Monthly Archives: July 2013

If Every Male Troll Took a Walk in Women’s Shoes, Would He Finally Feel Our Outrage?

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“After I received my first online rape threat, Caroline Criado-Perez was the first person to reach out to me publicly. “Are you ok? I’ve been there,” she confided. As the co-founder of The Women’s Room and a prolific feminist campaigner, she had certainly been there – the target of all sorts of sexist-driven online abuse. But nothing would prepare her for what ensued after she successfully lobbied the British government to put a woman on one of its banknotes. At first, the messages were encouraging and positive, but they quickly escalated into something else entirely.

After the announcement that Jane Austen would be on the £10 bill, Criado-Perez was flooded with a slew of violent rape threats on Twitter. Although one would think equal gender representation on bank notes is a pretty benign issue, the abusive tweets she received were hair-raising. The bold feminist campaigner received as many as 50 rape threats an hour, probing her to ask her Twitter followers to screen-shot them because she couldn’t even keep up with monitoring all the hate herself. “For me, the really shocking thing is how this has happened over such a tiny, tiny thing. We asked for there to be a woman on a bank note, how does asking that even annoy someone? Annoy someone so much they send a barrage of rape threats? It’s kinda gobsmacking,” Criado-Perez told Huffington Post UK.

 

The sad reality is that if you’re a woman on the Internet, this sort of gender-based harassment is no anomaly.

Withstanding rape threats has become a right of passage for female writers or personalities, just as making them as become a right of passage for cowardly and anonymous misogynist trolls. If you’re a woman who happens to possess opinions, and write about feminist issues (god forbid!), chances are you will be violently trolled. As Owen Jones from The Independent notes, “The attacks on Criado-Perez are essentially about attempting to drive women from public life. Nothing infuriates misogynists more than a woman with an opinion, particularly those prepared to challenge publicly the status quo and prevailing views.”

For the record, the issue is not that women receive more criticism than men, but rather that it comes in more violent and vitriolic forms. Men will be attacked for their opinion, whereas women will be threatened because they have opinions. 

Fellow PolicyMic writer Soraya Chemaly talks about the Internet being an unsafe space for women — the “digital safety gap” perpetuated by the systematic harassment of women online. The data supports this claim. For instance, one study showed that female usernames in chat forums received 25 times more abuse than male ones. In an experiment conducted by the University of Maryland, researchers found that “Female usernames, on average, received 163 malicious private messages a day.” So all else equal, if you’re a woman online, you’re going to be on the receiving end of more hate.

In her essay, Chemaly explains that women dominate social media (53% of Twitter users are female), but are still treated like a minority in these spaces. “Public space has traditionally been an entirely male sphere. It’s only recently that this has begun to change. But, like street harassment and the threat of violence that give it its suppressive power, namely rape and physical assault, this kind of online abuse is largely tolerated. Having an opinion, as Laurie Penny put it, is the ‘short skirt of the Internet.'”

Emma Barnett at The Telegraph exposed the disturbing psychology of your average woman-hating trolls. She courageously interviewed one and asked him how he would feel if his mother (potentially the only woman he would respect) was the target of rape threats like Criado-Perez has been in the last few days. Barnett said that his answer defied belief. “She would know these men wouldn’t actually come and rape her. They don’t mean it. Rape is a metaphor,” he (actually) answered.

This troll’s disturbing comments reveal what Soraya Chemaly has already noted before: Rape has a purpose. As the troll disturbingly admits, the rape threat serves as a way to shut that women up and put her back in her place. It gives a no-name loser living in the crevices of his mom’s basement a sense of power over a prolific female writer because he can rape her, or at least scare her into believing he can. Why does he keep doing it?

Because he can. He keeps doing it because often he never faces the consequences. We tell women to “stop feeding the trolls” as if it was their responsibility to prevent the abuse in the first place.

Women will not be equal until they are free from the threat of rape. The fact that it’s virtually impossible to be a woman on the internet without being threatened with violence shows just how unequal the virtual space still is. For women whose careers take place online, social networking like Twitter have become an occupational hazard. 

Criado-Perez’s experience was horrific, but it wasn’t in vain. Her tale launched an online campaign on Change.org to pressure Twitter to take hate speech and abuse seriously. The petition already has more than 70,000 signatures, and Twitter has since announced a new “report abuse” button. A 21-year-old man in Manchester has also been arrested in connection with rape threats to Criado-Perez.  

Will this make a difference?

Criado-Perez isn’t sure. She says that the abuse button only works for people getting one violent threat, but when you’re getting them by the hundreds (or thousands), as many other female writers like Zerlina Maxwell or Lindy West have, the technology is still ineffectual. 

Whatever system we come up with, putting an end to gender-based online harassment will require a major shift in attitudes and practices. Women won’t fight trolling with complacence. Men won’t fight harassment by remaining silent. Trolls will keep trolling if they don’t get caught. 

Sign the Change.org petition today and tell Twitter that it needs a responsible strategy to deal with hate-speech and violent threats to protect its users. 

Have you been the target of rape threats on the Internet, or do you know someone who has? What do you think should be done? Let me know on Twitter and Facebook.

Picture Credit: The Independent

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by | July 30, 2013 · 8:26 pm

Zimmerman Verdict: KKK Now Recruiting ‘Neighborhood Watch’ Members

 

 

July 28, 2013

 

kkk Cross Burning photo

Members of the Ku Klux Klan

 

“AFRICANGLOBE – Some neighbors onSpringfield, Missouri’s west-central side were surprised by an “invitation” that landed in their yards.

Steven Burchett has come to love living here on Olive St in Springfield, Missouri.

“Never had any problems- never any trouble, Burchett said.”

On Sunday morning he went to get his paper, he made a surprising discovery.

“I found the note in the front yard. And it was from the Klan,” he stated.  “I was furious. I was furious.”

The notice bore the name of the Traditionalist American Knights of the Ku Klux Klan.

Complete with the image of a hooded figure, the flyer attempts to recruit people for a so-called neighborhood watch program.  It asks, “Are there troubles in your neighborhood?  Contact the…Klan today.”

“That just tells you what a coward they are.  A simple knock at the door, I can say I am not interested, thank you very much and go on.  But instead they have to come through in the middle of the night and drop a rock in the front yard.  Nah- that is a coward,” Burchett stated.

Steven was not the only one to find one of these fliers in his yard. In fact, about a half dozen more of them were still lying on sidewalks and in people’s yards.  But the other neighbors were too afraid to talk about the issue.

After calling the ‘Klanline’ phone number provided on the paper. We talked a representative, Frank Ancona, who told us his group has a nationwide flyer campaign.  Their goal is to get people to form or join Klan-sponsored neighborhood watch groups to help police fight crime.

Ancona said he wasn’t sure if the flier were distributed as part of an organized effort by his group, or if they were distributed by individual citizen “supports” of the KKK.

He also said the programs are not about race, claiming that if members saw a White guy ‘up to no good’ they would alert police just as well.

Still, residents say they don’t want the Klan’s assistance.

“I am upset over this. I have no use for them people. None whatsoever,” explained Burchett.  “You know this is 2013.  I don’t know what to say for words on that part on how much hate and discontent can just keep on going.

 

By: Mike Landis”

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by | July 29, 2013 · 10:38 pm

Read This Poem and You’ll Never Laugh At Rape Jokes Again

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“In case you missed it late last week, Patricia Lockwood’s poem in The Awl entitled “Rape Joke” became one of those brilliant pieces of art we get to read, digest, and pass around for free thanks to the wonders of the modern age. It’s not very often that something so emotionally naked, devastatingly honest and skillfully crafted gets our attention, and it is not just by virtue of its title, which of course recalls an issue we on the internet have discussed and struggled with over and over again. If you’re the sort of person who believes great art like this can be wielded as an instrument to change minds, the question becomes: what does this poem bring to the conversation that we have otherwise been struggling to say when discussing controversies like rape jokes and rape culture? The intention of the poem, of course, isn’t just to get us to feel bad all over again about rape jokes. It is, after all, heartbreaking and edgy and even darkly funny. Instead, what is compelling about this poem is its honesty and, within that brutal honesty, a call to redefine what we as a society understand rape to actually be.

Whenever rape is discussed on a website, the comments section quickly swells to an incredible size (the comments section of “Rape Joke” is currently no exception), often thanks to a vocal minority who take the opportunity to point how a particular story just doesn’t “cut it.” Look at the context, they say, do we really understand the context? The hard truth is that we men need to stop looking for ways to weasel out of the word “rape” and acknowledge that all rapes have contexts, and that rapes happen between men and women who know each other and, in certain circumstances, may even care for each other or love each other.

Rape culture is our collective refusal as a society to admit that while we in the abstract believe strongly that women should be free from the fear of sexual violence, we have not done enough to actually make the spaces we inhabit together (college campuses, for example) safer. It’s about being trapped in an old mode of defining rape and other forms of sexual violence and thus denying its existence in other forms. For most people rape is something that happens on Law and Order: SVU, CSI, an accuser and an accused (often strangers). This definition empowers a culture of rape apology on the internet and feeds the websites of Men’s Rights advocates. They want, by suggesting that rape is not rape unless you’ve gone to court, or that rape is not rape if it occurs within a relationship or a marriage, to delegitimize the very idea of rape culture. According to them, men like the one in Lockwood’s poem do not really exist, or at the very least, are not really rapists; rape is simply not something that can happen between a 19-year-old girl and her boyfriend. To them the world is divided between accuser and the accused, and that in today’s politically correct society the accusers are running rampant and more often than not are making things up. This is, at its core, the same pernicious meme that circulates among social conservatives as they struggle with the rape exemption when limiting abortion rights. The idea of “legitimate rape” or “forcible rape” is a means of limiting its definition to something is easily classifiable and only real when reported to the police. According to them, if the police haven’t heard about it, it’s “made up.” Yet, we know from study after study that in the vast majority of instances (the National Institute of Health says 80% of incidents) a woman knows her attacker and that reporting a rape is anything but a clear-cut situation.

The simple fact is, rape is always “in context.” As a human rights issue, that’s precisely the problem: rape is statutory rape and date rape and rape while intoxicated and prison rape, and worldwide it is rape as a war tactic and rape as child marriage. Now is the time to take the next big step and broaden our discussion of these issues. Like any civil rights struggle, each new level of progress is an order of magnitude more difficult to achieve than the one before it, like boring into the Earth’s crust. Cultures of sexual violence cannot be shooed away by legislating or litigating alone, they must be preempted. And we can start by having a discussion that is open and honest about how the vast majority of rapes actually happen.”

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by | July 29, 2013 · 10:36 pm

How To Fight Racial Bias When It’s Silent And Subtle

July 19, 2013 3:26 AM
Researchers say it may be possible to temporarily reduce racial biases.

Researchers say it may be possible to temporarily reduce racial biases.

Images.com/Corbis

 

“In the popular imagination and in conventional discourse — especially in the context of highly charged news events such as the shooting of Trayvon Martin — prejudice is all about hatred and animosity.

Scientists agree there’s little doubt that hate-filled racism is real, but a growing bodyof social science research suggests that racial disparities and other biased outcomes in the criminal justice system, in medicine and in professional settings can be explained by unconscious attitudes and stereotypes.

Subtle biases are linked to police cadets being more likely to shoot unarmed black men than they are unarmed white men. (Some academics have also linked theresearch into unconscious bias to the Trayvon Martin case.)

Calvin Lai and Brian Nosek at the University of Virginia recently challenged scientists to come up with ways to ameliorate such biases. The idea, said Harvard University psychologist Mahzarin Banaji, one of the researchers, was to evaluate whether there were rapid-fire ways to disable stereotypes. Groups of scientists “raced” one another to see if their favorite techniques worked. All the scientists focused on reducing unconscious racial bias against blacks.

“Within five minutes, you have to do something to somebody’s mind so that at the end of those five minutes you will now show a lower association of black with bad. And so this was run really like a competition to see which ones of them might work to reduce race bias and which ones don’t,” Banaji said.

The results were as surprising for what they didn’t find as for what they did. Teaching people about the injustice of discrimination or asking them to be empathetic toward others was ineffective. What worked, at least temporarily, Banaji said, was providing volunteers with “counterstereotypical” messages.

“People were shown images or words or phrases that in some way bucked the trend of what we end up seeing in our culture,” she said. “So if black and bad have been repeatedly associated in our society, then in this intervention, the opposite association was made.”

Banaji, who has been a pioneer in studying unconscious biases, said she has taken such results to heart and tried to find ways to expose herself to counterstereotypical messages, as a way to limit her own unconscious biases.

One image in particular, she said, has had an especially powerful effect: “My favorite example is a picture of a woman who is clearly a construction worker wearing a hard hat, but she is breast-feeding her baby at lunchtime, and that image pulls my expectations in so many different directions that it was my feeling that seeing something like that would also allow me in other contexts to perhaps have an open mind about new ideas that might come from people who are not traditionally the ones I hear from.””

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by | July 24, 2013 · 5:53 pm

‘Crack baby’ study ends with unexpected but clear result

By Susan FitzGerald, For The Inquirer

POSTED: July 22, 2013

“Jaimee Drakewood hurried in from the rain, eager to get to her final appointment at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia.

Ever since her birth 23 years ago, a team of researchers has been tracking every aspect of her development – gauging her progress as an infant, measuring her IQ as a preschooler, even peering into her adolescent brain using an MRI machine.

Now, after nearly a quarter century, the federally funded study was ending, and the question the researchers had been asking was answered.

Did cocaine harm the long-term development of children like Jaimee, who were exposed to the drug in their mother’s womb?

The researchers had expected the answer would be a resounding yes. But it wasn’t. Another factor would prove far more critical.

 

A crack epidemic was raging in Philadelphia in 1989 when Hallam Hurt, then chair of neonatology at Albert Einstein Medical Center on North Broad Street, began a study to evaluate the effects of in-utero cocaine exposure on babies. In maternity wards in Philadelphia and elsewhere, caregivers were seeing more mothers hooked on cheap, smokable crack cocaine. A 1989 study in Philadelphia found that nearly one in six newborns at city hospitals had mothers who tested positive for cocaine.

Troubling stories were circulating about the so-called crack babies. They had small heads and were easily agitated and prone to tremors and bad muscle tone, according to reports, many of which were anecdotal. Worse, the babies seemed aloof and avoided eye contact. Some social workers predicted a lost generation – kids with a host of learning and emotional deficits who would overwhelm school systems and not be able to hold a job or form meaningful relationships. The “crack baby” image became symbolic of bad mothering, and some cocaine-using mothers had their babies taken from them or, in a few cases, were arrested.

It was amid that climate that Hurt organized a study of 224 near-term or full-term babies born at Einstein between 1989 and 1992 – half with mothers who used cocaine during pregnancy and half who were not exposed to the drug in utero. All the babies came from low-income families, and nearly all were African Americans.

Hurt hoped the study would inform doctors and nurses caring for cocaine-exposed babies and even guide policies for drug prevention, treatment, and follow-up interventions. But she never anticipated that the study, funded by the National Institute on Drug Abuse, would become one of the largest and longest-running studies of in-utero cocaine exposure.

One mother who signed up was Jaimee’s mom, Karen Drakewood. She was on an all-night crack binge in a drug house near her home in the city’s West Oak Lane section when she went into labor. Jaimee was born Jan. 13, 1990, weighing an even 7 pounds.

“Jaimee was beautiful when she was born. A head full of hair. She looked like a porcelain doll,” Karen Drakewood, now 51, said recently in her Overbrook kitchen. “She was perfect.”

But Drakewood knew looks could be deceiving.

“My worst fear was that Jaimee would be slow, mentally retarded, or something like that because of me doing drugs,” she said. She agreed to enroll her baby in the cocaine study at Einstein. Drakewood promised herself that she would turn her life around for the sake of Jaimee and her older daughter, but she soon went back to smoking crack.

 

Hurt arrived early at Children’s Hospital one morning in June to give a talk on her team’s findings to coworkers. After nearly 25 years of studying the effects of cocaine and publishing or presenting dozens of findings, it wasn’t easy to summarize it in a PowerPoint presentation. The study received nearly $7.9 million in federal funding over the years, as well as $130,000 from the Einstein Society.

Hurt, who had taken her team from Einstein to Children’s in 2003, began her lecture with quotations from the media around the time the study began. A social worker on TV predicted that a crack baby would grow up to “have an IQ of perhaps 50.” A print article quoted a psychologist as saying “crack was interfering with the central core of what it is to be human,” and yet another article predicted that crack babies were “doomed to a life of uncertain suffering, of probable deviance, of permanent inferiority.”

Hurt, who is also a professor of pediatrics at the University of Pennsylvania, is always quick to point out that cocaine can have devastating effects on pregnancy. The drug can cause a problematic rise in a pregnant woman’s blood pressure, trigger premature labor, and may be linked to a dangerous condition in which the placenta tears away from the uterine wall. Babies born prematurely, no matter the cause, are at risk for a host of medical and developmental problems. On top of that, a parent’s drug use can create a chaotic home life for a child.

Hurt’s study enrolled only full-term babies so the possible effects of prematurity did not skew the results. The babies were then evaluated periodically, beginning at six months and then every six or 12 months on through young adulthood. Their mothers agreed to be tested for drug use throughout the study.

The researchers consistently found no significant differences between the cocaine-exposed children and the controls. At age 4, for instance, the average IQ of the cocaine-exposed children was 79.0 and the average IQ for the nonexposed children was 81.9. Both numbers are well below the average of 90 to 109 for U.S. children in the same age group. When it came to school readiness at age 6, about 25 percent of children in each group scored in the abnormal range on tests for math and letter and word recognition.

“We went looking for the effects of cocaine,” Hurt said. But after a time “we began to ask, ‘Was there something else going on?’ “

While the cocaine-exposed children and a group of nonexposed controls performed about the same on tests, both groups lagged on developmental and intellectual measures compared to the norm. Hurt and her team began to think the “something else” was poverty.

As the children grew, the researchers did many evaluations to tease out environmental factors that could be affecting their development. On the upside, they found that children being raised in a nurturing home – measured by such factors as caregiver warmth and affection and language stimulation – were doing better than kids in a less nurturing home. On the downside, they found that 81 percent of the children had seen someone arrested; 74 percent had heard gunshots; 35 percent had seen someone get shot; and 19 percent had seen a dead body outside – and the kids were only 7 years old at the time. Those children who reported a high exposure to violence were likelier to show signs of depression and anxiety and to have lower self-esteem.

More recently, the team did MRI scans on the participants’ brains. Some research has suggested that gestational cocaine exposure can affect brain development, especially the dopamine system, which in turn can harm cognitive function. An area of concern is “executive functioning,” a set of skills involved in planning, problem-solving, and working memory.

The investigators found one brain area linked to attention skills that differed between exposed and nonexposed children, but they could not find any clinically significant effect on behavioral tests of attention skills.

Drug use did not differ between the exposed and nonexposed participants as young adults. About 42 percent used marijuana and three tested positive for cocaine one time each.

The team has kept tabs on 110 of the 224 children originally in the study. Of the 110, two are dead – one shot in a bar and another in a drive-by shooting – three are in prison, six graduated from college, and six more are on track to graduate. There have been 60 children born to the 110 participants.

The years of tracking kids have led Hurt to a conclusion she didn’t see coming.

“Poverty is a more powerful influence on the outcome of inner-city children than gestational exposure to cocaine,” Hurt said at her May lecture.

Other researchers also couldn’t find any devastating effects from cocaine exposure in the womb. Claire Coles, a psychiatry professor at Emory University, has been tracking a group of low-income Atlanta children. Her work has found that cocaine exposure does not seem to affect children’s overall cognition and school performance, but some evidence suggests that these children are less able to regulate their reactions to stressful stimuli, which could affect learning and emotional health.

Coles said her research had found nothing to back up predictions that cocaine-exposed babies were doomed for life. “As a society we say, ‘Cocaine is bad and therefore it must cause damage to babies,’ ” Coles said. “When you have a myth, it tends to linger for a long time.”

Deborah A. Frank, a pediatrics professor at Boston University who has tracked a similar group of children, said the “crack baby” label led to erroneous stereotyping. “You can’t walk into a classroom and tell this kid was exposed and this kid was not,” Frank said. “Unfortunately, there are so many factors that affect poor kids. They have to deal with so much stress and deprivation. We have also found that exposure to violence is a huge factor.”

Frank said that cocaine – along with other illicit drugs, alcohol, and cigarettes – “isn’t good for babies,” but the belief that they would “grow up to be addicts and criminals is not true. Some kids have stunned us with how well they’ve done.”

 

Jaimee Drakewood came to her last visit at Children’s with her 16-month-old son KyMani in tow. It was the 31st time she had met with the researchers.

“We do appreciate everything you’ve done, because it’s not easy to get to all these appointments,” said team member Kathleen Dooley, as she handed Drakewood a framed certificate of appreciation. “We are proud of you and we feel you are family, because you are.”

The team plans to stay in touch with study participants each year. They have started a new study that uses MRI and other tools to explore the neural and cognitive effects of poverty on infant development.

“Given what we learned,” Hurt said, “we are invested in better understanding the effects of poverty. How can early effects be detected? Which developing systems are affected? And most important, how can findings inform interventions for our children?”

The team considers Jaimee and her mother, Karen, among their best success stories. Jaimee is heading into her senior year at Tuskegee University in Alabama and hopes to become a food inspector. She is home for the summer with her son and working as a lifeguard at a city pool.

After a few starts and stops, including a year in jail, Karen Drakewood is off drugs and works as a residential adviser at Gaudenzia House. Her older daughter just received a master’s degree at Drexel University; her son is a student at Florida Atlantic University. Even in the worst moments, Karen Drakewood said she tried to show her kids “what their future could hold.” “If a child sees the light, they will follow it.”

Jaimee Drakewood credits her big sister and mother for keeping her on track. “I’ve seen my mom at her lowest point and I’ve seen her at her highest. That hasn’t stopped me from seeing the superwoman in her regardless of where she was at,” Jaimee said.

Despite her family’s history, Jaimee believes she and her siblings are “destined to have accomplishments, to be greater than our parents.”

 


Susan FitzGerald, a former Inquirer reporter, has written periodically about the cocaine study. Now an independent journalist, she is coathor of a parenting book, Letting Go With Love and Confidence and can be reached at sfitzgerald610@msn.com .”

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by | July 23, 2013 · 11:12 pm

Oregon Tuition Plan: The Beaver State Breaks the Dam Of Student Debt

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“Congress can spend all the time it wants being apathetic and letting student loan rates double but on the other side of the country, one state is thinking of a more creative way to run the financial aspect of public higher education. For Oregon, loans will be a thing of the past and state legislatures are throwing around the “f” word: FREE.

A bill to make tuition at the state’s public universities free passed unanimously and is expected to be officially signed at some point this month by Governor John Kitzhaber. Coincidentally, the bill was passed on the very same Monday that federal student loan interest rates doubled from 3.4 to 6.8% and functioned as a snippet of hope. There is a chance for change, as students to have options outside of the federal loan system to fund their educations, but it is up to individual states to take action. 

The concept of making public institutions of higher education tuition and loan-free is now being called the “Pay-It-Forward” program and it functions just as the name entails. Of course, everyone knows that almost nothing comes without a price and anything that truly is free may ultimately turn out to be more costly, monetarily or otherwise. However, the bill will still hold students responsible for contributing to their education, but collecting these compensations will be done in a manner that is mindful of the student’s financial situation after joining the workforce.

Graduates of a four-year public college or university will be expected to pay 3% of their adjusted growth income over a 24-year span, and graduates of a two-year degree will be required to contribute 1.5%. Those who fail to graduate will still be expected to contribute but fees will be pro-rated. 

“This is going to happen because students demand change; I believe that firmly,” Steve Hughes, state director of the Oregon Working Families Party, said. “The conditions are just absolutely ripe for this. We’ve heard so many stories of student debt that are just beyond belief.”

This plan is not about actually providing free education, as the money evidently would have to come from somewhere, but the goal behind it is to keep students from automatically feeling the dread of student loans and having the fear that their incomes may possibly be inadequate to pay the borrowed funds back. No person should feel discouraged from attending college due to fears that he or she will be unable to come up with the money to pay for it and it seems that this plan, if instated, could help on these fronts.

Above all, Oregon’s move to do something about the hefty cost of higher education especially given the rise in student debt is a reminder that change is not limited to the federal government, and there should be a larger push towards getting state legislatures to implement the changes that its constituents demand. 

Picture Credit: Web Pro News

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by | July 23, 2013 · 9:47 pm

Millennials Aren’t Millionaires, But We’re Great Philanthropists

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“With no shortage of generation-bashing these days, twentysomethings might be feeling a bit jaded by articles and pundits framing them as “narcissistic,” “materialistic,” and “cheap.” The media and other generations seem to have a lot to say about how millennials spend their time and money, and the intentions behind those actions and purchases.

But the reality is that this generation is redefining the way we think about business. Conscious consumerism is now its own form of philanthropy, and this generation is leading the charge in supporting for-profit models with a moral compass, and looking for more meaningful opportunities to have impact. This carries particular implications for the nonprofit sector as millennials lead the way in increasing the do-gooder appetite and reinventing how we spend our time and money. 

If you have purchased a pair of TOMS shoes or Warby Parker sunglasses, donated to your friends’Kickstarter campaigns, or even went to a concert that benefited charity, then I believe that you are a philanthropist. Etymologically, “philanthropy” means “love for humanity,” and for many that translates into anyone who gives time, money, skills, networking, or even passion toward a cause. This is something the millennial generation inherently weaves into life through our everyday choices. In effect, we are mainstreaming sustainability and purpose into everything from our concert venues to our dining out for a cause. 

For the third year in a row, the Case Foundation partnered with Achieve, a creative fundraising firm and thought leader on nonprofit millennial engagement, to produce the Millennial Impact Report, which surveyed more than 2,500 millennials ages 20 to 35.

We found that 83 percent of respondents gave a financial gift to a cause in 2012. And one of the most interesting findings from the 2013 report is that millennials are cause-driven, preferring to give toward a specific cause that resonates with their interests over writing a check to a specific organization as a whole. Seventy-three percent volunteered for a cause that they were passionate about or felt created impact, and 70 percent of millennials are hitting the (physical and virtual) “pavement,” raising money for their causes both online and offline. Achieve highlights this “supportive activism” as its own heralding cry against the threatening “slacktivist” legacy that many other generations believe millennials are leaving behind.

The report revealed that 80 percent of millennials read nonprofits’ e-mail newsletters, but we like to do it through our smartphones. We will also only read up to five organizations’ newsletters at a given time. This is tough news for nonprofits that need to adjust to the rising demand for quality and ease of information sharing, both through new technology and effective messaging.

Young donors also expressed dislike for being asked for money upfront via social media, newsletters, or through an organization’s website, feeling as though they can offer more to an organization than just money. And as much as millennials want to give, they also need to receive — always searching for professional development opportunities, networking, and skills that can help propel their own successful battle through a tough job market.

Our generation has lived through 9/11, Hurricane Sandy, and the Arab Spring (to name only a few major historical events). The rise of mobile technologies, increased communication, and lighting speed-tweeting prowess has transformed us from standby witnesses to active participants in the world’s current challenges. As a result, we are a socially minded group, tuned in to the issues of our day and primed to give back.

This week, the Millennial Impact Conference will explore these very topics, including the challenges and opportunities nonprofits face to engage and utilize these new “cause evangelists.” Livestreamed for free, the conference will showcase entrepreneurs, philanthropists, corporate leaders, and social activists like Sophia Bush and Jose Antonio Vargas who will weigh in on how and why to connect with the millennial generation. We hope you’ll join us to learn moreon July 18.  

Picture Credit: CNN

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by | July 23, 2013 · 9:38 pm