Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Clinic defense: A prochoice band-aid

My clinic escort buddy Username Catbus recently posted reasons why clinic defense is a crummy volunteer gig, and why he does it anyway. His main points:
a) You have to listen to racist jerks yell babykiller epithets at you and patients. Further reading: Our local antis created a handy manual on how to harass women on the street who might be "abortion-minded"

b) It's boring and you risk sunburn/inclement weather/racist jerks

c) Clinic defense best suits volunteers with an even keeled temperament, so it's not for everyone, and

d) If you don't have an even keeled temperament, you're better off doing other prochoice work like lobbying or campaigning for progressive candidates, since clinic defense is just a band-aid for a bigger problem.
But we continue to volunteer because it is generally the most meaningful and rewarding reason to wake up at 7am on a Saturday. Really, clinic defense is my favorite volunteer activity and I encourage everyone who's pro-choice to try it. In addition to the general warm fuzzy feelings you get from volunteering, consider:
a) It's 8:30am. Sleepiness often trumps crankiness at antis.

b) You get to socialize with cool people you might not ordinarily meet. I've met prochoice bloggers, Hill staffers, dog walkers, federal contractors, college kids, and legendary local escort Phil. Far better than okcupid or networking happy hours.

c) You can have a really productive Saturday when you wake up early. Counterpoint: When you go out that evening, your friends will be perky and you will fall asleep in the bar, if you're me.

d) There's no minimum time commitment for volunteering with DC area clinics. Commitment-phobes welcome.

e) No papercuts.

f) It will make you even more pro-choice. Even if you just go to a short volunteer training, you'll feel smarter and angrier about clinic harassment.
If you are in the DC area and want to become a clinic escort, contact the Washington Area Clinic Defense Task Force. If you are elsewhere, join FMF's Adopt-a-Clinic campaign and email campusteam (at) feminist (dot) org for help finding a provider. Comment below and let us know how you're supporting your friendly local abortion provider!

Photo of crisis-pregnancy-center-mobile: j-No on Flickr

Sufferin' until Suffrage

In case you couldn't tell by the plethora of yard signs or TV ads, we're in an election year, folks. Many states have keys races and measures on the ballot this year that will deeply impact your lives and your future. This fall, the Feminist Majority Foundation will return to college campuses with our Get Out HER Vote Campaign, to encourage young women to register to vote, to become informed on the issues, and pledge to cast your vote (along with all your friends) on November 2!

For many of us (now full fledged politicos) our first introduction to politics was from the catchy tunes of School House Rock. (Yes, I'm only a bill, and I'm sitting here on Capitol Hill...) To celebrate the recent 90th Anniversary of the 19th Amendment and to pay homage to our SHR mentors, turn back the clock and remember the time when we were "sufferin' until suffrage" and pledge to vote this Fall.

"Then the 19th Amendment struck down that restrictive rule. (Oh yeah!)
And now we pull down on the lever,
Cast our ballots and we endeavor
To improve our country, state, county, town, and school."

Vote on, sisters!

Friday, August 27, 2010

The Young Feminist Diaries

My colleagues at FMF often tease me about coming out of the womb with a raised fist, ready to take on patriarchy from the beginning.

I first decided women's rights was my thing when I was 8 years old. As the editor-in-chief of my 5th grade class paper, I decided that all the sports reporters should be girls, to prove that we could do it. As a middle schooler, I would pass around petitions against teachers I thought were sexist (I'm sure this was just charming). When assigned to write a biographical paper in 8th grade, I had trouble deciding whether my subject should have been Emma Goldman and Margaret Sanger (Sanger won out). In short, I was a bit of a rabble-rouser and a general pain-in-the-ass. I was also a young feminist--yes, one of those rare, unicorn-like creatures that so many people claim to not exist.

Today, I am still a young feminist (like Shelby Knox, my 24th birthday is looming next week, but I think I still count!). I continue to passionately advocate for feminist causes, albeit in a slightly more sophisticated way than I did as a kid. My definition of feminism has expanded; I now view sexism as one of many systemic oppressions that keep people down. I see issues of race, class, sexuality, and disability as a crucial part of feminism.

I have also moved on from just harassing the teaching staff at Eastchester Middle School. My feminism evolved and grew through my activism as a part of the Feminist Majority Leadership Alliance at Brandeis University and my women's and gender studies courses there. Today I'm a National Campus Organizer at FMF, where I work with students around the country, helping them expose fake clinics in their communities, protect abortion clinics by escorting and acting as legal observers, create comprehensive sexual assault policies for their schools, and so much more. As part of my job, I have traveled through the Northeast, South, and Midwest, from Wisconsin to Massachusetts to Alabama, and met so many remarkable young people the way. As part of an amazing online young feminist community, I am exposed to the intriguing and sometimes brilliant opinions of my peers, and I am challenged every day to reexamine own privilege and experiences.

So when I am faced, yet again, with the tired old line that "young women aren't feminists," it stings. That's a cliche that takes my experiences and passions, as well of those of my friends and colleagues and acquaintances, and immediately discards and discredits them. Maybe we don't fit the prevailing narrative propagated by the media, but that doesn't mean we aren't here. I am so tired of having this same conversation over and over again (I wrote another version of this post less than a year ago). Feminists have real problems to face, and instead we keep fighting each other, caught up in talk of waves and apathy and all that other stuff. It's exhausting and unnecessary.

I encourage you all to check out the full This Is What a Young Feminist Looks Like Carnival over at Fair and Feminist to read the insights of those aforementioned brilliant young feminists, who are probably much more eloquent and less ranty than me. And remember that the best way to move beyond this argument is to get involved with feminist activism in your community, and to continue working for a better world. We don't do this for the credit, or the praise of older feminists, or glamor and money (ha!). We are activists because there is something in us that recognizes that the world has a lot of problems, and we cannot sit there and do nothing. So keep fighting.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Immigration Policies Inconsistant with American Ideals

Immigration is a hot topic that invokes very strong feelings on both arguments of the issue. It is also very much a feminist issue. The majority of immigrants are now women and they are suffering the backlashes.

Yesterday, I attended an Immigration Reform Conference sponsored by the National Council of Jewish Women (NCJW) and the debate over immigration has many layers. The question arose of whether the U.S. is experiencing an immigration crisis or not. Perhaps it is not a crisis for those who enjoy U.S. citizenship, but for those undocumented "illegals", it is very much a crisis. There are an estimated 12 million undocumented persons living in the U.S. today who are exploited, discriminated against, and treated like second-class citizens who are denied the protection of the U.S. constitution.

Undocumented persons are denied their fundamental human rights and this practice clashes with American ideals. There is a huge gap between what the government preaches and what they actually practice. The very fabric of this country was built upon immigration, and American values preach the beauty of the melting pot and diversity. America was also built with the ideal that all human beings all created equal and therefore are all entitled to fundamental human rights. But this ideal is destroyed by our reality of "illegals" being treated like animals. The U.S. is constantly separating families, immigrant workers suffer from low wages, dangerous and harsh working environments. Immigrants are raped, murdered and made the target of other violent crimes because they are least likely to report crimes to police in fear of being deported.

It was suggested by one of the panelists at the conference that the immigration debate continues to surface during harsh economic times. The dialogue is used as a tactical poly by politicians in an attempt to single out a scapegoat and deflect attention from their own mistakes made in office. Immigrants are socially constructed as the "other" and their image is infused with negative perceptions as un-desirable and inferior. This fuels the grounds for discrimination against immigrants.

But it is important to note that not all immigrants are discriminated against equally. When one uses the word "immigrant", they are often referring to Mexicans and people from south and central America. Latino or Hispanic immigrants are hit the hardest by this discrimination and are the target of anti-immigration legislation. One only needs to look at the new Arizona immigration laws that encourage racial profiling and racism against Mexicans.

The misconception that fuels this discrimination against Latinos/Hispanics is centered around the premise that immigrants are taking jobs that belong to American citizens. However, this is simply not the case. Immigrant labor does not drain the economy, it fuels it. There are also strong historical ties between the U.S and Mexico/central America that keeps immigrants traveling to America, another fact that is constantly ignored.

Americans have mixed feelings about immigration, but there is absolutely no reason to discriminate against people who are fighting for a better life. Most immigrants are extremely hard-working, family oriented and share the ideals of the American Dream.

STIs On the Rise for Young Women

The Press Association reports that young women are most vulnerable to new cases of STIs. Two-thirds of new STI cases in women from the United Kingdom were among under-25s, including 73% of new cases of gonorrhoea in women, 88% of new cases of chlamydia and 66% of new cases of genital warts.
Reinfection is also an issue among young people in general, the report found, with 11% of young women becoming re-infected with an already treated STI and 12% of young men.
This particular statistic in my mind shows the incredibly urgent need for sex education! Young people need to know how to protect themselves from STIs, HIV, and unwanted pregnancies!

The Lessons of Women's Equality Day

Cross-posted at Jewesses With Attitude

Thirty-nine years ago today, legendary Congresswoman Bella Abzug led Congress in designating August 26th "Women's Equality Day."

Exactly one year prior, Abzug had spoken at the "Women Strike for Equality" march, a gathering of 10,000 women in New York organized by Betty Friedan and a coalition of feminist activists, including the National Organization for Women (NOW), the YWCA, the National Coalition of American Nuns, Feminists in the Arts, and Women Strike for Peace. Protesters took to the streets of Manhattan to both celebrate the 50th anniversary of the 19th Amendment and demand further rights for women. The diversity and size of the gathering guaranteed an extensive and varied list of demands, but three major issues were on everyone's mind: legal and safe abortion, access to free childcare centers in every community, and equal opportunities for women in jobs and education. In addition to the protest in New York, gatherings took place around the country (in fact, FMF President Ellie Smeal became active in NOW that day as an attendee of a day-long conference in Pittsburgh).

So when Bella Abzug introduced the Women's Equality Day resolution to Congress in 1971, she was not just thinking about the remarkable achievements of the suffragists who worked tirelessly for eighty years in support of women's suffrage before finally passing the 19th Amendment. Looming in her mind, and reflected in the resolution's text, were the battles that had not yet been won. Today, celebrate Women's Equality Day by honoring the amazing achievements of the suffragists who brought us voting rights, the second wave feminists who took to the streets back in 1970, and the activists today who continue to fight for a more just world. Think about the world today, and consider just a few of the problems we are facing--government officials who want to take away our access to abortion services, violent attacks on transgender people, discrimination against and mistreatment of disabled people around the world, and xenophobic calls for the end of freedom of religion. Today is the perfect day to do something about these issues and respect the courage our foremothers by taking action ourselves.

For a great link roundup on Women's Equality Day and Women Strike for Equality, check out Leah's post.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Women's Suffrage: A privilege, not a drag

This year's rapidly approaching Women's Equality Day, August 26th, provides an interesting means of reflection. Looking back over ninety of the most eventful years of human history, it is incredible to see what women have accomplished. Women in science, politics, literature, journalism, business, and a multitude of other professions have without question changed the world, and advanced human understanding to an incredible amount. When one considers all that has happened as result of women, it is hard to believe that just ninety years ago, women did not even have the right to vote.

The fight for suffrage is a famous one, yet many do not know the degree to which women were terrorized, tortured, and endangered as result of their conviction, their collective quest for political voice. Suffragists (as 'suffragette' was originally used as a derogatory term) were horrendously beaten by police and hostile observers of their peaceful protests and White House pickets. In prison, suffragists were even more badly abused. Hunger strikes were dealt with by force-feeding, like in the case of Alice Paul, while other women like Lucy Burns and Dora Lewis were also brutally mistreated by prison guards. Conditions in prison were awful for the suffragists. In one case, women at the Occoquan Workhouse spent several weeks using only water that came from an open pail, and eating food infested with worms.

What would these women think now, seeing their daughters, granddaughters, and great-granddaughters forsaking the precious right that they spent so long fighting for? Voting is a privilege and a responsibility, and the fact that so many women do not take advantage of it is most distressing. It goes without saying that the fight that suffragists fought ninety years ago was an incredibly difficult one. Nevertheless, they fought it anyway, because they could see how valuable, and necessary it was for their growing, changing country.

Modern women need to continue to value their right to vote as much as female suffragists did when they first were granted it. We tend to forget that suffrage isn't something that we were just given. It was something we fought very long and very hard to win.

Anti-Choice Virginia Attorney General Tries to Increase Regulation of Abortion Clinics

Anti-Choice Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli issued an opinion Monday that gives the Virginia Board of Health the power to implement hospital-like regulations on women’s health clinics that provide abortion procedures.

According to the Washington Post, “In his seven months in office, Cuccinelli has sued the federal government over new health-care rules; waded into the national immigration debate, saying law enforcement can ask about immigration status; and launched an investigation into whether a former University of Virginia professor and climate scientist manipulated data to reach his conclusions about global warming.” Add abortion to the list and this guy is has taken on every right-wing issue in the book! These are the same anti-abortion regulations Cuccinelli failed to implement as a state senator. However, now that he suddenly has the “unbiased” authority of attorney general, he thinks he can bypass the actual lawmaking process to get his anti-woman policies through!

If the Virginia Board of Health moves to enforce Cuccinelli’s legal opinion (which is thankfully unlikely because a majority were appointed by VA’s former governor, a Democrat), 17 of VA’s 21 clinics might close because they would not be able to afford to make the required changes.

South Carolina has already implemented similar regulations to women’s health clinics in their state. Target Regulation of Abortion Providers, or TRAP laws, are used by anti-s to drive up the cost of abortion through intentionally burdensome regulations in an attempt to cut off women’s constitutionally protected reproductive rights. According to the National Abortion Federation, 34 states already have some type of TRAP law on the books. It’s important that activists stay vigilant in their state legislatures to ensure that our constitutional reproductive rights are not circumvented through these purely political policies that seek to regulate only one type of procedure, abortion, above all else.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Bearing It All...

To mark the anniversary of the 19th Amendment, a crowd of over 200 people gathered to witness 12 dozen scantily-clad women fighting for the right to bear their chests in public this past weekend. These brave women, dawning only strategically placed red tape and bandaids, marched along Venice Beach Boardwalk as part of a larger demonstration organized by gotopless.org. Marches also took place in Miami, New York City, San Francisco, Seattle, Oahu (Hawaii), and Chicago. Men, not to be left out, wore red bikinis to represent the double standard for men and women.

It is currently illegal in California for women to go topless, and some feminists argue that this is yet another example of blatant, institutionalized sexism. Nadine Gary, organizer, argued that "If we are not allowed, men must be forced to hide their chests on the basis of gender equality." Surprising enough, many onlookers agreed. Onlookers were quoted in saying "Women should have the right to express themselves as they want, as long as it doesn't hurt someone else" and "We walk around topless. They should be able to if they want."

I'm genuinely curious about what you all think of this. Is the right to go topless a feminist issue? On one hand, yes. It is obvious. Men are allowed to, women are not. Further, society's obsession with and hyper-sexualization of the breast causes many women to feel ashamed about their own bodies. Clearly, this poses a problem for achieving true gender equality. The cynic in me, however, questions the consequences of such a movement. Would women ultimately be "more free" if California allowed women to not wear tops, or would they continue to be (even more so) objects of men's sexual desires, fantasies, and gaze? What do you think?

Anti- to Pro- Races in California

In four California races, pro-choice challengers are facing off against anti-choice incumbents. These challengers are Beth Krom in CA-48, Francine Busby in CA-50, Ami Bera in CA-3, and Steve Pougnet in CA-45. With the so-called "wave of anti-incumbent sentiment" in American politics, these four challengers have a real chance of gaining four more pro-choice seats in the House, where women's reproductive rights are so often challenged.

Educate yourself about the candidates in your district, and vote your interests!

Do you know of any other pro-choice challengers facing anti-choice incumbents? Give 'em a shout out!

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Thank You Thursday 08/19/2010

Today we'd like to thank....

  • the suffragists who worked hard to get the 19th Amendment ratified on August 18, 1920, giving women the right to vote

  • American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) for filing a lawsuit against the high school that removed a girl from the yearbook for wearing a tuxedo in her senior portrait (They removed her name, photo, etc-- she was not mentioned anywhere in the yearbook at all!)

  • French pharmaceutical company HRA Pharma for developing the emergency contraceptive EllaOne

  • Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for approving Ella, giving women in the U.S. another way to prevent unwanted pregnancy


Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Plan C

Recently, the Food and Drug Administration unanimously approved a new emergency contraception (morning after pill), ella. Unlike traditional emergency contraception pills that must be taken within 72 hours after unprotected sex, women will be able to take ella up to 5 days after. Medical studies demonstrate the pill is 98% effective, when used properly. The drug works by blocking the egg from being released in the first place, thereby delaying ovulation and preventing fertilization.

Although this would clearly make life a little easier for a lot of women, ella is not without controversy. In the face of medical studies proving otherwise, anti-choice, anti-birth control critics claim that this medical progress brings us one step closer to "over the counter abortions." This criticism is not necessarily surprising - expanding a woman's ability to control her own body is somehow always viewed as threatening and dangerous.

One (actual) problem still remains- "Plan C" will not be available to women over the counter and requires a prescription, unlike earlier forms of emergency contraception, such as PlanB and ellaOne. By requiring a prescription, the FDA unnecessarily delays a woman's access to the (obviously time-sensitive) medicine, potentially damages a woman's right to confidentiality (especially for young women who are on their parents' insurance plans and/or do not have transportation), and excludes women who do not have access to comprehensive medical coverage. This seemingly simple requirement severely limits many women's ability to actually benefit from this drug.

In addition, there is no word on how much this new medicine would cost. Undoubtedly, this raises questions over who will be able to actually benefit from this new technology, and who will be excluded. Despite these controversies, ella will be released into the market later this year.

Yet another new FMF blogger!

My name is Lily Armstrong, and I'm a new intern at the Los Angeles branch of the FMF. I'm probably the youngest on the blog, as I'm not even in college yet. Actually, I'll only be a 10th grader next year, but that doesn't by any means make me unopinionated!

I must first say that in my fourteen years on this good planet, I cannot remember a time when I wasn't a feminist. I was truly raised in it, due to my wonderful parents' involvement with clinic defense. In fact, it was through clinic defense that they met in 1990.

It is difficult for me to note any certain moment when I became a feminist, as I truly feel I have always been one. I've known about feminist issues for many years now, and have always been very involved and interested in them. I consider myself to be an activist, starting when I took part in the 2004 March for Women's Lives in Washington at eight years old.

My interest became more sophisticated in middle school, when two fantastic classes (taught by one fantastic teacher) in 7th and 8th grade allowed me to argue my opinions more freely than ever before. It was in 7th grade that I first attended the FMF Global Women's Rights Awards, which were very inspiring to me. Last summer, I interned at the FMF for about a month, which further developed and reinforced my beliefs. This summer, I hope to develop them even further.

Wherever I end up for college, which for me is still a ways away, I'll probably major in Women's Studies. Most of my other interests at least tangentially involve music, writing, and 1960s culture.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Thank You!


  • U.S. District Judge Vaughn Walker for lifting the temporary stay on same-sex marriage and allowing same-sex couples to continue marrying on August 18th!

  • Dolores Huerta for hosting the "Weaving Movements Together" Benefit Concert at the Greek Theatre yesterday!

  • Kentucky Foundation for Women for awarding $100,000 in grants to feminist artist and social justice organizations

  • California Senator Leland Yee (D-San Francisco) for authoring SB 677 regarding property owned by human traffickers

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Way to go Mexican Supreme Court!

Yesterday, the Mexican Supreme Court ruled 9-2 that all states must legally recognize all same-sex marriages issued in Mexico City, where these became legal this past March. This does not mean however that the states need to enact same-sex marriages of their own. As early as Thursday they might decide on the constitutionality of adoption by these couples. Keep your fingers crossed.

This is a big deal. Not even all 50 U. S. states recognize same-sex marriages done in our own capital, DC.

I'm proud of you Mexico.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

What would you do with 500 condoms?

Applications are now being accepted for the Great American Condom Campaign!
Apply today as a SafeSite and receive 500 condoms to distribute on your campus to promote sex education at your school.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Love The Way You Lie


I'm so torn by this song and video. I read here that the relationship in this story is mutually abusive, that it goes both ways. But I don't think the video shows that. I see Megan Fox as the victim, even if she does throw a punch or two. She is the one running from him, the one hiding in the bathroom, the one having to forgive, the one deciding to leave the relationship, never the other way around.

I can't stop watching the video, and listening/singing this song. Something about it feels so real and raw, that I'm not too critical of it, even with a line like "I'm a tie her to the bed and set the house on fire". Am I  a bad feminist? Pop culture have too much of a hold on me? The song's lyrics are explicit and detailed, but also ambiguous. Does Eminem really regret his actions, or is he lying to get her back? Maybe both?

Knowing both Eminem's and Rihanna's history of abuser and victim, does that make this song ok? Does the song and video excuse domestic violence? Why did Rihanna choose to sing lyrics that pretty much excuse Chris Brown's actions?

This is what Rihanna said in an interview with Access Hollywood:

"It just was authentic. It was real," Rihanna continued. "It was believable for us to do a record like that, but it was also something that needed to be done and the way he did it was so clever. He pretty much just broke down the cycle of domestic violence and it's something that a lot people don't have a lot of insight on, so this song is a really, really powerful song and it touches a lot of people."

This seems to be empowering to Rihanna. Maybe this is her way to deal with the abuse she experienced. And who are we to judge her? To tell her that "No, you're doing it wrong"? This is her taking her experience, her life, into her own hands and making a statement.

The fact that this song is making me feel all conflicted and bringing up so much emotion from me makes it successful in a way. On the other hand, the way I read and interpret this song/video might be part of the minority. The other day while listening to this song on the radio, after it finished the DJ said something along the lines of, "oh boy, I bet a lot of girls are singing this at the top of their lungs after a few drinks". Is he saying that girls like being in abusive relationships? That they will in the end forgive if they're drunk (there is a lot of alcohol involved in this video)? More victim blaming?

I'm aware that these are all questions and not a lot of answers, but this is all I have right now. Just questions.

One positive thing I can say is that after making this video, Megan Fox donated the money she made from it to a women's shelter, Soujourn House. So it looks like if the song's goal was to raise awareness and help for domestic violence, it is getting there.

Read More:

Defending The Decision

On August 4, 2010 Judge Vaughn Walker bravely ventured forward with equality instead of holding the state of California back along with the many other states in our union who still have a ban on gay marriage. Justice Walker, the Chief Justice of the northern California federal district believes in a right wing conservative legal approach.The monumental decision struck down California's ban on same sex marriage and ruled that Proposition 8 was unconstitutional. This decision will inevitably be appealed as the anti-gay marriage groups went straight to work, the case could ultimately make it's way to the Supreme Court. If the case makes it to the Supreme Court, the decision could set a major precedent for the country around the issue of gay marriage. What makes his decision even more memorable is the fact that he was nominated by George H.W. Bush, in 1989, and everyone is familiar with the Bush's and their feelings and treatments towards LGBTQ people, poor people, people of color and just about every minority group.

Groups like the National Organization for Marriage, (NOM) the American Family Association (AFA) and Prop 8 campaign leaders have come together to appeal this decision. As religious affiliated groups, NOM is notorious for the violence that they preach against the LGBTQ community. Not only are these groups rallying together for an appeal but they also are getting together to take over Congress. These groups along with other religious affiliated groups have rallied together to organize and pressure Congress to impeach Judge Walker because of his decision for equality. Claiming the Judge Walker "frustrated the will of seven million Californians" The argument is that marriage policy is not regulated by the federal constitution, therefore it is the state, according to the tenth amendment, to define marriage. But this argument can be countered with the Fourteenth amendment, this prohibits states from denying any of it's citizens from life, liberty and property. Also includes the equal protection clause, and defines citizenship.

Fundraising initiatives have begun to push this anti gay marriage agenda. Courage Campaign is a group trying to fight back and protect the decision that was made, fundraising for the appeals process but also for their "Equality on Trail" campaign. This campaign would have the trail televised to viewers as the we prepare for a tough battle on the road to equality!

Moment in Herstory: Kagan Confirmed & Sworn In

This past Thursday, August 5th, supreme court justice nominee Elena Kagan was confirmed as the 112th justice and 4th woman appointed to the U.S. Supreme Court. On Saturday, August 7th, Kagan was sworn in twice, once before friends and family and again before the media, by Chief Justice John Roberts who told Kagan, "We look forward to serving with you."

A former Harvard Law School dean and most recently, U.S. solicitor general, Kagan will succeed John Paul Stevens as she makes history by bringing the number of women serving at one time to three of nine seats for the first time.

Kagan's presence on the U.S. Supreme Court is not expected to cause a shift in the supreme court's ideology because Stevens had a reputation for being the "leader of the liberals," but the feminist community excitedly awaits her formal installment as a justice on October 1, 2010.

Photo Credit: Boston Globe

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Feminist Majority Foundation Applauds Overturning Proposition 8

The U.S. federal district court overturned Proposition 8 on the grounds that the ban prohibiting same-sex couples from marrying is unconstitutional under both the Due Process and Equal Protection Clauses. The case now moves to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals.

The Feminist Majority Foundation campaigned to defeat Prop 8 and coauthored an amicus brief with NOW submitted in a case before the California Supreme Court in favor of overturning Prop 8. In response to the ruling, Katherine Spillar, Los Angeles-based executive vice president together with Eleanor Smeal, president, issued the following statement:

"We are thrilled with today's ruling upholding the right of same-sex couples to marry. As the trial showed - and Judge Walker's decision affirmed - there truly is no substance to the arguments of those who would deny full equality to lesbians and gay men. Same-sex couples will now be able to enjoy the same freedom as other Californians to marry the person they love."

"This recognition that Prop 8 is unconstitutional is an important victory for minority interests beyond those pursuing the right to enter same-sex marriages since it reminds us that fundamental rights are not up for grabs at the whim of the majority at the ballot box. The court's ruling has a direct and profound general impact on the fundamental rights of equal protection and sexual privacy, which rights are paramount to full equality for women."

"The proponents of Prop 8 will undoubtedly appeal this decision. We are prepared to support a return to the ballot box in 2012, if necessary."

Katherine Spillar also serves on the Board of Equality California.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Prop 8 Overturned!

Today, Judge Walker declared Proposition 8, which defined marriage solely between a man and a woman, unconstitutional. Heck yeah!
Photo Credit: LA Times

This is what he said:


Proposition 8 fails to advance any rational basis in singling out gay men and lesbians for denial of a marriage license. Indeed, the evidence shows Proposition 8 does nothing more than enshrine in the California Constitution the notion that opposite-sex couples are superior to same-sex couples. Because California has no interest in discriminating against gay men and lesbians, and because Proposition 8 prevents California from fulfilling its constitutional obligation to provide marriages on an equal basis, the court concludes that Proposition 8 is unconstitutional.”

You read that?


Read more at:
Huffington Post
LA Times

CNN: Shame on You!

Calling all women! This just in on CNN News: The key to maintaining a long-term relationship is letting your man (and even encouraging your man) to cheat! What?! Holly Hill, introduced as a “former mistress,” recently wrote a memoir entitled “Sugarbabe” that details her yearlong adventure as a mistress for rich men. According to Hill, “Men are hard-wired to betray women on the long-term.” If women do not succumb to every sexual whim of their men, then it is “shortsighted and cruel” to not let your man relieve his urges with other women according to Hill. Men are biologically destined to cheat. Ali Wentworth, CNN correspondent, explained that: “Men and women… have different needs… Men, really biologically and physically… their urge is to spread their seed throughout the land.”

Feminists long ago challenged such overly vague, quasi-scientific facts that supposedly justify patriarchal dominance in society. As if anything could be more offensive, there is only a single mention about women’s sexual appetite throughout the entire article and corresponding interview. Bethenny Frankel, Bravo reality TV star, argued briefly that “A lot of women have a big sexual appetite.” Great, we are now depending upon reality TV stars to defend the radical notion of female sexuality. CNN- Shame on you! I trusted you…So much for being the “worldwide leader in news…”

What is Chicana Feminism?

Every true feminist is aware of the diversity that exists among all feminists. We come in all colors and from all walks of life. In theorizing Feminism and battling oppression, it is not possible to isolate our gender from our race, our culture, our sexuality, our age, our religion, or our class status. All these factors intersect and feed off each other to make us who we are.

I am a Chicana Feminist because I cannot separate my race and culture from my gender. This is because my race and culture have greatly impacted the woman I have become. I also refuse to rate those factors in terms of importance because one does not exist without the other. Being a woman and a feminist has impacted my life just as much as being a Chicana.

So what is "Chicana Feminism"?

"Chicana Feminism" is a complex concept and practice that incorporates a wide variety of ideas and theories and cannot be easily defined. However, my particular concept of Chicana Feminism incorporates intersectionality; the act of claiming your gender and race/ethnicity/culture simultaneously, without placing one identity over the other. Identifying as a Chicana means more than just identifying with Mexican culture, it is also a political stance that involves a political and social awareness of existing inequalities.

Similar to second wave feminism in the U.S. , "Chicana Feminism" seeks to achieve social, political, and economic equality among the sexes, as well as incorporating a political stance and direct opposition to the evils of patriarchy. Furthermore, Chicana Feminism analyzes and recognizes numerous other forms of dis-empowerment and oppression such as racism, homophobia, and class inequality, in hopes of giving a voice to the silenced.

Chicana Feminists seek liberation and emancipation from both sexism and racism. Chicanas and Chicanos belong to a race and culture that is constantly under attack because it is construed as negative and inferior in comparison to the dominant American culture. Chicana Feminists want to destroy this misconception of inferiority and achieve cultural integrity and dignity for all Chicana/os.

Chicana Feminism emerged in the mid 1960's, in the midst of an era categorized by radical organization and mobilization by many minority groups in the U.S. that felt un-represented and discriminated against. Following the Civil Rights Movement, many separate movements began to emerge, including The Chicano Movement and The Feminist Movement (also commonly known as the Second wave of feminism).

Although the Chicano movement included respectful aims for the Chicano community such as embracing their cultural nationalism, it remained largely a male-centered movement that ignored the importance and issues of Chicanas.

On the flip side, the Anglo Feminist Movement in the mid 1960's was comprised primarily of women whom were white American and middle to upper class. Although they fought for equality for women in government, employment and labor unions, their sole focus on gender inequality was erroneous because they failed to acknowledge the implications of other factors such as race/ethnicity, sexuality, class and how these factors can work together to further oppress certain groups of people.

Consequently, Chicanas felt excluded from both The Chicano Movement and The Anglo Feminist Movement. In response to this exclusion, Chicanas created their own branch of feminism that helped the "Chicana" become recognized as a valuable asset in her community. Chicanas could not rely on the men in the Chicano movement or the women in the White Feminist Movement. Each of these movements wanted Chicanas to sacrifice her needs for the larger movement. Chicanas were often told by both movements that they had to choose between being women and being Chicana. Which begs the question: Why can't we be recognized as both simultaneously?

Photo Credit:Ernestina Garcia

Degrassi for the Win: First Transgender Teen in Scripted TV History

As you may know, I'm way in to Degrassi (read about my analysis of Degrassi's feminism here). Therefore, I'm happy to announce the radness of my favorite show, which will introduce Adam in the tenth season, the first transgender teen with a recurring role in scripted TV history (edited for all those who noted that there have been transgendered teens on Law and Order)!

Teen Nick, the channel that now produces Degrassi, was pretty legit about the whole thing: they contacted GLAAD to have a representative review their script to make sure it was fair and accurate. They also are working together with GLAAD and PFLAG to create a PSA about being transgender that will play every time the channel airs the 2-part coming out episodes.

Yeah, Degrassi has been featuring really great portrayals of gay, lesbian, and bisexual teens for a while (Marco, Alex and Paige are three old school characters). They've received two GLAAD nominations for "Outstanding Teen Drama". This year for the win!!!!

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Organising Toolkit Part Trois: Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs)

Now, I am not a student at an HBCU, but I interviewed students who do attend HBCUs for this final installment of my campus organising toolkit. If you feel anything in this general guideline is lacking, please do not hesitate to add things in comments!

  1. Challenge the notions of what the ideal student is—At many HBCUs the administration has set forth the idea of the “ideal (enter name of college here) student". In order to allow students to find their distinct identities, allow your organisation and other organisers to challenge those ideals. To show that these students come in all shapes and colours and have a variety of interests and opinions.
  2. Educate students on issues of concern on your campus—Because many HBCUs have an activist past, some students may feel that being active (politically, socially, etc) on campus is not important because it has already been done. Encourage students to get involved through various ways on your campus. Find issues of important and help students understand why it is important to be active on campus for those issues; connect the issue to them, make it personal.
  3. Organise and collaborate with other student groups—HBCUs are predominantly filled with students of colour, so it may seem that collaboration is not a difficult feat. However, according to Patrice, a graduate of Spelman College and a campus organiser with the Feminist Majority Foundation, it can sometimes be very hard for student groups to collaborate with Caribbean students associations or LGBT groups on campus. To combat this it may prove effective for a campus organiser to host a Breaking Bread event (ref: organising on affluent/apathetic college campuses) between two seemingly different student groups so that they may understand one another’s struggles and plan events for future collaboration. Also, it may be effective for you, as an organiser, to attend some of the meetings and events of other student organisations to understand where bridges may be fostered and what the two groups can collaborate on together.
  4. Organise conversations concerning identity politics—At many HBCUs, homophobia appears to be a problem, like on a lot of college campuses. Host events and discusses where community members can discuss identity politics (e.g. what femininity or masculinity looks like, or the fluidity of sexuality, or the intersections of race, gender and sexuality). These discussions may also help to foster connections between *different* student groups (i.e. Carribean students, LGBTQ students, etc) to provide more opportunities for collaboration. Also, following this theme, it would prove useful to have many awareness and consciousness-raising events about the mission of your organisation and what you feel needs to be or could be improved on your respective campus.
  5. Find a strong feminist faculty on your campus—It is important to find supporters of your organising/organisation. Find those Professors (be they tenured or not) who will support your cause and will advocate for you on behalf of the administration. It is always important to know your allies and your stakeholders. Look at the courses a Professor is teaching, it is also as simple as just having a discussion with a Professor or staff member. Look to see what faculty or staff members are attending your events, discussions, what have you. Know your allies and keep them close!!!

12th and Delaware: An Inside Look at Abortion Clinics and Crisis Pregnancy Centers

Yesterday, I and several other FMF interns and junior staff sat down to watch the new documentary "12th and Delaware" that premiered last night on HBO. You may have heard about the documentary from sites such as Feministing and Democracy Now.

"12th and Delaware" chronicled A Woman's World Medical Center which opened up in 1991 on 12th and Delaware in Fort Pierce, Florida. In 1999 a crisis pregnancy center (CPC) - centers posing as comprehensive health clinics that seek to use pro-life stances to talk women into keeping their unwanted pregnancies—moved across the street from them.

Viewers are introduced to the lies and fear tactics that many CPCs utilise; showing fetus-like dolls to patients displaying fetal development, telling them lies of links between abortion and breast cancer amongst other things. Some of the young women who have come into the CPC have mistaken it for the abortion clinic. Counselors often use these tactics to persuade women that they shouldn't pursue abortions like they had intended to, but should keep the baby.

The CPCs completely disregarded both the realities of women’s lives and patient confidentiality (read: Anne, a CPC counselor, sent a patient's name out in an email to supporters to be prayed for). Clinic protesters (who often held posters showing extremely graphic and obscene pictures of aborted fetuses) had no respect for property lines and could often be seen protesting near the windows of the clinic. One counselor was so devastated by the fact that a young girl had pursued an abortion that she neared the point of breaking in to tears--this is not her child and is not her daughter, yet she is so heavily invested in what this woman chooses to do with her body.

The documentary did a wonderful job of showing that abortion clinics care about women's lives and health and are invested in making sure that women are making the decision for themselves and are not being forced to do so, but need to do so. Abortion clinics, like A Woman's World Medical Clinic, educate women about abortions and ask why they are seeking to have this procedure performed. The documentary also effectively displayed the dangers abortion providers face. For instance, an anti-choice protester stalked abortion providers attempting to find out their identity and where they lived.

"12th and Delaware" did a good job of expressing the diversity of conditions that might bring a woman to an abortion clinic: a mother of six walking towards the abortion clinic who is swayed by anti-choice protesters who lie and tell her that they'll pay all of her bills and her food, a young girl who was influenced by Anne, a CPC counselor, to bring her baby to full-term at the young age of 15, telling the audience that she tried everything she could to miscarry, the 46-year-old woman who was diagnosed with rheumatoid who cannot carry a baby to full-term out of fear of not being able to care for it in her sixties.

Women should be able to have control over their own bodies and their reproductive rights. Women should be able to freely walk into abortion clinics without the threat of being harassed. We shouldn't live in a world where abortion providers fear for their lives, where young girls are swayed into carrying pregnancies to full-term and not being able to care for the children that are produced. We must take action in our communities to protect women’s reproductive rights.

To take action in your community or campus by exposing crisis pregnancy centers, check out Feminist Campus' Campaign to Expose Fake Clinics. To protect existing abortion clinics in your area, like A Woman's World Medical Center, check out Feminist Campus' Adopt A Clinic Campaign.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Help pass important legislation for women now!

*email message from FMF president Ellie Smeal*
We must pass important legislation now! E-mail your Senators! Help pass important legislation for women. Donate to the Feminist Majority so we can organize, organize for women's rights and lives. 

 We need your help. We are in the final weeks of the 2009-2010 Congressional Session. Key legislation for women is pending in the Senate. We must act before Congress adjourns for the elections:
  • *Pass the International Violence Against Women Act.* It will be voted on tomorrow in the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.* Let your senators know it's time to do all we can to reduce violence against woman. Learn more about I-VAWA here and here.

  • *The Paycheck Fairness Act* - Approved by the House in 2009. Tell your senators wage discrimination against women must stop. It's long past due to strengthen the Equal Pay Act (1963) and Title VII (1964) to help women workers close the wage gap - especially in these hard economic times when a women's paycheck is more important than ever. Learn more about the Paycheck Fairness Act!
  • *Ratify the United Nations Convention (Treaty) to Eliminate All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW)*. Only 7 nations of the world have not ratified CEDAW - Somalia, Iran, Sudan, Nauru, Palau, Tonga, and the United States. It's a disgrace and an insult to all women that the U.S. Senate has still not ratified CEDAW. The women of the world deserve and need their rights. CEDAW promotes education of women and girls, economic opportunity, and works to reduce violence against women. Please go to the new website www.cedaw2010.org for detailed information.
Let your Senators know - reducing the needless suffering of women deserves their time and their votes now. Please help the Feminist Majority organize in these last weeks of this historic Congressional session. E-mail your Senators and donate to the Feminist Majority so we can organize for women's rights and lives. You can be sure we are on the front lines daily fighting for women and girls.

Toolkit part deux: Organising at an Ivy League University

I am not a student at an Ivy League university, but go to a "hidden ivy." Thus, for this toolkit that will hopefully help you in organising at your own Ivy League University, I drew on my experiences from Colgate and the experiences from other organisers who attend Ivy League universities. Remember, this is only a guideline to organising, feel free to send suggestions of other tips that you feel should be included and never be afraid to revise your organising as you see fit!

Ivy Leagues present their own unique set of challenges when it comes to organising students around a feminist or progressive cause. Much like affluent college campuses, students at Ivy League universities may feel extremely privileged and entitled (not saying all students will feel this way). This toolkit will give you a simple roadmap to organising as a student leader at an Ivy League university.

  1. Poll students to figure out what they feel the most pressing feminist issue is (or whatever issue your organisation is fighting for)—sometimes students are not always galvanised around a common cause. Polling students allows them to feel that their opinions count, and assures that all will be passionate towards what they are fighting for.
  2. Hold weekly discussions to enlighten your student body—I’ve found (going to school at a “hidden ivy” that a lot of students simply need to be informed about issues before you can expect them to take action on them. There is always a lot of talk about action, but not always a discourse about how to move towards action. Education and awareness-raising seems to be the best way.
  3. Have a fundraiser or bake sale—These are always really good ways to mobilise students on large campuses around a cause. Everyone likes goodies and most people opt in to fundraisers. Tabling for these events is an excellent way to raise awareness of your cause to people that may have never known.
  4. Utilise your university’s student activity fair—Most schools have student activity fairs. Utilising this and creating pamphlets and material that draw in students are a surefire way to gain support for your cause.

photo cred: Google