Sunday, May 31, 2009

Murder of Dr. George Tiller – Statement of Eleanor Smeal, President

May 31, 2009
Contact: Alice Cohan 703-522-2214 | Susie Gilligan 310-556-2500

Murder of Dr. George Tiller – Statement of Eleanor Smeal, President

The Feminist Majority Foundation is deeply saddened and outraged by the assassination of Dr. George Tiller at his church in Wichita, Kansas, this morning. We have worked closely with Dr. Tiller for many years in the hopes of preventing such a tragedy.

The tragic news of his murder, unfortunately, does not come as a complete surprise. Dr. Tiller has long been the target of anti-abortion extremists, surviving a previous assassination attempt in 1994 by an Army of God follower.

Dr. Tiller, who I knew for more than twenty years, was an extraordinarily courageous and dedicated women's health physician. Dr. Tiller was fully aware of the danger he faced, but was determined to ensure that women nationwide with troubled pregnancies had access to the best medical care that could be provided. Our deepest sympathies go out to his family and his dedicated clinic staff and medical personnel.

Dr. Tiller’s murder is not an isolated event. Dr. Tiller was harassed, threatened, shot five times (in 1994), his clinic was bombed in 1986, and most recently this month was maliciously damaged by anti-abortion extremists. We are concerned about the safety and lives of other dedicated personnel and doctors—not only in Kansas, but several other states. The Feminist Majority Foundation is working with clinics and law enforcement to ensure the security of reproductive healthcare physicians and staff during this period of heightened concern.


Since 1989, the Feminist Majority Foundation has run the National Clinic Access Project (NCAP), the nation’s oldest and largest clinic defense program. NCAP works with local law enforcement to ensure safe access to women’s reproductive health clinics, to increase safety for women’s healthcare workers and physicians, and to bring perpetrators of anti-abortion violence to justice.

Press Release here:

Friday, May 29, 2009

The Word for Today: Can We Say PRIVILEGE???

Ok, so I said to myself that I wouldn't give some of these conservative pundits and intolerable commentators sipping on their haterade the time of day. But dammit, I just can't resist. What's up with this week's media frenzy around, dare I say it, the supposedly vulnerable political and social power of white men (gasp)! PLEASE! Give me a break.

First, we have a roundup of conservative hoopla taking Supreme Court Justice nominee Sonia Sotomayor's statements about her identity impacting her role as a judge out of context and slandering her as a "reverse racist":

Oh, let's not forget Gordon Liddy & Rush Limbaugh's attacks. Those are pretty classic:

Then we have a debut of yet another boys club, this time at University of Chicago, "Men in Power":

I mean, really, what is the deal with all this sappy "woe is me, I'm a white male minority" nonsense. If you ever needed a reason as to why feminist and racial dialogue is imperative to the overall change in our society, well now you've got ONE!

Because issues of race and gender have been so conveniently appropriated lately, individuals who continue to gain further strides due to historical political, economic and social privilege tend to challenge anyone or any ideology that conflicts with that history of privilege. More than ever before, we have women, lesbians and gays, and people of color taking on influential positions in our society and this power shift seems to be a threat to the status quo. I feel that it's very cowardice and absurd that many of these conservatives would make racial and sexual indictments against masses of people when the nation as a whole is seeing for the first time true diversity being exemplified.

If Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX) can dismiss such arguments, then surely people, we must do better.

13-year old Kavya Shivashankar WinsNational Spelling Bee!

Congratulations to Kavya Shivashankar who beat 293 participants of the National Spelling Bee to earn the first place title!  

In case you're wondering, the final word Kavya had to spell: L-A-O-D-I-C-E-A-N, laodicean.  (If you're like me and curious as to what the heck that means...laodicean is an adjective meaning "lukewarm or indifferent, esp. in religion, as were the early Christians of Laodicea.")

And, as if winning the National Spelling Bee in front of Dr. Jill Biden (spouse of the VP Joe Biden), Olympic gold meadalist Shawn Johnson, and millions of TV viewers wasn't enough already, Kavya has even greater aspirations.  While she still needs to make her way through the rest of middle school and high school, Kavya has her sights set on becoming neurosurgeon.

All I can say is GOOD LUCK, KAVYA!  If your dedication and determination shown in the spelling bee tells us anything, I'm thinking we'll see you in the OR very soon!  =-)

Feminist Friday Flashback

You can go quietly. Or you can Rock for Choice. My fellow organizer, Tania Stewart, was remarking that it had been too long since FMF last held a Rock for Choice concert.

I've got to agree with her. Benefit concerts bring a little pizazz to our issues, and are a great way to raise money for organizations that assist women.

Past concerts featured Sarah McLachlan, Pearl Jam, Nirvana, Cyndi Lauper, Liz Phair, and other fabulous musicians. What artists would you like to see if we hosted a concert today?

I vote for the Vagtastic Voyage, starring FMF's very own Caroline Sellars on guitar.

Wellesley College's Students for Reproductive Rights group held a Rock for Choice concert this spring, and I know quite a few student organizations have hosted concert festivals featuring feminist artists.

Ready to Rock for Choice at your campus? Check out our toolkit for how to get started. If you've organized a RfC concert, let us know how it went! As always, send us your regards at

Have a good weekend - peace.babylove!

Thursday, May 28, 2009

University of Chicago outcry over "Men in Power" student organization

Check it out - one of our chartered campus groups, the Feminist Majority at the University of Chicago - is quoted in this Chicago Tribune article about a newly minted student organization on campus, "Men in Power."

Major props to the Feminist Majority and other students on campus for speaking up about this! I have really enjoyed working with these Chicago feminists over the course of the last year and am totally inspired by their passion and responsiveness to issues on their own campus and community.

Also, check out some background on the situation - first, the founder of Men in Power's article ("Men in power - True equality means groups that advocate for men as well as women.") in the school newspaper, The Chicago Maroon, and another Maroon article ("Men's advocacy group holds first meeting amid protest") about their first meeting and students on campus responding.

What do you all think? Is there a need for groups like "Men in Power"? Why, or why not? How would you respond to such a group starting on your campuses?

Feel free to comment below, we want to hear from you!

The Real Househusbands of DC

Just got back to DC after a few days in California with the fam. Apparently the District is aflutter over the upcoming season of The Real Housewives of DC.

I'd like to see Bravo produce The Real Househusbands of DC, just to shake things up. Bill Clinton and Georgetown professor Martin Ginsburg (husband of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg) seem like good candidates. Eligible bachelors Justice David Souter and President Obama's assistant Reggie Love would also have good screen presence.

The current Bravo series seems like a formulaic extension of the Jerry Springer Show catfights. Women tearing each other apart, rinse, repeat. So is there a market for programming about stay-at-home dads? Would David Souter and Martin Ginsburg be sufficiently confrontational at dinner parties? Who would you like to see on The Real Househusbands of DC?

Rob Thomas Has a Big Gay Chip on His Shoulder

I normally do not put much stock into the rantings of celebrities. I agree that they, like the rest of us, have a right to speak their minds but typically chalk it up to mindless chatter. So tickle me surprised when I read Rob Thomas' commentary on gay marriage.

"I've heard it said before, many times, that if two men or two women are allowed to join into a civil union together, why can't they be happy with that and why is it so important that they call it marriage? In essence, what's in a name?

A civil union has to do with death. It's essentially a document that gives you lower taxes and the right to let your faux spouse collect your insurance when you pass away. A marriage is about life. It's about a commitment."

Join us in support of this commitment for ALL PEOPLE by signing our Love and Equality Pledge today!

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Newsday Tuesday: May 26 Edition

Another week of feminist news has gone by, so here's a quick week-in-review!

The US Supreme Court ruled that maternity leave taken prior to the 1979 Pregnancy Discrimination Act does not have to be credited to pensions on a pregnancy discrimination case.

President Obama announced his nomination of Sonia Sotomayor to the Supreme Court of the United States, replacing retiring Justice David Souter.

The Nepalese Supreme Court ordered an expansion of access to abortion, particularly for poor women.

State by State:
A proposed anti-choice constitutional amendment in the state of Tennessee passed the state house of representatives, specifically stating that "nothing in this Constitution secures or protects a right to abortion or requires the funding of an abortion."

The State Assembly of California passed a broader state-level version of the federal Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act of 2009, expanding the statute of limitations on pay discrimination claims runs from the receipt of each discriminatory payment.

The Louisiana state House passed a health care "conscience" bill, allowing providers to withhold abortion, emergency contraception, and other services and medications on the basis of religious or moral objections.

In response to legislation earlier this month by the DC City Council enabling the District to recognize same sex marriages performed in other states, a bill was introduced to the US House of Representatives that would institute a Defense of Marriage Act for the District of Columbia defining marriage as between a man and a woman.

And the big news from California - the state's Supreme Court upheld the results of Proposition 8, an anti gay marriage ballot initiative which passed in November 2008.

Photo Credit: Official WhiteHouse Flickr Stream and Val protesting Prop 8 in DC last fall.

Sign our Love and Equality Pledge!

Help us gather thousands of feminist voices who will work to help overturn Proposition 8 in California. Act now by signing this Feminist Pledge for Love and Equality and forwarding it to friends and family. We don't have a moment to lose.

The California Supreme Court today refused to strike down the mean-spirited and discriminatory Proposition 8 that will hurt loving couples. That means it is up to us.

Plans are already being formulated to overturn Prop 8 and bring the question of same-sex marriage back to the ballot in California. Feminists must be a key partner in this battle. To make sure we do all we can, FMF board member Dolores Huerta and I have joined the board of Equality California, a leader in the fight for marriage equality.

All people should be able to marry who they love. We will keep you informed of how you can help as plans move forward to go back to the ballot box and win this fight for full equality.

We will not stop fighting until Prop 8 is overturned.

For equality,

Kathy Spillar

Kathy Spillar
Executive Vice President
Feminist Majority Foundation

Protesting CA Prop 8 Supreme Court Ruling

People throughout the country are protesting California's Prop 8 Supreme Court Ruling.   To find information on protests near you, simply text:

 "Protest + [zip code]" to 273-36.

Provocative Response to Prop 8 Decision

The California-based Courage Campaign has responded to today's devestating Prop 8 Decision with a provocative video and petition campaign.

Check it out:

For more information on the Courage Campaign, go to

The fight for marriage equality IS NOT OVER!

Prop 8 Upheld

Unfortunately, the California Supreme Court has upheld the 2008 ballot measure (Prop 8) to take away previously-existing marriage rights of same sex couples in the state of California.

Evidently, couples who were married before Prop 8 passed on the November ballot are still legally married.  However, it would certainly seem that not ALL are equal under the law. 

According to CNN, CA Attorney General Jerry brown criticized Prop 8 for putting "the fundamental rights of a minority group to a popular vote."

In his dissent, Justice Carlos Moreno (the lone dissenting voice on the bench) argued that the measure "violates the essence of the equal protection clause of the California Constitution and fundamentally alters its scope and meaning."

How incredibly sad.  More to come soon.

Photo credit: Getty Images,

Clinton: Benefits to same-sex couples is the "right thing to do."

Advance snaps and claps to Secretary of State Clinton with news that she will extend benefits to all unmarried partners (including same sex partners!) in a shift in policy for Foreign Service members.

"Historically, domestic partners of Foreign Service members have not been provided the same training, benefits, allowances, and protections that other family members receive. These inequities are unfair and must end," Clinton writes in the memo. "At bottom, the department will provide these benefits for both opposite-sex and same-sex domestic partners because it is the right thing to do."

Will this put good karma in the air for today's Prop 8 decision? Our fingers and toes are crossed!

Judge Sotomayor Nominated for SCOTUS

Sonia Sotomayor has been nominated for the US Supreme Court. Sotomayor currently serves on the 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals. She is the daughter of Puerto Rican parents, born and raised in the South Bronx, and a graduate of Princeton and Yale Law School.

If confirmed, Judge Sotomayor will be the first Hispanic Supreme Court justice, the third woman, and the first woman of color! She has ton of diverse legal experience and a compelling life story. Check out her moving acceptance speech here and learn more about Sotomayor at the NYT. Read some of her appellate decisions at the SCOTUS blog.

Friday, May 22, 2009

17 Year-Old Beat Boxer Shows the Boys How It's Done.

Julia Dales, a 17 year-old Canadian woman, recently won a wild card audition for the World Beatbox Championship on May 28th.  Once you've watched the video, you'll understand exactly why.

Good luck, Julia!

Happy Memorial Day Weekend!!!

Ok, so this blog post has no relevance whatsoever to any feminist or political dialogue, but I thought I'd help in getting your summer started off right while also remembering the lives lost of many women and men serving our country.

For all you college grads out there, extremely nervous about entering into the workforce at this time of economic turmoil...

For all American families who are still struggling with grief over lost loved ones who so courageously served our country...

For everyday people around the world just trying to get by and still manage to dream of one day seeing our world filled with peace, love, joy and harmony...

This is especially for YOU!!!

Happy Memorial Day Weekend!!


Keeping Track of Bristol

Can someone help me please? I need help keeping track with Bristol Palin, and exactly what her position on teen pregnancy is. This latest issue of People Magazine has me seething. I mean are you serious? Really? It is nothing less than a blatant promotion of teen pregnancy.

Let's backtrack here for a second: First, Bristol's pregnancy is played out during her mother's campaign, shrouded in the "Yes, I am a huge advocate of abstinence only, but my pregnant teenager is marrying the father of her baby." Because that makes everything okay, right? Especially when you're running on a platform of such moral superiority. Then, it's "campaign's over and so is the relationship," to Bristol stating clearly on that Fox News Exclusive that abstinence is "not realistic." And then voila, personality switch. Is it just me or did everyone miss the beat between "abstinece is not realistic" to "I am now the Abstinence Only Ambassador for the World?"

Bristol Palin is sending out very dangerous mixed messages here, and although she doesn't make a difference in my life, media exposure is what it is. It gets you into people's homes and heads. I don't think she even understands the seriousness of the issue she's dabbling with only to advance her personal agenda, whatever it may be. 

However, at a time when teenage pregnancy in the US is consistently rising, the last thing we need is a recognizable face like Bristol Palin's posing on the cover of a widely distributed publication like People glaring at you in the grocery encouraging you to, "Try teen pregnancy! It works! It's great! Just look at me...." Glamorizing teen pregnancy is not the right message to be sending, and no one should know that better than Bristol Palin, whether her actions are intentional or not. After all, a picture is worth a thousand words.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Listen to the children

A little boy in Colorado has proven you are never too young to be an activist. Ethan McNamee, a third grader, organized a gay marriage rights rally at the State Capitol building after hearing students at his elementary school make anti-gay remarks and learning that a gay couple living in his neighborhood could not get married.

Warning: if you're anything like me, these videos will lead you to support same sex marriage rights AND increase your desire to have lots and lots of adorable activist babies.

That Time of the Month Around the World

I was so happy when my colleague pointed out this recent piece by the fabulous NY Times reporter Nicholas Kristof. He never seems to miss a beat when is comes to drawing attention to women's reproductive health and rights around the world, and the array of barriers women face in accessing adequate care for their health. A fervent follower and reporter of maternal health issues, Kritof usually highlights factors which contribute to the crippling maternal mortality ratios in developing nations such as Africa. Recently though he has picked up on how periods and lack of access to sanitary products is keeping girls out of school. Read his piece on the issue here.

I am just so thrilled he has picked up on this because it is not just serving as a barrier between girls and education in Africa. In South Asia in countries like India, Pakistan and Bangladesh access to sanitary products is a massive issue that links all different kinds of issues with women's health, like clean water for example. In the villages of Bangladesh and across the continent, women often use rags (usually the borders of their old saris) as sanitary napkins. Because they often do not have enough rags, women share them amongst each other. Because there is no clean water, they are washed in polluted water leading to a host of health issues such as urinary tract infections which can lead to kidney infections if left untreated.

I have heard of huge westerns sanitary product companies like Tampax and Always using this problem as a way to market their product. But there is a huge environmental factor that these companies are not considering. In rural areas, being able to recycle and reuse materials is a major component of village culture. Livelihoods are very intimately tied to the environment. How are women and girls meant to dispose properly of products which are 3-5 part plastic? I know that people back home in Bangladesh immediately reject products they deem wasteful. In fact, shampoo companies often market their products in smaller packages for their rural clientele.

There is a great Indian organization called Goonj that collects rags to deliver to women in villages. I think it's a great initiative because it encourages reusing rags and does not harm the environment. This kind of program is much more compatible with rural life than throwing wasteful and western products with no regards to rural people's lifestyles.

Hopefully with Kristof highlighting this issue in his column, the attention will encourage people to get more involved. It is 2009 and in no part of the world should a woman or girl's menstrual cycle come between her and her education- or anything else she may desire.

Check out the organization when you have time and also have a look at FMF's Women and Climate Change Campaign.

What the...

You know, there are times when commentary is simply not necessary. File these two stories under that category.

  • Spoiled and Rotten Kids Boutique and Spa (what a name) has opened in Washington, D.C., to cater to the 2 to 13 year-old crowd to "provide an opportunity to build confidence and learn how to keep up their appearance." And how do young six-year-olds build confidence, you ask? Why with pedicures, manicures, drinks, make-up and a chance to walk the runway, of course! A recent Washington Post article features the kiddie salon and its popularity among young girls and parents alike, including one mother who came to the salon to celebrate with her 13-year-old daughter to "suggest that her little girl was on the verge of becoming a young woman." Manis + pedis + garish make-up = perfect celebration for young womanhood? Riiiiight.

  • Whenever I read about something truly asinine, I can't help but think, "Was there ever a voice inside your head that whispered, 'maybe we should reconsider.'" Just when you think we've all come to a nice little agreement that "separate but equal" really isn't so grand after all, this foolishness happens. I would like to imagine that during Pasadena High School Principal Derick Evans plans to "motivate the students" to achieve higher test scores there were a number of avenues to pursue. However, when his best option to inspire his students was to not only separate them by the color of their skin but their gender, as well, then perhaps he should have listened to those dissenting voices.
Photo credit: Richard A. Lipski, Washington Post

Great Documentary on HIV/AIDS in Kenya

So often, it is assumed that the risks of HIV/AIDS are a single-person's problem; that the risks of sexually transmitted infections (STIs) are eliminated by the professed/implied monogamy of marriage.  In reality, marriage often serves as a greater threat to women who cannot practice abstinence, are forbidden from using contraception, and cannot control the "faithfulness" of their husband.

Population Action International (PAI), a DC-based advocacy group that focuses on sexual and reproductive health and rights in the developing world, has released its newest documentary entitled, "The Silent Partner: HIV in Marriage."  Check it out!


End of Semester Survey Gift-Pack Raffle!

Most of you are probably wrapping up the school year, or in some cases, have already moved on to bigger and better things. Once again, though, we want to remind our feminist campus leaders that it is time to fill out our End of Semester (EOS) Survey if you have not done so already!

EOSes are a great way for us to get in touch with groups, to find out who is taking over if a leadership transition is happening, and to get constructive feedback about our campus program from our student leaders.

We really appreciate those of you who take the time to fill out the survey in a timely manner, and as such, we've decided to raffle off a feminist gift pack to folks that have filled out the survey by Monday, June 1st!

The feminist gift pack includes:
  • 1 year's free membership to the Ms. Magazine Community
  • 10 "This is what a FEMINIST looks like" buttons
  • 1 18x20 poster of the Ms. Inaugural Edition cover

Remember, surveys have to be completed by the Monday, June 1st deadline to be eligible to enter the gift pack raffle. So get in touch with your campus organizer if you haven't already, and get those surveys filled out! Click here to access the survey online.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Marketing to ladies (hint: make it pink and shiny)

While shopping around for a new laptop, I stumbled upon Della, a site pitching Dell's new mini netbooks to women. I was not surprised to see Dell targeting women (after all, these tiny computers seem perfectly sized for my delicate lady-hands!), but all the overt stereotypes had me rolling my eyes: use your netbook to look up recipes and diet tips and to go shopping! After some negative coverage on blogs like Liliputing and Feministing, the site has been edited, but it still raises some interesting questions about the nature of marketing.

Marketing inherently relies on stereotypes by targeting demographics. Cleaning products are aimed at moms (who all live in the suburbs and have doofy husbands who are always making such a mess! *shakes head and laughs*) and video games are aimed at men, and only men (unless of course, the game involves shopping or kittens).

I get annoyed because marketing to women seems so lazy and laughable. It's insulting. This past week, the feminist blogosphere has been buzzing about Fling, a new low-calorie chocolate bar from Mars that invites women to be "naughty, but not that naughty" and "pleasure yourself." The chocolate even SHIMMERS. Women, like cats, are known to be attracted to shiny things. Earlier in the year, we were all up in arms about Lay's ongoing "Only in a Woman's World" campaign, which attempts to sell potato chips to women using cartoon sassy girlfriends who complain about their weight and bathing suit season (omg, so true to life! Amiright?). And don't even get me started on gendered marketing to little girls--I'll save that rant for another post.

I don't know how to completely change this particularly powerful tool of the patriarchy, but here is one potential solution: we need more feminist marketers! We talk a lot about the need for feminists in the halls of Congress and the highest reaches of our government, but the truth is that feminists can make a difference in every field--art, science, medicine, law, entertainment, and BUSINESS. If in the development of these campaigns someone were to say "hey, not every woman is attracted to pink like a magnet" or "gee, maybe we should use some non-white models" or "umm women are NOT AS DUMB AS YOU THINK WE ARE," maybe there would be some real changes.

Until then, enjoy your sparkly chocolate bars and looking up recipes on your adorable little computer.

P.S. For a much funnier take on all this, check out Target: Women over at Current.

Celebrating the Anniversary of Brown v. Board of Education

Can you believe it? Just 55 years ago, the U.S. Supreme Court's decision to desegregate schools across the nation contributed to one of the most influential social justice movements in the world. This past week, organizers and education equity supporters around the country commemorated the 55th anniversary of Brown v. Board of Education. Former Republican House Speaker, Newt Gingrich and activist, Rev. Al Sharpton joined a rally of supporters in front of the White House on Saturday, and President Obama made reference to the historic court decision in his commencement speech at Notre Dame:

After all, I stand here today, as President and as an African-American, on the 55th anniversary of the day that the Supreme Court handed down the decision in Brown v. the Board of Education. Brown was of course the first major step in dismantling the "separate but equal" doctrine, but it would take a number of years and a nationwide movement to fully realize the dream of civil rights for all of God's children. There were freedom rides and lunch counters and Billy clubs, and there was also a Civil Rights Commission appointed by President Eisenhower. It was the twelve resolutions recommended by this commission that would ultimately become law in the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

While some are acknowledging how far we've come from a racially segregated past, many are questioning whether enough has been done to ensure equitable educational opportunities for all American students. Today, African American and Latino children incur great difficulties with a widening achievement gap compared to their White counterparts. Even moreso after the passage of President Bush's No Child Left Behind Act of 2001.

We know there are several components to education reform such as better, certified teachers receiving greater incentives, alternative public schooling systems (i.e. charter schools), and increased state funding. But what is being done now for public education in the midst of this terrible economic crisis we're facing?

Well, have no fear! Back in March, President Obama spoke voluminously about the crippling conditions of our nation's public education system, so it is definitely on his radar. And in early April, Secretary of Education, Arne Duncan announced that through the President's economic stimulus package, $44 billion dollars was made available for states to reform schools and encourage teaching jobs. Within the past month, 16 states in total have funding readily available to them who wish to apply. If you live or attend school in the following states, urge your state legislature to apply for the MONEY!!!:
  1. California
  2. Illinois
  3. South Dakota
  4. Mississippi
  5. Minnesota
  6. Oregon
  7. Utah
  8. Maine
  9. Wisconsin
  10. New York
  11. Georgia
  12. Nevada
  13. Florida
  14. Indiana
  15. Rhode Island
  16. Tennessee
So does this mean we're on the path to actually fulfilling the inspiration behind Brown v. Board of Education? Who knows, but one thing is certain--we have a long way to go.

To the Graduating Feminist Class of 2009

We couldn't have said it better ourselves. Thanks, Ellen!

<3, Campus Team

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Rumblings in the Palmetto State

It looks like things are shaking up in South Carolina!

It appears the bill requiring a 24-hour waiting period for women seeking an abortion may not make it through the Senate before the session comes to a close this week! Could this finally be a win for women in South Carolina?

And do I dare to hope that Carolina's failing schools may finally get some much needed funding? With threats to veto the $350 million in stimulus funds intended to help address SC's failing schools and sky-rocketing unemployment (second highest in the nation), Governor Mark Sanford just may find himself in the court room with an unlikely foe. Chapin High School senior, Casey Edwards, who previously filed suit against Sanford in April, is ready to take Governor Sanford back to the state Supreme Court if he decides to veto the stimulus money. Way to take it to the man, Casey!

Update: Gov. Sanford used his veto pen yesterday on the budget and it looks like things may be heading to the state Supreme Court. Get ready for the fireworks!

Monday, May 18, 2009

Tina Tchen, Small Businesses, and Why Women Everywhere Should Care About Health Care Reform

Overall awesome feminist, Tina Tchen (Executive Director of the White House Council on Women and Girls and Director of the White House Office of Public Engagement) just posted on the White House blog about health care and small businesses as they pertain to women's realities.

I love this post. First, because Tina Tchen is totally one of my sheroes (term borrowed from Tania - thanks!), and I LOVE the fact that the post is based on a roundtable she hosted with Secretary Sebelius at one of my favorite DC small businesses, StitchDC.

Second, I think Ms. Tchen gives us something to really sink our teeth into as feminists. We hear about health care reform and the failures of our health care system on the news all the time. I'm guilty of rolling my eyes when yet ANOTHER talking head starts to drone on about the subject. But I shouldn't, and I'm publicly promising - here and now - to do better.

Why? Because while we hear the words "Health Care Reform" regularly, as a feminist it upsets me that we don't as frequently hear about the disproportionate impact that these failures have on women or the obstacles that small business-owning women face.

According to a report released last week by the Department of Health and Human Services:
  • less than half of women are able to obtain health insurance coverage through their work
  • women of reproductive age are subject to higher premiums than their male counterparts (up to 150% for 22 year olds!)
  • class and social status seem to have a lot to do with whether women are able to afford individual insurance plans or obtain insurance another way (e.g., through a spouse's plan)
Inequitable access to health care is a feminist issue, and health care reform should be, too. We should be seeking a fundamental change in our system of health care that encourages preventative care, makes health care accessible to all (regardless of gender, age, sexuality, marital status and/or socioeconomic class).

In her blog post, Ms. Tchen discusses the stories of some of the small women business owners she met with.
"We were joined by 7 women small business owners who explained firsthand how skyrocketing costs are making it nearly impossible for small businesses to provide health care benefits for employees and their families. Marie Connolly, who owns Stitch, discussed how difficult it was to lose employees because she was not able to offer them health care coverage. As is the case with many small business owners, Ms. Connolly was forced to choose between not providing health care insurance for her employees in order to remain competitive, or providing such benefits and risk going out of business altogether."
We can rail against corporate America all we want, but is it any surprise that in an economic crisis, people choose to work for big businesses if small, independent businesses are unable to provide benefits? Sure, we all love our indy coffee shops, but if I was an uninsured woman, or had a family to be responsible for, etc.. I can see how the benefits package at Starbucks might be more enticing. (Now, whether the coffee is tolerable or not is a completely different issue..)

The point is, for our sake and the sake of small businesses we love, we should all care about health care reform. Check out the Government's website here: to view reports and see updates. Contact your legislators and let them know you support reform, how it will alleviate difficulties for small business owners, and why equitable access to health care is important to YOU.

We hope to see movement on this in the near future, but the critical thing to remember is that such a fundamental shift in the way things are done will require a lot of work. It's incumbent upon us to keep an eye out for it, to speak up when we're concerned, and to take a stand.

As always, please comment below with your thoughts and responses!

Image source: Roadblocks to Health Care

Lights, camera, activist!

Are you an aspiring feminist filmmaker?

DC Asian Pacific American Film is hosting free filmmaking workshops this summer for folks 16-19 years old. Applications are due June 15, and are available at

If you're already a seasoned filmmaker, the 10th Annual DC Asian Pacific American (APA) Film Festival will be held this October. The deadline for film submissions has been extended to May 23, 2009, so apply soon. If you participate, let us know how it goes!

Mothers Gone Wild, Part Deux

Last week, Emily posted on the CDC report finding an increase of women having children out of wedlock, compared to 2002.

The New York Times's guest bloggers provided some helpful context to that story today. I liked the points on improving pay equity, social services, and facilitating women's leadership in business as important ways to support working mothers.

To that end, recently posted an article listing the "10 best places to be a working mom," based on an impressive survey of state laws, economic and professional data, and local child care statistics.

Hats off to SmartMoney for dishing out some pragmatic advice. We at FMF will continue to advocate for paid parental leave, fair pay, workers rights, and affordable health care and child care. Let us know how you're improving conditions for women in the workforce, or holla back at

Global Feministing

I just posted a piece I wrote for a publication back home in Bangladesh on the 15th Anniversary of Cairo on the Feministing Community Blog. Check it out when you have time! There's a disclaimer at the bottom, but please know and remember that the views on my blog post do not represent those of the Feminist Majority or the Feminist Majority Foundation :)

A filly walks into a bar...

...and the bartender says "Why the long face?"

Some good news to start the week:

Four women won seats in the Kuwaiti Parliament after the country's elections Saturday. Kuwait has never had female MPs. We hope they will have a productive time there, and will bring a much-needed voice to the government.

Congrats to Rachel Alexandra, who ran from the front wire-to-wire Saturday to win the Preakness Stakes. Feministing's assessment of the media coverage around the race was right on.

Last Friday, I saw the Examiner's above-the-fold headline of "You Go, Girl!" This was certainly out of character, so when I looked below the fold, of course Rachel Alexandra was the cover horse. It's safe to say the Examiner wouldn't give a woman similar encouragement, so that's as feministy as the Examiner gets. Good start.

Slate launched Double X, a site for women's commentary on news, politics, art, and science. A lot of the posts grapple with the (ir)relevance of feminism, which I find troubling. But some of the contributors do write thoughtful pieces from a feminist perspective. Judge for yourself and let us know what you think.

And the bad news:

The U.S. Supreme Court today ruled women who took maternity leave before the Pregnancy Discrimination Act can't sue for bigger pensions. Justice Souter wrote the majority opinion, while Justices Ginsburg and Breyer dissented. Yet another reason it's imperative President Obama replace Justice Souter with a progressive and feminist jurist.

Additionally, the Burmese junta is trying democratic opposition leader Daw Aung San Suu Kyi for violating the terms of her 6-year house arrest. To me, this raises one of the key questions of American foreign policy:

Should our democracy be the shining city on the hill, in which we lead solely by example? Or do we embrace the Truman doctrine, in which the US actively "support[s] free peoples who are resisting attempted subjugation by armed minorities or by outside pressures?"

President Obama has his hands full as he negotiates the extent of U.S. involvement of foreign affairs. Best of luck to him.

Questions? Comments? You know where to find us:

United Farm Workers Remember Maria Isabel, Join the Campaign!

On May 14, 2008, 17-year-old Maria Isabel collapsed of heatstroke while working in a vineyard for Merced Farm Labor, owned by West Coast Grape Farming.  Maria had worked for nine hours in 100+ degree temperatures with no nearby water or shade.

About two hours after she passed out, Maria was taken to a clinic--arriving with a temperature of 108.4 degrees.  Over the next two days, Maria's heart stopped six times.  The doctors said if emergency help had been called sooner, she might have survived.  Sadly, Maria passed away on May 16, 2008.

At Maria's funeral, California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger offered hope to farm workers when he said, "Maria's death should have been prevented, and all Californians must do everything in their power to ensure no other worker suffers the same fate. We have put in place employer regulations to prevent heat illness, and I cannot say strongly enough that they must be followed...There is no excuse for failing to protect worker safety."  

Unfortunately, such calls to action are much easier said than done.  Five other California farm workers have died of heat-related illnesses since Maria's death.

Fighting for the memory of Maria and the rights of all farm workers, the United Farm Workers are urging all Californian's to support SB789, the California Employee Free Choice Act for Farm Workers, that will make it easier for workers to organize and help enforce existing laws.

Opportunity for Student Leaders with the Pro-Choice Public Education Project

Hey ya'll,

Happy Monday to everyone...I'm sure we're all still mulling over coffee and contemplating the week ahead (or dutifully ignoring it, as the image to the right illustrates..) Anyway, whether your Monday is rockin' or draggin', I know every feminist is looking a few leadership opportunities! I saw this come across my inbox this morning and thought I'd pass it along to see if any of our fabulous feminist campus activists are interested. From PEP's website:

PEP's Young Women's Leadership Council is Looking for New Members!

The Young Women's Leadership Council of the Pro-Choice Public Education Project is seeking new members to continue its mission to be the voice and raise the voices of diverse young women in the sexual and reproductive justice movement.

We are looking for potential YWLC members that are:

· Between the ages of 16 and 29, with diverse backgrounds and a wide range of interests within the reproductive justice movement including HIV, abortion rights, LGBTQ issues, community organizing, blogging, racial justice, and media/pop culture.

· Passionate about these and many other issues that affect women, particularly young women, women of color, and low-income women.

· Interested in opportunities to travel, network, and/or facilitate workshops on behalf of the YWLC and PEP, all of which will help build skills that will be useful for school, career, and beyond.

To apply, please download the application from PEP's website and follow the instructions.
The application deadline is July 1st, 2009.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Patiently Waiting for Civil Rights?

After today's little false alarm which had many of us (literally) jumping for joy around here, we discovered that in fact, the CA Supreme Court has not yet issued its decision on Prop 8. The decision will be announced on one of these dates: 5/21, 5/26, 5/28, or 6/1.

So, the decision may be a little out of our hands at this point, but I hope you're not one to sit around and wait for change to miraculously happen! Instead of tapping your foot, (no doubt wondering when California will catch up with Maine, Connecticut, Vermont, New Hampshire, Massachusetts and Iowa) you can join up with like-minded equal-ists at Day of Decision rallies all over California.

And just in case, groups like Equality California and The Courage Campaign are gearing up for a 2010 ballot intiative battle with new campaigns, TV ads, and outreach and organizing efforts.

Medical Clinic of Dr. George Tiller Vandalized - Again

Some sad news to share - the Wichita, KS, clinic of Dr. George Tiller, one of the country's few abortion providers that will provide late-term abortions, was vandalized not too long ago. The Feminist Daily Newswire has a story up about the events here - vandals evidently cut off outdoor lights and security cameras before cutting into the roof of the clinic. Additionally, with a forecast of rain, the downspouts were plugged up, causing the rain to pour into the clinic, causing thousands of dollars of damage inside the clinic.

Dr. Tiller has asked that the FBI investigate the incident, which resulted in severe damage and costly repairs. This event was the most recent in a long line of attacks made against Dr. Tiller and his clinic, Women's Health Care Services. The Feminist Majority Foundation is strongly against clinic terrorism and anti-choice violence, and we are saddened to hear about the most recent destruction at Women's Health Care Services.

To learn more about the history of attacks against Dr. Tiller and his clinics, click here to read stories out of the Feminist Daily Newswire archives.

Tiny Mini-Me Kid Terrorist Soldiers: The Explorers' Program

If you thought that our country couldn't get anymore high off of fighting terrorism...think again! The New York Times reported Wednesday on a unique coeducational training program called The Explorers in affiliation with the Boy Scouts of America. This program is designed to equip teens with skills in combating terrorism, strengthening border control, and halting "illegal immigration." 

At first glance, this may seem like nothing more than a modernized military experience for the young scouts; however the description of training activities can paint a pretty disturbing picture of the ways in which our youth are being advised to view our country's most sensitive political issues.  The Explorers offer examples of scouts "chasing down illegal border crossers", practicing drug smuggling raids on a simulated marijuana field, to "rescuing hostages from a bus taken over by terrorists" dressed in "traditional Arab dress" all while toting airsoft, plastic pellet shooting guns. 

Though I'm not against the notion of educating young people on diplomatic, peace and conflict resoultion strategies to confront issues of immigration, drug and human trafficking, and national/global security; I'm especially disguisted with the reinforcement of racist, hyper-masculine, violent indoctrination imposed on young women and men who may ultimately continue to uphold archiac, destructive political ideals.

In the words of Whitney Houston, "I believe the children are our future. Teach 'em well and let them lead the way." Well, that depends on who's doing the teaching.


Anti-Choice Protests Expected at Obama's Notre Dame Speech

Anti-choice activists opposed to President Obama's invitation as the University of Notre Dame commencement speaker are expected to protest his speech and honorary degree this Sunday.

Decried by some as a scandal, President Obama's visit has come under attack by anti-choice activists for his beliefs, and subsequent actions as President, on issues of abortion and stem cell research.

Although many students have rallied in support of his visit, Terry Randall and his Truth for Society and Justice organization plan to "make a circus" of President Obama's visit with graphic signs and arrests. While others are planning several peaceful prayer vigils, Terry defended his group's actions saying, "If Martin Luther King and Rosa Parks had played by the rules that these kids are proposing, Barack Obama would still be on the back of the bus."

Despite his attempts to remove the anger sometimes found in dialogues between pro-choice and anti-choice activists by discussing ways to reduce unintended pregnancies, Obama's invitation to speak at Notre Dame has reignited the debate.

Obama is expected to address the controversy during this Sunday's speech. What do you think he will say? Will his remarks reflect his pro-choice position on abortion or will he take the politically correct route and stay clear of fanning the flames? And where do the 2009 Notre Dame graduates fit into all of this? Is a graduation commencement the place for political action?

Photo Credit: AP Photo/Joe Raymond

Why We Need Comprehensive Sex Ed

Guest post by Liz Jeppesen, South Dakota State University

Today, my mother and I were watching TV. A commercial for Valtrex came on – the medication that helps prevent the spread of genital herpes – and the commercial said that one in five American adults has genital herpes. Both my mother and I commented on how surprisingly high that was, so I looked it up. The commercial was right – 22% of American adults have herpes simplex type 2 and 49% of women aged 15 to 39 will have genital herpes by 2025 if these trends continue. I told my mom what I’d found and she made a comment about how people need to stop sleeping around.

What she said next shocked me. She told me I needed to protect myself by using two condoms! I pointed out that doubling up causes increased friction and makes them more likely to tear. (I aced my women’s health class this semester and this was one of the topics!) Her response: “Sometimes. You just need to use lube.” All my life I’d known that I was an accidental pregnancy. Today I found out that I’m here because my mom thinks doubling up condoms provides better protection against STDs and pregnancy.

This is exactly why we need comprehensive sex ed; if we leave it to parents to teach their children about safer sex, many parents will refuse to tell their children about it at all and even the parents that do talk to their kids may end up spreading misinformation, like my mother just did. Thankfully, I’ve done my own research and I recognized it as misinformation. Adolescents that aren’t as informed might not be so lucky.

With comprehensive sex ed in schools, there is a structured curriculum that is fact-based and provides accurate information about ways to protect oneself. Students with access to comprehensive sex ed will be able to evaluate what their parents, friends, and the media tell them. They will be better able to recognize myths for what they are – misinformation. Just because parents mean well does not mean they know the facts. Giving teens access to comprehensive sex ed on top of what their parents and friends tell them is the best way to reduce the growing STD rates and prevent unintended pregnancies.

Originally posted at The "F" Word: Feminism at South Dakota State University. Illustration by Tom Lindsay via Threadless.

Feminist Forum: Young, Feminist & A MOTHER ?!?!?!

Contributing journalist to The Nation and political and cultural critic, Nona Willis Aronowitz, wrote a very interesting piece recently entitled, "Raising the Baby Question", highlighting the debates among young and old feminists about mothering and caregiving. She delves into the idea of expanding our conversations surrounding reproductive justice and not to leave political and social issues of maternity leave, affordable child care, and balanced parenting to mainstream mommies who find a separation between family life and feminist ideals.

She also touches on the stigmatization of young, working class mothers and mothers of color, and how their voices are left unheard in these debates. This is profoundly the case in this clip I found of the old 70s sitcom, Good Times, where character J.J. (the eldest son of the Evans family) announces he wants to marry his new girlfriend, Henrietta, who is unexpectedly invited to dinner. When she arrives, a party of one becomes a surprising party of two. Mr. and Mrs. Evans are not too thrilled and sadly criticizes Henrietta's decision to become a mother. The ending of the clip disturbed me greatly because she was characterized as a victim of her own choice.

Check out the article and the clip and tell us what you think!   Peace.

Hillary to the Rescue- Again!

I blogged about the recent arrest of Burma's Aung San Suu Kyi earlier today, but the story continues to develop. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has just called for the Burmese Authorities to release Suu Kyi! For some reason, youtube has disabled the embedding option, but you can watch Clinton make the announcement here, and you can read my previous post on this issue here.

Calling Oklahoma Feminists!

I know you're out there, OK! I myself hail from the great Sooner State, and though I now am based out on the east coast with FMF, I still organize in Oklahoma, have family in Oklahoma, and for better or worse, have a soft spot for Oklahoma.

Now, I know I'm not the only Oklahoman feminist. I know you're alive and kicking - and I want to hear from you! Why?

Because there is plenty of feminist work to be done in Oklahoma. Just yesterday I found out that House Bill 1595 passed the state house, which would require doctors performing abortions to submit a questionnaire giving the reason for the abortion and how it was being paid for. The questionnaires would then be held in a database maintained by the Department of Health.

At first glance, this seemed to me to be a waste of time, certainly, and another piece of red tape for women. But the more I thought about it, the more I realized that it's not only a waste of time - it's a superfluous waste of state resources. The Tulsa World quotes Rep. Ryan Kiesel (D-Seminole) saying, "We're going to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars, most of it for data. Have any of you looked at the form doctors already fill out? I have. There is already a questionnaire."

The bill is en route to the Senate now, which is exactly why I want my fellow Oklahoma feminists to take action. Call your senators, talk with your family, and get in touch with me - vvilott [at] feminist [dot] org - and let's strengthen the pro-choice movement in our state!

Feminist friday

Aloha!  Hope your spring is galloping along nicely. The theme of the day is 'going the distance.'

Rachel Alexandra is one of the favorites to win Saturday's Preakness Stakes race. The 3-year old filly is the only filly in the field, so she has generated a good deal of press coverage. I liked the New York Times's op-ed deconstructing gendered races and measures of success for fillies and colts. We at FMF don't have a position on horse racing, but we wish Rachel Alexandra the best.

Unfortunately, your hard-earned dollars will not stretch as far as they have been. The Times also reported that the cost of living is rising. Food, oil, and gas prices are increasing, so consumers will feel the pinch.

Inflation may be a sign the recession is slowing, but this is still bad news for families, particularly given the poor job market. States facing huge deficits are cutting social safety net programs, which makes folks even more vulnerable to hunger and poverty.

This is why feminism is critical now more than ever. The gender wage gap hurts families. The high costs of insurance and health care mean millions of families go without, which is deeply problematic. The inability for parents to take paid sick days to care for themselves and their families is deeply problematic.

If you agree, then we still need your help. We must make employers and governments go the distance and be responsive to the needs of women and families, especially in a time like this.

Let us know how you're improving your communities. If you need ideas or want to get involved to help women and children here and abroad, visit our website for suggestions or hit us up at

Thanks and we'll see you on the flip side.

The Might of Burma's Aung San Suu Kyi

When I was growing up in Bangladesh, Burma's Aung San Suu Kyi never ceased to amaze me. Burma is right next door to us geographically, but as a little girl all I understood about the military junta in Burma was primarily through pictures. I couldn't wrap my head around what kind of threat this tiny woman with bright and colorful flowers always tucked behind her ear posed to these big men with guns. Clearly the military's worries went beyond what Suu Kyi represented to them physically. This woman embodies the heart and the spirit of the much oppressed movement for democracy in Burma.

In my adult years, it has been increasingly difficult to keep track of Suu Kyi's imprisonment which has been constant, continuous, and lasted well over a decade. Forced to be a prisoner in her own home, Suu Kyi was well known to be a fighter, and being imprisoned had done little to crush that spirit. But in the past few years, Suu Kyi has become increasingly silent which many have credited to her ailing health.

We were actually just weeks away from what was meant to be her release. However, recent developments not only mean that Suu Kyi will not be released, but moved out of her home and into one of Burma's notorious federal prisons.

Take the time to read a piece by one of my favorite Guardian (the UK' s version of the NY Times) colomnists who articulates this complex issue much better than I ever could. Read for yourself how the spirit of one woman singlehandedly poses the greatest threat to Burma's military junta. Be informed and be inspired. We must maintain pressure on the US Government to not let Suu Kyi disappear from the world's consciousness. She is the only hope the people of Burma have to be a nation of democracy.

Ch-Ch-Ch-Changes (...on the blog)

As our beloved blog is growing/developing/expanding, we at the FMF Campus team will be tweaking the visual aspects of said blog.  If you see something on here that you like, let us know!  If a certain font, color, layout makes you scream, "NOOOOOOO!!"  please, let us know that too!  And most definitely, if there is something critical missing, we want to know!

Additionally, we are always looking for guest bloggers!  And if you've got a video, a news article, artwork, a song, a photo, poetry, or website we should feature, email us at!  We want this to be YOUR blog, too.  So, tell us what you want to see!