cheers & jeers: des moines version

first, the good news: des moines' own Drake University invited Shira Tarrant, from California State University, Long Beach, to speak on campus yesterday about sexual assault and how it shouldn't be up to women to prevent their own assaults (well, isn't that a radical idea!). Best quote:

"A lot of the conversation is that women should walk in groups and wear a whistle," she said. "Well, maybe men should wear a whistle and if they think they're going to rape somebody, they should blow it so people can stay away from them."

Kudos to Drake, for taking a proactive and (sadly) progressive step toward raising awareness about sexual assault & violence against women. the question is: what's the next step?

THIS is the kind of thing i want Iowa to be known for.


now for the bad news: Dave Leach, a Des Moines anti-abortion activist and confidant to the man convicted earlier this year of murdering a Kansas abortion provider, will be the Republican candidate for state Senate in district 31.

this guy is freaky. really domestic-terrorism-kind of freaky.

Since the conviction [of Roeder], Leach has kept in constant contact with Roeder, eventually releasing to the media a 10-minute interview he conducted with Roeder where he said he had no regrets for what he had done and little sympathy for the family of his victim.

this is NOT the kind of thing i want Iowa to be known for.

i can't participate in this particular election (not my district)- but if you live in Des Moines District 31- vote for Matt McCoy! keep this murder-apologist Leach out of office!


where to start?

do we start by helping ethiopian women? this piece by London Independent journalist Johann Hari is terrifying, heartbreaking, and infuriating.

"In 2003 - the last year for which statistics are available - the National Committee on Traditional Practices of Ethiopia found that 69 per cent of marriages begin like this, with the triple-whammy of abduction, rape, and a forced signature. In a country with a mixture of Protestant, Catholic and Muslim, all religions practice it equally."

but it's also deeply, deeply inspiring, because the women are making a difference. they are actually saving their sisters, daughters, and friends. they are literally changing minds and attitudes.

"...cultures can change when women are given a chance"

this is a MUST-READ article.


or, do we start in our own backyard, with our own armed forces? CNN reports that the Pentagon is crowing about how their work to encourage more reporting of sexual assault in the military is working.

"According to the new report, the Department of Defense had two sexual assaults per 1,000 service members in fiscal year 2009. The Army reported 2.6 per 1,000 soldiers; the Navy reported 1.6 per 1,000; the Air Force reported 1.4 per 1,000; and the Marine Corps had 1.3 per 1,000."

"Pentagon officials have said that even though there have been improvements that allow military personnel to report cases, they estimate that only between 10 percent and 20 percent of people who were sexually assaulted report the crime."

here are my take-aways from this piece:

1. the Army is the most dangerous place for women in our armed forces, but not by much.

2. officials sure are proud of this supposed proof that REPORTS are increasing. too bad they still don't have a clue about how many women are actually raped by their fellow soldiers, because reporting a rape pretty much guarantees you further humiliation and abuse (including professional abuse- being denied promotions and advancement.) when they take some real action to STOP RAPE in the military, then i'll share their enthusiasm.

3. according to the Women's Memorial organization, there were approximately 208,000 women in active duty in the u.s. armed forces in 2009. so if 2 out of 1000 were sexually assaulted last year, that means over 400 women* are assaulted while serving their country, by their fellow soldiers. this is unacceptable.

*i should note- the gender of the person reporting the sexual assault was not given in the article...a few of them may be men too. equally unacceptable.
not equally as threatening to male service members (as in, a threat hanging daily over their heads just because they are a male service member), but equally unacceptable, certainly.


double jeopardy in haiti

why am i not surprised that this story is being reported? why am i not surprised that, after surviving the horror of the earthquake in haiti, women and girls are still being forced to live in fear for their lives daily (and nightly). why am i not surprised that officials took weeks to respond, and there is still nothing being done to actually STOP this war on women?

i don't even know what to say. i'm unsurprised. but that doesn't mean my heart doesn't break for these women. they persevered and survived the natural disaster, and now they are living in a human disaster, being faced with the absolute worst of humanity. they have nothing, and no one, and then these rapists try to steal their self-worth.

support efforts to stop the rape of earthquake victims in haiti.


here's what's making me want to scream today:

Fat Hatred
it's insidious "because being fat is viewed not only as a flaw, but as a flaw by choice, a moral failing due to weakness of character." (via Shakesville)

love this last line- so maddeningly true, for so many women:

There is not "a thin person" inside of me screaming to get out. There is only me, screaming for my right to exist in the body I have.


Prude? (warning- graphic descriptions of sex in the linked article)
objectification. so old news, isn't it? women are objectified every day, in every medium. great blog post from Ms. Magazine about the effects of that omnipresent objectification. but my question is- so how to we really stop it? really?

the answer i'm coming up with more and more often is: women need to make more MONEY. feminists need to acquire wealth. instead of making feminism our life's work, we need to make money like everyone else, and then we can use it to advance our feminist ideals. but without the power that comes with having serious capital, how will we, for example, have any effect on the development, production and marketing of movies and tv shows that objectify us? really? how will we?


Afghan women fear loss of hard-won progress
what the author of this article in the Washington Post really means to say, i think, is that Afghan women fear what women all over the world fear (and in particular, what u.s. women rightfully fear this week as well, as health care purportedly comes up for a "final" vote): BEING THROWN UNDER THE BUS.

forgive us if we find it hard to swallow when men in positions of power and leadership say, "trust us, we have your best interest in mind."


After 13 years, police still hunting for East Coast Rapist
hunted like animals; women are victims of men's violence every day. how is it possible that rape is still tolerated in this country. that rapists are not convicted for the predatory criminals that they are, and in fact, rape kits are put on a shelf and never even tested for DNA?

unless there is a real and systematic repression of women going on? women's voices, women's abuses, and women's lives are silenced, covered up (unless they are deemed "sexy"), and ignored. it's real. and every woman in america is affected by it.


How We're Doing: Women and Wealth
this is staggering. literally staggering. Ms. Magazine brings light to the recent study by the Insight Center for Community Economic Development, also highlighted in the Pittsburg Post-Gazette, which reveals:

1. single white women (between the ages of 36-49) make only 61% as much as white men on average. that 61% works out to a median wealth of about $42,600. (and wealth = all owned assets)

chew on that for a minute. lily ledbetter knows what i'm talking about.

2. single black women (of the same age) have a median wealth of $5.
you didn't read that incorrectly. 1,2,3,4,5.


now either EVERY single black woman between 36-49 is ____(fill in the blank with the disgusting stereotypes of welfare-abusing/drug-abusing/lazy/stupid/makesmewanttothrowup)...


maybe, just maybe, there are system-level inequalities that contribute to this sickening gap in wealth & self-sufficiency. for instance: as a white woman who was raised in a two-parent home, it was just sort of expected that i would attend college. (it was NOT expected that my parents would pay for it.) so i worked 3 jobs and applied for scholarships and made it through.

but what if i hadn't come from a 2-parent household? what if neither of my parents had college educations? what if i couldn't find work on the radio (which i did) because my voice sounded "too black"? what if no one told me about the opportunities to test out of entry-level courses, which enabled me to graduate early and accumulate less debt?

The U.S. has a long history of policies that transferred wealth from people of
color to whites [...]As examples, the Indian Removal Act of 1830 forcibly
removed Cherokees from their traditional lands to make room for white settlers.
Jim Crow laws kept African Americans out of better paying jobs, quality public
education and business opportunities. The benefits of citizenship, open to
Europeans, was forbidden to Asian immigrants. The exclusion of Social Security
coverage for a whole generation of farm workers, laborers and domestic workers,
kept Latino and black elders in poverty. Advantage and disadvantage is passed
from generation to generation, often with a cumulative effect, thereby
contributing to the current racial wealth gap.

it isn't a myth. race matters, especially to women. to women's lives.

so, what makes YOU want to scream today?


violence = violence

anyone who knows me would (hopefully) tell you that i care about cultural sensitivity and that i respect and admire differences in culture, religion, background, etc.

what i do not respect is the way some people (not any particular culture as a whole, or religion...but people who care more about power and dominion than their fellow human being) use their culture or religion as an excuse to perpetrate violence against women and girls.

this is a great blog post from Madre, an incredible organization dedicated to fighting violence against women, creating financial equality and building peace. their blog highlights all kinds of amazing efforts, and the one they link to in this blog post, the Global Campaign to Stop Killing and Stoning Women looks like something i'd admire too- so straightforward and truthful. violence against women cannot be hidden behind the veil of religion, culture or tradition.

violence is ALWAYS violence. it's never right.

Women in the World Cheat Sheet

this is so great, and i love how they've called it a cheat sheet. for any time you need to quickly remember the way to solve problems for women (which become problems for men, of course)-

here are the ways to do it, clear and simple:

1. Get men on board
2. Pay families that embrace change
3. Publicize victims' stories
4. Support a woman entrepreneur through microcredit
5. Give a woman a phone
6. Build bridges

none of these are difficult strategies, or earth-shattering ideas. they make sense. give women a voice, access, capital, and support. period.

this cheat sheet needs to be on every senator & representative's desk, on every president, prime minister and world leader's agenda. voila! treating women equally leads to equal opportunities, which leads to healthier communities.


conference envy

i SOOOO wish i could be in new york this weekend for the Women in the World Summit.

Hillary Clinton, Queen Raina, Meryl Streep, Madeline Albright, Katie Couric, Valerie Jarrett, Christiane Amanpour, Shohreh Aghdashloo, Tina Brown...

i would just DIE. die die die! what an unbelievable and ambitious project, with the simple purpose to "discuss the urgent challenges facing women and girls around the world, from sex slavery to child marriage to domestic violence. Most importantly, we’ll be highlighting concrete solutions—ways we all can support efforts to empower women in the face of horrific trends." (Tina Brown)

i can't wait to follow all the action on twitter. i can't even hardly describe how much i wish i could attend. seriously, i would DIE!

i'll try to post interesting & compelling tidbits throughout the summit as i see them.


things that make you go... UGH.

NPR is currently doing a series on campus rape...today's installment is particularly good, or bad, depending on your perspective:

There's a common assumption about men who commit sexual assault on a college
campus: That they made a one-time, bad decision. But psychologist David Lisak
says this assumption is wrong —-and dangerously so.
the story goes on to refute the usual assuption that college men who rape are generally good guys who just made 1 bad decision. in fact, it seems that "On college campuses, repeat predators account for 9 out of every 10 rapes."

uh-huh. why am i not surprised? in our culture, and around the world, women are expendable commodities. frankly, with all our take-back-the-night rallies and public awareness campaigns and educational efforts, i don't think we have yet come close to reaching the point at which the majority of men actually think that rape (when they do it) is wrong.

the first and most important step is to stop treating rape on college campuses as a 'violation of the campus conduct code'. (are you kidding me?) just because it happens within a college community, and is perpetrated by a person who is paying tuition, doesn't mean rape is not a CRIME. the first and third parts of the NPR series dealt specifically with the ludicrously lax treatment of rapists on college campuses. not only is the college to blame, but this investigative series actually tracked culpability all way up to the US Department of Education (which ruled that the university in question did not need to expell the man found guilty of raping a fellow student.) so colleges give rapists a slap on the wrist, and the federal government says it's ok. awesome.

there is currently new leadership in charge of the Dept of Ed office which investigates these kinds of situations, appointed by President Obama. let's hope we can start to see rape being taken more seriously under a president who actually purports to care about women's rights.



http://www.now.org/issues/violence/NOW_Sexual_Assault_Toolkit.pdf **"Take Action Against Sexual Assault on Campus"**