So excited that I go to go protest at the Supreme Court alongside my friends from American University’s Students for Choice Club! I was inspired for more posts on sextivism in our city!
In order to celebrate the beautiful weather we had yesterday, in DC, I decided to run down to the National Mall and enjoy the scenery as the winter ends and the spring begins. Once at the mall, I decided that I wanted to go see what was going on at the National Museum of American History for Women’s History Month (MARCH).
Do you know what the National American History Museum is doing for Women’s History Month?
I was very disappointed to hear that the museum wasn’t highlighting women differently in order to celebrate the women who have contributed to our country’s progress. Then I thought: have women just not contributed enough to our country’s progress as men? I knew that couldn’t be it so I decided to walk through the museum and document all of the times in which women are highlighted or mentioned throughout the exhibits. When I went through all of the exhibits I couldn’t help but notice that individual women were hardly highlighted. Yes, often there was mention of how “the women” helped the war effort during WWII, or how “women” were delegated to home life, or how “women” were helped by the introduction of electric kitchen appliances. “Women” were spoken about in plural, and usually, and the “women” that were anonymously depicted in the pictures that were paired with the general statements made about them, appeared to be white and middle-to-upper class.
Women HAVE contributed to America’s progress, and they SHOULD be more represented. Women are being more included, but people need to be more educated about what women have contributed to our history. History is HERstory too.
I took note of the women(and women’s organizations) highlighted by name (I may have missed some of the women, and I sure hope I did because although the list seems long, I literally had to scour the exhibitions for the mentioning of women):
Columbia (I wrote about Columbia in my post about The Statue of Freedom which was modeled after her)
Ladies Anti-Slavery Society, 1836
Ipswich Female Anti Slavery Society
Involvement with Sextivism: Sexual Violence Prevention and Victim Advocacy
Degrees: M.A Mental Health Counseling; B.A. Psychology, Certificate in Women’s Studies
Preferred Pronouns: he, his, hers
Meeting Daniel Rappaport
As soon as I met Daniel Rappaport, at his office in the Wellness Center at American University, my first reaction was to feel at ease. His reputation preceded him, as everyone I talked to on campus who had dealt with him or was a member of PEERS (Peer Educators for the Elimination of Relationship and Sexual Violence) spoke very highly about his ability to be inclusive, understanding and passionate about his field of work. I was relieved to find out that this was all true, and was grateful for his eagerness to share his work with me and discuss his activism.
How did he get the job he has now?
As an undergrad student at the University of Maryland, Daniel Rappaport majored in Psychology and was a part of a social justice-themed living-learning community. Soon after, he joined a campus peer educators group that focused on issues relating to preventing rape and safer sex practices. Later he became a Victims’ Advocate and began to hone his expertise in helping survivors of sexual aggression cope and move forward after traumatic situations.
What does he do? What’s his role at American University?
Daniel Rappaport’s official job title is: Sexual Assault Prevention Coordinator. When asked what this translates into, Mr. Rappaport says that this job title encompasses overseeing campus-wide events that provide inclusive, accurate education, assisting on-campus groups who are working with topics that relate to health relationships, and the prevention of rape and stalking. However, he pointed out that his role is much greater than that, as the only source on campus who is not obligated to report up information, in relation to sexual assault, he also serves as a victims’ advocate for students who are not sure, or do not want to press charges or officially report something that has been done to them. Lastly, part of his duties include meeting with his colleagues from universities in our consortium to discuss how to better serve students.
Important aspects of his work:
- Being available: Daniel Rappaport emphasized his effort to be readily available for as long, and as frequently as people request him because he feels that due to the fact that triggers affect individuals in different ways, at different times throughout their life.
- Protecting the rights of survivors of violence: He emphasized the role of preserving the agency of individuals who have suffered violence. This entails supporting the decisions of survivors to prosecute (or not), filing reports with public safety (or not), moving dorm rooms if necessary and helping provide them the resources necessary to heal and make educated decisions about the possible courses of action.
- Helping survivors of violence build skills for coping and healing.
- Enabling anyone and everyone who is interested in preventing sexual assault and violence to do so by disseminating resources and creating programming that allows them to easily get involved.
How does his being male effect his job?
When asked how being male effects his job, Daniel Rappaport notes that it adds a whole other dimension to his work. He says that on many occasions, he has been the only male in the room when discussing courses of action for campus-wide programming with his colleagues. However, he said that because he has so much experience as a Victims’ Advocate, and he is usually the person most readily available to students at AU (because he works on-campus), most survivors of sexual assault usually feel comfortable confiding in him and asking him for help. In all cases though, he offers to locate a female Victims’ Advocate (usually one of his colleagues that works at a school in the Consortium of Universities of the Washington Metropolitan Area) for students in case they will feel more comfortable discussing their experience with them.
“We need to never settle, we need to never think the job is done. We need to constantly be improving and working until there is gender equity and the eradication of violence.” – Daniel Rappaport
Want more info on Sexual Assault Prevention, Resources and how to get involved?
Why highlight Pamela O’leary?
As my Gender, Power, and Politics professor at American University, Pamela O’leary changed my brand of feminism. She opened my mind to taking a more political approach to feminism, made me more conscious of my personal “brand” and opened my eyes to the feminist career opportunities available to me. Her dedication to empowering women (like myself) to lead, in spite of sexism, makes her a sextivist!
What inspired her sextivism?
In “Ten Years Ago Today I Realized My Vocation”, a blog post, on her blog Women on Top Pamela O’leary discusses how her life, and her career became involved with feminism. In her own words, after she became aware that two of her close friends had been raped, her perspective on sexism and the need for feminism changed her. She goes on to say:
“For better or worst, through this experience, I clearly found my passion in life. I am deeply grateful to these rape survivors and all the others who have shared their story with me. I am so inspired by the incredible power survivors have to reclaim their lives and not give up.”
Career in feminism:
According to her LinkedIn profile:
- She is an Adjunct Professor and Curriculum Design Consultant at American University
- She is an ElectHer facilitator, and is on the Board of Directors at Running Start
- She is an adjunct professor at Trinity College
- She was invited to serve as an expert for the UN System-Wide Action Plan (SWAP) for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women
These are just a FEW of the projects, organizations and jobs that Pamela O’leary has had recently.
In addition to working as a part of these organizations, she maintains her own blog about women’s political leadership.
Q & A with Pamela O’leary
Q: What groups, clubs, organizations etc. do you work on sextivist issues with?
A: “Women’s Information Network, Running Start, Women’s Foreign Policy Group, Young Professionals in Foreign Policy, Young Education Professionals, Young Nonprofit Professionals Network, United Nations Association, and the American Association for University Women”
Q: What forms of everyday activism do you suggest that people incorporate into their lives?
A: “blogging, social media, conversations with friends”
Q: What takeaways will you want my reader to walk a away with?
A: “Once a person loves themselves then they can truly help others”
Want to know more about this sextivist?
Follow her blog Women on Top!
Follow her on Twitter @olearypd
The following is a series of questions and answers from my virtual interview with Amanda Gould!
Q: Do you consider yourself a sextivist? Why or why not?
A: I’ve never actually heard the term sextivist. But I’m a feminist, LGBTQIAP activist, and body and sex positivity advocate, so I’d say so.
Q: What sextivist issue does your work address?
A: I’m on the AU Students for Choice Executive Board and the AU Queers and Allies Eboard. I’ve worked at transitional shelters for abused women. I’m a strong anti-rape activist. I’ve done events and campaigns for various women’s rights causes. I’ve done body positivity campaigns, trans awareness campaigns, anti-rape campaigns. I’m working on making the health center more trans inclusive. I write letters and call my congressmen regularly whenever a bill gets introduced in congress that pertains to women or LGBTQIA rights.
Q: How did you become involved with this type of work?
A: “I think it was a few different events. First of all, I had a very close friend who was raped at a party and then attempted suicide a week later and that got me really involved in anti-rape advocacy and through that I got involved the feminist movement . 2. I have an LGBTQIA twin which makes fighting for the queer rights movement personal. 3. I recovered from an eating disorder years ago and from there have been very big on body positivity. 4. My work with global human rights advocacy led me to become involved in international women rights struggles, with a particular focus on sex trafficking.”
Q: Are there any anecdotal success stories that further inspire you to do this work?
A: “Oh man so many. One little one, was one time I was arguing with a white, cis-gendered, heterosexual, boy who was trying to argue with me about why calling girls sluts wasn’t ok. I explained how it shames female sexuality, it ties to rape culture, contributes to victim blaming, the whole shabang (I’m sure you’re familiar with this argument). He just wasn’t getting it and the conversation was getting more and more hurtful and finally after an hour I gave up and went into my room and cried and was really upset about how the world was so fucking patriarchal and messed up. A girl came up to me the next day who had overheard the argument and told me that she was a rape survivor and how people using micro-aggressions like slut-shaming really hurt her but she never had the courage to stand up, and she really appreciated me saying what she didn’t have the courage to. I don’t know, little things like that make it worth fighting.”
Q: What forms of everyday activism do you suggest that people incorporate into their lives?
A: Calling people out on their micro-aggressions (i.e rape jokes, slurs, jokes or comments at the expense of an oppressed demographic, privileged comments, use of triggering words). And finding spaces in your community to get more involved.
Q: How do you incorporate sextivism into your life? Do you participate as part of your career? Do you intend to? Do you participate in addition to your other responsibilities?
A: I want a career in global women’s rights work.
On Thursday, February 27th, 2014 the Carnegie Institute of Science near DuPont in Washington, DC came to life as the members and supporters of the Women’s Information Network (WIN, a non-profit, professional network, for pro-choice, democratic women) poured in. It was the night of one of WIN’s signature events, the Young Women of Achievement of awards! This award ceremony celebrates young (35 years old and younger), pro-choice, democratic women in the community who are champions for change in their respective fields.
There is a sense of excitement and energy in the air, as the YWA (Young Women of Achievement) nominees and the WIN members network, exchange numbers and reflect on past events at which they may have met. Male supporters mingle as well, some of them work in the reproductive justice field and some of them are the significant others, friends or supporters of WIN members and nominees. Out of all the events hosted by WIN, this is the one that typically gets the largest male attendance.
Once the awards began, opening statements by the WIN members who played major roles in organizing the event, reverent allusions to Wendy Davis (did you know that she had a catheter inserted for the entirety of the filibuster?) were made, and some cracks at anti-choice, anti-gay marriage politicians ensued. The keynote speaker, Neera Tanden, who is the president of the Center for American Progress, began by saying, “I didn’t know about WIN back then and just to know that there’s a group out there that provides mentorship and fights for the progressive cause and all different kind of women, is great!” and ended by reiterating how excited she was to “be among so many women who will change the world and hopefully, change Washington in the process.”
Karen Mulhauser, the founder of the Women’s Information Network, spoke of WIN’s humble beginnings- meetings held around her kitchen table, and how proud she was of the organization and all the women in it that have fostered its growth and created change in DC, and our country as a whole. In a room full of pro-choice, democratic women who credit the WIN network, and the relationships they made through WIN, for their jobs, sanity and ability to navigate DC; Karen was venerated as a feminist idol. Everyone hung on to Karen’s words, and snaps of approval were heard as she declared, in her characteristically unassuming manner, “This is, really, the best leadership building organization in this town” and emphasized how important it is that WIN fosters leadership, including her own, in a “safe environment” (as if being invited to speak at the event was a privilege she didn’t expect- even though WIN’s existence is a direct result of her personal effort to build a mentorship program to connect older, second-wave feminists, with the younger generation of third-wave feminists in DC!).
Then, the presentation of awards began! For more information on all of the candidates, visit WIN’s Pinterest page for YWA 2014 (click here to be directed)! The following were the winners, and their twitter handles by category:
Community Organizing and Labor
- Twitter handle: @hemlyMO
- Twitter handle: @KeziaMW
- Twitter Handle: @atima_omara
Political and Campaign
- Twitter handle: @dsferiozzi
Service and Non Profit Advocacy
- Twitter handle: @BridgetteH
- Twitter handle: @OlaOjewumi
Women in Choice
- Twitter handle: @ayarmosky
Who is Freedom? Freedom is the statue of a woman who stands atop the U.S. Capitol building.
Why does it matter that she’s on top?
Freedom, who is prominently located in the heart of DC, is one of the few statues of women. In fact, according to “America Needs More Stone-faced Women,” less than 8% of public statues honor women! There are many statues in DC, but few of them depict women!
According to Bill O’Leary’s “Gender inequality, in form:”
9 out of the 100 statues in the National Statuary Hall Collection are of women.
Our nation’s Capitol, a symbol of American, democratic, values has a woman standing on top of it, but contains few other representations of women within it. The Statue of Freedom is a rendering of the Goddess of Columbia, which is usually seen as the personification of the United States of America. I am baffled at the fact that women are given that much symbolic significance, yet they are not equally represented in statue form, or in our legislative bodies.
As Barry Schwartz points out in his article “Iconography and Collective Memory: Lincoln’s Image in the American Mind.” “Arguments about statues often turn out to be arguments about the past and its legacy.” Statues are made to commemorate prominent historical figures, so that they will be remembered and so that a collective memory of them will be established. The fact that we have so few commemorative statues of women in the Capitol makes me question a couple of things:
- Were women throughout history just not relevant enough to commemorate?
- Do the lack of statues depicting women of achievement add to the inequality women face today?
In response to the first bullet, here’s a crash course on influential American Women from US history, explaining that there is MUCH to be sculpted in honor of women:
It’s nothing new, but people in the U.S. are FINALLY starting to pay more attention to the fact that women are vastly underrepresented in American legislative bodies. As per the Center for American Women and Politics, in their Women in the U.S. Congress Fact Sheet: “Women currently hold 99, or 18.5%, of the 535 seats in the 113th U.S. Congress.”
What do statues have to do with power and the amount of women in Congress?
EVERYTHING. Culture reflects what society values, if our Capitol building primarily reflects the value of men, and the accomplishments of men throughout history, it will be less welcoming of women leaders. Women have less power in the United States, and the lack of statues reflects that. After all, the lack of statues speaks loud and clear: the accomplishments of women aren’t as celebrated as the accomplishments of men.
We need to commemorate the women who have shaped America, so that more women will run for office, take their power and change it for the better!
Check out my Storify about my night at the Rayburn House Office Building celebrating with the Women’s Information Network and One Billion Rising; focusing on the rallying together of feminists to create more opportunities for women, across the country and the world!