Tag Archives: women

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

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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

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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

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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/

Tina Belcher, an Iconic Animated Character

By: Rachel Harmon

If you have not seen Bobs Burgers, you need to start. Not only is this an iconic animation series for young-adults, but also has one of my favorite animated characters ever: Tina Belcher. She is the oldest of her two siblings and her family owns a Burger Shop. She is the awkward girl we all were at some point in our lives (or still are). She gives us many cringy but hilarious moments in every episode. She may have minimal social skills and may not understand what is socially acceptable as a teenager girl, but she is happy with who she is and refuses to be like everyone else. Some of her most notable quirks are her fantasies about Jimmy Junior, her erotic friend fiction, AND her obsession with BUTTS. She is definitely one of the most empowering animated female characters I have ever watched because she expresses her real feelings, even if they are “weird.” It is difficult for a teenage girl to be herself unapologetically, but Tina owns it. Tina is my animated icon and she should be yours too.

Please enjoy one of my favorite Tina moments, because like her, I appreciate a good butt.

Tina Belcher giphy

Confronting Flaws One Facebook Message at a Time

By: Marie Cantor

In today’s media, we have seen many realistic women enter our screens. Film and television production companies are finally seeing the value of creating three dimensional, complex female characters. Now, the flaws of these female characters are central to their behavior, which is quite different from the past where women were either seen as perfect or as victims. In this new era of media and female representation, we are beginning to accept women for their flaws. Women, just like everyone else, are humans, and are therefore flawed as well.  

On December 19th, 2018, I confronted my middle school bully. And when I say “confront,” I mean I wrote a lengthy message on

Me in elementary. Done for an art project in the 8th grade
Me in elementary. Done for an art project in the 8th grade

Facebook. When I say “bully,” I mean a girl that loudly insulted me in my 8th grade English class. It’s not the most conventional bully story, but nonetheless, it affected me in more ways than just one. 

Let me set the scene for you. I am 13 years old, wearing an ill-fitting t-shirt and low-rise jeans. My English class smells as if every adolescent drowned themselves in expired Axe body spray. When I stood up from my seat, “Susan” shouted an insult at me pertaining to my appearance. Looking back, I can almost justify the remark since I did take fashion advice from the early 2000s, despite the fact that it was 2012.

The class grew quiet. All eyes were on me. I felt like a street performing monkey who had just failed the magic trick. From what I remember, I laughed awkwardly in order to appear as if I were in on the joke.

Even though this might seem insignificant, this moment stuck with me. As the years passed, I grew more curious as to why Susan did this. We were never enemies, friends, or even frenemies. We barely knew each other. Of course, I can now attribute her anger to the awkward years of middle school, or maybe to the fact that she needed an outlet for that anger. But I wanted an answer.

So, I found her on Facebook and decided to send a message. I attempted to write the best message a person could write in this situation—unaccusatory and understanding. I had immediate senders regret, but there was no turning back.

A couple days pass and I get a response:

Hey love, even though I may not remember I still want to apologize. That was very rude of me and I can only imagine how bad my comment made you feel I am very sorry. I hope you know that you were beautiful and talented and all that you do always believe in yourself and strive for your full potential.

That wasn’t the response I had wanted.

To be frank, I expected too much from the situation. I can’t deny that her message was kind, but it was also safe. And safe in the way of disingenuousness. I realized that the message was in response to drama from 8 years prior, and that I shouldn’t have been surprised that I didn’t receive as satisfying of an answer as I had hoped for.

I may never get a why from Susan, and that’s perfectly fine. She doesn’t owe me any explanation for something that was trivial middle school angst.

I think what struck me was the overwhelming positive support I received by others on Facebook. No one questioned my morals. There were just blind compliments. The positive reinforcement, however nice it was, felt strange.

It felt strange because I am not a perfect individual. I am flawed. I am not the airbrushed and groomed femme-fatal of cinema’s past. I am not a victim. I, the bullied, was also a bully. I have been confronted by someone who I had bullied 10 years ago. Fortunately, we were able to talk, move past it, and build a strong friendship.

One slogan used by many feminists is “Babes Supporting Babes.” To many people, it is used to support other women. And while I am wholeheartedly for female empowerment, this phrase is support at a surface level. Support should not mean blind reassurance of ourPicture1 beauty and our talent, as Susan had told me. Support is accepting the flaws that are found within us and grabbing them by the throat. We must embrace our flaws through moments of self-conflict and self-reflection–– like the urge to message a bully at 3am. A babe supports another babe by challenging her to overcome the obstacles that society brings.

Women are taken advantage of when they are seen as perfect. Women should be seen as flawed individuals who have to prove themselves just as much as the next person. For decades, the image of the “flawless women” was an excuse to see her as inferior–– “The flawless must be dumb.” I want to be challenged as a whole being, even by my flaws. I find that empowering. We get enough of the superficial from the posters in corny teenage magazines. It’s time for true support.

How Does Maggie Rogers Do It?

By Avery Serven

“Cut my hair so I could rock back and forth without thinking of you” might just be one of the most empowering musical lines to come our way. The phrase comes off the song “Alaska” from Maggie Rogers’s debut album, Heard It In A Past Life, which was released on January 18, 2019.

The 24-year-old singer-songwriter has been well-known in the alternative genre since the release of her first EP, Now That the Light Is Fading, in 2017. This EP captures Rogers while she is still a student at NYU, grappling to find her own voice in the sellout world of music. Songs like “Color Song” and “On + Off” show a style of music that is inspired by both folk and pop, with ethereal sounds highlighting her powerful voice.

Heard It In A Past Life moves away from this to signify a new stage in her life. Rogers deviates from her folk/indie roots to produce a record that sounds more like something from Haim or Sylvan Esso. The record seamlessly blends various themes together, such as maturity, heartbreak, and uncertainty. This allows for a personal connection between Rogers and her listeners. The result of this personal connection are songs that can only be described as being “uniquely Rogers.”

An echoing beat calls the listener to the dance floor, establishing Rogers’s distinctive sound in the first track off the album, “Give a Little.” Rogers’s raspy, yet strong, voice admits: “If I was who I was before / Then I’d be waiting at your door / But I cannot confess I am the same.” The upbeat background music, combined with Rogers’s melodic excitement about pursuing a new love, sets a tone for the album that is both nostalgic and hopeful for the future.

Rogers continues to show that she is not afraid of change in “Overnight,” a song about making peace with the fact that people change. “Overnight” is a great example of Rogers’s effortless key changes, which appear in almost all of her songs, giving her a distinctive and genuine sound. The song marks a time of transition in Rogers’s life, with her lyrics emphasizing an acceptance of the unknown.

Rogers’s music is so impressive that the listener should feel honored just to take part in it. This can be felt in “Say It,” a sultry tune about denying your romantic feelings for someone. The song manages to capture the tricky feeling of falling in love despite knowing that it may not be a good idea. A synthesizer beat with a futuristic sound, combined with Rogers’s silky voice sailing through the lyrics, gives the listener the privilege of feeling this emotion at Rogers’s level.

Maggie Rogers is a truly original artist, with both her voice and her words carrying beauty and honesty. She is no longer a young undergrad trying to find her path amidst a whirlwind of emotions. Rogers is mature and reflective now, honing a signature musical style that reveals that she has not necessarily moved past that whirlwind, but rather has come to embrace it.

WMN EMPWRMNT: PHANESIA LAURE PHEREL

By: Melissa Hurtado

Q: What does woman empowerment mean to you?

A: Women empowerment for me includes the liberation of the various intersections of gender from trans gender and nonbinary individuals to the roles of that race and financial strains placed on us.

Q: What does being a woman mean to you?

A: Being a woman is holding all the power in the world but not being sure how to use it.

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

A: I bring to the table a passion to see the world be a better place.

Lost Latina Leaders: Luisa Moreno and the Labor Movement

By Samantha Delgado

Despite being overlooked by a large portion of historians, Latinas played a huge part within the American labor movement. The Latinx community faced higher percentages of living on poverty-level wages than white women, and they were more likely to work in farm work, blue-collar work, and temporary work. These jobs left little for moving up or into other higher paying occupations, and contained harsh working condition. Latinas specifically had the lowest rate of unionization amongst all other groups. Thus, when the chance arose to combat the disparities and disadvantages facing them, Latinas took it and shaped it to fit the needs of their communities.

Latinas took the labor movement as a way to organize their community and uplift themselves from some of the issues that affected them and their community most. In the early to mid 1900s, Mexican and Mexican-American women in the seasonal canning industry in California were able to form one of the largest, most effective labor unions: The United Cannery, Agricultural, Packing and Allied Workers of America (UCAPAWA). As half of the total UCAPAWA’s total membership, numbers showed that Mexican women had the highest percentages of executive board-trustee posts, negotiating-organizing posts, and social and community service positions in UCAPAWA, even compared to their male counterparts. Latinas used the labor movement to heighten their consciousness as females and ethnic minorities facing inequalities in the workplace, and develop organizing strategies of their own.

UCAPAWA also produced one of the most influential Latina leaders of the time: Luisa Moreno. Moreno has been noted as one of the unknown heroes of the labor movement, due to the lack of depth and recognition she receives outside of Latinx history. Her work in the labor movement paved the path for Linda Chavez-Thompson and other Latina labor leaders alike. From Tampa cigar-rolling plants, New York City garment shops, and canneries in Los Angeles, she organized in various communities for workers across the country. Moreno would go on to become the Vice President of UCAPAWA, making her the first-ever female V.P. of a major union. Using her power as a leader in several communities, Moreno organized the first national Latino civil rights assembly, as well as a Mexican Civil Rights committee in San Diego. She spoke out on racial profiling and police brutality against Mexican-Americans as well as other ethnic minorities. Sadly, she was deported due to a major operation against Mexican and Mexican-Americans. It is devastating not just to the Latinx community, but to the history of the labor movement that her story and work has often gone overlooked. Moreno is not the only Latina who has been ignored by historians, and it is crucial that as scholars, we dig deeper into history and give light to the unsung heroes of the Latinx community.

UCAPAWA was just one example of the many ways Latinas used the labor movement to understand their own concerns as both women and Latina (and what those two parts of their identity mean). It showed how they came together collectively to organize for their issues, negotiate their benefits as workers, and take active leadership roles both within and outside the unions.

Despite being ignored by historians, Latina union membership grew from 500,000 to 3.5 million in a span of 7 years during the early to mid 1900s. Our history–– Latinx history–– has been repeatedly ignored, and therefore, young Latinx people lack the encouragement to get involved with their communities, like Moreno did. Latinas like Moreno deserve their work and contribution to be recognized. By telling others about Moreno’s work, and getting involved in our own communities, we can give her and other Latina leaders the recognition they deserve.

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.

Terms You Should Know #4: Sex Positivity

By Nicole Rizzo

Here’s a brief definition of sex positivity from the Women and Gender Advocacy Center at Colorado State University at http://www.wgac.colostate.edu/sex-positivity:

“Like many terms within feminism, sex positivity means different things to different people. As a broad ideology and world view, sex positivity is simply the idea that all sex, as long as it is healthy and explicitly consensual, is a positive thing.”

Sex positivity resonates with the message of various social and philosophical movements (i.e. body positivity) that aim to critique and deconstruct (hetero)normative social mores that exclude and marginalize different groups of people. As an increasingly inclusive notion, sex positivity is a means to celebrating the complex, diverse, and expansive nature of sexuality. Its strict focus on consent serves as an ideological tool for combating issues related to sexual assault, domestic violence, and other forms of gender-based violence.

Sex positivity is not something that endorses the idea that “if someone really loves sex” (an idea which this term does not necessarily connote either) then that allows an individual to judge others for their sexual activity or orientation. It is not about judging others. It is not about exclusion. Sex positivity promotes people, pleasure, and people giving/receiving pleasure.

See Dr. Carol Queen, educator, writer, sociologist, sexologist, and sex-positive feminist, at http://goodvibesblog.com/sex-positivity/ for more on what sex positivity is and is not!

 

*Content above based on lecture by Dr. Carol Queen at BU CGSA and from her blog: http://goodvibesblog.com/sex-positivity/

Why is this term relevant:

The message of sex positivity is one of inclusion that encourages healthy and consensual sex!

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Photo courtesy: http://venusplusx.org/want-teens-to-have-positive-sexual-health-sex-positivity-can-help-with-that-2/

Watch this video about sex positivity: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DVwQdE7wIQA

TYSK #3: Misandry (and why it’s not a thing)

Misandry (definition: hatred of men) is not a thing.

This is a controversial statement to make.

However, when feminists use this catchy slogan, we are completely aware of the fact that there are, indeed, situations in which men are disadvantaged by their gender. We are not disputing this fact, we are simply pointing out that, given the current reality that men hold the “one-up position” in society, true misandry does not occur and cannot occur on a large enough scale for it to merit the same amount of attention and activism that misogyny does. In other words, the current societal climate necessitates that issues of misandry are not our primary concern.

Hence, the feminist slogan, “Misandry is not a thing”.

Feminists are consciously refusing to spend an equal amount of time and effort addressing misandry, because an equal amount of time and effort should not be allocated to solve the subsidiary issues of the privileged group.

Even so, often in the midst of conversation regarding feminism someone points out how men are left out of the discussion. This person (if not arguing from the standpoint that feminism is secretly advocating  men’s oppression) argues that if feminists wish to get men on their side, they ought to include talk about both men and women’s issues. Focusing solely on women supposedly alienates the people feminists need to ally with in order to enact social change.

This is why there is such opposition to the term “Feminism” as used to describe the movement towards gender equality. If it is a movement based on eliminating pernicious social norms and structures which disadvantage both men and women, why not call it “Equalism” or something of the like?

The answer is that feminism is named thusly to put the focus on the disadvantaged group: women. The pernicious social norms and structures are damaging to women far more often than they are to men. This is true to such an extent that in our society, the supposedly neutral human – the default – is a man. So when we choose to use the term “Feminism,” or the slogan “misandry is not a thing,” we do so intentionally to direct the focus to the group who is most often ignored, underrepresented, and harmed.

Yes, men, we need you on the side of feminism for this whole thing to work. But we do not need to mitigate our efforts to solve women’s issues by addressing misandry as much as we address misogyny. To do so would be to enforce male privilege, not lessen it. The process of achieving equality of the sexes requires men to give up their privileges, one of which is their expectation to be included in and catered to by every institution and discussion.

Feminists are not in any way advocating the systematic oppression of men by using the slogan “Misandry is not a thing.” We are not telling men that it is impossible that their gender could somehow disadvantage them, either. We are simply asserting the point that misandry, here and now, in this discussion, is not relevant. Misogyny is.

The unfortunate day could hypothetically arrive when men are the underprivileged group and misandry does merit our attention, but that day is nowhere in the near future. Those who cry “Misandry!” when they hear “Feminism!” need to stop yelling fire before someone has even lit a candle.

For further reading:

If I Admit That ‘Hating Men’ Is a Thing, Will You Stop Turning It Into a Self-Fulfilling Prophecy?

Sorry, Men, You’re STILL Not Oppressed: Reexamining the Fallacies of “Misandry”

This post was written in partial response to:

On the Misandry Isn’t a Thing Thing