That F Word: Growing Up Feminist in Aotearoa

That F Word: Growing Up Feminist in Aotearoa*

By Lizzie Marvelly

Book Review

The goal of That F Word is to dispel common confusion about the meaning of the word “feminist.” To singer journalist Lizzie Marvelly, the word simply refers to someone who advocates for full women’s equality. She illustrates by demonstrating all the ways in which women aren’t fully equal to men in New Zealand (or the rest of the industrial world).

If women were fully equal, they would enjoy equal pay for equal work, decriminalization of abortion* and equal representation in government, the boardroom and the media and entertainment industry. Domestic violence and rape culture would end because sexual abuse, sexual harassment and domestic violence would be prosecuted to the full extent of the law, as would the routine exposure of 14-year-old boys to misogynist Internet pornography; the widespread use of soft porn to sell commercial products; the continual media pressure on women to hate their appearance; and the constant verbal abuse and rape and death threats against women who openly express opinions in the public arena.

Marvelly views the advent of social media as a two-edged sword for women. Despite the ubiquitous use of social media by insecure men to verbally abuse, degrade and threaten women, it also offers women a unique opportunity to openly share personal experiences of abusive treatment by men. Even more importantly, social media has brought into the open the extreme level of misogyny women experience in contemporary society.

Presented as an expanded memoir, That F Word is a remarkable achievement for a 29-year-old author. In my view, it should be required reading for all men with a genuine desire to understand the condition of women in the 21st century.


*Aotearoa is the original Maori name for New Zealand

**In New Zealand, abortion is still a crime under the Crimes Act – unless a woman obtains independent certification from two health professionals that proceeding with the pregnancy will seriously endanger her mental health.

Black Girls Matter

black girls matter

Black Girls Matter: Pushed Out, Overpoliced and Underprotected

Kimberlé Crenshaw (editor) 2015

(Free PDF)

Black women are the fastest growing segment of the prison population. Black Girls Matters summarizes the research linking Zero Tolerance schools with the growing percentage of black girls and women in the criminal justice system. It fills a big gap in a narrative that mainly focuses on the effect on black males of the “school to prison pipeline.”

While Zero Tolerance policies and high rates of school suspension and expulsion greatly increase the risk of incarceration. as Michelle Alexander writes in The New Jim Crow, the mass incarceration of black males is more directly linked to discriminatory treatment by the police and courts. The crowing percentage of black females in the criminal justice system relates more directly to Zero Tolerance school policies that subject them to high rates of violence, arrest, suspension and expulsion.

The report starts with six extremely alarming examples:

1. The 12 year old girl who faced expulsion and criminal charges in 2014 after writing the world “hi” on the locker room wall of her Georgia middle school.
2. The Detroit honors student suspended for her entire senior year in 2014 for inadvertently bringing a pocket knife to a football game.
3. The 16 year old girl arrested in 2013 when her science experiment caused a small explosion.
4. The 12 year old threatened with expulsion from a private school in 2013 unless she changed her “natural” hair style.
5. The 6 year old arrested in Florida in 2007 for having a tantrum in school.
6. The 16 year old arrested in California in 2007 for dropping cake on the floor and failing to clean it up to a school administrator’s satisfaction.

In their research, the authors found that Zero tolerance schools provide extremely chaotic environments that are neither safe nor conducing to learning. A heavy law enforcement and security presence (ie metal detectors) make girls much likely to attend school. Researchers also found that black girls get much less attention from teachers, due to the expectation that they’re more socially mature and self-reliant than boys. Despite lip service given to zero Tolerance, these schools fail to protect girls from bullying and sexual harassment – then punish them for defending themselves.

School age black girls tend are often likely to have a history of sexual and physical abuse. In the absence of school counseling services, they can often act out in response to personal trauma. In addition, black and Latino girls are more likely than boys to be burdened with family caretaking responsibilities.

The tendency to separate and stigmatize girls who are pregnant or parenting in ways that decrease their motivation to stay in school.

The report also makes the following recommendations:

• State and federal government need to include girls (as well as boys) in their outcome research and programmatic interventions.
• School administrators need to help black girls feel safer at school without relying on harsh discipline that negatively impacts their motivation, achievement and attendance.
• Schools need to genuinely enforce zero tolerance of bullying and sexual harassment.
• Schools need to end policies that funnel girls into the juvenile justice system (such as arresting six year olds for tantrums).
• Schools need to expand programs that support girls who are pregnant, parenting or otherwise assuming significant family responsibilities.

Below the 2009 documentary The War on Kids, provides more background on Zero Tolerance schools: