Friday, April 30, 2010

Remembering a Woman Who Helped Unite the Civil Rights and Women's Rights Movements

On April 20, the United States lost one of its great champions of the civil rights and the feminist movement. Dorothy Irene Height (March 24, 1912-April 20, 2010) passed away in Howard University Hospital of an undisclosed illness.

According to the NCNW, the following are only a few of Ms. Height's many achievements:

~She served on the staff of the National Board of the YWCA of the USA and held several leadership positions in Public Affairs and Leadership Training and as Director of the National YWCA School for Professional Workers. In 1965, she was inaugurated and became Director of the Center for Racial Justice, a position she held until her retirement.

~She made a study of the training of women's organizations in five African countries: Liberia, Ghana, Guinea, Sierra Leone and Nigeria under the Committee of Correspondence.

~Height was elected National President of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority in 1947 - and served until l956. She carried the Sorority to a new level of organizational development, initiation eligibility and social action throughout her term.

~In l957, Height was elected fourth National President of NCNW and served until l998 when she became Chair and President Emerita.

~In 1960, Height was the woman team member leader in the United Civil Rights Leadership along with Martin Luther King, Whitney H. Young, A. Philip Randolph, James Farmer, Roy Wilkins and John Lewis.

As President Obama said during his speech, "We remember her for all she did over a lifetime, behind the make us see the drive for civil rights and women's rights not as a separate struggle, but as part of a larger movement to secure the rights of all humanity, regardless of gender, regardless of race, regardless of ethnicity.

"It's an unambiguous record of righteous work, worthy of remembrance, worthy of recognition. And yet, one of the ironies is, is that year after year, decade in, decade out, Dr. Height went about her work quietly, without fanfare, without self-promotion. She never cared about who got the credit. She didn't need to see her picture in the papers. She understood that the movement gathered strength from the bottom up, those unheralded men and women who don't always make it into the history books but who steadily insisted on their dignity, on their manhood and womanhood."

Eleanor Smeal, President of the Feminist Majority Foundation, was extremely proud to be one of the pallbearers at the ceremony. She said, "I had the privilege of working with Dorothy Height for over 3 decades. She was always a strong, clear, unique voice for women's equality. She quickly responded to every challenge, encouraging us that history will be on our side if we stay the course for equality."

Kim Gandy, former President of NOW and Vice President and General Council of the Feminist Majority Foundation, stated in FMF's press release, "From her days as a young woman advising Eleanor Roosevelt to her recent sponsorship of the Feminist Majority's leadership conference, Dr. Height always made sure that women's rights were recognized as civil rights. In her own words, she strived for 'a world with not only law and order, but also equality and justice.'"

Video: Dorothy Height is Honored by President Barack Obama and Maya Angelou

Rethinking Virginity Conference - May 3, 2010

Hey New England feminists! Check out this awesome event this Monday at Harvard:

The Harvard College Queer Students & Allies Present ...

May 3, 2010
@ the Student Organization Center at Hilles, Radcliffe Quadrangle, Harvard University (NEW LOCATION)


Brought to you by the Harvard College Queer Students & Allies.

Is there a sex-positive way to teach abstinence? Where do our ideas about virginity come from? How does a queer person lose their virginity? Does anyone even know what virginity really is?

From debunking myths to defying norms, the Rethinking Virginity Conference will feature scholars and experts speaking about gender, sexuality, and the elusive concept of virginity. For a sneak preview, check out our tentative panels, read about the speakers, and register for FREE. Come for one panel or stay all day! Chat with speakers while grabbing FREE BURRITOS at the Boloco-sponsored lunch, and get information from tabling organizations between panels!

Join us the night before in Harvard Square for a "tweet-up" and meet the speakers!
Sunday, May 2nd from 8 to 10pm
Daedalus Restaurant (Roof Deck)
45 1/2 Mount Auburn Street // Cambridge, MA 02138-5053 // (617) 349-0071

Conference speakers include:

Lori Adelman, Assistant Program Associate, International Women’s Health Coalition, Contributor,
Lux Alptraum, Editor In Chief, Fleshbot
Chloe Angyal, Contributor,
Megara Bell, Founder, Partners In Sex Education
Sady Doyle, Editor In Chief,; Contributor,
Dr. R. Marie Griffith, Harvard Divinity School
Christian Garland, Chair, Harvard College Queer Students & Allies; Editor In Chief, H-Bomb Magazine
Elizabeth Janaik, Sexual Health Educator, Center for Wellness, Harvard University Health Services
Dr. Kathleen Kelly, Department of English, Northeastern University
Therese Shechter, Documentary Filmmaker, “I Was A Teenage Feminist”, “How To Lose Your Virginity”
Shelby Knox, Documentary Film Subject & Feminist Activist, “The Education of Shelby Knox”
Ellyn Ruthstrom, President, Bisexual Resource Center
Eva Rosenberg, Chair, Trans Task Force; FemSex
Aida Manduley, Chair, Brown University Queer Alliance; Chair, Sexual Health Education & Empowerment Council
Sarah Morton, Eastern Massachusetts Abortion Fund
Gavi Wolfe, Staff Attorney, ACLU of Massachusetts
Lena Chen, Women's Events & Outreach Chair, Harvard College Queer Students & Allies; Blogger, Sex and the Ivy

Tabling organizations include: Fenway Health, NARAL Pro-Choice Massachusetts, Students For Choice (Harvard College), Peer Contraceptive Counselors (Harvard College), Radcliffe Union of Students (Harvard College), & Trans Task Force (Harvard College)

Sponsored by the Harvard College Women's Center and Boloco with support from the ACLU of Massachusetts, Fenway Health, Queer Women of Color & Friends, Feminist Majority Foundation Choices Campus Program, Bisexual Resource Center, and the Harvard College student organizations: Trans Task Force, Radcliffe Union of Students, & Students For Choice.

Rethinking Virginity Conference
Full Schedule

May 3rd, 2010, 10am-5:30pm
The Penthouse @ the Student Organization Center at Hilles
Radcliffe Quadrangle, Harvard University (NEW LOCATION)
Free and open to the public.

9:45-10:15 a.m.
Conference Check-In & Registration

10:15-10:30 a.m.
Opening Remarks

10:30-11:30 a.m.
Virginity: A Historical and Cultural Primer

11:45-12:45 p.m.
Debunking The Virginity Ideal: The Feminist Response To Slut-Shaming & Sexual Scare Tactics

12:45-01:30 p.m.
Lunch Break (Sponsored by Boloco)
Enjoy free burritos from Boloco, meet our conference speakers and organizers, and pick up information and contraception from groups tabling.

01:45-02:45 p.m.
Healthy Sexuality: A Workshop

03:00-04:00 p.m.
Popping The Queer Cherry: Virginity Loss, Marriage Norms, & LGBT Identity

04:15-05:15 p.m.
Toward A Sex-Positive Vision of Abstinence

05:15-05:30 p.m.
Closing Remarks


Interested in becoming a publicity partner or tabling at the conference? Email

Thursday, April 29, 2010

What the Republican Party Wants for Women: "Get out of the House, Go back to the Kitchen"

In a blog post this Monday, state Representative Betty Sutton (Ohio-D) wrote about an appalling flier sent by the Republican Party to one of her constituents. The flier stated "Let's take Betty Sutton out of the House and put her back in the kitchen."

According to Rep. Sutton, the mailer, which was sent to 15,000 households and "was supported by funds from a Republican multimillionaire challenger by the name of Tom Ganley who has decided he wants to take [her] place in Congress." And the Chair of the Medina County Republican Party, Bill Heck, "didn't think there was anything particularly wrong with it."

As disturbing as this is, it's not the first time the Republican party has demonstrated its opinion of women. Just look at Senator John McCain's choice for his running mate back in 2008. He chose Sarah Palin, and this was no accident. She represented two very obvious things: she was attractive and conservative. In every possible way. As happy as some of us were to hear that she was a feminist, it was soon revealed she was a member of Feminists for Life, a radical, anti-choice organization. So much for that.

According to the Washington Post, Senator Barbara Boxer further questioned why McCain did not simply choose one of his fellow Senate colleagues, "Senator McCain had so many other options if he wanted to put a woman on his ticket, such as Senator Kay Bailey Hutchinson (Texas- R) or Senator Olympia Snowe (Maine-R) - they would have been an appropriate choice compared to this dangerous choice. The only similarity between her and Hillary Clinton is that they are both women. On the issues, they could not be further apart."

Senator Boxer, you made a great point. Sadly, this was a clear moment where McCain presented us with the Republican party's mindset about women's thought processes: put a pretty yet seemingly folksy woman on the VP ticket, and women will simply flock to her? Did the GOP think women would see her as "all they wish to be?" Hmm...guess not.

As another Huffington Post blogger put it back in 2008, "just because Sarah Palin is a woman doesn't mean she's good for women." I'm glad to say, women realized that, and as much as Palin likes to hang out around the White House (making much more money on her speaking tours than she ever did as governor), she is not in it.

And Rep. Sutton isn't taking the GOP's latest sexist statement lying down...or standing around, be it in the House, the kitchen, or any other location where these ignorant Republicans hope to send her. As part of her post, she has included a petition for signatures of anyone who is outraged by this flier. She explains,
"We have set a goal to send 15,000 signatures calling on Republican candidate Tom Ganley to unequivocally denounce the comment immediately, and for Medina County Republican Party Chairman Bill Heck, who continues to defend the belittling comment, to step down.

One person commenting on the post suggested, "Why do we want his GOP colleagues to denounce it -- or him? Let them all stand by it. Let them exclaim loud and clear who they are and what they stand for. Then, let the voters denounce them in November." Not a bad idea.

We should never forget the power of the vote. These people represent us and what we stand for. Let's take these men out of the position of authority and into a reality they've ignored for too long: the 21st century.

Photo credit:

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Look Mom, No Photoshop!

I know the topic of retouching is not a new one, but it is something that I have noticed a lot of chatter about recently. Similarly to the recent trend to use plus size models, the new cool thing to do is not retouch your models or even release pictures of yourself unretouched.

Ms. Blog did an interesting post on whether released untouched photos
is "Empowering or Just More ‘Empower-tainment’?" A big problem that people have with these unretouched photos is they are still not realistic. Jessica Simpson still looks gorgeous, Britney may have some lumps and bruises but she still looks hot, and where is the cellulite on the plus size models? Where are the real people?

Great that Ms. Universe isn't photoshopped, but she doesn't even need to be!:

Also, I'm sorry Jessica, but you are definitely wearing some makeup:

Unfortunately, I don't think they are going to be showing "real people" in magazines anytime soon, but they are getting closer.

Any attention to what people actually look like is a step in the right direction. Every day in magazines and other media we face completely altered images and are convinced that those images should be our standards of beauty. What people don't understand is that nobody actually looks like that! I just wish people could realize that what they are striving for is a mirage.
Here is a really interesting website that showcases a professional retoucher's portfolio. Look at the dramatic differences between the retouched and touched photos.

I don't know how many of you have seen this Dove video from 2006, but it is a perfect example of how unrealistic beauty in the media is:

People can't get away with retouching as much as they used to.
Here are a some satisfying examples of magazines and advertisements getting called out for extreme retouching:

Are those the same legs?

Oops forgot to photoshop the reflection:

Monday, April 26, 2010

Sweeping Anti-Immigration Bill Signed Into Law in Arizona

The following post was submitted by guest blogger and feminist activist, Gloria Negrete-Lopez.

Imagine yourself walking home from school as fast as you can and on your way home you pass a police car. You get a little nervous as you look down at the color of your skin and you realize that you fit the stereotype of an "undocumented" person. The police officer stops you and begins to ask you questions. You know that you have done nothing wrong. The officer asks to see your ID, and at that moment you begin to panic. You are undocumented.

On Friday 4/23, Arizona governor Jan Brewer signed into law a bill that would allow scenes such as the one mentioned above to take place all over the state. The sweeping anti-immigrant bill, SB1070 "allows a law enforcement officer, without a warrant, to arrest a person if the officer has probable cause to believe that the person has committed any public offense that makes the person removable from the U.S."

In 90 days this law will go in affect and will allow for state sponsored violence to occur all over Arizona. Thousands of individuals will be criminalized due to the color of their skin.

How is this a feminist issue? Why does this matter?

A countless number of people will be deported, including women of color, and the families that they belong to will be ripped apart. As feminists we have a long legacy of fighting for causes that are fundamentally unjust and are oppressive. Let’s continue with the feminist legacy of our foremothers and forefathers by spreading the word to all those you know, if you live in Arizona organize and mobilize!

Sign the petition to shame Arizona and get more info.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Dress Immodestly on April 26, Take A Small Stand Against Oppression of Women

The event's tag line? "Help fight supernatural thinking and the oppression of women, just by dressing immodestly!"

The time and place? Monday, April 26, 12:05am - 11:55pm, everywhere.

And finally, the name: Boobquake.

It may not be the most elegant of titles, but keep in mind, this started out as a joke.

Its creator, Jennifer McCreight, a Purdue University student, writes in her blog that the whole idea was meant to be "a somewhat sarcastic reply to the ludicrous notion that women's immodesty causes earthquakes." However, it has exploded into an unintended phenomenon.

The Facebook event currently has 103,334 confirmed guests, with more than 28,000 who may also attend. Hundreds of comments can be found on both the Facebook event page and on Ms. McCreight's blog, not to mention new tweets on Twitter are popping up every minute for #boobquake.

You might be wondering what this ridiculous title has to do with the oppression of women. Simply read my post from Tuesday of this week. But for a quick update, this movement was spawned when an Iranian cleric, Hojatoleslam Kazem Sedighi, was quoted by Iranian media as saying, "Many women who do not dress modestly ... lead young men astray, corrupt their chastity and spread adultery in society, which (consequently) increases earthquakes."

You might be able to imagine the reactions of many people upon reading this. They included ranged from shock and profuse head-shaking to...well, a reaction like that of Ms. McCreight's. Her idea is to have all the women of the world (or at least those who use Facebook, Twitter or read blogs) to dress "immodestly" this coming Monday.

As she puts it, "On Monday, April 26th, I will wear the most cleavage-showing shirt I own. Yes, the one usually reserved for a night on the town. I encourage other female skeptics to join me and embrace the supposed supernatural power of their breasts. Or short shorts, if that's your preferred form of immodesty. With the power of our scandalous bodies combined, we should surely produce an earthquake. If not, I'm sure Sedighi can come up with a rational explanation for why the ground didn't rumble. And if we really get through to him, maybe it'll be one involving plate tectonics."

Ms. McCreight's idea has gotten a variety of reactions, ranging from "Awesome!" to "this is anti-feminist." She has responded with a blog post for clarification.

"I don't think the event is completely contrary to feminist ideals. I'm asking women to wear their most 'immodest' outfit that they already would wear, but to coordinate it all on the same day for the sake of the experiment. Heck, just showing an ankle would be considered immodest by some people.

Ms. McCreight continues, "I don't want to force people out of their comfort zones, because I believe women have the right to choose how they want to dress. Please don't pressure women to participate if they don't want to. If men ogle, that's the fault of the men, not me for dressing how I like. If I want to a show a little cleavage or joke about my boobs, that's my prerogative.

"And to the scientists who are concerned with my methods - don't worry, I fully plan on doing some statistics after the event. I know many earthquakes happen on a daily basis, so we're looking to see if Boobquake significantly increases the number or severity of earthquakes. Or if an earthquake strikes West Lafayette, IN and only kills me, that may be good evidence of God's wrath as well (I'm not too concerned)."

Let's just hope this coming Monday remains earthquake-free.

Photo credit: Facebook Event, Boobquake Takes on Anti-Choice Campus Newspaper Ads

Our powerful, progressive friends over at have started a new petition that many of you campus feminists should know a thing or two about - asking campus newspaper editors to pull deceptive anti-abortion "advertisements".

Many of you have probably (unfortunately) seen anti-choice "advertising supplements", chock-full of false information about abortion, birth control and condoms in your campus newspaper. The Human Life Alliance is one anti-choice group that's been particularly active targeting campus papers with their lies and it turns out they also go so far as to shame rape and incest victims.

Sign the petition to "Tell Campus Papers to Pull Deceptive Anti-Choice Advertising" now and read an accompanying story featuring the Stony Brook FMLA.

The petition is currently targeting these school papers: UW-Green Bay Fourth Estate, UW-La Crosse Racquet, Stony Brook Statesman, The Marquette Tribune, UW-Whitewater The Purple Voice, UW-Madison Badger Herald, UW-River Falls The Student Voice, UW-Milwaukee Post and UW-Eau Claire The Spectator. If your campus is running anti-choice ads but didn't make the list, start a petition on your campus and let know!

A Feminist Survey for Your Campus

FMF-Affiliate group, BNOW at UC Berkeley, uses this Feminist Survey to educate students about feminism and recruit new members. Take a look and think about tailoring one for your campus and club!

A quick survey…

I empower myself.

I care about the true meaning of diversity.

I believe in equal pay for men and women.

I’d like to be represented by a legal system that accurately represents the
people it governs.

It bothers me when I hear about another case of rape in my neighborhood.

I believe in a woman’s right to choose.

I appreciate it when people who live differently from me are able to see my
issues, and then work with me to improve them.

I see the value in nourishing my own personal identity, rather than in
nourishing what others would like to make of me.

I am proud of the fact that I am not easily labeled.

I see that the media doesn’t accurately represent all people, all lives, and all

I realize that all forms of oppression are related.

I realize that if I really expect something to change, I need to actively work
toward changing it.

I would like to be part of a community of people who care about issues of
equality and work toward empowerment.

If you checked yes to most of these boxes, CONGRATULATIONS. YOU’RE A FEMINIST!

Join your fellow feminists through the
Berkeley National Organization for Women.

“People call me a feminist whenever I express sentiments that differentiate me from a doormat.” - Rebecca West

Watch Out For The Big Girls

Over the past few months, I have noticed a lot of talk about plus size models. Many fashion magazines (especially the French versions of Elle and Vogue) have been featuring plus size models and even have had issues dedicated to conversations about size. I think this attention is well deserved because it is a topic that has been taboo for a long time. Most of the attention has been positive because many feel it is refreshing to see a variety of body types in the magazines.

Granted, the range of bodies being represented is from size 0 to around size 8. While the average woman's dress size is a 12, this is not exactly an accurate representation of women. Something that bothers me about these so called "plus size" models is that they are not that much larger than "straight models" as can be seen in V Magazines One Size Fits All issue. I understand that the models in the magazines still need to be considered beautiful and sexy, but my issue is with the title. Calling a size 6 model "plus size" is problematic because that has the power to cause an ordinary size 6 woman, who was no originally concerned with her size, to rethink herself as plus size. Fashion and the media surrounding it has the power to redraw the lines for what is beautiful and what is not. Right now, those lines are extremely skewed toward the smaller side, dividing women into skinny and fat, opposed to skinny, average, and overweight.

Something else that is controversial about the presence of plus size models in magazines is that they are frequently naked. While this is showing that women can be naked too, it is further objectifying them. It is odd that these women are being featured in fashion magazines and they are not wearing any clothes...

Yesterday, the plus size issue was brought to the forefront when ABC and NBC refused to show a Lane Bryant plus-size lingerie commercial:

The major controversy was over the fact that the commercial did not differ much from other lingerie company commercials, such as those of Victoria's Secret, except for the fact that the model was not a size 0. Some claimed the commercial was too scandalous because of the amount of cleavage, but in my opinion, there was no that much more than I have seen in other lingerie commercials. The TV stations deny that they discriminated against the ad because of the size of the model.

The idea of "fat girls" in fashion magazines offends a lot of people because they feel they have no place in a world of beauty. Recently, a fresh fashion blogger was caught blasting plus size models by saying, "It's not such a good thing to show plus-size, because it's not really physically healthy and not always flattering to fashion." Because women who look like twigs are physically healthy?? The next day she came out and denied she had said this and proceeded to completely contradict herself by saying, "They represent the diversity of women's bodies, and what I said is that I will be happy to see them on a runway on a regular basis". Hm, get your opinion straight.

Overall, I think the increasing presence of plus size models is opening up the conversation for what really is beautiful. It shows we are in the process of becoming more tolerant and accepting to accepting more realistic beauty standards. Just look at how stunning all of these models are. Who cares what size they are?

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

What Comes to Mind When You Think of Reproductive Health?

Stanford's Students Advocating Gender Equality (SAGE), an FMF Affiliate Group, asked just that. Check out what students on campus had to say.

If you're not doing so already, think about using videos and interviews to gauge the level of feminist awareness on campus and take action!

If your feminist group has an informative or action-based video that you'd like featured on the Choices Campus Blog, email your Campus Organizer.

Good work Stanford SAGE!

The Latest (En)rage(ment) in Keeping Women Oppressed

I was relieved to read in the New York Times about Pope Benedict XVI meeting with some of the sex abuse victims from the ongoing scandals in the Catholic Church. Finally, after so many years, this Sunday, he came face to face with the people whose suffering he tried to keep a secret. It gave me hope that the religious figures of our time are not without (ironically) souls...

...but, then my friend forwarded this doozy:
An Iranian cleric believes promiscuous women cause earthquakes.

And once again, instead of using its great influence for positive change, this cleric is using religion to keep women oppressed. And what's the latest update? Young women in Iran dare to wear form-fitting coats and scarves instead of the traditional burqa, which leaves only a slit showing their eyes. These rebellious Iranian women showing their faces (and hair...whow) in public rather than hiding behind a cloth causes...yes, seismic activity.

The cleric in question, Hojatoleslam Kazem Sedighi, was quoted by Iranian media, "Many women who do not dress modestly ... lead young men astray, corrupt their chastity and spread adultery in society, which (consequently) increases earthquakes." It appears Tehran, Iran's capitol city, is located in an area of increased seismic activity and many fault lines. But I suppose cleric Sedighi saw this as a great opportunity to try to shame women into wanting to dress in something other than a head-to-toe blanket.

Upon reading the story, Shanna Bolden, a George Mason University graduate student, commented, "This prayer leader is basically saying that men are animals, react only by instinct, and have no control over their own actions? In that case, women should have taken over Iran by now!!!" Excellent point, Shanna.

On a related subject, a poll was recently taken, following French President Nicolas Sarkozy's announcement of potentially banning the burqa. The poll showed that 70 percent of French respondents supported the ban, 65 percent showed support in Spain, and 63 in Italy. Furthermore, even 57 percent of UK voters were in favor, and 50 percent of those from Germany wanted to see this head-to-toe women's garment banned.

However, only 33 percent of Americans who took the poll were in support of its riddance. We claim to be such a liberal country, with freedom of choice and expression. So what's the issue here? Perhaps it has to do with our idea that church and state should be kept separate, as James Joyner of the Atlantic Council brought up.

But at the end of the day, the women of Iran were not demanding a ban of any sort. They simply want to dress in a way that allows them to move more comfortably and to feel more free in their daily lives. It is disheartening to think that the men who control these women's lives are coincidentally too weak to control their own sexual urges. So who should be ashamed?

Photo credit: Associated Press

Friday, April 16, 2010

What if the Visitation Rights that were given to Same Sex couples were inclusive of those couples in which one partner is serving in the military?

This week President Obama signed a directive that would allow same sex partners hospital visitation rights if the one of them were to fall ill. Granting same sex couples the right to be beside their loved one as they pass (if the illness or injury is fatal) was a decision that came after hearing a story in which a woman was denied the right to hold her lover as her spouse died. Before the signed directive same sex partners would be denied visitation due to the fact that they were not considered family by blood or legally wed.

Of the 1,138 rights that are denied to same sex couples because same sex marriage is not legal in every state, hospital visitation was only one of them. Currently same sex marriage is legal in only 5 states as well as Washington D.C. Unfortunately under of the Defense of Marriage act (DOMA), same sex couples that legally wed in a state that allows same sex marriages will have an annulled marriage license once they return back to their state where same sex marriage licenses are not recognized. Obama has it in his agenda to repeal that as well as the controversial military ban on gays and lesbians serving openly known as Don’t ask Don’t tel (DADT)l.

I must say that although I am grateful to have this single right granted to me, I am disappointed with how he went about the issue. It should not take a story of sorrow to make one understand that love is not a bad thing even if it is between two people of the same sex. Love should not be taken away or toyed with it should not be a bargaining tool for votes. Instead of signing this directive that grants rights to only some of the LGBTQ community why don’t you do what is humane and repeal DADT and DOMA. Under DADT a civilian in a same sex relationship with a soldier cannot visit them openly if the soldier is wounded in battle therefore this directive does not extend rights to all LGBTQ couples. If he had repealed DOMA same sex couples could marry elsewhere in the U.S. and still have a legal marriage license upon return to their state. If DOMA was repealed, then the rights given to those married could be applicable to all same sex couples who are wed anywhere in the United States. If his adminstartion repealed both DADT and DOMA then the lesbian and gays serving our military could wed. Is this the next step? What he did was good for the community but I find that it was nothing great. It was fair and right but it was something that should have been done a long time ago.

P.S.- Celebrate National Day of Silence today!!

Photo compliment of See-ming Lee

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Current Intern to Future Interns: Some Friendly Advice

I would like to dedicate this post to the incoming summer interns.

First off, of course, congratulations on being accepted to intern with the Feminist Majority Foundation. As an intern currently approaching the end of my spring internship experience with FMF, I can tell you when you mention to people that you're with FMF, it's bound to get you quite a few nods of approval from friends and acquaintances.

And of course, (depending on the crowd you hang out with) you might get some raised eyebrows and cautious oh's. But don't let those phase you; keep in mind, many people still don't know what the word "feminist" means, or they may have a misconception of its meaning.

On that note, I'd like to share that I came here in January with very limited experience in women's studies and the feminist realm. The only education I had came from the courses I took at my university (Feminist Theory and Psychology of Women) and being a member of the newly formed Women's Studies Club on campus. The main reason I had hoped to get an FMF internship was to learn and be exposed to women's advocacy. Lucky for me, (and soon, for you, if you happen to be in my position) FMF accepted me with open arms.

I am working with the media team (Beth Soderberg, assistant to Ellie Smeal (FMF President) is my supervisor) for which I write news stories for the newswire. I am also working with the campus outreach team, and the campus organizers have all been guiding me along during this semester. The biggest event this semester for the campus team has been the National Young Feminist Leadership Conference in DC back in March. That was a pretty intense learning experience, helping prepare for and having the chance to participate in such a big event.

Since I write for the newswire, I'm constantly being exposed to the latest news that happens. Since I did not have a strong background in women's issues, this gave me the push to research and ask questions. I encourage you (if you don't already do this) to read the news every day, paying particular attention to feminist issues. If you have time, have a look through our newswire in the last few months and familiarize yourself with what is going on today.

As a member of the campus outreach team, I was assigned to write regularly for our blog. I like to uphold the integrity of this communications medium and keep my posts thought-provoking and relevant. So even though this is a more relaxed medium than the newswire, I still appreciate how lucky I am that I can share my opinion on such a major organization's blog.

I would love to know what you think about my entries, you can look them up in the search under "ilona globa." I hope that when you intern here, you will have a chance to post in the blog as well. Knowing how to use social media resources like blogs, Twitter and Facebook is essential to be successful today.

Something else you can look forward to while you intern with FMF: you will not be told to bring anyone coffee/lunch or run random errands. If you are put in charge of the phones or do administrative work, you get paid! This was a great relief to me, since there are so many organizations that make interns do menial tasks that do not teach them anything beyond how their boss takes his/her coffee. You will likely do printing, copying or cutting, but these are necessary in any office environment. (And wait 'til you see our printer! It's a bit of a beast, but I trust you'll conquer it.)

To finish up, I strongly encourage you to take advantage of your time here. Show your enthusiasm and ask your supervisors for new tasks/work whenever you finish an assignment, because the time will likely go by in a flash. If you get invited to go to special events with other FMF employees, go! This is the DC Metropolitan area, an amazing place to network and potentially find a job.

Best of luck with your summer endeavors!

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Abortion Democracy: Poland/South Africa

At least 80,000 women die annually as a result of botched abortions. But abortion, when performed under safe and legal conditions, poses fewer health risks than carrying a pregnancy to term and giving birth. So why are women dying needlessly?

The documentary film, Abortion Democracy: Poland/South Africa, by Sarah Diehl, examines two countries with very different abortion policies and thus, very different realities for women.

In South Africa, abortion is legal, but it is highly unavailable. In Poland, abortion is illegal, but easy (yet expensive) to obtain. These two localized scenarios perfectly demonstrate two facts that are applicable worldwide: 1) Making abortion illegal doesn't stop it from happening; and 2) Just because abortion is legal, it doesn't mean it is accessible. The film takes an extremely interesting and in-depth examination of the forces at play, shaping the policy and the reality for women in both Poland and South Africa.

Abortion was legalized in South Africa after the fall of apartheid in 1994, when the African National Congress was elected to power. Abortion is always legal in the first trimester, and in the second trimester, it is permitted due to mental or physical health problems, rape or incest, or socioeconomic problems (all of which are very vague and ambiguous classifications). South Africa is also one of only two nations (Vietnam being the other) where nurses and midwives are legally permitted to perform abortions. In terms of abortion policies worldwide, South Africa's is one of the most progressive.

But, women who want to obtain an abortion have an extremely difficult time doing so. More and more providers are beginning to refuse to perform abortions based on religious and moral beliefs and many providers are not informed of the new law. Further compounding the problem, training for abortion is usually not provided in obstetrics and gynecology medical school.

As a result, in the Western Cape Province, for instance, there are only three providers. They spend their time driving hours and hours between cities, only to be faced with more women in need than they can possibly help. Women find it difficult to even obtain contraceptives due to the shaming and harassment that accompanies the request.

Abortion providers and their families are being ostracized and shamed within their communities and one nurse recounted stories of the doctors he worked with acting like they were "just waiting for him to fail". Anti-abortion organizations and activity are on the rise, and one of their tactics is to try to label abortion as an import from the West, when truly, as in every society on the planet, abortion has been happening all along - the men just rarely found out about it.

Sarah conducts a particularly powerful series of interviews with a young woman who was raped, became pregnant, and then was kicked out of her house, who was unable to obtain an abortion. Her story drives home the interconnected nature of shame associated with rape, unwed motherhood, and abortion in a society where there are high rates of rape and incest and women often lack the power to negotiate safe sex, even with their partner.

Contrarily, in Poland, abortion was made illegal (except in cases of rape or the woman's health) after the fall of communism in 1993, when the right wing party, in an attempt to form a new national identity, sought the backing of the Catholic church and was elected to power. At the same time, half of all public child care centers closed and comprehensive sex ed ceased to exist. Essentially, it was (and continues to be) a reproductive health nightmare.

Despite the exception for rape and women's health (yet another vague term), women who truly do fall into these categories have an extremely difficult time obtaining a legal abortion. For instance, one woman suffered hemorrhaging in her eye, yet no one would perform the abortion. She is now partially blind. When she brought charges to the European Court of Human Rights, the first lady of Poland argued that she should have her child taken away for attempting to abort it. The Court ended up awarding her reparations.

While only 150 legal abortions are performed each year in Poland, it is estimated that 80,000-200,000 illegal abortions are performed each year in the country. These are almost always performed by doctors who do know what they are doing, so there is no record of any women dying from illegal abortion (although this is notoriously difficult to keep track of). But, should you obtain an illegal abortion in Poland don't expect to be treated well, see any follow up care, or to pay anything other than a pretty penny for it. Doctors, in fact, have a vested interest in keeping abortion illegal because it is so lucrative.

Poland became a member of the European Union in 2004 and along with Ireland and Malta (where abortion is also illegal), the EU admitted Poland without asking for a change in the country's abortion policy. While the EU does not have an official stance on abortion, it has to the power to adopt one and to regulate abortion policies of member countries. Pro-choice forces throughout Europe hope to begin exploring the avenues available to address abortion policies at the EU level.

I highly recommend seeing Sarah Diehl's film, Abortion Democracy: Poland/South Africa. It brings real life, global examples to the political and ideological issues we often address when talking about abortion in our local, state and national context.

Filmmaker, Sarah Diehl is from Berlin, but will be touring the U.S. with her film in fall 2010 and is available to screen the film and host a discussion at your campus! For more information about setting up a screening on your campus this fall, contact FMF Campus Organizer, Allie McDonald at or 310-556-2500.

Empowering Women and Addressing Climate Change: Solutions for Ethiopia

The following post was submitted by guest blogger, Cassie Gardener

Like many developing countries, Ethiopia suffers from vast reproductive health challenges that are linked to a vicious cycle of poverty and gender inequality. 35% of women want to prevent or space their births, but don’t have access to family planning services and information, and only 10% of births are attended by skilled personnel.

What is more, these challenges will only be exacerbated by climate change impacts. As resources dry up, women and girls will have to walk farther to collect fuel wood, water and food, and the increased spread of diseases like malaria will make it even harder for people living in poverty to get ahead. Although they’re the least responsible for growing CO2 emissions, it’s the world’s poorest—women and girls—that will bear the brunt of the impacts.

As part of my two-month internship with the Population, Health and Environment (PHE) -Ethiopia Consortium, I recently had the opportunity to visit rural communities in the Bale Mountains of southeast Ethiopia, to witness not only these challenges, but what young women are doing to take action.

The little-known Bale Mountains are national and global treasures of biodiversity, teeming with dozens of endemic mammal, bird, and plant species. The rivers and streams in the Bale watershed flow to more than 12 million people in southern Ethiopia and western Somalia. As in many parts of the country, rural communities in Bale face grave livelihood and health challenges, and their unsustainable use of land to eke out a living is threatening long-term conservation efforts. Due to diminishing agricultural land and an average total fertility rate of 6.2 children per mother in the region, people are increasingly forced to cut trees for fuel and timber in order to feed and house their families.

PHE-Ethiopia’s member organization, MELCA, has been working to protect the region’s biodiversity and culture since 2005. Project Manager Tesfaye Teshome told me that if deforestation and impending climate change dry up Bale’s precious watershed, drought and famine could lead to the displacement or death of millions of Ethiopian citizens.

In March 2008, with funding from Engender Health and the Packard Foundation, MELCA launched an integrated population, health and environment (PHE) project that provides culturally sensitive training at the community, school, and government levels. I was impressed that after just seven months of raising awareness, I met dozens of community members who strongly believe in the benefits of family planning and girls’ empowerment for improving livelihoods and building local resistance to climate change impacts.

For example, I visited Finchaa Banoo Elementary School, where MELCA’s training sessions inspired the nature clubs, women’s clubs, and anti-AIDS clubs joined together to form new “PHE Clubs.” Hundreds of students greeted me with a PHE song, wearing traditional costumes with PHE banners strewn across their chests. Two female club leaders named Fatiye and Rose led me to their nursery site where their club had planted 60,000 indigenous tree seedlings for distribution to the community.

Fatiye, a 21-year old PHE club leader in 8th grade, proudly told me how their club uses dramas, songs and poems to educate their peers and community members about the importance of family planning. She said, “Before the coming of PHE, I knew only about biodiversity and culture. But now, I clearly understand health and population issues, including HIV/AIDS, taught to me by my peers. By having the integration of clubs, we’ve strengthened our power to accomplish more.” She told me that she will use family planning when she’s ready, and has even convinced her grandmother to use a fuel-saving stove, to improve her health and protect the environment.

I am so inspired to know that despite the vast challenges they face, women and girls in the Bale zone of Southeastern Ethiopia are working together to ensure a healthier, greener and more prosperous future for their community, and all Ethiopians!

For more information about PHE-Ethiopia, please contact or visit their website at For more information about MELCA, please contact or visit their website at

Spring into Action: Eradicating Sexual Assault on Campus

April is generally known for the coming of spring and for DC residents, the first sight of bloom of cherry blossoms. But April also brings us another significant focus--Sexual Assault Awareness Month. This is a great time of the year to renew one's commitment to activism, and what better way to do that than advocating for the eradication of sexual violence in our communities and on our campues.

Aside from participating in awareness raising events such as these, during this month we are encouraging every student from colleges and universities across the country to take your organizing efforts to next level by ensuring that your university has a comprehensive sexual assault policy, encourage reporting, and be the advocate to shift campus culture to a more sensitive space and ultimately change attitudes about sexual assault.

You may ask, how can this be done? Well before we begin, there's a huge hurdle facing many young activists when addressing this problem--the lack of cooperation by school administrators and the re-victimization of sexual assault survivors on campuses. If the recent American University controversy, among many others, has shown us anything, its that more work needs to be done on the parts of universities to support and enhance safety precautions for female students.

A recent study done by the Center of Public Integrity found that majority of students who are sexually assaulted remain silent because of the impeding institutional barriers and practices of secrecy through judicial and disciplinary proceedings making the process of disclosure and reporting very difficult for victims. Also, there were many cases of off-record negotiations that even today contributes to the creation of a hostile environment on campus. Fifty percent of the students they interviewed claimed "they unsuccessfully sought criminal charges, and instead had to seek justice in closed, school-run proceedings that led to either light penalties or no punishment at all." Leaving a survivor unsafe and unsupported. The research has also shown that "repeat offenders actually account for a significant number of sexual assaults on campus." This poses a great threat to the safety of students for the sake of a university's reputation.

Now that you know what barriers lie ahead, here's what you can do to overcome them:

  • A comprehensive sexual assault policy is most viable when there is a university-wide focus on prevention. Sadly, some universities are doing a very poor job in their preventive efforts, such as Valdosta State University in Georgia discussed in this blog post. So consider starting a sexual assault peer educators group or advocate for a sexual assault information and support center through your university's women's center, counseling center, or student health center.
  • Align your student activist group with other national advocacy organizations that specifically work with reducing sexual assault on campus. Check out groups like Students Active For Ending Rape (SAFER) and Men Can Stop Rape who have prevention programs specific to university campuses.
  • Do you have a unique sexual assault program that you would like to launch, but unsure of where to get the funding? The U.S. Department of Justice's Office of Violence Against Women provides grant opportunities for campus initiatives that seek to reduce sexual assault, rape, harassment, and stalking on campus.

Take time this semester to begin discussing how you can make your campus a better and safer institution for all its students. If you have more ideas on how to eradicate sexual violence on campus, feel free to contact FMF's Campus Team at

Photo Courtesy of Flickr

This article was featured in our April 2010 monthly Choices eZine. Sign up for our alerts to stay up-to-date with the latest feminist news and to receive the monthly eZine!

Taking Action for Women this Earth Day

Earth Day is right around the corner this month - are you ready? Here at FMF, we think the environment is a feminist issue. If you haven't already planned an event for campus, have no fear, there's still time. Get started by taking a minute to check out FMF's Women and Climate Change Campaign!

According to experts, water will be the first resource majorly impacted by climate change. Though we all feel the effects, the world's poorest populations have to face the stark reality of our environmental crisis on a daily basis.

Did you know that women are disproportionately affected by lack of water access? Because many water-related tasks such as cooking, cleaning, and laundry fall to women in the developing world, lack of access to water or poor water quality have negative impacts on women first. Environmental factors like water-borne illnesses and drought contribute to keeping the world's poorest populations trapped in a cycle of poverty and inequity.

So What Can You Do?

This Earth Day, take the opportunity to make sure your community is educated and taking action. A great way to focus your activism is to concentrate on the United Nations Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). Call or write your lawmakers and ask them to support a renewed commitment to meeting the MDGs by 2015. While all the goals need to be a priority, here's some key talking points on a few of them in case you aren't familiar:
  • Goal #3 promotes gender equality and empower women
  • Goal #5 would improve maternal health - a critical need today. Check out our new global materials about maternal mortality for more information!
  • Goal #7 ensures environmental sustainability, access to safe, potable drinking water and sanitation.
Our Women & Climate Change action ideas (available on the web and in PDF) pamphlet has some fun ways that you can call attention to climate change and put a feminist spin to it. Here's a few highlights:
  • Use a poster campaign near water sources to remind people how much we take for granted our access to water! A simple sign like: "The average woman walks 6-9 miles to get to water. And then has to carry it back." by the drinking fountain will make people think twice.
  • Walk for Water Access – Have people physically walk and carry water (or an equivalent weight) a representative distance on campus. To make it more fun and interactive, host a race and challenge people. See how long it takes them to make the trek and subtract points for water lost en route.
  • On-Campus Conservation – Start a campaign on campus to conserve water and get your campus to “go green.” Meet with administrators and different offices on campus with specific goals and develop a plan for meeting them!
Again, for more suggestions on how to bring an Earth Day event to your campus, check out the whole list of action ideas. Contact your campus organizer if you need help planning your event, and let us know how it went! We'd love to get your feedback.

photo courtesy of wwworks on flickr

This article was featured in our April 2010 monthly Choices eZine. Sign up for our alerts to stay up-to-date with the latest feminist news and to receive the monthly eZine!

Join our Adopt-a-Clinic Campaign!

It's not news that our comprehensive women's health clinics have been facing an escalated amount of anti-choice harassment and violence. With the election of a pro-choice president, the anti-abortion forces have vowed a "return to the streets" and upped their terrorism, evidenced by the 40 days for life campaign that just ended and the tragic murder of Dr. George Tiller last May. These anti-abortion extremists are creating barriers for women to access reproductive health care services, as if women didn't have enough to worry about in terms of reproductive justice.

To combat their efforts, we are calling on you to make the difference. The CHOICES Campus Leadership Program would like to present its newest campaign. Introducing the Adopt-a-Clinic Campaign! Download the kit here and here.

We are urging you and your feminist group to adopt your local reproductive health clinic. We want your group to be able to provide support for embattled clinics in response to the recent escalation in anti-choice violence and harassment. By adopting your local clinic, you will help improve law enforcement response to anti-abortion harassment, bolster the morale of your clinic and its staff, and bring anti-choice bullies to the attention of your local community.

What does it mean to adopt a clinic? You first start out contacting your local comprehensive women’s health clinic. If you need help, contact your local Campus Organizer. Then you must find out the kind of help the clinic wants. It may be volunteering at the clinic or escorting patients; it depends on what your clinic needs.

Check out the new kit and contact your local clinic today! Show your thanks to the courageous abortion providers who save women’s lives every day. Your support means a lot to them. Contact your Campus Organizer to start the campaign. Call us at 866-444-3652(East Coast) or 866-471-3652 (West Coast).

A small group can make a huge difference. Do your part today!

This article was featured in our April 2010 monthly Choices eZine. Sign up for our alerts to stay up-to-date with the latest feminist news and to receive the monthly eZine!

Red Alert: Egg-as-Person Initiatives on Ballots this Fall

So-called "personhood initiatives", like the one we saw soundly defeated in the Colorado 2008 election, are trying to make a comeback in the 2010 election.

Personhood initiatives define a human life as beginning at the moment of fertilization. If passed, fertilized eggs would legally be considered people who are guaranteed constitutional rights, like you, I, or the woman with the fertilized egg in her uterus.

Anti-choicers hope that their egg-as-person laws would effectively ban abortion in the state in which the law was passed and subsequently challenge Roe v. Wade. Oh brother.

Not only that, but if passed, an egg-as-person law would attack women's rights to use certain forms of birth control, including the IUD and emergency contraception. Stem cell research and alternative reproductive technologies, such as in vitro fertilization would be hugely impacted as well.

While the 2008 Colorado Personhood Initiative was defeated with 73% of voters saying "hell no", don't underestimate these things. They are back and the anti-choice forces behind them are as well-financed and fanatical as ever.

Egg-as-person amendments have been approved to be on the ballot this fall in Mississippi and Colorado. Efforts are still under way in California (the anti-choicers need 700,000 signatures by April 29th), and while an attempt in Nevada failed, Personhood NV (the initiative's backers) have appealed the decision to the NV Supreme Court, which is expected to make a decision by May 18.

Not only are we seeing egg-as-person initiatives pop up on ballots, but state legislators have introduced bills that would do the same thing. In North Dakota, the House actually passed an egg-as-person bill last spring and the state Senate luckily knocked it out.

Furthermore, on a global scale, fertilized eggs are being granted constitutional rights at some countries' national levels - case in point: the Dominican Republic - entirely banning abortion throughout the country.

The language they use - equating a fertilized egg with a person - gives us a big clue about what they are trying to do. While the anti-choicers may know that their initiatives don't stand a huge chance of passing in most states, they know that if you tell people an egg is a person and should enjoy constitutional rights, enough times, people will start to believe it. That messaging, just like any of the other commercial messages we hear day in and day out, will start to be viewed not as a crazy idea, but as the truth - or at least something to pay attention to. And we can't let it get to that. We must shut these attacks down before they ever see that day.

Personhood initiatives are the anti-choicers' newest tactic and we are just seeing the beginning of them unless we can mobilize our pro-choice majority to, well first, have a good chuckle at the ludicrousness of these things, but then, seriously, VOTE NO. And tell others to vote no. And tell them to tell others to vote no. And so get the idea. VOTE NO AND MOBILIZE OTHERS TO DO THE SAME.

Anti-choicers want this to be an expensive fight for us. They want us to use all of our time and resources fighting something that probably doesn't stand much of a chance at this point anyway. This fight does not have to be expensive. We're grassroots organizers and we have the majority on our side. On your campus, there is an extremely good chance that the majority of the students are pro-choice.

So, if you are in Colorado or Mississippi don't waste any time! Get the word out now! Set the stage for major defeat come fall.

And if you're anywhere else, start talking now. Let's make sure these so-called "personhood initiatives" don't stand a chance.

This article was featured in our April 2010 monthly Choices eZine. Sign up for our alerts to stay up-to-date with the latest feminist news and to receive the monthly eZine!

Case Western FMLA changes mind, chooses life

Just kidding. The FMLA at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland is decidedly not pregnant. April Fool's!

We're encouraging feminist students groups to raise awareness about CPCs throughout April. So to commemorate April Fool's Day, CWRU FMLA distributed fliers on campus encouraging students facing unintended pregnancies not to be deceived anti-abortion crisis pregnancy centers offering free health care. The FMLA suggested nearby comprehensive women's health clinics students could visit instead.

Check out the fliers they handed out, using tips FMF organizer Jacqueline posted:


Students who may be pregnant need to see professional health care providers, whether or not they plan to carry a pregnancy to term. CPCs just offer anti-abortion volunteers in lab coats waving an ultrasound wand at you and dispensing quack medical advice. Which would you choose?

Even worse, the thousands of CPCs across the country vastly outnumber real women's clinics, and they receive thousands of dollars in state and federal funding. College health centers include local crisis pregnancy center information in their pregnancy referrals.

If there are CPCs in your area and/or advertising on campus, check out FMF's Campaign to Expose Fake Clinics. It's easy to get on board, and you can contact an FMF campus organizer for more tips and suggestions. Our goal is to ensure women around the country know CPCs do not provide factual medical information, petition health centers to list CPCs as anti-abortion organizations in their referral resources, and to cut off government funding for these fake clinics.

To the Case FMLA and all the feminist groups working to expose fake clinics: keep up the great prochoice work and let us know how you're supporting comprehensive clinics!

This article was featured in our April 2010 monthly Choices eZine. Sign up for our alerts to stay up-to-date with the latest feminist news and to receive the monthly eZine!

All Good Things Must Come to an End: Leadership Transition

The story is a common one, and we see it all the time: a campus group flourishes, holds tons of great events, and builds a reputation as a great organization and a force to be reckoned with. But then, the awesome leadership graduates, and one or two underclassmen struggle to get the group up and running the next semester.

Amazing FMLAs and feminist campus organizations have fallen into this trap. It is remarkable to see how much can be lost in just one weak semester. BUT your group does not have to follow this pattern. Some tips and tricks to make sure your leadership transition runs smoothly:

  • If you have not already done so, hold elections as soon as possible. Set the ground rules for the election meeting ahead of time. These guidelines should be in your constitution. But in case they aren't, consider who is allowed to run, and who is allowed to vote. Should people have attended a certain number of meetings in order to cast a ballot? Setting the rules ahead of time and publicizing them well will minimize the drama later.
  • Once officers are elected, have each outgoing officer meet with the person taking over his/her/hir position. Have an executive meeting between both the outgoing board and the incoming leadership, and consider holding a fun, casual event like a potluck, so everyone can get to know each other a little better.
  • If you are an outgoing group leader with a lot of good contacts, make sure you give them all to new leadership. For instance, introduce your new president to the student activities staff member who always helps you expedite your room request forms, or the finance board chair who is also a total feminist at heart. Encourage new group leaders to cultivate these relationships and seek out new connections as well.
  • Create a binder with all the advice you can think of. So much institutional memory gets lost when people graduate. Consider including lists of old events and how you pulled them off; guides to navigating the bureaucratic procedures at your school, including funding deadlines; conferences and national organizations of which to be aware; and everything you wish you knew when you were starting out.
  • Keep in contact with each other. While new leaders need to do their own thing, and recent graduates are moving on, it is important that you feel comfortable calling each other. New leaders shouldn't be afraid to ask for advice, and the veterans should be happy to give it.
And last but certainly not least, contact your national campus organizer at FMF and introduce her to the new leaders of your group. We are here to be a resource to you! Organizers can be reached at 703-522-2214 (East Coast) and 310-556-2500 (West Coast).

Keeping all these tips in mind should help you have a smooth transition into the next year. Good luck!

This article was featured in our April 2010 monthly Choices eZine. Sign up for our alerts to stay up-to-date with the latest feminist news and to receive the monthly eZine!

Masculinity, Redefined (Successfully)

There has been an intensifying discussion forming around masculinity as it stands today, particularly with feminism in mind. Some have deemed this the Post-Feminism Era, but others see that, in fact, feminism is not disappearing, it is simply expanding its focus from where it began in the '60s.

However, as the definition of feminism fluctuates, we must realize that masculinity is also affected. I believe a Feministing blogger, Marc, said it best: "If feminism is about empowering women with choices, the new masculinity, (and it should be included within feminis[m]), must be about equipping men with the emotional tools to honor women's choices."

For this reason, I was inspired by the ideas expressed in Details magazine's article, "Gentlemen of the World, Unite!" This article uncovered the new definition of masculinity as being a modern gentleman. My other source of interest is the Philadelphia Inquirer's "Manning Up." I was glad to find this article did not involve masculinity advice from football star Peyton Manning.

I'll start by clarifying a few key points about the enlightened masculinity I hope will solidify itself in our culture. The Inquirer has come up with the title of "retrosexual" (not to be confused with Facebook's completely unrelated definition of this word). This is far departed from the "metrosexual," the manicured, pampered guy that continues to make men today uncomfortable.

Moreover, retrosexual applies both to the man's fashion sense and his state of mind.

Since fashion is cyclical in nature, it is not surprising that the retrosexual dresses much like the men of the '50s and '60s. The AMC series Mad Men's protagonist, Don Draper, comes to mind. But worry not, feminists. Only the fashion sense is coming back, not Don's alcoholic tendencies or his "womanizing ways," the Inquirer explains. The sexism, homophobia and lack of emotional expression of that era's gentleman is not part of the package now, nor is the patriarchal attitude.

Co-writer of The Modern Gentleman: A Guide to Essential Manners, Savvy & Vice Jason Tesauro told Details, “You carry yourself a little differently when you’re wearing pinstripes as opposed to sweatpants.” So we are looking at a man who takes pride in his appearance. He has moved on from the "jeans and a button-down" to something more sophisticated.

Moreover, the retrosexual, or modern gentleman, manages to be rugged and strong while also remaining a caretaker for his family. As Jennifer Sey, vice president of global marketing at Dockers, said in the Inquirer, this movement "celebrates men who can change a tire and a diaper." After all, the women of today are career-oriented while fullfilling their roles as mothers. No reason men cannot perform both roles.

In the context of behavior and self-image, a thought from Nashville writer and columnist John Bridges in Details: "I have found that the boor, the person who tries to barge through everything and get his way, is someone people don’t like. If you try to be civil, it puts you in a negotiating stance with people, and you get places a lot more easily. Being a gentleman gives you the tools to know how to get your way without everybody hating you.” Now that's a man that will command respect without having to demand it.

For a few more references, Details named actors Edward Norton, George Clooney and John Legend as "guys anachronistically committed to upholding high standards in their work and in their personal conduct." But being a gentleman does not demand that you be of a particular social or financial standing. Although a suit can do great things for one's image, this new masculinity is not about owning the most expensive anything.

Instead, it is about a man's ability to appear polished, intelligent and strong without feeling the need to throw it in anyone's face. He is in no way downtrodden; instead, he confidently accepts the changing tides of culture. In his enlightened masculinity, he accepts (and possibly even joins) the feminist movement, rather than attempting to discredit it.

So here's to the modern gentleman. We would be proud to have you by our side.

Photo credits: Rebekah Roy @, Mad Men Shrugged blog

Monday, April 12, 2010

This is what 422 FEMINISTS look like!

The Feminist Majority Foundation's Sixth Annual National Young Feminist Leadership Conference, March 20-22 in Washington, DC, brought together over 400 hundred young feminist activists from 101 schools and over 30 states plus the District of Columbia and Canada to discuss and strategize current domestic and global feminist issues. Members of Congress, national leaders, and student organizers from across the country inspired young leaders to organize their communities and take action.

Students learned about the dangers of fake clinics, how to support their comprehensive clinics against anti-abortion harassment, the critical need to increase international family planning money, the importance of ratifying CEDAW and much more. Over a hundred students pledged to take action on these issues when they return to campus with our first ever Feminist Activism Pledge. Groups pledged to host a die-in to raise awareness about maternal mortality, students plan to run for office with their Student Government, and many committed to joining the largest pro-choice network in the country by starting a feminist group on their campus or affiliating with FMF's Choices Campus Leadership Program!

After two days of informational and organizing sessions young feminists braved the rain to visit Capitol Hill to meet with their elected officials. Attendees heard from an incredible line up of inspiring speakers, including Congresswoman Donna Edwards of Maryland, and learned about the importance of educating their elected officials and the opportunities to impact policy on their campus and in their state.

With opportunities comes work. Lots of work. Already students have returned to campus to take action on many of the issues discussed at the conference. Groups are staying connected with each other from across the country to share organizing strategies and ideas for creative activism on their campus. The FMF Campus Team is working with groups across the country to strengthen their activism through our resources and support.

With over 100 groups at this year's conference and a laundry list of opportunities we're excited to see what new ideas and new faces we'll discover next year! Mark your calendars for next March and be sure to include the NYFLC in your group's budget. Contact your campus organizer today or email the Campus Team at to connect your group to the largest pro-choice network or learn how to launch a feminist group and show your campus just what a feminist looks like!

This article was featured in our April 2010 monthly Choices eZine. Sign up for our alerts to stay up-to-date with the latest feminist news and to receive the monthly eZine!