Author Archives: Gina Messina Dysert

Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month

FebAware2013It’s Valentine’s Day and February is Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month, so it seems like a good time to begin a conversation about healthy relationships. Although many of us think this is an issue that will not impact our own lives, statistics demonstrate that 75% of individuals know someone who has experienced domestic violence.

Domestic violence is a global epidemic that threatens the health and well being of women and girls regardless of race, culture, religion, social status, or other qualifying factors.  Statistics remain stagnant with 1 in 3 women worldwide experiencing violence in their lifetime.  In the Unites States, a woman is beaten every nine seconds.  Domestic violence continues to be the leading cause of injury and death to women.  In fact, four out of ten women murdered die at the hands of intimate partners.  Disturbingly, these numbers represent a very small portion of this epidemic given that upwards of 95% of incidences go unreported.

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How the Media Failed Women in 2013

MiasBlogAs we look back on 2013 there have certainly been some positive strides towards representation of women in the media.  Malala was pictured on the front page of Time Magazine as one of the 100 most influential people in the world.  Films with female leads struck box office gold.  More and more television shows with strong female characters are earning high ratings and the first African American woman was nominated for an Emmy since 1995.   And the Goldiblox ad has gone viral highlighting the inventive minds of girls:

This said, while some things have changed, many things have stayed the same.  The media is one of the most powerful tools we have access to.  It has the ability to educate and effect social change, yet we use it as a means to oppress and demean.

For instance, consider the following statistics:

  • By a nearly 3 to 1 margin, male front-page bylines at top newspapers outnumbered female bylines in coverage of the 2012 presidential election. Men were also far more likely to be quoted than women in newspapers, television and public radio.
  • On Sunday TV talk shows, women comprised only 14 percent of those interviewed and 29 percent of roundtable guests.
  • Talk radio and sports talk radio hosts are overwhelmingly male.
  • As newspaper employment continues to tumble, so does the number of women in key jobs.
  • Newer, online-only news sites have fallen into the same rut as legacy media. Male bylines outnumbered female bylines at four of six sites reviewed.
  • The percentage of women who are television news directors edged up, reaching 30 percent for the first time. Overall employment of women in TV news remains flat.
  • Obituaries about men far outnumber those of women in top national and regional newspapers.
  • Women comprised just 9 percent of the directors of the top 250 domestic grossing films of 2012.
  • Women comprised 39 percent of documentary directors whose work appeared at major festivals in 2011-12.
  • Across all behind-the-camera positions, females were most likely to be producers. However, as the prestige of the producing post increased, the percentage of female participation decreased.

Women continue to be grossly misrepresented within one of the most powerful social tools in existence.  The result?  Continued oppression and support for violence against women.

So what can you do?

Consider how you participate in the problem and how you can participate in the solution.   We all engage the system and have the ability to make an impact.  While it may seem like an impossible task, small acts by many have the power to effect change.  Take The Representation Project Pledge to use your voice to challenge society’s poor representation of women.  You can also use the hashtag #NotBuyingIt on Twitter to demonstrate your commitment to challenging the misrepresentation of women and girls in the media.  These are just a few ways you can be part of the solution.  For more information, see The Representation Project.

Gina Messina-Dysert, Ph.D. is Dean of the School of Graduate and Professional Studies at Ursuline College.

Female Veteran

Remembering Women on Veterans Day

Female VeteranToday we celebrate Veterans Day; a day to recognize the many contributions of women and men in the armed forces, and day to call for peace.  Certainly, we must always acknowledge the incredible sacrifices of every man and woman who has served our nation; however today I would like to call on you to give special consideration to the many women who fight an “invisible war” within the world of our military – the war against sexual violence.

Rape within the military is at an all time high; nearly 23,000 violent sexual crimes were committed in 2011 alone.  Some have argued that women are putting themselves in the position to be raped by joining the military.  Liz Trotta of Fox News is one who has made this argument and claims that women want to be “warriors and victims at the same time.”  She also stated that if women choose to serve in the military, they should expect to be raped and stop raising such a fuss about it. Read More

photo credit: google images

Well Done Sister Suffragette!

We all remember the movie Mary Poppins, but do you remember why Mary Poppins had a job as a nanny for the Banks family?  Mrs. Banks needed help with her children because she was a member of Emmeline Pankhurst‘s suffragette movement and was dedicated to working for women’s equality and the right to vote.

In celebration of election day, here are the lyrics and a clip of Mrs. Banks singing “Sister Suffragette.”

We’re clearly soldiers in petticoats
And dauntless crusaders for woman’s votes
Though we adore men individually
We agree that as a group they’re rather stupid!

Cast off the shackles of yesterday!
Shoulder to shoulder into the fray!
Our daughters’ daughters will adore us
And they’ll sign in grateful chorus
“Well done, Sister Suffragette!”

From Kensington to Billingsgate
One hears the restless cries!
From ev’ry corner of the land:
“Womankind, arise!”
Political equality and equal rights with men!
Take heart! For Missus Pankhurst has been clapped in irons again!

No more the meek and mild subservients we!
We’re fighting for our rights, militantly!
Never you fear!

So, cast off the shackles of yesterday!
Shoulder to shoulder into the fray!
Our daughters’ daughters will adore us
And they’ll sign in grateful chorus
“Well done! Well done!
Well done Sister Suffragette!”


women's suffrage

Women and the Right to Vote

women's suffrageAlice Paul is one of my personal heroes. She dedicated her life to establishing equal rights and led some of the most crucial political achievements in history for women.  If you haven’t seen Iron Jawed Angels, the HBO movie starring Hilary Swank as Paul, you should drop everything and do so immediately.  It is a brilliant film that reminds us of the incredible struggle for women’s right to vote and the sacrifices of the Suffragettes.

The film details Paul’s strategy, personal sacrifice, and willingness to put her life on the line for women’s suffrage.   I often stop and wonder, “what would I put my life on the line for?”  What would you?

Today, we take for granted that we have the right to vote and have forgotten the torture – and I mean that literally – that women experienced simply because they demanded that right.  Many of us find our selves too busy to show up for the vote or unconcerned about issues we think do not affect us (believe me, every issue does affect us!).  I can only imagine Paul’s response to such complacency.

As we prepare to head to the polls on November 5th, while some women wont show up; others will be refused the right to vote.  New controversial photo ID laws in Texas and Pennsylvania discriminate against minorities and low-income voters.  Women are surely one of the affected groups – if married or divorced a different last name on identification could keep them from casting their ballots.

Wendy Weiser, director of the Democracy Program at the Brennan Center told TIME that “A full 34% of women don’t have documents proving citizenship with their current name on it.  Why do we have such strict limitations on what kinds of documents people can have when they need to vote?”  These are important questions, and although we may think the fight for voting rights is over, there is much work to be done.

When you are considering whether or not you should vote on November 5th, take time to remember that the women before you fought – nearly to the death – so you would have this right.  Recognize that there are women in our country who will be denied their right to vote based on discriminatory laws.  And, of course, acknowledge that women around the world continue to struggle for their human rights of which voting is surely one.  Cast your ballot in their honor and consider how you might act against continued injustice against women and other oppressed groups.    While we may not put our lives on the line, we can certainly continue to work for justice.

Gina Messina-Dysert, Ph.D. is Dean of Graduate and Professional Studies at Ursuline College.


Celebrating International Day of the Girl

1393540_10151923721394002_49997001_nToday is International Day of the Girl. This movement is 100% led by youth and is dedicated to responding to the many urgent problems faced by girls today. October 11th was named Day of the Girl and encourages groups of girls around the world to come together to have dialogue around issues that need to attention.  In addition, the day is dedicated to improving the lives of and opportunities for girls across the globe.  Acknowledging the incredible efforts of this youth-led movement, as well as the need to recognize the rights of and challenges faced by girls around the world, the United Nations named October 11th International Day of the Girl in 2011.

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Recognizing Women’s Contributions on Labor Day

c052bca63dbe374667b78946e1c33526Labor Day was established as a federal holiday in 1894 with the purpose of celebrating both the social and economic contributions of those who work.   Certainly every worker must be recognized for her or his contributions, but it is also a time to consider the undervalued work of women.

We all recognize the image of Rosie the Riveter, the US cultural icon representing women who took on factory work during WWII keeping the economy alive.  Rosie inspired a social movement that helped the number of women substantially increase in numbers in the workforce and has become a feminist symbol of women’s economic power.  Today, women are 50% of the workforce and a recent study shows that 4 in 10 mothers are the sole or primary breadwinners in their families.

This said, women continue to be underpaid and their work often goes unrecognized.  Although the Equal Pay Act was passed 50 years ago, the gender wage gap continues. While Hilary Clinton did make 18 million cracks, women continue to face the glass ceiling.  There is a serious gender leadership gap with women serving in only 14.3% of CEO positions in Fortune 500 companies in 2012.

Beyond the unjust treatment of women in relation to pay and leadership, there is also a serious gender gap in work division in the home.  We generally refuse to acknowledge the work of women in the home as having any value and particularly ignore the role of woman as mother.

In The Feminine Economy and Economic Man, Burggraf questions whether women, any more than men, would sign on for the following job description:

Wanted:  Parents willing to bear, rear, and educate children for the next generation of Social Security taxpayers, and to carry on the American culture of learning and progress.  Quality children preferred.  Large commitment of time required.  At least one parent must work a double shift and/or sacrifice tenure and upward mobility in the job market. Salary:  $0.  Pension benefits:  $0.  Profits and dividends:  $0.

Recent studies show that 75% of mothers have joined the workforce, and thus are pulling double duty; they not only sign on for no pay and no recognition for their gendered role in the home, they also participate in a workforce that undervalues their contributions.  So, on Labor Day, when you are celebrating the contributions of all workers who allow us to flourish as a society, may I so humbly suggest that you also consider the undervalued work of women and the work that still needs to be done.

Gina Messina-Dysert, Ph.D. is Dean of Graduate and Professional Studies at Ursuline College and National Chair of Education for American Mothers, Inc.

Celebrating Women’s Equality Day

suffrageToday is the 93rd anniversary of the certification of the 19th Amendment which granted women the right to vote.  Thanks to the incredible and fearless work of women’s advocates such as Susan B. Anthony, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Ida B. Wells, Alice Paul, and many others, today women not only have the right to vote, but are having conversations about how to “Lean In” while demonstrating leadership that is changing the world.

Women today have made great strides and are contributing to our global community in a way that was unimaginable a century ago.  Women outpace men in higher education, make up nearly half of the workforce, and hold half of middle management position.  This said, we have a long ways to go.  We continue to have debates about women’s rights and exactly what that means.  Our discussions on reproductive justice, equal pay for equal work, and work/family balance demand ongoing evaluation of the ways women persist to endure injustice.  Violence against women continues to be a serious concern in every culture and women’s rights are violated everyday around the world.

We must celebrate the achievements of our foresisters and forebrothers who risked everything so that women today can push forward in the ongoing pursuit for justice.  Celebrating Women’s Equality Day is an opportunity to acknowledge their sacrifices, honor their successes, and embrace their spirits.  But we mustn’t settle for a society that has accepted the ongoing marginalization of women.  Rather, we must be inspired by the example of those who have worked for justice and continue to model their courage.

If you are looking for some inspiration today and need a reminder of what Women’s Equality Day is all about, consider watching Iron Jawed Angels, an HBO film about the suffrage movement and the triumphs of women who put their lives on the line for the right to vote.  I promise you won’t be disappointed.

Gina Messina-Dysert, Ph.D. is Dean of Graduate and Professional Studies at Ursuline College.

After the Lecture: Is this blessed sip of life not enough?

Dave matthewsIf you are a Dave Matthews Band fan like me, you certainly noticed the news this week that fans stopped to help a man who had a bike with a flat tire on their way to a DMB concert and found that the person was Dave Matthews.  The fans placed his bike on their bike rack and gave Dave Matthews a ride to his own concert.  Being the gracious person that he is, Dave showed his gratitude with front row seats, back stages passes, a meeting with the band, dinner, and of course, a shout out during the concert.  Jealous?  I am!

The Dave Matthews Band has become iconic in the world of rock. Although there have been long breaks between album releases, the band tours year after year, and their fan base continues to grow. Beyond the unique beat and brilliant tones produced by this eclectic band, the lyrical focus and continued grappling with life’s mysteries is a significant draw for the listener.

A continuous theme found in the music is the idea that focusing on the afterlife, or what is beyond us, has left humanity failing to recognize the sacred that is in the here and now. We are so preoccupied with trying to attain what comes after this physical life that we fail to notice all that surrounds us in the present. In the song “Don’t Burn the Pig,” DMB poses the question, “Is this blessed sip of life not enough?” Without debating the existence of a life beyond the physical world, these lyrics have demanded that we take notice of the beauty in our daily lives and experience God as God is present.

I can’t help but think of Catholic Imagination when I hear this song which views creation as sacramental. Creation in all its forms reveals something about God and thus brings God among us. Consequently, this life is “blessed” and should be embraced as such. Too often we waste away our days in search of something that should remain a mystery and fail to recognize the divine that permeates our everyday lives. The music of DMB acknowledges this calling its listeners to realize and be conscious of the sacred in all its forms and to have gratitude for all that is experienced in this “blessed sip of life.”

Gina Messina-Dysert, Ph.D. is a theologian, ethicist, and Dean of the School of Graduate and Professional Studies at Ursuline College.