LEGOs are some of the most creative toys around for kids. When I was growing up, I loved mixing together sets and building whole worlds (including assembling a perfect replica of Jurassic Park whose quality I will defend to this day) and never saw them as a toy meant for either boys or girls.
But recently, LEGOs have come under fire for two reasons.
This past year, rape has dominated the headlines. From front-page coverage of the Penn State trials to Todd Akin's "legitimate rape" comment to international outcry about gang rape in India to national focus on Steubenville, talking about rape—a long-silenced topic—is finally a mainstream conversation. We are in a unique cultural moment where the ever-present epidemic of sexual violence is being recognized.
We need to not only recognize the reality of rape, but work to end it. We need a platform to honor survivors that will forever change the way the American public responds to their experiences. We need to create a national monument to survivors of rape and abuse.
How do you make money from online content? In the past two decades, this financial dilemma has plagued everything from newspapers to political-action organizations to social-media behemoths like Facebook.
This week, feminist researchers released a report on the necessity of finding a way to sustainably fund online feminist work, from writing to organizing to resource sharing. The Barnard Center for Research on Women report "#FemFuture: Online Feminism" argues that the most vibrant feminist activist space right now is the Internet, with momentum and conversation possible in a powerful new way thanks to online tools—but that feminists who have devoted themselves to making change online are in danger of burning out if their work remains unfunded.
Almost every woman knows why strangers hooting and hollering at people on the street is a problem. More than 80 percent of women experience gender-based street harassment: unwanted sexual comments, demands for a smile, leering, whistling, following, and groping. Many men do, too, especially in the queer community.
Before I became a mom at the age of 41, I was many things, including a hip-hop artist. Mostly, I did hip-hop theater, a solo show about fighting sexism in music. But I also rocked many a mic in the club. Little did I know that these skills would come in handy in my new battle against sexism: children's literature.
As a little girl, Samantha Knowles didn't stop to consider why most of her dolls—her American Girl dolls, her Cabbage Patch Kids, her Barbie dolls—were black like her. But black dolls were not common in her upstate New York hometown, whose population remains overwhelmingly white. So when Knowles was 8 years old, one of her friends innocently asked "Why do you have black dolls?" And she didn't know quite what to say.
But that question stuck with her, and in college, she started to consider how she would answer as an adult. Finally, as an undergraduate film student at Dartmouth, she connected with a small but passionate group of black doll enthusiasts who gather at black doll shows around the country, and for her senior honors thesis, Knowles, now 22, completed a documentary called "Why Do You Have Black Dolls?" to articulate the answer.
What the Brooklyn filmmaker didn't know was that her mother felt so strongly that her daughters, Samantha and Jillian, have dolls of their own race, that she would stand in line at stores or make special orders to make sure they got one of the few black versions. "My parents made sure to get us a lot of black dolls in a wide variety of hues and shapes," Samantha Knowles says. "We didn't have exclusively black dolls, but we had mostly black dolls. After I started working on the film, I had a lot of conversations with my mom, and she would say, 'Oh, you don't know what I had to go through to get some of those dolls!'"
Manda Collis is a manager of the Roleplay Hub Network, where she spends her time helping build a community of online roleplaying gamers. She's also an ISBN Manager for Evil Hat Productions and a freelance writer. Keeping up with the challenges of her various roles is a real-life dose of making tough decisions between rocking your character class or branching into multiclassing. I talked to her about the challenges and rewards of being fully immersed in the gaming community.
When have you been distinctly aware of gender or sexuality while gaming?
MANDA COLLIS: Interestingly enough, I tend to play male characters during tabletop games! One of my favorite characters is a total dude-bro who is nearly an airhead and looks like he belongs on the cover of a romance novel. While I'm playing that character it's not so much that I'm aware of gender or sexuality, but I know that by playing a stereotype I'm making others aware of it. I've had quite a few guys at the gaming table comment to me after a session that they understand how girls must feel after seeing me play this completely ridiculous character!
The moment I hear Barbara Walters say my name on national TV, I realize I've been waiting my whole life to hear her say my name on national TV. She prefaces it with novelist and explains that I've written an op-ed piece for the New York Times, and for a few perfect seconds, I actually feel like the accomplished women she's describing to her colleagues on The View. It's a remarkably giddy sensation.
And then thud—Joy Behar speaks: "She needs to mind her own business."
The she in question is me, and the business is how we raise little boys. In a parenting blog for the Times, I'd put forth the idea that we shouldn't teach little boys gender-based etiquette such as letting ladies go first. I said we should teach them to be kind to all people, to respect all people, to extend courtesy to all people. The issue had arisen in our house because my 4-year-old son had been told by his preschool teacher that a gentleman lets girls go first. I didn't agree with the philosophy and instead thought that such behavior taught boys to treat girls differently and instilled in girls a sense of entitlement for the wrong things. So assuming it was my business, I wrote about it.