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Women’s eNews is Going to the Border!

Wed, 07/10/2019 - 01:47

Dear Faithful Readers,

I’ll make this short. Truth in Journalism has never been more crucial than it is today. Surely, it is the only way to distinguish between facts vs. falsehoods. 

This is why I will personally be traveling to the Texas, Arizona and Mexico borders on July 28th – August 5th to document the conditions that migrants (particularly women and children) are currently facing at US detention centers. 

Through your support, I will serve as your eyes and your ears throughout each of these eight days by posting on social media (Twitter, Facebook, Instagram), and you will receive daily updates each morning under our new series, ‘Truth At The Border.’ As Pulitzer Prize-winning author Jennifer Egan wrote in Time magazine when it honored journalists as its 2018 Person of the Year, “We need to write now, write well—tell the truth in all its messy complexity. It’s our best shot at helping to preserve a democracy in which facts still exist and all of us can speak freely.”

No donation is too small to help Women’s eNews document the truth and help tell the real stories to continue to change, and save, women’s lives, as we have been doing for close to two decades! 

Please click here to donate. Women’s eNews thanks you, as always, for your heartfelt and continuing support!


In solidarity,

Lori Sokol, PhD
Executive Director
She/Her/Hers

Sexual Harassment in High School: When Saying “No” is Not Enough

Mon, 07/08/2019 - 16:20

My name is Hannah Downing. I live in San Antonio, Texas. I just completed my senior year of high school. I was a drum major for my high school’s marching band and an editor for the school literary magazine. I was an enthusiastic participant in the classroom. I was a well-established voice in my class and respected among my peers. I was just a regular student, mostly unremarkable.

About a year and a half ago I was the target of sexual harassment.

One of my male peers, someone I had considered a friendly acquaintance, regularly touched, squeezed, and pinched me on my arm and waist and told me overtly sexual things about himself and me. Obviously, I wasn’t okay with this. I’m not a huge fan of being touched at random without my consent, and it was grossly inappropriate of him to discuss the sordid details of his personal, private time with me.

I told him to stop every time he did it, but I said it this way, “Oh my gosh, stopppppp!” with my voice highly pitched and with a playful shove. I didn’t want to hurt his feelings by acting too sensitive to the situation.

As time went on, I grew increasingly uncomfortable. I finally confided in my mother, and told her that I didn’t want to take the issue to my school’s administration and cause a fuss. I wanted to deal with him myself.

My mom taught me to say “no” like I meant it. She told me that up to that point I had been protesting in a manner that communicated to him that I wasn’t serious about wanting him to stop. She taught me to say “no” in a calm and firm voice. She coached me to learn how to give a cold stare and strong posture. We practiced a lot, and by the end of my training I felt ready to end the harassment once and for all.

The next time he touched me, I implemented my new method of saying “no.” I tried to emulate every badass female superhero I knew. I looked him in the eye with the utmost seriousness and I said in a strong, clear tone, “Stop touching me. I don’t want to be touched.”

 Still, he continued…

That broke me. In that moment, when I was trying so hard to establish control over a situation that deeply disturbed me, he just ignored me. It was a complete invalidation of my autonomy. He didn’t care about my consent. He didn’t care about my feelings. To him, I wasn’t a person worthy of respect. It made me feel dirty and worthless.

Eventually, I managed to stop the harassment by avoiding him, which was difficult because we shared an extracurricular activity that required us to work together.

Although it was over, I was left with some psychological effects. My self-esteem was gone. I felt like I had no power over my body; that at that point anyone could do anything to me, and there would be nothing I could do. For a very long time I was fearful and paranoid that I would be harassed again or even assaulted. If one guy thought it was perfectly fine to treat me like a plaything, who’s to say no one else would? It took me a very long time to feel normal again.

Two years ago, I never imagined that I would be the target of sexual harassment. In my mind there was a certain type of person who was more likely to be harassed. Someone quiet or timid, or someone who was more overt about her sexuality. I thought I came off as strong and intimidating but, still, it happened to me.

I was curious about who else might have had similar experiences to mine, so I asked some of my friends to share thoughts or anecdotes about sexual harassment and assault. One of my friends recalled the times she exercised in our school’s weight room. “There was this guy that gave me creepy vibes and he would come over and talk to me while I worked out,” she said. “After a few weeks he would start to comment about how he saw my body transform into an ‘attractive woman.’ It got even worse when he had three of his friends say similar things about my legs when I did squats. I never went back into the weight room.”

Her story was shocking to me. My friend held multiple leadership positions in various clubs and organizations at school, and she’s the sweetest, most well-meaning person I’ve ever met. How could anyone frame her in a sexual light in a school environment? What had she done to invite any advances?

There was no way that those boys thought they were engaging in meaningful conversation with my friend or giving her actual compliments. Why do people think it’s okay to ignore consent?

“The American sex education system is lacking, at best,” another friend of mine, a fellow editor of the literary magazine, told me. “Consent is not taught in any capacity in most public schools, and if it is discussed at all, it’s lumped in with suicide and bullying in the student crisis section of the curriculum.” “If we are taught about consent, we are taught in the most basic of terms. ‘If she says yes, go for it. If she says no, don’t.’ Consent isn’t explained in terms of mutual enthusiasm, or desire, or enjoyment.”

I’m inclined to agree with her. Our system is broken. On multiple occasions this friend and I have discussed the effects of rape culture and our society’s indifference to women’s issues. We’ve expressed our concerns over the possibility of being assaulted while at college and becoming just another statistic in America’s ever-increasing problem with sexual assault on college campuses.

We swap articles on the subject, but we never learn about the intricacies of consent and healthy, safe sex in a classroom setting. I get most of my information from the internet, which is vast and often misleading, and I only receive that information because I seek it out. We are all at risk of sexual harassment, assault, and abuse, and we can’t protect ourselves from assault simply by dressing conservatively or practicing abstinence.

What we can do is educate ourselves. We need to openly discuss sexual health and conduct. We need to have comprehensive sex ed in schools and more accessible counseling for survivors of assault.

I invite anyone reading this to start a conversation with friends or family. It’s really difficult to start talking about personal experiences with sexual harassment, assault, or abuse, but it is important to let our loved ones know that it’s okay to be open about their experiences. Survivors of assault often suffer in silence because they feel powerless. Some even feel that they brought the assault upon themselves.

Removing the stigma and shame of sexual assault can happen by engaging in a safe, free dialogue like I did with my friends. It may seem like a small thing, but starting that conversation is a step in the right direction to creating a safer, more just, and more understanding society for us all.

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

The Ovary Office: Running for our Lives

Thu, 07/04/2019 - 17:40


Dear Women,
Let’s not compete with each other, there is too much at stake. Let’s not feel threatened or jealous by other women’s success or victory or possibility. Let’s not exhibit faux enthusiasm when other women get accolades or credit or awards or honors. Let’s not be stingy or hoard compliments. Let’s not fear that other women are taking up too much space, or taking up too much time. Let’s not ignore or dismiss another woman’s good fortune or their good work. Let’s not curse their beauty, or damn their brilliance. Let’s not take away their shine or their ability to stand out. Let’s not begrudge them their place in the world, or their place at the table. 

It is time for women – for us – to have a place at the Presidential table, the Oval Office… the Ovary Office.

Before Hillary Clinton won the Democratic nomination for President of the United States, eleven other women threw their hats into the ring: Victoria Woodhull, Belva Ann Lockwood, Gracie Allen (yes, that Gracie Allen) Margaret Chase Smith (it was Smith who inspired a young Hillary Rodham to run for President of her class in ’64), Shirley Chisolm, Patsy Matsu Takemoto Mink, Linda Jeness, Geraldine Ferraro, Pat Schroeder, Carol Moseley Braun, and Elizabeth Dole. Every one of these women were bombarded with criticism and insults, dragged through the mud, taken to task, and treated as if they had lost their minds. None won the nomination for President but they all certainly put cracks in the glass ceiling and took many jabs for their courage and their bravery, and fought for the rights and dignity of all women throughout their lives.

When Victoria Woodhull – a suffragette – ran for President women didn’t even have the right to vote but that didn’t stop her. What did stop her – what is astonishing – is the lack of support she received from other women. Both Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton, while applauding Woodhull’s extraordinary courage on behalf of all women, dismissed her nomination and Ulysses S. Grant won the election. 


Belva Ann Lockwood was berated and dismissed by local newspapers as being “Old Lady Lockwood,” and dragged through the mud; a woman’s place is in the kitchen but that didn’t prevent her from inspiring other women to stand up and stand tall and raise the bar for other women. 


Margaret Chase Smith was the first member of the Senate to take on the human stain known as Joseph McCarthy in her brilliant piece, “The Declaration of Conscience.” Yet she refused to back down, and encouraged many young women to speak their truth and fight for equality. 
Patsy Mink was responsible for the Title IX Amendment of the Higher Education Act prohibiting gender discrimination, and she authored and introduced the Women’s Education Equality Act


Geraldine Ferraro was consistently ridiculed and constantly tossed sexist comments on the campaign trail – comments mostly asked by female reporters. In 2008, when Ferraro supported Hillary Clinton, she felt emotionally and enormously proud.


Pat Schroeder’s run was short lived; she filled in for Gary Hart after he dropped out of the race after his affair with Donna Rice was exposed. Schroeder was ostracized for being emotional and sentimental, and very often ostracized by other women. Now, in 2019, we have six more women running, tossing their hats into the ring; no doubt mud will be flung – we’ve already seen that – and nastiness and cruelty will be bantered about. Hair styles and fashion will be a hot topic, and passion will be misconstrued for anger. Six women at this very moment have decided to run for President of the United States.


Chances are, like Schroeder, some will be short-lived but their courage will live long. A woman’s place is anywhere she wants to be. So, today I’m applauding and cheering the importance and necessity of trying. It takes courage to try, it takes guts to try, it takes emotional wear and tear to try, it takes grit to try, it takes an amazing amount of bravery to try, it takes standing tall, standing up, putting fear aside and tucking it away to try. 
It takes a huge heaping of fierce and mighty to try.


So, let’s not compete with each other, it does not serve us well; let us serve each other well. Let us root these women on. They are running for our very lives.
Best & warm,
Amy

The Ovary Office is a new Women’s eNews series covering the women who are running for the presidency, to counterbalance the patriarchal slant that currently exists in much of the mainstream media. While there are six Democratic women vying to become the party’s presidential nominee, their male counterparts have attained about eighty percent of the media’s coverage, thus drowning out women’s platforms and their viability as presidential candidates. The Ovary Office plans to turn this narrative upon its head.

Amy Ferris is a highly accomplished author, screenwriter, television writer, and editor. She was also honored by Women’s eNews as one of its 21 Leaders for the 21st Century for 2018. Amy is also known for championing, encouraging, and inspiring women to awaken to their greatness, as only she can, through passion, truth, hope, and humor—along with a heaping side of activism.

Talking About Talking: Perpetuating Bias in our Culture

Mon, 07/01/2019 - 13:58

We are in the midst of a long-overdue discussion about the role of speech in perpetuating racial biases in our culture. Presidential candidate Joe Biden triggered the talk when he recalled working in the senate with the notoriously racist Mississippi Democrat James O. Eastland. “He never called me ‘boy,’ he always called me ‘son,’” Biden remembered.

He talked of those bygone days as a time of “civility,” which prompted critics to note that segregationists like Eastland commonly called grown black men “boys,” a term meant to degrade and demean them.

Hurtful rhetoric that demeans Black individuals has been part of our modus operandi, often operating well below the surface of conscious choice. But this latest dust-up over language could have a positive outcome–drawing attention to the fact that speech can also perpetuate harmful gender biases. And men are not alone in using phrases to put women down; women are also at fault.

From the time I was a little girl, I used to bristle at my mother when she talked about “playing bridge with the girls.” What girls? I thought. She was about forty-five years old, and the “girls” were her women friends, also in their mid-forties. At the time, I didn’t say anything to my mother, not yet aware that by being a quiet bystander I was complicit in preserving the stereotype that women were child-like. That was then; now when I hear such demeaning slights I am quicker to voice my objections.

A few years ago, I was accompanying my husband to an appointment with his eye doctor. Before seeing the doctor, patients had to complete a few routine lab tests. The lab technicians in this office were all women. At the conclusion of the tests, the office manager told us to wait in the reception area until “one of the girls” called our name. Once again, I bristled. What girls? My immediate thought was, if the technicians were male, would the office manager have told us “to wait until one of the boys called our name?” Rather than “let it go,” assuming she did not mean anything derogatory, I called the manager aside, telling her that I wanted to talk to her privately. I shared my feelings and was relieved that, after a bit of defensiveness, the manager listened to what I had to say. She asked me how she should say it differently, and I suggested that she tell patients that “one of the technicians” would call their name when the doctor was ready to see them.

I haven’t been back to that eye doctor’s office since then, but I feel certain that our talk raised the manager’s awareness of what she was doing unconsciously, and decreased the chance that she will make the same mistake again.

As Carmen Rios writes on the website, Everyday Feminism,  “saying ‘girl(s)’ comes naturally to me, as it does to so many of us. But just like calling [mixed sex] groups of people ‘guys’ is a widespread and completely normalized practice that inadvertently minimizes the existence of women, so does calling groups of people ‘girls.’

“And yetthe use of the word ‘girls’ to refer to women is very rarely called out as sexist. In fact, it still goes largely unnoticed, even by people who should ‘know better.’ Even media with feminist leanings use the word ‘girls’ as a catchall for adult topics or stories about adult women. Consider the titles of shows like Girlfriends, New Girl, Gilmore Girls, and even Lena Dunham’s own Girls; or movies like Girl with the Dragon Tattoo; Girl, Interrupted; and Dream Girls. Even the book Girlboss is guilty.

That’s because calling women ‘girls’ is commonplace, and most people don’t bat an eyelash when they do it or when they hear someone else doing it. In fact, calling women ‘girls’ is so normal that people actually feel uncomfortable calling them ‘women’ instead. Yet, it is important to deal with these uncomfortable feelings because there are consequences of not doing so. When we call women ‘girls,’ we’re using the force of language to make them smaller. We resist and deny their maturity, their adulthood, and their true power. When you call a woman a ‘girl,’ you’re actually saying a lot of very serious things about gender politics and womanhood.”

And there are serious consequences. 

A girl is a female under the age of eighteen, so when the word ‘girl’ is used to describe adult females, it implies that women are immature or childish. Thus, language perpetuates the stereotype of women as emotional, irrational, weak, and helpless. 

There are other troubling consequences. When women are referred to as  ‘girls,’ it makes it easier for superiors in the workplace to ignore them and their contributions. Women may also be passed over for promotions because it’s difficult for bosses to appreciate the abilities or career advancement potential of ‘girls’. Further, it’s hard to think of yourself as a capable leader and thinker when you are called a girl or, even worse, when you think of yourself as a girl. 

This behavior garnered international attention in 2015 when the British paper the Guardian reported that then Education Secretary Nicky Morgan and Energy Secretary Amber Rudd were greeted outside 10 Downing Street by a photographer calling to them, “Morning, girls!” For the record, The Guardian noted,  “Morgan is 42 and Rudd 51. Both are well beyond their teen years, when such a greeting might have been apt. Morgan, who is also ‘minister for women’ – that’s women – and equalities, had a witty comeback, shouting, ‘Girls? Girls?!’ The photographer quickly apologized.”

Unfortunately, even old age will not provide protection against the harmful effects of dismissive language. This point was brought home to me several years ago when I took my mother, who was roughly the same age I am now, to a medical appointment. The intake nurse had a number of questions, all of which she addressed to me. My mother, who was as fully competent then, as I am today, was completely ignored; it was as if she wasn’t even in the examination room. Once I saw the pattern, I called the nurse out and insisted that she direct her questions to the person with the answers–my mother.

Just as black males of all ages have been devalued by being called ‘boy,’ women of all ages have been demeaned and trivialized by being called ‘girl.’

Hopefully, the Biden dust-up will ignite a meaningful discussion about language and biases that will have beneficial effects during the 2020 election season, and well beyond.

Celebration and Protest at this Year’s World Pride.

Thu, 06/27/2019 - 15:12

It’s the last week of Pride month. One of my favorite times of the year  – a month during which LGBTIQ movements around the world celebrate progress and resilience; when attention is drawn to countering violence; when the spotlight shines on stories of LGBTIQ people to raise awareness, increase understanding, and promoting progress. Whether pride takes the shape of celebration or protest or – as it will for me – both, it is undoubtedly the time of year when our movement is seen the most, and our hearts beat the loudest.

And this year it is even more so, as we mark fifty years after the spontaneous riots in protest against police raids and shaming of LGBTIQ people at the Stonewall Inn gave rise to the contemporary LGBTIQ and Pride movements. New York is hosting World Pride to mark the occasion, recognizing the global importance of the Stonewall riots, and celebrating the incredible progress we’ve seen around the globe over the last fifty years, while also drawing attention to the horrific conditions LGBTIQ people continue to face in far too many places.

Thinking back to what our movement has achieved in 50 years is humbling. Laws criminalizing same-sex relations have fallen across the world. Just this month in Botswana and Bhutan. anti-discrimination legislation, specifically including grounds for sexual orientation and gender identity, have been adopted in numerous locations spanning the globe, most recently in North Macedonia. Recognition that love has no gender is growing, with Taiwan recently becoming the first country in Asia to legalize same-sex marriage. Pride events have grown in size, visibility and prestige; LGBTIQ characters in popular culture are growing year on year.

Without a doubt, we have a lot to celebrate!

However, the last year has also been a sobering reminder that we can never take progress for granted. After decades of incredible pride marches in Istanbul and elsewhere in Turkey, they have been banned and violently attacked in recent years. Pride organizers were arrested last year in Lebanon and persecutions of perceived LGBTIQ people, predominantly gay and bisexual men, continued with impunity in Chechnya. Brunei passed a final phase of Sharia law envisaging death by stoning so-called sexual offenses, including same-sex relations and adultery. Further, the Vatican’s Congregation for Catholic Education used Pride month to issue an extensive guidance document for Catholic schools and universities to promote bullying and the exclusion of LGBTIQ youth.

Moreover, sixty-eight countries and several territories still criminalize same-sex relations. In fifty-five countries LGBTIQ organizations cannot legally register, and in thirty countries there are no LGBTIQ organizations at all. LGBTIQ people are also subjected to harmful and ineffective “conversion therapies”, recognized as being tantamount to torture by the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights. Fifty years ago, trans women were on the forefront of the Stonewall riots. Their rights have not only lagged behind in the years since, but are facing a particularly tenacious and hateful backlash now.

Even in countries where LGBTIQ progress has been made, they have faced challenges. We have seen openly transphobic comments and policies proposed by the President of the United States, and an 80% surge in hate crimes against LGBTIQ people in the UK. The so-called anti-gender movement has grown in strength and numbers, spanning across hateful civil society and religious groups aiming to challenge the existence of and exclude LGBTIQ people from human rights protections, halt gender equality efforts, restrict sexual and reproductive health and rights, and preserve a social order based on outdated, harmful gender roles.

In this context, I will be joining the World Pride March on June 30 in New York City, in celebration of all of the achievements to date. And I will smile, and dance, and enjoy the incredible energy the event will bring to the city.

But I will also march in the same spirit of protest that the first marches embodied; for we have quite the battle ahead to keep fighting for progress in the recognition of our right to be who we are and live our lives without discrimination, harassment and violence, while also preventing backsliding of the progress achieved so far.

About the author:

Jessica Stern is Executive Director of OutRight Action International, and specializes in gender, sexuality and human rights globally. At OutRight, she has supported the legal registration of LGBTIQ organizations globally, helped secure the mandate of the United Nations Independent Expert on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity, and advanced the UN LGBTI Core Group.

Nasreen Sheikh: From an Unremarkable Birth, to a Remarkable Life

Sun, 06/23/2019 - 16:49

“From the moment of my birth in a southern Nepal border village, I was taught that my existence was unremarkable. Growing up I witnessed so many atrocities against women that, by age 9 or 10, my life seemed destined for the same oppressive path. I worked 15 hours per day in a Nepali sweatshop as a child laborer, receiving less than $2 per grueling shift, and only if I completed the hundreds of garments demanded of me. I ate, slept and toiled in my prison-cell sized sweatshop workstation, too afraid to even look out the window. By about age 21, my family had arranged a forced marriage for me. But through the help of a kind stranger who taught me to read and seize my destiny, I escaped the sweatshop and forced marriage.” -Nasreen Sheikh

Nasreen Sheikh does not know her birthday or her exact age. That is because in her native southern Nepal border village, girls’ births are not recorded in any official record. “From the moment of her birth, society tells the rural girl child that her existence is unremarkable,” Nasreen says. “If one’s own birth does not matter, then the conditions in which she lives, works, strives, suffers and dies also do not matter.” These words served as the opening to Nasreen’s presentation at the Women Deliver Global Conference earlier this month, where over 8,000 world leaders, influencers, advocates, academics, activists, and journalists flocked to Vancouver to hear about the risks, challenges and triumphs of numerous women and girls, all working to create a gender equal world.

For Nasreen, who was determined to empower disadvantaged women, she did so by launching the Local Women’s Handicrafts, a fair trade sewing collective based in Kathmandu, Nepal. LWH is a social enterprise that empowers and educates disadvantaged women by providing a paid training program in design, sewing, weaving, embroidery, knitting, jewelry making and pattern work. To date, LWH has trained hundreds of Nepali women – many of whom escaped forced and abusive marriages, and all of whom are determined to escape poverty.

Nasreen’s seamstresses and artisans sew beautiful handicrafts each day and, in the process, sew the pieces of themselves back together as well. She has also launched a powerful public health and education initiative by making and giving away hundreds of biodegradable antibacterial sanitary pads to rural women and girls who cannot afford basic hygienic supplies. She also leads body image and women’s health workshops in cramped rural schools and villages for those who often suffer in silence and stigma.

Nasreen shatters everything anyone believes about the limitations of women, child laborers, fair trade, or even your environmentally irresponsible plastic water bottle. Although only 10 years ago, Nasreen could barely read or write, she is now giving talks around the world about her work and the plight of child laborers and survivors of forced marriage for such international conferences as the Foreign Trade Association (Brussels), Google (America), women’s conferences, dozen of universities and recently gave a TEDx talk.

“I envision a world where women are leaders in their communities, they are in control of their own lives, their own rights, and their own decisions.” – Nasreen

In Case You Missed It: The Ninth Annual Elly Awards

Tue, 06/18/2019 - 15:25

On Monday, June 17th, The Women’s Forum of New York hosted the 9th Annual Elly Awards Luncheon benefiting The Education Fund of the Women’s Forum. The awards, named for the Women’s Forum founder Elinor Guggenheimer, honor outstanding women leaders, and this year marked the 32nd anniversary of the Education Fund of the Women’s Forum, which has helped over 260 women, age 35 and over, whose lives have been disrupted by extreme adversity, complete their college degrees.

The 2018 Women’s Forum of New York Education Awards Fellows

“The Education Fund of the Women’s Forum has transformed lives, influenced families, and improved communities,” says Barbara Marcus, President, The Education Fund of the Women’s Forum. “Launched thirty-two years ago to help other women realize their dream of a college education, The Education Fund has awarded over $1.8 million in financial awards to over 260 women to help them return to school, earn their degree, and take their place in the professional work world. Many of these women have overcome very difficult circumstances to realize their dream of a college education.  We are proud to support their efforts.”

The Women’s Forum of New York is an invitation-only organization of more than 500 women representing the highest levels of achievement across all professional sectors and spheres of influence in our city. Founded in 1974, when women were first entering the executive ranks, today’s Women Forum members are recognized among New York’s thought leaders, influencers, trailblazers, policymakers, change agents, power brokers, innovators, icons, creators, and business builders.

The Education Fund is the educational and charitable arm of The Women’s Forum of New York, established under a separate corporate governance as a 501(c)(3) tax deductible organization. Since 1987, the Fund has provided financial awards to women 35 and over who have demonstrated high potential and faced extreme adversity which has disrupted their education and derailed their futures. These women fall outside the scope of most traditional scholarship programs and these awards help them complete their education and get their careers and lives back on track.

This year’s awards recipients included Katie Couric, award winning journalist, producer, New York Times bestselling author, cancer advocate, podcast host, documentary filmmaker, and former co-anchor of the Today Show on NBC; Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton, representative for the District of Columbia and former Professor of Law at Georgetown University, and Muriel Fox, Board Chair of Veteran Feminists of America and former Executive Vice-President of Carl Byoir & Associates.

“The Women’s Forum of New York is comprised of the most accomplished and successful women in the city from every professional sector,” says Linda A. Willett, President of the Women’s Forum of New York. “We know from our own success how critical education is, so our Education Fund is one way we ‘give back’ – helping women age 35 and over whose lives have been disrupted by extreme adversity complete their education and get their lives back on track. We hope we inspire them, because their dreams, drive, and determination certainly inspire us.”

The 2020 application will be available on or before September 1, 2019. To learn more, please click here.

Book excerpt: 100 TIMES: A MEMOIR OF SEXISM

Sun, 06/16/2019 - 12:08

When she was 5, the little boy Chavisa Woods was playing with pinched her butt. His mother, upon hearing the story, told her she probably liked it. When she was 36, a cab driver locked the doors and wouldn’t let her out until she gave him her phone number. In 100 TIMES: A MEMOIR OF SEXISM (Seven Stories Press; June 25, 2019), Woods lays out one hundred personal vignettes of the sexism, harassment, discrimination, and sexual assault she’s experienced in her life. The incidents, which range from lewd comments to attempted rape, take place when she was growing up in poor rural Southern Illinois, when she was working in St. Louis as a young adult, when she was living with her girlfriend in Brooklyn, and when she was a Shirley Jackson Award-winning author and three-time Lambda Finalist writing this book.

While Chavisa Woods chronicles these 100 stories to show how sexism and misogyny have impacted her life, something else happens simultaneously: she lays bare how these dynamics shape all women’s lives, and how relentlessly common they are. She underscores how thoroughly men feel entitled to women’s spaces and to their bodies, and how conditioned women are to endure it. It’s impossible to read 100 TIMES as a woman without cataloging one’s own “Number of Times.” As Woods writes in the book’s introduction, “It’s not that my life has been exceptionally plagued with sexism. It’s that it hasn’t.”

Excerpt: #11

When I was twelve years old, a friend of my mother’s, a fifty-year-old man, began talking to me while I was standing away from the crowd at a family barbecue held by my mother’s side of the family. This older man told me I was beautiful and that I had my mother’s hips, and asked me if I wanted to go on a boat ride with him. I said I would love to, and that I didn’t even know he owned a boat. He said he had a big boat and that the motor purrs, then he pursed his lips and “blew raspberries,” making a fake motor sound with his lips. I was confused. He laughed and asked again if I wanted a boat ride from him. I didn’t answer. He explained to me that a “boat ride” is when a man puts his lips “down there” on a girl (he pointed to my crotch), and “blows raspberries,” and it feels good.

Brooklyn-based writer Chavisa Woods is the author of the short story collection Things to Do When You’re Goth in the Country (Seven Stories Press, 2017), the novel The Albino Album (Seven Stories Press, 2013); and the story collection Love Does Not Make Me Gentle or Kind (Fly by Night Press, 2009). Woods was the recipient of the 2014 Cobalt Prize for fiction and was a finalist in 2009, 2014, and 2018 for the Lambda Literary Award for fiction. In 2018 Woods was the recipient of the Kathy Acker Award for Writing and the Shirley Jackson Award for Best Novelette.

On World Day Against Child Labor: Put an End to Child Marriage

Tue, 06/11/2019 - 13:36

Each year, on June 12, the International Labor Organization (ILO) commemorates the World Day Against Child Labor to focus global attention on the extent of child labor and the actions needed to eliminate it. 

The ILO, which was founded a hundred years ago in the aftermath of World War I, is using the occasion of this year’s World Day Against Child Labor to urge accelerated action on Target 8.7 of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG), which calls on all “to take immediate and effective measures to eradicate forced labor … and secure the prohibition and elimination of all forms of child labor.”

These are noble and important goals, but we also urge the ILO to direct its focus on SDG Target 5.3, which calls for the elimination of “all harmful practices, such as child, early, and forced marriage.” For the truth is obvious: Child marriage is child labor within the ILO’s own definition.

The reality of day-to-day life for girls living within child marriages is one of servitude. They carry out all of the household chores, perform demanding agricultural work, and cook with fire and heavy pots of boiling water over unventilated cookstoves. They also work from dusk until dawn, waking at night to breastfeed, tend to sick kids, and care for elders; and they are forced into a sexual relations before the age of consent.

Consider the International Labor Organization’s (ILO) criteria for the worst forms of child labor: Work that is mentally, physically, socially or morally dangerous or harmful to children; work that exposes children to physical or sexual abuse; work that forces children to work long hours, which unreasonably confines them to the premises, and could result in a child’s death, injury, illness or disability.  Yet, many child “marriages” are still excluded from the ILO’s child labor statistics. 

The dots simply need connecting: A marriage to a minor who is too young to give her legal consent is by definition a forced marriage, creating a non-consensual relationship between a child and the man posing illegally as her “spouse,” which results in a forced labor situation. Forced labor is the worst form of child labor. Therefore, child marriage is child labor. 

AIDS-Free World concurs that anyone under 18 should be defined as a minor child, but we also recognize that the Convention on the Rights of the Child left it to individual governments to set the age at which a child becomes an adult and can legally consent. As a first step, while advocates for children work to raise the age to 18 in every country, it must be acknowledged that any “marriage” to a child who is too young to consent under her or his country’s existing laws is, by definition, in a forced marriage that results in child labor. 

There is no need to change any treaties or conventions. The legal basis for finally beginning to count child marriage as the worst form of child labor is solidly in place. The ILO statistics are no small matter. Bad data makes bad policy, and vice versa.

Undercounting the number of girls forced into child labor by omitting all those at work within illegal marriages is discriminatory. It means that critical resources, policies, and programs are being misallocated. People who are genuinely devoted to ending child labor worldwide are unaware that their goal cannot be reached unless we also end child marriage. Recent studies estimate that of the 12 million child marriages that take place every year, at least 7.5 million are illegal in the countries where they occur. This means a minimum of 7.5 million girls are missing from each year’s estimated total of child laborers, rendering the data inaccurate and skewing policy decisions.

It takes strength to abandon old habits and outdated perspectives; it takes courage to agree to a recount that will put the ILO farther from the finish line of eliminating child labor worldwide. But the world needs that strength and courage from the International Labor Organization and, more importantly, and urgently, so do millions upon millions of girls hidden in plain sight.

As the ILO outlined in its founding constitution one hundred years ago: “Universal peace can be established only if it is based on social justice.”

Paula Donovan is Co-Director of AIDS-Free World.

A Letter from Men…to Men: Stand Up For Women’s Reproductive Rights!

Mon, 06/10/2019 - 12:05

According to the Pew Research Center, 60 percent of women and 57 percent of men say abortion should be legal in “all or most cases.” But “checking a box on a questionnaire doesn’t tell us much, because polls don’t measure intensity,” noted Katha Pollitt in The Nation recently. “There is no box for “Sure, babe, whatever” or for “Yes! Abortion rights is the hill I would die on.”

When it comes to speaking up for women’s reproductive health and voices, pro-choice men’s voices have been more or less mute. It’s a tricky conversation but it shouldn’t be. While not everyone believes men should have a seat at the reproductive rights table, would excluding men really be in women’s best interests? In their Girls’ Globe article, “What do men have to do with women’s reproductive rights?”, Gary Barker of Promundo, an international NGO engaging men and boys in promoting gender equality, and Serra Sippel of Change, a 25 year-old center for health and gender equity, argue that it would be a disservice to women to exclude men from sexual and reproductive rights conversations because it “…keeps the burden for contraception on women. It halts efforts that encourage men to support the reproductive choices of their female partners, and perpetuates a culture in which no man is perceived to be, or engaged to be, an ally in ensuring reproductive rights of all people.”

For many men who believe in gender equality, me included, there’s been little of a sustained, consistent men’s pro-choice effort. We heard the maxim, “women’s bodies; women’s choices” and nodded. Consequently, many of us backed off from actively working to protect Roe v. Wade, believing we could always re-engage if circumstances became dire—if Roe was being threatened, right? After all, we reasoned, Roe’s been settled law since 1973. Well, it is now more than unsettled—it is unraveling. In the face of vicious anti-choice laws sweeping through southern and mid-western states, men cannot afford to stay silent. 

Before the 2006 mid-term elections, I was among hundreds of volunteers who went door to door across South Dakota canvassing to overturn what was then the most restrictive abortion ban in the nation. For weeks, pro-choice legions criss-crossed the state. I stood on residents’ doorsteps on leafy streets in small Dakota towns explaining why I’d come all the way from Massachusetts. “I have a son, 18, and three daughters all in their twenties,” I’d begin. “Imagine if even one parent in South Dakota had a daughter who’d been raped and became pregnant. Must that family follow a state law that forbade the young woman from aborting the rapist’s child? One that compelled her to bear his baby?” Often enough my comments struck a nerve. We won that battle (55 to 45 percent) and South Dakota’s law was overturned by the will of the people. Nevertheless, vigorous efforts to restrict a woman’s right to choose continue unabated to this day all across South Dakota.

I can come up with a half-dozen reasons why I didn’t maintain as active an involvement in the reproductive rights movement as I might have; but none hold water. It’s painful to admit that I have fallen short, missed the mark—that I have not been a better ally to women in the struggle to maintain their reproductive rights.  After all, as a man who believes in gender equality, I have always been able to enjoy and manage my own body knowing that the same is not true for women. I now know I cannot remain silent.  How can I ask other men to speak out for women’s reproductive health and rights if I‘m not willing to do so as well?  Men need to encourage other men to step up. 

Hopefully Father’s Day, 2019, will jumpstart some important conversations among men and between women and men. More than a new grill or tickets to the ballgame—and certainly beyond the demeaning dad stereotypes that get aired every June—there are practical ways men can stand with women at this perilous time. Whether you’re a father, stepdad, father figure, brother, uncle, nephew, coach or mentor, we need you, not just on Father’s Day, but every day!

Here are some actions men—not just fathers—can take: 

Volunteer at a clinic, including escorting patients inside.

For fathers: in lieu of a gift ask your family to make a donation to a local clinic, Planned  ParenthoodNARAL, or all three.  

–  Urge your faith community’s leader to deliver a sermon supporting a women’s right to choose (or be the guest speaker yourself).

–  Write a letter to the editor stating your unequivocal support for women’s reproductive rights.

–  Invite a group of men over to talk about the threat women face and why men need to break their silence.

–  Urge researchers to accelerate work on developing male birth control methods.

–  If you have a son old enough, talk with him about respecting women’s autonomy.

–  Let your daughter know you unequivocally support her right to control her body.

–  Alert anti-choice legislators that you won’t just vote to unseat them, you’ll work to elect pro-choice candidates.

Katha Pollitt has other suggestions, beginning with noting the economic advantage most men have: “That dollar you earn compared with the average woman’s 80 cents? Put it to work by donating today to an abortion fund in one of the abortion-ban states,” she suggests. Among possible recipients could be Missouri’s Gateway Women’s Access Fund, which helps people in this state with more than six million people, but only one clinic, and where the latest super-restrictive “heartbeat bill” was recently passed. (To support the Missouri fund, along with many others, go to abortionfunds.org).

Women are facing a full-blown emergency. The clock is ticking; a test case to overturn Roe v. Wade could soon be before the Supreme Court. With the flames of intolerance rapidly approaching our sisters’ windows, men must join the bucket brigade to put out the fire. NOW!

Quotes from Men about AbortionFrom the Political to the Personal:

“Among the scores of pro-feminist, anti-violence men’s organizations Voice Male magazine has written about and partnered with over the past three decades, are committed colleagues who champion gender equality, working both in North America and around the world. Their overarching goal of transforming masculinity takes many forms, including (but not limited to) advocating to prevent domestic violence and sexual assault; educating young men about respectful relationships; involving actively fathers in caregiving; consulting with NGOs around the world on projects to advance gender equality; and training early childhood educators on strategies for raising healthy boys. Their projects are representative but by no means exhaustive among efforts aimed at advancing a new expression of manhood, a new vision of masculinities. Recently, six colleagues that have been engaged in pro-feminist men’s work for decades shared with me some of their thoughts about men’s role in supporting women’s reproductive rights. The edited excerpts below range from the political to the personal.”—Rob Okun

“Although we are making progress in helping men and boys understand their role in the #MeToo and #TimesUp movements, the vast majority of men, including many working to engage men and boys, are still unsure, largely silent on the question of a woman’s access to abortion and reproductive rights.  Could abortion still be viewed by most men as a “woman’s issue?”  We were able to break the barrier when it came to gender-based violence and gender equality, so why are we stuck on abortion?  Removing access to safe abortion is a form of gender-based violence. Controlling a woman’s reproductive choices—including access to abortion—is a form of individual and state-sponsored control over a woman’s body.  If men are speaking out against all other forms of violence against women, then we should speak out against this form of violence, too. Men and boys need to join women advocates. We owe it to the women’s movement, and we owe it to ourselves.” —Humberto Carolo, executive director, White Ribbon, board co-chair MenEngage Alliance

“Political analysts say that pro-choice women, outraged by the abortion ban legislation sweeping through state legislatures, will be an important political force in 2020, perhaps more than in any single previous presidential election. The idea that threats to women’s reproductive freedom are also an issue for men is only mentioned—if at all—as an afterthought. This has to change. Liberal and progressive men need to hear loud and clear that their support for women’s right to comprehensive health care services—which includes access to safe, legal abortion—needs to be an absolute first-order priority, because without it there is no gender equality. And without gender equality, there is no real democracy.”     — Jackson Katz, cofounder, Mentors in Violence Prevention and author of The Macho Paradox

“In the mid-1960s my mother had an abortion. I was 12 years old and didn’t know that it happened until decades later. Because abortion was illegal in the United States, my mom and dad had to sneak around like criminals. They ended up in Puerto Rico where abortion was also illegal, but more common. Luckily they found a safe and compassionate doctor. My dad was by my mom’s side throughout the process,supporting her decision. The systematic erosion of women’s reproductive rights happening now should be ringing alarm bells for men around the country. Control of our own bodies is the most basic human right. Erosion of this right moves us steadily into a world where we are no longer free to make our own choices.  Will we speak out on behalf of mothers, sisters, wives and lovers? Will we stand up on behalf of all of our freedom.” Steven Botkin, coordinating committee, North America MenEngage

“Men who support gender equality must join with women and people of all genders in supporting women’s reproductive right to choose. Men also need to take their share of responsibility for birth control, as many unplanned pregnancies are the product of sexual abuse, reproductive coercion or mere irresponsibility on the part of men. If as a society, we want to reduce the number of abortions, men have to do their part.” Juan Carlos Areán, director, children and youth program Futures Without Violence

“Men’s participation in reproduction is minimal. Minutes of pleasure; our desire fulfilled. Then what?  If, despite precautions, the woman accidentally becomes pregnant, what should men do? It’s simple: assist her in whatever way she decides. Support her right to choose. It’s her life; not ours. A growing number of state governments are insisting theycan determine what she does with her body and her life. What should men do? Basking in our male privilege, remaining quiet in the face of immoral impositions upon women’s basic human rights is unacceptable. There is no neutrality when there is oppression. Men must speak out publicly. Join women in support of their right to decide—for themselves—what they will do if they become pregnant. Do not sit quietly by. Women’s reproductive rights are not just a woman’s issue; they are an issue of justice and democratic freedom.” Chuck Derry, cofounder Gender Violence Institute

“When I was still a teenager, I was having unprotected sex with my girlfriend. I was ignorant and irresponsible; I assumed she was taking measures to avoid a pregnancy Why? My reasoning was shallow. I thought, well, she’s the woman, and she’s had more experience in these matters since she was mother to a four year-old. When she told me she was pregnant, I freaked out. I was about to start my first year of college. I “convinced” her to abort the pregnancy. I played the victim; guilt-tripping her, saying something like, “How could you do this to me when I’m just starting college?” I acted as if I was not co-responsible for the pregnancy. Feeling alone, she got the abortion. I was not even present. My “excuse?” She was living in another city and did not let me know where and when it would occur. All these decades later, the question remains: When women face an unplanned pregnancy and all the complex decision-making it requires, where are the men? A few years later, after I was lucky enough to be exposed to feminism, I became active in the profeminist men’s movement in my native Nicaragua. That was in the late eighties and nineties. Then about 20 years ago, our Managua-based profeminist men’s collective, Grupo de Hombres contra la Violencia, drafted a statement about men’s responsibility regarding abortion. Here’s an excerpt: As brothers, parents, boyfriends, husbands, and friends of women who at some time have needed or may need a therapeutic abortion to safeguard their life and health, we reject the claim of criminalizing therapeutic abortion… Men have no right to demand that women put their lives at risk… It is the right of women to put their own health and well-being first. If therapeutic abortion is penalized, then men should also be imprisoned. Men are the cause of many abortions, particularly when we behave in the following ways: 

               – Pressure or force women to have sex.

               – Refuse to use condoms or other male contraception. 

               – Prevent a partner from using her preferred contraceptive method. 

               – Inflict physical, sexual or emotional violence on a partner. 

               – Deny responsibility for her pregnancy.

               – Fail to comply with legal and moral obligation to support our children. 

               – Strong-arm and/or threaten our partner to abort.

Abortion is a very complex, delicate issue. But what is clear is women are the ones who experience pregnancy and abortion. Women must always have the last word.”

Oswaldo Montoya, Networks associate, MenEngage Alliance; cofounder, Grupo de Hombres contra la Violencia, Managua

Rob Okun is editor of Voice Male magazine and a member of the steering committee of North America MenEngage. He was one of Women eNews “21 Leaders for the 21st Century” in 2018, receiving the Gordon Gray Male Leadership award. He can be reached at rob@voicemalemagazine.org.

The Ovary Office: This is No Time for ‘Polite’

Thu, 06/06/2019 - 13:22

Women have been told to sit down and keep quiet, to stand off to the side and stay out of view. 


In other words: Be Polite.
 

We have witnessed and watched, with absolute disgust and horror, how women who have run for office have been dragged through the mud, hung out to dry, vilified, verbally and emotionally assaulted and put in their “place”—that “place” being a corner—or shushed, told to stand in the background, or ordered to stand behind because we all know that old saying: Behind every great man…is a woman, being told to be polite. 


To say that women are judged unfairly is an understatement. We are judged from every single angle: from the way we talk, to the way we dress, to the way we wear our hair, to the shoes on our feet, to the clothes on our back. We are judged for being strong, being determined, being smart, being gutsy, and being persistent.

Nevertheless, We Run!


Women candidates are put under a different microscope than their male counterparts are; women candidates are pulled apart at the seams and admonished for emotional outbreaks, instead of being hailed for their passion and compassion and empathy, which are qualities women have in abundance. Our anger is equated with hormonal imbalance, not inequality, and our frustration, we are told ad nauseam, comes from either menstruation or menopause—period. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, is one of the six Democratic women who have stepped into the Democratic presidential ring, all knowing beforehand that they will get pummeled many times, got into a bit of verbal tussle with Chris Wallace at a FOX News town hall meeting where he reminded her that she had been invited and she needed to be a bit more polite.


More Polite.


When is the last time you heard someone tell a male candidate to be more polite? Let me tell you what being polite does. It shrinks our soul, diminishes our shine, and it keeps us wedged—tucked—into a corner. We can’t ride a wave because being polite would prevent us from making waves. It keeps us fresh and tidy, discouraged from speaking our truth or declaring our truth, because if we speak our truth or declare our truth and someone gets offended…and we all know someone is bound to get offended when a woman speaks her mind.

“Mind Your Business is what we’re told.

Being polite is agreeing and acquiescing when every fiber in our being is shouting and screaming, “Do not agree and do not acquiesce.” It keeps us quiet and in the background, preventing us from being seen, being heard, and being loud.


It is waiting until everyone else gets served, waiting until everyone else is seated even if it means sitting on the floor. It is letting so much crap eat away at us—at our soul, at our heart, at our spirit, at our life force—allowing others to make claims on what is ours, allowing others to cut ahead in line, allowing others to steal our thunder. Polite is risk free, no sharp edges, no noticeable scars; blemish free. 


It is trying to be perfect.  It is tasteless and bland. 

Polite is a first cousin to being nice; both are rooted in fear and worry, preventing us from standing tall, standing up and standing for who and what we believe in, allowing others to get ahead at our expense. Polite may give us the shirt off its back, but it will never allow us to stand on it, and it most certainly won’t have ours. Polite will never have our back.


Now is not the time for women to be POLITE. Now is the time for women to be POLITICAL.


Welcome to The Ovary Office.

The Ovary Office is a new Women’s eNews series covering the women who are running for the presidency, to counterbalance the patriarchal slant that currently exists in much of the mainstream media. While there are six Democratic women vying to become the party’s presidential nominee, their male counterparts have attained about eighty percent of the media’s coverage, thus drowning out women’s platforms and their viability as presidential candidates. The Ovary Office plans to turn this narrative upon its head.

The Ovary Office is the brainchild of Amy Ferris, a highly accomplished author, screenwriter, television writer, and editor. She was also honored by Women’s eNews as one of its 21 Leaders for the 21st Century for 2018. Amy is also known for championing, encouraging, and inspiring women to awaken to their greatness, as only she can, through passion, truth, hope, and humor—along with a heaping side of activism.

On World Environment Day

Wed, 06/05/2019 - 05:16


“Girls and Rhinos Have The Same Enemy”


Today, on World Environment Day, we hope you’ll listen to what some girls in East Africa have to say about the link between girl’s rights and conservation.

In May 2019, twelve girls from Kenya and Tanzania came together as part of UNEARTH Kenya, a joint project between GlobalGirl Media, BRAVE,  and Samburu Girl’s Foundation. UNEARTH began with a week-long media and leadership training for girls living on the perimeters of some of East Africa’s most remote and wildest places, teaching them to become digital storytellers, girls’ rights advocates and champions of conservation. 

In the second week, the girls hit the road, traveling to wildlife reserves and staying in lodges that usually only foreign tourists frequent. On this road trip, the first of its kind in Kenya, the girls got behind the camera, writing, directing, filming and editing two short video reports. Female genital mutilation (FGM) and child marriage are still practiced in the communities the girls are from, with only 19% of girls receiving a secondary school education. But these girls are part of a growing movement to change these harmful cultural practices. In an area where a wild rhino’s rights and protection might seem more important than a girl’s, they asked some tough questions and got some answers.

The short video, Girls’ Rights or Conservation?, (link belowaims to change the narrative for girls living alongside wildlife, and provide opportunities for those working in the field of conservation to embrace these young women as leaders and change makers.

Thank you to these amazing budding journalists and conservation advocates!  

GIRLS RIGHTS OR CONSERVATION?*

*This video is part of a collaborative project with South Africa’s BRAVE, Kenya’s Samburu Girl’s Foundation and GlobalGirl Media, in Kenya.

Taking Back the Streets with Chalk

Sun, 06/02/2019 - 14:53

I was 15 years old and walking to the first day of my summer job. I was thinking about making a good impression on my boss. I had painstakingly picked out my outfit: a purple sun dress and white espadrilles. The nervous rush of excitement brought about by my acquaintance with adulthood was quickly interrupted as I got off the number 1 train at 18th street and 7th Avenue in New York City. “Hey, beautiful!” “You’re sexy” “Gorgeous” “Mmmmm.” These are some of the many comments I heard on my walk to work that day. My first thought was to respond ‘thank you.’ After all, these comments sounded like compliments. But in these moments, they felt nothing like compliments. I felt uncomfortable: like my body was under surveillance. Each new block made me more self conscious. I wanted to hide. Quickly, I started to think there must be something about what I was wearing that was provoking this harassment. Was my dress too short or too tight? When I got home that night and told my parents, they suggested I ignore it. My dad even said I should ‘dress down’ to avoid provoking unwanted attention.

Years later, for a freshman year writing assignment, I decided to do something about the harassment I was facing. Frustrated by feeling silenced, I decided to respond to catcalling in a creative way. I started to collect catcalls, both from my experiences and from those of friends, and write them on the streets with chalk where they were being shouted, along with the hashtag #stopstreetharassment. The colorful chalk would mark the spots where someone was harassed. It would catch people’s attention and bring to light something that is normally ignored. Then, I would post their images on Instagram to illustrate the catcalling spectrum, highlighting comments from “hey beautiful” to “I want to f*ck the sh*t out of you.” The combination of public art and Instagram would be a method of raising awareness. It would make people confront this problematic behavior and educate them about how frequent and invasive this behavior is. I could provide victims of harassment a space to share their story and start a dialogue about harassment.  

As a 19 year old student, I never could have predicted the impact that this project would have.  At first, writing in chalk was a way for me to feel empowered when so much of my agency in public space had been taken away.  But this project has become so much bigger than me. In December, 2017, almost two years after I started my project and shortly after the #MeToo movement went viral, @catcallsofnyc got picked up by international press; @catcallsofnyc went from having 800 followers to over 10 thousand in just one week. This growth proved that the account was providing something that many people around the world needed. Much like my younger self; many folks facing harassment felt isolated by these experiences. They were ashamed to tell people because they felt it was somehow their fault.

Being one voice among many makes the fight against street harassment louder and harder to ignore, and this feeling of empowerment is contagious. I began receiving messages from people asking, “Can I bring this initiative to my city?” Accounts started sprouting up around the world. Catcalls of London, Catcalls of Amsterdam and Catcalls of Paris were some of the first to launch. Soon after, Catcalls of Mauritius, Catcalls of Berlin, Catcalls of Mumbai. Catcalls of Iran. Catcalls of Cape Town, South Africa, and Catcalls of Dhaka, Bangladesh began . Now, there are over 100 programs around the world that also collect stories of harassment and document them on the streets. My idea, which I now call “Chalking Back,” has been a springboard for young activists around the world to fight back against harassment, creatively.  

More than half of the women who run these programs are under the age of 18, and 88% of people are under the age of 25. They represent a wide variety of racial and religious groups and, because of them, what was originally a class project has become a global movement. The bravery and commitment of everyone involved in “Chalk Back” has built this movement from the ground up.

Last week, I graduated from New York University (NYU) with a degree in Gender and Sexuality, and after working on this project for three years as a full-time student, I have decided to commit my time to turning “Chalk Back” into an international non-profit to provide additional resources for the movement which will allow it to grow. Our mission is to allow young people to advocate for cultural change within their communities, and ultimately end street harassment through creative means such as chalk events and workshops. It is a community and youth-led project, based on our personal experiences.

We have been harassed. We have been disempowered. We have been objectified. Now, we will amplify our unique experiences to come together as a collective whole.

Sophie Sandberg, a recent graduate of New York University, is an activist, organizer and professional speaker. She founded Catcalls of NYC, a viral Instagram account and initiative which seeks to raise public awareness about street harassment using street art.

Book Release: Wounds into Wisdom

Tue, 05/28/2019 - 10:57

Wounds into Wisdom: Healing Intergenerational Trauma, by Rabbi Tirzah Firestone, PhD.

“This book is applicable to any and every ethnic group,” Rabbi Tirzah Firestone, PhD., says. “It speaks to every woman who has been objectified or who has fear of harassment.” By studying trauma, Dr. Firestone has learned that the biological memory in all of us will continue to vibrate within us, stimulated by what our ancestors’ experienced. “We are connected not only between one another, but also from generation to generation. There are horizontal ripples and longitudinal ripples,” she continues, “Every thing we do to liberate ourselves from trauma will also impact generations. This is particularly true between mothers and daughters. It is never too late.”

BOOK EXCERPT:

Shedding New Light on a Dark History

In my twenty-fifth year, I dreamed of a slender Hungarian woman dressed in a fur coat. Beneath her lavish attire, I saw that she was, in fact, a naked skeleton, peering at me with both irony and affection. The woman could see that I was young and raw, paralyzed by an unnamed guilt, barely able to buy myself a teapot or a secondhand sweater without being assailed by self-doubt.

Dahlink, she called to me, her thick accent comforting and somehow familiar: Don’t be a fool! Don’t you think we would be enjoying our beautiful things if we could? Her jaw clacked with boney laughter.

Suddenly the lights went on and the room filled with rich- ly clad Hungarian ladies, skeletons all, enjoying a tea party. It was clear that they were all dead, yet they were also radi- ant and full of life. Turning toward me, their voices rose in unison: Do you think it helps us that you suffer? Live the life we could not live!

I sat up in bed and wept. Their words had penetrated me, touching the core of my malaise, an outsized case of survivor’s guilt I did not know I had. Live the life we could not live! These words became a turning point, a mantra, a north star. I took them with me as I found my footing in the world, followed the call to become a psychotherapist, and ultimately, rejoined the religion that I had fled.

But it was not until fifteen years later that I learned the truth of my dream. I learned that my German grandmother’s entire family came from Austro-Hungary; almost all had been murdered in Nazi Europe. Their elegant bearing had not helped them one wit to escape Hitler’s roundups; their assim- ilation into high society meant nothing in the end. Stripped of all their beautiful things, they died like paupers in the death camps.

Like many post-Holocaust families, my parents did not speak directly of these matters. The heavy legacy of loss re- mained muted. Yet for my five siblings and me, it was like finding ourselves in deep waters without life vests or instruc- tion. We responded as best we could, each of us fighting the undertow of history, swimming or sinking, not knowing how to help one another, divided by the trauma we had inherited, but never knowing why.

Scholars of intergenerational trauma tell us that the silence shrouding a family’s untold stories paradoxically becomes the strongest form of transmission. This was the case in my own family, and in myriad families with whom I have worked as rabbi and psychotherapist.

Yet, there is an inner compulsion to know. “One has to know one’s buried truth in order to be able to live one’s life,” writes the late Professor Dori Laub, himself a survivor. Many of us struggle to bring to consciousness the hidden legacies that our families bequeath to us. For some, it takes years to piece together the unspoken wounds that have shaped our lives. The residue of our ancestors’ unresolved injury does not simply disappear. In fact, it often weighs most heavily on the introspective, sensitive members of the next generations.

Rabbi Tirzah Firestone, PhD, is an author, Jungian psychotherapist, and founding rabbi of Congregation Nevei Kodesh in Boulder, Colorado. Ordained by Rabbi Zalman Schachter Shalomi in 1992, she is a leader in the international Jewish Renewal Movement and a renowned Jewish scholar and teacher.

“Now What?” Podcast: Carole Zimmer with Mary Pipher

Mon, 05/27/2019 - 15:05
It’s a subject that’s been on my mind — older women. They’ve been the target of jokes forever. Now that I’m a little older myself, I’m not so sure I like that, and neither does clinical psychologist and bestselling author  Mary Pipher. Pipher wrote the seminal book about adolescent girls, “Reviving Ophelia.” Now, she’s traveled to the other end of the age spectrum with her latest book “Women Rowing North.” It’s about flourishing as we age. To round out our conversation, I invited my young friend Haley Zimring to join us. Haley is 28 and has two young children.
So here we are, talking young and old and all the stages in between.
– Carole Zimmer

Listen Here

“Now What?” with Carole Zimmer is a podcast about inspiration, big life decisions and how we navigate all the bumps in the road.
You may subscribe to Now What? With Carole Zimmer on iTunes and write a review: https://itunes.apple.
com/us/podcast/now-what-with-carole-zimmer

 You can also find us on Stitcher: http://www.stitcher.
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Check out our conversation at: www.carolezimmer.com/podcast
 
Also, please follow us on Twitter and Instagram @Now_WhatPodcast.