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Wednesday, October 17, 2018

#TimesUp: What's Next? Chicago Ideas Week conversation discusses the next steps for the movement

Posted By on 10.17.18 at 05:00 PM

  • Sona Jones

Earlier this year, the #TimesUp legal initiative was launched to provide steps for women across all career industries who have been sexually harassed in the workplace, but now many women are asking, "where do we go from here?" Chicago Ideas Week hosted a conversation last night titled #TimesUp: What’s Next with activists and experts Amber Tamblyn, Saru Jayamaran, Tina Tchen, and Celeste Headlee to answer this question, offering some suggestions for next steps and examining areas where change needs to occur the most.

Thus far, most of the focus of the movement has been on high profile cases involving celebrities or public figures. Women in Hollywood have stood together at awards show announcing that time was up for abuse and assault on movie sets. "The Screen Actors Guild has changed on-set rules about how women are allowed to be treated and how their bodies can be touched," said Tamblyn, an actress, director, and one of the founding members of the #TimesUp movement.

But there is still a lot of work to be done in terms of inclusivity and diversity within the movement and advocating for women (and men) in all other fields. Tchen, one of the leaders of the Time’s Up Legal Defense Fund, says workplace sexual harassment infects all industries. One of the only ways to implement any real change is to change the workplace culture that has allowed for harassment to grow and continue to be accepted. Opponents of the #TimesUp movement have argued that if companies just followed the law, there wouldn’t be any harassment issues, but those people fail to realize that these laws have not caught up with 2018.

Tchen says these laws do not protect bystanders who report sexual harassment. One change that is occurring, however, is the termination of employees accused of harassment who earlier would've been given a slap on the wrist or made to watch a sexual harassment training video. "Sexual harassment training is really ineffective," she said. Learning about sexual harassment won't change an offender's behavior. It'll only make them more aware of the procedures surrounding the harassment. 

Jayamaran, co-founder and president of the Restaurant Opportunities Center United (ROC-United), shifts the conversation to restaurant workers. "In addition to support for legal challenges, we need to dismantle the systems and structures that lead to sexual harassment in the first place," she said. "Like the system of working for tips."

Jayamaran said the tipping economy is rooted in racism and it came into existence as a way to exploit the labor of slaves. It continues to exploit the labor of people of color and perpetuate power dynamics that result in sexual harassment.

The rest of the conversation focused on the importance of women working together. Though the movement has always placed an emphasis on women supporting women, Tamblyn said that white women especially need to be strong allies. In these spaces devoid of men, some white women are coming face to face with their privilege and the realization that sometimes they may perpetuate the same racism and exclusion as men.

"When you see that there is someone who's missing out of the conversation, you have to do everything you can to make sure they're included," she said.

The panel did a good job of recounting the strides the movement has made and what they're currently working towards but I'm not sure if anything that was said hasn’t already been said before. I would have liked them to highlight sexual assault in other, more vulnerable career fields like the public education system. Though I'm aware that a lot of the work the initiative is doing is geared towards workplace culture, I think discussing how the movement can help young women come forward with their stories, too, would be beneficial and a huge step in moving forward as a collective. Regardless, the conversation was one that we need to keep having in order to see more progress. 

Before the event ended, the four women answered audience questions and offered some tangible advice: Don’t be afraid to be the crazy, difficult bitch in the room and go vote in the midterm elections.

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Monday, October 1, 2018

In Assassination Nation, as in life, female power can instill fear when it poses a threat to the patriarchy

Posted By on 10.01.18 at 06:00 AM


Is there really such a thing as privacy anymore? This question is one of many asked by Sam Levinson in his second feature, Assassination Nation. But neither Levinson nor the film’s characters let you come out of the theater with an easy answer—that would miss the point entirely. Instead, Assassination Nation serves as a dizzying, aggressive, and controversial commentary on how desensitized we’ve become to violence in a world that won’t stop buzzing.

Assassination Nation follows high school senior Lily Coleman (Odessa Young) and her best friends Bex (Hari Nef), Em (Abra), and Sarah (Suki Waterhouse) as they deal with the aftermath of a leak of personal texts, emails and photos belonging to half the population of their small town.

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Friday, August 10, 2018

Alec Klein, Northwestern professor accused of sexual misconduct, resigns

Posted By on 08.10.18 at 04:53 PM

  • Northwestern University
  • Alec Klein
Six months after a group of ten women first came forward with allegations of sexual misconduct, bullying, and harassment against Alec Klein, the Northwestern University journalism professor has resigned.

In a statement released Friday afternoon, a university spokesman confirmed Klein's departure and wrote that Klein will no longer "be present on Northwestern’s campus or attend any University events."

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Thursday, July 12, 2018

Profiles abuse scandal inspires new magazine examining Chicago theater

Posted By on 07.12.18 at 01:00 PM

  • courtesy Almanya Narula
  • Almanya Narula

When Almanya Narula enrolled in graduate school at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, she wanted to find a way to bring her passions for journalism and theater together to tell stories of the theater community. The fusion of her interests led her to create Chicago Theatre Now, a new biannual magazine that will discuss and explore issues of accountability, inclusion, diversity, and equity within the Chicago theater scene.

Narula traces the creation of Chicago Theatre Now back to the summer of 2016 when the Reader published an article about abuses occurring at the now-defunct Profiles Theatre. The story hit home for Narula who was then a theater student at Columbia College Chicago studying fight choreography. "Being a fight choreographer, being a person in the industry, that was very triggering for me," she says. "It was also triggering because some of the people who were a part of Profiles were faculty members at Columbia College Chicago. What was going on within Profiles was an open secret for years, yet they were allowed to come to my institution and recruit people who might be under the age of 18 to intern for them."

Shortly afterward, Narula applied to arts journalism graduate program at SAIC. "Within my theater art, my main goal was to make a difference," she says. "At that point, I didn't think my art was conveying that, but I wanted to highlight the good things that were going on in Chicago, and I wanted to document that within journalism."

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Thursday, March 15, 2018

19 more women accuse Northwestern professor Alec Klein of misconduct, group says

Posted By on 03.15.18 at 08:03 AM

Since ten women came forward last month to accuse Northwestern journalism professor Alec Klein of misconduct ranging from sexual comments to unwanted kissing, 19 more women have reached out to them with their stories. In a new open letter released Thursday, the Medill Me Too group has published new allegations about Klein from the new accusers, including diary entries some of the women provided.

The accounts quoted in the letter include "disturbing patterns," the letter states, and include "sexually suggestive comments," "inappropriate touching" such as shoulder and neck massages and other improper behavior. Some women say they did not pursue journalism as a career as a result of Klein's behavior.

Klein, an award-winning journalist who headed up the Medill Justice Project and Northwestern's School of Journalism, Media and Integrated Marketing Communications, took a leave of absence shortly after the first group of accusers sent its open letter.

Although the initial letter included the names of all ten accusers, the 19 new women are not named in the new open letter, which says that some of them remain "afraid" to come forward openly. But Medill Me Too member Alison Flowers says some of the women who contacted them are willing to participate in the Title IX investigation Northwestern University officials launched in response to the group's first letter.

"We're encouraged thus far by Northwestern's broad investigation into Alec Klein's behavior," Flowers says. "We hope the university continues to take seriously the breadth of the complaints and chooses to collectively believe these women over the word of one professor in a powerful position."

A university spokesman said he hadn't seen the letter and couldn't comment. Klein's attorney, Andrew Miltenberg, released a statement decrying the new letter later Thursday. “Through innuendo, implication, conflated half-truths and even some outright lies, a group of individuals at Northwestern University continue their wholesale butchery of the life of Prof. Alec Klein," Miltenberg wrote. "The #MeToo movement is undoubtedly important as it gives voice to those who have been victims of sexual abuse and harassment. Still, it is not meant to be, nor can we let it become, judge, jury, and executioner."

Klein has denied the allegations put forth by the previous women. In his denial, he said some of the previous allegations had been investigated by the university previously and determined to be "completely unfounded."

"The bulk of the other allegations were brought to the attention of Northwestern's office of Equal Opportunity and Access, and no violations were found," he wrote. 

Below is the text of the new letter in full, addressed, as last time, to the dean of the university's journalism school:

March 15, 2018

Bradley J. Hamm
Office of the Dean
The Medill School of Journalism, Media, Integrated Marketing Communications
Northwestern University

cc: Jonathan Holloway
Office of the Provost
Northwestern University

Dear Dean Hamm:

Nineteen more women.

Since our letter to you on February 7, 2018, where 10 of us came forward with accounts of bullying and harassment, 19 new women — Northwestern University students, alumni and staff — have reached out to us with statements about Alec Klein’s behavior.

Disturbing patterns continue to emerge in the allegations:

  • Extended closed door meetings
  • Sexually suggestive comments
  • Talking about his sex life
  • Inappropriate touching
  • Commentary on bodies and appearances
  • Asking about personal lives
  • Requesting hugs in exchange for leaving work early
  • Verbal abuse
  • Hostile, discriminatory work environment

Several of these women have chosen to participate in Northwestern’s ongoing investigation of Alec Klein. But others are too afraid to speak out further.

Their voices should still be heard. Collectively, the women quoted below have decided to share portions of their unaltered messages to us, and where noted, their diary entries:

“I thought I was the only one. I thought there was something wrong with me, because the way he acted made me feel so horribly uncomfortable...that I just needed to toughen up and brush it off. When I stopped working for him, I accepted the futility of pursuing a journalism career. For three years I was afraid even to enter Fisk, to speak with other professors about recommendations or finding a new advisor, terrified I might run into Alec. I skipped Medill’s graduation ceremony so I wouldn’t have to see him.”

“He gave unwanted neck and shoulder massages while I tried to work at that table. While I worked, he would pace and wax poetic about his sex life, and complain about his wife in ways that made me feel like crying. He would tell me very personal things about her. I remember feeling this terrible empathy, like I couldn’t believe another woman out there was being treated this way, and wondering if she had anyone to tell. That is, in many ways, the most painful part: the knowing about other women who are hurt, but not knowing them. Even worse is knowing she may have been in the dark about him.”

(From one woman’s 2013 diary entries describing her interactions with Klein at a university event and a lunch):
“One thing was really weird tonight, though, and that was that it almost seemed like Alec Klein was hitting on me. Maybe ‘hitting on me’ is the wrong term, but it definitely seemed like he was trying to cozy up to me with a definite goal in mind, and he showered me with compliments all night long.”

“When he first saw me, he said that I looked great, and that he thought I should dress up every day. He told me that I looked like I should be at the Academy Awards accepting an Oscar.”

“Multiple times, [he] said I was a ‘delicate flower.’ … He told me that I shouldn’t bother with dating college boys. He swept his arm around the room to indicate all of the male students and was like, ‘You see all of them? They’re all ten years behind you.’”

“He asked me whether I’d ever been in love... He asked me about my past relationships, which I also thought was inappropriate... Constantly, throughout our conversation, he said stuff like, ‘Across the board, looking at everything, you are nearly perfect.’ He said I was the kind of girl that guys would keep, and said that he bet there were lots of boys who secretly liked me right now. He asked if I thought I would be good at interpreting their feelings if that were the case.”

(From another woman’s 2015 diary entry describing an extended interview for an internship):
“I am being groomed. How do I know? The special attention, the flattery, the long hours of very personal conversation spent trying to earn my trust. He’s a textbook predator, accomplished and awarded, but with failed relationships due to emotional immaturity, leaving him sexually frustrated. I’m not falling for this.”

“He repeatedly commented on my appearance. Especially my hair and my figure. Once he asked me to “look into his eyes” as he tried to ‘figure out what color they were.’

“I worked as an intern at the Medill Justice Project and while Alec never made a pass at me I remember saying to my mother ‘my new boss acts like he wants to hook up with me’. My colleagues and I wrote off his actions as weird and called him socially awkward. We said it was creepy that he only hired attractive women to work at the MJP and found his quiet demeanor off-putting.”

“I remember Klein would close the door when we were alone in his office. On multiple occasions, he asked me about my boyfriend, who attended a different school. Even at the time I recall feeling uncomfortable. I don't really remember any substantial work ever getting done, even though I was supposed to be helping him on his work projects. He mostly talked and asked me questions, oftentimes, about my personal and social life.

At one point, I told Klein I wanted to pursue a career in broadcast journalism. ‘So what are you going to do about that THAT?’ he said, motioning to my face. When I asked what he meant, he said: ‘Don't you need to be physically attractive to be on TV?’...That conversation crushed me.”

“He verbally abused me over a trivial matter in a meeting he requested that left me in tears nearly a decade ago. At the time, I complained to Medill about Mr. Klein's behavior because I was concerned he would treat other students that way in the future. But Medill took no action."

“He made other unwarranted physical contact, such as grabbing my hand and holding it. Once, while going over a report I had written (which I now strongly suspect was not intended to be used anywhere, just an excuse to have me work in his office), he asked me to sit in his desk chair while he leaned over me and whispered his comments in my ear. I explicitly suggested he could do track changes and we could conference after, but he said this was faster.

When he made edits to written work that directly contradicted things he had told me to do in previous conversations, and I spoke up to ask him why or explain my writing choices, he would repeatedly interrupt me. It offended me so much that when I spoke up to ask him to stop interrupting me and let me finish a sentence, he essentially threw an adult tantrum. There is no other way to describe it. He sent me out of his office, without my coat or belongings, where I waited for 30 minutes. I knocked two separate times during that time, was met with silence, and on my third attempt he opened the door, wordless. I immediately grabbed everything and left.”

“I would see him at dining halls on campus and we would sometimes eat lunch together. It was usually during or after these lunches when he would comment on my body. What ‘great shape’ I was in. Or how nice I looked. Often surveying my body. I distinctly remember what I was wearing (beige sweater, black Under Armour leggings) when he made one of these comments while admiring my legs.”

We urge you, Dean Hamm: Believe these women. As the university concludes its investigation and reports to you its findings, we implore you to hold Alec Klein accountable for his actions.

Medill Me Too

Since the publication of the first letter, a group of Northwestern professors has also issued a public response supportive of the women who have come forward with their stories about Klein.

Before it launched its most recent probe, Northwestern said it had investigated one of the allegations years ago and said it was not substantiated.

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Thursday, March 8, 2018

This International Women's Day female political participation goes beyond pussy hats and ‘Pussy Power’

Posted By on 03.08.18 at 01:31 PM

  • Ashlee Rezin/Sun-Times

There are no major protests or demonstrations in Chicago today on International Women's Day—but that doesn’t mean women are ignoring the push for pay equity, reproductive justice, and gender parity. Instead, more women are getting politically active: they’re planning to vote, become activists, or run for office themselves.

On last year's International Women's Day, the Day Without a Woman protest called for women to walk off their jobs to show the importance of their contributions to the workforce. This year's theme is #PressforProgress, in response to the World Economic Forum’s 2017 Global Gender Gap Report, which predicts it will take 168 years to close the gender gap in four main areas—economics, politics, education, and health—in North America. It’s also a nod towards the growing activism of the #MeToo and #TimesUp era, a reaction to Donald Trump’s presidency, and a follow-up to the Women’s March in January—attended by 300,000 Chicagoans—where the slogan Power to the Polls encouraged women to vote and run for office themselves.

Ambria Taylor, a 30-year-old University of Chicago grad student, says she's noticed a change in many women’s attitudes since 2016.

"In a lot of the spaces I've been in, I used to see a lot of women be more passive and say 'I’m not very political,' but now they’re like, 'Enough of this shit,'" she says. "I think it’s good that we can create a community that it's easier and more comfortable for women to be more politically active."

On the eve of International Women's Day, Taylor took the stage during Russian feminist punk band/protest group Pussy Riot’s show at the Subterranean to talk to an overwhelmingly female audience about the importance of engagement in politics.

"It was great because usually it's a lot of men that come up to our table to talk, but last night was a unique opportunity to talk to women—women can do politics!" says Taylor.

There is evidence that the gender gap is shrinking when it comes to political participation. Since the American National Election Study (ANES) began studying public opinion and election behavior in 1948, men have been more likely than women to say they pay attention to politics all or most of the time. But a 2018 poll of more than 2,000 Americans ages 15-24 sponsored by the Public Religion Research Institute and MTV found that young women expressed higher levels of political and civic engagement than young men.

Republican attorney general candidate Erika Harold says she’s she’s seen more young women wanting to volunteer for her campaign or shadow staffers for a day.

"I absolutely think that the #MeToo movement has galvanized women to recognize that their voices and their stories matter and that being actively involved in the process can make a difference," says Harold. "I think that is reflective to the fact that they're understanding that their stories have power and that they actually have the ability to make changes and make government more responsive to their concerns."

In 2018, women are also running for office in record numbers—overwhelmingly as progressive Democrats. More than 664 women—about 70 percent of them Democrats—are running or are expected to run for state and national offices this year, according to an analysis by the Center for American Women and Politics at Rutgers University. The number of women planning to challenge Democratic incumbents in the U.S. House is up nearly 350 percent from 2016. Since Trump’s election, more than 26,000 women have reached out to Emily’s List, an organization that recruits and trains pro-choice candidates, about the possibility of launching a campaign.

  • Ashlee Rezin/Sun-Times
  • Alma Anaya

Alma Anaya is part of this unprecedented surge of female candidates. The 28-year-old is running to replace Cook County Commissioner Jesus "Chuy" Garcia, who is vacating his seat to run for Congress. Women's issues, she says, are a major part of many candidates' platforms.

"It's something that's now being addressed a little more forward," she continues. "In talking about women’s health, the movement, and making sure that women are presented and that decisions aren't being made without them at the table.

"It’s almost like, 'Hey, listen to our issues. These are the things you need to be running on or else we're going to stick together, and we're going to either vote you out of office or we’re going to be there protesting,' which is amazing."

Sun-Times journalist Tina Sfondeles contributed reporting to this story.

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Thursday, February 8, 2018

Alec Klein, accused of sexual misconduct by former Northwestern students, takes leave of absence

Posted By on 02.08.18 at 04:48 PM


Northwestern University professor and Medill Justice Project director Alec Klein has requested a leave of absence "from all of his positions at Northwestern until the University completes its investigation," according to a statement released by Alan K. Cubbage, vice president for university relations. "The University has agreed that is the appropriate action."

On Wednesday, the Reader first reported that ten former students signed a letter detailing allegations of sexual misconduct against Klein. These ranged from sexually explicit comments to bullying to forced attempts at kissing and unwanted neck massages.

Klein, who has been on the Northwestern faculty since 2008, has since released a statement vowing to take legal action.

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Wednesday, February 7, 2018

Ten women sign letter accusing Northwestern journalism professor Alec Klein of sexual harassment and assault [UPDATED]

Posted By on 02.07.18 at 01:34 PM

Ten former students of Northwestern University professor Alec Klein have issued a public letter accusing the award-winning journalist and Medill Justice Project director of sexual misconduct ranging from inappropriate remarks to unwanted touching. In the letter, addressed to Medill School of Journalism, Media, Integrated Marketing Communications dean Bradley J. Hamm, the women said, "We are writing to tell you that Alec Klein’s time is up. His harassing behavior. His predatory behavior. His controlling, discriminatory, emotionally and verbally abusive behavior has to end."

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Sunday, January 21, 2018

Women's March: The Sequel, or this time we have a destination

Posted By and on 01.21.18 at 03:02 PM

  • Sue Kwong

In a lot of ways the 2018 Women's March was not much different from the 2017 edition. Again the day was sunny and unseasonably warm, and again people poured into Grant Park from all over Chicago and the suburbs. Pussy hats came out of retirement and signs that had been sitting in closets and basements for the past 364 days got a second life. (There were some updates too: shithole hats and signs that referenced #MeToo, Time's Up, girtherism, and the government shutdown.) Once again, the crowd was larger than anticipated—300,000 people this time, 50,000 more than last year—but still peaceful, and once again, we all chanted "What does democracy look like? This is what democracy looks like!"

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Friday, January 19, 2018

From the archive: What we've learned in the year since the last Women's March

Posted By on 01.19.18 at 09:42 AM

At the Chicago Women's March, January 21, 2017 - SUE KWONG
  • Sue Kwong
  • At the Chicago Women's March, January 21, 2017

The Reader's archive is vast and varied, going back to 1971. Every day in Archive Dive, we'll dig through and bring up some finds.

Almost a year ago, on January 21, 250,000 people jammed into Grant Park for the Chicago Women's March. That was approximately five times the anticipated turnout, so the march never actually happened. Instead it turned into a general takeover of the city's streets, from the park west to Clark and from Congress all the way up to the river.

For some of us, the day—which was unseasonably warm with a clear blue sky—was a perfect expression of what America could be, despite Donald Trump's talk of "American carnage" in his inaugural address the day before: we were united, welcoming, and, above all, kind. Others, though, saw cracks in the facade. The public face of feminism, they argued, was still overwhelmingly white, straight, and cisgender. We need to do better.

This year, the national conversation has been full of talk about feminism, gender, and power. Later in the winter, the Reader hosted a discussion about intersectional feminism and how to do it. With the rise of the #MeToo movement, the conversation turned to women's anger and justice and accountability for sexual misconduct.

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