Blog · Writing

The Definition of Feminist

My second piece in Fairygodboss, The Definition of Feminist, According to 10 Powerful Female Leaders is below!

Here’s how ten of the world’s most powerful female leaders, feminist theorists and influencers have talked about feminism, equality for women, and gender equality.

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The question of definitions is one that often comes up around the word “feminist,” with many women still shying away from it. Though it’s been said that everyone has their own understanding and personal definition of what feminism means, and certainly there’s room for nuance, the dictionary says this: “the theory of the political, economic, and social equality of the sexes.”

Sounds like a perspective we should all be on board with, right? Different forms of feminism highlight or focus on working to change or challenge different gendered struggles, some specific and some overlapping, and the differences in the generational waves of feminism have each drawn their own supporters and critics. Feminist philosophers coalesce around a central concern with gender, and justice for women, which may take on different forms depending on the specific form of feminism.

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Blog · Writing

A Timeline of Women’s Rights

I had a couple articles published on Fairygodboss this week!

A Timeline of Working Women’s Rights is below.

From Seneca Falls and the Shirtwaist Strike through the Equal Pay Act to #MeToo and #TimesUp, read on for a women’s history timeline chronicling some of the most significant movements, moments, and legislation in the United States affecting working women.

 

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Photo by Giacomo Ferroni on Unsplash

From its early history, women, especially those who were recent immigrants or members of the working class, have worked in the United States. It was a strange form of privilege that obligated women of more marginalized populations to work to support themselves and their families and bound wealthier women to their homes. Women have often worked in substandard and dangerous conditions and throughout U.S. history have struggled to achieve anything close to equality with men in the same positions and higher status roles.

Though there’s often been a disconnect between women of different backgrounds around various issues impacting us all, at several points through U.S. history, women of all backgrounds have come together to fight for equal treatment under the law: for the right to vote, to work, to manage our affairs, to have children when and if we chose, and for equal pay. The Equal Rights Act has still never been ratified by the needed three-fourths majority of states, and so women still do not have a constitutionally protected right to equality. However, this could be the year, as advocates work their way through the legislatures of the last few states holding out on ratificaton.

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Writing

Andromeda Ourania

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Art: Edward Poynter

The city was flooding again, as it had always done. The waters rose up annually, but then they rose higher from time to time, ever since the cataclysm. Ever since that first flood that pushed the sinners, escaped in their little boat, to this safe harbor. A natural port in a storm, crafted by the gods. The waters were calmer in the little bay. It was a safe place. Until it wasn’t.

The streets were flooded, and monsters were swimming along the streets, between the garbage and the wreckage of market carts and lean-tos and fishermen’s shacks. They were deep things, with dead eyes and bladed teeth, things with too many arms and no hands, things that did not exist in the real world, the dragons of old come to purge the city with cleansing waters.

Their leader, called Defender, descended of Titans, would annually offer herself bodily to the sea, and the waters would recede.

Cassiopeia knew that her role would be to defend her people from the rising tides, and the monsters they carried in them. Each year she would make her offering, dive to the bottom of the bay, return with the Aphrodite shell, the mollusk’s glowing blue eyes peering out, all-knowing, at the awaiting crowd. She would bring it out to much celebration and the feast would begin, and the ritual cleaning of the city would be done, old women dragging out their washing to be purged by the salty brine, and then heated to stiffness in the sun. Children would be baptized in the waters, ritually plunged into the bay to represent the annual flooding of the city, and that they were of, and indeed were the city itself. And the waters would slowly recede. And she would return the shell to it’s home on the sandy sea floor.

But this time, the waters continued to rise. This year the Aphrodite shell was hidden. She dove down again and again, searching for the large bivalve with it’s lip rimmed in vibrant blue, delicate strange strands reaching out for her. But it was not there. It seemed ill-omened to continue the celebration in its absence. The people departed. There was no bathing of linens and bodies. No feast, no sweeping out of the old year’s luck, no room made for the new. The spring came and the waters rose, and they had no place to go. The people were trapped, the water was polluted, and food was running out. What had been done, some asked, or left undone? Not Cassiopeia, who asked instead, what could be done now?

They called her proud. She was proud. She had raised this city from the roiling tides and protected it. She had built it up, made it prosper. She made the ritual each year that kept the tides in check. She was proud of that, proud of her city. Proud, too, of her daughter who would be not only the Defender of this port, but the Ruler of Men.

This was what the jealous gods did not like.
They went to the oracle, the wild eyed girl, her wispy white-blond hair floating around her skull like a corona, driven to madness by the fumes that rolled up from the cracks in the sacred Volcanic caves. Mad, yes, but more than that. Mad, yes, but also wise. The virgins who cared for her stood aside in the temple as she staggered forward, arms twisting and undulating as though she, too, was under water.

“You must not argue,” she murmured, “you must not argue.”

“How do we make the waters recede?” Cepheus demanded boldly, ever bold with his armor and spear.

“The consort must be silent!” the girl yelled in a high, unnatural tone. Then she staggered closer, eyeing the leader. “You have been proud, Defender. Your power offends, daughter of Cronos.”

“I am the daughter of Titans,” she answered, “the daughter, also, of the ocean. My daughter bears the line of the sea and the river here. I have born her. I come here by right.”

“Cassiopeia, to save your city,” the oracle of Amun told her, a god of a strange desert land, far away from the coast. a god of the flooding river though, and so one who might know the tides, “If you would save your city, you will lose all else. Your pride has gone and now you fall.”

But the city was her all. What had she left if Iopeia was lost?

“Poseidon finds you monstrous,” the youth whispered in a crone’s voice. “He would have your daughter, and then you will have the shell.”

“What must I do?” she asked. Andromeda, Ruler of Men so-called, would learn what ruling meant. She must protect her people and lead them. If Poseidon would have her child, Cassiopeia knew Andromeda would best him yet.

“She must be bound and offered to the ocean,” the oracle wheezed.
So she found herself out on a jut of rock, binding her daughter while a storm rolled in, the angry waves reaching out, greedy and eager for their prize ahead of their time. Yet Andromeda had grown on these shores, and trained beside her mother, diving into this bay all of her life. She knew these waters, and it was her strength that was her mother’s pride. Andromeda showed no fear, though she knew the water to be treacherous. She was naked, as they always were when diving, save the knife sheathed at her calf, and net tied at her waist. She was bound like an offering, like a sacrifice before the feast, and she knew what she would do. Let him take her, this angry god, and once he had her in the waters, her own waters where she had grown from childhood, she would cut her bonds and find the shell that had eluded her mother. She would prove herself the rightful heir of this land.

Cassiopeia checked the bonds and kissed her daughter, and returned along the rocky spit to the shore, where she would watch. The storm moved in and the waves grew more angry and hungry, lashing Andromeda with icy fingers. She pressed back as far as she could. The rock grew slick. The waves began to stretch higher. Poseidon’s own hand reached out. Still she waited. She drew a breath, and another, and as his grasp stretched forward, she ran and threw herself in to meet it.

The water was cold, but peaceful beneath the surface. She twisted and balled her body to reach her knife as she sank. She pulled it loose, scored a line across her leg as she did, but maneuvered to sever her bonds. The water was murky, and carried her first toward the shore and then away from it. She fought against it, and pushed herself along the bay’s sandy bottom in search of the blue eyed scallop. She was Andromeda the daughter of Cassiopeia, who was herself the daughter of Titans, and in no way lesser than Poseidon. Andromeda would complete this task. She would restore the sea to its rightful bounds. She would save her people, and prove worthy to rule them.

But her leg bled, and in the salty water the wound stung and slowed her, and in the cold and rough waves, she felt her strength wane before she found the shell. She gathered her strength to return to the surface, to take a breath, to return to her quest. She pulled herself up with long strokes and swift kicks. As she reached the surface, just there before her head crested the air, a flash of blue caught her eye.

She gasped for breath, and turned to descend once more, when the sea monster surged from the depths and surfaced after her. Andromeda slashed at it with her knife, but the creature was not dissuaded. She swam, and it followed the trail of her blood in the water. She could see the glint of blue through the angry chop, and knew she had only to be faster than the beast. As the waves closed over her, she launched herself again into them, dropping as fast as she could. Once landed, she dragged the weighty shell from it’s berth, bent her knees, and kicked off again toward the surface, the shadow of the beast looming toward her.

It moved like an arrow, true to its mark, and clamped merciless jaws on her leg, and she cried out and lost her breath. Desperate, she stabbed at it, and she found she was being propelled up to the surface in the creature’s jaws. It breached, triumphant.

And there, Poseidon’s man stood out, victorious, on Andromeda’s rock, thrusting forward in hand the severed head of another woman called monstrous, her gaze wielded by him now as a weapon, while with his eyes he took in her nudity alone. The creature fell back, a statue now, sinking to the bottom of the bay, her leg still caught in its teeth. As she sank, her eyes met those of friend and ally, the gorgon.

In Iopeia the waters receded, and Cassiopeia submitted to her cousin’s rule, and from then on the port city made offerings in tribute to Poseidon’s liege, called Zeus-Amun. But the people were saved, and this is the sacrifice that is sometimes demanded of those who rule, whose call it is to protect and prosper their people.

In time a most remarkable scallop was found near the island of the Cypriots, and inside it is said they found, fully formed, the most beautiful woman in the world. “I am reborn,” she said, “Risen from the sea.”

She left the shell behind. The gods were offended by her strength, her mother’s pride, and would go through such permutations to undermine a woman of power, to reduce her to a monstrous and pretty thing. So be it, she thought, and knew the way pretty baubles could distract and obscure, and what gains might be traded for the favor of beauty. She would make her own mischief of them. All who saw her were struck by devotion to her. With her walked grace and justice, abundance and peace. She was most persuasive in her charms, yet was also lightly armed with a knife at her side. From that day she fought to rule the hearts of mortals, whom she would defend from the manipulations of the fickle and jealous gods.

 

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Writing

Kitty Dreadful

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I had a cat who was bitten by a werewolf. There had been attacks on animals in the area, and by attacks I mean that neighborhood pets had been eaten, and we’d find the chewed remains in the days following the full moon. I don’t know why my cat wasn’t eaten, but it came limping home, favoring its front right paw, half its face bloodied and swollen. It wouldn’t let me come near, arching its back and hissing and growling at my approach. I put down some food and water, with extra treats, and let it be, sure I’d have to corral it for a trip to the vet soon. It climbed into a sunny spot in the window and cleaned itself, and, rapidly, over the next few days, healed completely. I thought at first it had been involved in a scrap with a tomcat or stray mut. We had a little cat door in the kitchen so it could come and go as it pleased, and it often spent its time roaming the surrounds, so it wasn’t unusual for the cat to be out on particularly moonlit nights.

Contrary to common belief, werewolves can’t see in the dark any more than we can, and that is, in part, why the full moon is so important. They can’t hunt without the light.

The attacks on house pets became more prevalent, and the authorities recommended keeping them in, having some concerns about the cultish activity of the early 80s regaining in retro-chic popularity. I couldn’t find my cat. The next morning it came trotting back home and launched into its accustomed spot in the sun and began a vigorous bath.

The next month the animal shelter put out traps to contain any strays who might be at risk. Four terrified dogs were taken, two cats, a raccoon, and one trap was left broken to pieces. I locked the cat door and kept my cat in after that.

I remember driving home from a book club meeting, enjoying the way the moonlight cast the rolling fields in silver. Before I even pulled into the drive, I knew something was wrong. The house looked wrong, though I couldn’t say why. Everything was in perfect order at the front. I pulled my car into the garage, and stepped through the garage door into the kitchen.

The back door, the one with the cat door, was torn off and lay in the yard. Dishes, left neatly stacked in the sink, were now in fragments across the floor. The sink itself dripped from a bent faucet. The wallpaper beside the door was shredded and the wall beneath scarred. The police didn’t know what to make of it. It was ruled a burglary, though nothing was taken. Eventually insurance paid for the door.

There were no more animal attacks for a few weeks and we left a window open a crack so the cat could come in and out again. The poor thing had been in such a state of anxiety following the incident with the door, I determined not to lock it inside again. Another bright evening descended on us. I was making dinner, listening to the news playing from the next room, when I had a call. A neighbor had let her dog out into the yard. She heard a terrible yelping and when she ran outside, the dog was gone, and she only found it’s torn collar. I closed the window, and called from room to room, “Kitty! Here kitty! Where are you?”

When no answering meow came, even with the shaking of a treat bag and the running of the electric can opener, I resolved to go out after it. The night was cool and damp and I hugged myself as I went into the yard, calling for my cat. There was movement in the hedge, and I crouched down to peer into the greenery. Yellow eyes peered back at me. I reached in after my cat. It hissed and backed up. I followed and my hand nearly closed on it’s scruff, but the hiss turned to a growl, and then the growling became deeper and more guttural.

In the strange broken light filtering through the bushes, my cat’s snout appeared longer, and it’s teeth larger. I drew back, then looked again. This was a bigger animal than my cat, but I had been certain only a moment ago that it was my pet. I crouched low to the dirt and tried to get a better look. The silky striped gray coat was familiar, and knowing that there was a wild animal out here attacking pets, I reached into the hedge again and grabbed hold of fur. Teeth like daggers sank into my arm. I cried out and jerked back, and lay staring up at the night sky, clutching my arm for a moment. I heard a ruckus in the foliage and when I looked again, the animal was gone. The bite went deep, but there was less blood than the horror movies suggest. I went inside and washed myself up and bandaged my arm. I made a visit to my GP that week, though the bite had healed quickly.

My cat came back the next morning. It meowed and bumped its head against my leg, then took up it’s accustomed spot in the window. When I reached out to stroke its head, it groomed my injured arm. I took it as an apology.

My arm is almost completely healed now, just a few red marks remain. This evening I can feel a tickle in the back of my throat, like the start of a cold, but I have more energy than I think I’ve ever had. The air seems full, more alive with smells, and I’ve left all the window’s open. I couldn’t bear to have them closed up somehow. My cat jumps to the window sill, stares back at me, as if questioning, for a long moment, and then jumps out into the awaiting night. My skin feels tight, like shrunken clothing, and the bright moonlight is calling to me. After a moment, I follow my cat.

 

This story was originally shared on Medium on October 8, 2016

I have a newsletter now! If you enjoy my stories, if you want to support my writing, please sign up. If you subscribe to my Tiny Letter, you’ll stay with me, wherever I end up writing in the future, and I’ll send you previews of what’s coming up here.