Thursday, April 30, 2009

8-year old Saudi Girl Granted Divorce

A Saudi mother has won a petition in court to grant her 8-year-old daughter a divorce from the 50-something "close family friend" the woman's husband married (sold!) the child to to pay back a debt.  

The original judge who heard the case refused to grant the annulment--but did manage to deny the "groom" legal sexual intercourse until the girl reached puberty.  (Because, clearly, a man who marries a child less than 1/6 of his age will respect her legal rights!?!)  A new judge appointed to the case finally issued the divorce/annulment only after the "husband" stopped defending the transaction as a legal marriage.

For more information, check out the Feminist Majority Foundation's April 16th story and the BBC's pieces, before and after the divorce was granted.

For those about to rock, we salute you!

Lets be honest with ourselves for a moment here: we've all had that moment when the beat of the music just gets to us and suddenly we are in the middle of our very own jam session. You know what I'm talking about. Before you know it you're singing at the top of your lungs, moving every known part of your body, and going from air guitar to hair brush mic in a matter of seconds.

To help us look a little more polished before our next "performance" Girls Rock Camps, a nationwide week-long summer program for girls age 8-18, have come to our rescue. With camps across the country, budding rockers form a band, learn how to play instruments such as the electric guitar, keyboard and drums, how to spin the ones and twos, practice their vocals, write a song, and (most importantly) have their very own jam session before a packed house! Jealous much?

But there's more to Girls Rock! than just good "tune-age" and "face melters". Rock 'n' roll camps for girls create spaces that allow young girls to build self-confidence and establish a community of positive relationships with their peers, all while learning some pretty bad-booty moves on the electric guitar.

In the words of the Rock 'n' Roll Camp for Girls in Portland, Oregon:


Girls can play any kind of music they want

Creative voices of girls and women need to be amplified to create social change

Girls need positive role models and support
for their creative endeavors

In creating a community where girls support each other rather than tear each other down

In empowering girls to recognize, understand,
and respond to discrimination

'Girls Rock' is more than just a slogan

Currently Girls Rock!DC is looking for volunteers for this summer's week-long camp. If you're not in the DC area, hit up Google and find a camp near your town. If you are too old to rock out (boo!) find out about volunteer opportunities as a counselor, band coach, or stage hand and support this great environment for feminist rockers.

Who knows, in a couple of years these young rockers may jam out like this:

Photo credit: Rock 'n' Roll Camp for Girls, Portland, OR

Feminist Wish List

By Shelby Knox

Yesterday on the Huffington Post, FMF President Ellie Smeal outlined President Obama’s strides for women during his first 100 days in office, concluding, “the work President Obama and his team have accomplished for women and girls in the first 100 days is impressive.”

Indeed it is. As young women we have President Obama to thank for cheaper birth control and EC over the counter for 17-year-olds, as well as stronger equal pay protections and the new White House Council for Women and Girls.

Yet, as President Obama said last night during his address on his first 100 days in office, this is only the start. Since gratitude never radicalized anyone and there is always something more to fight for, here’s my young feminist activist wish list for President Obama’s next 100 days:

Eliminate funding for abstinence-only-until-marriage programs. The federal government has put over a billion dollars into convincing teens to remain virgins until marriage, using programs that often contain inaccurate information about condoms and contraception, biases about gender and sexuality, and religious messaging. Much of this money is handed out to tax-exempt fake clinics that pose as real health centers for the sole purpose of convincing women they will regret abortion. It’s time to put science above ideology and give young people the information they need to make responsible decisions about sex.

Give immigrant women a choice about the HPV vaccine. According to a federal mandate, immigrant women between the ages of 11 and 26 seeking to adjust their citizenship status are required to receive the Gardasil vaccine, despite no similar requirement for American citizens. The cost of the vaccine adds $400 or more to the $1400 cost of applying for citizenship and evokes a long history of enacting oppressive reproductive health policies on immigrant women and women of color. All women should be able to make an informed choice in consultation with a health professional about the vaccine.

Understand the right to choose is “simply about women’s freedom” – and that’s non-negotiable. During his prime time press conference last night, President Obama was asked whether he is still eager to sign the Freedom of Choice Act. While establishing its unimportance in his legislative agenda, President Obama said it would be a mistake to think, “this is simply an issue about women's freedom and that there's no other considerations.” He spoke of the need to reduce abortion by reducing teen pregnancies and the consensus he hopes to reach amongst “groups both in the pro-choice camp and in the pro-life camp.”

What the president doesn’t seem to know is that the same groups that oppose abortion also oppose birth control. Extreme right-wing groups whose ideology is intrinsically opposed to women’s reproductive freedom are not the right partners in this fight, no matter how much short-term political capital it wins or how much cover it gives “conservadems” facing tough primary fights. There are many mainstream religious organizations whose values are much more in line with the beliefs of the majority of Americans, including the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice and Catholics for Choice, that would be much better suited to adding a moral voice to the discussion on curbing unintended pregnancy.

Of course, there are so very many more things that could be done to help women and girls here and around the world. Leave your wishes for the President’s next 100 days in the comments!

Fired Up, Ready to Wait?

For those of you (like me) who readily admit to being a bit of a news nerd, you probably tuned into President Obama's press conference last night expecting to hear discussion about the economy, war, and something about sick pigs.

What I did not expect to hear was this from CNN's Ed Henry (yes, the same CNN that brought us this little nugget of foolishness yesterday):

"Thank you, Mr. President. In a couple of weeks, you're going to be giving the commencement at Notre Dame. And, as you know, this has caused a lot of controversy among Catholics who are opposed to your position on abortion.

As a candidate, you vowed that one of the very things you wanted to do was sign the Freedom of Choice Act, which, as you know, would eliminate federal, state and local restrictions on abortion. And at that it was above -- quote, "above my pay grade."

Now that you've been president for 100 days, obviously, your pay grade is a little higher than when you were a senator.

Do you still hope that Congress quickly sends you the Freedom of Choice Act so you can sign it?"

Stunned to hear "the a-word" I perked up in my seat eager to hear our feminist President answer in the affirmative. What I got was, well, a little wishy washy:

While I commend the President for openly identifying as pro-choice, I was annoyed that he failed to see the difference between attacks on choice in state legislatures across the country and working together to prevent unintended pregnancies. Bills, such as the ones in Kansas, Arizona, Utah, and South Carolina, do not attempt to prevent unintended pregnancies but to punish and endanger women who become pregnant.

I understand that the Freedom of Choice Act, which would eliminate such bills, may not be high on his list of legislative priorities with the many crises at hand. In fact, I applaud him for the many great advances for women in his first 100 days. But what I wanted to hear him say (and what he promised on the campaign trail) was that he understands the dangers of these threats, the importance of the Freedom of Choice Act, and hopes Congress will deliver this bill to his desk soon.

When asked what has troubled him during his first 100 days, President Obama noted the slow pace at which change comes to Washington. Often times politicians are too concerned with the next year's race and fail to work on the tasks at present. There is no switch or button, he stated, that will allow Congress to "fall in line" the way you would like.

So perhaps I am guilty of being too eager, too ambitious. But I can't help but become a little flustered when I am told to be patient for change. What happened to "fired up, ready to go"? Trust me, I am more than fired up and ready and waiting. Are you?

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

A Feminst Assessment: Obama's First 100 Days

While mainstream news media are crazed to "arbitrarily" grade or score Obama's first 100 days in office, I thought to myself, "Hey! why don't I join in on the fun with the other grade-obsessed nutties!" But because this is a feminist blog, I will refrain from using traditional grading scales that prohibit a broaden view of Obama's complex leadership as President of the United States. So instead, I'll share both the highs and lows of Obama's first 100 days as it relates to women and particularly, women of color.

From his historic cabinet appointments and high-level leadership positions of women of color to the remarkable and significant policy changes that affect women--Lily Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, overturn of the "global gag rule", the passing of the economic stimulus package which sustains and creates new jobs in areas primarily dominated by women, and the introduction of the White House Council on Women and Girls--there's no doubt that we are seeing some great advancements under this new administration.

However, Obama may have turned some smiles into frowns during his first 100 days by boycotting the U.N.'s Anti-Racism Conference in Geneva, the bailout of banking and investment powerhouses, his appointments of past Clinton advisors, a relatively low percentage of women as cabinet members (6, possibly 7 out of 22--3 women of color), abstinence-only funding still remains intact, and his reluctance to prosecute key members of the previous Bush administration for interrogation torture strategy orders.

Needless to say, President Obama has certainly had a roller coaster ride in his first 100 days, and the ride is not over yet. Stay tuned for the rest of his term!

Alternative Mother’s Day Gifts!

As a friend recently wrote to me in an email… “Does your mother need another teddy bear to put in an overstuffed closet?  Does she need flowers grown by underpaid workers exposed to dangerous chemicals, then brought to the US with tons of fossil fuels? Does she need chocolate, with lots of added sugar and cholesterol?”

If you, like I did, answered no to any of these questions, why not make a donation to a women’s organization in the name of your mom/grandma/aunt/partner for mother’s day!? 

Here’s a short list of incredible women-centered organizations to consider. 

The Feminist Majority Foundation
Ms. Magazine
  National Center for Women & Policing   Echoppe 
  • WEDO
  • National Domestic Violence Hotline
  • Your Local Women’s Shelter
  • Your Campus Women’s Center

More ideas?  Please feel free to add to our list via the comment section!


Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Celebrating Sojourner Truth

This morning I had the wonderful priviledge to attend the unveiling of the new bust of Sojourner Truth to be on permanent display in the US Capitol.  Among the hundreds of distinguished speakers and guests were decendents of Sojourner Truth, First Lady Michelle Obama, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, Congresswoman Shelia Jackson Leigh, head of the Congress of Black Women, E. Faye Williams, and award-winning actor Cicely Tyson.  

It was truly amazing to see so many strong, powerful, outspoken women representing not just the struggle for equality, but the acheivments gained!  

One of my favorite moments was when Cicely Tyson approached the podium, not has herself, but in character as Sojourner Truth.  She performed Sojourner Truth's famous "Ain't I A Woman" speech that still rings true today.  Here is an excerpt (my favorite) from that speech:

"That man over there says that women need to be helped into carriages, and lifted over ditches, and to have the best place everywhere. Nobody ever helps me into carriages, or over mud-puddles, or gives me any best place! And ain't I a woman? Look at me! Look at my arm! I have ploughed and planted, and gathered into barns, and no man could head me! And ain't I a woman? I could work as much and eat as much as a man - when I could get it - and bear the lash as well! And ain't I a woman? I have borne thirteen children, and seen them most all sold off to slavery, and when I cried out with my mother's grief, none but Jesus heard me! And ain't I a woman?

Then they talk about this thing in the head; what's this they call it? [member of audience whispers, "intellect"] That's it, honey. What's that got to do with women's rights or negroes' rights? If my cup won't hold but a pint, and yours holds a quart, wouldn't you be mean not to let me have my little half measure full?

Then that little man in black there, he says women can't have as much rights as men, 'cause Christ wasn't a woman! Where did your Christ come from? Where did your Christ come from? From God and a woman! Man had nothing to do with Him.

If the first woman God ever made was strong enough to turn the world upside down all alone, these women together ought to be able to turn it back, and get it right side up again! And now they is asking to do it, the men better let them."

Newsday Tuesday!

Time for the another round of good news and bad news in the world of feminism. Lets start with the good stuff first:

Good: Truth is finally in the Capitol! The bust of feminist Sojourner Truth was unveiled today in a ceremony this morning at the U.S. Capitol. In a movement begun ten years ago by the National Congress of Black Women, Ms. Truth's bust, the first of an African American woman, was unveiled to a large crowd that included First Lady Michelle Obama, Speaker Nancy Pelosi, and Secretary Hillary Clinton.

Feminists of Iceland are celebrating the election of Johanna Sigurdardottir, the first female and openly gay Prime Minister in the nation's history. Whoop, whoop!

Snaps and claps to California Attorney General Jerry Brown for his letter to the California state Supreme Court stating that anti-affirmative action Proposition 209, amending the state constitution in 1996, is unconstitutional! Organized by California businessman Ward Connerly as the "California Civil Rights Initiative," Prop 209 has ended affirmative action policies in public employment, education, contracting, and gutted sex discrimination law. After achieving similar success in Michigan, Washington and Nebraska, Connerly was unable to garner enough signatures for anti-affirmative action measures in Missouri, Oklahoma, Arizona, and was DEFEATED in Colorado in 2008!

And just to ruin the party a little, here is some bad news:

Bad: As a Dominican woman, I am saddened (albeit not surprised) to hear of the the Dominican Republic's legislature's recent approval to ban all abortion without exception for the woman's health, rape or incest. Not bad enough? The DR Congress is also considering imprisoning women seeking abortions or attempting to abort a fetus.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Equal Pay Day this Tuesday!

Howdy feminists,

It's almost 80 degrees and sunny in DC. I'd like to celebrate, but the gender wage gap is getting me down.

Tomorrow, April 28, is Equal Pay Day, but really, every day is unequal pay day for women around the world.

Women earn less than men for the same work and the same hours. The U.S. Census Bureau found women earn 78 cents for every dollar men earn. Black women earn 69% of what white men earn, and Latina women earn 59 cents to every dollar a white man earns.

The wage gap begins as soon as women enter the workforce, and recent college grads are no exception. Additionally, the gender wage gap is apparent in every occupation, as you can see in this Bureau of Labor Statistics breakdown.

The Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act was a great signal to our justice system and policymakers that we will continue to negotiate a more equitable society, and that proactive policies like the Fair Pay Act help women and families. We've made strong gains over the last few decades, but at this rate none of us will see equality in our lifetimes.

Many student groups around the country are working to erase the pay gap and raise awareness on campuses, which is terrific. There are tons of way to get involved.

Tell the students in your group to wear red tomorrow as a reminder the wage gap keeps women in the red. You could host a pay equity bake sale, where women get charged 78 cents for baked goods while men pay $1.

Have fun while educating your campus: the Making Waves group at Southern Illinois University - Edwardsville sponsored a bean-bag toss with prizes. Women stood 7'6" away from the target, while men stood 10 feet away from the target. Students used bras as bean bag slingshots.

Host skill-building workshops on campus on interviewing, salary negotiation, and professional development. Partner with local feminist and progressive organizations to host networking events.

On a national level, you can get involved in the Fair Pay Campaign, a project sponsored by numerous women's organizations, including FMF. The campaign is sponsoring a congressional briefing on pay equity this Thursday, and it's free and open to the public. The briefing will be on Capitol Hill and you can learn more here.

We also encourage you to blog and tweet about how you're working to end the wage gap. Contact to let us know how you'll commemorate Equal Pay Day, or if you have any questions or suggestions!

Happy Marriage Day, Iowa!

Take a moment today to celebrate marriage equality in Iowa!  Following the Iowa Supreme Court's unanimous decision to strike down discrimination and uphold civil rights, starting today, same sex marriage will be legally recognized in the Hawkeye State!!

Follow One Iowa, the state's largest LGBTQ advocacy organization, on twitter to keep up to date on all the details.  While court house doors throughout the state are now open to same sex couples, the fight is not yet over.

Thank you for being a feminist, Bea Arthur

Lady Godiva was a freedom rider
She didnt’ care if the whole world looked.

Joan of Arc with the Lord to guide her
She was a sister who really cooked.

Isadora was the first bra burner
And you’re glad she showed up. (Oh yeah)

And when the country was falling apart
Betsy Ross got it all sewed up.

And then there’s Maude.
And then there’s Maude.
And then there’s Maude.
And then there’s Maude.
And then there’s Maude.
And then there’s Maude.

And then there’s
That old compromisin’, enterprisin’, anything but tranquilizing,
Right on Maude.

And then there was Bea Arthur. I was saddened to hear of the loss of a beloved Golden Girl to cancer this weekend. Like so many in my generation, I adored her dry humor as Dorothy Zbornak in "The Golden Girls" through years of re-runs on Lifetime television.

But it was more than just a good laugh. Throughout her television career, Bea Arthur brought many "taboo" topics to the screen and into living rooms across America. The success of "The Golden Girls" is notable not only for its older all-female cast (that included Betty White, Rue McClanahan, and the late Estelle Getty) but also for its portrayal of four (gasp!) mature women and the lives, laughs, and friendships they shared.

Her work as the title character in "Maude", a strong-willed, progressive female in the 1970s, tackled issues such as race, politics, birth control, and abortion. In a landmark episode that ignited a firestorm of criticism, a 47-year-old Maude discovers she is pregnant and considers an abortion, a procedure recently legalized in New York state.

Sadly the right and access to a safe and legal abortion is still under attack today. Check out a clip from that episode below and try to not think, "Geez, that could play today."

Thank you for being a friend and a feminist, Bea.

CUNY Students Need Your Help

Guest post by Jerin Alam, CUNY Hunter College

Did you know CUNY does not have a university-wide sexual assault policy?
You can help change that. We are in a historical time because a task force has been assembled with CUNY faculty, staff, administration, Public Safety & students to create this policy, which WILL go into effect next year for all 450,000 students. Make it a policy that reflects YOUR voice.

Come to a public forum & tell the taskforce what you want to see on the policy. In attendance: Vice Chancellor of Legal Affairs & other taskforce members, including Hunter College student Jerin Alam. Because CUNY is a public university, all NYC residents are welcome at the forum.

Wednesday, April 29, 1pm – 3pm, Room 603 Hunter West

To view the policy visit:

Direction to Hunter College: 695 Park Avenue | Take 6 train to 68th Street/the West building is on the southwest corner

If you cannot make the forum, email comments to the blog, contact or

stop by The Women’s Rights Coalition clubroom at Thomas Hunter 309

Friday, April 24, 2009

Clinton Stands Up For Women's Lives

If any of you missed Secretary of State Hillary Clinton (how much do I love saying that?) this week stand up for and defending reproductive rights and family planning at the Foreign Relations Committee hearing, I urge you to watch the two clips from the hearing below. Change is really here in Washington! Enjoy and be inspired :) Happy Friday!

And the following on Margaret Sanger:

Ms. Magazine Summer Internships Still Available!

Interested in interning with Ms. Magazine?  Summer internships are still available in the Feminist Majority Foundation's Los Angeles office!

To apply, send the following to :

- cover letter
- resume
- 2 references 
- 2 journalistic writing samples

For more information, click here or call 310-556-2500.

Online Support Group Helps Women

Bulimia Nervosa Support Group
A community of patients, family members and friends dedicated to dealing with Bulimia Nervosa, together.

FMF's Online Editor, Alysse Bortolotto, called our attention to this great online support group for those dealing with bulimia nervosa.  As we all know, eating disorders affect so many people on college campuses.  Whether you're dealing with bulimia directly or you know someone who is, this site looks to be a great resource.

From the mouth of babes

Perhaps it is because I am the proud "Auntie" of two budding young feminists (and am known to include words like "patriarchy" and "suffrage" into their elementary school vocabulary lists) that I have come to develop a soft spot for feminist kids. I just eat them up.

As my co-workers can tell you, I am no stranger to feminist gear for the younger crowd: coloring books, tees, band aids, books. I can't get enough of it.

So it is no wonder that dear Ruby captured my heart:

As you know, it goes far beyond cheeky T-shirts and books about Alice Paul. This is where the foundation of fairness, right and wrong, and equality is set in motion. Our toys, language, and behavior can all play a role in reinforcing gender stereotypes.

Admittedly, I'm still trying to work on the little things, too. Like saying "you all" instead of "you guys" and referring to my peers as "women" and not "girls." It's a habit I'm trying to break and prevent in my young nieces. What are some of the things you are doing to correct gender stereotypes and promote a feminist environment?

Feminist Friday Funday

Howdy feminists! Hope you had a good week. We were glad the FDA approved Plan B without a prescription for women 17 and older.

This is a good step forward in removing barriers to family planning options. Still, we believe the FDA should remove the age restriction around Plan B. Numerous organizations like the American Medical Association, Association of Reproductive Health Professionals, and American Academy of Pediatrics agree that adequate studies have demonstrated the safety and efficacy of EC for women and teens.

Need more info on EC? and are excellent resources. Want to organize your campus around access to emergency contraception? We've compiled some ideas here and there are additional EC materials on our website.

In other news, a Colorado jury convicted a man of first degree murder of a trans woman, and it was the first case in which trans violence was tried under a state hate-crime statute. Our condolences go out to the family of the victim.

On a more upbeat note, yesterday was the last day for 3 of our spring interns, Stella, Carmen, and Liz. We gathered 'round the conference table for cake and highs-and-lows, and took pictures (forthcoming). Cathy is graduating in May and will leave next week, leaving Lilah as our sole intern until the summer interns arrive in June.

The FMF interns accomplished a lot this semester. They researched women's studies programs for our newest issue of Ms. Magazine. They worked our national conference, assisted our National Center for Women and Policing director, followed congressional legislation, and wrote reports on feminine hygiene products in the developing world. All of them have been terrific, and we're sorry to see them go.

FMF organizer Tania Stewart has worked hard all spring to recruit, interview, and assemble our incoming group of interns. We received over 150 applications from all around the country for about 15 full-time positions. There were so many strong candidates, and deciding was difficult. Emily and I got to assist Tania with a few applications, so now Tania is rounding out the last of her offers.

We're looking forward to a really impressive class of summer interns, and Tania will try to post an update next week once she makes her final decisions. Our Los Angeles office is still seeking summer interns for Ms. Magazine, so check out Wendy's post above on how to apply.

The Ms. internship is a great opportunity to learn more about the nonprofit world and gain publishing experience. Candidates should have a strong research and writing background, with a high GPA.

If you'd like to apply for a Fall '09 internship in the DC or LA offices, e-mail Tania a cover letter and resume to intership by July 15. Enjoy the sunny weather and have a great weekend!

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Health Over Politics: EC victory for young women

Exciting news! The FDA announced yesterday that Plan B, the emergency contraception better known as the morning-after pill, will now be available over the counter for 17 year olds. The drug had previously only been available to young women with a doctor's prescription. The FDA's decision to ease the age restriction comes after a federal judge ruled last year that inhibiting access to Plan B was based on politics, not science.

We are thrilled to see another Bush-era restriction on women's healthcare fall. Giving young women greater access to emergency contraception helps prevent unintended pregnancies when other contraception methods fail. Plan B is NOT the same as mifepristone/RU-486, the abortion pill. Emergency contraception is taken up to 5 days after unprotected sex and contains a high dose of hormones which can delay or prevent ovulation, or interfere with fertilization or implantation.

To learn more about EC, visit our website.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Countering Antis on Campus

If you organize around choice, you've probably encountered resistance from anti-choice activists. FMF receives quite a few calls and e-mails from antis, but generally it doesn't bother us. Our receptionist Danielle is always polite and adroit at handling angry callers, and she really deserves a medal for her patience.

We recently heard from the Kutztown University FMLA after they received anti-choice e-mails criticizing their work and the KU Women's Center's materials on choice. The e-mail author said she would work to "shut down" the Women's Center, so the FMLA decided to notify campus offices and the administration to ensure the university would be fully prepared to respond to any further threats.

Jesse, the Kutztown FMLA president, e-mailed me to let me know how they handled the situation. I thought they did a great job, and encouraged him to share their experience on our blog. I really liked one strategy he mentioned where they held maroon and gold KU umbrellas in front of the antis to create a buffer between the protesters and students.

If your group has encountered similar opposition and developed successful strategies for addressing anti-choice opposition, comment below or e-mail We always emphasize a nonviolent, non-confrontational response, and the KU FMLA's experience is a great example.

If you or your group ever receive threats of violence, report it to local and campus police immediately. If they do not respond appropriately, contact FMF's National Center for Women and Policing. Margie Moore, the center's director, is a great resource, and you can reach her at 703-522-2214.

Responding to the Anti-Choice Movement

Guest post by Jesse Michener, Kutztown University

Over the past few years, FMLA at Kutztown University has confronted a vocal anti-choice minority on our campus, in our community and in our nation. Three years ago we had a group of anti-choice and homophobic protesters show up on our campus. We did not have time to plan a coordinated response, and we did not respond effectively.

Students gathered to counter protest. Everyone was angry, and the protesters got the response they were looking for. If there is one thing I learned from the time I have spent volunteering at abortion providers, it is that the antis, for the most part, are looking for a reaction; they are trying to upset people. So as time progressed and we realized that our campus was being targeted by anti-choice and anti-LGBTQ protesters, we decided to find a way of effectively responding.

Diversity groups came together from across campus and formed the Silent Witness Safety Response Team. We received training on how to create a buffer between students and protesters in a non-confrontational way. This allowed students to be able to walk freely back and forth across campus and not feel as though they were being attacked (to learn more about Silent Witness, visit

We had organizations on campus offer safe places for students to go while the protesters were on campus in order to talk about their emotions, and we had other groups hand out pins that said “Hate is Not a KU Value.” The antis ended up bringing KU students together and helped social justice groups on our campus learn to work together.

But that wasn’t the only time that we have been confronted with anti-choice protesters. During our Campaign to Expose Fake Clinics, a national movement sponsored by the Feminist Majority Foundation, we had anti-choice community members show up at our meetings.

We had our tables defaced; we learned that when that happens, we have to report the incident to Student Government. We received e-mails from antis; we learned to turn them over to our Women’s Center, Chief of Public Safety and Police Services, and other university officials. During our Roe v. Wade celebrations, we had anti-choice protesters show up at our event; we learned to meet with our Public Safety officials before events to ensure everyone’s safety.

Throughout our experience, we have found that the best action we can take when reacting to the antis is to avoid confrontation. Instead, we focus on supporting the people that they are attacking and the pro-choice work we do. We have used the anti-choice attacks to build stronger relationships with social justice organizations on our campus and build strong bonds with other students.

Happy Earth Day!

Happy Earth Day, everyone!

This day is a perfect day for feminists everywhere to reflect on the connections between our everyday lives, climate change, and conservation.

As you may know, FMF recently launched our new toolkit on Women and Water. Women throughout the world, women and girls are often responsible for many of the water-related activities in their households. This places them in a critical space. Because of these water-related roles, women are disproportionately impacted by water-borne disease, water pollution, scarcity, privatization, and other implications of irresponsible attitudes toward our climate and our earth. On the other hand, this space permits them a source of power to change those attitudes - armed with information, they can better understand how their actions affect water cleanliness, quality, consumption, health and hygiene.

This Earth Day, we encourage you all to make those connections between women and the environment! Let us know what you're planning or if you want to brainstorm - we love to hear your ideas. Again, be sure to look up the info on the new Women and Climate Change Campaign on our website!

Finally, I'll end with some fun/informative earth-day links:
US Environmental Protection Agency
Sierra Club
Women's Environment and Development Organization (WEDO)
National Geographic's Earth Day Green Guide for Everyday Living
Earth Day Network Site

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Won't Stop Until There's Equality!

I'm sure by now we've all seen the ridiculous NOM ad, "A Gathering Storm," trying to persuade people to jump on the bandwagon of lies and self-righteous bigotry that led to California's Prop 8. Well, the droll crew at has found an antidote in it's new release, "A Gaythering Storm."

FMF adamantly supports marriage equality and we won't simply won't stop until there's equality for ALL.

Be Kind To Your Mother: How FMF Got Involved With the Environment

When the Women's Environment and Development Organization (WEDO) first approached me to talk about the possibility of creating a toolkit on women and climate change with FMF's Global Program, I didn't know what to say. Is it actually possible for me to be speechless, I hear you ask? I'll have you know that the answer is yes. Well, every now and then, that is ;)

The truth is, I had nothing to say because I didn't know anything about the issue. Aside from a mandatory class during my Master's "coursework," as the Brits would say, I did not know much about what the connections between women and the environment were. A hundred years ago when I was at UNIFEM UK (United Nations Development Fund for Women), I had to write a piece connecting deforestation in Africa to women's health, mainly respiratory issues through the burning of wood for fuel and food (scroll to pg 26).
During my research for this article, I was shocked to uncover that this issue also carried with it a huge sexual violence component, a connection I never would have made.

Nevertheless, women and climate change pretty much ended for me there.

I decided to take the hand offered by WEDO to do this project together, and we brought Sierra Club, the nation's oldest and largest environmental organization, into the fold. I felt with the environment being an issue of huge interest with our students, it was time for FMF to make the women and climate change case for our Campus Program. After combing through an endless list of environmental "hot button" issues, we decided on exposing the gendered impact water had on women's lives. With that, our toolkit "Women, Water and the Search for Equity" was born :)

Deciding what issue we would work on was an education in itself. When I first started work on this project, I was more confused than confident. "What were the links between women and the environment? How are women paying a disproportionate price? Are they?"
Let's just say I had my reading cut out for me!

What I learned through our collaboration with WEDO and Sierra Club is that women are tied to the environment in such quiet and intimate ways you would not think of unearthing. But the ties are there, just beneath the surface. Because women are the primary collectors of water in their homes, girls are often pulled out of school to help their mothers with walking the unimaginable distances to fetch water for their families. Hundreds of thousands of girls around the world are denied education as a result. Women are the first to be exposed to water-borne illnesses, resulting in low-birth weights and higher infant mortality ratios in some of the poorest developing nations. Because women have to walk into the forests to gather firewood for fuel, an immeasurable number of women and girls are raped by bandits who lurk in the dark. These are major trends we have seen in both Kenya and Darfur, Sudan.

In honor of Earth Day this year, I could not be more proud to introduce to you to the Feminist Majority Foundation's first ever toolkit on women and water. We have added a whole new page to our global feminism campus site. All the information you need on FMF, WEDO, and Sierra Club's campaigns can be found there!

This Earth Day is the first in my adult life where not only am I educated and aware of all the ways the environment impacts women's lives, but the first time that I am motivated to take action. With the knowledge I gained putting this very new campaign of ours together, came a sense of empowerment that makes me want to act!

This Earth Day, if nothing, take action by acknoweldging that we all have a reponsibility to ourselves and our environment, as women to our bodies and to our sisters around the world, to educate ourselves and each other on how the human population is causing the environmental degradation of our planet, and what we can do to make the destruction stop.

After all, as feminists we have a special responsibility to be kind to our mothers don't we? ;)

Check out FMF's campaign on women and climate change today and spread the word to your friends!

Happy Earth Day!

Newsday Tuesday, April 21st Edition

Here at FeministCampus we want to make sure that all our readers are staying in-the-know on recent feminist news, so we're going to kick off a weekly sampling of feminist news tidbits, the Cliff's Notes version, if you will! Here goes:

Good News!
We'll start off on a happy note - the Washington state legislature passed a bill expanding domestic partner rights. Although passage in the NY Senate is iffy, at the very least the New York governor announced a same sex marriage bill. I love it when public leaders take a stand! Along the same lines, let's hear it for the leaders in Sierra Leone who signed a female genital mutilation agreement. Finally, the Oregon House tips its hat to women's health by Oregon House passing an HPV vaccine bill requiring state-regulated insurance companies to cover the vaccine.

Bad News!
And the not-so-great news includes the ongoing tale of the brave Afghan Women that we wrote about last week - hundreds pelted the women in the clash between protestors and counter-protesters of a highly restrictive new Shia family law. On the home front, unfortunately the Indiana State House amended an anti-choice bill to include a fetal pain provision.

That's all for now - those of you who want a daily dose of feminist news should be sure to check out the Feminist Daily NewsWire, and @feministnews on Twitter!

Monday, April 20, 2009

Saving Women's Lives: A Global Priority

As my colleague Emily Kadar very graciously gave me my very own "Blogging 101" session, I couldn't help but kick myself. Why didn't I start my blog last month?? With so many exciting events on global reproductive health and rights kicking off in March, including FMF's own rockstar leadership conference, there was no shortage of events to blog about. Kadar assured me it's never too late to reflect on some of the amazing events I have attended in the last month on one of my favorite subjects: women's health.

If I could choose one event to start off my blogging career, it would without a doubt be the the 42nd Session on the Commission of Population and Development! Before you ask yourself, "Huh, what is that about?" let me enlighten you ;).

Out of my two trips to the UN in New York last month, one really stands out. The Commission on Population and Development (CPD) is the United Nations' Commission that pretty much changed how we talk about population policies. Does the 1994 International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD) in Cairo, Egypt, ring a bell? Commonly referred to as "Cairo", the ICPD marked a real "Ah-hah" moment in the formulation of population policies. Cairo is when population policies shifted from being about controlling population growth, to focusing on real efforts to empower women. The basic idea: if women have equal access to higher education and better salaried jobs, they would choose to have smaller families, thus lowering fertility rates.

This year's CDP was unbelievable! The US Delegation's reproductive health, women’s empowerment, and family planning language seemed like the Feminist Majority Foundation had written their script! They offered very strong support for women and women’s health and renewed commitment to women’s empowerment and gender equality around the world--pointing out that Cairo is very clear in its commitment to women’s empowerment, and that is the framework they would be sticking to.

Before heading to New York the International Family Planning Coalition (IFPC) in Washington was invited to the State Department (which I attended on behalf of FMF), affirming that we're the experts who they rely on for input and language. Last year, the US delegation didn't even utter the words reproductive health services or family planning, and totally shut out groups like FMF. What a change!

Once in New York, the US delegation briefed us again before reading their statement to the UN Commission. The IFPC was assured that the goals set out in Cairo 15 years again would be reaffirmed by the US, something not heard in the past 8 years.

The US delegation noted that funding to the UNFPA had been reinstated, GGR repealed, and that US funding to IFP was much higher this year than any other year in US history, (despite still being drastically lower than what is needed). They assured us that more action reaffirming Cairo would be seen and taken as the Obama Administration got under way!

As anyone who has met me can tell you, I can always go on and on, but I'll stop here for now. I highly recommend you take five minutes to read the amazing statement made by the US Delegation to the UN Commission. It is music to our ears and a testament to the fact that the new Administration supports and encourages our work. The US leadership on global reproductive health and rights just made a few huge steps forward!

Yay for FMF's Global Campaign! :) And more from me soon.

How "magical thinking" can lead to pregnancy

More than half of pregnancies in the United States are unplanned. This morning, NPR Morning Edition posed an important question: why are so many pregnancies unplanned, given the vast number of contraceptive options on the market?

There are a number of different factors at play — cultural influences, ignorance, a lack of access to appropriate medical care.

Dr. Vanessa Cullins, the medical director of Planned Parenthood says, "Consistent and correct use of contraceptives is hard. It should be a responsibility that society shares... correct and consistent condom use requires that women be true to themselves and honest about the fact that they are having sex — if they want to avoid becoming pregnant."

Most interesting part of the piece was the story of Joy Migala, a young woman who became pregnant after having unprotected sex with an ex-boyfriend. Her situation was a classic case of a kind of cognitive dissonance that Sarah Brown of the National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy termed "magical thinking."

"You either say, 'I'm not planning to get pregnant, and therefore I'm going to be very careful,' or, 'I am planning to get pregnant,' " said Brown. "If you are the middle, in a fog and magically thinking, you're planning to get pregnant."

I was struck by the sex-positive and feminist tone of this piece, as well as the vast amount of information in such a short article (check out the contraceptive list — we could all use a refresher). Such a frank discussion of pregnancy and contraception, without blame and moral posturing, is often hard to find.

Photo courtesy of NPR

Congresswoman Holmes Norton: "I will not yield, sir!"

Two years ago today, Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton (DC) took to the floor of the House of Representatives to tackle the issue of DC voting rights.  


When interrupted and asked to yield the floor by Rep. David Dreier (CA-26), the Congresswoman angrily replied, "I will not yield sir.  The District of Columbia has spent [then] 206 years yielding to the people who would deny us the vote.  I yield you no ground!"

The Feminist Majority Foundation fully supports DC voting rights and commends Congresswoman Holmes Norton's efforts as an advocate for the most basic of civil rights: Congressional representation.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Pornography - ripe for political action?

This article suggests the political and social environment around pornography is similar to American attitudes toward smoking during the 1960s. At that time, the government had a largely "so-what" attitude toward smoking, but the last few decades have seen a shift in the way smoking is perceived and regulated. The implication seems to be that today's political climate around porn is similarly ripe for activism and legislation around pornography.

Whether or not you agree with pornography and sex work, we do need stronger protections for sex workers. Any legislation or regulation on this issue should be woman-centered, not paternalistic. Sex workers and their families need a fair shot at life, just like anyone else.

Fake Clinic Exposé: Real Women's Experiences at a CPC

"This is a licensed medical clinic.

"It’s usually safe to assume that medical clinics provide medical care. But if you have the capacity to bear children, those rules apparently don’t apply. If a cancer clinic were run as a Christian Scientist front there would be anger.

"There would be disgust. It would be shut down. But the distraught woman in dire circumstances — “a killer who in this case is the girl” — being routinely defrauded because she “has no right to information” has gone unnoticed by the general public."

The excerpt above is from an eye-opening article by Tina Dupuy entitled "Babies and Bibles," posted in the Pasadena Weekly and cross-posted by the Huffington Post.
Check out the full article here, and let us know if you or anyone you know has had similar experiences. Knowledge truly is power. As we Expose Fake Clinics for what they are--deceptive, financial fronts for religious political agendas--we take the power back.

Sign the petition, join the Campaign to Expose Fake Clinics, and stand up for your right to your body!

Illustration by Owen Freeman, as used in the Pasadena Weekly 4/16/2009.

Earth Day is next week!

Next Wednesday, April 22nd is Earth Day! Here at FMF we're super excited about the opportunity to talk about how women's rights and the conservation movement overlap.

On our Twitter a few days ago, we asked for some ecofeminist event ideas. Here's a few of the first couple of responses!

@AWFJ @feministcampus Group up to watch great environmental documentaries and take action!

@ecomarci @feministcampus host a party about sustainable alternative to tampons and decorate your old, unused tampons!

@mynameismeg @feministcampus WKU is having a party in front of the WS building. Local food, tie dye, music and handing out ecofeminism info to passersby.

These are great ideas, thanks to @AWFJ, @ecomarci, and @mynameismeg! What else are the rest of you planning? Let us know with an @reply on Twitter or in the comments below, we love to share your ideas.

On a related note, keep an eye out soon for a new ecofeminist campaign from us - FMF's Women and Water campaign is coming soon!

Feminist Friday Wrap-up: Love

Hello feminists! It's finally spring in Washington, and you know what that means. Love is in the air! Which is to say, we always love feminism!

Anyway, today's word is love. We applaud New York Gov. Patterson, who introduced a bill Thursday legalizing same-sex marriage in the state.

The Washington state legislature passed a bill Wednesday broadening the rights and benefits to which same-sex couples are entitled. The Washington governor has said she will sign the bill. Equality for same-sex couples is slowly becoming a reality, but much work remains to ensure we don't lose ground.

We hope a Colorado jury will deliver a just ruling in the murder trial of a young trans woman. The state is prosecuting her killer under a hate-crime statute, and it is the first case in which a state will argue trans violence is covered under its hate-crime law. Colorado is one of 11 states and the District of Columbia with hate crime laws that include gender identity.

We condemn the Taliban execution of a young Afghan couple that attempted to elope. The young woman's parents attempted to force her into an arranged marriage, but she fled to a neighboring village with her partner prior to the marriage. The couple's parents found them and reported them to the Taliban.

Love gets ugly when local and federal governments dispense benefits and punishment based on a narrow-minded view of love and marriage. Americans cherish the idea of equal opportunity, and we can hold our government accountable to this ideal.

Keep working with your public servants and campus community to create a safe, equitable, peaceful society. Have a good weekend, lovers!

FMF campus team

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Afghan women demand their rights

Afghan women marched on Parliament yesterday to demand the repeal of the new law that severely restricts the freedom of women in Shiite communities.

Women took to the streets, and were quickly surrounded by a large mob of men from the nearby madrasa. Fortunately, there was a strong police presence, including several female officers, to protect the protesters, the NY Times reported.

The Afghan ambassador to the U.S. said the law, which permits marital rape and requires women to obey their husbands, will not go into effect. The Afghan constitution includes provisions requiring gender equality, which means the new law would not comply.

In response to international pressure, the Afghan government is currently reviewing the law. President Obama denounced the law as "abhorrent," and other heads of state and human rights organizations criticized the law for limiting women's rights.

We hope Ambassador Jawad is right and the law will not be implemented. But now is not the time to rest. The international community must demand the full, immediate repeal of the law. Otherwise, Shia women in Afghanistan will simply be second-class citizens.

Urge President Karzai to withdraw the draconian draft law that would restrict women from leaving their homes, working, going to school and obtaining medical care without their husbands' permission. The law also includes provisions that grants child custody only to men and revokes women's rights to refuse sex with their husband.

Educate your legislators about conditions for
women in Afghanistan. Ask them what they are doing to ensure women's health and well-being abroad. You can learn more about Afghanistan and ways to take action globally at our website.

Questions? Contact us at A world that is good for women is good for everyone.

Photo source: