Cornerstones of My Feminism // V’s Feminist Pop Culture Syllabus

Boshemia founders asked the staff writers to think about what pop culture creates their feminist practice. V shares her feminist syllabus.

These are the feminist materials that have punctuated my life: my basic syllabus of feminist culture. It is by no means conclusive and there are many more pieces that I would recommend for in-depth study, but if you want to get my everyday feminist references, look no further.

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Tracy Clayton & Heben Nigatu co-host ‘Another Round’ // photo via David Bertozzi) 

We Should All Be Feminists (Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie). This is an essay I read when I was 15 and have forced upon many a misogynist since. Adichie describes everyday sexism and gender discrepancies with a simplicity that is hard to ignore and provides answers to the initial challenges that every nascent feminist will face.

Rookie Magazine. An online platform founded by Tavi Gevinson, then aged 14 when she felt that women, particularly teenage girls, had no safe spaces to explore their complexities, she made one: Rookie. Her Ted Talk, ‘A teen just trying to figure it out’ is so articulate about the contradictions of growing up and the many dimensions of modern feminism. Tavi is still one of the most relevant feminist voices that I follow today and that is in part because she is so openly and constantly ‘figuring it out’.

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Tavi Gevinson, founder & editor-in-chief of Rookie Magazine // via Dreams in HD

The Punk Singer – documentary. A deliciously empowering biopic of Kathleen Hanna, mother of feminist punk and the riot grrrl movement. This is something that will take you right back to the roots of feminism. Kathleen Hanna is the OG 3rd wave feminist – unapologetic, clamorous and inclusive.

No More Boys and Girls: Can Our Kids Go Gender Free?  A BBC 2 documentary programme following the experiment of Dr Javid Abdelmoneim in which he attempts to make a primary school classroom completely gender neutral. A look into how early gender stereotypes form in children, how we facilitate them unconsciously and how much they affect children’s performance in schools.

Lean In (Sheryl Sandberg). A book on women in leadership and the workplace. This is a book I have only just read but I have already reaped its rewards in professional interactions. Sandberg encourages ambition, honesty and solidarity – it is an essential manifesto for anybody who cares about equal workplaces.

Munroe Bergdorf. Munroe Bergdorf was in the news last year after comments that she mades suggesting that unless you are actively dismantling racism, you are racist as you are complicit. This idea of complicity is one that I believe is imperative to feminist practice. Change was never made with passivity. This Bergdorf media storm led me to many important debates and to Standpoint Theory, which I think is a must-have theory for any intersectional feminist.

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Munroe Bergdorf for Illamasqua // via Mic

Another Round — podcast (Heben Nigatu and Tracy Clayton). A comedy podcast that celebrates POC and their humorous interactions as they move, create and change in a society that marginalises them As white folk we need to acknowledge our privilege on every level. Listening to Heben and Tracy’s observations will make you think about how damaging white culture can be. Also contains hilarious jokes about parrot penises (separate issue: what is the plural of penis?) and drunken debates about squirrels.

The Handmaid’s Tale (Margaret Atwood), Tess of The d’Urbervilles (Thomas Hardy), The Yellow Wallpaper (Charlotte Perkins-Gilman), Othello & Much Ado About Nothing (Shakespeare). I appreciate that these texts could have been chosen by any british school-girl as the pinnacle of feminist literature. They are not the pinnacle of feminist text, but they were fundamental in expanding my ideas of feminist characters and historical sexism so they make the cut.

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The Handmaid’s Tale (Hulu)

Big Little Lies. This TV programme with stellar cast (and stellar soundtrack) proves that everybody has their demons, tactfully portraying the effects of sexual abuse, female sexuality and the strains of motherhood. Crucially, however, these are not presented at the expense of female relationships, instead BLL depicts the strength of sisterhood in the face of great adversities. If you still need convincing, season two will see Meryl Streep join the cast.

Lorde. What I love about this NZ gal is that she is always wholeheartedly herself,  whether in her stream-of-consciousness interviews or on stage throwing crazy dance moves. Her first album, Pure Heroine, is my go-to for when I need to feel my most powerful and I love that she spent four years working on her second album—a patience for perfection that I aspire to have in all aspects of my life.

-V

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