TIME Turkey

Turkish President Says Men and Women Are Not Equal

It's not the first time he's publicly said something offensive

Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has caused a controversy by saying women and men are not equal—at a women’s justice summit.

“You cannot put women and men on an equal footing,” Erdogan said. “It is against nature. They were created differently. Their nature is different. Their constitution is different.”

He went on to say that feminists do not understand how the Muslim faith honors mothers: “Our religion regards motherhood very highly. Feminists don’t understand that, they reject motherhood.”

This is not the first time Erdogan has gotten attention for saying something offensive about women. In the past, he has said that women should have least three kids, and he has tried to outlaw abortion, the Associated Press reports.

He also recently caused a stir by arguing that Muslims were the first to discover the Americas.

[AP]

Read next: Vote Now: Who Should Be TIME’s Person of the Year?

TIME women

I Was Catcalled While Pregnant

Walking with cars
Getty Images

I naively thought a prominent pregnant belly would provide me with a protective bubble from street harassment

xojane

This story originally appeared on xoJane.com.

I’ve been a victim of street harassment since I was a tween. It’s just par for the course. I usually dealt with it in a passive way: ignore it and get away as quickly and quietly as possible. Don’t make eye contact. Don’t acknowledge them. Just keep walking. Focused ignorance.

I was catcalled one day shortly after I found out I was pregnant. I blissfully imagined what my belly would look like in a few months time and how the harassment would stop. I was (and am) pregnant, and naively thought a prominent pregnant belly would provide me with a protective bubble, although admittedly temporary. Never did I imagine that not only would I experience catcalling while pregnant, but harassers would be even more aggressive.

I was walking to work the first time it happened. A man was walking toward me and I could feel his eyes examining every inch of me. He evidently decided my breasts were the best place to keep his gaze, and as I hurried to pass him, discontented, disgusted, a little afraid, mostly angry, he muttered comments about my body. Wonderful.

I wanted to scream at him to keep his eyes and comments to himself, and learn a little respect. Instead, I defaulted to my usual focused ignorance.

The incident left me shocked, disgusted and confused. My pregnancy was clearly showing, and I had assumed pregnancy would provide some relief from the sexually objectifying gaze of street harassers. Imagine, walking down the street without being catcalled — what a world!

Generally in American society, pregnant women are seen as beautiful, but in a non-sexual way. Because they are preparing for motherhood, pregnant women are to remain asexual, keeping a holy mind and body, focused solely on motherhood. But some men have found a way to separate pregnant women from their bodies. The pregnant body itself is no different than any other female body in that it is subject to inspection and commentary, including sexually, especially in public spaces.

One only has to look at the covers of entertainment magazines to realize that a woman’s body is never her own, including a pregnant one. Tabloids are always making comments about pregnant celebrities — who’s fat/sexy/rockin’ the bump — and are relentless in pointing out women who they claim have “let themselves go” during pregnancy.

But sometimes magazines overtly sexualize a pregnant woman, not in a powerful way, showing that the pregnant woman can be sexual, but in an objectifying way, creating a sexy image for the viewer’s gaze.

Interestingly, the first magazine cover to present a naked pregnant body was done so as a feminist statement. The now well-known 1991 Vanity Fair cover displayed a proud and pregnant Demi Moore, whose eyes gazed off camera, with little makeup or jewelry. A simple image that tackled complex issues surrounding the pregnant body, it was groundbreaking.

Fast forward in time and the pregnant cover and spread conveys a whole new message — sex. Heavy eye makeup, flashy jewels, seductive pose, and bedroom eyes are par for the course. The images scream “sexual object,” reminding our society that these bodies are here for our enjoyment.

When you’re pregnant, your body is not your own; complete strangers feel entitled to say something to you. Some of these comments are nice (e.g., asking when you’re due or saying congratulations), while other times the commenters should have probably kept their mouth shut (e.g., remarking how huge your belly is, asking if you’re having twins, etc.).

Usually I’m by myself when these comments are made, but once a dear friend happened to be with me. We were going to an art museum and the ticket collector made a comment about my belly. It was nothing offensive, and clearly intended as genial, but my friend joked “Gee, it must be great having everyone comment on your body at all times.”

I shrugged it off — I’d become used to the fact that people felt the right to discuss my body like it’s public property. But really, I was just glad that the comment wasn’t sexual in nature. Yup, my standards have been lowered. I never imagined that I would be sexually harassed while pregnant, but that’s the reality. A disgusting and frustrating reality.

As my baby bump continues to grow, each lingering gaze and crude comment continues to be a source of distress. I’m not certain what these men are thinking, but for some reason, they act like their advances are compliments.

For me and the women I know, these comments have never been perceived as compliments and they never will be — especially now. Each whistle, each lip-smack, each wink, each “Mmm, hey baby” feels like a threat aimed not just at me, but to my unborn child as well. No, I don’t need your praise on how good you think my body looks, or need to know what you would do to any part of my body. Bugger off!

Although I’ve always dealt with catcalling in a passive manner, this new violation brings out the angry mama bear in me. Still, I dare not say anything for fear of the repercussions. Sure, I might be able to get them to shut up, but then again, I could also trigger one of the harassers to do something extreme, something that we’ve seen in the news far too often this year (e.g., the woman shot and killed because she refused to give a man her number, or the woman whose throat was cut for, again, refusing her catcaller. Sadly, I could go on…).

This underlying fear is paralyzing. As a woman, there are too many risks in calling out your aggressor, especially when there is another life at stake. Not to mention I’m moving slower than normal these days, making it even more difficult to escape from the situation in a timely manner.

So what’s a girl to do?! I wish I had the answer. I’ve debated printing off “What would your mother think?!” cards, but again, I can’t waddle away fast enough to not fear retaliation.

But I have decided on one thing, I will not start wearing baggy clothes to cover up my body. I’m proud that I’m growing a human inside me; it’s freakin’ hard work, so you better believe I’m walking with pride! In the meantime, I’m working on my resting-bitch-face and walking without eye contact, belly-poppin’ pregnant-waddle and all.

Terra Olsen is a writer and game content manager for an indie mobile gaming company.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME Culture

In Free the Nipple Movie, Women Go Topless for Equality

“Someone is definitely getting arrested.”

Censorship matters to Lina Esco, whose new film Free the Nipple tells the story of a group of activists challenging laws by baring their chests in the streets.

For Esco, “It’s not about going topless, it’s about equality.” The movie grew out of a real-life campaign that questions a country that glorifies violence in the media but removes a woman from a flight for breastfeeding her baby. As one of the fictional activists says in the trailer, “Our sexuality has been taken away from us and is essentially being sold back to us.”

The movement got a jump-start when Miley Cyrus, who has faced plenty of censorship herself, tweeted a picture of herself holding a fake nipple last December, accompanied by the hashtag #freethenipple. It’s not lost on Esco that the sensationalism of a bunch of topless women can only help to spread the word about her cause. “If I would have made a movie called ‘Equality,’ and no one was going topless,” she acknowledged to Entertainment Weekly, “nobody would be talking about it.”

Free the Nipple hits theaters on Dec. 12.

TIME Culture

Fraternity Group Under Investigation for Rape Comments

Delta Kappa Epsilon's alumni include George W Bush and Theodore Roosevelt

A fraternity of American students in Britain is under investigation after the minutes of their meetings revealed members making a series of jokes about rape and sexual assault.

The University of Edinburgh has appointed a senior member of staff to investigate the chapter of the American fraternity Delta Kappa Epsilon (DKE).

Minutes from DKE fraternity meetings were leaked to Edinburgh’s student newspaper, which reported them on Tuesday.

During a meeting in March, which listed “Feminists” as an agenda item, a member of the fraternity suggested organizing a game of paintball between the fraternity and the university feminist society, FemSoc, to “calm the waters,” according to the report. The proposal was vetoed but the proposer asked, “How are we going to rape them?”A second student responded: “Let’s go to Montenegro, for a raping trip.”

The fraternity was established in Edinburgh as the first U.K. branch of the historic American society, which counts several U.S. presidents, including George W Bush and Theodore Roosevelt, among its alumni. DKE is no stranger to controversy. It was founded at Yale University in 1844 but is now currently suspended there following an initiation ritual in October 2010 where its members shouted sexist slogans, including “No means yes!”

Edinburgh’s DKE “colony” was officially chartered by the American organization less than a week before the minutes were leaked. However, it is not affiliated with Edinburgh University itself and is independent.

The student newspaper also reported allegations that fraternity members joked about offering to walk drunk women home after nights out and taking advantage of them.

The leaked minutes from Edinburgh’s DKE chapter have been met with widespread condemnation on campus. Vice-President of Edinburgh University Students’ Association Eve Livingston immediately issued a statement calling the comments in the leaked minutes “unacceptable” and in breach of university policy against sexual harassment and “lad banter.”

In a statement via Facebook, the feminist society also strongly condemned the DKE’s behavior as “abhorrent” and said “the fact that this type of behaviour is acceptable to a group of students, and that it was even recorded in official minutes, is a clear example of how rampant sexism and misogyny exists in our everyday surroundings.” The society urged Edinburgh University to take disciplinary action.

Speaking to Huffington Post, an Edinburgh University spokesman said: “We are treating this matter extremely seriously.”

Edinburgh’s DKE chapter did not respond to TIME’s requests for comment.

TIME feminism

Pharrell Williams Says He’s a Feminist After All

US-ENTERTAINMENT-A VERY GRAMMY CHRISTMAS-SHOW
Robyn Beck—AFP/Getty Images Singer Pharrell Williams performs at the taping of "A Very Grammy Christmas" at the Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles, California on November 18, 2014.

The singer originally claimed it "wasn't possible"

After rejecting the label earlier this year, Pharrell Williams has come around on the term “feminist.”

In an interview in May, the “Blurred Lines” singer and songwriter said: “I’ve been asked, am I a feminist? I don’t think it’s possible for me to be that… I’m a man. It makes sense up until a certain point. But what I do is — I do support feminists. I do think there’s injustices. There are inequalities that need to be addressed.” Several bloggers and journalists pointed out after the interview that men can, in fact, be feminists if they believe in political, economic and social equality between the sexes.

So when asked at a BuzzFeed event this week if he considers himself a feminist, Pharrell had a revised answer: “If I’m allowed to be. If feminism is a synonym for equality, then, yeah, sure.” Perhaps male celebrities like Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Benedict Cumberbatch and Aziz Ansari speaking out about their feminism changed Pharrell’s mind.

He also defended “Blurred Lines” lyrics that drew criticism from some who said the song was sexist and predatory. “If you sing the lyrics to yourself, the guy gets nowhere,” he said. “And when you think about lines like, ‘I know you want it,’ a lot of ladies [said] that before, and I’m pretty sure they weren’t inferring they were doing something forceful with a man.”

Whether the lyrics to the song are sexist or not, Pharrell has been very vocal about his support for women’s equality this fall.

In September he endorsed a feminist party leader in Sweden during a concert. “Let’s give women a shot for once in a while to try to run this world,” he yelled at the concert. And earlier this month, Pharrell previewed Gwen Stefani’s “Spark the Fire” during the Odd Future Carnvial in Los Angeles, playing the song from his cellphone. “It’s about feminism,” he told the crowd.

[BuzzFeed]

TIME feminism

Watch Notorious Pick-Up Artist Julien Blanc Say Sorry

The disgraced PUA told CNN: "I feel horrible"

After widespread backlash from around the world, notorious pick-up artist (PUA) Julien Blanc has attempted to apologize for causing offence.

The self-described “leader in dating advice,” Blanc works for LA-based company Real Social Dynamics and travels the world teaching seminars and “bootcamps” to men on how to meet and seduce women. Though he’s certainly not the first PUA to cause controversy, many felt that Blanc crossed the line from sexist and offensive to violent and dangerous when videos and photos surfaced of him describing and demonstrating grabbing women and forcing their heads into his crotch.

In one video, he can be heard telling a group of men, “In Tokyo, if you’re a white male,” Blanc says in one video to a room full of rapt men, “you can do what you want. I’m just romping through the streets, just grabbing girls’ heads, just like, head, pfft on the d–k. Head, on the d–k, yelling, ‘Pikachu.’”

MORE: Julien Blanc: Is he the most hated man in the world?

But after the backlash prompted the Australian government to revoke his visa and other countries around the world to consider similiar measures, Blanc said. “I 100 percent take responsibility,” Blanc told CNN. “I apologise 100 percent for it. I’m extremely sorry. I feel horrible, I’m not going to be happy if I feel like I’m the most hated man in the world. I’m overwhelmed by the way people are responding.”

Blanc also maintained that he did not teach his customers to choke or abuse women and passed off a picture of him with his hand around a woman’s neck as a “horrible, horrible attempt at humour.” He added that much of the controversy was over comments and actions that had been “taken out of context in a way.”

Yet he did assure Cuomo that he would be “re-evaluating” everything he had put out online and everything he would be putting out in the future.

[CNN]

TIME feminism

How to Turn a Cool Moment Into a #ShirtStorm

British physicist Matt Taylor sporting a garish shirt featuring a collage of pin-up girls during an interview at the satellite control centre of the European Space Agency in Darmstadt, Germany on Nov. 13, 2014.
AP British physicist Matt Taylor sporting a garish shirt featuring a collage of pin-up girls during an interview at the satellite control centre of the European Space Agency in Darmstadt, Germany on Nov. 13, 2014.

Cathy Young is a contributing editor at Reason magazine.

Sadly, the brouhaha over Dr. Taylor’s shirt overshadowed not only his accomplishments but those of his female teammates

Correction appended, Nov. 18, 2014

When I first heard about the outrage over a scientist from the Rosetta mission, which landed the Philae space probe on a comet, wearing a “sexist” shirt for a press appearance, I racked my brain wondering what the offensive garment could have been. A T-shirt showing a spacecraft with a “My secret fort—no girls allowed” sign? An image of a female scientist with the text, “It’s nice that you got a Ph.D., now make me a sandwich”? No, a colorful Hawaiian shirt on which, if you really looked—one censorious article actually included a description “in case you can’t see the shirt properly”—you could see cartoon images of scantily clad babes with guns. This brought on a tweet from Atlantic journalist Rose Eveleth, “Thanks for ruining the cool comet landing for me a–hole,” and a headline in the online magazine Verge that verged on self-parody: “I don’t care if you landed a spacecraft on a comet, your shirt is sexist and ostracizing.” The ShirtStorm, as it was dubbed on social media, culminated with the transgressor, British physicist Matt Taylor, offering a tearful apology for his “mistake” at a briefing.

Taylor’s shirt may not have been in great taste. But the outcry against it is the latest, most blatant example of feminism turning into its own caricature: a Sisterhood of the Perpetually Aggrieved, far more interested in shaming and bashing men for petty offenses than in celebrating female achievement.

Of course, to the feminists of ShirtStorm, the offense was anything but petty: in their view, a man who treats sexualized images of women as a source of pleasure or fun is thereby reducing women—all women—to live sex toys. Or, as one of Taylor’s critics tweeted, “His shirt says to women in STEM: I have no respect for you as a professional. When I look at you, I see a sex object.”

But that’s dubious logic. If a scientist gives an interview in a custom-made T-shirt with a photo of his wife and kids, is he telling women their sole purpose in life is babymaking? To suggest that a heterosexual man is incapable of seeing women both as sexual beings and as people is insulting to men and rather sad for women—a feminist version, if you will, of the old Madonna/whore complex (call it the bimbo/brain complex). Besides, generally speaking, cultures that censor sexualized expression have not been particularly progressive about women’s rights.

Yet this particular brand of feminist ideology, which inevitably stigmatizes straight male sexuality, is at the center of the recent culture wars. The mildest sexual innuendo and humor, even if it does not refer to women in any way, can be seen as demeaning. Last year the Internet was in an uproar after a female computer specialist tweeted a photo of two men at a tech conference to chastise them for exchanging jokes about suggestive-sounding technical terms such as forking and dongle. A leading feminist blog, Jezebel, quickly branded the jokesters—one of whom lost his job for this offense—“sexist dudes.” The Jezebel author, Lindy West, actually admitted that she had repeatedly made similar jokes herself—but insisted that in the context of a male-dominated industry, such humor excludes women.

But first of all, the exclusion is very much in the eye of the beholder. Some women are perfectly comfortable joining in ribald merriment; some men are not. Second, such arguments can too easily justify double standards that allow or even celebrate female sexual self-expression while censoring if not demonizing the male kind (which separates neofeminist prudery from its Victorian counterpart). Robin Thicke’s song “Blurred Lines,” in which a man seductively croons “I know you want it” to a woman, has been condemned as a “rape anthem” and banned from university campuses. Yet Beyoncé’s “Drunk in Love” and Nicki Minaj’s “Anaconda,” songs that glamorize alcohol- and drug-fueled sex—routinely equated with sexual assault in today’s feminist rhetoric—were hailed as female-empowerment anthems in the coverage of this year’s Video Music Awards.

Such double standards exist in many environments. At a skeptic convention last year, feminist science blogger Rebecca Watson, a strong critic of sexism in the atheist/skeptic community—mostly in the form of men “sexualizing” women—gave a presentation consisting of a raunchy humorous tale in which a male ex-Mormon was ridiculed for not drinking before a casual hookup and for being overcautious about birth control. If a male speaker had dared to entertain an audience these days with similar crude humor at a woman’s expense, he would have been tarred and feathered for creating an unwelcoming environment for female attendees.

Would a female scientist have been trashed for wearing a shirt that “objectified” men or even made a male-bashing joke? Very doubtful. And if she had, most of the people outraged by Taylor’s shirt would have likely risen to her defense.

Meanwhile, Taylor was not simply ribbed for a faux pas but also targeted with nasty, sometimes violent name-calling and denounced for misogyny. Never mind that anyone who bothered to check his Twitter feed would have found out that the day before his fateful appearance in the “misogynist” shirt, he was urging his followers to follow NASA’s Rosetta project scientist Claudia Alexander. They would have also learned that the shirt was made and given to Taylor as a birthday present by a female friend, Elly Prizeman. And they would have seen a photo of him wearing that shirt right next to a smiling, waving female colleague, planetary scientist Monica Grady.

In a supremely ironic coincidence, a clip of Grady jumping in noisy joy at the Philae landing was offered by Guardian writer Alice Bell as a “positive” conclusion to a column that lambasted Taylor for his shirt and his colleagues for overlooking such a sexist atrocity.

Grady’s delight at the success of the mission clearly wasn’t ruined by a gaudy shirt with “sexualized” women on it. Sadly, the same cannot be said for Taylor: His Twitter account, so full of excitement a few days ago, went entirely silent after his public humiliation.

Sadly, the brouhaha over Taylor’s shirt overshadowed not only his accomplishments but also those of his female teammates, including one of the project’s lead researchers, Kathrin Allweg of the University of Bern in Switzerland. More spotlight on Allweg, Grady, Alexander and the other remarkable women of the Rosetta project would have been a true inspiration to girls thinking of a career in science. The message of ShirtStorm, meanwhile, is that aspiring female scientists can be undone by some sexy pictures on a shirt—and that women’s presence in science requires men to walk on eggshells, curb any goofy humor that may offend the sensitive and be cowed into repentance for any misstep.

Thanks for ruining a cool feminist moment for us, bullies.

Correction: The original version of this story misstated the format of Rebecca Watson’s presentation. It was part of an entertainment program.

Read next: Cracking the Girl Code: How to End the Tech Gender Gap

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME Crime

Revenge Porn: Man Jailed In Britain As US Lawmakers Prepare New Legislation

15 states have outlawed revenge porn but it is legal in most of the US

As modern technology has allowed for the rise of selfies and sexting, it has also allowed for a new form of betrayal: revenge porn. The act of posting or sharing explicit images or videos of a person without his or her consent can wreak havoc on a person’s personal and professional life.

In the UK last week, campaigners scored a win as Luke King, a 21-year-old man from Nottingham, England, became the first man in Britain to be jailed for posting revenge porn.

A 12-week sentence was handed down on Nov. 14, after King pleaded guilty to harassment, after posting a naked image of his ex-girlfriend to the mobile messaging service WhatsApp. The woman, who hasn’t been named, had sent King the photo while they were still together. After the break-up, King threatened to upload the photo, which is when his ex first reported him to police. Although he was warned by police that posting the image online would be a crime, King followed through with his threat in August.

King’s case is the first in Britain since it was announced in October that a new legal amendment will deal with revenge porn directly. King was prosecuted under an existing law, the Protection from Harassment Act 1997, but those found guilty under the new amendment — which is currently going through Parliament — could face up to two years in prison.

The District Crown Prosecutor at the Crown Prosecution Service East Midlands, Peter Shergill, said at sentencing, “Prosecutors are now following guidance issued in October that clarifies how we can use existing legislation to prosecute perpetrators of these intrusive offences.”

But the direct attack on revenge porn that the UK has taken raises the question of whether the US will follow suit.

There is no current US federal law against revenge porn, because, as University of Pennsylvania law professor Paul H. Robinson notes, “under the US Constitution it is the states that have the police power and it’s not within the power of the federal government to create criminal law offenses unless there is some special federal interest.”

And, in fact, many states have been making moves to criminalize revenge porn. According to the End Revenge Porn campagin, 15 US states already have passed laws against revenge porn and those laws actually have been used to prosecute men who’ve posted naked photos of their former partners. Another seven states have also introduced legislature against revenge porn. The problem, however, lies in the many remaining states where revenge porn is legal.

Though some believe that existing laws against harassment or copyright infringement could be used to tackle the problem, many individual cases have proven that revenge porn often slips through the cracks. As Danielle Citron, a law professor at the University of Maryland and the author of Hate Crimes in Cyberspace, noted in Slate last year, “Harassment laws only apply if the defendant is persistent in his or her cruelty.” Posting a single explicit image to a highly-trafficked site could have disastrous consequences for the person pictured, but it wouldn’t count as “persistent.” What’s more, copyright only applies if the image was a selfie as the photographer (or videographer) owns the rights to the image.

So what will it take to ensure that revenge porn is illegal across all of the US?

According to Mary Anne Franks, a University of Miami law professor who is working with Californian Democratic Rep. Jackie Speier to draft a federal bill that would criminalize revenge porn if passed, pushing a nationwide ban has been difficult because “there’s a general prioritization of the First Amendment in the US” and “we [have been] slow to come to the realization that this isn’t an infringement of free speech.”

To pass US-wide laws, it’s essential, according to Franks, to reframe revenge porn from a free speech issue into a privacy issue. “We don’t view an image of someone’s naked body as [deserving of] the same privacy as someone’s medical records,” she says, but suggests views are shifting.

Franks notes that campaigns such as End Revenge Porn, which is part of the Cyber Civil Rights Initiative, and Women Against Revenge Porn have done much to spread awareness about the issue — 12 of the 15 states with laws against revenge porn passed them within the past two years. That awareness, along with the widely publicized hacking of celebrity nude photos, has done much to shift people’s perceptions about the harm that posting a nude image without someone’s consent can cause.

Unfortunately, until all of the US is covered by anti-revenge porn laws, there are millions of people for whom a total loss of privacy is only a vengeful upload away.

TIME Opinion

Feminist Is a 21st Century Word

Gloria Steinem, Jane Fonda, and Robin Morgan, Co-Founders of the Women's Media Center
CBS Photo Archive/Getty Images From left: Gloria Steinem, Jane Fonda and Robin Morgan, co-founders of the Women's Media Center on CBS This Morning in New York City on Sept. 18, 2013

Robin Morgan is an author, activist and feminist. She is also a co-founder, with Gloria Steinem and Jane Fonda, of the Women's Media Center

I know, I know, TIME’s annual word-banning poll is meant as a joke, and this year’s inclusion of the word feminist wasn’t an attempt to end a movement. But as a writer — and feminist who naturally has no sense of humor — banning words feels, well, uncomfortable. The fault lies in the usage or overusage, not the word — even dumb or faddish words.

Feminist is neither of those. Nevertheless, I once loathed it. In 1968, while organizing the first protest against the Miss America Pageant, I called myself a “women’s liberationist,” because “feminist” seemed so 19th century: ladies scooting around in hoop skirts with ringlet curls cascading over their ears!

What an ignoramus I was. But school hadn’t taught me who they really were, and the media hadn’t either. We Americans forget or rewrite even our recent history, and accomplishments of any group not pale and male have tended to get downplayed or erased — one reason why Gloria Steinem, Jane Fonda and I founded the Women’s Media Center: to make women visible and powerful in media.

No, it took assembling and researching my anthology Sisterhood Is Powerful to teach me about the word feminism. I had no clue that feminists had been a major (or leading) presence in every social-justice movement in the U.S. time line: the revolutionary war, the campaigns to abolish slavery, debtors’ prisons and sweatshops; mobilizations for suffrage, prison reform, equal credit; fights to establish social security, unions, universal childhood education, halfway houses, free libraries; plus the environmentalism, antiwar and peace movements. And more. By 1970, I was a feminist.

Throughout that decade, feminism was targeted for ridicule. Here’s how it plays: first they ignore you, then laugh at you, then prosecute you, then try to co-opt you, then — once you win — they claim they gave you your rights: after a century of women organizing, protesting, being jailed, going on hunger strikes and being brutally force-fed, “they” gave women the vote.

We outlasted being a joke only to find our adversaries had repositioned “feminist” as synonymous with “lesbian” — therefore oooh, “dangerous.” These days — given recent wins toward marriage equality and the end of “don’t ask don’t tell” in the military, not to mention the popularity of Orange Is the New Black — it’s strange to recall how, in the ’70s, that connotation scared many heterosexual women away from claiming the word feminist. But at least it gave birth to a witty button of which I’ve always been especially fond: “How dare you assume I’m straight?!”

Yet in the 1980s the word was still being avoided. You’d hear maddening contradictions like “I’m no feminist, but …” after which feminist statements would pour from the speaker’s mouth. Meanwhile, women’s-rights activists of color preferred culturally organic versions: womanist among African Americans, mujerista among Latinas. I began using feminisms to more accurately depict and affirm such a richness of constituencies. Furthermore, those of us working in the global women’s movement found it fitting to celebrate what I termed a “multiplicity of feminisms.”

No matter the name, the movement kept growing. Along the way, the word absorbed the identity politics of the 1980s and ’90s, ergo cultural feminism, radical feminism, liberal/reform feminism, electoral feminism, academic feminism, ecofeminism, lesbian feminism, Marxist feminism, socialist feminism — and at times hybrids of the above.

Flash-forward to today when, despite predictions to the contrary, young women are furiously active online and off, and are adopting “the F word” with far greater ease and rapidity than previous feminists. Women of color have embraced the words feminism and feminist as their own, along with women all over the world, including Afghanistan and Saudi Arabia.

As we move into 2015, feminism is suddenly hot; celebrities want to identify with it. While such irony makes me smile wryly, I know we live in a celebrity culture and this brings more attention to issues like equal pay, full reproductive rights, and ending violence against women. I also know that sincere women (and men of conscience), celebs or not, will stay with the word and what it stands for. Others will just peel off when the next flavor of the month comes along.

Either way, the inexorable forward trajectory of this global movement persists, powered by women in Nepal’s rice paddies fighting for literacy rights; women in Kenya’s Green Belt Movement planting trees for microbusiness and the environment; Texas housewives in solidarity with immigrant women to bring and keep families together; and survivors speaking out about prostitution not being “sex work” or “just another job,” but a human-rights violation. From boardroom to Planned Parenthood clinic, this is feminism.

The dictionary definition is simple: “the theory of the political, economic, and social equality of the sexes.” Anyone who can’t support something that commonsensical and fair is part of a vanishing breed: well over half of all American women and more than 30% of American men approve of the word — the percentages running even higher in communities of color and internationally.

But I confess that for me feminism means something more profound. It means freeing a political force: the power, energy and intelligence of half the human species hitherto ignored or silenced. More than any other time in history, that force is needed to save this imperiled blue planet. Feminism, for me, is the politics of the 21st century.

Robin Morgan, the author of 22 books, hosts Women’s Media Center Live With Robin Morgan (syndicated radio, iTunes, and wmcLive.com).

TIME People

Kim Kardashian’s Nude Photos and Saartjie’s Choice: History’s Problem with Fascinating Bodies

Jean-Paul Goude—Paper; Library of Congress Kim Kardashian (L) on the cover of Paper Magazine and an illustration of Saartjie Baartman (R)

Linking Kardashian's recent Paper Magazine portrait to another famous body raises some serious questions

Saartjie Baartman’s is the body that launched a thousand revolutions. Kim Kardashian’s is the one that tried to break the Internet—and this week, when a nude photo of the latter made the cover of Paper magazine, many commenters made note of the striking similarities between Kardashian West’s nude profile and that of Baartman’s several centuries ago. In the 19th century, Saartjie Baartman’s striking proportions took her from Africa to Europe, where she performed as a curiosity. Her legacy in feminist circles is well known; she’s a worldwide symbol of racism, colonization and the objectification of the black female body. However, while many historians have pieced together what they believe to be the life and times of the “Hottentot Venus” during her stint as a performer in Europe, relatively little is known about the real life circumstances of Baartman herself.

In fact, even many people who are somewhat familiar with Baartman likely only recognize the 1810 illustration of the profile of her semi-nude body that once served as an advertisement for her performances in Europe. But seeing those advertisements as part of a whole life lends another dimension to her story—and to Kardashian West’s.

As researcher Bertha M. Spies detailed this summer in a piece about Baartman’s life that appeared in the journal African Arts, Baartman was born in the 1770s, about 50 miles north of the Gamtoos Valley in the Eastern Cape of what is now South Africa. She became a domestic worker, a slave employed by a Dutch farmer, before being sold to a wealthy German merchant in Cape Town. Baartman worked for the merchant until his death in 1799, at which point she moved to the home of the Cesar family, who were registered in the census as free blacks. She would give birth to three children during this time, all of whom died in infancy.

Baartman was nearly 30 years old by the time she left for Europe in 1810 with a British Army surgeon named Alexander Dunlop. As described by a 2010 biography of Baartman by Clifton Crais and Pamela Scully, Dunlop saw the attention that Baartman’s body attracted, so he worked with the Cesars to bring her to London. There, Baartman’s nude body was exhibited to the public, and she sometimes played instruments and performed dances native to the Khoikhoi tribe of her origin. Baartman would be made available for private showings in the homes of the wealthy where at extra cost, patrons would be allowed to touch her.

Baartman only ever granted one recorded interview, in October of 1810, which is now available only as a paraphrased Dutch translation. The interview was recorded in response to abolitionist’s claims that Baartman was being exploited and enslaved. In the interview, taken to England’s highest court, Baartman stated that she was happy, came to England of her own free will and was being paid for her work.

Due the constraints of language and the lack of other personal accounts, little is known about the reality of that happiness. Was she exercising her own free will in choosing what to say? Was she coerced into lying to the court? In either case, Baartman’s life and interview bring up a greater issue: is it possible to separate a person’s choices from the world in which they live? Baartman said she was showing off her body by choice, but what other choices did she have? Kardashian West is a powerful modern woman who presumably could have said no to the photo shoot, but she still lives in a culture that objectifies female bodies; how much free will can she really have? Are Baartman, Kardashian West and the bodies between doing the acting, or being acted upon?

Eventually, when his English audiences raised objections, Dunlop changed aspects of the show to make it more respectable. Namely, Baartman’s body stocking, which gave the appearance of nudity, was scrapped and she wore a tribal costume instead. But the change backfired for Dunlop: public interest waned and viewers complained. It turned out they hadn’t wanted respectability at all. The interest, unsurprisingly, had been prurient, rather than anthropological, all along.

So Baartman’s show moved to Paris, where she was on display for ten hours a day, and illness and alcohol abuse made it difficult for her to perform. During this time, interest in Baartman’s body shifted from the spectacle to the scientific; scientists used her large buttocks and extended labia to compare Blacks to orangutans. Baartman died in poverty in 1810, and her body became the property of scientist Georges Cuvier. It was displayed in a Paris museum until 1974, when activists successfully petitioned to have Baartman’s remains returned to her birthplace in South Africa.

There’s something to be said about confronting the respectability politics that deny women the agency to choose how and when they will display their bodies and the social policing that says modesty is best, but the story and legacy of Saartjie Baartman complicate these issues in ways few are able to reconcile. Unlike Baartman, Kardashian West has been able to capitalize on the public’s fascination with her body and likeness both financially and socially—but when we consider that that fascination is rooted in the same (perhaps perverse) curiosity that turned Baartman from a human being into a museum display, it is not unfair to wonder just who is exploiting whom.

Read next: I Can’t Help But Admire Kim Kardashian’s Devotion to Staying Famous

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