Women work against the dehumanization of prison in many ways, sometimes subtle, sometimes overt, sometimes individual, sometimes collective. From speaking out to change punitive laws to sending letters to their children, and everything in between. We consider all these actions to be forms of feminism—because, in ways big and small, they uphold the basic human dignity and rights of women, and they are part of creating a world where women have agency, and are valued.
Tamar Kraft-Stolar, from Salamishah Tillet’s piece on the new season of Orange is the New Black
In a media landscape where sexist hit pieces on powerful women are common, “appealing” profiles are especially insidious. But objectification is not a compliment, even when well-intentioned. Old habits die hard for men who have been raised to believe what they think about a woman is the most important piece of information they can relay. But ogling isn’t journalism, and until some men learn as much, we’re going to be stuck with a media that’s more Peeping Tom than press.

Last week, I wrote here at The Nation about how important it is for survivors of sexual violence to tell their stories, and what civilians can learn from the US Military about how not to listen to those stories.

One of the cures for that epidemic is the destigmatization of pleasure. A culture in which girls and women are taught to understand and honor their own sexual desires, and in which boys and men are taught to respect those desires as much as they respect their own, is a culture that does not permit sexual violence. In such a culture, it is a prerequisite for initiating and continuing with a sexual interaction that everyone involved will feel good. Everyone will have the vocabulary and the permission to talk about feeling good. They will consent, enthusiastically. In that culture, Steubenville is inconceivable. In that culture, bodily autonomy comes first and pleasure comes—and yes, that was entirely intentional—a very close second.

It’s a proven fact, backed by simple math even my first grader can understand: the number of reviews of books by men is greater than the number of reviews of books by women; the number of male reviewers is greater than the number of female reviewers. Men, in other words, are still the arbiters of taste, the cultural gatekeepers, and the recipients of what little attention still gets paid to books.

What I will do, however, is open my kimono and make it personal, though I’ve been warned not to do this. It’s career suicide, colleagues tell me, to speak out against the literary establishment; they’ll smear you. But never mind. I’m too old and too invisible to said establishment to care. And I still believe, as Carol Hanisch wrote back in 1969—when I was having my then three-year-old feet forced into stiff Mary Janes—that the personal is political.