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Transphobia and the Anti-Gender Movement

Women

Last year, the UK government held public consultations for reforming its Gender Recognition Act, intended to seek input from trans people to ensure an accessible, affirming result, which would bring progress for the rights of trans people. Instead, it sparked a hateful debate about the very existence of trans people with a heavy dose of misinformation and fear-mongering. Similarly, a handful of anti-trans activists hijacked the front of the London Pride March last summer, shouting hateful slogans like, “dykes not dicks” and “trans women aren’t real women”. Over the last year, transphobia has only continued or worsened.  Conservative groups such as the Heritage Foundation hosted prominent events featuring transphobic so-called feminists in Washington, DC and at the United Nations, and there was an overall increase of trans-exclusionary rhetoric online and in the media.

Since today, May 17, is International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia, Biphobia and Interphobia (IDAHOTB), I have been thinking about this rising transphobic activism, especially coming from women purporting to speak on behalf of lesbians and feminists like me. They’re often called TERFs, meaning ‘trans exclusionary radical feminists,’ but I think a more accurate moniker is “trans exclusionary radical fundamentalists.” Because, in fact, these activists align not with feminism but with the very forces seeking to erase LGBTIQ people’s lives and stall gender equality – populist, right-wing and anti-gender movements.

Just like any movement, feminism has grown in waves, developing and changing, with some factions becoming more intersectional, concerned with racial justice, police brutality, and wealth inequality, while others more conservative. Differentiation will inevitably continue, but absolutely fundamental to the fight for gender equality has been the rejection of the definition of gender as the sum of our body parts. Feminism understands gender as a personal experience shaped by social, economic, and cultural forces. 

As such, there is nothing more feminist than standing for transgender rights. In turn, excluding trans women from the women’s rights movement is anti-feminist. Whether knowingly or not, anti-trans activists are aligning themselves with the anti-gender, right-wing movements which have grown in strength and numbers across the world, which advocate for restrictions on sexual and reproductive health, rights and education; to ban rights to abortion; and to create a new definition of gender based on biological determinism.  

The similarities between anti-trans activism and the anti-gender, fundamentalist movements are striking. Last year the New York Times reported that “Transgender Could Be Defined Out of Existence Under Trump Administration.’ The Trump Administration was planning to define gender as an immutable, biological condition determined by genitalia at birth. The arguments used by the Administration are exactly the same as the ones spouted by advocates of exclusion of trans women.  They all claim that if you are born with a penis you are a man, and if you are born with a vagina you are a woman. This argument completely overlooks intersex people and ignores what decades of feminism has sought to highlight – that gender is a social construct.

Anti-trans activists claim that trans women pose a threat to ‘real women’, and some have gone as far as to accuse trans women of systematically raping lesbians. Such unfounded, blanket accusations are no different from President Trump’s attacks on Mexicans as “drug dealers, criminals and rapists”. They are no different from Hungarian president Viktor Orban calling migrants “terrorists” and “poison,” or Russia’ President Putin implying that lesbian and gay people are out to get children. All are brutal, hateful, and misleading labels of minorities, designed to exacerbate fear, marginalization and hate.

Disturbingly, these fundamentalists use the language of human rights to spout hate. Anti-LGBTIQ groups label themselves as protectors of the rights of the family, women and children. Anti-abortion campaigners use arguments of the ‘right to life’ of the fetus. Religious groups quote rights to freedom of religion and belief in their efforts to exclude LGBTIQ people. Anti-trans activists do exactly the same by using pseudo-feminist language about individuality and choice to argue that trans women somehow infringe on the rights of ‘real’ (meaning cis-gender) women, and lesbians.

In fact, what the anti-gender movement, populists and fundamentalists, and anti-trans activists all do is pin one human right against another, pretending life is a zero sum game. They claim that it’s the right to religious belief or sexuality; family or gender identity; women’s rights or trans rights; rights of the child or rights of LGBTIQ people.   

This is completely flawed logic. Let’s not forget that we are never just one thing. We all have multiple, intersecting elements of our identities, and they are all protected. I am a woman, I value my family, I am a member of the LGBTIQ community, and these are in no way contradictory.

Since our inception in 1990, OutRight has been a proud LGBTIQ and feminist organization, fighting for gender equality for all women and LGBTIQ people. Seeing a group from within our own community aligning itself with the movements that advocate to ban abortion rights, to restrict women’s access to sexual and reproductive health services and education, to reinstate a binary society with would-be norms for women and men, and erase the very existence of LGBTIQ people shakes me to my core. Make no mistake, this is not feminism or lesbian activism. It is hate.

Jessica Stern is the Executive Director of OutRight Action International.

May 16th 2019, 3:56 pm

Legal Reproductive Choice is on the line in the US: What Will You Do?

Women

When I opened one of the first abortion clinics in the country in 1971, two years before Roe v. Wade, women finally had access to safe, legal abortions. New York State had acted to decriminalize abortion in 1970, so we were already a step ahead. Doctors could now treat patients in a respectful environment, far away from the back-alley secrecy and lethal dangers.

I remember my first patient who travelled from New Jersey because abortion was still illegal in that state. She was white, in her mid-thirties, and married with two children. Abortion had then been viewed as a crime, a sin, a pathological response to pregnancy, an act of utter desperation.

I was 25 years old and nervous. In this, as in all my other tasks, no one had trained me. What could I say to her? What would she say to me? She was pregnant and did not want to be. Coming to my clinic required an enormous amount of courage, and now her future was in my hands. I was to guide her way; I was to be her bridge into the realms of power and responsibility that encompass her decision to abort.

I recall holding her hand tightly in mine to ease the discomfort of the dilators; that hand that came to symbolize the intimate personal connection of one woman helping another, the gravity of forming a natural alliance with that woman and the thousands who followed her.

Now, 48 years later, I can’t count how many hands I held, how many heads I caressed, how many times I whispered into how many ears, “It will be alright, just breathe slowly.” I saw so much vulnerability: legs spread wide apart; the physician crouched between white, black, thin, heavy, but always trembling, thighs; the tube sucking the fetus from their bodies.

“It’ll be over soon, just take one more deep breath” — one last thrust and pull of the catheter — then the gurgle that signaled the end of the abortion. Gynecologists called it the “uterine cry.” Over and over again I witnessed women’s invariable relief after their abortion that they were not dead, that God did not strike them down by lightening, and that they could walk out of this place not pregnant any more. Grateful that their lives had been given back to them.

The act of abortion positions women at their most powerful, and that is why it is so strongly opposed by many in society. Historically viewed and conditioned to be passive, dependent creatures, and victims of biological circumstance, women assume the power over life and death with the choice of abortion—it is THEY who decide when and whether to bring new life into the world.

In 1989, I led the first pro-choice civil disobedience action at St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York City. Nine people were arrested as we hung our Proclamation of Women’s Transcendant and Generational Rights on the great doors of the cathedral which stated:

  1. Women are full moral agents with the right and the responsibility to choose when and whether they will be mothers.
  2. Abortion is a choice made by each woman for profound personal reasons that no man or State should judge.
  3. The right to reproductive choice is a woman’s legacy throughout history, and belongs to every woman regardless of age, class, race, religion or sexual preference.
  4. Abortion is a life-affirming act chosen within the context of women’s realities, women’s lives and women’s sexuality.
  5. Abortion is the most moral choice in a world that frequently denies healthcare, housing education and economic survival.

Now, in the year 2019, we are facing a full frontal assault on these principals and on the delivery of women’s reproductive care from “heartbeat bills” to legislation calling for as much as 99 years in prison for doctors who perform abortions (which was approved yesterday in Alabama with Senate passage of a total abortion ban, punishing providers with up to 99 years in prison, and criminal penalties for women who have them). Now, the power of the state and the fundamentalists who control much of its levers are directed to insure that every attempt will be made to push women back to a place where they once again become the tools and vessels of the political.

I agree with Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, who said in his Nobel Lecture, “I am indeed thrown arbitrarily into history. I therefore choose to voluntarily shoulder the responsibilities of my advantages and the burden of my disadvantages.”

Now is the time, and this is the hour to ACT!

We are in a Profound Power Struggle…and are currently losing this battle. Step into your PERSONAL  power—take responsibility for your agency and your fundamental rights by doing the following:

*You can support you local abortion clinic by; escorting patients past protestors or volunteering for other support functions

*Help agencies that are working to get women in slave states—to Free ones—like New York (see list of agencies below).

*Join activist campaigns at any level you are comfortable with.

*Give money to organizations that are doing this work.

*Come out of the closet and talk about your abortion with your friends, family, and even strangers.

*Get involved with the Presidential election and demand that every 22 of the Democratic nominees are questioned about the stand on legal abortion.

*Hold speak-outs at colleges or other appropriate venues for women who are willing to tell their abortion stories.


Choices Women’s Medical Center works closely with the following funding agencies to provide financial assistance for patients seeking abortion services at our facility:

The New York Abortion Access Fund (NYAAF) supports people who are unable to pay fully for an abortion and live in or travel to New York State by providing financial assistance and connections to other resources. Contact: 212-252-4757 (leave a recording) or email: info@nyaaf.org (work with a variety of intake coordinators).

Women’s Reproductive Rights Access Project (WRRAP) is a non-partisan, non-profit organization helping women gain access to safe, legal abortion services and emergency contraceptives. We work with pre-qualified, reputable reproductive health clinics across the U.S. on behalf of disadvantaged women in need. Contact: 323-223-7727 (leave a recording) or email info@wrrap.org (work with a variety of intake coordinators)

National Network of Abortion Funds (NNAF) works with members to remove financial and logistical barriers to abortion access by centering people who have abortions and organizing at the intersections of racial, economic, and reproductive justice. Contact: Charlie Hughes, charlie@fundabortionnow.org

Midwest Access Coalition (MAC) envisions a world in which all people have access to safe, free, legal abortions wherever they live. As a practical abortion fund, MAC helps people traveling to, from, and within the Midwest (Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, Ohio, South Dakota, and Wisconsin) access a safe, legal abortion with support in the following areas: travel coordination and costs, lodging, food, medicine, and emotional support. Contact: Marie Mohrbacher, marie.mohrbacher@gmail.com, Outreach Coordinator

The Brigid Alliance is an organization that provides logistical and financial support for travel and housing for patients seeking abortion:

Contact: Odile Schalit LMSW MSC, Program Director, odile@brigidalliance.org, 212.381.0846

Merle Hoffman is the Founder/President/CEO of Choices Women’s Medical Center. www.choicesmedical.com
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May 14th 2019, 11:10 pm

How Women Entrepreneurs and Freelancers Can Get Paid The Same As Men

Women

Technology Can Help Level The Economic Playing Field

The gender wage gap for women in the workplace has been widely reported: Women earn on average 80% of what a man earns doing the same job.

What’s rarely discussed, however, is the pay gap that exists for women entrepreneurs and freelancers.  According to Women in the Workforce Report Self-Employed women earn on avg $56,184 per year, while self-employed men earn on avg $77,540 annually.

It’s not just pay disparity that are causing women entrepreneurs and freelancers insecurity. Late and non-payment also take a toll on financial and emotional well-being.

The Late Payment Gap

According to the Freelancers Union, freelancers across the United States make on average $45,000 a year, and lose 14% of their income to late or non-payment.  FreshBooks – Women in the Workforce Report, women freelancers get paid late 31% of the time.

“If you think about it but think about it in terms of in the context of the liabilities that you have, perhaps a mortgage, or car payments, even daycare for your children, it’s very painful,” says Lamine Zarrad, Social Entrepreneur, CEO, Co-Founder, Joust Bank.

“Systemic biases exist across the board. And as a woman if you engage clients there’s a higher chance of delinquent payments or non-payment,” he adds.

Technology – Leveling the Playing Economic Playing Field

Zarrad created a new banking app called Joust, aimed at eliminating the stress of wondering if you will get paid and when.  The app’s Pay Armor feature will pay your invoice immediately or within 30 days, for a fee of between 1% and 6%.

There are other apps that have features that allow you access invoiced funds. Experts say Joust’s low fees, coupled with Zarrad’s social mission to create pay equity in the solopreneur and freelancing worlds, make it a standout in the field.

“That’s going to be a huge game changer when women who are already managing so much can actually have some assurance that they’re going to be paid on time for their work,” says Caitlin Pierce, executive director of the Freelancers Union.

“We certainly are not delusional enough to believe we can solve the pay gap problem with an app, but we see it as an equalizer,” says Zarrad.

Creating Financial Security

Other steps self-employed women can take to realize the economic value of what they have to offer:

The New Realities of the Workforce

In 10 years, the majority of the U.S. workforce will be freelancing. For women, this takes on significant importance as more and more turn to self-employment and entrepreneurship.

While legislation and socioeconomics have a long way to go to catch-up to labor trends. It’s up to us to empower ourselves with the skills and resources we need in order to thrive.

Stacey Tisdale is an award-winning financial journalist, and CEO of Mind Money Media Inc., a content provider that focuses on how socioeconomic issues like gender and race impact our financial experience.

May 14th 2019, 10:25 pm

My Mother, The Brisket, and The Rabbi: A Love Story

Women

I am a pathological liar. I stand by my superior ability to fabricate the truth, to create a false narrative, to lie on command. And I would do it all again if I had to.

When my mother was approaching the final stage of her life, she was often inconsolable. Dementia has a way of robbing those it latches onto with assorted unspeakable atrocities. The confusion, the fear, the sheer frustration amid the utter sadness, often overtakes not only the afflicted, but those who are ultimately left behind. Until an adult child enters the frightening and chaotic world of caring for a parent diagnosed with this insidious disease, one never truly knows the lengths they may go to in an effort to minimize a loved one’s suffering.      

Watching someone slowly deteriorate, day by day, moment by moment, is like dismantling a puzzle; piece by piece, the picture, no longer recognizable, begins to fade, its meaning has eroded, until it is no more.     

Piece by piece, my mother was leaving us.       

Though we didn’t know it at time, when my sister Barbara and I moved our mother from West Palm Beach to New York City into nursing care near us, she would live for just nine months. Those months proved to be transitional for her, but also, transformative for us.     

Confused, sad, angry, Esther Sheryl Prizant, “Sherry” was nothing like the sweet, funny, kind-hearted woman who was considered a second mother by many of our childhood friends. Because of my mother’s unremitting compassionate nature, our home, “the fun house” became a respite for many a wayward teen in need of comfort, some who even left home. 

When I was in college, I began to notice a pattern: boyfriends would spend an inordinate amount of time with my mother, having coffee, playing cards, watching basketball, under the guise of waiting for my return from the nearby university. On one occasion, I arrived home to find a boyfriend having coffee with my mother in the kitchen, while another waited on the porch for his time with my mom. Though I would like to believe that I was the main attraction, I have come to accept that this kind of behavior goes with the terrain when one is blessed with a mom like mine. 

“To understand everything is to forgive everything.”  Buddha

Watching my father and mother interact was like being an unwitting character in “Who’s Afraid Virginia Wolf.” It was fairly brutal. Between my father’s drinking, as he tried to provide for his large brood after his clothing store was destroyed by fire, coupled with many people occupying our modest home, it was often unmanageable. Even so, my mother never succumbed to the bitterness that could have been the proverbial response to living in such a chaotic and unforgiving environment.  

My mother, a dark-haired, green-eyed beauty of Hungarian descent, raised six children amidst financial duress and emotional turmoil. Yet, she always wore this bright smile no matter what the circumstances. While I am left with vivid memories of my mother, it’s her interminable spirit in the face of life’s unexpected challenges I often call upon when in need of guidance and support.   

It was from my mother that I learned my most important lessons about compassion and grace. When an unkempt, poor neighborhood child wanted to play with me and my twin sister, Joan, I recoiled. But my mother wouldn’t have it. “We are no better or no worse than anyone,” she chided, while encouraging me to play with the child. She also insisted that I give the young girl a hug. And I did.  

“The only thing better than singing is more singing.” Ella Fitzgerald

When my mother’s stress levels would rise during the Dementia daze, she would display a range of varied emotions; the anger, the sadness, coupled with the relentless confusion, was typically not quelled by the many psych drugs doctors prescribed in an attempt to reduce her anxiety.

After finding my mother overmedicated, passed out in her bed in the nursing home, or planted in front of the nurse’s station in a wheelchair, yelling, confused, fearful, while sporting fresh bruises and bedsores, we were forced to make a change.  

And we become very creative in finding ways to help calm my mother, if not for her sake, for the sake of my neighbors who may not have approved of the loud disturbances emitting from my Big Apple crib, when we moved my mother into my Gramercy Park apartment, after her short stint at the Manhattan nursing home.   

First and foremost, we sang, all my mother’s favorites. “Bei mir bist do schön, please let me explain, Bei mir bist do schön means you’re grand.” We may not have been the Andrew Sisters, but we had our moments, creating some nice harmonies, and soothing memories.  

We also quickly learned the importance of focusing on activities that my mother would succeed in, such as spelling, geography.  

Me:   “What’s the capital of Alaska?”

Mom “I don’t know, Juno?”(ba dum bum tss)  

It was around this time my sister introduced a new way to reach our mother as she further descended into some other world, a seemingly dark, unfamiliar place. So, we persuaded her to stay in our world a bit longer by embellishing the truth.

“The truth is a beautiful and terrible thing and should therefore be treated with great caution.” Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone

Among my mother’s hopes and dreams, she wanted me to settle with a nice, Jewish man. Though I wasn’t able to fulfill her wish, my sister Barbara’s creative attempts to soothe my mother resulted in Sherry’s dream being fulfilled, even if only briefly, and only in fantasy.

Upon my return from grocery shopping one afternoon, I was met by an unfamiliar calm when I entered my apartment. It was uncharacteristically quiet, and surprising to see my mother engaged in conversation with my sister.  

Barbara: “Do you think I should make brisket or stuffed cabbage?”

Mom:” Definitely the brisket! That’s the winner!”  

Barbara: (speaking to me) “I’m having lunch with the Rabbi on Sunday, and Mom thinks I should make brisket!”

Me: (chiming in while putting away the groceries) “I don’t think you should have brisket. You know, animals have feelings like we do and just want to live. Why not make vegetarian stuffed cabbage?” 

Barbara: (whispering to me)”What’s the matter with you? There’s no Rabbi, there’s no brisket, Beevis! Just play along–Sheesh!”

Me: (Oh! I finally get it! Winking at my sister)

“Yes! I agree! Let’s have the brisket! The bloodier the better! Vegetarian stuffed cabbage is sooo boring…”

Barbara: (rolling her eyes) …And Jill is going to be visiting with the Cantor.

Mom: Oh, that’s wonderful!”

Me: (whispering excitedly to Barbara) “I don’t mean to complain, but wondering why you get the Rabbi and I get the Cantor? I mean, isn’t the Rabbi higher in rank than the Cantor? I don’t necessarily mind having the Cantor per se, but still…”

Barbara: (cutting me off, whisper fight ensues)“OMG! Where did you get your degree? Trump University? OK you can have the Rabbi!”

Me:“I didn’t say I wanted the Rabbi, and I take umbrage to your suggestion that…”

Barbara: (ignoring me) “Yes, Jill and the Cantor have a lot in common since they both studied singing.”

Mom: “Oh! That’s lovely!”

Barbara: “Ok. Let’s plan the menu for Sunday.”

Mom: “You’re having brisket, salad, roasted potatoes…”

So, this is how we spent many hours during my mother’s Big Apple residency: singing, spelling bees, practicing state capitals, and menu planning for our pretend Jewish husbands-to-be.

“People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” Maya Angelou

My mother entered hospice care twice. The first time, we made a decision to hydrate and provide intravenous nutritional support after she stopped eating and drinking. It seemed cruel not to.

But when my mother became alert, she was livid, angry that I “brought her back.” With an unparalleled lucidity and razor-sharp clarity, she recounted her near-death experience in vivid detail. 

“I was waiting in line with the others to get on the train, we were dressed properly, preparing to leave, but you wouldn’t permit it because you were not ready to let me go.”

I promised her then that I would allow her to do what she needed to do, and that I wouldn’t stop her from getting on the train when it was time, next time.

It wasn’t until months after my mother’s death that I had an epiphany.     

Grief is an odd, unrelenting, strange trip, full of twists and surprises, with an uncanny ability to surface at the most unexpected times. I suppose grief never really dies, rather we just adjust while learning to cohabitate with our new circumstances.      

In hindsight, it’s not surprising that I got involved with my college boyfriend, now married, who reemerged after 25 years, surprisingly (or not) right around the time of my mother’s death. “If the world had more people like your mother,” he told me during our first meeting, “it would be such a wonderful place.”  

Rekindling a past love offered a comforting familiarity and bittersweet reminder of a simpler time. Being absorbed in a past love-turned-current also provided a convenient opportunity to avoid the grief process.   

But grief will not be ignored.   

While in the check-out line at Whole Foods, nearly a year after my mother’s passing, I came to realize the magnitude of grief, after the cashier looked at me strangely, asking if I was ok. I assured her I was. 

But I wasn’t ok. As I left the store, I was overcome with an overwhelming anxiety and unexplained urgency, as tears began streaming down my face. Instead of running from these uncomfortable feelings, I walked, through the green market, through the park.

And I walked some more, blending into a sea of unfamiliar faces crowding the bustling city streets, while feeling a sense of uneasiness, intertwined with moments of despair, when I was finally was able to put into words what I had feared most: That no one would ever love me the way that she did.   

It would be some time before I would find relief from the cascading sea of sadness that enveloped me that day. But gradually, this sorrow was slowly replaced with an acceptance, and that all-knowing feeling of what lies beneath the fear: the gut-wrenching truth. In a surprisingly strange way, it felt like a weight had been lifted. 

For I am one of the lucky ones.     

I am aware that not everyone gets to experience the gift of true unconditional love while a visitor on this earthly place. As difficult as that time was, there was a sense of calm too, in the knowledge that we can we can survive what we fear most: We can survive our greatest fear.  

Of the most unique and wondrous things about being a thinking, feeling, sentient being, is that every moment is an opportunity for renewal; a chance for change. In every moment we are given a choice: to act in fear or love.

I have learned my lessons well from my kind teacher, my mother. And each day, I choose to honor her by acting out of love, as she surely did.  

So, I’m not going to dine on brisket or marry the Cantor. Though my mother did not approve of lying, I would do it again if I had to. I’m sure she would make an exception this time.

Jill Rachel Jacobs is a New York based writer whose publishing credits include The New York Times, Reuters, The NY Post, The Independent, The Washington Post, The Boston Globe, The Los Angeles Times, The San Francisco Chronicle, Newsday, The Chicago Sun Times, The Philadelphia Inquirer, The Huffington Post, Thrive Global, Organic Style, The Chicago Tribune, NPR’s Marketplace and Morning Edition.

May 13th 2019, 11:47 am

Handmaids and Jezebels: New York Must Not Legalize Harm

Women

Nobel Prize-winner Toni Morrison once spoke of an enslaved pregnant woman whose master decided to punish her. The slaveowner dug a hole in the ground large enough to place her swollen belly. That way, he could whip her back, her face down swallowing dirt, without jeopardizing his future financial assets.

In that dark historic vein, New York State legislators are now proposing two bills to preserve this legacy of human chattel, defining women as vessels for economic profit.

The first bill is on the fast Albany track, sponsored by Assemblywoman Amy Paulin and Senator Brad Hoylman, to legalize commercial reproductive surrogacy. Under this bill, unfittingly called the “Child-Parent Security Act,” anyone can contract the renting of women’s wombs. Governor Andrew Cuomo is lauding the bill; yet over one hundred New York-based women leaders signed a letter, expressing their vehement opposition to the bill.

The other ill-advised bill proposed by Senators Jessica Ramos and Julia Salazar, and Assemblyman Dick Gottfried, also with the support of Senator Hoylman, would fully decriminalize the sex trade, including pimping, brothel owning and sex buying. Together, these elected officials, under the guise of progressive politics, are saluting an acutely regressive status of women, jeopardizing their rights to health, safety, bodily integrity and hindering any collective efforts to reach equality.

New York has vowed to reduce maternal mortality, improve women’s health, combat sexual harassment in the workplace, and take other measures for women’s equal treatment in life. Yet both bills are antithetical to those promises.

First, the commercial reproductive surrogacy bill provides no protection from abuse. Requiring only a 90-day New York residency with no background checks, anyone, including human traffickers, could haul women here from anywhere around the world for embryo implantation.  Under this bill, similar to the enslaved pregnant woman and contrary to established New York law, neither the fetus, nor the baby, belongs to the birth mother. 

Like the romantic fallacies portrayed in Hollywood’s “Pretty Woman” or “The Girlfriend Experience,” commercial surrogacy websites feature Hallmark-type images with names like Growing Generations. Remove those rose-colored glasses, however, and dark realities quickly reveal themselves.

In commercial reproductive surrogacy, for example, two women are often contracted: the egg donor and the surrogate mother carrying the fetus. Heavy dosages of hormones are injected into the egg donor, typically a tuition-strapped college student, to produce ova, at a proportion that can generate four years’ worth of eggs in one month. These women can suffer extreme pain and contract illnesses, such as ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome, which can lead to strokes or heart attacks. Other long-term health risks for egg donors, including reproductive cancers and even death, have yet to be researched. A three-time commercial surrogate mother, Brooke Brown, died died to a placental rupture, as did the twins she was bearing.

Regarding the Salazar-Ramos bill, which would protect pimps from accountability, brothels would be turned into businesses and, like any other business, would give New York’s “If You Can See It You Can Be It” girls’ empowerment program an entirely different meaning. New York doesn’t even know how many women have died in the sex trade.

Both commercial surrogacy and prostitution are industry-driven – one by gestational surrogacy companies, and the other by a multibillion-dollar sex trade and its lobby. Both thrive on the vulnerabilities of disenfranchised people, especially women of color. Both turn their profits on growing demand for women’s bodies as commodities, and both kick open a wide door for sex and reproductive trafficking.

Women’s control over their bodies, reproductive systems and sexuality must be rights-driven. In a society where marginalized populations live with limited opportunities, the State must not bless the deceptive argument of “personal choice,” dictated by the power and control of reproductive surrogacy consumers, sex buyers and profiteers in exploitative enterprises.  

The European Parliament and many countries condemn and prohibit commercial reproductive surrogacy because it undermines the human dignity of women. After fatalities and other devastating outcomes stemming from commercial surrogacy tourism, India, Thailand, Nepal and Cambodia have all banned it. Parallel to these efforts that recognize harm, an increasing number of governments worldwide are enacting legislation that recognizes prostitution as systemic violence against women, perpetrated by sex buyers and organized criminal networks. These laws, known as the Equality Model, solely decriminalize the prostituted and offer them services.

New York must recognize that commercial reproductive surrogacy and the sex trade are stitched with that same noxious thread. A quilt where women’s bodies, especially Black and Brown bodies, are sown into history for the profit of others, disdaining the idea that women are human. Don’t we deserve better, New York?P

Taina Bien-Aime is the Executive Director of Coalition Against Trafficking in Women (CATW), the first and oldest international non-governmental organization dedicated to ending trafficking in women and girls and related forms of commercial sexual exploitation as practices of gender-based violence. CATW has national coalitions in over fifteen countries including thePhilippines, Bangladesh, Indonesia, Thailand, Venezuela, Puerto Rico, Chile, the United States,Canada, Norway, France and Greece.

May 9th 2019, 7:38 pm

From the Executive Director: In Tribute to Lenora Lapidus

Women

It is with much sadness that we report that Lenora Lapidus, Director of the ACLU Women’s Rights Project, lost her battle with breast cancer on Sunday, May 5th. Lenora had a huge impact on the ACLU and beyond. I first met Lenora when I became Women’s eNews Executive Director in 2016, and quickly came to know her as a generous, tenacious, optimistic and joyous woman who was passionate about protecting women and girls under the law, while mentoring young female lawyers. While I will miss her warm smile and glowing presence, I also know that her work will continue to improve the lives of women and girls for many generations to come. – – Lori Sokol, Exec. Dir.

Below please find the email that was sent from Anthony Romero, Executive Director of the ACLU, to all ACLU staff yesterday morning:

***
Dear Friends,

I write with the very sad news that our longtime colleague, Lenora Lapidus, died this morning at her home, after a long struggle with cancer. The news will be a shock to many, because Lenora fought this battle privately, with incredible courage and dignity, while at the same time fighting valiantly and boldly in the public sphere for women’s rights. We will miss her sense of humor, her warmth and caring, and most of all, her firm commitment to making the world a more just place for all women. 

Lenora was a pillar of the ACLU. She began here as an intern in 1988, served as legal director of the ACLU of New Jersey, and led the Women’s Rights Project since 2001. As I have said before, Lenora renovated the house that Ruth built. She increased the Women’s Rights Project to nine staff, and reshaped its agenda to focus on eliminating gender-based violence, and furthering equality in employment and education. She spearheaded a Gender Justice Task Force of the WRP and ACLU affiliate lawyers throughout the country. Under her leadership, the WRP focused on the most marginalized members of society, including championing the rights of domestic workers trafficked by diplomats, farmworkers, nail salon workers, and women caught up in the criminal justice system. She was a globally recognized leader in women’s rights, and a powerful voice within the ACLU family for gender equity in the workplace. 

Lenora was a visionary lawyer. She litigated Lenahan v. USA, winning a decision from the Inter-American Court of Human Rights holding that the United States violated international human rights law for failing to respond adequately to gender-based violence. She represented military women in a lawsuit that led to the military’s repeal of its policy excluding women from combat positions, Hegar v. Panetta. She published many articles on women’s rights, and was the principal author of The Rights of Women, published by NYU Press in 2009. 

Lenora was recognized for her leadership on many occasions, including receiving a Wasserstein Fellowship from Harvard Law School for outstanding public interest contributions, and the Trailblazers Award from Women and Hollywood. In 2017, Women’s eNews honored her one of ’21 Leaders for the 21st Century.’

But it was her work as part of the team that brought a landmark challenge to human gene patents, resulting in a unanimous 2013 decision by the U.S. Supreme Court, Association for Molecular Pathology v. Myriad Genetics, for which I will most remember her. This case was initially controversial among the ACLU staff — with some staff worrying that our legal arguments would undercut the intellectual property regime that protected science and the arts. Other staff wondered how could we not challenge a practice that inhibited women’s and others’ ability to get the care and treatment they deserved for breast and ovarian cancer. Lenora demanded that I break the logjam. Her lived experiences as a cancer survivor and her unflinching demand for gender justice made clear that there was only one decision to make. We took the case and the Supreme Court ultimately rejected the notion that the BRCA1 and BRCA2 human genes could be patented. Because of Lenora’s courage and her unwillingness to accept no, and thanks to the work of her ACLU colleagues who helped bring the case with her, the health and lives of millions of women and men battling cancer would be improved. The Myriad case would come to embody the two battles that Lenora so valiantly fought: the battle against cancer and the fight against gender injustice. 

We recognize Lenora as our friend, colleague, and tireless advocate for justice. We will miss her terribly. Our thoughts and prayers are with her husband, Matt, their daughter, Izzy, and the rest of her family.

May 5th 2019, 5:14 pm

The ERA – Rising from the Dead

Women

The House Judiciary Committee held the first Congressional hearing on the amendment in more than three decades on April 30. Supporters of the ERA argued that its resurrection was desperately needed. Opponents wanted it to stay buried. The conservative National Review opined, The Equal Rights Amendment Is Deader than Marley’s Ghost.

But this epitaph is premature. Two states—Nevada and Illinois—have recently ratified the amendment, bringing the total to 37, just one short of the 38 needed for ratification. The key passage at the heart of the ERA is:  “Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any state on account of sex.” The ERA, if ratified, would provide a strong legal defense against a rollback of the significant advances in women’s rights that have been achieved since the mid–20th century.

MARCH 22: A woman hold up a sign as members of Congress and representatives of women’s groups hold a rally to mark the 40th anniversary of congressional passage of the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) outside the U.S. Capitol March 22, 2012 in Washington, DC. Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-NY) and Sen. Robert Menendez (D-NJ) introduced a new version of the Equal Rights Amendment last year and called for it to be passed again. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

Without the ERA, women regularly have to fight long, expensive, and difficult legal battles in an effort to prove that their rights are equal to those of the other sex.

But is the ERA necessary?

In a 2010 interview with California Lawyer magazine, the late justice Antonin Scalia said, “Women’s equality is not explicitly protected in the constitution or in the 14th Amendment.”  In his words, “Certainly the Constitution does not require discrimination on the basis of sex. The only issue is whether it prohibits it. It doesn’t.” Some critics argue that we don’t need the ERA because women have done ‘just fine’ without it. This argument completely ignores a troubling reality. Every time women make great gains, a sustained period of backlash sets in and a retreat follows on women’s rights.  

After women were granted the right to vote in 1920, the drive for more gains slowed down. It would take another 45 years for women to win the right to simply use contraception to plan their families. The women’s movement of the 1970s was followed by an extended period of “Post feminism,” and young women avoided the term as if it were a swear word. In 1998, a Time magazine cover asked, Is Feminism Dead? and suggested the answer was ‘yes’.

In 1991, women were enraged over the sexist treatment of law professor Anita Hill when she testified against Supreme Court nominee Clarence Thomas in his Senate confirmation hearing. Hill, who said that Thomas sexually harassed her, was grilled about prurient issues. Senators insisted that she name the pornographic movie Thomas allegedly recommended to her, “Long Dong Silver.”

Women responded by running for political office in greater numbers in the next year than in the past, and winning. Never before had four women been sent to the Senate in a single congressional election. The year 1992 was even dubbed “The Year of the Woman,” but mass political activism around sexual harassment mostly faded, until the #MeToo movement surfaced in 2017.

The ERA could successfully diminish the power of backlash that builds after every major step forward, because when rights are embedded in the Constitution, they are hard to deny. Recall that in the 1970s, Phyllis Schlafly, the ardent, strident and out-spoken enemy of the ERA, issued dire predictions about the aftermath of its passage. “She warned of a dystopian post-E.R.A. future of women forced to enlist in the military, gay marriage, unisex toilets everywhere and homemakers driven into the workplace by husbands free to abandon them,” noted the New York Times. Scare stories abounded, and the amendment fell short of the number of states needed for ratification.   

Although the amendment failed, the New York Times reported that, “Much of what she [Schlafly] recoiled from has come to pass: abortions are intact, albeit under siege in some jurisdictions. Same-sex marriage as a right has the Supreme Court’s blessing. Unisex bathrooms are a broadly accepted fact of life, notwithstanding struggles over transgender rights. And women today not only fill the ranks of the military but are also eligible for combat duty.”

But many of these changes resulted from legislation and, as Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg reminds us, “legislation can be repealed, it can be altered.” Or it can simply ignored. In April, the U.S. Justice Department decided not to defend a federal law banning female genital mutilation. This is a barbaric procedure, unfortunately common in many areas of the world. The section of a women’s genitalia that is key to sexual pleasure is simply cut out of her body. Women’s rights activists have called for the reversal of the decision. (Women’s eNews alerted readers to this story on April 26.)

What difference would the ERA make if it were to be made law today? According to the New York Times, it would “guarantee equal legal rights for all American citizens regardless of sex. It would also require states to intervene in cases of gender violence, such as domestic violence and sexual harassment; it would guard against pregnancy and motherhood discrimination; and it would federally guarantee equal pay.” During the 1970s and ’80s, Ruth Bader Ginsburg helped to persuade the Supreme Court to extend the equal protection clause of the 14th Amendment to prohibit unequal treatment on the basis of sex — similar to what the ERA would have done. But supporters said that clause didn’t go far enough, particularly when it comes to violence against women, sexual harassment and equal pay.”

Looking at the history of the gender pay gap shows us why the ERA is needed. This stubborn  gap persists despite the fact that the Equal Pay Act was signed in 1963 by President John F. Kennedy. He praised it as a “significant step forward,” but acknowledged that “much remains to be done to achieve full equality of economic opportunity” for women. His words were eerily prescient.

Since then, some gains were made. In 1963, “women who worked full-time, year-round made 59 cents on average for every dollar earned by men.” In the past six decades, women’s earnings have increased, but according to the National Women’s Law Center, the wage gap remains stubborn, with very little change over the past 12 years.

The Institute for Women’s Policy Research (IWPR) finds that “if change continues at the same slow pace as it has done for the past fifty years, it will take 41 years—or until 2059—for women to finally reach pay parity.” For women of color, the rate of change is even slower. The gender wage gap persists in spite of passage of The Equal Pay Act. Gender discrimination, unequal opportunities for advancement, and lack of federal paid parental leave and childcare assistance all contribute to the unequal status quo.

And the fight goes on. Since the 1970s, five states – Idaho, Kentucky, Nebraska, Tennessee, and South Dakota – have attempted to withdraw their approval of the Equal Rights Amendment. There is heated debate over whether states actually have the right to rescind a ratification. Ultimately, the Supreme Court may have to answer this question. And this debate is likely to intensify as we approach the magic number: 38.

Why is it important now?

In 2017, Nevada ratified the amendment, led by democratic State Senator Pat Spearman,  “It was then that other states said, ‘Wait a minute, you mean we can still do that?” noted the New York Times. In 2018, Illinois did as well. Then, in February of 2019, Virginia came close to being the 38th and final state needed to ratify the amendment — until the State House killed its progress. “The drumbeat for the ERA is louder than ever before. Women are marching, protesting, running for office – and getting elected – in record numbers. The #MeToo and Time’s Up movements have shined a light on the discrimination that persists in this country. And it is up to us to harness the energy of these movements to break through the final barrier to finally ratify the ERA,” says Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-NY). “Our rights cannot be subject to the political whims of legislators, judges, or occupants of the White House who do not see women as equal citizens. We will not quit until women are in the Constitution, where we belong. Women are not waiting any longer. We demand full equality now. We demand that it be spelled out in the Constitution. And you know how you spell it? E-R-A.”

Virginia’s Victoria Cobb, president of the Family Foundation of Virginia, has led the new movement to defeat the ERA. The Washington Post reports, “Virginia was poised to become the 38th state to ratify it, filling in that three-quarters majority of states required for it to become official. In Richmond, the GOP-led Senate passed the ERA bill [in February 2019]. And celebrities, lawmakers and activists were touting its revival on Capitol Hill in Washington. “But then a tiny subcommittee in Richmond — the House Privileges and Elections subcommittee — voted along party lines to block the amendment from reaching the House floor after heavy lobbying from Cobb.” The Post goes on to note that, “(Cobb) has powerful place in the world of business is her family’s oyster company, where she has worked mostof her adult life. Good thing there’s no sexual harassment or gender discrimination there, right?” Cobb bases most of her objections on abortion, “convincing folks that somehow, if women were to finally be included in the Constitution, it would mean all kinds of public money would be funding abortion.” However, the ERA has nothing to do with abortion.

 “Today, we are witnessing a massive cultural shift for women around the globe. As the highest-ranking female elected official in New York ?– the birthplace of the women’s rights movement – we must lead by example and pass the Equal Rights Amendment now,” says NYS Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul. “From the workplace to our health care system, women are being held back by outdated institutional social and economic barriers. Because of our current climate, enacting an ERA on both the state and federal level is more important now than ever. Let’s take action and support women around our nation to achieve full constitutional equality. Our generation must take the torch passed on to us by our foremothers and enact a new ERA for the next generation.”

As the battle rages on, Justice Ginsburg, aka The Notorious RBG, has also made one of the best arguments for ratification: “I would like my granddaughters, when they pick up the Constitution, to see that notion—that women and men are persons of equal stature—I’d like them to see that is a basic principle of our society.”

May 2nd 2019, 4:41 pm

Beyonce’s Homecoming: A Lesson In Black Excellence and Vulnerability

Women

Beyoncé is as close to perfection as one can ever hope to become. She is the face of #iwokeuplikethis. But her new video, Homecoming, released on Netflix reveals a different side of this fierce, feminist icon. Between clips of her 2018 Coachella headline performance, the audience is given a glimpse beyond the effortlessly perfect front we are used to seeing. In this two-hour documentary, Beyoncé reveals another superpower: Vulnerability and authenticity.

We see a woman struggling to get back in shape after a difficult and dangerous pregnancy. A woman who is tired, sweaty, and frustrated as she learns her dance routine and directs a crew of 100+ individuals.

Her voice narrates the video of her first rehearsal post-birthing twins: “There were days I thought I’d never be the same. I’d never be the same physically, my strength and endurance would never be the same.”

She reveals the internal struggles she faced, as well: “A lot of the choreography is about feeling so it’s not as technical. It’s your own personality that brings it to life and that’s hard when you don’t feel like yourself… it took me a while to feel confident enough.” Her vulnerability is refreshing and restorative to women, especially Black women who so often feel the need to project a strong, stoic front to the world.

Black women live at the intersection of racism and sexism. These systems of oppressions work constantly to demean, depress and disenfranchise those it intends to harm. Yet magically, and miraculously, Black women continue to rise like the mythological phoenix, but that doesn’t negate the harm of the fire that burns them. The ashes do not simply disappear once they are in flight. Black women are human, and like all humans, they need space to mess up, grow, fail, succeed, fail again, and genuinely come into their own power.

But Black women are consistently given the least number of resources and receive the most judgement about their decisions.

Many religious institutions admonish them for their bodies and sexuality. White conservatives label them as moochers and welfare queens. Most media paints them into caricatures: Angry, aggressive adversaries and asexual maternal figures with no lives of their own; or overly-sexual beings that only exist for the beck and call of men.

With no nuance provided and minimal honest investigation of their true lives, we are left with few authentic representations of Black woman and the effort it takes to be excellent, which makes watching this documentary even sweeter. In a call-and-response portion of Beyoncé’s performance, she incorporates audio of one of Malcolm X’s speeches amidst her lyrics:

Malcolm X: “The most disrespected person in America is the black woman.”

Beyoncé: “I am the dragon breathing fire.”

Malcolm X: “The most unprotected person in America is the black woman.”

Beyoncé: “Beautiful man, I’m the lion.”

Malcolm X: “The most neglected person in America is the black woman.”

By using her own language to counter Malcolm X’s sobering truths, she both acknowledges the oppressive forces they are up against while providing an empowering denouncement of those who deny their power, beauty, and humanity.  However, such responses also contribute to a societal expectation that Black women are able to do anything, but there is no gladness in being the mule of the world. This expectation is hurtful and deadly.  While there is pride in overcoming such immense strugglea and oppression, many fail to recognize the price being paid. “What people don’t see is the sacrifice,” Beyoncé notes.

The Black community has started to connect the dots where Black women are expected always appear strong, thus creating additional stressors that can lead to development of serious mental and physical health issues. Due to stress-related accelerated biological aging, Black women between the ages 49-55 are 7.5 biological years “older” than white women on average, with perceived stress and poverty accounting for 27 percent of this difference. Further, the pain women of color experience in medical situations is often perceived as lower than the pain of white women due to erroneous racial biases that women of color have higher pain tolerance. Having their pain taken less seriously has proven to be lethal in many cases.

Beyoncé, herself, experienced serious complications during her pregnancy, including high blood pressure, toxemia, pre-eclampsia, and an emergency C-section. “I was in survival mode and did not grasp it all until months later,” she notes. Still, she pushed herself to get back to work as soon as possible, driven to use her platform to help “lift up” her people and “put on stage a proud moment for us”.

As the first female African American woman to headline Coachella, she had a vision for a performance that evoked images from HBCUs (Historically Black Colleges and Universities): “I wanted a Black orchestra. I wanted the steppers. I needed the vocalists… the amount of swag is just limitless.” Her Homecoming video also includes audio from numerous famous African American scholars dispersed throughout. “I wanted every person who has ever been dismissed because of the way they look feeling like they were on that stage killing it,” she notes.

This centering of “The Other” is a highly strategic move that not only gives the mostly white Coachella audience a Black history lesson they would never forget, but also provides a grand display of authenticity in an industry sometimes filled with thoughtless stage productions. It was a move that only Beyoncé could have pulled off. Her earth-shattering theme came right from her very own Black southern background.

Beyoncé worked hard to provide this experience. Possibly too hard. She admits during her film, “I pushed myself further than I knew I could and I will never push myself that far again.” The power of this comment was not lost on us. Beyoncé is acknowledging how even she, a woman with an extensive staff helping her to maintain a front of effortless perfection and providing many of the resources needed to reach her goals, is prone to breakdowns. It is eye-opening when a person you idolize as ‘having-it-all’ suddenly reveals that she does not. It illustrates the hollowness of this flawless front we are desperately trying to build for ourselves. We see reality more clearly.

In this moment of the film, Beyoncé is recognizing that we need more than superwomen to help move us forward into bigger and better opportunities. We need authentic, sincere women who are willing to be honest about the struggles they faced to get where they are so the other women following them realize they are allowed to struggle, too, and that struggling doesn’t make us any less worthy.

Homecoming ends with audio of Dr. Maya Angelou. The brilliant writer is asked what advice she would give the next generation and the first thing she says is: “Tell the truth. To yourself first, and to the children.”

We as an audience are left to consider that, when you practice radical self-honesty, the pain of the truth gives way to the wonderment of growth. And when that level of vulnerability is displayed, honored, and respected in front of our children, we can raise generations of young people who understand that growth and improvement is always better than inflexible ideals of perfection.

Only when we show up as who we are, flaws and all, no matter how accomplished we become, do we give permission to others to recognize the greatness in themselves.

About the Authors:

Afftene Taylor is a full time web developer and aspiring actress and writer. She currently lends her creative talents to the Atlanta Radio Theatre Company’s daily audio podcast drama, Mercury: A Broadcast of Hope. You can follow her on Instagram at @madebyafftene.

Caralena Peterson is a high school teacher, writer and visual artist. She is at work on the forthcoming book The Effortless Perfection Myth. You can follow her on Instagram at @caralenapeterson or @badasscreative_

April 28th 2019, 1:36 pm

Women’s Rights Advocates Condemn DOJ Decision to Not Defend Female Genital Mutilation Law

Women

On Thursday, April 25th, Congresswoman Carolyn B. Maloney (NY-12) (pictured in center) joined elected officials and Equal Rights Amendment advocates to condemn a recent US Department of Justice decision to not  defend a federal law banning FGM/C, to call for Speaker Pelosi to step in to defend the law, and call for the ratification of the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA). Congresswoman Maloney is the sponsor of H.J. Res. 35, a bill to restart the ratification process of the ERA.

While the Trump Administration has decided not to defend the 1996 law banning FGM/C, the House or the Senate could do so. Accordingly, Congresswoman Maloney wrote a letter today (full text below) to Speaker Nancy Pelosi to urge her to defend the law in the U.S. Court of Appeals.

In light of a federal district court in Michigan’s November, 2018 ruling that Congress does not have the constitutional authority to criminalize FGM/C, the advocates today highlighted the need to ratify the ERA. Without this constitutional bedrock protecting women’s rights, courts can roll back the laws Congress passes.

“Female genital mutilation and cutting is a grotesque and extremely painful procedure that removes a portion of a woman’s sexual organs in order to exert control over her bodily integrity and sexual autonomy. The Trump Administration’s decision not to protect women and girls from this horrific practice illustrates not only its unwillingness to fight for women’s rights, but also exposes large loopholes in our Constitution that allow for women’s rights to be chipped away far too easily. Activists have been fighting the same battles for decades, and without the Equal Rights Amendment any progress we achieve can be rolled back. It’s time for the ERA to finally be ratified so that the rights of women can be protected, no matter who is in the White House, who sits on the bench, or who is in the majority in Congress or state capitols,” said Rep. Carolyn B. Maloney (NY-12).

“As a survivor of female genital mutilation, I am deeply disappointed by the decision of the Department of Justice,” added Aissata M.B. Camara, Co-Founder, There Is No Limit Foundation. “This outcome undermines decades of progress made by activists like me to end this harmful practice. It sends a negative message about the value of our bodies and experiences. The time to act is now—protecting women and girls rights must be a priority.  I applaud everyone breaking their silence because FGM affects all of us and it’s a violation of human rights. Ending this practice requires collective action rooted in community education and strong policies. I know we can achieve a world without FGM so women and girls can live to their full potential”

According to Kate Kelly, Program Officer of Women’s and Girl’s Rights at Equality Now, “Simply put, FGM is a human rights violation. It’s a form of gender-based violence and child abuse. The procedure can be fatal, and is always harmful. The decision by the DOJ to not appeal the decision in the Nagarwala case tacitly says that the federal government can’t pass laws to stop human rights violations. This is not true. Congress does have the authority to enact an FGM law. In fact, it is under international obligation to do so. Currently, 19 states do not have laws against FGM. In this very case girls were taken across state lines to be cut. This alarming lack of federal enforcement and gap in state laws is putting American women and girls at risk today,” said 

Background

April 25th 2019, 8:51 pm

Can Women Save The World?

Women

Can women save the world? By looking at the life Edna Adan Ismail, Somaliland’s former Foreign Minister and former First Lady, the answer would be a resounding, “YES.” Labeled the ‘Muslim Mother Teresa,’ Edna has taken everything she learned through these prominent positions to save the lives of untold numbers of women and children.

Edna Adan Ismail

As the current director and founder of the Edna Adan Maternity Hospital in Hargeisa, her mission is to help improve the health of the local inhabitants and, even more urgently, to decrease Somaliland’s extreme levels of maternal and infant mortality, which are among the highest in the world. This non-profit making charity and midwifery teaching hospital, which Edna built from scratch, is also training student nurses and other health professionals. “I am just doing what needs to be done,” Edna says, reflecting on her decision in 1998 to sell her home and car, as well as donate her U.N. pension, to fund the hospital.

Edna Adan Maternity Hospital

Officially opened on March 9, 2002, the Edna Adan Maternity Hospital was built on land donated to her by the regional government at a site formerly used as a garbage dump. The region lacked trained midwives/nurses to staff the hospital – as most had either fled the country or been killed during the Somali Civil War, which destroyed Somaliland’s entire health infrastructure. Edna recruited more than 30 candidates and began training them while the hospital was still under construction. Now completed, it houses two operating rooms, a laboratory, a library, a computer center and a university dedicated to training nurses and midwives as well as other health professionals. As of 2018, the university hospital has grown to 200 staff members and 1500 students. “Due to our training, our country now has the largest number of midwives per capita, and we have been able to reduce infant mortality significantly,” Edna says proudly. The hospital’s historical survival rate is 75% higher than the national average.

This facility is also the address where Edna calls home, having moved into the only room that had a door and a shower/toilet during construction. “I was born into this,” she says, recalling that, as a child, “the problems of the world came to my father’s door.” Edna witnessed her father, a prominent physician, display compassion, generosity and devotion to his patients throughout her childhood. “His patients came before his own needs,” she recalls. “I brought this level of dedication to my diplomatic career, and now to this hospital.”

The first woman Minister of Social Affairs (August 2002 – June 2003), Edna then became Foreign Minister, and found she was able to more powerfully present the case for supporting Somaliland not only as a diplomat, but as a woman. “Being a woman, I am allowed to be forceful and angry and show sorrow for my people. I am allowed to express pain and sorrow and anger. I can be motherly and I can be tenacious. I can also shed a tear or two,” Edna adds. “I can also share emotions I feel by witnessing the pain and Injustice my country has suffered.” Further, as the Foreign Minister of Somaliland, Edna purposely hosts delegations at the hospital. “I do this so that I can prove to everyone that if this site is good enough for my patients, it is also good enough for me to live in, and it is also good enough for those who wish to associate with me.” As the only woman in the delegation, she has also had to remind other dignitaries that she is the head of the delegation. “If I bang on a table or shed a tear, don’t try to appease me, I tell them. When I express anger, don’t tell me to cool down,’ she continues. “Don’t try to impose a different emotion to what I am expressing at that moment. I will know when I want to cool down, and I will tell you what I need. If I wish to show my emotions, it is because I have chosen to do so.”

Yet one of the most memorable stories she tells is of an experience that occurs time and time again, and often just before a woman is about to die. “Since a woman in our society does not have the authority to sign for her own surgery when requiring a Caesarean section, she must have a male (father, husband, brother or son) do it for her. Sometimes, when we tell the husband that we must have his consent immediately (because of a time-sensitive emergency) or his wife will die, he will refuse, or will want to wait to decide. But we cannot afford to wait. So I summon a policeman, and on the back of the form I write, ‘I want my wife to die.’ I then ask him if he wants to sign that instead. The husband approves the surgery for a C-section every single time. If not,” Edna adds, “I would have taken the risk and signed it myself, which could cause me to go to prison if his wife did not survive the surgery. Fortunately, no one has ever called my bluff.”

Yet it doesn’t stop there. “My battle against female genital mutilation (FGM) has been the biggest battle of my life,” Edna says. A victim of FGM herself, she was the first woman to speak out against it. “These young girls have survived measles, whooping cough, chronic diarrhea and other life-threatening diseases, and when they reach the age of seven or eight, when they are learning to jump and learn and talk…they are subjected to FGM.” “It is not only cutting. It is total mutilation!” she adds. Edna believes that fathers have to be educated about the dangers of FGM as well, so she is working on publishing an animated book about it since so many in her country cannot read.

Based upon so many of Edna’s accomplishments, one would think there wouldn’t be anything she could fail at. But there is. “I want to get my country internationally recognized. That is my unfinished book,” she says. “The world is losing the presence of a democratic country in Somaliland.  We have managed to demobilize our militia with our own resources, we have a functioning, democratically elected government and we generate all taxes from our own country. While the international community is spending billions of dollars to try to bring peace in Somalia, they are ignoring the peace we have already achieved in Somaliland. We gain from peace and stability,” she adds, “They gain from lawlessness.” 

                     

April 24th 2019, 5:47 pm

#MeToo in the Garment Industry

Women

Chances are that the clothes you are wearing as you read this were made by a woman. Chances are that she lives in Asia and migrated from a rural area to a big city to work in a garment factory, a job she considers better than anything she could find in her hometown. Chances are also that at this “good” job she is not making a living wage, is experiencing some form of harassment or violence, and fears being fired. 

Approximately 75 percent of the world’s garment workers are women, making the fashion industry a powerful employer with a powerful economic force. Valued at 2.4 trillion, the fashion industry would be the globe’s seventh largest economy if ranked alongside countries’ GDPs. Despite the industry’s profitability, its workers are among the least protected or compensated. A garment worker in Delhi compared their low and inconsistent pay rates “like we are vegetables; our prices vary.”  Pervasive gender discrimination on top of garment workers’ temporary work status leaves women workers vulnerable economically and physically.

Female garment workers sort through fabric in a factory located outside of of Dhaka, Bangladesh on October 2, 2018. According to Human Rights Watch, sexual harassment in garment factories in Cambodia, Bangladesh, Burma, and Pakistan were rife with abuse, legal protections did not exist or were weakly enforced, and efforts to audit factories or monitor for harassment were ineffective.

Six years ago the world awoke to one of the acute dangers in the fashion industry when Rana Plaza – an eight-story building housing clothing factories – collapsed in Bangladesh, killing over 1,000 people and injuring 2,500 others. It was the deadliest garment factory accident in history.

Since the factory housed a number of US and European brands, the magnitude of the tragedy led to a groundswell of activism. Following global protests and outcry, global brands signed two agreements mandating more robust fire and structural safety standards in factories.

Gender-based violence at work

Still, structural building hazards are far from the most pervasive dangers women face in the garment industry. One of the most insidious threats to women garment workers is gender-based violence. This takes many forms, from outright sexual violence and harassment to physical abuse, inappropriate touching, and verbal abuse. Despite the #MeToo movement, however, we yet to hear their stories, but women’s-rights organizations and activists are working to change that.

Organizations of women garment workers are looking to spark change

At Global Fund for Women, we support some of the organizations working with women garment workers through an initiative funded by C&A Foundation and NoVo Foundation, to eradicate gender-based violence and empower women garment workers in Bangladesh, Cambodia, India and Vietnam. These women-led organizations are creating safe spaces for the women workers to come together to share their experiences, document abuse, and strengthen their leadership to advocate for their rights. Through increasing mobilization and organizing, women are being encouraged to join and lead trade unions; police and labor officials are being sensitized on the issue; and through negotiations with factory managers, mechanisms for safe reporting and response and being created inside the factories.

These organizations, and others are helping to build an understanding and awareness of what sexual abuse and harassment is for both the women workers and factory management. They are gathering documentation of the cases and data on how widespread gender-based workplace violence is for evidence-based advocacy.

Social norms and the pervasiveness of gender-based violence can prohibit it from being recognized as such. Further, the shame and stigma associated with harassment, particularly sexual harassment, and fear of reprisals at work prevent women from making formal complaints despite its high prevalence.Still, we know that in India 60 percent of female factory workers reported experiencing some type of harassment. In Bangladesh, 75 percent of women garment workers experienced verbal abuse, and 20 percent experienced physical abuse, according to Fair Wear Foundation.  

Maheen Sultan of Naripokkho, a women-led organization that began working with female garment workers after the Rana Plaza disaster, explained, “This is such an important area to establish women’s rights, with more women coming into the formal sector and with all the different kinds of rights violations taking place.”  She also emphasized that living free from violence is a predicate for establishing other rights. “Gender-based violence is not isolated to factories, or localized to workplaces; it’s woven throughout the lives of women. They experience it when they travel to work on public transit, in schools, and often at home,” Maheen says.

Change in progress

Change is slow, but there are encouraging signs. From grassroots to policy, the number of women leaders and members of the trade unions are growing; India law has mandated Internal Complaint Committees at the workplace; Cambodia is negotiating an industry-wide collective bargaining agreement; factories in Bangladesh are partnering with women’s rights organizations to allow worker trainings on sexual harassment; and a new and pending International Labor Organization (ILO) convention on ending violence and harassment in the world of work – the first international standard of its kind – is expected to be voted on in June. An international universal definition on harassment and violence in the world of work planned at the ILO convention in June) would set the stage for its ratification and the development of national policies and laws.

Change is possible and will require political will, as shown in the wake of the Rana Plaza collapse. It will also demand a human rights commitment from consumers, factories, brands, and governments. Above all, it will require the courage and voices of women garment workers and activists.

Sonia Wazed, of the Society for Labour and Development in India, explained, “Developing women leaders to claim their rights and that of their fellow members is a long drawn journey where women need to start questioning their perceptions of patriarchy, how it impacts them as workers, and why they need to challenge the existing norms that repress and violate their rights.”

About the author: Sangeeta Chowdhry is the Senior Program Director for Economic Justice at Global Fund for Women. She has worked on women’s empowerment and rights over the past decade with a focus on economic and environmental justice issues.

April 21st 2019, 7:13 pm

The Right Way to be an LGBTQ+ Ally

Women

A few days before summer vacation, I got her text.

“I have to tell you something but I don’t want you to hate me,” it read. My seventh-grade heart started racing. Had I accidentally said something mean about her? Was she about to tell me we couldn’t be friends anymore? What had I done wrong?

We made plans to talk the next day in person. Sitting in the middle of the crowded gymnasium of Pyle Middle School, she leaned in and whispered, “I’m bisexual. I like guys and girls.”

At a loss for words, I just leaned in to give her a hug. I didn’t know whether to congratulate her or thank her. I just knew that she had taken a huge leap of faith, and I wanted to be there for her in any way I could. We had only known each other for one year, but she had become one of my closest friends. Her secret was safe with me, but I felt the need to protect her at all costs. I didn’t yet know against what, but I was about to find out.

As we walked through the school’s halls immediately after, I became hyper-aware of the comments my peers were making around us. “That outfit is so gay,” I heard a boy remark to his friend. “Oh my god stop being such a f*g,” another boy yelled. I felt as though these remarks were aimed directly at my friend, though I knew that none of them knew she was bisexual.

The following fall she approached me with a proposal. “How would you feel about starting a Gay-Straight Alliance here at Pyle?” she asked. I knew that an eighth-grader had attempted to start one a year earlier, but it never took off. “I’m in,” I immediately responded. “What do we have to do?”

We met with our guidance counselor the following week to discuss our idea. She was completely on board but seemed apprehensive about getting parental and administrative support. She organized a meeting for us with the head of the Gay-Straight Alliance (GSA) at our local high school, a strong-willed senior who was ready to help us. We discussed the goals of the club; to create a safe space for queer, questioning, and student allies in our community, as well as providing education about sexuality, which was a taboo topic in our middle school classrooms. We talked about the importance of confidentiality and anonymity in a space like this one. The guidance counselor reminded us that starting this club will be an uphill battle, and we might face pushback, but we knew it would be worth it.

Every day we became more and more aware of the necessity of this club. As word spread about what we were trying to do, a number of students told us they were in support of a GSA and would participate if we succeeded in creating it. A few students even approached us in confidence and came out, while sharing that their orientations did not feel celebrated or valued at Pyle, and that they needed a place to talk about it. A handful of students made snide remarks about the existence of a GSA–why was it necessary, and why did we care–but these comments only further emphasized the need to create this club.  

A few weeks later, we were finally able to meet with the principal. He informed us that he was personally in support of a GSA, but that he was worried about pushback from parents and conservative teachers. He also told us that the meetings would have to be secretive, and information about the existence and logistics of the meetings would have to spread solely by word of mouth. We weren’t allowed to hang flyers or mention meetings in the school’s daily announcements.

This took us by surprise. We knew we’d face pushback, but not to this extent. Yes, gay marriage had only become legal six months earlier at the federal level, but it had been legal in Maryland for over two years! And legality aside, Pyle was a place that prided itself on diversity. Every morning, during the school’s public announcements, a student read our school values, the last two which were: “sustaining a nurturing and respectful environment” and “honoring diversity.” It seemed ironic that these announcements would boast respect and diversity yet could not discuss a club dedicated to preserving these values.

“We can’t have parents getting wind of this,” he told us. He had a point. As middle schoolers we didn’t have much mobility, and widespread parental knowledge about the GSA could potentially put students in harm’s way if they lived in a homophobic household. Yet, at the same time, his demands felt too restrictive. They felt like homophobia veiled as support. His assumption that students would choose to conceal their involvement with a gay-straight alliance demonstrated our school’s lacking support systems for LGBTQ+ students as well as stigma around LGBTQ+ rights and personhood.

We pushed ahead with the GSA, compliant with the principal’s restrictive regulations since we felt that a restricted GSA was better than no GSA. For the first meeting, 25 students showed up. A number of them came out at that meeting, or have since come out as LGBTQ+. Many straight allies showed up as well. The enthusiasm from both groups validated our original goal: We had created a space where students could openly discuss and celebrate diverse sexual orientations.

We continued to hold GSA meetings every Thursday until the end of the school year. We mixed lesson plans with open discussions, careful to honor confidentiality and allow students enough anonymity to remain comfortable. By the end of the year, a group of sixth and seventh graders were attending the meetings as well, to whom we later entrusted the club’s future. The Pyle Middle School GSA exists to this day, and remains a safe space for LGBTQ+ students and allies.

A number of adults have since approached me to remark how brave it was to start this club. Still, I don’t believe I was the brave one in this experience, since I didn’t have anything to lose. The bravery belongs to my LGBTQ+ peers who attended the meetings and opened up about their lived experiences, helping to foster a more supportive network for questioning and closeted students. Bravery also belongs to my good friend and co-founder of the GSA for serving as a role model to our peers and future students. I simply saw a problem that needed to be addressed, and used my ‘straight privilege’ to help elevate the voices of those who didn’t have any. That’s not bravery; it’s responsibility.

About the Author: Emily Axelrod is a member of The Jewish Women’s Archive’s  Rising Voices Fellowship,a 10-month program for female-identified teens in high-school who have a passion for writing, a demonstrated concern for current and historic events, and a strong interest in Judaism, gender and social justice.

April 17th 2019, 7:47 pm

From Victim to Victor: Surviving Sexual Assault in Uganda

Women

I am a survivor of a sexual assault that happened in my village in Rwanda when I was just an 11-year-old child.

I thought I had put all that pain behind me until 2015, when I traveled to Uganda to visit my husband’s home—the site of his organization, Nyaka AIDS Orphans Project. There, I learned that a 35-year-old man had raped a nine-year-old girl that weekend. The adults around her knew what had happened, but they did nothing. Instead, they sent her to school the following day, as if nothing had even happened. I soon learned, too, that a five-year-old girl in the same village was raped by her grandfather, leaving her HIV positive. Then I heard about a 14-year-old in a neighboring village who had been repeatedly raped by her father, starting when she was just four years old. The child had attempted suicide twice, and made futile attempts to seek help and safety, but she couldn’t get away.

This is the sad truth about my part of the world: Young girls are frequently sexually assaulted in sub-Saharan Africa, and justice is rarely served. I knew I needed to do something to help.

This turned out to be more difficult than I had thought. While working with young survivors, I learned how hard it is to gain justice in Uganda. Survivors are responsible for completing their own police reports, which often includes walking an average of seven miles to report the crime, and paying $12.00 in legal fees—half a month’s salary for most families—before the perpetrator can even be arrested. The rape victim then has to walk another long distance to a hospital where she has to gather her own evidence to take back to the police. It’s a maddeningly cruel system that seldom leads to justice for survivors. Even worse, a survivor’s case can easily be thrown out, and often is. Survivors must come to court, which often means walking and giving up a full day of work for family members, and court dates are often changed at the last minute. Once in court, the survivor is responsible for presenting the correct paperwork and bringing enough copies for the court. If anything is missing, the case is thrown out.

The process is frustrating, grueling, and embarrassing for survivors. One young survivor had become suicidal after facing threats from her perpetrator’s family and taunts from local boys. Without support of any kind, she came to believe all the evil lies claimed about her. I therefore created the EDJA Foundation, to help survivors heal by helping them at every step, beginning immediately after an assault and staying by their side long after the criminal trial. Working with the community, we added a Rape Crisis Center within the hospital to support survivors immediately after being attacked. Since then, every survivor is given a rape exam, medical attention, and life-saving medicine that can prevent HIV contraction.

As we know, however, a sexual attack causes more than just physical pain. To address the level of psychological healing every survivor needs, we also established a Sexual Assault Program to provide free counseling. We began with individual counseling, and have since added support groups to accommodate the increasing number of survivors coming to us for help.

Additionally, our Legal Advocate assists the police by first locating many perpetrators, and then providing the police with a ride to arrest them. He also provides transportation for survivors to court, files the police reports, and handles other issues with the court. He is a guide for families through this painful process, while offering them legal counsel so they know their rights.

Finally, I knew we needed to do more than just react to sexual assault; we had to change the culture — fighting for a world without violence. Now EDJA educates the entire community through a monthly radio show and group sessions about girls’ rights, sexual assault, and how to get help for survivors. We also teach the community’s boys about standards of behavior that respect the rights of girls, which we hope will begin to put an end to the enduring rape culture.

Best of all, we witness positive changes every day. Over 50 rape survivors—some as young as four years old—are receiving life-saving support from EDJA. And, appropriately enough during April’s Sexual Assault Awareness Month, that grandfather who raped his own granddaughter and infected her with AIDS received 32 years in prison. Today, over 30 perpetrators have received prison sentences.

Change like this is important for many reasons, including keeping the community safe. But most importantly, it’s a message to girls and women that they matter, they are valued, and they can fight for their dignity and for justice.

As a survivor myself, I can tell you that there is no greater gift to rape survivors than being believed and validated. That’s the message that EDJA intends to deliver to survivors worldwide, beginning with those in East Africa where women have accepted their fate of abuse for too long. Today, EDJA is saying in a loud and clear voice: Those days are over. ENOUGH IS ENOUGH!

About the author: Tabitha Mpamira-Kaguri is the Founder/Executive Director of the EDJA Foundation.To learn more about the EDJA Foundation to end sexual violence in Uganda, please visit their website, www.edjafoundation.org. To view the trailer of their film, Victors, click here.

April 16th 2019, 10:49 pm

What ‘Career Barbie’ Really Needs

Women


Barbie first hit the toy market 60 years ago in March, 1959. Her creator, Ruth Handler, believed that by playing with this new toy, “little girls…could be anything they wanted to be.” This message continues to be a clear winner.

In 2018, the Barbie brand “generated gross sales that amounted to about 1.09 billion U.S. dollars, up from about 955 million U.S. dollars the year before.” Mattel hit the jackpot with Barbie, both here and across the globe . The website Statista reported, “The commercial success of Barbie has allowed Mattel to become the ninth most valuable toy brand worldwide as of 2018.”

It is not surprising that to commemorate her diamond anniversary, Mattel introduced a glamorous Barbie who, according to the company’s product website, “wears a cascading ball gown twinkling with silvery sparkles. Paying homage to the original Barbie® doll and her iconic fashion heritage, Barbie® 60th Anniversary doll wears a dramatic ponytail with an elegant twist, side-eye glance, hoop earrings and wrist tag.”

The original Barbie was unrealistically thin, blonde and built with impossible to obtain proportions. Critics noted that she was stereotypically, the “dumb blond.”

That conclusion was reinforced when, in 1992, Mattel introduced Teen Talk Barbie. A doll with a voice box programed with such phrases as “Math class is tough.”, “Will we ever have enough clothes?”, “Let’s plan our dream wedding!”, ”Wanna have a pizza party?”, “Want to go shopping?”, “Okay, meet me at the mall”, and “Let’s have a campfire”.

With very few exceptions these phrases added to the picture of Barbie as a air-headed girl who could only think about enjoying today. She personified the stereotype of the day; a female who had no dreams of a future career, only thoughts about fun and marriage.

Since then, perhaps in response to changing demographics, Mattel has done a 180, and has embraced Ruth Handler’s message of choice, who once said, “Barbie always represented the fact that a woman has choices.” Mattel’s recent focus has been on Barbie’s choice of career. One report on the popular website TwentyTwoWords claims that Barbie has had “over 200 careers… she’s been everything from robotics engineer to journalist; a few more of her careers include a U.S. Air Force Thunderbird Squadron Leader, a paleontologist, a fashion editor, a sign language teacher, and a presidential candidate!”

Barbie was around when the percentage of women entering the labor force shot up dramatically., and Mattel’s decision reflected this change. “In 1970, about 43 percent of women ages 16 and older were in the labor force. By 2000, 61 percent of adult women were in the labor force ,” reports the Population Reference Bureau.

In another move to recognize women’s outstanding contributions, Mattel honored a number of female heroes (Sheros) with their own Barbie dolls, including filmmaker Ava DuVernay , tennis champ Naomi Osaka, fashion executive Eva Chen and Olympic fencer  Ibtihaj Muhammad.  The list of continues to grow by recently introducing big wave surfer Maya Gabeira; Kristina Vogel, a disabled Olympic Gold Medal cyclist from Germany who has gone into politics; Tessa Virtue, a Canadian Olympic gold medalist in ice dancing; Yara Shahidi , co-star of the popular sitcom Blackish; Vogue cover model Adwoa Aboah; Dipa Karmaka, an Indian visual artist; Chinese photographer Chen Man and Ita Buttrose, an Australian journalist and editor. And, in 2016, “Mattel went a step further and released a range of dolls with different body types, more hairstyles and seven skin tones, to better represent the world we live in.”

Mattel has also incorporated other changes to reflect the diverse world of today. As of 2016, Barbie is no longer universally slim, blonde, and pale skin. She is now brown, black, and Asian. She also mirrors society by featuring some dolls in wheelchairs and even wearing a prosthetic leg.

So Mattel is clearly getting some things right, but there is one glaring omission. Barbie may have Ken, but she certainly doesn’t have children. In that way, she is just as one-dimensional as the original Barbie. Apparently, she can choose to have a career, but she cannot choose to have a career and children. Yet the choice of being a working mother is the overwhelming choice of her target audience. In an important way, Mattel is sending the age-old message: Women cannot have it all.

But young women are ignoring that advice. A 2014 large-scale Gallup poll concludes, “There doesn’t appear to be any evidence that millennials — both married and single/never married — are putting off having children. Even among the small percentage (2%) of married 18-year-old millennials, less than half (44%) have no children, and the percentage decreases with age to just 17% at age 34. And while few single 18-year-old millennials have children (4%), that percentage rises to almost half by age 34. Essentially, almost half of the oldest millennials who have never married nonetheless have children. In 2000, the comparable number for Gen Xers aged 30 to 34 was just 30%.”

Regardless of whether they delay marriage or decide not to marry, millennials are definitely choosing to become parents. In fact, working mothers are now the norm, according to a 2017 report from the Department of Labor. Indeed, “Seventy percent of mothers with children under 18 participate in the labor force, with over 75 percent employed full-tim Mothers are the primary or sole earners for 40 percent of households with children under 18 today, compared with 11 percent in 1960.”

Women are clearly are opting to have it all, while Barbie is still stuck in the days when that option was not available. She may look different, she may not be tied to the house, but she is clearly out of touch with the life most of her target audience envisions for itself.

Maybe Mattel needs to add working mom Barbie to its cast of characters. She could be wearing a suit for the office, scrubs for the operating room, a police uniform or work clothes for the building site.

She would also come with a detachable snugli with a baby in it.

Dr. Rosalind C. Barnett is a senior scientist who has directed studies for the National Science Foundation, NIMH and the Sloan Foundation and Caryl Rivers is a professor of Journalism at Boston University They are the authors of The New Soft War on Women (Tarcher/Penguin) 


April 11th 2019, 4:04 pm

Just One Month Remaining to Join Us in Honoring…

Women

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April 8th 2019, 7:20 pm

Brothels of Bangkok

Women

(An excerpt from Beautiful Justice: Reclaiming My Worth After Human Trafficking and Sexual Abuse)

I was invited to speak at a conference in Bangkok sponsored by the United Nations to address members of Parliament from more than forty Southeast Asian countries. While I was there, I knew I wanted to visit the local red-light district and connect with young women recovering from sexual exploitation.

I was honored to speak to world leaders, passionate women and men, devoted to ending human trafficking and gender violence. I shared how to empower survivors to become leaders, as well as strategies for integrating survivor expertise into policy making.

Legislators from India, Tibet, Japan, and many other countries from the surrounding regions resonated with my message: those who are most impacted by a human rights issue should shape the policies that will directly affect their communities.

As we discussed this essential approach to political change, I knew that a few miles from the luxury hotel where I stayed, teen girls were openly being sold out of brothels. Many of them, born into generational poverty, migrated from rural areas and experienced violence and exploitation after seeking better jobs in the city.

When I walked down one of the main streets of the red-light district with my friend Constance, I witnessed bar after bar filled with white Western men, holding their drinks and checking out the merchandise. Every time I saw a new neon sign advertising girls or heard another wave of men laughing with their crew, I was filled with disgust.

Each one reminded me of my trafficker and the men he sold me to, callous men ruled by their cravings, disconnected from the truth of the suffering they left in their wake. They refused to see what their desires, divorced from the reality of other human lives, ultimately cost.

Although technically it is not legal for the bars in Bangkok to directly sell the girls, they facilitate the transaction and benefit financially. In most of the visible commercial establishments, a buyer picks a girl and then pays the bar an “exit fee” to take her somewhere to perform sexual acts.

To the uneducated eye, it might appear to be consensual. But the histories of abuse, coercion, and poverty tell a different story. There is an illusion of a constant party with copious drinks, loud music, and young smiling girls. Some have numbers pinned to their clingy dresses so they can be quickly identified by a buyer. This ploy conceals the reality of rape, complex trauma, and economic vulnerability. It also hides the fact that many of them are underage.

A few blocks from the bars, a safe house for survivors of sex trafficking shelters girls in their teens and early twenties. Over a beautiful homemade dinner of Thai stews and rice dishes, I spoke to the girls about their experience in recovery.

“What do you love most about being here?” I asked the girls at the dinner table. One of the staff members translated for me. When it was her turn to speak, the shy, slender girl sitting next to me smiled and said, “What I like most about being here is learning about the love of God.”She beamed as she shared this, her face illuminated from within.

“That is beautiful.Thank you for sharing that with me,” I replied, in awe of her response. After walking past all the buyers, all the sellers, all the girls still trapped in poverty and exploitation, her answer pierced through my disgust and gave me hope. God was in the red-light district. I saw her in the faces of these radiant girls.

“My favorite part of being here,” another young woman said, “is our Christmas parties. Every year during Christmas, we host a party and invite all the girls from the bars to come, so we can give them presents and show them love.”

One of the staff members explained, “We pay the bar owners a fee for any of the girls who want to come. It’s the only time of year when they can receive. People are always taking from them.”

The girls were excited to show me the rest of the house. When we went upstairs, the gentle one, who talked about the love of God, walked with me.

“What are you passionate about?” I asked.

“I make art,” she said excitedly. “Want to see?”

“Absolutely!” I said.

She led me over to her collection of drawings and held one up for me to see, smiling with pride. “That is gorgeous. You are a talented artist.”

“Thank you,” she said with quiet confidence. She spoke like a person who had started to grasp her own worth.

I left my dinner with the survivors of Bangkok filled with hope. After all they endured, they are living with the joy of loving and being loved. They are learning the truth of their spiritual identity and purpose.

Love found them in one of the most loveless places on earth. In the past, they were told they were nothing more than sexual commodities to be consumed by men with greater power and privilege. Now, they were preparing for college and spoke with excitement about their dreams for the future.

As I watched the sunrise over Bangkok the next day, I could see that the light within these young survivors was far fiercer than the violence that was forced on their bodies.

Brooke Axtell is the Founder of She is Rising, a healing community for survivors of gender violence and sex trafficking. Her work as a writer, performing artist and human rights activist led her to speak at the 2015 Grammys, The United Nations and The U.S. Institute for Peace. She is the author of Beautiful Justice: Reclaiming My Worth After Sex Trafficking and Sexual Abuse.

April 4th 2019, 9:25 pm

Women and Girls are Being Raped in Uganda

Women

Rape, Rape, Rape – Rape has become a problem in Uganda. Almost 40% of women and girls have been raped in the district of Mukono, especially in my village, Namagunga. Rape is a rampant issue. We find that the perpetrators are often the husbands or the boyfriends of the victims.

In Namagunga, there is a known story of a man named Ngobi Agabale and his wife Nakadama Teddy. One night, Ngobi wanted to have sex with his wife Teddy but she refused because she was not feeling well. Ngobi just forced her into sex (raped her). Teddy tried to scream but no one helped her because no one could hear her. Teddy cried and cried as her husband raped her. In the end, the wife died and the man ran away to another district. That is one of the ways women are being mistreated and abused by their husbands in Uganda.

I have also witnessed this happening with my own eyes to girls in my village. One day, there was a girl named Hope, who was going to Ruamutumba town. On her way, she came across an old man named Mukisa. Mukisa started calling her but Hope refused to reply. The old man started to chase Hope and raped her. The man was HIV positive, which means that Hope is now also HIV positive.

Because of this, I want to study hard in order to help those who have been mistreated. If my parents are able to continue supporting me in my studies, I will fight hard so that women can also be respected in Uganda.

So, I ask the government to continue to fight for women’s rights and for its leaders to believe women and to raise our issues in Parliament. The government should aim to teach equality and to tell men and boys not to rape women like that. I also request my fellow young girls to start moving in groups in order to save their lives.

Nakagolo Elizapraise (16 years old) is a participant in the Teen Voices @ Women’s eNews program at Standard Secondary School, Busembatia–Uganda.

April 1st 2019, 6:45 pm

A Small Step for Women – A Gigantic Step for Womankind

Women

On Friday, March 29, the world will experience a watershed moment as NASA will celebrate the first all-female spacewalk in history. This small step for women is a gigantic step for womankind that didn’t happen by accident. When flight engineers Anne McClain and Christina Koch step outside the International Space Station and into history, it will be thanks to several decades of women and people of color who have introduced diversity into space travel.

Diversity in Space

A report from SatelliteInternet.com on diversity in space travel found that gender diversity continues to rise but still has a long way to go. In the 1970s, approximately 8% of astronauts worldwide were women and only 8% of those who were active in space travel were people of color. By the time Sally Ride became the first American woman to travel to space in 1983, those numbers had risen steadily. Racial diversity rose dramatically during the ’90s to over 18%, but it wasn’t until 2010 that significant strides in racial and gender diversity were made, bringing the number of astronauts worldwide to nearly 24% people of color and 31.5% women.

While these rising numbers are encouraging, space travel still has a long way to go before the industry can put real equality in orbit. Since the ’50s, roughly 88% of astronauts have been white and an overwhelming majority have been men. While the USA has some catching up to do in terms of diversity, space programs in Japan and Canada lead the way with the most gender diverse teams of astronauts.

Why Diversity Matters

Beyond the symbolic importance of having those in space reflect the diversity of humanity, research has shown that diversity can drive innovation, becoming a compelling source for ‘outside the box’ thinking that’s essential in science and technology.

Kelly Johnson, professor of astronomy at the University of Virginia, argues that increasing the number of women in the science workforce should be mission critical. She writes, “Progress in science is fundamentally dependent on having a mix of backgrounds and experience in order to think about problems in new ways and come up with innovative solutions. Progress also depends on having people with both technical expertise and the ‘soft skills’ to build successful collaborations and maximize efficiency.” Certainly astronauts, who are often required to multitask and take on several different kinds of roles in space, could benefit from the insight diversity brings.

Momentum behind equal representation in space travel is mounting. In 2013, NASA announced that the new class of astronauts—who might be the first to lead an expedition to Mars—would be 50% women, and it has encouraged more diverse leadership among teams applying for space missions. Commercial space travel organizations have followed suit, with Virgin Galactic cosponsoring a symposium on increasing diversity in space travel in 2016.

Making History Again

As the all-female crew prepares for their walk outside the International Space Station, they do so aware of its significance. The spacewalk takes place almost fifty-six years after Valentina Tereshkova became the first woman in space in 1963. Since then, fifty-nine women have gone into orbit as astronauts, cosmonauts, scientists, and specialists.

To complete the crew for this historic spacewalk, flight engineers Anne McClain and Christina Koch will be supported on the ground by Canadian Space flight controller Kristen Facciol and NASA lead flight director Mary Lawrence.

You can watch Anne McClain and Christina Koch take their first steps into space on NASA TV on March 29 at 8:20 a.m. EST.
K

March 25th 2019, 9:09 pm

Just Watch How Women Build Peace

Women

In a year when American women mobilized, ran for office, and were elected to Congress in unprecedented numbers, the documentary series Women, War & Peace returns today, Monday, March 25 and Tuesday, March 26, 9-11 p.m. on PBS with powerful stories of women’s role in dramatic conflicts and peace settlements across the globe.

Series II demonstrates how some of the biggest international stories of recent memory are shaped by women. An all-female cast of directors present four never-before-told stories about the women who risked their lives for peace, changing history in the process: Wave Goodbye to Dinosaurs (Eimhear O’Neill), The Trials of Spring (Gini Reticker), Naila and the Uprising (Julia Bacha), and A Journey of a Thousand Miles: Peacekeepers (Geeta Gandbhir and Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy). Women, War & Peace II is executive produced by Abigail Disney and Gini Reticker for Fork Films and Stephen Segaller for THIRTEEN Productions LLC for WNET. The original groundbreaking documentary series Women, War & Peace premiered on PBS in 2011. “We are at a very fortuitous moment,” says Abigail Disney. “We are starting to feel the changes of women in power.”

“Women play a central role in ending conflicts and building peace, but their stories are often left untold,” adds Stephen Segaller, vice president of programming, WNET. “As women continue to gain political momentum in the U.S., with more women elected in this year’s election than any point in U.S. history, Women, War & Peace II, shares four remarkable stories of brave women facing tremendous obstacles to pursue significant political change.”

About Women, War & Peace II

If today’s movements signal a future marked by gender equality, Women, War & Peace II looks to the past to see exactly—and how effectively—women can make that happen. The first two films look at two movements: one in Northern Ireland, the other in Palestine, in the late twentieth century.

Directed by Eimhear O’Neill, Wave Goodbye to Dinosaurs follows the all-female political party in Northern Ireland, where years of violent strife compel a group of Catholic and Protestant women to demand a seat at the negotiating table for the Good Friday Agreement—a deal that stands to this day.

Emmy®-winning and Oscar® nominated filmmaker Gini Reticker then transports the series to Egypt in 2011, where the euphoria of the Arab Spring quickly runs into headwinds. In TheTrials of Spring, the film follows the journeys of three Egyptian women as they fight for the goals of the popular movement: “bread, freedom and social justice” for all. But caught between the military and the Muslim Brotherhood, the women soon find themselves being pushed backwards.

Peabody-winning director Julia Bacha takes us to 1980s Gaza, where, as shown in Naila and the Uprisinga non-violent women’s movement formed the heart of the Palestinian struggle for freedom. The film revolves around the tragic and remarkable story of Naila Ayesh, a student organizer and activist who joins a secret network of women in a movement that brings together the disparate organizations protesting Israeli occupation.

The second two films of contemporary women activists and organizers chart the path forward for international peacebuilding and security. A Journey of a Thousand Milesdirected by two- time Primetime Emmy® winner Geeta Gandbhir and two-time Academy Award® winner and two-time Emmy® winner Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy, follows one of the world’s few all-female peacekeeping units. As 160 Bangladeshi women embark on a UN peacekeeping mission to Haiti following the devastating 2011 earthquake, they confront extreme poverty and devastated healthcare systems in their effort to build peace.

Seven years after the original debut of the award-winning series, Women, War & Peace II premieres at a critical political moment where women are calling for a seat at the table. In uncovering untold histories of those who have made that possible, the series reveals their transformative power and the long road ahead for contemporary peacebuilders around the world.

Women, War & Peace II – Four New Episodes / Documentaries
Discover how some of the biggest recent international events have been shaped by women in a showcase of four, female-directed films that tell never-before-told stories about women who risked their lives for peace, changing history in the process.

Wave Goodbye to Dinosaurs – Debuts Monday, March 25 at 9:00 p.m.
Discover the story of the Catholic and Protestant women who come together during Northern Ireland’s bloody conflict to form an all-female political party and fight to ensure that human rights, equality and inclusion shape the historic Good Friday Agreement peace deal.

The Trials of Spring Debuts Monday, March 25 at 10:00 p.m.
Follow three Egyptian women as they put their lives and bodies on the line fighting for justice and freedom. The film tells the story of Egypt’s Arab Spring, the human rights abuses that came to define it and the women willing to risk everything.

Naila and the Uprising – Debuts Tuesday, March 26 at 9:00 p.m.
Discover the story of a courageous, non-violent women’s movement that formed the heart of the Palestinian struggle for freedom during the 1987 uprising, known as the first Intifada. One woman must make a choice between love, family and freedom. Undaunted, she embraces all three.

A Journey of a Thousand Miles: Peacekeepers Debuts Tuesday, March 26 at 10:00 p.m.
Embark on a risky year-long UN peacekeeping mission into earthquake-ravaged Haiti with an all-female Bangladeshi police unit. Leaving their families behind, these police officers shatter stereotypes as they rise in the name of building peace.

March 24th 2019, 8:49 pm

Join Us at our ’21 Leaders for the 21st Century’ Awards Gala 2019

Women

CLICK HERE TO REGISTER TODAY!

March 22nd 2019, 8:45 pm

It’s a Booming Business: Trafficking Myanmar ‘Brides’ to China

Women

Nang Seng Ja was just 19 and living in Myanmar’s northern Kachin State when her aunt invited her on a trip to see her three cousins who live in China. About a month into the visit, Nang Seng Ja fainted. She awakened in a strange house surrounded by a Chinese man and his family. “I heard from them that I was trafficked,” she told Human Rights Watch.

Nang Seng Ja, whose name I’ve changed for her protection, fled to a nearby police station, and begged for help. “The police then took 5,000 yuan [$800] from the family,” she said. “Then they sent me back to the family.”

They locked her in a room where the man raped her repeatedly. They forced her to take what they said were fertility drugs. “The family’s mother and father told me, ‘We bought you. You must stay here,’” she said. After 14 months, one of her cousins, angry that she received a smaller share of the “bride” money, told Nang Seng Ja’s parents where she was. They paid another trafficking survivor half of the family’s property to recover her.

Each year, traffickers through deceit or force, transport hundreds of women and girls from northern Myanmar to China and sell them to Chinese families struggling to find brides for their sons due to the country’s gender imbalance.

Myanmar’s internal armed conflict in the North has been ongoing since achieving its independence in 1948, but dramatically escalated in 2011 when the government ended a 17-year ceasefire. More than 100,000 people, predominantly ethnic Kachins, have been displaced. Many trafficking survivors said that they live desperate lives in displaced people’s camps, with little opportunity to earn a living. The Myanmar government blocks aid to the camps. Women and girls often become the sole breadwinners for their families, with their husbands and brothers away fighting.   

Across the border in China, the percentage of women has fallen steadily since 1987. Researchers estimate that China has 30 to 40 million “missing women.” The imbalance is caused by a preference for boys, exacerbated by the “one-child policy” in place from 1979 to 2015, and China’s continuing restrictions on women’s reproductive rights.

Trafficking survivors usually said that trusted people—in some cases their own relatives–promised them work in China, then sold them for amounts ranging from $3,000 to $13,000. Survivors said buyers often seemed more interested in a baby than a bride. The women and girls were typically locked in a room and raped repeatedly.  After giving birth they could sometimes escape, but usually only by leaving their children behind. Several women said they were so desperate to see their children that they returned to China to the families who had held them captive.

Law enforcement officials on both sides of the border make little effort to stem trafficking and, as Nang Seng Ja’s story illustrates, are sometimes complicit in the business. Families of trafficked women described begging the Myanmar police for help repeatedly and being turned away. The families—and experts—described police demanding bribes to act. Police operating as part of the opposition force, the Kachin Independence Organization (KIO), were no better.

Women who escaped and made it to the Chinese police were often jailed and deported, while their traffickers and buyers remained free. There is little effective coordination between police in Myanmar and in China, and even the most essential tools to facilitate such cooperation— interpreters, for example—are not in place.

Back in Myanmar, survivors have little access to services and grapple with stigma as they try to rebuild their lives. The Myanmar government provides a few services, but these are narrow in scope and miss most of those who need them. A number of civil society groups help survivors, push for justice, and work—with or without law enforcement help—to recover victims, but they have few resources.

All three police forces in the region should do more to prevent trafficking, recover and assist victims, and pursue both the traffickers and the buyers. International donors should fund nongovernmental groups’ efforts to help women and girls caught between Myanmar’s abuses against the Kachin and China’s war on reproductive rights.

Heather Barr is acting co-director for women’s rights at Human Rights Watch and author of a new report about bride trafficking in the region.

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March 21st 2019, 2:40 pm

Gender-Fueled Fraud in the Auto Industry

Women


According to recent news reports, car insurance companies are charging women higher rates than men for no reason other than gender. The report states that in several cases women were paying $500 more than men for identical policies.  However, this rampant gender discrimination doesn’t start with auto insurance; it starts the moment you walk onto that giant lot of shiny new vehicles. The auto dealership industry, even after the 2018 “The Year of the Woman,” is still riddled with widespread gender discrimination and gender-fueled consumer fraud.

Studies dating back to the mid-90’s found that women buyers were consistently quoted higher prices than men in over 300 audits at new car dealerships. In the 2000’s, studies found women were quoted higher prices for auto repair as well.  Although further studies need to be conducted on auto dealerships, the “pink tax” is still utilized and costing women a reported 7 percent more on consumer products than men in the United States.

In 2014, for example, American consumers bought more than 16 million new cars and light trucks at an average price of nearly $33,000 per vehicle.  With women holding 60 percent of the personal wealth in this country and making the majority of the buying decisions, car-buying fraud has become the newest bad business in gender discrimination. The Bureau of Labor statistics sited transportation as close to 20 percent of the total household expenditures for consumers in 2016. If that expenditure continues to rise, especially with corresponding fraudulent pricing and advertising, it may have effects on the financial stability of the entire American family.

Growing up in the rural southeastern United States, automobiles were a part of the everyday culture, and I spent many summer nights at the Beech Bend street car drag races.  From the age of 17, I knew how to change the oil and spark plugs in a small block Chevy engine. Recently, earning a science degree and being a financially successful woman with a hard-earned credit score, I had the opportunity to buy the car of my dreams, an ultimate driving machine. Negotiations with a local salesman were going well; the salesman had the car I wanted at the price I could manage, but when I showed up that morning the monthly price had mysteriously increased by over 55 percent of the original quote.  The salesman showed me all the very “generous” rebates, discounts, and comps I was receiving, but the newly inflated price remained.  My male partner had made a similar purchase, just months before with the same salesman, and had presented at the dealership paying exactly the quoted price.  Even after pointing this out I walked away still paying over 30% more than I was quoted.  I, an educated and independent woman, was left feeling bewildered, ultimately used, and another victim of a bait-and-switch dealership tactic.

As I soon discovered, auto dealer fraud is considered the number one most common type of consumer fraud.  Auto dealerships swindle buyers out of fair and honest pricing with misrepresentations, misleading advertising, and bait-and-switch tactics. Bait-and-switch is a technique where one car price is advertised or quoted but the dealership, upon your arrival, substitutes a more expensive vehicle. If you added all the additional unquoted charges and packages, I ended up walking away with a payment doubling my current monthly car payment.  Being a solitary provider for my two small children, this was less than an ideal situation regardless of my finances.  With women spending over $20 trillion globally on consumer purchases, this should not be occurring; it’s just bad business.  According to JPMorgan Chase, at least 65 percent of all automobile purchases are being made by women, so why is this still occurring? 

Organizations such as the Federal Trade Commission and National Automobile Dealers Association take great efforts to regulate theses activities, and there is more hope still on the horizon. Sites such as Women-Drivers.com are now offering auto dealerships the opportunity to become certified as a “women and family trusted dealer”, but even with this there is still much work to be done. 

Having access to a vehicle is not only an American essential, but for many American women it is a necessity to carry on with their daily lives. Since March 8 was recently celebrated as International Women’s Day, remember that on this day and on every day, as you’re commuting to work or taking your children to school, the words of Aristotle Onassis: “If women didn’t exist, all the money in the world would have no meaning.” From the first licensed female drive in 1899 to the over 105 million women drivers today in the United States, women deserve an honest and fair car-buying experience. 

Dr. Garling is Clinical Assistant Professor at the University of Texas at Austin College of Pharmacy and a UT Austin Public Voices Fellow of The OpEd Project.

March 19th 2019, 10:22 am

I’m Scared Shitless of Success

Women

I’m not a victim, vindictive or angry…

I’m just scared shitless of success.

There are times I self-sabotage in life because the ‘Ghosts of Christmas Past’ haunt me. On my chest is a black scarlet letter that I carry around with me. A plus-size Black woman with the audacity to try and make it into the club, that room has been defined by White America since the first Black slave stepped onto these shores. The exclusive club that has brought a plague to my career walking into rooms as the only minority. A victim I’m not; because I still sashay in with my street smarts defined by a hardened childhood of poverty, drugs, alcohol, domestic abuse and physical violence — but also a college education. My comfort drinking a 40oz. bottle of beer outside some housing projects is the same when walking into a boardroom filled with millionaires. Having street smarts and college degrees prepared my militant maneuver within corporate America. There’s a calmness in me when there’s chaos around me. As a natural born leader, I’m able to walk into a room and align teams back to the prize — the profit and success of the business. However, with this revelation came a target so big on my back that I feel an itch before they pull the trigger. What they don’t know are the layers that define me, so it’s a steady aim that needs to topple my kingdom of fun. Yet, no matter what’s been done to me I still have the courage to try again.  

During my teen years in New York I had no confidence at all. A lot of it was beat out of me, so the pavement became my world. I’d stare at the cracks and divets trying to navigate around crack needles and trash that rats scurried out to claim. I recall, one day, a grouchy teacher in high school who grabbed my hand and spoke to me. She was known to ‘bust your balls’ with a smile on her face. Back then I carried anger as a best friend so no one would bully me, lashing out at those who wanted to test my nature because I’d been tested so many times at home. Looking back I see myself as a feral animal that dressed nicely, covering up bruises and working around the soreness my body endured from abuse. So when she grabbed my hand and looked straight at me asking something like, “Are you okay?” I was shocked, No one had ever asked me that before. Tears sprang to my eyes so quickly, but that split second of care was brushed away in an instant. My Incredible Hulk masquerade slammed back onto my face. I shrugged her hand away from me and screamed venomous anger from my throat. ‘Now someone cared?,’ I thought to myself. ‘Where were they when the terror claimed my soul and made me into a reluctant warrior?’

That warrior remains in me but she is a lot nicer now. Time has faded the shakiness in my hands and turned me into steel. The courage I bring forth now comes from my lack of knowledge by not seeing the right enemy. ‘Is it I or they that sabotage my success?’ I now ask. When I walk into work the faint whisper of many cycled moons still asks “are you ok?” and the Incredible Hulk looks up slowly to say — “Yes I’m fine.”

Still, it’s not fine when I’m brave enough to ask the questions that everyone else in the club has said before. “Is my work not enough?” “Is there room for growth, can I learn more, how can I support the team and would you mind if I tried this option?” Those questions only bring forth a tilt to others’ heads and a smiling mask to their faces. Never reaching their eyes, of course, replying, “No everything is ok.”  All anyone can say is “manage up,” but how about managing alongside? Should a Black woman not challenge the status quo in order to be promoted? Currently there are only three Black CEOs on the Fortune 500 list. All of them are men, and that figure is down from six in 2012. Those stats are disheartening when fighting to climb the corporate ladder. Should I not play a victim to the Gender Wage Gap that pits my work ethic against men? Statistics show women are paid $.80 to every $1 a man makes. However that figure is even lower for Black women at $.61. Does the world compensate us for that by offsetting a lower cost to mortgage, daycare or travel expenses? Additionally this makes me fourth in line to white men, white women and black men. Have you ever tried running a track meet where the gun goes off last for you?

I’m still sitting here with a smile on my face and courage in my heart to never give in to anger. I want to worry less about the figure in my bank account that’s accruing no interest from the lack of a fair salary. The goal for me remains the same, which is to do a great job and help maintain profitability for my employe, but in my heart I know it’s the bravery that bothers them most. The hard handshake I give that used to be for the boys club only; the eye to eye stare that has them blinking and averting their eyes. Could it also be the dimples in my cheeks carved out from the tears of my oppression?

Also, my strategy of acceptance in corporate America has changed over the years. When I first began this path, I told myself to get the highest degree I could hold in media so no one could never say I am not qualified for the job. Guess what? I still ain’t qualified for the job. It’s not that privileged white people have said that to me, they just don’t know what to do with me. I smile big even with the ugly I carry inside. I’m optimistic, even though I’ve watched countless other people move onward and upward in their careers. Out of 100 people in the division of a major TV studio, I was the only black person. Before that, when I worked at one of the top five motion picture and television studios in Hollywood, there was just me and one other black woman, out of 200 employees. When I went to grad school I was just one of two black women in the graduate school program. Then there are also the friends I’ve met along the way who invite me over to their homes, where I’m usually the only black person in the room.

I always pause in the doorway and I say – “Fuck it.” If I’m meant to be dragged in the street and lynched, at least I carved out a lane for those behind me. To stroll into that door again and challenge the Matrix just one more time, what’s the worst that could happen? Nothing has, except stagnation. In my career, it’s become exhausting hearing the word ‘No.’ But how can other people really see my sacrifice? Who wants to be known as the angry Black woman? I’m writing this so the world can know how much I love each and every person. That little girl who used to be balled up on her bed crying into the wall, praying for the pain to stop, is gone. As I see it, we only get one round on this roller coaster called life; one chance to hand in our ticket to fun. So when I shake your hand, look you in the eye and smile at you genuinely, please know it’s taken me a long time to wear my courage.  

Welcome into my world.


Vonti McRae is an alumni and since 2017 a  Film Instructor at the Academy of Art University. She is an up and coming screenwriter who has worked tirelessly in the media industry for over 10 years. Her writing is inspired by her childhood plus travels across the USA, and hopes to one day see her stories on the big screen. 
Contact her at msvontimcrae@gmail.com for writing inquiries. Follow her on:Instagram the_real_vonti Blog: therealvonti.com Follow her blog therealvonti.com and IG the_real_vonti

March 14th 2019, 4:46 pm

Lost in Space: Women Scientists in the Workforce

Women

As a woman, mother, and astrophysicist, the recent study published in Nature hit me in the gut; 40 percent of women with full-time jobs in science are lost from the work force after having their first child (compared to 23 percent of men). This percentage is right on target with the general workforce, in which 43 percent of women leave their careers after having children, so maybe we shouldn’t be surprised by the numbers in science. Yet, somehow this number caught me off guard. For virtually all of the women scientists I know, being a scientist is far more than a career, it is part of their identity. Yet young mothers are still leaving in droves. If we are disproportionately losing mothers from science, what skill sets, talents, and ways of thinking are being lost from the workforce along with them?

Progress in science is fundamentally dependent on having a mix of backgrounds and experience in order to think about problems in new ways and come up with innovative solutions. Progress also depends on having people with both technical expertise and the “soft skills” to build successful collaborations and maximize efficiency. “Social skills reduce the cost of coordinating with others,” David Deming, a Harvard education economist said to the Harvard Gazette.

Parenting relies on an in-depth working knowledge of essential soft skills. Keeping another helpless human being alive does require some technical proficiency, but learning how to change a diaper is easy compared to determining when to let a baby cry at night. In a study published in Scientific American, Robert Epstein distills the 10 most important parenting skill sets for raising children.  I would argue that these 10 skills, adapted for a professional setting, also have an important role in science.  These parenting skills include: stress management, relationship skills, life skills, and behavior management. In my experience, we can use a lot more of all of these in science.

I am not saying that people who aren’t mothers can’t or don’t have these skills, nor am I arguing that all women in science should have children. It is also true that fathers have stepped up their parenting contributions over recent decades, but mothers still carry the bulk of the workload. It seems to me that if mothers are preferentially lost from the workforce, we are ultimately doing science a disservice.

Not only are we shooting ourselves in the foot by losing the skills finely honed as a parent from the workforce, but long-term productivity is also lost. A 2014 study by the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis found that a mother of three will lose the equivalent of four years of research productivity before her children have reached their teens. However, over a 30-year career, there is a “motherhood bonus” of roughly 10 percent in research productivity. In other words, if a mother’s career can survive until her children are teenagers, evidence suggests that her efficiency will blossom beyond that of her childless colleagues for the remainder of her career. If the primary metric we use to evaluate scientists is research productivity, we are systematically undervaluing the capabilities of mothers with young children. Given that evidence shows these very same mothers ultimately overperform in the long-term, we are shooting ourselves in the other foot too.

Not surprisingly, my own career trajectory dramatically leveled off after having children. If I’m being honest with myself, I am disappointed that my career is not what it might have been, and that I wasn’t “good enough” to keep up my productivity while having children. Yet, I would make the same choice again and again and again. Trying to understand our place in the universe as an astrophysicist and my unfathomable love for my children each give my life rich meaning and purpose in their own way. Experiencing these together is even more powerful. Having children helps me to see the universe through their eyes, peeling away assumptions and long-held “truths” and encouraging me to simply play.  Their constant sense of wonder and awe is refreshing in contrast to a professional world of mostly incremental advances and paper drafts. I have convinced myself that the perspective my children nurture in me is of value to science.  

After I had my third child, a senior male directly above me in the food chain at my university asked me if I was “done yet.” The guilt, external and internal, just settles in and makes itself at home. I have come close to leaving academia more times than I can count, so I empathize with the mothers we have lost from the workforce, and I understand their choice. But I bet that if that senior childless male had instead been a senior woman with children, she would have instead asked how she could help. And that is one of the soft skills that is being lost from the workforce. 

Kelsey Johnson is a Professor of Astronomy at the UVA and director of the Dark Skies Bright Kids Program. She is on the board of the American Astronomical Society, and vice president of the Astronomical Society of the Pacific. Johnson is a 2018 Public Voices Fellow with The OpEd Project.

March 10th 2019, 11:33 am

It’s That Women’s Time of the Year Again

Women

I have always felt somewhat ambivalent about Women’s History Month, that one month out of 12 when we honor women’s contributions to history; as well as International Women’s Day, the one day of the year (March 8th) when we honor women’s accomplishments around the globe. I guess it’s because I run an organization devoted to reporting on women’s goals and accomplishments every day of the year, and know that true gender parity will not be fully achieved until women no longer need one designated month, or day, to honor our work.
 
But what if, I thought, both girls and boys were taught about women’s achievements, alongside that of men’s, as early as grade school? How would this influence young children’s minds about what they, too, could realize for themselves and others? This year’s Women’s History Month theme, “Visionary Women: Champions of Peace & Nonviolence,” honors women who have led efforts to end war, violence and injustice, and pioneered the use of nonviolence to change society.” Imagine if boys, as well as girls, learned about the effectiveness of historical nonviolence to make change, instead of memorizing the names of each country’s presidents and dictators who led their countries to war, as well as the number of casualties that resulted for those who both won and lost.


Perhaps they would learn that in France, in 1789, while protesters stormed the Bastille, a number of Parisian women gathered in the square in protest of the surging price of bread, and then peacefully marched on Versailles, where King Louis XVI held court. Ultimately, many men joined the women as they made their way to the city, in a crowd which was said to have numbered in the thousands. This ultimately forced the King to move the royal family out of Versailles.
 
More recently in 1975, 25,000 Icelandic women peacefully protested by striking (called ‘Woman’s Day Off’), to demonstrate against being underpaid and underrepresented in government. Further, 90% of the female population did not go to work, cook, clean or take care of children. As a result, Finnbogadottir became the nation’s first female president five years later, and credits that day with helping her get elected.
 
Later that year in Poland, when politicians sought to further restrict abortion access by proposing a ban on abortion in all cases and a prison sentence of up to five years for women who undergo the procedure, thousands of women dressed in black and boycotted their jobs and classes. About 30,000 also gathered in Warsaw’s Castle Square, chanting. Their efforts resulted in the parliament backtracking and overwhelmingly rejecting the total ban.
 
And just imagine if women’s inventions and creations were taught in schools, alongside those of Thomas Alva Edison, Leonardo da Vinci, and Alexander Graham Bell. As we celebrate today’s International Women’s Day theme, “Think Equal, Build Smart,” we would have already known about Grace Hopper, who invented computer programming in the early 1960’s, and Maria Telkes, who designed the first 100 percent solar-powered house, and Katherine Johnson, the African-American mathematician whose calculations of orbital mechanics at NASA were critical to the success of the first and subsequent U.S. manned spaceflights, without having to first learn about her from a major motion picture release decades later.
 
Achieving a gender-equal world requires social innovations that work for everyone… leaving no one behind. It also demands that women have equal opportunity to shape them, and be recognized for their work, every single day!

As Katherine Johnson once said, “It’s not parallel, so I’m going to straighten it. Things must be in order.”

In solidarity,

Lori Sokol, PhD
Executive Director & Editor-in-Chief

March 8th 2019, 10:13 am

I’m Vegan, But That Shouldn’t Stop You From Reading This

Women

My identity consists of many different but overlapping sub-identities. Some were given to me — Jewish, female, etc. — and some I’ve chosen. Four months ago, I chose a new one for myself: Vegan.

My veganism has already become a defining part of me and is based on one of my core values: Saving the environment. Adopting a vegan, vegetarian, or even semi-vegetarian diet is the best way to take personal action to save the environment. Animal agriculture is responsible for more greenhouse gas emissions than every transportation system combined. The livestock industry is responsible for 65% of human-produced nitrous-oxide—a chemical that has 300 times the global warming potential as CO2—and 67% of the total human-generated methane, which is 23 times as warming as CO2. In fact, one study shows that if the entire world ate beans instead of beef, our climate problems would be entirely solved. Kind of crazy, right!?

I went vegetarian in March of last year, mainly because it is a fairly common choice among my peers. As I continued my research, I realized eating meat was not worth its detrimental environmental impact. Although I was vegetarian, supporting animal agriculture through consuming eggs and dairy also ate away at my conscious; I knew it was wrong. The guilt I felt was immeasurable, and I went vegan in October, in pursuit of what I call a “guilt-free diet.” Now, I can’t imagine not being vegan. Every day I am thankful that my life led me to this amazing cause, and subsequently, the immense passion I have for it. I recognize that for many, however, my lifestyle simply isn’t an option.

Veganism is hard to uphold, mainly because of issues related to accessibility. For American families living in poverty, fast food—comprised of cheap animal products—is often the only affordable option. I’m extremely grateful that I’m able to maintain a vegan lifestyle, but I also recognize that it’s a privilege.

I have parents who are willing to change their habits and lifestyle to accommodate mine. I have the time and money to experiment with new foods and meat alternatives. I also have access to grocery stores, and money to buy groceries and, because of all this, I can be vegan. I can help save the world in this way, but I also have a responsibility to do so.

I have the means, the passion, and the determination to be vegan. Therefore, I must be. I must be for all the people who don’t have the same opportunities as I, those who can’t alter their lives, like I can, to help the planet. The fact that not everyone can be vegan makes it even more vital I continue my veganism; and, it makes it even more vital that people like me, with similar privilege and power, take real steps to decrease their carbon footprint.

Let’s use the audience of this blog post as an example. To read this post, you must have access to a phone or computer, which already presents a certain level of privilege. In addition, you must have some free time; time not spent earning money to provide for yourself. I can comfortably say that if you’re reading this right now, you probably have the ability to shift your diet in some way. Maybe try “meatless Monday,” or eat onlyone meat meal per day. Try cutting out red meat, fish, or chicken. You can even help with a simple swap to a non-dairy milk option like soy or almond. No effort is too small!

I recognize that adopting a vegan diet isn’t easy for many reasons—time, cost, accessibility, nutrition, allergies—but I’m here to say it doesn’t have to be all or nothing. By implementing small changes to your diet, like the ones I just mentioned, you can help our planet. Earth has given us so much, yet we give her so little in return. We abuse her and we disrespect the living beings with whom we coexist. You have the power to change this. You have a responsibility to change this.

There are infinite ways to make your diet better for the planet, and I’d like to help you make some of those changes! To let you in on a secret, sometimes it’s really fun! I run a food account on Instagram under the name @plantbasedlila. I began the account to show people the realities of a vegan diet. Yes, I do get protein in my diet and, no, I don’t only eat salad. My posts are meant to debunk prevalent myths surrounding veganism/vegetarianism. I don’t expect every person reading this to become vegan immediately. My goal is for everyone to make one sustainable choice in the near future, whether it’s a pescatarian diet, one vegetarian meal, or even just a soy latte instead of regular latte.

Do what you can, because you can.


The Jewish Women’s Archive’s  Rising Voices Fellowship will be honored as Teen Voices’ ’21 Leader for the 21st Century’ on May 6th, 2019. It is a 10-month program for female-identified teens in high-school who have a passion for writing, a demonstrated concern for current and historic events, and a strong interest in Judaism, gender and social justice. The Jewish Women’s Archive is a national non?profit devoted to documenting Jewish women’s stories, elevating their voices, and inspiring them to be agents of change. Founded in 1995, JWA is the world’s largest source of material about and voices of Jewish women.

March 5th 2019, 6:54 pm

What Is Truly Surprising About Robert Kraft’s Arrest

Women

I was not surprised at all to learn that Robert Kraft, one of Boston’s most prominent citizens and one of sports’ most powerful men, was buying sex. What truly surprised me, and even encouraged me, was that he was actually caught. I have been working with both survivors of commercial sexual exploitation and with men who buy sex for almost 30 years, and he fits the profile of a high frequency sex buyer, most of whom are never arrested. He is rich, white, male, and in a position of power. I’ve got nothing against white men per se. I am a white man. Some of my best friends are white men. These friends are typically quick to acknowledge that their race and gender brings privilege. These men tend also to understand that because of that privilege, they have blind spots that they must seek out to be aware of, and to be accountable for. These friends would never buy sex. They understand that it is precisely when we have such power that we should not use it to exploit others. Just because we can do something doesn’t mean that we should.

My work with sex buyers and with men in general reflects these values. We must go deep. It involves effecting a profound shift in attitudes toward gender, sex, self, relationships and justice. This work needs to happen on an individual level and on a societal level. It is happening with #MeToo movement, and we see it here. This is what is perhaps most compelling about the Kraft case. Historically and tragically, it has been people who are prostituted – it has been those who are are harmed and exploited that have been targeted by law enforcement and scapegoated by society. Focus is finally shifting to the cause of commercial sexual exploitation, the buyer, who is almost never held accountable but who, if he didn’t purchase sex, would shut down this multi-billion-dollar market in selfishness and cruelty in an instant.

Recent research from Demand Abolition, a leading advocate for holding buyers accountable, helps shed light on the sex buyer.  As I mentioned earlier, many high frequency buyers have high incomes, but what’s more important is that there are prevalent attitudes that these men share. I was struck particularly by the following sentence in the findings section, “The main driver of sex buying, “normalized beliefs” about the commercial sex trade, combines interrelated ideas: prostituted women enjoy the act, it is mostly a victimless crime, buyers are merely taking care of their needs, and they are just “guys being guys.”

These ‘normalized beliefs’ are at the root of the victim blaming and sexual entitlement that drive sex buying behaviors. They create the social norms that men who buy sex wish to perceive. They are not normal in a statistical sense, however, and they are NOT TRUE. Most paid prostitutes do not “enjoy the act.” Worse, most experience great harm and want to leave prostitution, but they cannot find other options for survival. Most men, however, do not ever enact these beliefs. In fact, the Demand Abolition study finds that 80% of men will never buy sex. Yet buyers are correct at one level; the beliefs are normative since they represent a currently accepted mythology about commercial sexual exploitation and masculinity.

Thankfully, very clear policy imperatives flow from what we actually know to be true. Some of the key policy recommendations from Demand Abolition’s report include: Shift law enforcement’s finite resources from arresting and adjudicating prostituted persons towards arresting and adjudicating buyers; make available federal short-term funding programs to support state and local law enforcement agencies ready to make demand-reduction reforms; and implement mandatory minimum fines of adjudicated buyers to help offset costs of survivor exit services, effective long-term buyer education programs, and law enforcement demand operations.

The challenges can seem overwhelming, but change is more possible than we may think. The Demand Abolition study finds that among currently active sex buyers, only 25 percent of the buying population accounts for 75 percent of the demand for commercial sex. This indicates that a relatively small percentage of men are responsible for the majority of commercial sex related transactions. The study also finds that if there is a credible threat of arrest through operations like that of Robert Kraft in South Florida, they will feel pressure to stop buying. Again, these high frequency buyers are men of means who, if they continue to be treated without impunity, have a lot to lose.

Peter Qualliotine has been working to engage men to end commercial sexual exploitation and gender-based violence since 1990. In 2012, he and Noel Gomez co-founded the Seattle-based Organization for Prostitution Survivors (OPS). With OPS, he developed and launched a 10 week sex buyer education program that is utilized by courts throughout King County, WA and served as founding co-cordinator of the Ending Exploitation Collaborative. He is also a founding co-chair and sits on the Executive Committee of World Without Exploitation. Peter recently relocated to Western Massachusetts.

March 3rd 2019, 9:42 am

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February 28th 2019, 3:09 pm

In Case You Missed It…Disability Through a Brand New Lens

Women

Lights! Camera! Access! 2.0 Summit & Panel Discussion: Disability Through a Brand New Lens —Talent with Disabilities in Front of and Behind the Camera in Television, Film and StreamingT

Top Row (l-r): Jodi Delaney; Television Academy Foundation; Dennis Doty, The Caucus; Tari Hartman Squire, EIN SOF Communications; CJ Jones, Sign World Media/Actor; Tanya Hart, The Caucus; Michael Berk, The Caucus; Douglas Schwartz, Baywatch co-creator Bottom Row (l-r): Monika Mikkelsen, Paramount Pictures; Kaitlyn Yang, Alpha Studios; and Zach Anner, Story Editor, Speechless
Photo by: John Lawson

Lights! Camera! Access! 2.0: Disability Through a Brand New Lens, an industry panel exploring talent with disabilities in front of and behind the camera in television, features, and streaming, was held on February 20th. The event, held at the Saban Media Center in North Hollywood Television Academy campus, was presented by The Loreen Arbus Foundation, EIN SOF Communications, and The Caucus for Producers, Writers and Directors, in association with Emerson College.

Loreen Arbus and Tari Hartman Squire were the Event Producers of Lights! Camera! Access! 2.0: Disability Through a Brand New Lens. Chuck Fries was Caucus Events Chair. Tanya Hart and Bob Papazian were Caucus Co-Chairs. Michael Berk was Caucus Panel Chair. Deborah Leoni is Executive Director of The Caucus for Producers, Writers & Directors. Jodi Delaney is Executive Director of the Television Academy Foundation.

The morning began with a roundtable discussion of the Hollywood & Disability White Paper created by the Coelho Center for Disability Law, Policy & Innovation in partnership with Lights! Camera! Access! 2.0. The roundtable was facilitated by Katherine Perez, Executive Director of The Coelho Center, and Tari Hartman Squire, CEO EIN SOF Communications and founder of LCA. Roundtable participants included: Steven Allen and Barbara Butz, PolicyWorks; Derek Shields, National Disability Mentoring Coalition, Karyn Benkendorfer, Producers Guild of America, Diversity Committee; Deborah Calla, Producers Guild of America, Diversity Committee and Chair of the Media Access Awards; Wendy Calhoun, Co-Executive Producer Empire, Consulting Producer Station 19, Producer Nashville, Revenge, Justified, Hell’s Kitchen; Lawrence Carter-Long, Disability Rights Education & Defense Fund; Jo-Ann Dean, Founder SIGNmation, Producer ASL Cabaret; Consuelo Flores, SAG-AFTRA Diversity; Keith Jeffreys, US Veterans’ Artists Alliance; Diana Elizabeth Jordan, Best Actor 2016 Easterseals Disability Film Challenge; Kristin Kucia and Benjamin Maixner, Exceptional Minds; Tatiana Lee, Accessible Hollywood; Ben Lewin and Judi Levine, writer/director/producer The Sessions, Catcher Was a Spy, Please Stand By; Nanci Linke-Ellis, Specialty Media Consultant; Jillian Mercado, model/social media influencer; Jd Michaels, Creative Engineering, Michaels.Adams; Anna Pakman, Empire Development Fund; David Radcliff, Staff Writer, The Rookie; Angela Rockwood, producer, actress Push Girls; Allen Rucker, WGA Chair, Committee of Writers with Disabilities; Sue Sawyer and Liz Zastrow, CA Transition Alliance; MyKhanh Shelton, SVP 21st Century Fox Global Inclusion; Michelle Alford-Williams and Wan-Chun Chang, CA Department of Rehabilitation; Gail Williamson, KMR Talent Diversity Division; Danny Woodburn, actor Seinfeld, Bold & the Beautiful; Kaitlyn Yang, CEO Alpha Studios; Jason E. Squire, Professor USC School of Cinematic Arts and editor, The Movie Business Book; Brian Roberts, DreamWorks Animation; and Consuelo Flores, SAG-AFTRA Diversity.

Katherine Perez, Executive Director of The Coelho Center for Disability Law, Policy and Innovation, and Tari Hartman Squire, CEO EIN SOF Communications and LCA Founder and Producer, facilitate the roundtable that will result in the Hollywood & Disability White Paper later this year.

Panel topics throughout the afternoon included:

How to Make it in the Media, a Q&A moderated by Anna Pakman, Vice President, Digital Marketing for Empire State Development/NYC Division of Tourism. Panel participants included: Jillian Mercado – model and social influencer; Ben Lewin – director/writer of the acclaimed film, The Sessions. Kesila Childers –Vice President of Development for Powderkeg; CJ Jones – actor, Baby Driver and Avatar; Danny Woodburn, actor, Seinfeld and Bold & The Beautiful, SAG-AFTRA PwD Committee.

How to Make it in the Media

Resume Review, Speed Interviewing Flash Mentoring included:Ben Lewin and Judi Levin, Such Much Films; Brian Roberts Co-Executive Producer, DreamWorks Animation; David Radcliff staff writer, The Rookie; Jd Michaels former EVP Diversity at BBDO Worldwide; Wendy Calhoun – Co-Executive Producer of the hit series Empire and her assistant Maddy Ullman; Jason E. Squire – USC School of Cinematic Arts and editor of The Movie Business Book. Angela Rockwood – Sundance Channel’s Push Girls;Benjamin Maixner and Kristin Kucia Exceptional Minds; Jo-Ann Dean – Founder & CEO, SIGNmation;Tatiana Lee Founder & Editor, Accessible Hollywood; Diana Elizabeth Jordan – Easterseals Disability Film Challenge and Performing Arts Studio West; Giselle Legere –  staff writer, Quantico; Gail Williamson, KMR Talent Diversity Division; Daniel Woodburn – actor Seinfeld, Bold & The Beautiful; Kaitlyn Yang –  CEO Alpha Studios; Craig Tollis,editor, The Good Doctor,and board member, Able Artists Foundation; Liz Kelly –  21st Century Fox Diversity; Consuelo Flores –  SAG-AFTRA diversity; Eileen Grubba –  actor; Karyn Benkendorfer –  PGA Diversity; Anna Pakman,Vice President, Digital Marketing for Empire State Development/NYC Division of Tourism; CJ Jones, Sign World Media, and actor Baby Driver, Avatar; and Jillian Mercado, model and social media influencer.

Resume Review, Speed Interviews, and Flash Mentoring

Self-disclosure: How to Leverage Your Disability to Sharpen Your Competitive Edge: workshop facilitated by Barbara Butz, PolicyWorks, and Katherine Perez, Coelho Center for Disability Law, Policy, and Innovation.

Networking and Mentoring: workshop facilitated by Derek Shields, National Disability Mentoring Coalition.

Deaf & Disability Narrative Imperative: Casting Authentic Stories Across Genres – Panel and Q&A moderated by Jd Michaels – former EVP Diversity, BBDO Worldwide,and Angela Rockwood – actress, star of the Sundance Channel’s Push Girls. Panel included:Diana Elizabeth Jordan – Easterseals Disability Film Challenge and Performing Arts Studio West;Dawn Grawbowski – actor, writer, filmmaker, sit-down comic, motivational speaker;Tatiana Lee Founder & Editor, Accessible Hollywood, blogger;David Radcliff – staff writer, The Rookie;Jo-Ann Dean, SIGNmation, Deaf Film Camp; John Lawson – Easterseals Disability Film Challenge.

Deaf & Disability Narrative Imperative

Concluding the all-day event was a dynamic evening panel entitled Disability Inclusion: In Front of and Behind the Camera, moderated by Tari Hartman Squire.Panel included:Zach Anner Actor & Writer, Speechless and Rollin’ With Zach, winner of Oprah Winfrey’s Your OWN Show: Oprah’s Search for the Next TV Star, author of If at Birth You Don’t Succeed; Kaitlyn Yang –CEO Alpha Studios and Forbes 30 Under 30 Hollywood; Monika Mikkelsen – VP of Casting, Paramount Pictures;Michael Berk – Creator/Showrunner/Writer, Baywatch;andDouglas Schwartz –Creator, Showrunner, and Director, Baywatch; and CJ Jones – actor, Baby Driver and Avatar.

About The Loreen Arbus Foundation:

Loreen Arbus is the first woman in the United States to head up programming for a national network, a feat accomplished twice (both Showtime and Cable Health Network/Lifetime), and the author of six books. She possesses an extensive, multifaceted history in the entertainment industry with a solid track record as an executive in network television, pay and basic cable, syndication, and the print media; as a consultant to a pay-per-view network, several established and new cable networks; as a writer and as a producer.

Ms. Arbus co-founded Media Access Office (operated in partnership with California Governor’s Committee), to increase employment, improve depiction, and raise consciousness regarding disability. In addition, she was Co-Founder and, for seven years, Co-Chair of the Lucy Awards for Women in Film. Ms. Arbus is also among the core group of founders of Los Angeles Donor Circle of The Women’s Foundation of California.

In 2014, she worked as Executive Producer of the acclaimed documentary, A Whole Lott More, which examined work and disability through new perspectives, revealing the struggles of over eight million people in America with developmental disabilities to join the work force.

She currently serves on over a dozen non-profit boards including: Women Moving Millions; Paley Center for Media; The Academy of Television Arts & Sciences Foundation; Harvard Kennedy School of Government Women’s Leadership Board; Harvard School of Public Health; Harvard Medical School Advisory Committee for Neurobiology; Visionary Women; Town Hall Los Angeles; Gabrielle’s Angel Foundation for Cancer Research; and Salomé Chamber Orchestra.

Ms. Arbus has served as a two-term Governor for the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences; on the boards of Women Moving Millions; The Producers Guild; The Caucus for Producers, Writers, and Directors; Women in Film; Women in Cable and Telecommunications; and as Chair of Women in Film International.

The Loreen Arbus Foundation supports a broad scope of charitable interests including: scientific and medical research, women and girls, people with disabilities and other minorities, gender and racial equity in media, the arts, animal rights, the environment, and world peace.

www.arbusprod.com

About EIN SOF Communications:

Tari Hartman Squire’s EIN SOF Communications is the leading strategic marketing and employment consultation firm specializing in disability-inclusive diversity in entertainment, corporate America and the disability community, promoting authentic media images, increased employment and the untapped $220 billion purchasing power of the disability market segment.

As a result of a discrimination in the casting process, Squire spearheaded creation of the SAG Committee of Performers with disabilities with other disabled actors, and was the Founding Executive Director of the Media Access Office (liaison between the entertainment industry and disability community) to operationalize programs to increase disability employment and improved portrayal strategies illuminated by The Media Access Awards founded by Loreen Arbus, Norman Lear and Fern Field.

Together, Loreen and Tari joined forces to create Lights! Camera! Access! 2.0 (LCA2.0) to increase employment of aspiring filmmakers and media professionals with disabilities, improve disability portrayals and enhance accessible entertainment with captions and audio descriptions.  LCA Career Exploration Summits have occurred in Hollywood (hosted by the Television Academy and CBS); Washington, DC (hosted by The White House and Gallaudet University); NYC (hosted by BBDO, CUNY, NYU and ReelAbilities Film Festival); Boston (hosted by ReelAbilities and Northeastern University); Chicago (hosted by the Chicago Film Office and Mayor’s Office for People with Disabilities). LCA is expanding to Silicon Valley when the Computer History Museum hosts on May 17, 2019.

EIN SOF disability-specific focus groups for companies like AT&T, Apple, and Bank of America, help focus advertising and marketing messages and strategic alliances. For Verizon Media, Getty Images and the National Disability Leadership Alliance (NDLA) EIN SOF focus groups resulted in The Disability Collection to capture more authentic disability portrayals in stock photos, resulting in disability-savvy guidelines for Getty’s 240,000 photographers worldwide. LCA2.0 and Daryl “Chill” Mitchell co-authored the Ruderman TV Challenge to increase performers with disabilities in last year’s pilots.

For more information about EIN SOF or LCA, visit www.EINSOFcommunications.com

About The Caucus for Producer, Writers & Directors:

The Caucus is leading the evolution of television by providing a creative forum for Producers, Writers, and Directors to explore the issues of the ever-changing landscape of content and exhibition.  The Caucus is proud of its rich history and esteemed membership of television innovators.  For over 40 years, The Caucus has provided an opportunity for the best and the brightest talent to network and voice the ‘creative conscience’ of the television industry.  Today, we continue to stand for better and meaningful content across all platforms.  As Producers, Writers and Directors we support a working environment that fosters, through our various programs, the best content that we can create for our audiences.

In addition to its professional membership, The Caucus is proud of its non-profit work through The Caucus Foundation. Established in 2000 to help launch the careers of future entertainment professionals in film, television, and emerging media, The Foundation provides completion grants to student thesis productions from accredited universities and colleges.  To date The Caucus Foundation Grant Program has given over $1.6 million dollars in cash and in-kind awards: http://www.caucus.org

About The Coelho Center for Disability Law, Policy & Innovation:

The Coelho Center for Disability Law, Policy & Innovation, housed at Loyola Law School, Los Angeles at Loyola Marymount University (LMU), pursues a unique four-pronged mission: convening thought leaders to pursue positive change on disability issues; leveraging technology to advance the lives of people with disabilities; creating a pipeline of lawyers with disabilities to populate the bench and hold elected office; and fostering a campus-wide dialogue on issues affecting people with disabilities. The Coelho Center also draws on multiple areas of expertise from other LMU colleges. Founded by former congressman, disability rights icon, and LMU alumnus Hon. Tony Coelho (LMU ’64), The Coelho Center is the only organization of its kind at a Catholic university in America and the only one housed at a top U.S. law school. Details about The Coelho Center are available at www.lls.edu/coelhocenter.

February 26th 2019, 8:18 pm

Mass Sexual Harassment – Caught on Tape in Brazil

Women

Video Shows Toxic Environment for Women at Soccer Game

Anyone who thinks women’s complaints about sexual harassment in Brazil are hyperbole should watch the video that went viral after Quebrando o Tabu (Breaking Taboos), a Brazilian social media platform, posted on January 29.

It was shot in February, 2017 at Mangueirão stadium in the northern state of Pará, where arch-rivals Remo and Paysandu were about to face off. Shortly before kick-off, female supporters of both teams are seen walking around the playing field calling for respect for women fans. Their banner reads: “A woman’s place is wherever she wants, including a stadium,” with the hashtag #repeiteasminas (“respect women”).

Taking advantage of the anonymity of the crowd, the Remo fans first booed them, and then chanted demeaning lyrics about kissing and having sex with Paysandu women. “They threw objects at us. It was very difficult,” one of the women walking that day later told a reporter. “I felt really bad. I had never gone through anything like it. I heard lots of insults.”

Rachel Rossetto, 39, a loyal fan of the São Paulo team Corinthians who has attended games since she was 15, says the organized fan club she belongs to is very respectful of women, but on the bleachers, catcalling is common. “Men whistle, make comments that are disrespectful of women. It’s verbal harassment,” she told Human Rights Watch.

Some female sports reporters have also endured harassment. Last year, a fan tried to kiss a female journalist who was live on television, and another hurled insults at a female journalist who was covering a game until police removed him from the stadium.

Women are fighting back. A group of female soccer fans has opened the #DeixaElaTorcer (#LetHerCheer) campaign, and female reporters created the hashtag #DeixaElaTrabalhar (#LetHerWork) to raise awareness about the perils of being a woman inside and outside of stadiums.

Some soccer teams are moving in the right direction. While in 2017, Atlético Mineiro gave roses to women fans on International Women’s Day, they did something much more relevant the following year: They displayed banners in the stadium urging people to report violence against women. The team also hosted Maria da Penha, for whom Brazil`s 2006 domestic-violence law is named, as a guest of honor. After the 2017 video burst, both Remo and Paysandu issued statements condemning the fans’ behavior, but it is unclear whether they said or did anything when the harassment actually happened.

Stadiums certainly aren’t the only place where Brazilian women’s rights are trampled upon. They earn 23 percent less, on average, than men, make up only 15 percent of Congress, and face widespread domestic violence. Further, women are denied reproductive freedom under Brazil’s harsh abortion restrictions.

The authorities’ response has been seriously inadequate. To give one example, the money invested in shelters and other services for women by the National Secretariat of Policies for Women fell by a whopping 35 percent from 2014 to 2017. (The Secretariat did not provide Human Rights Watch data for 2018.)

Fans, sports teams, and authorities at all levels should pay much more attention to the rampant discrimination and violence against women in Brazil. We should all step up.

Let’s let women cheer; let women work for equal pay; let women exercise their reproductive rights, be free from violence —and free to make Brazil a better place for everyone.

About the author: César Muñoz Acebes is the Brazil Senior Researcher at Human Rights Watch.

February 25th 2019, 6:54 pm

The Truth About the Sex Trade: Exit Ramps from “the Life”

Women

T

The Life Story: Moments of Change is a groundbreaking website and film project supported by NoVo Foundation that shines a light on the stories and experiences of women in the sex trade—also referred to as “the Life.” Their goal is to provide better solutions that can prevent all girls and all women, cis, trans, and gender non-conforming, from being exploited in the first place and raise awareness around the issue so that better resources can be put in place to help women exit the Life.

Throughout this series, we have looked at different stages of girls and women in the sex trade, starting with childhood vulnerabilities leading to the Life, entry into the sex trade, and the harsh daily realities of surviving in the Life.

In this fourth and final article in this series, we’ll look at exiting the Life. What are the possible exit ramps for women in the sex trade? What challenges do they face as they try to navigate their exit? And what services and resources do they need in order to make their exit not only possible but permanent?  

I had the privilege of interviewing women who have exited the Life who helped shed light on the unique challenges and needs a woman has when trying to leave the Life. Many of these women have gone on to be advocates for girls and women who need help doing the same. Their stories are a testament to the fact that although it isn’t easy, it can be done.

There are many factors that may prevent a woman from being able to leave the Life. To begin with, her exploiter will have cut her off from any possible support system so she has no one to turn to for help. She also may have a lack of education, few marketable skills, no job history, no credit, and no savings. She may not even have identification. And if she has a criminal record related to being in the Life (which many women do), it will greatly limit her options for finding a job or housing.  

As Quintecia, a survivor, advocate and service provider put it, “If it was easy, everyone would leave this life in a heartbeat.”

Improve Social Systems

“If someone had said ‘I can help you,’ I would have taken it….but it wasn’t offered.”  — Andrea, Survivor and Advocate

A girl or woman who is vulnerable to sexual exploitation often encounters a variety of social systems throughout her experience: child welfare, school, foster care, medical care, the juvenile justice system and many others. Although these systems are meant to be safety nets, unfortunately many girls and women end up entering the sex trade, or staying stuck in the sex trade, because of moments when these systems fail them and opportunities for intervention are missed.  

Jeri, an Indigenous Survivor and Service Provider, described her experiences with multiple social systems: “I was a prostituted child. I was interfacing with law enforcement. I went to juvenile detention. I had over eighteen emergency room visits. I was a child. I was walking on the streets. You could tell I looked young. I should have been in school. People knew that I was a prostituted child, but they looked the other way. I was in the ER eighteen times and no one ever asked me if I was really okay.”

If these systems and their staff and practitioners were better trained and equipped to recognize girls and women who are vulnerable to entering the Life, or those who are already in the sex trade, they could step in to offer compassion, empathy, and access to resources to help shift her path.

In an effort to improve these social systems, The NoVo Foundation recently announced The Life Story Grants, a $10 million, 3-year commitment for programs—including Housing, Medical Needs, Law Enforcement, Trauma and Mental Health, Immigration, and Systems Impacting Youth—that will open exit ramps and close on-ramps to commercial sexual exploitation.

“System failures call for systems-based solutions to create lasting change—and that’s where we see an untapped opportunity for anyone who wants to improve the lives of marginalized girls and women,” says Pamela Shifman, executive director of the NoVo Foundation. “Practitioners in critical systems—like teachers, social workers, bus drivers, police officers, emergency room doctors, and immigration officials—come into contact with people in sexual exploitation every day. By offering compassion, resources, and opportunity, these practitioners can close an on-ramp to exploitation—or open an exit ramp.”

A large part of improving the various social systems lies in providing trauma-informed training for all service providers so that they can recognize the signs of sexual exploitation and respond with empathy and understanding instead of bias or judgment.

Kendra Harding, a licensed professional counselor for sexually-exploited women, stressed the need for “across-the-board training, so that people in the mental health field are trained, people in law enforcement are trained, people on state patrol are trained, first responders—people who are working in any type of direct contact. It is so necessary because I think if more people were aware, so many warning signs and red flags that people miss, could be picked up on so much faster.”  

Housing

“The need for housing is tremendous. There needs to be more transitional housing for when people are coming out of the Life as a space to learn the skills you need.” —Quintecia, Survivor, Advocate and Service Provider

Homelessness can be a factor that leads a women into the Life, but more importantly it is often the threat of losing housing that can keep her in the Life. How can she even consider leaving if she has nowhere to go?  

In order to begin healing from the trauma of life in the sex trade, women need a stable, safe place where they can start to rebuild their life, which makes housing one of the most crucial steps toward exiting the Life.

“We need to recognize that safe housing is one of the first steps that women need,” says Robin, a survivor leader and case manager. “Only then can she address her other needs like battling substance use, getting job training, getting counseling for complex trauma and applying to go back to school.”

But finding housing can be nearly impossible for a woman exiting the sex trade. Not only is there a scarcity of affordable and public housing, but there are often other obstacles in her way: lack of savings, lack of job skills, and a criminal record, just to name a few.  We need to change the policies and systems that keep housing out of reach and develop new, viable options for these women.

What would this look like? The creation of specialized shelters and transitional housing that not only offer a bed to sleep in but also provide long-term services—including mental health counseling, addiction services, job training, life skills and access to education or legal services—provided by trauma-informed practitioners who understand the unique needs of sexual exploitation victims. Also, increasing the availability of affordable long-term housing and making sure housing services don’t discriminate against women who have prostitution charges or other charges related to their trafficking experiences are needed.

“We desperately need housing options specific to this population,” says Robin. “We need transitional housing. We need short-term and long-term, supportive and subsidized housing so women can focus on developing life skills that will allow them to be self-sufficient. We need landlords willing to rent to women who have criminal records. We need housing in safe neighborhoods.”

She describes how improving housing options for women trying to exit the Life can make a world of difference: “I just helped place three trafficked women and their children into housing. They were staying in homeless shelters and fleeing violence. Now they are in two-bedroom subsidized units with parenting classes and job training on site. That is what women need.”

Survivor Mentorship and Leadership

“We are survivor-led. We are led by the people who have gotten out to help the people who are in.” — Quintecia, Survivor, Advocate and Service Provider

Survivors who have successfully exited the Life have a lot to offer in terms of becoming advocates for others, leading anti-trafficking efforts, and informing crucial changes to the system. One approach that has proven to be successful is having women who have exited the Life provide mentorship to those who need support as they try to navigate their own exit. In fact, most of the women’s voices included in this series are mentors or advocates for other women in the Life.

Not only does this provide an empowering, rewarding career path for the mentors who may otherwise have had limited job options, but it also provides the women trying to exit the Life with a support system—someone they can trust who truly understands what they’re going through and is living proof that a way out is possible.

Mike Gallagher, a police officer in the sex trafficking unit in Portland, Oregon, describes the mentorship programs as “invaluable.” “The thing about mentors as opposed to law enforcement is the women go and learn to trust them, and we don’t expect the mentors to give us back this confidential information,” he continues. “It’s a friend. It’s somebody that they can trust and talk to about things and know that it’s not being given back or spilled back to law enforcement. These people are here to help the victims and get them down that path.”

Roxanne, an Indigenous survivor and advocate who exited the Life and now works as an Outreach Coordinator for an anti-human trafficking organization, told me, “My life is so amazing right now. I am definitely empowered today and I am grateful for everything I survived to be able to be a voice for other indigenous women and girls.”  

Quintecia is also a survivor who has gone on to be an advocate and service provider for women in the sex trade and offers this reassuring message: “There is a light at the end of the tunnel.”

Working Together with a Holistic Approach

“Working together is everything. Now is the time.”  — Roxanne, Indigenous Survivor and Advocate

There is no one thing that a woman needs to exit the sex trade; it’s a combination of different resources and services that collectively must meet all of her different needs along her exit ramp—from housing to legal services to trauma treatment to job training.

As The Life Story Grants recognize by seeking to fund system-focused strategies across six different social support areas, change takes the combined forces of many social systems. They all have the potential to be exit ramps if their policies, protocols and training reflect the needs of girls and women in the Life, and this can be achieved if they all work together.

As Kendra Harding put it: “We need to join together to support these girls and women in a holistic way. We will be missing the mark if we don’t support them with all of the things they need.” “I don’t think this issue, this movement, can be done alone,” she continues. “You need a multidisciplinary team. It takes everyone …whether that be mental health professionals, addiction counselors, police officers, lawyers, medical professionals, media, or survivor leadership. So many different avenues need to be on the same page, because just coming at it from a mental health lens or a case manager lens or a housing lens, it’s not encompassing everybody. Everyone needs to be at the table and everyone needs to have that conversation of how we can all work together as a community.”  

Survivor, advocate, and service provider Quintecia agrees: “This is a ‘we’ project, not a ‘me’ project. Together we can change the system and make it better.”  

I encourage you to visit thelifestory.org to learn more about the different ‘moments’ in the Life, and help raise awareness in your community about the realities of the sex trade. Visit http://novofoundation.org/thelifestorygrants to learn more about The Life Story Grants.

Marianne Schnall is a widely-published interviewer and journalist and author of ‘What Will It Take to Make a Woman President? Conversations About Women, Leadership & Power’. She is also the co-founder and Executive Director of the women’s website and non-profit organization feminist.com (http://www.feminist.com), and co-founder of  What Will It Take Movements(http://www.whatwillittake.com), a media, collaboration, learning, event and social engagement platform that inspires, connects, educates and engages women everywhere to advance in all levels of leadership and take action.  http://www.marianneschnall.com


February 24th 2019, 1:10 pm

Is It Sexist to Criticize the Women in White…or Has the Resistance Utterly Lost Its Mind?

Women

My essay, Women in White Surrender to Trump’s Thoroughly Fascist State of the Union, sparked some healthy and much needed debate within our movement to drive out the Trump/Pence regime through sustained, non-violent protest. My main thesis in this piece was that Trump’s State of the Union address clearly outlined a fascist program and intent to ethnically cleanse immigrants from our southern border, prepare public opinion for genocide based on vicious white supremacy and xenophobia, take away women’s reproductive rights, and wage war with Venezuela and Iran, while simultaneously recruiting new groups of people into supporting and rallying behind this fascist program. One sharp illustration of this was the behavior of the #womenswave, dressed in white that evening, and the surreal moment when they stood up and started chanting “USA”.

The responses to this article, which we received via email and social media, ranged from gratitude to discomfort to revulsion. And while some arguments were easily dismissed (Refuse Facism has been taken over by Russian bots; the women were not chanting US, there was one criticism I want to respond to in some depth because it illustrates a line of thinking we must break through in order to forge deeper unity and build a determined movement to stop this regime from carrying out its crimes against humanity.

It is very important for people who are coming to Refuse Fascism from different perspectives to be able to air their disagreements in an open and principled way. Therefore, I am not paraphrasing the critique here since it was posted publicly on the Refuse Fascism Facebook page. However, I am only quoting and responding to the parts relevant to my article:

“This article is sexist because it shifts focus to the women of the Senate and House instead of keeping it on Trump and Pence. This article is sexist because it says we should be ‘more disgusted’ by the WOMEN than by Donald Trump and Mike Pence. This article is sexist because it suggests that the women should hold the blame. This article is sexist because it incites hatred of the women in the House and Senate over the people who are directly responsible for what is happening. Donald Trump, Mike Pence, and Republicans are the ones who are actively destroying this country, humanity, and the world. Donald Trump, Mike Pence, and Republicans are the ones carrying out these atrocities. They are the ones actively changing laws, ending climate change and nuclear agreements, ending women’s rights, traumatizing children, the list goes on (you know everything they’ve done and are doing), and yet, the official stance of Refuse Fascism is to focus on the women in white, to be ‘more disgusted’ by the women.”

It’s true that I was being deliberately provocative when I wrote, “If you have a heart for humanity, as sickened and disgusted as you should have been by Trump making crude conciliatory gestures and then going in for his vicious attacks on immigrants, women, and the people of the world — you should be more disgusted by the response from the women in white who were supposed to represent the people most under attack by this regime.” It is also true that Trump and Pence are doing all of the things listed to women, to immigrants, to the environment, to the people of the world, and doubling down on them in this speech. That is why I called this a thoroughly fascist State of the Union that no one who claims they will fight for any one of the groups in the crosshairs of this regime could have sat through politely, let alone applauded, let alone echoed with the MAGA chant that stands for the American chauvinism that is used to justify this whole fascist program. This was a fascist speech, using effective fascist propaganda tactics, to successfully advance and buy complicity with a fascist program and nightmare future for all of us.

This was my strongly stated opinion as one of the commentators at RefuseFascism.org, not the official stance and certainly not the only stance of Refuse Fascism. Some within Refuse Fascism agree with me, and some do not. The fact is, I was disgusted because my hatred for what this regime is doing to people does not waver depending on the circumstance. The #bluewave and #womenswave, represented in part by the women in white, has absorbed much of the hatred that millions of people feel for this regime and have taken the oxygen out of it. This was what was on display in the House Chambers that night.

At no point did I say that the women in white were to blame for the crimes of the regime. There is a difference between designing and carrying out crimes against humanity and becoming complicit with those crimes. But let’s be real; after Trump boasts that the US has the most powerful military in the world, and then promises to keep out “illegal” immigrants whom he claims are killing “countless” Americans, what does it mean to chant USA from the standpoint of the resistance? What effect does it have? How does that look any different to the children in concentration camps or the immigrants being terrorized or the people under the bombs and occupation of the most powerful military in the world? Does the world need us to defend those who clap politely and celebrate through a horrifying speech, or does the world need fierce and determined resistance from us in our millions?

The respondent continues:
‘That is what sexism is. This is the form that insidious sexism takes. And Refuse Fascism is perpetrating it and they are steadfastly refusing to consider anyone else’s experiences and points of view. I truly am sorry and I think it’s lamentable that you cannot understand that this is sexism. I have tried to explain it.’
[As a sidenote: Sexism is when someone (any gender) talks down to a woman, assumes she doesn’t have any knowledge of a situation, assumes that she is ignorant, assumes that she is wrong, and then proceeds to try to educate her on a subject she knows well. It is dismissing the views, thoughts, and actions of women as inadequate, incorrect, and ill-informed. It is not an explicit statement of hatred towards women. In fact, it is hardly ever explicit. The sexism that, yes, we all have is internal because we have learned it from birth and it has to be recognized in our own thoughts and actions. We have to be actively conscious of it and take steps to correct it.]

If this is a working definition of sexism, then as a woman of color, could I not turn around and say this criticism of my article is both sexist and racist? It is assumed I have no knowledge of what sexism is or how this regime is creating a nightmare for women; assumes that I am ignorant of what the women in white claim to represent; assumes that I am wrong about their assertions or their actions, and then proceeds to try and educate me about what sexism is. It is dismissing the views, thoughts, and actions (by writing the article) of a woman of color as inadequate, incorrect, and ill-informed.

I could argue that, but it would be absurd because this is NOT an accurate definition of sexism. Anyone should feel free to critique the content of what I’ve written, as long as it fairly represents the facts and arguments presented. This should happen regardless of how I identify.

But the question on the table is not how we should define sexism; the question is what Trump’s State of the Union speech posed for the future of humanity and the planet, and whether the response to it rejected, resisted, normalized, or celebrated that. It is disingenuous for anyone to claim that the women in white did not take on some leadership and responsibility to be the opposition to Trump that millions of people are relying on. For two years, people have been urged to put their faith and energy into these waves of politicians to be a check on Trump, all while the number of children in concentration camps swelled to 15,000 and the Supreme Court upheld one fascist Trump policy after another, and those are just two examples. On that basis, to say that the response of the women in white to the State of the Union speech does not warrant sharp criticism is the height of condescension. Implied in this critique is that the women in white deserve some kind of pass because they are women and because they are not members of the fascist Republican Party. I didn’t criticize them as fascists. I criticized them as leaders and purveyors of the #resistance and measured their response against the content of the speech and the danger it poses to humanity.

The respondent ends with: “The official line of Refuse Fascism is that it is ‘a movement of people coming from diverse perspectives, united in our recognition that the Trump/Pence Regime poses a catastrophic danger to humanity and the planet.’ This sort of article is not accepting people coming from diverse perspectives, and uniting in recognizing the danger that the Trump/Pence regime poses. “

The principal part of this mission statement is that we are united in our recognition that the Trump/Pence Regime poses a catastrophic danger to humanity and the planet. We certainly want people coming from diverse perspectives, but on this point of unity, we cannot be diverted. If we become seduced into thinking that the danger this regime poses can be met with anything short of driving them from power through non-violent protests that grow every day until our demand is met, we are being seduced into accepting horrors we should not and do not want to accept.

I maintain that it is not actually within the power of these women to drive out this regime. It is not what they signed up for. Their job is to work within the framework of this system and cooperate with the regime in power. Stopping this regime is, in fact, OUR responsibility, not to be passed off to some proxy we hope can do it for us. We do not ask why the Weimar officials did not stop Hitler. We ask why the German people went along with the genocide happening in their name. Are we going to make the same mistake, or are we going to take the lessons of history, at a point when the stakes for humanity are even higher, and refuse to be sucked in to the mechanisms of fascism? It is painful to give up illusions, but taking off our blinders and confronting reality is also liberating. It helps us find a pathway to a future worth living in, not only for ourselves but for all of humanity.    

About the Author: Coco Das is a member of the editorial collective of RefuseFascism

February 21st 2019, 4:54 pm

‘Grandma’ Needs a Makeover

Women

What do Nancy Pelosi, Hillary Clinton, Elizabeth Warren, Meryl Streep, and Ruth Bader Ginsburg have in common?

They are all in their seventies,

They are all working, and

They are all grandmothers.

In short, they are all prominent examples of a growing demographic that challenges stereotypes and requires updating.

But these employed grandmothers are by no means alone. Older adults are working longer. By 2022, 20 percent of women (and 27 percent of men) ages 65 and older will be in the labor force. One out of every five female septuagenarians will be employed in the next four years. Medical advances and a longer life expectancy are fueling this trend. The number of Americans ages 65 and older is projected to more than double from 46 million today to over 98 million by 2060.

Grandparents on the rise

“Grandparents represent a bigger chunk of the population than ever before, according to new data from the Census Bureau,” wrote Sharon Jayson in the New York Times in 2017. The number of grandparents had already grown by 24 percent since 2001, when there were an estimated 56.1 million grandparents. “We would expect more people reporting as grandparents because of the aging of the population,” said Wendy Manning, a sociologist who is the director of the Center for Family and Demographic Research at Bowling Green State University. “In 2001, 38 percent of women age 30 or older with a child at least 15 years old were grandparents, as were 31 percent of men in that category,” Manning continued. By 2014, 61 percent of these women and 57 percent of these men were grandparents.

These dramatic shifts raise, once again, the question of why females live long past their reproductive years. In this regard we are unlike most other great apes. One theory, the “’grandmother hypothesis,” theorizes that human females survive well past their reproductive prime because of the benefits that post-menopausal women offer to their grandchildren.

Kristen Hawkes, an anthropologist at the University of Utah in Salt Lake City, and her colleagues proposed this hypothesis while studying hunter-gathers in Tanzania in the 1980s and 90s. The team realized that grandmothers provided the help new mothers needed to continue foraging for themselves and their already weaned children while they were caring for their new infants. When grandmothers helped with foraging, their grandchildren were healthier and heavier, and were weaned at a younger age. Unburdened by the need to care for their infants, new mothers were more successful at foraging and were able to have more children. Thus, grandmothers who survived long past menopause provided an important service and increased the reproductive advantage of their offspring.  

Although the specifics are dramatically different, the grandmother hypothesis is as relevant now as it was eons ago. Today, grandparents are “the primary caregivers for more than 2.9 million children nationwide,” according to a 2018 report from the Silver Century Foundation. Even so, it shows how eventually grandmothers grew from representing one percent of female caregivers to 43 percent — thus achieving “grandmothering equilibrium.”

Our failure to provide high-quality, affordable and accessible child care means that grandmothers will continue to be a primary source of such care for millions of working mothers. By the time American women are 40 to 44, 86 percent of them are mothers, and unless they are affluent — or have a retired but still energetic grandma who’s willing to pitch in full time when the kids are little — the child care crisis hits families hard.

To Be or Not to Be a Grandmother

Of course, not all employed seventy-somethings are grandmothers. But, a great many are. And grandmothers get a bad rap.

According to Sandra Martin, writing in the Globe and Mail, a common stereotype portrays granny retiring “to her rocking chair [where she] “is transformed into …. the plump, kindly old woman in her dotage, sitting with her knitting in an isolated corner of the room.” Basically, once she is a grandmother, everything else in her life is irrelevant. In Martin’s view, “I think I would rather be villainous than pushed off-stage, as though becoming a grandmother subsumes everything else in your life under a fog of irrelevance.”

The Conversation suggests a way to gauge the power of that stereotype. Recall how often in 2016 Hillary Clinton was asked how becoming a grandmother would affect her candidacy for president. “How many newspapers asked that question when Mitt Romney was proudly photographed with his 18 grandchildren, or when George W. Bush and John McCain showed theirs off for the press?

Answer: Zero.

So should Hillary, unlike her male peers, have set aside political ambitions to help her daughter care for her grandchild? Recall that Nancy Pelosi, upon regaining speakership of the House of Representatives in 2018, invited all her grandchildren, as well as those of the other members of the House to the podium. While she relished that role, she was never defined (or constrained) by it.

How accurate is the granny stereotype for the women mentioned above? Apparently Judge Ginsburg never got the “irrelevant” memo. When her grandson, Paul, got married in October, 2018, she was not to be sidelined. She officiated at the ceremony, which was held at “her place” –the Supreme Court in Washington D.C.

And RBG is not alone. Among the scores of other grandmothers who never got the memo are the caretakers of their grandchildren.

Of the 65 million grandparents in the United States in 2012, seven million, or 10 percent, lived with at least one grandchild, according to a 2012 report from  the U.S. Census Bureau. In most of these homes, at least one parent is present, too, but the household is headed by a grandparent. Further, about 39 percent of these grandparents had cared for their grandchildren for five years or more.

More and more grandparents are taking their children and grandchildren into their homes. Ten percent of American children live with a grandparent, compared to 7% in 1992, according to a Census Bureau study released last year. In most of these homes, at least one parent is present, too, but the household is headed by a grandparent.

Among the people raised by a grandparent, at least for part of their childhoods, include Maya Angelou, Carol Burnett, and two former presidents, Bill Clinton and Barack Obama. According to The Atlantic, “This pattern is more common than ever ever these days.”

With women living longer and remaining healthier as they age, more of them will be reaching the pinnacle of their careers later in life than ever before. Pelosi didn’t run for office until she was 47, after her children were grown. Meryl Streep started making movies early in life and just never stopped. Elizabeth Warren co-authored a critically acclaimed book with her daughter in order to the family income.

The famous psychoanalyst, Erik Erikson, once suggested that at about age 65 people should curtail their ambitions, park their egos, and focus on mentoring the next generation. But women, more than men, often spend many of their early years caring for children. At 65, many are just hitting their stride, taking on challenges, and reaching for new goals for their 70s and beyond.

Let’s stop perpetuating those old stereotypes of grandmas as ‘sweet but peripheral — the bakers of cookies rather than the writers of tuition and rent checks–not to mention Supreme Court briefs.’ Let’s show more examples of what real, modern, grandmas are all about.

February 19th 2019, 8:28 pm

Announcing 14 of our ’21 Leaders for the 21st Century’ 2019 …and a new Keynote Speaker!!

Women

SAVE THE DATE:

Monday, May 6th in NYC @6:30pm


Keynote Speaker & Honoree

Wendy Davis, Founding Director of Deeds not Words

As the founding director of Deeds Not Words, a non-profit that seeks to empower and activate the voices of young women in public and political discourse, Wendy Davis is also a former Texas State Senator, 2014 Texas Democratic Gubernatorial nominee, frequent public speaker and author. Wendy gained national prominence in 2013 when she strapped on a pair of pink sneakers and held a 13-hour filibuster to protect women’s reproductive freedoms in Texas.  In 2016, Wendy founded Deeds Not Words to give women the tools needed to turn their passion into effective action – teaching civic engagement skills to young women who use what they learn to organize, advocate for policy change and increase voter participation.

Gisselle Acevedo, President and CEO, Ackerman Institute for the Family


As President and CEO, Gisselle Acevedo leads the Ackerman Institute for the Family to further its mission to improve the mental health of families in the New York area through the dynamic interaction of innovative treatment, state of the art training and cutting edge research. In her role, she will use her vision and voice to help Ackerman in moving families forward with the purpose to serve mental health care professionals and bring innovative perspectives to a broad array of community service agencies and other health care facilities. Appointed in 2018, she is the Institute’s fifth president and the first Hispanic woman to lead the organization.

Danielle Belton, Editor-in-Chief, The Root
Recipient, Rita Henley Jensen Excellence in Journalism Award 


Born and raised St. Louis, Mo. on a healthy diet of news programming, pop culture, black history and “snark,” Danielle Belton is currently Editor-in-Chief of the leading black news site, The Root. She was previously best known as the editor and writer of the award-winning pop culture-meets-politics blog The Black Snob. As a journalist, Belton has written for: The New York Times, The Daily Beast, Essence Magazine, The Guardian, The American Prospect, Jezebel, NPR, The Huffington Post and many others. Belton currently lives in New York City.

Carolyn A. Butts, Founder, Executive Director of African Voices  

Trailblazer and proud Brooklyn resident, Carolyn A. Butts has nearly three decades of experience organizing programs in the areas of arts, education, business and film.  She has worked on numerous projects to increase the visibility of African-American artists in literature, film, and art. In 1992 she founded African Voices Communications, Inc., a non-profit arts organization devoted to promoting the art, literature and history of people of color. At 25, she was one of the first New Yorkers to publish a literary magazine, African Voices, a quarterly.

Robyn Hatcher. Owner and CEO of SpeakEtc.


Robyn Hatcher is a keynote speaker, communication expert, author “recovering” actor. Robyn inspires women to stand out, move up, lean in and take charge through corporate programs, private coaching, and interactive presentations. Pretty astounding since her literal nickname growing up was SHY She has written, stage film and two daytime dramas and last year appeared on Good Morning America speaking about the “Me Too” movement.

Katja Iversen,  President/CEO of Women Deliver   

Katja Iversen is a leading global advocate for investment in gender equality and the health, rights, and well-being of girls and women, with a specific focus on maternal, sexual and reproductive health and rights. Iversen, an internationally recognized expert on development, advocacy and communications, has more than 25 years of experience working in NGOs, corporates and United Nation agencies. Previously, she held the position as Chief of Strategic Communication and Public Advocacy with UNICEF, a position she came to after almost six years of leading the team responsible for advocacy and communication on reproductive health with UNFPA.

Cynthia López, Executive Director of New York Women in Film & Television

Cynthia Lopez leads the preeminent professional association for women in film, television and digital media in New York City, NYWFT. She is an award-winning media strategist, and former Commissioner of the New York City Mayor’s Office of Media and Entertainment, where she implemented strategies to support film and TV production throughout the five boroughs. Prior to working as Commissioner, López was Executive Vice President and co-Executive Producer of the award-winning PBS documentary series American Documentary | POV, and is the recipient of many coveted industry awards including: 11 News and Documentary Emmy Awards, a Special Emmy Award for Excellence in Documentary Filmmaking, three Peabody Awards, two duPont-Columbia Awards, and the National Association of Latino Independent Producers (NALIP) Award for Commitment to Corporate Diversity.

Rosalind McLymont, Executive Editor of The Network Journal

As the Executive Editor of The Network Journal, a New York-based business magazine that targets an audience of black professionals and entrepreneurs, Rosalind McLymont is also chief executive officer of an online publication, africastrictlybusiness.com. Rosalind has more than 25 years’ experience as a writer, speaker, and adviser to small and medium-sized companies in global business. She was an international trade reporter and the first female and first Black managing editor at The Journal of Commerce, at the time The Economist Group-owned shipping and global trade newspaper.

Brette McSweeney, President of Eleanor’s Legacy


Brette McSweeney leads Eleanor’s Legacy, the only statewide organization in New York focused on recruiting, training, and funding pro-choice Democratic women candidates at the state and local level. She was a member of the New York Leadership Council for Hillary for America in 2016 and the deputy New York State director for women’s outreach in 2008. Brette is a graduate of Georgetown and Columbia universities.

© Donna F. Aceto

Ana L. Oliveira, President and CEO of The New York Women’s Foundation 

Under Ana’s leadership, The New York Women’s Foundation has increased The Foundation’s grantmaking from $1.7M in 2006 to $9M today. Ana previously held key roles as a CEO of the Gay Men’s Health Crisis, VP of Programs at Osborne Association, and Lincoln Medical and Mental Health Center Substance Abuse Clinic. Ana attained her M.A. in Medical Anthropology and a PhD. (hon) from the New School for Social Research.  She was born in Sao Paulo, Brazil, and resides in Manhattan.

Stephanie Sandberg, Executive Director of LPAC


As the Executive Director of LPAC, Stephanie Sandberg leads the only political organization for LGBTQ women; and Project LPAC, a charitable organization that conducts original research on LGBTQ women and civic engagement. Prior to her appointment in 2018, Stephanie was Director of OutWOMEN and Managing Director at Out Leadership, a B Corp that seeks to provide businesses ‘return on equality’ through LGBTQ inclusion. She spent her earlier professional career in media, where she had business roles at The Los Angeles Times, Newsweek, The New Yorker and The New Republic, where she served as president and publisher. Stephanie lives in Princeton, NJ, with her wife and two daughters.

Sean Strub, Recipient, 2019 Gordon Gray Award (named after Women’s eNews founding board member)

Sean Strub is a long-time activist and writer who has been HIV positive for more than 33 years. He is the founder of POZ Magazine, the leading independent global source of information about HIV, and served as its publisher and executive editor from 1994 to 2004. He presently serves as the executive director of the Sero Project, a network of people with HIV fighting for freedom from stigma and injustice and as treasurer of the U.S. Caucus of PWHA Organizations. He served on the board of directors of the Global Network of People living with HIV/AIDS from 2009 to 2012 and as co-chair of its North American affiliate from 2011 to 2012.

Leading National Organization: MARCH ON is a political organization composed of women-led, grassroots political and activist groups that seeks to engage women and their allies in the democratic process, advocate for policies that impact women and other marginalized communities, and make our government more representative of its people. They achieve this by supporting and resourcing hundreds of local affiliates and organizers nationwide, mobilizing our network for national collaborative campaigns, and partnering with other progressive organizations. Born out of the 2017 women’s marches, they strive to be radically inclusive and take a “bottom-up” approach to activism.

Leading International Organization: The Campaign for Female Education (CAMFED) is an international non-profit organization tackling poverty and inequality by supporting girls to go to school and succeed, and empowering young women to step up as leaders of change.  CAMFED invests in girls and women in the poorest rural communities in sub-Saharan Africa, where girls face acute disadvantage, and where their education has transformative potential. Since 1993, the organization’s innovative community-led education programs have supported more than 2.6 million children to go to school in Ghana, Malawi, Tanzania, Zambia and Zimbabwe at more than 5,745 partner schools.W

Honorees to be joined by: 

Gala Host:  Tamsen Fadal

Honorary Gala Chair:  Loreen Arbus       

Honorary Gala Co-Chairs:

Abigail Disney, Lauren Embrey, Suzanne Lerner  

 Stay Tuned: On Friday, March 1st, the Complete List of ’21 Leaders for the 21st Century’ will be Announced,  with a link to RSVP!!

February 16th 2019, 4:35 pm

Monthly Column: WRighteous

Women

#WhenAPetDies*

Almost exactly a year ago I learned that when a pet dies – whether it’s in your arms or in your home, or when taken to a veterinarian or when a veterinarian comes to your house to put her or him down – the grief cuts through you so deep you can barely breathe, and it stays. It stays and rears its head when you’re driving, walking down the street, taking a bath, or making dinner. It rears its head when you smell their fur on a pillow, on a sofa, or on a chair. It hits you so hard and so deep and so wide. I also learned something I never knew: partner pets grieve profoundly. Partner pets sleep together, and play together and take care of each other; lick each other’s coats and yes, their wounds, and keep each other clean. When one goes, the other is lost, sad, full of pain that is palpable and visible. They love good, and fully and unconditionally; that I now know wholeheartedly with every single fiber in my being. 


I also know something else – we must stop comparing trauma and suffering and pain – making other humans feel badly or unworthy of their own suffering and pain. No one needed to tell folks a year ago – folks who were without power for days and days and days here on the East Coast – that the people in Puerto Rico had it much worse, and were suffering much more. To be without power – to literally be and feel powerless – is scary and hard and it should bring out the compassion, not the competitive, in all of us.

Competing only makes people feel horribly guilty and awful and, worse, it makes folks feel that their pain doesn’t much matter or count or have any value whatsoever. Something else I know from the inside out: heartbreak is heartbreak, it shouldn’t be weighed by circumstance. I know what it’s like to dig a grave and bury a pet who meant the absolute whole entire world to me – a creature who helped me get through my dark depression and unbearable sadness and loved me when I couldn’t love me. Someone recently wrote that she could barely breathe because her dog had died, and she didn’t know how she would get through a day, and someone responded, “But, it’s only a pet for God sake.’ No, no, no… it’s not just a pet. Not to that woman who wrote in all CAPS that she could barely breathe, and not to me; my cat, my Lotus, was my life-saver. Please, let’s be less judgmental, less critical, less petty. Petty is so unattractive. 


It is not a good accessory to wear or even try on. Let’s stop competing with each other and start completing each other. Let’s stop acting holier than thou with the, “…but it’s only a home, it’s only a pet; it can be replaced, oh, it’s just a car, it’s only a piece of jewelry, it’s only a teddy bear… but but but but it’s only… but it’s only… but think of other folks who have it much worse… but, it’s only…” For folks whose comfort and safety and ease came or come from any of those things, items, possessions; for folks whose unbearable pain comes from the reminder of a touch or a smell or a memory of a pet; for a child who held tight to a stuffed animal to help her or him breathe during an anxiety attack or sadness or a death – and now that stuffed animal is lost, gone, in a fire… it’s not ‘an only’, it’s absolutely everything. It is everything to that person – to that child, to that girl, to that boy, to that woman, to that man. Please, allow folks the luxury of mourning and grieving whatever loss weighs on them; whatever loss that is. It is not ours to judge or criticize someone’s pain or sorrow or suffering or heartache, and it is not up to us to take that away from them. Let’s be humans who show compassion and goodness, and spread kindness everywhere. Let’s be creatures who comfort each other, not diminish the needs of others. Let’s be people who afford someone else their pain, their suffering, their heartbreak; it is what allows us the opportunity to understand and know and love another human heart. Let’s stop comparing and competing. There really is no best in hell.

amy ferris

author. writer. girl

*This post is written in memory of Lori Sokol‘s pet Merlin, a teacup Yorkshire Terrier who left this world on February 9th, after spending 14 years providing unconditional love and support for all who were lucky enough to know him.

Women’s eNews monthly columnist Amy Ferris is a highly accomplished author, screenwriter, television writer and editor. She was also honored by Women’s eNews as one of our ‘21 Leaders for the 21st Century‘ for 2018. Once a month you will continue to be invited into her world, where she will champion, encourage and inspire women to awaken to their greatness, as only she can, through passion, truth, hope, and humor — along with a heaping side of activism.

February 14th 2019, 8:50 pm

Transforming Pain Into Healing

Women

Excerpt from Chapter Six of  My Blood Divides and Unites,by Jesmane Boggenpoel

Embrace the Pain?

Apartheid and its lingering after-effects still pain the nation of South Africa. And that is a frightening realization; for this pain stands in the way of racial reconciliation. Lack of reconciliation is a festering sore that hampers the social, economic, and other advances needed to propel South Africa into a prosperous, harmonious future.

We all feel pain, for we all are human. We all have reason to feel this pain, for we have all been wounded by someone or something. Some people quickly forgive those who, or that which, harmed them and move on. For them, pain is but a passing issue that does not become lingering anger. Other people do not realize they are in pain and by feeling only the resulting anger, have little opportunity to heal. Yet other people know they are in pain but do not recognize that they have the ability to deal with it. Instead, they focus on the person or group they feel has caused their agony and lash out in anger.

Sometimes it seems as if South Africa is awash in anger and violence due to inequality, unemployment, the frustration with poor service delivery, the cost of university education, issues related to land transfer without compensation, and so much more. Many are angry because they believe that certain jobs and neighborhoods are closed off to them and “their kind,” and many harbor anger over the feeling that they and their group are being slighted.

Much of this is really pain manifesting as anger, an anger with roots that go back to what happened years before, and over things members of other groups say and do today. So much pain spews out as anger, and so often we fail to recognize the underlying hurt. The targets of this wrath certainly don’t think about the underlying pain. Instead, they see the anger and the threat, to which they respond dismissively, defensively, or with an anger of their own. Individual pain levels ratchet up, as does the social pain level, and we sometimes seem to be locked in an endless, ever-more-frightening cycle of indignation, ire, or wrath.

I believe we would be much better off as individuals and as a society if we could recognize and deal with our pain before it becomes uncontrollable anger.

Healing at the Micro Level

I have spoken, directly or indirectly, about healing on the personal level in this book. For me, healing came through the process of working out my identity, realizing that I am so much more than a Coloured person as defined by apartheid, dealing with my lingering emotions, and experiencing gratefulness as I realized just how much support I received from my family and faith.

Talking about my pain with close confidants and family members, and putting it down on paper, was cathartic. In many cases, the act of speaking and being heard is all it takes to start the process of healing, so long as those to whom you are speaking listen to hear and not to judge. Talking in this manner doesn’t always dispel your pain, but it certainly helps uncover hidden hurt, which you can then decide how to deal with. There are numerous ways to discover, explore, and process pain, ranging from two people informally coming together to share their stories and their pain, to broadly based, moderator-led group discussions guided by the essential principles of truth and reconciliation.

I encourage everyone to talk, and to listen with open ears and an open heart as the other person pours out her stories. I encourage everyone to create a space where stories and pain can be recounted and acknowledged, no matter how large or small that space may be, no matter who wishes to speak within it.

Healing at the Macro Level

Healing at the social and national level is just as important as healing at the personal level. In some ways, healing socially and nationally is more difficult, for it requires millions of people to make a deliberate effort to recognize, respond to, and release their pain, even the “righteous pain” that everyone agrees is justified because so many people did suffer in so many ways.

South Africa attempted to deal with its pain via – among other things – the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, a nation-wide effort to address the crimes perpetuated by apartheid, grant amnesty to the perpetrators in some cases, and call for rehabilitation and reparation where appropriate.

Despite its limitations, the Commission was an excellent start. Can we take it further? A relatively small percentage of South Africans were included in the truth and reconciliation process. I hope this has brought them some measure of healing. And now, what of the rest, of the tens of millions of people denied a good education, shut out of many jobs, forced to live in crime-ridden slums far away from city centers, denied permission to use certain buses or dine in certain restaurants, and so much more? What of them and their pain? To what extent has their pain turned to anger? And to what extent is that anger hindering social healing and racial reconciliation?

Making Pain a Plus

Our ultimate goal should be to transform pain into a positive. Instead of a negative to be avoided, it should be a positive to be sought out. It should be exposed to the light, recognized, acknowledged, and empathized with.

When we see people acting out, rather than responding with disgust or anger, rather than throwing up the barricades, might we ask ourselves, “What is their pain?”

I believe that when a nation – any nation – commits itself to truly and honestly engaging with its members, and to affording opportunities for all to listen and discover their pains and needs, deep and permanent healing is possible. As the healing takes hold, the tide of racial reconciliation will follow, and we will be able to engage with each other authentically, on the basis of humanity. That is my hope.

Read the rest of the book, My Blood Divides and Unites

Jesmane Boggenpoel is an experienced business executive and former Head of Business Engagement for Africa at the World Economic Forum in Switzerland. She has served on the boards of various South African and international organizations. She is a Chartered Accountant and holds a Master’s degree from Harvard University’s JFK School of Government. Jesmane was honored as a Young Global Leader of the World Economic Forum, is a Harvard Mason fellow and a shareholder and founding board member of African Women Chartered Accountants Investment Holdings. Boggenpoel has extensive global experience having studied and worked on three continents, as well as traveling to over 65 countries.

February 10th 2019, 11:24 am

Meet Our First Group of ’21 Leaders for the 21st Century’ 2019

Women

 

SAVE THE DATE!!

Monday, May 6th

6:30pm Cocktails/7:15pm Dinner & Awards

Club 101 (101 Park Ave., NYC)

 

 

Gisselle Acevedo, President and CEO, Ackerman Institute for the Family
As President and CEO, Gisselle Acevedo leads the Ackerman Institute for the Family to further its mission to improve the mental health of families in the New York area through the dynamic interaction of innovative treatment, state of the art training and cutting edge research. In her role, she will use her vision and voice to help Ackerman in moving families forward with the purpose to serve mental health care professionals and bring innovative perspectives to a broad array of community service agencies and other health care facilities. Appointed in 2018, she is the Institute’s fifth president and the first Hispanic woman to lead the organization.

 

Danielle Belton, Editor-in-Chief, The Root
Recipient, Rita Henley Jensen Excellence in Journalism Award 2019
Born and raised St. Louis, Mo. on a healthy diet of news programming, pop culture, black history and “snark,” Danielle Belton is currently Editor-in-Chief of the leading black news site, The Root. She was previously best known as the editor and writer of the award-winning pop culture-meets-politics blog The Black Snob. As a journalist, Belton has written for: The New York Times, The Daily Beast, Essence Magazine, The Guardian, The American Prospect, Jezebel, NPR, The Huffington Post and many others. Belton currently lives in New York City.

 

Robyn Hatcher. Owner and CEO of SpeakEtc.
Robyn Hatcher is a keynote speaker, communication expert, author “recovering” actor. Robyn inspires women to stand out, move up, lean in and take charge through corporate programs, private coaching, and interactive presentations. Pretty astounding since her literal nickname growing up was SHY She has written, stage film and two daytime dramas and last year appeared on Good Morning America speaking about the “Me Too” movement.

 

Cynthia López, Executive Director of New York Women in Film & Television.
Cynthia Lopez leads the preeminent professional association for women in film, television and digital media in New York City, NYWFT. She is an award-winning media strategist, and former Commissioner of the New York City Mayor’s Office of Media and Entertainment, where she implemented strategies to support film and TV production throughout the five boroughs. Prior to working as Commissioner, López was Executive Vice President and co-Executive Producer of the award-winning PBS documentary series American Documentary | POV, and is the recipient of many coveted industry awards including: 11 News and Documentary Emmy Awards, a Special Emmy Award for Excellence in Documentary Filmmaking, three Peabody Awards, two duPont-Columbia Awards, and the National Association of Latino Independent Producers (NALIP) Award for Commitment to Corporate Diversity.

 

Brette McSweeney, President of Eleanor’s Legacy
Brette McSweeney is the President of Eleanor’s Legacy, the only statewide organization in New York focused on recruiting, training, and funding pro-choice Democratic women candidates at the state and local level. She was a member of the New York Leadership Council for Hillary for America in 2016 and the deputy New York State director for women’s outreach in 2008. Brette is a graduate of Georgetown and Columbia universities.

 

© Donna F. Aceto

Anna Oliviera, President and CEO of The New York Women’s Foundation Under Ana’s leadership, The New York Women’s Foundation has increased The Foundation’s grantmaking from $1.7M in 2006 to $9M today. Ana previously held key roles as a CEO of the Gay Men’s Health Crisis, VP of Programs at Osborne Association, and Lincoln Medical and Mental Health Center Substance Abuse Clinic. Ana attained her M.A. in Medical Anthropology and a PhD. (hon) from the New School for Social Research.  She was born in Sao Paulo, Brazil, and resides in Manhattan.

 

Stephanie Sandberg, Executive Director of LPAC
Stephanie Sandberg serves as the Executive Director of LPAC, the only political organization for LGBTQ women; and Project LPAC, a charitable organization that conducts original research on LGBTQ women and civic engagement. Prior to her appointment in 2018, Stephanie was Director of OutWOMEN and Managing Director at Out Leadership, a B Corp that seeks to provide businesses ‘return on equality’ through LGBTQ inclusion. She spent her earlier professional career in media, where she had business roles at The Los Angeles Times, Newsweek, The New Yorker and The New Republic, where she served as president and publisher. Stephanie lives in Princeton, NJ, with her wife and two daughters.

 

Women’s eNews’ complete list of  21 Honorees will be announced on Feb. 15th, along with a registration link to easily RSVP!

We Hope To See You There!

 

 

 

February 1st 2019, 4:56 pm

Menstrual Products Must Be Available in School Restrooms. Period.

Women

My expectations for school restrooms are relatively low. I attend a large public high school where clogged sinks and overflowing trash bins are the norm. Still, even worse than the condition of the restrooms is the near-lack of menstrual hygiene products, which has impacted me as a young woman. When I see that toilet paper, hand soap, and paper towels are available and are provided to students free of cost, I wonder why menstrual products aren’t too.

Currently, in the United States, only three states—California, Illinois, and New York— require schools serving students in grades six through twelve to provide menstrual products in women’s restrooms for free. Millions of girls around the country are therefore forced to bring these products from home and face discomfort and lost educational time when they must leave class with their entire backpack to go to the restroom, or have to ask the school nurse or a friend for one when they don’t have any. Menstrual products are largely viewed as luxuries rather than the necessities they truly are, and this is an issue that must be acted upon.

Many individuals are unaware of the fact that period poverty in the United States is real. Often viewed as an issue faced primarily by individuals in developing countries, many are shocked to learn that nearly one in five American girls have either left school early or missed school entirely due to a lack of access to menstrual products. The “tampon tax,” a tax on menstrual products that currently exists in 36 states, further aggravates the issue, and in a country where nearly 14 percent of girls and women live below the poverty line compared to just 11 percent of boys and men, it is crucial for menstrual equity to exist.

Recognizing that challenges regarding access to menstrual products persist, students in some schools have attempted to take action to ensure that pads and tampons are available in all women’s restrooms. After receiving funds from my school last year to redecorate and “renovate” one of the women’s restrooms, members of my high school’s Women’s Club used a large portion of the money to purchase menstrual products that were stored in plastic containers in the restrooms. Although this has been helpful, it hasn’t proven to be a reliable solution to the problem. Products haven’t been restocked this school year due to lack of funding, and even last year when menstrual products were supplied by the club, they ran out in just a couple of days and it was a few more days before containers were refilled.

The reality is that when students don’t have constant, reliable access to menstrual products at school, they are forced to ask the school nurse or their friends. Most school nurses only have a limited supply of menstrual products, and while they are happy to provide them to students occasionally, they are unable to supply them to students on a regular basis. Many students also feel a sense of discomfort when asking other students for menstrual products and telling them about their period. Some students may even feel that it is best to just stay home when they are on their period because they don’t have proper access to menstrual products at school,  which is unfortunate. Having easy and reliable access to these products in school restrooms is essential.

Additionally, at some schools in my city, including mine, sanitary pad and tampon dispensers are currently only available in restrooms that are at centralized locations in the school, such as the commons. Therefore, some students find it difficult to access these restrooms during class time. “Students can’t leave their academic wing with a bathroom pass and go to the commons…what are you going to tell the male security guard in the academic wing you’re in? I have to go to the commons to get a tampon?” says Ava Kaminski, 16, a student at neighboring public  high school. Having menstrual products and dispensers available in restrooms is critical for students to stay in school and feel safe and comfortable. Furthermore, expanding access to menstrual products to gender neutral restrooms would benefit an even larger number of students.

Many individuals also believe that while teen leaders are important, they should not be the only ones ensuring that their fellow classmates are able to access these products in schools; schools and district administrators must recognize the critical nature of the issue and work to allocate funds for menstrual products and dispensers. “School would go a lot smoother if these products were available to students. Students should be able to focus on their classes and education and not have to worry about if they remembered to bring pads to school,” says Noelle Livingston, 17. A group of student leaders at my school are currently working with school administrators to receive funding for menstrual products and dispensers for all the women’s restrooms, something many are looking forward to.

In a society where women are taught to hide their period, working to end menstrual stigma is very important to achieve menstrual equity. Many students agree that menstrual health is often glazed over and inadequately addressed in their middle school and high school health education classes. Creating a welcoming, trusting, and open environment is the first step to effectively educating both girls and boys on this topic and the stigma that currently surrounds it. When students can learn from one another through thoughtful and meaningful conversation, it is possible to form a collaborative community that is capable of creating change.

It’s time for everyone to realize that menstrual products are necessities, not luxuries, and that periods should be embraced, not feared.

Shruti Sathish is currently a senior in high school and lives in Madison, WI. 

January 29th 2019, 1:05 pm

Q&A: Building Bridges Instead of Walls

Women

Sarah Stewart Holland and Beth Silvers are rising stars in the podcast world–twice a week hosting Pantsuit Politics, which boasts close to four million downloads to-date. Their first book, ‘I Think You’re Wrong (But I’m Listening): A Guide to Grace-Filled Political Conversations,’ will be released to the public on February 5. Here Sarah, a devoted Democrat, and Beth, a lifelong Republican, show–as they do in their podcasts–that what unites us is far greater than what divides us. Their experience building bridges instead of walls is a message needed now more than ever.

Q. What does the title of your book mean? And, especially, how are you defining the word “grace”?

A: Sarah (from the left): For me, grace means every human being has inherent worth by virtue of being born and deserves inherent dignity that should not be stripped from them no matter how abhorrent their behavior. Grace is a value separate from behavior or wealth or party or any other outside characteristic by which we try to categorize each other.

Beth (from the right): Unlike civility, tolerance, politeness, compromise, or just being nice, grace is a state of being–a quality that we have to personally embody in order to extend it to others. This quality might be informed by a faith perspective. It might also mean a secular groundedness — a confidence in your own worthiness and a sense of connection to others because of their worthiness. Grace makes space to hold the tension between and among very different perspectives, even when compromise is unlikely or impossible, with a sense that the tension is worth it. The title of our book, to me, means “we don’t have to convince each other of anything to know that we belong together.”

Q: One of you is a Republican, the other a Democrat. And you’re friends. How would you describe your personal relationship, and your working relationship as hosts of the podcast, “Pantsuit Politics”?

A: Sarah: When we started the podcast, we were not close friends. We had known each other since college but hadn’t been in touch for many years. The act of showing up with authenticity and vulnerability to discuss politics – a subject most people avoid with their closest friends – actually forged a deep bond. As our connection grew, we continued to prioritize the relationship instead of trying to score cheap political points, and that’s why now Beth is one of my dearest friends and closest confidant.

Beth: Sarah and I have entirely different perspectives on policy and very different personalities. We have discovered through our commitment to conversation that our values very closely align. We see this not only in our political conversations, but also in our approach to work and life. To me, our partnership is a testament to the fact that difference of opinion enhances almost any endeavor. Sarah pushes me to think more clearly and deeply. I want people in my life who make me better, and Sarah is at the top of that list precisely because she is so different from me.

Q: I’m sure it’s no coincidence that your book is coming out during this fractious time in our nation’s history. What’s the first step in the process of bridging the political divide in our country?

A: Sarah: We all have to take a long, hard look at ourselves. We have to closely examine our political identity and dig down deep to find the values that animate that identity. When we can start to talk about our values – both shared and divergent – as Americans, then we can start to bridge the divide.

Beth: I think coming to grips with our individual responsibilities as citizens is absolutely key. Hopelessness about politics is an abdication of responsibility and power, and it’s how we got to such a fractious time. Especially if you’re a person of moderate positions or temperament, it’s important to examine your beliefs and motivations to decide how you want to participate in your communities.

Q: How do the two of you deal with differences of opinion?

A: Sarah: We approach every conversation with the understanding that we are trying to understand each other – not convince each other. It is perfectly acceptable to have different opinions. We aren’t all going to agree on everything and that’s ok. We lose sight of that sometimes. A democracy is based on the idea that no one gets it right 100% of the time, so disagreement is essential. It’s not a bug. It’s a feature. When you recognize that, it makes disagreements much easier to navigate.

Beth: We invite differences of opinion. We say up front in the book that we aren’t asking people to agree with our opinions; we’re asking readers and listeners to use our conversations as a way to examine their own opinions. We expect differences, and we want to test and challenge, and sometimes even evolve or wholly change our opinions. We write in the book about how we don’t want to freeze our political thought in time, but without differences of opinion, that’s what happens.

Q: How do you continue to strengthen your connection?

A: Sarah: Beyond being together in a business partnership and all the connection that can bring, we also talk for 2-3 hours every single week. That is more than some people talk to their spouses! A regular communicative practice like that will strengthen any connection. We are connecting and disagreeing and understanding each other better all the time through regular conversation. It’s that practice that leads to a strong connection.

Beth: I agree with Sarah that our practice of talking is a huge part of our connection. We also do simple but powerful things to show our appreciation for each other. We intentionally give each other credit for ideas. We talk openly about each other’s strengths and the ways in which we’ve positively influenced each other. Those small things affirm our commitment to each other as friends and partners.

January 27th 2019, 1:39 pm

Meet India’s First Transgender Woman Lawyer

Women

When Sathyasri Sharmilla graduated as a lawyer in 2007, she was elated. She knew, armed with a law degree, that she could help her community with greater vigor. But when she applied for mandatory enrollment to the Bar Council, she realized she couldn’t register since the form did not include a category for transgender persons. Sharmilla then decided that she would only enroll when the Bar Council recognized the third gender and included this category on its official form. It would take almost 11 years of advocacy and resolve before Sharmilla’s dream would come true when last year, on July 1, 2018, she became India’s first transgender woman to become a lawyer.

“I wouldn’t have had to wait so many years if I had followed the gender binary columns in the form and enrolled under the female category. But I was determined to enroll only as a trans woman lawyer. Since I am a resident of Tamil Nadu, I went to the state Bar Council of Tamil Nadu and Puducherry to register. They were shocked to hear that I wanted to enroll 11 years after graduating. However, they were very supportive. They told me that no other lawyer had ever approached them to include a category for transgender people and that I was the first. I am really happy that I have opened the doors for trans women and trans men lawyers to be known for who they are,” said the 36-year-old Sharmilla, currently working under the guidance of a high court judge.

“I am happy to see that I have inspired some members of the community to study law. I am hoping that I will be able to articulate their voices on a larger platform and change mindsets about our community,” she said.

Her success has come as a big shot in the arm for the community which continues to struggle for respect and dignity despite the 2014 Supreme Court ruling in favor of a ‘third gender.’ The court judgment gave them the right to self-identification of their gender as male, female or third-gender and granted them political and economic rights.

Although there are approximately five million transgender citizens in India, according to the 2011 national census, it is believed that stigma and fear of harassment prevented many from revealing their gender identity during the official mapping. Even though recognition of the third gender was finally official, LBGTQ activists believe several thousands of transgender persons remained uncounted because they were afraid to disclose their gender status.

“One of the reasons for their fear is the lack of information and knowledge,” Sharmilla says. The literacy level in the community is just 46 per cent, compared to 74 per cent in the general population, according to the 2011 census. And this is what Sharmilla wants to change. Not only does she want to underline the importance of education, but also wants the community to become aware of their rights, both legal and constitutional, so that they can counter discrimination.

“I faced problems since the time I and everyone around me became conscious that I was different. My family was harassed because I did not conform to the norms traditionally associated with the sex assigned to me at birth. Biologically born a male, I realized I wanted to be a woman when I was 12  years old. After learning more about the trans community, it became clear that, except for begging and sex work, most trans persons were not gainfully employed in any other professions. Then I knew that education would be my biggest weapon to tackle discrimination,” Sharmilla says.

So after completing school, she left home to pursue higher studies because she didn’t want her family to face any trauma because of her. After graduating as a lawyer in 2007 from Salem Government College in Tamil Nadu, Sharmilla started to work for the community. Over the next 10 years, she travelled across the country to use her skills as a lawyer to educate the community about its rights. “Having become the first person to get a passport under the third gender category, I know the process and documents required. I faced many obstacles despite being educated. But I don’t want the community to go through the same problems especially as majority of them are uneducated,” Sharmilla says.

Besides help from people like Sharmilla, the community was hoping that the Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Bill 2018 would address stigma, discrimination and harassment and bring change. Although the bill was finally passed last month by the Lower House of Parliament in India, after hanging in the balance for two years, it has disappointed the community. The bill, which was supposed to uphold their rights and prohibit discrimination against them in education, employment, and healthcare, has not lived up to its promise. It now makes screening mandatory to identify transgender persons, criminalizes begging, proposes lighter punishment for crimes committed against members of the community and offers no opportunities in education and employment. Further, the bill does not provide a proper definition of transgender persons and neither does provide for self-determination of gender, thus undermining their human rights as guaranteed under the Constitution of India.

Today, Sharmilla is using her legal skills to build support against this bill. She, along with the community and civil society organizations, are trying to ensure that these problematic provisions are revised so no trans person has to wait 11 years, as she did, to be respected and recognized.

 

January 24th 2019, 9:35 pm

When the Fetus is Female

Women

Choosing to arrive one day early in Washington, DC, to march in solidarity with other women and men in protest of the current administration’s anti-women policies on January 19, it quickly became clear that I was not the only one who wanted a full day to prepare. The overcrowded taxi-stand outside Union Station amassed a seemingly endless line of out-of-towners, each of us standing impatiently amidst frigid temperatures and falling snow for what seemed like hours, awaiting taxis of which there were clearly not enough.

But then the real outrage began.

Anti-choice extremists had just completed their ‘March for Life’ demonstration that afternoon, returning on buses to Union Station en masse, still cheering, while raising their arms holding signs that read, ‘A person’s a person no matter how small’ (I don’t think a person’s size was ever really at issue), ‘Life begins at conception and ends at Planned Parenthood’ (Planned Parenthood actually saves the lives of hundreds of thousands of people by providing breast exams, pap smears and, even, thousands of vasectomies per year), and my personal favorite, ‘The end of storks means the end of life.’ (I don’t think the man who held up this sign actually understood how babies are made, but I digress).

Yet my outrage had still not reached its peak until it became glaringly obvious that a significant number of these ‘March for Life’ protestors were male. This seemed particularly poignant since they had traveled from far and wide, on a workday, and in the frigid cold, to march outdoors to help ensure that our elected officials force all fetuses be carried to full-term.

But then, I wondered to myself, “Even if the fetus is female?”

Our country, and the world, has forever been giving birth to inequality, due to patriarchal systems men have put in place. Newborn females are born into a world of gender injustice and socialized into gender norms as early as preschool. From the earliest age boys are still prepared for their future role as provider and protector, and girls as caregivers, thereby preventing girls from reaching their full potential. And when these girls become women, danger to their emotional and physical well-being only multiplies. They are likely to be rattled by sex discrimination, harassment and other forms of dangerous and unfair treatment, including unequal pay and limited career opportunities. In fact, the longer a woman lives, the higher the likelihood of her becoming impoverished.

The male protestors’ behavior therefore defies logic. Why would they march in defense of all fetuses, even when over half of them are female, knowing that so many of their protections are eliminated once they are born? Could it be that they only care about protecting females inside the womb, but not out?

One would think so, since the current male-dominated Trump administration, which supports an extreme ‘anti-choice’ platform, has done nothing to help reduce the dangerous levels of discrimination females face throughout their lives. In fact, it has actually done the opposite. A number of our nation’s laws ensuring protection for women have either been reduced or eliminated in the last two years, including the Violence Against Women Act, which was allowed to expire thanks to the continuing government shut-down. Further, Title IX was recently changed to favor the accused (almost certainly male) over the victim (almost certainly female) in college sexual assault cases. The administration has also silently removed official information on sexual violence from government websites, thereby preventing women and men from receiving the information they need to learn about what constitutes sexual violence, and what legal actions a victim may undertake.

And while these rules and laws are hampering women’s ability to embark on futures free from sexual harassment, financial dependence, and deteriorating health, there is something even worse in the works: ‘Fetal Personhood Laws.’  These laws are being proposed, and passed, by an increasing number of states under the guise of ‘protecting’ the fetus. What these laws actually do is place the future of the fetus ahead of even the mother. As a result, a woman who terminates her pregnancy, or behaves in any way that could potentially jeopardize the health of her fetus, can be arrested and prosecuted. Currently, over 600 pregnant women in the United States have been charged with crimes under ‘fetal personhood’ laws, which have now been adopted in 37 states by anti-abortion lawmakers. Essentially, the ‘pro-life’ stance has become ‘pro-prison’ for women.

So it really boggles the mind why anti-choice legislators, and those who support them, would go to such extremes to defend and protect a fetus, even when the fetus could be female, only to dismantle so many of her safeguards once she is born. It seems almost as if it’s not really the ‘sanctity of life’ the GOP and its supporters actually care about but, perhaps, something else…

Many supporters of gender equality and reproductive choice have contended that what is really at stake is men’s desire to control reproduction, thereby limiting women’s freedom. This reasoning, in fact, was used in a recent Iowa Supreme Court decision that rejected a 72-hour waiting period for women seeking an abortion. “Autonomy and dominion over one’s body go to the very heart of what it means to be free,” wrote Supreme Court Chief Justice Mark Cady, in his June 29, 2018, decision. “At stake in this case is the right to shape, for oneself, without unwarranted governmental intrusion, one’s own identity, destiny, and place in the world.”

And nothing could be more fundamental to the notion of liberty and equality, once outside the womb, even if delivered by stork.

 

 

 

 

 

 

January 20th 2019, 8:57 pm

When Bullying Backfires

Women

A major hallmark of President Trump’s style is his relentless attack on politically-correct (PC) norms. Down with the elites! Down with career politicians and their constrained language! Down with the fear of offending!

One of the most common reasons people gave for voting for Donald Trump is that he is straightforward and outspoken; he doesn’t mince words. “Unlike so many career politicians, he ‘speaks his mind’ and is ‘unafraid to offend,’ notes the Los Angeles Times.

But as we look ahead to the 2020 elections, Trump is seeing some major competition from an unexpected source. For the first time, women are out-trumping Trump in the ‘I’ve-got-to-be-me department. On the 2018 campaign trail, female candidates were forthright, openly claiming their authenticity; they ran as lesbians, victims of sexual assault, Muslims, mothers of drug-addicted children, bi-sexuals, cancer survivors, and gun-control advocates. They have embraced his anti-PC style, ignoring socially accepted norms and challenging social conventions about what women are and should be. They have stepped out from behind the mask of submissiveness and passivity with pride.

And it worked. Over one hundred women were elected to Congress, breaking all previous records. 

Kansas Democratic candidate Sharice Davids is one of the first two Native American women elected to Congress and is also the first openly LGBT candidate to win statewide office there. She is from the Ho-Chunk Nation in Wisconsin and has focused her career on the advancement of Native Americans. Her ethnic identity and sexual orientation were front and center in her campaign, as was her experience as a professional mixed-martial artistTwo muslim women also entered Congress for the first time, Michigan’s Rashida Tlaib and Minnesota’s Ilhan Omar. Omar, a Somali refugee, campaigned wearing Muslim garb. Talib, born in Palestine, took on Trump’s islamophobia by stressing her heritage in her campaign. “I don’t really give space to people who are attacking me based on my identities,” she said.  

For all of this we have Trump to thank. Little did he think that his endless chest-thumping brags about “telling it as it is” and “speaking his mind” would have the unanticipated consequence of freeing women to be authentic. And their authenticity helped them to remarkable success at the ballot box. While men and women alike have drawn Trump’s ire, there is a marked difference in how the sexes have responded.

Trump’s non-stop bullying has also had devastating effects on his male targets. Witness the fate of the 16 Republican hopefuls during the 2016 campaign. Frontrunners ‘Lying Ted Cruz,’ ‘Low-energy Jeb Bush,’ and ‘Little Marco Rubio,’ all withered under Trump’s blitzkrieg. Without stooping to Trump’s level, they had no other rejoinder. Since the 2016 election, few Republicans have challenged Trump in any way due to fear of retribution. 

In contrast, while women have been constant targets of Trump, their reaction was surprising. They laced up their sneakers and ran for office. In addition to those elected to Congress,  nine women were elected as governors and record numbers of women won statewide office across the U.S.  In the past, women have been muzzled by heavy sanctions against forthright, aggressive, open, honest speech.  No more. Trump’s headlong verbal assaults have backfired. 

His assaults on powerful women, while devastating, have not scared off the likes of Theresa May, Angela Merkel, Dianne Feinstein, or Elizabeth Warren. (Warren brushed off Trump’s attacks and won her senate race easily.) Trump ramped up his attacks on prominent black women, who also fought right back. Although ee called representative Maxine Waters, the soon-to-be chair of the House Financial Services committee, a person of “ low-IQ,” Waters snapped right back, calling Trump “dangerous” and a “liar” on MSNBC. Further, Trump recently called three well-regarded black female journalists “stupid” and “losers. ” All three lost no time in responding that their questions were proper and appropriate, and their colleagues agreed. 

And, although Stacey Abrams lost a very tight race, she has emerged as a role model for other women showing that you, too, can stand up for yourself and refuse to be silenced by tradition and bullies. Rather than being cowed, she and other women found their voices. The rules of the game have changed, and politics are no longer a hostile place for women. 

Stephanie Schriock, the president of Emily’s List, a national group devoted to electing female candidates, said that before the 2016 presidential election, nearly 1,000 women had reached out to the List, wanting to get more engaged in politics, maybe even to run for office. More recently, she said, the number has skyrocketed to over 22,000. “We have never seen anything like what we have seen over the last 12 months,” Ms. Schriock told NPR. 

By actually turning out in large numbers, not by falsely claiming big crowds, women are rebuking Trump’s assertions. Many critics wondered if such intensity could be sustained. And perhaps it would have waned, if Donald Trump had not kept throwing logs on the fire. His anti-PC attacks on women continued unabated. Shortly before the midterms, the President derided Dr. Christine Blasey Ford, who had accused his Supreme Court nominee, Brett Kavanaugh, of sexual assault. Imitating Dr. Ford at a campaign rally, he kept saying “I don’t know” and “I don’t remember,” in a mocking tone. He added, again in what was supposed to be her voice, “I only had one beer!,” mocking her testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee. Upping his anti-PC rants, he has compared women to “dogs,” “pigs” and “horses”  when commenting on their looks or weight.

“This rhetoric is the kind of thing that has turned off college-educated Republican women who voted for Trump in 2016, but have fallen away,” says Debbie Walsh, the director of the Center for American Women and Politics at Rutgers University in her recent interview with the New York Times. She called the President’s remarks  “adolescent,” adding, “you cannot continue to be a party in power if the voters that you are appealing to are white men over the age of 60.” 

Did Trump expect to ignite the firestorm of women who came gunning for him? Probably not. Surely he must have been startled by the way they took a page out of his own playbook, letting the chips (and the insults) fall where they may. Ayanna Pressley, the new congresswoman from Massachusetts, used words as weapons, Trump style: “Our president is a racist, misogynistic, truly empathy-bankrupt man… change is coming and the future belongs to all of us.”

Whether marching, voting en masse, or running for office, women are succeeding at using Donald Trump’s combative tactics to proclaim their own authenticity. Will the trend continue as the 2020 race heads our way? According to the Center for American Women and Politics at Rutgers, women were angered by Trump’s election and “are now even more driven to get involved after the flood of sexual harassment allegations against powerful men.”

Nothing succeeds like success, especially in politics.  

 

About the authors: Dr. Rosalind C. Barnett is an award-winning psychologist who has directed major research projects for federal agencies and the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, among others. Caryl Rivers is a professor of journalism at Boston University and is a recipient of a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Society of Professional Journalists. They are the authors of “The New Soft War on Women” (Tarcher/Penguin) as well as six other books on women, men and society.

January 17th 2019, 9:09 pm

We Must March Against Kakocracy

Women

The US Government’s shutdown is a petulant display of minority power. It is a conservative coup against the will of the people. It is also a dangerous game that disproportionately affects women via a kakocracy with blatant disregard for them.
 
That’s just one reason why, on Saturday, January 19, 2019, women and allies across America will march again in a wave of rage and determination. What could have been a day of celebration for women’s progress since unleashing the rainbow sea of signs and pussy hats on January 21, 2017, has instead become an urgent call for change. Our nation is in a hostage situation and needs us all to help it break free, particularly for women who are the most vulnerable.
 
Congress recently passed legislation assuring that 800,000 federal workers will eventually be reimbursed for lost time during the US government shutdown, but only after the shutdown ends. Even so, this act does nothing to help custodians, cleaners and other contract support staff that have been out of work since just before Christmas. These workers, disproportionately women and often immigrants, will therefore never receive their lost wages, and are now scrambling to find jobs and money to feed and shelter their families in the dead of winter.
 
If the governmental shutdown continues into next month, the food programs that assist low-income people will run out of appropriated funding. This looming threat of the loss of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and other mother-support initiatives add stress to an already anxiety-ridden population of women trying to keep their families afloat. In a nation led by the wealthiest administration in our history, this disdain for the plight of low-income minorities is obscene.
 
Further, the WIC federal program that offers assistance to women, infants, and children known by providing millions of dollars for pregnancy support, breastfeeding and infant formula has been shuttered along with our government. States and limited emergency funds are therefore being forced to stretch their dollars to cover lower-income expectant and new mothers’ needs, foretelling disaster for America’s next generation.
 
Additionally, the shutdown has already dismantled other protections for women, including the Violence Against Women Act, which was allowed to expire on December 21, 2018. Further, the safe preparation of family meals in America, which is primarily provided by women, is also now in question since the shutdown has negatively impacted the Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) ability to guarantee safety of our food, as well as the EPA‘s ability to guarantee safe water for all residents. This is an act of terrorism. 
 
Although America’s citizens have spoken with our votes, in the conservative coup, this is not enough. Again and again the majority of our citizens have demanded progress, justice, equality,  and compassionate responses to these urgent environmental crises. Unfortunately, the Republican party has thus far responded with dangerous and overt actions against the will of the people, which include a majority of women.
 
Many who marched in protest on the day after Donald Trump’s inauguration have raised legitimate concerns about the language and tactics of some of the women’s marches. Even a quick glance at history shows that many social justice movements have been roiled with conflict when sudden alliances form to take down a common foe. It takes time for the mix of passion and anger to congeal into a unified purpose and approach.
 
We must understand that these frustrations, discussions and emotions will continue as we work toward equality, separately and together. Women have suffered massive injustices since this country was formed, but we are not a monolith. We each have vastly different histories, which will hopefully be understood and felt by other women in full and open compassion in the future, but we are not there yet. We can’t be, when so many of of us are just trying to stay alive.  
 
Yes, the status quo of the patriarchy has been wounded by the midterms and is deeply threatened; they are fully armed and have begun firing at will. Yet women are the strongest and most legitimate defenders of the promise of democracy. That is why on Saturday, January 19, women must rise as high as we are able and protest as loudly as possible. Which march we attend doesn’t matter as much as our voice of rage does.
 
Lately, some media seems to have taken delight publishing stories that diminish women’s protests while emphasizing new spins on the old sexist trope of “catfights.” One day, a unified women’s protest will evolve with time and talking, deep listening and learning, and action and support. While that is our long-term goal as progressive women, this Saturday provides an opportunity for women and allies across America to show unity beyond boundaries, borders and bigotry by rising as one against the shutdown.
 
Alyson Palmer is the founder and executive director of 1@1 Women’s Equality Actions and a member of the feminist trio, BETTY.
 
The 1@1 Minute for Women’s Equality
On January 19, 2019 at exactly 1pm EST,  the largest shared action for equal rights, justice, representation and opportunity on Earth will take place. No matter where you are, your focus will unite you in the same action with thousands of women and allies worldwide. Visit 1at1.org for details.
Information about a variety of women’s marches scheduled on January 19th in the US,
as well as globally, can be found by clicking onto the links below:
https://www.wearemarchon.org
https://www.womensmarch.com/2019/
https://womensmarchglobal.org

January 13th 2019, 8:49 pm

RespectAbility: Fighting Stigma Through Opportunity

Women

Jennifer Laszlo Mizrahi, President

“Nothing about us without us,” says Jennifer Laszlo Mizrahi, President of RespectAbility, a nonprofit organization fighting stigmas and advancing opportunities for people with disabilities. “The people most impacted with a set of challenges need to be at the table to help resolve those issues,” she continues. “If you’re not at the table, you’re on the menu!”

As its President, Mizrahi regularly works with disability organizations, national, state and local policy leaders, workforce development professionals, media, employers, philanthropists, celebrities and faith-based organizations in order to expand opportunities for people with disabilities. She has submitted testimony on employment for people with disabilities in all fifty states and at the Federal level.

She has also published dozens of opeds and publications on disability issues, including in USA TodayThe Hill and other publications, and as a columnist for The Huffington PostTimes of Israel and The Mighty. Mizrahi is a also co-author of Disability & Criminal Justice Reform: Keys to Success, which brought critical attention to the school-to-prison pipeline for people with disabilities and was featured on the PBS NewsHour. She is was involved in the Emmy-winning TV show, Born This Way, and in advancing diversity in Hollywood. Dyslexic herself, she also knows what it means to parent a child with multiple disabilities. “Women with disabilities have to have the agency and power to impact their own lives and those around them to have a better life,” Mizrahi adds. “The disability community needs to come out of the closet.”

And Mizrahi has been helping the community do just that by meeting one-on-one with 43 of America’s governors on disability issues. She also has undertaken projects with the White House and with more than 60 US Senators, as well as helped elect Prime Ministers and Presidents around the world.

RespectAbility hosts a dinner in NYC with some of its prospective candidates for its upcoming 2019 Disability Inclusion Advocacy trainings in NYC, funded by NYWF. In attendance were representatives from organizations serving women and girls with and without disabilities, self-advocates, an ally, RespectAbility board members and staff person. Photo credit: Rick Guidotti

 

 

 

RespectAbility, which was founded in 2013, represents Mizrahi’s mission. As a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization that understands people create a stronger community when they live up to their values –- when they are welcoming, diverse, moral and respect one another — RespectAbility fights stigmas and advances opportunities so that people with disabilities can fully participate in all aspects of community. “We don’t use pity,” Mizrahi asserts. “Instead, we show the capacity of people with disabilities. We don’t think there needs to a lot more public money spent in this area, but we do believe that most of the money is badly spent on programs destined to fail.”

Led by people with disabilities and those who love them, RespectAbility works with entertainment, policy makers, educators, self-advocates, nonprofits, employers, faith-based organizations, philanthropists, journalists and online media. Understanding that people with disabilities and their families have the same hopes and dreams as everyone else, even if they face different challenges, Mizrahi says that “it is very important for people to have a reason to get up in the morning. People with disabilities can do everything from cleaning an office to running an office. They can contribute to making the world a better place!”

The free educational platforms, training and resources RespectAbility provides therefore enables and empowers women and girls to be strong self advocates for themselves, the disabilities community and those around them.

To learn more about upcoming training, education and volunteer opportunities RespectAbility provides, click here.

 

This is the final in a number articles in our series, IN FOCUS: Eye on Changemakers, a collaboration between Women’s eNews and The New York Women’s Foundation (NYWF) to shed light on some of New York City’s most inspiring women-led non-profit organizations dedicated to empowering women and girls of diverse racial, cultural and socio-economic backgrounds.

 

January 8th 2019, 8:17 pm

Meet Our New Board Member: Xian Horn

Women

Meet our new Board member: Xian Horn

Xian Horn is a joyful half-Asian woman with Cerebral Palsy, who serves as teacher, speaker, beauty advocate, blogger, and Exemplar for the AT&T NYU Connect Ability Challenge toward the creation of Assistive Technology. She also served as an honoree in Women’s eNews’ 21 Leaders for the 21st Century in 2017, and created Give Beauty Wings’ Self-Esteem programs which continue at NYU’s Initiative for Women with Disabilities, the Jewish Community Center Manhattan, and M.S. 131. She has presented her classes at United Cerebral Palsy, the Center for the Independence of the Disabled NY, the Standing Tall school (a school for non-verbal children), and at her alma mater, the New York City Lab School, where she served as its commencement speaker in 2014. Xian has spoken at Apple, AppNexus, for the New York Public Library, Barnard College, Williams College, and on the ReelAbilities film festival (where she is on the Film Selection Committee). In 2018, Xian was invited to serve on the Cooper Hewitt’s Accessibility Advisory Committee. She has also served on the NY Women’s Foundation Committee for the Future, and mentored at the White House for Lights! Camera! Access! 2.0., for the Disability: IN Innovation Lab where she coached their NextGen Leaders, and worked with students at the Future Project and IMentor. Xian has run vocational workshops for the NYC Mayor’s Office for People with Disabilities for Disability Mentoring Day, and served the State Department’s International Visitors Leadership Program’s European delegation. She has also been featured in The White House Blog’s Women Working To Do Good series, NPR, Forbes, Fortune, Fast Company, Bloomberg, NBC News, Fox 5 and NY1, among others. Xian starred in the Starlight Children’s Foundation’s PSA, Give Actually campaign and, beginning in the Fall of 2016, Xian has worked with Open Style Lab’s team at Parson’s, where they created a couture coat tailored for her needs. She is also a blogger for Positively Positive – a community of over 2.5 million.

To learn about all of our Board Members, click here.

January 4th 2019, 12:14 pm

In Deference to Men: Growing up in the 1950s

Women

Many moons ago during the middle of the twentieth century (before the gender expansion of today), learning to look and act like a proper young lady involved being self-effacing, self-limiting and docile. In my current lectures, when I tell my story of growing up more than a half-century ago, the younger women in the audience always roll their eyes in disbelief, while their elders nod at me in agreement and understanding, remembering their own all-to-similar experiences.

One account of growing up female in the 1950s was taped in a two-minute video interview with Letty Cottin Pogrebin, whose story is very much like mine. We both learned that ladylike postures, specifically with legs crossed either at the knees or ankles, and hands in lap, were typically mandatory for a female in mid-century society. But female restrictions went deeper than just posture, as we accepted the cultural norm of displaying deference to men in words and demeanor.

Showing this kind of deference was de rigueur for me growing up, as it was for Letty. Little girls were trained in mundane and monumental ways to take constricting, shrinking postures while boys were told to enlarge themselves and claim extra territory. This became such an unconscious reflex-action for girls wanting to fit in with their peers that the cultural pull was hard to counter.

One woman who dared to confront this norm describes how a male photographer came to her classroom of seven-year-old students to take their class picture. He adamantly insisted, despite this teacher’s protest, that each boy should sit in the chair like a “Captain,” with arms firmly set on arm rests, reaching out and forward toward the viewer, and with legs assuming the wide stance of one ankle overlapping the other knee, taking up additional horizontal space as well. The girls, on the other hand, were instructed by the photographer to sit demurely with legs crossed at the ankle, and hands folded onto their laps.

Two details from Linda Stein tapestry in her Sexism series

It was expected that this positioning, distinguishing boys from girls, would be accepted by the class without protest. But this teacher surprised the photographer by not giving ground, even to his rising anger, as we see in Daphne Harwood’s video.

It’s not unusual to see a man win an argument or get his way by raising his voice and getting angry. I saw it over and over as I grew to womanhood (even with my own father), and more recently during the Kavanaugh/Basey-Ford hearings. Emma Brockes expressed those hearings well in her recent column when she said:

“One of the discussion points to have come out of the Brett Kavanaugh hearings has been the question of anger and what women do with it – specifically, where and how they manage to stuff it down low so it doesn’t spill out and get them labelled as lunatics. Lindsey Graham can go the full Foghorn Leghorn; Kavanaugh can howl like a kid with his head stuck in railings; but to be heard, a woman must be demure and nonthreatening.”

Demure, nonthreatening –– and deferential: That’s what I learned to be as a young girl. Boys, it seemed to me, required a great deal of ego-building.

By the age of twelve, when I had my first real boyfriend, I knew how to make him feel better, stronger, smarter than me. Although a gifted athlete, I managed always to lose: I intentionally threw the bowling ball into the alley gutter and ping pong or tennis ball into the net. Losing, I learned, was the price to pay for popularity. The boy had to win. I thought that no self-respecting girl would want to be with a boy who wasn’t above her. And no boy would want a girl better than he.

And so, I was raised to take my place as a proper girl in our patriarchal society. I was contained, submissive and domesticated. I thought I would surely marry, have three children, and encourage my husband’s success. His ego, or any masculine ego, had precedence over mine. I mastered a wide-eyed look of adoration for my boyfriend as I said ‘Wow, you’re a plumber. Tell me about it. What do you do with faucets and drains?”

In my family, education wasn’t important for a girl; in fact, it could only get in the way of marriage. If I were intimidating or too smart, no boy would want me. To be desirable, I learned to balance my love for school with choosing a non-threatening (read “woman’s”) profession. I became a teacher. That was best, I was told, because it gave me “something to fall back on.” If my husband became ill or if I wanted to work after my children grew up, it was ideal. Since I loved making art, I became an art teacher.

And yet, though far from cognizance or articulation, thoughts and feelings kept cropping up: something wasn’t right. I needed answers for undefined questions. Why did I have to act differently when a boy entered the room? Why couldn’t I be proud of my education and abilities and not have to hide them? Was I signing my paintings “Linda J” (replacing “Stein” with my middle initial) in wait for my husband’s last name and his life (which would then become my life)? Why did society give boys so much more mobility, authority and respect, and why did girls accept such an unfair double standard?

When I asked a gym teacher at Music and Art High School why there was no female tennis team, he said it was because “tennis was bad for a girl’s heart.” But the absurdity of his answer didn’t register with me even though I played tennis for three hours every day after school without having a heart attack! These inconsistent sound bites went on as I grew up. At Pratt Institute graduate school, I said to an art teacher that I was going for a doctorate. He replied, ‘Why go for a doctorate? Why not just marry one?” Once again, I didn’t connect the dots. But the contradictions kept juggling in the back of my mind.

Practicing deference slowly began to grate on me. Gradually I saw that the gender rules of our society were mostly one-sided. I realized that I couldn’t fulfill my potential while putting so much effort into catering to the needs of another person.

I began to watch myself as if I were outside myself. With a male present, I saw that I spoke in a softer, cutesy voice, with less confidence. I had fewer opinions and hardly ever contradicted his manly assertions.

I sat in a constrained manner, cross-legged, poised and pretty, as if waiting to be discovered. I tended to fuse with my projection of male needs and desires. (If I thought a man were seeking a sexual liaison, I would automatically become more flirtatious and seemingly available, even if I were in a monogamous relationship and not really interested in any pursuit). I felt an invisible lid on my head, allowing me to go only so far and no further. I began to feel denied the freedom to hit the metaphorical ball as hard as I could, and, damn it, try to win!

Detail of Legs Together and Apart 925. The artist always modifies the comic’s original bubble text to address Gender Justice and Diversity

Slowly, with determination and the support of feminist writers, friends and therapy, the dots began to connect and I gradually started to change my behavior. It was difficult for me to give up the status of sex object since I didn’t know what would take its place.

But, with effort, I stopped trying so hard to please men. It helped me to ask myself if I would talk or behave the same way with a woman. My goal was to be as equally “real” in the company of either gender.

So, now, am I totally free of this Deference Syndrome? Am I as outspoken and confident with men as I am with women? Do I always try to win at ping pong?

My answer is a qualified “Yes,” though I know from reflecting on my behavior that I still have to carefully monitor my propensity to defer to men. I still struggle with my tendency to feel less important in their presence. I continue to need to remind myself to be confident and proud of my strengths and abilities.

Will relating freely and equally with men ever feel totally natural to me? These days, at least, I’m certainly hitting the ball over the net –– and winning.

Do you have a related story to tell? If so, please contact Linda Stein: Linda@lindastein.com or HAWT@haveartwilltravel.org

Linda Stein is a feminist artist, activist, educator, performer, and writer. She is the Founding President of the non-profit Have Art: Will Travel! Inc (HAWT) for Gender Justice, addressing bullying and diversity. HAWT currently oversees The Fluidity of Gender: Sculpture by Linda Stein (FoG) and Holocaust Heroes: Fierce Females – Tapestries and Sculpture by Linda Stein (H2F2), two traveling exhibitions with educational workshops. Two more exhibitions will travel soon: Displacement from Home: What to Leave, What to Take (DC4) and Sexism and Masculinities/Feminities: Exploring, Exploding, Expanding Gender Stereotypes (SMF). In 2018, Stein was honored as one of Women’s eNews’ 21 Leaders for the 21st Century. In 2017, Stein received the NYC Art Teachers Association/UFT Artist of the Year award, and in 2016, she received the Artist of the Year Award from the National Association of Women Artists.

I’ve received many responses to my 6/26/18 Womens eNews article, Legs Together and Apart, and would like to continue to share some of the 2-minute video interviews that were made with these responders. Please feel free to email me, and describe your own story, so that in future articles we can make generational comparisons.

January 3rd 2019, 10:45 pm

Anupam Singh: Saving Lives After Her Own Dream Dies

Women

Married at 14 years of age to a man 12 years older than she, Anupam Singh saw her dream of becoming a teacher die when her father-in law refused to let her continue studying. Ironically, he sent his daughters, including the elder one who was Singh’s classmate, to school.  When her father-in-law died four years later, the responsibility of looking after the family fell on Singh’s shoulders. Then already a mother of two children, the 18-year-old began sewing to keep the family fires burning. She also took a loan to fund the education of her two sisters-in-law. When she became an accredited social health activist (ASHA or a government frontline health worker) some years later, she faced social stigma for traveling without her husband to meet communities. “They thought I was a loose woman and wanted to prevent me from doing my work. They knew that if I didn’t work, I would have had to sell my small piece of land to make two ends and that is what they wanted,” Singh recalls.

Remaining defiant, Singh continued to work, and as her salary and success increased, the same people who originally criticized her sought her advice about their daughters also becoming an ASHAs. “This was a big victory,” Singh. contended.

Yet a bigger victory came when she was able to reduce the number of maternal deaths in her Sehra Jalalpur village in the Ambedkar Nagar district, Uttar Pradesh, by convincing pregnant mothers to register for antenatal care and opt for institutional deliveries. Considering the maternal mortality ratio in Uttar Pradesh, India’s most populous state, is the second highest in the country, this is a major achievement. The state maternal mortality ratio dropped from 285 per 100,000 live births in 2012-13, to 201 deaths in 2014-16.

“I tell parents not to marry their daughters young. They must be educated so that they can follow their dreams and not die while giving birth,” said the 36-year old Singh.

The journey, however, hasn’t been an easy one. Not only did she have to leave her children behind, but she also had to counter verbal abuse and taunts about her character. Determined to continue her work, Singh dug in her heels even deeper. When she took a mother and her ill newborn child to the district government hospital at 2:00 am in a private taxi after the ambulance didn’t arrive, word got around the village that Singh was a life saver.

Slowly, an increasing number of pregnant women arrived to register their names and seek her help. Last year, Singh reached out to over 300 women and helped 36 women give birth safely in hospitals. In fact, had it not been for Singh’s intervention, a pregnant woman with twins would not have been able to give birth safely, since she was originally turned away by the government hospital for arriving too late at night. “When the nurse asked them to make their own arrangements since a caesarean operation could not take place without a doctor at the hospital, I stepped in. I told her that I would be the doctor on emergency duty who would be responsible if the woman died as a consequence of their inaction,” Singh said.  Singh remained with the mother and twins throughout the night to ensure there were no more complications.

“I have been working for 13 years now. Yes, everyone in the community health centre knows me now and they also know that I am aware of all government schemes, so no one can deprive any women of their right to healthcare,” Singh continues. “I am known as Rani Laxmibai because I am just as strong-willed and fiery as the famous Indian queen who died fighting for the country’s independence against the British.”

Her willingness to go beyond the call of duty has won Singh love, respect and many awards. She has been honored twice for being one of the best ASHAs in the district by the state government. In July this year, Singh was also chosen to receive the annual Plan India Impact award for her exceptional commitment and dedication to bring down maternal and infant mortality. “The Award recognizes and awards exemplary work of grassroots champions who have battled numerous challenges in their lives to bring about change. We received 289 nominations from 22 states. Singh has been honored for her tireless efforts as a frontline healthworker to transform lives in her community,” said Bhagyashri Dengle, Executive Director, Plan India.

Singh has also ensured that her three children, a son and two daughters, study. “I walk 7-8 kms for my work every day so that I can give them a better life,” she continues, with a smile. “I gave my cycle to my daughter five years ago when she started middle school. I hope that by passing Class 11 through open school a few years ago, I have been able to teach them the importance of education and inspired them to fulfill their dreams.”

 

December 26th 2018, 9:28 am

Exclusive Investigative Report: Harvard’s Pediatric Nutrition Star Comes Under Scrutiny for Conflict

Women

One of Harvard’s highly regarded physicians and a national expert in pediatric nutrition, who has guided policy for the American Academy of Pediatrics and the US Dietary Guidelines, has come under scrutiny for his financial connections to fast food and infant formula industries. In March, 2018, Harvard University’s Office for Academic and Research Integrity quietly concluded an investigation into a complaint against one of its most prominent physicians, Dr. Ronald Kleinman, amid growing concern that these financial connections were influencing his research and public statements as a leading expert on developing nutritional guidelines for America’s children.

Kleinman’s experience includes serving as the Charles Wilder Professor of Pediatrics at Harvard Medical School, Physician-in-Chief at MassGeneral Hospital for Children, and the Chief of Partners Pediatrics in Boston (Partners is the largest health care system in Massachusetts which was founded by MassGeneral). He has also served as chairman of the Committee on Nutrition for the American Academy of Pediatrics, editor-in-chief of four editions of the AAP’s Nutrition Handbook, and on the board for US Dietary Guidelines, which devise nutritional recommendations for millions of Americans, among other key roles.

Kleinman has an extensive list of past and present known financial connections to the fruit juice, cereal, and infant formula industries, including work as a consultant for Burger King  (these industries appear to be at odds with optimal nutrition for infants and children). Harvard’s review did not find any official fault, but due to recent investigative reporting by the New York Times and ProPublica, light has been shed on the conflict of interest for scientists in all fields. Potential conflicts of interest that directly impact mothers and infants therefore merit additional consideration. This article reflects Women’s eNews’ investigative reporting on this issue.

Kleinman’s connections to the infant formula industry, and a failure to disclose those relationships when publishing research on breastfeeding, have drawn particular ire. In 2016, Kleinman and two other physicians co-authored an article published in the highly-regarded peer-review journal, JAMA Journal of Pediatrics, which was viewed as critical of the Baby Friendly Hospital initiative, a global initiative designed to promote better breastfeeding practices in hospital maternity units. Specifically, the study entitled, Unintended Consequences of Current Breastfeeding Initiatives, reported the rooming-in practice, where a baby stays in the same hospital room as the mother at Baby Friendly Hospitals, could, as Time Magazine described, lead to mothers’ accidentally smothering their children and possibly contribute to sudden unexpected postnatal collapse, a rare but often fatal respiratory failure.”

A Failure to Disclose Long-Term Relationships

At the time, Kleinman failed to disclose his deep financial ties to Mead Johnson, the parent company of Enfamil infant formula, which spanned eight years (2006 to 2014). He had also received an honorarium from Mead for chairing the Mead Johnson Iron Infant Nutrition Panel, funding for a hospital initiative (which he described as a “fruitful partnership”), and was the author of two Mead-funded studies. His other connections to formula companies included co-chairing two Nestle Nutrition Symposia (Nestle is the parent company of Good Start formula and has been the subject of a seven year boycott by breastfeeding advocates for their egregious marketing violations). Kleinman told Women’s eNews that he no longer has an ongoing relationship with Nestle.

Additionally, Kleinman has published at least six articles in the last three years, which some advocates claim are critical of breastfeeding initiatives.  Two of these articles appeared in the academic journals, JAMA Pediatrics and American Journal of Clinical Nutrition (at least two others were funded by Mead Johnson, and a fourth was funded by Nestle).  In an email response to Women’s eNews, Kleinman responded that his previous failures to disclose his industry connections were an “inadvertent omission.”

In a more recent article published in the November issue of JAMA Pediatrics critiquing the skin-to-skin guidelines for the Baby Friendly Hospital Initiative, Kleinman disclosed his vast industry connections, including financial ties to the infant formula maker Mead Johnson, General Mills, Ocean Spray and the Alliance for Potato Research and Education (APRE), among others. He also disclosed serving on the board of trustees of the International Life Sciences Research Foundation, the grant-making arm of a food industry group whose member companies include Coca-Cola, Dow Agrosciences/Dow Chemical, General Mills, Hershey Foods, Kellogg, Kraft, McDonald’s, Merck & Co., Monsanto, Nestle, PepsiCo, Pfizer and Procter & Gamble.

“Now that we finally see the full scope of Kleinman’s conflicts of interest, it is still unclear how all of these conflicts do not raise ethical flags for Harvard, and why a highly respected journal such as JAMA Pediatrics would still publish his research,” says Kimberly Seals Allers, author of The Big Letdown—How Medicine, Big Business and Feminism Undermine Breastfeeding.  “These studies influence public health policy for infants and children — they deserve more stringent guidelines for integrity, not business-as-usual behavior.”

After several researchers complained about the 2016 article, JAMA issued a correction in January, 2017, adding Kleinman’s disclosure of an honorarium from Mead (the prior hospital funding went unmentioned). The Mead-funded studies and Nestle symposia fell outside the three-year range JAMA requests for conflicts of interests, though experts believe the bias that comes from such financial connections can last well beyond three years. JAMA’s disclosure practices came under scrutiny last week in a recent New York Times article, which details that many physicians fail to fully report their financial ties to industries.

Key Influence on Nutritional Policy for Children  

Experts and advocates have questioned why Kleinman would be allowed to have any financial ties to industries that seem to be at odds with the best childhood nutrition, particularly when giving advice to low-income populations. The 2008  and 2010 studies he authored were funded, in part, by the Juice Products Association (Kleinman later published an article citing the role fruit juice can play in WIC offerings and a child’s diet, despite nutritionist warnings that juice is high in sugar). He also served on the Burger King External Advisory Board and as a consultant for General Mills and Beech-nut foods. Further, he received an honorarium for chairing a presentation and meeting on vegetables sponsored by the Alliance for Potato Research and Education, and later authored a 2016 review paper on vegetables with that same sponsor which concluded that more potatoes were healthy for a child’s diet. (In response to our specific questions, Kleinman said that during his time spent in Peru in his 20s, he witnessed the importance of a potato as a staple food, and that there are approximately 100 countries worldwide that depend on the potato as a major source of nutrition.)

What makes Kleinman’s financial ties concerning to other nutrition experts is that he is in a unique position to issue prolific nutrition guidance. In addition to his work on the 2010 US Dietary Guidelines for All Americans, he is the editor of the fourth, fifth, and sixth editions of the Academy’s Pediatric Nutrition Handbook. These publications provide popular nutritional information that guide decisions by physicians and policy makers, as well as guidelines parents often consult when making food and nutrition decisions for their families.

“Disclosure alone doesn’t solve the problem,” says Marion Nestle, a professor of nutrition, food studies and public health at New York University, though of no relation to the company by the same name, “but it does provide context necessary for evaluation, especially in well respected journals. If I were a peer-reviewer of [Kleinman’s 2016] paper, I would say, ‘Do not publish.’ I don’t care what the science says. This paper has a very high probability of bias.” In her latest book, Unsavory Truth: How Food Companies Skew the Science of What We Eat, Nestle documented that in 156 of the 168 food industry sponsored studies she followed, results favored the sponsors’ interests.

Formula Industry Targets Breastfeeding Research; Baby Friendly Hospital Initiative Hit  

Not surprisingly, as breastfeeding initiation rates have risen, so has the influence of formula funding for breastfeeding research, notes Lucy Sullivan, executive director of 1,000 Days, a nonprofit dedicated to the health of women and young children. “It’s made the Baby Friendly Hospital initiative a target for formula companies,” she says, “and for a $71 billion industry, that is a really big deal.” As part of receiving the Baby Friendly accreditation, which requires the completion of 10 total steps, hospitals only dispense infant formula when medically required, and mothers do not receive any free infant formula upon hospital discharge, as is common in many hospitals.

Kleinman said, in an email response to Women’s eNews, that the articles he published are “not critical of breastfeeding,” pointing specifically to language in his 2016 JAMA piece that reads, “Promoting and supporting breastfeeding during the postpartum period has been an important and appropriate priority for maternity units.” The article further recommends that ‘Hospitals should direct their efforts toward implementing practices that will promote breastfeeding safely.’

Still, it was the study’s title, introductory paragraph and use of the phrase ‘potentially hazardous practices’ that garnered the most media attention. This study led to sensationalistic headlines and was quoted in media to paint breastfeeding as dangerous, including a reference in a provocative Time Magazine October, 2017, cover story about the overwhelming demands of motherhood. “Anecdotal reports indicate this is having a negative impact on hospital care practices and reduced support of breastfeeding,” says Trish MacEnroe, Executive Director of Baby-Friendly USA. An independent Google Scholar analysis also shows that Kleinman’s article has been viewed and cited more than any other Viewpoint articles related to breastfeeding in JAMA that year. “While the full extent of the damage is not quantifiable, the commentary offers a highly speculative interpretation of the presented data. Its publication in a respected journal [JAMA Pediatrics] confers more credibility than is warranted,” MacEnroe says. She also reports that this article has been used by organizations seeking to stoke fear about breastfeeding exclusively.

Experts say the rise of Baby-Friendly Hospitals, which recently celebrated its one- millionth birth and now has over 500 certified hospitals in the US, has played a key part in the rise of  breastfeeding rates in the US.  From 2009-2015, more women not only started breastfeeding, but were also breastfeeding longer and doing so exclusively, as measured at both the three and six-month marks. Additionally, MacEnroe says that another 534 hospitals are in the process of certification, resulting in falling infant formula sales.

Industry Funding, Shown to Influence Outcomes; Yet Likely to Continue

Kleinman says that most studies conducted with industry funding serve as “important means of advancing knowledge and science, and the outcomes are clearly not influenced by the funder.” In a statement to Women’s eNews, specifically, he describes the standards that he and his colleagues adhere to when conducting such studies, including acknowledging the funding in the report, research being initiated by the investigator, and that such research is conducted completely independent of the corporate funder. By following those rules, which Massachusetts General Hospital has put in place, Kleinman believes “appropriate firewalls” exist, even in the face of other high-profile examples where industry influence is present.  

“Industry funded-studies and honorariums like those Kleinman receives are likely to continue, as long as industries continue to get the outcomes they seek,” Professor Nestle cautions. “As both researchers and industry leaders have learned, however, outcomes from industry funded studies have a strong probability of favoring the industries’ interests, although the researcher may deny any impact.”

Rebecca Gale is an award-winning journalist based in Bethesda, Md. Her work has appeared in The Washington Post, Slate, and Health Affairs, among other outlets. Follow her at @beckgale or find her work at www.Rebeccagale.org.

This article is part of a series from The Maternal & Child Health Communication Collective, a W.K. Kellogg Foundation-funded initiative to shift the national discourse on the socio-cultural factors influencing the health of mothers and infants.

December 18th 2018, 10:11 pm

Let’s Send One More Woman to Washington Next Year

Women

From the Executive Director

Lori Sokol, PhD

As 2018 comes to an end, Women’s eNews is planning for the future. The results of the November midterm elections ensure that we will see a lot of change in Congress next year due to many new faces in government, including the first Native American congresswomen (Sharice Davids and Deb Haaland), the first Muslim congresswomen (Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib), the first black congresswoman from Massachusetts (Ayanna Pressley), the first Latina congresswoman from Texas (Veronica Escobar), and the youngest woman to be elected to Congress (Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez). In total, there will be 42 women as incoming members of Congress who will be walking the halls of the House of Representatives and the Senate next year.

And we want to add one more.

In honor of the fellowship named after our founder, Rita Henley Jensen, Women’s eNews is planning to hire a seasoned female reporter, based in Washington, DC, to provide immediate, insightful, and compelling coverage of the momentum building on Capitol Hill. From on-the-ground news coverage of Nancy Pelosi’s new role as House Speaker, to the future of women’s reproductive rights; from new plans to add changing tables in the congressional members-only bathrooms at the Capitol, to talks to possibly change voting schedules so that parents can video chat with their children to help them with homework, Women’s eNews will be there to report on it all.

But we can’t do it without you, our loyal readers and supporters. I hope you will therefore consider making a year-end gift to help us reach our $50,000 goal to hire, train and house our 2019 Rita Henley Jensen fellow in DC!

To help make your decision a little easier, we would like to provide you with a digital compendium of all of the articles written by our 2018 Rita Henley Jensen fellow, Christina Saint Louis, a rising-senior at Barnard College of Columbia University. You will find it by clicking here.

The entire staff at Women’s eNews would like to thank you in advance for your continued support of the honest, factual and transparent journalism you have come to expect as a Women’s eNews subscriber. We look forward to continuing to deliver these professional standards of journalism in the coming year,  and beyond.

Wishing you a joyous and healthy Holiday Season and New Year!

In solidarity,

Lori Sokol, PhD

 

December 16th 2018, 7:02 pm

WRighteous: In Honor of Nancy Pelosi

Women

WRighteous
In honor of Nancy Pelosi
#Courage
 
Sometimes it’s hidden deep, way deep, under fear and anger and resentment. 
Sometimes it rears its sexy gorgeous head – says hello – and then runs away. 
Sometimes it makes a big huge splash. 
Sometimes it’s in the back of a drawer next to a box of stale Newport lights. 
Sometimes it’s accompanied by god-awful unbearable sadness. 
Sometimes it’s an accessory to kindness. 
Sometimes it shows up hand-in-hand with goodness. 
Sometimes it stands shoulder-to-shoulder with grief. 
Sometimes it’s backed into a corner. 
Sometimes it comes roaring out full-force full-on. 
Sometimes it’s so quiet you can barely hear it. 
Sometimes it mix-matches with fierce & mighty. 
Sometimes it comes knocking at the door with flowers. 
Sometimes it appears just when you fall to your knees. 
Sometimes it finds its way back home to you. 
Sometimes it walks out the door forever. 
Sometimes it’s the word no. 
Sometimes it’s the word yes. 
Sometimes it’s the pen. 
Sometime’s it’s the brush. 
Sometimes it’s the stranger at a gas station. 
Sometimes it’s the neighbor you never knew. 
Sometimes it’s the old friend who shows up unexpectedly. 
Sometimes it’s opening a closet door.
Sometimes it’s declaring your worth.
Sometimes it’s standing up.
Sometime’s it’s speaking up.
Sometime’s it’s I’m sorry.
Sometime’s it’s I forgive you.
Sometime’s it’s I love you.
 
Sometimes it’s a raised hand. 
Sometime’s it’s a raised fist. 
 
Sometime’s it’s rising up.
And sometimes it takes one seventy-eight year old feisty tough broad to prove that yes, Goddess yes, a woman’s place is mostly definitely in the House.

amy ferris

author. writer. girl.
Women’s eNews weekly columnist Amy Ferris is a highly accomplished author, screenwriter, television writer and editor. She was also honored by Women’s eNews as one of our ‘21 Leaders for the 21st Century‘ for 2018. Every Friday, you will continue to be invited into her world, where she will champion, encourage and inspire women to awaken to their greatness, as only she can, through passion, truth, hope, and humor — along with a heaping side of activism.

December 13th 2018, 10:44 pm

Let’s Send One More Woman to DC in 2019

Women

 

From the Executive Director

Lori Sokol, PhD

As 2018 comes to an end, Women’s eNews is planning for the future. The results of the November midterm elections ensure that we will see a lot of change in Congress next year due to many new faces in government, including the first Native American congresswomen (Sharice Davids and Deb Haaland), the first Muslim congresswomen (Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib), the first black congresswoman from Massachusetts (Ayanna Pressley), the first Latina congresswoman from Texas (Veronica Escobar), and the youngest woman to be elected to Congress (Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez). In total, there will be 42 women as incoming members of Congress who will be walking the halls of the House of Representatives and the Senate next year.

And we want to add one more.

In honor of the fellowship named after our founder, Rita Henley Jensen, Women’s eNews is planning to hire a seasoned female reporter, based in Washington, DC, to provide immediate, insightful, and compelling coverage of the momentum building on Capitol Hill. From on-the-ground news coverage of Nancy Pelosi’s new role as House Speaker, to the future of women’s reproductive rights; from new plans to add changing tables in the congressional members-only bathrooms at the Capitol, to talks to possibly change voting schedules so that parents can video chat with their children to help them with homework, Women’s eNews will be there to report on it all.

But we can’t do it without you, our loyal readers and supporters. I hope you will therefore consider making a year-end gift to help us reach our $50,000 goal to hire, train and house our 2019 Rita Henley Jensen fellow in DC!

To help make your decision a little easier, we would like to provide you with a digital compendium of all of the articles written by our 2018 Rita Henley Jensen fellow, Christina Saint Louis, a rising-senior at Barnard College of Columbia University. You will find it by clicking here.

The entire staff at Women’s eNews would like to thank you in advance for your continued support of the honest, factual and transparent journalism you have come to expect as a Women’s eNews subscriber. We look forward to continuing to deliver these professional standards of journalism in the coming year,  and beyond.

Wishing you a joyous and healthy Holiday Season and New Year!

In solidarity,

Lori Sokol, PhD

 

 

December 12th 2018, 8:37 pm

Overcoming My Fear By Pressing ‘Post’

Women

I could feel my stomach tightening as my finger hovered over the ‘Post’ button. I swallowed, trying to push the nerves back down my throat. What was going on? It was just an Instagram post, right? A simple square, a picture, some text. Nothing life-changing. Just a quick announcement about an event a few weeks in the future. So why was I so anxious?

Last winter, I created Girl Speak, an event-based organization built to foster education and action on issues affecting teenage girls, as an answer to the calling I’d felt for years. When I first started labeling myself a feminist in middle school, I began searching for a way to become more engaged in social justice work and start making more of an impact on the world.

I struggled to find a central cause to undertake, for which I felt a strong connection. For a long time I did volunteer work here and there and posted many rants on social media, but my efforts felt unfocused. I was drifting. I told myself I wanted to be an activist, but I wasn’t acting on anything. It felt like a betrayal — a lie.

At the same time, I was examining my connection to Judaism and as my Jewish identity evolved, so did my dedication to tikkun olam. My religious faith became deeply intertwined with my concept of community and global service; one did not exist without the other. Suddenly, my lack of focus and action became a crisis of both my feminist and spiritual selves.

One day, though, I figured out my direction.

I can vividly remember the thought that went through my head, “Write what you know.” It had been hammered into me as a writer, a North Star to follow in the search for inspiration, and it occurred to me that there was no reason it couldn’t apply to my activism as well. I didn’t need to search for a cause; there was so much work to be done in the realm of my own experiences.

I began brainstorming Girl Speak as an answer to the questions I had about myself: What does it mean to have self-confidence? How can I work on claiming space and owning my voice? How do I navigate the mind-boggling world that is a high school social life? I spent weeks figuring out how I wanted Girl Speak to look, who I could bring in to share their knowledge and, even, what my Instagram feed theme would be.

Emma Cohn’s first “Girl Speak” event on body image featuring body image activist Lisa Zahiya (far left).

In the end, I created an event-based organization; each event centers around talks led by community experts on topics like body image and confidence, paired with workshops on the material I design. My intention has been to craft a space dedicated to education, discussion, and action around real issues affecting teenage girls. And it had all led to this moment: pressing ‘Post’ on the announcement I’d created for my very first ever Girl Speak event.

I was so proud of the work I’d done and couldn’t wait to share it with the world, so why was I having such a hard time? Why was I stalling? Why do I still stop each time I wanted to post a new event or to reach out to potential attendees? Because opening oneself up to the world is terrifying.

No matter how proud we are of what we create, and no matter how confident we are that it’s important and beneficial and beautiful, putting it out there for everyone to see and judge takes a lot of bravery, and vulnerability. Additionally,  asking people to evaluate your creation and decide if it is worthwhile for them to dedicate their time feels highly personal; it often feels like I’m asking people to decide if they think I’m good enough…if I’m important…if I’m worthwhile.

I’ve struggled tremendously with self-promotion. I often feel like I’m bragging or being arrogant, or that what I’ve created isn’t really worth attention. It’s an issue that’s based in both a fundamental questioning of the space I take up (or don’t take up) in the world, as well as a fear of putting myself out there. Luckily, in these moments of wavering, I have people to whom I can turn. I look to my sheroes, the women risking far more than minor mockery from my schoolmates to stand up for what they believe in, and I look to my faith. Stories of influential Jewish women in history remind me that there’s a long line of powerful Jewish women standing behind me, women who have my back and who are ready to catch me if I fall. And, through it all, I’ve realized that in the end that I just have to do it. I have to press ‘Post’ because amazing things may result? My first Girl Speak event was a success and each one since has taught me, as well its attendees, more and more.

Learning how to share what I create while asking for people’s attention is going to be a lifelong process as I continue to build my self-confidence and become more comfortable with my vulnerability. It’s therefore a journey I’m willing to take because I now know that I do deserve to own my space, and that my work matters.

December 11th 2018, 8:39 pm

Self-Worth vs. Net Worth: An Interview with Gloria Steinem

Women

Letting Her Truth Take The Lead

One of money’s greatest gifts is that it can reflect back when we are, and are not, living in step with who we truly are. Through more than two decades of work as a financial journalist, I have learned so much about human nature by observing the choices and beliefs people bring to their financial lives. We often overlook how money can help bring about a level of awareness that helps us move beyond false conditioning.

Money mirrors, and their power, are coming to mind as I reflect on a conversation I had with Gloria Steinem about her relationship with money. As someone who has the pleasure of having Gloria as a friend, I am inspired, but not surprised, by how her relationship with money embodies who she truly is:

                 “If I had one lesson to convey about money, it is this. Money has been used to rank us. It could be used to link us. You and I can decide.”  – Gloria Steinem

Early Lesson$

For better or worse, a tremendous part of our financial behavior and belief systems are set by childhood conditioning – the ways in which we saw money handled in our formative years. Steinem is a study in this.

“As a child, I used to go with my father to Household Finance – a high-interest lender for people who couldn’t qualify for bank loans – and listen to my otherwise funny and independent father as he made a brave, but nervous, case for his dependability and our family need to an impervious guy behind a desk,” she shared.

“I’ve never borrowed a penny in my life, no doubt, because I didn’t want to be vulnerable to a humiliating guy behind a desk. Though now I have a mortgage, for most of my life, I never borrowed a penny. My father was always in debt, and bill collectors coming to the door were scary to me as a child. I’ve always avoided that.”

Steinem’s observations of her mother’s financial behavior also greatly informed her own relationship with money.

“At home, my mother used to save change and dollar bills in a big glass jar in the closet, ‘just in case our car was re-possessed or there was some other disaster.’ On leaving any restaurant, she also put sugar packets in her purse,” said Steinem.

        “Neither the Household Finance guy’s condescension, nor my mother’s worry, seemed to have anything to do with who my parents really were.”Gloria Steinem

Fighting Fear With Self-Sufficiency

Whether it’s that we won’t have enough, we won’t make enough, or we will not be able to take care of ourselves, everyone has one money fear, or ten. Steinem’s was that she would end up a bag lady, although she recently pointed out to me that she’s never held down a ‘steady’ job. I was always sure I would end up as a bag lady, a fear I handled by thinking, ‘It’s a life like any other.’ I’ll just organize the other bag ladies,” she said.

I learned to support myself by different stages of doing it, from working as a salesgirl after high school and on Saturdays, to being a lifeguard in summers during college, to writing for newspapers and tourists when I lived in India, to freelancing as a writer in New York. I think one of the most important things I learned about money is that I could support myself and buy freedom, despite all the instruction to my generation of women to marry a good provider.”

There is a saying that for women, life begins at 50. For Steinem, that’s when her efforts to preserve and build wealth kicked in. “I began to save money after 50, and I also lucked into buying an apartment at the all-time low of real estate,” she continues. “I have to say that owning my home, plus a pension fund, did finally do away with my bag lady fantasy. I plan to live to be 100, and in the event of a shortfall, I am pretty sure I wouldn’t have to burden any one of my friends too much. They help you live longer and are a form of insurance.”

Money Myths, Gender, and Power

While the incredibly humble feminist icon would likely demure at the statement that her life is a shining example of how to have a healthy emotional and compassionate relationship with money, her observations reveal her wisdom and insightful nature. “I’ve noticed that friends with a lot of money worry at least as much: Are they being ripped off? Is someone being truly friendly or just looking for a contribution?” “One of the advantages of being a female human being is that you can blend in with a variety of social groups,” Steinem asserts. “I’ve witnessed people–more men than women since power is still supposed to be masculine – for whom no amount of money is enough. They like to make people jump, regardless of where they are jumping to. Like addicts looking for a fix, they are locked into defeating others. Our premiere business schools should give a course called, Money Is Boring, with a special seminar: How Much Is Enough?”

The Wisdom in Reflection

We often overlook the invitation our money mirrors extend to help us live more authentic lives, and the roadmap they provide to the place where our choices and values are aligned. We should embrace feelings of conflict as we look in the mirror at the varying aspects of our financial lives, because those feelings are the sign posts that show where we need to take a different turn if we are to truly live authentic lives.

“Altogether, we each deserve enough to eat, a home, and a little dancing, but after that, I’ve discovered money doesn’t change who we really are,” Steinem says. Pearls of wisdom that can remind us all that net worth has absolutely nothing to do with self-worth.

 

About the Author: Stacey Tisdale, a Women’s eNews Board Member, is an award-winning on-air financial journalist who has reported on business and financial issues for more than 20 years. She has contributed to some of the largest and most prestigious news organizations in the world including CNN, CBS, NBC’s Today Show, PBS, ABC’s Good Morning America, The Oprah Winfrey Show, Black Enterprise, and Al Jazeera America. Stacey is also president and CEO of financial media and education content provider Mind Money Media Inc., and authored a book titled,’ The True Cost of Happiness: The Real Story Behind Managing Your Money.‘ (Publisher: John Wiley & Sons).

December 9th 2018, 9:46 pm

Weekly Column: WRighteous = #TragicChoices

Women

WRighteous
 
#TragicChoices
 
“An abortion?” she asks. “What’s that?’
“It’s when you don’t want the baby.”
“I didn’t either,” she says.
“You wanted an abortion?” I ask.
“Oh, yes.”
 
“What happened?”
 
“I had you.”
 
This was at the end of my mother’s life, when moments of clarity were life-stopping and earth-shattering…literally. I could feel the earth give way under my feet. I wasn’t at all surprised. It made sense, perfect sense. I had always felt unwanted. Always. She would treat me with disdain and dissatisfaction, and there were many days and months and years while I was growing up that she would tell me – in a heat of red hot anger – that she loved me because I was her child, but she didn’t like me. 
 
That always made me cower. Shrivel up.
 
I would shrink right in front of her eyes, and she would watch me shrink and my insides would crumble and my heart would crack and I would wait for her to say she didn’t mean it or that it was a lie or that she was sorry and hold me.
 
That didn’t happen.
 
I turned sixty-four yesterday, and as I was face-down getting a ‘Sixty-minute with 
Aromatherapy sides’ massage, I had this sudden urge to flip over on the table, and sit upright and face this – being unwanted – this demon that I had been carrying and burying and carrying and burying and yes, trying to abort for sixty-four years. 
 
Unwanted.
 
I am a firm believer in a woman’s right to choose, pro-choice, across the board. I am what you would call a hardliner. I, myself, have had a few abortions. To say that they saved my life would be an understatement. To say that the boys I slept with were the bad choice in the equation would be the blatant hard-core reality. To take it one step further and say I would never had been a good mother at the ripe age of 18 or 19 would be the absolute irrefutable truth. I didn’t want children.
I suppose being secretly unwanted webbed itself into my entire body, and I didn’t quite get the whole picture. 
 
But here, back in 2008, my mother was telling me that she didn’t want me. And the pieces fit; all the cracked and messy and edgy frayed pieces fit. 
 
She, like millions of other women, had babies when what they really wanted was a different life path. My mom was an artist. She was creative and wild and gorgeous and sexy and emotional and vibrant and she wanted to have a Bohemian life, but her choices were limited and, so, she chose to be married and have two kids, ten years apart, and lived in the suburbs and it was there, on a street like every street in middle America, where the split levels all looked the same and the flower beds all had the same floral arrangements and the gardener would show up and mow the lawn and the mail would come at the same time everyday and everything was in its place…and it was there that she lost pieces of herself, fragments, while she sat in front of the television screen watching Gail Storm and Lucille Ball and Donna Reed and Father Knows Best, and Queen for a Day, and she played Mahjong, and made meals, and went bowling with the girls and chain smoked and coughed, and had bouts of depression that no one ever talked about, no one, and on occasion, I would find her sitting on the edge of her bed, the one that was perfectly made with a cream color chenille bedspread dotted with magenta and rose chenille balls, crying her eyes out. And I would tip-toe into her bedroom and I would sit down next to her, and I would put my skinny little arm around her and tell her that everything would be okay. But everything was not okay. Everything was far from okay, and if she didn’t like something I wore or said or did, she wouldn’t speak to me for days. 
 
Unwanted. 
 
Which brings me to this:
 
Don’t pop babies out and then treat them with disdain. 
Don’t pop babies out and ignore their needs, their wants.
Don’t pop babies out and discard their feelings, their pain, their sorrow.
Don’t pop babies out and then refuse to acknowledge their existence especially when they are standing right in front of you dying – dying – to be acknowledged.
 
No wonder so many women feel unsafe in this world. 
We didn’t feel safe in the womb.
 
It has taken me years to understand that feeling unwanted has been a road map for me, a bumpy scary road map. The decisions I made, the choices I made, the roads I travelled, getting hugely lost; the mistakes that piled up, the bad boys and the awful drugs and bad, bad nights, and the rebellious acts and the need to be seen and loved and the deep desire to feel as if I belonged. To be accepted. Included. It all comes with a big neon sign: Unwanted
 
That was the very foundation where I made most of my decisions: children who don’t feel wanted are always looking to fill that deep dark awful hole. And trust me, it is awful,  it is dark, and it is unbearably deep. It is a deep hole that seems to go on forever. 
 
Do not pop babies out if you can’t love them, or like them, or care for them, or nurture them. Do not pop babies out if you have no plan on putting your life on hold for them. Do not pop babies out and then destroy their confidence, or take their joy, or diminish their hearts and souls because you didn’t want them in the first place. 
 
Do not pop babies out and then hurt them. 
 
When I stopped needing my mother to want me, I was able to want my own life; accept myself; ignite my wild rebellious crazy sexy life and dream up and dream big. Epic, as I like to say. Permission and validation were no longer on the menu.
 
And the other truth, the hardest truth of all – my mother could have never told anyone, not a soul, sixty-four years ago that she didn’t want to have another child, that she didn’t want another baby, that she wanted an abortion, or even thought of an abortion – she would have never been able to admit that sacred truth, that deep desire, because she, herself, was unable to make choices that were for her own benefit, for her creativity, for her own wild dreams, for her own life. 
If you don’t really want to bring a child into the world, if you’re doing it for some religious right fundamentalist reason – stop – seriously stop – and think about the burden you’re about to lay on an innocent child. The burden will trail her or him their whole life.  
 
A pregnancy can very much be unwanted. It happens all of the time – it’s a powerful realization. It takes enormous courage and guts to know that no child deserves to be brought into this world feeling unwanted. The effect on that one life can be catastrophic; the ripple-effect enormous. 
 
An unwanted child is far worse than an unwanted pregnancy. 
 

amy ferris

author. writer. girl.
Women’s eNews weekly columnist Amy Ferris is a highly accomplished author, screenwriter, television writer and editor. She was also honored by Women’s eNews as one of our ‘21 Leaders for the 21st Century‘ for 2018. Every Friday, you will continue to be invited into her world, where she will champion, encourage and inspire women to awaken to their greatness, as only she can, through passion, truth, hope, and humor — along with a heaping side of activism.

December 6th 2018, 10:12 pm

Save the Date: 21 Leaders for the 21st Century Gala 2019

Women

December 4th 2018, 10:25 am

Is it 2020 Yet? Let’s Nominate a Woman for President

Women

Democrats suffering from 2016 PESD (Post-Election Stress Disorder) are already in a panic about 2020, wringing their hands over the lack of a suitable leader. A popular talking point is that we must nominate a male candidate, or Donald Trump is sure to win a second term.

In a well-stocked lake of misguided opinions, this one is multiplying the fastest, and quickly overtaking the social media ecosystem. Check out any post about the Democrats’ prospects for 2020, and you’ll see an impassioned pool of comments with this specific talking point, even from liberals who consider themselves feminists. They insist that nominating a man is the only position a pragmatist can take.

But they’re wrong. This terror-laced belief is like a fever dream that magnifies a small percentage of voters into a monstrous mass of knuckle-dragging, women-eating zombies that will devour the 2020 election. It overlooks the fact that, despite the most massive, hate-fueled, misogyny-laden propaganda campaign in modern history, Hillary Clinton won the popular vote and, arguably, would have won the election if not for the 11th hour nuclear bomb dropped upon the national discourse by FBI Director James Comey, when he announced he was reopening the investigation into her emails.

And since that election, women voters have become turbo-charged, Millennials have exceeded expectations, and people of color continue to champion the Democratic Party. These folks stormed the polls for the 2018 midterms, electing a record-shattering number of women candidates. Indeed, women will now occupy 100 of the 435 seats in congress. It’s still far from parity, but a historic move forward. You couldn’t ask for a clearer bellwether about the opportunity for a woman presidential nominee, especially since this momentum continues to grow.

Nervous Democrats will argue that we ignore the white male working class voter at our peril, and can only win this demographic with a folksy white man like the affable Joe Biden. I like Joe, too, and agree that the Democrats need a big tent and a clear message that ours is the working people’s party. But the notion of the white working class voter as a brutish, racist misogynist is condescending and misguided. This stereotype represents only a small knot of Americans, so tightly tied they’re not likely to vote for any Democrat, female or male. Yes, it would be lovely to convince them that they are voting against their own best interests when they cast a ballot for Trump, but we cannot. Their fervor is religious and impenetrable.

The good news is that we can win without them. Further, by doubling down on his tactics of fear and divisiveness, Trump has proven himself incapable of casting a wider net.

It’s also worth considering this scenario: If neither Donald Trump nor Mike Pence receives the Republican nomination  (an unlikely but plausible prospect if the Mueller investigation is allowed to continue), that would leave the door open for a viable female Republican such as Nikki Haley. If the Democrats run a male candidate against her, we could well bleed out the suburban women and independents who put us over the finish line in so many of the midterm elections. And without these groups, we cannot win the presidency.

That aside, Democrats are also worried about another ugly propaganda campaign, fearing that any woman we nominate would be subject to the same rage-driven vitriol as Hillary Clinton. This is true, but any man we nominate would also be subject to this treatment. Such ugly, virulent and carefully launched attacks are the GOP’s war room strategy, and they do it effectively enough to infect even our own ranks. Sadly, Democrats make this all too easy for them, because our greatest strengths are also our greatest weaknesses. As a passionate and opinionated bunch, we are easily manipulated to moral outrage. If we are to take any lesson from the 2016 election it should be this, and not the idea that only a man can win the presidency.

 

About the author: Ellen Meister is the author of five published novels, and currently under contract for a three-book series with HarperCollins.

December 2nd 2018, 6:36 pm

Weekly Column: WRighteous

Women

WRighteous

#TakingAKnee

In the name of God and America – You can’t take a knee, but you can take a bullet.
You can’t take a knee, but you can slaughter Jews in a Synagogue.
You can’t take a knee, but you can murder Black Lives in a Baptist church.
You can’t take a knee, but you can massacre young children – children brimming with hope – with an AR-15 in a school.
You can’t take a knee, but you can mow down concert-goers in Las Vegas and Thousand Oaks, California, with a weapon used for war.
 
You can’t take a knee, but you can take children away, along with their dreams.
 You can’t take a knee, but you can tear gas children and women crossing the border.
You can’t take a knee, but you can enthusiastically prevent Dreamers from obtaining citizenship.  
You can’t take a knee, but you can rip children and babies right from their parents arms, and place them in cages. 
 
You can’t take a knee, but you can take our dignity, and our beliefs.
 You can’t take a knee, but we all witnessed the President of the United States standing with Neo-Nazis and White Supremacists and Nationalists because you know, he said: “here is good and bad on all sides.”
You can’t take a knee, but we watched in despair as OUR United States was pulled out of the Paris Climate Accord to the horror and dismay of all of our allies.
 
You can’t take a knee, but you can take an abuser and place him on a pedestal.
You can’t take a knee, but a sexual abuser can serve on the Highest Court because well, you gotta mock the victim.
 
You can’t take a knee, but you can abandon our fellow citizens.
You can’t take a knee, but you’re willing to watch Puerto Rico and it’s entire people left decimated and devastated.
 
You can’t take a knee, but you can take our livelihoods.
You can’t take a knee, but you can sell us a lie when you tell folks that coal is gonna make a comeback – boom boom boom again – and cars are gonna be built in Ohio.
You can’t take a knee, but you can bludgeon a trans human to death in a bathroom stall.
You can’t take a knee, but you can incite racism and homophobia and xenophobia and sexism
and misogyny and anti-semitism.
You can’t take a knee, but you can dismember and behead a US citizen and then align with the murderers because, yes, they’re good people too.
You can’t take a knee, but you can call all journalists, all media, the enemy of the people.
You can’t take a knee, but you can take a woman’s body and violate it; rape her, sully & dirty her, and then claim it was consensual.
 
You can’t take a knee, but you can violently and horrifically abuse a child, torture a child, beat a child and say that you are pro-life.
 
You can’t take a knee, but you can rip the heart and the soul out of this country.
America.
 
She is bleeding.
She is dying.
She is gasping for breath.
 
Let us all get down on a knee for her.

amy ferris

author. writer. girl.
Women’s eNews weekly columnist Amy Ferris is a highly accomplished author, screenwriter, television writer and editor. She was also honored by Women’s eNews as one of our ‘21 Leaders for the 21st Century‘ for 2018. Every Friday, you will continue to be invited into her world, where she will champion, encourage and inspire women to awaken to their greatness, as only she can, through passion, truth, hope, and humor — along with a heaping side of activism.

November 29th 2018, 9:02 pm

On the Outside of Incarceration: The Need for the ERA

Women

Women bear the brunt of the costs, both financial and emotional, when their loved ones are incarcerated. According to a recent study by the Ella Baker Foundation for Human Rights, in 63% of cases, family members on the outside are primarily responsible for court-related costs associated with conviction, and of the family members primarily responsible for these costs, 83% are women. This is especially problematic for black women, since their family members are five times more likely to be incarcerated than their white counterparts.

This impacts black women and their families more significantly than others, deepening inequities and societal divides that have pushed many into the criminal justice system in the first place, since two out of every five Black women are related to someone who is incarcerated. This can further jeopardize their own stability, since the family’s financial burdens disproportionately fall upon women in the family who may also have children living at home. For example, almost half of family members primarily responsible for paying court-related costs are mothers, and one in ten are grandmothers.

Specifically, the costs associated with incarceration include phone calls, visitation, commissary, and health care, which often result in severe financial consequences for families on the outside. One in three families (34%) reported going into debt to pay for phone calls or visitation. Often, families are forced to choose between supporting incarcerated loved ones and meeting the basic needs of family members who are outside. Research conducted with visitors at San Quentin State Prison in California showed similar results. The majority of women in that study reported spending as much as one-third of their annual income to maintain contact, and for a number of these women, including many who are mothers, these costs often put them into debt.

Further barriers exist based on race and ethnicity, including fewer jobs for black people previously incarcerated, as well as restrictions on travel. For Latinos, documentation status is a more likely barrier to finding work. These challenges only serve to prolong the financial burden placed on women and these families.

For women of color, the financial load that comes with supporting a loved one in prison is often amplified by the reality that there is no Equal Rights Amendment in the US Constitution. The ERA would help ensure that women, of all races, would have the right to employment earnings equal to white, non-Hispanic men (the highest income earners in the US). According to the 2017 census, black women were paid only 63 cents for every dollar paid to white, non-Hispanic men. And even in states with large populations of Black women in the workforce, rampant wage disparities persist, with potentially devastating consequences for Black women and families.

Black women in the District of Columbia, for example, are paid only 52 cents, in Maryland only 69 cents, in Pennsylvania just 68 cents, and in Mississippi only 56 cents for every dollar paid to white, non-Hispanic men. Further, Black women in Louisiana are paid just 47 cents, in Texas only 58 cents, and in Utah,just 52 cents for every dollar paid to a white, non-Hispanic man. One could only imagine how much easier it would be for Black women to support themselves and their families while a family member is incarcerated if the ERA were included in the Constitution.

What would it take to ratify the ERA? There are two options, really:

The traditional constitutional amendment process is described in Article V of the Constitution, where Congress must pass a proposed amendment by a two-thirds majority vote in both the Senate and the House of Representatives and send it to the states for ratification by a vote of the state legislatures. The amendment becomes part of the Constitution when it has been ratified by three-fourths (currently 38) of the states. This process has been used for ratification of every amendment to the Constitution thus far. Article V makes no mention of a time limit for the ratification of a constitutional amendment, and no amendment before the 20th century had a time limit attached to it.

The second option is the three-state strategy for ERA ratification, which was developed following the 1992 ratification of the “Madison Amendment” as the 27th Amendment to the Constitution after a ratification period of 203 years. Given that acceptance, some ERA advocates contended that the ERA’s ratification period of just over two decades would surely meet the “reasonable” and “sufficiently contemporaneous” standards required by Supreme Court decisions in 1921 and 1939. Time limits were not attached to proposed amendments until 1917, and Congress demonstrated its belief that it may alter a time limit in a proposing clause by extending the original ERA deadline. Precedent regarding a state’s ability to withdraw its ratification by a rescission vote shows that such actions have not been accepted as valid. Thus, supporters argued, the 35 existing ratifications should still be legally viable, and Congress likely has the power to adjust or repeal the previous time limit on the ERA, determine whether state ratifications subsequent to 1982 are valid, and recognize the ERA as part of the Constitution after three more states ratify.

This mode of ratification is getting closer to potential realization. With the ratification of the ERA by the state of Nevada in 2017 and by the state of Illinois in 2018, one more state is needed to ratify the ERA to achieve the initial 38 states for federal ratification as determined in 1982. If one more state ratifies the ERA, the ratification process will move into the courts for determination regarding the constitutionality of the original deadline that was originally applied

The states that have not ratified the ERA yet include Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Utah and Virginia, Currently, bets are on Virginia to become the 38th state, which could be done as early as its next legislative session, starting in Richmond on January 9th, 2019

A recent graduate of Columbia University’s Graduate School of Journalism, Sage Howard is a 2018 fellow in the Sy Syms Journalistic Excellence Program, funded by the Sy Syms Foundation. The Sy Syms Journalistic Excellence Program at Women’s eNews fellowship supports editorial and development opportunities for editorial interns in the pursuit of journalistic excellence.

November 29th 2018, 12:44 pm

After 17 Years, Venezuelan Survivor Finally Wins Justice

Women

On November 16, 2018, in a decision with potential implications for survivors around the world, the Inter-American Court of Human Rights ruled that the State of Venezuela is responsible for the torture and sexual slavery of a young woman who has spent half her life fighting for justice.

Linda Loaiza López was just 18 when she was kidnapped by a stranger outside her Caracas apartment building, then raped and brutally tortured for nearly four months. “It was like living my own death,” López recalls.

When she was rescued, she was near death, with injuries were so bad doctors likened them to those of a traumatic traffic accident. They included a fractured jaw and nose, disfigured lips and ears and trauma to the head and brain. She had broken ribs, a ruptured spleen and cigarette burns all over her body. One of her nipples was cut off and Linda was so severely malnourished that she weighed only 62 pounds. Over the next two years, López spent more than 600 days in a hospital. To date, she has required 15 surgeries and her psychological scars run deep.

Her aggressor, Luis Carrera Almoina, had bragged that he was untouchable because his father was the politically-connected rector of a major university in Caracas. Despite the modest finances of her family of 13, an undeterred López hired a lawyer who filed charges for rape, grievous bodily harm, kidnapping, torture and attempted murder. But the trial was postponed 38 times, and no judge would touch the case.

Three years later, with the statute of limitations approaching, López waged a hunger strike on the Supreme Court steps, despite having undergone a recent operation on her pancreas. The public display garnered national attention and gave her trial the green light. López thought justice would finally prevail, but instead of vindication, she says that she felt as if she were the person on trial. Although most attempted murder trials normally last three or four months, the judge acquitted Carrera Almoina of all charges within days, and even worse, an investigation was ordered into López and her family for prostitution. “That day, I lived the most tragic moment of this whole process because I realized that it wasn’t just him anymore,” López recalls. “I could see that the whole system was against me!” Devastated, but refusing to give up, she appealed, and on a shoestring budget, founded a small non-profit organization to support survivors of sexual violence.     A few months later, a retrial was ordered.

I first heard about her case around this time, while working as a foreign correspondent in Chile, and travelled to Caracas to interview her at a makeshift office.

Six months later, the retrial yielded a conviction for kidnapping and “grievous bodily injuries,” but Carrera Almoina was still acquitted on the heftier charges of rape, sexual violence, torture and attempted murder. Sentenced to six years in prison, he spent just a few months in jail, lessened due to his time served while awaiting trial.

López was outraged. When her final appeal was rejected, she set her sights on an even bigger adversary; the very system that was supposed to protect her. Having exhausted all avenues in Venezuela, López then petitioned the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR), hoping to take it all the way to its sister body, the Inter-American Court of Human Rights. Fewer than 1 in 100 successful petitions to the Commission ever make it to the Court[1] and she knew the process would be long. So, she begun working on a law degree. Usually, victims rely on NGOs or legal organizations to take their cases before international courts, but López wanted to test whether survivors could do it themselves. “I think this is a huge opportunity—for survivors to be able to directly petition the Inter-American human rights system,” says López. “There are no limitations. At least, I never felt any. More women could do what I did!”

López graduated from law school in 2011, and in 2013 enrolled in a post-graduate double specialization in international and human rights law. During this time, her petition to the IACHR was accepted, and the exposure attracted two human rights NGOs—the Washington-based Center for Justice and International Law (CEJIL), and Venezuelan-based Committee of relatives of victims of the events of February and March 1989 (COFAVIC). Both joined as co-petitioners, offering pro-bono legal support. “We thought it was an emblematic case,” explains Elsa Meany, a Senior Attorney with CEJIL. “Also, because of Linda herself—because of how she had pursued the case and all the effort she had put into it, we thought that it could have a tremendous impact.”

In March 2015, López testified before the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights—the first case involving gender-based violence against the State of Venezuela. In its Merits Report, the Commission concluded that Linda “did not have equal access to justice” and suffered “revictimization.” The Commission then elevated the case to its sister body, the Inter-American Court of Human Rights, in San José, Costa Rica.

Inter-American Court in San Jose on the day of her hearing (February 6, 2018). (LtoR)Ana Secilia Lopez (Linda’s sister), who also testified. and one of Linda’s lawyers, Francisco Quintana, of CEJIL, is on her right. (Photo courtesy of Linda Loaiza Lopez.)

On February 6, 2018, López sat before the seven judges donning black and red gowns, while pleading, “It is important that you value my testimony… I come here now because I trust you … and I expect justice.” Venezuela’s legal representative, Larry Devoe Márquez, also made a rare apology, acknowledging that López clearly “did not have access to justice under conditions of equality.” Given its potential, the ruling was much-anticipated by international human rights experts.

Ultimately, the Court ordered the State of Venezuela to compensate López and her family by covering her lifelong medical and psychological care. Further, Venezuela would have to acknowledge its responsibility publicly, establish a national gender-violence curriculum bearing the name “Linda Loaiza”, as well as other prevention measures. “That’s very important to Linda. She pursued this whole process in part to get truth and justice for herself, but also very much on behalf of others,” Meany says. Essentially, this ruling sets a global precedent by establishing that States can be held responsible for the actions of private citizens, thus upping the onus on prevention. “That’s a big idea and a core question of where many women could direct their legislative and advocacy tactics,” she posits.

Whether Venezuela will comply with the ruling is another question. Amid Venezuela’s humanitarian crisis, López says domestic violence and femicide have increased and her Foundation is struggling. López called the ruling a “triumph of justice” in a statement, but said it “will only be effective when the State fulfills its sentence.”

I was surprised that, after so many years of waiting and wanting, her reaction to the ruling was lukewarm. Still, it’s understandable. The scepticism and battle scars have become ingrained in this tireless activist and survivor, who vows “to continue to sustain the struggle of others like myself, as an advocate.”

 

[1] In 2016, of the 2,567 petitions received by the Inter-American Commission, only 16 were sent to the Inter-American Court. When Linda filed her petition in 2007, only 14 of the 1,456 petitions received by the Commission reached the Court.

Source: Organization of American States website (2018). Inter-American Commission on Human Rights: Statistics. http://www.oas.org/en/iachr/multimedia/statistics/statistics.html             Retrieved on February 20, 2018.

 

About the Author: Jen Ross is a Chilean-Canadian foreign correspondent with hundreds of articles published in newspapers and magazines around the world. She also spent 10 years working in communications for the United Nations, most recently as Editor for UN Women’s global website in New York, before resigning and moving to Aruba, where she now works as a freelance writer and editor, and teaches Human Rights at the University of Aruba.

November 28th 2018, 12:29 am

Our Gift to YOU on #GivingTuesday

Women

Today, on #GivingTuesday, we would like to offer you, our faithful readers, even more compelling and award-winning journalism about women…by women.

In 2019, Women’s eNews is seeking to hire a journalist based in Washington, DC, to provide immediate and cutting-edge coverage on national politics, particularly as it pertains to Democrats’ recently regained control of the House of Representatives, and how this will impact the Trump Administration’s current  policy actions and proposals attacking women’s rights and equality.

But we can’t do it without your help. By donating today, you can help us reach our goal of $25,000 to support the work of our DC-based journalist. And, with a donation of $150 or greater, you will receive a Racerback top inspired by the Women’s March. This garment is designed by DeMuse Designs, made in the USA, with fabric made of recycled plastic bottles (see below):

FRONT

BACK

Thank you in advance for your support, ensuring that you will receive top-notch news coverage on the ground in DC, for what promises to be a very compelling year for women in Congress!

November 26th 2018, 9:38 pm

Weekly Column: WRighteous – #ThanksGivingLove

Women

 WRighteous

#ThanksGivingLove

This is a piece about Love.

Good Love.

Sexy Love.

Thanksgiving Love.

Giving Thanks Love.

We dated for a handful of months, just a few. Maybe three or four – maybe five, tops – and on Thanksgiving in ’92, he asked me to marry him.

When we first met – had our first date – he told me in no uncertain terms, that he would never get married again, that he had already tried that, done that, and it wasn’t for him…marriage, that is. “Nah, not my thing.” It was our first date, so marriage wasn’t on my mind, but a second glass of sauvignon blanc was.

He got down on his knees, and I thought he was looking for a contact lens because he would, you know, very often lose one – or both. So I got down on my knees and he looked at me and asked, “Whatcha doing?” and I said, ‘I’m helping you” and with that he asked: “Okay, well, will you help me for the rest of my life?”

He wasn’t looking for his lens.

He was looking for me.

“You betcha,” I said.

How lucky am I?

My husband is a hero, a super-hero, albeit a cranky, messy, chaotic – with a side of ADD – hero. And marriage is not easy. Not one bit. Don’t let anyone tell you it’s a piece of cake; they’ll be separated or divorced in no time. Marriage is hard work; it’s coming to terms, it’s saying no, it’s kicking and screaming and finding your way back into each other arms, tentatively, at first. It’s sticking to your guns with a teeny – kindly – little bit of lee-way. It’s opening your heart to the point of bursting a vein. It’s allowing yourself to be exactly one hundred percent who you are without wearing a stitch of make-up, or cover-up; without any masks. It’s being the truest human being you can be in front of another human being. It about intimacy; no, not sex, intimacy –  letting someone into your soul, your truth, and seeing the scars and all the flaws and messiness and sharing the deep dark ugly stuff, the stuff you wanna hide – keep away from sunlight – and know they’re gonna stay; yeah, that kind of intimacy. And if you’re lucky, really, really lucky – they will love you – yes you – 100 percent in return. The naked, eyebrow-less girl standing right in front of them, because they saw the beauty in you before you ever did.

They saw it, they fell in love with that beam, that laser, that spark in you, and even on the worst days, the hard days, the messy chaotic cranky painful days, they lean in and kiss you, and they tell you in a whisper that will give you crazy-cakes goosebumps, that you – YOU – make the world spin.

That’s what i’m talking about.

Love.
Nothing trumps it.

Nothing.

Happy Thanksgiving.

I wish you all love.

I am so grateful to share my life here on Women’s eNews.

amy ferris

author. writer. girl.
Women’s eNews weekly columnist Amy Ferris is a highly accomplished author, screenwriter, television writer and editor. She was also honored by Women’s eNews as one of our ‘21 Leaders for the 21st Century‘ for 2018. Every Friday, you will continue to be invited into her world, where she will champion, encourage and inspire women to awaken to their greatness, as only she can, through passion, truth, hope, and humor — along with a heaping side of activism.

November 22nd 2018, 12:27 pm

Where Jewish and Muslim Women Find Sisterhood

Women

It is 9:00 am on a Sunday. I am in the gymnasium at Delaware Valley University in Doylestown, Pennsylvania, home to the Aggies basketball team. The bleachers are rolled up to accommodate tables seating 600 women – some with hijabs, some with tichels (Yiddish word for the headscarf worn by many married Orthodox Jewish women). 

Under a basketball hoop at the front of the room is a podium where keynotes will address the audience at the 5th Annual Conference of Sisterhood of Salaam Shalom, a nonprofit dedicated to building bridges between Jewish and Muslim women. There is also a choice of 14 two-hour workshops ranging from Anti-Semitism and Islamophobia: Differences and Parallels” to “Woman Up” and “Step into your Power”.

The Sisterhood was founded in 2010 by Sheryl Olitzky (a Jewish woman) and Atiya Aftab (a Muslim woman), who banded together to rid the world of intolerance on a micro level, which is where lasting change starts. From one Central, New Jersey based chapter consisting of six Muslim women and six Jewish women, there are now over 160 chapters throughout North America. Their families share Passover dinner and break Ramadan fast together.

As a child of holocaust survivors and a psychotherapist who serves clients from a rainbow coalition of countries, I am eager to learn more about the Sisterhood. At my table is Sana Waris Siddiqui, eight months pregnant and a member of the Squirrel Hill chapter in Pittsburgh – the neighborhood where the Tree of Life Synagogue is located. Waris Siddiqui’s eyes brim as she tells me, “The day the shooting happened I had my baby shower.”

Waris Siddiqui, who was raised in Pakistan, joined her chapter at its 2016 founding. She has discovered similarities and differences in her sister members’ religious beliefs: “If you are a Reform Jew you may or may not believe in God, whereas in Islam, no matter if you belong to the Shia or Sunni denomination, the main pre-requisite is belief in one God.” The members engage in grassroots social actions together, such as helping refugees settle into their new lives in the United States.

The Sisterhood mandate is to learn to trust one another on an interpersonal level before tackling contentious topics. While co-founder Olitzky has said, “It takes time, work to become a compassionate listener.”, Waris Siddiqui says, after two years, “We’re not quite there yet.”

From the podium Rabbi Shira Stern blows a shofar – a ram’s horn trumpet traditionally blown during the Jewish High Holidays. We observe 13 seconds of silence in memory of the 11 massacred at the Tree of Life Synagogue, and the two African Americans shot dead outside a supermarket in Jefferson, Kentucky late October. Then Olitzky directs us to hug the women around us. Initially it feels hokey, but as Shireen Quarzar and I lock arms around one another, a sadness-infused strength courses through me.

Eagerly, I head to the workshop, “Meeting This Moment: Lessons from Activists, Artists and Media Makers in Trump’s America,” led by Edina Lekovic, named one of the 500 Most Influential Muslims in the world by the Royal Islamic Strategic Studies Centre. Lekovic, a board member of NewGround: A Muslim-Jewish Partnership for Change, leads a discussion about how women are taught to be conflict-averse and that niceness is a stumbling block to problem solving. “You have to stir things up. Conflict is wrong only when people are defensive, instead of curious…”

Sitting in a circle in a spacious room in the University’s library, we discuss the concept of “safe spaces,” where everyone can feel affirmed without fear of rejection, and “brave spaces” where participants are encouraged to sit with the discomfort of disagreeing with the aim of coming to new understandings. During a 10-minute exercise we journal about “what I’m for.” I write about my moments of “connect” with patients who are my polar opposites. I flash to a Cultural Competence class I took at Wurzweiler School of Social Work in 2006. To become a therapist I needed to be in touch with my own prejudices. It was unnerving to see where I failed on my expectations of myself as an accepting person. Later, I share with attendees in the room, “If we don’t acknowledge the parts of us we’re ashamed of, those ugly parts can gain power.”

Back in the gymnasium, after a musical performance by The Interfaith Music Project of Philadelphia, keynote Marianne Williamson’s voice vibrates as her gaze locks us in. The spiritual guru explains, “Historically Jews and Muslims have been friends and cousins thousands of years. The politics of what is happening now only began in ’48…”  She orates, “None of our children will be safe unless all our children are safe.” Williamson talks about how after 9/11 there were questions about why more moderate Muslims didn’t speak up, which is the reason, as a Jew, she won’t voice her feelings about Israel’s politics in front of more than two or three listeners: dissension in the ranks often leads to being called a traitor. Her speech is galvanizing but still only, as she warns, “a battery charge.”

Hopefully love is stronger than fear and hate, but perennially tip toeing around areas of dissension with partners for change, and those we want to change, will cause our batteries to run down. If we can’t sometimes be ‘unlovely’ in a civil manner, the results won’t be, well, nice.

 

Sherry Amatenstein, LCSW is a NYC-based psychotherapist, author of three books including The Complete Marriage Counselor and editor of the anthology How Does That Make You Feel: True Confessions from Both Sides of the Therapy Couch. She has written for many publications including New York, Washington Post and vox.com. Her parents, both holocaust survivors taught her about empathy and resilience. howdoesthatmakeyoufeelbook.com

November 19th 2018, 7:00 pm

How the Equal Rights Amendment would Strengthen the 14th Amendment

Women

It is no secret that Donald Trump has long-wanted to eliminate Section 1 of the Fourteenth Amendment, which grants automatic US birthright citizenship for the children of undocumented immigrants. It was an idea he had even expressed during his presidential campaign. Yet while his ability to do so through an executive order remains unclear, what is very clear is that eliminating this amendment would hurt immigrant women most.

In 2016, for example, over 460,000 women who immigrated to the US had an immediate relative who was a US citizen, or did so through some other form of family sponsorship. The suggested cuts by the Trump-Grassley legislation, however, would potentially prohibit as many as 200,000 women from immigrating annually, and these women, in many cases, are primary drivers of their families’ integration.

These cuts would further impact adults between the ages of 25 and 54, considered to be prime working ages. For immigrant women in this age group, specifically, their numbers would drop by more than 110,000 per year. And since only 12 percent of women are able to currently enter the US through employment based preferences, they have to rely more on family-based immigration and the diversity-visa programs. The removal of many of these family-based immigration programs would therefore affect women’s immigration opportunities most.

It was the 14th Amendment, in fact (ratified on July 9, 1868), that ultimately provided women with equal immigration rights by granting citizenship to “all persons born or naturalized in the United States.”  Additionally, it forbade states from denying any person “within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.” This, despite  the second article of the Fourteenth Amendment introducing the word “male” into the Constitution in respect to voting rights, gave women’s rights advocates the wording they felt they needed at the time to make a case for women’s rights (including suffrage) on the basis of the first article of the Amendment, which did not distinguish between females and males in granting citizenship rights.

Still, it wasn’t until 1971, in a case where the Supreme Court heard arguments of Reed v. Reed, that the Court decided that the Fourteenth Amendment did prohibit unequal treatment on the basis of sex. This was the first US Supreme Court decision to apply the Fourteenth Amendment’s equal protection clause to gender or sexual distinctions, and one that was argued by Ruth Bader Ginsburg, then a lawyer with the American Civil Liberties Union. In this case, the Supreme Court ruled that the 14th Amendment’s Equal Protection Clause does indeed apply to women.

Yet, it is clear that this ruling did not go far enough, as evidenced by the now famous quote by Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia (who died in 2016), when he told a law school audience in 2010 that the Constitution does not guarantee equality for women. “Nobody thought it was directed against sex discrimination,” he claimed.

And that is why the Equal Rights Amendment must be added to the Constitution. It would not only significantly improve women’s chances of receiving equal pay for equal work, but would also provide them with a higher standard of protection from gender-based violence, while making it harder to deny them access to health care, and accommodations during pregnancy.

“If I could choose an amendment to add to the Constitution, it would be the Equal Rights Amendment,” Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg said in 2014. “I would like my granddaughters, when they pick up the Constitution, to see that notion – that women and men are persons of equal stature – I’d like them to see that is a basic principle of our society.”

 

November 18th 2018, 10:25 pm

Weekly Column: WRighteous – #SameBlood

Women

#SameBlood
 
“No one is born hating another person because of the colour of his skin, or his background or his religion. People learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love, for love comes more naturally to the human heart than its opposite.” 
– Nelson Mandela
 
Years ago, when I was screenwriter, I wrote a script about police widows, and no, it never got made, and yes, it had many “thisclosethisclose moments. I wrote it for Ned Tanen, the President/Head of Production at Paramount Pictures at the time; he was a good man, a great mentor.
I read an article in a women’s magazine, the title of which escapes me, about how New York City police widows had formed a group, Survivors of the Shield. This was back in the early 90’s. They were fighting the bureaucracy along with the brass at One Police Plaza
I spent months researching; months speaking with police widows – an extraordinary, awe-inspiring group of women — along with the police partners of slain officers. I worked closely with Mario Cuomo‘s office, and his gubernatorial team because I wanted to help get it right. Cuomo was a huge advocate for these women and their children. What was extraordinary to me – stunning – was the camaraderie between the women:  black women and white women; Latino women & Muslim women; Asian, Jewish and Christian women. All of these women had lost their husbands to violence. Whether it was gun violence, drug deals, bombs detonated, or gang shootings, they shared a deep bond. 
 
They took care of each other. 
They loved each other. 
They had each others’ back. 
 
The funerals lined the streets, three and four deep. The grieving was palpable. The faces of the thousands of officers, cops – both women and men – standing shoulder-to-shoulder saluting their fallen comrade(s) as the carriage carrying the coffin (or coffins in some case), draped with the American flag, would pass. 
The faces of the widows; the faces of the children holding tight to a perfectly folded American flag that was given to them for an act of bravery. One widow told me it was like being Jackie Kennedy for the day. Another widow, whose husband was gunned down in cold blood, told me that when he left for work every morning, she would pray to God to please, please, please bring him home at night. 
I interviewed cops who lost their partners. Their stories were filled with deep profound sadness; the kind of sadness that lived and stayed in their eyes. One cop – a black cop – told me about his partner, a white guy. They’d been partners for a few years, following a ton of tension at the beginning of their partnership. A couple of times they each, on their own, requested transfers. The whole black, white dance. Don’t get too close, you ain‘t my friend, you ain’t my Brother, screw you, no f**k you. Attitude, pent up anger, entitlement – the whole shebang.  But they spent every single day together sitting in a patrol car working through their crap because their job was not only to protect and serve but they had to protect each other. So, in that car they got to know each other: slowly, surely, and cautiously. They even delivered a baby together; a woman who was giving birth in the back of her car – while one said push, push, push, push, push, the other one – with the help of the very shocked husband – brought that baby into the world. The woman named her newborn after both cops. A proud moment, no doubt. 
They would sit. 
They would argue. 
They would bicker. 
They would disagree. 
They would talk about everything – from Sports – the Yankees, the Mets, the Giants, the Jets – to the horrific racial tension that was sweeping the City at the time. And when the time came for the black officer to be promoted, he said – half-jokingly – he’d only take the promotion if his partner was promoted along with him. 
But that never happened because his partner bled to death in his arms; a drug deal gone horribly awry. And they didn’t even work narcotics; they just answered a call. On that day, years and years ago, I asked him what he missed the most about his partner. He listed a whole bunch of things – quirks, a couple of funny stories – ‘He always had to have a toothpick dangling from his mouth; he chain-smoked Marlboros – evil cigarettes, nasty. I wanted him to smoke menthols, Newports.’ 
I asked him what he remembered most, and he said, “He used to talk about his wife all the time. We’d sit in the car, hours and hours, some days it was boring as hell, but once you got him started, man, all he’d talk about was her. I knew everything about her. The kinda clothing she liked, the kinda perfume she wore, the way she liked her tea. Little things. The kinda music she loved listening to – Aretha. White girls love Aretha. You hear someone going on about someone they love – a wife, a kid – you know, you can’t help but start lovin’ those people. You can’t help but love them, you don’t ever have to meet them or see them, just hearing about them seeps into your skin. You love them before you ever meet them. We were both shot that day, I was bleeding, but…him, I had him in my arms, cradling him like a baby; he was pouring blood, man, it was squirting everywhere, and when I looked down at my hands I couldn’t tell his blood from mine.”
#SameBlood

 

amy ferris

author. writer. girl.

 

Women’s eNews weekly columnist Amy Ferris is a highly accomplished author, screenwriter, television writer and editor. She was also honored by Women’s eNews as one of our ‘21 Leaders for the 21st Century‘ for 2018. Every Friday, you will continue to be invited into her world, where she will champion, encourage and inspire women to awaken to their greatness, as only she can, through passion, truth, hope, and humor — along with a heaping side of activism.

November 15th 2018, 9:03 pm

Finding My Space — On the Women’s Side of the Western Wall

Women

I visited the Western Wall twice as part of my school’s eighth grade trip to Israel—once on a weekday, and once on a Friday night. These two experiences couldn’t have been more different.

The Western Wall in Jerusalem is controversially partitioned into two sections: one (larger) section for men, and a (smaller) section for women. Men have the right to wrap tefillin, read Torah, conduct formal prayer services, and become bar-mitzvah in their section; women do not.

During my first visit to the wall, which was on a weekday, both sections were mainly populated by ultra-Orthodox people. The men’s section was vibrant—full of prayer and commotion. After our visit, my male classmates returned to the group gratified and glowing. They later excitedly shared stories of all the people who had welcomed them, asked them questions about home, and given them tallitot to wear, as well as feeling a mutual sense of community.

In contrast, the women’s section was silent, except for the noise carrying over the barrier. The women made me feel like an observer, rather than an equal participant. They looked me up and down, while their eyes scanned my jeans and wild, uncovered hair that made me stand out in a sea of modest dress. As I approached the Wall, the women interacted so little with me that they barely even moved to give me space to stand. I felt they had deemed me unworthy of this sacred space, unqualified as a Jew and disgraceful as a woman. I felt unwelcome and isolated.

When my class returned that Friday night for Shabbat I could barely recognize the space I had stood in only days before. Both sides of the wall were electric. Younger, international crowds danced, prayed, and sang together. Languages and histories harmonized together in a passionate expression of joy. There were women dressed in skirts, in pants, and in Israeli Defense Force uniforms. They embraced my fellow classmates and I, welcoming us into their circles of prayer and dance. As I raised my voice to join theirs, I felt grateful and empowered. I was welcome, loved, and included, sharing the bliss of Shabbat and our shared faith.

It was remarkable to me how I could have such contrasting experiences in the same place, and only a few days apart. I had preconceived expectations that I would travel to this ancient, awe-inspiring wall and suddenly feel ‘super Jewish,’ spiritual, and connected. Instead, what I found most valuable about my time at the Western Wall was the very difference between my two visits, which enabled me to truly discover my space.

My first experience at the Western Wall was one I’m not eager to repeat. I didn’t like being silenced and feeling like I had to dress and act in a traditional way to be accepted. The Friday night experience, however, had spoken to me. I learned that I love to feel united with other women. I like to be loud and unencumbered. I don’t want men to dictate my spirituality.

My time spent at the Wall ultimately taught me that it’s okay to feel uncomfortable with the way others choose to practice their Judaism. As long as I remain respectful, I don’t have to pretend that something works for me when it doesn’t. Many of the women I encountered on my first visit to the Wall likely make choices for themselves that I would never make for myself. Yet, in my reflections, I realize that respecting those choices, even if I find them problematic, makes me a more accepting feminist and a more righteous Jew.

As a feminist, I believe in equality, and as a Jew, I believe in compassion. Believing that everyone is created b’tzelem elohim (in God’s image) means that I accept everyone as equal, and as worthy of my respect. That also means I won’t bash women for choosing not to sing, or for accepting less prominent roles in their communities. I know that having a space in which you can feel welcome and complete is empowering. As a feminist, I believe in lifting women up, and fighting for social equality among all genders. All women deserve to have their space—whatever that may look like.

That’s why as I continue to grow, with both my Judaism and my Feminism guiding me, I’m fighting to open more spaces for all Jewish women to feel as I do.

November 13th 2018, 4:52 pm

Improving Buildings and Lives Across Latin America – with Women as Leaders

Women

A green building revolution is under way in Latin America, one that will improve the health and well-being of future generations, and it’s being led by women.  Thanks to a new cash injection, this is a revolution that will spread far and wide, creating resilient communities at the forefront of fighting climate change.

Such collaboration is central to the way we work at the WorldGBC, and to one of the programs proving successful in Latin America. The Building Efficiency Accelerator (BEA) aims to double the energy efficiency of buildings by 2030, as part of cities’ response to the Paris Agreement. It draws on our GBCs’ expertise in leveraging private and public sectors, academics and NGOs to deliver technical and financial support – and give cities access to tried-and-tested solutions. Now, after winning $600,000 of funding from P4G for our Climate Action Cities Project, this work can be scaled up, equipping GBCs across the Americas to deliver transformational change.

Why is this important? Our region is represents a dazzling diversity of cultures, climate and innovation, but it also faces huge environmental, social and economic challenges. Central and South America is one of the most urbanized parts of the world, with 80% of people living in cities or towns. By 2025, these should see more than 20% growth and be home to over 315 million inhabitants. Rising population, energy use and costs, and the accompanying emissions and changing weather patterns all suggest that a sustainable approach to development is urgently needed.  Buildings are at the heart of this (globally, nearly one third of the world’s energy goes to heat, light and cool buildings) and people are at the heart of buildings.

Alejandra Cabrera, CEO of Mexico’s GBC, SUMe, is striving to encourage climate change mitigation through green building. The country’s current construction boom means that energy efficiency in buildings is central to achieving climate goals, while also maintaining economic competitiveness. Through the BEA, Mexico now has developed a model national energy conservation code. Another market with huge potential is Chile, emerging as a world-class destination for solar and wind developers, along with huge opportunities to strengthen its energy efficiency policy – something that Chile’s GBC, headed up by María Fernanda Aguirre, is working hard to achieve.

Also in Latin America, Colombia’s GBC (CCCS) represents a successful model for galvanizing private sector support. When the Mayor of Bogotá set his city’s urban redevelopment masterplan, he wanted to ensure that the doubling of homes by 2050 didn’t lead to a doubling in energy use or declining air quality. So he turned to the CCCS and its former CEO, Cristina Gamboa, for help. Following expert support through the BEA, Bogotá now has a policy to reduce energy and water use in buildings by 20% and 30%. Further, 2.7 million new homes will have lower emissions and utility bills. Developers understand that sustainable properties – like Elementos with its solar panels, green roofs, recycled materials and 100% natural ventilation – attract a “green premium.”

Financing the transformation could also be supported by initiatives like the government’s Green Bonds program in Peru, a country that has experienced a significant economic revolution, but where 70% of homes are built on informal construction. There, Peru GBC, led by Francesca Mayer, is collaborating with a range of organizations to promote “sustainability for all.

Later this week, many of those leading the green building revolution in America will meet at Greenbuild 2018, led by the USGBC.  The conference’s closing speech will be made by Mayor of Puerto Rico, Carmen Yulín Cruz, an advocate for cities transforming into resilient communities in the face of climate change and natural disasters. This is something that resonates across our network. In Guatemala, for example, Belem Sálomon and her GBC team are working with others to create new, green homes for communities after June’s devastating eruption of the Fuego Volcano.

Greenbuild’s line-up (where another high profile woman, Amal Clooney, is opening the Conference) is compelling evidence of female leadership in our sector. In fact, ‘Leading with Purpose’ is the theme of this year’s Women in Green Power Luncheon – which represents exactly what inspiring women throughout Latin America’s green building community are doing right now. I therefore know that the transformation is in safe and powerful hands.

 

Juanita Alvarez is the Regional Head of WorldGBC’s Americas Network of Green Building Councils in 15 countries. She focuses on strengthening the Green Building Councils across the region, regional projects, and promoting an active engagement towards green building and the sharing best practices through the network. Juanita is based in Bogotá, Colombia.

 

 

November 11th 2018, 9:20 pm

Weekly Column: WRighteous – We Are More Than One Page

Women

I am here in Hawaii, co-facilitating a writing workshop with my friend and Goddess-friend. Twenty-one glorious, brave, bold and yes, audacious humans share their stories.

Life stories.

Bits and pieces, a moment, a memory shared, spoken, told.

It brings me to this, this moment, this memory.

We were deciding on whether or not my mom should be moved one more rung up the assisted living ladder.

During one of my last visits, I went to check out what was considered the ‘last stop’ within the facility itself. It was designed like a dormitory; each room had two single beds and next to each bed was a night table, a small dresser, a recliner and/or a rocking chair tucked into the corner to make the room feel homey. A couple of paintings and photos hung on either side of the walls. Most beds had railings so that none of the folks would or could fall at night. The furnishings were sparse, the rooms tidy, the walls filled with one or two memories of that person on their side of the room.

Outside the room – on either side of the door – were glass cases filled with figurines, and hummel pieces, and various personal tchokches, and framed photos of family and friends – personal effects. Next to the glass cases, hanging on the wall, were framed pieces of paper. Written on each piece of yellow lined paper was their name,  her or his age, and a life story.

Some were a full page long, some a half page, some were just a few lines. Each yellow lined paper informing you who that person was, lying in that single bed, sitting in that rocking chair, or listening to the radio as she or he reclined; the family and friends framed photos neatly arranged in each glass case.

One man was a car salesman. He loved baseball. He had two kids, a boy and a girl, and two grandchildren. His wife died years earlier, and he suffered from Alzheimer disease.

A woman named Becky was a beautician. She came from a very large family in the Midwest. She had never married. She liked happy faces and loved the color yellow. She had dementia.

Another man worked the railroads, lived in Colorado, where he raised three girls and had twelve grandchildren. One of his daughters was living with another woman who he referred to as his fourth daughter. He had Alzheimer disease.

Another man was a Holocaust survivor. He loved chocolate, and his wife’s name was Muriel. And he always wore long sleeved shirts.

Each page told a brief story.

I’m sure most, but not all, were written by relatives or friends, remembrances of that life lived.

One life. One page. And as I walked up and down the hall, I couldn’t bear my mother becoming just one page. There was so much, so very much to read and write and share between the lines; over eighty some odd years of ‘so very much.’ And so, she didn’t move up the ladder.

As I write this, and think about it, I knew everything I needed to know about each person in each room. I mean, my God, just knowing that someone loved the color yellow tells me everything.

Everything you need to know about one life.

Thirteen people, including a police officer, were massacred Wednesday night in Thousand Oaks, California, at a Country Western bar (the Borderline Bar and Grill). And from what I have read, the few sentences, the victims loved country music. They were line dancing; some were at the country music festival in Las Vegas where 58 people were massacred by yes, yet another white male terrorist. No doubt…no doubt…they each had a story; a life worth telling and living.

No doubt each had a dream, a hope.

No doubt each believed they had a future.

We are each, every single one of us, at least one or two or three or four book-worthy.

amy ferris

author. writer. girl.

Women’s eNews weekly columnist Amy Ferris is a highly accomplished author, screenwriter, television writer and editor. She was also honored by Women’s eNews as one of our ‘21 Leaders for the 21st Century‘ for 2018. Every Friday, you will continue to be invited into her world, where she will champion, encourage and inspire women to awaken to their greatness, as only she can, through passion, truth, hope, and humor — along with a heaping side of activism.

November 8th 2018, 9:43 pm

For Facts’ Sake — VOTE

Women

Facts have been on life support in the US since the 2016 Presidential election. The true threat to its future first became clear the day after Donald Trump’s inauguration via the creation of a crowd-size controversy over his claim that the media had misrepresented the number of  attendees. Speaking at CIA headquarters, he alleged “one of the networks” had shown “an empty field,” while he saw a crowd that “looked like a million-and-a-half people.” This was a lie, exposed by the obvious editing of the crowd photos by a government photographer who cropped the space where the crowd actually ended.

Yet facts continued on a steady decline as the lies kept coming. On the issue of crime, for example, Trump claimed “Chicago is like a war zone’ and that during President Obama’s speech there two weeks earlier two people were shot and killed. That never happened. On climate change, Trump said it was a hoax, even though scientific evidence to the contrary exists. On immigration, he suggested that the migrant caravans are full of hardened criminals. The fact is that they are mostly poor people with few belongings who are fleeing gang violence. And, last but certainly not least, his claims about the media being the “enemy of the people” couldn’t be further from the truth, since a majority of news, particularly journalism delivered by non-profit organizations like Women’s eNews, which does not answer to any private corporate interests, freely report only the truth. Yet, these are just a few of the lies that reached an unabashed crescendo when Trumps’ latest lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, recently said, “Truth isn’t truth.”

So, what is this really all about? You only need to read two infamous quotes by two of the most heinous leaders this world has ever known to understand its true purpose: “Make the lie big, keep it simple, keep saying it and eventually they will believe it,” said Joseph Goebbels; and as Hitler wrote in Mein Kampf,  “Slogans should be persistently repeated until the very last individual has come to grasp the idea.” What they knew, and what Trump knows now, is that the power of familiarity can eclipse rationality, convincing even the most logical individual that a certain fact is actually untrue after being told so over and over again. When coupled with ‘gaslighting,’ a psychological technique where people are manipulated into doubting their own memory, they can even be led to question their own sanity.

When that happens, the line between fact and fiction becomes so blurred that people will behave in ways that defy logic. Just look around. This very minute, civilian groups and vigilantes are packing their guns to protect America from Trump’s warnings of Central American migrants whose caravans are moving through Mexico on the way to the US border, joining thousands of American troops Trump is sending there as well. This twisted way of thinking is not so different from the political rhetoric that led to the witch hunts and trials of early modern Europe, resulting in the executions of hundreds of innocent women; or Hitler who, by stereotyping Jews, enabled most Germans to dehumanize them, resulting in the deaths of millions of innocent people. Far too often, prejudices and lies are converted into manifestos and then, as Voltaire once said, “Those who can make you believe absurdities, can make you commit atrocities.”

These are just a few of the reasons why voting in the midterm elections tomorrow  not only means you are voting for your preferred candidates, but also for the very future of facts. For the line between fact and fiction has become so increasingly blurred that we must, for facts’ sake, not only prevent its plug from being pulled, but seize the plug from the very hands of those who choose to dishonor it. The future of our country’s democracy depends on it. PLEASE VOTE!

November 5th 2018, 8:36 am

Weekly Column: WRighteous – LOVE

Women

WRighteous
 
Love 
 
Today, November 2, is the 20th anniversary of my Dad’s death, in memory of him, I share this story:

It had been imbedded in the palm of his hand.
They had to pry his hand open, and remove it.

It was their 20th anniversary, and life had not been overly kind to my mom and dad. A set of circumstances spiraled and set them back, and back then, in the 60’s, you kept secrets along with some memories – some trinkets, a diary – hidden deep in the back of the drawer next to a pack of Kent or Marlboro cigarettes, that you didn’t want anyone to know you were smoking.

It was a little after 6:00 pm.

The doorbell rang, and my father opened the door. Two men stood with a huge cake box from the local bakery, wishing my father a happy anniversary, and asking where the lady of the house was. My father turned from the front door for maybe, maybe a split second – calling for my mom. “A cake from Bambi’s,” he shouted, when the two men pushed their way into our home, and pulled two fully loaded guns from the cake box. Pointing one directly at my dad’s face, they demanded everything. Every Thing. My mother was upstairs, getting ready for a dinner party – an anniversary party at a very favorite restaurant with twenty-five friends and relatives – because, well, twenty years was a milestone, a big deal. It was to be celebrated until the wee hours. My mother stepped out from the bedroom, wearing a favorite housecoat, with full make-up, and hurried downstairs where she was expecting a celebratory cake and congratulations, not a loaded gun pointed directly at her. The second man demanding everything. “Give us everything!” Off came the jewelry, and the watch, and her wedding band that she couldn’t get off her finger and he, the man, demanded the ring or he would cut her finger off. “Now, right now!” She licked and licked her ring finger – soaking it with her own spit and saliva – until it felt like the skin was coming off along with her diamond wedding band. A simple eternity band. They led my father and mother upstairs, to their bedroom. That’s where they wreaked havoc. All of the drawers were pulled out, and everything was scattered on the floor. Every Thing. “Where?” “Where?” There, my father gestured, there – the sock drawer. Socks were unrolled, and cash flew out. Antique piggy banks were smashed to bits, and coins spilled everywhere. Jewelry boxes were flipped over and all and everything scooped up and tossed into the pillow cases that were ripped from the pillows – one extra soft, one extra hard – from the king size bed – that was really truly two single beds pushed together. Wedded together. Perfectly and beautifully made, bedspread and all. One mattress shredded with a box cutter. Everything ripped apart. My father stood and watched helplessly – mortified and horrified – as my mother’s wrists and ankles were being tied and bound; her mouth silenced with duck tape; r maybe it was masking tape. His heart racing and pounding to the point of breaking and cracking – as he tip-toed – tip-toed a few inches backwards – maybe three, four inches – to the bedroom door, where his sports coat hung over the door knob, and as he held his breath, and silently prayed – he prayed for their lives, he prayed to be given more years, he prayed for them to not hurt her, sully her, dirty her, rape her; he prayed like we all pray when we don’t believe in God but we have nowhere else to turn – and he reached deep into the pocket of his sports coat, and grabbed it and clinched his fist with every ounce of strength. Every single ounce he had in him, and kept his fist clinched for what must have felt like forever. And then they turned to him, the two men, and it was his turn – his arms and ankles bound, spinning and rotating the tape around his ankles and feet until his toes bled – but he was not gagged, they did not gag him – and from what was told to the police officers later that night – smacked with the butt of the gun at the side of his head – his temple. Not pistol whipped, no. No. Smacked. The bruise lasted months and months and months. and then he stumbled to the floor, and they rummaged through everything. Every Thing. Every single drawer, every closet, every medicine cabinet; book shelves, my room, my brother’s room, the hallway linen closet, and the bathrooms. Removing paintings from the walls, and throwing them on to the wall-to-wall carpet. The noise, my mother later said, was unbearable. They rummaged and stole and grabbed and tossed everything into a pillow case and piled the cash in their pockets; and my mother, curled in the corner, kept her eyes closed because she couldn’t bear the sight and sound and loss. My father was trembling on the ground. His hands clinched. Frozen. His knuckles white; pure white. And then the two men left. The front door slamming shut, and they could hear the car revving up. They could hear the car drive away, and then did nothing for what felt like months and months, my mother later told the police. And then, when all seemed quiet and safe, my father crawled to my mother, on his elbows and knees, and he ripped and yanked the tape off her mouth with his teeth and he kissed her – long and hard and caught her tears – and she crawled to the phone, and managed to dial ‘O’ on the rotary phone with the tip of her nose because her determination outweighed her fear, and she could hear the operator. My mother screamed – howled – into the receiver: “Help us…Help us…Help us…Help us…Help us!” And the police came and barged into the house and they removed the tape from my mom’s ankles and wrists, and from my dad’s ankles and calves and arms and he screamed – an angry bitter god-awful guttural scream – as the hair from his legs was ripped from his skin, and then they pried his hands open, and there it was. In his left palm, embedded, the diamond brooch. Each diamond – round and perfect – that he had saved every single penny for; that he borrowed money for; that he had sold – pawned – his watch and pinky ring for. The diamond brooch he had begged the jeweler – his friend on west 47th Street – to give him the best deal imaginable for the girl of his dreams. The diamond brooch that he designed for her, wanted her to have, and to own, because he loved her with every fiber in his being and was willing to die for her. The diamond brooch that she never wore; never, not once. She could never bring herself to wear it. She kept it hidden in the back of the drawer, deep in, next to a pack of Marlboros, the too small french lingerie, the love notes and love poems he wrote to her while he was in the army, the cachet that smelled like lilac, the samples of perfume like Chanel #5, the little bottles of liquor from Pan Am and TWA airlines, and the one charm – a favorite charm – that had fallen off its bracelet that she had planned on wearing that night, along with the diamond brooch that my father had planned on giving her with a handwritten note that read:

       Hey, Monkey, Whatdya say? 100 more? I love you, Sammy

She gave me that brooch when I got engaged to Ken, placing it in the palm of my hand,

This is all you need to know about love.
 

amy ferris

author. writer. girl.

 

Women’s eNews weekly columnist Amy Ferris is a highly accomplished author, screenwriter, television writer and editor. She was also honored by Women’s eNews as one of our ‘21 Leaders for the 21st Century‘ for 2018. Every Friday, you will continue to be invited into her world, where she will champion, encourage and inspire women to awaken to their greatness, as only she can, through passion, truth, hope, and humor — along with a heaping side of activism.

November 1st 2018, 11:42 pm

The ERA: Keeping Incarcerated Mothers in their Children’s Lives

Women

In the United States, 75 percent of incarcerated women are also their children’s primary caregivers. And while these women are spending time in prison, their children are often spending time in some form of foster care.

For women of color, these numbers are even more staggering, The Pew Charitable Trusts found that one in nine black children have a parent incarcerated, compared to only one in 57 white children. These high numbers are directly linked to statistics showing that of the 219,000 incarcerated women in the United States, two thirds of them are women of color. Further, a significant number of women who are incarcerated are not even convicted, and more than a quarter of women who are behind bars have not yet had a trial.

This data is particularly problematic for women of color: Black women are going to jail at higher rates than their white female counterparts; a significant number of these women have been convicted of minor offenses, and a large percentage of these women are losing care of their children until their release. Clearly, the effects of mass incarceration extend beyond the individual cells that hold black women back by disrupting the lives of the people who need them most.

Since the US Constitution still does not include an Equal Rights Amendment,  black women have even less protection under the law. Black women are less likely to afford bail, since they are paid just 61 percent of what non-Hispanic white men are currently paid. This causes more black women to remain in jail while awaiting trial, whereby their children become the hidden victims. If the ERA was added to the Constitution, equal pay for equal work would be enforced.

Currently, there re 2.4 million hidden victims living in the shadow of their parents’ incarceration throughout the nation. Therefore, when a court determines the fate of a primary caregiver, it is also determining the fate of the child they are caring for. While a mother serves time, her child may receive only limited visits, or in some cases, visits are not even an option. This lack of support can have harsh effects on children’s overall wellbeing, both from their financial standing to their mental health.

To keep their children with family members, 45 percent of incarcerated mothers are forced to rely on their children’s grandparents to raise their children However, according to the Prison Fellowship, as much as 80 percent of these children end up in households where there is extreme financial strain. The Urban Institute Justice Policy Center found that for children who live with their grandmothers, one in four of these children lives in poverty, since 66 percent were not provided with any financial support to raise the child. As a result, one-third of these children do not have health insurance.

Children may also experience emotional side effects by having their mothers incarcerated for any period of time. Depending on their age, children between the ages of 2-6 often suffer from separation anxiety, traumatic stress and survivor’s guilt. Children between the ages of 7-10 may develop poor self-esteem, an inability to deal with future traumatic stress, and even regressive behavior, and children between the ages of 11-14 may begin to reject limits to their trauma-reactive behavior. For children age 15-18, experiencing their own parent(s) in prison can lead to criminal behavior that may result in their own incarceration.

Of further concern to incarcerated mothers is a federal law, the Adoption and Safe Families Act, passed in 1997 by former President Clinton, which gives states the right to terminate parental rights for children who have been in foster care for 15 out of the last 22 months. While the purpose of the act is to prevent children from spending long periods of time in foster care, since the average sentencing time for a mother is 36 months, and can be placed as many as 100 miles away from her family, thousands of mothers have lost their parental rights to their children. Leading to permanent separation from their families, these children are often placed in homes with strangers who are paid to care for them, or in state agencies where they run the risk of never being adopted.

Clearly, this vicious cycle, which begins with unfair and unequal wages particularly affecting women of color, further impacts the innocent lives of their children when their mothers are incarcerated. Adding the ERA to the US Constitution would help ensure that women are paid equally, thereby providing greater financial resources for women most affected by mass incarceration. And this, most importantly, will help keep mothers in the lives of their children.


A recent graduate of Columbia University’s Graduate School of Journalism, Sage Howard is a 2018 fellow in the Sy Syms Journalistic Excellence Program, funded by the Sy Syms Foundation. The Sy Syms Journalistic Excellence Program at Women’s eNews fellowship supports editorial and development opportunities for editorial interns in the pursuit of journalistic excellence.

October 30th 2018, 9:11 pm

Woman-on-Woman Competitiveness in Politics

Women

The rapidly approaching midterm elections give us a rare look at a form of competition that has not previously been on public display. Given the historic increase in the number of female candidates, we are witnessing for the first time competition between women who are roughly equally matched. How do they wage war? Do they mimic men? Are there innate differences between men and women in how they tackle these intra-gender conflicts?

The data will soon be available. There are a record-breaking six races that currently feature women as both the Democratic and Republican nominees in states across the country, from New York to Nebraska; from Arizona to Wisconsin. What we know, or think we know, about women and competition comes from research on male-female skirmishes.

Such studies center on conflicts over access to fertile mates and to the care and protection of offspring. A prevalent view is that there are vast differences between the sexes. Females are deferential, they get what they want, not by shows of power or strength, but through wiles, trickery, and innuendo. She is manipulative; he is direct.

Anthropologist Sarah Hrdy of UC Davis, looked closely at data on our closest relatives–the primates–to get answers. In her book, The Woman Who Never Evolved, she rejects that consensus view, describing female primates as “competitive, independent, sexually assertive.” They “have every bit as much at stake in the evolutionary game as their male counterparts do. These females compete among themselves for rank and resources, but will bond together for mutual defense. They risk their lives to protect their young, yet consort with the very males who murdered their offspring when successful reproduction depends upon it. They tolerate other breeding females if food is plentiful, but chase them away when monogamy is the optimal strategy. When ‘promiscuity’ is an advantage, female primates—like their human cousins—exhibit a sexual appetite that ensures a range of breeding partners. From case after case, we are led to the conclusion that the sexually passive, noncompetitive, all-nurturing woman of prevailing myth never could have evolved within the primate order.”

So the female is wily and shrewd; she is no demur wallflower. “Yet males [largely due to their larger size,] are almost universally dominant over females in primate species, and Homo sapiens is no exception.”

In male-female clashes among primates, males often dominate, but females have skills they can use to affect the outcomes. How does this gender dynamic work in an era when the outcome of most encounters depends less on brawn and more on brain? Today’s political wars are waged, not with traditional weapons of warfare, but with words. Language is the main weapon of choice, especially in the political arena.

Whoever said ‘sticks and stones may break my bones, but names will never hurt me,’ got that all wrong! Just ask Marco Rubio (Little Marco), Ted Cruz (Lying Ted), or Jeb Bush (Low-energy Jeb) who came under withering verbal attack from Donald Trump, as did Hillary Clinton (Crooked Hillary) and other women. Trump taught us all that such abuse gets results in the political arena.

Here, too, research on language usage challenges widely held beliefs about massive gender differences. Men are believed to be more verbally assertive, to interrupt more, and to be more talkative. Women are assumed to be more reticent, acquiescent, and deferential. Not so, says University of Wisconsin psychologist Janet Hyde, based on her research on gender similarities. “Most of what we understand comes from now-discredited, but wildly popular ideas about difference between men and women. Men are from Mars, women from Venus.”

The Guardian notes that the Mars -Venus notion has been repeated so often that it has become accepted truth. Yet, a research review tells a different, and more complicated, story. “The idea that men and women differ fundamentally in the way they use language to communicate is a myth in the everyday sense: a widespread but false belief. But it is also a myth in the sense of being a story people tell in order to explain who they are, where they have come from, and why they live as they do. Whether or not they are ‘true’ in any historical or scientific sense, such stories have consequences in the real world. They shape our beliefs, and so influence our actions.”

Importantly, most of the focus, whether on primates or humans, has been on gender differences and on inter-gender conflicts; much less attention has been paid to intra-gender clashes, especially female-female encounters. Yet, we all know they exist and they can be bruising. Case in point: ‘Mean girls,’ a term popularized by the popular movie starring Lindsay Lohan and amplified by the 2018 hit movie, Eighth Grade.

Mean girls’ battle for dominance in their peer groups, and can use gossip, outright lies, shaming and online bullying to protect their status. One Ohio girl quoted on girls health.gov [health.gov] said, “Guys just punch people in the face and/or call them a name and get over it, but girls attack you from the inside. Girls might act sweet in front of adults, so when you try to tell someone, they don’t believe you. They might bully you by spreading rumors or excluding you or any number of things. And they all hurt really badly.”

Does such behavior differ in later years? Not according to some research. “Now, the corporate world is spawning its own ‘adult versions’ of the stereotypical mean girls who thrive at the top of the high-school food chain. Only that the older versions are said to be more calculating,” notes the blog HRD Employment law.

A 2018 study published in the journal Development and Learning in Organisations [economia.icaew.com], found that 70 percent of female executives report they have been bullied by women in their offices and that it has harmed their careers.

The study’s author, Tech Woman Today founder Cecilia Harvey, calls such behavior the “Queen Bee Syndrome,” and says it is the “biggest hindrance to women advancing in the workplace.”

So, adult women have a quiver full of tools for attacking one another, especially when the ‘other’ is a subordinate. What happens when equal-status women compete? Do they engage in direct verbal assaults? Do they eschew personal attacks and engage one another on policy or practice differences? Do they revert to “mean girls” behavior, insulting and demeaning one another?

At this point, we have only sketchy, anecdotal data to rely on. Nevertheless, early indications are that the 2018 midterm elections, pitting women against women, might be as nasty and personal as anything male-male competition can serve up.

In the Arizona primary to fill the Senate seat of Jeff Flake, the female candidates came out of the gate swinging, noted The WesternJournal.com. Republican Martha McSally, an Air Force Academy graduate, blasted Democrat Kyrsten Sinema: “Like, I’m as impressed as anyone that my opponent brags that she owns over 100 pairs of shoes. I, on the other hand, have over 100 combat missions, serving our country “While we were in harm’s way in uniform, Kyrsten Sinema was protesting us in a pink tutu and denigrating our service.” Sinema was a prime mover in the Arizona Alliance for Peaceful Justice after 911. The Alliance opposed military action as “an inappropriate response to terrorism” and called for using legal means to deal with the terrorist attack.

You would never know from these comments that both women shared many goals. Notably, both are Ironman World Championship finishers. An honor held by very few women and a sign of the dedication and hard work that both have shown. As McSally said, “The training is important, but you can train the human body to do anything …The most important element is the grit, the determination to believe you can do it and not quit.”

Yes, there are many clear difference between these two candidates,  but both loved their country, although they expressed their love differently; both were dedicated to being the best they could be, but in different ways; and both devoted themselves to the goals they set. Despite the divergences, there are also many desirable and strong qualities they share. One can only hope that the campaign will focus on the really important issues, not the headline grabbing, peripheral stuff.

One advantage that women running against each other will have is that neither will have an opponent who gets instant brownie points for trying to gain powerYale researchers Tyler G. Okimoto[gap.hks.harvard.edu] and Victoria L Brescoll[gap.hks.harvard.edu] found that when both men and women saw male politicians as power-seeking, they also saw them as assertive and competent. The opposite was true when women candidates were seen as power seeking. Both sexes found such women to be “unsupportive and uncaring” and experienced feelings of “moral outrage (i.e., contempt, anger, and/or disgust) towards them.” Witness the “Lock her up!” chants directed at Hillary Clinton during Trump rallies.

In Arizona, Democratic candidate Sinema has challenged Republican McSally to two televised debates before the midterms—one of which has taken place. So, stay tuned. It won’t be too long before we see how this woman-to-woman face off plays out.

 

About the authors: Dr. Rosalind C. Barnett is an award-winning psychologist who has directed major research projects for federal agencies and the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, among others. Caryl Rivers is a professor of journalism at Boston University and is a recipient of a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Society of Professional Journalists. They are the authors of “The New Soft War on Women” (Tarcher/Penguin) as well as six other books on women, men and society.

October 29th 2018, 8:56 pm

This week’s ‘WRighteous’: A RuckUS is Born

Women

Honestly, truthfully, I go back and forth. I feel like I have vertigo. There are moments I feel so strong, so full of piss and vinegar, so determined, so ready to make a ruckus; to strut my sassy and crazy and look at me stuff. And then there are days I want to crawl into a ball and hide, while gathering enough medicated nuts so that the next few years go by as quickly and as painlessly as possible.

But I am reminded every day that these are not times to hide.

These are not times to roll up and play dead and wish away this horrific nightmare. This is the stuff that makes us take notice; makes us stand up straight; makes us flutter our wings; makes us love better, and be kinder. This is the stuff that makes us see what we’re made of. We get to use our voices and our wits and yes, our voting rights. We get to use our power. We get to write our truth and inspire others. We get to look mean and cruel right in the eye and say, “Here, over here, look at me – look at me, I know you – you won’t win because nasty has an expiration date, and your time is up, buddy.” 

We get to rise up for our lives; for our friends and family and neighbors and strangers and co-workers, and let folks know that they’re not alone and will never be alone because that is not who we are. We do not abandon or erase and discard the folks we love — period. We get to show our worth, our value; who we are in this weary tired world. We get to stop pretending – putting our head in the sand – that all will be okay because all is not okay and the world is aching and the world is weeping and the world is in pain and not to sound like a cliché but, we- the People – are the world. We are the world, and we are connected, whether we want to own that or believe that or acknowledge it.

Like dots.

I know pain, I may not have experienced your exact devastation or loss but I know the sound of a heart breaking in half, never to return to whole. I know sorrow; I may not have experienced the devastation of a disease in the exact way or stage that you did but I have witnessed the chokehold of one that didn’t let go, only to leave ashes and bone in its wake. I know fear; I may not have experienced that particular attack or abuse or violation that you did but I know the grip it has on a human life. It holds on with every fiber and wants you to cower.

Cowering gives fear power.

Not this girl.

Not today.

So yes, I go back and forth, swaying and rocking, and some days I am strong and steady and ready to kick some butt. And some days I can barely breathe and I shake in my Frye boots and I lose a bit of my self. But I am constantly reminded that courage is born from fear and worry and the shivers. I am reminded to love my own life deep and wide; to love each flaw, each foible, each mistake; to love the extra weight I carry because, God knows, it will help carry others. I am reminded constantly to love the words I speak and write and shout because those words will be imprinted on another’s soul, and I am reminded day after day that my glorious imperfections, the stuff I want to bury and hide and keep from sunlight — that very stuff gives other folks hope, and fills them with courage.

These are the precise moments when we get to declare: ENOUGH. These are the moments we stand up and say: NEVER AGAIN.

These are the very moments we get to awaken to our greatness, and yes, it’s like a tornado, and yes, it’s messy – most of us have junk drawers that bear resemblance – but that’s what happens when you realize you have unlimited power, and that mess is in fact your life, and it is yours for the taking.

So, we grab it, and hold it, and cradle it, and nurture it, and we don’t let anyone, not one soul, rip it out from under us; we don’t let anyone diminish it or destroy it.

These are the moments we make a full on, all-in RuckUS.

We do not stay silent.

We do not act timid.

We do not stay in our comfort zone.

We do not hide behind a God, or any deity.

We awaken. We rise. We lift each other. We carry each other. We hold tight to each other. We save our own lives and we save others.

And because I’m feeling rather feisty, I suggest when they remake the next A Star Is Born, and they will, I hope that it will be the girl who saves the guy, or better yet… saves another girl, because quite frankly I am tired of make-believe and fake presidents.

amy ferris

author. writer. girl.

Women’s eNews weekly columnist Amy Ferris is a highly accomplished author, screenwriter, television writer and editor. She was also honored by Women’s eNews as one of our ‘21 Leaders for the 21st Century‘ of 2018. Every Friday, you will continue to be invited into her world, where she will champion, encourage and inspire women to awaken to their greatness, as only she can, through passion, truth, hope, and humor — along with a heaping side of activism.

October 25th 2018, 9:13 pm

The ERA Would Keep Immigrant Women Safe and Secure

Women

The American Dream — a bright future that gives immigrants hope for security and success upon arrival in the United States. Yet, over time, the American Dream has transformed from an open welcoming for all to a selective term catering to white privilege. As a result, immigrant women are often tossed aside, overlooked and undervalued. According to the Institute for Women’s Policy Research, approximately 21 million immigrant women currently reside in the US, yet they face a variety of challenges ranging from poverty and healthcare limitations, to abuse in the workplace.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, there were 27.4 million immigrants in the US labor force in 2017, and 54.5% of them were women. Yet they often remain stuck in a vicious cycle preventing them from advancing in society. For example, female immigrants are more likely to work in production, transportation, and moving operations, rather than working in professional occupations. Their most common job is housekeeping; the cleaning industry is comprised of 88% women, including 49% Hispanic or Latino immigrants who earn an average of $32,000 annually, compared to US citizens who earn $39,000. Discrepancies such as these cause immigrant women to remain one of the largest victims of poverty. Adding the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) to the US Constitution would help end these unfair practices.

The ERA is designed to guarantee equal legal rights between women and men regarding health care, job opportunities, and equal pay, among others. Specifically, the newly proposed ERA, states that the Equality of rights shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex (including pregnancy, gender, sexual orientation, or gender identity), and/or race (including ethnicity, national origin, or color), and/or like grounds of subordination (such as disability or faith). Neither the United States nor any State shall give force by law to disadvantages suffered by those whose equality rights are denied or abridgedBy including the words ‘national origin,’ the ERA would help ensure that immigrant women would be entitled to safe and fair treatment, regardless of which country they were born in.

The lack of basic healthcare is also a challenge for many immigrant women. According to a 2016 Migration Policy Institute report, approximately 20% of immigrants were uninsured, compared to 7% of US born. Additionally, only 66.3% of immigrant women ages 18-63 are currently covered by their employer, compared to 84.6% of American-born women in the same age range. Further, immigrants who have lived in the US for five years or fewer are prohibited from enrolling in Medicaid, which offers some of the most basic and crucial health care services, including prenatal care.

Yet, it is not only immigrant women who suffer from these unfair practices. Since they now account for 40% of all immigrant business owners, and 95% of domestic workers, their labor contributions are invaluable to our nation’s families, as well as society as a whole. 

It can be said that being a female citizen in America is challenging enough, due unfair wages, higher health insurance costs, sexual harassment on and off the job, and many other forms of gender discrimination. These issues are even more problematic for immigrant women, but the ERA can help put an end to that

The future is female. The future is the ERA.

October 24th 2018, 8:26 pm

But What if the Democrats Win?

Women

When Donald Trump officially became the Republican Presidential nominee, I immediately put my house up for sale. Located in northern New Jersey, my home was purchased in early 2008, just before the economy underwent a recession causing property values to plummet. This created significant financial strain on me, particularly as a single mother, and I knew I could not afford to ever take another financial hit. If Trump were to become President, I was concerned I would.

My house sold just one week before the presidential election, and when I told  friends about it, many seemed shocked: “You’re the only one I know who thinks it’s going to get that bad,’ and ‘Wow, you really did something like that?” they responded in disbelief.

Perhaps I made this decision because I knew Donald Trump benefitted significantly from the previous Great Recession, buying foreclosed properties left abandoned by first-time homeowners who could no longer afford the ‘American Dream.’ Perhaps it was because I often heard from an untold number of building contractors, as the publisher of real estate magazines in New York City since 2002,  of how Trump did not pay his bills after work was completed, causing some of these firms to go out of business. Or, perhaps it was because I grew up with parents who are also malignant narcissists, just like Trump, so I had to become highly adept at predicting their future behaviors in order to survive my childhood.

Today, I am often asked how Democrats can put a stop to the Trump Administration’s assault on women’s rights, and all human rights, to which my answer is always the same, “Vote!”  But now, with only 14 days until the midterm elections, and amidst reports predicting that Democratic voters will go to the polls in record numbers creating a potential ‘blue wave,’ I am actually losing sleep.  Of course, if Democrats were to win the House, the Senate, or both, our civil rights will certainly be kept at bay, but there are other matters that I fear won’t be kept at bay, and that the Democratic voting public is woefully unprepared for these.

Our country has already witnessed the disgraceful levels of victimization and intimidation Trump has repeatedly demonstrated on Twitter and at rallies to embolden his followers into hateful chants and violent attacks. Just yesterday, for example, he claimed at a campaign rally in Nevada that Californians are “rioting” against “sanctuary cities,” which is untrue. If this were coupled with feelings of desperation, which could ensue if Democrats win a majority of the Senate, the House, or both in the upcoming mid-term elections, we can expect more extreme claims from Trump and his followers. Yes, even if Trump were to accept the results of a Democratic victory, the following could occur:

–Trump could elevate his role of playing the victim, as could many of his supporters, having already coined themselves members of #HimToo, and the violent ProudBoys, acting out through increasing anger and rage.

–Scapegoating will increase, targeting an even greater number of marginalized groups to place blame for everything that Trump considers unacceptable for his vision of our country.

–Trump will increasingly encourage violence toward democrats, journalists and even innocent civilians, particularly those who belong to marginalized groups, or those who just look like they do. He has already warned of “violence” if Republicans do not maintain control of Congress in the midterm elections, according to an audio recording of the meeting obtained by the New York Times.

I know this scenario makes it sound like a ‘damned if you do, damned if you don’t’ situation. But, take heart; there is a strategy that will allow us to rise above all of this, and it is something that has proven successful time and time again throughout history. But it is important to be proactive and prepared. Far too often Democrats have only been reactive, resulting in actions that have been too little, too late, as illustrated through the party’s recent failed attempts to stop immigrant children from being separated from their parents, or to delay a Supreme Court nominee with a history of sexual assault from being elected to the highest court in the country or, as recently as yesterday, fighting back against the just released Trump Administration’s plans to erase the transgender community by making a person’s gender legally unchangeable.

What if, instead, Democrats were to energize its base to plan a series of continuous, daily demonstrations, amassing an increasing number of supporters, as has proven successful in other countries? As recently as 2017, for example, South Korea held candlelight rallies for over 100 consecutive days, which grew to more than two million protestors, ultimately causing the country’s Constitutional court to remove Park Geun-hye from power over a corruption scandal; or in Iceland in 2016 when, in the wake of the Panama Papers revelations, a small group of protestors began to use Facebook to organize a protest for the following day, where tens of thousands joined the demonstration. These demonstrations continued to grow in consistency and attendance, soon causing its Prime Minister to resign; or, in April 2003, when a small group of Liberian women launched a non-violent campaign for peace, unable to tolerate one more year of fighting. Ultimately, 200 women surrounded members attending peace talks in Ghana to apply pressure on the warring factions during the peace process. Any time the negotiators tried to leave, the women threatened to take their clothes off. When some of the men tried to jump out of the windows, the women persisted by blocking the windows and doors. This forced an agreement to be reached and an end to a 14-year civil war.

So while Democrats are counting on their votes, but only their votes, to put an end to Republicans’ attack on our civil rights, it is important to remember that voting is only the beginning. If we are not prepared to be on the ground, and out in the streets, it may not be enough.

For if we have learned anything from Republicans, it is that while Democrats were resting comfortably with a Democratic President in office, Republicans were unseating Democrats at local levels, all in a quest to reverse many of the human rights our country had already won. So, although I may now be losing sleep, once  the midterm elections are over, there will be no time for rest, regardless of the outcome. I hope you’ll join me!

 

 

 

Lori Sokol, PhD, Executive Director

 

 

 

October 22nd 2018, 8:28 pm

The Truth About the Sex Trade: Moments in ‘the Life’

Women

The Life Story: Moments of Change is a groundbreaking website and film project supported by NoVo Foundation that shines a light on the stories and experiences of women in the sex trade—also referred to as ‘the Life.’ Their goal is to provide better solutions that can prevent all girls and all women, cis, trans, and gender non-conforming, from being exploited in the first place and raise awareness around the issue so that better resources can be put in place to help women exit the Life. 

In the two previous articles in this four-part series, we looked at how experiencing early childhood trauma makes girls and women prime targets for sexual exploitation, which ultimately leads to them entering into the Life. Now we’ll delve into the next phase of being in the Life; hearing personal insights from survivors and looking at the daily realities of being in the sex trade and the challenges these women and girls face that keep them stuck in the Life, with no clear way out.

There are several factors for women in the Life that can create a vicious cycle that makes it nearly impossible to break free. We’ll be taking a close look at three of these: drug and alcohol addiction, motherhood, and being criminalized by law enforcement.

Addiction

“I was kept in the Life because of my drug habit.”

-Quintecia, Survivor, Advocate, and Service Provider

Drug addiction is one of the main factors that keep women in the grips of the sex trade. According to one study, eighty-four percent of women used alcohol, drugs or both during their exploitation.

There is a common misconception by the general public that women frequently enter the Life to support a drug habit and that, therefore, drug addiction leads to prostitution. That may be true for some women, but for many the reverse it true: it is prostitution, and the related trauma that it causes, that leads to drug addiction.

Since the vast majority of women and girls in the Life experience some type of trauma in their early childhood years—whether it is abuse, violence, or neglect—they are prime targets for sexual exploitation later in life. And once they enter the Life, their trauma not only continues but is intensified day after day as they face the realities of being in the sex trade. As a coping strategy, women and girls turn to drugs and alcohol to numb the pain, sending into motion a toxic cycle of trauma, sexual exploitation, and addiction.

Survivor, advocate, and service provider Quintecia told me how she turned to drugs as a way to try to escape the reality of the Life: “You don’t want to think about all of the things that are making you feel miserable and depressed inside, so you’re going to use drugs to numb that. You’re going to do everything in your power to not feel that way. So you don’t stop using, which means you don’t stop prostituting. It’s 24 hours, 7 days a week.”

Nicole Matthews, Executive Director of the Minnesota Indian Women’s Sexual Assault Coalition, put it this way: “Imagine the trauma experienced by a woman who is raped. Now imagine the trauma for a woman who is essentially sexually assaulted over and over for years. We now know that’s complex trauma. And that’s what survivors of prostitution are trying to overcome.”

So how can women break free from this cycle of trauma, sexual exploitation and addiction? The solution lies in combining the expertise of service providers and creating resources that can holistically treat trauma, substance abuse, and exploitation. Currently, most service providers are only trained to identify and address just one of these issues, but since they are all intertwined, we must explore ways to treat all three.

As Noel Gomez, Director & Co-founder of The Organization for Prostitution Survivors, explained it, “Addressing chemical dependency alone isn’t enough. If you don’t deal with the other issues, it will lead the person back to using. All issues must be addressed.” By providing resources that help women overcome addiction, heal from trauma, and give them a means of exiting the Life, that cycle can be broken once and for all.

 

Motherhood

“You always have this fear in the back of your mind that you are going to lose your children.”

— Robin, Survivor Leader and Case Manager

Becoming a mother adds another layer to the already challenging reality of being in the Life. And many girls and women do become pregnant while in the Life, often by their trafficker. In one study, 71 percent of trafficking victims reported at least one pregnancy while being trafficked.

When a woman becomes a mother, her basic needs for income, food and shelter dramatically increase, which means she’ll often feel as if she has no choice but to stay in the Life in order to provide for her child.

As survivor and service provider Quintecia explains it, “There comes a point when we can’t provide the things that we want. When somebody opens up a door for me to provide better for my house, because I love these kids, I’m going to try that out. Because we sacrifice for our family—it’s human nature.”

Mothers in the Life also experience the added fear of having their children taken away from them. If a mother in the Life seeks help from social services, law enforcement, or addiction services in an effort to exit the Life, these systems may see her as a threat to her children instead of a mother seeking the help she needs. So she feels trapped between two choices: seek help and risk losing her kids, or stay in the Life and keep the family together.

How can we make it easier for a mother in the Life to reach out for the help she needs? The first step is to better train and educate service providers in the various social systems so that they can see beyond the stigma surrounding a mother in the Life and better understand her dilemma. With an increased level of understanding and empathy, service providers will be able to help her access the support she and her children need, while focusing on keeping them together.

The second part of the solution is to holistically address the multiple needs of a mother and her children, which may include childcare, job placement, addiction services, therapy, and housing. Since most social agencies are overburdened, under-resourced, and address only one part of the larger picture, getting teams of diverse providers to combine their expertise and services could successfully address all of the family’s needs, ultimately allowing the mother to break free from her dependence on her exploiter and the Life.

 

Law Enforcement

“I never had a police officer say, ‘Hey, are you okay? Do you need help? Are you safe?’”

—Roxanne, Indigenous Survivor and Advocate

Women and girls will likely have several encounters with law enforcement while in the Life. Although many police officers are a potential resource who could help them leave the sex trade, women in the Life often see law enforcement as a threat. And rightfully so, since most criminal justice systems across the US criminalize women in the Life (while the men who bought and sold her walk free), and many women have even been physically or sexually assaulted by police officers.

Indigenous survivor and advocate Roxanne described how she experienced encounters with law enforcement: “I’ve been targeted and harassed by police, even threatened with bodily harm. Nobody’s ever just stopped and said, ‘Do you need help?’ I wish they could just really look at how they view us and how they talk to us.” She feels more training and education would help the situation. “I think police officers need a lot of education. It would be nice for them to be subjected to some panels and actually meet some survivors and actually hear their stories and actually see us as people, because we are. We’re somebody’s mother, somebody’s daughter. Stop dehumanizing us.”

Mike Gallagher, a police officer in the sex trafficking unit in Portland, Oregon, agrees that law enforcement needs to shift the perception of women in the Life: “The biggest thing is law enforcement not seeing the whole picture, not seeing these women as victims but seeing prostitution as a crime.” In addition to training and education, another solution is to decriminalize prostitution for women in the Life. As Mike explains it, “We prefer not to arrest the victims that are involved in prostitution. We used to arrest about 80% women and 20% men. Now it’s the other way around. About 80% of our prostitution-related arrests are the buyers and sellers of women. We’re trying to get men to understand that they’re a huge part of this problem. If you have no buyers, we don’t have a prostitution problem.”

Maheen Kaleem, former staff attorney at Rights4Girls and Program Officer at the NoVo Foundation, agrees: “No person who sells sex or sexual acts should be criminalized, and we should remove those penalties because we understand how a lot of different oppressions combine to render particular women and girls vulnerable to enter the sex trade in the first place. We need to stop criminalizing the people that sell and hold accountable the exploiters and buyers.”

Decriminalizing women who sell sex would mean that they wouldn’t have to be afraid to seek out help from police and other first responders and providers. It would also mean that they wouldn’t develop a criminal record that today prevents so many women in the Life from receiving the services they need to exit the sex trade.

Maheen put it this way, “If we think about women who are trafficked who are coming in with prostitution convictions, that literally prevents them from accessing safe and stable housing. So then you don’t have stable housing, and you might not have had a formal or consistent education. So your likelihood of engaging either in prostitution or other forms of criminal activity is increased because that’s the only way that you can meet your basic needs. And the reason that drives you further into the system is because the only way to meet your basic needs is by engaging in criminal activity, and then you’re criminalized for it, and those convictions, as they pile on, make it harder and harder and harder to survive.”

In addition to focusing on criminalizing the buyers and not the women, some places like Portland have found success in creating anti-trafficking task forces that connect law enforcement with various groups and agencies within the community to provide victim services, drug counseling, addiction treatment, mental health services, group therapy, and even mentorship. With all of these groups working together and combining their expertise and services, women receive support in all of the areas they need it.

If more cities could follow Portland’s example and adopt similar practices, it could make all the difference for women across the country who are stuck in the Life.

Stay tuned for the next article in this series where we’ll look at exit ramps from the Life. For more information on The Life Story: Moments of Change project, visit  www.thelifestory.org

 

Marianne Schnall is a widely-published interviewer and journalist and author of ‘What Will It Take to Make a Woman President? Conversations About Women, Leadership & Power’. She is also the co-founder and Executive Director of the women’s website and non-profit organization feminist.com(http://www.feminist.com), and co-founder of  What Will It Take Movements (http://www.whatwillittake.com), a media, collaboration, learning, event and social engagement platform that inspires, connects, educates and engages women everywhere to advance in all levels of leadership and take action.  http://www.marianneschnall.com

October 21st 2018, 6:38 pm

WRighteous: Dedicated to Jamal Khashoggi

Women

WRighteous
Today’s column is dedicated to Jamal Khashoggi
Words.
The irrefutable power of words.
They can lift you, inspire you, move you, rattle you.
They can shape you, mold you, flatten you, devastate you.
They can cut you deep.
They can rip you to shreds.
They can make you brave.
They can fill you with courage.
They can haunt you forever.
They can hold you up or hold you back.
They can stop you dead in your tracks, or make you jump for joy.
They can let you go, or let you in.

They can relieve you, encourage you, enlighten you, enliven you.
They can be engraved or tattooed; promised or broken.
They can fill you with hope, with worry, with sorrow, with grace.
They can make you taller, and stronger and kinder and more generous.
They can melt your heart. Change your heart. Break your heart. Mend your heart.
They can anger you. Enrage you. Send chills up your spine.
They can fill you to the brim with goodness.
They can carry you, calm you, caress you and challenge you.
They can make you feel like a million bucks, or be offered up as two cents.
They are spoken, written, whispered, signed, danced to, silenced, shouted, screamed. 
They are shared, spilled, scattered, sung, performed.
They form sentences and paragraphs; poems and sonnets.
They are plagiarized, minimized, maximized, hyphenated, and sized to your favorite font. 
They are on cards, on mugs and, yes, a picture can be worth a thousand of them.
They can wish you well or wish you gone.
They can fill hundreds of pages or one post-it.
They can move the universe.
They can shake your soul.
They can change your mind.
They can make you weep.
They can make you proud.
They can be bold and audacious, cruel and nasty and, yes, they can put the fear of God in you.
They can sting you, or heal you.
They can whip you into shape or soothe your weary tired soul.
They can be forgiven but not forgotten.
They can be recited, memorized, remembered, recalled.
They can be tucked away for years and suddenly become a memory.
They can make you cower or crawl; stand tall or stand up.
They can change you forever.
They can make you feel like you swallowed the sun.
They can save your life.
Words.
Words matter.
The truth matters.
Thank you, Mr. Jamal Khashoggi, for finding and excavating and writing the words that uncovered the truth. We will not allow your death to be in vain.

amy ferris

author. writer. girl.

 

Women’s eNews Columnist Amy Ferris is a highly accomplished author, screenwriter, television writer and editor. She was also honored by Women’s eNews as one of our ‘21 Leaders for the 21st Century‘ of 2018. Every Friday, you will continue to be invited into her world, where she will champion, encourage and inspire women to awaken to their greatness, as only she can, through passion, truth, hope, and humor — along with a heaping side of activism:

October 18th 2018, 10:53 pm

In Solidarity…

Women

 

‘I am raising my voice, to do otherwise would betray those who languish in prison. I can speak when so many cannot.’
Jamal Khashoggi, Journalist
10/13/1958 – 10/2/2018

October 17th 2018, 2:50 pm

In Case You Missed It: Rep. Maloney and Breast Cancer Survivors Call for Investments in Research

Women

Yesterday, Congresswoman Carolyn B. Maloney (NY-12) rang the opening bell at NASDAQ in honor of Breast Cancer Awareness Month and held a press conference to discuss the importance of funding research. Rep. Maloney was joined by the President and CEO of the Breast Cancer Research Foundation (BCRF) Myra Biblowit, BCRF Chair William Lauder, BCRF Scientific Director Dr. Larry Norton, President of the American Medical Women’s Association Dr. Connie B. Newman, breast cancer survivors, and leaders of women’s organizations to call attention to this critical issue and press for more funding for life-saving research.

One in eight women is the United States will be diagnosed with breast over the course of their lifetime, and it is the second leading cause of cancer death in women. Mortality rates, however, have dropped by nearly 40 percent over the past 25 years due to investments in research.

“When I first came to Congress, I wanted to double federal funding for breast cancer research and I am proud to say that we have actually more than tripled it! We have allocated more than $885 million in federal funds this year but what I always hear from breast cancer research and awareness groups is that we need ever more funding because research is the only way we are going to finally defeat breast cancer. That’s why I authored, and President Obama signed into law the Breast Cancer Awareness Commemorative Coin Act. This law created the US Mint’s Breast Cancer Awareness Commemorative Coin Program which has the potentional to raise $8.5 million for the Breast Cancer Research Foundation. The coin is on sale now through the U.S. Mint, but only until the end of the year. Together, with groups like BCRF, I know that we can find a cure.”

“Breast cancer does not discriminate,” added William Lauder, BCRF Chairman and Executive Chairman of The Estée Lauder Companies. “Every two minutes a woman in the U.S. is diagnosed with the disease. We’re making great strides towards eradicating breast cancer—research is the reason that breast cancer deaths are down by 40% over the last 25 years. But there is still critical work to be done and funds raised from this coin will bring us closer to our mission to end breast cancer.”

And continued research on breast cancer is critical. According to Dr. Connie B. Newman, President of the American Medical Women’s Association and breast cancer survivor, “About one year ago I learned through routine mammography and biopsies that I had breast cancer. Fortunately, because of breast cancer research that led to advances in imaging techniques, the cancer was diagnosed in its early stages.  Breast cancer is the second leading cause of death from cancer in women. As a woman with a history of breast cancer and the President of the American Medical Women’s Association, an organization committed to achieving excellence in healthcare through scientific discoveries and education, I advocate for research on detection and treatment of breast cancer.  The commemorative coin championed by Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney, will help fund important studies, leading to new treatments and ensuring that women with breast cancer lead healthy lives and realize their full potential.”

To listen to Congresswoman Maloney’s interview on our radio show, Women’s eNews Live, click HERE

To purchase the coin, log onto the US Mint’s website HERE.

October 17th 2018, 1:35 pm

The Grace Project: Setting Breast Cancer Survivors Free

Women

 

I am a boudoir photographer. Women of varying shapes, sizes and ages come to my studio to  express their sensuality while they revel in their own unique beauty. My lush, richly colored studio sets the scene for an intimate portrait session. The time I spend with my clients is often emotional, during which confessions of deeply buried hopes, dreams, secrets and inner scars are revealed. My subjects leave my photo shoots with a glow and an extra bounce in their step. Watching a woman fall in love with the resulting photographs of herself is simply the cherry on top.  I love my job.

In 2009 I received a call from a man who booked a shoot for his wife. When the day came, a lovely 62 year-old woman with cropped silver hair showed up at my studio with hat boxes and hangers loaded with clothing, all very chic but intentionally styled to keep her body covered; an interesting choice for a woman who was about to undergo an intimate portrait session for her husband.

We began the dance between photographer and subject. I watched this woman unfold before me, until she suddenly stopped my lens clicking to make a confession. Preferring to remain fully clothed, she told me she was a 12-year breast cancer survivor who felt mutilated on one side of her body because of a unilateral mastectomy. Her husband had read an article that had been published about my work and he had wanted his wife to feel the way my former subjects had felt after leaving my studio.

She then began exposing her ‘good’ breast to my camera, while still leaving the scarred breast covered. We were having fun and her sensuality once again rose to the surface. Delighting in her femininity and laying odalisque on one of my velvet couches, she finally threw off her entire shirt with the bold exclamation “Fuck it!  I’m doing this for myself.’  In that one powerful moment, there she was, both vulnerable and radiant, revealing scars that set her free. I was witnessing a woman letting go of 12 years of shame from her body. It was surely the most powerful moment I had ever experienced as a photographer.

The memory of that photo shoot etched itself into my soul, so when a friend who had been recently diagnosed with breast cancer called me two weeks later to ask if I would photograph her prior to her breast being removed, I didn’t hesitate.

I then conducted an internet search to try to locate any images of women with mastectomies. Most of what I found were harsh images set in medical environments under the cruel glow of fluorescent lighting; butchered busts without heads, devoid of emotion and devoid of humanity.  If I were a woman newly diagnosed with breast cancer and saw these images, I would be petrified.

It was then I decided to start what would evolve into a decade-long passion project. Camera in hand, I would give breast cancer a face; many faces in fact.  I would capture the courage, beauty and grace that women who had experienced breast cancer held buried deep within. It would be a project that would inspire all women to own their scars both inner and outer. It would be a bold statement. It would be called ‘The Grace Project.’

Carla

Early in the project I met a young woman named Carla at a retreat for metastatic breast cancer, Stage IV; the cancer that has spread to her organs, the cancer that could kill her. She told me that she was happily married with a little boy, and that ‘things weren’t always perfect for her family, but they worked through things and were very much in love.’  She also told me the story of how she had wanted to do something special for her husband on one particular anniversary, so she booked a boudoir shoot with a photographer.  Before the photographs had even come back, she received her breast cancer diagnosis. At that moment in her story she began to sob uncontrollably, as she told me that she couldn’t even look at the images. They represented, for her, the black cloud that had suddenly entered her life.

I asked Carla if she would be willing to pose for my project. Carla was beautiful; she had a full round body with smooth dark skin brimming with youth. She hesitated at first, so I told her to take her time and think about it, and that she could do it when she was ready.  She decided to watch Louise’s shoot, a frail older Asian woman who was mobile only with the use of a walker.   We sat Louise up on a rock in a sanctuary surrounded by trees and lush foliage. Butterflies and dragon flies flitted in and out of the scene surrounding Louise who was draped in a red silk cloth. Perched on a grand rock wrapped in natural beauty with the sun glistening and the birds singing, she was no longer the sick frail woman. She felt transformed into a grand matriarch; an ancient Goddess. Carla witnessed the transformation and decided to experience that, too.

Louise

When I’d finished photographing Louise, I wrapped Carla in the same red cloth as she removed her shirt. Raw beauty and power emerged from somewhere deep within her; she was breathtaking. And, when I viewed the resulting photographs, I was astounded to see that orbs and rainbows appeared throughout Carla’s images. I sent them to her immediately, as she was about to start a new medical trial. She viewed the photographs as a testament to her courage.

 

 

Two weeks later I was looking through Facebook and saw Carla’s face tagged in a photograph with the words, ‘My beautiful friend Carla is no longer with us.’ I broke into violent sobs, since Carla was the first woman I lost from The Grace Project, but I have since  photographed over 400 breast cancer portraits, halfway to reaching my goal of photographing a total 800 (800 representing the approximate number of women newly diagnosed in the United States every day.)  I’ve shared tears of love joy and elation with women whom I’ve photographed, and I’ve shared tears of sadness and of fear.  Yet, although I’ve now lost 24 friends to this disease, witnessing children become motherless and mothers lose children, I’ve also watched hearts triumph.

I’ve therefore immersed myself in a profound river of beauty and deep humanity, with an enormous dose of pain and loss. People sometimes ask me how I do it.  My answer will always be, “How could I not?”

 

Charise Isis is founder of The Grace Project.

Women’s eNews is pleased to publish this post in honor of Breast Cancer Awareness Month in October.

 

October 15th 2018, 11:59 pm

Teen Voices: May the Faith Be With You

Women

Image of anti-semitic graffiti discovered on the leg of a table in a classroom in Adelaide, Australia

On a rainy morning in March, my history teacher greeted the class with a direction:

“Raise your hand if you would have died in the Holocaust.”

Upon hearing his proposition, I became too infuriated to speak. Instead, questions flooded my brain. One stuck out among the stream: “Was I being targeted because of my religion?”

This question, like the situation, was both a terrifying prospect and a new reality. The classroom I was sitting in was in Adelaide, Australia, almost 10,000 miles away from my home in Madison, Wisconsin. My dad’s sabbatical had led us to the state of South Australia for six months while he conducted research at a local university. My knowledge of Australia had been limited before arriving; I knew about the koala bears, the Queen, and about driving on the left-side. What I had not expected was the minuscule Jewish population. Of 25 million Australian citizens, there are only 90,000 self-identifying Jews (although that number is dropping fast). In South Australia, the Jewish population is only 1,000, out of a total population of 1.7 million residents. To put those statistics in perspective, only a slightly higher number of Australians ticked the box for ‘Jewish’ than for ‘Jedi’ as their religion in the last census.

With a lightsaber as likely to appear in my class as a Star-of-David necklace, I was surprised to watch almost half of the students raise their hands to our teacher’s question.. My history teacher nodded, seemingly pleased we had proven his point. “Yes,” he said, “The Nazis targeted those who didn’t look Aryan, those who didn’t have blond hair, blue eyes, or pale skin.”

I looked at my classmates who had risen their hands, students confident they would have met their demise under Hitler’s “Final Solution.” All had brown hair. Most had brown eyes. None were Jewish.

Although a significant number of non-Jewish people were targeted by Nazi propaganda and extermination campaigns, my teacher and peers demonstrated a pretty extreme misunderstanding of the facts. All groups attacked by Hitler’s policies were vilified for reasons directly relating to religion, race, nationality, political viewpoints or sexual orientation, not solely based upon appearance. Even if my teacher understood this distinction, he did nothing to educate my class on its implications in the Holocaust.

If I had been in my hometown, I would have sprinted to my friends after class, where even the non-Jewish ones would have been aghast at the false version of history that this teacher was preaching to students who already believed the same misconception. My friends and I would have banded together and confronted the teacher. We would not have allowed this fallacy go unchallenged. We would have stopped anti-Semitism in its tracks. But in that Adelaide classroom, there was no ‘we.’

To add insult to injury, and ignorance to insensitivity, my history teacher avoided the subject of the Holocaust for the remainder of our term-long unit on the ‘Third Reich.’ He talked briefly about anti-Semitic propaganda, but mostly stayed on the safer subject of Hitler’s political shenanigans. Although I had been exposed to the incomprehensible horrors of the Holocaust many times before in classes at both my temple and in American public schools, it was clear that this was the first time many of the Australian students in that class were interacting with such material. As a result, they couldn’t comprehend the importance of its absence in our class, or why his original question had been so misguided.

Since I didn’t have classmates’ support, I felt alone, I didn’t confront my teacher about his words that day or about the general lack of Holocaust education. I didn’t take a stand, either, when I found the words ‘JEW HUNTER’ scrawled on the leg of a classroom desk. Nor did I speak up when I found the same horrifying phrase on a different desk a few weeks later.

I shrugged the incidents off and even tried to laugh at them (one friend scratched out the “J” so the graffiti read ‘ew hunter’). But I couldn’t laugh off the deep effects of not having a community to turn to within my school. For so long, I had based my Jewish identity on the other Jews present in my life. I was Jewish because of the lessons I learned from my enthusiastic religious school teachers, the passionate sermons I heard from my Rabbi, the memories I shared with my URJ camp friends, and the events I planned with my temple’s youth group board. In Australia, however, I was forced out of this comfortable bubble and into a world where I couldn’t rely on others to define my Judaism for me. For a while, this meant that I silenced my identity to remain inconspicuous, terrified that my reputation would be reduced to ‘the Jew,’ and nothing else

Later in my visit, my friend’s brother offered me a ride home, along with his sister, one day. The conversation quickly turned to a comparison between America and Australia, as was a common thread throughout my time there. When I asked him what it was like to be Muslim in Australia, he asked me about my own religious practices. I paused while my mind became consumed by an internal struggle about how to answer. I could remain hidden behind a safe but regrettable lie, ensuring I wouldn’t be met with more anti-Semitism, or I could begin to accept that my culture, values, and memories as a Jewish person were an integral part of my identity, regardless of where I lived and who surrounded me.

At that moment, the choice seemed obvious. I took a deep breath and told him the truth. “Wow,” he remarked, “You’re the first Jew I’ve ever met.” He wanted to know more: Do Jews have a God? What holidays do we celebrate? Did we also use the Quran? I answered him hesitantly at first, but I became more assured as our conversation progressed. Finally, I was able to take the first steps towards using my voice and finding confidence in my culture, and feeling the presence of my Jewish community, even though I was 10,000 miles away from home, sustaining my every answer.

October 14th 2018, 8:23 pm

WRighteous: Turning My Mistakes into a Mission

Women

He said, “I can’t make your mistakes for you.”

I was fifteen, fifteen and a half, maybe, almost sixteen years old, and I was leaving home. I was all packed and ready to go. He drove me to New York’s Kennedy Airport, where he would put me on a plane to fly me across the country so I could meet with my friend –- a boy — who would later break my heart into many tiny pieces; some remained crushed for years and years. My dad drove me from our home on Long Island, N.Y., where my mother stood in our doorframe, never once stepping out from behind the screen door, her hair in rollers, her lashes coated with mascara, and a cigarette dangling from her lips.
She stood, and for many, many minutes, not a word was spoken.
“Okay. Bye, Ma,”  I said.
Shiva. I’m sitting Shiva. You could’a just stabbed me, would’a been easier,” she responded.
I had dropped out of high school. Jewish girls from middle class families didn’t drop out of high school. They had nervous breakdowns, or went on all-day shopping sprees at Roosevelt Field, or cut school and go to the park and make out with various boys, or go to the same movie theater and watch a movie over and over and over again, because in those days you could. You could sit in a movie theater, stay all day, and you could also smoke cigarettes. But I can tell you with conviction that very few Jewish girls dropped out of high school.
Car trips always consisted of singing show tunes, or playing game shows. On this particular day, while driving to the airport, Fiddler on the Roof was the show my dad chose to sing; the complete score, starting from our home on Long Island to the airport in Jamaica, Queens. And I can tell you right now, as he drove me to that airport on that day, he was tense and scared and worried, holding my left hand with his right hand, while gripping the bottom of the steering wheel with his left hand. 
I was at a stage in my fifteen-and-a-half-year life where breathing felt like a chore. I was so miserable and unhappy, and I felt so alone in the world. I was running with a bad crowd, and stealing money from my dad’s wallet and mom’s purse; and buying hash, and marijuana, and cocaine, while lying about that; lying about all of it. I was acting-out in all sorts of self-loathing ways. I will spare you the details, but suffice it to say that there was a time in my life where being bad and feeling bad just blended together into plain old Big BadAwful BAD
And so, I quit high school, and decided to tag along to a commune with my friend who I made out with in the back seat of a car, where we kissed so long and so hard that our lips cracked and bled. But I wasn’t his girlfriend and he wasn’t my boyfriend. He said, “I don’t like you in that way. I like you plenty, but you know, not as a girlfriend. I don’t love you, I mean, I’m not, you know, in love with you.”
But no other girl was willing or wanted to go with him to Medford, Oregon, and so, I said “Yes.” Yes, I’ll go. I’ll quit high school, and I’ll stop straightening my hair, and stop shaving my legs and never ever go to Ohrbachs again. 
He left me at the gate while my knapsack was making it’s way to the plane by way of the conveyor belt, my peasant skirt dragging on the floor, and my hair curly and unruly. He handed me a couple of hundred dollars and said, “Please, our secret.”  I smiled and kissed him and hugged him so tight, I could feel his heart breaking, as he whispered in my ear, “I can’t make your mistakes for you.”
And my mistakes piled up one after another, year, after year, after year.
There was the pregnancy; the one where I behaved like a needy, desperate young woman; using that pregnancy as a weapon to try and get that man to love me, to want me — to want me and the baby. Why don’t we abort you and keep the baby?” he finally said.
I sat alone in that abortion clinic where another man, a middle-aged, short, heavy-set bespectacled man said, “I will help you. Come with me.” And a half an hour later I was in a room with about ten other girls who had just had abortions and I can tell you right now with complete conviction that none of us felt good about what had just happened — none of us. And I would go so far as to bet that none of us ended up with, or stayed with, the guy we had sex with; the one who got us pregnant, because none of us in that room, on that day, quite understood or believed at that stage in our lives how vital, and necessary it was to love the whole of ourselves, and to honor our whole self. I was young and lonely and had absolutely no self-worth. Self-esteem was so out of reach for me, I would have fallen down if I tried to grab hold of it. I was desperately searching and hoping for love. My mistake.
The desperation of wanting to be loved became my mission later in life —  to become a woman of unlimited self-esteem. I wouldn’t trade that mistake for the world…now.
Then there was the boyfriend, the horrible, bad boyfriend. The one who I knew from the get-go, from the moment I met him, that he was not right for me. He. Was. Not. Right. For. Me. I knew it, but I didn’t pay attention to my own instincts. There was a voice inside me that said, “Nah, don’t, he’s not good for you, this doesn’t feel right, don’t do this.” I did not pay attention to that voice. Nor did I did pay enough attention to his anger and his mood swings and his violent streak and the hole that remained punched in the wall, or the way that he humiliated me in public; or the very first time he threatened me, with his big hard hands wrapped around my throat. His hands wrapped so hard he was choking me. “I could kill you,” he said, in a hushed, scary voice.
As I sat in my car in bumper-to-bumper traffic, with a few of my personal belongings scattered on the back seat, along with a black and blue mark stretching from my jaw-line to my clavicle, I wished more than anything that I had paid attention to that voice, my voice, telling me ‘DON’T, don’t do this,’ Why didn’t I listen? Why didn’t I trust myself, my own voice? Why did I constantly turn down the volume? 
That mistake — not paying attention to my own voice, my own life — later led me to a deep-rooted mission; the desire for all women to speak up, to speak their truth, to be heard. Oh, no, I wouldn’t trade that mistake for anything. 
And then there are the mistakes that bring us shame; the ones that make us weep in the dark; the ones that keep us at arms length; the ones that we marry; the ones that we try desperately to hide; the ones that have prescription numbers; the ones that are hidden away in cartons, and the ones that we forgot. The ones that are thrown up in our face over and over and over again, and the ones that come back to haunt us. The ones that feel so unbearable we think we’ll die, and the ones that get you down on your knees. The one’s you die with, and the ones that make you feel not worthy, or deserving. The ones that keep us invisible. 
All mistakes led me here, and it is here, right here, where I get to share my story, my life, my imperfections, my flaws and my foibles; my down and dirty. Yes, the stuff I shoved down so far it literally weighed me down. And here, right here, is where I get to share some courage — and from what I hear, and from where I’m sitting, in my view…courage is mighty contagious.  
Courage is mighty contagious. 
We, the Women People, are filled with unlimited, glorious, fierce and mighty courage.

amy ferris

author. writer. girl.

Women’s eNews Columnist Amy Ferris is a highly accomplished author, screenwriter, television writer and editor. Every Friday, you will be invited into her world, where she will champion, encourage and inspire women to awaken to their greatness, as only she can, through passion, truth, hope, and humor — along with a heaping side of activism.

October 11th 2018, 10:04 pm

Latina Health Under Attack, As Anti-Immigrant Sentiment Worsens

Women

The health of the Latino community is under attack.  The current barrage of anti-immigrant sentiment that dominates this administration, the trauma of witnessing forced family separations and young children being led off in the middle of the night to camps in the middle of the desert, the ICE sweeps, the daily micro-aggressions among other adverse events, represents an unprecedented increase in stress related to discrimination for the Latino community.

Research tells us that this type of stress impacts women and mothers in the most pernicious ways. A growing body of evidence shows that a mother’s chronic stress during pregnancy increases the risk of low birthweight and preterm births, which increases the risk of negative long-term outcomes for that child, and even impacts future generations. And it’s a cyclical process; we now know that female infants born preterm are at increased risk of having a preterm baby when they have children. Low birthweight is not only among the leading causes of infant death, but low birth weight is associated with greater illness and neurodevelopment problems in childhood. Among adults, low birth weight is associated with increased risk of cardiovascular disease and diabetes.

The potential impact of the increased social stress is hard to ignore. With Latinos serving as the fastest growing segment of the population, accounting for over 54% of the country’s population growth from 2000-2014, the broader implications to the U.S. public health landscape at large must not be ignored.

By 2035, Latinas are projected to be nearly 1 in 4 of all American women and by 2060 Latinas will form nearly a third of the female population of the nation. Therefore, what is happening in Latino health, particularly among the women and children, is inextricably linked to the nation’s public health trajectory overall. Latinas are also one of the fastest growing groups of women in the US labor force. A less healthy Latina population will have direct implications on both healthcare expenditures and productivity in the labor force, which in turn could have critical consequences to the US economy as a whole. That means it is critical to understand the data surrounding Latina health and its reciprocal relationship to overall family health and the country as a whole.

Despite potential repercussions, however, few in public heath circles are paying due attention. In a new report released last week by my organization (UrbanStrategies), a first of its kind scholarly review of the Latina maternal and child health landscape, we found that the protective health factors usually ascribed to Latinos, such as close family and social connections, healthy cultural norms and preventative care are under stress and waning. Meanwhile, we found a glaring lack of Latino specific, culturally-relevant interventions and insufficient investment in maternal and child health services for Latinas in general, creating a noticeable and dangerous void in national MCH policy.

As Latinas spend more time in the United States and experience increased and prolonged exposure to chronic stress, their birth outcomes and those of their offspring could be negatively impacted. We are already seeing upticks in preterm birth, and postpartum depression amidst concerning decreases in breastfeeding, where Latinas once posted rates on par with white women.

Further, with little investment in maternal and child health programming that addresses the needs of Latina mothers and their children, we may see significant increases in morbidity among Latinos.

To be clear, none of our analysis is to liken or equate this matter to the unconscionable crises in black maternal and infant mortality, which has been playing out for far too long and deserves immediate remedy. The fact that black women die in childbirth, in some major cities like New York City, at twelve times the rate of white women, is beyond unacceptable. Black infants are twice as likely to die before their first birthday than white infants—an abject failure by our nation’s health system. And all the signs point to racism and bias.

The fallout of a healthcare system that has failed and continues to fail black women will inevitably spread to other women of color. That is sure. However, we are in a unique position to take the lessons of the black maternal health tragedy and develop a comprehensive, preventive health strategy that centers on black women, including the impact of racial and ethnic stress, which includes Latinas and other women of color.

That strategy must start with developing more accurate, comprehensive and accessible data on Latina birth outcomes and maternal health indicators. The lack of data contributes to invisible narratives and limits communities from telling the stories that can impact policy, generate mainstream awareness and expand appropriate programming. The national research must include disaggregated data (as Latinos are not monolithic) so we can better understand the differing Latino subgroups, who come from 28 distinct countries with unique cultural and social practices, as well as different modes of immigration and migration patterns to the United States. Next, organizations that care about health equity must work with communities to co-create,\ culturally competent programming. And, lastly, we call for the creation of a National Center for Latino Maternal and Child Health to serve as a clearinghouse for meaningful data collection, analysis and dissemination.

These are critical starting points and Hispanic Heritage Month is an auspicious time to begin. It is one thing to be emotionally provoked by child separations, disgusted by ICE sweeps and angered by the anti-immigrant rhetoric —but it is much more important to see the impending threat to Latino public health and take concrete, proactive steps to prevent further damage.

 

About the author: Diana N. Derige, DrPH, is the national director of health initiatives for Urban Strategies. Learn more at UrbranStrategies.us.

October 9th 2018, 1:07 pm

Let’s Give the Flag a Hand

Women

Lori Sokol, PhD, Executive Director,

On Saturday, Oct. 6th, I addressed the lack of solidarity many white women have had with black women by inviting us to now take a knee in support, as we should have been doing from the start. While the vast majority of readers who responded were in support of my appeal, I did receive a couple of messages from black women writing, essentially, that ‘White women don’t now get a pass,’ and that we ‘Don’t have a right to hijack their movement.’

While my intent was never to hijack a movement, or to be forgiven for taking much too long to knee in solidarity, I believe it is important to acknowledge and respect these objections. I’d therefore like to offer an alternate strategy to peacefully protest the misogyny currently running rampant in our country.

Inspired by the front cover of The New Yorker magazine’s Oct. 8th issue (see below), I’m asking all supporters of gender equality, whether you are a woman or a man, and regardless of which marginalized group(s) you belong to, to consider placing your right hands over your mouths, instead of your hearts, when the national anthem plays. This will serve as a peaceful demonstration against the unfair and unjust silencing of women for speaking our truths. This will also allow individuals who wish to take a knee in solidarity with the #BlackLivesMatter movement to do both, take a knee and put your right hand over your mouth, without one replacing the other.

As I wrote in my Oct. 6th article, we must not stand, nor kneel, divided:
“…that is exactly what Republicans have consistently been able to count on; that demonstrations will be too little, too late, and that most members of a marginalized community will protest to support only those issues that represent them, rather than banding together as one for all. If we did, Republicans would lose, every single time.

As always, your thoughts and comments are welcome.

In solidarity,

Lori Sokol, PhD
Executive Director

lori@womensenews.org

 

October 8th 2018, 4:37 pm

3forV: Help Put an End to Low Voter Turnout

Women

With only 30 days remaining until the midterm elections, Women’s eNews is asking every US citizen to ask just three people per day (whether at work, at the gym, or at any social gathering) whether they are registered to vote. Labeling our campaign 3forV, just imagine how many people will be reached, and registered, by each of us doing our part. So let’s put the V Back In VOTE every day, for the next 30 days, until the midterm elections on Nov. 6, 2018!  Below are links to quick and easy voter registration sites where you can register, ensure your name and address are correct, find out your correct voting location in advance, and volunteer to help register others. By doing so, we will never have to say that any candidate won due to low voter turnout again!

THREE OF THE QUICKEST USER-FRIENDLY AND COMPREHENSIVE VOTER REGISTRATION/INFORMATION SITES (all non-partisan):

1. IWillVote.org

A quick and easy way to register to vote or check that your registration is up to date in just minutes.

 

2.  Vote411.org

A one-stop-shop for ALL election information by state, VOTE411.org was launched by the League of Women Voters Education Fund (LWVEF) in October of 2006. It provides nonpartisan information to the public with both general and state-specific information on the following:

An important component of VOTE411.org is the polling place locator, which enables users to type in their address and retrieve the poll location for the voting precinct in which that address is located. The League has found that this is among the most sought after information in the immediate days leading up to, and on, Election Day.

3. HeadCount.org

Do you want to volunteer to register and engage voters? You can do so by signing up on HeadCount.org, an organization that works with musicians to promote participation in democracy. It’s board of directors includes Bob Weir of The Grateful Dead. HeadCount is a giant team effort between musicians, concert promoters, and volunteers, and has street teams in most major cities, and affiliations with over 100 touring musiciansincluding Dave Matthews Band, JAY-Z, Wilco, Phish, and the Dixie Chicks, just to name a few. Whenever they play a concert in a major city, its street teams are there registering voters. For information to volunteer as a member of the street teams, visit https://www.headcount.org/volunteer/

October 7th 2018, 9:22 pm

Instead of Pointing Fingers, Let’s Take a Knee

Women

FROM THE EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR

As I sit here in a local NYC hotel lobby, exactly one week after I sat on the same couch just 24 hours after attending last Thursday’s Senate testimonies in Washington, DC, I can still hear that 30-something-aged white man, sitting no more than 10 feet away from me, shouting at the top of his lungs, “Make America Great Again!”

I yelled back at him in a spontaneous rage of fury. I can’t really remember the exact words I used in retaliation, but I know they were filled with anger, loathing, and contempt.

Yesterday, however, when the US Senate garnered the majority of votes needed to move the vote forward to confirm Brett Kavanaugh as the next Supreme Court Justice, I fell silent. I had no words. I was also completely void of any anger or rage. I understood. Yes, I calmly and finally understood.

How could I expect others to support women like me when I did not step up, or kneel down, in support of others when they needed me? I am a white woman; I am a Jewish woman; and I am a gay woman. So I take to the streets as a protestor, to my pen as a journalist, and to the airwaves as a radio show host when I witness the slightest tinge of bias against any marginalized groups to which I belong. But where was I, as well as untold numbers of other white women and men, when the #BlackLivesMatter movement was not only taking shape, but taking to the streets, throughout this country? Although I supported their mission, it was from afar, instead of publicly and deliberately walking alongside them.

This is unacceptable. After all, black women are largely responsible for the start of the feminist movement, a movement that all women benefit from today. Further, as San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick, now famous for taking a knee during the national anthem, said, “I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color. To me, this is bigger than football and it would be selfish on my part to look the other way,” Yes, it would be selfish, indeed.

And although support for Dr. Ford and protests against Kavanaugh last Thursday, and ongoing this week, were larger and more sustained than many previously conducted in US history, we still had no choice but to hope for a ‘hail mary‘ on the Senate floor yesterday. Yet, as we know, ‘hail marys’ usually don’t work in football, and they often don’t work anywhere else.

And that is exactly what Republicans have consistently been able to count on; that demonstrations will be too little, too late, and that most members of a marginalized community will often protest to support only those that represent them, rather than banding together as one for all. If we did, Republicans would lose, every single time.

So this time, instead of distancing ourselves from each other, and rather than pointing fingers at pro-Kavanaugh voters like Senators Susan Collins (R-Maine), Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.), Joe Manchin (D-WV) and Mitch McConnell (R-KY), remember, they are not solely responsible for this week’s results. It is a collective effort, and we all share some of that guilt.

I’m therefore asking each of us, and all of us, “Are we willing to take a knee?” “Are we willing to stand in protest?” “Are we willing to risk arrest to not only stand up for the rights that personally impact us, but also for the rights of others who are oppressed?”

If we think it’s too late, it will be so only if we never start.

For a comprehensive list of demonstrations taking place today, Saturday, Oct. 6th, please click here.

For a quick and easy way to check on your voting status, or to register for the midterm elections, click here.

In solidarity,
Lori Sokol, PhD
Executive Director

lori@womensenews.org

October 6th 2018, 9:03 am

Women v. Trump

Women

Donald Trump can’t stand powerful women. Will his attacks on them give more credence to the long-standing notion that women are, by nature, unsuited for power?

A long list of groups and individuals have been in the crosshairs of Trump’s rage. But arguably, women have taken the brunt of his attacks. And it’s not just immigrant women who have had their children taken away from them at the southern border with, in many cases, little chance of being reunited with them. All women, including affluent women, are at risk of losing access to reproductive health care and contraception. And let’s not forget the dozens of women who have accused him of inappropriate sexual advances.

Clearly, his sharpest arrows have been directed at prominent women in the US and abroad who seem to ‘get under his skin.’ Indeed, the lineup is a veritable who’s who of the world’s most high-profile and powerful women. The list includes German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Secretary Hillary Clinton, British Prime Minister Theresa May, Senator Elizabeth Warren, and GOP presidential candidate Carly Fiorina.

On the national stage, he has aimed his fire at supreme court justices, reporters, models and celebrities. According to Axios, those with a target on their backs include Supreme Court Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Sonia Sotomayor, journalists Mika Brzezinski, Megan Kelly, Gail Collins, Katy Tur, Jennifer Lin, and Maureen Dowd; and celebrities  Rosie O’DonnellKatarina Witt (the German gold-medal winning Olympic ice skater), Angelina Jolie, Anne Hathaway, Cher and Arianna Huffington. Most recently, he called his former aide Omarosa Manigault-Newman a “dog.’

Each of these high-profile women has a platform she is using to voice strong opinions, which are often critical of Trump. In addition to his overarching misogynist message, he is sending another, more insidious, message to ordinary women; stifle your views, keep your heads down and your mouths shut. There is plenty of evidence to show that speaking truth to power is a punishable offense in the era of Trump.

He is hardly the first male to demand female silence. The Bible (1 Timothy 2:11-15) says, “Let a woman learn quietly with all submissiveness. I do not permit a woman to teach or to exercise authority over a man; rather, she is to remain quiet.”  Aristotle decreed “Silence is a woman’s glory.”

Today, it is frightening to think that the U. S. president encourages a veritable army of trolls on the internet who tell women to keep quiet in the public sphere. These cyber bullies create “revenge porn” and expose information about women, including their addresses and phone numbers so other trolls can harass them, threaten rape and even violent death–if females keep speaking out.

Amnesty International reports that, “Overall, this type of violence and abuse creates a hostile online environment with the aim of shaming, intimidating or degrading women. In a recent poll commissioned by Amnesty and carried out in eight countries, 23% of women surveyed across all countries – that’s nearly one quarter – had experienced online abuse or harassment.”

Hostility against women is moving from the basement trolls to the mainstream. In 2017,  researchers from the Wharton School of Business researched how women and men negotiate, and observed that since Donald Trump’s election there had been a marked “increase in men acting more aggressively toward women.” The Guardian notes that “A backlash is on against the few gains that women and girls have made, slowly, painfully and with unnumbered sacrifices down the decades, as men and boys are encouraged to see women as their competitors in an unfriendly world.”

These warnings strike an unwelcome and dissonant note today. Just as women are finding their authentic voices and speaking out against violations at work, in the doctor’s office, and at home, they need encouragement for stepping out of the shadows and expressing their authenticity. The last thing they need is to hear Trump telling them what they have been hearing forever; be nice, don’t make waves, and don’t forget that your job is to please men, not call them out.

In 2018, the news media made much of the unprecedented number of women running for public office, especially for Congressional seats, but this has happened before. The year 1992 was decreed “The Year of the Woman” when a few additional female senators were elected. Still, power in government has changed little since then. Will the upcoming midterm election really change things? Perhaps, but there is a long hard road ahead.

British classics scholar Mary Beard writes in her new book, Women & Power: A Manifesto, that women who seek power are viewed as “taking something to which they are not quite entitled.” One of Hillary Clinton’s campaign speeches in 2008 was interrupted by several young men holding up a banner reading, “Iron My Shirt,” a clear statement that women should be staying home and tending to their husbands, instead of speaking in public.

The culturally accepted assumption that women do not really ‘belong’ in the public arena acts to silence women. Take, for example, the attacks on Senators Elizabeth Warren and Kamala Harris when they spoke up in Congress. Warren was giving a speech on the senate floor that was critical of then-Senator Jeff Sessions (a Republican from Alabama). In her speech, Warren read a decades-old letter from Coretta Scott King, accusing him of racist motives. Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell used a little-known rule to cut her off in the middle of the speech—which she was forced to finish in a hallway.

California senator Kamala Harris aggressively questioned a witness at a high-profile hearing about the Muller investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election. The senate intelligence committee chairman, Richard Burr, basically told her to shut up. Rarely, if ever, does that happen to male senators.

Women, as well as men, are often unhappy with women who seek power. Research shows that even today women who speak up are treated harshly, especially in politics. Yale researchers Tyler Okimoto and Victoria Brescoll found that when both men and women viewed male politicians as power-seeking, they also viewed them as “being more assertive, stronger, and tougher” and having greater competence. The opposite was true when women candidates were power seeking. Both sexes found such women to be “unsupportive and uncaring” and experienced feelings of  “moral outrage (i.e., contempt, anger, and/or disgust) towards them.” This is exemplified through the ‘Lock her up!’ chants continually directed at Hillary Clinton during Trump’s rallies.

When Donald Trump won the presidency, white women voters took a lot of the credit. According to the election exit polls, 61% of non-college-educated white women voted for Trump, and so did 44% of college-educated white women. Sociologist Kelsy Kretschmer of Oregon State University, co-author of a recent study examining female voting patterns, explains it this way: “Women consistently earn less money and hold less power, which fosters women’s economic dependence on men. Thus, it is within married women’s interests to support policies and politicians who protect their husbands and improve their status.”

Today, a slew of popular  “You-go-girl” books encourage young females to shake off traditional bonds, defy the stereotypes and go for it. Their message is: ‘Dream big’ and ‘Always believe in yourself.’ Yet women who follow this advice are exactly the type of women Trump denigrates. He surrounds himself with women yea-sayers who toe the party line, who are not able to stand up for themselves, and who are unwilling or unable to challenge him, even when he contradicts himself.

Perhaps Senator Elizabeth Warren had the best reply to Trump: “Donald Trump is a bully, and he tries to bully me in order to shut me up…it isn’t just me Donald Trump’s going after; it’s every woman who speaks up. And he thinks we should sit down and shut up?”

It’s tempting to predict that this will all change, and soon.  However, this may not be a bet you should put money on.

 

Dr. Rosalind C. Barnett is an award-winning psychologist who has directed major research projects for federal agencies and the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, among others. Caryl Rivers is a Professor of Journalism at Boston University. They are the authors of “The New Soft War on Women” (Tarcher/Penguin)

 

 

 

October 3rd 2018, 2:15 pm

Ensuring the Habitats of Future Generations through Green Buildings

Women

We all have a right to adequate shelter; this is something recognized in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. But are the spaces we occupy meeting our current and future needs? While reflecting on the sustainable nature of our buildings and cities, we should remind ourselves of the power and responsibility we possess as a network to bring about change, and to shape the future through building green. Now, a visionary group of city mayors, state governors and company CEOs across the globe are coming together on an unprecedented scale to do just that.

Three weeks ago, 22 cities and four regions spanning six continents joined with 12 leading businesses to make a groundbreaking commitment on climate action for buildings, a commitment that will improve the lives of millions.

The Net Zero Carbon Buildings Commitment was launched on September 13th at the Global Climate Action Summit in San Francisco, California. In a pioneering initiative from the World Green Building Council (WorldGBC) and our GBC member network, supported by The Climate Group and C40, 38 leaders signed the Commitment, united by the common cause of combatting catastrophic climate change. As the Mayor of New York, Bill de Blasio explained; “Climate change poses an existential threat to New York City, and making our buildings more sustainable and efficient is a key part of the solution.”

The 38 founding signatories have pledged nothing less than determined action towards the total decarbonization of buildings through a combination of aggressive action for energy efficiency improvements with clean, renewable power sources. Collectively they are committed to eliminating 209 million tonnes of carbon emissions (CO2e) from their buildings by 2050 – that’s equivalent to taking nearly 45 million cars off the road for a full year.

The Commitment signifies the start of a rapid greening of the world’s homes and workplaces with a welcome display of leadership. It is part of Advancing Net Zero, our global program for a dramatic transformation to 100% net zero carbon buildings by 2050. We are working with our network of 70 member Green Building Councils globally to recruit and support businesses signing up to this ambitious target.

The initiative also represents the building sector’s proactive and ambitious response to achieving the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), not just on climate change and Sustainable Cities and Communities (SDG 11), but in a whole range of areas, from health (SDG 3) and biodiversity (SDG 15) to innovation (SDG 9) and economic growth (SDG 8). Building green not only provides an opportunity to save energy and carbon and protect natural resources, it also stimulates innovation, educates, create jobs, strengthens communities and improves health and wellbeing.

It’s why green buildings matter; they are a catalyst for addressing the world’s most pressing problems by providing cleaner, safer, healthier and more comfortable places to live, work, learn, play and heal without damaging the planet. Sustainable habitats for humans translates to sustainable action for the planet.

The new Net Zero Carbon Buildings Commitment is remarkable for its sheer scale. The 12 founding businesses represent a massive $22.95 billion in revenue throughout the global building and construction supply chain. They have set an ambitious target – to eliminate their own operational carbon emissions from portfolios of over 10.7 million square meters by 2030 – and their example as climate leaders will inspire others. They will become enablers, driving wider market transformation to deliver net zero carbon buildings worldwide by 2050. For example, the Berkeley Group, which built 10% of London’s homes, have already achieved their target of becoming carbon positive (beyond net zero) for their own operations in 2018, and have committed to further ensure that all of their developments operate at net zero by 2030.

Currently, the initial 22 major cities and four regions will enact regulations and planning policies to enable wider uptake, by requiring all new buildings to operate at net zero carbon from 2030, and all buildings to operate at net zero carbon by 2050. Vancouver, for example, already has its Zero Emission Plan, which demands all new buildings eliminate all operational greenhouse gas emissions by 2030.

But making a public commitment is not enough. Although these 38 signatories are willing to be held accountable on the progress they make to eliminate carbon emission from the building sector, they will also be required to evaluate their current energy use and emissions, identify opportunities to reduce energy waste, improve energy efficiency and power buildings from renewables, and report annually on progress versus their targets. Their achievements will be verified to a high standard and they will be able to draw on the practical support of their national Green Building Councils and available zero carbon building certification schemes.

The last of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals, Partnerships for the Goals, is ultimately where the Net Zero Carbon Building Commitment sits. It’s an unprecedented statement of coordinated action and collective commitment towards decarbonization of the built environment, which is responsible for 39% of the world’s carbon emissions. Building upon the collective strength of the WorldGBC’s Green Building Council network and our partner organizations, it is an example of how an initiative can create strong, global partnerships to respond to urgent global challenges. I am excited to see where it will lead and how others will follow.

 

Victoria Kate Burrows is the Head of Advancing Net Zero, the pioneering World Green Building Council global project to ensure that all buildings are net zero carbon by 2050. In this role, Victoria oversees and supports Green Building Councils participating in the project, as well as a number of other partnerships which provide funding and support, marketing and communications and the Net Zero Carbon Buildings Commitment. The Commitment, which was officially launched at the Global Climate Action Summit, serves to promote and inspire advanced climate action towards decarbonization of the built environment from Business and Government. Victoria is co-author of: A Whole System Approach to High-Performance Green Buildings.

 

October 2nd 2018, 10:45 am

Legs Together and Apart

Women

Man-spreading: you’ve probably heard that phrase. It’s currently being bandied about, especially at public transportation sites where passengers view bold signs discouraging inconsiderate men from helping themselves to selfish amounts of seating, often with space-gulps equivalent to two seats or more.

Is this wide-legged stance a male physical need, or a learned behavior? Is it, perhaps, a self-serving invention, like the one I naively accepted growing up in the 1950s? I recall the narrative went this way: flirting or leading-a-boy-on is heartless (so said the mansplaining boys at my junior high school) because it results in agonizing blue-balls. (In response to this explanation, a few women have whispered to me, not for quotation, that it’s probably similar to how some women feel after sex with men.)

How refreshing it is for the MTA to address public civility, and to direct this courtesy-gap particularly toward men. Subway advertisements warning about man-spreading suggest that macho legs-apart may just be a power-grab, a traditional male prerogative which insinuates selfhood and dominion over terrain, perhaps like a dog’s territorial claim-by-urination.

It certainly is in stark contrast to the legs-crossed-at-the-knee way my generation of females were taught to sit and compose ourselves. Unladylike, it would have been called, if a female took a wide-legged seated stance in public. Our culture taught us, as young girls, that our positions had to follow societal rules of proper femininity. Our bodies must assume a more constricted and contracted pose, taking up as little space as possible. In my lectures at museums and universities, I like to quote Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie from her 2014 TED talk when she said, “We teach girls to shrink themselves, to make themselves smaller.”

When girls and women ignore this societal petition to be ‘proper,’ it doesn’t go unnoticed. In a 2010 article for the Washington Post (which has since been removed), fashion writer Robin Givhan demeans the Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan by decrying her wardrobe, and honing in on her legs which were (horrors!) uncrossed at the knee:

She walked with authority and stood up straight during her visits to the Hill, but once seated and settled during audiences with senators, she didn’t bother maintaining an image of poised perfection. She sat hunched over. She sat with her legs ajar…

Her posture stands out because for so many women, when they sit, they cross. People tend to mimic each other’s body language during a conversation, especially if they’re trying to connect with one another. But even when Kagan sits across from Sen. Amy Klobuchar, who has her legs crossed at the knees, Kagan keeps both feet planted firmly on the ground. Her body language will not be bullied into conformity.

She does not cross her legs at the ankles either, the way so many older women do. Instead, Kagan sits, in her sensible skirts, with her legs slightly apart, hands draped in her lap…

She is intent on being comfortable. 

In contrast to men’s posture, we often see women with legs crossed at the knee almost all of the time: in meetings, at parties, at staged panel discussions, such as a Hamptons Institute panel I attended recently at Guild Hall in East Hampton:

In interviews and videos, under the auspices of my non-profit, Have Art: Will Travel! Inc, women have revealed to me long-harbored hurts and guilt feelings related to this issue. One woman, we’ll call her Susan, spoke off-the-record of being in her third-grade class and having a professional photographer come to school to take the class picture. As per usual in the 1950s, it took some weeks for the picture to be developed and shown to the eight-year-old students, who were agog with anticipation. When the photograph was finally unveiled, the class turned to Susan and angrily told her she ruined the picture for all of us. Why? Because her legs were ajar.

Chatting at a party with a woman I had just met, I sketched out my current Legs art series and project. The woman, Actress Madeline McCray, could not wait to tell me her own Legs story.

Art can open minds. It can put people in touch with thoughts long repressed, and start conversations stemming from its visual/visceral stimuli. This happened when Women’s eNews Executive Director Lori Sokol cathartically revealed a story she had stored in the back of her mind, only telling a few people in her entire lifetime.

And then there’s my own story, vivid to me to this day, of how I first learned to keep my legs together in public. I was about nine-years-old, sitting in a neighborhood park with a bunch of boys and girls talking, laughing, and having fun. All of a sudden, in front of everyone in my group, one of the boys jumped up from a bench and swiftly reached out, touching my genitals. I was shocked. I turned red, asking Joey, why did you do that? His answer: you were sitting wrong, with your legs open some, and that gave me the right to do it. I felt terribly ashamed and embarrassed, not understanding anything of the 1950s societal gender-bias at work.

Many men may not be aware that they claim more space and enlarge the outreach of their bodies, while women tend to make themselves smaller, and more compact, as they fold and compress their limbs. Unlike females who learn to constrict themselves, males learn this free-and-open stance from early boyhood, until it becomes part of their natural repertoire of manly positions and movements. I relate it to a boy getting onto a bicycle: he swings his leg in a wide arc over the bicycle seat, placing his foot onto the far pedal; while a girl learns to get on a bike by taking up very little space, modestly lifting her leg only slightly, in front of the bicycle’s seat, as she primly places it on the far pedal.

I considered and studied the difference, as a kid, between the free-style expansive movements and mobility of boys, and the body-constricting postures of girls. But I wasn’t able to connect the societal dots for myself, or to verbalize what I would now list as one of the many privileges of masculinity: freedom to take up space in ways that females learned were verboten to them.

Now, as an artist, I can look back on my childhood gender-befuddlement, and separate the dearth of agency afforded me by my culture from my own inadequacies. It wasn’t penis-envy that I felt, it was privilege- and power-envy. Now, as my art includes details of superheroes and cultural icons, such as Wonder Woman, I can visually address my childhood puzzlements.

I sometimes find myself, even today, aware of whether my legs are together or apart when sitting in public, and not only when men are present. I look around to see how others are positioning themselves, at times adjusting my posture and crossing my legs, even at the expense of my physical comfort. With or without awareness, my struggle continues – either to resist gender stereotypes, or conform to them.

A tapestry I created, Legs Together and Apart, addresses this issue. It is part of my current series, Sexism and Masculinities/Femininities: Exploring, Exploding, Expanding Gender Stereotypes , and expands upon the conversation I am having with myself, inviting my viewers and lecture audience to participate and respond to questions my art raises. In my next round of interviews, I’d like to hear from men and get their take on this issue.

I’d like my work and its related discussions to open a way for me to fully relinquish, after shared investigations, the gender rules prevalent in my youth, those that defined femininity and masculinity as constrictive binaries.

I don’t need or want to take up two seats on the train. I just need more freedom and choice within any space that I occupy.

 

Do you have a related story to tell? If so, please contact Linda Stein: Linda@lindastein.com or HAWT@haveartwilltravel.org

 

Linda Stein is a feminist artist, activist, educator, performer, and writer. She is the Founding President of the non-profit Have Art: Will Travel! Inc (HAWT) for Gender Justice, addressing bullying and diversity. HAWT currently oversees The Fluidity of Gender: Sculpture by Linda Stein (FoG) and Holocaust Heroes: Fierce Females – Tapestries and Sculpture by Linda Stein (H2F2), two traveling exhibitions with educational workshops. Two more exhibitions will travel soon: Displacement from Home: What to Leave, What to Take (DC4) and Sexism and Masculinities/Feminities: Exploring, Exploding, Expanding Gender Stereotypes (SMF). In 2018, Stein was honored as one of Women’s eNews’ 21 Leaders for the 21st Century. In 2017, Stein received the NYC Art Teachers Association/UFT Artist of the Year award, and in 2016, she received the Artist of the Year Award from the National Association of Women Artists.

 

September 26th 2018, 6:07 am

For Green Building Week: How Women Can Fight Climate Change, Starting at Home

Women

It’s fair to say that, over the past few decades, climate change has been framed as a purely environmental issue. But as our understanding of its impact grows, it’s becoming clearer that it’s a women’s issue too. The UN states that women are more likely to be affected by climate change than men, and that up to 80% of those displaced by climate change are women. This means that women have a key role to play in the global fight against climate change.

The good news is that achievable solutions are all around us. Nearly 40% of the world’s energy consumption comes from buildings, and by using green building principles and smarter, more efficient materials, the World Green Building Council believes we have the power to reduce that percentage to 0%.

That’s why we’re working towards 100% net zero carbon buildings by 2050, and it’s also why the focus of this year’s Word Green Building Week (WGBW) is homes. Reducing the energy consumption of buildings isn’t just a policy issue for governments – it’s a change we’re all empowered to make. Our homes are where we sleep, eat and build our lives, so it makes sense that they’re also the first place most of us can have our biggest impact.

We’re using WGBW to drive a significant reduction in the carbon footprint of our homes. If we all reduced our home’s energy consumption by 20%, that would deliver a savings of just over half a metric ton of CO2 per household (the equivalent of 1,277 miles of driving, or 21.5 propane cylinders used for home barbecues). Women are going to play a key role in achieving this reduction by leading some of the world’s most exciting green building projects, and by driving change through the Green Building Councils, since 50% of our most established Green Building Councils are run by women.

But the real difference will be made in ordinary households. Women’s global purchasing and economic power of is building, with studies predicting that women’s global income will grow to $18 trillion in 2018. That gives them the power to choose greener homes and create a more sustainable future for their families and communities.

Of course, greener lifestyles are often touted as expensive or out of reach for many, but the truth is that small changes have a bigger impact than most people realize. It doesn’t need to be a state-of-the-art house built from the ground up, or a frills-free log cabin in the woods. It really can be the house you live in right now by making small, smart changes like changing all of the light bulbs in your house to LEDs, or taking showers instead of baths to save on water heating. You can also build up your eco-efforts over time, like switching to a renewable energy provider or upgrading to energy efficient appliances and, one day, installing solar panels. People are often surprised when they find out just how much of a difference these more sustainable measures make. According to the New Zealand Green Building Council, green-certified homes are up to 38% more efficient than homes built to the standard national building codes.

And it’s not just good for the climate. Research shows that there’s even a strong business case for better indoor air quality, defined by low concentrations of CO2 and pollutants, and high ventilation rates. In a study carried out by WorldGBC’s Better Places for People project, a survey of 200 Canadian building owners showed that 38% of those who reported increased value replied that healthy buildings were worth at least 7% more than normal ones. Further, 46% said they were easier to lease, and 28% said they commanded premium rents.

Every week, we hear stories of people switching easily to a greener and more sustainable way of living. What’s more, building green is good for our economies. In cities across the US, green construction is projected to generate 3.3 million jobs between 2015 and 2018. Meanwhile, in Australia, 420,000 people are moving into sustainable communities – that’s half the population of its capital city Canberra – and reaping the multiple benefits.

So, while a goal of 100% net zero carbon buildings by 2050 may seem ambitious, it is achievable – and every individual has a role to play in getting us there. We’re urging women around the world to make a #HomeGreenHome Promise to take action by making the changes they can while spreading this message. We’re urging women to make choices that will cut energy use by 20% over a year and to tell colleagues, family and friends about #WGBW2018, and be part of the solution for a sustainable built environment.

Terri Wills is CEO of the World Green Building Council (WorldGBC)a network of Green Building Councils in over 70 countries. WorldGBC’s mission is to create green buildings for everyone, everywhere, enabling people and planet to thrive today and tomorrow. In March 2017, Terri was named as one of 10 women leading the global push towards climate action, gender equality and social justice for all by Eco-Business. Terri is based in London, UK.

September 24th 2018, 5:05 am

Weekly Column: Righteous — Women’s Rights, Men’s Wrongs

Women

“Tell me a fact and I’ll learn. Tell me a truth and I’ll believe. But tell me a story and it will live in my heart forever.” – Indian Proverb.

My story.

It happened very quickly.

He pinned me up against the wall, his hands choking me. I didn’t talk about it much, but I will now. It happened long ago, over thirty-years now. To be bluntly honest, I knew the minute I met him he was not right for me. I knew it. I felt it in my solar plexus – the core of my being, as my acupuncturist would say – dead smack center. I knew it. But I didn’t pay attention. I didn’t pay attention to a lot of things back then, mostly my own inner voice that often and reliably spoke the truth to me. “He is not right for you,” my inner voice said on more than one occasion. But I didn’t listen. He, like I, was a writer. Writers, in case most of you don’t know, fall within the working freelance category. This means, in part, that it’s not a very stable or reliable source of income or confidence. Back then, thirty-some-odd years ago, we – both he and I – were working in the film business, and the film business is a very competitive and heartbreaking business. It’s heartbreaking and heart shattering even if you’re successful. We collaborated on a couple of projects. We were even hired – as a writing team – for a couple of jobs. It was when he wasn’t working – when we weren’t working – I would see his dark side. He became belligerent, mean, and moody. He was a malcontent – moping, and stewing, and spewing. I would come over and find him reclining in his own misery – sitting in the dark. And while there were great flurries of work, there were also endless months when nothing seemed to generate.

Someone once told me that the film business teaches you how to love yourself. But what it doesn’t teach you is how to love someone else. “This is not right for you, he is not right for you,” my inner voice would tell me, loud and clear. I ignored it. I heard it, but I paid no attention. I believed, with every fiber in my being, that I could change him, help him — that I could save him from his demons and his misery. I also believed that if I were just a bit kinder, nicer, sweeter, more generous, more understanding, more… more… more… more … more, that he would stop being so unhappy, so miserable, so bitter.

It began with yelling and screaming, and I, of course, would scream back, and it would escalate from there. The breaking of things, the slamming of doors.

Out of guilt, I would return, apologizing for my bad behavior; always apologizing, an always begging for forgiveness. Women do that, you know. We apologize for other folks’ bad, awful, vile behavior. And along with apologizing, I would make a ton of excuses for him — he’s not working, he’s unhappy, he’s trying to find himself…oh, you know, Hollywood can be so cruel, so unforgiving.

And on top of apologizing and making excuses, I gave him all the power, and he took it gladly, using it to scare me, to keep me small, to destroy me.

It happened very quickly.

He pinned me against the wall, his hands choking me. It felt like an eternity. I managed to gather enough saliva and spit in his face. He slapped me hard. I pushed myself away from the wall. I looked into his eyes; they were dull and flat and hateful. There was a loud exchange of words, and he came after me again. I held my hand up and screamed, “If you touch me one more time…” Just as I don’t exactly recall what it was that made him lunge after me, I also don’t remember what it was that stopped him dead in his tracks. Maybe he saw himself in the full-length mirror leaning up against the wall that he had pinned me to. I got into my car and drove away. I never once looked in the rearview mirror. I drove to a friend’s house. A friend he didn’t know – my friend, not our friend. I had black and blue bruises that went around my neck right down to my clavicle. Cell phones were not popular back then, so he had no way of finding me, or getting in touch. I stayed with my friend for a few weeks. I tried covering the bruises with make-up, but it couldn’t cover up my shame. I was filled with unbelievable shame. The kind that makes you want to stay in bed, and hide from the world. His father had abused his mother. His grandfather had abused his grandmother. His brothers, all four of them, abused their girlfriends and wives. We watch, we learn. We repeat patterns. I walked away from him a bruised, scared, shameful girl and emerged – over much time with much therapy, much great support, and much love – a brave, fearless, courageous woman.

When I finally had the courage to tell this story years later, a former mutual writer friend of ours – a man – said, “Wow, you’re not describing the guy I know, the guy I know is funny and smart, a real cool guy. He’s a good guy, he wouldn’t hurt a fly.”

I looked him straight in the eyes, and said, “Maybe not a fly, but certainly a woman.”

When we tell you our story, do not tell us we asked for it. Do not tell us no one will listen to us. Do not tell us we’re liars. Do not tell us God will punish us. Do not tell us we’re only saying this to get attention. Do not tell us to stop wearing provocative clothing. Do not tell us to keep silent or quiet. Do not tell us to move on, to push it under the rug. 

Do not tell us it did not happen. 

Believe us.

Every 98 seconds, an American is sexually assaulted. And every 8 minutes, that victim is a child. Only 6 out of every 1000 perpetrators will end up in prison

amy ferris

author. writer. girl.

Women’s eNews Columnist Amy Ferris is a highly accomplished author, screenwriter, television writer and editor. Every Friday, you will continue to be invited into her world, where she will champion, encourage and inspire women to awaken to their greatness, as only she can, through passion, truth, hope, and humor — along with a heaping side of activism:

September 20th 2018, 10:17 pm

India: Where Pregnant Women are More than Statistics

Women

When Champa, pregnant with her first child, was diagnosed with malaria, neither she nor her husband knew what to do. So her maternal relatives took her from her marital home in Hatimanda, a tribal village, in the West Singhbhum district of India’s eastern state of Jharkhand, to her natal home in another nearby village. There, as was the local tribal custom, a witch doctor was called upon to cure her. Despite several attempts, Champa remained ill, and was sent back to her current village. A few days later when members of the local women’s self help group spotted her during a meeting, they were alarmed to see her deteriorating health condition. Having been part of participatory learning and action meetings that focused on causes of maternal and neonatal mortality, these women knew that unless they acted quickly, Champa could die. Malaria during pregnancy could lead to hemorrhage causing maternal and neonatal death. Funds were immediately arranged by the women’s group to cover transportation and other costs to rush Champa to the hospital.

This is just one example as to why India has recorded a 22 percent reduction in maternal mortality rate (MMR) since 2013, representing a decline from 167 in 2011-2013, to 130 in 2014-2016, according to the latest official figures. This translates to nearly one thousand fewer women dying of pregnancy-related complications per month. Still, lack of information, knowledge, and access to health services in many parts of the country remain, causing an estimated 44,000 women to die annually due to pregnancy-related causes.

For Champa and her child, it was a near miss. They would have become just another statistic had not she been brought to the hospital in time. Timely interventions like hers have also saved the lives of numerous other women enabled by the sharing stories and playing games with picture cards depicting preventive care-seeking measures through participatory learning and action (PLA). These sessions, facilitated by Ekjut, a not-for-profit organization, have enabled women to learn, recognize and prevent the two main causes of maternal and child death: women delaying their need for professional care,  and their ability to find an appropriate healthcare facility.

But today, by translating their newly-found knowledge into action, women have been able to bring about a 20 percent reduction in maternal deaths and a 30 percent reduction in the neonatal deaths in 600 villages encompassing rural Jharkhand and neighboring state of Odisha, according to an evaluation of Ekjut’s work. Impressed by their approach and its impact, the national government announced its decision in 2016 to use the Ekjut model to bring down maternal and neonatal deaths in eight states. Presently, PLA meetings are being conducted by government frontline workers trained by Ekjut in 40,000 villages, empowering approximately one million women to take charge of their own health.

By using the unique approach of empowering women on maternal and newborn health through a monthly participatory learning and action cycle, during which women first identify, prioritize and analyze local maternal and neonatal health problems, and then develop strategies to address them, they were able to bring about a substantial decline in MMR and NMR. Within three years of launching its PLA intervention in 2005 in 193 villages in three largely tribal contiguous districts of Jharkhand and Odisha, there was a 45 percent reduction in newborn mortality, a 20 percent decline in maternal mortality, and post-partum depression decreased by 57 percent.

“It is the power of stories to engage, stimulate, and challenge that has brought change. The strategy was to share knowledge and not push it down their throats,” says Dr. Prasanta Kishore Tripathy, Secretary and Director of Ekjut. “We wanted to break the culture of silence among marginalized communities who always accept and attribute whatever happens to them to fate. So the meetings are not prescriptive or technical,” he continues. “It is an attempt to make them believe that they too can change things and together they can make change happen.”

This is why Ekjut first chose articulate women from the community to train them as facilitators. These facilitators were given responsibility of reaching out to the women in two districts (West Singhbhum and Saraikela) in Jharkhand and in the district of Keonjhar, in neighboring state Odisha. According to Dr. Nirmala Nair, co-founder of Ekjut, the reason why this model is so robust is that it ensures that no mother misses out.

In fact, the efficacy of the PLA’s contributions to better maternal and neonatal health outcomes was further validated in 2010 and again in 2013 after Lancet, a prestigious medical journal and the World Health Organization evaluated Ekjwut’s work in 600 villages in Jharkhand and Odisha. It affirmed that participatory meeting had decreased neonatal and maternal deaths. “This model has therefore been upgraded to include Power Dialogues (Shakti Varta), which is currently being used by the Odisha government Accredited Social Health activists (ASHAs) in 15 high-risk districts,” says Shibanand Rath, Ekjwut team leader, Odisha.

Further, Ekjwut, which received the 2015 WHO Publish Health Champion honor for its innovative PLA initiative, is using its strategy to address gender-based violence. Thus far, initial findings in Jharkhand, where approximately 40 percent of married women age 15-49 experience some form of domestic violence, have been encouraging. “This is because women a no longer passive recipients here,” adds Dr. Tripathy, “The are the change.”

September 18th 2018, 4:58 pm

The ERA: The Key to Unlocking Women’s Shackles

Women

While bringing a new life into the world can fill an expectant mother with unparalleled feelings of hope and excitement, it also brings physical pain, emotional stress, and fear. But just imagine, for a moment, if an expectant mother was also placed in shackles on her way to the delivery room, and kept in shackles during labor and post-delivery recuperation. This is just a sampling of the practices many imprisoned women face when giving birth behind bars, thereby placing a healthy pregnancy, delivery and recovery in jeopardy.

Nearly 80 percent of women currently spending time in jail are mothers. Five percent of them are pregnant, and most of them are black. Since black women now earn only 63 cents for every dollar that a white, non-Hispanic man earns, and since 80 percent of black mothers are the primary breadwinners for their households, the wage gap impacts them more significantly, particularly when they’re in the midst of raising families. Black women’s ability to post bail therefore becomes increasingly problematic, which can leave them behind bars for months, or even years, awaiting trial. The Center for American Progress reports that of the 219,000 incarcerated women in the United States, black women are two times more likely to serve time than white women. And since they often cannot afford bail, most of these women are in jail awaiting trial, even though they often have less extensive criminal backgrounds compared to their male counterparts.

By closing the wage gap, black women would earn the money they rightfully deserve, and adding the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) to the US Constitution would help them do exactly that. According to NOW, the ERA could help move pay equity legislation that has been stuck in Congress for several years and provide a more effective tool for sex -based employment discrimination litigation. Further, it may also exert a positive influence in helping to raise pay in numerous occupational categories where wages are low simply because these occupations are traditionally and primarily held by women, such as retail clerks, home health aides, nursing aides, and waitresses.

This unfortunate reality is a further reflection of the trickle-down effect of systems that fail to protect black women. Incarcerated black woman whose pregnancy ends fatally not only fall victim to lower wages, but also the daunting truth about infant mortality that is sweeping the black community –infants born to black mothers die at twice the rate as those born to white mothers.

“We know that stress impacts birth outcomes, therefore incarcerated women are at a higher risk of preterm births and low birthweight babies, which puts that infant at a greater risk of not surviving to its first birthday,” says Kimberly Seals Allers, a maternal health advocate.

Further, a recent investigation conducted by The National Women’s Law Center into each state’s protections for incarcerated pregnant women found the following that more than forty states did not require medical examinations or guidance for pregnant women, or facilities that offer prenatal nutrition counseling or nutritious meals to incarcerated pregnant women. Additionally, over thirty states did not require screening and treatment for high-risk pregnancies, and forty-four states did not require pre-scheduled arrangements for deliveries. Even more concerning, forty-nine states failed to report a list of all pregnancies, or their outcomes. Of all 50 states, a total of 21 received a failing or almost failing grades.

While women continue to be the fastest growing population to be incarnated in the United States, and with black women making up the majority of this population, it is fair to argue that imprisonment has a direct impact on the rates of infant mortality within the black community. “There are still six states in the US where women are shackled during childbirth,” Allers continues. “In the US, we have an adversely punitive culture that doesn’t allow for putting the interests of an innocent and helpless baby first. Prison policies were created by men for a predominantly male population. Since women now reflect a growing prison population, it is time for a change.”

Perhaps the issue can best be summed up by Ash Williams, North Carolina organizer for SisterSong, a southern based, national membership organization whose mission is to improve institutional policies and systems that impact the reproductive lives of marginalized communities. “We don’t want an alternative to shackling,” Williams say. “We want an alternative to prison, which makes the shackling possible.”

And that is exactly what the ERA can help accomplish.

 


About the author: A recent graduate of Columbia University’s Graduate School of Journalism,
Sage Howard is a 2018 fellow in the Sy Syms Journalistic Excellence Program, funded by the Sy Syms Foundation. The Sy Syms Journalistic Excellence Program at Women’s eNews fellowship supports editorial and development opportunities for editorial interns in the pursuit of journalistic excellence.

 

 

 

September 12th 2018, 7:07 pm

MACA: The Real Way to Make a Country Great

Women

No, this is not a spelling error, nor a typo. In fact, unlike MAGA, the acronym for Donald Trump’s ‘Make America Great Again’ slogan meant to maximize the power of patriarchy, MACA is exactly the opposite. An acronym for Men as Change Agents, the new U.K.-based, government-backed, business-led council is on a mission to bring together male leaders to discuss how they can enable talented women to progress in business.

But MACA is meant to be more than just talk. Its mission is to find ways for men who say they believe in gender equality to actually put their words into action, and do it quickly.

It was on Thursday, September 6th at London’s St. James Palace, in fact, where the Duke of York, Prince Andrew, hosted an event to support MACA’s mission. As an invited guest, I witnessed, for the very first time, an event dedicated to empowering women where there were just as many men in attendance as women. “In the twenty-first century it should not make one difference if you are female or male,” Prince Andrew said, at the start of his speech. “We cannot afford to ignore 50% of the world’s talent. After all, I’ve worked for a woman all my life,” he said with a smile, referring to his mother, Queen Elizabeth II,

And now that Men as Change Agents was officially declared a U.K. government council earlier this year, it is ready to spread change throughout the country. The Board, co-chaired by a woman (Emer Timmons) and a man (Denis Woulfe), illustrates the combined effort and effectiveness of females and male allies working together. Aiming to engage CEOs of leading listed and private businesses to help deliver gender balance in business leadership, and to close the U.K’s gender pay gap, it is already building and showcasing a growing cadre of allied senior business leaders and organizations including Deloitte., Barclays, Sky, and BT, among others. Each is committed to leading change by developing and sharing ideas that truly make a difference, while also increasing the number of business leaders as active change agents, which includes a majority of men.

It should come as no surprise that the council was launched in Great Britain, a country with a female Prime Minister, and one that has become an equality pioneer by requiring all companies to report their gender pay gap to the government. Companies will also soon have to publish details of the proportion of women and men in the company who receive bonuses, as well as a breakdown of women and men in different pay quartiles.

But it doesn’t stop there. The council is also determined to promote the importance of diverse and inclusive workplace culture and processes, the lack of which often get in the way of true equality and opportunity for all. “If we’re going to accelerate women into leadership positions, we need more action than talk. Statistics show that equality is good for business, so this affects us all,” Timmons said.

And these statistics speak for themselves. McKinsey estimates that bridging the gender gap in work would add €150 billion to the UK economy by 2025. Additionally, companies in the top quartile for gender diversity in their executive teams are 21% more likely to experience above-average profitability than companies in the bottom quartile.

So, what is MACA encouraging CEOs to do? Three things, actually. First, take personal responsibility for ensuring 33% of executive-level business leaders are women by the year 2020. Second, sponsor one to three women in the organization who have the potential to secure an executive role within three years. Third, be an active and visible change agent by being part of the wider business conversation to achieve gender balance, diversity and inclusion.

The Rt. Hon Penny Mordaunt, Secretary of State for International Development and Minister for Women and Equalities, accentuated this point during her speech. “There is a 15% increase in profitability for companies when women are on their boards,” she said. “Also, did you know that peace treaties last longer when women are involved in the process? Clearly, every human endeavor depends on inclusion.”

And that’s what makes a company, and a country, great.

September 11th 2018, 8:35 am

Weekly Column: WRighteous

Women

WOManifesto. 

I was going to write my weekly column about women and competition and how we need to lift each other, support each other, be extra kind to each other…but the world is feeling extra chaotic today, with a heaping side of messy.   
I’m sitting here, watching the Brett Kavanaugh confirmation hearings and my stomach is turning, literally, and my heart hurts, and my head hurts. I think back to when I was a young girl – a young girl of fifteen – who had absolutely no self-confidence, none, and the very notion – the very real notion – that at this very moment in time, in 2018, Roe V. Wade could be overturned. And that scares the living daylights out of me, and that should scare the living daylights out of every single woman and every single girl because our rights and our bodies should not be up for grabs. 
Let me repeat that: Our rights and our bodies should not be up for grabs.
 
Up for grabs.
It all begins with wanting someone to love you. 
That boy over there, the cute one, you want him to notice you, to pay attention. You want him to like you, to love you back. You don’t remember if you ended up in his car – on the backseat – or on his basement floor next to a ping pong table. You just remember that you gave yourself away: “Here, love me, please. I will do anything for you. Anything.” 
That’s what happens when you don’t have self-esteem, or self-worth, or self. Period.
You give yourself away. 
You don’t think protection, or safety, or disease. 

You don’t think pregnancy.

You only think, “I want you to love me.”

And then you don’t hear from him. He doesn’t call. You sit and you wait and he doesn’t call, and then you miss your period, and you feel sick and you think it’s the flu, or a cold, or a stomach virus. And then you feel really sick and you start to gain a bit of weight. And he doesn’t notice you, he ignores you, and then you go to your doctor, or some doctor with a friend because you can’t tell your folks. And the doctor does a blood test and some urine test and tells you that your pregnant and you’re 15. Almost 16. And the guy that you liked, the cute one – the guy you were crazy nuts about – doesn’t even care that you’re alive, and God knows he’s not going to want you more because you didn’t care enough about yourself to protect yourself, use a condom, tell him “No.”  And you find yourself sitting in a clinic with people who are kind and loving and brush your hair out of your eyes and say, “You’ll be fine, you’ll be fine.” And you want to believe them, and then someone holds your hand and says “Count backwards from one hundred,” and the next thing you know that same someone is standing over you with a glass of orange juice, lifting your head ever so slightly, and saying, ‘Take a sip, a little sip.” And then you get dressed and you feel shame and you feel guilt and you feel empty and you feel lonely and you wish that you liked yourself enough to not have let that boy – the cute one, the one who doesn’t even know that you exist, who doesn’t even say hello to you in the hall, the one who doesn’t even look at you out of the corner of his eyes – into your heart and soul – into your body. And you feel dirty, and ugly. 
Those were the choices I made when I was fifteen years old: the bad boy and the abortion. And to say that the abortion saved my life would be an understatement. Imagine bringing a baby into the world when you, yourself, feel unwanted.
I didn’t know at the age of fifteen – or even at the age of twenty-five – that I could love me, love myself, and that that would be okay, more than okay, more than enough. I had no idea that self-love was radical and necessary and that saying “NO” was an act of self-love.
So, no you cannot overturn our rights. They are not up for grabs.

 

amy ferris

author. writer. girl.
Women’s eNews Columnist Amy Ferris is a highly accomplished author, screenwriter, television writer and editor Every Friday, you will be invited into her world, where she will champion, encourage and inspire women to awaken to their greatness, as only she can, through passion, truth, hope, and humor — along with a heaping side of activism:

September 7th 2018, 2:03 am

The Black Infant Remembrance Memorial: Where No Infant is Forgotten

Women

The US has a higher infant mortality rate than any of the 27 wealthiest countries in the world, and infant mortality hits black communities the hardest. In the US, black infants are more than two times more likely to die before their first birthday. According to the CDC, the black infant mortality rate is 11.4 deaths per 1,000 births versus 4.9 deaths for non-Hispanic white infants.  And some areas of the country have it worse than others; in prosperous San Francisco, for example, black infants die at a rate of 9.6 per 1,000, compared to a rate of 2.1 per 1,000 for white infants.

A country’s infant mortality rate is a harbinger for how a nation takes care of its most vulnerable, and this data proves that the US is catastrophically failing black babies. This is no time for silence.

As I travel the country speaking professionally, I often meet women who stand up and share their pregnancy, birth or breastfeeding stories, and far too frequently their stories include infant death. But after these women mention their loss, they often move on to the next part of their story as though they didn’t just speak of  tragedy. During these times, I often pause all dialogue to make sure everyone in the room takes a moment to acknowledge that a life had been lost. “What was your baby’s name, sis?” I sometimes ask. Other times, women hold that mother’s hand, hug her, or offer condolences. Either way, we cannot continue to speak of infant death as if it is a non-event. Those mothers had hopes and dreams for their children, and their deaths are traumatic event for their family members. Yet, instead of finding comfort, far too many black families encounter a callous system and culture that is socially unprepared to speak about the unspeakable tragedy of infant death.

Meanwhile, death and violence has been generally normalized in the black community. When there are massive shootings in black neighborhoods, mental health support services often don’t arrive to assist because, as much of society believes, we are used to living with trauma.

The Black Infant Remembrance Memorial launched online this week, as part of the celebration of national Black Breastfeeding Week, seeks to counter that narrative by providing an online space for acknowledgment, comfort and hope for black families impacted by this country’s black infant mortality crises. Families can create a memorial for their baby with a simple login process and access local grief resources, safely share the story of their loss and accept supportive messages. As the Memorial populates, users will be able to find local families and more local resources. This is important because any attempt at reconciling the nation’s abject failure of black infants must begin with acknowledgment and commemoration.

The Black Infant Remembrance Memorial is the brainchild of Kiddada Green, the executive director of Black Mothers Breastfeeding Association (BMBFA) in Detroit and a co-founder of Black Breastfeeding Week. The Memorial was also developed with two other Black Breastfeeding Week co-founders, Anayah Sangodele-Ayoka and myself. “The online memorial is the first step towards what we hope to transition into a national monument to bring honor and attention to the untimely and preventable deaths of black babies,” says Green.

Green also grew up with a vivid memory of infant loss. “As a young girl every Memorial Day I visited the burial site of my Auntie Sandy. who passed away as an infant years before I was even born,” Green said in an interview. “On that day,  I would hold hands with my dad, granddad and uncles uplifting Sandy’s name and memory in prayer. This is how I learned about the importance of commemorating the lives of babies who passed away too soon.” While Green grew up in a family that found its own way to honor the memory of a deceased infant, too many black families are left to their own devices—coping with unprepared systems and inadequate support for their loss.

When Karen Derrico of north Las Vegas lost one of her triplets after they were born prematurely at 28 weeks, she was beset by a torrent of emotions. “When my son Carter died, the hospital wrapped him up and put him in bed with me. Later, he was left with us in an isolette, while I was trying to breastfeed and pump for my other two babies,” said Derrico, who had previously successfully delivered the state’s first black quintuplets. Derrico recalled that as she struggled to breastfeed and pump for the other infants, and her husband took care of their other nine children at home, the hospital simply handed them a paper with the names of funeral homes and told them to make arrangements for someone to get the body, since the hospital didn’t have a morgue. “I couldn’t believe the hospital was so unprepared for such an unthinkable tragedy. Families need support, not told to handle their dead baby on their own, ” Derrico says, while adding that later her family released balloons for their infant who died, and created their own ways of memorializing their child. “For decades Black families have tucked their pain away to keep their lives moving and approach normal again. With this memorial, we hope we have created a warm corner they can turn to so that the hopes those babies represented may live on forever,” says Anayah Sangodele-Ayoka, a nurse midwife and co-founder of Black Breastfeeding Week.

The black infant mortality crises will not be solved overnight, however. At every point of analysis, racism and bias in care practices appear. It often starts with black women’s experiences during pregnancy. The high rate of black infant death is directly linked to statistically high poor birth outcomes of black women, which has been linked to racism, bias in maternity care practices and lifelong stress. Far too many black infants are born too small, too sick or too soon, and the condition of their birth becomes a key determining factor in the length of their lives. By entering the world in a more vulnerable state, black babies often receive sub-optimal care

A recent study from Stanford University, for example, showed that black babies in neonatal intensive care units across California received inferior care. The study evaluated nine measures of quality neonatal care including the timeliness of eye examinations and speed of weight gain, which were lower among African-American infants than among white infants. Some physicians have even acknowledged the subtle nuances of bias in their own care practices.

Meanwhile, the effort to end the black infant mortality crises must continue. This begins by telling the truth about the personal, communal and societal impact of this horrific crisis. More anti-racist training is needed in the medical field, which can be accomplished and incorporating technology and patient experiences as a screen for addressing bias. It also means dismantling racist systems and ideas that can literally kill. Every baby deserves the best care and our full support to live past their first birthday, and if we fail to meet that standard, we must not stay silent.

 

Kimberly Seals Allers is an award-winning journalist and author of The Big Let Down—How Medicine, Big Business and Feminism Undermine Breastfeeding (St. Martin’s Press). Kimberly writes frequently on the socio-cultural and racial complexities of birth, breastfeeding and motherhood. She is the director of the Maternal and Child Health Communication Collective, a national consortium of over 80 organizations working collectively to shift the narrative of maternal and infant health issues, funded by the W.K. Kellogg Foundation. Learn more at www.KimberlySealsAllers.com. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram @iamKSealsAllers.

September 3rd 2018, 10:11 pm

In Case You Missed It: Of Suffragettes and the Pink Tax

Women

Attendees at NYSE Bell Ringing: (center, first row, l to r) Women’s eNews Executive Director Lori Sokol, PhD., Assemblywoman Rebecca Seawright, NYSE President Stacey Cunningham, Congresswoman Carolyn B. Maloney, National Black Leadership Commission on AIDS C. Virginia Fields, NYS Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul, ERA Coalition Co-President Jessica Neuwirth

 

Two days after the nation marked the 98th Anniversary of the 19th Amendment, Congresswoman Carolyn B. Maloney (NY-12) rang the Closing Bell at NYSE in honor of Women’s Equality Day and released a new report, “Earn Less, Pay More: The State of the Gender Pay Gap and’ Pink Tax’ in 2018,” documenting the state of economic inequality women still face today.

The “Earn Less, Pay More” report reveals small steps toward progress on ending the “pink tax,” but shows that there is still a long way to reach fair pricing for women as we continue to fight the gender pay gap. In 2016, Rep. Maloney and Sen. Bob Casey (D-PA) requested that the GAO study the “pink tax” and gendered pricing. That report, released the by the Members last week, also highlights a number of disturbing cost discrepancies, including in mortgages, automobile loans, and in personal care products. The Maloney report expands on these findings and examines the compounding effects of pricing differences and the gender pay gap.

“As we celebrate Women’s Equality Day and commemorate the certification of the 19th Amendment, we must make a commitment to continue the fight that the suffragettes started a century ago,” said Congresswoman Maloney. “A woman’s right to vote is the only right we have guaranteed by the Constitution and that is not acceptable. We must not rest until full democratic rights are secured for women by passing the Equal Rights Amendment. With this legal bedrock, we will have the backing we need to fight the gender pay gap, sexual harassment & assault, and gendered pricing. Together, we can make history and create a more equitable world for generations to come.”

“We’ve made progress when it comes to equal rights for women in New York, but we still have a lot of work to do,” added Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul, who attended the bell-ringing event. “New York has the smallest wage gap in the nation, but the gap is still there. On Women’s Equality Day, we remember the sacrifices the suffragists made 100 years ago to secure full citizenship, and we continue to fight in their honor to reach full equality once and for all.”

This important report is spot on in its conclusion that final ratification of the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) to the Constitution is the most effective solution to stop the Pink Tax and unequal wage and benefits,” said ERA Coalition Co-President and CEO Carol Robles-Román. “Americans overwhelming support equal rights in the Constitution: the report cites the ERA Coalition’s 2016 highly publicized bipartisan poll that shows that more than 90 percent of Americans believe that the Constitution should guarantee equal rights for men and women. We call for passage of the ERA so that women are recognized by the US Constitution, thus giving women equal legal and economic standing.”

“On Sunday, August 26, we celebrated and honored the 98th anniversary of women’s patriation and access to the ballot box,” said National Organization for Women (NOW) President Toni Van Pelt. “In its honor, NOW we’re announcing our agenda for our “2020 vision” which we hope to achieve as we celebrate the centennial of our emancipation in two years. Part of our “2020 vision” includes recognizing the Gender Pay Gap, which can cost women well over half a million dollars over a lifetime. The Pink Tax only adds to that. NOW members and supporters in every state will be united and forceful as we work for this vision and we will be joined by coalition partners as we work for legal, economic and social justice, safe schools and communities and fair treatment for all in a world where we revere our land and our people.”

 

Background:

The ERA is a constitutional amendment which would prohibit denying or abridging equal rights under law by the United States or any state on account of sex. This critical amendment would guarantee the equal rights of men and women by:

 

Key “Earn Less, Pay More” report findings:

September 3rd 2018, 5:56 am

Welcome to ‘WRighteous’ — A New Weekly Column

Women

Women’s eNews is thrilled to welcome Amy Ferris, a highly accomplished author, screenwriter, television writer and editor as our new weekly columnist. Every Friday, you will be invited into her world, where she will champion, encourage and inspire women to awaken to their greatness, as only she can, through passion, truth, hope, and humor — along with a heaping side of activism:
Welcome to my column.
She is not flawed – she is courageous.
She is not broken – she is a mosaic.
She is not overweight – she is more, much more than enough.
She is not too much – she is bold and audacious; fierce and mighty.
She is not fragile and weak – she is strength personified.
 
She is not your competition – she is your greatest self.
 
This is where I will call home for the next few months, or year or two. This is where I get to share – write about, spew about, shout about – my deepest hopes and my deepest fears and my deepest desires for women, all women. This is where I will encourage all women to vote their life: their future, their kid’s future – not the life of their partner or their husbands or their abusers or the guy sitting in the oval office.
This is where I will tell you that when we go into that booth in November, the 2018 midterms – it is just us in there, alone in that booth – with all our dreams and hopes – and that we deserve the very best life has to offer. No more crumbs for us. I will remind you of that. This is where I will share stories about love and loss and grief and pure unadulterated joy and yes, sex. I will share stories about sex. This is where I will stomp my feet and say we must stop attacking each other, we must stop tearing each other down, we must stop ripping each other to shreds – it’s unattractive and unnecessary…and it only causes pain. There is more than enough pain in the world; let’s not inflict it on each other. This is where I will raise the bar and raise the stakes and raise holy hell for women to stand taller; to stand up, to stand side by side, and to stand with. This is where I will tell you loud and clear to make sure – to be mindful and yes, thoughtful – that any and all women who are standing under the awning at a bus stop should never be thrown under a bus. This is where I will be relentless when I talk about championing each other, supporting each other, and lifting each other because what I have learned, witnessed, and observed is that we have a far way to go. This is the very place I will remind you that we women do not stab the very backs we should be standing up on. Jealousy and pettiness and envy are no longer in fashion, and I will keep reminding you of that. That, I can promise. 
 
This is where I will encourage you to stop keeping other women at arm’s length, to take off the armor that has weighed you down, to remove the scaffolding that has been up for years – no doubt, out of self-protection – – so you can show off and flaunt your beauty and magnificence. This is the place where I will inspire you to awaken to your greatness, to stop caring what others think, to wear kindness because Goddess knows kindness goes with everything. This is the place where I will remind you – relentlessly, I might add – that all of our imperfections and all of our foibles are indeed our beauty marks; that our mistakes can be transformed into our mission, that dreams don’t need to die or are packed away or tucked into the back of a drawer with old love letters and yellowed first chapters – – that dreams can be rekindled and re-ignited and all it sometimes takes is a spark, and that spark can come in the form of one human saying: ‘Go ahead do it…do it.’ 
 
And this is the place that I will stand up on a soapbox and remind you that we have unlimited power, untapped power,  and that anger is not power. 
This is the place where I will remind you, as I constantly remind myself, that we have become the women our mother’s longed to be, always wanted to be.  
 
This is the place where I will demand that we all – each of us – take down the walls that we have built around ourselves, the walls that keep us from being intimate, keep us from sharing our down and dirty, keep us from sharing our truth, keep us from exposing the very stories that move and rattle and shake and, yes, understand another human heart.
I will be right here…every week.
Please, join me.
author. writer. girl.

 

August 30th 2018, 8:38 pm

THE TRUMP/PENCE REGIME IS ACCELERATING ON A COLLISION COURSE WITH HUMANITY

Women

Earlier this summer, we saw the Trump/Pence regime escalate its attacks on immigrants to a terrifying new level. As if indefinite detention, deportations without due process, and military-style raids weren’t bad enough, now refugee and migrant children have been ripped away from their families and placed in literal child concentration camps. The regime has also begun testing the waters on restricting legal immigration as a tool for intimidation and repression—targeting immigrant activists, setting up a denaturalization task force, and stepping up surveillance power, so that even those with documents or full citizenship are increasingly afraid. More ominously, when held up against the United Nations definition of genocide, the actions of this regime are laying the groundwork for further crimes against humanity. In the UN definition, genocide includes causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of a group, “deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part,” and “imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group,” for example, by “forcibly transferring children of the group to another group.”

Under a fascist regime, each outrage is a dress rehearsal for an even greater one. If the Trump/Pence regime can convince the public to accept something as tragic as children in cages, they are banking on the likelihood that they can get away with anything. Meanwhile, they’re not just leaving things up to chance, but actively and rapidly remaking the government to eliminate checks and balances. It is no accident that earlier this summer we also witnessed the Supreme Court side with the regime on crucial areas of gay rights, voting rights, women’s rights, and the rights of immigrants, refugees, and Muslims. Now, with Justice Kennedy’s retirement, it’s poised to become a long-term, pro-fascist majority if Trump is allowed to appoint Brett Kavanaugh, chosen expressly to overturn Roe v. Wade.

None of this has been allowed to pass without resistance. When the media exposed what was happening to immigrant children at the border, it righteously caused a public outcry, with protests erupting outside of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) offices. ICE has spread fear throughout immigrant communities since its founding in 2003, but under Trump, it has become the American Gestapo, and in reaction, calls to #AbolishICE are gaining ground. Activists for women’s reproductive rights have also called for renewed vigilance, correctly identifying the danger of Trump’s pick to replace Kennedy, Brett Kavanaugh. These are grave emergencies affecting millions of lives, and those lives must be protected.

Yet there is a question of strategy that needs to be explored. Can we stop these outrages by fighting on a parallel track with this regime, resisting each outrage as the regime carries on, trying to control the narrative where we can and organize local initiatives that can mitigate the worst effects of these policies? Even without stopping them, can we protect enough people, save enough lives, or slow down the advancement of fascism enough to ride this out until 2020? If we allow Trump and Pence to complete their term, despite winning the election as it is set up under this system, what will the world look like when they have accomplished even half of what they are trying to accomplish?

The movements to abolish ICE and to protect Roe v. Wade are just two examples of many struggles that are running along a parallel track with the Trump/Pence regime. But how to win these battles in this political climate requires a serious examination of the whole plan and vision of this regime to tear up the existing norms and replace them with a new normal of fascist power. Once fascism is consolidated, the mechanisms we used to rely on to redress society’s injustices no longer exist. This fascist consolidation is happening now, at an accelerated pace.

FACING A NEW REALITY

For many years, organizing around individual issues was an effective strategy in this country. This is how many important rights were won, including marriage equality for gay couples. But under a fascist regime, the rules have changed.

For one thing, the government oversight bodies to whom various groups could appeal for redress are now either increasingly or fully under the influence of the Trump/Pence fascist regime. Who is being appointed to the federal courts and the Supreme Court, and by what means? From stealing a Supreme Court seat to employing the “nuclear option” allowing judges to be confirmed by a simple majority, the New York Times reports that Trump “is poised to bring the conservative legal movement, which took shape in the 1980s in reaction to decades of liberal rulings on issues like the rights of criminal suspects and of women who want abortions, to a new peak of influence over American law and society.”

Who is running the EPA? Scott Pruitt—a right-wing attack dog against the EPA who succeeded in undermining the agency he was charged to lead—has been replaced by another energy lobbyist and climate change denier, Andrew Wheeler, who will continue to deregulate the environment without the ethical scandals. Who is running the Department of Justice, the Department of Education, or the Department of Homeland Security? These departments are now headed by far-right hacks whose whole mission is to neutralize or destroy those agencies, or use them to further advance the regime’s fascist program. This is why Trump picked Rick Perry to run the Department of Energy, the very department he vowed to abolish, and why Betsy DeVos, who is outright hostile to secular public education, is in charge of our nation’s public schools. To the extent that any separation of powers still exists through the legislative branch, the Democratic Party leadership has continually promised to reach across the aisle for the sake of unity and compromise. What does this mean for the people, where there is no one to compromise with but a completely fascist-controlled GOP? The fascists in every branch of government, under the leadership of Trump and Pence, are pulling the rug out from under us at every turn and changing all the rules of the game.

Further, whereas in recent years single-issue organizations helped raise awareness,especially of underserved groups’ needs, thus creating clarity and focus, in this new era the same atomization actually destroys clarity and focus. It does this not because any of these issues have lost their urgency (they haven’t), but because it plays into this regime’s genius for using a constant barrage of daily horrors to overwhelm us. On Monday it may be immigrants under the bus; on Wednesday it may be women. No matter how devastating each individual fascist crime may be, by next week it’ll have been overwritten in the public mind by new ones. This deliberately keeps us from looking at any individual horror too closely, or connecting them to the common cause underlying them, which is the consolidation of American fascism.

Under this regime, fighting each battle as it comes is actually putting the cart before the horse. This is counterintuitive, but true. It may seem ‘wiser’ or more ‘realistic’ to work on one little piece of the problem, where surely one’s small contribution will make more headway, than to boggle helplessly at the immensity of the whole. People are understandably afraid of becoming paralyzed with fear, and under normal conditions it probably would be wiser to break it all down to bite-size pieces and divide the labor. But none of this is normal. We must acknowledge the tectonic shift that has happened, and be ready to let go of old scripts for liberation that did well in the past but do not suit the challenge we now face.

Too many of us think that we can wear down the regime with resistance to each outrage, but consider this. A few weeks ago, it was unthinkable that the separation of children from their parents at the border would fall away from the public conscience. But then the next shock came, and look what’s happened. Right now, Russian interference is a galvanizing issue for the mobilization to occupy Lafayette Park, but it too can fall off the radar when the next shock comes around. We have to stop allowing the next shock to come around. This has been a problem since the beginning of this regime: focusing on just one atrocity of the moment means that when it’s not of the moment anymore, the opposition is scattered again.

How do we win victories under these siege conditions? By realizing and internalizing that a rare thing has occurred: though removing Trump and Pence won’t solve all these problems in a stroke, it is now the single necessary precondition for moving forward on any of them. Through the process of standing together to demand this regime be removed from power, not just for ourselves but for all humanity, a transformation in people’s sense of agency will also occur. It would puncture the defeatism and hopelessness that is affecting millions of people who do not want the kind of future this regime is promising. Things are usually not that simple in life, but for once, this time, they are.

If we feel dizzy and motion-sick, it’s for good reason. This is a speeding locomotive on a collision course with humanity. We are all going to be swept up under it if we don’t actually run that locomotive off the tracks, a feat that is difficult but not impossible. It is much more possible than trying to abolish or replace ICE under this regime, or restore judicial independence under this regime, or end election interference from another fascist power under this regime. Without this regime determined to put every roadblock imaginable in our path, all of our righteous demands and much more become possible.

The events of this summer have illustrated one point very clearly. The basis for driving out this regime lies in their very actions against the people of the world. RefuseFascism.org has compiled a series of Indictments showing the scale and scope of the regime’s crimes against targeted groups, against the environment, and against the very idea of truth. Human rights can never move forward under fascist rule. Destroying the very concept of universal human rights is what fascism is all about.

The Trump/Pence regime is a unifying factor in all of our struggles. We see this when we attend various protests on separate issues.  There is an awareness that we’re out in the streets in large part because of what this regime is doing to people. People’s signs, their statements, and the general sentiment in the crowd clearly call out Trump and his regime. Trump’s trip to the UK was met with massive demonstrations of hundreds of thousands of people, and after he joined Putin at the podium in Helsinki to deny or excuse Russian interference in the 2016 elections, new protests erupted with a call for Trump’s immediate resignation or impeachment.

What remains is to transform that awareness into a deeper understanding and a basis for unified and lasting resistance. A basis for millions of us to join together in the streets day after day, for as long as it takes, until this regime is gone. Together (and only together), can we bring the locomotive to a screeching halt and change the course of history. With the right strategy, we have the power to stop a catastrophe for humanity and the planet. A better world is possible, and it’s up to us, in our millions, to make it real.

*******

Coco Das and Sarah Roark are frequent contributors to RefuseFascism.org. Refuse Fascism is building a movement to drive out the Trump/Pence regime through sustained, non-violent protest. Follow Coco and Sarah on Twitter @amarporahona @AfterDaylight

August 28th 2018, 10:32 am

Don’t Boo — VOTE!

Women

“Don’t Boo — Vote!” was President Barack Obama’s response to the crowd when they booed after he mentioned Donald Trump at the 2016  Democratic National Convention .

The importance of voting is unquestionable, particularly since only 58 percent of eligible voters went to the polls during the 2016 election Women’s eNews is therefore asking every US citizen to ask just three people per day (whether at work, at the gym, or at any social gathering) whether they are registered to vote. Labeling our campaign, 3forV, just imagine how many people will be reached, and registered, by each of us doing our part. So let’s put the V Back In VOTE through to the midterm elections on Nov. 6, 2018!  Below are quick and easy links to voter registration sites where you can register, ensure your name and address are correct, and find out your correct voting location in advance. By doing so, we will never have to say that any candidate won due to low voter turnout again!

THREE OF THE QUICKEST USER-FRIENDLY AND COMPREHENSIVE VOTER REGISTRATION/INFORMATION SITES (all non-partisan):

1. IWillVote.org

A quick and easy way to register to vote or check that your registration is up to date in just minutes.

2.  Vote411.org

A one-stop-shop for ALL election information by state, VOTE411.org was launched by the League of Women Voters Education Fund (LWVEF) in October of 2006. It provides nonpartisan information to the public with both general and state-specific information on the following:

An important component of VOTE411.org is the polling place locator, which enables users to type in their address and retrieve the poll location for the voting precinct in which that address is located. The League has found that this is among the most sought after information in the immediate days leading up to, and on, Election Day.

3. HeadCount.org

For all you music lovers out there (particularly all ‘Deadheads’), you can register to vote, verify your registration status, and find voting locations through HeadCount.org, an organization that works with musicians to promote participation in democracy. It’s board of directors includes Bob Weir of The Grateful Dead. HeadCount is a giant team effort between musicians, concert promoters, and volunteers, and has street teams in most major cities, and affiliations with over 100 touring musiciansincluding Dave Matthews Band, JAY-Z, Wilco, Phish, and the Dixie Chicks, just to name a few. Whenever they play a concert in a major city, its street teams are there registering voters. For information to volunteer as a member of the street teams, visit https://www.headcount.org/volunteer/

August 27th 2018, 3:32 pm

Building Gender Parity in the Construction Industry

Women

Moving my seat at the table from the side to the head as the new Chair of the World Green Building Council, I know that our industry is facing unprecedented challenges. This summer’s ‘hothouse earth’ has given provided us with more than a glimpse of the havoc climate change will wreak, and yet building and construction still accounts for almost 40% of energy related global CO2 emissions. Solving this problem requires technical, creative and diverse leadership skills, yet our sector is missing out on an abundance of female talent.

Inclusiveness must be a priority for our industry, and, as the first female Chair of WorldGBC, I am making it my priority, too. So how do we access the very best thinking to create green buildings for everyone, everywhere?

Buildings that help us thrive, today and tomorrow

Our changing climate requires nothing less than a reshaping of the way we grow and build. Last year was the hottest non-El Niño year on record, and wildfires, droughts and flash floods are accounting for huge human and financial costs. Decarbonisation of the building sector, one of the largest contributors of greenhouse gas emissions, will play a critical role in meeting the Paris pledge to keep global average temperature rise well below 2ºC.

But it’s not just about climate change. As pioneering projects championed across our seventy Green Building Council global network already shows, sustainable design achieves wider societal goals. Green buildings preserve precious natural resources and improve our quality of life, providing healthier and happier places for people to live, work, play, heal and learn. Building green grows jobs, the economy and thriving communities, and results in lower energy costs and higher property values – good for consumers and businesses.

I have seen these benefits first-hand in buildings like Mohawk College’s Joyce Centre for Partnership and Innovation, a project I co-steered at B+H Architects alongside Joanne McCallum of McCallum Sather Architects, a long time friend, mentor and alumnae of the board of the Canada Green Building Council. Opening in 2018, it is the second project – and the first institutional building – to receive Canada’s net zero carbon certification.

WorldGBC’s Advancing Net Zero initiative aims to make this happen on a global scale – a future where every building produces zero carbon emissions by 2050.

Diversity and partnering will deliver

The good news is that we have the technological solutions. But we need everyone at the table if we are to achieve necessary changes. We need different thinkers and diverse teams who work collaboratively to explore new ideas and find new solutions.

I have seen progress on gender diversity since I started my career at B+H Architects in 2007. Many of those championing green building and design are women, and I’m proud that half of our top-tier Green Building Councils from countries including Jordan, Peru and South Africa are female-led. This is not surprising, given the fundamental connection many see between climate justice and gender justice.

Yet building and construction remain a male-dominated world. Women at the top of the corporate ladders are conspicuous by their absence, hampered in their career journeys by inflexible working environments, bias (unconscious or not), and perceptions of limited opportunities.

This is not just a problem for women and their aspirations; it’s a problem for our sector at a time of transformation. Evidence shows gender diversity is good for business by increasing innovation, productivity and profitability. Diverse perspectives working together create energy that brings results. I’ve seen this at B+H Architects where 55% of global staff,  practice managers and global regional leaders are female – a notably diverse gender mix for a large global architecture firm.

Tips for the top

So, we get the ‘why,’ but what about the ‘how’? I am committed to fostering the next generation of women in the building and construction industry.

We all have a role to play in showing what doing good looks like in our sector: showcasing the individuals and companies making progress to inspire others, and sharing the evidence-base that diversity results in stronger returns. Leaders can set an example, ensuring diversity and inclusiveness at the top.  Further, on a practical level, let’s move more quickly towards ensuring equal pay, meaningful part-time work and flexibility. Let’s commit to recruiting equitably and support and mentor aspiring women.

To those aspiring women, I say: Think boldly, push boundaries and make your voice heard. Don’t be afraid to move outside your comfort zone to seize opportunities – as I had to when progressing into male-dominated management. Ask, even demand, to be mentored and use all of of your learning and emotional intelligence to plan your career and develop your skills.

The challenges we face bring opportunities for society, for the environment, for our economy, and also for women. The time is right to raise our ambition so that all talented women can find their seats at the table.

Lisa Bate is Chair of the World Green Building Council and Regional Managing Principal, North America at B+H Architects. She is a global ambassador for high-performance sustainable design in architecture and large infrastructure planning and development with a vast portfolio of global work in commercial, mixed use, healthcare, education, sport, and institutional projects across Canada, China, the USA, Caribbean, and India. As a leader, Lisa is a Past Chair of the Board of Directors of the Canada Green Building Council, Past President of the Ontario Association of Architects in Canada, Past Member of the Mainland China Urban Land Institute’s Shanghai Management Committee, and B+H’s representative to the United Nations Environmental Protection – Sustainable Buildings and Climate Initiative (UNEP-SBCI). In 2016, she received the Green Building & Design (gb&d) Women in Sustainability Leadership Award, Los Angeles, USA.

 

August 23rd 2018, 4:57 pm
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