Good News: We are taking violence against women more seriously

30 06 2009

I was alerted about this good news via the Safer Blog – The Senate Appropriations Committee recently past its FY 2010 appropriations bill for various government agencies.  In total, the bill designates $64.9 billion in discretionary spending which is an increase of around $7.3 billion over last year and $200 million more than the President’s budget request.

The Committee appropriated $435 million for the Office of Violence Against Women INCLUDING $15 million for the Sexual Assault Services Program, which is $2 million more than what was provided in the house bill.

This is super exciting!  Highlights of this bill include $9.5 million for Campus Grants, $45 million for Civil Legal Assistance, $3.5 million for Advocates for Youth, and $3 million for Engaging Men and Boys.

This progress was made possible by the hard work of advocates and activists.  It’s up to us and them to make sure that when President Obama signs the final appropriations bill the numbers don’t decrease.

Adding on to this piece of uplifting news is an older tidbit of information – last Friday, Vice President Joe Biden appointed Lynn Rosenthal as the new White House Adviser on Violence Against Women.  This position is newly created and super important because violence against women is an issue that is often not taken seriously enough.

Rosenthal will essentially act as a liaison to the domestic violence and sexual assault advocacy community, work with the Department of Justice’s Office on Violence Against Women to implement VAWA (Violence Against Women) programs and services, work with the Department of Health and Human Services on implementing Family Violence Prevention Act programs and services, work with the State Department and US AID on global domestic violence efforts, and spearhead the development of new programs and policies that address domestic violence and sexual assault.

Rosenthal has worked hard throughout her life on the community level, the state level, and the federal level to make sure that violence against women is sufficiently addressed and acted upon, and that perpetrators are held accountable instead of just getting off scot-free.  Most recently she served as the Executive Director of the New Mexico Coalition Against Domestic Violence.  She also served as the Executive Director of the National Network to End Domestic Violence from 2000 to 2006.

Senior Adviser and Assistant to the President for Intergovernmental Relations and Public Engagement Valerie Jarrett said, “Lynn Rosenthal has been a life-long advocate for women and she has been a real leader in developing effective policies to combat domestic violence.”

Monday Blogaround

30 06 2009

There’s a lot we’ve missed lately… so here are some good reads to catch up with:

As Pride Month comes to an end, and as we reflect on Stonewall: Obama Commemorates Stonewall, Inequality in the Marriage Equality Movement and The Real Stonewall Legacy.

Eve Ensler’s op-ed in The Washington Post: A Broken UN Promise in Congo.

Gender is a social construction, so two feminist parents in Sweden are raising their child gender non-specific.

Triggering and heartbreaking – Violence against the trans community is still very persistent and pervasive: Transgender Woman Brutally Beaten in Queens Bias Attack – TLDEF Demands Full Investigation Into Hate Crime.

Recession Depression: Having a good work/life balance is ideal, but how realistically achievable is it especially in economic hard times?

This caught my eye because even though I am not a big Chipotle fan, many of my friends rave about it: Chipotle Injustice – Chipotle is the nation’s most rapidly growing fast food chain, but how socially responsible is it?

Prison rape is a widespread phenomenon and the National Prison Rape Elimination Commission just released a new report with suggestions and guidelines on how to end prison rape.

Reflections on Privilege, Guilt and Identity.

Some body to love – you are more than just your body.

Racist Thinking at the Supreme Court – Again.

The connection between reproductive rights and sexual violence – “He Thought a Baby Would Keep Me Forever”: When Partner Abuse Isn’t a Bruise but a Pregnant Belly.

Society is obsessed with parenting and children – Vanessa Richmond at Alternet explores this further.

Resistance to Misogynist Images and Advertising

30 06 2009

Misogynist images that objectify women are pervasive throughout our society. Sometimes it can be overwhelming because these visuals are everywhere, so many people have become desensitized to them. Means of resistance include noticing and pointing out the offensive nature of these images and advertisements.

Via Sociological Images, here is a series of pictures that illustrates how people are not letting misogynist advertising go unnoticed. These photos were taken in Seattle, Washington by Jonathan McIntosh.




Simple stickers as such call attention to the misogynist nature of the images, reminding people that such images (though they are pervasive and persistent) are counter to a society of basic human respect and freedom.

Raid on Fort Worth Gay Bar on the Anniversary of Stonewall

28 06 2009

Today is the 40th anniversary of the Stonewall Riots, a 1969 riot in which patrons of the Stonewall Bar fought back against police brutality and harassment against gay people by the NYPD.  On this day 40 years ago, a raid of the Stonewall Bar by police turned into a riot and is widely considered to have been a major catalyst for the modern US gay rights movement.  Sarah.of.a.lesser.god has a good post about remembering Stonewall on The Pursuit of Harpyness blog.

Unfortunately, I have bad news to bear on the anniversary of Stonewall that reminds us that hate, violence, and homophobia are alive and well today and the fight against injustice must continue on with fervor and bravery.

Apparently, a Fort Worth bar, Rainbow Lounge, was raided by police early this morning.  Seven people were reportedly arrested there for “Public Intoxication.”

The Daily Kos has some info, and there is also a facebook group about the raid.

Witnesses report that police arrived at the club about 1 a.m. this morning and arrested seven people.  One of those arrested reportedly suffered a fractured skull and is at a local hospital.

Fort Worth police released a statement saying that the Rainbow Lounge was among several bars investigated, and that nine additional people were arrested at other bars.

At Rainbow Lounge, a police statement claimed, an “extremely intoxicated patron made sexually explicit movements toward the police supervisor,” and was arrested.  The statement claimed that a second man made explicit gestures and a third grabbed an agent’s groin, thus spurring their arrests.  Police reported that another intoxicated person was placed on the ground by officers to control him while resisting arrest.

However, the general manager of the Rainbow Lounge and several witnesses are claiming that officers used excessive force to make arrests.

“He was just walking to the bathroom when an officer grabbed him and shoved him against a wall and pulled his head back,” said Chris Hightower of Fort Worth. “He (the injured man) was then thrown to the ground and three other officers were on him.”

Several witnesses are claiming that the officers were never assaulted.  One patron described the routine inspections usually performed by police.  “Usually, they’re very orderly and respectful – they work with the bar staff and check IDs, it’s quick and painful and then it’s over and then they’re out.  This was not that. This was harassment, plain and simple.”

For an up to date feed on the details of the raid and scheduled protests, check out the Dallas Voice. Read the rest of this entry »

Vibrator use is more common than you may think

28 06 2009

According to The New York Times , the first academic peer-reviewed studies of vibrator use reveal that “it is nearly as common an appliance in American households as the drip coffee maker or toaster oven.”  Two August 2008 national surveys from Indiana University published in The Journal of Sexual Medicine report that 53% of women and nearly half of men have reported using a vibrator.

The vibrator is also being used much more often for shared pleasure among couples.  81% of women and 91% of men reported using the vibrator with a partner.

Other interesting data indicate that among women ages 45 to 60, 46.3 percent reported having used a vibrator at some point in their lives.  59.5 percent of women ages 23 to 44, and 32.7 percent of women ages 18 to 22 reported having used a vibrator.  Among men, 45.2 percent ages 45 to 60 reported having used a vibrator while 51.5 percent ages 23 to 44 and 15.5 percent ages 18 to 22 reported vibrator use.

The researchers suggest that the increasing use of vibrators (the 1953 Kinsey report reported that vibrator use was “less than one percent”) may be partly due to the increasing availability of the device and changing cultural opinions of sex toy use.  The vibrator has become more mainstream, and is now being marketed towards couples, older people, and even couples with children under 18.  The move away from the X-rated taboo public opinion of the sex toy industry may have helped spur the increasing interest in sex toys.  The New York Times also reports that:

Men and women who had used a vibrator in the last month scored higher on sexual pleasure scales that measured arousal, orgasm, lubrication, pain and erectile function than those who had never used one.

The study of course probably has its downfalls.  93% of the 2,056 women and 1,047 men interviewed were heterosexual.  There is also the question of whether volunteer bias and the specific makeup of the sample may skew results.  However, this study may be indicative of a shift in social attitudes about sexual practices.  If the survey results reflect even slightly that sexual pleasure is becoming less taboo and more often discussed and sought in the mainstream (for both women and men), this is good news indeed.

Being an active bystander

25 06 2009

The quote on my reusable Lululemon bag says “The world is changing at such a rapid rate that waiting to implement changes will leave you 2 steps behind.  Do it now, do it now, do it now!”  Having seen this several times on a daily basis for the past couple days since I’ve gotten the bag and started using it, I immediately thought of this quote when I read Breaking the Bystander Effect.

The Bystander Effect is something we are all familiar with and a position that we’ve all been in at some point or another throughout our lives.  It’s the idea that the larger the people population or presence, the less likely each individual person is to help out someone who needs help or is in distress.  So when we’re in a big crowd of people, or if there are just a fair amount of people around, we are less likely to take action to help someone who is in an emergency situation and needs help because we assume that someone else will do it, which is technically called the diffusion of responsibility.

The problem with this?  When everyone thinks that someone else is going to do something to help, no one will do anything because someone else will do it instead.  I’ve blogged about this before but it’s worth reiterating, there will always be perpetrators and there will always be victims.  By not upstanding in situations (and being a passive bystander waiting for someone else to do something), we are acting as accomplices to perpetrators.  So we can choose to take a proactive stance and be active bystanders and do our part in reducing or countering the violence in society, or we can be apathetic and passive bystanders.

Like the quote on my bag says, there is no time to wait for someone else to do it – do it now, do it now, do it now!  There’s no time for apathy.  There’s no time for inaction.  Life is too short for that.  But since so many of us fall victim to the bystander effect, how can we get ourselves out of that mindset and frame of thought in order to start taking more proactive steps to transform our culture of violence?

J gives us three tips:

  1. If you know what to do, do it. Just being aware of the existence of the Bystander Effect makes you far more likely to be able to break free of it. Don’t let fear take over, don’t assume someone else knows what they’re doing better than you – just act. (The good news is, if you take the first step, people are likely to see you taking actions to help and break through their hesitation as well. Its much easier to jump in to a situation when you’re not taking the first step.)
  2. If you don’t know what to do or can’t do it yourself, be directive. Calling people out as individuals breaks them from the group mentality and reminds them of their own personal responsibility.
  3. You could always try yelling “BYSTANDER EFFECT”

“Human Rights, Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity” resolution

24 06 2009

The General Assembly of Organization of American States (OAS) convened at the beginning of June in Honduras.  The theme was “Toward a Culture of Non-Violence”.  Via Bird of Paradox, all 35 member states unanimously approved of the “Human Rights, Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity” resolution that Brazil put forth.  The six points of this resolution are:

1. To condemn acts of violence and related human rights violations committed against individuals because of their sexual orientation and gender identity.

2. To urge states to ensure that acts of violence and human rights violations committed against individuals because of sexual orientation and gender identity are investigated and their perpetrators brought to justice.

3. To urge states to ensure adequate protection for human rights defenders who work on the issue of acts of violence and human rights violations committed against individuals because of sexual orientation and gender identity.

4. To request the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights and the other organs of the inter-American system to continue to pay sufficient attention to this issue.

5. To reiterate its request for the Committee on Juridical and Political Affairs (CAJP) to include on its agenda, before the fortieth regular session of the General Assembly, the topic of “Human rights, sexual orientation, and gender identity.”

6. To request the Permanent Council to report to the General Assembly at its fortieth regular session on the implementation of this resolution, the execution of which shall be subject to the availability of financial resources in the program-budget of the Organization and other resource.

These are all important and critical points.  Hopefully this resolution will be implemented and enforced by all the member countries and gradually we can shift from a culture of violence to a culture of peace.  The LGBTQ community throughout the world has been and continues to be marginalized and victimized by violence that often is invisible to the mainstream media.  It is high time that the LGBTQ community is recognized as deserving of human rights as well.