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Member since: Mon Aug 23, 2004, 10:18 PM
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An open letter to CNN on Chelsea Manning

While trans identities can seem difficult to understand at first, it can actually be made quite simple. Mr. Tapper expressed to me that it may be confusing for CNN’s audience to comprehend an abrupt change from two years of news coverage as Bradley Manning to Chelsea Manning. There’s nothing disrespectful about being confused by a sudden name change. It may assist viewers’ understanding to refer to her as “Chelsea” and add the caveat “formerly known as Bradley Manning” while people continue to learn her new name. This proclamation and clarification will remove the necessity of continuing to refer to Chelsea as “he” and “him.”

Where further questions arrive, it can sometimes be helpful to imagine replacing words associated with gender with words associated with sexual orientation to determine whether a statement or policy would be offensive. For example: Mr. Tapper said that Lauren was “once a gay man.” Although gay people may have gone through a time in their lives where they formed heterosexual relationships before coming out, they are no less gay for having done so. Ellen DeGeneres went to prom with a boy, but it would be disrespectful to refer to her as once having been a straight woman.

The societal understanding is that there is so much pressure on gay people to be straight or keep it secret that it is difficult for them to understand their identities and be open about them immediately. The same is true for trans people. Chelsea has not changed. The only thing that has changed is that she is now presenting outwardly as the person she has always been within. Further, we prefer “trans” or “transgender” to be used as adjectives rather than nouns. “A gay” would be bad form, and so would “a trans.” “A lesbian” continues to be the only exception to this rule.
Waiting for Chelsea to achieve a legal name change and physical transition, including hormone treatment and possible surgery, is unnecessary and inhumane. The military currently refuses to treat transgender people with hormone replacement therapy and/or surgery. In any case, that line is arbitrary. There is good reason that trans people consider coming out to be the only step necessary to command respect of their genders.

At what point would her hormone replacement be considered sufficient? When a blood test showed her testosterone as sufficiently repressed? Or not until surgery? Only one in five trans women get sex reassignment surgery, and even fewer trans men – only one in 26. The surgery is prohibitively expensive and can lead to complications. At what point would she be considered to be presenting as a woman? When she wears make-up and dresses? And if I wear pants and no make-up, am I therefore presenting as a man? Would it then be acceptable to call me “he?” I hope you can understand that, under scrutiny, it becomes significantly more confusing to deny a trans person’s gender than to accept it.


How Keeping Abortions Underground Makes Health Care Worse for Everyone

Like many African nations, Kenya's health care system faces many challenges, including severe rates of malaria and HIV/AIDS. But according to a new report published by the Kenyan Ministry of Health, one change could go a long way toward reducing stress on a hugely overburdened system: allowing more women to have an abortion.

Though Kenyans reconsidered an existing abortion ban when writing their 2010 constitution, the nation's top legal document still virtually forbids the procedure. Exceptions are only allowed during health emergencies, as determined by a trained health professional (although at least one US congressman was outraged that even these exceptions made it into the final constitution). Yet outlawing abortion has done little, if anything, to reduce the number of procedures. In 2012, the period of the study's analysis, researchers estimated that Kenyan women underwent nearly 465,000 induced abortions—about 48 for every 1,000 women of reproductive age, well above the estimated rates for both Africa (29 per 1,000) and the world (28 per 1,000).

But keeping abortions underground has led to an incredible rate of complications, putting a strain on an already overburdened health care system. In 2012, almost 120,000 Kenyan women, or more than a third of all women who underwent the procedure, experienced complications. The vast majority of these complications, the researchers found, followed "unsafe abortions" carried out by untrained people or "in an environment that does not conform to minimal medical standards."

Most of these unintended side effects were quite serious: 77 percent of these 120,000 women suffered complications that were "moderately severe" or "severe," according to the study. Out of 100,000 unsafe abortions in Kenya today, the researchers estimated, 266 women die. That rate is lower than the World Health Organization's estimate for all of sub-Saharan Africa (520 deaths per 100,000 unsafe abortions), but far higher than in developed regions, where the rate is estimated to be 30 per 100,000.


FEMEN's Topless Protesters Get Schooled in the Muslim World

(I'm not fond of the title of this article but it does provide interesting info)

Tunisian feminist Amina Sboui has now called it quits with the Ukranian feminist group FEMEN. Sboui blasted the group for its “Islamophobia” and lack of financial transparency, shortly after her release from prison on August 1.

The group, famous for its tactic of topless protests, confirmed the split on its website, saying Sboui quit over “differences of opinion on tactics in the Islamic countries,” and calling for “new heroines who are able to fight for their courage to shake the rotten foundation of Islamist world.”

Sboui told the Huffington Post that she didn’t want to be “associated with an Islamophobic organization,” and that her fight is about more than dress codes: “I want women to be able to become president if they want to. I want women in rural areas to stop suffering.”

Despite parting ways with FEMEN, Amina posted a new topless photograph of herself, but this time, with an anarchist symbol on her chest, symbolizing the radical changes she’d like to forge in her own country.

“Anarchy is the only solution,” she said to Tunisia Live.


You Have No Idea

You have no idea what it’s like to hear someone say the word: r-a-p-e. How much it actually. physically. hurts. The acid you have to swallow back down. What kind of images it brings to the front of your mind. Images you thought you had pushed so far back they’d fall out. Images that make you realize, in that second, he is burned into your memory. Images that will be there on your birthday, and your holidays, on your wedding day, and every other normal day in between. Images that will never leave.

You have no idea how horrible it is to have to present about sexual assault to rooms full of people. How hard you’ll try to convince them that they should just be decent and kind. But you’ll do it. Because you’re scared that if you don’t, no one else will. And then how will they ever learn?

You have no idea how terrifying it is to think that if someone else had felt as passionately as I do now, back then, I might have had no reason to be writing this essay. That I could be sleeping without these reoccurring nightmares and making love without fear. And that I could be crying for people and things far more pressing than some boy who wouldn’t listen when I said no.

You have no idea how much it pains me to remember myself as one of those people who assumed I’d never have to worry about it or that it didn’t matter. Mostly because I grew up in the same rape culture as you, but also because we don’t consider that bad things ever happen to “good” people.

You’ll never know how many times I’ve questioned what I could have done differently. If maybe I deserved it or had it coming. You have no idea how many times someone can replay the details of ten minutes in time. You’ll never get why I do any of the things I do, or say the things I say. Why I’m so dramatic and moody one minute, and lighthearted the next. And you’ll probably think, at least once, that I’m a psychopath.


What women really want

Think women are crazy creatures you'll never understand? We're not that complicated, really.

I wish that women’s options when standing on a scale were indifference, ambivalence and disinterest, not success or failure.

I wish that good men were celebrated more.

I wish that the world would understand that feminism is not about giving women power over men, but power to change their world, and power over themselves.

I wish that sexual violence wasn’t so prevalent that it takes case like Anene and Reeva to make us sit up and pay attention.

I wish that it was the bold, brave, fearless women working in NGOs and community organisations that made the world’s ‘top 100 women’ lists, not just rich women, models, and famous men’s wives.

I wish that girls at schools were safe from sexual abuse and bullying, and that schools supported them in accessing contraception, sex education, abortion, or in the case that they get pregnant and want to keep the child.



The Mako Mori Test: 'Pacific Rim' inspires a Bechdel Test alternative

Fans of feminist film, or any lovers of media with strong female characters, might have a hard time justifying why they love certain movies. But the Mako Mori test, named after a Pacific Rim character at the center of a controversy, is attempting to change the conversation about what constitutes "strong women" in film.

It's no secret that Pacific Rim, Guillermo del Toro's $200 million love song to Japanese pop culture, was a risky venture from the start. With a multicultural cast, Hong Kong used as the main setting instead of New York or L.A., the only real star being a Black Brit many Americans had never heard of, and a storyline full of borrowed tropes that many anime fans felt were ripoffs rather than homages, the sci-fi action flick has fought an uphill battle to draw attention.

The Mako Mori test is passed if the movie has: a) at least one female character; b) who gets her own narrative arc; c) that is not about supporting a man’s story. I think this is about as indicative of “feminism” (that is, minimally indicative, a pretty low bar) as the Bechdel test. It is a pretty basic test for the representation of women, as is the Bechdel test. It does not make a movie automatically feminist.

The application of this test might enable interesting discussions of feminism surrounding films which typically seem to be steamrollered by their failure to pass Bechdel. For instance, while Avengers barely managed to have two women on screen at the same time, much less conversant with each other, it had a female character, Black Widow, whose narrative arc was a major driving force of the plot. Using the Mako Mori Test as a measurement of whether Avengers is a feminist film or not points the focus away from the film's small quantity of women and towards the way Black Widow is demonstrably capable of commanding her own storyline.


I don't love a lot of movies; and when I do they tend to be Tarantino or Rodriquez or even Kevin Smith flicks; or ironic films like "Cabin in the Woods" or my recent favorite "God Bless America" I have come NOT to expect a feminist perspective and when it occurs I'm simply pleasantly surprised. I don't apply a 'test' -- Kill Bill is one of my favorite movies of all time, and while it passes Bechdal, it's a cartoon like revenge flick.

This dialogue from God Bless America --which doesn't pass Bechdal--blew my mind:

Frank: Oh, I get, and I am offended. Not because I've got a problem with bitter, predictable, whiny, millionaire disk jockeys complaining about celebrities or how tough their life is, while I live in an apartment with paper-thin walls next to a couple of Neanderthals who, instead of a baby, decided to give birth to some kind of nocturnal civil defense air-raid siren that goes off every fuckin' night like it's Pearl Harbor. I'm not offended that they act like it's my responsibility to protect their rights to pick on the weak like pack animals, or that we're supposed to support their freedom of speech when they don't give a fuck about yours or mine.

Office Worker: So, you're against free speech now? That's in the Bill of Rights, man.

Frank: I would defend their freedom of speech if I thought it was in jeopardy. I would defend their freedom of speech to tell uninspired, bigoted, blowjob, gay-bashing, racist and rape jokes all under the guise of being edgy, but that's not the edge. That's what sells. They couldn't possibly pander any harder or be more commercially mainstream, because this is the "Oh no, you didn't say that!" generation, where a shocking comment has more weight than the truth. No one has any shame anymore, and we're supposed to celebrate it. I saw a woman throw a used tampon at another woman last night on network television, a network that bills itself as "Today's Woman's Channel". Kids beat each other blind and post it on Youtube. I mean, do you remember when eating rats and maggots on Survivor was shocking? It all seems so quaint now. I'm sure the girls from "2 Girls 1 Cup" are gonna have their own dating show on VH-1 any day now. I mean, why have a civilization anymore if we no longer are interested in being civilized?

And that's the stuff I truly love; the unapologetic calling out of bullshit culture and shallow values. The insistence that cruelty is being "anti PC" when it's just being cruel and thoughtless and boring

“It is the nation’s time”: How women won the vote

Nice long informative article-a lot of bio

“Remember the ladies,” Abigail Adams had said, but it seemed that no one had. “I have argued with [Wendell] Phillips and the whole fraternity and all will favor enfranchising the negro without us,” Elizabeth Cady Stanton told Susan B. Anthony as soon as the war was over. “Woman’s cause is in deep water.”

For almost two decades Stanton had been passionately committed to securing equal rights for American women. The author of the Declaration of Rights and Sentiments that had been read at the Seneca Falls woman’s rights convention in 1848, which she had helped to organize, Stanton had been married for twenty-five years to Henry Brewster Stanton, a well-known abolitionist whom she had met at the home of her cousin Gerrit Smith. Defying stereotypes about women activists being mean, mannish, and unmarried, she had given birth to seven children; she was round and rosy; her hair was snow white, her manner amiable, her dress an unoffending and forgettable calico. Said a friend of the fossilized men who sat open-mouthed when Stanton appeared in public, “Our fossil is first amazed—next bewildered—then fascinated—then convinced—not exactly of the doctrine of woman’s suffrage, perhaps—but at any rate that a woman to be an advocate of that doctrine need neither be a fright nor a fury.”

As a girl, she had been accomplished in chess, horseback riding, Greek, and the law (her father was a judge), and now, at fifty years old, she had not forgotten being told she should study only French, music, and dance—or that her father wished she had been a boy. She hadn’t wanted to be a boy; she just wanted to be a person who enjoyed the same privileges.

Growing up in Johnstown, New York, she had been influenced by the remarkable evangelist Charles Grandison Finney, one of the burned-over district’s most charismatic preachers. At twenty-nine, while practicing law in Adams, New York, Finney had undergone a conversion experience during which he committed himself to teaching the Gospels. He was ordained three years later, in 1824. In cities such as Utica, Auburn, and Troy and then Boston and New York, he sermonized in a plain but vigorous evangelical style that galvanized listeners; speaking at a giant revival in Rochester, New York, he told his audience that each individual was a moral agent, that slavery was wrong—he refused to give communion to slaveholders—that liquor, tobacco, and caffeine were pernicious, and that men, and women too, could relinquish sin, renew themselves, and love God without intermediaries. He actually welcomed women into the prayer meeting, where they were invited to testify, and took his sense of equal rights to Oberlin College, a pioneering institution in coeducation that, regardless of race, admitted women as well as men. “Men came to Oberlin for various reasons,” the activist Lucy Stone would say, “women, because they had nowhere else to go.”


The Rape of Harriet Tubman

This year marked the 100th anniversary of the passing of Harriet Tubman. I had the opportunity to celebrate that fact when organizing a special symposium back in March, resulting in some thought-provoking critical papers on her legacy of resistance, which I’m currently guest-editing for Meridians: Feminism, Race, Transnationalism.

One of the more interesting conversations that came out of this event questioned why, on the anniversary of her death, we have yet to experience an epic cinematic treatment of her life. She certainly qualified for that great Hollywood biopic. Against all odds, as a disabled enslaved woman, she escaped to freedom–having learned of the Underground Railroad network that included support from black and white allies–and once she made it to the other side returned to slavery 17 more times to free countless other slaves.

Tubman used all sorts of wit and trickery to enable her dangerous journey in this secretive network, and even believed in her divine right and power to engage in liberation. She collaborated with John Brown on the raid at Harper’s Ferry, recruiting slaves for the project, but her illness at the time prevented her from taking part in the uprising. During the Civil War, she served as a Union army spy, nurse and soldier, and in 1863, she led a successful military campaign on Combahee River in South Carolina, resulting in the liberation of 750 slaves.
In short, she’s the stuff of legend–for black history, women’s history, American history. The fictional Django from Django Unchained ain’t got nothing on her!
But on the year of her centennial anniversary, what does Tubman get instead of the great Hollywood biopic? She gets a “sex tape.”

You read that correctly. Recently, in an internet launch of his new YouTube channel, All Def Digital, rap media mogul Russell Simmons featured a failed comedic video titled Harriet Tubman Sex Tape–the first in the line-up of this new series. It didn’t take long for black audiences on social media to utterly denounce this video and petition against it. Within 24 hours, Simmons removed the video from his channel and issued this apology:



What’s the link between feminist movements and Violence Against Women?

There’s a fascinating, brilliant and I think, very significant, piece on the role of feminism in driving action on violence against women in the latest issue of Gender and Development (ungated versions on Oxfam policy and practice website, please note).
Authors Laurel Weldon and Mala Htun have painstakingly constructed the mother of all databases, covering 70 countries over four decades (1975 to 2005). It includes various kinds of state action (legal and administrative reforms, protection and prevention, training for officials), and a number of other relevant factors, such as the presence of women legislators, GDP per capita, the nature of the political regime etc.
This allows them both to chart steady improvements in VaW policy (see maps at bottom of this piece) and to use stats techniques to try and identify those factors most closely correlated with state action. Here’s what they find:
“Countries with the strongest feminist movements tend, other things being equal, to have more comprehensive policies on violence against women than those with weaker or non-existent movements. This plays a more important role than left-wing parties, numbers of women legislators, or even national wealth.
These movements can make the difference between having a critical legal reform or funding for shelters or training for the police, and not having it…. women’s status agencies, international norms, and other factors further strengthen feminist efforts…
Women’s autonomous organising has played a critical role for three reasons. First, women organising as women generate social knowledge about women’s position as a group in society. The problem of violence surfaces as an issue of primary concern when women come together to discuss their priorities as women.


15 Black Feminist Books Everyone Should Read

Solidarity may be for white women and black power for black men, but these books are for everybody

Sister Citizen, Melissa Harris-Perry; Sister Outsider, Audre Lorde; Black Girls Are From the Future, Renina Jarmon (Amazon.com)
(The Root) -- White feminism's disregard for black women's issues is nothing new, and sexism in black power movements from the United States to South Africa is also well documented. So it was no surprise when Twitter exploded on Monday with the #solidarityisforwhitewomen trending topic. Writer Mikki Kendall started the tag in response to the insensitivity of some noted white feminists toward victims of writer Hugo Schwyzer's vicious attacks on feminists of color.

On Tuesday, Ebony's Jamilah Lemieux's #blackpowerisforblackmen continued the conversation, this time focusing on the plight of black feminists within the black community. With these hashtags, black feminists used Twitter to revisit discussions that are often ignored in both mainstream feminist media and historical accounts of black liberation struggles. Unsurprisingly, by the end of the night, the #solidarityisforwhitewomen stream was full of tweets from people who clearly don't read books about black feminism. The #blackpowerisforblackmen hashtag was filled with comments from those who refused to acknowledge black male privilege.

It's not a good idea to tell black feminists anything about black feminism if you don't know what you're talking about. Or, as my grandmother always tells me, don't open your mouth if you don't have anything intelligent to say. While I'm tempted just to tell everyone to Google this information on their own, I've also compiled a list of black feminist books that everyone should read before entering conversations like the ones these hashtags started.

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