Friday, March 30, 2007

Anti-birth control advocate kicked to the curb

As forwarded to me from a friend who subscribes to the Planned Parenthood newsletter:

Anti-birth control advocate Eric Keroack will no longer oversee Title X, the nation’s family planning program! The day he took office, Planned Parenthood launched a massive grassroots campaign against Keroack, rallying a nationwide groundswell of opposition to his appointment.

PPFA President Cecile Richards issued the following statement on the resignation:

“It’s a good day for women’s health. Keroack was unqualified to run the nation’s family planning program. The Bush administration must replace Keroack with a legitimate, mainstream public health expert who supports family planning and access to birth control. More than 17 million women in our country need access to affordable birth control. The nation’s family planning program should be run by a champion for women’s health and safety.”

Cecile Richards
President
Planned Parenthood Federation of America

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Money-hungry sexist media?

BELOW IS THE EXCHANGE BETWEEN ME AND THE EDITORS AT THE PAPER I WORK FOR...

Hey Robin and Erik,

You know, I have been meaning to ask this for a while now, but somehow I just have not gotten this inquiry to y'all...

Why is that so many times the Sun Post uses objectifying images of women? I can count handfuls of photos where women in bikinis (or other attire that leaves little to the imagination) are on the cover of the issue or in the pages of the web site? Many time the women are in attire that has nothing to do with the article (i.e. a gambling issue with a bikini clad woman with her chips; or a the Winter Music Festival issue with a bikini-clad woman wearing headphones, and so on). These images solidify the idea (in the minds of those who believe this idea) that women can be used for commodification; to "sell" newspapers...

It is not right, and as a professional paper with women employees, I think we have an obligation to not furhter marginalize a sex that is already consistently stereotyped. This is especially important in a city such as Miami, where obtaining a particular body image is an everyday struggle. It creates and perpetuates abuse (both by other people, and to the women themselves), violence and so on.

I hate to be pointing fingers, but....

Thoughts?

Best,
Bonnie

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Bonnie,

Thank you.

While there are many many viewpoints even within the feminist dialectic about this issue that could be discussed philosophically on end, as a feminist/human being I agree with you completely in cases when the images are used purely to "sell" a cover and not to reflect in any way the society in which we exist (although to a degree they always do).

Thank you for the kick in the pants to remind me to be more aware and sensitive personally and professionally. I will try to make a difference in whatever way I can on the issue. Thank you for speaking up and letting us know that what we are doing is NOT OK with you. It does mean something even if the results are not immediately visible.

I would welcome further dialogue and suggestions.

-Robin

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Hello Robin.

I am class right now, but on a short break, and wanted to first tell you thanks for your response regarding the photos presented in the Sun Post. It feels weird to thank because we ought to all be at this level, but none-the-less...I appreciate it.

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Sure. Regarding my response. Actually, too bad i can't print it as a letter to the editor since you are a contributor because it would be interesting to see the response from the community. Believe it or not, no one has written in to us to that effect. I did bring it up in the copy meeting yesterday so it's on our minds. That said, since you can't print the letter in our paper I submit that, on the local level, you pretty much could send the same letter to both the New Times and City Link, with a few minor adjustments, as a letter to the editor that potentially could be printed and make an impact on a larger scale.

There also is room to counter this by writing more stories that focus on the women's achievements and issues affecting women locally.
-Robin

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Why can't we post it anonymously? It is not like it is ethical to plaster half-naked women anyway (pls. don't take this the wrong way...it is not you I am upset with; it is the patriarch that the paper publishes in).

I do not see the same ads on the New Times, but then again, I have not looked at it as closely.

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Bonnie,

Thought you might appreciate the "humor" in this....

http://www.miaminewtimes.com/blogs/?p=371

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Hmmm....

It is interesting that someone would closely scan the ads, but then again, that quote is a little out there.

How gross that the Madonna is not taking to heart the true sexist nature of the establishment -- making a joke of the objective format. That's life in Miami Beach; isn't it?

-B

Monday, March 26, 2007

I don't want kids, but people should have the right to choose

Who knew sixteen words could collectively bring forth a plethora of emotions from the conservatives, liberals and everyone in between; that they could rip families apart, cause loneliness, criminal activity and restrict certain types of families from forming.

“No person eligible to adopt under this statute may adopt if that person is a homosexual,” according to Florida’s legislative statute 63.042.

Florida is the only state with a legalized ban on gay and lesbian adoption, as stated in facts presented at a town hall meeting in Ft. Lauderdale, yet it also holds a spot in the top five states in America with the highest number of children in the adoption system.

Read more of the article at the Miami SunPost

Or a different edited version at the Express Gay News site

Sunday, March 4, 2007

Please Teach Your Daughters, Nieces, Friends, etc

OK. I don’t have a problem with young women being sexually liberated, but four-year-old girls are just too young.

A recent blurb in The Week mentioned a new report by the American Psychological Association, which studied the sexual pressures felt by young women who are exposed to popular media.

As it turns out, “when girls as young as four get the message to look attractive, or to act sexy, both the physical and emotional health suffers.”

Um. Yeah. Look at Britney Spears for example. Or better yet, ask any of the 80 percent of those women locked behind metal bars in your local state prison.

The report goes on to state that the more these young folks are subjected to images of women being sex objects, the more likely they are to develop “eating disorders, low self-esteem and depression.”

Little Miss Sunshine, a film which recently racked up a boatload of awards for its satirical view into our competitive society, explored the idea of little girls learning how to stay young looking, and sexy. In a scene where the audience is whisked behind stage at a beauty pageant for girls under the age of ten, we see these pre-pubescent babies getting spray-on tans, being hidden below layers of makeup, and stepping into adult-like outfits that include deep v-necks for cleavage (which these young girls obviously do not have).

Proving its point, the American Psychological Association research pointed to the $1.6 million worth of THONG underwear that was sold to girls between the ages of seven and 12 years old.

Seven years old? That is, what, first grade? Why would a young person have to portray this type of sexualizing at such a young age?

Did someone say patriarchy?

Oh yes, not only are the men in society pushing for women to remain young looking -- meaning mirroring that of a teenager –- the women are also so used to this degradation, and unnatural transformation, they now push the look onto the younger generation. I guess that means buying your little ones THONG underwear. Get them ready for the big time.

"The message to children is, 'You're already like an adult. It's okay for you to be interested in sex. It's okay for you to dress and act sexy right now," Deborah Roffman, a sex educator, quoted in the blurb, stated.

A similar conversation came up tonight at dinner. I was surrounded by these stunning, beautiful women, whose intellect and caring attitudes excite me, and what do they speak of? Botox. Treatments to rid them of their wrinkles. Hair dye to mask their graying hair. Um. Isn’t the idea of maturity a right of passage thing? Should it not be a time where they embrace their years of wit, adventure, and knowledge and accept it as strength? Who would want to go BACKWARDS in time? It is my contention that we get better as time moves FORWARD.

Alas, I know it is not their fault.

It has been years of men telling us that we should be smooth and supple – and innocent as lambs (or 12 year old girls?). Maybe men find a young person sexy because they have not yet learned the tools to stand up for themselves. They have not yet understood the value of intelligence. They are still na├»ve enough to be molded into a submissive woman: the second sex.

Empowering women to truly understand that since the day they were born society set them on a gender-specific path is not cake walk, but it should be attempted.

Take for example a woman who has sat in a jail cell, and who has recently admitted to me that it is quite difficult to go through her rehabilitation because it means that she is away from men, and that this is hard for her.

As a woman who has relied on men as her sole source of protection (including providing a place to live, food); security, financial stability (including prostitution acts), and even as a partner to help shoot drugs, she will no doubt have a hard time acclimating herself back into the community without reassociating herself with self-degrading activities.

All of the relationships in her life has circled around drugs, the engagement of sexual obsessiveness, and making sure that she is subservient to her man.

Much of this has been deeply engrained since she was a young child.

There appears to be a trickle down effect: women are objectified and monitored in society; they begin to believe that they are second-class citizens; they devote their lives to their men – doing what ever it takes to be accepted; the stress to look a certain way/suppress their emotions from years of abuse by using drugs; they commit crimes against their bodies, as well as their community; and, finally, end up getting locked up. This trickle-down example does not include the severing of family ties, the loss of women’s children to abortion or foster care; or the physical consequences (i.e STDs, loss of teeth, jaundice, anorexia, infertility, and so on) of abusing drugs and engaging in unsafe sexual encounters.

As a feminist, and social worker in training, I wonder how to best aid this population. With so many anti-feminist women out there – it appears that the word automatically creates a scare, as most equate it to man-hating, ugly, lesbian bitches – getting people to recognize the scariness of the this sexual obtrusion is an uphill battle.

Friday, March 2, 2007

A Trip To The Islmic Center

Last night I visited the Boca Raton Islamic Center as part of a course in diversity I am taking at Florida Atlantic University.

As a person who values intelligence, whether it be a rocket scientist or a person who has memorized a religious text, I was excited to listen to the well-versed director of the Center. To me, it is a beautiful thing to see people so immersed in faith – I always say, "I may not be a believer, but if that is what gets you up in the morning, or pushes you through each day, more power to you."

We were there to get schooled on the religion, as well as “in the kitchen” questions to those who faithfully adhere to the rules of Islam.

Like a good feminist journalist, I raised my hand.

“So how do you feel about polygamy?”

The woman whom I addressed the question to quickly sat down, saying that she would not be best fit to answer the inquiry.

In her a place, a man got up and told me of the power of having more than one wife.

First, he pointed out that it is very difficult to maintain this lifestyle (a life of more than one wife) because the man is meant to give the same exact treatment for each wife – of which Muslims are capped at four – meaning on a one-on-one level, on a financial level, on a sexual level, etc. And since this decision is not mandatory, he asserted that many men do not go down this path.

Next, he pointed out that for WOMEN it is actually a good thing. Why? Because he said that no matter how much his wife has changed, he will not leave her. There is no need to divorce that wife who has wrinkles, or fell out of love, he said, simply round up another wife. In Muslim nations the idea of a 50-year-old single, divorced woman roaming the aisles of Wal-Mart on a Saturday night just doesn’t happen…instead, they are sharing the couch with the other women. Hmm…which one is better?

And if one is lesbian or gay, forget about it. There is no toleration of homosexuals in the Koran. The director of the Islamic Center said it is a sick behavior that may be enticing to those engaging in this relationship, but can be controlled. He said followers do not believe in biological factors that lend to the development of these relationships – instead he said it is a sin. Yet, they will allow homosexuals to pray in the mosque, as Islam is a HEALING religion, and gays – according to him – need HEALED.

Again, as a good feminist journalist, I raised my hand.

The continued discussion started with their intolerance for gays and lesbians, but it quickly turned into a conversation about scientific knowledge vs. theology (as the concept of being born anything other than homosexual would fall into these categories).

It was my contention that there has been mounting evidence that proves the creation of life, the creation of the universe through science (the Big Bang Theory; Darwin's Natural Selection, Positive Mutations, and so on). More over, the scientific research being produced by scientists (who by the Islamic Center's interpretation would technically be a creation of Allah, and should then carry the will of God…wouldn't his scientific conclusions, then, be the will of God?) has healed, changed the world through technological advancements, medicine, and so on.

To me, these are tangible accomplishments. We can look up the theorists, drive to her/his house, and shake their hand.

We cannot, however, go to the "being upstairs" and do the same.

They concluded that if Allah wanted to have these notions as true, "he" would have written it in the Koran, and made clear distinctions that this is true. Instead, it is said that Allah created the world in six days.

Us believers in science contend that is was a series of matter and energy coming together, as well as cell mutation and adaptation that created this planet. WE believe that NATURE is incredible, beautiful, and capable of intricate life forms. Religious folks believe that GOD is incredible, beautiful, and capable of intricate life forms.

The director, nearly laughing, said if I were to say that two things just came together, without the help of any higher power – he used an example of a boat arriving a harbor with no one driving it, yet it managed to make its way to the bay, anchor, and unload all of its possessions on to the shore without ANY help – know one would believe him.

That was his refute against science. He says that a higher force had to have helped the matter, energy, cells, etc form.

Oppositely, I said that if a person TODAY were to say that they were sitting on a park bench and began hearing voices, and then wrote a text that refuted all scientific knowledge to date – all provable ideas – no one would believe this person. We would call that person crazy.

The conversation went back and forth until nearly 10 p.m. They would satisfy their side of the debate with what I call mystification, and I would satisfy my part with science.

It was very interesting, informal, and non-intrusive. We both respectfully thanked one another for their views, and then departed

However, not all was a debate on my behalf.

I will say that I have been enlightened to the fact that wearing the hijab – the tradition Muslim dress that covers the woman from head to toe – is actually quite empowering. As pointed out by a member of the Islamic Center, as well as a guest who came to speak to my feminist course years back when I was a student at the University of Southern California, there is nothing oppressive about choosing who gets to see their skin. In fact, it a beautiful thing to be able to cover up one’s body, to be modest about one’s privacy, and to follow the idea that less (skin) is more.

One of the women at the Center read the group a poem written by an anonymous Muslim:

Be Proud of Hijab
You look at me and call me oppressed,
Simply because of the way I'm dressed,
You know me not for what's inside,
You judge the clothing I wear with pride,
My body's not for your eyes to hold,
You must speak to my mind, not my feminine mold,
I'm an individual, I'm no mans slave,
It's Allahs pleasure that I only crave,
I have a voice so I will be heard,
For in my heart I carry His word,
"O ye women, wrap close your cloak,
So you won't be bothered by ignorant folk",
Man doesn't tell me to dress this way,
It's a Law from God that I obey,
Oppressed is something I'm truly NOT,
For liberation is what I've got,
It was given to me many years ago,
With the right to prosper, the right to grow,
I can climb mountains or cross the seas,
Expand my mind in all degrees,
For God Himself gave us LIB-ER-TY,
When He sent Islam,
To You and Me!


In the Western World of the United States this concept is simply outlandish. Women and men cannot accept the fact that some Muslims show only their eyes and hands. The Proverbial WE says that we should be able to wear what we want, meaning WE should be able to have every crack made public; that WE should be able to wear tight, form fitting clothing where boobs and butt pop out; and that WE should be able to wear clothing the size of doll’s clothes, in which cover only the absolute necessary.

Many women say, “If you got, flaunt it.”

How utterly patriarchal.

The same women who say that WE have come so far in our struggles, and that because WE have the “choice” to wear pants or a skirt, that we are now empowered enough to wear, well, just about nothing, are the same ones who are being limited in society because of the way they choose to dress. It may sound silly, but the truth is that since the county's inception, women have been sub-par for reasons including the idea that WE are only good for being attractive -- like pieces of art on a wall -- submissive and a place for men to take part in sexual release. WE were never thought to be intellectuals (...You mean there is a free-thinking, critical mind hidden behind that physical outer shell?)

While these women think they are empowering themselves, there are just as many men (and women) who are objectifying this look. And this degradation follows the recipe book of patriarchy, as WE are still under the wrath of the men in power. Our bodies still belong to the man because with every step forward, there are three steps back thanks to comfortability, and false senses of empowerment.

WE must continue the struggle against the oppression.

WE still get better tips, raises, and maybe a more successful partner if WE show our skin.

WE still refer to those who do not wear revealing clothing as butch or prude. Or in the case of Muslims – or other religions where women wear conservative dress, such as Judaism, or nuns in a Catholic church – as oppressed.

And while I am not religious, and do no only seek the acceptance of a higher being, the topic of to show skin or not, begs the question: who is really oppressed?