FEMINIST FRIDAY: Mariska Hargitay’s ‘I Am Evidence’ Docu Tackles The Rape Kit Backlog Problem

Welcome to another edition of Feminist Friday, our first for 2018! Last year was a tumultuous time politically and socially, but we are determined to start our 2018 with a vision to step up the activism and awareness. With a number of powerful people-driven, grassroots movements that disrupted the mainstream over the past 12 months, including the Women’s March, the #MeToo conversations, and the way everyday people incessantly called their representatives to stop a disastrous healthcare bill from being voted in by US Congress, we are more motivated than ever to keep this type of action going.

We’re starting out this week’s column with a clip from the forthcoming documentary by actress & producer Mariska Hargitay called ‘I Am Evidence’, tackling the rape kit backlog issue. From her role as the iconic Olivia Benson on ‘Law & Order: SVU’, Mariska has been receiving letters from fans about real life sexual assault survivors, so she launched her Joyful Hearts Foundation. The more she learned about how big the rape kit backlog was across America, this became the focus of the organization.

In an interview with The Hollywood Reporter about the documentary, Mariska said the fact that hundreds of thousands of rape kits go untested is a great indication of how we regard these crimes against women in our society and ultimately how we regard women.

“When I found out about the rape kit backlog, I was so incredibly outraged…This vast, ignored stockpile of evidence from violent crimes committed predominantly against women — it exists because of this victim-blaming attitude that’s so pervasive in our society. It’s just not a small group of people making bad decisions; it’s so deeply engrained and entrenched in our thinking. What was she wearing? Why was she out so late? You can hear from the men in the film that it’s almost normal and acceptable. We have to change it on a systemic level because these attitudes have obviously devastating consequences,” she said.

You can learn more about the rape kit backlog issue on the film’s website, and watch the full documentary on HBO.

The second video comes from VICE’s HBO series, featuring a mountaineer duo who traveled across the world to empower young women in Afghanistan. Emelie Sternberg and Cecelia Mortenson are guides with an organization called Revelstoke, who led an expedition in the rugged mountains of the Panshir Valley.

They took a group of young women from Kabul on the pioneering expedition, a first for an all-female team from Afghanistan. As Revelstoke describes, “This is a story of overcoming huge barriers, both physical and cultural, in a country where women’s rights rank near the very bottom compared to other countries.”

We love women who use their passions and skills to empower other women and girls, and Emelie and Cecelia show us the kind of impact you can make when you choose to do this.

Our final video this week comes from ‘The Daily Show’ correspondents Dulcé Sloan and Desi Lydic who performed the following brilliant song during the show’s televised farewell party at New York’s Gramercy Theater in 2017. The full show featured all of your fave personalities taking on all things Trump and politics (naturally), but it was Dulce and Desi’s piece, titled ‘Song For Women 2017 (Feat. DJ Mansplain)’ that brought home the night for us.

It is the perfect way to wave goodbye to the year that was 2017 while also hi-fiving each other about the badass achievements and moments created by women. Although there were some very terrible moments for women in 2017, including the rollback of Obamacare’s birth control mandate, the lyrics remind us there were also many things to celebrate and stay motivated for another year of activism.

“Started this year hand in hand/To show that pussy-grabber with the terrible tan”, go the lyrics, alluding to the Women’s March, and the infamous name Trump became known for after the hot mic incident in the ‘Access Hollywood’ tape. From Beyoncé to Elizabeth Warren (“nevertheless, she persisted), #MeToo activists Tarana Burke and Rose McGowan, ‘Wonder Woman’ and its director Patty Jenkins, and greater conversations about intersectional feminism, this video will certainly put you in a good mood.

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