Nov 302010

A few weeks ago, Feminist Peace Network pointed to a study of “best of” lists of books that documented the  delusion created by the persistent, systemic exclusion of women authors from those lists.  The logical conclusion if one places value in those lists year after year is that yes there are women authors but they aren’t considered to be very good writers. And that perception has an impact because those lists do indeed influence what people read and therefore serve to further invisibilize women authors.

Perhaps the most disheartening thing is that this systemic exclusion does not seem to be improving. It is important to realize that not only does this point apply to mainstream lists such as those compiled by The New York Times, but also to self-proclaimed progressive media, a point illustrated by a post by Sarah Irani for Eco-Salon that was reposted on Alternet, 28 Must-Read Books That Will Forever Change How You See the World where less 25% of the authors are women. Tillie Olsen’s clasic book that documents this very exclusion, Silences wasn’t on the list, but obviously the folks at Alternet and Eco-Salon would profit from reading it. We expect these ratios in the more traditional media, but it is particularly galling to realize that spaces that are considered liberal and progressive  still so persistently insist that the important voices are those that are male.

As for the mainstream media, of note (although it is not a list of authors) is a list just published by Foreign Policy, The FP Top 100 Global Thinkers, on which you are not highly likely to find your name unless you happen to have a Y chromosome.

Which brings me to this  action from Take Back The Tech for the 16 Days of Activism Against Gender Violence, which challenges whose voices are considered expert in the media,

Across the world, women are under-represented in the news. Female experts are rarely interviewed, there are fewer female reporters, and women are often portrayed in stereotypical ways. Women are more likely to have their age and family status reported than men, and it’s far more likely that their appearance will be commented on.

This leads to the perception that women are only fit to comment as bystanders and observers, where news is something that happens to women, not something that is made by women. Women also often appear in stories about violence, locating them as victims in society instead of opinion leaders and decision-makers.

The reason often given by members of the media for not featuring women experts is because there aren’t any who knows the topic at hand. In reality, women are active participants in all aspect of social, economic, political and cultural life, and there are plenty of women with knowledge around. The reason they are not included is because of a preconceived idea that men are experts in those area. For example, in science and technology, war or medicine.

As I’ve pointed out far too many times, it is exactly because of the damaging exclusion of women’s voices across the media spectrum that it is crucial to support women-positive media. And yes, there is a donate button on the right hand top corner of the Feminist Peace Network website.

In one bit of good news regarding women’s voices, a huge shout-out to our friends at Joy of Resistance: Multicultural Feminist Radio on WBAI (99.5 FM, streaming live on the web) who are moving to an evening time slot, from 9-10 pm est on the 1rst and 3rd Wednesdays of the month beginning in December. As Executive Producer Fran Luck points out, this is really important because it will mean that they, “will finally be able to reach women who are at work or in school during the late morning hours during which we previously aired–and can now hope to build a larger feminist listenership in the three States reached by WBAI’s signal”. Congratulations Joy of Resistance! (Note–click here for a great essay by Fran Luck about Joy of Resistance.)

For more ideas about ways you can change the delusional exclusion of women’s voices in the media, click here.

 November 30, 2010  Posted by on November 30, 2010 Comments Off on The Great Disappearing Act: Media’s Persistent Invisibilizing Of Women’s Lives And Voices
Nov 292010

Given the amount of harassment and abusive behavior that women are subjected to every day, it is hardly surprising that women are also victimized online as well. It is probably fair to say that because of the nature of the web, in many ways it is easier to be abusive online than off. People who might not have the nerve to threaten you in person feel safer in doing so online when they can hide behind screen names and phony email addresses.

According to Jac sm Kee, organizer for Take Back The Tech campaign,

Women’s rights to expression and information are increasingly under threat. The UN estimates that 95% of aggressive behavior, harassment, abusive language and degrading images in online spaces are aimed at women.

As more and more women go online using computers and mobile phones, many are silenced through acts of violence, sexism and censorship. The first object that is destroyed by a violent partner is often the women’s cellphone.

It’s critical that we are able to speak out and share our ideas to challenge attitudes and beliefs that sustain violence against women.

Kee offers these excellent ideas for documenting online abuse and fighting back against it:

  • Use your mobile phone, camera, social networking spaces.. to document the reality of violence that women where you are.
  • Experiment with technology you’ve never used before and use it in your activism
  • Be as creative and as tactical as you can in your action
  • Make a podcast
  • Create a video or make a digital story
  • Write a blog post
  • Send an SMS
  • Map cases of violence against women in your neighbourhood
  • Report hacked feminist sites
  • Form a technical response group
  • Petition against censorship of women’s rights web pages
  • Email your political representative
  • Tweet your political representative
  • Start an online community that talks about violence against women
  • Respond to sexist comments

To learn more, check out the Take Back The Tech campaign.

 November 29, 2010  Posted by on November 29, 2010 Comments Off on 95% Of Abusive and Harassing Behavior Online Is Aimed At Women
Nov 242010

The Feminist Peace Network is once again participating in the observance of the 16 Days of Activism Against Gender Violence which takes place from November 25th – December 10th.  The Center for Women’s Global Leadership at Rutgers University runs a website that has numerous resources about this campaign, including action guides and a calendar of events.  Please especially note the Global Day of Action on November 29th.  The theme of this year’s observance will be:

Structures of Violence: Defining the Intersections of Militarism and Violence Against Women

About the 16 Days of Activism Against Gender Violence:

The 16 Days of Activism Against Gender Violence Campaign uses the 16 days between International Day for the  Elimination of Violence Against Women (25 November) and International Human Rights Day (10 December) to  reinforce that eliminating all forms of violence against women is a human rights issue and that the act of perpetrating  violence against women is a human rights violation. The 16 Days Campaign brings the human rights framework to the  heart of its work and utilizes it to ensure that both state and non-state actors are held accountable for acts of violence  against women.

November 25th was declared International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women at the first Feminist Encuentro for Latin America and the Caribbean held in Bogota, Colombia, July 18-21, 1981. The “feminist encuentros” are conferences of  feminists from Latin America who come together every 2-3 years in a different Latin American country in order to exchange  experiences and to reflect upon the state of the women’s movement.  At that first Encuentro, women systematically  denounced all forms of gender violence from domestic battery to rape and sexual harassment to state violence including  torture and abuse of women political prisoners. November 25th was chosen to commemorate the violent assassination of the  Mirabal sisters (Patria, Minerva and Maria Teresa) on November 25, 1960 by the dictatorship of Rafael Trujillo in the  Dominican Republic.  In 1999, the United Nations officially recognized November 25th as the International Day for the  Elimination of Violence Against Women.

About this year’s theme:

This year marks the 20th 16 Days of Activism Against Gender Violence Campaign, and with this important landmark, the Center for Women’s Global Leadership (CWGL) is considering new ways to utilize the campaign for transformative change. Year after year, new partners join the 16 Days Campaign to bring local, national, and global attention to the various forms of violence that women face. The attention that gender-based violence has received in international forums is a testimony to the powerful actions of women’s rights activists around the world. Yet, despite this increased awareness, women continue to experience violations in alarming numbers and new forms of violence are emerging. We, as defenders of women’s human rights, have a responsibility to look more closely at the structures in place that permit gender-based violence to exist and persist. After much consultation with activists, organizations, and experts from around the world, militarism has emerged as one of the key structures that perpetuates violence.

While there are many different ways to define militarism, our working definition outlines militarism as an ideology that creates a culture of fear and supports the use of violence, aggression, or military interventions for settling disputes and enforcing economic and political interests. It is a psychology that often has grave consequences for the true safety and security of women and of society as a whole. Militarism is a distinctive way of looking at the world; it influences how we see our neighbors, our families, our public life, and other people in the world. To embrace militarism is to presume that everyone has enemies and that violence is an effective way to solve problems. To leave militaristic ways of thinking unchallenged is to leave certain forms of masculinity privileged, to leave global hierarchies of power firmly in place, to grant impunity to wartime perpetrators of violence against women.  To roll back militarism is to inspire more expansive ideas about genuine security, to bring more women into public life, to create a world built not on the competitive sale of weapons, but on authentic relations of trust and cooperation.

There is a need to address militaristic beliefs in all of our societies. Militarism has material and institutional, as well as cultural and psychological consequences that are more difficult to measure. Wars, internal conflicts, and violent repressions of political and social justice movements – all of which are a result of a culture of militarism – have a particular and often disproportionate impact on women. Rape is used as a tactic of war to drive fear and to humiliate women and their communities. But sexual violence is just one form of violence that women and girls suffer throughout the continuum of violence before, during and after conflict has ostensibly ended. Militarism neither ends nor begins in warzones, nor does it confine itself to the public sphere. The families of militarized men and women may experience violence in their homes where ‘war crimes’ and armed domestic violence are hidden from public view, and women who serve in the military are just as easily victims of sexual assault by their fellow soldiers. Even places that are not experiencing conflict directly are not exempt from militarism: they send troops, produce and sell weapons, and invest in the militaries of foreign governments rather than supporting development efforts. These governments have skewed priorities, spending huge percentages of their budgets on the military and arms rather than on social services, such as education, health care, job security, and development that would yield real security for women. For these reasons, the international theme for the 2010 16 Days Campaign will be Structures of Violence: Defining the Intersections of Militarism and Violence Against Women.

The Take Back The Tech campaign runs concurrently with the 16 Days campaign and FPN will be posting actions from that campaign as well. Finally, listen to these inspiring words from Nobel Peace Prize winner Wangari Maathai about the campaign:

 November 24, 2010  Posted by on November 24, 2010 1 Response »
Nov 192010

Yesterday when I wrote about breast cancer patients’ concerns about the new TSA pat-downs, I was hoping we were speaking in the theoretical.  Apparently not.  this is what a flight attendant who has had breast cancer reports happened to her:

“She (the TSA agent) put her full hand on my breast and said, ‘What is this?’.  And I said, ‘It’s my prosthesis because I’ve had breast cancer.’ And she said, ‘Well, you’ll need to show me that’.”

Cathy was asked to show her prosthetic breast, removing it from her bra.

A T.S.A. representative says agents aren’t supposed to remove any prosthetics, but are allowed to ask to see and touch any passenger’s prosthetic.

T.S.A. says it will review this matter.

They will review the matter? To say that this is unacceptable is not putting it strongly enough. How about an unequivocal statement saying that they will quit terrorizing women by demanding to see and grope their breasts, prosthetic or not.  This needs to stop and it needs to stop now.

Addenda:  See here for TSA’s ambiguity about whether or not they will grope young children’s genitals.  Again, predatory behavior towards children does not make us safer, severely traumatizes them and TSA should be willing to state that they will not try to pretend that they are making us safer by committing these acts that in any other context would be considered a felony.

 November 19, 2010  Posted by on November 19, 2010 Comments Off on TSA Demands To See Flight Attendant’s Prosthetic Breast
Nov 172010

Having already written about the new TSA scanners and  pat-downs twice this week, I’ll keep this brief.  However, a number of other serious concerns have been raised that I think need to be considered:

  1. The new  pat-down procedure could be extremely painful and embarrassing for someone who has had any kind of breast surgery and particularly for breast cancer victims.
  2. Ditto for men who have had prostrate or testicular surgery.
  3. The groping pat-downs could be a major trigger for anyone who has ever been physically assaulted, especially sexual abuse victims.
  4. They could be very uncomfortable for pregnant women who certainly will not want to be exposed to radiation from the scanners.
  5. A given dose of radiation has a much greater impact on a small child than an adult.
  6. There are already videos of TSA personnel roughly searching children.  Traumatizing children in this manner should never be acceptable.

Bottom line, we really don’t need to worry about terrorists anymore.  We are terrorizing ourselves.


Okay, forget the promise of brevity, this is an excellent comment on the issue of triggering for sexual assault victims:

A woman who has been sexually victimized through molestation and rape is more likely to have triggers, flashbacks, and panic attacks of the incident ensuing from words, images, and actions that remind her that her body is no longer sacred. For a rape victim, an enhanced pat down from a stranger in public may come with emotional consequences for her, altering a simple flight to an incident of victimization.

We all may be unsuspecting victims to the delight of certain security personnel. According to Peter Bacqué of WSLS 10 News in Roanoke, VA, TSA ordered Richmond airport to give the highest level of security clearance to a convicted felon even after he was cited for falsifying his employment application.

And as this post points out, there is a lot of concern about the policy in trans communities.

Finally, check out this mashup video of incident after incident after incident of abuse being committed by TSA agents.

 November 17, 2010  Posted by on November 17, 2010 2 Responses »