The fifth cohort of the Research Training Internship recently launched Sexism and the City, a website that maps places where sexism has occurred in New York City. In their final presentation at JCC Manhattan, the 16 members of the graduating cohort gave a guided tour of their website, led a short workshop on identifying and defining privilege, and participated in a panel discussion on their experiences in the program.
In creating Sexism and the City, the RTIs sought to demonstrate the magnitude and pervasiveness of experiences of sexism in New York City. The interactive “Sexism Map” feature of their website allows visitors to click on a pinpoint and read someone’s personal account of sexism. The Sexism Map features stories that reference both tiny “ouch” moments and major traumas. The incidents they describe take place in public spaces and on public transportation, in work places and schools, online, inside individuals’ own heads, in progressive political spaces and at a Republican presidential debate. Though the stories cover a wide range of topics, the RTIs noted in their data analysis that there were recurring themes. These included: stories of objectification and sexualization (often in the form of street harassment, a.k.a. catcalling); women and girls feeling silenced, minimized or undermined by men; sexist assumptions about women’s abilities, roles and preferences; and incidents of slut-shaming.
The website features powerful and often unsettling personal accounts, but the overall message is not defeatist. The RTIs also included strategies for combatting sexism. Research participants shared advice that lets site visitors know that they are not alone in the sexism they experience and that it isn’t their fault. Some suggested specific actions to take, whether asking for more compensation at work, reading bell hooks to learn more about the roots of sexism, or getting good at self-reflection so that we can examine and challenge our own internalized sexism. The site also includes a resources section with some of the RTIs’ favorite feminist people, books, magazines, articles, podcasts, support services and activist projects.
In commitment to the concept of intersectionality—the idea that oppressive institutions and aspects of our identities are interconnected and cannot be analyzed in isolation—the RTIs were conscious of the ways that various aspects of their identities shaped participants’ experiences of sexism. Though the sample of research participants includes wide range of race, gender, age, and socioeconomic identities, most identified as white, straight, cisgendered and relatively affluent. The majority of the sample also self-identified as some version of Jewish, providing us with a unique, niche look at Jewish experiences of sexism in New York. In their presentation of the website, RTIs explained that the internship program was a space where they could be both Jewish and feminist and to navigate their relationship between the two identities.
Past RTI cohorts have conducted surveys of Jewish teen girls in New York and Chicago, looked at the ethics of high school community service, girls’ experiences with contemporary bat mitzvah and created videos sexist messages in entertainment media. Their research products show how young women’s voices and contributions can concretely affect their community. The RTI’s also demonstrate how young people are contributing to contemporary feminism and the world of Jewish social justice.