Maine Marriage Equality! Vote NO on Question 1

September 24, 2009 § Leave a comment

A guest post by Joel of Citizen Obie.

I don’t know if this is really Women’s Glib material, but frankly, y’all get better exposure than my blog so I thought I’d try it here.

So basically they’re trying to do in Maine what they did in California over Prop 8. Literally, they’re using the same hateful ads designed to scare residents that marriage equality means all the children are going to be indoctrinated in school about the “Gay Agenda.”

I’m not from Maine but I’ve got a lot of affection for the state, and I also realize that we need as many state victories in the game if we’re going to succeed more broadly. Ohio managed to pass nondiscrimination legislation in the state house of reps this month. It may not get past the Republican-dominated senate, but the fact is it’s on the agenda and we need broader movement success to keep the momentum going. I can’t vote in Maine but I can contribute money (yep, from my $8/hr nonprofit job) to make sure my allies can mount a decent counter-ad. I urge you to join me and tell your friends: NO on Question 1.

Obviously if you can vote in Maine that works really well too. But don’t forget that voting with money is equally important and necessary in this gar political system we’re stuck with.

Peace,
Joel

Washington Post FAIL!

August 30, 2009 § 1 Comment

Another guest post by Joel, originally published at Citizen Obie.

I know, I know, I’m really setting myself up for disappointment by expecting anything more than moronic from the periodical that brought us thousands of words of climate science obfuscation from a baseball aficionado who doesn’t really bother to check his facts, but this criticism of Michelle Obama is just really fucking stupid.

Now, as a White Man (Robin Givhan being a Black Woman), there are some race-critical criticisms I am not prepared to make. That would be over-stepping my bounds, and I admit that wholeheartedly.

But:

clothes are part of our broader aesthetic obligation to each other. That commitment pushes homeowners to mow their lawns and not be a blight to the neighborhood. It makes them think twice before painting their houses in psychedelic stripes. The desire to be aesthetically respectful means guests give consideration to what they wear to a friend’s wedding or mourners take care in how they dress for a loved one’s funeral.

I’m sorry, but who the fuck is the imperial-objective arbiter in this court of fashion? Who got appointed as the taste police? That shit is straight up elitest garbage.

And another thing: to equate dress on vacation with dress at a wedding or funeral is completely fucking ridiculous. I will absolutely accept that at a wedding or funeral there are people to whom respect is owed, there are traditional codes that ought to be adhered to. If a person grants you the privilege of inviting you to a celebration of their life (wedding) or an honoring and farewell (funeral) than yes, maybe that’s a circumstance in which conformity to their wishes is valuable.

But the woman is on god damned vacation. In fact, that is probably the last place she ought to give a shit what some pundit at the Washington Post has to say. The only obligations my public officials and symbols have to me is that they fix the oppressive and destructive systems of this country and challenge the bullshit that allows those processes to survive. They are damn sure not obligated to wear anything on vacation for my sake.

Fuck the Washington Post.

I Want to Get Demarried

August 5, 2009 § 4 Comments

This is a guest post by Barry, Ruth’s dad, originally published at his blog Baslow’s Electric OmniumGatherum.

Don’t get me wrong; I love my wife and want to spend the rest of my life with her, exclusively. I am not interested in pursuing other conjugal relationships. I don’t regret the strictures of marriage but I very much oppose the connotations, the religious connotations, with which the word seems inextricably encumbered.

I want to be mate-paired with my wife. I want to be attached socially, legally and emotionally. If, however, being married carries with it the association of heterosexuality, the aura of sacredness, and the necessary implication of procreation then it is a tainted concept. I want an alternative.

The term “demarriage” seems already to be in use by sociologists of the family, especially in Europe. As far as I can see (and I could have gotten this very wrong) I am using the term in a different way then they. They seem to apply the term to society as a whole to mean an increasing disaffection with the institution of marriage, an attitudinal shift in progress since World War II. When they apply the term to married couples it seems to mean a period of mutual alienation, of drifting away. When I say I want to get” demarried” I mean only that I want to adopt a new contract with my spouse, something we can call by a different name. I want my government and my society to offer me that choice.

Interestingly, something of that sort seems to exist in France. It is called PACS, pacte civil de solidarité. According to Wikipedia:

[it] is a form of civil union between two adults (same-sex or opposite-sex) for organising their joint life. It brings rights and responsibilities, but less so than marriage. From a legal standpoint, a PACS is a “contract” drawn up between the two individuals, which is stamped and registered by the clerk of the court. In some areas, couples signing a PACS have the option of undergoing a formal ceremony at the City Hall identical to that of civil marriage. Individuals who have registered a PACS are still considered “single” with regard to family status for some purposes, while they are increasingly considered in the same way as married couples are for other purposes.

PACS were signed into law in France in 1999 and, in certain respects, seem already to be a success:

According to the 2004 Demographic Report by the National Institute of Statistics and Economic Studies, the number of marriages in France had fallen each year since 2000.

266,000 civil marriages took place in 2004, a decline of 5.9% from 2003. However, the report found that the number of couples getting PACS had increased every year except 2001. There was a 29% increase in PACS between 2001 and 2002 and a 25% increase between 2002 and 2003. For the first 9 months of 2004, 27,000 PACS were signed compared to 22,000 in 2003. The report found that one PACS in 10 had been dissolved (less than divorces for couples married for the same period, for which one marriage in three will be dissolved by divorce or separation after the first 3 years…

France’s adoption of the PACS law has not been a panacea. The situation in France is far from perfect. Same-sex PACS couples still do not have the right to adopt, for example. It is, nevertheless, a step in the right direction.

It would be a good thing for us here in the States if we began discussing the adoption of such laws ourselves.

Students Speak: V*gina

June 6, 2009 § 3 Comments

V*gina – by Ilana, a high school junior.

2005-2006: I was on the young end of the spectrum as an eighth grader. I had turned thirteen in 2005 and would stay that way until high school. Even as the baby of the grade, I had 34 B breasts that seemed to pop up over night, literally. Along with the breasts came hips and a shape that was not meant for my age. As my body changed, so did the attitudes of the people around me — both of boys and girls — but I couldn’t figure out why. As my perspective of my body was impacted, I felt obligated to adjust how I dressed. I began to cover up my body, which had previously never caused me discomfort. In addition, once I became involved with boys, I was suddenly labeled a slut for reasons I did not understand. But wait, I can’t possibly be the only one who felt like this. There must be some rationale. Let’s look back at the perception of women in our society…

1999: A scantily-clad Britney Spears, age 17, is on the cover of Rolling Stone, almost naked. The picture of young Britney shows her in a school-girl’s outfit lying on a bed with her white shirt unbuttoned completely, exposing a black bra. The photo is suggestive, provocative, and potentially perceived as slutty. 17 may be one year away from adulthood but why is this young pop star exposing herself like this? Many considered this photo inappropriate and as setting a bad example for Britney’s younger fans. An association to sex quickly accompanied her fame. This caused an uproar by many who saw Britney as representing all that was wrong with women. She was exposing a part of her that was meant to be kept secret from all. Women are not supposed to be as explicit with their bodies because this leads many to believe they want sex and will engage in it readily. A woman who is free with her sexuality is one who does not respect herself, and thus is labeled a slut. Such comments have been made about other teen pop stars like Miley Cyrus and Vanessa Hudgens. These two girls were seen as young and innocent. However, the moment both of them exposed their bodies, a Britney cycle ensued.

2009: I must ask, how can it be that society so rejects women’s display of their sexuality? Britney was sexy and not afraid to show it, nor ashamed of the associations that accompanied her Lolita-esque photo. If Britney was comfortable with the photo shoot, and Miley Cyrus is not concerned with how she looks why is everyone else? Why must we demean a woman’s choices of how she handles herself if she is comfortable? The same applies to a woman’s sexual experiences. Women are seen as sluts if they are “too loose.” Let’s look further back…

1973: Erica Jong’s book Fear of Flying is published. This is a tale of a woman who recounts sexual experiences with an openness that had previously only been associated with men. Its release caused a huge uproar, which indicated that society was not ready to hear the truth about women’s sexual desires. Women had been, and continue to be, seen as having a more passive approach to sexual desire and action. In Fear of Flying, the untraditional character, Isadora, defies sexual conventions as she describes “the zipless fuck.” This is defined as an entirely sexual encounter that is based solely on desire and pleasure. Isadora states that it the “purest thing there is” and that she has never had one.

2009: But why has Isadora never been able to have a “zipless fuck?” Is it because she is afraid of the judgment she will receive? Has she internalized the notion that this feeling is unfeminine and forbidden? Or is she afraid of rejection because this approach too forward for a woman? Though for women today a “zipless fuck” is no longer “rarer than a unicorn,” the subject is still provocative. Women are not taught by society about their sexual essence and power, and struggle to learn through experience. Our sex drive is just as strong as men’s; however, we are expected to suppress it. This duplicity in society, praising men’s exploits while condemning women’s sexual freedom, presents women with an identity crisis. In addition to this, the way that a woman dresses or acts is a reflection of her sexuality. How can I feel comfortable with my sexuality when I am being told it diminishes me as a person? How can I feel comfortable with my sexuality when I am told that my comfort in my body and my desire to show it is wrong? Who will offer me much needed guidance, beyond fictional characters? Women are too easily intimidated by other’s judgments and thus become uncomfortable with themselves and their sexuality. A woman’s desires are just as valid as a man’s. Women should embrace their sexuality and not believe that their natural instincts and desires deplete their integrity.

Unfortunately, society will not change as fast as us. We will not wake up tomorrow to a world that promotes our sexuality as part of our femininity, or that allows us to dress as we please. However, we can assume the power ourselves. Every woman who can find strength in herself and her sexuality and can achieve happiness through it will lead a more complete life. I am not advocating rampant sex, or random nudity, I am simply saying the sex you chose to have and the clothing you chose to wear is yours. As long as you’re comfortable with the choices you have made, you are no slut.

Previously in Students Speak: Beware The Virtual Babes, by Luke; Spice Up YOUR Relationship, by Jennifer; Letters From Kartini, by Nia; Coming Out As A Feminist, by Shani; Inequality, by Sasha

Students Speak: Inequality

May 30, 2009 § 1 Comment

Inequality – by Sasha, a high school junior.

If you’re like me, school takes up huge amount of your time and energy. Before you started reading this article, you were probably thinking about school. Maybe you’re worried about an upcoming math test, or thinking about how little sleep you got last night because you were up so late doing homework. Or maybe you were just thinking about someone who you’re hoping to sit next to in your next period class. In New York City, going to school isn’t really a choice and it is easy to think about all the trouble school causes. However, without the education that we are provided, we couldn’t be prepared to lead the life we want to live.

Nearly 66 million girls around the world (two-thirds of the world’s children) do not have access to education, leading to a higher illiteracy rate among women than men. 70 percent of the world’s poorest individuals are girls and women, meaning that a huge amount of the female population does not have the money to go to school. There are many factors other than extreme poverty that prevent girls from achieving access to education, such as childhood marriage and safety concerns like sex trafficking, domestic abuse and hate crimes.

The United Nations defines extreme poverty as living on less than two dollars a day. Many girls do not have access to clean water, resulting in sickness that prevents them from being able to work. Doctor bills result in cutting back even more. Their poverty impacts their educational opportunities as well. They can’t afford the required school uniforms, transportation, or the basic supplies. Unable to afford transportation, they are forced to walk miles to get to classes.

Marriage is a wonderful opportunity to commit your life to someone you love and receive their love and commitment in return. Unfortunately, many women and girls not only have no control over whom they marry, but they also have no control over when they marry. Despite many countries enacting marriageable age laws to limit marriage to a minimum age of 16 to 18, child marriages are still widespread. Poverty, tradition and conflict make the incidence of child marriage very frequent, especially in Sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia. In 2006, there were more than 60 million child brides who were married or in union before age 18. For most of those girls, their marriage equals a death sentence to their education because either their husbands don’t allow them to go to school, or they are simply overwhelmed with the responsibilities of a wife.

When talking about sex crimes, rape, and domestic abuse, it is difficult to articulate the traumatic impact it has on the victim’s life. While researching the reality of sex crimes, I was immediately shocked by the numbers. In South Africa, a sex crime happens every 20 seconds. (How long have you spent reading this article?)

  • In Southeast Asia, 40% of girls are being sold into prostitution to feed their families.
  • In 65% of the cases reported in Cambodia, rape victims were younger than eighteen, and 12% of the perpetrators were closely related by blood or marriage.
  • 1 out of 3 women in Asia agreed with at least one reason to justify a husband beating his wife.

Do you believe that there is any reason to justify a husband beating his wife? These beliefs are the result of cultural norms such as preference for males and strict gender roles which allow for this behavior.

Let’s just say, to be optimistic, that a girl is provided with enough money to get to school, have the supplies and the uniform. She has never been physically or physiologically abused, and her parents haven’t made her marry and they allow her to go to school. The issue should be solved, right? Wrong. In November, girls on their way to school in Afghanistan were attacked by two men on their motorcycles who were repulsed by the thought of girls going to school, and thought it was appropriate to throw acid in their faces. 19-year-old Shamsia and her 16-year-old sister Atifa were on their way to Meir Weis Mena School in Kandahar, Afghanistan along with several other teachers and students who were similarly attacked. Unfortunately, hate crimes like these are not unusual.

Education is the most effective means of protection and empowerment for girls living in developing countries. Girls who are educated lead healthier lives, have greater involvement in the social and political life of their communities, marry later, have fewer and healthier children, and play a substantial role in the economic stability of their families. When girls are educated, the world is rewarded by achieving the engagement of an articulate and informed group of women.

Education means learning skills such as mathematics so you can tell if someone is trying to cheat you out of your money, or learning about history so you can try to avoid the mistakes that our ancestors made. Education means being able to read what other people have written, whether that is a fantasy book to allow you to temporarily escape reality, or an instruction manual to teach you how to put together a shelf, or philosophy to stimulate your mind, opening the door to literally endless possibilities. Education means learning how to express yourself in words and speak professionally so that you can become a lawyer or a doctor or a teacher and help others in your community.

Girls Learn International Inc. (GLI) is an organization that was designed to specifically tackle this epidemic. In their own words, “GLI pairs American middle and high school-based Chapters with Partner Schools in countries where girls have been traditionally denied access to education. The GLI Program gives students the opportunity to explore issues affecting girls in relation to global human rights, promotes cross-cultural understanding and communication, and trains students to be leaders and advocates for positive change.” Here, at our school, we are very proud to be part of this program. This year the GLI club has raised over $700 for its partner school in Vietnam for orphans with HIV/AIDS. Along with featuring our partner school in a documentary film on AIDS Action day, the GLI club has sent over care packages such as a scrap book with home decorated pages of each of the members as well as a care packages with mix tapes, friendship bracelets and Disney DVDs. Next year the GLI club is excited to make new, fun, creative projects to support the children in our partner school. You, too, can become involved with this cultural exchange by joining the GLI club next year and contributing to providing girls with an education worldwide.

Filkins, Dexter. “Afghan Girls, Scarred by Acid, Defy Terror, Embracing School.” The New York Times. 13 Jan. 2009.
The World Bank. 2009. The World Bank Group. 18 May 2009 .
Welcome to Girls Learn International. 2008. 18 May 2009 .

Previously in Students Speak: Beware The Virtual Babes, by Luke; Spice Up YOUR Relationship, by Jennifer; Letters From Kartini, by Nia; Coming Out As A Feminist, by Shani

Students Speak: Coming Out As A Feminist

May 27, 2009 § 5 Comments

Coming Out As A Feminist – by Shani, a high school junior.

I am a feminist. I have always been a feminist, but it has taken me long to finally come to terms with my true nature. My coming out is not a declaration, nor a rant, or rage. It is a more of a revelation, an epiphany. I have always been a person who believes in equal rights for all, regardless of race, culture, class, sex, or gender. This is a feminist. For all of these reasons, I am a feminist.

Looking back on my feminist realization, it is hard to believe how I could have ever seen myself as otherwise. What is it exactly that stopped me from saying those four powerful words? In the past, feminism seemed like an entity that existed separate from me. Even though feminism is a movement for gender equality, I didn’t feel the need to title myself as a feminist to understand the values of equilibrium that it promoted. I realize now that part of my reluctance was because I was nervous about associating myself with the stigmas that feminism appeared to uphold. For me it was a movement for excessively opinionated, loud mouthed, radical females. Oddly, I hoped that I could support what feminism meant – equality and progress – without sanctioning the connotations of its official label.

In a society that is built around twisted passivity, especially in women, my reaction to the possibility of my feminist title is not out of the ordinary; I guess I was saving face. However, I have not discarded my initial impressions; I have now come to understand the truth that resides behind my convoluted assumptions. The movement that I mistook for the ‘excessively opinionated,’ is actually built by thinkers, from Susan B. Anthony and Sojourner Truth to Jessica Valenti, that have examined the culture and society that exists around us. Moreover, ‘loud mouthed’ was a miscalculation for voices of strength and conviction, and ‘radical females’ was a flat out oversight of the number of both men and women who choose to deviate from, as well as challenge societal norms for the sake of equality. These men and women, us men and women, are feminist. There is no shame in the strength feminism represents. I encourage you to examine society, advocate for equality and change, and in addition consider whatever is keeping you from ‘coming out’ as a feminist.

Previously in Students Speak: Beware The Virtual Babes, by Luke; Spice Up YOUR Relationship, by Jennifer; Letters From Kartini, by Nia

Students Speak: Letters From Kartini

May 27, 2009 § 3 Comments

Letters From Kartini – by Nia, a high school junior.

Schools were named after her, books were written about her, songs were composed in her name, even a national holiday was dedicated to her; Kartini was the Indonesian symbol of women empowerment and self-determination.

I remember when I was still in elementary school, we had annual celebration of Hari Kartini (Kartini Day) where the students had to dress up in traditional clothing from different provinces and walk down a runaway. We sang her songs and went around trying to guess which province our clothing came from. Although the students seemed oblivious of the tradition’s relevance to the celebration of Kartini and saw it just as another free day, I thought it was intended to remind the students of the diversity we have in our country, which Kartini truly embraced.

Raden Ajeng Kartini was born in 1879 into an aristocrat Javanese family, in time when Java was still part of the Dutch colony. During this time, women and girls received little or no education; only some and those with the status were allowed to go a Dutch school. Kartini’s father, Raden Mas Sosroningrat, who was the mayor of Jepara, allowed her to go to a Dutch elementary school with her brothers. Here she met her Dutch friends and learned Dutch, which was highly unusual for Indonesian women. Kartini continued her education until she was twelve when her father prohibited her from continuing her studies. According to Javanese tradition, daughters must be kept at home after finishing elementary education. A noble girl was not allowed to have a higher education; she had to be secluded at home. This was a common practice among Javanese nobility, to prepare young girls for their marriage. The girls were not allowed to go out at all until they were married, when authority over them was transferred to their husbands.

Kartini was kept home for four years, she poured out her despair through letters to her friends in Holland. In her letter to her friend Stella Zeehanderlaar, she explained how she was not proud of her privileged status. A “modern girl,” in Kartini’s definition, is proud, independent, self-reliant, enthusiastic and warm. Most importantly, one who works for her own happiness and the greater good of humanity. The majority of her letters protest the tendency of Javanese culture to impose obstacles for the development of women. She wanted women to have the freedom to learn and study.

On 8 November 1903, Kartini was married to Raden Adipati Djojoadiningrat. With his permission, she opened the first women elementary school near their home. The school taught women and girls to read and make handicrafts. Kartini’s school was a breakthrough in Indonesian education field. It was the first school open to Indonesians regardless of their status and gender. The school put moral education above the mind’s education.

Sadly, Kartini passed away a year later after giving birth to her first child. Inspired by Kartini, the Van Deventer family, friends of Kartini, established the Kartini Foundation which built schools for women, Sekolah Kartini (Kartini’s School) were established in Semarang in 1912, followed by other women’s schools in Surabaya, Yogyakarta, Malang, Madiun, Cirebon and other areas.

Although now Kartini is merely remembered as the Indonesian feminist who struggled for women equality, I remember her as the brave and intelligent woman who struggled in a society with a tremendously strong intellectual tradition, where women had no voice, even in family affairs. Kartini’s “fight” may not be comparable to the long, hard struggle that American women had to go through to attain their right to vote during the same period of time, but I find it intriguing how Kartini was able to promote women equality and empowerment for all Indonesian women simply through letters. I have not found a single speech that Kartini publicly delivered, but found dozens of letters, even documented in a book, that inspired her friends, young and elder women all over the country to fight for their freedom, starting from getting educated.

Because of Kartini and other heroines who fought for Indonesian independence, like Cut Nyak Dien, Indonesia was able to grow as a country that already had women equality and democracy engrained in her principles. The reason that my grandmother, my mother, and I were able to freely attend school without gender discrimination was because of the courage and confidence that Kartini had for Indonesian women, that we have the power to make a change. Although Indonesia is still considered a “developing” country, I am still proud that the girls in Indonesia have equal amount of rights to receive the same level of education as any other boys. Moreover, even with some traditional norms and economic struggles still fighting against education for girls, it is still relieving to acknowledge that our core foundation as a nation believes that women have the power and voice to make change.

Previously in Students Speak: Beware The Virtual Babes, by Luke; Spice Up YOUR Relationship, by Jennifer

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