February, 2011

Badass-Activist Friday presents HOLLY KEARL of stopstreetharassment.com

It’s Friday, and we all know what that means! Interviews with your favorite badass feminists and activists. Whether social media queens and kings, creative artists, sex educators, or just kick-ass personalities, these people harness righteous anger, instigate movements and inspire culture change. We’re here to honor them and their work, but more importantly, to highlight how we can all get up, plug in, and Just Start Doing.

So without further ado…

Here’s anti-street harassment expert Holly Kearl .

2-12-11 HollaBack Baltimore Party

Holly is the program manager at the women’s equity nonprofit the American Association of University Women. She is also the founder of the website stopstreetharassment.com and author of the book Stop Street Harassment: Making Public Places Safe and Welcoming for Women. She regularly gives talks and writes articles about street harassment and recently founded the First Annual Anti-Street Harassment Day, on March 20, the First Day of Spring.

Let’s start off by defining street harassment – What is it and why should we care? How many people are affected? Who is affected and who’s doing the harassing?

Street harassment is sexual harassment that happens between strangers in public places. Most women everywhere in the world have experienced street harassment, commonly in the form of whistling, kissing noises, vulgar gestures, leering, unsolicited comments about your appearance, sexist or sexually explicit comments, demands for sex, blocking your path, following, masturbation or flashing, groping, and purposely rubbing up against someone in a sexual way. Street harassment can escalate to rape. In some cases, it’s escalated to murder.

There aren’t enough studies on the prevalence of street harassment, but the studies that exist show it impacts anywhere from 80 to 100 percent of women. I conducted informal online survey of 811 women from 23 countries and 45 US states and found that 99 percent reported experiencing forms of street harassment.

Gender-based sexual harassment in public spaces is largely perpetrated by men against women. While some women on occasion may harass men in public, gender inequality means that the power dynamics at play, frequency of the harassment, and the underlying threat of rape is rarely comparable. For these reasons, I primarily focus my work on men harassing women, though I certainly don’t believe anyone should have to face unwanted attention from strangers in public. While public harassment motivated by racism, homophobia, transphobia, ableism, or classism— types of deplorable harassment which men can be the target of and sometimes women perpetrate—is recognized as socially unacceptable behavior, men’s harassment of women motivated by gender and sexism is not. Instead it is portrayed as complimentary, a joke, “only” a trivial annoyance, or women’s fault because of what they were wearing or the time of day they were in public. One of my goals is to change the social acceptability of gender-based street harassment. Despite what the larger society thinks, this kind of harassment has a very real impact on women’s lives by reducing their sense of safety and comfort in public and thus influencing them to limit their time in public.

How did you get started in street harassment research and education? Was there a specific experience – personal, academic or professional – that confirmed your passion for this work?

While researching a master’s thesis topic I read about a new website called HollaBackNYC that encouraged women to share their stories about street harassment online. I had never heard the term street harassment before, but I immediately recognized it from my own life. In public places, men I do not know have honked and whistled at me, made sexually explicit comments, followed me, and one man even grabbed me sexually when I was on the street. In college, I experienced this type of harassment daily. I rarely talked about it and hadn’t made the connection that it was a form of gender violence

When I wrote my thesis, I found almost no books on the topic, so, a year after I turned it in, at the suggestion of my parents, I decided to start writing a book to help fill that gap. Each time I receive stories from women for my blog or when a woman shares her story in person, they reconfirm my passion for this work. Often it is their first time talking about street harassment, sharing their stories, and finding validation for being upset about what happened, and they remind me why this work is necessary. And each time I face harassment or one of my friends or family members does, it reminds me on a very personal level why this work matters and is important

As a street harassment expert, have you had any experiences or discussions or learned something that really surprised you about this subject?

Last month I came across a report on the website of the U.S. Department of Transportation that talked about how as early as 1909 people were advocating for women-only cars on the new transit system in New York City because of men harassing and soliciting women. I suspected that harassment on public transportation was nothing new, but it still surprised me. More than 100 years later, men harassing women on the New York City subway system is still a huge issue and that is why anti-harassment PSAs launched in 2008. But clearly we need to do more.

What are the consequences of street harassment, immediate or long term, on both a personal level and a broader community level?

The consequences of street harassment are actually quite serious. The more often a woman experiences harassment, or the scarier her experiences, the more likely it is she will take preventative actions like avoiding going near the place it occurred, avoiding being out alone at night, altering what she wears, and generally distrusting men that approach her. On the extreme end, I found that some women move neighborhoods because of harassers (almost 20 percent in my survey) and change jobs because of harassers along the commute (almost 10 percent of the women in my survey). Street harassment results in women limiting their time in public spaces and limiting their access to the resources there. Scholar Cynthia Grant Bowman calls this the “informal ghettoization of women” to the home. Women will never achieve gender equality with men as long as harassment keeps them from having that equal access to public places.

What do you think are the root causes of street harassment? What aspects of our culture facilitate or condone this behavior?

Some of the root causes for street harassment include societal disrespect for women, the objectification of women, and unhealthy definitions of masculinity that encourage men to harass not only women but also other men, particularly men who do not seem to adhere to traditional definitions of masculinity. The media truly is a prime example of this — from marketers that use women’s bodies to sell products, to industries that value women’s looks more than their brains or talents, to commercials that tell men what “real men” do or don’t do.

I also see a lot of reinforcement of these ideas from generation to generation. From older women or mothers who tell girls that the harassment is a compliment or that they should just learn to avoid it or ignore it, to men who harass women in front of their sons or try to bond with sons or younger brothers over objectifying and harassing women. Over and over, I encounter people who believe street harassment is a compliment and this really reinforces street harassment, silences women who experience it, and give men a free pass to continue to do it.

In my experience, street harassment can be a really scary and dehumanizing experience. It’s also really frustrating because it happens so abruptly and we’re so conditioned to keep to ourselves in public spaces, it’s hard to know how to react safely and effectively at the time harassment occurs. What can victims do to counteract harassment and reclaim power? Can you recommend some strategies for our readers?

At minimum, it’s really important for targets of harassment to recognize that it’s not our faults and that nothing we’ve said or done is causing the harassment. This is a societal problem. Recognizing it’s something most women deal with can inspire, enrage, and empower us to do something about it.

In general, thinking about something you can say or do that challenges the behavior of the harasser in a non-violent, non-aggressive way (no insults or profanity because that is more likely to escalate the situation) works well. Turning what the person said into a joke, simply telling them to stop or back off, asking them how they would feel if a man treated his sister/mother/girlfriend/wife/daughter that way, or announcing to people around you what he just did are all examples of what to say.

Also, if the person works for an identifiable company, report them to their company! I’ve read several success stories from women who have reported construction workers or delivery truck drivers and the harassment stopped. And if you’re on a bus or subway, report the harasser to the driver or transit manager. I’ve also received several success stories where harassers are kicked off the bus or told to leave the subway car.

Are there opportunities for victims to pursue legal action against street harassers, here in the United States or elsewhere around the world? Are there any individuals or organizations working to make this happen?

Yes, often if the harassment is extreme enough that it makes you fear for your safety or fear attack, depending on the state or city laws, you can press charges for public harassment. The limitation is that this usually requires repeated harassment and threatening behavior. Also, since there are often laws against public lewdness, if someone flashes or masturbates on you, you can report it. And if someone gropes you or assaults you, then you can report it under assault charges.

On an international level:

- The Egyptian Centre for Women’s Rights is working with members of parliament to pass a new anti-sexual harassment law that would include harassment occurring in public spaces.

- In Delhi, India, there is a law that encompasses a lot of street harassment behaviors. Since January, police have been cracking down on harassers (“eve-teasers,” as they call them). During the second week of January, I read that they arrested 26 harassers in one area for “passing lewd remarks at women.” There have been a lot of suicides among young women in Bangladesh because of street harassment. In response, last year the police started actually enforcing a law that encompasses street harassment behavior, and last spring the first harassers were arrested under it.

- Since last spring, the UK Anti-Street Harassment Campaign (ASH) is lobbying politicians to take on the issue of street harassment and pass better laws.

What can our readers do to stop street harassment and prevent it from happening in the first place? What can men do to support efforts to end street harassment?

It’s so important to break the silence on this topic, so just talking about it, sharing stories, and sharing strategies is essential. Talking specifically to young women or young men you know is really important in preventative work: let them know what is or is not acceptable and teach them how they can respond in an empowering way so they do not feel victimized.

In my book and on my website I really break down what we can do into four main categories: educating men, empowering women, raising awareness in our communities, and creating anti-street harassment campaigns.

Men can learn about this issue from the women they care about. Ask a woman what experiences she’s had and how they have impacted her life. Men can be good bystanders when they see harassment occurring, though it’s important to use non-violent, low aggression tactics rather than inadvertently escalating the situation. And, most important but also the most difficult, they can challenge sexist talk and not promote or reinforce harmful gender definitions.

What is unique about your approach to street harassment and how do you work with other organizations to the same ends?

A lot of the work that I do is raising awareness about street harassment and providing ideas to people for how they can help end it. My website and book are depositories of knowledge on the subject that include resources. I take a comprehensive approach to street harassment in my work, including a historical perspective, exploring the intersections of gender + race, class, sexual orientation, dis/ability, examining that through a global lens, acknowledging that not all women view street harassment the same way, and looking at why some men are street harassers and how definitions of masculinity treat that harassment as socially acceptable behavior. In fact, a lot of what I do is idea sharing. I collect what people have used and done and share those ideas so other can find inspiration for taking on street harassment in their community. One example of this collaborative aspect occurred when I met with Emily May of HollaBack and Oraia Reid of RightRides in 2009 to interview them for my book. I mentioned some of the activism going on internationally, including that Egyptian women were developing a system so people could report harassers via cell phones. Emily and Oraia loved the idea and a year and a half later, the HollaBack iPhone and droid apps were released. I work with other organizations to promote their work and include them as resources for others. I’ve also had the opportunity to collaborate with groups like Girls for Gender Equity, and Men Can Stop Rape for community events on street harassment, and I hope there will be more opportunities for collaboration in the future.

If you’d like to participate in the first ever Anti-Street-Harassment Day, on March 20th, more information here!

Hollaback guest-posts! Words,& House Bill 14 in the state of Georgia.

What’s in a name?

Words are powerful. They can educate and empower, express and encourage. Words can forge relationships and build bridges. But despite their awesome ability to strengthen, they can also dismantle and destroy when they’re used as weapons. Stick and stones can break your bones, but words will never hurt me? Tell that to anyone who’s ever been verbally bullied, abused, or harassed. There is gravity in words.

Changing the word “victim” to “accuser” until convictions are obtained in cases of rape, domestic violence, and stalking – as Rep. Bobby Franklin’s proposed House Bill 14 in Georgia seeks to do – tells survivors that not even the government believes their story. Basically, the rapists, stalkers, and abusers are innocent until proven guilty, but the survivors are on trial as soon as they report the crime. And for the record, according to the National Center for Policy Analysis, only 39% of rape survivors do report the crime – and of those, only half will result in a conviction. Those whose cases didn’t result in guilty verdict? Forget everything that can go wrong in a trial or the sphere of influence your attacker might have (Cough, cough Ben Roethlisberger) – Rep. Franklin thinks you’re just dirty, rotten liars who imagined the whole thing or are just out to ruin a perfectly good dude’s life. (In case you’re keeping a journal of Franklin’s opinions, he also considers gays to be “unrepentant drug dealers.” An elected official, ladies and gentlemen.)

A dangerous bill like this would be yet another deterrent in survivors reporting their crimes, and that results in more criminals living freely in our communities. (Makes you feel safe, doesn’t it?) It’s not just registered Georgia voters like me who feel outraged by this nonsense. A change.org petition proves that frustration is being felt from Illinois all the way to Israel. And while House Bill 14 may not pass, Rep. Franklin should know that we are not giving our consent for any attack on justice for victims that our officials might attempt to make – and we’re not lying about that.

Lauren Zink is an activist and writer living in Atlanta, Georgia. She is the Co-director of HollabackAtlanta and an all-around badass.

Visit Hollaback for more information.

Chicago public forum on violence a mixed bag

On Tuesday, I went to Chicago’s first ever mayoral candidates forum on violence against women and LGBTQ people.  All of the candidates for Mayor of Chicago were invited to answer questions and outline their plans for addressing issues of domestic violence, sexual assault, human trafficking, and hate crimes.  Interpersonal violence is an extremely important issue for political candidates anywhere because it’s a widespread social and public health problem – in fact, Chicago women are five times more likely to experience domestic violence than any of the most prevalent communicable diseases.  Moreover, violence prevention and intervention are deeply entwined with the policies and practices of municipal systems like public education, law enforcement, and government funding.

Candidates Patricia Van Pelt-Watkins, Carol Moseley Braun, William “Dock” Walls III, and Miguel Del Valle addressed a packed auditorium of concerned citizens and local experts.  Unfortunately, mayoral candidates Gery Chico and former White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel didn’t bother to show up.  This despite the fact that the Chicago Public School Board recently called domestic violence and sexual assault “top agenda items” that the future mayor should address.  I guess Rahm and Chico don’t agree.  Or anyway, their scorecards from Gender JUST certainly indicate that’s the case.

I’m not sure what I was expecting going into this historic event, but I left feeling disenchanted with the game of politics and thinking about how much work goes into bringing awareness to interpersonal violence.  In the first place, the candidates didn’t exactly speak to their audience, many of whom were seasoned experts from Chicago’s most respected anti-violence organizations.  With a couple exceptions, it was pretty clear that they were uninformed and uncomfortable speaking to the topic specifically, especially where the LGBTQ community was concerned.

Carol Moseley Braun referred to “non-traditional people,” and Walls ruffled the audience when he said “violence against people with unusual lifestyles,” then bizarrely insisted that he was referring to panhandlers (slightly NSFW for the ads).  Moseley Braun also suggested (inexplicably) that the abundance of crisis hotlines providing services in the Chicago area poses a “barrier to access” because victims don’t know which one to call.  That was especially obtuse considering the obvious advantage to having specialized crisis services since everyone experiences violence and trauma differently.  Add to that the fact that Chicago enjoys a huge queer population but still does not have a rape crisis hotline meeting the specific needs of LGBTQ victims or a single emergency shelter for men who are abused by male partners, and Moseley Braun’s proposal to “reduce redundancy in services” seems a little imprudent.

The candidates veered off topic to make broad strokes about economic policy, spoke exclusively about street crime rather than the more common violence that happens behind closed doors, reiterated a “zero tolerance” policy for violence (a loaded phrase that makes some activists squirm for its roots in the prison-industrial complex), and favored vague generalizations to clear, pragmatic solution strategies.

Like most first-times, it was awkward and unsatisfying.  But there were a couple of thought-provoking highlights.

Patricia Van Pelt-Watkins, who has a strong background in community organizing, proposed using evidence-based models like Cease Fire to engage communities in preventing violence before-the-fact.  She said that violence against any group is everyone’s problem.

Miguelle Del Valle pointed out that an annual spending package of $275,000 for every rape crisis center across all of Cook County is “not enough, not even close, that’s a tiny drop in the bucket,” and promised to advocate for better funding as mayor.  He also suggested that a cultural change needs to start by embracing diversity, and as long as Chicago is racially segregated, our 77 communities cannot unite as one city to end violence.

In light of February as Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month, the candidates were asked if they agreed with the Chicago Taskforce on Violence Against Girls and Young Women’s recommendation to require public schools to develop lesson plans in dating and sexual violence prevention education.  All of the candidates agreed that this should be a requirement, except Carol Moseley Braun.  She suggested that parents be allowed to let their kids “opt out” of programming and noted that the lack of sex education in general and the current rate of 1 nurse for every 725 public school students are more urgent matters.  Patricia Van Pelt-Watkins poignantly suggested that the message of nonviolence be completely integrated into each school’s lifestyle, not just limited to one class requirement.  “If you put the students in a room and give them a dose, they won’t absorb it,” she explained.  “It needs to be part of their lifestyle, so it sticks with them.”

While attendants may not have been completely satisfied by some of the candidates’ answers on Tuesday, one thing’s for sure.  Everyone recognized that this forum was absolutely essential in the ongoing effort to educate the public and engage community leaders in open, honest discussions about violence. I’m very grateful to the candidates who took the time to address this issue and the anti-violence groups who organized this important event. What is your city doing to create a nonviolent environment? Do public forums like this happen where you live?

Badass-Activist Friday presents: COLIN ADAMO of Hooking Up and Staying Hooked

It’s Friday, and we all know what that means! Interviews with your favorite badass feminists and activists. Whether social media queens and kings, creative artists, sex educators, or just kick-ass personalities, these people harness righteous anger, instigate movements and inspire culture change. We’re here to honor them and their work, but more importantly, to highlight how we can all get up, plug in, and Just Start Doing.

So without further ado…

Here’s Colin Adamo, director of Yale sex week and founder of Hooking Up and Staying Hooked!

Adamo

As a recent graduate from Yale University, Colin Adamo helped coordinate a student group of health educators to teach sex-ed in local public schools, directed Sex Week at Yale, a biennial sex-ed summit, and authored a column on college relationships – and proves that young men are, should be seen as integral to the movement towards cultural change. He is currently working on developing the guide Hooking Up & Staying Hooked into graphic novel format and making his words of wisdom available to more and more young men.

1. Can you tell us a bit about how you start up the site Hookedupandstayinghooked.com? Did your experience as director of sex week at Yale inform your work after college? How?

I got to high school and was kind of desperate for any sort of advice when it came to girls, dating or sex. I found a lot of stuff in the bookstore but it always felt like it was for someone much older. After translating the info of these resources to fit my life, and a few years teaching health education to high school students while I was in college I figured I was in the perfect spot to put together the guide that I had always wanted when I was younger.

Through Sex Week I got to meet the most innovative and amazing people at the top of their fields be it specifically sex-ed, or adult entertainment, or even sex work. Being exposed to such brilliant minds and understanding their ambitions was a huge inspiration as well as a meaningful learning experience. It definitely gave me the courage to try new things with my work.

2. What is your target demographic, and what, typically, are their attitudes regarding consent, sex-positivity and boundaries? Why?

My hope is that every teenage guy across the country has the opportunity to sift through the content at H.U.S.H. as well as ask any questions they might be too afraid to ask their friends or parents. I write from what I know, so the advice is for straight guys 13-19, but I strongly advocate for education that is open to non-straight-identifying or questioning teens as well.

It seems like society wants to see these boys as positively-sexual – sex-obsessed and borderline dangerous in their pursuit to “ruin” the daughters of America with their uncontrollable hormonal lust. But I don’t think this is the case. I’ve met a lot of young dudes with questions, with insecurities, with the desire to find someone who they like and who really likes them back.

I think when you get down to it most young guys are open to feeling good and making their partners feel good. Unfortunately there is a lot of pressure to move at a pace that’s faster than they might like which often encourages them to push boundaries before they or their partners are actually ready and/or willing.

3. The attitude of most campus administrations regarding sexual assault and rape seems to focus on protection for women for which they are responsible – walking escorts, security etc. Do you think this is effective? What do you think are the problems of most of the violence education programs on campuses? What should change?

I think this attitude is totally whack and that is huge inspiration driving H.U.S.H. It seems like too often we’re looking for ways to “protect” girls from lascivious guys that are going to sexually assault them, get them pregnant or give them an STI.

It’s time we start talking to guys. Let’s quit treating them as potential assailants and instead address their desires and how to fulfill them respectfully and effectively.

Let’s ask guys what they want out of a sexual experience. Not many would say, “I want to get my rocks of regardless of whether or not I can find a partner who is willing.” Sure a lot of them might want to get laid, but most would probably want to do so in a way that makes them and their partners feel sexy, have fun, and get off. Giving them the tools to communicate with partners, give pleasure, and respect boundaries is the first step in creating healthier sexual environments on college campuses where heterosexual guys have sex (which is all of them).

4. How do you think activists can best involve and educate young men? What are the best ways to reach them?

My feelings are that activism is all about empathy, connecting to others on a person-to-person basis and discussing needs and concerns on both sides. It’s about reaching out and making allies, even if only one at a time, and having these guys accomplish your goals for you within their own community of friends and peers. Really supporting allies you acquire along the way might be the best method to bringing about change from within communities.

At the same time when educating or getting your message out you can’t write anyone off, paint any one person or group of people as the bad guy, or hand out any injunctions on how men have to act. You have to connect with them, see things from their perspective, and help guide them towards making the healthier decisions for themselves.

5. What is your favourite storyline/depiction of a relationship/sex/love for young people in the media? What makes it realistic?

I must admit my HUGE guilty pleasure addiction to Skins (I’m a loyalist to the UK version). It’s got teens hooking up in their bedrooms with their parents awkwardly milling about the house. It’s got teens getting messed up and hooking up when they shouldn’t. It’s got teens enjoying sex and intimacy and it’s got teens using sex as a tool or even a weapon. It has dramatically packed a ton of complicated feelings into a diverse cross-section of relationships.

Sure, I wish there was a little bit more depiction of them putting on condoms before going at it, and it normalizes drug use and rampant sex in a way I’m not completely comfortable with, but the roller coaster of feelings – the scariness, the desire, the hurt, the fun, the obsession, the excitement, the heartache, the ennui – capture a snapshot of adolescence in a way many have strived to, but ultimately failed. It’s completely unrealistic in its sensationalism but as real as ever in its portrayal of emotions that all seem so new as a teenager.

6. What frustrations have you encountered in your work? Or questions that you wish people would ask but don’t? Feel free to add anything else you’d like to say.

Too many people think young guys’ only concern is getting laid. It’s unfair. Few think that these guys need much in terms of guidance, or that they won’t seek out resources like H.U.S.H., or that they will only use it to get “what they want” out of girls. There is just generally an air of apathy or threatening desires that the rest of us assume young men have when few actually do.

I’d like to see more people asking, “what can we do for young guys?” I think it would make a big difference overall in the well-being of youth across the country.

Online Flirtations, this Valentine’s Day.

Jiyun and Gus, xoxosms

Jiyun and Gus, xoxosms

A poll from a while ago, published in Shape and Men’s Fitness states that nearly 40% of women, due to social networking and frequent use of technology such as texting, are having sex with partners sooner then before. All i can say is, “DUH.” Tracy Clark-Flory over at Salon speaks to the fact that for many of us, online flirtation is nothing unimaginable. In fact, it’s been this way for as long as we can remember. And there’s nothing wrong with it.

I can speak to my own personal experience on the matter – I went away to college single. Shortly after I arrived at school my freshman year, I began regularly videochatting with a friend from home who went to school in a different state. We got together when we were both home for Thanksgiving break, and have been together ever since. Had we not had the technology to stay in near constant contact when we both went away from school, it’s safe to say the relationship would have either not developed, or not developed until summer vacation. The technology enabled us to not only remain in contact but grow closer even though we were physically far away from each other.

People may demonize this rise in technology-induced relationships, but why? Though some may argue that it’s leading to a generation where people don’t know how to interact with people outside of a technological framework, I think this is a bit of paranoia. The reality is that technology is a large part of our lives. The two greatest outcomes we could hope for in a society where everyone’s got wireless are 1. that we use the internet to educate ourselves by staying well read and 2. we are able to connect to people in a way that had not been possible before. I was able to develop the healthiest and most real relationship of my life because of unlimited texting, Facebook poking, and videochatting. In no way does that delegitimize our love and respect for each other, and in no way does that say anything about our sexual relationship.

And even if what resulted from our social networking and texting was a strictly sexual relationship, that wouldn’t change the fact that what resulted was consensual, safe, and fun. The same people who believe having casual sex is immoral are, of course, going to point to this poll and tell us the world is ending, but if women are connecting to new partners/feeling at ease through social networking and texting, who cares? I’d like to see a study that looks at social networking as a real practical medium that have the potential to be utilized to spread information about safe and healthy sexual relationships.

So on this Valentine’s Day, Nancy Schwartzman (the Fearless Leader of our very own The Line) is kickstarting her new film, XOXOSMS, that asks the very important, and truly relevant question, “what do digital intimacy and love look like in the 21st century?” Adults tend to the internet as a vast and terrifying landscape – one that invokes anxieties about coercion – teens sexting, cyberbullying, perhaps even being kidnapped and sold into prostitution. However, contrary to what most adults think, it can be the place to find real love, connection, and independence. It can be public or very, very private. It can be a place for self-discovery. Often, it’s nothing like how teens and sex are represented in public media. So this is a film that seeks to prove them wrong, with a true story.

“Tonight you could merely sit on the other end of this internet connection and it would help.”

Feel like sending a valentine? Read more about it, find out how you can get involved, or show XOXOSMS some love, by supporting it on Kickstarter!

Badass-Activist Friday presents: REGINA YAU of The Pixel Project

It’s Friday, and we all know what that means! Interviews with your favorite badass feminists and activists. Whether social media queens and kings, creative artists, sex educators, or just kick-ass personalities, these people harness righteous anger, instigate movements and inspire culture change. We’re here to honor them and their work, but more importantly, to highlight how we can all get up, plug in, and Just Start Doing.

Without further ado…

We’re presenting Regina Yau, the Founder and President of The Pixel Project!

Regina Yau_compressed

The Pixel Project is an innovative virtual volunteer-led global non-profit organisation that uses social media and online strategies to turbo-charge global awareness about violence against women, while raising funds and volunteer power for the cause. Whoa! Without a doubt, Regina is one of our digital activism heroes. And here’s what she has to say.

1. What inspired you to create The Pixel Project?

I started The Pixel Project in response to a cry for help from Malaysia’s Women’s Aid Organisation. Their need emerged when the global financial crisis started in late 2008 and donors and funders rescinded, froze or reduced financial pledges. The National Coalition Against Domestic Violence (NCADV) who came on board a couple of months later were in the same position as WAO.

I hatched the idea in early January 2009 in the shower (yes – the shower! Archimedes was really on to something!), resulting in me rushing out to call WAO to pitch the idea while I was still dripping wet!

My motivation for getting involved with the cause is personal though. There is a history of domestic violence against the women in my mother’s family, starting with my grandmother who was a battered wife.

Starting The Pixel Project is my way of using what talents, skills and resources I have on hand to help stop the violence and, if I can, prevent other women and girls from experiencing any form of violence against women (VAW).

Also, working in this field has always been my calling. In fact, I have always been devoted to feminism and women’s issues in one way or another since I was 12!

Initially, I was on track to becoming an academic specialising in Anglophone Chinese women’s literature and women’s issues as I loved academia. However, a serious case of chicken pox derailed that career path. I ended up working in Public Relations as a way into the corporate world to hone my skills and build my network of contacts.

Eventually, I started working on women’s issues again by using my professional skills for charity work in my spare time, first doing Breast Cancer campaigns and then, finally, putting everything I have to work for The Pixel Project and the cause to end Violence Against Women when WAO came a-calling.

2. What tools did you use?

I essentially started The Pixel Project from scratch – no funds, no backers, no high profile supporters during what was – to paraphrase Charles Dickens – the best of times and the worst of times.

It was the “worst of times” for such an ambitious social enterprise because we kicked off at the height of the global recession of 2008/2009 when there was very little funding to be had. I mean, it was the reason I started The Pixel Project to begin with – because WAO and NCADV were facing a funding crisis and ironically, The Pixel Project itself needed resources in order to take off! *laughs* So I found other ways to compensate for the lack of funds.

I rolled up my sleeves and put my experience in setting up and running campaigns on little to no money to work. I structured The Pixel Project to mostly run on a combination of skilled volunteer power, donated or sponsored services and products and help from my network of contacts. Anything that needed cash such as photo shoots would be run on a shoestring budget. I wanted to prove that you can run a world-class nonprofit
organisation and first-rate global campaigns on very little cash.

That I was proven right shows that it was also the “best of times” for The Pixel Project to come into being because the time is right and ripe for the first wave of next-generation 21st century nonprofits to take off. With social media technology being free-to-use and easily accessible, increasing numbers of people getting wired up to the internet and the ascent of Web 2.0, we are an offshoot of what Forbes calls “the cheap revolution” where you can start an organisation without overhead costs – just set up shop online and you’re ready to go… and to go global with a keystroke!

So I made The Pixel Project a completely virtual non-profit social enterprise start-up using social media and other virtual and online tools to raise the triple bottom line of awareness, funds and volunteer power for the cause to end violence against women. Everything we do from our Twitter Tag Team programme to our annual “Paint It Purple” campaign is designed to take the cause to end violence against women into the 21st century. We don’t even have or need a physical office because our team members can work on our campaigns wherever they are in the world – have internet, will volunteer!

3. Did anyone say “you can’t” or question why it was useful?

Definitely. The Pixel Project started life as – and still is – an idea and vision with a scope so ambitious that many people who didn’t know me doubted my ability to bring it to fruition. In a way, I don’t blame the early naysayers for their take on it. To them, I was an “unknown quantity”, and The Pixel Project started with no funding, no celebrities signed up, no high profile partners or no Big Corporate backers.

Now, after two years of successful digital and hybrid digital/offline programmes and the Celebrity Male Role Model Pixel Reveal campaign just about ready to launch as I write this, early critics have largely been silenced or have become staunch allies. Now, we face those who loudly and vehemently criticise us for our laser-like focus on violence against women. They are the usual suspects who attack anyone working to make women’s lives better.

Funnily enough, we are rarely questioned as to whether our digital advocacy is useful. It’s probably a sign that unless you have been living under a rock during the past 5 years, the typical person on the street with internet access will have seen, heard of and probably participated in one form of digital activism or another be it signing an online petition or helping to take a Facebook campaign viral.

4. How did you respond?

With the early naysayers, I just thought: “Watch me!” in response to their cynicism, and got on with what I set out to do with The Pixel Project. I’m a pretty determined person and I really believed in The Pixel Project and so I just went with my gut feeling and pushed forward with plenty of sheer grit, strategic thinking, hard work and chutzpah.

You have to pick your battles. My priority is channelling my energies and my team’s energies towards building The Pixel Project and its work to prevent, stop and end violence against women. So my team and I have always tried to the other cheek to vitriol, and just relentlessly keeping our eye on the ball. We are here for our mission to raise the triple bottom line of funds, awareness and volunteer power for the cause, and to get men and women from all walks of life and all over the world working together to end violence against women. Nothing more, nothing less.

This is not to say that we do not defend our work but we feel that the best way forward is to be relentlessly positive and constructive, and to build a formidable body of programmes, initiatives and campaigns that effectively contribute towards preventing, stopping and ending violence against women.

The proof of the pudding is, after all, in the eating.

5. What impact has PP had, how do you measure, can you share some of your
favourite responses?

The Pixel Project is still a very young non-profit and we are still gathering momentum for the very long journey towards ending violence against women. Indeed, we are just setting up or had just completed the pilot of campaigns and initiatives that we hope will either be held annually or be ongoing. So in a sense, it is a little early to provide accurate, tangible measurements of the impact that we are working to achieve.

Nevertheless, while we continue to work hard towards fulfilling the triple bottom line of raising awareness, funds and volunteer power for the cause, we have had some surprising feedback. To our supporters, survivors and fellow activists and nonprofits, our positive, solutions-based approach means that the biggest impact on their lives is to give them hope in the long battle to end violence against women.

For survivors, it is the hope that they can come out of abusive and/or traumatic violent situations intact, that they can get help and that their voice matters.

For our supporters, our efforts give them hope that there is help out there should they or the women in their lives need it. Hope also comes from the fact that we provide them with so many opportunities to contribute to the cause.

For fellow activists and nonprofits, we keep hope alive that the younger generations (most of us working on The Pixel Project are in our early twenties to mid-thirties) can and will continue the cause to end violence against women.

Hope is an intangible, abstract notion. You can’t measure it. Yet it is a positive galvanising force that helps people keep going for this very tough cause which has a long way to go. That we have achieved this impact so early in our existence as a change organisation is amazing!

As for my favourite responses, there are so many! Some of the ones that stand out include:

- A couple of our staunch supporters, one of whom is a long time volunteer on our
team, getting our ribbon tattooed on their ankles to remind them that they will
never again let a man hurt them.

- A dedicated informal group of followers on Twitter devoted to re-tweeting every single helpline we tweet during our daily helpline retweet session.

-A domestic violence survivor who emailed The Pixel Project team to tell us that our work has empowered her to begin sharing her story and speaking up so other battered women can break free of their abusers.

6. What is your hope for the future of the project? (and humanity!)

It is my hope that The Pixel Project will continue to steadily mature into an independent and sustainable non-profit social enterprise that continuously leads the way with fresh, workable ideas that will be the engine behind digital and technology initiatives,programmes and campaigns that will help end violence against women by:

- Growing a strong, united, and vibrant network of partners comprising nonprofits working to end violence against women and our allies across other sectors. We really do mean it when we say that “it’s time to stop violence against women. Together”. Nobody can do it alone because of the complexity, scope and entrenched nature of the issue.

- Changing public perception of the cause from a negative one focused on the ugliness of the social ills we are battling into a positive one focused on putting solutions into practice and empowering communities to take action.

- Galvanising action to prevent, stop and end violence against women by providing inspiration to act and creating opportunities for anybody in the world in fun yet effective ways.

I truly believe that The Pixel Project’s work is done when organisations like us are no longer needed – that will the day when violence against women and girls has been truly eradicated. In the meantime, we are here for the long haul.

As for humanity, despite having to face the ugliness of violence against women, I maintain an unwavering belief that most people are good people who want to help. They just need a nudge, a roadmap and an opportunity to get engaged and get involved with the cause. It may sound idealistic but we lose nothing by believing in the best of humanity. Gandhi expressed it best when he said: “You must not lose faith in humanity. Humanity is an ocean; if a few drops of the ocean are dirty, the ocean does not become dirty.”

For more, follow The Pixel Project on twitter.

Girl-on-girl Crime.

i-can-have-it-all-sandwich-day

I’ll admit that I live in a bit of a feminist bubble. Many of my close friends are self-identified, active feminists; I kill an absurd amount of time reading feminist blogs; I’ve interned and volunteered for organizations focused on women’s issues. Although it is a bit of a myopic perspective, I’ve come to see most issues as feminist vs. virulent misogynists; Gloria Steinem cited at press conference in November 2009 that “more women self-identify as feminist than Republican,” but I’ve encountered a shocking number of sexist females in the past few months abroad.

The worst part about this particular brand of sexism is that it isn’t sexism in the strictest and most dangerous sense of the word, but more of a self-defeating attitude and acceptance of rigid gender roles. I’ve heard comments ranging from “The skiers were really good, even the women” to “He should get the last piece, he’s a boy.” The most common anti-female attitudes from females, however, are about acceptable careers for men and women. My Belgian friend told me over coffee and quiche one day (Sweden is delicious) that she felt torn between male and female aspirations. “How so?” She responded that she loved “women things,” like cooking, cleaning, decorating, and, one day, raising a family, but was “like a man” in that she went to business school, studied hard every day in the library, and aspired to be a bigwig at a financial corporation one day. Her ambition was commendable, but did it have to be framed as a “man thing?” Can’t it just be a thing?

Her thoughts, however, are more likely to reflect a reaction to stereotypes than sexism; a bit of the response could have been lost in translation as well. More antagonistic to the aims of feminism is the “one of the boys” mentality. Being told that you’re “like a guy” is often used as a compliment, one that many women strive to receive. If masculinity is praised, where does that leave femininity? An article on Jezebel, “Dudeliness is Next to Godliness,” put it perfectly:

The disturbing implication of considering logic, being fun, and having a sense of humor to be in the realm of dude-dom is that what’s left for ladies is the dreary opposite. If men are logical, then women must be illogical. If men are carefree and exciting, then women must be boring. If men are hilarious, then women must be perennial wet blankets who hate laughing and fun. If having masculine qualities is a positive, then is possessing feminine qualities a negative, and is anyone who is acting wack therefore performing ladyhood? To make matters worse, I know more than one woman who wears her “I’m not like those other girls; I’m just like one of the guys!” badge with pride, who agrees with the public consensus that girls are just terrible and they’re ideal. They’re special and superior, like a man. They use the “I’m a dude” excuse to exempt themselves from any number of standards to which women are subjected- they use their guy-ness to avoid being slut-shamed, to explain why they aren’t overdramatic or overemotional.

While saying that one is following a “male” career path did create a gender dichotomy, it did so without claiming that one aspect is “good” while the other is “bad.” The pedestal upon which male qualities are placed as girls declare proudly that they “hate girls” and can hang with the bros, places a normative quality to the issue. Besides, what does it mean to be “one of the guys?” As Morning Gloria states in her article, “There are subsets of every population that are insufferable. Women aren’t insufferable as a population and neither are men; people are across-the-board flawed and collectively a pain in the ass. Bitches aren’t crazy; human beings are crazy.

This insidious, underlying yet ubiquitous female sexism raises several important obstacles in the struggle of shaking misogyny from society. First and foremost, there needs to be greater solidarity among women if we ever hope to make progress. If women themselves shirk away from feminism, vehemently declaring that they believe in equal rights, but that they aren’t- gasp!-feminists, how do we stand a chance in convincing more antagonistic groups that misogyny exists in today’s culture, and that it needs to be eradicated? As Tina Fey quips in Mean Girls, “You all have got to stop calling each other sluts and whores. It just makes it okay for guys to call you sluts and whores.” Claiming to “hate girls” and striving for masculinity only validates harmful attitudes towards women, particularly in the fight for issues of consent.

Secondly, this form of sexism creates a paradox in which women are held to certain gender roles- the aforementioned cooking, homemaking, etc.- while they are simultaneously expected to pursue a certain level of masculinity, to be “one of the guys.” Worst of all, this ideal is often perpetuated by women themselves. Invoking the genius of Tina Fey once again, the situation reminds of me the 30 Rock episode “Sandwich Day,” in which Liz Lemon, chasing her ex-boyfriend through an airport in hopes of emotional closure and perhaps romantic reconnection, is stopped at security, and can only pass if she throws away her sandwich, a sandwich she has been waiting all day, and year, to enjoy. She frantically shoves the sandwich into her mouth, explaining whilst maniacally chewing that, “I can do it! I can have it all!” When forced to choose between traditional feminine and masculine goals, the boyfriend and the sandwich, a symbol for her career and personal fulfillment, she opts for both. How many times have we found ourselves at this hypothetical airport? I know I have scarfed down the proverbial sandwich many times. But can we have it all? Can we follow dreams that have traditionally been reserved for men while retaining our femininity, whatever that means to us personally? Can we shatter the glass ceiling with a pair of stilettos? I think so. It will just take a bit of solidarity.

Super Bowl Sexism Smackdown


Super Bowl ads, while known for the dollars expended and eyes tuned in, are not known for their intellectual heft. But they’ve become increasingly misogynistic in recent years – not to mention racist, homophobic, and exhibiting other types of downright nastiness. A number of them have been so bad they didn’t make it to prime time. Some advertisers feel that the best laughs come from portraying women in stereotypical and demeaning roles. What better way to make us pay attention than to put women’s dignity in the punchline?

Last year’s were particularly bad, so blogger Amanda Hess looked into what might be driving this trend. She found that CBS’s Standards and Practices office was the one greenlighting and derailing ads with strange criteria. The ads are all of course going to try to out-shock each other to grab the attention span of millions of Americans – so it was the department’s duty to decide what went too far. She notes that “ad-makers are forced to play within a very small range of acceptably ‘outrageous’ topics,” and it’s the more subtle discrimination of jock humor that got through, while outright sex was banned. Which meant that some questionable material made it through the leaky sieve.

But the good news is that last year’s offense-o-fest didn’t pan out quite like those ad makers had hoped: the worst offenders also fared the worst when it came to ratings and negative reactions. The most misogynistic ads barely registered as the best-reviewed and most buzzed about, reported Jezebel’s Irin Carmon. No one was loling over them on social media – in fact, they got the most negative responses.

Did the ad industry learn its lesson this year? The sexism was perhaps toned down and less widespread, but some companies couldn’t help themselves. Here are this year’s top ten offenders:

#1: Pepsi Max

Message: Women are jealous and controlling!

Pepsi’s marketing team clearly had a pre-Super Bowl meeting and decided “You know what sells? Stereotypical women!” After taking everything away from him that he wants, this man’s partner chucks a can at his head for looking at another woman. But it all works out when she nails the jogger and they run off hand in hand, all forgotten in the violent act. No problem!

Message: Women want marriage and babies. Men want sex and soda. (We’re not sure in what order).

While this woman at least gets to have a more nuanced inner monologue than the man (and somehow infiltrate his mind, because woman are just that controlling), all she can think about is their future together on what is presumably a first date. And when his obsessing over sex is interrupted by a soda and he’s told he can’t have one of those things, we’re left wondering: which is he more upset about losing? We may never know! His monosyllabic brain can’t explain.

#2: Go Daddy

Message: Smart women are only good for their bodies. Except if they’re old. Ew.

Go Daddy already made a mark for itself last year in winning the sexismfest, so it wasn’t shocking to see them at it again. While they only want her for hot bod, spokeswoman Danica Patrick has placed higher than any woman in an Indy 500. As if it weren’t enough to display women with real talents as only worthwhile for their body parts, all the hooting and hollering comes to an abrupt stop when the sexy new spokesperson is revealed to be Joan Rivers. Because god help us if we have to look at women over the age of 14!

Message: Even if you don’t want to strip down to shill a product, you have to if “contractually obligated.”

Gross. But maybe those two women are wearing knee length skirts and turtle necks with their stilettos? You can’t know unless you go to their site. Which may or may not contain pornography, judging from this ad.

#3: LivingSocial


Message: Men crying and wearing dresses is crazy and hilarious!

While I’m very happy LivingSocial seems to have helped this man embrace himself as a transsexual, the ad’s humor rests on the assumption that its audience will find a high-heeled man doing yoga hysterical. Not to mention that a man who cries clearly has been altered in some way. Women do the craziest things, don’t they?

#4: Mini Cooper

Message: Yay anal sex?

Mini Cooper has created a new game show: Cram it in the Boot! In case the innuendo passed you by, some sexy women in short sparkly dresses are around to make cramming motions and show you their butts. Not to mention some of the phallic objects he shoves in the trunk. Guess any kind of sex sells.

#5: Teleflora

Message: Men don’t have emotions, they just love boobs.

While this pathetic young man, who is so far from being in touch with his feelings he can only access his penis, is perhaps the butt of this joke, it relies on a view of women as just their breasts. Faith Hill, acting alongside him, doesn’t encourage him to come up with anything better – because we all know he’s not capable of higher thoughts.

#6: Snickers

Message: Knocking a woman on the ground: very funny.

After body checking Betty White last year, Snickers continued its violent streak by slamming Roseanne Barr with a log. The other actor in the ad, Richard Lewis, remains unharmed. Violence against woman – hilarious, right?

#7: Stella Artois

Message: Women weep for men they don’t know, but those men only have eyes for beer.

No one comes out looking good in this ad. Following Pepsi Max’s lead in substituting drinks for women, Adrian Brody would much rather a foamy beer than deal with any of those weepy chicks. A girl’s not worth more than a six dollar drink anyway, amiright?

#8: Chevy

Message: Nothing goes better in an ad than a hot chick.

A mockery of inane male brainstorming? Or a reflection of what it’s really like when ad execs get in a room to make a car commercial? Either way, they’ve answered the age-old question: redheads are hottest. Especially when they’re teachers. Very enlightened.

#9: Lipton Brisk

Message: Ugly women: out. Hot women: in.

“First we need some hot chicks,” Eminem starts out. For their brilliant ideas on how to make a great music video, right? Too bad the girls his claymation alter ego picks don’t get any lines.

#10: Best Buy

Message: Attacking a man’s masculinity is the best way to take him down.

Best Buy almost got through this ad without registering on the misog-o-meter, until someone in Ozzy’s cohort gets back at Justin Beiber by remarking that he looks like a girl. The world’s worst insult, to be compared to a lady! Burn.

SUPERBOWL LIVE-TWEET

With accused rapist Ben Roethlisberger playing for the Pittsburg Steelers and a history of sexist and pro-life ads under its belt, the Super Bowl is one of our favourite events – to get angry about, that is.

Come time, Bryce will be slicing, dicing, and dissecting the Super Bowl LIVE on twitter here . So put on a onesie, get yourself some wings, and come scream/throw things with us!

Badass-Activist Friday presents: SADY DOYLE of Tiger Beatdown

Dear Readers, Happy Friday!

The WIYL blog is kicking off an all-new series of interviews with your favorite badass feminists and activists. Whether social media queens and kings, creative artists, sex educators, or just kick-ass personalities, these people harness righteous anger, instigate movements and inspire culture change. We’re here to honor them and their work, but more importantly, to highlight how we can all get up, plug in, and Just Start Doing.

Without further ado…

One of the most relentless and passionate voices on the Internet, blogger extraordinaire and twitter activist Sady Dole of Tiger Beatdown!

You’re one of our favorite, most unapologetic and opinionated bloggers. Can you talk a little about what made you start Tiger Beatdown, voice your opinions with such conviction, and what challenges that might have posed you in the course of your work?

Aww, thanks! Tiger Beatdown started the way most blogs start: I had a lot of things to say every day, and didn’t think the people in my life would be interested. It was pretty common for people to make fun of me, even just affectionately, for being “too feminist.” But I needed a place to be as feminist as I wanted. As more people started to read the blog, I felt more empowered to take my opinions seriously and value them and voice them loudly. Now, people still make fun of me for being too feminist, and there are still moments when I feel insecure about being accepted socially or professionally because of that, but the people who make the jokes are also aware that they can’t freaking stop me. There’s a different tone to the jokes now, because I’m not the one who’s feeling threatened.

In the past two months, you have launched two Twitter campaigns — #DearJohn and #Mooreandme — defending the rights of rape victims, illuminating how bogus and dangerous a redefinition of rape will be, demanding justice, accountability and making some serious noise. What happened as a result? Were/are they successful? Why twitter?

I think in terms of #MooreandMe, our impact on the narrative looks pretty small, but it was profound. There are no longer stories about how these women have to be lying, stories which openly seek to discredit them without a trial; Naomi Wolf is no longer saying that an unconscious person can give consent. People are still minimizing the charges, and there’s still a false dichotomy being put forth, that you can either support WikiLeaks or believe Assange might be guilty, but not both; anyone who doesn’t say Assange is innocent is still accused of saying he’s guilty. And the charges are still being downplayed by the press. But we stopped the very worst manifestations.

The thing is, with #DearJohn, we’re challenging the exact same misconceptions that informed the Assange case: The idea that rape has to be “forcible” in order to be rape. People who couldn’t wrap their heads around the idea that coercion or unconsciousness equaled non-consent in the Assange case are now shouting from the rooftops that unconsciousness and coercion equal non-consent, in order to oppose the GOP. It’s a little irritating, but I’ll take it.

Twitter was an instinctive choice for #MooreandMe, because it made the target of the protest accessible and ensured that he could hear us. But I liked it as a medium for #DearJohn too, because it was really equalizing, it wasn’t hierarchical, it ensured that voices and perspectives could influence the conversation regardless of how well-connected or well-known they were, and it was a very visible, trackable way to register dissent.

And that has to do with the other major accomplishment of these campaigns, in my opinion: We’ve mobilized sexual assault survivors, and made them a powerful base. I’ve gotten so many letters from survivors about how these protests made them feel like they could finally speak up, and gave them hope that their concerns actually mattered. Instead of being silent or divided, survivors are speaking up and exercising political and cultural power, as a group. Which is really impressive. I like the idea of the people in power being intimidated by rape survivors, and having to take them into account when they make decisions. That really brings me great joy, just to contemplate it.

Do you speak to a specific/target audience, or do you speak mostly for yourself, with the responses you receive as a side effect?

I try to be as inclusive of as many people as possible, while also not speaking for anyone else. I try to listen as closely as I can to legitimate criticism, because I’m not useful or interesting when I speak only to my own concerns, but I also can’t say what it’s like to be a woman of color in this society, or a lesbian, or a trans woman, so everything I write comes specifically from me and my base of knowledge. I do like getting responses. I even like getting critical responses, if they’re smart. And as I’ve grown, I’ve become more focused on who I’m serving, and not just on my own need for self-expression. Sometimes I don’t want to talk about rape at all, but I still think people need to hear it. So it’s my job to drag my ass to the computer and repeat the basics about why rape is bad, again.

What do you think is the most harmful gender stereotype out there and what’s the best way to combat this? Humour plays a large part in your writing – are these things related?

I mean, there are so many. If you speak about sexism, you’re a bitch. Or you’re a whiner. Or you’re making things up, you’re delusional. You’re too serious; your issues aren’t serious enough. You’re too intimidating; you’re too weak. Everyone’s a winner. I definitely make jokes, sometimes just to keep the posts interesting and because it’s how I talk, but also because it’s hard to call someone an over-serious bitch or a weak, hypersensitive whiner when she’s got a big shit-eating grin on her face. If you’re clearly laughing, it doesn’t even matter if anyone else thinks you’re funny; you’re not coming from a defensive position any more.


You’re also one of the most committed online feminist activists out there – what keeps you committed and motivated to keep catalysing change? What movements inspire you?

I just have this really serious problem with not being listened to. I don’t accept it. If I know I’m right, then I just get louder and more persistent as more and more people disagree with me. Sometimes it’s not even because I think I’ll win; I just do it to annoy people. I don’t think it’s a gift. I think it’s just my innate obnoxiousness. Did you not hear me talking? I’ll yell. Did you not hear me yelling? I’ll get a megaphone. Did you not hear me with the megaphone? I’ll stand over your bed at night and aim my megaphone directly into your ear. DO YOU WANT ME TO SHUT UP? HOW ABOUT NOW?

I’m always keeping my eyes open, and trying to stay tapped into all the vital stuff that young feminists are doing, especially online. I read a ton of blogs every day, just to get a sense of what people are thinking and talking about; it helps me, not just as a writer, but as someone who is hopefully serving a community when I organize. Even if I see something that irritates me, or something I disagree with, it informs what I WON’T do, next time I’m planning a similar action. What energizes me is not so much any particular movement, but the fact of so many movements and individuals in dialogue with each other, particularly online.

Is there anything you’d like to say that we haven’t asked — ?

I would just like to remind readers that they’re powerful enough to do this sort of organizing themselves. The key is to reach out to each other and work together. #MooreandMe involved a whole lot of people, but I wasn’t taking steps to delegate anything to anybody, so I actually felt really isolated and drained and martyred. I felt alone, when actually I was surrounded by people who wanted to help, and some (like my co-blogger, Garland Grey) who were taking key roles in the protest.

With #DearJohn, I actually took the time to talk to everybody I knew, and to draw in people I didn’t even know that well, so that they could to serve vital functions within the protest. The result is that I feel empowered, I feel like part of the community, I’m doing better work, and I have a ton of people to talk to and learn from as we form strategy and talking points and such. One of the strengths of the political Internet, which a movement like #MooreandMe or #DearJohn makes clear, is that there are so many great voices and so many ways for people to connect and influence each other. So if you see something that you think you have to oppose, use your voice to speak up against it, and try to get any friends or sympathetic people in your online space involved as well. The way you go from a blogger to a person building a movement is simple: You say, “hey, I want to build a movement, who’s interested?” And when they’re interested, you start talking to them, and then you start to move.

For more, visit Deanna Zandt’s Guide to the #DearJohn campaign and Sady’s Resources for the Digital Activist. For background on the #DearJohn movement, read Amanda Marcotte and Sady.

Remember, getting pissed off is good. Channel it, get inspired and we’ll move with you. You can start by signing the Petition to stop HR3 here.

All Posts from February, 2011