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!