5 Commitments to Action in a Trump Presidency

For many individuals, the election of Donald Trump was distressing and unnerving. His presidency represents the validation of his abhorrent rhetoric and policies that threaten the humanity of Americans across communities (people of colorLGBTQ, persons with disabilitiesMuslims, women). Specifically, many individuals who benefit from intersecting privileges of race, income, or education were shocked to discover that the progress lauded over the past eight years was a misrepresentation of the reality in this country.

As the majority of the United States braces for Donald Trump to take office, it is important to use post-election reflections to shape how we move forward. Not only is it crucial to hold Trump accountable, but to also personally commit to action beyond the problematic idealism that secluded many people prior to his election. Here are five commitments I am making for the next four years:

5. Listen, and educate yourself.

For many individuals (myself included) much of the next four years will include unpacking the privilege that enabled shock to occur on election day. During this presidency, it will be integral for individuals to listen to those whose livelihood and existence are at stake in the next four years. Much, if not all, of what is occurring presently has been described, thoroughly and eloquently, by individuals who have long known this oppression. Beyond listening, we need to take what we’ve learned and dig deeper into the work of understanding the systems in the United States that Donald Trump seeks to maintain. This must be continual and must shape all other actions to oppose Trump.

4. Get engaged in local and personal communities.

Focusing on change at the federal level is extremely important, but it is not the complete picture of progress. Furthermore, it can get exhausting when efforts to impact policy on the national level don’t come to fruition. There is a great deal of influence that can be made on policy at the state and local levels. Imagine if everyone engaged with their Alderman, Mayors or City Councils on the injustices that occur in many of our cities? Furthermore, and especially for individuals with white privilege, it is important to speak with those in our personal communities. This means dismantling harmful belief systems in communities we may belong to that benefit from privilege. During the next four years it will be essential to fight on the local and personal levels to achieve change that may not feel possible on the broader scale.

3. Spend money with intention

In addition to engaging with our elected officials, it’s important to monetarily support to individuals working for those most at risk to Trump’s policies and rhetoric. This could look like supporting organizations who provide services to marginalized communities or organizations who are uplifting voices of marginalized individuals. For some, this may take form of additional donations toward groups like Planned Parenthood. For others, this may look like spending money at businesses of those marginalized by Trump’s potential politics. In Trump’s presidency, it is crucial to make sure our money is spent in the direction of our words.

2. Move beyond social media activism.

While social media will continue to play an important role in shaping social justice actions, we need more than Facebook posts and re-tweets. Instead we need authentic engagement in our communities, difficult conversations, and collective action. Protesting has always played an integral role throughout American history and it has shown to be effective in putting pressure on powerful individuals in current events (#NoDAPL). In addition to visible action, it’s also important to call and email elected officials, sign petitions, and vote in midterm elections. During the next for years, it is important to get out from behind the iPhones and leave our social media bubbles.

1. Never normalize Trump’s behavior.

In the age of technology, it is extremely easy to read or watch a viral pieces of news only for the outrage to diminish over time. During the next four years, it’s important to stay angry at the endless list of atrocities Trump spewed throughout the campaign. This is particularly true for people who benefit from the privilege and ability to block out his harmful words with no personal threats to livelihood. While people of color, immigrants, LGBTQ folks, or individuals with disabilities have all been well-aware of America’s oppressive systems, individuals who have these varying privileges need to do the work themselves to stay cognizant of their embeddedness in our society. Trumps harmful words and behaviors cannot be normalized.

While these five commitments may provide some direction toward engagement in the next four years, they are only the beginning. Further refinement and critical examination of one’s role (myself included) must be ongoing to achieve social justice in the emending presidency.

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STEM Education: Four Ways to Strengthen the Pipeline

In the summer of 2012, I accepted a teaching position as an 8th grade math teacher. The position was in an urban charter school with a mission devoted to science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM). Newly trained on an innovative, internet-based math curriculum, I was excited to jump into the classroom. But when I walked into the building, I was greeted by an out-dated classroom equipped with chalkboards and a television easily from 1972. What was this? I was working at STEM charter school – if this is STEM, where was the technology?

I was quick to find out that my “STEM” school had very little STEM, despite attracting students from across the city to attend on the basis of this very instruction. Unforunately, my school wasn’t alone. STEM education throughout the country has failed students in public schools. Cuts to funding, teacher turnover, deteriorating schools – all impacting the quality of STEM education our students receive.

This crisis – among others in public education – has huge effects on the economy and the community at large. By 2018, STEM careers will have grown by 17%, outpacing non-STEM careers.  The fulfillment of STEM positions is crucial to the United State’s position in the global economy. Despite this growing demand, the STEM pipeline (spanning from K-12 Education to STEM workforce) is losing students left and right. Initiatives have been started from all directions, including the White House.

As the need continues to increase, it is crucial for the education system and communities to invest in the several ways. Here are four ways to strengthen the pipeline:

1. Increase Access to Funding and Resources

STEM education looks completely different for students in low-income neighborhoods than for more affluent districts and private schools. Not only are students who attend better schools more likely to have full-time teachers certified in the subject, but they have the equipment, textbooks, and class variety needed to fully explore STEM learning. If the United States wants to be successful in the global community, they need to invest in our schools and decrease the gross inequity among districts.

2. Provide STEM Opportunities Outside of the Curriculum

Given the scope of STEM fields, it is unrealistic to rely fully on the K-12 science textbook. Students need to be provided with hands-on opportunities across STEM disciplines to explore their career and academic interests. Whether additional opportunities include field trips, guest speakers, or science support programs – extra opportunities to explore interests is crucial to encouraging students into the fields. By exposing students to the variety of STEM careers, they have more knowledge to determine what is best for them and what career fits most with their interests.

3. Connect Students with STEM Mentors and Role Models

The role of mentors throughout STEM career development can be transformational –  especially for urban students. The presence of a mentor or role model in STEM can encourage learning about possible careers in STEM and provide a positive adult influence. Additionally, mentors can help mitigate the negative affects of educational inequity that inhibit learning in STEM. Mentoring opportunities can be supported by schools through partnerships with local community stakeholders, corporations, or businesses (US News, 2014).

4. Be intentional with STEM

Despite good intentions, many STEM schools are failing our kids, disproportionately impacting students from urban districts. Many schools initiate a mission that claims to provide STEM learning, but fails in it’s implementation. Conversely, many schools pour iPads or Chromebooks into a school without proper teacher training or intent, hoping that this makes them more science and technology oriented. In both scenarios, the lack of intention hurts students and fails to actually encourage students into STEM.    It is crucial that our effort is well-planned and intentional when trying to strengthen the STEM pipeline.

 

The Power of Schools: Preventing or Perpetuating Gender Stereotypes

A few weeks ago, a concerned mother posted her son’s school permission slip to Facebook. The permission slip, for a sixth grade end of the year pool party, had certain stipulations for the girls – but not the boys. The school told parents that “All girls must wear a non-white t-shirt over their swimsuit.”

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Schools hold a great deal of power in child development, especially when it pertains to gender. While this rule may come from a place of good intentions, it perpetuates damaging stereotypes about young female bodies and misses an opportunity to be inclusive to all students. The underlying messages of this rule disproportionately tell the female students that there is something wrong with their young (and by young, I mean 11 year old) bodies. By telling girls and not all students to cover up their bodies, girls receive a harrowing message about being female. Conversely, the lack of equity about body coverage for boys creates a double standard in body-image.

This isn’t the only time that school’s have been found policing female bodies. During this past prom season, schools across the United States held tight to outdated and damaging gender stereotypes. At Shelton High School, girls were ambiguously banned from backless dresses or “low-cut” fronts. Their guidelines often begging the question – what is wrong with female bodies?

While some schools want girls to cover up, others want to reinforce false standards of femininity. Until receiving national attention, a Louisiana high school stipulated that “all girls must wear dresses” to their prom because “girls wear dresses and boys wear suits.” Claudette Love, an academic all-star at the school didn’t feel that this rule was fair. She asserted that the dress code discriminated against her gender identity. While the school eventually buckled and reversed the policy, they failed to provide an inclusive and safe environment for student’s of all gender identities.

In all three of these all-to-common situations, the schools missed an opportunity to positively develop young students. Forbidding girls to wear pants or requiring boys to wear suits perpetuates standards that hinder individuality, identity, and inclusivity. Schools have a tremendous power to teach students in academics but also in becoming the person they are, without constricting them to gender stereotypes.

Rand Paul: President of Mansplaining

As it is with each presidential election, it’s only a matter of time before every candidate makes a gaffe caught on camera. Unfortunately for Rand Paul, his blunder occurred on day one of his campaign. Earlier this week, while being interviewed by Savannah Guthrie about the debut of his 2016 presidential run, Paul did what he’s shown he does best: mansplain. That is, to explain things, typically to women, in a condescending way.

During this interview, Guthrie was prefacing her question with two examples of Rand Paul flip-flopping on policy, when the Kentucky senator cut her off and corrected her interviewing style in what can only be called a cringe-worthy political faux pas.  Paul has since argued there were other factors at play – they were not interviewing face-to-face and there was surely a lag in audio. While those may be true, this isn’t Paul’s first offense with mansplaining. Earlier this year he literally shushed CNBC’s Kelly Evans, showing that this wasn’t a one-time wave of emotion for the presidential hopeful.

Unfortunately, this incident speaks to a much larger issue about the way others perceive a woman’s credibility. It is all too common for women in the professional and private sphere to have to prove their knowledge and credibility to others, particularly to men. At the very core of Rand Paul correcting Guthrie and Evans is the notion that she is wrong and he is right- so much so that he must interrupt her, correct her, or shush the other professional.

The questioning of credibility permeates almost all boundaries of women’s lives. Take for example than the reality of domestic violence in America. Women who report sexual assault are rarely believed without first having to prove their credibility. Victims must prove they were dressed modestly or that they were behaving “appropriately”. Even then, there is still a looming question about their trustworthiness to accurately explain the situation . Doesn’t it seem ridiculous that over thirty women who have stepped forward against Bill Cosby and their collective credibility is not enough to tarnish a powerful man? If women cannot receive validity in something as serious as assault and violence, where do they find the understanding in matters of work and career?

Highlighting Rand Paul’s mansplaining isn’t intended to vindicate men, not all men do this and I’m certain many women partake in putting down other women. But, it’s probably safe to say that a person who struggles staying calm during an interview will struggle representing the United States of America.

3 Ways the #NotBuyingIt Campaign is Impacting Superbowl Advertising

In the 49 years of Superbowl history, only one thing has remained more exciting to viewers than the final score: the ads.

Each year, companies dish out millions of dollars for airtime on the most watched night of television for the year. In 2014, The Super Bowl had just under 112 million viewers – nearly 36% of the entire US population. On this night, a third of the U.S. tuned in to the same message at the same time, almost three times as many viewers that tuned in to listen to the President’s State of the Union address just two weeks prior.

These ads catch viewer’s attention. They have impact. They highlight the beliefs of our society – what we value and how we see people. Until recently, sexism has been the norm for many of these ads. Companies like GoDaddy, Carls Jr., and Doritos used women and nudity for props to sell their product.  Their design is anything but creative, and consumers have started to attack this type of advertising. The #NotBuyingIt campaign, led by Miss Representation, is not only encouraging consumers to criticize the misrepresentation women, but they challenge how ads represent all people. Here are the top three ways their campaign is impacting what we see in the Superbowl:

3.  Sharing the Spotlight 

Watching predictable ads from big-name companies in the Superbowl gets old.  But thanks to #Notbuyingit and other sponsors, airtime is being given to ads that don’t fit the previous fifty-year mold.  Last year, Goldiebox beat 15,000 other competitors for a 30-second time slot to showcase their toy company. Without this opportunity, a toy directed at increasing girls in STEM fields would likely never hit the screen.  This year, NoMore.org is releasing a PSA with airtime subsidized by the NFL. The PSA is emotional, raw, and projects the dire dometic violence epidemic in the United States. These are the types of ads that project messages of what Americans are concerned about. These ads have a true opportunity for impact with over 100 million viewers watching.

2. Increasing Diversity

One of the great things about the #NotBuyingIt campaign is that it encourages viewers to point out lack of diversity. In the 2013 Dodge Ram commercial, Dodge created a high-production ad to appeal to the patriotism of viewers by showing “American Farmers.” They unfortunately portrayed a heavily whitewashed American agriculture, leaving out millions of people of color who make up the agricultural workforce.  Just as viewers can express their dislike for the lack of diversity in Dodge, they similarly applaud when big name companies show a variety of Americans – like the 2014 Cheerios ad that featured a biracial family. The best thing about this ad was that it was natural – nothing was forced, it was representing an American family that is often left unrepresented. The campaign charges viewers with a task of calling companies out when they lack representation – a concern that presently can’t be left unheard.

1. Reducing the Exploitation of Females

One of the most obvious trends in Superbowl ads are their representation of women. Women are often seen half-naked, half-brained and being used to rub all over a product. Viewers are over it, and thanks to social media consumers are able to give a quick and strong response to Superbowl ads. So much so that many companies have finally abandoned the exploitation of women and have moved on to showcasing non-provoking characters – such as the new craze of advertising with puppies. Thanks to #NotBuyingIt and social media, the message has become clear: exploiting women doesn’t sell products.

Want your opinion to be heard about the Superbowl ads? Join the discussion using #NotBuyingIt on Twitter and Facebook. Learn more at the Miss Representation website.

GOP Abortion Law Attacks Roe v. Wade, Sexual Assault Victims

On the 42nd anniversary of Roe v. Wade, Congress set out to vote on their first restrictive abortion bill of 2015. The purpose of the bill was to ban abortions following 20 weeks, but included a controversial provision that many GOP moderates opposed, ultimately causing the bills postponement. The provision indicated that in order to be exempt from abortion restrictions, women who were allegedly raped would need to report their assault to police before being given access to their constitutionally-legal reproductive rights. The police-report provision not only undermines a woman’s right to choose, but highlights an overarching culture of discrediting a woman’s credibility in situations of sexual assault.

When a woman says that she has been raped or assaulted, it’s unlikely for society to believe her. First, her sobriety, her modesty, the choices surrounding her behaviors are questioned. Her credibility is tested before any ounce of empathy is given to her bravery in speaking out against her attacker. We see this literally everyday in the media. Take for example the group of women who have come forward to recount their experience of being assaulted by Bill Cosby. Despite their collective aligned experiences, Cosby remains free and these women remain unbelievable.

Given the obvious culture that is sexual assault, why does Congress wish to attach more restrictions to women who were sexually assaulted? Currently, 68% of rapes go unreported to the police. If GOP lawmakers were truly concerned about women, reducing the rate of abortions by sexual assault, and convicting criminals, why wouldn’t they actively write legislation to prevent sexual assault, instead of further traumatizing women who have been assaulted?

The current data shows women who are raped are extremely unlikely to report their assault for a variety of reasons. One well-reported reason is that there is a high likelihood the rapist is within the victim’s social network (67% of sexual assaults are committed by someone the victim knows), meaning she will face undo pressure to ignore the assault and preserve social relationships. Secondly, the criminal justice system has been historically ineffective in convicting attackers – only 2% of reported rapes will ever end in conviction. The statistics show a toxic and ineffective culture for reporting sexual assault to the police.

The police-report provision to abortion following sexual assault not only ignores long-standing facts surrounding assault but it suggests that a woman’s statement of rape isn’t enough. It suggests that women are not credible enough to access her right to choose. The provision is explicit in showing that a woman’s account is only believable when revised by the police.

Despite the strides in progress in reproductive rights within the 42 years following Roe v. Wade, the GOP remain hellbent on denying a women’s right to choose – regardless of the measure taken. The undertone in the bill shows the societal disregard for a woman’s right to choose. This bill highlights a continuing attack on a woman’s credibility and ultimately her ability to receive justice that has been constitutionally legal for over four decades. Instead of consistently producing laws that stigmatize and harm victims, legislation to support victims in seeking justice would be transformational for America in 2015.

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The 5 Best Feminist Moments From Obama’s SOTU

As in any State of the Union address, the president reflects on the status and direction of the United States. Obama’s direction in his 2015 SOTU included a heavy list of feminist-awesome, gender-inclusive ideals unlike never before. Here are the five best feminist moments:

5. Educational Access
Education is the largest equalizer for inequality, not just in America, but worldwide. But despite it’s well-documented ability to lift families from poverty, increase diversity in the workforce, and enrich the lives of others, we still have great disparities in who receives a great education.

“We still live in a country where too many bright, striving Americans are priced out of the education they need.”

4. Equal Pay for Equal Work
Obama said it best himself. “Really. It’s 2015.”

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3. Women’s Health Care
It’s unfortunate that on the 42nd anniversary of Roe v. Wade women’s access to reproductive health is still seen as a commodity. The Affordable Care Act made history is increasing this access, but the fight still continues to preserve a woman’s right to choose. A collective effort to provide effective sex education and access to birth control is necessary to keeping teenage pregnancies and abortion rates low.

“Teen pregnancies and abortions are nearing all-time lows…every woman should have access to the health care she needs.”

2. Childcare
Childcare and sick leave aren’t just a women’s issue – they’re a family issue. Paternal leave is just as important as maternity leave, and America lags behind the rest of the world in developing these economic structures that support work-life balance. An America that provides family leave will find increased productivity and ability to better compete in the global market.

“We’re the only advanced country on Earth that doesn’t guarantee paid sick leave or paid maternity leave to our workers.”

1. Inclusivity
Obama’s inclusive message is easily the best feminist moment of his entire address. America is uniquely diverse and requires an explicit protection of rights for groups who have been marginalized throughout US history. The United States is in dire need of an inclusive future – one that supports the rights of all people regardless of gender, race, ability.

“…man and woman, young and old, black and white, Latino and Asian, immigrant and Native American, gay and straight, Americans with mental illness or physical disability.”

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