR) is a unique event that helps raise awareness and funds for prostate cancer in Pakistan since 2015.

“It is a themed ride for café racers, scooter riders, bobbers, choppers, and scramblers,” said Faisal Malik, the official spokesman for DGR in Karachi.

“DGR takes place on the last Sunday of September. The event’s main aim is to spread awareness and raise funds for prostate cancer research and other health issues that men face in Pakistan,” said Nabil Hasan, media executive of DGR.

Talking about the event, Hasan said it takes place in over 400 cities, across all five continents, with more than 15,000 participants that ride their classic motorcycles, dressed up in their finest attire, taking the cause to the streets of Karachi.

One thing that sets DGR apart from other cancer-related campaigns is its future-oriented approach.

Prostate cancer is a risk for people as they age, but if it is caught and treated early, the outlook is generally good. So, as you or someone you know gets older, be sure to have open conversations with your doctor about your risk.

If you have any symptoms you think might be prostate cancer, talk to your doctor right away. And even if you do not have symptoms, consider adopting a healthy lifestyle to decrease your risk.

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Press Media Watch Europe Gender The World Inequality

British tabloids’ objectification of women is a step back from gender equality in the UK

In 2019, the UK’s upskirting law made it a criminal offense to take an image or video under someone’s clothing. In the same year, Wales made menstrual products available for free in hospitals and schools, and Northern Ireland finally legalized abortion. Over the last few years, there have been countless wins for gender equality in the UK and Ireland. However, women are far from being equal yet – especially if British tabloids continue to objectify women’s bodies in their newspapers.  

Unlike broadsheet newspapers that provide reliable news stories, tabloids run on celebrity gossip, sex scandals, and conspiracy theories. Yet despite being known for reporting stories that are factually inaccurate, The Sun, The Daily Mail, and The Daily Mirror – all tabloid newspapers – were the most read newspapers in the UK last year.

I’ve spent the pandemic working in my local supermarket, a job which on the morning shift, requires me to put the day’s newspapers out onto the shelves. I try my best not to look at the front page of the tabloids – a 6 a.m. start is hard enough without seeing them hurl abuse at Meghan Markle, and use Brexit propaganda as a way to pedal the UK’s vaccine roll-out – but the other day, my curiosity got the better of me. I took a copy of The Sun, one of the country’s most popular tabloid newspapers, and opened it behind the till. I knew what I would find inside, but I was still shocked when I found it.

Three pages in and there was already a bikini shot of Walking Dead star, Lauren Cohan, blown up in HD, as she ‘spoils readers rotten in her latest photoshoot’; the fact that Cohan was returning to the show’s 11th and final series was buried among the detailed description of her ‘toned torso’ and mention of ‘those fans who think she’s drop-dead gorgeous.’

The Sun page 3 feature with Lauren Cohan
[Image description: The Sun page 3 feature with Lauren Cohan.] The Sun

The fight against Page 3 girls – the tabloid tradition of publishing an image of a topless woman on their third page – has been going on for over four decades. For a 23-year-old like me, this regular soft-core porn feature has been around for as long as I can remember. It took countless campaigns for this feature to finally be stopped in 2015 after 45 years of printing new explicit photos of women’s bodies every single day. 

However, as I saw in the copy of the newspaper I was reading, this ban has a loophole: women in bikinis. As long as their breasts are covered, tabloids can continue to objectify the female body and sell copies of the newspaper by printing suggestive photos. The “women in bikinis loophole” lets tabloids continue to treat women as commodities, and sell their bodies as a form of entertainment.

The “women in bikinis loophole” lets tabloids continue to treat women as commodities, and sell their bodies as a form of entertainment. 

Another way that tabloids are getting around this ban, is by having women write the articles that include these photos. On page twelve of the same newspaper I had picked up that morning, there was a double-page spread of nine female celebrities in bikinis – including a nude photo of the woman who wrote the article herself.

The angle of the piece was celebrating the bodies of the over 50’s, while also attempting to take down the ‘polyfilla-ed twenty-something wannabes’ at the same time.

A double-page spread written by female writer in The Sun that pits women against each other.
[Image description: A double-page spread written by a female writer in The Sun that pits women against each other.] The Sun

At first glance, a piece like this written by a woman to celebrate women’s bodies might seem like a form of female empowerment – a clever way for women to turn this degrading tradition on its head in the fight for gender equality, and release suggestive photos on their own terms as an attempt to control their own narrative. But by posting these photos in a tabloid that for over four decades has used female bodies to sell stories, a spread like this is just another way for men to continue to sensationalize and objectify the female form, marketing it instead as a new form of feminism.

Don’t even get me started on the fact that the piece was celebrating the bodies of women over 50 – something that should be done – by tearing down the younger generation of women below them – something that definitely shouldn’t. If your brand of feminism focuses on bringing other women down, then I’m sorry, but it isn’t really feminism at all.

On a similar note, in all nine photos on this page, the women pictured had what many would consider an ideal body type; likewise, there were only two women of color on the whole double-page spread. Again, if your view of feminism doesn’t include women of all ethnicities, women of all shapes and sizes, and trans women, then you can never truly say that you’re fighting for the rights of all women.  

I am of course not saying that women who share suggestive photos of themselves aren’t real feminists – I understand how empowering this way of creating your own narrative is, and its a great way to encourage female body positivity – but I’ve seen first hand the people who buy these papers, and I’m certain that the first thing they think of when they see these photos isn’t female empowerment or the country’s fight for gender equality.

In a post Me Too era, British tabloids cultivate a misogynistic culture, letting it grow and fester while the rest of the country works hard to scrub it clean; these newspapers provide some of the last remaining drabs of blatant female objectification in print. It doesn’t come as a surprise then, that in a 2012 YouGov survey about the attitudes toward Page 3 girls, 48% of men overall were in favor of keeping the sexist feature – in comparison to just 17% of women.

By British tabloids continuing to print suggestive photos like these, the female body will never be seen as anything but a commodity used to sell stories. It doesn’t matter how hard we fight for gender equality in the UK, if the tradition of page three girls continues to exist in some way, shape, or form, this goal will forever remain out of reach. 


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TV Shows Gender Pop Culture

This is the reason why Hollywood’s ‘palatable feminism’ is a huge problem

When Joss Whedon, creator of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, was accused last month of abusive behavior by numerous actresses he worked with, it prompted something of a reevaluation of how truly feminist his works were.

Natasha Simons’ essay Reconsidering the Feminism of Joss Whedon explores this, noting that the character Buffy Summers, “as a Slayer, descends from a line that was literally created by men – a formation that stems directly from the male anxiety over an inability to create life the way that women do.” The feminism in Whedon’s work was a version made palatable to a male audience and a patriarchal society. Robyn Bahr explained that Whedon’s “visions of on-screen feminism often amounted to a reductive, masculinized conception of what it means to be a forceful woman.” In Buffy, women were only considered strong or of any worth if their strength could be measured in the same way as a man’s.

Palatable feminism means that if a woman can’t be acceptably characterized as a “wet lettuce,”  she has to be BADASS. But like, badass in the way men understand. The badass developed as a response to this.  Joss Whedon created Buffy to intentionally subvert the idea of women as victims. Wet lettuces are weak and pathetic and need saving, while “Strong Female Characters” are, well, strong. Unfortunately, this further perpetuates the idea that the only admirable traits a woman can have are the ones associated with masculinity.

Because apparently, the only way to convince the world of women’s value is by convincing men we’re just like them. That’s what equality is, right? Being exactly the same with no unique characteristics. That seems to be why Buffy succeeded in crossing the boundaries of science fiction and fantasy to allow a woman-focused story to receive any attention. Buffy as a whole was allowed to succeed because it was feminist in a way that aligned with a patriarchal society’s values.

HBO’s Game of Thrones also demonstrated this mentality. Sansa Stark’s evolution comprised of her going from someone with compassion, who cared about people, to someone devoid of pathos and humanity. And this was framed as her developing into a stronger woman. Showrunners David Benioff’s and Dan Weiss’s version of female empowerment presented women as competent leaders only when they were deprived of warmth and emotion, their feminine aspects. In order to be considered worthy rulers, they had to be heartless and coldly logical if not violently ruthless. You know, “like a man.”

[still of an angry blonde woman]
[still of an angry blonde woman] Daenerys Targaryen from Game of Thrones. HBO








They treated Daenerys Targaryen as unfit for the job because she demonstrated empathy for others and that too deeply reflected her “womanness.” Such behavior is an indicator of femininity, which is of course linked with hypersensitivity and irrationality. To them, it was inevitable she lost her sh*t and set the entirety of King’s Landing on fire. Bran Stark was more suited to be king because he lacked any such weaknesses, read: emotions. Sansa was a better queen because she had shed her vulnerabilities and learned to rule the way men do, without feelings.

This has led to other women engaging in the same thought process. Part of the reason for the vitriol Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight received was rooted in internalized misogyny. It was, despite its flaws, unapologetically feminine, and therefore worthy of ridicule.

Palatable feminism may also contribute to why some characters are considered more likable than others. Kikyo of Rumiko Takahashi’s manga turned anime Inuyasha was for a long time, widely loathed. This was partly because of her relationship with the eponymous male lead and her interference in the much-loved main couple of Inuyasha and Kagome. She wasn’t evaluated as a character in her own right, she was judged based on her connection to a man.

[Image description: black-haired anime woman in traditional Japanese garb and a quiver of arrows on her back, with a forest background]
[Image description: black-haired anime woman in traditional Japanese garb and a quiver of arrows on her back, with a forest background] Kikyo from Inuyasha. Rumiko Takahashi
More than that though, a dichotomy had been created between the morally ambiguous Kikyo who stole the departed souls of the dead to maintain her undead existence and the sweet, unambiguously good Kagome. Kikyo wasn’t outright evil, even in her new, revenge-driven life she still demonstrated compassion and heroic tendencies. But she was villainized by fans in a way that other male characters who were just as, if not more, morally dubious than her were not. Inuyasha’s big brother Sesshomaru tried to murder both his younger brother and Kagome, and Koga of the Wolf Demon Tribe allowed his wolves to slaughter an entire village. But women aren’t afforded the same permission to be complex and layered, so Kikyo was treated as the worst character on the show. 

Kagome’s more positive reception can also be linked to her status as a generically plucky girl. She’s sweet, simple, and lacking in any provocative characteristics. We see a similar treatment of women in films like Enola Holmes, and the 2017 remake of Beauty in the Beast. These works bring up relatively uncontroversial issues like Western white women’s right to read or vote. They avoid engaging with the problems that women today are actually impacted by in order to avoid pissing off the conservatives who perpetuate these issues.

The problem with palatable feminism like this is that it allows those who align with problematic thinking, like the demonization of sex workers, to avoid any mainstream challenge to their thinking. They can pat themselves on the back for agreeing that yes, women in the West should be allowed to read! These tropes function as a nod to the idea of feminism without the intention of actually incorporating it in any meaningful way because that would not be palatable and therefore not consumable.

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Reproductive Rights TV Shows The Trump Era Gender Pop Culture

How ‘Mrs America’ explains feminism through an anti-feminist perspective

Ah, the second wave of feminism! The historical movement that brought with it the Equal Rights Amendment Bill (or the ERA)!

The show Mrs. America portrays the complexities, inhibitions and feminist set-ups of the entire 1970s movement to fruition. I have been a fan of Gloria Steinem, Shirley Chisholm, and Betty Friedan since the day I could pronounce and spell feminism, and I’m happy to say that the show does them justice.

Mrs America presents the journey of many second-wave feminists. However, unlike most other shows, Mrs America focuses mainly on Phyllis Schlafly and the hypocrisy of the Right Wing party. The idea is executed brilliantly, with the focus being on different women throughout the nine episodes aired. It is an honest and jaw-droppingly beautiful portrayal of the women who fought for and against ERA.

The cast is breathtakingly original with Uzo Aduba, Cate Blanchett, and Rose Byrne stealing my heart. I can’t sell the other women short because everybody had a particular role to play and they played it so well. It was like a mesh of cogs running smoothly, enabling the show to be as powerful as possible.

The image shows three women in the background of women protesting for women's rights.
[Image description: The image shows three women in the background of women protesting for women’s rights.] Via Mrs. America
The show allows us to get to know Phyllis Schlafly, the Conservative Head who rallied against ERA, and, yes she is that character who is not only homophobic and sexist but also blindly believes that marital rape isn’t rape.

The show starts directly from Phyllis’s perspective, a nuclear policy expert turned housewife, mother to six children, and off the top of the bat, very bourgeoisie. Her ideologies against the rise of feminism are argued upon with valid arguments (according to her). Her argument delved into how the ERA would reduce the position of the traditional housewife in the particular household setting and would disrupt the sociologically and morally deemed ‘correct’ family way of life. This makes her create and gather a whole entourage of women who back her against the ERA by literally protesting against the movement. And, lo and behold, this causes the ERA to not be passed in Congress.

You will hate and simultaneously be filled with pathos for Cate Blanchett for the stunning portrayal of this disgusting yet complex character.

There is this one scene (spoiler alert!) where Phyllis’s husband forces her to consent to sex, and you see the pain through Blanchett’s eyes which honestly gives her character such depth. Understanding personality development because of years of normalization of patriarchy is what all of us as feminists strive to achieve. This again is a sexist mentality but facilitated by years of normalizing rape-culture.

The image is of four men surrounding one woman in a powder blue suit.
[Image description: The image is of four men surrounding one woman in a powder blue suit.] Via Mrs. America
My heart, however, goes out to Alice, a fictional character who is actually constituted as an amalgamation of various women from the Conservative wing. Played by Sarah Paulson, Alice is an integral part of the STOP ERA movement along with Phyllis. Her point of view for joining the movement was not sexist; she wanted the housewives to not be the butt of the jokes of all the feminists at that point (because frankly, not all feminists upheld the concept of choice at that moment). Alice’s transformation and change of character as she mixes with the second-wave feminists is poignant.

Mrs America, with its diverse cast and multifaceted outlooks on Chisholm (the first woman and Black candidate to run for the Democratic Party’s Presidential Nomination) and Steinem’s life, gave me another reason to reread all the feminist publications during the second wave feminist movement.

Tracy Ullman’s stunning portrayal of Betty Friedan moved my heart. Betty wasn’t shown to be a perfect feminist, she was a complex character with idiosyncrasies and quirks and thus, through the show, was completely humanized. The Feminine Mystique by Betty Friedan is still the feminist treatise that shapes young girls, boys, transgender men and women, and the non-binary teenagers into feminists.

The image is of Sarah Paulson in Mrs. America as Alice
[Image description: The image is of Sarah Paulson in Mrs. America as Alice] Via Mrs. America
Again, the show dramatizes the lives of these women to great detail, but perfectly focuses on the hypocrisy of the Right-winged mentality and also throws light on the growth of the American left.

With a fantastic cast, stunning direction, and wonderful costumes absolutely staying true to the 70s with the flared pants and large hippie glasses, Mrs. America is an influential show that everybody needs to watch. You get to not just be entertained but learn about the movement. With the intricacy of politics running within the feminist movement, with disagreements between the women, and the backdoor politics of having to appease certain political elements, you get the good and the bad from a movement that shaped history for years to come.

A deeply feminist show that perfectly manipulates the economy, misogyny, and the growth and shift of politics in the USA, Mrs. America might be one of the best shows I have watched last year.

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Activism Gender The World Inequality

Gulabi Gang: India’s badass all-women vigilante group

The streets of Banda, Uttar Pradesh were once filled with despair. Ranked 154 our 447 on the Planning Commission’s index of backwardness in 2003, caste-based violence, domestic abuse, and poverty were pervasive throughout Banda, with little to no police support. In the midst of such chaos, the Gulabi Gang formed to combat the widespread domestic abuse and violence against women.

Clad in “Gulabi”, or pink sarees, these women wield bamboo sticks as they accost male offenders. Most, if not all, members of the Gulabi Gang are of oppressed castes, as are the women they assist. The gang was initially created to “punish abusive husbands, fathers, and brothers in an effort to combat domestic violence and desertion”. The gang has various stations set up and each station has a “commander” that takes care of the problems of the women in her area. Through word of mouth, the location and purpose of these stations are spread to women in the district. 

When a woman comes to the station to narrate the story of her abuse to the group, the police are immediately called. If the police fail to take charge, the Gulabi Gang takes over. Often, the gang accosts male members and calls upon them to understand their wrongdoings. If the men do not relent or resort to force, they are publicly shamed or beaten with bamboo sticks. Because the gang has over 200,000 members, they receive enough support from the women of each district, and by carrying bamboo sticks with them and walking in large groups, they prevent men from being able to successfully retaliate. Recently, the group has started to offer cost-effective services such as henna application, tailoring, and flower arrangements to provide their members with a source of income to sustain their lifestyle. 

The work of Gulabi Gang has resulted in legislation to designate 33% of parliamentary seats for women in India. Even though this has brought upon many positive changes for women empowerment in India and legislation to promote gender equality, the Gulabi Gang continues to operate in their relevant areas. They prefer to work outside of politics because of the widespread corruption amongst Indian politicians. 

Over time, the gang’s scope of issues has expanded from domestic violence to child marriage, dowry deaths, and access to education. They also target human rights and male oppression by actively encouraging men to get involved in activism. Many members of the Gulabi Gang are men who support the causes that the gang raises awareness for.

Because the scope of the gang has grown so much, the woman have been able to engage in undercover projects to bring deep-rooted government corruption to light. In 2007, the founder of the gang, Sampat Pal Devi, heard that government-run stores were not distributing food and grains in a village fairly. Due to widespread poverty, hundreds of families depended on this food to survive. The Gulabi Gang observed the shop undercover and found evidence that the store was shipping the allocated grains to open markets to make a higher profit. The gang reported the store to the local authorities, who ultimately ignored the complaints. However, this incident solidified Gulabi Gang’s reputation as an organization that fought for justice. 

In 2008, Gulabi Gang stormed an electricity office in Banda to force them to turn the electricity back on. The office had cut the electricity to the district off in an effort to extract bribes. Additionally, the gang has stopped multiple child marriages and protested to receive justice for oppressed-caste rape victims. In India, police indifference to the rape of oppressed-caste women is pervasive, as is government action. 

As an Indian-American feminist, I am blessed to be able to walk in the steps of the empowered women of the Gulabi Gang. India has a poor reputation with women’s rights and gender equality, which is often not acknowledged within the Indian community. The work of the Gulabi Gang is exposing how deep-rooted women’s oppression is in India, as well as creating solutions to empower women while fighting the patriarchy. 


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Celebrities Activism Gender Politics Race The World

Naomi Osaka makes a case for athlete activism

What do Mean Girls, The Breakfast Club, and just about every other teen flick have in common? Jocks? And what do these jocks have in common? Nothing. Apparently that’s all they are; two-dimensional sportspeople with no substance to their characters beyond their athletic activity.

I remember thinking about this when I had to write an essay for a civic discourse class. Although the ‘dumb jock’ stereotype is a cinematic trope, the notions behind it aren’t all that far-fetched. Even in real life, many people think that athletes are nothing more than their muscle or athletic ability.

Take Naomi Osaka for example. Heard of her?

Naomi Osaka wearing a black and blue tank and blue hat during one of her matches
[Image description: Naomi Osaka wearing a black and blue tank and blue hat during one of her matches], via Danielle Parhizkaran—Reuters.
Apart from popping up on my news feed for her continuous wins at the US Open, she has also been the subject of many articles for speaking up and showing support to the Black Lives Matter movement. She has also been the subject of critics who think she should be doing the exact opposite. 

Last year in particular has seen a lot of activism in wake of the continued injustices police have committed against black people, as well as inaction in reference to the coronavirus pandemic. In light of that, many celebrities have taken to social media and other channels to make their voice heard and spread awareness. The sports world has also taken part with many athletes showing their support by staging walkouts and sitting out of games.

In August, Osaka announced that she would not be playing at one of her upcoming semifinal matches. In a social media post, she said “before I am an athlete, I am a black woman. And as a black woman, I feel as though there are much more important matters at hand than watching me play tennis…” 


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A post shared by 大坂なおみ 🇭🇹🇯🇵🇺🇸 (@naomiosaka) on

After this, the Women’s Tennis Association released a statement saying that all matches would be postponed. 

The statement, as well as Naomi’s actions, prompted a slew of mixed reactions, with some supporting the decisions to take a stance against racial injustice. Other comments expressed disappointment, saying that sports should not mix with politics.

Hmm…. Where have I heard that before?

For decades, even centuries, athletes have used their platform as public figures to protest injustice. From Tommi Smith and John Carlos to LeBron James and Colin Kaepernick, this phenomenon is nothing new. Especially considering that many of these athlete activists are people of color, whose victories as first-class athletes does not negate the fact that they or their families can be treated as second-class individuals. But despite that fact, critics still respond to athlete activism with some response pertaining to “stick to sports”. 

Sports have historically been marketed as a form of escapism, an island separate from reality. So I’m honestly not surprised when people criticize athletes for being outspoken. When an activity is viewed as an escape from the real world, its participants will undoubtedly be positioned as absent from tangible things. But – that needs to change.

Here’s the thing: athletes are humans too. And just like any other person, they have a right to speak up regarding issues, especially those that directly affect them. Just because someone plays sports for a living doesn’t mean that their entire life revolves around that. Sure, being an athlete and a public figure means that their profession is a larger part of their day-to-day existence. But that doesn’t, and shouldn’t discredit their opinion on things not sports-related.

The opinion taken by most critics about athletes like Osaka who have spoken out is part of a greater conversation about athletes and their participation in the discussion of political, social and moral issues, particularly those considered polarizing or deviate from conservative views.

However, the fact remains that there is absolutely nothing polarizing about human rights. The harmful and vicious effects of racism are real. Athletes’ support for an ongoing quest for racial justice is not a lecture. Instead, it is a consensus of support for players who are Black. Instances of police brutality and institutional racism hit close to home. If sports leagues do not stand up against bigotry during this moment of social upheaval, they never will.

When people claim that supposed social justice biased sports will no longer be a place for fans to escape polarization, they really mean sports will no longer be welcoming for racist viewers.

Athlete activism today is a powerful thing because unlike earlier times when they couldn’t speak freely to the public, social media has provided a means to communicate to millions of followers – which is no small thing. That kind of platform has the potential to raise awareness on things that truly matter.

Naomi Osaka expressed similar sentiments when an interviewer questioned her about wearing seven different BLM masks during the open. Her response: “What was the message you got? I feel like the point is to make people start talking.”

And people are talking.

I grew up playing sports; I ran track, and I loved every moment of it. But never for one minute did I think that the presence of my athletic ability meant an absence of my intellect or voice. Why should professional athletes be considered any different?

It is time that people regard athletes as more than robots, but rather humans with convictions and morals they feel obligated to uphold.


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Editor's Picks Gender The World Inequality

A win for #MeToo in Pakistan: Meesha Shafi’s case granted leave by the Supreme Court

When it comes to sexual harassment cases, Pakistan’s justice system needs to be deeply combed through, reassessed and rebuilt. Be it by working through the cases more effectively, treating them with due importance and making sure the victims get the justice they deserve – these are basic human rights that tend to fall through the cracks of our broken system. Most of the time when a victim stands up against harassment, they’re named and shamed and Meesha Shafi’s case is no different. Although this Pakistani singer comes from a place of privilege, she was still subject to slander, hate and continued attacks on her character ever since she accused Ali Zafar of harassment. So what does that tell us about justice in Pakistan? 

In 2018, Shafi had accused Zafar of sexual harassment which led to a long legal battle between the two that was and is still covered heavily by the Pakistani media. Shafi is credited for pushing forth the #MeinBhi (#MeToo) movement to gain a strong footing on Pakistani soil, inspiring many to come forward with their own cases of sexual abuse and harassment. The laws, while partially implemented, do not cover the entire scope of women’s wellbeing – specifically, for those who are self-employed (like Shafi).

Earlier today, Shafi’s sexual harassment case against Zafar was granted leave by the Supreme Court of Pakistan. 

This is a landmark move, one that potentially could benefit all Pakistani women as it would determine whether the laws in place will move toward inclusivity. This especially pertains to students and those who are self-employed, to ensure their cases would not be brushed under a rug due to supposed “technicalities.” It will determine whether they will be included under Pakistan’s harassment laws and will agree to hear whether Meesha’s case would be covered by the Sexual Harassment at Workplace Act.

Shafi is credited for being the one to allow the #MeToo movement to gain a strong footing on Pakistani soil, inspiring many to come forward with their own cases of sexual abuse and harassment.

[Image Description: a picture of Meesha Shafi and Ali Zafar side by side] Source: The News International
Zafar, an equally popular musician and of course, a man, had a lot more privilege and popular support rallying up for him. They eventually went to court, where Shafi had no choice but to prosecute him under workplace harassment laws due to a lack of other options.

In October last year, while they were was still in trial, Zafar was appointed as an ambassador for Pakistan’s “Namal Knowledge City” by our very own Prime Minister, Imran Khan. The very existence of this position and the fact that Zafar was chosen for it, despite other more deserving contenders further deteriorates the #MeToo movement. It doesn’t help that the PM inaugurated the ceremony either.

Zafar went on to not only deny these allegations but also filed a defamation suit against Shafi (this case is strewn all over the media and continues to act as a barrier for people to viewing the case unbiasedly). Due to no existence of an employer-employee relation between the both of them, the Lahore High Court dismissed the case, as the 2010 Protection of Women Against Workplace Harassment Act was restrictive and does not protect individuals who are self-employed. Notice the huge gaps in our judicial system? Yep, stifling to be a woman in this country.

After the LHC dismissed that case, Shafi took a new case to the Supreme Court and essentially it challenges the current laws of harassment to stretch further in terms of protection. Having this leave granted essentially means the Supreme Court will now hear the specifics of Shafi’s case.

Shafi and her legal team have endured months of online abuse and character assassination over these accusations. Sadly, this is something most – if not all – Pakistani women are familiar with. 

Mein', Meesha and the motivation to move on
[Image Description: Meesha singing in front of spotlights] Source: The Express Tribune
In Pakistan, sexual harassment allegations are often dismissed as “personal matters”, “gold-digging tactics” or even character defamation by women. The pressure, emotional abuse, and invalidation often suppresses victims into staying silent and hidden. But, having a well-known singer, celebrity and icon like Meesha Shafi come out and say yes, I was sexually harassed and no, I will not remain silent –  was HUGE for Pakistan. After her public announcement, many other victims have come forward. It has created a domino effect which is set to change the narrative of harassment in Pakistan. But when cases like Shafi’s are thrown around and fuelled with hate or other unnecessary backlash, a crack is blown to this movement which has been aching to cut through the veil of a country that silences survivors. 

Even some Pakistani tv shows have their plots centered around women lying about abuse for nefarious means. The narratives only serving to invalidate real-life instances and further suppress the victims’ voices. Those shows are aired with zero inhibitions, while shows like “Churails” were banned due to what the censor board claims as “spreading vulgarity to the masses”. Men’s cases are an entirely different matter, with Pakistanis refusing to acknowledge it even exists. The #MeToo movement in Pakistan is not only met with a lot of resistance and backlash, but also the difficulties that come with dismantling decades worth of misogyny forming the core of Pakistani society.

Some Pakistani women have taken to Twitter to celebrate another successful right hook landing on the patriarchy’s face. Many more are flooding Shafi’s Twitter with messages of love, gratitude and thanking her for, once again, being an inspiration to them.

Here are some of the tweets:

For women all over Pakistan, today’s announcement marks a precedent for the future, in terms of protection and hope. While we know that the harassment laws are weak at best, knowing that Shafi, Nighat Dad and the rest of her legal team have worked tenaciously to reach this point is inspiring. It is integral that Pakistan’s judicial system listens to them and pursues a reshaping of its harassment laws, and ensures that self-employed individuals are protected at all costs.

Rest assured, this is a much needed cloud break that’s allowed some sunlight to shine on a cold and bleak 2021. We, at The Tempest, could not be happier for Shafi and her team, and only hope that this paves the way for better times for Pakistani women.

Although this is just one stepping stone in the greater war against harassment in Pakistan, we will celebrate it. We stand by Shafi, and all the survivors of harassment that are yet to get justice. The world continues to try to tear women down, to belittle them, to push them in a corner – but we will not be stopped. We will continue to push for justice, and always, the truth. This victory is an accomplishment and a reminder that our voices will not be silenced. At any cost.


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LGBTQIA+ Celebrities Gender The World Inequality

Rowling’s transphobic essay didn’t deserve the nomination for the Russell Prize 2020

The Russell Prize is a pretty new award – it started in 2017. The prize celebrates the ‘holy trinity of writing’; which includes language, moral force, and the knowledge or learning behind it. The recognition is meant to celebrate writing that is monumental, well-written, and capable of inciting change. In 2017, Ronan Farrow’s essay about Harvey Weinstein, published in the New Yorker, won the prize. The 2018 and 2019 winners were a blog post on toxic journalism and an essay on Bing Crosby. In 2020, one of the contenders is JK Rowling‘s essay on trans rights.

The essay was published on her own blog, where she writes about her experiences online, the hate she’s received for her views, and the ‘cancellation‘ she’s undergone as an author and a public figure. One can probably argue that Rowling’s essay is well-written, but it is not informative, and definitely not knowledgeable. Throughout her essay, she argues that trans women’s rights will impede on women’s rights, that trans women are not women, and that women will be unsafe if trans women are allowed into women-only spaces. 

She also notes (with concern) of the ‘explosion of young women wishing to transition’ and those ‘detransitioning’, because of regret. Her argument is that it’s easier than ever for people to transition – resulting in people transitioning to ‘avoid homophobia’, or to ‘avoid misogyny’. Furthermore, she swivels back and forth between arguments – either stating that gender identity is a choice, one that people choose to move between, while also claiming that she knows a ‘transsexual’ woman who she fully sees as a woman.

Rowling’s essay is controversial, to say the least. Her arguments are discriminatory, and her reasoning for why people turn to transition is flawed and inaccurate. Her claims of ‘talking to various experts’ are unfounded, as there isn’t a single citation in the essay. It’s hard to accept her words at face value. Many have called her essay factually incorrect.

One argument she makes is that young people transition to avoid facing homophobia. What she fails to note is that transgender gay people exist. Gender identity and sexuality aren’t mutually exclusive.

She also fails to acknowledge that transgender people face more violence and discrimination, in fact they even face discrimination from other members of the LGBTQ+ community – Miss Major Griffin Gracy, a trans activist claims that mainstream LGBTQ+ movements shut out members of the transgender community.

Another argument she makes is one that’s common amongst TERFs (trans-exclusionary radical feminists) – that accepting trans women as women would result in men entering women’s only spaces to prey on women. However, reports have shown that police officials and schools haven’t seen evidence of this happening, and organizations dedicated to women’s rights have debunked this argument as a myth.

The BBC argued that her essay deserved the nomination, claiming that “offense is the price of free speech.” I can understand how this statement can be used to commend a piece of work – when an author is brave for speaking their mind, for blowing the whistle on harmful practices, or for highlighting something the public needs to know. Some ideas can offend certain groups, and it’s hard to draw the line between what should and shouldn’t be celebrated, based on a particular group’s perception or acceptance of that idea.

With regards to Rowling’s essay, however, it’s incredibly difficult to digest that claim. Her essay is offensive in its misinformation, in the ideas it supports. Her arguments are unfounded and her claims aren’t backed by studies or research. Rowling does have the freedom to say what she believes in, but she also needs to recognize that she’s a public figure and that her words have power. We’ve seen her ideas being used by senators to block more inclusive laws – for example, one senator used her quotes to block Senate consideration for the ‘Equality Act‘ – and this essay fuels that fire.

This has gone beyond ‘academic debate’ to real effects on people’s lives.

What makes this essay difficult to digest is because she comes from a place of pain and trauma – she’s a survivor of domestic abuse and wants to fight for women’s rights. However, feminism includes trans rights. Trans women are women, and women’s rights should include support for trans women, too. Fighting for women’s rights should not result in another community suffering. One group does not need to be marginalized for another to rise up. 

I’m irked by her nomination because it shows support to transphobic ideals. She is a good author – her words are influential. We see her ideas being celebrated; her transphobic views are shared, discussed, and rewarded. Without a shred of evidence, she’s become a figure of authority on trans rights.  I’m tired of these ideas continuing to gain traction because of her work. Her writing continues to be in the spotlight for its controversy, and this is another essay that attracts attention, and another way her words affect real people, their lives, and their very sense of being.


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Gender Inequality

Men’s disdain of female sex workers is hypocritical and rooted in misogyny

Much too often people have redundant conversations on social media related to dating between cis-straight men and women. Notably, the most popular and controversial discussion surrounding these hypothetical dates decides if a woman owes a man sex after he spends over a certain amount of money on a date. 

Women tend to feel the cases of Twitter’s conjectural dates are circumstantial, depending on the woman’s comfort level, her relationship with her date, or how long she’s even known her date. Men, however, tend to feel their “investment” on a woman they’ve taken on a date automatically permits them to allot time after the date is over that often emphasizes sexual interactions.

These conversations very clearly highlight men’s feeling of entitlement to women’s bodies, while also exposing men’s hypocrisy surrounding their prejudice towards sex work and female sex workers. Men’s expectation that a woman owes them sex (or anything physical) after spending money on a date directly contradicts their hate for female sex workers. 

Men don’t hate the concept of sex work itself in that the the conversation of what role sex plays in money and time spent on a person mirrors courtship in the very least. Rather, men hate that women who are sex workers have bodily autonomy outside of a man’s influence or dictatorship. Female sex workers set their own terms, rules and boundaries, giving them a certain level of power in a patriarchal society, which is what men are actually uncomfortable with.

That said, the innate power that female sex workers possess in a male dominated society pose these women a great threat. For example, sex work itself is criminalized, rendering sex workers targeted and unprotected from the law. Due to the discrimination female sex workers face on both an institutional and structural level, they experience harm perpetuated by the state- from military personnel, border and prison guards, and police officers.

In addition, female sex workers are exposed to workplace male violence due to misogyny, which is affirmed by the World Health Organization. They state, “Most violence against sex workers is a manifestation of gender inequality and discrimination directed at women, or at men and transgender individuals who do not conform to gender and heterosexual norms, either because of their feminine appearance or the way they express their sexuality.”

Female sex workers can be exposed to physical, sexual, verbal and emotional violence from men in positions of power or male clients looking to exploit them. And because of how systematically  criminalized sex work is, sex workers are left legally vulnerable.

Ironically and consequently, men vehemently perpetuate all of the aforementioned discrimination towards female sex workers (and more), yet continue to expect sex from women they take on dates. It’s hypocritical. Therefore, it’s time men change their negative perception of women who engage in sex work. It would quite literally save lives and finally grant sex workers the legal protection they deserve and that is provided to everyone else. 

Not to mention, there are a lot of men who treat all women as if their body or time is for sale. Not every woman signed up for sex work, so men shouldn’t treat every woman as if she has. Everyone’s comfort level involving when, where, how and with who they have sex with are different. Women aren’t a monolith. If it’s so easy for men to accept sex work while contextualizing their involvement, it shouldn’t be so hard for men to respect female sex workers and their choice to utilize their own time or body how they see fit.


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