Category Archives: Activism


Dear Students:

It has been a pleasure and a privilege to work with you this semester in the classroom and with our blog. You have so many gifts to bring to the world. Please never doubt that you can make a difference. I look forward to seeing what each of accomplishes in the future. I want to leave you with this quote which sums up the message of the course:

“Across the world women are joining hands in solidarity and support, in a global women’s movement, sharing knowledge and experience and empowering themselves to build a peaceful and fairer world.”
— Marilee Karl

Go forward from here and start building that world!DSC00792

Alarming Number of Young People believe Domestic Violence can be Justified

Domestic violence is never OK. Yet in 29 countries around the world, one-third or more of men say it can be acceptable for a husband to “beat his wife.” Perhaps more surprising: In 19 countries, one-third or more of women agree that a husband who beats his wife may be justified, at least some of the time.

You can read the full article here about attitudes toward domestic violence across cultures.

What do you think is the reason for these attitudes; how can we go about changing them?(4)_Ghana_Domestic_Violence_is_a_Human_Right_Abuse_Poster

“Somaly Mam: Saint or Sinner? Does it Matter?”

MamThis past week, our class read and discussed the book, The Road of Lost Innocence by Somaly Mam (2005). The book tells the story of her early life, her experience being trafficked into the sex trade, and her efforts to change her life and rescue other young victims in Cambodia. Mam started two foundations, AFESIP (Acting for Women in Distressing Situations) and the Somaly Mam Foundation. She has helped raise millions of dollars to build shelters in Cambodia, Thailand, Vietnam and Laos and to rescue hundreds of girls from the sex trade. In May of 2014, Simon Marks, wrote an expose in Newsweek that accused Mam of fabricating some details of her early life, stating that she was a voluntary prostitute, not someone enslaved in the sex trade. He also said that some of the rescued girls had been instructed to lie about and sensationalize their pasts so the foundation could raise more money, and he said that while Mam was charming and charismatic in public, many said she was privately “tyrannical,” “moody,” “eractic,” and “entitled.” The board of her foundation hired a law firm to do an independent investigation and asked for her resignation after the story appeared. Shortly thereafter, the Somaly Mam Foundation closed.
Mam did not grant an interview or attempt to defend herself for six months. Finally, in September of 2014, she spoke with Abigail Pesta for the French magazine, Marie Claire. Mam maintained her innocence and said her foundation board wanted her to sign a statement admitting guilt, which she refused to do. Pesta did her own investigation with many of the same sources used by Newsweek and found many inconsistencies with several sources saying they were incorrectly quoted in Newsweek or denying altogether the conclusions drawn in that article. Mam also noted that she herself often confused dates and times in her early life because things were so chaotic and she did not even know her real birth date. Newsweek essentially called Mam a fraud and Marie Claire called out Newsweek saying, “Of course, people can change the stories they tell…Nevertheless, taken as a whole, my findings raise questions about the picture Newsweek painted of Somaly Mam.” No one disputes the good work that was done by Mam’s foundations or that she has recently sold her home and her car to try and keep them operational.
This controversy raises several important questions for discussion:
(1) Marks asks one of these questions in his article, “She (Mam) has done so much for so many, does it matter that key parts of her story aren’t true?”
(2) Can any of the sources be viewed as reliable in a country where people have a fear of speaking out to officials, where corruption is rampant and many have hidden agendas? What are we to believe?
(3) What do these stories say about our own American notions of gender and activism? It is striking that journalists seem to investigate activists like Rigoberta Menchu and Somaly Mam to try and discredit their life stories yet never deny the good works they have done? Do we just not like heroes or hypocrites posing as heroes or does their gender play a role in our perceptions of the validity of their accounts?     Holly Mathews, January 22, 2016

Jennifer Lawrence comments on Hollywood wage gap

Thomas Hennessey

According to an article released by NPR states that Jennifer Lawrence is facing both praise and criticism after making comment about the gender wage gap.  Jennifer Lawrence recently commented on the fact that she received significantly less pay compared to her male co-stars on the set of American Hustle, she said that she blamed herself not the studio for this pay difference.  Lawrence believes that gender socialization and “not wanting to seem difficult or spoiled” are the causes of the gender pay gap in American Hustle.  That being said Lawrence has been praised by other female actresses in Holly Wood for coming out and discussing the pay gay publicly, others believe she is not the right person for this activism.  A web post stated that women in Lawrence’s position do not understand what true wage gap is, the post goes on to state that women who are struggling to pay bills have a much firmer grasp on wage gap and understand what it means to need every extra dollar.  It is also a fair point to state that Lawrence can be found at the top of Forbes’ list of top paid actresses around the world.  I believe that it is a slippery slope when we start to differentiate women’s struggle in wage gap, there is a need for equality across the board not just equality in low paying jobs.      

Stop Yelling at Women Musicians

Thomas Hennessey

Lauren Mayberry of Chvrches has been very outspoken about the existence of misogyny in music.  In this particular article Luke O’Neil chronicles an incident Mayberry had with a male concert goer, who yells “Marry me” during the band’s set.  Mayberry proceeds to politely embarrass the man before continuing to another song.  This incident is a great example of exactly what Mayberry fights against, she believes that it is unfair that women are asked to take any and all criticism without even a hint of anger.

October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month

Thomas Hennessey

I am going to both apologize and warn you in advance that this post is not a news article exactly. As some of you may know October is Domestic Violence awareness month in the United States. This awareness month came from a day of solidarity in the early 1980’s, in 1989 congress passed a law designating October to be domestic awareness month. Some cities through out North Carolina have events to raise awareness but as far as I can tell Greenville is not one of those cities.  The city of Greenville is not the only offender in my opinion however, I also investigated ECU news to see if there was any events planned or articles written but I have not found those yet.  Above I have placed the link to President Obama’s Presidential Proclamation on National Domestic Violence awareness month and I have also attached the North Carolina Department of Justice report on domestic violence related homicides in 2013.

The “He for She” Initiative

Elizabeth Nyamayaro is a political scientist dedicated to improving conditions for women around the world. Currently, she is the Senior Advisor to the Under Secretary-General and Executive Director for UN Women. Additionally, she is the head of the UN Women’s HeForShe campaign.

In this TED talk, Ms. Nyamayaro talks about her childhood experiences growing up in Africa, enduring famines, and being sent away to the city for an education at the age of ten and where she first experienced and became aware of women’s inequality. Her childhood experiences were a foundation for her political activism in advocating for men and women to work together for a better world for all women.

The HeForShe initiative is a program that is proactive in its approach, advocating for women and men to work alongside one another to promote systemic changes at all levels (government, education, corporate) making global gender equality a reality.

Jimmy Carter speaks about the mistreatment of women being a human rights issue

Former US President, Jimmy Carter has long been an advocate and proactive in the equal treatment of women around the world. In this recent TED talk, he provides three main reasons for why he believes “the mistreatment of women is the number one human rights issue.”

The reasons he cites are: 1) the misinterpretation of scriptures by men; 2) excessive use of violence; and 3) “men don’t give a damn”

Mr. Carter highlights several global issues that negatively affect girls and women including: genital mutilation (FGM), infibulation, honor killings, human trafficking/slavery, prostitution, sexual assaults in the military, sexual assaults on university campuses in the US, and the gender wage gap.

At the end of this video, he calls for people to be proactive in protecting women and girls, globally.

The Oppressed Majority

Whenever I bring up feminism with a friend or acquaintance and label it as such the tension in the air often becomes palpable.  From my experience, most people will agree with you when you say that all humans deserve equal rights, but the moment that you label it feminism there is a hesitance.  People rebuke that the feminist battle has been fought, that we are equal and it’s time to drop it.  It seems evident to me that many people are still very threatened by the idea of individuals banning together to improve the welfare of others, especially when it is led by women.  Feminism has a long way to go, and I think that this video says volumes about our society and how far it is from liberation.

Dear Lego Company,

Gender inequalities do not discriminate by age.
Recently, a 7-year-old girl named Charlotte Benjamin wrote a letter to the Lego company to complain about the differences in not just the dominant ratio of male Lego people to female Lego people, but their roles in the games, as well. Charlotte mentions that the male Lego people “went on adventures, worked, and saved people,” while the female Lego characters were left by the wayside in terms of excitement, featuring such menial tasks as “go to the beach and shop”.
Charlotte’s letter strongly points out gender inequalities that even today still linger, but even at such a young age, is making a stand.
Her letter reads:

“Dear Lego company:
My name is Charlotte. I am 7 years old and I love legos but I don’t like that there are more Lego boy people and barely any Lego girls.
Today I went to a store and saw legos in two sections the girls pink and the boys blue. All the girls did was sit at home, go to the beach, and shop, and they had no jobs but the boys went on adventures, worked, saved people, and had jobs, even swam with sharks.
I want you to make more Lego girl people and let them go on adventures and have fun ok!?!
Thank you.
From Charlotte.”

The future of equality is bright.  Carolyn Wallence

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