Monday, August 31, 2009

Rachel Maddow on Anti-Abortion Extremists

Rachel Maddow is one of the few in the mass media market who continuously stays on top of issues that I care about; in particular: women's rights, LGBTQ rights, civil rights...ya know, HUMAN RIGHTS.

Most recently and closest to home for me, as a staff member for FMF working with our National Clinic Access Project, I have greatly appreciated Ms. Maddow's close attention to and investigative reporting of anti-abortion extremists. Not only does she dig deeper than most, she calls our attention to the key connections no one else seems to pay attention to AND she keeps coming back to it, over and over again!

Here's the latest from the Rachel Maddow show, linking the anti-abortion extremist groups who celebrated Dr. George Tiller's murder with the current threats facing Dr. LeRoy Carhart, a close friend and colleague of Dr. Tiller.

Supporting Dr. Carhart, Trusting Women

Following the murder of Dr. George Tiller last May, anti-abortion extremists have turned their attention to Dr. LeRoy Carhart, a friend of Dr. Tiller's and an abortion provider. This past weekend, pro-choice advocates and activists turned out en masse to show their support for Dr. LeRoy Carhart at his clinic in Omaha, Nebraska.

Among the local, state and national groups that came to support Dr. Carhart this weekend (in numbers FAR larger than the anti-choice protesters) were the Feminist Majority Founadation, the National Organization for Women, the World Can't Wait, and NARAL Pro-Choice Colorado.

Individuals and organizations around the country are declaring two of the fundamental principles of modern feminism: 'trust women' and 'keep abortion SAFE and LEGAL.' Among those raising their voice is Dr. Suzanne Poppema, Board Chair for Physicians for Reproductive Choice and Health. Check out Dr. Poppema's statement below:

Friday, August 28, 2009

FMF helps abortion providers to keep clinics safe and open

Check out what Eleanor Smeal and Kathy Spillar have to say about the protection of Dr. Carhart's clinic in this Feminist Majority Foundation press release.

Feminist Majority Foundation Defends Targeted Nebraska Abortion Provider

The Feminist Majority Foundation joined pro-choice supporters nationwide in announcing their full support of Dr. Leroy Carhart and the Abortion and Contraception Clinic of Nebraska at a press conference in Omaha, Nebraska today. Pro-choice supporters from 16 states are defending the clinic. Dr. Carhart had traveled to Wichita each month to work with Dr. Tiller, who was assassinated in May.

Katherine Spillar, Executive Vice President of the Feminist Majority Foundation, joined Dr. Carhart and national pro-choice leaders including Terry O'Neill, National President of the National Organization for Women, at the Omaha press conference today. NARAL Pro-Choice America, the National Abortion Federation, and Physicians for Reproductive Choice and Health also joined in support. "Anti-abortion extremists are trying to win on the streets what they have lost at the ballot box," said Spillar. "The Feminist Majority Foundation and its thousands of supporters nationwide are determined to defend Dr. Carhart and his courageous staff to keep this clinic safe and open."

The pro-choice press conference today in Omaha was in direct response to Operation Rescue of Wichita initiating targeted demonstrations and so-called "street counseling" in Omaha and at Dr. Carhart's Bellevue clinic this weekend. Troy Newman of Operation Rescue has announced a new multi-group campaign called "Keep it Closed," which aims to ensure Dr. Carhart does not open a late abortion clinic in Wichita, any other place in Kansas, or nearby Nebraska. And Newman hoped "through the use of peaceful, legal means" that Dr. Carhart "will soon be out of the abortion business for good."

The Nebraska State Health Department has confirmed that a complaint was filed by several anti-abortion groups, including Operation Rescue, against Dr. Carhart on many of the same allegations previously used to investigate Dr. Tiller. All such complaints filed against Dr. Tiller ultimately failed.

Dr. Carhart stated emphatically at the press conference that all patients will be seen today. Wearing a "Trust Women" button, he asserted he would not be intimidated and knows he provides a vital medical service.

Katherine Spillar continued, "In this country, we must not settle political differences of opinion by what amounts to a campaign of intimidation."

"Since the election of President Barack Obama, and now even more so since the assassination of Dr. George Tiller at his church in Wichita, Kansas, threats are escalating against abortion clinics in some 14 states," said Eleanor Smeal, President of the Feminist Majority Foundation. "For example, in Colorado, Donald Hertz has just been indicted for threatening Dr. Hern and his family. The constant vilifying of reproductive health providers as murderers is not only inflammatory, but is also contrary to established medical practices that save women's lives. Worse yet, it emboldens potential assassins."

Finally Home Safe

As I was getting ready for my last day at FMF (yes, it has come to an end), I was watching the Today show and they featured this story about a woman, Jaycee Lee Dugard, who had been abducted in 1991 at age 11 who has just be found alive, living with her abductor and their 2 children.

Her abductor and rapist, Phillip Garrido, had kept her and the 2 children she had by him locked up in a compound, behind fences and tents in back of his home. He was finally found when he was spotted with his two children, both daughters, as he tried to enter onto University of California's campus to hand out religious literature.

Apparently, Garrido was planning on setting up a church of his own and become a full time preacher. In a blog that he kept, he is cited as writing that In he could "control sound with my mind and have developed a device for others to witness this phenomena." Weird, I know.

What is quite shocking about this whole circumstance is that Garrido had a very long rap sheet including other charges of rape and he was on lifetime parole. So why did it take 18 years to finally solve this case? Why wasn't he being watch more closely? Did his parole officer not see the compound of tents he had hiding the background?

Honestly, this story scares me. First off, to think that people could do this to one another, keep each other prisoner as their sex slaves. Secondly, that the laws and enforcement that are supposed to keep things like this from happening let something as large as this slip through the cracks. I am so glad that Jaycee is alive and is well, but others are not so lucky.

So what can we do to make sure things like this don't happen again? It's hard to answer, but I think that creating better awareness and pushing for stricter and more closely monitored sex offender laws will help instances like this not fall through the cracks. As far as stopping people from kidnapping and keep them as sex slaves, I'm not sure. But I find it very sad and very scary.

Photo courtesy of Julie McLeod on

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Sit Down and Be Quiet

Since Congress has been out of session for the end of summer, representatives have been encouraged to hold "town halls" in their respective districts to discuss health insurance reform. Hitting close to us here in the DC metro region, Rep. Jim Moran of Virginia held a "town hall" in Reston last night. As reported on the DCist, the "town hall" was anything but orderly and peaceful. The Pledge of Allegiance couldn't even be said without a partisan battle occurring.

The "town hall" appeared to be utter chaos, with people screaming over each other and protesters to health insurance reform lining the streets outside. In the end, when Rep. Moran introduced Howard Dean, a group of anti-abortion rights extremists led by Randall Terry disrupted the event by yelling, chanting and mocking Moran and Dean. You can see the video here.

The value and purpose of these town halls is very important. We need to start informing everyone about health insurance reform. Voters need to know what their representatives are discussing so they can make an informed opinion on the issue. But no one can understand anything better if we can't stop screaming and making these town halls into town circuses."

I know that not everyone agrees and that health care is a passion-filled issue. However, their are ways that you can get your opinions heard respectfully and in a non-violent, non-aggressive way. Take the yelling and screaming somewhere else and come back when we can have a REAL conversation.

ImMEDIAte Justice! Film screening FOR young women, BY young women

ImMEDIAte Justice, a program for young women to explore reproductive justice issues through documentary-style filmmaking, presents two original reproductive justice films created for and by young women. All are welcome to attend!

Espie is 17 but she still hasn't had her QuinceaƱera. Family members disapprove of her relationship with long-time girlfriend, Jess and believe she doesn't deserve this coming-of-age rite. Meanwhile, Espie's good friend Luna anxiously awaits the homecoming of her older sister, as her family reconciles fears about her sister's life and opportunities as a queer woman. Youth get behind the lens to share Espie's much anticipated sweet 15 at 17 and Luna's family reunion in this striking & fresh look at love, family, and growing up queer and female in Boyle Heights.

Where did you get your sex education? One simple question sends our filmmakers down a rabbit hole of unanswered questions and gaps in young people's knowledge about sex, as youth filmmakers explore the significance of having vital sexual health knowledge withheld.

Saturday, August 29th 2-4pm
USC School of Cinematic Arts Building, Room 110
(On the USC campus. Enter at Hoover Ave and Jefferson Blvd. Turn Right on West 34th Street.
The Cinematic Arts Building will be on your left hand side.)

Hope you can make it! There will be food, interactive activities and prizes!

LA County Promises to Eliminate Rape Kit Backlog

Yesterday it was announced by Supervisor Yarovslavksy that the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors and the Los Angeles Sheriff's Department will commit to fund the testing of every single backlogged rape kit in LA. This will be done within the next two years, with promises to ensure the backlog does not return.

On Monday, Human Rights Watch held a discussion at the FMF West Coast Office. Sarah Tofte spoke about the research HRW has conducted in Los Angeles County, uncovering the 12,000 plus rape kits that just sit untested. More than 450 rape kits have been there so long that the 10 year statue of limitations period to convict has expired.

It begs the question, why doesn't rape matter??

If I was a woman that had just gotten raped, and agreed to undergo a rape kit--an invasive process that can take up to 6 hours--I would want to know that everything was being done to catch the perpetrator . I wouldn't want to wait months, even years, before we knew who the rapist was. I wouldn't want to find out that 3 out of 4 rapists in Los Angeles are never convicted. I wouldn't want to find out that the Sheriff's department may not test my rape kit because they don't believe my boyfriend could have actually raped me.

In acquaintance rape, the police department is sometimes skeptical of the victim's stories. As Sarah Tofte says, "They talk about the [rape] victims’ credibility in a way that they don’t talk about the credibility of victims of other crimes."

It is important to test every rape kit because they not only help identify unknown suspects and confirm known suspects, but also link repeat offenders to different cases as well as exonerate innocent suspects. With one of the worst rape conviction rates in the country, it is incredible news that LA has committed to eliminating their backlog! Onward to the rest of the country!

image courtesy of

Dinner Party Anyone?

I know that many young feminists will be heading back to their college campuses to start classes next week (actually, I know some that already have). And you are probably thinking, "how am I going to make a difference on my campus this year?" Well, this fall semester is a great time to start! There are many ways your can start off this school year making positive changes on and around your campuses.

Since August is almost over (I know, it went by so quickly), September presents some great opportunities to do some feminist activism and get your college informed and aware about women's issues. Since students will be looking for fun ways to start the year off right, you could host a "Feminist Dinner Party."

This idea comes from 1970's dinner parties previous feminist leaders used to hold so their groups of women could meet and discuss anything and everything, from the personal to the political. Great ideas grew out of these dinner parties and helped to aid in their feminist activism. These women would meet at someone's house and talk over a nice meal and drinks. They would share their stories and listen to others, creating connections, friendships, and lasting bonds of feminism. This is also where Judy Chicago got her inspiration for her iconic feminist installation piece "The Dinner Party."(If you want to read more about these dinner parties, check out the book Manifesta: Young Women, Feminism and the Future)

To create your own version of these "dinner parties" invite friends and peers from your women's studies, social work, sociology, or other classes that you think would be involved in learning for about feminism and activism. Pick a location, anyone who is willing to host the party at their place. You can either make it a potluck or BYOW (bring your own "whatever") or you can offer to set up a light array of snacks and drinks. Get others to help you with the planning and start chatting it up! This is a great way to plan things for further in the year and to hear other people's stories!

You can find other great ideas for campus activism at our website! If you have any other ideas for opening school year events, the Campus Team would love to hear about them! Place your ideas or stories in our comment section, or e-mail us at

Photo courtesy of Elin B on

Sex & Hypocrisy

We've all witnessed more than our fair share of the rhetoric surrounding the HPV shot and its fantastic potential to lead young women and girls to sexual promiscuity.... Boo.

If, in our ever-puritanical society, sexuality is still considered BAD (dirty, sinful, et al.), one might assume that the same uproar would ensue when it was announced that the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) decided to consider "promoting routine circumcision for all baby boys born in the United States to reduce the spread of HIV...."

Such an uproar has yet to be heard. As blogger KJ Dell'Antonia has noted, "If both procedures might make unprotected sex marginally safer, why is the conversation so different?" I am certainly glad to see the general public in support of taking all measures within our realm to reduce/prevent any STI--my concern lies in the fact that "we" are only ok with it if it directly affects men.

If circumcision can help prevent boys and men from contracting HIV/AIDS by up to 50%, GREAT! If a vaccine can help girls and women reduce the risks of multiple types of HPV that may lead to cancer, PHENOMENAL! Why on earth aren't we doing everything in our power to protect ALL of us?!?

Why do we talk about protecting our daughters and sons from chicken pox, from H1N1, from scraped knees and busted lips...but we refuse to offer equal protection when it comes to one of the most natural inclinations of human nature: SEX!

What do we do about the double standard? How can we get beyond it and actually protect ourselves?

Photo courtesy of

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Guest post: Shelby Knox on Women's Equality Day

To get serious feminist analyst on this fun song, I was struck by the lyrics:

"Our daughters' daughters will adore us. And they'll sing in grateful chorus "Well done, Sister Suffragette!"

As the "daughters' daughters,"are we grateful? And, do we need to be?

Yes, those that find their way to this blog are are celebrating Equality Day and are aware of the struggles of the women before us.

But in reality each generation has made their mark by decrying the shortcomings of the waves of feminism that came before them - the second wave did it to the first wave, the suffragists, by attacking them for focusing too narrowly on the vote. The third wave has done it to the second wave by attacking them for not being diverse enough and for excluding LGBT and male humans from the fight. If this is gratitude, who needs enemies?

I've heard Gloria Steinem say many times that "Gratitude never radicalized anybody. My generation didn't walk around grateful for the vote." She doesn't want our generation's thanks but for us to get pissed off enough on our own behalf to mark our mark on the world. On one hand, I agree wholeheartedly - after all, progress isn't made by focusing on what's already been done.

But, on the other hand, I think being grateful is a sign that we know our herstory, that we take strength from it and stand in solidarity with the women who fought the same fight we are waging now. We obviously have ideological disagreements across and within the generations but our activism comes from the same place of recognizing injustice and embarking on a struggle to fight it.

I've noticed how our generation's feminist lexicon doesn't include the word "sister," probably partly because we don't want to consider the second wave women who still control much of the movement our "sisters." But, I think we could all do with a little more gratitude, both for the women before us and the women beside us, regardless of age or wave, simply because when it comes right down to it we are working for the same end, to quote Mrs. Banks: "Political equality and equal rights with men!"

Happy Equality Day to all my sisters!

Photo courtesy of Shelby Knox.

Never you fear!

In honor of Women's Equality Day, I give you....a song.

The movie Mary Poppins ends with Winifred Banks's happy return to her domestic duties, where she casts off her suffragette ribbons and attaches them to Jane and Michael's kite in the park.

Still, I'm pretty sure Mary Poppins and Mrs. Banks are the reason I am a feminist today.

Happy Women's Equality Day

Happy Women's Equality Day, everyone!

It's a bizarre day here in the office as we mourn the loss of our friend and women's rights champion Senator Kennedy, but we are also taking some time to remember the passage of the 19th Amendment on this day in 1920.

The 19th Amendment, which granted the women the right to vote, demonstrates the importance of collective action. Today we should remember and honor our foremothers.

There were those who began the fight: Julia Ward Howe and Lucy Stone, who founded the American Women's Suffrage Association and began the long fight to bring suffrage to women state-by-state, Lucretia Mott and Elizabeth Cady Stanton, who organized the Seneca Falls Women's Rights Coalition, Susan B. Anthony, who founded with Stanton the National Women Suffrage Association and fought for a constitutional women's suffrage amendment, and Sojourner Truth, who reminded her fellow suffragists that they were forgeting the struggles of American black women in their calls for voting rights.

None of these women lived to see the 19th Amendment pass. A new generation had taken up the cause by the early 20th century: Carrie Chapman Catt and Anna Howard Shaw, who led the National American Women Suffrage Association, Inez Millholland, who gave speeches around the country and led the 1913 Suffrage Parade in DC from atop a white horse, and Lucy Burns and Alice Paul, whose "radical" techniques as the leaders of the National Women's Party led to their imprisonment.

August 26, 1920 was a day of great achievement, but it was also just the beginning. As soon as the vote was won, feminists began fighting for more: safe working conditions, equal pay, healthcare, child care, immigrant rights, and more. And it is also important to note that while all women gained the right to vote in 1920, many non-white women were not able to exercise that right until the 1965 passage of the Voting Rights Act.

We have come so far, but there is always more work to do. We have had the vote for 89 years, but there has still never been a female president of the United States. Women make up 17% of the US Senate and 17.2% of the House of Representatives. Women are paid 78 cents for every dollar a man makes--and that number drops even lower for women of color (Black women earn 69 cents and Latinas make just 59 cents for every dollar paid to a man). We combat threats to reproductive choice, violence against women, and poverty.

So please celebrate Women's Equality Day today. Remember where we came from, what we have accomplished, and how much more we have to do.

Picture courtesy of Library of Congress

Ellie Smeal: Senator Kennedy, A Champion of Women's Rights

Statement of Feminist Majority president Eleanor Smeal on the death of Senator Edward M. Kennedy:

For decades, Senator Edward M. Kennedy was a champion of women’s rights. For years, when few other Senators would take women’s rights seriously, the women’s movement could count on Senator Kennedy. In struggle after struggle, the women’s movement could turn to Senator Kennedy and his dedicated and talented staff to lead the fight in Congress.

Behind the scenes, Senator Kennedy would sit down with the leaders and activists of the women’s and civil rights movements and strategize. He was indefatigable and, whether in the Senate in the majority or minority, he had the undying hope and the know-how to move ahead, pass legislation to help millions, and work for a better day.

In legislative battle after battle, Senator Kennedy never let down the women’s movement. We did not always win – but we were always stronger because of his passion, wise council, unparalleled legislative skill, and inspiration.

As a women’s rights leader who had the privilege of working with Senator Kennedy in many of those struggles for decades, to say we will miss his brilliant leadership is a gross understatement. But, of course, the dream never dies, the fight goes on, and we will never forget Senator Kennedy and his indomitable spirit.

Senator Kennedy, who was the principle sponsor of more landmark legislation than any other Senator in U.S. history, led the fight in much historic legislation for women’s rights, civil rights, and human services, including:

· The Equal Rights Amendment Extension Act of 1978, which provided more time to pass the ERA.

· Minimum wage laws that impacted women.

· The Pregnancy Discrimination Act, which prohibited discrimination against pregnant women and revered the Supreme Court decision that permitted discrimination against women in the workforce.

· The Civil Rights Restoration Act, which restored the scope of Title IX and reversed the Grove City Supreme Court case that had gutted Title IX.

· The Voting Rights Act of 1965

· The Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances Act (FACE), which protected reproductive health care providers.

· The Family Medical Leave Act, which provided 12 weeks unpaid job-protected leave to workers for newborn care, adoption or faster care, or illness of the worker or her/his spouse, child, or parent.

· The Civil Rights Act of 1991, which provided to women workers the right to collect damages in sex discrimination cases.

· The Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, which reversed the Roberts Supreme Court decision that gutted the ability of women workers to sue for wage discrimination.

· Numerous health care measures including stem cell research, the State Children’s Health Insurance Program (S-CHIP), the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), the Mental Health Parity Act, and reproductive health funding

Listening to Language

Language is an important and intricate tool that many people don't really consider before they say something. This great video and post (originally posted on Feministing) confronts this topic as it relates to the abortion discussion. It's important for the pro-choice movement to study its opposition and to listen to what they are saying. In doing so, we can strengthen our own side by better understanding the other side.

In an accompanying article to this video posted on Huffington Post, National Advocates for Pregnant Women's president Lynn M. Paltrow sums up this whole discussion on anti-choice language very well. She says, "so we need to ask -- do the people who use this language really think the mothers who have had abortions are the same as, or worse than, those who carry out torture, kill children, and commit mass-murder?"

She finishes the article by saying, "Claiming that the individual decisions of pregnant women and their families is like or worse than slavery (or genocide) denies the history, the meaning, and the lessons (of these events) and it should stop." I agree.

Remembering Senator Ted Kennedy

I am confident the tributes and memories eulogizing Senator Kennedy will continue for days and weeks, but today, on the morning that we've all woken up to the sad news of his passing, it's a challenge to begin--where to begin?

Senator Edward Kennedy (1932-2009) was the youngest child of the esteemed Kennedy family. He was the 3rd longest serving member of the US Senate, elected nearly 47 years ago at the age of 30. But more than his family name and his resume, Senator Kennedy's true credentials lie in his decades of service to the people of this country, and people around the world.

Senator Kennedy was a champion of women's rights; of civil rights; of human rights. He fought for Title IX, waged war on poverty, defended the civil rights and liberties of all people, and fought for comprehensive health care until the very end. Senator Kennedy was a leader in the truest sense of the word and his presence in American political discourse will be sorely missed.

One year ago yesterday, Senator Kennedy delivered a rousing speech at the Democratic National Convention as he was honored for his lifetime of service. Here is video of that speech in its entirety:

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Trust Women

Marie Claire's September issue profiles two women, Holly Rossiter and Tricia Miller, facing the most difficult choice of their lives. Both are enthusiastically and intentionally pregnant until they discover their unborn children have deadly fetal abnormalities.

Rossiter chooses to carry her pregnancy to term. She delivers a baby girl, who dies four hours after birth. Gathering with family and friends, she welcomes her daughter with a birthday party, knowing it will be her last.

Miller decides to abort her pregnancy, keeping her decision a secret from some family members. She suffers the taunts from protesters as she walks into the clinic and deals with the mandatory waiting period, knowing that she will not change her mind. Ultimately, she tells people who ask that she lost the baby, leaving them to interpret that as they will.

My heart ached reading their stories. I worry that by being partnered with each other they may be interpreted as a false dichotomy: pro-life vs pro-choice. Such an analysis could not be more wrong. They both represent a pro-choice perspective--these women actively made decisions and determined what was best in their situation. Rossiter found comfort in carrying her child to term, while Miller attempted to save her future child from pain and suffering by terminating the pregnancy. I don't know what I would do in their shoes.

The lesson to learn from articles like these is simple: TRUST WOMEN.

Photo courtesy of Yann Seitek

It's Her Decision

Celebrity blogs are all abuzz about Kourtney Kardashian's pregnancy. The stories do not really congratulate her for being pregnant, but rather for deciding to keep the pregnancy instead of having an abortion.

Anti-choice advocates have been praising Kardashian's decision to keep the baby, but in the end all that matters is that it is her decision. Fom the instances that people have been citing in their articles, however, it looks like she had a lot of influence in one direction.

In several stories, Kardashian has been reported saying "My doctor told me there is nothing you will ever regret about having the baby, but he was like, 'You may regret not having the baby.'" I found this statement particularly puzzling because, to me, doctors are not the ones who should be doling out that kind advice.

What is most troubling is how the media is making her whole pregnancy vs. abortion decision into such a sideshow, with headlines like "Kourtney kardashian: Pro-Life Poster Child?". And even more upsetting is that so many people are shocked that she would even consider abortion, with headlines like "Kourtney Kardashian considered an abortion." Why is it so shocking that a young woman, who has found out she has an unplanned pregnancy, would even consider an abortion? We have the right, don't we?

In the end, I just hope she is making the right decisions for her. Baby, abortion, or adoption, it's her choice.

Photo courtesy of mahalie on

Guest Post: This Is What A Feminist Looks Like

Guest post by Danine Spencer, originally posted at Written shortly after Danine returned from FMF's National Young Women's Leadership Conference in March, she posted this essay in honor of Women's Equality Day.

Growing up in the Midwest, I thought feminist was a bad word. Feminists were zealots like Gloria Steinem and Betty Friedan who wanted special and unnecessary laws like the Equal Rights Amendment passed. Feminists were lesbians (also a bad word) who hated men, burned their bras and refused to shave their legs. Feminists were not smart, determined, independent women and girls who accomplished anything they set their minds to. As I grew up, graduated from college and entered the workplace, I gained more respect for feminism. If asked, I would probably even describe myself as a feminist but until recently, I couldn’t really explain what that meant.

In March, I attended the National Young Women’s Leadership Conference (NYWLC), where we discussed how women are affected by the economy, health care, reproductive rights, education, global warming, international relations, war and domestic violence. We talked about how to improve conditions for women and girls everywhere. Women like Dolores Huerta, Eleanor Smeal, Lilly Ledbetter and Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis told us we could change the world simply because we were women and feminists.

As the conference continued, I kept thinking about the “feminist” label. The conference’s sponsor, the Feminist Majority Foundation (FMF), sold t-shirts and tote bags that said, “This is what a feminist looks like.” The shirts and bags went like hotcakes and everywhere I looked, women of every size, shape and color were proudly wearing their new conference swag.

“This is what a feminist looks like.”

“Wait,” I thought. “Am I a feminist?”

It was a light-bulb moment. These women, over 500 of us who had gathered to find ways to help women in the United States and around the world, were just like me. We may have had different ethnicities, religions, incomes, abilities, family backgrounds and life experiences, but these were women I would have met at college, work, Wal-mart, church, the doctor’s office, or a family reunion.

In-between breakout sessions, I went to the restroom and looked at the woman staring back at me in the mirror. If all of these smart, savvy, beautiful women were feminists, then I must be a feminist, too. The light-bulb moments continued as I began to understand feminism was not the idealistic extremism I used to believe it was. I started to form my own definition of feminism: women working to improve living and working conditions for all women.

I was proud of my newly-claimed title of “Feminist” but I wondered what my family and friends back in Wisconsin would think. They probably wouldn’t be surprised, as I’ve always been pretty liberal. Would they think I had become even more partisan than I already was? I wanted people to realize the word “feminist” really meant “women’s champion”, not “leftist rabble-rouser,” so I began to make a list of why I am a feminist.

I am a feminist because I believe:

* Every woman should have access to affordable health insurance
* Every woman should be able to go to a doctor when she is sick and obtain prescription medication when necessary
* Every woman should be able to find work that pays a living wage so she can provide for herself and her children
* Every woman should receive equal pay for equal work
* Every woman should be able to choose her own spouse, when and if she chooses to marry
* Every woman should be in control of her own family planning, which includes the right to decide whether or not to have children
* Every woman has the right to freedom of speech
* Every woman should have the same legal rights as men
* Every woman has the right to an education
* Every woman has the right to own property

I also believe:

* No woman should be discriminated on the basis of her gender, age, income level, race, sexual orientation, religion, disability or other life circumstance.
* No woman or girl should ever be raped or sexual abused, period. Rape against women and girls should never be used as a weapon during war.
* No woman or girl should be subjected to genital mutilation.
* No woman or girl should be a victim of human trafficking, sold into sexual slavery or work in a sweatshop.
* No woman or girl should be forced into marriage without her consent.
* No woman should die in childbirth or as a result of pregnancy-related complications

Above all, every woman and girl should have enough food to eat, clean water to drink and a warm place to sleep at night.

Looking over this list, I realize my girlhood notions of feminism were wrong. Fighting for women’s rights is not outrageous. Women’s rights are human rights. We are entitled to our rights and we must fight to help ourselves and our sisters. As Mavis Leno, chair of FMF’s Campaign to Help Afghan Women and Girls, said at the conference, “When you are asking someone to give you your human rights, you are talking to someone who stolen them from you.” We have a lot of work to do, but feminist and labor advocate Dolores Huerta declared at NYWLC, “We can do this. You know why? Because we’re women.”

Yes, we can. As Dolores would say, ¡Si, se puede!

Msg from Ellie Smeal: Dr. Carhart needs your help!

Operation Rescue of Wichita, Kansas, has a new target: Dr. Leroy Carhart and his clinic in Bellevue, Nebraska.

Dr. Carhart had traveled to Wichita each month to work with Dr. Tiller, who was murdered in May. Dr. Carhart needs our help now. The situation is urgent.

Troy Newman of Operation Rescue has announced a new multi-group campaign called "Keep it Closed," which aims to make sure Dr. Carhart does not open a late abortion clinic in Wichita, any other place in Kansas, or nearby Nebraska.

And Newman hoped "through the use of peaceful, legal means" that Dr. Carhart "will soon be out of the abortion business for good." Operation Rescue is initiating targeted demonstrations and so-called "street counseling" in Omaha and at Carhart's Bellevue clinic August 28-29.

We must do all we can to keep Dr. Carhart and his staff safe and his clinic safe and open.

You can help Dr. Carhart and his embattled clinic by making an emergency, tax-deductible contribution today. Half of your contribution will go directly to Dr. Carhart's clinic to defray the increased legal and skyrocketing security costs - a new metal detector to screen everyone entering the clinic, more security cameras, and other enhanced security measures.

And the other half of your emergency contribution will support our efforts to help keep this clinic and other targeted and embattled clinics nationwide safe and open. Since Dr. Tiller's murder, hostile activities towards clinics are increasing in more than 10 states against abortion providers.

We are working closely with Dr. Carhart, his clinic staff, federal and local law enforcement, and pro-choice community volunteers to prepare for the Operation Rescue-led demonstrations.

Escalating activities targeting Dr. Carhart and his staff eerily resemble the harassment of Dr. Tiller. Operation Rescue has posted photos of Dr. Carhart on their website and has submitted a formal request to Nebraska's Attorney General to investigate Dr. Carhart on many of the same allegations previously used to investigate Dr. Tiller.

Dr. Carhart needs our help. Without clinics, there can be no choice for women. Please make a special tax-deductible emergency contribution now.

Together, we can make a difference.

For Women's Lives,

Eleanor Smeal

Eleanor Smeal

P.S. Dr. Carhart needs our help now. Keep this doctor and his staff safe and his clinic open - and help clinics nationwide.

She said what?!

America seems to be obsessed with beauty pageants. With the recent outburst of toddler and teen beauty pageant reality shows that have hit the airwaves (i.e. Toddlers and Tiaras on TCL and Little Miss Perfect on WE), I think its safe to say that our attention has been on beauty, not brains. And it is not just the US, it's the universe!

On Jezebel, I saw their recap of Sunday's Miss Universe pageant and found myself saying "did she just say that" out loud in my office. During the question portion of the pageant, Miss Venezuela was asked what women can do to overcome sexism in the workplace. She answered that women need to realize that "there are no longer any barriers against us." Turns out, the judges liked her answer, and she won!

We no longer have any barriers? What about the still ever present wage gap, sexual harassment and encroaching glass ceiling that many women feel constantly in the jobs? Those sound like barriers to me.

I know Miss Venezuela might be talking from personal experience, and if she is, I'm glad that she has not experienced these limitations that many other women feel in their jobs. But it doesn't negate that these are very real issues that women still face today.

Now that Miss Venezuela has been crowned Miss Universe, maybe her new position will allow her to use this influence and celebrity for positive impact on the behave of women. I also hope that people who were watching the Miss Universe pageant Sunday night know that there really still are many barriers for women in the workplace. Usually, the Miss Universe pageant is not where you turn to get good information. Remember the Miss American pageant 2009?

Photo courtesy of stevendamron on

Newsday Tuesday: August 25 Edition

Well the time has come by friends, this is the last Newsday Tuesday that I will be writing as it is my last week interning at FMF. I have really enjoyed writing this every week. It has helped to keep me informed on the week's events, as I hope it has for you, too. I have gotten all of the news that I use for these weekly blogs from the Feminist News Wire that FMF puts out every day. You can get your news this way too! You can sign up for Weekly News E-mails or subscribe to our News feed.

But even though I am leaving you as your Newsday Tuesday correspondent, that doesn't mean the news stops happening! Let's catch up on what has been a very busy week, here and around the world!

Afghan Elections

The participation of many Afghan women in last week's elections was threatened by strict polling regulations and fraud. A severe shortage of female w
orkers to staff women-only polling places limited the ability of millions of women cast their ballots. Despite large turnout at many polling places, men greatly outnumbered women voters as a result.

During the Afghan elections, the Taliban allegedly cut off the fingers of at least two Afghan women in the Kandahar providence after they had cast their ballots. (You can read my blog post about particularly repressing voter turnout among women.


The US Department of Health and Human Services, Maternal and Child Health Bureau has instated an initiative that aims to encourage women to breast-feed for longer after returning to work. States, such as Vermont, have started launched programs that offers free assistance to businesses in the state to help to comply with this new law.

Last week, a Planned Parenthood clinic, for fear of losing its license, filed for a restraining order against the state health department to prevent it from being revoked. The threat of losing their license stems from an informed consent law passed in 2005 and a disclosure form proposed by the health department.

A federal judge scheduled a January 2010 trial date Wednesday in a lawsuit that challenges the constitutionality of Proposition 8.

Oklahoma confirmed Wednesday that the state will file an appeal with the state Supreme Court of a judge's decision to overturn a controversial abortion law. On Tuesday, an Oklahoma County District Judge overturned a state law requiring women seeking abortions must first receive an ultrasound and a description of the fetus from a doctor.

New York Governor David Paterson promised a group of protesters Tuesday that he will sign a bill that will prohibit incarcerated pregnant women from being shackled while in labor.

The Stamford Marriott Hotel & Spa withdrew special defenses last Monday in a lawsuit involving a woman who was raped at gunpoint in the hotel's parking garage in front of her children. In court documents, the hotel originally argued that the woman was negligent and "failed to exercise due care for her own safety and the safety of her children and proper use of her senses and facilities."


Thousands staged a protest Saturday in Bamako, Mali's capital, against a proposed law that would give women greater marriage rights in the country. The law includes provisions that grant inheritance rights to children born without married parents, change the legal age for marriage to 18, and replaces "paternal power" with "parental authority" in family law.

Currently, there is a bill in the Bahamian legislature that would criminalize marital rape. The bill is aimed at combating attitudes about spousal relationships that leave women vulnerable to abuse. As it stands now, charges of rape can only be brought against a spouse if the couple is legally separated or in the process of getting a divorce.

The Danish Conservative Party is proposing to ban burqa and niqab attire as part of an integration initiative. Conservative party officials have criticized the attire as being oppressive towards women and “un-Danish.”

Human Rights Watch released a report last Monday that indicated hundreds of Iraqi gay men have been kidnapped, tortured and murdered since the beginning of 2009. Iraqi authorities have not acted to stop militias that are actively targeting men suspected of engaging in about it too) Extremist election-day violence erupted primarily in the south and southeast regions of Afghanistan,
homosexual conduct and may be complicit in some attacks.

...and a friendly reminder

If you're in the DC area, Madam's Organ in Adams Morgan (try saying that 5 times fast!) is the place to be on Thursday night!

FMF Presents: Hell No! We Won't Go - A Networking Benefit for the National Clinic Access Project

Madam's Organ (2461 18th St. NW - Woodley Park Metro) Thurday, August 27 5:00 - 9:00pm

If you are following Feminist Campus on Twitter, please RT! Spread the word! I'll be there, so you better be too!

Photo courtesy of swanksalot on

Monday, August 24, 2009

Series of Global Women's Articles in the New York Times

I am sure many of you have run across the New York Times' special issue called "Saving the World's Women: How changing the lives of women and girls in the developing world can change everything," but if you haven't, you are really missing out. Inspired by the current election in Afghanistan, there are several articles about women in Afghanistan, India, Saudi Arabia, and many more.

The Daughter Deficit, written by Tina Rosenberg, explains the importance of educating girls in India, and how it can immediately reduce poverty.

A New Gender Agenda written by Mark Landler is an interview with Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton. It describes how the US plans to handle international issues involving women, which in her opinion means ALL issues.

A School Bus for Shamisa
written by Dexter Filkins describes how the Taliban in Afghanistan have prevented girls from attending school, primarily through acid attacks. It futher delves into interviews with the men that had actually done the acid burning, an interesting perspective that is not normally reported about.

In one article called The Women's Crusade, co-authors Nicholas D. Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn include numerous issues facing women and girls globally, and is utterly fascinating. Amazingly enough, what stuck with all of the numerous topics in the article including the wonders of micro finance, women being beaten and sold into slavery, and the gendercide in China, was a quote from Bill Gates. ( It is terrifying that I have become numb to these horror stories, after reading them so many times.) To summarize, Gates was asked to speak in a conference in Saudi Arabia about technology, where the audience was 4/5 male (seated on the left side of the room), and 1/5 female (seated on the right side). When an audience member "noted that Saudi Arabia aimed to be one of the Top 10 countries in the world in technology by 2010 and asked if that was realistic, [Gates replied:] 'Well, if you’re not fully utilizing half the talent in the country, you’re not going to get too close to the Top 10.” The small group on the right erupted in wild cheering."

All of the articles are incredible, but never before have I read an article like The Women's Crusade article. It is 7 pages long, but WELL worth your time. This article is part of a book that both authors are collaborating on, which is called “Half the Sky: Turning Oppression Into Opportunity for Women Worldwide,”which sounds fascinating.

Please, do yourself a favor and take the time to read these articles. If you don't learn something new, or gain a rekindled passion for women's issues, I would be very surprised.

DC Happy Hour - will YOU be there?

Just a friendly reminder, if you're in the DC area, Madam's Organ in Adams Morgan (try saying that 5 times fast!) is the place to be on Thursday night!

Here's the skinny...

FMF Presents: Hell No! We Won't Go - A Networking Benefit for the National Clinic Access Project

(2461 18th St NW - Woodley Park Metro)
Thursday, August 27
5:00 - 9:00pm

Some other basic info you might be interested in...

FMF's National Clinic Access Project assists comprehensive women's health clinics and physicians, and is the oldest and largest program of its kind that monitors national trends in clinic violence and harassment.

An FMF survey from 2008 found that 20% of abortion providers endured severe anti-choice violence and harassment. WE NEED YOUR HELP to keep clinics open and end the violence!

Madam's Organ is being uber generous and donating $1/drink and 20% of food sales! And on top of it all, there's NO COVER aaaaand it's under-21-friendly, so bring everyone you know!

Tweet it! Facebook it! Blog to your heart's content! Oh, and COME!

We hope to see you there!

Call to Action! Counter 40 Days for Life Protesters

"40 Days for Life," is a national campaign of anti-abortion protesters gathering at comprehensive women's health clinics around the country for mass protests and vigils.

The latest round of protests is set to begin on September 23. Your local abortion clinic may need your help protecting its patients and dealing with this onslaught of anti-choicers. Check out this list of targeted clinics and volunteer to assist your local clinic during the campaign.

Organized groups like FMLAs and other campus feminist organizations are ideal partners for local clinics and can help mobilize large groups of volunteers. If you cannot volunteer your time, consider holding a fundraiser to benefit a local clinic or the National Clinic Access Project, which protects clinics across the country.

Voting Safety

I've tried to never taken my right to vote for granted. Since I turned 18, I always do my part as a female American citizen to vote in any election that I am eligible for. I try hard to be an informed voter and learn about the candidates and the issues of the ballot.

The recent election in Afghanistan has helped remind me how lucky I am to not only be able to vote, but be able to vote safely. During the election in Afghanistan, just like in other Middle Eastern countries, women were targeted for violence, intimidation and harassment on election day.

One such instance that has really shaken me up was the report that 2 women had their fingers cut off in the Kandahar province. I can't even imagine going up to a voting booth, casting my ballot, and then having my finger forcefully cut off for just exercising my right.

This form of violence against women in Afghanistan follows a very similar pattern of other violated rights: just because you have the right, doesn't mean that you have fair and safe access to exercise that right. Abortion, birth control, and workers' rights in the US - for instance - all follow this same trend.

It's aggravating that women work so hard to get the rights (that should be afforded to us without question!) down on the books, and then we have to keep fighting to make sure we can exercise them safely. It seems like a never cycle and can be disheartening at times to think the fight is almost over. However, no matter how hard exercising that right might be, we have to celebrate our work to get those rights and exercise them no matter what!

Even though there is not present danger when I go to vote, I do it because I want my voice to be heard and I know that so many women before me fought to get the rights that I enjoy today that I don't want to be their work to be for nothing. And that is what these women in Afghanistan are showing through their valiant expression of their rights, even though there is very real danger in doing so. I find them inspirational and motivating to help secure women's rights.

Photo courtesy of LDCross on

Friday, August 21, 2009

The Runway is Back

I must confess, I love Project Runway. Heidi Klum is a funny host and Tim Gunn is precious. Plus, you have all the fabulous-ness and creativity of the fashion world as a backdrop and that makes for great TV. The series premiered for it's 6th season last night on Lifetime, after quite a tug-of-war between previous network Bravo, and of course, I watched.

The cast of designers is one of the reasons that I like this show so much. Not only are they highly talented, but each batch of designers is definitely diverse. This season we have Christopher, 30, who is a visual merchandiser from Minnesota who has never had a lick of formal training in fashion design. Ari, 26, is a designer from Missouri who does her best work as she meditates and sees no need to sketch. And there is Epperson, a visual window designer and a father who is the oldest in the pack at 50.

While there is a long list of negatives about the fashion world and its effect on women, I feel that project Runway goes in the plus category. It shows the hard work, creativity and the real people behind the clothing that goes into making great art. It's interesting to see how the clothing that people wear every day goes from an idea in a designer's head to the new sweater on your back. Plus the fact that Project Runways seems to make an effort to get a diverse array of both designers and models gives it more reason to be a positive TV watching experience. I'll definitely be tuning in next week.

Photo courtesy of jack dorsey on

HPV Vaccine Encouraged in DC Public Schools

I love for its local reporting on issues that matter! In today's Morning Roundup I was pleased to see:

Girls at District Schools Urged to Get HPV Vaccine:
The Post reports that girls entering the sixth grade in District schools are being encouraged to get a vaccine against HPV, which can cause cervical cancer. The vaccine, which was approved by the FDA in 2006, remains controversial, with some opponents arguing that it has not been tested enough and others claiming that it would encourage schoolgirls to have sex earlier. In both the District and Virginia, parents can opt out of having their daughters vaccinated; the District abandoned a plan to make the vaccine mandatory a few years ago.

Proposition 8 Trial Date Set

A federal judge scheduled a January 2010 trial date on Wednesday in a lawsuit that challenges the constitutionality of Proposition 8, the November 2008 ballot initiative that overturned the right of same-sex marriage in the state.

The suit, filed in May by two prominent attorneys known for arguing against one another over the 2000 presidential election in Bush v. Gore, is on the behalf of two same-sex couples who were denied marriage licenses after the passage of Proposition 8.

In addition to setting a trial date, Chief US District Judge Vaughn Walker, denied requests to intervene in the case by LGBT rights groups including Lambda Legal, the American Civil Liberties Union, and the National Center for Lesbian Rights. The Campaign for California Families, which supports the measure, was also denied a request to intervene in the suit, reported the San Francisco Chronicle. However, Judge Walker did allow intervention in the case by the city of San Francisco due to the city's unique perspective on the financial impact a ban on same sex marriage has on local governments, according to the Associated Press.

San Francisco City Attorney Dennis Herrera responded to the Judge's decision to allow the city to intervene in the case in a statement, "In terms of our unique public sector perspective and the evidence we've already developed, we think the City is an extremely well-prepared co-plaintiff in the kind of trial Judge Walker envisions. We are ready to help put anti-gay discrimination on trial based on the facts, and our office has the experience and expertise to assist in aggressively doing that."

The California Supreme Court upheld Proposition 8 in a 6 to 1 ruling in May 2009. The proposition, which passed 52 percent to 48 percent, overturned a May 2008 ruling of the state Supreme Court that resulted in, among other provisions, the legalization of same sex marriage in the state. The Court's 2009 opinion preserved the marriages of the 18,000 same-sex couples who married in California during the period same-sex marriage was legal.

Same sex marriage is currently legal in six states: Connecticut, Iowa, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, and Vermont. Legislation to legalize same sex marriage remains under consideration in New York.

Story courtesy of: Feminist NewsWire (Feminist Majority Foundation)
Photo credit:

Running Star Hits a Road Block

There is always controversy when you mix women and sports, especially in sports that have been labeled "men's" sports by the general public and women succeed over their male counterparts. The latest upset among the sports community centers around new South African running star Caster Semenya.

Semenya crushed her rivals and won the women's world 800 meter title, making it the best time for the 800 meter in the world this year. Apparently, the controversy is over Semenya's "masculine" appearance, pared with her outstanding achievements in her racing this year.

Sports officials have now asked for the 18-year-old's gender to be verified, accusing her of lying about her gender. They have planned to conduct a gender identification test to either prove or disprove their suspicions.

I really feel all of this hubbub about whether Semenya is a "true" woman or not is overshadowing her outstanding performance. And all of this is just based on a "feeling" that sports officials have, completely based on how she looks.

I see a trend in this story that is similar to many other situations when a woman succeeds in something that is normal deemed a "male" field or when a woman "looks" masculine. Similar to the blog post I wrote yesterday on women's self-image and bodies, we need to wake up and realize that women come in many difference forms and appearances, just like men. And when women do something good, we shouldn't ask questions or try to devalue their accomplishments. Just congratulate them.

Photo courtesy of jimw on

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Love Your Body

The blogosphere has been abuzz with talking about Glamour Magazine's September issue where they feature a picture of a nude woman who is not a supermodel, but a 20-something woman.

The picture was used in an article for the magazine called "What Everyone But You Sees About Your Body" in which several women discuss how hard women are on themselves and how to change this negative self-image around.

Dispensing words of wisdom like"when you focus on the body parts you love, your 'flaws' fade away" and "self-consciousness is getting in the way of your pleasure," the women who helped to contribute to the article give helpful advice on how to look at yourself through new eyes.

I love the message of the article and, per Jezebel, so have a lot of other women. My issue does not lie within the article itself, but with the fact that this is such an astonishment to so many people that a "real woman" is being pictured. With the huge reaction to Glamour's use of the picture, while is may be positive, I feel it really shines a light on how far the media's unrealistic images of women has gone.

Women are beautiful in all sizes and we should appreciate all the ways the female form presents itself. As a young woman myself, I would be lying if I said that I haven't struggled with self body image. The media is always going to try and push images on us that are unrealistic to the majority of the world. What this Glamour article is trying to explain is that as women, we don't have to give into that pressure and we should love ourselves for who we are, not what the media or anyone else says we should be. Maybe using more images like the one used for the Glamour article and talking about body acceptance more will help to influence the media into accepting and appreciating diversity in the female form.

Photo courtesy of Zawezome on

DC feminists - hating on domestic violence

DVRP is fab, please support them! They're also hiring PAID bilingual advocates, so apply by 8/25! More here.

Event announcement:

Please join the Asian/Pacific Islander Domestic Violence Resource Project (DVRP) for a Yard Sale and Bake Sale to support survivors of domestic violence in the greater D.C. area. We are selling a ton of stuff - lots of clothes, books, baby items, shoes, bags, furniture, etc.

Here are the details:

Date: Sunday, August 23, 2009
Time: 10:00 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.
Location: Corner of 18th Street, NW and Columbia Road, NW in Adams Morgan. In front of SunTrust Bank.

A little about DVRP:
DVRP’s mission is to address and prevent domestic violence in Asian/Pacific Islander communities in the Washington, DC metropolitan area through a three-pronged approach:

To ensure that abused A/PI women have access to culturally and linguistically responsive resources in order to make their own life choices;

To raise awareness about the problem of domestic violence; and

To unite A/PI communities against domestic violence.

We will have more information about DVRP at the yard sale and information about donations, volunteer opportunities, and upcoming events. You can also visit DVRP's website at

Photo credit:
bobster855 on Flickr