Tags: activism, beauty, beauty and skin, biracial, black skin, body image, body image activism, body image movement, brown skin, feminism, gender, gender socialization, Lupita Nyong'o, primary prevention, race, self-esteem, skin color, social justice, women of color, youth
Filed Under Diversity, Powerful Women | By Maya Pilgrim | Leave a Comment
I keep a very vivid memory from sometime in the hormonal haze of my middle school years. I remember riding in the car and trying to cover my arm and shoulder which were getting beaten down by the hot Texas sun in an effort to not get any darker. It didn’t take much back then; my color changed in a heartbeat. If I were to reduce the diversity of skin colors down to a cheap crayon box of 8, my coloring has always favored my mother’s brown more than my father’s white. Few people I saw in my daily life since moving to the US when I turned 10 looked like me. This was true for those I came across in the flesh in our predominantly white middle-class suburb and for those who graced the pages of my Seventeen and Jane magazines, MTV, Nickelodeon or prime-time TV. My color, my features and how they defined me against what I saw everyday was and still is always salient in my mind. I would be labeled as “exotic”, told ignorantly to go back to the Great Wall of China (I’m not Chinese), and confused for any number of different nationalities.
At some point, I began to embrace my brownness, even began to revel in it. Adulthood has allowed me emotional distance from the tumultuous waves of adolescence but it was a long and crooked journey aided mostly by building friendships with others who could understand my experience, even if we didn’t explicitly talk about it. Watching Lupita Nyong’o’s acceptance speech for Best Breakthrough Performance at the Black Women in Hollywood Luncheon brought back a lot of those emotions for me. If you haven’t heard her give this speech, transcribed here I urge you to listen to or read it now. She speaks of her experience of growing up not feeling beautiful and being “teased and taunted because of [her] night-shaded skin.” She talks about the impact of the Sudanese model Alek Wek coming onto the fashion scene and ultimately re-examining what it means to be beautiful. While I can’t speak to Nyong’o’s experience, I can certainly speak to mine.
I had once wished for lighter skin, thinner lips, and different facial features. Nyong’o’s speech reminded me of my past insecurities but also made obvious the disconnect of telling girls to have “self-esteem” when the pervasive message is that they are not held in esteem by society, or that they are only valued in terms of their “exotic-ness.” It highlighted to me the problem of almost exclusively emphasizing beauty when it comes to women’s worth but then the added injury of only emphasizing a certain type of beauty, often exclusionary of women of color. How can we expect to erase a childhood’s worth of girls being told to strive for unattainable, photoshopped beauty with a one-hour workshop on the importance of self-esteem? It’s not that I don’t think conversations about self-esteem are important. But, I also insist they are vastly insufficient, shifting the burden to girls to muster up their own feelings of self-worth despite the messages and images that surround them.
Nyong’o shared her mother’s powerful words, “you can’t eat beauty, it doesn’t feed you.” It’s an important message to any girl, but it’s not the message that we, as a society give her. There is serious incongruence between what we want and what we do. I hear it every time someone first meets my daughter and immediately tells her she’s cute or pretty or beautiful but does little else to acknowledge the wealth of other attributes that make her a wonderful human being. It makes my work as a “Primary Prevention Specialist” very, very personal. How do we hold ourselves accountable for what we’ll accept or brush off as “bigger than us” without acknowledging that we’re part of it? How do we hold companies accountable? I found Nyong’o’s speech so relevant and touching because it made the intersections so evident. It’s not a matter of beauty or race or gender. It’s a matter of beauty and race and gender.
I can’t expect to erase centuries of fair being the standard of beauty nor of beauty determining a woman’s worth, but I can demand to change the conversation. I can change my conversations. I can ask girls what they like to do and what books they’re reading instead of commenting on their wardrobe. I can help my daughter navigate the conversations. I can speak up through emails and petitions and twitter and phone calls to hold companies and individuals accountable for their speech. The Representation Project which looks specifically at how media treats women and girls and their #notbuyingit campaigns are helping to remold the messages about femininity and womanhood. Let’s allow all girls the opportunity to feel beautiful. Let’s bring to the conversation issues beyond beauty, issues and topics that will really feed them. In the words of poet, Katie Makkai, I plan on echoing this message to my child: “The word pretty is unworthy of everything you will be. And no child of mine will be contained in five letters. You will be pretty intelligent, pretty creative, pretty amazing but you will never be merely pretty.” I plan on changing the conversation. I hope you’ll join me.
TAASA’s Diversity Task Force prides itself in the process by which recipients are selected. Each application was qualified and carefully reviewed.
We are proud to announce the 2014 Scholarship Recipients.
Emma J. Smith
Sexual Assault Resource Center
Center Against Family Violence
El Paso, TX
Regional Victim Crisis Center
Fort Worth, TX
Abigail’s Arms CCFCC
We encourage all applicants to keep up the good work in positively impacting the anti-sexual assault movement.
Thank you all again for taking the time to complete a thorough application and we look forward to meeting you at the conference in Irving. Specific scholarship details will be emailed at a later time.
With Sexual Assault Awareness and Prevention Month (SAAPM) around the corner, we are excited to unveil TAASA’s 2014 SAAPM theme.
This year’s SAAPM toolkit focuses on the engagement of males in the prevention and awareness of sexual assault. The theme “First Class Male: Cultivating Change through Male Involvement” is two-fold. First, it represents the involvement of males in creating awareness about the most common form of sexual assault and in challenging rape culture (where rape is an accepted & expected norm). Second, it symbolizes the unity of well-intentioned males in their commitment to the health and safety of the community.
We will host a series of SAAPM planning webinars in February and March to assist with local SAAPM efforts. So don’t miss out! Please let us know your thoughts on the toolkit, the theme, and how we can partner with your agency in planning SAAPM 2014 activities.
To download the toolkit click 2014 SAAPM Booklet Content.
LEGOs can be found everywhere in my house right now as they are the new obsession of my 4-year old son, Joaquin. Half-built sets are strewn upon our dining room table, completed masterpieces sit proudly atop his toy chest, and a few single bricks inevitably find their way beneath my feet as I step on them in the dark. Ouch!
With each LEGO creation that Joaquin builds, destroys, and rebuilds, learning is taking place. He is understanding how to follow directions precisely to complete a task, but at the other end of the spectrum, his creativity is being allowed to blossom. As he connects one brick to another, his fine-motor skills are improving, and he is practicing colors, numbers, shapes, and most importantly, problem-solving and perseverance.
Unfortunately, when building his LEGO City, he is also learning a very narrow definition of masculinity. This Christmas, Joaquin was gifted with several sets from the LEGO City series, all of which contained male minifigures (police officers, fire fighters, city workers, etc.) with the exception of one set (60017 Flatbed Truck). Included in this particular set was a businesswoman who is the driver of a sports car. While my son was impressed with the car she was driving, I, regrettably, realized that the set was encouraging a scene in which the businesswoman’s car breaks down, and the mechanic with the flatbed tow truck must come to her rescue, setting up a damsel in distress scenario.
As his father, I must find ways to make him aware of this subtle (and sometimes not-so-subtle) re-enforcement of gender roles, something that the company has increasingly come under fire for over the last few years, especially from young girls, like 7-year old Charlotte Benjamin.
Her letter recently went viral, and when I came across it, I thought it would be a good idea to share it with my own LEGO enthusiast. In a moment together, I read aloud the letter to Joaquin, and as I came to the end, he said, “Yeah, Dada, but I don’t make the LEGOs.”
With the infinite wisdom that he possesses at 4-years old, Joaquin is correct. While neither of us “make the LEGOs,” we do buy them, and as such it is important that we challenge the stereotypes portrayed through the LEGO products and show our support as allies with the girls who are already seeking change from the company.
Other parents who have written on this same subject agree that gender disparity in LEGO products is a problem that can be solved. Here are a few suggestions to help boys begin building a different type of LEGO City:
• Talk with boys about the lack of girl minifigures while playing with LEGO toys and ask them how that makes them feel.
• Ask boys (if they haven’t already noticed) about the difference in packaging and placement of LEGO toys in most retail stores.
• Sign the Change.org petition LEGO: Give Us More Options for Girls and Produce the Female Scientists Series!, which asks LEGO to incorporate girl minifigures in new products and develop a series that promotes STEM jobs. This petition has recently surpassed 40,000 signatures.
• Purchase LEGO minifigures separately which include girl minifigures such as snowboarders or police officers and encourage your boys to incorporate them into their play.
• Encourage boys to write a letter or email to the LEGO Corporation asking them to introduce more girl minifigures into the most popular sets.
• Purchase LEGO Friends sets for boys as a way to begin breaking down the gendering of toys.
• Switch female LEGO heads with male bodies and male accessories to create unique female characters.
• Encourage the boys and men in your life to support/join efforts like the Brave Girls Alliance who are challenging gender stereotypes in advertising and products designed for girls.
• Download and encourage boys to use the #NotBuyingIt app from Miss Representation to call out limiting depictions of boys and men in advertising.
By putting collective pressure as consumers on LEGO and other corporations to change their toys to represent a diverse society, I hope that my son Joaquin will not have to write a similar letter to that of Charlotte Benjamin when he is 7 years old. Instead, I hope that as his LEGO collection grows, so too does LEGO’s understanding of gender equality.
In the comment section below, please share how you have addressed this issue with the boys and men in your life, as well as any additional suggestions you have for seeking further change from the LEGO company.
So let’s file this one under practicing what you preach. Earlier today, I sat in a room with a group of prevention workers from Austin, Waco, San Antonio, San Marcos, Bastrop, and Round Rock. The prevention team at TAASA was hosting a gathering of prevention workers and we were providing mini-presentations, “Nuggets of Knowledge” as we affectionately call them. I was talking to the group about facilitation skills and I explained that part of the role of a facilitator is to help the participants they are working with hold on to hope. It is so easy to lose hope when violence and oppression saturate our communities. The prevention workers all talked about how often they have participants in their programming express that they just don’t see the point in changing because no one else will or that it won’t make a difference anyway. A facilitator’s role is to help participants see hope in the small changes they can make in the ways they interact with one another and see how using their voice can start the ripples of larger, community-wide change.
I want to thank the people in that room today for rekindling my own hope. I feel it is my duty to try to pass that feeling on in any way that I can. For those of you reading this who feel alone in your resistance to violence and oppression, I want you to know that you are not alone. I just spent the day with 14 of the most amazing people who are working hard and devoting so much time and energy into making things better and building healthier communities. Some of them have been doing this work for many years and some of them are brand new to this work – or at least this field – and they are passionate, committed, and on a mission to create some serious change. If any of you who were there at TAASA today are reading this blog, thank you for making it easier for me to hope.
In an effort to spread some more hope, I encourage anyone reading this blog to read the blog at this link. Talk about an inspiring individual. She gives me hope and I hope she will do the same for you.
Once you have a chance to read this blog, let us know who brings you hope. Who makes you believe that we can rid our communities of violence and oppression. Who do you know that strives to connect with other people in meaningful and authentic ways and who tries to promote equity. It is important from time to time that we recognize those people who give us hope, lest our hope be extinguished by violence, inequity, and isolation.
Each year, in the weeks leading up to the Super Bowl, a fiery debate is re-kindled regarding human trafficking. Some assert that during Super Bowl week incidences of sex trafficking increase exponentially in the city, and surrounding areas, where the Super Bowl is being played. There are claims of tens of thousands of sex and labor slaves, many of whom are children, being imported to meet the huge increase in demand created by the hyper-masculine crowd that infiltrates the Super Bowl’s host city each year. Many, including Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott, say that the Super bowl is the “single largest human trafficking incident in the United States”.
Others argue that these claims are unsubstantiated. They insist that there is no data that supports claims of increased trafficking – especially not to the scale that is being touted by those on the other side of the debate. Essentially they say that these claims are nothing more than urban legend.
Media outlets pitch both sides with outlandish headlines that further polarize the issue. Special interest groups, politicians, religious leaders, and the like all chip in their two cents. The result is a messy distraction from the stark reality that human trafficking in and of itself is a huge problem. Arguing about whether or not it is worse at any given time is a red herring that diverts attention from the fact that women, men, and children are being trafficked 365 days a year in our own backyards.
The good news for the 2014 Super Bowl is the New York/New Jersey area is doing what they can to prepare for the worst in terms of human trafficking. Local law enforcement, various trafficking coalitions, and advocates in the area are redoubling efforts to educate bars and clubs, hotels, restaurants, etc. on the tell-tale signs of a person being trafficked as well as making it more difficult for traffickers to operate. This is necessary work, but they are supply side strategies being used to address a demand side problem. If we truly hope to put an end to human trafficking, we also have to find strategies that eliminate the demand for sex and labor slaves. A good place to start would be to teach boys and men (men make up the vast majority of slavery consumers) to view women and children as fully human as opposed to objects that exist to fulfill a need. We must challenge gender stereotypes that create the expectation that men be dominant, aggressive and hyper-sexual. We must work to end oppression and work for social justice wherever it exists. If we don’t engage in those demand side strategies, we will continue to be “stuck in traffick”.
Jeanne Clery’s rape and murder in her dorm room in 1986 catapulted a federal law known as the Clery Act. This act requires all institutions participating in federal financial aid programs to keep and disclose crime statistics on college campuses. “One out of five women on college campuses will be sexually assaulted during her college years. Despite federal laws created to protect students, colleges and universities have failed to protect women from this epidemic of sexual assault.”(1). Adding insult to injury, the topic of “drunk sex” clouds the reality and begs the question, misunderstood drunk guy? Or serial rapist?
“The assumption that men who commit sexual assault on a college campus have made a one-time, bad decision is wrong,” says psychologist David Lisak. “We know the vast majority of rapes are never reported or prosecuted.” Dr. Lisak then set out to find and interview “undetected rapists” – men who’ve committed sexual assault and have never been charged or convicted. Lisak’s subjects included over 2,000 male college students. The questionnaire examined the subject’s propensity to rape including queries such as, “Have you ever had sexual intercourse with someone, even though they did not want to, because they were too intoxicated [on alcohol or drugs] to resist your sexual advances?” Or, “Have you ever had sexual intercourse with an adult when they didn’t want to because you used physical force [twisting their arm, holding them down, etc.] if they didn’t cooperate?” The results were alarming yet provided insight into this type of rapist. “They are very forthcoming,” Lisak says. “In fact, they are eager to talk about their experiences. They’re quite narcissistic as a group – the offenders – and they view this as an opportunity to brag.”(2)
Lisak found similarities between incarcerated rapists (studied more often) and the undetected rapists (college subjects). In both groups, many are serial rapists. Both undetected and incarcerated rapists preyed on vulnerability and used alcohol as a weapon. “If you can get a victim intoxicated to the point where she’s coming in and out of consciousness, or she’s unconscious – and that is a very, very common scenario – then why would you need a weapon? Why would you need a knife or a gun?”(2)
The reality is that the most common form of sexual assault is non-stranger rape. And it plagues college campuses and communities as a whole. Awareness and prevention efforts should focus on deconstructing the myths surrounding the “undetected” rapists.
So…misunderstood drunk guy? Or serial rapist? Based on the evidence, you tell me.
The holidays are filled with mixed emotions for me. On one hand, I love it because I get to spend some extra time with my family, eat some really great food, watch a lot of football (lifelong Cowboys fan…I can’t help it) and spend some time reflecting on the things in my life for which I am grateful.
On the other hand I loathe it because this is the time of year that consumerism runs on all eight cylinders with a nitrous boost. Everybody is spending money they don’t have on things they don’t need (or sometimes want) so that we can show someone just how much we love them. Our television screens, magazines, newspapers, radio stations, and websites are jam-packed with ads for the latest, hottest, fanciest, and best products that money can buy. And don’t forget the stores. The stores make it so easy for us, don’t they? Mega deals, door busters, all-nighters, early birds, BOGOs, free shipping, and prices so low you have to see them to believe them.
Somehow we’ve lost sight of what the holiday season is all about (and I don’t mean in the religious sense). We get blinded by the holiday-industrial-complex blizzard. We forget that the season is supposed to be about family, selflessness, caring, and appreciation. Instead, many of us focus on what we are going to get rather than what we already have or what we can give to others.
To remedy this in my own life, I decided a few years ago that I would no longer ask for or expect gifts for the holidays. Instead, I asked my family and friends to make a donation of time or money to an organization that is working to improve people’s lives in some way. I urged them to give to their local rape crisis centers, shelters, food banks, soup kitchens, etc. so that the support would go to help people in their own communities who need it.
I have to admit most of my family and friends did not know how to respond. I think a number of them didn’t believe me. I heard things like “yeah…but what to you REALLY want?” and “if you don’t tell me what you want I will just buy something anyway”. Many ended up doing just that, but some did simply make meaningful donations to some wonderful organizations. And you know what? It felt great! In fact, I hadn’t felt that good on Christmas morning since I was a little boy.
So, in the spirit of the season, consider asking your friends and family to give to a local organization that is working to improve the lives of others in lieu of giving you gifts. Put your own wants aside and see what it is like to just help someone else this year. At first it may feel like you are missing out, but in the end you will be getting something much more valuable than anything on your wish list.
Like many, I love the holiday season. It’s a great time of year to visit with loved ones, get some much needed rest, and give (and receive) gifts. As you begin to think about what gifts you plan on exchanging with your friends, family members, loved-ones, classmates and co-workers, I thought I would share some gift suggestions for the men in your life.
Reading is one of my favorite things to do, so books are always at the top of my list of gifts to give and receive. Three new books I would recommend are Leading Men: Presidential Campaigns and the Politics of Manhood by Jackson Katz, Man Up: Reimagining Modern Manhood by Carlos Andres Gomez and Voice Male: The Untold Story of the Pro-Feminist Men’s Movement edited by Rob Okun. These books allow men to explore masculinity from various perspectives.
Give a t-shirt. It’s a simple way for men to share the message of non-violence and healthy masculinity, as well as support survivors. Voices of Men sells one of my favorite t-shirts, while the NoMore Campaign has t-shirts and other products with a powerful new symbol aimed at raising awareness of domestic and sexual violence. For the musicians in your life, check-out the 1BlueString Store for t-shirts and a few other gift ideas.
Make a donation to your local rape crisis center in the name of a man in your life. Making this type of donation will inspire these men to continue donating their time and money to these organizations. Also, consider giving a TAASA membership. An annual membership supports TAASA’s efforts to end sexual violence in Texas.
Subscriptions to Magazines
In place of giving the guys in your life a subscription to a contemporary men’s magazine, give them an annual subscription to a magazine, like Voice Male or Rad Dad instead. Both will help to inspire, challenge, and transform their relationships.
Finally, one of the greatest gifts that we can give is our time. Commit to spending time with the boys and men in your life by being a Bro Model, becoming a coach, serving as a mentor with Big Brothers or volunteering with Watch D.O.G.S..
As you continue to look for the perfect gift for the men in your life, ask yourself: does the gift I’m giving challenge traditional notions of masculinity, or does it reinforce strict gender norms? And, whatever you decide, make your giving memorable and meaningful. Give a gift of healthy masculinity.
Pscht!!! Blub-blub-blub-blub-blub-blub. Gulp. Gulp. AAAAAHHHHHH!!!!
Beer, one could argue, is the great Texas pastime. According to the Beer Institute (yes there is an institute for beer) Texans, who annually rank in the top ten for consumption, guzzled down a whopping 620 million gallons in 2012 alone. At roughly $10 per gallon it is easy to see that beer is big business in the Lone Star state. With the emergence of a robust and rapidly expanding craft beer industry in Texas, competition, from Texarkana to Terlingua, is fierce.
Historically, the lion’s share of the beer market has gone to the “Big Three” of Anheuser-Busch, Miller, and Coors. They account for about 80% of all the beer sold in the United States. The rest is divvied up between every other brand you can think of plus hundreds more you may not know exist (did you know there are over 80 breweries currently operating in Texas?).
However, Texas craft brewers are not standing pat and settling for scraps from the Big Three’s table. The Texas craft beer market will surpass 1 billion dollars in economic impact in the next year or so and conservative estimates project that number to rise to 5.5 billion by the year 2020. Volume shares for craft breweries are also sharply on the rise. A “coup de hops”, it seems, is indeed brewing. However, every successful coup has clear leadership and the Texas craft brewers are currently jockeying for position.
Enter Dallas’ Deep Ellum Brewery. Deep Ellum recently made a bold marketing move that has created quite a controversy. To promote their new blonde ale, owner John Reardon and his marketing team decided to call it “Dallas Blonde” and gave it a tag line of “Goes Down Easy”. Here is a picture of the packaging:
It didn’t take long the critics to belly up to the bar. The first came from Genevieve Cato from the Burnt Orange Report and it is a must read. She, and others, pointed out that this lazy and well-worn marketing ploy promotes a rape culture. Reardon responded to Cato and other critics, in knee-jerk fashion, on Deep Ellum’s blog and social media sites. He completely dismissed the criticism by more or less saying that it is just a joke and that the critics are the ones who made it about rape culture. He even went as far as to scold his critics by saying “shame on you” for even bringing it up.
This brings me to the point of this article (thanks for bearing with me). Lots of people, Reardon and his team included, don’t understand the meaning Read more