Mar 18
Her eye on the news
'Patient zero’

Thanks to the inception of a 24-hour-news cycle, Monica Lewinsky’s affair with then-President Bill Clinton threw her into the public glare virtually overnight. When details of the scandal broke, the world quickly saw what victimization in the Internet Age would look like, and it was far from pleasant.

Twenty years on and Lewinsky has chosen to draw on her scandalized past in order to help tackle the growing threat of cyber-bullying, which effects an estimated 50 percent of teens. Her activism began in  2015 when she took to the TED Talk stage and delivered a powerful speech — “The Price of Shame” — on what it was like to be “Patient Zero” of our online culture of humiliation.

Speaking to Refinery29 in an exclusive interview — her first since the 2016 election — Lewinsky discussed the impact cyber-bullying had on her own life and how she thinks it has evolved since its inception. Referring to a chart she made a few years ago, which laid out the changes that wove together “technological advances, changing ways on the internet and the cyberbullying tragedies and problems we’ve seen arise,” she breaks this evolution into several stages.

First, the online world created a global interconnectedness that was capitalized on by news outlets, which all had their own websites and which created a way for social conversation to occur around online events. “That was beginning of the online coliseum and global public stonings” she said.

Then the introduction of AOL instant messenger and other similar services provided a platform for people’s voices and opinions, and paved the way for the birth of social media.

“The two technological advances alongside this — which defined this era and escalated cyberbullying and online harassment  — were,” Lewinsky argued, “internet access from your handheld device (as in: all access, all of the time) and then the phone camera. Suddenly, everyone was a fashion and food photographer as well as a paparazzi.” Then came sexting, which further blurred the lines between private and public and further eroded the concept of trust.

Finally, Lewinsky said, this has all brought us to the moment we are in now, similar, she says, “to when in history the Model T Ford replaced the horse and buggy … At first, there were no rules of the road. But eventually, society caught up to the technology and coalesced around the idea of needing safer ways to navigate the roads in cars.” We are, she hopes, at the precipice of saying “enough is enough” and creating the framework for a safer and less abusive online space.

Read the full interview at Refinery29.


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Voter bias

Earlier this week the U.N. published its Women in Politics 2017 Map, which shows the global rankings for women in the executive and parliamentary branches of government as of January 1, 2017. The results are not wholly encouraging — they show a slow progression toward gender equality in both these areas at regional and national levels, as well as slow progress in the increase in women members of parliament. A new study by the Barbara Lee Family Foundation offers some indication as to what is holding women back in the U.S.

The research reveals the continued impact of a long-held double standard, whereby voters are far more dubious of a mother’s capacity to balance work and family life than they are fathers’ — even those whose spouses also work.

Creating fictitious profiles for candidates, the Barbara Lee Family Foundation tested voter reactions to a variety of candidates, from married and unmarried women, single mothers and lesbian couples, to married fathers with young kids. They found that traditional gender roles still had a significant impact on how people perceived the candidates. Even when voters expressed concerns over whether a male candidate with children could balance his family and office life, they were quickly reassured if the candidate issued a statement addressing those concerns. This was not the case with married mothers of young children, against whom voters held the greatest doubts.

“Despite sweeping societal changes” said Adrienne Kimmell, executive director of the foundation, “many people still assume motherhood is a central role for women. That, in turn, affects how they view women candidates.”

The experience of many women running for office reflects the study’s findings. Speaking to The New York Times, Jane Swift, who prompted a national debate around motherhood and political office when she ran for lieutenant governor of Massachusetts in 1998, said the double standard still operates. “The governor dad who takes his kids along to the county fair is a huge political asset, but it doesn’t work as well for the governor mom,” she said. “Being with children was seen as being distracted from doing your job.”

“I was most successful politically when I shut down the ability for the public to have a view into my private life,” she said. “That’s unfortunate, and it made it harder for me to be relatable to folks.”

Read the full story at The New York Times.


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A scandal has erupted in Brazil as Bruno Fernandez, a famous and popular goalkeeper who was convicted for ordering a group of his friends to murder Eliza Samudio, his former girlfriend and the mother of his son, has been released from prison and picked up by a professional soccer team. According to prosecutors, Fernandes, angry that Samudio sought custody of their son, enlisted his friends to carry out the grisly crime. The men cut her up and fed her to hungry dogs. Fernandes was convicted in 2010 and sentenced to 22 years in prison, but freed on appeal last week after serving just seven years in prison.

One soccer club, Boa Esporte, which plays in the country’s Serie B (second division) thought it wise to sign the player, sparking outrage in a country that has been plagued by high rates of femicide. Adding to the controversy is the fact that Bruno seems to show little remorse for his actions, offering no apologies or words for Samudio’s family. During a press conference on Tuesday, he answered no questions about the case but only talked about how God was looking after him. Nevertheless, the outrage seems to be working: several of the club’s sponsors have already severed ties over news of the signing, while pressure is building on Varghina, the club’s biggest benefactor, to withdraw its funding, which could potentially leave the club financially strapped.

Read the full story at Newsweek.


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Making history

The pink ‘pussyhats’ worn by thousands of women at the Women’s March on Washington are attracting attention once more — this time from museums hoping to add the garment to their collections. Major institutions such as the New York Historical Society and the National Museum of American History have announced the acquisition of pussyhats for inclusion in current or future exhibitions, and a pussyhat knitted by Pussyhat Project co-founder Jayna Zweiman, who together with Krista Suh helped create the original pussyhat pattern for “craftivists” to emulate, is already on display at London’s Victoria and Albert Museum.

“This modest pink hat is a material thing that through its design enables us to raise questions about our current political and social circumstance,” explained Corinna Gardner, acting keeper of the V&A’s Design Architecture and Digital department. “[It] has become an immediately recognizable expression of female solidarity and symbol of the power of collective action.”

At The Fuller Craft Craft Museum in Brockton, Massachusetts, the garment is being described as “the largest example of social activism through craft in U.S. modern history.”

In other words, the thousands of women who knit pussyhats quite literally made history.

Read the full story at The Huffington Post.


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‘Not today’

Kelly Herron, 36, became an inspiration to many when she shared on Instagram how she repelled an assailant who had hidden inside a women’s bathroom stall.

“Not today, motherf**cker,” she told him, all the while “clawing his face, punching back, and desperately trying to escape his grip — never giving up.”

My biggest running nightmare became reality- 4 miles into my long run Sunday afternoon, I stopped to use the restroom and was assaulted by a man hiding in a stall (that is my GPS in red lines). I fought for my life screaming("Not today, M**F**er!"), clawing his face, punching back, and desperately trying to escape his grip- never giving up. I was able to lock him in the bathroom until police arrived. Thankfully I just took a self-defense class offered at my work and used all of it. My face is stitched, my body is bruised, but my spirit is intact. #NTMF #fightingchanceseattle #ballard #runnersafety #marathontraining #womensselfdefense #myballard #fightlikeagirl #fightback #nottodaymotherfucker #youcantbreakme #instarunners #garmin #garminvivosmarthr

A post shared by Kelly Herron NTMF (@run_kiwi_run) on

Despite suffering serious bruising and cuts to her face, Harron beat the man into submission and kept him locked him in a bathroom stall until police could come to arrest him.

In what appears to have been a cynical attempt at fueling fear and distrust of transgender people, a group in Washington state called Just Want Privacy sent supporters an email featuring Herron’s photo, writing that “each week yields new stories of deviant men who found ways to access female’s vulnerable spaces in order to exploit them.” In the missive, the group advocated for the repeal of a law that allowed transgender women to use women’s bathrooms, referring to transgender women as “men” and claiming that transgender-rights laws enable such attacks — all without citing any actual incidents involving transgender people or nondiscrimination laws.

“I was more pissed off about that than I was about the incident itself,” Herron told BuzzFeed, explaining that she in fact supports transgender rights and that the group had used her photo without her permission.

“They’re exploiting me. It’s a complete violation of the trauma that I endured and am recovering from in the name of discriminating against transgender people.”

On Thursday, Herron emailed Washington Won’t Discriminate, a pro-transgender rights group, saying that she wanted to help fight back against the anti-transgender bill being pushed by Just Want Privacy.

“To the people behind I-1552, I say, ‘Not today, motherf*ckers,’” she wrote, reprising the line she used against her attacker. “I refuse to allow anyone to use me and my horrific sexual assault to cause harm and discrimination to others. It’s already illegal to enter a restroom or locker room to harm someone, period. That’s why when I-1552’s backers claim they want to protect women and children from attack, I’m not fooled.”

Read the full story at BuzzFeed.


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