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Showing posts with label actions. Show all posts
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18 April 2017

For Academic Success, We Need to #ProtectPE [sponsored post]

This post reflects a compensated editorial partnership with Voices for Healthy Kids, a joint initiative of the American Heart Association and Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

My favorite class was gym or PE. Even though I got As in math & science, gym was still my favorite. I loved being able to run around, hit balls, jump, & just move. Now I know I can thank gym class & recess for my good grades. See, research shows that kids who are physically active, even for just an hour a day, do better in school. For many years my daughter’s school did not have recess and only weekly gym class. That is why I joined the Protect PE campaign as I see all physical activity as part of restoring and maintaining our children’s overall health.

Sadly, when our public schools have their budgets cut, physical exercise – gym and recess - is one of the first things to go. According to the Voices for Healthy Kids, only 4% of elementary schools, 8% of middle schools, and 2% of high schools provide daily PE or its equivalent for the entire school year. And we all know whose budgets get cut first – the schools in communities of color. With those budget cuts come no PE and perhaps after a doubling up on reading and math because these are the same schools that likely score low in those areas. It’s a vicious cycle for children of color. The less PE they get, the less likely they can focus to score well on tests, and then the more likely time sitting at desks in those classes increase. Not to mention, less PE sets our kids up for a more sedentary lifestyle that can lead to an increase in heart disease and diabetes later in life.

This is why it is encouraging that the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) includes PE in its guidelines. ESSA is different from previous federal education laws because it includes PE and health as part of a well-rounded curriculum.

This federal law requires that all states must develop a comprehensive plan to ensure all students receive a fair, equitable, and high-quality education. ALAS! This does not mean that all states must include PE in the plan. That is where we come in. As parents, teachers and community leaders, we can advocate for PE to be included in our state’s plan. We need to advocate to our state leaders that they must not just create a plan of action, but they need to put physical education into the plan and get access to significant federal funding to support PE.

First step is to find out if our kids are getting enough PE. We can do that by joining the PE Action Team. If we find out our kids are not getting enough PE, then start working in your community to increase PE. For resources, please visit http://physicaleducation.voicesforhealthykids.org/

We need to talk to our principals, school boards, fellow parents, and elected officials.

We can do this! This is not about world peace! This is getting our kids the necessary PE they need to be successful students and reach their fullest potential.

So PE on three…ONE…TWO…THREE!!! PE!!!!!!!!

02 January 2015

Help Send "Locked Down, Locked Out" to Women in Prison

Maya Schenwar's book, Locked Down, Locked Out: Why Prison Doesn't Work and How We Can Do Better, has been lauded around feminist and progressive media:

Alice Kim at Truth Out:
Deftly weaving her own personal experiences with her sister’s incarceration alongside the stories of prisoners who she has been writing to over the last eight years, Schenwar illustrates the devastating effects of prisons on those who are incarcerated, their families, and our communities. With her book, she not only offers a searing analysis of the prison industrial complex but also possibilities for creating alternatives to mass incarceration.
Sarah Macaraeg from The Toast:
...Maya’s book, filled with the voices of her incarcerated pen pals—one of whom is Maya’s own beloved sister, Kayla. Woven together with her family’s experience facing the formidable hurdles likewise faced by millions as they try to remain connected to a locked-down loved one, Maya’s analysis of our “prison nation” is that of a system rooted in the dehumanization of people of color, particularly Black people. Her assertion that “prison doesn’t work” does not revolve around wrongful convictions, nor does her challenge that “we can do better” point towards mild reforms. Instead her book demands we wrestle with questions posed by indictments and non-indictments alike. What would truly provide healing and safety for our society?
Eleanor J. Bader at RH Reality Check:
Well-versed in the ins-and-outs of the system, Locked Down, Locked Out offers an accessible, easily readable account of the ways the system dehumanizes prisoners, making reentry into the outside world difficult for many. By merging her sister’s story with a broader, investigative report, Schenwar humanizes those we dub “offenders” and assesses how we, as a society, can do better. Rather than depressing, the book is ultimately an inspiring call to action.
I personally have not read the book yet (you gotta see my to-read-book pile, yikes!), but I know Maya and her work enough to know that this book will be an amazing read, especially to those who are currently incarcerated.That is why I was excited to here that the Chicago Women's Book Project has offered to send out copies of Locked Down, Locked Out to people in prison. This will be a demonstration that people on the outside are thinking about and supporting them.

Here is how you can help send a copy to women who are in prison and want to read this book. Just purchase the book from any online retailer [Powells | IndieBound] and have them ship it to

4511 N. Hermitage Ave.
Chicago, IL 60640

Disclaimer: Purchasing from Powells or IndieBound using the links above benefits Viva la Feminista. Feel free to purchase Maya's book from any retailer of your choosing. 

03 August 2014

5th Annual Latina Week of Action for Reproductive Justice

Monday, August 4 to Sunday, August 10, 2014

The Latina Week of Action for Reproductive Justice is an initiative that elevates Latina leadership, power and activism to transform the cultural narrative via a collective call to action on critical reproductive justice issues facing our community.

Despite what the NYTimes thinks, reproductive justice is not a new term, rather one that comes from women of color organizing beyond the "pro-choice" box to ensure our work is not about one procedure, one action, but rather a holistic view of women's lives and how we make decisions about when, how, and why we become mothers or not.

To mark this week you can:
  • Organize an in-district visit with your elected officials
  • Host a rally, street action, community meeting or cafecito
  • Write a blog (VLF is open for guest posts!)
  • Mobilize using social media using the hashtags: #WOA14 and #RJrevolution
  • Contact Angy@latinainstitute.org to learn more ways to get involved and share what you are doing

25 June 2014

#365FeministSelfie News: "Ohhhh, we're half way there!"

Oh yes, my dears, we're almost half way through #365FeministSelfie! Can you believe it?

To mark the occasion of the half way point on July 1, I wanted to ask everyone to post a half-selfie or maybe a selfie with "your better half." Just play up the half theme...Then a bunch of #365FeministSelfie'ers started asking...

"How can we all get together and take a mega-#365FeministSelfie?"

And of course, this came to mind:
Thus OPERATION ELLEN came into being.

For those of you who want to (no pressure), on July 1st - our half way point - include Ellen in your #365FeministSelfie:
Her show even is looking for people to send in funny photos including baby selfies, selfie fails, and most creative selfies. But know that once you send it in to the Ellen Show, they can use it however they want.
SAMPLE TWEET: #365FeministSelfie is at the half-way point, @TheEllenShow! Let's celebrate at your place! 
Then tag photo on Instagram, post to her Facebook page

Be creative! Remember that Ellen loves to dance (that's where Instagram video, YouTube & Vine can come in!), animals and is apparently vegan(ish). Let's see the vegan #365FeministSelfie'ers light this campaign on fire! Tell Ellen why you want us to get together in her TV studio. Why are you participating? What does it matter that you get to meet another #365FeministSelfie person in the flesh? Hell, there's even a cut-out Ellen head you can take a selfie with!

And spread the word...let other #365FeministSelfie folks know what is going down on July 1st.

If this isn't for you...that's fine. Tackle the half-selfie theme!

If you are in Chicago on July 1st, join me at the MCA for the Frida exhibit. She is our Patron Saint of Feminist Selfies. Comment/Tweet me/Facebook me to let me know you plan to join in the field trip. I am planning on being there at 10 am when the museum opens!

Lastly....Thank you once again to everyone who has been participating. Thanks that you have gotten so much out of this project that you want to get together! Whether you have posted every single day or missed a few, it means so much that you care about this wacky idea. If you fell behind, start again! If you're just hearing about the project, JOIN US!

28 March 2014

Stop Parental Notification Advocacy Day (#StopPNA)

I reported last summer that Illinois now has a parental notification law being enforced and on my sidebar is a link to resources for minors who need a judicial bypass. But we know that a bypass is not the solution for every minor who is need of abortion care. That is why the ACLU of Illinois and the Illinois Caucus for Adolescent Health are heading down to Springfield to call for a repeal of this harmful law.

#STOPPNA Advocacy Day 
Thursday, April 3, 2014
Buses leave Chicago at 6am
Buses then leave Springfield at 3 pm
Register for the day!  

Of course, if you are not in Chicago, get to Springfield anyway you can.

You can join the campaign, even if you can't make it to Springfield (I can't) by submitting your story and/or taking a selfie of your shadow and tagging it with #StopPNA on Instagram or Twitter.

I am asking all #365FeministSelfie participants, especially those in Illinois to submit a shadow selfie on April 3rd. Share your thoughts on the parental notification law in Illinois...or in your state! 25 states require parental CONSENT and 13 require notification. That is not good news for minors who need to handle their medical needs with privacy from their parents or guardians.

31 December 2013

#365FeministSelfie -- Are you in?

2015 UPDATE: This challenge will continue on into 2015. I started something that can't go back into the bottle, so let's do this! Read more at my EOY post. 

When Jezebel posted a ridiculous piece about selfies being a "call for help," I was well aware that the selfie was under attack from other parts to society. A few days ago the amazing Nina Garcia, of Marie Claire & Project Runway, shared an infographic over Twitter about selfies making us more narcissistic. President Obama looked like he got in trouble over a selfie. Selfie is the word of the year. The funeral selfie apparently is the worst we can get. 

But what about positive selfies?

Yesterday I saw a mom and her maybe-5yo-daughter taking a selfie. They were making silly faces and snapping pics. Those were memories being made, moments of love that both will likely remember forever. I take those with Ella for the same reason - we are marking a moment in time.

Then there are the countless pieces that claimed some selfies as feminist - WOC rarely see themselves reflected in media, people over a size 4 are told to hide themselves, transgender persons want to be seen...hell, a lot of people responded to anti-selfie moments by saying, "I do not see myself represented in the media, so I'm making my own!" Also Jamie Nesbitt Golden (@thewayoftheid) and Kate Averett (@convergecollide) started the #feministselfie hash tag that this project builds on.

And if you had told me that I'd be quoting James Franco, I would had laughed, but I am...His NYTimes op-ed on selfies is full of gems:
Attention is power.

Of course, the self-portrait is an easy target for charges of self-involvement, but, in a visual culture, the selfie quickly and easily shows, not tells, how you’re feeling, where you are, what you’re doing.

In our age of social networking, the selfie is the new way to look someone right in the eye and say, “Hello, this is me.”
All of this ruminating on selfies came at not only the end of the year, but my birthday was on the 28th. In 2008 I participated in a 365 project. That was something I needed to; I just didn't know it then. The hardest part of being in the media is dealing with your own image. I use to hate how I sounded, then I did a lot of radio and I listened to it. I hated how I looked on TV, but I did that and felt more comfortable. And the same for photos. After that 365 project, I don't love how I look, but I am far more comfortable saying, "I look good today. I look good in this outfit." This has helped immensely as I have gained a lot of weight during the stress of graduate school.

For 2014, I started a #365FeministSelfie group on Flickr and am inviting you to join. And if you aren't on Flickr, just use the hashtag #365FeministSelfie every day on Twitter, Facebook or Instagram.

So are you in? I hope so.

Edited to add: I am getting feedback that a daily selfie is too overwhelming for many to even imagine, so I am suggesting you go with weeklies. Maybe you'll get hooked and go for dailies! Do what you can, but remember the photos are about the real you. They aren't supposed to be the glam-you (although those are welcomed). I say more below...

Edited to add: Fear. When I mentioned this to one of my besties, she mentioned fear as one reason she's never tried to tackle a 365 challenge. And yes, that's the foundation of this challenge. Conquer that fear of seeing yourself every.single.day. We might look at ourselves to put our contacts in, even make-up on, but taking a selfie and posting it means REALLY looking at yourself. And hopefully at the end (or much sooner!) you will find it less painful and more enjoyable. I don't want to turn us into Paris Hiltons, but rather individuals who don't cringe when we need to take a photo.

Jeni at Joy and Woe is finishing up her own 365 challenge and has a list of tips on how to get through your own. Thanks, Jeni!

Libby at Moments in my Head has some excellent points about posting photos of ones self as an expression of self-love. She asks us why shouldn't we share photos of us as we experience happiness?

I get asked how I do it all...a lot. I hope that sharing photos when I am exhausted and crying will help shatter any myth that I do it all...or at least gracefully.

05 April 2013

"The Ugly Truth" About the Sex Trade

Hollywood has sanitized sex work by romanticizing it, as in "Pretty Woman," to a point that many people will wave off criticism of people who pay for sex by claiming that women "choose" to do it. While the feminist debate over sex work continues, there is no debate that much is wrong with the sex trade. An organization, End Demand Illinois has launched a campaign with these outdoor signs:

"The Ugly Truth" is a multi-media advertising campaign that seeks to raise awareness of the harm inflicted on women who are trafficked or prostituted, while calling the public to clear and measurable action on their behalf. Created through a dialogue with our partners at the Chicago Alliance Against Sexual Exploitation (CAASE), who are currently working to pass critical anti-sexual exploitation legislation in Springfield.

Lynne Johnson, leader of End Demand Illinois and a colleague in the Chicago feminist scene, wrote an eloquent op-ed about ending the policy to charge those in prostitution with a felony:

It’s time to call it off. A 13-year-old experiment of charging prostitution as a felony in Illinois has failed. People in prostitution are being cycled through the criminal justice system without access to the help they really need, and the people causing the harm are going unpunished.

I'm looking forward to seeing all of the signs around the city. And hopefully having some constructive conversations with people who may have never thought of how to address the sex trade in Illinois.

30 December 2012

Time for Blog for Choice Day 2013!

As we take time to reflect on 2012, our wins and challenges, we should also look forward to 2013 and the work we still need to do. One great way is to participate in the 8th annual Blog for Choice Day! And don't forget it's the 40th anniversary of Roe v. Wade!!

It’s our personal stories that change hearts and minds about the importance of always protecting a woman’s right to choose. That’s why this year we’re asking you to share your story about why you’re pro-choice.

Sign up to let us know that you plan to write a blog post on January 22 about why you’re pro-choice. We will also promote your blog through our outreach efforts to our supporters.
  • Tag your posts with "Blog for Choice" to show all your readers that you're joining in.
  • Download a Blog for Choice Day graphic here to let your readers know that you're participating.
If you don't maintain a blog or personal website, you can still participate through Facebook or Twitter. Post the Blog for Choice Day graphic on your Facebook wall. Update your status with your story – it can be only a sentence or two. Tag your tweet with #Tweet4Choice.

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.

24 November 2012

CFP: 16 Days of Activism Against Gender Violence

Yes, it's that time of the year! Time to rally for 16 days of activism against gender violence. Although this year feels like 16 days is hardly enough time to address all the acts of gender violence happening in the USA and around the world.
The 16 Days Campaign begins on International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women (November 25) and ends on International Human Rights Day (December 10), to emphasize that such violence is a human rights violation. This year’s Campaign theme, From Peace in the Home to Peace in the World: Let’s Challenge Militarism and End Violence Against Women!, highlights the role that militarism plays in perpetuating violence against women and girls.

Against the backdrop of several recent mass shootings in the United States, the Campaign will seek in part to illuminate the relationship between domestic violence and small arms. With nearly 700 million small arms in the hands of private actors today, 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. In addition, a 2005 study by the World Health Organization estimates that at least one in every three women globally will be beaten, raped, or otherwise abused during her lifetime. Violence kills and disables as many women between the ages of 15 and 44 as cancer, and its toll on women's health surpasses that of traffic accidents and malaria combined.

“The pervasiveness of small arms and the violence militarism perpetuates in our communities the world over, challenges all of us to think critically about militarism in our everyday lives, governments’ actions undertaken in the name of security, and how we can promote a truly peaceful world,” says Dr. Radhika Balakrishnan, Executive Director of CWGL, global coordinator of the 16 Days Campaign.

The 16 Days Campaign, in its 22nd year, is a testament to the commitment and struggle of women and men worldwide to cast the spotlight on gender-based violence in all its forms and demand that all of society and government bring an end to this human rights violation. Since 1991, the annual 16 Days Campaign has mobilized more than 4,100 organizations in 172 countries to raise awareness about the pervasiveness of the multiple forms of violence women face. From Angola to Japan, the 16 Days Campaign has grown into a powerful platform to educate the public and governments about violence against women and human rights.

The 16 Days of Activism Against Gender Violence is an international campaign from the Center for Women’s Global Leadership at Rutgers University. For more information, visit  http://16dayscwgl.rutgers.edu
Due to the 16 days coming up at the end of the semester and a particularly difficult semester for me, I am turning this announcement into a call for posts!

Call for Posts: 16 Days of Activism Against Gender Violence

Do you have something to say about gender violence in your community? Still furious about the shooting of Malala Yousufzai? Fed up with the killing of our sons by gang violence? If you have something to say, I would love for you to join in on 16 Days at Viva la Feminista this year. I made a nifty submit form to make it easier!

23 November 2012

Blog Carnival: Clean Air and Environmental Justice

Environmental justice is an important issue to many Latino communities. Our communities are often located near smoke stacks, polluted land, undrinkable water, on and on. In Chicago, the Tribune ran a story today about our polluted communities*: 
Federal and state officials have known for more than six years about hazardous levels of brain-damaging lead in a vacant lot near Walsh Elementary School in Chicago's Pilsen neighborhood.

Yet even after field investigators raised alarms about children possibly inhaling or ingesting contaminated soil, the half-acre lot hasn't been fenced off or cleaned up. Nor have government officials posted signs warning residents in the low-income, largely Latino neighborhood that the lot is tainted with toxic lead dust.
How are we expecting our children to grow up strong and learn all they can in school if they can't even breath clean air? If you ponder this question too, why not join in on a blog carnival that is happening?

MomsRising, NAACP, Presente, American Lung Association and Consumers Union invite everyone interested in Clean Air for All to participate in a blog carnival. This online event aims to raise a chorus of voices to elevate clean air as a public health and civil rights issue – among and for all communities – and to get the message to President Obama soon after the election: Make clean air your administration’s priority!

We invite all participants to think broadly, since clean air is connected to everything. Want to write about Hurricane Sandy, climate change and fairness? Go ahead!

Here are some blog post ideas:
• Clean air in communities
• Clean air in schools
• Clean air in playgrounds
• Asthma disparities
• Asthma healthcare and health costs
• Economic impact of pollution on community businesses
• Clean air as a civil rights issue
• Response to Hurricane Sandy in different New York neighborhoods
• Climate change and communities of color
• Obama’s environmental legacy
• Personal stories about asthma, mercury poisoning or other air-related illness, with fairness angle
• Mothers as community organizers for clean air
• The daily burden on parents in protecting their kids from air pollution
• Economic impact of pollution on families
• African-American women, gender and asthma mortality
• Any idea you may come up with related to clean air and environmental justice!

How the Blog Carnival Works

When many voices talk about the same issue at the same time, it helps the issue break through all the “noise” in the information landscape and register in the public consciousness. This blog carnival organizes many voices to talk about clean air and environmental justice at the same time.

We are accepting blog post submissions from now through Monday, November 26, 2012. The blog carnival “goes live” on Thursday, November 29.

All the links to all the contributed pieces will be gathered into one umbrella blog post, with an introduction written by Vernice Miller-Travis, Vice Chair of the Maryland State Commission on Environmental Justice and Sustainable Communities and Co-founder West Harlem Environmental Action. The umbrella blog post will be published across all co-organizer websites.

TWITTER CHAT: Also on November 29, co-organizers will hold a Twitter chat at hashtag #cleanair4kids to further amplify the message of clean air and environmental justice by sharing information and highlighting individual pieces in the blog carnival.

How to Submit a Post

CHOOSE YOUR MEDIUM: For this blog carnival, in addition to text posts, we welcome video, art and photography – whatever your preferred medium – to be displayed in a blog post.

Please email the following to anita@momsrising.org by Monday, 5:00 PM EST, November 26, 2012, copying gloria@momsrising.org:

• Author name and email address
• Author head shot
• Author or organization Twitter handle as appropriate
• Post title
• Post content
• If a text post, if possible, include an accompanying photo or image, with photo or image credit. Photos and images are extremely effective in encouraging people to share blog shared around the Internet.
• We do welcome previously published pieces, but ask that authors include a few new sentences about why they are submitting it for this particular blog carnival. Please include the original blog post URL to receive credit.

The more blog posts, the merrier (and the bigger the impact we’ll have overall). So in addition to submitting your own blog post, if you know anyone else who may like to participate, feel free to share this invitation with them.
If you do not have a blog or think this issue won't fit at your current blog, Viva la Feminista is happy to host your guest post here. Just email me at veronica-dot-arreola-at-gmail-dot-com.

* You have to register to read this story. No fee should be attached.

15 February 2012

Tweet & Rally against attacks on women's health in Illinois

Attention Illinois readers!

Did you know that Illinois Republicans think that women are livestock? That must be the only reason why they continue to submit bills impacting women's health to the Agriculture Committee.

Want to learn more?

Hands Off Women’s Health Twitter Chat

Lorie Chaiten, ACLU of Illinois, Director of Reproductive Rights, is hosting a twitter chat on Thursday, February 16th from 1-2 pm discussing the Health and Human Services Plan B decision, the Mississippi personhood amendment, the Komen/Planned Parenthood controversy, the birth control coverage compromise, the attacks on reproductive health care here in Illinois and everything in between. Please follow the hashtag #HOWH (Hands Off Women’s Health) and join in the discussion.

Women Are Still Not Livestock Rally and Lobby Day

Yet again, extremists are trying to close down access to reproductive health care under the guise of protecting women’s health – by ramming measures though the Agriculture Committee (a noted authority on the subject).

Please join Illinois Reproductive Rights Activists next week on Tuesday the 21st for a rally and lobby day in opposition to treating women like livestock. The t-shirts are will be even more awesome this year, and you will definitely want to get one.

Things will get started at 10:30 am in Springfield, and transportation is available. 
Please RSVP: http://action.aclu.org/cows2012.

Can't wait until next week? TAKE ACTION NOW:

Today, HB 4085, the so-called Ultrasound Opportunity Act, was sent to the Agriculture Committee. It could be heard during their Tuesday, February 21 hearing scheduled for 2:00 p.m.

Like last year’s bill, HB 4085 would require that prior to an abortion, the provider must offer the woman to have and view an ultrasound. The woman’s decision must be recorded in her medical record and reported to the Illinois Department of Public Health. The bill contains some vague and non-medical terminology that would be problematic for physicians who try to comply with its requirements. Unlike last year’s version, HB 4085 has no waiting period between the ultrasound and the abortion.

Write/call you state representative and tell him/her to “vote NO on HB 4085”.
Contact information for House members is available at: http://www.ilga.gov/house/default.asp

Next...pass this on! 

11 February 2012

Occupy the Pews

The past week's brouhaha over religiously affiliated entities having to provide their women employees with birth control was infuriating to watch. I agree with the original stance of the White House that churches and houses of worship are exempt. But religiously affiliated hospitals and universities are different. Especially hospitals.

According to Religion & Ethics Weekly, "Catholic hospitals have become the largest nonprofit health care provider in the US, with over 600 hospitals. This year, one in six patients will be cared for in a Catholic hospital." For those of us living in large cities, we have a choice as to which hospital to use. But families who live in rural America have little, if no choice. I believe that even suburban families are also impacted.

But during the past week's "debate" over birth control, Anthony Picarello, the US Conference of Catholic Bishops general counsel finally revealed to the world their ultimate goal - no birth control. I know, I know, some of us knew this already, but it was great to hear it from their mouths and not just feminists piecing it together from other statements. His desire for even a Taco Bell owner to refuse birth control to employees based is just the ultimate.

This Sunday a letter from Chicago's Cardinal Francis George was to be read. I'm not sure if it still will be, but I suspect there will still be some sort of lecture from the pulpit about the evil of birth control as the Church is not happy with the "accommodation" the White House issued yesterday.

The last time I was at Catholic services, I'm pretty sure it was for a funeral. I grew up Catholic, but my mom made it crystal clear that we didn't go to services because of she didn't agree that "they" could tell her what to do about birth control.

But I am asking feminists who do go to Catholic services, Catholic women who use birth control and go to church on Sundays to stand up to the men in power.

Here's where Occupy the Pews comes in:

1) Go to Church as you normally do (Or if it's been awhile, consider attending)

2) When the offering basket comes around, feel free to still donate to the Church, but include a note with your donation telling the Church that you, a donating and supporting member of the Church uses birth control. Attach your name if you are so bold or not if you want anonymity. Just tell them that the women and men sitting in their pews, loves and respects the Lord, but believes in birth control as well.

3) When the lecture happens walk out. This will tell your priest that you do not agree.

These are simple and respectful ways to protest the Church leaders wanting to tell you what to do with your body. Not only that, as the statistic shows, the Catholic Church through their acquisition of hospitals is increasingly telling families of different faiths what to do with their bodies. How's that religious liberty, eh?

The Church moved pretty darn fast to protest women having access to birth control. Imagine if they moved that fast when dealing with priests who rape and abuse children?

My rule would be if a religious entity is doing religious work, their rules. But once they enter into providing services for the masses (hospitals, health care, adoptions) then they need to abide by secular law. If they don't like it, don't do it. Recently a Catholic adoption agency changed to a Christian adoption agency in order to adhere to an anti-discrimination law and retain its lucrative state contracts. So yeah, a compromise can be lived with.

And when should you Occupy the Pews? EVERY SINGLE SUNDAY that you go to Church. A Twitter friend told me that the last time there was a lecture on abortion, she walked right out. I truly believe this statement should come from those of us raised Catholic and especially from those who still regularly attend services, send children to Catholic schools and are connected to the Church.

As I said, I was raised Catholic, but didn't attend services on a regular basis. But I still have an affinity to parts of the Church. When I was in Mexico, I made it a point to visit the Basilica of Guadalupe. It's the church for the Mexican Virgin Mary. I made it a point because my in-laws asked me to "visit and just take a picture." But I believe in the positive images of the Virgin, especially a brown Virgin. When I walked into the square I was overcome with energy. I believe it was the energy of all of those around me. The love and peace was awesome. Then I walked into the old Basilica, I almost cried. I held onto my goddess necklace in prayer. Then I saw this:

The peace and love was gone. Why do they do this? According to polling done in the USA by the National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health, "a strong majority of Latino registered voters - 74 percent - agrees  that a woman has a right to make her own personal, private decisions about abortion without politicians interfering." A display like this just offends those who believe in a woman's right to decide her own fate. Thankfully the goddess and the Virgin (some would say she's one in the same) restored the peace in my heart, but it wasn't the same.

If you do Occupy the Pews, please report back!

01 July 2011

ACTION: "My Planned Parenthood" Blog Carnival

From: whattamisaid.com:

Please join What Tami Said and Shakesville for “My Planned Parenthood,” a blog carnival devoted to sharing the stories of the women and men helped by Planned Parenthood of Indiana and other Planned Parenthood branches.

Share your personal story of being helped by Planned Parenthood of Indiana or Planned Parenthood in another state. Link your story to why it is important that the organization continue to thrive. We are particularly interested in the stories of Indiana residents, but welcome other bloggers to take part. Planned Parenthood is under attack in states throughout the country, including Kansas, North Carolina and Wisconsin. We need to hear ALL voices.

All posts should be scheduled to publish by 9 a.m. Eastern, Thursday, July 7.


  • Spread the word about this blog carnival through your blog, word of mouth and social media. On Twitter, use hashtag #MyPP. Post the My Planned Parenthood graphic on your blog and link it to this announcement. (See code below.)
  • Email whattamisaid@gmail.com or melissa.mcewan@hotmail.com with your intention to participate. Include the name of your blog and it’s URL.
  • Write your post. We may ask you to include a .jpg carnival graphic with information on how to support Planned Parenthood in your post.
  • Schedule your post to publish by 9 a.m. Eastern, Thursday, July 7. If you can, send a direct link to your post to one of the email addresses above before July 7. What Tami Said and Shakesville will publish the names and links to all participating blogs in a stub post on July 7.
  • Continue to spread the word and direct people to blog carnival posts.

13 June 2011

Trust Texas Women

When people ask me where I am from, I say my dad is from Mexico and my mom was from Texas. Her side of the family have been in Texas so long that they are one of those families where the border crossed them. I even went through a phase where I said I was half Texan. So when I received the press release from the Center for Reproductive Rights about Gov. Rick Perry having zero trust in the women of his state, well, I had to add CRR's campaign, Trust Texas Women, to my "current actions" box in the right side bar.

Click over to read the scoop and sign their petition to show your support for the women of Texas. 


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