First Woman To Be Treasury Secretary Was Just Sworn In By First Female VP

The first woman Vice President just swore in the first woman to become the Treasury secretary

The Biden administration was expected to just get us back to something resembling a normal U.S. presidency, but turns out our boy JB is the ally in shattering glass ceilings we didn’t know we needed. President Joe Biden just appointed Janet Yellen as Treasury secretary, making her the first ever woman to hold that office. And on January 26, 2020, she was sworn in by the first woman to be vice president, our girl Kamala Harris.

Per The New York Times, Yellen is the nation’s 78th Treasury secretary and the first woman to hold the office in the institution’s 232-year history. She’s also coming into the role during a fraught economic period with the coronavirus. In her new role, she’ll play a key part in Congress negotiations over the huge Covid-19 economic relief package and how to revive our economy in the midst of a pandemic, quite the tall order. Though if anyone is fit for such economic gymnastics, it’s Yellen. Yellen isn’t just the first woman Treasury secretary, she’s also the first woman to have held all three top economic jobs in the government, which includes chair of the Federal Reserve and the Council of Economic Advisers. So she’s kind of an economic bad bitch.

Brendan Smialowski / AFP/Getty
Brendan Smialowski / AFP/Getty

After the ceremonial swearing-in, Harris said to her, “Congratulations, Madam Secretary,” to which Yellen replied, “Thank you, Madam Vice President.” We seriously, love to see it. In a tweet, Harris called Yellen a “trailblazer, whose deep commitment to working families will be essential as we confront the urgent economic challenges facing the American people.”

 

Before her confirmation hearing this week, Yellen tweeted in December that her goal, as an economist, is always to think of the American people first.

“The Treasury Department must be an institution that wakes up every morning thinking about the American people,” she said in a televised address. “Your jobs, your paychecks. Your struggles, your hopes. Your dignity. And your limitless potential. We will work to restore that public trust and promise.”

She’s already better than the last guy to hold the office. Trump’s Treasury secretary Steven Mnuchin was a former hedge fund manager and film financier who had never worked in politics prior to the role and was instrumental in implementing Trump’s major tax cuts for corporations. So THAT is who Yellen is succeeding. Not only is Ms. Yellen the first woman to do the job, it sounds like she’s also the first person to do the job in four years who knows what the hell she’s doing.

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New App Helps Domestic Violence Victims Collect And Store Legal, Court Admissible Evidence

Victims of domestic violence face endless hurdles when it comes to their own safety, their children’s safety, seeking justice, and getting free. Because they often don’t have resources, money, a way out, a place to go, or they are simply, and understandably, too afraid to leave for fear of what their abuser might do, victims stay. They stay and they stay and they stay. And they endure mental and physical abuse for weeks, months, and even years.

One primary obstacle many face in seeking justice for their abuse is evidence. Far too often, domestic violence cases are thrown out of court and perpetrators are allowed to go free, able to continue terrorizing their partners, because of “lack of evidence,” the courts say. The accuser cannot prove their claims—there are no pictures, there are no witnesses, there are no recordings of said abuse. Alarmingly, a case study in New Jersey found that 8 out of 10 domestic violence cases in the state are dismissed. Eight. Out. Of. Ten. Why? Lack of evidence is often the reason.

And because so many victims know that they cannot prove their case, they often don’t even come forward at all, which means there is truly no way out.

Well, Sheri Kurdakul, a victim of domestic violence herself, has changed that for so many who are trapped in this cage of terror. And it is because of her experiences enduring abuse that Kurdakul knows of the major challenges victims have in breaking free of those chains—namely, having adequate evidence that can be used in court.

For one, oftentimes abuse happens in a flurry of emotion and noise. Mothers are frantically trying to protect themselves and their children. It’s traumatic and terrifying, and as is often the case after a painful event, the victim’s memories might be unclear. Also, the abuse may have happened months or years in the past, and the victim is now just coming forward. That, too, can make remembering everything a challenge.

Secondly, many domestic abuse victims know that it’s not always easy to collect evidence if the abuser is still in the home. A victim may not be able to safely snap a photo of a bruise or hole in the wall and save it in their phone for evidence. Or text it to someone who can help without inciting further anger and violence.

Finally, a victim may not even know what evidence is needed to convince the police, case workers, judges, and juries that yes, the abuse happened, and yes, the abuser deserves to be charged.

Sheri Kurdakul took all of this into account when she created VictimsVoice, an app that “records incidences of abuse in a way that’s safe, secure, and legally admissible,” A Mighty Girl explains. “‘What did you have for lunch 10 days ago? What was the weather like? Can you remember without looking at your calendar?” Kurdakul asks. “If you cannot recall this, then how is a victim supposed to remember something that happened when they are trying to stay safe, protect their kids and pets — months, even years in the past? That’s the problem we solve.”

But VictimsVoice not just a recording app. Kurdakul knew she needed to do more, so she worked with attorneys and law enforcement to ensure that the app helps victims gather the exact information they’d need—legally admissible proof—to be used in court.

One of the first things you’ll see if you visit victimsvoice.app is this: “WE ARE NOT a reporting app nor are we mandatory reporters. YOU own your license. YOU control all access and information. Only you.” Kurdakul wants those who use this app to know, from the get-go, that they are empowered and they are in control of the information saved here.

However, although the account owner controls their own access and info, the app does help them know what specific info to collect. For example, VictimsVoice ensures the person recording doesn’t leave out important details. It asks about possible additional witnesses and “doctor visits with recorded injuries not reported,” for example. “Victims don’t always know what to document – we remove the guesswork,” VictimsVoice.app explains.

Also, the app helps the victim keep all of their information in one safe and secure place. And, VictimsVoice helps collect evidence the victim may not even know they need—evidence for a potentially larger case. “In domestic violence cases, there are often other forms of abuse occurring in the home,” the app website says. “We ask questions that can potentially uncover the opportunity to bring additional charges, such as animal abuse or weapons charges.”

But what about if the abuser checks the victim’s phone? Don’t worry—VictimsVoice thought of that too. As A Mighty Girl explains, “The app asks a series of open-ended questions about each incident, and allows users to upload photos of injuries, as well as rape kit or physical exam details. Then, all of the data is encrypted and stored off-device, so that even if the abuser damages or takes a victim’s phone, the information is safe. The website includes a Safety Exit button which ensures that the site doesn’t remain in the browser history. And since users can’t modify entries after recording them, the app meets strict US legal standards, allowing the information to be used in court.”

However, even though there’s a “safety exit” button, users should access VictimsVoice through an incognito screen on their computer or phone as an extra protective measure so their abuser doesn’t find it.

So how can someone use VictimsVoice? They need to purchase a license—$40 annually—but if paying for it is not feasible, VictimsVoice has a “What if I can’t afford a license?” option too that a potential user can click, where they can be linked up with a donor who will help. Also, the site offers a gift card option, allowing people to fund a VictimsVoice license for someone else in need.

VictimsVoice is not a downloadable app from the app store and can only be accessed through VictimsVoice.app. Once information has been inputted, it can be accessed from any computer or device and is not stored on the user’s phone. All the user needs to do is log in.

No one should have to use an app to record details of abuse. This technology should not be needed. But the reality is, domestic violence—largely against women—has been on the rise during the COVID-19 pandemic, and this app could save lives. It could put abusers away into prison and allow their victims to finally have the peace and freedom they deserve—peace and freedom they may not see otherwise.

A Mighty Girl reports that VictimsVoice is being used in all 50 states just year after its launch, and evidence gathered through the app has already been used as “legally admissible evidence in multiple court cases.” Sadly, the company has reported a “sharp uptick” in usage since COVID-19 hit, with “over thirty states experiencing double-digit percentage increases in March and April compared to [last] January and February.” And, the article adds, “One state, Utah, experienced a 450% increase in activity during this period.”

450%. Let that sink in for a moment.

The New England Journal of Medicine reports that several factors—including quarantine mandates that removed “safe haven” options, economic challenges due to job loss, and lack of safe childcare are some of the primary reasons the pandemic has led to increase in intimate partner violence.

Also, many times victims don’t actively report their abuse, but it is found about through a hospital visit or even a routine doctor’s appointment, and that’s where the victim receives help. During the pandemic, however, those in-person visits aren’t happening nearly as much.

“Medical offices can be safe places for patients to disclose abuse,” The New England Journal of Medicine explains. “Physical examination findings; a patient’s behavior during or while discussing physically intimate components of a breast, pelvic, or rectal examination; or an aggressive partner can be warnings signs of possible IPV. In settings such as emergency departments and labor and delivery suites, policies mandate screening for IPV when patients are alone. Evaluation in a clinic or hospital setting permits immediate intervention, including involvement of social workers, safety planning, and a review of services available to victims and their dependents.”

However, as it has with everything else, the pandemic has negatively impacted the ability for medical professionals to take these protective measures.

The New England Journal of Medicine goes on to say that these opportunities have “often been absent in the Covid-19 era. As offices canceled and rescheduled non-urgent clinic visits and moved to telemedicine platforms, safely screening patients for IPV became more difficult. Not only might patients live in areas with unreliable Internet or cellular service, but abusers might be listening in on conversations, leaving patients unable to disclose escalating abuse at home.”

Domestic violence and abuse isn’t new, but modern technology is. And thankfully, Sheri Kurdakul, who knows all too well how it feels to be trapped with an abuser, was able to use that technology to help other victims like her.

Abuse victims are trapped inside their homes more than ever because of this pandemic, and they need help. VictimsVoice can be the way out.

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Please Join Me As I Eviscerate Joseph Epstein AKA ‘Mr. Unemployed Misogynistic Pr*ck’

Upon graduating college with my hard-earned degree to teach high school English, I almost immediately began planning for  my graduate studies. Lots of high schools around the country require their teachers to have a masters degree, so that was a motivator. Plus, it came with a pay raise. And, I truly enjoyed going to school. In fact, at the time, I hadn’t ruled out going on and earning my doctorate as well.

I did end up graduating with my M.A. in secondary education, after writing a thesis I’m damn proud of. My path changed a bit and I never went on for my doctorate, but you can be sure as hell if I had that I’d claim that Dr. title. That my students—even the grumpiest of teenagers whose eyes shot daggers at me as I made them read Shakespearean sonnets—would be calling me Dr. and not Mrs. or Miss.

And as I’ve encountered other professionals with that Dr. title, I’ve never hesitated to refer to them that way. My children’s formal principal went by Dr. Matthews. No one questioned it. I’ve had professors at the undergraduate and graduate level use the title. Again, that’s what we all called them. With respect. And without hesitation. Just as we refer to famous figures like a man we’ve all heard of—Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.— because each of these people put in the work, the years, the money, the commitment, and the dedication. Each of them earned their Dr. title.

So yeah, when Dr. Jill Biden completed her education and earned her Doctor of Education (Ed.D) from the University of Delaware, she rightfully earned the title “Dr.” and deserves to be referred to as such. Just as any other professional with that level of expertise does as well. Is she a medical doctor? No. Does she claim to be? No. Have professionals in academia added Dr. to their titles once they’ve earned their doctorate for centuries? Yes.

However, because some ignorant asswipes remain stuck in 1950, or don’t understand how higher education works, or simply are bound and determined to hate on the Bidens as they hated on the Obamas even though they are kind and supportive of others—regardless of political party, her title is under scrutiny.

The Wall Street Journal stupidly published an op-ed, which has now gone viral, that was moronically entitled, “Is There a Doctor in the White House? Not if You Need an M.D.” And, of course, this piece of trash essay included a byline that reads, “Jill Biden should think about dropping the honorific, which feels fraudulent, even comic.”

Joseph Epstein, the “writer” of this ignorant word vomit, opens by condescendingly calling Dr. Biden “kiddo” and offering her advice, as if he is in any position to advise the First Lady of the United States on literally anything. “Madame First Lady—Mrs. Biden—Jill—kiddo: a bit of advice on what may seem like a small but I think is a not unimportant matter,” Epstein mansplains.

He then goes on to insult her dissertation on student retention at community colleges, calling it “unpromising” and, in the same paragraph, refers to the idiotic but commonly used quip that no one can call themselves “doctor” unless they’ve delivered a child.

Let’s break this bullshittery down, shall we? First of all, Mr. Epstein, your piece reeks of envy. We’re sorry you didn’t have the… guts? courage? stamina? intelligence level? (who knows) to actually ever earn a doctorate, but you sound bitter. It’s not a good look. Also, it’s clear that you don’t respect the value of community colleges, which is where Dr. Biden has spent a large portion of her career. And, finally, the world now knows that you are threatened by smart women. Bravo.

Also, we’ll be sure to let all the medical doctors out there who’ve tirelessly fought COVID-19 this year, holding the hands of dying patients, and also those brilliant scientists who thankfully have brought us a vaccine that offers a beacon of hope, that they don’t get to call themselves “doctor” because they’ve never caught a newborn baby. I’m sure they’ll appreciate that tidbit of info from you—*checks notes*—a man with one single undergraduate degree, no earned doctorate, and zero medical expertise.

Basically, Joey, it’s obvious that you have some personal issues you need to unpack. Maybe take some time over the holidays to do a little self-reflection? Like, why do you even care what title Dr. Biden goes by? Why are you so scared of women who are more successful than you?

Your piece then goes on a long, barely coherent rant about “honorary doctorates,” which is not what Dr. Biden has. If you’d like to blast the validity or point of bestowing honorary doctorates on celebrities like Stephen Colbert and Seth Meyers, for example, go right ahead, but that has nothing to do with Dr. Biden. This lack of cohesive argument is why I’ve referred to you as a “writer” a few paragraphs up, because it seems apparent that you don’t understand the need for basic textual support.

(Calling you a jealous asswipe, well, that’s just a reflection of your character.)

Finally, your last “supporting argument” (again, use of quotes intentional here) as to why Dr. Biden should drop her title is because apparently doctorates don’t count anymore. Back in the day, you explain, doctoral exams were far more grueling, but today’s candidates get off way too easy.

“One had to pass examinations in two foreign languages, one of them Greek or Latin, defend one’s thesis, and take an oral examination on general knowledge in one’s field,” your op-ed states. “At Columbia University of an earlier day, a secretary sat outside the room where these examinations were administered, a pitcher of water and a glass on her desk. The water and glass were there for the candidates who fainted. A far cry, this, from the few doctoral examinations I sat in on during my teaching days, where candidates and teachers addressed one another by first names and the general atmosphere more resembled a kaffeeklatsch.”

(I had to look up what kaffeeklatsch meant—it’s an informal social gathering at which coffee is served. Excuse my lack of knowledge there. I’m just a silly woman with a higher degree than you.)

And, as you end with, “Dr. Jill, I note you acquired your Ed.D. as recently as 15 years ago at age 55, or long after the terror had departed,” you not only insult her by addressing her as “Dr. Jill”, but you also imply that because she likely didn’t faint while taking her exams or defending her dissertation, that somehow her degree isn’t real.

That’s the crazy thing about education—it evolves. Today, kids even use these neat little things called computers! You wouldn’t believe it. Another way we’ve evolved is to realize that shockingly, our doctoral candidates don’t have to become physically ill to prove they are smart and worthy of their degree!

(I mean, you never even tried, Mr. Epstein, so I guess even today, doctoral programs are only for the toughest among us, like Dr. Jill Biden.)

Also, it seems that Northwestern University, where you were previously listed as “emeritus lecturer of English,” has scrubbed you entirely from their website, stating that it is “firmly committed to equity, diversity and inclusion, and strongly disagrees with Epstein’s misogynistic views.” Again, evolution! Change is good.

Hmmm. So one of you is a misogynist with no teaching history to even brag about as your previous employer has disassociated with you, and another is a successful educator committing to helping all Americans have access to a proper education. Oh, and the second one goes by Dr.

Looks like the real “comical fraud” is you, bruh.

And just so we’re clear, Dr. Biden has always been committed to ensuring that everyone (not just pretentious twats like you, Joseph Epstein) has access to a fair education. Earlier in her career, she worked in a psychiatric hospital where she taught English to adolescents with emotional disabilities. During that same time she also earned two (yes, TWO) master’s degrees, one from Villanova University and one from West Chester University. In 2009, after earning her doctorate, she began teaching English at Northern Virginia Community College, and advocating for community college education has since been her passion. “Dr. Biden has always said that community colleges are ‘one of America’s best-kept secrets.’ As a teacher, she sees how community colleges have changed the lives of so many of her students for the better,” explains former president Barack Obama’s White House website.

Sorry, Mr. Epstein, but not everyone can afford to enroll in an English class at Northwestern taught by a raging sexist who gets his balls in a bunch when women succeed. For many, community college is a better fit, and Dr. Biden is a big part of that.

“In 2012, she traveled across the country as part of the ‘Community College to Career’ tour to highlight successful industry partnerships between community colleges and employers,” the website goes on to say. “In the fall of 2010, she hosted the first-ever White House Summit on Community Colleges with President Obama, and she continues to work on this outreach on behalf of the Administration – frequently visiting campuses, meeting with students and teachers, as well as industry representatives around the country.”

Imagine all of the hard-working Americans Dr. Biden has helped by supporting community colleges. Future teachers just like her often get their degree while working full time, raising a family, and going to college at night. Who knows, some of them may even—gasp—go to grad school too. High school kids who choose to forego going away to a full-time university and instead, take classes at a community college closer to home, are given that option because of people like Dr. Biden. Kids who go on to be EMTs, police officers, technicians in trade industries, engineers, and find success in the business world. Or, they transfer those college credits to a larger university down the road when they have the means to do so. Single moms doing their best to give their children a good life often attend community college classes online, after their children are asleep, proving that they have the drive and determination to do more and be more.

So, what it all boils down to, Mr. Epstein, is that you really, really hate that there’s about to a woman in the White House who’s smarter than you. And not only that, but she inspires women everywhere to work hard, earn their degrees, and then they’ll be smarter than you too. Yikes. That’s a tough pickle to be in, Mr. Epstein. We’re sorry that you are so insecure and unhappy with your own lack of success.

At least you can still write those stellar op-eds though! Good luck with your “writing” career, kiddo.

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Scotland Is The First Country To Make Period Products Free —This Should Become The Norm Everywhere

Scotland announced it will offer free period products to its population, and like a true idealist, I’m wondering when other countries will do the same. Since the United States struggles to distribute basic human needs like clean water, food, and health care to people who are struggling, I’m not holding my breath for us. But period poverty is a reality that many folks have to deal with each month, and that is on top of the stigma of bleeding in the first place.

Everyone should have access to what they need, and that includes sanitary products. It’s one thing to be stuck for a minute without a tampon or pad if you’re caught off guard, but it’s another nightmare to have to go a whole cycle without something to contain the flow of menstruation. That’s a reality for folks who can’t afford period products.

Before you get worked up about people getting something for free, before you become worried about big business losing money, before you spread your patriarchal bullshit—let me remind you that you probably get free shit all the time, whether you need it or not. Free Frisbee or t-shirt for filling out a survey? Two please! Free hot dog at the ballpark? Fuck yeah! Free lamp with a busted lampshade on the side of the road? It’s free, why not!?

We aren’t talking about people getting extra, or more than someone else. Just like people struggle to keep the heat on in their home, put food on the table, or pay their rent, some people can’t afford to buy sanitary products each month. There are programs set up to help folks make ends meet, and this is just another program to help folks live with fewer struggles. It’s not like tampons or pads or reusable cups are glamorous gifts to brag about; they are necessary for a person to be able to confidently and safely leave the house in order to work or go to school.

In case you were wondered about the logistics of an operation like this, here’s how Scotland is going to handle distributing period products: Schools and universities are now required to offer free period products in all bathrooms. (I hope they are offered in bathrooms of all genders because transgender men and nonbinary folks bleed too.) The Scottish government will make it mandatory for other publicly funded places to offer free period products. And if anyone needs period products for any reason, the government will make sure they can get them for free. The Period Products Bill was passed unanimously by Parliament, which means male members endorsed the bill too. The new law will cost the country 24 million pounds, which is about 32 million dollars.

Reproductive rights are often up for debate, specifically when lawmakers try to regulate a person’s uterus. Birth control, abortion, and menstruation are often viewed as women’s issues, but not all women have vaginas and typical female sex organs. Also, transgender men and nonbinary people need to be included in these conversations, because we are also impacted by what our bodies experience in terms of body parts that can achieve pregnancy or shed blood each month. The common theme in regulating reproductive rights, however, is that cisgender men are often the ones making the rules. It’s more than frustrating to be told what I can do with my body and what tools I should have access to by people who never experience the thing they are making decisions about. No uterus means no opinion that doesn’t support the needs of a uterus.

Having a uterus is more expensive than not. One study found that a woman will spend $6,360 on menstrual products during her reproductive lifetime, or about $13.25 per month between the ages of 12 and 52. This amount doesn’t factor in the cost of what the uterus does to our bodies. I have had cramps and headaches that have caused me to miss work and school. I have had hormonal mood swings that required medication to pull me out of depression and suicidal thoughts. I have had to throw away clothes and sheets because of blood stains. Some folks struggle with endometriosis, ovarian cysts, and endometrial and ovarian cancer. Not only are treatments painful, expensive, and time consuming, but they could impact a person’s fertility. The need for fertility intervention to achieve pregnancy isn’t cheap and is far from pleasant. And while not nearly as significant, the reality of period related cravings can add up too.

Folks aren’t asking for people to buy them new underwear, to cover the cost of a day’s loss of work, or for a stash of chocolate—though that would be nice—but people should have the right to free tampons so they can afford all of the other bullshit that comes with menstruation. Also, if this is strictly a women’s issue, then covering the cost of “women’s” products would help out with the whole women-getting-paid-less issue. Gender equality can’t happen without some equity, and if a bleeder can’t get to work or school because they don’t have the proper protection, then there is little room for fairness.

Free condoms and dental dams are easily accessed in clinics and doctor’s offices, and yet one could argue that a person doesn’t need those things. Just don’t have sex. Easy peasy. Oh? You think you should be able to have the sex whenever you want? Or maybe you think you should be able to protect yourself or others from STIs and pregnancy but can’t afford prophylactics. Bummer. Good thing there are plenty of places for you to find free rubbers and other forms of protection.

Short of removing my uterus—which isn’t usually something that would be covered by insurance unless medically necessary, and even then, good luck—I can’t control the shedding of my uterus each month and neither can half of the population. For the people who can afford to pay for period products, they likely will continue to do so. But for the others who are burdened every month by the cost of bleeding, the least a government can do is make sure they have what they need so they can get through the day without the stress of bleeding money too.

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‘Missing White Woman Syndrome’ Is A Thing, And We Need To Talk About It

24-year old Massachusetts resident Trish Simpson was last seen on Sunday before she vanished. In Michigan, 23-year-old Shakia Jones has been missing for more than a week. And an Illinois-based police department hasn’t been able to locate 24-year-old Bryyanna Nelson since they spoke to her on Monday. 

The names of these young women probably won’t sound familiar, and the reason for it is as unfortunate as it is predictableThey aren’t white.And because they’re not white, the chances of them making national headlines are slim at best. And that’s beyond messed up. 

“The issue of underrepresentation and, consequently, inadequate attention to the cases of missing Black people in America is an ongoing issue that very few attempted solutions have solved,” writes Jada L. Moss in her 2019 article for William & Mary Journal of Race, Gender, and Social Justice. “A thorough comparison of the number of Black Americans who are reported missing with the number of times news media reports Black Americans as missing makes it even clearer that underrepresentation is an issue. This disparity, dubbed ‘Missing White Woman Syndrome,’ has more recently become a problem as technology continues to grow to be the primary method for access to current events and news.”

This phenomenon, which sounds absolutely ridiculous, is also painfully true. Criminal law scholar Zach Sommers proved its existence in his 2016 study “Missing White Woman Syndrome: An Empirical Analysis of Race and Gender Disparities in Online News Coverage of Missing Persons,” which was published in Northwestern University’s Journal of Criminal Law and Criminology.

“The race and gender disparities are evident across multiple sources and using multiple methods of analysis,” he explains in the study. “The disparities are also quite large and, for the most part, consistent with the differences predicted by Missing White Woman Syndrome… Based on these results and in the words of Charles Ramsey, it is safe to say that ‘something is wrong here.'”

Basically, our media’s all-consuming tendency to obsess over missing white girls and women far outweighs the focus it puts on our country’s Black female victims. Disappearances like those of Elizabeth Smart, Laci Petersen, and Natalee Holloway have been so damn widespread that many Americans practically know their stories by heart. But I can almost guarantee if you tried to name three Black girls or women who have recently made sweeping headlines for going missing, you would sadly come up short. And here’s a big-ass reason why. The intersectional experience of a Black woman translates to her being marginalized twice over for living in both a Black and female body, something that our culture still viciously treats as a double whammy of “lesser than” when compared to the white female body. So it makes unfortunate sense, as truly fucked up as it is, that Black women and girls would be treated differently when being victimized or in crisis.

“‘Missing White Woman Syndrome,’ the media’s tunnel-vision-like tendency to focus on the cases of missing white girls and women, has created considerable racial disparity in the world of missing persons cases,” explains Moss. “This trend — the lack of attention to and popularization to the stories of Black victims — coincides with the familiar narrative of Black Americans being both undesired and unlikely victims in American pop culture.”

This should never have been — and should not continue to be — a reality in our society, but considering the exorbitant amount of evidence making the point clear, it very much is.

The gross diminishment that our media inflicts on Black women and girls who go missing has several other infuriating causes. Many underage children of color are initially deemed “runaways” before their case is fully examined, which leaves them without the ever-helpful AMBER Alert System notifications that can help locals become informed about their disappearance in the first place. Missing Black adults are often assumed to be criminals, gang members, or drug dealers, and further desensitization is unduly placed on them based on where they live, how much or little money their family has, and whether there is a high crime rate in their town. In other words, racial bias is running rampant in these missing persons cases — and it needs to change, pronto. 

Another sad reality is that media coverage is largely determined by the diversity, or lack thereof, in a newsroom. With the vast majority of writers, producers, and journalists being — surprise, surprise! — white, coupled with the very real possibility that certain news outlets consider stories about missing white women more lucrative than any other racial group, Black women and girls don’t stand a fighting chance of having their stories shared.

It should also not be surprising to learn that many Black families are justifiably too afraid of calling the police when their loved ones disappear, since the staggering levels of country-wide prejudice and discrimination that keeps missing Black girls and women from being given the national media attention they deserve are also experienced locally by the victims’ families. “There’s a sense of distrust between law enforcement and the minority community,” Natalie Wilson, co-founder of the Black and Missing Foundation, tells CNN. This translates to a vicious cycle of underrepresentation and heartbreaking statistics that only further endanger missing Black girls and women.

While it’s certainly awesome that social media has become the new hotspot to create hashtags like #FindOurBlackGirls, #BlackGirlMissing, and #BringBackOurGirls to rally support for Black females who disappear, it should not be up to the general public to establish enough attention to deem a story worth sharing. And while these victims deserve their long overdue spotlight for the simple reason that they are human fucking beings, our oppressive society has made it even more necessary to spread their stories far and wide. Since a major cause of disappearance for Black girls especially is human trafficking, we have got to get our collective shit together. According to the FBI, Black children — largely girls — comprise 53% of all juvenile prostitution arrests, which is more than any other racial group. And that is not okay. 

In terms of creating some kind of solution, Moss calls for new systems designed to tailor fit missing persons cases for Black girls and women. “Systems such as AMBER Alert and general purpose missing persons advocacy groups are still very much needed and desired,” she writes. “However, in a just society, systems, policies, advocacy groups, and organizations tailored toward missing Black girls and women must coexist to ensure that the effects of Missing White Woman Syndrome are felt no more than what is absolutely necessary and to reverse the standard of bias that this phenomenon has created.”

The activists at Black and Missing are also bringing it back to the basics and sharing reminders that need to be on repeat for white people at all times. Diversify your newsrooms. Actively choose to publicize stories featuring Black women and WOC and publish less white women stories to balance coverage out. Stay vigilant about actually finding the missing person. And as if it wasn’t fucking obvious enough, please see the undoubtable value in Black and Brown lives.

I can’t believe I still have to write a reminder in 2020 imploring y’all to give basic respect and empathy to non-white people — especially those who have been victimized — but here we are. Women like Trish Simpson, Shakia Jones, and Bryyanna Nelson simply cannot afford to be placed on the media’s back-burner any longer. We all need to start caring. The time is now.

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I Was A Victim Of Clergy Sexual Misconduct

Around this time of year, leaves begin to change brilliant colors, trees shed their growth, there is a crispness in the air. It is also the time that the anniversary approaches of when I experienced horrific spiritual trauma at the hands of my trusted church leader.

You see, I was the victim of clergy sexual misconduct.

This happened four years ago in in the city I call home, Roanoke, Virginia by (a now-former) Bishop of the my church, the Mormon church. This man is still active in the church and enjoys full rights and privileges, despite multiple women having complained about and reporting his problematic behavior.

I have been very public with my story. I will continue to be public about my story. I have shared it with news outlets, on podcasts, in written articles simply because it is simply SO shockingly unbelievable that it is believable—because it is ubiquitous. It is ALL of our stories as survivors; sadly, my experience is far from unique or isolated.

I have completed many years of therapy and in-depth trauma work because of how this situation of spiritual abuse and religious coercion impacted my life, my self-worth, my dignity, me. None of this is my shame to bear … although the responsibility of healing the trauma it has caused me is mine to carry and sort through. And that work is ongoing forever and really tough sometimes. 

In a recent article on Betrayal Trauma Recovery, an organization that aims to help women in abusive situations find safety and peace, Dave Gemmel, Associate Director of the NAD Ministerial Association, states, “Clergy sexual misconduct is a betrayal of sacred trust and can be on a continuum of sexual or gender-directed behaviors, either a lay or clergy person with a ministerial relationship, whether they’re paid or unpaid.” Clergy sexual misconduct is not limited to sexual harassment or sexual assault of a clergy member on lay member but also involves a much larger broad-scope of definitions.

It has taken me years to unpack the trauma shoved on me from a reckless, unethical, irresponsible and misogynistic bishop who I trusted to keep me safe.

A bishop who, instead, told me to “submit” myself to him so he could “fix me” because he has “a special way with women.”

A bishop who told me that I needed to divulge intimate details about my personal and private sexual history to him.

A bishop who told me to be more sexual, while also being more submissive.

Over these years, I’ve come to learn that not everyone believes my experiences with this bishop. Some are even outspoken about how I am the dishonest one. Is it difficult to believe that someone you trust that think has the spiritual power to speak for God has treated someone else inappropriately and has engaged in abusing this power?

Yes. Yes. Yes.

And what do I stand to gain by coming forward with what happened to me? Nothing. Absolutely not a thing. But I stood to lose a lot—and I have lost a lot. The alienation by some in my former faith community has been devastating, along with “friendships” that could not survive the dissonance placed upon them. My name dragged through the mud by some more vocal members who are close to this bishop and defamation of me by this bishop himself. I tell you, it’s been an absolute dream come true (and that is sarcasm).

Admittedly, it is so difficult to let ourselves believe something like this about people we know and trust, likely because we may have had positive experiences with the abusive person ourselves. Abusers are not all good or all bad. This is a myth. Instead, they are abusive people that do abusive things, and sometimes they are abusive people that can do good things. They also don’t abuse everyone they meet. Instead, they assess, groom, exploit, and abuse certain ones.

So no, not all people have to believe my experience. And that is okay. It doesn’t take anything away from me if others choose not to believe that this happened to me. I do not have any overwhelming need to be believed by everyone, because being believed does not validate my experience or my trauma any more or any less. And here’s a fun fact: They weren’t in the bishop’s office with the door closed late at night when this happened. I was.

So often we don’t want to see what our minds cannot make sense of. This is how and why abusive people continue to hold positions of power and how they continue to encounter, access, and abuse victim after victim after victim after victim.

Later, after I went public with my story, I learned that this Bishop paid the only partial witness to this event (a family member who saw me before and after the incident and knew how upset I was) nearly $20,000 of member donations and sacred tithes for no apparent reason other than what I suspect is to keep him quiet and ensure that this person will never corroborate my story. The layers of unrighteous abuse of authority can often be compounded, one upon another, when victims choose to come forward in an already traumatic and difficult situation.

So what can we do about clergy sexual misconduct?

1. Make sure your faith community has safe policies and practices in place that everyone knows and that are posted in all locations within buildings, etc. One thing that completely failed me in my situation was the fact that my faith community had NO safe measures for a lay member to report an abusive or rogue bishop. This is a huge red flag.

2. Advocate for diversity among church leadership. This includes women in roles and positions in the very highest of the leadership tiers and all throughout. No decisions about female church members should be being made without their involvement. Dave Gemmel goes on to state, “If you just have one gender, you only get half of the picture. If there are only men on these committees, you’re half-blind. Many times, women can pick up on things that us men are clueless to.” This is another area that failed me in my church organizational system. There was no other woman in a leadership position that I could go to that was not presided over by a man. In fact, only those with the priesthood can hold leadership positions with independent, autonomous decision making authority and the only people that can hold priesthood within my faith are males. This is a huge red flag.

3. Do not expect and do not go to your clergy for therapeutic counseling of ANY type. Therapeutic counselors receive years of training— even if a clergy member has received pastoral training this is still not enough to equate to the specialized expertise that a therapeutic counselor has. Dave Gemmel explains, “Formal training of pastors and, particularly, lay leaders do not equip them to engage in therapeutic counseling.” This is another way in which my faith community failed me. I was taught that our bishops speak for God and have a the spirit of discernment. So naturally it made sense to seek his advice for personal problems I was experiencing in my life. Naively, I substituted my religious belief in priesthood and magic discernment for real, substantiative, concrete education and training in ethics and pastoral care because this is what I was taught from a young age. This is a huge red flag.

4. If you must be with your clergy for some reason always, take a trusted person with you. The door should remain open at all times. Never meet with them alone and maintain boundaries of appropriateness in all communications. This is another way in which my faith community failed me. I was alone at the church late at night meeting with this church leader. When I finally left this meeting, I ended up running out of his office in tears, but there was no one to see me or witness what happened. This is a huge red flag.

Overall, I have learned more about how destructive spiritual trauma can truly be to a person. The effects are so damaging and can last lifelong. They aren’t leaves that shed with ease in a new autumn season. I was so ashamed and so broken—it was even hard to put into words what happened to me at first and for months after.

But now, I can say this with an unequivocal conviction of fortitude and stoicism: I was the victim of clergy sexual misconduct. It was not okay and it was not my fault.

The leaves are still changing brilliant colors, trees are still shedding their growth, and there is still is a crispness in the air. My trauma is also still here.

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Doug Emhoff Is Quitting His Job To Support Kamala Harris When She Becomes VP

Doug Emhoff is set to leave his job as a lawyer to support his wife’s role as VP

Joe Biden and Kamala Harris are set to make history when they step into their duties as President and Vice President at the end of January, but their spouses are also breaking all sorts of barriers and shattering stereotypes. Jill Biden has previously said that when she assumes her First Lady duties, she’s not going to quit her day job teaching at a community college (as she did when Biden was VP), which would make her the first FLOTUS to keep her full-time job. And Harris’ husband Doug Emhoff is going to leave his private law practice to focus on his role at the White House, and yassss, normalize stay-at-home husbands! Equality starts in the home, even if that home is the White House!

A spokesperson for Harris and Emhoff told the AP that come inauguration day, he will cut ties with DLA Piper, his private law practice, from where he’s actually been on a leave of absence since Harris joined the Biden campaign over the summer. Emhoff hasn’t officially selected his title, though Biden has referred to him as the “second gentleman.” Also, Emhoff is already breaking boundaries by becoming the first Jewish spouse of a president or a vice president.

Between Emhoff and Dr. Jill Biden, this is one modern pair of political spouses. During an interview with CBS in August, Dr. Biden — an English professor who holds a doctorate in education and kept teaching throughout her eight years as Second Lady — said she had no plans to ditch her job when her husband becomes president.

“If we get to the White House, I’m gonna continue to teach,” she said over the summer. “It’s important, and I want people to value teachers and know their contributions, and lift up the profession.”

Emhoff, on the other hand, has worked as a lawyer for most of his life, and is still working with the transition team on what causes he’ll support and tackle in the White House. For example, Mike Pence’s wife Karen promotes art therapy and focuses on military families.

“We’ve been waiting for this sort of gender switch for decades now,” Kim Nalder, a professor of political science at California State University-Sacramento told the AP. “There is a lot of symbolism from a man stepping back from his high-powered career in order to support his wife’s career.”

It’s progressive, it’s awesome, and the country is ready for a second gentleman with big “wife guy” energy in the White House.

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I Was Raised In An Orthodox Religion: Here’s How I Learned To Rethink Modesty

Being raised in an orthodox religion, I was taught from a very young age that my body was a temple and it was my responsibility to keep it covered up. I knew the word “modesty” by the time I was six years old. And what exactly did that mean? Modesty meant that my hemlines touched my kneecap, maybe just the top of it if I was feeling a bit rebellious. My shoulders were always covered, nothing low-cut, nothing too-tight. Modesty was a measurement of outward commitment to my religious beliefs. Furthermore, it was my responsibility to make sure that men and boys did not have impure thoughts.

After experiencing a faith transition as an adult, I found myself sorting, shedding, and scraping some of my beliefs, but modesty was one that I still was not able to categorize in a nice, neat little pile of keep, save, or donate. It didn’t fit anywhere on the shelf. I couldn’t hang it in my closet of mishmash.

I am still working on examining, pushing past, accepting and letting go of some unhealthy conditioning of orthodoxy that exists within. A pattern of thoughts race through my mind each time I put on a dress that is a little shorter than I had become accustomed to.

Will they think my dress is immodest?

Will they think it shows too much of my legs?

Will they think I make bad decisions?

Will they think less of me?

Am I less of a person?

Am I unworthy?

The thought of what I was inadvertently exemplifying to my kids with these thought patterns has kept me up at night. The thought that my girls could grow to think these things about themselves was painful and heart-wrenching. The thought that my boys could grow up judging a girl’s worth on what she wore was just as painful and heart-wrenching. I became determined to break the cycle of the modesty trap.

Examining why modesty was so tied in my mind to my inherent worth as a person has been a journey. A long, rough path. This is an effect of purity culture, which is heavily present in many orthodox religious communities. More importantly, I found myself asking: What can I do to move past the teachings that equate my individual worth with how my body is covered or not covered? How can I model and teach a healthy view of modesty?

And soon, new pattern became scripted in my mind.

I am not my legs.

I am not my hemline.

I am not my calves.

I am not the tightness of my dress.

Or where it grazes my thigh.

I am me. A whole person. Not what I wear. Not how I look. Not how I dress.

I am me, who feels great about how she presents herself to the world.

And suddenly, I found my own meaning of modesty that I could comfortably pack into my closet of mishmash.

So, this year, I look back and acknowledge; I never would have worn a dress that fell on my mid-thigh, a dress that showed my legs, with heels that accented my calves, especially not for family photos.

And this year …

… I did.

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‘Unpregnant’ Normalizes Abortion, And That’s Critically Important

Teen pregnancy isn’t a new subject matter for a film. There are movies like Juno, Saved, Riding In Cars With Boys, etc. But there aren’t any films that focus on the teen girl having an abortion. Enter Unpregnant, an original film on HBO Max.

In Unpregnant, Veronica (played brilliantly by Haley Lu Richardson) is a high school senior who gets pregnant by her high school boyfriend. Knowing that a pregnancy will ruin the perfect life she’s cultivated, she decides to have an abortion. But she can’t tell anyone her plan — her friends wouldn’t understand, and her religious parents would freak. The film does an incredible job at realistically portraying what it is to make the decision to have an abortion.

Unpregnant does a great job at showing the lengths a woman has to go to have an abortion. Veronica lives in Missouri and finds that because she’s only 17, the closest place she can get an abortion without parental consent is Albuquerque, New Mexico. And the only person who can help her is her childhood best friend, Bailey (played by the hilarious Barbie Ferreira.) Bailey also happens to be the person who found Veronica taking a pregnancy test in school. What’s so clever about the film is that it packages very important subject matter as a road trip comedy. But you never really forget what they’re on a mission to do.

“Normalizing abortion is what we have to do,” Ferreira explained in an interview with Cosmopolitan. “Society puts this pressure on people who are getting abortions, that they should feel a lot of guilt and shame and really emotional about it. Most people are just relieved.”

Overall, abortion rates in the United States are dropping. According to research compiled by Pew Research Center in 2013, the rate of teen (15 to 19 years old) abortion has been on a steady decline since the 1970s. In 2013, of the 450,000 teen pregnancies, about 24 percent ended in abortions. And the CDC reports that teen pregnancies in general have been declining in the last few years. There are a lot of reasons for the decline, but having a better understanding of their options is one of them. While the CDC doesn’t give specific stats about the teenage abortion rate specifically, they said in 2016 there were about 11.6 abortions per 1,000 women.

Of course, Unpregnant shows other realities of what it’s like for women, especially young women, having an abortion. In one scene, the girls find themselves stuck at a carnival in Texas. After they make plans to get a ride, a very nice, generic looking couple and their baby approach. Instantly you’re like “oh shit.” So they offer the girls a ride and stupidly, they accept. They wake up the next morning in the car unsure of where they are. Turns out, the couple has taken them to their home instead. You know something is up because they still have Veronica’s phone. Over a pancake breakfast, they inform the girls they offered a ride because they heard them making the appointment for the abortion at the carnival.

The ensuing chaos is done in a really clever way. It would be easy to paint them as the cult-like Jesus freaks they clearly are. But instead it’s hilarious. The girls steal the keys to the family’s SUV and book it. Suddenly, the husband, played by Breckin Meyer, appears driving a camper. That would have been funny enough, but the camper has a giant praying baby on the front. So imagine a giant praying baby camper chasing two teens in an SUV through the desert, with the driver trying to coax them back over the camper’s loudspeaker.

He means well, and isn’t inherently a bad person. And that’s what is really brilliant about the whole scene. More often than not, the portrayal of evangelical pro-lifers in the media makes them out to be nuts. And it’s not that some of these people aren’t insane, but they’re also very normal. They truly believe they’re doing the right thing. Even though we know they’re really not.

“You’re exactly the type of person to get a secret abortion,” Bailey hisses at Veronica in another scene. And it’s true. There is no “type” of person who gets an abortion, and that’s the whole point. Per society’s beliefs, Bailey would be the one who got pregnant at 17. She is moderately supervised by her mom and is a loner. Veronica is smart, has loving parents, and is well-liked. But just as in real life, even the well-liked, smart girls are having sex. Anyone having sex can get pregnant.

One of the most honest scenes in Unpregnant is the actual abortion scene. It would be very easy for them to do something incredibly dramatic and graphic, but they present it in a very honest way. As the nurse describes the procedure, you see it happening on screen. That’s it. There’s no commentary or underlying meaning attached to it. This portrays it as exactly what it is: a medical procedure. During the scene, I was worried that she would change her mind after all they’d been through, but she never does. So many other shows and movies that deal with abortion use that moment right before to show the character’s doubt and sway their decision. But Unpregnant doesn’t do that. You can see that Veronica is obviously nervous, but she never ever wavers from her decision. It was refreshing to see.

Another really refreshing thing is Veronica’s emotional journey throughout Unpregnant. While she never falters in her need for an abortion, she does change her mind about her openness talking about it. At first, she doesn’t want anyone to know. Which makes sense; she’s 17 and has all her shit together. She feels like a failure and doesn’t want to let anyone down. But as she goes through this insane journey just to have the procedure, it causes her to change her mind. She goes through a battle to keep her autonomy. Throughout the film, she realizes how unfair the whole process of abortion is. Women shouldn’t have to drive almost 1,000 miles across multiple states to have an abortion if they want one.

Unpregnant takes a stance on abortion, but never makes a judgment in either direction. It emphasizes the importance of a woman having the option of choice, and how the problem with the ability to choose is the lack of availability for those making the choice. Veronica knows what’s best for her, and she just wants that choice honored. The film never says “teen pregnancy = bad and abortion = good.” What it does is highlight the heart of every argument on the subject.

The only person who can truly make a decision about abortion is the person the pregnancy is directly affecting, and Unpregnant does a fantastic job of letting us see the struggles — both internal and external — of making such a choice.

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The RBG ‘Dissent Collar’ Is Back At Banana Republic

And 100 percent of the proceeds will be donated to the International Center for Research on Women

The late Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s “Dissent Collar” is being re-released by Banana Republic with a new name fitting the champion of women’s rights and gender equality: the Notorious Necklace.

Ginsburg, the second woman in history to sit on the bench of the U.S. Supreme Court and often referred to as “The Notorious RBG,” died Sept. 18 after a battle with cancer. As we continue to mourn her death, Banana Republic decided to bring back its original black-and-white beaded necklace given to her at the Glamour Women of the Year Awards, which she won in 2012.

Banana Republic

The sequined accessory, often worn by Ginsberg as a symbol of her disagreement with the majority opinion on Supreme Court cases, got its name after she sat down with Katie Couric for a 2014 interview. “This is my dissenting collar. It looks fitting for dissent,” she said.

“You know, the standard robe is made for a man because it has a place for the shirt to show, and the tie. So, Sandra Day O’Connor and I thought it would be appropriate if we included as part of our robe something typical of a woman,” Justice Ginsburg told the Washington Post in 2009.

Banana Republic officially renamed it the Dissent Collar Necklace in 2019, with 50 percent of the retail price donated to the American Civil Liberties Union Women’s Rights Project.

Banana Republic

“Banana Republic feels this is an opportunity to benefit the advancement of women’s rights as a continuation of the brand’s commitment to champion equality,” the company said in a statement, per Fashionista.

“Originally released in 2012, we’re reissuing this special necklace with its sparkling glass stones and a velvet tie,” the retailer said on its website.

While the necklace became a symbol of her dissents, it became famous when she took to the bench following Donald Trump’s election in 2016. “I can’t imagine what this place would be — I can’t imagine what the country would be — with Donald Trump as our president… For the country, it could be four years. For the court, it could be — I don’t even want to contemplate that,” she told the New York Times in July before the election.

“My most fervent wish is that I will not be replaced until a new president is installed,” Ginsburg later told her granddaughter, the week before her death.

The necklace, which is now available for preorder until its official launch on Nov. 30, will be sold for $98 with 100 percent of the proceeds being donated to the International Center for Research on Women, an organization that honored RBG with its Champions for Change award in 2016.

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