Colina L. Fischer Jordan Seeley – My Feminist Activist Partner 1928-2017

Picture of Colina Jordan Seeley sitting on her back porch.

Colina L Jordan Seeley. Photo courtesy of the family as posted at http://www.rouppfuneralhome.com/notices/Colina-Seeley

On Sunday, July 30 I received an email that my close friend Colina Jordan Seeley had died in Wilkes-Barre, PA from complications of a stroke.  She was an 89-year old fireball.  An activist, a fighter for social justice, a social worker, mother, wife, and a life-long fighter for the rights and safety of all. A real feminist.

She was born in Utrecht, The Netherlands a year after my mother was born.  By the time she was 12, she had become a fighter for the underdog; one of her first acts was becoming a part of the Nazi Resistance in the Netherlands.  Her family told this story in her obituary that came out today – a story she often said to me.  The only part she left out in her storytelling to me was that she was the one that convinced her father to go into hiding. Here’s a clip from the obituary:

She was born in Utrecht, the Netherlands on 7 May 1928.  She grew up in an academic household where her father was [a] professor of anthropology at [the] University of Utrecht, and her mother was a history and geography teacher. 

When the Nazis took over the Netherlands, her father was called in to explain why he no longer taught.  He said that the Dutch students had mostly evaporated and all that was left was Nazi sympathizers.  When Colina heard this story that evening, at age 12 she instantly saw that the Nazis would be coming to pick him up, and made such a scene that her father reluctantly went into hiding that night.  The next morning the Nazis were at the door to pick him up.  Colina became the mainstay of the family consisting of the other 5 children and her not very functional mother.  Colina was the person who scrounged for tidbits of food and coal.  She cooked in the back yard over a tin can.  As a small girl with long blonde braids, she was able to hoodwink the Nazis and lead off men out of the groups being marched to Germany to work in the factories there.

Here’s a bit more to that story.  Colina told me that she helped lead these men away from the Nazis after they crawled through a hidden hole at the back end of the Gymnasium (school) into a safe house that abutted the back of the school. She would go each day and walk the escapee away from the area pretending to the Nazi’s that her “uncle” was so drunk he couldn’t talk and tell them she was taking him home to his wife and kids.

Another story she told was about her food scrounging adventures.  Apparently, the Nazis had food and milk trucks that rumbled through town on a regular basis.  As a young teenage girl she was able to get near these trucks, and when the Nazis backs were turned, she’d grab milk off of the trucks and run.  A dangerous activity, but she got away with this too.

BTW, she didn’t see or hear or know where her father was throughout the war because the family feared that if the children knew of his whereabouts they might have been tortured to tell.  He came home safely at the end of the war.

After the war, Colina came to the US and obtained a Master’s degree in Social Work.  She married Joseph Jordan whom she met at the University of Minnesota. The moved to State College where they raised their four children – Saskia, Sharon, Naomi, and Adlai.  Joseph died in August 1992, and she married Ralph Seeley in April 2004.  ,

She continued her activism here in the states. Among the things I know that she accomplished were:

  • Successfully advocating for low-income people with mental health issues.
  • Providing mental health care as the sole practitioner in the Penns Valley area of Centre County. For those that don’t know the area, it’s a rural farming community with a large Amish population. I believe her work in Penns Valley also helped foster her love of nature and the work of the Clearwater Conservancy.
  • Forcing the local Elks Club in Boalsburg to open up membership to people of color. She did this by contacting John W. Oswald in 1970 right after Penn State University announced that he was going to be the new University President.  She pointed out to him that his welcoming party was planned at the racially segregated Elks Club in Boalsburg.  He agreed with her that this was wrong and notified the University that he wouldn’t step inside the club as long as this policy continued.  The venue changed, and soon the policy was too.
  • Starting the first NOW (National Organization for Women) chapter and the local women’s domestic violence and sexual assault center in Centre County in the early 1970s.  The Women’s Resource Center is still going strong today. And Colina remained a member of NOW until her death.
  • Using her love of storytelling, she also became active in the Bellefonte Historical and Cultural Association towards the end of her life.  She thought up and helped create our Out Loud program. This program highlights local poets, poetry, and local storytelling.

I moved to Centre County in 1981.  She was one of the very first people I met. That was at a NOW meeting. We crossed paths on an irregular basis until 1991 when I, along with Colina and a couple of other women founded Ni-Ta-Nee NOW, the current local chapter of the National Organization for Women.  She became my activist, feminist partner in crime.  We spent time listening to each other, traveling to rallies and protests, and organizing actions to improve the lives of women, LGBTQIA, and people of color here in Happy Valley and at Penn State University.

My favorite memory was setting up a protest ladder on Old Main Lawn with her in September of 1992. The day before President George Bush came to campus to speak for his second run for office, she and I brought in a ladder and a banner and laid them on the ground about halfway up the lawn near the area where the general public was going to be admitted.  Our plan was to set up the ladder and put some broken dolls on the ladder with a sign saying something about his lack of support for early childhood care.

The next day we got there, picked up the banner and the ladder. We then set up the ladder with the baby dolls. Almost immediately, a Secret Service agent came up and confiscated the ladder saying it was a “safety hazard.”

So throughout the rest of the rally, we held up our eight foot-wide “Four More Months!” banner along with the baby dolls.  It was the ONLY sign in the rally protesting Bush’s policies; every other protest sign, including our childcare sign, had been confiscated by the gatekeepers on the way onto the Lawn.

We returned the next day and picked up the banner and the ladder. We then set up the ladder with the baby dolls. Almost immediately, a Secret Service agent came up and confiscated the ladder saying it was a “safety hazard.”  So throughout the rest of the rally, we held up our eight foot-wide “Four More Months!” banner along with the baby dolls.  It was the ONLY sign in the rally protesting Bush’s policies; every other protest sign, including our childcare sign, had been confiscated by the gatekeepers on the way onto the Lawn.

So throughout the rest of the rally, we held up our eight foot-wide “Four More Months!” banner along with the baby dolls.  It was the ONLY sign in the rally protesting Bush’s policies. Every other protest sign, including our childcare sign, had been confiscated by the gatekeepers on the way onto the Lawn.

The press soon found out about this confiscation and broadcast the news as a violation of Free Speech – courtesy of Colina and myself.

Afterward, we went up to the Secret Service agent and asked him what they had done with Colina’s ladder.  The Secret Service agent looked shocked and said to Colina, “It’s your ladder!? I can’t believe an old lady would bring a ladder here!”  He obviously didn’t know Colina!  At that time she would have been 64 years old. He then smiled, told us where they had put it, and we picked it up.

Colina, you’ll be missed.  My condolences to your entire family.  And for those wanting to hear more about Colina and her life, the family is holding a memorial service sometime in September at the Unitarian Fellowship in State College.  Instead of flowers, donations can be made in Colina’s name to any organization of which she would approve, many of which are listed here in this blog.

Farewell, my dear friend.

So You Want A Feminist Job

The article on seeking a feminist job is a good summary of what to look for.

I also really like the poster associated with this blog posting. I actually own one of the original 1944 versions of this poster. It’s hanging on my wall in my office. Mine is a landscape version of this poster without the airplane. It says at the bottom of the poster that it was “Distributed for War Manpower Commission by OWI” and “See your US Employment Service.”

FYI, OWI is the acronym for the Office of War Information that existed between June 1942 and September 1945. It was used to  consolidate information services and for propaganda related to World War II both at home and abroad.

The artist signature on the poster is Vernon Grant.  Here’s a picture of my version of this recruitment poster.

Women A War to Be Won 1945 poster by Vernon Grant

Erin Matson

I often get asked: I want your job; how do I do that? Here is a compilation of advice and reflection I’ve given over the years.

“Being a feminist” is not a job. Being a feminist ___ is. 
Pick a function or at least a set of skills that sound interesting. Maybe you like writing? Or fundraising? Or are interested in lobbying? If there are employers out there hiring feminists because they are feminists, I’ve yet to meet them (though they do sound lovely). You are going to be infinitely more employable if you say you’re interested in accounting, marketing, something — and yes, feminist organizations hire for all of these things.

You can still be a feminist and work anywhere, not just with a non-profit or an NGO.
I have worked in: Advertising agencies, consulting firms, investment research firms, writing companies, financial service firms, media organizations, and explicitly feminist non-profits. Working…

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Updates: PSU sanctions KDR & House Appropriations Committee calls for DOJ action on Cyber Bullying

Since March of this year, I have periodically blogged about online attacks on women who either use or are targeted through the use of social media. One was a video created by some of the women who have been cyber-bullied reading a few of the online threats they have received so that the public can see what they are facing. One dealt with the statistics associated with cyber-bullying. Another announced a Congressional briefing held on this issue on April 15. Another dealt with a proposed piece of legislation that might help reduce this form of violence. And the first one dealt with use of rape myths and social media by a fraternity at Penn State University to allegedly harass young college women. Congresswoman Katherine Clark.

Today, I have two updates.  One deals with Kappa Delta Rho (KDR), the Penn State University fraternity discussed in my first blog.  And the second one is the first outcome of a letter sent to the US House Appropriations Committee in March that was followed by Congressional briefing on Capital Hill in April.

Picture of a sign at the Window of Opportunity rally that says "End Rape Culture."

Sign seen at a rally in State College PA on a need to end rape culture.

PSU Sanctions KDR for Harassment, Cyber-Bullying, and Other Issues

Penn State University announced yesterday that KDR has been suspended for at least three years. The administration reversed the student-led Inter-Fraternity  Council (IFC) decision not to revoke recognition of KDR; the “sanction” recommended by the IFC was only to provide “a comprehensive new member education program and participation in sexual assault and bystander intervention training.” 

Instead, the University posted a news article on their website yesterday that clearly sanctions KDR for their cyber-bullying and maltreatment of women.  Damon Sims, vice president for Student Affairs, notified the IFC about the 3-year sanction in a letter stating,

“We base this decision on the sum of misbehaviors exhibited by various members of Kappa Delta Rho. Not every member of the chapter was equally culpable for violation of the University’s expectations for recognized student organizations. Even so, the sum of the organizational misbehaviors is far more than the University can tolerate from a student organization that seeks its imprimatur.”

The University cited hazing, underage drinking, the sale drugs, and the “persistent” harassment of two women along with the “photographing [of] individuals in extremely compromising positions and posting these photos [online].” Click here to read the entire letter.

picture of the US Capital

View of the US Capital that Rep. Katherine Clark associated with her press release regarding the House Appropriations Committee call for DOJ action on cyber stalking on May 27, 2015.

House Appropriations Committee Calls Upon Department of Justice to “Intensify” Efforts to Combat Cyber-Stalking and Bullying.

Meanwhile, this afternoon, I received an email from Steve Thornton, Legislative Aide to Representative Katherine Clark (D-MA-5) regarding the cyber threat appropriations letter Montana NOW, Pennsylvania NOW, and National NOW all signed onto in March that went to the House Committee on Appropriations.

Here’s a copy of the letter that Representative Clark sent to the Appropriations Committee.

Cyber Abuse Dear Colleague (2)

And here’s what the Committee is requesting the US Department of Justice to do to address the issue of cyber stalking and cyber terrorism of women:

Enforcement of Federal cyber-stalking and threat crimes.—The Committee is aware of concerns regarding increased instances of severe harassment, stalking, and threats transmitted in interstate commerce in violation of Federal law. These targeted attacks against Internet users, particularly women, have resulted in the release of personal information, forced individuals to flee their homes, has had a chilling effect on free expression, and are limiting access to economic opportunity. The Committee strongly urges the Department to intensify its efforts to combat this destructive abuse and expects to see increased investigations and prosecutions of these crimes. (p.31 of the Committee on Appropriations report in explanation of the accompanying bill making appropriations for Commerce, Justice, Science, and related agencies for the fiscal year ending September 30, 2016).

In her press release, Representative Clark applauded the Committee’s action.  She stated,

“Too many women have had their lives upended by the severe threats and harassment they have received online, and they often feel they have nowhere to turn for help. These threats cause fear for personal safety, create a chilling effect on free speech, and have a negative economic impact for women conducting business online. That is why we [asked] the Department of Justice to enforce laws that are already on the books, and make these cases a priority.”

That’s Two for Two

Two successes within 24 hours of each other.  NICE!  Thanks PSU. Representative Clark, and all of the US Representatives, advocates, and organizations for your efforts to address these issues in an appropriate manner.

Video: Women Read Social Media Online Threats

For just about 2 months now, I have periodically blogged about online attacks on women who either use or are targeted through the use of social media. One dealt with the statistics associated with cyber-bullying. Another announced a Congressional briefing held on this issue on April 15. Another dealt with a proposed piece of legislation that might help reduce this form of violence. And the first one dealt with use of rape myths and social media by a fraternity at Penn State University to allegedly harass young college women.

Today I thought I’d share a video I stumbled across.  It’s called “Feminists Read Mean Tweets.” The text describing this video tells the story of why mic.com created this video last fall:

A Mic Video original: Jimmy Kimmel’s Angry Tweets is on to something. When it comes being trolled, many people on the Internet have it bad. But feminists in particular are often singled out for vitriol.

The lethal combination of being a woman and having an opinion about the patriarchy is a recipe for a troll cocktail.

This video shows how women who challenge the status quo are treated online on a daily basis. While many have tried to describe what it’s like to be the target of constant, horrible abuse online, sometimes it’s easier to just show, not tell.

As the last sentence says: “Sometimes it’s easier to just show, not tell.” So here’s the “show.”

Be forewarned: there is a lot of rude and nasty language as well as threats of violence directed at these women.

Now that you’ve seen the video, you might also want to read the background story on Mic.com.

No, I Won’t Apologize for Being Angry

I hear ya!

The Feminist Pensieve

We call our warships “she.”  The earth is commonly named “Mother Earth” because of its ability to both create and destroy.  Women are routinely compared to black widows, vipers, lionesses and tigresses.  Pick any female comic book character, and you will see the innate power of the names given to these women.  They are called Black Widow, Poison Ivy, Asp, Black Mamba, Queen Bee, Cheetah, and Fatality.  All of these comparisons show the raging strength and power of women.  Why, then, are we expected to hold back in the “real world?”

There is an interesting double standard for men and women when it comes to showing rage and aggression.  When men break their cool facade in an explosion of anger, we naturally assume his feelings are valid and deserved.  We listen when a man is angry because we respect that anger.  When women become angry and project their feelings outward…

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The Women’s Movement Is for Everyone

Feminism is for Everyone

Credit: Art Crimes on Flickr, under Creative Commons

This is Women’s History Month.  And today is International Women’s Day.

In celebration of these two events, Women’s eNews Commentator Mary S. Hartman wrote an article entitled “This Women’s Movement, Now, Is for Everyone | Womens eNews.”

In this article, she links Betty Friedan’s views on the early days of the National Organization for Women and the Feminist movement to today’s movements and actions.

In her 2002 interview with Hartman, Friedan was asked what she envisioned the women’s movement to look like mid-century.  She said,

Well, I hope that by then our focus will not long have to be on women as such, or women vis a vis men… [that] we will have achieved what at the moment we seem to be achieving — real equality between women and men.

Friedan then went on to say that we needed “something larger,” namely a “people’s movement” with “diverse leaders of both sexes acting together and championing not just women’s rights but civil rights, unions, youth movements and more.”

I believe we are moving in that direction with coalitions, with the Occupy and Ferguson movements, and with people coming together on social media to raise our collective voices for civil rights.

What do you think? Read Hartman’s article and then comment.

Happy International Women’s Day and Women’s History Month!

Let’s Talk About the ‘Selfies-Make-You-Appear-Incompetent’ Study

According to Nancy Leong, “When research finds that women pay a price for appearing “sexy” in some way, the inevitable conclusion shouldn’t be that ‘women should change their behavior.’ Instead, it should be that ‘we should all try to change this stupid social attitude.’” Women can be happy and good looking in their own and in other’s eyes. And at the same time be smart, savvy and intelligent. To have researchers and the public say that a woman who “looks good” has to be “dumb” is misogynistic and patriarchal just as Julie Mastrine says in this article.
So the next time you hear someone disparage a woman’s mind because of how she looks, stand up and say something. Challenge that notion that women can’t look “good” and be intelligent at the same time.

Julie Mastrine

selfie_by_AmyMastrine Illustration by Amy Mastrine

There’s a study making the rounds that finds women perceive other ladies who post “sexy selfies” on social media to be “incompetent.” The takeaway for many is that women should just stop posting selfies — but that’s bullshit. This study is really an opportunity to examine societal attitudes toward femininity and beauty.

The headlines alone are the metaphorical equivalent to throwing gallons of gas on the slut-shaming fire:

Study Proves Your Sexy Selfies Make You Seem Less Attractive and Competent, asserts FitFabFun. How Sexy Selfies Are Making You Lose Friends, warns Yahoo! Sexy Profile Pictures Make Women Look ‘Stupid,’ says MyDailyUK.

Over at the Washington Post, columnist Caitlin Dewey warns women that they should be “listening to [their] peers” if they “want to be taken seriously.” Many commenters have gone so far as to say women need to tone down the sexy selfies if they want to be taken seriously in the workplace.

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When Men on the Left Refuse to See Their Sexism

There are two fronts occurring in the War on Women. The first front is combines ALEC (that’s the conservative American Legislative Exchange Council—click here for an expose on ALEC) with right-wing legislatures to create bills and laws, among their many attacks, that impinge on women’s reproductive justice, economic sustainability, marriage, etc., etc., etc. I have done several blogs on this issue; the most comprehensive one focused on the 20+ years of attacks on women’s lives in Pennsylvania. The second front is the use of right-wing rhetoric that uses misogynistic language resulting over time in the oppression of women. This rhetoric includes pejorative words that focus on “lady parts” and statements that either degrade women and their position in society or place them on a paternalistic pedestal where these women need to be “protected.” People on both the left and the right—sometimes without awareness—incorporate this rhetoric into their everyday language. Which then feeds into the first front I mentioned: legislating rights away from women.
About a year ago, Muslim Reverie, a blogger who advocates for an “anti-racist, anti-colonial feminism,” wrote this blog on how men on the left of the political spectrum refuse to see or acknowledge their sexism. This blog I’m re-posting today focuses on this second front of rhetoric in the war on women. It includes several ideas for thought – use of white privilege; use of misogynistic language without taking into account its effects on women, particularly women of color; and how this rhetoric perpetuates the sexist oppression of women.
Take a moment to read this thought-provoking blog. I think this is a great summary of this second frontal attack on women’s lives.