Posted by Maya Paley
As a child, my sister and I had somewhat of a different educational experience than most kids. We attended what is now called UCLA Lab School, which is UCLA's Graduate School of Education & Information Studies' laboratory for research and innovation in education. One of the school's distinguishing factors is its unwavering commitment to diversity, which we experienced by going to school with a wide range of kids from different ethnic backgrounds and socio-economic classes. Our schoolmates included the children of people like Sally Field, Steven Spielberg, and our housekeeper. When my parents took me to a friend's house on a play date, I never knew whether we would be going to a huge mansion in Beverly Hills or a small apartment in south Culver City. And it didn't matter. We were all kids playing the same games at recess. Diversity enriched our learning environment, and strengthened our community.
My mom taught us to give the clothes we outgrew to our housekeeper, Dora, so her kids could wear them. They were a bit younger than we were, but we would see them wear our clothes to school for years. Seeing them in my clothes around the age of six solidified what I had started to pick up--they were less fortunate than we were. I asked my mom why they didn't have their own clothes, and my mom explained that it was because they didn't have as much money as we did. There are lots of things that we got that they didn't get. Why? Because they came here from Guatemala with nothing. My heart sank for them. I realized how unfair that was. As far as my childhood self was concerned, Dora and her daughters were real people who had real lives and shared parts of them with my family.
Just last year I was going through a tough time. One day I was at my mom's house and broke down crying in front of my computer. Dora happened to be there and she rushed in. "What's wrong?" she asked in her thick accent. "Oh nothing, I'm fine," I said. I wasn't fine though and Dora knew this. She grabbed me and held me while I sobbed and told me everything was going to be okay, and she didn't let go. Dora is a part of our family. She cooks us tamales at Christmas and brings us small presents every year. We give her and her children Christmas gifts too and dozens of pieces of clothing throughout the year. But Dora is also our employee. We give her an end-of-year bonus, we pay her salary, and we make sure she has time for lunch and breaks while she’s out our home.
I recently learned during my social justice fellowship at Bend the Arc that due to a loophole in labor laws, Dora and other domestic workers aren't entitled to the same basic labor protections such as meal and rest breaks, overtime pay, and paid days of rest that every other worker is entitled to. When I learned that there were live-in housekeepers, nannies and caregivers who were working 24 hours straight without breaks, sleeping in dismal conditions and for just a few hours at a time, and were unable to even take breaks, and that this was all legal, I was dumbfounded and deeply saddened.
Live-in housekeepers and nannies are mostly immigrant women, and they do not have the bargaining power to arrange their living conditions with their employers before starting work. Even if a housekeeper, caregiver or nanny is promised decent working and living conditions, the current labor laws do not apply to them. Therefore, the employer does not legally have to come through on those promises.
What saddened me most was that this loophole that keeps Dora and other domestic workers from having basic labor protections was not accidental. It is steeped in racism and gluttony. Under the 1935 National Labor Relations act, private sector workers gained the ability to create unions and the right to collectively bargain. Household workers and agricultural laborers, who were largely African-American since the end of the Civil War, were intentionally left out to satisfy Southern lawmakers who relied on their economic servitude. Sadly but unsurprisingly, the demographics have not changed in the last 78 years. Women, immigrants, and African-Americans still make up approximately 95% of the domestic work force.
What will the Bill do?
The California Domestic Workers Coalition is working to close that loophole by trying to pass the California Domestic Workers Bill of Rights (AB241). This is the second measure of its kind in the country. The bill was passed already in New York . The Bill of Rights would provide housekeepers, childcare providers, and caregivers with:
• Overtime Pay
• Meal & Rest Breaks (Simply the right to sit down and eat.)
• Uninterrupted Sleep (Live-in workers working 24-hour shifts would be entitled to eight hours of uninterrupted sleep in adequate sleeping conditions.)
• Use of Kitchen (Workers working more than five hours would be able to use kitchen facilities at no extra charge to cook their own food.)
• Paid Days of Rest (Up to three paid days of rest per year based on the number of hours worked weekly after one year of employment)
• Workers Compensation
The fact that they do not have these rights already is disturbing on many levels. First, immigrant women are an extremely vulnerable population. Many come to this country to work so that they can send money back to support their families in other countries, and/or are they are the sole income provider for their families here. So they cannot just say "no" to their employer or demand decent living conditions, overtime pay, meal and rest breaks, and adequate sleep conditions.
Secondly, how can the people who have such a huge impact on us and our children they not protected by basic labor laws? Rabbi Shmuly Yanklowitz of Uri l’Tzedek, an orthodox social justice organization puts it this way:
"How can we give the keys to our homes - and entrust the welfare of our aging parents and young children! - to our domestic workers, and yet not respect them enough to secure their basic rights and dignity?"
In some families, they basically raise the children while the parents work. At the very least, they enable women who want to have both children and a career to fulfill the modern woman's dream of "having it all." They are in many cases the backbone of a family that isn't even theirs. Yet they are denied basic rights granted to high schoolers who scoop ice cream at Haagan Daaz.
When I learned that the California Domestic Workers Bill of Rights had been passed by both the California Assembly and Senate last year only to be vetoed by Governor Jerry Brown, I was again dumbfounded. Why would the governor actively deny people who are so important in the functioning of our households the rights afforded to every of other worker in the state of California? In his veto message, Brown wrote that the bill "raises a number of unanswered questions," such as the economic effect it could have on disabled and elderly people who rely on their cheap and constant in-home services, or those domestic workers who would lose their jobs because their employers could no longer afford to pay them. How would the State even enforce labor laws in private homes? Additionally, a drafting error would have cost the state more than $200 million per year because the bill included In Home Supportive Services workers. Brown wrote, "in the face of consequences both unknown and unintended, I find it more prudent to do the studies before considering an untested legal regime for those that work in our homes."
His comments seem reasonable to me, although many argue that he was being his unpredictable self, or just stalling the issue. Since then, the California Domestic Workers Coalition has worked to address Governor Brown's concerns by conducting a national survey of domestic workers which was published in 2012, and a California-specific report which was published on May 9, 2013 called “Home Truths--Domestic Workers in California.” The Coalition is also working closely with Governor Brown's office to make sure his concerns continue to be addressed.
Where does it stand now?
The California Domestic Workers Bill of Rights is currently back in the Appropriations Committee in the Assembly, and it must be out by May 31, 2013 to move to the Senate. The California Domestic Workers Coalition hopes that Governor Brown will be able to sign the Bill by the October 13, 2013 legislative deadline. But they need your help!
As Jews and as employers of domestic workers, we need to speak up for those whose voices can't be heard. Here are some simple things you can do right away:
Everyone (including employers):
Jillian Ezra is a Bend the Arc Jeremiah Fellow with the 2012-2013 class. She is also actively involved with the National Council of Jewish Women/LA and has lobbied with NCJW in both Washington, DC and Sacramento on various issues including gun violence prevention, immigration reform, access to abortion, and human trafficking. Jillian owns her own production company, Ezra Productions, specializing in capturing memories and family stories, corporate and non-profit promotions, and more. Jillian is also a Co-Founder and Videographer for Right Now: Advocates for African Asylum Seekers in Israel. Jillian received her B.A. in Economics from New York University.
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May 3, 2013 | 12:56 pm
Posted by Maya Paley
I have this calendar of Yiddish sayings on my desk. I never really think about the sayings on the calendar. I just tear off each day’s page so that I feel like I’m making good use of this gift I got from my grandparents’ friends. But today I arrived at the office and quickly noticed yesterday’s quote (May 2, 2013).
“Orem iz nischt kayn shandeh, abi nischt shmarkateh.”
“Poverty is not a disgrace, nor is it filthy.”
This may sound like an exaggeration to some, but this statement, in all its simplicity, forces me to think about how I perceive of others and of myself when it comes to poverty.
I received my Master’s Degree in International Affairs with a concentration on Economic and Political Development. My fellow students and I had arrived to Manhattan from around the world to learn how we can champion ending global poverty only to learn the depressing truth about our chosen field: most of the history of “economic development” has been nothing but a continuation of the patriarchal, colonial, condescending, and unsuccessful paradigm paralleling the rest of America’s international history (aside from a few unique exceptions).
I talk about poverty often. I like discussing the importance of fighting the inequalities and societal structures that impede people from moving out of poverty both here in the US and abroad with friends and colleagues. But I rarely think about how I and others around me look at those in poverty and whether or not the way I’m thinking about them is patriarchal, colonial, and condescending as well.
Honestly…it often is. I often feel pity for people living in poverty. I often assume they want my “help” and that “help” is something I can give them.
When I think about homelessness, I am angry with our government, our system, our population for not doing enough to help those in need of shelter. But when I walk by a homeless person on the street, the truth is that I usually either try to avoid eye contact or getting too close to them so they don’t have a chance to ask me for money or I give them a dollar as quickly as possible so that I can move on and not deal with the reality of who they are and how they got to this point. And truthfully I am afraid and sometimes embarrassed by the way they look after not having access to a shower for some time.
So I’m asking myself: do I consider poverty to be filthy or disgraceful? What are the prejudices I’m carrying with me that have been embedded into my subconscious through the history books I’ve read and the etiquette I’ve seen throughout my life. Is there a clear line between wanting to help because it’s the right thing to do and helping because you feel that you are better than others because you are not in their position?
The most recent statistics from 2011 refer to at least 51,340 homeless people In LA County. 12,560 are chronically homeless (for at least a year or more), over 9,000 are veterans, 33% suffer from mental illness, and 32% have a Bachelor’s degree or higher.
With our mayoral elections upon, the least we can do is ask the next mayor of Los Angeles do something about this issue. According to United Way, L.A. is the “homeless capital of the nation.” But beyond governmental assistance and philanthropic support, should we be asking ourselves this question: how are we looking at those in poverty? How are we judging them? Are we seeing them through lenses of prejudice and assumption and are we seeing poverty itself as a disgraceful and filthy?
Please share your thoughts on our perceptions of poverty or on issues of homelessness and poverty in Los Angeles.
April 18, 2013 | 2:24 pm
Posted by Maya Paley
“Our foremothers have established a tradition of supportive friendship and community that we would be wise to follow.”
The phone calls not yet returned. The unanswered emails. The looming deadlines at the office. The to-do list that never ends. The laundry is piling up, but the washing machine needs repair. “I’ll take stress for 100, Alex.”
Whether you are a mom juggling your kids’ schedules with your own, a college student trying to stay above water, a daughter trying desperately to stay positive while aging parents are declining, a professional achieving at the office - or whether you are all or any combination of these things – the demands on us can seem endless. Because they are endless.
I have too often fallen into the trap of trying to “be it all” – the producer at the workplace who delivers beyond expectations, the friend who can always be counted on, the wife who is still as completely mesmerizing as she was on the first date, the daughter-in-law who is truly “like a daughter.” My friends with kids teach them that it’s okay to make mistakes. Yet when they make mistakes in parenting, they are not as forgiving of themselves – the tiniest misstep can seem so monumental. And on top of the day to day items, there are the unexpected curve balls that life throws each of us from time to time.
In recent years I’ve met amazing women who strive to live their lives in their truth. To me, this means 1) pushing past society’s expectations to shine in all things 2) boldly pursuing the things that truly fill you up and 3) spurning perceived judgment from others. And they are committed to supporting and empowering other women. They share the wisdom they’ve gained, and the talents they’ve unleashed to help raise others up.
Unfortunately, too often women compete - for acknowledgement, for attention, for success, for love. Many of us spend time playing a comparison game and keeping scorecards. What a concept to realize that instead, we can support and cheerlead each other as we each pursue our unique and individual journeys. There is enough love, joy, attention and success to go around. We can use our own talents to help each other when our sister is overwhelmed. Why not ask for help when our own wherewithal has become more like “where-without?” We don’t have to DO it all. We don’t have to BE it all.
Last weekend, I hosted an event for 25 people in my home. But my plate was already full and my cup was already empty. Still, I wanted to be the consummate hostess. A close friend reminded me, “When I need help with a speech, I come to you.” She reassured me, “I got this for you. That’s what friends do.” She took me to the farmer’s market, she ordered food from various places on my behalf, and she brought over beautiful serving platters to make me look like a star. Above all, she reminded me that it is okay to lean on a friend.
I’m still learning the lesson that having a balanced life is an ongoing exercise. The good news is that every moment of every day of the rest of our lives provides an excellent opportunity to practice. You can’t give till your cup runs out, and then say, “Okay, I’m ready for some balance today.” These muscles need daily flexing.
Setting boundaries and letting go of the “shoulds” allows us time to get centered and to fill up. Carving out time to tune out the noise and tune in to what’s really important, allows us to see our true strengths and keep perspective on our shortcomings. Some of my personal go-to tools for getting centered are taking deep loving breaths, drawing with magic markers, singing in the car or shower, journaling, dancing, and spending quality time giggling with loved ones. For me, the more playful the outlet, the more effective I can be while in busy mode.
So how do you get centered and how do you fill up? And if you forget to fill up, who do you call upon for help?
Sisterhoods are not just about bake sales at synagogues and community centers. Our foremothers have established a tradition of supportive friendship and community that we would be wise to follow.
By nurturing ourselves and reaching out in sisterhood, we can recharge and fill our many roles with the joy we intend. We can be the teacher, the counselor, the provider, the nurturer, the advocate, the artist, the rock that others depend on, the leader. We can strive for the highest potential of our truest selves. How do we get there? The path is unique for each of us. It has twists and turns and is ever-evolving, but like most things, it begins with a single step. For starters, I’m going to get out the magic markers and phone a friend.
Bonnie Samotin Zev is a communications professional, project manager and segment producer, specializing in humanitarian issues, women’s issues, topics in entertainment, community, and human-interest stories. She is a cheerleader of collaborative leadership, and is passionate about creativity and self-expression without apology.
You can meet Bonnie and join a workshop she's facilitating at NCJW/LA's Sunday Salons: Conversations and Tools to Find Balance. The program runs from 10-2 pm, includes breakfast and lunch for $15, and aims to help women of many generations find balance, discuss real issues and challenges they face in their lives, and leave with practical tools for increasing happiness and self-fulfillment. Bonnie will be co-facilitating the Sandwich Generation workshop. Please visit www.jwcsc.org/lifetransitions to learn more about the program, including the Quarter Life Crisis and Third Chapter workshops.
March 28, 2013 | 4:11 pm
Posted by Maya Paley
Between Passover, attending NCJW’s Washington Institute, the mayoral elections in LA, Obama in Israel, ongoing fundraising and advocating for women’s and refugee rights, organizing advocacy training sessions, and the DOMA and Prop. 8 hearings in the US Supreme Court, I’m completely overwhelmed. I also turned 30 a few weeks ago, which added to the overthinking process. It kind of felt like a big deal even though logically I know it’s not. I came to a realization that I’m actually happy. It seems silly, but I feel like we’re always searching for “true happiness” and we rarely stop to consider if we’re happy in the moment. So I considered it, and I discovered I’m happy with where I am, where I’m going, and who I am. But happiness is different than contentment. I’ve also discovered that I will probably never be content because to be content is to accept everything as it is.
Last week, when lobbying my representatives and senators in DC with NCJW, I felt very positive about the democratic process. I was excited to be heard and to have the opportunity to tell officials who represent me that I want changes like gun violence prevention legislation, comprehensive immigration reform, and real reproductive rights for all women in the United States.
Yesterday, I watched my college student little brother post a photo on Facebook of himself kissing three male friends of his. He wrote that he posted the photo in solidarity with his gay friends during the DOMA and Proposition 8 Supreme Court decisions this week, ignoring the older generations in our community who worried that this public display might negatively affect his career or might make people think he’s gay. “Who cares?” he said. “I don’t care what people think of my sexuality or how shocking the photo is: that’s the point. We’ve created norms in mainstream America that won’t change until we provoke those who blindly follow them without even realizing it.”
I watched the positive responses to his public provocation by his peers and felt reassured that we are going through some truly remarkable and real changes in our society. I also felt lucky to be living in a place where we can speak and write about most topics without much worry (although that is not to say that there is no censorship in the US at all). I can only hope that the Court makes the right decision and ensures that equality and freedom from discrimination are guaranteed to all those living in this country.
But as Passover began and I read through the two Haggadot we used on different nights of the Seder and some of the supplements I received from various Jewish organizations this year, I could not help but think of those who do not have the basic rights and freedoms I have. One of the issues I most relate to is how we treat strangers, and I’m sure this was handed through the stories of my great grand-parents leaving Eastern Europe, my grand-parents leaving Iraq, and even my mom leaving Israel. Jews say over and over again that “we were once strangers in a strange land” and that it is our duty to treat strangers with respect and compassion. The Torah mentions 36 times how important it is to welcome the stranger.
So I encourage you, during this week, to consider those who are fleeing genocide, torture, and human trafficking at the exact moment that you read this. I encourage you to read about what is happening in Sinai today. Hundreds, if not thousands, of women, men, and children have been tortured and trafficked through Sinai. Some end up in Israel. Some never make it. Some chose to take the journey to Israel to find freedom and peace from the human rights abuses they face in their home countries of Sudan and Eritrea, others were kidnapped and forced to Sinai. Most of the women are raped on the way and most of the men are tortured, and the organized criminals do not care if they are old, young, men, or women. An eight year old girl was finally let go last week after the international Eritrean community raised $41,000 for her ransom. This was after she watched the murders of several others by the traffickers. I know this is depressing, but it is our duty to know and to act.
Here is what you can do to make a difference. Take a few minutes to sign this petition: www.tinyurl.com/sinaicampaign to urge the US, UK, EU, UN, and Egypt to put a stop to what’s happening to the African asylum seekers in Sinai. We can still be happy in our lives without being content about the atrocities taking place in this world. Not knowing will only hurt us in the long run. Let’s use our history and memory to inspire courage within us. Let us not be afraid to stand up to governments to make sure they know what is right and what is wrong, whether it be the security of vulnerable people worldwide, the rights of our fellow citizens to marry each other and live full and happy lives, or the rights of our children to be free of violence in our neighborhood schools.
What do you want to advocate for? Is there anything standing in your way? I would love to hear about it.
March 8, 2013 | 12:18 pm
Posted by Maya Paley
What is International Women's Day?
From 1909-1913, women of the Socialist Party of America began observing National Women’s Day at the end of February each year. In 1910, at the International Conference of Working Women, Clara Zetkin of Germany proposed the idea of an International Women’s Day (IWD) to be celebrated in all countries on the same day each year. Over 100 women from 17 countries, mostly those involved in the labor rights movement, unanimously approved the proposal launching the now 103 year old tradition.
The United Nations started observing IWD in 1975, going so far as to mark the day as a UN Day for Women’s Rights and International Peace in 1977.
How is IWD being commemorated this year?
This year, there are over 1000 events worldwide to honor International Women’s Day. The holiday is official in numerous countries, including Afghanistan, Cambodia, China, Cuba, Uganda, and Vietnam. In some countries the holiday is observed by only women getting the day off of work.
What follows is part of UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon’s message commemorating International Women’s Day today:
As we commemorate International Women’s Day, we must look back on a year of shocking crimes of violence against women and girls and ask ourselves how to usher in a better future… Look around at the women you are with. Think of those you cherish in your families and your communities. And understand that there is a statistical likelihood that many of them have suffered violence in their lifetime. Even more have comforted a sister or friend, sharing their grief and anger following an attack. This year on International Women’s Day, we convert our outrage into action. We declare that we will prosecute crimes against women – and never allow women to be subjected to punishments for the abuses they have suffered. We renew our pledge to combat this global health menace wherever it may lurk – in homes and businesses, in war zones and placid countries, and in the minds of people who allow violence to continue.
Yesterday, on March 7, 2013, President Obama signed back into law the inclusive Violence Against Women Act, making it clear that the violence against all women, including women who are sexual minorities and Native American women in the United States, must be stopped and that all women have a right to be protected from sexual violence, intimate partner and domestic violence, and any other forms of violence against them.
Happy, Sad, Emotional…and Action-Oriented
I mark this day with both positive feelings and an ongoing sadness. I am genuinely happy to know that I live in a place where there are laws that are meant to protect me from harm, and where there are laws meant to guarantee that I earn what men earn and laws that are meant to prevent any discrimination against me due to my gender. However, I am saddened by the reality that many of the laws both in the United States and throughout the world, including international conventions and agreements meant to protect the rights of women and girls, are not in actuality enforced or respected. You only have to read my last blog post on the state of violence against women to understand what I mean by this. Today I think about our reality and I celebrate the achievements of women internationally while not losing sight of the fact that there are many challenges yet to be tackled, many struggles we have yet to overcome, and many women who continue to suffer atrocities committed against them simply because they are women.
I urge you to take action today and here are some ways:
• Write an op-ed or letter to the editor urging your newspaper to cover more stories about violence and discrimination against women and urging them to include more women’s voices in their news.
• Sign letters to your Senators or Representatives to urge the U.S. to ratify the international Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW). Click here to sign a letter from NCJW and send it directly to your Senators.
• Get involved with an organization that is advocating for the rights of women, whether it’s National Council of Jewish Women, National Organization for Women, Emily’s List, the League of Women Voters, Planned Parenthood, Women’s Refugee Commission, or any of the countless others.
Like the women who convened 100 years ago from all over the world to discuss, engage, and work together to pressure their respective governments to do something about the inequalities they faced as women year after year, we too can create change. If you’re involved with advocacy for women of any nature, I would love to hear about it. Leave a comment and let us all know what you’re working on and how others can help out or get involved.
If you’re interested in gaining skills to be an effective advocate for women’s rights, join NCJW/LA, Planned Parenthood LA, the League of Women Voters, and the City of West Hollywood for 5 training workshops. Info on the Women’s Action Training Project can be found at www.jwcsc.org/events.
February 25, 2013 | 3:19 pm
Posted by Maya Paley
In the Declaration on the Elimination of Violence against Women, issued in 1993 by the United Nations General Assembly, “violence against women” is defined as "any act of gender-based violence that results in, or is likely to result in, physical, sexual or mental harm or suffering to women, including threats of such acts, coercion or arbitrary deprivation of liberty, whether occurring in public or in private life." Until women are no longer threatened by physical, sexual, or mental harm, we better be learning this definition and reminding everyone we know of its existence.
What I loved about V-Day’s One Billion Rising campaign is that it used theater, dance, and music to raise awareness. Let’s face it: not many of us are going to sit down and Google the definition of “violence against women” on our Sunday afternoons. It’s a creative method of educating others on how critical this issue still is for women all over the world.
From February 14th through March 8th women’s equality and empowerment are celebrated by women’s rights activists worldwide. March 8th has been International Women’s Day (originally International Working Women’s Day) since the early 1900’s and February 14th is newly referred to as V-Day, in which the ‘V’ stands “Victory, Valentine, and Vagina.” The first International Women’s Day was celebrated in 1909. By 1911, over a million people demonstrated worldwide to promote equal rights for women. Nothing compared to that momentum of international scale until the One Billion Rising campaign organized by global movement V-Day on their 15th anniversary this year. V-Day is a global activist movement founded by playwright and activist Eve Ensler, author of The Vagina Monologues. The numbers aren’t out yet, but there were One Billion Rising events throughout the world on February 14, 2013, including several in Los Angeles. Women and men rose up to demand an end to violence against women through speaking, performing, dancing, and writing.
In marking the time between V-Day and International Women’s Day, I think it’s time to remind ourselves of the reasons why it’s still just as important as ever to demand an end to violence against women. According to UN Women:
• Up to 76% of women worldwide are targets of physical and/or sexual violence in their lifetimes.
• Most of the violence against women is perpetrated by intimate partners.
• Up to 50 percent of sexual assaults are committed against girls under 16.
• Around 30 percent of women were forced into their first sexual experience.
Here are some more statistics from the International Violence Against Women survey, a comparative survey of 30 countries from all continents whose findings were published in 2008.The survey clearly proves that violence against women occurs all over the world, against women of all ages and economic groups:
• Between 35-60% of women in the surveyed countries have experienced violence by a man during their lifetime.
• Between 22-40% have experienced intimate partner violence during their lifetime.
• Less than one third of women reported their experience of violence to the police, and women are more likely to report stranger violence than intimate partner violence.
• About one fourth of victimized women did not talk to anyone about their experiences.
The goals of commemorative days like International Women’s Day and V-Day are to remind us that women have yet to achieve full equality, respect, and freedom from violence and to promote the sharing of experiences between women and with men worldwide. I encourage you to use the time between now and March 8th to intentionally share these statistics and the definition of “violence against women” with people in your own community and to find your own creative ways to call for an end to violence against women.
February 8, 2013 | 2:57 pm
Posted by Maya Paley
Let’s face the truth: most perpetrators of violence are men. This is clearly spelled out for us by the Office of Violent Crime’s 2013 Statistical Overview. Male violence, whether it’s intimate partner violence, gang violence, child abuse, or any other form, is a real problem in the United States and worldwide. Policies and laws to prevent violence and protect victims of violence are critically important. Direct services and support are vital as well. I’m in no way implying otherwise. However, laws only go so far in preventing male violence and direct services are there to aid victims and survivors, not so much to prevent future perpetrators from acting again or from perpetrating violence in the first place. What else can be done?
The term masculinities kept coming up in my courses on gender in graduate school, but it was a new concept for me then. I recall a feeling of overwhelming excitement after reading an article about a program in Ecuador that engaged male perpetrators of intimate partner violence in an intensive group program to breakdown the root causes of their violence toward their female partners. I thought to myself—wow, society has evolved.
We are finally tackling the issues. In meeting with Miguel Perez this past week, I started feeling that excitement again. Miguel is the Coordinator of the Male Violence Prevention Project (MVPP), a project of OPCC founded in February, 2010 by a group of Santa Monica-based organizations. At 28-years-old, Miguel just gets it. Growing up in Venice and attending Venice High School, Miguel watched gang violence infiltrate and take a toll on his community for years. After playing and coaching football for 15 years, Miguel realized he wanted to do something to change things. When asked to take on the role of coordinating MVPP, Miguel felt that it was the right place for him to put his experience, education, and objectives to work. “Since I had been a football coach, I felt that I had a market to engage men in non-violence in work.”
The Male Violence Prevention Project is uniquely targeting adults who work with children and youth to shift their perceptions and norms on masculinity. The program began when Dr. Jackson Katz conferred with the Santa Monica Police Chief and the Westside Domestic Violence Network in 2009 to discuss a program that would combine Katz’s “bystander approach” with the concept that the responsibility to create non-violent future generations falls on the adult men and women who influence and interact with our youth.
The “bystander approach” aims to shift the culture. “Instead of people looking at each other as potential victims or perpetrators,” explained Miguel, “we look at each other as allies. How would allies speak up?” He told me of a case from the 1960’s, that of Kitty Genovese, who was brutally stabbed to death in front of numerous people who watched, but did nothing to stop the murder. Phil Ochs even wrote a song about the incident:
“O look outside the window
There’s a woman being grabbed
They’ve dragged her to the bushes
And now she’s being stabbed
Maybe we should call the cops and try to stop the pain
But Monopoly is so much fun I’d hate to blow the game
And I’m sure it wouldn’t interest anybody
Outside of a small circle of friends”
There have been numerous studies on why people just stand idly by at times when they know that what they’re seeing is wrong. However, bystander interventions have proven effective in reducing violence. MVPP uses the concept that bystanders should intervene and that the new generations obtain their cultural norms from older folks, so infusing the two in workshops with adults can truly make a difference.
So far, MVPP has held programs at Santa Monica and Olympic High Schools and they are open to working with other high schools. NCJW/LA is collaborating with MVPP to bring their workshops to West Hollywood and other local schools. They’ve conducted workshops with administrators, coaches, counselors, and teachers. Program attendees are both women and men and the facilitators are women and men as well. Male facilitators often start off the discussions with personal stories of violence that they’ve witnessed or been involved with in their lives and how it’s affected them.
At first I wondered why the program was for both men and women, but I realized quickly that it’s just as important for adult women to understand male violence as it is for men. Women teachers, counselors, coaches, and administrators are influencing young men and women just as much as men are.
Miguel mentioned that one of the questions program participants have had is why aren’t they talking about violent women? When I asked Miguel how they deal with such questions, he said that he would have to quote Jay Z: “men lie, women lie, numbers don’t.” Miguel explained: “men sometimes feel threatened by the concept of discussing only male violence because most men are not violent so they feel insulted by it. There’s some sort of push back by those who think at first that this is not their problem.” The great thing is that most of the responses to the program have been positive, with participants thanking MVPP for bringing these issues to light and for engaging them in such important conversations. Personally, I’m impressed.
February 14th is Valentine’s Day, but it’s also V-Day, and we are rising up against violence against women as part of Eve Ensler’s One Billion Rising movement. I applaud all women and men who are playing a role in shifting norms on violence, masculinity, and femininity. This V-Day, NCJW/LA hosts Miguel Perez, Patti Giggans of Peace Over Violence, Barrie Levy of UCLA, Ava Rose LCSW of NCJW/LA, and Terra Slavin of the LA Gay & Lesbian Center on an important panel titled Dating Without Danger: Teen Dating Violence Prevention & Intervention. The panel will be moderated by Lindsey Horvath, the Regional Coordinator of One Billion Rising. Visit www.ncjwla.org for information.
MAKE SURE TO WEAR RED AND BLACK in solidarity. We will be showing the One Billion Rising "Breaking the Chain" video before and after the program to dance as part of the One Billion Rising movement.
February 4, 2013 | 10:31 am
Posted by Maya Paley
I admit that I may be a little subversive. I refuse to use the word “retirement.”
Even though I stopped working full-time five years ago for the public relations firm where I had been an executive for twenty years, I never said I retired. I think of the change as just that, a change: a change in direction, a change in attitude, a change of chapters in my life. Hopefully that change is voluntary, not one where you have no control. But for those of us who decided that it might be time to stop the daily 9 to 5 (or in my case more like 9 to whenever the client was finished) we need to plan for that change. The last year or so that I was working, I had the opportunity to downsize the number of days I came into the office. Sometimes that meant crowding the work of five days into four or three, but it also allowed me to do the project that I was passionate about: writing a novel.
Here’s my advice: don’t be afraid to make that change. Think about it before you actually stop working. It is a transition, one that even stay-at-home moms will have to consider when their children leave the nest. Consider what to do with your time, how to feel productive, and what kind of contribution you might want to make to your community now that your schedule is more flexible. Not being chained to a desk allowed me to not only write when inspiration struck, but it gave me the opportunity to do the kind of volunteering that had been more difficult on a publicist’s schedule.
The key is: DON’T FEEL GUILTY.
Give yourself a little time to adjust. At first, you might enjoy just sitting and gazing out of a window for some daydreaming time or finally being able to join that weekly lunch with friends. Perhaps you want the chance to catch up on a marathon viewing of the TV series that you taped or got from Netflix without feeling guilty. You’re entitled to fritter away some time with no real goals in mind.
Eventually you’re going to want to spend some productive time doing something that gives you real satisfaction. It might be gardening, taking cooking classes, going back to school, learning a foreign language, or as I did, mentoring elementary school children in reading. There are a myriad of organizations just hoping for your involvement, such as our own National Council of Jewish Women, which would give you many ways to learn and volunteer. I was able to indulge my interest in politics and become an advocate for women and children victims of the conflicts in Sudan and the Congo. All of that plus having the chance to write two novels has been a cherished highlight.
You just have to do a little investigating to find what makes you happy and fulfilled. It might take several tries before you find the right combination. So forget about calling it retirement; make a plan before you start your changes; take it slowly, enjoy the free time; explore the possibilities; and don’t forget about the joys of volunteering.
Life continues to be an adventure. Take a chance and enjoy the new journey.
Beverly Magid is a PR Executive turned novelist who recently authored “Sown in Tears,” the story of a young Jewish woman and her family after an attack on their village in Russia's Pale of the Settlement in 1905. Visit www.beverlymagid.com for more information or to contact Beverly.