American Culture

#YesAllWomen: Unlocking Honest Conversations

Just this past weekend I was at a bar in Boston waiting for friends to meet up with me. I’m notoriously early for pretty much everything, so I knew I could expect to hang at the bar by myself for a good 15-20 minutes. I pulled up a stool, ordered a beer and some food, and did what anyone who is waiting for people naturally does: buried my nose in my iPhone.

After about 5 minutes or so, a large man in his mid to late 30′s stumbled over to me and tried to sit on me. I kid you not. I asked him, “excuse me, can I help you?” And he went on to try to buy me a beer. I had a full beer next to me so I declined (to be clear, I would have declined even if that hadn’t been the case). The bartender eyed me and could tell I was getting quite uncomfortable as this man was draping himself on me, nearly knocking my chair over. He asked me if I was good, so I turned to the man and said “I don’t know, am I good? Are things going to be okay here?”

He continued to try to put his hands on me, and at one point ended up putting his head in my lap. This is when I pushed him off and the bartenders had him back off. (Which even then, took a while to make really happen).

If you know me, you know I don’t typically take shit from anyone. Looking back, I’m almost a little surprised at how I handled the situation – but you never really know until you’re in it what you will do. For me, I made the choice to not be aggressive as this guy was a good 6-8 inches taller than me and had a good 100 pounds on me. I was alone, so if things escalated I don’t know what would have happened.

The thing that bothered me the most however is that the guy who was being this way towards me had an entire table of friends sitting directly behind us and they did nothing to stop his behavior. I was sitting right next to two men who also did nothing, even though I feel like it had to have been incredibly clear that I was extremely uncomfortable.

Did I mention it was only around 6PM when this happened?

Was there something I could have done to end the situation sooner? Maybe. But I refuse to let myself feel guilty over this.

I wasn’t going to write about this (mainly because I didn’t want to upset my mother), but after reading some pretty poignant #YesAllWomen Tweets, I’m opening up.

As a woman, there are certain things I just shouldn’t do or else it will put me at risk. From going inside a bar alone before my friends get there to having cab drivers straight up ask me about my love life (seriously, this happens to me all the time), I am put into some incredibly awkward and potentially dangerous situations just because of my gender.

I don’t think this conversation is supposed to make us scared or be hateful or suspicious of men. To me, it lets women know that you are not alone. It gave them a space to share something that they probably never shared before. It uncovered a problem that people have just accepted as a part of life; even though it doesn’t have to be this way.

Feminism isn’t a dirty word. It’s necessary for progress, and it certainly isn’t a label reserved for females. I hope this conversation continues and that both women and men look into what is being said – and I hope they listen.

 

 

Watered down Bud? OH THE HUMANITY!

So I have to admit – it’s pretty damn hilarious to see Anheuser-Busch get sued for watering down their beers (including Budweiser and Michelob). I really thought that if it was watered down any more that it would be, well…. WATER.

Knowing that this comes off the tails of the announcement of Budweiser Black Crown – a pathetic attempt at creating a beer that tastes like something beer-like. (No I haven’t tried it, and no I won’t).

I know - I can't believe they lied to us either.

I know – I can’t believe they lied to us either.

I’m not really one of those people to get uppity about products. I don’t buy cage free eggs or make sure that every piece of clothing I purchase was made in America. But when it comes to beer, I have a different attitude.

Did you know that Anheuser-Busch, which merged with InBev in 2008 (which is based in Belgium – not America) controls 39% of the beer market?! 39 EFFING PERCENT!

The beer market is actually pretty fascinating. A documentary I would highly recommend you check out is called Beer Wars. You can check out the trailer here:

Piqued your interest? You can watch the rest of it fo’ free streaming on Netflix or on Hulu.

But seriously people. It’s crazy that they’re getting away with this and it’s crazy that we’re spending $22 BILLION as a nation on this garbage.

Do me a favor. Next time you’re craving a beer, try something new. Try something locally made if you can. Craft beers are called “craft” beers for a reason – making beer is an art. You don’t have to drink something that is mass produced in an assembly line fashion. Figure out what you really like in a beer, and don’t settle until you find it.

I promise – there’s the perfect beer out there waiting for you; and I’m pretty sure Anheuser-Busch doesn’t brew it.

Dating In Adulthood – Is it Reaaaally This Hopeless?

So I read an article from the New York Times today that had me hanging my head in defeat. Titled “The End of Courtship?”, this article chronicled the dating mishaps of young 20-somethings living in NYC who just so happened to work in digital marketing. (Dammit – we even had our occupations in common!)

I talked to a friend about it over lunch – I was totally bought in to the article. I actually said, “Yeah, I can totally see how the economy is a factor – I mean guys just can’t afford dates.” Thankfully, my friend told me she thought that was total bullshit and it made me return back to the drawing board with my thinking.

The part about the article that I can definitely relate to is how can millennials shift from the hook-up culture and casual relationships that we’ve become accustomed to and enter into real, healthy, long-term, serious adult relationships. And for that, I don’t have an answer. It’s definitely something I struggle with. Hell, I haven’t had a “boyfriend” since high school. And that dude  has since gone to jail and popped out a couple of kids. (I guess being single isn’t soooo bad).

Some say online dating is to blame. I’ve been a member of OkCupid since 2009 – I’m actually a site moderator now, which I was flattered yet a tad concerned with at the same time. I’ve had a few casual relationships come out of my time there – even made a few cool friends. But I never got into a real “relationship.” Not sure I blame relying on OkCupid for that (after all, it was hard to meet people when I moved around to new cities – I find it more sketchy to get picked up at a bar, but maybe that’s just me). Actually, a few of my friends have met their significant other through that exact site – and are living with their now partners!

Some say the issue is that women have become too strong. We make too much money (that certainly isn’t my problem), we’ve become too educated (they might have me there), and we are more career focused than ever before (guilty as charged). Again, I have to call bullshit. I find it hard to believe that men want to date someone they have to take complete care of financially or who can’t hold intelligent conversations – I mean I know looks go a long way, but come ON!

What’s funny to me is that people (myself included) have been inclined to talk about this like it’s some sort of epidemic. Is it really more difficult now to find yourself in a relationship than it was for the previous generation?

More importantly, why does my happiness have to hinge on finding the perfect guy? Why can’t I be content with a job I love, living in a cool city, and having a bunch of great friends? Why do I have to put pressure on myself and proclaim things like, “If I don’t have a serious boyfriend by 2014, I’m biting the bullet and joining a paid online dating site!”

The truth of the matter is – I don’t. And I believe that when I stop being so god damn anxious about the whole thing that maybe I’ll chill out enough to let things happen like they’re supposed to.

Reacting to the #CTshooting – Remember to Love

Today was supposed to be a normal day. Children were supposed to go to school and learn. Whisper to each other to speculate about whether or not they were on the “nice” list this year. Rip a paper chain, signifying one day closer to a time that is magical and full of wonder.

But for some children, this was not the reality. For some, it was a horrifying experience that will forever impact the way they live their life. For some, it was confusing and scary, with many questions left unanswered. For some, their young, precious life was senselessly torn away from them.

I don’t know any of these victims. But what I do know is that I am connected to them. As Americans, as students, and most importantly, as a human being. And as I tried to get through the rest of my work day with a heavy heart, tears in my eyes, and glued to any news source I trust – I can’t imagine the pain and suffering the families and friends of anyone affected by this could possibly feel.

Judging from my Twitter and Facebook feeds, this tragedy is making us all feel. We feel anger. We feel hatred. We feel deep sadness. Some of us can’t even describe what we’re feeling – especially those who have children and know what that sort of bond is like.

The feeling that we cannot lose sight of in the midst of this unspeakable tragedy is love.

When I was crowded with my co-workers around a computer screen looking for solace in the words of the President, this was a theme that was reflected. He said:

This evening, Michelle and I will do what I know every parent in America will do, which is hug our children a little tighter, and we’ll tell them that we love them, and we’ll remind each other how deeply we love one another. But there are families in Connecticut who cannot do that tonight, and they need all of us right now. In the hard days to come, that community needs us to be at our best as Americans, and I will do everything in my power as president to help, because while nothing can fill the space of a lost child or loved one, all of us can extend a hand to those in need, to remind them that we are there for them, that we are praying for them, that the love they felt for those they lost endures not just in their memories, but also in ours.

So as you make sense of this tragedy, I’d ask that you remember to love. I’d ask that you gather the facts, but don’t obsess over those responsible. I’d ask that you seek solutions, not place blame.

Finally, I’d ask that you tell someone that you love them. Because as we were all shown today, you never know when you won’t have the opportunity to do it again.

Three Things Thursday [Late Edition]

Yeah, yeah. I know. It’s Friday, yet here I am still posting a Three Things Thursday. I was going to just forget the whole thing for this week, but then I came across a few things that I really felt were worth sharing.

Forgive me? Please?

1) 100 Fascinating Social Media Statistics and Figures From 2012 (via Huffington Post)

I knew that Obama’s victory Tweet of him and Michelle hugging was the most RT’d Tweet of all time, but there are definitely a few gems of info in this top 100 list. Some of my favorites included:

  •  25 percent of users on Facebook don’t bother with any kind of privacy control (count me in as part of that)
  • Links about sex are shared 90 percent more than any other link (on Facebook)
  • In 2012, 1 million accounts are added to Twitter everyday – and 175 million Tweets are sent from Twitter every day
  •  Nearly 4 billion photos have been shared on Instagram since its beginning

2) Got a Facebook Brand Page? Here’s How to Keep it Legal (via Ad Age)

This lawyer dude read the legal terms for Facebook brand pages and broke it down to share what information was pertinent. He’s my new hero.

Ad Age Lawyer

I highly recommend watching the video – and taking notes! Here are a few things I jotted down that I didn’t know about before watching this video:

  • In your Facebook cover photo, you cannot include pricing or purchasing info, contact information, references to Facebook features, or a call to action. (They want to keep it image specific).
  • If you have a promotion that includes prizes, it must be done via a Facebook app. The app cannot include features on a Facebook page such as a like button.
  • You cannot contact someone via Facebook if they won a prize through your promotion – you must contact them via e-mail or telephone

3) Africa For Norway: Viral Video Pokes Fun At Stereotypes In Aid Efforts (via NPR)

In a hilarious parody video, a group of Africans start a relief effort for Norwegians suffering through yet another brutal winter. Their plan? To send radiator heaters to Norway.

Clearly, this is a parody, but it really does address a serious issue: the media creating a “stereotypical image of Africa as a continent riddled with conflict, disease, corruption, poverty, and brutal dictatorships needing rescue from developed nations.”

Check it out -

Insensitive Marketing During #Sandy

I totally understand the value of connecting your organization’s messaging to what’s going on in the real world. I do it with City Year all the time.

However, a few companies chose to capitalize off Sandy (and the people that were stuck in their homes) to make a buck.

Two of the guilty parties are Urban Outfitters and American Apparel.

Here is what I received in my inbox from Urban Outfitters:

 

If I used the pass code ALLSOGGY at checkout, you were given free shipping for your order. All in the name of helping Sandy “suck less.”

American Apparel offered 20% off for customers living in the areas affected by the hurricane via an e-mail blast:

As Mashable documented, this sale was not welcomed by many people in the Twittersphere.

Personally, I don’t appreciate making light of such a serious situation. I found it to be incredibly inappropriate and distasteful.

One piece of e-mail I didn’t mind receiving was from Barack Obama, in which he didn’t ask me to donate to his campaign but instead asked me to donate to the American Red Cross so I could help support those affected.

More organizations should follow suit in that approach – garner attention for helping build support, not to take advantage of a terrible situation to make a profit.

Chick-fil-A: The Nightmare Continues

When I found out I would need to write a blog post about public affairs each week for my Emerson College Public Affairs course, the Chick-fil-A debacle immediately came to mind as something I would write about. And not because of the gay marriage issue (which admittedly, I care very deeply about). I want to talk about it as a public affairs issue and a corporate identity issue – which has brought about several questions that I find truly fascinating as someone who communicates on behalf of an organization myself.

We all know what happened here – here are the recent developments I will be referring to:

Due to the issues related to Chick-fil-A giving money to WinShape Foundation and other anti-gay marriage organizations, the city of Chicago was not going to allow Chick-fil-A to build there. In reaction, Chick-fil-A’s senior director of real estate said in a letter to city Alderman Joe Moreno:

“The WinShape Foundations is now taking a much closer look at the organizations it considers helping, and in that process will remain true to its stated philosophy of not supporting organizations with political agendas.”

Many perceived this to mean that Chick-fil-A would stop donating money to anti-gay marriage organizations. However, on Sept. 18, Chick-fil-A CEO Dan Cathy posted a Tweet from a fundraiser for the anti-LBGT group Marriage and Family Foundation:

This sparked outrage from people who viewed this to mean that the company was saying one thing, yet doing another thing entirely. On the flip side, the perceived promise to stop funding anti-gay marriage groups also angered their conservative consumers who stood by their side during the controversy.

In reaction, Chick-fil-A released a manifesto titled “Chick-fil-A: Who We Are” which outlined their corporate values and CSR activities.

For me, this raises a few key questions:

  • To what extent do the views of the CEO of a company impact the viewpoints of the organization in the eyes of its stakeholders?
  • Should there be consequences when a company misleads the public?
  • Is it the responsibility of the consumer to do their due diligence and research the CSR practices and values of a company, or should it be clearly spelled out by the organization?

Personally, I do believe that the views of the CEO cannot be separated from the views of the company that they lead – at least in the public sense. While I respect the right of the CEO and Chick-fil-A to have the point of view that they have (although as I mentioned above, I deeply disagree with the view in this case), they need to own up to it and embrace it. They need to be truthful and allow consumers to make an informed choice about where their money is going.

I’ve never been to a Chick-fil-A but I have talked to several friends who are from the South who explained to me that this is a true staple of southern food – and that they are actually deeply disappointed that they cannot morally enjoy one of their chicken sandwiches again (or at least until their CSR activities are shifted).

Should there be a consequence for them? Well, I definitely think they are getting a lot of unwarranted attention which clearly isn’t helpful for the company. I do believe it should go further than that. This has now become a case of business ethics that cannot be ignored. To be transparent, I don’t really have an opinion on what that consequence should or even could be – but I don’t think they should get out of this unscathed.

All of that being said, I also believe that it is the responsibility of the consumer to do their research. Writing this blog post was the first time I actually looked at different sides of the story. While I hate that Chick-fil-A supports anti-gay marriage groups, I discovered in my research that they do a lot of good for the communities they are in, especially in the fields of education and youth development – and that should not be ignored.

No matter your feelings on the issue of gay marriage, this is certainly a dynamic example of the power of public affairs.

What are your thoughts on the key questions? Do you have any other questions this has raised for you? Let me know in the comments…