Portrait of an Activist: Charlotte Laws

There are many activists I look up to, but just one example is Charlotte Laws, a woman who took on a man known as “the most dangerous man on the internet”.  Charlotte Laws’ daughter had her email hacked and her private pictures were posted on a revenge porn website run by Hunter Moore. Along with the pictures Moore posts the woman’s email, Facebook, addresses, workplaces, and any other information he can find so these women face a barrage of hateful cyber-bullying and can lose their jobs due to the risqué photos posted of them without their permission. One woman was even at risk of losing custody of her children. Over 47% of the women who had their pictures posted had suicidal thoughts and two women have committed suicide due to the harassment they faced. Moore was known as “the most dangerous man on the internet” because he had a large following, many of whom were talented hackers. He also regularly encouraged the victims to commit suicide because he thought the victims were “sluts” who deserved the harassment. When Laws found out about her daughter’s photo she knew very little about revenge porn and the laws surrounding it (there were no laws to protect people from revenge porn, the only one was in New Jersey), but within one week’s time she became an expert on the subject and taught other victims on how to copyright their pictures to get them off the website. Even though Laws had little to no help from law enforcement, the LAPD even blamed the victims for the harassment, but she contacted the FBI and they opened a case. She got help from Mandy, a woman who was also hacked and faced being ostracized from her religious family due to the photos. Together Mandy and Laws contacted thousands of victims across the US to form a support network. Laws was once a private-eye and used those skills to find all she could for the FBI investigation. Mandy and Laws made an alliance with Facebook and PayPal to prevent Moore from connecting victim’s photos to their Facebook accounts and to prevent the site from getting donations. Around the time Laws was in contact with a newspaper to publish a story on Moore and his website, Moore and his followers to attacked Laws, filling her computer with viruses and giving her death threats. A van even started to loiter in the street in front of her house. She then received a call from “Jack,” a man from the organization Anonymous, a powerful group of hackers that take down bullies such as Moore. Anonymous launched a large technological assault on Moore and his website, crashing his servers and publicizing his personal information. Moore stopped his attack on Laws and even though his website was shut down Laws did not stop there. She continued to push for laws that would protect people from other revenge porn websites by meeting with state and federal politicians and testified in favor of a bill in CA to end revenge porn which passed. Laws used her skills as a private-eye and made alliances with many people to fuel her activism and continues today to get a federal bill passed to end revenge porn sites.

Fear and Loathing in Feminist Activism

Before this class, I never would have identified myself as an activist. I never went out and protested or argued in the general public, limiting myself to debating economics and civil rights with friends (I’m great at parties) and the occasional post on social media. However, I am learning that this is a form of activism in itself. While that is good, I would like to further my relationship with activism and commit more fully to making change in the world. My own anxiety and self-consciousness are what hold me back most in these endeavors as I am too scared to put myself out there and try to influence other people. In order to conquer these fears, I need to research my positions well and work with similarly minded people so I will not feel alone or intimidated to have discussions.  Everybody else seems so firmly entrenched in their ideals that any sort of activism feels like flinging mud at a stone wall.  In addition, I have been met with hostility even among my closest friends when bringing up controversial topics like feminism and sexuality.  Although I know awareness about these things has to be raised by someone, I’m not yet convinced I’m the person to do it on a larger scale.

Perhaps my understanding of activism is still flawed.  I still think of activism as protests and debates in the public sphere.  It might be easier and more productive for me to work activism into my music, by trying to bring up more feminist topics in songs I write.  I would probably feel more comfortable with the work if I used a medium I am more familiar with to present the topics, rather than public speaking, which, let’s face it, is pretty scary.  Like, really scary.  If I stick to something I am more familiar with, it could help ease my transition from ally to activist.

Another intimidating factor for me is social media.  Several of my facebook friends constantly post feminist articles to raise awareness, and while I have a great respect for it and enjoy reading them, I do not feel brave enough to post them myself under my own name.  Perhaps working up the courage to post some of these would help me ease my way out of my shell and into the activist community.

Also wordpress is confusing

Not Yet But Not Far

As a Sondheim Public Affairs Scholar I whole-heartedly believe that service is a central piece of activism. Raising awareness and protest are important methods that have a large place in the activist world, but the most effective way to produce immediate, if small, results is to do the work that you want to see be done. In this way, I am an activist. I work with youth in two mediums to perpetuate change; the youth suffering from Emotional and Behavioral Disorders and RICA Baltimore and the inspiring creative minds of Destination Imagination.

At RICA I am fighting illiteracy rates by teaching a failed 7th grader of the Baltimore City school system how to read. High school girls who have been taught that they aren’t smart and don’t matter, girls who have been sucked into a culture of self-harm tendencies, are girls that work with me to understand linear equations and algebra. Through the creative problem solving program Destination Imagination, of which I was a successful participant, I perpetuate the positive cycle of support and creativity that I myself experienced. Individuality and teamwork together are developed, and no mind is paid to gender or race, all children are equal. We are to be the change we want to see in the world, and I want to see these programs flourish.

Recently I read a book that opened my eyes to women’s issues on a global scale. Half the Sky by Nicholas D. Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn is a compelling expose to a whole spectrum of embarrassments to the human race. From the presence of honor killings to the widespread occurrence of human trafficking, anything you think needs to be stopped is happening. But what can I do? These issues compel me beyond all others, yet I see nowhere to start. What impact do I have on policy change and maternal mortality rates abroad? What validity does a middle class white woman such as myself have in a world teeming with cultural and religious influences that do not belong to her? In this way, I am helpless. And overflowing with frustration.

Three years ago I unwittingly read my first true piece of feminist literature. The Body Project by Joan Jacobs Brumberg threw me into an awareness of my body and what it meant to the rest of the world. Society has never approved of women’s bodies, constantly seeking ways to enhance, modify, and twist it into something that it is not. Women and girls today feel that omnipresent pressure. Why do girls in America hate themselves? This is a valid question that needs to be answered, and suffering girls need solutions. As a psychology major, I see my interest in health and activism through a new light: mental health. This “dark side” of society adversely affects women, and an advocate is needed on our side. As a psychiatrist, I would target help to women who need it; those suffering from PTSD, survivors of domestic abuse or other violence and trauma; those suffering from eating disorders; those suffering from anxiety disorders.

We all need to use our strengths and investments in the world around us to change it. The road to activism isn’t treacherous but it is necessary.

“Ain’t I a Woman?” Words of a Woman Feminist and Activist

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Sojourner Truth was an iconic African American activist who used speeches and poems to deliver powerful messages. She was born into slavery and during this era African Americans had no freedom. In her later years she became a Methodist, where she preached about abolishing slavery. Her two main goals were to act against laws of slavery and justify the importance of African American woman. Her very famous and well known speech, ” Ain’t I a woman?” reflects the ideas of feminism where she expresses her intolerance of belittlement by man. Her speech was a successful factor of nation’s mind suffering of belief and turmoil. Her arguments were firm and solid towards the many privileges man have, that women do not have in the government. Through her whole speech her main argument was women and men are equal. She uses an example of Christ born from God and God was born from a woman. She argues that men and women are seen equally even in the heavens. This was her way to justify her beliefs as an African American activist and also an abolitionist.She was fighting against two causes. To some one is bigger then the other, but Truth used a clever way to fight for both aspects through her life and speeches. Her other poem, On Woman’s Dress, speaks about women defying themselves and why their existence is so important on earth and to man kind. Her main argument is a women’s dress defines a woman. Overall, there are many great pioneers and leaders from history who have done many things to influence the stability in society, when such is referred to race. It’s safe to say Sojourner Truth was a strong African American woman and the most important thing was she embraced that fact. 

Knowledge is Power, the Man of Words

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Martin Luther King Jr. was an African American pastor, activist, humanitarian, and leader in the African American Civil Rights Movement. He is one of the greatest activists of all time for his drive and his fight for equal rights for African Americans. He gave African Americans a voice and what made him so special was is approach towards his goals. Due to his Christian beliefs he proceeded towards the advancement of civil rights using nonviolent civil disobedience and actions. He used his words as his weapon and became an inspiration to many to contribute and join the fight for equal rights.

His nonviolent methods should serve as a lesson to African Americans and people around the world. African American men for years have had multiple stereotypes placed on them. The most common stereotype is that black men were seen as dirty, aggressive and violent. King fought this stereotype in the best ways possible. He was a well suited man who carried himself like a true gentlemen and never resorted towards violent actions to achieve his dreams and goals. Even today African American men make up a large portion of the men who are currently behind bars due to violent acts or crimes committed. The messages and the foundation that King set for the future generation has nearly been forgotten as crime rates and the self degrading actions of African American men continue to increase. King has proved that improvement and change can come from nonviolent acts and movements. He worked to prove society wrong as African American men should still try to accomplish because these stereotypes that are placed on them need to change.

If You Push A Panther Into A Corner

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The Black Power movement of the 1960s is marked as one of the extraordinary pillars in the History of the United States. Decades of social norms were reformed and through this movement many brave activists were created and are now idolized for their bravery and some for their radicalism. The Black power movement gave birth the Huey P. Newton’s Black Panthers.

Huey P. Newton, a man born to a poor family during the climax of African American migration to the mid west/west, received poor education as well as discriminated because of the color of his skin. He educated himself after High school and taught himself to read. In the mid-1960s, Newton sought an education at Merritt College and that is where he met Bobby Seale. The both of them joined forced and founded their own political group called the Black Panther Party for Self Defense.

This type of group was very unique for its time because “unlike many of the other social and political organizers of the time, they took a militant stance, advocating the ownership of guns by African Americans, and were often seen brandishing weapons”(The Biography Channel, 2014) .

Huey P. Newton advocated activism in his actions and ideology, especially around that time where African Americans were beaten and mistreated. Newton comes from a poor background and gathers a group of people and seeks change. During that time for an African American to seek change and to attack violence and hostility in kind was an unprecedented event.  “The group believed that violence—or the threat of violence—might be needed to bring about social change. They set forth their political goals in a document called the Ten-Point Program, which included better housing, jobs, and education for African Americans. It also called for an end to economic exploitation of black communities. Still the organization itself was not afraid to punctuate its message with a show of force. For example, to protest a gun bill in 1967, Newton and other members of the Panthers entered the California Legislature fully armed. The action was a shocking one that made news across the country. And Newton emerged as a leading figure in the black militant movement”(The Biography Channel, 2014) . This activist led his group to not only influence change for them but he contended for worldwide change. He pushed for better education, housing and jobs for African Americans everywhere.

The time period was crucial for everyone who was African American. Clawing for any iota of equality.  A lot of people were attacked . Even today pictures of a bloody beating and lynching roam the internet and some people took a peaceful pacifistic approach to attacks but that Huey Newton and Bobby Seal gathered together and tried to get the people armed and aware. That ability to “rally the troops” for a cause that affects so many and will be precedented in time is amazing to me. That is truly what makes Huey Newton a great activist.