feminist of the week: elizabeth plank
Name: Elizabeth Plank
Occupation: Viral Content and Social Justice Editor at PolicyMic
Location: New York, New York, United States
Describe yourself in one word:
What is your feminist philosophy?
‘If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.’
I don’t think it’s realistically possible for half of the population to mobilise against inequality and actually galvanise lasting social change. Feminism can’t accomplish anything if it works inside a vacuum. We must all work together because feminism can benefit us all. Studies show that societies with greater gender equality do better on plenty of other wellbeing indicators.
Feminism also has positive spillover effects on happiness and life satisfaction. For instance, did you know that feminists and their partners have reported having better sex lives? Gender equality can actually be pretty darn sexy.
When did you have your feminist awakening?
The first time I was called a slut. I couldn’t understand why the hell I was a whore because I cut the lunch line or because I talked too loud. What did that have to do with anything? Moreover, why was being sexual bad for a woman? I thought that’s what people expected out of me?
As a thirteen-year-old, I was being taught that my sexuality was both my most valued and reviled trait. That didn’t make sense to me. How could my body simultaneously be a source of power and shame? I tried to navigate that double standard for a while, but got tired and decided to become a feminist instead.
Why is feminism important in today’s world?
Because the musical anthem of the summer features naked women prancing aimlessly around fully clothed men. Because there have been 44 bills legislating uteruses this year, and zero legislating penises. Because more than 100 female protestors were raped in Tahrir Square in less than five days. Because one out of three women worldwide will be a victim of sexual violence in her lifetime. Shall I go on? There’s no shortage of reasons to be a feminist.
What are you doing to further the feminist cause today?
I write about it. As the Viral Content and Social Justice Editor at PolicyMic, I produce engaging feminist content that’s designed to spread on social media. I still attend demonstrations and social justice events, but the bulk of my activism takes place online, a space that young feminists have downright dominated in recent years.
Back in 2012, I made a change.org petition go viral and succeed in its effort to overturn a decision to force female boxers to wear skirts at the 2012 Olympics. I also received a formal response from The New York Times editor after my complaint about their overt sexism went viral.
Writing has been the best way for me to communicate my ideas and make an impact on the world.
What is the most important feminist cause in your life?
Violence against women. Despite great strides that women have made politically or economically, men’s violence against women persists. It’s a form of control. Women can’t be free with the threat of violence dangling over their heads. It’s a way to keep us in line. It’s a way to keep us silent.
Whether it’s offline or online; verbal or sexual; violence is a method of control that women shouldn’t have to put up with.
Can men be considered feminist? Why should men take up the feminist cause?
Yes. Saying that men can’t be feminists is like saying that white people can’t be against racism, or that straight people can’t be LGBTQ allies. It’s insane. We all benefit from equality. Men who are scared of feminism misunderstand it and those who fear strong women, are just weak and scared of their weakness.
Besides, men can personally benefit from feminism just as much as women. The most repressive gender stereotypes affect men just as much as women. Do you think men and boys are happy when they live in a culture that encourages them to prove their gendered identity through violence, dominance and aggression?
A society that embraces feminism gives more freedom to all individuals to express their authentic selves. With feminism, everyone wins. It’s not about bringing men down; it’s about bringing all of humanity up. Moreover, if men couldn’t be feminists, I’d be perpetually single. My boyfriend is the biggest feminist I know and he’s also the strongest man I know. It surprises most people because he has tattoos and likes to wear bandanas, but I love the look on their face when he starts giving people the feminist analysis of the last beer ad he saw.
We need more men like him openly embracing the movement.
Do you think that feminism has a branding issue? If so, why and how do you suggest the movement can fix it?
I don’t think feminism has a branding problem, I think feminism has a trolling problem. People love to misrepresent feminism and they are the ones that will need to adapt to a world that will increasingly values equality.
Who is your favourite feminist/what is your favourite feminist organisation and why?
MissRepresentation has organised some impressive digital campaigns that have made significant impacts on the world. They’ve allowed women to mobilise and speak with their wallets, which is something that will get a lot of people listening, especially advertisers who still believe that sex is what sells. I highly encourage watching their latest short film on masculinity and donating to their Kickstarter too!
I’ve also let exceptional women in New York through organisations like WAMnyc or The Li.st. When I moved here a few months ago, I didn’t know anyone and thanks to organisations like these, I felt part of a community almost instantly.
What’s your advice to other feminists?
Don’t let anyone dull your sparkle. If you have a strong mind, that will intimidate people. But that’s just because people love to tarnish things that shine.
Follow Elizabeth on twitter @feministabulous and read her articles on PolicyMic here.