When will the USA take sexual assault seriously?

Today, I received an email from Jennifer Siebel Newsom, founder of The Representation Project, with the subject: “How Harvard Is Failing Its students.”

Dear Friend,

 

This week, in an open letter to the Harvard Crimson, a young woman called out one of the country’s most prestigious universities for failing to adequately help her and other survivors of sexual assault on campus.

The anonymous letter, titled “Dear Harvard: You Win,” details how the student spent months living in the same building as her alleged assailant and how she was shamed by administrators who ignored her complaints or blamed the attack on her own behavior.[1]

This isn’t an isolated incident – sexual assault can happen anywhere and to anyone – but when even our most revered (and best funded) universities are failing to properly address the crime, it’s indicative of a much wider cultural problem.

Someone is sexually assaulted in the United States every two minutes, and yet so many of our political leaders seem ill-equipped to even discuss the issue, let alone lead policy change.[2] Our media reinforces this culture of silence by shaming survivors (women and men), while our courts excuse criminal behavior with harmful gendered concepts like “boys will be boys.”[3]

April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month (SAAM) in the U.S., and an opportunity for all of us to take action to fight this national epidemic. This week, tweet this list of 5 easy ways to get involved during SAAM. And use the resources at Know Your IX to examine and improve your current or former school’s sexual assault policy.

Let’s work together to make sure the voices of survivors continue to be heard, and to end “rape culture” once and for all.[4]

Onwards,

Jennifer Siebel Newsom, Imran Siddiquee & The Representation Project team

 

I blog about this all the time, but it’s baffling to me that the USA, the so-called leader of the free world, from its “greatest” universities to its own military, refuses to take women’s rights seriously. In a rare exception, former U.S. president, Jimmy Carter, has written a new book about this issue: A Call To Action: Women, Religion, Violence, and Power. ThinkProgress reports:

Former President Jimmy Carter is issuing a call to action to end the abuse and subjugation of women, which he refers to as the “worst and most pervasive and unaddressed human rights violation on Earth…

There’s significant data to back up his claims. The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that one in three women around the world is subject to sexual violence at some point in her life. In many parts of the world, women still aren’t receiving adequate health care and education. Every year, about 14 million girls under the age of 18 are given away as child brides, and an additional 4 million women and girls are bought and sold into slavery. And according to the United Nations, at least 125 million girls in Africa and the Middle East have undergone female genital mutilation….

Carter’s book makes the case that the United States is at least partly responsible for perpetrating the ongoing violence against women around the globe, since the U.S. wields such great international influence. The former president also sees issues of violence and abuse occurring within America’s borders, particularly as the issue of properly handling sexual assault causes on college campuses and military bases has recently come to a head.

“Exactly the same thing happens in universities in America that happens in the military. Presidents of universities and colleges and commanding officers don’t want to admit that, under their leadership, sexual abuse is taking place,” Carter noted. “Rapists prevail because they know they’re not going to be reported.”

 

Carter’s thesis is similar to Pulitzer Prize winning journalists, Nicolas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn, who wrote Half the Sky in 2009:

in the 19th century, the paramount moral challenge was slavery. In the 20th century, it was totalitarianism. In this century, it is the brutality inflicted on so many women and girls around the globe: sex trafficking, acid attacks, bride burnings and mass rape….

 

When a prominent dissident was arrested in China, we would write a front-page article; when 100,000 girls were kidnapped and trafficked into brothels, we didn’t even consider it news.

 

Kristof and WuDunn are referring to front page news for the American publications they worked for. The whole world is affected when the USA doesn’t take brutality against women seriously. When our own policies and practices, from our justice system to our media, protect sexual assault perpetrators and victimize survivors, every woman is affected by this misogyny. Even if she hasn’t been sexually assaulted, she must to fear it, she grows up fearing it, knowing that if it happens to her, her voice is likely to be silenced, her words ignored, that her experience won’t matter and her story won’t be told. That basic reality influences every female on this planet. I wrote “The Shame of Rape” for Salon in 2002. Either things have gotten worse since then, or we’re just more aware of how bad things are, which I suppose you could call progress.

The “shame” of rape

The

 

When 7-year-old Erica Pratt was abducted on July 22 and tied up in a basement by her kidnapper, she chewed through the duct tape that covered her mouth, freed her hands and feet, and broke through a door to escape. Electrified by the young girl’s feat, the media celebrated Pratt with a prolonged blitz of coverage. She smiled luminously for cameras as awed police officers praised her bravery. Her photo graced the front pages of newspapers across the nation, and she was named Time magazine’s “Person of the Week.”

When Tamara Brooks and Jacqueline Marris were abducted at gunpoint nine days later from a remote teenage trysting spot in Lancaster, Calif., they devised a plan to break free by stabbing their abductor in the neck. When one girl had the chance to escape, she didn’t take it for fear that the other girl — whom she hadn’t met before that night — would be killed if she abandoned her. These were brave and loyal girls — heroines who endured mind-numbing terror before police found them and killed their captor, who authorities believe was preparing to murder them and dump their bodies.

But Brooks and Marris were not honored by Time magazine or identified as heroes in other media outlets. Why not? What made their story so different?

Just as newspapers and the networks were scrambling to cover the story, they learned that the girls had been sexually assaulted during their ordeal. Because most mainstream media observes a self-imposed policy of withholding the names and faces of sexual assault victims, the coverage abruptly, and somewhat awkwardly, ground to a halt.

Newspapers and TV broadcasters explained the shift as a matter of courtesy. But in concealing the identities of the young women on the grounds that rape is so intimate and horrendous that they should be spared undue attention, the media helped to promote the unspoken societal belief that somehow, when sexual assault is involved, the victim is partly — or wholly — to blame, and should be hidden from view.

TV stations began digitally obscuring the girls’ faces. Newspapers like the New York Times rushed to delete the names and photos of the girls from the next day’s paper. Some publications, like USA Today, had already gone to press, and printed the story with photos and names on the front page.



The lopsided coverage was especially disorienting because early in the story, the girls’ identities were broadcast everywhere — constantly — as a means of saving their lives. The idea was to familiarize as many Americans as possible with the girls’ names and faces so that average citizens might assist in tracking them, and their kidnapper, down. And it worked. But once the teens went from being kidnapped youths to rescued rape survivors, their status changed. They were branded with the Scarlet R. They had been raped. It was suddenly better for them, and us, to contemplate this shame without fanfare.

In effect, the girls disappeared twice — once when abducted, and again when the media erased them.

The policy of hiding the rape survivor makes the media complicit in shaming and stigmatizing her. It reinforces the myth that women are too weak, traumatized and tainted to decide whether they want to tell their own stories — of victory, not victimhood. And this assumption becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. If raped women were granted the same status as Erica Pratt, there would be no reflex to make them disappear. Their survival would be cause for public honor and respect. Their rescues would be complete; their recovery would begin with heartfelt acceptance by everyone who prayed for their return.

Silence and shame protected the Catholic Church and one of its dirtiest secrets for years. And church officials made the right assumption: If you can’t see it, no one will believe it is happening and, more importantly, victims who are shamed and controlled will be quiet, silenced by a sense of complicity and sin. What if all those alleged male sexual assault survivors who went on “60 Minutes” and “20/20″ had their faces covered with a gray dot? What if no newspapers or magazines had been willing to publish their names? How much credibility or validity or power can you have when you have no face and no name? Would the public have believed these things had happened if faces had not been attached to the charges?

You can’t put a faceless woman on the cover of Time magazine.

Not all rape survivors take the media’s cue and withdraw. Many have told their stories as part of their recovery, most famously authors like Maya Angelou in “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings” and Dorothy Allison (“Bastard Out of Carolina”), and singers including Fiona Apple and Tori Amos. Current bestselling author Alice Sebold has said repeatedly in interviews that she could not have written “The Lovely Bones” until she wrote the story of her rape in her first book, “Lucky.”

With each of these acts of bravery has come further acknowledgment that rape is a horrible event and that everyone abhors it, yet hypocrisy — public and institutional — still exists. Rapists are rarely successfully prosecuted. For every 100 rapes reported in this country, only five rapists end up in prison. Sentences are relatively light, averaging just 10.5 years, and the usual time served is approximately five years.

U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft doesn’t support the notion that a raped woman should have the right to an abortion. And U.S. foreign policy does not include sanctions, even strongly stated warnings, against countries like Saudi Arabia where men are allowed to rape their wives, and married women raped by men other than their spouses are punished for adultery. In Pakistan, when a young woman was ordered raped by a tribal council as punishment when her brother was seen in public with a woman not in his family, the U.S. State Department took no action.

At the same time that it is no longer socially acceptable to blame or stigmatize a rape survivor for what has happened to her, it appears to be socially unacceptable to recognize her as a hero and honor her for survival. But that may be about to change, thanks, in large part, to Marris and Brooks, two rape survivors who demanded to be seen.

A day after she was rescued and her identity had been quickly masked in the media, Marris appeared on KABC, the local Los Angeles news station, to talk frankly, without embarrassment, about her ordeal. She revealed, among other details, the fact that she and Brooks had tried to escape by stabbing their abductor in the neck.

A few days later, Brooks and Marris both appeared on the “Today” show to tell the story of their capture and captivity, a gripping account in which they described being threatened with a loaded gun, smashing their abductor in the face with a whiskey bottle, and later watching him die.

When asked why they chose to talk about their experience, Brooks said that she wanted to do it, and came forward with the support of her parents, who braved some criticism about the decision. She and Marris, Brooks said, “want to get the message across to everybody to never give up on anything. If you ever give up, you’ve lost. Whatever obstacles you have, you’ve got to fight your way through it.”

Woody Allen’s op-ed shows disregard for child abuse

When I heard that The New York Times was going to publish an op-ed by Woody Allen refuting Dyan Farrow’s account of his sexual abuse, I thought he would write about how serious child abuse is and that he had been wrongly accused of this terrible crime. Instead, he uses his word count to trivialize sex abuse, repeatedly implying that any rational person ought to automatically believe his story of innocence. Otherwise, Allen uses his word count to go off on tangents characterizing Farrow as a vindictive and scorned woman.

In one of many attacks on Farrow, referring to Justice Wilk’s opinion about his relationship with Soon-Yi, Allen writes:

He thought of me as an older man exploiting a much younger woman, which outraged Mia as improper despite the fact she had dated a much older Frank Sinatra when she was 19.

 

So Allen’s point is that Mia is a liar and hypocrite because she also had an experience with a much older man? Could it be that she knows, first hand, about power imbalance? Obviously, Woody still sees nothing wrong with the relationship.

For his entire op-ed, Allen writes nothing to indicate that he gets child abuse is epidemic. Here’s his opening sentence:

TWENTY-ONE years ago, when I first heard Mia Farrow had accused me of child molestation, I found the idea so ludicrous I didn’t give it a second thought.

 

Accusations of child molestation are not “ludicrous” and actually do deserve “a second thought.” It’s disturbing that Allen just assumes the charge is no big deal and thinks that everyone ought to know how idiotic such a claim is. What if we all shared Allen’s views about how to react to claims of sexual abuse? How would children fare?

Allen makes the same point again and again.

I naïvely thought the accusation would be dismissed out of hand because of course, I hadn’t molested Dylan and any rational person would see the ploy for what it was.

 

Why would “any rational person” see this “ploy”? Unless we all automatically bought in to all the stereotypes about vindictive, lying women and credible, powerful men, one would hope accusations of child abuse would be taken seriously. Statistics show the chances of being sexually assaulted is 1 in 3-to-4 for girls (before they turn 18), 1 in 5-to-7 for boys (before they turn 18), 1 in 5 for women, 1 in 77 for men.

In Rolereboot, Soraya Chemaly writes:

That everyone “knows” girls and women lie about sexual assault is a dangerous and enduring myth. A survey of college students revealed that the majority believed up to 50% of their female peers lie when they allege rape, despite wide-scale evidence and multi-country studies that show the incidence of false rape reports to be in the 2%-8% range. Yes, there are false claims, but they occur in roughly the same numbers as false claims for other crimes. As the Equality for Women’s Charles Clymer pointed out recently, based on FBI and Department of Justice information, “The odds of the average straight man (the target group overwhelmingly concerned with this) in the U.S. being accused of rape are 2.7 million to 1.”

 

Yet, Allen goes on, continuing to describe the ludicrousness of the charges:

Now, suddenly, when I had driven up to her house in Connecticut one afternoon to visit the kids for a few hours, when I would be on my raging adversary’s home turf, with half a dozen people present, when I was in the blissful early stages of a happy new relationship with the woman I’d go on to marry — that I would pick this moment in time to embark on a career as a child molester should seem to the most skeptical mind highly unlikely.

Allen’s sarcasm is offensive. If he wishes for anyone to take his defense seriously, he ought to at least attempt to express some recognition of the seriousness of Dylan’s charges. Instead, he comes off as narcissistic at best and delusional at worst.

Celebrities wash hands of Dylan’s abuse, call it private matter

Dylan Farrow wrote an open letter to Woody Allen in the New York Times, documenting his sexual abuse. It’s the first time Dylan has written publicly about the event.

What’s your favorite Woody Allen movie? Before you answer, you should know: when I was seven years old, Woody Allen took me by the hand and led me into a dim, closet-like attic on the second floor of our house. He told me to lay on my stomach and play with my brother’s electric train set. Then he sexually assaulted me. He talked to me while he did it, whispering that I was a good girl, that this was our secret, promising that we’d go to Paris and I’d be a star in his movies…

 

Last week, Woody Allen was nominated for his latest Oscar. But this time, I refuse to fall apart. For so long, Woody Allen’s acceptance silenced me. It felt like a personal rebuke, like the awards and accolades were a way to tell me to shut up and go away. But the survivors of sexual abuse who have reached out to me – to support me and to share their fears of coming forward, of being called a liar, of being told their memories aren’t their memories – have given me a reason to not be silent, if only so others know that they don’t have to be silent either…

 

What if it had been your child, Cate Blanchett? Louis CK? Alec Baldwin? What if it had been you, Emma Stone? Or you, Scarlett Johansson? You knew me when I was a little girl, Diane Keaton. Have you forgotten me?…

Today, Cate Blanchett washes her hands of the accusations, responding:

It’s obviously been a long and painful situation for the family and I hope they find some sort of resolution and peace

Alec Baldwin, in his typical aggressive style, also claims this mess is none of his business, Tweeting:

What the f&@% is wrong w u that u think we all need to b commenting on this family’s personal struggle?

So the sexual abuse of a seven year old child is a family matter? Funny, that’s the same claim people make about domestic violence. It’s private. Don’t get involved. Stay out. This is none of your business. I’m just curious: Whose business is it when children are sexually abused?

On Twitter, I follow Wall Street Journal writer Rachel Dodes Wortman. She ReTweeted this from Mark Harris, a journalist for EW:

A) “Innocent until proven guilty” and “All accusations are true” don’t go well together. B) I don’t know. C) YOU don’t know. So don’t guess?

To which I responded:

Do you know what happened during that trial? ‘Innocent until proven guilty’ when justice system doesnt protect?

Harris Tweets me back:

There was no trial. There was no charge.

My response:

presiding judge found evidence inconclusive, and felt that

their report had been “sanitized”and “colored by their loyalty to Mr. Allen.

I’ve received more Tweets, like these:

There’s a time that finally the world needs to step back because we can’t be helpful. We just complicate matters

If you can solve this, if you know the truth, you personally, it is your business. Otherwise you are intruding.

That you don’t see that this is not our business is your issue, not mine.

How long are we going to look the other way when children are sexually abused? Dylan’s letter is in a blog by New York Times columnist Nicolas Kristof. Kristof is also the author, with his wife, Sheryl WuDunn, of Half the Sky. In that book, they write:

When a prominent dissident was arrested in China, we would write a front-page article; when 100,000 girls were kidnapped and trafficked into brothels, we didn’t even consider it news.

What happened to Dylan Farrow, and girls everywhere, around the world matters. It isn’t just our business, it’s our moral imperative to listen.

Lena Dunham, creator and star of the TV show “Girls,” feels differently than Blanchett and Baldwin, Tweeting:

“To share in this way is courageous, powerful and generous.” She adds: “Grateful my timeline is full of so much love and respect for Dylan.

 

‘We are human beings first’

Great quote from Gloria Steinem (via Ms. Magazine)

We are human beings first, with minor differences from men that apply largely to the act of reproduction. We share the dreams, capabilities, and weaknesses of all human beings, but our occasional pregnancies and other visible differences have been used — even more pervasively, if less brutally, than radical differences have been — to mark us for an elaborate division of labor that may once have been practical but has since become cruel and false.

 

And Steinem wasn’t even talking about toys. Well, specifically about toys. Target, are you listening? Can we all please stop training a new generation to accept gender stereotypes as “natural?”

Who needs stoning when there’s Twitter?

Did you see the disgusting Tweets when Olympic medal winning gymnast Beth Tweedle took part in a Q and A?

colmc71 coco bald @SkySportsNews #Sportswomen On a scale of 1/10 how pig ugly would you class yourself?

 

Maxstormer Max Stormer Beth Tweddle, why did you turn down the role of Lord Voldermort? #sportswomen

 

Trolling went on for two hours straight. The Telegraph reports:

WILL AP MCCOY BE RIDING YOU AT THE NEXT GRAND NATIONAL?

And that’s not taking into account such comments as: “Do you think pregnancy is a poor injury excuse and women should be able to run it off?” and “are all sportswomen lesbians?”

Perhaps Sky should have pulled the gym mat out from under the whole thing at that stage.

Because what followed was almost two hours of trolling: a torrent of vile insults and misogyny. Tweddle was only able to answer a handful of questions and even those were deliberately misconstrued.

<noframe>Twitter: Finlay Gillon -  At what point in your life did you know that Gymnastics was going to be a major part of it ?

BETH: I LOVED IT FROM THE AGE OF 7 BUT IT TOOK OVER FROM THE AGE OF 12 #SPORTSWOMEN

Twitter responded to this comment by calling this World Champion sportswoman a “slut” and “bitch”. She was asked whether she wanted “cock” or “anal”. Someone even posted a picture of Jimmy Savile.

 

Did you get the part about how Tweedle is an Olympic medalist? Instead of being recognized as a hero– as male medalists are– she is publicly shamed and reduced to a sex object. This kind of reaction happens so often to women in public, that I’ve come to believe it’s like a modern day stoning. In the USA, we don’t use the Taliban to silence women, but the media serves to keep women quiet, hidden, and isolated. Come out, and we’ll get you.

This week, 19 yr old tennis player, Eugenie Bouchard, became the first Canadian woman to advance to the semi-finals of the Australian Open in nearly thirty years. In her post game interview, what was she asked? Who would she would date.

Female politicians also get reduced to sexist cliches by the media. After the brutal attacks on Wendy Davis, gubernatorial candidate in Texas, a republican came out to defend her. The Huffington Post reports:

Conservatives are attacking Texas state Sen. Wendy Davis (D) for misrepresenting her background, in particular the hardships she faced as a young single mother. But one Texas Republican is defending Davis’ record, saying the gubernatorial candidate wouldn’t be subject to the same criticism if she were male.

 

On Sunday, a Dallas Morning News article pointed out some discrepancies in the stories Davis has told — including when she was divorced from her first husband, how long she lived in a trailer and how she paid for law school. In response, conservatives such as Rush Limbaugh have labeled her a “genuine head case” and claimed she had a “sugar daddy.”

 

Some pundits have even suggested that Davis was a negligent parent for leaving her children with her second husband while she attended Harvard Law School in the early 1990s.

 

Becky Haskins, a Republican who served with Wendy Davis on the Fort Worth City Council, told the Fort Worth Star-Telegram on Tuesday that Davis was a hard worker who did what she needed to do for her daughters.

“If this involved a man running for office, none of this would ever come up,” Haskins told the Star-Telegram. “It’s so sad. Every time I ran, somebody said I needed to be home with my kids. Nobody ever talks about men being responsible parents.”

 

Moving on to actresses, when she was body panned by a camera at the SAG Awards, Cate Blanchett crouched down and said, “Do you do this to the guys?”

PolyMic reports:

Blanchett’s reaction shows yet another subtle moment of sexism that even the most successful women have to deal with.

 

And that’s exactly it, because this treatment happens to public women. When men get more power and success, they are admired. But when women achieve go public with their ambition and accomplishments, the media warns us we are likely to be humiliated. With the risks so great and the rewards so low, how many women are going to try to put their visions out into the world? I guess that’s the point., right?

But here’s some good news. In response to Wheedle’s treatment, Telegraph reports:

 

What’s been refreshing, in the wake of this latest incident, is the way Tweddle’s treatment has been reported. Far from encouraging women to engage in ‘Twitter silences’ or boycotts, we’re speaking up and doing as Criado-Perez suggested after her experiences last summer: shouting back at trolls.

 

Sky released this statement:

 

We’re committed to supporting women’s sport and Beth’s Q&A was a chance for fans to engage with one of Britain’s most successful sports stars,” it said. “We’re appalled that some people chose to abuse her. This experience highlights some of the unacceptable and offensive attitudes that can be encountered by women in the public eye.

New Statesman did an article about it, and Everyday Sexism also responded.

Keep shouting back at the trolls. Don’t be a passive bystander. Really, the worst thing we can do is stay silent. Often harassment reaches the next level. Amanda Hess recently posted “Why women aren’t welcome on the internet” about her abuse, arguing internet stalking is a civil rights issue.

“Ignore the barrage of violent threats and harassing messages that confront you online every day.” That’s what women are told. But these relentless messages are an assault on women’s careers, their psychological bandwidth, and their freedom to live online. We have been thinking about Internet harassment all wrong.”

 

Hess makes the point that the virtual world is the real world when women are threatened. It’s a great post and you should read it if you haven’t.

Update: Sara comments on Reel Girl:

Isn’t responding to the trolls what they want? I mean, that’s why they call it “feeding the trolls.”  I think the media needs to be held responsible for sensoring inappropriate comments.  These “public” forums are really not – they are private spaces under the control of media organizations, and they do have the power to delete this garbage.  Our first amendment rights only guarentee we can’t be thrown in jail for speaking our minds, but in this case I really wish companies like twitter would hire people to detoxify the cesspool.

 

Yes, agreed. Sorry if I was not clear. I mean responding that this treatment is not acceptable i.e. Sky’s statement, the New Statesman post, Becky Haskins defending Davis’s record, Cate Blanchett not suffering in quietly etc. Refusing to be shamed or humiliated into silence. Shouting back at the trolls, to me, means keep speaking your truth. Also, I added a link to Amanda Hess’s post on internet abuse. It’s a great post. Take a look if you haven’t seen it. She argues internet abuse is a civil rights issue, which I agree with, though a lot of the sexism women experience doesn’t fall into these kinds of threats, but shaming.

Can a woman be a ‘good mother’ and a political leader?

In The Atlantic, Nancy Pelosi is quoted on why more women don’t run for office:

“Look, I’ve had $100 million spent mischaracterizing who I am,” she said. “Women see that and they say, ‘I could never take that. I would never subject my family to any mischaracterizations about me.’”

I find that quote so upsetting, not because what Pelosi is saying isn’t true, but the split forced on women in the name of “being a good mother.”

How selfish could a female politician possibly be to subject her family to people saying bad things about her? What a bitch. There we have a reason not only for a mother to refrain from political office, but from writing or speaking or risking doing anything controversial that may affect someone, somewhere negatively and come back to bite her family.

Fuck that. Seriously. Women have had thousands of years of practice supporting men and fathers as they go out into the world and pursue their visions. Women need the same support. Professional women already get shamed publicly for how they look and how they dress. On top of that, we’re going to shame public women for being bad mothers? And not even being bad mothers really, but the risk, that they might be “bad” is supposed to be enough to stop women in their tracks.

Erica Jong wrote a great piece in the Wall Street Journal about attachment parenting:

Our obsession with parenting is an avoidance strategy. It allows us to substitute our own small world for the world as a whole. But the entire planet is a child’s home, and other adults are also mothers and fathers. We cannot separate our children from the ills that affect everyone, however hard we try. Aspiring to be perfect parents seems like a pathetic attempt to control what we can while ignoring problems that seem beyond our reach.

 

Who is going to work to make sure your children get clean water to drink or equal pay or health care? Politicians. Isn’t that what the definition of what a “good mother” is? Unlike Pelosi’s hopes expressed in The Atlantic, politics aren’t getting more civil. My God, we live in the age if the internet, a medium that is proving especially vindictive towards women. I don’t see money taking a backseat in politics anytime soon either. Where I do see change is possible is in families supporting women, just as they would men, when they take the risk to go into public life. Yes, a political leader can be a good mother, and without “getting” that, we’re going to be much slower in making the world a better place for future generations.

In another sexist cover, Time uses porn cliche for Hillary Clinton story

In the new Time, to illustrate the cover article “Can Anyone Stop Hillary?” the magazine uses cliche porn imagery, showing a man trapped beneath a woman’s shoe.

g9510.20_Hillary.Cover.indd

Seriously, Time?

What did you use for inspiration, this YouTube video? (One of thousands just like it.)

Or perhaps, this shot from a porn site? (One of millions just like it)

femdom-erotica-domme-trampling-her-boy-toy-with-high-heels-498x441

With so many options, I picked this image because its caption “Ending the sexual dark age,” listed in the category “dominatrix in heels standing on male slave’s chest” seems to echo the point Time’s cover attempts to make.

The Hillary Clinton cover isn’t the first time a “news weekly” has borrowed from porn. There was this cover of Newsweek. The subject of the story: great food.

newsweekcover

Time also did a story featuring the “best” chefs. No porn, but the magazine opted for this pic. Hmmm…what’s missing here?

godsoffood

That’s right, Time’s “Gods of Food” story featured ZERO women.

Wouldn’t it be nice if “news” magazines weren’t sexist? What would our news look like then? Does anyone even know?

Alameda County DA reports child sex trade epidemic in Oakland

I live in San Francisco and right across the bay, Oakland is the epicenter of human trafficking in the Bay Area. At this moment, 13 year old girls are being sold as sex slaves and practically everyone chooses to look the other way.

That’s right, in 2014 slavery exists in America and the victims are young girls. Of course, this slavery isn’t legal, but when no one does much to stop it, it may as well be.

Starting today,  Nancy O’Malley, the DA of Alameda county is putting up 27 billboards to educate the public about human trafficking, because for some reason, a lot of people seem to know nothing about it.

In an op-ed for the Contra Costa Times explaining her PR move, O’Malley writes:

The FBI has identified Oakland as an epicenter of trafficking in the Bay Area counties. The majority of exploited children are 13 to 16 years old, some as young as 11…Even more shocking, the number of commercially sexually exploited children is increasing, while the average age of those exploited is decreasing…There are two sides — supply and demand — that make sex trafficking of our children possible. Human trafficking exists because there is an endless and disgraceful demand for children for sex and traffickers fill that demand daily.

 

What can you do? O’Malley is clear on steps she’d like you to take. Below are quotes from her op-ed:

(1) If you see something, say something. Keep the human trafficking hotline in your cellphone, 888-373-7888 or text Be Free (233733), and report anything suspicious. Through this hotline, more than 75,000 calls have come in to identify nearly 9,000 survivors.

(2) You can also sign up for the Alameda County District Attorney’s Office Human Exploitation and Trafficking Watch mailing list at HEAT-Watch.org to learn more about human trafficking and what you can do to join the fight. Download a free toolkit so you can build your capacity to hold traffickers accountable and keep victims safe.

(3) Donate your time and money to organizations that are making a difference, such as Misssey, Bay Area Women Against Rape, West Coast Children’s Clinic and HEAT Watch.

(4) Speak out: Let policymakers know we need the toughest penalties for traffickers and the predators who buy children for sex and resources for victims of human trafficking. Together, we will we put an end to modern-day slavery.

I have another suggestion for you. Please, do what you can to stop contributing to the sexualizing of young girls. Read my post here and don’t help to spread propaganda, in the form of media and toys, that sexualizes young girls. These products are not innocuous but dangerous. Sexualizing girls happens everywhere, so ubiquitous it’s paradoxically invisible.

Here are just a few examples of how we sexualize kids. Take a look at the popular Polly Pocket toy. This toy is marketed to girls ages 4 – 7 and the toy is all about dressing the doll in “sexy” outfits. Why would a parent buy her little daughter a toy like this?

Polly-Pocket1

Here are the Bratz dolls.

bratzwallpaper-source_4cj

Melissa Wardy of Pigtails Pals recently wrote:

Try this test: If the image can be lifted from the child’s toy/backpack/t-shirt and placed on the billboard for a strip club and not look out of place, then things are seriously fucked.

Wardy blogged that after she and her young daughter walked to school behind a first grade girl wearing this backpack.

Winx-backpack

Wardy writes:

Given what we know about how early sexualization harms young girls,  I cannot understand how parents allow this kind of imagery and media in their homes.

This year, France outlawed child beauty pageants because they are so dangerous for children. The New York Times reports:

Ms. Jouanno, a former junior minister for environment and a senator representing Paris from the center-right party U.D.I., wrote a report on the “hypersexualization” of children in 2011. The report was commissioned by the health minister in response to public outrage over a photo display in Paris Vogue that featured under-age girls in sexy clothes and postures, with high heels, makeup and painted fingernails.

But in the USA, we have hit TV shows like “Honey Boo Boo” and “Toddlers and Tiaras” that glorify the exploitation of girls. Here, in the home of the free and the brave, sexualizing kids is accepted and normal. We allow it and condone it.

If you’re not part of the solution, you’re part of the problem. That is my interpretation of O’Malley’s billboards. I am so grateful she is taking a leadership position to end child trafficking. Please follow her example and act to end the sexual abuse of children.

 

 

Female pilot speaks out against sexism

I got this comment on Reel Girl today:

I just wanted to say thank you so much for making this post on female pilots and the lack of recognition towards important female war heroes. As a female pilot in training, hearing about great female pilots is always encouraging especially when aviation is so dominated by males. It’s disgusting with what happened to the WASPs, it just goes to show the existing sexism towards females in our North American society. I’m so sick of it, but I’m really glad I found your blog.

 

Thanks again for making this post, shortly after I found it I used the WASPs’ story and made a poem about them for an English Language Arts assignment.

 

Oh and regarding the movie “Planes” I tried watching it despite having little hope for the story and characters being any bit original. Let’s just say that I gagged when the one female plane glomped the sidekick male plane, and covered him in kisses after he “whooed” her with music the previous night. It made me sick on so many levels, I’m so glad I only watched it online…

 

Here is the poem she wrote, I love it.

We are the WASP

The women who flew,
60 million miles or more.
Two years of service,
the men demand our lore.

Status denied,
but we didn’t quit.
The men may take glory,
but we still flew in our story.

Our achievements forgotten,
only known by few.
In history books erased,
schools without a trace.

Lest we forget,
The first women of wings.
We are the WASP,
the women who flew.

See how real life inspires art inspires real life?

I assume this commenter is a young woman. Imagine how kids feel when they see sexist scenes like the one in “Planes” again and again, like it’s normal and okay and cute. What kind of art do they make? What kind of imaginary games do they play? At my daughter’s preschool, a three year old girl told the teacher she couldn’t be a pilot, but a pilot’s wife. A three year old. Those limits on her imagination are our fault, grow-ups. Do we really want to train a new generation of children to accept gender stereotypes?

One more time, here’s the preview of Disney’s “Planes.”

Plane One: What’s taking this guy so long? Is he really as good as he says he is?

Plane Two: No, better.

Plane One: Whoa! Who was that?

Plane Three: (Descending fast on top of the other two) Well, hello ladies! Ready to lose?

Plane Three goes on to leave the “ladies” in the dust.

As the commenter points out, that’s just one example of the sexism rampant in “Planes.” Sexism that is mirrored in so many movies made for children in 2013.

And here’s a photo of the real life WASPs

wasp3

Women, please tell your stories, real and fictional, and tell them publicly. It will change the world.

U.S. lags behind other countries in stopping sexism

This week, Sweden announced it will implement a movie rating system that will inform viewers if the film is sexist. Sweden will use the Bechdel test which requires that the movie have (1) at least two females (2) who talk to each other (3) about something other than a man.

The Guardian reports:

“The entire Lord of the Rings trilogy, all Star Wars movies, The Social Network, Pulp Fiction and all but one of the Harry Potter movies fail this test,” said Ellen Tejle, the director of Bio Rio, an art-house cinema in Stockholm’s trendy Södermalm district…Beliefs about women’s roles in society are influenced by the fact that movie watchers rarely see “a female superhero or a female professor or person who makes it through exciting challenges and masters them”, Tejle said, noting that the rating doesn’t say anything about the quality of the film. “The goal is to see more female stories and perspectives on cinema screens,” he added.

 

I love the Bechdel test, but I adapted it to rate movies for children to discount the Pink Ghetto. For the Magowan Test for Gender Bias in Children’s Movies (1) at least two females who are friends (2) go on an adventure (3) and don’t wear revealing clothing. Simple requirements, yet surprisingly difficult for Hollywood to even come close to meeting in the many movies put out for little kids every year.

Recently, Saroya Chemaly posted in Salon The MPAA’s backwards logic: Sex is dangerous, sexism is fine:

The real problem in movies today isn’t sex, it’s sexism — often coupled with racist caricatures for even greater effect. Imagine if our movie ratings considered sexism and racism as content that children should not be viewing without parental input. Just a thought.

 

I couldn’t agree more. The lack of attention to the rampant and repetitive sexism in children’s movies is exactly why I started Reel Girl. I rate children’s movies on a scale of 1 – 3 S’s to denote gender stereotyping. I would much rather my kids hear a swear word than witness more narratives and images where females are sexualized and marginalized. When I started Reel Girl, almost four years ago, I couldn’t find anything else on the internet that rated children’s movies and products for sexism.

The Week also posted recently: Why female pleasure, not sex, is the real taboo:

The common defense of television censorship is the need to protect the young and impressionable. It’s all for the children. So why is it that a national broadcaster in the 21st century feels the need to bleep out a scene of a teenage girl masturbating, while the rest of television is stuffed to the gills with scenes depicting rape, torture, suicide, and sex between middle-aged adults and adolescents?

Sweden gets this hypocrisy and is addressing it. While I am so psyched this country is taking major steps to alert viewers about sexism, I’m upset that the home of the free and the brave remains slow on the uptake. I honestly think my blog, Reel Girl, is the best resource for rating sexism in children’s movies, and I do it for free, when I have a few minutes of time.

It’s not just sexist movies that our country endorses as OK for kids. While the U.S. has made child beauty pageants a national pastime, with TV hits like “Toddlers and Tiaras” and “Honey Boo Boo,” this year, France outlawed the sexist practice. The New York Times reports:

 

“It is extremely destructive for a girl between the age of 6 and 12 to hear her mother say that what’s important for her is to be beautiful,” Chantal Jouanno, the ban’s champion, said Wednesday. “We are fighting to say: What counts is what they have in their brains.”

Ms. Jouanno, a former junior minister for environment and a senator representing Paris from the center-right party U.D.I., wrote a report on the “hypersexualization” of children in 2011. The report was commissioned by the health minister in response to public outrage over a photo display in Paris Vogue that featured under-age girls in sexy clothes and postures, with high heels, makeup and painted fingernails. The episode drew attention to the increasing use of very young girls in fashion photography and advertisements.

Of course, child beauty pageants don’t just affect the contestants, but everyone who sees the images of these sexualized kids on TV or in magazines.

Moving on to the United Kingdom where after a campaign by Let Toys Be Toys for Girls and Boys, Toys R Us announced it would divide products by type instead of by gender. What about Toys R Us in the USA? Or Target? Not so much.

So why do you think Sweden, France, and the United Kingdom have taken leadership positions in stopping sexism while the U.S. lags behind? I know there’s some bad evidence against us, such as not one female president in our entire history, but aren’t we supposed to support equality and justice for all? Isn’t that our thing?

I have a theory on why the U.S. continues to be a leader in promoting, rather than stopping sexism. While our role as superpower slips as we move further into a global economy, the U.S. remains clearly dominant in one area: culture. American movies dominate the world. While Obama may fall from favor, everyone worldwide knows and adores Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt. My guess is that because of this role as a culture shaper, the U.S. and its mutinational companies like Disney and everything Hollywood will be reticent to change and risk losing hegemony over world culture. The irony is, if the U.S. continues to lag behind in recognizing sexism, eventually, it will lose its position as #1 culture shaper. The change towards recognizing sexism, so ubiquitous that its, paradoxically, become invisible, is happening much slower than I would like it too, but it is happening. Sweden, France, and Australia are starting to get it. Women are the world’s largest untapped resource. As long as we keep selling women short, we all lose.

On a positive note, I did just get this email from Hillary Clinton.

On Friday, we announced a new initiative to accelerate the progress of women and girls at home and around the world. We call it No Ceilings: The Full Participation Project, and I hope you’ll be a part of it.

No Ceilings has its roots nearly twenty years ago, and we hope it will have an impact just as far into the future.

The great unfinished business of our time In 1995, at the Fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing, 189 countries set an ambitious goal: Women and girls should be able to participate fully in the progress and prosperity of their societies. I was proud to co-lead the American delegation to the conference and to declare to the world that “Human rights are women’s rights and women’s rights are human rights, once and for all.”

We’ve made a lot of progress since that day – more girls are in school, more women hold jobs, and more women serve in public office – but we’re still a long way from the goal of full participation. Women and girls continue to face ceilings that limit what they can achieve and hold back entire economies and societies. More than 100 countries have laws on the books that restrict women’s participation in the economy. Women are nearly half of the world’s population, but hold only 20 percent of all parliamentary seats. Around the world, including in the United States, women tend to earn less than men. And nearly 5 million girls are still married under the age of 15 every year.

The great unfinished business of the 21st century is helping women and girls break through these ceilings and contribute fully in every aspect of life.

I was in Beijing in 1995. I was 26 years old. I felt inspired and hopeful. Maybe what the U.S. needs to risk making change is a female president leading the way.