Dare to Use the F-Word

Happy Galentine’s Day! Galentine’s Day is a Leslie Knope-invented holiday that celebrates lady friends. Valentine’s Day is for romance, Galentine’s Day is for friendship. One of the most fun parts of being a feminist is learning to reject all the girl-hate we’ve been taught and embrace the incomparable awesome-ness of having lady friends.

In that spirit, I’m happy to share Dare to Use the F-Word, an exciting podcast project out of Barnard College. One of the coolest, most grounded, and most intellectually engaged feminists I know is a Barnard graduate. It’s been interesting to hear her talk about her experiences with feminism while being a student there, and it’s exciting to see the direction feminist discourse is taking on the campus.

Dare to Use the F-Word is great. I live alone and don’t have a television, so I spend a lot of my downtime listening to public radio and podcasts. Dare to Use the F-Word is wonderful and I’ve really enjoyed listening to the episodes. More on the podcast, and an excerpt from President Debora Spar’s recent interview on the podcast can be found below, in a post republished from Barnard’s website.

Dare to Use the F-Word is a new monthly podcast series created by and for young feminists. Street harassment, food activism, body image and slut-shaming are among the diverse issues discussed in the series, which is produced by Barnard College and the Barnard Center for Research on Women and aims to spotlight contemporary issues and activists. The podcast is available for download on iTunes, where you can also subscribe to the series.

In a recent episode, Barnard President Debora Spar, author of Wonder Women: Sex, Power, and the Quest for Perfection, talks with feminist media activist Jamia Wilson about how the drive for perfection affects young women today. Following the interview, President Spar shared her thoughts on the direction of feminism for the next generation.

Read this exclusive piece below:

Since the release of Wonder Women several months ago, one of the questions that I’ve consistently been asked is “how is feminism different today? What do you hear on campus? Do young women want to be feminists, or not?”  It’s a complicated question, without an easy answer.  Because young women, of course, don’t speak with a single voice or share a common attitude.  Some are quick to embrace the term feminist.  Others despise it. And many – sadly, for the mothers and grandmothers who opened doors for them – no longer really have a sense of what the word implies.

My own view – shaped, I’m sure, by the particular environment of Barnard College, a staunch and early defender of feminism in all its many guises – is that most young women today are feminist in nature if not in name.  What I mean is that they implicitly assume that the goals that feminism fought for are theirs to claim.  They assume, for instance, that they will work, for pay, for at least long stretches of their lives.  They assume that all jobs – be they in finance or law or public office or industry – are open to them, and that they will receive roughly the same salaries as their male co-workers.  They assume that their bodies are theirs to enjoy, and treasure, and share as they wish.  They presume that birth control is widely available; that relationships are theirs to make, break, and determine; and that the world is every bit as open to them as it for their brothers.  In other words, they think, without even thinking about it, that they have equal rights with men.  Which was, after all, the central goal of feminism.

What they don’t do, necessarily, is credit the feminist movement for this state of affairs, or eagerly claim the label of feminist for themselves. This is perhaps unfortunate but also understandable.  Because how many young people generally race to thank their ancestors for bequeathing the world they did?  How many adolescents want to attach themselves to the same political causes as their parents or grandparents – especially when they feel as if those causes have already been fought for and won? Or as one older woman once expressed it to me:  how many hard-core feminists of the 1960s defined themselves as suffragettes?

To be sure, there are many young women today who proudly wear the label of feminism, and are expanding both advocacy and theory in fascinating ways: leading the global fight against sex trafficking, for example, speaking out against domestic violence, and pushing at the very definitions of sex and gender and identity.  But there are others, too, the reluctant feminists, who carry the mantle even if not the name.

Continue the conversation by spreading the word about the amazing feminists we cover on our show. Click to tweet: Listen to Barnard College’s Dare to Use the F-Word podcast series to hear how young women are reshaping feminism. http://bit.ly/IDIgGg

Thanks to Alex for sharing this post with Angry Feminist Killjoy and have a very happy Galentine’s Day!

DOMA: The fight is not over yet.

I’m late getting this posted, but am so pleased to have Katherine back with another great guest post! Katherine previously shared “My Love Matters” with us. If you haven’t read that, please do, and visit Katherine at her blog, A Collection of Lights.


For weeks I have been a little anxious. Dreams about something specific – some happy, some awful – have plagued me. On Wednesday morning, when I woke up, I immediately pulled my laptop into bed and began scouring the webpage that was already open.

It’s an interesting morning when your right to marry (i.e. right to be treated as a legitimate human being) is being decided.

I live with my partner, Marisa, and I don’t know that I could be happier. I want to be married to her. I want our love to be worth something to the country – and world – we call home. I was overjoyed when I learned that DOMA and Prop 8 were overturned. This is a huge step! One of many, to be sure, but a step all the same.

As the day progressed, however, my thoughts grew darker. In my Sexual Behaviors class, the professor knew nothing of the Supreme Court’s actions as he lectured on – who would have guessed? – gay people. I am a quiet individual, but I could not help but find the courage to point out the stride made that morning. When I learned that he had “no idea” the cases were even to be decided, I waited a few minutes and walked out, fuming. Look, the guy is straight, white, and has two kids. He just came back from a vacation during which he acquired the stomach flu. While I am more than willing to give him some leeway, his apathy toward my goddamn rights infuriates me.

This, combined with the fresh realization of how virulent opposers of queers can get, soured the brightness I felt somewhat. My right to be treated the same as any other human being has nothing to do with religion. Marriage is not the whole point. Marriage is not about religion, either. I’m an atheist, too, and it isn’t any concern of yours.  Frankly, my sexuality is none of your goddamn business. While it may chafe at my delicate fucking sensibilities, it does not matter to me what you think of who or how I love. My sexuality does not make me abnormal. Sexuality is anything but black and white. Who one has sex with does not dictate sexuality, necessarily! Were this about sex, I am not certain I would feel the desire to be in a relationship at all. Hell, the definition of sex is murky enough as it is (though lesbian sex certainly is sex, fuckers). The rhetoric surrounding sex and marriage in this country is awful and largely without scientific merit.

In simpler terms: if you would like to talk to me about gay people and/or marriage equality, I am more than happy to do that… as long as you are kind and don’t pull facts out of your ass.

I do want to be clear that I am not totally bitter. Being queer is a new challenge each day, but I would not trade the perspective it has given me or the contentment I feel with the self-knowledge I have now. I am going to keep on walking, and I am going to hold the hand of the person I love tightly, and I am going to believe that we can push through the difficulties we are facing. I am going to appreciate the fact that those around me are also fighting for the rights of those discriminated against. Despite the anger I express here, I feel extremely lucky to be where I am today. I am proud that we have come this far.

The fight is not over yet.

My Love Matters

My friend Katherine has lovely and important words, and has very graciously agreed to share some of them here. I feel so honored to publish her thoughts and to share them with all of you! I will pass along your comments, but you can also visit Katherine and her wonderful words over on her blog, A Collection of Lights. Thank you, Katherine!


My name is Katherine, and I’m kind of gay. Gay as in delighted, mind you, and in the sense that I fuck women. (Well, one woman.) I’m queer. Queer like I’m odd, ever so slightly strange, and I fuck women. (One woman.) I’m a lesbian in the sense that it’s an easy label to peel off and stick on, just as any label might be. I wouldn’t say I’m particularly bothered about the label. Well, that’s sort of a lie. I’m a little bothered by it, but theoretically it doesn’t matter.

Before I came out, I had to come in – into myself, that is. There were years of slight self denial, sure, but I wasn’t lying when I told people I was straight. Okay, maybe I should have questioned the frequency with which I had to deny the queer aspects of my personhood. Perhaps there were clues. But at the tender age of nineteen, when I found a woman making my heart flutter and a stammer trip up my tongue, I was probably the most surprised person of anyone I knew.

And despite the rampant heterosexism in our society which is compounding directly into the newfound difficulties I am facing, finally I can truly say that I am happy. Five months ago, I met the most wonderful woman. There is nothing I regret–being with her is one of the single greatest experiences I have had in my lifetime. But with this and the somewhat new discovery that I am queer comes a sort of strange navigation. Is it okay to hold hands? What will my boss think if I tell her that my partner is a woman? What will my peers think? What will my mother think? The questions don’t end.

In the state of Texas, I cannot get married to the person I love. I cannot foster children with the person I love. I cannot adopt children with the person I love. My university and place of work are supportive, but I could – in another position, another place – be taunted and terminated for sharing who I am with other people. Institutional, symbolic, and individual oppressions intersect. They are all out to get me. Governmental and social institutions reward heterosexuality.

And okay, marriage is a construct, but I’d like to be rewarded for the love I have someday. My love matters.

Being queer is as normal to me as getting up in the morning (new, frustrating, ultimately rewarding), yet in order to be taken seriously – in order for change to be made – I must be an activist. Activism is great, but it’s frustrating to me that I must make who I love something political. Granted, our society has made me a political figure already. This time? It’s going to be on my terms.

This is all to say, I don’t have a huge amount of experience as a queer human being, but I do have the somewhat unique perspective of someone who identified as heterosexual until fairly recently… I have supported queer equality for quite some time, but life as an actual goddamn queer is very different.  And lately, a lot has pissed me off. You’re welcome in advance.

If your only defense of common and garden, everyday feminism is “we’re not all lesbians!”, fuck you.

If you try to console queer individuals by telling them of this one time, in a separate life, you–or someone you know–knew a gay person who was really cool despite their crippling gayness, fuck you. (You know, I knew a straight person once. He was pretty cool!)

If you ask a queer lady if/how scissoring works, fuck you.

If you heckle a queer person and their partner, fuck you. (If you heckle anyone, fuck you.)

If you refer to a queer person’s partner as their roommate despite correction, fuck you.

If you have the audacity to find yourself feeling discriminated against for being straight, fuck you.

If you ask queer ladies who the “man” is in their relationship, fuck you.

If you identify as heterosexual, consider completing this questionnaire.