Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Did You Hear About the Rear Admiral?

It happened months ago, and yet, I wouldn't be surprised if I wasn't the only one who hadn't yet heard.  With the distressed economy at home and the political unrest abroad, it would have been an easy announcement to miss.  But it shouldn't have been.

This past June, Rear Admiral Sandra L. Stosz became the very first woman to be appointed Superintendent of the U.S. Coast Guard Academy.  For that matter, she's the first woman to ever be appointed Superintendent of any military academy.

The fact that the U.S. Coast Guard was the first to take this particular plunge isn't surprising.  It was as far back as 1975 that the Coast Guard Academy opened its doors to women (even before the Department of Defense was ordered to do so by Congress), and shortly thereafter, in 1977, that the Coast Guard opened all of its jobs to women.  Even today, the U.S. Coast Guard is the only branch that does not reserve certain jobs for men alone. That could be one reason why this year's Academy class is comprised of about one third women - a higher percentage than at any other military academy.

In contrast, women weren't allowed to serve in combat positions within the Navy and Air Force until 1993, and even now, the Army and Marine Corps refuse women the opportunity to serve in infantry, artillery, and armor units.  In case the lines here are hard to draw, it's significantly more difficult to rise through the ranks of an organization that does not permit you the opportunity to gain experience in critical roles.

Of course, women have been carrying out Coast Guard duties since even before there was a formal Coast Guard.  As early as 1830, women were responsible for minding the primitive lighthouses, a job which required little formal education, but enormous patience and stamina.  The Women's Reserve of the Coast Guard was formally created by Franklin Roosevelt during World War II (although of course, as frequently happens when women are made visible in great quantities, some assumed recruitment for the Women's Reserve was really a front for a government-sponsored prostitution ring).  But since then, women have moved up the ranks of the U.S. Coast Guard with equal consideration, and many feel that this branch is the most institutionally supportive of professional female development and advancement.

This isn't the first gender barrier that Rear Admiral Sandra L. Stosz has broken.  She was also the first female graduate of the U.S. Coast Guard to even achieve the rank of Admiral.  Now, by accepting her new leadership position at the Academy, she'll serve as an example to not only women in the service, but to other servicemembers, decision makers, and institutions as well.  It'll be inspiring to see what she accomplishes in her new role.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

#140 Reasons Domestic Violence is Not A Joke Battles #Reasons to Beat Your Girlfriend

It was a Sunday like any other.  I had gotten brunch with a girlfriend, done my grocery shopping, and was throwing some laundry in when my phone pinged.  A colleague had sent me a quick email.

"Did you see that one of the hashtags today is #reasonstobeatyourgirlfriend?"

When you've been fighting a fight for a certain length of time, you get a feeling.  It's the "there's-no-way-this-is-made-up" feeling.  It's the feeling that tells you that if you are honest with yourself, you know exactly what you are going to find once you start to dig.

And find I did.

Everything from " if you find out she's a guy" to "she dont make you a sammich on command"

Now, I'm happy to say that there were plenty, PLENTY of tweets that denounced the hashtag, the people using it to support violence against women, and Twitter for allowing it trend in the first place.

And so my Sunday Twitter war began, as I and others fought against the thousands of tweets that were actually causing this to trend worldwide.  Not because I thought that in 140 characters, I could convince anyone legitimately using that hashtag that violence against women is wrong.  But because I simply couldn't stay quiet.  A huge part of fighting these battles is simply fighting back - speaking out - letting people know that we will NOT sit idly by and allow them to make those statements that threaten the safety and health and well being of half of our population.

You're making it trend! Stop talking about it!

As people analyzed why exactly this offensive hashtag had been trending for so long, there was speculation that it was because those of us who were against it were using it to denounce it, which was only making it trend more.  I was accused of just promoting the tag to promote my brand, using this campaign to increase my Klout score, being ignorant and stupid about the way Twitter works, and a host of other things.

And to those people, I would say this.  We did it.  We beat them in their own forum.  If you look up the hashtag now, you'll see that the tweets denouncing it are far more numerous than those supporting it.  And I want people to see that.  I want people to see that this hashtag was trending with violent and offensive language, and that our community took it over, reclaimed this tag, and repurposed it to say with one voice "There is NEVER a #reasontobeatyourgirlfriend."

So yes, we used the hashtag and we made it trend longer.  But we turned it into a campaign to spread awareness about domestic violence, about violence against women.  We turned it into a crusade.  We weren't calling for it to stop trending at that point - we were calling out Twitter for allowing it to trend in the first place (for those who were following, Twitter believes that #FuckYouWashington should not have been allowed to trend last week despite over 28,000 tweets, because it was offensive.  Inciting violence against women, however, is ok.  @DickC, CEO of Twitter, acknowledged the problem and had this to tweet in response to questions about Twitter's "trending tweets" policy:

In response to the popularity of this tag, Courtney at Feministing started this campaign, called #140reasonsdvisnotajoke.  As you may have guessed already, the 140 reasons are the names of 140 victims of domestic violence.  And over the course of these 48 hours, Fem2pt0 is going to be tweeting out absolutely every one of them.

Will you help us spread the word by retweeting ONE of our posts listing the names of these victims? You can find our twitter stream here:!/fem2pt0
These names are just a fraction, a tiny fraction of the victims out there.  So please follow us as we tweet from #140reasonsdvisnotajoke.  Share your outrage, and show the world that these jokes represent real people, real victims, and real casualties.

1.3 million women will be victims of domestic violence this year. The law of odds say that most of their abusers are probably online.  Were they using the #reasonstobeatyourgirlfriend hashtag on Sunday?  Perhaps.

Want to learn more?  Sadi has an awesomely funny post on Tiger Beatdown as she tries to set you up on dates with the classy men using this tag. On a more serious note, if you or someone you know needs help related to domestic violence, please check out these resources: