Feminist Fix: L’Oreal’s First Black Trans Model Speaks Out, Pramila Jayapal Talks Back and Tig Notaro Crafts the Right Conversation on Sexual Assault

Welcome to the Feminist Fix, our weekly round-up of feminist news, updates and essays. 

Feminist News

+ Lasker Awards—a prestigious prize in medicine—are going to Planned Parenthood and two scientists who helped create the HPV vaccine.

+ A New York lawmaker wants to rename Trump State Park for Heather Heyer.

+ Three Black women are playing at this year’s U.S. Open Semi-Finals. That’s historic.

+ West Point’s top cadet is a Black woman.

+ Rep. Don Young (R-AK) called Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-WA) “young lady” on the floor, adding that she “doesn’t know a damn thing.” She pushed back.

The remarks came amid a conversation regarding wildlife management in Alaska, according to The Seattle Times. After Young called Jayapal a “young lady,” she objected, asking for his comments to be stuck from the record. Young has since apologized, but Jayapal pointed out his remarks are commonplace for women, especially women of color.

“Unfortunately, women, including women of color, face this kind of exchange far too often,” she said in a statement, according to the Seattle Times. “So often, we are discredited for being brown or Black, looking too young or too old, or having strong opinions. I appreciate that Congressman Young apologized and I want to remind women of color out there to stand your ground and don’t ever be afraid to speak up,”

Movers & Shakers

+ Selena Gomez and other celebrities are speaking up and out on DACA.

+ The entire staff of a Minneapolis bar quit when they found out the owner had donated to David Duke. The bar is now closed.

+ Munroe Bergdorf, L’Oréal’s first Black trans model, was fired after a social media post she made about white supremacy went viral. Now, she’s speaking out.

+ TIME just launched an extensive series on “Firsts”—women blazing trails in modern times. Included among them are Hillary Clinton, Issa Rae, Serena Williams and Oprah.

What a jagged image we use for women who achieve greatly, defining accomplishment in terms of the barrier rather than the triumph. There she is up where the air is thin, where men still outnumber women, but where the altitude is awesome. Our goal with Firsts is for every woman and girl to find someone whose presence in the highest reaches of success says to her that it is safe to climb, come on up, the view is spectacular.

Deep Dives

+ Steve Bannon thinks nobody cared that Donald Trump bragged about sexually assaulting women. He’s wrong.

+ What happens when evacuation from a natural disaster isn’t economically feasible?

+ The fat-shaming of Heather Heyer has roots in white supremacy.

+ Donald Trump: The First White President.

For Trump, it almost seems that the fact of Obama, the fact of a Black president, insulted him personally. The insult intensified when Obama and Seth Meyers publicly humiliated him at the White House Correspondents’ Dinner in 2011. But the bloody heirloom ensures the last laugh. Replacing Obama is not enough—Trump has made the negation of Obama’s legacy the foundation of his own. And this too is whiteness. “Race is an idea, not a fact,” the historian Nell Irvin Painter has written, and essential to the construct of a “white race” is the idea of not being a nigger. Before Barack Obama, niggers could be manufactured out of Sister Souljahs, Willie Hortons, and Dusky Sallys. But Donald Trump arrived in the wake of something more potent—an entire nigger presidency with nigger health care, nigger climate accords, and nigger justice reform, all of which could be targeted for destruction or redemption, thus reifying the idea of being white. Trump truly is something new—the first president whose entire political existence hinges on the fact of a Black president. And so it will not suffice to say that Trump is a white man like all the others who rose to become president. He must be called by his rightful honorific—America’s first white president.

+ Digging in to how the GOP’s attacks on voting in Trump’s America are impacting our elections.

A battle arriving on the Supreme Court’s doorstep in six weeks is already being waged in North Carolina’s Republican-held General Assembly.

The state was accused of using race as a critical component in drawing its legislative districting maps, and was forced to begin creating new ones in June after the Supreme Court agreed with a lower court ruling in 2011. But just before the Assembly’s Friday deadline to submit new maps that don’t marginalize minority communities further, thus making their votes less essential in state elections, it’s now being accused of using new tricks to essentially do the exact same thing.

Media, Arts & Culture

+ Counting every instance of rape, death and nudity in Game of Thrones.

Insecure means a lot to young Black women.

Bitch explores the women of Twin Peaks—and what their contemporary portrayal says about aging and gender in media.

+ This is how Tig Notaro and her writers on One Mississippi are tackling sexual assault:

In an episode of Season 2, Kate is in a work meeting with a male colleague when he begins masturbating while speaking with her. Kate is confused, disgusted, and angry—as viewers will be when they see that he later lies and says he was “scratching his leg,” and their boss (an Ira Glass type) explains it away, asking Kate why she didn’t leave the room while it was allegedly happening. It’s worth mentioning that Louis C.K., who serves as executive producer of One Mississippi in name only, is rumored to have done the same thing to women, as some in the industry have spoken publicly about the comedian allegedly masturbating in front of them or women they know (including Roseanne Barr, who told The Daily Beast that stories about C.K. “have been leveled and talked about for years”). Notaro told the publication that she’d had “an incident” with him prior to Season 1, but didn’t go into detail. Still, viewers will surmise that these allegations, at the least, have informed storylines.

It’s another instance of Notaro and her all-women writers room taking a topic raised by other television shows but flipping the perspective, offering a more specific, pointed take. In this case, it’s that sexual assault (both blatant or thinly veiled) is not something to be hidden or forgotten about, but instead broached with the honesty and forthrightness that it deserves—even if it’s being discussed on a public radio show as Tig and Kate do in Season 2, somehow maintaining their witty, poignant banter while discussing something disturbing.

“I want conversations to happen,” Notaro said. “I think enough is enough and it’s all very serious—it’s not casual, it’s not cool, it’s not funny, it’s not OK. It’s none of those things. And we try to show all the different levels of abuse and assault and in the workplace, in the family with trusted people that you know—situations where you’re not even physically touched, it’s still assault.”



Carmen Rios is a self-proclaimed feminist superstar and the former digital editor at Ms. Her writing on queerness, gender, race and class has been published in print and online by outlets including BuzzFeed, Bitch, Bust, CityLab, DAME, ElixHER, Feministing, Feminist Formations, GirlBoss, GrokNation, MEL, Mic, the National Women’s History Museum, SIGNS and the Women’s Media Center; and she is a co-founder of Webby-nominated Argot Magazine. @carmenriosss|carmenfuckingrios.com