May 262009

As the U.S. escalates its campaign in Afghanistan, President Obama has made it clear that he considers the rights of Afghan women to be secondary to perceived U.S. interests. These would be the same women that the U.S. used as part of their justification for declaring war on Afghanistan in the first place and who are now supposedly liberated. In reality however, the reign of misogynist terror against Afghan women continues and in many respects has gotten worse. The following 2-part interview with Malalai Joya, a member of the Afghan Parliament now living in hiding because of threats on her life, exposes the true damage done by the continuing U.S. presence in Afghanistan.

Many thanks to Sonali Kolhatkar of the Afghan Women’s Mission for making us aware of this interview.

 May 26, 2009  Posted by on May 26, 2009 Comments Off on The Never Ending War Against Women In Afghanistan
May 252009

I am tired of remembering  those who gave their lives for their country.  It is exhausting.  It is heartbreaking.  And most of all it is screamingly frustrating because all too often, we can’t even explain why exactly they needed to die.  Looking back at Viet Nam, can we even  remember the reasons we were given for being there or name something that was gained from all those deaths?

And now we are  fighting a war on “terror”.  Which is so much easier than fighting a war on a country or a people because it sounds so much more noble but yet less personal.  It is so much easier to refer to the dead as the “enemy” than as civilian Afghanis or Iraqis.  We send our soldiers, our loved ones, to fight without a clearly defined mission and place the blame for atrocities committed along the way on low-ranking soldiers such as Lynddie England and Steven Green when clearly the orders came from the top.  We send them to fight with inadequate armor and bring them home to woefully lacking support services and try to invisibiize their suffering and deaths.

And most especially, we invisibiize the deaths of those who die in the path of our destruction.  We will never know how many Iraqis or Afghanis died because we chose to attack their countries in the name of “terror”.  Deaths not only from toxic weaponry, but from malnutrition, bombed hospitals, honor killings that have become epidemic, women who set themselves on fire rather than continue to live their lives in unspeakable conditions.

And here is a staggering comparison:  679 soldiers have died thus far in the fighting in Afghanistan. And according to the World Health Organization (WHO), there were an estimated 26,000 maternal deaths in Afghanistan, which has the 2nd worst maternal mortality rate in the world,  in 2005.  But those deaths are not remembered today, instead we value killing over givng life, authorizing $96.7 billion more for war, with only a pittance going to end maternal mortality.

Janie Rezner offers a Memorial Day contemplation that speaks with wisdom to the pain of our memories.  She writes,

As I read about Obama and his war plans,  I am outraged that the war machine continues unabated.  I am horrified  that there are men successfully lobbying our congress to not do what needs to be done to slow down global warming,  – – –  that  Obama’s denies the consideration of  single-payer health care – –   that he sanctions blowing off mountain tops, and tribunals – – and hiding torture information. The list seems endless, and all extremely important issues.

Today I stopped in at the Mendocino Art Center where there was a wonderful collection of paintings by a man from Mexico, Ernesto Olmas . . . a large wall was covered with a brillant and colorful painting, depicting the ancient fertility myth  of their male gods. “The earth was barren, and the two gods fought each other with whips until the blood from their wounds made the ground fertile again”   Something to that effect.  I compared it in my mind  to the story in “Iroquois Woman, the Gantowisas” by Dr. Barbara A. Mann, p. 215.   (Gantowisas refers to the female official.)

“The bond between the gantowisis and Mother Earth was part of the deeply spiritual bond among all women, forged largely through their ability to bring life into being. Just as women created new life in their own wombs, they had the sacred right to bring forth new life from the Womb of Mother Earth–i.e. to farm.  The fertility of Mother Earth was thus seen as one of a thread with that of the gantowisas.  It was especially invoked on nights of a full moon, when Grandmother Moon smiled down from space upon the reclining form of her beloved daughter, the Earth.  Then would the women go out between midnight and dawn, dragging their cloaks on the ground behind them, walking among the planting mounds, singing to The Three Sisters. I believe the cloaks trailing behind the gantowisas symbolize the power of fertility they shared with mother earth by shape-shifing into tuber strings. (The Three Sisters were Sister Corn, Sister Bean, and Sister Squash.)”

Such vastly different ways to invoke the powers of the Earth . . . . one with violence and the other with sacred intention and gratitude . . .

If there was ever a time for our Mother  to move mountains, it is NOW!

This Memorial Day, let our memories and our  sorrow be the foundation of our intention to stop the destruction and the pain before it is too late.

 May 25, 2009  Posted by on May 25, 2009 Comments Off on Why We Must Remember
May 212009

But Honey, the doctor said I had to read it…seems that for those of us who have been wondering what on earth HuffPo is up to with their slew of boobs in your face news substitutes, now we know–they are offering aging males a substitute treatment for the drug industry’s latest  fad disease, Low Testosterone Ailment (which of course can be very real,  but suddenly becomes much more of an urgent medical condition when there is an expensive drug to treat it).

According to Newsweek, researchers have found that a dose of pornography works about as well as drugs,

Such findings, along with work that shows family life to be a drain on testosterone levels, prompted Rutgers University sex researcher Helen Fisher to advise this month that males in the “captivity situation”-her term for married with kids-“go on the Internet and look at porn” as a kind of hormone-replacement therapy. “[Porn] drives up dopamine levels, which drives up your testosterone,” she tells NEWSWEEK, while kissing your wife or hugging your kids drives it down.

Might ruin your family life, but hey you can get it up?  Objectifying  women (or men) as a medical treatment?  Will insurance companies now be asked to cover the cost of Playboy?  Will there be a  deductible?  And will the women in those pics now be paid as much  as doctors?  If porn wasn’t such a serious problem, it would be funny, but it isn’t.

I asked Jennifer Drew,  whose extensive research and commentary  on the subject of pornography has been used by BBC Radio 5, BBC Radio Ulster  and published by numerous publications including  FWord, Off Our Backs and  this blog, for her take on the concept of porn as medical therapy:

Three different research findings supposedly prove pornography is healthy for men to consume because it ensures their testosterone levels remain high, ensures maintenance of muscle tone, no weight gain and counteracts male aging.   Sex researcher Helen Fisher claims men in ‘captivity situations’ should regularly consume pornography.  ‘Captivity situations’ is Fisher’s definition of married men with children.  Fisher claims married men who express affection to their female partners and children experience testosterone loss whereas consumption of pornography increases their testosterone levels.

Claiming male monkeys become aroused when they view ‘sexually active (female) monkeys’ (the Yerkes Center for Primate Research at Emory University) deliberately puts a human behaviour interpretation on animal mating behaviors.  I had an image of a line of female monkeys all preening themselves and acting ‘coy’ as male monkeys stroll past them.  Female monkeys do not say to themselves ‘today I’m  going to turn myself in to a male monkey’s sex object in order to attract the male gaze’ sic!    Anne Fausto-Sterling quotes research which proves it is commonly female monkeys not male monkeys who decide when and with which particular monkey they will mate with.  Female monkeys unlike female/male humans only engage in reproductive mating behaviour during certain times of the year.  But this fact is conveniently overlooked.

Will Low T supersede men’s obsession with viewing pornography?  I doubt it but many men will certainly buy Low T whilst continuing to consume pornography.  Does it matter that claims pornography is healthy for men, whilst simultaneously ignoring the causitive links between pornography and endemic male sexual violence against women and children.  Yes it does because male consumption of pornography is not ‘healthy’ but instills and naturalizes male belief  women are dehumanized sexualized objects, who enjoy and desire any form of eroticized male sexual violence committed against them.

Are men as a group just mechanical masturbatory obsessed machines?   Porn and the pharmaceutical industries claim it is so but this too, is a neat trick of hand because masculinity is always subject to change given our culture is not static but constantly changing and evolving.  But central is the belief  men’s well-being and health supersedes women’s and children’s right to full human dignity and respect.

Or to put it another way – porn and the pharmaceutical industries earn huge profits by tapping into dominant definitions of male sexuality wherein men are supposedly ‘hardwired’ to sexually objectify women and obsessed with automatic erections on demand, because high levels of testosterone in men is the key to manhood.  No need to examine how patriarchal culture has a huge influence on how men are supposed to behave and react, since men alone are the definition of human status.  Women however, are pathologized because they are defective creatures whose bodies need to be constantly monitored and subjected to a bio-medical diagnosis.  Convenient is it not that pharmaceutical companies are able to provide the necessary (sic) medication to remedy women’s innate fallibility.   Another sleight of hand because whilst pharmaceutical drugs supposedly ‘fix men’ it is low levels of testosterone or lack of erections on demand – not men’s bodies as a whole which is in need of fixing!

Reducing men to testosterone fueled machines who satiate themselves with pornography, Low T and of course Viagra conveniently ignores testosterone is not a hormone which acts independently from human behavior, but rather reacts to human behavior as Anne Fausto-Sterling proves in her book Myths of Gender.  Blaming women and children for supposedly causing loss of male testosterone, promotes the myth men are supposedly independent, rational and subjective beings who define their manhood by whether or not they are able to have erections on demand and able to maintain a constant need for sexual gratification.

This thought occurs–here in the U.S. we are in the middle of a huge debate about how to fund health care.  And yet we are willing to spend billions for pornography and treating low testosterone with a fancy new and no doubt expensive drug…perhaps if we taxed the porn…just thinking out loud…

 May 21, 2009  Posted by on May 21, 2009 Comments Off on Porn–The Next Miracle Drug??
May 212009

In case you have any doubts that the word ‘liberal’ implies evolved, two recent stories on the  Huffington Post dispel that myth. One takes a hard look at which celebrity looks better wet and the other gives you, the reader, a chance to guess which boob job belongs to which celebrity, leaving one to  wonder if you might as well just surf internet porn or go buy a copy of Hustler.  As Buzzflash points out in conferring  its Media Putz Award on HuffPo,

(N)ewsgathering organizations have to rely on credibility and legitimacy. Articles on fake celebrity boobs with no news value destroy both. As of this writing, this photo essay has received 1,158,595 views — a lot of hits — but at what price?

The Huffington Post has been portrayed as a progressive news Web site run by a woman, yet the site is filled with celebrity misogynist content, none more egregious than the fake celebrity breasts photo essay.

The misogyny at HuffPo however goes beyond content however.  A study by FAIR (Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting) in late 2008 found that over a nine week period, only 23% of the HuffPo bylines were by women.  Jessica Wakeman writes,

Of the 89 times bylines were checked during the study, not once did the number of women’s bylines equal those belonging to men. Only eight times did women account for more than a third of all bylines. And Arianna Huffington, appearing 57 times, accounted for more than a fifth of all women’s bylines; 45 of those occupied the most visible top post. Only once, in fact, did a woman other than Arianna Huffington get her byline in the most visible top slot.

While it is particularly frustrating to see this in a news outlet that was founded by a woman, as Wakeman points out, those stats are in line with the industry norm.

Needless to say, as a woman who happens to write, this is pretty discouraging.   Regardless of what I write and how well I say it, the chances of getting my worked picked up by a major outlet and getting wide readership are lousy.  And I guarantee you this, by using the word “porn” in the title to this post, it will get many, many more hits than earlier posts this week about the perilous situations faced by sheroic human rights activists in Columbia and Burma (you did read those posts, didn’t you?).

As Catherine Orenstein of the Op-Ed Project, who is quoted in the FAIR piece quite accurately puts it, “The ways people get the most attention are still stacked.”

Postscript:  In the Look What They’ve Done To My Song Ma category of publicity stunts that make you go eeewww, Bob Dylan’s latest album probably should have been called, “Don’t Think Twice, It’s Definitely Not Alright.”  Truly a sad day in folk music and another fine example of the unevolved liberal ethos.

Update:  Kudos to WIMNs Voices Blogger Miranda Spencer for pointing out that HuffPo is apparently not content to rest on their laurels after winning the coveted Media Putz award, lookee what they posted today (hint, it involves bikinis and breast implants). Of note, all three of these offensive pieces are all written by Katherine Thomson, Senior Features Editor at HuffPo,  here’s hoping she and Arianna get together and do some serious rethinking of what they are featuring.  Soon.

On a much more cheerful note, check out this fabulous example of feminist media table-turning!

 May 21, 2009  Posted by on May 21, 2009 1 Response »
May 202009

Via e-mail from Ruta Pacifica:

Ruta Pacifica of Women categorically rejects the threats, the pursuing and the harassment maintained by unknown persons against the indigenous director of the Cauca Aida Quilcue and her family. In December of 2008, her husband Edwin Legarda, was murdered by troops of the National Army attached to the Third Brigade. Now the harassment is aimed at her 12-year-old daughter.Once again, the degradation of the armed conflict in Colombia is apparent. After being confronted with the death of her father only five months ago and the constant threats against the life of her mother, the indigenous child Mayerli Alejandra Legarda Quilcue is the military objective of armed actors in the Cauca.

This minor child, daughter of the former head adviser to the CRIC, Aida Quilcue, was the victim of an assault in her own home in the neighborhood of Clarete de Popayan.

This event demonstrates the constant persecution of which Aida Quilcue has been a victim ever since becoming leader of the Minga Indigena the previous year, when more than 25,000 indigenous women demanded that the State comply with the agreed accords and respect the lives of its leaders and officials, its organizational processes and an end to the threats in their ancestral territories.

Seeing the assault against the child Mayerly, Ruta Pacifica reaffirms that this violent action shows the ignominy of the armed conflict and the total transgression of the rights of the children and women to a life free of violence.

Ruta Pacifica demands that the State offer guarantees of protection for the indigenous leader Aida Quilcue and her family, as well as fulfill the legal mandate of special protection that the State itself must grant to children.

Likewise, we reiterate the necessity for a negotiated solution to the armed conflict, an end to the war and intimidating actions of the groups outside the law, of the Public Force and the State agencies of security.

Ruta Pacifica demands respect for the life of the women who work for human rights and the just cause of the indigenous people in Colombia.

 May 20, 2009  Posted by on May 20, 2009 Comments Off on Ruta Pacifica Demands Guarantee Of Safety For Indigenous Leader Aida Quilcue