On Being

by Anonymous.

“Who hurt you?”

He was the first and only one that has asked, we were in the middle of it and frankly I had been enjoying it. It was one of those moments when I had left my body and another from the past had come to inhabit it.

He is also troubled; I know he has also been hospitalized. When I stayed over he gave me socks because my feet were cold. They were the yellow ones with the white stuff at the bottom to prevent you from slipping. The same socks I had worn at Duke’s psychiatric ward years ago.

Years. Funny how I can say “years”, but if you think about it I’m only here for four.

Maybe only people with mental track records can tell when trauma seeps into the cracks of your ordinary life and leaves you performing breathlessly while the self seeks to reconcile the past to the present.


After what happened, I felt robbed, I felt sexless, genderless, less human, less alive, less.

I knew that if I didn’t reclaim my sexuality I would be lost forever. My mental state was beyond my reach but my body, the thing I had been left with, that I had to save.

I was robbed of my first. When it happened, I was what you would call a virgin. Afterwards and went I came to college, I decided to reclaim what was mine. Resigned forever to acknowledge that I would never have a “first time”.

I became comfortable with my body but it was excruciating. It took me more strength that I could muster to not become petrified, to not make the guiltless gentleman of turn uncomfortable by a sudden panic attack.

I battled mercilessly with my body, with my femininity, with the act of sex. I won.

I made it so that in bed I feel in control, I made it so that my bed is my space, my domain, my niche. These are my rules, but this is not a game. I’m not an object and if anyone makes me feel used, then we have a problem.

Being comfortable does not mean feeling beautiful, and feeling in control does not mean I feel empowered. Those are terms I would like humanity to stop using. Feeling empowered implies that there was or is a power dynamic between the actors. That someone might have less power at some point. I oppose beauty because beautiful is something that I was before it happened. I don’t think my body is beautiful but sometimes I do feel good about it. Believing I was beautiful just harmed me in the long run. There is no such thing as beauty, there just is. Being.

I also had to debunk a lot of myths that my past self had been subjected to. Since I had been condemned to inhabit a new body I decided to dissect my self, to adapt her to a new way of life.

My body was God’s before being mine. My body was a home before being mine. My body was female before being mine. My body was and was and was. Sex without love was a sin. Sex was impure if it was not for reproductive purposes. Above all, sex before marriage was prohibited.

had no such choice about that, but if I had had it I would have probably had sex before it anyway. Banalities of life.

My body is mine. In fact, I’m mind first and body second, I inhabit my body, me, my self. Sex is an act like any other. Sex is like going to the bathroom, sex is like going for a meal, sex is like talking to people at a bar, sex is just sex. It is devoid of meaning, we do it because we feel like it, and because sometimes we need it.

The guilt was the hardest thing to shake off. Guilt for what happened to my body, guilt for not being a virgin anymore, guilt for having left my mind trapped inside a structure that was being pummeled and then sieged. Then I felt guilt for what my mind did to my body, for what I did to my body. Look at yourself. Look down and look at yourself.

I will never feel guilt anymore. Not when I please myself, not when I please others, and not when others please me. Guilt has no place between my body and my mind, guilt is not welcome. I will never be made to choose between who I am and what I inhabit. I am mine.

I have only made love to one person. I do believe you can ‘make’ love to someone. Love is when sex ceases to be an act, when you stop performing, when you can’t call it sex because it was not sex. I’ve made love and I’ve had sex with the same person. Sadly, I have also made love to him while he only had sex with me. Eventually we both ended right how we started: just having sex. It’s fine. It happens, but now I know the difference. My body physically knows the difference while my mind plays catch up all the time. But I’m getting better at it. Indifference is a talent you have to work hard for.

One thing I will never get used to: sleeping with someone else. Doesn’t mean that I don’t like it, I enjoy the warmth, the intimacy, the rawness. However, this has bothered me since I was a child. How could you ever sleep with someone for the rest of your life if you must sleep with yourself too? When people say, “Oh one day you wake up and you don’t even know who is lying in bed next to you” they are saying nothing but the truth. Worse is when sometimes you don’t know who you are when you wake up. I’m not concerned with the physicality of things, as long as you stay on your side of the bed. I’m just frustrated that no matter how close your body is to mine, my self will never touch yours, I will never know you, just the one you inhabit. Paranoia.

That’s why I believe in making love. Not because our selves can magically “touch” or “become one and the same”, that’s some real bullshit. I believe in making love because it is in that moment where what is physical and what is mental gets blurred. They collapse, they don’t matter. I’m not a self, I’m not a body, I’m nothing. I’m just making love, I’m feeling, I’m making, I’m just an instance. Regardless of whether you are loving me too, I’m just being.

Also published on - http://getthestandard.com/scoop/episode-5/

Misogynistic Lessons from my Sexual Partners

In late September, I sat with one of my freshman teammates over dinner as she told me of her latest escapades. Winding down, a stern look fell upon her face and she asked me “When I hook up with guys in college, why does it feel like they automatically have all the power?”. My heart sank at the reality that she had not even been here one month and had already had experiences that made her recognize the subordinating power structures that lie within college campus hook-up culture. In a perfect world, young women would be free to engage in casual sex that is safe, respectful, and empowering. Nonetheless, hook-up culture does not occur in a vacuum, and no matter how sex-positive and empowered you are, it often does not come without consequences. In my time in college, I’ve learned that there is no better place for sexism to rear its ugly head than in a culture of casual sexual relations, or what we call hook-up culture. I’ve had a plethora of terrible experiences with men, many for which I’ve excused, and many that I have in common with other women here. This year (under the intense pressure of my best friends), I vowed to not make excuses for men who have not treated me as I deserve. I hope to use my stories to shine light on the sexism that occurs in hook-up culture, to normalize discourse about casual sex, especially for young women, and of course, for a good laugh.




The Golden Key


I was lying in bed with who I’ll call Tommy, discussing our history at school with romantic and sexual partners. He promptly inquired as to what my body count was, and I laughed and retorted that body count is a regulatory mechanism to suppress and shame female sexuality. Nonetheless, in the spirit of sex-positivity and empowerment, I felt I had nothing to be ashamed of and shared it with him. Tommy looked at me with disgust and informed that mine was higher than his, before nearly yelling at me, “why didn’t you tell me?”. I responded to him saying that it was truly none of his business, and all that mattered was that relations were safe and consensual. Huffing and puffing, he brilliantly informed me that “You don’t want a lock that will open with any key”. I quickly learned that this guy might just be too smart for me, so I promptly kicked him out of my room. Today, I thank Tommy for teaching me the extent to which sexual double standards are still alive and kicking as well as how keys work.




The Three-Hit Wonder


One fine Saturday at Shooters, I ran who I’ll call Chad, who I had been hooking up with as of late. Shooting my shot, I asked him if he wanted to hang out later. He looked at me apprehensively, gave me a “maybe”, and walked away. I few hours later we were sitting on his couch and I asked why he’d acted so strange earlier. He then clued me in on a little secret. Smirking, he told me “I don’t tend to hook up with girls more than three times. After that, girls want to date.” First, I thanked him for letting me know, since I had no idea that’s how I felt. He explained to me that “Since you’re not in a sorority, you’re more chill with keeping it casual”. From Chad, I learned that it’s possible to nail all women’s brains down to a science, and most importantly, that I’m SO not like other girls.






The Precarious Manhood


This past summer, I was kissing this guy who I’ll call Henry, who I had on a crush on and had been shamelessly flirting with for two years. Upon asking him if he’d caught onto my efforts, he responded that yes, he had. The catch, he informed me, was that he has a fragile sense of his own masculinity and feels threatened by my confidence and empowerment. While this wasn’t what I wanted to hear, I still thought it was funny that I was my empowerment made men fear me. After a few more minutes of kissing, Henry pulled away and told me that he’d always been extremely attracted to me. However, there was another catch. He told me that he felt uncomfortable being attracted to me because I’m thick. This one stung. It wasn’t that I wasn’t aware of my body, or that I thought every guy was attracted to me. It was that being attracted to me could be such a source of shame for someone. It was clear that that no matter how much I fight the pressure to make myself small in both the sense of my size and personality, this will always threaten men as well as make me a target of their criticism. I learned that there is apparently such a thing as “too empowered”, and also that I am not in fact thin! Thank you Henry, very cool.




The Big Relationship Guy


After a mediocre hook-up with a guy who I’ll call Rick one night, he made me swear to secrecy. I didn’t really care or question it, I informed him that he certainly wasn’t bragging material and I didn’t see myself boasting about him anyway. So sure, I wouldn’t tell anyone. The next day, I clicked his Instagram, and saw a female name in all caps with a lock emoji next to it in his bio. I asked around until I had found out he had a long-distance girlfriend of three years. I’ve never had a relationship as long as Rick’s, so I can learn a thing or two from him, first and foremost that adultery is the hallmark of a healthy, committed relationship. 




The Beauty Sleeper


I lay curled up in bed with who I’ll call Mason at 3:45 AM, watching the pounding rain hit the window and appreciating the warmth of another body and a pile of blankets shielding us from the cold. His voice abruptly broke the sound of the music that was lulling me to sleep. “Hey, I have to be up early for rush and I’m not sure I’m ready for you to sleep in my bed.” I went off on him, reminding him of the reality of the time, the temperature, the pouring rain, and the fact that he should have thought about that before he decided to be intimate with me. Thanks to Mason, I learned that it doesn’t matter if a guy has been sliding into your DMs for two years, he needs his rest to gear up for his day full of drinking and debauchery with the boys.

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The Runner


One night, I hooked up with a guy who I’ll call Kevin and he slept over in my bed. When I woke up, he was gone. Luckily, he’d been kind enough to inform me of his departure via a Snapchat story at 6 am, which was a picture of my bare back with the caption “Gotta run”.

Maybe he had a strict running regimen to kick off his Sunday morning, good on him! From Kevin, I was inspired to start a Sunday morning workout routine.






Nobel Peace Prize Winner Nadia Murad Speaks at Duke

I had the pleasure of attending a talk held at Duke University on Monday evening, featuring Nobel Peace Prize Winner Nadia Murad. Whilst the words below are not my own, they provide a great overview of Nadya’s insights and thoughts. I was blown away by her presence and work to spread her and the Yazidi community’s message on the global stage. Read the excerpt below from Duke’s Sanford School of Policy, and understand why Nadya left such a strong impression on me and many other of the attendees. - Phoebe


Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Nadia Murad sat down with Sanford School Dean Judith Kelley on Monday to discuss her work on behalf of the Yazidi people after the attempted genocide by Islamic State (ISIS) forces.

She spoke to more than 600 people at Penn Pavilion with the assistance of fellow activist and translator Abid Shamdeen. The talk was part of the Crown Lecture Series in Ethics.

Murad is a survivor of the August 2014 genocidal attack by ISIS on her hometown, Kocho, in northern Iraq. She was captured and forced into slavery.

Since her escape she has become a leading advocate for her people and against the use of sexual violence in war. Earlier this month, Murad was named a joint 2018 Nobel Peace Prize winner with Congolese physician Denis Mukwege.

The primary homeland of the Yazidi people was in the Sinjar region. “Yazidis were a small minority, and we couldn’t hold executive positions, or have our own security in our community.”  

Murad described her small village as one where there was only one school, and the road was finally paved in 2013. Most of the villagers were farmers, and it was a close-knit community.

“If there was a wedding, all would attend the wedding and it would be held outside,” she said.

“There were 200 families, and we all lived in big families,” she said. Her own family had 21 people and were very close.

She described what happened to her people in 2014, when ISIS forces invaded.

“They didn’t attack Christians. They were given a choice -- they could pay a fee or leave. But when ISIS attacked Yazidis, we were considered infidels and they wanted to eliminate us. Women were killed or captured and made into sexual slaves,” she said.

Many people fled to Mount Sinjar, and were able to escape into Syria with the aid of U.S. troops, but the people of her village were not able to escape.

“They shot the men and old people and took women and children captive. People were buried in 40 mass graves around the village,” Murad said.

Close to 5,000 people were killed on the same day, including Murad’s mother and six of her brothers. More than 3,000 of those taken are still being held captive, she said.

The Yazidi people are now scattered, with 80,000 in Europe, and survivors in Australia, Germany and Canada. More than 350,000 still live in refugee camps.

“What we fear is we might lose our identity if we lose our homeplace,” Murad said.

About 65,000 Yazidi have returned and resettled in Iraq. The religious leaders decided that the women and girls who are return from captivity must be reintegrated and respected.

“This is a courageous decision for that region. ISIS propaganda told the women that if they went back, they would be killed or prosecuted, but we wanted to make sure our women know that is not true,” she said.

Getting action from world leaders has been challenging, she said.

“Not just me, but other women have spoken out, but so far we have not seen an ISIS member in court for their crimes,” Murad said.  “Speaking about what happened to me and to the Yazidi, it is not easy to do, but it is not only my own story,” she said.

Other groups, such as Al-Qaeda and Boko Haram also have used sexual violence as a weapon of war, also with no consequences, she said.

“I don’t consider myself to be strong. Because I am doing this work, most of the time I fear -- I fear for myself and those who work for me. I fear this will happen again, and we women, must speak up simply because we are the victims,” said Murad.

Murad expressed mixed feelings about receiving the Nobel Peace Prize. When she heard the news, she realized “I would not be able to have a simple life,” she said.  “My dream was to have a salon and to do makeup for weddings,” she said. That life was taken from her, she said.


During the Q & A period, an audience member asked, “What is the next big thing for you?”

“Marrying me,” said Shamdeen, breaking out of his role of translator and earning a laugh from the crowd. The couple became engaged in August. He is the co-director of Nadia’s Initiative, a nonprofit that advocates for women and minorities and assists communities in crisis. He served as a translator for the U.S. Army during the war in Iraq.

Another audience question was “How do you define peace?”

“For me, peace is when people sit together and don’t ask, ‘What is your religion?’, when women are not lower… Peace is when we accept each other,” Murad said.

Murad tells her story in the memoir, The Last Girl: My Story of Captivity, and My Fight Against the Islamic State. She is also the subject of a new documentary, “On Her Shoulders.”

Before winning the Nobel Peace Prize, Nadia received the Vaclav Havel Human Rights Prize, the Sakharov Prize, the Clinton Global Citizen Award and the Peace Prize from the United Nations Association of Spain. She also was named the United Nation’s first Goodwill Ambassador for the Dignity of Survivors of Human Trafficking.

'Rapists have no place on the supreme court. Kavanaugh's accuser must be heard.'

The recent news that Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh had been accussed of sexual assault was followed by announcement that University Professor Christine Blasey Ford was willing to testify in court against the Senator.

The following piece from the Guardian’s Jill Filipovic is an important analysis of what this story means for the administration, and the steps they should take to to ‘stop the administration from ruining what makes our democracy so admirable: fair, predictable and transparent processes’.

what’s next for Brett Kavanaugh? The US supreme courtnominee’s path to the bench has been stalled by accusations that he tried to rape a girl when they were both in high school; that girl, now a professor in her 50s, initially tried to tell her story anonymously, but put her name to the charges when it became clear she was going to be outed anyway. Senate Republicans faced a quandary on Monday: reopen the Kavanaugh hearings and allow the woman to testify, potentially torpedoing his nomination and convincing more moderate Republicans to vote against him; pull his nomination entirely and start over with someone new, running the risk that they lose the Senate to Democrats in the coming months and see any far-right nomination rendered impossible; or push Kavanaugh’s nomination forward and inevitably see significant blowback at the polls in November.

The Republican party doesn’t have a lot of good options. But they did the right thing and announced on Monday that they will reopen the hearings so that Kavanaugh and his accuser can testify before the judiciary committee next Monday.

 Will sexual assault allegations against Kavanaugh derail his confirmation?

Christine Blasey Ford, the woman who wrote the initial letter to her congresswoman and California senator Dianne Feinstein alleging Kavanaugh assaulted her when she was a teenager, says she is willing to testify about her experience. Kavanaugh has offered a full denial, saying: “I have never done anything like what the accuser describes – to her or to anyone.”

It is in the best interests of this process to fully air the accusations, with both Ford and Kavanaugh under oath. He is, after all, vying for a lifetime appointment to the highest court in the land, and so far, his confirmation process has been remarkably opaque and disturbingly superficial. Unlike supreme court justice Elena Kagan, who worked for the Clinton administration and released all of her White House communications during her confirmation process, Kavanaugh has not allowed a full look into his time working in the Bush White House. He was appointed by a president who may yet be indicted himself and who continues to preside over the country under a cloud of suspicion, deception and criminality. And now, he stands accused of attempted rape.

The Trump administration has already undermined American confidence in so many of our institutions, and they seem to be gunning for democracy itself. The Kavanaugh hearings are a crucial moment for members of both parties to put a stop to this administration’s habit of running roughshod over the very thing that makes our democracy admirable and functional (if occasionally maddening): fair, predictable and transparent processes.

No one who has committed an act of violence against women should be in a position to make decisions about women’s lives – even if they were a reckless teenager when they attacked a woman; even if they’re very sorry; even if they are good people in myriad other ways. The promise of rehabilitation is always on the table, and people who do terrible things must always have the option of paying for their crimes, atoning fully and reintegrating into society.

It’s not asking too much to say that there should be a hard rule for judges: no rapists (or attempted rapists) allowed

But Brett Kavanaugh isn’t a criminal who has done his time and simply wants to be able to support himself. He’s trying to sit on the highest court in the land. And it’s not asking too much to say that there should be a hard rule for judges: no rapists (or attempted rapists) allowed.

As it stands, we of course don’t know if Kavanaugh is guilty of what Ford says he did. Testimony from both of them will not bring about perfect clarity either. And if this were a criminal case, Kavanaugh would almost certainly walk away being declared not guilty – if charges were brought at all. There simply isn’t much in the way of evidence beyond Ford’s word.


But this isn’t a criminal case, and what’s at stake isn’t the deprivation of Kavanaugh’s life or liberty, but the privilege to hold one of the most important positions in the nation, for which good character and fair treatment of others is necessary. Kavanaugh has trotted out a slew of people attesting to his good character, making it clear that he and his Republican supporters believe who he is as a person is directly relevant to his fitness as a supreme court justice. Ford’s story, if true, would make him flat-out unfit to serve.

Which is why it must be heard, and why senators who believe she’s credible will then have an obligation to vote against Kavanaugh. This is more akin to a very important job interview than a criminal case. Ford’s testimony does not have to prove Kavanaugh guilty beyond a reasonable doubt; it just has to be credible and convincing enough to sway lawmakers.

That is precisely what terrifies Republicans. But they have a duty to do this the right way – their office demands it, voters demand it, and the American democratic process requires it.

My first time crying watching Tennis

I should preface this article by saying that I do not cry easily. In fact, I never cry. At least in public anyway. So, as you can imagine, weeping in a freshmen packed library on a quiet Sunday afternoon was one of my strangest experiences in recent memory.

What did I cry about? A tennis match.

To be clear, I am not a whole heartedly devoted tennis fanatic. (Unless Andy Murray is playing. Then shit gets serious). But this particular game, the US Open Women's Final to be exact, really hit a nerve.


If you haven't read or heard about the results (spoiler alert if you're waiting to watch) 20 year old Naomi Osaka topped Serena Williams to claim the title with a 6-2, 6-4 victory.

As you can guess, this moment was huge for Osaka. Not only is she the first Japanese tennis player to win a Grand Slam singles tournament, but she did it beating her childhood idol. Her win reflected her impeccable performance during the tournament; in seven matches played en route to the title she only dropped one set and a total of 34 games. The presentation ceremony should have been her crowning moment, devoted to this astounding achievement.

But it wasn't. The prize giving, in fact, was marred with constant booing and shouting from the crowd, their disgust stemming from events that had happened relating to Serena and the chair umpire, Carlos Ramos. This is what this match will be remembered for.

In short, what transpired between Williams and Ramos was a series of heated interchanges, sparked by Ramos' initial code allegation that Serena had received coaching during the game from her coach of 6 years, Patrick Mouratoglou, who Ramos claimed was giving her hand signals from the stands. Ramos then deducted a point from Williams for smashing her racket. To top this all off, Ramos finished by deducting an entire game from Williams, citing 'verbal abuse', as Serena had continued to demand an apology from him for incorrectly accusing her of receiving coaching.

Let's be clear, Williams was at no point, in my opinion, verbally abusive. The worst attack she made to Ramos was calling him a 'thief' for deducting points based on the initial accusation; she framed this by saying 'I have never cheated in my life. You owe me an apology'. Watching the highlights shows clearly how she approached the conversation in yes, an emotive and passionate way, but at no point by acting aggressively or violently.

The moment became of vital importance when Serena laid plain the reality of this situation; if she were a man, this would never have happened. 'Do you know how many men do things much worse than that?' she asked the referee during the game, on the edge of tears, 'because I am a woman, you are going to take this away from me?'.

It was at this moment that my tear ducts started to feel a little more heavy than usual. Knowing the journey that Williams has come on to get to this final, coming back from a pregnancy where she almost lost her life giving birth last September, makes it's doubly as hard to watch a woman  have her entire experience tainted by a man who judged her for her instinctive and emotive retaliation.

Such blatant sexism on the part of Ramos robbed not only Serena of this experience, but Osaka too. This can be seen in the fact that during the awards presentation, both players stood in tears. Osaka even went as far as apologising to the crowd;  'I know that everyone was cheering for [Williams] and I'm sorry it had to end like this. I want to say thank you for watching the match.' Despite holding the trophy, she looked visibly depressed, and it's clear why; Osaka will never know if she won this game because she was the better player. There is no one other than Ramos who can be blamed for this.



Williams held herself to the highest standard during these moments; as USTA Chairman and President Katrina Adams so aptly stated below;

"'This was Naomi's moment and Serena wanted her to be able to enjoy it. That was a class move from a true champion. What Serena has accomplished this year in playing her way back on to the tour is truly amazing. She continues to inspire, because she continues to strive to be the best. She owns virtually every page of the record book, but she's never been one to rest on her laurels."

Many others have come out in support for Williams; Billie Jean King tweeted support saying '"When a woman is emotional, she's "hysterical" and she's penalized for it. When a man does the same, he's "outspoken" & and there are no repercussions. Thank you, Serena Williams, for calling out this double standard. More voices are needed to do the same'. Retired US tennis star Andy Roddick also tweeted in support saying, "I've regrettably said worse and I've never gotten a game penalty." I could go on with countless other voices of support, but I think you get the point.

Despite WTA CEO Steve Simon issuing a statement today saying that some gender bias and sexism had occurred in the game, nothing can rectify the pain caused by this experience to both Williams and Osaka. What can change, however, is the fact that women are not being treated equally in the tennis world. Look no further than the penalization of Alize Cornet at the same US Open tournament for fixing her backwards shirt a week ago to know that something is deeply wrong.

So yes, I wept (a little), and if, as Ramos would insinuate, that me reacting in this way makes me an overly emotional woman, then so be it. That was my authentic, humanly response to something I found upsetting.  Just as Williams and Osaka did in that moment. I hope others watch the event and realise why many have reacted in the same vein, and realise that we need to talk about these issues to make change viable. And this change better come, because I don’t want to be quietly weeping in a library again anytime soon.

Written by Phoebe O'Hara

Guardian Article on Boardroom Sexism in the UK

Below is an article reporting on a report to come out today in the UK, making claims that women remain outside of boardrooms because of their own issues. This article tells stories of women who have experienced boardroom sexism but also react to these latest baseless and ignorant comments. Enjoy! 

'There is sexist bias in the boardroom: conscious and unconscious'


As targets are set for increasing the number of women in boardrooms, we hear real-life tales of being a female board member in Britain

  •  ‘There are definitely more challenges for women trying to get on a board.’ 

What proportion of British board members are women? The figures are disappointing (26.1% at FTSE 100 companies and 19.6% at FTSE 250 firms), which is why a target has been set for FTSE 100 firms to have 33% female board members by 2020. But what’s it like for those who have made it in already? We hear confessions from women both in the public and private sector.

‘People commented on my looks, not my capabilities’

I was the only woman of 13 men on the board of a large IT services company, and was on the receiving end of a lot of sexist bias – some conscious but a lot of it unconscious. For example, I experienced inappropriate comments and unsolicited advances from my mainly married peers at board level. Women at all levels experience this, however.

A third of boardroom positions should be held by women, UK firms told

I was quite young when I joined this board – 33 – and many also felt that it was OK to comment on my looks rather than my capabilities. This led me to changing my image to discourage any attention: I wore no makeup and screwed my hair back. I got the position through hard work and building up a good reputation (I had been referred to the chief executive by a senior woman in my previous company) so my looks should never have come into it.

I am not sure men are aware that mentioning how women look makes many of us feel uncomfortable. I really think that they must believe we feel complimented in some way. But instead it makes a lot of women believe that they don’t want to be in that boys’ club and so they are turned off from applying for those positions; they may think that they simply don’t belong in that environment, or are intimidated by it. 

Despite this, it has been my privilege to be the only woman, the group marketing director, on the board of a $1bn company, told by several female employees that they saw me as a role model. That was what really made it for me; that I might have inspired at least one other woman to try.

One of the big issues, certainly in the technology sector, is the unconscious bias of a profile of white male executives in their 50s doing the hiring to boards. For example just today, one of the women that I coach in a large tech company said: “All the managers here are white, middle-aged men. When a woman leaves, she is replaced by a man.” Whether this is true or not, that is her perception. This is a young, university-educated 20-something who is looking desperately for role models. So the key challenge is: who is there for her to look up to, and whose footsteps does she follow in? 
Former female board member of large UK firm, 39

‘The UK is much better than elsewhere in the world’

On the face of it, you would expect the board I sit on (of a public/private initiative in the north), to be horribly sexist. Its shareholders include a council, a university and a telecommunications services company. However, I have never felt that any dialogue, debate or attitude has been influenced by my gender.

I have seen an old boys’ culture in the private sector where men on boards go to things such as rugby, excluding women

In fact, I have experienced less sexism while sitting on boards than I have when pitching for or delivering work. I have also sat on boards abroad, and have seen horrendous sexism and racism elsewhere in the world. I’m actually very proud of the UK and our inclusive society.

While the situation is improving, however, I believe quotas would be a mistake. Women want to feel that they have got something because of their own merit, and being seen as a “quota hire” will undoubtedly, at some point, incentivise a discriminatory comment, such as: “You’re only here because we had to have a woman.”

In order to be taken seriously we, as women, cannot be seen as the victim or a group that needs special attention – we have to prove our worth and stand on our own two feet. Any purposeful and harmful discrimination needs to be dealt with professionally, within the boundaries of the law and governance.
A consultant specialising in technology startups, 45

My board roles are in the public/third sector and on both boards there is a high percentage of women. As a result, perhaps, I have not been aware of any overt discrimination or sexism. I suspect that private sector experiences would be very different. However, I am sure that there is a level of unconscious sexism, and I have no way of knowing if I failed to get other roles because of my gender. Interestingly, I experienced active discrimination at a previous role where women’s efforts to progress to board level were actively blocked, and men’s encouraged.

There are definitely more challenges for women trying to get on a board, including a lack of effective role models throughout the career process. I meet many women who have never thought that a board position could be a possibility, so have not thought about how to structure their career to attain it. (Women also seem to be worse at career planning than men.) We also face bias – conscious or unconscious – in staff development and recruitment. There’s a well-known factor that groups will recruit new group members that they feel comfortable with. This generally means “people like them”. So a predominantly white male board will usually prefer white male candidates. Plus, recruitment methods are often unconsciously biased by the experience of the recruiter.

When I started my career, women were steered towards softer subjects and softer careers, which typically are not represented at board level. Now my cohort and I are reaching the level of seniority to consider board positions, those career choices may hinder advancement to the next level because there isn’t the perceived need for those softer skills at board level. So the pool of suitable candidates has far more men than women. 
Technology director at a public sector organisation, 51

‘There’s a real old boys’ network in the private sector’

The disparity between how women are treated in the public and private sector is massive. I have worked in a FTSE 100 company and also for a public sector organisation in an education role. The private sector follows a law unto itself and women are seen much less on board and senior executive roles. However, moving into the public sector it’s been much more diverse. That’s particularly relevant to the sector I work in.

In the business sector for women who don’t have kids maybe there is less of a difference but the moment you have a child everything changes. At the FTSE company meetings were always held in the evenings, making it hard if you had a caring responsibility.

I now work in a senior role in the education sector and it’s my responsibility to recruit board members. As a mother with three children I am careful to make sure that my meetings are flexible, looking at the best time to try to be family-friendly.

I have also seen an old boys’ network culture in the private sector where men on boards go to things such as the rugby, or out drinking, excluding women – even if you’re working at the same level.

I cannot say I’ve experienced any overt discrimination myself, but I think there is a real reluctance for the private sector to embrace gender diversity in the same way as the public sector. We’ve seen improvements on boards in the public sector – for example, in education, the NHS and police – but the private business world is very slow on the uptake. 
Governance role, 45

One Mans response to #MeToo; #IDidThat

Below is an article written by BBC Journalist Rozina Sini, telling one mans incredible reaction to the #MeToo campaign. 

'I asked if I could kiss her' - one man responds to #MeToo

A writer in India has responded to the #MeToo movement with an admission of his own impropriety towards a woman.

Using the hashtag #IDidThat, Devang Pathak in Mumbai posted: "It wasn't easy to write but here it is. I am sorry and I will do better. #IDidThat".

Devang said he decided to make the public admission after seeing a plea on social media by Rega Jha, the editor of Buzzfeed in India, early on Tuesday morning in which she tweeted:

"I'd love to see a counter trend of men posting 'I'm sorry and I'll do better' if they feel they've ever made a woman uncomfortable, unheard or unsafe. This one's on you, dudes, and yet I still see all the mobilisation and conversational labour being held by woman."

"This has been playing on my mind since the Harvey Weinstein story surfaced as well as the domestic revelations and conversations in India," Devang told the BBC.

"I saw the me too conversation and saw Rega's comment on my timeline. I hope more men share their stories."

The #MeToo movement, which began on social media after a call to action by actress Alyssa Milano on Sunday evening, generated more than 1.3 million tweets by Wednesday morning and hundreds of thousands of posts across Facebook and Instagram, as women and men across the world continue to share stories of the sexual harassment and abuse they've faced.

Similarly #YesAllWomen was tweeted more than a million times following the killing of six people in May 2014, and continues to be used. Both it and the #EverydaySexism campaign have seen spikes in use on social media since Sunday.

Among the responses, there was criticism emerging about why women should feel compelled to share their stories of abuse in order to highlight the magnitude of sexual misconduct.

In the US, Vox writer Liz Plank suggested there should be a shift of the burden from women to men taking accountability for their actions.

Her posts on both Facebook and Twitter ended with the hashtag #HimThough generating 8,000 mentions as the discussion shifts from abuse victims to perpetrators.

A written excerpt from a Ted talk by author and filmmaker Jackson Katz which was being shared before the #MeToo movement began is now being posted with the #HimThough hashtag.

Another term, #HowIWillChange, has generated traction among the #MeToo response hashtags with more than 9,000 tweets, and 6,000 likes on public-facing pages on Facebook, since Tuesday morning.

Australian writer and journalist Benjamin Law used it first in an online thread in which he suggested multiple ways men can change their behaviour, complicit or otherwise.

The #MeToo movement has also spread to other parts of the globe as women and men contribute to the discussion. In Arab countries the hashtags وأنا_كمان# and ‏وانا_ايضا# - which roughly translate to "me too" - have been used mostly on Facebook.

In Italy, in addition to #MeToo, social media users have been posting #quellavoltache which translates to "That time that..." to describe a situation in which women and men have felt harassed or abused. It has generated more than 11,000 tweets since Milano's post.

In Germany #IchAuch ("me too") is generating stories of harassment and in France users have been sharing the hashtag #Balancetonporc which translates to "rat on your dirty old man" to encourage women to name and shame their attackers.

And actors and filmmakers in Nigeria's film industry have told the BBC's Pidgin language service how they have tried to push back against sexual harassment in Nollywood.

You know what, #MeToo. And Harvey, fuck you.

The fallout following the Harvey Weinstein allegations has been endless, with the tag #MeToo appearing far and wide across all social media platforms. What astounded me most was the shear number of people on my Facebook feed who shared this status and thus, an experience of sexual assault or harassment. These women are of all ages, from scores of different countries, and different backgrounds. Yet these differences fade away in the face of such experiences. 

One of the most memorable articles I read is entitled 'Literally, Why Can't I Say Me Too?' (link here). Ruckh's piece publicises many thoughts that are usually limited to the private sphere. Her piece explains that despite a string of personal experiences of sexual assault and harassment, she still could not bring herself to share the #MeToo status. Her explanation follows (it is a long excerpt but it is worth the read);

'Yet I found that I couldn’t say it. And at the time of this writing, I still struggle to say it. Not because it’s not true. And not even because I find these things hard to talk about. I’ll talk to anyone about any experience. I’m an open book. I just…somehow…feel like my experiences weren’t “bad enough” to say #MeToo. I’ve mostly recovered from all of this. I don’t think about any of it too often or feel too deeply affected by any of it long-term. I don’t feel like a victim. And because I don’t feel like a victim, I struggle to call my experiences what they really are: indecent exposure to a child, assault, rape, abuse.

I feel guilty using those words. I feel like I’m being dramatic. Or desperate to be part of a conversation for attention. I feel like I’m exaggerating. And I truly, in my heart, can’t figure out if I am. I can’t and don’t trust my own judgment with the severity of less-than-pleasant occurences that have happened in my life. It’s never been a matter of me thinking people wouldn’t “believe me.” It’s been an issue that I barely “believe” myself. And I don’t know what that says about me.

But I do know this: my attitude, my feelings, and my self-doubt are part of the problem. I consider myself to generally be a strong, educated, feminist woman with a decent platform where my voice can be heard. Yet I have trouble identifying these things, and further excuse them when they happen to me. That’s not good. It doesn’t have to be “bad enough” for it to count. And regardless of whether I’m comfortable or you’re comfortable saying #MeToo, we all need to admit that we have a problem.' 

I resonate with Ruckh's public admission over her private anxieties very strongly. This past year has presented me with many a situation whereby close friends have been on both sides of a sexual assault or harassment case. Such events throw my beliefs and opinions in limbo every time, as case by case, I realise that sexual assault and harassment is never black and white. As I have had to except that each case will present a different learning point for me about sexual norms and how they must be tackled, I find solace in Ruckh's closing line 'regardless of whether I’m comfortable or you’re comfortable saying #MeToo, we all need to admit that we have a problem.' And yes, although the huge amounts of women currently sharing their story and the #MeToo shocks me, I again take solace in the fact that women are now bravely sharing their stories and empowering one another's voice in due course. 

To the women that shared this status, thank you for your bravery. You have truly blown me away by revealing the true extent of the problem at hand, and shown just how little dialogue or discussion there is about these events. From these stories, I now realise how they must be learnt from, and used to understand how best we tackle this issue that is evidently endemic in today's society. 

At EmpowerHerVoice, news like this only drives us in the pursuit of our goals. We believe that by creating platforms enabling women to speak publicly about these sorts of issues, we can truly begin to learn about and address these social issues. 

We have upcoming talks at the university campuses of Oxford and Duke, so if you would like make use of either platform to speak about a topic of your choice, email empowerhervoice@gmail.com with your information. Additionally, if you would like to share your #MeToo story, we will be posting highlights on this Stories page and our Instagram.

Thanks for reading, and Harvey, fuck you. 

Written by Phoebe O'Hara

North Carolina - The State Where No Doesn't Really Mean No.

For some, this may just be another case of sexual misconduct in the US. But when I read about the North Carolinian law that essentially states that women cannot change their consent to sex once intercourse has begun, I was utterly, entirely gobsmacked. 

I go to university in North Carolina, so reading about this legal loophole struck a personal chord with me. 

I just couldn't get my head around it. My closest associations with the state are with that of my forward thinking open minded peers, not a misogynistic legal system so outdated that you think it would be from a 16th century archive on legislation. 

The law has come to light after 19 year old Aaliyah Palmer reported to law enforcement in Fayetteville, North Carolina, that she had been raped. She explained how things had begun OK, but when the man began tearing out her hair she demanded he stop. He didn't. 

And the person who committed the act? Not arrested. Nor charged. Palmer speculates that this is because it is difficult to prove that he penetrated her multiple times after her repeatedly saying no. 

Fayetteville Police have now confirmed these findings - that there is insufficient evidence to for this to substantiate as a rape case. 

And as if this treatment wasn't horrific enough for Palmer to endure, it has now emerged that four men filmed the attack on their phones and posted it online. Palmer says she now faces the reality that some of her own classmates may have seen the video, especially as it was circulated on Snapchat over a short period. 

This trauma has lead to Palmer becoming depressed and anxious, meaning she cannot attend class out of fear of what others might think or say on the incident, so much so that she withdrew from her university this Spring. 

The aggravating thing is that such an outdated law is having such serious implications in legal cases right now. Besides Palmer, another woman, Amy Guy, who was raped by her husband in a violent attack, could not have him prosecuted for his crimes because of the law. Legal situations like these show that change in societal discourse on rape, sex and consent mean nothing without a legal backbone to enforce them. We can comment on and discuss things like this until the cows come home, but until there are serious legislative repercussions for this kind of behaviour, no changes will be made.  

So there it is, North Carolina; the only state where no doesn't really mean no. 

But, victims like Palmer are being fought for by Senator Jeff Jackson, who recently introduced a bill that would allow consent for vaginal intercourse to be withdrawn at any time during the act. The bill has been stuck in committee waiting to be voted on since 2015, yet Jackson applauds those raising awareness on the issue who have made it a main issue in national coverage. 

Palmer's encounter shows that still there are so many lessons to be learnt about how legislation and societal discourse on rape, sex and consent must mirror one another to ensure that no case like hers can be undermined again. 

Here at EHV, we applaud and support Palmer for being brave enough to  name herself publicly to raise awareness of this issue. We stand with her, and Senator Jackson, as they fight for a change that should have happened years ago. 

Let us know your thoughts on this in comments below, or submit your own story in our dashboard.

Written by Phoebe O'Hara

Rape and Reconciliation

Like many of us out there, I am a sucker for a good TED talk. Coupled with my addiction to podcasts, this means that TED podcasts have become my recent drug of choice. 

I usually leave a TED podcast with an incredibly heightened sense of optimism about my day - I feel as if I can conquer the world equipped with my tool-box of TED talk tips. 

The podcast for this week however, really made me think. And not in a satisfying way; this episode was not a soothing cure, or explanation that would satisfy a personal irk. Everything about the story was uncomfortable, unfamiliar.  

The talk featured Thordis Elva and Tom Stranger, and is entitled 'Our story of rape and reconciliation'. (link here

I can't adequately reproduce the story or the emotion behind it, so I encourage you to watch the video to get the full experience. However in short, it features a rape victim and her rapist on stage explaining their reconciliation of events years after it took place. 

What I find so potent is the manner in which they both talk about their meeting; both emphasise what they learnt from the experience, about themselves and one another, and sexual violence as a global pandemic. 

This was no black and white case of attributing blame and moving on, it was an entire process demanding honesty, vulnerability and acceptance. This reminded me that ultimately this issue is a human one, and on a personal intimate level has to be solved as such. Thordis explains that such an experience is unique and shouldn't be prescribed as the solution across the board. Her words, shown below, about the over simplification of the issue, really impacted me for the remainder of the day;

'Given the nature of our story, I know the words that inevitably accompany it — victim, rapist — and labels are a way to organize concepts, but they can also be dehumanizing in their connotations. Once someone's been deemed a victim, it's that much easier to file them away as someone damaged,dishonored, less than. And likewise, once someone has been branded a rapist, it's that much easier to call him a monster — inhuman. But how will we understand what it is in human societies that produces violence if we refuse to recognize the humanity of those who commit it?' 

This resonated with me so strongly; in my own personal life, I have been so quick to judge the perpetrator that I forget that they are all human. There was something that stimulated them to do this, they have their own story and a whole vessel of experiences that have moulded this mindset/  This has made me recognise that I find it difficult to conceive that someone who can commit such an act is as humane as myself, but that is exactly where I fall into the trap of reducing the situation and limiting its potency. 

It is exactly this humanity that must be grabbed onto and used as a tool, on both the small and large scale. Listening to Tom's evocative words on what this experience was for him personally shows that reconciliation is very much a jointed and mutual experience, providing space for both parties to learn and heal. 

The final piece they raise awareness of is something that we at EHV are wholly committed to; making female empowerment both a women's and a mans prerogative. I will leave you with their resounding end to their talk;

"It's about time that we stop treating sexual violence as a women's issue. A majority of sexual violence against women and men is perpetrated by men. And yet their voices are sorely underrepresented in this discussion. But all of us are needed here. Just imagine all the suffering we could alleviate if we dared to face this issue together"

By Phoebe O'Hara

Brazil Gang Rape Victim Gives TV Interview; My Reaction


That was my initial feeling as I read the Sky News report on the 16 year-old who was raped by dozens of men in Rio de Janeiro in May.

The actions of these 30 men sound utterly bestial, like a feeding frenzy. The way she describes their laughter makes it so real, so disturbingly terrifying. (Read article here)

Although the girls' commentary on the lack of legal and political reaction to her case depresses me, the social reaction gives me hope. As the video of the attack became viral, so too did social media backlash and city protests. Rio protestors hung banners and clothing splattered red with 'We are all bleeding' around the city. Photos of the protestors capture their passion and anger. Their blood coloured face paintis especially haunting and tribal, but incredibly effective in reminding us of the brutality of such an act. However, this dark imagery makes me smile, because it gives me hope. Such unity, passion, disgust reminds me that ultimately, no matter the location or race, rape remains an unacceptable act in today's global society.

Another aspect I found interesting was the location in which this crime took place. Favela's in Rio are notoriously deemed too dangerous even for the armed police of Rio de Janeiro to enter. Such a lack of jurisdiction, and the complex social relations that come with gang controlled areas, gives some insight into the lack of female rights present in these favelas.

Further research into the position of women in these societies revealed some shocking statistics. According to the Rio Times, “rape indices went from 1.3 to 4.8 and domestic violence shot up from 27 to 84.6” between 2006 and 2011. Ignacio Cano, head of the Laboratory for the Analysis of Violence at UERJ argues that this could be the result of two things: as the favelas have faced a change in leadership, it could be that residents are more inclined to report crimes to the police. The other option is that now that the drug lords are not present to maintain social order (otherwise known as the “law of the ghetto”), non-lethal crime has gone up. 

How can the position of the female ever be secured without legal support or representation in such a society? The total lack of urban planning and basic public security services place women at an incredible risk. What tools can women be given to empower them in such unfamiliar networks?

One answer has been provided by UN Women, UNICEF and UN-Habitat. They have launched an online website which also works as a smartphone app that brings together information on support services for women and girls who are survivors of violence. I was surprised that the majority of favela populations heavily use mobile technology and computers; with such poor infrastructure I couldn’t imagine technology would be such a norm. Happily thought it is, and it seems to be an effective initiative for a youthful age group.

This has been a great take away for me in terms of our aims and initiatives; digital is an area that we have not yet explored, and perhaps with an app or service EHV could bring female empowerment to a greater and global audience. 


Rape Culture in British Universities

A great article written in the Guardian entitled "Ingrained sexism and lad banter: Why rape culture is still alive at British universities" by Radhika Sanghani. 

At EHV, we recognise the recent improvements made by university campuses directly tackling and creating conversations about rape culture. Clearly however, there is still much more to be done. What this article tells us is that attitudes are already engrained in adolescents in this environment. It is evident that education must begin at a younger age to prevent this culture from thriving. 

Read the article and let us know your thoughts. 

‘Don’t worry darling. It’s rape.’ These words were allegedly spoken by Louis Richardson, the former secretary of Durham Union Society’s debating club, who has been accused of raping and sexually assaulting two students.

His alleged rape victim told a court that he pushed her against a wall and tried to kiss her, before making the ‘rape joke’ when she said she didn’t want to. She said he then raped her at a later date, when she was too drunk to consent.

Richardson, 21, is charged with raping and sexually assaulting her, as well as sexually assaulting another woman twice. He has denied all four charges and his trial, which began this week at Durham Crown Court, continues.

The facts remain in dispute - and are for the jury to decide on - but the case does bring up the recurring issue of rape culture on British university campuses.

Back in 2010, a study by the National Union of Students found that one in seven women experienced a serious physical or sexual assault during their time as a student. The world was, quite rightly, shocked and the topic of sexual harassment and assault on campuses hit the mainstream.

Since then many more studies have proved that rape culture is alive  and well on many uni campuses. I've written articles, on numerous occasions, exposing uncomfortable truths at prestigious British universities.

But, over the last couple of years, dozens of consent classes and workshops have sprung up around the UK.

Oxford and Cambridge became the first universities to run compulsory consent classes for undergraduates in 2014; in 2015 freshers at Bristol were given a consent quiz when they arrived; and independent organisations, such as the Good Lad Workshop, have grown - holding 150 workshops in 2014.

Has rape culture diminished?

There’s definitely a greater sense of awareness around campus rape culture and the rising number of consent classes is clearly a positive step.

But has anything actually changed? Have these workshops led to safer universities for women, or is this a case of too much talk and not enough action?

"There’s a bit of a postcode lottery if you end up at a university that does a lot of this or absolutely nothing.” Nicole Westmarland

“There’s way more awareness, a lot more people are engaging pro-actively and productively with the issue,” says Dave Llewellyn, founder of the Good Lad Workshop. “But we shouldn’t we resting on our laurels thinking the issue is over. There’s still a lot more to do.”

Statistics suggest just that. A 2015 Telegraph study  - one of the most recent to look at sexual harassment at universities - found one in three UK female students have been victims of sexual assault or unwanted advances, with one per cent of all students saying they had been raped while at university.

Professor Nicole Westmarland, co-director of Durham University's Centre for Research into Violence, thinks the biggest problem with the current drive towards awareness-raising and consent classes is a lack of cohesion:

“It’s not being done at the moment in a strategic way. It’s universities picking and choosing, and there’s a bit of a postcode lottery if you end up at a university that does a lot of this or absolutely nothing.”

Natalie James, women’s officer at UCLU (the University College London Union), agrees: “It depends what uni you go to. In London universities there’s a lot of activism around this but that’s not always the case.”

While some universities have publically spoken out about their efforts, others have been criticised for their silence over handling rape complaints.

One of the biggest criticisms students have had is the way that sexual assault victims are treated by universities. Eleanor Muffitt, who was sexually assaulted as a student, previously told the Telegraph: “Staff at the University of Manchester refused to deal with my case unless I went to the police, and rejected my pleas to find out if my assailant was still at the university. Their poor handling of my case worsened my post-traumatic stress disorder and left me suicidal; eventually I dropped out, which I know I wouldn't have done if I had been properly supported.”

Like her, other students who have reported rapes by other students have found that little action has been taken by their uni – to the point where they still have to live in the same halls of residence as their alleged attacker or attend the same tutorials.

“I think universities want to be sympathetic and take action in theory, but in practice they often don’t know what to do especially if both the complainant and alleged perpetrator are students,” explains Westmarland.

“They don’t know what to do, so they often don’t take bold enough action. That inaction is felt by students as not taking sexual assault seriously, not believing them and not keeping them safe.”

Lad banter and rape jokes

She thinks the next step is for universities to implement policies on how to handle such situations.

But this isn’t the only issue with rape culture on campuses. Almost every student I speak to tells me that while there may be fewer overt examples of sexism and inappropriate sexual harassment now - such as humiliating and sexual society initiation ceremonies - insidious versions of 'rape banter' still exist.

"Rape jokes still take place, but instead of people making them in person, they’ve now moved online."

“I think the casual everyday sexism is still very prevalent,” says James. “There’s a lot of laddish banter about picking up freshers because they’re young and easier to take home. You still have club nights with names like ‘f*** a fresher’. I think people still don’t realise how harmful that can be.”

She tells me that the most common examples are men unknowingly perpetuating sexual harassment by persistently hitting on women who aren’t interested, or making them uncomfortable with repeated compliments and comments on their appearance.

Women have spoken to her about drinking too much on nights out and finding fellow students groping them or trying to take them home. Rape jokes still take place, but instead of people making them in person, they’ve now moved online.

“Students find and share them online from websites or social media,” explains James. “There are still ‘lad’ websites that do this and you get Facebook groups like ‘Spotted at the library’ where people write comments like, ‘to the sexy brunette at the desk across from me.’”

What's the solution?

This sort of ingrained sexism is generally accepted as the norm by students. Though it isn’t always harmful in itself, it adds to a campus culture where sexual harassment, unwanted advances – and even sexual assault – are increasingly normalised.

Universities still have a huge part to play in combatting this culture, and creating a safe space for students to report assaults and harassment. But the answer to ending sexism lies with the students themselves.

Male and female students need to be able to call out rape jokes, ‘banter’ and inappropriate behaviour – the problem is that they don’t always feel able to do so.

“Women are dismissed when they say they don’t like being touched or hearing rape jokes,” says James. “There are a lot of people on board with saying serious sexual harassment is bad, but there’s a lot of resistance when it comes to challenging the smaller things.”

Llewellyn says male students can feel the same way: “I think the real issue for the majority of guys is the subtle sexism and jokes. They don’t feel equipped to challenge them because it’s not cool or whatever. Guys think ‘it’s not my job, I’m not a rapist’ - but they can do a huge amount by having these conversations and challenging those jokes when they hear them.”

It brings to mind the recent case of student George Lawlor being trolled online for saying he didn’t want to attend consent classes at the University of Warwick because he ‘wasn’t a rapist’. His argument was that he wasn’t guilty of sexual harassment, so hew shouldn't have to sit through a lecture. 

But, as Llewellyn points out, consent classes don’t just help deter potential perpetrators – they spread awareness and encourage all students to challenge the rape culture around them. Only when every part of that culture is recognised and defied will it cease it exist.


The Indian women who keep silent about sexual violence

Article from BBC News about sexual violence towards women in India. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-31313550

Murshidabad in rural West Bengal is in many ways a typical rural Indian district: a dusty, remote place dotted with villages that have little access to healthcare or infrastructure. 

Writer Sudhiti Naskar ensconced herself in this community to find out more about the daily lives of women and she discovered that many women did not report rape or acts of sexual violence.

Here she explains why, even though West Bengal has the third highest rate of crimes against women in India, these women chose to remain silent.

1. The girl needs to be married off

I heard a story in the village, about a teenage girl who was raped here four years ago. She was attacked when she went to defecate in the open, a way of life for most of these villagers. 

Her parents did not press any charges even though they knew who did it. In fact many villagers told me he had been accused of another rape in the village. 

Raising girls in such remote and rural areas means families are frequently confronted with entrenched attitudes towards women

"The girl needs to be married off in a few years", one of her relatives said. 

Finding a suitable groom would be hard if her rape was made public, virginity being an essential criteria for marriage in such rural societies. 

The girl and her parents - who don't want to be identified - have found solace in anonymity and the sympathy they get from their relations and friends. 

Even with all that support, they have not been able to confront the rapist. Apparently, bringing the culprit to justice would mean going public. 

It isn't worth the pain for them. The girl who now studies in a college wants to move on and heal while keeping quiet. 

2. Fear of getting a 'bad name'

Bandana Bagdi, a low-caste woman and a landless farmer's wife, says she was accosted in the same village. 

"I could have been raped, but I ran away", she says, in her ramshackle hut by a pond. 

Bandana Bagdi says she was turned away by villagers when attempted to confront a man who tried to attack her

When, along with her husband and brothers, she went to confront the culprit she was turned away by the villagers. 

"They said I was a bad woman after a good man", she says. Traditional rural societies, such as here, are swift to put the blame on the victim. 

3. The attacker is more powerful

In remote Kelai village, Golechera Bewa, 60, feels helpless. Her youngest daughter Ajida Khatun, 19, was coming home at dusk past a deserted stretch when a man tried to drag her in a corner. Ajida ran to save herself.

Golechera Bewa said going to the police was too much trouble for a woman like her

Going to the police would be "too much [of a] trouble" for an "illiterate, poor old woman", she said. The village council was an option, but going there would give the girl a "bad name". 

Ms Bewa says: "Honour is the only thing that we have. Without that we can't live in these villages". 

Some of her hesitation comes from the fact that the perpetrator is well-off, making her feel powerless. With men going to the Middle East for manual labour, there has been an influx of money and that has changed power dynamics in the area. 

In these rural communities, many women feel like they are at the bottom of the pecking order

The "new money" has caused arrogance, says Rajib Lochan Roy, a lawyer in the area who has represented several rape victims. 

"There's a tendency to justify the bad behaviour through money and power", he says.

He says it is like the old times, when "the feudal lords would assert their will on the women belonging to the economically weaker sections". 

Often, such cases are privately settled with money, never making it to the police record. 

4. The honour of a village

Like individual honour, the honour of a village is also a reason rapes are not reported. Villages here are connected by marriages and bloodlines through generations.

If a case is filed, the reputation of a whole community might be at stake. 

Villages are connected by marriages and bloodlines through generations

This creates pressure from within the community to hush up the incidents; if it is kept silent there will be no public controversy and the peace will be kept. 

5. Are the police under political pressure?

The case of Bapi Das's wife was a disturbing one. The police recorded it as a case of consensual sex followed by murder. 

But the post-mortem report contradicted this, saying it was a case of forced sex. Bapi Das is now pursuing a petition with the Human Rights Commission in Delhi and Calcutta seeking justice. 

A local citizens' human rights group that helped Mr Das to file the petitions feels that the police are under political pressure to undercount cases of rapes.

Is fashion ready to walk its feminist talk? - piece on iD

Find original article here

This week Celine released their spring/summer '15 campaign with a subdued and powerful Juergen Teller shot of author, activist, feminist icon, and current internet hero Joan Didion. Didion has had something of a cultural renaissance on the crest of the neo-feminist wave that crashed dramatically over 2014. As think pieces reflecting on the Year of the Feminist continue to punctuate pages and screens, it's little wonder that a brand as forward thinking and intelligent as Celine played their hand so perfectly this campaign season.

After all, the brand has a stellar record of beautiful, thought provoking campaign images. And since Phoebe Philo took over in 2008 the house has evolved into the quintessential thinking woman's sartorial treasure. In short, who else would the great Didion even consider to partner with?

But it would be naive to think that the appearance of a feminist icon in a multi million dollar campaign was purely intellectual, the reality is that in the past 12-months feminism has been big business. Its cross into the mainstream was clear in the endless accolades and retweets bestowed upon the likes of Beyonce, Taylor Swift, Emma Watson, Tavi Gevinson, and Petra Collins. For the first time since the Spice Girls, Girl Power was a marketing sweet spot. 

If we choose to put our cynicism aside, we can view the reflection of this in fashion as more than economic. After all, fashion always has been a mirror of our daily lives. What we experience, think, and talk about influences how we dress and the work of all great designers. 

So the fashion world was never going to be left behind, and made sure we knew they were thinking about feminism just as much as we were blogging about it. This raises an important question though, has the industry earned the right to call itself feminist? 

Issues of body image, racial diversity, and gender conformity will always be able to be used as arguments for why the industry isn't breaking ground on social change. But recently we have seen interesting demonstrations of major brands trying to push boundaries and exceed expectation.

Both Rick Owens and Marc Jacobs have used Fashion Weeks to dislocate body and beauty standards with real women and bare faces. And Miuccia Prada showed why she's Phoebe Philo's equal when we think about dynamic and powerful women in the industry with Prada's celebration of Diego Rivera's female portraits for Spring/Summer 2014. But it was Chanel's spring/summer 15 show, always strikingly literal, that forced fashion's relationship with feminism into the spotlight. Karl Lagerfeld's protest was undeniably a hit, but it was also the breaking point where we were forced to ask, wait is this a movement or a trend?

Responses were mixed, with some arguing that any discussion around the issue was positive, and the publicity was immeasurable. But it was also the point where the discussion deviated so far away from the topic it slipped into pastiche. On her blog Susie Lau asked, "Whatever Lagerfeld's true stance on feminism is, it is difficult to believe the conviction of a uniform cast of women, held up to an unrealistic standard of beauty, waving such banners, whilst wearing clothes that are prohibitively expensive. Why go there, Karl? To court controversy? To get more Instagram likes? I suspect it's a combination of both."

Lau vocalised the biggest worry that feminists have over the appropriation of the cause. When something shouts so loud people stop listening, details get lost, corners are rubbed off. At Chanel fashionable feminism hit critical mass and the message was suddenly lost, despite it being carried on so many colourful signs. 

It was the moment the movement was reflected back to us as its most heady interpretation, as a trend. And as fashion knows more than anyone, trends are never here forever. 

Now on in the morning light of 2015 we're waiting with baited breath to see if the movement will hold fast, if its message—delivered and digested to a new generation—will be made their own, or will it be cast aside like yesterday's clothes. Didion's appearance is galvanising, it's an early hint that the sentiment has penetrated the industry and allowed lifelong feminists the audience to continue to push a more positive, rounded message. But it's still just one example, so lets not congratulate ourselves too loudly. 

After all, the other fashion story of the week was Victoria's Secret's latest video. And while the brand's staple of beautiful women writhing half naked in the sand is more popular with teenage girls than salivating men, don't let the dichotomy get lost on you. 

Obviously it's not like 2014 was a ray of light in a century of oppression—the world has been producing Coco Chanels, Vivienne Westwoods, Grace Jones, and Madonnas for as long as it's been creating women. And it will continue to do so, but the hope is that whole houses, publications, and media outlets will continue to follow suit and not allow feminism to become another look to pass out of style.

For now, still in the moment, speculation is futile. After all you always think you'll love what's fresh forever, no one ever commits to a trend imagining to cast it aside. So if it's a trend or a revolution, do as you always do when you fall in love, hold feminism close and hope that some style is perennial. 

Indian sisters filmed fighting back against alleged harassers

Article from The Guardian.

A video showing two sisters in northern India hitting back at men who allegedly harassed them on a crowded bus has gone viral in a country where many women endure sexual harassment on a daily basis.

The footage, filmed by a passenger and aired on several television channels on Monday, shows the two young women punching their alleged harassers and lashing out with a belt. The women, identified only by their first names, Arati and Pooja, told reporters that the men had made lewd comments and tried to touch them.

“One of the boys started touching my sister and making kissing gestures,” Arati said. “I told him to go away or I would teach him a lesson. Then he called another boy saying that we have to beat up two girls. And then the other boy got on the bus.”

The sisters said that no one on the bus tried to help them.

Press Trust of India reported that the video was shot on Friday as the sisters were on their way to college.

By late Sunday, police in the state of Haryana had arrested three men and were investigating the incident.

As the news of the women’s actions spread, Manohar Lal Khattar, Haryana’s chief minister, praised the two women and said they would be honoured during India’s republic day celebrations in January.

The video drew a massive response on social media, with many Indians applauding the sisters’ bravery, while criticising other passengers for failing to come to their aid.

Sexual violence and harassment of women has been the subject of a heated debate in India since the fatal gang rape of a young woman on a bus in Delhi in December 2012.

Hundreds of thousands of Indians took to the streets in protest after that attack. The anger pushed the government to change the law to introduce more stringent measures to deal with attacks against women.

Watch the video here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FePWT2QavNY


Dr. Nina Ansary: Road to Equality in Iran Paved with Obstacles

Dr. Nina Ansary spoke to Clarion Project ( a news site based on the threat posed by radical Islam) about her research into the feminist movement in Iran and her findings, coming out next year in a new book.

Dr. Nina Ansary is a historian and expert in the women’s movement in Iran and one of the top social influencers on Iran. She is the author of the upcoming book, The Jewels of Allah(Revela Press/July 2015) which shatters the stereotypical assumptions about women in Iran and highlights the accomplishments and the powerful female voices in Iran’s past and present.

Dr. Ansary regularly contributes to the award-winning news website Womens ENews and serves on the Middle East Institute Advisory Board at Columbia University as well as on Columbia University’s Global Leadership Council. She is an active member of several national organizations dedicated to public policy, educational, charitable and gender-related causes. For more information, visit: www.ninaansary.com. She can be found on Twitter @drninaansary or on facebook.com/ninaansary.

She kindly agreed to speak with Clarion Project research fellow Elliot Friedland about the women's movement in Iran and the struggles that it faces.

Clarion Project: Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the Supreme Leader of Iran, once said that gender equality is “one of the biggest mistakes of Western thought.” With an attitude like that coming from the top, how can a women’s rights movement succeed in Iran?

Dr. Nina Ansary: The road to equality for the women’s movement in Iran is one that is undoubtedly paved with tremendous obstacles. However, what is most important is the art of persistence and an ongoing activism demonstrating resilience despite the ongoing systematic and legalized gender discrimination.

For example, over the years, women’s reluctance to conform to the state’s traditional role – that of wife and mother, has manifested in different forms. In the three and a half decades since the Islamic Revolution, there has been an unprecedented surge in female literacy, with women outnumbering men in higher education. Furthermore, according to United Nations data, Iran has experienced a dramatic fertility decline, leading Ayatollah Khamenei to limit access to contraception and consider a ban on vasectomies to boost the birthrate. In this process, the divorce rate has climbed 3.4% over the last year alone. These are some of the tactics used by women as a means of maintaining some degree of autonomy in their lives, and in the process circumventing the regime’s effort to redirect them into the private domain.

Clarion: You have been outside Iran since 1979. How can the Iranian diaspora, combined with Western feminists support the feminist movement in Iran in an effective way? Has the Western feminist movement abandoned their sisters in non-Western countries?

Dr. Ansary: A crucial ingredient in supporting the women’s movement and their overall objectives is for the international community to actively engage in bringing much needed attention to the plight of women in Iran who continue to be handicapped by patriarchal laws. The regime has routinely attempted to silence this movement. Therefore, raising awareness and amassing support on the outside constitute important factors in this ongoing battle. In this scenario, Western feminists could be instrumental in not only giving their sisters in Iran a “voice,” but also in making a concerted effort to rally for support.

Clarion: Your upcoming book 'Jewels of Allah' is about the women’s movement in Iran. What were some of the things that you discovered when you started investigating? What surprised you?

Dr. Ansary: When I initially began my research, I was struck by the fact that women in Iran were one of the biggest supporters of Ayatollah Khomeini, and in fact a contributing factor to the collapse of the Pahlavi Monarchy. As an Iranian woman, this piece of information, was in and of itself most puzzling and in many ways counterintuitive, given that the Pahlavis were solely responsible for emancipating the Iranian woman after centuries of oppression. Most surprising, was discovering the myriad of bold, talented, and highly accomplished women in post-revolutionary Iran who despite all obstacles, continue to shine their bright light. The Jewels of Allah not only explores the failed gender ideology of the Islamic Republic, and the accomplishments of Iranian women in both present and past, but also exposes the concealed components leading to a feminist movement within a post-revolutionary patriarchal climate.

Clarion: You have said that the women’s movement is strong and flourishing. How can it flourish given the morality police and other ruthless state security apparatuses?

Dr. Ansary: The term “flourishing” is used as a means of showcasing that despite the barricades, women from all walks of life refuse to conform, and continue to forge ahead with an ongoing battle aimed at reversing the discriminatory laws. Just recently, Shahla Sherkat, one of the leading pioneers of the women’s rights movement in Iran, procured a license to re-launch her feminist publication, shut down by hardliners in 2008 after 16 years in operation. This revival marks a defining moment for the resurgence of women’s rights. In 2013, Faezeh Hashemi, the daughter of Iran’s former President, served a 6 month prison sentence for her relentless criticism of the Islamic Republic’s gender practices. Upon her release, she made it very clear that she will not be deterred from the task at hand.

Many religious women have also resorted to re-interpreting passages in the Koran used by hardliners to justify their inferior position in society. Inarguably, their commitment and resolve remains fully intact. Having said this, it is important not to lose sight of the fact that even some of the most progressive Western nations have yet to achieve full equality. Just recently, U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren made it known that “every single Republican in the U.S. Senate voted against equal pay for equal work for women.

Clarion: British-Iranian citizen Ghoncheh Ghavami is currently incarcerated in Evin Prison  for attempting to watch a male volleyball game. Are such forms of civil activism helpful in your opinion as they draw attention to the issue, or just a way for young women to end up arrested and in extreme danger?

Dr. Ansary: Although such forms of activism are undoubtedly dangerous and in some instances have serious consequences, they are crucial in bringing to the forefront the legal ramifications of women who are victimized and continue to pay a high price for the irrational premise of patriarchal laws. Ms. Ghavami’s brother brought much needed attention to his sister’s plight in a public statement made to the UK Foreign Office. British Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond additionally raised concerns about Ms. Ghavami’s incarceration with his Iranian counterpart, Javad Zarif.

Clarion: During the protests surrounding the ‘Green Movement,’ rape was widely deployed by the Iranian police and Basij militia in order to intimidate and subdue the protests. Given the regime’s willingness to resort to such tactics how can protestors successfully agitate for change?

Dr. Ansary: Given such extreme tactics, it is virtually an uphill struggle to “successfully” bring about complete social change. Aside from the reprehensible acts of violence described above, we also cannot forget the courageous 26 year old Neda Agha Soltan, whose shooting death for peaceful protest during the Green Movement made her an iconic symbol of Iran’s struggle. Such shameful recorded images of human rights violations are undoubtedly ones that the regime would prefer remain behind closed doors. While bringing about social change is a monumental task, violence is never the answer, but it is important for the people of Iran not to surrender nor abandon their courageous stance in the face of adversity.



The article was taken from http://m.clarionproject.org/analysis/dr-nina-ansary-road-equality-iran-paved-obstacles. 


Iranian Journalist Denounced as 'Whore' Amid Women's Rights Campaign

Masih Alinejad accused of "being a whore"

Masih Alinejad accused of "being a whore"

"Though Alinejad, who has her own segment on Voice of America’s “OnTen” program, does not endorse banning the hijab, she does advocate a woman’s right to the most basic of freedoms – the freedom to choose, and the freedom to blow your hair in the breeze."