We Heart: Serena Williams, “The One to Beat”


At a Wimbledon press conference on Friday, The Telegraph’s Jamie Johnson asked legendary tennis player and Olympic medalist Serena Williams how she handles being “the one to beat” on the court. In response, Williams did something women often don’t: she acknowledged her achievements and didn’t shy away from celebrating her own success.

“I’m glad someone admitted that,” Williams said. “Every single match I play, whether I’m coming back from a baby, or surgery, it doesn’t matter, because these young ladies bring a game that I’ve never seen before… When I watch them play, it’s a totally different game than when they play me.”

Williams also celebrated the women who challenge her on the courts—and credited them for making her even better. “I always play everyone at their greatest, so I have to be greater,” Williams explained, saying that the fierce competition her opponents bring when they’re facing her in a match is “what makes her great.” She declared that her skill level is “so much higher because of it, from years and years of being played like that.”

Serena Williams jumps for joy after defeating Maria Sharapova to win gold at the 2012 Olympic Games. (Charles Thompson / Creative Commons)

About a month ago, at a press conference for the French Open, a journalist asked Williams whether she had “ever been intimidated by anyone on a tennis court.” She confidently responded that she never had. Williams has no reason to respond differently, of course; the winner of four Olympic gold medals and 23 Grand Slam titles is often revered as the greatest living athlete.

That alone is revolutionary, considering Williams’ identity as a woman in sports, and specifically a Black woman in the white, male-dominated world of tennis. In every assertion that she recognizes her own greatness, Williams additionally inspires women everywhere to do the same—without apologizing.

Carmiya Baskin is an editorial intern at Ms. and a third-year Feminist Studies major at UC Santa Barbara. Her work has appeared in The Bottom Line, a student-run newspaper at UCSB, and EqualTalk, a feminist blog she co-founded through a women empowerment and teen leadership organization, Girls Give Back. She is passionate about all things related to intersectional feminism, Harry Potter and Disney, and she enjoys eating peanut butter right out of the jar while binge-watching The Office.

 

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We Heart: Ariana Grande’s Feminist Anthem “God is a Woman”


“To my fellow goddesses who work their asses off every day to ‘break the glass ceiling,’ this is for you. I respect you and am endlessly inspired by you. Please continue to fuck it up, to be yourself unapologetically and always know how celebrated you are.”
— Ariana Grande on Twitter, releasing the video for “God is a Woman”

Ariana Grande’s song, “God Is a Woman,” is, at its core, a song about sex—but in the music video released Friday, the pop star subverts cultural norms around sexuality and gender in a stunning display of woman-power. In a matter of only a few minutes, Grande celebrates sisterhood and declares women to be all-powerful forces of nature—all while rejecting slut-shaming in an unabashed celebration of female pleasure.

The music video opens with Grande dancing in the middle of a rotating galaxy, implying that she is the center of the universe and the ultimate giver of pleasure. In the next scene, Grande sits atop a large book as tiny men on the ground throw words like “fake,” “slut” and “stupid,” at her, but the insults merely bounce off of the musician’s body as she sensually stares into the camera and declares: “I’m tellin’ you the way I like it, how I want it.” Grande is later shown dressed in a jewel-encrusted blue robe, standing among a crowd of women dressed in identical white uniforms. “When you try to come for me,” she remarks, “I keep on flourishing.”

The music video also features a multitude of images alluding to the concept of a female “Mother Earth”—Grande is seen mounted on top of the planet Earth as her fingers dance inside a swirling hurricane, surrounded by natural elements that blossom as she touches them and even taking on the form of a maternal she-wolf as men suckle on her “teats.” These images reference, and even pay reverence to, the idea of women as the ultimate providers and creators.

The end scene, a re-creation of Michelangelo’s “The Creation of Adam” featuring Grande, as God, surrounded by a diverse troupe of women and reaching out to Adam, depicted in the scene as a black woman, is the climax of such a narrative—and a delightful subversion of the centuries-old biblical subjugation of women that has laid the foundation for centuries of political and legal discrimination against them.

But the ultimate feminist flourish in the “God is a Woman” video comes towards the end—when Madonna recites a biblical passage from “Like a Prayer” while Grande, donning a cat-ear helmet and long gloves that say “POWER” on them, mouths along. “I will strike down upon thee with great vengeance and furious anger those who attempt to poison and destroy my sisters,” Madonna declares. “And you will know my name is the Lord when I lay my vengeance upon you.”

Grande then engages in her most heavy-handed feminist reference: she launches an oversized gavel upwards, shattering a glass ceiling.

Grande, an outspoken feminist, is not the first person to reference God as a woman—but her own take on the phenomena has resulted in a catchy anthem for modern feminism that denounces patriarchy, celebrates female solidarity and revels in female sexuality.

Carmiya Baskin is an editorial intern at Ms. and a third-year Feminist Studies major at UC Santa Barbara. Her work has appeared in The Bottom Line, a student-run newspaper at UCSB, and EqualTalk, a feminist blog she co-founded through a women empowerment and teen leadership organization, Girls Give Back. She is passionate about all things related to intersectional feminism, Harry Potter and Disney, and she enjoys eating peanut butter right out of the jar while binge-watching The Office.

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WATCH: The Trailer for “On the Basis of Sex” Reminds Us How RBG Got So Notorious


Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s groundbreaking work on the landmark sex discrimination case Weinberger v. Wiesenfeld when she was a young attorney will soon be fodder for the big screen—and the trailer for On the Basis of Sex, released this week, reminded us all why one feature-length film about the notorious Supreme Court Justice isn’t enough.

The film, which will come to theaters December, chronicles Ginsburg’s challenges as a woman coming up in the male-dominated legal field—and then dives into the case she brought to the U.S. Court of Appeals that dealt with discrimination between tax benefits for widows and widowers which would become the starting point for her long and impactful feminist career.

Ginsburg’s inspiring and powerful personal story serves as inspiration for feminists facing down the currently hostile political climate in the U.S.—and the importance of perseverance. Parallels to contemporary challenges still facing women in and outside of the courtroom are hard to miss in On the Basis of Sex, including young people taking to the streets to protest a corrupt president and women fighting for seats at the table and respect in the workplace.

At one point during the trailer, Ginsburg tells a doubter: “You don’t get to tell me when to quit.” As the fight for full equality under the law goes on, On the Basis of Sex is sure to be a reminder not only of her decades-long pursuit of gender justice, but also of the good that comes with refusing to give up.

Hope Lenamon is an editorial intern at Ms. and a journalism major with a double minor in electronic media and communications and women’s and gender studies at Texas Tech University. She enjoys writing, taking mediocre photos and the company of her dog, Miley.

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We Heart: The Girl Scouts Anthem Inspiring Young Feminists to Shine On


The Girl Scouts and Breakthrough Music have released a new anthem for young feminists everywhere: “Watch Me Shine,” written by two-time Grammy winner Liz Rose and chart-topping songwriter Emily Shackelton. The song is available for streaming on Music Choice and will be featured this month as part of the Girl Scouts’ Kids Summer Programming.

The organization’s first-ever original song and music video—both featuring real Girl Scouts and written, produced, directed and distributed entirely by women—tell the story of a young songwriter turning her dream into a reality in the famous Nashville Blackbird Studio in a powerful showcase of the impact preparing girls for a lifetime of leadership can have on their lives and their communities.

“Every girl should have a chance to change the world,” Girl Scouts wrote in a press statement. “The music video celebrates every girl’s inner G.I.R.L. (Go-getter, Innovator, Risk-taker, Leader)™ ambition, applauding girls who never give up, who try new things and who make their ideas a reality.”

Juliet Shavit, the cofounder of Breakthrough Music and business producer on the song, came to the project with a direct connection to its mission. “There’s just a very strong emphasis on action, and especially in today’s environment where everyone seems to have something to say,” Shavit said, “it’s great to be someone who is doing, like my girls.” Her three daughters—all of them members of the Girl Scouts of Eastern Pennsylvania—spoke about the joy of being part of the production of “Watch Me Shine.”

Eden, 12, who has been a Girl Scout for many years, has always wanted to record a song for the organization. “I think this song means that girls can do anything they want to do,” she explained. “I have a passion for engineering and I really like to build things. The song reminds me that I can do that and anything else I want to do!”

“It just goes to show you, if you really think you can do something, you can. You’re just as capable as anyone else,” Maya, 13, said, adding that the female focus inspired her and others involved in making the anthem come to life. “Everyone involved had a really strong sense of what they wanted the song to mean. They wanted it to have a strong message. I think this song is very uplifting… It shows the drive and abilities that a girl can have and how we are unafraid and ready to fight anything that comes our way.”

That’s a message that resonates within Girl Scouts and beyond. “The song is meaningful for anyone, [it] relates to all of us,” Ariel, 9, asserted.

“We don’t all want to be the same thing,” Eden added. ‘We don’t want to have our lives planned out for us. We want to be able to help others, be happy and be ourselves.”

Carmiya Baskin is an editorial intern at Ms. and a third-year Feminist Studies major at UC Santa Barbara. Her work has appeared in The Bottom Line, a student-run newspaper at UCSB, and EqualTalk, a feminist blog she co-founded through a women empowerment and teen leadership organization, Girls Give Back. She is passionate about all things related to intersectional feminism, Harry Potter and Disney, and she enjoys eating peanut butter right out of the jar while binge-watching The Office.

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We Heart: Hannah Gadsby’s Revolutionary Rewrite of the Stand-Up Special


Australian comedian Hannah Gadsby’s debut Netflix standup special Nanette rewrites the punch line. In a stunning queer and feminist performance that questions the foundations of comedy itself, Gadsby expertly leads viewers beyond the levity of our lives—and through anger, laughter, inspiration and sadness.

“I know more facts about unicorns than lesbians,” Gadsby announces to a thrilled crowd at the beginning of the show. “I cook dinner way more than I lesbian,” she explains, despite her pigeonholing as “the Lesbian poet.”

Then, things take an unexpected turn.

Gadsby grew up in Tasmania, Australia where queerness was a crime until 1997. She brilliantly starts her performance by riffing on the punchline tactics of the average comedian—and then begins to deconstruct the idea of self-deprecating humor, and what it means for an already marginalized woman to have to resort to dehumanizing herself for a quick laugh.

Gadsby uses the trauma she experienced as a queer woman in Tasmania’s political climate to make quick jokes at the start of her set, telling the audience about a man calling her a “trickster woman” when he became confused about her identity.

But the story behind that man calling Gadsby a trickster woman doesn’t end with a punchline—and neither does that part of the special. After the scene that the audience already internalized, Gadsby tells them, the man came back, called her a “girl faggot” and proceeded to beat her to the point where she needed medical attention. She reminds viewers that 70 percent of the people in Tasmania—and, as such, in her family, did not support the legalization of queerness in 1997. “70 percent of the people in my family,” she recounts, “hated me.”

Unlike a typical comedy routine, Nanette leaves viewers with a tangible anger. It’s a comedy special, sans much of the levity. Gadsby talks on stage about childhood sexual abuse and the shame that plagued her childhood and adulthood as a queer person—delivering punchlines that the audience must then contemplate having laughed at in the first place.

In her closing remarks, Gadsby reflects on the ways we can redirect self-deprecation as a comedic tool and instead point the laughter at power—putting the weight of comedy not on the people at the margins, but instead at those who push them there. “There is nothing stronger than a broken woman who has rebuilt herself,” Gadsby declares.

Then, the audience rises to give her a standing ovation.

Cori Bratby-Rudd is an eclectic writer from the Bay Area. She graduated Cum Laude from UCLA’s Gender Studies department, and is a current MFA in Creative Writing at Cal Arts. Cori enjoys incorporating themes of emotional healing and social justice into her works. She is currently living in the Los Angeles area and has been published in UCLA’s FEM Newsmagazine, UCLA’s Westwind Journal of the Arts, Cornell’s Rainy Day Magazine, and she recently won the Editorial Choice Award for her research paper in Audeamus Academic Journal.

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