Online Workshop:  Using Media For Social Justice

In an unprecedented partnership between two educational organizations that believe student led classrooms are crucial in actively engaging students using a social-emotional learning approach, Bank Street College of Education and Scenarios USA have collaborated to present a four week online workshop titled: Using Media for Social Justice. Beginning February 24-March 20, 2015, this workshop will feature Scenarios USA films, curricula, activities, and utilize Bank Street’s world renowned online learning environment for a dynamic course for educators! Successful completion of the course results in 2 CEUs for participants.bankstreet finalFINAL copy


Registration instructions are below:

2. click register online at center of page
3. find #24 “Using Media for Social Justice”
4. click “enroll” the blue button to the right of the workshop with the price
5. go to the top of the page and click “checkout”
6. select “i will pay the total” from the drop down menu below the grid
7. to get a discounted fee of $275, type in the coupon code “susa1” and click “add” (late fee will be waived)
8. complete the information requested (i.e. address, name)
9. click “continue”
10. complete information requested (i.e. address, name, payment)
11. click “continue”
12. You are registered!

It’s a New Year and We Have a New Look

Illustration by Vin Ganapathy

Last year was a big, ugly year. We felt angry that the deaths of black people went unpunished, that survivors of sexual violence were told they were lying, or worse, didn’t matter. Consenting people were told time and again that who and how they loved was disgusting. It was a year that forced us to realize that, for all the “progress” we’ve made, we maybe haven’t gotten all that far. We went to theaters to see a movie about events that happened fifty years ago and saw something that looked eerily relevant.

As we re-launch our new streamlined website with a focus on narrative voices, art and film for, by and about underrepresented youth in America, we bear in mind the struggle for social justice endured last year, but we also move forward with the next year in front of us. And we shine the focus on young people, because they are the ones who know what’s happening first, who are the changemakers, and who continue to fight the decades-old fight for social justice in new and unprecedented ways: harnessing the power of countless voices to help Nicole Maines win her fight against her school system or building movements like #blacklivesmatter and got people to listen.

But if there’s nothing else that 2014 taught us, it’s that the fight for equal rights is constant, complicated and nuanced with individual stories and struggles. It’s part of every day and every part of our lives. It’s calling out people you love for saying “that’s so gay”. It’s asking why mainstream media continues to ignore the notion of fully-realized characters of color, and why universities aren’t doing more about on-campus sexual assault.

So as we look forward into 2015 and beyond, we want to make the new a space where we’re going to keep talking. That’s what we do. We amplify youth voices, we fight for social justice, we make movies, and we keep talking. And we’re going to hear from all kinds of people within that dialog—filmmakers, writers, millennials (in all their history-making diversity as a generation)—and, of course, from young people. Welcome, have a look, stick around and stay tuned.

Through a Different Lens: This is How I See Me.

Throughout December, we introduced you to 3 remarkable teenagers. They shared who they are, they told stories about feeling invisible, and they spoke of the need to quiet the noise around them.

At Scenarios, our work creates a space for young people to be supported as they figure out who they are. We do our work in schools, out of schools and online. And when the young people are ready to speak and to lead, we give them the space to do so — loudly and authentically.


In 2015, Scenarios continues to listen and learn from young people with these featured projects:

STORIES – Our new website will be the space for millennials and influencers to be who they are and to share their vision. It will be lived, not told. Experienced, not observed. Site launches in February.

FILM – 3 youth-written, Hollywood-produced films on issues teens define as critical to their world are in production and will premiere on TV, online and on mobile devices together with youth-led advocacy campaigns. Films premiere in May.

EDUCATION – Our standards-based and arts-infused curriculum will be build around the 3 films we’re making now with teens. Our education cycle will roll into schools in Fall, 2015.

Make your 2014 contribution to Scenarios by December 31st and NBCUniversal and an anonymous donor will match your 100% tax deductible gift, dollar-for-dollar. Your donation matters.

Thank you for being our partner in education and promoting youth voice.

Here’s to a productive, transformative, healthy 2015,


Through a Different Lens: Morriah

This is how you see me:
Walking down the streets of New York, people see me and forget me. Strangers see a girl who is tall and has short brown hair, brown skin, and is a little bit curvy and maybe depending on what I’m wearing, people judge my social class too.


Morriah Lisowksi, 17, Brooklyn, NY

This is how I see me:
I fight for what I stand for and stand by what I think is right. I’m a girl, and I’m strong, my appearance accounts for a small percentage of who I am.



In 2015, our three new youth-written films will become part of the next Scenarios curriculum, amplifying their messages and helping hundreds of thousands of young people to see their lives through a different lens.


Until December 31st, NBCUniversal and an anonymous donor will match your 100% tax deductible gift to Scenarios, dollar-for-dollar. Your donation matters.

Through A Different Lens: Fatimata

Fatimata Sylla, 17, Bronx, NY      
This is how you see me:
The world sees me as a happy and energetic, but reserved girl. The world sees me as someone who is shy.

This is how I see me:

I see myself as someone who is strong. After my father was killed we moved to the United States from our home of Abidjan, Ivory Coast. Even though I miss him, as the oldest child, I stay strong for my mother and my brothers.


 Support Scenarios Youth Programs Here.


Fatimata participated in the Scenarios curriculum about Place & Power in her high school English class, and is now part of the Scenarios Media Corps, a group of youth working to create a digital campaign for our NYC film that addresses intimate partner violence. At Scenarios, we work side by side with young people to provide them with the analytical skills to connect knowledge with their lived experiences and the world around them. This holiday season, support the perspectives of young people like Fatimata by bringing Scenarios’ films and curricula to classrooms across the country.


Until December 31st, NBCUniversal and an anonymous donor will match your 100% tax deductible gift to Scenarios, dollar-for-dollar. Your donation matters. 

Scenarios USA Roundup of the 10 Most Important Reads on Ferguson

Last night a grand jury decided there will be no trial for Darren Wilson, the police officer who shot and killed Mike Brown, the unarmed black teenager in Ferguson, MO. In the 108 days since Brown was killed, too many of the news reports have centered around vilifying Brown and the community of demonstrators who have dared to demand justice for the unnecessary taking of black life by police. News outlets have prioritized looting over coverage of peaceful protests, Brown’s past over his once possible future. By demonizing black bodies and black communities, news coverage continues the dangerous narrative that contributed to Brown’s death, and the taking of black lives across the country.

‘Justice’ in Ferguson: The politics of the protests

Despite this, there are those who have managed to report on Brown’s death while honoring his humanity. These are the pieces that have impacted us at Scenarios and we encourage you to read.

Face it, blacks. Michael Brown let you down.

      By Dexter Thomas, Jr

“Because we know that it’s common knowledge that white killers get treated like little lost lambs, while black victims are immediately demonized. Hell, there are now even listicles about this sort of thing. But we also know that any small flaw, any trace of humanity, will ruin the whole thing. That people, too many people, will be positively giddy at the sight of our blood.”

Ferguson: Injustice Still Hurts When You See It Coming

      By Kara Brown

“We knew many would care more about the destruction of property and inanimate objects than the destruction of black people’s sense of safety in this country. Still, it was hard not to be taken aback by the downright comical degree to which CNN lamented over a burned pizza chain instead of the dejection of a black community.”

      By Ta-Nehisi Coates

“Among the many relevant facts for any African-American negotiating their relationship with the police the following stands out: The police departments of America are endowed by the state with dominion over your body. This summer in Ferguson and Staten Island we have seen that dominion employed to the maximum ends—destruction of the body. This is neither new nor extraordinary. It does not matter if the destruction of your body was an overreaction. It does not matter if the destruction of your body resulted from a misunderstanding. It does not matter if the destruction of your body springs from foolish policy. Sell cigarettes without proper authority and your body can be destroyed. Resent the people trying to entrap your body and it can be be destroyed. Protect the home of your mother and your body can be destroyed. Visit the home of your young daughter and your body will be destroyed. The destroyers of your body will rarely be held accountable. Mostly they will receive pensions.” 

Things to Stop Being Distracted by When a Black Person Gets Murdered by the Police

      By Mia McKenzie

“Talking to people on Twitter about Mike Brown and what’s happening in Ferguson right now, I’ve noticed (again) how easily folks get distracted when Black people are murdered by the police. It seems as though every detail is more interesting, more important, more significant—including looting of a Walmart in Ferguson, which a local Fox news station focused its entire coverage on—than the actual life that was taken by police.” 

Ferguson is an occupation in plain sight and words aren’t enough to change that

      By Roxane Gay

“In truth, the media rarely seems well equipped to write about tragedy and trauma ethically, particularly when race is involved. It does not know how to report on Ferguson’s grief and anger without resorting to the most facile – and often most damaging – language that only perpetuates the ever-present racial divide in this country.” 

Mike Brown Dies, A Generation Comes Alive

      By Roland Martin

“The fight for a fair justice system has gone far beyond Ferguson. We see men and women of various backgrounds coming together to demand justice …. They are marching, protesting, organizing, registering voters, running candidates for office, training up the next generation of civil-rights lawyers. They are largely young people who have decided that, in the words of Black Freedom Movement leader Fannie Lou Hamer, they are ‘sick and tired of being sick and tired.’” 

Ferguson isn’t about black rage against cops. It’s white rage against progress.

      By Carol Anderson

“A little more than half a century after Brown, the election of Obama gave hope to the country and the world that a new racial climate had emerged in America, or that it would. But such audacious hopes would be short-lived. A rash of voter-suppression legislation, a series of unfathomable Supreme Court decisions, the rise of stand-your-ground laws and continuing police brutality make clear that Obama’s election and reelection have unleashed yet another wave of fear and anger.”

Officer Wilson’s story is unbelievable. Literally.

      By Ezra Klein

So Brown is punching inside the car. Wilson is scrambling to deflect the blows, to protect his face, to regain control of the situation. And then Brown stops, turns to his left, says to his friend, “Here, hold these,” and hands him the cigarillos stolen from Ferguson Market. Then he turns back to Wilson and, with his left hand now freed from holding the contraband goods, throws a haymaker at Wilson. 

How to Deal with Friends’ Racist Reactions to Ferguson

      By Jenee Desmond-Harris

“But here’s what Facebook comments are good for: revealing data about whether you want your ‘friends’ to be your friends any longer. That is, of course, if you believe, as I do, that the way someone responds to other people’s pain and mistreatment—including the systemic mistreatment of entire groups of people—is a perfectly fine way to decide whether he or she is someone you like or want to continue to interact with.”

Get on the Bus: Inside the Black Life Matters ‘Freedom Ride’ to Ferguson

      By Akiba Solomon

“Later on, the young St. Louisan sitting next to me starts weeping. I know she goes by @Nettaaaaaaaa on Twitter and that she has more than 13,000 followers, but I can’t bring myself to interrupt her tears to get her full name or ask her age. Along with two friends she stands up and tells us how they’ve been protesting since the beginning and that they are exhausted. She also informs us that an out-of-towner (who turns out to be an ex-pimp named Tariq Nasheed) has been tearing her protest work apart on Twitter. She and her friends tell us that they’re thankful that we’re there but feel possessive of their movement. They urge us to keep Ferguson and Michael Brown at the center, a sentiment I hear from local people throughout the trip.”

3 Amazing Films- Coming Soon!

It’s finally happening! 

You’ve waited patiently to hear about who won Scenarios’ REAL DEAL contests, who’s directing the films and what’s going on.  At long last, the wait is over!  We have three amazing young writers and three brilliant directors turning their stories into short films.  Please join us in person or follow us on Facebook and Twitter for behind the scenes and on set exclusives, sneak previews of post production and finally, to see the films at their world premiere in 2015!


Meet the writer: Janaya Greene wrote Veracity during her senior year of high school while attending Gwendolyn Brooks College Preparatory Academy in South Side Chicago. During this time the debate of legalizing gay marriage was at its height and many states were pushing for its legality. After many debates among friends, family and classmates, Janaya realized that the issue was not, “Is being gay right or wrong?” but rather “How do humans, gay or straight, deserve to be treated?”  With support from her film study teacher, Mr. Eugene Hazzard, and classmates, she proceeded to write Veracity, a story about an African-American girl named Olivia J. Brownstein, who gains the courage to tell her family and friends that she is a lesbian. The response she gets is not what she expected from those she loved most. Veracity explores the taboo of being gay in the African-American community.

Seith Mann

Meet the Director: Seith Mann is a Morehouse College alumnus and a graduate of the Grad Film Program at New York University. His thesis film, five deep breaths, premiered at the 2003 Sundance Film Festival, won Best Narrative Short at the 2003 IFP Los Angeles Finl Festival and 1st Significance at the 2003 New York University First Run Festival. Seith won the Gordon Parks Award for Emerging African-American Filmmakers in the Best Directing Category at the IFP/New York Market. Seith also received the Emerging Narrative Award, the Gordon Parks Award for Screenwriting and the Richard Vague Film Production Fund Award for his feature screenplay, Come Sunday. To date, Seith has directed over thirty episodes of television including The WireGrey’s AnatomyHeroesBrotherhoodFriday Night LightsElementaryCalifornicationNurse JackieHomelandRectify and the Walking Dead. He has been nominated for a DGA Award, five NAACP Image Awards and won a NAACP Image Award for Directing for his episode of Friday Night Lights.


Meet the writer: Skyler Edge, a transgender male, wrote the story House, Not Home in his sophomore year at Facing History New Tech High School in Cleveland, OH. The story was born from his fears of coming out to his classmates as transgender after only a year of being out to family and friends. Out of his fear of rejection and violence, Skyler came up with the story of Terran, who is gender variant and does not conform to male nor female pronouns. Skyler wrote his story in hopes of bringing more visibility to transgender issues.

Meet the Director: Joshua Butler is a prolific film and television director whose recent work includes FOX’s The Following  starring Kevin Bacon, Pretty Little Liars for ABC Family, Crisis for NBC, Reckless for CBS, and Matador for Robert Rodriguez and the El Rey Network. Joshua directed the award-winning feature VLOG for Twisted Pictures and the producers of SAWBeer Money for USA Network, Deathlands for SyFy Channel, Saint Sinner for writer-producer Clive Barker, and the Christmas movie Prancer Returns for Raffaella De Laurentiis. He has just completed the Random Bench-produced short film Doghouse, starring Michael Maize and Erin Daniels. In addition to working with Scenarios USA this fall, Joshua will be directing Joe Carnahan’s new NBC thriller, State of Affairs, starring Katherine Heigl, and his 10th episode of CW’s The Vampire Diaries.

New York City

IMG_9942Meet the writer: Nialani Pringle, is a rising senior at Brooklyn Collaborative High School. Pringle’s film, Aleah, tells the story of a 17-year-old girl living in East New York, Brooklyn. Aleah, like many young girls, has hopes and dreams, though her everyday reality revolves around a tumultuous relationship with her boyfriend, an unplanned pregnancy and few places to turn. The story is based on Pringle’s life, whose own mother is a domestic abuse survivor and whose father was killed in Linden Plaza a year after she was born.  When asked why she chose to write this script, Pringle said, “My story shows that a person’s physical and emotional place can make a simple situation ten times worse. Aleah is a pregnant teenage girl in a bad neighborhood with absolutely no power. This was part of [my mother’s] reality and continues to be the reality for many women.” Aleah, was shot in the Linden Plaza Apartments of East New York.


Laurie Collyer

Meet the Director: Laurie Collyer premiered her first film at the Sundance Film Festival, a feature documentary  entitled,  Nuyorican Dream.  Nuyorican Dream had its broadcast premiere later that year on HBO/Cinemax.  The documentary earned Collyer a DGA nomination and won multiple prizes at international film festivals.  Her second film, narrative feature, Sherrybaby, also premiered at Sundance and earned lead actress Maggie Gyllenhaal a Golden Globe nomination for Best Actress in a Motion Picture – Drama. Collyer participated in the Sundance Filmmakers’ Lab and the Residence du Festival de Cannes to develop Sherrybaby.  In 2009, Collyer received a Cinereach grant to develop the script for Sunlight Jr., Collyer’s most recent film which premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival last year.  Sunlight Jr., features Naomi Watts and Matt Dillon as down and out lovers, wrestling with pregnancy and homelessness.  Most recently, Collyer was hired by LD Productions to write a pilot based on the book, Brothel: Mustang Ranch and its Women, with partner Annie Marter.

Help Scenarios Redefine Place and Power in Chicago!

Scenarios USA has expanded our REAL DEAL program to Chicago schools.  Beginning this Fall, 39 dedicated educators in 9 public high schools are implementing the Scenarios curriculum addressing Place and Power.

Our excitement doesn’t stop there.  Today – Right Now – we’re launching our first ever Indiegogo Campaign to fund the Chicago REAL DEAL film.  REAL DEAL films are written by students as the final assignment of our curriculum and are made by some of your favorite Hollywood talents like Doug Liman (Bourne Identity), David Frankel (Devil Wears Prada), and Gina Prince- Bythewood (Love and Basketball).

Here’s what will happen: Nearly 1,000 Chicago students will submit their stories about place and power to our contest. (This theme is especially potent for the young people of Chicago who live in a city plagued by an epidemic of youth violence and immense cultural segregation.) One submission from Chicago will be selected to be turned into a REAL DEAL film.  The winning writer will be partnered with an acclaimed Hollywood director, shoot their story in their Chicago neighborhood with a professional crew, and bring their film to a local and national audience of 20 million!

We’ve been told that for teenagers to learn, you must talk to them.  But at Scenarios, we do something just as important as talking.  We listen.  That’s the mandate we began with when we started the organization 15 years ago.

As described by Scenarios REAL DEAL student, Terrance Ortiz, “Without someone showing you what’s possible, you don’t know what you can contribute to the world. When doors open, you can surprise yourself, and others.”

Help us open new doors – doors that are safe for young people to walk through, where, on the other side, they can be heard.

Please visit our Indiegogo page. watch our video, DONATE and HELP to make a film from Chicago.  This is more than a film, though – this is a chance to grow the creative spark in the teenagers we work with, many of whom had long stopped considering their own futures as bright or promising.

We’re honored to be invited into Chicago for this school year, and we’re thrilled to have you join us at this exciting start of our journey.  Thank you for visiting the Indiegogo page.


Maura Minsky
Executive Director/Co-Founder

P.S.  Please share our current Facebook Indiegogo Update on your Wall!chicago scenarios banner

Announcing the 2013-14 REAL DEAL Teacher Workshops, Curriculum and Contest

Love. Money. Family. Friendship. Power. Violence.

Do your students think and talk about these issues? Do your students love watching movies?

Are you looking for interactive, engaging, Common Core-aligned activities that will get even your most reluctant students thinking critically and writing creatively about sexual health and social justice issues?

Are you interested in exploring how the arts can take critical thinking to a whole new level?

Do you aim to create a safe space for your students to build their social and emotional competencies?


Cleveland-WorkshopScenarios USA’s professional development workshops, for all educators grades 6-12, where we tackle these questions and more. These workshops are for educators who teach in our three REAL DEAL regions: New York City, Cleveland and Chicago.

Every teacher who attends our workshops will receive a free REAL DEAL curriculum and the new Scenarios USA movies, which are written by teens for teens.

Workshop participants will also learn about the 2013-14 REAL DEAL contest, where student winners are partnered with Hollywood directors and make short films.

REAL DEAL Curriculum Lessons:

  • Common Core-aligned
  • Social Emotional Learning (SEL) competencies
  • Creative, interactive and democratic

Please register here to receive more information about the workshop dates and locations as they are set:

Let’s Open Up the Dialogue Around Mental Health on Campus

Mental health is a pervasive issue on college campuses across the country. Student suicides occur far too often. In early April, the University of Pennsylvania experienced its tenth student suicide within three years. Students and faculty must work together to change the culture on their respective campuses in order to reduce the stigma around mental health.

London, 2009. Via Flickr (@victius)
London, 2009. Via Flickr (@victius)

The stigma associated with seeking help must be diminished. Too often, you find that those who need help feel an unwarranted shame because of the culture on college campuses. There seems to be an unspoken understanding that we must all be perfect. We must maintain a 4.0 GPA while competing for competitive internships and also still manage to have an unparalleled social life. College campuses often create an environment in which a mistake isn’t seen as a lesson to learn but instead as a permanent failure.

The grief experienced by the Penn community this April was palpable. This tragic loss has forced the Penn community to take a step back and evaluate what has been lacking in the efforts to improve mental health on campus. Even if you didn’t know the student, you feel the loss. You wonder if there is anything you could’ve done. You wonder if there’s anyone within your circle of friends who needs someone to ask them how they’re doing. The discussion of mental health has been revived on our campus, but it shouldn’t take a tragedy for other college campuses to do the same.

The student body of each college campus has the power to change the narrative in terms of mental health. A dialogue needs to be started, but this dialogue won’t gain traction unless there is participation from the student body. There has to be a movement that redefines what mental health means to students. Once students speak to each other about the mental health struggles they undergo each day, the stigma is weakened. To stay silent would be the worst thing we could do for our community. The moment we start talking, the issues that plague our mental health are no longer struggles we undertake on our own—they become struggles that we can overcome together.

Let’s empower ourselves with the ability to collaboratively reduce the stigma around mental health by providing support to each other as a community.

We need to stop acting as if nothing is wrong. It can’t take a tragedy for us to recognize that the stress we feel every day is normal. Let me say it again—our stress that we feel is absolutely normal. The moment you bring it up, you’ll realize you’re not the only one facing stress. When the conversation gets started, student bodies will be able to define what resources each particular college community needs to diminish the stigma of seeking help for mental health and to make seeking help accessible for all.

via Flickr (@stevendepolo)
via Flickr (@stevendepolo)

Universities need to make policy changes that reform campus culture. Support systems must be established in all college campuses so that students feel comfortable discussing their mental health. Penn has been making an active effort to expand mental health resources, but students need to know that these resources are available. Staff must also be targeted in the effort to diminish the stigma around mental health. Staff and faculty should undergo training that equips them with the skills necessary to provide support to struggling students. Students should be given training as well that establishes how to help struggling students in the community. Let’s empower ourselves with the ability to collaboratively reduce the stigma around mental health by providing support to each other as a community.

We live in an environment in which success is defined by impossible standards. We have the power to redefine those standards. We as a community have the ability to say enough is enough. Let’s start this discussion on mental health, and turn this discussion into tangible change. This tangible change can be the simplest things, such as truly asking someone how he or she is doing. Signs of support within a community can make all the difference.

ScenariosUSA is a nonprofit that uses film and writing to amplify youth voices on social justice issues.

Learn more here.

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How Social Media Can Both Perpetuate and Counteract Rape Culture

Social media is a constant presence (or perhaps obsession) in young people’s lives. If you’ve done something—seen it, experienced it, or read about it—chances are high that you’ve shared it on Snapchat, Instagram, Twitter, or Facebook. While social media has inarguably improved our lives, giving us a chance to connect with people we otherwise never would, keep in touch with friends and family across the globe, and organize for social change, it’s also created some hinderances, making us tech obsessed, anxious that our lives aren’t as good as those of our friends, and, for many, facing bullying in the form of online harassment.

April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month.
April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month.

So how exactly does sexual violence fit into this equation? April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month and what better time to talk about this issue than the present?

In short, the relationship between sexual violence and social media is very complicated. There are many, many factors that must be considered in analyzing their co-existence.

First, myth-busting and stigma interrupting must be addressed. It’s no secret that sexual violence carries a lot of social stigma, especially for victims, who are often blamed or shamed for their attacks. Social media has given activists an incredible platform to spread a message of support for survivors, letting others know that they aren’t alone and that what happened to them was wrong. A few notable examples that come to mind are Project Unbreakable, #IamJada, #SurvivorPrivilege, It’s On Us , and Know Your IX, which have all utilized social media to break down societal myths around sexual violence. What makes these campaigns so significant is how they disrupt the silence that often comes from traditional media sources, like television and print news, and utilize the power of connectivity to bring people together to work towards change. Scenarios USA had a campaign like this as well, I Will End Sexual Violence, that coincided with our film Speechless, which empowered young people to take preventative action in their lives and communities. I was one of the young leaders who worked on this campaign and saw through speaking, writing, and curating the blog project how people’s minds and hearts were changed through this effort.

The second factor up for consideration is victim blaming. It’s interesting to note that of the campaigns I cited as examples of social change making, two were inspired directly from victim blaming—#SurvivorPrivilege and #IamJada. The former was started by activist Wagatwe Wanjuki, who spoke out after Washington post columnist George Will suggested that campus sexual assault was largely a myth and that women were lying about being victims. He asserted that victimhood was by and large a “coveted status that confers privileges.” This caused Wanjuki to take to Twitter and speak out, starting the viral hashtag #SurvivorPrivilege in the process.

#IamJada was sparked by 16 year old Jada, who was raped at a party and had pictures of herself fully undressed and passed out posted on social media with the hashtag #jadapose. Jada decided to fight back against the victim blaming and slut shaming that she was facing, both online and off, by creating her own hashtag #IamJada, which sparked national media attention. So while sexualized violence has been challenged on social media, many of these challenges have come from efforts to use social media to shame, blame, and harass survivors.

Finally, exposure must be considered in any issue involving public awareness and outcry. The fact is, social media gives sexual violence a much larger platform and a new sphere of influence on the subject. The power of awareness should never be underestimated, especially with issues that have traditionally lived in silence. The sheer number of people who have been engaged in this subject matter through the power of social media is staggering and an important point of influence to consider, irrespective of the source.

The fact is, social media gives sexual violence a much larger platform and a new sphere of influence on the subject. The power of awareness should never be underestimated, especially with issues that have traditionally lived in silence. The sheer number of people who have been engaged in this subject matter through the power of social media is staggering and an important point of influence to consider.

Now the question is, how do all of these factors—stigma interrupting, victim blaming, and exposure—interact? Perhaps a case study would be helpful in illustrating this complex mishmash of influences. Let’s examine the case of Steubenville.

If you’re unfamiliar with the case, in 2013, a 16 year old girl was raped by two football players at a party in Steubenville, Ohio. Much like the story of Jada, photos and videos were taken of the girl during the assault and were posted on social media as a method of victim blaming and slut shaming. When an attempt was made to cover up the assault, the controversial hacking group Anonymous came into the picture, launching a counterattack operation to expose the attackers and the town that was trying to protect them. They succeeded, creating one of the most talked about sexual assault cases ever.

Steubenville, OH protest. Via Flickr (@roniweb)
Steubenville, OH protest. Via Flickr (@roniweb)

With this, came exposure. Both social and traditional media lit up with stories on this case, which was also followed closely during trial. However, a lot of the exposure around Steubenville was based in victim blaming and societal myths about sexual assault, with many major media outlets, such as CNN, making excuses for the perpetrators’ actions. There was also a ton of backlash on social media, not to mention that most of the evidence presented in the case included the pictures and videos that classmates and partygoers took of the assault. Feminists ran many campaigns or spoke out, online and off, to uplift survivors of sexual assault and to take an opportunity to educate the public at large about rape culture. It goes to show how powerful social media influence is and how it can have both positive and negative impact.

What can we learn from this case and about social media in general? Well, there’s not exactly one answer here, as social media can both perpetuate and prevent rape culture through these means. On one hand, we’re seeing a resulting bystander effect during these attacks, with bystanders more likely to whip out their cell phones and document the incident than to call for help, or so it seems. On the other, we see feminists and activists taking an opportunity to make their voices heard on a massive platform in a media climate that wouldn’t otherwise allow their voices to be heard so loudly. This means that there is promise that social media can be used as a tool of empowerment to counteract rape culture and prevent sexual violence, but that we also need to be aware that there are people out there who will try to use it as a source of exploitation.

Share: Click to Tweet ‘We can #endsexualviolence: Watch @scenariosusa’s free films + free lesson plans for #saam2016’ or create your own message to end sexual violence using #saam2016 & tag us @scenariosusa.


Watch and share our films, written by teens and directed by Hollywood filmmakers, dealing with themes of sexual assault and consent for FREE for the month of April:

Films include

Check out our Sexual Violence Prevention and Support Resources:

ScenariosUSA is a nonprofit that uses film and writing to amplify youth voices on social justice issues.

Learn more here.

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Season Four of the Mindy Project Deconstructs Sitcom Romance

Please note: this post includes spoilers. 

Hulu’s The Mindy Project returned last Tuesday with its season four midseason premiere and I’m very pleased with the direction that the show is going. Not that I was suprised—I have to admit that this show is special to me for a few reasons. Watching this show and reading Mindy Kaling’s book, Is Everybody Hanging Out Without Me? (And Other Concerns), during my freshman year of college, I gained the confidence to decide to minor in writing for television. As a sucker for romantic comedy movies and character/ensemble-driven stories, I was also excited to see a show with both. What excited me even more was how creator Mindy Kaling has noted time and time again that not only does she want to explore the ins and outs of the romantic comedy but she also seeks to deconstruct it.

via Flickr (@starbright31)
via Flickr (@starbright31)

In the 4B premiere, Mindy and Danny have officially called off their engagement after trying to make it work despite their different hopes and expectations. Still, Mindy finds herself torn between trying to rekindle things with Danny or opening a new chapter in her life. For a character that has been obsessed with finding true love and floating off to the sunset since she was a little girl, it’s a great means for more character development. With every relationship that she’s had, she’s taken something from it and realized what else it is that she wants and expects from who she is with. Now that she has ended her relationship with Danny, which to be honest was pretty emotionally abusive, both Mindy and potentially Danny have a chance to mature more.

Season four drew criticism from some fans about how Danny’s behavior seemed out of character and that they didn’t like how Danny was becoming a controlling jerk. To me, the critique felt off. Danny Castellano has always been the opposite of Mindy Lahiri. A big part of his character is that he believes that his morals and actions are far superior to Mindy’s. He believes very much in traditional gender roles, even though he has at least managed to realize that Mindy not necessarily fitting them doesn’t make her a bad person. Still, that doesn’t erase the superiority complex he has maintained, which intrigued Mindy until she realized how it impacted her.

via Flickr @genevieve719
via Flickr @genevieve719

Often when two opposites get together in a show, book, or movie, it seems like everything that made them opposites and caused complications between them gets thrown out of the window. This isn’t realistic at all. We’re talking about two entirely stubborn characters who want everything to go their ways because of their own insecurities, wants, and needs. As a result, each tends to revert back to childish means if life doesn’t suit them.

While this may be an unpopular opinion, I was actually rooting for Mindy and Danny to break up. From a writer’s standpoint, I think their relationship was necessary and incredibly well written, but it was one of those rare instances where I wanted the relationship to happen without actually liking them together. I wanted their relationship for the development and because I put my trust in Mindy and the rest of the writers to see where they would go with it. The writers essentially ripped away this fairytale that Mindy Lahiri created for herself and wished for—as she calls it in the premiere episode, a “modern day unromancing.”

Danny’s behavior is not and was not out of character; feeling like it was comes more from a place of discomfort. The story of their relationship is something that is uncomfortable in the world of a sitcom. In sitcoms, if a couple is constantly fighting and unstable, it’s usually meant to be comedic, in contrast to the main couple of the show—for example, on again/off again Ryan Howard and Kelly Kapoor on Mindy Kaling’s other show, The Office. Their dysfunction was meant to be entertaining. They were like that one couple in high school that was ridiculous, but you didn’t really have to worry about.

Lucille Ball & Desi Arnaz (via Wikimedia Commons)
Lucille Ball & Desi Arnaz (via Wikimedia Commons)

But while Ryan and Kelly were like a modern day Desi Arnaz and Lucille Ball, Mindy and Danny are like a modern day Lucy and Ricky Ricardo. In I Love Lucy, it works because that’s the theme of the show—a housewife wanting so badly to follow her desires while her husband just wants her to do as he says and live a typical, smooth life. It’s comical because no matter how much Ricky tries to tell Lucy what to do, he ultimately knows that she’s going to do what she wants to and deep down it almost seems like he enjoys all the chaos that she causes trying to get what she wants. Danny, on the other hand, genuinely thought Mindy would be submissive to his demands because for a time, Mindy wanted her happily ever after with Danny badly enough to bottle up her emotions and let Danny win when she wanted to fight back.

Mindy Lahiri is one of my favorite fictional characters on television. Aside from the fact that the character is hilarious, it’s great to see a woman of color who is flawed, outstanding at her job, confident in who she is and the way she looks, and thinks she has life figured out when she really doesn’t. Mindy doesn’t often take herself seriously so whenever she does, we’re in for some great reflection. Mindy Kaling has noted time and time again that she wouldn’t necessarily consider Mindy Lahiri a role model, and to an extent, I get it. She can be politically incorrect, irresponsible, and doesn’t make the best choices. But this is also what makes her such a compelling and relatable character. Because she isn’t perfect, she’s realistic, which is much-needed in the representation of women of color and of women in general. Mindy Lahiri is going to make mistakes, but she’s also going to keep trying and demanding more from herself and from those around her. This, most of all, makes me excited to see what the writers have in store for Mindy as another chapter of her life begins.

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The Ongoing History of Chicago Public School Teacher Strikes

What Everyone Should Know About The History Of Teachers Striking, The Current Issue Being Discussed, and Why It’s Important.

The Chicago Teachers Union staged a one-day strike on April 1, 2016.
The Chicago Teachers Union staged a one-day strike on April 1, 2016.

Around the country, shock, curiosity, and fear has followed Chicago Public Schools’ Teachers Union in the latest of their ongoing history of walkouts, walkins, one day strikes, and threats of more to come. However, there are a few things everyone should know about the history behind today’s crises and why teachers are taking the actions that they are.

The first thing to know about the April 1st strike is that prior to 2012, the last strike happened in 1987. That year, the strike lasted for a sum of 19 days. The strike ended in teachers receiving an 8% pay increase over two years, more sick days, and greater health coverage. In 2012, a 7 day strike resulted due to teacher pay, evaluations and hiring practices. Substantial pay raises were the outcome, but unfortunately the problems did not stop there.

Now, in 2016, issue is held with the teacher pensions that the board of Chicago Public Schools (CPS) has decided to change. But these problems are bigger than the furlough days teachers are forced to take. Heck, they are even bigger than the decision to give raises to teacher based on “steps and lanes” (experience and degree level). The biggest problem teachers are facing, one that is often unspoken, has to do with the purpose behind the existence of charter schools, how and why testing occurs, and the closing of so many traditional public schools.

Teachers strike in 2012 (via Flickr @br5ad)
Teachers strike in 2012 (via Flickr @br5ad)

The Chicago Teachers Union (CTU) is using the rationale of “unfair labour practices” to substantiate the one-day strike held April 1st. Given the staggering statistics regarding closing schools and displaced teachers, as well as forced furlough days, this is not a huge leap. But to truly understand, we’ll have to look at what’s going on in the big picture.

First thing first, charter schools. Charter schools, popular in at least 9 countries, are schools that are funded by not only the government, but also private sources. They are structured and run independently of any public school system they are located within. This is supposed to allow them freedom from the underfunding and standardized testing of traditional public schools.

Does this sound too good to be true? It is. Being independent from local government is what allows charter schools to pay their teachers less, not have teacher unions and test and teach what they want without any input or oversight. On top of all that, they receive funding from school systems like CPS that could be used for other things, such as preventing CPS schools from being underfunded.

It might be hard to imagine why the CTU would want to strike until you break it down like this: the south and west sides of Chicago, famous for their large populations of minority students, got hit the hardest in 2012 with over 50 of their traditional public schools closing. To some people, that is what it is, until you realize that over 30 schools, all charter schools, have opened in those same areas.

Keisha-Marie Allison, a CPS teacher, discusses her reasons for joining the strike. (via Youtube)
Keisha-Marie Allison, a CPS teacher, discusses her reasons for joining the strike. (via Youtube)

You might be thinking that CTU is covering their own tush, but from their perspective, they are taking a stand for all students, many of whom face the very real reality of being replaced, left behind, or simply passed to the next grade level without a semblance of readiness.

What everyone must decide before choosing to agree or disagree with CTU’s decision to make this stand is what the purpose of school is, besides lawful compliance of course. If you believe it is worth something more, is it so businessmen can profit? So that the government can look good? So that students can learn compliance and uniformity? Or is it so that they can use their individuality to achieve greatness in their own way? So that everyone can one day contribute to society, the human condition, in a way that suits them? The CTU has made their decision, and now it is time for each of us to make one on our own.

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Dear Catcallers, Your Compliments Do Not Make You Entitled to Me

College can be a cage—a replica of the outside world, but small enough that there are certain aspects of everyday life that can be avoided. My college is located in a decently sized city, but I’m usually on campus and somewhat shielded from many of the other neighborhoods in the city.

via Flickr (@weaverphoto)
via Flickr (@weaverphoto)

As the semester ends, I find myself very excited to return home to Chicago, yet a bit apprehensive as well. While the culture, bright lights, and vibrant neighborhoods full of people from all walks of life is amazing to return to, I know that living in the inner-city will once again make me more vulnerable to street harassment.

To get to and from day to day destinations. I usually ride the city’s public transportation. While walking throughout the city, I have passed many random men who have tried to approach me in the most uncomfortable and disrespectful ways.

As a very observant person, I feel great discomfort when men look at my body with visually disturbing and sexual expressions. Many men claim to be subtle with their interest, but I can almost always tell when a man is going to try to approach me because I get dirty looks beforehand.

When I am approached, I get called “baby,” “sweetie,” and other variations of those belittling terms. Unfortunately, I’ve learned that saying “I’m not interested” isn’t always enough. There have been times that I’ve been catcalled and had to play along with conversations to ensure that I remained safe. On many occasions, I’ve given out fake phone numbers and names because strange men wouldn’t take no for an answer. I even have friends who’ve been followed to their homes by men who seem to not understand that a woman doesn’t have to be interested in them simply because they gave her a compliment. It’s this sad reality that makes me hyperaware of my surroundings and also makes me greatly fear being sexually assaulted when I’m around unfamiliar men.

Artwork by Tatyana Fazlalizadeh as photographed by Flickr user @zeldman
Artwork by Tatyana Fazlalizadeh as photographed by Flickr user @zeldman

I don’t think all men who express interest in women in public have bad intentions, but the sense of entitlement that many men portray remains absurd. The entitlement that men have when consistently pursuing women who express disinterest in them is the same entitlement that rapists have when pursuing women without consent. In both situations, women’s personal space is violated.

I often wonder if catcallers think about the women who have had traumatic experiences with men who have called them “baby” and pursued them without a choice. It seems that catcallers prioritize getting a new woman’s number over making sure that women are able to go about their day feeling safe. Safety is a privilege that many men are given while women are left to create safety nets of their own.

Though traveling alone has its downsides for me, I still enjoy admiring the city while riding public buses and trains. I won’t let street harassers stop me from doing the things I love but I do hope that my right, and other women’s right, to say, “I’m not interested,” will be taken far more seriously in the future.

ScenariosUSA is a nonprofit that uses film and writing to amplify youth voices on social justice issues.

Learn more here.

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