BY VICTORIA FITZGERLD
20 years ago this month Anita Hill courageously thrust the issue of workplace sexual harassment into the American public consciousness when she spoke out about the inappropriate behavior of then-Supreme Court nominee Clarence Thomas.
To celebrate the profound impact made by Hill’s appearance at the all-white, all-male congressional hearing in 1991, The Nation has brought together a whole host of inspirational women, including playwright Eve Ensler, the Domestic Workers Alliance’s Ai-Jen Poo and our very own badass Chief Executive Emily May to discuss the implications of Hill’s legacy. This awesome troop of ladies not only discuss how Hill orchestrated a change in the workplace but also what remains to be done. In particular, there is a legal loop-hole that alienates domestic workers. To be protected from workplace sexual harassment or discrimination there needs to be a minimum number of employees, in many instances at least five, which excludes workforces of one. This has to change. Watch the video so you yourself can inspire change!
In 100 years of IBM’s existence the company has never had a female CEO, until now, cue Virginia “Ginni” Rometty. As of January 2012 Rometty will step into the shoes of current CEO Sam Palmisano. The news comes hot on the heels of Meg Whitman’s appointment last month as CEO of Hewlett-Packard Co.
It is so refreshing to see these trailblazers of female equality and empowerment, women that we can look up to and say that we want to be just like them. In the immortal words of Marie Wilson of The White House Project, “You can’t be what you can’t see.” And this is absolutely the case, seeing the likes of Rometty and Whitman’s rise to success sets a sterling example to the next generation of kick-ass feminists.
We are now seeing not one but TWO long-overdue examples of women in positions of power. It will follow that more women will pursue such high-power positions with fewer impediments; women’s power will become normalized and more people will come to believe that ALL people can operate in all fields at all levels! Pink-collar jobs no more!
Rometty is being touted as successful, passionate and inquisitive by a friendly environment of fellow IBM-ers. This is great news for our equality-seeking world but it certainly isn’t enough to have two female CEOs of major technology companies. New leadership is needed. Step to the fore!
Although this is noteworthy step for female equality, it is common knowledge that females in America make up over half the work force, but still only make 70 cents to every male dollar and as of 2011 only 12 of Fortune 500 companies have women CEOs, none of whom make the top ten. In fact, the highest raking female, Patricia A. Woertz of Archer Daniels Midland, only made it to number 39.
As we continue to stand up against street harassment and reach for high-ranking positions in all sectors we can all take on the methods of activist work. And I would say visibility is key. We have to be able to see ourselves represented, or else we’ll be commodified, mythologized and used for other peoples’ purposes. Many of us were taught to be meek and unseen so male supremacy could rein. To combat that old oppression, let’s be passionate, steadfast and BAD-ASS leaders so equality can supersede patriarchy.
Scroll to the bottom of The Village Voice’s homepage and you will find a bland, colorless gray box labeled backpage.com. The last sentence of the disclaimer preempting sections of the gray box listed under “Adult” reads:
“I also agree to report suspected exploitation of minors and/or human trafficking to the appropriate authorities.”
But no disclaimer is going to put right the wrong done to children victimized by sex trafficking.
Village Voice Media, owner of 13 alternative newspapers including the Village Voice and LA Weekly, is also owner of the online classified site Backpage.com, which has been severely criticized for refusing to do away with its adult advertising on the site.
In September of 2010, 21 State Attorney Generals requested for Backpage to remove its adult services sections stating that they “believe that ads for prostitution—including ads
trafficking children—are rampant on the site.” Backpage declined the request of the attorney generals stating:
“Censorship will not create public safety nor will it rid the world of exploitation.”
This past September, Village Voice Media was again urged by a group of 45 attorney generals to help end the use of their site as a “hub” for trafficking minors.
On Tuesday, the Groundswell movement, a new multi-faith coalition took out a full-page New York Times advertisement. The advertisement was an open letter to the CEO and Chair Jim Larkin and Board of Directors of Village Voice Media, urging them to follow the lead of Craigslist (which removed it’s adult services section in 2010) and shut down the Adult section of Backpage.com. Again, Village Voice Media refused, instead pointing out on the Village Voice blog that criminals use cell phones and no one is blaming Verizon or AT&T!
The Groundswell Movement is now urging clergy and concerned citizens (THAT’S YOU!) to sign a petition demanding that Village Voice Media shut down the Adult section of Backpage.com. Make a difference and sign the petition today!
BY VICTORIA FITZGERALD
On Tuesday, the Girl Scouts of Colorado spoke out in support of transgender children. This comes hot on the heels of news that the leader of a Girl Scout troop in Denver initially told 7-year-old Bobby Montoya that, despite identifying as a girl, she could not join because she had “boy parts.” The Girl Scouts of Colorado maintained that the troop leader responsible was unaware of the organization’s policy and released this statement:
“Girl Scouts is an inclusive organization and we accept all girls in Kindergarten through 12th grade as members… If a child identifies as a girl and the child’s family presents her as a girl, Girl Scouts of Colorado welcomes her as a Girl Scout… Our requests for support of transgender kids have grown, and Girl Scouts of Colorado is working to best support these children, their families and the volunteers who serve them.”
The Colorado branch also emphasized that they would be reaching out to the family of Bobby Montoya as well as working to customize their training programs so that all girls would be included.
Corey Barrett of the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender Community Center of Colorado commented on the matter:
“I think it’s all about providing a healthy environment for them for that to happen. Everyone needs to be prepared or at least have an idea from a policy and procedure stand point how they’re going to address that.”
This is such a huge step in working towards a more inclusive society where normal is normal, rather than a crazy, archaic stereotype. We say bravo to Girl Scouts Colorado for setting such a fantastic example for breaking down barriers of prejudice. But of course, we have an even bigger and more awesome round of applause for teeny tiny, bad-ass, feminist of the future, Bobby Montoya for being herself and driving a change that will benefit so many that come after her.
As a woman in Pakistan traveling on public transport is like running the gauntlet, except there is no where to run, particularly in Islamabad. For schoolgirls and working females the daily commute is plagued by vulgar drivers with the self-control of a rabble of rabid mutts.
The severity of this issue manifests itself in the inability for the female to remove herself from the situation. She is trapped in silence until she reaches her destination, acutely aware that she neither wants to make a scene nor raise attention to incidents like these.
Islamabad resident Faiza Bibi told Pakistan Today that the vast majority of drivers harass their female passengers verbally and physically by making lewd comments and touching them whilst changing gear as they sat they sat next to them in the front seats. She continued:
“Women have no other option since they have to sit on the front seats, next to the driver, because they are the only seats meant for women.”
Khadija Ali of the Alliance Against Sexual Harassment told Pakistan Today that the country’s Sexual Harassment legislation applies mostly to situations occurring in the work place and suggested that women dealing with such incidences should complain to the police. However, one commuter, Attiya Nawaz complained to a traffic police officer that some bus drivers were pulling the curtain behind the front seats so that passengers in the back seats could not see them harassing the women.
According to a survey conducted by the Social Research and Development Organization, 92 percent of commuting women and girls would prefer female-only buses, a facility that does not exist. Despite government past plans to provide a women only public transport system, financial constraints have prevented the plans moving forward.
This report comes a day after a ZEENEWS.com story covering Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar’s address to a reception hosted by Commissioner Adam Thompson, where Khar told guests that women in Pakistan were “more empowered than those in other developing countries.” How can this be if they live in fear of travelling to school and work everyday? 92 percent is a staggering number that feel so frightened that they would rather have female only transport
So, we at Hollaback! want to encourage the Pakistan ladies to do exactly that! Do not accept this! We need a Hollaback! site in Pakistan to raise public awareness of street harassment and educate people about what behavior is acceptable on the streets and on public transport. I have messaged Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar about the situation and will keep you all posted on her comments. In the mean time if you know anyone with contacts in Islamabad that would like to launch a Hollaback! site then encourage them to do so! We all need to work together to Hollaback! at harassers on the streets of Pakistan and on public transport.
Here’s a big thank you to Hollaback! Baltimore for sharing with us this awesome questionnaire to help research the correlation between women in leadership positions and their own experiences of domestic violence. The survey has been comprised by Hollaback! affiliate, grad student and Feminist Eye View blogger, Linda Kokenge. Linda worked with Carol Olsen of the Rape Crisis Center in Virginia to try and gather some empirical evidence.
Check out her abstract here and then answer the questions!
“Women who take on leadership roles in the nonprofit or service sector represent a unique group within society. These women tend to work well in a myriad of high stress/low resource situations and have a solid understanding of the social problems that impact the surrounding community. Often times these attitudes and behaviors are not only found in her work life, but in her interpersonal relationships and perception of self. This can become problematic for women in these leadership positions who experience domestic violence in her personal life.
According to the National Collation Against Domestic Violence, domestic violence “is an epidemic affecting individuals in every community, regardless of age, economic status, race, religion, nationality or educational background.” As this is widely understood as true, women who work in nonprofit leadership roles are not immune to domestic violence. Though these women represent a unique group that has its own set of obstacles to overcome when coping with domestic violence, there is very little academic or public attention directed to the issue. I became aware of it only after reflecting on the personal relationships that I maintained while serving as an AmeriCorps VISTA member in Baltimore City. Even after recognizing that a relationship was violent, I was reluctant to leave because it felt like I was giving up; I knew of women that experienced levels of abuse that were far more dangerous than my own and believed that I could handle the situation. The pressures placed on women to maintain a successful intimate relationship while excelling professionally combined with such social factors as stigma and fear of alienation contributed directly to the way that I coped with the violence. I believe that this also holds true in similar experiences of domestic violence.”
This research project looks at the unique obstacles that women in leadership positions have to overcome when coping with domestic violence. Linda Kokenge worked with a woman named Carol Olson, an executive director of a rape crisis center in Virginia, to create a survey in order to gather some empirical evidence. Take part and fill out the survey here!
Meet Becca Lee, the collector of words fighting street harassment in Des Moines, IA.
Why do you HOLLA? Because I can. It’s my right.
What’s your signature Hollaback? Stop harassing women!
What’s your craft? Ripping books to shreds–not literally, but somewhat. I’m finishing a master’s degree in literature.
HOLLAfact about your city: Des Moines is the 3rd largest insurance capital of the world (after London and Hartford, CT).
What was your first experience with street harassment? I was in college. It started with honks and whistles as I walked to class, which bothered me, but not enough to do anything about it. Then a harasser started repeatedly making sexual comments about me right outside of my apartment building. I felt unsafe to even walk to my car, which was right next to my building, and I just couldn’t keep quiet anymore. That’s when I found Hollaback!
Define your style: Lots of caffeine and loud shoes.
Say you’re Queen for the day. What would you do to end street harassment? I would replace the “Pledge of Allegiance” with the words “I will respect other people. I will keep my hands to myself. I will take “no” for an answer. I will be a decent human being.”
What do you collect? Words. Books, quotes, lyrics, lines of poetry, movie lines, you name it.
If you could leave the world one piece of advice, what would it be? If you’re not pissed off, you’re not paying attention.
My superheroine power is… corrupting young adults with my radical queer feminist ideals. Because civil rights are anti-American, ya know…
What inspires you? People who respect others!
In the year 2020, street harassment…will still be offensive. It is not, never has been, and never will be OK.
BY THE HOLLABACK! FAMILY
At Hollaback!, we believe that everyone has a right to feel safe and confident, without fear of harassing language or actions whether they’re walking home from work, going to school, or at a protest. Over the last weeks, the Occupy Wall Street movement has created a space where individuals can talk, share ideas, demonstrate and collaborate on ways to end economic injustice. We are excited by the momentum that this movement has created in its push for social and economic change, and we stand in solidarity with the Occupy Wall Street movement and share in their mission to create a just and equal world for all.
Hollaback!s exists in 34 cities in 14 countries around the world, and as representatives of Hollaback! we would like to publicly offer our support, as a resource and as activists, to Occupy Wall Street and its Occupy counterparts worldwide. Our research shows that high rates of street harassment often occur in crowded spaces, and unfortunately, the Occupy sites are not exempt and a number of incidences have been reported. Sexual harassment and assault are unacceptable in any context.
Let’s work together to build a world where everyone can live, walk and Occupy free from street harassment. If you want to join the movement, join us by signing onto the Safe Spaces Support Team at OWS.
BY NICOLA BRIGGS
Twenty and thirty years ago, women of all ages had to contend with harassment in the forms of scary in-person attacks, hate (snail) mail, and maybe a breathy phone call or two. But while these remain the weapons of choice for mean, insecure kids and dangerous psychopaths alike, women today have to deal with something much more insidious ~ cyber bullying. Who is a target for this type of behavior? At school, a girl may have made a few enemies just for standing out in some way ~ maybe because she grew taller than her peers, appeared sexually developed when they weren’t yet, always got the best grades in class, had a stutter, was a little heavier, seemed to be prettier, wore older clothing instead of the latest trends…..the list goes on and on, and none of this negative attention is her fault.
The point is that it does not take that much to stand out from a cohort that values conformity above all else, to bolster a still-fragile sense of confidence and security, so if a girl is perceived “different” in any way, she could become a target for just about any form of harassment. Today, we are talking about how to protect oneself from a “cyber bully,” from one person or even a group of people who use the Internet to carry out a campaign of defamation and psychological breakdown. The first thing is to remember that a cyber bully is essentially a coward, and needs to hide behind the computer to feel safe and in control. This can seem difficult to defend against if you’re always joining chat rooms, social networks, and instant messaging. But you can start by choosing an e-mail address and screen name that don’t reveal that much about who you are (obviously not using your real name or your well-known school or work nickname), where you are (what school, what workplace), and what you do (your major in school, what classes you’re in, or what occupation you have). This is such a simple method of precaution that most people forget to take, but it can save a lot of headaches down the road. Identity theft is real, and the less information a harasser or even an outright criminal has about you and your interests, the better. Also, young girls (and boys) need to stay away from any screen names that mention their age, or interest in sexuality. Predators love this kind of thing, and once the wrong kind of attention is invited, you just never know who is really speaking to you in that chat room.
Other key pieces of information to protect are any personal contact details. It’s difficult to keep sending someone hate mail if they can’t find you. If they are stupid enough to put a threat in writing, by all means save it. A paper trail can help save a woman from many forms of harassment, and be a strong motivation for a parent, a school official, an employer, or even law enforcement to act in your best interests. But most importantly, do not bottle it up inside if you do feel that you or someone you know is a victim of cyber bullying. Sometimes it’s downplayed, because the harasser is not “right there,” but the psychological effects of it can be devastating. In future posts, we’ll go into more ways that you can ensure you’re not a target. Until then, stay safe (and hopefully anonymous in those chat rooms)!