News you can relate to

Some stories that caught our eye this week:

inspiring grad cap

15 Inspiring Grad Caps That Honor The Sacrifices Of Immigrant Parents “For every time I was told I couldn’t…For the huge obstacles my parents and I had to overcome to get to this moment. For the many times I had to prove myself to others. For the times I had to “earned my way into spaces not meant for me”.

4.2 Million Salaried Workers Will Soon Be Eligible For Overtime Pay “Our whole mission here is about strengthening and growing the middle class. In order to do that, we need to ensure that middle class jobs pay middle class wages.”

It Doesn’t Matter If You’re An Oscar Winner “I am ashamed that I hesitated for a moment to speak out against the selection of Woody Allen’s latest film, Café Society, to make its North American premiere as the Opening Night Film of our much beloved Seattle International Film Festival. I guess I didn’t want to offend the people I consider friends and colleagues at our hometown film festival. But then I realized that this very type of rationalizing is what helps fuel rape culture in America.”

College bound

It is senior year of high school for my twin daughters and I find myself talking about college applications with all kinds of people. I was getting my nails done when the owner of the salon―a Vietnamese immigrant―asked me for information about the application process and due dates. She was relying on her son to translate and she wasn’t sure that she was getting all the information she needed. It took me several days, but I managed to find a free college counseling resource that could communicate in Vietnamese.

I can’t imagine what it must be like to try to navigate this process when English is your second language. We had to hire a college counselor to help us. We filled out 28 pages of different financial aid forms. We checked our daughters’ online applications and read their college essay questions. Even with the resources, time, and teamwork at our disposal, it was still hard.

And what about people who have another whole layer of chaos in their lives? How do you manage this transition in your child’s life if you are in an abusive relationship? What if you have to anticipate and work around a partner who humiliates and controls you? When all your decisions are undermined by your partner, how can you figure out what questions to ask and if there is help to get answers?

College boundSending your kid to college is a dream for many parents, and it can feel even more pressing if it is their ticket out of an abusive home. But that’s not possible if it takes professional help just to fill out the forms. We can change this system and we must make it accessible. The vision of all girls moving forward depends on us.

News you can relate to

Some stories that caught our eye this week:

For Domestic Violence Survivors, Family Court Becomes Site of Continued Abuse Three years after Kate and her children initially fled her ex, the judge terminated his visits. By then, Kate had been in court every six weeks for three years and spent over $500,000 in legal costs.

We don’t do sex work because we are poor, we do sex work to end our poverty “Anti- trafficking law does not improve our working conditions, increase our options, or end our poverty. It does not reduce armed conflict in our homelands. It does not reduce corruption. It does not increase support for children and minors. It does not demand governments or society respect us or our basic human rights.”

Michelle Obama on why educating girls is vital “The barriers to girls’ education isn’t just resources. It’s not just about access to scholarships or transportation or school bathrooms,” she said. “It’s also about attitudes and beliefs — the belief that girls simply aren’t worthy of an education, that women should have no role outside the home, that their bodies aren’t their own, their minds don’t really matter and their voices simply shouldn’t be heard.”

Teen activists in action

We’re excited to bring you a guest blog post from Quinn Angelou-Lysaker of Franklin High School’s Feminist Union, an energetic student-led group that has been tackling teen domestic violence along with other feminist issues.
On January 13th, Franklin High School’s own Feminist Union lead a class we called “Intersectional Feminism 101.” Five members of our leadership team created an activity based on WSCADV’s game In Their Shoes. In Their Shoes takes participants through a story about an abusive relationship, where they’re asked to make decisions as the story progresses. We used this idea and wrote our own stories in which sexism and other forms of oppression intersect. One story was about a black girl who was forced to resign from a theater program because she wouldn’t straighten her natural hair. Another followed the story of a boy with two gay mothers who makes some homophobic friends in school. We also used one of the original stories from In Their Shoes about a Mexican girl whose relationship with a boy becomes abusive.

franklin-feminist-union-teensThere was a healthy turn out of both boys and girls, which we were glad to see. As I spoke to groups participating, I found that it was easier for them to detect the racism, classism or homophobia in the stories than the sexism. But as groups went through more and more stories, it became more clear to them how multiple kinds of discrimination could exist in the same situation. It was interesting to hear how people identified with the characters, like to “Cassandra,” the gay daughter of conservative Chinese immigrants. They had insightful comments about how if she were straight, she would have more resources (like her parents) to get her out of her abusive relationship. Overall, people seemed to enjoy the activity and learn a lot.

What IS wrong with this picture?

I showed my friend a picture of this billboard and asked her “What do you think about this?”

PLU-billboard

I had actually passed the billboard on my way to do an errand and it just nagged at me. On my way home, I pulled over and took the picture. I kept wondering, why is this black woman responsible for ending hate speech?

My friend struggled to put into words why she thought the message was off kilter. Another friend walked by and commented, “But look, what do you expect? This is the Lutherans.”

Hey, hey, hey. I was born into a Lutheran household. And probably would have been raised Lutheran except the (married) pastor came onto my (married) mom, and she wasn’t having it.

No. I was raised Unitarian which instilled a world view that nobody, not even the Lutherans, but  especially not the Unitarians, are off the hook in the daily grind to end racism.

And clearly, Pacific Lutheran University does not want to be off the hook. Good on them for getting out there and splashing a message on a billboard. This takes a lot of courage, because you have to know that (a) you are going to draw out the haters; (b) the chances that you are going to get the solution to racism right on a billboard hover somewhere around zero; and (c) since you can’t get it right, you are going to hear about it.

In a nutshell (which is almost as bad as a billboard) here’s what I think about it. Individual black women can stop saying hateful things to one another, but they do not (as just one example) set the salary scale. White people do. So it’s really a matter of figuring out how to get white people to stop saying hateful things to people of color—and then get white people to stop thinking hateful things about people of color—and then get white people to stop paying black women a lower wage than white men for doing the exact same job.

PLU is educating a lot of white people who are going to graduate into a whole lot of power to actually DO something if they understand what the real solutions are. It would be amazing to give every student a sophisticated, multi-year, down and dirty academic challenge to understand the roots, trunk, and branches of racism.

I set out to critique the critique—meaning the overabundance and corrosive nature of the criticism that flies through the internet when any individual or institution tries to say something to oppose racism, sexism, and homophobia.

And look what I did. I criticized.

I’m left wondering what the role of honest and kind criticism is. How do we fan the flames of understanding and creativity? How do we say “Hey, PLU, excellent effort. Keep going.”

News you can relate to

Some news stories that caught our eye this week:

At 17, Malala Yousafzai is the youngest recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize. “This award is courage and hope for me and all those who fight for education.”

Shonda Rimes was honored this week and her response has all the humor, drama, and emotional intensity of a good episode of Scandal.

Roxane Gay writes a lyrical defense of bad victims over at The Toast.

Giving degrees the third degree

I recently came across this article about a woman who had lied on her resume about her education. Of course lying about such things is not ethical or wise—but I think this is an excellent opportunity to look at the misplaced emphasis our society has on college degrees.

job-descriptionAccording to the article, she did her job quite well and was well-liked and respected. She made significant improvements and added value to her workplace for almost thirty years. So, does that one lie mean more than her good work?

Many organizations automatically require a four-year degree for every job (even the ones paying minimum or near-minimum wage), often for no particular reason. There have been jobs I’ve been disqualified from despite having the exact work experience needed, simply because I didn’t have a bachelor’s degree. I can understand the temptation to lie, the frustration of not being able to get your foot in the door despite your qualifications.

Requiring college degrees bolsters inequity and discrimination. Think about who does and doesn’t have access to college. For instance, we know that abuse is a huge disruptor to domestic violence victims’ lives, including their attempts at education or getting a better job. Abusers may actively sabotage victims’ efforts to study or attend classes. And for victims who’ve had to take the extreme measure of obtaining a new identity, they may not be able to even acknowledge college degrees, if they have them.

My friend Laura Pritchard Wirkman runs Sharehouse (it’s like a food bank, but for furniture and household items) so job access and economic justice are already on her radar. She’s managed to revise the job descriptions there: “I try to talk to other management-types about this as much as possible and always encourage them to question the education requirement for any position,” she says. “If it’s not a specialized position that literally necessitates a degree or license, then the next question should always be: ‘Does direct or related experience make up for (or even outweigh) a degree?’”

If you have any authority over job descriptions at your workplace, talk with your colleagues about your standard requirements. Look at each job and actually think about whether applicants need to have a four-year degree. You could be weeding out qualified candidates and inadvertently discriminating against domestic violence victims and other marginalized groups of people.

Catalyst for change: Shirley Chisholm

“At present, our country needs women’s idealism and determination, perhaps more in politics than anywhere else.” – Shirley Chisholm

471604-01-main-270x350The late, great Shirley Chisholm was recently commemorated with a stamp, so I decided an in-person trip to the Post Office was in order. As I placed my order at the counter, the woman next to me asked who this Shirley Chisholm was. I’m always surprised at how few people seem to know about her. So I’m taking the opportunity to spread the word here.

It is often hard to wholeheartedly admire a politician, but Chisholm is one that I do. When I watched the 2005 documentary Chisholm ’72: Unbought and Unbossed, I was captivated by her dynamic presence and unwavering vision. As I learned more about her, I couldn’t help but wish that we had more politicians and leaders like her.

She represented New York’s 12th Congressional district for fourteen years, prioritizing issues of poverty, education, and women’s health and reproductive freedom. She deliberately hired women for all of her office positions, half of whom were black women. She was whip smart and had the ability to incisively cut to the heart of the matter; at the same time, she was also known for being warm and kind, with a great sense of humor.

Among her many notable accomplishments:

  • She served on the Education and Labor Committee. She worked on a bill to give domestic workers the right to minimum wage, worked to revoke the Internal Security Act of 1950 (a McCarthy-era holdover), and pushed for increased spending on social services, education, and health care. She authored the Comprehensive Child Development Bill of 1972, which would have implemented a national childcare system; it passed the House and the Senate but was unfortunately vetoed by Nixon.
  • She taught politics and women’s studies at Mount Holyoke and Spelman, after her retirement from Congress.

In her own words, “I want history to remember me not just as the first black woman to be elected to Congress, not as the first black woman to have made a bid for the presidency of the United States, but as a black woman who lived in the 20th century and dared to be herself.”

News you can relate to

Some news stories that caught our eye this week:

  • Your partner is assualting you. You call the police for help. And you get evicted for it. Could that possibly be happening? Yup. And the ACLU is taking it on.

Leadership

women-graduatingFrom an early age, I always thought to myself that education was “my way out.” I thought it would give me a voice, power over my choices, and freedom. I saw it as a way to equalize myself to boys and men. For the most part, things pretty much worked out how I imagined—I found my voice, I have more power over my choices, and I have the experience of freedom.

But lately I’ve been wondering, what if I focused less on trying to achieve what men have and more on how to develop myself to achieve what is most important to me? What if every girl and every woman did the same? What if each and every community valued educating girls to fulfill their goals?

What would women, as leaders, achieve? How would our communities be different? I imagine a whole new world of possibilities. And I am interested in hearing what you think!