Dec 262008

When our definition of how to win a war is to put aging warlords “back in an authoritative position” by handing out Viagra in a country with one of the worst records regarding women’s rights, it is clear that our definition of winning is a loser:

The Afghan chieftain looked older than his 60-odd years, and his bearded face bore the creases of a man burdened with duties as tribal patriarch and husband to four younger women. His visitor, a CIAofficer, saw an opportunity, and reached into his bag for a small gift.

Four blue pills. Viagra.

For some U.S. operatives in Afghanistan, Western drugs such as Viagra were just part of a long list of enticements available for use in special cases. Two veteran officers familiar with such practices said Viagra was offered rarely, and only to older tribal officials for whom the drug would hold special appeal. While such sexual performance drugs are generally unavailable in the remote areas where the agency’s teams operated, they have been sold in some Kabul street markets since at least 2003 and were known by reputation elsewhere.

“You didn’t hand it out to younger guys, but it could be a silver bullet to make connections to the older ones,” said one retired operative familiar with the drug’s use in Afghanistan. Afghan tribal leaders often had four wives — the maximum number allowed by the Koran — and aging village patriarchs were easily sold on the utility of a pill that could “put them back in an authoritative position,” the official said.

Is there a line item for this in the CIA budget?  Imagine if we spent that on schools for girls and maternal health care for women in Afghanistan which has one of the worst infant mortality rates in the world.  Who knows, maybe we’d have peace.

 December 26, 2008  Posted by on December 26, 2008 Comments Off on Viagra As A Weapon Of War
Dec 242008

Received via e-mail from Code Pink and the Feminist Peace Network has signed on to be a partner in this action:

Last week, the offices of Nobel Laureate and Human Rights activist Shrin Ebadi were shut down in Tehran.  The Center for Participation in Clearing Mine Areas and Defenders of Human Rights Center were shut down with no explanation or written justification illegally just hours before a 60th anniversary of Human Rights Day celebration there.  Ebadi was also briefly taken into custody.  You can read more about the incident here.

We have created an online petition to President Ahmadinejad asking for him to stand up for human rights by allowing the centers to re-open and by allowing women’s and human rights activists to continue their work freely and safely in Iran.

Sign the petition here.  The petition will be delivered to the Iranian Embassy tomorrow–so sign it now!

Please help us with this last-minute request to spread the petition far and wide.  There are plenty of ways you can help:

* Send the petition to your email list or listserv
* Let us know if we can add your group to the list of Partners
* Post the petition on your blog
* Post the petition link on your Facebook Wall, or Facebook Cause Wall
* Send the petition as a Bulletin on your MySpace page
* Post on your other listservs, webpages, social networking accounts, etc.

 December 24, 2008  Posted by on December 24, 2008 Comments Off on Human Rights Violations Do Not Take A Holiday–Sign Petition To Reopen Nobel Peace Prize Winner Shirin Ebadi’s Human Rights Center In Iran
Dec 232008

I’m not a Christian, and I’m not into dissing other people’s beliefs, but I have to confess that I’ve never quite bought the thing about immaculate conception.  One thing I feel quite confidant about though, if there was a baby Jesus, he was probably a hungry  little guy and needed to be fed.

And just a guess, but I’m thinking his mama didn’t have the option of buying formula so she probably breastfed him.  Which makes the timing of the following protest against Facebook, sponsored by M.I.L.C. (Mothers International Lactation Campaign) during the holiday season just perfect–it is way past time that Facebok get a clue–feeding a child is a sacred act–censoring images of said act is obscene:

i.e.: There is no reason to not attend! read on…

Facebook continues to classify breastfeeding photos as obscene content. They continue to arbitrarily remove these photos from member albums and profiles, accompanied by warnings of account termination. This is highly discriminatory and an affront to nursing mothers everywhere. In protest of this, Mothers International Lactation Campaign (M.I.L.C.) has planned a virtual day of protest.

Not only is human lactation responsible for the very survival of our species, it is in no way a sexually explicit, lewd or despicable act. It is also protected by law in most countries, including specifically the state where Facebook is headquartered in the USA.

In protest to the discriminatory and unjust policy of Facebook administration classifying breastfeeding images as obscene content, on December 27th, 2008 M.I.L.C. is asking all of you to change your profile picture for one day, to one which includes an image of a nursing mom.

This could be a picture of you or someone you know nursing a child, it could be a painting or image of a sculpture of a breastfeeding woman, it could also be a photo or image of any nursing mammal….We ask that you include the status line of “Hey Facebook, breastfeeding is not obscene!”

In addition to this ‘virtual nurse-in’, there will be other events planned around the globe. Please check this page often for regular updates and added information. We will also be including images that you can use for your profile picture on December 27th.

Babies everywhere thank you for your support!!!!!

 December 23, 2008  Posted by on December 23, 2008 Comments Off on Did The Baby Jesus Drink Formula Or Did He Breastfeed? Just Asking. Support the M.I.L.C. Facebook Protest
Dec 222008

According to Human Rights Watch, there has been a HUGE increase in the number of incidences of violence against women in the United States during the last 2 years.

The statistics show a 42-percent increase in reported domestic violence and a 25-percent increase in the reported incidence of rape and sexual assault.

The National Crime Victimization Survey, based on projections from a national sample survey, says that at least 248,300 individuals were raped or sexually assaulted in 2007, up from 190,600 in 2005, the last year the survey was conducted. The study surveyed 73,600 individuals in 41,500 households. Among all violent crimes, domestic violence, rape, and sexual assault showed the largest increases. Except for simple assault, which increased by 3 percent, the incidence of every other crime surveyed decreased.

The National Crime Victimization Survey is conducted every two years, with data gathered in phone calls made to a sample of households across the United States. Due to criticism from experts in the subject, the survey’s methodology was adjusted in 2007 to capture more accurately the incidence of gender-based violence. The authors say in the report that the higher numbers may reflect the new, more accurate methodology rather than an actual increase. Two major shifts were to describe types of sexual assault to those being interviewed, and to replace “computer-assisted telephone interviews conducted from two telephone centers” nationwide with interviews “by field representatives either by telephone or in person.”

“The new numbers indicate that previously, the government significantly underestimated the number of individuals affected by domestic and sexual violence in this country,” said Tofte. “Authorities should urgently adjust public policies, law enforcement, and provision of support services accordingly.”

Human Rights Watch’s national recommendations include:

  • The Obama administration should appoint a special adviser on violence against women in the US;
  • Congress should restore full funding to the Office on Violence Against Women;
  • The Department of Justice, through the National Institute of Justice, should authorize comprehensive studies that more accurately track sexual and domestic violence in the US, especially among individuals who are least likely to be surveyed by the National Crime Victimization Survey;
  • Congress should increase funding for sexual and domestic violence prevention, intervention, and treatment programs;
  • Congress should amend the federal Debbie Smith Act, a grant program designed to eliminate the rape kit backlog, but that states can and have used for other kinds of DNA backlogs;
  • The US should ratify the UN Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), which obligates states to prevent, protect against, and punish violence against women.

Jill Filipovic at Feministe has some excellent commentary about these findings:

“Of all the women who reported experiencing a violent crime in 2007, 69 percent of them suffered that crime at the hands of someone they knew (not just intimates). For men, it’s 46 percent — and the vast majority of those are from a friend or acquaintance.

So men are more likely to be victims of nearly every crime except rape and sexual assault. Men are more likely to be victimized by a stranger. Women are more likely to be victimized by someone they know, and in private.

And yet it’s women who are still routinely warned to not go to certain places, or told not to walk home alone, or advised to carry mace, even though men have more to fear generally when it comes to crime. Men certainly have more to fear when it comes from crime at the hand of strangers. For women, it’s the home — their own or others’ — that’s a danger zone.

(T)he pervasive threat of rape is a tool of social control over the female population, and…there are certain groups in society who have a vested interest in maintaining that control. The shaming of rape survivors, and the defining of acquaintance rape as “grey” or somehow not as serious as “real” stranger rape, is part of that effort — because if we actually talk about our experiences with sexual assault, a much more complex picture than the stranger-in-the-bushes scenario develops, and it’s a lot harder to use rape as a threat to keep women in line.”

 December 22, 2008  Posted by on December 22, 2008 6 Responses »
Dec 212008

As many of you know, I have been out of town due to the death of my father.  He died peacefully at home, surrounded by his family.  While it is a sad time and a time of transition, as a long time journalist (he wrote his last blog just a few weeks before he died!), he would no doubt be shaking his head if I didn’t get back to the work in short order and Solstice seems a good time to return although with the holidays and catching up, it will be a bit sporadic for the next few weeks.

Over the years,  I have written several pieces about the season of darkness.  In the Archetype of Darkness:  Revisioning Faith, written in the aftermath of the 2004 election I wrote these words which seem worth a re-visit as we now have hope of exiting that particular period of political despair:

“In delving into our past and reclaiming our female spirit, it is interesting to note that darkness was revered and honored in the ancient Goddess religions. Darkness represented both the earth and the womb, the sacred sources of life. Yet with the advent of the patriarchal religions, darkness took on the connotation of evil, perhaps to justify the right of men to rule over those who have darker skin and women who possess the dark womb. It was no accident that patriarchy devalued that which is dark in its religious symbolism. Today we still see those whose skin is darker than ours as less than. Our images of the divine are predominated by aged white maleness, goodness is always light, evil is dark.

Because these patriarchal perversions (with all their toxic ramifications) continue to persist today, it is helpful to return to our pre-patriarchal past for guidance in reclaiming the spirituality of darkness. If you dig back into many religions and beyond that to the Goddess cultures that preceded patriarchy, archetypes of the dark spiritual abound. One archetype that seems particularly useful is that of the Black Madonna simply because she appears within the dominant religion in our country. I do not claim expert knowledge of the Black Madonna (nor was I raised as a Christian) but I am entranced by the stark contrast she offers to those whose faith allows them to blindly hate and kill in the name of God. In the darkness of the Black Madonna I see the paradigm of another faith, a faith that recognizes the importance of nurturing the sanctity of the world we inhabit and all that is within. The Black Madonna and the many other archetypes of darkness offer us a path towards the spirit of the Divine Feminine that we will need to nurture our strength for the days to come.”

Last year in Thank You Alice:  A Meditation for the Winter Solstice, I ended with these lines:

“The Christmas legend talks about three wise men. But in our own time, and in the times that came before, there have been and are many, many wise women. This year, in the darkness of the Winter Solstice, let us resolve not only to listen to the wisdom of these women but to have the courage and strength to raise our own voices, to say that it is time to stop the damaging, time to heal the wounds and affirm what is truly sacred, the lives of all and the earth on which we live.”

To this I add the wise words of Carol P. Christ, who wrote these  reflections in a piece published last week:

“Many contemporary Goddess worshippers and Pagans celebrate the Winter Solstice as the time of the rebirth of the sun.  Though acknowledging that this is the darkest night, we often focus our rituals on the returning light.  I suggest that this reflects the fear of darkness and orientation towards the “light” including the “light of reason” and the “light of salvation” that is the legacy of Indo-European cultures.

Must we focus on finding light in the darkness?

What could it mean to enter into and embrace the pregnant dark?

To accept the cycles of light and darkness and to appreciate both equally?”

Every year when we make our wish lists, I ask for peace on earth.  My youngest son informed me last year that it was on backorder.  May you find renewal, strength and joy in this season of darkness and let this be the year when Peace on Earth is finally in stock.

 December 21, 2008  Posted by on December 21, 2008 Comments Off on Solstice