The Sexy Feminist Polls: The Most Important Issue Facing Feminism, Your Feminist Role Models, and More

With more than 500 voters logging responses to our recent Sexy Feminist polls, we thought it would be fun to break down some of the results. According to Sexy Feminist readers …

The most important issue facing feminism today is sexual and domestic violence. This makes sense, of course: Freedom from violence and fear is the most basic human right, and many women lack that specifically because of their gender. We can’t progress on much else if we don’t combat this one. The Violence Against Women Act was a good start, but we have a long way to go. For statistics, resources, and help, visit the National Center on Domestic and Sexual Violence.

Your favorite feminist role models are Hillary Clinton and Tina Fey. This combination says it all for 2013 feminism: a badass politician who’s already a frontrunner for the next presidential election, and who has done tireless work for women all over the world; and a prominent, funny, beloved woman who’s broken open comedy’s boys’ club and is on yet another upward trajectory in her career toward movie stardom — as a mom in her 40s. Ellen DeGeneres and Gloria Steinem also inspired a lot of you, and we can’t blame you for that, either.

The sexiest feminist thing a man can do is actively champion women’s rights to others. Can’t argue with that. There’s nothing better than a man who realizes feminism matters as much to men as it does to women. You all wouldn’t mind if he picked up his share of the domestic load, too.

Almost half of you became feminists because you believe in equal rights for all.  

Sexy Feminist Poll: Who’s Your Favorite Feminist Role Model?

Who's your favorite Sexy Feminist role model?

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Links for Sexy Feminists: Elder Feminist Obituaries, Workplace Discrimination, the VAWA, and More

Two Groundbreaking Women Died:  Jean S. Harris, whose trial for murdering her longtime beau drew her comparisons to Anna Karenina and Emma Bovary, became an advocate for female prisoners while at Bedford Hills.  Beate Gordon made sure female rights were drafted into the modern Japanese constitution when she was a 22-year-old assistant to General MacArthur.  Both were born in 1923.

Abortion by Internet:  Increasing numbers of women are using the internet to purchase a medication for its off-label use of inducing miscarriage.

Off the Cliff, But …: The U.S. House blocked the Violence Against Women Act.

Women Working:  An all-male Iowa court ruled in favor of a man who fired a “stellar” longtime employee because he found her “irresistible.”  The two had been friendly, but she viewed him as a father figure.

Indian Girls Get Period Help: Girls in India frequently drop out of school due to the social stigma of menstruation, but a humanitarian public health campaign aims to change that.

Speaking Out: One blogger offers her experience with Women’s Studies 101 and the difficult necessity of awareness.'s 'Top Seven Cutest Feminists': Good or bad for women?

It was only a matter of time before the Maxim method of ranking women would be applied to feminists., not as raunchy as Maxim, but similar in spirit, has ranked the Top Seven Cutest Feminists. This article actually has us torn. On one hand, we’re grossed out by yet another male-targeted article placing all a woman’s worth in her looks (sorry, Spike, we’re not buying your “in the spirit of things, we’ve ranked them based on ‘inner beauty’” disclaimer). But then again, we do like to advocate that feminist and sexy are not mutually exclusive — in fact, they go hand in hand.

Plus, this list does introduce some bona fide feminists –and a few questionable ones, more on that later — to a male audience perhaps otherwise oblivious to such things. Jennifer Baumgardner and Kat Banyard are on our rock-star list too. But porn star Nina Hartley? Um, no. There’s a line in feminism, and although it’s shifted drastically from the radical days to the current post-whatever movement, porn will never be feminist. Dumbing down feminist content for men so they can understand it is also pretty anti-feminist and also just lame. P.S. What is Nicole Kidman doing there with no explanation whatsoever? I sure would love to hear her feelings about feminism and plastic surgery, but alas, just a pretty picture. Sigh…

Meanwhile, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid called New York Sen. Kristen Gillibrand “the hottest member” of their branch of government. Though, as Politico reported, He also then discussed her knowledge of securities law as extremely deep, and suggested she was better on certain policy elements than other people, according to the sources.”

So is it okay for men to “compliment” women’s appearance and also still take them seriously? It’s a fine line.

Tina Fey: Fallen Feminist Icon or Just What We Need?

As soon as Tina Fey took the first bite out of her “Brownie Husband” during this week’s “Saturday Night Live,” I knew there would be a lot of talk. Both the kind that celebrated the fauxmercial’s ingenious hilarity—and, I mean seriously, obvious satire—and the riled-up ridicule from those who seem to have been waiting to pounce on Fey ever since she decided to own her hotness and pose for magazines in low-cut dresses and take the lead in a romantic comedy—things that I think are just as feminist as not giving a shit about high heels or lipgloss. (Psst, the feminism is in the control of one’s own image. Yes, she’s in control of it). But pretty feminists have been criticized for embracing their prettiness for generations. (Gloria Steinem comes to mind.)

Ever since that now-infamous “SNL” appearance, there’s much more of the latter going on. The basic argument against Fey is: Why does Tina Fey make fun of women so much? Whether it’s her disheveled, unlucky-in-love—but totally successful, strong, and otherwise badass—character Liz Lemon on “30 Rock” or the pole-dancing, repressed homemaker in her latest film, “Date Night,” some women just can’t let Fey off the hook for portraying flawed—and, yes, unattractive—characters or turning her icy wit against other women.

But is she now? Well, yes and no.

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Lady Gaga's Feminist Evolution

I’ve been personally debating the feminist-or-not merits of Lady Gaga for awhile now. She parades around without pants; but she’s also one of the most successful businesswomen in pop music. She sings about sexuality as a weapon—one that’s not always used responsibly—but then again, so did Madonna. Yes, ladies, Madonna—in all her cone-boobed, bondage glory—is a feminist.

And I almost wrote Gaga off entirely when she refused to use the F-word when identifying herself. But in a new interview with Los Angeles Times pop-music critic Ann Powers, Gaga discusses the importance of feminism as if it’s been her raison d’être all along.

“I’m getting the sense that you’re a little bit of a feminist, like I am, which is good,” she said. “I find that men get away with saying a lot in this business, and that women get away with saying very little . . . In my opinion, women need and want someone to look up to that they feel have the full sense of who they are, and says, ‘I’m great.’ ”

As Powers points, out, Gaga’s casual use of the term “feminist” is surprising. But rather than attack her for previous statements, Powers allows the young entertainer this change of perspective. She’s given her the opportunity to grow and evolve. And this is perhaps the greater feminist act. Why is it that we don’t permit our public women the option to actually—I don’t know—grow up?

Take Christina Aguilera, for example. When she was wearing chaps and writhing around in mud, she may not have been the best example of a feminist role model. But the modern-day mother, entrepreneur, activist and identifying feminist certainly is. What changed? She matured and gained perspective, a luxury every human should be allowed.

If Christians can be born-again, so can feminists.

Does a Woman's Opinion Count?

One bright Saturday afternoon when I was 9 years old, my father, in a burst of paternal enthusiasm, announced we would be going to the bookstore. Pleased at the idea of adding another Goosebumps novel to my collection, I was more than happy to capitulate. It wasn’t until we were at the cash register that I realized the book we were getting was not Goosebumps after all, but something far duller: “Why It’s Great to Be a Girl: 50 Things You Can Tell Your Daughter to Increase Her Pride in Being Female.” After flipping through and confirming my saddened suspicion that its pages contained no tales of monster blood or haunted cameras, I arrived at a conclusion: This book had nothing new to tell me.

Until that point, I had no reason to suspect that being a girl was anything other than great. First of all, the only true distinguishing characteristic I could identify between my male contemporaries and myself was that, while they were stuck with pants, I had the option of playing freeze tag in a skirt. I could play with video games or dolls without persecution from either side; and my chief favorite pastime growing up was playing with dinosaurs. I saw this as neither girlie nor butch—after all, why would plastic dinosaurs have a gendered tradition?

I have maintained this attitude into adulthood, and generally assumed the women of my generation had maintained it with me. But on looking around, I’ve been startled to see that the issue of women’s self-confidence may run deeper than what a 150-page book is prepared to contend with. Worse still, this epiphany came to me when I was working as an editorial assistant for a major news organization, my primary job being to commission commentaries for the Opinion section of the website. “We need women,” my boss would tell me daily. “Women get women.”

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Megan Fox, Feminist?

A few months back, I got a text message from my 24-year-old sister: “Can I work at Hooters if I’m doing it ironically?” I acknowledge that: 1. We gotta do what we gotta do in this economy; and 2. She meant it (mostly) as a joke, and it’s pretty funny. That said, though, it also got me thinking about that very special brand of feminism that seems to come naturally to a lot of smart, budding daughters-of-Steinem in their teens and 20s: You know, the “Girls Gone Wild”-Is-Empowering, “Coyote Ugly”-4-eva phase. The time during which you can somehow twist your biggest source of true, instant, newly discovered power over men—your sexuality—into the place where you want the source of your power to be: your womanhood. Your feminism.

And you haven’t yet learned that it’s a lot more complicated than that. Feminism—like anything worth anything—is a confusing, messy journey of discovery. The immensity of the topic—this is hardly a yes/no question—allows for millions of shades of gray even among its most seasoned minds. But the sisterhood’s youngest inductees go through some particularly incendiary—if totally typical—growing pains. Many start out radical—getting pissed off is, after all, how one generally becomes a feminist. Whether it’s because she’s witnessed discrimination firsthand or she’s taken up reading Betty Friedan for the first time, a women’s-studies-phase feminist can quote long passages of Naomi Wolf and debate with up-to-the-minute Planned Parenthood statistics. Then, however, the groups start to splinter off, as real-life concerns like paying rent and charting a career path start to take up more time than Simone de Beauvoir and Ms. Magazine. Some may go into a no-cooking-or-cleaning-because-it-subjugates-me phase or a screw-marriage-and-kids phase.

But the phase that gets the most attention—and one that’s increasingly common (as documented by Ariel Levy’s great “Female Chauvinist Pigs”)—is the owning-my-sexuality phase. We here at Sirens have explored the question of why, during this time of life in particular, showing off what God gave you can be a little enticing. However, another reason this phase gets so much play is because it seems to always have a resident pop-culture spokeswoman. Pop culture loooves a young lady who’ll both vamp it up and say provocatively smart-sounding things—an intoxicating combination that allows the media to have cake as well as eat it. (What? She just said those things that get bloggers talking and magazines selling, and we just printed it in the name of good journalism? And she wanted to pose topless? Awesome!) So it has been that in the past decade we’ve drooled over Angelina Jolie, who, at 24, was telling British GQ, ”I need more sex, OK? Before I die I wanna taste everyone in the world.” That same year (2000) she also told Elle, ”I like everything. Boyish girls, girlish boys, the heavy and the skinny. Which is a problem when I’m walking down the street.” (Aww, remember when girl-on-girl was sooo transgressive?) Then we had Christina Aguilera-circa-“Dirrty”: “What is so wrong with a 22-year-old woman showing her sexuality? If people want to insult me, let them. Call me a slag. If being a slag means being a strong woman, I’ll gladly be that.”

And now, of course, we have Megan Fox running her mouth off, and, incidentally, inciting plenty of debate among Sirens staffers even though we should know better than to take the bait. In one Entertainment Weekly story alone, she called herself a feminist while also unleashing such bon mots as, “I think all women in Hollywood are known as sex symbols. That’s what our purpose is in this business. You’re merchandised, you’re a product. You’re sold and it’s based on sex. But that’s okay. I think women should be empowered by that, not degraded.”

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Why All Women Should Love Michelle Obama

1. She’s a good mother. Whether you’re single, married, a parent, or never plan to be, the image of a strong, responsible mother—one who also manages to maintain a demanding career of her own and support her husband’s—is a wonderful example for all women. Not only does she prioritize her daughters over everything else—getting to soccer games, ballet recitals, and birthday parties, election or not—she also constantly advocates the importance of responsible parenting for all children. To paraphrase Gandhi, a society can best be judged by the way it treats its children.

[Read more...]

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