Bars in Canada are using these artistic drink coasters to fight sexual assault.

You're at the bar with your friends. Over a couple of cold ones and maybe a handful of peanuts, you talk about sports, politics, and ... consent?

That's exactly what the four women behind Aisle 4, a "curatorial collective" based in Toronto, want to see more of in the world.

Shannon Linde and the other curators work with local artists to create socially-engaged artwork that lives in the real world, not on gallery walls. Finding a way to tackle the topic of women's safety in bars has been on their agenda for a while.


"This has come up quite a bit. I mean, we are four women," Linde says. "People making an effort to change the dangerous climate is not happening as quickly as you would expect."

Aisle 4: Emily Fitzpatrick, Patricia Ritacca, Renée van der Avoird, and Shannon Linde. All photos by Aisle 4, used with permission.

Aisle 4 worked with local artists in Toronto to design a series of eye-catching coasters that would spark conversations in bars around consent, harassment, and assault.

It's no secret any place where lots of alcohol is being consumed can be dangerous. From aggressive, leering Tinder dates, pushy would-be suitors, or even people following them home, women can face an absurd amount of peril for simply wanting to go out and have a drink.

The coaster project, called "On the Table," quietly reminds that "Consent matters" and implores people to "Listen to your gut."

Linde says she knows a coaster isn't going to deter an attacker, for example, but hopefully getting small groups of people talking about the issues openly will have a positive effect.

"A coaster can't change patriarchy but it can remind you that gender is fluid and empathy is imperative." By Hazel Meyer

There's been a bigger push recently to get bar and restaurant staff involved in the fight against harassment.

Plenty of establishments have been in the news lately for adopting "safe words," i.e. a woman can ask for "Angela" or order an "Angel shot" to alert the staff that she needs help.

Critics of these measures say they put the onus on someone to figure their own way out of a dangerous situations, rather than on the people who make them feel unsafe; they also point out that the code words won't do much good once everyone knows what they mean.

On the Table takes a different approach and, quite literally, lays the uncomfortable truth about safety out in the open.

"Consent matters. Listen to her." By Lido Pimienta

"What we're not attempting to do is enact massive social change," Linde says. "Because that's so unrealistic."

She says most of us live in a bit of a bubble, only talking about the important stuff with people we know agree with us. These coasters might be a chance to change that.

"Mostly men are surprised that I might have felt unsafe many times in the past month," she says. "I don't think it's as known what the experience of women is day to day."

"Men are allies." By Jesse Harris

So far, nine bars in the Toronto area have eagerly signed up to use the coasters. More will likely join the effort soon.

The coasters can't be found in the wild just yet (they're currently being printed and will be distributed soon), but Linde says the feedback on the campaign so far has been amazing, and unlike a lot of their work, it has completely transcended the art community.

"This is definitely the most far-reaching project we've done to date," she says.

"Listen to your gut." by Aisha Sasha John

It remains to be seen if the project will have the impact the women at Aisle 4 are hoping for.

But at least they've done their part by creatively trying to further an important conversation. Whether everyone chooses to listen ... that's the bigger question.

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Some 75 years ago, in bombed-out Frankfurt, Germany, a little girl named Marlene Mahta received a sign of hope in the midst of squalor, homelessness and starvation. A CARE Package containing soap, milk powder, flour, blankets and other necessities provided a lifeline through the contributions of average American families. There were even luxuries like chocolate bars.

World War II may have ended, but its devastation lingered. Between 35 and 60 million people died. Whole cities had been destroyed, the countryside was charred and burned, and at least 60 million European civilians had been made homeless. Hunger remained an issue for many families for years to come. In the face of this devastation, 22 American organizations decided to come together and do something about it: creating CARE Packages for survivors.

"What affected me… was hearing that these were gifts from average American people," remembers Mahta, who, in those desperate days, found herself picking through garbage cans to find leftover field rations and MREs to eat. Inspired by the unexpected kindness, Mahta eventually learned English and emigrated to the U.S.

"I wanted to be like those wonderful, generous people," she says.

The postwar Marshall Plan era was a time of "great moral clarity," says Michelle Nunn, CEO of CARE, the global anti-poverty organization that emerged from those simple beginnings. "The CARE Package itself – in its simplicity and directness – continues to guide CARE's operational faith in the enduring power of local leadership – of simply giving people the opportunity to support their families and then their communities."

Each CARE Package contained rations that had once been reserved for soldiers, but were now being redirected to civilians who had suffered as a result of the conflict. The packages cost $10 to send, and they were guaranteed to arrive at their destination within four months.

Thousands of Americans, including President Harry S. Truman, got involved, and on May 11, 1946, the first 15,000 packages were sent to Le Havre in France, a port badly battered during the war.

Thousands of additional CARE Packages soon followed. At first packages were sent to specific recipients, but over time donations came in for anyone in need. When war rations ran out American companies began donating food. Later, carpentry tools, blankets, clothes, books, school supplies, and medicine were included.

Before long, the CARE Packages were going to other communities in need around the world, including Asia and Latin America. Ultimately, CARE delivered packages to 100 million families around the world.

The original CARE Packages were phased out in the late 1960s, though they were revived when specific needs arose, such as when former Soviet Union republics needed relief, or after the Bosnian War. Meanwhile, CARE transformed. Now, instead of physical boxes, it invests in programs for sustainable change, such as setting up nutrition centers, Village Savings and Loan Associations, educational programs, agroforestry initiatives, and much more.

But, with a pandemic ravaging populations around the world, CARE is bringing back its original CARE packages to support the critical basic needs of our global neighbors. And for the first time, they're also delivering CARE packages here at home in the United States to communities in need.

Community leaders like Janice Dixon are on the front lines of that effort. Dixon, president and CEO of Community Outreach in Action in Jonesboro, Ga., now sends up to 80 CARE packages each week to those in need due to COVID-19. Food pantries have been available, she notes, but they've been difficult to access for those without cars, and public transportation is spotty in suburban Atlanta.

"My phone has been ringing off the hook," says Dixon. For example, one of those calls was from a senior diabetic, she remembers, who faced an impossible choice, but was able to purchase medicine because food was being provided by CARE.

Today, CARE is sending new packages with financial support and messages of hope to frontline medical workers, caregivers, essential workers, and individuals in need in more than 60 countries, including the U.S. Anyone can now go to carepackage.org to send targeted help around the world. Packages focus on helping vaccines reach people more quickly, tackling food insecurity, educational disparities, global poverty, and domestic violence, as well as providing hygiene kits to those in need.

From the very beginning, CARE received the support of presidents, with Hollywood luminaries like Rita Hayworth and Ingrid Bergman also adding their voices. At An Evening With CARE, happening this Tuesday, May 11, notable names will turn out again as the organization celebrates the 75th Anniversary of the CARE Package and the exciting, meaningful work that lies ahead. The event will be hosted by Whoopi Goldberg and attended by former Presidents Barack Obama, George W. Bush, Bill Clinton, and Jimmy Carter, as well as Angela Merkel, Iman, Jewel, Michelle Williams, Katherine McPhee-Foster, Betty Who and others. Please RSVP now for this can't-miss opportunity.

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Seeing someone who has a long record of sobriety—especially after a very public struggle—can be motivating and inspiring for others in different stages of their recovery journey. That's part of why actor Rob Lowe's announcement that he's reached 31 years sober is definitely something to celebrate.

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Photo by Daniel Schludi on Unsplash
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The global eradication of smallpox in 1980 is one of international public health's greatest successes. But in 1966, seven years after the World Health Organization announced a plan to rid the world of the disease, smallpox was still widespread. The culprits? A lack of funds, personnel and vaccine supply.

Meanwhile, outbreaks across South America, Africa, and Asia continued, as the highly contagious virus continued to kill three out of every 10 people who caught it, while leaving many survivors disfigured. It took a renewed commitment of resources from wealthy nations to fulfill the promise made in 1959.

Forty-one years later, although we face a different virus, the potential for vast destruction is just as great, and the challenges of funding, personnel and supply are still with us, along with last-mile distribution. Today, while 30% of the U.S. population is fully vaccinated, with numbers rising every day, there is an overwhelming gap between wealthy countries and the rest of the world. It's becoming evident that the impact on the countries getting left behind will eventually boomerang back to affect us all.

Photo by ismail mohamed - SoviLe on Unsplash

The international nonprofit CARE recently released a policy paper that lays out the case for U.S. investment in a worldwide vaccination campaign. Founded 75 years ago, CARE works in over 100 countries and reaches more than 90 million people around the world through multiple humanitarian aid programs. Of note is the organization's worldwide reputation for its unshakeable commitment to the dignity of people; they're known for working hand-in-hand with communities and hold themselves to a high standard of accountability.

"As we enter into our second year of living with COVID-19, it has become painfully clear that the safety of any person depends on the global community's ability to protect every person," says Michelle Nunn, CARE USA's president and CEO. "While wealthy nations have begun inoculating their populations, new devastatingly lethal variants of the virus continue to emerge in countries like India, South Africa and Brazil. If vaccinations don't effectively reach lower-income countries now, the long-term impact of COVID-19 will be catastrophic."

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