Mothers of Sons Should Be Scared—of Sexism, Patriarchy and Misogyny

According to many of our nation’s most powerful political leaders, the state has a new enemy: little girls.

A meme circulating on social media in the wake of the Senate Judiciary Committee’s hearing on sexual assault allegations against Brett Kavanaugh summarizes this growing sentiment: The all-caps title reads “MOTHERS OF SONS SHOULD BE SCARED,” and in further text it declares that “it is terrifying that at any time, any girl can make up any story about any boy that can neither be proved or disproved, and completely ruin any boy’s life.”

Donald Trump Jr., father of five, echoed a similar fear when he told the Daily Mail TV that he is “afraid for his sons,” adding that “when I see what’s going right now, it’s scary.” President Trump himself echoed the statement, infamously declaring that “it’s a very scary time for young men in America.”

I am the mother of three sons—and I’m scared, too. I am scared of a society that does a poor job raising boys to be good, fully-developed men who respect women without question. I am scared of patriarchy and sexism.

At the Women’s March in Los Angeles, a young man declares his feminism. (Larissa Puro / Creative Commons)

We should be afraid, but not of little girls who will grow up to be the liars and false accusers determined to ruin our sons’ lives just because they can. Instead, we should be afraid of the world we’ve built in which survivors aren’t believed.

False rape reports are incredibly rare, and it doesn’t take much to see that there is no real gain in fabricating a story about sexual assault for an accuser, especially when so few of the cases that actually get reported ever make it to court or achieve anything close to justice. RAINN estimates that out of every 1,000 rape cases, only 13 percent go to a prosecutor, and only seven lead to a felony conviction. That amounts to a lot of time, effort and emotional and physical energy for a false accuser to go through just to “completely ruin any boy’s life.”

We do not need a world where boys, or their mothers, fear girls—but rather, one where boys respect, love, cherish and empathize with the girls and women in their lives. They need to see girls as their friends, confidantes, partners, companions and sisters—as people they trust. They need to be provided with rich experiences where they participate in the world together with women and girls, as equal human beings.

Teaching boys that girls are the enemy lying in wait is counterproductive to how far feminism has taken us. The fault lies not with boys, however, but with a society that subconsciously and consciously teaches them that girls are different, opposite from them, the other.

As parents, grandparents, teachers and coaches, we gender children daily, despite our best efforts not to. We send messages to boys and girls about their abilities and their potential with our words and our actions, and often the message is that being a girl is close to the worst thing anything could be. “You throw like a girl.” “You act like a girl.” “You cry like a girl.” Such comments, and our cultural insistence on proscribing and enforcing outdated gender roles, lay the foundation for adulthoods rife with misogyny and everyday sexism.

We should instead foster friendships between boys and girls when they are young, and celebrate the shared experiences of their gender identities—whatever they may be. We should help our boys discover the range of feelings alive within them, help them to fully grasp the complexity of their emotional lives and teach them that it is not girls alone who experience sadness, pain and loss and that anger is not their burden solely to bear. Boys are kind, gentle, loving, artistic and sensitive, too—and recognizing this does not render them pansies or sissies, just whole and healthy.

We must teach boys how to apologize and accept fault when they have done something wrong—not to get angry and blame others. To help cultivate this sense of accountability, we must clearly explain to our sons the concept of consent, and from a very early age. They must understand personal boundaries and not touching another person without permission; as they mature, consent should already be an inherent part of their daily lives and minute behaviors. The better we become at teaching them these lessons, the more likely it is that our boys will be aware that someone else’s body—including a woman’s—does not belong to anyone but her.

It would also help a great deal if boys were taught to see girls as strong, smart, funny, worthy—fully human, just like them. Boys should read books and watch movies where girls are all of these things just because they are. That kind of representation should seem ordinary. Girls are not silly, weak, petty, catty, boring—and boys shouldn’t be raised to believe that only a select few escape such fates.

Let us be strong, fierce and independent mothers, aunts, friends and grandmothers. Let’s allow the boys in our lives to see us as equals to the men with whom we share our planet. Let’s show them that women are professors, janitors, medical practitioners, construction works, scientists, electricians, dentists, plumbers, welders, legislators and lawmakers—professionals and complex people striving to make this world a better place. Let’s help boys see women as their colleagues, partners and even supervisors.

I’m scared—not of the little girls I see at my sons’ elementary school or at the corner bus stop. (They seem pretty harmless, actually.) Instead, I’m fearful of a society that doesn’t care enough about our boys to ensure that they grow up to be the kind of men no one would ever imagine accusing of sexual misconduct or assault, men who would never contemplate sexually assaulting or mistreating women, men who have a deeply-rooted and genuine respect and admiration for the women and girls in their own lives and around the world.

We can and should do better—for our boys and for our girls.

Maglina Lubovich teaches gender studies and English at Fond du Lac Tribal and Community College and holds a Ph.D. from SUNY Buffalo (UB). She has published peer-reviewed articles on 19th-century American literature and co-edited an essay collection on male beauty. Maglina lives in Duluth, Minnesota with her husband and three sons.

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I’m Not Ready to Make Nice—I’m Ready to Make Change

Growing up, I remember starting more than a few metaphorical fires. I’d passionately argue with anyone on a range of topics: I fought to allow girls on the kickball team; advocated to save the life of an endangered insect found on the playground; even debated the best method for solving a math problem. While my arguments often had merit, I struggled in communicating my points to those around me. I had opinions, but I lacked diplomacy. I found no middle ground, no third option that existed between staying silent and going too far.

It seemed there was only one solution: If I could not be “nice,” could not make everyone feel comfortable and unchallenged, then I should say nothing at all.

Darakshan Raja speaking at a rally against Trump’s Muslim ban sponsored by Freedom Muslim American Women’s Policy. (Lorie Shaull / Creative Commons)

When I transferred to an all-girls high school in ninth grade, I saw that this experience of polite avoidance was universal. When topics of contention came up—such as racial privilege, homophobia and the complicated American political climate—there were only a few of us mature enough to meet the issue head-on. Having never been taught to address such complicated disagreements, much less how to address them, I was at first clumsy, abrasive, even tactless. Women are so often taught to be agreeable, to settle, to make peace for the sake of being “nice,” that often I brushed aside my personal truths for the sake of avoiding conflict.

But slowly, as I lived out my time surrounded by my female peers, I began to recognize an important distinction between “nice” and “kind.”

Kindness is genuine. It occurs when students lend each other shampoo and laundry detergent and textbooks in the dorms without the expectation of anything in return. It is fostered when upperclassmen offer guidance, advice, and free Starbucks to new students, hoping only to put them at ease and bring them joy in a time of difficult transition.

Kindness can be found everywhere and anywhere, and it doesn’t preclude the sharing of opinions or the acknowledgement of personal differences. In fact, the act of disagreeing, and of resolving disagreement, is foundational for true kindness—an understanding of another’s perspective, an act of great empathy that allows us to truly see each other for who we are. Solidarity created through resolved disagreement will always be stronger than the uneasy acquaintanceship between people who never truly try to understand one another.

To be “nice,” however, would be to say that every disagreement I had reached a resolution and that I somehow became friends with everyone with whom I was ever at odds. To be “nice” was to be pleasing to someone else, deferent and docile for the sake of their comfort.

With this realization, I was able finally to strike a balance between restraining my initial thoughts and unintentionally hurting someone. The truth is that no matter how much kindness and respect you give, not everyone will return it, and some people will withhold that basic respect because of a part of your fundamental identity.

If there is one thing I learned at Miss Porter’s School, it was to never ever accept the presence of prejudice in our society as unchallengeable. It is this idea that unifies so many of us—and can provide us the common ground upon which to disagree, respectfully and effectively, with one another.

The time for women and other historically marginalized groups to accept prejudice is long over, and the time in which we stood at quiet odds with each other, instead of in solidarity, must pass. That is the mission I was given in my four years of high school, and the mission I now pass on to all of you. It is not only our right, but our responsibility to speak up and demand recognition, liberation and change—for ourselves and for those whose situations are so dire that they cannot speak for themselves. To do so, we must embrace kindness and empowerment and reject “niceness” and complacency.

Your voice is your power. Don’t quiet it for the sake of someone else.

Jillian Landolina is a recent graduate of Miss Porter’s School in Farmington, Connecticut, and a first-year student at Sarah Lawrence College.

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LISTEN: Why We Need to Make Space for Well-Read Black Girls

Glory Edim’s online book-club-turned-community Well-Read Black Girl is about more than just reading—it’s about reading books that women of color will recognize themselves in.

Edim, now a nationally-recognized figure in the literary world, created a space where black women’s writing and knowledge and life experiences are lifted up and shared. In a new essay collection debuting today, she brings the same spirit to the printed page, curating original works by groundbreaking women like Jesmyn Ward, Jacqueline Woodson, Gabourey Sidibe and Lena Waithe that center on representation and the urgency of community.

In an exclusive excerpt for Ms. readers from the audiobook version of Well-Read Black Girl, Edim reads part of I, Too Arts Collective founder Renée Watson’s essay “Space to Move Around In,” from the section “Well-Read Black Girl Recommends: Books on Black Feminism.” In her essay, Watson reflects on the parallel isolation of being one of a handful of black people in the room at a writing workshop and the absence of black voices in classroom reading.

Audio excerpted courtesy Penguin Random House Audio from Well-Read Black Girl: Finding Our Stories, Discovering Ourselves by Glory Edim, read by Glory Edim.

Carmen Rios is the Digital Editor at Ms. and Contributing Editor and Co-Founder of Argot Magazine; her work has also appeared at BuzzFeed, Bitch, Mic, MEL, Everyday Feminism and Autostraddle, where she was previously Community Director and Feminism Editor. Like everyone else in LA, she once had a podcast; unlike everyone else, she stays pretty zen in traffic. You can find her on Twitter, Instagram and Tumblr.

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Women Are Being Hurt the Most by the Drug Pricing Crisis

It’s breast cancer awareness month, and women are paid 80 cents for every dollar made by a man.

Think those two things are unrelated? Think again: The gender wage gap and other disparities make it harder for women to afford treatment, for breast cancer or anything else. Women are more likely to be employed in low-wage or part-time jobs with no benefits and far less likely than men to have health insurance through their work—and since they are more likely to be covered as dependents, women are more susceptible to losing health coverage if family benefits are reduced or in the event of divorce.

It’s no wonder, then, that women are also more likely than men to forgo medical treatment because of high drug prices. In a survey by Kaiser Health, 22 percent of women reported leaving a prescription unfilled or rationing doses because of cost; only 12 percent of men reported doing the same.

One thing is clear: when profit-maximizing “pharma bros” hike up the price of drugs, they are disproportionately harming women.

Women, and especially women of color, are poorer on average than men—and they also use therapeutic drugs at a higher rate. In the Kaiser survey, 56 percent of women also reported using at least one prescription drug, compared to just 37 percent of men. That gap in therapeutic drug usage is in part because of reproductive health needs and treatment for conditions more likely to affect women.

Of 2017’s top 12 highest-grossing drugs in the U.S., three of them treat conditions that afflict women disproportionately. Their costs are rising, and female patients are suffering because of it.

About two-thirds of cases of macular degeneration, which is common in seniors, impact women—largely because they live, on average, longer than men. An annual course of Eylea, a drug treating the condition, costs around $15,000.

The nearly 20-year-old breast cancer drug Herceptin, increased in price by 78 percent between 2005 to 2017. Lower-cost generic competition is finally on the horizon, which will likely bring the price down, but at this moment, Herceptin carries an annual price tag of over $60,000.

Between 2012 and 2018, the price of Lyrica—a drug that treats the neuropathic disorder fibromyalgia that is commonly diagnosed in women—more than doubled, despite the fact that the drug has been on the market for 14 years. Of the top-selling drugs in America in 2017, none had a higher price hike over this six-year period than Lyrica. Today, a one-year course of treatment costs about $7,500.

Herceptin, Lyrica and Eylea netted more than $18 billion in total for their makers last year.

While the poorest women may be eligible to receive these and other medications for free or at little cost through patient assistance programs, millions of low-and middle-income women who don’t qualify for patient assistance must foot some, if not all, of the bill themselves. That can drive some unfathomable choices, like rationing doses or forgoing treatment altogether. 80 percent of single parents are women, and they disproportionately bear the financial burden of prescription drug costs for their children. Many of these mothers live in terror at the prospect of not being able to pay for their children’s medical treatment.

Sabrina Burbeck, from Old Town, Maine, is one of those mothers. Her youngest of two sons, Dakota, has Type 1 Diabetes and needs insulin to survive. Sabrina has state-subsidized insurance, which pays for the bulk of her son’s treatment—but a one-month supply of Humalog, the insulin prescribed for her son, costs her $325. (That’s not including test strips or other supplies, either.) After struggling to find childcare, Sabrina recently went back to work; she can’t afford the coverage offered by her employer, so she limits her hours to remain eligible for state-sponsored insurance.

“I struggle, because I want those hours,” she said. “I want to be able to provide adequately for my family. But one of my paychecks wouldn’t even cover his insulin. How am I to keep my child healthy and alive at prices like that?”

In recent years, there have been renewed efforts to tackle the problem of high drug prices; the Trump administration even released a plan to do so this past summer. But these efforts uniformly fail to address the systemic disparities around income, poverty and usage that make it harder for women to access treatment.

There are, to be sure, millions of men and fathers who face the same crushing fear as women like Sabrina—men who struggle to provide for their families and worry every day that high drug prices will overwhelm them. But because women are poorer on average than men and more often the primary caregiver, lack of access to medicines has a disproportionate impact along gender lines.

This breast cancer awareness month, let’s make sure that the cost of breast cancer treatment and the distinct ways that women are impacted by high drug prices are part of the conversation—and, ultimately, the solution.

Priti Krishtel is the Co-Executive Director of, a global non-profit organization comprised of senior attorneys, scientists and health experts who have worked to lower drug prices through the patent system for 15 years. She can be reached at @pritikrishtel.

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Ms. Muse: Christine Sloan Stoddard on the Urgency of Making Feminist Art After Kavanaugh

We’re carving out a new discovery place for riotous, righteous and resonant feminist poetry to nourish and give voice to a rising tide of female resistance—and you’ve clicked right into it. Click here to read more Ms. Muse.

Under the gaze of other first grade children eating peanut butter and jelly or Lunchables sandwiches, Christine Sloan Stoddard scraped her Salvadorian mother’s arroz con huevo frito into the trash. Stoddard’s mother, who narrowly escaped El Salvador’s civil war and learned English listening to rock songs, was often mistaken for her nanny; that day, a girl in her class had called her lunch “disgusting.”

Stoddard wrote about that day, and growing up Salvadoran-Scottish-American in suburban Virginia, in the introduction to her nonfiction book Hispanic & Latino Heritage in Virginia—but of all the projects she mentioned to Ms., that wasn’t even one of them.

A prolific writer and visual artist living in Brooklyn, Stoddard was named one of Folio magazine’s top 20 media visionaries in their twenties for founding the woman-run Quail Bell Magazine. She is the author of several books, including Water for the Cactus Woman (Spuyten Duyvil), a collection of bilingual poems and art about mothers and grandmothers, and her writing has appeared in magazines like Marie Claire, Bustle, Teen Vogue and Cosmopolitan. Stoddard is currently pursuing her MFA in Digital & Interdisciplinary Art Practice at The City College of New York.

In this month’s installment of Ms. Muse, Stoddard shares poems from Water for the Cactus Woman and a new poem soon to appear in her forthcoming Belladonna Magic from Shanti Arts and talks to Ms. about the challenges of her childhood, the dissolving wall between literature and the art world and her need to make feminist art in the wake of the Kavanaugh hearings.

Christine Sloan Stoddard (photo: M. Spanel)

The Poems

The Portrait Among Marigolds

Cuando mi abuela tenía 40 años,[1]

she posed for her portrait en la plaza[2]
under the shade of an ochre cathedral
and a set of dying palm trees
skinny as skeletons.

Mami says Abuela fluttered her lashes
for a beloved local artist,
but refused to smile for fear

her dentures would plop out
and land in her fleshy lap.

Today I look at Abuela’s sad eyes—
eyes blacker than jaguar fur—
as they stare at me from the face

of a pastel likeness
that sits on Mami’s dresser.
When I ask, “¿Era una mujer triste?”
Mami’s eyes startle like the eyes
of a jungle cat caught by a flashlight.
She pats the dried marigolds
that encircle the portrait
y me dice que todas las mujeres están

tristes de vez en cuando,

pero estar no es ser.[4]

[1]When my grandmother was 40 years old
[2] in the town square
[3] and she tells me that all women feel sad sometimes, but feeling is not being.

Saints and Frijoles

The olive tree rosary under my pillow
belonged to mi abuela [1]
and her grasping hands.

Sometimes when the owl cries,

I clutch the rosary until it grows
hot in my palms and glows gold.

“Your abuela’s favorite saint
was Saint Francis of Assisi,”
Mami says while stirring frijoles.
“She believed in the kindness of animals.”

“What about the kindness of humans?”
I ask from my place on the floor
with my picture book Bible before me.
The beans begin to boil over in her silence.

“No, she did not believe in human kindness,”
says Mami después de un rato, [2]
long enough to make me wonder

if Eve thought Adam
was a good man.

[1]my grandmother
[2] after a spell

The Storm

No one told me
my body
was an earthquake,
my body
a hurricane,
That my body
was and will always be
the eye of the storm.

They only told me
that I was a woman,
that I was to be
placid as a lake—
yet how can I be
human if I never
thunder, if I never rain?

I am wind
and I am hail
just as I am flesh
and I am blood.

This lake will stir.
This lake will flood.
And when it’s placid,
it will hypnotize.

The Interview

Can you tell me about your process of writing “Saints and Frijoles” and “The Portrait Among Marigolds?” What do you remember about the poems’ births? Were there particular challenges in writing and revising? 

I remember birthing both poems quickly because the story that they form had been living inside of me for so long. For me, the actual act of writing tends to happen fast, but only because my thoughts brew for so long before I pick up a pen or sit at a keyboard.

What childhood experiences with language informed your relationship with poetry? 

I had a speech impediment as a child and went through about four years of speech therapy because of it. Already naturally shy, I generally stayed quiet because speaking could be difficult. In hindsight, much of it was psychological. In front of family or close friends, I could let go of my inhibitions and speak more clearly because I wasn’t so self-conscious.

At the same time that I wrestled with my impediment, I struggled to speak Spanish, my mother’s native language. Again, it was psychological. Classmates bullied me about my mother’s accent and that made me more reluctant to speak Spanish. I didn’t become comfortable with the language until high school, thanks to my wonderful AP Spanish teacher, Señora Barrueta. I became more enthusiastic in college because of a professor, Patricia Michelsen-King, who encouraged me to pursue translation.

I experienced more anxiety about speaking Spanish recently when I visited my mother’s home country of El Salvador for the first time. I didn’t want to sound like an “ugly American.” However, people were surprised when I told them I was American! It was a pleasant reminder of how fluid and expansive language—and people’s perception of language—is and can be.

Do you seek out poetry by women and nonbinary writers? If so, since when and why? More specifically, how has the work of feminist poets mattered in your childhood and/or your life as an adult?

Yes, definitely. I have since middle school when I first identified as a feminist. I even belonged to an all-girls’ science club! In my mother’s culture, there’s so much that women are not allowed to do. The social restrictions are even tighter than they are in the United States. While my mother would be considered conservative by many American parents, she’d be quite progressive in El Salvador because she always told my sisters and me to dream big. She wanted us to finish high school, go to college, have careers, and always read avidly. Such opportunities are not easily accessible to most Salvadoran women. Child marriage was only banned in the country last year. There is no legal abortion in El Salvador. Domestic and gang violence against women is quite prevalent.

Growing up, I was constantly reminded of how lucky I was to be a girl in the United States and not El Salvador. Certainly, that is true from a material perspective and legally. Of course, women and girls suffer from much inequity here in the U.S.

Female writers and artists who inspire me include Shelley Jackson, Moyra Davey, Sally Mann, Julie Chen, Beatriz De Leon, and Stacey Steers.

Gwendolyn Brooks really touched me in high school and today I’m very drawn to the work of Ada Limón. It doesn’t matter that our lives are so different in many ways. Reading poetry by women helps me see the interior lives of other women. Pain unites us, just as the beautiful aspects of womanhood unite us.

What groundbreaking (or ancient) works, forms, ideas and issues in poetry today interest and concern you? 

Right now, I’m fascinated by the role of poetry in digital culture and contemporary art. I’m curious about how poetry will evolve on Instagram and other social media. I’m interested in how online literary magazines are changing, too, and feel excited about how poetry is hatching in galleries and museums. The wall between the literary and visual art world seems to be melting.

As a woman, and as a woman who writes, what do you need to support your work? What opportunities, support, policies, and actions can/could make a direct difference for you—and for other women writers you know?

I’m 29 and have been married for three years now. To say that children are on my mind is an understatement. Sadly, our society is not kind to mothers, let alone mothers who are artists. In making plans to have children, I must make plans for healthcare and maternity leave. At the moment, my work is flexible and I appreciate that. I’m starting to build momentum with artist grants, residencies, teaching, and consulting. But what will happen to my career when I have children? Will all of this momentum come to a halt? Will it be financially feasible to scale back? If legislation remains the same, I will have to lean very heavily on my social and professional networks for help finding essentials like childcare, skill shares, and emotional support.

What’s next? What upcoming plans and projects excite you? 

Up next is a bevy of books! 2019 will be quite the year. Shanti Arts will publish my poetry and photo collection, Belladonna Magic, a celebration of feminine power and magic. Clash Books will publish Heaven Is A Photograph, another collection of poetry and photography, this one about a young woman who pursues photography in secret, under the shadow of her famous photographer father. About Editions will publish my novella, Naomi & the Reckoning, about a woman whose “purity” culture upbringing haunts her in marriage. Hoot ‘n’ Waddle (born of Four Chambers Press) will publish Desert Fox by the Sea, a collection of short stories. Last but not least, my first children’s book, The Book of Quails, will be released by Clare Songbirds Publishing House. Sami Cronk is the talented artist who illustrated it.

It’s hard to fathom how anyone can have five books coming out in one year. How did you do it?

I was very lucky to have plenty of time to write from 2014-2016. I had residencies and stable, low-key day jobs with a lot of downtime and computer access.

How has the current political climate in the U.S. affected you as a woman writer? 

The Kavanaugh debacle ignited me with the same sense of urgency I felt when Trump was elected. I am eager to express myself and desperate to collaborate with like-minded artists and writers. At the moment, I am working on a few collaborative projects, but one really got going because of Kavanaugh. I am completing illustrations for the book Cynthia Silver by Sam Jowett, which will be published by Nadia Gerassimenko of Moonchild Magazine. In truth, I was sitting on this adult fairy tale project for a few months before I picked up a pen and began drawing. Then Kavanaugh was sworn in. More than ever, I wanted to help put out a story with a strong female protagonist.

Other collaborative projects include short films and videos. It was a strange coincidence that Deniz Ataman and I shot “Ghost” the same week that Dr. Ford brought forward her allegations. It’s an Instagram film. My friend Deniz Ataman wrote the script about remembering her Turkish mother and grandmother making and drinking tea. Deniz released the film the first day that now-Justice Kavanaugh took the bench on the Supreme Court. Art is even more necessary in times of crisis.

Chivas Sandage is a digital columnist at Ms. and the author of Hidden Drive, a finalist for the 2012 ForeWord Book of the Year Awards in poetry. Her poems and essays are forthcoming or have appeared in Ms., The Rumpus, Salmagundi, Southern Humanities Review and Texas Observer, among others. She is at work on a nonfiction book about the double shooting of a lesbian teenage couple in Texas. Tweet her @ChivasSandage.

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We Heart: The New Initiative Empowering Couples Who Say “I Do” to Help Girls Say “I Don’t”

Couples tying the knot in the U.S. can now do their part to save children from forced marriages around the world—simply by purchasing and registering for the products and wedding experiences they want and need. 

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Thank you for saying ‘l Do’ with us @adelleonyango !! #Repost 💍 _ 12 million girls under the age of 18 are forcefully married off every single year. That's one girl every 3 seconds! A new campaign called “VOW – to end child marriage” is raising funds; 100% of raised funds will go to Girls First Fund who work with on ground organizations to end child marriage. ———————————————————————- Take a pic of your ring finger (with or without a ring) post it up with the #VowForGirls and nominate 3 women to do so too! For each post and likes @theknot + @crateandbarrel + @maliamillsnyc will donate $1 to @VowForGirls!! ————————————————————————- I nominate @chmba_ @kamz26 @thatchicklyndan

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The VOW initiative unites a coalition of influential brands and empowers couples to fight child marriage while they purchase and register for products for their own weddings. VOW partners will donate a portion of profits from products and experiences purchased through the program to the Girls First Fund, which supports local organizations working to end child marriage on the ground across Asia, Africa, Latin America and the Caribbean.

The effort launched with support from some of the most influential brands in the wedding industry. The Knot has launched a “Knot Gifts Back” program donating proceeds to VOW. Crate and Barrel has pledged $100,000 to the initiative. Malia Mills is donating 100 percent of net proceeds for special VOW items through this year. Anyone can also support VOW by giving directly to the org or texting VOW to 44321.

“Americans spend tens of billions each year saying, ‘I do,’ and VOW is about investing part of those funds in supporting girls to say, ‘I don’t,’” Mabel van Oranje, the storied human rights activist who launched VOW and previously ran Girls Not Brides, said in a statement.”A young girl is married somewhere in the world every three seconds—thrust into a relationship that she usually did not choose and often can’t escape.”

In many communities, girls are often seen as an economic burden, and marriage is seen as a “way out,” transferring the responsibility for her well-being to another man. Persistent sexism and a lack of opportunities for girls, economically and educationally, also increases their vulnerability to child marriage. “Sometimes, it’s poverty that drives it,” van Oranje explained to A-Plus. “Sometimes it’s tradition. Sometimes it’s the fear that she will get pregnant before being married and thereby dishonor the family. But in the end, it always has to do with the inequality between girls and boys.”

12 million girls become child brides every year throughout the world. Now, the 1.8 million couples who choose to enter into marriages in the U.S. each year can support them and help ensure that they find justice and the resources they need to improve their lives.

Kohinur Khyum Tithila is a journalist based in Bangladesh. She is a Fulbright scholar and received her second master’s degree in Magazine, Newspaper, & Online Journalism from Syracuse University, first master’s degree in criminology and criminal justice from Dhaka University, and bachelor’s degree in English from East West University. Kohinur writes about LGBTQ and women’s issues, feminism, crime, secularism, social justice and human rights. She is also addicted to anything caffeinated.

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Invisibility Isn’t a Super Power—It’s Time for Visible Woman to Take Over

Disney has announced that they are planning on developing a new movie in the Fantastic Four comic book franchise featuring Mister Fantastic, The Human Torch, Thing and—drumroll, please—the Invisible Woman.

Now, look: I know that as a lady, I’m not allowed to offer up my opinions on things like this, lest I ruin some grown man’s childhood a la Kate McKinnon in Ghostbusters. But invisibility is hardly a “superpower” for a woman. It’s not even all that extraordinary. For women, invisibility isn’t a phenomena. It’s every single day of our lives.

Women are made invisible at work. In corporate offices, women don’t get credit for their ideas, get passed over for promotions and then take home only a fraction of what white men are paid for the same job. In every industry, women face sexual harassment and then retaliation for speaking up about it. And in sectors where women do make up a large share of the workforce, their work is undervalued and underpaid.

Women are made invisible in the media. The news landscape is rife with sexist stories and chock-full of men’s opinions about women’s lives. The entire entertainment industry is still plagued by sexist and objectifying depictions of half of the population, and women who dare to try and break in are often stopped short by the patriarchy at-large.

Women are made invisible in politics, despite the female candidates who are winning race after race, running in record numbers and—especially in the case of black women—actually doing the hard work of organizing and creating new, sustainable infrastructures for progress. And that isn’t even touching on the ways in which women are then made invisible by our own government, an institution in which men like Brett Kavanaugh—despite his lack of understanding of how the female reproductive system works, despite his trying to force a teen girl to give birth against her will and despite numerous allegations of rape and sexual assault against him—have largely uncontested access to power.

Honestly, I don’t care to see another thing about Invisible Woman. I am tired of being erased. Instead, I want to see Visible Woman. 

It’s a bird! It’s a plane! It’s—oh, christ, who invited Beth?

Anna Maltese is a former animator for The Simpsons and a Visible Woman herself, designing the logo for last year’s Take Back the Workplace March co-sponsored by the Feminist Majority Foundation. In her spare time she trains and competes in archery and kung fu, in case she ever has to repatriate to Themyscira. The model for her Visible Woman is Angel Reed.

And I get it, nobody likes Visible Woman. She’s forced to fly coach, because everyone told her there was no room on the jet. (“See, Silver Surfer said he was coming, then he, like, totally flaked at the last minute, and we tried to reach you, but you were already in the air.”) She doesn’t know why Batman is fighting Superman, because there’s actual work to do and bad guys to fight and all of this toxic masculinity is just dragging them down, and she thinks Pepper Potts should be running her own company. While fanboys were debating the flagrant mixing of Marvel Universes, Visible Woman was trying to unionize the Justice League and the Avengers and the X Men and the Guardians—because she believes they’re all stronger together. (Her kryptonite? Two words, three periods: “Well, actually…”)

But Visible Woman gets things done. When a sexual predator is brought to justice, it’s because Visible Woman stood up and said something, and encouraged other women to do the same. When reproductive freedoms are being eroded, Visible Woman organizes the march to take them back. Visible Woman talks openly about her abortion, her eating disorder, her struggles with depression and her plan to vote in the midterms. Visible Woman sits on a lot of committees. Visible Woman did not laugh at your sexist joke just because she felt uncomfortable calling you out. Visible Woman called you out.

Right now, Visible Woman is on her sixth cup of coffee and fostering two dogs. It’s 10 p.m., and she really wants to watch the Great British Baking Show, but there’s just one more email she needs to send about the upcoming town hall and she really can’t focus until it gets done. Her utility belt is equipped with markers and a pack of poster paper, in case of sudden protests. Her skin is covered in a revolutionary material that seems to let everything in—all the hurts of the world, all the tragedy and sadness—while also repelling every insult and derogatory comment that gets thrown at her and whispered behind her back. Unlike Tony Stark, she has no electro magnet to keep the shrapnel from entering her heart, but in her case it only makes her powers stronger. Her lasso of truth seems most effective on herself: she’s unable to not speak it to power, even when it’s a noose around her own neck, costing her work or family or friends.

Visible Woman’s real super power is that she sees injustice everywhere she goes—and still gets back up to fight for something better every single day. 

Visible Woman has a lot of foes—Mr. Glass Ceiling, Brag-neto, The Rape Joker—but her biggest archenemy is herself. No one can beat her like she beats herself up. She often second-guesses her actions, and she’s full of self-doubt. (“Is what I’m doing that big of a deal that it warrants being called ‘Super?’ Am I even making a difference?” “Wonder Woman fought the Nazis. Who am I fighting? Internet trolls?”) Visible Woman would be the first one to tell you she could do more. If she could magically let her roots grow in, that would save her two hours this Saturday that she could be phone banking; she knows she could be more visible for her allies, whether it’s recording the racist lady calling the cops on T’Challa for parking his jet in Oakland or explaining to her family members why it doesn’t violate their religious freedom if Batwoman marries her girlfriend, Maggie; and she has to remember to call her City Council member about those sidewalks that make it difficult for Professor X’s wheelchair.

Like Deadpool, the Visible Woman has blown herself up, over and over again—only to eventually find herself somehow put back together, often with a lot of help from her community and her fellow superheroes.

I’d love for Visible Woman to star in her own franchise movie or see herself in a New York Times feature. While Lois Lane writes about Superman and J. Jonah Jameson tries to get pictures of Spiderman, I’d like to see one mainstream newspaper do a profile on Visible Woman and the millions like her. How do they feel about collusion with Russia? What are their economic anxieties? What is their disconnect with the Republican party?

The good news is that people are beginning to see her—and she is demanding to be seen more than ever before. Visible Woman is everywhere, and there’s a part of her in everyone: She was seen in legions two years in a row at Women’s Marches around the world. She posted her own #MeToo story and then amplified everyone else’s. Dr. Christine Blasey Ford, Debbie Ramirez and now Julie Swetnick transformed into Visible Women in spite of their own well-founded fears, and at great emotional and physical risk to themselves and their families—and across the country, thousands of survivors and their allies became visible, too, taking to the streets in shows of solidarity and support.

Production company Milkfed Criminal Masterminds created the #VisibleWomen campaign to raise the profiles of women and non-binary professionals in the comic book industry. Hopefully, their work means we’ll see a Visible Woman on-screen soon enough. Hopefully, we’re moving towards a world where Visible Woman doesn’t have to live in a secret lair for fear of getting doxxed; where she can say “looks like my job here is done” instead of “I need to take a day off for self-care but I promise I’ll be right back at it tomorrow”—and where we hear not only “this looks like a job for Visible Woman,” but “and we’re going to pay her fairly for it, too.”

We want you to show us your own vision of a Visible Woman. Post photos and illustrations of Visible Woman on social media with the hashtag #MsVisible, and tag @MsMagazine (on Twitter) and @Ms_Magazine (on Instagram) so we can see them! (And if you’re looking for a woman or non-binary artist, be sure to check out and

Tess Rafferty is a writer, comedian and performer. Most recently, she developed Halfway House, an original half hour pilot at WBTV. Her original pilot, I Know Who You Really Are, Bitch, made the WeForShe 2017 WriteHer list. Tess has written for numerous shows, including @MIDNIGHT on Comedy Central and The Soup, and she currently produces and appears in the live comedy show, RESISTANCE AFTER DARK. As an author, Tess made her debut with her memoir Recipes for Disaster, published by St. Martin’s Press in 2012 and has written her first novel, Under the Tuscan Gun, currently under option with WBTV. You can read more at  or follow her @TessRafferty.

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We Heart: The #VoteYourMainStreet Campaign to Preserve Feminist History in Seneca Falls

The first American women’s rights convention took place in Seneca Falls. Some of the earliest feminists—among them Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Lucretia Mott and Frederick Douglass—were in attendance. The two-day convention, which produced the historic Declaration of Sentiments and led to a series of women’s rights conventions throughout the United States, took place in the Seneca Knitting Mill.

170 years later, the National Women’s Hall of Fame wants to set up shop in that knitting mill to best honor the achievements of the activists who bravely sparked the modern women’s rights movement—but they need your help. The organization is calling on feminists nationwide to help them secure a grant through the #VoteYourMainStreet campaign and make the move possible.

Paola Franqui, @monaris_

Partners in Preservation, the National Trust for Historic Preservation and American Express launched the national grassroots campaign, which is offering grants to significant sites in order to preserve American history. Partners in Preservation has raised over $22 million for over 200 sites since its creation in 2006; the National Trust for Historic Preservation has over 60 years of experience in advocating for the preservation of historical sites. Now, these groups want to help local communities educate others about their rich and diverse history.

The Seneca Knitting Mill is one of only two out of 20 competing sites in the campaign related strictly to women’s history, and it’s the oldest and most foundational of the batch related to feminism in the U.S. Should the site win the competition, the $150,000 grant would allow the National Women’s Hall of Fame to move to this significant location.

Today is the last day feminists can vote in the campaign, but the old political punchline “vote early and vote often” still applies! You can vote five times today—and all at once, in the click of a button.

Victoria Sheber is an editorial intern at Ms., a debate instructor at Windward School and a member of the JusticeCorps at the Los Angeles Superior Court. Victoria is currently a senior at UCLA studying American Literature & Culture and History; she is also the President of the American Association of University Women chapter on campus and Assistant Section Editor for Fem Newsmagazine. She loves to read and write about feminist literature. 

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Intersex People #WontBeErased, Either

In one year’s time, the Trump administration went from acknowledging the struggles of intersex people to pretending they don’t exist.

The Trump administration’s attacks on trans people are also attacks on intersex people—and mark a reversal in their stated recognition of intersex identities. (Lorie Shaull / Creative Commons)

On October 26, 2017, a year ago today, the Trump Administration issued a press release in recognition of intersex awareness day which acknowledged that intersex people—those born with a unique combination of what we perceive as male and female sex characteristics—“face violence, discrimination, harassment and persecution on account of their sex characteristics.” Intersex people around the country and the world welcomed this acknowledgement; it marked one more step in the right direction, and it echoed the first show of support for Intersex Awareness Day by the Obama administration in 2016.

But now, as reported in The New York Times, the Trump administration is proposing a legal definition of sex that is allegedly “clear, grounded in science, objective and administrable”—but based on the person’s genitals at birth. The Trump administration appears confused, or, worse, unapologetically ignorant, about the complexities of sex and gender. They cannot, on one hand, acknowledge and support intersex people and now pretend they do not exist.

I’m a medical sociologist who has spent the last decade studying how intersex identities are experienced and contested in the U.S. I’ve collaborated on research projects with medical doctors with the goal of improving medical care; I serve as the Board President of interACT: Advocates for Intersex Youth; and I’m also the author of the multi-award winning book Contesting Intersex: The Dubious Diagnosis, which documents how the intersex diagnosis was reinvented as a disorder of sex development.

This work is what makes me certain that the Trump administration’s proposal would put intersex people in danger. It would sanction discrimination against intersex folks—and make them invisible. 

Before any proposals move forward, it is important for policy makers and the public to more fully understand the complexities of sex and gender. To begin with, sex and gender are not interchangeable labels. Sex is a term meant to describe the physical body; it is an umbrella descriptor intended to classify our external genitalia, sex chromosomes and internal reproductive structures. Gender, in its simplest definition, refers instead to a dynamic part of self-identity based on societally defined understandings of masculinity and femininity characteristics.

One’s sex doesn’t neatly predict their gender. If one is born with a penis, it doesn’t automatically mean they will be masculine; if one is born with a vagina, it doesn’t mean they will be feminine. Sex and gender may often appear correlated, but that correlation is not hard-wired into human bodies. Instead, a person’s gender is the product of many complicated factors including interactional expectations and socialization processes.

Biologist Anne Fausto-Sterling first critiqued the classification of people as either male or female by pointing to the natural occurrence of intersex in the population. Sociocultural scholars have for decades now also understood that gender is more than just an identity characteristic: Sociologist Barbara Risman, a Past Vice-President of the American Sociological Association, has encouraged all of us to think of gender as a complex structural system with advantages and challenges at the individual, interactional and institutional levels of society.

Men are often viewed as loud and tough, while women are seen as soft-spoken and weak. But these gender characteristics about volume and strength capture our societal definitions of masculinity and femininity, rather than our biological predisposition. We determine them. They do not determine us. And the combination of sex and gender which shapes our lives, and our identities, should never serve as excuses for others to discriminate against us or deny us our dignity.

The Trump administration’s proposed legal definition of sex is hardly the way to recognize, validate or serve the up to 2 percent of the U.S. population that is born intersex. As we once again mark Intersex Awareness Day, we must commit to fight against the un-scientific and flagrantly oppressive policies they’re trying to use to erase trans, gender non-conforming and intersex people.

Georgiann Davis is Associate Professor of Sociology at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. She is also an award-wining scholar-activist and author of Contesting Intersex: The Dubious Diagnosis.

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LISTEN: Jill Soloway Shares Her Principles for Toppling the Patriarchy

In the newly-released memoir SHE WANTS ITTransparent creator Jill Soloway opens up to readers about the impact her parents coming out as transgender had on her own life—and how that revelation would lead her to create media in the years to come that told stories with a feminist lens from the intersections.

The Emmy and Golden Globe-winning showrunner gets vulnerable with readers in SHE WANTS IT, chronicling how she came to claim her own identity as non-binary and genderqueer and reflecting on the responsibility of telling queer stories on-screen.

In an exclusive audio excerpt for Ms. readers from the author-narrated audiobook, Soloway opens up about the initial pushback Transparent received from the trans community—and the “Topple Principles” she put into place to ensure that moving forward, her commitment to intersectionality and authenticity would become part of the creative process on set.

This is how Jill Soloway topples the patriarchy—and puts her own theories into practice every day.

Audio excerpted courtesy Penguin Random House Audio from She Wants It: Desire, Power, and Toppling the Patriarchy by Jill Soloway, read by the author.

Carmen Rios is the Digital Editor at Ms., co-host of the weekly feminist talk show TRIGGER HAPPY on Binge Network and Contributing Editor and Co-Founder of Argot Magazine. Her work has also appeared at BuzzFeed, Bitch, Mic, MEL, Everyday Feminism and Autostraddle, where she was previously Community Director and Feminism Editor. Like everyone else in LA, she once had a podcast; unlike everyone else, she stays pretty zen in traffic. You can find her on Twitter, Instagram and Tumblr.

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