A message from Founder and CEO Jennifer Siebel Newsom and Imran Siddiquee
Since we wrote this blog in 2011, our organization has evolved greatly, and reading it again now, we realize it’s not our most thoughtful communication. We want to thank the many women and men online who have challenged us and pushed us, this week and over the years, to continually improve our communication.
We remain concerned about our daughters growing up in a culture that values them more for their beauty and sexuality than their ideas and actions, but we also realize we cannot place the responsibility for changing this culture on girls alone. As we examined in Miss Representation, they did not create this culture and they aren’t in charge of the industries that are perpetuating it.
There is a serious need for dialogue around female sexuality and empowerment though – how it is perceived by our larger culture, how it is exploited in the media, and how it ultimately impacts our girls and boys. And we must hold those in power in the media industries accountable.
We are grateful to those online who have encouraged us to engage in this topic more thoughtfully, especially when it comes to the impact on women and girls of color and those in lower socio-economic classes. We recognize that stereotypes around how young women should or should not dance are multiplied depending on race and class; and, that regardless of the dancing, others still sexualize and degrade women unfairly based on perceived sexual orientation, race, and class.
Furthermore, we did not, and do not, intend to single out Rihanna or any other woman in the music industry for the way they choose to dance or represent themselves. We are primarily concerned with the structural inequities which perpetuate a culture that wants to see all women as objects first and people second. The music industry often demeans women – particularly women of color – so we are anxious to see more women and men in positions of privilege in the industry challenge that norm.
Yet we do believe it’s important for each of us, women and men, to be agents of change in this culture – whether we are teenagers or pop stars. Of course we can take action by not consuming sexist culture or participating in it (check out our #NotBuyingIt campaign), but we should know, especially women and girls, that through each action we do have the power to contribute to the greater good of society. In other words, despite everything – the way the media devalues and negates our femininity – women and girls’ voices and choices have significant cultural impact.
We also recognize that we, as an organization, have a significant opportunity to learn here. So we would like to invite any and all to respond to this blog and to continue to help us find healthy language to move the conversation forward. Just as our youth need healthy role models, they also need better tools to deal with the mixed messages they receive around their own sexuality, sexual expression and sexual empowerment. And, we hope together we can help them.
All in all, we strive to grow as individuals and as an organization, to become more inclusive, and to work towards a society free of limiting gender stereotypes – where we all have access to the tools necessary to realize our full human potential.
– Jennifer Siebel Newsom and Imran Siddiquee