Apr 302008
 

Don’t you just love it when companies get in touch with their inner misogynist in coming up with ad campaigns. Midol (a product for relieving menstrual cramps) has an ad out that ends with the line,

“Reverse the Curse”

Already plenty of great commentary out there on this one. From See Emily:

“(J)ust what women need: another reason to think they are being punished for being a female. Calling menstruation a curse is so Biblical times, we should be over calling it that by now. It’s just another way to put women down and make them think that they are being punished in some way, when really, having your period is part of the cycle that allows you to give birth, which is most important to any civilization.”

And from Savannah Blaze Lee:

“I was appalled by a Midol ad on the boob tube last night, which ended with a young woman frolicking on the beach and the tag line ‘Reverse the Curse’. Thanks for setting womanhood back a millennium or so, Midol; I haven’t heard menstruation called ‘The Curse’ since my high school days in the Stone Age!”

And then there is this on the Midol website, on a page titled, “The Menstrual Myth” (you can see where this is going):

“Some women call their menstruation the curse, that time of the month, the blahs, the monthlies, being un-well, our problem, our period, our little friend.

However we refer to it, every one of us can rattle off a list of embarrassing horror stories about it. Guaranteed, if it’s an important day in your life, you’ll get your period. When it’s late, we pray for that first twinge of cramp pain. When it finally arrives, we mutter obscenities under our breath.

Actually, negative attitudes towards this perfectly normal, natural, biological event have been with us since the beginning of time–passed down through the ages in myths, taboos, superstitions, and misinformation.”

Fortunately today we have pharmaceutical companies to help perpetuate those myths.

“Throughout different cultures and times, menstruating women have been blamed for everything from causing crops to blight, milk to sour, food to spoil, clocks to stop, and many other diseases and disasters to occur. In many societies, menstruating women were considered unclean, unhealthy, and repugnant and were forced into isolation in order to be “purified”.”

Like I said…

“Even today, some myths persist.

Many still believe that a woman must not swim, bathe, or wash her hair during menses. And it wasn’t so long ago that discussions about menstruation in mixed company were considered strictly taboo. And while society no longer physically excludes menstruating women from daily activities, remnants of this practice are still with us. Today, we still choose to isolate ourselves from our friends and families when we feel “un-well.”

Negative attitudes about menstruation continue to deeply affect even the most liberated among us…both consciously and unconsciously. We’ve been acculturated to expect and accept monthly pain “as part of being a woman.””

Yes, because we are bombarded daily with crap like this.

“And while both premenstrual tension and menstrual pain have very real causes, how we handle that pain is very much an outgrowth of these sociological influences.

Today, modern medicine is chipping away at the myths that have left women suffering in silence. New facts about the menstrual cycle and the causes of menstrual pain are leading to new remedies.

So now, it is within every woman’s power to shatter the myths and stop the pain!”

Oh thank goodness, sing praises to the pharmaceutical gods for rescuing us from our own bodies and then send an email to these misogynist cretins and tell them that what is painful is their ad campaign and that you are going to exercise your, and I quote, “power to shatter the myths and stop the pain” by not buying their product.

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 April 30, 2008  Posted by on April 30, 2008 5 Responses »
Apr 302008
 

Wow–I know I sure feel safer knowing that my tax dollars were used to transport prostitutes rather than protect someone on a dangerous mission (albeit that I probably would be quite opposed to whatever the mission was, but that’s another topic):

“Some explosive testimony this afternoon from a panel of whistleblowers testifying before the Senate’s Democratic Policy Committee on contractor abuse in Iraq.

A contractor died when a DynCorp manager used an employee’s armored car to transport prostitutes, according to Barry Halley, a Worldwide Network Services employee working under a DynCorp subcontract.

“DynCorp’s site manager was involved in bringing prostitutes into hotels operated by DynCorp. A co-worker unrelated to the ring was killed when he was traveling in an unsecure car and shot performing a high-risk mission. I believe that my co-worker could have survived if he had been riding in an armored car. At the time, the armored car that he would otherwise have been riding in was being used by the contractor’s manager to transport prostitutes from Kuwait to Baghdad.“”

And we ask, as we have so many times before: In what way does this make us safer?

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 April 30, 2008  Posted by on April 30, 2008 Comments Off
Apr 292008
 

Yesterday on the Feminist Peace Network blog, I posted three stories about military misogyny, one about the murders of a a mother and her children in Gaza, one about the court-martial of a Marine for the rape of a 14 year old Okinawan girl, and one making the connection between the suspicious deaths of female soldiers in the U.S. military after they had been sexually assaulted and the (dis)honor killings of women in Iraq. Today brings yet another missive of misogynist murder in the name of patriarchy, this time in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Stephen Lewis’ remarks at the 10th annual V-day Celebration in New Orleans, published in The Nation, offer a blistering critique of the international response to the violence against women that has been taking place in the DRC, which he labels “an act of criminal international misogyny.”

Lewis writes that largely because of the clamor raised by organizations such as V-Day, ”

“(T)he United Nations resolution that renewed the mandate for the UN Peacekeeping force in the Congo (MONUC, as it’s called) contained some of the strongest language condemning rape and sexual violence ever to appear in a Security Council resolution, and obliged MONUC, in no uncertain terms, to protect the women of the Congo. The resolution was passed at the end of December last year.

In January of this year, scarce (sic) one month later, there was an “Act of Engagement”–a so-called peace commitment signed amongst the warring parties. I use “so-called” advisedly because evidence of peace is hard to find. But that’s not the point: the point is much more revelatory and much more damning.”

And here’s the kicker:

“The peace commitment is a fairly lengthy document. Unbelievably, from beginning to end, the word “rape” never appears. Unbelievably, from beginning to end, the phrase “sexual violence” never appears. Unbelievably, “women” are mentioned but once, lumped in with children, the elderly and the disabled. It’s as if the organizers of the peace conference had never heard of the Security Council resolution.”

“But the most absurd dimension of this whole discreditable process is the fact that the peace talks were “facilitated”–they were effectively orchestrated–by MONUC, that is to say, by the United Nations. And perhaps most unconscionable of all, despite the existence for seven years of another Security Council Resolution 1325, calling for women to be active participants in all peace deliberations, there was no one at that peace table directly representing the women, the more than 200,000 women, whose lives and anatomies were torn to shreds by the very war that the peace talks were meant to resolve.

Lewis goes on to make an impassioned plea to the Secretary -General of the UN to take a pro-active leadership role in ensuring the protection of women and the application of international law in the Congo.

What is described in this call for action is sickeningly similar to the situation in Kenya where with much fanfare former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan brokered peace talks that excluded the substantive participation of women or the consideration of the rapes of women in post election violence as an issue that needed to be addressed. The exclusion was so blatant that 150 women under the auspices of the Coalition of Women for Peace and Justice in Kenya met separately to offer their own analysis of what needed to be done to stop the carnage. The following day they organized the encirclement of the hotel where the negotiations took place by “Women in White.”

UNSC 1325 is not the only tool for ending violence against women. There is also the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), the International Criminal Court and the Geneva Conventions to name a few. But they aren’t worth the paper they are printed on unless they are utilized.

While voices like Lewis’ are most welcome, the reality is male-dominated governments and organizations they run are not going to stop this misogynistic carnage, it is the women that must speak out and take action. Women like Ensler, women like Ann Wright writing about the deaths of women in the U.S. military, women like the Women in White in Kenya, Houzan Mahmoud of the Organization of Women’s Freedom in Iraq describing the murders of women in Basra.

As we speak out, we need to insist on seeing all of these incidents of misogynistic violence as part of the whole picture, not as isolated occurrences. The circumstances may differ, but the reality is that the root cause of patriarchal control and domination is the same.  If we insist on making this connection, then we gain the strength of standing on common  ground with our sisters everywhere in ending the patriarchal misogyny that is destroying our lives.

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 April 29, 2008  Posted by on April 29, 2008 3 Responses »
Apr 282008
 

In a piece published today, Retired Army Colonel Ann Wright documents the suspicious numbers of deaths of women in the U.S. military after they have been sexually assaulted.

“94 US military women in the military have died in Iraq or during Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF). 12 US Civilian women have been killed in OIF. 13 US military women have been killed in Afghanistan during Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF). 12 US Civilian women have been killed in Afghanistan.

Of the 94 US military women who died in Iraq or in OIF, the military says 36 died from non-combat related injuries, which included vehicle accidents, illness, death by “natural causes,” and self-inflicted gunshot wounds, or suicide. The military has declared the deaths of the Navy women in Bahrain that were killed by a third sailor, as homicides. 5 deaths have been labeled as suicides, but 15 more deaths occurred under extremely suspicious circumstances.

8 women soldiers from Fort Hood, Texas (six from the Fourth Infantry Division and two from the 1st Armored Cavalry Division) have died of “non-combat related injuries” on the same base, Camp Taji, and three were raped before their deaths. Two were raped immediately before their deaths and another raped prior to arriving in Iraq. Two military women have died of suspicious “non-combat related injuries” on Balad base, and one was raped before she died. Four deaths have been classified as “suicides.””

Wright reports on the shocking details of the death of Army Private Lavena Johnson, a death that the Army has labeled a suicide.

“The photographs revealed that Lavena, a small woman, barely 5 feet tall and weighing less than 100 pounds, had been struck in the face with a blunt instrument, perhaps a weapon stock. Her nose was broken and her teeth knocked backwards. One elbow was distended. The back of her clothes had debris on them indicating she had been dragged from one location to another. The photographs of her disrobed body showed bruises, scratch marks and teeth imprints on the upper part of her body. The right side of her back as well as her right hand had been burned apparently from a flammable liquid poured on her and then lighted. The photographs of her genital area revealed massive bruising and lacerations. A corrosive liquid had been poured into her genital area, probably to destroy DNA evidence of sexual assault.

Despite the bruises, scratches, teeth imprints and burns on her body, Lavena was found completely dressed in the burning tent. There was a blood trail from outside a contractor’s tent to inside the tent. She apparently had been dressed after the attack and her attacker placed her body into the tent and set it on fire.”

Just guessing, but it strikes me as physically impossible that someone committing suicide would beat herself up, pour corrosive liquid on her genitals, burn herself and then put her clothes on, and while bleeding go into a tent and set it on fire. Clearly from these details, any idiot would conclude that this was not a suicide; it was a MURDER.

Then there is the case of Army Pvt. First Class Tina Priest,

“The Army said Tina was found dead in her room on March 1, 2006, of a self-inflicted M-16 shot, a “suicide”, 11 days after the rape. Private Priest’s mother, Joy Priest, disputes the Army’s findings. Mrs. Priest said she talked several times with her daughter after the rape, and while very upset about the rape, she was not suicidal. Priest continues to challenge the Army’s 800 pages of investigative documents with a simple question. How could her petite daughter, 5-foot-tall daughter with a short arm length, have held the M-16 at the angle which would have resulted in the gunshot? The Army attempted several attempts explanations, but each was debunked by Mrs. Priest and by the 800 pages of materials provided by the Army itself. The Army now says Tina used her toe to pull the trigger of the weapon that killed her. The Army never investigated Tina’s death as a homicide, but only as a suicide.

Ya think that passes the plausibility smell test?

Wright goes on to document the circumstances of many other women in the military who died under suspicious circumstances. I echo her call for immediate Congressional investigation.

Shocking as this report is however, it pales in comparison to the misogynist murder spree being perpetrated against Iraqi women in the lawless aftermath of the U.S. invasion. The Independent (UK) reports on the murder of a 19 yer old Iraqi woman for the “crime” of having an unknown phone number in her cell phone.

In Basra alone, police acknowledge that 15 women a month are murdered for breaching Islamic dress codes. Campaigners insist it is a conservative figure.

Violence against women is rampant, rising every day with the power of the militias. Beheadings, rapes, beatings, suicides through self-immolation, genital mutilation, trafficking and child abuse masquerading as marriage of girls as young as nine are all on the increase.”

“Despite the outrage, recent calls by the Kurdish MP Narmin Osman to outlaw honour killings have been blocked by fundamentalists. “Honour killings are not actually a crime in the eyes of the government,” said Houzan Mahmoud, who has had a fatwa on her head since raising a petition against the introduction of sharia law in Kurdistan. “If before there was one dictator persecuting people, now almost everyone is persecuting women.

“In the past five years it is has got [much] worse. It is difficult to described how terrible it is, how badly we have been pushed back to the dark ages. Women are being beheaded for taking their veil off. Self immolation is rising – women are left with no choice. There is no government body or institution to provide any sort of support. Sharia law is being used to underpin government rule, denying women their most basic human rights.””

“The new Iraqi constitution, according to Mrs Mahmoud, is a mass of confusing contradictions. While it states that men and women are equal under law it also decrees that sharia law – which considers one male witness worth two females – must be observed. The days when women could hold down key jobs or enjoy any freedom of movement are long gone. The fundamentalists have sent out too many chilling messages. In Mosul two years ago, eight women were beheaded in a terror campaign.

“It was really, really horrifying,” said Mrs Mahmoud. “Honour killings and murder are widespread. Thousands [of people] … have become victims of murder, violence and rape – all backed by laws, tribal customs and religious rules. We urge the international community, the government to condemn this barbaric practice, and help the women of Iraq.””

There can be no excuse for these horrific assaults on the lives and human rights of women, both in Iraq and in the U.S. military. These acts violate numerous international laws, and constitute acts that are classified as war crimes. They serve as grisly illustration of the fundamental connection between militarism and misogynist violence. To continue to tolerate such acts flies in the face of the freedom and democracy we so vehemently espouse.

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 April 28, 2008  Posted by on April 28, 2008 1 Response »
Apr 282008
 

From Women in Black:

“Ramallah, 28-04-08: “A sickening tragedy” was how Dr. Mustafa
Barghouthi MP, Secretary General of the PNI described the killing of a
mother and her 4 children in an Israeli military attack on the Gaza
Strip this morning. The deaths have brought the number of
Palestinians killed by the Israeli military since Annapolis to 418,
including 59 children.

Khadra Abu Moatiq and her children Musab (1), Hana’ (3), Saleh (4),
and Rudaina (6) were killed when an Israeli military artillery shell
tore through their home near Beit Hanoun. Two other Palestinians were
also killed in the attack, including 17 year-old Ayoub Atallah.

“The killing of innocent women and children in their homes is one of
the most shocking consequences of the siege and attacks on the Gaza
Strip, which the Israeli government is carrying out under the pretext
of security,? said Dr. Barghouthi. “But tell me who is safer now that
Khadra Abu Moatiq and her 4 young children are dead??”

Damned good question.

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 April 28, 2008  Posted by on April 28, 2008 Comments Off