Tag Archives: Activism

Tedious Tastelessness in Texas

© David Thomas Photography

© David Thomas Photography

I’ve had my ear to the ground regarding these pieces of anti-choice legislation since the legislative session started, since this is the biggest attack on my personal human rights and bodily integrity I have ever faced, and the last gem of the previous post (ASC requirements) is one that could put me out of work. The dates and days and nights in orange at the Capitol became a blur, and I am still physically and emotionally trying to recover from these “Special” Sessions. I’ve gotta rest up so I can get back out there again for the THIRD! Thank science for time stamps so I can tell you that my journey into this fray started with a simple sidewalk protest on Monday June 17th, around 5pm, just as I was becoming aware that orange is now the color of Reproductive Justice. I made a sign that read: 

Perry, Perry you’re so scary
You’ve hit an all-time low
You took our voice, we have no choice
And you forgot all about Roe!

Total hours at the Capitol: 2

One of the overflow rooms teeming with Texans for Reproductive Justice

One of the overflow rooms teeming with Texans for Reproductive Justice

Thursday June 20th me and my co-workers from both of my jobs, as well as another 700+ pro-woman Austinites, spent our afternoons and evenings at the Reagan building, testifying against the First Special Session omnibus bills in the House. That night supporters from all over the nation bought pizza and coffee and donuts for us so we could carry on into the wee hours of the morning.  Since anyone in the testimony room had to respect all 175 pages of the rules of “decorum” jazz hands were initiated there. After waiting from 6pm to testify, when the Chair shut the whole thing down sometime after midnight for being “repetitive,” I just walked up and gave them the punchline to my testimony. And shortly after I left some vagilante male allies shone the bat signal for all the world to see. “Let her speak!” became our rallying cry and the #CitizensFilibuster was officially underway.

Total hours at the Capitol: ±6

Come when you can, wear orange, stay 'till the end!

Come when you can, wear orange, stay ’till the end!

Sunday June 23rd I waited in line with many other eager Texans in orange to bear witness to the Texas House of Representatives debate the Senate omnibus bill. I arrived around 1:30pm.  The House recessed for a long while, during which lots of us in orange, the #TangerineVagilantes and #FeministArmy gathered in the rotunda to chant, clap, stomp and hold up our ever-witty signage. 

Orange Line

The line to get in to the Capitol on June 23, 2013

The discussion had started with House Dems debating whether they were dealing with calendar days or legislative days, to which Austin’s own RH Reality Check Reporter Andrea Grimes tweeted, “We can laugh about counting calendar days, but when #txlege outlaws birth control, that’s a skill we’ll all need to bone up on. #hb60.” The House didn’t reconvene until around 6:30pm, I think. So I gathered with the raucous bunch in the auditorium overflow room, which was just as well, since we didn’t have to abide by decorum. 

She understands. She was alive pre-Roe.

She understands. She was alive pre-Roe.

I had to go to work from 4:45 to midnight but my co-workers and I (at a domestic violence non-profit) were watching the Texas Tribune live feed and guffawing at the risk of arrest for jazz hands and the ridiculousness that is ALEC’s newest It Girl pawn, “Representative” Jodie Laubenberg and #OtherThingsRapeKitsDo, and cheering for Representative Thompson hanging a hanger from her mic to punctuate her speech. By that time #TXlege #StandWithTXWomen (and variants) and #HB60 were also trending worldwide on Twitter.

Woo Wu!!!

Woo Wu!!!

I returned to the Capitol just after midnight and was in the gallery to see Representative Wu kicking ass. Kudos to Farrar, Dukes, Wu, Menendez, Lee, Mary Gonzalez, Dutton, Eddie Rodriguez, Howard, Burnam, Naishtat, Turner, Thompson and others for killing it on the floor and battling for women’s reproductive justice. Intersectionality at its finest. And kudos to the thousands of people who donated water, food, coffee and good vibes to keep us all going!

20130623_150911The reason we needed to prolong this process as much as possible, why hundreds of us came to add our voices at the Committee hearing and why our tireless Dems threw question after question around, was that the first special session was scheduled to end at midnight on Tuesday. If we could delay the vote on the bill so much that the legislature literally ran out of time, we would win, at least for a little while….

As predicted the bill did get through this second reading around 3:30am, so my activist friends and I from Get Equal Texas encouraged everyone leaving the gallery to stop on the 2nd floor outside where the representatives normally enter/exit so we could shame them to their faces. I led the charge with a classic borrowed from the LGBTQAI movement: I am somebody! And I deserve full equality! From there a huge contingent of people stood chanting pro-choice slogans like My Body, My Choice and We Won’t Go Back! The kicker was everyone getting fired up and chanting “Shame!” until some of the Reps who spoke up for us came out to thank us. That was the night I learned to use Twitter for real. 

Stairwells flooded with hope

Stairwells flooded with hope

Total hours at the Capitol: ±7.5

Stay tuned for the next exciting post on Texas’ woman problem: Wendy Davis’ filibuster.


The War FOR Women

Soon I start a six-week online training course designed to teach Americans more about how to defend women’s human rights against the egregious attacks against women’s health, sexuality and autonomy coming from right-wing politicians. Democracy For America has organized the War FOR Women training sessions which will all take place virtually, once a week, at 8pm Eastern (5pm Pacific). Topics include practical rebuffs to the attack on reproductive justice, lobbying techniques to stop violence against women, how to address pay inequality in your community, how to get the media to cover your story (VERY important for the success of strategic nonviolent action!), how to register voters and encourage women to exercise their hard-earned right to vote, how you can be a successful political candidate and how to get out the vote.

The schedule is as follows:

July 10 – Women’s Health and Reproductive Rights with Cecile Richards (President of Planned Parenthood)
July 18 – Victory Over Violence with Debby Tucker (Executive Director of the National Center on Domestic and Sexual Violence)
July 25 – Economic Gender Gap with award–winning educator and communicator, Jenifer Daniels (“the friendraiser”)
August 1 – Women in the Media with Karen Finney (MSNBC Political Analyst) and Kimberly “Dr. Goddess” Ellis (California Director, EMILY’s List)
August 8 – Women as Voters with Celinda Lake (Pollster and Democratic Strategist, Lake Research Partners)
August 15 – Women as Candidates featuring DFA’s slate of progressive women candidates

I am thrilled to be inhabiting the same virtual space as Cecile Richards, one of my personal heroes, as she explains “what’s at stake for women’s health nationally and in particular states where dangerous legislation is being considered. Deirdre Schifeling, Planned Parenthood’s National Director for Organizing & Electoral Campaigns, will provide a practical training on how you can join the fight.”

I will blog about the trainings and what I am learning over the next six weeks. If you’d like to join Democracy For America will “show you how you can challenge the GOP’s attack on women and build a movement for equality.” Register here for seminars that will “provide practical tools and create a community of people of all genders committed to fighting for women’s rights. Each session will feature leading experts on each issue, a practical training on how you can take action, and a chance to connect with like-minded people who refuse to be silent in the face of injustice.” What more can you ask for?


The Republican War on Women

The War on Women being waged in the United States is culminating in the likely closure of the only abortion clinic in the nation’s poorest state, Mississippi. Measures specifically introduced by the state’s legislature to shut down its last remaining abortion provider have been successful so far, with a new law passed requiring abortion providers to have privileges at local hospitals. While the office’s three doctors have all applied for hospital privileges, as of yet they do not have them. It is unknown what will happen to the clinic after the new law takes effect. In Virginia similar measures are being protested that would make it extremely difficult for abortion providers to remain open. This piece explores the painful reality these abortion restrictions inflict on women, an important voice in the conversation when women are not even “sources” for women’s rights issues. It’s high time women were not ashamed to say that they’ve had abortions, and while men’s opinions on everything from menstruation to menopause seem to hold more weight, we in the pro-choice movement would like to hear from more pro-choice men.

The legislative tactics used by Mississippi and Virginia to effectively make abortion illegal, or at least unobtainable, are nothing new. Across the country a terrifying 1,100 pieces of anti-women legislation have been proposed since 2011! You really should check that link out. Add to this the very real violence faced by clinic workers on a daily basis, like death threats, arson and bombings, and it’s no wonder abortion is becoming impossible to obtain safely and legally in the wealthiest country in the world. Republicans are even trying to sneak language about life beginning at conception into completely unrelated bills, like this one extending FEMA’s national flood insurance plan. But disaster-stricken Americans are not the only ones the GOP is alienating. Not only should women have no control over their own sexual and reproductive health, argue elected Republican officials, their work is worth less than men’s. Extending the war on women to their ability to feed themselves, Republican Senators refused to pass the Paycheck Fairness Act.

From the absurdity of women being excluded from a panel discussing birth control (and the attacks women who wanted to speak endured) to the extremely anti-choice Michigan legislature banning two female representatives for “inappropriate language” i.e.. vagina and vasectomy, during debates about anti-choice legislation, legislators and laws in the US are becoming more and more misogynistic. Beautifully, thousands of protesters took to the… steps with a performance of the timeless Vagina Monologues to demand that freedom of speech extend to female legislators discussing body politics. If you want to send your own message to Michigan legislators sign this petition asking Facebook to allow users to change their middle name to Vagina, then change yours. You might also mention that the double standard– Medicare covers Viagra and penile implants, yet Republicans think birth control should be an out-of-pocket expense– is unacceptable. Thankfully, while the majority of the anti-woman rhetoric in the US is coming from the Christian Rightwing, it’s good to see other religious figures supporting women’s bodily autonomy.

As you can see from the graphic at the top Michigan isn’t the only state waging war on women’s reproductive freedoms. In Ohio alone a staggering 16 pieces of anti-choice legislation were introduced since 2010. North Carolina Republicans are trying to defund Planned Parenthood, again. Texas Republicans are promoting proven-ineffective abstinence-only sexual education courses. Kansas Republicans have introduced a host of Christian-based anti-woman legislation and a doctor there may permanently lose her medical license for refusing to force a ten-year-old to give birth. South Dakota has proposed a 72 hour waiting period between ultrasound and abortion for women seeking to terminate their pregnancies. And in Arizona now it is perfectly legal for doctors to lie to their patients if they think the information they give will influence them to have an abortion. Also in Hell Arizona, “reasonably suspicious” women and men are being asked for Papers, please, despite a mixed Supreme Court ruling on the legality of SB 1070. This article takes on an excellent exploration of what this means for immigrant women, and what the situation of immigrant women means for equality for all people in the US. Check out the pictures supplied by Planned Parenthood at the end of the post for other evidence of the war on women.

And then there’s the Violence Against Women Act…. The Senate passed a beautiful, sparkling reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act that extended protections to undocumented women, Native American women and lesbians. The House promptly stripped those additions, leaving millions of women in traditionally under-served populations even more vulnerable, all the while claiming that women would use these new provisions to scam the system with false accusations. The President has vowed to veto the House version if it crosses his desk. LGBT lobbies and Native American women’s lobbies are still pushing for passage of the Senate version at Capitol Hill and even Christian websites think Congress should pass the Senate version! At least New York understands.

With a staggering 1 in 3 Native American women raped in her lifetime one would hope Republicans could at least show compassion in the wake of such terrible violence. But no. A sickening story of a Tampa rape victim who was arrested on charges of outstanding warrants after she reported her rape has outraged women across the country. The worst is yet to come. After being booked, a guard where she was being held confiscated the second pill of her emergency contraception because it went against her beliefs. A federal court has ruled that the victim will be allowed to sue the guard for violating her right to privacy. In other news of the State violating individuals human rights, this (potentially triggering) piece explores the unnecessary police practice of forced catheterization in Utah. Even liberal San Francisco is being accused of victim blaming people who come to the police as victims of rape and domestic violence.

Rape in the US military is a hot-button issue too, yet House Republicans showed little compassion when blocking abortion access for soldiers who have been raped. The award-winning documentary The Invisible War explores the issue of rape that is poisoning the US military. One service member interviewed explained victims’ options as “suicide, AWOL, or deal with it.” The film explores why many rape victims don’t report the incident: for 25% of women who didn’t report the rape to their commander, their commander was their rapist. The documentary’s website, in addition to the trailer and information on the movement, offers ways to take action and help demand accountability and justice for service members who have been raped.

Pillamina on the campaign trail!

Now that I’ve thoroughly depressed you, I want to give you the good news. In addition to the beauty of an estimated 3-5,000 people filling Michigan’s capital steps to respect the word vagina, across the blogosphere people are overcoming the shame of using the word vagina. Like the personal story of abortion linked in the beginning of this post, it is extremely important women are speaking out so that their voices are heard. Public performances, like The Vagina Monologues, have long been an effective tactic in the strategic nonviolent activists’ arsenal, and with Republican Presidential candidate Mitt Romney wanting to “get rid of” Planned Parenthood, a giant pack of birth control pills, Pillamina, is now following him along the campaign trail. If that doesn’t make you smile, how about this: since 1990 abortion rates have decreased 18% for women in their 20s due to increased contraception access. Also, many big city mayors (a lot of whom are men) have added their names in support of women’s reproductive rights. Rock on Seattle, Portland, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Hartford and New York!

And not all news from individual states is bad. The Governor of New Hampshire vetoed a “partial birth” abortion ban since a similar ban (for a procedure which doesn’t actually exist) is already in place at the federal level. Also in New England Connecticut has included abortion as an essential health benefit in the state’s insurance plan. And even quiet Midwesterners in North Dakota are fighting back against this war on women, deciding they don’t want to expand religious liberty to discriminate against anyone. At the federal level Congress actually did something right, by failing to pass a ban on “sex-selective abortions,” a problem which deserves national attention in India and China but is almost non-existent in the US.

Though the comments on this video are repulsive, the White House 1 is 2 Many campaign to encourage men to speak up if they witness violence against women is a good reminder that bystanders have power too. As we saw with the contentious issue of undocumented women being covered by VAWA, immigrant women are the often-forgotten victims of violence against women. Thankfully the newly opened Tahirih Justice Center in Baltimore is a haven for immigrant victims of domestic violence throughout New England. If you want to get involved and fight back against the misogynistic legislative attacks, including the VAWA embarrassment, check out A is For, a group seeking to reclaim the scarlet letter A. Or join the National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health in their Week of Action for Reproductive Justice because you, like Mary Gonzalez, the openly lesbian Latina doctoral student recently elected to the Texas House, are poderosa.

Finally, the best news of all. In addition to this long, well-cited list of Obama’s accomplishments as President he can now definitively add “bringing American healthcare into the 21st Century: The Supreme Court has upheld Obamacare!!! This landmark decision ensures that women and men will be treated equally by insurance companies, and preventative services like birth control (with no co-pay), mammograms, and pap smear cancer screenings, will all be covered by insurance! If you’re so inclined you can write a letter of thanks to the five Supreme Court Justices who voted in favor of universal health care. Thank you for reading, be well, and as always, if you have ideas, suggestions or comments as to how we can fight back against the patriarchy, please share them below.

In Peace~

 


Domestic Violence Awareness Month

October is Domestic Violence Awareness month. If you need to raise your awareness levels you can re-read any of the Feminist Activism blogs from the third week of March (like Day 21- Violence Against Women in the US or Day 20- RAINN & NDVH or Day 15- The Clothesline Project). Also check out Ethiopian Feminist to learn about DV and a particularly gruesome case there, and A Hmong Woman for some insight into DV in America’s Hmong community and to enter a discussion on the effects of patriarchy and gender roles on DV survivors. You can then see the trailer for Education sans Excision about Female Genital Cutting/Mutilation (FGM/FGC) featuring Senegalese rapper Sister Fa. And watch the trailer for Crime After Crime, about a woman’s attempt to get justice after being imprisoned for her connection to her abuser’s murder.

You can also participate in the UNiTE Campaign to End Violence Against Women by voting on T-shirt designs to spread the message that it’s time to stop the violence. For an interesting art piece exploring masculinity see Man of the House. I also highly encourage readers to check out Man Up, a campaign directed towards men who want to stop violence against women. And don’t forget that all year-round your local DV shelters need donations of money, supplies and time. Volunteer! And make the world a better place.

As some of you may know between November 25 (the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women) and December 10 (International Human Rights Day) is the international campaign 16 Days of Activism Against Gender Violence. For me everyday is a day to take action against gender violence but for those of you who have other jobs, this is a call to action.

I am opening up the floor, to my male readers in particular, for readers to share their perspectives on gender-based violence, and will offer my blog as the platform. I would love to have enough guest posts for each day of the 16 Days campaign. Ideally the post would be 500-750 words (although more or less is fine too) and would feature your perspective on VAW and what can/should be done about it. I will spell/grammar check it for you before it’s published. ;)You are welcome to look at it from any angle you like and I encourage you to think about how race, class, (dis)ability, sexual orientation, gender identity, age, education, nationality, religion, location, language and education change the situation. Whether you are interested in the laws in your country and how they punish (or not) perpetrators or you’d rather delve into the creation of masculinities in your culture that leads some men to violence, or any other side of the story, is totally up to you. Because I have a good group of amazing feminist men in my life this project is already well underway but if you would like to participate (and I don’t already know it) leave a comment and I’ll contact you about it. The deadline is October 31 so you have plenty of time to think and write and revise. Thank you in advance!


International Day of Peace

Today, September 21, is the International Day of Peace. Today is a day to be inspired by the acts of love of the millions of people around the world who all share the same goal: peace.

Planting a tree at the 2009 International Peace Day at the University for Peace.

Everyone’s definition of peace is different and even amongst the most outspoken peacebuilders the importance of inner peace versus world peace is addressed regularly. I firmly believe that working for equality and justice is the most important thing anyone can do with her/his/hir life. I also believe that the journey to help others is much more difficult if you cannot first help yourself, so with that in mind, if you need to achieve some balance, love or light in your life here are some suggestions:

For me, peace will come with true equality. Happy Peace Day everyone!
Love one another.

Three Women, Three Struggles

Originally posted on In Women’s Hands, the following post will serve as an introduction to my trip to Bosnia and the amazing friends I made there.

The flag of Bosnia & Herzegovina at the Srebrenica-Potocari Memorial and Cemetery. Photo by Morrarovic Photography

With different goals reached through the use of various tactics in distinct circumstances, it may be difficult to see the similarities in the nonviolent struggles that Leila Seper, Advija Ibrahimovic, and Iltezam Morrar are actively involved in. While their situations are diverse, they are each struggling somehow for the same things: equality and justice. Fighting for justice, in its many forms, is not just an option for these three dedicated women and the activists by their sides– it is a necessity.

The other commonality among them is their age: all of them represent the new face, the next generation of women activists. Skilled in social media, willing to face risks, and aware of the fact that the more people who understand their struggle, the broader impact they will have, Iltezam, Advija and Leila have accepted that changing the world — locally, nationally, and globally — is a daily responsibility.

Leila is an expert in using humor to explain Dosta!'s serious work. Photo courtesy of Dosta!

Leila Seper, an outspoken member of Sarajevo’s young and expanding activist community, uses her quirky sense of humor, and the brand recognition of Dosta!, to actively demonstrate to Bosnians of all ethnic and religious groups that they must fight for equality and human rights. An active supporter of worker’s rights, student rights, environmental protections and women’s rights, Leila takes on every challenge with conviction, enthusiasm, and a sense of humor.

Advija enjoying some rare downtime. Photo by Morrarovic Photography

Advija Ibrahimovic, the youngest member of the Women of Srebrenica Association, has learned the skills of successful activism from some of the most seasoned activists in Europe – the Women of Srebrenica. Fighting for legal justice, accountability, and recognition of the horrors that took place during the Srebrenica genocide that left her and her siblings orphans, Advija has also been educated as a nonviolent action trainer by the Alternatives to Violence Programs. Chosen to represent the Association during the 2003 unveiling of the Srebrenica-Potocari Memorial and Cemetery, where she stood alongside President Bill Clinton, Advija’s upbeat, confident demeanor is contagious.

Hajra Catic, President and Founder of the Women of Srebrenica Association with Iltezam. Photo by K. Spangler

Iltezam Morrar, a wise-beyond-her-years medical student from Palestine currently studying in Sarajevo, draws on her family’s long history of nonviolent action in the continuing struggle against the Israeli occupation. Hearing her grandmother, father and uncles tell stories of their nonviolent activism during the First Palestinian Intifada, Iltezam became inspired to join the struggle at the age of 15. Her actions, and those of her fellow villagers in Budrus, quickly became exemplars for the next generation of Palestinian activists following the success of the Just Vision documentary highlighting their nonviolent struggles against the wall.

In the process of learning to identify with seemingly disparate women and reminiscing about nonviolent successes everyone went away with fresh insights and inspiration, as well as new friends. Leila taught us to keep a sense of humor even in the face of injustice, and to work with the authorities whenever possible to reassure them violence is not an option. Advija taught us that persistence pays off, and that even the humblest of citizens has the power to affect international politics when using the right methods. Iltezam too, taught us the importance of tenacity, and the need for clearly stated objectives when battling a much stronger opponent.

Leila, Iltezam and I watch as the International Commission on Missing Persons makes a positive DNA match to a fragment of remains found in a mass grave from the Srebrenica Genocide. Photo by K. Spangler

Each woman came away from our gathering with something different. Leila explained, “I get motivation from these meetings, when I see their [Women of Srebrenica] strength to fight.” Advija agreed, “You have to be determined. That’s the example for me.” Iltezam summarized everyone’s feelings in her own way, “I’m honored to be here to learn from these women.They are so strong, and we have so much to learn from them. They never give up.”

Our meeting proved to be a unique opportunity to learn, share and grow, and the inspiration from each woman’s struggle is sure to be a source of strength for each of us for years to come. And that’s exactly what we hoped for.


Israel/Palestine vs. Turkey/Kurdistan

Before I say anything about these two highly controversial, generally violent, and inherently unjust political and territorial situations I want to make my views on geo-political borders in general clear, first.

I do not believe in borders. I believe in the free and uninhibited movement of people, goods, ideas, and cultures all around the globe. I totally support individuals and/or communities in maintaining their ethnic identities including their languages, cultures, foods, clothing, traditions, dances, holidays, celebrations, etc. but personally I see no use in using violence to maintain imaginary lines on a map. I understand cultural, especially spiritual, ties to specific places, like certain Native American cultures have to specific rivers, lakes, forests and mountains, however, delineating certain areas as “ours” as opposed to “theirs” requires the “othering” of anyone outside the specific ethnicity.

I understand that the elimination of geo-political borders is not feasible at the moment, and would cause utter chaos and potentially even more violence and destruction, and so, I will engage you, dear readers, in a political discussion about these two hotly contested areas within the confines of the currently accepted understanding of nation-states, borders and “states’ rights.” In any case I entirely denounce violence as ineffective and immoral and would ONLY support nonviolent efforts by any actors hoping to have their human rights recognized. So then, the question I have for the world wide web (which I hope will be answered with intelligent, thoughtful commentary and constructive ideas, not jingoistic, trolling rants) is this:

 

How does the situation of Palestinians in the internationally recognized (but contested) borders of Israel differ from the situation of Kurds in Turkey?

 

 

I would especially like to hear opinions from Palestinians, Kurds, Turks, and Israelis, and people with experience in any of these lands. I am also interested in the views of people of any other ethnicities living within the borders of Israel and Turkey.

Does religion make a difference in the discussion? Does language make a difference? How effective have nonviolent efforts been in advancing the human rights of Palestinians and Kurds? Is the situation of women in the oppressed/unrecognized regions similar? Would the causes of Palestinian independence and Kurdish independence benefit from each other’s input and support? Or would Palestinians feel they are betraying other Arabs or their Turkish allies in calling on the political recognition of Kurds’ rights? I have no answers but I would love to learn from the community and then form an opinion.

 


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