Category > Social Justice and Human Rights
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Oct 30, 2015
This week I was honored to have attended two events in which Alicia Garza, the cofounder of Black Lives Matter, presented at. First, Alicia is dope! She had this chill, honest, and welcoming ambiance that traveled through the Grand Ballroom. In a room of 500 people, I felt as if we were having a direct conversation because of her intense eye contact and constant scanning of the room. It was a lovely, captivating almost three-hour event.
Garza discussed many different topics having to do with her activism, daily challenges, and having a Black Lives Matters presidential debate (now that would be interesting!). Interestingly enough, Garza’s activism began at twelve years old in reproductive justice! She believed that all people, no matter what age, color, race, should have access to contraceptives and receive comprehensive sex education. Can you imagine a twelve year old advocating for this?! She kept up with this activism through college. After she graduated, she began to organize. The Black Lives Matter hashtag began after Garza wrote a blog which she published an ended with “…” And that is when the movement was born.
Few things I didn’t know before attending this event: 1) The Black Lives Matter movement goes past our national borders. There are official chapters in Toronto and Ghana. Many think of Canada as racism-free country. However, many similar issues such as police killings of Black men are occurring as well. For example, a black man, Andrew Loku, was killed by police outside of his apartment after allegedly confronting his upstairs neighbor about loud noise. Another issue in Canada is what they call “carding”. This occurs when a police officer stops a citizen on the street or in a car for no apparent reason. The officer proceeds to ask for identification which they then store in the police database. This act of “carding” disproportionately affects people of color, especially Blacks. 2) The Black Lives Matter movement was started by three queer Black women. This surprised me because in a movement where the main focus seems to be spotlighted on Black heterosexual men, three queer Black women pushed the agenda and made the lives of their Black brothers seen. The erasure of contributions can no longer occur. These identities (queer, black, woman) are already disregarded in society but is occurring in the movement too. But this movement asserts that ALL Black lives matter: gay, straight, transgender, light skin, dark skin, young, old, and many more. If we ignore one identity, we’re not being true to the movement.
Oct 20, 2015
Dear Former Classmate/Facebook Commenter,
Man oh man do I have some questions for you. When a friend of mine shared the article about George Lawlor saying “this is not what a rapist looks like”, why did you feel compelled to comment? Why did you feel the need to go out of your way to spread your hateful and judgement-filled opinion on my newsfeed when we haven’t spoken more than a “hello” when I see you in public for years?
What do you think gives you the right to tell me and other women that if we get drunk and have sex then “regret” it later that it isn’t rape? That it’s our fault? What right do you have to say that “calling men rapists” is anywhere near as damaging as having your physical and emotional dignity and identity torn apart by experiencing a sexual assault? Could it possibly be the same privilege that George Lawlor experiences every day? That of a white, heterosexual, middle-class male who has never experienced street harassment, getting groped against your will in a club, or being shamed for enjoying and embracing your sexuality? Do you not see that the throne of privilege you sit on is also a throne of ignorance, hatred, and misogyny? Believe me that in being white, heterosexual, and middle class myself I have often struggled to recognize my privilege. But while it is difficult to do, it is imperative in order to live life as an educated, respectful, loving member of society who advocates for people of all backgrounds.
When you said that “not all men are rapists”, did you for one minute think that I or any other women think that? Do you honestly think that we, as women, believe all of our male friends, significant others, spouses, fathers and brothers are rapists? If you do, I am completely baffled. Do you not realize that ANY men raping women is enough for women to be a little apprehensive? And the fact that 1 in 6 women will be victim of an attempted or completed rape in her lifetime gives women EVERY reason to be afraid? Yes, your point about men also being victims of rape is valid. Though that is the only valid point your comments made.
When you said that teaching the consent standard is victimizing men by calling them rapists “simply because of their genitals” did you for once think that this isn’t rooted in feminist issues? That feminism can’t help men too? Do you think that women being afraid and angry because our bodies aren’t guaranteed safety is for one second less important than your fragile male ego? You and George Lawlor are the exact reason we need consent education for men AND women and for people of all races, ethnicities, socioeconomic statuses, ages, and religions. Your ignorance infuriates me and at the same time makes me terribly sad.
And on the note of you saying, “shouldn’t there be education programs to teach people not to get raped” instead of teaching consent: shame on you. Women hear this message day in and day out. We are told that if our skirt is too short, we deserve to get raped. If we get too drunk, we deserve to get raped. If we flirt too much, we deserve to get raped. You are perpetuating an incredibly dangerous culture of victim blaming and slut shaming. Shame on you. I am thankful that I am not a survivor of sexual assault so I cannot speak directly to how these comments feel to survivors. But knowing how angry, hurt, and attacked they make me feel, I can imagine these emotions grow exponentially for those women who have experienced sexual assault.
Thankfully, the hatred and ignorance that you possess has only had the consequence of fueling my fire for advocacy, activism, and education. You have just provided me with another story to use when I teach, another example of why we all need feminism and why we all need to take a second to check our privilege. While you sought to make me feel bad, you did the opposite. I feel powerful. I feel informed. I feel that my purpose is reinvigorated. So while I want to scream “screw you”, instead I will issue a small “thank you”. While your ignorance is dangerous and damaging, the fire you threw gasoline on in me will reach much farther and wider than your ignorance ever will.
The Angry Feminist You Went To Preschool With
Oct 15, 2015
I post this on LGBTQ Spirit Day, at a time in my life where I am finally happy and accepting of my queer identity. It has been almost five years since you outed me in high school, and it is still a big deal. When folks found out I got a wide range of responses, from “I support you!” to “we need to talk because this is not OK.” Needless to say, my friend group changed from dozens to two people. I decided to take this moment and call it a “coming out,” although I knew (and still know,) that it was not that. This time also marked the beginning of a depression that I did not know the body was capable of:
I went to my doctor to talk about depression and “came out” to the nurse. I thought that at the time, my lack of acceptance of self might have been the root of my depression, so I expected to receive the appropriate mental health services: What I got instead, was a male doctor who came into the room shortly after I’d come out to the nurse practitioner, and demanded I get an HIV test in that moment. I had never been sexually active – yet my full and personal disclosure of my personal life didn’t seem to matter to the doctor. I was tested for HIV against my own will (knowing that I would not test positive,) and was made to feel less than human. The results came back negative. However, the trauma was still present.
You’ll never understand what it is such a big deal. It’s a big deal because I am queer and I am brown. I am both at the same time and I exist in this middle space where I am expected to choose or conform or be neither. I can’t. My brown skin will never go away, nor do I want it to. My queerness will show itself in the way I walk, talk, dress, and live. I love both. I’ve learned to love both – because you left me disgusted with every inch of my self, and the way medical professionals treated me, has left me with feelings of fear.
My first year of college, I had a roommate who told me one morning “Adrian, you don’t just look skinny… you look AIDS skinny.” He laughed and walked to class. I called my mom and cried about how unsafe and scared I constantly felt. Then, a week after my 20th birthday, I went to the doctor for a check up. The nurse looked at me and said “Oh honey I think you have HIV.” I was sitting there next to my mother, appalled and petrified that this might be a possibility. I told her that the chances were next to none and that she should think about all other possibilities before confirming this was it. Four years later I was being submitted to a second round of HIV testing, when I knew that I was not sexually active and that I was not positive. I went to the clinic on a Friday and spent the next three days in bed; crying, fearful that God might hate that and me I actually did have HIV. All the self-work I had done in four years were unraveling in front of me, and it hurt my core. I thought I understood God, and I thought I understood that it was OK to be gay. For those three days, I felt like I was wrong.
This isn’t a “thank you” letter, or an “I forgive you letter.” This is just a letter, because I don’t find a need to thank you, or forgive you. This is for you to know that your whiteness will never understand this brown man and that your idea of what it means to be gay will never make sense of what being gay means for a person of color, regardless of your lived experience. Your outing me in high school left an open wound with questions about my religion, my family, and my identities. The depression that rose from this experience has led to more experiences of isolation from medical professionals and a great fear of contracting HIV/AIDS. Because of these encounters I continue to advocate for queer people of color. I continue to talk about the stigma of HIV/AIDS in my community, and I continue to teach my peers about why these conversations are important. What I love about my identities is that I have many, and that because of them; I will always connect to more people and be loved and appreciated by folks from all walks of life.
I will forever live my life in the middle of many things: In between Catholicism and my indigenous beliefs, in between a shade of brown that’s not brown enough for Latinos, and not white enough for white folks, in between not gay enough for the gay community, and too gay because my mere existence is more feminine that that the average Latino man. You will never live in the middle – blond hair, blue-eyed boy. You can adopt and disregard as you wish. My relationship with the stigma around HIV/AIDS, relationships, religion, culture, and more will continue, and I will continue my dance between middle spaces. You will continue to live your idea of queerness, as it pertains to white men, while we continue to thrive in middle spaces.
Jul 29, 2015
Women are the creatures who create a beautiful family in the society. Women are those who bring peace women are those only who gives continuity to their generations. Women are not only a women but a mother also who gives birth accepting a lots of pain even they should ready to die. While giving birth to their baby because they hoped that, the baby would be a good, discipline and brave citizen in future and helps to handle a country towards positive path. So, women are such a person which we cannot able to defined by our words.
Nepal is a male dominated country so; the condition of women in Nepal is not so good violence towards women is increasing day by day in Nepal. Especially in Terai region News of women violence in newspaper and television are increasing intends of decreasing. It is the era of 21st century but thoughts of Nepalese people are the stone aged people is thoughts. Many women of Nepal are violated due to the dowry system privilege in Nepal. .,any women of Nepal are giving up their life due to the torture given by their family in the name of dowry and many women were killed by her husband and mother in law due to less dowry in Terai region. Life of Nepalese women are valueless, however there is more value of dowry.
Women of Nepal are illiterate. This is the 21st century but Nepalese women are still on Stone Age. They are dominated by male. Women are still facing different system like deuki system, chaupadi partha etc. in Nepal, women are taking only as a child bearing machine in rural area. They are for form the light of education. Due to lack of education, materials and infant mortality rate is increasing day by day. In the urban areas they should utilizing their rights and getting chance to be educated.
It is sold that ‘ male and female are the two wings of the birds ‘ if one wings is absent, a bird never can fly. So that in absence of one, another is incomplete. Due to this, equal rights should be given to both male and female. If a woman is educated in the family, she educates all the family members. Especially, she brings her children in the good path with good path with good education. They should be provided with their rights, health facilities, security etc. and they should be involved in all development activities of society, country or the entire world. If women got such facilities, the condition of women in Nepal would be quite Nepal.
So, for the betterments of the country or smooth development of the country, women should be educated 50% rights should be given to woman. Also, citizenship in the name of mother should be given to every child in Nepal. Hence, Nepal government and other concerned authorities should pay special attention towards it for the better condition of women in Nepal.
Jun 26, 2015
Advocates for Youth is thrilled about today’s decision finding same-sex marriage bans unconstitutional. It’s beyond time to stamp out all legislated bigotry. Recognizing marriage equality in every corner of this nation is a historic step for this country.
The swiftly growing cultural acceptance of LGBTQ rights has been propelled by Millennials, who are more likely than any other generation to support same-sex marriage. Young people refuse to sit idle as they, their friends, colleagues or family members are denied their inalienable rights. And even as we celebrate this victory, we know the fight is not over. LGBTQ young people around the nation need to feel safe in their schools, communities, and homes. They need protection from discrimination in housing and employment. They need sex education programs which truly include them and teach the skills they need to protect their health and lives.
The last few years have seen great leaps forward in understanding and acceptance of LGBTQ youth. Let’s keep the momentum going until all young people are treasured for who they are and empowered to lead healthy and fulfilling lives.
May 29, 2015
For two days in September, I attended a class taught by the Mississippi Health Department to become a certified HIV and STI instructor. While I really enjoyed the course, I do not feel that my instructors have a really good grasp of cultural sensitivity. The instructors stressed during the two days that we should always research the culture that we will be presenting to, and to ensure that we remain appropriate with our teachings.
I am not sure that these instructors were really aware of what cultural sensitivity is. One of the instructors used an example of teaching an instructor course on the Choctaw reservation in Mississippi. This instructor told of how she did do any research beforehand and was not aware that they did not like being referred to as American Indians. She continuously spoke about the people of the Choctaw, and still referred to them as a whole as American Indians. This is an issue, because cultural sensitivity should not be about JUST being culturally sensitive whenever you’re around a certain group of people.
Another area of cultural the instructors did not succeed at being sensitive to was the LGBTQ community. I know that it is wishful thinking for full acceptance here in Mississippi, but healthcare instructors know more than most that they work closely with members of the community, and as such should remain appropriate. They should not be joking around with members of the class about how”I don’t know what they do”. It is not appropriate, and frankly, I am tired of instructors thinking it is okay to just use the vague term of “they” for communities they do not understand or belong to. As instructors, they should be held accountable, especially when speaking to another class. I understand using specific examples of where you messed up in cultural sensitivity, but seriously, at least continue to be aware of being culturally insensitive and apply it everywhere.
Since attending this course, I have taught a few STI/HIV Prevention courses myself. My instructors stressed the need to tailor each presentation to fit whatever group of people I am presenting to. However, the only thing that needs to be changed when talking to different groups of people is the statistics concerning the STI/HIV infection rate for the demographic of people being presented; as well as where that group of people can get STI/HIV testing and where condoms can be obtained. When my instructors explained to my class about how to tailor these courses, we were to do research to ensure that we did not use racial slurs to offend people we are teaching to. While I understand the need to tailor presentations towards the group you are presenting to, it is always important to remain respectful at all times of all groups of people. I am by no means an expert on cultural sensitivity, however in order to best remain culturally sensitive, we must hold each other accountable.
May 22, 2015
“We aren’t spreading any evil. Women deserve only to stay inside. Within the cover of their sheets. Have you not seen how attractive women have destroyed the lives of men?” This is what a cleric had to say on the rile of women.
“Women are the worst of evil and the biggest of distraction” A priests words.
“Women are not supposed to be let free. Its just like letting a wild lion free and expecting it to help you and love you- Not eat you” These were the words of a Pundit on twitter.
Accepted the fact that religion is a very important part of our lives but is it okay for religion to be a method through which one can oppress another? I think not! We can not let religion destroy and take away the fundamental right of every human. Preaching is different, teaching religion is different but enforcing it upon every other person is an absolute crime!
We might be born to a family of any religion but does that make us unequal? Can we label a woman wearing a skirt as evil? Can we label her clothes permiscous whilst we have no problem with men in shorts? The basic thing that each and every society needs to understand is the fact that religion can be taught but not enforced. Enforcing religion is nothing less than a crime.
A person has the right full to self determination and live as however he pleases. There can be no rule as to how he or she chooses to wear.
Although to many this might seem a very incredible thing but in reality there are many occasion where women are forced to stay inside, wear what has been indoctrinated to wear through a system of corrupt ideas and yet they are still happy with that. They are abused, beaten and face a huge amount of inequality but still they are told to stay shut since saving an emotionless marriage is more important for than living a happy life. The idea of using “The Day of Judgement Theory” to convince people into committing atrocious acts in absolutely absurd and needs to change.
We might say, but we never do. We need to work towards improving living conditions for women in any and all areas where they are mistreated and subject to inequality. We need to empower those who give us birth!
May 3, 2015
Strength has no preference
Strength comes from within you.
Strength isn’t determined from the color of my skin
or the distinction of my genitals.
It isn’t determined by my lifting ability
but my ability to lift myself above a bar,
A bar that is predetermined and intentionally set so low.
But little do they know, my strength will get me far.
Strength is being able to determine how I prefer to live in my own skin
and not be looked upon what is labeled a “known sin”
Strength is when I have the courage to say no,
even though society will ridicule me for keeping him in the “Friend zone”
Strength is when the word “no” is simply not enough
and being told it was something I wanted,
as if it was my judgement I shouldn’t trust
Strength is when I’m deemed confused,
because my choice of attire isn’t consisted with what society thinks is “acceptable”
Strength is refusing society to belittle my idea of happiness, as if I’m not sure of my own desires
I am strength.
Apr 20, 2015
Its not daily that we come across people who may be looking at us from another orientation but when most of us do- we tend to ignore those people and give out the signal that society is not ready to accept them. Similarly, we also come across brutes who disregard the importance of women and consider them as material things and hence measure them in terms of money.
Just recently, a 31 Year Old Doctor from India committed suicide blaming her husband as he had lied about his sexual orientation and also accused him for asking for dower. It should be of no surprise to these people since in reality, this is what society in this region of the world teaches. Dower, polygny, betrayal and treatment of women as a third class citizen is as common as one can imagine.
Many from the society in which this man was nurtured would stand up to abuse and blame him for the events that happened but in reality, is the society not to blame?
A husband who lied to his wife about his sexual orientation since the common society did not accept him as a human is indeed the fault of society. Why was it that he was not able to reveal such an important reality about his life when his mother possibly forcibly married the two in a union without even having know each other? The first crime that this society committed was by making that man shy of revealing his reality. Secondly, due to the constraints that prevail in India and most of the region, the husband and wife were not able to know each other for any or at least a moderate period of time before the marriage hence the incapacity to reveal secrets and trust each other. Had the two known each other for some time, maybe he could have revealed to her that he was not a straight male. Similarly, this could have saved us from this absolute cruel to hear story.
Now, coming onto the second main point. In a society where a woman’s family is expected to give large sums of money, why is it that many expect another male member of the society to not do the same? Had these trends not been publicized and supported by the families of many- He would most possibly never had asked her for any money in the form of dower and saved her from a lot of mental duress and physical torture.
At the end, it all sums up to one and an only main point. A person’s personality is structured more by his surroundings and less by himself and in a society where dower and such things are widely acceptable even if “Illegal by law”- There is no way that another man even if a doctor would stop from doing so. Simultaneously- accepting what a man or women wants should be the society’s job but instead making one shy to reveal himself is not acceptable at all and hence today we are seeing such horrific results today.
Bring change in yourself, in the society and learn to accept what one’s sexual orientation is. Do not discourage and abuse a person if he is gay/lesbian/transgender but do abuse him if he asks for dower. Stand against the wrong, not a humans thinking! #Support Ones Sexual Orientation! #Demoralize those who support dower because women are equal and humans. Empower those who gave us birth!
Apr 16, 2015
As a young person working in Policy and advocacy around sexual and reproductive health and rights (RSHR), specifically women and girls’ rights, it can be extremely intimidating to walk into a meeting with a US senator or a UN diplomat and start talking about these issues. This year I have had the opportunities to lobby congressmen and woman on Capital Hill, have attended the UN Council on the Status of Women, have been in dialogue with members of my Catholic university’s community about SRHR, and spoken on congressional and UN panels. And most of these times I was the least informed and experienced in these circles.
And while being at the UN headquarters in New York to speak and participate in a major conference wasn’t scary enough; being seen as an “adolescent girl” didn’t help me to feel very at home either. But one day right before a panel, my friend and colleague said to me that the reason I was there was to share my own experience.
“You are an expert in your own story.”
That statement gave me all the confidence in the world to go forth and speak my mind! Though I didn’t have letters denoting my high levels of education after my name, a prominent position or name tag or friends in “high place,” I was equipped by an incredible organization that believes in me and my own life experience and passion from which I speak. Luckily for me, I am entering my political advocacy at a time when the global community has turned to look at the problems facing girls today, and invited us to sit at the table and weigh in.
However I think it’s important for everyone to feel equipped with some basic knowledge of these “going ons” too.
Millennium Development Goals (MDGs)
– UN Member States, the UN system, civil society organizations, academia, research institutions and others on identifying the shape and priorities of a post-2015 development agenda.
-The MDGs encapsulate eight globally agreed concrete goals, with time-bound targets and indicators for measuring progress in the areas of: poverty alleviation, education, gender equality and empowerment of women, child and maternal health, reducing HIV/AIDS and communicable diseases, environmental sustainability, and building a Global Partnership for Development.
-They’re about future international development
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon (Everyone loves him) established the UN System Task Team on the Post-2015 UN Development Agenda (also known as the UN System Task Team) in September 2011 to coordinate system-wide preparations for a post-2015 UN development agenda.
But what is all this “Girl” stuff about?
The Girl Declaration and subsequent movements are around the push for the inclusion of specific goals for the rights of girls.
Here’s the breakdown of what they’re asking for:
- Health and Safety
- Economic Empowerment
- Citizenship (Voice and Rights)
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Even with all of this though, you will mess up—I have many times—and most of the time you won’t actually know it until afterwards. But that doesn’t matter—it makes you all the more authentic! So speak up and act, no matter who you are, letting nothing hold you back.
Girls and women have been treated as second class citizens or worse for centuries now, and we still are in a lot of spheres. I believe that one of the most important parts of the equalities movements currently happening is to realize that we—all human beings—are worthy of rights, opportunities and our own lives doing whatever we choose with them. But that means that we—females—need to recognize our own self-worth—and thus show the world that belief and investment in us is probably the best idea of the century. This isn’t a “fight” against someone other than a fight with ourselves to know our worth and proudly attain what we strive for.
Things to celebrate from 2014:
(Courteously summary of Blogger Erica Laue)
–The passage of measures in Kosovo (April) and Uganda (May) that provide financial and logistical compensation to survivors of wartime sexual and gender-based violence. In Kosovo in particular, the new legislation provides coordinated compensation in the forms of employment, housing, and medical care.
–The repealing of Morocco’s rape marriage law in January, which forced victims of rape (primarily women) to marry their rapists (presumed male).
–The ratification in August of the Istanbul Convention by the requisite 10 countries. This forces the signatories to take concrete steps to address issues of gender-based violence in their populaces. The signatories include (but are not limited to) Austria, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Iceland, Luxembourg, Montenegro, Portugal, Slovakia, Spain, Sweden, and Turkey.
–The legal recognition by India of trans folk, to include the option on federal documentation such as birth certificates and passports.
–The repeal of Malaysia’s law against cross-dressing.
Things to focus on as 2015 goes on:
–Ensuring that more nations engage in the Istanbul Convention and that those that have signed on are actually living up to their promises.
–Eliminating the gender-based violence experienced by women — especially trans women — in prisons.
–Encouraging female political candidates to make gender a central feature of their campaigns instead of pretending that being female has nothing to do with political discourse.
–Writing policies for health care and employment leave that recognize the specific socio-political needs of women, cis or otherwise.
–Creating a standalone action plan for women in the UN’s post-2015 development agenda.
–Streamline reporting, investigating, and prosecution procedures for cases of gender-based violence.
–Increasing funding for education programs around the world that focus on providing education to girls.
It may sound like a large agenda, but from where I stand it’s a pretty manageable one. After all, if we can make less than 50% of the global population be the priority for every other agenda that exists, why not for women?
See for more:
Apr 15, 2015
“It always starts but then it suddenly ends. They come for a week and then I just never see them for months” Said Ameena (Original Name not disclosed for security purposes)a housewife who barely gets to see her family.
She was married at the ripe age of 19 without even the slightest of her consent as her dream to continue forth a career in Journalism was shattered. From dreams of being an Anchor at a Political Scrutiny Show, she was brought down to the bitter reality of life of a woman in Pakistan. She was told that she does not need to pursue any career as her sole purpose of existence was to give birth and please her man. Hiding her tears to uphold her parents dignity- She threw away her dreams and got married to a bachelor known for criminal charges in the city. Her parents married her since their view of a woman’s life was just like that of a slave to her man. Forgetting everything, she still managed to get through with all tradition and marry the man her parents intended for her to marry. They thought he would protect her but the reality intervened and the mad man could not even protect her wife from himself. 2 Years later; Ameena found herself trapped in the same house without any medical help with 2 broken bones and miscarriage. She lost her child and the full function of her left arm after which she was kicked out of the house by her brutal husband who was supposed to “protect” her. She cried her way back home asking for random strangers to help but none decided to aid the poor lady. At last after 2 Miles of Walking with blood all over her body she arrived at her parents door. They didn’t welcome her, they threw her away as you would throw a tin into a bin. Their first sentence “He is you husband, he holds rights over you, Go back-Apologies and make him happy”. She begged and begged until her brother broke the silence and decided to take her to a hospital. She decided never again to go back to her house again and today; She works as a columnist for a renound Newspaper today. 2 years of abuse, a broken bone for helping her male cousin up the stairs and another broken for standing out the widow with open hair. Her parents tried hard but after seeking refuge at local NGO she survived and prospered.
Tales like that of Ameena are not unheard in the cities of Pakistan and even emotions are also hurt, hearts also cry for these poor beings but then no action takes place. No man mans up to save her daughter and no brother stands to protect her sister from brutality. Many issues are today covered raging between the rights of Homo-Sexuals to Protection from Harassment but unfortunately they are only covered. No action takes place, no help is provided and women are left to rot in societies such as that of Kalam Garh in Karachi.
1/3 rd of 2015 has passed and so shall the year itself soon but what would we have done, nothing but type words and give a few speeches at the UN. This takes me back to a quote of that hung outside the wall of my classroom, “Facta Non Verba”, “Deeds, Not Words”. We speak but let our actions speak louder that our words and let us bring a change.
With countries like Pakistan and Saudi where women are treated as nothing less that servants, let us help them in their struggle to achieve independence from chains that entangle them and oppress their dreams under a patriarchy of inequality. According to the National survey of Human Central Independence, conducted by the Government of Pakistan; 9 in every 10 women faces sever abuse at least once in her lifetime and 7 of them face such hardships based on the excuse of religion and male domination.
Polygny is acceptable polyandry is not. My son get a doctorate my daugher should be married by her 20 Birthday? Females are slaves and men are master? Let us please change this and bring a change to these statistics that are literally destroying our women apart.
It is understandable of your to follow your religion but manipulating it to oppress and hurt one is simply not acceptable. These people do not have the right to bring their religion as a reason to stop “Her” from pursuing their dreams, chasing their fantasies, fulfilling their wishes and rising with ambition.
We see lesser and lesser women in the open now, barely a few to spot by as more and more hurt by men nowadays. Many hide their emotions to protect their dignity or that of their family so let us help them as they cut their way across fields of pain and agony and get a equal shot at life. I am maybe a male but a human before that; if you are one who believes in “being a man” become a Human first otherwise there is no way to progress to the point of Manhood.
Bring change and remove religion as a basis of inhumanity. Bring Humanity as the religion and work to eradicate silly fake religious limitations and wonder just why would God want just only to favor men.
Apr 3, 2015
In 2015, I believe that we are in a time that equal rights need to be made for all, regardless of how others may view it. That being said, Same-sex marriage should be legalized and recognized in all 50 states. Denying such sanction would violate each citizen’s fundamental constitutional right to equal protection and due process by law. According to Marriage Equality USA, more than thirty stated and the District of Colombia have laws in effect that allow marriage equality- a staggering 72% of all states. The freedom to marry should be an extended right to all citizens, not just heterosexual citizens. The freedom to marry should not have any exclusion. While there may be challenges in some states, recent federal rulings on four specific states have come in favor of same-sex marriage, allowing individuals to legally wed.
The yearning for marriage equality is a moving battle, and the fight continues each and every day. Supporters of and activists in favor of same-sex marriage continue to work for nationwide equality, while people such as some religious groups work to define marriage simply between man and woman. I believe it is absolutely absurd to not allow anyone, regardless of gender, to marry the person they wish to. While respecting each group’s philosophical viewpoint, not respecting the way others live their life is unacceptable.
According to an article published by LGBTQ rights organization, Equality Florida, just this past February, the federal appeals court covering Florida stated that they will no longer hear arguments on the matter of marriage equality until it is formally addressed by the United States Supreme Court. This was a monumental statement made, hence allowing all marriages- same-sex included, to be legal in the State of Florida. Meanwhile, same-sex couples continue to wed in Florida. “This is a strong indication that the 11th Circuit expects, as we do, that the Supreme Court will soon make marriage equality the law in all 50 states,” said Stratton Pollitzer, Deputy Director of Equality Florida. “Every judge in Florida who has heard a case for the freedom to marry, both Democrat and Republican appointees, from the Panhandle to the Florida Keys, has ruled that Florida’s ban is unconstitutional,” stated Pollitzer.
As a young adult born and raised in the majestic State of Florida, it is amazing to see such progress being made in my lifetime. To think that it is only a matter of time that we see nationwide equality soon is an unbelievable thought. I believe that as a citizen, everyone should be able to marry the person they love and the person they choose to take this vow of marriage with.
It speaks volumes when even religious organizations step in to voice their support for same-sex marriage. After years of internal debate, the largest Presbyterian denomination in America has announced this past month that they will be changing their constitution to provide more inclusive policies regarding marriage of those of the same sex. This comes after almost 71% of Presbyterian Church leaders voted in support of the change last June. According to an article published by the Huffington Post, ministers of the Presbyterian Church have been allowed to officiate weddings of same-sex individuals in stages that same-sex marriage is legal. Reverend Brian Ellison, Executive Director of The Covenant Network of Presbyterians, spoke in absolute support of this change. “It’s an important moment for the church in that there really continues to be serious disagreement about this,” Ellison told the Huffington Post. “This moment is a real opportunity for us to struggle, to work through differences, but still be committed to each other.”
The final decision of marriage equality covering each state ultimately rests in the hands of the Supreme Court. It is truly sad to think that we are the 21st Century and something as simple as equal rights for all is still an issue. Denying anyone their legal rights is unconstitutional, and I do hope that work is done to fix this situation. It is absurd that two individuals that love each other are legally not able to be married or recognized as a family. I am proud of the thirty states that have stepped in the right direction and legally recognize the necessity of marriage equality for all.
That being said- if we want to SEE a difference, we have to MAKE a DIFFERENCE! Call your Representatives, Volunteer with Organizations, Visit your State’s Capitol: make your voice be heard!
Apr 1, 2015
Whenever I talk about women’s right, people directly always asks me, “Are you a Feminist?” Well, I still really don’t know exactly about feminism. All I know is that, I am a woman, yes! A proud woman who believes in women and men both must work together, live together, strive and thrive together respecting each other. Yes, I am a woman who believes in valuing own womanhood and femininity and offering the world the wisdom that is held in this other vital half of humanity. Feminism is not about hating men, we respect men for who they are, and we just want to get respect for who we are. Feminism by definition Feminism is a collection of movements and ideologies that share a common goal: to define, establish, and achieve equal political, economic, cultural, personal, and social rights for women. This includes seeking to establish equal opportunities for women in education and employment. A feminist advocates or supports the rights and equality of women.
The woman is an important pillar of a family, society as a whole of the world that is why there should be equality in every aspects, regarding rights and opportunities as well as responsibilities. World should know that women rights are human rights and human rights are women rights. Feminism is not about becoming like men, acting like men. We are not here to compete with men, I don’t believe in becoming more like man, to act like a man or trying to imitate men as I believe we all the women, are born phenomenal, we just don’t need to be like someone. We are here to standout and make a difference in the world with genuineness and courage. Together we can, together we can make a world better place to live for that equal rights and opportunities should be given to each individual.
Mar 30, 2015
Hearing of Purvi Patel by accident on social media, I rushed and clicked the link for this story about feticide and abortion charges brought against her. I’m pretty sure that most of my South Asian friends probably never heard of Purvi Patel. It’s not every day an Indian woman makes headlines, but when I saw feticide and neglect in several headlines, I could not look away. Most headlines about Indian women and South Asian women overall pertain to some sort of achievement, something to brag about at the family table. Feticide, neglect, abortion: these are topics never mentioned in social circles or at family gatherings. One of my close friends messaged me at the same time, and I was like “please read this when you get a chance.” I shared the link with her, as two South Asian reproductive justice advocates would do. We starting talking about the implications of this decision and what it means for Indian women and South Asian women cohesively. What now? What does Purvi Patel being convicted of feticide and felony neglect of a dependent, with the potential for up to 70 years in prison, mean for young South Asian women navigating their reproductive health care options and choices? Bringing these issues up with their family and friends? Even thinking about how this case pertains to our own sexual and reproductive agency?
I can say that South Asian men may not be publicly involved in or aware of this issue, but there are strong roots of South Asian patriarchy written all over this case. I’ve read several articles about this, and not a single one has mentioned anything about the man involved in the pregnancy. They’re all focused on Purvi’s actions, lifestyle, upbringing. Within the South Asian community, there are higher standards of modesty for women as opposed to men and much more shame associated with women’s sexuality as opposed to men’s. These attitudes and notions further restrict the autonomy of South Asian women, who are always under the gaze of their family and those outside of the community to be upheld to the rules of the patriarchy. Typically, American society views South Asian women as docile, obedient, desexualized, stereotypes that consume us based of racist immigration laws, media depictions (or lack thereof), and orientalist views.
So when abortion, feticide, and reproductive health in general are viewed as “things we do not consider” unless we’re discussing issues “back home” or “things only immodest girls discuss,” we are continuing to be constrained by our depictions of what people want us to be and not who we want to be. I’ve read articles and statements about Purvi Patel and only wonder about the future of the criminalization for reproductive choices for South Asian women and women of color collectively. Purvi Patel is not the first and will not be the last woman of color to be charged with crimes for her reproductive actions. But one is more than enough to start the conversation. It’s time for the South Asian community to start integrating these issues into our daily conversations and to slowly challenge the ways we view South Asian reproductive and sexual agency.
Mar 27, 2015
I look outside my window through the parted curtains. I see boys playing outside, shoving each other playfully, running around. I feel trapped, caged for no reason. But there is a reason: My gender.
I live in a patriarchal society, a society where I’m not allowed to wear what I want to wear, a society where I’m stared at and oppressed in every possible way, a society where my education is denied and I’m undermined. I consider myself lucky that I live in a comparatively modern, urban area where girls are receiving education and obtaining jobs, and that these are considered increasingly accepted practices. Many human rights violations happen in the rural areas, where girls are not even allowed to have basic education. This is mostly due to poverty. However, even when families can afford to send their children to school, they prefer to send male children, because he would end up earning for the family rather than girls, who are supposed to ‘cook and clean’.
At a more malicious level, practices from Female Genital Cutting/Mutilation, to forced child marriages can lead to mental trauma and worsening health conditions for girls.
All their lives, girls are coerced to be dependent upon men: first, their father, then their husband. Child marriages cause early pregnancy and the lack of sufficient health facilities to aid these pregnancies can lead to an enormous amount of deaths.
The biggest problem that I face as a girl in my community is the lack of freedom and liberty given to me. I can’t even walk alone on my street at night in fear of being harassed or oppressed by a male. The worst part is that when I try to take action against this disgusting practice, I’m the one who is blamed. I’m asked why I went outside at night or why I wore tight clothing. The victim is punished in this society.
As the delegates gather at The Commission on the Status of Women meeting in the prestiged United Nations, I would like to request that instead of mere argument and discussion on the formation of policies, the implementation of policies should be discussed. We need to draft up solutions that can be practically implemented and are economically feasible for countries to practice. For example, the provision of contraceptives and better gynecologists, it is pertinent that a third world country receives some form of help from other countries or the UN itself to allow the efficient implementation of this policy.
In order to check if governments are abiding by the policies which will be discussed in this meeting there should be a monthly write up presented by the governments to the United Nations to see if it is in accordance to the policies discussed.
CSW is very close to my heart because these problems that I’ve experienced and have seen other girls also experience on a larger lever always made me feel guilty that I’m unable to play a part and made me hopeless. I’m glad the delegates are gathering to address these serious problems and they have realized the gravity of the situation as nothing can be achieved without gender equality and without recognizing how girls play an equal part in the society. We need to recognize the advantages of allowing girls security, freedom, financial independence, the right to education and the right to free and efficient health care.
This moment gives girls hope, this moment makes us optimistic that we still have a chance to show our true potential as individuals. From here onwards, we believe that by acting cohesively and diligently, we can eradicate all gender bias and all oppression against girls. This moment makes us hopeful for a bright future where girls won’t be denied any of their rights, where practices like FGM, child marriages and sexual harassment won’t exist, where we will be absolutely free. This is not an utopian idea but an idea which can be successfully implemented through the formulation of policies by governments and NGO’s that advocate for girls rights. I have a dream.
And I shall work till my last breath to fulfill it.
Mar 11, 2015
The Commission on the Status of Women is the United Nation’s premiere meeting on the issues women face around the world. Soon after the inception of the UN, women (and men) from all Member States and various non-governmental organizations (NGOs) have come together to share experiences and develop goals for women. In earlier years, CSW contributed to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and drafted the Convention on the Political Rights of Women, the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) and the Declaration on the Elimination of Violence Against Women. The Commission has also charged itself as the body that collects extensive data on a country-by-country basis to determine the position of women and girls as support for the Commission’s efforts.
This year, The 59th Commission on the Status of Women focuses on the 20th anniversary of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action. Adopted during the 1995 Fourth World Conference on Women, the Beijing Platform for Action became the “most progressive blueprint ever for advancing women’s rights.” Though there were already many women (and sometimes men) on the ground fighting and advocating for women, the meeting gave participants a common plan to achieve the goals outlined in the Platform for Action. To this day, we use this document as a framework to continue the fight for gender equality and women empowerment in all corners of the world.
The Beijing Platform for Action outlined 12 critical areas of concern:
- Women and the environment
- Women in power and decision making
- The girl child
- Women and the economy
- Women and poverty
- Violence against women
- Human rights of women
- Education and training of women
- Institutional mechanisms for the advancement of women
- Women and health
- Women and the media
- Women and armed conflict
Though we are far from achieving the goals outlined for each critical area, we have definitely made great strides since the Beijing conference in 1995. More girls have completed primary school. More women hold positions of power in their political bodies. More women own businesses. More member states have passed laws to protect women from gender based violence. More women live in nations where laws guarantee equal treatment. More women and girl adolescents have access to contraceptives. Fewer women die in labor.
However, we have not finished the agenda outlined in Beijing. Around a third of all women still face violence – and even more in conflict zones. About 2 million girls under age 15 each year are forced into commercial sex work. Women still face obstacles in accesses sexual and reproductive health services, including safe childbirth, modern contraceptives, and post-rape care. Nearly 37,000 girls are at risk of entering a marriage before age 18, leaving them at risk for early pregnancies, domestic violence, and lost educational opportunities. About 20 million women undergo unsafe abortions every year.
In the words of Dr. Angela Diaz, a medical doctor and advocate for adolescent health and rights, “Is this dignity for all? Is this social justice? What do you think?”
During the opening ceremony of the 59th Commision on the Status of Women, the UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon reiterated that our work is not done – and it’s not. He states that “our goal must be 50:50 by 2030.” Women deserve more. Women deserve a world where we don’t even have to discuss gender equality and fight for women’s empowerment because it will become an unconscious action; it will become a reality.
And finally, as youth, we hold a special responsibility. We are the most educated, the most involved, most connected and the biggest generation ever in our world’s history. We must hold the world accountable for the goals set out on the international agenda. We must not wait until we’re “old enough” or “experienced” as our experiences, our desires, and our vision for the world is more than enough to build the world we want for women and girls.
Feb 25, 2015
For the past seven and a half years, LGBT state workers in Kansas have been legally protected from workplace discrimination and harassment. But not any more. On February10th, Governor Sam Brownback announced that he was getting rid of these protections by executive order.
This order rescinds the previous executive order made by then-Governor Kathleen Sebelius in August, 2007, which first put these protections in place. As the New York Post reports, “The  order applied to hiring and employment decisions by agencies under the governor’s direct control and required them to create anti-harassment policies as well.” Brownback stated that he was rescinding Sebelius’ order because he believes that such changes should have been made by the state legislature instead.
Doug Bonney, Legal Director of the ACLU of Kansas, told the LA Times that “workplace protections for underprivileged groups have historically first been instituted by executive order and later codified by legislative action.” Of course, a spokeswoman for Governor Brownback explained that he has no intention of proposing such legislation. Further, it’s highly unlikely that Kansas’ majority-Republican legislature would make the initiative to put forward an anti-discrimination bill themselves.
In his announcement, Brownback made the bogus claim that his actions were actually restoring equality.
“This executive order ensures that state employees enjoy the same civil rights as all Kansans without creating additional ‘protected classes’ as the previous order did.”
The problem being, of course, that without explicitly stated protections, some state employees do not enjoy the same civil rights as other Kansans. Ensuring someone’s civil rights does not make that person special or place them above others who have always had their civil rights protected.
When giving a group equal footing with your own makes you think that group is receiving special treatment, it means that you don’t believe that group, on its own, deserves to, or would otherwise be able to, stand equal to you. Governor Sebelius’ 2007 executive order did not give special protections to LGBT employees; it gave them equal protection. Governor Brownback is not restoring equality; he is restoring a civil hierarchy which actually positions heterosexual employees at a special, protected advantage.
Tom Witt, Executive Director of Equality Kansas, says that thanks to Governor Brownback, hundreds of LGBT state employees in Kansas are now in danger of losing their jobs.
“The jobs of hundreds of [LGBT] workers are now at risk, after they’ve spent nearly a decade believing they were safe on the job after disclosing their orientation or gender identity.”
So, why did this happen now? What prompted this? Governor Brownback has been in office for four years, and for all that time has been apparently unbothered by Governor Sebelius’ decision to bypass the legislature and sign an executive order for workplace protections. What’s changed?
Three months ago, a federal judge overturned Kansas’ ban on marriage equality.
The state is currently appealing the ruling. It seems likely that Brownback’s executive action to take away existing protections for LGBT state employees is a way of lashing out against the judge’s decision and the national momentum toward marriage equality.
Currently, Kansas is one of 29 states with no workplace protections based on sexual orientation and one of the 32 states with no protections for transgender employees. Employees of the federal government are protected from discrimination, and starting later this year, that protection will expand to employees working for private companies with federal contracts.
Feb 20, 2015
Chelsea Manning, currently serving a 35-year sentence in Fort Leavenworth military prison for exposing military wrong-doings to WikiLeaks, has been waiting a year and a half for life-saving medical treatment. Now, her wait is finally over. In a February 5th memo, Col. Erica Nelson, commandant of the Fort Leavenworth Disciplinary Barracks, announced the army’s decision to provide Manning, who is transgender, with hormone treatment.
“After carefully considering the recommendation that [hormone treatment] is medically appropriate and necessary, and weighing all associated safety and security risks presented, I approve adding [hormone treatment] to Inmate Manning’s treatment plan.”
After being convicted in July, 2013, Pvt. Manning came out as transgender and asked to begin a hormone regiment. She was continually denied access to the healthcare she needed, so in September, 2014, she sued the federal government with the help of the ACLU, asking for hormone therapy and to be able to live as a woman. The lawsuit “alleged Manning was at a high risk of self-castration and suicide unless she received more focused treatment…”
In a statement released by the National Center for Transgender Equality, Executive Director Mara Keisling spoke on the military’s responsibility to provide inmates with medical care.
“The Army’s decision means it’s simply fulfilling its obligation to provide Manning with medical care. Manning has been diagnosed with a medical condition, and failing to treat it would be cruel and unusual punishment.”
While Manning was approved for hormones, she was denied the right to “female hair grooming,” including growing her hair long (something other female prisoners have the apparent luxury of doing). In her memo, Col. Nelson said this decision was based on risk assessment. Presumably, this relates to worries about Manning using a razor to shave her legs, yet misses the point that being able to shave her legs would reduce chances of self-harm. “The resistance meeting Chelsea’s full treatment needs,” explains ACLU attorney Chase Strangio, “is a reflection of the deeply entrenched stigma associated with transgender health care.”
In 2015, people who are transgender are still barred from serving openly in the U.S. military. The end of the military’s “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy in 2010 allowed gay, lesbian, and bisexual soldiers to serve openly, but did not apply to those who are transgender. This is the first time this type of health care has been provided to an American soldier. Transgender and intersex veterans, however, do have access to hormone therapy through the Department of Veteran Affairs, and have since 2011.
Chelsea Manning has already proven herself as someone willing to fight for justice and accountability. Her personal victory in gaining access to health care resonates beyond herself, inspiring others to fight for themselves, and reminding us of the policies and prejudice still left to overcome.
Feb 13, 2015
As many may know, the CREATE council has 3 new videos about Amendment 67 created and led by youth. A lot of hard work was put into the creation of these three videos. Once they were aired, we were extremely proud of our work. We hoped that everyone felt proud of these videos as we do. I know that not everyone will agree with your opinions, all you can do is hope that they don’t take our message offensively.
On November 1st, a fellow council member and our youth coordinator went to present about our work to college students that were passionate about creating change in the work, like many of us in our activist work. Many of the topics that they wanted to focus on related to the work that Colorado Youth Matter does. We saw this as an opportunity to have a partnership with these inspired students. We had spent time practicing what we were going to say and how we would say it to spark a debate. We decided to present one of videos, but 5 seconds into the video, a woman demanded us to shut it off. At that moment, I became very worried. I had no idea someone would react to our video like this. I was so proud of the work that we had done, I didn’t understand why she reacted in that way. She was pacing around and yelling like a crazy woman (extremely dramatic)! She said that from just watching 5 seconds of this video, she was disgusted.
At that moment, I wanted to yell at her. I was so shocked that I couldn’t even speak, I could just feel myself shaking. I understand that this is a very sensitive case, but the way that the woman reacted about it totally discouraged the students to even think about our organization. Even worse, about this amendment. A lot of the students there seemed to be very confused. The woman leading the event said the following, “If you don’t know what this amendment is about, don’t worry about it?”. How could they limit these students in this way? They were talking about all of these topics surrounding reproductive justice, and they couldn’t explain what this was about? I may not be old enough to vote, but I’m aware of what’s going on. They, that can vote, are being molded into what their mentors believe is ‘right’. It’s not right to limit them from the truth. It’s not ‘right’ to think for them. It’s not ‘right’ to show them only the pretty side of politics.
After this experience, I have become a lot more determined to make sure that everyone has the correct information. Everyone deserves to know both sides of the stories and choose for themselves. Everyone has their own beliefs, and it’s not okay to force your own onto someone else. They have a mind of their own! They don’t need help in decision making. I also see why the work that I do is so critical. If I don’t step up, then who will? I can’t wait for something great to happen, I have to be that change.
Feb 13, 2015
The phrase “Female Genital Mutilation,” was first explained to me two years ago, in the back of a car stuffed with volunteers as we drove down the streets of Nairobi, Kenya. I had heard the term in passing previously, but never before had I been sat down and walked through the actual practice and the general ideas behind it. My response was the usual Western response: I felt like I was going to vomit and cry simultaneously.
Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) is often known as “cutting,” but it normally called Female circumcision by those who practice the tradition. Below is an excerpt about the four main types of FGM from the WHO (World Health Organization) website:
Female genital mutilation is classified into four major types.
- Clitoridectomy: partial or total removal of the clitoris (a small, sensitive and erectile part of the female genitals) and, in very rare cases, only the prepuce (the fold of skin surrounding the clitoris).
- Excision: partial or total removal of the clitoris and the labia minora, with or without excision of the labia majora (the labia are “the lips” that surround the vagina).
- Infibulation: narrowing of the vaginal opening through the creation of a covering seal. The seal is formed by cutting and repositioning the inner, or outer, labia, with or without removal of the clitoris.
- Other: all other harmful procedures to the female genitalia for non-medical purposes, e.g. pricking, piercing, incising, scraping and cauterizing the genital area.
While other blogs and websites will spell out the specific details of the practice, I wanted to focus on the cultural implications, and my own feelings around Female Circumcision.
Female cutting is often performed during a varying degree of ceremonies and under a wide array of circumstances in parts of Africa and the Middle East. The practice is performed in different degrees of severity in terms of cutting, in different religious and traditional ceremonies and in a range of locations. And though there has long since been a link that people have thought up between Islam and Female circumcision, this connection is not valid; as female cutting is not a part of the Islamic tradition (there just have happened to have been high rates of FGM practice in some Muslim nations). In countries with large numbers of the population who practice this circumcision, it is seen as many things, from a rite of passage to a distinction of a girl as a women.
For example, in some West African tribes, Bundu ceremonies around Female Circumcision take place, marking the passages from girlhood to womanhood.
“The real meaning of the bundu society is very good, she said. ‘It is where they train young girls to become women: they teach them how to sing, dance and cook … girls who don’t go to school learn how to use herbs and treat illnesses; they are taught to respect others.’”
And while I understand the beauty of such “coming of age” practices, I personally do not understand the need for cutting, and I share in this view with many others—both Westerns and Native to Africans. Why the need for the physical mutilation that happens in these ceremonies? Why not simply the other elements of music, food, storytelling and other rituals without the need for cutting?
With careful thought about the divisions in the societies around maintaining this practice—that without the continuance of practices, traditions change, and often younger generations become isolated from the older generations—I strongly believe that this practice goes beyond cultural conservation, to be a human rights violation.
I am a strong supporter of anthropology and honoring differences and keeping alive individual cultures, and preserving them to be distinct and respected; but just because something is a historic cultural practice, does not in my mind make it impervious to also being a human rights violation. If we are to go along with the idea of cultural preservation and respect triumphing human rights, then we would have to repeal anti-slavery legislation in most parts of the world, where it was considered historic and cultural in the past. We would also have to allow dueling to the death over disagreements, foot binding, indentured servitude, human trafficking and a number of other horrific practices to be re-instated for cultural preservation reasons. And to me, and billions of other people, those would all be human rights violations as well.
Perhaps you feel that my comparisons are too strong and in proportional to FGM, but think about this: by cutting away a women’s most private physical part, by putting her through so much pain, you are also taking away an element of liberty; not to mention risking a high likelihood that she will die either from the cutting itself or from the consequences of the mutilation down the road.
When I first heard about FGM in that car in Nairobi, I was shocked and appalled and immediately wanted to become an activist against the practices of FGM. It took me two years to really become acquainted with the reasons behind the practice, and the deep seeded arguments for cultural preservation and careful intervention. I don’t want to be a Westerner trying to intervene in a practice or culture that I don’t understand, but while I truly respect cultural practice, I cannot sit by and allow my even stronger belief in the promotion of human rights to be ignored, because to do that, I would be contributing to this practice as well.
This is why, as the world negotiates the post 2015 sustainable development goals, I support the Girl Declaration’s proposed target of eliminating FGC/M for all girls as part of reaching the goals of a future that prioritizes girl’s health and safety.
Jan 31, 2015
Hey guys! This is Hamna Tariq from Pakistan. I\’ve recently noticed that the streets in my city are mostly crowded with males and hardly do I spot a woman nowadays. This has concerned me greatly as girls tend to stay home, hidden from society, to prevent them from being harassed. As a result, several women leave their jobs and their families become a target of poverty. In today’s society women are not even safe enough to walk to a nearby market alone. They are trapped within the four walls of their house so they remain ‘secure’.
Adolescent girls, who dream of success, are forced to do household chores or marry someone so other men are not able to harass them. This disrupts their education and they are not able to live their life the way they want. This caged oppressive life causes psychological problems for adolescent girls and not only do they have to carry the burden of maintaining a household but also endure the pain of childbirth and an age when they should be studying.
Two years ago, I had a girl in my class, Mishaal. We were good friends and had the same subjects. However, she was forced to leave school. Why? Because her ‘brother’ felt that by coming to school, she came in contact with males thus she should sit home and do what women are supposed to do; household chores and get married. She had to sacrifice her education and her dream of becoming a doctor because of a certain mindset inculcated in our society. But why does this mindset exist in the first place? This is because of the lack of laws and regulations ensuring women’s safety. It is believed that women are ‘supposed’ to be harassed when they leave their homes. Why else would they come out?
This trend of adolescent girls being barred from society is on the increase. There should be strong and adequately resourced child protection systems which do not only secure girls from all kinds of harassment but allows them to live their lives freely without fear. Thus, safety is a pertinent issue that needs to be addressed and hopefully by working together we can protect adolescent girls all around the world from violence and exploitation.
Jan 22, 2015
Today marks the 42nd anniversary of Roe V. Wade, a landmark moment for women across our country. People could, supposedly, seek legal and safe abortions, without fear. However, thanks to the Hyde Amendment, clinic protestors, and violent stigmas, this has not always held true for all people, especially people of color and people of low socio-economic status.
The Hyde Amendment has been in place since the mid 1970’s, being renewed every year. This amendment bans all federal money for abortion services, which translates to – federal health insurance for low income families and disabled folk such as Medicaid and Medicare, cannot cover any abortion services.
This is a barrier that affects our communities the most. My family, being one of mixed race and lower socio-economic status, has been consistently affected by this amendment throughout our generations. In order to better understand the struggles our women have been facing for the last 40 years, I decided to ask an expert of confronting, overcoming, and defeating struggle – my mother.
C- Tell me your story. What was it like when all of this was just happening and you were younger?
M- I was very lucky, when I was in high school, I could go to the city. You could get them, you didn’t have many protests, but I couldn’t imagine at that point having to walk through protests to, you know, try to make the right decision. Back then, we didn’t have the 24 hour thing; you went in, walked out. I do know several people who had the child and at that point, the family and everything was more invested in the child than they were, so in the first 6 months, two of them dumped the kids on their parents and split. The children had all sorts of problems because she didn’t want the kid and was partying her ass off trying to miscarry all because she didn’t have $400.
C- What about your story? How was it like for you?
M- I happened to be lucky where I came from. These things were available. The first time I had an abortion I was 17, my friend sent me to a back alley place in Harlem for only $150. It horrified me. So I went to my father and was able to get the money to do it right. I was really lucky.
C- So when it comes to women on Medicaid and Medicare not being able to access these services, women like yourself, how do you feel about it?
M- I think it’s unfair, I think people that need access to terminations are low-income and they’re the ones that have no access to it.
C- So how did the Hyde Amendment ultimately affect you and your community?
M- It made it difficult, I know people that had children cause they couldn’t afford the abortion. I mean, where’s the choice in that?
Forty years later, and our women and our people are still fighting for the right to choose. We cannot leave folk living in poverty, folk of color, and disabled folk out of these conversations. And the Hyde Amendment is doing just that.
If you want to keep the Hyde Amendment off of our more permanent law books, call/email your U.S. Senator and vocalize your thoughts on the No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion bill.
Find Your Senator
Jan 15, 2015
Just a couple of weeks ago, I was helping my aunt to wash some of our laundry. I, while doing our work happen to ask about one of our neighbor`s daughter. Her whereabouts. She had been married secretly to a guy, I had no idea about. But, according to my aunt, he turned out to be a drug addict. Hence, she got back to her parent`s house. But she remarried. To a guy she fell in love with. And, now, she is happily married and living in some foreign land. While my aunt was telling me this girl`s story, she vividly pointed out her flaws in making the previous marriage a failure. According to my aunt, this poor girl had to had some shortcomings in her part because she could not handle and rehab her then-husband to good health. She was also blamed for remarrying the another guy.
This thing stroke my grey matter. Why are only the “XX” partner blamed for failed marriage even if “XY” had tremendous faults? Why are women questioned for remarriage when a guy can totally ask no one to bring another women home as life partner, the very next day of divorce? And, why are only girls tagged as “eloped one” when both entities (boy and girl) are necessary for the act of elopement?
The blaming game does not end here. Even a teenage girl is blamed if she cant cook meals for her family but this skill is just auxiliary to a adult guy. Just to make women work, in few societies of Nepal, its tagged auspicious if a girl serves food to her family. And, it does not matter even if she has piles of other domestic works to do. These are just the few examples of discrimination. And, there are tons and tons of rules and norms that directly hamper and restrict the freedom of girls. Be it restriction of taking classes because of attempt harassment by a male teacher or refraining the right to vote. The female foeticide. The acid attacks. The homicide in the name of dowry. The suicide because of rape. And, the list just goes on!
Dec 9, 2014
Since when does mass media publicly value rapists excuses and denials more than they value victims stories?
Rolling Stone has set a precedent within their own publication with this note. They have made a statement to their readers. They have taken a very public and obvious stance against survivors, and they have even started attacking a survivor and their credibility.
When people share their stories of such violation, cruelty, and violence, it is one of the most difficult things they can do. It is choosing to relive that experience over and over again, bleeding yourself dry hoping that no one will ever have to bear the same wound.
I know this, as for the last two years, I have worn the word ‘survivor’ like a piece of armor, and sometimes, the heaviest weight I can’t ever seem to bear. I have shared my story, hoping for change, hoping for future ‘Caitlyns’ to never have to go through this.
I have had my credibility tested, questioned, and attacked. I have had prying noses, pity stares, and half-hearted apologies. I have spoken to media outlet after media outlet, each one tending to see my story as an attention grabber, a selling point, a juicy story. To see Rolling Stone paint Jackie’s rape in such a way, almost with a borderline entertainment factor, layered with unnecessary and re-victimizing descriptions, has been a painful experience that I simply can’t even put into words.
Further more, to see that they wanted ‘the other side of the story’, and regretted honoring the survivor’s wishes, it makes me question how much respect they have for Jackie, for women, for survivors, for ME.
I fear, every day, that my rapist might see the stories, see my statuses, see me on the local news, and identify that it is him that I am speaking about. He has never known of the fact that I have shared my story as I simply didn’t know to report or press charges when it happened. It took me years to identify, name, and share my story. To this day, I cannot gather the bravery or courage it would take me to make such an allegation to the court of law, or furthermore, to his face.
With my situation, as well as many other survivors, it would simply be too dangerous to give a name, report, or have our stories get back to our assailants. If a news outlet were to contact my rapist, I’m almost certain it could mean an immediate threat to my safety. The fact that my credibility and my side of the story could come under such scrutiny and question is a direct disrespect and disregard to the already stigmatized survivors that choose to share their stories.
When our world begins to ignore the stories we, as survivors, share, for the denial and accusations of our rapists, there is more than a problem.
When our media outlets begin to paint our stories, our violations, our rapes, and our assaults as a vivid movie-esque source of entertainment, there is more than a problem.
When our stories are denied, when our voices are silenced, we are re-victimized.
When our rapists are again more valued than we are, there are all these messages being reinforced that society already spoon feeds us.
“You aren’t enough.”
“You’re less than.”
“You deserved it.”
“He is the one of worth, the one of value.”
These messages are ones that replay in my head. I expect media outlets, such as the Rolling Stone, to do everything they can to dismantle these thought processes, and to validate and support our survivors.
Anything else is simply unacceptable. Re-victimizing and further violating such brave folk that choose to use every ounce of strength within them to step out of the dark, again and again, is simply despicable.
#IStandWithSurvivors. Rolling Stone doesn’t.
Nov 21, 2014
Last night, President Obama announced actions that he is taking to grant relief to many young immigrants and families currently stuck in our unjust immigration system. Millions of currently undocumented immigrants can now apply for protection from deportation and work legally in the country. It is a big deal that the President is taking these actions – in doing so he is standing up for the rights of immigrants across the country, and bringing them one step closer to full citizenship. However, the President’s actions are far from enough to guarantee that young immigrants and their families are able to build empowered and healthy lives in the U.S.
First, President Obama’s actions reflected his admirable commitment to supporting families, focusing much of his administrative relief on the legally recognized parents and families of U.S. citizens. As we applaud this, however, we must remember that our immigration laws – as well as many of our others – often fail to recognize LGBTQ families and individuals, leaving them out of this historic moment.
Second, equality is not just a matter of being granted legal status – among many other things, it includes the ability to access the healthcare you need. Last year in the administrative relief President Obama granted to DREAMers – undocumented young people who entered the U.S. as children – he decided not to extend eligibility for the Affordable Care Act exchanges and subsidies to them. Now, President Obama has repeated that unfortunate decision and the millions of immigrants who will now be able work legally in this country will not be able to access the Affordable Care Act’s health exchanges and subsidies – exchanges and subsidies that their tax dollars will support. Health insurance coverage, and the no co-pay preventive services that coverage comes with, is a critical tool in ensuring that all young people can lead healthy lives. Access to the health exchanges and subsidies could be a game-changer in addressing the serious disparities in access to health services young immigrants and their families currently face. Instead, millions will remain excluded from the ACA’s promise, and forced to rely either on limited and unaffordable options for their health insurance or go without.
President Obama took a historic step towards remedying the injustices that young immigrants and their families face in this country. In the days to come, hopefully he and Congress will remember that they have the power and the duty to stand up for the rights of millions of immigrants to remain in the U.S. no matter their sexual orientation or gender identity, as well as for their ability to access the health care they need and to build healthy lives.
Nov 20, 2014
What started as mild and snarky criticism of a casually sexist shirt from some scientists, science enthusiasts, and a few people on Twitter grew into another vitriolic discussion on how feminists are offended by the smallest issues and are reacting wildly. But that’s not quite what #ShirtStorm is, forget what most of the Internet tries to tell you. Cathy Young’s teeth grinding, eyebrow raising editorial on Time, “How To Turn a Cool Moment into a #ShirtStorm” is another piece I wouldn’t trust. I recommend reading it only if you are prepared to contort your facial muscles and vocal chords to their limits when you come across her paragraph on how feminists stigmatize and oppress straight men for their sexuality.
(The shirt in question — photo from the ESA news stream, via @RoseVeleth’s Twitter feed)
Landing a probe on a comet is really cool. It’s a great scientific feat that took about ten years to accomplish, major props to all involved. But does an achievement of any kind really make one immune to criticism? Why are we not allowed to acknowledge both the impressive landing and the problematic shirt? And let’s be honest here, was this ever really just about a shirt?
Do I think Dr. Matt Taylor is a misogynist? From what I’ve seen, it doesn’t seem like it. It just looks like a classic case of a person who does something problematic but doesn’t realizes it until he’s told exactly why it was offensive and even detrimental. Yes, I know it was made by a woman. Yes, I know he was only trying to promote her artwork. And okay, maybe you might even wear the shirt yourself. It’s clear that his intention wasn’t to hurt anyone. None of that changes what wearing that shirt meant to some women struggling to no fault of their own in STEM fields, areas of academia and careers we know too well are disproportionately male-dominated. The impact is what we’re looking at. And knowing the context and history, how can we even begin to consider intent ever being more important than impact?
When confronted with criticism, Dr. Matt Taylor quickly and tearfully apologized. And everyone, including Dr. Matt Taylor, moved on–or at least, that’s what we all thought would happen. You see, what really made #ShirtStorm wasn’t the small, but diverse group of people who had the courage to speak up about the casual sexism and privilege of an accomplished scientist. It was misogynist keyboard warriors making false parallels of judging a man’s shirt to rape culture and sexual objectification. It was another round on the internet of rampant strawman assertions to the rest of the world on what feminism really is. Sadly we’re not living in a world in which #ShirtStorm is a hashtag describing how misogyny is thriving on the media’s poor representation of people’s concerns over decades of a troubled relationship between women and STEM fields.
#Shirtstorm is just a new name for the same old practice of shaming and silencing those who dare to speak up.
If you think this isn’t a big deal, well, by itself, it’s not a huge one. But it’s not by itself, is it? This event didn’t happen in a vacuum. It comes when there is still a tremendously leaky pipeline for women from undergraduate science classes to professional scientist. It comes when having a female name on a paper makes it less likely to get published, and cited less. It comes when there is still not even close to parity in hiring and retaining women in the sciences.
So yeah, it’s just a shirt.
And it’s just an ad.
It’s just a saying.
It’s just a TV show.
It’s just the Internet.
Yes, but you almost make as much as a man does.
It’s just a catcall.
It’s a compliment!
It’s just that boys will be boys.
It’s just that she’s a slut.
It’s just that your dress is too short.
It’s just that we want to know what you were wearing at the time, ma’am.
It’s just it’s just it’s just.
It’s just a death by a thousand cuts. No one cut does the deed. In the end, they all do.
Nov 3, 2014
We are all feminist!
People fight for every girls right,–whether in secret
or not. We have once said no to those people who,
one way or another have adjusted the beauty of the
Life made things easy, but our new story-telling,
and blueprint-art, shaped the way things used to
be. It is quite beautiful to say we have tried our best
to influence most of the affairs of girls living in
rural areas–“to put a smile on gaunt faces.”
Today, there’s a task on each of us to help raise
awareness and #Write4Girls ; to ring the bell, and
set prosperous margins for them to follow.
In Cotonou, the Republic of Benin; teenage girls are
going through a lot of pains–from hunger strike in
major rural areas, to sexually transmitted
infections, and rape! Most of these girls have no
parents, only few of them have access to hospitals
and parental care. The selfsame happens in
Ekpoma, Edo state, Nigeria (…my state of origin);
girls have turned coated wires, nude. From peer
group relationship to hotel services. Almost 15% of
teenage girls in my environment from (14-17) are
pregnant, 10% are already mothers,–the story goes
From these circumstances “Feminism” becomes a
dwindled act, because majority of the girls we fight
for–(to get quality education, parental care and
reproductive health services…),–are knowingly
doing the wrong things.
But aside from any heart feelings, we are still
And There’s always a heart that wants to put a smile on
wrinkled faces. While “Malala,” is working on education for
every girl child, we too can do our best.
Today, there’s a new definition, the renaissance of a
new hope; thoughts that begets’ essence, and
notions that raises the bowels that once lay flat.
Our words, written or spoken, can influence and
reach the farthest places. Faults may emerge, and
we may have to shrink to environmental and
governmental laws; but the grace to move on will
spring forth, if we decide to take a stand.
This is for those girls that have lost all, those girls
that have been shut out, raped, coerced for
pleasure, used as slaves, Infected with Sexually Transmitted Infections, and made to hawk fruits
in the market.
We can do a lot more if we #Write4Girls, and
channel or thoughts to the development of every girl child.
Oct 31, 2014
Recently, Emma Watson has come forward with powerful speeches presenting her personal beliefs about feminism and the role each person has in progressing this movement forward. Her UN speech, which can be seen here, http://bit.ly/1rB2PGG, discussed the HeForShe campaign and was a beautiful start, but recently she has also come out to Elle UK to discuss what feminism specifically means to her. Time has quoted Watson as saying, “Feminism is not here to dictate you… All we are here to do is give you a choice,” (http://ti.me/13eYpMS) which I think is a principle that everybody can support. The idea that feminism is personal is so, SO real. Feminism is different to every person and no type of feminism is wrong or better than another. Feminism is about equality and it can take form in a variety of ways. Here is what my feminism looks like.
My feminism looks like peace. The anti-choice movement pisses me off. So does slut-shaming. And victim-blaming. And general oppression. I identify as a feminist and I care about a lot of issues and I channel that passion into making a difference in the world. More importantly, however, I believe in the power of peace. Anger is a powerful emotion and I could never deny that, but more importantly I identify with peace and the power that tranquility can have on the world. During my freshman year of college my friend Shannon, at the time co-chair for our campus’s Student Women’s Association said to me, “peaceful, powerful, and pro-choice,” and since then I have really identified with it. This does not make me any less passionate. It does not make me any less of a feminist. It makes me, me.
My feminism looks like bandage skirts and crop tops. Sometimes, and not all the time, I like to wear heels and short skirts and heavy eyeliner. That’s okay. Everybody knows that the way a woman dresses or drinks or acts is not an invitation for rape. It’s also not an invitation for hate.
My feminism has no girl-hate. I try to accept women for wherever they are in their life. I accept girls who wear mini skirts and drink and have sex with different people every weekend. I accept girls who think girls like that are everything that’s wrong with feminism. All I want in my community, is for all of the women I know to accept all the women that they know. I encourage us all to focus on girl-love. Love the girls who stay in and study. Love the ones who go out every night. Love them for whatever they need to do to be the woman they want to be. Love each other. Because that’s what makes us all a beautiful and powerful group.
I think as a society we have a tendency to lose sight of what acceptance means. Not everybody has the same opportunities, the same knowledge, the same opinions. It is important for us to each share a little part of ourselves, share the things that matter to us in a way that is both respectful and enlightening for other people. We have to stop expecting that everybody knows what matters to us and start actively teaching each other to care. We have to start realizing that we all have the same goal and together we’ll be closer to the equality we are all striving to reach.
Oct 23, 2014
Courts play a pretty big role in shaping the ways that we can – and can’t – make decisions about our lives, including about how we want to build our families and if we are able to access healthcare or to exercise our right to vote. But, a lot of these decisions can fall under the radar. Here’s a quick round-up of recent court decisions and how some of those decisions are playing out.
Hobby Lobby’s Fallout:
As you may remember, in June the Supreme Court decided Hobby Lobby v. Sebelius. The decision stated that a limited number of corporations have the right deny insurance coverage of contraception to their employees based on the religious beliefs of the corporation’s owners. This was silly and stupid and the first time the Court had said any corporations have religious rights. Also, the Court was super unclear about what kinds of corporations have these rights, making all the lawyers go
The lawyers in the Obama administration are trying to figure out what the Court was talking about and how they can try to make sure birth control is covered for as many women as possible, so they are taking comments on new rules. We reached out to our youth activists in the last couple weeks to solicit comments that emphasize the importance of access to contraceptives for young people, and yesterday Advocates joined some of our partners to deliver 88,000 comments directly to the administration!
The Supreme Court Fall 2014
The Supreme Court has been having quite some fun this fall pulling a Ron Swanson.
Last Tuesday, in an unsigned and unexplained decision, the Supreme Court prevented key parts of Texas’ new abortion law, HB 2, from going into effect while the law is being litigated. This means that 13 of the abortion clinics that were shuttered by HB 2’s requirements can reopen (though not all of them necessarily will). So good news!! But also, all is still not okay in Texas.
At 5 a.m. last Saturday morning, the Court issued an unsigned, unexplained decision Texas’ voter ID law to remain in place while litigation continues. This follows an unsigned, unexplained decision allowing Ohio officials to block the expansion of early voting for now, and another unsigned unexplained decision in which the Supreme Court actually sided with voting rights (!), temporarily halting Wisconsin’s voter ID law.
In better news, the Court decided not to hear appeals on several same-sex marriage cases, letting the decisions of the lower courts stand. By doing so, the Court allowed same sex marriages to go forward in Wisconsin, Indiana, Oklahoma, Utah, Virginia, Colorado, Kansas, North Carolina, South Carolina, West Virginia and Wyoming. As of October 21, the number of states with marriage equality is 32, with more on the way!
A lowlight from the lower courts: Alabama’s awful parental involvement law, and the Judges who are awful all on their own
The ACLU recently filed suit challenging Alabama’s new parental involvement in abortion law. The law created draconian rules that required young people under 18 to get parental permission before obtaining an abortion, or to request a “judicial bypass” by following a procedure that required the involvement of the District Attorney and allowed the judge to appoint an advocate for the fetus. Even more depressing, Mother Jones has found that judges had been making the judicial bypass process horrifying and dehumanizing for young people all by themselves for years.
Oct 19, 2014
We’re all just human, right?
When you live in the US, from the time you are born, you often hear messages about our nation’s obsession with equality and justice.
America is a melting pot.
We all bleed red.
Freedom and justice for all.
We take pride in our country because it is so diverse, and because we have overcome challenges related to race. Lincoln freed the slaves, and Martin Luther King and Rosa Parks ended whatever racism was left over from that. We have come so far that even our president is Black, and white folks are scared of minorities rising to power.
Freedom. Equality. Justice. Tolerance. Diversity. America.
When you hear this rhetoric for your entire life, it’s difficult to think any other way. You start to internalize these beliefs because they feel right. It’s easier to believe that there is racial justice in our country because there is a black president in the White House, than to know that a black person is killed by a police officer or vigilantes every 28 hours. It’s more comfortable to see Oprah, Pharrell, and Tyler Perry’s success than to think about how the wealth of the average white person exceeds that of a black person by $80,000. It’s even less comfortable to think about the policies that were put into place by the US government that kept black people from accessing wealth. It feels better to believe in the great melting pot, than to recognize a history of genocide, slavery, eugenics, medical experiments, internment camps, and mass incarceration that have plagued people of color for centuries.
Several months ago, Pharrell received much criticism from the black public for talking to Oprah about what he calls the New Black. According to him, the New Black doesn’t blame other races for the problems that black people face, and he explains that he also doesn’t want to be given a handout based on his race. Recently, Raven-Symone received backlash for saying that she rejects labels, and would rather not be called African American. Instead, she says, “I’m an American, and that is a colorless person.” And last year, actress Zoe Saldana said in an interview that “people of color don’t exist.”
When young people such as Trayvon Martin and Mike Brown are being murdered because of their race, it is useless, and even counterproductive, to downplay the role that race has in our lives. When young people of color are being discriminated against because of their race, they aren’t able to choose to be colorless. The path to justice for youth of color is through confronting racial issues head on, and to do this we must recognize the importance of race.
As comfortable as it must be for the followers of the New Black to ignore racial oppression, pretending that racial justice exists, and that racial identity does not matter, does not make it so. The problem with the New Black is that it’s about colorblind racism, or using ignoring racial injustice under the guise of accepting racial differences. The New Black doesn’t do anything to improve race relations in our country. Because as much as we are all human, we are not yet all equal.
Sep 23, 2014
Today is the largest voter registration day of the year, National Voter Registration Day!
Let’s ensure that all our voices are represented in our democracy.
Young people have an incredible opportunity to make a huge impact on the political process. In 2012, 18-29 year-olds made up 21% of the voting eligible population in the US. That number will rise to 36% in 2016.
Our country is positioned to have laws that reflect your values and elected officials that share your lived experiences. So make sure your voice is heard by registering today.
If you are already registered to vote, you can take the next step towards ensuring your voice is heard this November by pledging to vote: Text “PLEDGE2VOTE” to 877-877
Or forward this email to a friend and make sure they are registered to vote
We live in a country positioned to have our laws and elected officials reflect our values. Let’s ensure ALL our voices are represented. Join millions of voters during this year’s elections, and register to vote this National Voter Registration Day at http://ow.ly/BPtYG
Sep 18, 2014
I’m posting this because we’re all getting too quiet. I’m afraid we’re becoming complacent and desensitized when young lives are being disregarded and taken.
Darren Wilson is still enjoying life at home with his family, walking about on the streets as he please without grasping that these are liberties that he stole from a young person.
But mainstream media is still focused on framing the discussion about how Mike Brown wasn’t an angel.
Sep 4, 2014
This summer, Minnesota passed a first-of-its-kind law improving the treatment of pregnant incarcerated women. In addition to extending an existing ban on the use of restraints during childbirth for up to three days postpartum, the law also allows incarcerated women to have a doula.
Doulas are trained birth attendants who provide physical and psychological support during pregnancy and birth. Doulas have gained popularity in recent years. Doulas of North America (DONA), just one of a handful of training organizations, now boasts 6,500 members; in 1994, there were only 750. As the community and movement has grown, doulas have worked to bring their model of care to many different arenas. As a trained doula, I’ve participated in groups such as the Doula Project in New York City, which brings doula support to people having miscarriages and abortions. Other groups focus on providing low-income women with this kind of care, and a number have also tailored their work to support incarcerated women.
This a great step towards providing care to incarcerated pregnant people.
Aug 2, 2014
Most of the time, actually almost every time we talk about the violence that women face, issues of women victimised by man. But today as I was going through the newspaper, I got to realise new thing. In case of Nepal, unemployment is one of the major problems. And so most of the people migrate in search of employment. And in this most of them are youths basically the males.
So, these days, most of the male members go abroad for employment so that they can earn good amount of money so as to increase the living standard of their family, to give better life to their wife and family. They sacrifice their family life for the happiness of their wife and children. But today I read about the cases where women’s have cheated the man. There were many cases whereby woman had extra marital affair and many woman who had eloped with other man taking all the property of their husband who has earned with their hard work.
So I think this is being unfair with the male members. There all hard work goes in vain. There are laws that state the punishment to the males who practice polygamy. Now the issue is what about such woman who elopes with other man.
Here, man is the victim. I don’t mean to generalise this to all woman. But there are many such women’s and many such victimised male who are in need of justice.
So, we need to be clear that every time woman is not only the victim, and many times man are also in need of justice. And we all need to understand and maintain the equality.
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. Content 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. (Google it! I’m serious!)
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 avoiding the comments 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. It’s time to go beyond what we know.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org. 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.