Why I Don’t Read Books by Male Authors

Why I Don’t Read Books by Male Authors

I don’t read books written by men–with a few exceptions.

I don’t watch male comedians. (Unless they are really, really funny.) 

I try not to watch films or shows unless they are in some way women-led, either written, produced, or directed. 

“Gasp! She’s sexist!”

Is it because I am sexist? Or perhaps because I hate men? Neither.

This intentional decision of mine has nothing to do (in theory) with prejudice or bias against the male capacity for artistic creation, or even whether or not I like their work (with the few exceptions whose work I adore).

I do read books and watch comedy by queer men, nonbinary and gender nonconforming people, BIPOC, Indigenous, and anyone from outside of Europe or North America, though I prioritize women writers. 

Intentional Inclusion

My choices are less about who I exclude and more about who I support and why. Okay, let’s be honest. It is a little bit about not supporting white men–but that’s because white men have had the power of reality construction and knowledge production for thousands of years. Enough, already. 

We create our reality with our words and our thoughts, individually and collectively. The relationship between the individual and the collective is dynamic, continually relating to one another. As a collective, we make unspoken agreements to what is “reality” and most of this is created through media–literature, television, news, movies, and even comedy. We are in a constant process of collectively creating, defining, and agreeing to what is reality.

Various studies have shown that while women are likely to read both female and male authors, men tend to choose male writers. Historically, works created by women are considered to be for women, and works created by men have been considered to be for all people. Men write, create, reflect all of reality while women only reflect women’s reality. Or so we have been led to believe.

So many female characters are unlikeable. Why? Who has historically written these unlikeable female characters? Most, not all of course, but many, books by men don’t offer much about the experience of women. Women are diminished to boring tropes or sexual objects. Female characters have little to offer in the way of intellect or depth. Movie tropes are even worse. Many women have become conditioned to squeeze ourselves into these tired little tropes that have been created for us. Make ourselves small and uncomfortable so that the patriarchy can continue to manspread all over us.

And what is the result of all these unlikeable female characters? Men don’t like us. We don’t like each other–or we think we don’t. We don’t like female celebrities, judge them for the smallest imperfections while male celebrities get away with any number of gray hairs and wrinkles and assaults and abuses. We don’t like female politicians. We don’t like women because we have been sold imaginary worlds full of unlikeable women. Who created this world?

All Humans Are Complex & Valuable Beings 

I have had many moments when I can feel a man simplifying my being. Or witnessed their moments of surprise when I display even the slightest human complexity or intellect. Many times I have had men strike up conversations with me, talk at me for some length of time, and then say, “wow, you are so interesting.” 

Funny, I remember thinking, I have not said one interesting thing. Does he find me interesting because I listened to him talk about himself? 

Yes. He did. 

I have perceived many moments when a man shifts from seeing me as little more than an object to a human. It’s a little flash across the eyes, the moment a man registers that I have a brain as well as a body. This isn’t just about me because I am smart. (I am smart. And interesting.) This is true of any woman. We are all equally complex humans in our different and similar ways. Just like men, incidentally. 

It’s just that men often don’t see us this way. And they don’t write us this way into books or movies, so our society then doesn’t see us this way. And our culture doesn’t let us behave this way. We haven’t been allowed to see ourselves this way. Our needs make us “difficult.” Our thoughts are labeled as “over-thinking.” Our requests for accountability make us “hysterical.” Our desires make us “crazy.” Our opinions make us “too much.” Our conversations are filed under “gossip.”

Is this an oversimplification? Culture is so dynamic. We create media and art from what we are and we become what we consume. We are influenced by everything. But who holds the power to create the influence? 

Women in Publishing 

In 2016, Rachel McCarthy James studied the books reviewed by The New York Times, from 100 years earlier. There were 1,392 books reviewed in 1916 and of these, 1,085 were written by men and 304 by women. Only 7 of these were people of color and none of them were black. All 304 were white women. This does not mean that people of color weren’t writing, but they definitely weren’t deemed worthy of review by the New York Times. 

And 100 years later? Many literary organizations aren’t reviewing much more women’s writing than before. Why?

Women read more than men. Women were more likely than men to read 11 or more books per year, while men were more likely than women to read 1–10 books per year.

In 2019, according to the VIDA Count, nearly every major literary journal or publisher was still dominated by male voices, with the exception of The Tin House and the New York Times Book Review. Some of the smaller publishers showed better results. Very few published works by nonbinary writers. 

Catherine Nichols’ experiment from 2015 best illustrates discrimination against female writers. Nichols sent out her manuscript to 50 agents and got two positive responses. Then she repeated the action using a male pseudonym and this time 17 agents expressed their enthusiasm. Not only did her male version of self turn out to be an eight and a half times better writer, but he apparently also received kinder rejections.

An analysis of 3.5 million English-language books published between 1900 and 2008 spotlights a deep gender bias in the literature. It concluded that women are twice as likely as men to be described by their physical attributes — “beautiful” and “sexy” being the top two adjectives used for women. Men, on the other hand, are most commonly described by their actions and attitudes. Some of the most common male descriptors are “righteous,” “rational,” and “brave.” The researchers, from the University of Copenhagen as well as U.S. institutions, used machine-learning algorithms to comb through 11 billion words across the collection of books, which included both fiction and non-fiction texts.

A study published in 2018 found that book prices for genres with more female authors are cheaper than book prices for genres with more male authors. “Overall, books that are identified as having a female-named author cost 45% less on average than male-named. Even after the researchers accounted for price disparities between genres, female-authored books were on average still 9% less expensive.”

The extra-simplified story: More women read. More women write. Yet, more books are published by men, and more books written by men are reviewed formally. More male authors receive awards, and men (anecdotally) receive sweeter rejections. Male-dominated genres of literature (and subsequently?) male authors are worth more money. 

Women in Wikipedia 

Not everyone knows this, but anyone can edit Wikipedia. It was created to be a universal open access project, and technically, it is. However, with the goal to democratize the consumption and creation of knowledge, Wikipedia fails on every measure of diversity: geographic, linguistic, racial, sexuality, economic, and of course gender. This comes straight from Wikipedia itself: Gender bias on Wikipedia, also known as the Wikipedia gender gap, refers to the fact that Wikipedia contributors are mostly male, that relatively few biographies on Wikipedia are about women, and that topics of interest to women are less well-covered. 

In 2019, Katherine Maher, then CEO of Wikimedia Foundation, said her team’s working assumption was that women make up 15–20% of total contributors. So while in theory, everyone has the same access to editing or creating pages on Wikipedia, what happens from there reflects what happens in almost all public spaces. Men take the power. Wikipedia reflects society as a whole.

For example, many women who contribute to Wikipedia have spoken out about how their entries are often edited by men in malicious ways, using sexist, racist, homophobic and violent language. Wikipedia acknowledges that this forces women to leave as they are treated aggressively by male editors. 

Additionally, Wikipedia’s articles about women are less likely to be included, expanded, neutral, and detailed. A 2021 study found that, in April 2017, 41% of biographies nominated for deletion were women despite only 17% of published biographies being about women.

Wikipedia grew out of the open source technology community, which has long been predominantly male, and content on Wikipedia has to be backed up by secondary sources, sources that throughout history have contained a bias toward white men. Sounds to me like Wikipedia is just a giant mansplaining platform.

Clearly, women just aren’t leaning in. Is this our fault? We lack confidence. We aren’t good leaders. Should we step up and lean in and pull up our own seats to the table and exhaust ourselves trying to add information to the pool of public knowledge just to have a bunch of young, privileged heteronormative white boys erase our work, digitally interrupt us, talk over us, take credit, continuously knock us back? Sigh. 

What is the solution? If in every public space devoted to the production of knowledge, women are continually silenced, criticized when we speak up, labeled too aggressive for having opinions, and shamed when we remain silent–then what is the solution? 

Women in Academia 

Surprise, surprise. Gender disparities are rampant in academia as well–from publishing to tenure. For example, men get most of the money for research. More men are editors of academic journals. More men’s works are peer-reviewed and published. And although statistics generally show around 40-45% women faculty at universities in North America and Europe, generally only around 20-25% of tenure track faculty are women. 

Sadly, but not surprisingly, the same is true across all media and artistic industries. From movies to television to music to journalism. Any industry that creates public knowledge or art for public consumption has been reflecting the heteronormative white male experience to the world and selling it to us as “reality.”

What about the rest of reality? 

***

I have a male acquaintance who I respect and appreciate a lot, and I know he respects me a lot. We’ve had plenty of stimulating conversations, and I know he has read some of my articles and has asked me for recommendations about feminist literature. He compliments my mind rather than my body, and I know for certain he views me as more than an object. A while back, a friend of mine interviewed me on Instagram Live to speak about the topic of women’s empowerment and how it related to her book. Afterward he messaged me to tell me that he enjoyed the interview and commented about the depth in which we spoke to each other. He meant this as a compliment. He was surprised at our level of depth, and this surprised me from a man who I had shared deep conversations with. He perceives me as intelligent and yet is surprised by my intelligent conversations with women. Does he perceive me as intelligent only when I speak to him? As if my intelligence is a mere reflection of his own?

This made me wonder: how often do men actually just sit down and listen to women talk to each other? How often do they hear us without doing any talking themselves or perhaps perceiving themselves as “leading” the conversation. 

How many times do they listen to us speak intelligently without hearing it as their own voice? 

My guess is that most men, even the “not-all-men” men, rarely spend time reading, listening to, finding humor or recognizing depth and complexity from artists, creators, or writers that aren’t men. 

And this, plus all the statistics above, is why I don’t read books by men.

It’s time for women, particularly non-white women, Indigenous people, queer, nonbinary and trans people, differently-abled people, neurodivergent people, people from everywhere outside of Europe and North American to be heard, to be received in sharing our knowledge and our experiences, to be able to edit Wikipedia safely, to create culture, to bring comedic relief, to add ourselves into society through media influence, to be seen as the complex, interesting, dynamic humans that we are, because all humans are–even if the white men don’t know it yet. 

women in academia

Media, Art, & Literature Are For Everyone

Writing by women is not just for women or about “women’s issues.”  Queer writing is not just for queer people. Books by Indigenous writers are not just for Indigenous people. 

I encourage you all to notice how many women, LGBTQ, trans, BIPOC, and Indigenous creators you follow or read. And if it’s not many, then I have a short list for you here of people whose work I believe is crucial in creating new, inclusive, loving, healing realities. 

A short list of my favorite writers/activists/comedians/creators/inspirers:

  • Barbara Kingsolver
  • Robin Wall-Kimmerer
  • Louise Erdrich
  • Octavia Butler
  • Ocean Vuong
  • Isabelle Allende
  • Julia Alvarez
  • bell hooks 
  • Audre Lorde
  • Angela Davis
  • Margaret Atwood
  • Mary Oliver
  • Adrienne Rich
  • Ann Patchett
  • Roxanne Gay
  • Sue Monk Kidd
  • Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
  • Viola Davis
  • Jefferey Marsh
  • Alok Vaid-Menon
  • Joy Sullivan
  • Emma Zeck
Unlocking the Power of Empowered Communication: Tools, Tips, and Boundaries

Unlocking the Power of Empowered Communication: Tools, Tips, and Boundaries

What is Empowered Communication?

Learning to communicate is a lifelong process, which is why at Medusa, we love to offer guidance in what we call empowered communication. There are seemingly infinite books, courses, podcasts, articles, classes, and university majors devoted to the art and practice of communication.

We all know that communication is important to have healthy relationships and that having healthy relationships is a crucial aspect in our overall well being and our general flourishing as human beings.

We need to communicate. And we often get it wrong. We often misunderstand each other. Sometimes we hurt each other unintentionally just by bungling our communication. Other times our emotions become intense or our past traumas trigger us so much that we lose the capacity to communicate effectively.

Practice Communicating From an Empowered Heart

How do we practice and master empowered communication? There are many tools we can learn and practices we can incorporate into our conversations to become better communicators.

Practicing makes us better at anything we do. But the most important aspect of being a good communicator is cultivating our sense of self-awareness. Every learning experience is a dynamic process: we receive information and guidance externally and then we go inward to learn more about ourselves and apply it. It’s a process of aligning our heart, body and mind. Empowered hearts and open minds lead to empowered communication.

Being an empowered communicator is not just knowing the techniques, it also means deepening the relationship with yourself to know when and how to use them appropriately.

Different contexts and situations require different types of communication from us. Sometimes we need to be firm and assertive, and other times we need to let our compassion guide us.

Empowered communication is a combination of using assertive techniques, setting boundaries, consent, listening, feeling and expressing emotions, asking questions, and cultivating empathy.

A lot of this comes from a needs-based approach, through evaluating our needs and those of the people we communicate with.

We use empathy in intentional ways to connect with and understand one another, and still hold clear and firm boundaries to establish and honor our own needs.

What’s the Buzz About Boundaries Anyway?

Even just a few years ago, no one was talking much about boundaries. Now we hear about them so much that it’s almost becoming a new buzzword. And even to the point where some people are weaponizing boundaries and using them to manipulate others.

To be clear, setting a boundary is NOT about anyone else’s behavior. We don’t set them to teach someone else a lesson or control their actions. It is about our own safety, comfort, or needs.

While boundaries can be firm, that doesn’t mean they can’t change as we evolve and grow. In fact, having boundaries is about understanding our own needs in each moment. It is important to continually check in with our needs to know where our boundaries are.

We set boundaries to honor our emotional space, mental capacity, to protect our body, our nervous system, and our energetic resources. Boundaries are self-care and self-love and can even be self-defense. Understanding where our boundaries lie allows us to be clear with ourselves and within our relationships and helps us avoid feeling resentment later.

Some questions to start with when it comes to boundaries:

What are your needs? In general and at this moment?

How can you support the needs of others while honoring your own?

Where do you feel different emotions in your body?

When have you noticed a need to tighten a boundary?
When have you felt safe enough to be able to loosen a boundary?

Can you feel empathy for others and compassion for yourself at the same time?

What do you want from a conversation? What does the other person want? Is there consent?

Some practical tips for more empowered communication:

Say no without guilt or fear.

Say YES when it feels GOOD!

Listen to your body. Listen to others with your whole body. Notice your breath.

Feel your emotions in your body, label or define them without judgment, express them in healthy ways.

Practice empathy and maintain clear boundaries.

Ask for consent. (eg: do you have time/space to listen to me right now? Can I share something I’m struggling with? Can I vent for a minute?)

Empowered Communication Workshops

For instance at Medusa, in an Empowered Communication Workshop, we discuss the what, why, and how of being an empowered communicator, and how this comes from having an empowered heart. It is learning about ourselves, our needs, triggers and our emotional experience, so that we may communicate effectively across all contexts. It is about prioritizing our own needs while remaining sensitive and empathetic to the needs of others, and having tools to manage conflict when our needs are out of alignment with the people we care about. These practices enable us to move forward with empowered bodies, empowered hearts, and empowered voices.

These are some of the basic foundations and tools for communicating from a more empowered place. In our workshops, we break these ideas down and put them into practice with fun, engaging real life scenarios. We offer workshops in a variety of settings, from university to corporate to self-defense classes.

We also offer more customizable packages of communication coaching. This can be one-on-one or intimate group settings.

amy schmidt

Amy Schmidt is the CEO and founder of Medusa Media Collective. She is an editor, writer and teacher. She has held numerous workshops on leadership, empowerment, and self-defense for women.

Stay tuned for a deeper dive into each one of these practices to continue improving as an empowered communicator with an empowered heart.

Get in touch with Amy to book your virtual or in-person workshop or learn more about individualized communication coaching.

My Bitch Face & Medusa

My Bitch Face & Medusa

Lessons from a Goddess on the Power of Ugliness

A former partner used to tell me that my anger—or more specifically, my bitch face—frightened him. It was thanks to him, thanks to the pyrotechnics of our conflictive dynamic, that I came to know my capacity for rage.

Do you know what it feels like to embody the word “fuming” as your anger walks you down the street? To play metal music (which you hate) at maximum volume so you won’t have to scream alone? To become mute with rage, any words at all lost in the blizzard blanketing your mind?

I didn’t. But I do now.

my bitch face

Recently, I have been delving deep into wide-ranging interpretations and re-storyings of the Medusa myth. Market research, if you will, for a new project I am co-creating, Medusa Media Collective.

Feminist retellings of her story abound. Survivor, Rebel, Victim, Witch—Medusa can also be a symbol of subversion, of resilience, and of the life-giving cycle of destruction and creation.

Perhaps best known for the serpents in her hair, Medusa’s gaze, as referenced in Homer’s Illiad, is just as fascinating.

“Medusa’s eye petrifies. Her “evil” eye brings death.”—Miriam Robbins Dexter, Ph.D.

What kind of expression, when encountered on a woman’s face, is so terrifying it can turn people to stone? My guess: her “bitch face” (a term, incidentally, which I am choosing to embrace). 

You know, the one that comes with blinding rage and metal music. It is so chilling that men the world over must beg women to smile in the street. From the ancients to the moderns, no one likes an angry woman; that’s why we learn young to keep that stuff under control.

However, while this gaze may bring death, I do not believe it is “evil.” Rather, I think it has been vilified, demonized along with women’s rage. 

Anger is not evil, but it is transformative. And change is very scary. Wicked, even.

That partner of mine told me that my rage was ugly—and frightening. He couldn’t bear to look upon it.

Far more upsetting, for a moment I believed him. I turned away from the ugliness of my own anger, for fear it might turn me to stone. 

Embracing Anger as an Agent of Change

Of course, this was not the case. Perhaps Medusa’s gaze causes another kind of death: creative destruction, the necessary death of the old to create space for the new. Death-as-transformation. My anger petrified both of us, but it eventually allowed me to burn down old cycles and create anew, far from people who would dismember my less “attractive” emotions. And therein lies the other interpretation of the “evil eye,” rage that protects us, wards off ill intent and turns it back on those who would do us harm.

Challenging relationships typically compensate with certain gifts, and this one granted me an intimate familiarity with my rage, which I had scarcely touched before. It took me a long time to set aside that anger when it had overstayed its welcome. I think that’s because it felt good…

My anger set me on fire, and I forged so much in those flames: creative projects, businesses, strength, sisterhood. Seeds burst open in that destructive heat and birthed new life. And when it had carried me through, I set it down on an out-of-reach shelf, there if I ever needed it. Only now am I remembering to turn around and say “thank you” to the bitch face, the “ugliness” that gave me so much power, protection, and life—just as effigies of Medusa were said to do for sacred sites and cities.

Up until now, I still couldn’t decide whether to repent of my ugliness, my anger, my bitch face—or to revel in it. Yet the deeper I penetrate into the snaky caves of Medusa’s lore, the more certain I become that I should embrace this power, precisely disregarding the patriarchy’s instructions to decapitate it, to look away in shame, disgust, and fear.

Medusa hisses at me from the shadows, “Don’t listen to them, sweetie. Your bitch face is beautiful!” And you know what? Today I believe her.

toby israel

Toby Israel is Medusa’s Chief Brainstormer. She is a vagabondess and a storyteller who has a metaphorical closet full of hats, including: Author, Editor, Marketing Consultant, Movement Artist, and Empowerment Self-Defense Instructor. Toby holds a BA in Anthropology from Middlebury College and an MA in Peace and Media Studies from the University for Peace. She speaks four languages, but only edits in English.

Why So Few Women Are Head Chefs: An Ecofeminist Perspective

Why So Few Women Are Head Chefs: An Ecofeminist Perspective

Can I Love to Cook & Be a Feminist?

One lovely summer evening, I was preparing a buffet dinner with a friend at her place while simultaneously having a discussion on a non-related topic. In sharing my consistently feminist perspective on the topic, my friend’s husband could not stop himself from sharing unsolicited commentary.

“I do not see how you can enjoy cooking and at the same time consider yourself a feminist.”

I was flabbergasted and unsure of how to respond at that moment. His comment has since made me reflect on what it means for me to be a professional cook and a (nearly professional) feminist. And beyond that, I began to wonder how and why we perceive the action of cooking differently depending on gender.

My interest in cooking partially emerged from learning about the infinite amount of combinations and techniques that we can apply to our food. But mostly, it is my strong desire to connect with our natural world and the cultures that inhabit this planet that inspires my passion for cooking. When I think of action cooking–I think of creation, honoring, balance, nourishment, and care. 

Unfortunately, these aspects are often missing in the professional gastronomic world. Here, cooking becomes a performance that clients pay for. And what shapes the professional kitchen standard? An atmosphere of masculinity. If you cannot keep up with the workflow, the professional kitchen is not your place. This may not be true everywhere, especially as workplace dynamics evolve, but it has often been a typical kitchen attitude. 

Inequality in Gastronomy & Why We Need More Women Head Chefs

In 2018, I had my first professional kitchen experience in a well-known restaurant. It was then that I learned how to hold my ground in a male-dominated kitchen. Not only was the gendered division male-dominated, but the masculine spirit of performing, taking risks, and working fast was also the norm during most working shifts. When I attempted to implement some changes in the management of waste and water use. Practically nothing was recycled and at times, the tap would run unnecessarily. I received a friendly smile without further response.

It is hard to be an idealist in this world.

In most cultures and homes, women generally manage the task of food preparation. The long-standing sexual division of labor assigns most of the “caring” chores to women. These include cleaning, cooking, and in general, nourishing. 

Aligned with this delegation of specific tasks between men and women, is the fact that patriarchy prefers to keep women inside the house walls. As such, we can conclude that ‘cooking women’ are to be kept in the private sphere.

However, when we look at the profession of cooking in the public sphere, we see what is consistent with many industries – a male-led and male-dominated gastronomic field. While there are differences between countries, the percentage of female head chefs as compared to male head chefs is generally 15 women to every 100 men.

Double the Burden, Decrease the Pay

As women began entering the labor market in recent decades, the concept of the “double burden” arose. Before, during, and after many women’s working day, a full list of chores awaits them at home. The unpaid chores of running a household–feeding the household, doing laundry, and cleaning, remain chores that women generally manage.

Interestingly, research shows that same-sex couples divide these tasks in a more equal manner compared to different-sex couples. 

The concept of the double burden is one explanation for why there are so many more male head chefs in the restaurant industry. The profession is a very demanding job. It includes long working days and little time off during the weekends and nighttime. 

And let’s not forget, of course, about unequal paid salaries based on gender, which is also accurate for this sector.

ecofeminist
Many professional kitchens continue a macho, “if you can’t take the heat, get out of the kitchen” tradition.

On top of all this, the professional gastronomic kitchen is rife with macho attitudes. It is hard for any person to survive a single day in a male-dominated kitchen without constant exposure to sexism, explicit dirty talk, and locker room-style jokes. Additionally, there is a common perception that women are not able to handle the physical workload or withstand the pressure in a space where a ‘survival of the fittest’ mentality prevails.

So, in short, cooking at home is a woman’s task. Nourishing the family is a woman’s task. In the professional capitalistic world, men are more likely to dominate and earn more money by performing the same task. The difference? The masculine standard values their work differently and the patriarchal urge to keep women in the home. Does that sound about right?

Brewing an Ecofeminist Future

It’s 2022. We all know humanity is facing some immense challenges on top of gaining gender equality. Climate change, disease epidemics, and industrialized foods, to name a few, threaten a healthy and sustainable future for human beings and all species on earth. Perhaps, feminist and environmental discourses can complement and inform each other in their aim to offer solutions and change patterns.

Indeed, on its path toward equality and sustainability, ecofeminism addresses both threats. Ecofeminism sees the same dynamics happening in the capitalist exploitation of the natural world as in the exploitation of women within the patriarchal structure that keeps them from fully standing in their power, self-love, and strength.

Climate change seems to be the very obvious sign that our colonial, patriarchal, capitalist, and sexist society leads us to a path of decline. Studies show that we all benefit when women have the opportunity to thrive in business.

It seems obvious, but I’ll say it anyway–creating a society in which masculine and feminine energies are balanced in the homes, public spaces, and on the work floor, will make us thrive as planet earth as a whole.

Great potential lies in creating a more inclusive gastronomic field with equally paid salaries and a healthy, non-sexist workspace. Nonetheless, the work does not stop here. As long as we do not educate our children in a nonsexual/nongendered division of labor, the double burden for women will continue to be an obstacle for us to thrive in the public sphere. An equal division of household chores offers women more time, energy, and space to thrive professionally. Simultaneously, children that grow up in a space where tasks are not gendered, either to be completed by men or by women, will benefit our work towards equality in general. 

And even more, a professional kitchen that embraces the existence of feminine characteristics is likely to invest time and attention in creating less waste, recycling, and turning off the damn tap when clean water is wasted for no reason. What it all comes down to is introducing feminine energy and balancing it with the masculine that prevails in most professional work environments around the world.  

The Act of Nourishing Is an Act of Resistance

To anyone who, like my friend’s husband, believes that to be feminist means you must reject the act of cooking, I say this: Surprise! It is possible to enjoy the creation of nourishment and hold feminist beliefs about equality! 

I believe in the power of cooking as a nourishing act of love. All our food comes from the earth. Our planet provides us nourishment, and as we cook, we combine and mix and heat and create something from ingredients and then share it with one another. We create with love from the earth and for one another. If we take this approach into the performance-driven, capitalistic gastronomic field, we may be able to tackle several of the big challenges that we face each day. (I know, it’s still hard to be an idealist.)

The more we realize how everything – the natural as well as the oppressive systemic one – is connected, the closer we might come to creating a new world of balance and equality.


ecofeminist

Iris Dijkstra, of Aya Creative, is a multilingual, intersectional ecofeminist chef based between Amsterdam and Costa Rica, where she infuses all her interactions between humans, earth, and food with a lot of love, a pinch of spice, and plenty of fire.

How Do We Change Language?

How Do We Change Language?

Driving Linguistic Evolution Beyond the Patriarchy

I have recently seen a tweet circulating that says, “in 2022 we’re not finishing our sentences, does that make sense anymore.” I have seen this type of idea presented in many different ways. The general message: women have too much self-doubt. We should be more confident. It’s time to stop with the self-doubt and speak with confidence. The underlying message I hear: we should speak more like men. 

There is a part of this message that resonates with me–the part about taking ownership of our language and cultivating our power through language. However, as I’ve been seeing these types of messages circulate in recent years, I’ve realized that some part of it has been bothering me. 

Lack of Confidence or Cultural Gaslighting?

I do feel that many women, myself included, have had and continue to struggle with self-doubt. The patriarchal world makes it easy for us to doubt ourselves. It likes for us to doubt ourselves. On top of doubt, we’re supposed to feel shame for our doubt and guilt about our lack of confidence. If we could only be more confident, like men, then we would be more successful in business and in life. 

I find this to be an example of deep cultural gaslighting that perpetuates the exact problem it points out. Even the most confident among us may start to doubt our confidence if the dominant narrative tells us we lack it. Even the most self-assured among us may start to wonder if the reason we aren’t as successful as men could be an inherently flawed self-esteem rather than misogynistic structural imbalances. Can we self-care our way to the top of a patriarchal structure? I don’t really think so, or necessarily want to. Even the strongest among us may stumble from time to time in a world designed by men for men.  

It’s time for us to recognize this societal gaslighting.

Perhaps we don’t need to doubt our use of language. Maybe we don’t need to dissect our forms of communicating using a male lens. 

***

A few years ago, I worked as the executive director of a nonprofit healthcare organization. During my time there, I received an award and grant for personal and organizational capacity development and was assigned a wonderful consultant. We worked closely together for about a year. 

One thing that I learned by listening and watching the way Angela communicated was how to give space in conversation. Angela would often ask, “does that make sense?” And when I was speaking, she would affirm in a similar way. Six years later, I can still hear her lovely, calming voice in my mind, “that makes so much sense.”

Confidence & Empathy Belong Together

When Angela would ask me if what she was explaining made sense, never once did I perceive self-doubt from her. What I felt was that she was intentionally building space into our conversations, space for me to reflect, ask questions, and comment. It was a way to slow the flow of the conversation and check in with me. 

Her affirmations while I paused during my time speaking were also helpful–and these questions “does that make sense,” and affirmations, “that makes so much sense” balanced each other into a beautifully constructive process. 

She wasn’t asking me if it made sense because she was unsure of herself. It wasn’t about her. It wasn’t a lack of confidence. She was asking to make sure that we were both in the same conversation, to see if something needed to be reworded or clarified. And if something did need to be clarified, it wouldn’t be because she wasn’t doing a good job explaining, it would be because we are humans, and we often need clarification. I began to mirror her and do the same in conversation, and I felt shifts in my work relationships.

Maybe this kind of compassionate, intentional communication is needed more–in professional and personal settings. Perhaps we shouldn’t encourage women to speak more like men. Here’s a radical idea: maybe men can take some guidance from women. 

Men, does this make sense? 

Now, I am all about direct communication. I facilitate practices in direct communication. There are many moments in professional and personal contexts where the most direct communication possible is exactly what is needed. So I’m not advocating against direct communication. 

In my workshops, we also practice empathetic listening, asking open and honest questions, and nonviolent communication styles. Different contexts require different kinds of communication. I believe we can be direct and empathetic at the same time. That we can communicate effectively while still pausing and allowing for spaces in our conversation, giving ourselves time to process. 

change language

Who Has the Power to Create Language?

Language, just like music, fashion, design, and culture in general, evolves. How does it evolve? Who drives linguistic trends and changes? Well, who usually has most of the social power? Could it be the same dominant group who has historically had access to academia and publishing power? The majority of the power of directing and creating movies, television, radio and news media? 

Of course, there are marginal or subversive drivers of cultural change as well. But in every social narrative, there are dominant voices–and then there are all the others. A global (ahem, colonial) common factor is that women’s voices have been hushed, along with many other intersecting populations. 

What I propose here is that instead of condemning ourselves as women for the way we speak, perhaps we could embrace our subtle and not-so-subtle differences, and see the potential strengths within them. Perhaps, instead of modeling our professional voices after those of men, we could analyze in what ways we can drive linguistic trends.

What I suggest, is that instead of gaslighting ourselves into filing our pauses and our sensitivities into the “lack of confidence” category, we embrace these and honor the place for them within the professional context. 

Make sense?


Interested in practicing some of these communication styles? Medusa offers 1:1 coaching and workshops for classes, organizations, and small businesses. Get in touch today for practical communication tools.

amy schmidt

Amy Schmidt is the CEO and founder of Medusa Media Collective. She is an editor, writer and teacher. She also teaches yoga, leadership, and empowerment self-defense for women. Her goal in writing is to create connection through empathy, and her passion is working to end gender-based violence. She likes her humor dry and her fruit juicy. 

You Are the Revolution

You Are the Revolution

Lessons from Medusa on Sexuality, Power, & Subversion

“La subversión sumergida en belleza es revolución.” — Colectivo Las Tesis

(Subversion, submerged in beauty, is revolution.”)

Before she is turned into a fearsome snake-headed monster, Medusa is a beautiful maiden. Ovid describes her hair as the, “most wonderful of all her charms.”

The ancient Greeks sure had a knack for dramatic irony. The very feature that made Medusa seductive and irresistible as a woman is what renders her “terrifying” and “repulsive” after her transformation: her hair.

Beauty & Sexuality: The Ultimate Revolution

So let’s dig into the power, seduction, and revolution behind that symbol.

revolution

Throughout history and across cultures, women’s hair has been a symbol of: fertility, sensuality, feminine energy, sexuality, and so much more. Why do you think so many religiocultural injunctions demand that we cover up? That stuff is dangerous!

As the logic goes:

Sexuality = Power. Power = Danger (at least when in the hands—or hair—of a woman)

Or something along those lines.

In 2020, Las Tesis (a feminist collective born in Chile) made international waves with their performance, “un vialodor en tu camino” (a rapist in your path). In their manifesto, published to contextualize the performance piece, they write:

“El violador eras tu.” Photo originally published in La Tercera. November 2019.

“Subversion, submerged in beauty, is revolution.”

I wonder if the reverse can’t also be true: “Beauty (or sexuality) submerged in subversion, is revolution.”

In these words we have the outline for (yet another) feminist retelling of the Medusa myth:

Medusa’s hair, “most wonderful of all her charms” is her beauty, symbolically tied to sexuality and power, or the potential for power.

That beauty, submerged in subversion, could describe her transformation following the trauma of sexual violence perpetrated by Poiseidon. The snakes are the embodiment, the realization of her potential to be powerful. Her refusal to cower after suffering violence is, in of itself, a powerful act of subversion.

Beauty, submerged in subversion, is revolution. Medusa, the “monster,” IS the revolution. A woman claiming her power. A woman who has channeled the fury of her injustice into sacred rage. One who inspires fear, perhaps not because she is hideous, but rather because she has harnessed her energy (her hair, the snakes), to do her bidding, and no one else’s. 

In this Medusa, I see a role model and a blueprint for rising above trauma, raising a fist (or a head of snakes) in the face of the patriarchy. She inspires us to live life on our own terms. Read thusly, Medusa can teach us to live unapologetically, with agency, with full autonomy over our body, sexuality, creative energy, and—at the core of it all—our power.

So go ahead, create! Dance! Flaunt your perfections and your flaws.

Raise your snaky head with pride. You are the revolution, and you can do whatever the hell you want with your charms.


Need a nudge in the revolution direction? At Medusa Media Collective we want to support all your creative and entrepreneurial rebellions. Reach out here to see how we can work together!

toby israel
Toby Israel is Medusa’s Chief Brainstormer. She is a vagabondess and a storyteller who has a metaphorical closet full of hats, including: Author, Editor, Marketing Consultant, Movement Artist, and Empowerment Self-Defense Instructor. Toby holds a BA in Anthropology from Middlebury College and an MA in Peace and Media Studies from the University for Peace. She speaks four languages, but only edits in English.