Happy New Year from Layli Maparyan
Welcome to 2018! We didn’t think we’d make it through last year, but we did. Between nuclear missile tests, terrorist attacks and mass shootings, hurricanes and wildfires, immigration and healthcare concerns, nonstop political intrigue, and even the solar eclipse, there was barely a moment’s rest. Yet, as I reflect back on the year, what stands out to me – what I really remember and continue to think about – is all of the gains for women. Quietly and loudly, it was a year when women really mobilized – together and with others – to move women’s issues forward with great force.
Just think: We started the year with the Women’s March. Who can forget the sea of pink hats on the National Mall in Washington, D.C., and the fact that women all over the world – in 673 different locales, from Antarctica, Argentina, and Australia, to Tanzania, Thailand, and the U.K. – were wearing them? We let the world know that we are a force to be reckoned with. By autumn, we were taking down titans, demanding accountability for sexual harassment, sexual assault, sexist bullying, and other forms of violence against women that had been going on for years in the workplace and beyond. Our voices mattered! Our voices had impact! And, more than anything, it was our coming together that got the job done.
We ended the year with the news that a powerful group of women had come together to make sure that the gains of the year would have longevity, and that the wave we started in 2017 would continue to gain momentum in 2018. I was particularly excited to hear that this new coalition, The Commission on Sexual Harassment and Advancing Equality in the Workplace, or so-called “Hollywood Commission,” will be led by our able friend Anita Hill, once a visiting scholar at the Wellesley Centers for Women. This commission has set a big agenda and is bringing heavy hitters from entertainment, business, law, and even venture capital to the job.
Now, as we stand on the precipice of the new year, we must think deeply about what it means for each of us individually to contribute to this momentum – and how we can bring groups, large or small, that we are already part of into the wider circle of social change and social movement. We must also think deeply about the quieter, less glitzy, but equally important aspects of the work that will ensure that true, sustainable social change follows from the recent explosion of activity.
For example, what are we doing for girls? How are we keeping them safe and also making sure they have the knowledge, confidence, and support to grow up free from the kinds of violence that many of us in older generations have had to endure? And how are we raising our boys, so that they grow up with a different mindset, one that says an emphatic NO to the patriarchal attitudes that have not only normalized, but also tutored, violence against women for so long? We have to think long term and address problems at their root.
Furthermore, how are we going to keep holding our social institutions accountable? From our three branches of government to corporations and businesses, medical institutions, educational institutions, religious institutions, and, especially, the media – we have to keep demanding accountability and change. Are we looking at policy through the microscope, getting rid of outdated policies that don’t serve women and authoring new gender-equal policies where none yet exist? And are we demanding that policy is put into practice? We must utilize the momentum we have started and make this change ecological – that is, implemented in every sector of society for all age groups and all types of people.
At the Wellesley Centers for Women, we are clear about our role: For 44 years now, we have done the kind of gold-standard research that makes it possible for activists, advocates, policymakers, and change-makers to do their work on the foundation of rock solid data and evidence. For example, we have made it possible for Dr. Nan Stein to study peer sexual harassment in middle and high schools – and its relationship to the emergence of teen dating violence and later intimate partner violence – for decades, and to develop innovative programs for its elimination, based on linking social science with the application of Title IX law.
We have made it possible for Dr. Linda Williams, an internationally recognized expert on domestic violence, trafficking, rape, rape prosecution, and college sexual assault, to conduct studies, often funded by the National Institute of Justice, that result in better policies and practices in places like the military, universities, police departments, and courtrooms.
We have made it possible for Dr. Jenny Grossman to study how family communications affect young teens’ understandings about sex and sexual behavior, including risky sexual behavior, and for Dr. Linda Charmaraman to study how teens’ media consumption and social media use relate to some of their exposure to and engagement in sexually risky behaviors.
In short, we are doing the work, and will keep doing the work – the work that is so badly needed in this moment, and will continue to be needed into the foreseeable future. Gold-standard research is not the kind of work that can be done on a moment’s notice, within the fleeting span of a news cycle, or just in time for tomorrow’s headlines; rather, it is work that must be imagined, planned, and carefully executed well before we know exactly when or where it will be needed. This is why we rely on the foresight and deep expertise of our feminist and womanist researchers and on supporters like you who always keep the flame lit with your passion for the issues and your contributions to our important work. Together, we have contributed to this big wave of change that emerged in 2017 and will continue to amass power in 2018.
I can’t think of a better reason to say “Happy New Year!!” Can you??
With joy and gratitude,
Katherine Stone Kaufmann ’67 Executive Director
P.S. Your generosity is always needed and appreciated. Thank you.