Mention in Foreign Affairs Magazine

I was completely delighted (and utterly surprised) to see my name in print in the current issue of Foreign Affairs magazine.  Erica Chenoweth of the University of Denver and Maria Stephan of the United States Institute of Peace were kind enough to mention me and my collaborator Patrick Meier in their article on when and how  nonviolent civil resistance works.

Specifically, they highlighted Civil Resistance 2.0, a project that Patrick and I have undertaken to update Gene Sharp’s canonical list of nonviolent methods in order to incorporate innovations afforded by digital technology.

Read the full article here.


Elliott Rodger‘s hatred of the women who rejected him inspired his rampage near UC Santa Barbara last week.

Yet out of this violent and hateful act has emerged a new public discussion of feminism and the deadly results of beliefs that women’s purpose is to serve men.

His attack has led to the creation of the new hashtag #YesAllWomen, which has been trending for a few days now.  While not all men harm women, #YesAllWomen have been harmed by a man, either physically or emotionally.

More of the best tweets on this hashtag: 

Powerful: The Case Reparations

I have not read The Atlantic article this interview describes, but it is so powerful, I have to share it. I t is moments like these, when radical ideas can be given a serious airing, that give me hope for America.

Public Acts of Shameless Tenderness

Every man was once like this.

How many grown men will still allow themselves to engage in public acts of shameless  tenderness like this?

Why do they allow that part of the their spirits to be destroyed?

How much do we all suffer because of this loss?

image: Tumblr/zrinkacvitesic

Fuck yeah, Clippers players!

Has the (long overdue) revolution of athletes against their owners begun?  That would be awesome.

Los Angeles Clippers players are standing up to the overt racism of the team’s owner, Donald Sterling by warming up without their jerseys today.

The Internet has also been responding in exquisite fashion since the celebrity news site TMZ released a recording of Sterling making racist statements to his mixed-race girlfriend two days ago.


image source:


source: (Sterling is on the right)

And celebrity responses are being shared widely on Tumblr:


Unfiltered celebrity responses, including an early response from Snoop Dogg, below, were key in immediately framing Sterling’s recorded racist statements as an outrage.  There is no way Snoop could have made this kind of contemptuous and unequivocal denunciation of racism on television.  And it is hard to imagine Lil Wayne getting airtime to express his views either.


Users took these self-broadcast celebrity statements and gif-ed them and shared them across platforms, from Vine and Youtube to Tumblr, perhaps further encouraging players to respond with defiance.  With self-publication and mass peer-to-peer sharing, an alternative, ad hoc broadcast network seems to be forming.

Read More:

#myNYPD: Flipping the Script, Exquisitely

Last week the New York police department’s effort to promote their good acts turned into just the opposite, when citizens flipped the script on the hashtag #myNYPD .

By launching the hashtag the NYPD unintentionally created a forum for their own public shaming and for citizens to share information on how to resist police abuse and amplify campaigns seeking justice for past victims.

Social media does not create sentiment.  It amplifies sentiment that already exists.  Sometimes figures of authority are surprised by what that sentiment is.

Read more:

Are Activist Investors Really Activists?

It’s spring break, so I am working my way through the pile of Economist magazines that have accumulated over the last couple of months.  One story caught my eye: “Shareholder activism: Corporate upgraders.”

20140215_LDD001_0 (1)Next to a tongue-in-cheek image of besuited men marching with a brightly scrawled banner (left), the article argues for the value of “shareholder activists” or “activist investors” like billionaire Carl Icahn (pictured above), who force corporations to make management decisions in order to increase share price.

But can a billionaire really be an activist?  In values Mr. Icahn could hardly seem more different than a protester in Tahrir Square or an occupier in Zuccotti Park.  But activism is not defined by values.  (Pro-choice activists and pro-life activists are both activists.)

I’ve spent the last couple of months developing a conceptual definition of activism and, though it’s imperfect, the most accurate yet parsimonious I’ve been able to come up with is the following:  Activism is an activity that seeks to remove a collective threat or attain a collect benefit through the use of public displays.

Does investor activism fit this definition?  Well, what is it that activist investors actually do?  According to the The Economist, “Activists usually buy a block of shares, make a public call for change and lobby management and other shareholders to implement it. When they do, the activists sell at a profit.”

So, while owning shares is a form of leverage that is not a public display, making “a public call” and lobbying “management and other shareholders” is.  (Mr. Icahn even uses Twitter, to “mount a campaign,” tweeting “like a budgie on speed”).

Also, public display need not be the only means of exerting pressure, it’s just the most common method.  In his book Rules for Radicals, the organizing guru Saul Alinsky, suggested ordinary citizens become shareholder activists in order to influence corporate policy and Civil Rights activists used the court systems to win civil rights victories when other branches of government were not responsive.

The more pressing question as to whether shareholder activism fits the definition of activism is whether the activist shareholder is seeking a collective benefit or merely his own.  The argument of The Economist is that corporate inefficiency is a collective problem, and the effect that activist shareholders bring about to remedy it is a collective benefit.

According to The Economist, “recent academic studies suggest that, by and large, activists are good for companies.”  They increase “both the share price and the operating performance” over a period of years.

So, while one might disagree with the particular benefit sought by activist investors (making rich people richer), it does seem that Carl Icahn is an activist by the same definition that an anti-corporate Occupier is.

Images: Fortune, The Economist

A Beautiful Conversation on Race, Feminism, and Making Art

I’ve been writing and thinking about race and gender a lot recently.  I’m not sure why, so I guess I’ll just keep thinking about it until I figure out the question I am trying to answer.

Since it’s easier to think with company, here’s a fascinating video of the authors Zadie Smith and Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie in conversation at the Schomburg Center in New York.  It very honest, very intimate, beautifully insightful.  Makes me feel like a fly on the wall at a dinner party that I would never be invited to.

h/t Jezebel

Commitment Style: The 5th Dimension of Human Sexuality

I am a liberal parent.  I raised a daughter who is bi and poly.  So began Dan Savages’ column in The Stranger this week.

Slowly a new realization is slipping into our discussions of human sexuality –  not only do human beings vary in their gender identity, gender expression, biological sex, and sexual orientation, as the Genderbread Person teaches us, they also differ in the extent to which they are exclusive with their romantic partners.

I’ve updated the (awesome! amazing!) Genderbread Person, created by Sam Killermann, to show this new dimension.

Screen Shot 2014-03-20 at 12.03.17 PM

Since the Genderbread Person identifies three key points on each continuum, I’ve chosen casual to denote no commitment and possible multiple partners, polyamorous to  denote commitment to multiple partners, and monogamous to denote commitment to a single partner.  Between poly and monogamous I’d also put open relationship and monogamish.  Like the daughter above, who is both bi and poly, a person can have any combination of traits.  They could be trans, androgynous,  and monogamous or heterosexual, feminine,  and polyamourous.

Though a person on the left of the scale is able to have multiple partners in a way that a person on the right is not, having casual commitment does not necessitate multiple partners.  For example, a person who is serially monogamous could have six sexual partners in a year, each in a committed monogamous relationship,  and a casual person could go on a dozen dates but only sleep with two people.  It is likewise possible to have one commitment orientation and express another.  For example, one could prefer multiple partners but choose to live monogamously.

Commitment style, like the other dimensions of human sexuality should be agreed upon and understood by both/all partners.  A mismatch in commitment style can bring great unhappiness.  For example, a partner who believes he/she is in a monogamous relationship, but whose partner secretly has sex with others – that’s on the scale and that’s just cheating.  Likewise polygamous relationships, in which each wife is monogamous but the husband has multiple committed sexual partners can be the result of a power disparity between the sexes.

The variation in commitment style isn’t good or bad, like all the other dimensions it just is.  Better to acknowledge it, talk about it, think about your own orientation and find someone who is a good match.

Hooray for Pop Star Feminism

Can I just say that I love that major female pop stars are using their music videos to make explicit statements about feminism?  It probably won’t last, so let’s savor it while it does.

First of all, of course, there’s Beyoncé’s “Flawless,” which contain’s the following monologue from Nigerian author Chimamanda Ngozi Adiche:

We teach girls to shrink themselves
To make themselves smaller
We say to girls
“You can have ambition
But not too much
You should aim to be successful
But not too successful
Otherwise you will threaten the man”
Because I am female
I am expected to aspire to marriage
I am expected to make my life choices
Always keeping in mind that
Marriage is the most important
Now marriage can be a source of
Joy and love and mutual support
But why do we teach girls to aspire to marriage
And we don’t teach boys the same?
We raise girls to each other as competitors
Not for jobs or for accomplishments
Which I think can be a good thing
But for the attention of men
We teach girls that they cannot be sexual beings
In the way that boys are
Feminist: the person who believes in the social
Political, and economic equality of the sexes

And then there’s J-Lo’s new video, “I Luh Ya PaPi,” which contains the following dialogue about the “treatment”  for the video itself from her female collaborators:

“If she was a guy, we wouldn’t be having this conversation at all.”
“Why do men always objectify the women in every single video? Why can’t we, for once, objectify the men?”
“It could start with her on the bed with a bunch of naked guys, for no reason!…”
“And then we could be the entourage that does nothing!”

This isn’t perfect feminism.  It’s feminism in the context of a popular art that commercializes female sexuality.  And that actually makes it more amazing.

The artists objectify themselves in their videos while their condemn objectification.  While J-Lo and her friends are constumed in skin-tight low-cut clothing and dance in a very sexual manner the male guest artist, French Montana, wears baggy clothes while women writhe around him – just what the dialogue criticizes.  In her video, Beyoncé says she “woke up like this,”  but she of course didn’t.  She works like hell and alters her appearance to look the way she has to to be successful in a market that is white-normative, skinny-normative, and male-dominated.

But still… it’s a start.  The fact that these themes are being explicitly addressed in this particular popular medium is nothing short of astonishing.  I hope there will be more videos for me to add.

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