Saturday, December 13, 2003

Do you know who the PM of Canada is?

In the thread about the Montreal Massacre, the question came up, "why didn't the US media pick up on it." Suppositions of misogynist media came up -- but I don't think that's the full answer, if any answer at all. (Not to say that the US media isn't misogynist -- just that I don't think it's any more misogynist than Canadian media.) Instead, I think it's more likely that the US media didn't pick the story up because it happened in Canada.

As I said in that thread:
And the fact remains, the US media didn't pick up on it because it was Canada. How many news stories did the average American see about Canada today? Does the average news-watching American even know what happened in Canada today? (Err...ok, yesterday -- but I haven't gone to sleep yet, so it's today for me. So, let's just leave it at "Friday.")
According to a recent poll, 8% of Americans knew who the Prime Minister of Canada was. And I have little doubt that that number has been drastically reduced. Do you know who the PM of Canada is?

[Canadians and Kip are prohibited from answering. Let's see if the Americans who weren't told the answer recently can answer ;) ]

Sunday, December 07, 2003

Hillary Swank as Alice Paul

Hilary Swank Votes For 'Iron Jawed Angels'

HBO has signed star Hilary Swank (Oscar-winning "Boys Don't Cry") to topline "Iron Jawed Angels," reports Variety.

The film is about suffragist Alice Paul who, with fellow suffragist Lucy Burns, was a turn-of-the-last-century radical whose efforts to win voting rights for women led to imprisonment.

Swank will take the role of Alice Paul and Katja Von Garnier is set to direct.

Sally Robinson has written the script.

"Iron Jawed Angels" begins shooting in the fall.
Definitely good news -- I just hope they also include the many, many years and all the hard work Paul did after the 19th amendment was passed.

In Memoriam: 14th Anniversary of the Montreal Massacre

I meant to post this yesterday -- but better late than never.

In rememberance of:

Geneviéve Bergeron
Héléne Colgan
Nathalie Croteau
Barbara Daigneault
Anne-Marie Edward
Maud Haviernick
Barbara Klucznik Widajewicz
Maryse Laganiére
Maryse Leclair
Anne-Marie Lemay
Sonia Pelletier
Michéle Richard
Annie St.-Arneault
Annie Turcotte

We must never forget!

National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women

The Montreal Massacre

The White Ribbon Campaign


Men for Change

Film: After the Montreal Massacre

Thursday, November 27, 2003


Today, most of us (well, the Americans, anyway) will be spending time with family and friends, eating good food, and generally being thankful for any number of things.

And many of us (myself included) will also be telling ourselves that we aren't celebrating the "real" Thanksgiving and all its racist and genocidal history, but rather enjoying the long weekend that allows out-of-town friends and family to visit, the excuse to eat lots of good food, and treating it as any other holiday, with or without awareness of what this day has historically meant. Why should it be any different from the way we celebrate any other holiday -- Memorial Day, Labor Day, and (for some of us, at least) Christmas or Passover?

But today is not Thanksgiving for many of our fellow Americans. And, while I will be spending my time with friends and eating good food today, I would like to take a moment to reflect on another "holiday" taking place today.

This was written by a dear friend of mine, Nikkiru, and my thoughts will be with her today.

As many of you are aware, The official U.S. "Thanksgiving" is observed by many indigenous people and allies as the National Day of Mourning. Some may not be aware of the history behind that.

The first official "Day of Thanksgiving" in Massachusetts Bay Colony was proclaimed in 1637 by Governor Winthrop. He did so to celebrate the safe return of men from the Massachusetts Bay colony, who had gone to Mystic, Connecticut to participate in the massacre of over 700 Pequot women, children, and men. Their homes were burned, and those who ran were shot down indiscriminately: the old, the young, the pregnant. Babies.

In 1970 Wamsutta Frank James, a Wampanoag man, was invited to speak at a state dinner in Plymouth, celebrating the 350th anniversary of the pilgrim landing. He refused to speak the words they wanted to put in his mouth, praising the colonists for bringing "civilisation" to the poor heathens. And so he left the hall and climbed Cole's Hill, near the statue of Sachem Massasoit, and gave his speech there. It was the first National Day of Mourning. Below are excerpts from that speech.

It is with mixed emotion that I stand here to share my thoughts. This is a time of celebration for you - celebrating an anniversary of a beginning for the white man in America. A time of looking back, of reflection. It is with a heavy heart that I look back upon what happened to my People.

Even before the Pilgrims landed it was common practice for explorers to capture Indians, take them to Europe and sell them as slaves for 220 shillings apiece. The Pilgrims had hardly explored the shores of Cape Cod for four days before they had robbed the graves of my ancestors and stolen their corn and beans. Mourt's Relation describes a searching party of sixteen men. Mourt goes on to say that this party took as much of the Indians' winter provisions as they were able to carry.

Massasoit, the great Sachem of the Wampanoag, knew these facts, yet he and his People welcomed and befriended the settlers of the Plymouth Plantation. Perhaps he did this because his Tribe had been depleted by an epidemic. Or his knowledge of the harsh oncoming winter was the reason for his peaceful acceptance of these acts. This action by Massasoit was perhaps our biggest mistake. We, the Wampanoag, welcomed you, the white man, with open arms, little knowing that it was the beginning of the end; that before 50 years were to pass, the Wampanoag would no longer be a free people.

What happened in those short 50 years? What has happened in the last 300 years? History gives us facts and there were atrocities; there were broken promises - and most of these centered around land ownership. Among ourselves we understood that there were boundaries, but never before had we had to deal with fences and stone walls. But the white man had a need to prove his worth by the amount of land that he owned. Only ten years later, when the Puritans came, they treated the Wampanoag with even less kindness in converting the souls of the so-called "savages." Although the Puritans were harsh to members of their own society, the Indian was pressed between stone slabs and hanged as quickly as any other "witch."


There are some factors concerning the Wampanoags and other Indians across this vast nation. We now have 350 years of experience living amongst the white man. We can now speak his language. We can now think as a white man thinks. We can now compete with him for the top jobs. We're being heard; we are now being listened to. The important point is that along with these necessities of everyday living, we still have the spirit, we still have the unique culture, we still have the will and, most important of all, the determination to remain as Indians. We are determined, and our presence here this evening is living testimony that this is only the beginning of the American Indian, particularly the Wampanoag, to regain the position in this country that is rightfully ours.


There are still gatheringas on Cole's Hill every year. Others observe the Day of Mourning by prayer and fasting. For more information, see the United American Indians of New England (UAINE).

The 34th National Day of Mourning is scheduled for Nov. 27, 2003, 12:00 noon, on Coles Hill in Plymouth, MA.

In the spirit of Metacom.

19% of poll respondants understand the concept of irony

Internet polls are never really very accurate -- I mean, they are so simplified that you always end up with leading questions, and it's impossible to get a random sample. Nevertheless, some of them can be fun. And I have to say, this is the best poll I've ever seen.

Wednesday, October 15, 2003

Is it really for the victims' families?

Recently I learned of a site that posts names, pictures, life histories, and surviving relatives of those tragically killed in the turmoil in Isreal, and even allows you to send a condolence note to the families. In addition to asking for donations, you can even buy a bracelet with one of the victims' names on it or a "poster of victims". This money (and organization) claims to "provides financial, legal, and emotional assistance to the survivors of terrorism" (and I have no reason to doubt that this is what they actually do).

But the problem is, this isn't necessarily what the families of the victims want. I was directed to this site by one such woman. Her mother was tragically killed by a suicide bomber last June. Neither she nor anyone else in her family has given this organization permission to use her mother's picture, name, life history (and even their own names). They have, in fact, asked that her mother's picture and name be removed . . . to no avail.

If an organization is supposed to be for the benefit of survivors, and a memorial to the victims, shouldn't they take the victims' families' feelings into consideration? Shouldn't they have the right to mourn the tragic loss of their mother in any way that they see fit -- not what someone else sees fit?

When will the exploitation of victims and their families end?

As one family member said:

I don't think the profile is what really bothers me, I already accepted this level of "publicness". What I can't stand is the commercialism. These people are selling shares in grief, and it's not even theirs to sell.

[Note: all links are to general pages, and no identifying information for the particular victim is mentioned in this post, for the sake of her family. And, once again, I would like to send out my deepest sympathies for the tragic loss of your mother to Yahewe and Vevedation (screen names only).]

Some inspiring words

Someone I "know" (from on-line) just saw Ani (DiFranco, for those not in the know :p ) tonight, and brought back with her a bit of a new song -- one that depicts precisely why Ani is one of my idols:

i am shocked to tears by each new vision
of all that my ancestors have done
like, say the women who gave their lives so that i could have one
people we are standing at ground zero of the feminist revolution

behold if you please
a patriarchy on its knees
yes it was an inside job
stoic and sly
one we're supposed to forget, and downplay and deny
but i think the time is nothin' if not nigh
to let the truth out
the coolest "f" word ever deserves a fuckin' shout

i mean look around
we have *this*

Thursday, October 09, 2003

So happy I could cry!

Landmark Appeals Court Ruling for Battered Women!

From the Seattle Post-Intelligencer:

In a landmark decision that could affect thousands of immigrant women and children, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals yesterday defined domestic abuse as "extreme cruelty" and a cycle of violence that knows no borders.

For the first time since Congress enacted the Violence Against Women Act of 1994, a three-judge panel interpreted key phrasing used in the immigration provisions of the law passed to prevent victims of domestic violence from being held captive in abusive relationships by threats of deportation.

The court defined domestic abuse not only as physical assault, but also as part of a well-documented cycle that includes psychological abuse over time and intermittent periods of remorse and reconciliation.

In doing so, the court stopped the deportation to Mexico of Seattle resident Laura Hernandez ordered by Seattle Immigration Judge Anna Ho and the Board of Immigration of Appeals.

"The 9th Circuit just smacked the INS hard," said Lisa Stone, executive director of the Northwest Women's Law Center in Seattle, a non-profit legal organization for women that represented Hernandez in her appeal.

From the Ninth Circuit decision in Hernandez v. Ashcroft:

Abuse within intimate relationships often follows a pattern known as the cycle of violence, "which consists of a tension building phase, followed by acute battering of the victim, and finally by a contrite phase where the batterer's use of promises and gifts increases the battered woman's hope that violence has occurred for thelast time."...

The literature also emphasizes that, although a relationship may appear to be predominantly tranquil and punctuated only infrequently by episodes of violence, "abusive behavior does not occur as a series of discrete events," but rather pervades the entire relationship...The effects of psychological abuse, coercive behavior, and the ensuing dynamics of power and control mean that "the pattern of violence and abuse can be viewed as a single and continuing entity"...Thus, the battered woman's fear, vigilance or perception that she has few options may persist...even when the abusive partner appears to be peaceful and calm."...The psychological role of kindness is also significant...since in combination with the batterer's physical dominance, such kindness often creates an intense emotional dependence by the battered woman on the batterer...

"Congress clearly intended extreme cruelty to indicate nonphysical aspects of domestic violence. Defining extreme cruelty in the context of domestic violence to include acts that "may not initially appear violent but that are part of an overall pattern of violence" is a reasonable construction of the statutory text at hand. This interpretation is congruent with Congress's goal of protecting battered immigrant women and recognition of past governmental insensitivity regarding domestic violence...

Wednesday, October 08, 2003

Canadian Union threatening boycott for sexist ad campaign

We've all probably heard about boycotts against companies that produce sexist ad campaigns. Some of them are even quite successful (think back to the early 90s when Sprite was using waif models, such as Kate Moss -- and thanks to the boycott, they switched their ad campaign to the later, funnier one making fun of celebraties endorsing products). But, when you think of these boycotts, who do you think of as promoting, even starting, them? Well, feminists, of course.

So, when a labor union of maintenance and trade workers in health care, as well as construction workers and heavy equipment operators threatens a boycott of a company due to a sexist ad campaign, well, ya gotta figure it's pretty sexist. And sure enough, it is.

Anger over a national billboard campaign has prompted the Manitoba Federation of Labour to call for a boycott of Terra Footwear, which sells protective boots.

The company's billboard ads depict women in lingerie in suggestive positions while wearing workboots.

The Web site of Terra Footwear also features a streaming video commercial for the boots featuring topless dancers.

Michael Alberg with the Operating Engineers of Manitoba, which represents maintenance and trade workers in health care, as well as construction workers and heavy equipment operators, says the ad campaign is offensive and sexually discriminatory.

His union has lodged a complaint with Terra Footwear.

"In the e-mail, it says we expect them to pull the ads immediately," he said.

"If they refuse to do that, we would be looking at a boycott not only locally, but nationally and perhaps North American-wide through the different labour congresses," said Alberg.

Alberg's union has the backing of the Manitoba Federation of Labour, which has more than 95,000 members.

The head of the federation, Robert Hilliard, says it may ask the Canadian Labour Congress to join in the boycott.

"I kind of thought that most companies would be a little more sensitive for exploiting women in that way to market construction boots, of all things," said Hilliard.

To see one of the billboard ads, go to the article. To see the video commercial, go here.

I always knew I liked unions. :D

Edited to add: It looks like the web commercial has been taken down, possibly by the server. If, however, it's a bandwidth issue or something and comes back up, it should be noted that this commercial contains extreme amounts of gratuitous nudity. I should have made that disclaimer from the beginning -- sorry about that.

Monday, September 29, 2003

Just popping in...

Sorry I haven't been posting much lately. In addition to doing massive amounts of painting lately, I've been working a lot of overtime at work and working on a website for a friend. So, I haven't had much time to spend here. But I'll be back in a few weeks with a couple of "series" I have in mind -- which should be illuminating and interesting for everyone (well, at least to me :p ).

But, I did want to pop in and post briefly about a few things of interest that have been going on lately.

  • More good news for gays and lesbians in Canada. One day after the House of Commons narrowly defeated an opposition motion to support a heterosexual definition of marriage, it voted 141 - 110 in favor of adding "sexuality to a law which bans hatred towards minorities in speech, publications, on radio and television."
    Gays and lesbians have been covered for many years in the physical violence provisions of a separate law in the criminal code, but had not been added to the promotion of hate law.

    "The message that is sent out by the failure to include gay and lesbian people in hate propaganda legislation is that our lives aren't as valuable," [New Democrat Svend] Robinson said during debate on the bill.

    "If we're going to say no to the promotion of hatred and violence based on religion, color, race and ethnic origin, surely we should say that gay bashing and promotion of hatred and violence against gay and lesbian people is just as unacceptable."
  • Even better news from Nigeria. Amina Lawal's conviction was overturned by an Islamic appeals court in northern Nigeria.
    Ms Lawal, 32, was sentenced to be stoned to death under Sharia law in March 2002 after she gave birth to a child outside marriage. Twelve mainly Islamic states in northern Nigeria have adopted Sharia, though the Nigerian government had argued for Ms Lawal's release. In an hour-long ruling, the judges in black robes and white turbans said Ms Lawal was not caught in the act, and was not given enough time to understand the charges against her. They also complained that only one judge was present at her initial conviction, instead of the three required under Islamic law.

    Reading the verdict, judge Ibrahim Mai-Unguwa said the court accepted Ms Lawal's appeal, and told her she was free to go.
  • I'm sitting in a crack house. It's a nice house: a clean, cozy, middle class home. I've come to ask the proprietor a few questions, hoping to gain some insight into the mind of a practitioner of the world's second oldest profession.

    The above an introduction to a very interesting interview with a crack dealer.

  • The national convention of College Republicans has caused quite a stir by selling racist and homophobic t-shirts.
    One T-shirt has a photo of Rosie and Kelli O'Donnell with the line "Mr. (?) and Mrs. (?) Rosie O'Donnell." Another says "No Muslims No Terrorism." A third has a photo of black filmmaker Spike Lee and the message "Bring back the blacklist." A fourth says "The Clinton Legacy" and shows the World Trade Center after one of the 9-11 terrorist attack.
  • Hillary Clinton's biography Living History has been published in China and has already become the most popular foreign political memoir in Chinese history, with 200,000 copies sold in just over a month, according to government-owned publisher Yilin Press. The problem? The Chinese edition omits any passage deemed offensive to China.
    The passages in "Living History" about the 19 years that the dissident Harry Wu spent as a political prisoner disappear in the officially licensed Yilin Press translation, which has sold more than 200,000 copies in just a month. Gone too, in violation of Senator Clinton's book contract, is her sympathy for the students in the 1989 Tiananmen Square protests and her account of Tibetan activists banned from a United Nations conference on women near Beijing in 1995.
    According to Ross Terrill of the New York Times:
    Here is the nub of the issue: foreign opinion, even that of the Clintons, is less important to Beijing than keeping its grip over the minds of its citizens. China's post-Mao openness to the world, an economic strategy, remains contradicted by its fear of a free flow of non-economic information reaching the ears and eyes of the people. Citizens of the People's Republic are trusted with their money but not their minds.

Thursday, September 11, 2003

Suffragists vs. Suffragettes

In a recent entry from Ampersand, there's been a bit of debate over whether the term should be suffragist or suffragette.

As I stated in the comments section:
Actually, there is no right or wrong way to use the term -- or rather, the preferred term would depend on who you were talking to.

The term Suffragette was coined by the London newspaper, the Daily News in 1906 -- scathingly they referred to the women as not real suffragists. By adding the "ette" diminuitive, it tried to ridicule the women as something small, almost like an imitation of the real thing such as one would compare a kitchenette to a real kitchen.

After that, many British suffragists, and a few American ones, adopted the term as a way to differentiate themselves from the staid constitutionalists who sought political equality through negotiation and lobbying. Most American suffragists, however, continued to use the term suffragist, choosing to not reclaim the insulting term.

At some point, suffragist came to mean someone who was fighting for the vote for women in a "peaceful" way, while the radicals (or militants), who would break windows, set fires, and go to jail were known as suffragettes.
After writing that, I did a little search, and I ran across an interesting website -- Britain 1906 - 1918 Contrast, Contradiction, and Change. As you have probably already figured out, even before clicking on the link, it's all about movements in England. Nonetheless, there are certainly enough similarities between the British Women's Suffrage movement and the American Women's Suffrage Movement to get an idea of what was going on. There are some great documents included on this site -- cartoons, photographs, correspondance, and articles. On the particular topic of Suffragists vs. Suffragettes, you can see, perhaps more clearly, the lines drawn between them.

Friday, September 05, 2003

It's Jocelyn Elders, all over again

What could be so offensive that it would cause newspapers to pull a Doonesbury strip? Saying something derogatory about the president? Taking an "un-patriotic" stance? No, no, of course not -- that only happens to those Black cartoonists. For Doonesbury to be pulled, it has to be something really offensive. Like using the word masturbation.
Characters in Sunday's strip discuss a recent study by Australian scientists who found that men who masturbate often in their 20s are 30 percent less likely to get prostate cancer later.

Some U.S. newspapers have chosen to run a substitute offered by Kansas City-based Universal Press Syndicate.

"We felt it was something our readers would not like, and we did not have a good reason for running it," said Diane Bacha, assistant managing editor for features and entertainment at the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

Bacha posted a query about the comic on an industry e-mail message board and received responses from 34 newspapers. Nineteen said they would not run the strip, 12 said they planned to and three did not know what they would do.
I believe the controversial strip is due to appear in some newspapers on September 22.

Thursday, August 28, 2003

And the Award Goes To...

Ellen Goodman, for writing up a brilliant (and quite humorous) summary of some of the year's most sexist events (many of which have been written about on this very blog).
The 2003 Equal Rites Awards:
Recognizing those who have done the most to set back equality

BOSTON -- We gather here once more to celebrate Aug. 26, the anniversary of the passage of women's suffrage, with a time-honored tradition. Our one-woman jury dispenses the annual Equal Rites Awards to those very special folks who worked hard over the past 12 months to set back the cause of equality.

The awards are always the subject of intense competition. But never more so than this year when the world seemed to divide between international fundamentalists who want to keep women veiled and Internet spammers who want to unveil them on your computer screen.

But enough of that. It's time for the envelopes, please.
Click here to see who wins.

Monday, August 04, 2003

A boom time for rape

With all the talk of rape lately -- what with the new Illinois law, and the Kobe Bryant case -- this Guardian article is quite timely.
We are living in a boom time for rape. Last year women reported 27% more rapes than in the year before. At the same time, convictions have plummeted to a record-breaking low: only 5.8% of reported rapes end with a conviction, down from 7.5% in 1999 and 33% in 1977. Not just a boom time for rape, then - also a boom time for rapists. There has never been a better time to rape and get away with it.
Now, of course, all the stats (and laws) in the article apply to the UK, and I don't know the equivalent stats for the US (at least, not the most current ones). But since British culture and American culture are, historically, comparable, I wouldn't be surprised if the same thing is happening here (and, if I were to base it on anecdotal evidence, I'd have to say that it definitely is). Regardless, these stats are appalling and frightening -- whether they are happening here in the States or only in England.

As is typical of most Guardian articles, the author, Katharine Viner, goes on to bring up quite a few interesting points.

For instance -- to make this even more timely and relevant to those of us here in the States, she brings up the issue of anonymity for those accused of rape. Certainly, I've never heard this mentioned more than over the past few weeks. After the public outing of the [alleged] rape victim's name, there has been a storm of people asking (or demanding) why the accused's name should be public, too.
Whether the police, the law, or something more fundamental in the culture is to blame for this shocking state of affairs is difficult to tell: all we tend to hear in the media about rape is the undoubted trauma of those men acquitted of rape having been accused in the first place - never how bad it is for women who suffered 27% more rapes last year than the one before. And discussion of rape law never focuses on what can be done about all the rapists getting away with it; instead, campaigners push for anonymity for men accused of rape - a privilege not accorded those charged with any other crime, not even murder or child abuse.

When this idea was tried before - in 1976 - it heralded a further plummeting of the conviction rate for rape. Anonymity for rape defendants, which Lord Woolf appeared to be proposing this week - but which parliament will surely reject - would finally make rape the 100% unconvictable crime.
It seems that The Sexual Offenses (Amendment) Act of 1976 made it illegal to publish the name or photo of either the complainant or the defendant in a rape case for the entirety of their lives (to see the most recent version of this Act, you can check out the Equal Opportunities Commission Website for Legal Advisers). The Criminal Justice Act of 1988, however, revoked the anonymity clause for defendants.

While my views on the anonymity of rape victims is steadfast, I am ambiguous about anonymity for those accused of a crime (including, but not limited to, rape -- although after seeing that this has been tried before, with dreadful results, my mind is changing). But notice that those crying for anonymity of accused rapists are not doing the same for the accused in other crimes. And, I think that says something. Why should those accused of rape get special treatment from the law? Where is the outcry for anonymity of accused murders and embezzlers? Why are these people not seen as the "victims" of a media gone crazy? Is it because so many people still believe in the myth of the "false accusation"? (I'm not denying that false accusations happen -- I am denying, however, that false rape accusations are any more prevelant than false accusations for any of other crime.)
Newspaper coverage of false allegations of rape reinforce the idea that women make it all up; in fact, false allegations of rape are just as rare as false allegations of any other crime - about 2%.
The Sexual Offenses Bill that is in front of the House of Commons now does have some good (and necessary) other changes in it -- such as the issue of consent:
Crucial to the bill is the central issue of consent. The current legal framework was set in 1976 by the infamous Morgan ruling, in which a husband had taken three men back to his house, where all four raped his wife. The three claimed that the husband had told his friends that his wife was likely to say no and struggle, but that this was just a fetish: she was, they believed, "kinky". The House of Lords, in which a woman judge has never sat, ruled that a man was not guilty of rape if he honestly believed a woman had consented to sex - even if that belief was unreasonable.

This Morgan ruling has been catastrophic for raped women, because it means that they can say no a thousand times, they can shout and scream and fight, but if a man says "my mates said she was up for it" or "he told me she liked it rough", the law supports him. The planned changes on consent would mean the three Morgan men would now have to explain exactly what they did to be certain that when she was demanding that they stop, she was in fact consenting to sex.
I can't even comment on this other than to say What the fuck?!?
And while juries routinely disbelieve what women tell them, they do believe the defendants: both men and women find it hard to accept that ordinary, pleasant-seeming blokes could have committed such a heinous crime as rape. But, as DCI Richard Walton, who leads the Metropolitan Police's highly regarded Project Sapphire, says: "Rape is far more common than people realise. All people see of rape in the media is the stranger rapist hunted down around the country, or the woman who invents a rape allegation. These two extremes are not representative of what's really going on out there." It is ordinary-seeming men who rape.
Interestingly, in jury studies in the US, the most likely jurist to convict an accused rapist (not a "stranger rape") are older men. Women, on the other hand, are more likely to acquit. This is because older men are more likely to identify with the father or husband of the victim, whereas women are more likely to identify with the victim. It becomes far too scary to think, "that could've been men" and far easier to think, "if it had been me, I would have said no, and fought him off and not been raped. Since she didn't, she must have wanted it." Identifying with the rape victim, realizing that it could have been you who was unable to fight him off, who "let" herself be "put" in that situation means giving up the illusion of control.
But then juries only reflect our culture, which is increasingly sexualised in a cold, disconnected way - from the proliferation of ever more vicious pornography to the loading of our email boxes with invitations to witness "live rape".

In our society, loving sex has been replaced with soulless extremes, and violence has become normalised. Ex-cricketer Phil Tufnell, despite being convicted in 1994 of actual bodily harm of his ex-wife, has become a national hero for winning a celebrity gameshow - the Observer called him "the nation's favourite Jack-the-lad". And comedian Frank Skinner tells Arena magazine a "funny" story about a bloke he met who was left bleeding but happy after sex with his girlfriend and concludes: "I think a woman who can still smile and say 'it was worth it' from her hospital bed would be my ideal partner." (And he's one of the highest-paid men on television.)

So when commentators say that the 27% rise in rape is "unexplained", might there be an explanation which goes beyond the fact that more women are reporting rape? Is it so difficult to accept that there might actually be more rape taking place? Police say that gang rape is showing a marked increase; that drug-assisted rape is burgeoning; that there are more rapes in nightclubs and at gigs; that rapists are turning away from stranger rape (harder to get away with) and instead befriending their victims before the assault. And what greater incentive than the common knowledge that rape is the crime you can commit and still walk free?

Thursday, July 31, 2003

Proclaiming the feminist label -- Redux

Sappho, over at Noli Irritare Leones has responded to my earlier post on What to do about all those "I'm not a feminist, but ..." women,"

Now, I do want to point out a couple of things (and I'm not trying, in any way, to pick on Sappho -- simply pointing out a few things):

  • Not all feminists believe that Christianity is the antithesis of feminism -- although most do believe that Christianity (and Judaism and Islam) are historically patriarchal (and let's face it, they are). But, there are a great number of feminists who believe that feminists can be Christians and vice-versa -- it's simply a matter of how one follows the religion. In fact, I'd say that from Sappho's brief explanation of her view of relgion, that's a pretty feminist view, even while maintaining a strong Christian stance.

  • Feminists believe in the maintaining (or bringing about) legal and financial access to abortions. However, the majority of feminists also want to see a reduction in the number of abortions. The difference between feminists views on reducing this number and conservative views are that for feminists, rather than reducing access to abortions, they simply want to reduce the need for them -- through better access to sex education and birth control.

  • Most feminists do not equate the "sexual revolution" with feminism. Not because feminists don't believe in the premise of the sexual revolution -- but because the sexual revolution, as it played out, was more about benefitting men than it was women. Yes, feminists want to get rid the world of the mentality that divides women between Madonna and whore, wants to rid the world of the mentality that labels some women slut. But most feminists are not giving a big "hurrah!" for the sexual revolution as it played out.

That said -- Sappho's post is an excellent one. She, for one, recognizes that one does not need to agree with every single feminist stance (as if it would possible for anyone to do anyway) in order for her to recognize and acknowledge the very real freedoms and rights that feminism has given the women of this world and the work that feminism is still doing. She is able to distinguish between what feminism is what pop-culture says it is, and is able to accept that she may disagree with what some individual feminists believe without discarding the entire ideology.

The world needs more people like Sappho.

Saturday, July 26, 2003

Disgusting behavior in the media - Redux

In Tom's post over at TBOGG regarding the release of the victim's name in the Kobe Bryant case, he goes into a bit of detail about other reasons to be disgusted by Tom Leykis (the radio talk-show host who first released the victim's name).

In his post, he quotes a bit about Leykis' "primer on how to get laid":

Equally provocative is his "Leykis 101." An unapologetic primer to help men get laid with minimum effort, its "rules" - a retort to the women's self-help guide - include Never spend a lot of money impressing her on the first date, Stop seeing her if you don't get laid by the third date, and Never date single mothers. Like Flash Fridays this, too, began innocently enough, with Leykis lecturing a staff member about his love life. While most male listeners have welcomed "Leykis 101" like manna from heaven, many women see it as the Black Plague. On "Politically Incorrect" in February 1999, Leykis defended his position amid a hostile group of female panelists: "We don't fall in love with you until we get some tail!...If you think that we hear a word you say before we get in your panties, let me tell you something, we don't!"

But, let's face it. As disgusting and immature as this drivel is, that's not going to be enough to get Leykis' name really noticed among all the shock-jocks out there, today. No, he needs to sink a little bit lower to do that. And he has. Releasing the victim's alleged name over the air was only the latest in his smarmy repertoire. Mediawatch, the watchdog group monitoring racism, sexism, and violence in the media, has had a boycott against Leykis for quite a while now.

If you scroll down past the article about Lekis being arrested for beating his wife, the article of the charges being dropped (on condition he seek treatment), and then the bit about his "Flash Fridays," you'll see the transcript of his 12/27/99 radio show in which he not only advocates the very things quoted above, but also advocates seeking out women who were molested as children because they "put out more."

They just don't get more vile than Leykis.

Disgusting behavior in the media

Pen-Elayne, Trish Wilson, and TBOGG have all written some great posts on the recent controversy over releasing the [alleged] victim's name in the Kobe Bryant case.

As they all point out, there are established (and good) reasons why the victim's name should not be released, particularly pre-trial. In this country, the accused has the right to confront his/her accuser -- but that does not mean that the rest of the country has that same right.

But here's another reason the name shouldn't be spread all over the media -- it might not be the right name!

LaRene said she has sent "cease and desist" letters to several Web sites, asking them to stop using the woman's picture. If sites don't comply, she said she will get court orders and did not rule out libel lawsuits.

There are similarities between the woman and the alleged victim, who has accused the Los Angeles Lakers star of sexually assaulting her at a Colorado resort June 30. Bryant has been charged with felony assault, but says the sex was consensual.

Both women are 19, have the same first name and attended Eagle County High School. While the young woman in the Bryant case was a cheerleader, the other woman was on the school's dance squad.

"Somebody put two and two together -- these intersections of similarities -- and came up with five," LaRene said.
Altering photos

Early on, there were two pictures, one of the woman's dance team and another with her standing next to a young man at a dress-up event. Also posted was the name, address, phone number and e-mail of the alleged victim in the Bryant case.

Since then, some Web sites have altered photos to put the wrong woman's face on nude bodies, she said, and others have attached text calling her every combination of profanity imaginable.

"The young woman is suffering. She's mortified and the family is under a great deal of stress," LaRene said. "They're using this girl's photograph and it's causing injury."

What these people have done to this woman is shameful, disgusting, and horrific. But to bring it back around to the subject of releasing victims' names, in general, had she actually been the accuser, it would not have changed the horrific nature of these websites. Posting her phone number and address?! Given the hostile nature of these sites toward this woman, I believe this is attempting to incite violence (one can only hope that no follows through).

Monday, July 21, 2003

Israel Cuts Benefits for Mothers, Homemakers

Israel Cuts Benefits for Mothers, Homemakers

Israel's new economic plan has serious consequences for women and their families, with major cutbacks in family funding and an increase in the official retirement age.

NETANYA, Israel (WOMENSENEWS)--A new economic plan in Israel slashes child allowances, raises health taxes for housewives and increases the retirement age for women by seven years.
These changes represent a significant development in Israel's policy, which once financially rewarded women for having children. Although women aren't specifically being targeted in the spending cuts, they are among the hardest hit.

Single mothers are feeling the brunt of the changes. The National Insurance Institute of Israel has lowered the ceiling of how much they will give for child support in circumstances in which a child's father is unable or unwilling to pay and supplemental income to families living below the poverty level has been drastically reduced, leaving a large segment of the population being thrust into poverty.

These changes have been on paper for months, but once the reforms were actualized, and families were faced with the reality of not having enough money, people began to protest.
Last week, a single mother named Vikki Knafo conducted a week-long protest walk from Mitzpe Ramon to Jerusalem, covering 124 miles and almost one-third of the country. Her journey drew support along the way, as well as attention to the plight of other single mothers on
welfare, and she was met at her final destination, the Finance Ministry, by activists from all over the country.

"I am not a political activist. I am just a woman who has had enough," she told The Jerusalem Post. "The government has to realize that we are not going to just sit and take it."
Other cuts involve a monetary gift that Israel has provided for many years upon the birth of each new child. This amount was NIS 1,400 ($325) for each of the first four children born, and then from child number five and on, that amount doubled to NIS 2,800 ($650) per child. These grants were given to support the growth of families in Israel, for both religious and demographic reasons.

Now, while the initial gift has actually been increased to NIS 1,600 ($372) for the first child, nothing further will be given for additional births. According to National Security data, this means that 71 percent of all childbirths in Israel will no longer receive grants.

Also affected is a monthly child allowance that mothers have received until now. Under the new plan, mothers will receive a flat NIS 144 ($33) per month for each child, whereas previously, each new child brought its mother a grant larger than its prior siblings.

A mother with three children will now receive 38 percent less government support and mothers of seven or eight children will find a 73 percent cut in the funding they used to receive.
An estimated 500,000 wives work as homemakers in Israel and up until now their health care has been covered by their husbands' jobs. Under the new plan, these women will now have to pay NIS 70 ($16) per month. In addition, other health benefits will be cut. Nina Devere, former member of the national board of directors of Emunah Women, an Israeli organization dedicated to education and social welfare, says these cuts will mainly affect poor women.

Read the Full Story Here

The Enemy of My Enemy

Neo-Nazis and extremist Jews unite on Web

PARIS (Reuters) - French neo-Nazis have formed an alliance with extremist Jewish groups on the Internet to publish a torrent of hate messages directed against Arabs and Muslims, according to a report by a leading anti-racist group.

Members of extreme-right groups were prepared to set aside their anti-Semitic feelings to share Web space and know-how with extremist pro-Israeli campaigners, amid a rise in violence in the Middle East, the study found.

The report said 26 Web sites, traced to right-wing and Jewish extremists groups in France, operated from the same server in the United States between 1999 and March this year.

Members of the groups also shared advice on how to send messages without leaving electronic trails.

Aounit said the unlikely alliance could resurface soon.


The report said that between 2001 and 2003, the groups sent 1,000 messages a day, including incitements to attack mosques in the hope of triggering civil war between Arabs and other French people.

Read the Full Story Here

Gender Socialization in Childhood

You know, over the years, as a feminist and as a Women's Studies student (in both undergrad and grad school), I've studied the aspects of gender socialization a great many times. Everything from how boy babies are treated differently than girl babies, to how boys are treated differently than girls in schools (even by teachers who are trying not to), to kid's toys, to body language. So, you can imagine my delight (among other emotions) when looking at my own childhood photographs and seeing just how socialized I was to be a girl. I'm still missing the one with me in an oversized apron, a rolling pin, and flour all over my face -- I'll have to have my mom scan that one in for me soon. Then maybe I'll write a thesis on it. :-p (That's a little inside joke for the folks that know how well I do at writing theses :p )

What to do with those "I'm not a feminist, but..." women

On July 1, Zoe Williams wrote an excellent article discussing a recent British "survey" done by the Equal Opportunities Commission that showed "women earn less than men and, furthermore, undertake the lioness's share of domestic chores - not because we are forced to, but because we choose to." Williams pointed out many of flaws with this survey (like the fact that the sample contained only 35 women) as well as other interpretations of the results. It's really quite a good read, and I suggest others do take the time to glance through it.

As a result of that article, The Guardian received several letters in response, mostly positive (one of the people who conducted the survey, unsurprisingly, didn't like her article much). But there was one letter that really stuck out for me. It was written by another Guardian columnist, Julie Burchill.
There is a short and sharp way to deal with women who say they are not feminists - you could do it as a nationwide census, which might be more representative than the survey of "35 selected individuals". If a woman answers no to the question "Are you a feminist?", she should immediately be stripped of her voting rights, her right to institute divorce, her legal protection from domestic violence and marital rape - oh, and her pay should be cut to 19% less than that of her male colleagues. Then she could lead the carefree, non-ball-breaking life she so desires, and not be forced to take advantage of all those unpleasant and exhausting social gains which those nasty butch feminists in the 20th century forced on her.

When I hear a woman say "I'm not a feminist" I avoid her. Partly because I despise her, but partly because this makes me think that she spends time entertaining furtive fantasies about lesbian sex, and repeats such Stepford Wife cliches merely to put us off the "scent". And as a respectable middle-aged heterosexual monogamist matron from Hove, such closeted, confused suck-ups fill me with horror. For they are neither friends of women or of men; but stunted misanthropists, fearful and envious of the true love and comradeship between the sexes that can only come from simple equality. Let these cowering wretches embrace the state of allegedly longed-for slavery that existed before modern feminism, and see if they like it; it could even be a reality TV show. It'd be a total hoot!
Julie Burchill

Now, no doubt, there are some who will read this and think, "well, she's not very pro-woman." But, frankly, I laughed my ass off reading this. Obviously it's hyperbole (and well-written hyperbole, I might add, something that most writers today can't do), and I don't know a feminist alive who doesn't get more than a little peeved and frustrated with these "I'm not a feminist, but..." women. I think is a perfect way to deal with them!! (In a hyberpolic sense, of course :p )

By the way -- for those not familiar with the "I'm not a feminist, but..." phrase, the following poster (from One Angry Girl site -- a must see for anyone who has not checked out it out yet) should explain it:

Thursday, July 17, 2003

CEDAW in Morocco

The United Nations Committee for the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) was adopted by the UN General Assembly in 1979. CEDAW is often described as an international bill of rights for women that defines what constitutes discrimination against women and sets up an agenda for national action to end such discrimination. The Convention is the only human rights treaty which affirms the reproductive rights of women and targets culture and tradition as influential forces shaping gender roles and family relations.

According to the Convention, discrimination against women is "... any distinction, exclusion or restriction made on the basis of sex which has the effect or purpose of impairing or nullifying the recognition, enjoyment or exercise by women, irrespective of their marital status, on a basis of equality of men and women, of human rights and fundamental freedoms in the political, economic, social, cultural, civil or any other field."

Having ratified CEDAW, Morocco (as any country that has ratified the Convention) is legally bound to put its provisions into practice. They are also committed to submit national reports, at least every four years, on measures they have taken to comply with their treaty obligations.

Following this committment:

Presenting Morocco's second periodic report on the implementation of the convention of the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination Against Women, Morocco's ambassador to the UN, Mohammed Bennouna, underlined that this process is being conducted in Morocco "within the respect of our religion, culture, and civilization."

He also detailed Morocco's moves to materialize the convention, underlining that Morocco is keen on having women play an important role in various walks of life.

In 2002, the scope of responsibilities taken by women was enlarged, he said, citing as an example the 30 seats reserved to women at the House of Representatives.

The diplomat also recalled that micro-credits allocated by the government and that benefited mainly to women part of a policy to help poor populations, adding that substantial progress was achieved regarding women access to education, health and labor.

As to the national strategy to fight violence against women, it includes several axes that deal most importantly with legislative reforms, extending assistance to violence-victim women and developing infrastructures, financial resources and human resources development.

All of this is, of course, great news. But it just ads to the sadness and anger inherent in knowing that the US refuses to ratify CEDAW. According to the United Nations Department of Public Information, 22 countries have not yet ratified CEDAW. The US is the only Western country not to do so. Among others who have not yet ratifed: Afghanistan, Democratic People's Republic of Korea, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, Sudan, Syrian Arab Republic, United Arab Emirates.

Iraqi women fear rape

An article from New Jersey Online reports on some fo the tragedies and fears facing Iraqi women during this time of chaos and upheaval.

On April 9, as U.S. troops seized Baghdad, looters broke into Al Rashad hospital and flung its gates open. Unaware of the chaos outside, Latif and other patients walked into the street. Latif, 24, was raped and, when she eventually returned to the hospital, discovered she was pregnant.

Her terrible story is one example of the fear felt by many Iraqi women, keeping them indoors, away from their jobs and their lives. Even as Iraqi police work with the U.S.-led coalition to restore law and order, women say they are afraid of being attacked on the street.

Men of all ages jam Baghdad's streets and bazaars -- buying generators, refrigerators, reading newspapers, waiting in line for gasoline. Few women can be seen.

And the women who do venture out to work have been given shorter hours and are taken to and from work by drivers whom they know. They avoid taxis.

"The situation now is confusing and restless, it makes me sad and angry," said Layla Tariq, a housewife. Each day outside is uncertain, she said. "It is not the Baghdad I used to know."

Sabreen Shafi and her two cousins stopped going to school because they didn't have escorts.

"There is no security and no government so we cannot take any legal action against anyone who tries to attack us," she said.

Two other things about this article really bothered me:

"I'm not sick," Latif cried, as a nurse walked up to her carrying a bloody syringe. "I may be pregnant but I know I'm not crazy." She shook slightly, a seizure coming on, then backed away from the nurse.

Well, this sounds like pretty bad treatment from the hospital. Yet, the author of the article never comments further on this. Is this sort of treatment new since the fall of Baghdad? Has it always been this way?

[Al Rashad hospital director Ameer] Heelo said he pleaded with the looters to leave the facility alone. While he denies any of his patients were attacked, he said he did not check afterward to see if they had been harmed. Heelo's directorship was a lingering presence from the old regime. He has run the facility since April 2000 and absolves himself of any blame for what may have befallen those in his charge.

"If my house has been robbed I do not go to my son to see if he is hurt," Heelo insisted. "Everyone can check themselves by themselves."
Does it need to be said what an idiot this guy is?

Thursday, July 10, 2003

Deb and Joyce Get Married

What an incredibly touching and sweet story.

The attack of the superior feminist

I read an article the other day in the San Francisco Chronicle that made my blood boil. Not as much as reading how "men are more victimized by mail-order brides than the brides themselves are," but still, I was more than a little peeved. It all started when I read Joan Ryan's column, The attack of the girly-girls.

I HAVE BEEN WORRIED lately about the possibility that today's young women are not taking themselves seriously enough. I base this on extensive, first-hand examinations of People magazine and more than a few episodes of "Entertainment Tonight."
Well, that's always a good source of information on real society there, I tell ya.
My generation of feminists knew how to be taken seriously. Personally, I wore suits that, absent the low, round-toed pumps, put some people in mind of Richard Nixon's little brother, which was precisely the look I was going for. I was not real keen on giving folks at the office any reason to speculate that I had been born, totally by a fluke of nature, with an X chromosome.

But today's young women? They want to be, I am horrified to report, girly- girls. It is not that they want to be Barbie exactly. They just want her clothes and cute accessories, and maybe her Malibu beach house.
First, are we really supposed to take this seriously when she is comparing feminists from the 70s to movie stars in the 00s? Wouldn't a much fairer comparison be movie stars to movie stars and feminists to feminists? I mean, sure, there are many feminists around who choose to dress more "girly" -- but that's a far cry from the women in People and on Entertainment Tonight. And, for the record, I don't know what sort of isolated island she was living on in the 70s, but not all feminists (let alone women -- and movie stars) dressed as she described.

Now, one might argue that she's not talking about today's "feminists" -- but rather just today's "young women." But if that's truely the case, why bother using the line, "My generation of feminists..."?
Reese Witherspoon is the head cheerleader of the modern Barbie movement. In "Legally Blonde 2," her character, Elle Woods, is Jackie Kennedy in a cotton- candy cloud. She is a Harvard law school grad, but she is pink, pink, pink, changing outfits more than 40 times in less than two hours. She has matching shoes, purses and pillbox hats -- even white gloves. She carries her little dog in a $275 Tylie Malibu bag.

"Down With Love," the send-up of the old Doris Day- Rock Hudson movies, goes even further, dressing Renee Zellwegger in the shiniest, poufiest, most extravagant clothes this side of Carrie Bradshaw's New York closet.

In movies geared to young women, clothes and accessories have become characters themselves, the female equivalent of the cars, weaponry and special effects that attract young men to the theater. Even when women are super- heroes, as in "Charlie's Angels," they are still girly-girls. Each angel had approximately 50 outfits (collectively using, I'm guessing, about three yards of fabric).
And this is what she's basing her opinion of today's feminists on? Should we then base our opinions of 70s feminists on Charlie's Angels (the TV show). Or how about Chrissy (or any of the other blondes) on Three's Company. Or Blaire on Facts of Life? What about the "Bond Girls"?
OK, the girly-girl women kick everybody's butts and always get what they want in the end. But what kind of cockamamie message are they sending? That strong, confident women who are not intimidated by anyone or anything can choose to look however they like -- even feminine and sexy -- while going about their business? There is something seriously wrong with putting such thoughts in the minds of impressionable young girls, and believe me, as soon as I figure out what it is, I am going to fire off a letter to the movie production companies.
You know, I'm sure not a huge fan of the way a lot of women dress in movies, on TV, or even in the music industry, either. But I sure don't think there's anything wrong with a woman who chooses to dress "girly" or even "sexy" so long as she is strong and confident and not completely succumbing to the passive-femme stereotypical ideal of "women." And is pushing women to subscribe to a certain kind of look -- in her case, like "Nixon" -- any better simply because it's not "feminine"?
Some say that what my generation called freedom was, in many ways, just another narrow image of what women were supposed to look like. Maybe they're right.
Ya think?

Girls today are so much more confident and worldly than we ever were. So when a 13-year-old girl was talking to me the other day about dying to visit a particular museum in Dallas, I was beginning to feel less worried about her generation. Buoyed by her intellectual curiosity, I asked what interested her about this museum.

"Oh," she gushed, "it has an exact replica of Coco Chanel's bedroom!"
Well, there ya go -- the future of feminism is dead because of what this one 13-year-old girl said.

Now, as I said, I'm not saying that the movies provide great ideals for feminists to live up to (although, at least Elle Woods is a successful Harvard Law graduate, and not some slasher bait from the 70's). And I'm not saying that women should dress feminine. I'm simply saying that wearing a flip skirt with flowers on it is not the signal of the end of feminism.

But this brings up another issue for me -- a lot bigger issue, in my opinion. In fact, it's so big of an issue for me that I'm writing my masters thesis on it. You see, this sort of article is precisely why there is so much devisiveness between many 2nd and 3rd wavers. Here you have a 2nd waver loudly proclaiming how much better things were in her day, how they did everything right, and how the next generation is messing everything up. But, to make matters worse, she seems to have some sort of selective memory of "her day" and a selective perception of what today's young feminists are doing (and wearing). I'm not going to claim that 3rd wavers never play into the devisive games, but often, it is this sort of thing that sets the 3rd wavers off. We're sick of being dismissed, being told that we're wrong based on some selective memory of what used to be, not to mention the fact that we're sick of being castigated based on faulty comparisons like this.

UPDATE: Elouise over at weezBlog expanded a bit on my post, and had some really great things to say.

Tuesday, July 08, 2003

Man gets life in prison for spitting at officer...but one year for beating wife


OKLAHOMA CITY (Reuters) -- An Oklahoma man arrested on suspicion of beating his wife faced year in prison and a fine. But when he spit in an arresting officer's face, he got a life sentence instead, officials said Wednesday.

John Carl Marquez, 36, was convicted of "placing bodily fluid upon a government employee," a felony that can carry a life sentence because of the possibility of transmitting a potentially deadly disease.

State Judge April Sellers White sentenced Marquez this week even though Marquez and the officer tested negative for any communicable disease.

Marquez also was convicted of assaulting a police officer, and a jury recommended the maximum sentence because he had previous convictions.

Marquez, arrested several months ago, could have received one year in prison and a $3,000 fine for wife beating, according to the Creek County court clerk's office.
When I first read this article, I was livid. I was ranting and raving at how stupid this country is that spitting on a "government employee" could garner such an extensive sentence, while actually beating his wife would garner up to one year.

But, upon further reading, I've changed my mind a bit. Oh, don't get me wrong -- I'm still livid. And I still think it shows how fucked up this country can be. It's just that the focus is a bit different.

Turns out, the jury convicted this man of the maximum sentence allowed for beating his wife. Yes, that's right, the maximum allowable sentence for domestic violence in Oklahoma is one year (not to be mistaken with assault, which can garner a longer sentence). It didn't even matter that this man had prior convictions for robbery and rape. The jury, disturbed by the short sentence, siezed the opportunity and gave him the maximum allowable sentence for "placing bodily fluid upon a government employee" -- life in prison.

So, hooray for this jury. They're not the idiots I originally thought they were. No, in fact, the idiocy is on the part of the lawmakers in Oklahoma.

Here are my questions for these lawmakers:

  • Why are government employees so much more important than the general pubic (the life sentence is only for spitting on a government employee -- not anyone. If there is danger in spitting on someone, let's face it, a veterinarian will be just as dead as a cop or a civil servant)?

  • Why are the sentences so disproportional? Do they really think that the possibility of transmitting a deadly disease by spitting is significantly worse than the risk of killing someone by abusing them? Keep in mind -- the law regarding bodily fluids is not effected by the health status of either the spitter or the spittee (both before and after the incident).
I applaud the jury in this case -- and I can only hope that this case will make lawmakers wise up and change the sentencing procedures -- and hopefully they won't change them for the worse.

Abuse of Mail-Order Brides Prompts Bill

From the Chicago Tribune:
Motivated by the murder of a mail-order bride, members of Congress are drafting a bill that would enable foreign women seeking American husbands to learn the criminal background of men courting them through matchmaking agencies.

The legislation, expected to be introduced this month in the House and Senate, represents the most serious effort yet to impose federal oversight over a loosely regulated, Internet-based industry.

The measure's prime sponsors are Sen. Maria Cantwell and Rep. Rick Larsen, both Democrats from Washington state -- where 20-year-old Anastasia King, a mail-order bride from Kyrgyzstan, was killed in September 2000.

Her husband, Indle King Jr., was convicted last year of first-degree murder. He had divorced a previous foreign bride and was seeking a third before the killing.
Now first, I'd like to say, "it's about time!!!" King was far from the first mail-order bride who has been abused and even murdered.
Advocates for immigrant women's rights acknowledge that statistics are scarce on abuse of mail-order brides, but they're convinced the problem is growing.

"We called legal service providers that help battered immigrant women -- half of these organizations said they have women coming through their doors who were married through international marriage brokers," said Layli Miller-Muro, executive director the Tahirih Justice Center in Falls Church, Va.
As someone who has been working with abused refugee and immigrant women, I can say that my experience matches up with Miller-Muro's. To make matters worse, these men often either hide the wife's papers or never actually file them -- making it incredibly difficult for them to get out of the marriage without being deported. Fortunately, VAWA has reduced the number of years a woman has to be married before she can divorce without immediate deportation if she can prove abuse. But it's still not enough. It's only reduced it from 7 years to 3 years -- better, yes, but not enough.

So, I would like to applaud Cantwell and Larsen for finally stepping up and doing something about this problem.

However, it must be noted that this is nothing more than a band-aid measure. This will not stop the problems inherent in the mail-order bride system. On the most basic level, this will only stop men who have a record of being abusive (either having been convicted of abuse or having had a restraining order placed against them). This will not protect women from abusive men who have either never abused before, or have simply never been caught at it. For another thing, the problems with the mail-order bride system go beyond abuse and murder. The entire system is rife with strict gender role expectations, submission, and oppression. This bill is only a stop-gap on the road to eliminating this "industry" altogether -- something that desperately needs to be done.

Now, I know that many women voluntarily sign-up to be mail-order brides in order to obtain a "better life" and/or U.S. citizenship. However, rather than simply condoning one oppressive system to help relieve another oppressive system -- we should instead all be working to remove the original oppressive system. Whether that be making immigration easier or helping women in other countries be far less oppressed to begin with.

All that said, I have a few quibbles with the article, itself (or, at least with some of the things written about in the article).
Spivack contended that male clients, not the women, are the most likely to be victimized in mail-order marriages. Some women, she said, enter such marriages solely to gain U.S. citizenship, then falsely complain of physical abuse as a ploy to remain in America despite divorce.

"Some of these women are sharks," she said.
Ridiculous. I'm not going to say that this never happens. But to say that men are more victimized is beyond ridiculous. The injuries these women sustain speak for themselves.
"A guy is not going to grab a young woman in Russia to bring here just to beat up," he said. "He's got a lot of money tied up in it."
Bullshit. That may not have been his intention -- but it sure as hell won't prevent him from doing it. In fact, the opposite is true. Now he feels he "owns" her. If she doesn't do exactly what he wants, he feels even more of a "right" to beat the shit out of her.
Such a pitch is offered by the Chance for Love matchmaking service. "The Russian woman has not been exposed to the world of rampant feminism that asserts its rights in America," its Web site says. "She is the weaker gender and knows it."
Right, because Russia is such a backward country. They would never have learned of feminism. There are no Russian feminists. [rolleyes] What fucking bullshit. Try telling that to Marina Pisklakova, Olga Lipovskaya, Alexandra Kollontai, Galina Starovoitova, or any of the other hundreds of Russian feminists past and present. Gah!

Sunday, June 29, 2003

In Loving Memory

Katherine Hepburn

May 12, 1907 -

June 29, 2003

Katherine Hepburn has always been one of my all-time favorite actresses. She was beautiful, strong, hilarious, brave, and just about the best actress there ever was. Sadly, she died today at her home in Old Saybrook, CT, surrounded by friends and family. She was 96 years old.

Katherine Hepburn was born May 12, 1907, in Hartford, CT, where her father was a physician and her mother, Katherine Houghton Hepburn, was a suffragist and an early and militant supporter of birth control. Between 1932 and 1994, Hepburn starred in 53 films. She has been nominated for an Oscar 12 times, won 4 of them (for Morning Glory (33), Guess Who's Coming to Dinner (67), The Lion in Winter (68), and On Golden Pond (81)), and won an Emmy for her made-for-tv movie Love Among the Ruins (75). A feat, by the way, which remains unmatched by any other actor or actress.

From her obituary in the Washington Post:
As a young Hollywood actress, Hepburn was often at odds with the major film studios, which disliked the fact that she would only accept the roles that suited her. She had an independent spirit that led some producers and directors to view her as "an ornery, opinionated snob." She never had a press agent, she often refused to cooperate with film studio publicists, and for years she did not grant media interviews.

If the bulb of a camera flashed from the audience when Hepburn was on the live stage, she would often stop the performance, deliver a sharp tongue-lashing to the miscreant and then begin the scene over again.

In her manner of dress, she was equally unconventional. Her customary attire was a turtleneck sweater, men's trousers and an odd black hat, and it often appeared that much of her clothing was 20 or 30 years old. The Council of Fashion Designers of America gave her an award in 1986 for demonstrating "what American fashion was all about even before any of us thought of designing it." Hepburn's response: "Imagine, the original bag lady getting an award for the way she dresses."

A physical fitness enthusiast, she often played tennis before breakfast, swam outdoors regularly, even in the winter, and whenever possible rode a bicycle instead of riding in a car. She was once the runner-up for the Connecticut women's golf championship.

She was often imperious, both on stage and off, but she could also be sensitive and considerate of others. In the summer of 1980, when "On Golden Pond," was being filmed at Big Squam Lake, N.H., she became concerned that the activity might disturb the region's regular summer residents.

One day she walked over to the cottage nearest to where the movie was being filmed. "I'm Katharine Hepburn. We're making a movie next door, and I hope we're not ruining your summer," she told the startled occupants.

Katherine Hepburn will be dearly missed!

Friday, June 27, 2003

How to stop baby rape

An acquaintance of mine from South Africa pointed out an article from a women's glossy mag that discussed the topical issue of "baby rape." Baby rape is frighteningly common in South Africa (and some other parts of Africa). Part of this is due to the myth (urban legend) that having sex with a virgin will cure AIDS (another frighteningly common occurance in South Africa). Men began raping younger and younger girls (to ensure that they would be virgins), and it has become relatively common to rape baby girls as young as 6 months old (possibly even younger).

In the article, many "experts" were discussing possible solutions to this epidemic. In the midst of some great wisdom, one "solution" stuck out (and chilled me to the bone):

The solution to baby rape, according to Dr. Lorna Jacklin of the Teddy Bear Clinic for abused children, is to prevent it from happening in the first place. And this, she says, is achieved by working with mothers. She says that in all the cases of baby rape she's seen, the mothers either weren't ready for motherhood, or weren't coping with it very well. We have got to empower women to select when they are going to have babies and we have to support and educate them once they do have babies.

Now, I'm all for empowering women. I'm all for helping women select when and if they will have children. And I'm all for supporting and educating both the women and the children. But to pretend that this is a "solution" to ending baby rape is appalling. In the case, the more reasonable (and effective) solutions would including educating the men -- both that rape is WRONG and that it will not cure AIDS.

Once again, the responsibility for a man's greivous acts fall on the shoulders of women. [fume]

Gang rapists are "vigorous" and therefore "normal"

According to the BBC, during a debate about Japan's declining birthrate, Seiichi Ota, a lawmaker with the ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), said that at least gang rapists had a healthy appetite for sex and that "[g]ang rape shows the people who do it are still vigorous, and that is OK. I think that might make them close to normal."

After female legislators issued a joint statement on Friday condemning the remarks as an insult to all women, as well as many other legislators speaking out against the comments, Ota was reprimanded by LDP secretary-general Taku Yamasaki.

After the reprimand, Ota told reporters on Friday that he deeply regretted the "inappropriate, exaggerated expression" and that that his comments "needed to be considered in context."

What context could there possibly be for making this sort of statement acceptable? Well, I can't think of any, but according to him, the context was as follows:

The remarks came as the veteran politician attributed the country's declining population to a lack of courage among Japanese men to enter into married life, the Mainichi Shimbun reported.

Asked by the debate's moderator whether this explained the behaviour of five college students who were arrested earlier this month for gang raping a peer, Mr Ota said that rape showed a healthy attitude.

"I know I'll get in trouble for saying that, though," he reportedly added.

He now says that he "wanted to add that rape is a serious crime that should be punished severely." But, even if he had added that, would that have changed the offensiveness of his statement? Not even close. As Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi pointed out: "Rape is an atrocious act of cowardice and has nothing to do with virile qualities." He couldn't be more right. Rape -- particularly gang rape is not about sexual virile-ness, it's about power, control, and entitlement. And to take it a bit further:

Yasuyuki Takai, vice chairman of the Japan Federation of Bar Association's committee on victim support, said Mr Ota's remarks were indicative of Japanese society's passive attitude to rape, which often goes unreported.

"It shows that in Japan, rape is not thought of enough as an awful act... Japan's social views against incidents of rape need to be made more strict," Mr Takai told the French news agency AFP.

Prison sentences for rape in Japan range from two to 15 years, but it is unusual for a sentence to be more than five years.

Saturday, May 31, 2003

Chocolate: The Gendered Candy

In one of the episodes of Farscape (from the first season) that we watched last night, Aeryn and John were discussing diseases. After John tells Aeryn about all the horrors of disease and death on Earth, Aeryn asks why he wants to go back there. He says, "you don't have chocolate."

Of course, everyone laughed -- this is a chocolate-loving household (well, for the most part -- I'm only a mild fan of the stuff). But I found it interesting that a guy on TV would say something like that. Now, I know a lot of men who like chocolate (as I said, this is a chocolate-loving household), but it's pretty rare to hear a man talk about chocolate in the media. It's usually women who are portrayed as loving chocolate -- often even "needing" and "obsessing" over chocolate.

This gendering of food couldn't be more evident than in two ad campaigns for different brands of chocolate bars that appeared in the UK about a year ago.

In an article for The F-Word: Young UK Feminism, Catherine Redfern compares these two advertising campaigns.

In an ad for Fox's Echo chocolate bars:
Two, slightly nervous, middle-aged men with a look of desperation or weary resignation (presumably gained through years of nagging), sit outside what seems to be a pub, facing the camera. "Can you imagine a world without chocolate?" One of them says, in slow, serious, incredulous tones. "Can you imagine what our lives would be like?" There then follows a montage of images of women rampaging through the streets with riot police holding them back, and women screaming at cowed, silent men, in their homes. "Society as we know it would break down." comments the bloke, in awed, hushed tones. The last but one shot shows a large crowd of serious, grateful men raising their glasses to the camera. "That's why the men of the world thank you, Fox's, for putting extra chocolate in Echo" (or words to that effect). "...thank you for keeping our world sane." Just as the ad ends, there is a shot of a bloke sitting in an armchair at home with a screaming woman swinging a vacuum cleaner, about to bring it crashing down on his unsupecting head. The image cuts off before it smashes down, of course.

Redfern goes on to question how this line of thought came to pass (and it's certainly not the first time we've seen this sort of thinking on TV):
Where did this idea come from that without chocolate, women would literally break down and riot in the streets? It's like some kind of addictive drug! Is it referring to the supposed chocolate-PMT connection? Do women have some deep biological need for chocolate that men just don't have? Why is chocolate being portrayed as some opiate of the misses, keeping us sweet, keeping us docile, keeping us 'sane'? Women literally cannot survive without chocolate, the ad is saying. Chocolate keeps us docile and uncomplaining enough to do domestic chores. Women will put up with more crap if we have chocolate to take away the pain. After all, the woman in the final scene is in the middle of vacuuming while the bloke sits down in front of the tv. No wonder she's mad.

In contrast to the idea that chocolate is "feminine," Nestle's Yorkie candy bar launched a campaign April 1, 2002 trying to turn chocolate (at least, their chocolate) "masculine."

The tv ads show women attempting to purchase the chunky chocolate bar - but the only way they can do this is by glueing on fake beards, dressing up as builders with hard hats, and swaggering into corner shops asking (in deep, gruff, fake-male voice) for a "Yorkie please." In one ad, the large, bearded, super-gruff male shopkeeper 'tests' the woman to prove she is a man, by quizzing her on stereotypically male questions, thrusting a fake spider in her face to see if she screams, and so on. He finally hands the bar over, but when he tells her [that] it really highlights the blue in her eyes, she gasps "really?" and he snatches the Yorkie out of her hands and bites off a huge, masculine chunk in one go.


chocolate isn't a pseudo-orgasmic experience for the men who eat Yorkie, of course. It's a re-affirmation of their manhood. The Yorkie ads, on tv and posters, used the slogans "It's not for girls", "don't feed the birds", "not available in pink" and "King size, not Queen size." Interestingly, the campaign even affected the design of the bar itself, seemingly intended to literally stop women buying the bar in the real world. The "O" in Yorkie has been altered into a "no go" road sign, with a line cutting through a woman symbol. The bar also has the phrase "not for girls" on it.

You can see a sample of the ad campaign (if you have Adobe Acrobat) here.

The "top ten" lists aren't very clear, but apparently they say:

Top Ten Things Women Can't Do:
-Make a Decision.
-Watch Football Without Talking.
-Drive in a Straight Line.
-Use Ten Words When a Hundred Will Do.
-Open a Can Unaided.
-Use a Urinal.
-Own a Pet Spider.
-Speak on the Phone for Less than 15 Minutes.
-Understand Cricket.
-Buy a Yorkie.

Top Ten Reasons to be a Bloke
-One Mood- All the Time.
-You Can Goto the Bathroom by Yourself.
-You Get to Buy Gadgets.
-You Don't Have to Clean Your Flat Before the
Cleaner Comes.
-Mechanics Don't Lie to You.
-You Can Change a Plug.
-Grey Hair Adds to Your Sex Appeal.
-The First Thing You Try On in a Shop Fits You.
-You Can Read Maps.
-You Get to Eat a Yorkie.

A year later, Nestle released a new temporary campaign, the "very limited edition" Yorkie bar -- in a pink wrapper, for "those sacred girls who, against their female instinct, can be 'BLOKEY' enough to indulge in the UK's chunkiest chocolate bar!" If you didn't get yours already, though, you're too late -- they were only available in February and March.

As Redfern says,
What a weird world we live in, when a simple foodstuff can have such far-reaching implications. The choice is yours - buy Yorkie, and you are not buying chocolate, you're buying a cliched concept of 'masculinity.' Or buy Echo, and by the looks of the ad, you're buying some kind of numbing, depressant, class B drug.

Friday, May 30, 2003

Forget the children...Leave no BUSINESS behind

From the New York Times
The White House today defended the decision of Congressional negotiators to deny millions of minimum-wage families the increased child tax credit, saying the new tax law was intended to help people who pay taxes, not those who are too poor to pay.

Democrats, however, seized on the decision as an illustration of what they called the essential unfairness of legislation that provides most of its benefits to the wealthy. They promised to propose a bill that would extend the increased credit to those denied it: most families earning from $10,500 to $26,625. The $3.5 billion measure could embarrass Republicans if they chose to vote against it.

"While the Republican tax break leaves no business behind, it leaves behind millions of children from working-poor families," said Representative Nancy Pelosi of California, the House Democratic leader. "Faced with a choice between giving a tax break to an elite few or helping millions of working families, the Republicans once again chose to help their wealthy friends."


[Ari Fleisher] said the bill would wipe out all tax liability for three million taxpayers. Bob McIntyre, director of the liberal research group Citizens for Tax Justice, agreed with that calculation, mainly because the increase in the child tax credit, to $1,000 a child from $600, will help families who earn $26,625 to about $40,000. But most of those earning less do not qualify for the $400-a-child checks that are being mailed this summer to many other families, because Republican negotiators, seeking to fit other tax cuts into the $350 billion bill, dropped a Senate provision.

That provision would have changed the child credit formula to allow families earning just above the minimum wage to get refunds of all or part of the $400.


Democrats and some moderate Republicans, however, argued that it was essentially unfair to give the child tax credit to most middle-income families but not to those lower on the scale. (The wealthiest taxpayers do not benefit from the child credit, which phases out at higher incomes.) Senator Olympia J. Snowe, Republican of Maine, said the lack of a benefit to minimum-wage families was one of the reasons she voted against the bill.

"This ill-founded decision creates a two-tier system under the child tax credit, penalizing low-income working families who need the help most," Ms. Snowe said. "Not only is this unfair, but it further undermines the stimulus portion of the child credit," since it is low- income people who would be most likely to spend the refund.

In another article on the subject, from Common Dreams:
"I don't know why they would cut that out of the bill," said Senator Blanche Lincoln, the Arkansas Democrat who persuaded the full Senate to send the credit to many more low income families before the provision was dropped in conference. "These are the people who need it the most and who will spend it the most. These are the people who buy the blue jeans and the detergent and who will stimulate the economy with their spending."

Ms. Lincoln noted that nearly half of all taxpayers in her state had adjusted gross incomes that were less than $20,000.

Families with incomes lower than $10,500 will also not receive the refund checks. But under the 2001 tax revision, they would not have been eligible for either the $600 or the $1,000 credits because they do not pay federal taxes. Proposals to give them the credits failed on the House and Senate floors on party-line votes.


Several centrist senators worked hard to make the child credit fully refundable for all low income families, and the full Senate voted this month to include a provision that would have included the minimum-wage families. But the provision was dropped in the House- Senate conference, where tax writers spent days trying to cram many tax cuts - most prominently, cuts in the taxes on stock dividends and capital gains - into a bill that the Senate said could not be larger than $350 billion.


But Democrats and children's advocacy groups said the Republican demand for large cuts in the dividend tax, which they said benefits primarily wealthy taxpayers, pushed away the credit from low income families.

"If we were going to have a tax cut to give $1,000 to all these other kids, there's no reason not to include these kids, too," said David Harris, president of the Children's Research and Education Institute. "Their families are working and playing by the rules and are left out, though it would not have cost too much to include them."


The gap in the number of families who receive the child credit occurs because of how the formula was arranged in 2001. Congress decided then to give refunds of the credit to low income families, but just to a maximum of 10 percent of the amount they made over $10,000, or a refund of $600, whichever was lower. The $10,000 amount was indexed to inflation and is now $10,500.

When the credit was raised to $1,000, many families could not qualify for the extra amount, because the 10 percent maximum still limited them. Ms. Lincoln proposed raising the formula to 15 percent, which would have covered the increase in the credit for most of those families. Her proposal made it through the Senate Finance Committee, but later she voted against the full cut.

Because her vote and those of other supporters were not necessary for final passage, Republicans knew they could drop the provision without hurting the bill's chances in the Senate.

"I guess this shows us what our priorities are," Ms. Lincoln said. "I think this tax bill is very irresponsible in the way it treats families."

Tuesday, May 20, 2003

Alas, Buffy

Before the final Buffy airs (well, "before" for us west coasters -- and we're the ones that count, right? :-p ), I wanted to post this commentary comparing the criticisms of Buffy to criticisms of women. I first read it over on the Empowering Women discussion board, but the original appeared on a Buffy board (I'm not sure which one).

Criticisms of Buffy/Criticisms of Women

by Miranda aka Catte

I've been noticing that a lot of the things that have been most criticisized about Buffy can be extrapolated to areas that society, and especially patriarchy, criticisizes about women as a whole.

Buffy is seen as controlling, bitchy, bossy, etc. while Spike's strength is enjoyed if not reveled in. I don't know of anyone who was unhappy when he reclaimed his duster...even if we all wondered how the heck it got in the basement.

The consensus is that it's ok for women to be strong as long as they have the proper attitude about it. If that doesn't happen, the strength doesn't count. Men, otoh, who are nurturing/caring, are seen as weak. Most prefer Angelus to Angel and would rather Spike was strong than vulnerable.

This carries over into the area of sexual aggression. Buffy is seen as too pushy, sexually, but while everyone raves over the kitchen door scene in Gone, what was that if not aggression from Spike? Everyone liked that he reclaimed his manhood and stood up to Buffy, the 'bad' woman and put her in her place.

The response that we're turned off because Buffy doesn't have the correct feelings for Spike doesn't really hold water because quite a few people enjoyed his picking up that college girl in Sleeper. I'd also argue that there were a boatload of wrong feelings in the DT balcony scene, but almost everyone except me, really, really liked it. Bottom line, sexual aggression is ok in men, not women.

I see a lot of criticism over Buffy's neglect of Dawn last year. This extrapolates to criticism of women we hear about who have children and who work full time. They are seen as bad mothers, even if the work is necessary to put food on the table. God help them if they just WANT to work. They're obviously evil. If something happens to the children, even if it's something done to them by someone else -- babysitter, day care worker, etc. -- the mother is blamed for not being there.

I didn't see the same criticism of Angel for working and Connor was an infant as opposed to Dawn's teenager. Connor is left with Lorne and sent off with Wesley as Dawn was left under Willow's supervision. Everyone was horrified when Buffy wanted Giles to talk to Dawn, but nobody worried about it when Cordelia was able to semi-calm Connor. Of course, by doing that, Cordelia stepped into her proper role of mother and nurturer instead of stepping out as Buffy did.

Faith and Lilah also don't fill their proper roles, but they get around that because they fill the stereotype of the 'bad' girl. She's the sexy one who breaks the taboos, the one you don't take home to mother. No one EXPECTS her to look after the children.

Still, Faith gets around all that by having a bad childhood. Bad things happened to her and made her a bad person. She's only waiting to be saved by the right man. And she is. Angel sweeps her on to his white horse and sets her soul on the road to redemption. There is the general idea that Faith will step into her proper role any time now. This also happens with Gwen and Kate on AtS.

Lilah on the other hand, refuses to be saved. She walked into her situation eyes wide open, enjoys every minute of it, and takes the consequences without whining. Wes, despite his best efforts, doesn't change her. Wes, and and the rest of us, kept thinking there had to be some kind of reason for Lilah to have made the choices she did, but if there is, we aren't privy to it.

No one really saves Buffy either. There's the occasional punch or strength-giving mind-meld, but in the end, she rescues herself. She makes the decision to choose the world of Sunnydale over the world of the clinic. She hauls herself out of her own grave -- twice. She faces Caleb.

Of course, Buffy tries to make up for saving herself by feeling guilty about not fulfilling her proper role. She worries that there's something wrong with her because she doesn't connect. All the good she does, all the lives she's saved don't count, because she doesn't have the right kind of feelings. She tries to blame it on being the Slayer, but she'd be much happier if she faced that maybe she's just not that kind of person and that it's ok.

BtVS was always supposed to be about breaking stereotypes. The fragile blond girl, normally the victim, is the hero. It seems some stereotypes are harder to break than others, and those who break them aren't as easily forgiven.

Not only does Buffy get to be blamed for her own character flaws - aggression and being a loner, although those traits seem to be ok when it's Angel who has them - she gets the blame for everyone else's actions as well.

Riley cheats because Buffy is a bad girlfriend. They used every cliche in the book with this one except 'she doesn't understand me,' and I kept waiting for it.

Spike initially develops an obsessive crush because Buffy 'led him on'. Their later relationship problems are all her fault, although Spike is free to leave at any time, and Buffy never lies about what they are doing. It culminates in the rape attempt, which is also made to be her fault. Here, the only line left out on the show was 'the bitch asked for it,' and it's a line I heard on some boards.

She's also faulted for Willow and Dawn's problems, although Willow, at least, is an adult, and there were other people on the scene at the time.

The main problem with all this is that Buffy accepts it as her due. She feels that what happened to Riley, Spike, Willow, and Dawn, is indeed her fault. Her guilt over wishing herself free of a burden or two sends her into catatonia not once, but twice.

Xander reaches a point where he refuses to take any more blame for Anya's actions. It would be nice if Buffy could do the same. I'd like to ship Lilah over to Sunnydale to run a few conscious-ness raising sessions.

Thank you to Catte for writing this brilliant analysis of women's role in society and how that is portrayed in Buffy (and thanks for letting me post it here).