Friday, July 30, 2010

Friday Feminist Legislator Spotlight on: Barbara Boxer

This Friday's Feminist Legislator Spotlight is on Senator Barbara Boxer (CA). Boxer has been in the media a lot lately because she is facing a ridiculously expensive election in California against "Mama Grizzly" Carly Fiorina. So let me just highlight the contributions Ms. Boxer has made to the feminist movement during her tenure.

Senator Barbara Boxer was first elected to the House of Representatives in 1982 and to the Senate in 1992. During her tenure, Senator Boxer has been a tireless advocate for women’s rights, writing and pushing legislation through the Senate that has benefited women. Senator Boxer has been the leader on women’s issues, and has worked on a wide range of women’s issues. In 2004 she authored the Freedom of Choice Act, and she was a champion in the floor fight for the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances Act. She was also a strong critic of the Stupak Amendment. Also, while in the House Boxer authored the original Violence Against Women Act. Amazing!!!

Boxer is the first female chair of the Environment and Public Works Committee and she is the first senator to ever preside over two committees simultaneously (she also presides over the Select Committee on Ethics). She is also the second Jewish female Senator (first being Feinstein, California *challah*!).

Boxer has been a long time champion of women's rights in the House and in the Senate. If you're in the California area, I personally recommend you get involved in her campaign. She's an asset to the women's movement and will be sorely missed if she loses this race!

Thank you Time Magazine!

Thank you Time Magazine, for bringing to light some of the work the Feminist Majority Foundation has been doing for years. If the United States pulls out of Afghanistan before a stable government is set in place, women and girls are likely to face institutional violence at the hands of the extremist organizations that will rise in the midst of a power vacuum. Whether or not you support the war in Afghanistan, the fact of the matter is things will be worse for women if the Taliban gains control of the country.

The Feminist Majority Foundation has been working on a Campaign for Afghan Women & Girls since 2002. FMF works to raise awareness on college campuses through our Choices Campus Leadership Program, supports Afghan and Pakistani women to pursue higher education in the United States through scholarships, engages in policy research and strategy development with leaders of the United States Congress and the White House, and also provides direct assistance to NGOs in Afghanistan.

Happy Birthday Ellie Smeal!

Today is the birthday of Feminist Majority Foundation President Ellie Smeal, my boss and a true feminist shero. Ellie claims to hate celebrating her birthday (FMF Political Director Alice Cohan told us the story of one year when all of Ellie's feminist friends had a rally downtown against birthdays in her honor), but I wanted to take this opportunity to write a few words about our extraordinary friend and mentor.

Ellie has been fighting for women's equality locally, nationally, and internationally for over 50 years. Since becoming involved with the civil rights movement as a student at Duke University, she has been at the forefront of almost every major battle for political, social, and economic rights for all people. I encourage you all to check out more of Ellie's biography, from her remarkable tenure as the president of the National Organization for Women in the 1970s and 80s and her extensive travels in support of the Equal Rights Amendment, to her cofounding of the Feminist Majority Foundation and her leadership of the pro-choice movement. Her achievements are numerous, and to look at a list of legislation in which she has had a hand boggles the mind.

No one knows politics and feminism better than Ellie Smeal. Ellie lives and breathes this fight every day. She never pauses, never rests. I once heard Ellie described as a "lioness." It's a fitting description. She knows to grab a megaphone and head into the streets, but she also trusts her instincts and will go to the bargaining table when the time is right.

It is because of her extraordinary achievements and experiences that Ellie believes in the power of young people. Ellie is no curmudgeon, disparaging the contributions of the countless young activists around the world. Rather, she is counting on us to innovate and get active and lead this movement. So get involved with the feminist movement on your campus and in your community. Start a feminist group. Run for office on a feminist platform. As Ellie says, "Do what you love." It is the best gift you could give her.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Feminist Summer Reading List

Today we asked our awesome followers on Facebook and Twitter what feminist books they were reading this summer. Here are some of the responses we got:
Photo by Flickr user: smiteme

Picture by Tumblr user: prettykooky

Here are some already made lists I found online:

Which books do you think are missing? Let us know in the comments.

Thank You Thursday! 07/29/2010

We are excited to announce that we are adding a new weekly series of blog posts known as "Thank You Thursday!" Our "Thank You Thursday" posts will include a list of people who have done or said something pro-woman that we appreciate. We hope you enjoy seeing who is doing positive work!
This Thursday, we would like to thank:
  • U.S. District Judge Susan Bolton for blocking several key passages of Arizona's new immigration law SB 1070
  • Memphis City Council Member Janis Fullilove for supporting a proposed LGBT antidiscrimination policy even when faced with death threats
  • ESPN Reporter Erin Andrews for advocating for the STALKERS Act
  • Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid for their efforts to get the Dream Act passed


Campus Organizing Toolkit: Liberal Campuses

Campus Organizing Toolkit: Liberal Universities

For this final installment of my part of the series, I've focused on Liberal College Campuses. I interviewed some interns that go to some traditionally liberal/radical campuses (including UC Berkeley, hence the photo) to find out some of the organizing issues they face trying to do feminist organizing on a campus that already seems pretty down. Read the tips and let me know if there's any nuggets you'd like to add.

1. Combat Apathy- If your campus is already liberal, what else is there left to do? Plenty! On a liberal campus, folks tend to get apathetic about politics because they think things are as good as they can get. Bring awareness to your campus about issues that people have not heard about before to energize folks to take action.

2. Defeat Fractionalization- Put aside your differences with other progressive groups and collaborate if there is an issue that you can agree on. You can even use this as an opportunity to highlight key differences in your opinions, while still maximizing your resources. See if you can work together on a big event during “Welcome Week”, rather than scheduling simultaneous events and competing for attendees.

3. Think Bigger- When you’ve got the support of your campus under control, try expanding your efforts towards a larger audience. Take on issues in your city, or bring awareness to global issues.

4. Keep Up a Dialogue- Sometimes it feels like you’re singing to the choir at a liberal university. Make sure you keep up a dialogue with those with opposing views, even if they are in the minority. This will prepare you for when and if you move away from your liberal haven, and it will keep people cognizant of the fact that there is opposition to progress.

5. Raise Consciousness About Gender Inequalities in Liberal Politics- Just because a group is liberal or progressive does not mean that they’re perfect on gender equality. Raise awareness on campus and in progressive communities and engage them in thinking critically about the gender dynamics in their community.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

California Supreme Court Could Go to a Female Majority

Last Wednesday, Governor Schwarzenegger nominated Tani Cantil-Sakauye to the position of Chief Justice of the California Supreme Court.

This is great news for women in politics. If Sakauye is confirmed, not only will it be another victory in the sense that there is another woman on the California Supreme Court, but her confirmation would also push the court to a female majority of four to three for the first time in history. (Sakauye would join the three current female associate justices: Joyce L. Kennard, Carol A. Corrigan, and Kathryn M. Werdeger.)

Furthermore, Sakauye, a Filipina-American, would also be the second female and the first person of color in the Chief Justice position.

Governor Schwarzenegger's nomination comes as a response to current Chief Justice Ronald George's announcement that he will not seek another term. George's departure will be a loss to the LGBTQ community, as George authored the legislation that legalized same-sex marriages in 2008 (although later reversed by Proposition 8).

Still, we hope that if appointed, Sakauye will support feminist issues, and help create a fantastic record of feminist rulings for the first-ever, California Supreme Court with a female majority.

The Commission on Judicial Appointments will review Sakauye's nomination on August 25th. If approved, she'll need to be voted into office by California voters on November 2nd.

(photo credit to

The Tragedy in Haiti Continues for Women and Girls Living in the Tent Cities

Here is a video clip I found about the issues facing women in Haiti in the aftermath of the tragic 7.0 earthquake that took place in January 2010. The progress in Haiti thus far has been so slow. People currently live in camps with scarce resources, no security and no lighting at night. It is now seven months after the catastrophe and Haitian women and girls are still vulnerable! Many women live as widows, they are surrounded by strangers and have young children to care for.

Walking to use the toilet at night can quickly turn into a dangerous situation. Rape and sexual assault are daily occurrences in Haiti's Tent Cities; both women and children as young as 2 are falling victim.

The women of Haiti are strong however and refuse to back down so this video clip gave me some hope. Those who have been raped are trying to form support groups to prevent others from having to experience the same horrors. Haitian women are taking matters into their own hands and trying to rebuild the foundation of their community which was hit so hard by the natural disaster. The women are banding together to make sure that the people who do fall victim get proper care - especially, sexually transmitted disease and HIV testing, as Haiti has the highest infection rates in the Western hemisphere.

Women are working together to protect themselves and their families. Security is necessary in these Tent Cities because the spike in sexual attacks could potentially cause even more social and health issues for the country. These people have suffered enough. Progress must be made at a quicker pace for the sake of those who are vulnerable!

A Cautious Sigh of Relief for Arizona....

This morning, just hours before Arizona’s now infamous (and blatantly racist) immigration law, SB 1070, was set to go into effect, U.S. District Judge Susan Bolton blocked several of the key passages of the law.

· The ruling blocked the SB1070 provision that mandated police officers to check the immigration status of a person detained, stopped, or arrested so long as the police officer had a reasonable suspicion the detainee might be undocumented.

· It is no longer a crime in Arizona to fail to apply for or carry immigrant registration papers.

· In addition, the ruling also delayed parts of the law that would have made it illegal for undocumented workers "to solicit, apply for, or perform work.”

· Lastly, the ruling blocked the (BLATANTLY unconstitutional) passage that “authorized the warrantless arrest of a person” without any reasonable suspicion that the person might be subject to deportation.

Charges were filed against SB1070 by the U.S. Justice Department, the American Civil Liberties Union, the National Coalition of Latino Clergy, the Christian Leaders League of United Latin American Citizens, and several Arizona state police officers.

Judge Bolton heard a variety of arguments ranging from unconstitutional racial profiling, the inability to effectively enforce the law, and the preemption of federal supremacy on immigration. In front of a packed courthouse, ACLU attorney Karen Tumlin boldly stated: “[SB1070] treats people of color as suspectes first, rather than citizens.” Although many people in Arizona can rest easier tonight, the fight is by no means over. Many provisions of this law will go into effect at midnight tonight and SB1070 still remains the toughest immigration law on the books.

What’s Next for Arizona.

Race-Baiting and the Power of the Mainstream Media

I'm sure that by now you have all heard the drama that is Shirley Sherrod's forced resignation. A video excerpt of a speech Sherrod gave at a 2010 NAACP event was posted by conservative blogger, Andrew Breitbart, to his website. Almost immediately following the posting, the NAACP condemned her statements, while the White House and the U.S. Department of Agriculture heavily called for her resignation; Sherrod resigned, forcefully.

Upon her resignation it came to light that perhaps the White House should consider the context in which Sherrod's statements were made. After seeing the context in which her statements were made the U.S. Department of Agriculture immediately apologised to Sherrod and asked her if she wanted to be reinstated to her position. In addition, the White House and President Barack Obama offered an apology to Sherrod.

Now, when watching the full video of Sherrod's speech, one sees that her speech is a story of forgiveness and of healing. Sherrod speaks about the death of her father at the hands of white men, of how she and her family overcame her father's death. Sherrod speaks of the distaste she felt towards whites because her father and so many black men had been killed by white men. She spoke of finally coming to terms with race relations and her history when she was appointed to work for the U.S. Department of Agriculture and had to help a poor, white farmer. She speaks of struggling with how much to help this farmer since black farmers had, for years, had their farms taken from them without any opportunity to fight. She speaks of helping this poor, white farmer just enough and figured that he would be taken care of by one of his own. She speaks of coming to the realisation that this struggle was about the poor versus those who have, it isn't always about blacks versus whites. In the end, Sherrod realises that she can't live with hate in her heart and realised that she should dedicate her life to helping the poor.

Does that sound like racism to you? To me this sounds like race-baiting by the right wing mainstream media. After the soundbite was released on this blog, Fox News immediatly took up the story referring to Sherrod's "reverse racism" which actually does not make much sense. The right wing media used these excerpts to fuel the ideas that Shirley Sherrod was a racist and, indirectly I think, attempted to show that the NAACP had racists within it's midsts. Now, this is my own personal theory, but I believe that Andrew Breitbart's posting of these clips from the speech Shirley Sherrod gave was in response to the NAACP's convention calling on the Tea Party to dispel the racists within its movement. As simple as that.

What absolutely appalled me was that the White House and the U.S. Department of Agriculture was so trusting of the information the right-wing media was giving them; they didn't even stop to think that the full video had not been shown. That shows how strong the power of the media is apparently over the Presidency and other governmental institutions and that's scary. Also interesting is that right-wing talking heads such as Glenn Beck seemed to have stood behind Sherrod, proclaiming that she should not have been harassed to resign from her position with the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Weird.

What do y'all think?

Photo Cred: Huffington Post

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

New method of protection against HIV/AIDS/HSV-2 for women!

Earlier this week my Mother told me about a new product that curbs the risk of HIV infection. At first I was skeptical, I thought her story was too good to be true. I went home later that day and did some research to try and confirm if what my Mother heard on the radio was the real deal.

Within minutes I found an article which supported her claims and made me really excited! Finally some progress is being made! It is true, scientists have reported that there is a new gel that has proved capable of preventing the AIDS virus!

A study conducted in South Africa report that the gel has the potential to reduce a women's chances of getting HIV and HSV-2 virus from an infected partner by half. And though this is not full protection such news brings great hope for women all over the world.

The gel would be a helpful tool in protecting women whose partners won't use condoms. It would have an even greater impact in African countries which have the highest incidence of rape and child rape. The long-lived belief in the so called “Virgin Cure” make young African girls especially vulnerable to rape and infection. In places like the Congo where girls as young as 2 and women as old as 80 are raped such protection is vital!

The new vagina gel is the first women-initiated and controlled HIV prevention and if confirmed it would help end the AIDS epidemic. Thirty three million people are infected today and over twenty five million people have died due to this disease. The AIDS epidemic is a global issue and it has to stop. I personally have lost someone to AIDS and I look forward to the day when people no longer have to suffer. Though we still do not have a cure for AIDS science has brought women some more options for protection and this is progress!

Just Pay It....

After suddenly laying off over 1,800 workers from two local factories (ie. sweatshops) in Honduras, Nike agreed to create a $1.54 million “workers relief fund” this past week. The money from this fund will be used to provide unemployed workers with vocational training while also guaranteeing these workers priority hiring when the next factory opens. Oh my God- a multinational corporation (MNC) following through on a promise to workers?! Not quite. First, the actual payment should have been over $2 million according to Honduran labor laws and standards. Before we get all sentimental about this supposedly altruistic $1.54 million donation, we also have to realize this amount (although seemingly infinite to a starving college student) is quite literally small change to Nike. Nike reported over $19 billion in revenues just last year. Lastly, an active reader has to question why Nike suddenly closed down the factory in the first place. Chances are, they found another subcontractor that promises cheaper costs through more “efficient” production means. By “efficient” production, they mean paying the workers less money to do the same work. Come on Nike- are we really supposed to be impressed with this?

Having said that, Nike’s actions brings hope to several workers rights activists. Scott Nova, director of the Workers Rights Consortium, argues that Nike’s actions “will give labor advocates a stronger basis in the future. They can point to this precedent now and say that no less a brand than Nike agreed that companies have an obligation to do more than just cajole these factories.” In addition, students in universities rallied to demand fair severance payments from Nike for the Honduran workers. Groups like United Students Against Sweatshops, chanted “Just Pay It” in front of Nike stores all over the country. Although Nike’s actions establish a cautiously hopeful precedent, we cannot become complacent and passive to this phenomenon.

Sweatshops (although MNC's would like them to seem like an inevitable part of globalization) are not just a problem for third world countries. Learn about sweatshops in Los Angeles and what you can do about them.

From the Front Lines: A Warm Welcome in Charlotte

Last week, I went to Charlotte, North Carolina with Feminist Majority Foundation to help protect reproductive health providers from anti-abortion extremists Operation Rescue/Operation Save America during their national siege. This summer I've worked a great deal on with our NCAP project, and am following various anti-abortion organizations as part of my internship. Before this summer, I didn't really know a lot about NCAP or the history of anti-abortion violence. I heard about the murder of Dr. George Tiller over a year ago, and that was about as much as I knew.

FMF's National Clinic Access Project (NCAP) began shortly after FMF was founded and provides a great gamut of assistance to women's health care providers targeted by anti-abortion extremists. Just to give you an idea of what we do - NCAP specializes in tracking anti-abortion extremists, works with federal, state and local law enforcement to protect abortion providers, provides grass-roots organizing support for clinics, recruits pro-bono legal help for clinics under siege, and even makes emergency grants to targeted clinics to improve security measures. So when the National Clinic Access Project heard Operation Rescue/Operation Save America announce a national siege of Charlotte-area abortion providers in July, NCAP immediately began to organize to protect the clinics, their workers, physicians and patients in advance of the OR/OSA week of harassment.

That's where I come in. As part of my internship, I traveled to Charlotte as part of the NCAP team to work with FMF national organizer, campus organizer, legal coordinator and two other interns to help organize clinic defense, grass roots trainings, legal observing and escorting, but most of my efforts focused on clinic defense. Clinic defense is literally about mobilizing a ton of pro-choice peeps to create a human buffer zone between anti-abortion zealots and clinic staff and patients. Clinic defense is also critical to helping maintain access to clinic driveways and entrances while sending a critical message of support to the clinic.

Also, what I learned is that clinic defense can also provide a distraction for anti-abortion protesters so that they don't bother the patients. If OR/OSA is too busy yelling at a clinic defender, they don't tent to notice a car pulling into the drive way with a patient. Although clinic defenders create a buffer zone and often take the focus of the anti's attention, we (as clinic defenders) must not cause problems for the clinic -- or the police, which is why NCAP strictly enforces a non-engagement policy. No witty comebacks, no arguing, no general conversation with the anti's. You have to be completely stone-faced. Which frustrates them even more so they get caught up in "breaking" you and forget about patients (win).

This principle of non-engagement is covered meticulously in clinic defense trainings -- along with a pledge of non-violence. On the last training before the siege, the NCAP clinic defense team, along with ProChoice Charlotte and the UNCC Feminist Union, met with an eager group of activists who were ready to face Operation Save America. A few had done escorting in the past, but most were new to the clinic defense scene. We had everyone introduce themselves and explain why they were there and then gave some general information about the non-engagement policy and what should be expected throughout the week. We emphasized that we are the guests of the clinic and that we must abide by what the clinic wants, and engaging with anti-choice protesters would not be tolerated. We then all got up and practiced linking arms in a line and also how to create a buffer around a patient (you can never be too prepared, plus it's also just good to know). After getting the basic linking down, we then took a stab at practicing our non-engagement faces. We formed two lines and stood facing each other. We then started yelling insults at each other, one side pretending to be anti-choice protesters. Then one side pretended to be anti's while the other completely ignored them so we could get a feel of just how reserved we would need to be.

We also mentioned as clinic defense it's important to be aware of any information relevant to helping the clinic. This included alerting law enforcement when there was a problem, and notifying NCAP leaders if OR/OSA was trespassing or violating city ordinances.

Despite OR/OSA running amuck in the city, the pro-choice community of Charlotte was amazing. The NCAP team was welcomed with wide open arms. My campus organizer and I stayed with a professor from Davidson College that I had never met before, and he went out of his way to make sure we were as happy as could be. We were welcome in everyone's home, even those who weren't connected to the clinics at all. Pro-Choice Charlotte, Charlotte NOW, Planned Parenthood, UNCC Feminist Union, and many unaffiliated individuals who worked alongside NCAP created a dazzling web of pro-choice support and grassroots activism that would eventually lead to the first harassment-free day at a local clinic in eight years. Even local law enforcement which had been reluctant to help in the past took a new turn in supporting the clinics. It also lead to the creation of new alliances, friendships, and overall feminist fuzzy feelings between everyone there. My convictions were reaffirmed, and even strengthened by facing the extremist opposition. While draining emotionally and physically, and at times just ridiculous, I wouldn't trade this experience for anything.

Photo: Chalk message outside a local Charlotte clinic Friday, July 16th
Cross-posted at Ode to Patriarchy

Monday, July 26, 2010

Story Behind A Tormented Girl's Suicide

In late January, 15-year-old Phoebe Prince made headlines when she committed suicide after prolonged harassment from classmates at South Hadley High School in Massachusetts. Six months later, the town of South Hadley and the blogging community are enthralled with the case. Media sources ranging from the Boston Globe and NBC's Today Show to lesser known sources like The Republican have featured stories about this young teen's suicide.

Phoebe Prince moved from County Clare, Ireland, to South Hadley, Massachusetts, in 2009. Later that year, she began to attend South Hadley High School where she easily made friends and maintained strong academic performance. However, her involvement with an older boy sparks harassment from her peers.

The media portrays Phoebe's story as suicide resulting from stereotypical girl-on-girl bullying, but there is more to her story than mainstream media leads us to believe. In an investigation by Slate, Emily Bazelon challenges District Attorney Elizabeth Scheibel's argument by analyzing information about Phoebe Prince and the actions of the six teenagers who are thought to have bullied her. Bazelon questions the validity of the six teens' sentences which range from stalking and harassment to statutory rape and most serious, civil rights violation involving bodily injury. She suggests that the sentences against the teens could be too severe because Phoebe's cutting, depression and distance from her father may have contributed to her decision to ultimately kill herself.

While reading about this girl's story, I began to question the motive of the teen bullies. As I continued to look through articles about the case, I came across a post written by the Boston Globe that focused on the teens as "The untouchable Mean Girls." These teens definitely fit the Lindsay Lohan Mean Girls definition; vengeance-seeking, name-calling, slut-shaming, mean girls whose football player boyfriends go along with everything they say. However this article's introduction caught my attention:

Like a lot of kids her age, Phoebe Prince was a swan, always beautiful and
sometimes awkward. Last fall, she moved from Ireland into western Massachusetts, a new town, a new country, a new culture. She was 15, when all that matters is being liked and wearing the right clothes and just fitting in.

The first thing that bothers me about this is the emphasis that the author puts on her appearance, comparing her to a swan. Secondly, the author suggests that a 15-year-old girl only needs to worry about the superficial. These two issues bring to mind society's obsession with appearance and how much popular culture has sexualized women and girls because the harassment that Phoebe faced was related to her brief relationship with a football player who immediately returned to another girl and consisted primarily of slut-shaming in the forms of internet bashing, name-calling and taunting.

In general, the media's reinforcement of hegemony often leads to internalized sexism, racism and homophobia. Because the media sexualizes women and girls while also shaming women who enjoy sex, women who are subject to internalized sexism often bash other women for being "slutty." In addition, the sexualization of women and girls has influenced teen girls' body image and self-esteem, leading to their emotional vulnerability and even attacks on other girls who are considered attractive.

I seriously wonder if these types of unfortunate events would happen as often if women and girls were not so sexualized... I am curious as to what everyone's opinions are on this subject?

Photo Credit: Brisbane Times

Campus Organising Toolkit: Affluent or Apathetic College Campuses/Small College Campuses

As an FMF intern, I have the opportunity to write toolkits regarding campus activism and organizing. In this first installment (the others will be coming over the course of this week and the next!) I will be discussing different strategies to organizing on an affluent or apathetic college campus. If you have any other tips, feel free to chime in in the comments section!

I am a rising Junior at Colgate University, an institution which many current students and alumni have frequently considered a privileged university, which it is. However, as a student leader of various organizations on campus, I have found Colgate to be a severely apathetic campus. A lot of students are privileged enough to not care about issues, even if it may affect them in the long run. Don't get me wrong, it's a wonderful college that provides an excellent education, but the apathy amongst the student body lends many problems to organizing and mobilizing. However, I found the tips below to be useful in my organizing at Colgate. I hope they help you too.

  1. Build Community—Oftentimes at smaller, more affluent or apathetic college campuses, it is extremely hard to unify the student body around a common cause. Build community by reaching out to various groups to identify the commonalities between them. Host events and invite various student groups to them that may be related in some way to the event or are simply interested in the event. It may be beneficial for your organization to have a mentoring program to incoming first-years. This acclimates them to the campus climate while opening them up to the opportunities of your organization; it also helps to build bridges between upper and lower class years.
    1. i.e. At Colgate University we often have Vision meetings, which are meetings held with all student leaders discussing upcoming events for the semester as well as ways that each of us can get involved in one another’s activities.
    2. Breaking Bread at Colgate University is a program that allows two or more student groups that have not formerly worked together to prepare a meal and discuss an action plan for collaboration within the coming semester to begin working together on a regular basis.
  2. Reach Out—At more affluent college campuses there is a problem of building bridges. Student of color groups should reach out to Greek life and Greek Life should do the same. It is important to find allies in all groups so that your organizing can become more effective and efficient.
  3. Know your resources and utilize them—It is important to know that you have many resources available to you on your college campus that can aid you in organizing amongst an affluent and/or apathetic student body. Your biggest resources may be your allies in the administration who can work with you to channel some of their departmental funding (it is there!) into your organization so that you may develop programming that will incite students on your campus to rally around change. In your student handbook should be a directory of all departments on campus, look at which ones would be interested in your mission and connect with them. Many campuses also have student activity fairs throughout the year, reach out to new students in that way—show them the work that you have done and continue to do.
  4. Develop programming that everyone can get involved in—Once a common cause is found, it becomes easier for students—of all socioeconomic backgrounds and ideals—to rally around it. Take, for example, sexual assault at Colgate University. Once all students understood to the magnitude of sexual assault, it was easier for student leaders and campus organizers to mobilize students around that cause effectively.
  5. Infiltrate your student government and Greek Life—At small apathetic and affluent college campuses, a lot of students actually look up to leaders in their student government or those who are in Greek Life. If you can infiltrate those two sectors, you will secure some more people to mobilize. Being in these positions that people respect allows you to mobilize and organize a lot more efficiently.
  6. Make your cause one that is taught in classrooms—Simply put, if a teacher discusses your issue in a class where students have to at least partially care, it can introduce them to your cause and/or mission. In that way, you have reached a new set of people which is what organizers should always seek to do.
  7. Utilize word of mouth and social media—The best way to organize on a small, affluent campus is to utilize word of mouth. If a friend is going to an event, you’re bound to join them in some form or fashion. Even if they aren’t, they will probably tell you about that event when it is over, which may motivate you to attend another one of those events. Social media is a powerful thing that has proven effective for many organizers. Knowing how to properly utilize Facebook, Twitter, Flickr, Digg, and other social media networking sites can allow you, as an organizer, to maximize your base and your potential on your college campus. Have someone in your organization who is dedicated to spreading your cause among these social networking sites and organizing will become an easy feat in no time!

Photo Cred:

Age-old bias for boys creates issues for China. Human trafficking is not the solution!!!

Women in China and neighboring east Asian countries are viewed as being of lesser value when compared to men. The Chinese traditionally prefer sons to daughters because of economical factors and I suppose this is somewhat understandable because residents in poorer regions rely on family resources to survive. However sayings among Chinese peasants like “The birth of a boy is welcomed with shouts of joy and firecrackers, but when a girl is born, the neighbors say nothing” upset me. I do not understand why a saying like this can be so common when in reality without women, all birth would be impossible!
We all know about China’s one-child population control policy which officially restricts the number of children an urban couple can have. And most are aware of China’s long tradition of son preference which is deeply rooted in the structure of the society. But the combination of tradition and policy has proved dangerous for women and young girls. There is currently a significant gender gap in several Asian countries because the birth rate of males in comparison to females is imbalanced. Such imbalance has created social issues and caused an increase in crime.
In many Asian countries human trafficking is on the rise due to a shortage of marriageable women. It is hard for men to find wives because their potential mates are often nonexistent due to the high percentage of families engaging in late term sex-selective abortion and infanticide. Now there is a demand for abducted women especially in poor rural areas where residents lack legal knowledge and are desperate to find work. Often women and children are tricked by unlicensed job and marriage agencies, lured through false promises of legitimate employment. Many are kidnapped and forced into marriages and prostitution. These victims suffer physically and psychologically and are often cut off from their families completely.
The Chinese government is working to reduce corruption and other economic crimes. Police are taking action and have made arrests within the human trafficking ring. I believe the issue can not simply be solved through these arrests however, it is also necessary for the Chinese to change their view of women. The chaos caused by the imbalanced sex ratio should be an indicator to the Chinese people that sustaining a female population is vital. It is quite simple, without women there are no babies, no female babies, no male babies! Yes, China is overpopulated but a country that is exclusively male just can’t work!
I’d like to see China’s perspective of women change for the better. Perhaps when women are valued, human trafficking, sex selective abortion and many of the other social issues will go away.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Friday Feminist Legislator Spotlight on: Donna Edwards

This Friday's Feminist Legislator Spotlight is on Congresswoman Donna Edwards (4-MD). Edwards is an incredible public speaker who gave an inspiring speech at the DC interns hill briefing. She is definitely on the rise in Washington, DC so I figured I ought to give y'all the scoop, that way you'll be well informed when she gains wider recognition.

Edwards was a longtime community activist and lawyer before she became the first African-American woman to represent Maryland in the United States House of Representatives. Edwards co-founded the National Network to End Domestic Violence and advocated for the passage of the 1994 Violence Against Women Act.

This lady is so down for her causes, she was arrested last year outside of the Sudan embassy with 5 other Representatives, protesting the nation's blocking of aid to genocide survivors in Darfur.

Edwards should be incredibly inspiring to young women involved in the feminist movement that have ambitions of running for office. She has proven that having connections with women's rights organizations will not make your election impossible. In fact, it is that community centered experience that Edwards' constituents value.

To find out more about Congresswoman Donna Edwards, check out her website.

Breast Ironing in Cameroon

It seems that over and over we see a new way people want to control bodies, and more specifically women's bodies.  In Cameroon, mother's are ironing the breasts (here, here) of their young (as young as 9 years old) daughters in order to delay development and "protect" them from early pregnancy and rape.  About a quarter of girls nationwide undergo this procedure.  Their mothers take a hot stone or something similar, and press them on the barely developed breasts while twisting, which is not only physically painful, but probably also causes psychological and long term physical damage.

They do this to stop their bodies from attracting men and save them from early teen pregnancy, which is very high in Cameroon.  Once a girl becomes pregnant, they never finish school.

What we have here is yet another example of not only controlling women's bodies, but of victim blaming.  By placing the blame of rape on her breast development, it becomes the girl's fault for her rape.  And so her body is changed, deformed, made to accommodate the current rape culture, instead of teaching those who rape that the simple existence of breasts is not excuse, reason, or invitation for anything.

In a video from CurrentTV, an anthropologist says that many mothers think, "Maybe if I remove the signs of sexuality on the body, then that body will attract nobody for some time".  This kind of thinking reduces a woman, not just to men but to themselves, as only a body, that ultimately will only be good for sex.

If we still aren't convinced that comprehensive sex education is a necessity, then I don't know what else to show you.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

FMF Interns Host Hill Briefing

On Wednesday July 21, the Feminist Majority Foundation DC summer interns hosted an intern hill briefing and congressional visit day entitled “Empowering Women, Ending Violence, Ensuring Reproductive Rights: Connecting Reproductive Health and the Global Fight for Gender Equality”.

The briefing began with a welcome address by FMF intern Dena Robinson, followed by an introduction by FMF President Eleanor Smeal. A panel discussion on domestic and international women’s rights was then led by FMF intern Rebecca Klein, with Kate Vlatch, a policy associate at NARAL Pro-Choice America Foundation; Anushay Hossain, director of global programs at FMF; Daphne Jayasignhe, director of women’s human rights advocacy at Amnesty International; and June Zeitlin, director of the CEDAW Education Project.

Congresswomen Caroline Maloney (D-NY), Donna Edwards (D-MD), and Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-FL) spoke at event about the need for more young women to enter politics and commit their lives to the fight for women’s rights.

FMF intern Laurel Keyes commented on the event, saying, “I though it was a great success because young feminists from all different fields came together, learned something new, and were motivated to continue fighting for women’s rights on all fronts.”

The Battle is Just Beginning

Today, Lt. Dan Choi was officially discharged from the military under "don't ask, don't tell" (DADT). According to Newsweek, Choi received the call of his discharge from his commander at the 1/69 Infantry Regiment of the New York Army National Guard. In addition, Choi says that he learned from another source that his father had received a letter about his discharge "some time ago"; Choi and his father are not on speaking terms.

This just saddens me. It saddens me that, today in 2010, LGBTQ (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer and Questioning & all the others in the community) people cannot openly serve for their country in the military. I don't understand what the big deal is. I don't buy the argument that homosexuality leads to less unity cohesion, nor the argument that allowing LGBTQ people to openly serve in the military will distract other service members. I don't understand what people are so afraid of. And if the military is built on integrity and honour, is it not honourable to live as who you are, be it gay, straight, or whatever? Can't one be seen to be filled with integrity if they live an honest life as opposed to living a lie?

I'm sure that future generations looking back at the America of today will hang their heads in shame. Shamed because they can't understand why we couldn't treat all people as equals.

To learn more about Dan Choi and his activism or Don't Ask, Don't Tell, visit these sites:

Thought experiment - the disappearance of 'beauty' products

I was riding the Metro to work this morning and saw...
  • a young woman with quite the spray-on tan
  • two middle-aged women, one blonde and one brunette
  • an older woman with gray hair swept into an updo
This got me thinking - what would we look like without the semi-permanent or permanent body alterations? Or if suddenly everyone woke up the next morning and the spray tans and bronzer and hair dye and hair removal and cosmetic surgery evaporated from your body, and you just went about your days with sunblock and a smile?

Would we just be 'uglier' or would we adapt and say this is what people look like? Would it somehow become more okay for women to age?

Is this a silly question? The cynic in me says little would change, and the 'beauty' industry would continue to find ways to devalue my intellect and appearance. Those of us who are non-white and/or fat and/or disabled would continue to be invisible in mass media.

Leave a comment and let us know what you think! Bonus points if you leave a comment answering my questions with a question.

Photo: thinkpanama on Flickr

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Pictures of the Year at the Annenberg

The Annenberg Space for Photography in Los Angeles and the prestigious Pictures of the Year International (POYi) annual photojournalism competition recently teamed up to present "The Year," an amazing collection of the best documentary photographs of 2009. Their shared goal of "informing, inspiring, and connecting the public to the human experience through powerful imagery and stories" allowed them to display a truly powerful collection of photographs.

The gallery displays 80 photographs from the competition and also plays a "Behind the Lens" video showcasing some of the winning photojournalists and their commentary. Winning images were selected from over 45,000 entries submitted by photographers from various countries across the globe. (Here is the complete Winners List as well as the Winners Gallery).

Many of the photographs are categorized under four main themes: The U.S.: War and the Economy, Reflecting the Human Experience, Ecologies and Economics, and The Globe. Among those themes there are several incredibly striking images that make one seriously think about the situations in which the subjects are living.

A number of the photographers document through photojournalism issues relevant to women all around the world. For example, there is a series of images by Stephanie Sinclair, a photojournalist for National Geographic, called "Polygamy in America." She documents the lives of the members of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saint (FLDS), a Mormon sect notorious for its practice of polygamy. There is also an image by photographer Preston Gannaway for the Virginian-Pilot of a newly sober pregnant woman talking with her also-pregnant 17-year old daughter, explaining what to expect with her pregnancy. Other pictures include a group of homeless teens gathering for an annual festival, children soldiers, and a powerful Feature Story - Multimedia entry about a student who finally faced her struggle with gender dysphoria and changed from a male to a female.

It's also very inspiring to see how many of the winning photojournalists are women, who bring their skills and distinct perspective and sensitivity to the subjects they document. One photojournalist for the Los Angeles Times, Barbara Davidson, speaks in the "Behind the Lens" video about her experiences and her approach to taking powerful pictures in challenging situations. Davidson has worked for numerous newspapers and, along with seven staffworkers, she also won the 2006 Pulitzer Prize for Breaking News Photography after shooting the devastation of Hurricane Katrina. She uses her compassion to talk to the subjects of her photography and explains how it's necessary for her to shoot their situations in order to bring awareness and inform the public on issues similar to their own.

If you get a chance you should really check out this exhibit before it closes on October 10! The photos are amazing and extremely representative of the chaos and hardships that faced the world in 2009.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Why Do We Still Need Feminism?

I was in a recent argument with a male friend about why the world still needs feminism. At the time I was tired and didn’t feel like arguing, but now in the comfort of the Feminist Majority Foundation office, I think I will rebut with this list of reasons why feminism is still relevant. Feel free to add to it!

-Studies show women earn 77 cents for every dollar men earn. This pay equity imbalance is currently being addressed by the United States Senate as a result of pressure from feminist groups.

-Even though women have some legal protections on their equality, the equal rights and protection of women is not defined in the Constitution. Feminists are still pushing for an Equal Rights Amendment.

-Though women make up more than half of this nation’s population, they are still underrepresented in all elected and judicial positions of national and state governments.

-Many states are whacking away at women’s reproductive rights. Oklahoma now mandates that all women must look at an ultrasound (they are not legally allowed to CLOSE THEIR EYES!) and be given a pamphlet that says life begins at conception (an issue that is more philosophical than scientific, given the guise of truth because it is handed to her by the doctor).

-Women have a lower body image than men. In many industries, companies can fire (and hire) women based on their physical appearance. More than 9 million women a year have some form of elective cosmetic surgery to enhance their physical appearance. However, this does nothing to correct the psychological issues that cause this intense body hatred (that in fact is rarely addressed in our society). Cosmetic surgery is a multi-billion dollar a year industry that profits from the societal importance of women’s appearance. Men can be considered attractive because of power and wealth while much of women’s attractiveness is defined only by their physical appearance.

-In the US, a woman is raped every six minutes (according to Amnesty USA). A woman is battered every 15 seconds. This is WAY TOO MUCH! Like, no arguing. And what is anyone doing to really change this? The hyper-sexualization of women and violent masculinization of men is enforced by the media in many ways. Positive heterosexual relationships (and also positive gay relationships) need to be provided as the ideal.

Mid-Afternoon Roundup

In a 13-6 Senate Judiciary Committee vote (with Senator Lindsay Graham voting in support), Elena Kagan, Obama's Supreme Court nominee, won approval by the Committee for confirmation. This is the first time that three women will be on the bench (out of nine justices). How's that for progress? Go Elena!

From the NY Times:

If Ms. Kagan, 50, is confirmed by the full senate, as expected, she would be the fourth woman to serve on the high court, and the only member of the current court not to reach it from a position on the federal appellate bench.

Amazing. I can't wait to see what she'll do as Supreme Court Justice. Obama definitely made a fine pick.

Quick Hit:

Just found an interesting blog post by the daughter of an abortion provider. Check it out.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Empowering Women, Ending Violence, Ensuring Reproductive Rights

If you're in the D.C. area this Wednesday, July 21 from 10-11:30 a.m. you should join the Feminist Majority Foundation and young feminists for our annual intern hill briefing in the Russell Senate Office Building Caucus Room: Empowering Women, Ending Violence, Ensuring Reproductive Rights. We will have a panel of experts and congresspersons, including Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman-Schultz, discussing issues pertaining to international and domestic family planning and reproductive rights, the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW): The Women's Treaty as well as the International Violence Against Women Act (IVAWA).

Following the briefing, all are invited to join us with in our congressional visits. Those are always a blast!

And if you want more information, you are always more than welcome to call 703.522.2214 and ask to speak with a member of the intern outreach team.

We hope to see y'all there! =)

Secret Feminism of Our Youth: Degrassi

Some people may be shocked when I declare that Degrassi: The Next Generation is actually kinda feminist. Others might be wondering what Degrassi even is.

Well, this Canadian super long running series is based on junior high and high school students that attend the Degrassi community school, and the constant stream of drama that ensues. Americans can watch this show on a cable network called The N, which plays a bunch of "hip" shows for kids. One summer I got hooked to the show when they did a marathon of every episode EVER, but there was one important episode missing that I think deserves a little feminist shout-out.

In Season 3, trouble brews in Degrassi as Craig cheats on his girlfriend Ashley with a younger girl named Manny. In the episode "Accident Will Happen", Manny discovers that she's pregnant...and decides to get an abortion. She says to Craig, "Someday, you'll make a great dad. And hopefully someday, I'll be a mom. But now... now isn't someday yet."

WOW. How amazing is that?! On a lot of other shows, like "16 and Pregnant" or "The Secret Life of American Teens", abortion is either completely not mentioned as an option or quickly ruled out. But this is a piece of pop culture we can reference with a young girl making a decision that reflects her maturity and her acknowledgment of her immaturity. I think that's a really important example for young girls to see.

Unfortunately, this episode was not originally aired in the U.S.! The N was not going to air it, but then fans of the show made a 6,000 signature petition to get it shown (more info here).

I really recommend that everyone watch this two part episode, even if you've never seen Degrassi before. On so many shows that deal with teen pregnancy, the option of abortion is quickly ruled out. On Degrassi, a main character has an abortion and afterwords does not feel overcome with regret or remorse; she is confident that this was the right decision for her (and another character who was on the original series and had a baby in high school tells Manny how much she regretted NOT having an abortion!).

So yeah, way to go Degrassi, paving the way for the secret feminism of our youth.

If anyone knows of a site that hosts this episode, please comment with the link!

Open Letter to President Obama

Dear President Obama,

From the start, women have been at the base of your support as President-elect and through your term. We supported you throughout your Presidential campaign and some of us even stood by you when we felt thrown under the bus by the Stupak Amendment, although it was not included in the final health care reform bill. Now, I think it is safe to say that many of us feel thrown under the bus yet again. The question was recently posed of whether or not women in the Pre-Existing Condition Insurance Plans (PCIP) would be covered by insurance when they wanted to pursue the option of having an abortion. You decided, with the flick of your wrist, that women in PCIPs--essentially high-risk insurance pools-- would not be covered by insurance companies.

These women--those in high-risk insurance pools--are those most likely to have extremely at-risk pregnancies, they have conditions that would make pregnancy difficult and would make abortion the most liable option. How can you deny these women coverage? How can you deny women coverage, even if they pay for their own abortion? You claimed that you were a pro-choice President, Mr. Obama, be a pro-choice President. You backed down once before with an executive order to compromise for the Stupak Amendment, please don't compromise on women's health and reproductive rights.

I still love you and I still think you're a progressive President; please show us that you are instead of just claiming you are. Actions speak louder than words, President Obama, and right now your actions are almost like a whisper. I hope you do better.

Love always,
A staunchly pro-choice feminist

Friday, July 16, 2010

We've Been Stupak'd

While women won big with health care reform, we took a hard blow when it came to comprehensive reproductive health care, and we are doing so again. However, this time there are no trade-offs.

As soon as next month, transitory health-insurance pools for those with pre-existing conditions will become available. Yesterday the NARAL released a statement that said the new temporary health care plans for high-risk individuals will not include comprehensive reproductive health care. It seems the White House Administration has put a total ban on abortion coverage (with the exception of cases of rape, incest, or if the woman’s life is endangered) even though there is not a single thing in the federal law that restricts the use of federal or state money for abortion coverage within the Pre-existing Condition Insurance Plans (PCIPs).

This ban is in essence the same as the Stupak amendment which was defeated months ago. With the enforcement of this ban there is no way women will be able to purchase abortion coverage within the PCIP system even with their own private funds. Because these women fall in the high-risk category, they will not have options outside the PCIP system to find insurance coverage for abortion. That's why they are participating in the PCIP system to begin with, because they can't get coverage anywhere else! So in the end the government is completely denying these women of any possible coverage for abortion period!!

We did not work so hard to defeat the Stupak amendment, to so quickly and without any reason find a Stupak ban enforced now! As the Center for Reproductive Rights stated: "Healthcare reform was a tightly bargained piece of legislation - and with this, the White House is threatening to renege on a fundamental part of its bargain with American women and families who truly need coverage."

Join me in speaking out by telling President Obama that this abortion-coverage ban was not part of the agreement on health reform and that abortion coverage should not be excluded from the Pre-existing Condition Insurance Plans!