Sextivism in the City refers to activism taking place in Washington, DC. The activism that I will be highlighting will be related to reproductive health, gendered issues, sexuality, sexism fighting, LGBTQAI+ issues and other issues which relate to sexual freedoms.
These pictures were taken at American University. They are of a rally organized by the AU No More Silence Coalition. The goal of this rally was to put pressure on the school’s administration to act on behalf of sexual assault survivors. As a coalition, we demand justice for survivors, and we demand mandatory sexual assault bystander-prevention programs for faculty and students alike. If you would like to find out more about the group’s demands, check out the petition that was made on Change.org
Transformative Activism at American University
I could not have imagined a better way to wind down my freshman year. I have spent the last couple of days organizing with some of the most passionate, hardworking activists and people I have ever met. I have seen the passion for social justice give people a sense of purpose, a sense of community, the feeling of belonging. I have seen people be transformed through exposure to community organizing and collective, direct action. I have felt myself be transformed. I came to American University in order to grow, in order to be surrounded with peers who have my same passion for social justice and the desire to create positive change. AU is one of the best places to be mentored and taught how to organize. I have had wonderful professors push me to challenge the status quo and I have had upperclassmen go out of their way to mentor me.
The No More Silence Coalition
Recently, documents that contain screenshots of text messages and a Google listserv that contain misogynistic, homophobic, racist comments along with commentary that suggests the premeditated sexual assault of women, were leaked. In response, a self-identified coalition which calls itself AU’s No More Silence was formed. This group was created and able to mobilize a group of about 30-50 people to speak out and rally. The coalition was formed and was able to execute this rally in less than a week. The group was aimed at garnering attention and placing pressure on the administration to take action in light of the emails that were recently leaked by an anonymous source. The emails and the rape culture they are symptomatic of prove that the school is NOT doing enough to prevent sexual assault on campus. This group has been able to reach out to social media, obtain 1500+ people to sign a petition which lists a call to action and list of demands and even organize a rally and march. American University prides itself for having a politically engaged student body, and for having a student body that finds strength in diversity. Thing group asked that AU make it’s students and alumni proud by responding to the demands and following through with the “change” that was promised to now-alumnus but have not yet been realized.
Grateful for Solidarity
I was lucky enough to be a part of this group, to learn from the members of this group and act in solidarity with this coalition. Personally, this experience of coalition building, planning and mobilizing was a growing experience. I am so grateful for all of the upperclassmen, alumni and faculty supporters who helped a group predominantly made up of freshman take leadership roles and learn hands-on how to organize. I am grateful for the Public Safety officers who marched with us to ensure our safety. I am grateful for the opportunity to be heard and to make topics that have gone undisclosed for way too long.One of American University’s greatest assets is the active student body.
I Marched Because:
- I want safety to be prioritized over PR
- I want a campus culture that rejects rape culture, homophobia, racism and aggression.
- I care about American University, and I want it to make me proud.
Read more about the leaked emails and the EI scandal by clicking the links below: http://college.usatoday.com/2014/04/21/leaked-fraternity-emails-outrage-many-at-american-university/
Recently, at American University, a series of emails with triggering content about sexual assault, along with homophobic, misogynistic, racist language were leaked. These emails were linked to an unsanctioned, unaffiliated group of former and current AU students that self identify as “EI”. This group has been known to steal, be violent and is even considered a gang in Maryland. Above is a petition that was created by a group of American University students who are urging the school administration to learn from what has been exposed in the emails, and take a more proactive approach when it comes to preventing sexual assault on campus.
I would like to start off by stating that when I am vocal about racism, sexism, and other problematic language; I am NOT to be dismissed as just another “feisty Latina”.
As a Latina feminist, living and going to college in DC, I live in a place predominantly surrounded by liberal individuals who understand the dangers and evils of prejudice. This complicates the way in which power dynamics are viewed, discussed and how their role in my life, and the life of the individuals with whom I interact, is interpreted. In a predominantly white, higher-to-upper middle class, social-justice-oriented institution, it is sometimes hard for me to explain my experience of the subtle, insidious effects of sexist and/or racially-charged microaggressions.
The word “microaggression” (Click Here to Learn More About Microaggressions) was coined by Chester M. Pierce in the 1970s, and several psychologists have since worked with the term. More recently, Derald Wing Sue defined microaggressions as: “brief and commonplace daily verbal, behavioral, or environmental indignities, whether intentional or unintentional, that communicate hostile, derogatory, or negative racial slights and insults toward people.” Microaggressions are usually said without negative intentions, by people who have the privilege of not being aware of how or why their words are hurtful. Peggy McIntosh expanded the conception of privilege- the exploration of how groups can either be systemically advantaged or disadvantaged from gendered discussions to racial discussions. In her working paper, “White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack’(1989), McIntosh acknowledges her own discovery of her privilege when she writes: “As a white person, I realized I had been taught about racism as something which puts others at a disadvantage, but had been taught not to see one of its corollary aspects, white privilege, which puts me at an advantage.” A particular sore spot is the mentioning of white privilege (see “White Privilege the Invisible Backpack” for more information) and extensions of it, which come in the form of offhanded, offensive language. Microaggressions are usually casually brought up, with no intention of being insulting- they are, however, offensive, even if they are unintentionally so.
As McIntosh mentions, it is hard for people to recognize their own privilege. This leads to people perpetuating racism or sexism in ever-so-insidious ways, even if they do not intend on being offensive. The fact that microaggressions are not intentionally offensive makes it hard for those who are less privileged, or who are triggered or insulted by them to explain how or why they feel their identities being belittled, challenged or otherwise insulted. At this point in history, it is increasingly rare for people to say blatantly racist, sexist or homophobic slurs without natural social sanctions serving as consequences for those statements. However, the mainstreaming and generally privileged nature of “whiteness” in American society still allows for the perpetuation of racial and/or sexist stigma through the use of microaggressions- most of which come from the oversimplification of or the same ignorance of the complex nature and connection of race and identity in communities of color, that fuel racism.Personally, as a Latina, my experience of being a minority is new, and has been limited due to the fact that I was brought up in Miami, FL. In Miami, I was surrounded, mostly, by Hispanic people like myself. At the time, I did not recognize the privileges that came from being a member of the demographic that was a local majority.
In an environment in which I am new to being a minority, and some people are not used to minorities, or Latinas, it is difficult for me to pinpoint and express the ways in which I’ve been affected by microaggressions. Recently however, a friend who actively tries to understand me and my culture offhandedly called me a“feisty Latina”. I laughed at this, because I am proud of my reputation of speaking up for what I value, and I am proud of my heritage. I was not directly hurt by the statement- but it did make me more conscious (and self-conscious) of my identity contingencies. Identity contingencies, as described by Claude Steele in his book Whistling Vivaldi, are “the things you have to deal with in a situation because you have a given social identity”. Steele argues that identity contingencies affect us when they are compounded by stereotype threats, which are instances in which you are aware of a stereotype about one of your identities and refrain from doing things that would affirm those stereotypes. This played out, in my personal life, later that night.
Alex, his friend John and I went out for a late-night dessert was when I discovered just how insidious the effects of microaggressions can be. At the shop, my friend Alex and I were looking at books together while John was browsing in a nearby section. Then, some man came up to us, looked at me from head-to-toe, pointed at me, and told Alex he had a “hot friend” (me). The way the stranger looked at me, with a perverted look in his eyes, and then didn’t acknowledge me infuriated me. I could not believe how he could simultaneously pour over my body so intently and act as if I don’t exist; it felt like objectification at its most revolting. I wanted to coolly tell him that it was not acceptable to be disrespectful. I wanted to yell at him that he was being a misogynistic ass. I wanted to say something- but I didn’t. The first thought that raced through my mind was to make sure I wasn’t overreacting or just being feisty. That identity contingency, which I usually ignore, rendered me unable to respond to this strange man’s disrespectful behavior. THAT is the threat that microaggressions pose- they are so subtle that they go unnoticed, but ultimately lead to self-policing behaviors. Racism is not as overt as it once was, but it is pervasive. Racism has become so ingrained in our society that although we may know there is more genetic difference between people of the same “race” or “ethnicity” than between people of different “races” or “ethnicities” we still divide people along those arbitrary lines. We still assume that the “feisty Latina” and “angry black woman” stereotypes have some validity. Racism looks differently now, it is systemic, ingrained in our thought and is usually a result of self-policing which results from the fear of validating negative stigma about one’s own race/ethnicity.
What I learned from it all:
I was NOT being a feisty Latina. I was being a human, who was angered by racist and sexist language.
Sue, Derald Wing; Capodilupo, Christina M.; Torino, Gina C.; Bucceri, Jennifer M.; Holder, Aisha M. B.; Nadal, Kevin L.; Esquilin, Marta. Racial Microaggressions in Everyday Life: Implications for Clinical Practice. American Psychologist, v62 n4 p271-286 May-Jun 2007.
McIntosh, Peggy, ‘White privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack’,Peace and Freedom (July/August 1989), 9-10; repr. in Independent School, 49 (1990), 31-35. http://people.westminstercollege.edu/faculty/jsibbett/readings/White_Privilege.pdf
Steele, Claude. Whistling Vivaldi: How Stereotypes Affect Us and What We Can Do. W. W. Norton & Company, 2011. Print.
On April 3rd, as part of the Community Action and Social Justice Coalition‘s “Rush Week” Activities, American University’s AU Students for Choice (follow them on twitter at @aus4c) and AU American Dream co-hosted a panel on Reproductive Justice in Immigrant Communities.
I had the pleasure of moderating the panel, which included panelists Natalie Camastra and Dilcia Molina and a translator, Kathy Schneider.
Natalie D. Camastra:
- She serves as a Policy Analyst at the National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health, where she focuses prominently on federal legislation and strategies to advance reproductive health and justice for immigrant Latinas, their families, and communities.
- Outside of work, she volunteers with Fem*Ex, where she facilitates a women’s empowerment and sexual health course at YouthBuild in Columbia Heights.
- She is a project coordinator at La Clinica Del Pueblo, a non-profit health center that serves the Latino and immigrant populations of the Washington, DC metro area.
- She also does research on Latino/a immigrants who engage in commercial sex work in metropolitan Washington
- Additionally, she devotes time to helping other immigrants who are seeking legal residence in the U.S. by referring them to pro bono attorneys.
The discussion commenced with a contextualization of the intersection of reproductive justice and immigrant communities and policies that have disproportionately impacted female immigrants. The following topics were discussed:
- Page Act- The first of many laws aimed at limiting the immigration of “undesirable” immigrants (this law primary excluded women of Asian descent).
- Sterilization- The forced sterilization of Latina women, which was introduced in the 1930s and occurred into the late 1970s. Women of color, predominantly low-income, latina women, were coerced and intimidated into being sterilized because they were considered “undesirable”. (Click here for an article on the forced sterilization of women)
- Anchor babies- “Anchor babies” are pejorative terms for the children of immigrant women, the discussion surrounding anchor babies is usually anti-immigrant, and grounded in erroneous arguments.
- The need for a path to citizenship.
- The Affordable Care Act’s exclusion of immigrant families and the added barriers it introduces to immigrant women seeking reproductive health care (for more info, click here).
After Natalie Camastra set a foundation upon which to discuss the work currently being done, Dilcia gave personal testimony about her activism advocating for immigrant women and their rights to reproductive health care. Dilcia began by explaining her personal connection to this cause. Dilcia immigrated legally, seeking asylum in the United States because of threats to her life that resulted from openly identifying as lesbian and her activist work within/for the LGBT community. Upon moving to the United States, Dilcia joked that she vowed to never get involved with activism again, because of where it got her, between chuckles however, she explained that it didn’t take long before she got involved in it again. After having lived in the United States a little over three months, Dilcia discovered a lump in one of her breasts. She knew she had to see a doctor. Due to the fact that there were no accommodations for people like Dilcia who did not yet have any proficiency in English at he medical centers near her and the fact that she could not get federal assistance to pay for her treatment since her immigration status was being processed, possibilities of being screened and treated were dismal. In most cases, especially in the cases of illegal immigrants, the only services available are emergency room visits- which do not service the reproductive health needs of women immigrants. Upon trying to navigate the health care system herself, Dilcia concluded that systemic barriers impeded the access of immigrant women like herself, to basic health care and even more so to reproductive health services. Dilcia, an activist and champion for equality, was thus drawn to the kind of work she still does- promoting reproductive justice in immigrant communities.
Dilcia currently works as a Project Manager at La Clinica del Pueblo, a Women’s Comprehensive Health center which services immigrant women. The center not only provides basic women’s health medical procedures for little-to-know cost to the women, it also hosts meetings for Latina Immigrants to discuss their relationship/ sexual health needs through their Entre Amigas program, and even has an empowerment-focused program for the children of immigrant women called “¡Empodérate! Youth Center. In addition to her work at La Clinica del Pueblo, Dilcia also refers women who need it, to lawyers who work on pro bono immigration and domestic violence cases.
Natalie Camastras and Dilcia Molina both drew attention, through our panel discussion, to the disparate barriers that immigrant women face when trying to seek out reproductive health care services. If you would like to read more about the above mentioned issues, here are some articles you might find interesting and informative:
If you’re interested in books on the topic: http://latinainstitute.org/sites/default/files/publications/NLIRH%20RJ%20Resources%20-%20Eng.pdf
If you’d like to follow the National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health’s blog: http://latinainstitute.wordpress.com/
On Thursday, April 3, 2014, American University hosted Jackson Katz, to discuss the role of men in sexual assault and gendered violence prevention. Jackson Katz led the discussion at the “More than a Few Good Men: A Lecture on American Manhood and Violence Against Women” event.
The Center for Diversity and Inclusion, American University’s Athletics, Women’s Initiative, the Panhellenic community and AU’s Peer Educators for the Elimination of Relationship and Sexual Violence (PEERS).
This event was introduced by Karrie Diekman and Daniel Rappaport (read more about his role as a Sexual Assault Prevention Coordinator at AU here), who introduced the event as a kick-off event for the events that will take place in April, as part of Sexual Assault Awareness Month.
Jackson Katz is a leader in gender violence prevention education. He is also the founder of Mentors in Violence Prevention (MVP) one of the original bystander initiatives. It is a gender violence prevention program that targets athletes as leaders in the violence prevention and bystander intervention fronts of sexual assault prevention.
Intro to Jackson Katz, a TED talk from the past:
The role of men:
His opening argument is that on a political, social and emotional level, men are following the lead of women who have led the fight against sexual assault, and gendered violence prevention. He explains that “there is no doubt that men and boys have been helped by their [the work of women] efforts” to prevent these issues. Later, he explains the connection between labeling these issues as “women’s issues” and “gendered” issues can be confusing; and how in our patriarchal society, it prevents men from seeing past their privilege and acknowledging their role in preventing these issues. Following this, he explained how the language used to describe sexual assault, and it’s passive nature, perpetuates the idea that men are not the issue (Ex. rape is discussed passively: “a woman was raped” not affirmatively, as in the statement: a “man raped a woman”.
“You can’t take gender out of the equation”
Katz explains that using gender-neutral language in fields where men are dominant, is pragmatic. He explains however, that erasing “gender” doesn’t get rid of gendered issues, it erases their importance. The erasure of the “gendered” nature of these issues, he explains, is that it serves men, who leverage more power in our society.
“It’s embarrassing to be congratulated for doing what men should be doing”
He conjectures that in a society in which it is unremarkable for men to stand up for women, less assault and gendered violence would exist. The problem is, he is, that the perpetrators of these issues are much more normal than people want to expect- this makes people uncomfortable, he explains, because it forces people to reflect introspectively about their own capacity to partake in such behavior.
Race and Violence
Katz connects racism to violence against women by explaining that “when a man of color does it [is violent or assaults women]” issues are seen as a problem associated with their race. On the contrary, stereotypically, when white men assault women, whether it be sexually or violently, the violence is rationalized by blaming it on alcoholism, childhood drama, and mental health issues.
Feminism and “Feminazis”
Katz opened the discussion on feminism by discussing how in-congruent it is to believe in American, egalitarian ideals and not self-identify as feminist:
“if you are an american, and you believe in justice, freedom and equality, and you are NOT a feminist, then please explain your ideology”
What does “feminazi” mean? It is an amalgamation of the words “feminist” and “Nazis”. Feminists are some of the great “anti violence leaders in the our time, and of all time”. Nazi’s were the “embodiment” of the anti-Semitic, homophobic, genocidal glorification of masculine cruelty.
He later went on to say that feminists should not be demonized because:
“Feminists don’t hate men, they expect more from men because they have higher expectations of them.”
Masculine Push-back and Being a “Beta-Male”
Katz explained how men push-back against him. He has been called names like “man-gina”, “beta male” or “Katz-trated” all of which get at the root of the issue of standing up for gendered violence. All of these names they equate compassion towards women as feminine, and violence towards women as masculine.
The Denouncement of Sexual Harassment in the Australian Army:
Jackson Katz used the video to demonstrate the behavior that he hopes will be mirrored by leaders in all aspects of life which are affected by gendered harassment, assault or even slurs.
Risk Reduction in the Name of Prevention
Katz explored how risk reduction was promoted in the name of prevention, at the expense of depicting women as victims and men as perpetrators. As an activist, in his twenties, he worked to try and find out how to invite men to prevent sexual assault.
This program was the first program to utilize the bystander approach to include men in the conversation of sexual assault without labeling them “possible perpetrators”. He capitalized on the social capital of collegiate, male, athletes by targeting them as advocates for change. He explains that by strategically targeting men who have standing among their peers, he empowers them to challenge the broader understanding of masculinity and misogyny in their peer groups.
Wanna read more about Jackson Katz’ activism and MVP? Read his article Reconstructing Masculinity in the Locker Room: The Mentors in Violence Prevention Program (by clicking here).
Jackson Katz stated that he makes a point of pointing out to his son, and the men he work with, that violence and violent behavior are not symptomatic of strength, so much as symptomatic of weakness. He argues that standing for justice and non-violence IS STRONG and that masculinity needs to be redefined. He responds to arguments that teaching men to stand up against violence is emasculating, by explaining that by teaching boys to be emotional, sentient, socially engaged human being, he is not emasculating them, in fact, he is empowering them.
Tough Guise: Media Representation of Men *trigger warning for sexualized violence*
Jackson Katz created a video about the depiction of men in the media which perpetuates the idea of a narrowing, increasingly more violent embodiment of masculinity. See a clip here:
I had the privilege of attending the #WeAreBrave: Women of Color and Reproductive Justice Workshop at the National Young Feminist Leadership Conference (#NYFLC2014) today.
Women of color face disparities that are unique and different from those of other members of the women’s movement. This discussion explored the specific ways in which approaching the intersection of being a woman of color and working in the field of reproductive justice.
Main points addressed:
– Accepting anger that results from injustice as valid.
– Being gentle with those who may not be as inclusive so that they will be more receptive to changing.
– Fighting as necessary for progress.
– Loving as vital, as one of the most important ways to approach those who have room to grow in our movement (everyone).
When we talk about RJ, why do we need to focus on the intersection of being a Woman of Color and Reproductive Justice?
Samantha have a brief history of the terms “reproductive justice” and “intersectionality” and the fact that they were created by women of color who began claiming their space in the women’s movement. She made t clear that we must not “allow ourselves to be an afterthought of solidarity”. Amber echoed her thoughts when she said: “I can’t hae a conversation about feminism, without addressing I’m a black woman, or that I grew up poor, because we don’t exist in boxes.” Shivana adds another dimension to the conversation from her perspective as a program director at the National Asian Pacific American Women Forum by discussing the intersection of being a model minority and being excluded from conversations about women of color. Evexplains that “the model minority myth and stereotype and the percieve smallness of our community makes us invisible” and that that makes it vital to discuss our community’s involvement in the reproductive justice movement.
What does bravery in our movement mean?
“Flying in the face of stereotypes” and taking your place [in the conversation of reproductive justice]. -Shivana
“Standing up and saying ‘I matter’ whether I wear a hijab or not” [on standing up for middle eastern women and Muslim women in the face of patriarchal and sometimes, islamophobic people]
“Bravery is talking about things that people are tired of hearing”, it’s important to remember that “the issues for the least of us, whether it’s black women or trans women, is that we can’t start at the basic level of rights”. With these words, Samantha emphasized being brave, ambitious and persistent in our activism.
Advice for Campus Activists
“Find allies” and always remember “our struggles are different, but we all struggle” was the advice of Danya, a student at St. John’s University.
Amber Phillips, who works for Advocates for Youth had an array of advice:
“Apply to leadership development programs”
“Make yor space. Say what needs to be said, even if it’s unpopular.”
“Critique what you love, be critical of yourself, make sure to be inclusive and work on your inclusivity.”
Again, Samantha inspired ambitious activism with the following words:
“Push for what you think you deserve”
“it’s okay to be an agitator”
“Believe you can be the next thig, and bring it!”
Shivana emphasized the need to “call people in, not out” which changed the conversation in the room. Her point about making your feminism inclusive, was that in order to create solidarity among sister in the struggle and all others involved in the reproductive justice movement, was to call people to the cause not call people out for their stigmatizing words and behaviors.
Those words led to a discussion about not assuming people will or will not be supportive of your cause, and the need to acknowledge our allies within the movement, our religious allies, our male allies, allies across generational gaps.
Today, at 3pm, in the Dirksen Senate Building, a congressional hearing about the Equal Rights Act was hosted by Senator Ben Cardin.
Senator Ben Cardin wrote the S.J 15 amendment which would allow a time extension that would prevent the ERA from expiring. He is a strong advocate for the passing of the ERA. After explaining that 35 of the 38 necessary state-ratifications necessary to pass the ERA, he enthusiastically mentioned that we CAN get it done! When discussing the amendment, he reinforced the fact that this is a human-rights issue, not a “partisan” or a “women’s” issue. He went on to declare: This issue is important to the country and to every family in this country”. As a man who spoke so fervently about the need for the passing of the ERA, it became obvious that when he said “I became a senator to be held accountable for his values” he meant it!
After Senator Cardin’s words, several women including but not limited to: Roberta W. Francis (ERA Task Force Co-Chair), Bettina Hager (ERA Task Force Co-Chair), Elise Gould, Eleanor Smeal (President and Founder of the Feminist Majority Foundation and Publisher of Ms. Magazine)
Why pass the ERA?
The ERA would have tangible impacts on the lives of women:
– Equal pay would ensure more economic stability for women, especially women of color who are disproportionately affected
– If the ACA were to be repealed, women would be charged disproportionately for healthcare
Ratification in the states:
“Women Matter Use Your Power”, a group of women who persistently stayed in Virginia’s Capitol really did impact how the ERA was perceived by the congress people on both sides of the aisle. This anecdote serves as testimony of the impact women can and should have on the passing of the ERA. Everyone needs to stand alongside states such as Arizona, Missouri, Florida, Illinois and Virginia who have brought up the ratification of the ERA in their state legislatures.
The President and Founder of the Feminist Majority Foundation, and publisher of Ms. Magazine spoke of her personal involvement in the fight for the Equal Rights Amendment. She warned against all of the “monied interests” that profit from systems in which women are paid less for the same work, and charged more for the same services. As a young, Latina, feminist, I got goosebumps when Eleanor Smeal stated “OUR movement [the feminist movement] is growing” “they [critics of the ERA and feminists] know that the fight for equal rights is not only immensely popular, but it is the way of the future!”
Do you want to get involved or follow up with these issues on twitter?
Tweet your congress people!
Use the hashtags: #ratifyERA #ERAnow and #SJ15 to draw attention to the need for the extending of the time limit for the ERA and the need for the passing of the amendment!>
I loved how this article included women who lead in different fields and come from different walks of life. I was especially excited to see Neera Tanden listed, since I saw her speak at the Women’s Information Networks’ Young Women of achievement awards which I wrote about previously (click here to be redirected to my YWA post!). It’s always great to learn more about women, who are doing wonderful things and don’t get half of the accolades they deserve!