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Showing posts with label VAW. Show all posts
Showing posts with label VAW. Show all posts

28 November 2015

Jessica Jones is not the superhero girls want, but she is the one they need


One of the biggest take home messages from my meeting at Mattel was that according to their research, girls want their superheroes to also save the villain.

Jessica Jones blows that out of the water.

Ok, sure, few of us are going to have our kids watch "Jessica Jones" as it is quite violent, deals with rape and PTSD and has some hot and heavy sex scenes. But I know that many of us comic book geeks allow our kids to idolize superheroes that they don't really know the whole story for. Take for example Xena. My daughter loved Xena well before she ever watched an episode. Ditto for Buffy.

What we can do is start priming our daughters to fall in love with "Jessica Jones."

For those of us who have seen it or don't care about spoilers, let me state my case.

Why Jessica Jones Needs to Be Our Daughters' Hero

  1. She gives no fucks about people liking her: She even spends the first few episodes not returning her best friend/sister's phone calls. Jessica has a mission and will stop at nothing to get that done, even if it means pissing people off. 
  2. She leans all the way in: Jessica would rather be a freelance detective than to be under the thumb of a boss. She is the boss. She makes sure she is paid what she is worth too. I'm pretty sure Jessica is the poster child for "Ban Bossy." 
  3. She calls rape, rape: Jessica was forced to have sex with Killgrave due to his mind control. When he tries to reframe it as romantic, she says hell no and calls him a rapist to his face. 
  4. Her superpower is to see through bullshit: When Killgrave attempts to rewrite their relationship to make it look like Jessica wanted to stay with him, she gives him another serving of "Hell no!" She will accept no gaslighting!
  5. She is comfortable with her sexuality:  Too often girls are raised to believe we do not like sex or should never admit when we do. Jessica is comfortable with her sexuality and unlike other superheros such as Xena and Black Widow, does not use her sexuality to get what she needs.
And back to what girls like to see in a superhero. Jessica tries mightily to not have to kill Killgrave. First she does it because she wants to save Hope from murder charges. Then when she realizes she has her own power over him, she thinks she can harness his powers for good. She does everything she can to NOT kill him. But ultimately she realizes that his evil can't be allowed to live in our world.

Perhaps with guidance our daughters can see that Jessica tried. She did her best to not kill Killgrave. Does that make this anti-death penalty advocate squirm? Hell yes. But even I was questioning keeping him alive at a certain point. Certainly Jessica was smart enough to get Hope off without Killgrave being exposed! At least that was my wish.

In the end, I think that one big reason that Jessica Jones should be a superhero for our daughters is that she is flawed. She is not perfect like Wonder Woman. Jessica has fallen and is trying to make amends while saving the world, much like Xena. As she tells Killgrave, saving a life after taking one is not a way to erase the harm done, but it does help. And really, isn't that what we want our kids to know? That even when you royally screw up, you own up, and work hard the rest of your life to do better?

Now to watch this show again. And again.

20 June 2014

Book Review: Dear Sister: Letters From Survivors of Sexual Violence by Lisa Factora-Borchers (ed)

The feminist community has been in a battle over the use of trigger warnings on posts, books, movies, and even women's studies syllabi. But don't worry about that here because the title of today's book is TW enough: Dear Sister: Letters From Survivors of Sexual Violence edited by Lisa Factora-Borchers.

I don't have a big sister, but I read through the essays as if they came from her. The essays in this anthology are about sexual violence, but there is a gentleness and love to them. I did not read every essay. This is definitely the type of anthology that you read an essay, stop, cry, and return to a few days or weeks later. Or maybe you have been waiting to hear these words for so long you binge on them all in one sitting.

Lisa introduces the anthology by not only setting the stage, but also being transparent about how the anthology came to be. In a moment of brave honesty, she addresses the title’s use of “sister.” It can be a loaded word for many as it implies an idyllic sisterhood that allows for safe space that quite frankly not every woman has experienced. Lisa did think that the use of “sister” would create a bond, but after discussions with others and a lot of thinking, realized that it was not the sisterhood that would bind readers, but the shared experience of violence in our lives, including the burden of our shared trauma.

I would like to thank anonymous for “Letter 2.” I am not one for self-affirmations, but this one is contextually perfect. I did not realize how much I needed to read this letter until I was half way through and in tears.

The essays within are not just letters to a sister, but also contain a hard look at violence in our world. In the interview with Zoe Flowers, she points out that while we talk of sexual violence as intimate violence or domestic violence and make it a personal issue, it is actually rooted in historical contexts. We need to remember that persons of color and women have only recently become free. As she says, we have been free far shorter than we have been enslaved and controlled. I wholeheartedly agree that in order to move forward we must know our history.

What may be the most controversial essay in this collection is based on an essay that originally ran at XOJane. In it the author profoundly believes that survivors do not owe anyone to report an attack. We occasionally will read about a rape survivor who will be lauded for her courage to come forward, report and press for charges. All that a survivor owes to anyone is to heal. And for many survivors not reporting is one method. We must honor that.

We must also honor the courage it will take many survivors to read this book as Mary Zelinka takes the time to note. And we should. Yes, if you are a survivor this book will be tough to read. But I do hope you find solace inside the covers. Perhaps find that story that makes you feel less alone. Because that is why we tell our stories, not to share our life, but to connect with others.

And if you feel like you want or need to tell your story,

Support Viva la Feminista by purchasing your book through
Powells or Indiebound.

I received a review copy of this book through the publisher. 

30 December 2013

2014 brings hope to end parental rights for rapists

As we approach January 1st, the Tribune reminds us of new laws such as a statewide ban on tanning beds for those under 18, increased penalties for using social media to organize "flash mob attacks" and that sex education must include discussion of birth control (schools can still opt to not teach sex ed at all). But the new law I am excited to see is a law that better restricts rapists parental rights:
On January 1, 2014, IL Public Act 098-0476 becomes effective. This new law has many added benefits to victims of sexual abuse who give birth to a child conceived of that abuse. Public Act 098-0476 amends 750 ILCS 45/6.5 by broadening the restrictions to include “men who father through sexual assault or sexual abuse” rather than only “sex offenders.” This important amendment means that victims no longer have to have to wait for a conviction of their attacker, which may never come, in order to terminate parental rights of a rapist. To protect against false accusations in cases where there is no conviction, there is new language that provides for a fact-finding hearing to be held to establish if a person “is found by clear and convincing evidence to have committed an act of non-consensual sexual penetration or his conduct in fathering that child.”

Additional aspects of the new law allow mothers or guardians to deny maintenance or support from the father. The father is no longer allowed to inherit from the child without the mother’s or guardian’s consent. Further, notwithstanding the Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act, no other family member (parent, grandparent, great grandparent, or sibling of the father) will have standing to request custody or visitation with the child without the mother or guardian’s consent. The final addition in the law details how a child’s mother or guardian may file a petition as an affirmative defense in any proceeding regarding the child initiated by the sexual offender.

During the discussion about Todd Akin's "legitimate rape" comment, the issue of rapists having parental rights bubbled up. Shauna Prewitt, a Chicago lawyer, was the most visible voice around the issue. Now on January 1st, women who have survived and recovered from a rape and made the decision to carry their pregnancy to term will have more power to ensure that she is no longer tethered to her rapist.

I really hope that other states use our law as a model. I hope that anti-choice legislators around the country rally around it. I'm sure that when deciding to carry a pregnancy conceived by rape, weighing whether or not you want to see your rapist on a regular basis or allow them to be alone with your child, goes into that decision.

Shauna...Thank you for your courage and outrage.

18 December 2013

Today in rape culture...

A Woodstock, Illinois police officer has been given a 30 day suspension (that he can take one day at a time over the course of a year) for texting his then-girlfriend's preteen daughter and asking for sexy pics:
The girl's parents are furious about what they say is light punishment for a city insider who they think should have been fired. Her father, who the Tribune is not naming to avoid identifying the girl, accused law enforcement officials of hypocrisy.
"He's no better than who he's arrested," the father said.
And sadly it appears that the fact he used an official database to do a background check on the ex-girlfriend may be more illegal than trying to sext a 12-year-old girl. 

Then people wonder why women don't trust the police. It's not just the action of this man, but the fact his superiors weight his years of service versus his violation of this girl's personal space. Good gawd, I'm so furious I can't even find the right words.But you know what I mean...

At a public meeting on the matter, some guys from Anonymous showed up. In Woodstock!

More from the Woodstock Independent.

Photo from Northwest Herald

10 December 2013

This and That Tuesday

This is what you get when I'm trying to clean out my inbox and no time to write a lengthy piece about these stories:

    • Voto Latino and Planned Parenthood Federation of America convened a panel discussion on Capitol Hill to discuss the importance of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) in the Latino community. The event was especially timely as the federal government and community partners on the ground prepare for the rollout of the Spanish language enrollment website, www.cuidadodesalud.gov, this month. Every year, more than 600,000 Latinos -- mostly Latinas -- visit Planned Parenthood health centers to access health care services, including important preventive services like well-woman exams, breast health services, and cervical cancer screenings.

    • Soroptimist, the global women's organization, presents the annual Women’s Opportunity Awards, which provides cash grants to women for education and training. The 2013 Women’s Opportunity Award winner is Aziza Kibibi.  Aziza was held prisoner and sexually abused by her father, an MTV award winning director affiliated with The Fugees, who was recently convicted to 90 years in prison because of what he did to his daughters. TW: rape, sexual abuse

    • Women left behind in the economic recovery: A short video discussion with Kate Gallagher Robbins of the National Women's Law Center with Nia-Malika Henderson about women's economic struggles since the recession ended in 2009, and the dramatic rise in their ranks among low-wage workers. (The Washington Post)

    • There's no better way to start debating the state of public education in the US than the PISA results. This is an international assessment of 15-year-olds on their math, reading and science knowledge. According to this assessment the US is getting smoked. But the Education Trust reminds us that if we look "deeper at the data from within the U.S., gaps between African American students and their white peers are equal to more than two years’ worth of learning in math, while gaps between Latino and white students exceed one year. Gaps between U.S. students in low-income schools and those in wealthier schools are even more alarming: Students in the lowest income schools lag behind their peers in the highest income schools by about two and a half years’ worth of learning in math." Dan Montgomery, the president of the Illinois Federation of Teachers, claims if we rank results by poverty rates, the US actually comes out on top. This is both awesome, but depressing. Awesome that we can do so well despite our lack of addressing the roots of poverty, but depressing that the US ranks #1 in those who participate in PISA.

    • The US Department of Labor is marking its 100th anniversary by creating a list of "Books that Shaped Work in America" and they want your suggestions!  

    25 November 2013

    Update on Steubenville: Four Charged by Grand Jury

    Steubenville, OH protest
    From the NYTimes:
    The special grand jury convened in Steubenville had investigated whether adults like coaches or school administrators knew of the rape allegation but failed to report it as required by state law.
    The charges against the superintendent, Mike McVey, include felony counts of obstructing justice, DeWine said. McVey wasn't immediately available for comment, but the district planned to issue a statement later Monday.
    An elementary school principal and a strength coach are charged with failing to report possible child abuse. A former volunteer coach faces several misdemeanor charges, including making false statements and contributing to a child's delinquency. 
    I did not think anything else would come of this case, so I am shocked to see this happen. Hopefully not only justice will prevail, but this will send a clear message that those of us in education have a responsibility towards protecting students who have been harmed, not those who harm.

    30 August 2013

    When Feminists Attack...Each Other (Yes, another post kinda about Miley Cyrus)

    I seriously wanted to ignore the Miley Cyrus VMA thing. But no, my good friend, Joanne Bamberger had to go and write a piece connecting the sexualization of girls to rape culture and then to the horrifying 30-day sentence for that rapist teacher in Montana. That's what friends do, read their friends' writing.

    I then shared it on Facebook (more what friends do) and one friend made an excellent point. Joanne had stretched just a bit too far (my FB friend thought, really far) by using Miley as an example of the sexualization of girls. See, I totally followed Joanne's logic as stated here:
    Even though she is 20, many of us still see her as the tween/teen star of Disney's Hannah Montana, and maintain a mental image of her as that more wholesome child, even as she struts on stage today, inviting sexual attention.
    Yes, Miley is 20, but the collective we still do see her as a child. That could be one reason why she's trying too damn hard to be "sexy" and "edgy," to cast off the Disney-child-actor image. And let's remember that while 20-year-old Miley twerked, 17-year-old Miley danced on a stripper pole at the Teen Choice Awards. She's been trying to de-Disney-fy herself for years. Joanne then goes on to cite research that says, Yes, girls in the media are increasingly sexualized:
    The increased media sexualization of young girls isn't just anecdotal. A recent study by The Parents Television Council found a "very real problem" of teen girls being shown in sexually exploitive ways that are often presented as humorous.
    My 10-year-old watched Hannah Montana on occasion, so I don't know if Hannah was ever shown in sexually exploitive way. And if the fact that the PTC is a conservative group makes you question their finding, you can look at the work of the American Psychological Association's report on the sexualization of girls. They pretty much say the same thing -- girls in the media are increasingly being sexualized. I know there are those who would immediately dismiss anything that cites the PTC.

    Joanne then goes on to cite the sad stats on rape:
    Whether there is a connection between these images and teen sexual abuse isn't clear, but according to the Department of Justice, one-third of sexual assaults victims are ages 12-17, and those ages 16-19 are three-and-a-half times more likely to be sexually assaulted or become victims of rape than the general population.
     She is not saying that because girls are wearing short skirts, wearing make-up or anything like that and thus getting raped. She is merely stating the facts about the rate of rape.

    She ends by asking us to consider the possibility that the fact that girls are highly sexualized in the media could be seeping into the judgement of authority figures like the judge in Montana:
    In light of these statistics and the Parents Television Council's study, it doesn't seem to be a huge leap to suggest that with young girls increasingly sexualized in the media, teen victims of sexual assault may be judged more harshly because too many see a child as being "in control."
    Let's recap...Joanne points to Miley Cyrus' poor sexy dance as evidence of the sexualization of girls in mass media...Coupled with the fact that teens are raped and then asks us to consider how media is impacting our decision making (NYTimes blaming an 11-year-old girl for her rape, a judge in Montana saying a 14-year-old was older than her chronological age, etc) when it comes to who to blame for a teen's rape.
    I wondered: have today's sexually-charged images of young girls and women warped how judges, and others, view real life victims of rape and sexual assault?
    No where do I see Joanne blaming teens for wearing sexy outfits, trying on sexy personas. Somehow Amanda Marcotte has interpreted Joanne's op-ed as blaming Miley for rape. She first puts Joanne in the same pot with the NYTimes blaming an 11-year-old by stating, "Look, teenage girls are going to experiment with trying on a bunch of sexual persona to figure out what works for them." Again, I want to point out that Joanne's op-ed is NOT about girls, but about how our media is warping how we see girls.

    Amanda goes on to further misread Joanne's piece by stating:
    As Bamberger notes, a huge percentage of rape victims, about one-third, are under 17 at the time of the crime. The reason for this isn't because teenage girls are awkwardly trying to see if they can work a miniskirt or are imitating their favorite pop stars' sexualized dance moves. It is because younger women are more pliable and therefore more easily victimized. 
     HUH? No where does Joanne link the rape statistics with girls, miniskirts or imitating pop stars. She does link the stats to MEDIA IMAGES. If we can "blame" advertisers for glorifying violence against women without blaming the models, but the advertisers/brands/photographers, why can't we critique the machines that are sexualizing childhood?

    As I said at the start, (waaaay up there^) Joanne's op-ed would be better suited for post-stripper pole Miley than twerking Miley due to her age. But her main point is to ask us to consider how media is warping the way we see teen girls, especially teen girls who have been sexually abused or raped. It is this view of teen girls that leads others to judge that they "dress too skanky," "asked for it," "knew what she was doing," on and on. Where does that view come from? Many places, including media's depiction of girls.

    And if you want something smart to read on the Miley thing, go read "How to Talk With Your Sons About Robin Thicke."

    27 June 2013

    Guest Post: My Platoon Tried to Sell Me

    VLF is happy to welcome, Miyoko Hikiji, author of “All I Could Be: My Story as a Woman Warrior in Iraq” to the blog today. Since I am already at capacity for book reviews this summer, we decided a guest post would be the best way for you to get to know her. This is not an excerpt from her memoir, rather an exclusive essay for VLF.

    Miyoko Hikiji joined the U.S. Army in Iowa as a way to pay for a college education. Near the end of her enlistment contract in the Iowa National Guard and before completing her degree in journalism, her unit was called to active duty in Iraq in early 2003. Good looking at 5’3” and 120 lbs., she didn’t “look the part,” but passed all of the qualifying tests, including weapons training and a 12.5 mile march in full uniform carrying a rifle and a 50-pound backpack.

    The guys said it was a joke, but I wasn’t the only one that didn’t find it funny. The Iraqi men bartering for me, an American female soldier, weren’t laughing either.

    It was July 2003 and US Forces had invaded Iraq four months prior. My Iowa National Guard transportation company was attached to an active duty combat unit that was responsible for securing the northwest quadrant of the country. This unit was armored cavalry, meaning tanks and helicopters. Our company, nicknamed “Hawkeye” after the University of Iowa’s team mascot, were the wheels that delivered the Cav’s supplies—everything from ammo and repair parts to mail and enemy prisoners of war.

    I was one of about sixteen female soldiers in a unit of 150. I had worked hard early on to earn my place in its ranks, passing with flying colors the qualifications for physical fitness, weapons, first aid, land navigation and other soldier skills. I acted tough, maybe tougher than I was, never let my guard down and could hold my liquor, smoke and drink with the most macho of them. I didn’t want to be exactly one of the guys, but I knew if they called me this, I’d won them over. That reassured me that within my platoon, I was worth my weight in salt. I was proud of that fact.

    It was the start of a typical mission day, simmering at around 100-degrees. We took respite in Ramadi where I used the police station’s bathroom to relieve myself. As I walked outside to rejoin my co-driver at the back of our truck, I noticed that a few other truck driving teams had clustered together and were talking with some of the locals that had approached. As I drew nearer my squad leader pointed at me and the Iraqi men flew into a bidding war.

    “Two goats and two hundred American dollars!” a short stocky man shouted while waving his arms from underneath his traditional robe clothing.

    “Two goats and three hundred American dollars!” a slightly taller and thinner man shouted. His unusual blue eyes were fixated on me in a glassy gaze.

    “She’s a virgin too!” another staff sergeant shouted.

    “Shut the hell up, sergeant!” I said in shock, tightening the grip on my weapon.

    “Well you don’t have any kids, what’s the difference to them,” he said in a low voice. “She can give you many babies,” he continued grinning at the men, then me.

    “Two goats and four hundred dollars!” the short man called out, upping his bid.

    “What the hell are you doing?” I said looking around at my buddies. “You suck. You’re probably only worth two chickens and ten dinar but I’d damn sure sell you for that right now,” I said punching my co-driver in his shoulder.

    “It’s just a joke!” he yelled at my back.

    “I’m not for sale!” I said looking over the Iraqis.

    Then an eruption of angry Arabic dialogue filled the air, first among the Iraqis, then directed at the male soldiers still standing nearby.

    A cold sweat broke across my forehead as I leapt up the sidesteps and into the driver’s seat. I fired the engine up quickly then looked back to see the other guys double-timing toward their trucks followed by the Iraqis with raised fists shouting, “Hey, Joe. What about the deal? Hey, Joe!”

    The convoy commander gave the signal to move out and hopped in the passenger seat of his Humvee. The lead vehicle lurched forward. I followed closely behind it as the convoy pulled back onto the main supply road. My eyes were fixated, watching the path of the vehicle ahead, scanning the roadside for rubble and trash or anything that could be used as a disguise for an improvised explosive device.

    My thoughts returned to the sale, to my worth, which had turned 120 pounds of salt into two goats and four hundred dollars. The Iraqis weren’t just attempting to buy a wife, or sex or future babies or labor on their farm. They were purchasing my freedom. They were trading a couple livestock and a fistful of greenbacks for my choice to be in charge of my destiny and pursue my own dreams. They were operating under the rules of their culture, the only lifestyle they knew, and for that I could not fault them.

    My battle buddies, however, my brothers-in-arms, were pretending to sell me and they could only do so if they assumed I was theirs to sell. Did they believe they owned me? Was I not their equal and their “sister” but a possession? Did the push ups and muscle aches and miles of ruck marches in a downpour and the tears and heartache of this life boil down to just a joke?

    So maybe the joke was on them because I realized that my worth was immeasurable. I was priceless. We all were. It was that American ideal, not some political conviction, that motivated me to gear up and head out for another mission. It was that faith that I was not just a number or some female or another GI, but a life worth living; no, I was a life worth celebrating.

    I’d decided all this by the time our convoy was pulling inside the forward operating base where we were dropping our supplies One promise I said to myself that I’ll never forget: don’t underestimate yourself. You’re worth more than any man can afford.

    Support Viva la Feminista by purchasing "All I Could Be" from  Powells.

    25 April 2013

    This week in rape culture

    Just when I thought we might be turning a corner on addressing rape culture, we get a week like this:

    the city of Steubenville could have stood tall for its women and the men who cherish them and sent a strong message to its young people.

    Instead, it has hunkered down, burnishing its reputation as a town that cares more about football than it does about the children it will launch into the world.
    Forest Hills School District, outside of Grand Rapids, Michigan, is being sued for not only failing to report a sexual assault, but trying to talk a girl out of reporting it all:
    The complaint asserts that in 2010, a high school girl was sexually assaulted in a soundproof band room at Forest Hills Central High School by a star player on the school’s basketball team. After one of her teachers notified the principal about the assault, he discouraged the student and her parents from filing charges. But because they were concerned that this student might attack other girls, the student and her parents filed a police report, and the Kent County Sheriff’s Department began a criminal investigation. In fact, two weeks later, another female student was sexually assaulted by the same attacker. Still, despite an obligation under Title IX to investigate the assault and protect the student, the high school officials never interviewed the girl or her parents again, failed to conduct an investigation, and for two and a half weeks left the attacker in one of her classes. During this time, the girl sat in the guidance counselor’s office rather than be in class with the student who assaulted her and missed the benefit of instruction.
     Another rape in India is making headlines. The survivor is 5-years-old. FIVE FUCKING YEARS OLD!
    Protests that began on Friday grew more intense after video footage showed a policeman slapping a woman protester, and following reports that investigators had offered the victim's family 2,000 rupees ($37) not to file a case.

    I just don't have the energy to write something insightful about any of these stories. Rather, just posting here for you to read. What really makes me sad is that someone has to tell the girl in the photo that her hometown actually thinks football is more important than her.

    11 April 2013

    My daughter just shook her head...

    then dramatically put it on the dinner table. She's nine and she gets that telling girls to not wear leggings in order to not distract boys is ridiculous*.

    I'm not using the term "rape culture" with her yet, but I hope I'm setting her up for that "Oh...this is what Mom's been talking about!" I didn't even address her when talking about the story. Rather I addressed the table where my husband & daughter were waiting patiently for the server to bring us dinner, "So, there's a middle school..."

    *OK, she is my daughter, so she might be swearing in her head, but let me believe she's immune to my foul mouth.

    08 March 2013

    Feminist Foreign Service

    During the 16 Days of Activism Against Gender Violence, I was offered an interview with Carla Koppell, USAID Senior Coordinator for Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment. As a student of feminism within the federal government, I jumped at the chance. As an activist who has seen first-hand what US policy can do to individual women, I jumped at the chance. Due to technical failures on my part, I won’t be posting this as an interview, but rather as a blog post about what I learned from Koppell about USAID and their role in advancing women’s empowerment around the world. And due to my unbelievably hectic life, this post took all this time to write up!

    According to its website, USAID is the USA's humanitarian arm by working to protect human rights, strengthen democracy and assist in recovering from conflict, just to name a few of their goals. The Gender Equality and Women's Empowerment area is, well, focused on women's well-being.

    Koppell told me that over the last year, USAID has completely revitalized the architecture around issues related to women's priorities and needs. There is a complete set of new policies and strategies on counter-trafficking (pdf), women peace and security (pdf), and combating and preventing child marriage (pdf).USAID was taking the opportunity during 16 Days to raise awareness, not just of the issues they work on, but to have more people realize what USAID is working on.

    One of the issues I came out of my trip with the Nobel Women's Initiative was the lack of communication between the various governments and the people in the community. In Honduras I attended some meetings with government officials, both Honduran and from the USA. When the issues the women of Honduras were communicating to us, the government officials would dismiss them. Once someone claimed to have never heard any complaints! This is why I wanted to know if the USAID worked in the community at all. Koppell says they do work with the women themselves. And then addressed my second concern, that of imperialism. She responded by saying that gander-based violence is seen as human rights violations, which are codified in international conventions and treaties. Thus they are shared values in the international community and not just US values being imposed onto other societies.
    “This isn’t about our values, but this is about making the voices of Afghan women, women within their societies heard. So they can define the appropriate space and the rights they want to assert in their society.” - Koppell 
    Koppell added that in many of these countries around the world, the polling shows that men and women believe women should have public roles and access to public education. The other voices, the more conservative voices are just the louder voices in the public discourse.

    As someone who is often asked to mentor young women in terms of their feminist career paths, I asked her why a women's studies major should look to the federal government and specifically USAID. Koppell responded by underscoring, what she believes, is the great work that USAID does on behalf of girls and women around the world.

    Putting my feminist activist hat on, what I saw in Mexico and Central America (and I was only there for 11 days!) did not convince me that an agency like USAID can really impact women's lives. And putting on my feminist scholar hat, I want to investigate this further. Is USAID too small to do any real good? Is it too hampered by US politics to do what it should/want to do? There are clearly flaws in the design, but where are they coming from? Where are their victories and how did they accomplish them?

    I went into this interview with a lot of questions, came out with some left unanswered and some new ones to ask. I know there is a role for US-based feminists to play in empowering women around the world, what the role looks like is one that I am still trying to sketch out. 

    14 February 2013

    Happy Valentine's Day!

    Today is not only a day for chocolates & flowers, but a day for radical acts as we work towards a day free of violence against women & girls. Fifteen years ago Eve Ensler declared Valentine's Day, V-DAY. To celebrate 15 years,

    Chicago is in on the act too.

    And friend of VLF, Alejandra O'Leary has
    a special Valentine's Day tune for us to dance to

    How ever you celebrate today, I hope you are surrounded by love!

    06 February 2013

    Dear GOP: Latinas vote too

    Dear Senators Rubio & Cruz,

    I hear rumors that the Republican Party, which you are members of, are looking for ways to increase their support among Latinos. While your party holds very little in common with my ethics and morals, I do want to lend you two a bit of advice.

    I also hear that you are opposing the Violence Against Women Act. tsk..tsk..*shakingmyhead*

    Hombres...You can support comprehensive immigration reform all you want and pray that it means Latinos will go red, but it won't happen when you continue to obstruct measures that help Latinas. Do I really need to remind you that Romney lost the Latina vote 23-76?

    So get on board with the Violence Against Women Act. I know it would be futile to ask you to get on board with supporting public education and reproductive justice issues, but come on, chicos, we're talking voting in favor of helping to reduce violence against women!

    To help you out, here are some facts about Latinas & VAWA from Latina Portrait: The Reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act and Latinas, by the National Latin@ Network and Mujeres Latinas en Acción (pdf):
    • Latinas are only half as likely to report abuse to authorities as survivors from other ethnic/racial groups
    • One of the most significant barriers facing non-citizen victims is the fear of immigration-related consequences should they report the abuse or seek help. Often times abusers purposely misinform them of the consequences of reporting abuse and threaten them with deportation and loss of custody of their children should they seek help. Abusers are often able to use immigration status as an effective tool of power and control. 
    • In a recent study conducted at the National Domestic Violence Hotline, 35% of foreign-born Latinas who called the Hotline reported a fear of calling the police during a domestic violence situation
    Just go read the whole thing. If you are going to court the Latino vote, don't forget your hermanas.

    Art by Favianna Rodriguez. She wants us to share her art, so download & share.

    08 January 2013

    ESPN Announcers teach that girls are trophies - UPDATED

    Steubenville, OH protestDuring last night's college football championship game, ESPN announcers Kirk Herbstreit and Brent Musburger took some time to gawk over Alabama's quarterback's girlfriend. Not just gawk, but I think Beavis & Butthead acted cooler in front of girls better than them. See for yourself:

    This is shameful.

    First of all, let's remember that Alabama is playing against Notre Dame, who totally botched a rape investigation and many people believe they covered it up. And continue to cover up rapes connected to the football team.

    Second, most decent human beings are still in shock over the Steubenville, Ohio football rape case.The photo above comes from the protests held over the weekend. A little girl simply saying that she is more important than football.

    Her sign is not just a call to prosecute any football players who participated in the rape, but a call to stop treating her like a thing. That sign is demanding recognition of her humanity; the humanity of all girls and women.

    That is why when I heard this happened (I didn't see it live, but thanks to the internet for the clip!) I was livid.

    As a huge sports fan, I know that rape culture is embedded in sports. I struggle with that...a lot. But that does not mean I need to sit idly by when announcers go on and teach our sons to get out a football to play catch with their dads in order to win a hot girlfriend.

    ESPN has issued an apology, but not on their website. Well, it is embedded in an AP story, but it's not on their press release page. AND the AP story is about how Katherine Webb didn't mind Musburger gawking over her and doesn't get the uproar. Fair enough. But if you still have thoughts to pass on to ESPN, feel free to use their feedback page.

    I've tried to read most of the comments on Facebook and here about the post. Here are some quick thoughts:
    • I'm a Cubs fan and in the '80s Harry Caray & his buddy/producer, Arnie Harris, panned and zoomed in on at least one beautiful woman a game. I am very much aware that watching sports on TV may expose me to the "pretty girl" shot. But what we saw last night was much more than that. 
    • I'm not opposed to telling a woman she is beautiful. I am opposed to telling all the boys watching that if they work hard enough to throw a ball, they are entitled to a pretty girlfriend. 
    • I draw the connection to rape because rape occurs not because a woman is pretty, but because men think they are owed something from a woman, from women. Men who rape think women are objects to own or to serve them. If we teach boys that they are owed a pretty girlfriend for having the ability to throw a ball, that is not a good method in ending rape culture.
    • Thanks to everyone who did appreciate this post. 

    14 December 2012

    16 Days Guest Post: A Step in the Right Direction

    Thanks to BoricuaFeminist from Boston, MA for this 16 Days post. Again, this is late due to my schedule, not anything she did! You can reach her at Twitter.

    Last weekend my best friend, my boyfriend and I participated in the Hot Chocolate Run in my hometown of Northampton, MA. The Hot Chocolate Run is an annual fundraising event where people run a 5k, or in my case walk 2 miles, to raise money and awareness for Safe Passage. Safe Passage provides, “shelter, peer-support, counseling, education, advocacy, legal support and community education,” to women and children who are domestic violence survivors.

    It was an amazing sight to see 5,500 participating, and more community members observing, in an event to bring awareness to the issue of domestic violence. Many walkers/runners wore stickers with the names of loved ones they had lost due to domestic violence. Domestic violence is still silenced in many homes and communities. It is powerful to see women, men, children and families give voice to those who may not always have the power to speak up. It is important for organizations to raise money in order to continue to provide services, but it is also important to raise awareness and bring visibility to the issue as well. In a city with a population of less than 30,000 people, such a large turnout sends a message of support to those affected by violence in our community.

    There is always more work to be done. Institutional barriers around gender, race and class are deeply intertwined with gender violence. However, the fight is vital and we must continue to bring awareness to gender violence in our communities. Gender violence is not a private issue, as demonstrated by the stickers worn by the walkers and runners, its affects are widely felt. Even though the 16 Days of Activism Against Gender Violence ended on December 10th, I will continue to make my voice heard on this issue throughout the year. I encourage everyone to do the same.

    13 December 2012

    16 Days Guest Post: Commercialization of Domestic Violence Awareness

    Thanks to fellow Chicagoan, Ann Santori of Half-Way to a Mid-Life Crisis for this post in commemeration of 16 days. This is posted late due to my fault not Ann's. You can reach Ann on Twitter & Tumblr.

    According to a 2005 World Health Organization study, at least one in every three women across the globe will be abused physically and/or sexually at least once in her lifetime. The UN designates November 25th as the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women and December 10th as International Human Rights Day. Since 1991, the intervening sixteen days have been designated for the 16 Days Campaign, which focuses on awareness of gender-based violence.

    The 16 Days Campaign, by its nature, is critical in thought and tends to focus on the specific factors that create a culture of violence. This year’s theme, for example, “highlights the role militarism plays in perpetuating violence against women and girls” as the amount of small arms in private ownership rises and “research shows that having a small arm in the home increases the overall risk of someone being murdered by 41%; for women in particular this risk nearly triples.”

    However, other anti-domestic violence projects are not always so evaluative. Indeed, it seems that the trend is a troublesome commercialization and sensationalism. The Avon Foundation, for all the awareness it raises around the issue, still maintains two product lines (No More and m.powerment by mark) as part of its fundraising initiative.

    Much like feminist sentiment surrounding the ‘Pink-ification’ of breast cancer, Avon’s lines present a thorny moral dilemma. On the one hand, there is a benefit to being able to contribute quickly and easily on a micro level (sometimes very micro – with certain products only bestowing cents of their total retail price to the cause) to larger social campaigns. On the other, not only is the commodification of a social ill ethically questionable, it can contribute to a buyer’s sense of complacency. Why, after all, if I’ve bought an m.powerment necklace or a pink vacuum cleaner, surely these ladies will be feeling better in no time!

    Likewise, while it certainly raises awareness, sensationalizing gender-based violence can both turn the viewer away and instill him or her with a false sense of reality. France’s ad agency BETC Paris recently launched its campaign, entitled “Bruises,” a combination performance art and print work. On November 25th, dozens of women painted with realistic facial bruises dropped to the floor near the Pompidou Center in Paris under a banner that read, “In a single year, 122 women die after experiencing domestic violence.” The published images of the campaign that accompanied the performance depicted close-up views of bruises captioned in imitation of formal art pieces – “Grave Green,” “Booze Brown,” and “Rape Red.”

    While extremely viscerally powerful, the BETC campaign remains simplistic and devoid of the complexities that surround domestic violence prevention strategies. Where is the discussion on how to spot an abusive relationship before it turns physical, the resources to escape such a situation before it’s too late. Reducing women and their stories to fodder for a shock campaign is, again, ethically troublesome to say the least.

    So, are any campaigns getting it right? While they can receive criticism (as we all know that men are not the only perpetrators and women not the only victims), the recent trend of targeting sexual violence prevention campaigns towards men (see the following campaigns: My Strength is Not For Hurting; Real Men Know The Difference; Don’t Be That Guy, etc.) is certainly a step in the right direction. Here we do have an exploration of the ‘grey areas.’ Is drunken consent actual consent? Is there such a thing as spousal/relationship rape? Can consent be withdrawn? (The answers, for all that are following along, are resounding (a) NO, (b) YES, (c) YES).

    Confronting these myths by being brave enough to suggest that gender-based violence thrives on a culture of hyper-masculinity can be the beginning of a critical and crucial evaluation of the behaviors that have created a culture of placid acceptance of both the myths and realities surrounding this violence.

    05 December 2012

    16 Days Guest Post: Stop blaming women for VAW!

    Thanks to Erin McKelle from Ohio and Fearless Feminism for today's post.

    Gender based violence is such a huge problem in communities everywhere and it infuriates me that most refuse to acknowledge it. 1 in 3 women will be victims of domestic violence in their lifetime, 1 in 3 will be the victims of sexual violence and 1 in 4 the victims of sexual assault.
    Women are told by society to be careful. To not be one of these victims, to protect themselves. We are told to not dress slutty and not get too tipsy. We are constantly being blamed for our own victimization. This message is seen everywhere and is internalized to make us fearful.

    I think most women would agree that there is some level of fear going out alone at night or going to a rough neighborhood by ourselves. This comes from the media telling us to always be scared. That crimes happen randomly to women and that you'd better watch your back. The consequence is that women are living in constant fear and uncertainty. Their presence is made smaller, since they don't feel the freedom men do to come and go as they please. It is almost like we in the United States do live like those in what we consider to be gender oppressive countries (taking the spotlight away from our own) where women have curfews and can't be out past a certain hour. While this may not be a formal structure put in place, isn't it an informal one? If you see a woman alone walking down the street at 1 AM, doesn't it arose some sort of curiosity? Doesn't it make you wonder, at least a little?

    We need to stop doing this to women. Making them the victims of our societies aggression problem is causing the deep-seated stress and fear in women everywhere. We need to wake up and realize we don't live in a progressive gender-equal society. If we did, we wouldn't have to tell women how to behave because there would be no fear of anyone getting hurt! Women would be women and men would be men and we'd be treated with the same respect and all have the same expectations from society. It's really as simple as that.

    If you would like to submit a post for 16 Days, please use this handy dandy form. Thank you.  

    04 December 2012

    16 Days Guest Post: Home is not always a safe house

    Thank you to R. Femme (mistakenly credited for yesterday's post...sorry) for this touching post about violence within one's family.

    As I have never posted about such a personal topic on the internet before and this is my first involvement in the 16 Days of Activism Against Gender Violence, I hope that those who read this can appreciate my attempt to tell my own story as well as take a stance against gender violence.

    I grew up in a dysfunctional household; my father was extremely abusive, not only to my mother but to myself, my sister and my brother. We never knew exactly why my father was angry but when he was, we all felt his wrath; he would scream, throw things, and all to often hit one of us. My mother was brave enough to protect us for the most part; she often put herself in between us and my father when he went into his spontaneous and uncontrollable rages. I lived with my father until I was fourteen when my mother decided to finally leave him; my mother and I moved in with my grandmother, while my brother and sister decided to remain with my father.

    I was happy to be in a house with hot water and heat and a sense of normalcy which I had never experienced before. When I was ten or so, my father had decided to rip the insulation out of our walls and at the same time decided not to pay the heat bill, instead spending his paychecks on marijuana and his precious motorcycle. I no longer had to wear my winter coat inside or go to the community center for a hot shower.
    Unfortunately at the same time, I was suffering from kidney disease and found out that I had to have major surgery that year. I was trying to maintain a relationship with my father, hoping that he would change because at that moment I needed him. He drove me to my appointments at my mother's behest but often complained about the trip and we were almost always late. When I went into surgery, my mother waited for the six hours in the waiting room while my father decided his time was better spent elsewhere. He came to visit me a couple of times during my recovery but never stayed long.

    After my surgery, I maintained a relationship with my father for almost a whole year before the whole family fell apart. Upon finding out that my mother had moved on, despite having rejected her only months ago when she had begged him for a reunion, my father had my mother arrested on false abuse charges. I was interrogated at the local station about my parents' relationship and I told them as much as I could through my tears. As I left the station with my grandmother, I saw my father and I became very angry and didn't talk to him for almost three weeks.

    When I eventually did talk to him, he only insulted my mother and blamed me for not telling him and I left for good. My brother and my sister were angry at me for different reasons upon my excommunication of my father; my sister didn't understand how I could "abandon" my own father, and my brother had been manipulated into believing every lie my father told him. Despite this tension, I was able to maintain a relationship with my siblings and still do to this day.

    It has been over four years since I have talked to or seen my father; I moved away with my mother and I am attending university. My sister now understands why I have chosen to leave although she still lives with my father who still demeans her, but she refuses to leave him. My brother doesn't understand me though, he acts like my father and I am sad that he is going down the wrong path. My mother is the most important thing in my life and we have been through everything together, I also have a new sister who I love very much.
    I grew up a witness and victim of gender violence in my household as well as a blatant sexist for a father; someone who believed women belonged in the kitchen and that a man had an obligation to punish. I have been told that I am destined to be abusive myself by various people; that I am like my father on the inside and that I have "run away" from my problems.

    It is something that has shaped who I am today; part of the reason I am where I am, a part of my feminism, and a part of my whole family. Why I try so hard to help those in similar situations, the reason I want to be a good role-model for my baby sister, and the reason I am writing this right now.

    I have encountered many people who believe that domestic violence is something of the past, something that doesn't happen anymore, but I want those people to be aware of reality. I want my story to be a part of that awareness, awareness that leads to action, action that leads to justice for all victims of abuse.

    If you would like to submit a post for 16 Days, please use this handy dandy form. Thank you.  

    03 December 2012

    16 Days Guest Post: Walking a Mile in Her Shoes

    Thanks to JennaMurphy47 from Ontario, Canada for this guest post.  This post is especially poignant coming so soon after the murder of Kasandra Perkins. 

    I could spend days, weeks and even years discussing my outrage about acts of gender violence in my home country of Canada, as well as other countries all over the world, but I would like to talk frankly about an issue that is affecting my community right now.

    I live in a small city in South Western Ontario and we are about to embark on our first annual Walk a Mile in Her Shoes® men’s march to stop rape, sexual assault and gender violence. Over the past few years I have been an active volunteer with my local women’s emergency shelter and when they had discussed launching this event in 2013 I couldn’t have been a stronger advocate.

    My first experience with gender violence in my community was in 2002 when a 21 year-old woman was stabbed to death 58 times by her ex-partner in her parking complex. I was a young, naive 15 year-old girl at the time and while I was saddened by this murder, I was also too young to be aware of the misogynistic undertones of the comments that others were making about it. The murderer was a popular young athlete who had put our unassuming little hamlet “on the map” which led many to defend and make excuses for him. Murmurs around town, to this day, harken back to victim blaming and shaming that was characteristic of our culture decades ago. I have heard respected members of the community blame the victim because she was supposedly “unfaithful”, “an addict” or even that “she hit him too, ya know!” It wasn’t until I began my sociology program in University that I discovered how detrimental these attitudes were to the community and the cause.

    The second experience occurred only two months ago when a woman was murdered by her estranged partner while her two children hid upstairs. This particular tragedy touched me in a very deep way. It caused me to dive in to my volunteer role with more feverous passion than I had ever felt before. This happened to her, to us, to our community and I wasn’t going to let it be another instance of victim blaming. I decided that in order for me to contribute to ending gender violence I would have to go out in to the community and TALK about it. I would talk to anyone and everyone who would listen and was willing to talk with me. Words are power, naming things is power. I wanted to delve deeper than saying in passing, “what a tragedy about that woman and her children.” It WAS a tragedy. It was devastating. Now let’s talk about why it happened and how we can prevent it from happening again.

    It is time that we take hold of community events like Walk a Mile in Her Shoes® to get people talking and get people engaged. Domestic violence and sexual assault are NOT a private problem, they are a public issue. My organizing and recruiting efforts to date have been well received but I want you to open you ears not your wallets. Put yourself in her shoes and change your attitudes, beliefs and behaviors so that we don’t pass on a sexualized, patriarchal, misogynistic view of women and subsequently domestic violence to our future generations.

    If you would like to submit a post for 16 Days, please use this handy dandy form. Thank you.

    27 November 2012

    16 Days: Giving Tuesday

    In the spirit of 16 Days merged with "Giving Tuesday," I present a list of 16 organizations that work on behalf of eliminating violence against women, as well as one handgun control organization, that you where you can give, give, give! Some also have shops, so if you still need a gift....

    If I have missed your favorite, please let me know in the comments.
    * They don't work on VAW issues directly, but many of the women who call requesting assistance are survivors of violence.


    This blog is my personal blog and is not reflective of my employer or what I do for them.
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