Category Archives: Activism

Censorship and Sexual Violence in China

About a month ago, this article was published on The New York Times website. It takes a look at how the #MeToo movement has impacted China and how it relates to perceptions on sexual violence. What makes this article interesting is that it informs readers about how the movement has affected people outside of the U.S. as well as informs us of how the lengths the Chinese government has gone to silence victims. As women have come forward to speak out on social media platforms and in their everyday lives, they are met with criticism and censorship.

How do these perceptions on sexual violence compare cross-culturally? What can activists in the U.S. do to fight rape culture and censorship at home and abroad?

A Music Video Example of the Great American Workplace Misconduct

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This video popped up on my YouTube playlist and my eyes were drawn to the scene that was being depicted. Neyo is the only man in the office space, filled with like 30 women – all attractive and scantily dressed with cleavage showing. They are all drawn to him, obviously (sarcasm).

It strikes me that this is actually the quintessential office fantasy. I’m then taken back to Freud and the way he highlighted sex as the primary motivator for male ambition. These theories suggest that all men work to achieve wealth and prosperity, so that they can win a woman. This clearly objectifies women, but our society has in some way accepted this for quite some time. Our actions have at least seemed to be in agreement with this notion and the concept of the woman as a trophy.

I always marvel at how complex society is and this to me exemplifies those complexities. I’d wager that there is still a majority of men who consciously or subconsciously believe that the wife you win is a measure of your social status. I believe that many women feel the same about the man they “catch” (I refer to the concept “there plenty of fish in the sea and others of the like)

How men and women engage in the workplace still requires respect and decorum. It’s just not lost on me that the office space and other work environments are still spaces where men and women are working to achieve their version of the dream and many of those dreams include the hope of catching a mate along with the ideal house and car. I just thought is was worth sharing. And this old video, in the context of today’s #MeToo discussion is simply shocking. I don’t think it was shocking when it came out.

Firsthand Experience with MeToo

As someone who is considered a leader in the community, I encountered a woman who shared with me that she had been touched inappropriately by a well respected local professional. This took place in a clinical practice, where she works as a para professional. She was prepping this man as a patient for an annual exam and, according to her, he reached out and placed his hand on her hips, giving her a few short pats there. She expressed to me how shocked she was when he did this, clearly recognizing it as inappropriate. She didn’t say anything, but immediately after told the owner of as well as the manager of the practice.

The patient was a friend of the owner’s and also a practicing physician. They both practiced in different fields and often patronized one another for an exchange of services. This fact was known, so this patient was viewed as one of the owner’s personal friends. Upon hearing of this inappropriate behavior, as reported by the employee, the owner deeply apologized for this behavior, also denouncing this man as a real friend. He explained that this man was a bit of a jerk and should not have done that. He apologized and expressed how sorry he was that it had happened. The manager, upon hearing the report, also offered a heartfelt apology, expressing how inappropriate this behavior was. The woman who experienced this just cried and the issue was taken no further.

As this story is being told to me, I am becoming deeply bothered. I’m not only upset that this happened, but that no one in leadership took any further action to bring it to this man’s attention – making it so our level of accountability to one another as humans has no chance of being exacted in this situation. By them simply apologizing on this man’s behalf, they excused him from the conversation. I expressed that I thought the man who committed the act as well as the owner and manager needed to all be addressed. I committed to getting involved to ensure that this happened. I took the man’s name and left the conversation to plan my next steps.

The next day a received a message from this woman, asking me to please not do anything. The message included how she didn’t want anything to jeopardize her job and how HIPAA regulations say that she should not have even shared this information with me. Upon reading this, I become more bothered. I began to consider how this system of domination culture is so strong that it hinders a person’s ability to expect and, if necessary, even demand for basic human respect to take priority over social hierarchy. I also realized that this woman had suffered a loss of power and agency. Even in my pursuit to help, if I brushed her fears aside and simply took charge of her situation, I too would be in a sense, taking power from her again – another powerful man taking ownership of something very personal and private to her, and without her full consent. I reached back out to her and let her know that it was not my intention to be overpowering in her situation, that I was glad she shared it with me, and that I’d be here to support if she decided to take any further action. I didn’t quite know what else to do. I really question this entire system though.

There is a deep play culture of pay equity and lack of advancement that induces a long term sense of powerlessness in working class people. Single moms who have taken on the burden of providing for their family, but who have also sacrificed advancement in exchange for stability, are trapped in feelings of powerless. Sexual misconduct in the workplace is sort of sponsored by this larger system of domination culture in the workplace. There are so many ways to challenge it and I don’t feel like we do enough on a consistent basis. We only appear to want to point fingers at the misconduct, but have yet to turn our attentions to the larger system at work.

Anti-Lynching Memorial to Open: What would Ida B. Wells Barnett say?

This new memorial will open in Montgomery Alabama this year, and it has some unusual aspects to it:

https://eji.org/national-lynching-memorial

We have studied Ida B. Wells Barnett’s campaign to end lynching and the stark descriptions of those cases. I wonder how she would respond.

And in case you didn’t know, in 2005, the U.S. Congress did finally apologize for never outlawing lynching. But it still has never passed a law against it. The first bill to outlaw it was introduced in 1918.

Using Fashion To Keep Women From Sex Trafficking

After traveling to India and meeting women who were forced to sell their bodies in order to provide for their families, Shannon Keith decided to invest $25,000 of her own money to make a change. Embracing the beautiful patterns of the culture in India, she created a business model that would employ these impoverished women and give them an opportunity to live a different life. While the original intent was to provide sewing jobs, the company has developed into so much more. Through partnerships, the company, Sudara, has been able to provide training for careers in nursing, IT, cosmetology, custom tailoring, and others. These opportunities has allowed the women to move up in the company and even become entrepreneurs themselves.

 

Without any prior experience in the fashion industry, Shannon Keith created a platform to give women in India an chance to escape the brothels and a second chance to live life. She is an inspiration as a female entrepreneur with a business model aimed at uplifting women in a country ridden with sex trafficking and slavery.

 

https://www.forbes.com/sites/eshachhabra/2018/01/31/this-female-founder-is-using-fashion-to-keep-women-from-sex-trafficking/#ea75673113e8

https://www.sudara.org

 

Taylor Hilliard

Trump not a feminist? Shocker!!

CNN

Fox News

As President Trump is gearing up for his first State of the Union, he is starting to give hints into some of the things he might talk about. Not surprisingly he’s planning on talking about the booming economy, low unemployment rates, the Republican tax bill, etc. More unexpectedly, he is also planning on discussing his influence on the status of women. In an interview with Piers Morgan, Trump made it clear that he would not consider himself a feminist, as he does not support only women. Yet again, it is apparent that he doesn’t fully understand what a feminist is, and the types of things for which they advocate. I have linked both a CNN article and Fox News article to show the comparison between the two news outlets, and their coverage of this particular interview. The CNN article makes sure to point out Morgan’s line of questioning in regards to the recent Women’s March on Washington. Like many other issues, Trump skirts the question with an irrelevant response about crowd sizes. On the other hand, the Fox News article focuses more heavily on Trump’s response to Morgan’s question about how he can show support to women who have been voicing their experiences with #MeToo and the Women’s March. Trump again gave a vague answer, generalizing that women are having successes in all aspects of life.

It seems that Trump has a fantasy picture of women at this moment in history. Yes, women are stronger, and more vocal than ever before, but amid the countless allegations of sexual assault, maybe it’s time to focus more on the values being instilled in today’s men. According to both reports, Trump’s message will be for “building a safe, strong, and proud America.” While I think my political leanings are pretty apparent, this may be a little forward of me…an America with Donald J. Trump as president, a man who has admitted to sexual assault and consistently makes decisions based on petty emotions, will never be safe, strong, or proud.

-Marah Barrow

I Am Jane Doe PSA to Amend the CDA

 

January is Human Trafficking Awareness Month and this short video briefly describes the issue of websites that knowingly profit from sex trafficking advertisements of children. It calls viewers to action by asking you to contact you senator to ask that SESTA be passed to close the loophole that allows this heinous criminal activity to continue.

Congress passed the Communications Decency Act (Title V of the Telecommunications Act of 1996) to protect children from exposure to Internet pornography.  The act included a defense, Section 230, for Internet providers, protecting them from liability for material posted to their sites by third parties. Thus, if pornography or other illicit material is posted to a site by someone not associated with the site operator, the site was to be held harmless.

In Volume 17, Issue 1 of the Berkley Technology Law Journal, Paul Ehrlich discusses the Communications Decency Act in depth and describes the results of Section 230:

“Congress passed the Communications Decency Act (“CDA”)’ in 1996 to address the myriad problems surrounding the regulation of obscene, illegal, or otherwise tortious content found on the Internet. Many of the CDA’s provisions regulating decency have been struck down by the courts as violations of the First Amendment. One of the surviving elements is a congressional grant of immunity from suit to ISPs [Internet service providers] and other interactive computer services for content originating with third parties. The text of the statute relies on terms of art from the law of defamation, formally protecting interactive computer services from treatment as “publisher[s] or speaker[s].’ However, while defamation law recognizes a distinction between liability as a publisher and liability as a distributor, courts have unanimously read Section 230(c)’s grant of ISP immunity as covering both publishing and distribution liabilities. In doing so, courts took Congress’ desired balance between the competing interests of decency and efficiency and tipped the scales decisively towards efficiency. The effect of these rulings has been the emergence of a comprehensive immunity from suit for ISPs so long as the suits are based on content not authored by the ISP. Whether or not Congress intended this result, ISPs and other interactive computer services have used Section 230 as a complete defense against recent suits…”

Ehrlich continues in footnote 5 of this section, “Publishers are presumed to have more control over material disseminated and are therefore subject to strict liability. Distributors are subject to liability under a knowledge or negligence standard.” This interpretation would make it seem that once a distributor of third party information is made aware that there is a problem of defamation or otherwise illegal activity that then the distributor could be held responsible. Conversely, this is not the case.

Amending Section 230 is not an issue of free speech. This is an issue of illegal activity occurring in a public forum. Section 230 was well intentioned, but it has been used by companies as a place to advertise illegal conduct such as sex trafficking of women and children.  Congress likely never intended this result, yet some courts have ruled that the 230 defense provides, in effect, blanket website immunity for all material posted by third parties on the sites.

In The Children’s Legal Right Journal, Abigail Kuzma eloquently explains these issues in her “A Letter to Congress: The Communications Decency Act Promotes Human Trafficking.” Kuzma describes the issue in great detail, provides substantial evidence for the need to amend the CDA, and also proposes possible amendments. She writes, “…it is critical that legislative action be taken to require all hosts of adult services sections to take preventive action against the posting of abusive ads. Such a bill could be drafted as an amendment to the CDA itself, the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA), the Trafficking Victims Protection Act (TVPA), or as a state law amendment that could be called the Internet Protection Against Child Trafficking Act (IPACT).” Please refer to her letter to learn more about the issues of human trafficking as a crime and human trafficking via the internet.

Business owners claim that illegal activity on their websites is not their responsibility because of Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act. Businesses that profit from these types of advertisements are using ignorance as an excuse so that they can claim they have no role in either prostitution or human trafficking. In order to stop human trafficking, we must take action to make access to this crime more difficult. The ISPs will do nothing to help modern day slaves as long as they believe that they are not an accessory to the crime because they have no liability or legal responsibility. However, if they knowingly profit from crimes such as human trafficking they are in fact aiding and abetting those crimes. Section 230 needs to be amended—not so that free speech is tarnished or diminished in any way, but so that people who are being used and sold can have a voice separate from their abusers.

-Kari C.

Sources:

Ehrlich, Paul. “Communications Decency Act 230.” Berkeley Technology Law Journal 17.1 (2002). web. 11 Jan. 2016.

Kumez, Abigail L. “A Letter to Congress: The Communications Decency Act Promotes Human Trafficking.” Children’s Legal Right Journal 34.1: 23-58. Web. 2 Feb. 2016.

 

Anna Julia Cooper

We are reading about his North Carolinian for our class this evening. Did you know there is now a historic marker in Raleigh for her? I ran across it one day and was surprised to see the word “feminist” on it — I don’t know that I have seen that on a historic marker anywhere, though I have not been up to Seneca Falls or Rochester New York.

Cooper Historic Marker

And her publication, A Voice from the South, has been digitized here:

A Voice from the South

 

 

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