Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Guest Post: Introducing The Orchid Project

Today's guest blogger, Mayuka Kowaguchi, recently created the Orchid Project, a wonderfully empowering and somewhat controversial experiment. Here, the Dartmouth College senior on her experience with the project and her peers' reaction to it. Mayuka is hoping to spread the Orchid Project to other schools, so contact her if you are interested!

The Orchid Project launched on October 18th, when hand-held mirrors were sent to the mailboxes of the 1,796 female students on campus at Dartmouth College, with a note encouraging them to use the mirror to look at their vulva. The distribution of mirrors was meant to provide an opportunity for each student to think about their relationship with their bodies and in particular, their genitalia.

I was inspired to begin this project through my own personal experience of having difficulty developing a healthy relationship with my body, particularly those characteristics that make me uniquely female, due to my conservative, Japanese upbringing. I designed this as my end-of-term project proposal for Sexperts (Dartmouth peer-advising group for sexual health and pleasure) training in the Fall of 2009, after I learned about the health benefits of regularly monitoring your vulva: knowing what your vulva normally looks like enables you to notice when there is an irregular discoloration or bump that may need treatment. With encouragement from those around me, the project became a reality. Now, to my amazement, over 20 campus organizations support The Orchid Project and the project has even received attention from outside the Dartmouth campus.

The Orchid Project has been criticized by some who have, in my opinion, misunderstood the intention of the project and I wish to address their concerns. Firstly, although the delivered notes focused heavily on sexual pleasure, my first and foremost concern is sexual health. The project aims to provide as much knowledge of the genitalia as possible, which includes the dimension of pleasure. But I do not think the project is a promotion of promiscuity, as some have claimed. Secondly, I respect everyone’s personal values and beliefs. Although I advocate women getting to know their bodies better, I completely understand that some people are uncomfortable talking about, looking at, or touching their genitalia. I would much rather women to feel safe than for them to forcefully develop a relationship with their body and/or genitalia. It’s usually a long, slow process so no one should feel pressured to immediately deal with something they would rather not right now. Moreover, some may even choose never to talk about, look at, or touch their genitals. I respect that choice, as long as they recognize what influences are causing them to think and feel in that way.

The majority of the feedback I have received has been positive. Even those who are religious or those who were uncomfortable when they found the mirror in their mailbox have talked to me about how the mirrors gave them a chance to reflect on their values and beliefs and a chance to engage in discussion with those who have opposing views. The Orchid Project is not just about the mirrors and their usage; it is as much about the issues raised by the topic of genitalia and I am thrilled that the project has sparked conversation.

Looking ahead, I am planning for events at Dartmouth College such as informational presentations by OB-GYNs and panels of female faculty and students sharing what their relationship with their genitalia is like. I would also like to set up further discussions to expose the influence of our environment on our perception of the genitalia. Outside of Dartmouth, I hope to spread this idea to leaders on other college campuses so that they may replicate the mirror distribution and further increase dialogue on this topic.

If you would like more information or help with setting this up at your school, please contact me at Orchid.Project@Dartmouth.edu and visit The Orchid Project blog.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Make These DREAMS a Reality-Pass the DREAM Act!

Earlier this week Pedro Ramirez, the student body president at Fresno State University, was ousted as being an undocumented immigrant by an anonymous tip. Ramirez was brought to the United States by his parents at the age of 3. He has stated that he did not learn about his undocumented status until he attempted to apply for scholarships as a senior in high school. Despite his legal status, Ramirez was enrolled at Fresno State where he ran for student body president last spring. Although he did not declare himself undocumented during the race, he did inform school official and denied the $9,000 salary that is offered for the position. Despite the fact that the California Supreme Court newly preserved a law (AB540) that allows undocumented immigrants to pay the less expensive in-state tuition, CSU and UC tuition rates continue to increase at alarming rates which makes it that much more difficult for an undocumented student to afford college.

This is only one of several recent events that have placed a greater focus on the DREAM (Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors) Act which is a proposed bill that would grant citizenship to undocumented immigrants who came to America before the age of 16, attended 3 years of high school and graduated (or obtained a G.E.D.) in the US and complete at least two years of college or serve two years in the US Military.

On Tuesday, Barack Obama announced at a meeting with the Congressional Hispanic Caucus that he wants action to be taken so that Congress can pass the bill by December 31. Then, on Wednesday Harry Reid vowed to bring the DREAM Act to a Senate vote during this upcoming lame-duck session in a tweet stating, "I will move the DREAM Act as a standalone bill in the lame duck. It's good for the economy & Pentagon says good for natl security."

Still asking why comprehensive immigration reform is relevant for Feminists? For one reason, The National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health has declared that undocumented immigrant women are greatly affected by our current immigration policy. Undocumented women are more prone to work in positions that are underpaid, harmful to a person's health, and lack any benefits. These women do not have health insurance and are "less likely to receive adequate reproductive health care, including cervical and breast cancer screening and treatment, family planning services, HIV/AIDS testing and treatment, accurate sex education and culturally and linguistically competent services." The passage of the DREAM Act and an overall comprehensive immigration bill will help immigrant women protect their reproductive rights through an education that will be beneficial for them after they've been granted citizenship.

Add your name to the sign-on letter and show that we will not stop fighting until the DREAM Act is sent to the President's desk:


Check back for the latest news on The DREAM Act and immigration reform.

Photo courtesy of flickr.com/DreamActivist

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Regulate Fake Clinics in NYC!!

Yesterday the New York City Council held a hearing to debate Intro 371, which would require fake clinics in the 5 boroughs of NYC to post a sign on their entrances (in English and Spanish) to state that they do not provide services or referrals for contraception or abortion, and do not have medical personnel on site. The City Council heard testimony from those that both support and oppose the bill, including NARAL Pro-Choice NY who released a report earlier this fall which helped to inform City Council members Quinn & Lappin who sponsor the bill.

This has clearly become a h0tly contended issue, which would explain the turnout to a meeting scheduled for a small room 0n the 16th floor of a building in lower Manhattan. I arrived 20 minutes in advance only to watch the Sergeant-at-Arms come down to announce that both the hearing room and the overflow room were at capacity.

Which meant that although I had traveled from DC to NY at 6:30am, my fate was to spend the next 3 hours in a confined waiting area with a mixed group of anti-choice CPC volunteers and NYC pro-choice activists. We of course used the best of our collective mobile technology to pipe in to the Tweetesphere and keep up with the play-by-play from those who made it into the hearing.

The most frustrating moment of this, for me, was to listen to the group of CPC volunteers discuss the story of a woman who had recently come into one of their facilities for counseling. Yes, at the very moment that in a nearby room other Catholic and anti-choice leaders were defending their right to go on without the need for confidentiality within their centers, anti-choice volunteers were discussing the intense pain of a "post-abortive" woman who had come to them for help. How can this be??

It seems to me (from what I heard of the testimony from 3:45pm to 5:30pm), that CPCs such as Chris Slattery's Expectant Mother Care (EMC) FrontLine Pregnancy Centers want certain benefits of being seen as respectable counseling centers with valuable services, without any of the responsibility since they aren't actually medical centers with professionally trained staff. And don't even get me started on the medical accuracy (or complete lack thereof) of the actual information the offer in their counseling.

When I was finally escorted into the overflow room with an audio feed of the hearing, the small group of pro-choice activists which had waiting around for nearly 4 hours was largely outnumbered by a larger group of about 40 anti-choice and religious leaders, lawyers and the like. By 4:30pm, I was in fact the only "pro-regulation" person in the room. Interesting circumstances... Particularly when they began cheering in response to anti-choice testimony.

From the testimony I did hear, there was compelling and articulate arguments made by staff and volunteers from New York Civil Liberties Union, Dr. Emily's Women's Health Center, Concerned Clergy for Choice, and Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice. Clergy spoke of counseling women who faced great personal difficult from mistakenly going to an EMC FrontLine. A NYCLU staffmember spoke of her experience going "undercover" into a CPC as a tool for investigation, and a NYCLU lawyer spoke of the state's interest in protecting women from the likelihood of a CPC interfering with their ability to access care in a timely manner.

If you'd like to see a listing of the live Tweets from the hearing, check out #cpcnyc - even though I wasn't able to join in the action!

Posted by: Meghan

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Ms. Magazine: Reclaim the Name

This last week, Natalie Hart wrote a post about Reclaim The Name, a project she undertook in school to replace “I’m not a feminist but…” with “I am a feminist because…” Natalie notes that her idea behind the campaign was to:

"remove any damning myths associated with the feminist movement by coming out, loud and proud, about the reality of what being a feminist really means."

Natalie, we couldn’t agree more with you.

Here at Ms., we want people to feel comfortable identifying as a feminist. Our strength is in numbers and in sisterhood–and our silence about feminism will only strengthen those who oppose our feminist ideals.

We wanted you to know why we are feminists. So we will be posting a few videos of the Ms. and Feminist Majority staff telling you some of the many reasons why we are feminists.

And we want your story too!

Send your videos to msreclaimthename@gmail.com telling us why you are a feminist. We will post some of the submissions here on the blog, and the others will go up on our YouTube page. If you’re an individual, your video should be no more than two minutes long; if you have done a group video, keep it to no more than 4 minutes.

We’ll start with some of our stories, then we look forward to yours!

Cross posted with permission from Ms. Magazine blog.

Friday, November 12, 2010

I am a feminist because. . .

On the first day of my first women's studies course my professor confronted the class with a question, "How many of you consider yourself a feminist?" I did not give it a second thought and raised my hand immediately. I figured that since this was a women's studies course the majority of people sitting around me would too claim their feminist title.

I could not have been more wrong. In a class of nearly 45, I was one of only seven or eight people who fully raised their hands. There were a couple maybes but the majority of the class seemed to be afraid of being associated as a feminist. When questioned on why they were so afraid of the F-word, they responded with the same old feminist stereotypes, "I'm not angry," "I don't hate men," and "I'm not a woman/lesbian."

Hearing these people combat the word only made me think about why I was a feminist (and proud of it I may add.) Although that was one of the first times I had claimed the name, I had always been a feminist. From a young age I often questioned why I was treated differently then the boys I knew and I wondered why I had to take responsibilities for my actions when boys were protected by simply stating, "Boys will be Boys."

After taking more women's studies courses and educating myself on feminist issues, I fully embraced my feminism. After leaving FMLA meetings or WS classes, I feel a deep sense of empowerment. I am inspired to take action and introduce more people to the idea that we should all be equal no matter what race, gender, sexual orientation, weight etc. We are all humans and we deserve an equal chance. For me, feminism is far beyond what my classmates thought. We are not about hating men or being unjustly angry (and I'm sure you know this) So here I am, once again Claiming the Name for Ms. Magazine, for myself and for all the people around me that I hope will soon be proud to Claim the Name.

I am a Feminist because. . .
I don't want my younger (female) cousins to have to defend their decisions
because of their sex.
I am a Feminist because. . .
I believe that women can be strong, independent and powerful
I am a Feminist because. . .
There are still women who do not have a voice
I am a Feminist because. . .
Being a female of mexican decent means I will make 59cents to every male's dollar
I am a Feminist because. . .
Thinking of all the Feminist who came before me inspires me to strive harder and remain active.
I am a Feminist because. . .
As a woman I should have rights over my body
I am a Feminist because. . .
Feminism is Awesome
Again, share your stories with us by submitting your video to msreclaimthename@gmail.com (read the guidelines here)
You can watch more videos at Ms.Magazine's YouTube page

Cross posted with permission from Ms. Magazine blog.

Attention New Yorkers - CPC stories needed!

Have you visited a crisis pregnancy center in New York City, thinking it was a comprehensive women's health clinic? If so, you have an opportunity to prevent other women from being similarly deceived.

Feminist activists across the country have been working to expose fake clinics for years. Thanks to the work of New York City feminists and a report by NARAL Pro-Choice New York, the New York City Council is considering a bill that would force CPCs to post disclaimers on their doors and in their advertisements.

The City Council is holding a hearing on the bill on Tuesday, November 16 at 1 pm at 250 Broadway, 16th Floor in Manhattan. NARAL NY is looking for women who are comfortable testifying about their experience at a CPC to share their story at the hearing. If you have visited a CPC in the 5 boroughs and would like to share your story with the City Council, register to speak by contacting

Rachel Cordero
Counsel, Committee on Women's Issues
phone: (212) 788 9073
fax: (212) 788-9112


Adira Siman
Counsel, Committee on Health
phone: (212) 788-9063
fax: (212) 788-9112

If you would not like to testify in person, but would like to share your story in writing, email Rachel or Adira.

We are also encouraging anyone who can do so to attend the hearing. Show the City Council that this bill has the support of the public!

Email Emily Kadar at ekadar@feminist.org if you have any questions!

Tales from the Road

The National Campus Organizers here at FMF have been traveling all over the country, firing up feminists in California, Pennsylvania, Maine, New Hampshire, Mississippi, and Tennessee. Here are some reflections from our time on the road.

Tania and Patrice got in touch with their Southern roots and met with amazing activists in Tennessee and Mississippi.

Tania says,

"This October we traveled across Tennessee to support feminist activists at Austin Peay State University, Middle Tennessee State University, University of Tennessee and Rhodes College. At each school we found students eager to discuss ways to break through the stigma and stereotypes of feminism and create a dialogue where feminist activism is relevant and necessary. AT UT we walked to the crisis pregnancy center across the street from campus and were thrilled to see that it has moved!

"Students at APSU are already organizing to expose the dangers of fake clinics in their community after a representative from a nearby CPC spoke to students on campus. To combat the deception of CPCs, young activists at Rhodes are supporting their comprehensive clinics in Memphis as patient advocates. And in perhaps the largest group meeting we’ve ever attended, the wonderful Women in Action of MTSU spoke to a packed room of young students about upcoming events to address body image and violence against women on campus. "

Patrice writes,

"My fall travel to Mississippi has been my best organizing experience thus far! Campus Organizer, Tania Stewart and I visited with feminist student activists at University of Mississippi, Mississippi Valley State University, Millsaps College, and Jackson State University. Though these universities range greatly in their campus dynamics i.e. from liberal to conservative, public to private, majority to historically black, one thing is for certain, young feminists exist and are thriving in Mississippi! We’ve found at every campus students creating a space for more dialogues about the intersection of racial and gender discrimination and its pervasiveness in everyday living in Mississippi. Many students were especially eager to support and adopt the only comprehensive women’s reproductive health center in the entire state.

"At MVSU, located in the heart of the Mississippi Delta where poverty and unemployment is at its highest, former Bennett College FMLA leader now MVSU graduate student, Adrian Brooks, is ready to shake up the campus and dispel the myths about feminism and its relevancy to the African American community. At Jackson State University, we spoke to almost 200 male and female students who wanted to see more feminist action on campus. Many of them cared deeply about Mississippi’s teen pregnancy and STI rates and are advocating for comprehensive sex education and criminal justice reform. The Feminist Majority student group at Ole Miss has been strong and active since its inception. These feminist leaders have successfully helped in defeating the “personhood” initiative campaign last year and are continuing their work to address violence against women, body image and increasing membership. Mississippi feminists – YOU ROCK!!"

During Meghan's inaugural trip as a National Campus Organizer, she and Danielle faced some challenges on the road in Pennsylvania (bed bugs, parking tickets, and more!), but their fierce feminist selves would not be deterred! Says Danielle,

"There is some uncertainly in mainstream media about where the young feminists are. Well good news - I've found them! They're easy to find! By which I mean, you and I always knew where they are: on campus and mad as hell. Meghan and I had the privilege to spend a week visiting campus feminist groups in the Philly area.

"As we met dozens of passionate activists and professors at each college, I kept thinking of that tired cliché where young women are told we are disengaged, apolitical, and not as radical or enthusiastic about smashing patriarchy as our feminist role models have been. Several bloggers have responded that young feminists have moved online, but I’m not sure that’s the full truth either. Some FMLA leaders and feminists blog regularly, but I think more do not.

"Young feminists are even more active off-line, and we are everywhere – raising awareness at Bryn Mawr College about crisis pregnancy centers, talking about titties and breast health at West Chester University, loving our bodies at PSU Abington and Kutztown University, you name it and we're doing it. So I just wanted to thank all of you again, and everyone we met on the road, for your hard work making your campus, community, and world a safer and more equitable place for women and girls."

Emily and Tania had the pleasure of experiencing Northern New England in the fall, and were introduced to a remarkable feminist community in Maine and New Hampshire. Writes Emily,

"Neither Tania and I had ever spent quality time in New Hampshire or Maine before we headed north in October, and we weren't sure what to expect. The feminists we met are wonderful. At the University of Southern Maine, the Gender Studies Student Organization is rebuilding its presence on campus, tackling issues like reproductive choice, LGBT rights, and on-campus childcare. University of Maine is home to the Student Women's Association, who partner with their local comprehensive clinic and are planning a Pro-Choice Week on campus. Activists at Colby College and Bates College are countering the apathy and privilege they find on campus, and the VOX at University of Maine - Farmington has been collecting signatures for affordable birth control and the passage of the Paycheck Fairness Act.

"In New Hampshire, activists at Dartmouth College are working to stop sexual assault on campus. University of New Hampshire students organized a march to the polls on Election Day, and the activists of AWARE at Plymouth State University are doing amazing work despite limited funds and administrative support. Everywhere we traveled, we met folks committed to social justice and equality for all. Thank you for your hard work, and keep it up! We need you more than ever!"

Thank you all for an amazing semester. If you are interested in having the National Campus Organizers visit your school, contact us!

Image via the Library of Congress

This post is part of the November 2010 ezine. To subscribe to the monthly ezine, click here.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

The feminists are coming! To DC!

You're on notice - get yourself and your feminist group to FMF's 7th annual National Young Feminist Leadership Conference! The conference is the weekend of March 12-14, 2011 at the George Washington University Marvin Center, in heart of the nation's capitol. Early online registration opens Wednesday, December 1 on our website, so get your head counts and funding lined up this month.


The registration fee includes the weekend conference and Monday Capitol Hill Day

Early Bird Registration begins December 1
$20 for individuals | $15 for groups of 5+

Registration after February 1
$30 for individuals | $25 for groups of 5+

We will post the registration link on feministcampus.org shortly.

The conference is your chance to meet 500 student activists from across the country, most of whom are leading their feminist groups on campus. Network with our speakers, who are feminist members of Congress, nonprofit leaders, doctors, lawyers, bloggers, and students! We'll share the latest developments in feminist political activism around domestic and global women's health, repro rights, voter participation, gender-based violence, and more. And we want you to be ready to share your tips with other activists for creating a hardcore feminist group on campus and beyond.

Workshops will be all day Saturday the 12th and Sunday the 13th, and this will give you tons of info to bring to your members of Congress at our Capitol Hill visit day Monday the 14th. We are hard at work organizing workshops and inviting speakers, and will let you know as soon as we are able to start releasing the juicy details. But start planning the logistics for registration and getting to DC - look at transportation, lodging, and who your members of Congress are.

Past speakers have included:
  • Eleanor Smeal, president of the Feminist Majority Foundation
  • Tina Tchen, Exec. Director, White House Council on Women & Girls
  • Secretary of US Department of Labor Hilda Solis
  • Congresswoman Donna Edwards (MD) and Rep. Diane DeGette (CO)
  • Dolores Huerta, Co-Founder, United Farm Workers
  • Jehmu Greene, President, Women’s Media Center
  • Megan Evans, National President, Medical Students for Choice
  • and many more!

We have 2 conference room blocks:

Holiday Inn Rosslyn
5 minute train ride from GWU

$99 for Fri & Sat | $119 for Sun for 2 double beds, up to 5 occupants

Call [703] 807-2000 and mention the Feminist Majority Foundation group. Parking and wi-fi in the rooms are free, and free roll-away cots are available on a first come first served basis, which you can request when you call to reserve your rooms. If you join the free HI priority club, up to 2 guests per room receive free breakfast coupons.

Doubletree Guest Suites Washington DC
4 blocks from GWU Marvin Center

$149/night Friday through Monday nights for a suite with 2 double beds plus full sofa bed, up to 6 occupants

Call 202-785-2000 and mention the Feminist Majority Foundation block. There is a $20/person charge for 5th and 6th guests in a suite, and roll-away cots are available first come first serve basis so you can mention that when you call to reserve rooms. Parking and wi-fi are not included in the rate.

Email campusteam@feminist.org or call our DC office at 703-522-2214 if you have any questions. See you there!

This post is part of the November 2010 ezine. To subscribe to the monthly ezine, click here.

Defending Choice in Charlotte

Every Saturday morning members of the Feminist Union at UNC Charlotte gather on East Hebron Street in front of Family Reproductive Health, a comprehensive women's health care clinic, prepared to brave the elements and the antis. Anti-abortion extremists such as Flip Benham, leader of Operation Rescue/Operation Save America, who was found guilty this week of criminal stalking and picketing for distributing WANTED posters of Charlotte abortion providers in their neighborhoods and offices.

Through training and support from the National Clinic Access Project, a project of The Feminist Majority Foundation, and the Choices Campus Leadership Program, members of the Feminist Union were trained in clinic defense and legal observation to support Family Reproductive Health against the harassment by anti-abortion extremists. The Feminist Union is just one of many pro-choice student groups across the country that are supporting the clinics in their community through FMF's Adopt-A-Clinic Campaign since its introduction last Spring.

Since joining FMF's campaign this summer to defend Charlotte clinics during OR/OSA's siege of bullying and intolerance, the Feminist Union has continued their support of Family Reproductive Health. Each Saturday morning four to ten Feminist Union members serve as a physical barrier from anti-abortion protesters and ensure that all staff and patients safely enter the clinic with minimal harassment. Members also serve as legal observers to assist FMF in the prosecution of FACE and federal and state anti-stalking law violations.

"Defending Family Reproductive Health has really brought us together," according to one member of the Feminist Union. "The antis have started targeting the clinic defenders and have given us all nicknames." In addition to non-violent and non-engagement defense of the clinic, the group gathers to make signs to hold in support of the clinic and thank you cards to the staff. The Feminist Union has seen tremendous growth since their activism against clinic violence and now have a regular membership of 30 students! "It's the utmost form of activism. You have to be out there to experience it, to see the injustice."

Thankfully some of that injustice is starting to get national attention. Many news outlets including NPR, CBS, and MSNBC recently covered the WANTED posters distributed by anti-abortion extremist Flip Benham and the connection between such violent threats and the deaths of abortion providers. "These WANTED posters are communicating a threat to these abortion providers; doctors featured on WANTED posters in the past have become targets of anti-abortion extremists willing to kill, including most recently Dr. George Tiller," stated Kathy Spillar, Executive Vice-President of the Feminist Majority Foundation.

Unfortunately the terror that is experienced by Family Reproductive Health is not exclusive to Charlotte, NC. Clinics across the country are experiencing an increase in clinic violence since the 2008 election. Comprehensive clinics and a woman's right to a safe and legal abortion is under attack in your community! Join groups like the Feminist Union and support your clinic against anti-abortion extremists through FMF's Adopt-A-Clinic Campaign. Contact your FMF National Campus Organizer and begin defending a woman's right to choose today!

Photo credit: Meghan Shalvoy

This post is part of the November 2010 ezine. To subscribe to the monthly ezine, click here.

HIV/AIDS & Young Women: What You Can Do to Fight For Young Women's Lives on World AIDS Day

On December 1st, the world will remember almost 60 million people have been infected with HIV and 25 million people have died of HIV-related causes since the beginning of the epidemic. Today, in many parts of the world, including the U.S., women have become the face of the disease. Women make up an increasing proportion of adults (ages 15–49) living with HIV/AIDS.

Young adults, ages 15–24 account for approximately half of new adult HIV infections and 28% of the global total of adults living with HIV/AIDS. Most young people living with AIDS are girls (62%), including 76% of HIV-positive young people in sub-Saharan Africa. In some countries, infection rates are up to six times higher among young women than young men.

These statistics are shocking, but real.

Sadly, the U.S. has been a strong proponent of abstinence-only funding for HIV/AIDS prevention programs around the world. These programs have been proven ineffective and continues the spread of the disease.

Based on recent studies, much of US aid for global AIDS relief administered under the Bush Administration was given to conservative, faith-based organizations (FBOs) that strongly promoted abstinence as a prevention method and demonized condom use. This type of "proselytization" of what is deemed as appropriate sexual behavior reverses the efforts to fight AIDS and continue its spread. Though a lot has changed in favor of comprehensive HIV/AIDS relief for young women under the Obama Administration, the fear of the continued trend of supporting conservative, anti-choice FBOs is very real. As a matter of fact, many FBOs that have partnered with the U.S. up to 2008 have provided AIDS relief in many developing countries with a special focus on abstinence-only in youth prevention programs. This (as well as lack of access to condoms) is directly tied to the continued rise of HIV transmission among young people.

Young feminists across the country are needed now more than ever! We can make a difference! We can collectively change the way our government makes foreign policy and who it gives our funds to. On this World AIDS Day, advocate for women's sexual and reproductive rights and sustainable AIDS relief on your campus by:

  • Contacting members of Congress, the Obama Administration, and the United Nations' Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon via letter-writing campaigns, call-ins, fax-ins, or emails and demand that the U.S. end its support of abstinence-only funding for HIV/AIDS prevention.
  • Pressing our government to meet the MDGs' 2015 deadline by increasing international sexual and reproductive health care funding to $3 billion which would provide universal access!
  • Writing op-ed's and campus newspaper articles about the dangers of supporting abstinence-only funding for global HIV/AIDS prevention and the need to support comprehensive sex ed in schools.
  • Coordinating with student health services and nearby bars and restaurants to distribute free male and female condoms with HIV/AIDS facts.
  • Creating a mural/collage display of various photos, letters, drawings, etc. representing the many "faces of HIV/AIDS" and their many walks of life. This disease affects everyone and we should continue to dispel the myths of who HIV/AIDS affects.
  • Sponsoring a benefit theater production or music concert where the proceeds go to a local HIV/AIDS organization or campus HIV/AIDS program.
  • Collaborating with your university's public health, nursing, medical, international affairs, and public policy schools/programs and student health services to host a discussion or seminar on the gendered-based effects of HIV/AIDS globally.
  • Collaborating with international student organizations and environmental campus groups to create a poster and flyer campaign that shows how poverty and the results of climate change, like depleting water sources, impact young women living with HIV/AIDS.
There's so much we all can do to take action in the fight against AIDS. Remember, you can make a difference in saving the lives of young women and girls around the world. Fight for women and girls on World AIDS Day!

Few action ideas courtesy of Minnesota's Department of Health "How to Plan World AIDS Day Activities 2010: Universities/Colleges Tips".

This post is part of the November 2010 ezine. To subscribe to the monthly ezine, click here.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

How Well Did We "Get Out Her Vote?"

The midterm elections have flown right by and we are all settling down from the excitement that came along. Many students nationwide mobilized to get out the vote and encouraged their fellow peers to be active citizens by casting their votes on election day.

The Feminist Majority Foundation’s “Get Out Her Vote” campaign clearly laid out what was going to be at stake if young students didn’t go out to vote in this year’s midterm elections. GOHV focused on issues that really resonated with college students, especially with young women: reproductive rights, marriage equality, immigration, the environment, and access to higher education were going to be on the chopping block if we didn’t educate and mobilize ourselves on ballot measures and congressional representatives. With propositions on state ballots ranging from abortion restrictions (Prop. 62 in CO), to the possible elimination of environmental protection and green jobs (Prop. 23 in CA), it was imperative that young people organized and voted!

So did the midterm elections bring young voters out to the polls this year? The Center for Information & Research on Civic Learning and Engagement (CIRCLE) found that “an estimated 20.4 percent of young Americans under the age of 30 voted in Tuesday’s midterm elections, compared to 23.5 percent in the last midterm election (2006).” Almost nine million Americans between the ages of 18 and 29 voted and current research shows that youth participate when they are asked to do so. Even though the youth voter turnout decreased from the last midterm election, we still proved that our voting block should definitely not be underestimated! The more we encourage others to engage with the civil process of voting, the more we undoubtedly affect the outcomes of our respective elections, including the upcoming 2012 election which is right around the corner!

It is important to recognize the power that youth have in transforming our political landscape, but we also need to acknowledge that we need more women representing us on both state and federal levels. Women are more than half of the nation’s population and the 2010 election results say otherwise in regards to equal representation. The Center for American Women and Politics (CAWP) found that “the number of women in Congress has not dropped since 1979 and has not stayed level since 1987.” With at least 17 women serving in the U.S. Senate and 73 women serving in the U.S. House of Representatives* for the upcoming terms, our representation in Congress remains low and stagnate. I don’t know about you but I am getting deathly tired of knowing that the people who are creating policies regarding my reproductive health and rights have no idea what my lived daily lived experience is as a young woman.

Women win races at the same rates that men do. So why don’t we have more women in office? Simply not enough women run! So this is your call to action to get out there and run for office! We need more feminist in office looking out for equality for all people.

*Official numbers are not in yet because a few races have not been called as absentee ballots are still being counted.

This post is part of the November 2010 ezine. To subscribe to the monthly ezine, click here.

NYC Council sets example with Fake Clinic legislation

Crisis Pregnancy Centers go to great lengths to making women think you are walking into an office where you can get medical advice from professionals, talk about all of your options when facing an unplanned pregnancy, perhaps even see a doctor. But that will not happen behind their doors.

Despite the fact that they appear to be very clinical. Despite the fact that they may be located near a comprehensive clinic, or in a medical complex, or that they may wear a lab coat.

That's why we started the Campaign to Expose Fake Clinics. That's why Austin, TX and Baltimore, MD have passed legislation requiring CPCs clearly post on their doors the services they do and do not provide. That's why NARAL NY has done extensive investigative work to provide a report in NYC that documents the deception and misinformation women are subject to in a fake clinic.

In October, New York City Council Speaker Christine C. Quinn and Councilmember Jessica S. Lappin introduced a bill similar to those passed in Austin and Baltimore. In order to distinguish between comprehensive clinics, the bill defines CPCs as "limited-service centers" and would apply only to counseling centers that do not provide and/or refer for abortions or FDA-approved contraception. This disclosure would have to be provided on their door in English and Spanish. This bill is particularly strong because it goes even farther to require CPCs to include the same disclosure in their advertising.

If you're interested in helping to fight fake clinics on your campus or community, contact us at campusteam@feminist.org.

This post is part of the November 2010 ezine. To subscribe to the monthly ezine, click here.

Help Batgirl Fight Unfair Pay!

Working women cannot wait any longer for Senate action against wage discrimination!

The moment is here – thanks to your support, we are within striking distance of passing the Paycheck Fairness Act! The Senate is back in session and precious few days remain for them to pass this critical bill.

The countdown is on and we need your help to get the bill across the finish line. Call your Senator at 1-877-667-6650 and ask them to pass the Paycheck Fairness Act this session! OR send them an email.

Taking action has never been more important than it is right now. The Senate must make this bill a priority: the Paycheck Fairness Act would deter wage discrimination by closing loopholes in the Equal Pay Act and barring retaliation against workers who disclose their wages to coworkers.

The Feminist Majority and other leading organizations in the Paycheck Fairness Act coalition are hosting a nationwide call-in day on Tuesday, November 16 to push the Senate to vote. So call now and call again on Tuesday! We need only two minutes of your time. Please dial 1-877-667-6650 and simple instructions will direct you to your Senators' offices.

After you are put through, be sure to tell them the following:

• Your name, address, and that you are their constituent.

• You are calling to urge them to pass the Paycheck Fairness Act.

• Women currently only make 77 cents to the dollar.

• The Paycheck Fairness Act would deter wage discrimination by closing loopholes in the Equal Pay Act and bar retaliation against workers who disclose their wages to coworkers.

• The House already passed the bill in January 2009. The Senate must do the same this session and protect against any weakening amendments that arise.

You can also email your Senators now!

We are in the final days before the Senate votes on this bill and every call makes a difference. Please, take a few moments to call the Senate at 1-877-667-6650 and ask them to pass Paycheck Fairness for women and their families before time runs out.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

The Year of the Woman?

Ellie Smeal, President of the Feminist Majority, FMF's sister organization, was featured on NPR's Tell Me More this morning to discuss the recent midterm election and the role of women. Listen in and share your thoughts on last week's election.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Girl Power In Action!

The Girl Effect Organization is making a large difference in the lives of women in developing nations one girl at a time. Check out this organization’s fascinating take on the importance of changing the lives of women in developing nations. The videos are short, eye-opening, and leave a lasting impact. The Girl Effect also has a web presence on its Facebook page that updates regularly with new success stories of girls in developing nations whose lives have been changed for the better. Spread the love. I mean, girl power!

Anti-Abortion Extremist Faces Trial

After positive outcomes for women’s rights in the 2010 elections, the fight for women’s reproductive rights continues in North Carolina courts.

Pro-life extremist, Flip Benham, faces trial for posting “Wanted” posters that potentially violate the state’s residential picketing laws. These posters have been dispersed throughout North Carolina neighborhoods and feature faces of doctors who perform abortion surgeries along with text that demands negative action towards them. This long overdue trial for the man behind on-going anti-abortion related violence and recent anti-Islam violence, seems to be a large stride in the right direction for pro-choice advocates.

A positive stride indeed, but the struggle for criminal charges in this scenario may be a long battle. Benham claims that he has the right to conduct such activity under the guarantees of the first amendment are difficult to challenge in court under legal doctrine. However, precedence does promise some light at the end of the tunnel. According to NPR, a similar 2002 federal court case decision deemed such anti-abortion activity as illegal because it utilizes “threat of force” in its actions. Another major indicator of the battle ahead is the fact that this trial only violates state and city laws that can at most charge Bentham a few months in jail.

Pro-choice groups vow to take this case to higher courts for criminal charges and hope that pro-abortion doctors receive the justice they deserve. Stay tuned for updates on the trial outcomes and listen to Feminist Majority Foundation’s Kathy Spillar on air with NPR!

Monday, November 1, 2010

VOTE tomorrow! This is it!

Election Day is tomorrow! Exercise your hard-won civil rights and VOTE in the general election this Tuesday, November 2nd.

Thanks for all your dedication to the Get Out Her Vote campaign over the past few months. This is it, so remind everyone you know to vote and bring your friends, family, coworkers, roommates, and fellow feminists to the polls to vote, too!

Your state may allow you to register to vote on Election Day and then immediately cast a ballot, so find out if this is an option for you or someone you know.

Check for ID requirements or other voting requirements in your state by visiting our Get Out Her Vote website. We advise all voters to bring 2 forms of photo ID to the polls. If you arrive at the polls Tuesday and are not listed on the voter rolls, you have the right to vote at the polls with a provisional ballot. Know all of your voting rights by reviewing our printable voter checklist.

If you have any questions or problems voting, don’t hesitate to call our DC office at 703-522-2214 and ask to speak with a member of the Campus Team. See you at the polls this Tuesday!