Feb 252010

Last night I had a speaking engagement in a part of downtown that quickly becomes deserted after dark.  After the program ended, as a matter of course I waited to leave until another woman, one of my co-presenters,  was ready to go.  I can’t speak for her, but for me, it just went without saying that I didn’t want to walk out into the dark parking lot by myself.  I was dressed for the stormy weather, bundled up, sensible shoes, hardly provocative, but as Amanda Hess points out,

Acting like a woman, in many ways, involves performing behaviors that are out of the ordinary: shaving your entire body, coloring your lips and cheeks, lengthening your eyelashes, extending your legs on high heels, “doing” your hair, dieting obsessively, waxing, plucking, padding your breasts, painting your nails, stuffing your tummy into tight spandex casings, wearing skirts and dresses and pantyhose and earrings. The behaviors associated with femininity occupy a strange space in our culture. While they are obsessively reinforced as “normal” behaviors for women, they simultaneously work to situate women as abnormal, different, “other.”

To the average heterosexual cisgender man, refraining from performing these behaviors is just a fact of life. For women, these feminizing behaviors are enforced from birth, and are extremely difficult to avoid. And when women do refrain from performing these behaviors—when they don’t shave their body hair, don’t cinch their waists and inflate their breasts, don’t teeter on high heels, don’t wear makeup, and don’t wear skirts, just like men don’t—they risk being dismissed as “abnormal” women. In a culture where the privileged experience of the average heterosexual cisgender man is the baseline for “normal,” women are seen as outsiders no matter how they act.

And so when a woman is sexually assaulted—no matter what she’s doing—it’s easy for the culture at large to insist that she’s done something out of the ordinary to bring it upon herself. Because women’s lives are out of the “ordinary.” Because heterosexual cisgender men are born with the privilege of not being systematically targeted as victims of sexual assault. When you say that women who wear too-short skirts, or too-high heels, or too much make up are not sufficiently protecting themselves against rape, what you are really saying is that women who act too much like women deserve to be raped. When you say that women who drink with the boys, or have casual sex like the boys, or walk alone like the boys are not sufficiently protecting themselves against rape, what you are really saying is that women who don’t act enough like women deserve to be raped. And what you are really saying is that women deserve to be raped because they’re women. In a culture where women’s behavior is viewed as alien, it is this attitude that qualifies as “normal.”

When it comes to sexual assault, every neighborhood is a bad neighborhood for a woman.

This particularly resonates with me, because one of the first moments of click when it came to figuring out what the Feminist Peace Network was about was walking out onto a deserted street in Washington DC after a discussion with a member of FPN a few months after we had formed and realizing that while discussing the impact of militarism on women in Afghanistan (this was in 2002) was important, the reality was that women everywhere were terrorized by having to consider whether it is safe to walk to the subway or collect firewood or anything else, regardless of whether they live where there is peace or war every day of our lives.

And we are not immune from this danger in our digital lives either.  There have been several Facebook pages lately that have portrayed violence against women as entertainment. One group called “Punching pregnant women in the belly is fun” had members who were children. The group was reported to the school that the children listed on their profiles and the page is now gone. Earwicga explains,

It is particularly important to challenge the teenagers views that these types of groups are a bit of fun and trendy.  The results of a recent NSPCC study highlighted how prevelant sexual and physical violence in adoloscents:

The study suggested a quarter of girls aged 13 to 17 had experienced physical violence from a boyfriend and a third had been pressured into sexual acts they did not want.

The children’s charity said it was alarmed by the number of young people who viewed abuse in relationships as normal.

If you find other examples of Groups or Pages on Facebook promoting violence, please report them to Facebook and you can also list them on a Facebook page created to combat the problem.

As I write this, I realize that I am incredibly weary from having to even think about these things.  While I live in a place that is far, far safer than if I were living in a tent in Haiti or a refugee camp in Darfur, the reality is that I am still vulnerable to violence simply because I am a woman, and while I may take precautions when I can, neither I or any woman should have to do so.

That we cannot collect water or firewood, or walk to our car or the train or simply walk outside for a breath of air without fearing for our lives belies the very definition of civilization. Sexual violence and harassment of women is a global pandemic.  The damage it does is profound and it is time, well past time, that everyone, men and women say enough, no more and as importantly, we need to be clear with our children that this is not entertainment or what normal should be.

 February 25, 2010  Posted by on February 25, 2010 Comments Off on There Are NO Safe Neighborhoods For Women
Feb 242010

There have been numerous stories about how GPS enabled phones can sometimes endanger women by making it easy for their abusers to stalk them and track them down, but as this report from MobileActive demonstrates, cellphone technology can also help to improve women’s safety.

For women in Egypt, sexual harassment is an unwelcome but all too common part of life. In 2008, the Egyptian Center for Women’s Rights released statistics stating that 83% of Egyptian women and 98% of foreign women in Egypt reported exposure to sexual harassment. HarassMap, a project based in Cairo, plans to give women an outlet to report instances of harassment.

Harass MapCombining FrontlineSMS and Ushahidi’s mapping platform, HarassMap aims to be a voice for women…

…Unfortunately, although a law against sexual harassment was proposed in 2008, it was never voted on and there are currently no laws against sexual harassment in Egypt (although according to The National, a new law was recently drafted). The goal of HarassMap is to once again draw attention to the problem of sexual harassment in order to bring the issue back to light, and hopefully push the government to pass laws that give women more legal recourse against their harassers. According to Chiao, it’s very difficult for women to report sexual harassment to the police; they can, but it’s a difficult process and often futile. In fact, some police forces have taken an active part in street harassment at times. Strict anti-harassment laws would hopefully give women more leverage to report problems.

To learn more about the technology involved, click here.

 February 24, 2010  Posted by on February 24, 2010 Comments Off on Harass Map
Feb 232010

Despite this oh so balanced graphic, only 7 of the Daily Beast’s list of 25 Top Liberal Journalists are women.

According to Tunku Varadarajan who compiled the list, it

distills responses canvassed from about 75 academics, politicians, journalists, and denizens of corporate America.

One wonders about the male/female ration of those canvassed…

H/t to Feministe for catching this latest example of male fail journalism.

 February 23, 2010  Posted by on February 23, 2010 Comments Off on Unfair And Unbalanced On The Left…Male Fail Journalism Strikes Again
Feb 222010

It’s hard to know where to begin this week, so many fabulous events being planned all over the world, but first, from the vaults with gratitude to Iranian.com, check out this amazing footage of IWD in Iran in 1979:

You can see Part 2 of the footage here.

And how better to celebrate  IWD than 3 women, some cooking and a tub?

And from Spain:

They sing, they compose, they write, they paint, they dance, they act… In short, they create (Ellas Crean). Once again, and for the sixth consecutive year, the most important female festival of Spain celebrates the International Women’s Day. In this way important female figures of music, theatre, poetry, art and dance are going to lead us through different artistic and cultural proposals.

The festival will be included in the cultural programming of the Spanish Presidency of the European Union and will reach 20 cities on the five continents through the Instituto Cervantes. It is organized by the Ministry of Culture and Equality, and it will be held in Madrid from February 17th to March 30th.

In Nepal:

An FM radio station is to be operated for the first time in Parvat at the initiatives of women.

The Society for Uplift of Women is going to operate Radio Didibahini 95.2 Megahertz which will be totally operated by women journalists and RJs.

Chairperson of Society for Uplift of Women, Kalpana Chapagain said the managers, program presenters, technicians and employees of the radio station would be all women.

Radio Didibahini 95.2 Megahertz is starting its test transmission from February 27. This will be the second radio station to be operated by women after the Mukti FM of Butwal.

The FM radio station will be formally inaugurated on March 8 on the day of the International Women’s Day.


Honoring the lives of feminist Haitian leaders who died in the massive earthquake on January 12th, will be the focus of International Women’s Day on March 8, 2010, which is also the 100th anniversary of this annual celebration…Women’s groups around the world are asked by the Haitian women’s movement to organize a memorial activity as part of their celebration of International Women’s Day in their countries and communities.
“The main activity will take place that day in Plaza Catherine Flon in Champ de Mars in the center of Port au Prince, a park that symbolizes Haitian women’s participation to the war towards independence two centuries ago.

It is being organized by the Haitian women’s organizations locally to acknowledge and honor the human suffering of the catastrophe in Haiti, promore feminist values based on the human rights of all, the struggle for well being of all in Haiti and urban planning, reaffirm feminist struggles despite the loss of significant feminist leaders, strengthen solidarity and display a MEMORIA which will take the form of testimonies, a mural and a slide show.

Local activities in other countries for March 8th have already been announced by women’s organizations in Chile, Argentina, Honduras, Puerto Rico, Brazil, Canada, etc.

The Feminist International Camp is also requesting a statement of solidarity from the Nobel Women’s Initiative.

The initiative to commemorate the 8th of March by honoring Haitian feminists emerged from a Haitian women’s meeting on January 24th in Port au Prince, which was then adopted at a Latin American and Caribbean meeting of the International Feminist Solidarity Camp Myriam Merlet, Magali Marcelin, and Anne Marie Coriolan, held in the Dominican Republic on January 26-27.

Finally, for all you bloggers, Gender Across Borders invites you to blog for International Women’s Day:

International Women’s Day [IWD] is on Monday, March 8, 2010. As set by the United Nations, this year’s theme is Equal rights, equal opportunity: Progress for all.” While we  here at GAB believe that equal rights for women should be celebrated every day, this particular event is a day for people to come together and blog about the progress of rights and opportunity for women worldwide.

This is the first year that we’re asking you (yes, YOU) to blog for IWD on March 8, 2010. Please take a moment to sign up using the form here and you can also download a Blog for IWD graphic to let readers know you’re participating. We ask bloggers to think about any of the following questions in regards to the U.N.’s theme for IWD:

  • What does “equal rights for all” mean to you?
  • Would you describe a particular organization, person, or moment in history that helped to mobilize a meaningful change in equal rights for all?

Once you sign up, a link to your blog’s URL will appear on the Blog for IWD blog directory page. Also remember to tag your posts as “Blog for IWD” or “Blog for International Women’s Day” so that we can identify your posts!

Please also visit FPN’s International Women’s Day webpage for more information about IWD and click here to learn why we are calling for a boycott of Thomson Reuter’s InternationalWomensDay.com website.

 February 22, 2010  Posted by on February 22, 2010 Comments Off on International Women’s Day Events Calendar 2/22/10
Feb 182010

For those of you in Louisville, KY, Feminist Peace Network Director Lucinda Marshall will be participating in a panel discussion at Spalding University on February 24th about women and media where she’ll be discussing  the systemic trivializing and marginalizing of women in the media and what we can do about it:

  • The Spalding University School of Liberal Studies is pleased to announce the 2010 BASEHEART LECTURE:
  • “Women in the Media,” a panel featuring Elizabeth Kramer (WFPL Arts Reporter); Cameron Lawrence (Writer/Producer); and Lucinda Marshall (Director, Feminist Peace Network).
  • Weds., February 24th
  • 7 PM
  • Egan Leadership Center Lectorium
 February 18, 2010  Posted by on February 18, 2010 Comments Off on Women And The Media Panel–Louisville, KY