It’s Not “Just Hair”

Kyl Hair

[Ed. Note: This is a guest post from Kyl Myers]

For years I have felt like my hair is part of my identity and what defines me. I have felt this way because people have made more comments about the length, thickness, color and style of my hair than they have made about my amazing brain that is centimeters away from my seemingly more important mane.

I have ignored urges to shave my head for myriad reasons, a few of which are:

“But my hair is so pretty”

“It will take forever to grow back”

“I’ve invested hundreds of dollars in highlights”

“I’ll get bored with short hair”

“It’s the most feminine thing about me”

“What will people think of me?”

On Saturday I learned about Jetta, a 10-year-old girl in Ohio who cut her hair to donate to Wigs for Kids and has since been bullied so much she has not been to school in weeks. That pissed me off. I then read something about how women feel imprisoned by their hair and I thought, “Yup. That’s me.” And then I immediately countered myself with, “But it doesn’t have to be.”

By Tuesday, I chopped my hair.

I am a fierce critic of gender – yet the irony of how much I conform to gender is a harsh reality that I have to navigate on the daily:

How much of my appearance is based on preference?

How much of my appearance is based on habit?

How much of my appearance is based on expectations?

I decided I’d rather be called a dyke/Justin Bieber/[insert other dumb short hair semi-insult here] because of my hair than feel restricted.

On Saturday, I decided I wanted the inside of my head to define me more than the outside.

On Saturday, I decided to stand up to the patriarchal, heteronormative, feminine beauty standards that attempt to control me. I booked an appointment with my fantastic queer hairstylist, Patrick Wentworth, and didn’t doubt my decision for one second before the chop and haven’t regretted it since.

I hope more women will cut their hair if they are thinking about it. Screw what anyone else says. It’s your hair – and the personal is political.

6 Things Feminist Bosses Do Better

feministboss

One of the most important things feminists can do is pave the way for other feminists. I try to do that every day at work. Here are the six things every feminist boss should do:

Put resumes of women and non-Anglo names at the top of the pile

It’s a fact that bias hurts women, PoC, and people with non-Anglo names, during the hiring process. You’d like to think you don’t have the same bias, but you probably do. Put the resumes of women and any non-Anglo name at the top of the pile. Review it once, then review it again. You don’t have to hire someone if their qualifications aren’t in order, but make sure you’re not throwing them out before giving it an honest shot.

Offer flexible schedules

We know women are more likely to take care of children and aging parents, which makes scheduling a nightmare in a lot of situations. Work to offer flexible scheduling whenever possible, and offer it to anyone on your staff with a serious need (men, women, and everyone in between).

Pay a living wage

Sometimes you don’t control the pay band in a position, but if you have any pull (and you probably do if you’re doing the hiring), make sure you’re paying a living wage. If your company isn’t paying a living wage, petition the boss to make the change. Offer ways to trim the fat that can funnel cash into the hands of workers.

Take volunteer experience seriously

Most volunteer positions require an application, an interview, continual review, and they result in terminations and promotions. It’s real work, and it actually has a numeric value. In the State of Utah volunteer work is valued at $22.65. You should take that commitment just as serious as you would a paid job.

Treat resume “gaps” from time with kids as a serious endeavor

If someone says they “didn’t work” while taking care of their kids, correct them. Let them know that you see it as valuable. Ask questions the same way you would about previous jobs. “Tell me about a time when you had to manage conflicting deadlines with your children’s schedules,” is the same as asking someone to tell you about a time when they managed conflicting editing and speaking deadlines. It’s work. Start treating it that way.

Let people know how progressive you are (AKA: let your feminist flag fly)

I’ve listened to coming-out stories, helped direct an employee to abortion services, and talked openly with several employees about their mental healthcare and its affect on their day-to-day functions. All of those employees felt comfortable coming to me because they hear about my values. I let new hires know that I operate with a feminist multicultural lens. We collaborate at every possible turn, and I always ask for their feedback. I embody my ideals every day, and I do it publicly, which means I get the chance to help people in my office at the times they need it the most. Real life doesn’t stop when you walk into work, but ignoring life can cause you to stop working, so start having open dialogue with your team to make the whole business run smoothly.

How do you embody feminism as a boss?

Weekly Feminist Happenings October 21st-27th

bravemissworld

Tuesday, October 21st

Jim Winder Phone Bank: Come Tuesday, Wednesday or Thursday to help get Winder re-elected. Details: From 5-9 p.m. at Labor Hall (2261 S. Redwood Rd.) Contact Michael Iverson 801-708-2644 if you have any questions.

 

Rose E. Gottemoeller lecture on nuclear weapons: As under secretary, Gottemoeller advises the secretary of state on arms control, nonproliferation and disarmament. She was a senior associate with the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, and served as the director of the Carnegie Moscow Center. Visit utahdiplomacy.org/events/rosegottemoeller for information. Details: Starts at 7 p.m. at the Vieve Gore Concert Hall (1250 E. 1700 South, Salt Lake City).

A Vision For A Restored And Revitalized Jordan River Corridor: The Jordan River, flowing 50-miles through the center of the Salt Lake Valley, is currently experiencing a wave of new appreciation and support. Learn about what is being done and how you can help. Details: Starts at 7 p.m. at REI – Salt Lake City (3285 E. 3300 South, Millcreek). For more information and to register here or call 801-486-2100.

Wednesday, October 22nd

Costume Party Phone Bank: Colorado women need our help. There is a very frightening ‘personhood’ amendment that needs to be defeated and we can help by calling voters in Colorado! Find out more about the issue here. Details: From 5:30 to 8pm (come and go as you are able) at the Planned Parenthood Administrative Office (654 South 900 East, SLC, Utah 84102). Bring a laptop and a cellphone

The YMCA’s 3rd Annual DishED-A Benefit for Kids: DishED is the YMCA’s largest fundraising event of the year. All proceeds will benefit the Financial Assistance Program, helping more kids improve their grades, be ready for kindergarten and experience the outdoors at Camp Roger. We hope you will join us in celebrating the Y by getting involved with DishED-A Benefit for Kids. Details: Purchase tickets at here or call 801-839-3384.

Screening of Brave Miss World: The documentary tells the story of Linor Abargil, a beauty queen who was raped by a man who was supposed to protect her – just weeks before she was crowned Miss World. The movie tells her story of coming forward about her rape 10 years later, and the stories of other rape survivors around the world. A discussion will follow the screening, moderated by KRCL’s midday host Eugenie Hero Jaffe. Presented by the Utah Film Center. Details: Starts at 7 p.m. at the Salt Lake City Public Library – Main (210 E. 400 South, Salt Lake City).

Thursday, October 23rd

Rapture, Blister, Burn: Salt Lake Acting Company will present “Rapture, Blister, Burn,” a Pulitzer Prize Finalist by playwright Gina Gionfriddo through November 16th. This sharp witted comedy takes an unflinching look at the politics of gender, and asks can anyone have it all? Details: Call 801-363-7522 for tickets or buy them here.

Equality at the Kitchen Table: Westminster College will present a lecture on “Equality at the Kitchen Table.” The lecture will feature Derek Kitchen and Moudi Sbeity, both plaintiffs leading the case for marriage equality in Utah, Kitchen vs. Herbert. Details: Starts at noon in the Bill and Vieve Gore School of Business (1840 S. 1300 East, Salt Lake City).

Julie Otsuka Discussion: Otsuka will discuss her novel, “When the Emperor Was Divine,” which follows a Japanese-American family as they are uprooted from their Berkeley, California home and forcibly relocated to the Topaz Internment Camp located near Delta, Utah. Details: Starts at 7 p.m. Salt Lake City Public Library – Main (210 E. 400 South, Salt Lake City).

Friday, October 24th

Art Night for Ukraine: Night for Ukraine is an art exhibit that reminds us about the value of a life, importance of freedom and luxury of democracy. Join us at an art exhibit where a Ukrainian artist will share her experiences of a Ukrainian revolution and war. At the end of the event everybody will get a chance to purchase piece of art or donate to help people of Ukraine. The art exhibit is sponsored by Courage to Ukraine. Details: From 6-8 p.m. at Impact Hub (150 S. State, Salt Lake City).

Saturday, October 25th

Children’s Service Society Fundraiser: The Children’s Service Society will present a Zumba fundraising event. The Children’s Service Society provides services that prevent child abuse and neglect.For more information, contact vanessa@cssutah.org or visit here.  Details: Starts at 11 a.m. at the Infinity Event Center (26 E. 600 South, Salt Lake City).

Sunday, October 26th

Monday, October 27th

Death Threats At USU: Why We Still Need Feminism

anita sarkeesian

Anita Sarkeesian was scheduled to give a speech today at Utah State University, but was forced to cancel after vile terror threats were sent to the director of the Women and Gender Studies Department. Sarkeesian is a Canadian blogger and activist who is popular for her critiques of mainstream video games. She has received threats since August in what some call Gamergate. 

I hesitate to include a screenshot of the threat, but it is so terrifying that I feel it should be shared. This is why we still need feminism. Women can’t offer critiques of VIDEOGAMES without fear of rape and death threats:

Anita Sarkeesian Death Threat

 

Anita was forced to cancel her talk after Utah State University refused to stop people with concealed weapons permits from coming into the venue. It’s a damn shame that the right to carry a gun in Utah outweighs the right of an activist and academic to give a speech in a safe environment after she was threatened with her life. Nevermind the fact that police could have been there to provide security and safety for the people who leave their guns at home.

I applaud Anita for her decision to cancel. Staying alive and healthy to keep doing this work is so important.

In the face of this public terror, let’s not forget that women in this country disproportionately face acts of this kind (death by firearm) at the hands of people who are supposed to love them the most. This is why we need feminism. Keep doing the work that you do, Anita. I hope you can come back to the State of Utah someday without these threats of terror.

Is Your Occupation the “Gender Police?”

stop acting like the gender police

I sat in the University of Utah Union Ballroom anxiously waiting for the keynote address, “Ain’t I A Woman: My Journey to Womanhood” from Laverne Cox. I had never heard Laverne address a crowd in this capacity, I only knew her as Sophia Burset from Orange Is the New Black, and although I assumed her speech would be fierce, I had no idea what she had in store for us.

First things first: Laverne Cox is hilarious.

I’m talking, slap your knees, look to your friends, and howl with delight, kind of funny.

Second: She knows her shit. All of it.

She dropped names like Foucault, Butler, and hooks, but she did it in a way that was accessible. She shared sobering facts about the trans* community’s staggering suicide and incarceration rates, and she did it all while interrogating race, class, and gender. She called for an end to patriarchy, citing it as the root of transphobia and homophobia. It makes me want to clap just thinking about it.

I learned so much about Laverne (her life, her projects, and her “shame gremlins”). I learned even more about the issues facing some of the most marginalized folks in our communities, trans* women of color.

One of the simplest, but most profound things she asked from each of us is to stop acting like the gender police.

It is not your job to tell someone how to present themselves in this world. Stop acting like anyone else’s hair, makeup, or clothes affect you. Quit telling little boys to put down dolls, and telling little girls to pick up makeup. Quit trying to shove your pronouns and labels onto the backs of others, because it’s not your place to decide someone’s gender. You think the person you saw walking down the street in a dress is “a man?” That’s none of your business, and what good does it do for you to point that out and call it into question in public?

Your gender policing might be the proverbial straw that breaks the camel’s back for someone who is fighting to stay alive. Your occupation, my occupation, and your neighbor’s occupation is not as a member of the Gender Police.

As Laverne said, just try. Give it a shot for one hour, one day, one month, and maybe you will realize that there’s nothing so upsetting about letting people live their lives. Maybe you can stop worrying and let beautiful, funny, smart, and talented people like Laverne Cox be fabulous in peace.