Article

Taking Back Halloween!

BY ANNIE BOGGS

What’s not to love about Halloween? Decorations, candy, fun, games, laughter and of course sexist and demeaning costumes. Hold up! Hollaback moment! Why is it that every Halloween I am spoilt for choice between a sexy Indian, sexy cowgirl, sexy police officer, sexy nurse, need I continue? Putting the word “sexy” in front of an occupation does not validate it as an acceptable costume. Halloween should not be an excuse to openly objectify women, when this happens throughout all communities all-over the globe everyday. And I am sure that I am not the only person that is tired of this.   

So, amidst the barrage of sexy nurse, police officer, milkman, grocery store owner costumes a ray of light broke through the mundane norm in the shape of the Taking Back Halloween Costume Contest!

HollabackPHILLY, in collaboration with SPARK and Beauty Redefined has created a unique challenge for people to “create an alternative to the sexification” of Halloween. Not only are they encouraging us to the redefine female attire for Halloween, but there are some awesome prizes up for grabs! The competition rules appeal for the creation of empowering costumes that are bold, unique and innovative, instead of ones that reinforce a narrow and sexist definition of beauty. They want you to Take Back Halloween!

AND, they have a kiss-ass panel of judges, including Whitney Adams, a professional costume designer, and Sunny Haines, an assistant stage manager and dresser for various theaters.

You can enter the contest here by submitting a photo of you in your empowering costume (only open to U.S. residents). Entries are due Nov. 4, and more information can be found here. You can help spread the world by tweeting, too. (One great example tweet: Don’t be just a “trick” or a “treat” – Redefine Beauty! SPARK a change! Enter to win an iPod, or other great prizes! http://philly.ihollaback.org/?p=950)

Other prizes include awesome Hollaback! Tote bags and Starbucks gifts certificates. So get cracking and have an empowered and anti-sexified Halloween!

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Article

Miss Representation: A Movie I Can Get Behind

BY REBECCA KATHERINE HIRSCH

A documentary on the dangers of relegating women to a very limited conception of “sexiness,” this movie aims to encourage women to aspire to power, and to their own sense of sexuality, as well as, reaching their intellectual and emotional capabilities!

And it looks awesome! The music! The spunk! But as I watched the trailer, I only wish that the female body and female desires were not seen as the problem. It is their exploitation and appropriation by uncreative people in power that is. One sex should not be co-opted for the use of the other, instead both women’s AND men’s bodies and desires for comfort, for stimulation, for whatever should be considered. Sexual expression is not the problem, conforming to a rigid, artificial stand-in for “sexy” is. Women are no more “sexy” than men; it is just that we have all been trained to view things through the purported eyes of the “Average Man.”

It seems to me that because women are not taken seriously, we discount them and write them off as “sexy” fodder instead of organically sexual, emotional and intellectual people. We, as a society, encourage women not to take themselves seriously so the system of men as normal remains.

The problem is not just that women are sexualized for the very limited and picky appetites of men atop media empires, but that women’s ACTUAL sexuality is overlooked and stigmatized. Women and men are both sensitive, strong and many other things. There’s no need for women to be seen as sexual objects and men sexual predators.

In conclusion, this movie looks awesome, but it’s just the beginning and I want more! I think a good start would be to consider women as thoughtful and men as sexual so we can counterbalance the current stereotypes until we finally get to a place of seeing ALL people as PEOPLE with desires and ideas, regardless of genitals.

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Article, Uncategorized

Sexual Assault Caught On National TV

BY RAVEN NICOLE WILLIAMS

Today I witnessed one of the worst and most blatant abuses of a woman’s human rights ever caught on live national television.

During an episode of Discovery Channel’s “Lockdown” a male corrections officer is seen sexually assaulting a young woman in custody. The clearly distressed female is heard pleading “stop touching me” and the guard is seen groping her breasts twice, after the second grope the officer appears to be smirking.

The assault can be seen between 1:25 and 1:34 on the YouTube footage and it is clear that the guard touches the victim’s breasts twice intentionally. Look at the video below to judge for yourself, there is no question that he is committing a crime:

This is not right.

Prisoner or not, no one has the right to touch you inappropriately on your body; not a police officer and not a prison guard. Official procedure exists stipulating how to pat down a prisoner. As a former security guard for the port of New Orleans, the way that woman was violated is unacceptable. It is impossible that any of the officers were permitted to touch her like that. From my experiences with the prison-industrial complex, the only time a pat down is warranted is if the prisoner is being accused of a felony or has been found to have drugs in her/his possession.

Sadly, the sexual abuse of women, from my experiences with the jail system, as well as the countless other women who have been locked up in the prison industrial complex, occurs all too often. It is allowed because of prejudiced attitudes towards those, who in many cases have either never been found guilty and/ or accused of survival crimes, that are deemed no longer human or worthy of respect because they broke the law.

In most cases these types of victims do not feel that they have the voice to speak out, but today I ask you to join with me and give this woman a voice by signing the petition below:

http://www.change.org/petitions/deputy-sexually-assaults-woman-on-live-tv?pe=d4e

Please help in the campaign to see that this woman gets justice by ensuring that this officer, who clearly committed a crime, is prosecuted for his offence and a strong message is sent that no officer is above the law.

Thank you!

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Article

Let’s Hollaback! to Cancer


BY SARA SUGAR

Go ahead ask me. Ask me when my last breast or pelvic exam was and watch my face go blank. Now ask my partner the same thing and watch a similar expression appear on her face. We admit; we’re long overdue and it’s not ok.

In a month that is colored pink for National Breast Cancer Awareness Month, I’ve started to think about how many strong, smart and educated women I know who consistently avoid seeing a doctor. When I think of my friends who also admit to being long overdue for their exams, the majority of us have one thing is common: we’re gay.

But what none of us can or should avoid is that one in every eight women will develop breast cancer during their lifetime, and according to Susan G. Komen for the Cure: “Lesbian, gay, bisexual women and transgender people have a greater risk of breast cancer than other women.”

This increased risk for lesbians and bisexual women developing breast cancer is not related to sexual orientation, but to specific risk factors that are more often found within the gay community. According to Liz Margolies, LCSW, founder and executive director of The National LGBT Cancer Network, the four mostly commonly cited risk factors for lesbians and bisexual women developing breast cancer include: a higher rate of cigarette smoking, alcohol use, and obesity, as well as gay women being less likely to give birth before turning thirty.

But there is also a fifth factor: lesbians and bisexual women are less likely than heterosexual women to have yearly gynecological exams. So why don’t we go? The reasons are endless, but it very often comes down to one of two things: a lack of health insurance or uneasiness with healthcare providers.

It is not a secret that the majority of healthcare professionals have little to no experience when it comes to interacting with the LGBT community, and depending on where you live in the world, very often it falls on the lesser end of the spectrum. No one likes encountering the infamous blank stare from a nurse after she inquires whether you use protection as you awkwardly squirm in your gown saying, well I’m a lesbian so, uh, it’s kind of a little different… It is also not a secret that finding affordable LGBT sensitive healthcare is not the easiest of feats and very often it is overwhelming.

But we know we can’t hide from the fact that not having yearly exams and regular mammograms puts us at a higher risk for the second most deadly cancer for women: breast cancer. We don’t hide in the streets, so let’s not allow cancer to hide from us: let’s Hollaback! to cancer! Check out the links below to find out where you and all the badass women in your life can find resources and information about the prevention and detection of breast cancer.

1.) Check out this Mammograms Facts Sheet , from womenshealth.gov  to learn when you should start having regular mammograms.

2.)Need help finding a doctor? Go to the Gay and Lesbian Medical Association  (GLMA) to find LGBT sensitive healthcare providers.

3.)Find out more information about the LGBT community and cancer at the National LGBT Cancer Network.

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Article

Anita Hill and Hope for Humanity

By REBECCA KATHERINE HIRSCH

20 years ago this month College Professor Anita Hill took to the witness stand at the confirmation hearings of Supreme Court nominee Clarence Thomas. Despite being accused of “flat-out perjury,” Hill courageously revealed to the world that whilst working under Thomas’, the Supreme Court nominee had not only pressured her for dates, but, had boasted of his sexual prowess and regularly, with great detail had described pornographic films to her.

Two decades later on October 15 prominent scholars, attorneys, journalists, activists and our very own Emily May came together for New York City conference “Sex, Power and Speaking Truth: Anita Hill 20 Years Later” to celebrate the controversy that not only launched modern day public awareness but redefined stock assumptions of exactly how sexual harassment manifests itself. And I was lucky enough to bag myself a ticket.

Anita Hill gave a wonderfully casual and gracious talk about her experiences regarding intersectional racism-sexism in the wake of her 1991 hearing. Amidst the rejuvenating hullabaloo a poignant moment stood out to me. Hill referred to polls revealing that 70 percent of Americans felt that she had been treated fairly by the all-white, all-male Senate Judiciary. I asked myself how is this possible? Largely due to gender stereotyping and the myth of manipulative women. The severity of such stock perceptions is their impact on an honest woman’s testimonial. I believe that this form of sexism survives by condoning the “boys will be boys” attitude, whereby a male is above the law by virtue of his boyhood. A woman, particularly one of color with all the historical baggage of colonization and slavery, is seen as sexually available by default. To protest sexual harassment, in this instance, is ridiculous because “boys will be boys.”

Anita Hill made no apologies for audaciously confronting her attacker and celebrating her tenacity 20 years on will hopefully educate and inspire the next generation of empowered women. The conference yielded the notion that education starts from the ground up. Actively speaking the truth is the first step to enacting legislation against any type of harassment to create an environment where people take women seriously because women take themselves seriously. I encourage women to speak up and defend themselves! If you hear:

“Hey sexy!”

Take him on:

“Oh hey, you think I’m sexy? Well, geez! I just feel like I’m walking home! But tell me about that…”

Issues of gender-based stereotyping, violence and sexism in general should not be a taboo subject, bring it up at family dinners, in friendly emails, on Facebook or Twitter, at school, in the park or at the store. Being a kick-ass, sassy and change inspiring feminist is a fun and full-time job and it pays off to be empowering yourself and those around you. Show people that the stereotypes are wrong all we want is gender equality and mutual respect.

“We, as activists and saboteurs who seek to upset the status quo, are in a place of danger and we need to protect ourselves. And yet, we are about to be free and we are not going to stop.”

Gloria Steinem

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Article

HOLLAWho? Meet Chandigarh.

Meet Rubina, the eternal optimist fighting street harassment in Chandigarh, India. 

Why do you HOLLA? Because any kind of harassment is not okay!

What’s your craft? I’m a lawyer.

HOLLAfact about your city: Chandigarh is one of the cleanest and most well-planned cities in India

What was your first experience with street harassment? My first experience was when I was 16 years old. I was walking from home to a nearby market and a group of boys started following me. They were hooting and commenting. My first reaction was to find a way out of the situation. I quickened my pace and entered a shop where I knew the owner. I stayed inside until I saw them leave.

Define your style: I am an eternal optimist. I like to believe the best of people. I try to understand why people do the things that they do. No one is inherently evil and if you just try a little, you can connect to the human inside of everyone.

Say you’re Queen for the day.  What would you do to end street harassment? All harassers would have to pay a $100 fine for each incident of harassment and the money would be used to fund Hollaback! campaigns all over the world!

If you could leave the world one piece of advice, what would it be? To let go of judgements.

My superheroine power is…positivity!

What inspires you? The amazing strength of the human spirit.

In the year 2020, street harassment…will be a thing of the past.

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Article

Gender Myth-Busting to End Gender Oppression!

BY REBECCA KATHERINE HIRSCH

It appears to me that much of the cultural devaluation of the “feminine” comes from the long-held myth that there is an intrinsic difference between the genders.

Growing up, an easy label to attach to myself was “tomboy” because I was “like a boy” in that I did not like dresses or pink. But now I do like dresses and pink and I’m still me but no longer considered a “tomboy.” How odd! “Tomboy” itself is an unfair idea. I’m not ‘like a boy’ if I dislike pink. I’m like a biological female who sometimes does. It’s a color. A color is not characteristic of a gender.

As spirit-lifting author and transgender activist Kate Bornstein says “Gender attribution is phallocentric. One is male until perceived otherwise.” I think this universal acceptance of man and “maleness” as being normal (hence, a tomboy is ‘like a boy’ since boys and males are the standards against which we measure things) unfairly marks non-males and non-“masculine” behavior (such as enjoying the color pink) as abnormal. Women, not being men, are Other, Alien, Anonymous; the helper, the obstacle, the enemy, the prize.

So, voila! My humble plea: Let us not think in polar opposites. Let us bust some myths.

The myth that men are and should be stolid and unfeeling cuts off menfolk from actual human feelings. The myth that men are weak to their sexual desires (which are generally defined as heterosexual, dominant, impulsive and darned sloppy) is a myth that limits the full scope of men’s sexuality and reduces men to the state of a childlike predator.  (See: Hugo Schwyzer http://www.hugoschwyzer.net/2011/05/24/3877/)

The myth that women are pure, pretty princesses is weird, dehumanizing and unrealistic. And much worse is the myth that women are depraved and must be controlled and censored in order to prevent great, scary, mysteriously feminine things (like what–equality?). This myth cuts off women’s sexual development and tells a great, socially-accepted lie about what women are (non-sexual) and what they can be (slaves).

Both of these myths—men as helpless beasts and women as evil ninnies—hurt EVERYONE. In this polar-opposite construction of gender differences, men are hapless attackers; women perpetual victims and no one goes home happy. If we can break out of the system that tells us what we are, if we can stop being manipulated by false ideas that sell stereotypes about our sexual potentials, then we can freely express ourselves sexually and ethically without fear of sexual assault.

In essence: We are not dissimilar males and non-males, but friends! There are no absolute, essential qualities inherent in any gender. I advocate a smashing of the old lies and myths so we can more realistically see ourselves as diverse, sexual people of many stripes. Onward!

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Article

Looking-at-people-you-find-attractive etiquette

BY REBECCA KATHERINE HIRSCH

Know that jaunty feeling when you’re walking down the street and see a fine-looking individual? Don’t punch them in the face. Because that’s what it feels like to be piercingly stared to the ground, whistled at, lip-smacked, pinched and bullied.

I’ve been doing some thinking about that common street harassment excuse that these things are “just compliments.”

This defense brings up a tricky double bind.

The male privilege (taught, not innate) to stare, mock and hurt (a privilege that many men don’t even consider, never having being raised as women to be constantly alert to attack) exists on an unpleasant continuum of dehumanizing actions that stretches from lewd gestures to physical assault. In other words, the philosophy that Women are Prizes, not people—pretty ornaments, immaterial support systems or peripheral cast members to the Everyman—can encompass everything from mockery to rape.

“Sexuality” as presented in this traditional predator-prey mold is adversarial. Man attacks woman. End of story. And in this impossibly limited characterization, the ONLY way a woman is allowed to receive any power without recourse is to enjoy the male attention, to be a happy recipient of condoned male attention or aggression.

But EVERYONE wants to be admired. This is not a FEMALE trait. Everyone wants to admire. This is not a MALE trait. We all want the same things. The issue is context, duration, awareness of situations. Men are taught to pursue. Women are taught to take it or internally fight it, but certainly not do anything to protest the system that created it.

Everyone wants to look and be looked at in comfortable, erotic, safe situations. But it’s not a compliment if the recipient’s response is anger or hurt. So how do we get to more equilateral gender relations? I suggest 1) valuing and teaching clear communication skills and 2) encouraging people to express desires and boundaries with awareness of the other person’s desires and boundaries.

In other words: The next time you see a hot chick/cad/fellow person on the street, smile. Say hello. Do a little dance if you can’t keep it inside. But don’t be mean. No one wants to bang the mean person. After all, no kind expression of interest will ever warrant the desperate defense that it was “just a compliment.”

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Article

The world needs better role models. We pick Chaz.

BY SARA SUGAR

Most of us have heard that Chere’s son, Chaz Bono, is transgender and recently underwent surgery. You might have also seen or heard that Bono is now a contestant on Dancing with the Stars! Well I say, good for him; but not everyone feels that way.

Tranphobic psychiatrist Keith Ablow recently went on The O’Reilly Factor (Fox) and stated that, “Mr. Bono is doing more than dancing, he’s on a campaign to mainstream transgenderism.” Ablow claims that if your children watch a transgender person, such as Chaz Bono, on television, that your kids will be influenced to become transgender.

If you ask me children should watch Chaz Bono on TV. Here’s why: Bono is  showing all children that he’s completely comfortable with himself and that he possesses no shame in who he is. How could that possibly be a bad thing? It’s not.

Ablow went on to say on The O’Reilly Factor that Bono being a contestant on Dancing with the Stars is akin to anorexics going on television and saying how wonderful they feel. That would be true if being transgender was a deadly or a disease, but it’s neither.  The reality is that if all children were exposed to positive role models from the LGBT community, the rate of bullying would most likely go down, as well as the rate of LGBT teen suicide. Growing up knowing that you’re not different and that you should be accepted for who you are and what you feel, is the best thing for any child, whether they are transgender or not.

Unfortunately, this isn’t the first that we’ve heard from Ablow, and it probably won’t be the last we hear of him and his illogical rants. This past spring Ablow jumped all over a J. Crew advertisement that showed a mother painting her son’s toenails neon pink. And what do you think Ablow had to say about it? No, not that a pastel pink would have gone better with the little boy’s shirt, but yup, you guessed it: painting this boy’s toenails was inevitably going to cause gender confusion!

Despite those like Ablow, there are positive representations of transgender issues in the media. Checkout Transgender kids: Painful quest to be who they are reported on CNN.com; it’s an encouraging counterpoint to the outlandishness of so-called “experts” like Ablow.

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Article

Women, War and Peace

BY ANNIE BOGGS & REBECCA KATHERINE HIRSCH

Did you catch “Women, War and Peace” last night on PBS? The five-part documentary series aired its first episode, Bosnia: I Came To Testify, and it’s certainly not to be missed (the episode will soon be posted online).

Think women and war zones don’t mix? The sentimental notion that women are uninvolved peacekeepers only in the “masculine” domain of war is shattered in the series. In today’s war landscape, women have actually become “primary targets and are suffering unprecedented casualties” in many countries.

The series spotlights female bellicosity and passivity in conflict zones in Africa, South America, the Middle East and the Balkans. Some of the powerful ladies shown in the series are also becoming leaders in governing conflict.

One episode features Leymah Gbowee who recently won the 2011 Nobel Peace Prize, alongside President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf of Liberia and Tawakkul Karman of Yemen (all for their admirable activism work in advancing peace and gender equality — yeah!).

The series continues every Tuesday night until November 8. Narrators Matt Damon, Tilda Swinton, Geena Davis and Alfre Woodard all add some star power to the series.

Find out more on the show’s Facebook and Twitter pages. Next week’s episode is “Pray the Devil Back to Hell”, the story of Liberian women who powerfully stood up against their country’s warlords, so don’t miss it!

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