“In recognition of the importance of investing in and empowering girls during adolescence and preventing and eliminating the various forms of violence they experience, the theme of International Day of the Girl Child for 2014 is Empowering Adolescent Girls: Ending the Cycle of Violence.” -United Nations
(Full text: http://www.un.org/en/events/girlchild/)
“In every community across the globe, girls and women should have the opportunity to learn, grow, and achieve their full potential. All nations have a responsibility to protect the basic human rights of all people, and when they do — when girls and women are fully valued as equal participants in a country’s politics and economy — societies are more likely to succeed.”
“We cannot allow violence to snuff out the aspirations of young women in America, and we must not accept it anywhere in the world. Today, we resolve to do more than simply shine a light on inequality.” -Barack Obama
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This is a guest post from Dinah Douglas: Dinah Douglas works in non-profit communications by day and watches TV by night. Follow Dinah on Twitter: @dinahjd.
Every fall, if you put your ear to any AstroTurf in America, you can actually hear a faint,
repetitive moan of fooootbaaaallll… foooottbbaaaaalll. Like a tell-tale heartbeat, but more
We didn’t realize it, but that is why the NFL got everything to do with Ray Rice so wrong. That
is why the NFL is still talking around women, about women, down to women, at women… but
not to or with women. The past few months in sportsland have been a giant reminder that the
NFL pretty much just cares about women where its image and our money are involved.
I’m writing this while I watch the Baltimore Ravens the Pittsburgh Steelers in a Thursday
night football game. Ostensibly because I am a Ravens fan. It became harder to say that after
America’s new moral compass (TMZ) released a video of Ravens player Ray Rice dragging
his unconscious fiancée out of an elevator back in February. Then, one of my Facebook friends
just said, “Time to burn the jersey.” Seemed about right. My friends and I agreed then that the
Ravens had to drop Rice immediately. But my friends and I live in a bubble where domestic
violence is inexcusable, so it was easy to say.
We all know what happened next. In July, the two game suspension decision came down from
His Holiness, NFL Commissioner Most High, Roger Goodell. The outrage was palpable and
Goodell later said he “didn’t get it right” So the NFL changed their domestic violence policy – six games out for the first offense, a lifetime ban for the next.
Come September, a new video landed. The video we didn’t need to see, but was still the first
thing many people clicked on this past Monday. No amount of media desensitization to violence
kept me from feeling nauseated when I saw her head hit the railing in the elevator.
It only took a few hours for the Ravens to terminate Ray Rice’s contract. I say hours, but truly,
it took them months. Months during which they totally knew what had happened, because Ray
A day after this Ray Rice thing blew up for real this time, Victoria’s Secret sent out an email
selling people on their PINK brand NFL “gear.” If there ever were a time to display your loyalty to an industry that could really do a better job showing how it values women, it is apparently right now. The email, nay, the industry, screams, Women! Buy the gear, lest you prove Chris Brown right!
This week, I was discussing it all with a co-worker. We work at an organization where domestic
violence prevention is a big part of what we do, and we were shaking our heads at how during
October, Domestic Violence Awareness Month, the players, cheerleaders and fans will be
wearing their team’s gear – but tinted pink, because October is also Breast Cancer Awareness
Month. Because the NFL cares about women, and their money. Because breast cancer has
become more comfy to talk about than domestic violence, clearly.
Save the ta-tas!
We care about you, women.
We need you to be fans, because as fans, you buy things.
Like underwear and fitted tees.
This isn’t about making two things that have been categorized as “women’s issues” compete for
attention, but it does point out a pretty gross priority for the league. (Merchandizing, in case that
Lady people, never you mind that smoking pot or taking steroids so far seems to be a
more serious offense in the view of the NFL than hitting a woman. Pay no attention to that man hitting a woman behind the curtain. Pay no attention to Ray McDonald or Greg Hardy. Pay no attention to the 21 of 32 NFL teams who just in 2013 had a player with a domestic or sexual violence charge against
Domestic violence isn’t a new problem – either in athletics, pop culture or the real world. But
handling it doesn’t have to be so tone deaf. The decision makers in the NFL and affiliated brands
could achieve sentience and use their position like CBS commentator James Brown did when he
said some good things before Thursday night’s game:
“…It starts with how we view women. Our language is important. For instance, when a guy
says, ‘you throw the ball like a girl’ or ‘you’re a little sissy,’ it reflects an attitude that devalues
women and attitudes will eventually manifest in some fashion. Women have been at the forefront
in the domestic violence awareness and prevention arena. And whether Janay Rice considers
herself a victim or not, millions of women in this country are.
Consider this: According to domestic violence experts, more than three women per day lose their lives at the hands of their partners. That means that since the night of February 15th in Atlantic City more than 600 women have died.”
I don’t know many female football fans who want to stop being fans. I do know many female
football fans who would love if it were easier to be a fan, if it felt better to support an institution,
and spend money doing so, because you knew that institution really didn’t think domestic
violence was excusable. And showed it.
Oh, one last thing. I’m not much for sports gear, but when the Ravens played in the Super Bowl,
I did try. I bought a men’s Ravens shirt because it was cheaper than all the options labeled for
Written by Dinah Douglas
I’ve been networking the last few months, in preparation to begin a transition from current job into a new field. I made the decision earlier this summer to stop networking with men. It seems a brute and harsh reaction, but networking with men only led to not being taken seriously, connections not being made, and instead an offer to buy me drinks at another date, in perhaps a more “casual setting” (read: take me on a date). This happened to me and several other female friends, who all decided to refrain from networking with the opposite gender. What does it take to be taken seriously? We are all successful and driven; we even made a point to not wear tight-fitting clothes to these networking meetings. Though at the end, we were nothing more than a pretty face.
Though, what about how we women relate to each other? So often the first connection women make is whether or not they have a (male) partner. Half of the conversation is then spent comparing and contrasting experiences with males, with the important characteristics and facts about ourselves being saved for later. Why are men such a defining part of female existence?
Men continue to influence female workplace dress. Prior to interviews with men, I would agonize over what to wear. Would one dress emphasize my hips too much, in a manner that may be “suggestive”? What about a dress that hugged my curves and flaunted my figure? Would a pencil skirt imply I wanted to be fucked? In the end, I always choose clothes that fit somewhat loosely and give only an inkling of a figure underneath. I feel safer being bland and nondescript than being assessed on an underlying sexuality.
How much should we care? How much can be done? Earlier this week, I told a supervisor whom I admire and we have often had many a great talk about feminism, sexism in the work place, etc., that a client made a comment about my “pretty face”. I felt at great unease from this comment and was instantly distraught at the thought of my work being thought of as different, as attached to my body rather than my intellect and follow through. She essentially replied that I shouldn’t fuss/sweat it too much, since worse comments could have been made. Though I realize this is true, I was crushed at the fact that this woman, who has shattered many a glass ceiling in her day (hate that phrase, but it’s true in her case), could dismay my discomfort.
As a mental side project, started tallying how many times per day I’m catcalled on my 1/2 mile walk to and fro the public transit station I frequent for work. It’s disheartening, but telling. I’ve also made notes of whether the drivers are in vehicles that are clearly marked as part of a company, etc. I’ve often wanted to call these businesses and complain, but again, have feared the roadblock of a dissent manager getting in my way to do so. Despite often starting my day with such an upsetting experience, I’d rather brush it off and get on with my day than acknowledge it and have it be disregarded by someone who didn’t experience the tragedy of that moment.
A person very close to me, who is highly successful in a field in which men reign, hates the idea of feminism and all that goes along with it. She doesn’t see the point. She kept her mouth shut, did the work, and laid low to rise up. Why can’t we (again, feminists) do the same? It’s easier to assume instead of understand, and the sadness of that is difficult to bear.
The issue at hand is complex. In fact, there are many issues at hand. It’s more complex than it’s often given credit for (outside of liberal media, that is). The difficulty lies in the notion of getting people to feel that the idea is not “not complex”. There is weight and matters to be sorted through here, divided into layers and split up amongst their fixings.
The point, at the end of it all, is to have the voice be heard and the weight felt. To know that we don’t have to be silent, but that we can kick and cry and scream to move ourselves ahead if we need to. That we don’t need to mold into what is expected of us nor refrain from speaking our truths. We need not be discouraged. Hope is brewing, simmering, and rising.
I don’t know about you, (millions of Real Life Athena readers) but I grew up hearing about the Land of Opportunity, all over. There was never a shortage of American underdog stories – whether in politics, school or on TV. I understood that I lived in a country where anyone could do anything if they worked hard. It’s an inspiring .. myth. A myth that is hidden extraordinarily well from far too many people, and is propped up and protected by our deeply flawed, oppressive system day in and day out.
Meritocracy; as defined by The Merriam-Webster dictionary is “ 1: a system in which the talented are chosen and moved ahead on the basis of their achievement 2: leadership selected on the basis of intellectual criteria”
I think Meritocracy as an ideal, makes sense. Hard-work should be rewarded, smart, creative people should think of solutions and if everyone is offered the opportunities, the ones that take them should be rewarded. Obviously it’s not just merit if it took us 44 presidents to get a person of color in office and we have yet to see a woman there. If anyone can do anything if they work hard, shouldn’t our leaders have a bit more diversity?
It’s obvious there’s a problem if we look around and notice the racial and gendered trends amongst the upper class, politicians, tech industries and CEO’s to name a few, but we hold near and dear to this idea that we exist in a true meritocracy. (Just look at Oprah!)
If we are really living in a system that only judges the individual on their personal merit – then why do the stats keep proving that there are more success stories amongst white, upper-class men? Surely, there are exceptions to the rule but not nearly enough to throw out the idea (truth) that the non-merit factors like race, class and gender have something to do with all of this. Right? Right! They do! Yet our individualistic focus often keeps us from challenging these ideas because instead of seeing the alarming systematic racism, sexism, and classism (to name a few) that surrounds us, we are fed more “if I can do it – anyone can!” testimonials and stronger than fear that we won’t make it, is the hope that we will. The exceptions to the rule, keep our hopes high and serve as ‘proof’ that it is possible, to make it and again puts the blame on the individual rather than the system. The internalization of a flawed system allows the hierarchy to keep going unchallenged. Thus, the faux meritocracy stays put as well as our systematic oppression.
In the end, Meritocracy is a crock of shit, and it’s message is damaging to all people because it’s not true and it negates to mention that we are living in a society that is systematically racist, sexist and classist, while masking it’s oppressive nature with an individual blaming ideal that is Meritocracy, instead of the acknowledgment of a shitty system and the resources to change it now, together.
This pretty much sums it up more eloquently, “A meritocracy is a system in which the people who are the luckiest in their health and genetic endowment; luckiest in terms of family support, encouragement, and, probably, income; luckiest in their educational and career opportunities; and luckiest in so many other ways difficult to enumerate — these are the folks who reap the largest rewards. The only way for even a putative meritocracy to hope to pass ethical muster, to be considered fair, is if those who are the luckiest in all of those respects also have the greatest responsibility to work hard, to contribute to the betterment of the world, and to share their luck with others.” – Ben Bernanke
**Note. Ben Bernanke is an American Economist, he held two terms as the Chairman of the Federal Reserve, and was Professor at Princeton. **
If you want to read more check out Stephen J McNamee’s, The Meritocracy Myth
Lately I’ve been thinking about what specific incidents have led me to become a feminist and I really think I can attribute that to something I’d like to call “everyday sexism”. These acts are seemingly small but have long lasting impacts of the morale of a woman… I’m literally recalling incidents from over 10 years ago. One of the major issues that I’ve had is with my body; it has been over sexualized, criticized, hated, and loved. I’ve literally had people just come up to me and touch my butt because they “couldn’t resist.” ARE YOU KIDDING ME? This is my body and if you want to touch it you need permission, objectifying me? NOT SEXY. Getting my consent? SEXY. Some of my girlfriends with larger chests have say strangers (men AND women) literally walk up to them at the bar and poke their boobs, like it’s a toy that can be played with – it’s frustrating!
But it’s acts that are even smaller than that:
It’s calling a girl that speaks her mind a bitch.
It’s calling a woman that has multiple partners a slut.
It’s honking at woman when you drive by – but actually though, can y’all not?
It’s blaming receiving unwanted attention on the clothes a woman is wearing.
It’s making a joke that makes fun of women.
It’s accusing an emotional woman of being on her period.
It’s when a dude buys you a drink and automatically feels some claim to your body.
It’s a guy friend who hates you for constantly putting them in the “friend zone.”
It’s a partner who doesn’t even think to ask if you WANT to have sex for the simple reason you’re in a relationship.
It’s not being able to twerk with your pals without some dude trying to push up on you at a dance party.
It’s feeling guilty because you said, “No.”
It’s laughing even though that joke about women not knowing how to drive just isn’t f*cking funny.
It’s body shaming.
It’s any and everything that has made you question your worth as woman or even a person in this world.
All of these things just perpetuate this hate of women that I feel is so unintentional it makes my heart hurt. But I really feel with conscious mind and heart, these obstacles can be obliterated.
When we think of the word “hypocrite”, our minds automatically go negative. I would like to challenge that.
I am being a hypocrite as I write this because I have definitely called folks hypocrites in a negative light in the past. The point of this article is not that people should have no values and show no principle; my point is that the possibility of hypocrisy should not prevent us from speaking out or evolving in different ways.
The first time I began to think about hypocrisy in a more nuanced manner was regarding the Orthodox Jewish Community. I found myself calling various individuals in this community hypocrites; some of this had to do with treatment I had experienced regarding gender, my status as a non-Orthodox Jew and other disagreements I saw as value-based. Orthodox Jews are extremely visible in their values and therefore it is easier to see hypocrisy. We see their values in their following of Halakha (Jewish law) and often in the way individuals dress. This led me to a realization that those who put their beliefs and values out there in a very public way will always be hypocrites.
We live in a complicated world. Chances are you are pulled several different directions each and every day. And chances are every day you do not react the same way. Sometimes I call out the racist comment I overhear, other times I might not. Should I always say something? Probably, but the fact that I might not every single time does not automatically discredit when I do speak up.
When we get so caught up in the consistencies of our actions, it can be debilitating. We are not perfect; we are evolving creatures. This idea that we are 100% authentic everyday is ludicrous. I do not think the exact same way today as I did a week ago, maybe even an hour ago.
None of this is to say we are not accountable for our actions and should not act on principle. Hell, I will continue to get mad when I see dudes call themselves feminists and then exert extremely sexist behavior. The hypocrisy of this is infuriating.
It is inevitable though that we will be hypocrites in our life.
Human characteristics that I admire most are courage and the willingness to place oneself in an uncomfortable situation. This means individuals who share their opinions in public spaces and doing so is a risk. People are going to remember a bold statement; they are going to remember when someone pushes back. And eventually, that person expressing their opinion is probably going to do something that slightly disagrees or is perceived as being inconsistent with the sentiment that was just put forward.
In regards to feminism, when an exact definition of feminism is explained as THE definition, it can lead to a bit of policing. You are a feminist if you do “x” but NOT if you do “y.” Let’s not do that. If someone is bashing women for having sex, yeah I would argue that this is anti-feminist but if a woman is out at a bar and she moves her hips to a song that is less than respectful to women, there should not be a feminist secret camera watching this individual and monitoring their behavior for hypocrisy. And when I say camera, I mean that figuratively. Guilt can eat inside us if we feel that we are not perfectly aligning with our political beliefs. When we live in a world that is so incredibly unjust, we have to participate in it at times. I call myself anti-capitalist but I still need to make money and pay rent. There is a balance between living out our beliefs and also recognizing that our actions are at times going to be inconsistent with those beliefs.
My advice. Be principled but also know that you will be a hypocrite because that is what living looks like, especially when you are willing to take a risk in a public manner and be a leader.
Written by Sarah Brammer-Shlay
Written by Sarah Brammer-Shlay
Cheree O’Shields is a registered nurse who works at Kateri Residence, a program of St. Stephen’s Human Services that serves Native American women and children. She has worked as a nurse and advocate for homeless youth in the Twin Cities since 2005. She is currently working on her Doctor of Nursing Practice degree in Public Health Nursing and Adolescent Health at the University of Minnesota School of Nursing.