Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Opening Minds with Media: Tolo TV in Afghanistan

This week, the New Yorker ran a piece on Saad Mohseni’s media company Moby Group – owner of Afghanistan’s most popular channel, Tolo TV. This channel stands out for its controversial content and its revolutionary portrayals of women and relationships. With millions of viewers and its envelope-pushing programs, Tolo TV has the potential to change decades-standing social norms in Afghanistan.

Launched in 2004, Tolo TV is home to Bollywood soap operas that portray love marriages and not only show unveiled women, but women with bare midriffs. It hosts Afghanistan’s most popular program, Afghan Idol (analogous to American Idol) which reaches a third of the population. And, despite Mohseni’s initial support for President Karzai, Tolo TV has presented critical news coverage of alleged voter fraud and corruption during the suspect 2009 elections.

According to the article, the channel is also the target of both fundamentalists and the government for its “un-Islamic” programming. Afghanistan’s Ulema Council deemed some shows as inappropriate and the minister of for information and culture demanded that Tolo TV remove the offending soap operas (even though the channel already censors sex scenes and blurs cleavage and even Hindu idols). Mohseni refused to comply and later faced criminal charges for keeping the soaps on the air. This act of defiance was not only a boon for free speech, but was instrumental in keeping more progressive (though admittedly not perfect – it would be more encouraging to see more women doctors, engineers and professors on air and not just measure progress through clothing women wear) portrayals of women on the air.

For better or worse, the media has a significant role in changing stereotypes and societal norms, and even influencing our behavior. The media in the US provides prominent examples of its reach into the personal lives of viewers. The Cosby Show and Fresh Prince of Bel-Air were some of the first popular television programs to depict educated, upper and middle class African American families, breaking decades-old stereotypes that had permeated popular culture for years. Sex and the City (despite the franchise’s dreadful movies, 1 and 2) was groundbreaking in its portrayal of financially successful and sexually empowered women. Formerly taboo topics ranging from STDs to sexual orientation, and even sex toys were tackled on the show. The media even influences the names expecting parents pick for their children. According to the Social Security Administration, Twilight monikers Jacob and Isabella were the two most popular baby names of 2009. By providing progressive programming, Tolo TV can too have widespread clout in Afghanistan. Tolo TV, despite its threats of censorship by the government, is in a great position of power and with that, has the potential to bring progressive change to Afghan society. By challenging the government in its refusal to remove programming and by portraying women, as well as male-female relationships in less conservative light, the channel offers a counterpoint to the androcentric norms that have been used to repress women for years.

Photo Credit: Flickr (image of interview on Tolo TV)

Oil Hurts Part Deux: Oil Spills in Nigeria

We now know that the BP oil spill in the Gulf is going to have immense effects for the Gulf's people, economy, and ecosystem. However, there are oil spills of epic proportions occurring in Nigeria almost every year.

According to the New York Times, The Niger Delta has endured oil spills that rival Exxon Valdez for over 50 years (by some estimates). The oil spews every week and has left many a deserted swamp in its wake. Let this shocking quote sink in:

"As many as 546 million gallons of oil spilled into the Niger Delta over the last five decades, or nearly 11 million gallons a year, a team of experts for the Nigerian government and international and local environmental groups concluded in a 2006 report. By comparison, the Exxon Valdez spill in 1989 dumped an estimated 10.8 million gallons of oil into the waters off Alaska." [emphasis mine]

What's just shocking to me is that we are so quick to be devastated and moved to action when disasters such as the BP oil spill are occurring on our land, but what about the same disasters occurring in other countries? What about the women, children and men of Nigeria? What about them? Imagine the health effects of the Exxon Valdez oil spill compounded 50 years in a row--that's Nigeria. Think about it.

To learn more about the immensity of Nigeria's oil spills check out this New York Times article, here.

*photo credit: Paul Taggart/Boston Globe

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Elena Kagan Hearing Live

Today I had the pleasure and honour of sitting in on the Elena Kagan hearings for a brief period of time. As you all may know, Elena Kagan, the Solicitor General of the United States--person appointed to represent the United States Government before the Supreme Court--is currently going through the process of confirmation to become the next justice of the most high and honourable United States Supreme Court. Kagan is replacing Justice John Paul Stevens (at least she seems poised to by the way the hearings are looking), who is retiring when the court begins its summer recess.

I was at the hearing for the questionings by Senator Sessions (R-AL), Senator Kohl (D-WI) and Senator Hatch (R-UT). Senator Sessions was extremely rude and, in my opinion, attempted to undermine Solicitor General Kagan many times. At one point he rudely asked her to "put on her legal hat for just a second." Other times he cut her off abruptly and often seemed like he was prepared to yell at her or belittle her. What stuck out to me was his unwillingness to accept the answers that she was giving him. For example, he questioned Kagan about whether she would characterise herself as a "legal progressive". She continually answered his question by saying that she did not know what a "legal progressive" was, but felt that people should label themselves and could not truthfully answer the question. Sessions went on to say that he was going to label her as a "legal progressive" based on what he knew about her and promptly moved on to his next question. He also said that he wouldn't ask her any softball questions. Because remember, since Elena Kagan has not answered questions about her sexual orientation (after a Harvard Law colleague said she was gay) and was photographed playing softball, she MUST be a lesbian--according to many of her critics, anyway. Lastly, Sessions questioned Kagan on Harvard's military recruitment policy--which has been hotly debated since she feels that "Don't Ask Don't Tell" (DADT), the military's stance on LGBT people serving, is discriminatory. She spoke of Harvard having a non-discriminatory policy in place for any companies seeking to recruit students out of its Career Services office, and could not allow the military to do so because of its discriminatory stance towards gays and lesbians (let's not forget all of the other bi, trans, etc people) serving in the military. You can imagine that Sessions just had a field day with that one.

Senator Kohl (D-WI) asked more polite questions; he actually questioned Kagan before Sessions did (sorry the questioning is out of order), but I'll briefly discuss what he questioned her on. Kohl mainly questioned Kagan about the nations anti-trust laws, particularly the Supreme Court's decision that ultimately overturned the century-old Sherman Antitrust Act. He asked Kagan whether she felt it appropriate that the Supreme Court overturned this law, to which she answered that the decision raised questions of what it takes to reverse precedent. He then asked her about her feelings on having cameras in the Supreme Court since some Justices are opposed to it. She replied, "I have said that I think it will be a terrific's an inspiring sight...I think it would be a great thing for the institution and the American people." In addition, Kohl questioned her on the Bush v. Gore decision and whether she believed it was right for the Supreme Court to get involved.

Senator Hatch (R-UT) questioned Kagan on whether the nation's Founders' were concerned with the First Amendment and issues of free speech, specifically political speech. Kagan stated that "political speech is at the core of the First Amendment." When asked if she rejected the fact that spending was indeed speech (due to some talking points she had written for the Clinton Administration in which she had claimed so), Kagan replied "...Those were talking points for the Clinton does not reflect my constitutional or legal views." What mainly dominated Hatch's questions from that point was the Supreme Court case of Citizens United v. FEC (Federal Election Commission)--Kagan spoke before the Supreme Court as Solicitor General. He then questioned Kagan on issues of independent, campaign and corporate expenditures.

Random fact: I spent extra time in the hearing because I told the staff that my concentration in political science is on the Supreme Court (because I am that person) and that I am the next Supreme Court Justice of this generation--which is a goal; the staff allowed me to stay for a longer period of time. Also, I had a very interesting conversation with an intern from the Concerned Women for America--if you don't know who they are, please go google them right this second. Enough said.

Kagan's appointment is a historic one because she will make the nation's fourth female Justice to sit on the bench, the third female Justice currently sitting on the bench, and will also be President Barack Obama's second appointment to the Supreme Court--this is something that many Presidents never have the honour of doing.

I found Kagan to be extremely witty and personable and she is appearing to take these hearings with grace and in stride. Let's all keep watching! As far as I'm concerned, she is going to get confirmed and will make history as a Supreme Court Justice.

If you want to learn more about Elena Kagan, check out WhoRunsGov, here.

Campus Organizing Series: Large Public Universities

So the DC Campus Interns have been assigned the project of blogging campus organizing tips for different types of campuses, in order to provide our fellow college feminists with some tools for making change on their campuses. My first topic is one with which I have a lot of experience: Large Public Universities.

I am a rising senior at the University of California, Davis, a public land grant university with nearly 30,000 students and I have a lot of experience with activism on my campus. I am an ASUCD Senator and my platform was driven by the needs of the feminist and social justice activist communities. So far I have been able to protest blood drives on our campus (for their discrimination against men who have sex with men), gain funding for ethnic and lavender graduation ceremonies and culture weeks, begin planning a womyn’s leadership conference, draft a pregnant undergrad resource guide, and advocate for sexual harassment training of all ASUCD employees (and that's just in one quarter!).

Organizing the crowds at a public university can be tough, but it’s definitely doable! Here are my top five tips to keep in mind, with some personal anecdotes to go along:

1.Know Your Resources- Large public universities seem to have an administrative department for everything. Be sure you know where you’ll need to go to reserve a room on campus, how to get permission to do fundraising, and how to request a sound permit (it’s also best to know this information before you need it!).
You may find that your campus offers grants and services for student clubs. Make sure you register your group to receive these benefits!
On the UC Davis campus there are about 100 places you can go to request money (the student government, campus resource centers, academic departments, the office of the chancellor, etc.), and it’s important to hit up every relevant one during a budget crisis. This will also give you great practice in the world of grant writing!
Troll your school’s website for deadlines and requirements for each funding source.

2.Collaborate!- On such a large campus there are bound to be multiple clubs that work on the same issues: why not collaborate! This is a great way to acquire more resources and people-power to pull off those BIG events you have planned.
If there is not a directory of clubs on your campus, keep your eye out for fliers from other groups and visit their meetings. Go out to coffee with their President and get to know what they’re about and if your goals align in any way (and if they don’t align, why not hold a public debate?). This is a great way to expand attendance at your events from the regular crew.
Also, if you’re lobbying the administration, having a coalition of student groups behind your cause will get their attention!
I have found that this is a great way to get new ideas for club activities and also to make great friends. Even if you never work with a group on an event, establishing a personal relationship with them will make them more likely to attend your future events.
If your group is lacking diversity, be sure to make the effort to work with those you’re not already in constant contact with. It’s important to make your group feel welcoming to all, but you’ll never really know why it’s not until you ask!

3.Media Control- The media loves large public universities, and you can take advantage of this fact! If you are holding an event with a lot of drama or action (like a protest), the media may want to cover it!
Write a press release and send it to local newspapers and news stations. Who knows, you just might make the evening news! Also, be sure to send press releases to your campus newspaper(s); if they write an article about it, you can reach a lot of students on your campus!
With the media comes a word of caution though: you must make an effort to control the way you are portrayed. Media is always looking for drama. Some interviewers may try to trigger you or put words in your mouth with leading questions. Be just a little wary and make mental notes about which sources have been sly in the past.
If you are doing an interview for print, it is within your rights to request an advance copy of the quotes they will use from you (as they wrote them down, because sometimes that can be different than the way you thought you said them) or of the story. And never be afraid to say, “No comment.”

4.Utilizing Social Media- On large campuses, it’s usually easiest to advertise your events through social media (rather than chalking or flyering in the hundreds of classrooms for hours!).
Create a facebook group, a twitter account, a flickr, a myspace, and whatever new thing that everyone on your campus is using. Invite all your friends and ask them to invite all their friends. When the first years arrive in fall, they will be able to find your group on your university’s network and learn about how to get involved before your first meeting!
I’ve found that on facebook, it’s important to make events for each individual event as well as a group for your club. This way folks who aren’t comfortable having your group on their profile 24/7 can still get invited, plus casual attendees.
And there is something to be said about chalking on campus: I have sat in many a boring class and decided to attend a movie or a panel that evening just because it was in my line of sight for so long. On some campuses it’s a no-no, and sometimes you have to wake up at 5 am to do it, but it really is worth it to make that effort!

5.Infiltrate Your Student Government- At large public universities, some student governments have a lot of power (and money!). It is important that women and feminists are getting a say!
Contact a member of the student government and voice your concerns, as well as possible projects the student government could take on.
Also, see if there is a committee that deals with gender, race, and/or sexuality. If not, demand that it be created!

If all else fails (or if you’re successful), run for office (your collaboration with other student clubs will help create a large voting base).

This is an issue that I am extremely passionate about. Historically, women have been only a sixth of UC Davis' senate table, even though we’re more than half of the student population! In the national congress, women are only 17%!

If you are able to deal with the mental and social pressures of politics, I feel like it’s your duty to get involved. Make sure the women on your campus are being served, make sure the underrepresented are being heard!

Photo Cred: UC Davis Magazine

Monday, June 28, 2010

Will America become more trigger happy?

Today, the Supreme Court issued a ruling upholding gun rights in Chicago in the case of McDonald v. City of Chicago. The High Court ruled that the second amendment, protecting gun rights, applies to state governments as well as the federal government. This decision stipulates that state residents cannot be prohibited by state firearms laws to keep handguns within their homes for purposes of self defense. [emphasis mine]

Two years ago in 2008, the Supreme Court ruled in District of Columbia v. Heller that the Second Amendment protects the right to keep and bear arms for purposes of self-defense, and struck down a firearms law in the District of Columbia which banned the possession of handguns in the home. It seems that the basis of this decision by the Supreme Court was mainly precedent (the ruling of a former case).

Now, I understand that the Supreme Court wants to uphold citizens' rights to bear arms, but I see this law having immense effects for American women and the country as a whole. My first fear is that now in states where firearms laws banning handguns in the home are in place, the Supreme Court's decision may prompt other courts to rule in gun owners' favour. I understand the need for weapons, I do, but there is not enough oversight, in my opinion, when it comes to gun control in the United States. In many states--such as Texas, New York, Nevada, District of Columbia, just to name a few--there are no registration requirements for weapons, including handguns. It is too easy for anyone to walk into a gun shop and buy a gun without any background checks being done on them. My fear of guns and the Supreme Courts' decision, is ultimately based on these people.

We need to know who exactly are buying these guns and for what purposes. We should not live in a society where five-year-olds can maim themselves just because an adult failed to safely lock a gun away, or where a man can buy a handgun and walk into a gym killing innocent women. I have a fear for women's lives where handguns can be kept in the home--what about victims of intimate partner violence, what about them? Also, think of the VA Tech Massacre of 2007, where Seung-Hui Cho was able to purchase a gun and kill innocent people. He had a history of mental disorders and many had warned against his violent and suicidal behaviour.

This may seem like a stretch, but to me with this new law, it seems to be a very real possibility. We need to have more oversight and more transparency when it comes to gun rights. I'm all for people using guns, but use them responsibly. It's people that kill people, not guns. We need to be accountable for our actions.

What are your thoughts on the Supreme Court's gun law decision?!

For more information on the Supreme Court's decision, check out

To learn more about your state's gun laws, check out NRA-ILA.

*photo credit: The Economist

Stigma Still Surrounds Bisexuals

CNNs coverage on a story about one couple this morning beings out as a typical love story and then throws in a twist. Sorority girl meets fraternity boy, sorority girl goes on a date with fraternity boy, both fall in love, and then marry. Now here comes the twist! The woman is heterosexual and the man is bisexual. I must say it is an interesting piece, not typical of CNN topics that discusses bisexuality and the stigma surrounding it.

Battling stereotypes, assumptions, and confusion held by others, bisexuals often find themselves gridlocked between being considered straight or not. If not, then usually left turn into yet another binary being considered lesbian or gay. Although more and more Americans recognize homosexuality, bisexuality still represents a gray area. Unfortunately, there is no open door policy for bisexuals in and out of the so called closet as most (emphasis on most as there are some groups) homosexual and heterosexual communities/groups steer clear of bisexuality.

But, never fear there is hope of accepting this gray area. Some sociologists say that more and more members of the younger generations are accepting of bisexuality and thus it is only a matter of time before this becomes more socially acceptable.

Photo Credit: Jessica Martinez on

Friday, June 25, 2010

How big Pharma constructs sexual dysfunction and what this means to both women and men

So, I have a problem. It’s with Flibanserin, the new “female Viagra” – the libido-enhancing drug manufactured by Boehringer Ingelheim Pharmaceuticals, touted to treat “hypoactive sexual disorder in premenopausal women.” And this problem—it is not around the “pink Viagra’s” technical name, but around its politics.

While Feministing’s Vanessa Valenti posts a positive note—that a drug addressing women’s sexual needs represents a positive shift in the medical industry's priorities, she warns that this ‘progress’ lies in the hands of big-pharma.

The Daily Beast's Joan Sewell argues that Flibanserin labels women's lower sex drive as a dysfunction-it unfairly compares male and female sex drives, creating unrealistic expectations of women's sexuality.

And a recent article titled “Sex Pill for Women: Big Pharma Trying to Profit from Low Sex Drive?" lists some of the major problems regarding Flibanserin: it must be taken every single day, not just when sexual activity is desired, its long-term safety profile is not yet available, and it and HSDD--the dysfunction it claims to treat--hark back to "the same forces responsible for the terms 'frigid,' 'nymphomaniac,' battles for safe and effective birth control and reproductive health care and social tolerance of violent or degrading pornography -- namely, men defining women's sexuality for their own purposes.”

While safety and dosage concerns should be a top priority, I think that focusing solely on these issues completely overlooks the detrimental and regressive effects of Viagra on female and male sexuality. Flibanserin does not represent a recognition of female sexuality but rather a medicalization of female sexuality. In this way, female sexuality is transferred from the private to the public realm—it becomes an issue of the social body (ooohhh so Foucauldian it makes my skin shiver!). It is simply another way to control sexuality, another way to impose distinctions on what is right and wrong, or what is healthy and what is dysfunctional.

Instead of critiquing the name, instead of critiquing the safety concerns and the dosage (which actually lends itself to my argument—in the sense that taking the medication becomes a habitual act controlled by a foreign influence, the medication becomes part of the body’s functioning, and the act becomes a normalized, controlled routine of living), we should criticize the reach of science and medicine (and the state) into our personal, private lives—dictating what is normal or acceptable (for example, policies that encourage the nuclear family or that deny women reproductive freedom).

Now, this doesn’t only concern women, but men as well (remember the male Viagra pill?). In asserting the existence of a normal, healthy sexuality (or, to name another example, the existence of a “standard” way of acting, dressing, engaging in social relations—conforming to societal norms), you guarantee that most people will fall either to the left or the right of the center: you guarantee a base of ‘dysfunctional bodies,’ and in essence, a base of consumers (think everyday actions—we are sold specific products that help to mask or rid us of our "abnormalities," from weight to skin tone).

Both the male and female Viagra pills assert that a specific type of sexuality is normal—and it (strangely?) speaks to gender stereotypes. For example, the male Viagra pill asserts that men must be sexually vigorous in the form of a type of dominance, a control over one's erection (the pill targets blood flow), while the female Viagra pill asserts that women must be sexually and emotionally up-to-speed with their partner. That’s right, I said “emotionally” as well, and the reasoning behind this is that Flibanserin does not work to increase blood flow to the clitoris, but works on sexual desire by targeting dopamine and serotonin.

On June 18th, the FDA voted against approving Flibanserin for use in the United States. This, however, does not mean very much—sexuality is still in the realm of the medical industry and of Big Pharma. In order to resist this medicalization, I say lets celebrate our sexuality! I am not a hypo- or hyperactive sexual body, I do not need to be poked, prodded, and diagnosed. I will not feel shame for having too little or too much sex as defined by society, and I will not blame myself for the actions of others.

Photo credit: Brooks Elliott on Flickr

Fem News Episode 2

In this week's Fem News, we introduce the last three FMF summer interns, and ask them some more funky-fresh questions. ;) If you have any other questions that you would like to ask the intern team, serious and silly, we would love to hear them so post a comment! Until next week, stay cool.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Feminist weekend - DC edition

Why yes, it is 100 degrees in the nation's capital. So take advantage of some feminist-friendly events this weekend that also feature air-conditioning.

Kelly Castillo's "Renaissance Reduxx" exhibition skewers traditional gender roles and the many personas modern women juggle. Free at Art Whino Gallery through July 5.

Thanks to Title IX, women are entitled to equal educational and athletic opportunities. What better way to celebrate our hard-earned rights than with a WNBA game - cheer for the Washington Mystics as they take on the Phoenix Mercury 4pm on Sunday at the Verizon Center.

Then toodle over to Dance Place for Word Dance Theater's performances of choreography by feminist and modern dance pioneer Isadora Duncan. Tickets are $22 for the Saturday and Sunday evening productions.


Photo: ellajphillips on Flickr

Women and Birth Control in America

I happened to be passing through Feministing when I saw a post about unintended pregnancies in the U.S. I searched around until I found a study that was just recently conducted earlier this month. According to the study nearly half (49%) of all pregnancies in the United States are unintended, and lower-educated and younger women in their 20s account for more than half of all abortions. The study seeks to question why more of these women are not consistently using birth control.

What this question leads me to ask is how well these women know about their birth control and other contraceptive options. I feel that a lot of the time the onus is put on the woman to take birth control, have access to emergency contraception if she needs it, etc. I understand that women need to play a role, but men need to as well. It's sad to know that so many women in the United States oftentimes do not have access to birth control or contraceptives for whatever reasons. When talking about access to contraceptives and birth control, one needs to focus on issues of class.

From talking with women from my high school who got pregnant at a young age, a lot of them often did not have the resources or finances to gain birth control. Sometimes they were promised by a boyfriend or male partner that he would "withdraw", that sex would be better without a condom, that it was only their first time. This saddens me. We need to have more education on contraceptives, we need to have comprehensive sex education in all schools, and we need to provide access to contraceptives for all people.

Stanford University

Elena Kagan + No answer = Ex-Gay?!

Supreme Court nominees are often criticized for their views on issues like abortion, the death penalty and so on. In the case of Elena Kagan, there is talk about her possibly being a lesbian because former Harvard classmates claim that they knew her to be a lesbian. While her decline to answer the media's questioning her sexual orientation has caused people to share their ideas about her sexuality, one individual's hypothesis stands out...
Greg Quinlan, President of Parents and Friends of Ex-Gays and Gays (PFOX), recently claimed that Kagan should come out as an ex-gay. As an ex-gay himself, Quinlan suggests that if Kagan is a lesbian she would have come out because President Obama supports LGBT individuals and BECAUSE she has not stated her sexual orientation, she must not be a lesbian! He proposes two possible reasons for her refusal:
1. She is worried that denying rumors could imply that she discriminates against LGBT people-- Quinlan states that to prove her heterosexuality she would need to marry a man which would "be a step backward, and not forward, in liberal gender politics"-- OR,
2. She is an ex-gay!
Oh, really? Refusing to share her sexuality with the media means that she must be or was at one time a lesbian? Sorry, but that's bull. First of all, I must point out that just because she doesn't divulge her sexual orientation does NOT mean she is gay or an "ex-gay"-- maybe, just maybe, she would simply prefer to maintain her privacy. Next, I take serious issue with the term "ex-gay" and organizations like PFOX. PFOX and similar organizations use the term "ex-gay" to describe an individual that has been converted-- CONVERTED?!?!-- from being homosexual to being heterosexual. These organizations that claim to support ex-gays and their loved ones are often ran by religious groups that shame LGBT individuals and attempt to convert them.
Specifically, PFOX claims that individuals choose to be ex-gays yet the organization focuses on providing testimonies and resources that encourage individuals to "leave homosexuality." According to Truth Wins OUT, PFOX's "goal was to counter PFLAG by providing the media with parents who claimed to love their children-- while rejecting their sexual orientation. Ironically, the group has never been lead by a person who is actually the parent of an ex-gay individual."
Um... Not anti-gay? I disagree-- PFOX's goal is to counter a prominent pro-gay organization! How can an organization whose primary goal is counter a pro-gay organization not be anti-gay?
However, this organization's aggressiveness toward PFLAG doesn't surprise me. After all, the organization's founder, Anthony Falarano, claims,
"Satan uses homosexuals as pawns. They're in, as you know, key positions in the media, they're in the White House, they're in everything, they're in Hollywood now. Then after he uses them, he infects them with AIDS and then they die."

This group has been against LGBT individuals from the start. You're not fooling me PFOX. Elena Kagan should NOT "come out" as an ex-gay nor should anyone else.

Interested in learning more?

  • Check out Ted Cox and contact him at to let him know that you're interested in having him speak about his undercover work at on your campus.
  • Stay up to date on the ex-gay movement at Ex-Gay Watch.

Women's News: equality or segregation?

Ruth Rosen of raises an interesting point today in her posting titled “Gender Apartheid Online”—that female and male media is not only segregated, but that male media remains the “default.” In Rosen’s own words

"The quality of the writing and analysis in these "separate sections" is quite high. So what's my problem? My concern is that gender equality will only emerge when men are educated about women's lives and when women stop being quarantined as "the other.""

Now, this immediately reminded me of male as the “default” in marketing children’s toys (see here, here, and here) and white-as default, but can also be applied on a larger scale—reaching from sports (baseball versus women's softball) to the classroom (history opposed to women’s history).

But in writing this I’ve realized that this kind of disagrees with my previous argument—the idea that there should exist separate spaces for groups who then have the power to act in their own interests without having to accommodate to others. And now I am conflicted—is it a bad thing to create separate spaces for female-centered news/media? I immediately thought this when I discovered Slate’s Double X—how could they separate women’s news from men’s news?! I read Slate, I enjoyed Slate, I did not want to be partitioned into a new site specifically for me because I identify as female. I do, however, find pleasure in reading feministing and Ms. magazine—I think they are valuable outlets, valuable resources for an audience interested in articles on women’s rights, LGBTQI rights, immigrant rights—the list goes on…In fact, maybe that holds some of the answer.

Why are these sources positioned as female news sources when they encompass much more than female-centered stories? Maybe this is somehow connected to popular media and the generalization of all women as consumers of beauty and fashion products (as seen by “women’s magazines” like Glamour and Cosmopolitan)—women are assumed to be the prime audience of human-rights centered media. But why isn’t that the norm? Why does this have to be gendered? (For example, today’s New York Times front page draws heavily on “terrorism” and Petraeus while its specifically "female" section features a story about women and men’s rights in Sweden).

Do you agree that news is gendered? Let me know!

Photo credit: bravenewtraveler on flickr

"Take The Test, Take Control" HIV does not discriminate!

National HIV Get Tested Day Sunday June 27, 2010
The HIV epidemic is still going strong in the United States today and this fact has been masked by the struggles of everyday life such as hard economic times, job loss, oils spills and unpredictable weather patterns. Yet every nine and a half minutes someone is infected with HIV in the United States. The Human Immunodeficiency Virus is still very relevant!

It is still fully encouraged that people go out and get tested particularly this weekend! Sunday June 27, 2010 is the National HIV Testing Day. The National HIV get tested day was founded on June 27, 1995 and is organized by the National Association of People with AIDS (NAPWA) in partnership with the Center for Disease Control(CDC). The initiative beckons for people everywhere to get tested and know their status. The NAPWA advocates for everyone to know their status but they mainly targets at risk groups like African Americans mainly African American women, Latinas, and gay men. HIV/AIDS is the leading cause of death for African American women in the United States today. African Americans only make up 13% of the U.S population, but they make up 49% of people who get HIV/AIDS. More than one million people are living with HIV in the U.S and approximately one in five of those are unaware of their infection. That breaks down to about 250,000 people who are living with the infection and do not know it. For some people who are HIV positive and do not know, they may not show any symptoms and even if one may feel healthy the HIV is still effecting their body. Early detection in many of cases can be all the difference between life and death, this is why NAPWA encourages everyone to get tested.

Barriers in HIV prevention:
One of the biggest barriers in HIV prevention comes from abstinence only education. Abstinence only until marriage education is taught to the youth all over the country, yet it does not properly equip young people with a comprehensive sex education. Most importantly it does not tell these youth the most important part which is to use a condom. But this is not only a youth issue, Crisis Pregnancy Centers do the same thing with adults. Misleading people by telling them condoms do not work and won’t protect you against HIV.

HIV is just as much a social issues as it is a medical issues, and issues of race and class are overwhelming in who gets infected and how long they survive. So whatever you decide to do this weekend please make time to go get tested, and bring a friend. Afraid of needles? No problem, there are many different forms of HIV testing which include a quick and painless swab of the mouth!

Let's Talk About Virginity

I've come across many posts on virginity lately, so it only seems right put in my two cent about VIRGINITY too. :)

Growing up Catholic (Sounds like a cool T.V. show.... lol maybe not.) I was taught that my virginity was very important in "finding a husband, getting married, and being respected as a woman." I was told that a woman was worth her purity/virginity. Thankfully I was not forced to have a purity ball, or wear a purity ring(and denied my right to make a decision about my own virginity.) In High School my view on virginity became conflicted because I was hearing more and more opinions on sex. I wasn't sure what to believe anymore, I remember thinking that God would be disappointed in me, if I had sex before I married.

During my questioning I was also realizing things about myself that would make waiting for marriage impossible. Like, what if I didn't want to get married? What if I was lesbian? (Would God accept me then? and if he/she did, I still couldn't marry legally. I still wouldn't be able to have sex.) I also wondered how sure we could be that the Bible was God's word, I mean the Bible was written by men, was it not? And since it was written by men, wasn't it possible that they could use God's word, to push their selfish desires to restrict and control women.

I noticed how HUGE this virginity thing was, and how our society seemed to differentiate women by it (virgin snobs/afraid of men or whores.) The media pushes sex at us anyway it can, and tells women that we have to be sexy at all times. My role in American society became very apparent, I was supposed to be over the top sexy (hair, nails, makeup, clothes, movements, tone of voice), I was to serve as a tool for male gratification, I was my body. I was already so confused and when I read an essay about making abstinence a feminist decision, I didn't know what to think.

Please forgive me the title of the essay has been lost in my memory forever, but the idea as basically this. Women were tricked during he sexual revolution into thinking that felt a certain "sexual freedom", but really were only serving men as a means for sex without strings attached. And I thought Hmm, How will I know if someone really cares about me if they aren't willing to wait? How will I know that I won’t just be a body? Maybe this was brainwashing, but it has some truth...I think. At the same time I think women were also having fun during the sexual liberation, so I don't think they were tricked.

This article (by Shelby Knox) responds to a similar idea,

"Sex is inevitable, even for those of us who pledged otherwise, so it seems far more proactive to challenge outdated and harmful notions about each gender's relationship to sex, not necessarily with sexual activity, but by educating both men and women toward positive, healthy expressions of sexuality that neither subjugate nor deny the humanity of either partner. The last thing anyone, male or female, needs on a college campus is a rancorous and harmful debate about the merits of sex or no sex. Instead, someone needs to start an open and honest discussion about sexual health and responsibility that encompasses everything from abstinence to contraception and personal fulfillment and pleasure"

Today my position on the whole virginity thing is this, wait until sex s not something your afraid of, wait until you understand that your having sex shouldn't disappoint anyone. Make sure that if you do have sex, whether its the first time or not, that you want to have sex just as much as your partner, this is to ensure that you don't feel used at the end of the day. And be safe.

Now that I've expressed my opinion on the whole virginity subject , I'd love to hear your views on virginity.

Photo Credit: Tatiana P. on Flickr

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Protections for domestic violence victims - a controversial issue?

The Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), a subset of the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act, was signed into law in 1994. The passage of VAWA addressed the lack of significant legislation addressing domestic violence, making domestic violence a national priority. VAWA initially sought to provide legal protections for victims of abuse (for example, legally recognize orders of protection across state borders) as well as federal funding for domestic violence shelters and non-profit outreach organizations, a national domestic violence hotline, and youth education programs—to name a few.

Since then, it has expanded to include dating violence and stalking, legal assistance to victims, and the creation of new programs, including the National Resource Center of Workplace Responses. The results are obvious—since 1994, “non-fatal, violent victimizations committed by intimate partners [have] declined by 63%” (NNEDV).

Phyllis Schlafly, however, raises her voice in opposition to VAWA in "A Good Father's Day Gift"—her argument buried behind quips of “noisy feminists." Although she states that feminists stereotype women as victims and men as perpetrators, her article—her argument—hinges on generalizations about women.

For example, Schlafly argues that VAWA incentivizes false charges of domestic violence, or that all women, when armed with the opportunity (or in this case, legal backing), will freely accuse men of assault. She characterizes verbal abuse as “annoyance” or the use of a “naughty word”—a viewpoint that completely reinforces a rape culture in which small acts of violence and hostility are normalized. It reinforces a rape culture that downplays spousal abuse as “arguing” and marital rape as a sexual obligation inherent to a relationship.

Schlafly goes further to assert that shelters are centers of indoctrination that “promote divorce, marriage breakup, hatred of men and false accusations, while rejecting marriage counseling, reconciliation, drug-abuse treatment and evidence of mutual-partner abuse.” These centers, Schlafly argues, do not just exclude men, but actively encourage man-hating (one of the easiest cards to draw against feminism, and a false one at that).

According to NCADV (National Coalition Against Domestic Violence) , 85% of victims of domestic violence are women, and in regards to sexual assault, 91% of victims are female, while 9% are male (National Sexual Violence Resource Center). One of Schlafly’s arguemnts is that VAWA (a bill, to use Schlafly’s words, that “feminists lobbied [for]”) provides federal funds for shelters that turn away men.

In response to this I argue that feminists worked hard to pass VAWA and to secure funding for resources for domestic violence, shouldn’t men do the same? If VAWA does not address male sexual assault and domestic violence, then that should be some impetus to create new legislation.

This argument is very similar to other arguments I’ve heard before—do you open up an existing space to others or do you create your own space? I remember this argument was applied to the UCD feminist film festival, as a student critiqued the festival for largely excluding male-directed films. Another student responded--then why not create another film festival that includes both female and male-directed films? Why force a group to accommodate when it is their space?

I’m all for collaboration and inclusion, but I think this argument holds some weight. I don’t think that groups should have to bend over backwards to accommodate others. What do you think about this argument, as well as Schlafly’s other arguments?

Photo credit: Rainer Ebert on Flickr

Meet FMF DC Intern: Alison

Hello Choices Campus Blog Readers!

My name is Alison and I just arrived at the Washington DC offices of the Feminist Majority Foundation! I will be a News and Campus Intern this summer, and I plan on frequently updating this blog with feminist-y rants, raves, and rabble-rousings.

I am currently working on my B.A. in Women and Gender Studies, with minors in Political Science, Education, and Writing (because I’m a little over-achiever), at the University of California, Davis. Davis produces freaking awesome feminists, like my cross-country fellow FMF intern Amanda Lotspike and fall 2009 DC FMF intern Ali Bollbach.

I am a sitting ASUCD senator at UC Davis, where I bicker with 11 other students every Thursday night into the wee hours of Friday morning about how we should spend the ten million dollars of student fees we receive each year. I believe that women need more representation in both student government and state and national government if women’s equality is ever really going to be achieved. Everyone who is able should seek a position of power from which they can combat the inequities they have experienced because of that power. I plan to spend some of my time here preparing a toolkit that will help FMLA members get involved in their school’s government.

During the times that I’m not working headlong towards those goals, I like to “chillax” by reading comic books, watching sci-fi tv shows (Joss Whedon is my feminist master!), and frequenting Jezebel. I look forward to this summer-long blog adventure!

Legal Victory in the UK for Transgender Individuals

In the United Kingdom, a woman won the right to her pension, previously denied to her because she was born male, reported The Guardian.

In the UK, women can access their pensions at age 60 and men at age 65.

In this case, the woman's national insurance company, Revenue & Customs, determined that because she had not divorced her wife and changed her gender status she was not recognized as female in the eyes of the law and thus would have to wait to receive her pension at 65. The Lord Justice for the case determined that the legal frame work allowing people to change their gender and obtain legal recognition was discriminatory and thus this won her rights to her pension! Let's hope these ideas of discriminatory legal frame work continues and gets the ball rolling for more trans rights!

(Out of context for the World Cup of course) Way to go UK!

Photo Credit: Doug88888 on

The Dark Side of Twitter

(Warning: some explicit language ahead. Any foul language in the following post is taken directly from real tweets. There are also multiple references to sexual organs.)

Twitter, there are times when I just hate you.

I wake up, thinking that today is going to be a wonderful day because Gloria Steinem gave me such hope with her interview with Katie Couric (video) and segment on The Colbert Report (video). But no, twitter, you had to mess that up for me.

What do I find among the trending topics worldwide as I start checking our various twitter accounts? Hidden amongst #worldcup, vuvuzela, and a bunch of names I've never heard of I find the hashtag #ifihadapenis.

I think my head may have just exploded.

We live in such a penis-worshiping culture that there's a global trend on twitter about what women would do or be like if they had a penis. And most of it comes down to women saying that they'd screw everyone they'd see or how big their penis would be, how they would whip it out every chance they got. There are tweets using the tag with a question on why is such a topic trending, but none of the hundreds of tweets I've seen since I started this post have looked as how this reflects the type of culture we live in.

This trend is just an example of how our culture today still derides women for being women. Women in today's society are something else, something less because we don't have a penis and we are made to know it. And then when we dare to think outside the box, and imagine ourselves in a different body, we end up reaffirming male stereotypes and the behaviors of masculine hegemony, intentionally or not. The vast majority of the tweets also serve to further belittle and dehumanize women (e.g. "#IfIhadapenis I would be fucking alllll yall bitches #wreckless," "Ima beat that p*ssy out of walls #IfIHadAPenis"). Women, as a whole, have been forced to participate in our own humiliation and degradation.

And those daring attempts to imagine a different sex for ourselves are then taken as entertainment for those who are of the privileged sex. Many tweets from men with the hashtag are about how they do all of these things or how funny all the tweets are. There are a few who don't approve, mostly because they just don't want to know that stuff.

One of the most retweeted tweets of the thread, a top tweet on twitter, is "I see females goin in on #IfIHadAPenis ...pretty funny stuff. But I BET NOT see a single dude tweet #IfIHadAVagina ('_')." My hopes weren't high, but curious to see what was posted on #ifihadavagina I searched it. I wish I hadn't. I have not read so many derogatory, sexist, woman-bashing, homophobic, gay-bashing statements all at once since high school study hall. For those of you who are remotely sensitive to insults TRIGGER WARNING. Here are some tweets from #ifihadavagina: "ANY DUDE THAT TWEETS ABOUT #ifihadapuss or #ifihadavagina is getting publicly banned, unfollowed, and ostracized! Some shit u don't say," "#ifIhadaVagina I'd try to make the vuvuzela sound with it," and "who else would go in on it though? women can't. lol RT @_______: If You're a man going in on #IfIHadAVagina you're gay as fuck."

If anyone out there needed any more proof of why we need feminism today, well here you have it. Abortion rights, equal pay, and female genital mutilation are some of the many topics that have the need for change. But while we are on our soapboxes, at the polls, and at capitol hill, we need to remember that not only is this a political revolution, but a cultural revolution as well. Our struggle will never be truly won if we sit by and watch ourselves be insulted and attacked by hegemonic masculinity. But how do we challenge this?

Twitter can be a horrible, horrible thing. But all the things that can make twitter a dismal place to be, also have the power to make twitter a wonderful tool of social awareness and change. Just imagine if instead of #ifihadapenis trending on twitter, we had #ilovemyvagina or #ilovemybody trending? So I say we reclaim trending topics! Let's turn them away from hateful speech and towards a more understanding, accepting, and feminist attitude! To help in your journey, here are some pro-woman hashtag suggestions for your tweets: #feminist, #feminism, #fem2, #prowoman, #ilovemybody, #ilovemyvagina, #ILMB (short for I love my body), #ILMV (short for I love my vagina), #iamwoman, #iamwomanhearmeroar. All the bolded hashtags have at least one tweet with the hashtag in it. The ones that aren't bolded do not have any tweets, but should. Tweet away, fellow feminist tweeters!
Photo-credit: respres on
Cross-posted at Ode to Patriarchy

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

It's Good to be an Intern

Hello, my name is Victoria Nichols and this is my second day as an intern for Choices Campus Leadership Program at the Feminist Majority Foundation. I am extremely excited to learn more about the issues facing women and I am looking forward to working with the Feminist Campus Team in effort to advance women’s equality.

I am a recent high school graduate and I will be attending Claremont McKenna College in the fall. I am thinking of majoring in International Relations and will definitely make sure to enroll in some women’s studies classes. I can’t wait to get involved on my college campus as a feminist and work with other students to help make an impact on local and eventually international level.

With this internship I am taking my first steps towards getting more involved in political issues that affect my community. I want to participate and be knowledgeable about world events and I am glad to have the opportunity to be a part of an organization like Feminist Majority which has the power to evoke change in the world.

It is only the second day of my internship and I have already learned so much about feminism. There are so many people out there who are simply unaware of the issues that women face on a daily basis. My goal is to not only make myself more aware but provide others with more information so that more people will join the fight for women’s equality. Looking forward to making an impact this summer!

Hello fellow Feminists

Hello my fellow feminists! My name is Colleen Mullen, and as this is my first of many blogs for the Feminist Majority Foundation, I would like to take this opportunity to introduce myself. I recently gradated from UCLA with a major in Political Science (concentration in Political Theory) and a minor in Women’s Studies. While at UCLA, I realized the ever growing importance and power of civic engagement, community activism, grassroots organizing, and student activism. During my first 2 years at UCLA, I served as the Logistics and Finance Coordinator for the Student Activist Project (SAP). SAP aimed to enlighten students on broad social justice issues, to teach the fundamentals of grassroots organizing, and most importantly to empower students to challenge students to use this knowledge to make a change in our society. In addition, I completed the JusticeCorps program in Downtown Los Angeles where I provided legal information to self-represented litigants in family law cases. With this background, I aim to (at some point) go to law school and study public interest law.

Student Activists hard at work. Student Activist Project Facilitation Team Retreat (2007). Photo Courtesy of Tina Reggio.

Feminists have many different faces. I'm sure that even if we all identify as feminists, we each have different definitions of this means. Feminism, as a political, epistemological, social, cultural philosophy, constantly reinvents, questions, and challenges itself. The theoretical feminist rainbow (for lack of a better metaphor) includes everything from traditional, political Liberal Feminists who strive for individual autonomy; radical Socialist feminist who acknowledge the intersecting oppressions of patriarchy and capitalism on women; third world feminists who challenge Western cultural imperialism; to post modern feminists who claim every individual is a result of intersectional, unique, oppressions that cannot lend itself to group formations. This is the beauty (and some would even argue it is a pain) of feminism.

For me, feminism is something much simpler. Feminism is simply a different perspective of life, a forgotten and invisible perspective. Without realizing, many people have been socialized to view life, themselves, and others, through the perspective of a white, heterosexual, capitalist, rich/middle-class male. This unrecognized perspective ignores the different experiences of communities of color, working class, the LGBTQ communities, physically or mentally disabled, women, societies in non-Western and developing countries… the list goes on and on. The fundamental goal of a feminist (of any theoretical background) therefore must be to simply acknowledge, respect, and act upon all these philosophies.

Excited New FMF Intern and Blogger!

Hello fellow feminists! My name is Stephanie McClure and I’ll be working with the Feminist Majority Foundation as a Choices Campus Intern for the summer. I’m so excited to be blogging about feminist issues, activism ideas, and of course, engaging in awesome conversations with all of you this summer! Listed below are a few things about me:
  • I just graduated from Oregon State University (OSU) with my B.A. in English.
  • FMLA’s are awesome, and I was the President of the OSU Feminist Majority Leadership Alliance last year. Our FMLA did lots of Choices Campus Campaigning, as well as put on many events specific for our campus such as: Love Your Body Day; Inequality Bake Sale; Take Back the Night; OSU Feminist Film Festival; Smashing the Scales: Eating Disorder Awareness Project; Rise Up Speak Out: A Celebration of the Voice of Resistance Against Sexual Assault and Domestic Violence (an open mic night).
  • I worked at the OSU Women’s Center last year as well, and think that all universities need to have safe empowering permanent places on their campuses such as Women's Centers.
  • The Vagina Monologues is a production that I deeply believe in and think is super important to bring to all communities, and this year I was one of the performers at OSU!
  • Domestic violence and sexual assault are two issues that have affected many of my loved ones, so I’m extremely passionate about working towards ending all forms of violence against women and girls.
  • I’m also an ecofeminist, and believe that there is an inherent connection between the way that women and nature are controlled and impacted by systems of oppression. (Grrrr...BP!)
The Feminist Majority Foundation is doing so many amazing things right now, and I’m so grateful to be here in LA with such an awesome team of feminists working together to help create a safe, equal world for all! Keep up with us on our blog, facebook page, and through twitter!

Hello Feminists!!!!!

Hello Feminists! My name is Laura Robles and this summer I will be a Choices Campus Intern for the Feminist Majority Foundation in Los Angeles! I am a senior at UCLA (will graduate this fall 2010) majoring in Political Science with a minor in Women's Studies, so the personal is very political for me! I am super excited to be here!

I grew up around strong super-women my whole life and I believe that women can change the world! I have a strong interest in protecting women's reproductive rights (specifically abortion) which are under attack at this present moment with the implementation of many restrictive policies and federal funding for CPCs (Crisis Pregnancy Centers). Women should have the protected right and access to safe and legal abortions.

I am a Chicana Feminist (see here and here) and I love to study women of color feminism! I analyze people and situations in regards to the concept of "Intersectionality" paying close attention to a person's race, gender, class, sexuality and how these factors intertwine. I am excited to be here this summer and contribute to this Blog (I have never Blogged before!!!)

New Intern on the Block

Hey there, Feminists!

My name is Sara Pressey, and I am a new Campus Choices Intern at the Feminist Majority Foundation! I am excited to share my opinion, knowledge, discoveries and questions with you!

This upcoming academic year, I will be a sophomore at California Lutheran University in Thousand Oaks, California. I am majoring in Sociology as well as minoring in Gender & Women's Studies and Psychology. At Cal Lutheran, I am very involved in extracurricular activities from clubs and volunteering to working with non-profit organizations. My main leadership roles at Cal Lutheran include being President of our Feminist Majority Foundation affiliate group, Feminism Is; Vice President of our campus' Not For Sale chapter and Secretary to the Gay-Straight Alliance.

My involvement with feminism first began about a year ago. Like many other feminists, I have always held the belief that women and men should be treated equal socially, economically and politically, but I could never really place my beliefs in a specific category. I always thought of feminism as being a movement that happened in the past and primarily focused on women's suffrage. When I took my first sociology class this past school year, my eyes were opened to the many issues that women face today. Armed with my new found knowledge, I immersed myself in feminism-- becoming involved with our campus group, reading books and internet articles, blogging, talking to feminists.

While I am interested in all areas of feminism, my main focus is on violence against women. This area is so important to me because the violence around the world (including the United States!) is often misunderstood, unnoticed, condoned or is not subject to intervention.

Introducing a New FMF Summer Intern!

Hey everybody!My name is Jennifer Halberstadter (but I go by Jen). I am so excited to be interning at the Feminist Majority Foundation in Los Angeles. Not only is this the first blog I've written for FMF, but this is the first blog I've written... ever! Don't worry, this definitely will not be the last. So you all can get to know me a little better, here are some fun facts about me:

1. I will be a senior in high school this fall (so I'm quite a bit younger than the other interns around here).
2. I hope my blogs will provide a fresh perspective from a "younger" point of view and reach out to younger feminists who haven't had as much of an opportunity to study these topics in school yet.
3. My favorite color is purple! It has been for as long as I can remember and I ALWAYS have something purple with me. (As a matter of fact, my bag is purple right now)
4. I love to cook but, more importantly, I love to eat!
5. I was born and raised right here in LA. As much as I love the sunny weather, I can't stay out too long in the sun because I burn easily (it's hard being so fair-skinned in Los Angeles!)
6. I have a passion for photography. I love digital, but I much prefer film. To me, there's nothing quite like taking pictures, processing your own film, and making the prints in a darkroom.
7. I have a tendency to make very bad puns (and find them funny).
8. I look forward to summer every year for my birthday, the beach, and nice weather, but mostly for all the yummy summer fruits (peaches are my favorites).
9. I traveled to Spain last year for a foreign exchange trip and it was amazing. I've always wanted to go to Italy so hopefully that will happen in the not to distant future.
10. Although I haven't had the opportunity to study many feminist issues in school, I am very interested by them and I hope this internship will further educate me so that when I go to college I can study women's issues more in depth.

I look forward to more blogging!

New CPC Targets Jewish Women

Last week, Washington Jewish Week reported on the creation of In Shifra's Arms, a new crisis pregnancy center (CPC) targeting Jewish women.

I've spent the last two years at FMF organizing students to take part in our Campaign to Expose Fake Clinics. I've traveled the country and seen CPCs of all shapes and sizes, in office buildings and church basements, all close to college campuses and advertising the "choices" they offer. It's a promise on which they never deliver, because a CPC doesn't offer real choices. A CPC offers dangerously false information, condescension, and judgment. It offers short-term support for women who choose to carry their pregnancies to term, in the form of baby clothes, diapers, or parenting classes. But it does not offer the support and trust that women need when they are facing an unplanned pregnancy.

As a proud Jewish feminist, I'm really troubled to see a CPC targeting my community, claiming to be grounded in Jewish ideals. Judaism is actually a remarkably pro-choice and pro-women religion. I encourage you all to check out a great piece on this subject from the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice. In the essay, Rabbi Raymond A. Zwerin and Rabbi Richard J. Shapiro conclude, "Whatever their opinions on abortion in any given situation, a vast majority of Jewish thinkers agree that decision-making with respect to abortion must be left in the hands of the woman involved, her husband, her physician, and her rabbi. Out of this context, in consonance with her Jewish heritage, she can make a decision as she is permitted to do by the United States Constitution. "

For a more detailed examination of In Shifra's Arms, check out my guestpost at the Jewish Women's Archive's blog Jewesses With Attitude. To take action against CPCs, check out our toolkit or email for more information.

Book Review - Targets of Hatred: Anti-Abortion Terrorism (Baird-Windle)

Cross-posted at Ode to Patriarchy

So as part of my work on the National Clinic Access Project was reading up on the history of violence against abortion providers, clinics, staff, and patients. The book I was given was Targets of Hatred: Anti-Abortion Terrorism by Patricia Baird-Windle and Eleanor J. Bader. Starting in the 1960's and tracking up until the book was published in 2001, Targets of Hatred recounts the major events regarding clinic violence and harassment (wins and losses).

While most people know or remember individual events, few are aware of the massive amounts of simultaneous battering that clinics faced. From stalking charges, to bombings, to cancelled insurance policies, to legislative losses and of course death threats, murder attempts, and murders clinics and their employees were denied refuge where ever they went. Many burned out after the threats increased in fury and hatred.

One of the most important messages from this book is that cooperating law enforcement is absolutely essential to a clinic's safety. Clinics that had a positive relationship with impartial local law enforcement that enforced injunctions against the antis who violated them had less violent activity from protestors and/or were able to recover more quickly from attacks. On the other hand, lazy, biased and involved reactions from law enforcement only served to encourage illegal activities by antis. Even though the police are there to enforce the law, doesn't mean they always do.

But by far, the best aspect of this book for me was the personal accounts of those affected. It's one thing to hear that two people died in a clinic shooting, it's another to read someone's story of actually being there when it happened. They have accounts of day to day death threats, worries concerns, fears, and victories. There's a lot of talk about what clinics and providers need, but not always do you directly from those affected. It's no longer just a part of abortion history, it's real life.

The book was published in 2001, and since then there have obviously been a few big updates needed. Kopp was convicted in 2003, Dr. George Tiller was murdered, the Stupak Amendment was included in HCR, and state-by-state, limitations to access abortion have become rampant. As a third wave/radical/difference feminists, we have to educate ourselves on what our history is and what's happening now. You can follow the escalating violence in the novel; it's no surprise that we are where we are today with another murder and restricted access.

We also have to be the front-runners in approaching clinic violence for what it really is: terrorism working in terrorist cells. Not every protestor is part of the terrorist network, many do not condone violence against providers as a way to stop abortion. However, the proof is there. We're not just talking clinic blockades (which violate FACE), we're talking FIREBOMBS, EXPLOSIVES, SHRAPNEL BOMBS, and SNIPER EXECUTIONS. If we're supposedly fighting a war on terror, why aren't we investigating the Army of God which has a MANUAL ON HOW TO ATTACK CLINICS AND THE PROVIDERS, and has also been connected to the murderer James Kopp (Dr. Slepian 1998), Scott Roeder (Dr. Tiller 2009) and numerous attempted murders, firebombs, and acid attacks? That many of the people connected to it are advocates for "justifiable homicide" against providers, clinic administrators, and pretty much anyone associated with a clinic? How is any of it different from a terrorist cell?

Because we, as a nation, choose not to treat it as such.

Photo-credit: MacMillan, also where you can purchase the book -

Oil Hurts.

By now, we have all heard about the BP spill in the Gulf Coast. The spill, which is increasingly being considered the largest in U.S. history, was caused by the April 20, 2010 explosion of the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig. Last Tuesday, June 15, President Barack Obama gave a Presidential Address in which he outlined his action plan to deal with BP (a British-based global energy company responsible for the oil spill), the short and long-term effects of the spill in the Gulf of Mexico, and to ensure that a situation such as this never happens again.

We have heard from environmentalists everywhere, and have seen, that this catastrophic oil spill will devastate habitats, ecosystems, and put millions of animals, land and sea, in extreme danger. How will these environmental effects affect women, children and men?

According to a Truthout article, of particular concern to women and children should be the ingredients in the oil and in the dispersants that may be endocrine disruptors. According to the National Institutes of Health, the dispersants are:

"...chemicals that may interfere with the body's endocrine system and produce adverse developmental, reproductive, neurological, and immune effects in both humans and wildlife...Research shows that endocrine disruptors may pose the greatest risk during prenatal and early postnatal development when organ and neural systems are forming...Young children should not be allowed near the beach where they could come into direct contact with the oil." (Nat. Institutes of Health)

This tells us that the BP oil spill will and does have adverse effects for women's reproductive health as well as children's health. Although the evidence is unclear as to how the BP Oil Spill will affect women, children and men, looking at the health effects of past oil spills can perhaps give us a glimpse into the future of health surrounding this disaster. Below, I will list a summary of major oil spills in U.S. history and their health ramifications (credit:The Daily Green).

  • In the Exxon Valdez Oil Spill of 1989, the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) surveyed 599 local residents finding: exposed individuals were 3.6 times more likely to have anxiety disorder, 2.9 times more likely to have post-traumatic stress disorder, and 2.1 times more likely to be depressed.
  • The Braer Oil Spill of 1993 caused people living within a 5-kilometer radius 1-2 weeks after the oil spill to have a high prevalence of headache, throat irritation, dermatitis, and itchy eyes.
This glimpse of major oil spills' health effects displays that local residents feel and suffer from the effects of oil spills. Perhaps this is what will happen in the Gulf Coast, perhaps not. But we should all strive to hold BP accountable for their actions and demand that they, and President Obama, create a concise, efficient action plan to counter the short and long-term effects of the BP Oil Spill. Also, it would be helpful, in my opinion, for American society to realise that we have an immense dependence upon oil. We need to find new, clean alternative ways of producing energy because the threat of oil rig explosions, as seen with BP, is too costly and too great. It is harming our precious women, men, children, and environment. We need to finally understand that the Earth is not expendable and that we should treat it right for us and for our children.

More information: