Colleges and universities are legally responsible for preventing sexual assault

14 07 2009

I’ve blogged about sexual assault on college campuses and the need for comprehensive sexual assault policies that actually work and are implemented before (see here, here, here, here, here, and here for a taste), so here’s some relevant news.  The National Association of College and University Attorneys had a conference in Toronto recently and there was a panel discussion on campus sexual assault and harassment policies.

Maureen McClain, a panel member and a lawyer with a San Francisco law firm, warned that colleges and universities need to ensure that they have policies that are “as clear as possible and then…followed carefully” when dealing with sexual assault and harassment investigations.

The panel stressed that colleges and universities can legally be held accountable for failing to prevent sexual assault and harassment, and since having a good policy in place is a part of prevention, it’s necessary for institutions to have and follow a sexual assault and harassment policy.  It is also important for them to revisit and possibly even revise their policies yearly.

Monique DiCarlo, the sexual-misconduct-response coordinator at the University of Iowa, said:

It doesn’t mean completely redoing the system all the time, but listening to people who are using the policies to hear their concerns and make parts clearer.

Presenters at the conference stated that nationally judges may begin adopting a broader standard when ruling on lawsuits pertaining to Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, the federal law that prevents discrimination based on sex in education.  Judges are increasingly holding colleges liable for failing to prevent sexual assault and harassment on campus.

Colleges and universities need to create policies that are accessible, clear and specific to their campuses.  These policies are useless if students don’t know about them, so it’s important for institutions to make sure that students are aware of the policy and feel comfortable using them.  Furthermore,faculty and staff members need to be trained in responding to student allegations of sexual assault.

Sexual assault is the number one underreported crime on college campuses and we have quite a while to go before colleges and universities take sexual assault seriously and take proactive measures to prevent it from occurring.  Prevention can take many forms, and one way is to implement a clear and comprehensive sexual assault policy.

Sadly unsurprising, but still upsetting

14 07 2009

On July 1st, the White House publicized a report delivered to Congress that lists every employee and his/her title and salary. Ariel over at Community Feministing has a great post that really breaks it down with a critical feminist lens and includes a chart of White House salary levels according to gender. The male/female ratio is pretty much 50/50 – 49.7% of White House staffers are women.

Unsurprisingly however, women working in the White House earn less than their male counterparts. How much less? $9,462 less. While the average salary for male employees is $82.020, the average salary for female employees is only $72,558. So in the White House, women are earning $.88 to the male dollar. Nationally, women make $.77 to the male dollar (yes the wage gap still exists).

When looking at median salaries, the median salary of a female White House employee is $57,129 whereas the median salary of a male White House employee is $67,059. And more women occupy lower paid positions than do men as evidenced in the graph below.


Thanks again Ariel for compiling and analyzing all this. The results were sadly unsurprising but still disappointing. It’s more proof of why feminism is still relevant and necessary.

“I’m not saying that…” and “No offense, but…”

14 07 2009

If you have to follow up or preface a statement with either of these statements, you are probably saying something stupid.

The other day, the head chef at the restaurant I work at delivered a lecture to the staff about women’s clothing.  He said something to this effect.

I want you all to come in here fully in uniform…

Well, that makes sense!  It certainly looks unprofessional for servers to come into work half in uniform, shirt un-tucked, and with their hair messy.  But instead of focusing on the obvious, he went on to single out the female waitstaff as the problem, following up his comment with this:

If you girls come in here in tank tops and shorts and one of my cooks makes some sort of comment, then I have to fire one of my guys.  You can avoid the whole thing by just wearing your uniform.  …I’m not saying that you deserve those comments because of what you were wearing, but you can just avoid the whole problem in the first place.

Having not lived one day as a female waitress (and given the offensive, sexist comments that he spews constantly), I was not the least bit surprised by his mentality.  This particular chef feels completely comfortable arriving at and leaving work in his street clothes with no fear of harassment or insulting comments.  It is troubling that he sees it as an inconvenience that he has to fire one of his staff for sexual harassment, when in fact the ones who should feel inconvenienced are the people on the staff who endure such remarks.  Also, I have heard plenty of offensive comments, threats, and inappropriate and unwanted grabbing by employees and even managers, but never in my year of employment at this restaurant have I seen anyone fired for sexual harassment.

Of course, clothing has nothing to do with the problem of harassment at the restaurant.  My uniform consists of a hideous combination of a man’s dress shirt, tie, dress pants, and a long black apron.  However, women on the staff are sexually harassed and treated inappropriately not only by some male staff, but by some managers and chefs as well.

It’s also sad that among the people in the room (probably about twenty), nobody (including myself) challenged him.  Heaped on top of his hetero male privilege, this chef is my boss, and thus I am caught in a tedious position.  Do I confront stupidity when I hear it, even at the risk of my job?  Or do I let the moment pass, and thus let this person maintain their power at the expense of my beliefs?  Strange that he would champion uniforms as our defense against sexual harassment.  I left the situation feeling even more powerless.

This is a subject that feminist2 and I have been discussing a lot lately.  When is the argument simply “not worth it?”  Is it always worth it?   How do we function when we must confront people in power?  Is there a way to work in a feminist way from within the power hierarchy, or must we live with the risks of upsetting the structure, even in our daily lives?  For more on a similar subject, refer back to feminist2’s post on how to have constructive feminist discussions with friends and family.

This is cute.

14 07 2009

Saw this on my friend’s facebook newsfeed.  Hope you don’t mind that I stole it from you!

This is pretty cute, even though it of course ignores any sexual aspect to marriage (it’s for the childrenz!) and reinforces ideals of spouses necessarily living together, seeing each other every day, etc.

The comments, however, became a huge nasty fight about religion and same-sex marriage.  Just by not specifying that marriage is “between a man and a woman,” and not mentioning reproduction, this sweet child seems to have greatly upset some people.  Sad.

Young Feminists + Blogging=Awesomeness

14 07 2009

I don’t think I even really defined myself as “feminist” until my freshman year of college.  But Julie Zeilinger is a teenage feminist who proudly wears the label, and she has created a blog for teenage feminists to share ideas about feminism and pop culture.  And I’ve got to say, this blog looks pretty freakin’ awesome.  Julie’s blog has everything from an interview with Gloria Steinem to celebrity gossip.

The “About” section for the blog reads:

The is a blog/community created for teenage girls who care about their rights as women and want to be heard. Young feminists who are just a little bit pissed off and very outspoken are more than welcome here.

In this case the “F Bomb” stands for “feminist.” However, the fact that the “F Bomb” usually refers to a certain swear word in popular culture is not coincidental. The is for girls who have enough social awareness to be angry and who want to verbalize that anger. The is loud, proud, aggressive, sarcastic…everything teenage feminists are today.

Julie Zeilinger is one of the proudest teenage feminists of all, who delivers every bitter social commentary with a smile. She’s from Pepper Pike, Ohio, and her own experiences with constant bad weather and a depressing city life have made her comfortable with (loudly) expressing her every complaint. She is a wary optimist who loves chocolate and hates people who speak two inches away from her face.  Queries, comments and bad jokes to be sent to:

Check the blog out here.  Rock on, Julie.

h/t  Feministing

Law Protecting 35-foot protest buffer zone around Massachusetts abortion clinics upheld

14 07 2009

On Friday, the US 1st Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a law requiring a 35-foot protest buffer zone outside abortion clinics.  In other words, this law bars anyone from entering a 35-foot zone around the clinics unless they are employed by the clinic, are entering or leaving the clinic, are public safety or municipal officials, or are simply passing through .  The 2007 law was created in an attempt to protect patients and staff from harassment.

Five anti-choice protesters filed the lawsuit originally because they claimed that the law violated their freedom of speech.  The judge, Judge Joseph Tauro, rejected their suit in 2008 and their most recent appeal was rejected on Friday.

It was ruled Friday that the law is “content neutral” (applies to all protesters no matter their viewpoints) and does not violate principles of free speech.

Some view this law as a direct attack on anti-choice protesters, creating a “censorship zone” specifically aimed at suppressing their rights of free speech.  Tim Chandler – legal counsel for the Alliance Defense Fund, which represented the plaintiffs, said:

The government cannot single them out for punishment simply because they want to share their message with people entering the clinic.  The government simply cannot create censorship zones where the First Amendment does not apply in order to silence a particular viewpoint.

But a patient or staff member should be able to walk into a clinic without being verbally attacked or fearing for their safety.  Since the law does not prohibit people from expressing their views, but rather redefines the space in which they may protest, many view this law as necessary for the protection of clinic patients and staff.

Mass. Attorney General Martha Coakley said that she is “pleased that the First Circuit has upheld this important law, which enhances public safety and access to medical facilities, while preserving the right to engage in expressive activity on public ways and sidewalks near clinics.’’

h/t The Boston Globe and Feminist Daily News

Intact hymens and the fetishization of virginity

14 07 2009

Via Sociological Images, an older ad marketing a tampon:


The beginning text of the ad goes like:

I really wanted to use tampons but I heard that you had to be, you know, ‘experienced’. So I asked my friend Lisa. Her mom is a nurse so I figured she’d know. Lisa told me she’d been using Petal Soft Plastic Applicator Tampax tampons since her very first period and she’s a virgin. In fact, you can use them at any age and still be a virgin.

It’s laughable that this is the actual text of the ad. It’s also ridiculous that people used to fear that girls could lose their virginity by using tampons. “In fact, you can use them at any age and still be a virgin” – OMG Yay! What a relief! Oh gee, society and its fetishization of virginity.

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