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.

Shocking: teens know sex feels good

July 15, 2009 § 4 Comments

Via Tracy Clark-Flory’s excellent takedown of yet more conservative fear-mongering, news of a sex education pamphlet published by the National Health Service of the United Kingdom titled “Pleasure.” The word doesn’t quite inspire hives for me, but for some, it sure seems to: conservatives are calling it “deplorable” and — wait for it — “nothing less than encouraging child abuse.” Because apparently safe, consensual experiences that make us feel good are somehow akin to abuse. From Clark-Flory at Salon’s Broadsheet:

Beyond having the audacity to suggest that educators tell students that sex can feel pleasurable, the booklet says that teenagers have “a right” to sexual satisfaction, so long as it is in a safe and consensual situation. It also advises honesty about masturbation being perfectly healthy — it  winkingly says that “an orgasm a day keeps the doctor away,” which strikes me as a cheesy attempt to be cool — and that sex isn’t always about procreation.

The guide also celebrates enthusiastic consent. Instead of promoting sex as something that you must resist “giving up,” if you’re a girl, it’s framed as something that you do because it feels right and you actively want to — it isn’t a bargaining chip, an operatic act that is performed to keep a guy around. “Far from promoting teenage sex,” says Steve Slack, director of the Sheffield Centre for HIV and Sexual Health, which published the handout for NHS, “it is designed to encourage young people to delay losing their virginity until they are sure they will enjoy the experience.”

Promoting the idea that teens should respect their partners and enjoy sexual experiences? Just like adults?! I’M APALLED.

Young people are certainly not the only group whose bodies are subject to public scrutiny and moral debate, but this backlash against the use of appropriate protection and enthusiastic consent to seek pleasure is an almost laughable example of the “keep your legs closed, you silly youngsters!” mentality. Is there a magical button, somehow pressed when a person turns 18, that suddenly allows them to experience sexual desire, pleasure, and satisfaction? Of course not; you and I know this is a ridiculous idea. But conservatives are all caught up in it when they act as though teenagers are across-the-board immature and utterly devoid of agency.

It’s not a secret: we know — because we’re doing it — that sex feels good.

This makers of this pamphlet, in my humble opinion, should create a curriculum and get it taught in middle and high schools everywhere. I know it’s not easy to convince school boards to actually mention S-E-X in their sex education courses; for crying out loud, there’s no mandated sex ed — beyond a brief discussion of HIV/AIDS — for public schools in New York City. But I would love to see it happen.

Cross-posted at Feministe.

My 64 Words

June 21, 2009 § Leave a comment

aung san suu kyiVia Cara, the story of Aung San Suu Kyi, a Burmese pro-democracy leader and Nobel Peace laureate. June 19th was her 64th birthday, and she spent it in prison. Her supporters have launched an online campaign to garner attention and respect for this brave leader by calling for submissions of 64-word messages. From the site:

Aung San Suu Kyi…symbolises the struggle of Burma’s people to be free. She has been detained for over 13 years by the Burmese regime for campaigning for human rights and democracy in Burma.

She is currently facing trial in Burma. She was on arrested on May 14th and is now being held in Insein Prison, a prison notorious for its terrible conditions and horrific treatment of prisoners. Aung San Suu Kyi is being tried for breaking the terms of her house arrest, which forbids visitors, after an American man, John Yettaw, swam across Inya Lake and refused to leave her house. Her trial began on 18th May.

Aung San Suu Kyi has committed no crime, she is the victim of crime, yet is currently facing a sentence of 3-5 years. The United Nations has ruled that Aung San Suu Kyi’s detention is illegal under international law, and also under Burmese law. The United Nations Security Council has also told the dictatorship that they must release Aung San Suu Kyi.

Political prisoners in Burma are routinely subjected to torture and often denied medical treatment. There are serious concerns for Aung San Suu Kyi’s health in these conditions, particularly as she has recently been seriously ill.

Here are my 64 words:

I believe that freedom, peace, siblinghood, and love are the most beautiful things our human race can create together. Do not let any government convince you otherwise. Aung San Suu Kyi, you are an inspiration to all of us on this earth who believe in justice. We thank you for your incredible strength. I hope you have no more birthdays in this cruel imprisonment.

Add yours here; learn more from Yoko Ono’s link roundup here.

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: 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

Who are you calling a ho?

May 8, 2009 § 5 Comments

So, I am a second-term high school senior. These are words that should be music to my ears, but I have actually been extremely stressed out with endless amounts of work. I am, however, having a great time working on a research paper about sex workers in Pakistan. The paper is still in its early stages right now (I will post it when it’s finished) but there is a really interesting issue I wanted to discuss here with all of the fabulous members of the women’s glib community.

The topic of sex work has raised many questions and debates both amongst feminists and in society in general. One major question that I am addressing in my paper is about how we, both as feminists and as members of the global community, should approach sex work. Within feminist approaches to sex work, there are two major view points that I’ve encountered. On the one hand, there are those who argue that sex work is an inherently abusive system that is based on manipulating women, especially poor women, and should be abolished. Then, there are the people who argue that sex workers should be viewed as just that–workers. They argue that the abusive and manipulating aspects of sex work would be more easy to address and diminish if the focus was on protecting the rights of sex workers through legislation and unionization. Personally, I would fall in the second camp because I think that if we treat sex workers as workers as opposed to bad people, their voices will be heard much more and the stigma that we associate with sex work would be less powerful.

I’m really interested in finding out more about what feminists, particularly young feminists, have to say about sex work. If anyone has any insight or opinions on sex work, both in the U.S. and internationally, please share them!

The Stoning of Soraya M.

May 5, 2009 § 4 Comments

The description of the movie says:

The women, stripped of all rights and without recourse, nobly confront the overwhelming desires of corrupt men who use and abuse their authority to condemn Soraya, an innocent but inconvenient wife, to an unjust and torturous death. A shocking and true drama, it exposes the dark power of mob rule, uncivil law, and the utter lack of human rights for women.

My interest was piqued when I saw this trailer so I decided to look up the case of Soraya M. I didn’t find much, but it I did find that she was an Iranian woman in an arranged marriage with an abusive husband who no longer wanted to be married to her, so he accused her of adultery and because of this lie, she was eventually stoned by a group of men. (Please correct me if my facts are off.)

I want to see this so badly, yet have been unable to find the release date anywhere near me. I’ve read October 2008, February 2009, and July 2009 and yet, up until just now, I haven’t heard anything about it. I think this film is important and has the potential to be eye opening (especially since the civil rights of women are violated particularly in the Middle East very often, even currently), but the cynical part of me doubts that many people will see it — after all, where’s the appeal in a movie released this summer that’s not about robots?

Spread the word!

Quick, Awful Hit

April 25, 2009 § 2 Comments

The Dominican Republic has outlawed abortion. As Cara reminds us, women will die because of these “pro-life” policies.

“I’ve got a bitch of a headache”

April 1, 2009 § 2 Comments

(Not to be confused with “I’ve got a Monster headache.”) An obnoxiously misogynistic ad from Dubai for Emami pain balm. Because, you know, us bitchez get sooo loud when we’re angry about sexism and shit.

headache-ad

Ad and excellent title via Copyranter.

Vampire tampons…vampons? Tampires?

March 16, 2009 § 2 Comments

o_b_tampons

Check out this fucking creepy tampon ad from Switzerland.

Yes, his fangs are applicator-less tampons. Via Copyranter:

Not at all surprisingly, the creative team from Switzerland that dreamed up this bloodcurdling o.b. tampon ad is all-male. But at least, like this French shark-infested Tampax ad and unlike every American tampon ad ever made, they’ve acknowledged that blood does in fact come out of a vagina.

So true. Isn’t it depressing that our only options are terrifying, desperate ads like this one or ads that shy away from blood, hormones, and the v-word at all costs? If you could design an ad for menstrual products, what would it feature?

UPDATE: I got an email from the Client Service Director of this ad agency. He said that this is “an unpublished ad that will never go on air and should not have been on the net,” and asked me to remove it. I’m not going to take it down, but let it be known that this ad was never officially aired for public marketing.

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