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Saturday, November 29, 2008

Haiti: No protection for girls against sexual violence

27 November 2008

(Haiti) The government of Haiti is failing to protect the country’s girls against rape and sexual violence, Amnesty International said today, as it launched a report calling for authorities to recognise the severity of the problem and to fulfil its duty to protect young women.

Fifty five per cent of the 105 rapes reported so far this year were of girls aged under 18. This is according to one of the few organizations which records the number of sexual attacks on women and girls. Last year the same organization recorded 58 per cent of rapes or sexual violence involving girls aged between 19 months and 18 years. Crucially, however, the real scale of the problem is not fully known because of a lack of central figures.

Amnesty International said the police unit in charge of protecting minors, the Minors’ Protection Brigade (Brigade de Protection des Mineurs), is woefully under-staffed. In March 2008, the unit had only 12 officers to cover the entire country with not one vehicle at its disposal. If complaints are investigated, the organization said, the response of the justice system is weak and largely ineffectual.

“Sexual violence against girls, and in particular rape, is pervasive in Haiti and it can no longer be ignored,” said Gerardo Ducos, Amnesty International’s Caribbean Researcher.

“The Haitian government does not fulfil its obligations to protect girls. Given the lack of official help, it is perhaps not surprising that most of those who rape and attack girls are not brought to justice and are able to continue committing these crimes with no fear of punishment. For many girls, surviving sexual violence means keeping silent.”

The organization said that, while widespread reports of groups of armed men raping women started under the military regime between 1991 and 1994, it has now become a common practice among gangs of young men, especially in the run up to Carnival each year.

While Amnesty International recognised the country’s National Plan to Combat Violence Against Women as a step forward, it urged the Haitian authorities to implement it effectively and to fulfil their obligations under regional and international human rights law.

"We recognize that the government faces serious challenges. It is trying to strengthen development, good governance, and the rule of law - none of which could be fully achieved without the protection of girls' and women's rights,” said Gerardo Ducos.

“Leaders must address the lack of confidence in the police and the justice system so girls can rely on them when they’re seeking help and redress. There must also be a coordinated way to collect information across Haiti to measure the nature and extent of violence against girls and women and to make these results public in both official languages. The government must not turn its back on the girls of Haiti."

Amnesty International is highlighting this sexual violence in Haiti as part of its Safe Schools for Girls project within the campaign Stop Violence Against Women. The Safe Schools for Girls project is founded on the belief that the violence that girls face as they pursue their education violates their fundamental human rights. If violence against school girls goes unpunished this sends out a message to other children and society at large that violence against women and girls is acceptable and that suffering violence in silence is the norm.


This report ‘Don’t Turn Your Back on Girls: Sexual violence against girls in Haiti’ is based on research carried out by Amnesty International and interviews carried out during visits to Haiti by Amnesty International researchers in September 2007 and March 2008. Girls’ names have been changed in this report in order to protect their privacy and ensure that their security is not compromised.

Haiti is one of the few countries in the Americas region which doesn’t have specific legal provisions addressing domestic violence.

The report was launched as part of a series of workshops by Amnesty International representatives in Haiti, and as part of a global campaign of actions about women’s rights, around Women Human Rights Defenders Day on 29 November 2008.

The Stop Violence Against Women campaign pushes for the implementation of existing laws that guarantee access to justice and services, calls for new laws to be enacted that will protect women's human rights, demands an end to laws that discriminate against women, and urges the ending of violence against women perpetrated by a state and its agents.The Safe Schools for Girls project recognises that no violence against girls is justifiable and all such violence is preventable.

When girls are denied their right to education, this is often linked to other human rights violations. For example, if girls are denied their right to adequate housing by being forcibly evicted from their homes, they may not be able to attend school. If their right to the highest attainable standard of health is violated, for example if they are denied essential medication, this will adversely affect their educational opportunities. If girls are not protected from physical, psychological and sexual violence, the effect is to undermine their right to education, as well as their right to freedom from violence. Girls who are subjected to violence report that they have difficulty learning, find that their sense of self-worth is diminished, and may drop out of school altogether. Once they leave the formal education system, most will never return.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Fabulously Feminist News

Emily's List Executive Director Named White House Communications Director

11/26/2008 - Ellen Moran, Executive Director of Emily's List since 2005, was named as the next White House Communications Director by President-Elect Barack Obama Saturday. Obama also revealed who will fill other key positions on his communications team. Robert Gibbs, the Obama campaign's communications director, will be Press Secretary and Daniel Pfeiffer, an Obama campaign spokesman and communications director for the transition, will be Deputy Communications Director, according to the New York Times.

Moran's selection is being called a 'surprise' in the media because she is not part of Obama's inner circle and because Emily's List strongly supported Senator Hillary Clinton in the Democratic primary contest.

In a statement, Emily's List President and Founder Ellen R. Malcom said: "We are delighted that Ellen Moran has accepted the position of Communications Director at the White House. I know she will do an excellent job for President-elect Obama, just as she has done for EMILY's List and Democratic women around the country. As Executive Director for the past two election cycles, Ellen has done a phenomenal job. She deserves tremendous credit for leading EMILY's List this election cycle as we elected the second largest group of Democratic women in American history. She has been a stalwart ally and true friend for me and I will miss working with her on a daily basis."


Florida's Gay Adoption Ban Ruled Unconstitutional by Circuit Court

11/26/2008 - A circuit court judge ruled Tuesday that a law banning gay and lesbian people from adopting children in Florida is unconstitutional. Judge Cindy S. Lederman ruled that the law violated the equal protection guarantees of the state constitution as well as the Adoption and Safe Families Act of 1997, a federal law that seeks to ensure the safety and well-being of children in the welfare system and protect children's right to permanency. According to the New York Times the state attorney general's office plans to appeal the decision and the case could reach the Florida Supreme Court.

In her ruling, Judge Lederman wrote: "There is no question, the blanket exclusion of gay applicants defeats Florida's goal of providing dependent children a permanent family through adoption....The best interests of children are not preserved by prohibiting homosexual adoption," according to CNN.

This ruling comes at the heels of a defeat for gay adoption rights advocates in the November elections when a ballot measure that bans unmarried couples from fostering or adopting children was approved by voters in Arkansas. The measure aims to ban gay and lesbian couples from being foster or adoptive parents, but also applies to unmarried heterosexual couples. A similar ban is in place in Utah, where all unmarried couples are barred from adopting or fostering children.

In response to the Florida ruling, Martin Gill, who was represented by the American Civil Liberties Union in the suit said that "Our family just got a lot more to be thankful for this Thanksgiving....We are extremely relieved that the court has recognized that it is wrong to deny our boys the legal protections and security that only come with adoption." Gill and his partner seek to adopt two brothers, ages four and eight, who they have raised since 2004.


International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women

11/25/2008 - Today marks the United Nations' (UN) International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women. According to the
UN, at least one in three women worldwide "has been beaten, coerced into sex, or otherwise abused in her lifetime." The economic costs of domestic violence in the United States alone exceed more than $5.8 million each year.

Ines Alberdi, Executive Director of the United Nations Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM) outlined in her statement today the key measures that the UN seeks to put in place to combat violence against women worldwide: "prompt police response, health and legal services, free of charge, for poor women and girls; shelter and safe options for women surviving or fleeing life-threatening situations; national hotlines available 24-hours a day to report abuse and seek protection; basic front-line services for emergency and immediate care for women and girls who have suffered abuse and rape; and accountable judiciary and national action plans to end discrimination and promote equality." UNIFEM announced yesterday that they will award $19 million in grants for 23 projects in 29 countries that aim to reduce gender-based violence.

Earlier this year, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon launched a campaign during the UN's 52nd Commission on the Status of Women that seeks an to end violence against women through implementing the aforementioned measures. The campaign, called UNite to End Violence against Women, will run until 2015 and calls for the cooperation of the UN, national governments, and society in general to end global violence against women.


New YWCA Survey Indicates Women’s Priorities for the Obama Administration

11/24/2008 - The YWCA released a new survey today entitled: "What Women Want: A National Survey of Priorities and Concerns". According to their press release, the survey (see PDF) interviewed 1,000 women between 18 and 70 years old by phone nationwide.

The findings indicate generational differences between younger women (18-29) and older women, namely that younger women are more concerned than older women about discrimination based on race or religion. Seventy-seven percent of women under 30 name civil rights and racial justice as top priorities for the Obama administration compared to a little over half of the older women surveyed. However, the survey indicated agreement across generations on naming violence against women as another top priority. Close to 75 percent of women want Obama to address violence against women in his first-year in office.

Lorraine Cole, Chief Executive Officer of YWCA USA, explained the generation gap on racial issues to the Associated Press: "Older women have seen more progress and are therefore more optimistic about racial status, race relations and racial justice issues in this country, so that may be part of the explanation." She added, "Young women do not have that firsthand knowledge, but only go on their personal experiences and experiences of women like them."

The YWCA survey, conducted by Princeton Survey Research Associates International, has a +/-4 margin of error.

Brought to you by:

Buy a cow, Change the World

To buy a cow, chickens, bees, etc. for a girl or woman, go to:

Fabulously Feminist Poetry

by Fabulously Feminist

They nicknamed me Barbie
An American icon
I didn't have her perky breasts
I didn't have her dream house
Or a boyfriend named Ken
But what I had
Like Barbie
Was a coy, painted on grin
Vague blue eyes
That never glittered
In approval of anything

They called me Barbie
Because I danced through the world
Hiding behind synthetic blond hair
Created from a bottle of
Clairol Sun Kiss Blond

I was Mattel's version of
Hitler's Aryan dream child
Able to charm the masses

And so I led them
the gentle lambs followed

They called me Barbie
Isn't that who every little girl
Wants to be?
Every girl wanted to be me
Every boy wanted to fuck me
It never occurred to me to mind

In the night
I still hear them calling
In the abstract dream world of
Junior High
I awake with a shudder
For kissing boys too soon
And making the girls aspire to be like me
A Barbie

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Bra for the boys an online bestseller in Japan

TOKYO (Reuters) – Who said bras are only for women? A Japanese online lingerie retailer is selling bras for cross-dressing men and they've quickly become one of its most popular items.

Since launching two weeks ago on Rakuten, a major Japanese web shopping mall, the Wishroom shop has sold over 300 men's bras for 2,800 yen ($30) each. The shop also stocks men's panties, as well as lingerie for women.

"I like this tight feeling. It feels good," Wishroom representative Masayuki Tsuchiya told Reuters as he modeled the bra, which can be worn discreetly under men's clothing.

Wishroom Executive Director Akiko Okunomiya said she was surprised at the number of men who were looking for their inner woman.

"I think more and more men are becoming interested in bras. Since we launched the men's bra, we've been getting feedback from customers saying 'wow, we'd been waiting for this for such a long time'," she said.

But the bra, available in black, pink and white, is not an easy sell for all men.

The underwear has stirred a heated debate online with more than 8,000 people debating the merits of men wearing bras in one night on Mixi, Japan's top social network website.

From Yahoo News

Check this messed-up shit out.....

From the wonderful crew at feministing.com....

The American Family Association has a new DVD out, "They're Coming to Your Town," so you can learn the "strategies used by gay activists" and avoid gay infiltration in YOUR town!

Yes, really.

I love how they show video shots of activists from afar like it's fucking National Geographic. Don't get too close, they're contagious!! This kind of stuff is proof of just how batshit crazy these people are. I really don't know whether to laugh or cry.

It could happen to your town.

Man: They've come out of the closet.

AFA presents a look at how a handful of homosexual activists infiltrated the Eureka Springs, Arkansas government and changed the very moral fiber of the city.

Man 2: They're taking over a place that has been known for its Christianity.

Man 1: They branded us as fundamentalists, as Christian hate bigots -

Man 2: Once homosexual activists get into power, they're not too tolerant toward other people.

Learn the strategies used by gay activists and don't let this happen to your city. This DVD is a must-teaching tool - watch, and learn how to fight a well-organized gay agenda to take over the cities of America, one city at a time.

Man 3: If it hasn't happened in your town, get ready, because it is going to happen.

Show it at home, in Sunday schools, Bible studies and community groups. Purchase your copy, or a 5 pack to share with others today, and spread the news - They're Coming To Your Town.




Love Her or Hate Her Clinton Is Said to Accept Secretary of State Position

From The New York Tiems
Published: November 21, 2008

WASHINGTON — Hillary Rodham Clinton has decided to give up her Senate seat to become secretary of state in the Obama administration, making her the public face to the world for the man who dashed her own hopes for the presidency, confidants of Mrs. Clinton said Friday.

The accord between the two leading figures of the Democratic Party was the culmination of a weeklong drama that riveted the nation’s capital. President-elect Barack Obama and Mrs. Clinton fought perhaps the most polarizing nomination battle in decades, but in recruiting her for his cabinet, Mr. Obama chose to turn a rival into a partner, and she concluded she could have a greater impact by saying yes than by remaining in the Senate.

Her selection is still to be formalized and will not be announced until after Thanksgiving. It would be yet another direction in the unlikely journey of a onetime political spouse in Arkansas who went on to build a political base of her own and become a symbol of achievement to many women.

The role, though a supporting one, would make her one of the most influential players on the international stage, and it would represent at least one more act for one of the nation’s most prominent public families, as former President Bill Clinton would also become an ad hoc member of the Obama team.

The sometimes awkward dance between Mr. Obama and Mrs. Clinton in the eight days since he invited her to Chicago for a meeting culminated in a telephone call on Thursday. Before the call, Mrs. Clinton was skeptical about the prospect of joining the cabinet, said her confidants, who insisted on anonymity to discuss the situation. But Mr. Obama addressed her concerns about access, personnel and other issues, leading her to conclude she should take the job, they said.

“She’s ready,” one of Mrs. Clinton’s confidants said. The first meeting in Chicago “was so general” that she needed to have a better sense of how she would fit into Mr. Obama’s administration, and the call helped her “just getting comfortable” with the idea of working together, the confidant said.

Mr. Obama’s advisers said that although no offer had been formally accepted, her nomination was “on track” and would probably be announced after the holiday. Mrs. Clinton’s Senate office broke a week of silence to acknowledge the talks but cautioned that they had not been made final.

“We’re still in discussions, which are very much on track,” said her spokesman, Philippe Reines. “Any reports beyond that are premature.”

Mr. Obama wants to announce the members of his national security team at once. Advisers said he was weighing whether to make retired Gen. James L. Jones, a former Marine commandant and NATO supreme commander, his national security adviser, installing a formidable counterweight to Mrs. Clinton. The president-elect was still trying to decide whether to keep Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates on an interim basis or install another choice to run the Pentagon right away.

The choice of Mrs. Clinton pleased many in the Democratic establishment who admire her strength and skills, and they praised Mr. Obama for putting the rancor of the campaign behind him. “Senator Clinton is a naturally gifted diplomat and would be an inspired choice if she is chosen by President-elect Obama as secretary of state,” said Warren Christopher, who held that job under her husband.

But it could also disappoint many of Mr. Obama’s supporters, who worked hard to have him elected instead of Mrs. Clinton and saw him as a vehicle for changing Washington. Mr. Obama argued during the primaries that it was time to move beyond the Clinton era and in particular belittled her claims to foreign policy experience as a first lady who circled the globe.

Advisers said Mr. Obama concluded after the election that the problems confronting the nation were so serious that he needed Mrs. Clinton’s stature and capabilities as part of his team, notwithstanding their past differences. The bitterness that inhabited the Obama team for much of the year has faded with time, advisers said.

And many of the aides working on the transition with Mr. Obama are not campaign veterans with scars from the primaries, but rather former Clinton administration officials like Rahm Emanuel, the incoming White House chief of staff, and John D. Podesta, the transition co-chairman, who admire Mrs. Clinton.

For Mrs. Clinton, becoming secretary of state would require her to sacrifice the independence that has come with a Senate seat and the 18 million votes she collected in the primary season. She has found it liberating the last eight years to speak for herself, not as someone’s spouse. But friends said she could still have her voice while subordinating her ambitions to Mr. Obama’s agenda.

“Hillary Clinton will always be seen as her own person,” said Mickey Kantor, a longtime friend who served as commerce secretary in her husband’s administration. “But you know, Hillary Clinton’s a terrific lawyer. She knows how to represent a client, and she’s good at it. And I don’t have any doubt in my mind that she’ll be a team player.”

Mrs. Clinton had to accept that she might never become president, a former aide said. “There’s a very small chance that she could run again,” he said. “You’re not going to be the president, so you want to make sure your next few years, which may be your last in public life, really make a mark.”

Two advisers to Mrs. Clinton said she was concerned about establishing her role in the administration before agreeing to the job. She wanted assurances that she would have direct access to Mr. Obama and not need to go through a national security adviser, they said. And she wanted the authority to pick her own staff at the State Department.

This was particularly important because her relationships with members of Mr. Obama’s foreign policy team fractured during the bruising primary season. Gregory B. Craig, a longtime friend of the Clintons who broke with them to back Mr. Obama and helped savage her foreign policy background during the primaries, was selected as White House counsel and removed from direct involvement with the secretary of state.

Mrs. Clinton wanted to avoid the situation that faced another celebrity chosen as secretary of state, Colin L. Powell, who found hawks like John R. Bolton given top jobs under him after he took the job under President Bush.

“Powell had to take neocons like Bolton, and that just created problems,” said one Clinton adviser. “On the other hand, it would be dreadful if only Clinton loyalists worked at State and Obama loyalists at the N.S.C.,” the National Security Council.

It is also not clear how Mrs. Clinton’s selection would affect the role and influence of Vice President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr., whose expertise in foreign policy was a main reason Mr. Obama chose him for the job.

Another complication was Mr. Clinton, whose extensive business and philanthropic activities around the world could pose conflicts of interest. Lawyers for both sides spent days combing through his finances and crafting guidelines for his future activities.

People close to the vetting said Mr. Clinton turned over the names of all 208,000 donors to his foundation and library and agreed to every condition requested by Mr. Obama’s transition team, including restrictions on his paid speeches and his role at his international foundation. The lawyers agreed to notify all of the donors that their identities would be revealed to the Obama team, but it was not clear if they would all be made public.

Mrs. Clinton would bring a distinctive background to the State Department. As first lady, she traveled the world for eight years, visiting more than 80 countries, not only meeting with foreign leaders but also visiting villages, clinics and other remote areas that rarely get on a president’s itinerary.

While Mrs. Clinton and Mr. Obama agree most of the time on foreign policy, during the campaign she made a point of highlighting their differences, seeking to paint him as unsophisticated. Now those differences will be brought into stark relief as she seeks to become into Mr. Obama’s emissary to the world.

On Iran, for instance, Mrs. Clinton staked a position during the primaries to the right of Mr. Obama. She voted in favor of a measure more hawkish than what even most of the Bush administration had been willing to venture, asking Mr. Bush to declare Iran’s 125,000-member Revolutionary Guard Corps a foreign terrorist organization. Mr. Obama did not show up to vote that day but said that if he had, he would have opposed the bill.

Many Iran experts criticized the bill, saying it was similar to Iran’s declaring the United States military a terrorist organization because it carried out Mr. Bush’s orders. Even some members of the Clinton campaign’s foreign policy team at the time privately disagreed with the vote.

But the bigger fight between Mrs. Clinton and Mr. Obama was over the issue of talking to Iran, which Mrs. Clinton could soon find at the top of her portfolio. When during a debate Mr. Obama termed “ridiculous” the notion of not talking to adversaries, Mrs. Clinton sharply criticized him, calling that position “irresponsible and frankly naïve.”

The difference between Mrs. Clinton and Mr. Obama on the issue is more perception than reality, advisers to both now say. Mr. Obama has said he would have a lower-level envoy do preparatory work for a meeting with Iran’s leaders first, and Mrs. Clinton has said she favors vigorous diplomacy and lower-level contacts as well.

“She’s not against talking to enemies; it was a question of how it’s done,” said Martin Indyk, the former United States ambassador to Israel. “That was the critical issue.”

On Israel, the other chronic foreign policy issue that will bedevil the next secretary of state, Mrs. Clinton would bring baggage as well. She is seen as fiercely loyal to Israel, which can be both a plus and a minus, Middle East experts say.

While her pro-Israel record as a senator from New York might cause her to be viewed with suspicion in the Arab world, it could give her credibility to ask Israel to make tough choices for peace.


Wow. So, I'm still trying to wrap my head around this and how I feel about it. Would love to hear what other people think, so please, comment away.....

S.O.N. and the Struggle

S.O.N. and the struggle
Bob Quellos explains why it's a good time for political hip-hop.

THERE'S A myth perpetuated in pop culture that hip-hop no longer produces relevant social commentary. And ever since Nas rhymed the infamous hyperbole "hip-hop is dead," the never-ending debate about the genre's vitality has exponentially increased.

Hopefully, with the release of The Art of Struggle by Son of Nun and DJ Mentos we can finally put this argument to rest.

Son of Nun (S.O.N.) is a former Baltimore City high school teacher, activist/organizer, cancer survivor, sickle cell battler and one killer emcee. His latest album The Art of Struggle, is only his second release, but calling S.O.N. a burgeoning hip-hop impresario would be an insult.

As S.O.N. will let you know, he's "got this rappin' thing down/It's a synch." And it's possible that after a few listens you'll be in total agreement, as you find yourself making room for S.O.N. on your list of top five favorite emcees.

From beginning to end, The Art of Struggle is thick with revolutionary political content. Check out S.O.N. on the end of "Reality Check" as he rhymes a cappella, "I'm a dark skin Marxist marksman/Sparkin' rebellion everywhere that I'm marchin." Without a doubt, these are some lyrics that are sure to send the entire FOX News posse into a panic attack.

On the first track, "Fire Next Time," S.O.N. begins with a lesson on the history of slavery and the Haitian Revolution. And within a couple of verses, he brings us to the present day, rhyming about a soldier in Iraq who only signed up for the U.S military because of a lack of jobs in his community. And the situation has him ready to revolt. S.O.N. rhymes:

You can call Bechtel on your Nextel

Tell them that their pipeline's about to catch hell

If they think I'm gonna die for them they ain't well

I'm the fire next time

And I'm at their doorbell.

"Pastures of Plenty" puts us into the shoes of an undocumented day laborer. As hard-driving beats by DJ Mentos accompany an orchestral loop, S.O.N. reaches down for a deep vocal tone that leaves the whole track with a gritty feel:

Up and gone at dawn to find work

By the street corner auction block

Where crime lurks

The line jerks, as gringos grind time into dimes

Taking the fruit of the labor, leavin us with the rinds.

Throughout the album, DJ Mentos makes sure your head is bouncing and the crowd dancing, especially on the b-boy tracks "Right On" and "The Reason." At the same time, S.O.N. changes the mood back in forth from serious to sarcastic as he takes on the personality of an emcee who has sold out on "Reality Check" or as he discusses the death penalty in "Litebrite," asking:

Why Christians always gotta to wear the cross

Christ don't want a flashback of how they knocked him off

Number one victim of the death penalty

But you still killin'

Try to call that shit a remedy.


WHEN HIP-HOP meets politics, the result can be confused, cliché or just too overt, but S.O.N. never falls into any of these traps. Instead he takes a confident view that the world is made up of the haves and have-nots and crafts complex rhymes from there. Outside of the occasional hook, the message is never a one-liner.

It's a serious task, but The Art of Struggle seems to cover everything that is politically relevant--from the current state of hip-hop to gay rights. On "Speak On It," S.O.N. breaks down the politics of the U.S. military, Israel's war on Lebanon, Hurricane Katrina and the political execution of Stan "Tookie" Williams. Let's just say S.O.N. isn't your average "conscience" emcee.

And as far as "conscience" emcees, S.O.N. is hardly alone. Over the past few years, Dead Prez, Immortal Technique, EL-P and MIA are among a whole slew of artists who have been putting forward the hardest-hitting beats alongside some of the most relevant social commentary.

Recently, however, even the mainstream of hip-hop has responded to the changing political tide. The Source was once a groundbreaking hip-hop magazine, but has devolved over the years into a checkout aisle glossy that independent emcees (including S.O.N.) have made a sport of lyrically trashing.

But the latest issue of The Source (subtitled "The Politics Issue") is full of relevant political content that takes on the elections, Iraq, life after prison and the right of felons to vote. The letter from the editor even points out that "absent from the agendas of both Senators Barack Obama and John McCain are their plans for those incarcerated--and many of those most affected by the struggle of the hood."

It's seems safe to say that something is going on in that place where hip-hop and politics meet. And if you're still not convinced that hip-hop is alive and well, you should pick up the new album by Son of Nun and DJ Mentos, and just let them walk you through it.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Fabulously Feminist Poetry (don't worry it's not by me)

By Carole Clarke

Brown skinned mother from Jersey City.
Light skinned father from San Juan.
Grew up black, grandmother raised,
and in beauty.
Temper Caribbean.
Purely northeast united states
African wit and cunning.
Tough and genteel.
Hands so delicate and bejewelled.
Lovers always amazed at how
big she could make her fist.

No justice for Alaskan and Native American Women

A Summary of Amnesty International's Findings

Sexual violence against Indigenous women in the USA is widespread -- and especially brutal. According to US government statistics, Native American and Alaska Native women are more than 2.5 times more likely to be raped or sexually assaulted than other women in the USA. Some Indigenous women interviewed by Amnesty International said they didn’t know anyone in their community who had not experienced sexual violence. Though rape is always an act of violence, there is evidence that Indigenous women are more like than other women to suffer additional violence at the hands of their attackers. According to the US Department of Justice, in at least 86 per cent of the reported cases of rape or sexual assault against American Indian and Alaska Native women, survivors report that the perpetrators are non-Native men.

Sexual violence against Indigenous women is the result of a number of factors including a history of widespread and egregious human rights violations against Indigenous peoples in the USA. Indigenous women were raped by settlers and soldiers in many infamous episodes including during the Trail of Tears and the Long Walk. Such attacks were not random or individual; they were tools of conquest and colonization. The underlying attitudes towards Indigenous peoples that supported these human rights violations committed against them continue to be present in society and culture in the USA. They contribute to the present high rates of sexual violence perpetrated against Indigenous women and help to shield their attackers from justice.

Treaties, the US Constitution and federal law affirm a unique political and legal relationship between federally recognized tribal nations and the federal government. There are more than 550 federally recognized American Indian and Alaska Native tribes in the USA. Federally recognized Indian tribes are sovereign under US law, with jurisdiction over their citizens and land and maintaining government to government relationships with each other and with the US federal government. The federal government has a legal responsibility to ensure protection of the rights and wellbeing of Native American and Alaska Native peoples. The federal government has a unique legal relationship to the tribal nations that includes a trust responsibility to assist tribal governments in safeguarding the lives of Indian women.

Tribal law enforcement agencies are chronically under-funded – federal and state governments provide significantly fewer resources for law enforcement on tribal land than are provided for comparable non-Native communities. The lack of appropriate training in all police forces -- federal, state and tribal -- also undermines survivors’ right to justice. Many officers don’t have the skills to ensure a full and accurate crime report. Survivors of sexual violence are not guaranteed access to adequate and timely sexual assault forensic examinations which is caused in part by the federal government’s severe under-funding of the Indian Health Service.

The Federal Government has also undermined the authority of tribal governments to respond to crimes committed on tribal land. Women who come forward to report sexual violence are caught in a jurisdictional maze that federal, state and tribal police often cannot quickly sort out. Three justice systems -- tribal, state and federal -- are potentially involved in responding to sexual violence against Indigenous women. Three main factors determine which of these justice systems has authority to prosecute such crimes:

- whether the victim is a member of a federally recognized tribe or not;

- whether the accused is a member of a federally recognized tribe or not; and

- whether the offence took place on tribal land or not.

The answers to these questions are often not self-evident and there can be significant delays while police, lawyers and courts establish who has jurisdiction over a particular crime. The result can be such confusion and uncertainty that no one intervenes and survivors of sexual violence are denied access to justice.

Tribal prosecutors cannot prosecute crimes committed by non-Native perpetrators. Tribal courts are also prohibited from passing custodial sentences that are in keeping with the seriousness of the crimes of rape or other forms of sexual violence. The maximum prison sentence tribal courts can impose for crimes, including rape, is one year. At the same time, the majority of rape cases on tribal lands that are referred to the federal courts are reportedly never brought to trial.As a consequence Indigenous women are being denied justice. And the perpetrators are going unpunished.

In failing to protect Indigenous women from sexual violence, the USA is violating these women’s human rights. Indigenous women’s organizations and tribal authorities have brought forward concrete proposals to help stop sexual violence against Indigenous women – but the federal government has failed to act.

Amnesty International is calling on the US government to take the first steps to end sexual violence against American Indian and Alaska Native women:

- Work in collaboration with American Indian and Alaska Native women to obtain a clear and accurate understanding about the prevalence and nature of sexual violence against Indigenous women;

- Ensure that American Indian and Alaska Native women have access to adequate and timely sexual assault forensic examinations without charge to the survivor.

- Provide resources to Indian tribes for additional criminal justice and victim services to respond to crimes of sexual violence against Native American and Alaska Native women.

Find out about the Maze of Injustice one year later. Read Maze of Injustice: One Year Update (PDF) (Spring 2008)

eHarmony settles lawsuit by launching same-sex matching service

From our friends as feministing.com....

Oh eHarmony, you shouldn't have! Actually, you wouldn't have if your asses weren't brought to court for discrimination.

While this should be considered a victory, it still pisses me off to no end. After the New Jersey Attorney General's Division on Civil Rights (DCR) brought eHarmony to court for their discriminatory policy that doesn't match same-sex couples on the site (not surprisingly, the online dating service has ties to Focus on the Family), eHarmony settled by agreeing to launch a same-sex matching service, Compatible Partners in 2009. eHarmony attorney Theodore B. Olson said:

"Even though we believed that the complaint resulted from an unfair characterization of our business, we ultimately decided it was best to settle this case with the Attorney General since litigation outcomes can be unpredictable. eHarmony looks forward to moving beyond this legal dispute, which has been a burden for the company, and continuing to advance its business model of serving individuals by helping them find successful, long-term relationships."

A day after the New Jersey settlement, a woman in California was ok'ed to file a class action lawsuit against the company.

Salon's Rebecca Traister conducted an interview with Christian evangelical founder Neil Clark Warren a while back where she asked him why he wouldn't include same-sex marriages in eHarmony. He first claimed there wasn't adequate research on how to match same-sex couples, then got into rhetoric about the Bible, yet followed that with a story about his best friend's daughter being gay, where he concludes: "She's a dear person to us, and a very strong spiritual person . . . And when I start seeing things like that, I think we've got to start to think about that maybe this can work."

Apparently not; this interview was three years ago. So three years and a lawsuit later, yay for eHarmony?! What also irks me is that they're creating a new site rather than integrating same-sex matches into eHarmony.com. Obviously having an online dating service just for same-sex matches is not a bad thing, but I don't doubt eHarmony decided to go through the trouble of building a whole new site rather than integration to avoid the infection o' sins of their beloved hetero online service.

With all that being said, would you use Compatible Partners once it launches?

Fabulously Feminist News

California Supreme Court Will Hear Arguments on Proposition 8

California's Supreme Court said Wednesday that it will consider the constitutionality of Proposition 8, which eliminated same sex marriage in the state earlier this month. The proposition, which passed 52 percent to 48, overturned a May ruling of the state Supreme Court that legalized same sex marriage.

According to the New York Times, the Supreme Court will also consider the legality of the nearly 18,000 same sex marriages that were performed in California before Proposition 8 was approved by 52 percent of voters. The Court will also consider the question of whether same sex couples have been denied equal protection under California's state constitution. According to the Los Angeles Times, lawyers representing gay rights will continue to argue that the proposition denies protection to a minority group that has historically been discrimination against.

Until there is a final ruling, same sex marriage ceremonies will be unable to resume. Shannon Price Miller, a litigator in the case and a lawyer for the National Center for Lesbian Rights, told the Los Angeles Times that "we are concerned that there may be some couples who will never be able to marry because of this." The Court does not plan to hear oral arguments until March.


Annual Transgender Day of Remembrance Honors Those Lost to Violence

Today (November 20) is the tenth annual Transgender Day of Remembrance, which honors those of the transgender community lost to violence. Several recent incidents of violence against transgender individuals makes the day more poignant.

Yesterday, a former Memphis police office pleaded not guilty in the beating of a transwoman, Duanna Johnson, according to the Associated Press. The beating, which took place at a local Memphis jail, was caught on tape by a surveillance camera. At the beginning of this month Johnson was shot and killed in Memphis by an unknown assailant.

Friday night, Lateisha Green was shot and killed outside a house party in Syracuse, according to Edge Boston. Though an investigation is underway, Transgender Legal Defense and Education Fund Executive Director Michael Silverman told Edge Providence that "Lateisha's senseless death demonstrates the increased risk of violence transgender people face."

According to Edge Boston, at least 15 people have been murdered in transgender related hate crimes this year.


ACLU Questions Limitations on Reproductive Services for Undocumented Teens

The American Civil Liberties Union requested documents from the federal government Monday on current US policy that limits teenage refugees' access to reproductive care. According to the Richmond Times Dispatch, the Administration for Children and Families (ACF) initiated a policy earlier this year that limits reproductive health services for undocumented teenagers, including access to contraceptives and abortion. This policy was implemented following a Virginia case in which employees of Commonwealth Catholic Charities assisted an undocumented 16-year-old who procured an abortion in January of this year.

According to an ACLU press release, an injunction requesting government documents on the issue was filed in a US District Court of New York.

Brigitte Amiri, an ACLU Reproductive Freedom Project staff attorney, said: "many unaccompanied teenagers come into the U.S. fleeing abuse and torture in their home countries. Some have been sexually abused or assaulted, or forced into prostitution. As a matter of law, the U.S. cannot deny reproductive health care to these teenagers, and as a matter of compassion, the U.S. should do everything it can to ensure the health, safety and well-being of these teens that have no one else to turn to."

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Thursday, November 20, 2008

A Message From The Feminist Majority Foundation:

Dear feminist,

Help us gather thousands of feminist voices now to demand that Proposition 8 in California not be enforced. Act now by signing this Feminist Petition for Love and Equality and forwarding it to friends and family. We don’t have a moment to lose.

The California Supreme Court has just agreed to hear the cases challenging the constitutionality of Prop 8. However, the court has said the gay marriage ban can be enforced in the mean time. Urge California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger and Attorney General Jerry Brown to delay the enforcement of this mean-spirited and discriminatory proposition that will hurt loving couples. Sign the petition now!

We worked hard to defeat Prop 8 in California, mobilizing record numbers of voters across the state. But on November 4, Prop 8 passed by a narrow margin, taking away the right of same-sex couples to marry. We will not accept this blatant discrimination.

Sign our Love and Equality Petition now and forward this message to your friends and family and urge them to also sign. We will deliver your signatures to the Governor and Attorney General.

We will not stop fighting until Prop 8 is overturned. All people should be able to marry who they love. Help us stop the enforcement of Prop 8 - sign the Feminist Petition for Love and Equality.We feminists will not quit until all people are equal under the law.

For equality,

Eleanor Smeal


P.S. Please sign our Love and Equity Petition today and forward it on to your friends and family. We have very little time before the California Supreme Court might act.

The New First Family

The myth of the nuclear family
By Mark Steal

ONE OF the strange twists about modern science is that it sometimes gets used by the utterly irrational, who claim they've found scientific proof to back up their bonkers theories.

So you get creationists who announce that they've found geological evidence for the great flood, or some fundamentalist Christian will reveal that "new studies of whales suggest they have a larger stomach than we thought, so there was ample room for Jonah to live in one quite comfortably, perhaps creating a kitchen area near the intestine, and he could even have arranged a spare bedroom for guests by knocking through into the liver to create more space."

The latest discovery seems more convincing, because a Stone Age grave has been discovered in which a genetically linked family is placed together, so they've become known as "the first nuclear family." And one newspaper says, "This suggests family values have been thriving since before the time of Stonehenge."

So that settles it. The traditional family is so natural they were doing it in the Stone Age. The skeptical might wonder how we know this grave contains the whole family, as there could have been loads more of them who all lived together communally, but are buried somewhere else. And then it turns out that there is another body buried there that isn't genetically linked, but the discoverer, Wolfgang Haak, explains this was "probably an aunt or a stepmother." Yes, that must be it.

Or it might have been the friendly neighbor from the nuclear family in the hut next door, who'd popped round to borrow a piece of flint because he was putting up shelves. And the two men were probably discussing that week's Top Gear, which featured a new type of wheel you could push from nought to eight miles per hour in nine seconds because it was made of fuel-injection rock, while the women flicked through a catalogue for sabre-toothed tigerskin coats. And if they discover the bones of a rabbit somewhere nearby, that will probably have been the family pet, who was probably called Mister Munchkins.

Even better, the buried people appear to have all been killed in a neolithic raid. So this was probably done by some rival permissive liberal tribe full of single parents and transvestites complaining, "I'm an Iron Age man trapped in a Stone Age body," in which all order had broken down, as will probably be proved soon when a cave painting is discovered showing loads of them on the Jeremy Kyle show above captions such as "My stepfather keeps leering at my mammoth," and so they all went on the rampage.


NO MATTER how far society moves from the "traditional" family, we still seem determined to impose it on all history. I went to the Viking museum in York a while ago, in which there were models of a supposedly typical Viking family, in which Viking dad was working while Viking mum was making dinner in a pot and the Viking kids played with a Viking dog and cat. They should have had a commentary, with the dad saying "Hello darling, I've had such a hard day at the pillaging office, that darned South-West division missed their target yet again, they've barely massacred more than three villages since the new tax year."

This might have pleased campaigners for the "traditional" family, such as Melanie Phillips, who complains that the current methods for teaching in schools "destroys the unique place of marriage in our society" by "teaching that families include single parents and children in local authority care." So to maintain our values, we should not only disapprove of such people, but deny they exist.

A glance through history suggests there's nothing natural about the "traditional" family, and societies have found countless different ways of organizing themselves. In hunter-gatherer societies, it appears that tribes lived and mated communally, as they depended on a communal effort to hunt and gather collectively. If Jeremy Kyle had been around, then he'd have interviewed the monogamous, glaring at a hunter while sat on his haunches and scowling, "So--you only have sex with one other person, do you? No one else in the tribe good enough for you, is that it? You make me sick."

The modern family as we know it arose quite recently, as a product of towns and cities. But even then, the "traditional family values" weren't always as we'd understand them. In ancient Greece and Rome, for example, it was deemed healthy and proper for male citizens to have male sex slaves, and anyone objecting would have told they were arguing "against nature."

So come on Melanie Phillips, sign up to be a sex slave, and you'll be true to your word in upholding traditional family values.

First published in the Independent.

Mark Steel is a comedian, a columnist for the Independent newspaper, and a socialist and activist in Britain. He's the author of two collections about contemporary Britain, It's Not a Runner Bean: Dispatches from a Slightly Successful Comedian and Reasons to Be Cheerful--as well as Vive la Revolution: A Stand-up History of the French Revolution.

Another Dig to 'W'.....

Obama Pictures and McCain Pictures
see Sarah Palin pictures

Read this Anthology

By Fabulously Feminist

Upon reading the table of contents of Feminist Theory Reader: Local and Global Perspectives, edited by Carol R. McCann and Seung-Kyung Kim, I first noticed many familiar names and concepts. More importantly however, it was the names and concepts that were unfamiliar which revealed one of the book’s main priorities to me. This priority was to give a voice to women marginalized by the dominant normative white, educated, middle class, Western woman’s voice that tends to be heard. However, the editors of Feminist Theory Reader did seem to make the assumption that the reader holds some basic knowledge of feminism to frame their understanding of the essays. Nonetheless, my expectations for this book are high. Having studied Radical feminism, Ecofeminism, Marxist feminism, Phenomenological feminism, etc. and having read some of the works of bell hooks, Audre Lorde, and Judith Butler, I was/am expecting to build on my current knowledge base and learn more about unfamiliar perspectives while trying to better define and critically examine where my feminist beliefs lie.

Shifting from my impressions to examining the overall project of the Feminist Theory Reader, the first thing that struck me was that this book is an edited collection rather than an anthology penned by one or more authors. The significance of this can be witnessed through a broader perspective being offered where an author’s explicit and implicit biases are lessened. Additionally, as an edited collection the Feminist Theory Reader is significant in that it invites the reader to think more critically by showing them different ideas rather than simply telling them “this is how it is, this is what you must know”. By looking at the broader perspective being offered in this book and by the stress on critical thinking, one begins to get a sense of why this book was written.

In 2003, after roughly seven years of personal and professional collaboration, Carole R. McCann and Seung-Kyung Kim’s anthology was published (McCann and Kim ix). With the rise of globalization in the 90s, McCann and Kim wanted to change with the times (implicit goal) and bring a more global perspective to feminism inside and outside of the classroom. However, their efforts were hampered because they could not find a good anthology on feminist theory that ventured outside of the perspective of Western feminists. As a result of this, they decided to create their own reader which would be an intellectual tool used to look at multiracial feminist’s “conversations and debates” within the United States and place them in a global context (McCann and Kim 2).

Through this book, Carole R. McCann and Seung-Kyung Kim were implicitly trying to dispel the myth of the universal oppression, i.e. that all women experience oppression the same. Instead they structured the Feminist Theory Reader to meet the needs of women’s whose voices weren’t being heard by presenting essays in a political context that reveal the interlocking oppressions (class, ethnicity, race, religion, sexuality, geographic locations, etc.), and the shifting and multiple sites of feminist identity. In addition to this, throughout the three sections of this book, McCann and Kim presented a balance of old and new writing and in doing so did not completely remove the voice of the normative white, educated, middle class, Western woman; nor did it relegate chapters simply on the basis of identity, i.e. by having one chapter that deals with global feminism, one chapter that with African American women in the United States and so forth. All of these aspects, plus McCann and Kim’s infusion throughout the book of the theoretical concepts of gender, difference, women’s experience, and the personal as political shows the great degree to which they “attempted to disrupt the normative feminist subject by situating her within conversations that include many voices inside and outside the United States and that analyze in the context of race, nationality, class and sexuality” (McCann and Kim 5).

Moscow Woman Uses Blog to Advocate for Pregnant and Incarcerated Friend

From our friends at feministing.com:

As if we needed more proof that blogs and female friendships are both incredible forces of social change, check this out.

Russian lawyer, Svetlana Bakhmina, 39, has been in prison for over three years for tax evasion and embezzlement. Human rights advocates in and outside of Russia have argued, from the get go, that Bakhmina was basically a scapegoat for the real target of the investigation: crooked bazillionaire Dmitri Gololobov.

In any case, Bakhima became pregnant with her third child (she already has a 7 year old and an 11 year old) on a furlough and now the prison camp in Mordovia is refusing to entertain her plea for early release.

Outraged by this, Bakhima's middle school friend, Olga Kalashnikova, wrote a letter on her blog and later to the president about how outraged she was that her dear friend was forced to stay in prison on false charges while pregnant.

An excerpt:

Respected Dmitri Anatolevich. I know that the courts in our country are independent. But I am certain that with your will it is fully possible to return a mother to her children. Whether she is guilty or not -- that's not important now. In any case, she has been punished more than enough. And she has already served as an example. But, it is her children who have been punished first of all. Both the two boys who are living without her for the fourth year, and that child that has yet to be born.

The blog evolved into a
full blown petition campaign and now over 80,000 have signed for Bakhima's release.

What has your middle school bestie done for you lately?

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Another Gem by Our Freind Mr. Billet....

Music They Can't Drive Out
By Alexander Billet

Heading into Humboldt Park last night, it was hard not to notice the specter of gentrification looming over the neighborhood like a bad vibe. Real estate signs can clearly be seen seeping into the edges of this working class, heavily Black and Puerto Rican neighborhood. The only signs more prevalent than these are the ones that proudly protest "Humboldt Park: Not for Sale!"

There is a lot for Humboldt to be proud of. While the diversity of so many neighborhoods has been wiped out by developers and replaced with Starbucks and lily-white, Humboldt has managed to stick by its roots. A massive Puerto Rican flag over Division Street greets you as you pass the park itself. Right down the street is Adalberto Methodist Church, where Elvira Arellano sought refuge from immigration officials as she fought her deportation. Working class artists and musicians, bohemians and activists have all found a niche in this area of town.

The reason I came into Humboldt was to attend a fundraiser at a local community center, El Batey Urbano. My friend Son of Nun was in town, and was guesting at this fundraiser with two groups from the east coast that I had never encountered. I say now that I am very glad I went.

The two groups SON was performing with were Broadcast Live, and Taina Asili y la Banda Rebelde. Both are radical, musically eclectic, and brought an energy to that small community space that lit up the place! Those who doubt the power of music to inspire and organize would do well to hear the work of these two groups.

Broadcast Live's sound is rather hard to pin down, but that's only because it takes the best of so many different styles and make them all their own. Lyricist Victorio spits with confidence and utter devotion as the rest of the group delivers a hard-edged blend of hip-hop driven indie rock. Much more than sheer power, though, the group often takes a step back to settle into a slow, simple-yet-intricate soundscape and contemplate on the inner struggle of living in a world that clearly doesn't want you to exist. In Humboldt, this resonates. By the time they launch into "Boomerang Metropolis," the audience is on their feet, and there isn't a soul in the place who doesn't identify with the refrain of "motherfucker, get off my block!"

If Broadcast Live were a tidal wave of resistance, then Taina Asili y la Banda Rebelde were a hurricane, swirling and weaving rather than blasting open, while not losing one bit of resolve or strength. Like Broadcast Live, their sound is hard to pin, drawing on jazz, reggae, hip-hop, and the incendiary energy of Nuevo Cancion and throwing them into a solid folk-rock. Though the group as a unit wouldn't work if any one member were missing, front-woman Asili is undoubtedly the focus, bringing a proud defiance to her work. Equal parts Lauryn Hill, Ani DiFranco and Lila Downs, the group's songs embodied the kind of power that only ordinary people have when they are able to raise their voices.

If Mayor Daley walked into El Batey last night, he would have had no clue what was going on.

Though the crowd was small last night, it was still undeniable that we were watching artistic power from the bottom up. This is the kind of vibrance and solidarity that all-too-many city councils have forgotten about (if they ever recognized it in the first place). More people need to hear these kinds of groups, if only so they can remind us what we're fighting for.

Alexander Biller is a music journalist, writer and activist living in Chicago. Regular contributor to Znet, Dissident Voice and SleptOn.com. Appears in the recently published "At Issue: Should Music Lyrics Be Censored For Violence and Exploitation," from Greenhaven Press. Check out his blog Rebel Frequencies

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Dave Zirin on MSNBC's Morning Joe!!

Pardon the nepotism...My friend and fellow activist from my Washington DC days appeared on MSNBC. Dave Z is the author of the books A People's History of Sports, Welcome to the Terrordome, and What's My Name Fool. He also writes for The Nation and The Edge of Sports. In this interview, he is talking about the recession's effects on the sports industry. For you sports fans, this is a must watch.....

Jessica Valenti to Interview Marilyn French

From Feministing.com.........

Hey NYC folks! I'm going to be interviewing Marilyn French tomorrow at the Tenement Museum about her new book. Info is below; hope to see you there!

Tenement Talks presents...
Wednesday, November 19 at 6:30 PMFrom Eve to Dawn: A History of Women in the WorldA Conversation with Marilyn French and Jessica Valenti

Tenement Museum
Shop108 Orchard Street (Delancey)
Free - seating is first come, first serve

Fabulously Feminist News

The Dangerous Masquerade of “Crisis Pregnancy Centers”

These fake medical centers try to fool college students in order to spread an anti-abortion message.

A new study just released by the Feminist Majority Foundation (FMF) reveals nearly half of college health centers refer students seeking reproductive health care to so-called "crisis pregnancy" or "pregnancy resource" centers. These centers pose as comprehensive health clinics, luring women in with promises of "free" pregnancy tests and "options" counseling for unintended pregnancies.

In reality, many of these centers attempt to coerce and intimidate women out of considering abortion as an option, and prevent women from receiving neutral and comprehensive medical advice. They are typically run by anti-abortion volunteers who are not licensed medical professionals. Crisis pregnancy centers also often spread false information, such as the disproved and discredited claims that abortions increase the risk of breast cancer and frequently cause mental trauma.

Of the 398 campus health centers at four-year colleges that responded to FMF's national survey – accounting for 34 percent of the total student population in the country attending four-year schools – 48 percent routinely refer women who might be pregnant to crisis pregnancy centers. "So-called crisis pregnancy centers are targeting young women by advertising in student newspapers and on billboards located on and near campuses. And most recently, these centers have started advertising on social networking sites popular with college students," says FMF's Nikki Border. "They urge campus health centers to include crisis pregnancy centers in student referral lists.""

Any attempt to delay care and try and scare a woman into keeping an unwanted pregnancy only serves to put her at higher risk—especially if she has an ectopic pregnancy," says Beth Jordan, M.D., a women's health specialist and medical director of the FMF.

The Feminist Majority Foundation's CHOICES Program helps student reproductive health activists launch campaigns on their campuses to warn students about these fake clinics.


ACLU Questions Segregation in Mobile, Alabama School

The American Civil Liberties Union and the ACLU of Alabama sent a letter last week to the Mobile County School System, the largest school system in Alabama, warning that mandatory sex segregation policies are illegal. Hankins Middle School, one of the system's schools, was segregated by sex for the 2008-2009 school year and currently has no co-educational options. This move was allegedly made without notifying students’ parents and goes so far as to prohibit students from interacting socially with those of another sex, according to the ACLU.

The letter (see PDF) states that the segregation reported to the ACLU by parents of students at Hankins Middle School "appears to violate Title IX and its implementing regulations, the Equal Educational Opportunities Act (EEOA), and the Constitution."

According to Allison Neal, ACLU Alabama staff attorney, "mandatory sex segregation in public schools is not only clearly against the law, it's also an empty promise for failing schools…Inevitably these experimental programs deny equal opportunity to girls and boys and distract much needed time and money from efforts that we know work like smaller classes, highly trained teachers, sufficient funding and involved parents."


Professional Japanese Baseball League Drafts First Woman Player

Sixteen-year-old pitcher Eri Yoshida became the first woman to be drafted by a professional Japanese baseball league this week. Negotiations are still being made, but Yoshida could become the first woman to share the field with professional male players, breaking a huge barrier for female athletes.

According to
Fox News, Yoshida, who began playing baseball in second grade, said in a news conference, "I want to pitch against men." Known for her knuckleball, Yoshida pitched to eight batters in her November tryouts without giving up one hit.

It was only about 10 years ago that Japanese women were allowed to join little league teams other than softball. Yoshida's recruitment has been met with skepticism, but opens a new door for aspiring women professional athletes.

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The Art of Struggle Tour Coming to Chicago!!

Free. Will. Power.

On November 13, NARAL Pro-Choice America Foundation announced that it is launching free.will.power, an innovative video-based online initiative designed to reach younger activists and recruit a new generation of young women and men into the pro-choice movement.

The web site, http://www.myfreewillpower.com/, will feature videos as well as other technology-based interactive ways for new activists to get involved with NARAL Pro-Choice America's work, whether it's taking action on a choice-related issue, forwarding videos to friends, joining our social-networking groups, or participating in contests to promote the pro-choice message.

"In the 2008 presidential election, we witnessed how the power of technology and the enthusiasm of young voters revolutionized the political process," said Nancy Keenan, president of NARAL Pro-Choice America Foundation. "This generation of youth is the most diverse and engaged generation in our country's history. free.will.power represents one way to engage this new generation of activists and connect them with the pro-choice cause."

NARAL Pro-Choice America Foundation enlisted the creative minds of three young spoken-word artists – Shira Erlichman, Alvin Lau, and Deja Taylor – as well as renowned musician, DJ Spooky, to produce three online viral videos that feature compelling words, visuals, and sound.

The free.will.power initiative represents NARAL Pro-Choice America's ongoing efforts to incorporate technology into its work. Other programs include BlogforChoice, Twitter, MySpace, Txt4Choice, and Facebook – all online tools and communities activated to engage and support pro-choice activists and causes.

Getting the Digs in While I Still Can......

Sunday, November 16, 2008

White Privilege

By Fabulously Feminist

While reading bell hooks’ “Black and Female: Reflections on Graduate School”, I discovered that I needed to add another bullet point to my list of what white privilege has afforded me. More specifically, reading hooks’ narrative made me aware that I am a benefactor of institutional bias found in academia. Upon reflecting on my undergraduate experience and contrasting it with the experiences bell hooks laid out in her narrative, I was made conscious of hardships that I did not have to endure because I was white. The following response paper provides a brief account of the painful self-discoveries I made.

To begin, many colleges and universities boast about the racial diversity of their student body and my alma mater Marquette University was no exception. However, in reality, there was little racial diversity. Walking to and from classes the quad was a sea of white and it didn’t get any more diverse in my Writing Intensive English and Women’s Studies programs. At the time I did take notice of this but, looking back on it, I was viewing it through a white lens and didn’t really conceptualize that the experiences of minorities at Marquette might be profoundly different from mine. It wasn’t until I read and reflected on “Black and Female: Reflections on Graduate School”, that I fully began to grasp this. For example, on campus and within my majors I could easily find a peer or peer group similar to my background—white, female, working class. In addition to this, hooks points out that African American students have the added anxiety that their “performance will have future implications for all black students”. My performance did not have future implications for all white students. This is what my white privilege has afforded me.

Another revelation of the reflection on my undergraduate experiences revolves around faculty. In her narrative hooks recalls “that in all my years of studying in English departments, I had never been taught by a black woman”. Unfortunately, this is my experience as well. I am sad to say that I never truly recognized that I never had any African American women professors until reading hooks’ piece. In fact, throughout my undergraduate career I only had one African American professor. This professor was a man and the only course he taught at Marquette was African American Philosophy. Again in this case, my perspective was seen through the white lens. I was excited that I had access to women professors to whom I identified with and that said professors became mentors to me. I didn’t even think that some of my fellow students would not have access to professors that they identified with or that they might have missed out on a supportive mentor experience due to lack of diversity among the faculty. This is what my white privilege has afforded me.

Lastly, and perhaps most difficult to write about, I have never had to deal with racism explicitly or implicitly from a professor. I was appalled when I read bell hooks’ account of her professors’ indirect racism. In my undergraduate years no professor ever “forgot” to call my name when taking roll, never avoided looking at me, never pretended to not hear me speak, and never demoralized me so badly that I had to take a break from school. These are the things I took for granted. This is what my white privilege has afforded me.

To close, before I began this reflection of the white privilege I experienced during my undergraduate years, I was fully aware of the fact that Marquette University, similar to other universities, had an institutional bias towards women. However, in wasn’t until delving into my current graduate coursework at Roosevelt University that I began to broaden my perspective and subsequently became fully conscious of the institutional bias in academia towards minorities. I now know that I was seeing gender and race through the normative white lens and this response paper, though it has been painful and made me feel ignorant, has been an essential in raising my awareness of the fact. Exercises like this and the discoveries and awareness’s that arise as a result, are exactly the reason in why I am pursuing a MA in Women’s and Gender Studies.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Collisions Ahead

Another fine piece by my freind Alexander Billet

If there's one word that can sum up what happened last Tuesday, it would have to be "catharsis." The election of Barack Obama set off a mass of spontaneous celebrations; dancing in the street from Harlem to the Castro. It's not hard to see why. After eight years of Bush, to see the Republican agenda roundly routed and replaced with the first Black president in the nation's history is truly a thing to behold. And though an Obama administration is going to be significantly limited by his corporate backers and Clinton-oid cabinet, right now people--especially young people--feel empowered.

If the vast majority of youth were energized by the prospect of an Obama victory, then it's no wonder why the same was true for some of music's most dynamic acts. There were, of course, the perennials like Pearl Jam and the Beastie Boys. But what stood out were the artists whose acclaim has only arrived in recent years.

Artists as disparate as the Arcade Fire, Common, Vampire Weekend and Santogold threw a considerable amount of weight behind the Obama camp. Looking back it seems impossible to even list all the artists who took the opportunity to lend their voices. Compare this to the fact that John McCain couldn't even get Abba on his side, and you start to get the picture of how much things have swung.

Of course, musicians endorsing candidates is nothing new. Readers may remember the failed "Vote For Change" tour of 2004, where musicians rallied around the simple and rather uninspiring mantra of Anybody But Bush.

What is striking to this writer, however, is how many of the artists backing Obama this time around want a lot more than just a new face in the White House. A recent issue of the indie-music magazine Under the Radar produced especially for the election carried a photo-spread of of artists holding up self-made placards with demands like "End This War Now!" (Sharon Jones) or "Subsidize Wind and Solar Energy," (the Decembrists), outrageous facts like "96% of musicians lack healthcare" (the Dresden Dolls), or simple sentiments like "I Want to Live in Woodrow Guthrie's America" (Akron/Family).

It's this kind of--dare I say--hope that stands in glaring contrast to 2004. The excitement for palpable change, and the feeling that we can play a role in it, are palpable. This election has seen even the most apolitical artists raise insightful ideas about the shape of politics itself. "It might be that this just isn't a good system anymore," says Modest Mouse frontman Isaac Brock, "The one president might not be the answer to the whole thing. We might need to redraw this... We're voting for the fucking class president, but we're not actually voting for the principal."

Hip-hop in particular found itself a lodestone in these elections. When one thinks of the slings and arrows that the genre has endured over the past several years then it's easy to get an idea of how big of a deal this really is. Industry big-wigs like Jay-Z and Russell Simmons were predictably over the moon about the candidate, but the truly impressive voices came from the likes of Outkast, the Roots, Joe Budden, Nas, T.I., Akon and countless other MCs and artists.

Given the treacherous waters that MCs have had to navigate in recent years--from Imus to Sean Bell--it's no wonder that the Obama campaign became a rallying point for the anger and fears, hopes and dreams that hip-hop has always conveyed. This kind of fervor was so tangible that Obama can claim what no other presidential candidate (let alone president) can: his own mixtape. Courtesy of Russell Simmons and DJ Green Lantern, the "Yes We Can" compilation was released in October with the specific intention of rallying heads around an Obama victory.

Featuring artists like David Banner, Wyclef, Joell Ortiz among many others, the release also features snippits from Obama's primary campaign, which were notably more populist and left-wing than anything the president elect has said since his nomination was sealed. But these soundclips say more about the motivations of the artists than the politician. As blogger Pham Binh points out:

"The clips are a fresh reminder of how quickly Obama jettisoned references to the Civil Rights movement, the Abolitionists, and the Suffragettes once he locked up the Democratic nomination... Judging by the lyrics, it seems that most of the artists on the mixtape fell in love with the Obama that won the primaries using anti-war, anti-free trade, pro-movement rhetoric."

They weren't the only ones from the look of it. This election saw the biggest bloc of 18-to-22-year-olds voting since the 1950s. These are young people who have grown up in a multiracial version of America, the first ones to be sent to Iraq, and who have known nothing but the same neoliberal raw deal that offers them nothing now past the promise of flipping burgers and crumbling schools. Whether Obama can deliver anything different has yet to be seen. But expectations run high, and if they aren't met it would be cynical to say these same young people wouldn't hold him accountable.

It's been over forty years since music, youth culture and popular resistance collided into what we know now as "the Sixties." That kind of defiant hope has been gone from both our music and politics for far too long. But if so many of today's best artists can become excited about real substantial change, it may be a sign that cobwebs are clearing. And if a victorious Obama campaign can become a lightening rod for the long-brewing discontent and longing among today's youth, then it may provide a glimpse of collisions to come.

Alexander Billet is a music journalist living in Chicago. He is a regular contributor to SleptOn.com, Dissident Voice and ZNet. His article on censorship in hip-hop is included in the recently published 'At Issue: Should Music Lyrics Be Censored for Violence and Exploitation?' from Greenhaven Press. His blog, Rebel Frequencies, can be viewed at http://rebelfrequencies.blogspot.com, and he can be reached at rebelfrequencies@gmail.com.