Hotdog Hall of Fame
Need some inspiration? Browse this gallery of feminist heroes.
Meet Zhou Xiaoxuan, the young women who sparked China’s #MeToo movement. In 2014, Zhou was working as an intern at a TV station when she says she was forcibly kissed and groped by a major TV personality named Zhu Jun. She kept her experience to herself until July 2018 when she decided to write about it. According to The New York Times, “Soon, after a friend of a friend reposted Ms. Zhou’s essay on Sina Weibo, a microblogging site, it quickly spread across the Chinese internet and inspired women to come forward with their own stories of abuse.”
Zhu is now suing Zhou and the friend who reposted her original essay. But instead of retreating, Zhou is fighting back and has inspired countless other women in China to speak out about their experiences. The stakes are high and losing the case may result in retaliation. But Zhou says she considers herself lucky because people are listening to her story. Although she is nervous and frightened, she will not back down and feels like she must press forward for the countless women and girls who are watching her story unfold. We’re in awe of her strength and with her all the way. Thank you, Zhou Xiaoxuan, for your bravery.
A decorated actor and a feminist icon, Frances McDormand has chosen inspiring roles and an inspiring path as a woman in Hollywood. Known for portraying unconventional and unapologetic characters, McDormand made waves at the 2018 Academy Awards when she used her Best Actress win as an opportunity to challenge filmmakers and producers to fund projects spearheaded by women, and encouraged her fellow actors to demand inclusion riders, equity clauses for contracts that ensures diversity on film sets. McDormand is also a much-needed example of a woman who is choosing to age naturally in an industry that fetishizes youth. No list of bad-ass feminists would be complete without her!
Bernice “Bunny” Sanders
Bernice Sanders, also known as the Mother of Title IX, was the first woman to file a sex discrimination complaint with the Department of Labor's office of federal contract compliance. An academic who was repeatedly passed over for promotions, Sanders tired of being told she “came on too strong,” and her quest for justice changed academia for women forever. After filing her initial complaint, Sanders went on to help the Women’s Equality Action League push the issue to the national level and, in 1970, filed a class-action complaint against every college and university in the country. The lawsuit ignited interest at the Congressional level; the records of the resulting Congressional committee hearings, in which Sandler was deeply involved, became the basis for Title IX.
Bernice went on to hold top positions at the Association of American Colleges and the Women's Research and Education Institute, and in In 2013, she was inducted into the National Women's Hall of Fame. We’re proud to bestow yet another honor on her—induction into the Hotdog Hall of Fame!
Pauli Murray was a groundbreaking scholar, lawyer, poet, and women’s and civil rights activist as well as the first African-American woman to become an Episcopal priest. Orphaned at a young age, she was a diligent student despite the loss of her parents, ultimately attending Hunter College, Howard University, the University of California Boalt School of Law and Yale Law School. (She was denied the opportunity to enroll at Harvard Law School due to her gender.) Murray channeled her many experiences with racial and gender discrimination into her work as a civil rights lawyer and activist, although she was critical of how men dominated the movement. Throughout her career, she wrote prolifically on many topics, ultimately publishing biographies, an autobiography, poems, novels, essays and sermons, among other genres.
Despite the incredible obstacles society and fate put in her way, Pauli Murray persisted in becoming educated, influential, highly accomplished, spiritually grounded and well-known in progressive circles (she was even good friends with Eleanor Roosevelt!). She’s a true inspiration, and her legacy lives on in the many “Jane Crow” laws she battled as lawyer, writer and organizer. Our hats are off to you, Pauli!
Elizabeth Wolstenholme-Elmy (1833-1918) was a fierce Victorian-era feminist, an advocate of free love, a pacifist and a secularist (which might have been the most scandalous thing about her). She was extremely active in the women’s suffrage movement in England but has been largely erased from that history due to her forthright nature and the scandal surrounding her pregnancy outside of what was considered a “legitimite'“ marriage.
Wolstenholme-Elmy was a rebel from a young age at a time when there were precious few rebel women role models. At 17, she had an epiphany about marriage when she was a bridesmaid and came to the realization that the institution was a trap for women. Although her father forbade her to pursue formal schooling beyond her teen years, she became a disciplined autodidact and eventually went on to run a successful school for girls. She was also the first woman to testify before the royal commission on education but ultimately was driven out of education once she lost her faith and turned away from the church.
The roles Wolstenholme-Elmy held in the suffrage movement are too numerous to name, but it is notable that she was the first women to be a paid employee of a suffrage organization. She had a lifelong companion named Ben Elmy, and they had a child together. Because they were not married in the church, many of her fellow suffragists rejected Wolstenholme-Elmy’s efforts and saw her as a stain on the movement. She was also unpopular because she was critical of any contingent of the suffrage movement that wasn’t advocating for full equality. Her secularism and her outspoken nature led to widespread erasure of Wolstenholme-Elmy’s legacy. She never gave up her work, however, and ultimately accomplished most of what she set out to do in her life. Women in England got the vote just days before she died.
Here’s to Elizabeth Wolstenholme-Elmy, a woman who was brave enough to live by her ideals at a time when it cost her even the support of her fellow feminists. We applaud your memory!
Michelle Hensley is the visionary founder of Ten Thousand Things, a theater troupe that seeks out audiences on the margins of society. Since 1990, she has been using her talents and powers of persuasion to stage sophisticated productions (mostly Shakespeare) starring serious, high-quality actors in locations such as prisons and homeless shelters. There’s never a bad seat in the house at a Ten Thousand Things play; Hensley and her crew make sure the experience is accessible in every sense and that the interaction between audience and performer is as intimate as possible.
For Hensley, bringing theater to the people is a no-brainer. “People who have been condescended to all their lives do not need to be exposed to mediocre theater,” she told the New York Times. We’re blown away by this awesome example of true inclusion and responsiveness—two words that often get thrown around in with very little meaning. Thank you for your vision, talent and compassion, Michelle!
Deniz Ataman is an independent artist who works in music, film, and poetry as well as the managing editor of Perfumer & Flavorist magazine. At just 31 years old, she’s already a veteran of the publishing industry and has transformed what might otherwise be a limited-interest trade magazine into a diverse and thriving multi-channel media platform. Ataman revamped the brand’s approach to reporting, telling stories from all over the world and making a special effort to include the voices and contributions of women. She’s used her creativity to elevate a publication at a time when journalism is struggling and fearlessly took on a highly scientific topic, making it accessible by emphasizing the beauty and sensuality of the industry. Brava, Deniz, for using your feminine sensibilities to make the world a sweeter and more delicious place!
Alison Bechdel is a visionary cartoonist and the originator of the Bechdel Test, a threshold indicator of how much depth a film gives its female characters. She started drawing comics in the early 80s and became well-known for a strip called Dykes to Watch Out For. According to her website, that cartoon became, “a countercultural institution among lesbians and discerning non-lesbians all over the planet.” Dykes has appeared in a number of publications including Seven Days, WomaNews and MS magazine.
Bechdel’s work overlaps personal and political themes and offers realistic, wry portrayals of women, focusing primarily on lesbian lives. In 2006 she published a graphic memoir called Fun Home that was adapted into a musical that won a Tony Award. In 2014 she was awarded a Macarthur Genius Grant, and in 2017 she was appointed as Vermont's third Cartoonist Laureate.
Bechdel still draws single strip cartoons when inspiration strikes, including a recent offering about surviving the Trump era with your sanity intact. The Bechdel test lives on and, in a period when representations conversations are increasing in profile, matters more than ever. Thank you, Alison, for being an early champion for queer and female representation!
Layla F. Saad
Layla F. Saad is a writer, speaker and racial justice advocate whose explores the intersections of race, spirituality, feminism and leadership. She says on her Patreon page, “My work centers my experience as a person who is Black, Muslim & Woman. Through my writings, talks and curated conversations, I am unapologetically confronting the oppressive systems of white supremacy and patriarchy, while offering important teachings and tools for transforming consciousness, cultivating personal anti-racism practice and taking responsibility for our individual and collective healing.”
Last year Saad started an Instagram challenge where she urged her followers with white privilege to ask themselves tough questions every day about their relationship with white supremacy and how they consciously or unconsciously uphold it and benefit from it. From this experience, she has written an incredible free workbook called Me and White Supremacy that captures the challenge in an easy-to-follow format and also includes suggestions for how to use it in a group setting. In her words, it is a “28-day truth-telling journey to guide people with white privilege to discover, examine, unpack and dismantle their inner white supremacy and their internalized racism.”
Saad is also a force on Instagram where she expresses positivity and support for her followers and those who are doing the work. If a critical mass of white people were to take this challenge, it would be a game changer, and she’s certainly well on her way to leading a movement. Thank you for your brilliance and your grace, Layla, and welcome to the Hall of Fame!
Gitanjali Rao is a scientist living in Colorado whose work with carbon nanotubes has changed the way Americans can now test for water purity. That’s pretty remarkable in and of itself, but what really makes her special? She’s TWELVE YEARS OLD!
Gitanjali became concerned about water purity after the Flint water crisis, and she observed how cumbersome and expensive it was for her parents to test their water. According to Bustle, “Rao decided to change this by hacking some carbon nanotubes to detect lead levels, and pairing the device, which is called Tethys after the Greek goddess of water, with a Bluetooth app that can transmit results rapidly.” Rao entered her invention in the Discovery Education 3M Young Scientist Challenge and won (she’s the youngest ever to do so). She is also a Davidson Young Scholar and recently demonstrated her invention at the 2018 Makers Conference.
Gitanjali developed and tested her invention at Denver’s municipal water facility with the support of lab manager Selene Hernandez Ruiz. She hopes to refine her results further and hopefully produce a widely marketable device. She also fences, plays multiple instruments, she’s already written and published a children’s book and is working on another book: a kids' guide to scientific innovation. When she grows up, Gitanjali aspires to study genetics and epidemiology. She belongs in the Hall of Fame because she clearly feels the urge to help people and sees things in a way that no one else has ever seen them—a true innovator! Thank you, Gitanjali, for proving that kids can be agents of change.
Beth is an artist and co-founder of Dashboard, a creative agency whose work combines human-centered design and arts-forward projects to improve the livability of public spaces. She works with artists and arts organizations to connect them with warehouses, lots, storefronts or other empty spaces to transform them with art installations. Although Beth works with Burning Man and other major arts organizations around the country, her focus is on using art to foster community and making art accessible to everyone. The themes she pursues through her work with Dashboard focus on equality and social justice. Thank you, Beth, for democratizing the world of public art and doing it so mindfully. Welcome to the Hotdog Hall of Fame!
Edith Springer is known as the “mother of harm reduction.” In the 1980s, when AIDS became an epidemic, Springer was in a unique position to see why some communities were more vulnerable than others. She was trained as a social worker and she, herself, experienced addiction. At the time, abstinence was being pedaled as the only way to avoid drug addiction or HIV infection and, if you weren’t able to abstain, the medical establishment and society at large viewed you as a weak or morally questionable person. It was within this social and political context that Springer began hearing about a movement in the Netherlands where drug users began fighting back against pharmacies that wouldn’t give the clean syringes. She brought these ideas to the U.S. and started working with sex workers, teaching them about how to practice safer sex and how to use drugs more safely. Through this work, she established the foundations of harm reduction: meeting people where they are; giving them the information and resources to keep them as safe as possible given their current circumstances; and honoring their right to live and be safe and cared for no matter how others may judge their behaviors. Her work has saved millions of lives and continues to serve as the foundation for countless intervention programs around the world. Thank you, Edith, for bringing your humanity to the world of medicine and social work!
Nikki Vargas has been writing about travel for years as an editor and blogger. Now, she’s putting her skills and vision to use as the creator and editor-in-chief of a new magazine dedicated exclusively to stories by, for and about the female traveler: Unearth Women.
As the editorial voice of Unearth Women, Nikki is not only conscious of the needs and considerations unique to lady travelers, but she’s also committed to featuring diverse and realistic images of what women’s travel really looks like. Moreover, Nikki and her team do not shy away from using the word “feminist” to characterize their writing and their goals for their magazine. We’re so here for this concept, and we can’t wait to dig into the first issue! Thank you, Nikki!
Cora is a writer on a mission: to let the world know how fascinating, fabulous, complex and intersectional the world of lingerie truly is! Her blog, The Lingerie Addict, is a treasure trove of not only beautiful photographs of amazingly diverse bodies, but also commentary on topics like androgynous lingerie brands, the best plus-size stockings and lingerie as outwear for Pride. A quick search of her site reveals Harrington’s deep knowledge of lace, seams and corsetry as well as her steadfast belief that lingerie is for everyone and can be a tool of self-expression in a world that’s trying to cram all women into mass-produced bra-and-panty sets. Our eyes are opened, Cora! Thank you for your brilliant blog, welcome to the Hall of Fame and congrats on your new book!
Tanya may be known best for being on the reality court show Hot Bench, but she’s been an activist and feminist since she was a teenager. The Yale Law School graduate recently traveled to Alabama to help Get Out the Vote in her mother’s home state, and even used her influence to recorded PSAs to motivate folks to participate in the democratic process. Tanya integrates her identity as a celebrity judge with her roots as a socially conscious badass with a lot to say about the causes of injustice and oppression. Tanya, we applaud your tenacity, and we thank you for fighting for justice on and off the small screen!
Mona Haydar is many things—a Syrian American, a Muslim, a poet, a mother, a hip hop artist, an environmentalist and a visionary among them. Recently, the world has been hearing from Mona through her new album Barbarican, which came out in fall of 2018. Followers of feminist hip hop may know her from her hugely popular 2017 video for the song “Hijabi (Wrap My Hijab).”
Mona’s work reflects her lived experience as a Muslim woman with roots in two countries that see her as permanently foreign. In an interview with NPR she commented, “If I went to Syria, I was the American. In Flint, I was the little Arab girl.” She certainly flies in the face of what many people expect a Muslim woman to be. But Mona has turned her reflections on her identity into art, poetry and music that help create understanding, tell important truths, and send messages of beauty and love out into a world that often feels fearful and divided. We love her music, her vision and her confidence. Welcome to the Hall of Fame, Mona. We’re honored.
Y’all, this woman is 103 years old and still creates a new piece of art every. single. day. Born in Cuba in 1915, Carmen moved to New York City in the 1950s where she was widely recognized for her talent and vision (she mostly paints abstract compositions). She was, however, consistently denied solo exhibitions because she was a woman. In 2015, at the age of 100, she was finally granted her own show at the Whitney Museum of American Art and became the subject of a documentary film titled The 100 Years Show.
Carmen has literally outlived the type of blatant sexism that prevented most female artists from achieving the recognition they deserve. She’s a reminder of the power of never giving up on yourself and consistently practicing your craft. Thank you, Carmen, for inspiring us and artists of all ages to dedicate themselves to their passions.
Ayesha McGowan rolled her way into the Hall of Fame for being a rising star in the competitive cycling world and a voice calling for greater representation in the sport of cycling. A music teacher by training, she got into elite cycling after discovering her love of two-wheeled transportation as a commuter while attending the Berklee College of Music in Boston. If she goes pro, she will be the first African-American woman in history to do so.
Ayesha is conscious of how meaningful her success could be to black girls who have never seen someone who looks like them in a major bike race. "Because there are no examples [of black women racing] people don't even consider that it's a possibility,” she said in Vice, “It's just not a thing to do."
Ayesha is not only a badass biker, she’s a trailblazer with a strong sense of social responsibility. Brava, lady!
Performance and video artist, musician and curator of gem sweaters, there is little in the way of artistic expression that Leslie Hall hasn’t dabbled in. Best known for her self-produced songs and videos (including the must-watch “This is How We Go” and Tight Pants/Body Rolls”), Leslie cultivated a devoted fan base with her giant bouffant, gold stretch pants and mesmerizing stage presence. With a glittery wink and sequined nudge, she’s captivated audiences via YouTube, in live shows and even on the children’s TV show Yo Gabba Gabba.
Leslie belongs in the Hall of Fame because she has never been afraid to take her offbeat vision as far as it could go. People love her, not only because she’s kooky and glittery, but because she is a magnetic example of the power of self-confidence and creativity. Tight pants/body rolls forever!
The Girls at the Door
Welcome to the “Girls at the Door,” all the black girls who had the courage to integrate white schools during the Civil Rights Movement. In the face of the very real physical danger posed by racists who sought to keep white public schools white, these young women, in some cases children as young as five, helped to bend the moral arc of history toward justice.
Scholar Rachel Devlin recently looked into why so many more girls than boys were involved in these integration efforts, and she tells their stories in a new book called A Girl Stands at the Door. Devlin found that black girls were uniquely positioned to endure the stress required of these groundbreaking children because of their proximity to intimate white spaces and behaviors in other areas of their lives. Most of their names, however, have been largely lost to history. We honor these pioneers and hope their legacy will inspire a new generation of young social justice warriors. Thank you for opening doors for so many other girls!
Aaron Philip identifies as a gender-nonconforming transgender woman. She has cerebral palsy and uses a motorized wheelchair. She is the first disabled trans woman of color to be signed to Elite, a mainstream modeling agency.
Aaron is perfect for the Hall of Fame because she is 100 percent confident in who she is and what she wants to accomplish in the modeling world. According to Vice, she advocates for simple adjustments would help make the industry more accessible to everyone, like sewing garments in all sizes, making runways physically accessible for models with wheelchairs and mobility aids, and casting trans models who aren’t passable or don’t conform to the gender binary.
“I don’t want signings like mine to be a trend or a fad,” she says. “I want careers for black, disabled, and trans models to be attainable and sustainable.”
Welcome, Aaron! We think you’re FAB-U-LOUS!
Ainsley, the Hotdog Princess
Five-year-old Ainsley won hearts across the country when she arrived at her dance studio’s “princess day” dressed as a hotdog. While her classmates twirled in pastel lace, she opted for a costume that better fit her personality. The photos of Ainsley went viral, and the internet lost its mind.
"She loves princesses, but she wanted to be original and wear a hotdog costume instead," her teacher said. "She wore a princess costume underneath it and said she was a princess on the inside!"
Ainsley was hailed as “the hero we all need right now,” and we couldn’t agree more. Welcome to the Hall of Fame, Ainsley! You’re the original Feminist Hotdog.
DeLa Doll (@TheDeLaDoll) is a feminist cosplayer and blogger who writes about diversity and inclusion and reviews films and TV shows. DeLa Doll blasted her way into the Hall of Fame for courageously taking on Twitter nonsense. Here’s our favorite DeLa Doll quote in response to a Blerd guy on Twitter claiming that “black women aren’t vocal enough about their love of comics, sci-fi or cartoons.”
“You assume anything society deems too black, too ethnic, cancels out the possibility that black people are as complex as anyone else and can have interests that include both Rhianna’s music and marathoning FMA: Brotherhood.”
Burn! What makes her even more of a hero: The dude in question apologized and took ownership for his nonsense. Miracles do happen! Go DeLa Doll!