Tick, Tock Time’s up for Sexual Violence

By Zaquoya Rogers

Last night at the Golden Globe Awards, Hollywood elite strolled the red carpet in their finest black attire. It was no coincidence that everyone chose to wear black. The choice was very conscious as a show of solidarity and support for the Time’s Up Campaign against sexual harassment.  I first became aware of the campaign from a video on social media about a legal defense fund for sexual assault cases. Interested, I researched more. And what I found, I really loved.

Over 300 actresses, directors and writers including Shonda Rimes and America Ferrera, have launched a campaign to help fight sexual harassment. The Time’s up Campaign raises money to fund legal support for men and women victims of sexual harassment and violence. This in itself is amazing, but what really made me get excited for this campaign was that the target audience for this support is working class men and women. The founders described the effort as “unified call for change from women in entertainment for women everywhere.”

Many cases of sexual violence happen amongst regular working class people who do not have the financial resources to take action against their abuser. Taylor Swift stated in her sexual assault case “I acknowledge the privilege that I benefit from in life, society and my ability to shoulder the enormous cost of defending myself in a trial like this.”

Time’s Up has raised $13 million out of their $15 million goal. I absolutely support this because I believe that celebrities have a duty to help advocate for issues that many people are fighting for. They have the resources, the power and the following to actually make progress towards positive change.

“Me too”: What’s the real message?

By Kara Lewis

You’ve probably seen a lot of “me too” posts on Facebook, Twitter and other social media channels this week.

In case you missed it, actress Alyssa Milano popularized the movement Sunday night online, tweeting, “Suggested by a friend: If all the women who have been sexually harassed or assaulted wrote ‘Me too’ as a status, we might give people a sense of the magnitude of the problem.”  However, it’s important to note that Tarana Burke, a black activist and feminist, actually founded this crusade two years ago (Whew… this could be a whole separate blog post, honestly).

However, despite confusion over the idea’s origins, it quickly caught on: “Me too” trended on nearly every social platform, and The New York Times  and CNN both covered the phenomenon. Milano’s tweet amassed 47,000 comments.

Yet I can’t help but feel conflicted about the message. As powerful as it was to see “me too” flood my Facebook feed, I and many others won’t be joining in posting these words.

Simply put, women shouldn’t have to relive their experiences with assault and harassment to “raise awareness.” We live in a country where the one in five statistic, sometimes upped to one in four—representing how many women will be raped in their lifetimes—is widely known. “Me too” attempted to reveal a huge problem, but let’s be real: This issue hasn’t been hidden. Rather, like the recently exposed sexual assault and harassment perpetuated by Harvey Weinstein, it’s long been an open secret.

In fact, the “me too” cry seems to echo the reasoning of men who say they became more enraged about sexual assault after having a daughter. Yes, it can be shocking and emotional to find out your best friend, family member, former colleague or other Facebook connection survived sexual violence—but that shouldn’t be what it takes to fuel anger and disappointment.

Furthermore, posting “me too” can put the burden on survivors to answer uncomfortable questions, respond to doubts, and mediate family or friends’ devastated reactions.

Though on a small scale, the “me too” trend represents how much of our own energy and emotional labor women put in to combat sexual assault. Who’s supporting and working with us? This time, a like, share, or emoji isn’t enough.

What Issa Rae’s CoverGirl status means to black women

By Korrien Hopkins

Insecure creator and star Issa Rae added a new achievement to her belt of black girl greatness. These last few years have definitely been life-changing for her, from the continuance of her hit show Insecure, to connecting with stars like Oprah, Ava DuVernay, Beyoncé and more. Issa has been gracing red carpets, television, and computer screens. Through all of this success, she paints a beautiful portrait of what it means to accept her awkward black girl magic. She so confidently expresses a different narrative of black sisterhood.

Issa’s come a long way from her award-winning web series The Misadventures of Awkward Black Girl, which followed the life of a self-proclaimed awkward black girl named ” J.” Even in this debut project, her characters were definitely relatable and empowering to women. Issa Rae’s work uplifts the beauty of black women, no matter how “awkward” or “insecure” they may be. She represents them with narrative and cinematographic complexity.

Last month, CoverGirl recognized this beauty when it named the writer, actress and singer as its newest celebrity spokesperson.

“I remember being an awkward black girl in high school, reading the pages of my favorite magazines, casually flipping through CoverGirl ads, singing their slogan in my head,” Issa wrote on Instagram.

“In all my awkward, black years I never imagined I’d be a ‪CoverGirl! SO honored & SO excited,” she continued.

Issa joins the astonishing Rihanna, Zendaya, Queen Latifah, and more gorgeous women of color who have collaborated with CoverGirl.

I’m excited to press play on what’s to come from Issa Rae as she continues to redefine beauty, representing women who are often overlooked and underappreciated.

Taylor Swift’s new single and women’s reclamation of stereotypes in media

By Kara Lewis

After a week of cryptic hints on social media, Taylor Swift dropped a new single last week. The song, titled “Look What You Made Me Do,” inspired a debate on Twitter just minutes after its release.

Though it’s fueled by a dance-y, techno beat, Swift’s newest hit has a dark message. She strikes back at the media and at Kanye West, vowing to get revenge.  It also seems to be a response to those who call Swift a “snake”: her video teasers for the song featured an angry, slithering serpent.

Some labelled the song “victim-playing,” while others applauded Swift for owning her infamous reputation. Either way, with lyrics that mention back-stabbing, karma and even Swift’s own death, one theme of the song is clear: the singer isn’t afraid to call herself crazy, or play along with the stereotype. In fact, the role of the villain helps revamp her career. She used the same tactic three years ago to write her single “Blank Space” from the perspective of a heartless, serial dater.

In fact, many famous women have recently used this career move. In her 2016 stand-up special Baby Cobra, comic Ali Wong jokes about trapping men into relationships and marriage, specifically wealthy men. She plays the crazy, gold-digger stereotype, while also ridiculing it. Ironically, the financial success of Baby Cobra and Wong’s show Fresh off the Boat means that she’s far from a gold-digger.

Writer and actress Rachel Bloom also embraces the stereotype of a crazy ex-girlfriend on her show, aptly called Crazy Ex-Girlfriend. She plays high-powered New York City lawyer Rebecca Bunch, who spontaneously follows an ex-boyfriend to a small town in California. With over-the-top musical numbers and relatable jokes about social media creeping, Bloom makes us laugh at the crazy ex stereotype, but also approaches it with complexity. She even remarks in the show’s theme song that “crazy ex-girlfriend” is a sexist term.

The recent success of thriller novels like Gillian Flynn’s Gone Girl shows that people love it when women play the villain. Swift, Wong, Bloom and others are more than happy to oblige, and educate along the way.

Woman with the Pencil, Not the Pencil Skirt

By: Caroline Turner

Why do we notice women in the news for what they are wearing, and men in the news for what they are doing? Why are we more inclined to point out what a women has on than we are a man?

Source: Wiki-images

On Snapchat, pretty much daily, you will see story lines about what various female celebrities are wearing. Do women just dominate the fashion world? No. But why then is what they are wearing what makes them newsworthy? Men are rarely seen in Snapchat stories and media for what they are wearing. Rather, they are mostly mentioned for who they are with or what they are doing. So why is it that we are so focused on capturing, celebrating, and criticizing women for what they wear?

I did a Google search of “media’s focus on female fashion,” and many articles came up that illustrate why focusing on what a woman wears above all else, creates problems in the way they are perceived. The whole first page was full of articles about media coverage on female politicians and scientists. Attention for these women should focus on what they are doing in leadership and research, not on their fashion choices.  But that’s often where the attention goes and what makes the headline or story. The media never treats men this way. Part of the reason there are fewer women than men in these fields is because of this constant focus on what women are wearing, rather than what they are doing. This sends the wrong message to young girls and may discourage them from considering those careers. Focusing on a woman’s appearance devalues her professionally, and can , often to no avail.

When I changed “female” to “male,” in my Google search, what I found confirmed that this was largely a female issue. However, my searches did find that the media pays disproportionate attention to men with regard to sports and their athletic physique, which creates body image issues among young boys.  So maybe men are not being portrayed fairly in the media either; however, the specific focus that the media places on how women look and what they are wearing can be damaging to them professionally and can affect to how they see themselves and assess their own .

So why does the media focus so much on what women are wearing? How did this come to be?

The male gaze, coined by feminist film critic Laura Mulvey in 1975 describes the way in which the visual arts and literature depict the world and women from a masculine point of view, presenting women as objects of male pleasure. An object does not do anything, it is to be looked at. An object is something that we do things to or do things with, but it does not act on its own. Perhaps media outlets have become like Mulvey’s man behind camera. The male gaze through the lens of the media can objectify women and distort how we value them, and this can have dangerous effects.

As media evolves and grows, pictures become stories and videos become GIFs. These narratives that we create in order to understand ourselves and others are becoming more and more embedded into our everyday lives. As media becomes more connected to us through social media, it is important to  become vigilant in recognizing the male gaze in the media so we can rise above its influence and decide for ourselves what is truly newsworthy.

Angela Rye: Modern Day Angela Davis

By Caroline Turner

The keynote speaker for this year’s 12th Annual Women of Color Leadership Conference is Angela Rye, a political powerhouse who is being called “TV’s Wokest Bae.” Named after the legend Angela Davis, she has been living up to the movement of being the change. Angela’s continuous work has been connecting the public with politics, and growing the ever evolving sphere of politics and leadership towards one of equity.

Angela is deeply rooted in political leadership and has a very impressive history with political activism and education. A graduate of University of Washington and Seattle University School of Law, she is now the co-founder, Principal, and CEO of IMPACT Strategies, “an organization that seeks to encourage young professionals in three core areas: economic empowerment, civic engagement, and political involvement.” She has been featured in many publications and outlets as an influential politico, lawyer, and advocate. Angela serves on a number of boards including the Congressional Black Caucus Institute, and the Seattle University School of Law Alumni, and is a member of many groups including the National Bar Association, and has won 21 distinctive awards from 2010-2015. Catch her on CNN as a regular commentator, and read more about her history on her website.

Angela continues to speak at events and on media outlets, reaching local and national audiences. Her conversations are crucial to help new upcoming leaders, and help educate and advocate awareness of the issues that we face in our government and institutions today.

Transwomen in Prison

Image courtesy of Flikr.

By Zaquoya Rogers

The Netflix series “Orange is the New Black” highlights many different female experiences that tend to occur in prisons across the globe. They portrayed the problems of women in prison within every race, sexual orientation and background. One that caused an increase in conversation was about trans women and how they were being treated within prison. Since, obviously, male and females are separated into different prisons, where do transwomen fit? People started asking what it means to be a women. Also, why are transwomen’s gender is being trivialized? Lindsay King-Miller states “A woman, no matter her background, should never be asked to prove she is a woman.”

Laverne Cox, a transwomen actor and speaker, played Sophia Burset in the popular series and accurately depicted the struggle and mistreatment of transwomen in prison. In prison, transwomen go through difficulty in consistently receiving necessary hormone medication. In Season One, Sophia’s medication had been reduced because it wasn’t deemed as necessary which caused her male characteristics like facial hair to return. This happens in prisons today and scars transwomen’s sense of self.  A transwomen inmate named Mary was placed in the male prison Boggo Road Gaol located in Australia. She was denied any access to hormones medication. She states, “It was like my identity was taken away from me. I look like a woman and I think if a transgender person is genuine and they are living as the opposite sex, then they should be housed in a female prison, even if you’re in a wing on your own.” Denial of one’s gender is abuse and is not fair.   

In Season Three, Sophia clashes with some of her fellow inmates and is brutally attacked by the same group. Instead of punishing the perpetrators, Sophia is the one sent to the SHU (Security Housing Units/Solitary Confinement) supposedly for her protection. In reality, this type of solution downgrades transwomen and serves as an injustice. Not only do transwomen experience abuse, discrimination and bullying when serving time but they cannot count on higher authority in prison to ensure their safety. They are turned against and devalued as human beings simply because of who they identify as. This is a problem that won’t change unless more conversations take place about these injustices. I think that a great majority of people still see being transgender as something unnatural. This is why transwomen are subjected to so much abuse. The more we speak on it and accept people for who they are and not who we want to see them as, the better it will get for transwomen.

 

Black Dolls Matter

ByImage courtesy of Flickr. Korrien Hopkins

Dolls play a pivotal role in the development of girls. I remember going to Toys R Us with my family to use the gift cards our uncle had given us for Christmas. I remember going through the aisle looking for that Easy Bake Oven I had been anxious to get. After I got it, I went to the doll section. I glanced through the dolls looking for one that resembled me. No Luck. So grabbed a doll from the long selection of white dolls. My grandma came over with my brothers and asked me if there were any black dolls. “No,” I responded. She quickly found an employee and kindly asked them if they had any ethnic dolls. The employee helped us look through the dolls and checked in back. Unfortunately, they had no luck in finding a black doll. I spent the rest of the money on something else. I was a bit disappointed but quickly got over it. I learned my importance and worth from my mother. What my mother didn’t tell me I found on my own. Thanks to community, to black media, and my spiritual interpretation; I have been greatly influenced by the black excellence I see. That I am pretty and important but, why is this something I had to find on my own?

Positive self-images should be poured into children. I can clearly see why it is important for stores to sell black dolls. Playtime Projects is an organization that collects toys for homeless children. “Author Debbie Behan Garrett explains, “When a young child is playing with a doll, she is mimicking being a mother, and in her young, impressionable years, I want that child to understand that there’s nothing wrong with being black. If black children are force-fed that white is better, or if that’s all that they are exposed to, then they might start to think, ‘What is wrong with me?’ By providing children with African-American dolls that reflect their beauty, we can help to instill in them a positive self-image.”

In my psychology class we have talked about the “Doll Study.” This was a study that’s was done in 1939 by psychologists Kenneth & Mamie Clark, it examined black children’s preferences for white and black dolls and found that the children tended to find the white doll to be “nicer” and more enjoyable to play with. Perhaps fewer people, though, are aware that this study was repeated in 2005 by the then 17-year-old Kiri Davis. She found similar results to the original study. While Dr. Thelma Dye of the Northside Center for Child Development cautions that these results should not lead to the assumption that all black children suffer from low self-esteem, she encourages continued exploration of the meaning of these studies.

Self-representation matters! Children should be able to think highly of themselves and see that they are thought highly of in society. Whether they are of African decent, European decent, Hispanic, or Asian, a child should be able see their culture present in the world. The United states is a country full of many different cultures and I believe those cultures should be represented and embraced in all communities. It should be easy to locate a variety of dolls that represent a wider spectrum of ethnicities wherever you may go.  Children should be able to see dolls of all shades because that is the refection of the world.

Being Called White-Washed

[youtube]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UTPbrWsLUcg[/youtube]

This video featuring Anna Akana, is a very good explanation of the difference between calling persons of color or POC white-washed and a Hollywood film. The most important statement to take from this video is calling POC white-washed is them not abiding by your stereotypes of there race.

Free the Nips!

File courtesy of Google Images.By Zaquoya Rogers

Before the 1930s, going topless was illegal for both men and women. It was seen as indecent up until the 1930s when men were permitted to be without garment from the waist up. Women on the oth http://www.menshealth.com/sex-women/nipple-double-standard r hand, still had to keep their areolas covered.

Even today, the media is very stern on keeping female areolas off of their platform. Artist and professor, Micol Hebron said of her censored Instagram photo, “The fetishization and censorship of female nipples gets to the point where the body is being seen only as a sexual object.”  Instagram is one social media network that has been adamant and persistent in removing any photo that exposes feminine nips. Their justification states that it’s for “safety reasons.” But really, how harmful can a pair of female nipples be? This goes back to Hebron’s statement about how society sexualize the female anatomy and that’s really the underlying motive Instagram is acting on. Covering female nipples in public and on social media is completely unfair. Especially when the difference between male and female areolas is non-existent. In fact, male areolas and female areolas are EXACTLY the same. According to LiveScience.com, the first few weeks inside the womb, every developing embryo follows a “female blueprint”, which is why men even have nipples. The #FreetheNipple movement have provoked peaceful protests, celebrity support and conversation. This is helping to make more people aware of why we should free the nips