Aug 292009

Via the Anime News Network, a good example of how CEDAW can be implemented:

The United Nations’ Committee on the Elimination of Against Women issued a lengthy list of its observations on Japan’s sixth periodic report on sexual discrimination on August 7. In section 35 of the report on the status of 1979’s Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women, the committee welcomed the increased prison times under Japan’s Act Banning Child Prostitution and Child Pornography. However, it expressed concern “at the normalization of sexual violence in the State party as reflected by the prevalence of pornographic video games and cartoons featuring rape, gang rape, stalking and the sexual molestation of and girls.” It also noted that the current child pornography laws do not cover virtual child pornography — material such as some manga, anime, and software that explicitly depict fictional children.

The committee then strongly urged Japan “to ban the sale of video games or cartoons involving rape and sexual violence against women which normalize and promote sexual violence against women and girls.” It further recommends that this issue be covered in the revised act.

While the bill on the act’s revision was introduced in the Japanese parliament last year, the government decided to study the issue of virtual child pornography for three years.

Three years??  That’s a lot of ‘studying’…

Earlier this year, it was discovered that Amazon was selling a Japanese game called Rape LayCara Kulwicki describes the game this way on The Curvature:

The entire objective of the game is to rape women with varying levels of violence — sometimes stalking them first, sometimes using gang rape scenarios, and sometimes forcing them into abortions afterward.

Kulwicki sums up the insidious harms of making a game of rape:

The premise of the game reinforces the idea of rape as okay and not a big deal.  It reinforces the idea that women exist for the sexual pleasure and abuse of men.

 August 29, 2009  Posted by on August 29, 2009 2 Responses »
Aug 282009

This, that and the other thing that I didn’t quite get to this week…

Laura Flanders of Grit TV talks to Yanar Mohammed, President of the Organization of Women’s Freedom in Iraq and Yifat Susskind, communications director at MADRE about the underground railroad for women in Iraq.

Science Progress has a very interesting gendered analysis of male contraception here that examines the economic and health inequities that are implicit in regard to the lack of more options for male birth-control, something that may change in light of a new genetic discovery.

Not being responsible for some or all of these economic, health-related, and other burdens is a significant boon for men. Men typically do not have to dedicate time and energy to contraceptive care, pay out of pocket for the usually expensive and sometimes frequent (often monthly, or at least four times a year) supply of contraceptives, acquire the knowledge about contraception and reproduction needed to effectively contracept, deal with the medicalization of one’s reproductive health, endure the bodily invasion of contraception, suffer the health-related side effects and the mental stress of being responsible for contraception, and face the social repercussions of their contraceptive decisions (such as whether to use a particular contraceptive or to switch contraceptives), and the moral reproach for contraceptive failures. Women who contracept have to devote and sacrifice many aspects of themselves and what they value: their body, health (physical and mental), time, money, etc. These contraceptive burdens and sacrifices limit people’s freedoms. Since men are frequently not responsible for contraception, they are absolved from these burdens and thus their freedom is not infringed upon. In short, men’s autonomy is enhanced by their freedom from contraceptive responsibility.

At the same time, however, men’s autonomy is also diminished by the fact that they are usually not responsible for contraception.

As the article points out, even if  there were more options, social mores regarding male responsibility for contraception would clearly need to change.

Sign the MomsRising petition telling Kraft it is so not okay to put “synthetic growth hormones, artificial colorings like yellow #5, and chemical sweeteners like aspartame” in the macaroni we feed our kids, especially since they no longer use those chemicals in the products (I hesitate to call this food) in other countries.

Our Bodies Our Blog has an interesting piece about tactics used by Merck to market Gardisil.  Regardless of the efficacy and safety of the vaccine (and the long-term answer to that is still unknown), the marketing strategy leaves a lot to be desired.

And last, in the WTF department, a study finds that women are 3 times more likely to be arrested in domestic violence cases in England even though men are far more likely to be the perpetrators.

 August 28, 2009  Posted by on August 28, 2009 Comments Off on Friday Frenzy 8/28/09
Aug 272009

A report released earlier this week by the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) sounded the alarm about the pervasive presence of the pesticide Atrazine in our waterways.  As the NRDC points out,

The effects associated with atrazine have been documented extensively. Reproductive effects have been seen in amphibians even at low levels of exposure. Concentrations as low as 0.1 ppb, for example, have been shown to alter the development of sex characteristics in male frogs, resulting in male frogs with female sex characteristics and the presence of eggs in male frog testes. Some scientists are concerned about exposure for children and pregnant women, as small doses could impact development of the brain and reproductive organs. Research has also raised concerns about atrazine’s “synergistic” affects, showing potential for the chemical having a multiplier affect to increase toxic affects of other chemical co-contaminants in the environment.

Atrazine has been classified by the EPA as an endocrine disruptor and according to the Breast Cancer Fund,

Atrazine has been shown to cause mammary cancer in lab rats. Recent data suggest that the major mechanism by which atrazine exerts its endocrine disrupting effects is by increasing the activity of the enzyme aromatase. Aromatase facilitates the conversion of testosterone and other androgens to estrogens, including estradiol.

Apparently, this pathway of estrogen production is of great enough importance to the development of breast cancer that a current class of breast cancer drugs aims to block this activity of aromatase. Femara (Letrozole) is one of these drugs. It knocks out aromatase, which in turn reduces estrogen and keeps breast cancer cells from growing initially.

The maker of atrazine is Syngenta, a multi-national agrichemical corporation. Syngenta was formed in 2000, when another multi-national called Novartis merged their Crop Protection and Seeds businesses with Astra Zeneca’s Agrochemicals. What is interesting and very disturbing, he argues, is that Novartis is also the producer of Femara, the breast cancer drug discussed above.

Got that?  Novartis both sells a chemical that is linked to the development of breast cancer and sells a drug that is used to treat breast cancer.  Ditto Astra Zeneca which makes Tamoxifen and is the founding sponsor of National Breast Cancer Awareness Month.  Mighty damned convenient to use one of your products to produce a need for another of your products.  And very, very profitable.

I’ve lost count of the times I have written about this, but particularly in light of the current healthcare debate, it is a crucial point: 

We will not ‘cure’ breast cancer until we quit causing it.

Not only do companies that produce cancer-causing products commit grievous harm to the health and lives of too many people, they contribute significantly to the cost of healthcare.  If we are truly serious about improving our health, and lowering the costs of maintaining it, we need to confront the sickening dichotomy between profit and the common good.

And yes, I used that pepto-pink font for a reason–National Breast Cancer Awareness Month is a little more than a month away–we are more than aware of this disease already–this year let’s quit with the cutesy pink already and insist that addressing the cause become an integral part of finding a cure.

 August 27, 2009  Posted by on August 27, 2009 2 Responses »
Aug 262009

There have been a number of excellent posts out there today about Women’s Equality Day, and I want to point in particular to a post by Judi Jennings, the Executive Director of the Kentucky Foundation for Women. After providing an excellent historical foundation, Jennings offers this excellent summation of what this day should mean to us:

By understanding the history behind Women’s Equality Day, we can clarify the interconnectedness of the forces that maintain global systems of oppression by denying human rights, and we can shape new strategies effective in countering those global forces. In these times of deep inner divisions among people suffering from oppression, it is more important than ever to support the basic human rights that unite us all.

As activists in the feminist social justice movement, our challenge now is to build on the lessons of the past to continue to create a vision of a future that honors the inalienable rights of all humans, shares the incalculable riches of our heritage and culture and strengthens our collective power to work for peace, justice, and sustainability of all our resources.

 August 26, 2009  Posted by on August 26, 2009 Comments Off on Happy Women’s Equality Day
Aug 262009

As perhaps you’ve noticed in the past, some weeks seem to have a theme on this blog.  Apparently this week’s theme is Melissa MCEwan‘s astute observations.  Earlier in the week I quoted her very on-target observations about the NYT special section on women and today she has a brilliant piece in the Guardian (UK) about being labeled a man-hater if you are a feminist.  What she says about not, in fact, hating men but rather having a mistrust of men  that is not just political but also very personal resonates deeply with me, here are some excerpts:

My mistrust is not, as one might expect, primarily a result of the violent acts done on my body, nor the vicious humiliations done to my dignity. It is, instead, born of the multitude of mundane betrayals that mark my every relationship with a man: the casual rape joke, the use of a female slur, the careless demonising of the feminine in everyday conversation, the accusations of overreaction, the eye rolling and exasperated sighs in response to polite requests to please not use misogynist epithets in my presence or to please use non-gendered language (“humankind”).

Why do you have to take this stuff so personally? ask the intellectual, clever, and engaged men, who have never considered that the content of the abstract exercise that’s so much fun for them is the stuff of my life.

There is the unwillingness to listen, a ferociously stubborn not getting it on so many things, so many important things. And the obdurate refusal to believe, to internalise, that my outrage is not manufactured and my injury not make-believe – an inflexible rejection of the possibility that my pain is authentic, in favour of the consolatory belief that I am angry because I’m a feminist (rather than the truth: that I’m a feminist because I’m angry).

And there is the denial about engaging in misogyny, even when it’s evident, even when it’s pointed out gently, softly, indulgently, carefully, with goodwill and the presumption that it was not intentional. There is the firm, fixed, unyielding denial – because it is better and easier to imply that I’m stupid or crazy or hysterical, that I have imagined being insulted by someone about whom I care (just for the fun of it!), than it is to just admit a bloody mistake and say, simply: I’m sorry.

That last bit, the ability to say ‘I’m sorrry’–I hear those words far more frequently from women, often when there is nothing to be sorry about even, but so rarely from men.  I cannot count the times when I’ve lectured myself that politics are well and good but hey girlfriend, if you want a social life that involves men, you can’t jump all over them every time they  say something that hurts or offends.  And then of course they say something, and at first I bite my tongue, try to make nice, but they aren’t listening and then sooner or later I just call it out for what it is and then well, I’m harsh, a ball-buster, whatever.  Don’t tell me you haven’t  been there.

And that’s the crux of it–misogyny hurts us in our personal lives.  We can talk about how to address it on a global or national or institutional basis, but until we can address it in our personal lives, it will remain the toxin that it is. As McEwan says,

It’s not about “misogyny”, but about how misogyny functions in intimate and familiar relationships. In wanted relationships.

There is a lot more to this essay and it is a must read in its entirety.

 August 26, 2009  Posted by on August 26, 2009 Comments Off on Melissa McEwan: I’m Not Angry Because I’m A Feminist, I’m A Feminist Because I’m Angry