January 25, 2015

The Mask You Live In Premieres At Sundance...



For the past few years I have written several blogs about an up-and-coming grassroots organization that has continually hit it out of the park when it comes to tackling increasingly complex societal issues. Issues that relate to all of us in some way, but sadly are discussions that are flying under the radar.

In 2011, Jennifer Siebel Newsom and her team at The Representation Project released the documentary, Miss Representation. It was a bold and visually explosive film about the massive influence our media is having on our young women and girls. The flick found its way to the elusive Sundance Film Festival where Oprah saw it and ultimately nabbed it for her collection of films on OWN. 

On the heels of its release, Newsom and a slew of highly influential filmmakers were the executive producers of the award winning documentary,The Invisible War.  A film that gained countrywide attention for the egregious failure on the part of the United States military to protect its soldiers from the rampant incidents of sexual assault by fellow soldiers. Much has been reported and written about this ongoing issue, which continues to this day to plague every sector of our armed forces. An issue that remains a talking point among our legislators. Although, thanks to the handful of congressional leaders who continue to tirelessly fight for the rights of our military personnel, I have no doubt the tides will eventually turn. Will it take a female commander-in-chief? This writers thinks so.

You may recall a blog I wrote a little over a year ago about a Kickstarter project in the works for a follow-up film by The Representation Project. Similar to their first message geared toward our young women and girls, the soon to be released The Mask You Live In is directing its attention to our young men and boys. The documentary promises to delve into the issue of masculinity and the pervasive expectations that our society has placed on young men to "man up" at any cost.

On Friday evening The Mask You Live In premiered at Sundance, sparking much conversation and debate about the ubiquitous roles and behaviors that our young men are being encouraged to play as they develop and interact with others. The film will soon make its way to the masses and hopefully discussions will ensue just as they did with MissRepresentation. It will no doubt be a provocative film that hopefully will give our young men a voice at a time when our media and societal expectations intentionally inundate our children with unrealistic norms.

I have attached a short trailer of The Mask You Live In. If you should be interested in sharing this message with your local schools or youth organizations, please contact www.therepresentationproject.org.



January 19, 2015

Best Article Yet On Why We Should All Take Up Yoga...


They call it practicing yoga. Why? Because there is always more to achieve, more to perfect, and the ultimate goal of melding of the mind~body connection. Something that has been known to be the ultimate pathway to health and wellness as we make our way through a culture that is peppered with stimulation, distraction, not to mention technology sources that are flooding our minds round the clock.

For well over a year I have been practicing yoga regularly. It has been one of the best choices I have ever made. Even when traveling with family, I do my best to seek out a local yoga class that will give me an hour to reset the noise in my head and push me physically.

When people find out that I practice yoga, they invariably say, "I'm not flexible. I could never do yoga." Well, I'm not either, which is why it took me a few months to really appreciate what yoga had to offer. It is now such an integral part of my routine that I can't imagine not carving out five hours a week to continue the practice.

The attached article is, in my opinion, one of the best arguments to at least consider a yoga class. Just something to consider if you are feeling restless and in search of a physical activity that will feed your body as well as the soul.

Namaste...



January 12, 2015

Water...



We are well into 2015 so naturally the goal of improved health is on the minds of many. The following video is not rocket science, but it is a good reminder to eat and drink water to ensure that our cells are happy and well~nourished. Also a good recommendation to put down the technology noise that distracts us from achieving restorative balance in our lives.

My final thought goes without saying. Take your makeup off every night and moisturize moisturize moisturize!

Happy 2015 to all!


http://youtu.be/i-23q4SzLC4


January 6, 2015

Two Years Later It's No Better. It's Worse...


Nearly two years ago I wrote a piece on an issue that has sadly found its way back into the media. It detailed the grim discovery of an ugly little secret within the US military. A glaring spotlight illuminating the rampant problem of sexual assault going unchecked and unpunished.

If you missed the original blog, let me bring you up to speed. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta had just lifted a long standing ban on women serving in combat. A controversial issue that had naysayers claiming a small framed woman couldn't possibly handle the physical demands or endure the psychological and emotional pain found on the front lines or behind enemy walls. While the privilege of serving in the military is not one that personally appeals to this writer, thousands of women see it as their destiny. A selfless, courageous, not to mention mentally and physically challenging career representing America in a most profound way. I will forever be humbled by those who enter any branch of the military, especially in our current climate of international discourse.

With rich opportunities being made available to female soldiers, it was also revealed that increasingly high cases of assault within each branch of the military were becoming both commonplace and grossly underreported. 


So, who brought this issue to the public forum? In 2012 the award winning independent film The Invisible War was given to Defense Secretary Panetta and within two days there was a game change in the way that sexual abuse was reported and investigated in the military. The film chronicled the lives of several women and one man, representing thousands more in our military, who have endured sexual assault within their branch. Secretary Panetta vowed to remove the control of each investigation out of the chain of command and into the hands of independent investigators.

In 2012, the statistics were staggering. Some 20% of female veterans were sexually assaulted. Estimates put the numbers at 500,000 women who had been raped while simply trying to serve their country, which correlated to 50 sexual assaults per day. The numbers also put men at a one percent risk of being assaulted, which topped the numbers at 20,000.

Until 2012 each branch historically depended on their own procedures for reporting crimes. Yet upon further investigation it was discovered that intimidation and retaliation from those investigating the allegations made it virtually impossible to receive a fair outcome. Primarily because the investigations were conducted by the military personnel, who were in the direct chain of command of the victim, and often friends or colleagues of the alleged perpetrators. As a result it was estimated that approximately 80% of sexual violations ultimately went unreported. It was not uncommon for victims to be advised of professional admonishments that likely would be attached to their service records if it was later discovered that their statements could not be adequately corroborated. An implication by the powers that be that if you came forward, you would probably end up losing in the end. Essentially, our country's military was systematically perpetuating an environment of fear and intimidation, and in doing so, allowing the unspoken acceptance of criminal behavior from the sexual predators living and working alongside their victims.

Following Secretary Panetta's decision to remove the investigative power out of the direct line of command and instead to an independent facilitator, our country started seeing the embarrassing secrets that had been swept under the proverbial rug. There was no branch of the military immune to the widespread occurrences of sexual assault. It was as prevalent from the lower levels of basic training to the most prestigious post at the Marine Barracks in Washington DC. The same soldiers who protect the White House and its dignitaries. The same soldiers who we proudly see at ceremonial performances.

According to the weak accountability within the military, the Defense Department estimated that until 2012 only eight percent were ultimately prosecuted for their crimes and a mere two percent of those prosecuted received punishment. It was also common practice for the perpetrators or the victims to simply be moved to a new location in an effort to avoid the issue altogether.

So, here is what initially happened. The Defense Department stepped in and started cleaning house. Independent investigations commenced from each branch of the military. Rules were established making public the expectations of soldiers and the new procedures that were put in place to investigate and protect victims of a sexual assault.


We now sit two years later and the verdict is in. Last month the Defense Department released a disappointing statistic, which tops the cases of assault eight percent higher than last year. Still after two years, seven out of ten military victims do not feel that they can report their crimes for fear of retaliation.

Like many I have numerous friends who have served in all branches of the military, and they are among the most honorable and heroic people I have ever had the privilege of knowing. My hope is that this ongoing crisis will not cast a dark cloud on the thousands of men and women who have literally given their lives for our freedom.


If you want to learn more about this issue I highly recommend watching the documentary The Invisible War. If you want to voice your opinion you can always write or call your legislators. Ask what their position is on this issue and what they plan to do to ensure the safety of our military men and women.