Weekly Feminist Reader

27 09 2009

Cara covers the story of a Trans Woman Murdered in Hollywood

Partisan Politican Contributions by US Companies

A Take on The Good Wife: The Wrong Side of the Mommy Track

Health Care Reform — at the Price of Women’s Health?

Nike Makes Black Athlete Look Like…an Animal? An Alien? What?

Cross-generational discussions can be difficult – but we need to have them

Trans-misogyny? There’s an app for that

A topic that’s worth revisiting over and over again: How to be an ally

The Reverse of Discrimination is “Not Discrimination”

Minor Offenses: The Tragedy of Youth in Adult Prisons

What’s wrong with [not just young people] everybody now

Malkin’s venom knows no bounds: Obama “doesn’t like this country very much”, is the “Groveler in Chief”

Monday Catch Up

6 07 2009

Hope everyone had a good Independence Day weekend.  Here are some things we missed:

Four Freedom Movements You Should Know About This Independence Day.

Renee’s take on Sarah Palin‘s public declaration of her intention to resign.  More thoughts on that here, here, here and here.

Racism takes a toll on the health of African Americans living in a predominantly white society.

How Racism Works – people mistakenly de-contextualize racism and perceive it as something that functions in individuals rather than seeing the big picture of how racism is institutionalized and structured in our daily lives in society at large.

A good 101 post on Three Dumb Things About “Reverse Discrimination”.

Thoughts on disability and respectful language.

Arab TV Soaps Reinforce Gender Bias and normalize violence against women.

This is old news, but good news nonetheless – last week, an Indian court decriminalized homosexuality.

There is no such thing as trans privilege.  For necessary 101, here is a great and important post on vocabulary when it comes to gender and cis.

Stop bullying transgender children.

Trigger warning – Sexual Abuse of Female Inmates in Oklahoma.

Carnival Against Sexual Violence has worthy reads you should check out.

Gift giving by stereotypes – an interesting look at the intersection of stereotypes we have about age, class and gender.

Sunscreen’s shady business – a look at the $1 billion a year sunscreen market.

It’s easy to watch a documentary (like Food, Inc.) and be inspired to take action, but often times we may get back into our daily routines and be stunted from any activism or we may simply just not know what to do or how we can help.  So to counter that here’s I Saw Food, Inc.  Now What?

All right, happy reading everybody!

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.

What we missed this weekend

15 06 2009

Violence against the trans community remains largely prevalent but ignored – Group of Teenagers Attack Trans Woman in Seattle

Up in Canada, Sharon McIvor celebrates her victory over sex discrimination in the Indian Act – Justice for Sharon McIvor and all First Nations women – at last!

The Great Wall of Mainstream Feminism

A sick family business: a father and a son collaboratively ran a rape trade business, WTF?! – Police Arrest Rape Traffickers, Then Book Trafficked Women on Drug Charges

How does the US measure up when it comes to Paid Parental Leave?

And how does the US compare to other countries when it comes to military spending?

Meet D.C.’s Anti-Gay Marriage Crusaders

GLBT Peeps, If You Want Your Rights, Fly This Flag!

Spain – convicted trans woman transferred to women’s prison after 11 years

The Chrysler/Fiat Merger will emasculate the dudes?! Just for clarification – A Car is Not a Penis

Another great post from Renee – Privilege and Ignorance Speak Volumes

Check out Food, Inc.‘s blog, Hungry for Change. See the movie if you haven’t already.

Abu Ghraib photos reportedly depict rape and sexual abuse

29 05 2009

[trigger warning]

A report in The Daily Telegraph has emerged claiming that the Abu Ghraib photos which President Obama is refusing to release graphically depict rape and sexual abuse.

At least one picture shows an American soldier apparently raping a female prisoner while another is said to show a male translator raping a male detainee.

Further photographs are said to depict sexual assaults on prisoners with objects including a truncheon, wire and a phosphorescent tube.

Another apparently shows a female prisoner having her clothing forcibly removed to expose her breasts.

Major General Antonio Taguba, the former army officer who conducted an inquiry into the Abu Ghraib jail in Iraq, has reported the existence of such photographs to The Daily Telegraph. Although the allegations of rape and sexual abuse had previously existed, the existence of photos of the acts had not previously been revealed.

Read the rest of this entry »

Friday Blogaround

29 05 2009

Happy Friday everyone!  Here are some must-reads:

Higher Ground, Not Common Ground by Merle Hoffman in On the Issues magazine:

As a person who feels that war should be the strategy of last resort, I still like to read military history. I find myself going back to the wisdom of Sun Tzu who wrote in “The Art of War” in the 6th century BC: “If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the results of a hundred battles.”

As feminists who fight battles against those who would deny women’s freedom and equality, we know the mettle of our enemies. They are relentless, committed beyond secular principles, willing to look at things in the very long term, absolutely sure of their righteousness and totally determined.

They have one solid line, which they define and defend. Those who stand on their side are with the angels; those who stand on the other are misguided, at best, and sinners, at worst.

Educating Ourselves to Oblivion by William Astore:

Can there be any doubt that education matters not just in how we view the world, but in what kind of world we create — or simply accept? And can there be any doubt that, despite a massive educational infrastructure (admittedly now fraying badly), Americans remain remarkably poorly informed about the world? Last year, Rick Shenkman, the editor of the History News Network website, published a book (now out in paperback), Just How Stupid Are We? Facing the Truth About the American Voter, excerpted at this site. Stupid enough (or ill-informed) was the answer.

Cheney’s Bunker Mentality by James Ridgeway:

Say what you will about Dick Cheney, at least he’s consistent. While he was in office, the Vice President made a practice of exploiting the fear and loss wrought by the 9/11 attacks to advance his own political agenda—and he’s still doing it now. During his speech at the American Enterprise Institute on Thursday, according to Dana Milbank’s calculations in the Washington Post, “Cheney used the word ‘attack’ 19 times, ‘danger’ and ‘threat’ six times apiece, and 9/11 an impressive 27 times.”

When Systems of Oppression Intersect: Mental Health and the Immigration System by Thea Lim:

Angry Asian Man reports on the story of Xiu Ping Jiang, a 35 year-old Chinese illegal immigrant diagnosed with a mental illness who has been stuck in immigration limbo for over a year.

Detainee Abuse: New Details Reported by Melissa McEwan:

[Strong trigger warning.]

My heart went into my throat as I read the headline in the Telegraph this morning: “Abu Ghraib abuse photos ‘show rape’: Photographs of alleged prisoner abuse which Barack Obama is attempting to censor include images of apparent rape and sexual abuse, it has emerged.”

Oh god. Oh god.

The images, according to the story, show one male American soldier raping a female prisoner, a male American translator raping a male prisoner, someone else forcibly removing a female prisoner’s clothes to expose her naked breasts, and other sexual assaults being committed on prisoners “with objects including a truncheon, wire, and a phosphorescent tube.”

Infant Formula Product Placement in Chemistry Matric Exam by Lauredhel:

School and university exam writers often invent scenarios. They play with made-up names for people, they dream up companies, they have fun devising original scenarios and puns to spice up their questions.

But what happens when they get bored doing that, or don’t have time, or when an alternative is shoved under their noses?

There is a national government Senior High school examination for 18-year-olds in the Netherlands. The chemistry exam is a 3 hour exam consisting of four questions, each with a series of sub-questions. This year’s exam has just taken place, on May 26. You can download and read the exam questions and the technical appendix.

Nine Simple Ways to Scare Your Date by Sarah.of.a.lesser.god:

There are several advantages to being a content singleton, one of which is not having to deal with first dates and the thorny path known as flirtation. But I finally decided to just learn to flirt, and decided to take some cues from Marie-Claire’s nine steps to flirting like a pro, provided by a guy named Neil Strauss (he likes to be considered the world’s greatest pick-up artist). I got some amazing results and learned some valuable lessons!

“Mild Mannered” Grandfather Stabs Cheating Wife by Renee:

That is the “gentle” face of an aggrieved man.  Seldom had a read about a more sympathetic person.   This poor sweet grandfather was happily looking forward to his golden years with his wife of  35 years, when he experienced a totally understandable “moment  of madness .”  Brian Gibbs has admitted to wounding with intent and was jailed for four-and-a-half years.


Mother Gives Birth to Baby Alone in Jail Cell

15 05 2009

Got this story on Feministing.  19-year-old Terra Keil of Dubuque, IA gave birth alone and behind bars early Tuesday morning.  As the Telegraph Herald reports:

Blood covered Terra Keil’s hands, and her cries echoed against the jail cell walls.

But the Dubuque County Jail inmate said she took little notice of her own tears; she was focused on the howls coming from the infant squirming in her arms.

Early Tuesday morning, the 19-year-old Dubuque woman gave birth behind bars.

Keil claims guards ignored her pleas for help and left her to deliver her son alone. Jail officials say the mother never showed signs she was in labor.

“I guess it’s a he said-she said situation,” Keil said. “I know it’s their word against mine, but how does somebody have a baby in jail without anybody noticing?”

The young woman screamed for help, but was not helped by prison guards, and was forced to deliver the child alone.

“I was screaming I needed help, and I even pounded on the door a few times, but nobody came,” she said. “Around 7 a.m., a guard came in and asked me if I wanted breakfast. I was crying and holding my stomach and said that I needed a nurse, but he only said, ‘Do you want breakfast or not?’

“And that’s when it hit me — I’m going to have this baby on my own.”

Keil was arrested on Monday evening for violating her parole.  She was due May 23rd, and the report of her arrest indicated that she was pregnant with twelve days until her due date.  According to Keil, contractions began around 5 AM Tuesday morning.  At 7 AM, a guard asked if she wanted breakfast.  She plead for a nurse, but nobody came until ten minutes after the child was delivered (around 7:22 AM).  She was forced to deliver her own baby while sitting on the metal toilet seat in her cell.

The jail administrator is claiming that protocol was followed, and that it was difficult to tell where the screams were coming from and this is why it took so long to reach Keil. ” … Not knowing exactly where the screams were coming from, we first checked West Drunk Holding cell where there was a female inmate being housed who was being observed for Suicide precaution,” the log states.  The jail insists that when guards discovered the woman with her child and a cell covered in blood, appropriate medical attention was immediately called.

This is so obviously inexcusable, and points to larger problems within the prison system.  The woman entered the jail pregnant and emerged with a child, and the jail did little to protect her or her baby or to even treat either as human beings.  It is pretty fishy that the guards insist that someone had checked on Keil every 15 minutes, but somehow failed to notice that she was in need of medical attention.  Keil says that guards only walked by her cell, but never came in or asked how she was doing. If these “checks” even occurred at all, it is clear that they are dangerously insufficient.  It takes a lot more than ineptitude to somehow overlook a pregnant woman in labor.

“This whole thing is ridiculous.  What if they hadn’t come in when they did? I could have bled to death, or he could have stopped breathing. He could have been taken away from me,” said Keil.  

The child, named Colton John, was taken from the mother (who still has three months left to serve) and placed into foster care.  Keil was transported to another facility to finish her three months time.

Prison Abuse Needs to Stop!

13 05 2009

The Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office (MCSO) jails in Arizona is currently under investigation by the U.S. Department of Justice because the police officers working in those jails allegedly abuse 287(g), a section of immigration law enabling the federal government to deputize local police officers to enforce immigration law.  However, the police officers are allegedly abusing their power and abuse the immigrant women detainees.

Respect/Respet, a local organisation that documents human and civil rights abuses, received handwritten letters from imprisoned immigrant women detailing grueling testimonials of physical mistreatment and abuse.  For instance, one woman got her arm broken by one of the guards, and another woman got her jaw broken by a sheriff deputy.  One of the letters implored for help saying, “Please help us, we’re in a tunnel without end, treated like dogs.”

So far, Maria del Carmen Garcia-Martinez, 46, allegedly an illegal undocumented immigrant, is the only woman to come out publicly with her story – on March 11th, six guards at the Estrella jail, a detention facility for women near Phoenix, were forcing her to put her fingerprint on a form she refused to sign.  In doing so, they broke her left arm.  The form was supposed to transfer her custody from the Estrella jail to immigration authorities.  She was not treated for her injury until 20 hours later.  She told reporters, “I know I’m not the only one, I met other women there who have gone through terrible things.”

Lt. Brian Lee, a spokesperson for the sheriff’s office, stated that Garcia-Martinez’s allegations are being investigated now, but he also stated that the sheriff deputies could use force if necessary to get a fingerprint on immigration documents as part of their job requirements.  So on May 1, officials from the Justice Department and the Department of Homeland Security visited the sheriff’s office to pursue an investigation.  Human and civil rights groups, like Respect/Respet and pro-immigrant group Puente, are fighting for Maricopa County Sheriff Joseph Arpaio’s 287(g) agreement with the federal government to be revoked.  Arpaio’s jails are meant for people accused of serious crimes awaiting trial, but a significant amount of undocumented immigrants guilty of minor offenses end up there as well as they wait to be transferred to immigration authorities.

Read the rest of this entry »

Rape victim (shockingly) not believed by police, and then jailed for it – WTF?!

5 04 2009

This is absolutely outrageous, infuriating and sickening. Warning, this may make you want to vomit.

Sara Reedy, a woman in her early twenties, from Butler County in Pittsburg, was working as a convenience store clerk in Cranberry in July 2004 when a man entered the store, raped her at gunpoint, and stole $606.73 from the cash register. After the assault, she called the local police to report the incident and ask for help but the responding officers did not believe her story.

Why is there so much skepticism around rape victims’/survivors’ reports?  When are people going to get it through their thick heads that almost all the time PEOPLE DON’T LIE ABOUT BEING RAPED!!!!  Research shows that only 2% of rape reports are false.  Besides, there are definitely easier ways to ruin someone’s life or someone’s reputation than to cry rape.

People often may suspect victims/survivors for lying about their experience because their stories change, because they’re not crying or visibly upset, because they are crying and are acting too hysterical for it to be realistic, etc. The nature of a traumatic event like rape can make survivors block out certain parts of their memory of the experience and can make them remember different parts of their story at different times. So often times they may supplement their original accounts with details they remembered later on. Moreover, it is unfair to make assumptions based on the victims’/survivors’ physical presentation of him or herself. All victims/survivors respond differently; there is no uniform response to trauma. Furthermore, as this case demonstrates, the police are not always the most sympathetic, empathetic or competent people to report to.

Furthermore, Ms. Reedy’s experience was a stranger rape, which fits better into the mold of dominant (false) discourses about rape – that the perpetrator is a stranger who is armed and dangerous. Society perceives rape to be committed violently by a complete stranger and while this is often not the case, this describes Ms. Reedy’s attack. Therefore, shouldn’t the police have been more likely to believe her?

To continue with this awful story, in January 2005, Ms. Reedy was charged with making false reports to the police, theft and receiving stolen property. Consequently she was fired from her job and spent five days in prison while pregnant.

Isn’t that great? In addition to not being believed by the cops, she was also jailed when she was pregnant! And while she was in jail, her rapist went around raping more women. He, Wilber Cyrus Brown II, was caught raping a woman at a convenience store in August 2005, a month before Ms. Reedy’s trial, and admitted to serially raping several women. Immediately afterwards, criminal charges against Ms. Reedy were withdrawn. Way to go police for not believing a rape survivor, accusing her of making a false report among other things and throwing her in jail. You criminalized the innocent person and let the rapist go away scot-free to do more raping. Isn’t this going to encourage rape victims/survivors to come forward? Knowing that when a woman who was raped came forward, not only was she not believed but she was also sent to jail?!

Ms. Reedy filed a lawsuit against the police and “reached a settlement of $45,000 in February 2007 from an insurance company representing Butler County, which also had been a party in the federal suit.” While she received $45,000, how does this compensate for the overwhelming trauma that she suffered? Money can’t erase everything that happened or make it better. The police weren’t even held accountable for failing to believe Ms. Reedy, falsely imprisoning her, and not even acknowledging or apologizing for it!

The manager of the convenience store where the attack occurred, Jerry Andree, said:

The “whole situation was horrible and unfortunate but hindsight is 20-20. The police deals with hard circumstances all the time and it’s easy to second-guess. [This decision] shows that what happened didn’t rise to the level of the police being legally liable.”

“The police deals with hard circumstances all the time and it’s easy to second-guess”? Well, maybe the police should be better trained to properly and efficiently handle cases of sexual violence. Maybe the police should be better trained so that they don’t not believe a rape victim/survivor, turn her away without any further investigation of her story, and later put her in jail. The police need to be held accountable for their huge error and mishandling of the case here – this can’t just be dismissed as a “hard circumstance”!

My heart goes out to Ms. Reedy and her loved ones. Knowing that we live in a rape culture where a rape victim/survivor is not only not believed but also criminalized and jailed is truly despicable and disgusting. When are we going to start holding perpetrators accountable for their crimes instead of re-traumatizing victims/survivors who have already been through so much?

Where is the compassion?

22 03 2009

I recently read a phenomenal book, Couldn’t Keep It to Myself: Wally Lamb and the Women of York Correctional Institution (Testimonies from our Imprisoned Sisters) by Wally Lamb. The book recounts the stories of 11 incarcerated women in the York Correctional Institution in Connecticut, as told by them, in their own words. By publishing this book, Lamb raised the voices of the voiceless and let them be heard.

The book and the stories within are horrifying, disturbing, heartbreaking, cathartic, yet immensely powerful. It gives a human face to prisoners, people we too easily dehumanize and readily dismiss as criminals, delinquents, unworthy, and useless. Where is the compassion? The criminal justice and prison systems are such heartless institutions. People don’t just commit crimes just because – they do so because they have suffered as victims of some sort and cannot cope with the brutality they’ve experienced in their lives. In prison, they often experience more brutality and cruelty.

These women who committed crimes and were sentenced to prison (some are still serving time, some have been released) have been victims themselves: they were victims of parental neglect, broken families, rape, incest, drug addictions, relationship violence, etc. She may be convicted for murder, but she grew up in a broken home with a delusional mother and went to a school where she was the only lower-class, non-white girl and was picked on for that. She may be convicted for grand larceny, but she had a series of abusive boyfriends and has been a victim of relationship violence for much of her life. They may be criminals, but they are humans too.

I read a very relevant article in The American Prospect about prison reform. Instead of relying on the dominant “‘lock ’em up and throw away the key'” strategy, we need to re-shift our perspectives and our priorities. There needs to be more support services in place for prisoners that will help them reintegrate into society after they are released. There need to be more health services in place for prisoners that will enable them to maintain good health while they serve time so that they won’t be an extra burden and so that they won’t die prematurely for health complications because they didn’t have adequate health care. There needs to be more of a focus on rehabilitation so that prisoners won’t get out of jail only to get back in for committing another crime, and so they can be fully functioning and productive members of society.

Apparently, Kansas Secretary of Corrections Roger Werholz has changed the way Kansas does corrections so that there is a greater emphasis on rehabilitating convicted felons instead of just punishing them and locking them up.

Werholz wanted his parole officers to behave more like social workers, not just reacting to parole violations but providing the kind of support for the formerly incarcerated that would prevent violations in the first place.

His reforms have altered the very nature of the parole officer/parolee relationship in Kansas, reduced the number of parolees who abscond or are reconvicted, and are expected to save the state $80 million over the next five years. Ultimately, Werholz wants to drive down recidivism, the rate at which convicted felons are imprisoned again within six years of release.

“What do you do with these folks?” Werholz says. “They’re coming out; there’s nothing you can do about that, so you might as well have them come out the best way possible, which is that they don’t hurt us anymore.” (bold emphasis mine)

There is much resistance against focusing on rehabilitation versus strict imprisonment and punishment because rehabilitation is too “soft”. However, it makes the most sense and is the most beneficial to society as a whole in the long run. As Werholz says, “‘…you might as well have them come out the best way possible, which is that they don’t hurt us anymore.'”

This approach is also more compassionate and considerate of the fact that prisoners have been severely victimized in their lives, which drives them to commit crimes to begin with. If they are victimized further in prison, this can encourage them to commit crimes again once they are released. However, by educating them, providing them with therapeutic support and giving them the tools they need to be productive members of society, they will be less likely to commit crimes afterwards.

Focusing on rehabilitation and reintegration into society is also cheaper for prisons. This new focus seems to be a growing trend in the nation, but not because politicians are more moral or compassionate. Instead, it’s about  saving money. Nancy Lavigne, from the Urban Institute, says, “‘What we’re witnessing right now is this new focus on rehabilitation because it’s the only way to reduce prison populations, and it’s the only thing that makes sense, in order to keep budgets in line.'”

Even if this push towards prisoner rehabilitation stems from concerns about budget cuts, it is a step in the right direction. Prisons should be less invested in punishment and retribution, and more invested in helping prisoners repair their lives.