I live in one of the wealthiest neighborhoods in the country, but on one of the more “modest” streets — mostly doctors and lawyers and family business owners. (A few blocks away are billionaires, families with famous last names, media moguls, etc.) I have noticed that on Halloween, what seems like 75 percent of the trick-or-treaters are clearly not from this neighborhood. Kids arrive in overflowing cars from less fortunate areas. I feel this is inappropriate. Halloween isn’t a social service or a charity in which I have to buy candy for less fortunate children. Obviously this makes me feel like a terrible person, because what’s the big deal about making less fortunate kids happy on a holiday? But it just bugs me, because we already pay more than enough taxes toward actual social services. Should Halloween be a neighborhood activity, or is it legitimately a free-for-all in which people hunt down the best candy grounds for their kids?
— Halloween for the 99 Percent
I KNOW, RIGHT? You work so hard to live in a million-dollar neighborhood and pass out Halloween candy to the kids of billionaires and media moguls. And then poor kids invade by the minivan-load in costumes that are clearly not from this neighborhood, so you’re stuck handing out charity candy when you already pay more than enough taxes toward actual social services. Is there no trick-or-treating in prisons and poorhouses?
Obviously, this makes me feel like a terrible person[.]
Prudence agrees with me.
In the urban neighborhood where I used to live, families who were not from the immediate area would come in fairly large groups to trick-or-treat on our streets, which were safe, well-lit, and full of people overstocked with candy. It was delightful to see the little mermaids, spider-men, ghosts, and the occasional axe murderer excitedly run up and down our front steps, having the time of their lives. So we’d spend an extra $20 to make sure we had enough candy for kids who weren’t as fortunate as ours. There you are, 99, on the impoverished side of Greenwich or Beverly Hills, with the other struggling lawyers, doctors, and business owners. Your whine makes me kind of wish that people from the actual poor side of town come this year not with scary costumes but with real pitchforks. Stop being callous and miserly and go to Costco, you cheapskate, and get enough candy to fill the bags of the kids who come one day a year to marvel at how the 1 percent live.
Ann Patchett got married and divorced young. To her second husband, she said: "I'll be true, I'll be faithful ... but I don't want to live together." Her book is This Is The Story of a Happy Marriage.
It seems that conservatives are determined to quash the millennial vote before the midterms next month: they’ve moved polling places off college campuses, introduced unnecessarily strict voter ID laws and now they’re advising young women to skip the polls and “go back on Tinder or Match.com.”
In a segment of Fox News’ “The Five” earlier this week, co-host Kimberly Guilfoyle opined about why young women should be “excused” from voting, saying they’re uninformed:
It’s the same reason why young women on juries are not a good idea. They don’t get it! [They don't have the] life experience of paying the bills, doing the mortgage, kids, community, crime, education, health care. They’re healthy and hot and running around without a care in the world. … [They should be excused] so they can go back on Tinder or Match.com.
On a later segment, she clarified her comments but offered no apology:
I take the right to vote seriously. I take the right to serve on a jury very seriously. And I think you should be informed when you do both things. … [Media Matters] made that headline and then liberal media ran with it and used the headline that they manufactured even though there was not one iota of truth in it.
Watch the original clip below and decide for yourself what Guilfoyle was trying to say.
It’s no wonder conservatives are on the offensive: The millennial vote is crucial for Democrats. Young people typically vote progressively and were instrumental in electing President Obama in 2008 and 2012. Reproductive care, marriage equality and immigration are among the hot-button issues for millennials who tend to see their values more accurately reflected in Democratic candidates’ platforms. If you’re not capturing the youth vote, you have good reason to be a little scared—young people have power and they’re not afraid to use it.
See you at the polls next week, young women!
Stephanie Hallett is research editor at Ms. Follow her on Twitter @stephhallett.
This article is reprinted with permission from The Belle Jar.
Earlier this week, FCKH8 released a video called F-Bombs for Feminism: Potty-Mouthed Princesses Use Bad Word for Good Cause that quickly went viral, and has been shared hundreds of thousands of times on Facebook alone. This isn’t surprising—it’s a video designed to hit that marketing sweet spot where people are equal parts outraged, delighted and just plain not sure what to think. I’d be willing to bet that this video has had nearly as many hate-shares and “is this offensive?” shares as it has people posting it because they think it’s great.
FCKH8’s video is carefully calculated to appeal to a certain type of young, hip feminist (as well as being designed to cause offence and outrage among right-wing conservatives). It starts out with a bunch of sweet little girls wearing princess costumes striking stereotypically cute poses and simpering “pretty” at the camera. Then there’s a record scratch, and suddenly the girls are throwing out cuss words left, right and centre: “What the fuck? I’m not some pretty fuckin’ helpless princess in distress. I’m pretty fuckin’ powerful and ready for success. So what is more offensive? A little girl saying ‘fuck,’ or the fucking unequal and sexist way society treats girls and women?”
The video then has the sweet, princessified little girls tackle a bunch of feminist issues, namely the pay gap, violence against women and sexual assault—all while swearing up a storm, of course. What FCKH8 wants you to take away from this is that society feels more uncomfortable about cute little girls saying the word fuck than it does about the very real issues faced by women on a daily basis. Instead, what I see is a video that relies on the shock value of girls in princess costumes cussing and talking about rape in order to increase its shareability.
First of all, let’s get one thing straight: this video is not some kind of PSA, it’s an advertisement. FCKH8 is a for-profit t-shirt company—emphasis on the profit—that has put together an exploitative and manipulative two-minute-and-35-second commercial for t-shirts. And while FCKH8 asserts that all of this is “for a good cause” (they’ve promised to donate $5 from each t-shirt sale to as-yet-undisclosed organizations) the only cause that’s being promoted by this video is their bank account.
There is nothing feminist about using little girls as props in order to sell t-shirts—in fact, I would argue that this is the opposite of feminism. There is nothing feminist about exploiting a bunch of little girls by having them swear and talk about rape statistics just so that FCKH8 can make a quick buck. There is nothing feminist about creating an association between potty-mouthed little kids and social justice—and that’s not a slight against potty-mouths, because I fucking love swearing. But rather a statement on the fact that this video plays into a lot of the negative stereotypes that people already have about feminism.
On top of all that, there is for sure nothing feminist about having girls as young as six years old discussing rape and sexual assault; I would hope that at that age, most kids have never even heard the word rape, let alone had to recite facts about it for an audience of thousands, maybe even millions. I feel sick that these children are being taught about subjects like rape just so that a t-shirt company can make a provocative advertisement. The point that especially crosses the line between “this is problematic” and “I want to flip a table” is the moment where the five little girls spout off the statistic that one in five women will be raped in their lifetime, and then ask which of them it will be. Having a little girl demand to know if she’ll be raped just so that you can sell a few shirts is so far beyond the realm of what should be acceptable that I have no words for it.
This is not how we protect our children. This is not how we empower girls. Forcing a child to ask an audience of adults if she’ll someday become a rape statistic so that your company can line its pockets with cash is definitely not the way to practice social justice.
This isn’t the first time that FCKH8 has done this kind of thing either: They recently came under fire after they exploited the events in Ferguson in order to sell “anti-racism gear.” As with the f-bomb princess video, the Ferguson video featured a bunch of children rattling off facts about racism before promising to donate a portion of each t-shirt sale to some unspecified charity. This is their business model, apparently: take something that people care deeply about, commodify it, and then make money. As a strategy, it’s slick and smart as hell. It’s also pretty unethical.
Feminism isn’t a commodity that can be bought and sold. Rape statistics should not be used as a sales tactic. Children do not exist to be used as provocateurs in manipulative advertisement campaigns for clothing.
It would be really great if FCKH8 would realize that using little girls as shock-value props in their t-shirt commercial is not feminist in any sense of the word. No little kid should have to wonder aloud whether or not they’ll be raped one day, and especially not just so some grownup can make money.
Some 90,000 women in Pennsylvania could lose family planning health-care coverage next year if the state government does not continue its unqiue Medicaid program.
In Pennsylvania, a state-run health-care program called SelectPlan provides free family planning services, including birth control, sexually transmitted infection testing and treatment, and routine checkups, to women ages 18-44 and with incomes up to 214 percent of the federal poverty level.
But the program is set to expire at the end of this year, leaving those receiving benefits from the program without coverage.
Republican Gov. Tom Corbett opted out of expanding Medicaid coverage under the Affordable Care Act, instead expanding coverage through a program called Healthy PA, which will use federal money to subsidize private insurance plans for some of the state’s low-income residents.
Corbett also reformed the state’s Medicaid plans offered by slashing benefits.
Many of the women receiving coverage through SelectPlan will likely be eligible for subsidies through Healthy PA, and those who aren’t will need to apply for private insurance through the Affordable Care Act’s online insurance exchanges.
Advocacy groups in the state are asking the state Department of Public Welfare to automatically transition SelectPlan recipients who are eligible for Healthy PA into the new system, so that there is no gap in their coverage.
For now, women will have to apply for new coverage after their benefits expire in January.
The fate of Healthy PA is also unclear, as Democrat Tom Wolf vies for Corbett’s governor’s seat. Wolf has said he will expand Medicaid eligibility, though if he were to win the election, the Healthy PA program would already be well underway.
Wolf has maintained a comfortable lead in the polls.
The post Women at Risk of Losing Crucial Family Planning Health Coverage in Pennsylvania appeared first on RH Reality Check.
As someone who has always been a sucker for historical fiction in television (The Tudors, anyone?), I couldn’t help but be drawn in when a friend put me on to CW’s Reign, a fictionalized teen drama that follows the early life of Mary, Queen of Scots in the 16th century.
I quickly came to appreciate the show for its portrayals of complex women characters, especially in a starkly patriarchal era when prospects for women were bleak. Mary was independent-minded at a time when that was unacceptable, and she refused to be silenced by sexist social mores. I’m grateful for a TV show that brings her story to life. TV can always use more shows for teens featuring empowered women protagonists, and Reign even passes the Bechdel Test.
Reign has built up a very vocal fandom among its young (and older) women viewers, with Tumblrs and Twitter feeds dedicated to discussing all things Reign. So when a major spoiler leaked that Mary, played by Adelaide Kane, would be violently raped in an upcoming episode—seemingly just to advance a subplot—the backlash was immediate. Devotees of Reign, who identify themselves as “Royals,” voiced their outrage and disappointment at such a sensationalist plot twist, feeling it would only serve to erase Mary’s autonomy:
Several fans even launched an online petition urging for the script to be rewritten and for the rape episode to never air. As of right now, the petition has surpassed its original goal of 1,000 signatures. It reads:
In a show where so many characters and their stories vie for screen time, there is almost no way of treating this issue with the sensitivity and gravity that it deserves. To reduce it to something that serves as a plot device … is irresponsible and disrespectful to those many women whose lives have been devastated by sexual assault.
Reign fan Anne Theriault opined in her feminist blog, The Belle Jar:
Rape as a plot device is a lazy way to show a strong woman’s “vulnerability,”… to take female characters down a peg, to put them in their place, to force them to rely on men for protection. … I am disgusted that the writers and producers of Reign would use sexual assault to somehow drive the arc of the show forward or reshape Mary’s character. There is absolutely no reason to show Mary being violently raped.
Reign has already proven that it doesn’t handle sexual assault with the carefulness such a topic merits. In an early episode of the first season, Catherine de’ Medici, the Queen of France and Mary’s nemesis, reveals that she was gang-raped in her youth while being held hostage by soldiers. The only purpose of this bombshell seemed to be courting compassion and intrigue for Catherine’s cold-hearted character, because the rape is merely touched on at the end of the episode and then never explored again. Rape isn’t something that can be wrapped up nicely in a character arc; it haunts women for the rest of their lives.
Story lines involving rape are nothing new; they seem to be a popular go-to for moving plots along. Many of the dramas popular now employ this strategy: Game of Thrones, Scandal, Downton Abbey, House of Cards, Revenge, the list goes on. Not to mention that there is almost always an eroticism played out in these rape scenes, thus fetishizing sexual violence.
In these shows, rape is rarely used as a platform to discuss sexual assault in a critical and thought-provoking way. Shows like Veronica Mars or Law and Order: SVU have been much better in dealing with rape culture and the larger social context of sexual assault, but they are rare.
If rape is used primarily to move a story along or explain a woman character’s “complexity,” it can desensitize the audience to real-life sexual violence—a crime that affects one in six American women. Mary is a nuanced and compelling character already; she doesn’t need rape to make her more “interesting.” The use of rape tropes, while sometimes dramatically appropriate, too often exploit women’s pain and dismantle their agency for the sake of shock value.
Anita Little is the associate editor at Ms. magazine. Follow her on Twitter.
Iowa State Sen. Joni Ernst (R-Red Oak), candidate for U.S. Senate, has quickly become a national figure by making outlandish statements that appeal to the far right, including comments charging that she would use a gun to defend herself “from the government.”
“I have a beautiful little Smith & Wesson, 9 millimeter, and it goes with me virtually everywhere,” Ernst reportedly said in 2012 at the NRA and Iowa Firearms Coalition Second Amendment Rally in Searsboro, Iowa. “But I do believe in the right to carry, and I believe in the right to defend myself and my family—whether it’s from an intruder, or whether it’s from the government, should they decide that my rights are no longer important.”
Other attention-grabbing statements Ernst has made include support for legislation that would allow “local law enforcement to arrest federal officials attempting to implement” the Affordable Care Act (ACA), voicing supporting for the fringe “nullification” theory that says states could ignore laws passed by Congress, and calling President Obama a “dictator” who should “face the consequences,” including impeachment.
Iowa’s senate battle has become one of the most important—if not the most important—contest in the 2014 midterm elections.
Ernst’s support for “personhood” legislation, which would grant full legal protections to an embryo from the moment of conception, has become a campaign issue. After backtracking on her support for the radical “personhood” measure, Ernst recently changed course and forcefully supported the position during an interview with the Sioux City Journal editorial board.
Allegations have surfaced that Ernst witnessed male colleagues sexually harass a female employee while she was serving in the Iowa Senate and “did and said” nothing to stop the abuse. The claim comes from a lawsuit filed by a former Republican senate staffer, according to reporting by Mother Jones.
The lawsuit does not name Ernst as a defendant.
Ernst has not answered questions, according to reports, about the allegation or any of the other controversial statements she reportedly made. She cancelled her endorsement interview with the editorial board of the Des Moines Register on Thursday, and also snubbed meetings with other Iowa papers, including the Cedar Rapids Gazette and the Dubuque Telegraph-Herald.
Ernst campaign spokeswoman Gretchen Hamel released a statement blaming the Des Moines Register’s perceived bias as the reason for the cancellation: “Recent editorials in the Des Moines Register make their position in this race perfectly clear, and it’s one that many voters across our state seem to disagree with. With less than 12 days to go, time is precious and Joni wants to spend every minute talking to undecided voters, hearing their concerns, and demonstrating why we need a change in Washington.”
Control of the U.S. Senate could come down to a few increasingly close races in traditionally red states such as Kansas, Georgia, and Iowa. The election forecasters at FiveThirtyEight are predicting that Iowa will be a “key” factor in determining if the Republicans can gain control of the Senate.
Ernst holds a two-point advantage over her Democratic opponent, U.S. Rep. Bruce Braley, according to the latest Quinnipiac University poll released Thursday.
The direction the 4 percent of undecided voters break in the last week of the campaign may have a significant impact on determining who wins the Iowa race and, ultimately, which party controls the Senate come 2015.
Image: Joni Ernst / YouTube
The post Iowa Senate Candidate Ernst Has an Ever-Growing List of Controversial Statements appeared first on RH Reality Check.
Here’s the news on our radar today:
• Take note, U.S. cable news: the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation’s level-headed, fact-based coverage of this week's shooting in Ottawa is earning widespread acclaim. [Mother Jones]
Earning honors for fiction, nonfiction and young children's literature, respectively, the writers are the first to win the award. Also: The Bronx's bookstore returns, while the U.K. shows off doodles.
Most of you probably know how much I love a planner. A system. A tool for to-do lists and things to remember and generally an off-site back-up brain storage unit. And I’ve tried everything from scraps of paper to small spiral note pads in my purse to the Franklin system to online apps like Wunderlist and Toodledoo.
Different ways have worked for me at different points in my life. I started using… oh, I think it was At-a-Glance brand, when I was in college and was working at the same time. I kept that up until I was managing a big bookstore, and a co-worker showed me her Franklin planner, and I loved that and fell into its bindery planning system for a few years. That turned out to be what they also used at the Enginerding company so I kept using it. When we opened the yarn store I needed something that was both bigger and smaller than that and a friend recommended Planner Pads. I wish that layout still worked for me because I liked that system. But at that point I also started to need something that was in all my places every time I was there, and a physical planner wasn’t cutting it — it’s not like I wanted to carry it with me when I went out to dinner, but invariably at dinner someone would ask me about placing an order, and there’s no way after three mojitos I was going to remember that. So I started looking for online things because then I’d have it on my laptop for home and work, and could reach it on my phone if I wasn’t in either of those two places… and went through five or six of them before settling on Toodledo as my primary go-to planner/listmaker.
But do you know what I miss? ACTUALLY SEEING THINGS IN FRONT OF ME. Technology is great, but an online to-do list isn’t going to do get you to do shit if you don’t click that bookmark button and look at it. Oh, hey; it turns out I already wrote about most of this late last year: Get Shit Done. And do you know what’s been working out fantastic for me? THAT SYSTEM. A spiral notebook, a calender, and an online thing I can access wherever I am so I can take notes about what people want to order. But as I’ve been reading about The Bullet Journal, and spending far too much time on Pinterest looking to see how people use planner systems, I’ve made some changes to what my pages look like.
Here’s a closeup of a couple of weeks ago. This would have been a busy week just by itself, because there are a lot of alarms I have to set for yarn dyeing weeks that keep me on track of what stage the dyeing is in. That’s also the week my hard drive fried, and I had to take the desktop to Best Buy, tried to get by on a glacially old computer, and was saved by mom buying me a laptop to get me through (that I’m still using, and writing this on, because my fried computer isn’t back to me yet). And I got yarn club out, which meant about a day and half of solid, focus-only-on-yarn-club work. At one point Tim told me some troubling news from the bank (that has since been fixed) and I just stared at him and said, “I have to type in 47 addresses today and not fuck any of them up. That’s all I have room for in my brain. I can’t worry about this until after I get back from the post office.” And I had a vet appointment. And a doctors appointment. And have a lot of stuff I didn’t finish. And yet, still, I survived the week. (Although in truth, I might still be a little shellshocked.)
ANYWAY. The planner. I hope this size photo doesn’t break the sidebar. Personally I like a graph paper notebook; should you be looking into this, YMMV.
(Business card really isn’t a shout-out, it’s just covering some financial information. But hey, if you want to check out my shop….?)
I’m not even going to try to pretend I did everything that was on my list that week. You can clearly see that there are things I didn’t check off. If you’re curious enough to look at the link to my previous blog post, you can see that was a yarn week as well. I’ve made some structural changes to the pages that have improved my flow a bit.
You’re probably asking… why. Why write this all out by hand? If I can’t find a published planner formatted the way I want, couldn’t I at least do all this in an Excel spreadsheet and print it out? Well. Sure. But then I’d have to find a hole puncher and a binder. And I’d have to redo it in Excel every time I changed a little something that I can just white out in the planner. And there’s something about… hmm. There’s something about doing this all by hand, analog style, that makes me feel more responsible for it. Makes me feel like I’m not just clicking a check-box on an online list, saying that I did something just to clear the screen.
Days of the Week I’ve discovered my magic number. The magic number of things I can have on my list of things to do that day that give a nice balance between “I feel productive” and “I feel overwhelmed” is five. Five things. I used to just leave five rows, but could FIT up to maybe 20 things on those five rows if I wrote really tiny — it was both scary and liberating to start using half the page so I can only put five things on there. Scary because “what if I don’t get everything finished” and liberating because “holy shit I don’t have to try to do twenty things today”.
BLD Breakfast/Lunch/Dinner. Because my wacky doctor wants to know what I eat, and even though I’ve tried to type that shit into an online app that I can then take in on my tablet and show her, I’m horrible at recording it. This week was so busy I was eating on the fly a lot, and I forgot to write a lot of it down. This is probably the section of the planner I think works worst.
Every Damn Day Shit to do, every day. Walk the dogs. Clean the cat boxes. Stuff that yes; I could use the repeating scheduler in Toodledo and check off a box every day, but I feel more responsible towards not checking a box I hand wrote and am more likely to try to do better, make more time for it, next week. It also helps me, to have these things to do EVERY day, to keep my daily five-things in check. I would be more likely to pile things on to a particular day without chores staring me in the face at the same time. The only downside of this layout is that sometimes I do things but forget if I’ve done them – if you water the plants every day, what stands out about them? If I forget to check it off and can’t remember if I did that or not…. do I check it off anyway?
Overall This Week Things that I should get done at some point that week, but that don’t necessarily have to happen on a specific day. This is great for days when I finish my five things but still have time left in my work day.
Notes for This Week Exactly what it says on the tin. Notes from that week. Phone calls, custom orders placed, things I think of and want to research later.
Pinterest A list of things from my site that I need to pin something from, on specific days, because I’m in this creative business group and Pinterest is a big part of it. Also if I don’t, I’ll forget to pin something from my own site, which is kind of the point of me having switched to a business account.
HaldeCraft Images Sort of like the Pinterest list, it’s to remind me at some point that week to change out the photos on the sidebar here, the banner on my website, etc. etc. I have this to do every week, but don’t feel completely beholden to it weekly. Every other week is fine. If I had something else that I did every other week, I’d switch out this list for the other one on alternate weeks.
Week dates and work subject The dates that week, and what my subject is. The subject-by-week is still working out well for me; much better than trying to divide up a week into four different subjects. I’m still not finishing everything as fast as I want, but I don’t feel like I’m being pulled in a thousand different directions — it’s easier to say, “well, I wouldn’t be working on that this week anyway.”
I’m using Google Keep right now for shopping lists, because it will sync to my phone so that when I’m out shopping, I actually remember — I’d love to use post-its, but have a tendency to either leave them by the desk (not helpful) or forget them in the car (also not helpful). And unless I’m going somewhere work-related, like Fiber-In, I leave my planner at home. I’ve been trying to get more concrete about telling people, when they ask for custom orders at dinner, that they need to email me. I try to be honest — it’s not them, it’s me, there’s no way I’m going to remember. Sometimes they even do email me. If they don’t… I shrug. Lost orders make me sad, but not sad enough to give up on guarding the hour a day I don’t NEED to be working.
Lizzie Fierro is a high schooler in Austin, Texas, and is one of RH Reality Check‘s youth voices.
Enter “scientist” on any Internet image search engine. I’ll wait.
Now try “engineer.” And “mathematician,” too.
What do the most popular results have in common? Notice anything strange?
Most of the people in the photos are middle-aged. Some of the images, particularly those of mathematicians, are simply faded black-and-white photos of long-deceased historical figures. The subjects are also, unsurprisingly, usually white.
And women consistently make up less than one-quarter of the first 16 results.
A Widening Gulf
Unfortunately, these search results are indicative of the typical gender disparity in real-world science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) careers. The National Girls Collaborative Project reports, for instance, that women make up about 22 percent of chemical engineers in the American workforce—the highest number in all of the engineering fields. By contrast, only 5.5 percent of mechanical engineers are women. Meanwhile, according to the president of the Anita Borg Institute for Women and Technology, Telle Whitney, only 20-to-23 percent of Silicon Valley tech workers are women.
And even when women do enter these typically high-paying industries, they often suffer from prejudice surrounding hiring and wage practices. For example, the National Academy of Sciences found in 2012 that faculty members hiring for a lab manager position rated men applicants more favorably than women ones, despite the women having the exact same credentials. In addition, the mean starting salary offered to the men was more than $3,500 higher than that offered to the women.
Clearly, women interested in pursuing STEM careers face numerous obstacles on a systemic level. However, they must also confront biases in individual relationships too. Although boys and girls show equal interest in STEM subjects until about the sixth to eighth grade, those numbers begin to tilt with age in favor of boys. This suggests that attitudes from teachers, parents, other authority figures, and even peers can contribute to this imbalance as early as primary school. Fortunately, with education and awareness, adults can help foster girls’ participation in STEM subjects by taking steps to increase their confidence and break down gender stereotypes—and, in turn, create a more equal workforce in the future.
I work at a children’s science museum, where every employee orientation includes the same search-engine activity presented at the beginning of this piece. As staff members, we discuss what it means to be a scientist, an engineer, or a mathematician, and how the pervasive, sexist stereotypes of each can affect children in American society.
The stereotypes of what STEM professionals “should” look like are so ingrained into our culture that most parents don’t even notice the differences in how they treat their sons and daughters. When the entire world looks a lot like those search-engine results to parents, they can often either consciously or subconsciously reproduce the same social norms in their children. So, in turn, girls who may be just as passionate about dissecting a squid or engineering a paper rocket as boys may eventually begin to confine themselves to explorations of history or literature instead. Of course, not all parents are overtly sexist toward their daughters’ interests in STEM subjects. But even those who fail to support young girls’ expressed curiosity about science or math contribute to a social dynamic that teaches young girls to pursue other topics.
While subjects like history or art are certainly noble pursuits, as a gallery educator at the museum whose job consists of facilitating activities and interpreting exhibits, I only had to see parents nudge their daughters toward a craft project over a science experiment two or three times to realize that women’s unequal participation in STEM subjects is a logical consequence of an entire childhood of conditioning. And as a result, I spend a lot of time thinking about how to minimize these microaggressions and close the gap between men and women in STEM subjects.
The museum makes heroic efforts toward such a goal: We offer girls-only engineering camps, sponsor events designed to introduce girls to STEM career prospects, and train all employees to recognize the sexism that pervades the scientific field and the early age that it begins. Officials also teach staff members ways to engage girls during museum-hosted activities. Simply valuing their ideas and allowing them the freedom to work on projects about STEM topics at their own pace can do wonders for girls’ enthusiasm; providing a safe environment in which adults prioritize their daughter’s explorations may greatly increase girls’ desire to pursue STEM subjects further.
However, when our students, who are generally 3-to-8 years old, leave the museum, they’ll continue to face ingrained misogyny from a number of fronts. Our anti-sexist efforts, after all, don’t continue in every household, and definitely not in every school. According to statistics compiled by the National Girls Collaborative Project, though female high school students take advanced math classes at similar rates to male students, those numbers plummet once young women reach university—suggesting that they face oppressive ideas as young girls and teenagers that emerge when they contemplate their future careers.
I see this trend taking place in my own life too. I’m still in high school, and each year that I take a more advanced math class, I see the number of girls enrolled dwindling. Meanwhile, my ability to relate to my men STEM teachers decreases, as does their support and encouragement toward me. For example, one instructor spent 20 minutes explaining a problem to a boy while telling me to look in the textbook about the same one; another teacher made assumptions about my future career path, presuming that I would not be interested in a STEM profession even though I’d never indicated a preference toward any particular field. These actions are subtle, but they still undermine the validity of my academic pursuits.
And I’m lucky, because I am passionate—about children, about equal opportunity, and about my own interest in math and science that I noticed shrinking as the people in my life began to guide me toward humanities. Not everyone has the same passion that I have. For that matter, many also do not have access to the information and strategies provided to me and my co-workers in our museum training. As such, a great number of people do not have the ability to combat microaggressions such as those pervading our homes and classrooms.
A Shift in the System
So we need awareness at a broader level. Those of us equipped with information about sexism in STEM need to teach the general public why girls should be encouraged to participate in STEM activities. We need these lessons to be consistently reinforced by adults in the children’s lives: parents, teachers, mentors, authority figures, and, of course, museum educators like me.
We must, too, put pressure on companies in the STEM industry to use their influence to battle sexism. Recently, Google invested $50 million in a coding education initiative for girls, Made With Code. This announcement came shortly after the company revealed that 83 percent of its tech employees are men.
Is 17 percent enough for a company with such reach? No. By making this disclosure and investing their money in this project, though, Google has acknowledged an issue that many companies refuse to touch on. Made With Code, aimed at high school girls, will not change the company’s employee ratio or the number of female professionals in STEM at Google. But the company is directing its initiative where the seed of interest takes root: youth. With hope, the girls of today will grow into the computer scientists—employed by Google and elsewhere—of tomorrow.
Working to abolish the attitudes and systems that make it difficult for girls to participate in STEM subjects early on will allow girls to gain more confidence and, eventually, higher leadership positions. Including more women may help to expose and resolve systems that are inherently sexist, such as the wage gap, or the practice of hiring men more often than women; it may also discourage sexist microaggressions in the workplace that discourage female applicants.
And having more women in STEM fields is important for the entire population, not just those in the industries. After all, men aren’t the only ones affected by policies enacted and popularized by science and technology. Increasing the participation of women in STEM careers, for example, would increase the pool of women experts available to rebut unscientific arguments often given by politicians to regulate abortion and contraception. Additionally, the current prejudiced idea that male subjects are the “average” in science would be expanded, which may help to make scientific research and discoveries safer for women. Recently, the National Institute of Health adopted policy that explicitly works toward the inclusion of females in scientific studies. We need more of this.
Perhaps if schools, individuals, and organizations across the country commit to combating misogyny, our scientists, our engineers, and our mathematicians will eventually defy the stereotype that even Google Images itself reinforces—proving that our STEM professionals do not have to be one age, one race, and certainly not one gender.
The post Sexism in STEM Starts Early—So We Must Combat It Early Too appeared first on RH Reality Check.
Reporter Giuseppe di Piazza's debut novel, The Four Corners of Palermo, follows an unnamed young reporter during the brutal early days of the mafia's conflict with the Italian government in the 1980s.
Being in New York, a state with a left-of-center reputation and laws that generally uphold reproductive rights, the city of Buffalo might not seem a natural fit for anti-abortion extremists.
But “pro-life” activism in the large upstate city is storied. Sixteen years ago, Dr. Barnett Slepian, then an abortion provider at Buffalo Womenservices in New York, was shot dead in his home by an anti-abortion sniper. Six years before Slepian’s murder, almost 200 protesters from around the country descended on the city, picketing and blocking access to abortion clinics, as part of Operation Rescue’s “The Spring of Life.”
During a similar anti-choice effort in the late 1980s, hundreds more were arrested.
“There is this history of hostility in Buffalo,” says Sally Heron, services coordinator and office manager of the Buffalo Womenservices, a health clinic that offers abortion and birthing services, along with other reproductive care, to women and queer people in upstate New York.
Decades later, four abortion providers serve the Buffalo area, including Womenservices. And while picketing has subsided over the past decade, Heron says there are still protesters in front of the clinic every day.
“We get this feeling that they own the space, the sidewalk in front of the clinic,” Heron told RH Reality Check. “It’s easy to feel frustrated by them taking up that space every day.”
Supporters of the clinic have wanted to fight back for a long time, but were waiting for a window of opportunity to take a stand. That moment came this week, when clinic staff found out that anti-choice leader Steve Karlen would be traveling to Buffalo to give a speech in front of protesters at the clinic.
Karlen was to arrive on behalf of 40 Days for Life, a nationally coordinated protest event against abortion in which anti-choice activists picket and hold vigils outside abortion clinics across the country. By the time Karlen was set to arrive, the protesters had already been stationed in front of Womenservices for more than three weeks.
Once Heron got word of Karlen’s arrival, she and a friend decided to organize a counter-protest, with the theme “circus disco”—the idea being that a lively protest could drown out the speaker and distract from the negative energy created by the usual picketers.
It worked: The next day, some 100 people streamed in front of Womenservices, dancing with fire poi and hoola hoops and cheering with reproductive rights banners.
Heron also says that the raucous, party-like nature of the protest was meant to create a fun, open, and happy environment around a procedure so often mired in stigma and secrecy. In the vein of glitter-bombing, the circus disco theme of the protest would be a fabulous way to call out the absurdity of anti-choice activists and point to the normalcy of abortion as a medical procedure.
Heron said Womenservices plans to continue the counter-protests. “It was so much fun it’s hard to imagine not doing it again,” she said. “And people were so hungry for it. We’re clearly so hungry to come out and make this point.”
“It really felt like it was an important thing that was happening, like we were reminding them that we are the majority,” she added. “We felt really supported and like we had a whole community that was behind us.”
Womenservices has been doing much more than playing defense against relentless anti-choice activists. On Valentine’s Day, the facility opened a birthing center, becoming the first in the nation to house a birth center alongside an abortion clinic.
Plans are also in the works to create a reproductive justice advocacy nonprofit, to connect the dots between direct service and change.
“We already have a center where people can receive care regardless of the outcome of their pregnancy,” Heron said. “It’s about so much more than providing medical care though. It’s about economic justice, trans care, and prison justice. We’re really on our way to increase access and build community around reproductive justice and rights in Buffalo.”
Image: Courtesy of Anthony Brown
The post Abortion Rights Advocates Launch ‘Circus Disco’ Counter-Protest in New York appeared first on RH Reality Check.
Historian Peter Ackroyd's new book surveys the history of England from the end of the Tudor era to the Glorious Revolution of 1688 — almost a century of war, debate and transformation.