News and notes from the WGS program @ Fairfield

Archive for December, 2012

Fairfield University responds to the Sandy Hook tragedy

The following statement was issued by Fairfield University President Jeffrey P. von Arx, S.J. in response to December 14th’s tragedy in Newtown:

The entire Fairfield University community shares the enormous grief that is being felt by those affected by the tragedy that took place this morning in Newtown. We have students, faculty, staff and alumni who live in the area and our thoughts and prayers go out to them and the entire community impacted by this devastating event. Although we currently don’t have students working at Sandy Hook, we have worked closely with the school in past years, placing graduate students for clinical field experiences there. Members of the Fairfield University staff are assisting the Sandy Hook school community in grief counseling efforts, as well as providing support to any members of the Fairfield University community who may have connections with those involved.

Remembering the Victims of the Newtown Shooting

Vigil Candles will remain burning in the Egan Chapel of Saint Ignatius Loyola through final exams to remember and honor the victims of the Newtown shooting.  Two condolence books are also alongside the burning candles in the chapel.  Members of the Fairfield community are invited to express their sympathy to the families of the victims.  The condolence books will be delivered to the Sandy Hook Elementary School later this week.

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From Forbes: Geena Davis And Google Take On Gender Bias In Media — And Getting Girls Into STEM

 Geena Davis is leading the charge against gender bias in media for kids.

The Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media has been named a recipient of a $1.2 million Google Global Impact grant to further its research on gender depiction in entertainment programming for children.

From “Thelma and Louise” to “A League of Their Own,” Geena Davis has been more women in her lifetime than most of us will ever dream of, but stepping into all those different roles has left some lingering side effects for the 56-year-old Academy Award winning actress and Mensa member.

“Playing so many characters that have resonated with women heightened my awareness of how female characters are portrayed—or more frequently not portrayed—in Hollywood,” she says, although in her early years on the screen she was able to shrug off the troubling feeling. But after the birth of daughter Alizeh in 2002, she found herself unable to ignore the disparity for a minute longer.

“Until then I had no idea that there was such a huge gender gap in the programming we’re creating for and showing young children in the United States,” she says. “I was floored. Not only are there far fewer female characters than there are male, but the hyper sexualization of those characters is outrageous.” When she took her theory to the Hollywood community she was shut down: “Directors, producers and studio heads invariably told me that this was a problem that had been fixed long ago.”

But Davis wouldn’t be cowed. Instead, in 2004 she founded the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media, which in the ensuing eight years has become the leader in research on gender depiction in the media. Thanks to Davis’s existing relationships within the media and entertainment industries the organization has been able to make great strides in educating and influencing players on the need for gender balance, reducing stereotyping and creating empowering female characters for entertainment targeting young children.

Jacqueline Fuller, Google’s director of charitable giving and advocacy, which awards the grants, which this year totaled more than $23 million, says that while the search giant has been aware of Davis’s work for years, the latest research from the Institute hit home for Google. “Sometimes in looking for projects and organizations to fund we begin with a problem,” Fuller told me. “We had heard the statistics about family films and the representation of women and were struck by that dearth. As Google has been to interested in encouraging young women to pursue STEM careers it was clear to us that if girls aren’t seeing women portrayed in those professions—as scientists, doctors, computer scientists—it would only compound the problem.”

Davis’s most recent piece of research has proved critical to that issue. Titled “Gender Roles and Occupations: A Look at Character Attributes and Job-Related Aspirations in Film and Television,” the paper analyzes 11,927 speaking characters in family films, prime-time programming and cable programming for children between 2006 and 2011. The findings are shocking, and speak to the importance of the continuation of advocacy for major changes in programming for kids, girls in particular.

Not only is the gender imbalance alive and well in entertainment targeting children under 11 (just 28% of characters in family feature films are female, 38.9% in prime time and 30.8% in kid’s shows), but what the Institute exposed about the glass ceiling of employment in the media is truly disturbing. Men dominate every sector, comprising  96.6% of family film characters employed in the C-Suite, 100% of chief justices, 95.5% of high level politicians, and 78.1% of doctors. Male actors play 100% of the fictional editors-in-chief in family films. STEM careers are just as glaring. Female actors portray just 26 of the 160 speaking roles where characters are employed in STEM fields.

It’s that final piece of research that aligns the interest of Google with the passion that’s driven Davis for more than a decade.  “We really have a long way to go in the work that needs to be done,” she says. “A huge part of the problem of not having enough girls and women going into tech fields is because children aren’t exposed to characters that have these jobs.” The problem isn’t just a women’s issue, she continues. “Girls don’t have characters to aspire to, sure, but boys don’t see these characters either,” she says, “And as a result don’t see women and girls as being competent equals.”

To Google’s delight, Geena Davis has become a self-described “datahead” through her work in media research, and is eager to embrace technology further in the work ahead of her, particularly as the Institute puts the $1.2 million grant to work in 2013.

“Of course we’re thrilled and honored at the award,” she says, “But all of this is about creating tools that will enable us to analyze gender portrayals on screen through software with greater precision and accomplish our goals much more quickly.” Google’s cash, she says, will “profoundly improve [the organization’s] ability to scale up, research more broadly and, most excitingly, help us to expand globally.”

To date the Institute has focused on U.S. films and television programming, which Davis notes comprise over 80% of the media consumed worldwide. (“We are largely the ones responsible for exporting this negative view of women and girls,” she chides). By extending its research around the globe, Davis offers that she might uncover countries that have achieved balance. “How are they doing in England, Scandinavia and India? Maybe there are places where they are creating great content for girls.”

“We had been raising funds for a global study but we would have had to pick and choose where to spend that money,” she says. Google has helped to erase that concern, leaving Davis with nothing but positivity that 2013 will be rich with revealing data—and with luck, progress towards ending the gender gap for women—both onscreen and off.

Women Changing the World: STEM

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Washington Same-Sex Marriage Measure Signed Into Law By Chris Gregoire

An important moment for equality – same sex marriages begin in Washington State!

From the Huffington Post: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/12/05/washington-same-sex-marriage_n_2248014.html

OLYMPIA, Wash. — Gov. Chris Gregoire has signed into law a measure that legalizes same-sex marriage in Washington state, which now joins several other states that allow gay and lesbian couples to wed.

Gregoire and Secretary of State Sam Reed certified the election on Wednesday afternoon, as they were joined by couples who plan to wed and community activists who worked on the campaign supporting gay marriage. The law doesn’t take effect until Thursday, when gay and lesbian couples can start picking up their wedding certificates and licenses at county auditors’ offices. King County, the state’s largest and home to Seattle, and Thurston County, home to the state capital of Olympia, will open the earliest, at 12:01 a.m. Thursday, to start issuing marriage licenses.

Because the state has a three-day waiting period, the earliest that weddings can take place is Sunday. Same-sex couples who previously were married in another state that allows gay marriage, like Massachusetts, will not have to get remarried in Washington state. Their marriages will be valid here as soon as the law takes effect.

“This is a very important and historic day in the great state of Washington,” Gregoire said before signing the measure that officially certified the election results. “For many years now we’ve said one more step, one more step. And this is our last step for marriage equality in the state of Washington.”

Last month, Washington, Maine and Maryland became the first states to pass same-sex marriage by popular vote. They joined six other states – New York, Connecticut, Iowa, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Vermont – and the District of Columbia that had already enacted laws or issued court rulings permitting same-sex marriage.

Referendum 74 in Washington state had asked voters to either approve or reject the state law legalizing same-sex marriage that legislators passed earlier this year. That law was signed by Gregoire in February but was put on hold pending the outcome of the election. Nearly 54 percent of voters approved the measure.

The law doesn’t require religious organizations or churches to perform marriages, and it doesn’t subject churches to penalties if they don’t marry gay or lesbian couples.

Heather Kawmoto and Kay Lancaster of Tacoma attended the signing event Wednesday afternoon with their 9-year-old daughter, Kayleigh Kawmoto.

Kawmoto and Lancaster have been together more than 14 years, and domestic partners since 2007, and both said they can’t wait to finally pick up their marriage license as soon as the Pierce County auditor’s office opens at 6:30 a.m. Thursday. They will marry in a small ceremony on Sunday in Tacoma.

“It’s something we’ve hoped for and dreamed of,” Lancaster said. “I didn’t dare hope that it would be this soon, and we’re just thrilled that it is.”

Lancaster and Kawmoto said that the reality of their impending marriage sunk in in the past few days, as they were writing their vows.

“We never knew we’d be able to say those things to each other,” Lancaster said, starting to cry, as Kayleigh quickly handed her a tissue.

Maryland’s law officially takes effect Jan. 1, however couples can start picking up marriage licenses on Thursday, as long as the license has an effective date of Jan. 1. Whether clerks of court issue a postdated license is up to them, however. They are not required to do so. Maine’s law takes effect on Dec. 29. There’s no waiting period in Maine, and people can start marrying just after midnight.

In addition to private ceremonies that will start taking place across Washington state this weekend, Seattle City Hall will open for several hours on Sunday, and several local judges are donating their time to marry couples. Aaron Pickus, a spokesman for Mayor Mike McGinn, said that more than 140 couples have registered to get married at City Hall, and weddings will begin at 10 a.m.

Washington state has had a domestic partnership law in place since 2007. The initial law granted couples about two dozen rights, including hospital visitation and inheritance rights when there is no will. It was expanded a year later, and then again in 2009, when lawmakers completed the package with the so-called “everything but marriage” law that was ultimately upheld by voters later that year.

This year, lawmakers passed the law allowing gay marriage, and Gregoire signed it in February. Opponents gathered enough signatures for a referendum, putting the law on hold before it could take effect.

There are nearly 10,000 domestic partnership registrations with the secretary of state’s office. Most same-sex domestic partnerships that aren’t ended prior to June 30, 2014, automatically become marriages, unless one of the partners is 62 or older.

That provision was included in the state’s first domestic partnership law of 2007 to help heterosexual seniors who don’t remarry out of fear they could lose certain pension or Social Security benefits.

Marcy Kulland and Terry Virgona, both 59 and from Tacoma, said they plan to get married on Sept. 28, 2013 to celebrate their 22nd anniversary.

“I’m just ecstatic. Now we’re legitimized,” Kulland said. “It’s just absolutely wonderful.”

However, she that while the state law is a great step forward, as long as federal law continues to deny federal recognition of same-sex marriages, there’s more to be done.

“This completes us, it doesn’t complete our work,” Kulland said.

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From the Fairfield Mirror: Campus Groups Unite

Here’s an opportunity to get involved on campus and support causes related to women, gender and sexuality.

On Monday night, a small but passionate group of student leaders assembled in the BCC to form a new network of humanitarian and justice activists on campus.

Known as the Progressive Student Alliance (PSA), this organization formed for the purpose of bringing exposure to important causes on campus and providing support for student organizations trying to make a difference.

PSA first organized late last year, and so the network was still in its early stages at the end of the semester. As a result, they are “just now finding out how best to network to strengthen our movements collectively,” according to Arturo Jaras Watts ’14.

Jaras Watts is one of many students involved in the launch of PSA last year. Rachel Lang ’14, Crystal Rodriguez ’14 and Mike Elwell ’13, as well as graduates Marissa Tota ’12 and Alicia Bissonnette ’12, brought PSA to life. Both Jaras Watts and Record were quick to emphasize throughout the meeting that the purpose of PSA was not to create a new organization with them as leaders. Rather, PSA will function as a horizontal network of dedicated leaders who provide support for other organizations on campus with important causes.

“Each of us here represent different clubs that we are committed to,” said Record. “But the purpose of PSA is so that when it gets to a point … where you go and present these ideas and it’s on the line and you need backup, we can come.”

Record clarified that this support was not automatic. “If you need a petition that needs to be signed, we should all read it and not just blindly follow you guys,” Record said, “but I think we can see the benefits that this would accrue for all of us.”

Another important function of PSA is to increase the visibility of important humanitarian and justice events happening on campus. In order to accomplish this goal, PSA discussed options such as compiling a bathroom newsletter that lists these events and provides information about the clubs and organizations sponsoring them.

“We have events like the phenomenal Take Back the Night event that happens every year and we want participation to be as large as possible,” said Jaras Watts. “The newsletter would serve that side of the function of increasing the visibility and reaching a greater portion of Fairfield students.” The group also discussed creating a public space such as a bulletin board in the BCC that would display these events and club information.

In all, ten different groups and organizations were represented at the meeting on Monday, although not all clubs involved in PSA were able to send representatives to the meeting. These groups ranged from the environmental club Leaders for Environmental Action at Fairfield (LEAF) to Act Against, a student movement that works to bring important issues to the forefront of campus consciousness.

The organizations and clubs involved in PSA are currently working on assembling their newsletter, which they hope to release during the first weeks of next semester.

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