Tag Archives: feminism

OPINION: Why are the bodies of Black and Brown women still up for political debate?

By Johannah Coichy

This past month, Planned Parenthood, a reproductive health care service provider, formally announced its decision to forgo Title X funding. According to NPR, this decision was in response to the Trump Administration’s gag rule, which refuses to allot federal aid to organizations that provide abortion counseling. As a federal grant program whose sole purpose is to fund nationwide family planning and reproductive health care services, Title X gives roughly $260 million to reproductive healthcare clinics all over the US. One of the program’s main beneficiaries? You guessed it, Planned Parenthood.

While Planned Parenthood’s refusal to accept Title X funding grants them favorable publicity for being an organization that is unwavering in their advocacy for comprehensive abortion counseling as a necessary component to reproductive health care, their decision to refuse funding ultimately hurts the communities they so ardently claim to help: low-income Black and Brown women.

My issue with this debate is a rocky one: as a Black woman who is a staunch pro-choice feminist, I am forced to reconcile the fact that the United States has a painful history of monopolizing and politicizing Black bodies, particularly female ones. The overt defunding of Planned Parenthood via Title X is a race issue, as much as it is an issue of public health, and of gender.

In other words: it’s 2019, and my Black, female, body is still political real estate. 

I’m particularly frustrated that after already receiving disparate care as is, that Black and Brown women continue to suffer at the hands of lawmakers and corporate officials willing to barter and gamble with the health of those already underserved and underrepresented.

It has always been difficult to admit my frustration and dissonance surrounding this present issue of reproductive health care in America. I strongly believe that everyone regardless of socio-economic status, background and/or gender identity has a right to comprehensive reproductive health care, including but not limited to: the prescription of birth control, physical examinations, STD testing, and abortion procedures. I also admire Planned Parenthood as an inherently political institution, and their willingness to stand firm on their beliefs at any cost. PP’s diligence is admirable, but the cost (?) not so much.

While newly inaugurated Planned Parenthood president, Alexis McGill Johnson has made it clear that clinics will continue to operate as before, using fundraising and emergency funds to continue to serve patients, she has also publicly recognized that low-income, Black and Brown, particularly those in rural areas, will suffer the most as a result. Planned Parenthood patients can expect longer wait times, appointment delays, and having to travel long distances just to find care.

What’s worse is the intricate technicalities of both Title X policy and the demands of family planning clinics like Planned Parenthood. Title X has never, I repeat NEVER funded abortion procedures. And according to a 2013-14 annual report from Planned Parenthood, abortion services make up only 3% of the services they provide. The technicality is that Planned Parenthood at this point is advocating for the funding of abortion counseling, rather than the abortions themselves.

So let me ask you this:

Can Planned Parenthood justify the outright refusal of Title X funds on these numbers alone? In the same vein—is the fight against conservative legislators and the Trump Administration worth the long-term collateral of patients who in the meantime are facing significant impediments to the care they not only need, but deserve?

No. Right?

My conundrum is this:

Planned Parenthood as a political force? Bad ass.

Planned Parenthood as a progressive medical institution? Idk fam.

For me there has to be some sort of balance. And it seems as if Planned Parenthood has, very publicly, chosen the overarching politics over the patients themselves. Such has been done countless times throughout history, especially policy concerning Black and Brown individuals. As the legacy of our predominantly white, male political institutions seem to suggest, the U.S has a history of politicizing Black bodies, and overtly leaving marginalized groups out of the conversations that concern them most.

I’m no doctor, and I am no lawmaker, but I can see the impact of this decision, and I say enough is enough. And I while I currently have very wavering faith in our government and political institutions, I am calling on progressive agencies like Planned Parenthood to be intentional in their practice. Choose patients. Period.


Resources on Planned Parenthood, Title X, and what “Defunding” means

https://time.com/5655500/planned-parenthood-title-x-funding/

https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/2019/08/19/planned-parenthood-withdraws-us-family-planning-funding/2055302001/

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/fact-checker/wp/2015/08/12/for-planned-parenthood-abortion-stats-3-percent-and-94-percent-are-both-misleading/

https://www.nytimes.com/2019/08/19/health/planned-parenthood-title-x.html

 

Featured image by Simone Noronha for NBC News

5 Flash Fiction Pieces to Celebrate Women’s History Month

By Annie Jonas

In honor of Women’s History Month, I have chosen 5 flash fiction pieces written by, or about, women. These pieces take no more than 5 minutes to read, and are perfect for any spare moments you have throughout your day.

 

  1. Break, by Rabih Alameddine

break
Image Source: Chloe Scheffe, The New Yorker

This piece chronicles the relationship between a sister and a brother who correspond over the course of seven years with just photographs. What is the reason for such a peculiar form of communication, you may ask? The narrator is a trans-woman whose family disowned her upon her transitioning, and threatened her brother not to speak or write to her without consequences. This story is a haunting portrait of the breaking and reparation of family, love, and loneliness.

“He broke first. I received a four-by-six portrait of his son with a slightly bleeding nose, taken hastily, badly lit, likely by a bathroom bulb. On the ten-year-old face, a thread of blood trickled from nose to upper lip, curving an ogee around the corner of the mouth and down the chin. The boy was in no pain; he looked inquisitively at the camera, probably wondering why his father had had the urge to bring it out.

I held my breath for a beat or two or three when I saw the image. On the back of the photograph Mazen had written, ‘I keep seeing you.’”

 

  1. Girl, by Jamaica Kincaid

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Image Source: Jefferson Wheeler

In this laundry list of dos and don’ts, demands, and warnings, Jamaica Kincaid exposes the unembellished realities of growing up as a girl in a patriarchal world. Written in 1978, in the height of the Second Wave feminist movement, Kincaid’s story feels just as personal as it does political. It is not flashy about its brilliance, and yet in its modesty it proves to be a nuanced masterpiece.

“this is how you smile to someone you don’t like too much; this is how you smile to someone you don’t like at all; this is how you smile to someone you like completely; this is how you set a table for tea; this is how you set a table for dinner; this is how you set a table for dinner with an important guest; this is how you set a table for lunch; this is how you set a table for breakfast; this is how to behave in the presence of men who don’t know you very well, and this way they won’t recognize immediately the slut I have warned you against becoming; be sure to wash every day, even if it is with your own spit; don’t squat down to play marbles—you are not a boy, you know”

 

  1. The Huntress, by Sofia Samatar

huntress

Image Source: Del Samatar

In this sci-fi fast fiction piece, an impossibly large female monster called The Huntress terrorizes the inhabitants of a city below. The narrator is a foreigner to this place and is fatally unprepared for the wrath of The Huntress. This piece weaves together intense sensory imagery with disorienting ambiguity; we, as readers, feel just as on-edge as the narrator.

“The Huntress left dark patches wherever she passed. She left a streak. In the morning, the hotel staff would find me unconscious, gummed to the floor. The proprietor weeping, for nothing like this had ever happened in his establishment, nothing. Had I not read the instructions on the desk?”

 

  1. Housewife, by Amy Hempel

amy-hempel

Image Source: VICE

In this one-sentence story, Amy Hempel humorously captures the pure delight of a cunning, two-timing housewife rejoicing in her latest affair. Hempel relays the sexual freedom and polyamorous nature of a modern-day woman who seeks her own pleasure first, and protocols second.

“She would always sleep with her husband and with another man in the course of the same day, and then the rest of the day, for whatever was left to her of that day, she would exploit by incanting, ‘French film, French film.’”

 

  1. John Redding Goes to Sea, by Zora Neale Hurston

zora-neale-hurstonjpg

Image Source: Fotosearch / Getty Images

Zora Neale Hurston is one of my all-time favorite female novelists as well as an iconic figure in feminist history. Although she is primarily known and celebrated for her novels, her fast-fiction and short stories are equally deserving of praise. In this piece, Hurston masterfully uses dialect to illustrate the story of John Redding, a ten-year-old daydreamer who imagines his backyard stream is a great sea.

“The little brown boy loved to wander down to the water’s edge, and, casting in dry twigs, watch them sail away downstream to Jacksonville, the sea, the wide world and John Redding wanted to follow them.

Sometimes in his dreams he was a prince, riding away in a gorgeous carriage. Often he was a knight bestride a fiery charger prancing down the white shell road that led to distant lands. At other times he was a steamboat captain piloting his craft down the St. John River to where the sky seemed to touch the water. No matter what he dreamed or who he fancied himself to be, he always ended by riding away to the horizon; for in his childish ignorance he thought this to be farthest land.”

For those who feel like they don’t have the time to read a full-fledged novel, or who desire a fast-paced narrative, fast fiction is the way to go. However, do not assume that just because these pieces are short, they are any less than a novel or a lengthier piece. Fast fiction is an important subgenre of literature because it stretches the expectations of what we perceive fiction to be. It teaches us to be creative and really think about the words we are writing. Fast fiction is a lean and efficient form; nothing is arbitrary. It is important that we read works like these so that we, too, may become better readers and writers.

For more fast fiction pieces, check out:

https://flashfictionmagazine.com/

http://www.100wordstory.org/

http://thecollagist.com/

https://everydayfiction.com/

WMN EMPWRMNT: MARINA GATINHO

By: Melissa Hurtado

Q: What does woman empowerment mean to you?

A: Women supporting other women. Encouraging each other. Lifting each other up. Pure kindness and positivity. It should never be about rising above men. Nor should it be about demeaning those who think differently. Anybody can partake in this movement for as long as they respect those principles.

 

Q: What does being a woman mean to you?

A: Being a woman… being a woman is… I could only think of my mom. She is a woman. My mom did it all on her own with four children; not to prove that she didn’t need a man in her life to help her become as successful as she is today, but to prove to herself that she is capable of getting shit done despite being a single mom. And I guess what I’m trying to say is that… it’s okay for women to be sensitive, empathetic, nurturing, etc…those are all beautiful qualities that should always be embraced (this applies to men as well)—we can still be CEO’s or Presidents because we are just THAT worthy…what, like it’s hard? (Yes, she quoted Elle Woods).

 

Q: What do you bring to the table when it comes to women empowerment?

A: I bring compassion. Compassion, period. We’re all going through the same shit and just trying to be the best versions of ourselves. I think it’s so important for both women and men to understand that concept…and, yeah, like… have some compassion. man, and all else will flow.

WMN EMPWRMNT: ASTRID DIANET ARROYO

By: Melissa Hurtado

 

Q: Que significa para ti empoderamiento de las mujeres?

A: Para mi el empoderamiento en las mujeres significa unión, fuerza y renacimiento. Unión porque cuando dos mujeres o mas están unidas nos defendemos aun sin tener algún tipo de relación y sin importar su raza, también demostramos al mundo que nosotras las mujeres somos capaces de realizar cualquier cosa que nos propongamos, siempre demostrando esa fuerza especial que nos distingue como mujeres. Renacimiento porque  somos ese vivo ejemplo de “Renacer”, que es reencontrarse con uno misma, seguir viviendo experiencias con nueva entrega y vivir la vida sin miedo a vivirla.

 

Q: En tus palabras, Que significa ser mujer para ti?

A: Para mi ser mujer significa dar vida y sentido a la vida, ser hermana y ser hija. Es ese género que da ejemplo del dicho que dice “Si te caes, levántate con mas fuerzas”. Es vivir en una lucha constante. Para mi el ser mujer es una bendición.

 

Q: Que traes a la mesa cuando se habla de empoderamiento de las mujeres?

A: Siempre que se habla del empoderamiento en las mujeres pongo de ejemplo a todas esas mujeres que nos representan dignamente, refiriéndome a mujeres con empoderamiento que actualmente ejercen labores que siempre se han dicho son para “hombres”, demostrando así la igualdad de genero, dando a demostrar que somos capaces de hacer y ejercer cualquier cosa que nos pongamos como meta.

 

8 Feminist Instagram Accounts You Should Be Following

By: Naomi Gewirtzman

Recently, I decided to reassess the way I use social media. I found that, like all of my peers, I was wasting countless hours a day mindlessly scrolling through feeds that largely consisted of fashion and fitness “influencers,” and it was getting exhausting. Studies show that social media is detrimental to mental health, especially in girls, largely due to the tendency for women to compare themselves to what they see on social media. This toxic Instagram culture advertizes unattainable lifestyles and promotes unrealistic and unrepresentative beauty standards; and the pressure of comparison promotes unhealthy competition between women. I decided to make a change. I wanted to be more mindful and intentional with the media I was consuming, so I went through every account I was following, and considered whether it was benefiting me and reflective of my values. If it wasn’t, I unfollowed and replaced it with accounts belonging to an array of diverse women with positive messages. Now, my time spent on social media is informative, intersectional, and empowering. Here are some of my favorite feminist Instagram accounts.

 

  1. @liberaljane

 Caitlin Blunnie is a feminist activist who makes gorgeous pieces related to feminism. Her feed is filled with drawings of diverse women, and she educates her followers about feminist issues through her art.

  1. @ocasio2018

Alexandria Ocasio Cortes is not only killing it in our House of Representatives, but she’s also killing it on Instagram. Known for her livestreams in which she interacts with her followers and explains current events and the duties of congress members, this New York representative is the perfect example of a politically engaged, empowered woman.

  1. @bopo_blossom

Jillian Leigh is a Columbia student on a mission to tear down diet culture. Through her posts, she educates her followers about body positivity, building a healthy relationship with food, and how every woman of every shape, size, and color is beautiful.

  1. @nowthisher

NowThis Her is a media company that posts videos highlighting stories relevant to women from all over the world. Following this account is a great way to stay up to date on global women’s issues that are underrepresented in other news sources.

  1. @the_tinder_queen

The Tinder Queen posts submissions of some of women’s worst experiences on Tinder. She educates men on the app about feminism and consent, and teaches her followers how to use dating apps safely and respectfully.

  1. @sheratesdogs

SheRateDogs is “like WeRateDogs but the dogs are your exes.” She exposes toxic ex boyfriends through followers’ submissions, and encourages women to leave unhealthy relationships and to acknowledge their worth.

 

  1. @catcallsofnyc

 CatCallsOfNYC takes submissions of her followers’ experiences with street harassment and in New York City. She then goes to the place where the harassment occurred and writes the quote in chalk to bring attention to the issue of catcalling. 

  1. @florencegiven

Florence is another artist who empowers women through her pieces. I love the use of color and sass in her artwork while she brings important feminist issues to attention.

Dysfunctional Mitten

By Marie Cantor

With the end of the semester fast-approaching, I’ve been thinking a lot about home.  The breezy air from the Great Lakes, the bustling sounds of Ford Road, and the ruthless certainty that the Detroit Lions will never make it to the Super Bowl. I’ve lived in Michigan

Williams, Izzie. My Detroit. 2016. Instagram @livingizzie, Detroit.
Williams, Izzie. My Detroit. 2016. Instagram @livingizzie, Detroit 

an my whole life. I’ve gone through the lows of Kwame Kilpatrickand the highs of the slow revival of the automotive companies. My whole life I was told Detroit is good, bad, and ugly. Currently, domestic violence in Wayne County–– the most populous county in Michigan, within which Detroit is included–– is on the rise.

Wayne County’s population is approximately 1.8 million, and Detroit accounts for roughly 37% of that population, according to the 2017 census. By comparison, twenty-eight Bostons can fit in one Detroit. Wayne County’s prosecutor, Kym Worthy, reports a noticeable increase in domestic violence in 2017. She explains that in 2017, the cases neared 9,000––thats about 2,000 more cases than average.[1]

Williams, Izzie. Unnamed. 2016. Instagram @livingizzie, Detroit.
Williams, Izzie. Unnamed. 2016. Instagram @livingizzie, Detroit.

There are 72 organizations in Michigan that provide services to people experiencing domestic violence.[2]Recently, Wayne State University created a new program to help survivors in the Metro Detroit area. Of the 11,341 rape kits found in 2009, those that were tested by the Detroit Police convicted 152 rapists.[1]Pursuits to combat domestic violence in Michigan are all in full force and taken seriously. So why this sudden influx of abuse in Metro Detroit?

Worthy notes a trend she calls, “the CSI effect.” Alluding to the overtly dramatic television show by the same name, this effect makes clear the phenomenon that jurors in the Wayne courtrooms expect theatrics. Jurors want lawyers screaming, and eye-witnesses crying; the jury expects the courtroom to reflect entertainment from television shows.  Prosecutor Worthy says this causes difficulties in performing due process.[1]In our culture, there is a thin line between reality and what we see in the media.We watch shows like CSI and Law & Order, and expect to have the same experience in the real world.

The aforementioned theory still doesn’t explain the increase in cases of domestic abuse. The Detroit Police has not given any formal statements or information on the matter. Frankly, there isn’t much talk in general, except for casual slips of information regarding the increase in Wayne County. Even Prosecutor Worthy gave a small statement with no new information, and claims that the police department is  ameliorating such situations. Despite this statement, all I personally see is useless talk and little action.  I realize that feminist programs continue fighting to help survivors every day, but officials still shirk from solving issues sprouting from lack of communication.    

Williams, Izzie. The Beauty of the Broken. 2017. Instagram @livingizzie, Detroit.
Williams, Izzie. The Beauty of the Broken. 2017. Instagram @livingizzie, Detroit.

Detroit is not an outlier in this issue. In our society, there is an abundance of programs to help survivors, which is fantastic, but there is no education on how to prevent violence in the first place. The question still stands–how can you tell someone not to be an abuser?

Relationship education is not stated in the sex education obligations providing by Michigan Department of Education.[3]In early education, there needs to be a standard of instructing what a healthy relationship looks like. Instead teachers are instructed to stressabstinence from sex.

Where are the statements? Why are there no questions? Why is there more domestic violence? We claim “Detroit vs Everybody” but it seems we are only fighting ourselves. There is no point of promoting strength when we are still crumbling through the cracks. Detroit is trying to rebuild its economy with fancy bars and cute decorations. But the people of Detroit are being forgotten. 

      

 

 

 

[1]Jachman, Matt. “Wayne County Prosecutor Talks CSI Effect, School Threats, Domestic Violence in Town Hall Meeting.” HometownLife, 5 Dec. 2018, www.hometownlife.com/story/news/2018/12/05/kym-worthy-talks-csi-effect-school-threats-more-town-hall-meeting/2161061002/.

 

[2]“Michigan Domestic Violence Help, Programs and Statistics.” DomesticShelters.org, www.domesticshelters.org/mi/michigan-domestic-violence-help-statistics.

 

[3]“HIV/STD and Sex Education in Michigan Public Schools: A Summary of Legal Obligations and Best Practices.” SOM – State of Michigan, Department of Education, www.michigan.gov/documents/mdch/Michigans_Sex_Education_Laws_Summary_303019_7.pdf

WMN EMPWRMNT: GABRIELLE MONTES DE OCA

By Melissa Hurtado

GABRIELLE MONTES DE OCA

Q: What does woman empowerment mean to you?

A: Women empowerment means sisterhood and solidarity.

Every woman on this planet is fighting the same fight each and every day. No matter how different two women are, they likely share similar experiences when it comes to gender-based oppression. These experiences connect women in a unique way- it makes us sisters and sisters stand together.

Q: What does being a woman mean to you?

A: Womanhood means freedom and possibility, but when it doesn’t, it means stoicism and strength.

Being a woman allows me to safely explore what it means to be pretty. Femininity and prettiness are intertwined, and as a woman, I get to have fun with both. I also get to be vulnerable and sensitive with those I trust. I have deep, meaningful friendships with men and women. Men are not as safe doing the same.

However, as a woman, I have faced danger and limitations. My parents raised me with fear, afraid of how the world could hurt me so they did their best to control and shelter me for as long as they could. It came with love “but a caged bird stands on the grave of dreams.”

I can’t blame them- I have felt fear when I would walk home and strange men would yell at me, or when I would get stared at on the metro, or when I got followed to my car, or when I was flashed in a university parking lot, or when a faculty member at university tried to force me into an embrace.
In these events, as a woman, I have to stand my ground and be strong.

Q: What do you bring to the table when it comes to women empowerment?

A: I bring vegan, love filled donuts, an open mind, a big heart, and loads of La Croix.

WMN EMPWRMNT: Alexandra Marie Vargas

Photography and Interview by Melissa Hurtado

ALEXANDRA MARIE VARGAS

Q: What does woman empowerment mean to you?

A: Woman empowerment is what allows us, women, to comfortably have a mind of our own. It’s what allows us to express how we feel and do what we love. It is freedom. It is a step closer to being equal to one another as it should be.

Q: What does being a woman mean to you?

A: To be a woman is to be brave. to be bold. to be strong. to be love. I believe it isn’t the easiest role, but one of the most beautiful ones.

Q: What do you bring to the table when it comes to women empowerment?

A: What I bring to the table in focus of woman empowerment is knowledge, ingenuity, and kindness. I feel that they play such a big role in woman empowerment for individuality. Knowledge binds us with ourselves and allows us to open our mind to know more than what we’ve been told to do or feel. Bringing out our own ingenuity that differentiates one from another. With kindness, we accept and love one another.

Curls

Originally published in our Spring 2018 Reader, Dev Blair’s poem “Curls” is one of two prose poems that “tell a part of the story of a young femme wrestling with the ways in which they meet the world and the ways in which the world meets them.”

In their abstract, Blair explains that:

“In Curls, I draw parallels between my hair’s relationship to relaxers and my relationship to men, using the comparison to analyze the ways that I’ve been mistreated by the men in my life. While the terms “queer” and “non-binary” don’t feature in the poem itself, the experiences I describe within are inextricably tied to those parts of my identity, by virtue of how these things influence which men I interact with and how I am seen by them.”

If you are interested in buying a physical copy of the reader, email hoochie@bu.edu ! We are selling them for $5.


[ Content warning: for mentions of depression ]

Curls

by Dev Blair

For a long time, I didn’t quite understand the term “natural.”

See, I knew that curls grew from my scalp naturally and I also understood that I could see my curls intertwine and loc beautifully—if I ever stop tryna cop Britney’s ’‘07 hairdo every time I have a breakdown.

But what I didn’t get was how we could name our curls—something so deeply personal and meaningful—”natural,” as if to make them sound normal, mundane, or palatable.

See, I don’t want my curls to be something you can stomach, another vaguely ethnic dish for white eyes to consume.

My curls are something your combs cannot tame, your brushes cannot beat back, your razors cannot cut down.

My curls are twisted and kinky and they like to play rough.

Relaxers hide their faces in shame when they see my curls, gettin’ clowned on in their workplaces for lack of game, their own failure to play aces, ultimately to blame for their inability to run bases and tame my militant curls.

Like men disappoint me, so too do relaxers disappoint my curls. Inviting them in with promises of beauty and a future, they leave them desolate and lifeless after extracting every ounce of magic and joy from their being. Slinking down the drain, they take my curls’ hopes and dreams and parts of themselves with them.

Capitalizing on my curls’ labor and my curls’ abuse, relaxers are like men to me, suitors that preach and preen over how faithful they’ll be, only to treat our “unruliness” as a liability.

White cream slathered on black curls, like white men slobbering over black girls, suffocating them with their emotional unavailability, then leaving them a little more broken than they were found, even though it’s been years since they were chained and bound to Eurocentricity’s straight and narrow Middle Passage.

Postcolonial as in post relaxer as in post heart break post break up postmodernism, this is a poem posted like a notice on every door and Facebook wall saying that I’m better off without them. And so are my curls.

My beauty is achieved, not defaulted. My strength is earned, but not exalted unless it can be used to turn a profit.

My pretty smells of hard work and healthy routines learned from unhealthy habits and a history of hurt. My curls shine with a radiance not natural nor innate but learned from every trial that turned out to be a mistake. She must learn to love themself, because others don’t care to take the time to learn how to love me.

My curls have got it on loc because when I unlocked my heart for you, instead of with it you ran away with the key and so now only rage spills out, with no kiss to fix it or stop it up.

With each beat of my thoroughly disappointed heart, the rage rushes to my ears, breaking every part of myself I curated like fine art. As I crumble into sadness, the blood pounds with the barking madness of hell hounds bounding after their-query for you: “did it feel good to waste my time?” Before the answer can be found, my innocence dies like the Virgin Hairy, killed by sounds in my head of “you’re undesirable,” and “you’ll never marry,” and I am left limp and wet and barely recognizable.

Solange wrote a catchy song about it, so y’all get it already, right?

But see, you don’t. Because my curls are not just the feelings I wear, but the product of the pain I bear and the parts of myself I refuse to share and the things that I talk about in prayer.

I am not natural. Neither are my curls. We are more than you could ever hope to call natural—after all, what is natural about a body ravaged by the politics of desirability?

See, love is a battlefield and my body is the site of war. Y’all come into my life, fuck shit up, then call me whore so now I can’t sleep. I can’t rest or lay down and neither can my curls, and girls, that’s how we all got our razor-sharp edges-from pain so intense, we can’t even weep. That’s why I shave my head like I’m shearing a goddamn sheep, so if you want my curls, know that the price is steep. Don’t hurt me so deep that I can’t keep myself together. If you can avoid that and ease my bleeding heart, help me heal from the times I fell apart, then and only then do you deserve to look at my curls.

Boston Marriage: Historical (Ace) Lesbians

By Kylie McCuiston

I was first introduced to the term “Boston Marriage” in my first-year English class, Gender and Sexuality in Nineteenth Century Literature, when we were reading a short story titled “Two Friends” by Mary E Wilkins Freeman. It was a story about two women who lived together their entire lives independent of any male support. The two were clearly more than friends, but due to the constricting nature of the time period, their romance was only hinted at through veiled descriptions and the story ended with one of them dying (playing in, no doubt, to the “bury your gays” trope).

While this story sounds radical for the time period, it was common enough to merit a term for it. The term “Boston Marriage” derives from Henry James’ book The Bostonians, which was the first account that described this sort of phenomenon that was occurring. Usually the two women that lived together did so out of a mutual benefit, so that they could pool their assets together and live the lives they wanted to live without the limitation that would be placed on them if they were to enter in to a traditional marriage.

Though this term was in use during the nineteenth century, it was meant only to convey the fact that the women were living together, not necessarily that they were lovers, which is why this type of arrangement was accepted with little criticism. Looking back, historians can make conjectures as to whether some of these Boston Marriages were sexual or romantic in nature but we can never be certain. It would be remiss to dismiss them all as platonic however. While some were most likely sexual in nature, some were also simply romantic in nature and could be described as a form of asexuality back then.

Mary E Wilkins Freeman based most of her stories off of personal experiences and was herself in a Boston marriage with a woman named Mary Wales. The two lived together for almost two decades. Within this climate, Mary E Wilkins Freeman was able to write and publish freely and became a successful, independent author. Her disdain for traditional marriage is mirrored in another feminist short story of hers titled “A New England Nun” which tells about a woman who refuses to marry because she is content to live entirely independent for the rest of her life.

Whether or not the women in these Boston Marriages were lesbian or not, they at least demanded an early form of independence that we do not typically associate with the nineteenth century women. Many were independent writers and artists with their own flourishing careers and like Mary E Wilkins Freeman, made works that mirrored this independence.