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    Girls Who Run the World at London ComicCon 2018

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    Geek culture has a rocky history with women. But now, women are rocking geek culture. Historically, women have faced invisibility (not the superpowered kind), exclusion, active hostility, violence, and sexualisation.

    This is across video games (the communities surrounding video games), films, TV, and comic books – from sci-fi, superhero and fantasy genres. Geek culture does not ‘cause’ gender inequality. However, it does facilitate and shut down particular attitudes.

    The stories we tell teach us who is important – and who is not. And now, women are taking charge of their own stories.

    MCM London Comic Con

    Orange is the New Black stars Tiffany Doggett (Taryn Manning) and Flaca Gonzalez (Jackie Cruz) spoke about the importance of centering women’s stories, particularly untold stories. The hit Netflix series focuses on a women’s prison, and the actors admitted that they have learned a lot about the conditions faced by incarcerated women during the filming process. There is also space to unpick gendered issues around race and class. “If you don’t see it, create it”, Jackie added, speaking of her extracurricular endeavours with music production.

    Then, there were the wrestlers.

    EVE  is a self-described “ground-breaking feminist-punk-rock wrestling promotion”: a pro wrestling group for women. ComicCon hosted a debut screening of Empowered, a documentary by Lea Winchcombe showcasing Rhia O’Reilly and Candy Floss. Unashamedly feminist and political, the documentary considers the challenges of being a female wrestler (stereotypes, naysayers and balancing home life), with the buzz of parading around the ring being “glamourous and outrageous”.

    On being a role model for her daughter and others, EVE founder Emily Read laughed, “I am the hero, I am the strong one”.  They have opened up wrestling classes for women which build their confidence and self-esteem (irrespective of being novice, casual, professional or old hat). “Women have a place, women have a voice, and women kick ass!” she concluded. The author of this article may very well have shed a tear.

    On a less physically exerting note, geek writer/actor/creator Felicia Day happily spoke about her work and creative projects alongside motherhood and her hair. Many members of the audience seemed to share with Felicia the same heartfelt and almost tangible importance of having a female role model within the industry to look up to. Felicia humbly acknowledged the praise and assured us that female representation in geek culture is changing. This was a repeated message at this year’s ComicCon – and a very believable one.

    Photo Credit: GoGCast 156: Interview with Patricia Summersett and Victoria Atkin | Girls on Games

    Voice actors from Pokemon, South Park (yes, April Stewart confirmed that Wendy is very well received by female fans) and Assassin’s Creed participated in discussions about their gender (of course, only as one element of the colorful spectrum of conversations).

    Victoria Atkin and Patricia Summersett of the Assassin’s Creed games spoke about how “challenging” things can be in the industry – particularly to find female characters that aren’t one of the two common tropes of  “sexualised” or “butch”, but “somewhere in the middle”. They discussed wanting to be role models for women in a world where there can be little representation, with a standard gender ratio which appears to “almost compensate for having a female lead”. (Yes, Guardians of the Galaxy and Justice League, I’m looking at you – the good old ‘one woman in a group of four or five men’ trick).

    Victoria and Patricia positively, and somewhat bravely considering how women can be treated for speaking up, critiqued their industry to a somewhat male-heavy press audience. These women want to be, and indeed, they are, changemakers – whilst acknowledging the hopeful message that, already, “It is changing”.

    Away from the interview room in Comic Village, there was a whole host of women proudly showcasing their own work. This included everything from personal stories about one’s cat (and other pets), adventure tales, tea and romance, magic, fairies and fantasy, space and Japan. Worth a special mention in this mix was the interweaving of gender, sexuality, and race in the creations. Sexuality we may consider another time.

    Olivia Duchess showcased a stall solely dedicated to beautiful, tender artwork of Black girls and women. Having been drawing since 2015, Olivia explained that “When I was growing up, I didn’t anyone who looked like me… I didn’t see a lot of Black characters,” (Susie Carmichael from Rugrats got a special mention). She continued, with a modest shrug, “I’m trying to be the change I want to see”, as though unaware of her brilliance.

    The interplay of gender and race was also witnessed in other ways – for example, Letitia Wright (Princess Shuri from Black Panther), discussed the importance of  Black female presence in her film, not least the range of “strong female characters”. She agreed with an audience member, “The women were an amazing entity”, before going on to talk about the value of a “Disney Princess with cornrows”.

    There was a woman so overwhelmed with emotion at meeting the badass Black Panther science princess, Letitia Wright, that she was trembling with joy. After a quick photo, she took my hand intently, asking: “Do you understand? Do you understand what this means for Black people?”

    Her face was full of magic and the power of visibility. I don’t know how one heart held so much in a moment.

    This theme was repeated by IvyDoomKitty in her panel on mental health with Janina Scarlett. She spoke about how she had never thought the representation of women was important in geek culture until she saw it. Before then, she was satisfied with the norm of the male superhero. Then she saw DC’s Wonder Woman: an unfurling, a stirring. A hunger revealed. As Dr. Scarlett said, in her discussion about seeing oneself in these stories, “equality sends a very powerful message that everyone is equal and everyone matters”.

    I felt it too, this ComicCon. A sense of … something, resonating, muscular and powerful, yet somehow delicate and bright. The kind of visceral sensation that glows in your belly and makes you grab a stranger’s hand and ask them:

    Do you understand?

    ComicCon, I think you did understand. You gave women – all kinds of women – space, made us central and elevated our power.

    Superwomen are here to stay. See you next year!

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    Chey is a mental health worker from the north of England. She currently works with adults with learning disabilities. Her interests include gender, sexual and racial equality, human rights, social inclusion, older citizens, mental health and wellbeing, poverty and disability rights. She has participated in a range of charity and/or fundraising projects over the years, and looks forward to your ideas for the next one!

    Employment

    Participant Launches Partnership Campaign to Support Domestic Workers Amid Covid-19 Crisis

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    Image owned by the National Domestic Workers Alliance

    Participant, the leading media company dedicated to entertainment that inspires audiences to engage in positive social change, launched the Care For The People Who Care For You campaign in partnership with the National Domestic Workers Alliance (NDWA) to galvanize support for domestic workers amid the novel coronavirus crisis. The digital initiative centers around a video, produced by Participant’s digital content studio, SoulPancake, to highlight the impact the COVID-19 crisis has had on domestic workers, of whom 7 out of 10 have lost 100% of their income because of the crisis, and seeks to educate employers on how to best support them.

    The video depicts the acute challenges that the pandemic has placed on domestic workers, who typically do not receive benefits like sick leave and thus far have been excluded from much of the government assistance packages. Told from the perspective of a domestic worker navigating health and financial concerns, the goal of the video is to educate and encourage employers to support those employees who care for them every day.

    Over the course of the Care For The People Who Care For You campaign, Participant will direct employers to the NDWA’s Employer Resource Hub, which outlines a range of steps one can take to offer both emotional and financial support, from calling and checking in to paying for cancelled services. Additionally, viewers can donate to NDWA’s Coronavirus Care Fund, a fund that will offer immediate emergency assistance for domestic workers facing hardship as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. Proceeds from the fund will be administered through ALIA, NDWA’s online benefits platform which allows employers to offer domestic workers a range of benefits they otherwise would not have access to, such as paid time off and sick leave.

    “We’re delighted to partner once again with Participant to bring attention to domestic workers in this time of crisis,” said Ai-jen Poo, executive director of the National Domestic Workers Alliance. “Nannies, house cleaners, and home care workers across the country are facing tremendous challenges during this pandemic, from risking their health while working jobs on the frontline to losing income they need to support their own families. We urge employers to show care for those who have cared for them and their families.” 

    “During this uncertain time, it is critical to highlight the needs of and support the communities who are most impacted,” said David Linde, CEO of Participant. “We’re proud to continue our partnership with Ai-jen Poo and the entire team at the National Domestic Workers Alliance to bring awareness and for those who care for us and our families.”

    The new initiative is a continuation of Participant’s Roma social impact campaign, which launched alongside the Academy Award®-winning film ROMA,  to increase the visibility and value of domestic workers in popular culture and accelerate solutions to support their economic security. The new video is a reimagination of the initial spot SoulPancake created for NDWA, which promoted their online platform, ALIA, as a solution for providing domestic workers with benefits. The video, which received over 1.7 million views, generated a 98 percent increase in page views and a 905 percent increase in users on myalia.org.

    For more information on how to support this campaign, please visit here to learn more.

    About Participant

    Founded by Chairman Jeff Skoll and under the leadership of CEO David Linde, Participant combines the power of a good story well told with real world impact and awareness around today’s most vital issues. Through its worldwide network of traditional and digital distribution, aligned with partnerships with key non-profit and NGO organizations, Participant speaks directly to the rise of today’s “conscious consumer,” representing well over 2 billion consumers compelled to make meaningful content a priority focus.

    As an industry content leader, Participant annually produces up to six narrative feature films, five documentary films, three episodic television series, and more than 30 hours of digital short form programming, through its digital subsidiary SoulPancake. Participant’s more than 100 films have collectively earned 74 Academy Award® nominations and 19 wins, including Best Picture for Spotlight and Green Book and Best Foreign Language Film for Roma and A Fantastic Woman. Participant’s digital division, SoulPancake, is an award-winning provider of thought-provoking, joyful, and uplifting content that reaches an audience of more than 9 million fans.

    About National Domestic Workers Alliance

    National Domestic Workers Alliance (NDWA) is the leading voice for dignity and fairness for millions of domestic workers in the United States. Founded in 2007, NDWA works for respect, recognition and inclusion in labor protections for domestic workers, the majority of whom are immigrants and women of color. NDWA is powered by 70 local affiliate organizations and chapters and by a growing membership of nannies, house cleaners and care workers across the nation. NDWA is home to Alia, an online platform to help domestic workers access benefits, and in 2019, launched a campaign to pass the National Domestic Workers Bill of Rights, federal legislation sponsored by Senator Kamala Harris and Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal.

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    Culture

    How Being Kind to Others Make You Feel Better

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    You know that being kind to others is good for the recipient (obviously), but did you know that it’s also good for the giver, too? Yep, that’s right. Being kind to others will improve your mental, emotional and physical well-being. Here are six reasons that being kind to others makes you feel better, plus ideas for acts of kindness:

    It boosts your positive emotions.

    Being kind to others releases feel-good hormones like dopamine. Part of the brain’s reward system, these hormones make us feel happy and satisfied and are associated with pleasurable activities such as sex and eating good food. It also makes you more alert, focused and motivated, so being nice to a coworker could be the boost that you need to make it through a tough day at work.

    It lowers your stress levels.

    Helping others can create an emotional buffer that protects you from stressful events. One study of 77 adults found that those who reported higher-than-normal helping behaviors showed no dips in positive emotion or mental health, and they had lower increases in negative emotion in response to high daily stress. This is probably tied to the release of dopamine as well as the social connections that being kind creates.

    It helps you build relationships.

    Humans follow a behavior pattern called the norm of reciprocity, whereby we tend to reciprocate similar actions. If someone is kind to us, we’re inclined to be kind back—but if they’re mean, we’ll act in a similarly snippy way. Of course, no one follows the norm of reciprocity in all interactions, but being kind to others does increase the chances that they’ll be kind to you in return. Since it’s pretty hard to build a relationship on trading insults, this helps you shore up your friendships and acquaintances.

    It reduces anxiety and depression.

    Both the release of dopamine and building social connections have been shown to reduce or prevent signs of mental illness like depression and anxiety. Stress can be another trigger for these conditions, especially anxiety, so being kind helps to address them from another angle, too. While being kind to others is no substitute for going to therapy or taking necessary medications, it can be another tool in your toolbox to manage depression and anxiety.

    It can improve your physical health.

    Being kind isn’t just good for you physically and mentally. It’s also good for your body. In one study, writing small notes of affection to loved ones was found to lower levels of “bad” cholesterol in college students. Other research has indicated that people who devote more time to meaningfully helping others have less inflammation. Not only that, their immune system is also better able to fight off infections. Who knows? Maybe being kind to your coworkers will help you ward off that office cold!

    It creates a positive feedback loop.

    Being kind to others doesn’t just make both them and you feel good. Thanks to the norm of reciprocity, it also makes them more likely to be kind to you back, which makes you more likely to be kind to them again–and on and on in a cycle of positivity. Your act of kindness may have positive ripple effects that you can’t even conceive of.

    At this point, you’re probably wondering about different ways to be kind to others. Here are some of our favorite ideas:

    • Volunteering. Find a charitable organization that champions a cause that means a lot to you and offer to donate your time to them. Even if you’ve never volunteered before, it doesn’t take a lot of skill to hand out meals at a soup kitchen or clear trash from the local river. If you do have more professional talents you’d like to put to use, you can offer to provide them pro bono. Many nonprofits often need help in business areas such as finance and marketing.
    • Give gifts. A small gift such as a scented candle or a potted plant can really make someone’s day. The gift doesn’t have to be expensive, just thoughtful. For example, give someone who loves books a candle that smells like a library. You can also make them something by hand, or simply drop a card in the mail with a heartfelt note. 
    • Do extra chores. Almost nobody likes doing chores, so your family, friends and coworkers are sure to appreciate it when you take care of their tasks for them. Even if it’s not your turn, offer to do the dishes, take out the trash and recycling, vacuum the floors, clean out the fridge, mow the lawn or whatever needs to be done. Or better yet, don’t tell them you’re going to do it so they get a nice surprise.
    • Offer emotional support. Sometimes what your loved one needs the most is a listening ear as they vent or cry. Do your best to listen attentively to them without interrupting. Offer validation when appropriate, but otherwise just let them talk instead of butting in with advice or a relevant anecdote from your life. Your loved one probably needs to emotionally process things before they can receive that kind of information.
    • Express yourself. On the flipside, sometimes we don’t communicate our love and appreciation for people enough. You know in your head that you’re thankful for your friends helping you move. But did you actually tell them? It’s very easy to say “thank you” or compliment someone, and it will mean a lot to them–so do it!
    • Donate money. Of course, donating to a charitable cause or nonprofit organization is a great way to be kind. However, you don’t have to be so formal about it. For instance, you can send money via Patreon to an artist whose work you admire, or Venmo a friend who needs a little cash to tide them over until their first paycheck arrives.

    Helping others will make you and others feel better–a win-win situation. If you’re feeling down, try being kind to your coworkers or helping out a friend, and odds are that it will help cheer you up as well.

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    Culture

    Good Mental Health Equals a Happy Marriage

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    Happily married couples enjoy better mental health status, according to researchers.  They fall sick less often, have fewer instances of depression and anxiety, and suffer less from loneliness and feelings of solitude.  A recent study in Sweden shows that mentally healthy married couples are less likely to get pneumonia, undergo surgeries, develop cancer or have heart attacks. It makes sense that the joy that is part of being part of a happy couple translates to mental and physical well-being.

    What are some of the benefits to a marriage in which affects partners in possessing good mental health?

    Security.  Mentally healthy people provide each other with a sense of security.  They don’t have to wonder if the person they are coming home to will be “up” or “down” or worry about leaving the children in their care.  They are free from the worry that their partner is secretly unhappy or hiding some big secret.  They don’t have the situation where one person plays the role of the parent, and the other one of a child.  It is truly a marriage of healthy equals.

    Mutual support.  With two mentally healthy people, there is a built-in support system.  Each is invested in helping the other reach their goals, whether they are personal or professional.  Need someone to listen to a business pitch you’ll be presenting tomorrow?  Your partner is there.  Looking for a running partner?  Your spouse, may be eager to join you. Happy, stable people do not mind when their partners seek to improve themselves and are happy to be part of their transformations.  There is no jealousy or sense of competition.

    Witnessing life’s events together.  Mentally healthy people embrace their roles as witnesses to each other’s lives.  They are there for each other as they go through the inevitable life stages with all the joy and challenges these stages can bring.  They accompany each other to life celebrations as well as doctors’ appointments and hospital procedures.  What a gift it is to know that “in sickness and in health” is not an idle phrase.

    Goal-setting and accomplishing.  Mentally-sound couples have a higher chance of accomplishing a goal together, as they are excellent at collaborating.  They enjoy shared activities because they know that doing things together promotes a stronger relationship.

    Eating together.  Mentally-healthy couples love to come together at mealtimes, as they provide an opportunity to share both food and conversation.  Additionally, they enjoy grocery shopping together, and deciding what the meal plan will look like.  This generally leads to healthier home menus.

    Physical health mindfulness.  These couples seek to maintain and sustain good physical health, integrating new knowledge about wellness and urging each other in health-related activities.

    Encouragement and Praise vs. Criticism and Nagging. Happy couples use encouragement and praise as communication tools rather than criticism and nagging their partner to do something.

    Respect and Fairness. Both partners share the workload at home and there are no gender roles.  Both partners respect the work each contributes to keep the home happy and balanced.  They remember to express thanks and gratitude to each other.

    There’s an understanding of each other’s love language.  Mentally sound couples understand where the other person is coming from. They understand how each expresses love. They do not seek to teach the other the “best” way to love.  Rather, they learn and appreciate each other’s unique style.  Whether it is physical touch, verbal affirmations, gifts, notes, surprises or just doing the dishes when it isn’t “their turn”, there is an understanding of each other’s manner of demonstrating their feelings.

    Better sex, even into the golden years.  Happy, mentally stable couples have better sex.  These couples use good communication skills which help them keep their intimate lives active and evolving.  They do not use sex as a weapon, withholding it to punish or hurt a partner.  (They talk things out so issues don’t carry over to the bedroom.)

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