The White House Council on Women and Girls

March 12, 2009 § Leave a comment

Dear President Obama,

Thank you. Thank you for creating the White House Council on Women and Girls. Thank you for breaking this country’s pattern of ignoring discrepancies in the advancement of women. Thank you for recognizing this nation’s potential to be a source of pride for American women and a safe haven for women suffering worldwide.

Thank you for describing what a women’s issue is, for informing America that women’s issues do not only effect women, but that also effect men, boys, girls, and everyone in between. Thank you for committing to make your own cracks in multiple looming glass ceilings. Thank you for understanding a cause worth fighting for.

Thank you for identifying family leave, equal pay, healthcare, childcare, and domestic violence as women’s issues that effect everyone, but, as no clear outline is in place yet, here are a few more issues I would like addressed:

  • Funding for women’s/gender studies programs throughout education.
  • Mandated violence against women prevention measures for both genders.
  • Securing a woman’s choice for her own reproductive health and privacy.
  • Increased funding toward girls leadership and mentoring organizations.
  • Awareness programs for gender inequity abroad (sexual warfare in the Congo, objectification in the Middle East, FGM).
  • Government-funded programs dedicated to helping Americans volunteer at domestic violence shelters and AIDS orphanages cross-nationally.
  • Increased policing of our own military so that women soldiers will not be raped, assaulted, and not listened to.
  • Increased investigation and prosecution for child prostitution offenders.
  • Research grants for the implementation of equal rights policies that exist in other nations, such as Sweden and France.

I am in awe of the revolutionary priorities you made public on International Women’s Day. I sincerely wish that this commitment toward gender equality will extend through your administration to a commitment toward equality on the basis of sexuality, race, class, ethnicity, religion, and beyond. I now have faith in the potential of this country to fight for equality.

With newfound hope,

A Feminist

NY Times Style Section: Where to Pass the Torch?

March 8, 2009 § 3 Comments

There’s a fascinating article in the Sunday Styles section of the New York Times today that basically asks us (otherwise known as Generation B) if we are up to the task of becoming the next abortion activists our country needs. 

But here is the question: As Ms. Baker’s generation approaches retirement — women whose commitment to abortion was forged in the pre-Roe v. Wade days — will younger women take their places at the clinics?

“We worry about that a lot,” said Sally Burgess, executive director of the Hope clinic, who is also chairwoman of the National Abortion Federation, the main professional support group for abortion providers. “Younger women have always had access to abortion care, they don’t fully appreciate the battle that was fought to have it available to them. And more important, I don’t think they know how precarious the option is at this point, even with Obama’s election.”

As an amateur abortion activist of this so-called Generation B, I believe that my pro-choice peers and I are up to the task of not only knowing “how precarious the option is,” but of battling the anti-choice forces out there to maintain and create choice. We have the power of knowledge of those who came before us. For me, that is a huge part of the beauty of third wave feminism. Us third wavers can learn from the trials and tribulations of those in the first and second waves. If Sally Burgess was talking about us pro-choice activists of the third wave when she expressed her hesitation, she has very little to worry about. Though we have had more access to abortion care than her generation, we are not ignorant of what it took to get us that care. Growing knowledge of the history of abortion rights has been made available to us and my hope is that us feminists are paying close attention to what has worked and has not worked in the past. That way, we can use the knowledge of the abortion activists of the ’60s and ’70s to aid us in our own actions.

You’re such a woman!

March 2, 2009 § 2 Comments

I’m a feminist who is a vegetarian and loves to knit, bake, do yoga, and be around babies.

I have been told by numerous people (both male and female) upon mentioning any of these habits, “You’re such a woman!”

“You’re such a woman” is not an offensive statement. Far from it, I am proud of my womanhood. I, however, am offended by the tone that accompanies this statement. It is usually said as an accusation or as a fact that belittles my feminism.

When I ask the accusers why these parts of me make me such a woman, they have responded by saying:

“Because you’re so domestic,”

“That’s what housewives did in the ‘50’s,”

“You’re caring,” and, my personal favorite,

“It’s stuff you do for others.”

These are all sexist. Blatantly sexist. How?

  1. They take (mostly) positive attributes and apply them only to women, thereby implying that men are incapable of caring and doing for others.
  2. They make both women and men who practice vegetarianism, knitting, baking, doing yoga, and/or baby-loving feel guilty for pursuing their own happiness.
  3. They narrow the definition of what it means to be a woman/man in a society that has questionable values.
  4. They narrow the definition of what it means to be a feminist in today’s world.

My personal definition of feminism is the promotion of everyone’s right to choose, as long as an individual’s choice does not interfere with the prosperity of others. Only if that freedom of choice exists can we have equality. When I am told I am “such a woman” in a condescending, volatile tone, my choice to do these “domestic” activities is taken away. The difference, my accusers, between me and a reluctant “’50’s housewife” – besides the obvious – is that I choose to do these things because they make me happy.

I choose to be a vegetarian because I am much happier knowing exactly where my food comes from. I choose to knit because it takes my mind off of the day-to-day drama of my life. I choose to bake because I love the simplicity of following a recipe. I choose to practice yoga because it makes me strong and my body empowered. I choose to be around babies because it makes me happy seeing new lives blossom.

So you know what? I am such a woman (and proud of it), but not for the reasons you, my accusers, deem.

Doesn’t everyone deserve the choice to their own happiness without sexist connotations/criticism?

Teenage Girl’s Guide to Surviving Sex Slavery

February 19, 2009 § 1 Comment

Here’s Eve Ensler’s video from the Turning Pain to Power tour stop at the 92nd St Y:

Speechless.

Turning Pain to Power: V-Day

February 15, 2009 § 2 Comments

Wednesday night, I was so fortunate to see Eve Ensler and Dr. Mukwege on their Turning Pain to Power tour at the 92nd St Y. Eve Ensler, a rape survivor and celebrity activist who has for years been turning her own pain to power, met Dr. Mukwege, a gynecologist from the Congo who runs the only hospital for victims of sexual warfare, and the two of them began to change the world. 

There is so much I could say here so I will probably make this post one of many about this topic and V-Day (I know, V-Day was yesterday so bear with the tardiness). For this one, I really want to get my initial reactions down so get ready for the summarizing.

What’s happening in the Congo:

What is now the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) has been subject to imperialism since the 19th century. Once it was decolonized, various groups and regimes competed for the Congo’s mineral wealth. Many severe wars ensued, making the Congolese people victims of not only neighboring areas stealing their wealth and raping women and children, but of their own Congolese military doing so too. There is a local war for mineral resources going on right now, a war that is raping the greatest resource of all: women. Sexual violence is used as a way to control and displace communities, breaking their domestic structures down from the inside out.

Why it matters to us:

“Women, children, are being orphaned from their bodies. They don’t have their homes, they don’t have their families, they don’t have their bodies.”

“When you see women who have such a desire to fight, you can only be on their side.”

         ~ Dr. Mukwege, February 11th, 92nd St Y

You cannot look at all these atrocities happening all over the world and not think they are somehow connected to us.” ~ Eve Ensler

What we can do

according to the V-Man himself:

There’s only so much medicine can do. I feel most hopeless when women don’t understand that they have lost something they can’t take back.

A huge problem is where these women go after they leave the hospital. Panzi hospital acts as a safe haven for these destitute women. This is why V-Day is creating the City of Joy, a community for victims of sexual violence to recover on both a physical and psychological level once they leave the hospital. 100 women at a time go into transition to learn to be leaders. 

HOW TO HELP:

  1. Talk about it. Write about it. Call about it. Text about it. Blog about it. Get angry about it.
  2. Talk to your leaders.

For a youth-specific action plan, go to this page!

Stay tuned for the monologue Eve opened with on Wednesday!

It’s a terrible war of rape, a war against women, but what V-Day does is that it gives hope. V-Day spreads the hope of change and of turning pain to power for these courageous women.

Starting at Home, Iran’s Women Fight for Rights

February 13, 2009 § 1 Comment

NY Times has a great article today on Iranian women’s rights:

Women’s rights advocates say Iranian women are displaying a growing determination to achieve equal status in this conservative Muslim theocracy, where male supremacy is still enscribed in the legal code. One in five marriages now end in divorce, according to government data, a fourfold increase in the past 15 years.

And it is not just women from the wealthy, Westernized elites. The family court building in Vanak Square here is filled with women, like Ms. Qassemi, who are not privileged. Women from lower classes and even the religious are among those marching up and down the stairs to fight for divorces and custody of their children.

Increasing educational levels and the information revolution have contributed to creating a generation of women determined to gain more control over their lives, rights advocates say.

Continue reading!

Courtney Martin on The O’Reilly Factor

February 12, 2009 § 6 Comments

Feministing’s Courtney Martin represented the Women’s Media Center on The O’Reilly Factor yesterday, defending Helen Thomas after O’Reilly called her a witch:

I am appalled and genuinely upset by the way O’Reilly refused to listen, interrupted, and insulted any viewpoint that was not his own or that rightfully tried to educate his sexist ageist speech. However, I am more awed by Martin’s patience, intelligence, and bad-ass passion than appalled by O’Reilly’s fallacies. 

I am rarely left speechless, but Courtney Martin’s powerful words leave me simply trying to echo her strength.

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