Friday, June 21, 2013

Your Chance to See Girl Rising this Weekend

In the inspirational documentary Girl Rising, nine different girls from nine different countries share one dream; to go to school.

Each girl was paired with a writer from her country, to help tell her story. Then, the voices of celebrities like Meryl Streep, Selena Gomez, and Kerry Washington, bring these stories to life.

But the true stars are the girls, as they overcome adversity and pursue their education. As we learn in the film, "educating a girl is one of the highest returning investments in the developing world."

CNN International is airing the film this weekend. You don't want to miss it.

Magnetic and resilient Wadley lives in Haiti; her world decimated by the earthquake. Her mother has no money to send her to school. Knowing she hasn't paid her dues, she bravely takes a seat in a makeshift classroom, and tells her teacher "even if you send me away, I will come back every day, until I can stay."

Being a student improves the status, health, and safety of girls. Otherwise, they can end up enslaved, performing domestic work, raising children, or even lost to sex trafficking. The less educated the girl, the bleaker her future.

Finding comfort in song, Suma sings of her experiences in Nepal. Too poor to afford a daughter, her family "bonded" her at age of six. Even though kamlari, a form of slavery, was outlawed in 2000, it remains a prevalent reality. Suma was freed by a social worker, and now that she understands the law, she is pursuing justice for the many girls imprisoned all around her.

While sending girls to school is a human rights issue, many of the film's arguments are framed in health or economic policy. Others simply remind us what the alternative could be.

150 million girls have already experienced sexual violence, Half of them, like Yasmin, are under 15. In Egypt, with no access to school, she belongs to the streets. Just 13 years old, she is already a rape survivor. Yet she considers herself a super hero. And once you hear her story, so will you.

As mothers struggle to protect their daughters, marriage is considered a way to keep them safe. 13 girls are married every 30 seconds around the world. Azmera comes from Ethiopia, a country of "split girls." Her mother thought marriage would protect her from this fate. Her brother, knowing better, helped Azmera refuse the proposal of a much older man. Now she attends school. But others are not always so lucky.

Many cultures prioritize boys, when they are forced to choose between educating their daughters and sons. As a result, there are 33 million fewer girls in school than boys.

Yet, there are parents determined to give their daughters a chance. Ruksana, featured in the video above, is from India. She lives with her family in a tent city, far away from her village, so she can have an opportunity to learn-- and draw. If India increased the amount of girls in school by just one percent, the country's GDP would rise by billions.

Poverty is frequently the greatest obstacle standing in a girl's way. Senna comes from Peru.While she lives in a community of poor gold miners digging for other people's riches, she uses poetry to persevere. Mariana works for her school's radio station in Sierra Leone; the land of the blood diamond. In a war-torn country determined to rebuild, Mariana dreams of rising to stardom and hosting her own talk show.

However, some girls have no dreams left. Amina's heartbreaking story comes from Afghanistan. She is "a girl masked and muted," hidden beneath a burqa. In a notoriously patriarchal culture, she was considered "unworthy of record."

Married to a cousin at the age of 11, her dowry was used to buy her brother a used car, she describes her body as a resource. Shortly after her wedding, Amina became a mother. She survived, but the number one cause of death for girls ages 15 to 18 is childbirth.

While the film is unapologetically shot through a Western lens, and seemingly puts words in the mouths of the girls they follow, it's still an excellent place to start a necessary conversation. Palatable for all ages, it's an excellent way to introduce young people to global issues.

Girl Rising was created by 10x10, a global campaign for girls' education. They are spreading the message that educating girls can reduce poverty, child mortality, population growth and HIV infections, as well as curbing terrorism and corruption. One seemingly small act can have a huge and lasting impact. Sending a girl to school can increase the well-being of her family, her community, and her country.

Donations to the 10x10 fund are distributed to non-profit partners, including CARE USA, World Vision, United Nations Foundation/Girl Up, and several others working to improve the lives of girls.

If you'd like to watch the film in a theater, you can request a screening of Girl Rising where you live. Otherwise, you can see it on CNN International tomorrow, just before they release the follow-up documentary, A Girl's World, next week. 

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Taking 'Pride' in Everything We Do

This year's Capital Pride participants were instructed to "unleash [their] super hero," with Wonder Woman leading the way. Washington's 2013 celebration was filled with masks and capes, in addition to the usual glitter and feathers.

"Super" Grand Marshal Lynda Carter traded her gold crown for a wide-brimmed straw hat, leaving the boots and spandex for everyone else. But she still looked wonder-ful, waving from a pink convertible--

In an interview with Metro Weekly, (one of D.C.'s several LGBT publications) Carter was identified as an influential figure for gays and lesbians "who found something special in her onscreen persona of female strength and straightforward fabulousness."

Of course everyone coveted her amazing accessories; bulletproof bracelets and a lasso of truth. But what seems most memorable is the way she unleashed her super hero; with the twirl--

Carter is a resident of Maryland, where marriage equality was victorious last fall. She's been an LGBT advocate for many years:
It's been a long fight. We can make a difference if we speak with one voice. It's about coming together and looking at our nation and seeing that everyone should have equal rights.
With all the excitement, we can't forget the reason for the season. Gathering people in solidarity is reminiscent of standing together during the Stonewall Riots. We capture the spirit of Greenwich Village in 1969, and the bravery of the gay liberation movement's founders, as we wave our rainbow flags and salute our gay icons.

Activists like Jacob Wilson, a Washington resident and Pride participant, are fully aware of the curbside connections between the past, present and future. Wilson said:
Pride celebrations are a reminder of a not-so-distant past, when LGBT people were forced to the margins of society. It's a time to honor those who fought for basic human dignity, and celebrate the many victories we have won since then.   
However, Pride should also serve as a reminder of challenges our community still faces, like bullying that leads to suicide, or students being barred from their own prom.  

The freedom to celebrate openly in the streets of our nation's capital is a fairly new development, not to be taken for granted. And this action is a stark comparison to the political battles being waged within the buildings we're marching past. When it comes to Congress, marriage equality, workplace discrimination, and other injustices are far from settled.   
Also, the privilege of a parade in a progressive place like D.C. is a far cry from other places where LGBT folks literally risk their lives every time they assemble and attempt to use their voices for change.
Yet, Pride's message is clear; for all the rain, there are plenty of rainbows. And bubbles. And confetti. 

Cornerstones of the city's LGBT community were out in full force. D.C. favorites Nellie's, Cobalt, and Phase 1 rode a fleet of colorful floats.

There were appearances by the Gay Men's Chorus of Washington, the D.C. Rollergirls, and more drag queens than you could shake a weave at. Each came with a bigger title-- and an even bigger tiara.

Reproductive rights partners Planned Parenthood and Choice USA were there, making the connection between open sexuality and sexual health. The only time it rained on this parade was when Planned Parenthood distributed condoms.

D.C.'s LGBT anti-violence coalition GLOV and national suicide prevention initiative the Trevor Project were in attendance. SMYAL, a support group for youth advocates and leaders, and PFLAG, an ally network for parents, families and friends, marched alongside countless other organizations who work tirelessly to promote the real gay agenda; safety, love and acceptance.

Known as one of the tamer parades in the country, D.C. experienced little-to-no nudity. While more conservative, it was still captivating, and the annual mission was accomplished. Because no matter where or how we're celebrating, June reminds us to take "Pride" in everything we do, all year long.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Megyn Kelly Reads Dobbs and Erickson on Women, Bread, and Winning

Photo by glamourmagazine

Last week, it was widely reported that women have earned a new position in the workforce; breadwinner.

Whether moms are bringing home larger paychecks than dads, or raising children without a partner, they are supporting 40 percent of America's households. And a certain group of pundits reacted with a TOTAL FUCKING MELTDOWN.

The all-male panel featured on Lou Dobbs Tonight tried to disguise irrational fear and anger with "science." They concluded "we're watching society dissolve around us" and it's "hurting our children." Women breadwinners are just unnatural, because "the male typically is the dominant role."

Fervent participant Erick Erickson shared his delusions with Lou Dobbs after sounding the anti-feminist alarm on Red State, the conservative blog where he wrote this:
In modern society we are not supposed to point out that children in a two-parent heterosexual nuclear household have a better chance at long term success in life than others. In modern society, we are supposed to applaud feminists who teach women they can have it all — that there is no gender identifying role and women can fulfill the role of husbands and fathers just as men do.
Erickson's self-righteous rant caught the attention of Fox News personality Megyn Kelly. When asked to repeat his position, Erickson came up with this:
We've got to a point in this country where you've got a lot of feminists who think that the male and female roles are completely interchangeable. That there is no need for a man to support his family. You've got men walking away. You've got women becoming single mothers. Not by their choice. You've got a lot of people thinking it's a lifestyle choice. This isn't healthy for society when we think that roles of gender completely can be interchangeable.
Clearly, feminism is the culprit. Lou Dobbs, who may or may not agree with Erickson, was also invited to discuss biological, social and economic factors contributing to the breadwinner crisis.

Needless to say, this is television opining at its finest:

As usual, Kelly only understands women's issues when they affect her. She is no feminist, but her outrage seems to resemble a "click moment." Kelly pushing back against the smug, dismissive commentary that literally surrounds her makes for a delicious talking-head-sandwich.

These are the best moments from this unbelievable cable news three-way:

1) Those shit-eating grins. Excuse me. Something tells me you're not taking this seriously.

2) "High-income lesbian families." I need you to say it again. And then I need you to explain how these women skewed the data in this study and ruined everything for straight people. Yet again.

3) "You are judging them. You are." Seriously, Erick Erickson. You are. But then we learn the truth: he can't tell the difference between facts and opinions. (Sad.) Or the difference between science and not science. (More sad. And also scary.)

4) "Just because you have people who agree with you doesn't mean it's not offensive." That's worthy of a t-shirt. Or at least a bumper sticker. And you know who would buy those? Emo liberals.

5) Then Lou Dobbs hawks an old man loogie in the background. (Gross.) And Erickson warns his phlegm-filled friend, "Be careful, Lou." Because Kelly is coming for you.

But Dobbs doesn't need your caution. He came prepared, with linear thoughts and articulate arguments. Because, YOU GUYS! The Serengeti is on fire-- and this is obviously the fault of working women.

6) We're losing the war on drugs. The economy is fucked. Men's jobs in disappearing industries are, well, disappearing. Marriages are shattering. And who is to blame? Those big-city-no-bra-wearing-hairy-legged-women-libbers. I mean breadwinners. Hey lady! Gimme back my bread...

Kelly notices her challenger starting to sound all ramble-y, like Clint Eastwood talking to a chair. But Lou Dobbs does not like to be interrupted.

7) "Excuse me! Let me just finish what I'm saying, if I may, oh dominant one." Oh, SNAP! To be fair, Dobbs just wants to be sure everyone is on the same page about broken homes leading to mental illness...

Meanwhile, Erickson is still convinced essentialism is actual science and supports his argument with anecdotal evidence. No one's going to convince him those subjective views are anything short of factual information. Not the American Psychological Association, the American Academy of Pediatrics, Columbia University, or any other study Kelly references with results contrary to Erikson's narrow perspective.

8) "These experts are politically motivated." Don't get me started on pediatrics and politics. But never mind, because--

9) BOOM! Racism. And Kelly suggests Obama is successful. ON FOX NEWS. But drawing parallels between family structures that deviate from a straight, white, patriarchal norm isn't convincing anyone. (Did we learn nothing from Cheerios?!)

Anyway, Erickson still insists working moms and stay-at-home dads are unstable. And then Kelly points out he's denigrating the choices made by others. And then Erickson looks to Dobbs for help patronizing the woman who doesn't agree with him. Yet, in the midst of all this, Dobbs is promised the last word, and we get this gem--

10) Boys from single-parent homes will never make it to law school.

So there you have it. Women with money. Ruining everything. Especially if they get their own TV show.