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
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.
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).
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.
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!
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):
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?
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.”
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!
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:
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!