When a Dior fashion show begins amid the black ties and flashing cameras in the Musee Rodin, the last thing you’d expect to see is a tee shirt. But this is exactly what kicked off the display for Dior’s Autumn/Winter 2019 collection — a plain white tee-shirt, silk-printed with the words SISTERHOOD IS GLOBAL.
Pulled directly from the cover of the 1984 book by the same name, the SISTERHOOD IS GLOBAL design features the familiar blue letters against a simple white background. At a glance, the shirts are a beautiful representation of the global sisterhood movement — but at their core, the shirts say so much more.
Do major league sports leaders have a responsibility to model respect for women in everything they do? This question is fresh on the minds of many due to Robert Kraft, philanthropist and owner of the New England Patriots, being charged with two counts of soliciting a prostitute in Florida, where he was allegedly engaging in sex acts with women at Orchids of Asia Salon.
Through his philanthropy, Robert Kraft has funded initiatives specifically aimed at ending sexual exploitation of women and girls. USA Today reports that Kraft gave $100,000 in 2015 to My Life, My Choice, a Boston-based organization that works on ending child sex trafficking. Some might ask how the same man can be both perpetrating sexual exploitation and funding initiatives to end it.
“The buying and selling of human beings is an egregious form of abuse,” said Lisa Goldblatt Grace, in a statement quoted by USA Today.“We are heartbroken by the allegations about Robert Kraft.” While the article goes on to say that My Life, My Choice has not decided whether they will sever ties with Robert Kraft, a post from two of the leaders of the organization gives some guidance on how those we can learn from the sex trafficking incidents related to Kraft.
The piece is entitled A Call to Action for Patriots Nation and is authored by Lisa Goldblatt Grace, Co-Founder and Executive Director of My Life My Choice and Audrey Morrissey, Associate Director and National Director of Survivor Leadership. My Life, My Choice is a Boston-based organization that helps survivors of child sexual exploitation through education, mentorship and policy advocacy. From the piece:
The heart-wrenching details emerging about the lives of exploited women forced to work at the Asian Orchid Massage parlor may have shocked members of Patriots Nation, but, sadly, were not shocking to us at My Life My Choice who deal with the realities of commercial sexual exploitation every day.
The potential silver lining in the explosive media coverage of the Jupiter, Florida, case is a long overdue national conversation about an industry that exploits thousands of vulnerable women and children across the United States — and why it has been able to flourish for so long. This industry hides in plain sight — in strip malls and hotel rooms across the country, in well-to-do suburbs as well as under-resourced communities.
It keeps growing because of cultural norms that have allowed us to turn a blind eye. But times are changing, thanks in part to leaders like Chief Daniel Kerr from the Jupiter Police Department and extending to the media who are finally setting the record straight about the harms this industry causes and deflating the myth that this is a “victimless crime.”
So, we are issuing a challenge to Patriots Nation who, we hope, will join us in righting this wrong:
First, get educated. Learn about the issue. This is an epidemic and it is happening in our community and every community across this country. As service providers, we are acutely aware of the trauma, degradation and dehumanization that is part and parcel of the commercial sex industry. Among the young people we serve, the average age that they are lured, forced and coerced into the commercial sex industry is 14 years old. Most adults in the industry began when they were children. Whether the victim involved is an adult or a child, from the United States or from another country, forced by a gun to her head, forced by allegiance to an exploiter, or forced because of a lack of options—it simply does not matter. It is always wrong to buy a human being.
Second, educate others. Whether it’s your children or your fellow Patriots fan, we need honest conversation, frank education, and a call for change regarding human trafficking. Most notably, as pointed out by former Patriots linebacker Tedy Bruschi, “It’s some tough conversations that parents will have to have because the New England Patriots are in the fabric of all families in this region.” We need to educate young men that it is never okay to purchase another human being and we need to educate vulnerable girls, boys and transgender youth about how to protect themselves from exploiters.
Third, commit to being an active disruptor. For adults, we need to shift the narrative and explain that what is being discussed is not a punchline, a joke or fodder for a meme on social media. From bachelor parties to business trips, we need to commit to speaking up when friends or colleagues opt to participate in exploitative acts. Employers need to follow the lead of the Attorney General’s Employers Against Sex Trafficking initiative and implement zero tolerance policies for employees participating in exploitation.
Finally, help us heal. From the women surviving the Asian Orchid salon to the young people served by My Life My Choice, service providers lack the resources they need to support the many survivors recovering from their exploitation. Do what you can to support organizations in your community.
While Patriots Nation is reeling, we can come back from this more educated, more compassionate, and more committed to social justice in our communities. We need to say “enough!”— and end this once and for all.
Among other sad ironies, Robert Kraft was recently awarded the Genesis Prize, sometimes referred to as the “Jewish Nobel Prize,” partially for his dedication to gender equality.
Women donors have a unique opportunity to raise awareness around this incident and push for major league sports organizations to do more to aid in the fight to end exploitation of women and girls. Funders like the Ms. Foundation for Women have long advocated for these organizations to take more responsibility for remedying the problems that male-dominated sports cultures create. It might be powerful for women’s funds, foundations, and nonprofits to come out with a joint statement demanding a higher standard of behavior for sports leaders toward women in the wake of the Robert Kraft incident. Further, women funders can use peer influence to help other philanthropists recognize the need for more funding to end gender-based violence.
Despite decades-long efforts from female journalists, broadcasters, writers, editors, and other media professionals, a gap persists in the representation and employment of women across all forms of media. The imbalance is even starker for female media professionals who are otherwise marginalized, like women of color, women with disabilities, and women who identify as part of the LGBTQ community.
The Women’s Media Center, a feminist organization that aims to close the gender and racial gaps in media with pointed research and training, recently released its annual flagship report on women’s media representation, including both the inequalities that haven’t been addressed and the progress that’s been made over the past year.
When we last checked in at the newly formed Obama Foundation, the former First Lady Michelle Obama and her husband, President Barack Obama were laying the groundwork for cultivating a new coalition of organizations focused on girls globally.
Through a collaboration with GoFundMe, the Obama Foundation has established the Global Girls Alliance Fund, helping to raise funds for grassroots organizations to make more headway with educating girls. The initiative accepts applications from eligible nonprofits already working to increase educational opportunities for girls.
Now Global Girls Alliance is highlighting a Chicago-based nonprofit named The Women’s Global Education Project and is recognizing the work they are doing both in the field and with a compelling new documentary about female genital mutilation (FGM).
The film, entitled “Rebecca’s Story” profiles the life of Rebecca, who was subject to FGM at age 12. An estimated 130 million women and girls have been put through this dangerous and unnecessary surgery, with devastating emotional and social consequences. Rebecca’s Story was filmed in Kenya and follows the story of how FGM marked the end of Rebecca’s education and her expected transition into adult duties of a wife and mother. WGEP worked with Rebecca through a program called Alternative Rite of Passage, which helps ensure Rebecca can consider other alternatives for her daughter.
With its support for nonprofits already doing work in promoting education for girls, the Obama Foundation is now beginning to drill down on specific public health issues to address women’s equality globally. Ending FGM is one of the key issues to changing the course of women’s lives around the world.
The fundraising project with WGEP is aiming to raise $45,000, and is kicking off on March 8, International Women’s Day. Funds raised will pay for an array of services including scholarships, health education, and violence prevention workshops.
The Women’s Global Education Project is just one of many organizations being given a platform by the Global Girls Alliance, as it works to promote girls’ education around the world. There are now fourteen campaigns on the GoFundMe page for the Global Girls Alliance, doing work in multiple countries including Guatemala, Ghana, India, Uganda, Senegal, Kenya, and Malawi, as well as through a fund based out of Washington D.C., which has exceeded its goal of raising $250,000 and has matching support from the P&G Fund.
The subject of female genital mutilation (FGM) — the practice of removing a female’s clitoris, sometimes accompanied by sewing together her labia — rarely makes it into the mainstream news, so recent public awareness campaigns like February 6th’s #EndFGM campaign are helping to put it on the agenda.
Ending FGM is central to movements for women to be free to direct their own lives both in the U.S. and abroad. Feminist philanthropists have been working on this issue for decades, and now, with legislation passing to criminalize the practice, there is more potential than ever to realize some bigger gains.
I am always keeping an eye out for instances of feminism breaking through to mainstream culture. So when Netflix decided to make its biggest payment ever of $10 million to buy the rights to Knock Down the House, I was eager to learn about how this film came about. How did this relatively new film team suddenly find itself poised to reach Netflix’s estimated 148 million subscribers?
Knock Down the House follows four progressive women who made it into the U.S. Congress in the 2018 elections, inviting viewers to witness the progression of their historic journeys into politics. Just weeks ago, it won Best Documentary Film for 2019 at the Sundance Film Festival.
In 2014, Sweden made waves by becoming the first country across the globe to adopt an explicitly feminist foreign policy. Drawing both controversy and acclaim, the foreign policy was the first of its kind to focus so pointedly on international gender equality across every level of government. Since Swedish Prime Minister Stefan Lofven was confirmed to a second term on Jan. 18, 2019, activists have called for even more emphasis on continuing the successes of the feminist foreign policy.
But what exactly is a feminist foreign policy? In Sweden’s case, the policy focused on funding initiatives across the three “Rs” in which women tend to be underserved and neglected: resources, representation, and rights. Donors who are interested in promoting gender equality through their efforts and outreach can look to the Swedish model of feminist foreign policy to know where to begin.