Saturday, October 31, 2009

Happy fall break!

Today is the beginning of Princeton's fall break (and not a minute too soon!), so the Equal Writes bloggers will be taking a much-needed hiatus. There will still be posts, but they'll be more sporadic, until we return next Sunday. Enjoy the last of the fall leaves, and here are some things to look forward to after the break:

The Vagina Monologues auditions! Yes, it's that time of the year again - time to start talking about your vagina. All are welcome to audition. Tryouts will be held on Sunday, November 15 from 4-7 pm, Monday, November 16 from 7-11 pm, and Wednesday, November 18 from 7-11 pm. Signups for auditions slots will be available online after the break. If you have questions, contact Lydia (ldallett@princeton.edu), Zoe (zgoldman@princeton.edu) or Amelia (ajthomso@princeton.edu).

Author, columnist, pornographer and self-styled "anal sexpert" Tristan Taormino will be doing two talks at Princeton on November 17 and November 18 (sponsored by Let's Talk Sex and other campus organizations). The first talk will be at 8 pm in McCormick 101, and Tristan will discuss how to create healthy nonmonogamous relationships. The second will be a lunch discussion about queer sexualities at 12 pm in the LGBT Center. Both will be awesome. A fun fact about Tristan that I just learned via Wikipedia? Her uncle is Thomas Pynchon. Just one more reason to come!

Have a great break, everyone - there's lots to look forward to you when you return.

Photo via Joe Shlabotnik's Flickr photostream.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Love; or why I couldn't finish Don Quixote

by Chris Moses

Eight hundred pages is a significant investment in a book.
Hours carved from busy days, bleary-eyed moments before bedtime, the intoxication of a story like no other—over the course of a few weeks this spring I had the great pleasure of reading Cervantes’ monumental contribution to world literature.

You can imagine, then, I was not the least bit consternated when a mere hundred or so pages from the end I lost the will to continue. Not boredom, nor exhaustion or frustration—something much deeper. For days I stared at the crinkled spine. I pondered my bookmark, a mere sliver of pages from the end. But the cover stayed shut.

My own life has been quixotic in its own way for the past few years and so meeting the man eponymous with my experience offered a settling catharsis. As a satire of gallantry and heraldic literature, the book’s absurd escapades and surreal enchantments make less for irony than a convincing portrait of what’s real. Or more exactly, it provides a testament to the abiding energy needed to sustain the normalcy of everyday life—how that energy, free in more fantastic adventures, leads to deep emotional travails, to the extremes of self-doubt and noble confidence, to an exhaustion and exhilaration of feeling. Quixote’s knight errantry requires a devotion and purpose unsustainable within the confines of typical routine.

As is often the case with classical literature that has become popularized through its most notable episodes (like battling with windmills), the full story came with numerous surprises. I still shudder at its casual violence and the serious injury that befalls Don Quixote, Sancho Panza and their combatants.

However humorous, whatever the folly—injury and pain underwrite much of the action and play a defining role in the narrative. Stark physical suffering lends authenticity to emotional upheaval that might otherwise seem mere exaggeration or hyperbole. Like it or not, you’re hit over the head. Over and over again, just like Don Quixote, you’re banged by feeling, surprised by your empathy with the absurd, made protective of his stupidest ambitions. Intertwined feelings of mind and body, the contours of emotive readership—this is Cervantes’ novelty and with it the art of modern fiction.

My paralysis had a great deal to do with this sort of hyper-stimulated compassion. As much as I couldn’t let go, I also realized how much I had already lost in the intervening hundred or so chapters.

More than anything, Don Quixote’s quest is one of love. Love for honesty, love for adventure, love for setting wrongs right and lending strength to the weak—but above all, love for princess Dulcinea who he seeks to woo and honor and immortalize.

With each path taken and each page turned, I had lost myself to Quixote’s love and felt my own only as a mere remainder. Would I ever feel such a depth of commitment? Could I match this dedication beyond sanity?

Love is hard. Bizarrely, we expect it just to happen—at first sight, eyes aflutter, arms lusting to embrace. Yet what about all that energy and effort? All those painful adventures that go awry?

But to be so concentrated and deliberate and reflective—how unQuixote: his purposefulness comes not from rational determination and moderated understanding. He can’t see beyond the delusion at the end of his lance. All or nothing, all or nothing—and all the while we know it’s nothing.

Dulcinea isn’t real, and if she was, Don Quixote wouldn’t be Don Quixote. And where would we be? Eight hundred pages in, and nowhere to go.

I don’t have an answer, and can’t give away the ending. Though I do remain with a lasting sense that love—whether my own, or the sort of love required by feminism—needs expansion, confusion and constant recreation.

For political battles over personal freedoms, the rational, analytical and hard-hitting honesty we espouse offers a secure and necessary defense against intolerant and regressive ideals (like macho men and ever-pregnant married mammas). So too this posture challenges the ‘hysterical woman’ hurdle just as we hope that, if we concentrate enough, if we challenge enough stereotypes and so forth, body-image issues and the insecurities of sexual preference and performance will abate, if not dissolve before us.

Yet what about the mystery, the magic, the pain and peril and intoxication of love? Sometimes I worry I’m not ready (or ever will be). Still I’m confident that doubt can be as productive for my own experience as it can be for feminist thought, without ceding ground or forgoing opportunity, adventure and enjoyment.

Indeed rather than doing away with that doubt, I think it should be nourished as an integral part of feminist practice: not debilitating, but empowering us against strong-headed, self-denying repressive obstinacy so often masked as ‘natural’ or the stuff of ‘traditional values.’

In the end I managed to finish Don Quixote. I closed the back cover with a sense of mournful conclusion—and remnants of joyful hope. Love let me begin, love let me continue, and love leaves Don Quixote, and all of us, ever able to search for Dulcinea.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Quick hit: Princeton is the 61st most sexually healthy campus?

A friend of mine sent just me a link to this new survey by (of all people) Trojan Condoms. Apparently Princeton ranks 61st among American college campuses in terms of sexual health resources. Their criteria? Student opinion of the health center is important, as is the availability of free or at cost condoms or birth control. But some of the criteria are also pretty vague, like "separate sexual awareness program" (what?) and "lecture/outreach programs," which are apparently different from "student peer groups" and "sexual assault programs."

Although I would definitely not actively criticize the resources that Princeton offers its students, there is a lot more that the university could be doing (starting with providing more forms of subsidized birth control and promoting and subsidizing more forms of contraceptives for women who may not want to go on the pill). There is also a significant silence around sexual assault, one that is incredibly difficult to break, despite the best efforts of the SHARE program.

The schools that are more "sexually healthy" than Princeton include Columbia, Brown and Yale. I have no idea how Trojan collected its data or conducted its research for this report, which inevitably seems more like an ad for Trojan than anything else (did you know that we could hire the Trojan Evolve Bus to come to campus? Let's do that right now!). But it does raise some interesting questions for me about how you measure a campus' sexual health or sexual health resources, and how we at Princeton stack up against other schools.

I don't have an answer (and I'm not satisfied with Trojan's), so I'm throwing it out to you. What do you think of Princeton's sexual health resources? Are there things the university could be doing better? And are there important factors that this survey left out?

Thanks to Natieka for the tip!

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

The silver lining on Oklahoma and abortion

by Jordan Kisner

I am happy to pass along the news that the Oklahoma law that would mandate the public sharing of intimate details of abortion procedures will not be taking effect this coming Sunday. The Center for Reproductive Rights filed a restraining order against the law on behalf of two women, and succeeded in getting enforcement delayed until December 4th.

For those readers who have not yet heard of the controversy in Oklahoma, the law in question would require that doctors post personal information about women who have abortions online, details that include the date of procedure, reason for procedure, county in which the procedure took place, race, age and education level of the mother, and number of previous births or abortions. Opponents of the law contend that name and address would not be posted, the required information would be enough to identify women living in small towns. Doctors would also have to report specific details about the procedure, including whether or not the fetus was given an anesthetic, whether or not it survived and for how long. After this law takes effect, any doctor who fails to post this information online would lose their medical license and face criminal sanctions.

The Center for Reproductive Rights (CRR), in conjunction with former state representative Wanda Jo Stapleton (D, Oklahoma City) and Oklahoma resident Lora Joyce Davis, has filed a suit against the law, claiming it violates the Oklahoma Constitution. In the meantime, Judge Twyla Mason Gray ignored the temporary restraining order and granted the state’s request to move the TRO hearing until December 4th, which would make the law active for over a month before a restraining order could take effect. In response to protests by the CRR, Gray agreed to stay the law until the hearing, thank goodness, but set the bond for the restraining order (which, in Oklahoma, must be posted by the party requesting the order) at a whopping $25,000. That’s right, in order to get the law stayed for the month before the hearing, the nonprofit and two women have to come up with $25,000.

This is an unbelievable travesty, a state-imposed threat to the safety and well being of Oklahoma women. But at least the CRR has bought a month of time. They are accepting donations on their website to help them pay the $25,000, and I urge anyone with the means and inclination to send a few extra dollars their way.

Today is National Comprehensive Sex Education Call-In Day!

So that means you should call your legislators and let them know how important it is that they slash funds for abstinence-only sex education and fund comprehensive sex ed. Young people deserve honest and accurate sex education - and they need it now.

Here's a script, via Feministing, with talking points for the call (and an awesome video from ChoiceUSA asking you to call your senators). Don't know who your senator is? Look it up on this site. Seriously, this will take about 5 minutes - and these calls actually make a difference to your legislator.



Script for your call, taken from the lovely folks at Feministing (thank you, Feministing!):

Call 1-888-423-5983 to connect to your Senators office. What to say when you call:

Hi. My name is ________________. May I please speak with the Senator's lead aide on health? I am calling to talk about stripping the Hatch Abstinence-only Amendment from the Health Care Reform bill.

(after they transfer you to the right person in the office)

Hi. My name is ___________ and I am calling from ___________. The Senate Finance Committee recently passed the Hatch Abstinence-only Amendment to Healthcare Reform- reinstating $50 million in funding for failed abstinence-only-until-marriage programs. We need to ensure Congress only funds a comprehensive approach to sex education and does not fund ineffective abstinence-only-until-marriage programs that leave young people at risk. As a constituent of Senator _________, I urge the Senator to work to strip the Hatch Abstinence-only Amendment from the final Healthcare Reform bill.

Other Talking Points to Use:
-Healthcare Reform is a critically important task for this Congress and it should not be hijacked by ideologically motivated earmarks.
-The Title V abstinence-only-until-marriage program expired on June 30th and, at that time, had been refused by nearly half of the states both because of the restrictive nature of the program and the fact that overwhelming evidence has proven these programs to be ineffective and a waste of taxpayer dollars.
-The federal government's own study of the Title V abstinence-only-until-marriage program found these programs to be completely ineffective at their stated goals.
-Moreover, study after study has shown that abstinence-only-until-marriage programs have no effect whatsoever.
-It is time for the federal government to stop wasting taxpayer dollars on these failed programs.
-I stand with the millions of Americans who support teaching both abstinence and contraception. Nationwide polls show that eight-in-ten voters want young people to receive a comprehensive approach to sex education that includes teaching about both abstinence and contraception.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Disney characters: not great role models

It's the middle of midterms here, and everyone is sniffling and stressed out (there's a nasty cold going around - try to get enough sleep!), but I really enjoyed these cartoon. Via Feministing:

Once again, my mother is vindicated in not letting me watch Disney movies as a child. Although this doesn't actually show some of the nastiest stereotypes - Disney is totally unafraid to take on race as well as gender and come out with something incredibly offensive. From Sociological Images, the princesses we are missing (not including Tiana, the latest African-American princess, who I'm sure is a whole mess of problematic):

Pocahontas (1995) – Saves a man’s life with her two assets, her beauty and her animal companions.

Mulan (1998) – Saves a county from a racist caricature with her two assets, her intelligence and her animal companions. Picks up a boyfriend along the way.

Giselle (2007) – Taken care of by strangers because of her only asset, her beauty. Saved by a kiss from a man. Saves a man with help from her animal companions.

And if this just isn't enough for you, you can always watch Sarah Haskins' take on Disney princesses - it's old, but excellent. And for goodness' sake, can somebody tell me why Disney is so obsessed with the animal companions?

But if you thought this was a problem just for female characters, think again - Disney princes are equally vapid. Another great cartoon (thanks to Flora for the tip, via BuzzFeed):


Monday, October 26, 2009

An email discussion about a cartoon in today's Prince

Two of our bloggers, Brenda Jin and Ayse Gursoy, got into an email discussion about the fact that today's cartoon in the Daily Princetonian might be sexist. It started with a link sent to the list (this is why listservs are amazing!) but ended up being a thoughtful conversation about how to read the cartoon. Feel free to join in the discussion in our comment section!

Brenda Jin (in an email with the subject: “Sexist Prince”):

What is this?

Ayse Gursoy:

I think it's more a personal reflection of the artist talking to her roommate. Presumably. Unless I misunderstood what part you identified as sexist; feel free to clarify. (As in, I don't think it's saying that women have no grasp of current affairs, but rather that students don't.)

Brenda Jin:

Thanks for emailing me. I guess I didn't make it clear.

I guess I had no idea it was her and her roommate. I don't know the artist personally and just thought it was a general depiction of two Princeton women having a conversation with each other. In that case, the cartoon is making fun of the fact - and assuming the fact to be true - that women on this campus are clueless about current events, politics, and world issues.

What really strikes me is that the two Princeton characters are not as gender-neutral as they could be and definitely not male. i guess to a lay student like me, the cartoon had a pretty general message about Princeton women.

Plus, following the conversation at the women's center last week regarding the lack of women's leadership on campus, esp. in the USG, I see this as symptomatic of the additional social hurdles and stereotypes that women on this campus work hard to overcome that men do not encounter as often or as thoroughly.

Ayse Gursoy:

I don't actually know the artist personally, but that was my assumption. Perhaps I should rethink it. And maybe it's easy for me (as a woman) to identify with an image of a woman as a generic student, but it may not be the case for a male student. Also, I feel like most of the cartoons in the prince are drawn by women, or at least feature female characters pretty often. So that might be why I'm used to seeing a female character as the face of a Princeton Student. Not sure. That was a bit of a digression.

My initial reaction was that it was nice to see a female student depicted as playing video games, without going into any detail about the game itself (no barbie pet rescue or whatever).

I'm starting to see your point, however. I think even the fact that you reacted that way means that the problem is more involved than I thought. And what about the non-students who read the paper? The comic could have made it more clear that the cluelessness is attached to the student, not the female, experience.

Brenda Jin:

I guess I was just personally deeply offended. I am also particularly sensitive to the fact that one of the females with the video games seems to be asian. I am an Asian female on this campus and I read the news every day.

Cartoon from the Daily Princetonian's website.

Some thoughts on sex education

by Jordan Kisner

As the unlucky girl who attended a different school every year for sixth, seventh, eighth and ninth grade, I got to experience some version of sex ed (or “health” or “girls, the nurse is going to speak to you now about your very special bodies”) four different times. Looking back my four encounters with a school’s attempt at sexual education, I am surprised at how different they were—how the information imparted varied so widely from school to school. Why did I learn about menstruation four times, but how to use a condom only once? Why did three schools teach multi-hour units on the undesirability of teenage pregnancy and not one teach us how to talk to our sexual partners about protection, preferences or pleasure?

I think these gaps in middle and high school sexual education can be traced to the philosophy behind the curriculum. By and large, at the four California schools I attended the intention of these classes was not to engage the students in an honest conversation about our questions, fears, or ideas about sex. The gym teachers, science teacher and elderly community service director (seriously) I took class with ran these courses the way a college professor conducts a lecture class: they talked, we took notes. This, studies show, is the wrong way to go about teaching teens about sex and reproductive health. Kaiser did a study that found that teenagers want and need more information than they are getting in their sexual education classes:

“Approximately half of students in grades 7-12 report needing more information about what to do in the event of rape or sexual assault, how to get tested for HIV and other STDs, factual information on HIV/AIDS and other STDs, and how to talk with a partner about birth control and STDs. Two in five also want more factual information on birth control, how to use and where to get birth control, and how to handle pressure to have sex. Yet a significant percentage report that these topics are not covered in their most recent sexuality education course, or that they are not covered in sufficient depth.”

The way to solve this problem is not simply to provide teens with longer lectures, but to create space for conversations about their own perceptions of sex and give them a forum to ask their own questions. A survey of 250 high school students conducted by the D.C. Council’s Committee on Health found that young women in particular need open discussion about personal sexual issues: “Some female participants also want to be able to discuss more personal issues with health educators… such as “What do you do when sometimes when you’re having sex and it hurts, but at the same time, you know what I mean—it feels good?” The study also found that teenage girls reported a higher level of discomfort talking to their parents about sex, which seems a likely explanation for their greater need for information from school sex educators.

The only attempt at personal discussion any teacher ever made happened in ninth grade, when girls and boys were divided into separate rooms and addressed by a “peer adviser.” That’s right—the personal discussion time of the twenty-five girls in my sex ed class was moderated not by a sex educator, but by another high school student, and a male one at that. Apparently, the female peer adviser was out sick that day, so the girls were addressed by a popular junior boy who was as uncomfortable as he was well meaning. I thought that he was going to be fielding our sex-related questions (“Yeah, right,” I thought to myself), but after we settled, sitting Indian-style on the floor, he asked us solemnly, “So, how many of you are planning to wait until you get married to lose your virginity?”

Every hand in the room sailed into the air except mine and one other, which belonged to the only other girl in the room who was new. It was our fourth week at a new school and we managed, in a moment, to single ourselves out as the only two “loose” girls in the room. I only realized the statement I was inadvertently making about myself in retrospect; in the moment I was completely bewildered. The idea of marriage as the sole determinant of whether or not I was ready to have sex was foreign and confusing to me, and as every last one of my classmates sat there with their hands raised, I felt like I had missed a crucial memo. My mother still tells the story of how I charged into our kitchen that afternoon and demanded, “Mom, why didn’t you ever tell me I’m supposed to wait until I’m married to have sex!?” What had followed in the classroom was not a conversation about feeling ready, protection, trust in your partner or emotional maturity, but, rather, a line of questions aimed at me and the other new girl about our “unusual choice.”

Fortunately for me, I had a mother who provided me with the opportunity that none of the four versions of sex ed did—the chance to express my questions, ideas and opinions about sex to someone with the experience and knowledge to guide me toward safe and healthy decisions. But for the many girls unable or unwilling to have that rapport with their parents, being failed by sex education classes (through lecture-style, inaccurate information or an abstinence-only approach) puts them at great risk. Advocating for comprehensive sex education that makes time for personal discussion in the curriculum is a step in the right direction, as is supporting extracurricular programming that gives teens a safe forum to talk about these issues. Still, a greater overhaul of our current method of teaching adolescents about sex and reproductive health is needed if we are really going to curb rates of teen pregnancy and sexually transmitted disease, and equip young people to mature into healthy, fulfilled sexual beings. Any ideas?

Where the Wild Things Aren't

by Thomas Dollar

Some of our writers have weighed in on the proposed Center for Abstinence and Chastity (CAC) at Princeton. I had a chance to correspond with one student who is advocating for this Center. I have long believed that the so-called “Hookup Culture” is more a case of pluralistic ignorance than anything real, and I wanted to know firsthand why some students were so concerned. (In a recent survey 43% of students reported having had zero sexual partners in the past year, while only 23.8% reported two or more.) The student argued that:

“Living a life of chastity or abstinence in a campus culture which exerts real pressure on people to have sex is difficult, and these students deserve institutional support in living out what for many is a crucial aspect of their sexual identities. You cite the 43% figure, but careful examination of the wording of that question reveals not that a large proportion of students are chaste or intentionally abstinent but simply that they have not had sex in a year…”

The CAC would not be geared so much towards students who just aren’t having sex, but would provide institutional support to students who choose chastity or abstinence as “a crucial aspect of their sexual identities.” “Chastity” is usually defined a broader category than just celibacy: no sex outside of or before marriage; sex in marriage only as part of a monogamous union. (This student was open to including some monogamous same-sex unions as chaste; the Anscombe Society is not.) Chastity—as opposed to de facto sexual abstinence—is a sexual lifestyle choice, and one that is marginalized by the dominant campus culture.

But is that reason enough to create a Center dedicated to supporting it, which would carry the imprimatur (and funding) of the University? There’s no precedent for it. Where the University has established special Centers, it has been to support students who have faced discrimination or been excluded from campus life based on who they are, not what lifestyle choices they make. The Women’s Center was established to provide support for women on a historically male campus; the Davis Center for international students; the Fields Center for students of racial minorities; and the LGBT Center for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender students. Gender, national origin, race, and sexual orientation are not lifestyle choices; chastity is.

Vegetarians make a lifestyle choice to abstain from consuming the flesh of dead animals—and they make it in spite of the Meat Culture that dominates the University (and the country). For many vegetarians, their choice is deeply engrained as part of their identity. The University accommodates these students by providing vegetarian and vegan options (alongside meat options) in dining halls. They can join student-run organizations like PAWS, attend sponsored events, hold demonstrations, and meet likeminded faculty. If students’ dietary choices are faith-based, they can find support in the Office of Religious Life. But there is no University-funded Vegetarians’ Center.

Likewise, chaste and abstinent students can count on a variety of institutions for support: the Anscombe Society, ORL organizations, Sexual Health Advisors (who include abstinence as part of a comprehensive sexual health program), and—as President Tilghman pointed out—the Women’s and LGBT Centers. Still, there is the feeling among the CAC’s supporters that the University is currently—implicitly or explicitly—promoting sexual promiscuity. Anscombe President Brandon McGinley was quoted in the Daily Princetonian, saying “[The Center would help] by rectifying the current double standard by which the University implicitly gives its seal of approval to a more libertarian view of sexuality.”

And the student I interviewed wrote: “[A] Center is necessary out of a concern for fairness and true institutional neutrality when it comes to sexual ethics. By establishing the Women’s and LGBT Centers, the University ventured into the realm of sexuality, and especially with the latter center the University established an agency which has both implicit and explicit views of sexual morality…”

(He stressed that neither he nor Anscombe opposed the existence of the LGBT Center; they merely claim that neutrality dictates that a Chastity Center be established alongside it.)

Princeton University is institutionally neutral toward sexual ethics, but it is not indifferent toward matters of public health. Sexual health services are provided on the basis of students’ diverse needs—not the moral philosophies of some people. (And sexually active students will receive more health services than abstinent students because they will require more. This is unfair in the way that it is unfair that divers be provided scuba gear, while people who sit on the beach are not.) This policy acknowledges the chaste or abstinent lifestyle as a valid choice among many—and it recognizes the difference between sexual orientations and sexual choices. It is neutral toward all moral philosophies except one: the philosophy that the University should not be morally neutral at all.

By establishing a Center for Chastity and Abstinence—without establishing corresponding Centers for Serial Monogamy or BDSM—the University would privilege one particular sexual lifestyle over all others, based solely on the moral beliefs of a select subset of students. This is not something a secular university with a culturally and philosophically diverse student body should be doing in the 21st Century.

I’ve written in the past of the need for a new sexual ethic, based on honesty and personal responsibility, rather than pluralistic ignorance and self-denial. There are steps that Princeton could be taking to promote this new ethic, but a Chastity Center would be a big step backward.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Rihanna, Her New Single, and Her Questionable Status as Feminist Icon

by Ayse Gursoy

The discourse surrounding "Russian Roulette," Rihanna's new ‘comeback single,’ seems a bit bizarre. Rihanna, despite having experienced domestic abuse, never claimed to speak for survivors. Yet her experience seems to have defined her in the public eye: either she demonstrates admirable courage in addressing it, or she lets down a crowd who expect her to speak out against abuse.

Many reviews call attention to the obvious domestic abuse references in the song. Lyrics like “I’m terrified but I’m not leaving” and “It’s too late to pick up the value of my life” portray a scared, depressed victim who feels unable to control the circumstances of life. The very conceit Rihanna uses, Russian Roulette, suggests the volatile and dangerous aspects of an abusive relationship. And yet, assuming that Rihanna’s music constantly addresses domestic abuse denies her control over her own life. She has the right to address this issue, or to not address this issue, and the public should respect that. Amanda Hess asks us, "Why is Rihanna expected to be a feminist icon?" Seriously. Why is she?

How do we even define a feminist icon? Is any woman in a position of power automatically a feminist?

Feminism is not a state of being; it is a set of goals and beliefs. Simply being a woman does not make a feminist. There are quite a few women in power (or who were recently in power) who would be considered antifeminist by a vast majority, such as Sarah Palin or Phyllis Schlafly.

When I was younger, I always felt uncomfortable trying to identify Jean d'Arc as a feminist. Simply because she led an army, she was placed as an example to show that women can do the same tasks as men, and do a better job of it. And yet she never considered herself typical. Rather than challenging gender roles and stereotypes, she just claimed exemption from them. In contrast, Tamora Pierce's (fictional) female characters constantly attempt to prove that these gender stereotypes are outdated and out of touch with reality. Her most well-known character, Alanna, doesn't consider her success a fluke, but proof that women are equal to men. More people would recognize Jean d'Arc, however, than Alanna, as a feminist.

Perhaps the very nature of being an "icon" requires consideration of how one is viewed. I hesitate to label someone a feminist icon if they do not consider themselves a feminist, but I can understand why someone would.

Who do you consider to be feminist icons?

Photo from Bob Xu's flickr.