Category: Women’s Empowerment

One Day – Three Schools – GFB Morgan!

GFB Morgan is so excited to be given the opportunity to work with high school students in Illinois next month!  It is so impactful to get the Girls Fight Back message across BEFORE college, as we have witnessed with the many 6-12th graders we have had the pleasure of working with this year!  Morgan will be teaching the terminator tango at three Illinois high schools in one day (Glenwood, Springfield and Township) – go Morgan!  The Chicago Tribune has written this article in praise of the program.  We have had a long history of teaching district 214 to fight like girls, this is our fourth time back in just two years!  Can’t wait!

Third Annual DePauw “Throw Down”

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DePauw and I go waaaaay back. Well, three years. This crew knows how to kick it. And seeing as how this was my third time speaking at DePauw, thanks to Delta Sigma Theta, we had a lot of up close, personal and REAL talk. These ladies are all about fun, spirit and WOMEN empowerment. Heck, a few of the guys showed up solely out of support. It doesn’t get better than that. DePauw, thank you so much for having me back and I’m looking forward to round 4.

Love and Hugs,
GFB Bree

St. Francis = Bomb.com

 

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Can I tell you how much I love these ladies at St. Francis? Good, cus I’m gonna. I mean these girls made my month. The energy in the room was insane. We were vibin. Crowd participation? Please. These students were ready to jump up on stage and teach the badass ballet themselves they were so pumped. The epitome of being your own best protector. But I think the highlight of the day was when one of the students approached me (who was probably 90 pounds soaking wet, mind you) and exclaimed “I feel SO empowered!” Friends, this is the equivalent to finding $20 in your jeans from last year. Times a million. I can’t tell you what a gratifying feeling it is knowing the skills a student learned at a Students Fight Back seminar has affected her outlook in such a positive way. It gives me goosebumps. And based on the feedback, I’d say she wasn’t the only one who walked away feeling a little taller that night. Hell yeah St. Francis. That’s what kickin’ ass is all about. Thank you to the stellar Student Government team at St. Francis for putting on such an awesome and memorable event. I hope to catch you all on the flip side (aka next year!:) Peace and love sistas!

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GFB Bree

Roanoke College Knew We Were Coming and They Baked a Cake!

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What can I possibly say about Roanoke College? After a back injury earlier in the week left me wincing in pain with every step, this program had every reason to go down in history as one my most difficult ever. But an amazing staff, dedicated students, and a Super Scary Bad Guy (SSBG) made it one of my favorites of all time. First of all, the campus is beautiful with views of the mountains everywhere. My coordinator, Stephanie, had every thing set and ready to go, so all I had to do was plug in my computer. Then I was whisked away to a lovely pre-show dinner with representatives from their Panhellenic council, the student health services, the counseling center, and HEAT, their peer education group. The program itself was fabulous! My SSBG, Cody, was hilarious. The audience was completely engaged. I barely even noticed my back pain. And to top it all off, they had a cake! A cake, y’all! Definitely one of my favorite campuses of all time. Thanks for everything, RC!

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-GFB Heather

Virginia Tech – Samanata’s Legacy

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You know, we have a lot of fun here at Girls Fight Back, but ultimately our work is about healing. One of our core values revolves around resiliency and states: “Though the statistics are shocking, we are here to say that we will not conform to the violence. Our world and most of our individual lives have been wrongfully altered by violence. We believe in recovery on individual, societal, and world levels.”

Last night, I presented Students Fight Back at Virginia Tech, a campus very much in recovery. Of course we all remember the horrifying mass shooting that took place on April 16, 2007 and even more recently, a charismatic and well-loved VTech student named Samanata Shrestha was murdered. It was Samanata who was very much on my mind last night as I took the stage to present. I didn’t know her personally, but in conversations with students and faculty before the program, I really got a sense of her energy and the legacy she left behind. It is in memory of all those we have lost to pointless violence that we do this work. And I like to think that the laughs we have in our programs serve as reminders that we can triumph. Evil does not win. We can choose to take back our peace.

Many thanks to everyone who came out in the snow and cold. Your presence was a gift to me.

-GFB Heather

Davidson County Community College – Sassy!

Nothing kicks off a busy week quite like spending your Monday morning with some smart, sassy gals that live life large and in charge! Thanks to Davidson County Community College for getting my week off to a great start. I’ll be at Virginia Tech tomorrow night and Roanoke College Thursday. Then it is spring break, peeps! Holla!

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-GFB Heather

Bad Ass Ballet at Anna Maria College!

I had an absolutely amazing time doing the Bad Ass Ballet with the wonderful women of Anna Maria College! Thanks so much to Lisa Saverese for being such a terrific hostess, Theresa “Smalls” for the great intro and good laughs and to our awesome volunteer Franco for not only being my fight partner but also for helping with the song mix. :)

Wishing everyone at Anna Maria a safe and happy spring break. And best of luck to everyone with all the incredible summer internships I heard about! What a bunch of super women!

And thank you all ever so kindly for my awesome AMC shirt!

-GFB LeahAnna Maria 2

Book Review: The Invention of Wings by Sue Monk Kidd

The Invention of Wings Book Cover

Book Review: The Invention of Wings by Sue Monk Kidd

 

1865 – The 13th Amendment is ratified abolishing slavery

1870 – The 15th Amendment prohibits the denial of the vote based on race, color, or previous condition of servitude

. . . . . .

1920 – The 19th Amendment prohibits the denial of the right to vote based on sex

 

The Grimke Sisters (1792 – 1873 – Sarah & 1805 -1878 – Angelina) lived to see slavery abolished but not long enough to see women get the right to vote over 50 years later.  They are two of the earliest outspoken American feminists and two of the best known female abolitionists.  Both women were born in Charleston, South Carolina to a plantation owning and slave owning family.  Going against their family’s way of life and also against all standards for women of their time, they became leading abolitionists and later feminists by speaking in public, publishing pamphlets, and assisting with the education of many of the children of the abolition and feminist movements.  Their combination of these two passions was controversial in their adopted faith of Quakerism as many feared it would split the abolition movement into two groups—those who also felt that women and slaves deserved equality and those who were passionate about ending slavery, but still held fast to male superiority.  And, so it did.  At a time when women had no legal rights and were relegated to the roles of wives and mothers only, these two sisters dared to speak in public on political issues to both women and men.  Their published works include, “Letters on the Equality of the Sexes,” “Appeal to the Christian Women of the South,” and “An Appeal to the Women of the Nominally Free States.”

 

The strength and conviction that it takes to stand up for what one feels is right despite the views of those around you is awe inspiring, especially at a time in history when women had very few role models to look to when forging an unconventional path.  In Sue Monk Kidd’s “The Invention of Wings,” the story of the Grimke Sisters is beautifully told in the form of a novel.  Though some aspects of the narrative were created to fill in the gaps, many of the characters, facts, and historical events are true with quotes from the writings of both women included.  If your background in feminism doesn’t stretch much past the 1970’s, exploring the original works of the Grimke Sisters and the ground they gained for all of their sisters is a must.

 

Sue Monk Kidd’s novel is a story of courage that brings to life the ugly history of slavery in our country through the eyes of Sarah Grimke and a slave owned by her family, Hetty “Handful” Grimke.  The alternating narratives of the two main characters speaks volumes about civil rights and brings to mind the words of Emma Lazarus, author of “The New Colossus,”, “Until we are all free, we are none of us free.”  This applies to the dual struggle of Hetty, who was bound by the terrible shackles of slavery, and Sarah who was blessed to be free, yet still not truly free due to the limitations placed upon her sex; and it applies today to remind us to continue the fight to end oppression in whatever form it appears.

 

“The Invention of Wings” gets a GFB Thumbs Up.  — GFB Gina

 

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Whatever is morally right for a man to do, it is morally right for a woman to do. I recognize no rights but human rights—I know nothing of men’s rights and women’s rights; for in Christ Jesus, there is neither male nor female.”

― Angelina Grimke

 

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“Here now, the very being of a woman, like that of a slave, is absorbed in her master.  All contracts made with her, like those made with slaves by their owners, are a mere nullity.  Our kind defenders have legislated away almost all of our legal rights, and in the true spirit of such injustice and oppression, have kept us in ignorance of those very laws by which we are governed.”

― Sarah Grimke

 

To read the book: http://www.amazon.com/Invention-Wings-Sue-Monk-Kidd/dp/1472212746/ref=tmm_pap_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&sr=8-1&qid=1390612592

Leah shares the GFB message with 12 – 19 year old girls at the Silk City School Based Youth Services Program

I had a great time in Paterson, NJ with the Girls Fight Back program for a night aptly titled “Be Your Own Superwoman.”  I had such an amazing evening with these fantastic young women teaching them how to do the Terminator Tango.  (The youth version of the Badass Ballet!)  Special thanks to sponsors Silk City School Based Youth Services Program and the Family Empowerment Program for having me and also for going all out with Superwoman t-shirts and a Girls Fight Back cake!   It is such a privilege to share this message with young women who need to know as they leave their teen years that they ARE WORTH FIGHTING FOR!

 

GFB Leah

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Silk City School 11.21.13b

Love or Control? – The Truth About Stalking

Stalking is probably most familiar to us from celebrity news stories—Rhianna and Ashley Tisdale have both been in the news recently getting protective orders issued against their stalkers.  The truth of the matter is that the most stalking cases (approximately 3/4) do not happen between strangers, but between two people who know each other, very commonly incidences in which the perpetrator and the victim have or (more importantly) had a personal or intimate relationship.  In these cases, the closeness of the relationship once in place between the victim and the perpetrator is part of what makes this crime so complex for women.

It is estimated that 6.6 million people are victims of stalking each year, and I am speaking out today as one of those victims.  This is a difficult subject to discuss and an experience that I have personally kept hidden for some time, but I am speaking out today in order to help others who may be in similar circumstances.

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1 in 6 women and 1 in 19 men will be stalked in their lifetime, and many of these crimes go unreported and unprosecuted.  Though women can be stalked by men and women, and men can be stalked by women or men, for the purposes of this article, I will primarily refer to stalking in its most common form: women being stalked by men.  And though this can affect anyone, the most common victims of stalking are women between the ages of 18 and 24—college aged women.

The Supplemental Victimization Survey by the Department of Justice defines stalking as including some or all of these acts which may not be criminal individually, but that collectively and repetitively cause the victim fear

  • Making unwanted phone calls
  • Sending unsolicited or unwanted letters, e-mails, or other forms of electronic communication
    • These first two acts are the most commonly experienced by victims of stalking with 83% of stalking victims surveyed reporting that e-mail and text was used to harass them.
  • Following or spying on the victim
  • Showing up at places without a legitimate reason
  • Waiting at places for the victim
  • Leaving unwanted items, presents, or flowers
  • Posting information or spreading rumors about the victim on the internet, in a public place, or by word of mouth

When victims were asked what their perception was as to the reason the stalking or harassment began, these were the most common responses:

30% – Retaliation/anger/spite

25.2% – Control

16.7% – Mentally ill/emotionally unstable

13.7% – Liked me/found me attractive/had a crush

12.9% – To keep in the relationship

10.3% – Substance abuser

* Details sum to more than 100% because multiple responses were permitted.

President Obama issued a proclamation, naming January 2013 as National Stalking Awareness Month, stating that: “The perpetrator is usually someone the victim knows.  Stalking behavior may be innocuous to outside observers, but victims often endure intense physical and emotional distress that affects every aspect of their lives.  . . . Tragically, stalking tends to escalate over time, and it is sometimes followed by sexual assault or homicide.”

No two stalking situations are alike, and it is important to note that one of the frequent tactics of the stalker is to downplay his or her own behavior causing the victim to question the validity of his or her fears.  Implied threats of violence, such as “I won’t be at peace until you are dead” or veiled threats of suicide such as, “you won’t be happy until I put a gun in my mouth” can easily be dismissed by the perpetrator as “fiery e-mails” or “a few angry texts” when the intention of these communications is obvious and clear—to create fear in the victim.  Implied threats are no different in their intention than direct threats and should always be taken seriously.  The Stalking Resource Center points out that stalking “can have devastating and long-lasting physical, emotional, and psychological effects on victims.  The prevalence of anxiety, insomnia, social dysfunction, and severe depression is much higher among stalking victims than in the general population.”

My personal experience happened twice as I made the mistake of succumbing to the behavior the first time and returned to the unhealthy relationship.  This led me to have to repeat the breakup process a second time; thereby retriggering the stalking.  I felt immense guilt and embarrassment that I made the same mistake twice; and, I allowed those feelings to negatively impact my ability to control my response and seek a swifter resolution.

The second stalking incident (after the second breakup) lasted well over a year, but I thought I could wait it out.  I had great hopes when my stalker entered a new relationship.  Maybe he will lose interest in me?  I thought it was necessary to reply to his contact by repeating over and over that I was no longer and would never be interested.  Granted, I had already trained my stalker that if he harassed me long enough, I would go back to the relationship rather than endure the stalking—a decision I later came to regret.

None of my efforts had any effect other than to fuel the behavior, and I began to allow myself to believe that the situation was my fault, just as he insisted it was.  My stalker made it clear that the only way to end the stalking was to go back to the relationship, telling me things like, “I will never love anyone but you,” “we were meant to be together forever,” “any woman who isn’t you is only a placeholder.”

Love or control?  The answer seems crystal clear in hindsight, but at the time, in the cloud of fear and anxiety (confusion of the abuse paired with a history of emotional connection), it was difficult to decipher.  For over a year, I was on edge.  I didn’t sleep.  I lost weight.  I tried to move on with the many positive aspects of my life and ignore the stalking.  I attempted to act like nothing was wrong in front of friends, co-workers, employees, my son, and my family.  There were many uncomfortable times when I would be out with someone while my phone was beeping incessantly with e-mails and texts and I made excuses for it, pretending everything was fine, only to learn after the fact that no one was buying it.  No matter how much I tried to deny it, I was completely stressed out and it showed.  At the time, I couldn’t admit to anyone that I had let another person so thoroughly control my life.  It was completely humiliating.

Of course, it doesn’t help that the media often romanticizes this crime.  I know that have you seen this portrayed on television or in movies—a man won’t give up on his quest for the woman of his dreams. She rebuffs him, and plays hard to get, but eventually she “sees the light” and he gets the girl.   This encourages the incorrect notion that stalking is about love and that women don’t have the right to choose who they want to be in a relationship with.

Stalking is NEVER about love.  It is only about power and persistence.  Gavin de Becker in The Gift of Fear states, “The fact that a romantic pursuer is relentless doesn’t mean you are special—it means he is troubled.”  Complicating matters further, it is often difficult for the victim to explain the unwanted contact, which is sometimes so bizarre and far-fetched that she might feel crazy even saying it out loud.  For this, among other reasons, the crime often goes unreported to police and also unreported to friends and loved ones.  That isolation works to the perpetrator’s advantage making it easier for him to hide this behavior to the outside world and to any shared associates.

One of the most insidious developments in stalking over the past 20 years is how easy it has become through technological advances.  When in the past a stalker had to leave his house and show up at your home or place of work, today many stalkers control their victims with unwanted e-mails, phone calls, texts, and even setting up false profiles on social media to monitor your activities all from the comfort of home.  This new wave of stalking, called cyberstalking, has become very common with 83% of stalking victims reporting some form of cyberstalking.  The good news, is that it is also makes the stalking easy to document with a long trail of evidence.  This can be very helpful to the police if and when you decide you need a court order of protection.  As painful as it can be, (and I personally know that it can be), you must keep a log of all contact.  Keep all e-mails, or as I did, forward them to someone else to keep on your behalf so you don’t have an opportunity to see them again.  Keep records of texts.  Record all calls with times, what was said, and any threats that were issued.  If you do decide that prosecution is necessary, those logs are essential to your case.

Some unwanted romantic relationships can be ended altogether before there is a major situation on your hands, if people know how to say NO properly.  It seems easy—a simple two letter word, but in our efforts to be kind, we often use it incorrectly.  This is one lesson I wish I had learned much earlier!  de Becker explains that, “stalking is how some men raise the stakes when women don’t play along.  . . . In fact, many cases of date stalking could be described as extended rapes; they take away the freedom, and they honor the desires of the man and disregard the wishes of the woman.”  So, if a person decides he or she does not want to be in a relationship with any given person, it is best to say NO one time and explicitly and then say nothing else.  Anything communicated after “no,” even if that communication is reiterating how much you want to end all communication, IS MORE COMMUNICATION.  If you resist communication 20 times and then cave in and reply to tell the stalker that you want to be left alone, your stalker doesn’t hear that you want to be left alone.  What he or she does hear is that it takes 20 attempts at contact before the stalker gets the desired result . . . your attention.

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However, not all cases are that simple.  Some require further efforts.  So, if you are in this situation or you know someone who is, how do you free yourself from a stalker?  Here are a few tips:

  • If you are in immediate danger, call 911.
  • DON’T COMMUNICATE with the stalker or respond to any attempts to contact you.  Block e-mails, block texts, make your online profiles private or take them down altogether.
  • Keep evidence of the stalking – all e-mails, text messages, phone messages, notes, or letters.  If the stalker shows up at your home or work or is following you, document the time, date, and place.  Ask witnesses to write down what they saw and keep photographic evidence of any damages or injuries the stalker causes.
  • Trust your instincts.  Don’t downplay the danger.  There is no such thing as “stalking light.”  If you feel unsafe, you probably are.
  • Take threats seriously.  Danger is typically higher when the stalker talks about suicide, or murder, or when the victim tries to leave or end the relationship.
  • Develop a safety plan, including things like changing your routine, arranging a place to stay, and having friends or relatives around you.  Tell people around you how they can help you and have a plan of what to do if your stalker does show up at your home, work, or school.
  • Contact a crisis hotline (contact information is included at the bottom of this article).  They can help you with your safety plan, tell you about local laws, and refer you to other services.
  • Contact the police.  Stalking is against the law in all 50 states, all US Territories, and Washington DC.  Note that laws vary from state to state and the legal definition varies regarding the element of fear and emotional distress as well as the intent of the stalker.
  • Consider getting a court order.  Keep in mind that this is not the best course of action in all cases.  In some cases it may be just the motivation needed to get your stalker to stop.  In other cases, it may fuel the anger and give the stalker the one thing he craves most – your attention and the knowledge that you are frightened.  If you aren’t sure on how to move forward with this, seek help and advice from some of the resources listed below.
  • Talk about it!  Tell family, friends, roommates, and co-workers whom you trust about the situation and seek support.  Have others help watch for your safety.
  • It also may be advisable to seek out professional counseling.  It is normal to feel vulnerable, unsafe, anxious, depressed, stressed, confused, frustrated, and isolated when you are the victim of stalking.  These are common reactions and ending the stalking may not relieve those feelings.

For additional resources:

www.stalkingawarenessmonth.org

http://www.ovw.usdoj.gov/aboutstalking.htm

Crime Victims Hotline (stalking)
1-866-689-HELP (4357)

National Domestic Violence Hotline
1-800-799-SAFE (7233)

National Sexual Assault Hotline
To be connected to the rape crisis center nearest to you, dial
1-800-656-HOPE (4673)

National Sexual Violence Resource Center (NSVRC)
1-877-739-3895

All statistics come from these sources:

  • US Department of Justice, Office on Violence Against Women
  • Supplemental Victimization Survey by the Department of Justice
  • US Department of Justice Statistics Special Report
  • The Stalking Resource Center, The National Center for Victims of Crime

About the Author – Gina Kirkland, owner of Kirkland Productions and KP Comedy, channeled her lifelong passion for Women’s Issues into the purchase of her third company, Girls Fight Back, in 2013.  She is picking up the banner from the amazing Erin Weed to continue bringing the message of living a fearless life and combating violence against women to millions of young women across the country.  www.girlsfightback.com

This article can be found online as published in Campus Activities Magazine at: http://bit.ly/stalkingstory

The amazing men of UGA’s Chi Psi chapter!

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University of Georgia’s Chi Psi Chapter is working to bring Girls Fight Back to the women of their campus. We are so grateful to the dedication of these men to spread the word of GFB!

Their motto is “a family of gentlemen in pursuit of excellence” and we totally agree!

NPR Article: Many Teens Admit to Coercing Others Into Sex

Almost 1 in 10 high school and college-aged people have forced someone into sexual activity against his or her will, a study finds. The majority of those who have done it think that the victim is at least partly to blame.

The results come from a multiyear study funded by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that was designed to look for the roots of adult sexual violence. Most adult perpetrators say they first preyed on another while still in their teens.

In adulthood, more than 1 million people are the victims of rape or sexual assault each year, according to the National Institutes of Justice. Domestic violence affects more than 2 million adults a year.

A multiple-choice online survey conducted in 2010 and 2011 asked 1,058 teenagers and young adults, ages 14 to 21, whether they’d ever “kissed, touched, or done anything sexual with another person when that person did not want you to?”

Nine percent said yes. Eight percent had kissed or touched someone when they knew the other person did not want to. Three percent got someone to give in to unwilling sex. Three percent attempted to rape the person, and 2 percent completed a rape. (The numbers don’t add up because some perpetrators admitted to more than one behavior.)

This may be the first survey to ask questions like these, and the researchers caution that because of the relatively small number of youths involved, the results aren’t definitive. But they are certainly chilling.

“I don’t get creeped out very often,” says Michele Ybarra, lead researcher of the study, which was published online in JAMA Pediatrics. “But this was wow.”

When asked who was to blame, half of the perpetrators said the victim was completely responsible; one-third said it was their own fault. “If half of the perpetrators felt the victim was responsible for this, we need to do something,” Ybarra, who is president and research director of the Center for Innovative Public Health in San Clemente, Calif.

Sixteen seems to be the age when sexual coercion becomes a real possibility, at least for boys. Almost half of the study participants said they first forced someone to have sexual activity when they were 16. But by age 18, girls had become much more involved in preying on others, to the point where they were almost as likely to be perpetrators as were boys.

Three-quarters of the victims were in a romantic relationship with the perpetrator.

The coercion used was almost always psychological, not physical. The most common tactics for forcing or trying to force sex were guilt, deliberately getting the victim drunk or arguing with or pressuring the victim. Five percent threatened to use physical force, and 8 percent did. The survey used the federal Bureau of Justice definition of rape, which includes psychological coercion as well as physical force.

The survey also looked at media use and found that perpetrators of sexual violence were more likely to watch violent X-rated materials than were the others.

By now most parents reading this are probably ready to hide. But Ybarra tells Shots these numbers show that parents need to act and well before their children are 16.

“We absolutely need to have conversations with our kids about what healthy sex is and what unhealthy sex is,” she says. Parents could say, “‘If you have to convince your partner, maybe that’s not the right way to have sex.’ Even simple messages like that are important.”

The New Resolution

Well, here we go again…another new year, another fresh start, another resolution.  For as long as I can remember, my resolution was always to lose weight. Year after year, I would “change my life”, go on some fad diet or extreme measure to make that year “my year”. It was miserable. I didn’t look forward to it and I never reached the kind of Victoria’s Secret success I had hoped for. My goals were unreasonable and unattainable. The year would pass and no matter any success, I would be disappointed with myself for not becoming the perfect person the new year had envisioned. And IT. WAS. EXHAUSTING.

This year. I’m done. Not because I think I’m perfect and not because I couldn’t lose a pound or two, but because I’m better than that. Let’s be clear- I have no interest in being obese or unhealthy. I have every intention of spending more time running in the morning, cooking well-rounded meals for me and my family and maybe doing a little yoga every now and then. I’m also going to eat out with friends, make brownies and eat more than I should and buy gummy bears in bulk.

It just seems that somewhere along the way, I made peace with what I have and what I don’t. I stopped being afraid of double chins in photos and instead focus on the great memory.  I stopped focusing on the size zero I will never be and instead focus on the healthier version of the person I am.

It took a long time to get to this place and, in fairness I understand that there are people who for many reasons really do have to make drastic changes. For everyone else, I hope your resolutions this year are for you and you alone. Not for the guy or girl you’re trying to impress or the person you wished you looked like or anyone in any magazine ever! Those are not real people.

I’m not a hippie dippy, love yourself kinda person. But seriously, this year, give yourself a break.

Happy 2013!  This is totally your year.

P.S. If you ever need more of a pep talk on this topic. This might be my favorite thing ever.

Why Women’s Suffragists Were Total Badasses

Yesterday marked 92 years since the 19th amendment passed, granting women in the United States the right to vote. Yesterday I spent a good amount of time reading about the suffragist movement, and it’s just ballsy and amazing what these women pulled off.

One thing I learned: this wasn’t a short, simple or painless crusade. As with so many other people who have fought (and are currently fighting for) equal  rights, the road is often uphill. And dirty. And rocky. With all sorts of shenanigans and people trying to delay progress.

Read this timeline, which succinctly outlines the path to voting for women in the early 1900′s…this play-by-play is fascinating. Perhaps my favorite part of the crusade went down in the Spring of 1919. Here’s what happened (from the Scholastic website):

The most prominent National Woman’s Party suffrage prisoners (including Havemeyer, Rogers, Milholland, Winsor, Vernon) tour the country on a train called the “Prison Special.” At each stop they speak about the need for suffrage and their prison experiences; between stops they threw suffrage literature out the windows for farming communities.

That’s right, they went on a speaking tour. And called it the Prison Special. How Rikers Island is that? And I thought our upcoming tour theme was edgy. These suffragists were no joke, naming their cross-country tours after their time in the Big House. Totally badass.

This, my friends, is the power of the spoken word. It is the bravery of one woman standing up and speaking her truth.

We are living in a time where we have so many communication tools: e-mail, phone, skype, social media, the Internet (and I think the US Postal Service is still in business…for now). It’s easy to forget the impact of looking into someone’s eyes, and telling them what you believe.

This is where change begins. Over a coffee. A dinner discussion. A tense debate at the office water cooler. On stage. I believe all of us can change the world…and when you have a microphone, you can do it faster.

Think about it: The ideas that spawned the greatest shifts in our society all started with a sentence. Martin Luther King Jr. is a great example, his words moving people to tears and to action. So were these maverick suffragists – and I only wish there was video of the throw-down speeches they must have delivered (not to mention the hecklers they likely endured).

This is exactly why I feel so strongly about the Girls Fight Back speaking tour that will begin in September. Wanna get on the tour? Jump on it by contacting us here. It is also why I am launching the first-ever socially conscious speakers agency later this year called Evoso. (a blended of “evolve + society” since that’s exactly what speaking your truth accomplishes)

This week, remember the great work of women’s suffragists and all crusaders for equality – both past and present. Then ask yourself how your voice can change the world. We need to hear it.

Got Harassed? Hollaback!

I am super excited to announce that I have joined the Board of Hollaback, an international movement dedicated to ending street harassment using mobile technology. I’m hoping you’ll join me in financially supporting a very exciting campaign going on right now specifically to end harassment on college campuses. Learn more about the campaign or DONATE by clicking here.

Its co-founder, Emily May, and I have been friends in the women’s movement for a long time…so it’s so exciting to join forces in a more official way. Since you’ll be hearing more from me about the great work of Hollaback in the future, here’s a little more info about them in their own words from Hollaback website. If you feel moved to get involved, please support the campus campaign!

Street harassment is one of the most pervasive forms of gender-based violence and one of the least legislated against. Comments from “You’d look good on me” to groping, flashing and assault are a daily, global reality for women and LGBTQ individuals. But it is rarely reported, and it’s culturally accepted as ‘the price you pay’ for being a woman or for being gay. At Hollaback!, we don’t buy it.

We believe that everyone has a right to feel safe and confident without being objectified. Sexual harassment is a gateway crime that creates a cultural environment that makes gender-based violence OK. There exists a clear legal framework to reproach sexual harassment and abuse in the home and at work, but when it comes to the streets—all bets are off. This gap isn’t because street harassment hurts any less, it’s because there hasn’t been a solution. Until now. The explosion of mobile technology has given us an unprecedented opportunity to end street harassment—and with it, the opportunity to take on one of the final new frontiers for women’s rights around the world.

By collecting women and LGBTQ folks’ stories and pictures in a safe and share-able way with our very own mobile phone applications, Hollaback! is creating a crowd-sourced initiative to end street harassment. Hollaback! breaks the silence that has perpetuated sexual violence internationally, asserts that any and all gender-based violence is unacceptable, and creates a world where we have an option—and, more importantly—a response.

 

Link-a-palooza

Bored this afternoon?  Looking for some thing entertaining to read on the Internet?  I’ve got a few things for you.  I’ve been trying to post these on our Facebook page, but Facebook has not been cooperative.  So click away!

Wonderful article about the 10th Annual Shannon McNamara Run and Walk held yesterday.

Article from Wesley College about GFB Jaime’s recent program there. (Be sure to check out the picture accompanying this article in which Jaime looks like she totally knows what she is talking about.  Awesome!)

And I’ve seen a lot of great success stories recently.  Here are a few:

Woman fights off a man trying to abduct her.

13-year-old girl fights off a knife-wielding attacker.

12-year-old girl tricks a would-be kidnapper with her iPod Touch.

Found an interesting article?  Saw a success story online?  Friend us on Facebook and share your link there.  Or if Facebook hates you like it obviously hates me, put your link in the comments!

Thank You.

             Well, hello there everyone! I just wanted to take a quick second to thank all of GFB’s  supporters for what you enable us to do.  Something we hear a lot at GFB is “thank you.”  We hear it after seminars from our awesome clients and great audiences.  We see it when you post it to our facebook page and when you email us.  But the truth of the matter is you deserve the thank you because, without you, our mission would have never come this far. 

                I was thinking about this yesterday on my flight from Portland to Philadelphia.  Some people, when I tell them that for a certain part of the year I live in airports and hotel rooms, they ask me how I do that.  Well, the truth is that it doesn’t really give me any pause and on my flight yesterday I kept thinking how lucky I am.  Sure, I’ll be living in airports and Hampton Inns for a while but I meet the most amazing and inspiring people when I ‘m on the road and I get to talk with them about something so fundamental to all of our lives.  The truth is that, without all of the support you have given us over the years, we wouldn’t have been able to spread our nearly message as far or nearly as fast.  

                Thank you for making what we do possible and keep hoping with us that someday it will be a service that is no longer needed and working with us to make that day happen.

                Strong. Resilient. Spirited. Unified. 

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.

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!

Exciting Events in NC

March is already starting out to be an exciting month for me.  I’ll be doing Fight Back Productions gigs in Georgia, Ohio, Wisconsin, South Carolina, and Florida.  Crazy!

But in between the out of town excursions, there are some exciting things going on right here in town that I want to share with you.  I hope that if you are in NC you’ll come and join me!

First up, at 3pm on Saturday, March 13th, I’ll be presenting a free Girls Fight Back! seminar at Advanced World Martial Arts Systems in Kernersville.  The program is appropriate for ages 13 and up and will last about 90 minutes with plenty of time after to answer any questions you may have.  I’ll be talking about ways to avoid becoming the target of a violent crime by trusting your intuition and behaving like a bad victim and I’ll finish up with some simple fight techniques that you can use if you ever find yourself confronted by an attacker.  The program is presented with tons of humor and you’ll leave feeling like a stronger, more empowered person.  Pete Andrews of AWMAS has graciously agreed to let me use his studio for free and while there is no charge for the seminar itself, we will be collecting donations for Heroes Serving Humanity.  For more information about the workshop check out: http://www.awmas1.com/page_latestnews.htm. And call 336-992-5223 to sign-up.  Call ASAP – space is limited.

Also in the realm of violence prevention, from March 12th thru March 27th; V-Day Greensboro will be presenting staged readings of Eve Ensler’s The Vagina Monologues and A Memory, A Monologue, A Rant, and A Prayer at Open Space Café Theatre in Greensboro, NC.  These very adult oriented productions explore how our society affects the way women view their bodies and the way that violence impacts the lives of women around the globe.  I’ll be performing in A Memory, A Monologue, A Rant, and A Prayer, so come check it out and say hi to me afterwards! The Vagina Monologues performs March 11, 13, and 26 at 8pm. A Memory, A Monologue, A Rant, A Prayer performs March 12, 25, and 27 at 8pm.  Tickets are $10 each and can be purchased at the door or make reservations by calling (336) 687-1319.  All proceeds go to The Sherri Denese Jackson Foundation in Greensboro NC.

If you aren’t in North Carolina, you can find out more about the V-day campaign and look for events in your area by checking out www.vday.org.  And be sure to check out our FBP calendar at www.fightbackproductions.com/calendar to when we’ll be in your neck of the woods!