How To Not Get Raped

A month since I’ve posted! Travel, job searching, and just life in general seem to have gotten in the way. But I’m back, and hopefully can provide some great insights into the slight absurdity of our modern world.

April is Sexual Assault Awareness month. Many of us are familiar with the statistics–there are on average 293,066 victims of sexual assault each year in the U.S. That’s one rape every 107 seconds. And of those rapes, 68% of them go unreported. Of these victims, studies show 9 out of 10 of them are women.

In the past 20 years, the occurrence of rape has gone down in the United States. This is thanks to the hard work done to raise awareness on this issue. However, there is still a long way to go, and the trend of teaching females “prevention” will not fix this issue.

The University of West Virginia has a page on their website offering 33 tips to not get raped. Yet even females who follow the *great* advice and “avoid secluded places” and “do not give mixed messages” have experienced sexual assault.

This is one of the funnier videos out there on this topic, and offers the real solution that will help make progress on this issue: Teach boys not to rape!

Make It Happen!

On March 8, 1917 women workers in St. Petersburg, Russia gathered for International Women’s Day. They held a massive rally demanding for one simple thing: bread. The rally grew and soon 50,000 workers marched in protest of food shortages and WWI. Two days later, every single industrial enterprise in St. Petersburg was shut down. The Russian Revolution was in full swing and the monarchy would soon topple.

When women gather and make their voices heard, they can make monumental change. Nearly 100 years after the Russian Revolution, women are still having to fight to protect their basic rights. Now, it is a woman’s right to health that is in jeopardy. The theme for the 2015 International Women’s Day is “Make It Happen”, encouraging effective action for advancing and recognizing women. Yet an essential part of advancing women, both nationally and internationally, is giving them control over their reproductive health. Here are a few small things you can do this International Women’s Day to Make It Happen.

In the U.S., women are facing increased restrictions on abortion, less funding for family planning services, and a threat to health care coverage. This Is Personal, a campaign run by the National Women’s Law Center, is a great way to make your voice heard. You sign letters tell your Senator to support the Women’s Health  Protection Act, tell Congress to not allow corporations to interfere with a woman’s health care decisions, and hear stories from everyday women about how politicians policies are hurting or helping their reproductive rights.

Internationally, women and girls face even grimmer situations. In many places worldwide, women have no access to any sort of family planning, have no access to any sort of health care, and often don’t even have the ability to choose who their intimate partners are or when they have children. The Women’s Global Network for Reproductive Rights is currently sending postcard and letters to Las 17 in El Salvador–17 women who upon going to healthcare facilities for care from stillbirths, miscarriages, or other life threatening pregnancy complications, were accused of having an abortion and arrested. They were charged with aggravated homicide and sentenced to up to 40 years in prison. With WGNRR you can  download a postcard to send or send a virtual message of support.

If you have the resources to donate, look to your local Planned Parenthood or Planned Parenthood Action. If you wish to donate internationally, the International Women’s Health Coalition works hard to make sure women worldwide have access to basic health and reproductive care.

To learn more about what may be going on in your area to Make It Happen, look here.

Sweden’s Got It On The Ball

International Women’s Day is coming up soon. In anticipation of this, the World Bank is promoting their Gender Equality Data and Statistics webpage. It’s loaded with facts regarding women’s presence in the workforce and government for every single country. While some of the statistics are not surprising–high maternal mortality rate in Sub Sahara Africa, low representation of women in government is Eastern Asia–some of them were.

In an attempt to narrow down the statistics included in this post, I have listed only two categories: number of maternity leave weeks given and percentage of women holding seats in the national parliament. Additionally, I have limited the list of countries to those I have personally visited or lived in. Even within these limited parameters, the results surprised me!

Australia – Women are given 52 weeks of maternity leave and hold 26% of government seats

Austria – Women are given 16 weeks of maternity leave and hold 33% of government seats

Bulgaria – Women are given 19 weeks of maternity leave and hold 25% of government seats

Canada – Women are given 17 weeks of maternity leave and hold 25% of government seats

Czech Republic – Women are given 28 weeks of maternity leave and hold 20% of government seats

Fiji – Women are given 12 weeks of maternity leave and hold 9% of government seats

Germany – Women are given 14 weeks of maternity leave and hold 37% of government seats

Ireland – Women are given 26 weeks of maternity leave and hold 16% of government seats

Italy – Women are given 22 weeks of maternity leave and hold 31% of government seats

Jamaica – Women are given 12 weeks of maternity leave and hold 13% of government seats

New Zealand – Women are given 14 weeks of maternity leave and hold 34% of government seats

Poland – Women are given 16 weeks of maternity leave and hold 24% of government seats

Russia – Women are given 20 weeks of maternity leave and hold 14% of government seats

Spain – Women are given 16 weeks of maternity leave and hold 40% of government seats

Sweden – Women are given 69 weeks of maternity leave and hold 45% of government seats

Switzerland – Women are given 14 weeks of maternity leave and hold 31% of government seats

United Kingdom – Women are given 7 weeks of maternity leave and hold 23% of government seats

United States – Women are given 12 weeks of maternity leave and hold 18% of government seats

Revenge Porn: A Breakdown

Recently, many social media sites, including Reddit and Blogger, have been changing their privacy guidelines to prohibit the non-consensual posting of nude photos. These actions come a year after stolen nude photos of multiple celebrities were posted online. While many are encouraged by the stand social media sites seem to be taking, others have voiced concerns about the feasibility of monitoring sites with over two million users.

Some of the nude pictures posted on these sites come from women who have been hacked. Others are posted as”revenge porn”. In a broad definition, revenge porn is the distribution of intimate photos to either porn sites, social media sites, or amongst unintended recipients, without the consent of the person in the photo.

Usually, the original photo was sent with consent during a relationship. A survey of teens by the National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy shows that 20% of teens (13-19) and 33% of young adults (20-26) have sent nude or semi-nude photos of themselves. A 2012 survey showed that 1 in 10 people have had an ex threaten to leak nude photos and that 60% of the time they followed through with the action.

Many people are quick to point out that the problem here is not that people are sharing nude photos. The issue is the way our society views and handles sex. Misogyny, perceived sexual norms, and power imbalances all play a part. We live in a world where a naked body can be used as a weapon against a person. Female and male.

Comprehensive solutions for revenge porn call for a shift in the way our society thinks. But for victims of revenge porn, this long term solution offers no solace. Unfortunately, legal help is hard to come by in most cases.

Currently, New Jersey is the only state which has a criminal offense which covers this act specifically. Most states have laws which may protect a victim if other criminal conduct is involved, such as voyeurism, extortion, criminal harassment, or defamatory libel. However, in most revenge porn cases, these other criminal elements are not present.

A Harvard Law panel suggested the tort of public disclosure of private facts as the most reasonable legal road. While it varies state to state, the tort primarily says “the material in question must be private, must not be a matter of public concern, and must be disclosed publicly in a way that would be offensive to a reasonable person”. Unfortunately, this tort is a civil offense, which means the victim must bear the burden of pressing charges and following suit.

Victims of revenge porn are not without options, but they are few and sometimes costly. Social media sites are certainly taking a step in the right direction, and we can hope they will follow through with their monitoring. Addressing the issue and opening it for discussion is the first step in finding the root of the problem, and working to change it.

My Inspirational Woman of the Week

Self care is important, especially when one is involved in the social justice world. Statistics can be overwhelming, research for articles can be depressing, following the news can be discouraging, and to top it off you somehow get stuck watching a Holocaust movie.

There is no one way to kick these blues, and what may work for one may not work for another. When I find myself becoming despondent, I look to the past. As a student of history, I love stories of women who beat the odds, stand up in the face of opposition, and fight nail and tooth for what they believe. These women re-inspire me and remind me why I work for change.

Let me introduce you to Virginia Cowles.

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Cowles was born into a wealthy family in 1912. She was privately educated, a debutant, and a socialite. Feeling stifled by the role she was forced to play, Cowles threw off the conventions of her class and moved to New York to become a reporter. She soon became bored with the trivial fashion and love assignments she was given, and so quit her post and set off to travel the world.

She submitted articles of her travels to the Hearst papers. She used her social connections to interview high status politicians, including the Italian minister for propaganda. Yet she wanted more. She persuaded a Hearst editor to send her to Spain to cover the civil war.

Cowles was determined to get the story from both sides. Female journalists were already under great suspicion for being spies, and traveling between the lines exposed Cowles to even greater danger. She was abandoned in Loyalist trenches by a sexist scientist during a mortar attack. She was held captive for three days in a Republican camp by a Soviet general. Still, Cowles jumped at every opportunity to go to the front.

Spain eventually became too dangerous, and Cowles returned to England for a summer, then immediately left for Germany. She attended and reported on Nazi rallies and meetings with Hitler. Europe was on the brink of war and Cowles was determined to cover it. She flew to Czechoslovakia the day before the borders closed. Trains were stopped, phone wires cut, and the American Embassy left a gas mask for her on her bed.

Soon, Cowles and two friends left to cover the Germans crossing the Czech border. They were intercepted in Oberplan by Gestapo, denounced as spies, and sentenced to death by firing squad at dawn. Right before dawn, an official from the Reich came and released them. Bold as brass, Cowles demanded not only an apology from the Gestapo, but also enough gasoline to return to Prague.

Virginia Cowles covered the entire Second World War, reporting from Germany, France, Russia, and Finland. She wrote for the Daily Telegraph, Chicago Sun, and Sunday Times, as well as Hearst Papers. Female correspondences were few, and all had to work harder, be more resourceful, and go farther than the men to prove themselves.

And Cowles did it all in heels.

(For more on female correspondents of WWII, I highly suggest The Women Who Wrote the War by Nancy Caldwell Sorel.)

5 Progressive Things That Made Me Happy Last Week

1. This article about the upcoming Fifty Shades of Grey movie. It takes a look not only at the book and movie and what has made them appealing, but also at female sexuality and how it is perceived and explained in a male dominated society.

2. This sign, which I saw when leaving the DC Metro this weekend.

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3. Having my letter to the editor (see my previous post) published in the actual newspaper! Woo!

4. Seeing a friend on facebook admit they had been wrong in their belief that vaccinations are harmful. With intelligent and logical arguments, minds can be changed! (Read also about Congressman Tim Ryan who has since changed his position on abortion after talking to women)

5. All the great articles coming out for Black History Month! Read some of the ones I found interesting below.

NAACP honors black women

Black History Month and White Supremacy 

Tips to Improve Black History Month