Saturday, February 25, 2012

Spreading the word!

Lots of life changes. That's where I've been. It seems like there has literally been no time for blogging this last week. This has made me extremely grateful for the recent Facebook addition to VAWG Dialogue. I'd love to continue to grow the FB page and hope to get more dialogue and sharing of information happening--but I've certainly noticed an increase in readership and participation more generally since adding Facebook. Such a great resource...most of the time.  This week I've really been thinking about the various platforms we have for talking about, learning about, and communicating about VAWG. While I may not agree with all statements made on certain topics (that would only happen in my own utopia, right?), I think the variety of places and people I hear acknowledging and talking about topics related to VAWG is great.

Just this week I've posted a number of links to Saturday Night Live, Jon Stewart, youtube links to slam poets, various newspaper articles, petitions, other blogs, and a number of other places, people, and things. What did we do without Internet? What did we do without television? Other sources of technology?

So, to the topics. Women's health and reproductive rights have certainly been the top of topics I've noticed from all of the sources I just listed. In particular, I wanted to share a Jon Stewart segment with you.

The Daily Show with Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
Punanny State - Virginia's Transvaginal Ultrasound Bill
Daily Show Full EpisodesPolitical Humor & Satire BlogThe Daily Show on Facebook

Prime example of what I was talking about. While I may not think Stewart's presentation of the issue is 100%, I sure am glad he presented the issue nonetheless. His show, and others like it, reach populations that may not otherwise hear about the injustices and violence being perpetrated against women. So, heck yes--let's keep the word spreading.

And, please do spread the word about this blog and our accompanying Facebook page. Finally, let me know what you think about all of this. Better yet, if you'd like to be a guest blogger...I'd love it! Send a quick email my way so we can chat.

Have a great day!

Friday, February 17, 2012

Expected to Pay: Girls Atone for Familial Misdeeds

She did nothing. She was simply born a female child in the family of a "criminal."

There are several practices, in a number of different places, that require young female children to atone for the misdeeds of their criminal family members/ancestors. In the trokosi system, if someone commits either a serious crime or social infraction, traditional leaders of the community order the family to send a young girl from that family to serve the priest of the local shrine. The trokosi system translates to "wife of the gods." Thus, the girl, sometimes very young, serves the priest as a means of repenting for her family member. In some instances, the girl serves a shorter time (3-5 years). However, in more established Trokosi systems, the severity of the crime determines the length of service (sometimes multiple generations of girls are expected to serve the priest). The girls serving are often left to their own devices (families are expected to pay for their food, but rarely do). One woman, 22 at the time she was freed, stated:

"I had to cut down trees and uproot tree stumps to burn into charcoal to sell and make some money to take care of myself," she says. "I did not have the right to take crops from the farm unless the priest allowed me to. Occasionally my parents sent me some food, but that was kept in the priest's room and I had to request it any time I needed some. I was forced to have sex with the priest as one of the rituals in the shrine, but luckily I did not get pregnant."

A similar practice, "baad" or "baadi," is illegal, but remains quite prevalent. Now associated with Afghanistan, young girls are taken as payment for misdeeds committed by their elders. This system is clearly related to the position women hold in society more generally. For example, the father of a young girl who recently escaped her capture expressed anger that the girl was abducted because he had already promised her to be married to someone else. The girl was simply a pawn in everyone's games. These young girls are often kidnapped and beaten. Given the cultural emphasis placed on family honor and the need to repent for acts that bring dishonor or shame, this practice uses the young girls as a source of retaliation--a way to regain familial honor.

A member of Parliament in Nangarhar Province said the following when discussing baad:
"The bad aspect is that you punish an innocent human for someone else's wrongdoings, and the good aspect is that you rescue two families, two clans, from more bloodshed, death and misery."

Sunday, February 12, 2012

V: Not Just for Valentine's

The word? Vagina. It's Scandalous. It's immoral. It's unnatural. It's about sex.

Eve Ensler's idea: "When you name things, you bring consciousness to things."

The Vagina Monologues has served as a liberating and empowering avenue through which women can express themselves. The Monologues support women of all ages, experiences, sociodemographic background as they talk about more than just vaginas. In fact, each year playwright Eve Ensler (of the Vagina Monologues) puts out a script for the type of stories she wants done. This year, the topic is ending violence against women, especially rape. While this may sound morbid and sad to some, if you've ever attended a performance of the Monologues, you know the stories are full of all different kinds of emotion--happiness, anger, humor, sadness. You'll find it all.

Ensler says she began this play because as we utter the word, a silence gets broken and a taboo gets eradicated. Freedom. She states that "one of the reasons violence is allowed to go on is because we don't have agency over our own bodies. And we don't have a way or articulating what happens to us. So, it happens invisibly." Interestingly, in some of the locations where the play is now, there originally was not a word for vagina. Words were borrowed. Or, the play was banned.

The play is meant to empower. The play is meant to give voice.

What do you think? Is it too much? Is it not enough? How does it make you feel?

I want to draw your attention to a unique situation. Perhaps a step toward breaking down barriers. A step toward uniting all women.  Guess who is presenting the Vagina Monologues in 2 days? Clergy from the Anglican Diocese of Niagara. That's right. Seven female clergy are performing the Monologues--4 letter words and all.

So, is it really such a bad word? I mean it's an anatomical label. Why then do we fear the word? Why do we teach our children to use funny names for their body parts. Not to say some of the words are quite funny, but we've got to think of the bigger implications of not simply saying...VAGINA.

For more information about the Vagina Monologues and Eve Ensler's V-day campaign to end violence against women and girls, click HERE and HERE.

And, for articles on the resistance experienced by the Vagina Monologues, click HERE and HERE.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Placing Blame Where It Belongs

Rape is about power. It is about dominance. Rape isn't about sex. It isn't about love. Rape can be stopped. I know it seems like a crazy idea given the extreme frequency of this violence (both in the US and other countries--take Congo for example). But, really, it could be ended. The answer, however, is not in the victim. The answer isn't to buy every woman and girl pepper spray. The answer isn't to arm every woman and girl with self-defense techniques. The answer is in the perpetrator. While I'm not saying that women and girls shouldn't empower themselves. More power to them, me, you! But, we have to recognize where the change is possible. And, frankly, it is in men. It is in the perpetrators of rape.

Each year I teach about victim blaming. Each year there is a least one student who engages in victim blaming. They don't understand the problem with it. They don't think it's wrong. So, each year, I show THIS 9-minute video (seriously a great way to spend the next 9 minutes, promise). Sorry that I can't figure out how to embed the video itself on the post. Satire, right? But it works. Students get it. People get it. The video seems to help everyone understand what victim blaming truly is and how absurd it is that we, as a society, expect victims to be responsible for change. And, while some continue to engage in victim blaming attitudes, they can't help but agree that rape and other violations wouldn't happen if not for the actions of the perpetrator.

If you just don't have time to watch the video, I'll recap the tips provided to offenders (statistically men):

1. When you see a woman walking alone at night, do not rape 

2. As a general rule, do not have sex with someone who is not 
awake or aware of what is happening.

3. Always use the buddy system - if you think you cannot 
resist the urge to sexually assault someone, ask a friend to 
accompany you whenever you go out in public.

4. When buying or providing a drink for someone, be sure to 
deliver said beverage without putting any drugs in it.

5. If anyone happens to fall asleep on your couch, or even 
your bed, remember not to sexually assault them.

6. The best course of action when entering a woman's home is 
to wait for an invitation through the front door - resist the 
urge to crawl through a window or sneak through an unlocked 
back door.

7. Always carry a rape whistle - if you feel the urge to rape 
someone, blow the whistle so that your buddy from #3 can 
call for help.

8. If hired to perform a service in a woman's home, such as 
fixing the cable, be sure to provide the requested service, then 
exit the house without raping her.

9. If you find yourself stalking a woman in your car, 
immediately change course towards the nearest police station 
and notify them of your intent to commit sexual assault.

10. Watch for signs of miscommunication with friends - if 
someone asks you out, it is probably an indication that they 
think you will not rape them. Be sure to clearly state your 
intentions so that they know what to expect.

So, let's take the onus off of the victim. Off of the women who are expected to walk home in fear, hyper vigilant at every turn, and instead place it where it belongs!

Monday, February 6, 2012

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Welfare Drug Testing: WHO are We Really Worried about?

I'm sure many of you have heard about the implementation of drug testing for individuals on welfare in some states. Yes? I have seen and heard great support for drug testing. Yet, it seems a complete waste to me. And even more, it clearly targets particular populations. In fact, more recently, results are proving the financial outcome does NOT support continuing drug tests.

The support I've largely heard for drug testing of individuals requesting government assistance, stems from the notion that women are having babies only in order to manipulate the system, that they are staying on welfare for extended periods of time, and that they are not using the money for the correct things. And yes, these comments are always targeting women when I hear them.

The gendered comments I hear fail to acknowledge the feminization of poverty.  So, instead of looking at the real issue (that women are disproportionately poorer than men), we degrade women, make claims against them, and question their intentions. Clearly, they must be using their welfare money for drugs. And, clearly, it is only women. Of course, this is not serious. We know men also use drugs and we know men also are on welfare. But, somehow, over time, this has been lost. We make women who seek financial assistance out to be monsters. You know the ones? Those horrid "welfare mothers". They're taking all of the taxpayer money. These are the women who have babies simply to get more money from the government. They don't work and they don't care for the children they have. They use the money all for themselves. Yet, in Indiana (a state with a recently introduced bill for drug testing of welfare recipients--see below), the average welfare payment is $346 for a family of FOUR.

What people fail to mention as they characterize women in this nature, is that in 1996, hoping to free people from what some saw as a culture of poverty in the United States, Congress changed the welfare system, which had provided a federal guarantee of financial assistance to poor people since 1935. The federal government continues to send money to the states to distribute to needy people, but benefits now carry strict limits—in most cases, no more than two years at a stretch and a total of five years altogether if a person moves in and out of the welfare system. The stated purpose of this reform was to force people to be self-supporting and move them away from dependency on government. 

So, will drug testing scare all of these monsters of women away? No. Why? Because the percentage of individuals (yes, women AND men) who have tested positive while on welfare is so low and that it is more expensive to perform the urinalysis. In Florida, for example, the cost of the drug test is at the expense of the individual seeking assistance. However, if they pass, the state reimburses them. The State of Florida would save less than $240 a month by denying the 2 of 40 individuals who failed their tests 

And, I want to mention that a newer version of this drug testing law has recently been repealed. A recent bill was withdrawn from the Indiana General Assembly that would create a pilot program for drug testing of welfare recipients. Why was it withdrawn? Because it was amended to include drug testing of lawmakers as well. Seems to me drug testing of welfare recipients is simply another way to keep those in the lower class in line. And, as established above, this means women.  Lawmakers, largely men, don't need, want, or think they should be tested. Yet, they're the ones that likely have the money to afford the drugs. Notably, the sponsor of this bill has stated he will be reintroducing a modified version of it. See here.

So, let's think about this. Who are we really helping by drug testing welfare recipients? Current information proves that individuals on welfare are most often not using drugs (2 in 40 in Florida--and one of the two is repealing).  And more importantly, who are we targeting by implementing drug tests?

I want to acknowledge that some people have posted the below picture on their Facebook pages. I've seen it around. It's important that we know this type of poster and remark are not based in fact, but rather anger and frustration. Performing urinalysis tests on all individuals receiving government assistance is actually only furthering using your tax dollars.

While the video I've posted below clearly takes a particular stance, there are elements that I think anyone, regardless of your stance on this issue, can agree with and recognize as truth. Check out the video and participate in the poll (below). And, don't forget, we have a Facebook page now, so like us there as well :) Leave a comment here or on our Facebook page. It be great to better understand both sides of this argument.

Don't forget to like our new Facebook page to keep up with new posts and to post your own!

Friday, February 3, 2012

UPDATE: Susan G. Komen Foundation Reverses Decision (but maybe not really)

The below is the statement from the Susan G. Komen Foundation. Note: They are not promising to renew grants, but rather to continue existing grants. There's still work to be done.

Apology released by SGK founder, Nancy Brinker:
We want to apologize to the American public for recent decisions that cast doubt upon our commitment to our mission of saving women's lives.
The events of this week have been deeply unsettling for our supporters, partners and friends and all of us at Susan G. Komen. We have been distressed at the presumption that the changes made to our funding criteria were done for political reasons or to specifically penalize Planned Parenthood. They were not.
Our original desire was to fulfill our fiduciary duty to our donors by not funding grant applications made by organizations under investigation. We will amend the criteria to make clear that disqualifying investigations must be criminal and conclusive in nature and not political. That is what is right and fair.
Our only goal for our granting process is to support women and families in the fight against breast cancer. Amending our criteria will ensure that politics has no place in our grant process. We will continue to fund existing grants, including those of Planned Parenthood, and preserve their eligibility to apply for future grants, while maintaining the ability of our affiliates to make funding decisions that meet the needs of their communities.
It is our hope and we believe it is time for everyone involved to pause, slow down and reflect on how grants can most effectively and directly be administered without controversies that hurt the cause of women. We urge everyone who has participated in this conversation across the country over the last few days to help us move past this issue. We do not want our mission marred or affected by politics - anyone's politics.
Starting this afternoon, we will have calls with our network and key supporters to refocus our attention on our mission and get back to doing our work. We ask for the public's understanding and patience as we gather our Komen affiliates from around the country to determine how to move forward in the best interests of the women and people we serve.
We extend our deepest thanks for the outpouring of support we have received from so many in the past few days and we sincerely hope that these changes will be welcomed by those who have expressed their concern.
A response by president of Planned Parenthood, Cecile Richard:
The outpouring of support for women in need of lifesaving breast cancer screening this week has been astonishing and is a testament to our nation's compassion and sincerity.
During the last week, millions spontaneously joined a national conversation about lifesaving breast cancer prevention care and
reinforced shared values about access to health care for all. This compassionate outcry in support of those most in need rose above political, ideological, and cultural divides, and will surely be recognized as one of our nation's better moments during a contentious political time. Planned Parenthood thanks each and every person who has contributed to elevating the importance of breast cancer prevention for so many women in need.
In recent weeks, the treasured relationship between the Susan G. Komen for the Cure Foundation and Planned Parenthood has been challenged, and we are now heartened that we can continue to work in partnership toward our shared commitment to breast health for the most underserved women. We are enormously grateful that the Komen Foundation has clarified its grantmaking criteria, and we look forward to continuing our partnership with Komen partners, leaders and volunteers. What
these past few days have demonstrated is the deep resolve all Americans share in the fight against cancer, and we honor those who are at the helm of this battle.
“Planned Parenthood has been a trusted partner with the Komen Foundation in early cancer detection and prevention services. In particular, Planned Parenthood helps the Komen Foundation reach vulnerable populations — low-income women, African-American women, and Latinas — especially in rural areas and underserved communities where Planned Parenthood health centers are their only source of health care. With Komen Foundation grants, over the past five years, Planned Parenthood health centers provided nearly 170,000 clinical breast exams and more than 6,400 mammogram referrals. With the outpouring of support over the past week, even more women in need will receive lifesaving breast cancer care.

Click HERE and HERE to read full articles.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Susan G. Komen Cuts Funding to Planned Parenthood: How Do They Decide which Life is Worth Saving?

I think it can get tricky when organizations, such as Susan G. Komen, which are meant to serve anyone and everyone and ultimately aim to prevent and cure a horrible health issue take a stand against another organization aiming to help the same people. Planned Parenthood provides high quality reproductive health care and age-appropriate sex education. Additionally, Planned Parenthood provides information on body image, birth control options, men's sexual health, sexually transmitted infections, and general health care needs. In fact, Planned Parenthood reports that only 3% of its services are abortion, while 16% takes the form of breast cancer screenings.

Susan G. Komen chose to cut funding to Planned Parenthood for breast health screenings. The divisive factor: pro-life/pro-choice positions.

The picture above has been circulating. And while I support the work Susan G. Komen does for individuals with breast cancer and believe the items they produce help in creating a sense of community, the picture is accurate in my mind. Why would an organization aiming to prevent and cure breast cancer cut funding to an organization that provides affordable health care screenings to so many people each year? Susan G. Komen has made a terrible mistake in my opinion. They have allowed politics to supersede their ultimate mission and goal. Planned Parenthood is the primary source of health care for women in low-income and underserved communities. The provide 830,000 breast exams each year. 170,000 (over the last 5 years) of these screenings and 6,400 mammogram referrals are funded through Susan G. Komen. The result of this cut in funding? More women are likely to go without breast screenings and mammograms. Regardless of your beliefs about abortion, it is essential we remember that Planned Parenthood serves MANY women in MANY different ways.  And, while perhaps the below picture is a bit blunt, I do find it strange that an organization supporting a pro-life stance, is ultimately taking away services that could save so many women.

More than ever, I encourage you to read THIS article. And, if you feel so inclined, please consider signing THIS petition and/or donating to your Planned Parenthood

As a note, several affiliates, one of which is Denver, have withdrawn their support for the Susan G. Komen for the Cure foundation. You can read about these HERE.

And, please take part in the poll below.

I'd like to leave you with this:

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Launch of Facebook Page

Because I can't post about everything going on in detail here on the blog, I've created a FACEBOOK COMMUNITY PAGE. I will post news articles, relevant photos, etc. BUT, what I am really hoping, is that you, as members of this community, will post links of your own to share with me and everyone else. Engage with me & one another. Share what you find interesting. Post articles about relevant current events. I would LOVE to see news articles you find, videos, know about events or groups. Share them with everyone by pressing "like" on the facebook page and then participating by sharing what you find.

I know Facebook is highly used, so this will serve as a second source for spreading the word and making our move toward ending violence against women and girls (VAWG).

"Like" VAWG Dialogue on Facebook and become a Follower of the blog and let's get to work. Post away and spread the word! Please tell your friends, colleagues, family members, and acquaintances.  HERE is the link again for the FB page!  :)