To paraphrase Ross Geller, congresspeople say all kinds of… stuff.
On 4th January, The New York Post reported on Rep. Emanuel Cleaver closing Congress’s opening prayer with the phrase “amen and awoman”:
May the Lord lift up the light of his countenance upon us and give us peace,” Cleaver said during his two-minute invocation, “peace in our families, peace across this land, and dare I ask, o Lord, peace even in this chamber.
We ask it in the name of the monotheistic God, Brahma, and ‘God’ known by many names by many different faiths. Amen and awoman.
I’m no stranger to this kind of gendered prayer; the God interlude from OutKast’s Speakerboxx/The Love Below uses a similar variation:
Oh, I’m sorry, I’m sorry
But that was in jest. Cleaver meant what he said. Victor Mair from Language Log dissected the utterance, with etymologies of the word “amen” and, for those who didn’t know, it isn’t connected to the word “man” in any way.
Old English, from Late Latin amen, from Ecclesiastical Greek amen, from Hebrew amen “truth,” used adverbially as an expression of agreement (as in Deuteronomy xxvii.26, I Kings i.36), from Semitic root a-m-n “to be trustworthy, confirm, support.”
There’s something to be said about the trustworthiness, confirmation, support of men but that’s for another day. Needless to say, you don’t need to feminise the word “amen” but what Congress should do is make women’s lives better—especially women of colour—with better legislation for their rights and their bodies.
(Note: the words women and womxn will be used throughout the article. The former should apply to all women but unfortunately doesn’t to some who use it, as you’ll see, so womxn will be used where applicable.)
It’s funny how my Twitter timeline works. Within minutes of seeing a questionable article title from the BBC—“Women and women of colour continue to change the face of Congress”—I found a community that didn’t separate women of colour from the perceived default. It’s called FlyGirl.
In their own words, FlyGirl is “a community of like minded womxn who understand and appreciate the value of working together to achieve great things.” It was created by Avarni Bilan, who initially wanted to create a comfortable and safe space for womxn to support one another. But as the idea grew, her intentions shifted slightly:
“[…] as the idea was developing it then became really clear to me that the only way I would ever be able to do it authentically would be if it works to represent womxn of colour. I wanted to create a very practical response to the clear lack of representation that womxn of colour experience on a daily basis and be able to unapologetically address topics that may largely only apply to these womxn.”Excerpt from Avarni’s LeftLion interview
Based in Nottingham, FlyGirl offers local events to support womxn of colour in the Arts, as well as providing financial and practical advice so they can fully realise their dreams.
According to the website, FlyGirl is inclusive of the following groups:
- Cisgender women
- Queer women
- Trans women
- Non-binary people
- Intersex people of colour
Other services include:
- D&I workshops
- Bespoke HR training
- Company-wide training days
- Unconscious bias training
- Interview skills
- Business evaluation and feedback
There’s also a FlyGirl Directory (similar to Rememory) for businesses to find WOC and make practical changes to diversify their workplaces (hopefully after some unconscious bias training).
EDIT: It has been brought to my attention that there is discourse around the term “womxn” and its intentions and impacts for trans women and non-binary people, as addressed in this Instagram post. I apologise if the terminology has offended or excluded anyone in this manner.
Thanks to my friend Soph for putting me onto this.
Pradeep Kumar G made a Tableau workbook using data on Marvel comic book characters:
Did you know that the first Marvel comic book was published in 1939 by Martin Goodman? Today, the number of Marvel comic books published is over 30,000. Check out this #IronQuest visualization by Pradeep Kumar G to learn about all of the “good” and “bad” characters that have appeared in Marvel comics over the years.
As Soph pointed out, only ~25% identified as female and ~6% agender, genderfluid (only 1 character) or unknown. There wasn’t any racial demographic data but I’m sure the disparity would have deepened further. For info on Black superheroes, check out my ongoing list.