“It’s On Us” to Stop Sexual Violence
Earlier this fall, the Obama administration launched the “It’s On Us” initiative, an awareness campaign to help put an end to sexual assault on college campuses.
It’s On Us asks men, women, everyone across America, to personally commit to be part of the solution to ending campus sexual assault. “An estimated one in five women has been sexually assaulted during her college years—one in five,” President Obama noted. “Of those assaults, only 12 percent are reported, and of those reported assaults, only a fraction of the offenders are punished.”
To work so hard to make it through the college gates only to be assaulted is “an affront to our basic humanity,” Mr. Obama said. “It insults our most basic values…[W]e’re a people who believe every child deserves an education… free from fear of intimidation or violence. It is on all of us to reject the quiet tolerance of sexual assault and to refuse to accept what’s unacceptable.”
The campaign, which features considerable involvement from Vice President Biden, has taken these steps to prevent campus sexual assault:
• Sending guidance to every school district, college, and university that receives federal funding on their legal obligations to prevent and respond to sexual assault
• Creating a White House Task Force to Protect Students from Sexual Assault to work with colleges and universities on developing best practices on how to respond and prevent sexual assault
• Reviewing existing laws to make sure they adequately protect victims of sexual assault It’s On Us recommends that everyone,whether victim or survivor, or someone who wants to help someone who is, visit notalone.gov for resources and information. The NCAA, Big Ten conference, MTV, VH1, and other organizations have already made a personal commitment to help stop sexual assault. To join them in taking the pledge, go to ItsOnUs.org. To reach the National Sexual Assault Hotline call 800-656-HOPE.
Website on Campus Accountability
A group of independent advocates, students, academics and parents committed to women’s equality, autonomy and voice to redress sex/gender-based harassment and violence on campus has launched a new website on campus accountability. Its purpose is to ensure all forms of sex/gender-based violence are addressed under the best legal standards and that schools are held accountable when they respond in a manner inconsistent with state constitutional and civil rights statutes, and federal civil rights laws such as Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 and Title IV of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. To learn more, go to http://www.campusaccountability.org/about-us.html.
The Other Vday
World Vasectomy Day set a goal to inspire 250 doctors in 30 countries to perform 1,500 vasectomies in 24 hours. WVDay, held on November 7, is still compiling results.
“In helping to shoulder responsibility for family planning, men become heroes to their partners, to their families and to our future,” says World Vasectomy Day’s Jonathan Stack, an Emmy Award–winning and twotime Academy Award–nominated documentary filmmaker.
Stack cofounded the organization with urologist Doug Stein, M.D., who has performed over 33,000 vasectomies. World Vasectomy Day organizers work with the world’s leading practitioners to provide free, discounted or low-cost, high-quality vasectomies.
Currently, about half (51 percent) of the 6.6 million pregnancies in the United States each year (3.4 million) are unintended. Roughly four in 10 pregnancies worldwide are unintended.
George Mbogah, a 38-year-old Kenyan father of two, scraped together enough money for a 20-hour bus trip for his vasectomy. “I don’t want my wife to suffer another painful pregnancy, nor my children to suffer the bitter taste of poverty,” Mbogah said.
In the U.S., World Vasectomy Day is headquartered in Florida at Planned Parenthood of Greater Orlando. In 2013, 100 physicians in 25 countries did 1,000 vasectomies for the first World Vasectomy Day, which was headquartered in Australia. For more, go to www.worldvasectomyday.org.
“Good New Boys?”
During a speech before the United Nations, Iceland’s foreign minister Gunnar Bragi announced recently his country and Suriname are convening a conference early next year to talk about gender equality. Unlike many such gatherings, only men and boys are invited to attend.
Saying his country wanted to do its part to “promote gender equality,” Bragi announced that Iceland and Suriname will convene a “Barbershop” conference in January 2015 where men will discuss gender equality with other men, with a special focus on addressing violence against women… “it will be the first time at the United Nations that we bring together only men leaders to discuss gender equality.”
Iceland and Suriname fall at nearly opposite ends of global rankings on women’s rights. The Global Gender Gap Report 2013 compiled by the World Economic Forum ranked Iceland at the top in gender equality in economic, health and other matters. Suriname, the tiny South American country, was ranked 110th.
In his remarks, Iceland’s minister acknowledged the 20th anniversary of the 1995 U.N. women’s conference in which world leaders declared, “women’s rights are human rights.”
White Ribbon Awards Spreading Across the UK
In the United Kingdom, the White Ribbon Campaign has taken a new approach to spread its message to men “never to commit, excuse or remain silent about violence against women.
Every local authority has an official whose duties include working on domestic violence issues. WRC UK invited each to apply to receive a White Ribbon award for men working to prevent violence against women. To obtain the award, a municipality must draft an action plan based on an analysis of what the city council has done in the past, and outline their plans for the next two years. Included among six award eligibility requirements is having a workplace violence prevention against women policy; working with schools and universities; involving sports clubs and music venues; and producing materials targeting men. The award is good for two years, after which authorities need to reapply.
According to White Ribbon campaign director Chris Green, 55 councils are now signed up, including 17 out of 22 local authorities in Wales (more than three million people), plus the larger English cities of Bristol, York, Leeds and Brighton and the counties of Sussex, Lancashire, Cheshire and Staffordshire.
Local authorities run their awareness campaigning in different ways. “I counted 30 different initiatives being taken by local authorities,” Green reported, including: art projects, schoolwide campaigns, nightclub sign-ups, displays at county shows, faith-based campaigns, youth ambassadors, signage on vehicles, information on pay slips, newsletters, awareness quizzes in communal areas, flowerbed displays as well as workplace policies, workforce training and posters and leaflets. “Most authorities order and distribute substantial amounts of White Ribbon posters, badges and stickers to local citizens,” Green said, “giving us a reach far beyond that which we could have dreamed of.” An introduction to the awards and complete award documentation is downloadable from WRC UK’s website, www.whiteribboncampaign.co.uk.
Learn more at firstname.lastname@example.org and @menantiviolence.
The Anti-Sexism Brigade of Peru
For an alliance of antiviolence activists in Peru, November 25 means it’s time to take to the streets. Not for a demonstration on the International Day Against Violence Against Women, but to take the social pulse of Peruvian society. The Peruvian Network of Masclinities assembles on that day as Brigada Anti-Machista (the Anti-Sexism Brigade), to raise awareness about “invisible” sexism in everyday life, especially in public spaces. Their social experiment, in collaboration with Panorama, a Lima television news magazine, examines how male violence against women is seen as commonplace (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UlAnWoZpdhY).
Especially targeting men, they staged scenes of violence against women before mixed crowds moving through Lima’s streets to survey men’s opinions, perceptions and attitudes after observing the dramatized violence. What were the men’s beliefs about sexist violence against women? And, more important, would these men take action against that violence?
What Brigada Anti-Machista found was:
•There’s a strong belief that when a couple is having a heated discussion, even if it turns violent, it is a “private” matter, and nobody should “interfere.”
• Many men say women are to blame when they are victims of violence because they didn’t choose the “right” man or they “permitted” the violence to occur.
• The only “real” violence is physical violence.
• In the context of a couple’s relationship, violence is not “their problem” and that they shouldn’t intervene unless there’s a risk of murder. Brigada Anti-Machista’s conclusion? Social tolerance, indifference, and men’s complicity are the strongest mechanisms to explain alarming numbers of murders and violence against women in Peru.
—Jaikel H. Rodriguez
Gloria’s New Chair
Rutgers University is endowing a chair named for Gloria Steinem, among the major voices articulating modern American feminism.
The chair will be in media, culture and feminist studies, The New York Times reported, reflecting Ms. Steinem’s long career as a journalist as well as a public intellectual.
Endowed by grants from the Ford, Knight, and Revson Foundations, the chair also will receive individual gifts, including one from Facebook’s COO Sheryl Sandberg and the author of Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead, and another from Mort Zuckerman, the owner and publisher of U.S. News and World Report and the New York tabloid The Daily News.
The occupant of the chair will teach and research how to include more diverse voices in the media, the Times reported—not only more perspectives from women, but, for example, encouraging programs for girls who are interested in coding. She—or he—will also convene a twice-yearly conference of leaders and scholars in media and technology.
Boys for Feminism
When Ed Holtom, a 15-year old boy from the English countryside, watched Emma Watson’s United Nations speech on gender equality where she endorsed the HeForShe campaign (www.heforshe.org), he did more than just listen to the remarks that have traveled ’round the world (www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q0Dg226G2Z8).
Moved by Watson’s invitation to men—“Gender equality is your issue, too”—he wrote a letter to the editor of The Daily Telegraph in London. It argued for an end to gender stereotypes.
“The definition of feminism,” he wrote, is “a person who believes in the social, political and economic equality of the sexes.’ It’s pretty simple really…if you believe in those things, then you’re a feminist.” The teenage boy’s display of solidarity and commitment to defend Watson’s sentiments are a testament to the resurgent feminist movement among men.
Fatherless by Suicide
Fatherless by Suicide is a collaborative storytelling project by and for sons whose fathers died by suicide.
It was conceived of by Chris Michael, whose father took his life. He is traveling around the United States by motorcycle conducting interviews with similarly affected men.
“I believe stories are how we understand our world, our place in it and how we can enhance it. Surviving the suicide of your father is a tough world to inherit, and this project works to help address that challenge.”
Michael intends to use the portfolio he amasses of audio interviews, portraits and audio documentary to help reduce the shame and stigma around suicide, and improve society’s ability to better support the millions of people who live in the wake of it.
“I lost my father to suicide when I was three years old,” Michael says. “I spent the next three decades avoiding the topic and my own emotions around father loss.” He says he has long hungered to meet other men who lost their fathers to suicide to learn how they navigated their path to adulthood, healing and, for those who became parents, being fathers.
Michael says while the project is an effort for him to learn from similarly affected men, his larger goal is to share their lessons and insights with others, “particularly young men and men who recently lost their fathers.” Since August, Michaels began riding his motorcycle from New York City to San Francisco to conduct interviews with men representing a wide swath of the country’s geographic and cultural diversity. He plans to edit the audio interviews and “weave them into a series featuring stories and insights from collaborators on their journey to define their manhood, find healing and, perhaps, embrace fatherhood.” He is also photographing those who agree to have their portraits included in the project, and will combine audio excerpts of their stories online to help inspire others to add to the story.
Suicide is the tenth leading cause of death in the United States.
To learn more go to www.fatherlessbysuicide.com.