Saturday, February 27, 2010

RE:Statement of UC President Mark G. Yudof, the Chancellors of the ten UC campuses, and the Chair and Vice Chair of the Universitywide Academic Senate

As a UCLA graduate student (current FMF intern), I received this in my inbox today, Friday, 2/26/10 at 5:15 pm.

After reading it, all I'm left with is questions.

  1. What took them so long?
  2. Is this all the response the despicable events at UCSD merit?
  3. Is it good enough to counter "bad speech" with "good speech"?
  4. Are there structural issues that are not being addressed?
  5. Are the "principles and values" that the UC system stand for unbiased, and therefore good enough to be put forth to "confront behavior that violates them"?

The statement:

UCLA Office of the Chancellor

To the Campus Community:

Today I joined UC President Mark Yudof and all the other UC chancellors in signing the following statement:

Statement of UC President Mark G. Yudof, the Chancellors of the ten UC campuses, and the Chair and Vice Chair of the Universitywide Academic Senate
February 26, 2010

As leaders of the University of California, we are deeply disturbed by recent events at a few of our campuses. We condemn all acts of racism, intolerance and incivility. Regardless of how such offenses are rationalized, or what free speech rights they purport to express, the acts we have witnessed are unacceptable. The actions of these individuals reflect neither our principles nor our values, nor the sentiments of the University of California community. We will not allow the actions of a few to speak for this University. We denounce them.

Each of our campuses is committed to promoting and defending a learning environment that values and supports each student, faculty and staff member in an atmosphere that is open, civil, fair, caring and respectful. These values are enshrined in the "Principles of Community" each campus adheres to and that clearly outline our expectations for behavior on our campuses. We expect that all members of our university community, including our visitors, will be respectful of differing views, opinions, experiences, and background.

When violations occur, it is incumbent on us, as leaders and as stewards of free speech on our campuses, to push back. We have a responsibility to speak out against activities that promote intolerance or undermine civil dialogue. As always, the remedy for bad speech is good speech. For that reason, we call on all members of the UC community – students, faculty and staff – to affirm and defend the values of the University of California. We are speaking out and ask that you do the same whenever, wherever and however you confront behavior that violates the principles and values of this University.

Mark G. Yudof
University of California
Henry Powell
UC Academic Senate
Daniel Simmons
Vice Chair
UC Academic Senate

Robert J. Birgeneau
UC Berkeley
Linda P.B. Katehi
UC Davis
Michael V. Drake, M.D.
UC Irvine

Gene Block
UC Los Angeles
Steve Kang
UC Merced
Timothy P. White
UC Riverside

Marye Anne Fox
UC San Diego
Susan Desmond-Hellmann
UC San Francisco
Henry T. Yang
UC Santa Barbara

George Blumenthal
UC Santa Cruz

Friday, February 26, 2010

Report From the Field: Fighting for Non-Toxic Products

The following post has been submitted by guest blogger, Mia Davis, National Grassroots Coordinator for the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics

It seems that every week brings a new story of common chemicals linked to harm. Carcinogens in bubble bath? Reproductive toxicants in water bottles? What is going on?

There are more than 85,000 chemicals in the marketplace, only a fraction of which have been assessed for possible impacts on human health or the environment. And chemicals linked to cancer, developmental disabilities, and infertility are still allowed in cosmetics, water bottles, electronics and other products. We know that these toxins are entering our bodies –without our permission- and that they migrate and sometimes persist in the environment. At the same time, serious health issues are on the rise and increased diagnosis alone cannot account for the uptick.

People usually think of environmental pollution as coming from smokestacks or leaching from factories into rivers, and unfortunately, that’s still commonplace and a serious threat to the ecosystem and human health. But for most of us, toxins in the “environment” have gotten even closer to home—specifically, in our homes.

Take personal care products. Did you know that most people use about 10 cosmetics every day? Yep- we apply an average of 126 unique ingredients directly to our skin before we even leave the house in the morning. Industrial chemicals are basic ingredients in personal care products, and no publicly accountable body has made sure that those chemicals are safe for long term use, or safe for the ecosystem. And some ingredients (like fragrance components and contaminants) aren’t even on the ingredient labels.

In the U.S., the law that governs the cosmetics industry has not been updated in 70 years—a very long time when one considers the market changes since World War II—and it doesn’t give the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) the authority to assess the safety of cosmetic ingredients before they hit the market. Instead, the cosmetics industry itself ensures the safety of their products.

The Campaign for Safe Cosmetics is a national coalition of women’s and environmental and public health organizations that works with companies that manufacture safer cosmetics products, and applies pressure to companies and agencies that need a push. We sent a letter to Johnson & Johnson asking the company to reformulate their products to remove hazardous chemicals. We’ve targeted Estee Lauder for using carcinogens and hormone disruptors in their “pink ribbon” cosmetics, L’Oreal for putting lead in U.S. lipstick even though it is banned from lipstick in France (where L’Oreal is headquartered), and Wal-Mart for selling so many antibacterial soaps made with toxic triclosan.

The Campaign is at a point of great momentum. We have a strong collective voice calling for both market and regulatory change, and we’re empowering people to advocate for protections at the individual, community and national levels.

We know the move away from toxic chemicals toward safer alternatives will help to build an economic system that values health and sees real growth potential in sustainability. We need to make this transition as soon as we possibly can- So please get involved!

"Post-Racial" America and "ghetto" parties

Guest post from former intern and blogger Kat

This morning I received an email saying that on the 7th floor of Geisel Library--the school library for UCSD--a noose was found with the intent to terrorize African-American students.

The story does not begin here; this is only the latest development in a series of blatantly racist speech acts committed against the African American student body on campus.

Back to the beginning.

Last Friday, February 19th, my morning started with a text message calling for action that read, "EMERGENCY!!! Everyone meet at Library walk at 9am! Wear BLACK! ENOUGH is ENOUGH! WAKE UP AND GO! WE'RE ALL IN THIS TOGETHER! Spread this now!! Details later."

I'm a super-senior at UCSD. Because of the recent anti-UC fee hikes protests I thought this probably had something to do with that. (The University of California recently increased tuition 32% essentially forcing students from low-income families to withdraw from school.) But because of university-wide emails I'd gotten recently about a "Compton cookout" party that asked people to come dressed in stereotypical “black attire”-- I wasn’t entirely sure. Compton is a low income largely (minority---African American or Latino might be a better word choice but I’m not familiar with the city or area in San Diego, I had thought that the students were imitating the city of Compton in south central Los Angeles) neighborhood of San Diego.

The protest was not about fee hikes. According to NBC News, the invitation encouraged women to come dressed as “ghetto chicks,” which the invite explained, “Ghetto chicks usually have gold teeth, start fights and drama, and wear cheap clothes." All students were asked to dress "ghetto"

(I found out later that day that the party invitation also said something to the effect that it was "being held in honor of black history month." “In honor of black history month” Are you kidding me??)

There is so much wrong with that party it's hard to know where to start--but its pretty easy to start with IT IS RACIST. It's racist because it reifies a homogenized, stereotypical image of African Americans as poor and "gangster". It’s racist because it blatantly mocks the communal, historical struggle against racism as well as the lives that were lost and destroyed in the efforts to overcome this struggle. It refuses to acknowledge individual personalities; the dreams that each individual has for their future and for the future of their children to be treated as equals in US society. The party was SEXIST because it (explain reason here, something similar to how you explained why its racist in your opinion) The event was CLASSIST because it makes fun of poverty without taking into account how people actually struggle. (It feeds into that "protestant work ethic" ideology that people are poor because they don't work when poor people REALLY DO work so hard to get by, much harder than members of the privileged classes.)

I wish I had taken notes or at least pictures--but more importantly, as I'm looking through the news coverage of the event, I'm becoming angry because much of what the news is saying is JUST. PLAIN. WRONG. Luckily someone posted a series of youtube videos that document what happpened.

The first thing I noticed when I arrived on campus was that the group of students gathered together on Library Walk were mostly African American or Chican@/Latin@. The reason why this stuck out is because the UCSD student body is mostly White or Asian--less than 2% of the student body is African American, while approximately 10% of the student body is Chican@/Latin@ (according to the statistics I found for 2002--couldn't find anything more recent.) Due to this population imbalance, the campus most of the time seems like one big white place--thus, seeing so many people of color together was very much out of the norm. (It really shouldn't be. At the same time, it was really depressing that there weren't more White or Asian people there--injustice to some is an injustice to all.)

There were also camera teams; everyone in the group was dressed in black; they chanted "Real Pain! Real Action!" Some were holding each other, hugging while tears streamed down their faces.

The Chancellor and Vice Chancellor stood in front of the crowd, faces somber. With news cameras in their faces, they began speaking with many of us in the back wondering what was being said because they were so quiet. Quietly addressing the news cameras rather than directing their comments to the student present made me wonder about the power dimensions shown in this instance. Not only were the voices "legitimated" by news cameras recording the voices of white, upper class women who represented the official USCD stance, but because we couldn't hear what they were saying, we couldn't shout out disapproval or approval. It reminded me of anthropological erasure: sometimes (in classical anthropology especially) ethnographers don't pay attention to certain voices within a society, and in writing up an account of events, they eventually produce a skewed articulation of what happened.

What happened at this time was that African-American students told the chancellor about a video that appeared the previous night around 11pm on SRTV--UCSD's Student-Run Television station--in which members of the Koala (a student-run "newspaper" on campus) defended the Compton cookout. SRTV doesn't keep tapes of live shows--so there is, as of yet, no video that shows what happened but students who were watching SRTV Thursday night saw students say "you N*** should be grateful, this party was held in your honor." (I found out later that day that the party invitation also said something to the effect that it was "being held in honor of black history month." “In honor of black history month” are you kidding me??)

The Associated Students president pulled the plug on the show, and a note was found in the station that read, "Compton Lynching." That is not only really racist, but it’s a death threat. Students expressed to the Chancellor concern about their safety and a desire to find a copy of the video so as to identify the perpetrators to take punitive actions against them. Students also rightly expressed frustration that their student fees were helping fund and support the Koala, a student-run organization.

The Chancellor hedged on getting a room to show the video--so students chanted, "multipurpose room!"

While the Chancellor and Vice Chancellor ran off to supply a room, an African-American freshman woman took up the bullhorn and told the crowd how in the few months that she'd been at UCSD, she'd already had her car broken into, racist statements made against her--and if this was what happened on campus in just a few months, how could she encourage her little brother to go to college?

After about 20 minutes of waiting, we (were marched by the Chancellor?) marched across library walk, some people with drums and a conch shell to attract attention--we seemed to be led to a secluded area of campus that most students don’t know about. It seemed as though the direction was intentional to keep the grievances quiet so that other people wouldn't find out about what had happened.

We moved again, this time to the fourth floor of the Main food area on campus--Price Center. It was surprising that the room could fit everyone; but at the same time depressing that not more students had come to speak out against the racism that happened.

The Black Student Union presented a list of demands for the University, including: the suspension of the students involved in the racist acts; a permanent task force dedicated to hiring African American faculty and engaging in more outreach efforts to help African-American students in the community; that the University make efforts to increase the amount of African American undergraduate and graduate students as well as PhD candidates; return of the Kumeyaay tribe's burial lands; that the University staff the currently vacant position of coordinator of the African-American studies program; that starting 2011, freshman applications be regarded holistically rather than comprehensively--among other demands.

There was also an awkward moment when the Vice Chancellor tried to rally the students to cheer with her; but it seemed fake and paternalistic. All morning the Vice Chancellor had made statements opposing student’s views.

After all the demands had been read and summarily checked off (by who?) (some were checked off as, "yes," others, "maybe,") time was set aside so that students could gather together as a community, support each other, and talk about what had happened,

To see the events for yourself, check out the YouTube playlist (Unfortunately I don't know who took the videos and can't give them credit).


  • Someone tried having a "compton cookout part deux", to justify the racism using the argument that if, as a society, people are racist against everyone, one racist party shouldn't matter. (Obviously this is a problematic argument.)
  • On the Black Student Union (BSU) facebook group asking that students support the BSU's demands, many students express outrage that black students DARE make such demands. In regards to the "safe spaces" demand, one person wrote something akin to "They should have safe spaces, that way we know where they are; that's what they told us in training" (i.e. If they have a safe space, they could all be gathered together and it would be easier to kill them all.)
  • Wednesday, February 24th: a teach-in/teach out, which many students who attended said was very successful, apart from one teacher's speech that called for everyone to "support their brothers" (Really, was it that hard to add the words, "and sisters"?)
  • Today, Friday February 26, all UCSD students received an email saying that there was a noose found hanging on the 7th floor of the school library. This is a state of emergency.

photo credit: Claudio.Núñez on

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Miscarriage is Murder in Utah

We have all heard of the numerous personhood initiatives that have been popping up all over the country; the argument that fetus' deserve full constitutional rights, the same as all Americans. I never thought I would see the day when something more radical, ridiculous and offensive (and to be honest...laughable) than the personhood initiatives...yet here we are.

The state legislature in Utah has actually passed a bill attempting to outlaw miscarriages. Let me rephrase. If you experience a miscarriage, which happens to be the result of 18-20% of all pregnancies, you can be charged with murder. The law, proposed by Sen. Margaret Dayton (a woman, i know, my heart bleeds) makes it possible for a woman to be charged with homicide and sentenced with up to life in prison if the miscarriage was determined to be the result of an "intentional, knowing, or reckless act" to end the pregnancy; every miscarriage is a potential homicide. (Jezebel)

The intent of this legislation is to hold accountable women who attempt or succeed at an "illegal abortion;" illegal abortion meaning the forced termination of a pregnancy by, for example, intentionally subjecting oneself to physical or bodily harm in attempt to force a miscarriage. While, yes, there have been cases similar to the one described, and no, that is not acceptable or appropriate behavior, the language of the law does not clearly explain its intent or limitations and creates a dangerous potential for abuse by anti-choicers.

For example, the term "reckless" has broad and potentially devastating implications, as if this law couldn't be described that way already. The term was added in a reaction to a case in which a woman hired a man to beat her to force a miscarriage, a case in which she could not be held accountable. Although not its intention, the use of this term opens up this law to apply to pregnant victims of domestic violence; if a pregnant woman chooses to stay in a relationship with a violent partner, and her pregnancy is prematurely terminated as the result of repeated abuse, she can be legally charged with homicide and serve up to life in prison (The Salt Lake Tribune). This is right on par with considering domestic violence a pre-existing condition.

The implications of this legislation moves far beyond the inclusion of the term "reckless," but this stands as one example of how the intentions of this law only skim the surface of its potential.

Although I disagree strongly with the anti-choice movement, I can at the very least respect their opinion (or at least their right to have one,);abortion and choice are controversial issues and there will always be those who disagree with me. However, this law takes anti-choice to a new level.

To assert that a miscarriage is not only a forced abortion, but is considered murder, is ludicrous and an opinion that does not only deserve respect but does not even deserve to be heard, let alone legitimized through state legislation.

The Anti-choice movement claims that their message and their goals keep women in mind and are 'empowering' for women of all ages (*cough* Sarah Palin). But jailing women for having a miscarriage is not only dis-empowering, but it is a clear and direct attack on women.

The law now goes to Governor Gary Herbert for final action

photocredit: debaird on Flickr

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

NYFLC update: Preliminary Schedule Released!

The Feminist Majority Foundation's National Young Feminist Leadership Conference is taking place March 20-22 in Washington, DC, which means we have less than a month to go!

Those of you that have ever done large-scale event planning know that this means that your friendly feminist campus team has added things like speaker invitations, workshop presentations, and extra coffee runs to our normal to-do list of battling patriarchy, spring semester travels, and researching new campaigns. Amid all of this, I wanted to give you all a quick conference-related update!

Today we released an updated preliminary schedule so you can see what we are planning! As you can see, there's something for everyone - whether you're a seasoned activist or just learning the ropes, you don't want to miss out! Sessions will range from global to domestic in nature and will cover a range of topics including the economy, reproductive rights, sexual assault, climate change, human trafficking, campus organizing, and more. The conference is a great opportunity to meet amazing people, get fired up, and learn how to take your activism to the next level.

Several hundred activists are already registered, and we want YOU to join their ranks! Click here to register online - the current registration rate is $25 per person, or $20 per person for groups of 5 or more.

If you need help registering a group or have any questions, give us a call at 703-522-2214 or email Please note, online registration ENDS March 17, 2010, so don't forget to register soon!

A Gentleman That Doesn't Have To Be Gentle

I find this new trend in men talking about masculinity really interesting. It seems that everywhere you look there is a new example of how men are trying to prove their still men. Like this post via feministing.

Details magazine had an article this week that defined a new masculinity. It instructs men to get their balls back, find something they want, and go for it.

The goal is to move away from:
"The average 21st-century guy is a quilted man, tucked under a fluffy coverlet and surrounded by throw pillows. His world is one of comfort and frippery. His idea of agony is getting his chest waxed—which, to be fair, is said to be agonizing—and his idea of frustration is trying to unclog the john while his wife makes fun of him."
Our new man is:
"a man of words and action. A refined badass. He's a gentleman, absolutely, but that doesn't mean he always has to be gentle."

He should do things like love poetry and be okay with playing a gay men in movies but still should be able to kick ass. Basically Robert Downey Jr. as Sherlock Holmes meets James Franco.

My question is does this new masculinity include being respectful of women? Or is it just like all the other masculinities of the past that don't take into account what women think or feel? And why does this new man still have to be violent? Can't he be strong willed and still get what he wants without having to beat people up?

This isn't necessarily the new masculinity we had hoped for. But maybe it's a step in the right direction??

"She Knew What Would Happen" Victim-Blaming at Princeton University

"She knew what would happen if she started drinking. We all know that the more people drink, the less likely they are to make wise decisions. It is common sense.

Therefore, the girl willingly got herself into a state in which she could not act rationally. This, in my opinion, is equivalent to agreeing to anything that might happen to her while in this state. In the case of our girl, this happened to be sex with a stranger

This is what Princeton freshman Iulia Neagu wrote in the Daily Princetonian.

Princeton...that’s the school for smart people, right? Then tell me why, in the second decade of the 21st century, there are students who actually advocate and partake in victim-blaming? She asked for it. She knew it was coming. She lead him on. REALLLYYYYYYY?

Intoxication does not equal consent. In fact, it means the exact opposite; it is widely, if not universally, accepted that ‘consent’ is understood to be ‘sober and informed.’ If you were passed out on the floor from drinking, and your friends stole your clothes or wrote profanities all over your body, or took offensive pictures of you, have you ‘agreed’ to that simply by drinking? With the ‘understanding’ and ‘expectation’ that you would make bad life decisions? Of course not, and to assert as much would never be widely accepted as legitimate.

What this young writer fails to recognize is that a victim of rape never has the power to make a decision and if (s)he does make a decision, it was not respected; that is why rape is a crime and why it has such profound psychological impacts: it is the performance of a sexual act with force or without consent.

Rape is not a result of "boys being boys." It is not a result of wearing a sexy outfit. Amanda Hess of The Washington City Paper wrote a response to the piece in the Daily Princetonian that is so eloquently written and so clear cut and to the point, paraphrasing would not do it justice. So, I leave you to ponder on the following clip from her response.

"When you say that women who drink with the boys, or have casual sex like the boys, or walk alone like the boys are not sufficiently protecting themselves against rape, what you are really saying is that women who don’t act enough like women deserve to be raped. And what you are really saying is that women deserve to be raped because they’re women."

Victim-blaming has no place in legitimate conversation, it has no place in academia, it has no place at Princeton, it has no place anywhere, ever.

photocredit: Spuz via Flickr

Monday, February 22, 2010

FemNews: Women in the 2010 Olympics

Friday, February 19, 2010

Feminist Who? Kelly Sorensen

Kelly is an awesome AWESOME girl that I have the pleasure of working with on G.I.R.L. I have known Kelly for many many years and not only is she hilarious, extremely open-minded, and rad. She is also super smart, an amazing singer, and extremely mature! She can look at anything objectively and see the truth of the situation. (at least from my perspective)

Kelly Sorensen
Location: Studio City, CA
Occupation: File Clerk and (on-hiatus) Writer, Producer and Host of G.I.R.L. (Girls in Real Life)

1)Why do you Identify as a feminist?

I identify as a feminist because once I truly understood what feminism was and can be, I realized it coincided with the feelings I had about gender & gender relations as well as homophobia and racism. It was as if I had been a feminist since I was 13 or 14, but didn't have the vocabulary or critical thinking skills to elaborate on the injustices I saw around me.

2) What Kind of feminist issue interest you?

I'm very interested in issues of representation as well as the lengths we go to in order to categorize ourselves. When I was introduced to queer theory in college it gave me a whole new perspective on what it means to define oneself by gender, race, age, occupation, political affiliation, and even as a feminist. I am also a huge believer in consciousness-raising and think it is the single most important factor of feminism today.

3) What kind of work do you do in your field of interest?

As a file clerk I don't get to do as much in the way of feminism, but working on G.I.R.L. is definitely something I'm proud of being a part of. On the show we tackle issues like body image, bullying and prescription drugs and open up an online forum for people ages 12-24 to participate and communicate within. I'd say this is one of my proudest contributions in life because it is the ultimate way to raise consciousness about issues without necessarily scaring people away by using the F-word (feminism!).

4) Who are your feminist heroes?

I have a lot of feminist female musical heroes (Bjork, Alanis Morissette, Fiona Apple, etc) but as far as declared feminist heroes I'd say Luce Iragaray, Sarah Haskins, Dr. George Tiller (RIP), anyone that has ever contributed to Our Bodies, Ourselves, and a former professor of mine, Deborah Cohler. There's definitely more, but for the sake of brevity I'll stop here. :)

5) If you could say one thing to all the women and girls in the world what would it be?

I guess I'd have to say something cliche, 'knowledge is power'. It seems so trite but it is such a important idea to keep close to you. So often it's things like money, possessions and beauty that are regarded as important, but if you live your life as if everyday could teach you endless new things (and from people and places you'd never expect), it's far more rewarding and empowering.

if you would like to be profiled, email me your answers to these 5 questions at and attach a jpeg photo.

I Swear it Doesn't Fit

The Kinsey Institute has just come out with a survey that found 47% of men report that the average condom does not fit them properly. They complained of breakage, slippage, discomfort, and irritation. Because the traditional one-size-fits-most condom is apparently causing issues, the Kinsey Institute suggests that condom companies make multiple sized condoms. But of course men won't want to admit to having a "small" penis so they suggest companies should re-brand their sizes so a small would be called a large, a medium would be called a extra-large, and so on. This size inflation would encourage males to buy the proper sized condom for their size.

This stroking of men's egos corresponds to my response to this years Superbowl ads and other media that suggested masculinity was being threatened.

I don't understand why we need to keep feeding men reassurance that they are an acceptable size when women are constantly under scrutiny for our size. Stores that primarily market towards young women have the tendency to inflate their sizes but it seems to have the opposite effect than inflating condom sizes. From personal experience, it is annoying to go into Forever 21 or American Eagle and try on what you think is your size to find out you are actually 2+ sizes up. It doesn't make sense to me why clothing companies would want to inflate their sizes to make women feel bigger than they are. If women feel good about their bodies aren't they more likely to buy clothes?

So why is it our goal to make men feel good about themselves while women are made to feel bad about themselves?

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Conservatives Turn to Disturbing Tactics

It seems Conservatives have become big fans of violence as a way to demonstrate their dissatisfaction with the government. The Washington Examiner reported yesterday that the Conservative Political Action Conference is providing some events for the under-30 attendees, which it described, appropriately, as "dry."

So CivicForumPAC seems to have taken on "bringing the party," so Friday night, they will feature a Nancy Pelosi pinata and a Harry Reid punching bag. Of course, only girls will be batting at Pelosi's miniature stand-in, and the guys will be throwing punches at Reed. Oh, conservatives. Always making sure to separate the boys from the girls, keeping the fights fair.

"This is just us whacking big government down and making it more manageable," Mary Christopher, outreach coordinator for CivicForumPAC, eloquently told The Examiner. She was working to craft the Pelosi pinata. An alternate pinata of a donkey will be available to the guests, which might be necessary, as there is also an open bar. Looks like they're really going to get their money's worth (that being $40 for gals, $45 for guys.)

Real classy, conservatives.

But it doesn't stop there. Last saturday, at an event sponsored by the Lewis and Clark Tea Party Patriots, an unidentified speaker got up to the podium. She proceeded to the film Lonesome Dove, in which a character runs with the wrong crowd and gets hung, according to The Huffington Post. The speaker said she hoped the same treatment could be applied to State Senator Patty Murray (D-Washington). Why such a barbaric reference was necessary, I'm not sure.

Just wondering why conservatives feel the need to use the tactics of a spoiled 5-year-old to get their point across, punching and screaming the whole way.

Photo credit: Left Coast Rebel at Flickr

"The Stoning of Soraya M.:" A Review

I'll start by saying, I'm not a professional movie critic. Nor am I a fan of excessive blood and gore in my choice of films. However, I value movies that are based on true stories, on events that reveal something about the human experience. This is why I found The Stoning of Soraya M. to be a moving yet informative film that everyone (perhaps above age 16) should see.

Directed by Cyrus Nowrasteh, it stars Mozhan Marno as Soraya M., and Oscar-nominee Shohreh Aghdashloo, who stars as Soraya's aunt, Zahra. The above link takes you to the movie trailer. However, I believe overly-dramatic music and segmenting of movie scenes, although necessary to compete with today's ridiculous trailers, takes away from the experience of a movie like this one.

As you may have heard, this movie portrays the life and sudden murder of an innocent woman in a country that, even today, treats its women like second-class citizens. But it is not like one of the many news reports shown on TV about one of the stonings and honor killings that occur in so many countries. This movie gives context to the situation, and depicts Soraya not simply as a victim, or as a case file, but as a person who led a life that was abruptly and brutally taken away.

As I mentioned earlier, the stoning scene features a significant amount of blood, but it is not without reason. Actually, Ms. Marno said in an interview that the film's version of the stoning was very toned down for the audience's sake. But I found that, for the last fourth of the nearly-2-hour-long film, I could not stop crying. Director Nowrasteh was successful in portraying the daily lives of the people in this story, not to mention how status and power is abused, especially when combined with Shariah Law.

So after watching this film, you won't have a smile on your face. You won't feel excitement-induced adrenaline pumping through your veins. But it will stir more emotions in you than any action-packed thriller ever would.

**For a fuller preview of the film and important related information, here is a documentary from, which features an interview with the film's director and the starring actresses.

Photo credit: at Flickr

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

How cute!... or not

This is an ad for Quartz counter tops that was posted on Sociological Images, a website that critically analyzes images that we are exposed to but don't necessarily realize have deeper meanings. This magazine ad for instance, just shows a young girl trying on her mother's high heels in the bathroom. Underneath it states, "Who knew the little moments would quietly steal the show. Harmonizing Beautifully With Life". The ad seems harmless until you then think about what the ad is implying:

1. By trying on heels, the girl is trying to be like her mother or more adult. Heels are something a woman wears when she wants to be attractive or sexy. By trying on the heels, the girl is sexualizing herself.

2. The girl is dressed in white and everything surrounding her is pristine. The heels are in the only thing in the picture that are black. While represents innocence while black represents corruption. In this case, the corruption is the preemptive maturation of the girl.

3. The girl is white which is significant because once again whiteness = purity. If it was to be a black girl in the ad, it would come across completely differently because black women are normally associated with promiscuousness and impurity. If a black girl were to be trying on heels, people would automatically associate the image with looseness opposed to the white girl trying on heels which is associated with young innocence.

4. The shoes are extremely expensive Christian Louboutin heels as identified by the signature red sole. By revealing the brand, the company is making a class statement because only someone of a higher class would be able to afford these shoes and therefore this countertop.

It is hard to believe so much can be said in such a simple one page ad, but the point of marketing is to send a subconscious message to viewers.

Monday, February 15, 2010

A Feminist Valentine

Guest post by Carmen Rios, former FMF intern and student at American University.

My Valentine's Day experience is pretty similar year-to-year. I've always struggled not to be overly cynical of the entire day; being a feminist has often made accepting cultural messages about sexuality and relationships difficult. Since most of my activism has been directed at changing that landscape, I am glad to be taking steps toward doing that this Valentine's Day with THE LINE.

THE LINE Campaign is an interactive, media-based campaign to end rape and sexual assault. The purpose of the campaign is to start dialogue through a documentary film of the same name and then continue discussion on a group blog, asking for submissions from activists and survivors everywhere answering the question, “where is your line?” We're hoping to use that model to inspire people everywhere to set and respect boundaries, be open and communicate with their partners, and ask for consent in all kinds of sexual situations.

So this Valentine's Day, we took the holiday's old model and we turned it on its head, producing a short video that expresses what we're really hoping to get from our partners this year: dialogue and respect, and to be asked. The fundamental vision of THE LINE Campaign is to create a culture where people are comfortable talking about their own sexualities, whether they're single, hooking up, dating, or married. The longer we delay talking about sex, relationships, and even sexual violence, we continue to repress the sexualities of all people everywhere.

This year, I want people to think about the conversations they could be having over chocolates and flowers.

"Ask Me" from Nancy Schwartzman on Vimeo.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Where do they find these people???

Hello my fellow activist,

I found some videos that I would love to share with you. I feel that these serve as a reminder of the ignorance that is consuming much of the American population presently. We can definitely see that people are not doing their homework before protesting on these key issues. Ignorance, like this, is running rampant in our country today.

40 Days for Life is an anti-abortion organization whose campaigns encourage anti-abortion extremists to lay siege to Planned Parenthoods and other womyn's health care clinics across the country. Their next campaign will be running Feb. 17th through March 28th. 40daysforlife is their website where you can find out more information about their campaign and the exact clinics they will be demonstrating at - harassing patients, doctors and staff and distributing false information. I used this site as a guide to set up pro-choice counter protests and organized clinic defenses, so it can be used as a tool to fight injustice. If a clinic near you is on their target list, call the clinic and ask how you can help!

Stay tuned for the FMF's new Adopt-a-Clinic Campaign kit which can help guide your efforts to support your local women's health care providers.

This organization, God Hates Fags, promotes ignorance and intolerance with large public displays and deplorable slogans on their signs. God Hates Fags is their site that shows their schedule of hateful demonstrations and tactics. This also can be used as a tool to organize counter protests and organize community members around fighting this brand of intolerance and ignorance.

I hope that these videos and websites will not only fuel your passion to fight for social justice in America but also give you an idea of where to organize and focus your protest efforts. The time for action is now! Let's unite in solidarity and organize on campuses to show that we are pro-choice and pro-equality!

Frank Perez

bound4life propaganda

So I just found this little number and thought I would share. Apparently Bound4life, an anti-choice organization,has pulled together a video claiming that Planned Parenthood is nothing more than an epicenter for racial genocide. Interesting. They have made this video, full of historical information not relevant and out of context, to propagate their agenda to close facilities that provide abortion and family planning services.

They claim that Planned Parenthood has built its facilities in areas with higher numbers of Black and Hispanic population, because they want to target that population for more abortions.Not because these communities are lacking resources and sex education to prevent unwanted pregnancies, or have the finical capabilities to seek private abortions. Even if this were true, WHICH IT IS OBVIOUSLY NOT, this claim is insulting to women and families in these communities. The women seeking abortion and family plannings services aren't naive, as bound4life would like you to believe. The women who seek abortions are doing so for a reason. I highly doubt that Planned Parenthood has cast some sort of spell on their communities forcing all the women to have abortions. Apparently Bound4life doesn't believe these women are strong and smart enough to make their own choices. Furthermore I have a hard time digesting this video as fact, knowing it comes from an organization that doesn't support a woman's right to choose.

Feminist Who? Kerry Rose

Kerry is an amazing politically active woman. I have the pleasure of working for her every so often. She is very passionate about political justice and staying active. She also happens to be married to an amazing man, my Dad! Hurray Kerry rocks!

Name: Kerry
Age: 57
City: Los Angeles (LA GIRL)
Occupation: Business Owner

1. Why do you Identify as a feminist?

I identify as a feminist because I view the world and live my life advocating women's rights on the basis of political, social and economic equality to men.

When I was young they asked me if I wanted to be a “first lady” not if I wanted to be “president.” I had to take cooking and sewing classes while my male friends took wood and auto shop. At 17 I started college. It was 1970 and at that time women were just starting to be admitted to graduate law or medical programs in any significant numbers.

My degree in biochemistry from Berkeley allowed me to get prestigious jobs at UCLA Medical School and with a company associated with Stanford University, however, my pay for the same work was always less than my male counterparts. Males were considered heads of households and women had “extra income” jobs. I now own my own business and equal work gets equal pay.

I was lucky though, my father taught me how to work on cars. My mother instilled in me a need to be independent and stand on my own. Both of my parents expected the same success from me as they did my brother. They did not want me to be a marginalized part of society but an active member.

And I have paid this forward with my daughters and women friends. I advocate and support them emotionally and financially their efforts to become educated and independent.

2. What Kind of feminist issue interest you?

I don’t think you can separate one feminist issue from another. They are all interdependent. The bottom line is - the more economic power you have the more social and politically equality you can obtain. Having the best possible education affords you the most options and access to economic freedom. Economic freedom allows you to have the life you want and to have the power you want.

As they say “knowledge is power” and my passion is education.

3. What kind of work do you do in your regards to these interest?

I put my money where my mouth is. I spout a feminist agenda and I donate to those institutions and causes that support feminist issues and social justice; CAL Berkeley Alumni Association, the United Negro College Fund, Plan Parenthood and NOW just to name a few. I contribute heavily to political candidates and elected officials that support the rights and equality of women.

Supporting women’s issues also benefits greatly other marginalized segments of society.

4. who are your feminist heroes?

My feminist heroes were the women at the front of the line. They were the women astronauts. They were the early frontier women. My feminist heroes were the first female war journalists. And of course there was Doris Day. She always had fabulous clothes, a fabulous hubby and fabulous kids but most importantly a fabulous high paying interesting career. She was the only woman on screen who had it all in 1960’s and I wanted to be her.

5. if you could say one thing to all the women and girls in the world what would it be?
Make your life about YOU. Go to school. Keep on learning your whole life. Never give up.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

To Label Me is to Negate Me: University of Redlands Students Resist Gender Stereotypes

This post has been submitted by Evan Matthews, a University of Redlands student majoring in Race and Ethnic Studies, who has been organizing on campus.

For the past few weeks, students at the University of Redlands have been under attack by an all too common social force: oppressive and stereotypical gender representations. The same force that spawned guerrilla movements, insider criticism, and intellectual debate has again emerged in Redlands, California.

Our initial concern arose when we saw a casting call our University put out for a video targeting potential students. Each female called for represented a different oppressive stereotype: beautiful diva, athletic girl, and nerdy girl.

Concerned individuals spoke out, forcing a public meeting between the marketing department and students to be held. Over two hundred students and faculty members showed. While Marketing took responsibility for the casting call— stating they received the call from the film company, releasing it verbatim without review — their use of the casting call displays not a passive overlook, but an active silence that rings in ears throughout our community.

At this meeting we were shown the entirety of the University's marketing strategy which contained billboard taglines (already in use) such as: “Seriously? You think you are going to get by on looks alone?” and “If you want an average life. Get an average degree somewhere else.” I shudder at the thought of a child reading those words, subconsciously forming images of success in their mind that tell them their options are to be beautiful and successful, or average.

Students are not going down quietly and, hopefully, not at all. Letter writing campaigns to our university president Stuart Dorsey ( have been in place for the past week, students Ani Seuylemezia ’13 and Nick Daily ’11 are in process of getting negotiations with President Dorsey and the Board of Trustees on the table, with countless students undergoing independent projects that represent our community in different ways. While our immediate goal is to get an accurate representation of our University out, more importantly we hope this serves as a notice to Redlands and the rest of America, that dangerous ideas of masculinity and femininity will be met with powerful force and will never be accepted.

To contact Evan Matthews, the writer of this post, email him at To join the University of Redlands feminist club, LUST, which is also active on this issue, contact LUST President Sarah Wemple at

Photo courtesy of

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Latinas Empowered for Action Conference

This past weekend I attended the Latina Empowerment in Action Conference held by California Latinas for Reproductive Justice at California State University Northridge. This was an amazing conference filled with feminist fun. The conference consisted of workshops, group exercises, discussions and games(which I did not win).

The attendees ranged from students,organization representatives, and the Los Angeles general population. Women were able to network, share ideas, and come up with strategies to empower their community.

The Workshops ranged from coalition-building training to advocacy and policy training. The exercises that followed focused on situational strategy planning and teamwork in building and following bills and policies.

The discussions offered the attendees a chance to sound out on the issues they feel greatly affect the Latina and immigrant population. What was shared, and the focal point of the conference, was the introduction and development of the intersection of issues in the lives of the Latina community. Words like child care, workers rights, reproductive care and access, gender, domestic violence, political power, sex education and access, sexuality, environmental issues, and access to health care, filled the board describing the Latina women and immigrant experience.

Here are the photos from the event.

***I have put together a video, but excuse the logo of the video software I used.It goes away halfway through.

For more info, check out: California Latinas for Reproductive Justice
(213) 270-5258 (telephone)

Monday, February 8, 2010

Lawsuit filed to Force 'Personhood' Vote in MS

The group currently leading a "personhood" ballot measure petition drive in Mississippi filed a lawsuit in federal court this week seeking clarification of a law that could derail their efforts to fulfill the state petition requirements. Under current Mississippi state law, petition signatures must be both submitted and certified by circuit court clerks before the one-year deadline lapses. The deadline for the "personhood" measure is February 13, but about 4,000 more signatures are needed and the certification of the signatures could take weeks, according to the Associated Press.

Personhood Mississippi aims to redefine "personhood" in state law as beginning at the "moment of fertilization, cloning or the functional equivalent thereof." They need to gather 89,000 valid signatures (12 percent of the previous election's gubernatorial votes). The only successful petition drives in Mississippi history were in 1995 and 1999. Both of these ballot measures dealt with term limits.

Abortion opponents have pushed these so-called "personhood initiatives" in several states. These measures declare that a fertilized egg is a "person" who enjoys "inalienable rights, equality of justice, and due process of the law." The laws would threaten not only abortion itself, but IUDs, emergency contraception, in vitro fertilization clinics, and stem cell research. In the 2008 elections, Colorado's Amendment 48, failed by 73 to 27 percent. In addition to failing in Montana, petition drives for similar initiatives ultimately failed in Georgia, Oregon, and Mississippi for the 2008 elections. Currently, petition drives and legal cases for so-called "personhood initiatives" are also underway in Alaska, Colorado, Florida, Michigan, Montana, and Nevada.

Story via newswire

Image courtesy of

Wear the pants, Superbowl edition

In the past couple months I have noticed a new media trend that tells men that they are being oppressed by women. This consists of telling men that they're becoming soft by listening to their partners, letting others take charge, cleaning up after themselves, and overall being considerate. Because everybody knows that consideration = femininity. Is this the start of masculinism?

Here are some Superbowl ads from last night via feministing:

The Today Show mocked the idea that men were the ones really in need of rights, not women:

Docker's came out with a new ad that also called for a reinvention of masculinity (via Feministing):

While at first these ads make you want to curl up in a ball and hide, there is an upside to these ads. The fact that companies feel the need to start this campaign for masculinity makes you wonder if masculinity is on the downfall. Cross your fingers!

The Morning After

I started watching the Super Bowl last night with a mix of excitement and trepidation. I had adopted the New Orleans Saints as my team for the evening, swept up in the "Who Dat" New Orleans spirit (supplemented by the feminist blogosphere's discovery of awesome new crush Scott Fujita, a linebacker for the Saints), and I anticipated a great game. I also nervously awaited the much discussed Focus on the Family ad, starring University of Florida star Tim Tebow.

I have been struggling with the Tebow controversy all week. On one hand, I am proud of the feminist movement for standing up, calling CBS on its hypocrisy, and forcing the general public to think about what Focus on the Family really stands for. Some really great responses were created, including this Planned Parenthood ad with Al Joyner and Sean James, and the Raging Grannies video. On the other hand, I feel that we lost control of the message. Feminists celebrate all choices, and I know we are happy that Pam Tebow made the best choice for her and her family. The problem is that when Pam Tebow, Sarah Palin, and others boast about "choosing life," they are dismissing the complicated decisions other women have had to make as selfish, frivolous, or downright sinful, and refusing to acknowledge that while the choice that they made was the best one for them, their experiences are not universal. I feel like this point was not made clear enough, and that the mainstream media focused instead on the "Feminists are mad! They love abortions!" angle.

Luckily, the ad was shown fairly early in the game.

It was simple, direct, and frankly, kind of boring. Abortion was not mentioned (if you go to Focus on the Family's website, you get a whole lot more of the nutty anti-choice stuff). It ended, and everyone I was sitting with had a collective "that was it?" moment. I couldn't help but worry that the feminist outrage had done more harm than good, giving Focus on the Family more bang for their advertising buck. A discussion with a few far-flung feminist activists (thank god for twitter and facebook) helped me sort out my thoughts.

Which brings me to my final point: Sure, this ad seemed innocuous. A lot about the anti-choice movement seems like that: crisis pregnancy centers, teenage protesters who only want to save babies, and purity balls. BUT that doesn't mean it isn't dangerous. It doesn't mean it isn't part of the larger movement that murdered Dr. Tiller and denies women of their right to access a legal and safe medical procedure. Last night, the Tebows went before 100 million viewers and represented an extremist anti-woman organization that actively fights against the rights of women, people of color, and LGBT individuals. I believe FotF would love to see the US look like a patriarchal Christian theocracy, like Gilead of The Handmaid's Tale. The playful tackling and teasing of the ad covers the real intentions of FotF. We could have let the ad run without a fuss, but we made some noise and people paid attention to the real message behind the ad. That's a good thing, and I am proud of our movement for taking a stand.

EDIT: I almost forgot the other awesome outcome of the Tebow ad--donations to groups like the National Network of Abortion Funds (NNAF) went through the roof thanks to the protest! FotF may have spent 3 million dollars on an ad, but NNAF is MAKING money that will go directly to helping women in need. Consider donating to NNAF today.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Why Do So Many Men Die As A Result of Domestic Violence?

Earlier this week, The Washington City Paper's Blog The Sexist had a post about male victims of domestic violence. It featured a breakdown of the victims of domestic violence from July 2008-July 2009 according to the Maryland Network Against Domestic Violence.

Of the 53 victims:
  • 32 of the dead are female.
  • 21 of the dead are male.
Of the 21 males who died as a result of domestic violence last year:
  • 2 were children.
  • 19 were adult men.
Of the 19 adult men:
  • 9 were victims.
  • 10 were domestic violence aggressors who died as a result of their own domestic violence—”males who killed themselves or were killed after committing murder/attempting to commit murder.”
Of the nine male victims:
  • 2 were husbands or ex-husbands of the offender.
  • 3 were boyfriends or ex-boyfriends of the offender.
  • 3 were killed by their current partner’s ex.
  • 1 was killed by his ex’s current partner.
Of the ten men who killed themselves or were killed after committing murder or attempting to commit murder:
  • 1 man was killed by the police.
  • 3 were killed by their partners in self-defense.
  • 6 committed suicide.
People are quick to assume that because there is a fairly equal gender division among victims that means that that men are just as likely to be killed by a violent partner as women. Men are actually "more likely to be killed as a result of attempting to murder their own partners than as a result of their partner’s aggression".

This statistic reminds me of a documentary called "Defending Our Lives" about women who kill their domestic partners after years of abuse and are penalized harsher than the men who abused them ever would have been.

Here's an online edit of the film. I highly suggest seeing the whole thing. It's really powerful.

In Search of Our Mothers' Adding Machines

Mary Geong is a natural-born leader. For most of my childhood, I was ashamed of my mother for that reason, and some other reasons too. She was too outspoken, too loud, too cheap, too Chinese, too fat, too short.

In short, she was unfeminine. Patriarchy gets us early. When I was younger, I wanted to be color-blind and ignore race, so her effusive endorsements of women and/or minority candidates for office embarrassed me.

Photo: At the racetrack w/Oakland Rotary Club

I'm not sure if mi madre identifies as feminist, but I came to see she's pretty solidly feministy. She is progressive and wore power suits with big shoulder pads during the 80s and 90s. She wore a feminist sticker I gave her when she visited our office. She believes in serving her community and giving back, through civic organizations, through donating to politicians, through advocating for Mandarin classes in the public schools.

She did not choose leadership. It chose her (this is also a common refrain amongst female US senators). But as I think is the case for many women, the household forged her first experiences in exercising power and responsibility. As a teenager and the eldest of five children, my mom became the primary caretaker for her siblings after her mother died.

Her parents were poor, illegal immigrants, so she worked at a drycleaner to pay for college. She was not an activist, and walked past the tear gas and anti-war protesters on her way to class (Mum has no recollection of tear gas, but my dad says it's true). As a child, I was disappointed she didn't participate in the mass civic disobedience of the era. I couldn't afford to get arrested - there were bills to pay, she said.

She says her career options during the 1960s were limited to be a secretary, a teacher, or a nurse. She failed her physical science courses, which ruled out being a nurse or doctor, so she became a teacher. After a few years, she decided she wanted more job security and got an MBA instead. She became a Certified Public Accountant, a field that was heavily populated by white males during that period.

Several grad degrees and professional licenses and professional organizations and a nuclear family later, my mom is your standard community politico. Raising money for candidates, telling friends and strangers how to vote, the whole shebang. But I keep asking her to run for local office, and she says no no no. That's your job, she tells me. I like to work behind the scenes, plus I don't want the pay cut, she says. The good news is my mom had been approached by several people to run for City Council for the City of Piedmont. She says she may consider running for local public office after she retires.

So here we are with few women in the political pipeline and gross under-representation in the top tiers of politics, business, academia, arts, etc. You know accomplished women like my mom. They're probably women like your mom too. They're young and old, smart and passionate, and they care deeply about the people in their communities. They would be terrific public servants - they already are public servants, really. But they are reticent to enter public life, and don't feel inclined to embark on a political career. So we just get more of the same tired moneyed privileged men coasting into office, with more of the same tired moneyed discriminatory politics.

How to we create a generation of female public servants? Do we ask ourselves and our peers to swear to an Unbreakable Vow to run for office? This is the question I was meaning to ask a panel of seasoned political journalists tonight, but it got muddled in my head. Now it's no longer muddled, and I guess I'll ask all of you for advice, my fellow young feminists-in-arms. How do we prod millions of young women and old women to rush to their election boards to declare their candidacies for public office?

Feminist Who? Frank Perez

So who is the next Feminist Who? Why it's Frank my intern friend. Frank and I sit side by side at the Feminist Majority Foundation. He is very passionate about campus organizing and works tirelessly at his campus. Read on my friends.

Name:Frank Perez
Location:Los Angeles

1. Why do you Identify as a feminist?
I identify myself as a feminist for several reasons:
A. I believe in universal morality that allows for all human being to be equal and have the same rights regardless of any difference that are perceived.
B. I believe that our socialized gender roles are harmful to women and thus do not allow them to be all that they can be.
C. I believe that we can no longer sit by as the injustice of inequality keeps all humans beings from achieving their goals and are forced into subjugation.

2. What Kind of feminist issue interest you?
Sex trafficking and the sexual exploitation of women, equality in the work environment which includes conditions, pay, and benefits, reproductive freedoms and women's health care issues.

3. What kind of work do you do in your field of interest?
I work diligently in the humanistic field that encompasses feminist issues, I am an active member of the FMLA chapter at my school and work side by side with other feminist on my campus on raising awareness on the injustices that women face.

4. Who are your feminist heroes?
Some of my feminist heroins are Dolores Huerta, Sor Juana De LA Cruz, Hillary Clinton, and Betty Friedan to name a few.

5. If you could say one thing to all the women and girls in the world what would it be?
Never allow yourself to be devalued, you are human and that means that regardless of race, class, or gender you are an equal member of the human collective.

16 Year Old Turkish Girl Buried Alive for Talking to Boys

In Kahta, Turkey, a body of a 16 year-old girl was found buried outside her house. Police say that she was buried alive by her relatives in an "honor killing" as a punishment for talking to boys.

The girl was reported missing in December, and the police were tipped off by an anonymous informant. Police found her body in a sitting position with her hands tied up, buried 2 meters in the ground under a chicken pen. Postmortem investigation found dirt in her lungs and stomach. "The autopsy result is blood-curdling. According to our findings, the girl – who had no bruises on her body and no sign of narcotics or poison in her blood – was alive and fully conscious when she was buried,” one anonymous expert said.

Sources say that she was killed after "family council" meeting. The girls--who has only be identified by the initials MM--had male friends, which displeased her father, and had been beaten in the past by her grandfather past for talking to boys.

The mother, father, and grandfather were arrested; the mother was released shortly thereafter. The father and grandfather are awaiting trial.

The Huffington Posts says the "case is expected to bring further attention to the issue of 'honor' killings in Turkey. Official figures indicate that more than 200 'honor' killings take place each year - almost half of all murders in Turkey."

In many countries in the world, women are brutally murdered in "honor killings" by their family for engaging in extramarital sex, affairs, or after being raped. Family members justify these acts as a means to reestablish family honor. Honor killings are a horrific violence against women issue on a global scale. Go to the Feminist Majority Foundation factsheet on Violence Against Women for more information.

photo via

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Finally! EC for Military Women

Woo hoo! Today, the Department of Defense approved a policy that would guarantee women in the military access to emergency contraception. It is about time!

Emergency Contraception (commonly referred to as the "morning after pill", or known by its brand name, PlanB) can prevent pregnancy when taken up to 72 hours after unprotected sex. The earlier it is taken, the more effective it is.

Given the grim and disturbing data on rape in the military - in fact, nearly 1 in 3 military women will be raped by a fellow servicemember - Emergency Contraception access is absolutely critical for women serving overseas and within the United States.

Now we've just got to end Don't Ask Don't Tell, repeal Hyde and do something about the staggering rate of sexual assault. Let's get crackin!

The good, the bad, and the ugly: campus SA policies

Most of us are all too familiar with the hot mess that is college sexual assault policies. Unfortunately, colleges like to pretend rape and sexual assault don't happen on their campuses. If they do happen, it is supposedly when strangers in the bushes jump out and break into your unlocked dorm, or assault you as you are jogging and are wearing an iPod and headphones.

Thanks. Not realistic, and not appreciated. Colleges appear to routinely ignore:

a) USDOJ's report The Sexual Victimization of College Women, which is extremely reader-friendly and should probably be required reading for all campus feminists, and

b) the Clery Act [scroll halfway down the page linked]. The Jeanne Clery Disclosure of Campus Security Policy and Campus Crime Statistics Act requires all colleges and universities to collect and publish campus crime statistics annually. If you believe some of the reports coming from campuses, only a couple students get assaulted each year. Tip: feminist parents can use this US Dept of Ed website to compare college crime statistics, for what it's worth.

Colleges effectively discourage crime reporting, forcing survivors to wade through layers of bureaucracy, go across town for a rape kit, and recount their experience to multiple offices. Awesome. So campuses then shrug and pretend the low numbers of reported crime reflect reality. This underscores the importance of having an assault policy that supports survivors with full-time, staff advocates on campus, and encourages reporting and prosecution of students found guilty of violent crimes.

USDOJ disperses
grants to colleges fighting gender-based violence. If your college isn't yet a recipient, definitely apply ASAP. Letters of intent to apply for this year's fall grant are due WEDNESDAY, FEB. 17 so work with campus staff and administrators and submit a letter!

Below are some choice examples of strong and pitiful SA policies.

The Good

Lehigh University in Pennsylvania has a great online, anonymous, sexual violence reporting form. Kudos to the Women's Center for providing this service. Every campus should have one. If yours doesn't, collaborate with your Women's Center and campus administration to create one immediately.

The Bad

CUNY Hunter College in New York has a sexual assault policy in place that's ok. The fab Hunter Women's Coalition is working with the City University of New York administrators to install a CUNY-wide sexual assault policy that applies to all of the campuses, as currently some campuses have a policy and others have none at all.

one page on the Hunter Public Safety website titled "Steps to follow if you become a victim of rape." You know, should a rape suddenly materialize out of thin air. Colleges everywhere like to strategically employ the passive voice in their SA materials, to pretend like there is no perpetrator, much less a perp who is a fellow student there. Try instead, "Steps to follow if somebody rapes you."

The Ugly

Valdosta State University in Georgia has really wonderful feminists, and seriously slut-shaming "sexual assault prevention" tips on the VSU Public Safety site. I was hoping it was a cruel joke by some misogynist student.
But no, some overpaid misogynist at Valdosta took the time to post 13 sage tips just asking to be excoriated by the feminist community (and general public, for that matter). If I ever visit, I'll be sure not to pack my mini skirt, my uncovered drinks, my dancing shoes, and my Come Hither t-shirt.

Colleges figure they can wait out any indignant students impertinent to try to change the SA policy, so be sure to be in it for the long haul. Good luck, and let us know if we can support you in any way.