Listen: Professor Anita Hill & Dr. Christine Blasey Ford

In 2018, Dr. Christine Blasey Ford stood before the Senate Judiciary Committee and testified that Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh had sexually assaulted her when they were both in high school, allegations he denies. Many of us watched—but perhaps the only person who truly understood what Dr. Ford was going through was Professor Anita Hill, who had appeared before the same committee 27 years earlier.

For the third episode of Because of Anita—our podcast about the legacy of Professor Hill’s 1991 testimony in the Supreme Court confirmation hearings of Clarence Thomas—Professor Hill and Dr. Ford sat down for their first-ever public conversation. The two women discussed their shared experiences, their lives beyond the hearing rooms, and their hopes for the future.

Professor Hill is the Professor of Social Policy, Law, and Gender Studies at Brandeis University and author of the new book Believing: Our Thirty-Year Journey to End Gender Violence. Dr. Ford is a professor at Palo Alto University and Stanford University School of Medicine.

“I THINK THEY DO BELIEVE”

In their intimate, wide-ranging conversation, Professor Hill and Dr. Ford talk about why they testified, who gets believed, and whether they would do it again (short answer: it’s complicated). Just a few highlights:

ON TESTIFYING

Professor Anita Hill: “There was a whole summer experience of uncertainty that I think people don't take into account very much. They think, ‘Okay, she was called to testify, she testified, then she left.’ And they see it as like, that day and that experience. And there is, you know, the lead up to it, the follow up afterwards, that people really aren't quite aware of, I think.”

Dr. Christine Blasey Ford: “Yes. That whole summer was 24/7 stressful. And trying to figure out what I was supposed to do, and how could I communicate the information, and who was the best person to go to, and just really not knowing what to do.”

ON WHETHER THE SENATORS, AND THE PUBLIC, BELIEVE SURVIVORS

Professor Anita Hill: “I think they do believe. I think they’re afraid of believing, so they may even say they don't believe. But I think somewhere inside they do believe, but they're just not willing to do anything about it.”

Dr. Christine Blasey Ford: “Sitting in that room—in that chair—and seeing on people's faces and thinking that they did believe me. If I had to bet, I think most of them did.”

ON THE AFTERMATH OF TESTIFYING

Professor Anita Hill: “I have this very protective instinct, and when we met, one of my concerns was that you were going to be okay. And I did leave feeling assured that you had this strong core that would get you through it.”

Dr. Christine Blasey Ford: “Yes, I remember you saying that I would have a much better perspective in five years, and in twenty five years, so. And you were right.”

Professor Anita Hill: “Well, good, good. I like being right sometimes. Especially about that.”

ON WHETHER THEY WOULD DO IT AGAIN

Dr. Christine Blasey Ford: “All the smear media and the destroying of reputation and attempt at destroying career...and I’m absolutely sure that I would do it again. And that’s not to say that it hasn’t been really, really, really hard and that I’m still not as okay as I would like to be, three years out of the situation… But I do firmly believe I would do it again.”

Professor Anita Hill: “The why that I testified is just as important to me today as it was thirty years ago when I was struggling with this during the summer of 1991. The why is because the Supreme Court matters and who’s on the Supreme Court matters. And I really want to believe in the integrity of that body because we now more than ever see how important the decisions that it makes are to all of us.”

This conversation was powerful to listen in on, and we’re so happy we can share it with you now. Please subscribe so you don’t miss our final episode when it drops. The next episode’s guests include legal advocate Fatima Goss Graves, journalist Irin Carmon, and ‘me too.’ founder Tarana Burke.

Because of Anita Podcast Promo

Because of Anita is co-hosted by Dr. Salamishah Tillet, cultural critic at The New York Times, and Cindi Leive, co-founder of The Meteor; it’s produced by The Meteor and Pineapple Street Studios.

Listen now and subscribe on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Audible, Stitcher, or wherever you get your podcasts.

 

 

 

Photo credit: Bettmann / Getty Images

 


JOIN US IN LOS ANGELES FOR A SPECIAL EVENT WITH PROFESSOR ANITA HILL

Thirty years after Professor Anita Hill started a national conversation about sexual harassment in the workplace, how far have we come on issues of gender-based violence? If you’re in the Los Angeles area, please join Dr. Salamishah Tillet and Cindi Leive, hosts of our new podcast Because of Anita, for an afternoon exploring these issues—featuring Professor Hill herself.

Because of Anita: Truth, Justice, Race, Gender, and Power—30 Years Later will be held on October 16 from 3 pm to 6 pm PT at the University of Southern California. This special event will feature artists, scholars, and activists in dialogue, along with a special keynote conversation between Professor Hill, author of Believing, and Beverly Guy-Sheftall, Anna Julia Cooper Professor of Women’s Studies at Spelman College. Visit The Meteor for updates. Rsvp now for this free event.

 

Presented by USC Visions and Voices: The Arts and Humanities Initiative and The Meteor. Co-sponsored by the USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism, USC School of Cinematic Arts, USC School of Dramatic Arts, and USC Gould School of Law. Special thanks to Audible.


Because of Anita: Highlights from our hosts

In 1991, Professor Anita Hill told the Senate Judiciary Committee that her former boss, Supreme Court nominee Clarence Thomas, had sexually harassed her. Thirty years later, you can still see the ripple effects of that testimony in our politics—and our lives.

That’s why we—hosts Dr. Salamishah Tillet and Cindi Leive—wanted to take a fresh look at the hearings. We’ve been working on this for months, and our new four-part podcast, Because of Anita, out today, shares what we’ve learned and what we’ve heard from politicians, artists, organizers, and scholars who were shaped by the hearings.

In the first episode—did we mention it’s out today?—we walk you through what actually happened that October weekend 30 years ago, with help from lawyer Kimberlé Crenshaw, who served on Hill’s legal team at the time; journalist Jane Mayer, who helped expose the hearings’ flaws; and actor Kerry Washington, who later immersed herself in the hearings for a film role as Anita Hill.

We had different, intersecting reasons for wanting to do this podcast. Salamishah had written about Anita Hill before, for Four Hundred Souls: A Community History of African America, 1619-2019. Revisiting the testimony for that essay—and thinking about the impact it had on her back in 1991, as a Black student in a mostly white high school—was illuminating, and she wanted to share what she’d learned with a different audience. Cindi had known Professor Hill for years—but had never interviewed her, and with the 30th anniversary approaching, couldn’t stop thinking about how far away and yet immediate those 1991 hearings were.

Part of what we both loved about this first episode is the deep dive into what actually happened at the hearings. It’s kind of shocking to listen to in retrospect: the interrogation of Professor Hill’s motives (“are you a scorned woman?” asked one Senator, almost mockingly), the witnesses not called, the spectacle of an all-white, all-male panel ruling on the word of a Black woman. If you’re new to the hearings, we think you’ll be riveted.

And our guests gave us so much to think about. Here are some of our highlights from the conversations in the first episode:

Salamishah: “For me, it’s Kimberlé Crenshaw using Thomas’s ‘high-tech lynching’ line to show the consequence of our country not using an intersectional analysis…or paying attention to how racism and sexism mutually harm Black women and Black communities.”

Cindi: “Professor Crenshaw’s interview had me on the edge of my seat. She was part of Anita Hill’s legal team, and there’s a scene where she and her colleagues walk out of the hearing and run into a group of Black women kneeling and praying on the steps of the Capitol. Crenshaw thinks they must be there to support Anita Hill, but then she realizes that they are there for Thomas. She understands the tide has turned, and it’s a pivotal moment in her life. I had chills when we were recording this.”

Salamishah: “Back then, for lots of Black people racism trumped sexism. Thanks to Hill, and so many other Black feminists, we have a more complex understanding of our oppression, and our resistance to it, today. Another moment that stuck with me is when Jane Mayer notes that the research she and co-author Jill Abramson did for their book Strange Justice: The Selling of Clarence Thomas revealed that there was a high probability that Thomas lied under oath. But as Mayer went on to tell us, ‘There are no statute of limitations for investigating a Supreme Court Justice. And I think that this subject still should be opened up and looked at again.’”

Cindi: “When she said that, I asked her jokingly, ‘Jane, I wonder who would be the journalist to do that investigation?’ But she demurred and said she’d leave that for a new generation. And given Thomas’s importance on the Court, I hope that happens.”

We hope you’ll subscribe so you don’t miss an episode, including a personal conversation between Professor Hill herself and Dr. Christine Blasey Ford, whose 2018 testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee echoed Hill’s experience 27 years earlier.

Upcoming guests also include scholar Dr. Barbara Ransby, Ambassador Carol Moseley Braun, producer Drew Dixon, legal advocate Fatima Goss Graves, journalist Irin Carmon, and ‘me too.’ founder Tarana Burke.

Because of Anita is co-hosted by Dr. Salamishah Tillet, cultural critic at The New York Times, and Cindi Leive, co-founder of The Meteor; and it’s produced by The Meteor and Pineapple Street Studios. Listen and subscribe now on Audible, Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Stitcher, or wherever you get your podcasts.


Because of Anita: A podcast about the testimony that changed everything

Thirty years ago this fall, in October 1991, Professor Anita Hill delivered groundbreaking testimony in the Supreme Court confirmation hearings of Clarence Thomas. As the world watched, she sat in front of an all-white, all-male Senate Judiciary Committee and testified that Thomas had sexually harassed her years earlier, when he was her boss.

The hearings ignited conversations around race, gender, power, and sexual abuse that are as relevant today as they were three decades ago. Now, Because of Anita, an exclusive four-part podcast series, examines the legacy of Professor Hill’s testimony—and both what’s changed and what has not in the years since then. Co-hosts Dr. Salamishah Tillet, cultural critic at The New York Times, and Cindi Leive, co-founder of The Meteor, sit down with politicians, artists, organizers, and academics—all of whom have been shaped by the hearings, including:

  • Professor Anita Hill, in conversation with Dr. Christine Blasey Ford, who testified in the 2018 confirmation hearings of Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh
  • Key players during the 1991 hearings—and their aftermath, like lawyer and Professor Kimberlé Crenshaw, a member of Hill’s legal team; journalist Jane Mayer, who co-wrote a book about the confirmation; and scholar Dr. Barbara Ransby, who rallied Black women in a historic show of support
  • Those who felt the ripple effects of Professor Hill’s experience, including Ambassador Carol Moseley Braun, producer Drew Dixon, and actor Kerry Washington
  • Leaders in the work on these issues today, including legal advocate Fatima Goss Graves, journalist Irin Carmon, and ‘me too.’ founder Tarana Burke

Because of Anita Podcast Promo

Because of Anita is produced by The Meteor and Pineapple Street Studios. Making it has been a powerful, illuminating experience for us—we're excited to share it with you. Sign up now to hear every episode when it airs.

Listen now and subscribe on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Audible, Stitcher, or wherever you get your podcasts.

 

 

 

 

 

Photo credit: Bettmann / Getty Images

 


"Disability is part of the human experience"

September 9, 2021

NEWSLETTER

More than a billion people in the world are disabled. And yet ableism is woven into everyday life—shutting people with disabilities out of everything from job opportunities to housing to public transportation.

How can we better understand disability as part of the human experience, and move toward a more inclusive and equitable world? To help everyone have the tools and language to fight ableism, the brilliant Emily Ladau—writer, activist, and founding member of The Meteor—has written Demystifying Disability: What to Know, What to Say, and How to Be an Ally.

EMILY LADAU WANTS TO MAKE DISABILITY ACCESSIBLE

The editor in chief of Rooted in Rights and co-host of “The Accessible Stall” podcast, Ladau’s writing has appeared in The New York Times and HuffPost.

You can get a sneak peek of her new book on our site, where she shares some of her story and ways we can all help build a more inclusive world. Plus head over to our Instagram this Friday, September 10 at 3pm ET, where she’ll be LIVE in conversation with another member of The Meteor collective Liz Plank. The event will have a link to stream live captioning. ⁠See you there!

 


CATCH UP ON THE YEAR’S BEST CONVERSATIONS

“It is pretty wild to start a podcast in the middle of a pandemic and a revolution and right before a life-changing election. But you know what? That was the point.” So begins Brittany Packnett Cunningham on the season finale of UNDISTRACTED, pointing out that the podcast takes its name from Toni Morrison’s famous quote: “The function of racism…is distraction…. It keeps you from doing your work.”

But even through the year’s distractions, Packnett Cunningham sat down with “thought leaders, freedom fighters…artists and poets and mothers and friends,” examining the week’s news through an intersectional lens. To wrap up Season 1, the UNDISTRACTED staff shared their favorite moments:

Raquel Willis discussing “the complexity of gender and identity”: “One of the things that I am particularly hungry and thirsty for…is for more and more people to understand that we’re all gender nonconforming.” (Shared by producer Rachel Matlow)

The “Nap Bishop” Tricia Hersey on the radical act of rest: “Rest is your divine right; it’s a human right.” (Shared by Ayesha Johnson)

Nikole Hannah-Jones encouraging Black people to “take ownership and pride” of the U.S.: “We built this country and we have a right to claim it.” (Shared by Brittany Packnett Cunningham)

Representative Cori Bush recounting her January 6 experience: “At not one point did I feel like I was about to die…what I felt like was, if you touch these doors and if you come in this place trying to get at my staff…we bangin’ until the end.” (Shared by associate producer Taylor Hosking)

Black Voters Matter founder LaTosha Brown singing when asked about the ancestors who guide her: “Oh, freedom, oh, freedom, freedom over me, over me and before I be a slave, I’ll be buried in my grave, and go home to my Lord and be free.” (Shared by Cindi Leive)

Connie Walker on the present (not just past) of Indigenous women: “This is not ancient history. This is something that is happening now.” (Shared by Treasure Brooks)

Hear the full highlight reel, and catch up on episodes you may have missed, wherever you get your podcasts. We’ll be back with Season 2 in the fall.

Listen on Apple Podcasts,  SpotifyStitcher or wherever you get your podcasts.


Tarana Burke on the past, present, and future of #MeToo

August 16, 2021

NEWSLETTER

This summer has brought us the devastating reversal of Bill Cosby’s sexual assault conviction—but also something that feels a bit more like justice in the case of New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, who resigned amid sexual harassment charges. With another trial about to begin for R. Kelly, accused of abusing women and girls over two decades, it’s clear that the Me Too movement continues to shape our culture in profound, and hard to simplify, ways.

Against that backdrop, there was no one Brittany Packnett Cunningham wanted to talk to more for her season-finale episode of UNDISTRACTED than Tarana Burke, the founder of Me Too. They sat down to discuss the movement’s journey—and Burke’s own—ahead of the upcoming publication of her memoir, Unbound: My Story of Liberation and the Birth of the Me Too Movement. (Trigger warning: This episode discusses sexual assault.)

“ME TOO HAS BEEN MISUNDERSTOOD”

Highlights of the episode include:

Burke on what people need to know about Me Too: “Me Too, and then the #MeToo movement literally since the day it went viral, has been misunderstood…. I really need people to understand why the work is important. I want people to be connected to just how deeply personal it was.”

Burke on the power of survival: “Every day that I wake up and I am able to function and move through life—even if I’m not doing anything that people think is particularly phenomenal—the act of surviving is powerful in and of itself…. People don’t understand that the violence we experience is akin to death. It is a killing of your spirit and your soul in a way that is very hard to reclaim…. And so survival is a big deal.”

Burke on how Black women get left behind: “When #MeToo went viral, you had white women lifted. And when Black Lives Matter had its moment, you had Black men lifted. Black women—who are the [leaders of] both of those movements—fell by the wayside…. It’s a classic case of Black women getting lost.”

Burke on what was missing when #MeToo went viral: “What you didn’t see were resources…that said, ‘We have to do something to make sure that we don’t live in a world where 12 million people can respond to a hashtag saying they also experienced this violence in 24 hours. That shouldn’t happen.’”

“We didn’t see people, you know, billionaires opening their pockets, saying, ‘What kind of programs can we do? How can we shift this?’ That just didn’t happen. We didn’t see massive legislation.”

“That’s really what the work is about: It’s about making sure survivors have what they need to heal, and gathering as many people as we can in this movement to interrupt and end [sexual violence]…. That’s exactly where we started, and where I stay.”

Listen on Apple Podcasts,  SpotifyStitcher or wherever you get your podcasts.


SUPPORT WOMEN JOURNALISTS COVERING AFGHANISTAN

 

There are no words for the Taliban takeover in Afghanistan. To learn more, follow this starter list of journalists on Twitter (and journalist organizations to donate to) that we shared on Instagram. Many of them are Afghan women on the ground—and all know the landscape:

Rukhshana Media (@RukhshanaMedia)
Yalda Hakim (@BBCYaldaHakim)
Ruchi Kumar (@RuchiKumar)
Zainab Pirzad (@Zainab_pirzad)
IMS (International Media Support; @forfreemedia)


Real talk: Should the Olympics be saved?

August 2, 2021

NEWSLETTER

The Olympics is always a contrast of highs and lows, but the lows at this year’s Tokyo Games have been epic. First there was the controversial choice to hold the Olympics during a pandemic—and on top of that there was Sha’Carri Richardson’s disqualification, a ban on Black swimmers’ Soul Caps, and backlash against Simone Biles for prioritizing her mental health. All within the first 10 days!

So: Can these “cursed Olympics” be saved? Should they be? To find out, Brittany Packnett Cunningham sat down with sports journalist Jemele Hill, host of the podcast “Jemele Hill Is Unbothered” and a contributing writer at The Atlantic, this week on UNDISTRACTED.

“THESE TWO WOMEN HAVE SAID: ‘I CHOOSE ME OVER YOUR ENTERTAINMENT.’”

Packnett Cunningham and Hill got into everything about this year’s complicated games—from the message the Olympics sends to Black women athletes to exactly why the Games trail the rest of the sports world on equity issues. Highlights include:

Hill on Simone Biles’s and Naomi Osaka’s choice to prioritize their mental health: “What’s really bothering people when they are reacting so vehemently and angrily toward what they’ve done, is the fact that these two women have said, ‘I choose me over your entertainment, over your ability to watch me perform.’”

Hill on the hypocrisy of Sha’Carri Richardson’s disqualification for marijuana while Alen Hadzic, the U.S. fencer accused of sexual assault, is in Tokyo: “Sha’Carri Richardson is not in the Olympics, but there’s an Olympic fencer who right now is under investigation for multiple sexual assault allegations—multiple—and was allowed to compete. His own team went to the Olympic committee and said, ‘We do not want this guy around us.’”

“Instead, they came up with a ‘safety plan’…. You know that he’s dangerous enough that you need to develop a safety plan, but good enough to represent the country? That math ain’t mathing.”

Hill on the absence of childcare at the Olympics: “The one thing that allows the Olympic committee…to get away with basically not treating Olympic athletes with kind of basic dignity is the fact that we only pay attention every four years. Shame works…I have a feeling if there were just more eyes and more awareness…that they would not be allowed to get away with what they get away with.”

Hill on whether there’s hope for the Olympics despite its history of racism and sexism: “We’re a very segregated society, but when you love the same team, you root for the same athletes, it tends to knock down walls. And so, because of that, I still feel like there’s a lot of hope…what Naomi Osaka is able to do with bringing this conversation about mental health even more into focus. Simone Biles, same thing. Despite the fact they will receive criticisms, I still think it’s doing way more good than harm.”

Listen on Apple Podcasts,  SpotifyStitcher or wherever you get your podcasts.


POWERFUL STORIES FROM BLACK WOMEN AGES 17 TO 90

If you’re looking for a powerful series of stories to open your mind and your heart—well, we’re biased, but we fully recommend In Love and Struggle: A Black Woman Grows in America. This co-production between The Meteor and Audible showcases 11 stories told by Black women about their lives at every age. You’ll hear from music producer Drew Dixon, two-time Pulitzer-winning playwright Lynn Nottage, The Apollo Theater’s Kamilah Forbes, and more. Need more convincing? Watch the contributors in conversation.

AND IN CLOSING…

 

Forever the GOAT. (Not following us on Instagram? Please come check us out!)


What will it take to stop violence against Native women?

July 16, 2021

NEWSLETTER

While the discovery of mass graves at former residential schools in Canada has drawn attention to the ongoing violence toward Indigenous communities in North America, these crimes—and many others—have already been well documented. Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland has called violence against Indigenous people in general a “crisis,” and the stats show how vulnerable women in particular are: 80 percent of Indigenous women in the United States have experienced some form of violence.

What will it take to turn this moment of awareness into action? To find out, this week on UNDISTRACTED Brittany Packnett Cunningham sat down with award-winning Cree journalist Connie Walker to talk about the crisis of missing and murdered Indigenous women.

Host of the Gimlet Media podcast “Stolen: The Search for Jermain,” Walker is from the Okanese First Nation in Saskatchewan and has spent decades telling the stories of Native communities. As an investigative reporter at Canada’s CBC News, she hosted the podcasts “Finding Cleo” and “Who Killed Alberta Williams?”

Packnett Cunningham and Walker broke down the long history of violence toward Indigenous communities, and what the growing awareness of the issue could mean. Highlights of their conversation:

Walker on how this current news cycle feels different: “We’ve been trying to kind of raise this alarm for so long…Now when people actually finally seem to be understanding the magnitude of what Indigenous people have experienced and they’re feeling the weight of it in the way that we have felt it for our entire lives, it kind of takes my breath away and makes me feel the weight of it all over again.”

Walker on why she tells the stories of Native women: “There’s this long history of people coming into our communities and taking our stories and portraying us in ways that reinforce terrible stereotypes about who we are or the lives we lead. And so I really want to make space for people to understand and empathize with the human beings at the heart of these stories.”

Walker on why Indigenous women are so often the target of violent crime and why so many cases involving them go unsolved: “We did a database at CBC where we tried to document as many unsolved cases as we could of missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls in Canada…So many of them had been in the child welfare system at some point in their lives. So many of them had struggled with some kind of form of addiction. So many of them had experienced childhood sexual abuse. So many of them had family members who are residential school survivors. If you spend any time looking at this crisis, it does not take much investigation to unearth the bigger themes that are at play.”

And what Walker wants people to know: “I am so lucky to be an Indigenous woman. And I come from an incredible family and community that is rich and full of strength and laughter and beauty and culture…Along with raising awareness of the violence that we experience, we also need to make space to showcase the diversity in our communities.”

Listen on Apple Podcasts,  SpotifyStitcher or wherever you get your podcasts.


WEEKEND LISTEN: “IN LOVE AND STRUGGLE”

In The Meteor’s new Audible Original, In Love and Struggle: A Black Woman Grows in America, women ages 17 to 90—from TikTok star Ve’ondre Mitchell to two-time Pulitzer-winning playwright Lynn Nottage to dancer and choreographer Carmen de Lavallade—share stories about love, work, microaggressions, mothering, and just being. Executive produced by cultural critic Rebecca Carroll and The Apollo Theater’s Kamilah Forbes and directed by Noleca Radway, this powerful new work is available now. Watch the trailer.


Tomorrow! Join Drew Dixon, Jasmine Mans, and more for a powerful evening

July 7, 2021

NEWSLETTER

There’s still time to sign up! Please join us on July 8, 2021, at 7 pm ET, for a preview of The Meteor’s brand-new audio program, In Love and Struggle: A Black Woman Grows in America.

Hosted by author and podcaster extraordinaire Brittany Luse, the evening will feature many of the voices behind this year’s Audible Original, including:

  • Cultural critic Rebecca Carroll in conversation with music producer and assault survivor Drew Dixon
  • Kamilah Forbes, executive producer of the World Famous Apollo Theater in Harlem, in conversation with activist/student Treasure Brooks
  • Poet Jasmine Mans sharing new original work
  • With special appearances from writer/playwright Pearl Cleage, teen advocate Ve’ondre Mitchell, playwright Lynn Nottage, audio journalist CC Paschal, and more

This free virtual event is open to everyone.

REGISTER NOW!

Learn more about In Love and Struggle—and watch clips from last year’s show.

This week on UNDISTRACTED

These days the news is filled with Republicans ranting about the dangers of Critical Race Theory (CRT). And multiple states have introduced legislation to ban its teaching—as well as topics of racism—in schools.

What is CRT and why are state legislatures so focused on doing away with it? This week on UNDISTRACTED, Brittany Packnett Cunningham sat down with the legal scholar who helped pioneer CRT, Professor Kimberlé Crenshaw, to find out.

You won’t want to miss their conversation—featuring an entire primer on the issue. “Our side wants to tell the truth to set us free,” Crenshaw says. “The other side wants to bury the truth to sustain their access to power and dominance over the rest of us.”

Co-founder of the African American Policy Forum, Professor Crenshaw is on the faculty at UCLA Law and Columbia Law School. In addition to her groundbreaking work on CRT, she also coined the term “intersectionality” over 30 years ago—making her, as Packnett Cunningham explains, “the godmother” of UNDISTRACTED, our intersectional feminist podcast.

Listen on Apple Podcasts,  SpotifyStitcher or wherever you get your podcasts.



Senator Kirsten Gillibrand on the bill she’s worked 10 years to pass

June 25, 2021

NEWSLETTER

The military’s failure to address sexual assault is an ongoing and widely recognized problem: Of the estimated 20,000 sexual assaults against service members in 2018 (the most recent numbers from the Department of Defense), only about 200 ended in conviction. And the problem has actually gotten worse, with rates of prosecution and conviction going down over the last few years.

Why is it so hard to do right by military survivors? And how can we make the armed forces do better? Brittany Packnett Cunningham sat down with Senator Kirsten Gillibrand this week on UNDISTRACTED to talk about the New York Democrat’s 10-year campaign to ensure more accountability for military sexual assault—and why justice may finally be on the horizon. (Trigger warning: This episode discusses sexual assault.)

A candidate in the 2020 Democratic presidential primary, Senator Gillibrand has represented New York since 2009. And after years of pushing her colleagues on the issue, she now has bipartisan support for the Military Justice Improvement and Increasing Prevention Act, which aims, among other reforms, to move sexual assault cases out of the military’s “chain of command” and over to independent prosecutors.

Packnett Cunningham and Gillibrand dug into why the military’s prosecution of sexual assault cases has worsened, what needs to change, and, of course, whether the senator will run for president again. Highlights of their conversation:

Sen. Gillibrand on what needs to change: “We have done a terrible job in actually prosecuting these cases. The percentage of cases moving towards prosecution is going down. The percentage of cases that are ending in conviction is going down. And so under no measurable is the military getting this right. And so we’ve been asking to take the decision making of whether to prosecute these crimes out of the chain of command and give it to trained military prosecutors who are unbiased and professionalized.”

Sen. Gillibrand on how the current system is biased: “We know there’s bias in which cases go forward on sexual assault. And we know there’s bias in prosecution and punishment of Black and brown service members. They’re up to 2.6 times [more likely] to be punished than a white service member. So you need this reform for both plaintiffs’ rights and defendants’ rights—to fix the bias in sexual assault cases and fix the bias against Black and brown service members.”

Sen. Gillibrand on the urgent need for justice: “When I sit down with service members who have been brutally raped and then denied justice by either being disbelieved or being directly retaliated against, it truly breaks my heart because these are men and women who will die for this country…And justice is absolutely something that’s part of our Constitution, our democracy, and something we believe in. And for them to be denied justice, I think, is an outrage.”

Sen. Gillibrand on her political future: “Well, I certainly hope I get the chance to run for president again someday. I loved it. I had such a wonderful and powerful and inspiring opportunity to learn from people all across the country to develop a different set of skills—and greater strengths.”

Listen on Apple Podcasts,  SpotifyStitcher or wherever you get your podcasts.


WHAT OUR COLLECTIVE IS INTO RIGHT NOW

The Meteor is guided by our collective; here’s what founding member and producer Ginny Suss is up to this week.

“Hi, I’m Ginny Suss and here’s a taste of what I’m into right now.”

I’M WATCHING RESIST, the new documentary about the Resistance Revival Chorus [of which Suss is a co-founder] that just debuted at the Tribeca Film Festival. It explores how our chorus came together, and various other choruses that have popped up around the country following our toolkit. The way these women come together and raise their voices in the spirit of protest is inspiring.

Also, Pose, the final season. This show is giving me life. It’s not only shining a light on trans issues, uplifting Black joy, and feeding us some serious dance moves, it’s also revisiting ACT UP’s incredible AIDS activism and art of the 80s and 90s.

I’M LISTENING TO This Joy! The Resistance Revival Chorus’s album is out now on all streaming platforms. Plus, get your limited-edition RED vinyl.

I’M READING The Overstory, by Richard Powers. It’s by far one of the best novels I’ve read in the past 10 years.

I’M FOLLOWING adrienne maree brown. Her writing is transformative, including her ideas about Pleasure Activism, and her study of Octavia Butler’s works is genius.

I’M DOING LESS Sleeping.

I’M GETTING MY JOY FROM Music, friends, sunshine, and water.

Ginny Suss is a producer, content creator, documentary photographer and founder of Ginny Suss Productions. She is also a founder of the Women’s March, OkayAfrica, and the Resistance Revival Chorus.


Your Pride read, watch, and listen list

June 15, 2021

NEWSLETTER

Consider this your Pride reading and viewing list: We’ve got recommendations for your summer downtime from The Meteor Fund’s 21 For ’21 Syllabus, featuring works that center the LGBTQ+ community’s past—and future. (If you’ve never read June Jordan, now’s the time.)

Plus, keep reading to hear from the ACLU’s Chase Strangio (one of the lawyers behind last year’s major Supreme Court victory on LGBTQ+ workplace rights) about the new wave of anti-trans legislation—and why “queer survival” should matter as much as “queer magic.” He’s the guest on this week’s UNDISTRACTED, and it’s a good one.

First, that reading and viewing list. We asked some of the most interesting people we know for works that help point the way toward a more feminist future. (Download the full Syllabus at The Meteor Fund.) Plenty of their recommendations center LGBTQ+ creators, characters, and perspectives:

FILM Lingua Franca, by Isabel Sandoval. It’s “a story about a character that is rarely seen on-screen: an undocumented, Filipina trans woman.” —Shared by Define American founder Jose Antonio Vargas 

BOOK The Selected Works of Audre Lorde, with an introduction by Roxane Gay. “When I think about feminist futures, I think about what we can carry from the past too, about the women who carved space so we might have these visions now.” —Shared by Gabriela Garcia, best-selling author of Of Women and Salt, and feminist and migrant justice organizer

PLAYLIST SOUL(SIGNS) by Brandon Kazen-Maddox (which will debut on the new streaming platform Broadstream). “SOUL(SIGNS) reimagines 10 songs by iconic Black women like Gladys Knight and Nina Simone as ASL music videos…Brandon’s work has expanded my own thinking around communication as well as how important it is to make space for accessibility, queerness, exploration, and joy.” —Shared by interdisciplinary artist Natalie Frank  

POETRY Affirmative Acts by June Jordan. “My all-time favorite poet who explores Blackness, feminism, and liberation through her beautiful poetry.” —Shared by Alicia Garza, principal, Black Futures Lab and the Black to the Future Action Fund 

SPEECHAin’t I a Woman?” by Joy Ladin. “Ladin’s writing is wise and lyrical: She writes better than anyone else I know about the way trans people search for God.” —Shared by professor, author, and The New York Times opinion writer Jennifer Finney Boylan 

Image (top): Getty Images/NurPhoto
The 21 For ’21 Syllabus is produced by The Meteor Fund, an affiliated charitable project of The Meteor.


THIS WEEK ON UNDISTRACTED

Over 100 anti-trans bills have been introduced across 33 states this year, making 2021 the worst year in history for legislative attacks on the LGBTQ+ community. Many of these bills seek to prevent trans kids from playing on sports teams or receiving gender-affirming health care.

What’s behind this war on transgender youth? And what can we do about it? To find out, Brittany Packnett Cunningham sat down with lawyer Chase Strangio, deputy director for transgender justice with the ACLU’s LGBTQ & HIV Project (and one of Time’s 2020 “most influential people in the world”), on this week’s episode of UNDISTRACTED.

Strangio argues that the current wave of anti-trans legislation is fueled by a right wing that realizes it’s lost the battle against same-sex marriage and is desperately searching for a new enemy. But more than that, he says, “It’s a eugenics project”—and that fact should terrify us.

“What Republican lawmakers are saying is: ‘It’s bad to be trans. It hurts people to be trans. Let’s use the power of the government to stop people from being trans,’” says Strangio. “And I think we should be responding with the urgency of a project that has a lot of genocidal impulses, because that is ultimately what’s going to happen.”

Watching transgender youth be targeted by these attacks has been particularly hard, adds Strangio. “I love being trans, and having the ability to exist as myself has been so liberating…The idea that the government or private actors with power would try to constrain people’s opportunities to realize their full magic and potential…I just can’t stand for that.”

Listen on Apple Podcasts,  SpotifyStitcher or wherever you get your podcasts.