On Sunday 8 March, it’s International Women’s Day. To celebrate, Helen Lewis pays tribute to 10 inspirational feminists
A playwright, translator and spy, Behn (also known as Astrea) has a good claim to being the first Englishwoman to make a living out of her writing. In the centuries after her death in 1689, her plays were dismissed as indecent because of their focus on female sexuality (“The stage how loosely does Astrea tread/ Who fairly puts all characters to bed!” wrote Alexander Pope in 1737). Recent feminist scholars have rediscovered her writing, and have made the case that the publication of her prose fiction Oroonoko, the story of a slave, was a key moment in the development of the English novel.
Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
“Feminist: a person who believes in the social, political and economic equality of the sexes.” In the most high-profile pop-feminist moment of 2013, Beyoncé included these words – taken from a TED talk given by Adichie – on her single Flawless. In the talk, which has since been published as a book called We Should All Be Feminists, the Nigerian-born author asks: why are girls taught to shrink themselves, to compete for men, to limit their ambitions? She urges her audience to reclaim the word “feminist” and to say: “Yes, there’s a problem with gender as it is today, and we must fix it.”
“No one but a man can do this,” Nellie Bly’s editor told her in 1886 when she suggested travelling round the world in less than 80 days. She would need a protector, he said – and how would she ever carry all the luggage a lady would need on such a trip? Bly didn’t worry too much about the first quibble, and travelled light, crushing all her belongings into a single handbag. She made it home in 72 days. That wasn’t the first time the pioneering American journalist had attracted attention through her work – a year earlier, in 1887, she faked madness to go undercover in an asylum, exposing its poor conditions and abusive staff.
The list goes on from there. RTFA to learn about a few folks you may not know. And should.
Who would I add to the list? Angela Davis – who probably needs no introduction to folks under the age of 80. Occasionally, on her visits to the Northeast, I was one of her bodyguards.
Most especially, Elizabeth Gurley Flynn. I met the Rebel Girl in 1963, a year before she died. She was an inspiration to working women and men for decades. She paid for it with time in prison, hatred from fascists, proto-fascists, every flavor of apologist for the religion of corporate hierarchies owning and running our lives.
Marijuana dispensaries characterize it as a bit of a gold rush: the sudden swarm of thousands of people from in and out of Colorado trying to get into the state’s new recreational marijuana industry…
Since retail sales of recreational marijuana began in January, the state has seen a small boom in jobs. The Marijuana Industry Group estimates there are currently about 10,000 people directly involved with marijuana, with 1,000 to 2,000 joining in the past few months and more expected as high demand for recreational marijuana continues. MIG says it’s hard to separate how many of those 10,000 jobs are tied to recreational marijuana and which are exclusively on the medical side, but at least a few thousand jobs came during and after the preparation and start of recreational sales.
The estimate…doesn’t include other groups indirectly involved in the industry, including construction workers, accountants, plumbers, electricians, and attorneys. And it leaves out restaurants and other businesses who might benefit from out-of-state visitors going into Colorado to try out legal marijuana.
The marijuana industry doesn’t expect its growth to slow any time soon. And there’s good reason for that: at least during the first three months of retail sales, marijuana revenue grew from $14 million a month to $19 million a month…
A 2010 paper from the Cato Institute found legalizing marijuana would net all levels of the government $17.4 billion annually. Half of that would come from reduced spending, particularly for drug enforcement. The other $8.7 billion would come from taxing marijuana like alcohol and tobacco.
RTFA for individual success stories. Don’t hold your breath waiting for major media outlets to catch up to reality until the whole nation is on board, federal politicians start playing catch-up and the pope drops in to split a joint with Obama at a Denver ballpark.
Optimism works at the grassroots level. It takes a lot longer for our leaders to get on board.
Dozens of prominent Republicans — including top advisers to former President George W. Bush, four former governors and two members of Congress — have signed a legal brief arguing that gay people have a constitutional right to marry, a position that amounts to a direct challenge to Speaker John A. Boehner and reflects the civil war in the party since the November election.
The document will be submitted this week to the Supreme Court in support of a suit seeking to strike down Proposition 8, a California ballot initiative barring same-sex marriage, and all similar bans. The court will hear back-to-back arguments next month in that case and another pivotal gay rights case that challenges the 1996 federal Defense of Marriage Act.
The Proposition 8 case already has a powerful conservative supporter: Theodore B. Olson, the former solicitor general under Mr. Bush and one of the suit’s two lead lawyers. The amicus, or friend-of-the-court, brief is being filed with Mr. Olson’s blessing. It argues, as he does, that same-sex marriage promotes family values by allowing children of gay couples to grow up in two-parent homes, and that it advances conservative values of “limited government and maximizing individual freedom.”
…The list of signers includes a string of Republican officials and influential thinkers — 75 as of Monday evening — who are not ordinarily associated with gay rights advocacy, including some who are speaking out for the first time and others who have changed their previous positions…But the presence of so many well-known former officials — including Christine Todd Whitman, former governor of New Jersey, and William Weld and Jane Swift, both former governors of Massachusetts — suggests that once Republicans are out of public life they feel freer to speak out against the party’s official platform, which calls for amending the Constitution to define marriage as “the union of one man and one woman…”
In making an expansive argument that same-sex marriage bans are discriminatory, the brief’s signatories are at odds with the House Republican leadership, which has authorized the expenditure of tax dollars to defend the 1996 marriage law. The law defines marriage in the eyes of the federal government as the union of a man and a woman.
Congressional Republicans still have no qualms about spending taxpayer dollars to support a baseless law. One, in fact, that doesn’t represent the advancing position of the whole nation. That’s criminal compared to moderates who have decided to support a libertarian position on marriage now that they don’t have to run for re-election.
Mind – it’s not that I don’t think progressive Americans should deny their support. Hey, I wouldn’t even mind a Cardinal or two disagreeing with Rome about something as sensible as contraception. It’s just worth a chuckle at the hindsight that seems to appear when the pressure of appeasing the most ignorant and backwards members of a political party is removed.
Parents of children slain in the Connecticut school massacre held photos of their sons and daughters, cried, hugged and spoke in quavering voices as they called for a national dialogue to help prevent similar tragedies.
“I do not want to be someone sharing my experience and consoling another parent next time. I do not want there to be a next time,” said Nicole Hockley, whose son Dylan was among the 20 first-graders and six adults killed by a gunman a month ago at Sandy Hook Elementary School.
Members of the newly formed group Sandy Hook Promise spoke out as politicians from Maine to New Mexico marked the one month that has passed since the shooting with renewed demands for tighter gun control.
The Sandy Hook group says it wants to have open-minded discussions about a range of issues, including guns, mental health and safety in schools and other public places…
“We want the Sandy Hook school shootings to be recalled as the turning point where we brought our community and communities across the nation together and set a real course for change,” said group co-founder Tom Bittman…
…In Cranford, N.J., a group of mayors backing new restrictions were joined by a man whose 23-year-old son was shot to death in the 2007 massacre at Virginia Tech.
“I’m just one member of a Virginia Tech family, Newtown has theirs, Aurora has theirs, Tucson has theirs, and now we’re starting to come together,” Michael Pohle said. “This coalition is growing, and it’s going to become more powerful, and we’re going to have the ability to influence elections as well…”
It appears that despite protestations to the contrary, the Republican Party will carry on in the same vein as their recent electoral platform. Just as they attacked women’s rights, civil rights for the LGBT community, just as they would diminish the role of education and science in society, they are uniting behind the worst elements of the Gun Lobby.
Profits – once again – take precedence over human rights in the eyes of what used to be a responsible party. Relying on the demented cowards who fear government, furriners and atheists are about to invade their McMansions – the Republican Party has decided it is their responsibility in every state to oppose any sensible regulation of guns.
The shame is theirs. The responsibility to remember Sandy Hook is ours.
The Supreme Court has seized center stage in a historic social policy debate over same-sex marriage by agreeing to review the validity under the Constitution of a federal law defining marriage as a union between a man and a woman.
In an order, the court also announced that it would consider a challenge to California’s ban on gay marriage, known as Proposition 8, which voters narrowly approved in 2008.
Same-sex marriage is a hot-button issue in a country where 31 of the 50 states have passed constitutional amendments banning it while Washington, D.C., and nine states have legalized it, three of them on Election Day last month.
Yet even where it is legal, married same-sex couples do not qualify for a host of federal benefits because the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act, or DOMA, passed by Congress, only recognizes marriages between a man and a woman.
Gays and lesbians married under state laws have filed suits challenging their denial of such benefits as Social Security survivor payments and the right to file joint federal tax returns. They argue the provision, known as Section 3, violates equal protection provisions of the U.S. Constitution.
The court could follow the model of some lower courts and rule narrowly…or it could demonstrate the courage of previous courts and come down on the side of equal civil rights for all Americans, recognize a right to marriage equality.
My concerns are obvious, the same experienced by any American confronting the political theater our legal system has become. There is no shortage of bigots and fools who would apply the heart of constitutional freedoms only to a limited number of citizens. Egalitarian law applied to all citizens doesn’t occur to many who base their beliefs on superstition instead of science, privilege instead of equal opportunity.
I have more confidence in the legal flunkies of the Right who sit on the Supreme Court bench being more concerned – for once – with their image and reputation in future legal histories than with bending to the sound and fury of their class. It would be even more pleasing to see them stand up for the spirit of our constitution.
Daylife/Getty Images used by permission
Two months ago, the U.S. marked the 10th anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks. Sadly, we commemorated a tragedy without celebrating much triumph. The post-9/11 moment was an unheralded instance of national — even global — unity. The Bush administration could have used it for almost anything. And, to be fair, it did. The nation burned trillions of dollars in two wars and a budget-busting round of tax cuts. The president told us to go shopping, and the Federal Reserve held interest rates at extraordinarily low levels. The result? Deficits and a credit bubble. That was missed opportunity No. 1.
Three years ago, Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc. fell. The ensuing financial crisis dwarfed anything seen since the Great Depression…For a country with more than $2 trillion in unmet infrastructure needs, this is a remarkable opportunity. But it gets better. Weak global demand means raw materials are cheap. And the bursting of the housing bubble means unemployment in the construction sector is high. We can borrow at a bargain, buy at a bargain and ease the unemployment crisis in the hardest-hit sector of our economy, all while making desperately needed investments in our future competitiveness and quality of life.
Plus, if we don’t do it now, we’ll have to do it later. Delaying a dollar of bridge repair just means it’s a dollar we’ll have to pay later. And by that time, it might be more than a dollar, because it’s cheaper to repair a bridge than rebuild one that has crumbled.
So are we taking advantage of this opportunity? No. Are we seriously discussing it? No…That’s missed opportunity No. 2…
The Obama administration was able to use the aftermath of the financial crisis to pass health-care reform, which made a good start on both covering the uninsured and controlling costs. It also secured a package of financial- regulation reforms to limit the risks of another catastrophic meltdown. Today, Republicans want to repeal both laws, and if they win the next election, they might just get their wish. In the meantime, they’re defunding the implementation of the two laws, and bogging them down in the courts.
It’s entirely possible that we could wake in 2013 only to realize that we have made no durable progress on any of our pressing national problems over the course of the Bush and Obama presidencies, and have, in fact, made some problems worse. That would mean a loss of 12 years during which we could have been moving forward as a country. And we won’t be able to blame it on a lack of opportunities.
I don’t read Ezra Klein often enough to know if his remedies would have differed or agreed with mine as we trudged down this primrose path. Rules made by the incompetent and administered by the inept seem predestined to ennui and unproductive finger-pointing.
The hope we had following universal revulsion at Bush’s policies has been undone by reliance on uncreative legislation and leadership that smacks more of cowardice than clarity. Heading towards the potential of a second term for Obama versus a Republican party that wavers between simple-minded allegiance to corporate America and truly reactionary scumballs – I can’t rev up very much enthusiasm for one more election where I get to not vote for the evil of two lessers.
Like many of my colleagues in Silicon Valley, I was having a fantastic day today. It is crisp in the shade, warm in the sun. The skies are a magical blue with puffy clouds floating like dreams. And when all seemed to be going well, an email in my inbox — without as much as the new message sound — arrived: Letter from Steve Jobs. It was as if the inbox was observing the solemnnity of the occasion. It is an end of an era.
The first thought that ran through my head was about Steve’s health, and I thought to myself that this cannot be good. I don’t care about him being the CEO or head of Apple. What I really do care about is his health. He wouldn’t be making this decision unless things were pretty dire.
It is incredibly hard for me to write right now. To me, like many of you, it is an incredibly emotional moment. I cannot look at Twitter, and through the mist in my eyes, I am having a tough time focusing on the screen of this computer. I cannot hear the sounds of the street or the ring of my phone. The second hand on my watch moves slowly, ever so slowly. I want to wake up and find it was all a nightmare.
And while I wish for him to have more time with his family, I am also being very selfish. I will miss the thespian who made inanimate objects like a computer become a thing to behold. A few years ago, I compared Steve to Howard Hughes using the line, “Some men dream the future. He built it…”
Jobs (and by extension, Apple) has taught me (and I am sure others) a big lesson: If you want to change something, you have to be patient and take the long view. If Apple and Steve’s incredible comeback teaches us something, it’s that when you are right and the world doesn’t see it that way, you just have to be patient and wait for the world to change its mind.
Today, we are living in a world that’s about taking short-term decisions: CEOs who pray to at the altar of the devil called quarterly earnings, companies that react to rivals, politicians who are only worried about the coming election cycle and leaders who are in for the near-term gain.
And then there are Steve and Apple: a leader and a company not afraid to take the long view, patiently building the way to the future envisioned for the company. Not afraid to invent the future and to be wrong. And almost always willing to do one small thing — cannibalize itself. Under Steve, Apple was happy to see the iPhone kill the iPod and iPad kill the MacBook. He understands that you don’t walk into the future by looking back. If you do, you trip over yourself and break your nose.
Thank you, Om, for bringing insight and understanding to sadness. Thanks for opening the door to the future – that seemed like it was ready to be shuttered by the naysayers who never believed in anything enough to fight for it with their whole being.
Click the link in the post and read the whole letter. I’ve posted about half of it here.
A soldier who joined the French Foreign Legion after he was rejected by the British army on medical grounds is in line to be received into the Légion d’honneur for his bravery.
Alex Rowe, from Gloucestershire, was turned away by British recruiters as a teenager because he had a detached retina but, determined to follow a military career he signed up for the Légion étrangère, which accepts troops from any country.
Now 43, Rowe has served in the Gulf, the former Yugoslavia and has just returned from Afghanistan, where he earned his award after fierce fighting against the Taliban.
His mother, Jennifer…revealed that Rowe is to be received into the Légion d’honneur, the order established by Napoleon to recognise extraordinary service by military personnel and civilians…
Despite his history of visual problems, Rowe was first made a sniper and was known as a top marksman.
He was previously awarded for bravery while serving in Sarajevo after braving sniper fire to run across a city plaza and shield a mother and daughter from a hail of bullets. In all, his mother said he had already received four awards for bravery.
In Afghanistan he has been fighting alongside Britons, dozens of Russians, and others from as far as Algeria and China. He was involved in a gunbattle recently in which 10 comrades were gunned down.
My respect for courageous, brilliant members of any military is no surprise to regulars here. Day-by-day, the easiest way to distinguish between traditional conservatives and the occasional brain-dead right-winger who wanders in the door is understanding that many of us who fight against unjust and criminal wars don’t roll over and play dead just because we’re confronted with war.
We – I – also understand the traditions and obedience to standards required of someone who makes the decision for a military career. I consider myself fortunate to have marched against bigotry and reaction alongside brave veterans of anti-Fascist war, wars of national liberation.
Alex Rowe, I salute you.
The police officer who ended the Fort Hood massacre by shooting the suspect is known as the enforcer on her street, a “tough woman” who patrolled her neighborhood and once stopped burglars at her house.
“If you come in, I’m going to shoot,” Kimberly Munley told the would-be intruders last year.
It was Munley who arrived quickly Thursday at the scene of the worst massacre at an Army base in U.S. history, where 13 people were killed. She confronted the alleged gunman, Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan, and shot him four times. Munley was wounded in the exchange.
That’s just like her, friends and family say…
Munley, the mother of a 3-year-old girl, lives on a street where a lot of homes are vacant because so many residents are deployed at war in Iraq and Afghanistan…
“We sleep a lot safer knowing she’s on the block,” said Sgt. William Barbrow, another neighbor…
Her bio on Twitter makes the point: “I live a good life….a hard one, but I go to sleep peacefully @ night knowing that I may have made a difference in someone’s life.”
You surely made a difference, this time.
Our president said this – tonight.
Barack Obama in November 1991. He didn’t back down, back then, either.