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The Women Change Worlds blog of the Wellesley Centers for Women (WCW) encourages WCW scholars and colleagues to respond to current news and events; disseminate research findings, expertise, and commentary; and both pose and answer questions about issues that put women's perspectives and concerns at the center of the discussion.
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Changing the Landscape of Hate After Pittsburgh

Changing the Landscape of Hate After Pittsburgh

This article was originally posted by Dana Rudolph on the Mombian blog, on October 30, 2018. This weeks marks the 80th anniversary of Kristallnacht, the Night of Broken Glass.

tree in landscapeThis landscape is familiar, strewn with ash and blood. We’ve been here before, too often, seeking the living, counting our dead. I know the terrain, can pick my way stumbling over the bodies, the stench of fear and hatred lingering in the air; the thoughts and prayers; the headlines and statistics.

I walk here with other Jews after the massacre in Pittsburgh, seeking comfort and strength, as I did with other LGBTQ people after the shooting at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, as I have done with other parents after school shootings, and as I know communities of color do every time they, too, are targeted by hate.

This time, though, the tragedy causes reverberation deep in my soul, touching the first act of hatred I ever knew about, one directed at people like me: the Holocaust. My Jewish parents were minimally observant, but conscious of their cultural heritage as the son and granddaughter, respectively, of Jewish immigrants—a heritage that stood out in our predominantly Christian New England community. I don’t remember exactly when I first learned of genocide, but it feels as if I’ve always known.

Later, on top of this, came the knowledge of homophobia. I am a lesbian born two years before Stonewall, and the milestones of my life have shared space with markers of the LGBTQ rights movement. I’ve seen progress–my son was born the same year the first U.S. state ruled that same-sex couples should be allowed to marry. I’ve also seen how far we still need to go–less than three weeks after my son’s bar mitzvah came the shooting at Pulse.

In both my Jewish and queer identities, then, I’ve seen hatred and inequality directed at people like me and families like mine. At the same time, I recognize that people of color in the U.S., of all religions, face far more danger and far more inequities on a daily basis than I do. Being White and middle class gives me a tremendous amount of privilege, which I hope I can use to be an active ally to those who have less.

Still, the spectre of anti-Semitism gave me pause when it came time to enroll my son in Hebrew school. My spouse is Christian, and we could have placed our son in either a Christian or a Jewish religious school program. As the child of two moms, he already had one aspect of his life that could make him subject to harassment or worse. Why give him two?

I have never been particularly observant, but wanted our son to experience the part of his heritage that he would get little exposure to in our mostly Christian community and society. Additionally, my father had died about two years before, and I was feeling the need to connect our son with the half of his family that felt like it was fading away—mine is a small family. My wonderful spouse was simply happy that we would be part of a faith community.

I asked myself, though: Am I making our son more of a target? I had to answer that in our country, rife with school shootings, simply going to school could be equally dangerous. And as someone who commuted through the World Trade Center every morning to my job next door until two business days before 9/11, I know that hatred sometimes casts a wide net, regardless of the identities of its victims. The best we can do is not let fear of such hatred cause us to hide parts of ourselves. One lesson I have learned from the queer part of my identity is that doing so causes its own damage.

I’d like to think, too, that in giving our son a Jewish education, my spouse and I have also given him strength: the strength of a people that has survived thousands of years of oppression. The strength of a people that values welcoming the stranger and repairing our all-too-broken world. The strength of a people that wrestles with the tough questions of human existence and still finds joy in each other and the world around us.

That joy is dimmed this week, though. How can we regain it and find our way out of this bleak and too familiar landscape, tainted with fear?

In the aftermath of the shooting this past February at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Florida that killed 17 students, some of the surviving students adopted the slogan “Never again” for their gun control campaign. The phrase has long been tied to the Holocaust, and a few people seemed perturbed at what felt like appropriation for a different cause, even if the students did not do so intentionally.

The students were prescient, however. Anti-Semitism met mass shooting in Pittsburgh and to both we must say “Never again.”

“Never again” means doing whatever we can to stop the violence and hate that only seems to be increasing. That includes reaching out in kindness to our neighbors of all identities, calling our elected officials, voting, supporting advocacy organizations if we are able, putting financial pressure on the supporters of hate groups, and marching in the streets if necessary. It means taking time from our lives when we would rather be doing other things. It means overcoming our small fears (of approaching that neighbor; of speaking in public) in order to hold off the big ones.

It won’t be easy. As the Talmud teaches us, though, “You are not obligated to finish the work, but neither are you free to desist from it.” Let us resist and not desist, so that where once was a desolate landscape, a tree of life will grow again.

Dana Rudolph launched the Mombian blog, a lifestyle site for lesbian moms and other LGBTQ parents, offering a mix of parenting, politics, diversions, and resources, in 2005. A member of the National SEED Project team, she manages the project's website content and social media.

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Social Justice Dialogue: Leadership for Social Change

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Work at the Wellesley Centers for Women (WCW) is undertaken with the goal to help inform change makers, amend attitudes, and to help shape a more just world for women and girls, communities and families. The interdisciplinary team of scholars, administrators, and advisors who ensure that WCW’s mission moves forward are informed by their own and others’ work, as well as their lived experiences. The Women Change Worlds blog allows us to share our expertise and perspectives, and for our community to engage with us. Responding to critical issues in the world and creating teachable moments, our Social Justice Dialogues can broaden all our perspectives.

Over the next few weeks, this blog will feature articles written by WCW scholars and colleagues focused on our current Social Justice Dialogue: Leadership for Social Change. Although recognition may be for the few, leadership is not. I believe most of us have the capacity to drive change; we just need to decide how deeply we are able and want to engage in leadership roles, individually or collectively. What are the values, traits, experiences, mindsets of those who are able to effectively build off their own sense of purpose and inspire others to do the same? What should we expect from ourselves—and what do we want from our leaders—to affect positive change for our families, communities, workplaces, systems, the world?

blogpullquoteSocialJusticeDialogue“The criteria for inspired leadership don’t need to be shadowed in mystery,” Deepak Chopra writes in The Soul of Leadership. “In fact, they are simple: great leaders are those who can respond to their own needs and the needs of others from the higher levels of spirit with vision, creativity, and a sense of unity with the people they lead.”

I invite you to share in the Comments box links to one or two news stories, essays, organizations, or other resources that you believe may contribute to a productive dialogue on ways we can learn to develop and effectively demonstrate leadership that advances social change.

Donna Tambascio is the Deputy Director for Communications and External Relations at the Wellesley Centers for Women (WCW) at Wellesley College.

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The Good, the Bad and the Ugly: Women's Rights in 2013

The following blog article was posted on Huffington Post, December 30, 2013 by Alex Sanger, chair of the International Planned Parenthood Council and member of the Wellesley Centers for Women Council of Advisors.

As we reflect on the events of 2013, I can't help but think of the Clint Eastwood classic The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly.

When it came to women's rights, there was indeed ugliness: more and more states tried to restrict women's access to basic reproductive health care, and in El Salvador, Glenda Cruz was sentenced to ten years in prison for miscarrying.

Despite these setbacks, there is reason for hope. Here's my wrap-up of the top five wins for sexual and reproductive rights in 2013:

1. The rape and murder of a 23 year-old woman in New Delhi set off widespread protests throughout India. In September, an Indian court sentenced the four perpetrators to death, stating that the crime "shocked the collective conscience of India."

"In these times when crimes against women are on the rise," said Judge Yogesh Khanna, "the court cannot turn a blind eye to this gruesome act." The significance of this statement condemning violence against women in the world's second most populous country cannot be understated at a time when one in three women worldwide will experience violence in their lifetimes.

2. In the Dominican Republic, the Catholic Church filed a legal complaint against our local partner Profamilia, claiming that its ad campaign on sexual rights violated the Constitution. In May, the Fifth Civil and Commercial Chamber of the National District rejected the Church's complaint as a violation of freedom of expression, adding that campaigns like Profamilia's help to promote comprehensive sexuality education and responsible parenthood. The public and media support for Profamilia during and after the case was massive, but it was not an easy battle.

3. As more states sought measures to tighten abortion laws, some fought to make it more accessible. In June, Texas senator Wendy Davis rose to national prominence during a 13-hour filibuster protesting SB5, a bill that would further restrict abortion access in Texas. While the legislation ultimately passed, a vigorous protest from Davis -- and supporters throughout the country -- was heard loud and clear. In California, Gov. Jerry Brown signed a measure into law that allows nurse practitioners, certified nurse-midwives and physicians' assistants who complete specified training to perform abortions.

4. On August 15, the first session of the Regional Conference on Population and Development concluded as representatives of 38 countries in Latin America and the Caribbean adopted an historic agreement: the Montevideo Consensus on Population and Development. At this meeting to assess progress towards implementing the Cairo Programme of Action, governments recognized the important connections between sexual and reproductive health and rights and the global development agenda. More than 250 members of civil society -- including IPPF/WHR and our Member Associations -- helped forge this victory. The Consensus is the first UN agreement to include a definition of sexual rights, "which embrace the right to a safe and full sex life, as well as the right to take free, informed, voluntary and responsible decisions on their sexuality, sexual orientation and gender identity, without coercion, discrimination or violence." With governments poised to adopt a new global development framework, this agreement will help ensure that sexual rights and reproductive rights remain at the center of efforts to reduce poverty and improve the well-being of individuals, communities and nations.

5. Perhaps the greatest "good" is the fact that despite fierce opposition, millions of women, men and young people throughout the world continue to fight to ensure that all people have access to quality healthcare and protection of their human rights. In 2012, we provided nearly 33 million services throughout the Americas and Caribbean with more than 75% of those services reaching poor and vulnerable populations. In a region where an estimated 95% of abortions take place in unsafe circumstances, the importance of access to contraception and accurate health information cannot be underestimated.

Alexander Sanger is the author of Beyond Choice: Reproductive Freedom in the 21st Century, published in January 2004 by PublicAffairs. The grandson of Margaret Sanger, who founded the birth control movement over eighty years ago, Mr. Sanger is currently Chair of the International Planned Parenthood Council and has served as a Goodwill Ambassador for the United Nations Population Fund.

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Social Justice Dialogue: Eradicating Poverty

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Work at the Wellesley Centers for Women (WCW) is undertaken with the goal to help inform change makers, amend attitudes, and to help shape a more just world for women, girls, their communities, and families. The interdisciplinary team of scholars, administrators, and advisors who ensure that WCW’s mission moves forward are informed by their own and others’ work, as well as their lived experiences. The Women Change Worlds blog allows us to share our expertise and perspectives, and for our community to engage with us. Responding to critical issues in the world and creating teachable moments, our Social Justice Dialogues can broaden all our perspectives.

Beginning next week and throughout October, I will share blog articles written by WCW scholars, focused on our current Social Justice Dialogue: Eradicating Poverty. I invite you to share in the Comments box links to one or two news stories, essays, or other resources that you believe may contribute to a productive dialogue on Eradicating Poverty.

blogpullquoteEradicatingPovertyThe link I will share today focuses on the United Nations Millennium Campaign. Started in 2002, this Campaign "supports and inspires people from around the world to take action in support of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). The current eight goals form a blueprint agreed to by all the world’s countries and all the world’s leading development institutions. They have galvanized unprecedented efforts to meet the needs of the world’s poorest." Goal One is to eradicate extreme poverty and hunger.

The UN lists the ambitious targets for this goal:

  • Halve, between 1990 and 2015, the proportion of people whose income is less than $1.25 a day
  • Achieve full and productive employment and decent work for all, including women and young people
  • Halve, between 1990 and 2015, the proportion of people who suffer from hunger.

 

More information about this Millennium Development Goal is available online: www.un.org/millenniumgoals/poverty

We will share articles that address innovative and practical steps to help eradicate poverty written by some of our scholars throughout October. What articles, news stories, essays, or other resources do you think may contribute to a productive dialogue about Eradicating Poverty? Please share in the Comment box below.

Donna Tambascio is the Deputy Director for Communications and External Relations at the Wellesley Centers for Women (WCW) at Wellesley College. WCW has nongovernmental organization (NGO) status at the United Nations which facilitates our participation in this international work. We are committed to continuing and deepening our research and policy-focused programs in order to better understand and offer solutions to the challenges facing women and girls.

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Social Justice Dialogue: Race & Justice in America

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Work at the Wellesley Centers for Women (WCW) is undertaken with the goals of informing change makers, amending attitudes, and shaping a more just world for women, girls, their communities, and families. The interdisciplinary team of scholars, administrators, and advisors who ensure that WCW’s mission moves forward is informed by their own research and lived experiences. The Women Change Worlds blog allows us to share our perspectives, as well as to create opportunities for our community to engage with us. Today we invite you to participate in our inaugural Social Justice Dialogue. Responding to critical issues in the world and teachable moments, these Dialogues can broaden all our perspectives.

We invite you to share links to one or two articles, news stories, essays, or other resources that you believe may contribute to a productive dialogue on Race and Justice in America, specifically as it relates to the killing of Trayvon Martin and the trial of George Zimmerman.

The first link that I’m sharing is from The Huffington Post. It’s a conversation between two mothers who reflect on Race following the verdict.

blogpullquoteRaceJusticeAmericaDonna Ford, Ph.D. of Vanderbilt University, the author of Recruiting and Retaining Culturally Different Students in Gifted Education, and a mother, grandmother, and advocate for racial justice, asserts that Trayvon Martin was murdered because he was Black and male—the “most stereotyped and feared group in America.” Patricia Leavy, Ph.D., author of American Circumstance and Fiction as Research Practice, connects racism in the case with sexism in the courts when she reflects that Trayvon Martin was being tried for his own murder just as female “rape victims are often further victimized in legal proceedings” and blamed for the violence against them.

The writers share, "As scholars, we see this as an on-going teaching and potent teachable moment. As mothers, we see it as imperative to harness this moment and to raise our children to appreciate, respect, and not stereotype or fear those from other racial or cultural groups."

Here is the article: An Honest Heartfelt Dialogue about Race between Two Mothers: What Can America Learn about Race Post Trayvon Martin and George Zimmerman?

My second link is from Morning Edition which featured a story by Shankar Vendantam, a science correspondent for National Public Radio, focused on the theory that “racial disparities and other biased outcomes in the criminal justice system, in medicine and in professional settings can be explained by unconscious attitudes and stereotypes.”

In May, findings were released from a comparative investigation of 18 interventions aimed at reducing implicit racial biases. The researchers found that most effective interventions were those “that invoked high self-involvement or linked Black people with positivity and White people with negativity.” The interventions that were least effective engaged participants with others’ perspectives, asked them to consider egalitarian values, or induced a positive emotion. I think how such exercises are facilitated is key to their success.

Here is a link to this story: How to Fight Racial Bias When It's Silent and Subtle

What articles, news stories, essays, or other resources do you think may contribute to a productive dialogue about Race and Justice in America today? Please share in the Comment box below.

Donna Tambascio is the Deputy Director for Communications and External Relations at the Wellesley Centers for Women at Wellesley College.

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Tamara L. DeGray
Before we begin specifically discussing Trayvon Martin and George Zimmerman, it's important we're on the same page regarding indiv... Read More
Friday, 19 July 2013 16:51
WCW admin
For me, the slaying of Trayvon Martin, as for so many others, represents an act of unspeakable terror. When two of my students, As... Read More
Saturday, 20 July 2013 23:12
Karen Lachance
As a white woman this really made me think about assumptions I make about myself and others both consciously and unconsciously. I... Read More
Tuesday, 23 July 2013 09:52
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