Historically, Seattle has been a leader in rock 'n' roll, airplane manufactuing and cutting-edge technology – but it is also at the forefront of another, even more indispensible movement: feminism.
The word often gets a bad rap. In its essence it’s a synonym for human rights, but more acutely, it’s a word that describes the fight for women to gain an equal footing on a leveled playing field in all public and private spheres.
In Seattle, we have some of the strongest, clearest and most inspiring voices on the front lines of this fight.
Since last week, the world has been taken over by the viral hashtag #ShoutYourAbortion. The Twitter and Facebook refrain, started by Seattleites Lindy West and Amelia Bonow, has yielded thousands and thousands of stories from women speaking out about their histories with the medical procedure. The movement is a response to the U.S. House voting to repeal funding for Planned Parenthood and to conservatives working to stigmatize the very idea of abortion.
As a result, West and Bonow have received hate mail, countless aborted fetus pictures on their social media feeds and Bonow’s personal information was leaked on a right wing website. Their adversaries are “armed,” says West, and ready to hurt. Despite this, she and Bonow continue to fight along with thousands of their fellow shouters.
West’s sister-in-law, Ijeoma Oluo, has put herself front and center in the fight, too. She has joined the march with #ShoutYourAbortion and at the same time curates the I Believe You It’s Not Your Fault website, which presents the stories of sexual abuse victims without judgment as a means of catharsis and understanding. Oluo, herself, is a victim of sexual abuse, as she chronicles on the site.
She also fights staunchly against racism in writing, social media and speaking in panels, and is often misidentified as Marissa Johnson, the woman who interrupted the Bernie Sanders rally with a Black Lives Matter protest. Recently, Oluo also created the Badass Feminist Coloring Book, a book that highlights people like Bree Newsome, who took down the Confederate Flag in South Carolina, and comedian Hari Kondabolu, whose criticism of misogynists and racists splits sides.
Fellow Internet writer, Stephanie Drury, fights a similar feminist battle in the world of conservative religion. Her website and Facebook page, Stuff Christian Culture Likes, points out the absurd and ridiculous arguments and habits of the fundamentalist Christians -- from mairtal rape to the silencing of women and their sexual in-education. Drury is also largely responsible, via her Twitter account, @fakedriscoll, for outing the former head of Mars Hill Church, Mark Driscoll, as the psychologically violent figurehead he is and always has been. In her work she receives messages from grateful readers, like this one: "Thank you for challenging my two-dimensional faith and for making me stronger as a person."
Piper Daniels holds an M.F.A. from the University of Washington in creative writing, but she also started the Facebook and Twitter campaign, W.A.S.H., or Women Against Street Harassment. A victim of sexual abuse and a recurring victim of catcalls and street harassment, Daniels channels her strength to point out the regular, seemingly never ending trauma a woman experiences just leaving her house.
In her work she speaks unflinchingly about the pain she and women like her feel just inhabiting their own bodies. She writes about going grocery shopping one morning, "I've parked in a well-lit spot closest to the exit and remain hyper-aware of my surroundings. In my interactions with others, I keep my head down, avoid eye contact. When spoken to, I'm polite, but not in a way that might be perceived as flirtatious. I offer this as evidence becaue I want you to make an informed decision about whether or not I provoked the thing that happens next, which is that a strange man begins following me around the supermarket, describing my body part by part."
Seattle also has many women-led musical groups who are tremendous role models, who speak out about sexual identity and the taboo nature of periods and motherhood. Two such groups, Chastity Belt and Childbirth, are fronted by Julia Shapiro. Her lyrics are rich with humor and irony while at the same time maintaing clarity about right and wrong: it's okay for women to explore sexuality, it's okay to hold power and exhibit strength, it's okay to be yourself with your friends.
Seattle is lucky to be home to these women, and many more like them (like writer Elissa Washuta, the band Tacocat, and artist Amanda Manitach with her t-shirt girls). These women are heroes in our community and I'm grateful to live in a city that fosters their voices and necessary work.
*Art by Kyle Addison Bolton, Aaron Bagley, Ben Horak and Carinna Simmons