We are two days out from Election Day. I hope you've voted or have a secure plan for doing so.
Here's what I want to make clear: regardless of what happens, movements like LeadHERship aren't going anywhere.
I encourage all of you who are as terrified as I feel right now to listen to podcast episode 15. I've been reflecting in the last month about ways to take hope in different encouraging phenomena, and I did my best to relate how ai feel to all of you in today's episode. If you need any support this week and in the coming months, remember that I'm just an email away.
As we mourn the death of a trailblazer, I wanted to take a moment to acknowledge the impact she has had.
I'm sure none of you need a recap of her career, so I'll keep this short. Taking the position of Supreme Court Justice in 1993, Justice Ginsberg was only the second woman to hold a seat. She was one of 9 women in her Harvard Law class, she was a proud Jewish woman, and she was a woman living in American society. So, she had experienced her share of hardship and discrimination. She championed gender equality, and she served with dignity. She diligently fought to ensure a safer future for everyone, and she has forever solidified her legacy as a pioneer for true equality in America.
While we honor her legacy, we must recognize that this is just another indicator of how important November 3rd is for women, minorities, and LGBTQ+ community, and all other oppressed groups in this country. LeadHERship is nonpartisan, but where women's rights are concerned, I have no qualms saying that it is and always has been extremely clear who the right candidate is in this election. Vote like your life depends on it, because even if yours doesn't, many others do.
Hi everyone, Neha here!
It's a Sunday evening, I'm finishing up some homework and working on some upcoming LeadHERship projects, and I just started writing my August recap. I was reading through some testimonials and feedback, and I felt a need to post somewhere about how happy I"m feeling. I'm so overwhelmed by the support you've all given me, even from the start (all the way back in 2018!!!), and how this organization of mine has been able to grow so tremendously over the last year. I always thought the project would exist only in my hometown, or only in my state, but the impact it's had internationally is so inspiring to me. Whether it's due to the power of the internet or the progressive mindset of Gen Z, it's so gratifying to see the countless hours I've poured into LeadHERship paying off and impacting so many people around the world. Thank you, thank you, thank you <3.
*This post is adapted from an Instagram post on @leadhershipconference from August 3rd.*
Now that August 18 has passed, you've probably seen many tributes to mark 100 years of the 19th amendment, or women's suffrage in the United States. And yes, this is quite a milestone in our nation's history. However, I strive to promote intersectionality with this organization, and especially considering our nation's history of white feminism, we cannot celebrate this month without addressing and acknowledging that only white, english-speaking women have held the right to vote in the United States for 100 years. So, I thought I'd make a brief timeline.
1947-48: Indigenous women can vote as legal barriers against Native Americans voting are removed.
1952: Asian women can vote as the McCarran-Walter Act grants Asians the right to citizenship.
1965: Disenfranchisement and discriminatory voting practices are banned and Black women are finally able to vote freely.
1975: Women who do not speak English are able to vote as voting materials are required to be printed in multiple languages.
It's also important to recognize that just because something is law does not mean it is always put into direct practice everywhere. Racism is and always has been extremely prevalent in this country, and voter suppression goes hand in hand with it. Current policies surrounding absentee voting, photo ID laws, and the postal service are just another example of rampant voter suppression in the United States.
So when you celebrate 100 years of women's suffrage in the United States, remember to acknowledge that not all women have held the right to vote for very long, and voter suppression is a lasting issue in this nation.
I'll be registering as soon as I turn 18 in a few weeks, and I'll definitely be voting. Will you?
When Girls Don't Support Girls: How Certain Forms of Female Competition Reinforce Patriarchy + Some Reflections from Neha
This is a reflection inspired by a conversation I had today with Naama from Girltelligence as well as her startup’s overall mission!
In a world where patriarchy rules, we all know how much women have to work to get their due. It’s what my mission is based on, and I’ve been reflecting on some recent conversations I’ve had about the ways in which I do this.
I’m proud that my mission has always been about changing the status quo. Education, introspection, and awareness (my three pillars) are all aimed at restructuring society away from its patriarchal roots. I work to build sisterhood and allyship among everyone involved. It’s so important for me, as I run an organization dedicated to helping women take a seat at the table, to ensure that the seats we are taking aren’t at the expense of other women, but rather carved out through our work to change opportunity gaps. Focusing on changing the status quo means helping women claim what they deserve. It’s about us all helping each other to get there together.
“Girl power” is not about trampling other women to get to the top. But that is the problem I’m seeing. To put it simply, women are fighting tooth and nail for that one spot at the table rather than advocating for more spots at that same table. In order to get ahead, many women are willing to put down other women and compete for a spot rather than attempting to change the status quo. Of course, to an ambitious young woman raised in a patriarchy, this seems like the only option in order to achieve her goals. Yet, this actively supports and enables the patriarchy and is only damaging to all women, including her, in the long run. As Medium’s Arah Iloabugichukwu put it, “amongst women living under gendered oppression, the victor, the villain and the victim are often one and the same.”
It’s prominent among young people as well. Whether it be school situations, professional settings, or even social environments, girls are under such pressure to prove themselves as bright or worthy that they’re willing to do so at the expense of other girls.
Even phrases such as “I’m not like other girls” feed into a system where women seek male validation by distancing themselves from other women. It is destructive to the mission of dismantling the patriarchy.
In networking with youth organizations like my own, I’ve seen far too much cutthroat competition amongst female led non-profits with similar missions. I’ve questioned far too many times why they would be so willing to stomp on each other to get ahead when they all have the same overarching goals. Is it the immense pressure to do well as a youth and female led organization? Is it fear of not being taken seriously as young women? Is it other motivating factors like college admissions and recognition?
These are all just my own reflections, but I do see a major takeaway here. We need to actively change the way we seek to empower women. It’s not just about one woman; it’s about all of us who live under patriarchy. And that’s what I’m trying to do here at LeadHERship.
I hope you’ll join me.
On social media lately, there’s been a lot of talk about how recent movements have “hurt” men. In particular, there is a harmful trend on Tik Tok where users make videos asking whether women should be punished for false allegations. The annoying thing: it’s illegal. Why are we “debating” it? I had some issues with the way people are framing the conversation about coming forward, and I recently had a comment on my Instagram saying that “the Me Too movement oppresses men.” At that point, I decided to make a post.
First, here is some background. The Me Too movement intends to demonstrate the magnitude of the problem by exhibiting how widespread and common it is. The movement empowers survivors through empathy, solidarity, and strength in numbers, especially young and vulnerable women, by visibly demonstrating how many people have survived sexual assault and harassment, especially in the workplace. It has led to higher awareness of how industries and power structures structures allow perpetrators to go unpunished. Saying this also invalidates men’s struggles and silences them by assuming that only women face sexual violence. So let’s unpack the idea that men feel oppressed by it.
First thing, ask them to think about why they feel threatened. Usually, it comes under three categories. One, they’re angry that men’s careers might be ruined for sexual assault. Two, they’re worried that a gesture they don’t see as sexual assault will get them in “trouble.” Three, they’re worried about false accusations potentially ruining their own career.
In response to the first concern: to put it simply, if someone commits an act of sexual assault, they must face consequences, and this shouldn’t be a debate! In addition, it simply isn’t safe for anyone to go to work with or live in a community with predators.
As for the second concern: Women are allowed to have boundaries. Simple rule: don’t touch them unnecessarily and without consent, and don’t make suggestive remarks or jokes. It’s called being respectful! If they think they shouldn’t have to worry about physical contact, it’s time for them to look within themselves and ask why they feel entitled to women’s bodies. It’s simple: be respectful of women’s boundaries (be a decent person) and your career is safe.
There are some important things to consider when we think about false allegations. First, let’s make it clear just how hard it is to come forward in the first place. US Bureau of Justice Statistics suggest only 35% of all sexual assaults are even reported to the police.
Around 2-6% of reports are false accusations. There is no question that someone making a false allegation should face consequences, and false accusations are illegal. However the fact that it’s so rare makes it somewhat ridiculous that people’s first thought is “she’s making it up.”
In fact, the idea that society looks to disprove rather than prove the survivor’s story is a major reason that it’s so difficult to come forward and a major reason that so many perpetrators avoid consequences.
Sexual abuse causes severe psychological trauma. Survivors do not come forward for a wide variety of reasons, including fear of retaliation, fear of defamation, fear of career issues, fear of being blamed, and most importantly, fear of not being believed or taken seriously. It takes incredible bravery for survivors to come forward in an environment where their life could be ruined for it.
Stop trivializing their experiences because you feel threatened by the idea that you’ll be held accountable for your actions.
Stop invalidating survivors.
The Covid-19 pandemic has brought to light many injustices in our societal structure. As Catherine Powell, an associate professor at Fordham University, notes, the pandemic "lays bare underlying gendered and raced inequalities" in our nation. The intersection of these identities for women of color has made the pandemic a particularly devastating time.
Let's start with gendered imbalances.
Women make up the majority of essential workers, as well as 77% of healthcare workers.
Women (especially WOC) are more likely than men to live in poverty, meaning that they have a higher risk of food insecurity in a time where their usual resources such as grocery stores and food banks are experiencing shortages.
Women who live in homes with unsafe conditions, as a result of domestic violence for example, are left without safe ways to leave. There are additional challenges for women of color, especially immigrants and undocumented women, who may face language barriers, lack of community, or fear of deportation.
People of color also face increased risks during this pandemic.
Education systems in low income communities have less infrastructure and resources. People of color are overrepresented in low income communities, and their schools have been closed by the pandemic, but many of these communities and education centers do not have the resources to provide quality online education OR move to reopen soon.
Black, Latinx, and Indigenous communities have shown highers rates of infection and increased fatality rates from Covid-19 compared to whites, and Asian communities have been hit with increased violence and xenophobia, particularly demonstrated by rampant hate crimes.
The virus disproportionately affects both people of color and women. Women of color face the implications of both these identities. On top of this, there is more.
Women of color are overrepresented in some industries experiencing the biggest job losses due to the virus, such as childcare. Those still working do not have the option to work safely from home.
Healthcare systems are notorious for not treating women of color properly. WOC are underrepresented in medical research and data sets and have statistically worse healthcare outcomes as a result. This is especially dangerous during a pandemic.
Women of color, due to their identity as women and their identity as people of color, are at an increased risk of contracting the virus, and the situation caused by the virus disproportionately affects them and their futures.
Wear a mask. Social distance. Keep those around you safe.
Sources: Forbes and Society for Women's Health Research
*This blog post was adapted from an Instagram thread posted 7/24/20*
I received a couple of DMs a few days ago asking why I’d used the spelling “womxn” in a previous post and whether it was a typo! The short answer is: no, it wasn’t!
Firstly, I’d like to make it clear that no one HAS to use “womxn” rather than “woman/women.” Of course, the traditional spelling, “woman,” can apply to anyone who identifies this way! However, as I’m about to explain, using the “x” signals inclusivity in a way that the traditional spelling does not. This makes it extremely clear, so that no one has to wonder whether or not they are included when someone uses the word! In acknowledgement of the feminist movement’s history of exclusivity and white feminism, I am always aiming to do better! Now, let’s jump in!
As I mentioned, the spelling “womxn” is intentionally inclusive. Olivia Romero, the co-founder of Pikes Peak Womxn for Liberation, says, “the spelling of ‘womxn’ is meant to show inclusion of trans, nonbinary, womxn of color, womxn with disabilities, and all other marginalized genders”
The spelling “womxn” also breaks free from linguistic and patriarchal norms by removing the suffixes “-man” and “-men,” indicating the denial to be defined by a man.
To summarize, it avoids using the spelling “women,” which contains and derives from “men,” to label any woman who has historically been excluded. By using this spelling, feminists communicate safety. With us, your gender will be respected, your pronouns used correctly, and your voice considered with equal weight. In fact, this spelling is yet another indicator of how the feminist movement has become increasingly intersectional in its third and fourth waves, and it continues to strive to be inclusive of all identities.
We accept you as you are.
I made this list in partnership with Our Future of Change, an organization I'm part of! It is the youth-led chapter of Her Future Coalition, an organization that works to support survivors of gender violence and combat human trafficking in India, Nepal, and many other countries. Check out HFC here and OFOC here! You should also go follow them on Instagram @herfuturecoalition and @ourfutureofchange! Without further ado, here are 20 resources to help you educate yourself about gender violence and human trafficking throughout the world!
*Note: Though I cannot provide a trigger warning for every piece in this list, I advise you to take care of yourself and respect your personal boundaries. If you think mentions of sexual assault or other trauma may be harmful, do a bit of research about the book before reading! You are no less of an ally for taking care of yourself and I support all attempts to educate yourself! Stay safe and healthy. These are heavy topics <3
20 Ways to Learn About Human Trafficking
Her Future Coalition
End Slavery Now
Shared Hope International
United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (Human Trafficking Section)
by Patricia McCormick
Human Trafficking Around the World: Hidden in Plain Sight
by Stephanie Hepburn and Rita Simon
Girls Like Us: Fighting for a World Where Girls Are Not for Sale: A Memoir
by Rachel Lloyd
Disposable People: New Slavery in the Global Economy
by Kevin Bales
Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide
by Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn
Are Women Human? Violence against Women and Girls
by Carol Rittner and Deirdre Mullan
The White Umbrella: Walking with Survivors of Sex Trafficking
by Mary Frances Bowley
This Is No Ordinary Joy: How the Courage of Survivors Transformed My Life
by Sarah Symons
A Promise to Nadia: A True Story of a British Slave in the Yemen
by Zana Muhsen
Human Trafficking: A Global Perspective
by Louise Shelley
Academic Journal: The Journal of Human Trafficking
New York Times: Human Trafficking Subsection
The CNN Freedom Project
UNICEF Human Trafficking Resources
Here is a PDF version if you'd like!