In Germany, the Role of Family in Recruiting Members into Neo-Nazi Groups

This is the third installment in the #HealingFromHate blog series. Stay tuned for future blog posts in the series. And follow along on Twitter, #HealingFromHate.

In Germany, members of violent extremist groups are more often than not recruited when their family ties are severed in some way, causing young German men to find a sense of family elsewhere. In Healing from Hate: How Young Men Get Into—and Out of—Violent Extremism, Michael Kimmel, a leading expert on men and masculinities, shares how this occurs:

Since 2001, EXIT Deutschland has handled nearly five hundred cases of young skinheads and neo-Nazis who wanted to jump. Four out of every five were male, the average age was about twenty-six, and virtually all fell within the twenty-five–to–thirty-five range. These are not the post-adolescent Swedes or the long-committed ideologues in the United States [described in chapters 3 and 4 of the book].

Typically, the German youth engage while young, through recruitment either from the streets or, more often, in prisons. German prisons are teeming with immigrants, mostly Turks, and so an apolitical white prisoner soon finds “his people” among some of the harder-core Aryans. The young men enter the movement without much in the way of ideology, but they like the scene, connect to the music, and love the community and camaraderie they experience, especially after being loners for so long. From within the prisons, ironically, they feel for the first time that someone has their back. Many are unemployed, and those who have jobs are wage laborers or craft workers. Bernd Wenger [former East German police officer and founder of EXIT Deutschland] gave me a bit of a profile of them.

To begin with, he was quite certain that all of them had a “break” with their families in some way prior to their drifting into the neo-Nazi scene. Their parents were divorced or they grew up in foster care. Some were abused, one or two sexually. Some knew their sisters were being abused and felt powerless to help. “It’s not so much the abuse, or the broken home. It’s that feeling of injustice being allowed to exist, and that feeling that they are powerless to stop it. They all have felt that powerlessness—and they are absolutely determined never to feel it again.”

That observation, of course, matched my observations of every group I examine in this book. The experience of isolation, of emasculation and humiliation at having been abused or ignored or raped—these feelings compromise one’s sense of self, thus posing a core existential threat, and also, not coincidentally, compromise one’s sense of self as a man, capable of acting with power, autonomy, and purpose. Something essential has been stolen  and some of these guys seek an outlet for it on the streets. Of course, as I’ve said, it is not the case that all abused, ignored, or bullied young boys become neo-Nazi terrorists. There are many other paths that they can and do take. But the fact that virtually all those who drift into extremist politics come from such a background ought to suggest that we pay attention to these family variables.

Especially when those family variables parallel their political observations of society. Their fathers may have lost jobs, had to close the family store, or had the family farm taken away, and such losses often correspond with their observations that society is sinking into a degenerative state of decline and despair. “Almost every one speaks of the atomization of society, which they fear,” Wenger explains. “They want stronger institutions, stronger structures to act as a barrier to this general cultural decline.” They want a wall. They may have been happy to see the Berlin Wall come down, but they surely wouldn’t mind a new one, between “us” and “them.”

EXIT hopes to recommend alternatives to the “family” ties created with the Neo-Nazi groups:

EXIT tries to offer an alternative to that—not an alternative ideology, but an alternative experience. The opportunity to build a community of brothers (and sisters) committed to one another—and committed to staying out of the movement. Committed to helping these guys find ways to feel more masculine by helping them find steady jobs, thereby developing a sense of economic efficacy. Committed to helping them build a masculine identity anchored in their communities and in healthy relationships.

Read the first chapter of Healing from Hate. And see what others are saying about the book.

Inspiring Gender Parity on International Women’s Day

In recognition of International Women’s Day, we celebrate the economic, social, and political accomplishments of women worldwide. From the #metoo movement to the protection of reproductive health to the tireless work of activists, below are just some of our titles that inspire the ongoing work of accomplishing gender parity.

Race Women Internationalists: Activist-Intellectuals and Global Freedom Struggles (Forthcoming June 2018; preorder today)
By Imaobong D. Umoren

Race Women Internationalists explores how a group of Caribbean and African American women in the early and mid-twentieth century traveled the world to fight colonialism, fascism, sexism, and racism. Bringing together the entangled lives of three notable but overlooked women: Eslanda Robeson, Paulette Nardal, and Una Marson, it explores how, between the 1920s and the 1960s, the trio participated in global freedom struggles by traveling; building networks in feminist, student, black-led, anticolonial, and antifascist organizations; and forging alliances with key leaders to challenge various forms of inequality facing people of African descent across the diaspora and the continent.




The Next American Revolution: Sustainable Activism for the Twenty-First Century, Updated and Expanded Edition 
By Grace Lee Boggs with Scott Kurashige

A vibrant, inspirational force, Grace Lee Boggs was a tireless activist for feminism, Black Power, civil rights, environmental justice, and workers’ rights. She was a recipient of many human rights and lifetime achievement awards, including a place in the National Women’s Hall of Fame, and remained a crusader for social justice right up to her 100th year. In this expanded edition of The Next American Revolution, Boggs drew from seven decades of activist experience to redefine “revolution” for our times. In her shrewd assessment of the modern political, economical, and environmental crisis, she shows how to create the radical social change we need to confront new realities. Hers is an enduring manifesto for creating alternative modes of work, politics, and human interaction that will continue to constitute the next American Revolution for years to come.


The Gender Effect: Capitalism, Feminism, and the Corporate Politics of Development
By Kathryn Moeller

Using the Girl Effect, the philanthropic brand of Nike, Inc., as a central case study, the book examines how these corporations seek to address the problems of gendered poverty and inequality, yet do so using an instrumental logic that shifts the burden of development onto girls and women without transforming the structural conditions that produce poverty. These practices, in turn, enable corporations to expand their legitimacy, authority, and reach while sidestepping contradictions in their business practices that often exacerbate conditions of vulnerability for girls and women. With a keen eye towards justice, author Kathryn Moeller concludes that these corporatized development practices de-politicize girls’ and women’s demands for fair labor practices and a just global economy.


Reproductive Justice: An Introduction
By Loretta Ross and Rickie Solinger

Legendary scholar-activists Loretta J. Ross and Rickie Solinger put the lives and lived experience of women of color at the center of the book and use a human rights analysis to show how the discussion around reproductive justice differs significantly from the pro-choice/anti-abortion debates that have long dominated the headlines and mainstream political conflict. Arguing that reproductive justice is a political movement of reproductive rights and social justice, the authors illuminate, for example, the complex web of structural obstacles a low-income, physically disabled woman living in West Texas faces as she contemplates her sexual and reproductive intentions. In a period in which women’s reproductive lives are imperiled, Reproductive Justice provides an essential guide to understanding and mobilizing around women’s human rights in the twenty-first century.

And read our Herstory blog series.

Being a “Real Man”

This is the second installment in the #HealingFromHate blog series. Stay tuned for future blog posts in the series. And follow along on Twitter, #HealingFromHate.

“Who are these young men? What draws them to violent extremism? What are the ideologies that inspire them, the psychological predispositions that lead some and not others to sign up? What emotional bonds are forged and sustained through membership in violent extremist groups?”

—Michael Kimmel in Healing from Hate: How Young Men Get Into—and Out of—Violent Extremism

Looking at the world today, violent extremist groups, white nationalism, and mass and school shootings seem to have an element in common that is obviously seen but inadvertently overlooked—the role of gender expectations, and specifically masculinity.

Why are most members of violent extremist groups men rather than women? Why is it mainly men that are apparent perpetrators of mass shootings?

In Michael Kimmel’s new book, Healing from Hate: How Young Men Get Into—and Out of—Violent Extremismhe shares what he learned from members of extremist groups, in this case the extreme right:

I heard them express their distress that the respect and obedience they felt was theirs by birthright actually had been upended, leaving them both bereft and enraged. I saw how they felt emasculated—humiliated as men—by preparing to be breadwinners, family providers, in a world that no longer seemed to need the skills they possessed. I explored how they used gender, in particular masculinity, to “problematize” the Other, to claim that racial or ethnic or religious sexual minorities were not worthy of the rewards they were now reaping, because “they” were not “real men.” And I saw how the organizations on the extreme right used masculinity to manipulate these guys’ pain and despair into white supremacist and neo-Nazi hatred as a way to “take their manhood back.” Was there a way to reach them, to help them get out of such a downward spiral?

It turns out that it was already happening. I began hearing about projects to help neo-Nazi skinheads, white nationalists, Islamist jihadists, and others get out of the movements they’d joined. It was the former members themselves who were doing it, one skinhead at a time, providing the support they needed—material and emotional—to break with a movement that had no future. And they were doing it precisely by addressing what the active members believed they were getting out of their participation. The world of “formers” was a world of building an alternative community, of offering solidarity, friendship, camaraderie, and compassion. Sometimes these formers offered material support, such as safe houses, job training, or job placement. Sometimes they just offered support without judgment, since so many guys feel tremendous shame about what they did while they were in the movement. (In fact, as I came to understand, some guys stay in the movement just because they cannot face the shame of honestly confronting their pasts.)

As I watched groups like EXIT in Stockholm, listened to a leader from Life After Hate recount his story to a throng of entranced Yeshiva students in Brooklyn, or learned how an anti-jihadist imam sits for hours, days even, with young jihadists, I began to see that what they offered these guys getting out was an alternative grounding for their identity, a way to feel like a man without the violence and hatred on which their sense of masculine identity had come to depend.

Being a “real man” may have nothing to do with violence but more to do with supporting one another. Read the first chapter of Healing from Hate. And see what others are saying about the book.

Read the first installment of the #HealingFromHate blog series regarding The President and the Populace: On Gender and Violent Extremism

Achieving the Afrofuturist Vision of Chocolate Cities

“We didn’t get our forty acres and a mule, but we got you, C[hocolate] C[ity]!”— George Clinton on the title track of Parliament Funkadelic’s 1975 Chocolate City album

Black History Month provides an opportunity to reflect on the numerous events, social movements, and figures that have spurned societal change.

It also allows us to consider how far U.S. society has genuinely come in reflecting these values as well as what still needs to be done.

Over the past few decades, from Central District Seattle to Harlem to Holly Springs, Black people have built a dynamic network of cities and towns where Black culture is maintained, created, and defended. But imagine—what if current maps of Black life are wrong?

In Chocolate Cities: The Black Map of American Life, authors Marcus Anthony Hunter and Zandria F. Robinson trace the Black American experience of race, place, and liberation, mapping it from Emancipation to now. In their Preface, they share why this journey is still required. Using the Parliament Funkadelic’s 1975 Chocolate City album as a jumping off point, they note:

Rather than wait for unfulfilled political promises, Black Americans were occupying urban and previously White space in massive numbers, their movement and increasing political power embodied on the track by multiple yet complementary melodies. Bass and piano take turns keeping the beat and beginning new melodies, saxophones speak, a synthesizer marks a new era, and a steady high hat ensures the funk stays in rhythm. The Parliament, its own kind of funky democratic government, chants “gainin’ on ya!” as Clinton announces the cities that Black Americans have turned or will soon turn into “CC’s”: Newark, Gary, Los Angeles, Atlanta, and New York. Parliament’s “Mothership Connection” public-service announcement is broadcast live from the capitol, in the capital of chocolate cities, Washington, DC, where “they still call it the White House, but that’s a temporary condition.”

Spurred on by postwar suburbanization, by 1975 the chocolate city and its concomitant “vanilla suburbs” were a familiar racialized organization of space and place. The triumphant takeover tenor of Chocolate City may seem paradoxical in retrospect, as Black people inherited neglected space, were systematically denied resources afforded to Whites, and were entering an era of mass incarceration. Still, for Parliament, like for many other Black Americans, chocolate cities were a form of reparations and were and had been an opportunity to make something out of nothing. For generations these chocolate cities—Black neighborhoods, places on the other side of the tracks, the bottoms—had been the primary locations of the freedom struggle, the sights and sounds of Black art and Black oppression, and the container for the combined ingredients of pain, play, pleasure, and protest that comprise the Black experience.

Four decades after Chocolate City, including eight years of the first African American president, what is the status of Clinton’s Afrofuturist vision of the chocolate city? Did Barack Obama turn the White House Black? Which cities became chocolate cities? How have the connections between cities expanded and shifted? And what does it mean when the CC capital is no longer, in fact, a CC? How have Black Americans mobilized space, place, geography, and movement to resist and repair the conditions in which they find themselves?

Inspired by a collection of Black intellectuals, adventurers, explorers, culture producers, and everyday folk, the goal of this book is to expand and extend the idea of the chocolate city, tracing it from its antebellum origins to the Black Lives Matter era. We use and pluralize the funk-inflected sociopolitical concept, henceforth chocolate cities, to disrupt and replace existing language often used to describe and analyze Black American life. Though always present in Black artistic and intellectual endeavors, the idea of chocolate cities and this book are uniquely linked to the story of how we came to meet, know, understand, and care for one another.

Read more from Marcus and Zandria on their thoughts on why Los Angeles is still part of The South and how Black lives are affected by current policies today. And see both Marcus and Zandria on March 24th at Crosstown Concourse at Chocolate Cities: A Symposium, co-presented by the Center for Southern Literary Arts and Africana Studies at Rhodes College.

The President and The Populace: On Gender and Violent Extremism

This is the first installment in the #HealingFromHate blog series. Stay tuned for future blog posts in the series. And follow along on Twitter, #HealingFromHate.

“It is always difficult to approach an historical event in hindsight.” —Michael Kimmel in Healing from Hate: How Young Men Get Into—and Out of—Violent Extremism

On this President’s Day, we look at the relationship between U.S. presidents and the people they work to serve. From immigration, to health care, to taxation, and many other issues, each sitting president’s viewpoint on various cultural and economic issues helped to shape social and public policy—as well as shape a president’s place in U.S. history.

One such issue of the day is violent extremism and the role that gender plays in its evolution. In Healing from Hate: How Young Men Get Into—and Out of—Violent Extremism, Michael Kimmel, sociologist and founder of the Center for the Study of Men and Masculinities at Stony Brook, shares how gender is inherently omitted from the lexicon of violent extremism:

When then-president Barack Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry convened a three-day conference titled “Combating Violent Extremism” at the White House in February 2015, hundreds of experts from the diverse fields of law enforcement, security personnel, psychology, international relations, and criminology discussed how young people are recruited into these extremist groups, including scrutiny of recruits’ backgrounds, mental health statuses, and religious beliefs. Legal and penal experts discussed court proceedings and incarceration issues.

During the entire conference, participants heard not one word about “masculinity.” (Indeed, the big controversy was whether President Obama sufficiently and specifically addressed Islamic terrorists.)

“We have to confront squarely and honestly the twisted ideologies that these terrorist groups use to incite people to violence,” Mr. Obama told the audience. A year earlier, Secretary Kerry had argued that countering terrorism should involve “better alternatives for a whole bunch of young people” and greater “opportunity for marginalized youth.” “People.” “Youth.”

But which “people” exactly? What “youth?” If we close our eyes and imagine those people, those young people, whom do we see? And what is their gender?

Kimmel sheds light on the basic—and most crucial—question: why do we ignore the impact of gender expectations when discussing violent extremism? He asks: “Who are these young men? What draws them to violent extremism? What are the ideologies that inspire them, the psychological predispositions that lead some and not others to sign up? What emotional bonds are forged and sustained through membership in violent extremist groups?”

The Obama administration may have overlooked the role of gender on violent extremism. The current Trump administration seemingly does the same, focusing on race over gender rather than recognizing their interplay:

According to a report from the New America Foundation, “Since the attacks on September 11, 2001, nearly twice as many Americans have been killed by non-Muslim extremists than by jihadists.” The Trump administration’s response was to insist that all references to “terrorism” have the words “radical Islamist” in front of it, and that all programs and projects designed to address domestic terrorism be scrapped.

Sadly, one of the organizations I discuss in this book was actually defunded by this new administration. Life After Hate, a North American organization dedicated to helping violent right-wing extremists get out of the movement, had been awarded a substantial grant over two years to develop a deradicalization program in the United States modeled on EXIT in Sweden. In late June, the Trump administration approved the funding of all the successful grant recipients—except those that addressed rightwing extremism or worked in Muslim communities. …

All across the landscape of what President Donald Trump has insisted be collectively called “radical Islamic terrorism,” there are significant differences in tactics and ideology, distinctions that may be too subtle for a blanket nationalist condemnation. But on gender issues, these disparate groups appear pretty similar: global economic conditions produce a “crisis” of masculinity, a new anxiety among men about their ability to claim their entitlement to be productive and respected workers in public and unquestioned patriarchs at home. With employment more precarious, their children gradually escaping complete parental control in schools, and their wives entering the marketplace, where they develop alternative poles around which their social lives might revolve, a sense of “aggrieved entitlement” grows within them, a sense of humiliation at not being enough of a “real man.”

As history continues to unfold on the role of gender on violent extremism in our world today, we remind ourselves that a president’s viewpoint is but one of many markers that influence the cultural discourse and social policy around this issue. And only history will tell which side we will land—on the side of intolerance or on the side of understanding.

Read more from Healing from Hate. And learn more about the upcoming documentary, Healing from Hate: Angry White Men and the Alt-Right, which was inspired by the book.

A Dream Ends

This guest post is published around the Academy of Criminal Justice Sciences conference in New Orleans, occurring February 13-17, 2018. #ACJS2018 #ACJS18

By Michela Soyer, author of A Dream Denied: Incarceration, Recidivism, and Young Minority Men in America 

Jason’s case is at the core of A Dream Denied. He was one of the youngest respondents and unlike other youths I interviewed he was always eager to speak with me. Everyone I met that had worked with him in the Department of Youth Services (DYS) believed that Jason was “a good kid”. After I finished my research he and I kept in touch sporadically and remained Facebook friends. When I spoke to his mother right before I handed in the final manuscript of A Dream Denied, she told me that he was doing well, mostly staying out of trouble. I had also noticed in my Facebook feed that Jason was going to be a father. He was so proud that he decided to make the ultrasound picture of his unborn daughter his new background photo. I thought that becoming father could be a turning point for him. He had always enjoyed taking care of children and maybe this new role would give his life the focus he needed.

… Jason died almost exactly a year ago.

From what I was able to piece together through news items and his Facebook feed, it seemed that the car Jason died in was stolen. His daughter was barely 7 month old when she lost her father.

I expected Jason to struggle. I assumed that he would recidivate, maybe even end up in juvenile prison. In the end however, I wanted to believe that he was going to be ok. When he heard about this death, I realized that even though I titled my book A Dream Denied, I still believed that someone like Jason—a charismatic, energetic, and caring young man—will simply age out of crime and will be able to support himself without dealing drugs or committing robberies. Jason always dreamed big. He wanted to build his own business. Even though he did not know exactly what he wanted to sell, I believed that if anyone could do it, it was Jason who would be able to build a better future for himself. His death is a reminder for myself that even as a qualitative sociologist I am only able to scratch the surface of the extremely complex lives of those I study.

More than other young men I interviewed, Jason struggled with the rigid structure of the Boston Juvenile Justice system. He craved autonomy and I had hoped that once he was able to find a way of expressing himself creatively, he would stabilize his life. Like most of the youths I met during my research for A Dream Denied, Jason was not a hardened criminal. It was easy to imagine that had he grown up under more affluent circumstances, he may simply have struggled with his identity like any teenager. His family would have not had to rely on the juvenile justice system to get social services for their son. Having the financial means to move into a good school district, to pay for engaging after school activities and private counseling services are what separates upper middle class families from Jason’s home. Money cannot insulate anyone from tragedy, yet it affords youths like Jason the opportunity to self-correct without being funneled into the juvenile justice system.

Jason’s death could simply be written off as an individual tragedy. After all, he died in car accident after he had experienced what the press described as a “medical emergency”. Jason’s story however, is more than an individual quest for agency gone wrong. His death signifies that even a fairly well funded juvenile justice system, like the Department of Youth Services in Boston, can only offer temporary solutions to deeply ingrained social problems.

Michaela Soyer is Assistant Professor in the Department of Sociology at Hunter College.

Criminologists Answer the Question, “So What?”

This guest post is published around the Academy of Criminal Justice Sciences conference in New Orleans, occurring February 13-17, 2018. #ACJS2018 #ACJS18

By Claire M. Renzetti, series editor for Gender and Justice Series

As criminologists are gathering in New Orleans, LA, this week for the 55th Annual Meeting of the Academy of Criminal Justices Sciences (ACJS), they will be addressing the proverbial “So what” question that is not infrequently raised by the media, the general public, and certainly, by politicians, when presented with findings from empirical research. The choice of this theme, with the subtheme “What it all means,” by ACJS President Nicole Leeper Piquero (University of Texas at Dallas) is especially timely given, on one hand, opinion polls showing tremendous mistrust of academics by a swath of the public and conservative politicians, and on the other hand, the groundswell of voices documenting hate crimes and sexual abuse in this country. In the current social and political climate, with the country’s President labeling any story that contradicts his personal or political agenda “fake news,” it behooves us to answer the so what question more clearly and vehemently than ever before.

Indeed, criminological research has much to offer in response to the so what question. Consider, for example, the books in the UC Press Gender and Justice Series, which focus explicitly on how the experiences of offending, victimization, and justice are profoundly affected by the intersection of gender inequality with other social inequalities such as race, ethnicity, and social class. Jerry Flores (University of Toronto), in his monograph, Caught Up: Girls, Surveillance, and Wraparound Incarceration, examines the lives of incarcerated young women, particularly Latinas, in southern California. Through painstaking ethnographic research at a detention center, Flores shows the circumstances that led to girls’ arrests, what they experience during incarceration, and what typically happens when they are released. So what? Flores’ study demonstrates how the juvenile justice system, and in particular, the school-to-prison pipeline, are simultaneously gendered, raced and classed, such that both schools and detention centers, rather than cultivating avenues of success and safety for young women, largely ensure instead that they will plunge deeper into the labyrinthian criminal legal system.

Similarly, Barbara Owen (California State University, Fresno), James Wells (Eastern Kentucky University), and Joycelyn Pollock (Texas State University), in their book, In Search of Safety: Confronting Inequality in Women’s Imprisonment, take readers inside an adult women’s correctional facility to show how gendered power relationships, including those with correctional staff, result in violent victimization for incarcerated women for whom such victimization, throughout their lives, has constructed one of the pathways to offending that originally resulted in their arrest. So what? Owen, Wells, and Pollock remind us of the feminist slogan, “Women’s rights are human rights,” and their rigorous research raises policy recommendations for breaking the relationship between victimization and offending for women, which would reduce crime and eventually bring U.S. prisons into compliance with international human rights standards.

These are just two examples of how series authors, through their timely research and authentic writing, are answering the so what question. Their work offers blueprints for social action that fosters equity and refocuses national attention on the foundational elements of justice in our criminal legal system.

See the rest of the Gender and Justice Series titles:

Claire M. Renzetti, Ph.D., is the Judi Conway Patton Endowed Chair for Studies of Violence Against Women, and Professor and Chair of Sociology, at the University of Kentucky.

Meet Our Authors at ACJS 2018

This year’s ACJS meeting in New Orleans from February 13 – 17 includes exciting presentations by some of our authors, highlighting titles that confront the criminal justice crisis and serve as a catalyst for change. #ACJS2018 #ACJS18

Get 40% off of new and notable titles by visiting Booth #402. Or request an exam copy for course adoption consideration.

Walter S. DeKeseredy and Martin D. Schwartz, co authors with Molly Dragiewicz of Abusive Endings: Separation and Divorce Violence against Women

Thursday, 2/15 at 11:00am, Hilton 3rd Floor: Norwich, Gender and Crime: Victims and Responses, “Technology-Assisted Stalking and Image-Based Sexual Abuse on the College Campus: The Role of Negative Peer Support”

Read their thoughts on image-based sexual abuse.

Dean Dabney, coauthor with Richard Tewksbury of Speaking Truth to Power: Confidential Informants and Police Investigations

Friday, 2/16 at 11:00am, Hilton 2nd Floor: Marlborough A, Navigating the Job Market in Criminology and Criminal Justice

Friday, 2/16 at 2:00pm, Hilton 1st Floor: Grand Salon 12, Leadership Partnerships: Dealing with the Shrinking Applicant Pool in Policing/Police Administration and Management

Read their thoughts on why it’s important to link teaching, practice, and research in police intelligence.

Leon Anderson, author of Deviance: Social Constructions and Blurred Boundaries

Friday, 2/16 at 12:30pm, Hilton 3rd Floor: Windsor, Designing Criminal Justice Curriculum, “Integrating Paradigms in Teaching Deviance and Criminology”

Read Leon’s thoughts on sexual assaults occurring on college campuses.

Barbara Owen, coauthor with James Wells and Joycelyn Pollock of In Search of Safety: Confronting Inequality in Women’s Imprisonment

Saturday, 2/16 at 8:00am, Hilton 1st Floor: Grand Salon 19, Comparative Issues in Courts and Corrections, “Research and Hunan Rights: Foreign National Women’s Experience of Imprisonment in Cambodia”

Read their thoughts on why, with #metoo and #timesup, women in prison also need a movement.


Divorce as Freedom on Valentine’s Day and Singles Awareness Day

During this time of the year, some may make the assumption that those who are single—and especially those who are divorced—are depressed, lonely, or jealous of those in relationships. Though that may be true for some singles . . . but others may feel entirely the opposite.

In her new book, Gray Divorce: What We Lose and Gain from Mid-Life Splits, author Jocelyn Elise Crowley shares the reasons for why some people over the age of 50 years old divorce after multiple decades of marriage, becoming single late in life. Though men and women experience different penalties after their divorce, they’re new non-married status bring about new life benefits.

During her interviews with over 40 men and 40 women, Crowley asked them, “What good do they find in their lives now, after the divorce?”

Divorced Men

One man shared that one of the benefits include a chance to start over and reinvent themselves:

Many factors entered into the decision made to divorce—a decision made primarily by Kenneth’s wife. They had raised three children together, one girl and two boys, while working in the same construction business. When the Great Recession of 2008 hit, they lost everything that they had built financially as a couple. As the stress between them mounted, his wife had an affair and told Kenneth that she wanted out of the marriage.

At first, Kenneth remained in a state of shock, saying, “It was worse than a death. I mean I can’t describe [it] . . . It was devastating.” But as he gradually recovered from his own personal wreckage, he began to notice that with the divorce, he received a certain amount of freedom to control his destiny going forward. He optimistically declared “[the best part of being divorced right now is that] I can do what I want to when I want to do it. If I want to go skydiving tomorrow, I could. Anything that is financially feasible, I can literally do now. I’m training for a triathlon right now.”

Kenneth remarked that when he was married, he was often tied to social obligations with his wife, like going out to dinners or other family functions. For Kenneth, then, the most important aspect of being divorced was “freedom of time.”

Divorced Women

One woman shared her love of her newfound freedom and simply feeling happier:

When the economy worsened, he lost his job. He expressed some interest in starting his own e-commerce business at home, but never seemed to get around to doing much about it. Instead, he spent more and more time at his best friend’s house, where he was able to interact with the true subject of his desire: his best friend’s wife. Eventually, they had an affair, and Patricia’s marriage was over.

But all was not lost in Patricia’s case. She had the support of her two adult daughters, and although she was tremendously sad about her situation, she recognized that she had a long life ahead of her. She expressed an interest in paying off her debts and remaining out of the dating scene for a while until she could process the entirety of what had happened to her throughout both the marriage and the divorce. When she did become ready to date again at some point in the future, she said, she would look for some­one to help her “take care of business,” meaning that she was no longer looking for the love of her life, but a more practical partner to help her with the eventual physical and financial demands of the aging process.

Although the demise of her marriage was disheartening, Patricia noted that there were still many benefits to being divorced at this stage in her life, most notably independence and freedom. Describing these advantages she declared, “There’s an actual lot of good stuff there … I don’t have to up with the mess. I get up in the morning, my house is my house, my stuff is my stuff, and my money is my money.”

Read more of Gray Divorce. And hear more from Jocelyn during her interview with Cyma Shapiro on For Women Over Forty.


#MeToo and #TimesUp: Women in Prison Require a Movement Too

This guest post is published around the Academy of Criminal Justice Sciences conference in New Orleans, occurring February 13-17, 2018. #ACJS2018 #ACJS18

By Barbara Owen, co-author of In Search of Safety: Confronting Inequality in Women’s Imprisonment

The #MeToo movement is drawing increasing attention to the range of sexual harassment and abuse across multiple industries. Women (and it is mostly women) are coming forward with allegations against men (and yes, it is mostly men) in the entertainment, media, sports, politics and other high-profile worlds. Each week, more news hits the airwaves about particularly egregious assaults perpetrated by marquee names, many showing a pattern of repeated harassment and assaults over long periods of time. One group of women unlikely to get much media attention are those incarcerated in jails and prisons. Their experiences with predatory staff are unlikely to get the public attention of those with more social and personal capital. These concerns are amplified in a population of imprisoned women who are often labeled as underserving and unsympathetic victims, suggesting that some are not worthy of the same level of attention and support given to those on the outside.

There are disquieting similarities as women inside and out report experiences with sexual harassment and assault: women are afraid to come forward and make claims against the more powerful people who harm them; they fear not being believed and suffering the consequences for such claims; and there is often little evidence of the event, further throwing their reports into disrepute.

As Lovisa Stannow, my friend and colleague from Just Detention International, a human rights organization focused on ending such assaults within custodial environments, stated in an opinion piece in the Los Angeles Times:

But in this moment of heightened awareness of sexual violence and women’s safety, we need to remember those survivors who cannot tell their stories. Social media campaigns are now being used to rebuke sexism and have sent powerful ripples across the media and entertainment industries. But incarcerated women live in a world without hashtags and Facebook.

Most troubling to me is the ways in which industries and prison systems can be complicit in allowing such assaults to occur in these shadows. We echo the claims of the #TimesUp movement in calling for increased attention to the experiences of women in chains. While the federal Prison Rape Elimination Act provides a framework for protecting women (and men) who have been assaulted by staff while serving time, there is a renewed need to address how the severe consequence of gendered inequality within correctional environments can result in sexualized punishment. Time is up for the unnecessary suffering brought upon by all forms of sexual harassment and abuse against imprisoned women and girls.

Along with her colleagues from the Thailand Institute of Justice, Barbara Owen will be presenting at ACJS in New Orleans this Saturday, February 17 at 8:00am on Research and Hunan Rights: Foreign National Women’s Experience of Imprisonment in Cambodia. 

Barbara Owen is Professor Emerita at California State University, Fresno. She is co-author of In Search of Safety, with James Wells, Professor of Criminology and Criminal Justice in the School of Justice Studies at Eastern Kentucky University, and Joycelyn Pollock, Distinguished Professor in the School of Criminal Justice at Texas State University.