Greg Holland, member of the Waldport City Council for six years, has been endorsed by Central Oregon Coast chapter of NOW in his candidacy for the Lincoln County School Board position. Although he is running as a candidate in Zone 5, the election is open to all Lincoln County registered voters. Holland has a commitment to mandatory anti-bullying programs and comprehensive, age-appropriate sex education, without stress on abstinence-only, throughout the district. Concerned about the lack of communication between teachers and the school board, Holland also advocates for teacher involvement in the district’s educational process.
At a school board candidate forum on April 23, Holland’s opponent, Amanda Remund, said that she would not oppose the teaching of climate denial and creationism as a scientific theory in the schools if the other board members wanted this instruction as part of the curriculum. As a current member of the board because of her appointment two months ago, Remund supported a change in the school calendar for the upcoming year requiring students to attend school on Martin Luther King Jr. Day. Holland is very opposed to creationism and climate denial as part of school curriculum and believes that elimination of the only school holiday honoring a person of color communicates the idea that ethnic minorities are somehow of less value than other people.
In a discussion about the importance of anti-bullying programs at the April 23 meeting, Remund said that all the school programs have anti-bullying programs. Holland disagreed with her statement because, according to the district, these differ in quality. All schools are required to have school climate/bully prevention programs, but the program’s quality depends on school leadership.
Zone 5 of the school board membership also has a contested race with Liz Martin, current school board president, running against Clary Grant, owner of the Sea Hag restaurant in Depoe Bay. Martin supports mandatory sex education in high school and would, like Remund, not oppose the teaching of climate denial and creationism as a scientific theory “if it was good for the kids.” Although she voted to require students to attend schools on Martin Luther King Jr. Day, both she and Remund were willing to reconsider changing their positions after the discussion.
Grant supports age-appropriate sex education if parents could exempt their children from the classes. She is also strongly in favor of anti-bullying programs and said that eliminating the Martin Luther King Jr. Day as a holiday “sends the wrong message to the community and the outside world.” Grant also said that creationism and climate denial are issues that should not be be handled in the schools.
Both Holland and Grant advocate stronger communication among teachers, community, and the board. Grant said that teachers are hired because of their professional education and should have a voice in educational needs instead of the “top-down culture” that now exists. A problem, according to both Holland and Grant, is that the district salary negotiation team has seven administrators and five teachers but no school board members. Martin said that process was “smoother” without school board involvement, but both Holland and Grant said that having school board members on the negotiating team is necessary for balance. In answering a question about the deteriorating relationships between teachers and board, Martin said the problem was budget restraints because of the salaries that the teacher unions request, a position disputed by a teacher at the meeting. Martin said that teachers could communicate by attending school board meetings. Holland suggested quarterly meetings in his area, but Remund said that issues could better be handled by her frequent presence in the schools.
A question at the meeting was what issues face the district. Martin and Amund agreed that the major one was finding things to cut so that the district can run programs. Holland talked about human rights and family issues, and Grant again addressed the lack of communication because the school board and administration fail to listen to the community and the teachers. She recommended that the school take a greater interest in developing partnerships with other educational groups in the county. In addition, she expressed a concern about the lengthy distances that students had to travel to their schools after school realignment in the northern part of the county resulting in farther distances for young children. She said that this greater distance may be part of the problem in higher absenteeism.
Another problem brought up at the April 23 meeting was the number of students transferring to Newport High School from other high schools in the county because of lost programs and the perception that Newport is a better school. The school board incumbent candidates, Martin and Remund, stated that the schools are all equal because they receive funding on an equal basis and budget cuts are across the district. Remund suggested a PR program to tell people how good Waldport schools (the location in the original question) are and stated that with Waldport’s great programs and great principal that the school will “come around.”
Holland recommended an examination of the budget to look for differences. Superintendent Steve Boynton said that the high schools presently have unequal opportunities; for example, the International Baccalaureate program is only in Newport High School. He plans to bring IB and other Newport opportunities to other schools. Grant suggested surveying students and the community to see what they want in their schools and then search for innovative ways to provide them, perhaps reaching out to other districts to see their solutions.
The focus on the budget to the exclusion of almost everything else may have some validity, but at this time the board is operating on starting numbers. At the combined OCCC/LCSD board meeting on April 28, state Rep. David Gomberg said that these are only possible funding levels. He added that the legislature may cut other state programs and shift those dollars to the schools.
The April 29 edition of the News Times published interviews with all four candidates. Asked about the top weaknesses in the district, Holland said that “the school board has fallen into the ‘us vs. them’ mentality when relating to its teachers. Constructive suggestions from teachers are not welcomed.” He also addressed the problems of teaching hungry, homeless, abused students who may have addicted parents. Remund is concerned by “cuts in state funding.” Grant mentioned how excessive testing is turning children into data and removing creativity from the classroom as it stresses students and occupies instruction time. Martin wants an experienced board member who can face challenges such as “funding issues, raising test scores, offering a rounded education experience, and creating a culture of learning for every child.”
The same issue of the News Times included an article about the teachers’ concern about teacher retention. LCEA president, Peter Lohonyay, said that the issue is so serious that in the 2015-16 school year, “more than 50 percent of Lincoln County teachers will be in their first three years of teaching.” Although budget cuts may contribute to some of the local teacher lack of retention, Lincoln County is not unique: all Oregon schools suffer budget cuts. Lohonyay added:
“Professional educators should be able to make decisions that in the best interests of students. If too much weekly or standardized test preparation is detrimental to kids, professional educators should be able to intervene and say, ‘No. Our kids need more science, or our kids need more art and less time in test prep.’”
Lohonyay is a Career and Technical Education and STEM teacher at Toledo High School.
Holland is a past lawyer who has worked in negotiation and mediation and also has experience in children’s issues in working with divorce. He and his partner, Dr. Carlos Lazaro, parented Lazaro’s nephew, from the time when the child was four months old. His goal in running for the school board is to give back to the community where he has lived for ten years, helping provide the best environment possible for students in school and in their vocational and personal futures. He believes in skill-based education and wants to develop scholarships for dual education as the state funds shift away from this opportunity. He said, “I bring diversity to the board—in both background and concepts.”
Holland has also been endorsed by the Democratic Party and the Lincoln County Education Association (LCEA). Grant has been endorsed by LCEA.
Please remember to vote by May 19th in the Lincoln County election.
In February 2013, several other people and I were escorting patients to the Jackson Women’s Health Organization (JWHO), the last abortion clinic in Mississippi. Amid the protesters from Operation Rescue (OR) and Operation Save America (OSA) who were in their usual places holding big gory bloody fetus signs, shouting “Don’t kill your baby,” and reading scripture loudly, I saw a few people wearing “I’m an abolitionist” t-shirts. These picketers seemed a bit more aggressive: When they saw Black patients, they would yell, “Do you know abortion is Black genocide?”
I was gobsmacked. As a Black woman who can trace her family back to a plantation in Alabama, who that very day was standing on the ground that my Black ancestors died cultivating and helping to settle after it was stolen from our Native American sisters and brothers, the slogan on these newcomers’ t-shirts and their messages to patients were deeply, deeply offensive to me.
That was the first time I remember seeing members of Abolish Human Abortion (AHA), the group who has now made it its business to disrupt—and many would say terrorize—Fondren, the Jackson neighborhood that has been home to JWHO for nearly 20 years. Last month, it took its strategy to an even more intense level by launching what its members call the “Project Nineveh March.” But rather than convincing people who aren’t sure where they stand to come to the anti-choice side, their extreme tactics have pushed some locals toward supporting reproductive health clinics.
What Is AHA?
Before 2013, no JWHO volunteers or other local activists can recall seeing the AHA in Jackson. The small, mostly white and male, Oklahoma-based group is fairly new to the anti-choice scene. Still, reproductive justice activists and clinic defense workers already recognize them to be militant and extreme.
AHA members don’t consider themselves to be “pro-life”; instead, they call themselvesabolitionists. According to the organization’s website, “When you call yourself ‘pro-life,’ you are letting people know what you think about abortion. When you call yourself an abolitionist, you are telling them what you aim to do about it.”
The only way to ensure “abolition,” according to the AHA, is to change the sinful culture they feel openly condones “child sacrifice in the form of abortion.” There is no middle ground; they are all or nothing. In addition to abortion, they believe in-vitro fertilization is murder. Hormonal birth control and emergency contraception are too. If anyone reads the AHA’s website or interacts with its supporters, it becomes clear their goal is to convert people to their version of Christianity, which will eventually change the culture at large to a place where it is unthinkable for anyone to attempt to access these services. In its members’ view, there is no way to be Christian and pro-choice, because abortion is evil and against God.
For the AHA, belief in religion is central to being part of its movement, and its supporters disdain “pro-lifers” who do not use religion as the central justification for their beliefs or work toward immediate abortion abolition as their only goal. Even so, AHA members attend OSA and OR events, and vice versa; while these anti-choice groups are deeply rooted in fundamentalist Christianity, they often focus on attacking abortion access through regulation rather than on eradication altogether. According to the AHA website, one can be a secular “pro-lifer,” but not a secular abolitionist, since, “To be an abolitionist you must believe in a higher law. One does not need to believe in a higher law or deity to embrace an adverse opinion regarding abortion.”
If the title abolitionist calls to mind images of the United States’ history of slavery, that is by design. AHA is known for its use of imagery and language borrowed from anti-slavery organizations and civil rights groups. Its members are not opposed to using slavery metaphors and imagery of enslaved Africans in their literature, videos, and protest language. One YouTube video posted by the AHA, for example, shows a white male member pointing to a white Jackson police officer and telling his Black colleague, “A couple hundred years ago, this guy would have owned you as a slave.” The AHA member went on to describe the way the Black officer would have been dehumanized if he had been enslaved by his white co-worker, claiming that the white officer would have enjoyed doing so.
AHA members see nothing racist, wrong, or problematic with these kinds of statements, whichco-opt civil rights struggles for their own use. They have said as much in many of their online videos as well as their written posts; they have also stated such things when directly confronted by Black citizens of Jackson. Somehow, the fact that they exploit images of Black pain or that they are a group of mostly white men targeting and harassing Black women at clinics is lost on them. They think being in-your-face and offensive is needed to bring change and “shine a light,” as they say, on the “sin and evil” of abortion, IVF, and hormonal birth control.
Most of all, though, they seem concerned that the residents of Jackson are not distressed enough that these things exist in the area. The AHA named Jackson “The City of Blood” this year in its literature and several videos, even though Mississippi has one of the lowest abortion rates in the nation and little access to birth control. It also has one of the highest rates of church attendance in the country. Still, any reproductive rights at all are apparently too much for the AHA.
Why the Fever for Fondren?
Except for its supporters’ appearances at clinic protests and one attack targeting me and my children on Twitter, the AHA was pretty much invisible in the Jackson area during 2013 and early 2014. In late 2014, though, there were rumblings online and throughout the activist community that AHA was starting a specific chapter in the Jackson area. This would mean rather than just parachuting in and causing chaos, they would be building a base of people to keep up a persistent presence like they have done elsewhere.
Now, to understand why AHA—and every anti-choice group in the country—wants to be in Jackson, you need only reflect on the last three years of legislative and legal activity around abortion rights. JWHO, or the “Pink House,” is the only clinic in Mississippi, and its ability to stay open hinges on the latest court ruling from the federal Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals. The clinic has been to court several times, but every time, anti-choicers hope this will be the time they can dance on the grave of the Pink House and say they helped make Mississippi “abortion-free.” As the case bounces through the courts, more anti-choice activity has been arising—including the establishment of the Jackson AHA chapter.
The residents and businesses of Fondren have long ago become somewhat accustomed to the people who occupy the sidewalks outside the clinic. And if there is one thing I’ve learned in my time as an escort, the president of Mississippi National Organization for Women, and the co-founder of an abortion fund, it’s that even in Mississippi, the buckle of the Bible Belt, clinic protesters get very little love from the community. Business owners who are “pro-life” and do not actually support the clinic, per se, will all come together in agreement that the harassment outside the clinic isn’t “sidewalk counseling” or good for anyone. It creates a hostile and abusive environment around the clinic that, by design, spills over onto other businesses. Fondren is also full of vocal supporters of the Pink House.
When this new chapter of AHA arrived at JWHO toward the end of 2014, the well-trained Pink House Defenders who volunteer to do clinic defense and escorting were ready for their arrival. They had made a few signs specific to AHA. One had a host of things AHA could stand for, like “angry hateful adults,” “annoying hecklers awaiting,” “anti abortion hoax advocates,” and “Americans Hating Americans.” Another sign took the AHA logo and turned it into a logo that says PHD, for Pink House Defenders. AHA members expressed their discontent with these signs verbally at JWHO, then later railed against them on social media.
But unlike OR, OSA, and other local anti-choice efforts, the Jackson AHA—with some out-of-town help—has decided to go several steps further than yelling at patients in front of the Pink House. On Easter Weekend 2015, the national AHA began a series of campaigns it called Project Nineveh, in which its members “go out into the cities, highways, and byways calling all to repent of their apathy and participation in child sacrifice.” In Jackson, that means going to local schools, protesting churches near the clinic on Palm and Easter Sunday, and interrupting the Zippity Doo Dah parade held by the Sweet Potato Queens annually to raise money for Mississippi’s only children’s hospital.
AHA has also made handouts specifically targeting the Fondren neighborhood, in which it used a local landmark’s logo and called the clinic—as well as surrounding businesses and churches—“bad neighbors” to embryos. All of Fondren is “evil” and “full of blood,” according to one AHA video, because the community stays silent rather than “rises up” against the “child murder” occurring in its midst—not that the AHA ever defines what “rising up” would entail. These are different from the one-size-fits-all-cities fliers the AHA normally uses. Its supporters are leaving these slickly produced pamphlets, which are full of bloody fetus imagery, all over the Jackson metro area, placing them on shelves (often next to Plan B) and even alongside items at local businesses.
Stephen Wilson and his partner found this out firsthand when they visited Bass Pro Shop in Pearl, Mississippi. Wilson told me, “When I found the literature, I was appalled that those images were within reach of children.” Wilson continued, “I photographed the literature, and placed it in the trash where it belonged. I’m strongly pro-choice and it struck one of my liberal chords.”
Wilson isn’t the only resident who is disgusted and fed up. Since the incidents beginning on Easter weekend, the ongoing campaigning has many residents commenting on public forums regarding their dislike for AHA tactics, which have also included leaving their drop cards at pharmacies on shelves next to Plan B and aggressively talking to and taping local children without parental permission. On the AHA Facebook page, locals have expressed both their support for the clinic and their disgust at the tactics of the group.
Fondren resident Scott Crawford commented, for example, “I’m proud to live just down the street from Jackson’s Woman’s Health Organization, and I stand with women and their right to choose. Those circulating hateful literature are the bad neighbors.” Some neighborhood residents have been talking about ways to combat the group’s aggressive strategies. No one has come up with a clearly defined way to let AHA know it is unwanted yet, but many people in the area have simply committed to collecting and throwing away AHA literature whenever they see it.
Michelle Colon of the Pink House Defenders thinks that AHA likely made the Fondren-specific fliers after exchanges with her and other members of the PHD, in which Colon said JWHO was “the heart of Fondren.” JWHO has been unapologetic about providing abortion services and being a part of the neighborhood, a message AHA clearly wants to turn into a negative.
However, the AHA members are betraying their ignorance of the community they’re invading. “They don’t even know Jackson,” Colon pointed out. “They thought the Zippity Do Dah parade was a Pride parade,” she said. The Sweet Potato Queens, who have hosted the parade in Jackson for over a decade, are mostly made up of cisgender, middle-class, straight white women. AHA described the parade on a YouTube video as being full of “pole dancers and drag queens.”
From the ground, it seems as if AHA is making few friends and many enemies with its blatant racism and extremism. A coalition of activists, residents, and business and community leaders is beginning to call for action to combat the group’s manipulation of the law in order to push its message. But overall, the best weapon against the AHA is showing its members they aren’t welcome and no one wants to listen to them. People aren’t receptive to being harassed on the street as they conduct their day-to-day affairs—and when they make the connection that this is what women experience as they enter clinics, they tend toward empathy for patients rather than support for the AHA.
AHA’s presence is helping to create the kind of dialogue among people who usually wouldn’t work together necessary to fight the harassment of anti-choice extremists. For me, that doesn’t make dealing with them in our city worth it. But it is a good thing for the abortion rights, pro-choice, and reproductive justice movements.
In the South, it is rare that people who are on the fence or even timidly support abortion rights would come out and vocally oppose anti-choice groups. Mostly people turn their eyes away, or see them as a benevolent educational, religious, and caring force. But AHA’s tactics are revealing the ugly, extreme face of the movement, and their true views regarding birth control and IVF too. Jackson’s lone pink clinic has been enduring this abuse for years. Now that the harassment is consistently spilling out into the community, people are finding that they have to make a choice. They can buy into the terroristic narrative that the harassment is the clinic’s own fault, or recognize that this kind of behavior is not OK and must be stood up to.
It appears that many people in Jackson—and Fondren specifically—are realizing that bullies must not be tolerated, even if you don’t fully like or support the target of the bullying. And this should be a wake-up call for AHA supporters as they attempt to spread their hateful messages across the country: If they can’t find a receptive audience in the buckle of the Bible Belt, they are unlikely to find one anywhere.
To schedule an interview with Laurie Bertram Roberts contact director of communications Rachel Perrone at email@example.com.
April 29, 2015 by Jamie Utt
As I reflect upon the most recent Baltimore Uprising taking place in the wider movement for racial justice in the United States, I can’t help but be simultaneously frustrated and inspired by the White people in my life.
I’m inspired by White friends and mentors who are striving for accountable solidarity to Black people within the #BlackLivesMatter movement, and I am constantly taking notes about how I can do more to advance the cause of racial justice through my own work, words, and activism.
But I’m also frustrated and disappointed in how so many of us are choosing to direct as much energy as possible to blaming people of Color for their own oppression and to condemning them for expressions of grief and rage that make us uncomfortable and afraid.
So as I reflect on those simultaneous feelings, I wanted to reach out through the medium of my writing, one White person to another, in hopes of inspiring us to think and engage more critically as people of Color literally fight for their lives.
1. As White People, We Are Not Victims of Racial Oppression
There is not a statistical measure that exists by which White people are oppressed while people of Color are privileged.
As such, we get zero say in how people who are oppressed respond to their oppression.
There is vast dialogue and debate within Black communities and other communities of Color about the most effective ways to realize justice, and in none of those conversations should the voices or leadership we White people who benefit from systems of racial oppression be centered.
2. A Movement of Nonviolence Has Been Occurring – We Just Weren’t Paying Attention
So many of us call on oppressed people to act nonviolently when they are being brutalized by violent police, institutions, and systems, but people of Color have been in the streets nonviolently for years calling for an end to racist police violence.
Where were we?
Yes, many White folks have shown up and shown out in solidarity, but by and large, we White people have been silent.
It’s entirely possible for us to believe in the transformative power of nonviolent revolution without patronizingly telling Black people how they should express their anger and rage that comes from being murdered in the streets by police.
It pains me to see anger, hurt, frustration, and pain boil over into the throwing of stones and destruction of property, but we need to remember the source of this pain: systemic racism expressed through police violence.
We simply have no right to tell a community that lives with the brutalization of White supremacy daily how they should direct or express their rage.
3. The Destruction of Property Pales in Comparison to the Destruction of Lives
Why is it that we as White folks seem to be ten times more outraged by the destruction of property than by the fact that police kill Black, Indigenous, and Latinx people every 19 hours in 2015
Why are we ten times more outraged by the setting of fires than by the racist, capitalist systems that produce the poverty that devastates communities of Color?
We can say all we like that we are “feeling for the small business owners and individuals who lost their property,” but every one of those broken windows can be replaced and every burnt building can be rebuilt.
The lives of people taken by police and consumed by our systems’ endless appetites for Black, Brown, and Indigenous suffering can never be returned.
4. Dr. King Wasn’t Here for Us – And He Still Isn’t
Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. is not a cudgel for White people to use against Black people who respond to their oppression in ways that we do not find palatable.
The Rev. Dr. King was a radical revolutionary who called for a complete overturning of the racist, capitalist system in which we live. We do not get to coopt and distort his legacy or that of any civil rights leaders to maintain the status quo.
We would do well to actually read the writings of Dr. King (rather than cherry pick the quotes that support our agenda) and consider his words for White moderates:
5. Stop (Seriously, Stop) with #AllLivesMatter
When we say #AllLivesMatter, we are participating in the erasure of the lives who sadly do not matter within our systems of oppression while injecting our own need to be centered into a movement for racial justice.
#BlackLivesMatter is a revolutionary call for change in systems where Black lives, cultures, and communities are devalued.
Here are a few links that explain this better than I ever could:
“What You Mean By #AllLivesMatter” by Arielle Newton of Black Millennials
“Please Stop Telling Me That All Lives Matter” by Julia Craven at Huffington Post
“What’s Wrong with ‘All Lives Matter?’” by George Yancy and Judith Butler at The New York Times
6. Having a Black President Doesn’t Absolve Us of Racism
It’s racist and tokenizing to point out individual Black people in positions of power while ignoring the vast oppression that impacts the lives of Black people in an attempt to prove that racism is over.
Citing that “we have a Black president” while ignoring the ways that Black people and other people of Color suffer in racist education systems, “justice” systems, healthcare systems, andeconomic systems is disingenuous at best and downright racist at worst.
The existence of individual Black politicians or a Black police chief or a Black mayor doesn’t undo the daily oppression Black people experience in our systems, particularly when Black elected officials often must tow the lines of racist oppression to stay in office.
7. Silence Is Violence
No matter how wonderful our intentions or how good we may be in our daily lives, if we are silent in the face racial injustice, we are complicit in its violence.
Worse, when we actively try to police the actions of those people of Color who are fighting for their freedom, we are committing subtle yet clear acts of racial violence.
8. ‘Being a Race Traitor’ Isn’t a Thing – It’s Called Humanity
To stand against the systems of oppression that afford us privilege does not inherently mean self-hate or White guilt.
To stand against injustice means that we are choosing to get in touch with our own humanityand to divest from systems of Whiteness while working in our own flawed and complicated ways to invest in justice and in anti-racist ways of being in the world as White people.
9. Instead of Investing in Whiteness, Invest in the Movement
If we are willing to listen, show up, and follow the Black, Brown, and Indigenous leadership of this movement, we can find incredible community filled with great love, accountability, and loyalty.
Whiteness attempts to isolate us, to make us invest in our access to oppressive systems rather than in community and people.
But there are alternatives to investing in Whiteness, and one of the most important alternatives is the community found in building trust across difference while fighting for justice under diverse leadership.
10. Use Your Time and Energy to Call in Other White People
Our voice, energy, and labor is needed in calling in White people – our people – to change.
If we are simply going to defend the status quo, then we need to sit down and be quiet.
But if we are going to work with our people to inspire more White folks to accountably work for justice, then our role is clear.
And it is our responsibility to rise into that role and to speak out for justice.
Jamie Utt is a Contributing Writer for Everyday Feminism. He is the Founder and Director of Education at CivilSchools, a comprehensive bullying prevention program, a diversity and inclusion consultant, and sexual violence prevention educator based in Minneapolis, MN. He lives with his loving partner and his funtastic dog. He blogs weekly at Change from Within. Learn more about his work at his website here and follow him on Twitter @utt_jamie. Read his articles here and book him for speaking engagements.
04/29/15 12:46 PM—UPDATED 04/29/15 05:09 PM
Clinton began by addressing the violence in the streets of Baltimore this week following the funeral of Freddie Gray, a 25-year-old black man who died from injuries sustained while in police custody. The “violence has to stop,” she said, but Clinton also acknowledged that it came in response to legitimate grievances.Ticking off the names of African Americans who have been killed by police in the past year, Clinton said the “patterns have become unmistakable and undeniable.”And citing statistics illuminating the disproportionate policing burden borne by black men, she said something is “profoundly wrong” with our criminal justice system. “Everyone in every community benefits when there is respect for the law and when everyone in every community is respected by the law,” she continued.
“First, we need smart strategies to fight crime that help restore trust between law enforcement and our communities, especially communities of color… We can start by making sure that federal funds for state and local law enforcement are used to bolster best practices, rather than to buy weapons of war that have no place on our streets.“President Obama’s task force on policing gives us a good place to start. Its recommendations offer a roadmap for reform, from training to technology, guided by more and better data.“We should make sure every police department in the country has body cameras to record interactions between officers on patrol and suspects. That will improve transparency and accountability, it will help protect good people on both sides of the lens. For every tragedy caught on tape, there surely have been many more that remained invisible. Not every problem can be or will be prevented with cameras, but this is a commonsense step we should take.“The President has provided the idea of matching funds to state and local governments investing in body cameras. We should go even further and make this the norm everywhere.“And we should listen to law enforcement leaders who are calling for a renewed focus on working with communities to prevent crime, rather than measuring success just by the number of arrests or convictions.”
In 1994, Bill Clinton’s crime bill prescribed putting 100,000 more police on American streets, authorized billions of dollars for prison construction, forced states to impose harsher sentences on violent offenders to be eligible for prison-construction grants, and deprived federal inmates of access to college courses. […]Twenty years ago, harsh sentences were political gold for a Democratic president seeking to show his toughness in a re-election campaign. Now, Republican presidential candidates, including Ted Cruz of Texas and Rand Paul of Kentucky, are calling for the repeal of mandatory minimum sentences. And Hillary Clinton, the front-runner for the Democratic nomination, knows ending mass incarceration is high on the priority list for many in her own party and outside it.
By Tom Watson April 28, 2015
Note: I have resigned as a contributor to Forbes.
Yesterday, I posted this interview with Jamia Wilson of Women, Action & the Media, a nonprofit organization dedicated to “building a robust, effective, inclusive movement for gender justice in media.” I consider her work, and that of feminist organizers everywhere, to be vitally important to the field of social entrepreneurship and to public life.
The editors found it inappropriate for the section of Forbes I have contributed my Social Ventures column to for the last three years — and they removed it this morning. I strongly disagree with their decision and we have parted ways.
Despite this, I appreciate the audience and platform Forbes provided, and am grateful for the opportunity to write about social entrepreneurship, citizens movements, new nonprofit models, and philanthropy. That conversation will continue elsewhere.
At the start of what is likely to be the most important feminist election cycle in American history, the role of women in the media has become a constant topic — yet the percentage of female voices remains small relative to their male counterparts in public life.
This is a good time to take stock, look at the changing landscape, and see where shifts may come from. A veteran social entrepreneur and organizer, Jamia Wilson is the executive director of Women, Action & the Media, a nonprofit organization dedicated to “building a robust, effective, inclusive movement for gender justice in media.”
Formerly executive director of Youth Tech Health, a TED Prize Storyteller,
vice president of programs at the Women’s Media Center, and principal for Planned Parenthood Federation of America’s youth outreach program, Wilson is already looking at what’s being said in the political arena — and who’s saying it.
We caught up with Wilson via email, to get her thoughts on the current landscape and her organization’s work — and whether we really are closer to a tipping point for gender fairness and the battle against sexism.
Tom Watson: Let’s go right at the Hillary Clinton campaign launch — since it’s already become a cultural phenomenon greater than the GOP field
combined, and yes, there’s already a focus on aspects of her life that male candidates don’t face nearly as much? Have things changed since 2008 — or (as the likely Democratic nominee) are we in for a long 18 months in terms of public sexism?
Jamia Wilson: Sadly, I predict that sexist coverage of Hillary Clinton’s campaign will continue because sexist and misogynist coverage of women candidates is still a sad reality in our media culture. In March, the Chicago Sun Times featured a profile on her “many facial expressions,” and we have already seen other coverage that would likely be different if it were about a male presidential candidate.
Sean Hannity recently referred to Hillary Clinton as an “aging, out of ideas, often shrill” grandmother — while describing Senator Rubio as “young and energetic.” Perhaps some of the sexist coverage will be more shrouded because of public critiques during the 2008 cycle, but I anticipate that undue focus on her husband, her looks, her attire, her personal life, and her
age will persist.
Watson: It feels to me like people are more willing to call out the obvious gender bias against Clinton this time around — and I theorize that some of the battles you and others have fought against online bullying, trolls, threats of violence, and just general misogyny have had a wider cultural effect that may show up in something like the Presidential race. Is there something to that, and do you think the media (which seems stuck in 2008 a lot of the time) will take notice?
Jamia Wilson: I like your theory. The work we and our coalition partners are doing to combat misogynist abuse and ensure freedom of expression for women and transgender people is pushing us towards a cultural tipping point where media sexism and online abuse are viewed as the toxic barriers to democracy and honestly, human dignity that they are.
We have seen some progress, but there’s a lot more work to do. I dream of a world where there is no need for a job like mine because gender justice in media and our culture overall will exist. I may not live to see it, but I’m committed to being a part of the movement that will help get us there.
Tom Watson: In WAM’s organizing activities, what are you hearing from participants in terms of media and gender? I suspect there’s a movement brewing there whose sheer size would surprise people — but I’d love to get your insights from the field.
Jamia Wilson: WAM! is a strong, growing community of people engaged with media, learning and sharing capacity and skills needed to build a media ecosystem that truly represents our diversity. The activists, media makers, academics, writers, and artists in our network comprise a robust, inclusive movement to create gender justice in media. I was a member of WAM! before I joined the team as a staff member. WAM!’s people-powered approach to change making and community building is what inspired me to join the network. Our chapters support WAM! Central’s targeted campaigns
like our current work addressing online harassment on Twitter. Our chapters are also focused on issues that impact them locally but also have a broader reach.
We recently kicked-off WAM! It Yourself, a decentralized version of our annual conference where international WAM! Members launched coordinated actions focused on gender justice in media in a dozen cities. Every city determined what their focus would be based on the needs they identified in their community and beyond, for example WAM!mers from Buenos Aries to Columbus, OH organized and implemented events like WAM! Boston’s Film Festival and WAM! DC’s Salary Negotiation Workshop.
Tom Watson: Going a bit wider, the idea of networked feminism — which may (or may not!) unite several generations, people from different backgrounds, and not just a few men as well — is force to be reckoned with in the public discussion and in civil society: are we on track for that? What
needs to change within the movement? What should organizers and activists do more of?
Jamia Wilson: Networked feminism allows us to leverage online tools and online public space to impact public discourse and influence our cultural narrative. I’m in awe of how the media landscape has changed as a result of the public accountability and movement building that has emerged from networked feminism. As someone who is a millennial but who was organizing activists before the internet was widespread, I feel empowered by the access and influence online media provides.
While I largely view online media as a democratizing force, I’m concerned about the barriers that can prevent low-income women, girls, and trans people from using these tools to amplify their voices and influence the public conversation. Also, the vicious targeting of women who speak up online has reached crisis levels, with women being the most targeted population overall. That’s why we need all advocates for gender justice and
fairness to join the movement to end online harassment.
Until we ensure that all users are equally free to speak without being targeted by abuse, threats, and harassment, a significant portion of the population will be silenced.
Tom Watson: There has never been a time when sexual violence has been talked about so openly in this country — from the campus rape stories to the threats of GamerGate to the missteps of conservative politicians in discussing the issue. Are we making progress and how can the media — and particularly online media companies — improve that conversation, and make the landscape safer for women?
Jamia Wilson: There have been steps forward, but there’s so much work to be done. While Gamer Gate and sexual assault on campus have been covered widely, not all of the coverage was fair and balanced. When victim-blaming in media coverage occurs like it did in the Rolling Stone piece, it illuminates the need to create and improve newsroom standards about how
sexual violence is discussed in the media — and how sources who have experienced trauma are treated.
I hope that Rolling Stone’s journalistic failure will inspire media decision makers and editors to create more comprehensive and effective standards to prevent this from happening in the future. What saddens me is that victim-blaming and shaming in the media (and the stigma it perpetuates in our culture) prevents some survivors from reporting sexual assault.
APRIL 27, 2015
THE figures are well known: At Apple 20 percent of tech jobs are held by
women and at Google, only 17 percent. A report by the Congressional Joint
Economic Committee estimates that nationwide about 14 percent of engineers
in the work force are women.
As a woman with a Ph.D. in biomedical engineering, I look at those
numbers with despair.
Why are there so few female engineers? Many reasons have been offered:
workplace sexism, a lack of female role models, stereotypes regarding women’s
innate technical incompetency, the difficulties of combining tech careers with
motherhood. Proposed fixes include mentor programs, student support groups
and targeted recruitment efforts. Initiatives have begun at universities and
corporations, including Intel’s recent $300 million diversity commitment.
But maybe one solution is much simpler, and already obvious. An
experience here at the University of California, Berkeley, where I teach,
suggests that if the content of the work itself is made more societally
meaningful, women will enroll in droves. That applies not only to computer
engineering but also to more traditional, equally maledominated
mechanical and chemical engineering.
I work at the Blum Center for Developing Economies, which recently
began a new program that, without any targeted outreach, achieved 50 percent
female enrollment in just one academic year. In the fall of 2014, U.C. Berkeley
began offering a new Ph.D. minor in development engineering for students
doing thesis work on solutions for lowincome
communities. Half of the
students enrolled in the inaugural class are women. They are designing
affordable solutions for clean drinking water, inventing medical diagnostic
equipment for neglected tropical diseases and enabling local manufacturing in
poor and remote regions.
Women seem to be drawn to engineering projects that attempt to achieve
societal good. Curious to learn whether that was true at other universities, my
colleagues and I contacted the dozens of universities that have programs
aimed at reducing global poverty and inequality. What we found was
consistent and remarkable.
international minor for engineers at the
University of Michigan reports that 51 percent of its students are women.
Those women are predominantly majoring in some of the oldest and most
traditional engineering fields — industrial operations and mechanical and
chemical engineering — where, arguably, gender stereotypes are most
At the interdisciplinary DLab
at M.I.T., which focuses on developing
“technologies that improve the lives of people living in poverty,” 74 percent of
over 230 enrolled students this past year were women. This makes the DLab
one of the few engineering initiatives in the country that has a severalfold
higher enrollment of women than men.
Arizona State University said that its humanitarian engineering courses
and study options have twice as many women as its traditional engineering
classes. Comparable programs at the University of Minnesota, Pennsylvania
State University and Santa Clara University also report significant increases in
the numbers of women participating.
The trend is also true for standalone
classes. Susan Amrose, who teaches
a U.C. Berkeley civil and environmental engineering course on design for
sustainable communities, counted 128 female and 103 male students since the
class began in 2006. “Last fall, we had 70 percent women,” Dr. Amrose noted.
“Many of them tell me they are seeking out opportunities to work on technical
projects with a strong purpose, such as improving fuelefficient
clubs and programs see the same patterns. At Princeton,
the student chapter of Engineers Without Borders has an executive board that
is nearly 70 percent female, reflecting the overall club composition. Seventy
percent of the university’s studentrun
Sustainable Engineering and
Development Scholars program is also female.
None of the programs, clubs and classes were designed with the main goal
of appealing to female engineers, and perhaps this is exactly why they are
drawing us in. At the core of each of the programs is a focus on engineering
that is cutting edge, with an explicit social context and mission.
What does all this show? It shows that the key to increasing the number of
female engineers may not just be mentorship programs or child care centers,
although those are important. It may be about reframing the goals of
engineering research and curriculums to be more relevant to societal needs. It
is not just about gender equity — it is about doing better engineering for us all.
Lina Nilsson is the innovation director at the Blum Center for Developing
Economies at the University of California, Berkeley.
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A version of this oped
appears in print on April 27, 2015, on page A19 of the New York edition with
the headline: How to Attract Female Engineers.