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8/11 - This Week in Women: Speaking Out, Speaking Up

News

This week, conversations surrounding some of women’s most discussed yet neglected topics covered headlines worldwide. From pay equity in New Zealand to female oppression in India, to diversity in Hollywood, all topics were on the table, with these five women unafraid to put them there.


New Zealand’s Labor MP Annette King Comments on Pay Equity

After a 30-year political career, MP Annette King is retiring from New Zealand’s Parliament following this month’s election. This week, King gave her farewell speech with closing comments that included the lack of equality for women throughout the country, particularly at work. In her speech, King said, “I’m ashamed that we don’t have pay equity in New Zealand. Women have waited long enough. No more excuses, no more half-baked measures, no more litigation. It’s time for us to once again lead on women’s issues.” King also recognized that women “only make up 31 percent of MP’s,” noting the change needs to carry into the political parties, so that Parliament can more wholly represent New Zealand.

Annette King Courtesy of RNZ

Comedian Niecy Nash Discusses Female Representation in Hollywood

Niecy Nash Courtesy of Newsweek

As part of Nash’s new series, Claws, the comedian is drawing attention to how far black women have come in the media – attributing this to actors like Viola Davis, Taraji P. Henson and Kerry Washington. However, the comedian still feels as if not all women have benefitted from the strides these women made.

“There are so many other women in the world besides black and white women whose stories are not being told – Asian women, Indian women, and Muslim women,” said Nash on air with Chelsea Handler. Nash continued to discuss the importance of growth in the right direction to continue to diversify Hollywood. Following this television appearance, Vox published an article in which they used the following statistics from the Center for the Study of Women in Television and Film as sobering data in support of Nash’s comments: only five percent of broadcast female characters were Asian, five percent Latinas and two percent identifying as “other.”

Taylor Swift’s Battling her Sexual Assault Case

All week, the musician has been trending on social, as followers criticize the lack of support from other celebrities and speculate results. Yesterday, the trial began against former country radio DJ David Mueller, keeping Swift at the top of trending articles due to her “gutsy” testimony and “sharp” responses. “Because my ass is located in the back of my body,” Swift replied to Mueller’s attorney asking why the photo, in which Swift says Mueller was “grabbing her ass cheek,” showed the front of her skirt in place. The attorney continued to question why Swift didn’t take a break during the meet-and-greet after she was alledgedly groped, to which Swift said, “Your client could have taken a normal photo with me.” Throughout the trial, Swift continued to fire short, similar lines as defense, and also as proof of her determination to be a role model to encourage young women that this behavior is unacceptable. The trial continues in Denver next week.

Taylor Swift Courtesy of TGM

Varnika Kundu Inadvertently Starts #AintNoCinderella Campaign

This week Kundu, a DJ, was walking home from work late at night when she was “chased and almost kidnapped” by multiple men in the northern Indian city of Chandigarh. Kundu took to Facebook to post about her experience, noting her appreciation for the quick response by local authorities.

Palak Sharma Courtesy of BBC News

After the post went viral, however, local politician Ramveer Bhatti continued to draw attention to the event by blaming Kundu for the attack. Bhatti said, “The girl should not have gone out at twelve in the night…why was she driving so late in the night?” As a result, Congress party’s social media launched a campaign with the hashtag #AintNoCinderella in response to Bhatti’s reaction to Kundu’s curfew. Spandana told the BBC, “Why shouldn’t women go out after midnight? I’m asking people like Mr Bhatti who are they to set curfew hours for us. This is such a regressive mindset.” The hashtag began trending as more women posted photos of themselves out after midnight, continuing the conversation around victim-shaming and international female oppression.

Rose Namajunas Poses Nude for Women’s Health

Rose Namajunas Courtesy of MyMmanews

As part of the “Naked in 3 Words” campaign put on by Women’s Health, the UFC star said she felt motivated to participate, posting her image on Instagram with the caption, “Cut, The, Shit. Be yourself, work hard, love your body and put your best self forward. What are your 3 words?” In addition to this post, Namajunas also spread body positivity during the shoot, saying, “My naked body is…the story of my whole life. All the scars on my body, all the bumps and bruises, all the muscles – that is a story of everything I have done.” Namajunas continued, “I have a middle finger that was jammed in one of my craziest fights, and it looks like a swollen turkey to this day. There’s a bone chip that’s in there, and it’s a reminder that this finger contributed to my fight, and to my beautiful house, to everything in my life. It might be ugly, but it’s mine and I love it. I’ve got some big old knees, big old feet. I could nitpick, but at the same time, I think it’s all friggin’ beautiful.”

Career

Male Managers Afraid To Mentor Women In Wake Of #MeToo Movement

Women in the workplace have always experienced a certain degree of discrimination from male colleagues, and according to new studies, it appears that it is becoming even more difficult for women to get acclimated to modern day work environments, in wake of the #MeToo Movement.


In a recent study conducted by LeanIn.org, in partnership with SurveyMonkey, 60% of male managers confessed to feeling uncomfortable engaging in social situations with women in and outside of the workplace. This includes interactions such as mentorships, meetings, and basic work activities. This statistic comes as a shocking 32% rise from 2018.

What appears the be the crux of the matter is that men are afraid of being accused of sexual harassment. While it is impossible to discredit this fear as incidents of wrongful accusations have taken place, the extent to which it has burgeoned is unacceptable. The #MeToo movement was never a movement against men, but an empowering opportunity for women to speak up about their experiences as victims of sexual harassment. Not only were women supporting one another in sharing to the public that these incidents do occur, and are often swept under the rug, but offered men insight into behaviors and conversations that are typically deemed unwelcomed and unwarranted.

Restricting interaction with women in the workplace is not a solution, but a mere attempt at deflecting from the core issue. Resorting to isolation and exclusion relays the message that if men can't treat women how they want, then they rather not deal with them at all. Educating both men and women on what behaviors are unacceptable while also creating a work environment where men and women are held accountable for their actions would be the ideal scenario. However, the impact of denying women opportunities of mentorship and productive one-on-one meetings hinders growth within their careers and professional networks.

Women, particularly women of color, have always had far fewer opportunities for mentorship which makes it impossible to achieve growth within their careers without them. If women are given limited opportunities to network in and outside of a work environment, then men must limit those opportunities amongst each other, as well. At the most basic level, men should be approaching female colleagues as they would approach their male colleagues. Striving to achieve gender equality within the workplace is essential towards creating a safer environment.

While restricted communication and interaction may diminish the possibility of men being wrongfully accused of sexual harassment, it creates a hostile
environment that perpetuates women-shaming and victim-blaming. Creating distance between men and women only prompts women to believe that male colleagues who avoid them will look away from or entirely discredit sexual harassment they experience from other men in the workplace. This creates an unsafe working environment for both parties where the problem at hand is not solved, but overlooked.

According to LeanIn's study, only 85% of women said they feel safe on the job, a 5% drop from 2018. In the report, Jillesa Gebhardt wrote, "Media coverage that is intended to hold aggressors accountable also seems to create a sense of threat, and people don't seem to feel like aggressors are held accountable." Unfortunately, only 16% of workers believed that harassers holding high positions are held accountable for their actions which inevitably puts victims in difficult, and quite possibly dangerous, situations. 50% of workers also believe that there are more repercussions for the victims than harassers when speaking up.

In a research poll conducted by Edison Research in 2018, 30% of women agreed that their employers did not handle harassment situations properly while 53% percent of men agreed that they did. Often times, male harassers hold a significant amount of power within their careers that gives them a sense of security and freedom to go forward with sexual misconduct. This can be seen in cases such as that of Harvey Weinstein, Bill Cosby and R. Kelly. Men in power seemingly have little to no fear that they will face punishment for their actions.


Source-Alex Brandon, AP

Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook executive and founder of LeanIn.org., believes that in order for there to be positive changes within work environments, more women should be in higher positions. In an interview with CNBC's Julia Boorstin, Sandberg stated, "you know where the least sexual harassment is? Organizations that have more women in senior leadership roles. And so, we need to mentor women, we need to sponsor women, we need to have one-on-one conversations with them that get them promoted." Fortunately, the number of women in leadership positions are slowly increasing which means the prospect of gender equality and safer work environments are looking up.

Despite these concerning statistics, Sandberg does not believe that movements such as the Times Up and Me Too movements, have been responsible for the hardship women have been experiencing in the workplace. "I don't believe they've had negative implications. I believe they're overwhelmingly positive. Because half of women have been sexually harassed. But the thing is it is not enough. It is really important not to harass anyone. But that's pretty basic. We also need to not be ignored," she stated. While men may be feeling uncomfortable, putting an unrealistic amount of distance between themselves and female coworkers is more harmful to all parties than it is beneficial. Men cannot avoid working with women and vice versa. Creating such a hostile environment is also detrimental to any business as productivity and communication will significantly decrease.

The fear or being wrongfully accused of sexual harassment is a legitimate fear that deserves recognition and understanding. However, restricting interactions with women in the workplace is not a sensible solution as it can have negatively impact a woman's career. Companies are in need of proper training and resources to help both men and women understand what is appropriate workplace behavior. Refraining from physical interactions, commenting on physical appearance, making lewd or sexist jokes and inquiring about personal information are also beneficial steps towards respecting your colleagues' personal space. There is still much work to be done in order to create safe work environments, but with more and more women speaking up and taking on higher positions, women can feel safer and hopefully have less contributions to make to the #MeToo movement.