Monday, November 30, 2009

Get involved: 16 Days of Activism against Gender Violence

We're five days into the "16 Days of Activism against Gender Violence" campaign, which kicked off Nov. 25, also the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women. (You can read more about that here, which has a number of related links.) The 16 Days campaign goes through Dec. 10.

Consider these statements, from the release "Violence against women: the world's most widespread and unpunished crime."
  • Sex-selective abortions, the killing of babies born female – female infanticide – and fetal neglect have caused clear and shocking disproportions between the sexes. It is estimated that there are between 50 million to 100 million less females on the planet due to sex-selected discrimination and infanticide.
  • Of the 2 million children being indentured into sexual servitude, it is estimated that 80% to 90% of them are girls (International Labor Organization, 2000).
  • The majority of all incest victims are girls and it is estimated that up to three times more girls are likely to experience sexual abuse than boys during their childhood.
  • It is estimated that between 100 million to 140 million girls have undergone some form of genital mutilation.
  • The United Nations estimated that an average of five women are killed per day in India by “accidental” fires set by husbands or in-laws whose demands for full payment of the wife’s dowry have not been met.
  • “Honor Killings,” executions of women by family members who feel she has in some way dishonored them, oftentimes occur with little or no consequence.
  • War rape, used as a systematic weapon, has shattered the lives of millions of women.
  • Women form the majority of the world’s poor. Seventy percent of people living in poverty – those surviving on less than $1.00 a day – are women (Center for the Democratic Control of Armed Forces).
  • Two-thirds of the world’s illiterate people are women.
  • Women own a mere one percent of the world’s land.
I know this problem is so huge and overwhelming that it's hard to find ways to feel useful in helping to stop it. If nothing else, one thing you can do is shed light on the topic. The general population might have an idea about gender violence, but not know the specifics or the extent of the problems. So help enlighten them. Anyone who wants is welcome to copy this and post it on their own blog, Facebook, etc., or send it an e-mail.

Additional resources:
  • The United Nations Population Fund has posted "16 Forms of Gender Violence & 16 Ways to Stop It."
  • The Center for Woman's Global Leadership has a bunch of helpful resources, including a Take Action kit.
  • Visit UNIFEM's SAY NO - UNiTE page to find all kinds of ways to get involved.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Suggested Sunday reading (11/29)

I hope everyone who marks the Thanksgiving holiday had a good one, and that everyone else has had a great weekend!

I'm starting off this week's suggestion list with a post on Shakesville, "Reminder: Women are half the population," about the above photo of Sen. Mary Landrieu. This is such a perfect example of mainstream media misogyny, it should not go unnoticed. This isn't Rush Limbaugh, though he did have some choice words for the Senator, or even Chris Matthews; it's Time magazine. (Specifically, it's Mark Halperin and it's partially CNN, too.) I highly recommend reading the comments, so that you don't miss gems like this one:
Halperin is reminding us, "Remember, ladies, no matter how accomplished you may be, someone like me will always be given a powerful platform to remind you that you can be sexually degraded at any time, for any reason."You can also check out Salon's Broadsheet article on the same subject.

While we're on the subject of that Mary Landrieu photo and sexism and misogyny and degradation of women, The Weekly Standard has rightfully taken on Huffington Post's tabloid side, which seems to exist to feature naked women, partially naked women, and women-who-might-be-"exposed"-but-we're-not-sure-so-look-at-these-photos-and-decide-for-yourself. Their article, "HuffPo's Misogyny: The NSFW Path to Liberal Journalism Success," shows a very questionable image compilation from HuffPo, of a female Fed official (the one that Democratic Rep. Alan Grayson called a "whore") next to an actual prostitute (the one hired by Eliot Spitzer). It also mentions other questionable material on HuffPo, such as the photos from a nude calendar. This side of HuffPo continually disappoints me, as I wrote about here. They continually have simply awful stories, such as this one about a 15-year-old actress who is now "all grown up."

Tommy Christopher has pretty much summarized all of this news here, which also features Michelle Malkin's comments on the Mary Landrieu story.

In other suggested reading:
  • Check out this poignant but to-the-point post on the blog Really? Law?, "When things are right," about a discussion in a law school lecture on rape.
  • GOP talking heads continue to spew misinformation about the health care bill. This time, it's Bill O'Reilly saying that both versions of the bill will force American taxpayers to fund abortions.
  • GLAAD weighs in on the Adam Lambert / Good Morning America / Early Show saga. And in case you hadn't heard, GMA canceled Lambert's appearance the morning after his performance on the American Music Awards (he was on CBS instead), but GMA is going to have Chris Brown on their show. So, according to GMA, kissing a guy on TV = bad. Beating up a woman = good. I'm relieved I already don't watch GMA.
  • This, to me, is a really interesting quote from one of the Barbi twins (of Playboy fame), in regards to animal rights. Pretty sure it's a direct dig at PETA, an organization I loathe. They were asked if they'd ever pose nude for their cause, and one responded "Even though sex sells and I get that and I’ve been a part of that whole campaign, I now think a little differently. I think we should think twice about exposing women, even though women have choices, as we give the message not to exploit animals. It is like saying drink beer instead of milk; you can’t solve a problem with a problem. You have to set the example.” You can read the article here (and this would be a great time to play "spot the really awful typo in this story").
  • I found this article from the New York Times amusing: Parents are adopting techniques from the Dog Whisperer to use on their children.
  • As a fellow redhead, I feel for this kid. And we're really going to beat someone up because of hair color? Sigh.

Finally, some important news stories:
  • AFP: France to ban 'psychological violence' in marriage
  • AFP: Sudan reporter [Lubna Hussein] might not return home
  • AP: South Korea scraps decades-old sex law targeting men
  • AP: Zimbabwe women, receiving rights award, speak out
  • AP: Sudanese teen flogged for wearing "indecent" skirt
  • AllAfrica: ECA Women's Rights Report Finds Gap Between Intention And Implementation
  • Amnesty International: Women, violence and poverty - breaking out of the gender trap
  • Care2: British Report Reveals Disturbing Discrepancies In Treatment of Rape Victims (this is a must-read; Britain's rape conviction rate is around 6 percent.)
  • New York Times: Are We Going to Let John Die?, an op-ed by Nicholas Kristoff

Friday, November 27, 2009

In History: Wilhelmina Drucker

This is the second post in a new weekly feature here at Spare Candy, called "In History." Some posts might be little more than a photo, others full on features. If you have any suggestions for a person or event that should be featured, or would like to submit a guest post or cross post, e-mail me at rosiered23 (at)


Wilhelmina Drucker, pioneer for women's rights,
is portrayed by Truus Claes in 1917

on the occasion of her seventieth birthday. (source)

Wilhelmina Drucker was born Sept. 30, 1847, and died Dec. 5, 1925, at age 78. Drucker founded the organization Vrije Vrouwen Vereeniging (Free Women’s Association), which fought for legal, economic and political equality for women and was considered one of the important early groups in the organized women’s movement in the Netherlands. She opposed the idea that women are intended only for childbearing and care and was committed to the position of unmarried mothers (her mother was not married) and she advocated for a free supply of contraceptives. The feminist activist group Dolle Mina, founded in 1969, named itself after Drucker.

There is a statue (photo here) of Drucker in Amsterdam at the Churchillaan, and there's a very cool photo of Dolle Mina members in the 1970s at the statue, burning corsets. The International Information Centre and Archives for the Women's Movement (IIAV, soon to be Alleta), has an academic chair position named after Drucker (and they will be marking the 40th anniversary of Dolle Mina next month).


A demonstration on Jan. 31, 1971, in front of the statue. (source)

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

"Bitches be crazy"

One thing I love about Leslie Knope, Amy Poehler's character on "Parks and Recreation," is her feminist side. She's the lead character on a TV comedy and she is obviously a feminist. It's fantastic. Bitch sums it up well (I wish the Hulu clip were still working, but if you can track this episode down somewhere, I highly recommend it):
This episode, "Beauty Pageant," was chocked full of awesome feminism, and in a way that was never preachy and did nothing to take away from the comedy (which should not be surprising, but there are a lot of haters out there who still think that feminism just isn't funny). For example, Knope created a special scorecard for the beauty pageant that included categories like "Knowledge of Herstory" and "Naomi Wolf Factor." Amazing. Also, when a local police officer asked her on a date, Leslie Knope hesitated because he was unable to recognize that the framed photo in her office was of Madeleine Albright. (He redeemed himself by studying up on women in government – how's that for romance?)And that's just a couple examples.

(Minor spoiler alert) In this clip, Leslie has just taken the fall for someone accidentally shooting a coworker on a hunting trip. She's trying to explain to the officer what happened that resulted in her "shooting" the person:

The show can only really pull off this kind of scene because Leslie is so established as feminist. And Amy Poehler is just perfect in it. Amazing.

Are you a fan of the show? I know it wasn't all that great last season (in the six episodes that aired, which is hardly a "season"), but this year it's become one of my favorite shows. A must-watch on my DVR. If you're not familiar with it, I suggest checking out this article, "Parks and Recreation: Amy Poehler's 10 favorite moments (and one of mine)," and this one, "Seven reasons you should be watching 'Parks and Recreation.'" Or, you know, just watch the show. :)

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

The newest form of sexual assault?

In July 2008, just about 20 minutes from my house, a teenage girl killed herself. She was a high school senior who, while on spring break a couple months earlier, had taken nude photos of herself on a cell phone and sent them to her boyfriend. Some of her friends on the trip did the same. After she and her boyfriend broke up, he forwarded the photos to who knows how many people, who also forwarded them, and so on. The girl was reportedly taunted, teased, harassed and called all kinds of names ("whore" seemed to be the most popular) for months. Then she killed herself.

The story was big news in my city, and was in the news for a long time while the family was trying to file a lawsuit against the school (which the family alleges did not do much to stop the spread of the photos or to stop the harassment) and against some students who were alleged harassers. The family also got involved in trying to help pass legislation dealing with "sexting."

Many news reports talked about what this teenage girl dealt with in the aftermath of the release of the photos -- and they all talk about other girls harassing her. I just read through about eight or nine reports of this story, in fact, and I can't find anything even talking about the former boyfriend who released the photos -- other than the fact that he was the one who released them.

A number of other cases of "sexting" nude photos that result in charges involve some sort of child pornography charge, but in this case the girl was 18 years old. No charges were filed against anyone (that I know of). Eventually the girl requested that the investigation be stopped because it was making the harassment worse. But here's my question: Why didn't any media outlet, or the school, or police, or even the parents, question whether what this guy did, in releasing her photos, was sexual assault? The school district actually said it was a form of "bullying," and I suppose that's true when you look at how other girls treated her after the photos came out. But no one (again, that I know of) brought up sexual assault. Is it because there was no "physical" crime?

Recently both Pandagon and Alas, a Blog wrote about Carrie Prejean's sex tape(s), and how releasing them is a form of sexual assault against her. I agree with both authors on the subject, particularly this (written by Amanda Marcotte) on Pandagon:
It’s about time that we started viewing the release of privately made sexual photographs and videos to anyone other than their intended audience as a form of sexual assault. The motivation to do so is indistinguishable from that as a rapist---using sex as a tool to dominate and humiliate someone, while puffing up your own sense of power---and often the results could be even worse for the victim, because her assault was performed in front of a crowd.When the news broke that ESPN reporter Erin Andrews had been filmed naked in her hotel rooms, without her knowledge, and the video became available on the Internet, it was clearly sexual assault. Yet countless people somehow justified watching the video, which was obviously taken of her without her consent -- and I would guess most people who watched it knew that. If so many people can't understand that what happened to Erin Andrews was assault, how can we expect people to understand that releasing photos or video against someone's wishes can be assault?

I think it's apparent that trying to prosecute these acts, at least as society is today, would be difficult. "Accidents" happen, I'm sure, and it would probably take some work on the prosecutors' side to prove assault. (Which really makes this no different from other sexual assault cases.) But the conversation needs to get rolling, now.

"Sexting" has become a fairly big deal, and most of the conversation around the nude-photos-aspect of it seems to be "girls, don't succumb to the pressure of guys who want to see nude photos of you, because once you send those photos, you can't get them back." And that is true, yes. I, too, loathe the idea of girls being pressured to send nude photos of themselves. But once again, all the responsibility is on the girls. Don't do this, don't do that. Where is the conversation about the boys involved in posting these photos or forwarding them to other people? Why isn't anyone saying "You know what son, if you receive nude photos of a girl, those are private and meant just for you. Keep it that way."

Maybe more young people need to read the story about this 18-year-old girl who was basically harassed to death. In her case, the harassment came from girls -- and that is definitely not OK either and is really a whole other discussion -- but it started with a former boyfriend forwarding those photos.

Monday, November 23, 2009

If you're looking for

The "The newest form of sexual assault?" post here, please click on this link, or it should be located above this post on the main page.

Sorry for any confusion, installing and uninstalling a new comment system required that blog post to be reposted.


Saturday, November 21, 2009

Suggested Sunday reading (11/22)

Highlights from this week, minus any health care reform/Stupak amendment articles because I just can't read another right now. Except for this piece in the New Yorker, by Jeffrey Toobin, "Not Covered," which I recommend.

This week was Transgender Week of Awareness (specifically, Friday was Transgender Day of Remembrance), and the Daily Emerald, the student paper at the University of Oregon, has a good op-ed titled "Trans issues a cause for feminists."

The Star (Toronto) writes about "Why Martin Amis won't shut up about feminism." While I haven't read his new book, or much about it (and I'm not even sure if it's related to this), he kind of has an interesting point:
In Amis's mind the two concepts [Al Quaida and feminism] are uneasily but inextricably linked. Had the latter not suffered a "loss of nerve" by "demoting itself beneath multiculturalism," the former might have been erased from existence by now. "It's pathetic that the shadow of the race question mutes everything else," says Amis...

"Let's look at Islam and Islamism on purely feminist grounds," he says. "It's self-evident that it's horrible the way they treat women. They have completely different ideas about what a woman is, the status of a woman. So why does the gender issue trump the racial one? The fact is women are not a minority. They're bigger than any nation, bigger than any religion or culture or tradition."
The Wall Street Journal has posted a column written by Peter Drucker in October, 1994, "Drucker on Management: The Continuing Feminist Experiment." Hmm.

Speaking of something written a while ago, I came across an interesting questionnaire while reading "FeMANism" on Choice Campus Blog. It's called "Are you a Manarchist?" and while it has some over the top and/or convoluted questions, it also has some good ones.

One more oldie but goodie: This 2006 column, "Simple rules for women to follow to avoid trouble." Every word still relevant today.

The Los Angeles Times has an obituary for Alice Rossi, a founding member of NOW.

Loved the anecdote at the beginning of the Chicago Tribune's story, "Are funny women intimidating?

Jezebel discusses how it's not just grown-ups whose images are air-brushed in magazines. It happens to photos of babies, too. Babies.

I learned something from the Hollywood Reporter this week, thanks to their article "Shallow pool for Oscar's actress contenders." And that is this: In the 73-year history of the awards, three -- three! -- women have been nominated for best director. (The article says there are three women this year alone would could be nominated in that category.)

This is such a sad, horrifying story from Utah: "Judge officially tosses case in pregnant teen's beating." That is, a teenage girl paid someone to beat her because she was pregnant and she didn't want to have the baby. And she was almost charged with solicitation to commit murder.

I know this story made it around the Internet real quick-like, but in case you somehow missed, Feministing talks about the "Hit the Bitch" game that was developed by an alleged anti-violence group.

Also on Feministing is this great read: "Virtual realities: Sydney University's 'pro-rape' Facebook group."

I was excited to read that Tracy Barker was awarded $3 million in her lawsuit against KBR, for whom she was working in Iraq when she was raped by a State Department employee. But that excitement faded quickly when I read that KBR is challenging the ruling.

Shakesville's "Today in Rape Culture" is three full-on examples of, well, rape culture. Couldn't this be it's own blog? I really think that column could be written daily, with new examples every day.

In some good news, the Justice for Survivors of Sexual Assault Act was introduced in the House this week. It was introduced in the Senate last week.

A great idea via BlogHer: "Record your grandma's stories: StoryCorps' National Day of Listening is Nov. 27."

And finally, off-topic but interesting to me, a story from The Times (UK): "Do music artists fare better in a world with illegal file-sharing?"

Must-see TV: GOP perpetuates rape culture, fear

One of the many reasons that, for me, Rachel Maddow's show is one of the best on TV is that she takes on stories like this one: the GOP talking heads' seeming obsession with using the word "rape" to describe policy and other issues they don't like as a way of fear-mongering. An example:

Discussing health care reform on Nov. 16, Glen Beck said on Fox News "We're the young girl saying 'No, no, help me,' and the government is Roman Polanski."

Media Matters brought this to light, and has a whole list of instances where this has occurred. And Maddow sees fit to discuss it on air (has anyone else? I'm not sure), though I personally would have liked a little more discussion on the fact that these GOP talking heads (Beck, Rush, etc.) are perpetuating rape culture, in a huge way. And as Ana Marie Cox points out, the "black guy" (Obama) is being accused of "rape," over and over, perpetuating a huge stereotype.

This is outrageous, and indefensible.

Here's the clip from Maddow's show:

And here's the clip from Media Matters:

Friday, November 20, 2009

In History: Sylvia Pankhurst

This is the first of a new weekly feature here at Spare Candy, called "In History." Some posts might be little more than a photo, others full on features. If you have any suggestions for a person or event that should be featured, or would like to submit a guest post or cross post, e-mail me at rosiered23 (at)


Suffragette Sylvia Pankhurst,
protesting the English policy in India.
Trafalgar Square, London, England, [1907-1914].

Sylvia Pankhurst, a UK born suffragette, once had United Kingdom's counter-intelligence and security agency MI5 considering strategies for "muzzling the tiresome Miss Sylvia Pankhurst." She founded the group East London Federation of Suffragettes around 1912, was anti-fascist and anti-racist, and continued fighting for women's right to vote while World War I was being fought. And those are just a few of her many accomplishments. Read more about Pankhurst here and here.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Transgender Day of Remembrance is Nov. 20

Friday is Transgender Day of Remembrance, across the world. has a comprehensive list of events -- I'm happily surprised to see there's even an event in my city. The site also has a lengthy list of victims to remember. According to HRC Back Story, "In the last 12 months alone, over 90 transgender people have lost their lives to prejudice and hate."

At this site, I don't talk much about transgender issues because, frankly, I'm still educating myself. I hope to be able to change that soon. (I say "at this site" because at other sites I've had to explain such things as why I would not, in fact, be bothered if a "cross dresser" used the same bathroom as I did at work. Sigh.)

One thing is for sure: We're all just people, and no one deserves to be harassed, assaulted or killed for their gender, or any other perceived "difference."

Monday, November 16, 2009

New ad takes on abortion coverage ban

The Center for Reproductive Rights launched an ad campaign today against the possible ban in health care reform on insurance companies covering abortion (aka the Stupak amendment). Read the press release here, and news stories here and here. The ad:

Text of the ad:
"So I think laughter is the best medicine. That's because I can't afford health insurance. I wrote a health-care reform joke. Do you want to hear it?

"A woman walks into a doctor's office and says: Doc, my back is killing me, does my insurance cover a breast reduction? The Doctor says, Yes it does.

"A man walks into his doctor's office and says: Doc, I've got trouble breathing out of this side of my nose. Does my insurance cover a nose job? The doctor says: Yes, it does.

"A woman walks into her doctor's office and says: Doc, I'm 11 weeks pregnant – my baby has anencephaly, which means parts of her skull and brain are literally missing. It's fatal. Does my insurance cover an abortion? The doctor says: No it does not.

"Anencephaly is fatal.

"Don't let Congress ban abortion coverage millions already have."
The Center has also launched the site, which
features a number of resources and links as well a good (and convenient) letter you can easily send to your Senators. Click on the "take action" button, put in your zip code, and you're nearly done. Please send those letters or write your own. We can't let this be part of the final legislation.

Two special reports on domestic violence

While these reports are specific to the states of Ohio and Kentucky, the findings, I'm sure, are of interest to readers here and applicable across the country.

The Columbus Dispatch conducted a four-month investigation of domestic violence in Ohio, and according to the AP summary of it, "Ohio has created a culture of tolerance for domestic violence by not enforcing the laws on its books and often treating the crimes with leniency."

You can read the report and see various videos here, but it looks like they have related stories that aren't listed on that page yet. Some are on the front page. A must-read piece: "Day 1: Beating the System." This news might not be exactly ground-breaking for the readers of this blog, but the story does a good job at laying out how bad the justice system can be at dealing with domestic violence offenders, and it does a great job at pointing out how outraged we are we animals are abused, but not so much when people are.

The Louisville Courier-Journal investigated domestic violence and the courts over the last three years, specifically about victims who were killed by a spouse or partner, how many had protective orders from the court, and how effective protective orders are (more effective than I thought). You can read the main story here, and it has links to the other stories and components of the report.

While none of the news or findings here are good, per se, I personally am thrilled that two mid-size metro newspapers have independently conducted extensive studies on some facet of domestic violence. It is a problem that is so easy to ignore or shrug off, until it's too late. And both of these papers focus on or discuss the "too late" part, which might be one of the easiest way to get people to understand how dire domestic violence can be.

As an aside, I'm also a newspaper supporter, and in the midst of all the "newspapers are dead" claims that have been going around the past couple years, I would hold up both of these reports as two big reasons why you should support your newspaper so it does not die. I can't think of one Web-based news organization that is going to do extensive investigations of domestic violence in either Ohio or Kentucky. Can you?

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Suggested Sunday reading (11/15)

Because it's dominating the news and my brain (I'm sure I'm not alone in that) and it cannot be emphasized enough, let's start off with some reading about the Stupak amendment.
  • The Women's Media Center has compiled a list of "Must-Reads: Outraged Reactions to Reactionary Stupak Amendment." This is a good place to start, get caught up, whichever.
  • Kate Harding writes on "Face it: The Democratic party is not for women" and "The real meaning of Stupak," which also links to a number of other articles. (Sorry if there is a lot of overlap going on here. There are so many good points being made by so many people, I want to include as many as I can.)
  • If you haven't read Katha Pollitt's article "Whose team is it, anyway?" on The Nation yet, get on over there.
  • FiveThirtyEight reports "Many Previously Pro-Choice Dems Voted for Stupak Amendment."
  • RH Reality Check: "Dear Progressive Allies in Health Care Reform: Where Were You on the Stupak Amendment?"
  • The Frisky: "Today’s Lady News: Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand Speaks Out Against The Stupak Amendment"
  • TBogg: "Just lay back and think of it as a Vagina Added Tax." Unbelievable quote in this one.
  • On Crooks & Liars: "The Democratic Party: Still looking out for women's health!" (Hint: the title is sarcastic.)
  • Choices Campus has compiled editorial cartoons about the Stupak amendment.

In other reading this week:
  • Great collection of links at abyss2hope's latest Carnival Against Sexual Violence. Do check it out. Includes this interesting story at Change Happens about a bill passed in the House that deals with sexual assault on cruise ships and in the Coast Guard.
  • Bitch magazine offers a great post, "Swine & Dandy: What if we did as much to prevent rape as we do to prevent H1N1?" (Ed. note: I think the number given for how many people have had H1N1 is extremely low in this story, but the point stands anyway.)
  • BBC reports that police are concerned about the increase in gang rapes in London.
  • The Political Carnival: "Republicans shocked over anger at voting against Franken's anti-rape amendment." Grrr.
  • The Minnesota chapter of NOW needs help with funds.
  • Reno Gazette-Journal reports "Nevada groups sue to stop anti-abortion petition." This is about a personhood amendment.
  • The AP reports that the FBI received a letter warning them about Scott Roeder a month before he killed Dr. George Tiller ... a crime he confessed to this week.
  • has an article, "The American myth of women's equality," about a report released by the White House Project that "that dispels what seems to be an American myth about women's equality by offering 132 pages of benchmarks to truthfully describe where women stand in a variety of sectors."
  • VOA News: "Activists Urge President Obama to Question China's One Child Policy." (Forced abortion is bad, for sure. Need outrage over forced births as well. Like what could be the result here if Stupak is in final health care reform legislation.)
  • You might want to be aware of this outrageous "rally" being planned for tomorrow, Nov. 16., in D.C.
  • Sphere has a health story that all women should read, because I for one did not know this could happen. "Woman's Health Horror: 'My Vagina Fell Out'"
  • Speaking of vaginas, Jezebel takes on "Why men should learn to like period sex."
  • Games Radar has helpfully posted an article, "The top 7 tasteful game heroines." As a casual video game player, I always appreciate lists like this, especially since they still point out objectification of these characters.
  • Finally, because I'm an editor by day, this post on the Torontoist tickles me: "Disgruntled Star Editor Takes Constructive Revenge"

Thursday, November 12, 2009


30 Seconds to Mars' new video, for "Kings & Queens," is now out!! It debuted at midnight tonight. It's a great visual of the song, check it out when you have a spare six minutes or so. (OK, nine minutes including credits.)

If you'd like to know more about the video, check out this article on Spinner. A good number of the bike riders are fans of the band; anyone was invited to show up for the rides.

And because I'm a dork, here are the lyrics to the song, yet again.

Into the night,
desperate and broken.
The sound of a fight,
father has spoken.

We were the kings and queens of promise.
We were the phantoms of our selves.
Maybe the children of a lesser god,
between Heaven and Hell.
Heaven and Hell.

Into your lies,
hopeless and taken.
We stole our new lives,
through blood and pain,
in defense of our dreams.
In defense of our dreams.

We were the kings and queens of promise.
We were the phantoms of our selves.
Maybe the children of a lesser god,
between Heaven and Hell.
Heaven and Hell.
Heaven and Hell.

The age of man is over.
A darkness comes and all
These lessons that we've learned here
have only just begun!

We were the kings and queens of promise.
We were the phantoms of our selves.
Maybe the children of a lesser god,
between Heaven and Hell.

We are the kings!
We are the queens!
We are the kings!
We are the queens!

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

In 2009, Louisiana has untested rape kits from 2001

Yesterday I wrote about legislation introduced recently that is meant to alleviate the backlog of rape kits in this country, and encourage states to get them tested. Here's why this is so important (source: CBS):
A five-month CBS News investigation of 24 cities and states has found more than 6,000 rape kits from active investigations waiting months, even years to be tested.

On average, six months in Rhode Island, Alabama and Illinois. It can take nearly a year in Missouri. Up to three years in Anchorage, Alaska. One state, Louisiana, has rape kits dating as far back as 2001 waiting to be tested.
And that is important because ...
Sen. Patrick Leahy says it wasn't supposed to be this way. In 2003, he co-sponsored federal legislation allocating three-quarters of a billion dollars to clear the rape kit backlog. But still delays remain. "If they don't catch the person on this rape, they are going to commit another one," Leahy said.

That's what David Lisak found. An expert on rape at the University of Massachusetts, he says research shows that 71 percent of rapists are repeat offenders.
I knew from past reports and reading on the subject that the backlog of rape kits was a problem. I did not know that some places still have rape kits from 2001 waiting to be tested.

We're talking active criminal investigations here. I want to be clear on this. A woman is raped and (is one of the few who) actually reports it, and has a rape kit done. (Not clear on what a rape kit is? It collects evidence and is done by a medical professional. Fingernail scrappings, hair, semen, mouth swabs, etc. are collected, and photos can be taken at that time too.) She reports the rape and hopes the justice system will work for her ... only to find out that the rape kit she submitted to has been sitting around in a lab for a year (or longer!) while the rapist is walking around, free. That is what is going on.

Here's a sadly perfect example, also from the CBS story:
"We had a sense that there were perpetrators out there who were not being followed up on," said Steve Redding. He's a county attorney in Minneapolis, and started digging through old cases where the victim didn't know her attacker, and for one reason or another, the kits were never tested. He sent 35 kits to the lab. Patterns emerged. A case from 1998 matched DNA from a 2007 case.

"Do I think that the person has not committed any sexual assaults in between those nine years," Redding asked? "Not in my life as a prosecutor for 30 years.

In the end, Redding got DNA matches on eight of the 35 cases, charging all eight with rapes.
Curious to know what the situation is in your city or state? Check these CBS lists of many locations. It's pretty horrific. A number of locations don't even know how many untested kits they have.

CBS has a whole series of stories about rape that were published this week. Definitely worth reading the above links and "Rape in America: Justice denied," which itself includes a number of useful links, such as FBI stats, RAINN help, date rape myths and more.

Given all this, I think it's worth picking up a phone or sending an e-mail to your representatives and urging them to pass the Justice for Survivors of Sexual Assault Act of 2009 legislation. Find contact information for your Senators here, and for your House representative here or here.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Sen. Al Franken is up to good again

Almost a month ago, Sen. Al Franken introduced an amendment to a bill that would prevent the federal government from entering into contracts with companies who make their contractors/employees sign agreements saying they can't sue if they're raped (among other things).

Now Franken has introduced legislation, co-sponsored by Sens. Dianne Feinstein, Chuck Grassley and Orrin Hatch, to do something about the backlog of rape kits in this country.

The legislation -- called the Justice for Survivors of Sexual Assault Act -- sounds like a great bill, much-needed, and long overdue. According to the Minnesota Independent, the bill would:
  • Encourage states to examine untested rape kits for DNA evidence
  • Provide for more health workers trained to administer rape-kit exams, particularly for Native American women.
  • Make it so women couldn’t be made to pay for all or part of their rape kit exams (remember this Texas story?).
Each of those components are crucial on their own, let alone all together. I can't see how this legislation doesn't get passed (but I don't doubt our government's ability to disappoint me). It's exciting to see legislation that could have a meaningful impact on not just catching suspects in rape cases, but also actually helping women who have been raped. (I consider having someone who knows what they're doing when they're administering a rape kit "helpful," as well as not having to pay for the kit.)

For more information on this bill and the impact it could have, check out the Ms. Magazine article and the press release from the Human Rights Watch, which has a lot of applicable statistics in it (number of untested rape kits in L.A.? 12,500. In Detroit? 10,000) as well as more information on how decreasing the rape kit backlog would work.

You can also read the full text of the bill and track it here.

After the defense contractor legislation and this, I can't help but wonder just how powerful an ally Franken might become to women in this country, and to all citizens. Just the other day he spoke about employment discrimination and how people who are gay or transgender can be legally fired from their jobs for those reasons alone. (He even introduced legislation to require that household products list all ingredients -- how is that not being done yet??) One thing is certain: Try as they might, Republicans can't reduce Franken to a comedy act anymore.

Monday, November 9, 2009

White House won't take a position on Stupak amendment

Is it just me, or does this sound like the White House couldn't care less about anything abortion related so long as some kind of health care reform makes it to Obama's desk?

Real nice.

If you're still not sure exactly what the Stupak amendment means and why people such as myself can't stop talking about it, be sure to read RH Reality Check's summary of it here.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

These House members get it: Listen to their objections to Stupak amendment

If you need some reassurance that some members of the House do in fact understand why the Stupak amendment never should have been passed (or if you yourself don't understand why it shouldn't have been passed), watch these video clips from yesterday's hearings.

Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA09)

Rep. Nita Lowey (D-NY18)

Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-CT03)

Rep. Diana Degette (D-CO01)

Rep. Louise Slaughter (D-NY28)

Suggested Sunday reading (11/8)

Trying to stay away from health care reform and the Stupak amendment (reading list here), hoping to think about something else for a while. Not that this is all good news, but let's start with a really cute article from the Centre Daily Times: "Nameberry: Heroines, worthy women and trailblazers with notable names." The article is a list of baby name suggestions based on (mostly American) groundbreaking women. Love this concept. Any suggestions of other names that should be included here? (Pictured is Ada Lovelace, "daughter of the poet Byron whose work in mathematics was (probably) a precursor of the modern computer.")

In other reading:
  • Ms. Magazine: Swiss fund to support firms with female directors
  • Ms. Magazine: Militants close women's groups in Kenya
  • The Frisky: Real-Life “Nip/Tuck”: A Plastic Surgeon Sculpts His Perfect FrankenWife
  • RH Reality Check: The "Born Alive" Myth: Tale Turned Political Tool
  • Beautiful You: Kate Winslet: A body image warrior
  • Feministing: Teen Vogue features pregnant covergirl, moral panic ensues
  • New York Times: Op-ed by Nicholas Kristof, "Unhealthy America"
  • Slate: Everything You Always Wanted To Know About Sex (But Didn't Learn Because You Grew Up in China)
  • Broadsides: Brand X Chromosome
  • Boston Globe: Court rejects abortion clinic buffers (in Pittsburgh)
  • NYT: "Community Continues to Grapple With Rape," a story about the Richmond High gang rape. One student is quoted as saying "She got drunk one time and messed with the wrong crowd and provoked some dude and got raped, that’s it."
  • Fox News: Under the lovely "poptarts" heading, "Cover Girl Joanna Krupa Says Posing for Playboy Empowering for Women." Krupa has some strong words for women who disagree.
  • Reuters: New Edition of On The Issues Magazine: 'Race, Feminism, Our Future'
  • Huffington Post: Petru Popescu writes "Was Mary a Template for Today's Feminism?" Yes, that Mary. Interesting read, even if I'm not a believer in virgin births.
  • Chicago Tribune: Steve Trombley, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood of Illinois (how many men are in top roles like that in PP? Just curious), responds to the paper's editorial about parental notification law, with "Putting pregnant teens first, with or without parents."
  • The Frisky: "Why Women Should Be Concerned About Men’s Rights Groups" (Great topic, I don't know that many people are all that aware of these groups.)
  • Shakesville: Today in rape culture
  • If you missed it, last week there was a blog-a-thon, Women Blog for Health Care. Womenstake has a list of blogs to check out.

Also, I wanted to include some lighter, non-anything, just-for-fun stories:

  • Entertainment Weekly: 'Say Anything' turns 20: Cameron Crowe's crazy story behind 'In Your Eyes' and Lloyd Dobler's boom box. I learned all kinds of interesting info from this article. Like the fact that Crowe is married to Nancy Wilson of Heart!If you saw last week's episode of Mad Men (minor spoiler), you know someone on the show got married the day after JFK was assassinated.
  • The New York Times found people who actually did get married the day after: "On Nov. 23, 1963, Some People Really Did Marry"
  • This is a really cool photo blog: My Parents Were Awesome
  • On the Consumerist: Reader: "Paid My T-Mobile Bill, Saw Some Boobs"
  • Good Housekeeping has a list of the "best toys of all time." I would bet a lot of people my age (33) owned a number of these at some point. I certainly did.
  • Check out this sustainable mobile home. Pretty cool.

Suggested Sunday reading: Stupak amendment edition

I'll be adding more articles to this as I come across them, but if you have written something or read something on the subject that should be included, please let me know by e-mailing me at Thanks!

RH Reality Check has been on top of this amendment and the story. Check out their posts:
  • Stupak amendment passes! Affects every woman (link)
  • Historic Health Reform Bill Passes But At a Price: Women's Groups Have Mixed Reaction (link)
  • "This Is Only the First Salvo In the Bishops Campaign Against Women's Health" (link)
  • Many Dems Who Voted For Stupak Still Voted Against the Bill (link)
  • The Answer to the Stupak? Overturn Hyde Now (link)
Other articles:
  • Womenstake: A Major Advancement in Health Care Reform - Next Step Must Meet Women's Reproductive Health Care Needs
  • Open Left: Dems who voted for the Stupak amendment to restrict women's rights.
  • Open Left: Targeting Dems In 2010
  • New York Times: Abortion was at heart of wrangling
  • Alas, a Blog: Stupak amendment makes a good day bad
  • Room Eight: Rep. Jerrod Nadler's statement on Stupak passing, and transcript of his statement on the House floor.
  • Feministing: Whose health care victory?
  • Pandagon: Misogyny hijacks health care reform vote
I don't know when I'll have the energy to write my own post about this amendment, but I do want to say that while we can all be angry at Reps. Bart Stupak, a Democrat, and Joe Pitts, a Republican, for introducing this legislation, and we can be angry at the Republicans who voted for this even though they didn't vote for the health care bill, and we can be angry at the 64 Democrats who voted for this (especially the 19 who then did NOT vote in favor of the health care bill), let's not forget that it's entirely possible (if not fact) that Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi and others compromised women's rights and women's health by making some kind of deal to allow this amendment in order for the health care bill to pass. Let House representatives know how you feel about their vote, whatever it was, and let's focus on the Senate bill -- contact your Senators! -- and hope that, in the end, the Stupak amendment will not be part of the legislation that President Obama signs.

By the way, Planned Parenthood has a letter you can send to Obama about this.

Planned Parenthood responds to Stupak amendment passing

Planned Parenthood issued this statement about the Stupak amendment (emphasis mine):


“Planned Parenthood condemns the adoption of the Stupak/Pitts amendment in HR 3962 this evening. This amendment is an unacceptable addition to the health care reform bill that, if enacted, would result in women losing health benefits they have today. Simply put, the Stupak/Pitts amendment would restrict women’s access to abortion coverage in the private health insurance market, undermining the ability of women to purchase private health plans that cover abortion, even if they pay for most of the premiums with their own money. This amendment reaches much further than the Hyde Amendment, which has prohibited public funding of abortion in most instances since 1977.

“Planned Parenthood serves three million women every year through its more than 850 affiliate health centers across the country and has worked tirelessly on behalf of those patients for affordable, quality health care. On behalf of the millions of women Planned Parenthood health centers serve, the Planned Parenthood Federation of America has no choice but to oppose HR 3962. The bill includes the Stupak/Pitts amendment that would leave women worse off after health care reform than they are today, violating President Obama’s promise to the American people that no one would be forced to lose her or his present coverage under health reform.

“The Stupak/Pitts amendment violates the spirit of health care reform, which is meant to guarantee quality, affordable health care coverage for all. In fact, this amendment would create a two-tiered system that would punish women, particularly those with low and middle incomes, the very people this bill is intended to assist. The majority of private health insurance plans currently offer abortion coverage, and the Stupak/Pitts amendment would result in the elimination of private abortion coverage in the ‘exchange,’ the new insurance market created under health care reform, as well as in the public option, if one is created.

“The Stupak/Pitts amendment would purportedly allow women who want comprehensive reproductive health care coverage to purchase a separate, single-service rider to cover abortion. But such abortion riders do not exist because women do not plan to have unintended pregnancies or medically complicated pregnancies that require ending the pregnancy. These so-called ‘abortion riders,’ which would be the only insurance policy through which abortion care could be covered in the ‘exchange,’ are discriminatory and illogical. Proposing a separate ‘abortion rider’ or ‘single-service plan’ is tantamount to banning abortion coverage since no insurance company would offer such a policy.

“It is extremely unfortunate that the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops and anti-choice opponents were able to hijack the health care reform bill in their dedicated attempt to ban all legal abortion in the United States. Most telling is the fact that the vast majority of members of the House who supported the Stupak/Pitts amendment in today’s vote do not support HR 3962, revealing their true motive, which is to kill the health care reform bill. These single-issue advocates simply used health care reform to advance their extreme, ideological agenda at the expense of tens of millions of women.

“Planned Parenthood applauds the members of Congress who stood up for women’s health and voted to oppose the Stupak/Pitts amendment. We will work with those members to rectify this travesty.

“As a health care provider, Planned Parenthood is committed to passing health care reform that will guarantee affordable, quality health care coverage for all, including access to comprehensive reproductive health care. In the coming weeks, Planned Parenthood will work with its allies in the Senate to ensure that the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops and those who oppose abortion do not once again hijack the legislative process in their ongoing campaign to make abortion illegal. Planned Parenthood will join forces with women and their families and health providers to ensure that health care reform does not take away benefits that most women with private health coverage have today. Together, women and their allies are going to make their voices heard, so that they do not become second-class citizens in a newly reformed health care system in the United States.”

(NARAL's response can be read here.)

Saturday, November 7, 2009

NARAL responds to Stupak amendment passing

Because it's so important, I want to post NARAL's response to the Stupak amendment passing in the House. (I'll be writing more on the subject later.) For the final roll call, check here.

November 7, 2009
House: Yes to Extreme Anti-Choice Politics, No to Women’s Health and Privacy
NARAL Pro-Choice America says fight is not over

Washington, D.C. – Nancy Keenan, president of NARAL Pro-Choice America, called House passage of a stunning last-minute anti-choice amendment to health reform an outrageous blow to women's freedom and privacy — and she vowed to fight to remove this provision as the process goes to the Senate.

The amendment, offered by anti-choice Reps. Bart Stupak (D-Mich.) and Joe Pitts (R-Penn.), was adopted late tonight by a margin of 240-194.

The Stupak-Pitts amendment makes it virtually impossible for private insurance companies that participate in the new system to offer abortion coverage to women. This would have the effect of denying women the right to use their own personal private funds to purchase an insurance plan with abortion coverage in the new health system — a radical departure from the status quo. Presently, more than 85 percent of private-insurance plans cover abortion services.

"This vote is a reminder to America's pro-choice majority that, despite our gains in the last two election cycles, anti-choice members of Congress still outnumber our pro-choice allies," Keenan said. "It is unconscionable that anti-choice lawmakers would use health reform to attack women's health and privacy, but that's exactly what happened on the House floor tonight. Even though the bill already included a ban on federal funding for abortion and a requirement that only women's personal funds could pay for abortion care, Reps. Stupak and Pitts took their obsession with attacking a woman's right to choose to a whole new level. We will hold those lawmakers who sided with the extreme Stupak-Pitts amendment accountable for abandoning women and capitulating to the most extreme fringe of the anti-choice movement. In short, the fight is not over. That's why we will continue to mobilize our activists and work with our allies in Congress to remove this dangerous provision from the health-care bill and stop additional attacks as the process moves to the Senate."

Keenan said anti-choice members of Congress and their allies distorted key elements of the Stupak-Pitts amendment to make the proposal appear less extreme. Here are rebuttals to these distortions, including the myth of an abortion "rider" that they say women could purchase in addition to their insurance plan:
  • The Stupak-Pitts amendment forbids any plan offering abortion coverage in the new system from accepting even one subsidized customer. Since more than 80 percent of the participants in the exchange will be subsidized, it seems certain that all health plans will seek and accept these individuals. In other words, the Stupak-Pitts amendment forces plans in the exchange to make a difficult choice: either offer their product to 80 percent of consumers in the marketplace or offer abortion services in their benefits package. It seems clear which choice they will make.
  • Stupak-Pitts supporters claim that women who require subsidies to help pay for their insurance plan will have abortion access through the option of purchasing a "rider," but this is a false promise. According to the respected National Women's Law Center, the five states that require a separate rider for abortion coverage, there is no evidence that plans offer these riders. In fact, in North Dakota, which has this policy, the private plan that holds the state's overwhelming share of the health-insurance market (91 percent) does not offer such a rider. Furthermore, the state insurance department has no record of abortion riders from any of the five leading individual insurance plans from at least the past decade. Nothing in this amendment would ensure that rider policies are available or affordable to the more than 80 percent of individuals who will receive federal subsidies in order to help purchase coverage in the new exchange.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Check out Say NO - UNiTE

UNIFEM has launched a new campaign to help end violence against women world-wide: Say NO -- UNiTE. If you haven't checked it out yet, please do so soon. The site has all kinds of tools and information available -- statistics, fliers, web banners and widgets, ideas and suggestions on actions you or groups can take, e-mail lists, etc. Information such as this:
Domestic violence alone cost approximately US$1.16 billion in Canada and US$5.8 billion in the United States. In Australia, violence against women and children costs an estimated US$11.38 billion per year.You can also join an "action," or create one yourself, you can set up an account on the site, and you can donate.

One of the easiest suggested actions to take is to ask three individuals to join. I'm asking all of you, and I hope you ask everyone you know.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

A sperm allergy and no option for in vitro

You may have seen this story making its way around the Internet today: A recently married couple wants to have a baby, but it turns out the wife is allergic to her husband's sperm (a condition called seminal plasma hypersensitivity), so they can't conceive naturally. The woman tried an allergy treatment to try to desensitize her to the sperm, but it didn't work. They are now looking into adoption.

I really feel for this couple and wish them the best with the adoption process. I can't imagine how heartbreaking this situation would be for a couple who wants to have children. But this part of the story really caught my eye:

Due to an agreement with the Catholic school she worked for, in vitro fertilization was not an option for the Boydes.

Yep. Because in the Catholic Church, in vitro fertilization is a "mortal sin."

There are a few reasons given by the Church for its stance on this procedure. According to this site,
No person and no couple has a right to a child. A child is a person with rights; it is not merely an object, a possession. A doctor treats disease; he should not do what is over and above the goal of health. He is allowed to treat a woman for a condition causing infertility, but not to "manufacture" her child.OK, so the Church doesn't want doctors playing God and "creating" people. But the Church seems to be OK with live-saving medications and treatments, no? Isn't that an awful lot like playing God, too?

And then there's this:
imperfect or supernumerary fetuses are often killedOften during IVF, more than one embryo is fertilized and implanted, to increase the chances of the woman getting pregnant. And what happens to all the embryos that aren't used or don't become fetuses? They are "killed." And God can't have that, because people never kill anything, I suppose.

Just for fun, here's another reason:
The whole process is a degradation of parenthood, which should begin with an intimate and profoundly personal expression of love.Which is exactly what this couple would like to do, but cannot get pregnant by doing.

I'm not a religious/God person, and I have many disagreements with the Catholic Church, this being just one of them. What I've never received a good explanation for is this: Isn't it possible God had a hand in making something like IVF possible, so that a couple like this one could conceive? Why is that so hard to believe (especially compared to some of the absurdities in the Bible)?

Reminds me of this little story, which I reference as often as possible:
As a town was flooding, the Red Cross came to save an older man. The man refused help, saying God would save him. As the flood waters rose, more help came and, again, he refused it because God would save him. Finally, as he was on the roof of his home, a helicopter came to save him and he again refused it because he believed God would save him. The flood waters rose above his roof and he drowned. As he came before God, he asked "God, why didn't you save me?" And God answered, "I sent you all that help, and even a helicopter at the end!"

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

NY increases penalties for violence against reproductive health care workers

Good news out of New York state today: Gov. David Paterson has signed into law "a bill to protect women’s access to reproductive health care facilities." The bill "creates new class E and C felonies for causing physical or serious physical injury to 'someone obtaining, providing, or assisting someone to obtain or provide reproductive health services.' It also attempts to effectively punish repeat offenders."

From the press release:
Governor David A. Paterson today signed five bills into law including a bill to protect women’s access to reproductive health care facilities and a bill to ensure voters’ access to their correct polling places. Additionally, the Governor vetoed two bills that would have cost taxpayers $18.6 million over the next two years.

The signed bills include A.8924/S.6112, which provides enhanced penalties if a person causes physical injury to someone seeking to provide, obtain or assist in reproductive health care services. The bill was written shortly after the murder of Dr. George Tiller in Kansas, a tragedy that many health workers believe has emboldened those who engage threatening behavior and violent rhetoric at reproductive health care clinics.

“Given the history of violence committed against patients and employees of women’s health clinics across the United States and in New York State, establishment of these new offenses is appropriate,” Governor Paterson said. “I will continue to do everything in my power to ensure that all New Yorkers have access to quality, affordable health care in a safe environment.”
In the text of the bill is this "justification" for the bill:
JUSTIFICATION: Doctors and other staff who provide reproductive planning services have been targeted by those who would seek to stop them
from providing these constitutionally protected services. Doctor George
Tiller was recently murdered in Kansas by an assailant who disagreed
with his choice to provide family planning services and abortions in his
medical practice. Sadly this was not the first time that Doctor Tiller
had been attacked. He had in the past been shot several times because of
his medical practice.

Dr. Tiller's murder is not an isolated incident. In 1998, here in New
York, Dr. Barnett Slepian was targeted and murdered by a criminal who
gunned down Dr. Slepian because he provided legal abortion services. He
left behind a wife and family. Another Doctor John Britton and clinic
escort were both killed in 1994. Dr. David Gunn was killed in 1993
during a protest. Robert Sanderson, a security guard at a clinic was
also killed in 1998. Two receptionists at clinics were killed in 1994.
The list of casualties goes on. A total list of all incidents targeting
practitioners and health clinics is more than four pages long.

In order to provide for sustained access to legal services it is impor-
tant that state law provide for the protection of doctors and other
support staff. This bill, should it be passed, will provide just that.
Kudos to New York and the governor.

Lynne Slepian, widow of Dr. Barnett Slepian, spoke at the press conference: “This is the crux of the whole issue. It’s going to set a precedent for the whole country, we hope. The issue [of clinic violence] is not going to go away. The issue will never go away. Hopefully, strong penalties will decrease the violence.”

I don't know how often stronger penalties deter a specific kind of violence like this, but trying is better than nothing.


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