Archives for posts with tag: feminism

JohnMayerDerpy

Like everyone else in Seattle, I’m still riding the Seahawks Super Bowl high. Our long-awaited football superiority was pretty much the only thing that anyone talked about for months prior to the game; green and blue were the only colors worn as far as the eye could see; Richard Sherman became a local hero much to the chagrin of the rest of the world; and I’m pretty sure I started murmuring “kakaw” and “beast mode” in my sleep.

So naturally, I was super hyped after the crushing total domination that the Hawks dealt the Broncos on February 2. I felt so much pride for our massively talented players and our state. It was a pretty amazing way for a team to win their first Bowl, even if I did feel kinda awful for Manning after all those sad puppydog looks he was giving…but hey, the dude’s already got one ring.

Everyone in the city was positively bouncing off the walls and going crazy – at least for Seattleites (see this hilarious twitterstorm of #HowSeattleRiots tweets making fun of the city’s polite raging). And like so many others, my friends and I rushed out into the streets, honking our horns, high-fiving strangers and chanting Sea! Hawks! between every sip of craft beer.

That night was a blast. Except for one thing.

At the only bar I went to, I was groped three separate times by three complete strangers.

The first (obviously wasted) guy put his arms around me, told me that I was beautiful, and then (as I attempted to push him off) proceeded to stick his hand into my jeans back pocket while simultaneously licking the inside of my ear. What. The. Funk.

Escaping from him, I eventually made my way outside the bar, where my friend and I chanted along with the crowd and sang We Are the Champions – right up until Creeper #2 walked up and grabbed me around the waist from behind. I turned around expecting to see one of my dude friends standing there and found instead a total stranger leering down at my chest.

NO – I told him.

Why? He asked, with an incredulous look of privilege and feigned innocence in his eyes.

Extremely aggravated but determined not to “make a scene,” I reentered the bar. A little while later, I saw two of my friends posing for a picture, and asked the cameraman (another unknown bar-goer) if I could jump in their picture. Sure honey, he cooed, as he reached his non-camera hand down and grabbed my ass and pinched hard.

Let’s just say, this all gets old fast, dudes. I never – or should I say we never, because I believe I’m speaking for a lot of my friends out there – asked you to touch us. We didn’t invite you to invade our space. We didn’t run around screaming “please grope me, I beg of you” or wear a sign saying “ATTN: I want you to innappropriately fondle my behind.”

John Mayor once sang a famous song that went a little like this:

Your body is a wonderland
Your body is a wonder (I’ll use my hands)
Your body is a wonderland

Well Johnny, that’s all good and well when it’s your consenting partner, spouse, friend with benefits, or one night stand. But groper dudes of the earth, please just listen to me. My body is actually NOT your wonderland. I am actually NOT here for your tactile pleasure. No, really!

I can’t think of a single woman who can honestly say that she enjoys random strangers touching her in this aggressive, sexual way.

It’s time to wake up and smell the mace people, because I think we are all goddamn sick of this bullshit.

 

*Disclaimer: I have nothing against John Mayer. But this picture is quite derptastic and relevant so I had to include it.

workingparents

Originally posted on Everyday Feminism

Life is unpredictable. You never know what’s coming. But you can usually count getting some curveballs thrown your way.

Maybe your grandmother falls ill and you’re the only person in the family who’s in a position to take care of her. Maybe you are diagnosed with a serious illness and need to take time off work to get treatment. Or maybe you and your partner decide to adopt – but you both work full-time and can’t take unpaid leave.

At some point in our lives, most people will need to take off an extended period of time to deal with a family or medical issue.

Despite this, only 12% of workers in America receive paid family leave through their jobs. And the lucky ones that do are disproportionately well-educated, high-earning, and male.

But what about the rest of us? What if we fall ill, have a child, or need to take care of a loved one in need?

Unless we have another breadwinner who can support the family, our choices are generally few: a) keep working to the detriment of ourselves and/or others, or b) take unpaid leave (or quit our jobs) and face financial hardship.

Current U.S. Law Makes Taking Time Off Available Only to the Few

Presently, 1993’s Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) sets the precedent for workers’ leave policies. FMLA guarantees twelve weeks of unpaid leave to employees at companies employing more than fifty people. Unpaid leave, mind you, and nothing at all for employees of smaller businesses.

Unfortunately, a lot of us cannot afford to go for twelve weeks (or even three, for that matter!), without pay.

Low-income parents to a newborn are a classic example. In this situation, at least one parent is generally forced to leave work (and lose money) in order to care for their child.

But this phenomenon goes far beyond new parenthood – the same financial limitations are placed on caretakers tending to sick or injured family members. And women often feel the brunt of this state of affairs.

Paid Family Leave is More Important than Ever for Women

Research shows that four in ten households with children are headed by women who are the main or only breadwinner for their family – numbers that have risen considerably since 1960, when women made up just 11 percent of our nation’s familial wage earners.

But while the demographics of the American workforce have drastically changed, American paid leave policies have not.

And because women are statistically more likely to become caretakers – making up an estimated 59 to 75% of family or informal caregivers – they urgently need laws that guarantee paid family leave.

Paid Parental Leave in the U.S. and Abroad

In Sweden, new moms and dads are allotted 480 paid days of leave to care for a newborn or newly adopted child (to be split between them and used at any time before their child hits eight years old).

In the United Kingdom, new parents are granted 280 days of parental leave at a 90% pay rate. And in Indonesia, parents get 84 days of fully-paid parental leave.

Compare these numbers to those of American leave policies, under which new moms receive a whopping zero days of paid time off per child. And don’t even think about mentioning time off for new dads over here.

There is no other industrialized nation in the world that does not guarantee working mothers paid time off after giving birth to or adopting a child.

In fact, America joins Papua New Guinea as the only other country on the globe that doesn’t mandate some amount of paid time off for new mothers.

But here in the land of Stars and Stripes, an astounding 33% of all new moms take no formal time off after giving birth – because they can’t afford to.

And mothers aren’t the only ones who will benefit from paid time off legislation. Working fathers are becoming increasingly vocal about needing time off to spend with their new children. In fact, 50% of working dads say that it is hard for them to balance their family responsibilities with their work life.

The Big Picture on Caretaking

Currently, less than 40% of American workers are eligible for an employer-provided temporary disability program.

Due to this, as well as the fact that so few American workers are eligible for employer-paid family leave, many people are forced to make an impossible choice: take unpaid leave to care for a sick loved one (or see to their own care) or continue to work to earn the money they need to keep their families afloat.

But advocacy groups like the National Partnership for Women and Families believe that they’ve found a better option for working families in the Family and Medical Insurance Leave Act (FAMILY Act).

The FAMILY Act, Congressional legislation sponsored by Senator Kirsten Gillibrand of New York and Representative Rosa DeLauro of Connecticut, would provide all eligible employees with as much as twelve weeks of paid family leave.

So just what does this paid time off entail? Let’s debunk some of the bogus ideas out there.

Paid Family Leave Is Not a Vacation

The FAMILY Act ensures that the paid leave it guarantees can only be used for its intended purposes, such as the individual’s need to deal with their own serious illness or health condition; the illness of a spouse, domestic partner, parent, or child; the birth or adoption of a child; or the injury of a military family member or other crisis stemming from their service.

The law is not written to allow families to take sabbatical or vacation. It is written to deal strictly with health-related issues.

Paid Family Leave Is Not Welfare

Critics of welfare don’t have agency to condemn paid time off legislation.

Paid leave is not an entitlement; in fact, it’s an earned benefit that works similarly to other benefit systems like Social Security.

Employees must have paid into the system and worked for an established period of time before they are able to collect benefits.

Paid Family Leave Is Cost-Effective for Workers

Paid family leave actually ends up saving workers money.

The FAMILY Act’s insurance program is paid for through payroll contributions from both employers and their workers, with an extremely low premium of two cents for every $10 in income. For most workers, this equals less than two dollars per week.

So what do the numbers boil down to? The gratifying truth that your paycheck won’t take a hit if this legislation is passed.

And luckily, the paid family leave model works in practice, not only in theory. When a similar program was put in place in California, two-thirds of employees that benefitted didn’t even see a change in their wages.

On the other hand, when workers who don’t have access to paid leave are forced to take time off because of family issues or illness, they are much more likely to fall into poverty and turn to public assistance.

How Businesses Deal with Paid Time Off Policies

On the business end, some companies have seen the value of retaining their staff that needs time off by offering comprehensive family leave time.

Google, for example, cut their new-mother attrition by half when they implemented a five-month maternity leave policy. But not every employer is as generous as Google – which is why we need a national policy that makes sure all businesses treat their workers right.

Although feared and criticized by some members of the business community, many business owners nationwide – ranging from the founder of Kinko’s to the CEO of the American Sustainable Business Council – openly support the FAMILY Act. And in a real life example, California’s paid family leave law has actually had a positive effect on business in the state.

Equally impressive, more small business owners stand in favor of a national paid family leave program than against it.

Society Benefits from Paid Family Leave

Access to paid family leave benefits many different groups in society, sometimes in unexpected ways:

  • Children and infants whose parents have access to paid family leave are much more likely do have better health outcomes and do better in school.
  • Their parents are less likely to need the help of government safety net programs and less like to declare bankruptcy.
  • Women are more likely to continue work after being caretakers, and less likely to need welfare.
  • New mothers who are able to take time off after giving birth or adopting a child are much less likely to suffer from depression.
  • Infants whose parents were able to stay home with them during their first year are more likely to do well in school and the job market.

How many of those situations might apply to your life?

The FAMILY Act and You: How to Get Involved

There are a lot of ways that the FAMILY Act might be able to help you or someone you know, as illustrated in the examples throughout this article. If you want to get involved in helping paid family leave become a nationwide reality, don’t hesitate to jump in.

People are organizing nationwide behind the FAMILY Act. To send a message to your representative asking him or her to support the Act, use this handy tool from the Association of American University Women.

However, given the current gridlock in Congress over this issue, working to change state policy may be one of your best options. Check out local coalitions in your state that are working on family leave issues or Paid Sick Days campaigns.

Alternately, visit websites of organizations like the Labor Project for Working Families, Family Values @ Work, the Institute for Women’s Policy Research, or the National Partnership for Women and Families for more ways to take action.

***

Simply put, paid family leave leads to a more successful America – an America with smarter children, happier parents, less poverty, and a stronger workforce. An America that supports its working women.

There are many women and men already dedicating their lives to this fight – and it makes total sense, because baby, we deserve it!

 

sunset

I haven’t written in a long time. I haven’t been able to.

Every time I considered starting an article or researching a new topic, I stopped myself. Instead of the intrigue and passion that I usually feel, all I found was a stinging, bitter pain.

Because I was hurting; because I was afraid.

Writing is usually like therapy for me – it allows me to vent to the world and at the same time to no one at all. If I end up writing something worthwhile, fantastic. If all I get is a sore back from hunching over my laptop and a sappy piece of nonsense that no one would ever want to read, so be it.

But for the last month, I have avoided my laptop like the plague.

Where did this pain come from? And why was it so hard to get past?

It originated with the very act of writing an article about something I care about. About something that I am so sure of that I could never have imagined the backlash that I received from expressing my beliefs – or that they could even have been interpreted the way that they were.

But as I was once told, intent is not always the same thing as effect.

The topic of the article that started it all? Self-protection through assault prevention techniques and self-defense.

The aftermath of a sexual assault is so complicated – the range of emotions  can jump from guilt to shame to anger to confusion and beyond; the reality of self-blame can be crippling; and the effect on a victim’s life is unquantifiable. Not only this, but every victim deals with and recovers from sexual assault in their own way. What is true for one person might be unthinkable for another. And no one – whether a survivor themselves or not – has the right to tell another person how they should feel in the wake of this horrendous crime.

Keeping this in mind, I tried to write my article in a way that would place blame solely on the perpetrator. I wanted to present ideas for self-protection and self-defense as possibilities for those who might find them worthwhile. Nowhere did I hint that if you eschew taking a self-defense class or find no use in my ideas it would be your fault if you were assaulted. I would never – could never – say, think or believe anything even close to that.

Others took my article differently. In fact, on the day of its publication, it caused a veritable scandal in the feminist community. I was harassed on Twitter, called a failure and a victim blamer, told that I epitomized the Patriarchy, and watched as my article was smashed to smithereens. In the opinion of the individuals making these comments, I was placing blame on victims of rape by offering ideas about prevention.

The piece was far from perfect. In fact, if I were to write it again, I would make an absolutely rigid point of trying to look at what I wrote from eyes different from my own. To read every last word from a completely different perspective. Maybe then I would have seen what these people saw.

And yet, I was also commended by the women’s self-defense community for writing it. I received emails, tweets, posts and texts from people who were as dismayed as I was about the reaction. A well-known, deeply respected self-defense instructor even wrote an article in The Hairpin about the whole mess (note: opinions in The Hairpin piece are strictly those expressed by Susan Schorn).

The thing is, it really was a huge, ugly mess. No one was to blame. It just kind of happened – and then exploded in a nasty way. But I am about as sensitive as they come (great quality in a writer, right? ha!). I was shattered. I cried for an entire day and went into bouts of depression every time I thought about it for a month afterward.

Not that I can’t take being criticized or called names. People criticize my opinions all the time, and I have been called some verrrry interesting things (especially by Men’s Rights Activists)! Generally, I welcome or endure it – to a point. I suppose the deeply reactive subject matter made everything different this time.

I felt…invalidated. Silenced. As if my experiences and beliefs could be overturned and expelled with a gust of wind.

The thing is, they can’t. Others don’t have to agree with me, but that doesn’t mean that I can’t hold true to my ideals. And more appropriate to this situation, others may not always see the intended message in my writing. There isn’t much that I can do about this except to keep moving forward, carefully, while trying to be sensitive to the feelings of the world around me.

This has been a huge lesson. And from where I stand today, it won’t stop me from writing in the future. My sadness and frustration are still there; I’ve just learned how to move beyond them and try to turn them into something more positive and healing. And that’s why I’m sitting at home writing a blog post on this rainy Friday night.

Because really – hiding my laptop behind the couch isn’t helping anyone, especially not myself.

censusgap

Cross-posted from my article in Everyday Feminism

In 2012, women were statistically much poorer than men. And women that were already poor in 2011 stayed that way.

Wait a minute – you say – I’m always hearing that women make up over half of the nation’s workforce and are increasingly becoming the primary (or sole) breadwinner in families with children! Plus, isn’t the Recession over? Shouldn’t people be getting out of poverty by now?

While it’s true that our nation is in “recovery,” that’s not the whole story.

A lot of Americans are still struggling with extreme poverty – and women are getting the short end of the stick on pretty much all fronts.

Every year, the United States Census Bureau releases their findings about poverty, health insurance, and much more in September.

This year, the Census data revealed that one in seven women live in poverty. One in seven. That’s almost 17.8 million women – or 14.5% of the female population. For men, this percentage is lower, at 11%.

These crazy-high numbers of poor American women are nothing new – they are almost identical to the 2011 figures. But they’re still unacceptable.

And certain groups of women are having an even harder time than the rest.

Black, Latina, and Native American women are disproportionately poor, as are women who are the primary breadwinners in a household. And shockingly, women 65 years of age and older got drastically poorer in 2012.

In order to understand why this is happening, let’s first look at these statistics in greater detail – and at what else the newest Census data has to tell us about these different groups of women and how the post-Recession recovery period is treating them.

Women of Color Have Exceedingly High Poverty Rates

Women of Color have not prospered during the economic recovery.

The Census data shows that Black women have a whopping poverty rate of 25.1%, and Latina women come in right below them at 24.8%. Even more drastic is the plight of Native American women – one in three Native women were poor in 2012.

Poverty disproportionately affects all People of Color – not just women. Non-white children and men also suffer from poverty disproportionately across the board. As I explained in this article about American poverty, this inequality is a product of a longstanding structure of racial oppression that refuses to go away despite civil rights advances.

Poor Women Heading Households Are Getting Poorer

Studies show that in today’s working economy, four in ten households with kids under 18 years of age have a woman as the chief (or only) breadwinner.

While that fact is exciting in the sense that women are truly viable players in the workforce and completely capable of providing for their families, it doesn’t negate the fact that almost 41% of the women heading these households were poor in 2012.

Not only that, but this poverty isn’t just affecting the women themselves – it’s hurting their children.

A stunning 56% of poor kids live in families in which a woman is the main wage-earner. We’ll get to just why this is later.

Elderly Women Are Suffering More Than Before

Getting older isn’t easy on anyone, and definitely not on poor women.

Health problems become more numerous and costly, menopause changes the body dramatically, and just getting around becomes more difficult. Andeverything costs.

Luckily, many of us have spent a lifetime saving up for retirement to protect ourselves financially in the face of illness or other issues.

We’ve saved a bit from each paycheck, contributed to a 401K retirement plan, or made investments that will (hopefully) help see us through our old age. And ideally, we have family to back us up and take care of us as well.

But what about women who didn’t have the financial flexibility to save for retirement while they were working – or had to use their savings to help another family member in a time of need?

What about the grandmas who are still helping their children and grandchildren get by because those children are struggling with poverty themselves?

A staggering amount of elderly women are poor – and things only got worse in 2012.

According to the United States Census, the number of women 65 years or older living in extreme poverty increased by 23% last year.

That’s unacceptable. After a lifetime of contributing to our economy and society, our grandmothers should not have to worry about how they are going to afford food.

“Why is this happening?” you are probably asking yourself.

Well, there are plenty of reasons why an unequal number of women are poor.

The Wage Gap Is Partially to Blame

The ever-looming gender wage gap is one big reason.

Thanks to the Census, we know that – just like in 2011 – women who work full-time, year-round are only paid 77 cents on the dollar compared to their male coworkers – and that’s only in reference to white folk.

If you are thinking that a few cents doesn’t make much of a difference, think again.

Let’s look at what that wage gap translates into over the course of a year: Over $11k less in yearly earnings. And thus, a much smaller economic safety net. For a woman struggling with poverty, that $11 thousand could make a world of difference.

These numbers get a lot worse when you’re talking about Women of Color. Black and Latina women earn, respectively, 64 cents and 54 cents on the dollar compared to White, non-Latino men.

This inequality is a heinous relic of an oppressive, racist culture that seems to be hanging on for far too long – and yet it seems like no one is even talking about it.

The GOP is Waging a War on Safety Net Programs That Help Women

Republicans and Tea Party members in Congress and in-state chambers across the nation have their sights set on dismantling the programs that provide government assistance to needy women and families.

Nutrition aide for babies and pregnant or nursing mothers in the Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) is on the chopping block.

So are early learning programs for kids and desperately needed food assistance for poor families.

Nothing is actually safe when it comes to the safety net – no matter how many times these programs are proven to lift millions of people out of poverty and save lives.

When these programs are cut, women and their families take the hit.

Pregnant women who lose their WIC benefits don’t get the proper help they need. Single mothers with hungry children have their food taken away from them. Mothers who rely on childcare assistance to be able to work and earn money for their families are forced to stay home.

The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), formerly known as food stamps, is a prime example.

The Census data revealed that SNAP helped 4 million people out of poverty and reduced hardship for millions of others in 2012 alone. Simply put, it is a highly effective program that made tens of millions of people less poor last year, as it does every year.

Despite these proven benefits of the program, all SNAP recipients will lose about $30 from their monthly food allotment starting November 1, 2013.

This decrease comes on top of many other cuts to the program driven by government sequestration and the threat of a $40 billion cut in the House’s proposed farm bill legislation.

Women and children will directly suffer from these cuts to SNAP. If pursued to fruition, it is very likely that next year’s Census data will disclose even more severe poverty rates for women.

With so many politicians seemingly working to keep low-income women and families in poverty – and so many other factors negatively affecting low-income women – what can be done?

Educate, Proliferate, Infiltrate!

For starters, you can share this information with everyone that you know.

I truly believe that a big reason that people vote for politicians who want to cut government assistance to the poor is that they just don’t have the facts.

If they knew who they were taking food, education, and medical services from –infants, young children, struggling families, seniors – I have a hard time believing that so many people would still agree with stripping the safety net bare.

Also, remember that the poverty data revealed by the Census is proof that low-income women are struggling – and that things are not getting much better as the economic recovery continues.

When naysayers try to tell you that the government can’t give any more money to food stamps because there are more people enrolled in the program than ever before, remind them that this is the direct result of the Great Recession.

It’s simple when you think about it.

More people fell into poverty because of a recession = more people were hungry = more people became eligible (and signed up for) nutrition assistance programs.

And since we haven’t fully “recovered” as a nation, these numbers have yet to drop back down.

Back up your arguments with facts and people will have a much harder time shooting you down.

Educate your community.

Post about these important poverty statistics on social media, e-mail articles about the Census findings to your family and friends, tweet at your members of Congress asking them to support safety net programs, or write an op-ed for your local newspaper. The Op Ed Project has some great guidelines to get you started on writing your first article.

Volunteering at community organizations that work to secure funding for low-income women is another good way to combat women’s poverty.

Look at a comprehensive volunteer site like VolunteerMatch.org to find opportunities in mentoring, educational services and much more across the country. You can also check out your local chapter of the National Organization for Women (NOW) for more ways to get involved in supporting anti-poverty measures for women.

You have the facts. Now go out there and do something about this inequality, with the whole force of the Census data backing you up.

Don’t let partisan politicians take necessary assistance away those who need it most.

Show them that you will fight to protect needy children, mothers, and grandmothers from falling deeper into poverty.

shaming
Photo from Voice of Russia

So, there is this disgusting, misogynist, homophobic loser website called Return of Kings, and their contributor “Tuthmosis” (oooh, big man, using a fake name and all!) wants to educate us all about how you can tell if a girl is a “slut” or not in his article “24 Signs She’s a Slut.” I won’t degrade my blog by linking to it and giving him more web traffic, but a few of the most memorable “signs” include:

  • Having a tattoo, non-ear piercing or dyed hair follicles
  • Using swear words
  • Having divorced parents
  • Not being ticklish (because, of course, that means that she has been HANDLED by a lot of men)
  • Calling herself a feminist

This is what he SHOULD have written, because this is what he really wants to say:

How to Tell if She’s a Slut

Is she female? Then, boom! You’ve got your answer – she’s a slut.

I also have a response post for Tuthmosis:

How to Tell if You’re a Clueless Asshole with Shit for Brains

Did you just call someone a slut based on your own personal chauvinistic views of gender roles and pathetic ideas about how women should behave? BOOM BOOM! You’ve got your answer! Automatic Asshole. (Congrats!)

I know it makes more sense to simply ignore sad misinformed losers like this dude and everyone who contributes to the ROK website (which, coincidentally, also features articles entitled “All Women Are Sheep” and “How to Control Your Woman’s Diet”). But there’s something about the way it was written that made me stop. And that worries me.

It’s just that I can imagine a large number of people I know – both men and women – reading this and not being bothered. Not that I think they would wholeheartedly agree with his 24 Signs of Sluttiness (some of which are just SO ridiculous it’s hard to believe he didn’t write the post as a parody) – but that they might not see how wrong it is foster this type of sexist, slut-shaming mentality in the first place.

I’ve said it once before, and I’ll say it again. STOP slut-shaming! Shaming women for their sexuality is counter-productive. It leads to lower self-esteem for everyone. It perpetuates archaic gender stereotypes. It takes away any semblance of free will and choice that women have in their sexual lives and unfairly labels them as either a Madonna or a Whore.

That’s why I’ve stopped using the word “slut” entirely.  If you ever hear me slip up, please notify me. It’s a word that serves no helpful purpose in our society and only works to keep misogyny alive and well.

I mean, really…if YOU aren’t comfortable with SOMEONE ELSE’s sexual behavior, shouldn’t you be looking at yourself and wondering why what they are doing makes you so freaked out?

Why can’t you just go about your life the way you want and let others do the same, as long as they aren’t causing harm to anyone?

Sounds like a personal problem to me.

Cat-Calling Sucks

This morning two men in a truck honked, stared and yelled things at me as I walked to work.

Saturday a male stranger in the elevator called me sweetheart and another man on the street asked if I would go home with him.

Last week one of my male colleagues yelled out “va-va-voom” when I walked into a board meeting.

Last month a parking attendant outside my office building told me that he wanted to marry me and that he would stalk me until I broke up with the fake boyfriend I told him I had in order to ward him off.

Last summer three men walked past me on the stairs of a bar. One turned around and grabbed my ass, squeezed hard and guffawed. All three proceeded to laugh uproariously and continued on their way. I was too stunned to say or do anything so I just stared as they left me there on the stairs. A few weeks later a strange man in a club came up behind me while I was dancing with a girlfriend and pulled my waist towards him, pushing his crotch into my behind. I turned and demanded an explanation. His answer: “You backed into me.” Bullshit. Straight out lie.

These aren’t the worst examples of street harassment, just a few that come to mind. I am cat-called almost every single day of my life, no matter what I’m wearing or who I am with. But mostly when I am alone, walking to or from work or home.

Worse: I’m not an anomaly. This happens to most girls. All. The. Time. Cat-calling is not a compliment – it’s degrading, humiliating and demoralizing. It limits our ability to walk down the street without fear – even in broad daylight while wearing professional attire.

The featured quote says it all: I may be walking through a public place, but my body is not public property. I am a individual person with rights to my own body, not a sexual toy/object inviting your comments, stare or touch. Please consider this and apply it to ALL people as you move through your day.

Here are some great resources for people who are looking to learn more about how to identify and combat this type of harassment:

HollaBack! You Have the Power to End Street Harassment
Stop Street Harassment
Meet Us On The Street*

*Anti-street harassment week was April 7-13, 2013. Visit this website for news about next year’s event and additional resources.

rehtaeh

When I heard about the suicide of Rehtaeh Parsons, I was devastated. We’ve lost another young girl, who – after being allegedly raped by four boys who distributed photos of the attack online – was bullied mercilessly by her peers to the point where she decided to take her own life at 17 years of age.

A year-long investigation by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police was closed when it was decided that “there was insufficient evidence to lay charges.” Insufficient evidence– although many people saw the photos taken of the rape (which occurred when she was only 15), knew of the attack and witnessed Rehtaeh being bullied at school.

Her mother, Leah Parsons, told Canadian news source CBC “She was never left alone. She had to leave the community. Her friends turned against her. People harassed her. Boys she didn’t know started texting her and Facebooking her asking her to have sex with them. It just never stopped.” Things got so difficult that the Parsons moved to another city, but the bullying had taken its toll. Rehtaeh’s parents watched their once lively and high-spirited teenage daughter become increasingly depressed and withdrawn. After the move, Rehtaeh made some new, more supportive friends and heard from some of her old friends, who relented and decided to stand by her. But it wasn’t enough to undo the damage. Last March, she checked herself into the hospital for suicidal thoughts. And then on April 4, she hung herself in her parents’ bathroom.

Since her death, the police have reopened the investigation based on new evidence and a witness who is willing to verify the identity of the suspects and cooperate with investigators. Cyber-activist hacker group Anonymous has also claimed to have evidence that one of the attackers has admitted to raping Rehtaeh although he knew she was too intoxicated to defend herself.

Everything about this story is tragic and misguided – from the crime itself to the police’s handling of the case. But what also stands out to me is the bullying – the girls and boys that taunted Rehtaeh so cruelly that she ended her life. “People texted her all the time, saying ‘Will you have sex with me?’” says Leah Parsons. “Girls texting, saying ‘You’re such a slut.’” Teenagers aren’t exactly known for their maturity and this level of harassment is (sadly) not surprising. But why did so many of her peers turn on her? Why did so many other girls – some of whom may conceivably have endured similar experiences – call her a slut and disown her as a friend?

Undoubtedly, the blame for the crime rests on the shoulders of the alleged rapists. But if Rehtaeh hadn’t endured the bullying that she did, she might be alive today. The National Education Association estimates that 160,000 children miss school every day due to fear of attack or intimidation by other students.  According to Yale University studies, bullying victims are between 2 to 9 times more likely to consider suicide than non-victims. And technology such as cellphone cameras and social media have made bullying that much easier for teenagers. Snap a picture, and it can be distributed to the whole school with one click.

This type of cyber-bullying is not uncommon. A few weeks ago I wrote about the Steubenville case: the rape of a 16-year old girl; photos of the night gone viral on the internet; months of constant bullying from her peers; and the subsequent conviction of two star football players for the crime. Steubenville garnered a lot of attention. But what about Audrey Pott, a 15-year old Northern California girl who killed herself after allegedly being sexually abused by three young men who released explicit photos of the rape on the internet? She committed suicide just days after the photos went viral.

How does it feel to be that teenage girl who everyone is whispering about in the halls? To be called a slut/whore/skank by people who barely know you? To be judged for engaging in sexual activity, as most curious teens do? For some girls, it is utterly life-destroying.

Most people, whether they realize it or not, have slut-shamed before – shaming and/or attacking a woman or a girl for being sexual, having one or more sexual partners, acknowledging sexual feelings, and/or acting on sexual feelings outside of marriage. I’ve seen people do it countless times. Sadly, I’ve done it to others in the past, and even to myself. But I want to change that. The double standard remains: why is it that a girl who has sex is a whore/slut but a boy who has sex is a stud/player? In movies, on television, in magazines and in our communities, people throw around the term “slut” in reference to women willy-nilly. But how many of them think about what their words imply? That a girl or woman is a prostitute because she has sexual desire? That because she is female, she should save herself for marriage or she is a whore? That women should ignore/not act upon sexual desires even though men can/do? Why do we accept sexual exploration from our sons but not our daughters?

Next time you want to call a girl a slut, rethink your choice and start chipping away at the double standard. If we support one another – and remember that we are all human beings just living, learning and changing over time – we just might succeed in changing this societal mindfuck.

Sign this Change.org petition to get justice for Rehtaeh by launching an investigation into the RCMP’s handling of the case.

Need help? In the U.S., call 1-800-273-8255 for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline.