Category Archives: Feminism

Young Lakota Fights for EC for Native Women

Sunny Clifford, on the Pine Ridge Reservation.

Thanks to the efforts of reproductive freedom advocates, emergency contraception — a pill or set of pills that can be taken up to 5 days after unprotected sex to prevent pregnancy — is legally available to all women 17 and older over the counter without a prescription.

But for many Native American women, this right simply isn’t a reality. According to a new report by Native American Women’s Health Resource Center (NAWHRC), women who access health care via Indian Health Services often face barriers to getting the drug. Some are told they have to see a doctor in order to get it. Others simply find that the medication isn’t in stock on their reservation.

This is especially alarming in light of the fact that 1 in 3 Native women will be raped in their lifetime. Survivors of rape and sexual assault report being turned away at IHS clinics when they go to request the drugs. Even worse, other women told NAWHRC that they were blamed and shamed for their own assault by the service provider they trusted to help them.

Today is National Back Up Your Birth Control Day and advocates across the country are spreading the message that having EC on hand in case of a birth control failure is the responsible thing to do. But Native women can’t even start there — they’re having to fight for the right to get it at all, in any situation.

Leading the online charge is Sunny Clifford, a twenty six year-old Lakota woman living on the Pine Ridge reservation. Like many people on her reservation, she doesn’t have a car and has to rely on the IHS clinic in her community for all of her health care needs. She worries that if she or one of her sisters needed EC, she wouldn’t be able to get it. And she’s furious that Native women are being denied a legal right by the Indian Health Services, the very institution that’s charged with protecting Native women’s health.

Sunny has started a petition on Change.org asking Dr. Yvette Roubideaux, the Director of Indian Health Services, to immediately issue a directive to service providers on all reservations that emergency contraception must be made available to any woman 17 or older who asks for it, on demand, without seeing a doctor. Sunny believes that if enough people shame Dr. Roubideaux for denying basic health services to Native women, she’ll be forced to make real changes in how IHS distributes emergency contraception.

Will you sign Sunny’s petition and share it with your friends to help demand equal access to emergency contraception? Below are some sample Facebook and Twitter posts to help get you started.

FACEBOOK: 1 in 3 Native American women will be raped. But Indian Health Services is blocking Native Women from accessing emergency contraception when they need it. Will you stand with Indian women to demand equal access to basic reproductive health care? http://www.change.org/petitions/ihs-stop-blocking-native-women-s-access-to-emergency-contraception

TWITTER: On #BUYBC day, a young Lakota woman,@SunnyClifford, is fighting for access to #EC for Native women http://chn.ge/HeZlhq

Fannie Lou Hamer said, “nobody’s free until everybody’s free.” And a right guaranteed isn’t really a right at all until every single woman can access it. On this Back Up Your Birth Control Day, please stand with Sunny and Native women across the nation to demand equal access to emergency contraception.


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A Feminist Live-Blogging the Super Bowl

If I were home in New York, there’s no way – unless I were co-hosting a feminist counter Super Bowl Show, like I was last year– I’d be watching the Super Bowl. I don’t care much for football in general and the ritual around this game especially elicits shows of hyper-masculinity that often cross into downright misogyny. But this year, a speaking gig has landed me in my hometown of Lubbock, Texas, in my parent’s house – and the combination of a white-out blizzard outside and tasty Southern game day food inside are making my usual boycott a little hard.

So, I decided to take to the internets to live-blog the misogyny and rape culture promotion that will captivate most of America for the evening. Below, a list of warm-ups to fill the hours before the game – check back here at 6:15 EST for live-blogging to begin!

Feminist Super Bowl Pre-Game

Click on the link below to launch the Cover It Live window in which the live-blogging will take place. You can add your comments by commenting directly from the window or using the #femsuperbowl tag on Twitter.

Feminist Live-Blogging the Super Bowl

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Introducing The Radical Women’s History Project

If you follow me on Twitter, you might know that each morning I do a series of “this day in women’s history” tweets, marked with the #wmnhist tag. What you might not know is that each morning I open ten different tabs in a window to comb through pages and pages of HIStory to find the couple of morsels pertaining to women that wind up on my Twitter feed.

I started doing this Twitter thing a little less than a year ago and I didn’t initially mean for it to be a regular thing. Frankly, I looked up women’s history for myself on days I felt I could go no further, claw no harder against overwhelming inequalities in their overlapping, insidious forms that just keep popping up all over. I looked up the lives of the women before me because I needed to know that women before had faced obstacles seemingly as insurmountable (and most often much more so!) and come out triumphant. I looked up the lives of the women before me because I needed their sisterhood, their guidance, their solidarity, their example.

The more I did this, the more I realized how much of my history as a woman I’d been denied – I would have seen myself as so much stronger so much sooner had I been taught about the goddess religions, the matrilineal cultures, about the female warriors and peace makers, business people and inventors, healers, scribes, and artists. The more I was nourished by my history, the more I realized sharing the lives and voices and stories the patriarchy wanted silenced and disappeared was a revolutionary act. (And no, this is not an original thought – reappearing women’s history has been a feminist project for years. There’s just nothing like your own mind-blowing, wonderful and sometimes enraging “AHA!”)

BUT. I’ve realized this year of hunting down women’s history facts that the “women” in that phrase are most often white, straight, cisgender, able-bodied, and Western. Just as women have been mostly left out of the broad discourse we call “history,” women of color, indigenous, queer, trans, disabled and non-Western women (and women living within all the intersection thereof) have been further marginalized, mostly left out of or tossed in as an afterthought in feminist attempts to add women to existing history.* This is as damaging as leaving women out entirely, servicing kyriarchy by silencing the very voices deemed most threatening and marginalizing the women most threatened due to that fact. These women, ALL women, have a valiant and complicated history – one that women and men of all identities would be better served by knowing.

All these words are to say that the ten sites I go to a day that celebrate mostly privileged white women don’t cut it. I want a real women’s history. I need it and so do a lot of other women and men. It shouldn’t be radical to want ALL women to get equal and deserved credit for adding to this planet we share but it is right now so I’m calling this the Radical Women’s History Project. What that means is that every day this year, starting on January 1st, 2011, I’m scouring the internet and books and any other source I can find to chronicle the lives and the accomplishments of the world’s women, explicitly centering women of color, indigenous, queer, trans, disabled, and non-Western women, and I’m posting them here for whomever would like to use them.

Let’s face it – this isn’t going to be easy. For one, most of the easily available sources  focus on that white, straight, cisgender, able-bodied, Western woman. And two, perhaps more importantly, the woman spearheading this project claims most of those privileges in the previous sentence – I only speak one other language (Spanish, badly) and my privileges has certainly made me blind to some sources that are right there in front of me. So I need your help. Send me sites that chronicle daily women’s history. In whatever language, I’ll get it translated. Send me one fact on one date with a source. Go do some digging in your library and send me book titles. Tell your professor there’s this obsessed girl on the internets doing this thing and ask if they could please share their research. Ask your mom and grandma and your great-grandma to reach back and think of the women who stood out in their lives.

I believe with all my heart Gerda Lerner, a pioneer of women’s history, when she says “women’s history is the primary tool for women’s emancipation.” And I believe that means ALL women and this collective history is not only the key to women’s emancipation but a primary resource for all men and women and those who don’t identify with this arbitrary thing called gender in our journey toward whole humanity. So, I invite you, let’s see where this journey takes us, together.

 

* There are wonderful notable exceptions that I know about in English, mostly by feminists and womanists of color. Alice Walker’s In Search of My Mother’s Garden is a beautiful examination of not only Black women’s history but what an effect searching for and discovering one’s feminine lineage has on the searcher. Audre Lorde also explored Black women’s history, in her poetry and while sorting out her relationship to her mother in Zami: A New Spelling of My Name. Paula Gunn Allen wrote the feminine back into Native American history with her book Sacred Hoop: Rediscovering the Feminine in American Indian Traditions.

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Successful Women Are Scary, Single: Part 7599

The International Herald Tribune and the New York Times are concerned. Concerned about women. Specifically, concerned women who are successful will fail to fulfill their ultimate goal and purpose in life, which is obviously to attach herself to a man so that he can fulfill his ultimate goal and purpose in life of taking care of her. This is how the world is supposed to work and now that feminism has messed everything up, women are paying the price of being SINGLE FOR GOD SAKES and men’s EGOS ARE BEING CRUSHED and we should all take a moment to bemoan this new modern reality because, really, the world just might end.

Or, at least that’s what I took from Katrin Bennhold’s ridiculous contribution to the International Herald Tribune’s ‘The Female Factor,’ which endeavors to explore where women stand in the early 21st century. In pursuit of this goal, all Bennhold could manage to ask was, “Is female empowerment killing romance?” Of course, the backlash to feminism isn’t new and if we looked hard enough and had a strong stomach, we could find the exact same question asked by some concern troll columnist every decade since women got the vote. (I’d rather keep my lunch down – if you do the research, goddess bless you and send me a link!)

In this 2010 incarnation, Bennhold takes us through horror stories of the various ways that successful women scare away men and introduces us to a few men, kind souls, who are willing to make the sacrifice to date successful women as long as they get to drive. But, THANKFULLY, Bennhold also lists three things women MUST DO order to mitigate the impact of their bank balance on their love life:

Leave the snazzy company car at home on the first date; find your life partner in your 20s, rather than your 30s, before you’ve become too successful. And go after men who draw their confidence from sources other than money, like academics and artists.

Ok, ew. I’ll drop the sarcasm for a minute to say that, yes, there certainly are men who shrink at the thought of dating a woman who makes more than him. While it might be easy to write these guys off as unenlightened douches, this inferiority complex is a good example of one of the many ways that sexism and gender roles hurt men too. In this case, men are told their worth is based on their ability to financially support a woman rather than on being emotionally supportive and an egalitarian partner or an equal parent, if one choose the have children. In reality, these experiences should be open to and encouraged in all humans of both genders and the fact that some men miss out on them is yet another reason men should be clamoring to sign up for the feminist revolution.

If the question must be asked how the fact that some women – usually white and straight and a far smaller percentage than authors of these articles are ever willing to mention – are now making more than men impacts on heterosexual courtship, the focus should be on why we hold so tight to the gender roles that might make the question relevant in the first place. Why are men still made to feel they have to be the breadwinner and women feel they have to downplay their success? How can we change these patterns at a personal, political and social level? Are the women who are making more than their male partners still working the double shift (in many cases, yes) and are men becoming more equal inside the home as women become more equal outside of it (in many cases, no)?

I also can’t help but note that while Bennhold’s piece is centered around European experiences, the New York Times gave it credence less than two weeks after the US Senate refused to pass the Paycheck Fairness Act and rectify the fact that white women make 77 cents, Black women make 61 cents, and Latina women make 52 cents to the white male dollar. And while Bennhold and many others tout the fact that women have overtaken men in college enrollment, few ever note that this in large part due to the fact that women are more likely to go back to college because they’ve found that they need it to support their families, because it’s still harder for women than most men to find higher paying employment without a college degree. So, along with being pointless, condescending, and based on the assumption all women want to find a man, it’s yet more column inches devoted to a few straight, (mostly) white women and their romantic problems rather than the far more pressing problems stemming from inequality faced by the majority of women.

Sigh. In answer to the question as to the state of women in the early 21st century: both women AND men still have a long, long way to go.

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Update: Women of Wired Respond

This morning I posted this piece in response to two separate actions by Wired Magazine. There has been quite an angry response on the part of those associated with Wired to both, so I’ll take them one by one.

The first issue is Wired’s decision to use a photo of two shapely, whole breasts on the cover of their November issue to advertise what is a truly wonderful, smart, and serious piece on tissue regeneration as it pertains to breast cancer survivors. It’s my opinion that using this very sexualized image of breasts to draw buyers to the magazine on the newsstand undermines the importance of this story and trivializes the trauma experienced by the women whose breasts are disfigured due to cancer treatments. If the editors truly wanted to convey what regeneration technology could do for breast cancer survivors they could have chosen an image of an “aesthetically irreparable breast,” which is what researchers say is what current technology has to offer most women who undergo lumpectomies. The editors could have placed this next to a Photoshop version of what the scientists hope they could achieve for that woman’s breast with their new technology.

But, disfigured breasts don’t do so much to lure in male readers and they scare away a female readership that’s already trained to be terrified first of losing a part of their body to cancer and, sometimes secondarily, of dying of the disease. The same line of thinking underlies much of the pinksplosion during October: breasts are sexy to men, women need breast to attract men, breast cancer maims breasts, let’s all focus on saving the breast. Many times, but of course not always, the actual woman attached to those breasts is an afterthought. So it seems with the disembodied image of boobs with no head on the front of Wired’s cover.

Agree or disagree, I take issue with this. Chris Anderson is the Editor-in-Chief of Wired Magazine and therefore the person to whom to direct complaints. Even if he didn’t personally choose the cover, he signed off on it and I therefore have no qualms about naming him here on my blog and sending those who have similar issues to his Twitter feed.

The second issue is this photo that appeared both on the Wired Yourself tumblr and on a blog called ‘Not So Serious’, although the post on the second site has been taken down:

The ‘Not So Serious’ blog named the young women in the photo as “interns, staff, and freelancers.” I’ve since been contacted by several of the young women in the photo who feel maligned by my earlier post. In addition to several personal emails, I received this comment on my blog, which was also posted on the Wired tumblr site:

I understand your frustration. Wired Yourself was conceptualized, produced, and maintained by we, the women posted in its inaugural pictures. Not our bosses. And certainly not by coercion, prompting, or suggestion. To assume so would miss the perhaps-too-subtle-for-the-internet-when-boobs-are-involved point. Also, it hurt our feelings a little. Our intent was to stand behind (literally) the magazine cover by reclaiming the anonymous image as our own, in celebration of the idea that she is all women and we are all her. The breasts on Wired are emblems of an era when post-masectomy reconstruction won’t mean the choice between an artificial implant and scar tissue. So, read the article, and learn about the amazing, liberating future for breast cancer survivors. If you’re like us, it’ll make you want to stand up and cheer.

-The ladies of WiredYourself, acting, as always, on their own volition. (Here’s the link: http://wiredyourself.tumblr.com/post/1398796500/a-clarification-necessitated-by-angry)

In my original post, I said that if the women were told by their bosses to do the Wired Yourself shoot, it would be a form of sexual harassment. It would be. I’m glad to hear that it was not, in fact, the result of coercion and I do apologize to the women in the photo for assuming they have less agency than they actually do. This was NOT very sisterly or feminist of me, I agree. If there is any defense for my mistake, which there really isn’t, it’s that I usually find when women and sexualization and selling things are concerned, there’s a man in the background driving it. I apologize to Chris Anderson on this point because he had nothing to do with the picture of the female staff. However, my criticism about the cover and suggestion similar criticism be directed to him still stands.

BUT. I am not one of those feminists who believe that just because a woman does something out of her own agency it is automatically feminist or good for other women. Even if the breasts on the cover are supposed to be, “emblems of an era when post-masectomy reconstruction won’t mean the choice between an artificial implant and scar tissue,” I still believe sexualizing breasts in the context of breast cancer minimizes the reality of the disease as experienced by a whole woman. Since the women of Wired and I disagree on the message of the cover, it would be hard to agree on an appropriate response to it.

We do agree that the Wired Yourself contest might be “perhaps-too-subtle-for-the-internet-when-boobs-are-involved.” Sadly, we live in a world where 99% of the time you see a young woman posed suggestively, boobs bared, it’s not about solidarity or raising awareness or anything other than selling her sexuality. I personally don’t believe we’re at a point at which playing into this very harmful, alarming pattern for any reason can be subversive. This is where the women of Wired and I see feminist activism differently and since it’s a big tent with no membership office, that’s perfectly fine. In fact, it’s a good thing!

My apologies for offending and, as some claim, maligning my sisters at Wired. No such harm was intended at all – if any of the women of Wired would like to have a private convo, please email me. If you’d like to do a Q & A about the activism behind Wired Yourself, even better!

In solidarity,

SK

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Feminism’s New Young Leaders at 92Y Tribeca!

As I sat in the audience at the 92Y and listened to feminist leaders Gloria Steinem and Marie Wilson talk about the election in September of 2008, I wondered if, by the time I was 74, I would get the opportunity to opine about my favorite topic at that iconic venue. Turns out I don’t have to wait 50 years – and for that I’m incredibly honored, humbled, and slightly intimidated!

On November 10th, 92Y Tribeca will host ‘Naomi Wolf Talks with Feminism’s New Young Leaders,’ a conversation featuring myself, Feministing founder Jessica Valenti, Ivy League sex blogger and organizer extraordinaire Lena Chen, and Allison Kasic, who works at the Independent Women’s Forum and, I assume from the event modifier “voices from the left and right,” will be representing the Sarah Palin version of feminism. The panel was put together by More Magazine, which is featuring all the panelists and a host of other great new faces of feminism in their Novemeber issue, which will be on newsstands October 26th.

If you’re in NYC, stop by and say hello and submit your questions about the now and future of the movement. If you’re not in NYC, no worries! I’ll be posting a detailed recap, as I’m sure will the other bloggers on the panel. Event information is below – hope to see you there!

Voices from the left and right: Lena Chen, Allison Kasic, Shelby Knox and Jessica Valenti. Moderated by Naomi Wolf and More editor-in-chief Lesley Jane Seymour

Where are all the young feminists? That’s the frequently asked—and loaded—question that inspired More editor-in-chief Lesley Jane Seymour to feature 14 young feminists in her November issue (on news-stands Oct 26). Bestselling author Naomi Wolf (The Beauty Myth) joins Seymour and panelists Lena Chen, Allison Kasic, Shelby Knox and Jessica Valenti for a provocative discussion: How do the young leaders define feminism? Is blogging the new march on Washington? What do the conservative feminists believe? And will the intergenerational clash ever end?

Date & Time: Wed, Nov 10, 2010, 7:00pm

Location: 92YTribeca, 200 Hudson Street Venue: 92YTribeca Mainstage

Tickets ($12) available online at the 92Y event page.

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Levi’s New Ad Campaign Falls On Its Butt

Alright, Levi’s, I gotta give you some credit for trying to make both a product and ad that appeals to women above a size 2.

Scratch that. Actually, no, I don’t. Why? Because first of all, whose ass is not equal? Mine, because it’s a size 12 instead of a size 4? Your very tagline undermines your whole campaign by implying the same “some butts, i.e., smaller butts, are more deserving of jeans than others” trope that you’re claiming to subvert. Fail number one. Let me help your ad agency out: All asses of all shapes and sizes are created equal.  Muuuuch better.

Fail number two: all the models in the ad are the exact same size and that size is small, smaller than the average American woman you’re supposedly trying to reach. If you put the words ‘Bold Curve’ next to a woman, I expect her to have, um, bold curves and preferably legs that don’t look like toothpicks.

Speaking of the average American woman, your target audience, do you only imagine her as white? Some women of color have just as hard a time finding jeans as some white women and I’d assume you would agree their asses are just as equal, right? RIGHT??? Take a step into the 21st century and cast your models to look a little more like America. Fail number three. You’re out!

It’s true that women who have curves sometimes have a harder time finding jeans than women who have “ideal figures,” whatever that disgusting term means. That’s because companies like Levi’s design for a mostly unhealthy, mostly unrealistic ideal for women and spend little time thinking about those who don’t fit that mold. We’re not grateful, Levi’s, that you’re finally making jeans for us non-models. This curvy girl, for one, is pissed at your demeaning, unrepresentative ads and pissed it took you this long to recognize me as worthy of your product.

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