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#IntersectionalityIsForTwitter: How to Be a True Ally

12:31 pm in Uncategorized by RH Reality Check

Written by Briana Dixon for RH Reality Check. This diary is cross-posted; commenters wishing to engage directly with the author should do so at the original post.

Cross-posted with permission from Amplify Your Voice, a project of Advocates for Youth.

Mean Twitter Bird

Feminist conflicts on Twitter highlight ways to be (or not be) an ally.

By now much of the advocacy community has heard of #SolidarityIsForWhiteWomen, #BlackPowerIsForBlackMen, and #FuckCisPeople, started by @karnythia, @JamilahLemieux, and @Stuxnetsource, respectively. Intersectionality (the study of intersections between different disenfranchised groups or groups of minorities) has run rampant on Twitter, and I’ve been having a blast voicing my grievances, listening to other’s grievances, and fighting trolls with every bit of strength embedded in my keyboard. But not everyone has been having a great time with these hashtags, and I am here to help with a few tips:

One: Check your privilege at the door.

I don’t know what kind of privilege you’re packing, but it’s weighing you down. Set it down for a minute and consider the fact that you are not the only person out there being oppressed. In fact, you may indeed be unconsciously benefiting from an unjust system. That doesn’t mean you’re a bad person—it just means that you live in a society that prizes certain groups over others and you were unlucky enough to be born into one. If you think you have it bad, just think of the people who weren’t born into the privileged group.

Two: Keep in mind that your movement can be flawed…

…without you being an evil master-overlord. Calling out the flaws in our movements is the only way we are going to get better. Movements are constantly demanding that society stop silencing the voices of their oppressed people. It is fair to say, then, that silencing people who are oppressed within those movements is the worst kind of hypocritical.

Three: Remember that unity does not equal silence.

The hashtags are only divisive if you don’t plan on addressing the grievances stated within them. If the movement intends to continue as it is and ignore the pleas stated for all of the Twitterverse to see, then yes it is divisive. But the only way we are ever going to be truly unified is if we listen to each other’s complaints and work to fix them.

Four: Be aware that anger is an emotion…

…and that oppressed peoples, as human beings, are entitled to emotions. You have no way and no right to monitor and/or control these emotions. These emotions are not irrational. These emotions are not silly. The best way to deal with these emotions is not to pretend they don’t exist and/or brush them off as unwarranted whining.

Five: Know that there is one condition to being an ally…

…and it isn’t that the oppressed groups appease you at every turn. It isn’t that they be wary of your feelings. It isn’t that they don’t air the movements’ dirty laundry. It isn’t that they do what is best for the movement even if the movement isn’t doing what’s best for them. The only true condition for someone to become an ally is for the ally to support the oppressed group because it is the right thing to do. You help them the best you can, not the way you think is best.

And if you are really having a problem with the hashtags, I present you this hypothetical situation:

Every day my friend and I walk down the street together. We are very close, but every once in a while my friend falls to the ground and scrapes her knee.

This friend and I have braved bullies together. We have faced down mean girls and jocks alike. We are more than friends, we are best friends. We love each other.

And every day she falls. Sometimes she trips. Most times someone pushes her to the ground as I watch. And sometimes I even push her myself.

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Anti-Rape Bill Could Create Wedge Between Different Anti-Feminist Factions

8:35 am in Uncategorized by RH Reality Check

Former Republican Senate Candidate Todd Akin

As Todd Akin and the country at large learned during the 2012 elections, pregnancies resulting from rape are very real and sadly all too common. If there was one silver lining in the entire debacle and “debate” over Akin’s “legitimate rape” comment, it was that it helped expose a previously under-reported problem: 31 states allow rapists to sue for custody or visitation of children conceived by rape. It might initially seem like it wouldn’t be much of a problem—most of us probably ask ourselves why rapists would bother to want these children at all—but the fact of the matter is that rapists rape because they like to hurt and control women. How better to make your victim’s life a living hell than going after her through her children? Nothing says “I have power over you” like forcing yourself into someone’s life through their children. Now a bipartisan group of congressmen are trying to close up this loophole in custody laws, with the Rape Survivor Child Custody Act, which creates financial incentives for states that bar rapists from suing their victims for custody.

Shauna Prewitt, a woman who chose to give birth after her rape resulted in pregnancy, was with the congressmen when they announced the bill. Prewitt filed charges against her rapist after she gave birth, and he retaliated by suing her for custody. There aren’t any numbers out there to assess how common it is for rapists to abuse the family court system in this way, but there are thousands of women who choose to raise children conceived by rape every year, and we know that rapists are often dogged in their sadism, making suing their victims a tantalizing opportunity for many of them. Wife batterers are notorious in legal circles for their eagerness to abuse the family court system to continue the pattern of hurting and controlling their victim, so it makes sense that rapists—who have a lot in common with and are often batterers themselves—would be attracted to the same strategy. And if they get visitation rights or custody? Now they have tons of access to manipulate and hurt their victim for 18 more years.

Needless to say, it’s probably not the greatest idea to let these men, who think it’s okay to force sex on unwilling women, raise children, especially if there are alternatives—like the mother—available.

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Women of Color and Feminism: A History Lesson and Way Forward

1:48 pm in Uncategorized by RH Reality Check

Written by Anthea Butler for RH Reality Check. This diary is cross-posted; commenters wishing to engage directly with the author should do so at the original post.

A Black woman

On privilege, feminism and women of color

I was not surprised when I viewed Amanda Marcotte’s presentation on online feminism at this year’s Netroots Nation conference, in which she pointed mostly to young, hip, white female bloggers writing today. While there are many women of color blogging at sites like the Crunk Feminist Collective, women of color were represented in Marcotte’s PowerPoint presentation by one stock photo of a Black woman holding car keys, with a statement about how online feminists are “driving the movement forward.” The PowerPoint slide is indicative of a larger problem in feminism: the inability to see or identify with women of color who are feminists. It’s not a good look, but then again, this slight is not unexpected given the history between white women and feminists of color.

My purpose in this piece is not to bash Amanda Marcotte—a contributor here at RH Reality Check—but to illuminate some of the long history of tension between the feminist movement and women of color. Writing this piece in the wake of the George Zimmerman trial has not been easy. Is it always going to be this way? Will it always be this difficult to come together with white feminists, as women of color, to work on the many pressing issues in this country, including the rollback of women’s rights, specifically reproductive rights?

The tension between white feminists and feminists of color has existed for a long time, in part because of race, class, and positionality. It is fair to ask, “Why is it so hard for white feminists to embrace, celebrate, and partner with their sisters of color?” Is intersectionality just a dream, or can we work past this conundrum?

It is time for white feminists to become more aware of their internalized compliance to the “isms” that threaten to divide us all, from historical and contemporary perspectives. How can we come together without being torn apart by the other “ism” that threatens feminism: racism? A brief look at the history of the feminist movement and women of color, and a prescription for our future together, is long overdue.

A History of Privileged Positions

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The Elephant in the Room: Why is the Gunman Always Male?

1:52 pm in Uncategorized by RH Reality Check

Written by Sheila Bapat for RH Reality Check. This diary is cross-posted; commenters wishing to engage directly with the author should do so at the original post.

A man in the shadows with a handgun.

Why are men responsible for mass shootings?

As a nation, we are reeling. On Friday, December 14, 20 young children — 12 girls, 8 boys — and six female teachers and school administrators were massacred at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut in one of the most harrowing acts of gun violence in this nation’s history. After a year of some of the deadliest shootings in U.S. history, Newtown’s was among the most sickening in large part because the majority of the victims were young children between five and seven years old. A number of writers have begun to offer policy suggestions to outline, as President Obama called it, “meaningful action” on gun control.

To truly address the problem of which Newtown reminded us in the most horrific way, gender, and its entanglement with culture, poverty, and mental health requires serious attention in addition to gun policy reform. On NPR’s Weekend Edition Saturday, Shankar Vedantam pointed out common characteristics of gunmen in the most recent gun massacres including Friday’s in Newtown:

“[I]f you look at the series of incidents that have happened in recent years, there are several things that stand out in terms of patterns….the shooters have always been men.”

Why is the gunman always male? After the Aurora, Colorado shooting during the opening of the Batman: The Dark Knight Rises Premiere in July, Feministing ran a piece by Eesha Pandit, Executive Director at Men Stopping Violence. Pandit wrote:

What we are missing in our collective understanding is the gendered nature of mass homicide…the acknowledgement of ‘male violence’ without conflating it with all different kinds of violence is particularly useful, because it helps us contextualize the violence in our society as a function of patriarchy and sexism.

On its face, the patriarchy and sexism about which Pandit writes seems to be rearing its head here. In this instance, the gunman, Adam Lanza, chose to first murder his mother and then drive to a nearby school where he massacred women and young children. At this time, there is no proof of gender animus as a motive specifically in this event. But the facts — the gender identity of the shooter and the gender identity of the victims — underly why policy solutions should include greater examination of gender, men’s relationship to women and to each other, in addition to advocating greater gun regulation. This event alone, along with domestic violence trends generally, makes clear that male-against-female violence persists and emerges in frightening ways.

Also important, Pandit pointed out that violent behaviors are deeply rooted in economic, health, and cultural factors, and that this context also tends to be underacknowledged in society generally:

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Kansas NOW’s Kari Ann Rinker Schools Kansas State Reps on Jobs, Abortion and “Rape is Like a Flat Tire” Comments

1:32 pm in Uncategorized by RH Reality Check

Written by Editor-in-Chief Jodi Jacobson for RH Reality Check. This diary is cross-posted; commenters wishing to engage directly with the author should do so at the original post.

Kansas NOW’s state director and special to RH Reality Check Kari Ann Rinker testifies before a committee of Kansas state representatives.  She asks exactly how the legislature’s obsession with restricting women’s rights will lead to more jobs, and reminds Rep. Pete DeGraaf that you can’t “prepare for rape” like you would a spare tire.

 

Also read Rinker’s piece today on predictions for Kansas in 2012.

“We Are Dancing:” Three Women Leaders Win Nobel Peace Prize

9:14 am in Uncategorized by RH Reality Check

Photobucket

Written by Editor-in-Chief Jodi Jacobson for RH Reality Check. This diary is cross-posted; commenters wishing to engage directly with the author should do so at the original post.

Take note of this historic day for today and for posterity: Three women leaders have won the Nobel peace prize.

The three include Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, the first woman elected president of a country in Africa, peace activist Leymah Gbowee, also of Liberia, and Tawakul Karman, a pro-democracy campaigner from Yemen.

As noted by the New York Times, they are the “first women to win the prize since Kenya’s Wangari Maathai, who died last month, was named as the laureate in 2004. Most of the recipients in the award’s 110-year history have been men, and the award seemed designed to give impetus to the cause for women’s rights around the world.”

Indeed.

“We cannot achieve democracy and lasting peace in the world unless women obtain the same opportunities as men to influence developments at all levels of society,” said the citation read to reporters by Thorbjorn Jagland, a former Norwegian prime minister who heads the Oslo-based Nobel committee that chooses the winner of the $1.5 million prize.

In a subsequent interview, he described the prize as “a very important signal to women all over the world.” Read the rest of this entry →

Why We All (Well, A Lot of Us) Loved “Bridesmaids”

7:24 am in Uncategorized by RH Reality Check

Written by Sarah Seltzer for RHRealityCheck.org – News, commentary and community for reproductive health and justice.

Bridesmaids shouldn’t have had to inspire a feminist e-mail campaign. It shouldn’t have been an activist choice to go see a silly movie featuring an over-exposed SNL comedian. And it shouldn’t have mattered so much that the movie performed well at the box office. But because Hollywood remains deeply sexist in myriad ways (see this piece from Roseanne Barr for confirmation), all those things were true.

And Bridesmaids itself, a work of film whose centerpiece comedic moment, suggested by Hollywood bromance king Judd Apatow, is an infamous scene involving graphic food poisoning at a bridal salon–shouldn’t have been a revelation. It shouldn’t have made me, and many of the women I’ve spoken with, feel such a strange sensation as we watched, such an intense feeling of gratitude for the writers and director

But all these things were true, too. For the first time since I watched Juno (and that movie’s problematic treatment of abortion ruined the experience in some ways for me) I had the feeling that the screenwriters of a mainstream comedy were talking to me, “woman to woman.” And I detest Judd Apatow’s films and often find Kristen Wiig’s SNL acting irritating. This movie was not, as advertised, “The Hangover” with boobs. It was instead a laugh-fest with a heart, and even as it exaggerated everything for comic effect, its characters were believable.

I certainly do not believe that men and women are intrinsically different, nor do I think that there exists some sort of a universal experience of womanhood that we can all relate to at the snap of our fingers. 

No, rather I think that women, as they’re projected onscreen by a sexist industry, are not usually real people. … Read more

Take Your Foot Off My Neck

7:39 am in Uncategorized by RH Reality Check

Written by Charlotte Taft for RHRealityCheck.org – News, commentary and community for reproductive health and justice.

I am furious. As the Director of the Abortion Care Network, a non-profit organization that supports independent abortion providers and challenges stigma, I know more than I want to about the recent attacks on women’s reproductive choices. The Congress of the United States should be ashamed for passing HR 3, which would impose permanent bans on federal funding of abortion. HR 3 will also make it nearly impossible to obtain healthcare insurance for abortion care and even some forms of contraception.

The glee with which male politicians are willing to strip women of their most basic rights is staggering. It is devastating to read the dozens of e-mails that come to me every day detailing the myriad ways in which women’s lives, well-being, and health are being savagely attacked in Congress and in state legislatures across the country. And it is crushing to recognize that so many smart, caring women will spend their time, precious energy, and scarce resources begging men to please, please harm women just a little bit less. We want to believe that they do not hate us—that they respect us as full human beings, and yet every day the evidence mounts that this is not the case. I realize that I’m not supposed to say that. I’m not even supposed to notice. … Read more

Common Cause, Different Perspective: The Generational Divide of the Pro-Choice Movement

7:46 am in Uncategorized by RH Reality Check

Written by Eleanor Hinton Hoytt for RHRealityCheck.org – News, commentary and community for reproductive health and justice.

This article is second in a series published in partnership with Choice USA in an effort to highlight the importance of inter-generational dialogue within the reproductive justice movement and to uncover ways to work together across generations in order to sustain and thrive. Read the first by Andrew Jenkins here

Over the past year, I’ve been in many conversations about the future of the pro-choice movement—conversations that have raised questions about the absence of passionate, angry young feminists today who will take our place as heads of pro-choice organizations tomorrow. These conversations and my recent participation in the Stand Up for Women Rally against defunding Title X and Planned Parenthood reminded me of early experiences about finding my place in a budding feminist movement in the South.

From my time a college student in the South at the height of the civil rights movement to the early 1980s, when the National Black Women’s Health Project was started, there were few places for young, angry Black women. I witnessed many young Black women throughout our communities who were faced with unintended pregnancies and grappled with their one option, feeling that they had no choice.  With no job, no money and paralyzing fear – many young women made the decision to have a back alley abortion.  Admitting their “sin,” returning home to disgraced parents, becoming a wife at their own “shotgun” wedding, and putting their dreams on hold to take care of an unwelcomed baby and an unwanted husband were not options. 

It was these events that led me to step from behind the shadows during a time when many felt women were at their best when they were mute. I declared myself a Black feminist and became embroiled in one of the biggest rights movements in our nation’s history. … Read more

On Health and Rights, What Happened to the Churches?

6:59 am in Health care by RH Reality Check

Written by Trusting Women for RHRealityCheck.org – News, commentary and community for reproductive health and justice.

In a pair of blog postings last week, Dan Savage, a sex columnist based in Seattle, assigns the blame to negligent teachers and school administrators, bullying classmates and “hate groups that warp some young minds and torment others.”

“There are accomplices out there,” he wrote Saturday. In an interview, Mr. Savage, who is gay, said he was particularly irate at religious leaders who used “antigay rhetoric.”

“The problem is that kids are being exposed to this rhetoric, and then they go to the school and there’s this gay kid,” he said. “And how are they going to treat this gay kid who they’ve been told is trying to destroy their family? They’re going to abuse him.”

Statements like these from a recent New York Times article break my heart.  Break my heart because they are true and break my heart because I grew up religious.  But not the kind of religious Savage is referring to.  I grew up in liberal religion. . . .

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