Every child in America should know the name of Barbara Rose Johns, because her actions helped to ensure that every American child gets the education she/he deserves. In 1951, Barbara was a 16-year-old student at Robert Russa Moton High School in Prince Edward County, an all-black school with deplorable conditions—the school itself was badly in need of repair, the equipment was shabby, there was no gymnasium or science lab, and more than 400 students were crammed into a building meant for 150. Trying to learn in that environment became so frustrating for Barbara that she spoke to a teacher. When the teacher dismissively told her to “do something about it,” Barbara was discouraged at first, and then began to formulate a plan that would eventually lead hers to become one of the five cases in Brown v. Board of Education.
In her deeply necessary book about helping boys grow into happy, healthy, productive, and honorable men, Masterminds and Wingmen, Rosalind Wiseman notes that despite the fantastic work that a slew of experts are doing on boys’ issues, “…the reality is that the impact of Boy World and boys’ social dynamics on boys’ emotional well-being has been left out of the national conversation.”
Why is that?
Mention the gender wage gap in a public forum, and you will inevitably get a comment from someone who tells you it’s completely bogus. Here’s a gem I received on one of my PolicyMic articles, in which I claimed that addressing the wage gap would benefit men (since men are often the partners of underpaid women): “Much of the ‘paycheck issue’ is Male Bovine excrement.” The commenter then pointed out that the oft-quoted 77 cents on the dollar figure doesn’t compare women and men who work the same job. It compares female and male salaries as a whole, regardless of what jobs women and men are holding. This is true—and when we dig deeper into why that is, things get interesting.
For the past couple of years, I have joined hundreds of women and men who have responded to sexist SuperBowl ads. In 2012, I analyzed Danica Patrick’s participation in GoDaddy’s ad and the implications of David Beckham’s come-hither looks. Afterwards, I joined The Representation Project’s letter-writing and twitter campaign, letting advertisers know that sexism is unacceptable, and will lose them business. At first, this effort felt like an uphill battle—advertisers seemed to think we were a nuisance that would soon go away. The 2013 SuperBowl was awash in sexist ads, and I analyzed them again—and retweeted the frustrated responses of others online, using The Representation Project’s #NotBuyingIt hashtag. This year, we were ready for the SuperBowl: The Representation Project created a #NotBuyingIt app that would allow viewers to tweet directly to advertisers during the game. And while there were some notable examples of sexism and racism in the ads, they were fewer, and less blatant. Some ads actually embraced diversity and empowered women. Woah, y’all. Woah. Now that is progress.
There is a sign on my front door—a very pretty sign, with blue glass that catches the winter light—that says Let It Snow. This sign is not on my door because I love snow—though I do think it’s beautiful, though it is fun to play in, when the mood is right. No, this sign is on my door as a reminder: I bought it when I lived in a place that felt foreign, a place where it might snow from late October until early June, a place where snow doesn’t melt easily. I lived in this place—Johnstown, Pennsylvania—during a period in my life in which I felt very limited. My parameters were defined by the bodies of my children, my boundaries etched in snow and cold. Had I been from this area—or one like it—I would no doubt have taken the snow in stride. This, as a southerner, is how I take heat. But months of cold spoke to me differently. Stop, the snow and ice said. Don’t expand your boundaries. So I didn’t.