Tag Archives: Human rights

I Believe! #WWC

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The victims of the massacre at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church

There’s so much I could write about right now I had a really hard time choosing this month’s topic! From LGBTQAI+ Pride to #BlackLivesMatter to reproductive (in)justice and everything in between, there’s a lot going on in the United States that deserves our attention. Recent police violence against black girls and the massacre of Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church parishioners pictured above Rev. Sharonda Coleman-Singleton, Rev. Clementa Pickney, Tywanza Sanders, Rev. Daniel Simmons, Ethel Lance, Cynthia Graham Hurd, Susie Jackson, DePayne Middleton Doctor, and Myra Thompson shows that racism in the US is still deadly. Domestic violence is ever-present. Biphobia and bi-invisibility are still rife, even during Pride Month, and trans immigrants are still dying to become Americans. One thing that doesn’t deserve our attention is white privilege that ran rampant in blackface for years.

Attack_of_the_14_year_old_girl_WebDespite the often deadly climate in the US for trans women of color the documentary Out in the Night sounds like an incredible exploration of the intersection of race, gender expression, sexual orientation and class as it plays out in the “justice system” from street harassment to prison. Other snippets of positivity have popped up recently too including simple ways to combat racial bias and use white privilege for good, major retailers discontinuing sales of Confederate flag merchandise, the presence of a woman on American money in the near future, the continued presence of Obamacare and free birth control in our healthcare system, Lorretta Lynch was sworn in as Attorney General by Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor, California passed a bill banning crisis pregnancy centers from lying to patients, New York law now requires sexual assault charges to appear on college transcripts, Google’s new policy to exclude revenge porn search results, a 16-year-old French girl registering on Major League Baseball‘s international list, GO! Magazine’s 100 Women We Love, a Kickstarter for a documentary on black women in tech was wildly successful, these six awesome international developments for women’s human rights and today’s ruling by the US Supreme Court that MARRIAGE EQUALITY IS THE LAW IN THE UNITED STATES!!! “We’ve made our union a little more perfect.”- President Obama #LoveIsLove

Bad RefsSince I couldn’t choose between all the good and the bad things going on I landed on the ugly. Not really, but there definitely is some ugly truth coming up with the 2015 FIFA Women’s World Cup. I’ll admit I am no expert on sports–in fact I don’t even really care about sports. While I grew up with football, baseball, hockey and tennis on TV occasionally and was basically required by the size of my elementary school to play basketball, kickball, flag football and softball and participate in all kinds of track events, I am no athlete. My partner however is all athlete–grew up playing futbol and basketball and avidly watches men’s and women’s futbol, basketball and tennis, and American football to this day. His love for sports is contagious and after learning so much from him about the benefits of team sports, especially for kids, I’ve somewhat come around. I still can’t tell a pick ‘n’ roll from a set screen but I watched most of this year’s NBA finals and thanks to Title IX some of the Women’s College World Series and have been engrossed by the Women’s World Cup.

OTTAWA, ON - JUNE 17:  Sohyun Cho of Korea celebrates with Hahnul Kwon of Korea after scoring her teams first goal during the FIFA Women's World Cup 2015 Group E match between Korea Republic and Spain at Lansdowne Stadium on June 17, 2015 in Ottawa, Canada.  (Photo by Lars Baron - FIFA/FIFA via Getty Images)

Sohyun Cho of Korea celebrates with Hahnul Kwon after scoring. June 17, 2015- Ottawa, Canada. (Photo by Lars Baron – FIFA/FIFA via Getty Images)

Women’s sports get less media coverage now than they did in 1989, but if you have the right channels, or go to the right sports bar, you too can watch women from around the world play the Beautiful Game in all its glory. Superstar ballers like Brazil’s Marta, South Korea’s Cho So-hyun, and the US’s Alex Morgan are showing the world that women have just as much passion, talent and heart as men, but like everything with FIFA this World Cup isn’t without controversy. For those of you not familiar with the Evil Overlords of Soccer FIFA has recently been embroiled in a corruption scandal and former President of FIFA Sepp Blatter (the genius who proposed increasing interest in women’s soccer by making players wear “tighter shorts”) stepped down amid complaints of obvious human rights abuses by upcoming Men’s World Cup host countries Russia and Qatar.

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Twelve international women’s teams are set to appear for the first time in the next iteration monstrously successful video game franchise FIFA 16 but even that feat has been overshadowed. The biggest issue players and fans alike have with the 2015 Women’s World Cup is the playing surface. Men have never been made to play on artificial astroturf and even though Canada had offers to install grass for free FIFA maintained that separate but equal was possible. Despite balmy temperatures all over Canada in the 70s-80s during game time temperatures on the field ranged upwards of 120-130 degrees Fahrenheit even though temperatures over 122 degrees are considered “unsafe for sustained use by trained athletes.” Issues surrounding pay equality for women athletes have also come up numerous times.

“This is why soccer should be played on grass!” -US Striker Sydney Leroux

If you need a primer on how elimination works in these tournaments this page is an easy read and this page has a quick 20 facts to get you caught up on WWC action through its history. In the down time between games various sports channels have been re-showing Nine for IX, which originally aired in 2013, and has one episode focusing on “The ’99ers,” the only US Women’s Soccer Team to win a World Cup. For an interesting history of the iconic photo of Brandi Chastain check out this piece, but save it for after you’ve seen The ’99ers. Also airing recently was Heroes: The Story of the FIFA Women’s World Cup which I’m sure is also available online. The United States plays China tonight in a knockout quarterfinal game but make sure you catch up on this fantastic re-cap of the game that got us out of group stages.

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The quality of play has not been an issue so far–the women’s teams are making the same mistakes the men’s teams do, but one of the most glaring issues has been the inexperienced referees. I think most fans can appreciate that FIFA and/or Canada wanted to have all female refs for the Women’s World Cup, but since only 10% of referees globally are women their experience level cannot be equal. To follow the action on social media check out @FIFAWWC #WWC #worldcup #USA #LiveYourGoals and #SheBelieves. In the face of rookie refs, turf burns and no real professional league development the United States Women’s Soccer Team’s future could look pretty bleak, but with so much love from fans and talent from our superstars, like Mia Hamm, I believe!

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#OccupyGezi

Waving flag

The Turkish people are rising up to say no more autocracy, no more fear. In case your media has blacked out what’s going on, Al Jazeera has a few good articles, this is an excellent summary and you can also check out these reports of the events earlier in the week and Christiane Amanpour’s 9 minute overview of the initial unrest. What started out as a peaceful sit-in to protect one of Istanbul’s last green spaces has turned into a nation-wide demand for human rights with at least hundreds of thousands of people in cities across Turkey taking part. Police have continuously used excessive force in the form of tear gas, water cannons, pepper spray and beatings to squelch Turks’ rights to protest, and expressly tried to conceal their own identities while doing so. There have also been reports of undercover police acting as agents provocateurs to incite violence between the people and the government. To understand what this direniş, what this kind of protest, demonstration and movement mean to Turks I think this translation will be really helpful.

Turks crossing the Bosphorous Bridge going to Taksim

Turks crossing the Bosphorous Bridge going to Taksim

The graffiti reads For Sale and False News

The graffiti reads For Sale and False News

And if you need to know why you should care, read this article, and this letter to the world. International Support is flowing to Turkey from Germany, the Netherlands, Bosnia & Herzegovina, Scotland, Portugal, France, Africa, all over the US and elsewhere. Signs from all over the world proclaim Her Yer Direniş! Her Yer Gezi! Resistance everywhere! Everywhere is Gezi! Amnesty International and many governments have condemned the AK Partı‘s use of force against protesters. If you’re a more visual learner you have to stop by the #OccupyGezi tumblr, and see these articles. For those who have never experienced the beauty that is Istanbul, this video might help give you a taste of the action.

Syrian refugees

International solidarity

Support from France

Africa is with you

Turkey Resistance Africa is with You

Support from #OccupyBahrain

Support from #OccupyBahrain

These (mostly) nonviolent protests have spurred some amazing creativity with everything from political cartoons to witty graffiti. The sit-in in Taksim Gezi Parkı began with poetry readings and songs and the ensuing state-sponsored brutality has also spurred music. This video is what has moved me most since this all began. Others were moved to donate to Indiegogo’s fastest-ever campaign–to buy a full page ad in The New York Times explaining Diren Gezi Parkı.

The Revolution Will Not Be Televised

The Revolution WIll Not Be Televised

Chomsky capulcu

Hashtags like #OccupyGezi #DirenGeziParki #OccupyIstanbul #OccupyTaksim and #HumanRightsforTurkey and calls of “Tayyip Istifa” (resign) and “AKP Istifa” filled the more than 2 million tweets (90% of which came from within Turkey) that caused AK Partı leader Recep Tayyip Erdoğan to denounce social media as “the worst menace to society.” The expressions “everyday I’m çapuling” (pronounced chap-pull-ing) and “çapulmatik” were in turn spurred by Prime Minister Erdoğan’s insults to the protesters which included terrorists, drunks, fringe radicals and çapulcular or looters. The government’s insistence that this is merely a few angry liberals upset over some trees fueled the international fire against them, with Anonymous making good on their promise to take down government websites. Many are claiming that the PM’s most recent speech is tantamount to calling for civil war, with right-wing supporters chanting “Ergdoğan we will die for you!”

Once the media gag ended 6 newspapers' headlines read "We'd lay down our lives for 'democratic demands'" after AK Partı supporters threatened to "crush them all."

Once the media gag ended 6 newspapers’ headlines read “We’d lay down our lives for ‘democratic demands'” after AK Partı supporters threatened to “crush them all,” referring to the mounting opposition against the government.

A creative take on the AK Parti lightbulb logo

A creative take on the AK Partı lightbulb logo

Here are your drunk looters, helal, of course.

Here are your drunk looters, helal, of course.

For all the reports of deaths and all the police brutality and negativity that has come from this the one constant positive has been the Turkish people’s ability to band together, whether behind Guy Fawkes masks or gas masks, to defend the ideals of a Turkish nation based upon democracy and freedom. They have announced that the streets are for everyone, even as police crack down across the country. There are also some pretty cool pictures and a badass concert. And of course as in any good protest there are companies to boycott and strikes to pursue, and Türkiye also threw in a really creative display of support from Turkish Airlines, the national airline.

Rainbow flag

ResIstanbul 2

A very typical friendship between Turkish women

A very typical friendship between Turkish women

There have been great shows of support and camaraderie between çapulcular regardless of their gender, age, class or political bent. The majority of protesters have vowed to be peaceful, even in the face of gross brutality, and have denounced rock throwing, vandalism and actual looting. But there hasn’t been much need for looting since across the country Turks are supporting each other in ways big and small, with food, water, shelter, medical help, and knowledge.

Turkish survival kit

Tear Gas Solution

The Ascent to Heaven: no alcohol, no battle, no profanity, no provocation, NO VIOLENCE! There will be respect, peace, prayer, action, and tasty treats!

The Ascent to Heaven: no alcohol, no battle, no profanity, no provocation, NO VIOLENCE! There will be respect, peace, prayer, action, and tasty treats!

Women of all ages have played a large part in this uprising. From Ceyda Sungur the now famous Woman in Red, to women in hijab to pregnant women, Türkiye’nin kadınları are showing that their fear of the government is just as real and important to the discussion of freedom as their male counterparts. With the recent restrictions on abortion, public displays of affection and even alcohol, the women of Turkey are fed up with having their morals dictated to them. And not all of them want three children.

Ist Feminist Collective

Woman vs Water Cannon

Woman in Red Dress

Kick the can

Finally I want to leave you with this, a desperate plea from a student who is afraid of his government and who wants the world to understand that this is about freedom, even if it costs him his.

What's happening?

Dutch newspaper


Pro-Choice is the Real Pro-Life

Why am I pro-choice? I thought you’d never ask.

bfcd-2013Today is NARAL Pro-Choice America‘s 8th Annual Blog for Choice Day! And since they asked so nicely I thought I’d throw in my two cents on this year’s topic: Why are you pro-choice?

I am an abortion counselor. I talk to women who have made (and some who are in the process of making) one of the hardest decisions they will ever face. My job is to make sure they understand the procedure and what to expect, that all the consent forms are signed and in compliance with (ridiculous) Texas laws, that all of the patients’ questions are answered, but most importantly, it’s my job to ensure that each patient I talk to is confident that she is making the right choice for herself.

For some women the decision is easy, or they feel like it’s the only option they have. Indeed many, many women couldn’t pay for their abortion if not for some kind of private charity. They have two (or three or six) kids at home and know that there is no way they can afford another child and feel that they would be taking away (both financially and emotionally) from their “living” or “existing” children, as they often say. In reality, according to Guttmacher Institute statistics, at least 60% of women seeking abortion already have one or more children at home. They are already mothers and know how much hard work, sacrifice and dedication it takes to do the toughest and most important job in the world.

birth control angel

In all fairness to my patients I’d say around 75% were using contraception when they got pregnant.

For some women the decision is excruciating and causes them a terrible amount of stress and heartache because they genuinely want a child but feel that they could not give it the life it deserves right now. These women’s feelings of guilt, selfishness and grief are exacerbated by “sidewalk counselors,” protesters who shout horrible, demeaning things at perfect strangers and who think their religious beliefs should dictate the morals of the lives of women they have never met. Ricky Perry and the legislators who decided Texas women need 24 hours to think over the mandatory vaginal ultrasound they are required to have before being legally eligible for an abortion take shaming women to a whole new level. What these zealots don’t understand is that abortion is very often a decision made out of love.

What most women feel after an abortion is relief. I’ve been thanked on countless occasions for helping provide this lifesaving service by women, both heartbroken and happy, who are grateful they still have a choice.

Sometimes abortion is a life changing decision, it allows a teen to graduate high school and go to the Olympics for pole vaulting, or it wakes a married woman up to the fact that she does not want to stay in her abusive relationship any longer. And sometimes abortion is mundane. For women who come in for their third or seventh, their familiarity with the process causes them more guilt than the choice itself. They have been able to shake off the stigma that women coming in for their first (and usually only) abortion may never overcome. The reality though is that no one wants to have an abortion: what every woman who comes to me wants is to not have gotten pregnant in the first place.

No one knows you, dear reader, and your life better than you do. So why, especially with something as intimate and private as procreation, would anyone else think they know what’s best for me?

That is the reason I am pro-choice.

2013 Roe v. Wade Rally Austin

I am pro-choice for all of the patients I have ever encountered, from the woman whose husband was battling cancer to the teenager I sent away twice because she didn’t want an abortion even though her parents thought it was best for her. I am pro-choice for the patient who needs an abortion but because of her medical condition has to have it done in a hospital and thus literally needs an act of Congress to have it done because the hospitals in her town are religious. I am pro-choice for Savita Halappanavar, and because I never again want to mourn a woman’s life lost because she did not have access to a safe abortion.

I am pro-choice because it’s my body and I have the human right to choose if, when, and how to procreate or not. Why are you pro-choice?

 


International Day Against Homophobia & Transphobia

Today is the International Day Against Homophobia/Biphobia & Transphobia – IDAHO. It is an annual event commemorated by millions of people from Ireland to Fiji and in dozens of other countries around the world to take action against homophobia. Started in 2004, the day incorporated transphobia into the title in 2009. Last year alone more than 80 countries held events to speak out against homophobia and transphobia.

May 17 was chosen to commemorate the 1990 decision of the World Health Organization to remove homosexuality from its list of mental disorders. Care2 has a number of stories related to IDAHO available today. You can “like” IDAHO on Facebook and follow anti-homophobia actions all year round. You can also follow Ampliphy’s IDAHO Blogathon and read about others’ take on the day too.

This informative piece by Sexuality and Disability answers some of the questions many people have about sexuality, including what it means to be transgender. Many issues faced by the LGBTQI (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, and intersex) community have been all over the international news lately, from marriage equality and other human rights to issues of personal safety like bullying and rape. Let’s start with the good news.

Argentina has set a new world standard in human rights for transgender people by enacting a law that allows any citizen to change his/her gender identity just because they want to! No longer do Argentinians have to undergo mental health screenings, hormone therapy or permanent body altering surgery (read: sterilization) to change their legal or physical gender. “But, if trans Argentinians do want to change their bodies, thanks to the new law, insurance companies–both public and private–will now have to provide them with surgery or hormone therapy at no additional cost.” The first country to legalize marriage equality in Latin America is now an inspiration and symbol of hope for transgender people everywhere.

Other countries are working towards equality and inclusion for transgender people in other ways. India’s largest transgender festival has been going on for the past two weeks. Kenya’s Human Rights Commission has produced a 62 page PDF file The Outlawed Among Us available for download that explores the human rights violations of the LGBTQI community there. Activists in Nepal are joining researchers in asking “Can proper ID save the lives of transgender people in emergencies?” Any recommendations for resources or contacts in that regard can be sent here. Finally, Sweden is leading the way in gender neutral language by introducing a gender neutral pronoun for those who do not wish to use gender labels.

Even in the US there is good news on the sexuality rights front. Shocking I know! Barack Obama made history this month by becoming the first President in US history to voice his support for marriage equality. Many prominent black men, including Reverend Jesse Jackson, actor Will Smith, and rapper Jay-Z, have spoken out supporting the President’s “evolution” regarding marriage equality. Some polls show that more than 50% of Americans are in favor of marriage equality, while in Minnesota 52% of those polled agreed that “same-sex couples should be able to get married.”

President Obama has, in addition to repealing Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell and speaking in favor of marriage equality, clarified to Congress that DOMA is a “bad idea.” He has also threatened to veto the House of Representative’s Republican Violence Against Women Act because it gutted protections for lesbian, bisexual, transgender, Native American and undocumented women and would put victims of domestic violence in severe danger by informing abusers that they have been accused of violence.

Now for the bad news– bullying. Bullying takes many, many forms and is an issue faced by millions of people around the world but members of the LGBTQI community around the world (and those perceived to be) are especially likely to suffer. One example is the infamous Westboro Baptist Church that protests with sign saying “God hates fags.” One 9 year-old is protesting back with a sign of his own saying “God hates no one.” He joins the good company of other Americans who are fed up with WBC’s hatred.

The Pan American Health Organization has joined the outcry against dangerous and hateful homophobia and declared that “treatments” intended to “cure” people of homosexuality are not medically sound and should have sanctions levied against them by governments and academic institutions. So-called “conversion” therapy, or pray-away-the-gay only serves to further shame, isolate and belittle vulnerable individuals who are already facing discrimination in myriad other forms from society. In many places homosexual acts are punishable by law, and in some cases, like Iran, men are being hanged to death for sodomy.

This article explores how South Africa has become the rape capital of the world, including hundreds, if not thousands of incidences of “corrective rape” occurring every year. But the US is not immune to the idiotic idea that raping a lesbian will make her straight. Just last week a Cleveland DJ told a listener who was worried his daughter might be a lesbian to have her “screwed straight.” Such thinking underlines the War on Women being waged in the US and the hugely false Republican belief that women are not to be trusted to make their own decisions, especially regarding sex.

Bullying is a life-threatening issue today. Students who identify as LGBT are five times more likely to miss school out of fear for their safety. A new documentary, Bully, explores bullying in America while the film Teach Your Children Well looks specifically at anti-gay bullying. The Gay Lesbian & Straight Education Network, GLSEN, offers anti-bullying resources here. The government also offers tips on creating a safe environment for LGBT youth but acknowledges that federal laws (shamefully) do not protect against harassment based on sexual orientation. This look at how bullying affects children’s and teens’ mental health shows that LGB youth are two to three times more likely to attempt suicide than straight kids. But homophobic bullying in schools is not limited to the US; Ireland’s bullying is also “widespread.” The Day of Silence, which takes place every year on April 20, is a way for students to show their support for an end to bullying and to represent all the voices that have been silenced because of violence.

Yet transgender voices are still being silenced in schools, including universities in the US. And the real, day-to-day violence faced by transgender people is often dismissed by the mainstream media, or ignored all together. The New York Times recently ran an article chock-full of transphobic and victim-blaming rhetoric after a transgender woman died in a suspicious fire. The dehumanizing picture they paint is of a deceptive sex worker who deserved what came to her while including unnecessary and disrespectful sexualized comments about her appearance.

The state of North Carolina and its voters asserted themselves as bullies this week when Amendment One altered the state’s Constitution to define marriage as one man and one woman. Don’t worry though, dwellers of the Tar Heel State can still marry their cousins. And, lest we forget, the last time NC amended their Constitution was in 1875 to ban interracial marriage. And while the bigots who voted for Amendment One were clamoring about “traditional marriage” (see below), this badass woman employed strategic nonviolent action to demand her right to marry her female partner. It ultimately got her arrested and I heart her for that! And “to the queer kids of the United States: Amendment One is a form of bullying.”

Other US states are a mix of flat out shame like Colorado which didn’t vote on civil unions and confusion, like Rhode Island, where other state’s same-sex marriages will be recognized but it is still not legal for its own residents to do so.

This awesomely interactive and informative state-by-state guide shows just how difficult it is to keep track of the laws when the states are not at all united. It explores marriage, hospital visits, adoption, employment, housing, hate crimes and schools. Also check out this video of the 2012 Essential Bi Reading List for other resources.

My best friend (who is in law school at the moment) has reminded me time and again that one day marriage equality will be a reality in the US, because it’s not that long ago that interracial marriage was illegal. Seeing as how she and I are both in interracial relationships and I am bisexual, it’s a painful yet poignant reminder of America’s recent history. As Rachel Maddow explained, rights are not supposed to be voted on. Rights are inherent and should be respected as such.

To help fight for equal rights for all people regardless of gender, gender identity, sex, sexual orientation, or any other damn thing, get involved! Human Rights Watch is an awesome international organization working everyday on all kinds of human rights issues. The Human Rights Campaign is a more focused group, fighting specifically for the equal rights of the LGBT community. Amnesty International is another group working around the world to guarantee all people’s human rights. And the American Civil Liberties Union also speaks out for marriage equality and numerous other human rights issues in the US. Oh, and the five tips below are a great start too. Have an equal day!


Day 31- Connecting the Dots

As Women’s History Month wraps up today I want to express my deep gratitude for all of the support I have felt from readers over the past 31 days. I hope that you have enjoyed the discussions and have learned something. I also hope that you can see how interconnected every individual’s struggle for justice is with everyone else’s. I welcomed you all to Feminist Activism with this quote by Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” As I conclude my personal goal of writing everyday, I want to focus on the overarching ideas of justice and equality.

In the web of humanity everyone’s fate is intertwined with everyone else’s, so even if we personally are not facing injustice or persecution, we must stand up for those who are. Fighting to secure basic rights and freedoms for everyone will someday protect you, or someone you love. This statement by Pastor Martin Niemöller comes to mind.

Human rights covers a huge range of things, from women’s rights to access to education to the rights of the disabled to access to health care, etc. Merely fighting for each individual human being to have equal access and opportunity will not fix what is wrong with our world though. Environmental issues and the rights of other species to not only exist but to thrive need to be priorities as well, for even the most equal of societies will fall if the planet cannot sustain it.

A look into one individual’s life will clearly illustrate how dependent all living beings are on each other. Let’s look at an average white American woman: 30s-40s, two teenagers and a shelter rescue dog, one expensive abortion, Christian with no time for church, divorced because her alcoholic ex-husband broke too many of her ribs, high school graduate, working class–living paycheck to paycheck, no retirement fund to speak of, paying a mortgage, lives in the suburbs downwind from her job, tries to help take care of her disabled mother who lives in a run-down nursing home, health insurance only covers cervical cancer screenings every two years instead of the recommended annual screenings, her gay brother lives with her because he was forced out of his home when his partner passed away and their home was automatically given to the legal “next of kin,” her mid-90s car has tons of miles on it and is just as hard on her wallet as it is on the environment, and her best friend is the Mexican woman with whom she can barely communicate who is charged with her mother’s care. This story of “middle America” could go on and on.

Every aspect of an individual’s life–sex, race, sexual orientation, gender identity, education, class, religion, ability, language, environment, legal status, criminal record, and age–affects her/his reality. Each of these factors individually can be cause for discrimination but when more than one factor is “abnormal” the individual can feel hopeless. The norm for American society is male, white, straight, man, some college, middle-upper class, Christian, nondisabled, English-speaking, suburban, US citizen, non-convict, 30s-40s. Imagine how harsh someone’s reality is if these are the facts: female, Latino, bisexual, transgender FTM, some high school, working class, atheist, disabled, Spanish-speaking, urban, undocumented, ex-convict, 60s. Obviously this is an extreme case of being at the bottom of the food chain but this man does exist, many times over!

Let’s go back to our “average” American woman. Her Christian upbringing lead her to get married at age 20 and have children by age 22. After her youngest child went to school she tried to get back into receptionist work but found she had been out of the game too long and no one would hire her. The family couldn’t survive on her husband’s paycheck alone so she took an entry-level job at a manufacturing plant where she was often sexually harassed for being a woman and doing a “man’s job.” Despite missing work for three weeks because her husband put her in the hospital, she worked her way up in the union and, since she left her husband, luckily makes enough money to get by every month. Her brother helps with some of the bills but his employers give him just enough hours to qualify for health insurance, out of pity, because they know if he ever lost his health insurance his HIV status would make him “uninsurable.” Her children, whom she would sacrifice anything for, are in high school, sexually active, average students, mildly involved in extra-curricular activities. She’s straight but sometimes wonders what it would be like to be with a woman. Her mother’s illnesses are taking a toll on her and the Mexican caretaker at the nursing home is the only person she feels comfortable being honest with, partly because she believes the caretaker can’t understand her. She’s been having some pains in her stomach lately which could be attributed to cervical cancer or could be a result of years of inhaling pollution, but she can’t afford to take the time off work to see a doctor during normal business hours, and couldn’t afford her co-payment anyway.

We must all fight each other’s battles. My only word of caution is not to fight for what we think someone else wants, but to fight for what she says she wants, otherwise we’re repeating colonialism all over again. If you are interested in fighting injustice in any (or all) of its many forms, get involved in your community. The old feminist adage to “think globally and act locally” is still true. Always consider what effect your actions will have on the global community and start to make changes in your life and at the local level. This explanation may help.

Some organizations with whom you can explore the birdcage of oppression include The Connect the Dots Movement focused on human, animal and environmental well-being, The Connect the Dots Network which teaches green/sustainable environmental practices to social justice non-profits, 100% Renewable Energy that explains the folly in ageist discrimination in relation to the environmental movement, Counter Quo which examines how a multitude of factors compound oppression and sexual violence, Advocates for Environmental Human Rights that is a legal service that understands how race and security issues affect environmental issues, and L.O.V.E. Living Opposed to Violence and Exploitation which explores the necessary links between veganism and feminism, and on combating speciesism, racism, sexism and rape culture.

Tomorrow is April 1st and the start of Sexual Assault Awareness Month. I will not be writing everyday but hope to be able to post at least 2-3 times per week, so check back often for new discussions, or subscribe so you’ll automatically be notified when I post something new. As always, any ideas, links, information, etc. is more than welcome. Thanks y’all. Keep fighting the good fight!


Day 10- Women’s Activism in Asia

The Asian continent is the largest on the planet, home to 60% of the world’s population, it also comprises 60% of the world’s landmass. Consequently generalizations about Asian women could never be true for all of the women included in Asia’s population of 4,157,000,000. Turkey is the western border of the Asian continent and most Arab countries, including Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Iran, and Afghanistan are in Asia. Today we will look at women of countries more typically associated with “Far Eastern” culture, but also explore how women in Central Asian countries, especially countries of the former USSR, combat injustice as well.

American’s stereotypes about Asian American women are also shared with women who still live in Asia, consequently they are seen as silent, subservient and eager-to-please. The sampling of Asian women we will see today, and the organizations they run, are anything but.

Russia: The denial of pay during maternity leave is one issue currently affecting women in Russia. Women’s rights activists in St. Petersburg have rallied to protest women being dismissed from their jobs if they become pregnant. Project Kesher is another group of women striving to bring religious and ethnic tolerance to Russian, Belarus and the Ukraine. In an unorthodox manner a group of Russian women who call themselves X-Z are bringing attention to social issues plaguing Russia, such as piles of snow the government refuses to remove.

Mongolia: Women in Ulaanbaatar are working to show that women’s rights are human rights and to create a national mechanism for protecting fundamental human rights. There is still much work to be done in Mongolia, especially to ensure LGBTQAI rights. The National Network of Mongolian Women’s NGOs, Monfemnet, tackles everything from youth participation in human rights, democracy and gender justice to exploring masculinities.

China: Grassroots women’s activists in China are combating judicial injustices and gender inequalities by fighting for human rights. One of the biggest issues facing Chinese women is Reproductive Justice. The punishment for violating the “one child” policy is a blatant denial of human rights. This page honors some of the women human rights defenders in China.

Japan: Women in Japan are under a different reproductive pressure from their government: the pressure to have more children. For those women who cannot have children or do not want to reproduce, the government and society’s pressure to do so is not only unfair, but painful. Because of the government’s position only three percent of women in Japan ages 16-49 use the birth control pill. The Feminist International Network of Resistance to Reproductive and Genetic Engineering, FINNRAGE, is one group that is fighting for women to be fully educated about their rights and their choices so that they can make informed decisions.

Indonesia: Women in Indonesia are also fighting their government for protection of their rights. The few laws that grant women’s rights, such as a 30 percent quota of women in elected offices, are not uniformly enforced. Women’s rights groups in Indonesia also state that those women who are elected are not doing their part to advance gender equality. Some women’s groups use the power of street theatre to demonstrate the dangers of childbirth and pollution, among other social issues. The rights of LGBTQAI people in Indonesia are also not guaranteed, but many women are searching for tolerance and equality within their personal studies of Islam.

Thailand: Women in Thailand are active in the country’s ever-changing political scene. Despite being warned by police to evacuate a space filled with protesters lest violence should occur, women supporting the Red Shirt party stayed to face their government. In a country where symbolism and the spiritual world are highly esteemed, women from the opposing group, the Yellow Shirt party, took on politics and social norms and used their bloody sanitary napkins to pull power from a protective statue. Thai women are also finding innovative ways to combat religious intolerance in various regions of the country. The women who are left as heads-of-household when their husbands and sons are arrested (for political or religious reasons) have become leaders in their communities. After a long day’s work feminist activists in Thailand can relax at a retreat built especially for them.

Bangladesh: The situation for women in Bangladesh is dire. Women are punished with beatings when they are raped. Women are punished with acid attacks when they say no to sexual advances. Women are punished when they go to the police, or seek medical help, or dare to complain. The deaths of women as a result of public flogging have been all over the news recently. Women are slowly making progress and some girls are being educated, but activists in Bangladesh also understand the importance of having male allies in the fight for equality. Bangladeshi women are also sharing their knowledge and lessons learned with the women of Haiti, by way of an all-female UN police force.

India: For centuries women in India have been participating in social activism. Currently, the group Pandies uses humor and theatre to showcase women’s issues. Recognizing the advances that have been made over time, women’s groups in India still push for further gender equality. Even though gains have been made, there are still many issues facing Indian women today, including child marriage, police brutality, and domestic violence.

Kyrgyzstan: Despite being the first Central Asian country to have a female president, (Roza Otunbayeva–one of this year’s recipients of the US’s Women of Courage Award), gender roles in Kyrgyzstan are still very rigid. In traditional Kyrgyz culture women must remain virgins until their wedding night and their sheets are displayed the next day as proof. Some women are combating this stigma by speaking out against it. Other problems arise when the marriages are not legally registered, and domestic violence rates in Kyrgyzstan are overwhelming. Bride kidnapping is another tradition the women of Kyrgyzstan are not proud of, and are trying to eradicate.

Uzbekistan: Uzbek human rights activist Mutabar Tajibaeva has returned her 2009 Women of Courage Award, in protest to Kyrgyzstan’s president receiving the same award this year. The activist says she has nothing against Otunbayeva personally but cannot, in good conscience, have her name listed with Kyrgyzstan’s president who failed to stop the massacres against ethnic Uzbeks in Kyrgyzstan last summer. Tajibaeva believes Otunbayeva is receiving the award only because she is the first female president of a Central Asian country, but stated that there are other Kyrgyz women more deserving of the honor. Some of the issues Uzbek human rights defenders focus on include unlawful detention of protesters by the government, and forced sterilization. Hundreds of women have been sterilized without their consent or knowledge in Uzbekistan, leaving many women fearful of doctors and hospitals.


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