Tuesday, 12 December 2017

Book Review: "Power Up" by Magdalena Yesil

Review: Power Up: How Smart Women Win in the New Economy
by Magdalena Yesil
(Review copy provided courtesy of the publisher)

Magdalena Yesil travelled from Turkey to the United States to go to college and became a pioneering entrepreneur in Silicon Valley. Most recently, she’s known for early investment in Salesforce, now a multibillion dollar company and cofounder of Broadway Angels, a group of female investors that invest in start-ups.

Power Up is written for women building careers in tech, but really, it is applicable to anyone building a professional or business career. Yesil offers realistic advice about building a career in male dominated business including guidance on topics that people (but especially women) can struggle with, like sexual dynamics, getting credit for work and pay imbalances among other things.

It’s an effortless book to devour, mostly because Yesil’s voice comes through clear, personal and genuine. Her story is inspiring and you are immediately drawn into the recounting of her early life and her decision to move to America and what happened as she started out in the tech world.

Yesil suggests throughout the book that we be like water, that we be flexible when we come up against things in our paths. This advice is pulled from a Turkish tradition she describes, that when someone starts a journey, the neighbourhood throws buckets of water behind them as they walk or drive away. Yesil describes this as a way to say “May you be like water – easily flowing past any obstacle.” It’s a recurring theme in the book, and it works quite well. Water never gives up and it always seems to find any opening, no matter how small, to succeed in its path. Yesil drives this home.
In the book, Yesil states facts and statistics plainly. Steadfast in her acceptance of the obstacles women face in business she is equally firm in her belief that you can “flow past” anything. 



She easily points out truths for women in male-dominated business, backing these truths up with facts and/or experiences that would easily deflect any naysaying objections (e.g. women tend to underestimate themselves and tend to lack sustaining self-belief) but she never treats these truths as excuses. Yesil simply states them as difficulties - obstacles that can be reflected upon and overcome. She recounts examples of how she has overcome problems and provides actionable advice from her own life, and also the lives of other female tech pioneers.

Yesil discusses sexual harassment. She clearly states sexual harassment is a crime, but she also offers ways to navigate sexual innuendo, sexual dynamics and “boys club” behaviour in a male dominated business world, without taking on guilt or repercussions. She offers ways to include yourself in the boys club, and ways to modify unprofessional behaviour inflicted on you in clever ways that will empower you.

She gives much needed reinforcement to women who have experienced a setback in their careers. She gives the advice to “give ourselves latitude when we screw up” which is important because many women still feel they need to be perfect in spaces that don’t necessarily include them, or where there are very few women working.


Yesil also gives tips such as how to negotiate pay (very important while the gender pay gap still exists). While money is not the be all and end all, and many people (especially women) define job satisfaction by whether we like our jobs, or our colleagues, Yesil very wisely points out that these goals “are not in line with what the business world uses to divvy up success and power”.

Throughout the book, Yesil encourages women to reach out to both to men and women, and build a support network. And once you build it and achieve any success, you should bring others up with you. She seems a great proponent of the idea it’s lonely at the top so you should bring other women with you.

She also hammers home that what you need to succeed is an unrelenting belief in yourself, an awareness and a willingness to think outside the box to find ways around obstacles that hinder your success. Yesil pushes the idea that women take themselves for granted, and we have more power to change and grow, career-wise, than we think we do. What she’s written aims at peeling back layers of socially inflicted self-doubt to allow ourselves a chance to confidently succeed without holding ourselves back.

All in all, it was a very positive and enjoyable read.

Review by Tee Linden.

Tuesday, 5 December 2017

Lillian Gish: The First Lady of American Cinema





Lillian Gish was one of the most influential and famous actors in Hollywood’s history. Her first film was in 1912 and a career spanning seventy-five years followed. Gish’s partnership with pioneering director D. W. Griffith is regarded as one of the greatest collaborative relationships of all time. Some of their films include Way Down East (1920), Intolerance (1916), Broken Blossoms (1919) and the controversial, and highest grossing film of the silent era, The Birth of a Nation (1915). Not only having a successful acting career, Gish was also a writer, director and producer. She received an honorary Academy Award in 1971. As the years passed, the media dubbed Gish “The First Lady of American Cinema.”

Lillian Diana Gish was born on the 14th of October, 1893, in Springfield, Ohio. Her father left when she was young. Running low on money and with nowhere else to turn, Gish’s mother, Mary, and her daughters joined a group of traveling actors. Gish and her sister, Dorothy, made their stage debuts in 1902. They proved to be extremely popular in melodramas, making $10 a week for their efforts. (No figures in this article have been adjusted for inflation.) The three women travelled all over America, taking any roles they could and saving every cent possible. It was during this period Gish met future silent screen legend Mary Pickford and the two became lifelong friends.

In 1912, Gish and Dorothy appeared before a camera for the first time in An Unseen Enemy. Pickford had previously introduced Griffith to the sisters and he decided to give them a go. On set, Griffith thought the two women were twins and found it hard to distinguish them apart at a distance. He gave them different coloured hair ribbons; blue for Gish and red for Dorothy. Griffith very much enjoyed working with the two, especially Gish. He cast them often in his one- and two-reel shorts. Gish appeared in near forty silent shorts between 1912 and 1914. She received universal acclaim for her performance as The Young Wife in The Mothering Heart (1913).


Dorothy and Gish in An Unseen Enemy (1912)

As silent films became more sophisticated and had longer run times, Gish starred in many of Griffith’s signature feature films. In 1915, she was cast as Elise Stoneman in The Birth of a Nation. The film was a critical success, but drew a lot of controversy for its negative depictions of African-Americans. It had white people dressed up in blackface. Gish stayed clear from commenting on the issues, but always defended that it was never Griffith’s intention to be racist.


Dorothy, Griffith and Gish

In the climax of Way Down East, Gish, Griffith and the film crew shot on a real frozen river during a blizzard. Gish had to dangle her hand and hair in freezing cold water for hours at a time. She never once complained and crew members noticed how dedicated to the role she was. Though the scene is now regarded as one of the greatest in Hollywood’s history, Gish would experience health concerns for the rest of her life. She lost partial feeling in her hand. Gish’s last film with Griffith was Orphans of the Storm in 1922.


Gish on the ice in Way Down East (1920)

Gish directed her first and only movie in 1920. The film, Remodelling Her Husband, starred her sister Dorothy. With no known footage existing today, it is now considered a lost film. Around this period, Gish supervised the construction of a new film studio for Griffith too.


Photoplay Magazine (December, 1921)

In 1924, Gish signed a $800,000 picture deal with MGM. This made her one of the highest paid and sought after actors in Hollywood at the time. Under MGM, Gish appeared in classics such as The Scarlet Letter (1926) and The Wind (1928). She made her “talkie” film debut in One Romantic Night in 1930.

By the early 1930s, Gish and MGM’s relationship had broken down and they parted ways. She returned to the theatre and focused her attention there. Gish also had her radio debut in the early 1930s. She scarcely acted in films during this period. In 1948, Gish appeared on television for the first time. She was nominated for an Academy Award for her performance in Duel in the Sun (1946). Gish also received critical praise for The Night of the Hunter (1955).


Gish accepting her Oscar in 1971

Gish was active in films throughout the 1960s to 1980s. She received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame on February 8, 1960. As part of the pre-production for the western The Unforgiven (1960), director John Huston and star Bert Lancaster intended to teach Gish how to shoot. They were shocked to discover she already knew and was quicker and more accurate than them both.


Gish and Davis in The Whales of August (1987)

In 1987, Gish starred along side Bette Davis in The Whales of August. At 93-years-old, this made Gish the oldest actress ever to star in a leading role. She passed away peacefully in her sleep on February 27, 1993. Every year on Gish’s birthday, the Museum of Modern Art, in New York, show at least one of her films as a tribute.



By: Matthew J. Healy


Sources:

50 Facts About Lillian Gish - The First Lady of American Cinema (http://www.boomsbeat.com/articles/105983/20160119/50-facts-lillian-gish-first-lady-american-cinema.htm)
Charles Affron - Lillian Gish: Her Legend, Her Life (Book)
Lillian Gish, 99, a Movie Star Since Movies Began, is Dead (http://www.nytimes.com/1993/03/01/movies/lillian-gish-99-a-movie-star-since-movies-began-is-dead.html?pagewanted=all)
Lillian Gish - Encyclopaedia Britannica (https://www.britannica.com/biography/Lillian-Gish)
Lillian Gish - IMDb (http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0001273/)
Lillian Gish: The Actor’s Life for Me (http://www.pbs.org/wnet/americanmasters/lillian-gish-about-lillian-gish/614/)
Lillian Gish - Women Film Pioneers Project (https://wfpp.cdrs.columbia.edu/pioneer/ccp-lillian-gish/)

The Official Website of Lillian Gish (https://www.lilliangish.com/)

Tuesday, 21 November 2017

Stella Adler on Method Acting




A big influence on the modern Hollywood acting style comes from Stella Adler. She had done away with the earlier big gestures used in silent film acting, such as an actor placing both hands on their heart to indicate sorrow. She bridged the gap between early twentieth-century Russian theatre and what was becoming popular in film at the time. Adler drew from the imagination rather than personal experience. She had a name in American theatre, appeared in a handful of films and has taught some of the greatest actors of all time. She was known for her harsh, but fair analysis of student’s skills. Some included Marlon Brando and James Dean. Even after her passing, the likes of Mark Ruffalo and Angelina Jolie have studied at her acting schools.

Stella Adler was born on the 10th of February, 1901. Her father, Jacob P. Adler, was a famous actor on the Yiddish Theatre circuit. She was only four-years-old when he had her star in one of his productions, Broken Hearts. Adler had no formal acting training, but instead learnt from her father and by watching others. By her late-teens, she had been in over one hundred plays either in the Yiddish Theatre or as part of a vaudeville act. Adler’s performances took her all over the United States, Europe and South America.

In 1931, she was invited to join the Group Theatre in New York City. Adler accepted the offer but never felt fully welcome. Many agree this is where she achieved her best work as Sarah Grassman in Success Story, Adah Menken in Gold Eagle Guy, Bessie Berger in Awake and Sing and Clara in Paradise Lost. The Group Theatre was formed by Harold Clurman, Cheryl Crawford and Lee Strasberg; themselves experimental actors focusing on cutting edge techniques and deeply influenced by Russian theorist Konstantin Stanislavski. Adler and Strasberg frequently clashed over the interpretation of Stanislavski’s work.



Having a break, Adler headed to Europe in 1934. On a chance encounter in Paris, she met Stanislavski and was not only able to speak with him, but was instructed and taught by him for the next five weeks. Stanislavski was born in Moscow in 1863, was an actor himself and brought new psychological and emotional aspects to the craft. His theories were big in the United States in the 1930s. Adler was the first and only American to study directly under him. Returning home with new insight, Adler and Strasberg still couldn’t find a common ground so she decided to leave the Group Theatre.

In 1937, Adler gave Hollywood a shot. She appeared in three films: Love on Toast (1937), Shadow of the Thin Man (1941) and My Girl Tisa (1948). Adler spent six years as an associate producer at MGM. She taught acting at the New School for Social Research around this time. Adler also directed commercial theatre in the 1940s and 1950s.

The Stella Adler School of Acting first opened its doors in New York in 1949. She could finally teach acting her own way. Where Lee Strasberg highlighted an actor’s need to draw upon personal experience to envision a character, Adler focused and honed the imagination. She was against the idea of using past traumas as a way to achieve an emotion, especially a negative one. In her own words: “drawing on emotions I experienced – for example, when my mother died – to create a role is sick and schizophrenic, I don’t want to do that.” Adler instead focused on spiritual realism, emotional memory, dramatic and self-analysis, and disciplined practise. Adler received critical acclaim for her work with Marlon Brando and his performance in A Streetcar Named Desire (1951). He was nominated for Best Actor at the 1952 Academy Awards.



Today, Adler’s school is known as the Stella Adler Studio of Acting. It is a not-for-profit organisation; an LA branch opened in 1984. Both run weekly acting classes. Some actors to come through Adler’s schools include Robert De Niro, Paul Newman, Marilyn Monroe, Al Pacino, Alec Baldwin, Dustin Hoffman, Salma Hayek, Steve Buscemi and Scarlett Johansson.



Adler officially retired from acting in 1961. In the later part of the decade, Adler juggled her time between her acting school and teaching at Yale University’s School of Drama. She was head of drama at New York University in the 1980s. Adler released a book in 1988, The Technique of Acting. The book is still widely taught and referenced. She continued to teach until her death from a heart attack on December 21, 1992.


By: Matthew J. Healy

Sources:

8 Acting Techniques (and the Stars Who Swear by Them) (https://www.backstage.com/advice-for-actors/resources/8-acting-techniques-and-stars-who-swear-them/)
Encyclopaedia Britannica - Stella Adler (https://www.britannica.com/biography/Stella-Adler)
PBS - American Masters (http://www.pbs.org/wnet/americanmasters/stella-adler-about-stella-adler/526/)
Stella Adler Biography (https://www.thefamouspeople.com/profiles/stella-adler-5150.php)
Stella Adler - IMDb (http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0012245/bio)
Stella Adler Los Angeles (http://www.stellaadler.la/)

Stella Adler Studio of Acting (http://www.stellaadler.com/)

Wednesday, 8 November 2017

Book Review: Play BIG – Lessons in being LIMITLESS from the first woman to coach in the NFL

Author: Dr Jen Welter with Stephanie Krikorian
Published by: Seal Press
Reviewer: The Sydney Feminists 



Reviewer comment:  After I volunteered to do this book review, I discovered it was about triumph in American Football! I was reluctant. Not my genre! How wrong I was. Anyone who reads Play BIG will understand how ironic my pre-conceived judgement was. This story is riddled with pre-judgement, prejudice and historic notions of what women can’t do.  

(The review copy was provided courtesy of the publisher).

Play BIG is the trail blazing story of Jen Welter, a sports mad kid who despite being told she couldn’t, shouldn’t and wouldn’t make it in sports ....Did!

But Play BIG is far more; it’s a story of an inner burning passion that left Welter open to derision, due to her seemingly disparate interests. Despite outward opposition, she did the hard yards and tapped into her unrelenting drive to follow her dreams. Even when she wasn’t sure what her goals were she followed her instincts and achieved lofty heights beyond anything she ever imagined.

From childhood dreams and youthful mischief to the harsh reality of adult brutality and insecurity - you discover as much about yourself as you do her. The story, at times, retrospectively analyses the experiences and people in her youth that pre-judged her self-assuredness, and how simple misplaced observations can affect an adolescent with attitude. 

Play BIG is a story of Hustle, that extraordinary trait developed by necessity. When you’re poor, and considered unworthy because you are female, you don’t have access to the necessary resources needed to become a Champion in the NFL. So you survive on sweat equity! Jen and her team’s Hustle is real and their ongoing struggle for survival shines a bright light on the not so dark corner of gender bias and pay gap disparity. 

For this woman’s NFL team who broke barriers and won recognition amid staunch prejudice, sometimes the hustle didn’t extend far enough. The struggle was all too real. Stripped back to basics this Elite level team of women got the job of winning games done. Made up of people of many different races and backgrounds, they defied outdated stereotypes. They embraced their differences and weaknesses and made them strengths, forging Champions and lifelong friendships, thereby showcasing that sport thrives on diversity despite gender inequity in funding and acceptance. 
When Welter became the first female to play in men’s professional indoor football, she knew from the core of her spirit it was right.

But throughout her story, her success is met with both praise and criticism, and she disarms her critics with humour. Humour is part of her charm, charm that would win her the respect of the Giants of American Football on their own turf. “When in doubt laugh it out!”.

With a childlike, youthful passion she’s willing to step into chaos and let the people around her be their best by being themselves. She had her feet kicked out from beneath her, was as tough as nails and managed to garner respect within the upper echelons of American Grid Iron. Authenticity became one of her most valuable assets in earning the respect she would need. 

Play BIG shows the absurdity of life and proves perspective is everything. 

Football is a contact sport and as the first female to ever play men’s football she stepped up to take the hits and earn her place on the team. 

As a mentor to juniors she describes an instance where boys were cheating to beat a girl player. Scared a girl might beat them they’d find a way to remove her from the game. She was right. In her first play Jen was blasted by two huge guys at once. She popped right up only to be blasted again, earning the respect she needed (and deserved) and the adulation of the crowd. 

(One of the guys delivering the blows admitted years later he’d questioned his own strength and effectiveness because Welter at 130lbs got up after he’d slammed her with his best.).

Play BIG challenges how men view women and how women view themselves and raises questions about our own preconceived notions of gender and ability.  This story is also peppered with the human plight of inner conflict, sabotage, narcissistic burn, domestic violence and detours from destiny. 

The book gives the reader a glimpse of a Champion as she struggles with indecision, homelessness and distorted perceptions of how she should be in comparison to others. Welter empowers herself when she decides she won’t let her perceived physical inadequacies disadvantage her. 

Play BIG not only weaves through the barriers of resistance and human strength but also its fragility. It has surprising lessons in humility and empathy, as well as harsh truths about labels and being limited by gross assumptions. It gives insight into the doubts confident people have about their abilities yet still finding the fortitude to push through. 

Jen Welter exemplifies through amazing accomplishments to never give up on your dreams, even if you’re ready to break. Don’t give up ... resuscitate.

Despite great success and dominance in US female sporting achievements Jen continues to campaign against the lack of opportunity for women to dedicate solely to their chosen sport as a career, and highlights to the persistent  inequality in gender pay and the lack of recognition that prevails. 
Her success has taken her to the White House, she is a National Ambassador for girls in sport and has campaigned with a slew of celebrities and notable luminaries. 

These football achievements against often formidable conditions are astonishing and inspiring but for Jen Welter would they be enough? Of course not ... As the Play BIG story unfolds it reveals nothing will get in her way as she earns her PhD and takes time out to be a real life Super Hero. 


Play BIG… read it! 

Tuesday, 7 November 2017

Intersex Solidarity Day – November 8th


The "I" in LGBTQI+ can be a bit underrepresented, so here are a few quick facts:
Intersex people are born with physical or biological sex characteristics (such as sexual anatomy, reproductive organs, hormonal patterns and or chromosomal patterns) that are more diverse than stereotypical male female bodies.
  • Approximately 1.7% of the population is intersex.
  • Being intersex is as common as having red hair.
  • November 8th is Intersex Solidarity Day (link to the allies page: https://oii.org.au/allies/)

March 2017 marked the release of the Darlington Statement by Australian and Aotearoa/New Zealand intersex organisations and independent advocates
.
This statement sets out the calls and priorities for intersex people in our countries. It calls for an end to legal sex/gender classification systems for one thing, and it asks for legislative protection from discrimination, among other things. 
Another call to action from the Darlington Statement is an immediate stop of deferrable medical interventions, including surgical and hormonal interventions, that alter the sex characteristics of infants and children without personal consent.

This might be surprising, but there are still "normalising" or "correcting" interventions performed on children and adolescents with intersex variations.
In Australia. In 2017.
These unnecessary medical practises are happening to make bodies look more stereotypically female or male. Opposition to this practise is becoming stronger, citing evidence of harm, their non-urgent cosmetic character, and a lack of evidence of supporting claims of necessity or timing. 

As the United Nations states
"In countries around the world, intersex infants, children and adolescents are subjected to medically unnecessary surgeries, hormonal treatments and other procedures in an attempt to forcibly change their appearance to be in line with societal expectations about female and male bodies. When, as is frequently the case, these procedures are performed without the full, free and informed consent of the person concerned, they amount to violations of fundamental human rights."

These surgeries can result in permanent infertility, decreased sexual function, and the dependence on otherwise unneeded hormonal replacement therapy among other things.

Consider the story of Kimberly Mascott Zieselman
, executive director for interACT, who recounts her unnecessary surgical intervention and the toll it's taken on her life.
"Doctors and parents are doing irreversible harm solely due to discomfort with difference."
Kimberly was born with XY chromosomes and internal testes instead of ovaries and a uterus, and her body developed to appear typically female. 

Doctors removed the testes when Kimberly was 15, and she was not consulted - her parents consented for her. This decision has resulted in a lifetime of hormone replacement therapy. 
Doctors also wanted to "created a more typically sized vagina" via invasive surgery, but her parents refused.

Or Katharine B. Dalke
 who had the same Complete Androgen Insensitivy Syndrome as Kimberly (meaning her body didn't respond to male hormones and so developed an externally typical female body). This was discovered during surgery when she was 6.
Her physicians decided that her intersex status be kept secret from her as "intersex people who find out might commit suicide"
"Even when I entered medical school 10 years ago, we were taught, without robust scientific evidence, that an enlarged clitoris is "abnormal" and that otherwise healthy undescended testes in a girl are always "precancerous." Textbooks told me that "ambiguous genitalia" in a newborn baby constituted a "social emergency"—one that required immediate intervention."

The vast majority of intersex infants are healthy - they don't medical treatment. So why are doctors still interfering? There seems to be no evidence that "normalising" is necessary.
Is it just personal, uninformed, presumption?
"Parents of children with intersex traits often face pressure to agree to such surgeries or treatments on their children. They are rarely informed about alternatives or about the potential negative consequences of the procedures, which are routinely performed despite a lack of medical indication, necessity or urgency. The rationale for these is frequently based on social prejudice, stigma associated with intersex bodies and administrative requirements to assign sex at the moment of birth registration"
Performing unnecessary surgery on healthy infants because of social prejudice seems like something that shouldn't happen in a modern Australia. But it is, and this goes to show what some intersex people have to stand against in a heteronormative society.
Like this rather disturbing article. It details a Dept of Health and Human Services Victoria document referring to medical intervention of intersex infants, children and adolescents because of, and as late as 2013, "risk of social or cultural disadvantage to the child, for example, reduced opportunities for marriage or intimate relationships..."
This reference to marriage has since been removed, what OII.org.au states might be "a sense of embarrassment at the human rights violations that OII Australia has documented and reported in submissions"- but consider the idea that not even five years ago surgeries on infants were possibly occurring so they would be more marriageable in later life? It's absurd.
When we live in a society that places so much emphasis on gender roles, and people don't fit into those categories, they are seen as abnormal. But it's our society's assumption that there are two absolute genders fuelling this problem.
If we learn from a young age that biological sex includes female, male and intersex variations, then these sorts of gender binary assumptions will be defeated with the knowledge that difference does not need to be "normalised". 

Awareness will help treat assumption. 

By: Tee Linden

Tuesday, 31 October 2017

The Rare Occasion a Feminist Cries Tears of Joy


Two Thursday’s ago, I sat on a bus after a long day at work and I openly cried.  I didn’t give one single f*ck who saw me. 

It would be a safe bet to think my marshmallow eyes were in some way the result of my outrage at the floodgates recently opened by mainstream media reporting on the abuse of women by men in power. 

In October 2017, the news of Harvey Weinstein’s behaviour broke and there was a proliferation of the #metoo hashtags popping up in status updates and newsfeeds across all social media platforms. Men  did some fantastic white-knighting, coming to the defence of women through the lens of their fatherhood, as if our humanity is predicated on our position as someone’s daughter.  If I read another man say he, qua Dad, feels for all these poor, abused women because he has daughters, I might pop each eyeball out, slowly, and consume them, with a nice chianti. 

But this is not why I was crying. 

Despite the rock that still remains in the deepest recess of my stomach, the near constant ache in my bones and the weariness I feel for all women who society tells must assume the responsibility for their own abuse – my tears, at that particular moment, were born of joy and of hope. 

On Thursday 19 October 2017, I learned that Jacinda Ardern was to become the 40th Prime Minister of New Zealand.  After a tortuous month of backroom discussions, wheelings and dealings – the news broke via a press conference

I was at my office in Melbourne, had my headphones in and was pacing around muttering things to myself about politics as I waited for the announcement.  I had drawn the attention of my work colleagues, who admitted to not knowing much about the current political landscape in New Zealand, but shared my hope in a Jacinda victory (I work with a good bunch). 

During the press conference, when Winston – the Queen-maker – finally gave media the information they had come for, I heard him say that he had chosen to form a government with the National Party.  Devastation levels were at red.  I stopped listening and began to spiel to anyone within earshot about the ‘inevitability’ of this decision. 

How wrong I was. 

Within five minutes of the announcement a friend from New Zealand gave me call, congratulating me on picking the golden ticket despite the fact I voted for the Greens. 
“But Winnie (my pet-name for Winston) went with National!” I proclaimed.  “We lost.”
My dear friend said I should get my hearing checked as I had completely misheard the announcement.  It was not until I was on a bus, maybe an hour later, that I re-watched the press conference.  And subsequently bawled. 

Now, here is a disclaimer.  I understand the irony that the Rt Hon Jacinda Ardern, Prime Minister was effectively elected by the will (or whim) of a male politician (Winston Peters).  However, the New Zealand public did, as a majority, vote for the changing of the guard, which meant Jacinda was the only viable alternative to the status quo.  I am not interested in attending to policies or platforms or promises or, even politics, per se. These are all matters for another day.  Right now, I want to bask in the glow of a woman’s success at attaining the highest political office in New Zealand.  It feels damn good to be here. 

So who is Jacinda Ardern? 

(From News.com)


She is a 37-year-old, unmarried, childless woman but these are peripheral facts.  She is also a self-proclaimed feminist who left the Mormon church due her belief that LGBTI people should have the right to marry whoever they damn well choose to.  She wants to bring kindness back to government, challenging the widely held belief this is equivalent to weakness.  Lastly, she is a no-holds-barred, bad-ass champion for all women.  If you have yet to watch her call out a reporter’s BS when asked whether women have a duty to inform employers of their baby-making intentions, then it is definitely worth checking out.

The facts of Jacinda will make her a target for trolls and she will be scrutinised for every perceived misstep, more-so than any male leader to have preceded her.   But I look forward to watching Jacinda rise to meet these challenges and give as good as she gets.  It takes a hard-as-nails, politically savvy operator to become Prime Minister at 37 years old, regardless of their gender, marital or baby-status. 
While there is so much work to be done in terms of true equality for all women -black women, trans-women, lesbians, fat women, childless women, unmarried women, poor women - I believe we can be hopeful.  Let us reframe the events of October 2017 in hopeful terms for these two reasons:

 (1) Positive change is possible.  It might be glacial, and regression might mean re-covering steps we have already taken thousands of times before.  But change will happen, you have my word on that. 
(2) Collective silence is our enemy, which is clearly illustrated through Weinstein-gate.  Problematic discussion - from men - has already begun, relating to Jacinda’s appearance and so I have begun to steel my resolve for the inevitable downward spiral to full blown violent commentary.  So to you ladies, sharpen those pitchforks we are going-a-troll-hunting, en masse. 

And to any male allies reading this, I hope you are disgusted by the way your peers speak about women and I implore you to call it out.  This is the least you can do. 

Let us treat, and hold, Jacinda to the same standard as those who have preceded her – no-more, no-less.  When we disagree with her viewpoints let’s keep ‘F*ck you Slut’ (actual quotation from a male Student at Lincoln University) out of our discussion.   She deserves better.  We deserve better. 
When one woman succeeds, others gain hope; when women progress, we all do. 

By: Rachael Thurston





Tuesday, 24 October 2017

We have a problem with sexual harassment but it's not up to women to solve it


The New York Times and writers Jodi Kantor and Megan Twohey published an iconic article
about Harvey Weinstein. The article opened up a floodgate of sexual harassment and sexual assault allegations, shining light into some of the darkest corners of the entertainment industry.

I'm not going to go over the article, other than to say Weinstein is an entitled, predatory man who held a position of power which he happily exploited for decades. Weinstein was shamed. Weinstein was fired from the company he helped create. There were consequences for his actions.
He did release an apology statement, but he was not sorry for his actions, only sorry they had consequences. 

The fallout of the article has an emerging narrative; men who've worked with Weinstein are shocked and disgusted. Some women echo this reaction. But most women are just disgusted, not shocked. They know this sort of exploitation exists in Hollywood, and not just a few are sharing their own sexual harassment stories. 

But exploitation of power dynamics doesn't just exist in expansive, multibillion dollar industries; it exists everywhere. Albeit, without a slush fund to silence abuse survivors.

When writer Anne T. Donahue asked twitter to report on when they met their Weinstein, the responses were overwhelming.


Now there's the "Me Too" movement on twitter, signal boosted by Alyssa Milano, whose tweet has over 57,000 responses as of writing this. 

The purpose of Me Too, and When did you meet your Weinstein, is to help illustrate how vast the sexual harassment/assault epidemic actually is. They also provide a place for victims, who are so often forced to remain silent, to share solidarity, if they so choose.
And again, though appalled, most women won't be shocked by the amount of responses. I know I'm not. More than a few of my female friends are contributing to them.
Most women won't be shocked because most women know this epidemic exists. Chances are we've experienced first-hand, or we've seen it/heard about it happening to others.

I remember getting a temp-to-perm job at a big company when I was in my early twenties. People were friendly; I'm an introvert by nature and it takes me a while to really open up. But within the first few weeks, after a conversation with an extremely friendly male colleague, a female colleague came to me, leant on my desk and said very quietly: "Watch out for him." She said something along the lines of he's a touchy feely kind of guy. 
Immediately, and without a doubt, I believed her. Though I didn't know her, I believed her. This was not the first time I'd received a tip from a woman about a man.
And her advice turned out to be solid; because of this colleague’s actions a few months down the track, which were reported, we all had to undertake sexual harassment training. Of course, the reasons were never advertised and my extremely friendly male colleague still has a job there. In fact, he's been promoted.
Rinse and repeat.

In 2012 the Australian Human Rights Commission conducted a national telephone survey, focusing on sexual harassment.
 It was to investigate the prevalence, nature and reporting of sexual harassment.
*The results of the survey are broken down into gender binary, and do not show data sliced by race.

It found the following:
Most sexual harassment is perpetrated by men against women

  • One third of women (33%), and less than 1 in 10 men (9%) has experienced sexual harassment since the age of 15 (this figure is consistent with what was found in the 2008 survey of the same nature).
  • 68% of those respondents were harassed in the workplace.
  • Being harassed by someone of the same sex is much more common for men (61%) than women (10%)


The survey also found many people experienced negative consequences as a result of reporting sexual harassment

Nearly one-third (29%) of respondents who reported sexual harassment indicated that their complaint had a negative impact on them (e.g. victimisation, demotion).

Nearly one third.

Why are people still being punished for acting within the law and reporting sexual harassment? When you have an almost 1 in 3 chance of experiencing negative consequences for reporting sexual harassment, won't that make someone think twice before reporting? And if you look at the recent US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission study, that number can get as high as 75%.


It's not even just the harassment of other employees. Five years ago, the Sex Discrimination Act was amended to make it illegal for customers to sexually harass employees. 
Fairfax Media investigated customer/client sexual harassment in the wake of this change to find nothing much has changed. Women are still harassed, mostly by men. Men are also still harassed, mostly by other men. Complaints to the Australian Human Rights Commission haven't seen much of a response to the law change. 


Why?


Former Sex Discrimination Commissioner, Elizabeth Broderick, believes this is because this entitled behaviour towards women (who account for most cases of sexual harassment) is normalised. Importantly, there is still a power dynamic being exploited, even in customer/client harassment. As pointed out in the article, power relations are "invisible in many customer-worker encounters because qualities like deference, availability and friendliness are seen as essential parts of the job".

What are businesses doing to protect their employees? 
Some might think it's unfair to ask that question in the case of customer/client harassment because businesses can't force customers to act humanely, but I don't. Employers have a responsibility to provide a safe working environment. What about ad campaigns, what about physical information in retail spaces so sexual harassers know they are not welcome? What about extra training? What about the government disseminating information about the law change?
What about the employee's right to go to work without being harassed? 

A culture of male entitlement perpetuates the behaviour that is to blame for most sexual harassment encounters. It operates because there are no consequences for its operation. The same systemic misogyny punishes almost 1/3 (conservative estimate) of people seeking justice for that behaviour. It's the same toxicity that allows our government to devalue this harassment epidemic, which overwhelmingly affects women, and allows employers to, in effect, provide unsafe work environments to employees with no repercussion. 
Women cop most of the brunt of sexual harassment, but it's not up to women to fight for a harassment-free space. It's not our job to police men's behaviour, or not put ourselves into 'dangerous situations' with male colleagues, especially at work. It's not up to any person who's been harassed or assaulted.
The onus is on sexual harassers to stop harassing.
Sexual harassers will stop when they are held accountable. They will be held accountable when the toxic culture in which they thrive is scrubbed clean and becomes transparent.
Weinstein was only apologetic when he lost his power and his support system turned its back.
He was only stopped when his actions finally had consequences. 


By: Tee Linden


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