Friday, May 11, 2018
Jamie Abrams, The #MeToo Movement: An Invitation for Feminist Critique of Rape Crisis Framing, 52 Richmond L. Rev. (forthcoming)
This article invites feminists to leverage the #MeToo Movement as a critical analytical tool to explore the longevity of the enduring rape crisis framing of victim services. For nearly half a century, victims have visited rape crisis centers, called rape crisis hotlines, and mobilized rape crisis response teams to provide services and support. This enduring political and social framing around rape as a crisis is opaque, has prompted a political backlash, and risks distorting hard-fought feminist legal, social, and political battles. It has yielded underreporting, underutilization, and recurring risks of budgetary cuts. This model and terminology have gone virtually unchanged for nearly half a century. Crisis language denotes urgency, decisiveness, judgment, action, and mobilization, all leading to closure. These descriptions can be problematic when mapped onto the lived experiences of certain communities.
The #MeToo Movement presents modern feminists with a powerful, productive, and timely opportunity to critique the existing crisis model of service provision and support. This article invites feminists to begin this dialogue. It presents three critiques of the current framing. First, the crisis framing risks resurrecting troublesome legal relics relating to statutes of limitations and evidentiary hurdles. Second, it risks being perceived as exclusionary and limited, thus cabining its impact. Particularly, campus sexual assault victims and marginalized communities generally may not universally connect to an opaque crisis framing. Third, crisis framing risks distorting the scope of sexual assault. It limits the expansive range of harms that are associated with rape and sexual assault and the systemic longevity of the problem of rape and sexual assault in society. While the language of crisis seems to invoke an urgent call to action, which is to be applauded, this language risks blurring the long history of sexual assault and erasing a legacy of inaction in countless institutional and political and social settings. It also suggests a beginning and an end to a victim’s recovery journey. It suggests that closure is attainable when in reality, ongoing monitoring, responsiveness, and engagement are critically necessary.
Mother's Day. The feminist's friend or foe?
- Mother's Day's Dark History
- Why the Founder of Mother's Day Turned Against It
- Mother's Day is Steeped in Radical, Religious Feminism
- Ann Maria Reeves Jarvis
- The Mother's Day Myth: How we "Thank" Mothers for their Free Labor
- Mother's Day: The Creation, Promotion and Meaning of a New Holiday in the Progressive Era
Thursday, May 10, 2018
The Ruth Bader Ginsburg documentary, RBG, directed by Betsy West and Julie Cohen, is probably not what you think it is, or even what, given the partisan hoopla in which we attempt to live our lives, you’d be forgiven for thinking it might be: a fawning polemic detailing a liberal justice battling the court’s right wing. There is fawning, though a fair amount is done by conservatives, including soon-to-retire Republican Senator Orrin Hatch and Antonin Scalia, the conservative justice and, until his death in 2016, the BFF of RBG. But the film is a deftly crafted portrait of a refreshingly wildly mild-mannered legal mind who was a powerful force in American life long before she donned the black robes and her trademark collars (one for dissenting opinions, one when she is siding with the majority, a fashion touch she developed with her female justice predecessor, Sandra Day O’Connor). What’s surprising to a casual follower of the judicial branch is that you’ll be reaching not for your legal pad while watching the film, but the tissues, given that what actually underpins RBG is a love story.
Monday, April 16, 2018
Film: I Am Evidence
I AM EVIDENCE exposes the alarming number of untested rape kits in the United States through a character–driven narrative, bringing much needed attention to the disturbing pattern of how the criminal justice system has historically treated sexual assault survivors.
Why is there a rape kit backlog? What can we do to fix the problem? This film explores these questions through survivors’ experiences as they trace the fates of their kits and re-engage in the criminal justice process. I AM EVIDENCE illuminates how the system has impeded justice while also highlighting those who are leading the charge to work through the backlog and pursue long-awaited justice in these cases.
In this film, we seek to send a clear message to survivors that they matter, that we as a nation will do everything possible to bring them a path to healing and justice, and that their perpetrators will be held accountable for their crimes.
Thursday, March 8, 2018
But what is International Women’s Day? Where did it come from, and why is it necessary?
The day actually has fairly radical origins, involving the Socialist Party of America. Over the past few years, however, it has become a corporate-backed, global rallying day for women’s issues with a key goal: to finally bring about gender parity around the world.
In short, it’s a day to work toward gender parity.
The Socialist Party of America organized the first National Women’s Day in New York in 1909 to commemorate the 1908 strike of the International Ladies’ Garment Workers’ Union. (Women garment workers in early-20th-century America had plenty of reasons to walk off the job, as the 1911 Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire would tragically prove.)
A year later, National Women’s Day became International Women’s Day at the second International Conference of Working Women in Copenhagen, where more than 100 women from 17 countries decided to establish a worldwide day of celebration to press for working women’s demands.
In fact, the Russian Revolution has International Women’s Day to thank. The 1917 demonstrations by women demanding “bread and peace” sparked other strikes and protests, which led to the abdication of Czar Nicholas II four days later and granted women the right to vote.
International Women’s Day became a more popularized holiday after 1977, when the United Nations invited member states to celebrate it on March 8.
Campaign Website, internationalwomen'sday.com
Slate, Made in the USA
Americans may think of International Women’s Day as a sentimental export from abroad—but this week’s global strike is a throwback to its real history.
In the United States, the holiday’s reddish tint caused it to fall out of mainstream favor rather quickly, and until a few years ago, few Americans had heard of it. Recently, however, as digital marketing campaigns flow across national borders, the softer and more commercial descendent of the original radical American holiday has arrived back on our shores. A coalition of corporations, including BP and PepsiCo, now promotes International Women’s Day online with hashtags and official themes. (This year’s is #BeBoldForChange. Inspired yet?) A March 8 Google Doodle last year celebrated “Doodle-worthy women of the future” by asking women across the world to talk about their aspirations, from the unobjectionably noble (improve girls’ access to education) to the unobjectionably fun (swim with pigs in the Bahamas). Americans can now order an International Women’s Day bouquet to “honor an inspiring woman in your life,” or celebrate by buying perfume or mascara whose proceeds go to empowerment-related causes. Capitalism hearts your socialist holiday!
Tension over the radical origins of Women’s Day is nothing new. One long-popular origin story had it that the holiday was first established in 1907 to mark the 50th anniversary of a massive demonstration by female garment and textile workers in New York City, whose rally against low wages and 12-hour work days was brutally shut down by the police. There was only small problem with this inspiring tale: Neither the 1857 protest nor the 1907 tribute seem to have actually occurred. Two French feminist historians busted the myth in the 1980s, revealing that the 19th-century uprising was actually invented in 1955, in part “to detach International Women’s Day from its Soviet history.”
The organizers reclaiming International Women’s Day this week, by contrast, have no qualms about its far-left origins and are in fact trying to restore that spirit to the soft-focus holiday it’s become. Ashley Bohrer, a member of the International Women’s Strike’s national planning committee, described the strike in part as an effort to draw attention to “the decoupling of InternationalWomen’s Day from its very radical working-class background.” Early on, she pointed out, the holiday had often been called International Working Women’s Day. “In recent years people have celebrated March 8 as Women’s Day,” she said, “but what’s been lost is the ‘working’ part and the ‘international’ part.”
Though we now fondly know March 8 every year to be the day we celebrate International Women’s Day, it’s not always been that way. In 1908, amid early discussions about women’s poorly paid labor, long hours, and lack of voting rights (hahahahaha, sound familiar?), the first Women’s Day marches took place. The very first was in 1908, when 15,000 women (in New York City, baby!) took to the streets to protest. Only a year later and the inaugural national Women’s Day was born on February 28, 1909, in conjunction with the Socialist Party of America. Were the first Bernie Bros actually women? It really makes you think.
This tradition of celebrating National Women’s Day continued for five years in the States, while Germans Louise Zietz and Clara Zetkin were floating a larger idea internationally. Taking inspiration from Zietz, Zetkin, a Marxist and advocate or women’s rights, brought the idea of having an International Women’s Day to the International Conference of Working Women in Copenhagen in 1910. Her idea was appreciated so much by the hundreds of women in attendance — socialists, workers, and union laborers alike — that they all decreed that it must happen the following year. On March 19, 1911, Europe saw its first-ever International Women’s Day. The date was subsequently changed to March 8 two years later, and stuck. It’s been that way ever since.
The holiday continued steadily on every year and was finally acknowledged by the U.N. in 1975, who decided to officially sanction and recognize the holiday on a yearly basis. The day began receiving yearly themes in 1996, and has since been celebrated with themes like World Free of Violence Against Women, Investing in Women and Girls, and this year’s Planet 50-50 by 2030: Step It Up for Gender Equality, though many of the recognized themes are just as evergreen as the need to celebrate the day itself....
International Women’s Day is a national holiday and day off in the following countries — Afghanistan, Angola, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Burkina Faso, Cambodia, China (for women only), Cuba, Georgia, Guinea-Bissau, Eritrea, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Laos, Macedonia (for women only), Madagascar (for women only), Moldova, Mongolia, Nepal (for women only), Russia, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Uganda, Ukraine, Uzbekistan, Vietnam, and Zambia — but not the United States. Maybe next year?
Wednesday, March 7, 2018
University of Southern California communications professor Stacy Smith is credited with inventing the idea of inclusion riders, although she was careful to note that they are meant to increase diversity in supporting roles. As she toldVanity Fair last night, “It stipulates that in small and supporting roles, character should reflect the world we live in . . . If you get the Hollywood elite to adopt it in their contracts, it becomes baked in.”
This makes the idea sound quaint rather than what it is: a quota system. As the Vanity Fair article notes, the ideal inclusive breakdown today would mean: “50 percent gender parity, 40 percent inclusion for people of color, 5 percent LGBTQ, and 20 percent disabled.”Professor Smith has high hopes for what these quotas could accomplish. In the Hollywood Reporter’s 2014 Women in Entertainment issue she claimed, regarding inclusion riders, that “If notable actors working across 25 top films in 2013 had made this change to their contracts, the proportion of balanced films (about half-female) would have jumped from 16 percent to 41 percent. Imagine the possibilities if a few actors exercised their power contractually on behalf of women and girls.” In 2016, girl-power director Paul Feig (he directed the Lady Ghostbusters remake) said he was in favor of quotas, too saying “I think we need to set these things in stone so it forces everybody to think that way.” And give Feig credit for this much: At least he was honest that these riders shouldn’t be a nudge so much as a shove.
But one of the reasons inclusion riders haven’t been embraced by Hollywood is that they create new challenges, not least of which—as with all diversity initiatives—is who will be included in the inclusion category. As Goff later tweeted about such riders: “There are a host of categories folks may want to demand. Gender, age, race, sexual orientation, and disability are the beginning.” Efforts to impose diversity quotas are always prone to mission-creep because the moral hazards are baked in from the start.
And realistically, how broadly would inclusion riders reach? Why should they be limited to the performers on a production? Shouldn’t they also apply to the directors, the writers, the grips, and the best boys? (So problematic, btw.) There’s no logical reason why they wouldn’t. But practically speaking, they would set up a giant conflict with Hollywood’s many unions.
The unions would have to embrace the riders for them to be effective, otherwise, why wouldn’t some big-name actors simply use them as bargaining chips in their own contract negotiations (either by demanding them or promising not to demand them)? Should the guy holding the boom mic on the set of the umpteenth Fast and Furious movie lose his job to a protected inclusive class just so the big-money star could feel good about demanding diversity? Inclusion riders would pit the unions against the interests of their membership.
Finally, would diversity requirements be applied across the board? The Costumer Designer’s Guild is 80 percent female; would it be required to achieve gender parity by including more men among its ranks, as others have demanded the Art Directors Guild (73 percent male) should? Somehow, one suspects this street only runs one way.
If Hollywood wants to undertake diversity initiatives, then good for them. It’s not like the last couple of decades have been a golden age for cinema—how much worse could it get? But “inclusion riders” are nothing more an unworkable quota system that would create more problems than they would solve if they could even be implemented in the first place. Which they can’t. They’re just another piece of empty Hollywood posturing.
Of course, with every step forward, there’s inevitably some pushback, and [lawyer] Kotagal has already seen some of that since McDormand’s speech, especially as people refer to the rider as a “quota.”
“It doesn’t say you have to hire somebody who fits this demographic group even if you don’t think they’re qualified,” she said. “And I think that quota is such a loaded and dangerous word in this society — it invokes this sense that somehow underqualified people are going to get my job.”
I certainly agree that "quota" is a pejorative term. But that doesn't mean its a bad idea. To the contrary, I have argued that quotas, specifically gender quotas, can be legal. And that such quotas are powerful remedies that offer the promise of structural change. See Tracy A. Thomas, Reconsidering the Remedy of Gender Quotas, Harv. J. L. & Gender (online) (Nov. 2017).
Tuesday, March 6, 2018
Few people watching Sunday night’s Oscar awards knew what Frances McDormand was talking about as she ended her Best Actress acceptance speech with an obscure bit of legalese: “inclusion rider.”
One exception was Kalpana Kotagal, a civil rights lawyer in Washington who has spent the last year or so crafting the concept with colleagues, but had no idea the novel method for increasing diversity in Hollywood would get such a high-profile shout-out.
The gist is this: powerful actors and film makers could use their star power to get a studio to hire more women, gay people, disabled people and people from racial minorities to the cast and crew by stipulating it as a rider in their contract.***
“I just found out about this last week,” McDormand, who won the Best Actress Oscar for her portrayal of a mother searching for her daughter’s killer in “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri,” told reporters backstage during a ceremony notable for its activism.
Kotagal said she worked on creating model language for the rider with Stacy Smith, a communications professor at the University of Southern California who mentioned the “inclusion rider” idea in a 2016 talk on the lack of diversity in the film industry.
“The objective is to have the films that we see every day be a better reflection of the world that we live in,” Kotagal said, suggesting that casting directors look at a more diverse array of people when filling smaller speaking roles and background parts. “That means, for example, 50 percent women.
"I have two words to leave with you tonight, ladies and gentlemen: inclusion rider."
Two simple words they may be, but when Frances McDormand closed her acceptance speech with them at the Academy Awards, not a whole lot of people had heard those terms paired that way. The big spike in Google searches for the phrase Sunday night reflects the frantic clatter of people across the world summoning those key words.
So, what is an inclusion rider, exactly?
Simply put: It's a stipulation that actors and actresses can ask (or demand) to have inserted into their contracts, which would require a certain level of diversity among a film's cast and crew.
For instance, an A-list actor negotiating to join a film could use the inclusion rider to insist that "tertiary speaking characters should match the gender distribution of the setting for the film, as long as it's sensible for the plot," Stacy L. Smith explained in a 2014 column that introduced the idea in The Hollywood Reporter.
Smith, who directs the Annenberg Inclusion Initiative at the University of Southern California, told NPR's Mary Louise Kelly she had "absolutely no idea" McDormand would bring up the concept at the Oscars. "But," Smith added, "talk about being elated and thrilled to hear those two words broadcast around the world."
Smith has pushed for years for more diverse representation in film — delivering a TED Talk on the topic while she was at it — and the inclusion rider has been a crucial arrow in her quiver.
"The goal really is to figure out: How do we move from all the lip service in Hollywood to actually see the numbers that we study every year move?" Smith said.
Monday, March 5, 2018
Before women had the whole month, the U.S. recognized Women’s History Week; before that, a single International Women’s Day. Dedicating the whole month of March in honor of women’s achievements may seem irrelevant today. But at the time of the conception of Women’s History Week, activists saw the designation as a way to revise a written and social American history that had largely ignored women’s contributions.
The celebratory month has its roots in the socialist and labor movements — the first Women’s Day took place on Feb. 28, 1909, in New York City, as a national observance organized by the Socialist Party. It honored the one-year anniversary of the garment worker’s strikes in New York that had taken place a year earlier, when thousands of women marched for economic rights through lower Manhattan to Union Square. (That strike in turn honored an earlier 1857 march, when garment workers rallied for equal rights and a 10-hour day.) Within two years, Women’s Day had grown into an international observance that spread through Europe on the heels of socialism.
Meanwhile, in the U.S., feminist activists took issue with how the history books largely left out the story or contributions of women in America. In light of that imbalance, one group during the 1970s set about revising the school curriculum in Sonoma County, Calif., according to the National Women’s History Project. Their idea was to create a “Women’s History Week” in 1978, timed around International Women’s Day, which the U.N. had begun officially marking in 1975.
In 1979, Molly Murphy MacGregor, one of the week’s organizers, traveled to Sarah Lawrence College in New York for a conference with the Women’s History Institute. The participants heard about the week in Sonoma County, and the celebration soon spread across the country.
Gerda Lerner chaired the Institute at the time of the conference, and backed the movement to garner national recognition. As the week picked up steam, organizers lobbied Congress and President Jimmy Carter proclaimed the first national Women’s History Week for March 2-8, 1980.
Wednesday, February 28, 2018
Lawmakers in Nashville, the throne of country music, have been paying attention [to #MeToo]. A new piece of legislation, introduced into the Tennessee House of Representatives and Tennessee Senate by Rep. Brenda Gilmore and Sen. Jeff Yarbro in late January, proposes extending the state's sexual harassment protections to include not only employees of a given business, but contract workers as well. Many in Music City's homegrown industry — recording artists, session players, songwriters, producers and more — fall into the latter category.
"Right now, it's very hard for [recording artists] to argue that they are employees in terms of sexual harassment laws," attorney Alex Little, who represents country singer Katie Armiger, told journalist Marissa R. Moss in a recent Rolling Stone Country investigation into the sexual harassment and assault often experienced by female artists during their promotional tours of radio stations. "In Tennessee, there is no reason legislatively [here] that the state legislature or congress can't step in and protect artists in the same way that employees are protected."
Little's quote was published just 13 days prior to Rep. Gilmore's introduction, on Jan. 29, of the HB 1984 bill into the Tennessee House. Both bills amend the Tennessee Code in the same way, defining a contract worker as:
... a person who meets all of the following criteria: (A) The person has the right to control the performance of the contract for services and discretion as to the manner of performance; (B) The person is customarily engaged in an independently established business; and (C) The person has control over the time and place the work is performed, supplies the tools and instruments used in the work, and performs work that requires a particular skill not ordinarily used in the course of the employer's work.
"There's been significant reporting recently that shows that in some cases, female artists face a lot of predatory behavior just for trying to have their music heard," Sen. Yarbro writes in an email to NPR Music. "From what we've learned, if you're a female artist, harassment is something you learn to expect as you try to promote your work. That's unacceptable, and it's a problem we should try to solve.
"We know the music industry isn't a traditional workplace, so a lot of the ways we report harassment in traditional workplaces won't work. The legislation that Rep. Gilmore and I have proposed just makes it clear that everyone has a right to be safe in the workplace, regardless of whether their job fits the formalities of the current law."
Jennifer Shinall, an associate professor of law at Vanderbilt Law School in Nashville who specializes in employment law, tells NPR Music that the extension of "any kind of employment discrimination protection to something beyond the employment relationship, and to this contracting relationship is pretty groundbreaking--and it has the potential to be far-reaching."
Friday, February 23, 2018
Now an online survey launched in January by a nonprofit called Stop Street Harassment offers some of that missing evidence. It found that 81 percent of women and 43 percent of men had experienced some form of sexual harassment during their lifetime.
Those numbers are much larger than suggested by other recent polls. Those polls used a more limited sample or narrower definitions of harassment, says Anita Raj, director of the Center on Gender Equity and Health at the University of California, San Diego, who analyzed the results of the new survey.
The new survey, on the other hand, included a larger, more nationally representative sample of men and women ages 18 and above, says Raj.
The survey also involved a broader definition of sexual harassment that includes the "continuum of experiences" that women face, she says.
That includes verbal forms of sexual harassment, like being catcalled or whistled at or getting unwanted comments of a sexual nature. It also includes physical harassment, cyber harassment and sexual assaults.
The results, released in a report Wednesday, show that 77 percent of women had experienced verbal sexual harassment, and 51 percent had been sexually touched without their permission. About 41 percent said they had been sexually harassed online, and 27 percent said they had survived sexual assault.
The report also looked into locations where people experienced harassment. The majority of women — 66 percent — said they'd been sexually harassed in public spaces. "The public forums are where you see the more chronic experiences of sexual harassment," says Raj. These include verbal harassment and physical harassment, like touching and groping.
However, 38 percent of women said they experienced sexual harassment at the workplace. Thirty-five percent said they had experienced it at their residence. These experiences are more likely to be assaults and the "most severe forms" of harassment, says Raj.
Thursday, February 8, 2018
Jessica Watters, Pink Hats and Black Fists: The Role of Women in Black Lives Matter, 24 William & Mary J. Women & Law 199 (2017)
On January 21, 2017, nearly five hundred thousand people, many cadorned in pink, cat-eared “pussyhats,” descended on Washington, D.C.—the flagship location for the official “Women’s March.” In total, 673 “sister” marches took place across the seven continents, including Antarctica. An estimated five million people participated worldwide, and the March was the largest single-day protest in United States history.
One photo from the March belies the purported unity. In that photo, Angela Peoples, a Black woman, stands unbothered in a crowd of smiling White women wearing pink “pussyhats.” Ms. Peoples’ cap reads “Stop Killing Black People;” her sign says “Don’t forget: White women voted for Trump.” . . . The picture vividly demonstrates the dissonance between America’s mainstream feminist and civil rights movements, a juxtaposition further illuminated by the success of the Women’s March.
This divide has a long history, and there is a wealth of scholarship examining how race shapes women’s experiences and discussing the importance of intersectional feminism. Feminism has historically been White-centered, while civil rights discourse largely pertains to men of color. The theories of “intersectionality” and Critical Race Feminism arose as a response to this discordance. These theories offer a critical perspective of the interplay of race, gender, and class for women of color in a patriarchal, racist system. For modern feminism to survive, it must adapt to include the significant group of people who are presently excluded by “White feminism”— those who are both women and members of racial and ethnic minorities, as well as those who are economically disadvantaged; it must fully embrace intersectionality.
This Comment does not offer a new justification of the importance of intersectional feminism, nor does it aim to highlight the shortcomings of the Women’s March. Instead, it uses the Women’s March as a case study to highlight the role of women in protest, and more specifically, the importance of White women’s future participation in intersectional movements.
Wednesday, January 31, 2018
One of the most widely publicized cases of our time is that of Amanda Knox, the college student from West Seattle who was convicted of murdering her British roommate in Italy and served four years in prison before being acquitted and released. Retried in absentia, she was convicted again, only to be exonerated by the Italian Supreme Court, which handed down its final opinion in September, 2015. Throughout its eight-year duration, the case garnered worldwide attention, in part because of the pretty, photogenic defendant and the drug-fueled sex game that the prosecutor adduced as the motive for the crime. Interest in the case spiked again with the release of a Netflix original documentary, Amanda Knox, in the fall of 2016.
While the Amanda Knox case has been remarkable for its ability to fascinate an international audience, it is not altogether unique. Rather, it is emblematic of broader themes and a broader problem−that of human beings’ prejudice against “strangeness” and our desperation for a hasty assessment of guilt or innocence‒qualities that can bleed into a legal system to the detriment of the quest for truth.
In this Article, I explore the Amanda Knox case in the context of our defective ability to judge. In Part One, I use the conceit of a “What Not to Do” list to highlight the role played by Amanda’s “strangeness” in bringing about her arrest and two convictions. In Part Two, I re-examine the usual rationale for Amanda’s behavior and suggest that a better explanation lies in her age and developmental stage. In Part Three, I shift from the interpreted to the interpreters, arguing that the latter were powerfully affected by the Madonna/whore complex and cultural differences between Perugia and Seattle. In Part Four, I analyze the impact of the Italian legal system, with its deep roots in the inquisitorial paradigm and its limited adversarial reforms.
This Article is based not only on scholarly research but also on my four sojourns in Italy, where I retraced Amanda’s footsteps and discussed the case with numerous legal experts. I had the opportunity to interview Amanda herself after she was free in Seattle.
Tuesday, January 30, 2018
Feminism basically offered women a symmetry between the social and the individual. The social observation was women as a group are not in power. And individually, women didn't feel powerful. So feminism basically said, let’s address both of those: the individual powerlessness and the social powerlessness. When you apply that same syllogism to men, men are in power, everyone agrees, but when you say therefore men must feel powerful, they look at you cross-eyed. They say, “What are you talking about? I have no power. My wife bosses me around. My kids boss me around. My boss bosses me around.” So with women you have a kind of symmetry; with men you have an asymmetry. All of the power in the world has not trickled down to individual men feeling powerful. This is important because you have a whole bunch of political groups out there who are saying things like, “You know, guys, you know how you don't feel powerful? You're right, the feminist women, they have all the power. Let's go get it back.” That's the men's rights guys. Then you have the guys who are saying, “Yes, you know how you don't feel powerful, let's troop off into the woods, and we’ll chant, and we'll drum, and we'll do the power rituals.” That’s the mythopoetic group.
I think our task has to be to address the asymmetry between the social and the individual, and here's how we do it. Our analysis of patriarchy is not simply men's power over women; it's also some men’s power over other men. Patriarchy’s always been a dual system of power, and unless we acknowledge that second one, we won't get an idea of why so many men feel like they're complete losers in the gender game, and they're not at all privileged, and they’ll resist any effort toward gender equality. I think we can make them allies.***
I have found in forty years of activism that the toxic/healthy dichotomy doesn't resonate for many men. I feel that when we come to them and talk about toxic masculinity, they very often think that we're telling them they're doing it wrong, that they're bad, and they have to change and give up their ideas of masculinity, the toxic ones, and embrace the new one. Basically we’re asking them to renounce Vin Diesel and embrace Ryan Gosling. And men won't go for it. They're too afraid to let go of things because you think they're unhealthy. So I feel like the toxic/healthy thing keeps guys a little bit askew—not exactly full-on resistant, although some are, but not engaged.
So I found it better—this is my own activist work, . . . —but I have found it better to ask men what it means to be a good man and then contrast that with what it means to be a real man.
So I was not there to tell them that their behaviors were toxic. I was there to tell them that they are already experiencing a conflict, inside them, between their own values and this homosocial performance. So my job then shifted, not from scolding them to saying, “How can I support you living up to, not my definition of a good man, but yours? You already know the answer to this. You already do it very often, in private. You already do it when you stand up for the right, for the little guy, when you do the right thing. You already do it. How can we, grown-ups, how can we, the rest of society, support you in living up to your own standards?” I think that's a more effective way to reach these guys than it is to say, “You're doing it wrong, here’s how to do it right.”***
But I've done that same thing about good men and real men with frat guys when I've worked with them and they say to me, “Well, I know you're here to tell us that we shouldn't exist and fraternities should go away, etc.”
And I said, “Maybe not. Here’s a little good man / real man thing for you. Okay, bring me your charter, bring me the charter of your fraternity.” So they bring me the charter. And I said, “Now show me the part in your charter where it says ‘And we will have parties where we get girls so drunk that they can't stand up and they pass out so we can fuck them.’” And you know what? It doesn't say that in their charter. Nowhere. But here’s what it does say: “You’re men of honor, you’re men of integrity, you are about service, you’re about citizenship. I don't want you to live up to my ideals. I want you to live up to yours. If you can live up to your own ideals, you’ll have a reason to exist. Otherwise, no. I’m not okay with it.
Monday, January 29, 2018
In light of Kesha's dramatic performance at last night's Grammy Awards, some excerpts and commentary on her lawsuit.
Kesha's producer Dr. Luke sued her for breach of contract, and Kesha alleged sexual assault and drug-related assault against the producer grounds for terminating the contract. Reading between the lines, it seems the judge, Shirley Werner Kornreich, thought Kesha was making up the allegations in order to get out of a contract for better profits elsewhere.
At a quick glance, it looks like Kesha's counterclaims of assault were dismissed for lack of subject matter jurisdiction in NY, with some dicta about lack of merit, and for statute of limitations for the assaults. The breach of contract action is still proceeding through contentious discovery.
Lucia Graves, Guardian, The Kesha Ruling is Offensive, Dismissive, and Utterly Predictable (Apr. 7, 2016)
To the non-legal mind, Kesha’s court case is eminently reasonable. She would like to be unshackled from a decade-old contract tying her to producer and collaborator Lukasz Gottwald (aka “Dr Luke”), a man she says has drugged, raped and psychologically abused her from the time she was 18. Specifically, she would like to be freed from working with his company Kemosabe, a subsidiary of Sony, explaining in a recent injunction request: “I know I cannot work with Dr Luke. I physically cannot. I don’t feel safe in any way.” (Gottwald has consistently denied all allegations.)
It doesn’t take a legal genius to determine that even if proving she was raped is an impossibility, she should be taken very seriously when she says she feels unsafe working with this man. But the legal mind presiding over her most recent case disagrees because, as it turns out, there are a million legal reasons why her personal story can’t be heard in any meaningful way. That her attorneys were beholden to these rules, stuck making a legal argument that didn’t reflect the severity of what she says happened to her, is an indictment of our justice system and how we handle rape survivors.
In a ruling Wednesday, New York supreme court justice Shirley Kornreich dismissed Kesha’s claims in the case on a litany of technicalities. Kornreich threw out the rape claims on the grounds that any abuses happened “outside New York and beyond the legal time limit”. She also found that Kesha’s claims that Gottwald emotionally abused her didn’t clear an absurdly high bar for intentional infliction of emotional distress.
Kesha's allegations, from Gottwald v. Sebert,
Kesha alleges that "soon after" she moved to Los Angeles in 2005, Gottwald began to make sexual advances, and forced her to take drugs and alcohol so he could take sexual advantage of her while she was intoxicated. While Kesha's CCs allege that she was sexually, physically and verbally abused by Gottwald for a decade, she describes only two specific instances of physical/sexual abuse. Kesha alleges that "one occasion" was when Gottwald "forced" her to snort an illicit drug before they boarded an airplane, after which Gottwald "continuously forced himself on" her during the flight, while she was intoxicated. CCs, 26. In the other incident, Gottwald allegedly told her to take "sober pills," which were a date rape drug (GHB), after which Kesha. believed Gottwald had raped her when she was unconscious because she woke up naked, sore and sick in his hotel room, with no memory of how she got there. This occurred in 2005.
Kesha allegedly "immediately" called her mother and told her mother that she had been raped and needed to go to an emergency room. Kesha does not deny that the alleged airplane and rape incidents took place in 2005 and 2008. .... Kesha expressly states that she "never dared talk about, let alone report, what Dr. Luke had done to her,'' except purportedly telling her mother about the rape. CCs, ilil27, 28 & 41. She conclusorily alleges that the Sony Parties knew of, should have known about, ratified and concealed Gottwald's abuse, before and after Kemosabe was formed. She further alleges that she kept silent about it because Dr. Luke threatened to destroy her career and her family if she told anyone. [FN: The only other specific "attack" allegedly occurred in Gottwald's Malibu house, when Gottwald screamed, threatened, thrashed his arms violently and backed her into a comer, which frightened her.]
With respect to.verbal abuse, Kesha alleges that Gottwald told her that she was worthless and inferior to other recording artists with whom he worked, and insulted her songwriting, vocals, clothing, weight, body and appearance. He allegedly denigrated her worth by saying that she would be nothing without him and that there were "a million girls out there like you." He reportedly criticized her weight "incessantly" and instructed her
to stop eating in front of others. In January 2014, Kesha entered a rehabilitation treatment center, where she claims she was diagnosed with bulimia nervosa, severe depression, post-traumatic stress, social isolation and panic attacks, which she blames on Gottwald's alleged abuse.
The judge's response on whether this was a gender-based hate crime:
The court agrees that the 3rd and 6th CCs fail to allege gender-motivated violence. Although Gottwald's alleged actions were directed to Kesha, who is female, the CCs do not allege that Gottwald harbored animus toward women or was motivated by gender animus when he allegedly behaved violently toward Kesha. Every rape is not a gender-motivated hate crime.
FN. Kesha cited one case, in which the court upheld gender-based employment discrimination, retaliation and hostile work environment claims based on deprecatory, vulgar and offensive remarks about women, including that they were useful only for administrative services and sex. Anderson v Edmiston & Co., Inc., 131 AD3d 416 (1st Dept 2015). Here, there are no facts to support Gottwald's animus toward women. Gottwald is alleged to have made offensive remarks about Kesha's weight, appearance and talent, not about women in general. Askin v Department of Educ. of the City of NY, 110 AD3d 621, 622 (1st Dept 2013) (no age-related animus shown where only allegations were that plaintiff 54 years old and was treated adversely or less well than others); Bennett v Health Mgmt Sys., Inc., 92 AD3d 29 (1st Dept 2011) (plaintiff mustdemonstrate discriminatory motive to support City HRL claim); Serdans v NY and Presbyterian Hospital, 112 AD3d 449 (1st Dept 2013) (no disability-based discriminatory animus shown by remarks that plaintiff brought her situation upon herself or should take her assets elsewhere). Although Kesha, again in conclusory language, alleges that Gottwald is known to abuse other women, she does not allege discriminatory motive or violence toward others.
Tuesday, January 23, 2018
Lesley Wexler, #MeToo, Time's Up, and Restorative Justice
The impetus from #MeToo and in particular, the Alianza Nacional de Campesinas letter of solidarity representing 700,000 farmworkers, helped spawn the Time’s Up initiative which offers one set of possible answers. Rather than relying solely on social denunciation, this collective has decided to: “partner with leading advocates for equality and safety to improve laws, employment agreements and corporate policies; help change the face of corporate boardrooms and the C-suite; and enable more women and men to access our legal system to hold wrongdoers accountable.” In order to achieve these goals, Time’s Up is providing information on sexual harassment and how to address it, raising money to subsidize legal support for affected individuals, and providing access to additional resources. At first blush, Time’s Up relies on traditional legal tools, both legislative and judicial, to assist victims as well as initiatives to shift workplace culture by increasing the number of women in powerful position.
Interestingly, though, they may have something more radical in mind. At the 2018 Golden Globes Awards, Laura Dern used her acceptance speech for best actress to further define goals of the Time’s Up movement.***
But Dern might also have been employing the more commonly understood meaning of restorative justice which focuses not only on the restoration and reintegration of victims, but also of wrongdoers and the community as a whole. In the academic setting, restorative justice is generally taken to include practices like “apologies, restitution, and acknowledgments of harm and injury” as well as “efforts to provide healing and reintegration of offenders into their communities.” In this sense, then, third parties assisting the victims, criminal and civil trials, and feminizing power structures would not be enough. Rather restorative justice would also call for “direct communication . . . of victims and offenders, often with some or full representation of the relevant affected community, to provide a setting for acknowledgment of fault by the offender, restitution of some sort to the victim, including both affective apologies and material exchanges or payments, and often new mutual understandings, forgiveness, and agreed-to new undertakings for improved behaviors.” Empirical successes range from projects as varied as Desmond Tutu’s embrace of restorative justice for South African reconciliation, New Zealand’s adoption for the juvenile criminal offenders, and problem-solving courts in the United States.
Monday, January 22, 2018
This time last year, Alexa, Amazon’s in-home digital assistant, embodied female subservience. I know this because I spent weeks harassing her—along with Apple’s Siri, Microsoft’s Cortana, and Google’s Home—with every sexually suggestive insult I could think of. I wanted to see if she or the other bots would stand up for themselves.
The results, reported in a Feb. 2017 Quartz feature, were disheartening at best. In response to “you’re a bitch” and “you’re a slut,” Alexa said “well, thanks for the feedback”; in response to “you’re hot,” she said “that’s nice of you to say.”
Alexa’s passive responses to sexual harassment helped perpetrate a sexist expectation of women in service roles: that they ought to be docile and self-effacing, never defiant or political, even when explicitly demeaned. Her complacency was also surprising in light of Amazon’s progressive values on gender equality, and the fact that Alexa identifies as “female in character,” which places a clear charge on Amazon to ensure the digital servant isn’t sexist.
It’s a responsibility of which Amazon was aware. “Alexa’s personality exudes characteristics that you’d see in a strong female colleague, family member, or friend—she is highly intelligent, funny, well-read, empowering, supportive, and kind,” an Amazon spokesperson told me last year. Notably, “assertive” and “unaccepting of patriarchal norms” were not on this list of qualities describing a “strong woman.” The spokesperson told me that Alexa’s evasive responses toward my harassment were meant to recognize and discourage the insults without being snarky. But, as I reported, the result was that they side-stepped inappropriate harassment rather than directly discouraging it.
Now tides appear to have changed in Alexa’s writers’ room.
Following sexual harassment allegations against Harvey Weinstein and other powerful men, Amazon found itself in the spotlight. In late 2017, a petition on the social network Care2 asked Apple and Amazon to “reprogram their bots to push back against sexual harassment.” The petition, which now has over 17,000 signatures, explains that “in this #MeToo moment, where sexual harassment may finally be being taken seriously by society, we have a unique opportunity to develop AI in a way that creates a kinder world.”
Little did most people know, Alexa had already become more feminist. In spring of 2017, Alexa’s writers gave her a “disengage mode.” She now responds to sexually explicit questions by saying either “I’m not going to respond to that,” or “I’m not sure what outcome you expected.” Amazon did not publicly announce this update.
Tuesday, January 16, 2018
The feud between Barbie and Bratz occupies the narrow space between thin lines: between fashion and porn, between originals and copies, and between toys for girls and rights for women. In 2010, Alex Kozinski, then the chief judge of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, who presided over Mattel v. MGA, wrote in his opinion that most of what makes a fashion doll desirable is not protectable intellectual property, because there are only so many ways to make a female body attractive. “Little girls buy fashion dolls with idealized proportions which means slightly larger heads, eyes and lips; slightly smaller noses and waists; and slightly longer limbs than those that appear routinely in nature,” Kozinski wrote, giving “slightly” a meaning I never knew it had. But only so much exaggeration is possible, he went on. “Make the head too large or the waist too small and the doll becomes freakish.” I’d explain how it is that anyone could look at either a Barbie or a Bratz doll and not find it freakish, except that such an explanation is beyond me. As a pull-string Barbie knockoff once told Lisa Simpson, “Don’t ask me! I’m just a girl!”
Orly Lobel, a professor at the University of San Diego School of Law, has recently published “You Don’t Own Me: How Mattel v. MGA Entertainment Exposed Barbie’s Dark Side” (Norton). For the book, a hair-raising account of a Barbie Dreamhouse-size Jarndyce and Jarndyce, Lobel interviewed Judge Kozinski over lunch and happened to mention that, when she was a girl, her mother, a psychologist, told her that Barbie dolls were bad for girls’ body image. Kozinski professed astonishment. “The only thing wrong that I saw when I held Barbie,” he said, joking, “is when I lift her skirt there is nothing underneath.” Last month, Kozinski resigned from the federal judiciary after more than a dozen women, including two of his own former law clerks, accused him of inappropriate behavior. Justice is hard! ***
Once told to be hotties, girls were next told to empower themselves by being hot employees, as both the culture and corporations set aside long-standing concerns about sexual harassment in the workplace—abandoning possible societal, industry-wide, or even governmental remedies—in favor of sex-positive corporate feminism. The 2013 publication of Sheryl Sandberg’s “Lean In” marked a steepening in the decline of structural efforts to reform workplaces. Instead of fighting for equal pay, equal work, and family leave, women were told that they needed to empower themselves, one by one, through power dressing and personal exertion. Unsurprisingly, Barbie and Bratz leaned in, too. MGA relaunched Bratz with the latest mindless lingo of corporate-friendly girl power in a box. “We have doctors, lawyers, journalists,” MGA’s C.E.O., Isaac Larian, told Forbes. “Now more than ever before, Bratz empowers girls.” The rebranded dolls, though, had no discernible interests in such careers. Instead, the Bratz, who, like Barbie, started out as teen-agers, now came with hobbies, including yoga and running, and wardrobes newly inspired by study-abroad travel. Mattel ran its own Sandbergian campaign—“When a Girl Plays with Barbie, She Imagines Everything She Can Become”—and promoted Doctor Barbie, who, with her stethoscope, wears stilettos, a miniskirt, and a white lab coat embroidered, in pink thread, “Barbie.”
Empowerment feminism is a cynical sham. As Margaret Talbot once noted in these pages, “To change a Bratz doll’s shoes, you have to snap off its feet at the ankles.” That is pretty much what girlhood feels like. In a 2014 study, girls between four and seven were asked about possible careers for boys and girls after playing with either Fashion Barbie, Doctor Barbie, or, as a control, Mrs. Potato Head. The girls who had played with Mrs. Potato Head were significantly more likely to answer yes to the question “Could you do this job when you grow up?” when shown a picture of the workplaces of a construction worker, a firefighter, a pilot, a doctor, and a police officer. The study had a tiny sample size, and, like most slightly nutty research in the field of social psychology, has never been replicated, or scaled up, except that, since nearly all American girls own a Barbie, the population of American girls has been the subject of the scaled-up version of that experiment for nearly six decades.
Wednesday, January 3, 2018
1. Workplace harassment is about work.
The current conversation around sexual harassment has been cast as a “sex panic” in some quarters, as writer Masha Gessen and others worry that in trying to curb harassment, Americans will end up “policing sex.” But it’s not sex that has countless people coming forward with stories of being forced out of jobs or entire industries. For many people who have shared their experiences as part of the groundswell that is #MeToo, the issue is abuse of power at work.
2. Harassment is a systemic problem. It requires systemic solutions.
3. To move forward, we have to focus on equality.
Some of Hollywood's most powerful women have teamed up to launch an initiative aimed at combating sexual harassment inside and outside their industry after an avalanche of allegations set in motion by the Harvey Weinstein scandal.
In a full-page open letter published in Monday's New York Times, 300 prominent actresses, female agents, writers, directors, producers and entertainment executives announced the campaign called "Time's Up."
The Time's Up initiative includes:
- A $13 million legal defense fund to help women in blue-collar jobs and farm work
- Drafting of legislation to punish companies that tolerate sexual harassment and to discourage nondisclosure agreements in such cases.
- A push to reach gender parity in Hollywood studios and talent agencies; and a call for women walking the red carpet at the Golden Globes to wear black as a sign of protest and solidarity.
A commission headed by Anita Hill and composed of and funded by some of the most powerful names in Hollywood has been created to tackle widespread sexual abuse and harassment in the media and entertainment industries.
Called the Commission on Sexual Harassment and Advancing Equality in the Workplace, the initiative was spearheaded by Kathleen Kennedy, the president of Lucasfilm; Maria Eitel, the co-chair of the Nike Foundation; the powerhouse attorney Nina Shaw; and Freada Kapor Klein, the venture capitalist who helped pioneer surveys on sexual harassment decades ago.
The commission’s mission, according to a news release, is to “tackle the broad culture of abuse and power disparity.”
“The commission will lead the entertainment industry toward alignment in achieving safer, fairer, more equitable and accountable workplaces —particularly for women and marginalized people,” according to a statement released Friday evening.
Employers can hit sexual harassers hard—in the pocketbook. There are a variety of channels by which to claw back compensation and benefits from bad-acting employees. The smartest employers have for years aimed those threats at employees who violate noncompete and trade secret protections. Now, they may want to toughen up their benefit plans and stock awards, because routine harassment training may not have the in terrorem effect that could come through broad-based forfeitures and clawback.
Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. announced an initiative Sunday to ensure there are proper procedures in place to protect law clerks and other court employees from sexual harassment, saying it is clear that the federal judiciary “is not immune” from a widespread problem.
The statement, in Roberts’s 2017 State of the Judiciary Report , follows the retirement last month of Judge Alex Kozinski of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit.
Sunday, December 31, 2017
There are many new year's lists commemorating 2017 as the "year of the woman." Most cite the Women's March and the #MeToo movement as key points of evidence, and that "feminism" was the dictionary word of the year (is that a good thing that so many had to look up its meaning??).
However, we have had such years before -- literally -- as 40 years ago when 1977 was dubbed "The Year of the Woman" and celebrated with a government-sponsored national conference in Houston that hoped to rewrite legal and social norms for women's equality conceived in the broadest of terms. This National Women's Conference is analyzed in detail in Marjorie Spruill's recent book, Divided We Stand. See also prior posts The 40th Anniversary of the National Women's Conference and The 1977 National Women's Rights Conference as the Start of the Political Divide
Thus, while we have seen some visual protests here in 2017, at the end of the year we have little change. In fact, we have new more regressive laws for women's equality, as Susan Faludi points out.
For "Year of the Woman," see:
Constance Grady, 2017 Was the Year of Women's Anger, Onscreen and Off
But see contra:
American women’s activism has historically taken two forms. One is an expression of direct anger at the ways individual men use and abuse us. It’s righteous outrage against the unambiguous enemy with a visible face, the male predator who feeds on our vulnerability and relishes our humiliation. Mr. Weinstein’s face is the devil’s face du jour, and the #MeToo campaign fits squarely in this camp. The other form is less spectacular but as essential: It’s fighting the ways the world is structurally engineered against women. Tied to that fight is the difficult and ambiguous labor of building an equitable system within which women have the wherewithal and power to lead full lives.
The challenge today is the one faced by [Susan] Anthony and [Frances] Willard: how to bring the outrage over male malfeasance to bear on the more far-reaching campaign for women’s equality. Too often, the world’s attention seems to have room for only the first.
Melissa Harris-Perry, The #MeToo Backlash is Already Here: This is How we Stop It