Tuesday, April 24, 2007

80, but not 100.

I am often approached once folks get word that I am a feminist. They usually ask why it is important to have feminists around, even though the Civil Rights movement, which helped to bring more equality (at least to the legal side of the country), was fought for over three decades ago.

Like those who oppose affirmative action because they for some reason believe that there is no such thing as white privilege; us feminists have to continue to fight sexual discrimination – despite the general perceptions.

Here is why.

A report was released yesterday by the American Association of University Women, in which it stated that women in their first year of working post 4-year education earn only 80 percent of their male counterparts; even if both sexes work in the same career field.

And, unfortunately, the gap widens as the years progress. According to the report, a decade after women graduate from college, they earn only 69 percent of what men make in the same job.

Many may ask then: But isn’t that because most women take leave time for being a parent?

“Even after controlling for hours, occupation, parenthood, and other factors known to affect earnings, the research indicates that one-quarter of the pay gap remains unexplained and is likely due to sex discrimination,” the report stated.

More, because men continue to climb the ladder, and obtain higher paying, and more authoritative positions, the perpetuation continues.

Ladies (and gentlemen), we must fight the good fight. We deserve equality. Make sure to question the pay scales in your work place…the only way to have change is to make it.

Sharing Secrets

Sometimes it just feels good to share. Sometimes, that sharing can save a life.

I recently came across this site where people from all over the world can send in either a handmade or purchased postcard with a secret scrawled across it. The idea is not only to provide an interesting forum for folks like me to take a small peep in to the lives of strangers, it also reminds each one of us that we are not alone.

The postcard not only tell a secret because it may feel good to be private, but they may also help to avoid problems such as the killings at Virginia Tech, or suicide. I think we horde around a lot of fear, anger, secrets...and that contributes to our society. This forum appears to give a platform for people to release – even if that means to strangers. For some, I think it curbs their demise.

I regularly visit Feministing, a blog that pulls articles off the wire (nearly hourly some days) that have key words such as misogyny, gender, violence against women, rape, and so on. Yesterday they presented a postcard with a statue of a young woman curled in to her own body. Around her were the words of the sender: her secret….

“After I was date-raped I dated and slept with the guy who did it three more times. I hoped that if I could make it a ‘real’ relationship I wouldn’t have to admit to myself that the rape was real.”

For many rape survivors just holding it in slowly deteriorates the mind, body and soul of the victim. This site may have relieved her of her pain, and by making her secret public, she may be able to move forward, and past the event. While her void may never be filled, the idea of dropping some of the weight off of her shoulders must be intense.

However, it is my contention that our American culture does not typically allow for this type of reaching out.

We live in an individualistic, capitalistic society where the American Dream means getting to the top, having money, knocking others on their ass – AKA oppression, and having an air of egotistical fluff.

Indeed there has been a flurry of articles written about a recent report on narcissism. Folks growing up in the last 30 years, or so, have been coined the “Mister Rodgers” generation. We are told that we are special, that we are the best. But the reality is that we are just as special as the kid next to us. How many of us came home crying about a schoolyard taunt, only to be told that everyone is just jealous. Maybe instead of smoothing over these possible truths, we ought to stop and look at our faults; make a difference in our own lives. Not caring about ourselves means we don’t care about others, which eventually leads to the apathetic nation of young people, we are now living shoulder to shoulder with.

That individualistic drive forces families apart, allows for the crumbling of relationships, and perpetuates stereotypes and "isms", as if one is the “enemy,” they can be easily left behind. It is moral fight that we are losing.

For example, the Virginia Tech mass murder last week. Here we have a young man who could have used a little aid. His ex-roommates and teachers tout themselves -- post-massacre -- for seeing this “mad man” who had no friends, was quiet and angry. Instead of offering a hand at the moment of notification, it appears that the world simply closed their doors on him. For many, the American ideal includes pulling oneself up by the bootstraps. And if you can’t help yourself, don’t expect a hand.

Think about how with each passing year the perpetuation of anti-socialist and communist ideals flow in our country. We wouldn’t want to ever accept a world where people live in a humble commune, where harmony, sharing and equality are key aspects to healthy living. And I am not talking about not being able to express oneself -- not a life under a dictator or severe governmental law -- but rather a world where we just give and take in a more fair fashion. But alas…

Oh no, we need to make money, and that simply means leaving the less fortunate behind. Meaning, leave those who are women, minorities, mentally disabled, overweight, poor, liberal, and so on, behind. There is no time to lend a hand, or to listen to their secrets; we must push on as a nation…

I just don’t see the value in this.

We wonder why there is so much violence day, after day, after day.

Maybe we need to reach out and write a postcard.

Friday, April 20, 2007

Supreme Court Upholds Partial-Birth Ban

Two days ago the nearly all-male U.S. Supreme Court voted to uphold a 2003 partial-birth abortion ban, which eliminates the procedure for women in their second (and, obviously, their third) trimester.

For those who do not know, there is an important clause in this ruling that further alienates women.

In the text of the ruling, it states that even if the woman's doctor feels it is safe to conduct the abortion, and is necessary for the health of the woman, the abortion is not allowed.

For clear reasons, women who support OWNING THEIR OWN BODIES are in absolute rage.

On April 17, the day of the ruling, Planned Parenthood's Deputy Director of Litigation and Law Eve Gartner said:

"Today the court took away an important option for doctors who seek to provide the best and safest care to their patients. This ruling tells women that politicians, not doctors, will make their health care decisions for them."

There are a number of reasons that women have abortions, and despite popular belief it is not only utilized as form of birth control. Not having access to abortions after the first 36 weeks could mean that the woman could die, the fetus could die (if it were to be born).

Not having access to abortion could cause problems later, especially if the mother was raped, abusing drugs, not economically stable, or still striving towards her goals; the child could be neglected, abused, become part of the (overcrowded) foster care system, or even worse perhaps, the juvenile justice system.

When people are not ready to have a child, or if they face severe health problems because of the pregnancy, it is my contention that women should have the right to choose.

But instead of focusing on the current and future health of the woman in need, the Supreme Court noted in its ruling that the practice of removal in the second trimester involves a "moral, medical and ethical consensus that is NEVER medically necessary and should be prohibited."

According to the text of the Supreme Court opinion, the fetus is removed in its entirety during the first trimester, while it is often separated during the second trimester.

I don't think it is necessary to discuss the nature of removal -- let's talk about the REAL gross part: the aftermath of having a child that may not have the resources to survive in a society where more money goes towards the war effort, and less goes to appropriate funding for mothers with children, families, education, and so on.

Or, let's be reminded that by not including the risk-to-health abortion option, the decision once again reminds all women of the misogynistic world in which we reside. The powers-that-be continue to chip away at our rights, our bodies. We should not be the moral subject of these eight older men (and one woman).

Post opinion rallying is going on. If you would like to speak your mind, visit Planned Parenthood.

Saturday, April 14, 2007

Abstinence-Only Education Is Unrealistic

Finally, the conservative government may begin to realize that kids are having sex, and need to be properly guided – as engagers, not abstainers.

A Congress-requested report was released yesterday, and reveals that kids who spend time in abstinence only programming are just as likely to have sex, as those who do not take part in these this type of government-funded teaching.

Like other quick-fix solutions – such as the “Just Say No” drug campaign, which the Reaganites assured the public that drug addiction would be easy to kick with a simple no…as opposed to specialized therapeutic rehabilitation methods (that would cost too much money) – the U.S. decided back in 1996 to dramatically cut its government funding for programs to focus on issues such as pregnancy, abuse, STDs, and so on. Instead of dealing with the fact that our young people are having sex and should be given proper advice on safe sex, condom and the pill usage, abortion or pregnancy options, and peer pressure or other emotional responses to having sex.

In fact, Title V of the Social Security Act, which is the Maternal and Child Health Program, was severely slashed in the early ’80s. The programming was originally set up to help young, low-income women have access to prenatal and postnatal care.

No programming means more problems. And more problems for women means the perpetuation of misogynist legislators who think that women's lives can be decided by the stroke of their pen.

Soon after the slash in aid for Title V, the U.S. infant mortality rate plunged from sixth place among 20 industrialized nations, to LAST place.

And when a child is not cared for, they can suffer major physical and mental health later in life, which of course means more fiscal responsibility for the government (but they can’t possibly think that far down the line, can they? No. Not if it is an election year, or oil to cap).

However, while these cuts were going away for those who needed it, a shift towards abstinence was taking place. According to the report, “the enactment of Title V, Section 510 of the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act of 1996 significantly increased the funding and prominence of abstinence education as an approach to promote sexual abstinence and healthy teen behavior.”

Our government puts aside about $176 million each year to ensure that these kids are told NOT how to engage safely, but rather, to NOT engage at all.

But clearly, this reallocation of funds is more hurtful than helpful, as so many more lives are affected by not having access to care. We cannot JUST SAY NO and hope that kids will just turn off their emotions or desires. It is an unrealistic and scary ideology that our government consistently uses to blanket social problems.

This report is vital to our future, as young women and men ought to be able to feel comfortable knowing that they are safely having sex – since they are going to do it anyway – and feel comfortable coming forward to adults with questions.

If not, we may find that a trickle-down effect will continue.

In example, if a young couple does not have access to contraceptives, but decides to engage in sex -- and then gets pregnant -- they may be more likely to drop out, or get kicked out of school; they may attempt to live on their own but could struggle with bills, getting food for the baby’s belly (as well as their own). This lifestyle may lead to abuse – mental or physical between the couple – as well as drug or alcohol addiction to numb the pain of losing their childhood. One of the parents may be arrested. One may just leave. The child will suffer the same abuses, and one day may lash out in his/her own life. The child could be sentenced to juvenile detention, and upon release get pregnant.

The cycle will continue if we don’t offer aid.

And this aid could come from federal monies that are funneled into safe-sex classes, prophylactic distribution, young family housing, daycare in high schools, and more.

Monday, April 9, 2007

Why can't women just be athletes?

So I was at the beach yesterday -- it was a lovely Sunday afternoon -- and off in the distance the low rumble of a plane met my ears as I stepped on to the sand. As the plane(s) came closer, I realized that it was a giant ad attached to its rear. Astonished at what the slogan read, I whipped my camera out....

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

So despite that fact that women train hundreds of hours in the gym, on the jogging path, and in their marathon-preparation diets, this sign basically says we are not equal, that we are still going to be further ostracized in society. Oh the marginalization...This reminds all of us women that big, fake boobies are the "norm", and that we are also supposed to tread lightly...we can't have a girl working out, or winning for that matter, can we? Oh no. It appears that we must be dainty at ALL times, including while running marathons.

Gross.

Tuesday, April 3, 2007

Why You Hatin'?

Yesterday, my undergrad alma mater, The University of Southern California, had an article in its newspaper that covered a small, but growing feminist population in its campus (it grew from four members to eight).

I am not too surprised by this number. First, as young people, it is increasingly hard to see the strength in women -- it appears that it is easier to do what the crowd is doing, dress provocatively, bat ones eyes at the football team, and play the innocent woman card. For many, according to both the article and my own experience with introducing myself as a feminist, there is extreme hatred and fear surrounding the idea. For most, it is hard to wrap one's self around the idea of being independent, strong and equal...even at a top-notch university where folks graduating will be handed their lives/careers on a silver platter. I can still remember sitting in my Spanish 101 class and being appalled at the young woman next to me who told the class that her future included not working, pumping out babies, taking care of the home and socializing. Whoa. So what is the point of going to school, I wondered. I hate to stereotype, but many of this girls' peers were rich, blond haired, blue-eyed women who spent more time attaching sorority appliqu├ęs to their ass, and less of it actually making strides. Many of them shook their head with this comment -- and not side to side like mine was, but rather, up and down; they were agreeing with her.

I took my first feminist course at USC and I felt so liberated and empowered after reading the works of those who cam before me, I told my Professor ( Diana Blaine) that each and every male and female student should be required to take the course. In my eyes, I see feminism as knocking down issues that nearly every campus experiences: rape, violence, hatred, prejudice, anorexia and drug/alcohol abuse.

So when the university's sole newspaper provided a peek into the value of feminism, I leapt from my chair. But scrolling to the bottom, I was reminded; again, of the hatred many women have towards feminists.

Michelle
posted 4/02/07 @ 9:43 AM EST
It's funny. Feminists promote "equality" of men and women, but fail to embrace and celebrate how they are different. For instance, the legalization of abortion has only succeeded in further sexually objectifying women as playtoys for men with no consequences (except for the mother who eventually must deal with the emotional aftermath of abortion, which feminist and abortion groups are desperately trying to discount...ironic, no?)

Women who testify that they have been negatively affected by abortion are dismissed as either unstable or liars (sound familiar...frequently used against women who report being raped).

I am so sick of this oppression of women posing instead as liberation. Wake up, ladies. You're being used as pawns to promote a covert social and political agenda. Don't let it happen to you.


OF WHICH I JUST HAD TO REPLY:

Bonnie Schindler
posted 4/02/07 @ 10:47 PM EST
To the comment written by Michelle:

Wow. You are a clear product of patriarchy, and you don't even know it. You see, the awesome thing about feminsim, equality and the fight to keep our bodies ours, is that we have the choice. This does not mean that one has to have an abortion; that one has to throw all razors in the garbage; that one has to dismiss all men and their agendas. No. It means that women can be offered the same treatment at their male counterparts -- and this means not getting paid the 70-odd cents to every one dollar that men make (and yes, this is still true today); and breaking through the glass ceiling in the corporate and political arenas.

It also means smashing the pre-decided gender molds that the patriarch has already established. You may not realize it, but women and men are handed a doll a piece when they come in to the world: G.I. Joe for the boys, and Barbie for the girls. Every decision has been wired into our brains froma that point on: be cute, quiet, submissive, hate yourself for not being pretty enough, take the abuse, have children, be a homemaker, accept the pay reduction, and so on. Good girls follow suit; feminists follow our own goals. We are the ones who make it so that you can even write into this comment form, expressing your thoughts as a woman.

Contrary to other beliefs, it is not the dark side one joins if they open their world to feminism, it is a breath of fresh air. And if you feel different, don't worry, it's not your fault...you were pre-wired to think like that.

Perpetuation of Torture

In response to an email forwarded from my diversity professor - which is below

Well Professor, I think it is a good slap of sarcasm in the face of those who believe in the torture of criminals (and sometimes the innocent who find themselves behind bars).

From the writing, we see that Americans take too much pride in humiliation, oppression, being powerful. They also enjoy prolonging the torture by not doing anything civilly once a person is captured (i.e. making someone wait five years for their first tribunal; or being in Iraq for these last four years without making much more progress than filling up a graveyard).

This also cuts in to our daily social lives on the soil of the our country. We see that just as our leaders have done this type of injustice to folks in other countries, they have perpetuated it here. Slowly taking away rights; cutting away services; belittling those who are already marginalized in our society (i.e. the state educational test, the FCAT, is set up to stick a fork in those who are least prepared for the extreme testing: the poor...mainly because the district has no money to hire good teachers, and other community issues).

That style of torture -- being brutal up front but having little diplomatic plan afterwards -- is the style of this country. We teach it on many levels. The aggression trickles down to our young boys who grow up to be part of the patriarch: not allowing feelings to get in the way of their goal to hurt someone else, to show their power. Yet, like our war machine who is trained to harass, once they have beaten, objectified and oppressed their prey, they don't know what to do next.

Sometimes the lack of the knowledge to create another step leads to murder, drug abuse, rape or even worse, perhaps, the perpetuation of this crime against humanity by sending the message to others.

--- Motier Haskins wrote:

> Hey BS, What do you think?

I share the outrage expressed in the British press over the treatment of our naval personnel accused by Iran of illegally entering their waters. It is a disgrace. We would never dream of treating captives like this - allowing them to smoke cigarettes, for example, even though it has been proven that smoking kills. And as for compelling poor servicewoman Faye Turney to wear a black headscarf, and then allowing the picture to be posted around the world - have the Iranians no concept of civilised behaviour? For God's sake, what's wrong with putting a bag over her head? That's what we do with the Muslims we capture: we put bags over their heads, so it's hard to breathe. Then it's perfectly acceptable to take photographs of them and circulate them to the press because the captives can't be recognised and humiliated in the way these unfortunate British service people are. It is also unacceptable that these British captives should be made to talk on television and say things that they may regret later. If the Iranians put duct tape over their mouths, like we do to our captives, they wouldn't be able to talk at all. Of course they'd probably find it even harder to breathe - especially with a bag over their head - but at least they wouldn't be humiliated. And what's all this about allowing the captives to write letters home saying they are all right? It's time the Iranians fell into line with the rest of the civilised world: they should allow their captives the privacy of solitary confinement. That's one of the many privileges the US grants to its captives in Guantanamo Bay. The true mark of a civilised country is that it doesn't rush into charging people whom it has arbitrarily arrested in places it's just invaded. The inmates of Guantanamo, for example, have been enjoying all the privacy they want for almost five years, and the first inmate has only just been charged. What a contrast to the disgraceful Iranian rush to parade their captives before the cameras! What's more, it is clear that the Iranians are not giving their British prisoners any decent physical exercise. The US military make sure that their Iraqi captives enjoy PT. This takes the form of exciting "stress positions", which the captives are expected to hold for hours on end so as to improve their stomach and calf muscles. A common exercise is where they are made to stand on the balls of their feet and then squat so that their thighs are parallel to the ground. This creates intense pain and, finally, muscle failure. It's all good healthy fun and has the bonus that the captives will confess to anything to get
out of it. And this brings me to my final point. It is clear from her TV appearance that servicewoman Turney has been put
under pressure. The newspapers have persuaded behavioural psychologists to examine the footage and they all conclude that she is "unhappy and stressed". What is so appalling is the underhand way in which the Iranians have got her "unhappy and stressed". She shows no signs of electrocution or burn marks and there are no signs of beating on her face. This is unacceptable. If captives are to be put under duress, such as by forcing them into compromising sexual positions, or having electric shocks to their genitals, they should be photographed, as they were in Abu Ghraib. The photographs should then be circulated around the civilised world so that everyone can see exactly what has been going on.