You probably saw the hashtag. You might have retweeted a link from Viola Davis, Andy Cohen, Gabrielle Union, or any of the other celebrities sending out appeals to find over a dozen missing teenagers. In March, #MissingDCGirls went viral, alongside the story of 14 teenage girls who all went missing in a 24 hour period.
But during a March 16th press conference, D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser said there was no sudden spike of missing teens. The number of people reported missing in the city each year has stayed the same since around 2014 and 99 percent are found.
But there was a story here.
“A fake news story helped us expose a real problem,” said Angela Rye, political strategist and the CEO of IMPACT Strategies.
Across the country, girls and women of color go missing at a disproportionate rate and get less news coverage.
Nearly 800 juveniles were reported missing in D.C. this year, with the vast majority of those children coming home on their own or being located by police. There are currently 18 open cases for juveniles who have gone missing since the start of the year, all of whom are Black or Latino.
On April 26th The Congressional Caucus on Black Women and Girls hosted a town hall after a call for more federal funds to find the estimated 64,000 black women reported missing since 2014.
Rye served as the moderator of the town hall, which challenged the notion that all missing teens are runaways.
Every year from 2012–2016, there have been more than 2,000 juveniles reported missing.
The lines blur between kidnappings and runaways. Once missing, some end up in the hands of pimps and sex traffickers. Teens and young women and even boys are sex trafficked. Many other girls runaway and then begin a cycle of leaving home only to be sent back by law enforcement, over and over.
Advocates say the struggle is to keep eyes on this issue long enough to make some real, positive changes. In the weeks since, they have focused on keeping the story from being forgotten.
Derrica and Natalie Wilson are sisters who founded Black and Missing Foundation nine years ago. The story of the 14 missing girls is hardly news for them.
“We’ve been sounding the alarm for years,” said Natalie Wilson. “Our black teenagers continue to be missing. Sex trafficking is happening now.”
One distinction that advocates for missing teenagers tend to emphasize is the difference between choice and force.
“Even for runaways, we have to ask, what are they running from?” Natalie Wilson said. “Most young girls don’t choose prostitution, or to runaway from home. They’re missing children.”
According to Natalie Wilson, escaping abuse was often a factor in missing girls.
The threat of abduction became a reality for the Scott family.
The teenage daughter of Linda Scott, the owner of a hair salon in Baltimore, Maryland, was almost abducted Her daughter, Kaniya, 16, called her, frantic and crying from a Baltimore public bus one afternoon. Three men had just tried to grab her and then cut off the bus with their vehicle when she got away from them. The three men had been plotting to take Kaniya. They scoped out the salon days earlier, pretending to be clothing vendors, and tried to talk to Kaniya, Scott said.
“I recognized the individuals and they asked for my daughter,” Scott said. “My daughter is 16-years-old, she doesn’t know these grown men.”
Scott immediately turned to the police, but has been disappointed with their response. She tracked down surveillance footage from a local business within eyeshot of the incident, and handed it over to the police. The police never contacted Scott to identify the suspects, though she knows what they look like.
“I’ve gone to the police station six or seven times in the last two weeks and nothing,” she said.
Scott said her daughter is scared, but doing okay. In the weeks after the near-kidnapping Kaniya is now monitored closely by her parents.
“As a teenager, she can’t go outside,” Scott said. “Now, her idea of having fun is me driving her around, or her dad.”
Some missing teens just need a safe place to run to.
Sasha Bruce Youthwork helps teens trying to flee pimps and get off the streets.
The organization tries to help kids reunite with their families when they can, but they know that in situations with abuse that’s not always possible.
“The systems are set up to blame somebody,” said founder Debby Shore. “You don’t want to blame the kids, but you don’t want to blame the parents either. We want to work with them if we can, to help people recover.”
Teenagers who can’t be reunited with their families can stay at one of their live-in facilities.
Advocates also encourage the policy of, if you see something, say something. Red flags to look for are teens out in public during school hours, and houses with “revolving doors”—a constant flow of multiple adults and teens coming in and out.
“We have instincts. Follow them,” said Natalie Wilson. She encouraged citizens to call 911 or the tip line on BAMFI.org her foundation’s website.
Derrica Wilson intends to push forward on the heels of this added media and public attention.
“What happened in D.C. four weeks ago did not just become and epidemic,” Derrica Wilson said. “But now it has a voice.”
Allison Julien and Linda Vargehse represented Hand-in-Hand, an organization helping employers of domestic workers establish best practices. Photo by Amina Srna
Victoria Ascension, 27, works as the lead line cook at a new restaurant in Brooklyn. Her job description includes everything from prepping food, to expediting orders for a team of four male line cooks, and managing the kitchen staff’s payroll.
But she offered less pay then her male co-workers and had to fight for equal pay.
“I was initially offered two dollars less than the other cooks on the line,” said Ascension. “I know how much everyone makes and I had leverage to negotiate. My boss knows this, he just maybe thought that’s what I expected, to be paid less.”
Ascension’s story is way too common for working women, who nationally make 77 cents to every dollar that men make. It’s called the gender wage gap,. Yesterday was Equal Pay Day and nearly 40 organizations, along with unions, councilmembers, and elected officials, met on the steps of City Hall in New York City as a call for action.
A day before the rally, Public Advocate Letitia James released a report highlighting the wage gap for women who work in government agencies, citing that it is three times wider than those who work in the private sector.
“The very government that is supposed to protect our equal rights is the worst culprit of them all,” said James.
James outlined solutions to the wage gap in government, stating that employers shouldn’t ask about an applicants previous salary, since it’s bound to be lower, and that a task force should be put in place to comb through each government agency to ensure equitable pay and opportunities. A big part of that would mean creating a family friendly workplace.
“We no longer work nine to five, we need non-traditional childcare 24 hours a day,” said James.
This echoes the presidential nominees’ stump speeches, which put focus on the need for protecting families. In light of Equal Pay Day, Hillary Clinton addressed the issue of paycheck inequity head on at a Glassdoor Roundtable Discussion on the topic.
“Other countries have made it easier for women to be mothers and have careers, to be caretakers, especially of their parents, and have careers,” said Clinton. “Not out of altruism but because they know it’s foolish to let half the population’s talent and energy go unused.”
Compared to national averages, women working in New York City fair better than average, earning 91 cents to every dollar men make in the private sector. According to Comptroller Scott Stringer, that’s largely a façade created by city’s booming economy.
“Here’s the undercurrent of our homeless crisis,” said Stringer in a speech at the rally. “The women who struggle raising children because often times the men are not around, when you have a 20 percent pay gap, you’re ending up in a homeless shelter with your family and you can’t get out. This is as much a financial issues as it is a civil rights issue. “
Despite recent unanimous support from politicians, some think that the wage gap continues to persist because women choose fields that pay less than men, such as early childhood-education and psychology versus STEM fields.
Public Advocate James’s report shows that while women make 18% less than men, they are also concentrated in low-paying government sectors such as the Department of Education. This is compared to their male counterparts, who are found in the higher paying fields such as the Fire and Sanitation Departments. Despite this, women who work in historically female dominated jobs, such as teachers, are required to attain higher levels of educations for their careers.
“People used to call us daycare centers but we want people to know that we are all certified teachers,” said Lois Lee, the Vice President of the Council of Supervisors and Administrators.
Lee refers to the fact that preschool and daycare teachers are required to obtain levels of higher education in order to cover a range of instruction. This includes STEM, literacy, sports, and music in addition to social and emotional development. Yet these educators are undervalued and underpaid, Lee said, often earning as little as $9 per hour.
“Forty-five years of service, all my masters degrees and I’m still making 50,000 a year,” she said. “We work from seven-thirty in the morning to seven-thirty at night to provide for all the families but what do we sacrifice? Our own families.”
After spending 23 months in prison, Kim Morris, 47, is now an aspiring entrepreneur. With the challenge of having a criminal record, many women struggle to find work. With the help of companies such as Defy Ventures, people like Morris are given the opportunity to pursue a meaningful career. She speaks about her experience in prison, what life was like after being released, and her cleaning service start-up business.
Neck-deep, in what some still treat as a boys’ club, the women at Bushwick-based “Tom Tom Magazine: a Magazine About Female Drummers” defy stereotypes with their publication and unique approach to giving drum lessons.
The magazine, now in its’ fifth year of publication, aims to shine a light on the otherwise less exposed world of female drummers. In 2009, editor and founder Mindy Abovitz decided to Google female drummers and was less than satisfied with what she saw.
“She found nothing but pictures of women holding drums; sexual fantasy type things,” said Mickey Vershbow, 23, the section editor of the magazines’ techniques section. “She decided to start a magazine dedicated to female drummers, to elevate their status in the industry and give them a voice.”
Issues are released in a quarterly cycle, each issue featuring a different drummer. The drummers featured play in a variety of groups and settings, with a cross section ranging from the classical performers to a member of Beyoncé’s live band. The diversity of their features has made Tom Tom the third most popular drum magazine in the country.
“When Tom Tom started, there might have been a sense of, oh yeah I want to be in that magazine just because I want to support what they’re doing,” said Natalie Baker, 25, a director at the Tom Tom Academy. “But the cool thing is, that at this point, the magazine has gotten so big that it’s treated as a really serious drum magazine that you want to be in inherently.”
In the wake of the publication’s success, Abovitz approached Vershbow and Baker about starting up a drum school that caters exclusively to women. The team hit the ground running and in September 2014 began holding lessons on the stage of local music venue The Wick.
Moving through a maze of un-insolated cold hallways, up several flights of concrete steps, and finally through a door that could just as easily lead to a maintenance closet is the academy’s studio. Inside the small space a single lamp clipped to the handle of a speaker shines directly into the corner illuminating the words “Tom Tom”, decoratively painted along the wall.
“Fortunately, we happen to share the office with them [The Wick] and they were happy to let us use their space during the daytime when they weren’t having shows,” said Baker. “It was this great transition where we had this idea and didn’t have $50,000 to start it up. Once it became apparent that people were into it we were able to invest in our first lesson studio.”
The mood lit studio and chalkboard wall, covered in half erased musical notation, cast a shadow on the single mahogany drum kit and musical equipment arranged neatly against the adjacent wall.
From their new studio, located in the same warehouse as The Wick and well known Bushwick rehearsal space The Sweatshop, the academy teaches students from a wide range of demographics, the youngest student being five and the oldest 45.
According to Baker, there is something powerful and appealing about seeing a drum school that uses women in its’ marketing as has only women as instructors. She emphasized how the stagnant imagery that surrounds drumming in the media is part of what might keep women away.
“Having a female instructor really puts me at ease because drumming is such a male dominated thing” said Josslynn Riot, 27, a new student at the school. “You don’t see that many female or women identified drummers, and as a woman it feels really important to be in that space.”
The interest in reaching out to women who have been shied away from playing the drums informs the academy’s desire not just to influence the known face of drumming, but to change the way the instrument is taught.
In a lesson, Vershbow’s tone is quintessentially that of an educator, confident and encouraging. She counts and plays along with her students, never glossing over the nuances and always considering their needs.
“Most schools have this approach of, if you’re going to take lessons you have to take it very seriously and there’s only one way to do things,” said Vershbow. “Our approach is to say drumming can be a part of your life in any way you want it to be.”
Don’t be fooled by the relaxed nature of that statement, Vershbow forged her skills as a drum performance major at the Berklee College of Music. Similarly the instructors at the academy are all seasoned players and performers.
“If you want to take lessons every once and a while that’s cool and we encourage it,’” said Vershbow. “If you want to play, practice a lot, and really want to get serious about it, our instructors are equipped for that too.”
At the core of everything, the Tom Tom Academy looks to expose as many people to drumming as they can, and running a school for a suppressed group of musicians is the way in which they facilitate that need.
“We’re not trying to create a separation between women who play drums and men who play drums,” said Vershbow. “We really want to revolutionize the industry by leveling the playing field.”
Lisa Kell reads the Book of Mormon. Photo by Julia Shu
Julia Shu’s multimedia piece on young women being allowed to become missionaries in the Mormom Church. The change in policy has set off ripples of transformation.
To view click here.
It was an unseasonably warm Sunday afternoon in early March, and a group of around 10 strangers—all men—had gathered outside the Whole Foods Market in Union Square. Around 3:45 p.m. they spotted the man they were waiting to see, gliding toward them in sunglasses and a leather jacket: Alexander Kiton—the man who would teach them how to pick up women.
After some brief introductions (some of the men were new to Kiton’s Sunday class; others had been before), Kiton led the group across the street to the tiered plaza at the heart of Union Square. It was time for pick-up practice.
“Girl in the headphones, that’s you,” Kiton said, pointing to one of his pupils. “Girl with the bandana, that’s you,” he said, pointing to another. Then they took off towards their targets.
Kiton, 26, is a full-time financier by day; by night and on weekends, he’s a professional dating coach—a real-life “Hitch” out of the 2005 film. After years of personal practice, Kiton developed his own unique strategy for picking up women—one he says is better than anything you’ll find in today’s popular pick-up literature. From one-on-one and group sessions to YouTube podcasts, Kiton is now determined to share his romantic tactics with the bachelors of America and beyond.
It all started in Kiton’s school days. Surprisingly, despite being smart, having friends, and playing varsity sports, the dating coach’s love life was frustratingly lacking.
“I had all these things that I thought would make me attractive and I still didn’t get any girls,” Kiton said. And that puts a guy in a really difficult situation. Because it’s one thing when you’re like, ‘Why am I not getting any girls?’ And then other guys, they look at you and they’re like, I bet that guy gets a lot of girls. And as a guy, [and] a lacrosse player, you can never admit that. So you’re almost living this lie.”
The summer he was 21, Kiton took a girl out to dinner, where they ran into one of his friends, Bill. By the end of the night, after the group had gone out to drinks together, it was Bill—not Kiton—who ended up scoring future dates with the girl.
Though the betrayal was painful, it would also provide fuel for Kiton’s future success.
Soon after, Kiton found out that Bill had learned his moves by reading a popular dating how-to book.
“I was like, ‘I’m going to go buy this book and be better than him’,” Kiton said.
The book in question was Neil Strauss’s bestseller, “The Game: Penetrating the Secret Society of Pickup Artists.” The book flew off the shelves when it was released in 2005.
“Almost every guy you know has read it, I guarantee it,” said Kiton.
Complete with recommended pick-up lines and bodily gestures, “The Game” lays out a step-by-step guide for men to snag a hook-up.
But the artificiality of Strauss’s proscribed tactics weren’t working for Kiton, who had recently moved to England to study at the London School of Economics.
“I went out and tried this [stuff], and got even less results,” Kiton said.
Looking back on his failed attempts at picking up the London ladies, Kiton now understands where he went wrong, and why “The Game” wasn’t earning him any playing time.
“[Men ask] the questions, ‘How do I become attractive to a girl?’ ‘How do I become interesting to a girl?’ And then, ‘What do I say in order to get a girl to like me?’ [But] no matter how well we are able to answer those questions, we’re never going to get good results. Because those questions are leading us to being inauthentic, and not being real.”
Leaving “The Game” behind, Kiton started applying his new-and-improved strategy to his pick-ups—both personally, and professionally. In 2008, his unique, effective tactics landed him a job with PUATraining, a self-described “international seduction training company” that pairs professional pick-up artists—called “trainers”—with single men looking to find romantic partners. Kiton worked as a “trainer” in England, Denmark and Texas before ultimately settling in New York’s East Village, where he fits in PUATraining around his 80-hour-per-week day job.
Sometimes, he’ll take a client for practical training at a bar, where he’ll sit in the corner and observe their attempts at talking to women. Other times, he’ll fit a client with a hidden camera, send him off toward a female target, and then analyze the video with the client once he’s returned. On some weekends Kiton will give lectures, or he’ll lead free group classes in Union Square. His mantra is always clear: don’t plan out the “perfect” opening line or the “coolest” conversation topic—just be yourself.
Some clients, like David Rothblatt, 35, of Nassau County—who has read “The Game” “50 to 100 times in the past 7 years”—question Kiton’s strategy.
“The real Alexander is cool,” said Rothblatt, who has attended Kiton’s Union Square classes three or four times. “[But] what if I’m a tall, smelly pimply kid with glasses? I’ve been trying to attract women in New York City and Long Island for 6, 7 years, and they go for guys who look a certain way and make them feel a certain way.”
Still, Rothblatt acknowledged that Kiton is a talented pick-up artist, and that the Union Square classes have been helpful to him.
“I got phone numbers,” Rothblatt said in regards to one of the classes he attended. “I feel good around [Kiton]. He’s a positive guy, he doesn’t B.S. you. He doesn’t sugar coat it. He’s a good guy, but he’s direct. I respect that.”
Kiton may have his skeptics, but there’s no doubt that his strategies are winning over the women.
“A bunch of people got married,” Kiton said of his clients. “I’ve been told I changed people’s lives all the time. It’s very cool.”
When Molly Knefel first moved to Brooklyn four years ago to pursue standup comedy, she was a regular at the Creek and the Cave open mic nights. But as a woman, she was also an anomaly.
Rather than greeting the audience as ladies and gentlemen, the host would open with “Molly and gentlemen” because Knefel, 26, was usually the only woman in the room.
“Still at any given open mic, you are likely to be one of maybe three women out of 30 people in the room,” said Knefel. “And if you’re booked on a show, you’re likely to be the token woman.”
Knefel and many other female comics believe that they face more challenges in getting work than their male counterparts. The blame is largely placed on those who book and produce shows, and with fewer women in comedy, the “women aren’t funny” stereotype persists.
“Even though there are more women than men in the world, I don’t think women flock to comedy clubs,” said Suzy Soro, a comedian living in Los Angeles, Calif. “Maybe they’ll go for a bachelorette party, or with a few girlfriends trying to get over a heartbreak, but guys routinely go.”[audio:http://pavementpieces.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/05/wr2-1.mp3|titles=Women in comedy] Kait Richmond speaks with female comedians
The small number of women at comedy shows, both on stage and in the audience, means more men are hired. Dr. Nancy Berk, a standup comedian and psychologist from Pittsburgh, Pa., said producers and bookers play a big role in shaping audience perceptions of comedy.
“Because women haven’t had the visibility, people may jump to the conclusion that because they aren’t on stage, they may not be funny,” she said.
Dr. Berk said her two biggest shows were Mother’s Day events, and Knefel is often passed over for the general comedy standup shows.
“A lot of times I’ve had people say, ‘Oh, well we’ve got a ladies night coming up in three weeks, I’ll book you on that one,’ instead of just booking me on a regular show,” Knefel said.
Siobhan Beasley, 29, is a former war crimes prosecutor turned comedian living on the Upper East Side. In the two years that she’s worked as a comedian in Manhattan, she’s seen mostly men booking gigs.
“I’ve heard people talk about how if they have a show booked, they will basically want it to be mostly male white comedians, and then they will put in one woman, and one minority,” said Beasley.
Benjy Susswein books for Stand Up New York, a comedy club on the Upper West Side. He said he tries to book diverse shows based on the actual comedy, not characteristics of the comedians like gender, race or where they come from.
“I really only look at the rhythm of the show, or how it will look for the audience,” Susswein said. “So I wouldn’t put two dry, low energy comedians back to back, or two that get laughs from being loud and vulgar. It just feels like you are seeing the same thing again, and it will ruin the energy of the show.”
Susswein acknowledged that women are underrepresented in comedy. He thinks it’s because fewer women than men are interested in getting into standup because of how revealing it can be, and the immense amount of rejection that comes with it.
“I think women, who tend to be more emotional and sensitive, would be turned off from pursuing such a field,” he said.
Susswein added that he doesn’t think there’s a lot of room for sexism in comedy, and that he hasn’t even witnessed any because the industry attracts more open-minded people.
Susswein and the women comedians agree that women like to see funny women, which was proven last year at the box office.
Bridesmaids, starring Kristen Wiig, showcased five womens’ tumultuous journey as a wedding party and grossed $288,383,523 worldwide and picked up two Academy Award nominations.
“It was the first time we’d seen a buddy-buddy female comedy,” said Soro, comparing Bridesmaids to the likes of Wedding Crashers and 40-Year-Old Virgin.
Wiig hurled female comedians to the attention of moviegoers everywhere.
“If Bridesmaids did that well, it means there’s an audience, and there’s an audience that’s as loyal and as engaged as there was for the Hangover,” said Dr. Berk.
The film brought the “women aren’t funny” stereotype back into the public discourse. Some female comedians are tired of the conversation.
“I wish the news would stop publishing stories like ‘Are Women Funny?’ because I feel like that sets us back decades,” said Beasley. “It’s so disheartening to read that.”
But Knefel believes it’s important to keep talking about sexism in comedy as long as it’s a problem.
“Sexism is by no means over in any aspect of society, but I think in comedy, we are very, very behind,” said Knefel. “There are so few other places where men will blatantly and unapologetically be sexist.”
The video was produced by Kait Richmond and the story was written by Nicole Guzzardi
More than 150 people, mostly women and a handful of men, gathered yesterday evening at the CUNY Graduate Center for the “War on Women: An Evening of Basic Training” panel, to hear about women’s issues and how they could contribute to stopping the alleged war on women.
The event, which was sponsored by New York State Senator Liz Krueger, a Manhattan Democrat, included a panel of feminists, who spoke on how the war on women was real, serious, and in need of further discussion.
“Everyday, I think, when I go to bed at night, that something’s happened that’s outraged me as woman, as a citizen, as somebody who believes in civil rights, and equal rights, and privacy,” Krueger said to the packed crowd.
Issues such as contraception and abortion, which have faced recent debate in the media from the Republican party and President Barack Obama, were a few of the topics speakers highlighted as facets of the war on women.
But some women, like Tatyana Belosouv, a 22-year-old economics and finance student at New York University and treasurer of the NYU Republicans Club, believe social issues like these shouldn’t be the focus of the government at all. Instead, she said, the presidential election should focus more on what the government will do to fix economic problems.
“We’re never going to get everyone to agree on social issues, so why not talk about economic issues, a majority of job losses have been for women, economic opportunities for women, small business ownership by women,” she said.
Others, like Kelly Ziemer, 28, from the Upper East Side, agree that the ongoing economic crisis in the United States is of more immediate importance than social issues, but say that because social issues are continuously being brought up as discourse, so they must be explored.
“I absolutely believe there’s a war on women right now,” she said. “Considering these women’s issues are being brought up, it is important to discuss them and fight for them.”
Belosouv, who is in the Reserve Officer’s Training Corps, a college-based program for training military officers, said she doesn’t believe a war on women even exists and thinks the word war is being wildly misused.
“I don’t appreciate the term war being thrown around so liberally, it degrades the meaning,” she said. “I certainly don’t consider it a war, because that term to me represents a lot of things, a lot of horrible things, that I don’t see happening.”
She said there are far more trying things women have been through, that might be better considered war.
“You know what was a war, women fighting to serve in the Armed Forces,” she said. “You know what was a war, women fighting to be able to stay at their jobs after having a baby, or have any job other than a teacher, a secretary, or a nurse.”
While Belosouv may not believe the current issues at hand are enough to be deemed war, other young women, like Ashley Rearick, 25, of Greenpoint, Brooklyn, who attended the panel, strongly disagreed.
“They don’t even care about violence against women,” Rearick said about Republicans who oppose renewing the Violence Against Women Act, which provides funding towards the investigation and prosecution of violent crimes against women. “How can you not consider that a war?”
While a few women acknowledged that more women in general, whether Democrat or Republican, are needed within the government in order for there to be substantial conversation, some believed that having a woman in office who doesn’t support women’s issues will not help.
Shelby Knox, 25, the Director of Women’s Rights at change.org, said it all boils down to rights, and that a woman who isn’t for women rights won’t be useful in fighting the war.
“I think that when women are in the room, no matter what their political allegiance, the conversation is different because their life experiences are different,” she said. “But I will say that, remember, that being a woman does not necessarily mean you are pro-woman and that one of the patriarchies’ best tools is having someone who looks like us and acts like them.”