Author Archive

Facebook Takes an Important Step Toward Ending Sexual Violence and #FBRape Wins An Important Battle in the Fight for Safe Spaces Online

When Women, Action & The Media (WAM!) launched The Everyday Sexism Project, and writer Soraya Chemaly called on Facebook to recognize violence against women on their site as hate speech and train moderators to protect women from harassment and hate speech, we  - the activist and, more specifically, feminist Internet-dwellers, saw this action as a great step toward moving toward solidifying the web as a haven of safe spaces.

The internet has incredible potential to create safe spaces for girls and women: today, unlike ever before, we can use the internet to organize from around the world and take part in social movements. Where Is Your Line? uses Facebook and email to organize and plan what we are going to write about, and social media sites like Facebook and Twitter to share our work with the world and engage others in conversation. For groups like WIYL and countless others know that social media and the internet—and the safe spaces that they allow us to create—are vitally important to our success.

We asked for pages and content that glorifies violence against women and hate speech to be removed from the website, in the same way that hate speech targeting other oppressed groups was already being removed by Facebook. On Tuesday, after around 5,000 emails were sent to Facebook and a Twitter campaign that reached around 60,000 tweets, Facebook agreed to take the actions requested by the campaign.

We won!

Facebook has pledged to review their guidelines regarding violations, update training in regards to reviewing hate speech, increase the accountability of users so that a person posting cruel material can be held accountable, and work with feminist and anti-violence against women groups like Everyday Sexism.

This is exciting news for everyone, but especially organizations that rely on social media for creating social movements and social change; groups who are exploiting the organizing and sharing powers that platforms like Facebook offer to achieve larger goals of social equality.

Women deserve safe spaces on the internet, and these safe spaces should be free of bullying and hate from misogynists and individuals who commit violence against women. Individuals attempting to organize in a way meant to glorify violence against women and perpetuate said violence do not deserve the same right to safe spaces. We’re happy to see that Facebook finally agrees.

Congratulations to Facebook for taking these important steps toward making the internet a safer place for women, which will undoubtedly have important consequences in the real world as well. And congratulations to everyone who was involved in making this goal a reality—your hard work and internet activism paid off!

Watch This PSA, It’s Good For You

These men at the University of Arizona don’t support rape culture. And they don’t get why any other dude would.

Their message is clear: that all men need to come together to stop rape. And that it’s the only way it’s gonna happen at all.

Emily Lindin of the UnSlut Project: Badass Activist Friday

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 cultural 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.

Today’s badass is Emily Lindin.

Emily Lindin was the sixth grade slut.

Those days are well-behind Lindin, who now posts entire unedited entries from her middle school diary online as The UnSlut Project, an “It Gets Better”-esque effort to reach out to girls being bullied and harassed because of their actual or perceived sexual expression and let them know they are not alone. After the passing of Rehtaeh Parsons, the media fuckery during Steubenville, and the vast array of cases coming to light regarding the disappointing state of our sexual violence epidemic around the world, Lindin decided enough was enough and made the choice to speak out.

In her own words:

The UnSlut Project is inspired by my own experience. When I was eleven years old, I was branded a “slut” by my classmates and for the next few years of my life, I was bullied incessantly at school, after school, and online (this was 1997 in the days of AIM, and of course online bullying has only gotten worse).

During all this, I kept a regular diary. I decided to kick off The UnSlut Project by publishing these diary entries online, one at a time, without changing a word and with very limited commentary (except for changing all names, including my own). It’s my hope that, in addition to providing perspective to young girls, these entries can refresh adult readers’ memories by offering the unadulterated voice of an eleven year old who considered suicide multiple times and, thankfully, never went through with it.

I’m now a Harvard graduate, PhD candidate, and freelance writer and am quite happy, sex-positive, and fulfilled in all aspects of my life.

I wanted to talk to Lindin about what brought her to The UnSlut Project and how it feels to be vulnerable all over again.

Tell me about YOU! Who is “Emily Lindin?” How did she get to this point? What do you think were the experiences that moved you from a victim of bullying and harassment to an activist making such positive changes for girls around the world?

I am using a pen name to protect the identities of the other people I mention in my diaries, so forgive me if I answer this question rather vaguely.

My parents were one of the main reasons I got over this awful phase of my life – not because I confided in them (I never did) but because they encouraged me to pursue my academic work and my other talents. As I got to high school, I gained confidence because I was doing so well academically. Getting into a good college reinforced the idea that my hard work mattered so much more, in terms of the direction my life was headed, than anyone else’s opinion of me. During college and since, I have focused on doing what makes me happy and on trying to use my talents in the best ways I can. By discovering things I could be good at and concentrating on those things rather than on what other people thought of me, I was able to grow up and out of the phase represented in my middle school diaries.

When you were being harassed at school, who did you seek help from? How did that go?

I don’t think I ever sought help. I was too humiliated to bring up the subject.

I have an older sister who was a couple of years ahead of me in school, and while she knew what was going on, she and I weren’t close at the time. She was in a different group of friends and was not wrapped up in sexual activity, drinking, smoking, or any of that. I was actually just talking with her about The UnSlut Project and she said she had totally forgotten about all that drama and that she felt guilty she hadn’t realized how bad it was.

How does one become the “sixth-grade slut?”

For me, the event that triggered my reputation as a “slut” was engaging in uncomfortable, arguably coerced sexual behavior with my then-boyfriend. He told our group of friends, and the word spread quickly. These diaries tell the story of the events leading up to my sexual behavior, that behavior itself, and the aftermath.

One of the things that has struck me as I read through and type up my old diary entries is how involved in everyone else’s lives my peers and I were. Nowadays, for the most part (if you’re not a public figure), whom you choose to date and/or have sex with is your own business. But in middle school, it was understood to be EVERYBODY’S business.

You’re giving people the option to share their stories alongside yours. What parallels do you see between your own experiences and the experiences of girls functioning in a social media driven world?

There are many similarities, unfortunately. I have heard from countless women who say they feel like they could be reading their own middle school diaries. Hearing that gives me confidence that this project is necessary – my experience definitely wasn’t unique. As Amanda Hess pointed out in her article about The UnSlut Project on Slate, while social media can exacerbate this type of harassment, it can also serve as a positive outlet or offer perspective.

The UnSlut Project is, in a way, the opposite of cyber bullying. It’s turning social media as a harmful tool on its head.

The most rewarding part for me has been receiving messages from young women who are currently being bullied, who say that The UnSlut Project is helping them gain perspective. Reading through the disturbing stories of other women is often really difficult and sad for me, but when I hear from girls who are benefiting from this project, it makes me realize that our suffering can be turned into a positive thing for someone else.

What advice would you give to girls going through an experience like yours?

The people who are tormenting you do not define who you are. YOU define who you are – so go ahead and define it! Figure out what you’re good at and focus on that. If you’re pretty good at drawing, enroll in an art class at a nearby community college – you might make new friends with similar interests who don’t know about your reputation at school, you’ll be building your resume for college applications, and you’ll have an outlet for your anxiety. Learn what you can at school, and keep your mind set on the future: soon, you’ll leave these narrow-minded people behind and none of them will matter in your life at all.

Support the Girls of SPARK!

Our friends and allies over at the SPARK Movement need help!

SPARK, which began in 2010, is a movement to end the sexualization of girls in the media and is an empowerment powerhouse. A heavy hitter for all things girl power with an incredible team of young bloggers doing the work all for themselves, they’re looking to raise funds for their annual member training program.

The training, which presents the SPARK Team with a unique opportunity to meet IRL (coming from every corner of the globe, mind you), put the girl activists who write for and organize on behalf of the movement through media training, writing exercises, general bonding activities, brainstorming sessions, and more – all which lead to meaningful actions.

The team needs at least 10,000 dollars by May 10 on Piggybackr to keep up their impactful work to improve girls’ lives. Even five or ten will help support and sustain the future of feminism – but perks for more include haikus, mixtapes, zines, and hand-written, individually-performed rap tracks.

You can give today at the main SPARK Team page (and you can even indicate that “Carmen Rios,” our Managing Editor, is the team member you support to help her reach her overall goal of 500 for the fundraiser!).

Circle of 6 Hits India, Nancy Hits HuffPo

As part of global SAAM efforts, we’re excited that The Circle of 6 App is now a part of the on-the-ground activism and community work being done around sexual assault in India. Nancy wrote for Huffington Post about why it was a critical time for this tool to hit the market and why the team knew this was the right thing to do.

On December 16, the violent rape and death of a 23-year-old woman from New Delhi galvanized the local, national and international community to rise up against sexual violence both in India and around the world. The protests began on December 21 and filled the streets, villages, cities and nations while images and stories captivated the international media and online community.

We got involved when Google alerts for “Circle of 6” started flooding our inbox, and download numbers rose in India as Circle of 6 appeared again and again in the Indian press as a tool for Indian women to combat sexual violence.

From the beginning, our international team developed Circle of 6 to serve a global population — though we come from different corners of the world, the issue is personal for all of us. Our UX designer and creative director, Thomas Cabus is from Paris and experienced first-hand the bullying and sometime danger of being queer in public spaces. Christine Corbett Moran, our engineer, is based in Zurich and wrote the code for Circle of 6, in part, because she was stalked while a student at M.I.T. As a filmmaker and activist, I bring my own story of sexual assault while living abroad to the work, and together we remain committed to meeting women and young people where they are, and bringing a judgment free and mobile approach to the prevention of sexual violence.

We knew that we were on the radar of smartphone users in India, as only two days after the Vice President announced that we were one of two winners of the Apps Against Abuse challenge, we were mentioned in the Indian press. However, our download numbers from India were modest until December. But, as protests shook India, breaking the silence on rape and sexual violence, our downloads spiked making India have the second highest amount of downloads in the world, only after the United States.

We realized this was a powerful moment and that people needed more tools at their disposal, so we hopped online for a quick Google + chat. We hatched a passionate and somewhat naive idea. We decided to customize Circle of 6 for India. I made an appointment with the offices of UN Women in New York. There, our idealism and goodwill were met with a very complicated reality: India is a country with 28 states, seven territories and about 152 languages and dialects. What was our plan to most effectively serve Indian users? What language to choose? Were there national hotlines in place dedicated to rape and sexual violence that could operate effectively across the country? Where was the greatest need and did that intersect with smartphone usage?

Circle of 6 was created with the intention to empower the user (our target was American college women, where is it is likely that 1 in 4 women will be sexually assaulted during her time in college), to connect them to a circle of people they trust to have their back in potentially dangerous situations. Stories culled from hundreds of students about being separated from friends, lost, or needing an easy way out of a situation, informed the development of the functions. The app uses GPS and SMS technology. Pre-programmed U.S.-based hotlines were plugged in for dating violence and sexual assault. We created a customizable third option, so that the user could choose what number they wanted to reach out to in an emergency.

With research and support from colleagues at SayNOUnite we decided to localize the app to New Delhi. New Delhi is the capital, with a high concentration of women’s advocacy organizations and is also one of five cities in the UN’s Safe City Initiative. Over one hundred NGO’s on the rights and safety of women are based in New Delhi, including respected advocacy groups like Jagori, Partners for Law in Development,Lawyer’s Collective and the YWCA.

New Delhi is also a symbol: It is the city where the dam broke and the silence of the masses on gender-based violence was shattered.

With the release of Circle of 6 – New Delhi, the user can choose between English and Hindi language. Men and women can download and become instantly linked up with each other and join each other’s circle of trust and accountability. The GPS function has always worked internationally, but users on the ground have tested it for New Delhi specifically. The language of the app remains gender neutral, a specific translation note for the Hindi, which uses gendered nouns and objects. The app will continue to speak to users of all genders and sexual orientation. Hotlines are now pre-programmed for the newly formed 24/7 women’s hotline of New Delhi and the Jagori advocacy helpline. As a suggested third number, the user is directed to the Lawyer’s Collective, if calling the police feels unsafe, which for many women it does.

As of this writing, Circle of 6 has over 55,000 downloads in 26 different countries. We are hoping that this number will only expand as more and more people from around the world harness the Circle of 6 platform to create circles of accountability, and to aid them in fighting sexual violence in their communities.

Originally Published at the Huffington Post.

THE LINE Provokes More Dialogue on Campus at Bishop’s University

Zoe and Nicole, students at Bishop’s University, sent us an email recently to let us know that THE LINE inspired new dialogues on sexual assault on their campus – and more survivors speaking up about their experiences:

First off, I wanted to thank you again for your wonderful visit to Bishop’s a week and a half ago, and I am sorry I didn’t get a chance to thank you sooner. I hope your visit to Carleton was also successful, and was wondering if you were able to do your CBC interview.

We wanted to let you know the impact your visit had on Bishop’s students. Since the No means KNOW event, people have begun to talk more about sexual assault, consent, and to question how the administration treats assault survivors. Most recently, a letter was published in our campus newspaper detailing one person’s experience with sexual assault and victim blaming, which led the editors of the Newspaper to come to Nicole and I to talk about our school’s procedures and the dangers that exist on campus.

The article appeared on Page 5:

click for full-size

 

We are so honored to have a part in these conversations around the globe!

Girl Model – Streaming Free Online NOW at PBS!

You can stream Girl Model in full on the PBS POV website beginning today for no cost.

The film follows Ashley, an American model scout and former model, and 13-year-old Nadya from Siberia, as the girl is promised a lucrative career in Japan but instead becomes part of an industry that makes perpetual childhood a globally traded commodity.

It was an Official Selection of the 2011 International Documentary Film Festival Amsterdam, Winner of the 2011 POV Alpha Cine Award, and produced in association with American Documentary POV.

Girl Model puts the lie to the glamorous portrayal of modeling provided by reality television programs and the glitzy images on the covers of high-fashion magazines. Instead, this poetic film lays bare for viewers a modeling industry rife with Ashleys and Nadyas, mirror images of exploitation and uncertainty.

The film echoes with a painful message: girl models need protection.

Children working in entertainment are uniquely vulnerable, but if you sign this petition that child models be included in the same regulations that protect all other child performers in New York, we can make a step toward a safer and healthier modeling industry:

For most models who start as children in this profession, this issue is personal. At the age of 14, when many professional print and runway models start their careers, a model is unprepared to deal with inappropriate demands from adults in positions of authority, like photographers, agents and clients, who may pressure them to pose nude or semi-nude, give in to sexual demands or engage in risky behavior including, starvation dieting, working long hours without pay and forfeiting high school. For many young models working today, bowing to these pressures often feels less like a choice than a prerequisite for employment. And without regulations mandating the completion of at least some level of education and the provision of on-set tutors, many young models will forego their education entirely to pursue short-lived careers, only to wind up earning little or no money and incurring substantial start-up costs often amounting to tens of thousands of dollars of debt to their modeling agencies.

You can learn more about Girl Model by reading this Storify of a recent #sheparty chat on the movement. You can also follow Girl Model on Tumblr and tweet about it using #girlmodel! (Want to #askagirlmodel something? You can do that, too.)

We Need Your Words: A Call for Writers

Movements are about voices. THE LINE wants yours!

i took this photo at my day job, so copyright carmen rios

We’re seeking new writers for the campaign blog; members of the blogging team will be expected to contribute regularly (on a self-declared and -designed schedule, but ideally once a month to once a week), and can publish on a series of topics including feminism, media, sex, sexuality, and rape culture. Anything ranging from personal essays about sex and consent to write-ups on ongoing rape hearings or ripping apart terrible media coverage of the same will be accepted with open arms. Writers can pitch their own stories or wait to see what I dig up and pass around. Candidates will hopefully be totally badass, come bearing valuable activist or writing experience, and know how to work within WordPress to write and edit their own posts before submitting them to me.

Although writers aren’t compensated, I can promise you the following as blog editor: an opportunity to grow as a writer and little working bee, a chance to immerse yourself in a cause you care about, and the ability to speak your mind to an audience of millions around the world growing every day. And did I mention the outpourings of love? Because I am really great at emailing people outpourings of love.

If you’re interested, email me – rios.cmarie+writers [at] gmail [dot] com – and attach a resume and writing sample. (I know the email looks crazy but just do it: “rios.cmarie+writers @ gmail.com.”)If you don’t have a writing sample from print media or another blog, please write one! Seriously. Just go ahead, pick a news story from another outlet, and write about something as if you were writing it for us. Length of your samples doesn’t matter. Don’t write a cover letter because they make me sad, and I think it’s unfair how much time it takes to write one. Just send me a paragraph about who you are and your favorite flavor of ice cream instead.

If you’d just like to contribute casually or submit a single post, we have a way for you to do that right here! The Internet is amazing.

Applications accepted through April 1.

#CSW57 Roundup: Orgs We Met and Loved At The UN’s 57th Commission on the Status of Women

 The UN’s Commission on the Status of Women took place from March  4 – 15, and we were on the front lines live and tweeting.

The commission was focus on eliminating and preventing violence against women and girls, as well as how to share responsibility among women and men on the issue and reflect the changing needs of gender equity. The Millenium Development goals were a huge part of what was going on.

Not everyone can spend quality time at the UN, so the Panelist papers and webcast are available online. And since you missed out on the elbow-rubbing, here’s an overview on the orgs we met and loved on during the commission and think deserve your support!

Avon Foundation for Women:

Domestic violence is a pattern of abuse with the goal of establishing or maintaining power and control over the victim. It can happen occasionally or continuously and often worsens over time. Domestic violence includes physical, sexual, mental, and financial abuse. It knows no boundaries: Domestic violence can affect anyone, regardless of income, race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, or religion.

To help bring this issue out of the shadows, the Avon Foundation for Women launched Speak Out Against Domestic Violence, an initiative to build awareness, educate, and improve prevention and direct service programs. Through the end of 2012, in the U.S. alone, we have provided more than $33 million for the domestic violence cause.

Take Back the Tech:

Take Back the Tech! is a collaborative campaign to reclaim information and communication technologies (ICT) to end violence against women (VAW).

The campaign calls on all ICT users – especially women and girls – to take control of technology and strategically use any ICT platform at hand (mobile phones, instant messengers, blogs, websites, digital cameras, email, podcasts and more) for activism against gender-based violence.

Take Back the Tech! accompanies the 16 Days of Activism Against Gender Violence (November 25 – December 10 each year) with daily actions that explore different aspects of violence against women and ICT tools.

Bytes for All:

Bytes for All (B4A), Pakistan is a human rights organization with a focus on Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs). It experiments and organizes debate on the relevance of ICTs for sustainable development and strengthening human rights movements in the country.

At the forefront of Internet Rights movement and struggle for the democracy, B4A focuses on capacity building of human rights defenders on their digital security, online safety & privacy. Working on different important campaigns particularly against Internet censorship and surveillance in Pakistan, B4A continues to work on cyberspace issues, awareness raising and policy advocacy from civil liberties & human rights perspective.

Globally acclaimed Take Back The Tech Campaign is the flagship of Bytes for All, which focuses on strategic use of ICTs by the women and girls to fight violence against women in Pakistan.

Sonke

Sonke Gender Justice Network is a non-partisan, non-profit organisation, established in 2006. Today, Sonke has established a growing presence on the African continent and plays an active role internationally. Sonke works to create the change necessary for men, women, young people and children to enjoy equitable, healthy and happy relationships that contribute to the development of just and democratic societies. Sonke pursues this goal across Southern Africa by using a human rights framework to build the capacity of government, civil society organisations and citizens to achieve gender equality, prevent gender-based violence and reduce the spread of HIV and the impact of AIDS.

Breakthrough

PCI Media Impact

We work with partners around the world to produce Entertainment-Education (E-E) programs rooted in our three-pronged My Community approach to communications for social change. Using a combination of serial dramas, talk shows and community mobilization, we:

Strengthen the capacity of our local partners to effectively use communications to catalyze change;
Create a community of constituents who support our collaborative work; and
Promote positive changes in audience knowledge, attitudes and behaviors around target issues.
As a result we are promoting a new generation of change-leaders using communications to effectively turn up the volume on their important work.

Why We Need to #EducateCoaches to Create Change in the Wake of Steubenville

Recently, I worked closely with athlete Connor Clancy from Colby College on a Change.Org petitionthe brainchild of my near and dear SPARK movement – asking the National Federation of High School Associations to develop and offer an annual educational program on sexual assault prevention to coaches as part of a required yearly training. In the wake of Steubenville, it’s clear that it’s time for us to take action collectively to make athletes part of a more proactive, humane culture. That process can begin if we take the right steps to #EducateCoaches.

The Steubenville rape case, in which two high school football players are accused of repeatedly assaulting, raping, and otherwise humiliating a debatably unconscious teenage girl after carrying her limp body from party to party last August, goes to trial today.

The case involves Ma’Lik Richmond and Trent Mays, two high school football players being charged with the sexual assault of an unnamed 16-year-old girl. Both a part of Steubenville’s Big Red football team – which is the steel town’s last shot to be “on the map.” The team’s acclaim has saved their town from desolation, keeping television crews within the confines of the once-packed, now sparsely populated town.

What went down exactly is unknown, mostly because the tale comes of hearsay and the victim herself remembers next to nothing. But the rumors aren’t pretty: various Instagram posts and tweets discussed and showed an unconcious Jane Doe being carried by her wrists and ankles out of a party, flashing everyone while presumably blackout drunk in their car, and lying topless on a sidewalk. A video shows Michael Nodianos, an Ohio State student from Steubenville, giggling about the “rape,” which he describes as such in the YouTube post he created that night,while comparing his buddies to famous rapists. Tweets from his account describe “a wang in the butt” and “a dead person.” Facebook posts express not having “sympathy for whores.”

The assistant coach had been the father of one of the party hosts from that August night, when the boys carried a drunk girl from house to house. He “didn’t like what he saw,” and asked them to leave.

But when the situation was exposed, head coach Reno Saccaccio was unphased. A local hero and successful coach, he regards his athletes as “his sons” and is one of the underlying reasons for the Big Red phenomena. He claimed when he asked the team about rumors of the incident and the details that were coming out, they told him they’d done nothing wrong. He “doesn’t do the Internet,” so he chose to simply ignore that photographs and messages that had been publicly posted by his team members. His demeanor when interacting with press was angry and defensive. He didn’t bench the accused boys and spoke out to invalidate the victim’s experience.

Now, as the trial is set to finally begin, a community remains divided and tensions remain high. By now, Steubenville is at best a hot mess and at worst, an absolute crash-and-burn of a community tragedy. The case has been mishandled in all directions; various members of the community at various levels and moments failed to accept accountability, students rallied against alleged rapists and disavowed a victim, parents turned down opportunities to learn and grow as a community in the spirit of further denial, and law enforcement, for the most part, stood by scratching their heads. And when given a chance to strike down the culture which often glorifies violence and accepts bad behavior while forsaking the humanity of women, the Steubenville coaches, and especially coach Saccoccia failed.

We can’t expect more from our sons if we can’t expect a peep from their fathers. And in a culture where athletes are too often treated preferentially and excused from typical social, legal, and academic standards, it’s become increasingly clear that we can’t expect more from sports culture until we fix our rape culture.

Coaches guide generations of boys through a gritty learning process. They’re legends and heros, and often rightly so. As leaders in their communities and mentors to their athletes, coaches hold unique places in the lives of their teammates. And if we give them the keys to having productive, empowering conversations about violence and respect with the boys they work with every day, that may be the key to ending the culture that created Steubenville.

Sports culture doesn’t have to be a rape culture. Sign the #EducateCoaches petition today at Change.Org/EducateCoaches. Use the tag #EducateCoaches to spread the word.

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