Why Saturday Night Live’s ‘Welcome to Hell’ Should Be the #MeToo Movement’s Anthem

Some might say “Another One Bites the Dust” by Queen sounds the like the ideal anthem to accompany the #MeToo movement, as another powerful, prominent man seems to fall from his pedestal every day, made to pay the price for his previous indiscretions.

Saturday Night Live, however, debuted the perfect anti-harassment song, chock full of comical references to the disgusting behaviors we women must rebuke regularly. Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to Hell.

“Hey there, boys. We know the last couple months have been frickin’ insane,” cast member Cecily Strong states at the beginning of the music video, referencing the onslaught of sexual harassment and assault allegations that continue to dominate the daily news.

“All these big, cool, powerful guys are turning out to be, what’s the word? Habitual predators?” cast member Aidy Bryant says. “And it’s, like, dang, is this the world now?” At which point Strong responds: “Oh, this been the damn world.”

“This ain’t a girl group, we just travel in a pack for safety,” Bryant adds as she, Strong, cast member Kate McKinnon, and host Saoirse Ronan — clad in pastels, surrounded by rainbows and lollipops that create stark contrast with the dark subject matter at hand — innocently explain the issues women have faced throughout history under the guise of some saccharine pop song.

“Now House of Cards is ruined, and that really sucks,” sings Ronan’s platinum blonde pop princess persona. “Well here’s a list of stuff that’s ruined for us: parking, and walking, and Uber, and ponytails, and bathrobes, and nighttime, and drinking, and hotels, and vans.”

But, beyond the comedic approach to these undeniable truths, the ladies of SNL — more specifically, Leslie Jones — briefly tapped into one harsh reality that deserves far more attention than it’s received: the impact sexual misconduct has on women of color.

Jones soon appears to inform the women that “it’s, like, a million times worse for women of color,” with which all the ladies were in agreement. After all, despite the fact that a woman of color, Tarana Burke, founded the “Me Too” movement long before hashtags existed, this marginalized demographic continues to be ignored.

In an Op-Ed published by the Washington Post last month, Burke explained that women of color have been “screaming about famous predators like R&B singer R. Kelly, who allegedly preys on black girls, for well over a decade to no avail.”

Burke also quoted actress Jane Fonda who, in reaction to Hollywood’s outpouring allegations against Harvey Weinstein, highlighted the fact that the skin color of his accusers helped the story earn national attention.

“It feels like something has shifted. It’s too bad that it’s probably because so many of the women that were assaulted by Harvey Weinstein are famous and white and everybody knows them. This has been going on a long time to black women and other women of color and it doesn’t get out quite the same,” Fonda said.

While SNL’s passing reference was a much needed nod to those who continue to suffer silently, as Burke wrote, “history has shown us time and again is that if marginalized voices — those of people of color, queer people, disabled people, poor people — aren’t centered in our movements then they tend to become no more than a footnote.”

“I often say that sexual violence knows no race, class or gender, but the response to it does,” she added. “’Me too’ is a response to the spectrum of gender-based sexual violence that comes directly from survivors — all survivors. We can’t afford a racialized, gendered or classist response. Ending sexual violence will require every voice from every corner of the world and it will require those whose voices are most often heard to find ways to amplify those voices that often go unheard.”

We’re all singing the same tune, but we need to give the voices in the back of the choir some time at the microphone. We have always had the power to lift up those who need help, but this time, by working together, we have the opportunity to command and direct the national dialogue regarding women’s health and safety. We must continue to speak out while others are willing to listen because, as history has proven time and time again, there’s no telling when society will opt to change the station.

(This post originally appeared on Storia.)

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Geraldo Rivera Can’t Comprehend the Difference Between Flirtation and Assault

Source: Wikimedia Commons

Ever since the New York Times and the New Yorker unearthed Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein’s decades-long history of sexual assault and harassment, the deluge of accusations against other prominent men continues to dominate the 24-hour news cycle. Every day, another public figure comes under fire for past behaviors they likely thought would never come to light. Although somewhat shocking, TV host Matt Lauer’s “inappropriate sexual behavior” probably won’t be the last revelation to flow from this widespread wave of accountability.

But, as such allegations are revealed, the public must also grapple with the naysayers — those who choose to believe the accused over the accuser. In response to Lauer’s scandal, for instance, Geraldo Rivera took to Twitter to show support for his longtime friend. Rivera defended Lauer by claiming that “news is a flirty business” and that the “current epidemic of #SexHarassmentAllegations may be criminalizing courtship & conflating it w predation.”

However, Rivera then contradicted his prior tweet by asserting sexual harassment “should be confined to situations where superior imposes himself on subordinate who feels unable to complain because of power of perp or feared consequences to victim’s employment.”

If both of Rivera’s tweets are meant to support each other, as one would assume, then his stance implies that the allegations against Lauer are merely playful. However, most will agree that Lauer’s lewd actions — which include summoning women to his office for sex and exposing his genitalia to female colleagues — does not, in any way, constitute flirtation. Rivera seems to have misplaced his dictionary, if that’s the case.

For reference, here’s a vocabulary lesson:

flir·ta·tion: (noun) behavior that demonstrates a playful sexual attraction to someone.

sex·u·al ha·rass·ment: (noun) aggressive pressure or intimidation (typically of a woman) in a workplace, or other professional or social situation, involving the making of unwanted sexual advances or obscene remarks.

Rivera’s perspective, however, comes from a position of power. As a 74-year-old man in a male-dominated industry, he’s been the accused, but never the accuser. (Bette Midler, for example, claimed Rivera groped her during her 1991 interview with Barbara Walters.) It’s easy for someone in his shoes to prescribe how the law should work because, historically speaking, the law usually favors men — particularly those whose money equates to clout.

Only someone who’s never been victimized — who’s never faced the physical and emotional aftermath of such an encounter — would suggest this approach to obtaining justice. Forcing women to come forward in an orderly, timely fashion, with evidence in tow, puts the burden on the victim, which is why so many women refuse to report the incident in the first place.

Victims must struggle with the shame and fear that often comes along with assault and harassment. Not only must they worry about retaliation, but they must also consider what it’ll be like to recount the experience and have their name dragged through the mud as the accused attempts to discredit their reputation. For those who are suffering, there’s never an easy path forward.

Thankfully, Rivera’s comments have come under scrutiny. Fox News, where Rivera has served as roaming correspondent since 2001, issued a statement regarding Rivera’s tweets, telling Entertainment Weekly that “Geraldo’s tweets do not reflect the views of Fox News or its management. We were troubled by his comments and are addressing them with him.”

Twitter users have also responded in kind, tearing Rivera’s logic to shreds.

While everyone’s entitled to their own opinion, implying that these victims are merely jilted lovers seeking payouts as retribution for rejection undermines the strength these women demonstrate by coming forward and sharing their stories. Rivera’s position further perpetuates the culture that’s kept these women quiet for so long. We must continue to shut down any and all deniers in order to maintain society’s newfound willingness to listen to — and believe — the women who’ve been wronged by men who wield their power as their primary weapon against culpability.

(This post originally appeared on Storia.)

Dear Republicans, Define “Pro-Life”

Source: Suhyeon Choi/Unsplash

Middle-aged white men love to tell women what to do.

Sure, that statement sounds like an exaggeration, but when you consider the age and race of your average Republican official, it’s not unfounded or untrue—especially when the U.S. House passes legislation that bans abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy mere days after 58 concertgoers were gunned down during the country’s largest mass shooting in history.

Despite the fact that most Republicans run for office atop their pro-life soapbox, their post-election actions toward anyone existing outside some woman’s womb convey an entirely different narrative.

From healthcare and disaster relief, to immigration and gun control, Republican policy only seems to prioritize white, male lives (and the lives of those who have yet to pass through the birth canal, of course). Skin color and circumstance don’t matter until you’re born. After that? The law can’t (read: probably won’t) save you. Lawmakers will dictate what you can or cannot do, but they will not enact measures that serve anyone but themselves.

Since Donald Trump took office, for instance, Republicans have made multiple, albeit futile, attempts to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act—the ultimate pipe dream in the GOP’s ongoing war against everyone. Authors of the bill have made it their primary mission to ensure that each version eliminates mandatory coverage for preventative care, including prenatal care, which contradicts every pro-life speech they’ve ever spewed throughout their careers.

Caring for the fetus must mean you care about the mother, too, right? Apparently not.

(A Hippocratic oath for the hypocrites might be in order.)

Source: Tim Bish/Unsplash

But, dear child, if you do emerge with your health intact, your right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness will likely perish the moment you crown, especially if you’re not male, white, or wealthy.

Because black lives don’t matter unless you can distort their peaceful protests into fodder for the white nationalist pyromaniacs among us. Immigrant lives don’t matter, either, unless you can ship their children off to homes unknown and pretend it’s for the economic benefit of those who are descendants of immigrants themselves. And Puerto Rican lives certainly don’t matter unless you can tweet insults at their capitol’s mayor while she wades through waist-deep waters to save the people of her city.

Judging from GOP rationale, women are nothing more than vessels for future life. Despite the progress we’ve made toward achieving gender equality, we are still treated like second-class citizens in the eyes of lawmakers who think they can control our medical decisions even though none of the lives involved are their own. Perhaps they don’t understand that being part of this governing body does not mean they have the authority to govern bodies.

But you cannot force us to bear children when you won’t protect them from the unstable psychopaths that steal their innocence and their lives as they learn the ABCs.

You cannot tell us what to do with our bodies as those of our fellow brothers and sisters fall lifeless at the venue where they were once living life to its fullest.

You cannot make us adhere to your religious justifications while you dole out “thoughts and prayers” in lieu of laws that could save countless lives.

When domestic terrorists can amass an arsenal without raising eyebrows, but innocent citizens cannot access life-saving medical treatment, you can’t help but wonder where the root of this “pure evil” lies. Perhaps it lies in Republicans’ continued refusal to label Stephen Paddock—and Adam Lanza, and Dylann Roof, etc.—as terrorists. Perhaps it lies within the inherent “white privilege” these killers maintain even in the aftermath. Or maybe it lies in the simple fact that GOP leaders consistently fail to admit that white men, themselves included, represent the greatest threat to our nation’s safety to date.

Source: Antonio Grosz/Unsplash

Data from Mother Jones demonstrates that, since 1982, white men were responsible for 54 percent of the mass shootings on record. Couple that with the seemingly white nationalist measures enacted or proposed since Trump’s inauguration and you have a nation in crisis.

While there are exceptions to every rule, most modern Republicans appear to have little to no regard for life whatsoever. The fact that people are probably nodding in agreement as they read that sentence should embarrass the GOP to no end. But instead of proving the public wrong, those at fault will continue to transfer the blame to the helpless and hopeless.

After all, it’s increasingly difficult to believe that any member of the GOP operates with their constituents’ best interests at heart. Not when they sit idly by while the antagonizer-in-chief pokes and prods North Korea to the brink of nuclear war.

Sticks and stones might break some bones, but words could lead to mass destruction.

Yet Republicans do nothing.

Democrats—and late-night talk show hosts—condemn the wrongs of the world at every turn, but only Republicans have the majority power make change happen. However, it’s in their inaction that they reiterate what their actions have already expressed: aside from their pro-life stance with regard to reproduction, American lives are the least of the concerns.

Trump’s War on Women Includes Mother Nature

Women’s bodies are always under public scrutiny. We’re on display from the moment we’re born. Why do you think so many of the naked babies featured in films and advertisements are clearly girls? Even before we learn to command our own bodily functions, our bodies are not our own.

And ever since Trump and his cohorts came to town, it seems almost illegal to inhabit the female form.

Sexual assault victims, as it stands, will soon be treated as accomplices of their own attack if the GOP has anything to say. Under Trumpcare, victims will no longer have access to safe abortion services, should the need arise, leading them to take matters into their own hands or carry the child to term—an alternative to the traditional life sentence. Because rape will soon count as a pre-existing condition, victims likely won’t be able to afford maternity care and mental health services either, forcing them to pay—both monetarily and emotionally—for the sins trespassed against them.

Of course, while women are nothing more than “second-class” citizens whose only crime was being born, Trump has chosen to tackle an even greater foe of the female variety—Mother Nature. By pulling the United States out of the Paris Climate Agreement, Trump has stripped Mother Nature of her rights. And she will not remain silent.

Source: kellybdc/Flickr

While women continue to speak out against the injustices we face, it’s easy for the predominantly white, male Republican Party to brush us off as nothing more than noise. But Mother Nature? No, she will never go quietly into the night. No matter how deep their denial flows, lawmakers cannot and will not put an end to climate change by pretending it doesn’t exist.

Because it does exist. Anyone with common sense and an eighth grade education will agree. We’ve failed our planet and, in response, our planet has begun to fail us. Why do you think the massive crack in Antarctica’s ice shelf grew 11 miles in only six days? Why do you think the once-vibrant Great Barrier Reef now suffers from coral bleaching and imminent death? Why do you think koalas, polar bears and countless other animal species are struggling to survive in their evolving habitats?

It’s downright preposterous that the political party that so closely associates with the pro-life movement continues to pursue policies that imperil the lives of those who are and those who will be. They might not live to experience the repercussions of their decisions, but their children and grandchildren certainly will. Even great wealth won’t save them from what’s to come.

Remember when Cal, played by Billy Zane, tries to bribe his way onto a lifeboat in Titanic? While Mr. Murdoch takes the money initially, he ultimately throws the stack back in Cal’s face as he says, “Your money can’t save you anymore than it can save me.” No amount of money will ever be able to reverse the damage Trump’s decision will inflict.

We are all in the same boat and everyone’s the captain—if the U.S. proves to be the iceberg that destroys the world’s environmental efforts, we’re all going to go down with the ship.

Government officials and their law enforcement lackeys can continue to treat women like one collective menace to society, but they cannot punish Mother Nature without being punished in return. Climate change will persist no matter how fervently the GOP resists. We might not be able to leave this planet in a better state than it was when we arrived, but we can do everything within our power to make the future brighter for those who don’t yet have a say.

In this instance, Trump shouldn’t be concerned with the people of Pittsburgh or Paris. When it comes to Mother Nature, he should focus solely on the children of tomorrow. He has an 11-year-old son, after all. Such disregard for science should be considered some form of negligence, if you think about it. In fact, it’s downright criminal.

 

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(This post originally appeared on the Ms. Magazine Blog.)

5 Women Who Deserve People’s ‘Most Beautiful’ Title More Than Julia Roberts

People Magazine probably thought it was doing something noble when it named Julia Roberts as its “Most Beautiful” woman of 2017. After all, she’s nearly 50—practically prehistoric in Hollywood terms, especially compared to the first time she graced the issue’s cover in 1991 at the ripe old age of 23. But when you’ve chosen the same actress a record five times, the tradition starts to seem stale. Society’s perception of beauty continues to evolve, but People’s formula remains the same. Maybe it’s time to shake things up? Here are just five women who’ve redefined beauty on their own terms, earning them the right to the title (even if they didn’t make the list in the first place).

Betty White

One quick glance at the “Most Beautiful” list reveals that Oprah Winfrey’s the oldest person on this year’s roster. (She’s 63.) But why must People perpetuate the notion that youth equals beauty? If age truly isn’t an issue for those doling out the title, White surely deserves the honor. (They could’ve included her, at least.) She’s America’s sweetheart. She’s devoted literal decades to the entertainment world and, at 95, she’s still as spry, feisty, and funny as ever. Honestly, she’s beautiful in ways that these younger women can only aspire to achieve one day.

Hillary Clinton

When it comes to Clinton, the term “nasty woman” comes to mind. But after the impact she’s had on the women’s movement in recent months, her legacy will be one of the most beautiful things to emerge from our tumultuous political situation. Though she might’ve lost the 2016 election, Clinton’s attempt to break the glass ceiling has inspired 11,000 women to seek office, while encouraging countless others to fight for their human rights. She embodies the adversity women face every day, yet she still persists. If that sort of resilience and tenacity isn’t beautiful, then this world’s uglier than we thought.

Laverne Cox

Despite the fact that many people claim they’re inclusive, the transgender community has yet to gain complete acceptance throughout society. Cox, however, has been working diligently to fight for both transgender rights and women’s rights ever since she broke into the business. She represents the beauty America has to offer, if only we’d take the time to listen and understand, and such an honor could be instrumental in sparking critical conversations. Yes, it’d likely create controversy, but that’s precisely why we need to increase transgender visibility. Cox not only deserves the title, but naming her “Most Beautiful” might also help young people struggling with their own transition recognize that they’re not alone.

Michelle Obama

Our former First Lady has always been the embodiment of class and dignity. She’s beautiful on the outside thanks to her love of physical fitness, and she’s beautiful on the inside because she stands up for what she believes in no matter the obstacles. Beyond all else, Mrs. Obama has always been a champion for young girls. She’s taught this generation that education and intellectual pursuits are far more important than fixating on your outward appearance. She inspires females of all ages to pursue their passions and ignore the haters. In this instance, beauty isn’t just visual—it’s mental, too.

Melissa McCarthy

Jerry Lewis once claimed women cannot be funny. But anyone who’s witnessed McCarthy’s scathing impression of Press Secretary Sean Spicer on SNL knows that assertion couldn’t be further from the truth. McCarthy has emerged as one of the leading comedians of our time. While she might’ve initially won our hearts as Sookie St. James on Gilmore Girls, she has since become one of the most in-demand actresses in the industry (all without some stick-thin figure, mind you). From the looks of things, Chrissy Metz and Adele appear to be the only full figure gals on the list, perpetuating the notion that bigger isn’t always considered beautiful. But when “big” applies to the laughs you get from the live studio audience, dress size doesn’t (and shouldn’t) matter.

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(This post originally appeared on Storia.)

For Feminist Fashionistas, Has Modesty Become the Best Policy?

Source: Unsplash

When it comes to gender politics within the fashion industry, equality is only as deep as the pockets on your average pair of skinny jeans. Designers continue to break down barriers dictated by the gender binary. However, the persistent pocket disparity — men’s apparel features many spacious compartments, while most women’s styles don’t have any at all — demonstrates that when creating women’s clothing, form still outweighs function, highlighting the latent sexism that remains.

However, as the decade wears on, one specific trend has begun to emerge, indicating that women might be hoping to reclaim comfort and promote feminism simultaneously.

According to The New York Times’ recent feature, modesty has made its triumphant return. Vanessa Friedman writes that long sleeves and ankle-length hemlines now dominate the industry because, as we move into the last years of this decade, fashion now serves as the surrogate for our social and political discontent. Friedman explains that “clothes are an integral part of the debate over the freedom to make your own choices — whether about what you do with your body or who touches your body or what you put on your body.” Clothing still acts as an alternative mouthpiece, much like it has throughout history, except its message has changed dramatically thanks to the current state of affairs.

Source: Getty Images

Lucie Greene, worldwide director of the innovation group at J. Walter Thompson, tells Friedman that the emerging trends exist in an effort to “reject the strictures of the male gaze.” While women once saw plunging necklines and transparent fabrics as vessels for embracing their sexuality, they’ve come to recognize that such styles ultimately put them on display in ways that contradict their underlying intentions.

“They are not about what men want anymore, but about what women want,” Greene adds. After years of embracing styles spawned by the male libido, women are opting for clothes that cater to comfort and security. Because, while comfort supports increased confidence, security provides strength in an era where women are still perceived as weak and inferior.

By gravitating toward modest styles, women are taking their bodies back. From Hillary Clinton’s symbolic suffragette white pantsuits, to the pussycat hats of the Women’s March on Washington, women’s clothing needs no comment for these choices speak for themselves. Fashion statements abound, but not in the ways we’ve come to expect. Instead of waiting for the next red carpet blunder or wardrobe malfunction, women now feel both fashionable and comfortable as they trade their crop tops for button downs.

Source: Getty Images

As Michael Kors, the esteemed designer, told The New York Times, he’s “convinced that there is something far more alluring about women wearing things that give them confidence, that don’t make them feel as if they have to tug at their hemlines or yank at their straps.”

While some women dress to impress men, and others dress to impress their female peers, many now focus solely on dressing for their own benefit. They’ve replaced their high heels with ballet flats because they regain balance both literally and figuratively when they’re on solid ground. They’ve traded their mini dresses for pencil skirts because they no longer feel they must flaunt their sexuality in order to command their femininity. Of course, while no woman should feel compelled to conceal her body because she fears the advances of predatory men, modest styles promise to empower women to be who they are, not who others wish them to be.

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(This post originally appeared on Storia.)

When Empowering Young Girls, Actions Speak Louder Than T-Shirts

“Girl Power” isn’t some new concept—just ask the Spice Girls. But it’s certainly gained new momentum since the 2016 presidential election, as Hillary Clinton’s shocking loss to Donald Trump stunned the nation. In an era where unqualified misogynists can still gain the upper hand, it’s become increasingly important to teach young girls to go high even when “the man” tries to drag them low.

Yet, while our overall efforts are commendable, we need to take things to the next level. We need to stop talking and start doing.

Source: The Children’s Place

Source: The Children’s Place

Recently, The Children’s Place made an admirable attempt to bring girl power to the elementary set with an empowering line of feminist tees and tanks. Each piece features words and images that aim to bridge the otherwise glittery gender gap. They encourage girls to pursue male-dominated professions and forge their own path to success. Much like the inspirational quotes that litter Instagram, however, reciting such mantras and living their truth are two entirely different animals.

We can dress our daughters and nieces in pantsuits from the minute they’re born, and shout daily affirmations into the void the second they learn to speak, but our behavior will mean nothing if we don’t occupy these positions of power ourselves. Like those of minority races and religions, seeing yourself in the eyes of someone else helps you envision your own potential. We need to present young girls with role models that bring these ambitions to life. We need to be the women they look up to when they seek guidance.

Shirts may boost their confidence, but they’ll only learn to lead if they have worthwhile examples to follow.

Just as Hillary Clinton emphasized during her speech last week, change will only come if we get involved now—resist, insist, persist, enlist.

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(This post originally appeared on Storia.)