Human rights organization Breakthrough launches “THE G WORD”

Digital storytelling project seeks to show impact of gender norms and inspire action for change

NEW YORK — Human rights organization Breakthrough is launching “THE G WORD,” an interactive, digital storytelling site focused on challenging gender norms through shared personal experiences. The unique interconnected web design of personal stories sheds light on how we are all connected through shared experiences with gender bias, expands awareness about harmful gender norms and presents an actionable vision of a better world. An early preview is now available to select members of the media.

“Breakthrough’s THE G WORD uses personal stories to challenge harmful gender norms,” said Ishita Srivastava, multimedia manager at Breakthrough and lead producer on the project. “By sharing our own stories and listening to others’, we can create ‘A-ha!’ moments about the way the world talks about gender to help drive culture change. These poignant, funny, deeply moving, transformative stories will shift our culture away from violence and discrimination toward a world in which we can live and thrive with a diversity of gender expressions.”

THE G WORD received one of the first grants from the National Endowment for the Arts for projects relating to mobile and digital technology. It has been designed by some of the nation’s most cutting-edge digital storytellers.

“THE G WORD is a really innovative project in how it uses design, technology and storytelling to get people to talk about gender, feel invested in the issues and explore the interconnected stories,” said Ingrid Kopp, senior consultant at Interactive Tribeca Film Institute.

“The real-life experiences captured by THE G WORD poke holes in mainstream narratives about what gender is or should be. We can rewrite these standards to be more inclusive and, in doing so, envision a better world, free from discrimination and violence,” said Srivastava.

SELECT EXCERPTS FROM THE G WORD STORIES:

“I know it may not seem like it, and you may be tired of hearing this, but it will get better. It won’t ever be okay, and there is no justification or explanation good enough for what happened. But one day you’ll wake up and realize it doesn’t hurt as bad anymore, you won’t see their face in your nightmares, and you realize that you’re going to be just fine.” — Shai, 18 (who was abused by a family member)

“My fiance was sexually abused for years, and it finally stopped a little bit after we started dating. But he never told anyone or filed a report against the man who abused him because he was a family friend. We need to instill in our young people from an early age that just because you are close to the person does not make it okay, and does not give you any sort of obligation to protect them from the law.” — Anonymous, 20

“This year I came out as a transwoman to my friends and family. They acted like the ‘old me’ deserved something like a funeral, because it was as though the old me ‘died.’ [They called] me a ‘shemale,’ faggot and all that wonderful stuff. While I would love to dress and act like I want, I feel obligated to act as girly as possible. It’s like if I don’t fit the ultimate standards of femininity, I can’t truly be a girl. [And] it sucks to be considered the family freak. It’s ridiculous to have to hear about another case of violence, murder and suicide. For what? Being ourselves. I’m still transitioning because it never really ends, but perhaps I can help those who are where I was earlier this year.” — Cera, 22

“Freshman year I met a nice guy in my drawing class … I told him I didn’t want to fool around, but [he] molested me against my will. I never told anyone, or even defined it as rape despite screaming and hating every second in my head. I thought that because we were dating that meant I had to go along with it and pretend to enjoy it, because that’s what girlfriends do for their boyfriends … I hope my story can help someone else out there.” — Peyton, 21

“’You’re not like other girls.’ It made me feel special. But it was hiding a truth. ‘You’re not like other girls’ was the sentence that caused my isolation. He fed it to me, day after day. ‘I’m not like *other* girls! I like video games instead of shopping, books instead of shoes. That girl is too skinny, obviously she tries too hard. That girl is too fat, obviously she doesn’t try hard enough. Me? I’m perfect. I’m not like *other* girls.’ My friends started leaving. I had nobody left except for him, but that was okay, because I wasn’t like *other* girls. When he began forcing me to have sex with him, I thought I was supposed to be doing it. I thought that his aggression and violence were normal. I had nobody to ask about it anymore.

I finally got away from him. Now I have girl friendships again. We support each other and defend each other. It’s a love that I didn’t even know existed. I would be proud to be like other girls. They are all beautiful.” — Claire, 22

“I’m a mom. Being a good mom means being on top of housework, feeding, changing, etc. But I feel like dads get away with less. Dads are applauded just for being in the room. They’re allowed to put their career first, and support their family that way. I wish it wasn’t as taboo for women to do the whole ‘dad’ thing and dads to be ‘moms.’ Why do our private parts determine who does what childcare wise?” —  Her, 21

WHAT ONE G WORD STORYTELLER IS SAYING DURING THE FIRST WEEK OF THE LAUNCH:

“I have told a few different people about it and they have seriously thought about writing their stories, too. This is such an amazing thing you are doing. I cannot express how much it means to me to know I have a safe place where I can be heard. It’s the most uplifting thing I have done for myself in such a long time. Thank you. Please let me know how else I can be on board and help.” — Anne, 19

To access a pre-launch preview of THE G WORD site available only to select journalists, go to https://us.breakthrough.tv/thegword.

###
Breakthrough (www.breakthrough.tv) is a global human rights organization working to make violence and discrimination against women and girls unacceptable. Our cutting-edge multimedia campaigns, community mobilization, agenda-setting and leadership training equip men and women worldwide to challenge the status quo and take bold action for the dignity, equality and justice of all.