Nov 292011
 

Feminist Peace Network Director and Occupy Patriarchy co-author Lucinda Marshall will be a guest on KPFK’s Feminist Magazine, Tuesday November 30th between 7:00-8:00 pm pst talking about how feminism fits in the Occupy movement and how Occupy fits with feminism along with Alternet’s Sarah Seltzer and Occupy LA activists Dava Juno, Sheila Nicholls, Alex Banks, and Regina Quetzel Quinones. You can listen to the program here.

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 November 29, 2011  Posted by on November 29, 2011 Comments Off
Nov 162011
 

Listening to people yell, “Mic Check!” at Occupy locations throughout the country, it is hard not to observe that those with the loudest voices are the ones who really get heard with this system, and those voices usually are male baritones.  Talking to women here in Washington and also reading reports from elsewhere, it is clear that many women find this system of having to yell at the top of your lungs to be one that is an uncomfortable way to communicate and participate.  Some women report being harassed when they speak, and even of mics being grabbed from them.

We are constantly told it is a system of consensus but was everyone really consulted about how communications would work?  It seems unlikely. While many of us want to work on communicating about issues such as reproductive rights and unequal pay (that have long been on the feminist agenda) and why they are so important to true change,  it is hard to do so when the communications system itself is intimidating.

The other day I listened to (mostly) young men at Occupy DC say that they wanted us to tell them when we found something they said to be offensive so that they could learn and change how they are interacting with women.  It was good that they were attending a session on sexism, but hello?  How many decades have we been pointing this out–YOU SHOULD KNOW THIS ALREADY!  And yes, I’m shouting, I am just flabbergasted and utterly depressed that we are still having this discussion in progressive, revolutionary circles.

It isn’t rocket science even if every movie, ad and video game tells you this behavior is cool, it isn’t. What it is is a manifestation of the system you claim to want to change. Don’t ask us to keep pointing out your misogynist behavior, you really should be able to figure it out yourselves, take responsibility for it and stop it because you know what, you are wasting precious time and energy and keeping us from discussing what feminism brings to a movement that aims to address economic inequities, starting with the most obvious point that women get paid less than men, so those inequities hit us the hardest. There is a lot more to it than that, but that is pretty easy to grasp, so let’s start there and insist that this very basic truth is a crucial issue that must be addressed if we are to achieve real change.

Listen also to Jon Stewart’s interview of Nobel Peace Prize winner, Liberian activist Leymah Gbowee on The Daily Show. Towards the end of the first segment, Stewart compliments her for being “charming and vivacious” despite what she has gone through. Had she been a man, I think we can assume he would not have used those descriptors.  Effectively what he was saying was that oh yeah sure, you led a peace movement that ended a civil war at great risk to yourself and won a Nobel Peace Prize, but hey, you’re still a woman so by gosh I must objectify you.

But no amount of sexist cutesy drivel on Stewart’s part can detract from Gbowee’s powerful words. Especially if you are not familiar with her story and even if you are, listen to her talk about what they found it necessary to do and her call to those of of in the U.S. for action.

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The Daily Show With Jon Stewart Mon – Thurs 11p / 10c
Exclusive – Leymah Gbowee Extended Interview Pt. 1
www.thedailyshow.com
Daily Show Full Episodes Political Humor & Satire Blog The Daily Show on Facebook

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The Daily Show With Jon Stewart Mon – Thurs 11p / 10c
Exclusive – Leymah Gbowee Extended Interview Pt. 2
www.thedailyshow.com
Daily Show Full Episodes Political Humor & Satire Blog The Daily Show on Facebook

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It is time for women to be heard in the Occupy movement and to do so we need to move beyond the mic check system that effectively drowns us out and not waste time pointing out blatant, obvious and clearly offensive behavior.  That is not why we are at Occupy.

What Gbowee and the women of Liberia did, sitting, meditating and going on strike offers us a different model. To sit down and not participate in the systems that oppress us, be they in Occupy camps or elsewhere. We need to be clear that we will communicate what we need to communicate on our own terms and in a way that is comfortable and empowering to us.

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I am writing this as police move in to try to shut down Occupy in numerous locations.  We know what many of us have suspected, that DHS and federal law enforcement is involved in this.  Tomorrow, November 17th is a national day of action.  It would be wise to use this as an opportunity to channel what Gbowee modeled for us in Liberia and to think of the words of Ghandi.

 

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 November 16, 2011  Posted by on November 16, 2011 2 Responses »
Nov 102011
 

I have a confession to make, embarrassing as it is.  While my intellect may have known better, there have been a few moments in my life when I wanted to be a cover girl with the perfect makeup, hair and wardrobe to die for.  Well now that fantasy has come true in the best of ways without having to bother with being airbrushed and squeezed into Barbie attire!

The Women’s Institute for Freedom of the Press (WIFP)’ newest publication, “A Women’s Media Resource” cover features beautiful drawings of Ida B. Wells, Dr. Maurine Beasley, Angela Davis, Frieda Werden, Sunita Viswanath, Gloria Steinem and Andrea Dworkin and yes, that is me in the lower right corner. No doubt about it–this is what beautiful really looks like! I am truly honored and grateful to be included in such amazing company and also for the encouragement, support and friendship of WIFP Director Dr. Martha Allen.

WIFP is an excellent resource and their work is crucial to furthering women’s voices in the media, if you aren’t familiar with their work, please take a minute to check out their website and learn more.

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 November 10, 2011  Posted by on November 10, 2011 2 Responses »
Nov 092011
 

Tawakul Karman

As the award of a Nobel Peace Prize to Yemen’s Tawakkol Karman reminds us, women have played a very prominent role in the Arab Spring.  While we celebrate their activism, we need to be mindful that this in and of itself does not secure women’s rights as part of the change taking place in the Middle East.  In August I was asked to write a piece for the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom‘s fall newsletter about rape as a weapon of war in Libya.  In the interim between when I wrote the piece and when it was published, Gaddafi has been ousted.  It is interesting to note that the rumors about Viagra like drugs that made such a splash when they first circulated have dropped from sight.  We may never know if they were true.  But as I point out in the article, reprinted with permission below, the real issue is the use of rape as a weapon of war.

Rape as a Weapon of War in Libya:  New Permutations on an Old Theme

Earlier this year, reports began to surface alleging the use of Viagra-like drugs to encourage Libyan troops to rape women as a tactic in their fight with Libyan rebels, leading the chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Court to call for a complete investigation of the charges and U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to say that she was, “deeply concerned” about the changes.If indeed the allegations prove true, they would represent a new variation on an old tactic and not only should those who committed these crimes be prosecuted, those who made the drugs available should be prosecuted as well.  While pharmaceutical companies try to sell their little blue pills with advertisements showing couples exchanging knowing looks while they walk through fields of flowers, the potential abuse of these drugs as weapons of war is all too easy to believe.

Neither Amnesty International or Human Rights Watch have been able to verify the reports however, so there is also the disturbing question of whether false rape charges are instead the weapon in question.  Regardless of whether impotency drugs have been used and whether women have been raped or whether allegations of such rapes are being trumped up and used as a political and military tactic, the truth remains that rape is a weapon of war and women’s bodies continue  to be used as the battleground in wars of male supremacy, wars that don’t take place on actual battlegrounds but instead are fought in cities and towns and in refugee camps where women and children, the most vulnerable civilians, become the collateral damage of war.

In Iraq, the number of honor killings rose dramatically after the U.S. invasion and  more recently, in Tehran, women protesting the government have been attacked.  In Congo, women in refugee camps are gang-raped with impunity. In Burma, the army uses rape as a weapon of terror in their fight with Shan forces. In Bosnia, there were mass rapes, in Rwanda too.  In the U.S. military, female soldiers are more likely to be attacked by male soldiers than by any enemy.

These are the dots we need to connect. We are horrified every time we hear such reports.  How could such a thing happen?  And more importantly, how can it keep happening time and time again?  While each and every instance of these abuses is horrific in its own right, we need to understand that they are not one time incidents but rather the systemic and perpetual violation of women and we need to insist that we address the underlying problem and not just its manifestations. Where there is conflict and where there are military forces, there is rape and sexual abuse.

Reports of the use of Viagra (and similar drugs) in Libya are disturbing and the International Criminal Court’s quick investigation into the allegations is significant for several reasons.  A bit of history provides the context for more fully understanding the issues involved.

The ICC came into being in 2002 as an independent body (contrary to popular belief, it is not part of the United Nations) to investigate and prosecute war crimes.  Of particular importance, the ICC recognizes rape and sexual assault as a war crime, allowing for the first time, a global standard for the prosecution of one of the most heinous weapons of war and the one that impacts women and girls the most severely.  Over time, as militant forces come to understand that they will be held accountable for the use of rape as a tool of war, one would hope that understanding will act as a deterrent to such crimes.

The Rome Statute, which established the Court was signed by 148 countries.  Seven countries voted against it, including the U.S. and Libya.

It is therefore supremely ironic that the U.S. pushed for the ICC’s prosecution of Libyan war crimes. But make no mistake, the U.S. does not consider itself bound by the jurisdiction of the ICC which would leave it quite obviously vulnerable to prosecution for such things as what happened at Abu Ghraib, Guantanamo and also the rape of servicewomen within the ranks of its own military.

If the charges  cannot be substantiated by human rights groups, then the issue that needs to be investigated is the issue of false allegations for political and military gain.

Regardless of whether rape itself has taken place or whether instead false allegations of rape have been made, we must insist that what has occurred not be isolated and treated as a singular event but rather as a part of the pandemic war against women that is a systemic part of the global wars for power and domination.  We also have to insist that the rules apply to all. The arrogant assumption of different standards of human rights based on might speaks directly to the root cause of why these crimes take place and until we are willing to confront that duplicity, they will continue to occur.

–Lucinda Marshall, 2011

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Further reading:

Genocide and Crimes Against Humanity
http://www.enotes.com/genocide-encyclopedia/rape

About the International Criminal Court
http://www.icc-cpi.int/Menus/ICC/About+the+Court/

US “Hypocrisy” on Libya and International Criminal Court
http://www.commondreams.org/newswire/2011/03/01-24

U.S. continues Bush policy of opposing ICC prosecutions
http://www.salon.com/news/opinion/glenn_greenwald/2011/02/28/war_crimes

Rape Reporting During War
http://www.foreignaffairs.com/print/67936

Last week I had the privilege of sitting in on a Senate hearing held by Sen. Barbara Boxer on Women and the Arab Spring.  The need for U.S. support of UNSCR 1325 as well as the importance of the U.S. finally ratifying CEDAW came up.  Boxer voiced her support for CEDAW and promised to work to get it through the Senate.  This is a huge boost for it’s passage and hopefully the U.S. will soon join the rest of the world in supporting this crucial tool for women’s human rights.

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Note:  If you have not already seen it, I highly recommend Abigail Disney’s amazing film series, Women, War and Peace on PBS, which can also be viewed online.  The series makes a very significant contribution in raising awareness about how war impacts women and how women can and need to be involved in peacemaking.

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 November 9, 2011  Posted by on November 9, 2011 1 Response »
Nov 032011
 

Want to do something really damaging and maybe hugely unpopular and can’t come up with a good sales pitch based on the merits of your idea?  No worries, just play the Damsels in Distress card. In 2001, the Bush administration used the ploy to justify our invasion of Afghanistan–after all, we didn’t want to be seen as starting a war just for revenge and never mind that we’d never given a fig about what those women were going through until we decided we wanted to bomb the bejeepers out of their country.  It worked so well that Bush played it again when we invaded Iraq, even though women there enjoyed more rights than in most Arab countries prior to our invasion.

Now there is a group called Ethical Oil that is using Saudi women’s human rights as a justification for proceeding with the environmentally devastating Tar Sands project.

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While the human rights of Saudi women are unquestionably being seriously violated, that has been true for some time and we have done little to help them because we need Saudi oil.  And we continued to support the Saudi regime even though most of the 911 attackers were Saudi.  But now it is convenient to say that we support Saudi women, regardless of the fact that Tar Sands will do nothing to help Saudi women and is also detrimental to women who live near the project.  Maryam Adrangi explains,

The premise is that supporting “conflict oil” from Saudi Arabia would prop up a regime that is oppressive to women. The underlying motive, however, is not to talk about women’s liberation, but rather to deflect negative attention from the tar sands.

If women’s rights were of genuine concern to EthicalOil.org (and all the individuals that make it possible such as Ezra Levant, Alykhan Velshi, Kathryn Marshall, and their corporate oil buddies) then there would be conversation about the impacts that tar sands extraction has on women.

The tar sands boom has created dangerous jobs with long hours, fostering a culture of alcohol and substance abuse in the off hours. As a result, rates of sexual violence towards women have increased and women working in the industry have reported sexual harassment, gender discrimination, and unequal pay. Gender-based discrimination have also resulted in unequal access to higher paying jobs in communities in the region, and with skyrocketing housing prices and costs of living, there is also unequal access to housing.  Increases in female homelessness exacerbate the challenges faced by women in the area.

Climate Connections has more on this here and Grist covers it here.

The, Feminist Peace Network recently started another website, Occupy Patriarchy, which is focusing on bringing a feminist perspective to the Occupy movement.  One of the things that has quickly become apparent to us is that for women to participate in Occupy events, they need to feel safe.  There have been a number of incidents of sexual assault, harassment and rape and how some of those incidents have been handled has been distressing.  It is clear that is something that needs to be addressed but the right, which is fighting a losing battle to control the message in the face of the Occupy movement  has seized on this as a reason to shut down Occupy camps.

Brandon Darby offers this twisted logic on Andrew Breitbart’s Big Government website,

The reality is that ideological underpinnings of the Occupy movement–such as collectivism, “consensus” decision making, and antipathy towards law enforcement—often lend themselves to the disorder that predators see as opportunity. Far from “empowering” women, the Occupy movement’s anarchist and socialist principles and policies are exposing female activists to greater danger. They cannot maintain order because they are in the midst of rebelling against it.

Right and capitalism, which allows such things as human trafficking and the porn industry to flourish while funding for domestic violence programs is slashed is perfectly safe for women? And unfortunately, it would appear that there are also those in the Occupy movement that feel that damsel rescuing is the honorable metaphor to use.  Via Feminists Occupy London:

The fallacy of the Damsels in Distress argument is so transparent that it should really be a litmus test–if you have to invoke it in order to win your point, it is a losing idea, so quit acting like you think we should thank you.

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This Sunday, November 6th, Tar Sands activists are planning to encircle the White House to let President Obama know that proceeding with this horribly destructive project is a bad idea.  I plan to be there and my sign will say, “Saudi Women’s Lives Are Not A Call For Tar Sands”.

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 November 3, 2011  Posted by on November 3, 2011 Comments Off