Category > Social Justice and Human Rights
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Jul 21, 2014
You took action and the President heard you loud and clear. Thanks to your action, and (more…)
Jul 7, 2014
It’s just wrong that hardworking and dedicated young people can be fired for being gay, lesbian, bi-sexual, transgender, or queer. For being who they are. These young people have no protection. No recourse.
We need our President to stand strong. And right now, he can make a big difference for thousands of LGBTQ federal employees and contractors. Join us in demanding that President Obama and his Administration do the right thing and sign executive orders protecting LGBTQ workers without needless exemptions that would open the door to discrimination.
With a swipe of his pen, President Obama’s executive orders will expand workplace protections for young people across the country. Current federal law already provides an exemption for houses of worship and religiously-affiliated organizations. Further exemptions are unnecessary and would dilute the protections the orders are seeking to provide for LGBTQ young people.
Mr. President, it’s time to stop surrendering the rights of young people.
Jun 30, 2014
It’s been a tough few days for us here at Advocates. Last week the Supreme Court ruled against buffer zones at abortion clinics, and just a couple hours ago the Court put women’s access to contraception in jeopardy.
We could give you a long, legal explanation of the cases, but in short—until our society recognizes that sexuality is a normal, healthy part of being human, we’ll continue to get devastating decisions like these.
Shifting the culture around these issues is one of the most powerful tools we have as activists. Young people in communities around the world are already fighting for change. Help support them. Donate today.
Last week the #SupremeCourt ruled against #bufferzones at #abortion clinics and just a couple hours ago the Court put at jeopardy women’s access to #contraception. It’s been a tough few days in the battle for sexual and reproductive healthcare. But it’s not over. Help us continue the fight! http://ow.ly/y64og
Jun 2, 2014
(image reposted from DLCentral)
(This post contains SPOILERS. Trigger warning: misogyny and homophobia.)
The Last of Us: Left Behind DLC (downloadable content) came out on Valentine’s Day 2014 with rabid anticipation and celebration from fans of the original Playstation 3 exclusive The Last of Us and TLoU: American Dreams comic series. But not everyone was thrilled with the game.
I won’t hide that I’m personally a huge fan of this franchise. I waited years for The Last of Us and kept track of various nuances in the video game design, legal matters, and updates. I beat both the game and the DLC several times on different difficulties. I’m above hundreds of thousands in terms of skill and rank on the The Last of Us multiplayer leaderboard. I’ve also read the comics. So, let there be no doubt that I know what I’m talking about when it comes to this.
The Last of Us excels in many ways that other games do not. The graphics are miles above the majority of games that came out in 2012 and 2013. The gameplay controls and mechanics are solid and allow players to make choices on how they want to deal with the conflict of each chapter. Want to sneak around like a silent and deadly assassin? Or would you rather jump in on danger with molotovs and nail bombs and guns blazing? Players even get the option to have conversations with some of the NPCs (non-player character) and AIs (artificial intelligence) of the game, with prompts provided of course. The game also limits how much ammo or supplies a player receives. It’s a tactic that makes the players really think about how they should use their items and re-think their strategies against the infected and enemy humans in this post-apocalyptic world.
The first ten minutes prove to be an emotional experience. Each character’s personality, although existing in a fictional post-apocalypse, comes off real and the interactions of these characters are crafted masterfully. Any gamer knows that video games are notorious for having horrible dialogue and even worse voice acting. The Last of Us forces other game companies watching the success of this installment to re-think how they handle these things. Sometimes it’s just not enough to spend hours going pew pew pew or smashing things in a story full of holes and ineffective voiceovers–even though that can be extremely fun too. One of the things that really makes this game is the way it forces companies as well as fans to re-think how they treat people who identify as women in their own stories and gaming community… well, it’s almost there.
Girls and women make up 45% of all gamers in the community. While that’s not a majority, it is still almost half the entire community. And despite such a significant number of girls and women playing video games, our representation still only fluctuate around 17% in TV shows, movies, video games, and even Congress. If we break it down for just the entertainment industry, women only make up 18% of directors and executive producers, 15% of writers, 4% of cinematographers, and 11% of protagonists in a story.
What does this have to do with The Last of Us? Well, the game isn’t perfect. I still felt it lacked female characters even as miscellaneous extras. Most of the humans the player will come across will be men. Most of the women I came across were mushroom infected hordes, officially known as “clickers.”
(Great female representation, huh?)
So what made this game different from the others before it? In this game, women actually made up a half or more of the main characters, which is sadly a rare occurrence. All the main women had motivations that were separate from the male lead, and this isn’t just a rarity, it’s almost non-existent in any form of media. These women were three dimensional and complex. They were flawed, vulnerable, and yet so fierce. Players even get the opportunity to play as a teenage girl in the video game as well as in the DLC. These are all good things when we keep in mind of how much female representation, especially good representation, is lacking in the media. But we shouldn’t get too excited about the bare minimum. It would definitely pass the Bechdel test but while this progressive move is noted and celebrated, we shouldn’t be setting our standards for basic decency so low. As much as I love The Last of Us, the game still followed the same tired formula of brooding white, middle aged man with women being hurt at his expense. So what did MRAs (Men’s Right Activists) and your general misogynists have to say about this bare minimum in treating women as if they were humans capable of complex thoughts?
It provoked angry nerds and geeks to crowd the forums with complaints like:
“Feminists did it. They are ruining one of my hobbies. For anyone who plays video games as one of their hobbies, The Last of Us is a pretty fun game…. The feminist messages were close to ruining a game I waited a year for…”
“…will my games be misogynist? You better ****ing believe it. Misogyny The likes of which will make duke nukem blush.”
(source: Men Going Their Own Way)
“At no point in the making of this game can you imagine Naughty Dog sitting down and saying “what we should do with our apolocayptic epic, is try and tackle feminism!”
“I’m all for stronger female characters but i also am sick of this sexist modern feminism which suggest been an attractive women is a bad thing. I also think it’s sexist to try repress straight male sexuality by suggesting its wrong to find women attractive by referring to it as objectification.”
“There are far more males play games than women…fact.Sick of hearing the constant nagging about sexism.”
(source: these comments are replies to The Last of Us isn’t the solution to sexism in games, but it’s a start.)
Some gamers took issue with the fact that many of the leadership roles in the video game were occupied by women, especially one woman of color named Marlene. She’s the leader of the Fireflies. It’s a rebellion group that’s focused on finding a cure to save humankind from this horrible zombie fungus affliction and dismantling the militaristic government system.
(Photo of Marlene, image reposted from GamerArtHub, original art concept and creation by Soanala Lee)
While the game faced heavy criticism from misogynistic players, The Last of Us hasn’t been left untouched by homophobia. In video games, people who identify as LGBTQ+ are either killed off, villains, or aren’t featured at all. I mean, the same can be said of most venues of media. So there’s no surprise when some of the heated backlash over the progressiveness of the game found its way to one character named Bill. He’s extremely paranoid, tactless, and rough but he’s very reliable. The game heavily implies with obvious subtext that Bill is gay. And it’s not just subtext, it’s been confirmed by one of the directors at Naughty Dog (company that created the game). GLAAD (Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation) voted Bill onto their list of most intriguing characters of 2013. And here’s what they had to say about him:
“One of the characters the player encounters over the course of the game is Bill, an unstable loner in the town of Lincoln with a talent for fixing things. Through dialogue and backstory, the player learns that Bill once had a partner named Frank who he loved, but the plague drove them apart and led Frank to a bitter end. Both helpful and contentious, Bill is as deeply flawed but wholly unique a gay character found in any storytelling medium this year.”
(photo of Bill, reposted from GamerArtHub, original art concept and creation by Soanala Lee)
I thought the creators would leave all mention of queerness at subtext and podcast interview like so many others (J.K. Rowling, anyone?). But Naughty Dog took a brave route with their addition to the full game. While this DLC serves as a prologue to the actual game, Left Behind revolves around just Ellie and her friend Riley. Making a video game that completely centers around teenage girls with their own personal motivations and feelings is already unheard of. And how fun, as best friends, they can even take selfies in a photobooth with the players choosing the poses and backgrounds. But Naughty Dog takes it one step further. The writers created a scene of vulnerability, tenderness, and love between two girls in a world ravished by violence, oppression, and plague.
You can watch the three minute scene here. I would recommend that the comments should be left alone though. But in case you need an extra warning, the comments are along the lines of:
“Yeah…. I threw the game in the trash cause of this…….
NAUGHTY DOG! NEXT TIME LET HER KISS A GUY!”
“It makes me angry seeing gays trying to take over media now Games?!”
“the team was influenced by feminism, disgusting.”
“the gay kiss is totally perverted and f***ing sick… Naughty Dog is dead to me.”
(I copied and pasted these comments by the way but decided to leave the commentators anonymous.)
The creators of The Last of Us confirms that Ellie is gay and that the kiss she shares with Riley is of love, not just understandably reaching out for warmth and affection in a cold world, but a kiss with intentions of romantic love. Has anyone ever seen a game like that other than a manipulation of some Sims that we may or may not have made in the past?
It’s taken great steps toward progress, but we should still be fighting for more representation of identities in our media other than the usual white, male, cisgender, and heterosexual. This game, while it probably won’t be a catalyst for a culture shift, should be the kind of thing that gamers use as a standard, a bare minimum for what’s considered acceptable. And as the giants we are, we should go beyond that.
May 26, 2014
I cannot speak of the number of deaths or give an estimate of the total number of youths that have lost their lives due to certain issues linked to surviving and a rapid desire for change, wealth and fame.
But one thing remains clear. The majority of deaths occurred due to an abrupt change in the ramifications of socioeconomic standards altered by political thugs. This unwanted adjustment made the need for man a do or die affair.
From the unlawful demand for peace and harmony youths have lost their lives. While The government cast their thoughts to the wind, they allow certain laws and rights dwindle the lives of buoyant youths.
Hundreds of youths have lost their lives due to the pressure attributed to voting. It’s good to vote. But the way it’s here, it’s an avenue to increase the deaths of youths. There’s no security given to those voting, and at most case some candidates who have theirs rights stained seek to alter these voting by using extreme means – which in Turn ends the lives of youths.
Also, there are no good hospitals and girls do irrational things to themselves due to lack of knowledge. The health centers that are suppose to maintain a steady health rate at all cost – Do so, by not attending to these girls early and not administering appropriate medications to them. At the expense of trying to stay fit, these young girls loss their lives to minor issues.
Today, people fight for position (wolves in sheep clothing). The most touching of all is the conflicts in ‘Government owned schools’, Where we have an annual contest between David and Goliath. Students have lost their lives for the sake of position resulting from vague issues, protest for a development in school and for their rights to be heard. And still the government has done nothing.
I have often talked about the relationship between LGBT youths and the environment. Well, the crux of the matter is that these youths are either killed or sent to prison, without seeking to understand them and why they find themselves in this situation. Thus, we continually have an evolution of unresolved problems.
The increase in Death rate associated with the lack of knowledge displayed by inane leaders is the worst of all. I believe It has thwarted the need for excellence. This fact alone has almost wiped out the hope we have.
Many have lots their lives and the worst of all is the kidnapping of the young chibok girls in Nigeria (serving as sex slaves).
If we and the government can maintain, sustain and adhere to a standard, then we may have a reduction in conflict and the deaths occurring.
May 20, 2014
When it comes to Beyonce Knowles, I have long been of the opinion that there are only two options when it comes to her. One could either be a hardcore stan (overzealous fan) or indifferent. I fall in the second category. I enjoy some of her music, but I am not at all vested in the aspects of her personal life. Her fans irritate me quite frankly, because they never critique her faults, no matter how numerous they are. It’s hypocritical.
There’s been a lot of buzz lately about the fact that bell hooks, popular feminist and social activist, called Beyonce a “terrorist” during a panel discussion titled, “Are You Still a Slave?”. Many have taken to the internet to accuse hooks of policing feminism. Those criticisms highlight just how little people know about feminism, as well as their unwillingness to condemn a favorite; someone whom they view as a powerful black woman due to her fame and financial success. It is important to note in the process of evaluating bell hooks’ comments, that there are problems within feminism, and part of Beyonce’s appeal is her status as a highly popular celebrity, which would make it possible for her to act as a strong voice for black women everywhere.
My interpretations of the Time Magazine cover which sparked commentary from bell hooks are as thus. On one hand, the bodies of black women are overly sexualized in comparison to their white counterparts. We’ve seen it before with the comparisons between Nicki Minaj and Miley Cyrus – a true #solidarityisforwhitewomen moment. Chances are, if it were a white woman on the cover of that magazine, tongues wouldn’t wag as much. That said, I don’t quite understand the intersections of terrorism and partricentric views of sexuality. For the most part, I disagree with hooks’ conjecture that dressing in that fashion enslaves women to the male gaze. I for one, don’t dress to please anyone but myself and like to say that the day I dress to please a man, is the day I prepare to meet Jesus. Part of overthrowing the patriarchy is making decisions for ourselves. But I do agree that there is still a correlation between dressing sexy and being more popular. Sex sells right?
In conclusion, yes Beyonce is a problematic person. I think things would be alright if only people would stop thrusting the mantle of feminism upon her. For goodness sake the woman threw in a domestic violence reference in “Drunk in Love” and it has since been parroted all over the world with no regard to the meaning. Her image is too controlled for anyone to imagine that they could ever truly know what she is all about.
Apr 30, 2014
So, Amazon is using some of its profits to help non-profits. Both my girlfriend and I have chosen Advocates for Youth.
I screen capped some basic info about this opportunity and posted the image below.
Apr 28, 2014
Over the past week, people have been discussing Avril Lavigne’s racist new music video for her song “Hello Kitty.” It premiered on her YouTube channel last Tuesday and was taken down temporarily due to the backlash. The video features Avril rapping in Japanese, wearing a cupcake tutu, dancing with four expressionless Japanese women, and generally bastardizing Japanese culture.
Using other cultures, and particularly women of color, as props is unfortunately not new to Western entertainment. Lavigne is now one of several white female artists to appropriate other cultures in the past few years. Her companions include Katy Perry, Gwen Stefani, Lana DelRay, Miley Cyrus, and Madonna.
Given that it’s happened before and that it seems to be common practice, what struck me most about this particular instance was Lavigne’s response to being called out and what it means for the way white people are utterly failing to recognize modern day racism and the problems associated with cultural appropriation.
Wednesday night, Lavigne tweeted the following:
She gives no weight to what people have been telling her, completely brushing aside even the idea that people had anything to criticize in the first place. She finds the suggestion hilarious. Especially as a white person, when someone tells you that something you have done is racist, laughing in their face isn’t the best response. Not only have you offended them, but you have devalued their ability to identify the factors of their own oppression. When someone tells you you have wronged them, you owe it to them to hear them out.
Lavigne then gives what amounts to an amped-up version of, “No, it’s cool; I have Japanese friends.” As if any of that negates the fact that she appropriated Japanese culture for her own personal gain and used Japanese women as props. All of that is still true, regardless of where the video was shot, who she worked with, or any personal fondness for Japan and its culture. It is possible to like something and take advantage of it at the same time.
This is where the disconnect comes in. Lavigne cannot understand how it is possible for her to do something racist against a culture that she knows she loves. But as much as she may genuinely enjoy the culture, she is not a part of it. She created a childish, cupcake version of it and surrounded herself with mannequin-like women who didn’t seem to be enjoying themselves at all. But hey, she totally loves Japanese culture, so it’s okay.
Excpet it’s really not. White people seem to think they have the right to take anything they want from any culture and use it as their own and for their own benefit without ever having to assume any of the oppression or degradation that a culture faces for the use, practice, or belief of what has been taken. This is cultural appropriation.
White people do not own everything, nor are we entitled to own everything. This is particularly true for Americans. We have to start respecting that non-white people from non-Western cultures make and produce things of value. Their value comes from the cultures which produced them- not from white Westerners appropriating them or modifying them to fit their pleasure or marketability. Avril Lavigne did not respect Japanese culture. She used her own version of it.
Modern day racism looks and sounds different than it did during the days that most of us view as a racism reference point- the 1960s. For anyone under 60, that decade has been the example of how racism is thought of in modern time. In the 50 years since, a lot has changed. This means that our understanding of what racism is must evolve also. The problem is that that’s not happening fast enough. This lag is responsible for the kind of disconnect that results in cultural appropriation.
White people don’t understand that things other than lynching or segregated schools “qualify” as being racist. Today, being racist is not as often overt or explicit. As in Lavigne’s “Hello Kitty” video, the racism doesn’t smack you in the face. With an understanding of how racism manifests today, though, the racism becomes more clear. This doesn’t mean that the racism is less harmful; only that it has been modified to exist within Western culture in a way that it can deliver a similar message without being thought of as oppressive or exploitative to those not as closely effected by its reach.
This is how a person with no outward animosity toward Japanese culture ended up making a racist music video. This is how someone could be accused of racism and respond with “LOLOLOL!!!” This is why the excuse of “But I have black friends” or “But I have gay friends” is such bull****.
This is why we have to change.
Apr 25, 2014
Kanye West is just as much of a disgusting low-life as Ray J is. “I made it over NBA, NFL players”? Really? Ugh
“…An internal source of joy and confidence in appearance are radical acts for Black women in a society that regularly denies us joy and beauty. I am acutely aware of how people hate Black women and also want us to hate ourselves. This dehumanization isn’t just emotional and interpersonal but is a foundation on which oppressions such as misogynoir and colourism rest on. There are people invested—deeply in fact—in not only Lupita being invisible but that no one find her beautiful. They’re terrified that the status quo may shift even a little…”
I like this article because it’s about books, and also very much a #WhyiNeedFeminism moment. I agree with the writer’s argument about token PoC female writers and the laughable existence of such a category.
“…The phenomenon, whereby women’s identities and achievements are considered less important than their husband’s role, even when the woman is focus of the story…But while this portrayal of women as wives first and foremost and people second is a widespread problem, the “Grandmother” descriptor goes a step further, combining a definite note of ageism with the sexist angle. Describing a professional woman, in a headline about her professional role, as a “grandmother” isn’t only reducing her to her familial role, but also implies a hint of shock at the idea of older women’s capability. When Jeanne Socrates’s completed a round-the-world sailing trip, headlines dubbed her: “The World’s Most Persistent Grandmother.”…”
Apr 25, 2014
It is a dangerous thing to convey mouthpiece status on oneself in situations where one cannot completely identify with the group of people spoken for. Pharrell Williams has left a lot of black people irritated with his claim of being “New Black”.
“The New Black doesn’t blame other races for our issues. The “New Black” dreams and realises that it’s not pigmentation: it’s a mentality and it’s either going to work for you or it’s going to work against you. And you’ve got to pick the side you’re going to be on.”
Easy for him to say. He’s had a very successful career and it could be said that his status, both financial and social, have enabled him to progress past the point where he would suffer through most of the issues that make being black in America difficult.
As far as I’m concerned, Pharrell is in that group of black people who are allowed to sit at the cool kids table because Eurocentric society has deemed them good enough. Jay-Z, Beyonce, Oprah also sit at that table. I wouldn’t be surprised if any of them turned around and said the same thing tomorrow.
His statement is so idiotic. With race as a continuously controversial issue and all the news coverage about systematic inequality, one has to wonder where he gets this sh*t from. Blackness is a mentality? Well forgive the rest of us for failing to recognize that all these years while we were struggling to understand why centuries of slavery was not enough; that we still have to contend with dehumanization and second-class status every day, on a multitude of levels.
With that said, dear black people everywhere, our great leader Pharrell has spoken. Our time would be better spent deprogramming our minds from this nonsensical notion of institutionalized racism. Oh golly! It makes me mad to think about all the time we have wasted getting blue in the face instead of just flicking the mental pigment switch.
Perhaps Oscar Grant and every other wrongfully murdered black person would have been alive today if they had only realized that they could voluntarily distance themselves from the microaggressions and stereotypes that they inherited the moment they fell into the world from their mothers’ wombs.
Please sir, use the royalties from “Happy” to buy yourself a few million seats and have ALL OF THEM. Just because no one came for you for featuring in that parallel reality “feminist movement”, and just because people all over the world are now dancing to your undeniably uplifting song, does not give you the right to try and pull this level of extravagant nonsense. Get yo’ life.
Apr 15, 2014
Apr 14, 2014
I have seen people change and at the same vein witnessed a retrograde in youths. I have been around areas where there\’s no hope for light and peace, but in this same situation some people still survive.
I have been around youths – Boys and Girls, that have made life difficult for themselves due to lack of knowledge. And my countenance has dwindled, because I have witnessed a holocaust of ruined lives in the past, even now.
I love peace and the prospect it brings. I love sanctuary – a foundation laid on the rocks of simplicity and the Arm of Justice.
I stand against the illegal acts displayed by the so-called Governmental body. I stand against rape, child abuse and its associated acts. I stand against the malfunctioning of child rights and value – I stand for a change, as an \”Advocate\”.
I stand as a Youth, Not a man, alone. But with men – the colony of change.
\”A man cannot be a faculty, men can. The necessity of change begins with not one man, but with the uniformity of all\”.
(Victor Omovbude Brown)
I stand against – Child punishment, Tribalism, criticism, Discrimination, and Queer visions. I stand for change, which is my first goal. As a youth, I stand for Unity, Peace and Progress.
I stand for a free and transparent Health service attributed to (children,youths and adults) – I stand against unequal rights and segregation in roles.
I stand for Quality Education – Void of preferential treatment, equal for all.
I stand against poor governance.
I am an \”Advocate For Youth\”.
Apr 14, 2014
I have seen people change and at the same vein witnessed a retrograde in youths. I have been around areas where there’s no hope for light and peace, but in this same situation some people still survive.
I have been around youths – Boys and Girls, that have made life difficult for themselves due to lack of knowledge. And my countenance has dwindled, because I have witnessed a holocaust of ruined lives in the past, even now.
I love peace and the prospect it brings. I love sanctuary – a foundation laid on the rocks of simplicity and the Arm of Justice.
I stand against the illegal acts displayed by the so-called Governmental body. I stand against rape, child abuse and its associated acts. I stand against the malfunctioning of child rights and value – I stand for a change, as an “Advocate”.
I stand as a Youth, Not a man, alone. But with men – the colony of change.
“A man cannot be a faculty, men can. The necessity of change begins with not one man, but with the uniformity of all”.
(Victor Omovbude Brown)
I stand against – Child punishment, Tribalism, criticism, Discrimination, and Queer visions. I stand for change, which is my first goal. As a youth, I stand for Unity, Peace and Progress.
I stand for a free and transparent Health service attributed to (children,youths and adults) – I stand against unequal rights and segregation in roles.
I stand for Quality Education – Void of preferential treatment, equal for all.
I stand against poor governance.
I am an “Advocate For Youth”.
Mar 31, 2014
The American porn industry: a world of opportunity for both actors and consumers. Everyone wins, right? Actors and actresses with “desired features” have sex and get paid for their performances; meanwhile, consumers happily perpetuate a market with an estimated value of between $10 and $13 billion, which boosts our nation’s economy. By virtue of increased access to pornographic content through the Internet, the industry has permeated American culture so much that the average person views their first pornographic image at the age of 11. Moreover, by 2006, pornographic videos were released on an average of one every half hour.
This is how capitalists would describe the porn industry. They love it because it’s profitable… and it’s also seemingly becoming more “normal.” But while it can be easy to “normalize” the porn industry in light of statistics like the ones above, the porn industry is far from normal. Notably, the actors and actresses who star in pornographic films are subject to abnormal, oftentimes degrading treatment by the same people who consume their products. This fact may not be readily apparent for most of us – how many pornographic actors do we know personally? More than likely, we know none. Porn actors per capita in an arguably moral nation like the U.S. are few; moreover, those who do star in pornography use stage names – most of the time to protect their anonymity. However, for one freshman at Duke University, the struggle to function in society while performing in pornographic films took a serious turn when her anonymity as a porn star was stripped away from her.
Most of America knows her by her stage name, “Belle Knox.” Her real name is Miriam Weeks, but she has only recently divulged her birth name – out of fear. This 18 year-old Duke University freshman has starred in over 30 pornographic films. Weeks has claimed that starring in pornography brings her both confidence and economic stability. On the one hand, Weeks says that as a degree-seeking 18 year-old, no other job could provide her with enough income to pay for her education – a hefty $50,000 per year bill. On the other hand, Weeks states that freely doing pornography is a part of her agenda as a person – she confidently approaches the adult film industry as a way for her to express herself as a woman and to take a stand against the way sex workers are ostracized.
However, after a fellow Duke student “outed” her name to her classmates, Weeks’ struggle as a pornographic actress trying to live a normal life has spiraled. Her ideals and her dignity have been shattered by threats of rape and death, opinions of her perceived economic freedom, critiques of her morality, and objectifications of her body above consideration of her personal ideals. Intense public scrutiny of her aspirations of becoming a respected member of society while working in the porn industry have done an injustice to the human worth of Miriam Weeks and highlight several important problems with the way this country treats sex workers.
By virtue of our technological society, it is much harder for sex workers to remain anonymous. And when these workers are put in the spotlight, our culture’s perpetual stigmatization of their profession leads to many negative, unwarranted responses on a large scale. Disagreeing with sex work is one matter. However, “slut shaming,” often in the form of death threats, rape threats, belittling, bullying, and objectification are unwarranted but present byproducts of being “outed” as a sex worker in our morally conscious culture. While it can be easy for us to think that sex workers have the ability to shrug off degrading comments because of their knowledge of how many people perceive their work, studies have proven otherwise: Extensive literature on the psychological state of sex workers has shown that the suicide rate among sex workers is six times that of the rest of the population. Clearly, these degrading comments are unsurprisingly degrading the mental and emotional state of sex workers at an unconscionable rate.
A second issue at stake for men and women like Miriam Weeks is society’s perception of the true freedom of sex workers. In Weeks’ case, many have argued that the pressure of paying for college has “coerced” the Duke freshman to seek sex work as a means to survive in a country that often prioritizes the value of an education. This is simply not true, according to Weeks, who claims that the money is only one of several reasons why she loves staring in adult films. However, although Weeks has asserted that she feels completely free to choose to do porn, it is not fair to say that all sex workers engage in their work purely out of their own free will. Sometimes, we hear stories of men and women in disparaging economic circumstances, who resort to sex work as a means to stay alive.
But why do some of us instantly typify Miriam Weeks as one of these people who do sex work as a “last resort” – a way to survive economically? Maybe its because when it comes to sex work, many of us are sharply divided on the issue, even though all of us are trained by society to find compassion for others, especially the “marginalized” members of our community (e.g., sex workers, as you probably guessed.) It’s not necessarily our fault: as soon as a conversation about porn starts, so starts the stigma, and instead of believing the possibility that a human being could ever want to do sex work, some of us tell ourselves that the person is just short on money. They’re just getting by until some other opportunity comes up. We excuse them for making the decision to sell their bodies. But when we perceive sex workers collectively as un-free workers, we all too often put words in their mouths. We rob them collectively of the value of their ability to choose. We rob them of their dignity as a rational human being.
Dignity: a word normally not associated with sex workers. But is there any inherent dignity working as a porn star? Miriam Weeks argues that this question is perceived with great bias by a majority of our society. I couldn’t agree more. There is an inherent dichotomy in the ways in which our society thinks about pornography. Although roughly 50% of American citizens freely admit to watching porn regularly, Weeks thinks that society at large has a tendency to shame pornographic actors and actresses publically and professionally while they cannot get enough of it privately. I cannot help but agree with Weeks that this enigma is one of the great plagues of our society. We jerk off with one hand, and we point our fingers with the other.
Breaking down this dichotomy will be a fundamentally challenging but necessary step to search for justice in the many issues surrounding our perception of sex workers. But the struggle for fair treatment of sex workers only begins there. We as a society also need to stop slut shaming as a means of expressing our discontent with someone’s profession. We need to realize that nobody likes being degraded; even if we consider someone derogatory, they are still a human, equally deserving of dignity and respect. Moreover, we need to give back the freedom of choice that we oftentimes take away from sex workers. Instead of being content with telling ourselves that sex workers as a whole are economically disabled, we should work to ensure that all sex workers are economically enabled. We should help those who are not as fortunate as Miriam Weeks and are struggling economically to be able to choose a career just like everyone else.
In closing, I’d like to address that I say “we” throughout this article because this issue affects all of us. Even if you have never watched pornography (I will be a little skeptical of that, but I will take your word for it) or you have not engaged in sex work, I’m sure someone you know has directly or indirectly struggled with the sex-negativity that so pervades our culture. We need to break the stigma surrounding sex work in our society because the reality is that some of us desire to engage in sex work. And no human being deserves to hear that their desires are disgusting.
By: Eric Thomas Roy
1. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pornography_in_the_United_States#Economics and
Mar 27, 2014
Tennessee Sends Religious Anti-Discrimination Bill To Governor
Reposted from The Huffington Post | by Shadee Ashtari
Tennessee lawmakers approved a bill on Monday that seeks to expand religious liberty protections for students in public schools.
The Religious Viewpoints Anti-Discrimination Act, which passed the state Senate 32-0, would permit students to express religious beliefs in their homework, artwork and written and oral assignments without academic punishment or discrimination.
The legislation’s primary sponsors, state Rep. Courtney Rogers (R) and Sen. Ferrell Haile (R), introduced the measure after a teacher asked a 10-year-old student to choose a subject other than God to write about as the person she admired most, according to the Associated Press. The state House passed the bill earlier this month by a vote of 90-2.
Haile characterized the legislation as a pre-preemptive safeguard against potential lawsuits challenging school officials for permitting religious expression, according to the Tennessean.
The proposal would also allow religious students to organize prayer groups and other religious gatherings before, during and after school to the “same extent that students are permitted to organize other noncurricular student activities and groups.”
Opponents of the bill contend that existing laws already protect students’ rights to religious expression and that the new legislation would only expose students of different faiths to unnecessary religious coercion.
“While purporting to prevent discrimination against students expressing religious viewpoints, SB 1793/HB 1547 crosses the line from protecting religious freedom into creating systematic imposition of some students’ personal religious viewpoints on other students,” the Tennessee American Civil Liberties Union said in a recentstatement. “Should this pass, students with a range of religious beliefs, as well as non-believers, would likely routinely be required to listen to religious messages or participate in religious exercises that conflict with their own beliefs.”
Similar legislation, modeled after Texas’ 2007 Religious Viewpoint Anti-Discrimination Act, unanimously passed the Oklahoma Senate in February.
The Tennessee bill now awaits Gov. Bill Haslam’s (R) signature. Given the measure’s overwhelming support in both the Senate and the House, a veto by the governor would likely be overturned.
Mar 25, 2014
In the words of ROCK STAR youth activist Kirin Gupta, ““What is at stake today is an issue of sexism, classism, and oppression. It is the control exercised by money and power of a few who are twisting our country’s freedom of religion to deny basic freedoms to young, often already marginalized bodies. These choices are ours—not our schools, not our bosses, not anyone else’s.”
Today’s Supreme Court hearing on contraception and religious liberty was a big deal and we could not be more proud of the response from our friends, allies, co-workers, partner orgs, and youth activists all around the country. Our voices have been heard, and we are watching!
Visit #DearSCOTUS for a comprehensive look at all the went down today, but here are a few pics too!
Mar 22, 2014
The Big picture :
Rape- is a word which is supposed to be wiped out of existence. Most girls in the rural and urban ares extensively suffer from this dreadful cause. It’s a shame to see young girls go through this uncomfortable act.
Raped girls now have STDs , unwanted pregnancy and some may die as a result been bartered.
When parents mutter at words, ungodly things happen. And when girls feel reluctant they become victims to this cause. I blame non, it is simply because there’s no unity and the law holding the term for rape has almost been ridden off.
Every GIRL child DESERVES a brighter future. Why not share the word!
What\’s your say on RAPE !
Mar 22, 2014
In the past years, I have volunteered my skills and time on a number of community projects. But the feeling I had this morning after digging for the laying of pipes which will convey potable water to the community of the of the Bassa Industrial area especially those of the “Plateau Guinness” neighborhood was special. Special because sparked by the smiles on the faces of the adults of this community who had come out in their numbers to contribute to the building of the taps from which will flow this so much talked about “Precious” liquid which some have said is “Life”. The smile on their faces was as radiant as I have only seen on the faces of children enjoying every minute of their life on a school playground at break.
These persons have every reason to smile because Cameroon’s water sector is one of the most neglected and poorly maintained. According to a United Nation’s Environment Program (UNEP), about 92% of Cameroonians living in cities have access to improved water while only 47% of Cameroonians living in rural areas can access potable water. This situation has not only been the cause of the repeated Cholera outbreaks that the country has experienced recently but caused untold damages in families and communities especially rural communities.
In fact, these people who are not alone in their case have had their sisters, daughters, and mothers raped as they moved to the stream to fetch water, they have missed their lessons or being late to school because of they have to move for long distances to fetch water for the family every morning while their peers are in class, and have lost a loved one to diarrhea and other water related diseases. This has no doubt contributed to the lamentable state of rural areas in my country Cameroon.
We must all make the progress our world is currently enjoying benefit all. It is only when the fruits of the progress the world is currently experiencing are enjoyed by all that the development we are so much clamoring for will really be sustainable.
Knowing that atrocities such as those described above are experienced by a countless number of people in other communities around the world is revolting because we live in a world of plenty and can all afford to make life better for all. In fact, the United Nations estimates that 800 million people lack access to safe, clean drinking water .May the below extract from Reflections on Water by the Ecumenical Water Network, a project of the World Council of Churches, inspire you to act in your own small way for this liquid as we observe World Water Day today, March 22nd 2014.
Like the ticking of a clock marking out time, water drips noisily.
Maybe it drips off the edge of a stone or roof in times of rain and plenty,
or perhaps from a badly turned off tap in societies where earth’s most precious
and vital resource is unconsciously wasted.
Mar 16, 2014
Until an hour ago I was unaware that yesterday, March 15, 2014, was intended to be “White Man March” as intended by one Kyle Hunt of Massachusetts. I am glad to report that it was an epic fail. Hopefully, it will remain that way.
This article from Salon summarizes the purpose of the march and shares a few hilarious tweets mocking the event. None of what these tweeters say is a lie. The entire notion of diversity equaling “white genocide” is absurd. This is most definitely a case where certain individuals have decided to disregard the evidence in favor of their own delusional truth. How can there still be this much stupidity in the world?
A quick glance at the White Man March website yields even more ridiculous compilations of “facts”, including a video “spreading awareness” about “white genocide” and a video with clips of POC talking about how they hate the white race. In regards to that whole mess, there is a great difference between a white person claiming the need for segregation and POC spaces not advertising for diversity.
Anyone with a well-functioning, good sized brain knows that the rest of us have been the minority for the longest time. We have been wronged in a thousand ways and are now barely managing to exercise the same rights as white people. How can anyone say that there is any such thing as “white genocide” when the lives of black people are constantly undervalued? When was the last time a white person was gunned down by a black person and got away with it? The Dunn trial wasn’t so long ago, look at that. The man is responsible for the death of a young black man but was only sentenced for endangering the lives of said young man’s companions. Does that make any sense?
If a white person says they want to marry only within their race or only want all-white neighborhoods, it’s because of stereotyping and racial prejudice leveled against POC. There is such an inequality that diversity is introduced so that everyone else has a fighting chance. People claim that POC neighborhoods have never been asked to diversify? If a person wants to live in a POC neighborhood, the only thing stopping them is their fear of said POC because of preconceived notions they have about people of those races.
This whole thing screams of white entitlement and anyone should be able to see that. Why is is a bad thing that black politicians have admitted to working solely for the good of their own people? White politicians never did that for those people because they never identified with them. And when one of their own has a little bit of power and can speak on their behalf, it’s a good thing. I doubt that someone who is working to change things for the betterment of his or her own people is as deeply invested in working against white people just for spite’s sake. If you have evidence that I am wrong, present it.
It’s sickening to see so many people laboring under the same falseness.
Mar 14, 2014
I may not know much about Kalki Koechlin, but there are two things I know for sure.
- She cannot dance to save her life and it’s adorable. Exhibit A: “Balaam Pichkari” from Yeh Jawaani Hai Dewaani.
- She is fiercely outspoken when it comes to women’s rights.
The following video is a piece the bollywood actress performed at the India Today Conclave titled, “The Truths of Womanhood“. It touches on everything from gender roles in history, societal expectations of women, objectification and rape. Her monologue is poignant in all of its shining veracity.
Kalki is also famous for starring in the All India Bakchod viral video titled, “It’s Your Fault”.
Mar 11, 2014
A ton of marriage equality news has been breaking so far this year; so much that you may have missed some important stories! So here’s a quick look at seven states that have made important advances.
January 14th- U.S. District Court Judge Terence Kern ruled that the state’s 2004 constitutional ban on marriage equality violates the US Constitution. In his ruling, he cited the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment, which specifies that states must guarantee that all citizens are treated equally under the law. Judge Kern chose to stay his decision, so couples in Oklahoma won’t be able to marry just yet. The case will face an appeals court within the next few months.
January 23rd- Virginia’s new Attorney General, Mark Herring, a Democrat who replaced the odious Ken “the Cooch” Cuccinelli last November, announced that his office will no longer defend the state’s ban on marriage equality. Soon after being elected, he had his staff review Bostic v. Rainey, the case challenging the ban. Interestingly, the case is being argued by David Boies and Ted Olson, the team that brought California’s Prop 8 case to the Supreme Court and won. Herring came to the conclusion that the ban violates the Equal Protection Clause of the Constitution, and offered his support to all “couples whose right to marry is being denied.”
February 14th- US District Court Judge Arenda L. Wright Allen ruled that Virginia’s ban on marriage equality is unconstitutional. The ruling overturned a 2006 constitutional amendment banning same-sex couples from marrying. The judge’s decision also called for Virginia to recognize marriages performed in states where marriage equality the legal. Because traditionalists promised to appeal the decision to the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals, Wright Allen chose to stay her decision, pending the outcome of the appeal.
February 10th- Attorney General Catherine Cortez Masto announced in a motion to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals that state’s legal arguments supporting their ban on marriage equality were no longer valid. In a statement, Masto explained that “after thoughtful review and analysis, the state has determined that its arguments grounded upon equal protection and due process are no longer sustainable.” Amazingly, the state’s Republican Governor, Brian Sandoval (who is running for re-election this November), supports the Attorney General’s decision. In a statement to the press, Sandoval announced that “based upon the advice of the attorney general’s office and their interpretation of relevant case law, it has become clear that this case is no longer defensible in court.”
February 12th- U.S. District Judge John G. Heyburn ruled that Kentucky must recognize all marriages performed legally in other states. In his decision, he wrote that the state’s ban on marriage equality treats “gay and lesbian persons differently in a way that demeans them.”
March 4th- Kentucky’s Attorney General, Democrat Jack Conway, announced that he would not appeal Judge Heyburn’s ruling. He told a local newspaper his decision was about “putting people over politics,” and that “defending discrimination” was not something he was willing to do. Less than an hour after Conway announced his intentions to the press, Kentucky’s Governor, Steve Beshear (also a Democrat, though clearly a conservative one), announced that he will be taking on outside council to fight the ruling. In a truly ridiculous statement to the Associate Press, he claimed that if he didn’t defend the ban, “legal chaos [will be] real” in Kentucky. The state has until March 20th to file an appeal.
February 19th- Nine same-sex couples filed a lawsuit in state court to challenge Colorado’s 2006 constitutional ban on marriage equality. They argue that the ban violates due process and the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment of the US Constitution. The suit also challenges the state’s 2013 civil unions law on the basis that it “fails to grant gay and lesbian couples legal status equal to heterosexual couples.” Colorado’s Republican Attorney General, John Suthers, intends to defend the ban in court. If you ask me, he should take advantage of the state’s recent legalization of marijuana. It’s hard to hate anyone when you’re high on pot.
February 20th- Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum submitted a legal filing to US District Judge Michael McShane, announcing that she will not defend the 2004 constitutional ban on marriage equality in court. She claimed the ban “cannot withstand a federal constitutional challenge under any standard of review.” Judge McShane is hearing a case against the ban. While this process continues, marriage supporters have been gathering signatures to add an initiative to November’s ballot that would overturn the discriminatory law. These kinds of initiatives have only recently been successful and the hope is that if the issue is put to the voters, it will follow that trend. Currently, supporters are close to their signature goal to move the initiative forward.
February 26th- US District Court Judge Orlando Garcia ruled that Texas’ 2005 ban on marriage equality is unconstitutional. He wrote that same-sex couples who cannot marry are facing “state sanctioned discrimination, stigma, and humiliation.”
“Furthermore, Supreme Court precedent prohibits states from passing legislation born out of animosity against homosexuals (Romer), has extended constitutional protection to the moral and sexual choices of homosexuals (Lawrence), and prohibits the federal government from treating state-sanctioned opposite-sex marriages and same-sex marriages differently (Windsor).”
Attorney General Greg Abbott, who is running for Governor this November against Wendy Davis, quickly announced that he will defend the ban, claiming that because it’s law it should stay law. Davis’ statement was much more logical. “I believe that all Texans who love one another and are committed to spending their lives together should be allowed to marry.”
And believe it or not, Texans agree with her. The 2013 Equality Poll, conducted by Equality Texas, shows that more Texans support marriage equality than oppose it. Admittedly, supporters outnumber homophobes by only 0.4 percent (47.9% to 47.5%) but coming from Texas, that’s a big deal. Support for marriage equality rose 5.2 percent from 2010, and support for recognizing out-of-state marriages is up to 52 percent, an increase of 3.6 percent from 2010. The idea of a Purple Texas is seeming less and less out of reach.
Mar 8, 2014
Mar 5, 2014
Over the past months so much has happened in the LGBT community around the world:
1. President Obama continues to gives stern warning to countries that criminalizes homosexual.
2. Other World leaders making a vivid statement as it regards to the recent winter Olympics in either not showing up or openly condemning Russia’s law which criminalizes public expression of LGBT advocates.
3. The passing of new Anti-Gay law in Uganda .
4. The World Bank postponing a $90 million health project for Uganda citing the country’s passage of a new anti-gay law, “We have postponed the project for further review to ensure that the development objectives would not be adversely affected by the enactment of this new law.
5. US Secretary of State John Kerry calling for a world “where professing one’s love does not lead to persecution.”
6. Actress, Whoopi Goldberg has accused the governments of Uganda and Nigeria of being ‘on the wrong side of history’ in response to anti-gay laws being passed in the two countries.
7. Cardinal Peter Turkson of Ghana, president of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, stating that “homosexuals are not criminals” and shouldn’t be sentenced for up to life in prison. Therefore he is calling for the repeal of its severe penalties.
8. The Pope, Francis has made a point of reaching out to gays, famously saying: “Who am I to judge?”
9. LaBarbera an Anti-Gay Pastor is reported to have travelled to Jamaica to speak at an anti-gay conference organized by the Jamaican Coalition for a Healthy Coalition.
Hillary Clinton’s speech on international LGBT issues was game changing years ago. A historic address of this magnitude was desperately needed to counter the rising tide of backwards and barbaric nations that had recently been persecuting LGBT people to distract from their glaring problems.
“I want to talk about the work we have left to do to protect one group of people whose human rights are still denied in too many parts of the world today,” said Clinton to a packed auditorium of human rights activists who gathered in Geneva for International Human Rights Day. “I am talking about gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender people, human beings born free and given bestowed equality and dignity, who have a right to claim that, which is now one of the remaining human rights challenges of our time.”
I close in saying, It’s not time to kill the gays and I don’t think there should ever be a time when we want to kill the gays as they are humans just like everyone else who identifies themselves as something else. Let’s continue to work to preserve human rights and never give up in this fight.
Feb 21, 2014
While everyone’s gasping in shock, I would like to state that it is a well-known fact that Piers Morgan was never hugged as a child. And that is why he’s such an insensitive d*ckbag.
Jesse Williams spoke about the Michael Dunn trial and it was perfect. Seriously, I got chills from all the truth he was handing out.
Feb 20, 2014
Its been more than three months since I last posted a blog here in Amplify. Typhoon Haiyan really devastated my city, Tacloban that up to now, we do not have electricity in my subdivision and internet access. I am writing my first blog this year in Indonesia as I attend the Green Climate Fund 6th Board Meeting. I am here along with our friends in the climate movement to demand climate justice and climate finance. Typhoon Haiyan is a blatant example on why we cannot delay for this thing to happen.
Back home, the situation remains problematic especially on how my government deals with the rehabilitation of schools. Last month, I had an interesting interview with U.P. Tacloban Student Council Chairperson Francisco Banguis, Jr on the current issues that the students of UP Tacloban is facing after Super Typhoon Yolanda devastated the school and Tacloban City last November 8, 2013 that claimed thousands of lives and left people homeless and deeply wounded.
As one of the affected schools in the city, U.P. Tacloban faced a plethora of problems and the last thing that we want to have is to be in a situation that we are left neglected by the University of the Philippines System. Of its seven constituent universities, all except our mother school U.P. Visayas have extended substantial help and assistance to students affected by Super Typhoon Haiyan. Our Chancellor spoke of the university’s inability to make an exhaustive assistance since almost all of its colleges across the Visayas islands were badly affected by the storm.
Having said that, our access to quality education and the services that comes with it is compromised. We were the only ones who did not leave the college to cross-enroll to other U.P. campuses since we did not have the capacity to cross-enroll financially, logistically and psychologically. We cannot afford to leave our families in such a ruined state. We cannot stand to part ways when we all know that we are all not okay. Most of us who opted to stay decided to help our families rebuild our lives, homes, and if possible our source of livelihood.
Since we were far from normalcy, the college opened the option for us to be re-bracketed in order to pay less tuition fees for the enrollment this second semester but the result is disheartening. Most of the students were just re-bracketed one step lower than their previous bracketings. Moreover, there is an issue on where the students will stay especially those that go home after classes and lives in far-flung areas since the transportation is not yet back to its normal schedule.
We have demanded that the Board of Regents of the University of the Philippines, the highest decision-making body in the U.P. System visit Tacloban to see with their own eyes the urgency of the matter to meet the needs not only of the students but also those of the employees and the faculty. So far, U.P. President Alfredo Pascual visited our campus. However, our demand for the B.O.R. to conduct a board meeting in Tacloban remains unanswered.
Feb 12, 2014
a quote by Laurie Penny
“Almost every time I speak to teenagers, particularly young female students who want to talk to me about feminism, I find myself staggered by how much they have read, how creatively they think and how curiously bullshit-resistant they are. Because of the subjects I write about, I am often contacted by young people and I see it as a part of my job to reply to all of them – and doing so has confirmed a suspicions I’ve had for some time. I think that the generation about to hit adulthood is going to be rather brilliant.
Young people getting older is not, in itself, a fascinating new cultural trend. Nonetheless the encroaching adulthood and the people who grew up in a world where expanding technological access collided with the collapse of the neoliberal economic consensus is worth paying attention to. Because these kids are smart, cynical and resilient, and I don’t mind saying that they scare me a little.”
I thought this was a powerful statement about the thoughts and actions of young people. It also brings to mind of Advocates for Youth’s three Rs: Rights, Respect, and Responsibility.
Feb 10, 2014
A week ago, I was fortunate enough to attend Creating Change 2014, organized by the Gay and Lesbian Task Force in Houston, Texas. Although this was my second time attending this conference, my excitement was surprisingly higher than last year’s, thanks to this year’s keynote speaker being Laverne Cox. I have become a huge fan of Cox the moment I saw her on Netflix’s Orange is the New Black (if you haven’t seen it yet, you’re missing out big time). Ever since, I started following her on social media and kept up with all of her appearances on TV and in other media outlets. The qualities I admire the most about Cox are her high level of intelligence, exceptional eloquence and fierce poise. I was so lucky to listen to her live during Creating Change’s opening plenary where she delivered a speech that was out of this world. She did not leave a single issue facing the transgender community without mentioning it, especially when it comes to transgender women of color, whom she represents so well. I especially loved the point she raised, saying, “The conversation about trans people in mainstream media has centered on transition and surgery.” Cox explained that limiting our trans conversations to transition and surgery objectifies trans women and does not leave us room to discuss the myriad of pressing issues that face the trans community today. This is exactly what happened on CNN with Piers Morgan a few days ago when he interviewed Janet Mock, who is another incredible trans activist. Instead of focusing on Mock’s newly released memoire “Redefining Realness,” Morgan bombarded her with questions about her physical transition and romance life. The next day, Mock came to his show again to explain how his show attempted to sensationalize her story instead of focusing on the real issues at hand. In her speech at Creating Change, Laverne Cox talked in length about the many injustices trans people, especially trans women of color, face nowadays, including violence, discrimination in the workplace and lack of healthcare access. In Cox’s words, “Healthcare for trans people is a necessity. It is not elective, it is not cosmetic, it is life-saving… But we are more than our bodies.” I remember the entire audience standing up and clapping after she articulated these powerful words.
I truly loved how this year’s Creating Change gave more space for the conference attendees to discuss the issues facing transgender people and learn more about this marginalized community. I personally attended the screening of “TransVisible: Bamby Salcedo’s Story,” which is a documentary film about Los Angeles-based trans Latina activist Bamby Salcedo. The film is very touching and eye opening to the serious struggles of trans women of color. I also attended a workshop entitled “Transgender People Unite Against Hate and Violence” in which Bamby was one of the panelists. The panel was very informative about the various forms of violence that transgender people experience, not only on the streets and in the workplace, but also at home and from the police. This workshop made me realize that there is not enough data available to us in order to reflect trans people’s struggles, thus making trans activism especially hard. According to the National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs, “of the 25 documented anti-LGBTQ homicides in 2012, 53.8% of the victims were transgender women. [Moreover], transgender people were 1.67 times as likely to experience threats and intimidation, 3.32 times as likely to experience police violence, and transgender people of color were 2.46 times as likely to experience physical violence by the police.” The reality is very sad for trans people, especially trans women of color. But I am so happy that Creating Changed highlighted this community’s struggles and made room for us to share solutions and success stories. There is a lot more we can do, but visibility is a great step in the right direction.
Feb 6, 2014
Piers Morgan continues to believe he’s in the right. This is his response to Janet Mock’s calling him out for the way he sensationalized her story and experiences.
Instead of really discussing her lived reality as a woman of color, especially as a trans woman of color, he obsesses over her past relationships and anatomy.
He told her: “…you used to be yourself a man.”
The on-screen captions of the discussion is ridiculous.
From a Buzzfeed article, Janet Mock says:
“My book is not about Aaron or my relationship, but that’s the most sensational thing they want to pull out,” she said. “They’re not talking about my advocacy or anything like that, it’s just about this most sensationalized … meme of discussion of trans women’s lives: ‘We’re not real women, so therefore if we’re in relationships with men we’re deceiving them.’ So, it just feeds into those same kinds of myths and fears that they spread around, which leads to further violence of trans women’s bodies and identities.”
The on-screen line that she “was a boy until age 18” reflected “bad judgment” and “reductive thinking about gender,” she said.
“What they’re saying is, ‘Only until I got the surgery, then I was a woman,’” she said.
But, she said, the interview — for better and worse — is part of want she chose to do by “going out of the bubble” and being public with her story.
“This is my first mainstream television show, was that moment, with Piers Morgan, and you see what they did to my story. Compared to a moment if I’m on Melissa Harris-Perry, which is slightly different, a more sensitive and safe space. But I go onto Piers Morgan, and all of my followers and everyone are like, ‘What is this?’” she said. But, she noted, “It’s also more representative of the ignorance that there is about trans people’s lives. We’re out of the safe bubble of social justice.”
On that same Buzzfeed article, you’ll see many of the responses Piers Morgan vomited on Twitter.
One example being: “As for all the enraged transgender supporters, look at how STUPID you’re being. I’m on your side, you dimwits. @janetmock”
Jan 24, 2014
Many of you might not be familiar with the reality show train wreck known as The Real L Word. It’s also created by Ilene Chaiken, which might explain its problematic nature. The entire series, reality show included, has a HUGE biphobia problem.
This article by Autostraddle discusses the issue, which is both internalized by a bisexual cast member and perpetuated by a few other lesbians. I find it so ironic that a community which is supposed to be known for its openness discriminates against others so savagely.
There are so many people on TV and the internet these days talking about how everything a white person does or says to a black person can be called racism. Well you know what? It’s Friday and I’m not about to give myself another headache by thinking about all the people who refuse to educate themselves. Let’s face it. Unless you’re part of a group that claims to be facing discrimination, you do not have a right to tell said group that they are wrong because you will NEVER see things from their perspective.
That aside, I think Richard Sherman is right to say that “Thug” is the new n-word. A lot of people care more about being viewed as PC instead of caring about their actual words and actions. They see others suffer the consequences of using the n-word and then come up with creative ways to say what they actually mean.
It’s 2014 people. How about becoming decent human beings?
Usually I have a problem with non-Nigerians bashing Nigeria because I think that the country’s citizens and residents are the only ones who understand what’s going on. And by that I’m referring to situations where people lump us all into a group of bum-scratching ignorants or try to prescribe a cure without a thorough diagnosis. In this case however, I whole heartedly agree. It is shameful that the Nigerian government has chose to focus on an issue that does not require their attention AT ALL, instead of fixing the million other countries. Two words Goodluck Jonathan – Boko Haram.
- Katie Couric is kind of a d-bag to trans people -Carmen Carrera’s Quest to Become a Victoria’s Secret Angel;‘Orange is the New Black’s’ Laverne Cox
In the clips above, Katie interviews Carmen Carrera and keeps trying to talk about Carmen’s genitals even though she expresses her desire not to and steers the conversation towards topics she feels are more appropriate, such as her career and life goals. Couric does not stop until Laverne Cox steps in, informing Couric that, “the preoccupation with transition and with surgery objectifies trans people.” Yay Laverne! Can’t wait for season 2 of OINTNB.
It is quite clear that Couric’s motive for inviting Carmen on the show was to sensationalize her transition. She did not seem to have a genuine interest in her as a person.
Jan 23, 2014
Adrian Nava (18 years old) and Scarlett Jimenez (18 years old)
Colorado Youth CREATE Council Members
As educators, advocates, and allies of sexual health, we often ask ourselves why we are still having conversations about the implementation and support of comprehensive sexuality education for young people across the nation. For a lot of us, the issue of reproductive rights and justice is one that hits very close to home. As advocates, our stories and personal experiences hold immense power in our work. They allow us to break down barriers when interacting with others, and to create room for meaningful human connections and a space to share why we are so passionate about the work we do.
We share our stories with the hope that we will create awareness and support for comprehensive sex education. Having personal stories that reflect a lack of inclusion of all sexual orientations, or lack of information about healthy relationships and self–esteem, we – Scarlett and Adrian – understand and are optimal examples of why sexual health education is essential for all youth. During our years in advocacy, we have both been exposed to a world of possibilities, and have actively participated in various levels of advocacy.
From local to national participation, both of us have had the opportunity to express ourselves as young people. During the 2013 legislative session at Colorado’s State Capitol, we were actively involved in advocating for the passage of House Bill 1081, what has become known as Colorado’s “updated sex ed law.” We wanted to make sure that young people’s voices and concerns were included throughout the process. As part of CREATE, a youth advocacy council sponsored by Colorado Youth Matter and Advocates for Youth, we testified in favor of the bill during committee hearings and organized a youth advocacy day, which brought more than 230 youth to the capitol to speak to their legislators about the importance of passing laws that increase access to comprehensive sex education.
I consider myself an advocate not only for programs and policies that promote youth sexual health, but for change founded on social justice principles. As an advocate, a person of color, and someone who identifies as gay, I remember sitting in a crowded 7th grade health class during my glorious awkward pre-pubescent years, asking myself what the ladies at the front of the room were talking about. It turns out that these women were teaching the girls how to say “NO” to males who would only want to have sex with females. I then realized that this uncomfortable discussion was actually part of a “sexual health” class. Yikes! This situation was uncomfortable not only because I did not know what sexual health education looked like, but because I was being targeted as a male. I was expected to insist on having sexual intercourse with women. I was ultimately astonished and speechless at the sexist, and judgmental tone that was being set within a classroom environment.
As a student, I was genuinely eager to learn about what was going on inside of my body and mind. But after much talk about “male and female relationships,” I asked the teachers if it was possible for two boys to be together, and the teachers ignored my question and moved on to talk about the importance of abstaining from having sex.
I began to feel like it was wrong to ask that question – which meant that something about me was wrong, since I was attracted to people of the same gender as me. The following day, my peers and I participated in an activity in which one person was assigned to be a person with “AIDS.” To my surprise, that person was me. I learned later that gay men are stereotyped as having HIV, which only deteriorated my self-esteem and self-love because I was not exposed to positive messages about LGBT people.
My negative experience of feeling ignored and stigmatized in the classroom is the reason I became actively involved in advocacy work for increased access to comprehensive sex education. I was made to feel ashamed of being gay, which harmed my emotional health for a long period of time. I wish I could have received comprehensive, inclusive, medically accurate, age-appropriate information about my body and mind – but I didn’t.
However, just because my school did not provide me with that education, it does not mean that future generations should not have access. I am completely in love with my advocacy work and impacting my generation, for the better. I find empowerment through making my voice heard and mobilizing young people to speak about and advocate for their sexual health.
I am an advocate for comprehensive sex education and reproductive rights and justice for young people, because I believe that the issues at hand should be considered as part of our basic human rights. I believe that young people should have the right to have access to accurate information about their bodies. Furthermore, youth deserve the opportunity to develop the life skills that are included in comprehensive sexuality education. I believe that my high school experience would have been a much happier and more successful time had that been included as part of my education.
On a daily basis, young women are bombarded with highly sexualized messages from the media that dictate the social norms. I think that it is absolutely essential for young women to learn that these messages are disempowering and are not actual expectations of women. All youth, regardless of their gender, deserve to hear that they are much more valuable than the media depicts them. High school is such a hectic and overwhelming stage for teens. Oftentimes, teens do not receive much needed positive and empowering messages about themselves or young people in general. I know that for myself, low sense of self-worth and a lack of basic sexual health information and the ability to communicate with my partner led me into an unsafe relationship and a very hard time in my life.
I am an advocate for comprehensive sexuality education, and all that it entails, because now I have a vision for future generations. Creating access to comprehensive sex education can inform and support youth to be empowered, inclusive, educated, compassionate, communicative, strong, and driven by their identified passions and goals.
Jan 22, 2014
(reposted from USAToday, David Jackson, click for original and full post – Image of President Obama: Charles Dharapak – AP)
President Obama has put out his annual statement on the anniversary of Roe vs. Wade, praising the 1973 Supreme Court ruling that struck down anti-abortion laws.
“We reaffirm our steadfast commitment to protecting a woman’s access to safe, affordable health care and her constitutional right to privacy, including the right to reproductive freedom,” Obama said in a statement.
The president said he also wants to re-affirm commitments to “reduce the number of unintended pregnancies, support maternal and child health, and continue to build safe and healthy communities for all our children.”
Jan 21, 2014
My mother called me this morning to tell me to be careful. She told me not to admit my affiliation with the LGBTQ community to any of my countrymen for fear of what they might do to me upon my return. You see, my country, Nigeria, has taken it upon itself to pass a law that sentences anyone who is found to be LGBTQ, to 14 years in prison. There had been chatter about this law for a long time now, and now that it has finally been passed, it makes me really angry.
“Why not take it a step further and impose the death sentence on all LGBTQ people like Uganda?”, I want to say. You want to lock people’s children up in prison for being true to the feelings they have for their fellow human beings. Shame on you. How is it anyones business what LGBTQ people do? How do they affect your marriages? Families? Children? How can you decide to police people because you don’t agree with their choices?
My countrymen claim that “homo” as they call it, is a western influence. That it is a phenomenon that did not occur before the west, America in particular, allowed LGBTQ people to be treated like human beings. To that I say, if you want to reject everything western, reject the religion that you are now using to persecute LGBTQ people. Our forefathers did not wake up one day with the knowledge that there was a God who had a son called Jesus through a virgin called Mary. That God was brought to us from the west. I can speak to that truth because my great-grandfather is widely known to be the man responsible for bringing Christianity to the part of the country we are from.
Before the missionaries, your forefathers prayed to Amadioha, Sango, Chukwu and the rest. Forsake your saints and biblical heroes and go back to praying at altars and sacred trees. Go back to a time when twins were an abomination. When you have done that and you can still find evidence from your gods that LGBTQ people deserve to be treated any different from you, come back and we’ll talk.
It’s so infuriating to see a bunch of people who can’t even get it together long enough to pass the HIV/AIDS Anti-Stigmatization Bill, rally around and pass this hate-driven policy so easily. Trust us to be the epitome of nonsensical politics.
My heart goes out to all my friends and the people I know who will now have to live in fear or who are probably already facing tribunal. My country can be a cruel place and people will not wait for the “justice system” before they begin to drag these people out into the streets to beat them senseless, if not kill them.
Jan 13, 2014
When I’m in feminist/activist spaces I’m always hesitant to voice my concerns on discourses on and about white feminism and white-savior complexes. As a radical feminist (I’ve decided I’m beyond progressive), I think that sometimes these notions are not fully explored. As a woman of color, raised by women of color, white women always belonged in that social-worker box for me (trust there is no shortage of white women there). In college these women took on a different role, they were the “bearers of knowledge,” they were my professors. However, learning about and from white women played a crucial role in my educational attainment and the cultivation of the activist I have become. Don’t get it twisted for 2.0 seconds, I will call a white feminist on her power and privilege in a second, but I believe that in this movement there is more work to do. Yes this means work for us women of color, and I’m starting by acknowledging the roles that white women have played in my life good or bad.
In college I was a part of a program called the Higher Educational Opportunity Program (HEOP), which was the crucial to my success and graduation from Syracuse University. This program financed my education but also provided the social-emotional support fundamental to my survival in the institution. My academic counselor, Marian, provided this support. When I first met Marian, I did not completely understand how our relationship would work. For starters she was a white woman. Secondly, I was expected to meet with her frequently and talk about stuff. Again, I did not see how this was going to work. To my surprise, I would grow to love her, and love her hard. I recently had a conversation about “chosen families.” Basically they are families that you are not born into but ones that you create who love and accept you as if you were family. I’ve built a chosen family, not by choice but out of survival. Lately, I’ve been interrogating my support systems and how they have helped me healed. Today, I explored my chosen-mother, who ironically has the same first name as my biological mom who passed away when I was one. Her name is Marian, and she is not only a support but also an integral part of my activist work.
As I stated before, I initially wasn’t hip to this relationship. That would change. For a while I developed a color-blind ideology with Marian, not because I wanted to assume a level playing field, but it made it easier for me to love her. Institutionally and personally, white women had been connected too much of the pain that I experienced growing up, whether intentionally or by solely being ABSENT and a figment of my imagination. So if I could see this person that I had come to know and love as “just like me,” I would not have to acknowledge this trauma. But in the same ways I did not want to acknowledge these differences, Marian did. She didn’t do it in ways like my peers, unbeknownst of their privilege, but in ways that said “my whiteness has colored my experiences and those of my colleagues in a ways much different than yours and that I MUST acknowledge.”
I never felt compelled to teach her about my oppression although I often did…..
In academic/activist spaces many of us feel that we need to tell white folks the 411, and we have learned that this can lead to secondary trauma, serious burn-out and a path to no where. I re-learn this lesson everyday. However, I never felt that I needed to “put Marian on” to the daily wrath of oppression that I was experiencing. First, she had heard it for years before I became her student and secondly her and other counselors made it their business to know about the challenges their students were facing. I was taken aback about the fact that Marian never used “disparity” language and flat out named the systems as they were: racist, sexist and classist. She also provided me with a space to be unrelenting and unapologetic about my past and present experiences. As a social worker in training, I can attest to the fact that I would lay on the biographical trauma that is my life real thick on a snowy Wednesday. She never silenced me and would even move her other appointments when I was in crisis.
She wasn’t interested in “saving me”….
As a white woman who is an academic counselor to “economically and academically” disadvantaged students it is easy to see how one could apply the white-savior trope to someone like her. Don’t, I’d straight up fight you. Perhaps the most important thing that I learned from HEOP, was how to save myself. It was first by learning that it was not my fault! That because I did not look like 80% of the incoming class, did not mean I did not belong there. In fact, it was her pushing and believing in me when I felt I could not believe in myself. She always held me accountable for my actions. I did not feel accountable to her because she was my “academic counselor” or a person in power; it was because of her love and her belief in my talents that gave me no other choice. Imagine a world where love and solidarity, make us hold each other accountable.
She understood that my education was more than coursework…
At some point in college I became a community activist and campus leader. These things became just as important as my Women’s Studies courses and my organic chemistry classes. At 19, a fellow classmate and myself, decided to build a grassroots organization for girls in Syracuse from the ground up. We had people that doubted us, one most embedded in my memory, a white woman in the community service field. Marian backed my project emotionally and financially. She connected me with community resources and found ways for me to use my education at Syracuse to support my social entrepreneurship. She helped me be the BOSS I was destined to be. She understood that the work I did on and off campus fed-me intellectually in ways that the classroom could not.
She pulled me by my the “bootstraps” til’ completion…
Lets be real…some of us do not make it unfortunately. Although I will have you know, HEOP students have a 6.5% higher graduation rate than the national average. There are a host of things that keep young people from completing their education. These include financial barriers, academic rigor, institutional and interpersonal oppression, and lack of support. I’d say while all are extremely important, it is almost impossible to get through college without support. For an orphan like me hailing from the then poverty stricken and violence-infested neighborhood of Bed-Stuy (now up & coming = read gentrifying) this could not be more true. However for me, the perils that would impede on my education became even more real while at college. In my sophomore year, I was diagnosed with a chronic illness, that caused me to visit the hospital over 20+ times. As much as I want to stand on a soapbox and tell students with chronic illnesses that you can do it because I did, I know that I did not get through this by myself. Without the unwavering support of friends, family, professors and Marian the completion of my degree would have not been fulfilled in the time it did. I say she pulled me by bootstraps, because it was just that. She pulled me by something I did not have, she pulled me from nothingness. She nursed me to back to emotional health when I had to accept taking an extra semester to finish what I had started. She forced me to put my pride aside, value my worth and be unapologetic about both my abilities and differently-abledness. She worked above and beyond her job description.
We all have different experiences, many of them traumatic; I try to stay away from twitter for that exact reason. But some of us have had positive experiences that may act as a glimmer of hope into a feminist future. I am a more fearless and unapologetic person because of her. When I am in a room of white women, I am unafraid. I hold white women accountable, because I know it is not impossible to be in solidarity with them, and even more to love them and them love me. In 2014, I am calling for a feminism that radically shifts the divisions and adjective-feminism (Transnational feminism, hip-hop feminism, Muslim feminism, etc.) that we know and embrace today. I am calling for the one that is affirming of our multiple identities, positions of power and experiences of oppression. I am calling for a feminism that allowed this Black girl from Bed-Stuy to learn to love a white woman, and call her my chosen-mother. However, this post isn’t about hope or solidarity, it is about my unwavering and unapologetic love for a woman, that because of all things wrong and oppressive in this world, I had to learn to love! And I do and will forever love her!
Jan 7, 2014
Drunk in Love = Safe in Love?
A few weeks ago, Beyonce quietly dropped an album (thanks for being awesome #QueenBey), and a hit single “Drunk in Love” is blaring from every angle. Corner stores, cars on the highway, my dentist’s office. You name it, and “Drunk in Love” is on everyone’s playlist. While the entire album is well received by her audience, “Drunk in Love” raises a bigger question about the role of sobriety in sexual encounters.
As a third-year college student in America’s biggest college town, I’ve seen and heard all the effects of alcohol in sexual encounters.
“It makes flirting easier.” “It makes cumming faster.” “It makes talking smoother.”
Easier. Faster. Smoother.
Things alcohol does to your hook-up/sex life (because not all hook-ups involve sex). Sounds good, right? But, then glance over at the role of alcohol in sexual violence and the role of alcohol in America’s rape culture, especially among young people. While there is no direct correlation between alcohol and sexual violence, is there a safe way to be drunk during sex and, of course, during love?
For Beyonce and Jay-Z, one of the most powerful couples in the entertainment industry, their marriage seems like something out of utopia: a child, money, love, fame, etc.
But most couples aren’t like this. In fact, how many women can say that they completely trust their partner when they are drunk? How many times are women left feeling comfortable in their vulnerability and sexuality with their partner?
That’s what struck the most in this song. Beyonce feels safe enough to trust Jay-Z when they’re both drunk. And that’s actually so rare. Society places so many preconceived notions of sex and alcohol, especially on the role of alcohol to get women drunk for sex. With sex comes vulnerability and trust, the trust to be with someone during your most intimate moments and the vulnerability to linger with your most intimate thoughts.
While “Drunk in Love” represents a part of a relationship rarely depicted in media, I would like to see other women feel more safe and secure in their relationships, sober or not.
Jan 6, 2014
The Boy Scouts are no longer discriminating against “gay” youth male members. Which is awesome!! Small steps eventually lead to big changes.
I look forward to the work the Tessier and Wahls are part of to create a more inclusive Boy Scouts. They mention that this may be the momentum needed to change the Boy Scouts Policies prohibiting “gay” identified adult male members from being part of their organization.
I was never a boy scout, I was not interested in that sorta stuff growing up. Maybe, because deep down I knew I was queer and I was a afraid of other boys noticing my queerness also. Which is still something I am learning to navigate.
However, I am interested in how organizations, such as the Boy Scouts of America, change their policies. Specifically how internal forces, such as members the greatest capacity to inspire change, most likely because of that personal connection.
Somethings to think about:
What are the Boy Scout’s policies on allowing transgender youth males to be part of the Boy Scouts?
Do the Boy Scout teach their members and leaders cultural competency?
I am sure that there are many other questions still needing to be asked/answered. Well, if you would like to read the article for yourself here is the link:http://www.buzzfeed.com/tonymerevick/as-boy-scouts-end-gay-membership-ban-fight-for-inclusion-con
Jan 3, 2014
Why 2014 Could Be A Huge Turning Point For Reproductive Rights
Roe v. Wade will mark its 41st birthday later this month, amid ever-increasing assaults on reproductive rights across the nation. According to the latest report from the Guttmacher Institute, states have imposed a staggering 205 abortion restrictions between 2011 and 2013. That legislation has attacked access to abortion from all angles — targeting providers and clinics, driving up the cost of abortion for the women who need it, making women travel farther and wait longer to get medical care, and outright banning the procedure. Since 2000, the number of states that Guttmacher defines as being “hostile” to abortion rights has spiked from 13 to 27.
That’s left abortion rights advocates on the other side, working hard to stem the tide of anti-choice attacks. Constantly warding off restrictive legislation hasn’t left much space for proactive policies to expand women’s reproductive freedom, like expanding access to maternity care or making family planning services more accessible to low-income women. Most of the headlines about abortion issues are bleak.
But there may be a shift on the horizon.
Jan 1, 2014
The Righteous Retreat that was going to be held at Nottoway Plantation, a place full of triggering thoughts and connections to slavery used to host a feminist singer-songwriter event, was thankfully canceled by Ani DiFranco. What has transpired this last few weeks was another display of racism from white feminists failing to check their privilege. It was a clear obliviousness of the essential need for intersectionality. Since the official announcement of the venue, justifiable outrage from women of color feminists were heard but were also dismissed with the usual claims that lacked understanding and critical thinking: “You’re perpetuating racism!/We can reclaim this piece of history!” Women of color feminists, specifically black feminists and women, were told to “get over it. Slavery’s done with.”
The venue for the Righteous Retreat and Twitter gave birth to another great satirical hashtag, #AniDiFrancoRetreatIdeas, where many progressive individuals shared their witty and snarky jabs at such a clueless slip up.
Call outs were found in the comments of the Facebook event page, and as a response to the criticism, there was one person in particular named Mandi Harrington who took the extra step to maintain supremacy and dismiss the words of black women. She created a black woman persona, stealing some black woman’s photo and created her own name to defend her comments. But what she thought was a vernacular black women used was actually her own racist projections.
And what has been Ani Difranco’s response to all of this? Well, it was certainly a long one–almost too long for what should have been a simple and succinct, “I’m sorry. I messed up.” What should have been an apology ended up being explanation without any responsibility or blame from her part and feeling more grieved by this lost opportunity rather than true empathy for those who have been truly hurt from this incident. Her full explanation can be read here.
Dec 31, 2013
After Michigan House and Senate’s shameful support of a law that would force burial and cremation costs on those who sought abortions, they decided the next step would be to establish a “rape insurance” for people who have the ability to get pregnant earlier this month. The bill is infamously known as Michigan’s Rape Insurance bill, the actual name being The Abortion Insurance Opt-Out Act. It places a ban on private insurance companies from covering abortion. This forces women into buying extra coverage for their abortion care on top of their paid plans. What’s more is that this legislation has no exceptions for rape or incest. And the coverage can’t be purchased during a pregnancy, it has to be bought prior to one–because those who have the ability to become pregnant are in a constant state of being pre-pregnant.
The Guttmacher Institute’s research in payment for abortion shows that almost 70% of women pay out of their own pockets for this medical procedure, and almost 52% of those women found it difficult to pay. So, what’s to become of that 52%? What’s to become of those who already can’t pay for the treatment they need? We already live in a system that routinely and unapologetically ignore the needs of the people. It’s not just a limiting of our right to the health care we need. It’s one more step to further marginalizing those who are already feeling the burden of an oppressive, unfree economy.
Not all are sitting idly while outside groups and politicians pushed for this. Michigan Senator Gretchen Whitmer shared her own thoughts in a Huffington Post blog:
“I shared my story of being sexually assaulted because even if it wouldn’t give my Republican colleagues pause to reconsider the vote they were about to take, I at least wanted them to, for the first time, have to directly consider the consequences of their actions and see that those being hurt by it aren’t anonymous faces, but friends, family and, yes, even their colleagues on the Senate floor.
What’s too easily dismissed in these types of discussions is that this issue is not simply about pro-choice or pro-life, it is about interfering with contracts between women and our health care providers. This new law forbids private insurance companies from covering abortions unless a woman buys additional and preemptive coverage, even in the case of rape, incest, or even medically necessary dilation and curettage (D & C) procedures for planned pregnancies that went wrong.
This measure is extreme, ignorant and insultingly misogynistic. I’m disgusted to say that it is now the law of the land in Michigan, but how it became law is just as offensive as the law itself.
Right to Life of Michigan, an extremist special-interest group with significant financial backing from a select few secretive donors, has pushed for this law twice before. Both times they failed, as two different Republican Governors stood up to them and vetoed it. In fact, in explaining his veto of this measure earlier this year, Governor Rick Snyder, someone I don’t often agree with, rightly stated, “I don’t believe it is appropriate to tell a woman who becomes pregnant due to a rape that she needed to select elective insurance coverage.”
But instead of admitting defeat, Right to Life took their crusade even further. They exploited an obscure loophole in Michigan’s Constitution that allowed them to bypass the governor’s veto entirely, as well as the will of the people, by securing the signatures of only four percent of Michigan’s population to bring a so-called “citizens’ initiative” before the legislature and then flexed their political muscle over the Republican majority, forcing them to immediately vote it into law.”
Dec 30, 2013
Buffer zone laws are meant to serve the simple purpose of aiding legal protection to abortion access and vary state to state, even country to country. They are viewed as bordering provisions for anti-abortion speakers and protestors to not infringe on the safety and well-being of an abortion provider’s patients and staff. In a few weeks, the Massachusetts buffer zone law will be heard in the Supreme Court, with anti-abortion activists and abortion activists ready and waiting. Reporters have already covered both sides of the story, and everyone in the reproductive justice community in Massachusetts is keeping a close eye on this decision.
With the Supreme Court hearing on Jan. 15, I wonder how the verdict will turn out. While anti-abortion activists will claim freedom of speech and assembly, these freedoms are not justified with previous histories of aggression, violence, and libel nationwide.
For those who work at the Planned Parenthood League of Massachusetts, this decision hits close to home. Nearly two decades ago, a shooter entered a Planned Parenthood in Brookline, Massachusetts, and killed two people and wounded five others. As a result, Planned Parenthood moved to a new location, but the memory of those who died and were affected by this tragic incident sparked a movement to further protect staff and patients in abortion-providing settings.
Fast forward to 2013, and as I walk into Planned Parenthood for my internship, I see signs of defaced babies and crowds of people distributing anti-abortion material. The amount of anti-abortion activism varies, but it’s enough to know that the anti-abortion movement is strong in Massachusetts.
Let’s see what the new year brings.
Dec 29, 2013
We are People of Color. We didn’t choose to be, but we love our cultures. Because of our skin, we have added struggles. In our safe spaces, we have every right to feel welcomed and not tokenized, harassed or ignored. We ask for you to listen to us when we speak about racism because we are being effected by it daily. This video is a compilation of things actually said to POC involved in activism and social justice.
We want to be heard, listen to us.
Dec 29, 2013
“I invite you to find your voice and let it be known that you stand for abortion rights and the dignity of a woman to be the master of her own life and body.” – Mark Ruffalo
Dec 27, 2013
I am a pretty big fan of sitting at home with food and shows to binge on. And East Los High caught my full and undivided attention. I’m not normally into soapy teen dramas, but the problems teens face everyday, especially teens of color in neighborhoods like East Los, were real.
While many find sex and the details of it to still be taboo to discuss, teens are left without the rights and respect to get the knowledge they need to better protect themselves. I found it so refreshing to find a series that is easily relatable, stimulating, and educational. Oh, and guess what? Characters in the show can actually say the word “abortion.” There wasn’t a Voldemort treatment of an actual medical procedure that one out of three women in the United States will experience in their lifetime. Even better, several choices and paths that follow unprotected sex are explored and tidbits of helpful sexual health facts and info are casually placed into the dialogue. There’s even brief but impactful conversations on masculinity and gender roles in regards to safe sex throughout the show.
I had a Hulu Plus account and was fortunately able to view the “Hulu exclusive” series, but anyone can watch the full episodes on the East Los High website. It’s a good and fairly accessible teen drama with lots of examples and lessons to share. There are little whispers about a second season to appear, and I am excitedly waiting. Not everyone shared my enthusiasm for the show though. An online “news” article from Life Site News expressed an opinion:
Planned Parenthood’s has its guns aimed squarely at Hispanic teens, as it continues its latest foray into eugenic targeting via an unbelievably salacious novella featuring an all-Latino/Latina cast…
What kind of public service is done by the airing of this trashy novella directed to Hispanic teens? And just what is the “moral” of Episode 1? Finish the dance with your boyfriend before dashing to the car to have sex with someone else? Watch out when you have sex in a car because someone may be videotaping you? Being voted Winter Queen will make you extremely popular on the hookup circuit?
How can anyone even use the word “moral” in connection with this series?
There are some other significant things that this writer neglects to mention besides the awesome sexual health info and examples found throughout the series. East Los High is the first English language show with an all Latino cast. And what is even better is that the cast defies the mainstream roles that Latino people are often forced into. For something like this to be left out in this diatribe is quite telling of the kind of perspective the writer has, especially with the condescending and twisted but very nonexistent link between the show and fictitious eugenic attempts.
Miriam Perez, a past contributor on Racialicious, Feministing, and RHRealityCheck, has written on this topic of anti-choice movements making it seem like they care about women of color. Her post was originally found on RHRealityCheck, but I pulled it off Racialicious. From the succinct and eloquent post Worried About Women of Color? Thanks, But No Thanks, Anti-Choicers. We’ve Got It Covered:
At first glance, it’s nice to see the anti-choice community pretending to care about communities of color. But within a few minutes, the skepticism sets in. What’s really behind these tactics, coming from a group that is majority white, middle-class and Christian? In the end, we know this isn’t actually about women of color and their well-being. It’s a sensationalist attempt to pit women of color against the reproductive rights movement. Classic divide and conquer…
We’ve fought back against governmental policies like welfare family caps and limits on access to certain types of contraception over others. We’ve fought with the reproductive rights community to get them to care about these issues and how they affect our communities—and we’ve won.
We’re fighting for access to contraception, to abortion, to options for childbirth and parenting. And now we’ll fight the racist and paternalistic logic behind the eugenics arguments being made by anti-choicers.
Life Site News has urged concerned citizens to call Hulu’s corporate headquarters at 310-571-4700 to remove the series and to make sure a second season contract cannot be extended. Please use the number to the opposite.
(This has also been posted on my blogs FanTalk and STFU, Pro-Lifers.)
Dec 21, 2013
And read the report itself here.
Dec 17, 2013
So, I was returning to Delhi on 11th December, 2013. We were a company of 6 people returning from a friend’s wedding. We were exhausted and trying not to look too tired on reaching the Delhi outskirts as we had offices or classes to attend.
I can still remember the moment so vividly when one of the people got dropped, my friend moved to the front of the car to make himself more comfortable, I did not wish to open my eyes when I heard someone switch on mobile, the twing of a whats app message and my friend announcing:
I am a criminal now!
Was it his announcement or the quietness of the moment or the dramatic mathod of delivery that got to us but something did because the quiet moment changed into one of activity where some laughed as they thought he was joking, someone else wanted to know what did he mean while I for once started checking my mobile hoping to understand what did he mean.
He was speaking about the Indian Supreme court verdict on Section 377. So a quick social media search got me these updates:
#377updates Six things you should know after the Supreme Court verdict on Section 377, Indian Penal Code: [credit - Varta]
a) On December 11, 2013, the Supreme Court reversed the Delhi High Court ruling on Section 377, which means this law is back in force, as it was till before July 2, 2009.
b) Section 377 criminalizes any sexual act that does not involve penile-vaginal penetration. It applies to all people, irrespective of their gender identity or sexual orientation. That means straight people are also affected by this law, and not just those who are homosexual, bisexual or transgender in orientation.
c) Section 377 in itself does not mean that you can be arrested for simply being or saying you are lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, Hijra or Kothi. Your freedom of expression is not under threat.
d) Arrest under this law requires medical forensic evidence of specific sexual acts having taken place – oral, anal or other non penile-vaginal sexual acts.
e) You cannot be arrested for being in a declared or undeclared same-sex relationship. Strict material evidence of specific sexual acts will be necessary for arrest.
f) Community, family, workplace or police harassment, blackmail and extortion may take place under threat of Section 377 or even because you appear or are known to be “not straight”. But more than anything else, it is these acts that are illegal and they can be tackled with a dose of courage and sound legal action. If you have concerns around these issues, please send your queries to email@example.com. Your confidentiality will be respected.
This is a simplistic analysis of the law and what the Indian Supreme Court decision meant for the LGBTQ community (feel free to read a legal analysis here: http://ohrh.law.ox.ac.uk/?p=3702) but what it doesn’t bring out is that this is possibly one issue that united the voices of certain religious leaders (who otherwise are always out for each other’s blood) or how easily this issue could (and has) become political (afterally our bodies are not ours but political tools of contention).
So, let me give you a preview of what the scenario in India has been like: everything is about the elections in 2014. People want a change, the present governmance has not been very effective while people are dealing with high inflation and raised food prices. In the middle of all this, last two weeks have been about Lok Sabha (or the lower house) elections in four states, including Delhi.
Now guess what, the political parties are coming out with some surprising statements about how they support or don’t support criminalisation of homosexuals. Of course their deliberations can be very patronising and sometimes downright ridiculous but they need to be followed as whether a sexual identity could make one into a criminal or not is to be deliberated in the Legilature!
This (of course) will raise up more discussions around live-ins, LGBTQs and create more stigma.
However, as of now all I can hope is that the protests happening at Jantar Mantar, Delhi (one that I participated in) and various parts of India influences the legislature.
Dec 12, 2013
Examine My Depth:
Examine this depth because it hasn’t sprung from nowhere – my rage is not a fire hydrant that opens with a tap and strikes everyone close by.
My ache has been rooted and carefully harvested for centuries.
My rage is Mandela, King, Malcolm X, Corky Gonzales, Susan B. Anthony, and Dennis Goldberg.
Please tell me why my presence seems to be scrutinized by the public eye.
My misery lies within the hard cold walls of the daunting penitentiaries in which my people lie.
Open me up and dissect my pain. Tell me that my mother deserves better than minimum wage while working at a hotel – tell me that we didn’t cross el rio Bravo: monstrous and alive, ready to take our lives, only to live a white, superficial hell.
That my aunt wasn’t sexually assaulted on the border, only to find herself lost and lone in the land of the free, in fear of a deportation order.
Let me know that the “New Jim Crow” does not exist. I want to hear that Michelle Alexander is wrong when she says “Jarvious Cotton cannot vote….His great-grandfather was beaten to death by the Ku Klux Klan for attempting to vote. His grandfather was prevented from voting by Klan intimidation. His father was barred from voting by poll taxes and literacy tests. Today, Jarvious Cotton cannot vote because he, like many black men in the United States, has been labeled a felon and is currently on parole.”
Take a closer look at my disgust when I say that five Middle Eastern men had the police called on them at my university for looking like they did not belong: they were students.
They were no more than 18 year old humans.
Tell me that my father did not hold on to the rails of a train for 24 hours in order to be here – only to drive in fear of deportation. What good is the free land if we are closed off and barred in our box of a home in isolation?
I wish Alexander was wrong when she tells us “A black man was on his knees in the gutter, hands cuffed behind his back, as several police officers stood around him talking, joking, and ignoring his human existence.” – This or course, on Election Day: As we introduce the first black president of the United States
I yearn for the day when statements like these are not true – when black and brown people are not just labeled as a form of “resistance.”
Examine my anger. Look deep into my soul. Take a look at the land you’ve settled and grounded your beliefs on – notice that my angst was not born this morning, or last night, or a week ago, or 10 years ago. Notice that I have been destined to fail and crumble for centuries – see my pain and then take a look at the Anglo reign.
Examine this depth.
Once entering College, I found myself being the only queer youth of color in most if not all of my classes – and also found myself angry at people with privilege because they made sure to make me feel less than human every single day. However, I keep on doing advocacy work and telling people my story, in hopes of changing mindsets and perspectives.
I wrote this poem about youth of color, and people of color in general because we are often no more than a statistic: a reaction to the dominant culture – and we are often left out on conversations that deal with health care, LGBTQ issues, or sexual health.
Latin@ people of color matter.
Dec 10, 2013
[tumblr source: sarahlynne3713]
Dec 9, 2013
As a public health major, I’ve learned that linking health and human rights in a single, cohesive approach can further promote and advance people’s overall well-being. Sadly, many health policies and programs both at home and abroad, lack such approach and instead continue to negatively impact our basic inherent rights, stifle our holistic growth as individuals, and permeate social stigmas and isolation.
Today, pressing issues of sexual and reproductive justice continue to affect young people across the world. Health policies around the accessibility and availability of comprehensive sex education, contraceptives, and preventative screenings continue to limit young people’s right to accurate and complete sexual health information, confidential reproductive and sexual health services and most importantly, a secure stake in the future.
In the US alone, only 21 states mandate comprehensive sex education that consists of both sexuality and HIV education in school. That means less than half of the country recognizes the importance of providing our youth the sexual health resources they need to grow and empower themselves. Most states also lack policies that could require health care services in schools to offer HIV, STD, and pregnancy testing and counseling. It is not surprising then, that young people in America actually experience the highest rate of HIV infections because of the sexual health accessibility and availability issues.
In developing countries of sub-Saharan Africa, maternal death rates are shockingly high because young and poor women lack access to contraception and pregnancy-related services such as safe abortion, family planning, and pregnancy counseling. These girls are actually 175 times more likely to die in childbirth than women elsewhere because of the sexual and reproductive injustice prevalent in their countries. Clearly, the lack of comprehensive sex education and the lack of sexual, reproductive health services both in schools and in the government negatively impacts the health of our peers everywhere. With no resources to protect and empower themselves, our peers are left vulnerable to the external and or cultural forces they have no control over like early child marriage or rape.
On December 10th, we will be recognizing International Human Rights Day’s 20 years of promotion of the universal respect for and observance of all human rights. It is a day we recognize the minimum set of needs and obligations that every person should have or have the right to. The United Nations General Assembly noted that this day was created to highlight the human rights’ importance as the common standard of achievement of all people.
On this day, let’s take that challenge further by reaffirming our commitment to young people and their right to sexual and reproductive health. We all have the right & the responsibility to protect our own emotional and physical health as well as that of our partners. To do this, young people deserve the right to access the resources we need to improve our sexual and reproductive health!
Dec 5, 2013
This video is for all the people who insist that there is such a thing as “reverse racism”. Racism is more complex than what a lot of people think it to be. Sure things like micro-agressions, appropriation, erasure and stereotyping exist, but it goes beyond all that to encompass pretty much every aspect of human life.
Nov 25, 2013
(original image by The Stigma Project)
We are a grassroots organization that aims to lower the HIV infection rate and neutralize the stigma associated with HIV/AIDS through education and awareness via social media and advertising. The Stigma Project seeks to create an HIV neutral world, free of judgement and fear by working with both positive and negative individuals from all walks of life, regardless of their gender, sexual orientation, race, or background.
Social media has rapidly become one of today’s largest mediums of news, culture, and education. We hope to embrace that with effective campaigns each season that bring awareness to the current state of HIV. Please, whether you’re HIV-positive, negative, or you don’t know (and should), we need your help. Ask your friends to join us in starting a revolution: an “HIV Neutral” revolution. Like us, Share us, Re-tweet us. The more people we reach, the more effective our project. The more successful our mission. YOU can make a difference.
The Stigma Project seeks to eliminate the stigma of HIV/AIDS on a global scale, through awareness, art, provocation, education and by inspiring a spirit of living “HIV Neutral.”
The Stigma Project seeks to create an “HIV Neutral” world, free of judgment, fear, discrimination and alienation by educating both positive and negative individuals from all walks of life about the constantly evolving state of the epidemic. We seek to reduce the HIV infection rate through knowledge, awareness, and effective marketing and advertising. Ultimately we see a future where the world is free of HIV/AIDS.
I’ve already posted this image before but without credit to the original poster, so here it is! I’ve also added information about this organization!
Nov 19, 2013
Jamaica is a very beautiful place in every respect. The single most damaging problem I see is the laid-back attitude of most men in our society. I really pause to say to the world and jamaica in particular…… Its time to MAN UP! Severything to the ladies. We need to stand for what we believe can change our world for the better. Sto hopping 3 feet and realise that you are a 20feet jumper.
Nov 19, 2013
(original photo and post by GLAAD)
The Transgender Day of Remembrance was set aside to memorialize those who were killed due to anti-transgender hatred or prejudice. This year, the day is November 20th, 2013.
- An average life span for a trans person is 23 years
- 238 reported cases of murdered trans people happened within the year
- An estimated 78% of transgender people have experienced harassment or mistreatment at work due to their gender identity
Nov 15, 2013
So, what do you all think about this?
According to this article, LGBTQ activist from Salt Lake City, Utah, anti-bullying laws among LGBTQ kids can “out” them, which could lead to increase bullying among peers and possible abandonment and rejection among family members. A new law in Utah mandates that schools notify parents when children are victims of bullying. Christine D’Arco, a lesbian from Salt Lake City, Utah mentions how much she was bullied during high school and how the trauma has lead to attempts of suicide. She mentions how she never told her parents about the bullying she experienced because she feared of “coming out.” Now, she is 24 years old and out, she remains close with her family. Though, she and several LGBTQ activists fear by passing the law can have parents questioning the sexual orientation of their children and force LGBTQ students, who live in intolerant households, out of the closet. In result of coming out in these intolerant households, the effects could lead to abandonment and homelessness.
So, what do you all think? Do LGBTQ activists of Utah have a point? In my opinion, I believe this concern about whether the law will “expose” LGBTQ students in unsafe environments is a valet point. Though, whether not a student chooses to come out or not, the real concern is about protecting all students, regardless of their sexual orientation, from bullying. If a student choses to come out or not, these laws will still be in place, which will protect them and hold all staff and faulty accountable for their safety.
Oct 30, 2013
The image above pretty much sums up the pro-life movement. Fetuses are more valuable than women in utero. And after they are born, the same people who professed to fight for its rights suddenly couldn’t care less.
Oct 29, 2013
I came across this and just had to share. It’s a list of examples of why racial stereotypes (“…thinking people of color are all like that”) are horrible, versus stereotypes about white people. I guess this stems from the standard response that most PoC get when they cite instances of racism. Y’know, instead of listening and taking notes we get, “But not all white people are like that though”. Uhhh, we’re not dumb. We know that; unlike some people.
Below is a list of stories curated by tumblr user(s) f*yeahcracker which describes itself as “…a safe space for People of Color to highlight examples of white privilege to further explain racial disparity in the West, specifically the United States and anywhere else it exists. It was created to mock a meme that was created. This is a response to the “n*gg*” meme. hopefully this blog just emphasizes how stupid the “n*gg*” meme is and brings understanding.”
Effects Of Thinking White People Are “All Like That”:
- Literally nothing other than white people having their feelings hurt on the internet
- I’m not joking there is no real world consequence of this
Effects Of Thinking People of Color Are “All Like That”:
NYPD Commissioner wants Black and Latino men to fear him after the police targeted literally 90 percent Black and Latino men in New York and humiliating them by frisking them in public under the assumption that they had weapons. Studies found that white men were the ones who overwhelmingly had weapons while Black and Latino men didn’t
Black people receive much harsher sentencing than white people for the same crimes do I need to go on?
But yeah, white people’s feelings :*(
Oct 27, 2013
I made a quick list of films about abortion and reproductive/sexual justice issues and posted it on STFU, Pro-Lifers.
Oct 27, 2013
(Originally created and posted on Tumblr by Dimitri - deadlyprincex)
(located outside the “unisex” bathrooms)
[texted image reads: “Everyone needs to use bathrooms, but only some of us have to enter into complicated political and architectural negotiations in order to use them. The fact is, bathrooms are easier to access for some of us than for others, and the people who never think about where and how they can pee have a lot of control over how using restrooms feels for the rest of us. […] Who has the privilege of always knowing that any given bathroom will meet one’s needs? Everyone needs to use the bathroom, but not all of us can.”
— “Calling All Restroom Revolutionaries” by Simone Chess, Alison Kafer, Jessi Quizar, and Mattie Udora Richardson (members of PISSAR – People in Search of Safe and Accessible Restrooms)]
Oct 24, 2013
Superheroines like the Black Widow, Wonder Woman, Storm and Jean Grey to fight other fictional villains who occasionally plague the human citizens of the world. But who will fight the infuriatingly realistic battles against misogyny, sexism and the like? Enter the Burka Avenger!
I came across this comic on Tumblr. As you can tell, it’s pretty terrific! The heroine’s name is Qahera and she goes around taking names and kicking the butts of those who dare to treat Muslim women as though they cannot speak for themselves.
Not surprisingly, FEMEN, the subject of the comic above, posted it on their site along with the following commentary,
New Islamic oppressive propaganda creation realized in comics was proposed to the public recently.The Muslim superhero Deena Mohammed’s Qahera who is burka-clad superhero who aims to destroy “all the ridiculous dehumanising stereotypes of Muslim women as oppressed and helpless.”
In one of the comic the burqa superhero lashes out against FEMEN activists, the topless female protestors. Says Deena: “I absolutely dislike their ideologies. I think they represent a significant mentality that only recognises a certain form of liberation (their own); along with dehumanising Muslim women and reaffirming colonial white-saviour attitudes.”
Well, FEMEN is proud to be in opposition to some oppressive Islamic traditions, such as covering women with burqa. Such comic is an alarm to the world to stand up. Even in painted comics they leave to women inly eyes, covering her body completely. Burqa can’t be a choice of women until in many countries of the world women are obliged to cover themselves being threaten for punishment instead. Woman is not “a sac of shame”! Islam is not a source of morality but source of oppression and violence!
Talk about missing the point entirely.
A Muslim woman has made this fantastic comic detailing FEMEN’s problematic nature and the organization responds by calling it oppressive islamic propaganda. If the women you profess to be liberating say they don’t want or need to be liberated, who exactly do they think they’re fighting for by refusing to see truth and forging forward? Seriously, FEMEN is bordering on PETA-esque behavior. Runway incident anyone? It’s pretty disgusting really.
Oct 22, 2013
I mean, really?
The author of the post about Miley Cyrus is one Jincey Lumpkin, founder of Juicy Pink Box – “a lifestyle brand that entices all women to explore their lesbian fantasies” and sex columnist at HuffPo.
She has since written a blog post apologizing for her piece in which she entirely disregards the claims of appropriation and use of black women as props, choosing instead to focus on Miley’s right to express her sexuality. A standpoint which, from my point of view, is not really the main concern. Yes it’s a little disturbing that her tongue seems to spend a lot more time outside her mouth than in, and that her latex shorts were seriously eating her butt during her VMA performance (*cringe*), but I think we all know that it’s unfair for her to be the sole target when Mr. Robin Blurred-Lines-is-a-Feminist-Movement Thicke was an equally inappropriate part of the performance.
Granted, the two posts in the snapshot above were written by two different people, but it’s a pretty good depiction of the lack of inter -sectionalism in feminism. That brings to mind the following quote:
“Black women wake up in the morning, look in the mirror, and see Black women. White women wake up in the morning, look in the mirror, and see women. White men wake up in the morning, look in the mirror, and see human beings.” - Michelle Haimoff
Oct 7, 2013
(reposted from The Nation, originally posted by Katha Pollitt)
How could something so basic be in such short supply? Diapers are expensive—up to $100 a month—particularly for women who don’t have transportation and must rely on bodegas and local convenience stores. Some women reported spending 6 percent of their total income on paper nappies. And before you say, “Let them use cloth,” Marie Antoinette, bear in mind that diaper services are expensive, few poor women have their own washing machines, most laundromats don’t permit customers to launder dirty diapers and most daycare programs don’t allow cloth diapers. Like fresh fruit and vegetables, humanely raised meat and dairy products, and organic baby food, cloth diapers are the province of the well-off.
Despite this clear need, however, diapers are not covered by the food stamp program (SNAP) or by the Women, Infants, and Children feeding program. The government apparently finds them unnecessary, like other hygiene products (toilet paper, menstrual supplies, toothpaste, even soap), which are also, unlike food, subject to sales tax. Never mind that babies can’t choose not to pee and poo and did not select their parents. Never mind, too, that those grandmothers who are the hardest hit caregivers are performing a crucial social task—and saving the taxpayer millions—by keeping those kids out of foster care.
Food, it’s true, is even more basic than diapers. But some people believe low-income children don’t really need that either. If House Republicans have their way, 4 to 6 million SNAP recipients may soon find themselves bounced from the rolls. This, at a time when the Department of Agriculture tells us that 17.6 million households regularly go hungry, up from 12 million ten years ago. Proving yet again that there really is a difference between the parties, Republicans want to cut the food stamp budget by $40 billion over the next ten years.
Oct 7, 2013
Urban Retreat 2013 was truly an experience beyond any tier. Never have I ever been surrounded by so many like-minded individuals–as much of an oxymoron as that might sound. We were all individuals because we all had our own story to share. We came from many different walks of life and parts of the world. All of us had to overcome some type of unique trauma and oppression that we were facing in our own separate lives. But we celebrated our diversity. And we were all there in unison trying to contribute to the vision we shared for the world.
I might have been a tiny bit apprehensive about making the trip to Washington, D.C. at first. I wasn’t really enthusiastic about being away from my girlfriend. It was a place I had never been to on my own. I would be surrounded by strangers. But these strangers quickly became my friends. And these friends were all activists and advocates for social progress in their own communities from all over the world, so I had a lot to learn from them. And I found, to my surprise, that I had things I could share with them as well. Together we received training to become more effective activists and leaders. And after the inspiring trainings and workshops, we headed to Capitol Hill together to share our stories and insight with our representatives. It was a self-affirming and inspiring experience.
I even got to meet Janet Mock! We talked and had dinner. She even tweeted me and followed me on Twitter!
It’s thanks to Urban Retreat that I’ve gained new tools, resources, and concepts that would empower me and inspire me to be more involved in activism and advocacy for social justice. And it’s thanks to Urban Retreat that I’ve gained a new family with YouthResource. Today I woke up this morning and found myself in my own bed in Michigan. I wasn’t in Washington, D.C. with my fellow advocates anymore. The realization was bittersweet. But I know I’ll see these faces soon enough with stories to share.
Sep 25, 2013
Volunteer Training with One Royal Oak, discussing possible issues that may come up while phone banking.
Hype about DOMA (Defense of Marriage Act) has died down and our LGBT community sort of gained the right to marriage. Notable “activist” efforts like statuses being made, profile pictures on Facebook being changed, and arguing with not so progressive relatives went on for days until the Supreme Court ruling over DOMA. But since the SCOTUS ruling, there’s been silence and the false notion instilled in a surprising majority that we’ve finally achieved all that we needed to. Discrimination against LGBT folks is over because we can marry in some states and a lot of straight, cis people changed their photos into equality signs!
Our community is still facing several inequities which are more dire than not being able to walk down the aisle. What about making sure our brothers and sisters have a job and a place to live? Only 20 states offer some protection for LGBT people in housing. In 29 states, a person can still be fired without warning simply for being gay. And in 34 states a person can be fired for being trans*. Aren’t these the issues we should be engaging our friends and family with? What’s being done about it while we’re waiting to see what happens with ENDA (Employment Non-Discrimination Act) for who knows how long?
Before anyone asks what I’m personally doing about this, I can tell people right now that I’ve joined up with a non-profit, political campaign called One Royal Oak. Our mission is to pass a non-discrimination ordinance in Royal Oak, Michigan which would ban discrimination in employment, housing, and public accommodations “on the basis of actual OR perceived race, national origin, religion, color, sex, age, height, weight, pregnancy condition, marital status, physical and mental limitations, source of income, family responsibilities, educational
association, sexual orientation, gender identity, and HIV status.”
So far I’ve taken part in the volunteer training. I participated in phone banking, trying to gather donations for the cause. I’m constantly trying to make my friends and family understand the importance of this situation. I believe in equality, so I’ll do what I can to help. It’s just one city, but every little step counts. And One Royal Oak isn’t alone in their efforts for equality in the United States. Seek out ways to help our community either by volunteering or simply donating to activist groups like One Royal Oak, whether it’s on a local or federal level.
I’m more than happy that I have the right to marry my girlfriend thanks to the SCOTUS ruling. But between not walking down the aisle and not sleeping on the streets, I would choose the latter. There are many obstacles in finding a job and a place to live, our identity–who we choose to love and who we are–shouldn’t be one of them.
Sep 25, 2013
Documenting the Social and Economic Benefits of Family Planning
Reposted from: Guttmacher Institute, written by Adam Sonfield
Public health experts have long emphasized the benefits to maternal and child health of helping women and couples avoid unintended pregnancy and better time and space the pregnancies they have. Notably, numerous U.S. and international studies have found a causal link between closely spaced pregnancies and three key birth outcome measures: low birth weight, preterm birth and small size for gestational age.1 And a large body of literature highlights an association between unintended pregnancy and delayed initiation of prenatal care, as women are more likely to realize early that they are pregnant if they were trying to become pregnant.
Yet, although the preventive health benefits of unintended pregnancy prevention are clear and persuasive—and, indeed, provided the impetus for the new federal requirement that most private health plans cover contraception without copays or deductibles (see “The Case for Insurance Coverage of Contraceptive Services and Supplies Without Cost-sharing,” Winter 2011)—the primary reasons American women give for why they use and value contraception are social and economic. Women know that controlling whether and when to have children has positive benefits for their lives. A pair of recent Guttmacher Institute analyses explore their motivations and the benefits they accrue from acting on them. READ MORE
Sep 25, 2013
Koch Bros. Give Millions to Anti-Choice Efforts in the States
Reposted from: RHRealityCheck, written by Adele M. Stan
To hear the billionaire brothers Charles and David Koch tell it, they’re all about business; they don’t give a whit about those messy, so-called “social issues” like abortion, contraception, or same-sex marriage. The billions they dump into the political coffers of the right, they’ll tell you, are to further what they call “free enterprise” (translate: killing unions and regulations on business) and, more generally, “freedom” (by which they generally mean freedom from things they don’t like, such as regulations and unions).
But a blockbuster report published Thursday by Politico reporters Mike Allen and Jim VandeHei shows otherwise. How else to explain why Freedom Partners, a shadowy group that Politico refers to as the “Kochs’ secret bank” gave $8.2 million to the virulently anti-LGBT, anti-abortion Concerned Women for America Legislative Action Committee (CWALAC), which lobbies for such bills as the recently passed law in Texas that will effectively ban all abortion 20 weeks after fertilization, and includes unnecessary and onerous regulations on abortion clinics that are designed to compel many to close their doors.
Sep 25, 2013
Texas woman drives four hours to Planned Parenthood after being shamed for hickey
Reposted from: Raw Story, written by David Edwards
A Texas woman who was shamed by her doctor for having a hickey and wanting birth control says she is now forced to drive four hours to a Planned Parenthood clinic for health care due to the state’s new anti-abortion laws.
Athena Mason told KUT that her first visit to the doctor as a student at Texas A&M was awkward.
“I had a hickey and the doctor was just like, you shouldn’t be doing that,” she recalled. “I’m like, ‘It’s a hickey, it’s nothing major.’ But I got a big lecture. [He said] my boyfriend was abusive and all of these things. And then I asked for birth control. I did not hear the end of that. So I said never mind, I’ll go somewhere else.”
Mason started using the Planned Parenthood clinic in Bryan. But that facility is one of four women’s health service providers that closed in August after the state passed new regulations restricting abortions.
So Mason now drives four hours to the Planned Parenthood clinic in Austin for health care.
In 1998, Cadence King was diagnosed with pre-cancerous cells on her cervix and became a patient at the Planned Parenthood clinic in Bryan. She had returned for regular checkups in the years since, but she has missed visits in recent weeks because the clinic closed.
King is now struggling to find a new health care provider. Her only options are driving three hours to Beaumont or waiting four months for the next opening with the one Bryan clinic that’s willing to take her case.
Sep 24, 2013
Love is love. It doesn’t matter their creed, race, gender, or culture; when love happens it happens and there’s nothing anyone can do about it. That means as a species we have to accept it. When a person isn’t allowed to live their life they want to then it isn’t living. This is why I advocate for acceptance of everyone; everyone deserves a full and enjoyable life.
Sep 8, 2013
The definition of an advocate is a person who publicly supports or recommends a particular cause or policy. The definition of being passionate is having strong feelings or beliefs for something. I am an Ohio advocate because I encompass both traits and now have an outlet in which I can help implement policy change that reflects what I support and believe in.
There is a huge inequality issue not only on the federal level but also on the state and local level. There needs to be a regulated comprehensive sex education program implemented in Ohio, there needs to be an end of making the LGBTQ community second class citizens and the bullying and dehumanizing of students in schools everywhere needs to be put to a stop. Through Ohio advocates, I now have the tools, support and voice to help change the black and white values and patterns of society.
I am an advocate for all people, regardless of size, age, race, sexual orientation or gender. I am passionate and hopeful for the equality of all people in the state and country. My name is Hannah, and this is why I am an Ohio advocate.
Sep 8, 2013
I joined Ohio Advocates this year because I always want to do more as a woman and as an African American woman. America has all these issues with change but that would be the best thing for us as women.
I have been fortunate enough to have been educated about my sexual health through Planned Parenthood but unfortunately not everyone has that opportunity. we need a change for our future generations and for the youth NOW so when I heard there was a group pushing for this I had to join it. I have to be able to tell my future daughters that I was apart of something so wonderful. we want comprehensive sex ed. and we want gender equality as well as LGBTQ equality. we want people to stop bullying because ultimately want a better Ohio and ideally a better country! starting with our youth starting with Ohio Advocates
Sep 6, 2013
“I love how anytime a black person points out anti-black racism, the issue always gets derailed to focus on racism towards whites. Yes, for far too long, black people have had the heel of their boots on the necks of white people. When will this reign of black terror end? Will white people ever be safe from black supremacy creeping into their lives daily? The microagressions must be driving them crazy. Think of the poor, white people!” - Atane Ofiaja (http://atane.tumblr.com)
If you’ve been keeping up with the discourse around the #FeminismIsForWhiteWomen tag on twitter and other conversations before and beyond it, you know that one big issue PoC have with non-PoC people is the fact that almost every instance of a call-out ends in claims of reverse racism; laughable because there is no such thing. Say it with me now, “There is no such thing as reverse racism”.
The comment above was made in response to accusations made by several individuals towards Franchesca Ramsey’s commentary on the story about the Tulsa girl who was sent home from school because her dreadlocks violate the school dress code.
“The natural hair that grows out of our heads is “distracting” and “faddish”? Wearing the hair you’re born with…is a trend? I already know that whiteness hates our skin tone, our hair, our bodies, how we speak, how we dance and how we wear our clothes (until some white person does it and makes it cute) but it’s really sad seeing black people enforcing this mess. Out here teaching black children their God given hair texture isn’t acceptable meanwhile rocking a synthetic wig made to look like a natural hairstyle? That makes…no sense.” – Franchesca Ramsey
What makes black hair so political? Why is it considered radical for black women to wear their hair the way it grows out of their heads? There is already so much hurt, so much internalized hate to be undone. So imagine the frustration when there is an attempt at a productive discussion about this, and someone comes in and tries to make it about the oppression of white people.
Sep 5, 2013
*Raucous laughter as tears stream down my face as I fall to the ground clutching my sides*
How am I supposed to take this person seriously? Not only is it inaccurate to assume that same-sex couples do not have sex while looking each other in the eye, but how is that any excuse for denying people the right to marriage?
Oh look! More proof of racial discrimination!
Why? Just why?
- Here’s a photo of Robin Thicke being the slimy piece of schtako that he is. Suprised? I’m not!
Sep 5, 2013
The “Snapshot” series is created and curated by yours truly. Through the use of imagery, this series aims to evoke seemingly obscure opinions on things that we would normally miss. Hopefully it encourages everyone who sees it to think harder about the things that surround us everyday.
Women have been screaming about job equality for the longest time and still nothing seems to change. There have been numerous debates about feminism for working class women – whether women can “have it all” or will eventually have to sacrifice their careers in order to be good mothers. I was raised by single parent. She is an architect. And in the first 8 years of my life, she worked ridiculous hours. She would wake up at 4am to put my lunch and dinner together, wake me up, get me ready for school, drop me off and then leave my things with an famely friend who lived nearby. I wouldn’t see her until the next morning. She had to drive about 2 hours out of Lagos where we lived, to supervise a building project in another state. And by the time she got back into town, I would have come back from school, eaten lunch, done my homework, eaten dinner and would be asleep in my nightie waiting for her to pick me up. And the next day it would begin again. Does this mean that she was any worse at her job? Not at all! She worked for the federal government until I graduated high school and now owns her own little firm.
Why are women constantly denied the opportunities to have great careers because they choose to have kids and grow families? Why is there this idea that motherhood is somehow a handicap? In the image above, the woman cannot fit into the space provided not only because it is the wrong shape, but also because she has a child with her. Why is the world still afraid of strong women?
Sep 4, 2013
August 2013 is the beginning of my second year as a Broward County Youth Council member. This year will be bitter sweet for me because I am aging out. I am extremely excited for what this year has to bring. All of the hard work we did last year is slowly coming to fruition. I am excited to see how everything falls into place regarding comprehensive sex ed in the Broward County school system. This year we have a few new members and I am anxious to work with them on our upcoming projects. This year will be EPIC for me. I plan on having a blast. Urban Retreat is s quickly approaching and I am ready to learn new techniques and tools that will help me be a better advocate. This year will definitely be a memorable one.
Sep 1, 2013
Most people who occupy the social justice corners of the Internet are sure to have heard of the Edmonton police department’s anti-rape campaign. What makes the campaign so great is the focus on the offenders to not rape rather than telling the victims to not get raped with messages like, “It’s not sex when she’s passed out. Sex with someone unable to consent = sexual assault. Don’t be that guy.” SAVEdmonton even includes men as potential rape victims and broadens the crime outside a heteronormative perspective. From their own page on what makes this so different from other anti-rape campaigns:
Typically, sexual assault awareness campaigns target potential victims by urging women to restrict their behavior. Research is telling us that targeting the behavior of victims is not only ineffective, but also contributes to and increases self-blame in survivors. Instead, the SAVE campaigns targets potential offenders – ultimately the ones who hold the power and responsibility to end sexual assault. By addressing sexual assault without victim-blaming, we intend to mark Edmonton on the map as a model for other cities. (reposted from SAVEdmonton.com)
Edmonton’s posters with messages of ending victim blaming and targeting perpetrators was successful in its intention to decrease the rate of sexual assaults. But it seems like not everyone is supportive of the campaign and its success. An unauthorized campaign took SAVEdmonton’s original posters and made parody versions.
(image reposted from The Edmonton Journal)
What makes these parody posters so problematic is the perpetuation of the myth of false reporting or allegations, which our current culture is already strongly promoting. These parody posters not only silences actual and potential victims, but blames them for the assaults against them which completely contradicts the original campaign’s message.
Here are the actual posters from SAVEdmonton:
With the current messages that’s fed to our youth on a daily basis, it’s really important to think of the messages SAVEdmonton has to share with the world. It doesn’t promote a rape culture and actively seeks to create a change by preventing sexual assault. SAVEdmonton is truly a model anti-rape campaign.
Sep 1, 2013
Just yesterday on a Friday afternoon, I posted the petition to make The Real Education for Healthy Youth Act a reality on my reproductive justice blog. It’s not much, but it’s already gained a little less than 900 notes on Tumblr. Popular blogs like ST*U, Sexists and F*ck Yeah, Sex Education just gave the petition a signal boost and I’ve seen a lot of #vision4sexed hashtags on Twitter, so we’ll be sure to see more feedback before September 10. And the youth activists have been out and about getting physical signatures, which is something I’m doing once school is back in session. Some people are reblogging it with their own commentary to emphasize the importance of it, and sometimes it’s all in caps so you know it’s a pretty big deal. Especially with our current culture’s views on sexuality and education. No one should have to suffer another abstinence only class in which our youth, especially girls, are compared to used up candy wrappers and dirty pieces of tape if they’re sexually active. If you haven’t already and you support comprehensive sex education, definitely sign the petition and share it!
The petition page lets you know exactly what you’re saying when you’re leaving behind a signature:
I support the Real Education for Healthy Youth Act, a sex education vision that outlines what young people truly need. The bill not only authorizes funding for comprehensive sex education directed towards adolescents and college students, but also prioritizes teacher training so that our nation’s educators have the tools they need to be effective in the classroom.
Let’s work to realize our vision of young people receiving the sex education they need in order to lead healthy lives and have healthy relationships. We owe it to them to provide them honest sexual health education. With the Real Education for Healthy Youth Act we can start bringing our vision for sex ed to life!
My vision for sex education includes letting our youth know that it’s never okay to shame others for being sexually active or abstinent by choice. My vision for sex education also includes teaching our youth the signs of an abusive relationship, whether it’s emotional, physical, or both. I’d love for there to be discussions that include the LGBTQ community because often they are erased from the topic, leaving many without resources. I find it to be very dangerous to let our youth go through life without the tools they need to have healthy lives. Comprehensive sex education just makes perfect sense to me. What’s your vision for sex ed?
Aug 27, 2013
I am two. Two of these three categories I fit neatly into. I don’t believe I self-identify as either, but I have been called a Liberal and Democrat more times than I can count. Today, I would realize that while “I’m fighting the good fight” I am also not White. I’ve always known this mattered but never as much as I did today. I believe that we as a country should produce more milk, because we are all about homogenization. Just listen you’ll hear: The Left, Those Liberals, the Democrats think as if we represent some homogenous group of people. While we obviously agree on most things, there is this common assumption that our identities (race, sexual orientation, class, gender, age, etc) have no effect on how we may view “the issues” differently. More importantly there’s also a paucity in the discourse around who gets to speak on these issues.
As a millennial, I can tell you that people are polling and reporting on us everyday. But how many of this reporting is coming from the mouths of actual millennials? Today, I had the opportunity to join 13 other millennials on a national conservative talk show to speak about “the issues”—from the economy to the legalization of gay marriage. I was very hesitant about doing this show initially because I belonged to the groups mentioned above. Upon reaching the set, I would find that there would be six other liberal democrats joining me. I breathed a sigh of relief. When the show began, questions were thrown at us, which we were all more than eager to answer. My initial nervousness had left and I was prepared to tell 9 million people exactly how I felt about “the issues.”
Sadly, this was not the case. While I did get to comment on two or three things, I found that at times my hand had been raised for minutes at a time, with no microphone offered inviting me to speak. The democrats definitely held it down, though. Those who did not mind cutting other people off, getting out of their seat for the microphone, and speaking without one, definitely got heard. Again, sadly I knew better. Despite the fact that many of the things being said I would have definitely concurred with, there was no entry point (or at least microphone) for me.
I love ‘politicking’! I’ve lobbied in the House and Senate; worked as a congressional health policy fellow; spoke at congressional briefings and I advocate for policy changes on the ground everyday. I would say I’m no newcomer to this. But today was a harsh reality, that although I can do all these things, and that the Dream9 can self-deport and lead hunger strikes in dentition centers to bring attention to the injustices of the immigration system in America; that young people of color can march into their Ivy League and predominately white institution’s with their hoods high for justice for Trayvon, that even though we packed the courtroom until Stop & Frisk was ruled unconstitutional, we must realize that even amongst us liberal-social justice seeking millennials, there are a few voices that still speak for us.
I sat sandwiched between two kind, brilliant, over-enthusiastic millennials who had so much to say that they took no minute to realize that perhaps we should allow the voices of those most marginalized to speak. The same folks who had immigration and racial politics on lock though. While I will never wait for anyone to make room for my voice, I also know that I would quickly become a YouTube sensation if I snatched a microphone out of a white girl’s hand. So I sat thinking about this some what dichotomous relationship forming between my identity and my politics.
When I finally answered a question, it was about race. Coincidence? The question asked, “Do you think Americans are racist?” And while I had a host of things I could have said, I was reflecting on the last forty five minutes. I responded that I while didn’t think that all Americans were racist, I do feel that people fail to recognize privilege, all privilege. Able-bodied, cis-gendered, heterosexual, class, age, and of course given the situation –white privilege. I was sitting in my feelings about literally be silenced in two ways. By a group of your peers who while they stand in solidarity with you, make little to no room for you at the table. Silenced, by a media institution who still relies heavily on controlling images like the Angry Black Woman despite your academic accomplishments, and the fact that your views parallel those of your peers.
I speak on this as a millennial of color, in the trenches everyday fighting for the rights of young people—all young people. I assert that we all must make room. We live in a society that still places our existence and knowledge in the future, we are the now. As we are marginalized by our age we must also see that there are intersections within our identities that place us in positions of power. We must check those, respect those, and correct those who have yet to see it that way. I believe that all the young people on today’s show, liberal and conservative are all brilliant and powerful. Let’s be powerful together, in voice, love and solidarity. Let us make room!
Aug 24, 2013
First- Ever Legal Abortion,
And It Saved A Dying Woman’s
(Re-posted from ThinkProgress)
The first legal abortion in an Irish hospital has been carried out in Dublin, the Irish Times confirmed on Friday. It represents the first pregnancy termination under Ireland’s historic new abortion law, which slightly relaxed the country’s total ban to allow for legal abortions in cases when it’s necessary to preserve a woman’s life.
Before Ireland’s prime minister approved the new law in July, the country’s abortion laws had not been updated since 1867. Now, there are 25 Irish hospitals that are authorized to perform legal abortions in life-threatening cases without worrying about legal repercussions.
The National Maternity Hospital in Dublin carried out the pregnancy termination for a dying woman whose membrane had ruptured for more than 24 hours. She ran a high risk of sepsis, and her 18-week twin fetuses had no chance of survival outside of the womb. Doctors said her case bore many similarities to that of Savita Halappanavar, a 31-year-old woman who died after being denied an emergency abortion in an Irish Catholic hospital last year. Halappanavar developed sepsis after she began to miscarry, but doctors wouldn’t terminate her doomed pregnancy until the fetal heartbeat had officially stopped three days later — and by that time, it was too late.
The Irish Times reports that in contrast to Halappanavar, the woman who received a legal abortion this month “has made a good recovery after receiving antibiotic treatment and undergoing the termination a number of weeks ago.”
Ireland’s new abortion law was spurred by Halappanavar’s tragic death, which sparked a global controversy. Reproductive rights activists vowed that an individual would “never again” be denied the life-saving medical care that could avert this type of tragedy. But even though Ireland has slightly relaxed its stringent abortion law to successfully avert another Savita, a handful of other conservative Catholic countries still impose total bans on the procedure. Following Halpannavar’s death, similar controversies have unfolded in El Salvador and Chile.
The Guttmacher Institute’s research has found that harsh bans on abortion don’t actually lower abortion rates. Instead, they simply encourage women to risk their lives to end a pregnancy illegally. An estimated 47,000 women around the world die each year from unsafe abortions — and that figure doesn’t include women like Halpannavar who die from pregnancy-related complications that an abortion could have averted.
Aug 22, 2013
How do you protest the appearance of an anti-gay preacher? Reserve all the seats at his event and then don’t show up. What was he thinking going to a country where same-sex marriage has been legal since 2010?
“Why doesn’t feminist media treat immigration as an obvious feminist issue? Why doesn’t mainstream feminism seem to give a damn about undocumented women? Why aren’t more feminist organizations coming out in support of the Dream 9? As a comprehensive immigration reform bill is being butchered by Congress, accomplishing little more than further militarizing the border, and the Dream 9, largely led by women, continue making national headlines after participating in the most radical, risky act of civil disobedience in the history of the undocumented student movement, there is literally no excuse for the silence on behalf of feminist media.”
Great read! Aside from “Dostana” and “I Can’t Think Straight”, I hadn’t even heard about these.
Even though her latest book and other occurrences have changed my perception of her, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie is still a voice that needs to be heard.
Why is there even a need to ask this question in 2013? Have you not heard all that we have been screaming about how taking advantage of women and girls in compromised situations is NEVER ok?
Aug 21, 2013
“We are ready to start the fire again,” said state Rep. Christina Hagan at the press conference, which was filled with reporters as well as members of the Duggar family, reality television stars who have become some of the new faces of the evangelical anti-choice movement.
Speaking in favor of the ban was Michelle Duggar, matriarch of the 19 Kids and Counting family. With 17 of her 19 children in tow, Duggar spoke against the “baby holocaust” occurring in the United States, a talking point she also used at a Texas press event roughly a month ago: “There is a baby holocaust taking place, where doctors and nurses are paid to take the lives of innocent, unborn children. … If we do not speak up and do something to stop this holocaust, the blood of these little ones will be on our hands.”
Michelle’s oldest son, Josh, was recently named executive director of FRC Action, the political arm of the right-wing Christian group Family Research Council, an avid heartbeat ban supporter.
Aug 21, 2013
Prison Birth: Exploring Prison Justice Through Orange is the New Black
(Re-posted from Because I Am Woman an AH-MAZING sex-positivity, sex-ed, feminism, reproductive justice, birth justice, intersectionality, and activism blog. Check them out, and THANK YOU for letting us post this piece here.)
Orange is the New Black has been getting a lot of press lately, and it is certainly well deserved. The dark comedy features a dynamic and multi-faceted cast of women and gives a first-hand look into many of the realities women in prison face that are often left out of the conversation in mainstream culture and other prison related media. The visibility of the series has opened up many vital conversations on topics such as birthing, healthcare for trans people, mental health, privilege, sexuality and even the prison industrial complex itself. Over the course of the next couple of weeks, I will be exploring these issues (and more) through the lens of the Orange is the New Black.
First up, we will be taking a good hard look at birthing in prison. Although birth has been an increasingly popular topic in reproductive justice and feminism in recent years, people experiencing it in prison aren’t often considered as part of the equation. In Orange is the New Black we are introduced to what birthing in prison might look like for people who are incarcerated when one inmate, Ruiz, is about to give birth during episode 8. Over the course of the episode, (although only a minor plot point), we see Ruiz go into labor and be told by a pharmacy tech that she may not go to a hospital until her contractions are extremely close together. When the time finally comes, Ruiz is taken away only to return at the end of the episode silently wheeled back into a room of women without her child. As the room of women turn to look at her, the silence that fills the room provides viewers with a shared sense of loss and sadness for the new mother, one that is likely in prison for a minor crime, who has already been taken from her child.
What we saw in this episode is only the beginning of what pregnancy and birth actually look like for many in prison. According to The Prison Birth Project, “In prison, 4-7% of women are pregnant, the same percentage as in the wider population; 85% are mothers, and 25% were pregnant upon arrest or gave birth in the previous year.” This demonstrates that reproductive health and pregnancy are clearly an issue for those incarcerated, and an issue that cannot be ignored in the reproductive justice movement. There is a need for education, advocacy, and support amongst these populations.
The reality of giving birth for many prisoners is also much worse than what we saw on Orange is the New Black. Many in prison are denied the medical care they need (pre and post-natal), and many more give birth still shackled in prison instead of in a hospital. Although advocates in many states have been pushing for change, only 16 states have passed legislation to outlaw the barbaric shackling of prisoners birthing and in labor. In their report “Mothers Behind Bars”by the National Women’s Law Center and the Rebecca Project for Human Rights, the organizations gave almost half of all states a failing grade for their treatment of pregnant and birthing people, and point out that there is no national standards for treatment and care of those who experience pregnancy behind bars.
Fortunately, there are people and organizations out there organizing around these issues. The Prison Birth Project and Birth Behind Bars both act as advocates in their respective areas and bring doulas into prisons to aid in birth and pregnancy. You can support them by volunteering your time, money and support, as well as by continuing to spread the word on these issues.
As for Orange is the New Black, we can likely count on this not being the last pregnancy and/or birth we see in the series. Since the pregnancy of Daya by a prison guard is a much bigger plot point in the show, it is my hope that we see a more well-rounded and realistic depiction of what this experience looks like for inmates in the second season.
Aug 20, 2013
Aug 20, 2013
One year ago, then-Rep. Todd Akin (R-MO) uttered his infamous “legitimate rape” comment when explaining his opposition to abortion even in the case of rape. The comment gave the public a rare peek into the extreme views Akin and other like-minded conservatives have on reproductive rights and how fundamentally misinformed they are on matters of basic biology.
The comment was the beginning of the end of Akin’s Senate run. But while it may have cost him an election, it hasn’t stopped Republicans across the country from trying to legislate legal abortion out of existence. On Friday, the National Women’s Law Center (NWLC) quantified those efforts in a new report, Shut That Whole Thing Down: A Survey of Abortion Restrictions Even in Cases of Rape. The report looks at abortion legislation in the states and Congress from the first half of 2013 and finds that:
86 percent (235) of the 273 provisions that politicians introduced in state legislatures to restrict a woman’s access to abortion apply to a woman whose pregnancy resulted from rape.
71 percent (27) of the 38 state provisions restricting women’s access to abortion enacted by the states apply to a woman whose pregnancy resulted from rape.
72 percent (18) of the 25 bills introduced in Congress to restrict a woman’s access to abortion apply to a woman whose pregnancy resulted from rape.
Aug 19, 2013
Prepare yourself for the RAGE.
Everybody knows that all we’re trying to do is take over the world, Pinky & the Brain style.
“In a lot of ways Piper was my Trojan Horse. You’re not going to go into a network and sell a show on really fascinating tales of black women, and Latina women, and old women and criminals. But if you take this white girl, this sort of fish out of water, and you follow her in, you can then expand your world and tell all of those other stories. But it’s a hard sell to just go in and try to sell those stories initially. The girl next door, the cool blonde, is a very easy access point, and it’s relatable for a lot of audiences and a lot of networks looking for a certain demographic. It’s useful.”
Well done Jenji. Well done!
“We walk through the world and some of us pass as male,” Woodland, 33, says. “We get left out of this conversation.”
I have no idea what Russell Simmons thought he was trying to achieve with that video. Shame on him! I struggled to find a way to express my anger at dismay at Shana Malcolm’s further plunge into the abyss of dubiousness, and settled on the if-you-can’t-say-anything-nice-don’t-say-anything-at-all approach.
Aug 19, 2013
can we stop referring to all sex that could possibly result in pregnancy as “heterosexual reproduction” now
Aug 16, 2013
By now much of the advocacy community has heard of #solidarityisforwhitewomen, #blackpowerisforblackmen and #F*ckcispeople, started by @karnythia, @JamilahLemieux, and @Stuxnetsource respectfully. Intersectionality (the study of intersections between different disenfranchised groups or groups of minorities) has run rampant on Twitter and I’ve been having a BLAST voicing my grievances, listening to other’s grievances, and fighting trolls with every bit of strength embedded in my keyboard. But not everyone has been having a great time on these tags and I am here to help with a few tips:
One: Check your privilege at the door.
I don’t know what kind of privilege you’re packing but it’s weighing you down. Set it down for a minute and consider the fact that you are not the only person out there being oppressed. In fact, you may indeed be unconsciously benefiting from an unjust system. Doesn’t mean you’re a bad person, just means that you live in a society that prizes certain groups over others and you were unlucky enough to be born into one. If you think you have it bad, just think of the people who WEREN’T born into the privileged group.
Two: Keep in mind that your movement can be flawed…
…Without you being an evil master-overlord. Calling out the flaws in our movements is the only way we are going to get better. Movements are constantly demanding that society stop silencing the voices of their oppressed people. It is fair to say then that silencing people who are oppressed within those movements is the worst kind of hypocritical.
Three: Remember that Unity Does NOT equal Silence
The tag is only divisive if you don’t plan on addressing the grievances stated within them. If the movement intends to continue as it is and ignore the pleas stated for all of the Twitterverse to see, then yes it is divisive. But the only way we are ever going to be TRULY unified is if we listen to each other’s complaints and work to fix them.
Four: Be Aware that Anger is an Emotion
…and that oppressed peoples, as human beings, are entitled to emotions. You have no way and no right to monitor and/or control these emotions. These emotions are not irrational. These emotions are not silly. The best way to deal with these emotions is NOT to pretend as they don’t exist and/or brush them off as unwarranted whining.
Five: Know that There Is One Condition To Being An Ally…
…and it isn’t that the oppressed group appease you at every turn. It isn’t that they be wary of your feelings, it isn’t that they don’t air the movements dirty laundry, it isn’t that they do what is best for the movement even if the movement isn’t doing what’s best for them. The only true condition for someone to become an ally is for the ally to support the oppressed group because it is the right thing to do. You help them the best you can, not the way you think is best.
And if you are REALLY having a problem with the tags, I present you this hypothetical situation:
Every day my friend and I walk down the street together. We are very close, but every once and a while my friend falls to the ground and scrapes her knee.
This friend and I have braved bullies together. We have faced down mean girls and jocks alike. We are more than friends, we are BEST friends. We love each other.
And every day she falls. Sometimes she trips. Most times someone pushes her to the ground as I watch. And sometimes I even push her myself.
I may apologize for this fact, I may not, but I never help her up. I never stop her from falling. Every day she falls to the ground, collecting more scars on her knee, and I do nothing.
Until one day she gets angry. Here she is walking down the street, falling down every day, and her BEST FRIEND can’t even help her up. She yells at me all the ways she has scraped her knee over the years. She yells at me all the ways I haven’t helped her.
She rants. She vents. She cries.
Now I could get mad back. I could defensive. For the most part, I DON’T push her down and when the bullies pick on us at school, I AM the one who is at her side.
I could tell her “Well if that’s the way you feel we don’t HAVE to be friends.”
Or I could pretend that day never happened. I could walk without her for a while until she finally breaks down, resentful, but needing some kind of ally to face the bigger bullies at school.
Or I could listen to her rant, to her vent, to her cry. I could take it all in and when its over, I could begin to help her off the ground. I could become a better friend.
Our movements have all three of these choices: We can refuse to work with the oppressed people who voiced their grievances, we could ignore their grievances, or we could work to address them. While we make this decision, I would point out that no one joins a movement wanting to fight forever. We all are hoping that one day most of the bullies will see the wrong of their ways and treat us like human beings. We are all hoping that we can bring about real change in our society.
But if we can’t even change the prejudices within OURSEVLES, how can we ever hope to change the inequalities around us?
#foodforthought #getittogether #bearealally
Aug 15, 2013
The “Snapshot” series is created and curated by yours truly. Through the use of imagery, this series aims to evoke seemingly obscure opinions on things that we would normally miss. Hopefully it encourages everyone who sees it to think harder about the things that surround us everyday.
While it is true that the world is doing a slightly better job of manufacturing certain products and catering properly to the many-hued people who buy them, it is mind-blowing to think that at one point, there was only ONE flesh-coloured crayon in an entire box. Not because we’re all the same colour, but because there was only one hue that mattered. Apparently, Crayola changed the name of that color from “Flesh” to “Peach” in 1962 in response to the US Civil Rights Movement.
Honestly, before I saw this image, I hadn’t really thought about this. I bought a shade of nail polish by Wet n’ Wild last week called, “Show Me Some Skin”. It’s a pinkish-brown color and I thought I’d try it out. But I never thought about the fact that it wasn’t my skin tone. I mean, if one puts a product out there that’s labelled that way, it’s implied that there is only one recognized skin tone – the one which matches the product.
I’d love to hear some other examples of products like these. And opinions too!
Aug 14, 2013
New laws banning abortion after 20 weeks are based on pseudoscience — and real research proves it conclusively.
This article originally appeared on Salon.com.
Since Nebraska first jump-started the trend back in 2010, close to a dozen state legislatures across the country have passed laws banning abortion at 20 weeks. Most of these restrictions are given grave-sounding titles like the “Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act,” or some near-identical riff on the words “fetal,” “pain” and “protection.” All of them, no matter what they’re called, rest on the stated premise that a fetus can experience pain at 20 weeks, and that this is a sufficient justification to ban all abortions after this gestational stage.
But “fetal pain” in the popular discourse is a nebulous concept, one that lawmakers like Jodie Laubenberg, Trent Franks and others haven’t much bothered to define or help ground in available medical evidence.
Probably because there really isn’t any. The limited research used to support such claims has been refuted as pseudoscience by both the Journal of the American Medical Association and the British Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. (Not to mention smaller studies from researchers at Harvard University, University College London and elsewhere.)
“We know a lot about embryology [in the field]. The way that a fetus grows and develops hasn’t changed and never will,” Dr. Anne Davis, a second-trimester abortion provider, associate professor of clinical obstetrics and gynecology at Columbia University Medical Center, and consulting medical director at Physicians for Reproductive Health, told Salon. “And what we know in terms of the brain and the nervous system in a fetus is that the part of the brain that perceives pain is not connected to the part of the body that receives pain signals until about 26 weeks from the last menstrual period, which is about 24 weeks from conception.”
Because the neural structures necessary to feel pain have not yet developed, any observable responses to stimuli at this gestational stage — like the fetal “flinching” during an amniocentesis — are reflexive, not experiential. Which is to say, the fetus at 20 weeks can’t actually feel anything at all. Which is to say, the fundamental justification for these laws is a really big, really popular lie.
Aug 14, 2013
North Carolina House Republicans have, without notice, inserted sweeping changes to the state’s abortion rules into a motorcycle safety law. Effectively, they’ve reintroduced the abortion bill that Governor Pat McCrory had threatened to veto.
Aug 13, 2013
“It’s easy to pretend ‘to be fierce and fearless because living your truth takes real courage. Real fearless and fierce women admit mistakes and they work to correct them. We stand up and we use our voices for things other than self promotion. We don’t stand by and let racism and sexism and homophobia run rapid on our watch. Real fearless and fierce women complement other women and we recognize and embrace that their shine in no way diminishes our light and that it actually makes our light shine brighter.”
When I saw the way that Miley Cyrus was shedding her Hannah Montana persona and moving forward regardless of what people thought of her new image, I was excited for what was to come. I liked a number of tracks on Can’t Be Tamed and I was really looking forward to seeing what the product of working with Pharell would be. I thought her cover of “Lilac Wine” was an indication of where she was headed but apparently I was very wrong.
I never made it through the first 2 minutes of “We Can’t Stop” and every time I hear that song now I cringe. The fact that it’s so high up on the billboard charts is a testament to the ugly society that we live in.
I died laughing and my spirit went wherever spirits are supposed to go. Some of my favorites include, “Miley helped Craig beat Debo on Friday” and “Cyrus v. Board of Education led to the integration of schools”. This stuff is gold I tell you!
How about people stop telling women how not to get raped and teach men not to rape instead?
This Clutch Magazine piece offers up hilarious writing and an insightful discussion of the many ways that women are continuously encouraged to find something to dislike about our bodies; in this case, our vaginas.
Aug 9, 2013
I am no stranger to same-sex marriage debates. And even though marriage is not a priority for me (be it to the same or opposite sex) since I’m not sure I might ever want to, it’s very difficult to sit back and keep my mouth shut when the anti same-sex marriage crew start to mouth off.
I had a conversation/argument about this with an old acquaintance recently, and I finally realized something – I think I’m done arguing with people about the morality of same-sex marriage and the general equality of non-heterosexual people.
It wasn’t an argument I hadn’t heard before, but as I sat there listening to this person who was supposed to be a ‘friend’ and maybe even a prospective partner (I was SO wrong) say that people might as well be allowed to marry animals and little children, I was enraged. “Where do we draw the line”, he asked. I don’t think I’ve ever wanted to punch somebody in the throat that bad.
I could not believe that once again, I was expected to sit here and argue my self-worth. That I was expected to actually say, “Could you please not compare me to a dog yeah? Thanks much”
It is not, and will never be my job to explain to people, especially those who are supposed to know and like me, that they should not dehumanize me in an attempt to prove to themselves and the world, that they perceive an aspect of my self to be wrong. Did I mention that he even used the word, “unnatural”
I say it all the time…I have never been able to understand how parents disown their gay children or people abandon their gay friends. Speaking from my point of view, my friends must have seen something in me to make them like me so much; perhaps it was a summation of many qualities. My family on the other hand, is supposed to love me unconditionally as far as I know. So how do these people actively decide that this one thing about me (which in NO WAY affects them if I might add) overshadows everything good?
But that’s it. I’m done. Everyone’s entitled to an opinion no matter how ignorant it is, but anyone who tries to pull this stunt on me again will wish that they had never gotten out of bed that day. I will not argue, but you better believe that I will let that person know what a dehumanizing piece of schtako they are.
Aug 8, 2013
Every August 12, the world celebrates International Youth Day. This year’s theme is “Youth Migration: Moving Development Forward.” As advocates dedicated to advancing the sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR) of young people, you might be asking, what’s migration got to do with SRHR? Well, just about everything.
Nearly half of the world’s population—more than 3 billion people—is under the age of 25. Furthermore, young people under the age of 29 make up half of all global migrants. During the process of migration, young women and girls tend to be more vulnerable to human rights violations, particularly SRHR violations, including violence, exploitation, and sexual coercion. Moreover, migrant women and young people are also at increased risk of unwanted pregnancies and sexually transmitted infections due to inadequate access to health services, including sexual and reproductive health services. As a result, ensuring that young migrants have access to SRHR information and services as well as the full protection and promotion of their human rights is absolutely critical.
As the largest donor of foreign assistance, the United States government plays a unique role in delivering global health programs around the world. That’s why this Monday at 9:30am EST, the State Department’s Special Advisor for Global Youth Issues, Zeenat Rahman, will be hosting a Google Hangout with other US government officials to discuss this year’s International Youth Day theme. As the US government’s lead spokesperson on youth issues, Ms. Rahman is a key stakeholder in ensuring that the US prioritizes youth policies and programs throughout the government’s work. To date, the Office of Global Youth Issues has focused almost exclusively on youth employment and civic engagement. While vitally important priorities, what is so often overlooked is how adolescent and youth SRHR contributes to one’s ability to seek and maintain employment and meaningfully engage in the democratic process. Regardless of where we live, we all have the right to speak up and hold our government officials accountable for providing young people with ALL the resources they need to lead healthy and successful lives, including rights-based, comprehensive, integrated, and youth-friendly information and services.
So, what can you do to celebrate International Youth Day? TONS! Here’s just a sampling of ideas. Get creative! And share your ideas and enthusiasm with your friends and colleagues.
- Participate in the State Department’s Google Hangout on Monday at 9:30am EST and submit a question (or 2 or 3!) via Twitter using #IYD2013 asking what the US is currently doing to support young people’s SRHR needs, your ideas for how and why they should be doing more, etc.
- Watch the United Nations’ celebration of International Youth Day live Monday from 10:00-13:30 EST.
- Use the sample tweets and Facebook status updates below to raise awareness among your peers and followers about the importance of young people’s SRHR.
- Host a community event, forum, or campaign in support of young people’s SRHR.
- Engage with coalitions or organizations working in your community to advance young people’s rights and well-being.
- Request a meeting with community leaders and/or decision-makers to inform them about the importance of investing in young people and ensuring that they have the information and services to lead healthy lives.
- Blog on Advocates’ youth activist website, www.amplifyyourvoice.org, and write about why you think International Youth Day is important, how you and your peers are making a difference in your community, or what you think policymakers and leaders need to be doing to support young people’s sexual and reproductive health and rights in your country.
Twitter Targets: Use these twitter handles, as appropriate, to send tweets from the list below
- UN Youth Envoy – @AhmadAlhendawi
- UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon- @secgen
- US Mission to the UN – @USUN
- Secretary of State Kerry – @JohnKerry; @StateDept
- US Ambassador to UN, Samantha Power – @AmbassadorPower
- Your own country’s UN representatives
- Your own country’s Foreign Minister
Sample Twitter Messages:
- Gov’ts must include youth in design, monitoring & evaluation of youth development programs #IYD2013
- We must engage boys & men to help girls & women promote gender equality #IYD2013
- Invest in the whole girl w/ approaches that address sexual and reproductive health, education, livelihoods, and civic engagement #IYD2013
- Gov’ts must implement comprehensive sexuality education programs and policies for adolescents and youth #IYD2013
- Gov’ts must increase funding 4 family planning 4 married and unmarried adolescent girls #IYD2013
- Sexual & #reprorights are #humanrights: #post2015 agenda must include access to contraception, abortion & safe maternity care #IYD2013
- Empowering women and girls is key to achieving peace & security in #post2015 agenda #IYD2013
- More than ½ world’s population is under 25; young people must drive #Post2015 agenda #IYD2013
- Gov’ts must prioritize support 4 adolescents so we can prevent #childmarriage, maternal mortality, #GBV #IYD2013
- Girls who stay in school have better sexual and repro health outcomes. #Education is a human right. #IYD2013
- Development programs must address violence against adolescent girls, including intimate partner violence #GBV #VAWG #IPV #IYD2013
Sample Facebook Posts:
- Today is International Youth Day. The implementation of human-rights based policies and programs are important to ensure integrated and youth-friendly sexual and reproductive health services are free from coercion, discrimination, and violence. http://icpdbeyond2014.org/uploads/browser/files/bali_global_youth_forum_declaration.pdf
- Today is International Youth Day. Youth are disproportionately impacted by the HIV epidemic, accounting for 41% of all new HIV infections worldwide. Reaching young people with evidence-based HIV prevention approaches before and after they are sexually active ensures their right to health and prevents HIV infections today and for the next generation.
Aug 2, 2013
Originally posted at Choice USA: Choice Words:
India just banned the use/exploitation of dolphins as entertainment, as they are now considered “non-human persons”. Blackfish, a documentary about the psychological realities other animals face when confined in captivity, has just opened in theaters (at the distress of SeaWorld). Bird brain mapping has recently revealed that birds are “remarkably intelligent in a similar way to mammals such as humans and monkeys,” but ‘bird brain’ is still an insult. And the U.S. State Department and President Obama have decided to push ahead with building the Keystone XL Pipeline’s southern half amongst numerous questionable building practices, even though the previous Keystone I Pipeline has leaked fourteen different times. But isn’t this the Choice USA blog? What does this have to do with reproductive justice? Everything.
Having grown up with cats my whole life and having a vegetarian mother, I guess you could sayI was predisposed: at age 10 I chose to become a vegetarian and at age 19 I chose to begin living a vegan lifestyle. Somewhere in between there I also became a sexual health peer educator and have dedicated all of my time and effort to the reproductive justice movement ever since— including my eating habits.
I, like many of you, am pro-choice because I believe in each individual’s autonomy concerning their own body, lifestyle, and choices. I am pro-choice because I challenge any attempt to infringe on each individual’s freedom to control their own bodies and minds. I am pro-choice because it is not my place to coerce or use another being’s body as a means to any reproductive end she did not choose. And I am vegan for the exact same reasons.
Aug 1, 2013
Period Kits are kind of popular nowadays. Not everyone is comfortable with walking down the street with tampons or pads in an almost see-through bag, or wants the hassle of having to run to the shops every month. In answer to that, there exist a few monthly services which deliver tampons, pads, candy and even herbal teas. Hello Flo has recently added a Period Starter kit for young girls. The kit contains pads, liners, tampons, reading material and a few goodies.
How this man expects us to believe this crap, I honestly do not know. A feminist movement? Because the models in your video were told to exude confidence? I blame Paula Patton for all this rubbish. Yes he’s your husband, but when women speak out against the rape-y, objectifying nature of the video, encouraging him is pretty much the same as taking a huge dump all over women’s lib.
Now although I haven’t seen all the shows featured in this article (I refuse to watch Scandal until people stop getting so het up about it), I strongly agree with the analysis of Joan Watson’s character. Everybody go watch “Elementary”!
An interesting read. I had never really thought about this. But it’s an issue that needs to be addressed.
Speaking of monthly period boxes…
Aug 1, 2013
I really hate when people respond to others with “first world problems.” I know that to some, it’s a great and easy way of addressing the privilege of living in a “first world” country. But the meme, despite its emergence being seemingly well intentioned at first, is really just seeping with ethnocentrism. Ethnocentrism in its simplest definition is the judging of another’s culture using one’s own standards. It’s not something you’d expect from a culturally competent person. The usage of this meme expresses people’s inability to see others as actual people who are more complicated than what our white savior complex induced perspectives would have us believe.
To make it really simple: it’s racist.
When the ever popular hashtag first appeared on Twitter maybe in the late 2009, early 2010–even then I had a bad feeling about it. I know “first world/third world” indicates if a country is industrialized and developed or not. But even those terms just come off as problematic and ethnocentric for reasons I won’t take the time to get into. It’s the language we have though, however questionable the origins of those particular words may be. And I don’t really know what I can do about that except talk about it and hope that you understand.
Yes, my accidental lagging out of my online match of The Last of Us and my tea latte being a little too hot this morning might seem really trivial. But hey, guess what? Things like that happen to my cousins in Vietnam and other developing countries too. I’m not pretending or ignoring that other countries don’t have terrible issues like civil wars, riots in the streets, famine, etc. But those countries don’t need pity. And they certainly don’t need people buying Toms. They need people, especially people in the United States and other supposedly wealthy white-dominated countries, to stop making everyone from “third world” countries into a faceless,
one-dimensional, and monolithic group of suffering and despair. And one of the really easy ways of what you can do to avoid doing that is to stop responding to people’s issues as “first world problems.”
My voice isn’t alone in this. Feel free to check out the following links:
What’s Wrong with #FirstWorldProblems? – Alexis C. Madrigal
The White Savior Industrial Complex – Teju Cole
Aug 1, 2013
A human is categorized in numerous ways, not only as intelligent species but also in numerous categories that humans have created themselves. There are categories made based on caste, religion, class, status, gender, income and so on. But how much fair is it to determine justice according to these categories? A Dalit woman if she is raped by any upper caste rapist and raises her voice for justice then she is instead inhumanely treated by the local people. When a wife raises her voice against domestic violence by her –in laws then she is instead beaten and burnt till death. A wife every day has to tolerate the beating of her husband and bear the scars while raped but yet she is ordered to remain silence and threatened. A girl of poor family is sent for prostitution by her own parents. Children from poor families are sent to work as for income generation. I ask in spite of all the social crimes, violence that we see, hear each day, yet we just babble about human rights, child rights, women rights and the discussion is ended. Yes, I agree there are many human rights activists, organizations, institutions fighting back against the social crimes. But my question is WHY THEY OCCUR? Violence is not our culture, being poor is not our mistake. Class, caste, religion, all these are human-made. Humans have their own identity, right to live their dreams, right to live freely. Everyone has right to justice not because he/she fits on all the best categories, because we are humans and WE ARE MEANT TO LIVE FREELY WITH AN INDEPENDENT WILL.
Jul 31, 2013
Here is a true story that I once heard from a friend which gives a simple picture of how social violence gradually leads to suicide. This is a story of a young woman, a staff nurse, aged 26, who kept on tolerating the scars of hatred from her mother-in-law which then led her to commit suicide.
Bina was married to a youngest son of a typical Bhramin family which was arranged by their family members but they knew each other since three years. After marriage, her mother-in-law started torturing her for no reason, neither dowry issues nor she was an ill-mannered daughter-in-law. It was said that the generation of mother-in-laws were strict mannered but this over strictness switched to hatred. Bina had no idea about this before the marriage. She was forced to end her three years nursing career and remain as a housewife for rest of her life. Tiring household works but yet no affection and satisfaction in the eyes of her mother-in-law, while her husband, who was a teacher, remained silence and convinced her every time to adjust with his mother. Days went by, hatred grew more, her mother-in law started to insult her in front of the neighbors and relatives and tortured her with every possible drama she could make. Even she was accused of having extra marital affair. It was too much for her to bear all these and requested her husband to find a solution for her or be separated. But her husband, instead, showed his disgust for her idea of getting separated. Hopeless Bina went to her mother and shared what she had been going through. But yet no sign of support. Bina was told not to bother them and expect any help as if she was cut off from the bloodline.
Bina was all alone and hopeless. She could not tolerate the hatred anymore and could not go anywhere else. None was in her favor and ultimately she was out of options. She then committed suicide.
It was said that before she committed suicide, she had messaged her husband that she was dying. But he ignored it as a threat message and did not even care to call her. Thus, she committed suicide by taking multiple poisons. Body was taken for postmortem and, Alas! her story ended.
So, how many similar stories could be there? How many women might be attempting to end their lives full of misery? Are they worth it? This story was no shock to me because I hear similar stories from different media, even more dreadful ones. This might be no shock to you as well. But a life, which could have been so beautiful, ended with despair. Stop Social Violence! Live and Let Live.
Jul 31, 2013
A piece very well written by Aditi Karki and published in Republica.
Patriarchal values and normative structure established thousands of years ago still persist in our society in varied garbs. As a consequence, social discrimination against women is omnipresent even in the 21st century.
This tragedy manifests in various forms such as domestic violence, increasing number of dowry deaths, rape cases, etc. Among them is sex-selective abortion. The abortion of female fetuses after sex determination has been emerging as a serious problem, especially in urban areas, leading to a skewed male to female ratio.
As per Conditional Sex Ratios (CSRs) calculated from 2007 to 2010, the CSR for second births where the first born was a girl was found to be 742 girls per 1,000 boys. This gap has increased in recent years according to various research data.
However, the problem does not end in imbalanced sex ratio. It reflects the greater discrimination against women in society. In fact it is a profound health problem, sapping women’s energy, compromising their physical health, and eroding their self-esteem. The unhealthy status of women in society reflects the unhealthy state of society in the first place.
Laws are considered the major tools to administer justice in a society, it is essential to analyze sex-preference abortion from a legal perspective. Sex selective abortion is a crime according to the country’s Civil Code (Muluki Ain 2020) where a person can be liable for imprisonment from six months to two years. Also, identifying the sex of the fetus for the purpose of abortion is punishable with three to six months of imprisonment. The provisions are affirmed in chapter 28 of Muluki Ain, which is about homicide.
The chapter clearly states that no one shall cause abortion through coercion, threat, or manipulation. A person who causes abortion in such manner shall be liable for a term ranging from one to five years of imprisonment. The punishment was increased in the Gender Equality Amendment Act in 2063. To seek legal justice against sex-selective abortion, abortion cases must go to court within three months of the incident. However, a case can be instituted in court at any time if the offender himself/herself has confessed the guilt.
Besides the judicial procedural approach, gender preference abortion also stands contradictory to legal principles and constitutional provisions ensured in Interim Constitution of Nepal, 2063. At the very first, sex-selective abortion is against the ‘Right to Equality’ which is guaranteed as a fundamental right of every citizen in the Interim Constitution.
Article 13 explicitly states that no person shall be denied the equal protection of laws. Fetus, or an unborn person, is recognized as a legal person by law, and therefore a female fetus has the equal right to protection. It is unequal and unlawful to endanger female fetuses just because a woman’s partner cannot provide her the Y chromosome.
It is often reported that women are forced to have sex-selective abortions because of societal and family pressures. This again violates the fundamental rights of women guaranteed in the constitution. Article 20 states that every woman shall have the right to reproductive health and other reproductive rights. Moreover, it is clearly mentioned in Article 20(3) that no physical, mental or other form of violence shall be inflicted on any woman, and such an act shall be punishable by law. Nevertheless, despite legal provisions and constitutional guarantees, very few cases are brought to court against sex-selective abortion.
Research suggests that culture plays a larger role than economic conditions in gender preference and sex-selective abortion, which applies to Nepali society as well. However, these cultural values are not established overnight. Instead, it has developed from ancient times. Hence such biased value systems were reflected in earlier legal codes as well.
Nyayabikashini (also known as Manav nyaya shastra) promulgated by Sthitiraj Mall (Jayasthiti Malla) in 1380 AD, which is also attested as the first legal document in the history of Nepal, has many gender biased regulations. It declares that one should not take pleasure in a wife who is barren, gives birth only to female children and is of ill-repute. If a man does so, he will not be guilty.
Likewise, it states that women should be protected by fathers while they are children, protected by husband while they are young, and by sons when they become widows. Women should be dependent on them as they are quite unfit to be independent. Further, making their lives more dependent on men, Nyayabikashini ensured that transactions undertaken by women would be invalid unless approved by her husband, son, or by the King.
Such unjust legal provisions and biased societal beliefs in the past have given legitimacy to today’s evil practices like sex-selective abortion. The increasingly skewed ratio of men to women not only disrupts the natural balance of society, but contributes to further eroding women’s socio-legal status.
However, society changes and progresses with the realization of what is just and what is not. We have progressive constitutional guarantees in Interim Constitution. Article 34 of the Directive Principles of the State assures that the chief objective of the State shall be the protection of lives, property, equality and liberty of the people.
Thus, the State should come forward with new programs and policies to protect the reproductive liberty of women and to ensure equal birth-right of female fetus, realizing that sex-selective abortion is one of many social conditions that has adverse effects on women’s education, employment, health, reproductive choices, and economic and sexual self-determination.
Jul 31, 2013
When we hear about politicians making unqualified and uneducated statements about abortion and reproductive/sexual health, we just shake our heads, asking ourselves and our peers, “How does someone like that get into office?”
Not to diminish your faith in humanity, but less than a couple weeks ago, Brian Nieves, a Republican state senator of Missouri, commented in a Facebook argument to a pro-choice priest, “‘Life of the Mother?’ Your own argument proves it is a matter of convenience!” State senator Brian Nieves later denied that he said this. But the denial wouldn’t do him any good since his comments have been screencapped and the comment is still on the Facebook page.
There are people who treat this like it’s an isolated incident. Like it’s nothing to worry about, but you’d have to imagine the kind of culture it takes to condition people to be able to say these things. You don’t even have to imagine because that’s the culture we’re living in. It’s not just one old, white male politician. It’s several. And they’re not necessarily always white men.
Brace yourself. This is pretty triggering.
“These Planned Parenthood women, the Code Pink women, and all of these women have been neutering American men and bringing us to the point of this incredible weakness…We are not going to have our men become subservient.”
— Florida Rep. Allen West expresses a clear understanding of how oppression and privilege works.
“In the emergency room they have what’s called rape kits where a woman can get cleaned out.”
— Texas state Rep. Jodie Laubenberg, discussing why there shouldn’t be a rape or incest exception in bills restricting reproductive health care because clearly she understands how health care works.
“I think even when life begins in that horrible situation of rape, that it is something God intended to happen.” —Richard Mourdock, an Indiana state senator candidate who fortunately did not win.
“Understand though, that when we talk about exceptions, we talk about rape, incest, health of a woman, life of a woman. Life of the woman is not an exception.”
—Joe Walsh, former Illinois congressman revealing just how “pro-life” he really is.
“If it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down.”
—Missouri Representative Todd Akin basically sharing how much he doesn’t know about a female body in one terrible sentence.
“The facts show that people who are raped —who are truly raped—the juices don’t flow, the body functions don’t work and they don’t get pregnant. Medical authorities agree that this is a rarity, if ever.”
—former North Carolina Rep. Henry Aldridge using imaginary doctors as his sources.
“As long as it’s inevitable, you might as well lie back and enjoy it.”
—Clayton Williams regarding rape, he was a former Texas Republican gubernatorial contender and a past fundraiser for John McCain.
This is one of the many reasons why I’m in total support of Advocates for Youth. The politicians I’ve listed are the kind of people who have been supporting legislation that not only hurts people who need abortions, but rape victims and teens in desperate need of comprehensive sex education. It hurts people who need access to contraception, affordable health care, and everything else a person would need to live a quality life. And it’s not going to stop until we change the culture and institutions that allows it to happen. So, we advocate for the youth. We have a responsibility to them to ensure that they have their rights and are to be respected.
Jul 29, 2013
Does Robin Thicke’s latest music video for “Blurred Lines” make you uncomfortable? Whether it’s the explicit version or otherwise? Welcome to the club.
Here’s something to make you feel a lot better.
A Seattle-based “boylesque” group called Mod Carousel has remade the video using men as props instead of women. “It’s our opinion that most attempts to show female objectification in the media by swapping the genders serve more to ridicule the male body than to highlight the extent to which women get objectified and does everyone a disservice,” the group explains. “We made this video specifically to show a spectrum of sexuality as well as present both women and men in a positive light, one where objectifying men is more than alright and where women can be strong and sexy without negative repercussions.”
YES!!! to it all
Jul 23, 2013
Young sexual and reproductive rights advocates continue to push for the full integration of a rights-based approach in relation to advancing population and development goals. That was the overarching message of the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE) and the United Nations Population Fund’s (UNFPA) Regional Youth Summit.
Earlier this summer, I had the opportunity to travel to Istanbul, Turkey, where activists representing over 40 international organizations gathered and developed a Call to Action, ensuring young people sexual and reproductive rights continue to be integrated in development agendas.
The summit brought together a diverse group of 40 young people from Eastern Europe, North America, Central Asia and Israel (EECARO region), to discuss and develop priority goals. During the summit, we organized ourselves into three sessions based on interest and expertise
- Population Dynamics and Sustainable Development,
- Families, Sexual and Reproductive Health over the Life Course,
- Inequalities, Social Inclusion and Rights.
After lengthy conversations, each group came up with a number of recommendations to share with the entire forum for us all to debate and finalize. The culmination of our work was translated into a solid document that represents what the youth from the EECARO region want elected officials and leaders to take into consideration. You can access the full document here.
The outcome of the summit embodied the youth vision and development priorities for the region over the next decade and was presented at the Regional Conference in Geneva. Fifteen delegates from our group (bearing in mind equal representation) attended the Geneva Conference and shared our declaration (Youth Call to Action). The speech, delivered by Grace Wilentz from YouAct (European Youth Network on Sexual and Reproductive Rights) and Jakub Skrzypczyk from Youth Coalition for Sexual and Reproductive Rights can be found here.
On a personal note, I had a great time interacting with all the youth participants at the Regional Youth Forum and learning more about the EECARO region. It became clearer to me that the same sexual and reproductive health and rights issues we are advocating for in the US are found in other parts of the world. I was happy to discover that we are not alone in this battle. Young people from all over the world are rising up to the challenge, demanding greater youth representation in world affairs and better human rights conditions for all.
About United Nations Population Fund’s (UNFPA)
Tasked with the mission of delivering “a world where every pregnancy is wanted, every birth is safe, every young person’s potential is fulfilled,” UNFPA is a UN organization whose efforts are guided by two main frameworks, 1) the Program of Action adopted at the 1994 International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD) and 2) the Millennium Development Goals (MDG), which are eight targets to reduce extreme poverty by 2015.
With the date for achieving these goals fast approaching, UNFPA and its partners, such as the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE), have been working together to ramp up their efforts. UNFPA and UNECE have been involved in the Beyond 2014 Review, an effort to engage world leaders from governments and civil society in drafting a new global commitment to create a more equal and more sustainable world.
The ICPD Operational Review has been taking place as part of the Beyond 2014 Review, and UNFPA and UNECE have been facilitating this process. Within this process, UNFPA and UNECE organized three thematic meetings on the following topics:
- “Population Dynamics and Sustainable Development”,
- “Reducing Inequities, Fostering Social Inclusion” and
- “Life Course, Sexual and Reproductive Health, and Families”.
As a culminating event, the agencies planned for a two-day Regional Conference entitled “Enabling Choices: Population Priorities for the 21st Century,” which was just held in Geneva (1-2 July), gathering leaders from all over the EECARO region (Europe, North America, Central Asia and Israel).
Young people are at the core of the UNFPA’s mandate, offering an essential voice to help shape the future development agenda. Therefore, young people have participated in the operational review at the country level and in all the thematic meetings mentioned above. In order to continue their involvement, UNFPA EECARO has organized the Regional Youth Forum in Istanbul (30-31 May) and in which I participated, representing Advocates for Youth and the US at large.
Jul 23, 2013
Dalits are people regarded as lower class in South Asian Countries. We know that in Nepal since historic times, the population has been divided into various segments, caste as well as class groups. Inclusion has been a hot topic in the country but due to traditional mindset of people, they still perceive a dalit in a stereotypical way. As a result, they have been victims of systematic marginalization.
Highlighting about systematic marginalization, dalits have been considered as inferirior beings and looked upon with prejudiced ideology as if they are unsuitable for making any kind of social relationships with other caste groups. This has made the Dalits themselves go through inherent mental and physical incapacities. They are not able to motivate themselves to move forward and to break the socially constructed barriers. They themselves get plunged into the negative vibes.
Their roles had also been stereotypical. They have been regarded as ritually impure because they were engaged in manual work, leatherwork, butchering, cleaning streets, latrines and so on. These activities were taken as filthy in Nepal and they were socially segregated. Their access to resources was also minimal. They were deprived from all kinds of facilities and rights. They could not afford to live a decent standard of living and take part in the activities of their local community because of being dalits. They were even forbidden to enter inside a temple to worship.
They felt hopeless and powerless because the society treated them in an inhumane manner. In the hierarchy of status in the Hindu caste system, they were given the lowest position as in outside the Varna or the caste system. They were not allowed to let their shadows fall upon a non-dalit caste member and they even had to sweep the ground where they walked to remove the contamination of their footfalls.
As a result, they have been poor and have had very little opportunities to grow or to prosper economically. There has been a lot of violence done to them as well.
The Interim Constitution of Nepal (2007 A.D) talks about Right against discrimination of any caste group, right to equality and right to social justice. Many social organizations have made provisions to promote inclusion of these marginalized groups. The government is concerned about their education, employment, health and development. As we can see, there has been many steps taken to eradicate this type of systematic marginalization in the country at present but many dalits suffer from social stigma and intolerance even today.
All we can do is hope that they will be genuinely free from systematic marginalization and the country will be true to its words of promoting social inclusion. Every human being is born equal and they should be treated with dignity regardless of their caste, class and background.
Jul 22, 2013