Wednesday, November 7, 2018
Sherry Colb, What Does #BelieveWomen Mean?, Verdict, Justia
As the #MeToo movement gathered steam, exposing many long-ignored instances of sexual misconduct, other hashtags followed in its wake. One of these is #BelieveWomen. In this column, I will analyze some ways of understanding #BelieveWomen and suggest that properly understood, it can provide us with a better way to approach not only women but anyone who brings disfavored messages to our doorstep.
What Does “Believe Women” Mean?
The #BelieveWomen hashtag responds to a very old and longstanding prejudice. The prejudice held (and, to some extent, still holds) that when women say that they were raped, there is a good chance that they are lying. Seventeenth century English jurist Lord Chief Justice Matthew Hale said “[rape] is an accusation easily to be made and hard to be proved, and harder to be defended by the party accused, tho never so innocent.” Well into the second half of the twentieth century, Hale’s concern about women’s false rape accusations distorted the process of adjudicating rape claims in criminal courts.
Judges, for instance, gave juries special instructions cautioning them about the danger of lying rape victims and the need to be extra skeptical of their testimony. Courts often required corroborating evidence as well, even though witnesses who testified about other crimes required no similar corroboration. As Susan Estrich put it in her 1988 book, Real Rape, the law had difficulty believing women who came forward to complain of rape. The law accordingly placed stumbling blocks in the path of prosecution and conviction, including the special cautionary instruction and the need for corroboration.
. . .
So What Would It Mean to Believe All Women?
If we acknowledge that women sometimes bring false accusations, does that mean we should believe only some women but not all women? We can still believe all women, so long as we make sure to follow up with other potential evidence sources before convicting the defendant of rape.
Tuesday, November 6, 2018
Asked whether she was a feminist, Amy McGrath, the former Marine fighter pilot running for Congress in Kentucky, was emphatic: “Hell yeah, I’m a feminist.” Her opponent, Representative Andy Barr, turned her words into an attack ad.
Many politicians have considered the word “feminist” toxic. But that might be changing. In 11 battleground districts nationwide, including Kentucky’s Sixth, about half of voters said they supported electing feminists, compared with roughly a third who opposed it, according to Upshot/Siena House polls this fall. About a fifth said they didn’t know.
We don’t have past surveys asking the same question to compare with these results, and support of feminist candidates is still not a majority opinion — more Republicans opposed electing them than supported it. But the overall support our polls found would have been unthinkable in even recent elections, scholars say. Some compare this moment to the feminist political movements of the 1920s and 1970s.
The spark, people across the political spectrum said, was the MeToo movement, after the misogyny seen in the 2016 presidential campaign.
“An embrace of the term in political candidates? That’s news,” said Estelle Freedman, a professor at Stanford who specializes in women’s history. “We know that women have been really politicized by the perceived assault on women’s rights writ large. The kindling was there, and it got ignited by the misogyny.”
One reason that voters’ support for feminist candidates is surprising is that in a variety of surveys, only a fifth or fewer identify as feminists themselves. (The share goes up when the word is defined as equal rights for men and women, or when specific feminist policies are mentioned.) Our polling question, asked in 14 districts, was whether respondents supported or opposed electing more people who describe themselves as feminists. It did not define the term.
Tuesday, October 30, 2018
This season, More Perfect is taking its camera lens off the Supreme Court and zooming in on the words of the people: the 27 amendments that We The People have made to our Constitution. We're taking on these 27 amendments both in song and in story. This episode is best listened to alongside 27: The Most Perfect Album, an entire album (an ALBUM!) and digital experience of original music and art inspired by the 27 Amendments. Think of these episodes as the audio liner notes.
Episode Four begins, as all episodes should: with Dolly Parton. Parton wrote a song for us (!) about the 19th Amendment and women (finally) getting the right to vote.
Also in this episode: Our siblings at Radiolab share a story with us that they did about how the 19th Amendment almost died on a hot summer night in Tennessee. The 19th Amendment was obviously a huge milestone for women in the United States. But it was pretty well-understood that this wasn’t a victory for all women; it was a victory for white women.
Read the lyrics to Dolly Parton's 19th Amendment song here.
Thursday, October 18, 2018
Over 100 years ago, a woman was detained by a police officer for smoking a cigarette. After being stopped by an officer on a bicycle on Fifth Avenue in New York City, Mrs. William P. Orrblew smoke in his face and flicked cigarette ash toward him. Her rationale: “Yes, I was smoking a cigarette and I don’t see that I was doing any harm. I have done it in many other places… I think the policeman overstepped his authority.”
This incident marked the start of a century-long battle over women’s health, identity and behavior by raising the questions of who could and should smoke. While smoking would eventually become a public health question — cigarette smoking is a leading cause of preventable death — it has continued to generate debates over whether individuals have the right to choose to do something harmful. Throughout history, American women have fought for the right to vote, equal pay and to control their own bodies. But with hard-fought freedom comes choice: must women always choose what others say is right for them?
Controlling smoking in the early 20th century frequently was about controlling women’s behavior. Four years after Orr’s detainment for smoking on Fifth Avenue, the Sullivan Ordinance made it illegal for restaurant and bar owners to permit women to smoke in their establishments. The stated rationale from “Bowery moralist and political chieftain” Tim Sullivanwas that “proper” ladies were offended by women’s smoking, and that it certainly wasn’t any kind of attempt by a man to control women’s behavior. Sure.
Wednesday, October 17, 2018
On the website Etsy, which sells crafts and vintage items, typing “Ruth Bader Ginsburg” into the search bar yields more than 1,000 results.
You can buy a birthday card with the associate justice’s image and the phrase “small and mighty” written in pink. There’s also a tank top bearing her stern visage and “I dissent” written underneath. There are posters of her as Rosie the Riveter, peg dolls of her in full judicial regalia and even prayer candles portraying her as “the Patron Saint of the Supreme Court.”
If Etsy isn’t your thing, you can find a Ginsburg action figure on Kickstarter, complete with gavel, pointing finger and her “iconic jabot,” a frilly, fancy-looking collar perfect for making “fashion and judicial statements.” The initial funding goal was $15,000. As of September, it had raised well over $600,000. “She is a rock star. She is an inspiration. She is constantly fighting. She is brilliant and fearless,” the introductory video to the Kickstarter page states. “She is an icon.”
The items aren’t all kitschy. There are plenty of posters, coffee mugs and shirts featuring inspirational and even strident quotes from her speeches and opinions. One oft-used line came from an interview she gave shortly after Sonia Sotomayor was nominated to the Supreme Court in 2009: “Women belong in all places where decisions are being made.” Another popular one for product designers is: “Fight for the things you care about.”
That latter quote was from a 2015 luncheon at the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study at Harvard University in Justice Ginsburg’s honor. Oftentimes, these products will leave off the last part of Ginsburg’s sentence, which was “but do it in a way that will lead others to join you.” That outlook may explain why Ginsburg has become a cottage industry, generating countless products—none of which she has likely endorsed but has often been a good sport about.
And that’s just the tip of the iceberg. There is a music album inspired by her life story. There are websites and memes that celebrate her jurisprudence, her fiery dissents and her dedication to civil rights, gender equality and social justice. There’s even a recent documentary and an upcoming Hollywood film chronicling her long and storied career as a litigator fighting on behalf of gender equality.
Wednesday, October 10, 2018
In the year since, the global conversation about sexual harassment — and worse — has shifted, but the lasting impact of the moment remains unclear.
From Stockholm to Seoul, from Toronto to Tokyo, a torrent of accusations has poured forth. Survivors spoke out, and many were taken seriously. Powerful men lost their jobs. A few went to prison. How diverse societies — some liberal, others conservative — saw sexual harassment seemed to be changing.
On Friday, a year after the New York Times and the New Yorker published their stories about Weinstein, two activists who have sought to end sexual violence in conflict zones — Congolese gynecologist Denis Mukwege and Yazidi assault survivor Nadia Murad — were awarded the 2018 Nobel Peace Prize.
But for all the early anticipation that things had changed forever, in many countries the #MeToo movement either fizzled or never took flight.
This week marks the one-year anniversary of Harvey Weinstein’s fall from grace, after the New York Times published a bombshell investigative article about a lifetime of egregious sexual misdeeds. One year later, the #MeToo movement came into sharp contrast with the GOP-controlled Senate, which voted to elevate Judge Brett Kavanaugh to the US Supreme Court despite credible allegations of sexual misconduct. But while we ponder questions big and small about the problem of sexual misconduct and how to deal with it, courts continue the everyday work of hearing sexual harassment cases. In a recent case, EEOC v. Favorite Farms, Inc., a federal district court in Florida did exactly that, refusing to grant an employer’s motion for summary judgment in a workplace rape case that deserves a full trial on the merits.
The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) recently announced how the #MeToo movement has impacted its enforcement efforts, which has implications across the country and particularly in corporate America.
Not surprisingly, the heightened awareness about sexual harassment-including what constitutes harassment and the harm it inflicts-generated by the #MeToo campaign has resulted in the EEOC filing "a 50% increase in suits challenging sexual harassment over FY 2017." More broadly, the total number of EEOC Charges of Discrimination alleging sexual harassment increased by about 12% from last year, and the EEOC found reasonable cause to believe discrimination had occurred in nearly 20% more charges in 2018 than in 2017.
Allyson Hobbs, One Year of #MeToo: The Legacy of Black Women's Testimonies, New Yorker
We can create a more inclusive narrative. As the legal scholar Kimberlé Crenshaw recently argued, “black feminist frameworks have been doing the hard work of building the social justice movements that race-only or gender-only frames cannot.” To do better by all women, we must listen and recognize the historical and contemporary circumstances that shape their experiences and have real consequences on their lives. The historian Elsa Barkley Brown has written, “We have still to recognize that being a woman is, in fact, not extractable from the context in which one is a woman—that is, race, class, time, and place.”
The House and the Senate passed two different bills earlier this year—but months after those votes, lawmakers are doubtful that they can reconcile the two pieces of legislation before the midterm elections.
“Here on Thursday, there is this very high-profile hearing and questions of sexual harassment, and yet Congress is allowing this bill to deal with sexual harassment in Congress [to languish],” said Meredith McGehee, the executive director at Issue One, a government watchdog group that advocates for stronger ethics laws.
Sen. Roy Blunt (R-MO), who along with Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) is overseeing the process of reconciling the House and Senate versions, predicted that the effort would not be completed before the midterm elections.
“[The] discussion continues to be active,” he told The Daily Beast. “I think we’ll get this done, but I do not think we’ll get it done before the election.”
Tuesday, August 14, 2018
The documentary "RBG," co-produced by CNN, has made $13.5 million at the box office, according to comScore, and will be broadcast next month on the network. Oscar nominee Felicity Jones will play her in a feature film, "On the Basis of Sex," in December.The justice said recently that she hopes to stay on the Supreme Court at least five more years, when she'll be 90. She has survived two bouts with cancer, colorectal in 1999 and pancreatic in 2009.Ginsburg's celebrity might not have been predicted when President Bill Clinton chose her for the high court in summer 1993. Then a 60-year-old federal appellate judge, she was not Clinton's first choice. He was looking for a flashier appointee and initially tried to woo former New York Gov. Mario Cuomo to the bench.Ginsburg, with her large-rimmed glasses, hair tied back in a short ponytail, presented the picture of seriousness. She spoke of taking "measured motions" as a jurist. Supporters portrayed her as a night owl who spent hours hunched over law books and legal briefs, tepid coffee and prunes at hand. Her daughter created a little book titled "Mommy Laughed," chronicling the few times it happened.Once on the Supreme Court, Ginsburg was a sharp questioner and meticulous opinion-writer. She leaned in but without the attention-getting style of the first female justice, Sandra Day O'Connor, or gregarious longtime pal Antonin Scalia.She was hardly a liberal in the mode of contemporary justices on the left: William Brennan, Thurgood Marshall or Harry Blackmun. But as the court changed over the years and became more conservative with each retirement, she found herself carrying the banner for the left.
Thursday, July 26, 2018
Absolutely cannot wait for this. (Coming in December). So cool that the costumes (at least in the trailer) closely align with the archival photos.
Jones plays the iconic Supreme Court justice in the upcoming film based on RBG’s life, “On the Basis of Sex.” A new trailer for the film follows a young Ginsburg as she starts law school at Harvard, where she was only one of nine other female students in her class.
“Protests are important, but changing the culture means nothing if the law doesn’t change,” Ginsburg says to political activist and fellow lawyer Dorothy Kenyon (Kathy Bates) in the trailer.
"On the Basis of Sex" Trailer: Can Felicity Jones Handle Ruth Bader Ginsburg's Accent?" [sic the NYT's headline snark]
A biopic of the Supreme Court justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg could hardly seem timelier, given the current headlines about President Donald J. Trump’s new nominee for the high court, Brett Kavanaugh, as well as the surprise box-office success of the recent documentary “RBG.” But based on the first trailer for “On the Basis of Sex,” fictionalization may prove stranger than truth in this case.
For two years, Natalie Portman was slated to play Justice Ginsburg, but dropped out in 2017, only to be replaced by Felicity Jones. Ms. Jones was born in Birmingham, England, and initial impressions indicate she may not have nailed Ms. Ginsberg’s distinctive Brooklyn accent.
Tuesday, June 19, 2018
Leading Law Scholars on MeToo and Sexual Harassment Law in Joint Collaboration of Yale and Stanford Law Reviews
The #MeToo movement has prompted a national dialogue about sexual harassment. This Companion Collection, launched in collaboration with the Stanford Law Review, aims to draw lessons from the #MeToo movement for activists, scholars, policymakers, lawyers, and judges. Across the two journals, the Collection offers twelve scholars’ insights on the ways sexual harassment produces and is produced by broader forms of inequality. Companion Essays can be found at the Stanford Law Review Online.
Articles in Yale Law Journal
Vicki Schultz, Reconceptualizing Sexual Harassment, Again
The #MeToo movement has spurred a renewed focus on sexual harassment. But often, the narratives that emerge overemphasize sexualized forms of harassment at the expense of broader structural causes. This Essay builds on Schultz's previous work to explore those institutional drivers of harassment.
Brian Soucek, Queering Sexual Harassment Law
Rachel Arnow-Richman, Of Power and Process: Handling Harassers in an At-Will World
Angela Onwuachi-Willig, What About #UsToo?: The Invisibility of Race in the #MeToo Movement
Tristin K. Green, Was Sexual Harassment Law a Mistake? The Stories We Tell
Essays in Stanford Law Review
Sunday, June 17, 2018
The messaging isn’t subtle, either. Some cards are very clear about which parent is considered more important. “Happy Mother’s Day to a woman who does it all!,” read one card. “You work. You cook. You clean. You nurture … You crazy?!” But the woman on the inside of the card has a happy enough expression, even though each of her limbs is engaged in a different task. A month later I found a Father’s Day card that said: “Father’s Day is in June … Because about a month after Mother’s Day, somebody went ‘Hey, wait a minute!’” (In reality, it took much longer. President Woodrow Wilson declared Mother’s Day a national U.S. holiday in 1914; it wasn’t until 1972 that President Nixon made Father’s Day official.)
A more scientific study of the themes of Mother’s and Father’s Day cards looked at a batch in 2010. The researchers, Carol Auster and Lisa Auster-Gussman (who, fittingly, are mother and daughter) came to this conclusion: “Ritualized holidays tend to support the status quo, and traditional ideologies of motherhood and fatherhood,” of mothers as nurturers, and fathers as providing more utilitarian support. “The portrayal of motherhood and fatherhood on the greeting cards is important because these cards may act as agents of socialization, shaping individuals’ perceptions, regardless of whether the cards reflect the reality of parenting,” the study goes on to say....
In terms of content, Father’s Day cards emphasized supporting the family economically, imparting practical lessons, and being the best—far more “Number One Dad” or “Best Dad Ever” sort of cards than mothers had. “It was like they needed an award, but there wasn’t a lot of depth in what they were achieving,” says Auster-Gussman, a doctoral candidate in social psychology at the University of Minnesota.
In contrast, Mother’s Day cards focused a lot more on what the mothers were doing for their children. The cards in the study that mentioned “the little things you do” were, without exception, Mother’s Day cards, and cards that talked about making a child feel loved were much more likely to be for moms, too.
Monday, June 11, 2018
Call for Papers
Conference: “The Uses and Abuses of History in the Trump Era”
Rochester Institute of Technology, Rochester, NY
March 28-29, 2019
“The very concept of objective truth is fading out of the world. Lies will pass into history.” –George Orwell
Scholars, artists, and writers are invited to submit proposals for presentations at this interdisciplinary conference.
The past is infinitely productive as a deep well of symbolic persuasion. Political actors dip into the well for inspirational tales of heroes and cautionary tales of reprobates and failed experiments. Evocations of the past insinuate messages of belonging, the contours of the polity, values, and leadership.
During the 2016 US presidential campaign, the candidates harnessed public memory to gain support. While Hillary Clinton aligned herself with the suffragists as she aimed to become the country’s first female president nearly a century after women gained the right to vote, Donald Trump’s “Make America Great Again” stirred up nostalgic visions of hope for white, working-class male prosperity and pride.
Since the election, the historical imagination has been pushed into overdrive, as a highly polarized electorate aims to promote its vision of the nation’s future, often by asserting certain narratives about the past. Examples can be seen in debates about the racism of famous suffragists, the statues of confederate soldiers, a portrait of Andrew Jackson in the Oval Office, “Pocahontas” as a slur, Harriett Tubman’s image on the $20 bill, the flag as a symbol of “our heritage,” “chain migration” and “anchor babies,” whether the country is a “nation of immigrants,” and whether it was “founded on Judeo-Christian principles.”
This conference celebrates the publication of and features work by contributors to the interdisciplinary volume, Nasty Women and Bad Hombres: Gender and Race in the 2016 US Presidential Election (Christine A. Kray, Tamar W. Carroll, and Hinda Mandell, eds., University of Rochester Press, forthcoming October 2018). While the book sits at the heart of the conference, we also call upon scholars, artists and writers to present new works related to the conference themes.
We seek presentations that: analyze recent evocations of the past in national political discourse, offer correctives of such representations, and/or situate contemporary developments in historical context.
Possible areas of investigation include (but are not limited to):
- Critical analyses of heritage, tradition, nostalgia, commemoration, and politics
- “Alternative facts” and alternative histories
- The historical role of news media in U.S. politics and charges of “fake news”
- Social media, popular media, and national politics
- Stephen Bannon’s historical vision
- History and nationalism, including the global resurgence of nationalism and the history and contemporary expressions of White nationalism in the U.S.
- Men’s movements and the alt-right
- S.-Russia relations
- Policymaking, including environmental, industrial, and trade; “Bring back coal”; “Bring back manufacturing”
- Religious histories and histories of religion in U.S. politics
- Contemporary social movements, including #BlackLivesMatter, #NoDAPL, #MeToo, #NeverAgain, and the Women’s Marches
- Histories of resistance and history-within-resistance; creativity and history in art, craft, dance, and song
- Suffragist history and “pro-life feminism”
- The occupation at Standing Rock and symbols of sovereignty; Right by prior occupation: indigenous sovereignty and Zionism, compared
- Immigration policy and race relations; “genealogical activism” and #ResistanceGenealogy; Rep. Steve King (R-IA): “We cannot restore our civilization with somebody else’s babies.”
- Post-election memoirs and public memory of the 2016 presidential election
- The historical significance of women running for election in the 2018 midterms
- The right, the left, and the FBI
- Kanye West on Harriet Tubman and slavery as a “choice”
- Public anthropology, public history, and national politics
Abstracts of 300-500 words should be sent to Christine Kray: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Deadline for submission of abstracts: Sept. 1, 2018
Accepted presenters will be notified by Sept. 15, 2018
Questions? Contact the conference organizers:
Christine A. Kray, Department of Sociology & Anthropology, Rochester Institute of Technology, email@example.com
Tamar W. Carroll, Department of History, Rochester Institute of Technology, firstname.lastname@example.org
Conference participants will have the option of participating in a tour of the Susan B. Anthony Museum and House and a trip to the Mount Hope Cemetery to visit the graves of Frederick Douglass and Susan B. Anthony. The conference will also feature a showing of “Election Day 2016,” a documentary film about the convergence on Susan B. Anthony’s grave in 2016.
A nominal registration fee for conference presenters will cover all meals. Information about hotel group rates, directions, parking, and tours is forthcoming. All conference rooms will be equipped with projector, screen, Internet connection, and microphone. Sign-language interpreters are available upon request, subject to availability.
Conference website: https://www.rit.edu/cla/socanthro/conference-uses-and-abuses-history-trump-era
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."