A Novel Debut

A Remedy in Writing

Originally Published by InterviewHer.com on November 1, 2010

Author and Media Expert Daisy Whitney

“Talking about things is what helps us heal and recover from challenging times in life,” explains Daisy Whitney, host of New Media Minute and author of The Mockingbirds. Yet, many women feel silenced about sexual abuse – especially teens who have been date raped. Daisy Whitney just might change that with her new book. She knows a thing or two about overcoming obstacles and finding the strength to speak out.

Daisy Whitney is a talented writer and media expert with a thriving personal business and family. She’s also releasing her debut novel, The Mockingbirds, on November 2, 2010, which has already received a starred review from Publisher’s Weekly. Yet, her journey to success and “masterfully” written novel began with a hardship — one that changed her life and inspired her to write about date rape, vigilantism and academic politics.

Daisy Whitney was date raped when she was 19-years-old and she understands firsthand what it means to find her voice and the strength to press charges against her attacker. “I was a freshman in college at the time and am definitely a big believer in the power of speaking up.”

With the support of her friends Whitney pressed charges in her school’s justice system at Brown University. “In the early nineties we were starting to understand date rape,” said Whitney in an interview. “Institutions now have disciplinary systems that recognize sexual assault as a violation of the

code.”

Thankfully, her school handled Whitney’s case and she healed from the incident by being able to talk about it and find closure for herself. After receiving her degree, Whitney started her career in journalism as a reporter and later founded her own business as a reporter and media expert.

The Mockingbirds is the first in a series about a secret society in a private high school called Themis Academy. The protagonist,Alex, is sexually assaulted after a night of drinking. She struggles to remember what happened that night as she copes with her fear of the classmate who raped her. Her friends provide guidance when she realizes that she has been violated and abused. In her quest to heal, she encounters the Mockingbirds, a student-run justice system and she decides to press charges against her attacker.

The Mockingbirds, by Daisy Whitney

In this exciting and evocative book, Whitney captures the complexity of date rape with her narrative about Alex, an exceptional concert pianist who wants to pursue music at Juilliard. Whitney creates a powerful scenario, filled with realistic characters that show teens the trials of coping and the importance of finding empowerment after assault.

The novel comes at a crucial time. One in six women will become victims of sexual assault during their lifetime, according to the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network (RAINN). Many of them are girls, ages 16-19. The California Coalition Against Sexual Assault estimates nearly half of reported cases of sexual assault and attempted rape are teens. “According to a study conducted by The Northern Westchester Shelter, with Pace Women’s Justice Center, about 83% of 10th graders said they would sooner turn to a friend for help with dating abuse than a teacher, counselor, parent or other caring adult,” said Whitney in an email.

For Daisy Whitney, speaking up and increasing awareness are not only key elements of her novel, they are also part of her business plan, turning her tragedy to triumph, while helping teens on the way.

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“The Real Jessica” on Marie Claire Cover

Simpson Cover, HuffPo

Marie Claire upholds their tag line, “More Than A Pretty Face,” by promoting Jessica Simpson’s work with Operation Smile and featuring “The Real Jessica,” without makeup or photo retouching on their May 2010 cover.

“I don’t have anything to prove anymore,” said Jessica Simpson in the cover feature. “What other people think of me is not my business.”

Not only is the pop star over the tabloids and gossip, Ms. Simpson is in the business of celebrating inner beauty and changing young people’s lives.  As an International Youth Ambassador for Operation Smile — an organization dedicated to providing surgeries to children with facial deformities in third world countries — she advocates for the charity and increases awareness about healing cleft lip and cleft palate.

Simpson has supported the organization since 2003 and is now encouraging young people to get involved.  Operation Smile collaborated with Simpson and VH1 for her show The Price of Beauty and a new initiative called, “A Beautiful Me.” According to the charity, “This movement encourages young people to take a personal oath to identify their inner beauty and unique qualities, recognize their strengths and realize that they can make a difference.”

On the cover of Marie Claire, Jessica Simpson is embodying her commitment to the cause by showcasing her natural looks without enhancement.  Though there are many skeptics who say she is wearing mascara, concealer and maybe a little blush, the photo doesn’t look retouched to me.

How much makeup is Jessica Simpson actually wearing in the photo? Anyone’s guess is as good as mine, but the fact that the magazine says she’s not (and French Marie Claire did a no-retouch issue last month) is a powerful statement about the damaging effects to the confidence and self-image of women, and the need for realistic portrayals of women in magazines.

The more real photos we see of beautiful women on the inside and out — the less we’ll see of fake, plastic-looking cover girls made glamorous with cosmetics and PhotoShop.

So, suffice it to say, I believe the Simpson cover photo is authentic. Maybe that’s naive, but there must be integrity on the part of the magazine editors and Simpson, especially since this is such a vital message to readers. And, given the context of Simpson’s new show that takes a look at beauty issues around the globe, I should hope that this is “real” — otherwise, what’s the point?

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International Women’s Day

Happy International Women’s Day! In honor of this special day for women everywhere, Ms. Magazine has launched their new blog!

To check out the latest in women’s news across the globe, go to Ms. Blog at MsMagazine.com.

And, for an updated look at their special post for today, view:

How We’re Doing: International Women’s Day Edition.

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Sugar, Spice and Made to Entice

Diesel Be Stupid Ad

As I’m sure you’ve noticed, young girls and women are wearing more revealing clothing in an attempt to look sexy at earlier ages than ever before.  Though the bellybutton-look from the nineties remains covered by longer, layered tops, preteens and teens are finding other ways to showcase their bodies with darker makeup, low-cut tops and shorter skirts.  Looking slutty, unfortunately, is officially in style.

With the media horror over the news that Miley Cyrus’ 9-year-old sister, Noah, was launching a lingerie line for kids (that turned out to be false) after she was seen wearing fishnets and patent leather platforms, we must look at how our society is encouraging young girls and women to dress this way — and why we are allowing it to happen.

Many feel that the pervasiveness of porn culture and sex slogans has led to an explosion of pressure on women and girls to be more overtly sexual — making femininity more of a performance with influences from the bedroom (Heidi Montag’s 10 plastic surgeries are an exaggerated example of this trend).  A new study by Dr. Linda Papadopoulos, a clinical psychologist at London Metropolitan University suggests that the problem lies in the availability of porn to preteens and teens, along with the overuse of sex slogans in advertisements.

Dr. Papadopoulos said: “It is a drip, drip effect. Look at porn stars, and look how an average girl now looks. It’s seeped into every day: fake breasts, fuck-me shoes … We are hypersexualising girls, telling them that their desirability relies on being desired. They want to please at any cost.”

This study was released about the same time as Diesel launched their new “Be Stupid” campaign that I’ve seen papered on the subway and walls of buildings across the city. Kids can see nipples on their way to school — and it’s not for the Nature Channel. One particular ad, (shown above) shocks and disgusts me every time I see it — not only does the ad promote exposing one’s self in public, it also suggests that women who look and act that way are hot.

If you look at every single ad in the campaign, women are made out to be sexual objects who should “Be Stupid,” to deserve attention and be considered beautiful. The slogan also says, “Be Stupid. Smart listens to the head. Stupid listens to the heart,” telling women that smarts do not equal with fun.  This overwhelming need for women to be sexy and pretty with less of an emphasis on intelligence, individuality, modesty and character also leads to men think this is how women should be, thus, perpetuating the cycle of women wanting to fulfill that role.

How does this affect young girls’ value of who they are as people?  The proof is in the lip plump.

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Top Dog: In Life and Lost

Michael Emerson as Ben Linus in the fourth sea...
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In some digital banter with a friend, we were talking about this hilarious blog written by a blogger who just started watching the ABC adventure-drama, Lost, in its final season — without having watched any previous ones.

The first thing that made me laugh was when he called the murderous character, Benjamin Linus, “wienery.”  I couldn’t help but chuckle because the description epitomizes him perfectly, even though I could only assume what the word meant.  As you can imagine, the word spread jokes about him between us  — including an idea for Ben’s ideal career, a job among other wieners.

Now, we know he’s powerful and has a mind for world-domination, so we gave him the biggest wiener we could think of, the Oscar Meyer Wiernermobile, a hot dog shaped vehicle which travels across the globe whistling the praises of beef.

We looked into who was the current wiener leader.  Turns out it’s a man named John Dijon. At first, I didn’t realize the Colonel Mustard reference was intentional until I saw his fellow Hotdogger, Guaca’lupe.  Yeah, I’m a dork, moving on…

Wienermobile, SeriousEats.com

And then amidst our food references I relished in a new realization: Among real life hot dogs and on the fictional island of Lost, women can never be top dog.

Think about it, when has Kate, Juliet, Ana Lucia, or even Libby, shown leadership qualities, but then been killed or been forced to follow Jack, Sawyer, Ben and Locke through the mysteries of the jungle.  Don’t you think someone like Kate, with the ability to track and persuade be, should be a leader? I mean yes, she’s a criminal in her normal life, but so was Sawyer.

Spoiler Alert! Now that more questions about the island are being answered and leaders are stepping up to take control of what seems like the ultimate battle between good and evil (aka Jacob (via Jack?) versus Locke), there aren’t any women in the running. Now maybe it’s because the writers keep killing off all the women, or turning them into crazies like Claire, or the men on the island want a man to lead, but in the real world, what’s the Hotdoggers excuse?

There are eight women and only four guys, they are the majority, if they wanted to grill those dudes and take over, they could win by a simple majority.   Shouldn’t their views of wiener driving safety and ketchup application be considered top dog too?

The whole thing is wienery if you ask me.

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The Lookie-Loos

An image of a lot of cubicles that seem to go ...
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Though I’m contractually obligated to refrain from blogging about my company, I think it’s safe to say I can write about anonymous people in my office in a pseudo-social light that has no impact on the company’s business or my relationship with it.

Plus, this is just too interesting to pass up.

Here goes. My cubicle is in a high traffic area.  Most people in the office know my name and it’s fair to say that many people on my floor see me on a daily basis because I’m in between the copy room and the kitchen/bathroom area. One of my four cubicles walls is also made of glass (though it can feel like a fish bowl occasionally, it’s actually a great spot).

Daily, about eight people stop by or throw remarks, greetings and odd phrases my way. And, during the holidays, they visit more frequently when I put out festive treats people scarf down as if they’ve never eaten before, but that’s a whole other post… Anyway, I’ve noticed an interesting phenomenon I’d like to share. About once or twice a week, male co-workers will comment on my “seriousness” or how I always look “pensive” while working at my computer. Or, they’ll ask if I’m mad, sad, or frustrated, even if we are not in conversation and I haven’t expressed any inclination of these feelings to them.

Now, here’s the thing, they all have private offices, with doors, but when I’ve walked by their desks they are not smiling pleasantly at their desks either — they are concentrating.  Like me.  This is a work place, where people are paid to sit at their computers, think and do their jobs — not sit at their desk typing away and pausing to cordially curtsy and grin like some crazed Victorian era maiden every time a someone walks by.  And, would they be interrupting my work, asking me what’s wrong, or commenting on my ability to focus, if I were a dude?  Probably not.

The fact that I’m “serious” and “pensive” is a good thing — it means I’m doing my job.  Why should that incite comments, concern or a seeming distaste that I’m not sitting here decorating the office with my smile?  Sorry boys, this isn’t Mad Men. And, frankly, it’s insulting that the concept of me “thinking,” or being a hard-worker is worthy of awkward banter while they are on their way to take a piss.

Do they expect me to smile and look cheerful because I’m a woman?  Or, am I the jerk — and they are simply concerned that I’m working too hard?  Though they may not know it, I suspect there’s an underlying prejudice when these lookie-loos peer into my cubicle.

If you’ve experienced any odd cubicle culture snafus because of your location in the office, or your gender, leave a comment below.  I’m always up for hearing more stories about your career life, thoughts, etc.

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Ending On a Positive Note

Day 5 – The Global Peace Initiative of Women
Making Way for the Feminine

On the final day of the conference speakers and guests were split into groups of five to discuss how they can help change the world.  Each group had to create two different sentences to describe their ideas. 

“Let us make way for the feminine by…”

Finding a way to finish the sentence was much more challenging than you would think — even after the past few days of lectures, discussions and polite debates among women at the conference.  I was in a group with Dori, Lori, her friend Philip Hellmich who worked for the Peace Corps. in North Africa and now works for Search for Common Ground, Ms. Kholisa Mxenge, Deputy Chairperson of the National Council of African Religion in South Africa and Dr. Sakeena Yacoobi, Founder and Executive Director of the Afghan Institute of Learning in Afghanistan.  As the youngest and least experienced in the group I felt it should be my job to simply listen to each of their thoughts.  If I found a way to contribute, I would, but it seemed like our short amount of time was not even enough for all of them to express their opinions.  I sat, listened and waited for a moment to pitch in. 

What made the conversation difficult was the fact that they were all saying the same thing in different ways.  Each one wanted to gather indigenous leaders with world leaders in order to hear how they can work together by embracing the indigenous culture to teach the communities how to live peacefully and healthfully.  For centuries people have tried to change others by converting their religious beliefs to their own, but in the end lives and culture are lost. 

In our group discussion, education and sharing ideas were the two fundamental concepts.  In essence, if we could find a way to educate community leaders about how to use the native traditions to modify thinking, we could use notions of peace and nurturing to end violence in communities and against women and children.  Too often have people been converted to foreign customs and religions only to cause more pain to the people others try to help.  Too often have corrupt motives like greed and power contaminated aid in countries seeking a compassionate helping hand.  Too often do women and children suffer.  Is there an answer?

In the end we came up with two sentences that focus on these principles.  Yet I kept thinking, if it’s this difficult to come up with a clear plan of action among five people, how are we supposed to do that for 6.6 billion?

After the conference I hoped that maybe, among all of those smart women, they could change the world for at least one person.  That’s not much to ask.  We shared many good ideas, but who is going to put them in to action? 

Before the conference began, some delegates and guests arrived in New Delhi and walked along the grassy area where Mahatma Gandhi took his final steps before he was assassinated.  In my mind, this initial gesture by the women was an underlying mission statement for the conference, a way to ground us and give us sure footing into the future. 

“Be the change you want to see in the world.”  — Gandhi