Saturday, December 31, 2011

Follow Up Post: Gender Construction & Violence

As a follow up to my last post, I wanted to draw your attention to a news story aired earlier this month.  The title of the story alone, "Brooke Fantelli, California Transgender Woman, Allegedly Tased in Crotch by Imperial County Desert Rangers," elicits great anger in me.  Not only does this behavior demonstrate violence, but it is a clear example of both prejudice and discrimination (which often lead to violence, hatred, close mindedness, inflexibility, etc. in the first place). Quick reminder: Prejudice is a negative attitude based on faulty generalizations about members of a selected group (usually protected classes), whereas discrimination is an action demonstrating the attitude. They are not mutually exclusive however. For example, an individual may act out a negative or hateful behavior, but not really believe the premise upon which the actions are predicted. Perhaps the person fears loss of friends, a job, etc. if s/he does not perform the behavior. Regardless, these terms are something to keep in mind as we go through life--prejudice and discrimination.

The news story about Brooke Fantelli (there is also a video on the linked news story) and the discrimination she experienced as a result of her status as a transgender woman is horrific. Because her biological sex does not match with her gender presentation she is tazed in the genital region. Really? And, Ms. Fantelli clearly identifies as a female, yet the ranger chose (key word) to use "sir" and "him". I think this is the exact type of story from which I based my last post. Until we achieve a more open, accepting, and supportive society/environment, hate and violence will feed off of our close mindedness. If we do not stand up against such behavior, such perpetrators may believe their actions, their words, and their violence is acceptable. I think a previous comment from the earlier post is right on. Tolerance. While I understand individuals have different views, beliefs, etc. we do not have the right to enforce our own beliefs on others. While I am presenting one view here and explaining my frustration and hoping to educate, I recognize that everyone may not agree with me.

As a last note, while I've merely presented one example of violence above, let us not forget the many, many others who experience similar forms of hate, discrimination, and intolerance. For a further examples, read Angie Zapata's story, and Gwen Araujo's story, and watch a short video about Angie's life below.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Gender Construction: Impacting ourselves, our children, and our society

When I teach Introduction to Sociology, we always talk about sex and gender. Of course the first piece of business is to differentiate between the two. Sex relates to ones biological makeup and sexual organs, while gender is the performance and/or presentation of sex. Notably, the two do not need to match. One may present a gender different from his/her sex.  Keeping these in mind, today I'd like to discuss gender construction. That is, how, as a society, we dictate the ways one should look, talk, behave, and work to present his/her assigned gender.  While this post is not dedicated solely to the ending of violence against women, it is dedicated to ending discrimination based on gender (of all people).

What does all this mean? Let me show you.

Things like color have been socially constructed to represent certain genders. Pink=girl; blue=boy
If you attend a baby shower, you may purchase a gift matching these designated colors. What if you don't know the sex of the baby? How can you assign the gender if you don't know the sex? Chaos, right? How can you tell if a baby is a girl or boy if the color, or a bow on the head, or a baseball and bat on the outfit, don't tell you? It doesn't have to be that way.  And, what is the consequence for failing to meet gender norms? Bullying, hate, discrimination, violence. So, let's take a note from this little girl, Riley:

I think Riley asks some great questions. Why is pink marketed to little girls? Why aren't super heroes marketed, gifted, acceptable for little girls? Don't we all need super heroes in our lives? Granted I was the little girl who played with soldiers and semi trucks in addition to barbie playhouse and My Little Ponies. But really, have you stopped to think about this? Have you questioned the way we socialize our children through the toys purchased and/or the clothes provided (even if you do allow the child to choose out of those clothes)? How your nieces, nephews, cousins, are gendered?

So, you say you'd still like your little girl to wear pink and your little boy to wear blue? That's okay. I'm not the judge and jury here. I'm simply trying to make you think, question, and investigate our world.  I encourage you to think also about the ways you might/do react to individuals, even very young (children) who break gender norms. Look at the below links (video and online postings) and think about how you would react. Think about how you would explain it to your children. Better yet, what would you do if your own child came to you requesting to dress the opposite of his/her assigned gender?  And, as a side element, I'd like to discuss further the difference in biological male children wishing to meet female gender norms and biological female children wishing to meet male gender norms. It seems to me that little boys wishing to live, dress, act, or talk like little girls are more strictly policed and criticized. Why is this? So, as you read through this, read other articles, watch videos, it seems to me the problem is with adults, not with kids.

Think about how your responses to these questions *may* affect the perpetuation of strict gender norms and may contribute to hate, prejudice, discrimination, and bullying.

I've ordered her book and plan to read it. I think the struggles she faced/continues to face are normal. I also think she's doing an extraordinary job allowing her child to be who he wants to be. But, some great questions are introduced. What do you think?

Article to check out: 'Genderless' Baby--Baby Storm

Then there is the below ad from J. Crew (which received quite a bit of scrutiny ad criticism):

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Science vs. Politics: Plan B Initiative Rejected

You may be wondering why I've placed this picture on the blog today. If you read the fine print at the bottom it states: "He's hot, he lights you up inside, you can't switch it off and before you know it, the sparks are flying...
The thing is, we see more women with an unplanned pregnancy in January than any other time of the year. We don't want you to be one of them. Getting hold of a morning after pill over Christmas can be difficult so it's useful to have it before you need it. bpas is giving away FREE morning after pills in advance throughout December."

Today's post is all about Plan B and the current controversy over whether there should be age restrictions on it's over-the-counter availability.

Since 2005, Plan B (commonly referred to as the morning after pill) has been in the middle of politics. Now it seems the dispute is between the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the government. On Wednesday, the FDA recommended Plan B be made available over-the-counter with no age restrictions. The decision was not made lightly. Margaret Hamburg, the FDA Commissioner, took 10 months in making her decision. The FDA is supposed to base their decisions entirely in science, and she found that Plan B is safe and effective.

Following this decision, however, an Obama administration official, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, used her veto authority and rejected this initiative, instead contending that the age restriction was necessary. Sebelius argued that adolescents may not have the "behavioral maturity" to know how to use Plan B. She said there is not enough evidence to be sure adolescents can understand the instructions on the label. It doesn't seem that hard really. It's a pill. Put it in your mouth, rinse around with water. Swallow.

Plan B is a hormonal contraceptive found to be 89% effective at safely preventing pregnancy if taken within 72 hours of having unprotected sex. Acquiring this drug is easy for individuals 17 and older (ask a pharmacist for the drug); however, individuals who fall in the 16 and younger category must get a prescription from their doctor in order to get Plan B.

While it might be easy, you think, to make such a decision. I would argue there are quite a few things to consider on the side of both opponents and proponents.

First, does Sebelius have a point? Young people are choosing to engage in sexual intercourse younger and does providing Plan B (just as is the argument about condoms and abortion) suggest to these young people that this is okay?

Also, as a society we have seen a massive increase in the number of teenage mothers and fathers. I've mentioned before that I assisted in a research project on this very topic. In many of the interviews, the teens stated they didn't know their options, didn't know how to access their options, or didn't feel they could talk to anyone (especially their guardians) about their options for preventing pregnancy. So, is our abstinence-only message really working? I think not. Is the solution Plan B? Perhaps society should be more open about providing condoms? Education?

I've got two questions for you. The first is whether Plan B should be available over-the-counter at all. And, the other is about the issue in this blog regarding age restrictions.

There are many other arguments (which I'd be happy for you to tell me about in my comments), but in the end, I am asking you, do you think Plan B should be provided over-the-counter without age restrictions?

Monday, December 5, 2011

Criminal Justice System & Women

About a month ago, I received a notice for jury duty. I was scheduled to report today. I have to admit, as a criminologist, I was a bit excited. I never expect to get chosen for the actual jury, but I enjoy observing and experiencing the process of jury selection.  Specifically, I like to analyze the challenges (challenge for cause and peremptory challenges) that are made.  Challenges for cause are not limited and are made when a prospective juror shows s/he has some bias or legal disability. Peremptory challenges are the removal of prospective jurors for no specific reason (these are limited, but vary by jurisdiction). In Colorado, ten peremptory challenges are allowed in capital cases, five in felony cases, and three in misdemeanor and civil cases.

Well, my number ended up being excluded from the prospective jurors, so I wasn't part of the experience this time. However, I recently received an article about a female rape victim who was pardoned after she was imprisoned. It made me think about how women are treated within the criminal justice system at large. In this case, a woman was imprisoned for having sex outside of wedlock--the sex was rape at the hand of a relative. She was viewed and treated as the offending party.

This can be explained in a number of ways.  First, we must acknowledge that honor killings are a phenomenon present in not only our own country, but more often in Islamic and Arab countries (as is the case in this article).  In many of these places, women have limited sexual freedom or decision-making power and extramarital affairs (with little consideration of the circumstances) are the responsibility of women.  So, while the woman is punished for her "moral crime" by being sent to prison, this incapacitation is also meant as a sort of protection. If a woman is not "protected" through incarceration, she faces a great likelihood of death by a family member for dishonoring her family (honor killing) through her behavior.

Back to the criminal justice system itself.  While many women seek protection through going to prison, it is not uncommon for prison personnel to refuse to house female offenders who have dishonored their families. Instead, they will send the women home (knowing they face a serious chance of honor killing). While I by no means support the current system or ideology functioning in these locations, I do want to pose a question. If the system and ideology is to stay the same (honor killings of women will continue and women will be deemed responsible for their own rapes), should prisons serve as protection for these women? Is it the responsibility of the government (prisons) to protect these women? Do prisons have the right to send women away from incarceration (acknowledging the prison knows punishment at home is likely)? Again, we must acknowledge the belief system in place.

So, here is my second poll of the series.

The article I read focused on an interesting element. To avoid her continued incarceration (a 12-year sentence for being raped) and to avoid facing being killed for her own rape (a reason for an honor killing) this particular woman had agreed to marry her rapist. That's right. The criminal justice is set up in such a way that women are faced with impossible choices. Their freedom is limited from day 1 simply by being born as a woman; the criminal justice reinforces this.

Read the full article that I am referring to here.

NOTE: I'd love comments and thoughts about this. And, if you mark "Unsure" in this poll, let me know what information might help you to make an educated decision. I'll be sure to follow up with a comment or another post.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

World AIDS Day

Today is World AIDS Day. While I know this issue is certainly not specific to women and girls, I certainly want to bring attention to the day and I am going to write a bit about how AIDS specifically affects women.

This day is dedicated to raising awareness and joining in activism against the pandemic that is AIDS. The number of people living with AIDS is staggering and we all should be educated. Check out the below table for some statistics.

We can see from the above that women represent half of adults living with AIDS at the end of last year. This is partially due to the position of women in our world.  What I mean is that the roles we assign to women (plus some biological differences) make us particularly vulnerable to AIDS.  Women are at greater risk for contracting AIDS during unprotected heterosexual encounters. This is exacerbated due to the lack of control/ability to negotiate many women, in many countries, have regarding sexual protection (esp. condom use). We must remember that in a number of societies women have few, if any, rights regarding their sexuality and/or their intimate relationships more generally. 

Globally, HIV/AIDS is the leading cause of death among women of reproductive age. Did you catch that? The leading cause!  While this disease is not curable, it is treatable. However, many individuals are unable to afford treatment. And, again, women face additional challenges when trying to attain treatment due to the inequality faced socioeconomically.  

Finally, I want to talk a bit about the other ways HIV/AIDS affects women. First, we must note that women are primarily the caregivers in households. And, in some areas where palliative care is limited, women hold the sole responsibility of care. For example, in Africa, where we know there are extreme numbers of individuals living with HIV/AIDS, women are caregivers for 2/3rds of those living with the disease. And, let's not forget that this is not their only responsibility. Women are often still charged with caring for healthy children, perhaps bringing in an income, and taking care of household cleaning, cooking, etc.  

Another element we need to acknowledge is mother-to-child transmission (MTCT) of HIV/AIDS through pregnancy, labor, delivery, or breastfeeding.  This is important to discuss because it recognizes the extra responsibility placed on women, but also speaks to the spread of the disease.

Want more info? Check out this and this.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Support Safehouse Progressive Alliance for Nonviolence--Dec. 6, 2011

December 6, 2011 is Colorado Gives Day! You can participate by supporting Safehouse Progressive Alliance for Nonviolence (SPAN).  You can log on now to schedule your donation for 12/6/11 so that you don't forget when the day is here.
  • There are no credit card fees
  • The FirstBank Incentive Fund increases the value of each donation so that your dollar goes further!
Watch this short video to learn more:

So, here's how to participate:
  1. Search for Safehouse Progressive Alliance for Nonviolence (or click on my link to the left to go directly there)
  2. Choose 'Donate Now' and schedule your donation for Colorado Gives Day 12/06/11 to ensure that SPAN receive 100% of your donation (plus a little more thanks to FirstBank and

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Reproductive Rights: What's Your Opinion?

I've been in Washington D.C. this past week at a conference. Today, I had the opportunity to tour the Supreme Court. Such a beautiful building. The actual courtroom was elegant--I really wish I was here during an open session so I could sit in on arguments. We were told, though, that for controversial and/or highly publicized cases, people spend the night outside in line for tickets to get into the courtroom. Reminds me of black Friday for the Supreme Court.

Being inside the Supreme Court made me think about all of the significant cases that have passed through that building--that very room. In particular, I thought about Roe v. Wade. The issue of pro-choice/pro-life has remained controversial for decades (and undoubtedly will continue to be). Considering the information that has been in the news (and that I posted about previously) regarding the eugenics programming of the U.S., it calls to question the ability of the government to chose reproductive matters for a woman, but the lack of choice a woman has over her own body.

Often, the arguments I hear against giving individual women choice over their own pregnancies are based in religious beliefs, protection of the unborn and arguments of personhood (two different claims, really), and at times (though much less frequent) the demand that perhaps abortion is acceptable as long as both parents are in agreement and perhaps sign consent forms or something of the nature.  

1) Religious arguments: I tend to hear cites of Genesis, Psalms, and Exodus introduced. Suggestions that abortion is murder (Exodus) or that humans are made in the image of God and thus life is precious (Genesis) are present.

2) I am not going to delve into the argument of personhood. If you'd like to participate in this dialogue, you are more than welcome to do so in the comments. I request, however, that all individuals remain respectful and that we remember differences in opinion help us to grow and learn. The other argument here is similar to one I made regarding the Penn State scandal--protection of those that cannot protect themselves. Again, these two elements are linked. If one does not see a fetus as a person, then the need for protection can be questioned.

3) There are concerns that women could abort a fetus without the other parent knowing. Questions of fairness are introduced. It is the right of the other parent to know about the pregnancy and to be given options.

Opposing these views, however, are issues of maternal safety, managing consequences of sexual assault, and the medical status of pregnant women. I'll briefly discuss these things.

1) When maternal safety is introduced it may be a three-fold argument. First, there are particular claims regarding pregnant women who have cancer and their inability to treat themselves through chemotherapy without putting the unborn fetus at risk. Additionally, there are concerns regarding the consequences of banning abortion. Women will not stop seeking abortions, but instead the procedure will go underground. Stories of using hangers, unclean objects, and lacking anesthesia come to the forefront. So, here we hear the argument that if abortion were outlawed, we would see an increase in the deaths of women who are/were pregnant just prior to death. cited a recent 2009 Guttmacher report estimating that "70,000 women die annually from unsafe abortions, and millions of women are seriously harmed." Finally, there are arguments that if women birthed all pregnancies, women would die prematurely. In some countries women average 6-8 children each and the maternal death rate is much higher (see Somalia and Niger as examples).

2) There are also questions about how we would handle women who become pregnant as a result of rape and/or sexual assault. I find this argument tricky. Some individuals claim this would be an exception and that in these cases abortion would be acceptable. I question, however, whether we would see an increase in rape reporting because this would be the only legal means of obtaining an abortion. Also, considering young girls are beginning menstruation at younger ages, how do we handle cases of 10-year-olds who become pregnant as a result of rape?

3) Finally, the particular claim is introduced regarding women who are pregnant and also need chemotherapy or other series, long-term treatment that may harm the fetus. I question whether this should also be restricted if we are going to restrict abortion. 

There are other arguments from both sides of this debate, of course. But, I'd like to hear from you. Considering all of these things, I've decided to do a series of polls. Today is just the first in this series. I hope you'll stay posted and participate in this series.  And, leave a comment if you feel comfortable. Remember, you can remain anonymous if you feel the need. I hope, however, that this blog provides a safe and comfortable space for all opinions. Dialogue is meant to be productive. I remember seeing a bumper sticker that stated, "Debate, not Hate." Great motto, I think.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Jerry Sandusky Interview & Grand Jury Report

No big post today. However, in case you missed it, yesterday evening Jerry Sandusky, the man accused of 40 counts of sexual abuse against young boys, gave his first interview by phone. I've included a portion of it below.

Additionally, if you're following this case, I strongly recommend reviewing the Grand Jury's report. Note, this report is descriptive and provides details of sexual violence. 

Grand Jury Report on Jerry Sandusky

Monday, November 14, 2011

Sexual Victimization of Children: Signs, Statistics & Suggestions

What group is the most criminally victimized in our nation? Children. And, sadly, we've developed a term for this heightened victimization--"polyvictimizations." Specifically, this term describes the repeated victimizations a child experiences, often within a single year. Sexual violence is one form of child abuse. Often this does involve body contact, but this is not a mandated element. For example, using a child for pornography is certainly considered sexual violence. Similarly, showing a child your own private parts (flashing) is also an example of sexual violence.  Child sexual abuse can take many forms, but ultimately the goal is still the same: arouse the abuser sexually.

 A child victim of long-term sexual abuse may develop low self-esteem, a feeling of worthlessness, and abnormal and/or distorted views of sexual behavior and activity. Some children become withdrawn and depression may develop. For some child victims, suicide is the only way out.

Most often, sexual abusers know the child they abuse, but they are not family.  For instance, the abuser may be a friend of the family, a neighbor, a camp counselor, or a babysitter. Notably, approximately 3 of 10 abusers are family members of the victimized child. And, the abuser is a stranger in only about 1 of 10 cases of child sexual abuse. Also, abusers are men most often, regardless of the sex of the victimized child.

Other things to be aware of in children who have been sexually victimized:
  1. unusual interest in or avoidance of all things of a sexual nature
  2. sleep problems or nightmares
  3. statements that their bodies are dirty or damaged
  4. fear that there is something wrong with them in the genital area
  5. refusal to go to school or any other specific location where a child would otherwise go (e.g., a friend's house, a park, etc)
  6. delinquency/conduct problems
  7. secretiveness
  8. aspects of sexual molestation within drawings, games, fantasies
  9. unusual aggressiveness
  10. lose of skills they once used/acting younger than they are (e.g., wetting the bed and/or sucking of the thumb)
The question we need to ask is, "what can we do to keep children safe?" While it is impossible to keep  the children in our lives 100% safe all of the time, it is important to get to know the people with whom they come into contact. Most importantly, we must work to create and sustain a safe, comfortable environment in which children feel they speak about sexual abuse. 

Typically, this is the space in which you might expect tips on what to do/how to protect your child(ren). I've noticed that most websites and other resources focus almost exclusively on what we can tell our children (e.g., safe touching versus unsafe touching, your body is private, etc). While I am not claiming these tips as incorrect, I find it interesting that these websites place responsibility on the victim--the child. In other words, why is it the child's responsibility to say "no" or to explain to the perpetrator that s/he doesn't have to do what they are demanding. (Again, please note I am not saying we shouldn't instruct our children about these things.) Instead, why not think about what we can do that would prevent any child from having to experience these circumstances? How can we bring the focus to the offenders, not the victims? Make a comment with your thoughts/ideas. If we focus on the offenders, do you think we'll see a decrease in child sexual assault? Preventative techniques? Do we need more severe punishment?

If you'd like more information, you might be interested in:

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Penn State: The True Victims

I've attempted to stand back a bit from the Penn State abuse case. I wanted to watch, listen, and assess the things I heard. Right here, right now, let this serve as a warning: this entry is a mixture of talk. Tomorrow I am posting an entry purely on victimization. Today, however, let this entry serve as a reminder for some and a wakeup call for others.

10% of children have experienced some form of sexual violence (sexual assault, rape, harassment, or flashing) during their lifetime (Finkelhor et al, 2009).

As I know some of you noted, there was an extreme lack of attention paid to the victims in the case. Newspaper articles, radio shows, Facebook posts--all focusing on Paterno. I might even go so far as to assert that society seemed to be saying, "yes, we know there were young children molested, but what about football?"  Is entertainment really more important than the lives of young children? Is this the message we're trying to send? Is this what we want young children to think?

A meta-analysis of 61 studies found that 12.7% of child molesters were convicted for a new sex offense within 4-5 years (Hanson and Bussiere 1998).

As a consequence of Paterno being fired, Penn State students rioted. Again, I just want to say, really? Why don't they/we "riot" daily against those individuals who think it is acceptable to take advantage of those who cannot defend themselves? Why not riot against those that stepped away after seemingly doing the least that could be done without following up? To be clear, when I say "riot," I am not proposing violence. Rioting doesn't have to take the form of violence. I am simply asserting that we, as a society, should declare certain things, such as child molestation, as unacceptable in ALL circumstances. When I read the news, I see uproars against certain other behaviors that are arguably low-level or completely unharmful. Individuals that have perpetrated no violence towards others are portrayed as maniacs, sick, and/or problem-causing. In this case, it seems we are constructing a victim, but its the wrong one. Paterno is not a victim. As a man in a position of high power, he had a responsibility. Yes, I recognize he told someone, but he then stepped back. I've done my job, no more guilt for me, right? That's not how it works.   So, instead of creating an uproar around our constructed victim who simply lost his job, why not focus on the children that ARE victims? I assert that Paterno chose whether or not to move forward with the information brought to him. He chose whether to step back or not after telling someone else (not the police). These young children did NOT choose to be assaulted. They did not have a choice.

Child sexual abuse has been reported up to 80,000 times a year, but the number of unreported instances is far greater (AACAP, 2011).

Instead of writing or talking about how horrible it is that Paterno got fired (it's a job!), why don't we talk about how horrible it is that these children were molested? They were taken advantage of by a man in a position of power and other men in similar positions of power simply did not do enough. I suggest we remind ourselves that as adults, everyone, including Jay Paterno, has the obligation and responsibility to protect those that cannot protect themselves. And, as a further reminder, sometimes telling someone else simply isn't enough. As individuals, as adults, as humans--we must do what is needed (whether it is comfortable or not).

So, coming blog entries include 1) child victimization (signs, statistics, and suggestions for what to do) and 2) the culture in/of sports.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

End to National Domestic Violence Awareness Month 2011

Hi everyone!
It is now November 1 and National Domestic Violence Awareness Month has ended. This, however, certainly does not mean we should stop now. If you've been involved before, great. If, perhaps, you've not been as involved in ending violence against women and girls as you would like, let this past month be a jumping point for you!

I'd like to dedicate this post to all of the things you and/or your family and friends did this past month as a way of becoming active in ending violence against women and girls in any form. Send me a comment. Let's share ideas so others can try things, too!

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Life-sized Barbie...I don't think so.

Today's post goes along with some of the previous posts. I'm putting a news article below for your review. And, please, check out the accompanying picture. The article is from April 2011 and examines the reality of Barbie's dimensions in the real world.


CBS) For generations of young women, Barbie has been larger than life. But when Galia Slayen, a Hamilton College student who once battled an eating disorder, tried to make an actual life-size Barbie, she was shocked at the result - a freakish woman with pencil-thin legs, breasts that threatened to topple her over, and a body mass index (BMI) that would put her squarely in the anorexia camp.
"If Barbie were an actual woman, she would be 5'9" tall, have a 39" bust, an 18" waist, 33" hips and a size 3 shoe," Slayen wrote in the Huffington Post. "She likely would not menstruate... she'd have to walk on all fours due to her proportions."
Slayen estimates Barbie would weigh 110 pounds and have a BMI of 16.24. She based her numbers on the book "Body Wars" by Dr. Margo Maine, and readily admits the doll's head, hands and some other features are not to scale.
"The goal of Barbie is to get just get people's attention," Slayen told CBS News. Eating disorders are "very prevalent and not talked about. It's sensationalized in the media every time a star loses weight, but this is a very internal struggle."
Slayen's own struggle started when she was 15 in Portland, Ore. She battled pressures at school to look and act a certain way and her relationship with her parents was so troubled that she obtained legal separation (emancipation) from them.
"I was living on my own and trying to figure out how I was going to survive," she said. "My life was completely out of control and it was the one thing I was able to control - the hours at the gym, the calories I was in-taking. It's a means to control your life."
"This is a young woman who has fought through this disorder and now has a voice to fight for other women," says Marisa Sherry, a registered dietitian in New York who specializes in eating disorders. 
Sherry says the proportions of Slayen's life-size Barbie are cause for concern.
"A BMI of under 17 is considered underweight or anorexic," she tells CBS News. "That puts you at high risk for negative side effects like osteoporosis, amenorrhea (not being able to menstruate) and low heart rate."
As many as 10 million Americans are now struggling with eating disorders like anorexia and bulimia, according to the National Eating Disorder Association. A recent study found that teens are hit hard - as many as 500,000 have had an eating disorder. People with eating disorders are at high risk for depression, suicide and substance abuse. The condition can lead to sudden death.
"There are so many misconceptions," says Slayen. "Eating disorders are are not a choice. They are not a thing of vanity. They are disease and they are really serious."
Slayen says she's not mad at Barbie, which she played with as a child, but wasn't "obsessed" over. She says she first built the life-size Barbie as part of National Eating Disorder Awareness Week when she was in high school and is now showing her off at college where she is studying China and government. Slays says she recently raised more than $10,000 for the cause and wants insurance companies and the federal government to take notice. 
"A lot of insurance companies don't cover eating disorders," she says. "They don't see this is not a choice."

 I think the above picture demonstrates the effect media, our environment, the expectations humans try to meet around body size. As a friend so eloquently said in one of her comments to my previous post, issues around eating are significant to most people. While those with "disordered eating" have taken those norms, expectations, etc to another level, I think the Yoplait ad I previously posted and some of the toys, television shows, and the like reinforce similar belief systems, especially in young girls and women.

Importantly, I do believe men have expectations as well (some of the toys we provide them I believe are equally harmful).

On an opposing hand, I am a big supporter of the below types of advertisements. Why don't we see more of them?

And, many of you have likely seen this, but I appreciate the reality of the situation coming out in the below advertisement.  Let's get real--the end product doesn't exist. 

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Update: Domestic Violence Law REPEALED in Topeka

It's official, facing budget cuts, the misdemeanor domestic violence law in Topeka, Kansas has been repealed.

We all can do something about this. We need to take a stand. Calling is most effective, fax is next, then email.

There was a small protest at the courthouse during which one individual threw dice at the podium stating that the government was playing roulette with the lives of survivors.

They need our help!

Rita Smith, E.D. of the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence
William W. Bunten, Mayor of Topeka, 785-368-3895, voice 785-368-3850 fax
City Council Office. 707-368-3710 (phone). 785-368-3909 (fax)
As soon as I get names, I will let you know.
Shawnee County District Attorney Chad Taylor
785-268-3710 (phone)
Dan Stanley, Interim City Manager, the City Council delegated power to him to take action.
Phone: 785-368-3724

'Anna Rexia': The Minimization of Eating Disorders

Recently my attention has been drawn to eating disorders and the entertainment value that has been placed on them. Specifically, I found the below Halloween costume:

The costume is not only sexualizing an eating disorder, but even more, the name of the costume is "Anna Rexia". Wow!

And recently I found out about an ad that Yoplait yogurt pulled after receiving criticism based on its promotion of eating disorders.

Minimizing such a serious issue is troublesome for me. The constant notion that women should be concerned about their bodies has led many to take extreme measures in order to meet societal norms of thinness. In both of these cases, eating disorders are made unimportant and insignificant. Particularly, with the costume, the matter becomes laughable--which it clearly is not.  And, let's not forget, that as with many halloween costumes for women, the sex appeal remains. So, not only are we minimizing a serious health condition, but we're making it sexy and funny.  What in the world?

I did a quick google search of pro-ana (anorexia) and pro-mia (bulimia) websites. A plethora of things were brought up including the term "thinspiration".  Essentially, these sites reject the idea of Anorexia Nervosa or Bulimia as eating disorders. And thinspiration signifies a term referring to role models individuals, typically with eating disorders, use to inspire themselves to lose weight.

Eating disorders are not something, in my opinion, to be sexualized or humorized.  If you, or someone you know, is struggling with body image or an eating disorder, there are websites and organizations that you can check out.

National Eating Disorder Association (NEDA)
Eating Disorder Center of Denver (EDC-D)
Eating Disorder Organization List

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Domestic Violence Awareness Month--Events in Longmont, CO

I know some people who read this blog aren't living in Colorado. With that said, though you may be unable to attend this film series, I highly recommend the films being shown as part of Domestic Violence Awareness Month.

For those in Colorado, perhaps you want to take part in this film series.

L.E.V.I. and Safe Shelter of St. Vrain Valley are putting on a Domestic Violence Film Series. There are three movies. The dates are below:

Tuesday, October 11, 2011 @ the Longmont Public Library showing Telling Amy's Story
     This film is hosted by actress and activist Mariska Hargitay, and told by detective Deirdri Fishel. Telling Amy's Story follows the timeline of a domestic violence homicide that occurred on November 8, 2011 in Pennsylvania.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011 @ the Longmont Senior Center showing Dear Zachary
     Shortly after his best friend, Dr. Andrew Bagby, was slain by his jealous ex-girlfriend, Dr. Shirley Turner, filmmaker Kurt Kuenne was shocked to learn that Turner ws pregnant with Bagby's unborn child. Hoping to create a film that would serve as both a memorial to Bagby and an introduction to the father the boy would never know, Kuenne quickly began production on a film celebrating the life of his late friend.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011 @ the Longmont Public Library showing We Thought They Were Sleeping
     More than three million children in the United States witness domestic violence each year. These young people literally grow up in a "climate of fear." Tragically, many hold themselves responsible for the violence. The final evening of this film series will help viewers see domestic violence through the eyes of our youngest victims, children. We'll be showing two short films on the impact of domestic violence on children.

All three evenings will have a moderated discussion following the movies and each film showing will be from 7:00-8:30pm.

For more information visit OR call 303-774-4534

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Ridiculous! Topeka, Kansas Considers Decriminalizing Domestic Violence

A couple of days ago the Topeka, Kansas City Council debated whether or not to decriminalize domestic violence. I know, I know. Just ridiculous. I'm so angry.

On Sept. 8, facing a 10% budget cut, Shawnee County District Attorney Chad Taylor announced he would no longer prosecute misdemeanor cases, including domestic battery (what?!?), at the county level.  At the City Council meeting recently, a proposed change has been made that would repeal the part of code that bans domestic battery (what?!?).

The problem? No one can decide who should be prosecuting the cases of domestic battery--whether it should be taken to municipal court or district court, and who pays for it? The thought process by the city is that by NOT repealing the ban the county won't let DV go unpunished in Topeka and will be forced to pick up the cases.

So, what message is being sent? Domestic violence is unimportant and insignificant. Great. Just great.  Here we have a county which stopped prosecuting DV crimes a month ago and a city which is seriously considering legalizing the crime.  The major issue: everyone professes to supporting punishment for DV, but they all want someone else to pay for it. It has been reported that the county DA has offered to continue prosecuting DVcases, for a one-time payment by the city.

And don't even think that this won't really have an impact. Domestic violence advocates in Topeka have already seen vulnerable people impacted. Since Sept. 8 when the county stopped prosecuting, more than 30 DVcases have been ignored. After being arrested and taken to jail, 16 people have been released when charges weren't filed.

Notably, during the City Council meeting, the public was urged to contact the city governing body and the district attorney’s office to share ideas on how to resolve the matter amicably. The City Council is expected to make a decision next week.

I simply can't believe this situation. Do people really think decriminalizing DV is a solution? I don't even think it should be an option. The fact that this is proposed as an option and so many cases have already been ignored/rejected is abominable. I seriously fear for the citizens of Topeka and the many individuals living with DV. Once again we allow money to impede work to stop a serious social problem. Money.

Check these out for more:

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Images to Consider

Last week I posted some advertisements demonstrating violence against women. This week, I'm posting some images/words I find inspirational and very often true.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Cell Phone Donations for Abuse Victims

Need another way to get involved this month...year around? It's easy. When you get a new phone (because so many of us want the newest, best, smartest phones) don't just throw away your old phone. It's okay to want a new phone--not a problem at all. But, help make change and improve the lives of others as you upgrade your plan.

Verizon does a couple of things to help end domestic violence. For example, they have what is called HopeLine. HopeLine is a project in which Verizon has teamed up with the National Network to End Domestic Violence (NNEDV) on a listening tour. They're stopping in 8 different cities nationwide.

Additionally, HopeLine is Verizon's arm that collects no-longer-used phones and turns these into support for victims of abuse. Since HopeLine was launched in 2001, more than 8 million phones have been collected! Awesome! And, the Verizon Foundation also has a grant program which has given over $10 million cash grants to domestic violence organizations throughout the country.

The Journey of Hope occurring this month through Verizon has a Facebook page. Check it out, like it, and learn more about it.

Now, while I've focused on Verizon because I know it is actively involved in ending domestic violence, the other phone companies are also doing things to be active participants in our communities. Check out this website for a full listing of companies doing things. For example, AT&T has a program supporting the Troops. They've built a number of towers and provided pre-paid phone car services for soldiers abroad. The website talks about programs by Sprint, Virgin Mobile, Best Buy, Cricket, Phones for Food and more. All of these companies do things with cell phones that you no longer want.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Marchers Rally Against Domestic Violence

In honor of domestic violence awareness month, an article from the Detroit Free Press:

      They walked for a Shelby Township woman killed by her husband. A Detroit woman killed by her boyfriend. For a Grand Rapids police officer shot while breaking up an argument that turned violent. About 100 people marched in the streets of Detroit on Saturday, calling for an end to domestic violence. Some carried poster board silhouettes bearing the names and stories of victims.
      The goal, said organizers, was to remind Detroit that the epidemic of violence, especially against women, needs to be stopped. In 2009, there were 68,113 reported cases of domestic violence in Detroit, said Jaycee Memminger, a survivor of abuse and coordinator of the women's Flip the Script turnaround program at Goodwill Industries in Detroit. She said those are just the ones police know about."We know that most women don't call to report that it's going on in their houses," said Memminger.
      The walk, led by Detroit Police Chief Ralph Godbee Jr. during October's national Domestic Violence Awareness Month, went from New Center to Wayne State University and back."We don't want young people to think this is normal behavior," Godbee said. "Young people see that, and it becomes normal to them."
      Among the marchers were Marquise Alston, 21, and Shantonae Ellis, 18. The Detroiters said they sometimes see family violence in their neighborhood, and Alston said it's infuriating. He said it's hard to talk about it with the women in his life who may be victims of abuse because they get offended and defensive."It makes my blood boil, these fools out there doing this to women," Alston said. "It's a sensitive subject." 
Memminger said the key to turning domestic violence victims into empowered people is getting them away from their abusers and helping them develop their personal skills, be it managing money, learning computers or going back to school. 
      Eight women in one of her programs are in college, including Linda Conley, 56, who was abused by an older man she was in a relationship with when she was 14. Now, she's studying to be an addiction counselor. Conley said drug addiction fueled her lack of self-esteem, which made her vulnerable to an abusive man. She was beaten and sexually assaulted over the long-term relationship. She said she isn't seeing anyone now, but if she did, she'd have her boundaries set firm. "If we're in a relationship and you have to put your hands on me, we don't need to be together," she said.
A couple of awesome things going on here. First, its fantastic to see members of law enforcement on the front line of standing against crime and violence. They're not just there when on the job, but also as citizens of the community. Additionally, I love that young people, many who are directly impacted by crime and violence, are taking a stand and getting involved.  

The Detroit 300 is an organization dedicated to ending crime and violence. Check it out. This organization was heavily involved in the march.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Domestic Violence Awareness Month...It's Here!

October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month (DVAM)! Time to get involved! There are so many different things YOU can do to make a difference.  For example, for those of you in the Boulder, CO area, Safehouse Progressive Alliance for Nonviolence (SPAN) has a number of things going on throughout the month of October. Let me tell you about some of the different ways you can get involved with SPAN and truly work toward ending violence against women and girls.

1) SPAN Purple Ribbon Discount
    Reduced rates at local businesses through the month of October including 10% off at Thunderbird Burgers & BBQ, Absinthe House, and more!
    Ribbons are $10 each or 5 for $40. All you have to do to get your ribbon is contact:
call 303.449.8623
Super easy and not only do you help those in great need, but you get a discount on yummy food, too!

2) Dining to End Domestic Violence
A number of generous restaurants around Boulder have offered a percentage of their proceeds throughout the month of October. How cool is that? Please go on out to some of these places! Treat yourself and have a good time while simultaneously uniting with the Boulder county community to end domestic violence. The list of places and the days to visit them are below:  :

Double D's Sourdough Pizza, Oct 4
Giovanni's Pizza, Oct 11
Pica's Mexican Taqueria, Oct 12
Zamparelli's Italian Bistro, Oct 18
Foolish Craig's Cafe, Oct 19
Ben & Jerry's, Oct 19
Murphy's, Oct 24
Chili's, Oct 24

Look at all of these fabulous restaurants! I mean, really. I personally suggest double-dipping and going to Foolish Craig's for brunch followed by a short jaunt down to Ben & Jerry's on Pearl. So tasty! What a good Wednesday that would be, right?  Really, all of these restaurants are fantastic. If you haven't been to some of them, this month is a great time to try them out!

3) Make a Donation
If you'd like to contribute directly to SPAN there are 2 ways to go about it. First, you can write a check and mail it to them. Please make checks payable to:
SPAN (Safehouse Progressive Alliance for Nonviolence)
Mail your checks to:
835 North Street
Boulder, CO 80304
The second way you can make a donation is online. In the high-tech world we live in, I'm positive almost everyone reading this is super savvy and all you'll need to do is go through SPAN's website, here to make your donation. It involves a drop down menu and some fill-ins and you're good to go!

And, for those of you who are internet savvy check out the Colorado Coalition against Domestic Violence. They've got a number of things going on this month--and it's all virtual!

For those of you in Colorado Springs, check out the events TESSA has going on this month. There's tons!

Now, if you're not in Colorado, you still should become involved. It's still October where you are, right? That means Domestic Violence Awareness month for everyone.  Do a quick google search for domestic violence awareness month + your state and I'm sure you'll find events. Or, if you're near a university, see if there are any events being held there. Again, a google search for domestic violence awareness month + the university might bring up options.

I really encourage each of you, no matter where you are, to check out the Domestic Violence Awareness Project (DVAP) is fantastic!

Finally, a super easy way to make a difference is to pass on the word. If nothing else, send this blog post to others in your email list. Or, if you're in/around Boulder or Colorado, tell your friends and family about the restaurants around donating to end domestic violence.

It's so easy. Why not make a difference?

Let me know if you hear about other events this month. I'd love to post them (with thanks to you, of course!). And, if you participate in any of the above mentioned events or others that you find, let me know how they go!

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Follow up from previous post--violence in advertisements

My most recent post included a number of advertisements--specifically the recent hair ad which minimizes the black eye the woman has with the statement, "Look good in all you do." When this ad was recently published there was an outcry (thankfully!). The owner of Fluid Hair Salon of course reported that no harm was meant. Why, though, would the implication of intimate partner violence be needed when advertising for a hair salon? "Look good at all you do." What is this even supposed to mean? Is the message: make sure you have nice hair and are dressed nicely when your partner decides to hit you?

I recognize and support the right to free speech (as the owner of the salon cites). I am all for it! But, as I've heard many times before: just because you can do something, doesn't mean that you should. This is an important lesson, I think.

Fluid Hair Salon has published a number of other ads in which women are depicted in more empowering situations (though of course the women are sexualized--as usual). Take a look:

Now, Fluid Salon is known for their edgy and controversial ads. While the most recent ad showing IPV makes me particularly unhappy and uncomfortable and quite frankly angry, Fluid has published other ads that I also find distasteful. Such as the below ad featuring homelessness or homicide.

(Note: I believe the above ad resembles a sex a worker--which is, in my opinion, horrible too.)

Now, in the previous post I made a point to include a number of other ads from years past that also demonstrated violence against women.  Some ads may be more subtle (such as the ad where the man is firmly grabbing the woman's face), while others are quite blatant (as was the case with the Fluid ad).  The messages of violence are all around us. While I applaud those individuals that stated their dissatisfaction over the Fluid ad, I remain concerned that there are so many other advertisements like this one that stay under the radar and are accepted widely.  In my opinion, advertisements depicting gang rape, IPV, sexual objectification and the like are simply crossing the line. Why would these scenes be important to the ad agencies anyway? Seriously.

Interestingly, there is an organization specific to hair salons that fights IPV.  Check out the organization--Cut It Out.

For another good article on the Fluid ad, check this out. (There's a video included as well.)

Friday, September 23, 2011

Hiatus...but think about this

Sorry for the hiatus. I'm back and ready to blog. Well, correction--I'll be back in full swing in a couple of days. For now, though, I wanted to leave you with some images that I'll be blogging about come next post. Look at these, think about them.

The first picture is an advertisement that recently came under great scrutiny. The other pictures are older ads. Trend? I think so.

The below are the older advertisements.

Be back in a couple of days to discuss these and other similar advertisements. Keep your eyes out for my next post and your mind open for the messages we see daily.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

New Documentary: "A Way to Justice"

The following is from UNAIDS (
A new documentary film following the lives of four people in Africa aims at challenging patriarchy, end men’s violence against women and promote gender equality. Produced by Sonke Gender Justice and MenEngage, the film titled A Way to Justice: Engaging Men for Women’s Rights and Gender Transformation focuses on gender, HIV and human rights issues.
“We need to build creative initiatives, to transform gender norms and break through cultural barriers to create new masculinities. By fostering women and men’s leadership for gender equality, we can succeed in creating safer, more just societies and stopping violence against women and girls.” said Michel SidibĂ©, Executive Director of UNAIDS.
Violence and the threat of violence hamper women and girls’ ability to adequately protect themselves from HIV infection and assert healthy decision making. The prevalence of forced first sex among adolescent girls younger than 15 years ranges between 11% and 45% globally. Adolescent girls and young women are among the most vulnerable groups to HIV infection.
In the film individuals speak about the difficulties they confronted and transcended. David Tamba, a Sierra Leonean fleeing from civil war whose wife was gang-raped by rebels, began working with other men in refugee camps. “All men were viewed as bad men. But there were also men who were peaceful, who equally suffered, so the way to turn the story around was to start talking to our colleague men and go out and campaign for gender equality and empowerment of women,” said Mr Tamba.
You can also watch some of the film by clicking here
I'd also like to draw your attention to another film, "Can't Just Fold Your Arms." This film follows 3 activists as they train, discuss, debate, and listen around the reality of South Africa over a period of two years. Read more about this film here