Tuesday, March 29, 2016

#NotTheCost: Stopping Violence Against Women in Politics

“The terrible reality is that one in three women will experience violence in their lives,” writes former Secretary of State Madeline K. Albright. “Of those affected, an alarming but uncounted number of women are specifically targeted because they are engaged in public life.”

Below are just a few of the women politicians murdered simply for being politically active in the past few years:
  • Councilwoman Juana Quispe—found dumped near a river strangled to death
  • Councilwoman Daguimar Rivera—shot three times in the face
  • Berta Cáceres—murdered in her sleep
  • Gisela Mota Ocampo—shot just days after becoming mayor
Of course, this list does not include women who are beaten, raped, harassed and threatened for daring to run for office, speak out, or even vote.   Violence against women in politics knows no national boundaries.  In 2011, Arizona Rep. Gabrielle Giffords was shot in the head and left with severe brain damage.  British MP Jess Phillips received online threats of violence and rape after she began to speak on women’s rights last year.  Most women’s stories we will never hear, either because they are killed, threatened into silence or simply ignored. 

Madeline K. Albright, now Chairman of the National Democratic Institute (NDI), along with Madame Sophie Grégoire Trudeau, activist and wife of the Prime Minister of Canada, are determined to make these women’s voices heard.  NDI launched the #NotTheCost campaign in New York City on March 17th, 2016 as a call to action to stop violence against women in politics.  The first step, NDI says, is to develop indicators to track the prevalence of violence with the hopes that the UN will begin investigating the claims.

A video released by the campaign urges viewers to “Stand up and say that violence is #NotTheCost.” Powerful women and men speak throughout the video directly to women, saying:

“Your time, your energy, your hard work; these are the costs of doing politics.  Knocking on every door, having to fundraise; these are the costs of doing politics.  Your dignity is not the cost.  Being beaten is not the cost.  Your safety is not the cost.  Your life is not the cost.”

While women in politics have undoubtedly come leaps and bounds in the past few decades, many obstacles remain in our way.  Luckily, despite the threat of violence, women leaders have not backed down.  Mimoza Kusari-Lila, mayor of Gjakova in Kosovo, who has received death threats during her time in office, added: “You keep throwing stones at me and I will keep paving roads.”

--Kathleen, MWPC Intern

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Women's History Month Celebration at the MA State House

The Women's History Month Celebration was held at the MA State House, and it was full of great and empowering women in public office. The program began with an introduction from Massachusetts State Representative Gloria Fox who was, as always, incredibly enthusiastic and passionate about the progression of women. She proclaimed many memorable quotes, especially on the topic of representation for younger generations of girls. "We're not scared, we're moving up!" Representative Fox exclaimed when talking about women of color in public office.

Although there were many highlights of this event, two of them very much spoke to me. The first coming from the Honorary Keynote Speaker, Jean Kilbourne, Ed.D. Jean is internationally recognized for her groundbreaking work on the representation of women in advertising, as well as her critical studies of alcohol and tobacco advertising. Kilbourne is the creator of the award-winning film series "Killing Us Softly: Advertising's Image of Women," and she was recently inducted into the National Women's Hall of Fame in Seneca Falls. Jean Kilbourne showed us some very powerful videos that shine on the topic of how women are represented in media and in advertising. These video's include "We Are #WomenNotObjects" (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5J31AT7viqo&feature=youtu.be), and the very popular Always ad that played during the 2015 Superbowl: "Always #LikeAGirl" (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XjJQBjWYDTs). Both of these videos were very hard-hitting, and they were incredible examples of how, finally, companies are putting the spotlight on how the objectification of women in media and advertising is wrong, and have put an empowering spin on things.

Jean Kilbourne's TED Talk can be watched here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Uy8yLaoWybk

Another highlight, which was a little more personal to me, was the speech from MA State Representative Jen Benson. She brought up the topic of the next generation of feminists and women leaders. She talked about how her 19 year old daughter is incredibly involved in the world of feminism and making a change for women across the county. Thisto me, was very empowering, and made me feel like I could really do something to make a change despite age barriers.

The event concluded with multiple women pitching upcoming events across Massachusetts for their organizations, and then a final speaking once again from State Rep. Gloria Fox, and a closing quote.

"It is so important for young girls to see representation, and what we are doing."

Courtney Lynch, MWPC Intern   

Monday, March 21, 2016

6 Historic Sites to Visit for Women’s History Month in Boston and Cambridge

Boston is a city of rich history of revolution and activism, oft referred to as the “Cradle of Liberty.”  Boston women were (are) vibrant and influential actors in every historical movement, from revolution, to abolition to suffrage, but their contributions tend to go undocumented in our history books and collective consciousness.  In celebration of Women’s History month, explore some of Boston’s hidden treasures that commemorate and highlight the invisible work of fearless women.  You won’t be disappointed.

Boston Women’s Heritage Trail
Boston Educational Development Foundation
26 Court Street
Boston MA, 02108

Created in 1989 by Boston Public School teachers, librarians and students, the Boston Women’s Heritage Trail takes visitors through various landmarks commemorating more than 200 women who have been integral in Boston’s history.  The trail includes seven trails and six mini trails highlighting influential women such as Amelia Earhart, Sarah Wyman Whitman, Melnea A. Cass, and Louisa May Alcott.

African Meeting House
46 Joy St., Beacon Hill
Boston, MA 02125

The African Meeting House served as the hub of the abolition movement in Boston in the 19th century.  As the location of the founding of the New England Anti-Slavery Society by William Lloyd Garrison, the farewell address of the first American woman to speak before a gender-mixed audience (Maria Stewart) and an anti-slavery speech by Frederick Douglas, the Meeting House holds a rich history of activism and community.  It is also the oldest Black church still standing in the U.S.  The Meeting house was acquired by the African Museum of History in 1972 and restored to its 1855 appearance.

The Boston Women’s Memorial
Commonwealth Ave. Mall
484 Commonwealth Ave.
Boston, MA 02116

Dedicated in 2003, The Boston Women’s Memorial consists of three bronze statues depicting activists Abigail Adams, Lucy Stone and Phillis Wheatley.  Designed by artists Meredith Gang Bergman, the statues are interactive at ground level and in casual positions.

Women’s History Month at the Boston Public Library
Rabb Lecture Hall
700 Boylston St.
Boston, MA 02116

Look to the Boston Public Library for weekly events celebrating current and historical women through a variety of lectures and discussions.  Upcoming events include: “Missing Women, Blank Maps, and Data Voids: What gets Counted Counts” by Professor and Chair at Bentley University, Joni Seager, “A Revolution of Her Own: Deborah Samson Gannett” by Judith Kalaora, and a lecture with food by Maria Conte as part of the International Women Series.  Check out your nearest BPL branch for movie screenings and workshops every day.

Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum
280 Fenway
Boston, MA 02115

Located between Fenway Park and the Museum of Fine Arts, the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum is both the house of Gardner herself and one of the most spectacular collections of art in the world today.  One of the foremost female patrons of the arts, Garner traveled the world to add to her collection.  She was an eccentric woman who refused to confirm to what a lady should be in her time.  When she died, she left $1 million endowment to support the museum, requiring nothing be significantly altered.

Radcliffe College Yard: Schlesinger Library
3 James St.
Cambridge, MA 02138

The Schlesinger Library, located in the center of what was one Radcliffe (the Women’s College of Harvard), contains the finest collection of women’s history documents in America.  The library has substantial collections in women’s rights, feminism, and sexuality, totaling about 3,200 manuscripts collections and 100,000 volumes of books and periodicals.  Currently, the Schlesinger is featuring an exhibition on feminist poets called “A Language to Hear Myself” highlighting five women, including a collection by Adrienne Rich.

--Kathleen Melendy, MWPC intern

Friday, March 18, 2016

Grammy Nominee or First Lady?

First Lady Michelle Obama has teamed up with female musicians Missy Elliot, Janelle Monáe, Zendaya, Kelly Rowland, Kelly Clarkson, and more to expand her Let Girls Learn mission farther than she herself could probably even imagine. Personally, I love the connection I made, and still have, with music. It’s my confidant; something I turn to in order to get away, to clear my head and keep my sanity. For others, music is the inspiration needed to fuel their accomplishments. And I don’t blame them. I get it. Put on “Eye of the Tiger” and I’ll do my workouts no problem. But that’s not what Mrs. Obama’s message is exactly.
        “This Is For My Girls” is fully dedicated to female empowerment. In her piece, “Why Global Girls’ Education is So Personal for Me”; the First Lady breaks down her personal beliefs on improving education globally for the female population. Yes, the policy aspect is important since it is the “legal” side of efforts towards improvement. But first, Mrs. O wants to make sure these girls see themselves as the bright, beautiful, and deserving young women that they are. Without improving their quality of self-love, they won't be able to see themselves as deserving or important enough to receive an education.
        Sadly these feelings of self-worth arise from what they experience and/or see. All around the world there are girls with daily-obligations that some of us in better circumstances can’t even begin to imagine. Obligations such as waking up at the crack-of-dawn to water crops and tend to cows, which the First Lady notes was a young Cambodian woman’s duty before heading to school. I can only imagine how these obstacles can serve to blight one’s ability to move forward, especially if they are done daily and for the survival of one’s family.
        While the First Lady uses new efforts to empower young women around the world, we at home must follow suit by encouraging our sisters, daughters, friends, and even our mothers, that they are worth fighting for. Also, consider purchasing the First Lady’s single on Apple as all proceeds will be donated to the Let Girls Learn Fund. And remember that no matter what anyone says, “this world is yours to take, you got no fear, ain’t nothing you’re afraid of”.
Obama, Michelle. "Why the Issue of Global Girls' Education Is So Personal for Me." Lenny Letter. N.p., 16 Mar. 2016. Web. 17 Mar. 2016.

  • Luisa Ibner, MWPC Intern