Hope is in the Puppy Bowl!

For the second year in a row, an Unleashed pup is in the Puppy Bowl!

IMG_4072This has been a BIG week for Unleashed pups! Hope promoted the Puppy Bowl visiting Cosmopolitan Magazine, Watch What Happens Live with Andy Cohen, Good Day New York (along with one of our Unleashed girls), and was one of the stars of Animal Planet’s pre-Puppy Bowl party. On Sunday at 3pm, take a break from human sports to tune into Animal Planet and watch Hope (now Jessie) compete for the Puppy Bowl title! Click here for a Puppy Bowl preview!

How I’m Raising a Feminist Son

It’s so important to think about raising our sons to be a voice in the world. Our founder was the expert interviewed for this piece.

“I’m proud to say that my 9-year-old son is a feminist in training. In 20 years time, this hopefully won’t be anything worth writing about. But right now, far too many boys are being raised to believe they are superior to girls. If we want our daughters to have rights equal to our sons, we need all sexes to support the cause.”

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“Unleashing” the next generation of female leaders and animal rescuers

From SPARK!

June 02, 2016

“Looking back, relative to other age periods, middle-school has to be one of the toughest. Even if you’re a pretty normal kid, it can be a struggle. Add on top of that being shy, not having that much support at home, and other issues and then it becomes really hellish.

That’s why the work being done by Dr. Stacey Radin over at Unleashed so moved me. After first coming across Unleashed, I knew I just had to learn more about this remarkable woman and the ground-breaking program she has created for adolescent girls AND rescue animals.

If you care at all about these 2 causes, or simply want to be inspired, then keep reading…

Spark Picture

Why Slut Shame?

Recently I had the privilege of speaking to Emily Linden, Founder of “The Unslut Project.” I learned about Emily’s work from my teenage daughter who came running home from “Consent Day” enraged about some of the conversations that took place over the course of the day, determined to take action. Her biggest “aha” was: girls her age are each other’s worst enemy and part of the problem. After hearing Jordyn speak my language, I HAD to contact the woman who “unleashed” her.

Emily is west coast and I am east so we had to settle for a phone call but it was one of the best conversations I have had in a while. Not best because of the topic though. It is outright disappointing and frustrating to me that in 2016 we are still having the same conversations that generations before us banged their heads against the wall trying to change. The conversation was best because when two like-minded women with a common platform connect, the energy and passion that soars is intoxicating.

What Emily and I discussed is the steady incline of girl on girl, women on women, bullying, a rise in sexual harassment across many contexts (work place, college campuses) and how the age is getting younger and younger by the minute. Girls as young as middle school report being touched inappropriately by their male peers and being exposed to sexist comments by men. Why is it that overtly our country has “come so far” in gender equality but stays so stagnant (and I would argue worse) in sexual harassment, rape and bullying? Psychologically, there is a connection among these issues related to (1) thwarting a women’s power and (2) rise of aggression and violence. Over the past few years we have witnessed an athlete punching his wife on camera on a public elevator and just getting a slap on the wrist. A woman raped on an Ivy league campus (in New York City no less,) ostracized by peers and dismissed by administration to the extent that she dragged her mattress across campus to make a statement. The age old “it’s her fault” because she “shouldn’t” have been walking alone late at night, she “shouldn’t” have dressed “that” way and of course the good old standby “she wanted it…it was mutual consent” still remain alive and strong. Let’s face it when it comes to sex, she’s damned if she does and she’s damned if she doesn’t.

Slut shaming is sexual harassment; it is an attempt to vilify a woman’s power by destroying her reputation. Slut shaming can destroy a woman’s life in a matter of minutes and her “sisters” are often at the helm. One minute, girls call each other “slut” affectionately and then the next minute “slut” is being flung as an insult in an effort to destroy or shame one another. The bipolar nature of the word floors me…and when push comes to shove, its not even being used correctly. “Ladies…do tell…what is a slut?” And isn’t the age of the witch hunt over? In so many ways, we as a society are repeating history, stoning a woman publicly, nailing her to a stake, all as a means to strip her of her power and self esteem, using her sexuality as the excuse.

Women (and girls) stand before society’s judge and jury who are eagerly waiting to condemn them. A girl is given permission to express her sexuality, dress more maturely at a younger age, act “grown up,” embrace her power and …when she does, it is used against her. “Sexual freedom is power” women chanted in the sixties…but that is an outright lie. Sex continues to be used as a means to insure that a woman stays in her gender biased box wrapped and tied with a pretty pink bow. What is it going to take to promote physical and emotional safety for our women and girls? Don’t young women have the right to enter college with the same excitement as boys without the apprehension of being sexually harassed or violated on campus? Don’t young women have the right to stay off the proverbial battle field and not thrown to the wolves if her power becomes too threatening to others? There are larger repercussions to slut shaming that include perpetuating a rape culture, continuing to blame the women who have been assaulted, excusing the violence of the perpetrator; sustaining the double standard; not to mention depression, low self esteem, learned helplessness and anxiety of those who have been shamed. Some girls have even committed suicide. Here’s to spreading awareness; knowledge is power and education is the key. Be an ally not an enemy; together women of all ages can stop contributing to the problem and choose to be part of the solution.

The Modern Day “F-Bomb”

 

Let’s face it, calling yourself a feminist elicits the same reaction as if you starting screaming “F *^#*” on Madison Avenue. I would argue cursing publicly in New York City would be considered much more acceptable (and maybe even admirable.) What is it about this particular “F bomb” that causes so much discomfort? In reality, feminism means that you believe in equal rights for both genders; men can be feminists too.

Feminism is not the men hating, society destroying, anti family group of women portrayed in the media or within conservative political campaigns. We (and I say we because I am not afraid to call myself a feminist) are normal everyday individuals who believe in equality and consider gender inequality as a societal problem, not solely a women’s issue. The real problem I have witnessed, is the divide among women related to the use of the word feminism, and failure to support and accept those who identify with it.

Two weeks ago, I had the honor of presenting on a panel at the United Nations women’s and girl’s conference. My fellow panel members were exceptional, creating real change for women across the globe. The conversations and dialogues that ensued were so inspiring and engaging. However, the last thirty minutes when we encouraged our audience to ask questions and comment, something went awry. A high school student was concerned about how she was bulldozed with angry responses when she called herself a feminist. She asked our advice about how to manage it and one of the experts jumped in quickly, chastising her for not using the word humanist. I sat there silent and dumbfounded for many reasons. When I finally rebounded I quickly said, “You are allowed to identify with any concept or aspect of yourself…we should not take that away from you. And…I also call myself a feminist. We each have the right to use the word that resonates with us, individually.” The young woman’s head lifted and she nodded strongly. After that many younger women in the audience began to share similar stories and afterward surrounded me in the hallway outside the auditorium to continue the conversation.

We are perpetuating a problem if we avoid the word instead of providing education about the true definition and context. Difficult conversations need to be had; avoiding them like the plague will never amount to anything but shame, silence and the grey cloud that lingers over our heads.

But at the core, what’s disappointing to me, is that once again a women’s permission to be her authentic self is thwarted and she must squelch aspects of herself. The “shoulds” that a woman lives by are not her own; they come from others who serve as barriers to her journey to create HER own identity; align with HER values and make decisions related to HER belief system. We as a society are robbing her of these inalienable rights and if we continue to do so, the needle is NOT going to move farther in gender reformation and we will continue to be stuck with archaic stereotypes. So let’s all commit to providing women of all ages with permission to throw that F bomb out there if they want; and not chastise them if they don’t want to…the bottom line is facilitating choices!

I am a feminist!

 

Looking Back: Where Are the Women?

In honor of women’s history month there was a quiz on Facebook that said “name these historical women..only one of 50 can name them all.”

I challenged myself to take the quiz, fearing it would be so hard and maybe if I didn’t score well I couldn’t call myself a feminist any longer! I took the plunge, hit the ‘finished’ button and immediately found out I had gotten them all right (now there are 2 of 50!) But after the initial “wow I got them all right,” the air slowly went out of my tires. I was left with the disbelief that most people couldn’t recognize significant women in our world!

“Why?” That’s the million dollar question! I thought a little bit harder and realized that from elementary school to high school, and including college, there was hardly ever a mention of a woman. Maybe once in a while Marie Curie or Pocahontas or Betsy Ross but always in the context of a male’s story. And, I stand corrected, I chose Marie Curie for a science class biography assignment.

Independent from school, I was intrigued with women who made a difference and have educated myself on the topic. And over time, being a fan of historical fiction, I have read many stories and asked “how come I have never heard of her?” over and over again.

Why is it that most curriculums and text books leave out the contribution women have made since the earliest of times? Our children aren’t receiving any information about the women’s rights movements let alone the mention of feminism (maybe because it is the other “F” word.) Yet, we continue to believe we’ve come along way as a means to reassure ourselves and focus on the bigger issues, right? Wrong! The fact remains that we are still wedded to archaic norms that are based on our society being a male dominated one.

In order to move the needle we must start looking at the underlying biases that still exist and unhinging ourselves from them.

So in honor of women’s history month, I encourage everyone to take our “powerful woman” challenge and learn more about one change maker who contributed to her world.

Let the challenge begin!

My Brave Girl, Jordyn

“March is women’s history month and in anticipation of honoring many great women and girls, I am kicking it off by honoring a very special girl, my own Brave Girl, Jordyn. From the time she was tiny she was a force to reckon with, shaking up our entire household, always walking to the beat of her own drum and never afraid to be completely out of the box. Teachers told me “not every mom would be able to manage her.” I resented that comment because “manage” her? That wasn’t my job. My job was to create space so she could define who she is and who she wanted to be.

As early as the age of 8 she was a strong animal activist and the only other person I ever brought on the hour rides to pick up the pups. She would sit in the back with the crates and let me know who had kennel cough (she was better than most vets I know).

She had a ritual of putting on her shorts and getting into the tub with the pups to bathe them, never afraid of a flea or two (or hundreds.) She made power points and presented to people on animal rights, ultimately raising hundreds upon hundreds of dollars alone. She was my PR person at every public event, handing out my cards to media and telling my story. At age 11 she decided she was going to write a book, convinced a private publisher to take on a child client and wrote the book solo for months, amazingly enough it got on amazon!

Last year Jordyn got up in front of a hundred plus people, did my intro and what ended up being (unknown to me) a tribute to me at the Brave Girl launch! She’s now transferring animal activism to advocating for people. And that’s my hope for every Brave Girl, to have that foundation and see that there is a connection between the two. Yesterday after coming home from workshops about girls and “consent” and the issues girls face even in 2016, she was enraged.

My heart soared as she spoke about her frustration and about someone needs to do something; she was so angry going on and on about how girls need to support one another. I stood there nodding my head like “Yes! I agree. That’s why I do what I do!” And then she tells me “I am going to do something. I am starting a program at school to make sure girls have an ally.”

Never have I ever been so proud to be this girl’s mom. At times she drives me beyond crazy with her PR spin of everything; her head strong feisty self that comes head to head with mine, her insistence and persistence to get things done her way. But yesterday it hit me. This Brave Girl is going to be an asset to our world as a young person and an older one. So I sat her down and said “J, I will tell you what my dad told me, you were meant to do great things! You have the power to make a difference in the world and don’t let anything stop you.”  Happy Women’s History month a few days early!”

Hillary Clinton & Gender Inequality in Politics

If you type in your Google search bar “Hillary Clinton”, the first suggestion in the autocomplete function of Google is “Hillary Clinton age”. This at first doesn’t seem significant; it makes sense that a lot of people would be curious about the statistical information of a political figure. But what makes it significant is this: “age” is in the top three autocomplete option for the searches “Sarah Palin”, “Nancy Pelosi”, and “Michelle Obama”, but doesn’t even make it into the suggestions for “Jeb Bush”, “Bernie Sanders”, “Rand Paul”, or “Barack Obama”. The average American googler, it seems, finds the age of its female current or potential political leaders of huge importance, while not caring so much about that of males.

Even in these beginning stages of the 2016 political campaign fever, the electorate and media alike are already treating women and men almost comically unequally. An article in Salon added insight to this discrepancy in feelings about age discovered in our google search experiment. Both Jeb Bush and Hillary Clinton are on the older end of the age spectrum of the 2016 candidates so far announced. According to the media, this is no problem for Bush- in fact it’s a good thing. He’s been praised for his “stature” and “grown-up attitude”. For Clinton, on the other hand, being older is quite the problem. Among the media’s comments on her age is the statement that she’s too “rooted in the past”.

How can anybody claim that we live in a gender-equal society when the exact same thing, maturity, is an asset for a male candidate and a turn-off for a female candidate? For Jeb Bush, being older makes him a grown up and a voice of reason, while for Hillary Clinton, it means outdatedness and an inability to think forward. America still holds incredible double standards for women and men, and skeptically googling the age of female candidates and either seeing that of men as a nonevent or only a good thing is just one example of this. Unfortunately, as the 2016 race heats up, we are only going to see these gender discrepancies heightened and Hillary targeted more and more for her age, looks, and outfits, while the male candidates remain free of these criticisms.

Even if this election does end with the first female president of the United States, the way that Hillary and other women are examined and treated so differently than men shows that the fight for gender equality is far from over. It’s only just the beginning. Women and men are approaching a critical juncture in gender reformation, and we have a choice; we can look the other way and ignore the archaic stereotypes and gender biases that have permeated politics for years, or we can stand tall, confront these sensitive issues, and take a stand to initiate sustainable change.

-Rachel Scharf, Unleashed Summer Intern

A Cinderella Story

This year, Disney came out with a live-action version of its classic movie “Cinderella”. I saw the advertisement for the film for the first time on the side of an MTA bus in Manhattan. As the bus drove by and I saw the image of 2015 Cinderella for the first time, I was floored. Her waist was unnaturally, dangerously tiny. There has been speculation and debate as to whether the images in the advertisements and film itself were photoshopped, but actress Lily James’ agent did confirm that she wore a corset to shrink her waist.

As a child, Cinderella was my hero and by far my favorite of all the Disney Princesses. I had a Cinderella dress from the Disney Store that I absolutely adored; every day when I got home from preschool, I would change into Cinderella’s outfit and wear it around the house for as long as I possibly could. I wanted to be just like her.

One can imagine how it felt to see my cartoon hero, being portrayed as a real person for the first time, so morbidly skinny. Cartoon Cinderella had a tiny waist too, of course, but the effect is very different and much more powerful when shown on a live woman. I thought about all the little girls who worship Cinderella like I did excitedly going to see live-action Cinderella in theaters; they would see their role model’s waist and subconsciously begin to believe that because the amazing princess was so skinny, that means they should be too.

These kind of beliefs and beauty standards are ingrained in young girls all too frequently. Their heroes have perfectly slender waists, skinny arms and legs, and curvy breasts and bottoms. Barbie, the classic American girl to many children, would have, if enlarged to human proportions, a waist of 18’’, hips of 33’’, and a bust of 39’’. Unrealistic figures like this are everywhere. There is so little variety in images of beauty offered to young girls that it is nearly impossible for uninformed girls not to have this singular ideal of how they should look.

To alter such narrow and dangerous female beauty standards, we need not only to show young girls role models with a much wider variety of appearance, but change the way that they look at themselves. That’s where organizations like Unleashed come in. Girls are applauded for so much more than the size of their waists; they are encouraged to have a voice, defy the status quo, take risks, innovate and step out of their comfort zones. At Unleashed, we teach that a girl doesn’t need a Prince Charming or a glass slipper, and certainly not tiny waist, to be powerful. Power is a seed hidden deep within the souls of each and every girl and woman, and she creates her own fairy tale ending when she embraces and leverages it!
-Rachel Scharf, Unleashed Summer Intern