Save Your Seat: Feminist Majority’s 2013 Women, Money, Power Summit Begins October 8!

The Feminist Majority hosted its first Women, Money, Power Summit in 2009. This year, they’re bringing together feminist thinkers and activists, top political leaders, and folks like YOU on Capitol Hill for the fourth one in five years. The summit, which begins October 8, is a two-day event combining speakers, workshops, and congressional visits all while covering topics like CEDAW, contraception access and information, attacks on food stamps, and ending violence against women.

You’re not gonna wanna miss this – register today to save a seat.


The Feminist Majority Foundation is partnering with Feminist Majority to make the event possible, and with speakers ranging from summit honorees Rosa DeLauro, Leticia Van De Putte, and Barbara Arnwine to panelists Carolyn Maloney, Terry O’Neill, Katherine Spillar, and our own Ellie Smeal, we can’t help but be proud to tell you all about it. We’re excited to bring dedicated women’s rights advocates from around the nation the opportunity to strategize and fight back as well as recharge our batteries, exchange ideas, and maximize our strengths.

The summit agenda, which was recently released, says it all: this year’s event is a one-stop-shop for learning about the issues facing women politically, socially, and economically and conjure up the best methods to act to protect and expand our rights. Here’s a quick review.

The “Connecting the Dots: Stopping the War on Women’s Health, Teachers, Voting Rights, Food Stamps & Our Wallets” panel will include Ellie Smeal of the FMF, Katherine Spillar of FM, Randi Weingarten of the American Federation of Teachers, Terry O’Neill of the National Organization for Women, and Melanie Campbell of the National Coalition on Black Civic Participation. “Unholy Alliance: Cycle Beads, Condom Stockouts, and Abstinence-Only” will be a discussion between Jeanne Clark of Ms. Magazine, Jon O’Brien from Catholics for Choice, and Rob Boston of Americans United for Separation of Church and State. “Going on the Offensive: CEDAW, ERA, and Ending Violence Against Women” will include Gaylynn Burroughs of the FM, Kathy Bonk of Communications Consortium Media Center, Manizha Naderi of Women for Afghan Women, Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney, and Susan Burke. Tuesday will wrap up with a panel on the Affordable Care Act.

During the summit luncheon, we’ll hear from Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro, Texas state Sen. Leticia Van de Putte, and Barbara R. Arnwine, executive director of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law. And on Wednesday, October 9, we’ll head over to Congress to help participants visit with their representatives and talk to them about the issues they hold near and dear and those facing women across the nation in these turbulent times.

Don’t miss out on this amazing opportunity to grab a seat at the table with our nation’s political and feminist thinkers and activists and get to work. Register and save your spot today!

Panel-By-Panel: Recap of the 2013 National Sexual Assault Conference!

I’ll be spending the next three days in Los Angeles learning facts and strategies for combating sexual assault at the National Sexual Assault Conference. And I’m taking you with me! Sort of.


For the next three days, I’ll be live-tweeting the conference from the FMF’s Twitter account, @MajoritySpeaks. Be sure to tune in for updates, quotes, and quips – but don’t worry, I’ll be mindful of your timeline as well. All the stuff I’m not tweeting and most of the notes I’m taking will then be added to this post at the end of each day!

Here’s my itinerary for the next three days. (All times are in PST.) If it changes, I’ll simply update it here. If you’re going to be at any of these panels, workshops, or speeches, be sure to tweet us and let me know!

Wednesday 8/28

+ 9 AM: Opening Plenary

We started off with an inspiring round of speeches from established advocates and professionals in the field of violence prevention. Lynn Rosenthal from the White House sent greetings of appreciation from President Barack Obama himself for the over one thousand participants sitting in the room and recounted recent victories like the passage of VAWA and a new focus on Title IX compliance in activism; Bea Hanson, Director of the Office on Violence Against Women in the Department of Justice spoke about the new standard, all-encompassing definition of rape which is now used for reporting and what that could mean. Mark S. Ghilarducci, Director of California’s Governor’s Office of Emergency Services, recounted the now-infamous story about burglars who returned stolen goods to a rape crisis center and stressed that the work anti-violence educators and activists do is respected and widely valued. Stacy Alamo Mixson, Chief of the California Violence Prevention Unit, stressed the importance of primary prevention strategies.

Faye Washington, the closing speaker, blew everyone out of the water with her inspiring words. “I been in this fight a long time,” she began, recounting how she learned to be an efficient and successful advocate while stressing that she has seen great changes over her work’s lifetime. “Getting where we are today has taken the strength of a whole lot of women,” she added, pushing us all to embrace our passions, find the right tactics, and get down to work.

“You tell me it can’t be done,” Washington said. “It can be done.”

+ 10:45 AM: Making Your Messages Count – Applying the Strategies and Tactics of Advertising to SV Prevention

This session brought together Rebecca from FORCE (the activist/artist movement behind “Pink Loves Consent”) and Brad Perry, a digital media and advertising strategist who works with Hollaback! and other groups to end violence against women. They both stressed the importance of using strategy and taking campaign-building seriously as you would expect from a commercial client even in the nonprofit world.

Advertising works because it appeals to people. That’s the bottom line. And the reason that is so is because it’s calculated, and a lot of work goes in to it on the back end. Perry showed us some good and bad campaigns, pointing out flaws like ugly layouts, overwhelming text content, or poor messaging to show us the basic Do’s and Don’ts of embarking on campaign-building. He spoke too about the “curse of knowledge” – the phenomena in which “we,” as advocates and activists, know so much about an issue and come from it with such a distinct value system that it becomes hard for us to talk about it with “them,” or, really, anyone. Either we get too academic or we step up to the plate armed with information and resources but with no idea how to engage with someone who doesn’t automatically see it from our perspective. To combat this, you come at people from where they are – their place of understanding, their knowledge level, their interest, and their lifestyles have to be a part of our work.

A targeted strategy driven by actual data and insights is key to a successful campaign. Don’t get bogged down in what else you care about – pick a focus, an interesting point of view, and a narrow intended audience and outcome to experience the most success. Your creative concept should be dramatic, humanizing, and tangible – show, don’t tell.

Perry recommended looking at groups like Hollaback!, Men Can Stop Rape, and for examples of campaigns which succeeded for all of the reasons above.

Nagle came to the discussion using her own work as an example – FORCE: Upsetting Rape Culture, put together the highly successful consent campaign targeted at Victoria’s Secret earlier this year. It went viral not by accident, but because it was planned – important to remember, because often we believe that great things just sort of happen. They don’t. Nagle was prepared to have her final website shared by a large group of friends, and linked her action to the Victoria’s Secret fashion show in order to get her hashtag trending on Twitter.

Nagle’s “Pink Loves Consent” project succeeded because the website accurately imitated a Victoria’s Secret web page, and thus it created an alternative experience for users. “It made people think, ‘what if I lived in this world?'” she explained. “And then they asked – why don’t I?”

“Pink Loves Consent” used a strong entry point to appeal to a broad audience, and they focused on imagery, messages,timing, and their audience to get results. Nagle’s imagery provided a contrast between our rape culture and our alternative – a rape-free world. Her entry point provided millions of women with a space to get excited, then disappointed about Victoria’s Secret’s perpetuation of a rape culture. Inevitably, they would go into it believing the products were real – once they realized they weren’t, it was hard to go back to the ‘normal’ world with the same perspective.

Nagle stressed keeping it positive as a strategy: tell people what they SHOULD do, not what they SHOULDN’T. She also stressed being prepared for backlash and doing all you can in the preparatory stages to avoid it.

“What we’re doing isn’t new,” Perry said as the panel came to a close. “And if you think it is, that’s a problem. Preventing sexual violence isn’t new. It’s an extension of the best parts of our humanity.”

+ 1:45 PM: Sexual Assault in the Military – Data and Research

This presentation, delivered by Nathan Galbreath of the Department of Defense, shed some new light into our understandings and perceptions of military sexual assault. Since it was mostly data- and fact-driven, I’m just gonna give you the same right here.

Military populations differ from the overall civilian population – they’re younger and more male, for starters. Galbreath explained that rates of sexual assault are consistent when evaluated with that difference in mind. In other words, women are just as at risk to face sexual violence in the military as they are on the streets. But after that, differences do begin to pop up, as do distinctions: women veterans are nine times more likely to have PTSD if they’re survivors than civilian women; women who deploy are two-and-a-half times more likely to be sexually harassed or assaulted; and nearly 50 percent of survivors from the military are likely to say that their rape is their leading cause of lasting trauma.

+ 3:30 PM: Achieving a Compliant, Student-Centered Approach to Sexual Assaults on Campus

Four staff members from UC Irvine delivered this presentation: Mandy Mount, Director of Campus Assault Resources and Education (CARE); Anthony Frisbee, Detective Sargeant of the UCIPD; Theresa Gerrior, Title IX coordinator for the campus; and Edgar Dormitorio, Director of Student Conduct. Together, the four of them talked about developing their own successful, community-based solutions to sexual assault and misconduct on campus. And together, they renewed my faith in humanity. (It’s nice, for the record, to see people who actually care at these conferences – it provides a very amazing contrast to the ones you’ve met who didn’t.)

There are a lot of factors that make campus communities unique: a strong focus on drinking and partying, constructed senses of safety, typically rigidly defined age groups, heavy use of social media, and so on. But they’re also unique in that handling an assault on campus encompasses various levels: survivor resources, compliance with the law, and on-campus disciplinary action. Schools struggle to handle all of these elements effectively or well at all, but the UCI team has a three-tier strategy which allows them to show respect to survivors, support victims, comply with various laws and regulations by the state and federal governments, and take disciplinary action.

UCI is a larger campus, and larger campuses struggle with making mass education about sexual assault meaningful. But unorganized systems in place across the nation to handle the epidemic of sexual assault don’t do justice to the survivor, and often re-traumatize them in the process. The three-tier system solves that.

Each tier represents a level of response, and we begin with the trauma-informed response: the response which places the understanding of an experience of trauma at the center of the respondent. This response involves sharing resources, ensuring fast and fair justice, and focusing on culturally appropriate needs and solutions to provide healing for a survivor.

The next tier is a campus-wide response, which takes the shape of actions meant to create safer, more proactive, and nonviolent campus communities. This takes a village: student leaders, administrators, staff, community members, and outside organizations need to be present and engaged in these efforts if they’re going to succeed. Creating a huge network of groups and people who are showing solidarity and support for survivors sends a very clear message.

The third tier is an adminstrative response, which is often the hardest to coordinate. At UCI, staff ready to take action around Title IX compliance, Clery Act compliance, student conduct compliance, and the law-at-large meet regularly to tackle cases of sexual assault and respond to them accordingly and correctly. In some cases, their willingness to work together on these issues saved lives. Coordinating an administrative response is meaningful to survivors because it provides them with a team of support who are making their difficult situation slightly easier by working together to tell appropriate individuals what happened, seek and find resources for survivors, and follow through quickly and efficiently on how they wish to proceed after a traumatic experience.

The bottom line is that sexual assault on campus needs to be everyone’s priority – and that when it is, amazing things can happen.

Thursday 8/29

+ 9 AM: Plenary Session

Thursday’s opening plenary was chock-full of feminist all-stars. David Lee from CALCASA, the organization that dutifully executed this monumentally amazing things, spoke first. It didn’t take long, though, for Michael Kimmel, well-known sociologist and male feminist, to get talking. Kimmel urged the participants in the room to engage with men and work with them, rather than around them, to get this work done. Obviously this is easier said than done, but Kimmel stressed that male entitlement goes hand-in-hand with the inherent invisibility of their gender – privilege is about not seeing a dimension of oppression, and for men it manifests as their cultural inability to see gender as a force in their own lives. Only when we’re broadening discussions to include that element will we see men galvanizing for gender equality, according to him. Dolores Huerta went next, founding member of the Feminist Majority Foundation! “There will be no peace until women take power in the room,” Huerta said. She spoke eloquently about her journey to feminism, the importance of us all working together, and then energized us with her signature chant: “si se puede!” (We also chanted “viva feminism!” which made my heart melt.)

+ 10:45 AM: Harnessing Momentum Surrounding High Profile Cases – Lessons Learned from Steubenville

This workshop brought together Katie Hannah and Becky Perkins of the Ohio Alliance to End Sexual Violence and Tracy Cox of the National Sexual Violence Resource Center. They spoke about what it was like to be on the front lines of the Steubenville case, inside the courtroom as well as in Ohio, and how they made sure their messages of survivor support and anti-violence were making it into the media.

The acronym MEDIA was the basis of the workshop: Messaging, Effectiveness, Distribution, Impact, and Advocacy. Each is a vital step to conquering the media landscape of a high-profile case. Their message was simple: an ask for survivor support and support for those support resources. (#Support.) They used existing relationships and built new relationships – even with journalists who often didn’t “agree” with them or wrote in an antithetical framework to theirs – to push that message through. And in the end, they were able to successfully garner media attention and broaden the dialogue surrounding Steubenville to one of preventing it from ever happening again, and pushing forward the idea that sexual assault needs to stop.

+ 3:30 PM: Ending Violence Against Girls and Women – The Three Most Essential Questions for Our Movement

This interactive workshop asked participants to identify, in groups, the landscape of our movement. This involved lots of mapping.

We were assigned areas: issues, actors, strategies. We identified how they related, how they fed one another, and ultimately, strategies for using them or conquering them most effectively. My group focused on the issues surrounding the movement: a struggle for prioritization, too broad of a focus and too much to cover, lack of engagement and support, burnout, short funds – it’s a mess. But other groups found strategies, like ours, to overcome that, and the exercise ultimately helped us all to think differently and with more clarity about our work. Small staffs and urgent situations make the nonprofit realm very unpredictable, but if we keep our strategies specific and keep them in mind, we can achieve every small step of this movement collaboratively.

Friday 8/30

+ 9 AM: SPARK Movement Workshop (I’m delivering this one!)

Ty Slobe and I have activist roots in SPARK, a girl-fueled and -oriented movement putting real girls’ voices and experiences into the media to counter their own sexualization by media industries. Combating sexualization is a key component of ending sexual violence – it’s often what leads boys and girls to grow up into a culture where women are sex objects and masculinity is a rigid, violent social construction.

Ty and I wanted to bring girls’ voices and experiences into the perspectives of people doing this work, so we spoke a bit about SPARK’s reactionary roots, based in the APA’s 2007 report on the sexualization of girls. The APA defined the issue as critical, and connected the hypersexualized girlhoods of young American women to eating disorders, low self-esteem, and depression. We then led the group through a SPARKit!, which is a mini-curriculum for a specific exercise put together with SPARK and another group. SPARK’s made kits with THE LINE Campaign, Powered By Girl, and more. We ran through one produced in conjunction with the Media Education Foundation and tackled the concepts of responsible advertising, sexualization, healthy sexuality, and rape culture in small groups.

You can purchase the SPARKit! curriculum online beginning today!

+ 10:45 AM: Closing Plenary (and speaking at this one, too!)

Whew! Three days of thinking and we came to a close with speakers talking the future. Where is the movement going? What does the future look like? Mira Yusef of Monsoon United Asian Women of Iowa spoke about her own experiences that brought her to founding the organization, as well as her cultural background’s impact on her work. Jacob Chevalier, a high-schooler active in STAND & SERVE, spoke about the important youth engagement piece that’s coming together, and why educators need to make sure it continues to come together. “This problem needs to be solved yesterday,” he said, and he used humor and inspirational stories to illustrate how young people can make a difference.

I spoke last, which made me very nervous, and urged everyone to keep going. I told my own story, as an activist, of what it was like to watch the national media circus over Steubenville and push forward despite massive failings by the media and various communities on a local and national level. I also stressed the importance of education and using the Internet to galvanize social change. Ultimately, I talked about unweaving rape culture by putting something else in its place: a rape-free world.

My ideal world is one in which I feel safe walking down the street. My ideal world is one in which rape is seen as being unacceptable in the same way that we collectively agree across various communities and nations that other crimes and forms of violence are unacceptable. My ideal world is one in which rape never happens, and, should it still prove to persist, is not found excusable, justifiable, or okay. My ideal world is one in which all people, of all genders, of all races, of all lifestyles, of all everything, can finally feel free to exist in public space anytime, anywhere, and in private space just the same.
The only way to undo a rape culture is to teach something else. Together, we need to utilize every possible tool and every possible ally to complete that education.
Thank you all for all that you do. Please keep going.

OK! Now that you’re done, check out a tweet-by-tweet recap of #NSAC2013! And thanks for being part of this amazing feminist adventure with me.

Our Choice, Our Voice: On Speaking Out and Not Being Spoken Down To

Click to view the series.
Click to view the series!

I was raised by a single mother and her widowed mother and single sister. That’s a lot of women in one room, and they were completely and wholly invaluable to me as a child: together, the three of them kept my brother and I safe and entertained, fed and well-rested. My mom worked nights, so my brother and I spent those nights in my grandmother’s basement; she picked us up after school and my aunt took us out on weekends. I grew up learning that women were all-too capable of doing these things alone, burdensome and seemingly impossible as they might be.

I grew up pro-woman, pro-mother, pro-family, and pro-choice. I grew up knowing I was wanted, and loved. I grew up with a parent willing to sacrifice almost anything for me – and I say “almost” because though I have yet to find it, I’m sure her limit must exist. My mother drove us around for thousands of miles, came to all of our performances, and also struggled to put food on the table. She doesn’t have a college degree and had given up being in the workforce during her brief marriage to my father – the odds were stacked against her and thus, against us. But that never ruined her resolve. Together, my immediate and extended family watched as my brother and I graduated with honors from prestigious universities, landed our dream jobs, and started our adult lives.

Having grown up empowered, I noticed that women’s lives were not really on anyone’s radar, and that it was affecting my own life. Men ran local and national and international businesses, played politics into adulthood, ran for local office. Business executives and doctors in the world and on TV were predominately male. None of these men understood my mother’s life: growing up under George W. Bush, it was impossible to give credit to leaders of the free world for taking care of her. Nobody was. Men were also the majority of my mother’s coworkers, and though I expected her humanity to be apparent to them they were often directly or indirectly unsupportive of her despite her obvious challenges and burdens. I had three women raising me and outside of that, I was wholly alone. At the time, nobody was concerned with my story, either: children of single-parent homes were mythologized as being destined for prison and drug abuse, studied for signs of abuse, pre-determined to suffer from neglect. I was defined by lies. My experiences were invisible. And nobody admired my mother as much as they should have.

I became a feminist. And once I invested myself in feminism, I came to do a lot of reading about the folks and movements that worked against my mother in newspapers and books. I learned a few things: that the forces working against my family were both social (widespread media and cultural values that devalued our family unit and individual experiences) and political (commonplace legislation of our lives and livelihoods; the playing of political games with social programs and women’s rights on the table). And I came to realize was that no issue opened women up to being talked down to more than abortion.

via Shutterstock
via Shutterstock

Anti-choice talking points often come down to shame, blame, and stigma. It starts at conception, when women are blamed entirely for their unplanned pregnancies. (Y’know, I don’t know what these legislators tell their kids, but if not men than surely even the stork is sort of implicated in that problem.) Next comes shame: women must face punishment, after all, for having sex in the first place. Babies become “punishments” for that sex: “if you didn’t want the child, you shouldn’t have had sex.” Which, hoo boy! Tell that to the girls I went to middle and high school with – the ones who were pressured on the daily to have sex. Or maybe tell that even to legislators who get caught in extramarital affairs, yet somehow retain their careers. The stigmatization piece comes later: women face social punishment either for having an abortion or for considering one; their pregnant bellies become invitations to be lectured and picketed by violent and angry protesters outside of valid medical facilities.

Men and women talking down to pro-choice and struggling women about abortion lacked an understanding, even to my teenage self, of how pregnancy would really impact me should it be thrust upon me: I would face isolation, struggle through physical and emotional turmoil, and put my entire future at risk in the course of just nine months. Add to this that most anti-choice arguments (fetal pain, fetal heartbeat, and abstinence-only sex education among them) are unsupported by science and data and there seems, to me, to be little compulsion to listen to them. Yet this discourse has dominated women’s lives since my birth.

Women don’t need to be talked down to to take control of their lives. We know exactly what we need, and we’ve been asking for it: we need emergency contraception, comprehensive sex education, birth control access and coverage to make family planning a pre-emptive action rather than a post-coital appointment. We need safe and legal abortion to prevent maternal mortality and the economic destruction of women’s lives. We need privacy and respect as it has been afforded to millions of human beings who make momentous medical decisions by themselves. We need patience and understanding and compassion as we make choices that could alter our futures, lives, and relationships. Family planning is not a keyword – it’s a movement. I was wanted, loved, and sacrificed for. I don’t know, to this day, how my mother did that. She is stronger than I’ll ever know, and braver, too. I don’t want babies to be punishments for pre-marital or even post-marital sex. I don’t want aborting a baby because it may never live a happy and healthy life to be seen as a monstrous decision even as it may eat someone else alive. I don’t want women to be shamed for enjoying sex, as men have for centuries. I don’t want women to be stigmatized for controlling their careers and wanting it all.

I want choices. It’s what brought me to feminism, seeing as even by the age of ten I was struggling to decide between President, Pope, and famous starving artist as my career trajectory for the future. It’s what kept me there as I grew up and witnessed unique and individual moments of beauty inside every single human being, and realized that a movement big enough to hold us all had to also be big enough to hold us together. It’s what brings me here today. The pro-choice movement is still my movement because until legislators take their hands off of my body, and stop telling me how to live my life, I cannot leave. I can’t back out. I can’t turn around and abandon all hopes of freedom. I came into this world marginalized, and I refuse to leave it that way.

Women want, and deserve, to make their own choices. Women need to be free to do so. And until that’s made clear to everyone walking this Earth, the work’s not done.

Our #AbortionMatters Blog Carnival

Click to view the series.
Click to view the series!

Welcome to #AbortionMatters!  This blog carnival will showcase various personal essays and short policy pieces that stress the importance of a federal – and wholly national – approach to abortion. In an effort to destigmatize abortion, encourage wider education on the procedure, and normalize the conversation, we’re gathering stories to illustrate the complexity and unique experiences which shape the pro-choice movement and demand greater action. We’ll be sharing those stories all weekend – beginning right here, right now. And once they’re posted, they’ll be listed here – so consider this home base.

If you didn’t submit, that’s fine! There’s still time to send pieces to us via email or post your own and share them with us via social media. (You can read up on the submission guidelines hereWe’ll be looking out for your tweets! Promise.) We’d love to hear your voice and we’d love for this to be your platform to use it.

And now, without further ado, let’s get down to explaining how and why we’re doing this thing.


+ 8/15: Call for Submissions: #AbortionMatters Blog Carnival

+ 8/23: #AbortionMatters Blog Carnival Begins NOW!

+ 8/23: Graduate Baby Blues: When Pregnancy and College Don’t Mix, Anonymous

+ 8/23: Military Abortion Rights: Boxing in Women Who Serve, by Leah Gates

+ 8/23: My Abortion Story, by Jacqui Morton

+ 8/23: The Fence, by Wendy Ortiz

+ 8/24: My Mother Wanted To Be An Astronaut, by Leigh Sanders

+ 8/24: Let’s Make Access to Abortion Meaningful to All Women, by Sara Alcid

+ 8/24: I’m Pro-Choice Because Sophie Needed One, by Alissa M.

+ 8/24: There Was Zero Question In My Mind, by L. Anderson

+ 8/25: How US Policy Denies Life-Saving Care to Women Raped in War, by Akila Radhakrishnan

+ 8/25: Our Constitutional Right to Abortion Regardless of Religion, Anonymous

+ 8/25: It’s Her Choice, by Nicole Wachter

+ 8/26: Our Choice, Our Voice: On Speaking Out and Not Being Spoken Down To, by Carmen Rios

Hollaback! Launches New App to Report Street Harassment to NYC Officials in Real Time

Hollaback!, the international movement to end street harassment, made history Monday when the organization’s Executive Director, Emily May, unveiled iPhone and Droid apps that enable New York City residents to report harassment in real time to their local authorities, including demographic, locational, and situational information about the incident or attack.

via Shutterstock
via Shutterstock

According to a joint study conducted by Hollaback! and the Worker Institute at Cornell University, only 5% of people who had witnessed or experienced street harassment reported the incident to security or a city authority. The new apps make New York the first city to undertake an effort to gather data with a goal of reducing incidents of street harassment; the city council supported the development of the app with an allocation of $20,000 last year. May said:

As we stand here today, I am mindful that some of you have been sexually harassed during your life. Lewd comments, gestures, threats. Public masturbation, groping.  I am mindful that some of you have been harassed this week – and I mindful that some of you were harassed today…

But today marks the beginning of a new understanding: even though we face harassment today and tomorrow, this can and will be changed.

Hollaback! has had an app in place for years that allowed people around the world to share their stories in real-time with a community of activists and like-minded folks engaged in the movement to end street harassment in their own communities. Those affected by any form of street harassment were encouraged to take photos of their offenders, place their incidents onto a global map, and share their stories through the existing app. The organization thus encouraged people who were used to experiencing street harassment to finally talk back – to hollaback.

The new app is an expansion of the existing technology which could theoretically be put into place in cities around the globe: folks witnessing or experiencing street harassment can report in seconds and rest assured that the NYC Council and local district Councilmember will receive the report instantly. The reports are also available publicly at the will of the complainant.

“Street harassment is such a widespread issue — and so under-researched,” May said in her remarks Monday. “To target this problem, we need ways for New Yorkers to speak up and out  on this issue. And we need Councilmembers that listen.  As recently as yesterday, if you wanted to report harassment in New York City, it would have taken you hours to file the complaint… Now, whether you’ve experienced harassment yourself or witnessed it and tried to help, you can make a report in under a minute.”

May was joined by New York City Speaker Christine Quinn, her wife Kim Catullo, and Council Member Diana Reyna at the unveiling. Quinn, who also released a plan for assessing the safety of neighborhoods across the city, added that “people who violate women either by their actions or words won’t be able to hide any longer. We will know who they are, what they do, where they do it – and we will put it to an end.”

Happy Birthday, Social Security! (And Thanks for All You Do for Older Women.)

This post is part of the National Organization for Women’s #SSBdayBash celebrating Social Security’s birthday while advocating for improving its impact on women.

Social Security turns 78 today, which is a great cause for celebration: the program has been a lifeline for millions of Americans, and especially for older women.

Portrait of happy woman via Shutterstock
Portrait via Shutterstock

Social Security is, in theory, “gender neutral” – benefits are doled out equally to individuals without respect to their gender identity. Although that formula fails to take into account the unpaid labor women often complete at home, and also overlooks differences in pay rates, the program has still been invaluable in helping women maintain economic stability in their older years. Social Security is of massive importance to older Americans, and is often the most common and the largest source of income for folks in their age ranges. Since decades of inequity add up, women are less economically secure than men by the time they reach 65 – Social Security is paramount in their lives.

Here are the cold, hard facts:

+ 85% of women receive income from Social Security who are aged 65 or older; they receive a greater share of their overall income from Social Security than men do in older age. The need and relative benefit of the program only increases with age, although once women hit 65 they’re likely receiving a large share of their income from SS regardless. For women who are unmarried and living alone, 48% of their income source is a Social Security check; anywhere from 29% to 67% of all women rely on those checks for 100%, 80%, or even 50% of their economic needs.

+ Across the board, women of all races rely on the Social Security program to survive. But as you parse statistics for race and ethnicity, it becomes clear that the program is sustaining non-white people of all genders economically. The largest gender gap in Social Security reliance occurs between white men and women; people of color and women both suffer from workplace inequity over their lifetimes and thus need Social Security in place of retirement funds to stay out of poverty. Women of color in particular are hit hard economically in older age as a result of holding typically low-earning positions throughout their lives.

+ According to the Institute for Women’s Policy Research, married and unmarried women rely on Social Security for 90 percent or more of their income more than their male companions do regardless of race. (The one exception is unmarried black men versus unmarried black women, in which 42 percent of men and 39 percent of women rely on Social Security to that degree.)

+ Without Social Security, 25 million people would fall below the poverty line. Irregardless of race, the absence of Social Security would send women over 65 into poverty at disastrous rates; for women over 75, it would put a majority of them below the poverty line.

Although Social Security could use a little bit of modernization, and could be more sensitive to LGBT and gender discrimination, the program’s continued livelihood overall is a huge victory for women’s rights advocates, all of whom have stood united time and time again against threats to shut it down. Social Security is keeping elderly women alive, well, and secure; unlike Wall Street investments, it’s a reliable and consistent source of income.

Without Social Security, women’s lives and futures would look much different in this country – so today, let’s celebrate 78 years of support and solvency.

For more information on Social Security with respects to age, ethnicity, and gender, check out the Institute for Women’s Policy Research’s reports on the issue or NOW’s Social Security action center.

Call for Submissions: #AbortionMatters Blog Carnival (UPDATED)

posted on 8/12, updated on 8/15

As part of the 31 Days of Unity campaign, the Feminist Majority Foundation will host #AbortionMatters, a blog carnival, from August 23 – 26.


#AbortionMatters will showcase various personal essays and short policy pieces that stress the importance of a federal – and wholly national – approach to abortion. In an effort to destigmatize abortion, encourage wider education on the procedure, and normalize the conversation, we’re gathering stories to illustrate the complexity and unique experiences which shape the pro-choice movement and demand greater action. Pieces should stress / mention why a cohesive, national approach to abortion issues and decisions leads to better healthcare and well-being for women.

Submissions will be accepted two ways:

+ via email (preferably by 8/20):  Pieces sent as attachments should be .DOC, .TXT, or .RTF files. Feel free to post something on your own blog during the carnival and send over the link! We’ll simply republish it and link back to your original post.

+ via social media (ongoing): Post to your own blog and then tweet the link out using the tag #AbortionMatters! We’ll see it and republish it.

All submissions should be between 500 and 1000 words. Previously published work is welcome to be submitted. Writing should not be overly academic and images, if submitted, need to be sourced in Creative Commons or owned by the author. Unless otherwise noted, posts will be credited to authors using their full names and will be registered to the email used to submit. All comments are moderated, and requests for anonymity will be accepted – but must be noted when submitting.

Due to the volume of submissions, we will not be able to offer feedback to submissions not accepted. By submitting, you are accepting that we may make edits to your piece to suit the overall theme and/or voice of the carnival. Policy-based pieces cannot be partisan.

If you have any questions or you’d like to submit, please email socialmedia [at] feminist [dot] org! We’re looking forward to hearing your stories and perspectives – and we’re hoping to showcase as many as possible! And regardless of whether you submit, please check back in on the blog between August 23 and 27 to see the selected pieces that go up!

Roundup: It’s (Still) Worldwide Breastfeeding Week!

Happy Worldwide Breastfeeding Week!

via desireefawn on flickr
via desireefawn on flickr

This year the celebration took place from August 1 to August 7, and had the following objectives:

1. To draw attention to the importance of Peer Support in helping mothers to establish and sustain breastfeeding.

2. To inform people of the highly effective benefits of Peer Counselling, and unite efforts to expand peer counselling programmes.

3. To encourage breastfeeding supporters, regardless of thei r educat ional background, to step forward and be trained to support mothers and babies.

4. To identify local community support contacts for breastfeeding mothers, that women can go to for help and support after giving birth.

5. To call on governments and maternity facilities globally to actively implement the Ten Steps, in particular Step 10, to improve duration and rates of exclusive breastfeeding.

In honor of the global conversation about breastfeeding, Fearless Formula Feeder’s Suzanne Barston started the “I Support You” movement with Jamie Lynne Grumet of I Am Not The Babysitter and Mama By The Bay, Kim Simon:

You, at the La Leche League meeting. You, in the lactation consultant’s office, perfecting your newborn’s latch. You, in the Nordstrom’s dressing room, nursing quietly on the couch. You, at your older son’s baseball game, nursing openly in the bleachers. You, who have cried rivers of tears over your feeding choices, and you, who chose without fear.

I support you.

You, in your hospital gown, asking the nurses for formula. You, shaking a bottle with one arm while your baby snuggles close in the other. You, who have researched the healthiest, most tummy-friendly formulas. You, who pump and mix and combo-feed. You, who have cried rivers of tears over your feeding choices, and you, who chose without fear.

I support you.

You, with your partner, as you feed the baby that you are hoping to adopt. You, who had a mastectomy and are locking eyes with new life. You, who chose your mental health, or your physical health, or your freedom, or your lack of freedom, so that you could feed your baby in a way that protected both of you. You, the Daddy who is finger-feeding your infant. You, the Mommy who lovingly pours formula into a G-Tube. You, at the NICU, pumping your breasts by the light of the machines that are keeping your baby alive. You, with the foster child who you are loving back to health. We see you. You are a part of this conversation too.

We support you.

Should you choose to breastfeed, the WBW 2013 Blog Carnival can help you with some tips for normalizing  (even for older children) and stories from other mothers. Over at Nursing in Public, you can find some of the best and worst airline breastfeeding policies. (If at first you feel discouraged, remember that you might not hate it the second time around. If you like it, remember that you can stay strong.)

Most importantly, don’t be embarrassed – no matter what choice you make about breastfeeding.

Data Crunch: New Survey Reveals Majority of Americans Support Abortion, Oppose Closing Clinics

Results of a new poll on American attitudes about abortion produced by ABC News in conjunction with the Washington Post were released today. The study, conducted by telephone from July 18-21, encompasses over 1,000 English- and Spanish-speaking adults. Cell phones and landlines were included.

Here’s what they learned:

+ A majority of Americans support abortion rights and access: 55 percent of all Americans believe “abortion should be legal in all or most cases.” 54 percent oppose state laws that close clinics and make it more difficult for them to stay open.

+ A majority of Americans think abortion is a national, and not local, issue: This year has had a record number of legislation put forth to stop abortion state-by-state, and we’re in the midst of a clinics crisis often caused by TRAP (Targeted Regulation of Abortion Providers) laws. 66 percent of Americans polled think abortion laws should be decided constitutionally, and not by individual states. Only 30 percent of Americans support state-based abortion policy; a majority of those who oppose abortion still agree that the issue should be decided federally.


+ Party lines and political ideology matter: Liberals overwhelmingly support abortion rights (80 percent) and moderates also err toward agreeing that the practice is legal (66 percent). Conservatives, however, overwhelmingly oppose abortion rights 68-30 percent, and 79 percent of those who self-define as “very conservative” oppose abortion. Republicans also support state-based abortion legislation whereas Democrats strongly disavow it. (Much of the legislation that successfully banned, blocked, or minimized abortion in various states this year was enacted by openly anti-choice state leaders.)

+ Gender and Ethnicity don’t matter as much: Men and women only differ by one point nationally on the view that abortion should be legal (56 percent of men and 55 perfect of women feel that way), although women are more likely to oppose state restrictions on abortion and men are more likely to define an ideal legal limit on abortion at 24 versus 20 weeks. And while whites and blacks [sic] support abortion rights by a majority, Hispanics remain divided and narrowly err toward desiring the practice to be illegal. Overwhelmingly, however, these factors remain more minor impacts on abortion attitudes.

+ Along lines of religious affiliation, however, a greater divide is revealed: Non-evangelical white Protestants, Catholics, and those with no religious affiliation agree in differing proportion that abortion should be legal, whereas evangelical white Protestants feel overwhelmingly that it should be illegal. 66 percent of non-evangelicals support abortion; 66 percent of evangelicals do not.

You can read the full results packet at Langer Research.

The System Has Failed: We Need to End Stand Your Ground

George Zimmerman was able to walk away from the shooting and killing of unarmed teenager Trayvon Martin this week because of Florida’s “Stand Your Ground” law. Similar to measures put into place in about 30 states across the nation, Stand Your Ground allows Floridians to resort to deadly violence when they feel their lives may be in imminent danger, and qualifies such actions as self-defense even if no attempt to retreat is made. Rulings of justifiable homicide are proven to be more common in these states than states without similar ordinances. It’s become clear, however, that the law does not apply equally to differing populations.

photo via seattle.roamer on Flickr
photo via seattle.roamer on Flickr

Marissa Alexander is a mother of three who was found guilty on three charges of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon for firing a warning shot to protect herself from her husband, who has a reported history of violence against various women, including Alexander herself. At the time of the incident, Alexander had a restraining order against him and had been previously hospitalized due to injuries sustained from his abuse.

The incident in question occurred on August 1, 2010, when she went to her old home to retrieve some personal items. Her estranged husband, Rico Gray, began levying threats against her while she was in the bathroom and attempted to trap her; though she eventually got away from him, her plan to leave through the garage was thwarted when the door wouldn’t open. Alexander, who has a concealed carry permit, opted to grab her gun and attempt to exit through the main door. Upon re-entry, Gray threatened her life and she fired the warning shot. He called the police and she was arrested.

Despite overwhelming evidence that Alexander herself had been victimized repeatedly by her husband, a six-person jury sentenced her to 20 years for firing the shot in accordance with Florida’s mandatory sentencing laws. (She had previously denied a plea bargain for a 3 year sentence because she was confident she would win her case.) Gray’s prosecuting attorney, Angela Corey, said that Alexander wasn’t “standing her ground” because “she was not fleeing from an abuser” at the precise moment in which she fired the shot. Because Alexander had re-entered the house from the garage, her use of a weapon was not found to be justified.

To parallel Alexander’s case with the Zimmerman trial produces disturbing questions about race, gender, and the justice system in Florida and across this nation. “The Florida criminal justice system has sent two clear messages today,” said Representative Corrine Brown after Alexander’s sentencing. “One is that if women who are victims of domestic violence try to protect themselves, the ‘Stand Your Ground Law’ will not apply to them. The second message is that if you are black, the system will treat you differently.”

Indeed, a critical look at Stand Your Ground Laws in Florida produces the same unsettling message. According to PBS:

Whites who kill blacks in Stand Your Ground states are far more likely to be found justified in their killings. In non-Stand Your Ground states, whites are 250 percent more likely to be found justified in killing a black person than a white person who kills another white person; in Stand Your Ground states, that number jumps to 354 percent.

In other words, as Ms. magazine clearly explained, “stand your ground decreases the likelihood of conviction, but only when a white person is accused of killing a black person.”

via PBS
via PBS

Marissa Alexander’s case exemplifies an array of inequities in our justice system, but she is unfortunately not alone. CeCe McDonald, a black trans* woman from Minnesota, was found guilty in 2011 of second-degree manslaughter after surviving a racially-charged transphobic attack and is serving 41 months in a men’s prison; ThinkProgress recently profiled various black men who were found guilty despite using Stand Your Ground to justify actions of self-defense. George Zimmerman, however, used the law to walk away from the killing of an unarmed black teenager. It isn’t hard to see that these laws fail to support victims across a broad spectrum of identities, and have absolutely failed to protect victims of color. Until it is possible for us to fairly represent all people in our justice system, it is that which has failed as well.

The Feminist Majority Foundation supports Marissa Alexander and believes in repealing Stand Your Ground laws across the United States.

Happy Malala Day!

Today is “Malala Day,” named for girl activist Malala Yousafzai and marking her 16th birthday; it’s also the date of Malala’s address to the Secretary-General of the United Nations as part of a UN Youth Assembly on education. The assembly will bring together over 500 young people from around the world to call for expanded educational access for all – a party of sorts for the birthday girl as she celebrates a successful petition that garnered over 2 million responses demanding urgency in that fight.

We are proud to stand with Malala.


Girls Learn International, a project of the Feminist Majority Foundation, has been working to aid in Malala’s effort for broader education around the globe for 10 years – and today they’re honoring Malala as part of their 10th anniversary celebration, 30 Days of Sheroes:

Malala is a shero for standing up for the girls in her community who fear an education, but Malala Day is about more than her shero status – it’s about making sure she’s one of the last girls to face martyrdom to get an education.

A Feminist Majority Foundation employee visited Malala’s school earlier this year and observed that “every girl was Malala–very brave and outspoken.” Today, Malala represents every girl or boy fighting for their right to an education. We stand with her, and with them.

And we wish her a happy birthday!

You can follow the ongoing daily series and view previous sheroes at the GLI blog, and you can follow their live-tweets of Malala’s speech @GirlsLearnIntl, where 5 of their own girl activists will join in Malala’s presentation of her petition.

Highlights: Interview with Penny Harrington, America’s First Woman Police Chief

The Next Women Business Magazine recently published an interview with Penny Harrington, who became a police officer in 1964 in Portland and headed the Feminist Majority Foundation’s National Center for Women & Policing at its founding in 1995. Harrington served in Portland in the Women’s Protective Division and began to challenge discriminatory policies after a few years in the force. She became Chief of Police in 1985 and was the first woman in America to lead a police department in a major city.

We’ve compiled some highlights of her interview below – but please read the full piece over at The Next Women, too!

On the history of the NCWP:

TNW: Tell us a bit about the National Center for Women & Policing. Why was it founded and what are its goals?

PH: The NCWP grew out of the riots in Los Angeles following the verdicts of the men who beat Rodney King. The Los Angeles Police Commission established a Women’s Advisory Council to examine the LAPD and make recommendations on how they could recruit and retain more women. I was appointed to be one of 4 women to lead the council. Kathy Spillar of the Feminist Majority also held one of those positions. When we finished our work and published “A Blueprint for Gender Equity in the Los Angeles Police Department,” Kathy asked me to come to work for the Feminist Majority and set up the NCWP. The goals of the NCWP were to increase the numbers of women in policing at all levels and improve the response of the police to crimes against women. The US Department of Justice published a book we wrote “Recruiting & Retaining Women: A Self-Assessment Guide for Law Enforcement” which can be obtained from the National Criminal Justice Reference Service.

On what has – and hasn’t – changed:

TNW: What are the biggest obstacles facing women in law enforcement careers today?

PH: Unfortunately, the obstacles have not changed much since I started in 1964.

The single biggest obstacle is the culture that is unaccepting of women in law enforcement. There are still entry standards and training programs that wash out women in higher percentages than men.

The culture still values physical strength and use of force and devalues reasoning and negotiating skills. Also, because a great deal of men entering the law enforcement agencies come from the military, they bring those rigid attitudes with them. Now I do want to say here that there are many wonderful men in law enforcement who are supportive of women and who are excellent community officers.

On her heroes:

TNW: Who do you most admire, both within your own field and as a role model in life?

PH: I have always admired Eleanor Smeal. I first heard of her when she was the President of NOW. Her words kept me fighting for equality all my life. And I cannot separate our Katherine Spillar, the Vice President of the Feminist Majority and the Publisher of Ms. Magazine. And, of course, who does not admire Hillary Clinton!

And lastly, some advice:

TNW: Is there anything we haven’t asked you, but you would like to share with our community?

PH: The most important thing that i want to say to young women in all fields is this: Stand up and fight to be treated equally. Too many women cave in when the pressure gets tough. There are generations of women who have paved the way for you with their sweat and tears. You owe it to us to not give up the ground we gained so that you can have the career of your dreams.