All posts in May 2010

Hollaback!

One of my favorite organizations is at a pivotal moment in its growth today and I wanted to share something about them here. The group is called Hollaback and it has chapters all over the country.

I first became a fan at the age of 19 when on my first ever trip to NYC I was verbally harassed on the street outside Grand Central Station by a couple of guys. They whistled at me to get my attention and then one of them told me that he would “sure like to tap that.” As they started walking towards me, I froze. Being young and out of my element, I had no idea what to do. A woman in her late twenties walked up beside me and snapped a picture of the two men with her camera before telling them to back off in a loud clear voice. They called her a bitch and walked away.

I turned to thank her. She handed me a piece of paper with a web address on it and said, “no problem, check out the site.” What I found was an online community where women posted photos of street harassers and spoke out about their feelings after being catcalled. I checked the site a week later and sure enough, there was the photo of the two men who had harrassed me. The site has since grown into a nationwide movement.

Today, Hollaback is on the verge of getting an iPhone app, but they need money to get it. They have 1 day and about $1700 left to raise. If you are able, consider donating to them here: www.ihollaback.org

And if you want to learn more, check out this link for an interview with the amazing Miss DC, Jen Corey. You can watch a video of her on NBC discussing her experiences with street harassment.

Bullying in Schools, Phoebe’s Story

I feel like this blog topic is a little late coming, but I think it is an incredibly important topic. I came across this topic while reading an old people magazine . . . Don’t judge me and let’s not pretend you don’t love People magazine.  Anyway, I read an article about bullying. Bullying in schools exists and recent events show that the results of bullying can devastate students, communities, and families. Take the story of Phoebe Price. Phoebe was a Massachusetts teen who was basically bullied to death. Phoebe was a recent Irish immigrant and her friends said that she became the focus of a jealous classmate, Kayla Narey, and friends for dating a football player who was also dating Kayla.

That is when the bullying really started. Kayla and her friends called Phoebe derogatory names involving her heritage and threw cans of soda at her. At some point, it became too much. Phoebe was depressed, despondent and took her own life. This all begs the question, who do we hold accountable? Well, on March 29, that question was answered. Nine teens were indicted and are facing charges, including statutory rape and criminal harassment.

The indictments are a very clear statement that bullying will not be tolerated and when mean spirited behavior brings such devastating consequences, accountability will be there. But I think the real question is this: How do we, even as teenagers, let our behavior get to that point? More importantly, how do we fix it? Stories like Phoebe’s crystallize the need for anti-bullying and bystander intervention in high school and even before. The people who drove Phoebe to the point she reached are being held accountable but we will not fix the problem until we fix the way we relate to each other.

Bullying expert, Barbara Coloroso, made a statement that I find particularly compelling in light of these circumstances. She said, “You don’t have to like every kid in school, but you have to honor their humanity.” Ms. Coloroso is absolutely right. We don’t have to like everyone but we need to respect each other’s dignity as human beings. We need to treat people fairly ourselves and intervene when we see behavior that doesn’t rise to that standard.

Anyone who has been through high school knows that it is like a battlefield with different factions competing for control. Who says it has to be like that? Imagine what would happen if it wasn’t like that, if nobody was terrified to step through the doors to their classrooms, and people didn’t spend time thinking of ways to cut each other down. If we change the environment and our behavior, maybe we can prevent more tragedies like what happened to Phoebe.

Rain, Rain Go Away. Leave Me Alone. I Don’t Want Any Problems.

I have news. Spring has not arrived in New England. Or, if it has, it chose hatefully to take a day off when I stopped in for a visit earlier this week.

But that’s OK, because cold and damp did not take the fire out of the Taft School in Watertown, Connecticut Tuesday night, where Girls Fight Back had 300 fierce high school women throwing knees and exercising their vocal cords.

Stop! Leave me alone! I don’t want any problems! Yes, old man winter, that means YOU! But I digress.

The event was fantastic, and I want to throw out a particular thank you to Ms. Andi Orben, who flashed her mad organizing skills to pull off a completely smooth evening, David, our AV tech extraordinaire, and Sam, maybe the nicest, least-threatening scary bad guy volunteer. EVER.

And finally, to the ladies of Taft: you palm-ed, you knee-ed, you knee-ed and you rocked. Thanks for sharing your contagious enthusiasm with me. And for not making fun of my frizzy rain hair. I owe you!

We Are What We Watch: Violence Against Women on TV

I read an interesting article this month in Marie Claire magazine this month – an article that startled me, an article that made me angry.

According to “Women in Peril,” a study by the Parents Television Council, violence against women on television has jumped 120 percent since 2004, even while all kinds of violence on television have increased only 2 percent. Portrayals of teenage women as victims of violence have soared 400 percent during the same period.

The reasons for this change are numerous, but the results are what matter. Repeated story lines about women being brutalized and killed may seem like harmless entertainment, but, in fact, they serve to acclimate society to the idea that violence against women is “normal.” This idea is unacceptable.

The writers of the study call on “television producers, network executives, members of the advertising community, elected representatives and appointed government officials and, most importantly, the viewing public” to exercise their power in reversing this alarming trend.

Read the study and watch video content samples here.

Then exercise your power as a viewer to let networks know that you do not support the glorification or glamorization of violence against women. Send in comments, support an organization that advocates on behalf of women or, at the very least, turn off the tube when women are treated distastefully on the small screen.

You may not think you have the leverage to make a difference, but if enough people stop watching, programming will change.

Bystander Intervention in Maine!

“It was really scary, but I’m glad we got involved”  Check out this link for an awesome story about five women who subdued an attacker in Maine.  You go girls!

Way to Go, California!

Super excited to see California taking some strong steps to make self-defense education a required part of a public school education!  Check out this link!