April News Round-up

Trending topics

Sexual Assault Awareness Month

Did you know April was Sexual Assault Awareness Month? President Donald Trump declared April 2017 as the official month this year. Sexual assault was a topic that came up in the news many times over the past year and there are many resources that survivors might find helpful, but still 1 in 6 women will be the victim of rape or attempted rape.  While people now know more about sexual assault and its frequency, the behavior has not changed to match the level of awareness that there is.

Takeaway: As a society we are all about raising awareness as if that’s a solution to problems. When the awareness is there, but the behavior has not changed, we need to look to taking the next steps. What more can we all do to make change happen?

Sexual Harassment

Over the past few years, it seems like many high-profile figures have been accused of sexual harassment in the workplace. The most recent among these have been members of Fox News, Bill O’Reilly and previously, Roger Ailes. Fox news had stood by O’Reilly and reached five settlements before the most recent allegations came to light. When the public found out, advertisers withdrew from his show times and people protested how everything was being handled.  The social stigma associated with O’Reilly from these allegations led to an agreed leaving from the Fox News Channel. He left with a settlement of $25 million.

So what is sexual harassment? Sexual harassment comes in many forms and it can be hard to pin down where the line is. It doesn’t just happen to women. And it doesn’t just happen at Fox. It happens in school and in the newest campaign with David Schwimmer, it looks like a lewd photographer, a handsy doctor, a smooth-talking politician and it happens every day. The campaign is hoping to push the conversation further and encourage people to speak out more against it.

Takeaway: While many of these accused men deny sexually harassing women and many people accuse the women of lying about it for a variety of reasons, it may be impossible to know the truth. The disbelief in the victims’ testimonies can be disheartening to any victims of sexual harassment who don’t report because they don’t think they will be believed. By having women bring these cases forward, we are starting to shape our culture in a way where harassment is not just “men being men” and still getting away with disrespecting women, and perhaps people are beginning to know what harassment is and truly believing that it needs to be stopped. The next step is speaking out every time that sexual harassment happens.

Women in the News

Women in the Workplace

When applying for jobs and working, there has long been a process for the way things work. There are certain questions that every place of employment seems to ask, such as the salary history, but that might be about to change. At least nine states are considering banning employers from asking what previous salaries are in order to fight the gender pay gap. The idea is that just because a woman has been paid less than men in a previous job, that underpaid amount should not be taken into account and continued just because of that previous job. It is unclear whether this will actually make difference and businesses argue that transparency would be more effective in fighting the gender wage gap.

Takeaway: As legal action is being taken to try to give specific directions businesses must take to stop the gender wage gap, it’s important to analyze the impact this makes. Is banning the salary history question effective and are there other ways to prevent people from being underpaid?

Women in Entertainment

Despite the majority of the cast claiming The Handmaid’s Tale is a “humanist” television adaptation, Samira Wiley spoke out about the show’s relevance and what feminism means in 2017.

The industry as a whole has become more vocal, as yet another actress has opened up about her experience with rape, sparking conversations about why many women don’t report sexual assault. And in other steps towards progress, Franchesca Ramsey became Comedy Central’s first black female host.

Takeaway: Because entertainment has such an influence on how we see the world, it’s important that the celebrities in the industry use their positions wisely. Instead of shying away from certain terminology, figures in the spotlight should continue to encourage open conversation and celebrate diversity.

Women in History

Journalist Claudia Kalb looked into the science of what makes a genius, researching what elevates someone from being intelligent to transforming history. But is there a reason why the majority of “geniuses” throughout history are men?

That’s not to say women don’t make history, as Peggy Whitson broke her record even further – by the end of the month, she had spent more cumulative hours in space than any other US astronaut and will be spending even more time on the ISS than originally planned.

Takeaway: It’s important to remember the strides women have taken in the past and continue to take today. One small step for an individual can mean a world of difference for woman-kind.

In Other News

March News Roundup

Trending Topics

Women’s Day In Review

The day without women was met with mixed reviews. Some people stood behind the message and the way it was delivered, some hoped for more, and others simply shot it down as pointless. If you weren’t clear on what the purpose of the day was the first time around, it was not just a day where some women felt like taking off of work because they could. Many places could not run without women, and some even closed during the day. While it’s easy to spot the problems in any movement, that doesn’t mean it accomplished nothing it set out to do. It showed what respect looks like and what it means to represent people who have different ideas and life experiences than you. The women who organized the protest were not afraid to take responsibility for what they started.

Attention was paid yet again to the fact that women make up a nearly equal part of the workforce, own nearly the same number of businesses, and they even control 70% of the consumer spending in the U.S. Despite this representation in the workforce, women are still not equally represented, especially in spaces where they should be. President Trump named only 4 women to his cabinet and bills on women’s health, among other things, have been seen with little to no input from any women. Still, the protests organized in this movement have not been intersectional and inclusive enough to the many shades of being a woman. Minority women have different experiences from white women. There was a #MuslimWomensDay set up as one way to call attention to a minority group that is fighting without the privileges that many others in the movement have.

Takeaway: Did the Day Without Women get you to talk about what was going on and question why so many women found this to be a big deal? It was supposed to. While the representation of minority women in feminist movements has not been ideal, this day was trying to highlight the vital role women play in their workplace, within their homes, and in every aspect of society. 

Sexual Assault

President Trump declared April to be National Sexual Assault Awareness and Prevention month, despite the fact that it was first nationally observed as such in 2001. He emphasized that the country has a shared responsibility in trying to end sexual violence. This received mixed reviews ranging from criticism of Trump, who has been publicly accused 15 times for sexually assaulting women.

Meanwhile, around the nation, there has ongoing backlog on rape test kits, sometimes stretching as far back as nearly 10 years. Detroit found 555 test kits, Wisconson has 6,000 kits it has been slow to address. Recently, Georgia’s politicians were able to come together to solve their major problem with rape test kit backlog. Representative Scott Holcomb created the bill, the Pursuing Justice for Rape Victims Act, and it required law enforcement to test each and every rape kit collected.

Despite all of the action taken to improve this issue, there is still some misunderstanding on the way assault victims are treated is a problem. Tim K. Lynn, a senior executive in charge of Interior’s Office of Law Enforcement and Security, acted inappropriately toward six women, touching, hugging, text-messaging and flirting with them at the office and discussing “inappropriate” subjects. His explanation was that it was just in his nature and that he didn’t mean any harm. This is not only an issue in the U.S. In Canada, a judge told a rape victim, “why couldn’t you just keep your knees together?” Victims are still blamed for their assaults to this day. In a funny parody video recently aired on an episode of the Tracey Ullman’s Show, the victim of a mugging gets asked the same type of questions that assault victims face. Joe Biden also released a recent viral PSA about pervasive rape culture and how #ItsOnUs to intervene.

Takeaway: Whether or not you believe President Trump made this declaration with genuine intentions, or for public relations, the month itself can be used to try to make a difference on this issue. At a state and individual level, people can rally behind a cause and it does make a difference. 

Healthcare

This month, a reoccurring theme of how men benefit from women having good healthcare coverage came up on several occasions. In a survey, 52% of men said that they don’t benefit from birth control.  One lawmaker also questioned why under healthcare law, men should pay for prenatal coverage. The way health insurance works is by pooling all risks. Even though an individual may not be at risk for all things covered, any kind of care a person might need from birth to death — prenatal care through hospice, all individuals will need some of the coverage eventually.

This month President Donald Trump met with the arch-conservative House Freedom Caucus at the White House to try to hammer out a deal on Obamacare repeal. One major point they were discussing was whether or not maternity care and mammograms should be considered “essential” treatments covered by all health insurance policies under the Republican proposal. There were few, if any women at this discussion. Part of the repeal and replace plan if the Affordable Healthcare Act included defunding Planned Parenthood. Planned Parenthood does not use any of its federal funds for abortions, but about 40 percent of its revenue for other services come from the government. With Pence casting the tie breaking vote (for the second time), the senate also passed an anti-Planned Parenthood bill.

Takeaway: The ability to see beyond your own individual experiences is something everyone should aspire to be able to do, but especially those who have chosen to represent other individuals. We need to both be able to speak up when issues affect us, and also listen to others who are affected. Just because something does not affect you does not mean you don’t need to fight for it to. No one is less deserving of being able to live without fear of illness and pain.

News About Women

In Entertainment

In her recent spread in Vanity Fair, Emma Watson was pictured wearing a “risqué” top. Social media exploded into a heated argument over whether she should still be considered a feminist icon, inadvertently making it very clear why feminism is still necessary. Watson spoke up about the incident, saying, “feminism is about giving women choice, feminism is not a stick with which to beat other women with. It’s about freedom, it’s about liberation, it’s about equality.”

On the other side of the spectrum, Tomi Lahren was suspended from The Blaze after an appearance on The View, in which she claimed to be “pro-choice.” This statement came as quite a shock to most, as Tomi has made past comments about pro-choicers being “baby killers.”

Takeaway: The feminist theme in entertainment this month revolves around women’s ability to make their own choices. One action does not invalidate a woman’s whole experience, nor is she barred from changing her mind.

In Politics and Law

Feel like you don’t know how to get involved in politics after all the momentum of the women’s marches died down? No excuse! Now you can even text a fax to your elected officials. ResistBot will even help you through the process if you’re not sure how to get your message across. It’s not just technology companies trying to keep people involved, but journalists and Girl Scouts too. Teen Vogue has made a name for itself by moving past celebrity gossip and style advice and into politics instead, proving that young girls are interested in more than just looking good and attracting boys. The movement reaches younger generations too, as a young Girl Scout worked to create legislation to change the legal age for marriage to 18 in an effort to end child marriage in the US.

And in case you missed it, Nevada is catching up with the times by ratifying the Equal Rights Amendment – 35 years after a deadline imposed by Congress. The ERA guarantees that “equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any state on account of sex,” among other things.

Takeaway: Younger generations are getting involved and stepping up to the challenge of fighting political sexism, but so much of the field is still far behind.

In The Workplace

The US Marines are under investigation thanks to a group that photographed and shared photos of female recruits and veterans alongside salacious commentary. Hundreds of Marines are being investigated for using social media to solicit and share thousands of naked photographs of their fellow service members. This comes just months after three women made history by becoming the first female combat Marines.

Meanwhile, Fox News continues to struggle with discrimination in the workplace as two women have sued claiming racial discrimination. In related news, after a set of tense exchanges between high-profile black women and white men in the political spotlight, the hashtag #BlackWomenAtWork started trending. The hashtag validated the experiences of thousands of professional black women who deal with such slights on a daily basis.

And add Thinx to the list of organizations who don’t live up to modern standards of equal workspaces. Despite promising a feminist utopia to their audiences, Thinx’s employees have come out to talk about a gap between the company’s message and the reality of their work culture.

Takeaway: Sexism and other forms of discrimination are deeply ingrained in many organizations, making it a slow and frustrating process to fight for a better, more equal work experience. It seems like every week there is a new company or organization investigating claims of sexism, but we have to continue speaking up about each incident if we ever want to incite change.

Around the World

Women around the world are fighting for equal treatment in all aspects of life. This month Icelandic to Afghan and Kurdish women have been standing tall and demanding respect. Iceland will be the first country in the world to require employers to offer proof of equal pay to their employees.

Women’s health has been a big topic of discussion in the U.S. when it comes to healthcare coverage. While we’re still discussing whether mammograms are essential or not, Italy is discussing if women who suffer from severe menstrual cramps every month should get a few days of “menstrual leave” for their medically certified painful menstruation.

Still, in other places, the right to wear certain styles of clothes is part of the fight for rights. Afghan girls in school may have had to wear long dresses that limit their ability to exercise and run. In India, women cannot even dream of equal justice, but one women, among many others, is fighting for those who do not have voices and are not. Indira Jaising took on the cases of countless people who would not have had a chance at getting justice before her. She drafted India’s first domestic violence act, allowing thousands of women to bring civil and criminal suits against attackers for the first time ever.

Takeaway: Every country is at a different place in achieving and fighting for equal rights. Some we can look up to and work towards, while others need our help and support in making sure that its people are treated fairly. We are all connected and the way we treat each other affects everyone.

In Other News

International Women’s Day

March is Women’s History Month and this year’s theme is “Honoring Trailblazing Women in Labor and Business.” The annual event highlights the contributions of women to events in history and contemporary society. It also takes place around the International Women’s Day on March 8th, which calls on the masses to forge a better working world that is more inclusive and gender equal.

This year, following the Women’s Marches that took place around the world in January, a new event was established. A Day Without Women (or the International Women’s Strike) takes after similar movements, by focusing on a marginalized group (in this instance women) who will act together for equity, justice and the human rights through a one-day demonstration of economic solidarity.

To recognize the value that women add to socio-economic systems, women and allies are being encouraged to participate in one of the following ways:

  • Take the day off from paid and unpaid labor
  • Avoid shopping for one day, with exceptions for small, women- and minority-owned businesses
  • Wear red in solidarity

Organizers say this event is an opportunity for activists to raise their voices and say that “women’s rights are human rights, regardless of a woman’s race, ethnicity, religion, immigration status, sexual identity, gender expression, economic status, age or disability.”

As with the Women’s Marches, this sort of movement isn’t new. In 1975, an estimated 90% of Iceland’s women refused to work inside or outside the home to protest wage inequity. The event is largely credited with elevating Vigdis Finnbogadottir, the first woman to be elected head of state in a national election to Iceland’s presidency in 1980. Last fall, Polish women went on strike to protest a proposed ban on all abortions, causing widespread disruption to businesses, traffic and government offices, and gaining international media coverage. In fact, the idea itself can be traced as far back as 411 BCE with Aristophanes’ comedy Lysistrata, an account of a woman’s mission to end the Peloponnesian War by denying all the men of the land any sex.

Following some of the backlash seen after the Women’s March, one would hope that the next event of this movement would strive for true inclusivity. However, one journalist has already written, “make no mistake, March 8 will mostly be a day without women who can afford to skip work and shuffle childcare and household duties to someone else, and shop at stores that are likely to open at 10 and close at 5.”

The movement may stem from good intentions and a successful history of similar events, a movement that actively boasts inclusivity is nothing without actions to match their words. In North Carolina, the debate flared when a school superintendent planned to cancel classes on March 8th because so many staff members planned to participate. While some applauded the decision and praised it as a gesture of support for the female staff, others criticized it for forcing many parents to stay home to care for their children or find and pay for back-up care. One day-care provider summed it up by saying, “If I don’t work, [parents] don’t work, and if they can’t work, they don’t get paid.” Similar debates have broken out over multiple states in the days leading up to International Women’s Day.

While the organizers do try to address the issue of privilege in taking a day off of work, the chasm between the privileged and the less-so is creating tension not just across the country, but within the feminist movement. While a large group of privileged feminists will certainly make their presence, or lack thereof, well known, it will be business as usual for millions of other women who have no other choice. Other ways to show support today include wearing the color red and and refraining from buying goods from any stores not owned by women or minorities.


Are you participating in A Day Without Women? Share your story and let us know what the movement means to you.

February Roundup

In Politics

In what could have been a landmark year for women in politics, it seems there is still a gender imbalance across the U.S. political offices. Women candidates didn’t even win 25% of the nation’s 7,383 legislative seats and the percentage of women legislators is stuck at 24.8 — with almost no change for the last decade.

A recent poll conducted even shows that an unnamed Democrat would beat Trump in the 2020 elections, but that a named woman wouldn’t.

The lack of women in politics isn’t just an American issue. Women in Russia and Asia are fighting a parallel struggle to make their voices heard. Despite the progress for women being made around the world, in some places it seems feminism is taking two steps back for every one forward. How the U.S. moves forward now also has an impact across the globe, with women as far as China joining the fight for equal rights.

This isn’t to say there are no women in politics, in fact female politicians have been a hot topic for a while now, but their role and representation as feminists is constantly up for debate. Even so, aspiring female politicians have a couple good examples to follow in the year ahead.

Takeaway: Feminism and politics have a love hate relationship, but it’s important to recognize the inspiring women who make it possible for future generations to follow in their footsteps despite the current political climate. 

In Business

Equal Pay

The website In Her Sight, which collects information and ratings on women’s work environments, released a study on workplace issues and equal pay was the biggest concern.  Equal pay surpassed flexible hours (28%) and promoting more women to senior leadership (14%) with 31.5%. This was a study of 5,000 working professionals.

Globally, the gender wage gap has been widening. It has now been estimated that it will take 170 years to close, which is 52 years longer than it’s estimated it would have taken only a year ago.

Politicians and others all over the world are fighting against equal pay and their arguments in many cases have been very dated, despite being made in the year of 2017. If equal pay happens, one vice chairman of the GOP in Utah said, “then men will have an even more difficult time earning enough to support their families, which will mean more mothers will be forced to leave the home (where they may prefer to be) to join the workforce to make up the difference.” While that is true that some women may prefer to work at home, which is perfectly valid, that is not a realistic reason not to pay everyone equally. Families come in all forms, including single moms, same-sex couples, different races, etc. Men are not the main breadwinners in many cases. Women and other genders’ work is of no less value than men’s. Women are not less intelligent and too weak for equal pay, as one Polish lawmaker at the European Parliament argued. Women and any human being in general are not lesser beings then men.

While continued misogynistic views like this are disheartening, progress is still being made. Intel released a report saying that it has achieved 100% equal pay for all women and underrepresented minorities. When companies aren’t achieving equal pay themselves, in some cases the employees are stepping up. The leads of the Big Bang Theory are taking pay cuts so that their female co-stars can get raises.

Takeaway: Progress is uneven and that’s typical. Seeing equal pay identified as the biggest issue to many women, men, and other genders means that more time and energy will likely be allocated to fixing the problems.

In Science

Encouraging Women in Science

Two laws proposed by women in Congress to encourage women to pursue science and technology careers were signed into law by President Donald Trump. These laws are the “Inspiring the Next Space Pioneers, Innovators, Researchers and Explorers (INSPIRE) Women Act” and “Promoting Women in Entrepreneurship Act.”

The INSPIRE Women Act authorizes the head of NASA to support initiatives that will “encourage women and girls to study science, technology, engineering and mathematics and to pursue careers that will further advance America’s space science and exploration efforts,” according to a White House statement.

Just as the first Latina in space, Ellen Ochoa is to be inducted into the astronaut hall of fame, girls now will also have LEGO characters of woman who played important roles in the U.S. space program. Among the women portrayed are astronaut Sally Ride, pioneering computer scientist Margaret Hamilton, and the first African American in space Mae Jemison.

Takeaway: Having representation and being able to identify with women in powerful positions and fields that have long been dominated by men is vital to encouraging more diversity and equality in science. Laws requiring that women be encouraged in fields and stopping the discrimination they are likely to face in those fields are important right now to get the way things are to change.

In Entertainment

The Oscars dominated the news cycles toward the end of February, so that even if you weren’t watching you were made aware of particularly important stories.

In another example of a man absolutely not having his career ruined by sexual assault allegations, Casey Affleck won the Oscar for Best Actor. As the icing on the cake for this particularly tense story, Brie Larson, known for speaking out against sexual assault, was the one to present him with the award…for the second time this award season.

Earlier in the month at the Maker’s conference, female celebrities expressed their frustration for the lack of change and equality in the entertainment industry. From type casting to racism, unequal pay to workplace harassment, the message was clear: there’s something wrong with Hollywood.

But it’s not all bad! After her Oscars win for her role in Fences, Viola Davis became the first black actor to achieve the entertainment hat trick: wining an Oscar, Emmy, and Tony for acting.

Takeaway: There may be something wrong with Hollywood, but there are more women speaking up about issues in the entertainment industry than ever. Hopefully these strong, unwavering women use their voices and actions to create real change. 

In Other News

(I)nauguration (U) (D)ay

Note: This post is a contribution in response to the Boston Women’s March.

On Friday, January 20, 2017, I arrived at my gynecologist’s office to get my first intrauterine device (IUD). After sitting on the idea of getting an IUD for years, the inauguration of Donald J. Trump inspired me to act. Though I could have chosen the previous week to have the procedure, the options were not optimal: Friday the 13th or Inauguration Day. Though I am not superstitious, one felt like a bad idea, while the other felt like an act of personal protest. So I chose Inauguration Day. I acted out of fear, out of love, and out of protest: fear that my health care could soon deny me affordable access to birth control; love for my body and its safety; and protest to the tyranny of a man and his followers telling me what I could and couldn’t do with my body.

I know my privilege – I could still access birth control even if it weren’t covered by my insurance plan. While I do not take that for granted, this is not solely about me. So many of my friends and acquaintances who need birth control – to prevent pregnancies, painful periods, acne, life threatening ovarian cysts, et cetera – cannot pay out of pocket for the pill. And so even if I can pay for it, without healthcare coverage, those I care about may not.

So I arrived at my gynecologist’s office, ready and nervous and exhilarated to get my IUD. I embraced my womanhood, and I embraced the cause of speaking up for women who want nothing more than to protect themselves from not only unwanted pregnancies, but an array of health problems. On January 20, 2017, after hearing Donald Trump’s swearing in, I participated in my own form of personal protest and felt my conviction, and my protection, fastened to me, body and spirit. Then I protested publicly.

On Saturday, January 21, I joined my fellow Bostonians in peaceful protest for a woman’s right to be heard and respected. The movement became so many things to so many people. I saw signs protesting everything from Standing Rock to LGBTQIA oppression, from Trump’s pussy grabbing statements to the Alt Right (a personal favorite of mine, the sign reading Alt + Right + Delete). Carrie Fisher’s eyes gazing out over the top of a poster reading “history has its eyes on you” unintentionally merged the power of Star Wars and Hamilton, giving a chilling yet awe-inspiring pop-culture twist to the proceedings. The common theme of these signs was not hate or prejudice. It was strength, optimism, and a demand for autonomy. It was a plea to the powerful to listen to those they serve—the men and women and everyone in between who comprise the People of the United States.

Listening to NPR that day (a journalistic organization now under threat of losing valuable and necessary federal funding), I heard a Trump supporter talking about the Women’s Marches. He made a cutting, misguided, but thought-provoking remark: if we as protesters had put this much effort behind Hillary Clinton, she could have been sworn in on Inauguration Day. It is my belief, based on Clinton’s winning the popular vote by approximately three million votes more than Trump, and on the role of the electoral college, that the people’s will was ignored, and Clinton should have taken her place as president as the most experienced politician in US history.

But that is past. This is present. The Women’s Marches around the world, from Washington, D.C. to Antarctica, show the positive thinking and strength of coming together as a powerful force for change. Though some may call the Marches one grand gesture for the Millennials to post on their Facebook profiles, the sheer magnitude of the crowds and the range of ages, ethnicities, and orientations make it more than a trend, a blip on someone’s timeline. The original march, organized by Tamika D Mallory, Carmen Perez, and Linda Sarsour, three courageous women of color, was not focused on a one-time hit. The Women’s March website has already published a list of 10 Actions for the First 100 Days, a continuation of the movement to keep the momentum going (see also Non-Fiction Feminism’s post about our Next Steps). Publicly, the size and diversity of the crowds convinced me of the people’s commitment. Personally, the knowledge that my mother and stepfather marched in Chicago that day, spiritually walking alongside me to protest the new president, convinced me even further.

On Sunday, January 22, the 44th anniversary of Roe v. Wade reminded the nation of how relatively recent it is for a woman to legally access abortion in the US. The ruling has been a source of debate for decades, but is taking on an even larger role in discussions of national policy since the Trump-Pence administration took power. So in these three days, from January 20 to 22, I showed personal, public, and historic pride in my gender and its significance in our society. I proved to myself that my voice is strong and loud, and as I roared my worth, I heard the roar of others joining me, from my parents, my relatives, my friends, and fellow feminists of all genders. Amazing things happen when we support each other, and the marches that took place over all seven continents show that.

But On Monday, January 23, 2017, while reading the news after work, I discovered that President Trump has already laid out an executive order to ban government funding for international organizations that provide abortions or information pertaining to them, whether those monies are directly funneled to abortion procedures or not. The surrounding politicians in the Oval Office were white and male, demonstrating that a small subset of our population is making choices that do not affect them, not having female reproductive organs or enough melanin to have experienced what non-female and/or non-white citizens struggle through daily. Following the trend, the CNN panel set up to discuss the significance of the Women’s March was comprised of one woman and eight men, a ratio that would be more logical and meaningful if reversed.

So, on Monday, January 23, 2017, I grew angry, fearful, and determined. I donated to Planned Parenthood and made a promise to myself that I will continue to fight for equal treatment. The work did not stop when I got my IUD, when I marched with the feminists of Boston, when I celebrated Roe v. Wade. And as my mother pointed out, this is unfortunately nothing new. The work was there for her decades ago, and now it is here for me, too. And just like her, I will not back down.

Laying on the exam table that Friday, my legs in stirrups, my doctor preparing her instruments, she asked if I was going to the Women’s March in Boston the following day. I gave a resounding ‘yes,’ and told her my parents were marching too, my mom having knitted her own pussy hat. She smiled in approval and told me, proudly, that she and her husband were taking their young daughter to march and participate in the protest. “I want her to know how important this time is, how important the work is,” she told me. I could not agree more.

-Emma Ryan


This is a contributed post submitted to Non-Fiction Feminism by the author and represents the author’s opinion. If you are interested in sharing your own stories or perspectives, please contact us

January: News Roundup

Obviously the Women’s March was a huge part of the news in January. Check out our coverage of it in our series of posts (Attending the MarchMarcher ContributionsCriticism and Questions, and Next Steps), otherwise, find out everything else you might have missed here.

IN POLITICS

Abortion

Anti-abortion groups in Oklahoma are working to pass a bill that requires all public restrooms, including in restaurants, hospitals, public schools, hotels and nursing homes, to post signs with anti-abortion statements on them to discourage anyone from getting the procedure. Enacting this bill would cost an estimated $2.3 million, but there’s no proof that it would create the abortion-free society the group is hoping for. At the same time, Kentucky has only one abortion provider left in the state after the EMW Women’s Clinic in Lexington was closed. Women from Kentucky commented, saying that this will have a huge impact on low-income women who would be unable to get to the one clinic that offers abortions.

An international reaching executive order was put into place this month that has worldwide consequences to women’s reproductive health. The Mexico City policy, known as the global gag rule, prohibits government funding of any international nongovernmental organizations that offer or advise on issues including abortion, even if the U.S. dollars would not be spent on abortion-related services. None of that money was spend on abortions even before President Trump signed this executive order. Furthermore, while he signed this order, he was surrounded by all men, even though this order could have a serious affect on women.  In an act of defiance against Trump’s executive order, the Netherlands plans to create its own international fund to support birth control, reproductive health and abortion access in the developing world.

While these two very opposing sides are fighting, the abortion rate has fallen to the lowest it has been since Roe v. Wade. Both anti-abortion groups and pro-choice groups argue that this decline is due to their own efforts. Pro-choice groups like Planned Parenthood credit the lower rate to better access to contraception. Anti-abortion groups argue that the report shows new state restrictions on abortion are working. Principal research scientist Rachel Jones said, “Abortion is going down, and births aren’t going up,” indicating improved access to birth control seems to be largely responsible for the declining rate.

“If there are women in these highly restrictive states who want abortions but can’t get them because there aren’t any clinics that they can get to, and that’s why abortion’s going down, that’s not a good thing,” Jones said. “But we think the story that’s going on in a lot of situations, in a lot of states, is that fewer women are having unintended pregnancies and in turn fewer abortions, and that is actually a good story.”

Takeaway: Whichever side of the abortion argument you are on, the decline in abortion rates can be seen as a good thing. The important thing is continuing to provide healthcare, especially reproductive healthcare, to all women. 

Healthcare

In this past election season, there was constant discussion of Planned Parenthood (PP) and what it uses its fund for. Many people don’t want any federal funds to go to an organization that offers abortion services, even if those funds do not go to abortions at all. PP uses its funds for services including pap smears, UTI and STI treatment, and contraception counseling. In a report done on PP clinics in Texas, it was found that when women lost access to PP, there was a 27 percent increase in births likely unplanned as the increase was only seen in counties where women had more difficulty getting access to contraceptions.

Beyond just the defunding of PP that provides low income passed plans to repeal the Affordable Care Act. This would remove contraception coverage, which will likely result into an increase in unplanned births. The ACA made a huge difference in the lives of women specifically, such as preventing women from being charged more on the basis of their gender, ensuring women can access birth control and mammograms without a copay, and preventing pregnancy from being treated as a preexisting condition to raise women’s premiums or deny them coverage. Women’s healthcare may not be completely at a loss as some individual states, including New York, are working to put in place legislation to protect free access to contraception. It is still not certain what women’s healthcare will look like during the Trump administration, but based on what his politicians have been saying, it looks like women will face many more challenges.

Takeaway:  Without having access to healthcare, a good quality of life for thousands of women will become difficult to acquire, or worse. Opinions about abortions should not limit the healthcare coverage available to women. 

IN ENTERTAINMENT

Women in Film

We’re in the middle of awards season, and more attention than ever is being paid to representation and equality in the entertainment industry. The #OscarsSoWhite campaign drew attention to race diversity, while the gender bias led to an investigation by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) last year. Unfortunately, studies are showing that not only is the industry not improving, it may be getting worse. 

A report titled “The Celluloid Ceiling” found that in 2016, women made up just 17% of all directors, writers, producers, executive producers, editors and cinematographers in the top 250 domestic-grossing films, a decline of 2% from 2015. When the nominations were announced for the 89th annual Academy Awards, not a single woman was nominated for Best Director, which is an award only four female directors have ever been nominated for and only one has won. All of this comes about in a time when it seems the careers of straight white actors are not only unaffected, but prioritized over their sexual assault accusations. The world isn’t all bad, though, as Viola Davis became the first black actress to earn three Oscar nominations for her performance in Fences.

Takeaway: While the world of entertainment takes an occasional few steps forward toward diversity, there is still a pronounced lack of equality in the industry. The importance of representation in film has been highlighted with recent box office successes, but we need changes behind the screen as well.

Hidden Figures

Speaking of representation, Hidden Figures made over $22.8 million during the first weekend in Januaryhttp://fusion.net/story/379520/hidden-figures-box-office/, even surpassing Rogue One despite playing on nearly 2,000 fewer screens. Across the country, women raised funds to send young girls and boys to see the movie and learn more about the history of women of color and be inspired to dream bigger themselves.

Despite an embarrassing mix-up that combined Hidden Figures and Fences, the two movies have already been nominated for and won critical industry awards. The success of Hidden Figures shows that not only can movies about women pass the Bechdel test, but also draw huge crowds and achieve massive box office successes while doing so.

Takeaway: With more big movies featuring female leads, the industry is finally realizing that movies about women or minorities actually have market viability and will draw in viewers in droves. Hopefully the successes of Hidden Figures will serve as a catalyst for other stories waiting to be told.

IN SCIENCE

First Black Female Astronaut on ISS

With all the excitement surrounding Hidden Figures, it’s only fitting that NASA has announced the first black female astronaut to call the International Space Station home. Jeannette J. Epps is also the 13th woman on the ISS since the space station was founded in 1998. Epps is a member of NASA’s 2009 astronaut class and worked as a technical intelligence officer for the CIA for seven years. She will launch her first spaceflight in May of this year.

Takeaway: While it’s important for young girls to see themselves represented in media, it’s even more meaningful when those role models exist in real life and are involved in current events. 

6-Year-Old Girls Already Have Gendered Beliefs About Intelligence

A recent study revealed that girls as young as six have already learned gendered beliefs about intelligence, which may hold them back from future successes. Perhaps most striking is the fact that among five-year-olds, both boys and girls associated brilliance with their own gender; but among those aged six or seven, only the boys still held to that view. As part of the study, six-year-old girls were also less likely to play a game when they were told it was for “really, really smart” children.

Takeaway: It’s saddening to realize that young girls learn so quickly how society views intelligence based on gender. We must continue to encourage young girls to embrace their intellectual passions.

AROUND THE WORLD

U.S. Ranks 23rd Out of 30 Developed Countries for Inequality

The annual summit for the World Economic Forum took place in Davos recently, and a report was released that shows, the U.S. ranks 23 out of 30 developed nations in a measure known as the “inclusive development index,” which includes data on income, health, poverty, and sustainability. The report argues that the U.S.’s inequality likely influences a variety of other disparities, including political and social polarization. However, it also suggests that the current problem can be improved through policies that promote parity in wages regardless of gender, race or ethnicity; educational opportunities; and access to jobs.

Takeaway: In today’s political climate in the United States, this may come as no surprise to some. This report shows how closely the world is watching us at such a critical time as well as how far we have to go to achieve equality.

 

Russian Parliament to Decriminalize Domestic Violence

Russia has voted, making battery, the unlawful physical acting upon a threat, against family members as long as it does not cause bodily harm, like a broken limb, legal. Russia is one of three countries in Europe and Central Asia that do not have laws against domestic violence. This is dangerous because it promotes the thought that violence towards anyone is not wrong and not punishable. “According to Russian government statistics, 40% of all violent crimes are committed within the family. The figures correlate to 36,000 women being beaten by their partners every day and 26,000 children being assaulted by their parents every year.” Two women were among the group that created the bill, stating that they believed it would protect Russian families and make them stronger. Domestic violence has deep cultural roots in Russia, as shown through an old proverb, “If he beats you it means he loves you.”

Takeaway: While countries do have different cultures and customs, to make domestic violence in any form acceptable is a huge problem. Statistically this affects women and children of families more than men. Laws should be made to empower and protect people. Just because something is a law, it does not make it right and we must keep working to achieve equality and safety for everyone. 

No Means No Worldwide

In a campaign to end violence against women and children, the global No Means No Worldwide organization has released a video showcasing how their training teaches girls to fight back and boys to understand consent. The organization trains and certifies instructors for violence prevention, intervention and recovery programs at schools and clubs to conduct classes for children ages 10-20. Their program already dramatically reduces sexual assault and pregnancy related dropouts wherever their instructors teach.

Takeaway: The issue of self-defense against sexual assault is relevant worldwide, but thankfully organizations like this continue to help spread the knowledge and empower younger generations to protect themselves and know what’s right. 

IN OTHER NEWS


Did we miss something huge? Let us know! Submissions are always welcome and comments are highly encouraged and will be approved to further discussion as long as they follow our guidelines. Please keep an open mind and respect your fellow humans. 

September: News Roundup

IN GOVERNMENT:

The Presidential Debate

The presidential debate between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton  continued to show the double-standard present for women in politics and the public eye. Women are twice as likely to be interrupted as men are, a fact that was easily shown proven as Trump interrupted Clinton 51 times during the debate, while she only interrupted him 17 times.

Many people are not fans of either major candidate in this election, but with Clinton running, people are calling into question why there are so many who don’t like her. For some she doesn’t seem “presidential” enough or her history dissuades them, and thus far there have only ever been male U.S. presidents. Trump tried to explain how Clinton does not look presidential, and concluded by saying she doesn’t have the stamina or the temperament. Cue the shimmy response that took the internet by storm.

Takeaway: With National Voter Registration Day just past on Sept. 27th, everyone’s vote matters more than ever. This election has become one where many will vote based on the lesser of two evils, but being educated and aware of each candidate’s past and proposals for the future are of utmost importance.

Sexual Assault Survivors Bill of Rights

Congress passed an act that will create a standard for the rights of sexual assault survivors. All it needs now is President Barack Obama’s signature after the unanimous vote. This act will reform the way the criminal justice system handles sexual assault, including the right to a sexual assault evidence collection kit, to be told of the results and to be notified in writing before the kit is destroyed.

Takeaway: All parties came together in agreement on this act. This shows how many people see that the way our society handles sexual assault and rape cases needs to change.

Planned Parenthood Permanently Protected

The new rule means that family planning organizations cannot lose funding because they provide abortion services or for any political reasons. Planned Parenthood will still be able to assist women in all of their healthcare. Funds from Title X can only be withheld based on the provider’s “ability to deliver services to program beneficiaries in an effective manner.

Takeaway: This is a huge step forward in providing accessible healthcare to women around the country during a tumultuous political period.

POWERFUL WOMEN IN THE SPOTLIGHT:

Emma Watson’s United Nations Speech on Sexual Assault

Takeaway: This month also marks HeForShe’s second year anniversary and Emma Watson continues to power forward publicly fighting for equality. She is on a roll this month, having also released a short film entitled “Hurdles.” 

2016 Emmy’s Were Huge for Women

The Emmy’s this month were especially great for queer women, with Transparent’s Jill Soloway calling for the entertainment industry to “give trans talent a chance” and for everyone to “topple the patriarchy” during her acceptance speech for directing “Man on the Land.”American Horror Story star, Sarah Paulson praised Marcia Clark and Holland Taylor during her own acceptance speech – highlighting both her appreciation for other women in her profession and providing viewers with a model of a loving female relationship. To top it all off, Kate McKinnon won an award for featured actress in a comedy series and gave everyone another reason to appreciate her presence as a newfound queer icon in Ghostbusters and as the first openly lesbian cast member on SNL, while also thanking Ellen DeGeneres and Hillary Clinton during her speech.

Takeaway: This year’s Emmy’s event highlighted the impact women and the queer community have on entertainment and just how much talent is missed when they are not included. Despite such a wonderful celebration, the behind the scenes world of entertainment still does not reflect these changes

Gigi Hadid Fights Back When Attacked

While leaving the Max Mara show during Milan Fashion Week, Gigi Hadid was grabbed and picked up by a strange man. She immediately put her boxing skills to use and fought back enough to get him to let her go and run away, all while her bodyguards and bystanders watched. In the time since video surfaced of this assault, many have praised Hadid for swiftly protecting herself. Unfortunately, much of the media coverage has positioned the attacker as a “fan” or a “prankster,” belittling the attack. Hadid has since released statements via Twitter thanking her boxing coach and encouraging other girls to prepare to protect themselves.

Despite having already achieved his 15 minutes of fame, the attacker recently reappeared by harassing Kim Kardashian too.

Takeaway: Celebrities are indeed human beings too, and they have just as much a right to privacy and personal space as anyone else. While Hadid took matters into her own and Kardashian’s bodyguards were quick to respond, these attacks shouldn’t be happening in the first place. 

 

IN ACADEMIA:

Sexual Assault Cases in Academic Settings Continue to Pile Up

A week after Brock Turner was released from jail, a student at the University of Richmond, Virginia wrote a moving piece about her own similar experience. She describes how UR mishandled her sexual assault case, and since publishing it’s only gotten messier. Originally told by a UR administrator that they “thought it was reasonable for [the perpetrator] to penetrate you for a few more minutes if he was going to finish,” this woman is now being branded a liar by the university in their response, despite the evidence and receipts she has to back up her experience with the assault and the aftermath.

Unfortunately, this story is not unfamiliar. A New Jersey student committed suicide earlier this month after her university failed to fully investigate her reported rape. Recently released, the documentary “Audrie and Daisy” looks at sexual assault through the stories of two young girls. A UNC Chapel Hill student came forward to discuss her rape by a football player and “did everything a rape victim is supposed to do…but six months later the University has done nothing.”

Takeaway: It’s not new to hear a story about some athlete being accused of rape and getting off scot-free, but that in and of itself is a problem. While these cases are more openly discussed than in the past and occasionally receive national media attention, still very little is done to punish the perpetrators. 

OTHER ITEMS COVERED IN BRIEF:

January: News Roundup

Each month we plan on doing a news roundup that includes coverage on the current topic (street harassment, in this case) as well as other issues in the feminist scope along with a brief takeaway of each story.

New Year’s Eve Sexual Assaults in Germany

What better way to ring in the new year than with reports of more than 1,300 sexual assaults taking place throughout popular German cities? At least 3 alleged rapes were reported amongst hundreds of assaults and robberies, spread out over Cologne, Hamburg, and other cities. To make a bad situation worse, many of the alleged attackers were of “Arab or North African appearance” according to former Cologne police chief Wolfgang Albers. In the aftermath of the new year’s attacks, there have been reports of attacks on German migrants in supposed retaliation.

Covered by many international news outlets, including BBC, The New York TimesNBC, The Week and more, this incident has turned into a historical event (and even has it’s own Wikipedia page). For once, the attention has certainly turned to the attacker as the aftermath of these events focuses mainly on the refugee crises as an alleged root cause. Proving that generalization accomplishes nothing (besides fear and retaliation), there have been reports of Syrian men protecting women caught up in the attacks that much of the mainstream media has mostly ignored.

Not only does this event add a spark to the ongoing discussions of street harassment and the refugee crises, but Cologne’s mayor Henriette Reker has also tied it to the the problematic concept of victim blaming. Reker joined the debate with suggestions for how women can avoid danger, which obviously backfired when the hashtag #EineArmLaenge began trending. Thankfully, much of the response to Reker’s “code of conduct” for women has led to further conversation over how these sorts of events are treated by governing bodies and what should actually be done to prevent further instances.

Takeaways: Sexism is not an island. It intersects with many other issues that complicate and exacerbate the problems. This one event has tied into multiple ongoing issues and broadened the scope of each discussion immensely. 

The Murder of Another Woman For Saying “No”

File under “Reasons Street Harassment is NOT a Compliment.” Towards the end of January, Janese Talton-Jackson rejected unwanted advances from an unknown man and was subsequently killed for her actions. To anyone who has not personally experienced street harassment or unwanted advances of any kind, it may seem as easy as saying “No, thank you” to get that behavior to stop. Unfortunately, a victim can never tell how the attacker will react and the instances of violent retaliation are more likely than you would think. To quote Margaret Atwood, “Men are afraid that women will laugh at them. Women are afraid that men will kill them.”

This particular incident was reported by Hello BeautifulThe Independent, Elite Daily, and many others. The blog, When Women Refuse, has collected hundreds of personal and news stories of similar violence inflicted on women who reject sexual advances.

Takeaway: Take people seriously when they tell you about catcalling and how it makes them feel. It may seem like catcalling is fairly harmless, but for many women it is not. It would be easy to dismiss this as an extreme case, but the truth is that it happens too frequently to simply be an outlier.

Challenging Gender Roles in Saudi Arabia

In this twist of events, the Daily Mail reported on men in ultra-conservative Saudi Arabia becoming outraged after being catcalled by women in a shopping mall. The Saudi shopping centre reported 16 cases of sexual harassment of men by women. Many said the women should be punished severely as a deterrent in future.

Takeaway: There is an obvious element of hypocrisy in this case that highlights what is “okay” for men to do that is at the same time not acceptable coming from women. Nobody should be harassed and everyone should be held equally accountable for their actions.

Standing Against Street Harassment in India 

Anjali dropped out of school because of street harassment that she regularly faced while returning home in South Delhi, India. After attending sessions organized by the campaign started by Safecity, a not-for-profit organization that fights street harassment, she soon mustered the courage to fight back and speak up for others.

Takeaway: Street harassment can be stopped and streets can feel safe again, but everyone needs to work together to make this happen.

Street Harassment is Not Only on the Street

In a landmark case, an Ontario judge ruled Gregory Alan Elliot not guilty of harassing women online. According to the court, because Elliot’s Twitter harassment did not contain anything of “violent or sexual nature” and he believed the women felt they were being harassed, but it was not “objectively reasonable” for them to fear for their safety, the case was closed. Many argue that this case was a win for free speech, but victims of harassment all over the world are left feeling like there’s nothing you can do and no one to help you. 

“The feelings are the same. You’re trapped, you’re worried this will escalate into something you can’t outrun, you don’t want this person to know where you live or who’s in your family. People will blame you for this regardless—Were you wearing a short skirt? vs.Were you trolling him?—and your recourse is limited. People feel bad for you, sure, but no one can really do anything. So, you try to block it out, and move on.” – Scaachi Koul, Buzzfeed

Takeaway: This case opens the doors to more online harassment, especially in Canada, but also sets a certain standard for the rest of the world. 

Barbie Gets a Modern Makeover

Not all news is bad! The toy industry has experienced some feminist upset recently, from demands to include the main character of the Star Wars movie in boxed sets to Barbie’s multiple makeovers. The famously unrealistic doll is now available in a variety of shapes to reflect a larger variety of more realistic female bodies.

Along with the new hair textures and skin tones introduced last year, Mattel hopes to appeal to their audiences by better reflecting the diversity in the real world.

Takeaways: While this is great progress towards more diversity in the media and consumer world, this change has reopened the discussion around gendered toys and how to improve that market place even more. 

Blowhards, Beware: Megyn Kelly Will Slay You Now

It doesn’t matter which party you support in the U.S. presidential elections, Megyn Kelly will not allow misogyny – or any irrelevant and hateful attacks – to play a part in this campaign season. From calling out Trump to grilling Jeb Bush, Kelly has become a role model for all in her strength as presidential debate moderator and Fox News anchor.

Kelly attributes her approach to success as her own idol, Oprah Winfrey, has. “[Oprah] never wallowed in any sort of victimhood…. She didn’t play the gender card and she didn’t play the race card. She was just so good we couldn’t ignore her. That’s my example…. Just get to the table and then do better than everybody else.” [Megyn] adds with a laugh, “But every so often, as all [women] know, you have to stop and slap somebody around a little bit who doesn’t understand that we are actually equals and not second-class citizens.”

Though Megyn does not call herself a feminist, she has become a feminist icon. She claims it’s because her accomplishments speak for themselves and have nothing to do with her gender. Kelly’s stand against Trump helped her surpass news star, Bill O’Reilly, in the key demographic of 25–54 for three months in 2015.

Takeaways: It does not matter that Megyn is a woman. She is standing her ground and has earned the respect of friends and foes with her straightforward discussion of issues of sexism at the forefront of the presidential campaign. 

Bills Hire a Female Assistant Coach

With the Super Bowl fast approaching, it’s good news that women are finally making waves in professional sports. The Buffalo Bills announced in January that they have hired the NFL’s first female full-time coach. This move follows the Cardinal’s hiring of the league’s female assistant in July, 2016.

In an industry so plagued by sex and abuse scandals (including 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8 to list a few), this is relatively small news. Domestic violence accounts for 85 of the 713 arrests of NFL players since 2000 and the NFL’s reaction to such cases has varied immensely. The relationship between the Super Bowl and sex trafficking is another discussion in itself.

Even so, the tiniest of steps towards progress should be acknowledged. The NFL may have a history of sweeping glaring scandals under the rug, but only through public discussion can they be encouraged to make a change for the better.

Takeaways: Small steps are being made in male dominated industries, but we still have so far to go. Celebrate the small victories and keep pushing for change by openly discussing these issues of inequality and sexist mistreatment.

Campus Sex…With a Syllabus

Jonathan Kalin tours college campuses and teaching required courses on consent, because debates around this “gray area” continue on. In this instance, he plays a clip from the infamous movie Superbad, which makes his audience of students laugh.

Founder of Party with Consent, Kalin is bringing more attention to the issue of consent and how it plays a HUGE role on college campuses especially.

“The statistics by this point are familiar: More than one in five college women will become victims of sexual assault, most of them by somebody they know, with very few coming forward to report the crimes. In the vast majority of these cases (80 percent, according to a 2009 study), alcohol is involved, for both women and men.

More surprising, perhaps, is that the way men and women understand consent is in almost direct opposition to each other: One study found that 61 percent of men say they rely on nonverbal cues — body language — to indicate if a woman is consenting to a sexual act, while only 10 percent of women say they actually give consent via body language (most say they wait to be asked).” – Jessica Bennett, The New York Times

When it comes to consent education, there has been some rebuttal from some who believe it can’t solve everyone’s problems or that these courses are an invasion or privacy. While not perfect, at the very least these courses further the discussion around consent in a time when college campuses are plagued by related scandals.

Takeaways: Consent apparently needs to be taught and can differ from person to person. The basic idea of “only yes means yes” is an element of most consent education campaigns, but the format of these courses has yet to be perfected. 


 

Did we miss something huge? Let us know! Submissions are always welcome and comments are highly encouraged and will be approved to further discussion as long as they follow our guidelines. Please keep an open mind and respect your fellow humans.