Posted in Awards, Education, Events, Girl Power, In The News

Minnah Selected to Participate in the Elect Her Training Day

The following is a compilation of two articles written by Running Start and Her Campus.

Women make up half of the population, but less than one in four elected leaders are women. When women run, they win at the same rates as men – the problem is that there aren’t enough women running. 

We know now that countries led by women did better in the face of the pandemic. And though it may feel like progress is being made at home, despite a record number of female presidential candidates this election cycle, still none managed to clinch the nomination.  What’s more, the stakes are at an all-time high to use our voices to effect change–by showing up, by voting… but why not go a step further and become the ones actually doing the decision-making?

Research shows that engaging women in politics in high school and college is key to increasing the number of women in public office. More than 56% of Congresswomen got their start in student government. 

This is why for the first time ever Her Campus teamed up with Running Start, a nonpartisan nonprofit that empowers young women to get involved in politics and transform our world one elected female leader at a time, to launch a 360-degree movement to open college women’s eyes and ears to this possibility so they can start to shake things up.

Only 100 college women from across the globe were selected to participate. During the event held on October 30, 2020, these accomplished and impassioned women learned how to pinpoint the issues they are most passionate about, identify how they can best leverage their networks, and craft and workshop their “run for office elevator pitch,” all while hearing from majorly inspiring female politicians.  The pitches turned into a friendly competition, with the winner taking home a $500 grand prize. Minnah made it into the final round of the top nine candidates.

“I was honored to be selected to participate in the Elect Her program. The speakers were phenomenal, offering us helpful insight from their successes and failures running for a variety of different offices,” reflects Minnah Stein, Founder of EMPOWERU and SSAIS Advisory Board member. “My fellow participants were so inspirational. It was great to be surrounded by so many like-minded women who are driven to transform our communities, our country and our world through their actions.”

Posted in Girl Power, Published Articles

COVID-19 Won’t Stop the Momentum, “Hire Her Back”



Part of my Reel Mamas Chicago Fellowship was writing articles for inclusion on their website. Reel Mamas Chicago is an organization helping women break in to and succeed in the film industry. This article was published on the Reel Mamas Chicago website on July 28. You may read it there or here.

There is no question that COVID-19 has changed everything. Everything from how we greet people to how we buy our groceries will be forever changed by this pandemic. The biggest changes that have impacted the greatest number of people are the changes to employment, and workers in the entertainment industry haven’t been spared.

The film industry has come to a complete halt, with hundreds of thousands out of jobs and most T.V. shows and movies putting pause on production. Who is this shutdown affecting the most? The workers who make up the foundation of the film industry: the production designers, camera operators, makeup artists, grips, stagehands, ticket takers, casting directors, and character actors. People who are essential to the day-to-day operation of Hollywood.

Over the past few weeks, Hollywood has started to take measures to reopen. The Hollywood union has published guidelines for starting production and filming without a COVID-19 vaccine. The first step is hiring people back; however, some people fear that all the layoffs will give Hollywood the excuse and opportunity to undo all the progress that has been made in terms of diversity.

It is no secret that the Entertainment Industry has struggled to diversify. The progress has been long and slow, but movements like #METOO, Times Up, and Black Lives Matter have aided the progress. And the newest movement, Hire Her Back, is working to continue that progress.

Hire Her Back is a multimedia campaign developed by Women in Film (WIF) that works to hold the entertainment industry accountable in their hiring process, as the data shows women, specifically Black and Latinx women, are suffering more from the pandemic’s social and economic fallout.

Hire Her Back wants more women and people of color hired as they move back into production following the shutdown caused by COVID-19. It aims to prevent Hollywood from taking advantage of all of the layoffs and using the pandemic as an excuse to hire back a less diverse workforce.

According to the Labor Department’s data for May 2020, women’s unemployment was at 13.9%. That’s two-and-a-third percentage points higher than that of men in the same time period. Hire Her Back wants to prevent what happened during the last economic crisis . After the Great Recession in 2008, women regained employment at a much lower rate than men and took longer to rebound. Without the efforts of movements of Hire Her Back, this will be doomed to happen again.

In addition to raising awareness, Hire Her Back is also setting up grants to be administered through the Actors Fund for women who have been devastated by the COVID-19 pandemic. Donation and grant applications can be accessed here.

WIF executive director Kirsten Schaffer said of the movement, “With the convergence of a pandemic and the national uprising in defense of Black lives, it must be made clear that current market structures have to be transformed if we are serious about creating equity. We call on leaders to join us in building a new normal that prioritizes equity and career sustainability for women, especially Women of Color, in the screen industries.”

It’s so important that we don’t take steps back because of the pandemic. And thanks to the efforts of movements like Hire Her Back and organizations like Women in Film, Hollywood stands a chance to come out of the COVID-19 shutdown more diverse, more inclusive, and more accepting.

 

Posted in Girl Power, Her Campus Articles, Published Articles, Uncategorized

Possible VP Picks for Joe Biden

This article I wrote was published on Her Campus. You may read it on the Her Campus website or here.

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In the last primary debate, Joe Biden pledged that his vice-presidential pick will be a woman if he is the Democratic nominee. And after Biden’s sweep of Florida, Illinois and Arizona, it is seeming like he is going to be looking for that running mate very soon.

We don’t know exactly who Biden is considering, but we do have a general idea. Let’s get to know the women coming in most consistently on all the top five candidates for VP lists:

Stacy Abrams

Stacy Abrams became a rising star in the Democratic Party after running for Governor of Georgia in 2018. She was the minority leader of the Georgia State House of Representatives and has dedicated her career to civic engagement. Abrams works to register people of color to vote in Georgia, registering more than 200,000 people for the 2016 election. She is also is an award-winning author who published eight romance novels under a pen name.

Elizabeth Warren

Elizabeth Warren has been a senator from Massachusetts since 2013. Before she was a senator, she was a law professor at Harvard University. She is a progressive, and while in the Senate she has worked for consumer protection and better welfare programs, being very outspoken about work that still needs to be done and how we can better our country. Warren ran for the Democratic nomination in the 2020 election, suspending her campaign in March.

Amy Klobuchar

Amy Klobuchar is the first woman to be elected to represent the state of Minnesota in the United States Senate. She is a moderate, and while in the Senate she has worked hard to expand education and job opportunities as well as come up with bipartisan solutions to many of today’s most pressing issues. In 2016, she passed more legislation than any other senator. She also ran for the Democratic nomination in the 2020 election, suspending her campaign in March.

Kamala Harris

Kamala Harris is one of two African American women to serve in the senate. She was the Attorney General for the state of California, and now she represents California in the U.S. Senate, becoming the state’s third female senator. While in the Senate, she has supported single-payer healthcare, better paths to citizenship for undocumented immigrants, a ban on assault rifles and worked for better solutions to many contentious issues. She ran for the Democratic nomination in the 2020 election, suspending her campaign in December.

Gretchen Whitmer

Gretchen Whitmer is the Governor of Michigan. She has previously served in the Michigan State House of Representatives and Senate, becoming Michigan Senate’s first female leader. In state government, she spoke out about anti-abortion bills and the damaging effects they could have. As governor, Whitmer has focused on creating better healthcare and better infrastructure. This year, she was chosen to give the Democratic response to the 2020 State of the Union address.

The key to picking a good vice president is how well they work with the candidate. At the end of the day, the vice president needs to be someone the candidate trusts, can govern with and would ask for advice from. But running mates can also score the candidate votes in different states, and age groups and other demographics. So, the candidate for vice president is a strategic pick as much as it is a governance pick.

Posted in Girl Power, Her Campus Articles, Published Articles

A Period Should Just Be a Punctuation

How Period Poverty Negatively Impacts Girls in Our Country and Around the World

This article I wrote was published on Her Campus. You may read it on the Her Campus website or here.

If you would like to learn more about this subject, I encourage you to watch the Netflix film Period. End of Sentence, which won Best Short Documentary in 2019. The Feminist Majority Foundation (FMF) worked with the women and girls behind this film, which tells the story of women in a small village outside Delhi, India who are leading a quiet revolution against the deeply rooted stigma surrounding menstruation.

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Periods can be terrible. The cramps, and cravings, and PMS, and getting blood on your favorite pair of jeans; the whole thing can be really unpleasant. If you’re like me, the only thing you really worry about when it comes to your period is the discomfort. But for millions of girls and women across the country, periods become a choice between eating and sanitary products.

The average woman spends 2,535 days of her life menstruating. And if she doesn’t have five dollars readily available to get the products she needs, that’s nearly seven years of her life spent struggling due to something she has no control over.

Period poverty is an issue that affects a lot more people than you would think. When you think of poverty and homelessness, issues related to menstruation are not usually the first thing that comes to mind, but it needs to be. Access to pads and tampons is a serious issue that affects health, hygiene, and education, but because of the stigmas around periods, we don’t talk about it.

There are 5,000 different slang words in 10 different languages meaning menstruation. That’s two times more euphemisms than days in a person’s life actually spent bleeding. As a society, we can barely say the word “menstruate” let alone speak about it in public. This stigma around periods has caused people to think of their period as embarrassing, disgusting, and something they should be ashamed about. We are taught to hide our periods and go leaps and bounds to conceal anything that has to do with them. So, we don’t talk about them or financial hardships they can cause.

When you are homeless and the clothes you are wearing are the only clothes you have, bleeding through them is not an option. But there are a few other options. Food stamps and health spending account allowances do not cover pads and tampons, they are not covered by insurance or Medicaid, and they are rarely offered for free in public restrooms.Box and pads

Girls in school are also greatly affected by this issue. 1 in 4 girls in America report having to miss class because of their lack of access to feminine hygiene products. Periods are stopping girls from having equal access to education. They are also feeling uncomfortable in their learning environment, saying that stress and shame are the most common emotions they associated with menstruation. And we’ve all been there. We’ve hid tampons in our sleeves and shoved pads in our pockets, quickly hurrying to the bathroom before anyone notices what we’re doing.

According to Congresswoman Grace Meng, when access to sanitary products is prohibiting people from eating, going to work, having equal access to education, or feeling comfortable in their learning environment, it becomes a human rights issue. And it becomes a sex discrimination issue. In the words of the ACLU, “This tax targets a bodily function associated with women for less favorable treatment. It relies on sexist ideas that women’s needs are frivolous and unnecessary. It is irrational, and it directly affects cis and trans women, trans men, and non-binary people. It’s unfair, unconstitutional, and illegal.”

Things are slowly getting better though. The Menstrual Equity for All Act was the first bill to be presented before Congress addressing the challenges faced in obtaining feminine hygiene products in America. The bill would make menstrual hygiene products free for women in prison, girls in school, and it would require that these products be covered by Medicaid. New York already has a version of this bill as a law in their state. The state of New York passed this bill into law because menstrual hygiene products should be treated and supplied just like toilet paper, soap and water.

tampons

But that’s on a national level. What can we do on an individual level to help end period poverty?

Activist and founder of the nonprofit PERIOD. Nadya Okamoto, lays out four things we can do to join this “menstrual movement:”

  1. Challenge the period stigma through open and honest conversations
  2. Donate menstrual products
  3. Support state and national legislation to end the tampon tax
  4. Use the term “menstruator” when referring to a person with a period

No one should have to choose between a meal and a box of tampons. Access to menstrual products is a human right, and we are on our way to better access for all menstruators across America, but there is still work to be done. A period shouldn’t stop someone from living, it should just punctuate the end of their sentences.

Posted in Girl Power, Her Campus Articles, Published Articles

Hillary: A Review

This article was published on Her Campus today. You may read it here or on the Her Campus website.

I have always been obsessed with Hillary Rodham Clinton. I have read all of her books, own a physical woman card from her campaign, and I can often be heard talking about her like she is one of my closest friends I have affectionately nicknamed “Hillz.”

A few weeks after the 2016 election, I remember talking to my dad in the car on the way to school about how much I was aching for Hillary Clinton. My dad told me that I needed to let it go and come to terms with the mess we were left with and refocus my energy into making change. He was right. Nothing gets done dwelling on the past, we have to focus on what we can do to make a better future. However, I did not let that sentiment deter me from funneling my post-election depression into making weird art.

This is my Hillary heart. I made it the night before my dad and I had the conversation about focusing on the future, and I never travel anywhere without her. Hillary embodies this idea of not getting bogged down in the past and focusing on making a better tomorrow; a theme in her Hulu documentary series, Hillary. 

The project started as a campaign documentary, with nearly 1,700 hours of behind-the-scenes footage, but the director and producer, Nanette Burstein, saw there was an opportunity for this to be much more. So, after 35 more hours of interviews, Hillary became a chronicle of the life and career of one of the most influential and polarizing women in history.

I won’t lie, it’s tough to watch. You see so clearly all the things we could have had if she was president, and all the ways our country and the press have wronged her. And with all the footage from the 2016 election, it is as if you are living through that campaign all over again. I re-felt the hope, pride, and amazement of witnessing Hillary Clinton become the first female nominee of a major political party. And then, I re-felt the devastation of her loss. I cried happy tears and sad tears, all four hours an emotional roller coaster of hope and sadness.

There is a lot that can be learned from Hillary’s story. Not only about her as a person and her experiences, but also about the role of women in politics. The ways in which gender influence the portrayal of women in politics is a main focal point of the film.

In 2016, Hillary was criticized for coming off as too cold and uncharismatic. But she had learned that from her law school days where, as one of 27 women in her graduating class at Yale, she had been forced to be unemotional to be taken as seriously as her male counterpart. Hillary was also accused in 2016 of “playing the woman card” to get attention. Years earlier, however, when she was the first lady of Arkansas, she was criticized for being not feminine enough. She didn’t wear makeup, she was outspoken, she had a job, her hair was unruly, she didn’t take her husband’s last name, and people didn’t take her seriously because she didn’t fit the stereotypical role of “first lady.” Being a woman in politics is a catch-22. And through Hillary’s story, as portrayed in this documentary, this becomes painfully clear.

But Hillary does have a message of hope. Because Hillary is the trailblazer. She didn’t become the president, but she made it so another woman could. She inspired a whole wave of women to run for Congress, and she showed a generation of girls that running for office, any office, doesn’t have to be something you just dream about, it is something you can actually do.

Hillary always looks forward. In the documentary, she is very honest about where she has made mistakes in her life. But she learned from them, and she used what she learned to continue trailblazing. Even after losing the election, Hillary continues to fight for a better tomorrow where more women run for office and win.

When asked about the film and women’s rights in the future, Hillary responded, “I hope people see Hillary, yes, as my story, but as my story embedded in all the changes, particularly for women, that took place in the last half of the 20th century. Because none of that is secure. There’s no guarantee that any of these rights that have been won and barriers that have been crossed won’t be pushed back on. I just want everybody to understand that.”

So yeah, I’m obsessed with Hillary Clinton. I subtly dress like her on her birthday and I wear t-shirts with her riding unicorns in front of the White House on them, but it’s not without reason. Hillary Clinton paved the way for all young women to have an equal future in politics. Hillary shows, through the story of one woman, just how much has changed for the better for women over the years, and the huge hand Hillary Clinton has played in bringing about those changes. Hillary is still polarizing; people still dislike her without any particular reason. But no matter how you feel towards her, hopefully, after watching Hillary, you can understand her.

 

 

Posted in Girl Power, Her Campus Articles, Published Articles

Wonder Woman in the Florida House of Representatives

This article I wrote was published today on Her Campus. You may read it on the Her Campus website or below. It has been an honor to intern for Representative Valdes. I’m so happy I could share some of her insights and work ethic with readers to inspire the next generation of leaders.

Before I met Representative Susan Valdes, I sat outside her office staring at a giant portrait she has hanging of her as Wonder Woman. And it was the most accurate first impression I could have had. Wonder Woman Valdes

When you are around Representative Valdes, it is hard not to be inspired by her. She is so full of life, and her passion for public service is contagious. She makes sure every constituent is heard and taken care of.

Starting in healthcare, she had no aspiration of being in politics. But a young man she helped get into a technical college planted the seed in her head that she could help others just like him. So, after her waterbed broke, she turned her bed frame into seven “Susan Valdes for School Board” signs that she put around her county. She served 14 years on the Hillsborough County School Board, and as of 2018, she became the State Representative for District 62 in the Florida House of Representatives. Rep Valdes Portrait

It is no secret that politics is a male-dominated field. And as a woman, Representative Valdes has had to learn how to maneuver in. Now in her second year as a Representative and her 16th year of public service, she has learned some important things that apply to all areas of being a woman in the workplace.

Representative Valdes has to work twice as hard than her male counterpart to gain respect because women’s passion can often be confused for being overly emotional or angry. “We live in a man’s world. Think of all the different policies that are anti-women, we live in one of the states that didn’t pass the Equal Rights Amendment. So, there is still work to be done. We have to continue to be strategic and act with intention. What I’ve learned is to know your stuff, be prepared, and stand your ground with your beliefs. Be prepared because women have to do things a lot better, and that comes with preparation.”

Women are held to a different standard when it comes to the way they act in the House of Representatives, the workplace, or even in college. In handling conflict, it’s important to weigh the consequences of your actions because whereas a man may be able to get away acting a certain way, a woman wouldn’t. “Especially in government, our responsibility is to carry all Floridians on our shoulders and be a role model for students. Decorum comes with respect for the office and the responsibility. I hope that in my time in the legislature, my fellow legislatures noticed that I was kind and tough and a servant to all.”

Representative Valdes shows through her work the tremendous amount of respect she has for the office she holds. “When we recite the flag, we say, ‘justice for all.’ And I really specify those three words. I’ll say them louder. It’s not justice just for us it’s justice for all.”

Valdes seal

In the time that I have known Representative Valdes and watched her work, I have become more and more confident that we are on our way to what she calls “planet Venus,” a planet where women are just as commanding of respect as men.

She shows me and all other women out there how you can be unapologetically yourself, fun, and professional all while getting the job done. Gaining the respect of others does not have to come at the expense of your femininity or any self-expression. Be you but be knowledgeable.

Representative Valdes really is Wonder Woman, a kind and tough warrior making things better for women everywhere. As she says, “the biggest challenge for today is recognizing that it’s still a man’s world and recognizing how we have to prepare ourselves to navigate that man’s world while we change it. Because we are changing it.”

Posted in Education, Girl Power, Her Campus Articles, Published Articles

Just Like Lizzo, Gotta Blame It on My Juice

This article I wrote was published today on Her Campus. I am very proud of this article because it was a very difficult one for me to write. Before this piece, I tried to hide my Type 1 Diabetes. Now that it’s out there, I feel empowered, and that feels pretty good.

You may read the article on Her Campus or below. If you want to share it, please share it from the Her Campus website so it will get more views. Thank you!

The music was blaring as I danced with the new friends I made while studying abroad. Suddenly, I felt light-headed. I stopped dancing and looked at my phone to see what I had expected: double arrows going straight down. I put my phone away and dug around in my bag to find a juice box. So, standing in the middle of a club in London surrounded by people I didn’t know that were giving me quizzical looks; I punched a straw through my Big Bird’s Apple juice box and took a sip.

It has been three years of drinking juice boxes in random places. Three years ago, I was diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes. It went undiagnosed for 5 months, and I almost died. I was about to go off to college and start my adult life when I was thrown a curveball.

Without getting too technical, Type 1 is an autoimmune disease that happened because my immune system attacked my pancreases, making it so my pancreas can’t do its job. And that job is: make insulin to break down sugars in my blood. Since my pancreas can’t do that anymore, I inject insulin into my body or consume sugar any time my pancreas should be maintaining my blood sugar but can’t. There was nothing I did to cause this, but no one knows quite why it happens.

Courtesy: T1 International

 

Out of nowhere, I will feel dizzy and weak, or I will get splitting headaches, blurred vision and feel lethargic. I wear a Continuous Glucose Monitor (CGM) on my body that has alarms that go off from my phone when my sugar is low or high to prevent sugar levels that could kill me. It is constant and relentless and sometimes I get overwhelmed thinking about how I may never get a break from it for the rest of my life.

Courtesy: Mobi Health News

Instead of embracing the fact my life was different, I just pretended everything was fine. I would excuse myself at restaurants to do insulin injections in the bathroom and I made excuses for why I couldn’t do something instead of just telling my friends I was having a bad sugar day. I didn’t wear bikinis or tight clothes that would reveal I was wearing a medical device, and I would pretend people’s ignorant comments about my new diagnosis didn’t hurt my self-confidence. I felt so much shame and embarrassment surrounding my chronic illness that it made it hard for me to talk to people about it.

Going off to college proved to be a tough transition. My first semester my roommate and I were woken up in the middle of the night by cops knocking on our door. My CGM had been giving false, dangerously low readings. When my parents called me and I didn’t respond, they called the police to make sure I wasn’t dead. But college for me has been all about growing and learning, and that includes in my relationship with diabetes. I have worked on changing my attitude when it comes to incidents caused by Type 1, but it hasn’t been easy.

And as with all learning to love every part of yourself, I had to consult the expert, Lizzo. Her hit song “Juice” has become my Type 1 anthem. And although the juice she is referring to in the song is confidence, I like to think it’s about the juice boxes I sometimes have to drink in public. Every time I feel embarrassed about drinking a juice in class or at work, I think to myself,

It ain’t my fault that I’m out here makin’ news

I’m the pudding in the proof

Gotta blame it on my juice

Ya-ya-ee, ya-ya-ee, ya-ya-ee, ya-ya-ee

I’ve come to this place in my journey with chronic illness where I have juice about my juice. I’m not defined by the juice boxes I drink or the medical devices I wear on my skin, or the needles I stick in my body or the diabetes-induced bad days I have.

Being on a campus with so many other students has shown me I am not alone, and I shouldn’t be afraid that people will judge me because of a disability I can’t control. I see people walking around wearing medical devices and it made me realize, I don’t judge them, so then why would someone judge me? It is because of a guy I saw on campus wearing a CGM on his arm that I started wearing mine in more visible places. His confidence inspired me.

And not every day is perfect. I still get insecure. I still have days that are spent in tears when my Type 1 responsibilities feel draining. And it is still hard for me to not feel embarrassed when talking to people about it. But through people like Lizzo and all those out there at FSU with chronic illnesses, I have learned to embrace our differences and celebrate the person our hardships have turned us into. Because that is what makes life beautiful.

So that’s right. It ain’t my fault I’m out here making news on this dance floor or anywhere with a juice box in my hand. Ya-ya-ee.

Courtesy: Giphy

Posted in Education, Girl Power, In The News, Published Articles

Women in the film industry don’t lack ambition. They still lack opportunity.

In recognition of International Women’s Day today, I am posting my article that was published on the Women’s Media Center website on 3/1/19. You may view it on their website or here. This article is my second on this subject and  continues my look into gender inequality as it relates specifically to women in the film industry.

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It’s no secret that movies are marketed to audiences based on gender stereotypes. This is perhaps clearest in terms of action movies, which have historically been made by and for men. At some point, studios seemed to have determined women don’t want to see action movies — and that therefore women aren’t capable of writing or directing them, either.

In reality, women are just as capable as men of making and seeing any film, including action movies. Women demonstrated this desire with their response to the 2017 Marvel action movie Wonder Woman, which was made by women and starred women. The opening weekend’s audience was 50 percent female, and the film was a blockbuster hit, grossing $822 million at the box office.

Wonder Woman, however, is still an anomaly in Hollywood. Women have long been relegated to making smaller films that deal with “women’s issues.” One of the main reasons this happens is because men still have most of the decision-making power in Hollywood studios. As one female director told The Guardian, “90 percent of the time, the people who you pitch your idea to are male, and even though they might be very sympathetic, they do look at the world from a different perspective.”

So why do these men fail to support women? According to one 2015 study, 25 percent of men in positions of power in the film industry said they didn’t hire women to direct a big film because they thought those women had a “lack of ambition.” When the same study asked women directors about their ambition, half said they had a serious interest in working on larger-budgeted films. These male producers have let gender stereotypes persuade them that women aren’t capable of directing blockbusters before they even give women a chance to demonstrate their skills and willingness to do so.

It is also impossible to talk about the oppression of women in the film industry without also talking about beautyism and ageism. In general, studies show that people who are more attractive get better jobs, but for women, beauty can also hinder their professional progress.

“Once women get into managerial positions, positions of leadership, and positions of power, beauty becomes a liability because our stereotypes around beauty are that they’re incompatible with capability,” Professor Jaclyn Wong stated in a 2017 Daily Telegraph article. “So, if you’re too beautiful, maybe you’re not that competent.”

Additionally, the roles available to women in films dramatically decrease after the age of 40. As one actress told The Guardian, when her agent sent in a woman director for a job interview, the man interviewing her told the agent, “’Never send anyone again who I wouldn’t want to f*ck.'” Men, on the other hand, never seem to reach an age that renders them too old to make films. Take 88-year-old Clint Eastwood, for example, who was nominated for an Oscar as recently as 2015 and continues to direct and star in major movies.

This sexism in the film industry matters because, like it or not, so many of our cultural norms are dictated by the media we consume. Of course, no matter the industry, it’s still clear that women have to play by an unfair set of rules dictated by gender stereotypes, which are in turn compounded by other uncontrollable factors, like their beauty and youth.

What’s increasingly clear, however, is that the key to women proving that they are just as professionally capable as their male counterparts is making sure there are enough women in positions of professional power. Studies show that when women are in charge of movies, more women are hired to be in the film and to work on it. According to one study,“On films with at least one female director, women comprised 68 percent of writers. On films with exclusively male directors, women accounted for 8 percent of writers.”

Ultimately, the impact of representation in movies benefits so many more women than just those in the film industry. When more women are represented, little girls who watch that representation can imagine themselves taking on those roles one day. Hopefully this will create a movie industry — and, ideally, world — in which women are judged on their body of work, not on the gender of their body.

Posted in Education, Girl Power, In The News, Published Articles

From the Silent Film Era to the Era of Breaking the Silence: The History and Future of Women in Film

The Oscars are February 24th at 8:00PM EST. In conjunction with this highly anticipated annual event, I wrote the following article on the history and future of women in film that was published on the Women’s Media Center. As we celebrate the accomplishments of this year’s winners, let’s not forget the work that is still necessary to enable women to have an equal shot at success (and Oscars!) in the film industry.

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Thanks to the progress the #MeToo and Times Up movements have made in shining a light on the injustices women in the film industry face, I naively assumed that women would be better represented among this year’s award nominees. I assumed wrong.

This underrepresentation in awards season is ultimately unsurprising, though, given that women have a long been marginalized in the film industry — especially behind the scenes. According to the 2017 Women’s Media Center report “The Status of Women in the U.S. Media,” women made up just 17 percent of the behind-the-scenes film workforce between 2015-2016. Of the top 250 films made during this time, 96 percent had no women cinematographers, 92 percent had no women directors, 79 percent had no women editors, 77 percent had no women writers, 58 percent had no women executive producers, and 34 percent had no women producers.

This unfortunate reality, however, obscures the fact that women were actually present in, and crucial to, the film industry in its early days. When we think about the beginning of filmmaking, we often think first of the directors Georges Méliès and Al Christie, not to mention Thomas Edison, the inventor who made it all possible. But these men worked alongside a number of incredible women.

Take Alice Guy-Blaché, the first female filmmaker. She worked as a secretary until she saw Louis and Auguste Lumière’s Sortie d’usine, which transformed her and inspired her to start working for filmmakers as a writer in 1895. Within a few years, she was making her own movies, which spanned many different genres and featured famous actors from all over the world.  Unfortunately, Guy-Blaché’s career was irreparably damaged when her marriage ended in 1922, due to the extreme social stigma attached to divorce at the time. She unfortunately faded from the scene, becoming an all but forgotten footnote in film history.

Guy-Blaché paved the way for more women, however, who masterfully produced, directed, wrote, and acted in (and sometimes all four) their own movies. Take Mary Pickford, who co-founded United Artists with Charlie Chaplin, Douglas Fairbanks Sr., and D.W. Griffith in 1919. Together this team made box office hits like Pollyanna (1920), The Three Musketeers (1921), and Robin Hood (1923) and crucially shaped the business side of making films. Pickford went on to help establish the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences in 1927, and United Artists continues to produce films to this day under the name of Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer.

Unfortunately, women’s presence in the film industry started to diminish in the mid-1920s as the silent film era started to come to an end. The “talkies” were generally viewed by the industry as less of an art form — as silent films had been, and which made them acceptable for women to engage in — and more as a business, from which women were prohibited. Men increasingly gained power in the film industry and, in doing so, created a new hierarchy of roles in the industry: Most major jobs, like producing and writing, were seen as “male” jobs while others, like editing and production design, still were open to women.

While women have increasingly broken through these barriers over the years, their work has rarely been acknowledged in the form of industry awards. Between 1994 and 2018, only 12 percent of all Golden Globe nominees were women, and of those, only 8 percent won. Just last year, no women at all were nominated in the Globes’ Best Director category, and we can still count on one hand the number of women who have ever been nominated for the category (like Barbra Streisand, who was the first woman to win the Golden Globe for directing in 1984). Now, in 2019, women make up just 25 percent of the nominations in Oscar categories that are not gender-specific and there are no women nominees at all in categories including Best Director, Cinematography, and Film Editing.

To be clear, the problem with this lack of representation isn’t just that women aren’t winning awards for their work, but that women are not even given the opportunities to be in professional positions in which they could win awards for their work. Until women are given the opportunities to write, direct, and produce their own work — the kinds of opportunities they were originally given in this industry — nothing is going to change. Hopefully, therefore, criticism of the continued lack of representation during award seasons, as well as the larger international conversation surrounding women’s experiences in the film industry, will eventually inspire us to revitalize the legacy of Alice Guy-Blaché and her cohorts, and make the film industry one in which women creatives are equally represented.

Posted in Girl Power, In The News, SSAIS

Bernice Sandler, “Godmother of Title IX,” Dies at 90

The following obituary written by Emily Langer appeared in the January 7, 2019, issue of The Washington Post. As a young woman who has benefited from the work of Dr. Sandler (and many others), I have to remind myself that while there is still so much work to be done, a great many strides have been made.

I am inspired by Dr. Sandler’s lifelong fight for equal rights for women, and I thank her from the bottom of my heart. I happily join other feminists of my generation who are continuing her work.

For my thoughts on the proposed changes to Title IX, watch the recent video I made for Stop Sexual Assault in Schools. To learn more about the devastating effects of these changes and what you can do to try to stop them, visit SSAIS.

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In 1969, her newly earned doctorate in hand, Bernice Sandler was hoping to land one of seven open teaching positions in her department at the University of Maryland. When she learned she had been considered for none of them, she asked a male colleague about the oversight. “Let’s face it,” was his reply. “You come on too strong for a woman.”

When she applied for another academic position, the hiring researcher remarked that he didn’t hire women because they too often stayed home with sick children. Later, an employment agency reviewed her résumé and dismissed her as “just a housewife who went back to school.”

Dr. Sandler had run head first into a problem that had only recently been given a name: sex discrimination. Knowing she was not alone, she embarked on a campaign that would change the culture on college campuses — and eventually the law with the passage in 1972 of Title IX, the landmark legislation that banned sex discrimination in federally funded educational institutions.

Dr. Sandler, who was widely celebrated as the godmother of Title IX, died Jan. 5 at her home in Washington. She was 90. The cause was cancer, said her daughter Deborah Sandler.

Trained in psychology and counseling, Dr. Sandler devoted decades of her life to documenting, analyzing and stopping the forms of discrimination — subtle and overt — that held women back academically and professionally in educational settings.

When she began her advocacy efforts, many university departments arbitrarily limited the number of women they would hire. Others hired no women at all. Some disqualified married women. Some colleges barred female students from chemistry and other departments that were deemed more suited for men.

Dr. Sandler investigated and found that there was no federal law prohibiting discrimination against women in educational fields. There was, however, an executive order signed by President Lyndon B. Johnson that prohibited sex discrimination by organizations with federal contracts.

“It was a genuine ‘Eureka’ moment,” she later recalled in an account of her work. “I actually shrieked aloud for I immediately realized that many universities and colleges had federal contracts, were therefore subject to the sex discrimination provisions of the Executive Order, and that the Order could be used to fight sex discrimination on American campuses.”

Dr. Sandler joined the Women’s Equity Action League and, as the one-member Federal Action Contract Compliance Committee, challenged 250 educational institutions for alleged sex discrimination. She also coordinated a letter-writing campaign that, by her account, “generated so much Congressional mail that the Departments of Labor, and Health, Education and Welfare had to assign several full-time personnel to handle the letters.”

According to the National Women’s Hall of Fame, where Dr. Sandler was inducted in 2013, her efforts led to the first federal investigation of sex discrimination on campuses.

She worked for a House subcommittee with oversight of the matter and for the Health, Education and Welfare Department as momentum grew, culminating with passage of Title IX. Its chief legislative champions included Rep. Edith Green (D-Ore.), Rep. Patsy Mink (D-Hawaii) and Sen. Birch Bayh (D-Ind.). Today, Title IX is widely known as the guarantor of equal access to collegiate athletics.

For decades after the law was passed, Dr. Sandler continued her activism for gender equality in the classroom. As a speaker and author, she sought to draw attention to what she and a fellow researcher, Roberta M. Hall, in a widely read 1982 academic paper termed the “chilly” classroom environment for women.

Female professors, she found, were more likely than male professors to be challenged on their credentials. Those with PhDs were not consistently addressed as “Dr.,” and students expected greater leniency from women when they failed to complete their assignments.

Female students, for their part, were more likely to receive an “uh-huh” from a professor when they participated in class, rather than the more engaged response that might greet a male student.

“When Title IX was passed I was quite naive,” Dr. Sandler said. “I thought all the problems of sex discrimination in education would be solved in one or two years at most. When two years passed, I increased my estimate to five years, then later to ten, then to fifty, and now I realize it will take many generations to solve all the problems.”

Bernice Resnick — she went by Bunny — was born in New York City on March 3, 1928. Her parents ran a women’s clothing store in New Jersey.

Sexist practices, she recalled, seemed practically part of the natural order of the world. “When I applied to college it was openly known that women needed higher grades and test scores in order to be accepted,” she recalled in a history of Title IX. “No one complained — it was just the way things were,”

She received a bachelor’s degree from Brooklyn College in 1948 and a master’s degree from the City College of New York in 1950, both in psychology, and a PhD in counseling from the University of Maryland in 1969.

Dr. Sandler spent two decades as the director of the Project on the Status and Education of Women at the Association of American Colleges until she stepped down in 1991. She later held associations with institutions including the Center for Women Policy Studies in Washington and was a sought-after witness in discrimination and sexual harassment cases. As an activist, she also highlighted the danger of rape on campuses.

Dr. Sandler’s marriage to Jerrold Sandler ended in divorce. Survivors include two daughters, Deborah Sandler of Martinez, Calif., and Emily Sanders of Los Angeles; and three grandchildren.

Later in her career, Dr. Sandler explored the “chilly” environment on campus that greeted minorities much as it greeted women. Interviewed in 1994 by the publication Hispanic Outlook in Higher Education, she reflected on the rejection that sent her on a path of advocacy.

“I don’t think I would have noticed if they’d said you come on too strong,” she said. The problem was that phrase “too strong for a woman.”