Category Archives: Feminism

Dept of Ed Officials Echo Men’s Rights Activists’ Rape Denial

The top Department of Education civil rights official, Candice Jackson, claimed yesterday that “90 percent” of sexual violence accusations “fall into the category of, ‘We were both drunk, we broke up, and six months later I found myself under a Title IX investigation because she just decided that our last sleeping together was not quite right.'” This warns us of the direction of the department under Betsy DeVos: picking up the constant false statements of misogynist “men’s rights activists” and antifeminist women like Christina Hoff Sommers to deny the prevalence of rape.

Such groups often claim that sexism is a thing of the past, as DeVos herself framed universities’ mishandling of sexual assault complaints as something we’ve passed beyond. And, in inviting both sexual violence advocates and male supremacists to weigh in, DeVos enters into a false equivalency, legitimizing actors that deal in lies and misogynist rhetoric. Harry Crouch, president of one of the invited groups, the National Coalition for Men, has blamed victims of domestic violence for “aggravat[ing]” their abusers, declaring, “They would say that’s blaming the victim. But I don’t buy it.” These groups are not seeking a fair process for all, but to convince people against the evidence that false allegations are the real epidemic–rather than admitting that 90% of sexual violence accusations are accurate, yet rarely result in serious consequences for the perpetrator, and represent only a fraction of the actual assaults occurring.

Jackson authored “Their Lives: Women Targeted by the Clinton Machine” (2005), in which she accused Hillary Rodham Clinton of complicity in harassing women who reported sexual affairs or sexual violence by her husband, former president Bill Clinton. However, her failure to demonstrate similar empathy and trust for women reporting being sexually harassed or assaulted by President Donald Trump during his 2016 campaign, followed by this latest flippant and false statement accusing young women of lying about rape to wreak petty revenge, proves that she only takes sexual violence seriously when it serves the right-wing agenda. As Sofie Karasek, director of education and co-founder at End Rape on Campus, commented during the campaign, “for her not to believe survivors when it’s politically expedient, that raises the question of how committed you are to this issue.”

The National Women’s Law Center and Know Your IX, now a project of Advocates for Youth, were among the anti-rape groups invited by DeVos and are fighting to end rape culture and sexual violence on campuses. Those who want to join the fight can visit their websites, tweet with the #DearBetsy campaign, and students and alumni can pressure their own college and university presidents to join Brooklyn College President Michelle J. Anderson in speaking out in favor of Title IX enforcement.

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Filed under Feminism, Sexual Assault

Lila Rose Uses Tragic Death to Attack Abortion

Winner of most despicable moment of the Values Voter Summit: Lila Rose, founder of anti-choice group Live Action, uses tragic, accidental death of Tonya Reaves from rare abortion complication to attack reproductive rights. Rose doesn’t mention that childbirth 14 times more likely to result in death (and that abortion is safer than getting a shot of penicillin). So, does Rose think that we should ban the right to have children? Yeah, sure.
I’ve been spending the day listening to the Values Voter Summit livestream — because what better way to pass a Saturday than by listening to the major Christian Right annual gathering convened by the Family Research Council? Since the conference started yesterday, we’ve been treated to an array of anti-choice, anti-LGBT, anti-immigrant speakers, including politicians such as Republican VP candidate Paul Ryan to Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer to failed presidential hopeful Rick Santorum, amongst other Christian Right advocates. But, for me, Rose’s comments definitely took the prize for disturbing, inappropriate, manipulative comments.
Rose’s Live Action is best known for its undercover “sting” videos of Planned Parenthood staff, which — usually with the help of heavy editing — attempt to display evidence of law-breaking or behavior viewers might just find distasteful, and then use those isolated incidents to attempt to take down the entire right to an abortion.
 On women’s health and clinic safety: It would be nice if abortions could take place in hospitals, instead of being driven to special clinics by anti-choice advocacy and even terrorism. The ever-decreasing access to abortion is strongly related to the fact that abortion doctors face threats to their life (as with the murder of Dr. George Tiller); clinics face threats of bombings, arson, anthrax, and other violence; and harassment from nonviolent anti-choice protesters disturbs the ability to function of any medical facility they target, while creating the constant fear for staff that it could turn violent.
The U.S. should improve its maternal mortality rates, especially where poverty is a factor — our maternal death rates are higher than many countries, which should be unacceptable to anyone who wants to tout American as the greatest nation on Earth, as is so popular in conferences like Values Voters. But don’t talk hypocritically about protecting women’s lives when you’re keeping abortions from taking place in hospitals, when you’re not working to decrease maternal deaths, and when you’re attempting to force women back to dangerous back-alley abortions that killed thousands yearly before Roe v. Wade.

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Filed under Feminism, Reproductive Justice, Right-wing movements

How Are We Going to Change #ididnotreport to #isentmyrapist2jail?

Because I’d been drinking. Because I thought it was my fault. Because I thought no one would believe me.

Thousands of sexual assault survivors have joined in tweeting their stories with the hashtag #ididnotreport over the past week. Many gave their reasons for not reporting — reasons echoing those above again and again, and more. Because I was a kid and I didn’t know how. Because the one time I did report it, it didn’t make a difference. Because I was afraid.

“#ididnotreport because I was made to feel like it wasn’t a big deal,” one survivor tweeted. “It was.”

The campaign started in the U.K., inspired by another supportive Twitter campaign: #WeBelieveYou. It has resonated far beyond that starting place, inspiring primarily women — but also a number of male and transgender survivors — to speak out about the attack they never reported, either tweeting from their own accounts or anonymously at @Ididnotreport1.

While many people have sent supportive tweets, vital to creating a safe and caring online space, the courage of these survivors deserves more than a kind word. 60% of sexual assault are never reported. So what are the rest of us going to do to make #ididnotreport obsolete? What are we going to do to change it to #isentmyrapist2jail?

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Thoughts on SlutWalk: Can “Slut,” Like “Queer,” Be Reclaimed?

Can we reclaim “slut” as a positive term?

Sophie Jones has an interesting commentary on SlutWalk, criticism thereof, and the ensuing “feminist debate about the politics of linguistic subversion” at The F-Word.

She starts by tackling those feminists who criticized SlutWalk as a misguided attempt to promote the “right to be called ‘slut.'” Jones writes: “Some women argue that SlutWalk is just an expression of what Nina Power has called Feminism™, in which gender equality is rebranded as the right to buy whatever you want on the way to your burlesque class, whether it’s a diamond-encrusted vibrator or a pair of effing shoes.” I, like many SlutWalk supporters, have been frustrated by this misunderstanding of how and why the term is being used. That said, I’m also in complete feminist support of burlesque classes, vibrators, and “fuck-me shoes.” There’s nothing wrong with wanting to be sexual or sexy — it’s a woman’s right and still not an invitation to rape.

Jones sums this issue up as “a clear case of these writers simply misinterpreting the mission of Slut Walk, which is not a protest ‘for the right to be called ‘slut’ but a protest for the right to dress however you want free of the presumption you are ‘asking for it’.” Then we move on to more interesting questions: even if the point of SlutWalk isn’t about reclaiming the word “slut” — can we? and should we? Continue reading

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Filed under Feminism, Sex, Sexual Assault

Women, War, and Economics: NYTimes Special Issue

Today’s Times Sunday magazine is all about the women. From Hillary Clinton on a government agenda that actually pays attention to women and girls, to Liberia’s first female president on what things would look like if women ruled the world, to the rising power of female philanthropists, we’re seeing a lot of focus on the X-chromosome.

Two articles in particular caught my attention. First, one on a topic I’ve posted on before: Feminist Hawks. While I thought the Feminist Majority Foundation’s stance came out of the blue, the Times indicates that the feminist Hawk position has not only had web prescence since the 90s, but that it’s provided an argument for conservative warmongers like David Horowitz to appropriate. Of course, I had noticed before that the only time the Bush administration seemed particularly worried about women’s freedom was when using it as a talking point to support war in the Middle East.

Even though the article’s main focuses is the evolving web presence of feminist hawks in terms of Afghanistan, its failure to mention anything about the “War on Terror” in Iraq is still a problematic oversight. After all, any discussion of feminist hawks and the Middle East should point out that Iraq was the most secular country there pre-invasion. Now? Well, if you want a long read, check out What Kind of Liberation?: Women and the Occupation of Iraq. In brief, they’re way worse off. The state has moved much closer to a theocracy, restricting the rights and freedoms of women, while a March Amnesty International report details the rising violence against women–violence that wars tend to provoke, not solve.

Nicholas Kristoff and Sheryl WuDunn’s “The Women’s Crusade,” which discusses the power of improving the position of women in fixing a slew of global ills, was a more impressive piece that you should click over and read immediately. Rather than suggesting invasion as a quick-fix for women’s rights, Kristoff and WuDunn spend a lot of attention on the potential of microfinance, probably the most interesting economic subject in ages. Seriously, if I’d been studying microfinance I might have stuck with my economic major; although, speaking of campus activities, my college did launch a microfinance organization, SEEDS, a couple years ago, and other student activist groups with an international focus have been getting onboard, too. Microfinance is sexy.

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Filed under Feminism, International, Iraq War

$1 Books: Strolling Down a Strand Sale

One of the beauties of New York is that once you leave your apartment and start walking, there’s a good chance that within a few blocks you’ll stumble across something cool. My intention for this morning was to scurry over to an appointment not quite a mile away, then return home to catch up on Mad Men before tomorrow’s season premiere. Along the way, I ended up ambling through a street fair (1 free shampoo sample now tucked in my bag), crossing a bike tour that had closed down 4th Avenue to cars (good riddance), and spotted row upon row of full bookshelves on the sidewalk outside the Strand: a one dollar sale. Swoon.

So, instead of heading back to my couch, I spent an hour browsing the shelves, pleased with what I found. These are three of my fav politically-bent purchases:

The Purity Myth: How America’s Obsession with Virginity is Hurting Young Women, Jessica Valenti

ThePurityMythLargeI’ve been dying to read this book by Feministing.com founder Jessica Valenti ever since a “Shameless Self-Promotion” popped up on that most awesome of feminist blogs in March. (And now that I’ve graduated college, I occasionally have free time for non-required reading!) Despite my very tight intern-on-a-stipend-soon-to-be-unemployed budget, I even felt a touch guilty about picking it up for only a dollar, since the book deserves full-price support. In any case, from the flowers on the cover to the concept of a “Post-Virgin World” (the title of the final chapter), I’m utterly taken with my loot. I’d like to share the first paragraph of the introduction, which makes half-a-dozen fantastic points in four sentences:

There is a moral panic in America over young women’s sexuality–and it’s entirely misplaced. Girls “going wild” isn’t damaging a generation of women, the myth of sexual purity is. The lie of virginity–the idea that such a thing even exists–is ensuring that young women’s perception of themselves is inextricable from their bodies, and that their ability to be moral actors is absolutely dependent on their sexuality. It’s time to teach our daughters that their ability to be good people depends on them being good people, and not on whether or not they’re sexually active.

Dispatches from the Abortion Wars: The Costs of Fanaticism to Doctors, Patients, and the Rest of Us, Carole Joffe

A swift trip to Amazon advises me that this slim volume has yet to be released; what I’m holding is an uncorrected proof (which, in all honesty, makes me feel special).

A postscript discusses the murder of abortion provider Dr. George Tiller, gunned down in his own church, making the publication of this book tragically good timing. (Need to vent tangent: I may be a staunch atheist, but I still have far more respect for places of worship as sanctuaries than the so-called Christian who confessed to killing Tiller.) I’m particularly concerned with this subject after having interned at a think tank that monitors the right-wing, Political Research Associates (an enlightening/scary/depressing learning experience), under Chip Berlet, who has authored a number of excellent pieces on the Tiller murder. (And the timely report Toxic to Democracy: Conspiracy Theories, Demonization, & Scapegoating.) I’m sure I’ll be talking more about this topic in the future.

You Don’t Know Me: A Citizen’s Guide to Republican Family Values, Win McCormackRepublicanSex

I figured I needed a light-hearted read after that last one–so why not a book that “details over 100 cases of sexual misconduct by Republican officials, office holders, and ideological supporters.” Okay, so it’s still a little depressing; after all, these are the “family values” politicians who are destroying our country. But, hey, at least we’re laughing through the pain.

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Filed under Arts, Feminism, Reproductive Justice

Feminists and Atheists for War?

Codepink‘s  provided such splashy anti-war protests, I plumb forgot that feminism is not equated with peace. I was yanked from this pink dream by an angry  Alternet headline attacking the Feminist Majority Foundation for supporting increased peacekeeping troops to protect Afghan women and girls.

Then, on Monday, Robert Wright, author of The Evolution of God, brought attentionto the warmongering of atheists like Christopher Hitchens, Richard Dawkins, and Sam Harris.

I recently discussed my frustration that today’s leading voices of atheism are predominantly male, despite my conception of the belief system as ideal for women, in bypassing the history of sexism (and misogyny) of most religion. Now feminism and atheism are bought being called out for their less-than-pacifistic tendencies.

I’m a recent convert to pacifism–I’ve always been primarily anti-war, but didn’t quite feel that I was a pacifist. After all, what about World War II? But under the influence of a close friend, I decided that I was a pacifist, though the deep imperfections of the world might mean you can’t always condemn a war (like WWII) as either right or wrong.

But I digress. Feminism and atheism are such core aspects of my beliefs, they feed into my support of pacifism in such a way that the links seem obvious. Of course, having studied the split in the international feminist movement and domestic organizations over support for the first world war, I shouldn’t have been so surprised. Then, too, pacifists assumed that their feminist comrades would oppose war–and got a rude awakening by the hyper-patriotic jingoism of many leaders of the women’s movement.

And then there’s atheism…with all the wars (crusades) that have been fought in the name of one religion or another, I breathe a sigh of relief from within my secular humanist belief system that there’s no god pushing me to the battlefield. Yet Hitchens et al are demonstrating that their loathing–and fear–of fundamentalist religion has lured them into a violent stance.

For me, feminism, atheism, and pacifism are all about equality, understanding, and peace. It looks like people who share this sense might have to fight for their beliefs–with the mighty pen, of course.

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Filed under Atheism, Feminism, International

Calling Atheist Women: The Public Needs You

A couple years late, I came across Christopher Hitchens’ 2007 article on why women are “backward” in generating humor. I was duly pissed off, but I’ll keep my entire unhumorous rant on the subject to myself, because otherwise I’ll never make it to my intended destination: the union between atheism and women.

A woman commented on the Katrina vanden Heuvel post I discussed on Tuesday, saying that atheism shared the same ol’ male-dominated network as religion. As fervent a feminist as I am an atheist, I wondered: is that true?

The four big names of what’s been dubbed the “new atheist” movement are best-selling authors Christopher, Richard, Sam, and Daniel. The Bible was clearly written by men, and it’s looking like the tracts of atheism are following in that patriarchal tradition.

And yet…freed from Eve-demonizing faiths, atheists, agnostics, freethinkers, and humanists served a major role of the women’s rights movement. American Atheists was founded by school-prayer challenger Madalyn Murray O’Hair (think the new atheists rile people up? O’Hair called herself the “most hated woman in America”), and the Freedom From Religion Foundation was launched by a mother-daughter duo. Female writers do exist in atheist bookstores, such as Annie Laurie Gaylor and Katha Pollitt, with works focusing on the place of women in freethought vs. fundamentalist traditions.

Though some churches in the U.S., like the Episcopal congregation, have grown out of their misogyny and now ordain female priests and bishops, religion has a poor track record with women, and entrenched institutions find it hard to catch up with modern equality, even with progressive men and women working within their ranks toward change. Atheism is a logical place for women to thrive because it doesn’t have to deal with that sexist baggage–there’s no one text riddled with sexism for liberal scholars to try to explain, no one text at all to bow down to as “the word” on atheism.

But as a belief system whose explanation rests entirely in the hands of its followers, the who’s who of atheist stars does matter. It’s not so much about individual flaws and foibles as the need for missing voices (in another post, I could comment on their racial homogeneity in the same manner). Whether or not Christopher Hitchens has penchant for promoting sexist/borderline misogynistic stereotypes in his writing, the voices of public atheism are too testosterone-filled–even if raised in defense of women, it’s better that the ladies take the floor, too.

The last thing we need is another boys club.

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Filed under Atheism, Feminism, Religion