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“HopeWorks & Friends” to Relaunch this September!

I’m happy to announce that, this August, “HopeWorks & Friends” will be returning! For those of you who are unaware, HopeWorks & Friends is a group that meets to discuss the important of underrepresented characters and creators, including women, LGBT folks, and people of color.

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Since 2002 movies based on comics have dominated the box office, but almost every single hero depicted has been a white male. Graphic Novels are a medium that truly allows an artist to put their vision to the page and show the world what it is they want the audience to experience.

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In the first series of books we read, we explored one of the oldest lesbian characters in the medium, Batwoman, and the first Muslim character to be the lead in a Marvel Comic, Ms. Marvel. This year we hope to explore even more characters that give a unique view of the world, and allow people to tell these beautiful stories.

Every week, we aim to break stereotypes and empower people to experience a story, and to tell their own.

Stories give us a glimpse into the the inner-workings of the human spirit, its pitfalls and potential

-Sana Amanat, co-creator of Ms. Marvel

Update: This article originally stated that HopeWorks & Friends would be relaunching as a book club in August, instead it will be relaunching as a celebration of underrepresented communities in entertaining in September!

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Written by Community Engagement Coordinator Dominic G.
Questions?
You can reach Dominic at !

Disclaimer:

The views expressed in this article are solely the responsibility of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of HopeWorks of Howard County.

New Experiential Workshop: In Their Shoes

Many thanks and congratulations to Katherine Chiu and Riley O’Donnell-Zwaig who recently completed the creation of an experiential workshop about teen dating violence titled “In Their Shoes.”

Katherine and Riley are two of three high school students who worked on the project. They interned with HopeWorks as part of Howard County Public School System’s Gifted and Talented Program. The third student, Maddie Hardy initiated work on the project in 2014. Maddie first served as Gifted and Talented Program  intern and stayed on as a summer intern. A fourth student, Erin Cannon, donated her talents as an artist to create illustrations for the workshop materials.

group of five In Their Shoes Characters

In Their Shoes is a teen version of the well-known original program called “In Her Shoes.”   In Her Shoes was created to allows participants to imagine life as a woman experiencing violence. It originates from the Washington State Coalition Against Domestic Violence.

Similarly, In Their Shoes is an interactive, educational exercise used in a workshop setting to help us connect to the reality teens experiencing relationship violence, deepen our empathy and compel us to take action. In Their Shoes will be offered in the community in Fall 2015.

Orange is the New Black’s Characters Will Show You Who They Truly Are

by Ann Marie Brokmeier

*possible Season 1 and Season 2 spoilers ahead

If you are woman-identified, you can log into Netflix and likely see representation of your gender identity, race, age, sexual orientation, or socioeconomic class by simply clicking onto season three of Orange is the New Black. The prisoners of Litchfield prison are back and will be getting deeper under your skin and into your heart than ever.

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Based on the non-fiction novel, Orange is the New Black, written by Piper Kerman, this Netflix-original series has worked on creating more diverse characters with more depth than seen most anywhere in mainstream television today. OINTB is created by Jenji Kohan of Weeds fame, who has worked tirelessly with the writers, producers, and casting directors (among many others) to create an extremely diverse cast. Selenis Leyva, who plays OINTB’s Gloria, stated in a Television Academy panel that OINTB is one of the only shows to give minorities a voice. Uzo Adubo, who plays Suzanne, agreed, noting the specialness of having no token minorities in the cast.

OINTB’s main character Piper Chapman, convicted of internationally smuggling illicit drugs, may seem like a character that we see enough of on television right now: a rich, white woman. While her character does explore the privilege of being white, being educated, and being affluent, she also brings to screen an identity that is rarely visible in media: a bisexual – or possibly pansexual – character. While there are more and more gay and lesbian characters on television today, bisexual characters usually serve as a character that is “confused,” promiscuous, or identifies as bisexual only as a way to transition to identifying as gay. OINTB is not unaware of this, and addresses it a few times, most notably with Cal, Piper’s younger brother, responding to Piper’s husband’s worry that she is going to “turn gay”:  “I’m going to go ahead and guess that one of the issues here is your need to say that a person is exactly anything.” While OINTB doesn’t always get it right with bisexuality, they do provide a more nuanced character than has been shown in most major television shows thus far.

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Laverne Cox has reached peak levels of fame due to OINTB and is one of the most well-known trans advocates in the US. She is a trans woman of color and is giving a voice to those that have been silenced for years previously. Her character, Sophia Warren, has been convicted of credit fraud in order to pay for her transition. OINTB does more than to simply address the severe financial issues that Sophia (along with many other trans folks). Her storyline goes on to detail the emotional difficulty with her son and ex-wife, her social issues – such as bullying and harassment – at the hands of the guards and some of the inmates, and the bureaucratic issue of being denied her hormone treatments (and the physical, mental, and emotional problems that come with that). These issues are not limited to Sophia alone. A report from the National Center for Transgender Equality found that “16% of trans people surveyed had spent at least some time in a jail or prison,” and many have reported subpar or abusive experiences while there; in many cases, even being placed in a prison of the incorrect gender for that person’s identity, which can be humiliating at best, and fatal at worst.

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While many other characters fall somewhere on the LGBTQ spectrum, Orange is the New Black is not only about LGBTQ representation.  Suzanne Warren (played by the talented Uzo Aduba), deemed Crazy Eyes by some, is a great example of someone constantly struggling with mental health issues. Sometimes, the audience sees Suzanne wrestling with her mental health problems and functioning, but we are always brought back to an inexplicably kind, thoughtful, and loving character. She is an important example that mental illness is common in the prison industrial complex, yet is rarely addressed. The Bureau of Justice has reported that up to “75% of female inmates in state prisons will experience a mental health problem requiring mental health services in any given year.”

Domestic violence is another issue that OINTB does not shy away from. In fact, most – if not all – characters have dealt with being in a relationship that is structured around unbalanced power and control, whether that is portrayed outside or inside the prison. Gloria Mendoza, played by Selenis Leyva, has a background story rooted in a physically, financially, and emotionally abusive relationship. Her struggles are not unlike those of many American women. The audience can see that, years later, Gloria is still deeply affected by this abuse, while at the same time, she is stepping into a strong, independent leadership role within the prison. Like many OINTB characters, Gloria’s prior struggles do not define her, but do shape her as a character.

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These are only a handful of the plethora of characters living in Litchfield prison, and viewers can look forward to even more in this upcoming season. Orange is the New Black may be a comedy, but in true Jenji Kohan-style, it also forces its viewers to look deeply inside themselves to confront their own prejudices, fears, and identities. Here are some great resources to turn to if you find yourself in crisis and needing to speak to someone:

Trans Lifeline: 877-565-8860

GLBT National Help Center hotline: 888-843-4564

The Trevor Project hotline (for LGBTQ children & teens): 866-488-7386

Suicide Prevention & Intervention hotline: 800-273-TALK (8255)

HopeWorks’ 24-Hour Sexual, Dating and Domestic Violence Helpline: 410-997-2272 // 800-752-0191

Written by Intern Ann Marie B.
Edited by Community Engagement Coordinator Dominic G.
Questions?
You can reach Dominic at !

Disclaimer:

The views expressed in this article are solely the responsibility of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of HopeWorks of Howard County.

I Am Captain Marvel (And So Can You!)

It was not that long ago that Marvel released their upcoming slate of comic book films. Like most comic book fans, I was incredibly excited at the prospect of a decade of Marvel movies.

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However, as tantalizing as a two-part Infinity War sounds, I think there is a film that is more exciting and important than any other on the list.  Allow me to tell you why I am so thrilled that we are getting a Captain Marvel movie, and why you should be too.

Words are not quite sufficient to describe how ecstatic I am to have a Captain Marvel movie in the works.  To say that having a female-led Marvel movie is long overdue is the epitome of an understatement.  For years, we were fed the line that women are incapable of leading their own action film, that it would be too risky for the studio, that no one was familiar enough with the female characters, and that no one would go to see it. Then we got a movie that starred a sarcastic raccoon, a talking tree, and an unparalleled soundtrack.

No, seriously.

 

Guardians of the Galaxy went on to become a commercial and critical success, which just added more confusion to the claim that a female superhero would simply be too much of a risk for the studio.

Let’s introduce some math to this scenario: The Hunger Games Saga has grossed over a billion dollars in the United States alone, with another film coming out in November.  Then there’s Lucy (starring Marvel’s own Scarlett Johansson), which made $126,000,000 domestically, despite mixed reviews by critics.  Frozen, Disney’s first film to star two princesses, cracked the 400 million mark.  My point is that people across the gender spectrum are paying lots of money to see movies that star female leads.  The key to Marvel sharing in that success, however, is not to avoid making a movie about a female hero, but to make a good movie about a female hero.

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There have been only three movies to date that truly starred a female superhero.  I will be the first to say that they were all disasters from start to finish (well, after Marvel’s CEO).  They were annihilated by the critics and did poorly at the box office.  However, for someone to point at Catwoman or Elektra and say “See?  Women can’t carry a film!” is completely outrageous.  Those films failed because they were bad films.  They were not bad films because they starred women.  For a studio like Marvel, which has shown time and again that they are able to put wonderfully talented people in place both in front of and behind the camera, it is insulting to think that they have been this slow to make this decision.  This is a studio that is planning to put out at least one film a year for the foreseeable future, a pace few studios can maintain, so for them to imply that films with female leads (or, god forbid, some women of color) are risky is completely ridiculous.

Luckily, the fans have not stayed quiet.  There has been no shortage of people calling to see a film about the Black Widow.  Comic books starring Carol Danvers as Captain Marvel have sold quite well and the character has a strong following known as the Carol Corp.  The fuse is set and we are ready to see this amazing event explode on screen.  Luckily, Marvel has finally lit the match.

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At this point, some folks might be wondering why it is even important to have a female-led movie in the first place.  After all, Black Widow has been pretty awesome in movies like Captain America: Winter Soldier and Guardians of the Galaxy gave us Gamora and Nebula, a pair of powerful sisters who can go toe to toe with just about anyone.  To be honest, I think that’s great.  But it’s not enough.  Art has the power to take us to other worlds and across galaxies.  It has the power to turn muggles into wizards.  It has the power to introduce us to aliens as we travel through space and time on the Millennium Falcon or the TARDIS.

The alien thing doesn’t always go well, but you get the point

 

But even more importantly than all of that, art has the power to reveal real life truths about ourselves and the world around us.  We learn about ourselves when we read even the most fantastical fiction.  Art has the ability and the power to empower us to try new things, to embolden us to experience fear and adversity, and to make us feel like we matter and are worth fighting for.  And the only way for that immense power of art to be felt by everyone is to have works of art that include all different people groups.  It is easy for me to sit in a theater and identify with Tony Stark or Steve Rogers – that’s what privilege looks like. Which is exactly why we need characters like the Carol Danvers to be apart of this marvelous world that these films are building. A healthy level of self-esteem is something that not only makes us feel good about the people we are, but also acts as a natural defense against some of the biggest issues facing our world today. Survivors of abuse, domestic violence, sexual assault, and bullying have a better chance to find a foot hold if they have strong self-esteem – and we know that stories of heroism can encourage that.   So why would anyone in their right mind feel angry about the fact that we want more works of art that can aid in the highly valuable task of building self-esteem?

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Despite the fact that we have no idea who the director of the film will be, or the actress who will portray Carol on screen, Marvel’s track record certainly inspires confidence.  Having said that, there is a big responsibility on the shoulders of us as the viewers.  We need to see this movie so that we can prove that studios will be rewarded to making high quality films about female characters.

This is why I think the argument can be made that Captain Marvel is the single most important movie of Marvel’s Phase III.  If we want a more complex, diverse, and representative universe within the world of Marvel, we need to prove that by showing our support when certain films are released.  So if you know of someone who identifies with Carol Danvers, if you have a sister or a daughter that would benefit from seeing an empowered, confident, and progressive female character on screen, or if you just want as many people as possible to gain an increase in self-esteem, self-image, and self-acceptance, then go see Captain Marvel.  You see, at the end of the day, the film industry is a business and it comes down to the bottom line.  Which means that we as the audience have the power.  And with great power, comes great responsibility.

 

Written by Clinician Peter O.
Edited by Community Engagement Coordinator Dominic G.
Questions?
You can reach Peter at !
You can reach Dominic at !

Disclaimer:

The views expressed in this article are solely the responsibility of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of HopeWorks of Howard County.

 

Who Killed the World?

You know, internet, I’ve found out something interesting about myself – if men’s rights activists boycott something, I tend to enjoy it. So with that in mind, I was thoroughly excited to see Mad Max: Fury Road – I mean Fury Road does not look like feminist propaganda.

Obvious Second-Wave Feminism

 

Now, in fairness to MRAs (and this will be the only time), they claim that they didn’t “boycott” the film, they just collectively didn’t see it for…reasons…lady reasons. Specifically because of Furiosa, the character Charlize Theron plays. Spoilers ahead if you haven’t seen Mad Max, Fury Road. Although, if you’re planning on seeing Fury Road you probably have a good idea of what you’re going to get.

Official Fury Road Storyboard

For those of you who are unfamiliar with Mad Max, it follows Max on his continuing adventures through a post-apocalyptic desert hellscape. The franchise is wildly held as one of the best action franchises of all time. So you can imagine that when Return of Kings accused Fury Road of being “feminist propaganda posing as a guy flick” I was a bit confused.

I really can’t stress enough that this is a real shot from this film

Let me just get this out of the way: Mad Max will, in fact, not make you less sexist. If female CEOs and male nurses aren’t something you understand then this movie will offer you no relief. Yes, “women are not things” is a feminist belief – but it’s one that I hope most people were exposed to prior to seeing this particular film.

Let’s get to the core of my issue with MRAs – they really don’t make any sense. Fury Road is a feminist film insofar as it passes the Bechdel test and that it convinced me that Charlize Theron could win an MMA match with one arm tied behind her back.

furiosa-armAwesome? Yes. Feminist? Eh, Maybe?

The reality is that women can be involved in a film without making it a feminist film – Fury Road had virtually no people of color, despite being filmed in Namibia; made no attempt at a deeper message about how women are treated in the modern world, and was every bit the mindless, beautiful, explosion filled adventure that you’d expect from Mad Max. So when you go see Mad Max are you going to be “tricked into viewing a piece of American culture ruined and rewritten”? Well, no. It’s never implied that the society depicted by the film is struggling because it does not value women, nor is the devaluation considered to be systemic. In the real world it isn’t like the removal of one powerful person holding sexist ideas changes things for all women, but that’s the world depicted by Mad Max.

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Also, the film is Australian – written by Australians, directed by an Australian, originally starring an actor with Australian heritage who was raised in Australia. It’s not really related to what I’m talking about, but it’s wrong – MRAs are wrong about lots of things. I just thought it was important to point that out.

In short – go see Mad Max if you’d like, or don’t, it won’t affect your views about gender – however, it might upset men who believe women don’t belong in “manly films”, and if you’re anything like me that will make your day better.

 

Written by Community Engagement Coordinator Dominic Goodall.
Questions? You can reach Dominic at !

Disclaimer:

The views expressed in this article are solely the responsibility of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of HopeWorks of Howard County.

Game of Thrones’ Rape Problem

Before we get started, this post will contain spoilers for Game of Thrones. Additionally the episode I’ll be discussing – “Unbowed, Unbent, Unbroken” – as well as this article may be triggering for some individuals. Call our 24-hour sexual violence hotline for support at 1-800-752-0191.

With that out of the way let’s get started! I know I’m a little late to the party, but there are only so many hours in a week and any time I spend writing about Game of Thrones is time I don’t spend watching Game of Thrones, so you see my dilemma. By now I’m sure you’ve heard that the popular HBO drama has again landed itself in hot water after a disturbing depiction of rape. Full disclosure: I am personally a fan of the series, and it is important to mention that this piece reflects my feelings alone and do not necessarily reflect the opinion of HopeWorks.

This isn’t Game of Thrones’ first rodeo. Of the seven main point-of-view female characters – Catelyn Stark, Sansa Stark, Arya Stark, Cersei Lannister, Daenerys Targaryen, Margaery Tyrell and Brienne of Tarth – three have been raped on screen. Now, Game of Thrones is meant to be a world far more dangerous than our own, and in the world we live in one in five women will be raped in their lifetime. With that in mind it almost seems odd to be calling out a show for not shying away from a real world issue. So why is everyone from bloggers to senators swearing off the show?

Simply put, their depictions of sexual violence are irresponsible.

Game of Thrones doesn’t include rape as a part of its universe to bring attention to the sheer number of women who experience it, or to discuss why rape is such a common crime of war. Game of Thrones uses rape as a plot device; a tool the show-runners keep in their box to make the audience feel disturbed. For instance, let’s talk about Cersei; Cersei’s rape scene is one of the most disturbing scenes in the series. The scene serves no narrative purpose, was not in the source material, and is never referenced again. There isn’t so much as a throwaway line about Cersei being a survivor or Jamie being a rapist because the dynamics of assault isn’t what the scene was about. Despite the fact that the scene was highly triggering for many people and the next day millions of people were discussing rape, almost none of that conversation had anything to do with the character that experienced the rape or the effects of assault on survivors. This continues a very real world narrative that the survivor experience isn’t important.

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Since I’m several layers into analysis and I haven’t even gotten into this week’s episode I’d like to take a moment to bring this discussion into reality. I want you to think about the last time you heard that someone was found not guilty of rape and then think about the community response to the verdict. Overwhelmingly what you find in those situations is people believe that “this person has not been found legally guilty of rape” means “a rape did not occur” when those are two inherently different statements, and this is a bias that is almost exclusively for rape victims. We all know that “this person has not been found legally guilty of theft” does not mean “a theft did not occur”; by extension we realize that there is still a victim who still has a voice. No matter what victims of other crimes do, their experience as a victim is still important to their community.

So what does this have to do with Game of Thrones? Well let’s go back to Cersei for a second. If the question is “how does rape affect survivors?” the show-runners answered “who cares?” The goal of the scene was to disturb the audience, once that was accomplished there was no reason to check in with the survivor ever again. This happened again with Sansa’s scene, as the audience was not presented with Sansa’s emotions as the rape occurred, but with Theon’s horror as he looked on. While it is too early at this point in the narrative to be sure, it seems that Sansa’s rape will ultimately be more important to Theon’s story than Sansa’s. Using rape in that way – as a device to emotionally raise the stakes for the audience and secondary characters – again disregards the voice of real life survivors. The reason these scenes must take place on screen is because it’s rare that they will ever effect the fictional survivor again, in short, they aren’t plot (if they were they could happen off screen and the audience could be presented with the changed character). This is a problem for a very simple reason: these scenes are triggering. Real life survivors of assault are also fans of this show and instead of the show-runners respecting survivors, their experiences, and potential triggers, rape just becomes a throwaway scene.

Sansa Stark Actress Wallpaper

Ultimately, Game of Thrones has come to rely on rape to heighten the emotional state of the show. Using rape for shock value undermines the pain real life survivors have experienced. We need to talk about sexual violence in our culture, and I’m a strong believer that popular culture is going to have a part to play in that discussion. However, those discussions still need to be survivor driven, treated with the gravity such a discussion deserves, and followed up with after-care; even something as simple as bookending the episode with trigger warnings and RAINN’s contact information could make a world of difference for survivors. We can – and should – demand better from our media. The people who write Game of Thrones need to do better; after all, Winter is Coming.

Written by Community Engagement Coordinator Dominic Goodall.
Questions? You can reach Dominic at !

Disclaimer:

The views expressed in this article are solely the responsibility of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of HopeWorks of Howard County.

 

HopeWorks’ Assistant Director selected for Move to End Violence

We are proud to announce that Alexis Flanagan, HopeWorks’ Assistant Director, was just selected to be part of Move to End Violence, a 10-year program of the NoVo Foundation.

Alexis joins a growing group of Movement Makers working together to envision, build, and lead a powerful movement for social change, dedicated to ending violence and creating a world in which everyone can reach their full potential. Alexis was chosen for her vision, leadership, commitment to social change, and belief that together we can end violence against girls and women.

Leaders selected as Movement Makers begin their work together with a group of extraordinary peers in an intensive, two-year capacity building program that includes: time and space to explore critical movement questions, transformative leadership development, organizational development, social change skills building, and liberatory practices.

Learn more about Move to End Violence at www.movetoendviolence.org.

Fight Financial Abuse: Support Affordable Housing

 Stand With US!

Support affordable housing in Downtown Columbia!

Wednesday, May 27                                           5:00 pm – 6:30 pm

Join us on the side walk on Little Patuxent Parkway in front of Whole Foods

What is at stake?

The possibility that an additional 2,200 housing units will be approved, constructed, and marketed without one unit affordable to those earning less than $60,000 a year.

So where do the young professionals live to create the called for vibrancy?  Where do the hospital technicians or Community College part time faculty members live? Not in downtown Columbia!

The Downtown developer was granted the opportunity to build 5,500 additional units.  That means that our community is in the process of losing 825 units of affordable housing. 

There is no other opportunity left in this County to create 5,500 units of housing.  Why isn’t this developer being held to the same standard of other mixed-use developers  –  a minimum of 15% Moderate Income Housing Units? Why is Downtown being allowed to become an enclave for the affluent?

Take action to require a full spectrum of housing that includes affordable units.

Ask our elected officials NOW to introduce legislation in June. Contact County Executive Allan Kittleman, (email: ; call:  410-313-2020)

and the Chair of the County Council Mary Kay Sigaty (email mksigaty@howardcountymd.gov; call: 410-313-2001).

Both receive letters at the George Howard Building, 3430 Courthouse Drive, Ellicott City, MD 21043.

Act now before we have 3,000 housing units approved without affordable options.

Full Spectrum Housing Coalition Event – rain or shine

Stand with Us on May 27!

Get your friends, family, and advocates for affordable housing involved!

In Solidarity

Dear HopeWorks Supporters,

HopeWorks believes all violence is interconnected.  We, therefore, stand in solidarity with the residents, community members, activists, and organizers of Baltimore during this difficult time. Our thoughts continue to be with the loved ones of Freddie Gray as they continue to await answers about the events that led to his death, as well as with the loved ones of Tyrone West, Anthony Anderson, Trayvon Scott, George King, Tanisha Anderson, Rekia Boyd, Yvette Smith, Miriam Carey, and the many others around the nation who have lost their lives after encounters with police.

Today, the national spotlight shines on Baltimore as the citizens push for city and statewide reforms to put an end to the systemic oppression that leads to institutionalized violence. A true movement towards social justice ensures that the marginalized members of our society have safe spaces where they can be heard.

We must remember, as the news vans leave and the protests thin, that every member of our society deserves a voice. Until we live in a world where all people, regardless of our differences, are treated with kindness, dignity, and respect, we will struggle against systemic violence in all its forms.

The people of Baltimore spoke clearly: #blacklivesmatter.

In Solidarity,

The staff & leadership of HopeWorks of Howard County

Written by Community Engagement Coordinator Dominic Goodall.
Questions? You can reach Dominic at !