Yesterday I felt like I could not do a single thing right. I tried to drink coffee; I moved the cup so the cat wouldn’t knock it over, I forgot about it, it got cold, I reheated it in the microwave, forgot about it there, etc. etc.. Clearly I was not meant to have a good hot cup of coffee. Bitchface Cat would get up all in my face, on the desk, as if to say “scoot that chair back, woman, I need a lap!” and then I’d offer her lap space and she’d settle for less than a minute before she was up and off again. Clearly my lap was not cozy enough.
I tried to dye eight skeins of tri-color yarn, and only got to six because our old electrical wiring in our old house suddenly decided that I can’t use four crock pots, I can only use three (this house has a history of not being able to run so many things at the same time or we trip breakers, and yes, I get that tripping breakers is much better than the house just going up in a fireball, BUT STILL). Out of those six skeins, two of them absolutely refused to run clear, so I’m going to have to continue to soak them until they do. To add insult to injury, all six were of a color that I’ve been contemplating not making more of, because it doesn’t sell very well (I’m not, however, making a decision to nix any colors until after an event I’m doing this Fall, nor am I going to name the color, Catherine, so don’t even ask). And then when I pulled them all out of the pots as it was getting dark, it looked like one of the three colors didn’t even take at all (in the light of day, however, it is there, just lighter than usual). Clearly I wasn’t meant to have a productive yarn dyeing day yesterday.
I’d also had to make a call out to the vet, as she wanted to come get another blood sample from Princess Cat. Wait, did I ever even blog about that? About six weeks ago, we’d had the vet out for something, I don’t even remember what — they just kept sending me postcards about how one of my cats was overdue for something and so I went ahead and made an appointment to shut them up. It turned out that Princess Cat had lost more weight than the vet was comfortable with, and we have fleas (wait, this is Florida, is there ANY pet owner who doesn’t have fleas?), and Princess Cat was anemic and OH GOD THIS IS TURNING INTO A LONG STORY.
The vet had to take a blood sample twice while she was there, and the second sample was clotty by the time they got back to the office. So they asked me if I would bring the cat in, and this turned into a long fight. OK; not a looooong fight, because I just flat out said “no. What part of me having a mobile vet is difficult to understand?” because here’s the thing — if I wanted to shove my pets in a box and take them to a traditional vet, I’d have a traditional vet. And if you, a mobile vet, would prefer me to come to you in the traditional manner, then you are no longer offering the service for which I wanted you for; which means that if I’m using you as a traditional vet, I could just as well find a new traditional vet that isn’t a 45 minute drive from my house. So I got kind of bitchy about it. I’ve not gotten the best service from anyone either on the phone or at their desk when I’ve been out there — I hesitate to even use the word “best”, as the customer service I’ve received is more along the lines of “cursory”…. blargh. ANYWAY. It resulted in her coming back again a few days later to give me a lecture on fleas and do another blood draw, and that resulted in much flailing of arms (on her part) as the cat is anemic and oh my god may drop dead at any moment let’s all run around in a circle and scream in sheer panic.
I’m not trying to say that I don’t love my cat, or that I think somehow that a cat’s health is not worthy of worry; I think what just happened with me is that the shittastic customer service I’ve received from the office staff coupled with her lecture on fleas and the Chicken Little attitude just… pushed me over the edge. Look, lady, I’m the one who will poke the dog if she’s napped too long, in case she’s died in her sleep. DON’T TELL ME WHEN TO PANIC. I can panic JUST FINE on my own. The more you TELL me I have to worry, the less I’m going to take you seriously. Perhaps my cat is underweight because she’s lost a lot of her back teeth, only we didn’t notice her not eating as much as normal because we have four cats and it’s not like we stand over each of them, counting the kernels of kibble. If that makes me a bad cat mommy, then fine. Whatever. We’ve beefed her up by switching her to wet food, which has been great for her because she loves it (and has put on weight) but bad for us because now she tries to trip us every time we walk near the cat room.
Needless to say I was really looking forward to calling her yesterday, HAHAHAHAHAHAH /end sarcasm.
But I had to call her, because – and this is getting so long already I’m going to put this part in another post – if I want to adopt a new (three-legged) dog, I’m going to need my vet’s recommendation for that. Which means I’d better play nice-nice. Or find a new vet quickly. There are no other mobile vets in town. So it’s this, or back to a traditional vet, and after 15 years of in-home vet care I can’t say I really am itching to going back to shoving everyone in a box and driving someplace. So I called her, and the first thing the person on the phone did, besides put me on hold for so long that I literally forgot why I had called, was to say that even though I was telling her that the vet had wanted to do another blood sample, that she could not find a record of that, so could she talk with the vet and call me back later? Yeah. Fine. Whatever.
So I spent most of the day yesterday wondering about my vet situation; do I want to keep this vet, does this vet want to keep me, what do I do if I leave this vet and don’t find another right away, why did Dr. Camp have to retire, is this vet going to lecture me about fleas again, what if she comes in and takes all my pets away and calls me a bad pet mom, blah blah blah blah blah.
So I got a call back late in the afternoon, for an appointment this morning (if, you know, I can’t just bring my cat in for such a simple procedure) and as I’m writing this in the afternoon of Tuesday, she’s been and gone. But that’s another long story, and my fingers hurt from typing. See why I don’t blog much any more? TOO MUCH TO SAY. I should look into one of those talk-to-text programs, heh.
Kaitlin Hunt was arrested in February and charged with “lewd and lascivious battery on a child 12 to 16″ after the parents of her partner filed charges against Hunt. According to Hunt’s mother, Kelley Hunt-Smith, “These people never came to us as parents, never tried to speak to us… and tell us they had a problem with the girls dating…They were out to destroy my daughter. [They] feel like my daughter ‘made’ their daughter gay.”
Hunt and her partner were both on the Sebastian River High School basketball team and in some classes together. Hunt-Smith maintains that the two had completely consensual relationship. According to the Free KateFacebook page, “Kaitlyn’s girlfriend denies that Kaitlyn ever pressured her and is adamant that their relationship is entirely consensual, but her parents are out to destroy Kaitlyn’s life.” When the basketball coach found out the two were dating, Hunt was kicked off the basketball team and the coach notified the other girl’s parents, who pressed charges. Hunt was able to remain at Sebastian despite repeated efforts by her partner’s parents to have her expelled. When they petitioned the school board, Hunt was expelled from school despite two judges and the school’s administration denying their previous requests.
The State Attorney, Brian Workman, has offered Hunt a plea deal. If she accepts, she will face two years house arrest and one year probation. If she does not accept, she could go trial and if found guilty become a registered sex offender. She must decide whether or not to accept the offer by Friday. Her family has also created a petition on change.org that received so much traffic it crashed the site.
Media Resources: CBS News 5/20/2013; Huffington Post 5/19/2013; WPTV 5/19/2013; ThinkProgress 5/18/2013
Woman hands with handcuffs on the white background from Shutterstock
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A highly contagious strain of meningitis that has struck 22 men in New York City in the last three years, killing seven of them, has public health experts scratching their heads and looking for ways to get as many gay men vaccinated as possible.
Meningitis is a disease marked by the inflammation of the protective membranes covering the brain and spinal cord known as the meninges. The inflammation is usually caused by an infection of the fluid surrounding the brain and spinal cord. The infection can be the result of bacteria, a virus, a parasite, or a fungus. This outbreak is caused by bacteria that live in a person’s nose or mouth. It can be spread through kissing, sneezing, or sharing a spoon or cigarette. It is not as easy to spread as a cold or the flu but it is not a sexually transmitted disease, which is why public health experts do not quite understand why it is targeting gay men.
The current strain of bacterial meningitis was first detected among drug users in Brooklyn in 2006. In that outbreak, 23 people were infected and seven died. The city conducted a vaccination drive at drug treatment centers and soup kitchens, which seemed to work as there were no additional cases for three years. Then there was one case in 2010, four in 2011, 13 in 2012, and four so far this year. All of the cases were among gay or bisexual men, and 12 of those infected were HIV-positive. (There was one additional case in a man from upstate New York who came to the city frequently. A case in Los Angeles turned out not to be the same strain.) Dr. Jay Varma, the city’s deputy health commissioner for disease control told the New York Times, “We don’t have any evidence that it’s different in some biological way, we just know that it’s different. And what is concerning is that it is largely restricted to men who have sex with men. So we don’t really understand why that is.”
Though potentially deadly, bacterial meningitis is curable with antibiotics if caught early enough. Unfortunately, the symptoms, which include sudden onset of fever, headache, and a stiff neck, are often mistaken by individuals for something that is not serious and they don’t seek medical attention soon enough. The good news is that the vaccine works within seven to ten days and protects individuals for up to five years. Widespread vaccination is important because “herd immunity” will protect the community, even those who do not get vaccinated.
Vaccinations in New York City are up, with over 10,000 people receiving one this year. This weekend, the New York Times profiled one of the more unorthodox vaccine distribution programs in the city. Demetre Daskalakis, a doctor, advocate, and gay man, sets up shop in after-hours gay clubs offering free vaccines to anyone wants one. The Times joined him at Paddles, in Chelsea. His presence at the club was promoted through fliers by Gay Men’s Health Crisis, and patrons were reminded every hour or so by the club’s owner that they should see the doctor at the front of the room. Dr. Daskalakis is not affiliated with the health department, though he says that his colleagues there “love, love, love” what he’s doing and they do provide him with free vials of the vaccine. The health department has been less successful with its own outreach in gay clubs. (As the Times put it, people go to clubs to have fun, not be reminded there’s a deadly disease going around.) Dr. Daskalakis, however, is more effective perhaps because he does what he can to fit into the scene; at a house party in Brooklyn where he was offering vaccines a few weeks ago he dressed as a blonde nurse.
Though the infection is curable with antibiotics and preventable with vaccination,l its presence in the gay club scene in New York City is reminding many people of the early days of the HIV/AIDS crisis. As one of the club patrons at Paddles told the New York Times, “I feel like it’s the next narrative on from HIV, ‘Gay something happens in New York City gay spots.’”
The post Highly Contagious Strain of Meningitis Targets Men Who Have Sex With Men in NYC appeared first on RH Reality Check.
It was predictable that, in the illegal and deplorable actions of Dr. Kermit Gosnell, who was convicted of murder and involuntary manslaughter earlier this month for deaths he caused at his Philadelphia abortion clinic, anti-choice activists would find a rationale for curtailing women’s rights.
Because Gosnell’s market was poor women whose pregnancies sometimes exceeded the legal gestational limit under Pennsylvania law, right-wing activists pounced on the topic of later abortion—whose low incidence accounts for about 1.3 percent of all abortions, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention—as a way of framing all abortion in the most grisly of terms. The later abortion focus now appears to be part of a legislative strategy to further chip away at the reproductive rights of women by conferring equal or greater rights upon fetuses.
When the Gosnell case went to trial, right-wing activists saw their moment at hand, and got busy.
Live Action, famous for Lila Rose’s often deceptively edited videos on abortion clinics, released a new video on May 1 focused on later abortion.
The day of Gosnell’s conviction, the Family Research Council (FRC) and the National Right to Life Committee (NRLC) issued press releases calling for a ban of later abortions in the District of Columbia (which is largely under the control of Congress).
The day after the Gosnell verdict was announced, activist Star Parker—whose group, the Center for Urban Renewal and Education (CURE), is closely allied with FRC—convened a group of African-American pastors on Capitol Hill to demand congressional hearings on abortion as an alleged plot against Black people. Tim Goeglein, the chief lobbyist for the right-wing Focus on the Family empire, appeared on the panel for CURE’s May 13 legislative briefing.
But before the Gosnell case caught the public’s attention, the NRLC had declared its most important national legislative priority to be the District of Columbia 20-week abortion ban, which, if voted into law, would affect only women who sought abortions in Washington, D.C. The “Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act” would ban abortions after 20 weeks from the date of fertilization, based on the disproven theory that fetuses beyond that level of gestation feel pain, all in an apparent effort to confer the rights of personhood on fetuses. (Nine states have passed bills based on the NRLC model legislation. But measures that would extend the rights of personhood to human zygotes and embryos have yet to become law, although they have been introduced in nine states.)
Passage of such a bill by Congress would constitute a direct challenge to Roe v. Wade, the Supreme Court decision that legalized abortion up to the point of fetal viability, generally accepted as occurring at around 24 weeks.
In the U.S. Capitol, right-wing legislators took the hint, embarking on a festival of grandstanding that is likely to continue for months, all apparently designed to shift public opinion on a woman’s right to choose (while safeguarding incumbent House Republicans from primary challenges). And now NRLC has endorsed an attempt in Congress to make its proposed later abortion ban apply to all 50 states. Here are the four lawmakers currently in the limelight for playing politics with women’s rights.
1. Rep. Trent Franks (R-AZ)
It was Franks who last month introduced the version of of the National Right to Life Committee’s later abortion ban that would have applied only to the District of Columbia if it passed both houses of Congress, and would then likely have to override a presidential veto. That’s a pretty heavy lift.
So given the bill’s likely failure, why not use the publicity surrounding the Gosnell verdict to make a bigger splash, rewriting it to apply to all 50 states, as well, for the opportunity to hold a variety show of hearings for the benefit of anti-choice lawmakers? That’s apparently the way Franks, who sits on the House Judiciary Committee and chairs the Subcommittee on the Constitution and Civil Justice, is thinking—because that’s exactly what he did on May 18 when he announced his intention to introduce a bill rewritten that way.
The first subcommittee hearing on the newly nationalized bill is scheduled for May 23. At a hearing for the D.C.-specific version of the bill introduced last year, Franks refused to allow Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton, the District of Columbia’s representative in Congress, to testify.
Franks also subscribes to the conspiracy theory that abortion is a plot by white eugenicists to wipe out the Black race. (See David Weigel’s 2010 report here.)
2. Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-VA)
As chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, Goodlatte saw in the Gosnell case an opportunity to use his committee’s power to make demands of the attorneys general of all 50 states, with a letter co-signed by Franks, that requires answers and supporting documentation to three questions regarding the statutes and procedures of the individual states regarding the treatment of fetuses and infants in abortion clinics, one about deaths of women in abortion clinics, and one about the state’s own gestational limits for legal abortion.
In the letter, dated May 7, 2013, Goodlatte sets a June 1 deadline for the provision of answers by state officials. (Compliance by the state attorneys general is optional, but the committee could issue a subpoena for the requested materials.)
Congressional jurisdiction does not generally apply to the actions of law enforcement personnel or legislators in state government, unless they are in conflict with federal law. So, in a press release issued by the Judiciary Committee, the Goodlatte letter is described as an attempt to determine “if the federal government might be able to partner with states to prevent newborn homicides.”
However, the first question asked by Goodlatte in the letter also asserts the committee’s interest in determining the state’s compliance with the federal 2002 “Infants Born-Alive Protection Act.”
Among the questions asked by Goodlatte and Franks in their letter:
“Do prosecutors in your state treat the deliberate killing of newborns, including those newborns who were born alive in the process of abortions, as a criminal offense? If so, have there been any prosecutions of this crime in your state?”
“Does your state have different statutes of limitation for culpability in the death of an infant and culpability and culpability for the deaths of human beings in later stages of development? If so, what is the understood rationale for that difference?”
In addition, Goodlatte and Franks ask the attorneys general to provide logs involving cases of women who have died or “suffered serious complications as a result of an abortion,” as well as logs of any cases that may have been prosecuted for abortions carried out beyond the state’s legal gestational limit.
As he faces reelection in 2014, Goodlatte’s abortion gambit may serve as one way to protect him from a primary challenge.
3. Fred Upton (R-MI)
As chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, Upton issued his own letter to the attorneys general in all 50 states, containing a potentially burdensome battery of questions on topics ranging from the licensing and regulation of abortion clinics that include demands for records and other supporting materials for a five-year period beginning in 2008. (The politically minded will note that the 2008-2013 period coincides with the election and subsequent presidency of Barack Obama.) The letter is dated May 7, 2013, and set a deadline of May 22 for compliance with the committee’s demands.
The letter from the Energy and Commerce Committee is significant because the Constitution gives Congress the power to regulate interstate commerce, and since women often find it necessary to cross state lines in order to obtain an abortion, the Health subcommittee of Energy and Commerce claims a certain level of jurisdiction. Like the letter sent to state attorneys general by the Judiciary Committee, failure to comply with the Energy and Commerce Committee requests do not carry a legal penalty, but the committee does have subpoena power.
In addition to a long list of technical questions regarding the inspection and licensing of abortion clinics, the Energy and Commerce committee chair also asks state officials to detail what steps the state has taken to ensure that at every clinic there is “a designated individual to report suspected medical neglect (including withholding of medically indicated treatment of disabled infants with life-threatening conditions) to the state child protective services agency.” The letter states that this is necessary in order for a state to comply with the 2005 federal Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act.
Despite his embrace of anti-choice positions, Upton isn’t a darling of the GOP’s right wing. In 2011, he managed to bring his National Right to Life Committee vote score up to 100 percent after scoring a mere 75 percent in 2009. With this letter, he apparently hopes to keep that full-bore rating going into the 2014 congressional elections. In fact, Upton only secured his chairmanship of the committee after GOP leaders promised the NRLC that they would name the stalwart anti-choice Rep. Joe Pitts (R-PA) to head the health subcommittee.
In any hearings prompted by the states’ response to the Goodlatte letter (which was co-signed by Pitts and other subcommittee chairs), Pitts can be expected to play a prominent role.
4. Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT)
When he’s not crusading against the United Nations, Mike Lee can be counted on to lead the charge against women’s rights. As the Gosnell trial unfolded, Lee offered a resolution on May 8, blocked by Democrats, that seemed to paint virtually all abortion clinics in Gosnell’s image, and called for national hearings on later abortions. (The Democrats, led by Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), instead offered their own resolution, which condemned abusive and unsanitary conditions in any health-care facility, not just abortion clinics.)
Lee’s resolution read, in part:
Congress has the responsibility to investigate and conduct hearings on abortions performed near, at, or after viability in the United States…and evaluate the extent to which such abortions involve violations of the natural right to life of infants who are born alive, or are capable of being born alive, and therefore are entitled to equal protection under the law.
The day before, Lee introduced a Senate version of the NRLC bill that would ban later abortion in Washington, D.C. Although the bill has virtually no chance of passage in the Senate, where Democrats hold the majority, it is gathering Republican co-sponsors, who now number 33.
The post Four Right-Wing Lawmakers Exploiting the Gosnell Case for Anti-Choice Measures appeared first on RH Reality Check.
Hey, local business owners–be sure you’re listed here. It’s another handy way for us to look up local businesses
Vision can feel a little too reality-bound sometimes. We don't let ourselves see a deeply desired outcome if we can't see how it will come to be.
Especially in communities/cultures of "conscious creation," there's a lot of pressure around the visions we hold. It needs to be the "right" vision -- divinely guided, aligned with our values, of service to society, whatever allows us to approve of the vision.
With fantasy, there's more flexibility. There's no expectation that it will come to fruition, so we can play a little more freely.
The magic is that the fantasy reveals some of the ingredients of a heartfelt vision -- at the *qualitative* level. The qualities we imagine in our fantastical job / business / mate / home / whatever become ingredients of the vision at an *energy* level.
In fantasy, we also get to enjoy the flavor of an imagined experience without the expectation of making it reality. We can "try on" various possible visions to discover what we truly desire.
So to the "vision --> mission --> goals" triumvirate of conscious living, I would add the preface of "fantasy." Fantasy informs vision which shapes mission which translates into goals.
What are some of the qualities of your fantastical ideal job / business / mate / home / whatever?
On Friday, Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney (D-NY) and Senator Robert Menendez (D-NJ) introduced legislation that would allow the government to investigate crisis pregnancy centers (CPCs) that falsely advertise abortion services. The “Stop Deceptive Advertising For Women’s Services Act,” introduced in both the House and the Senate, would allow the Federal Trade Commission to investigate reports of CPCs advertising as providing abortion care without offering any such services just as any other consumer complaint. The bill would not affect CPCs that accurately advertise as not providing abortion services.
Maloney and Menendez were joined by cosponsors Senator Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ) and Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) in announcing the bill. In a released statement, Maloney said, “Deception has no place when a woman is seeking information about her health or a pregnancy. Women shouldn’t be deliberately misled or coerced when they seek legitimate medical services… While I will defend crisis centers’ First Amendment rights even though I disagree with their view of abortion, those that practice bait-and-switch should be held accountable so that pregnant women are not deceived at an extremely vulnerable time in their lives.” Menendez echoed her sentiments, “We have worked too hard to expand the availability of women’s health care services to have any confusion created by those who would deliberately deceive a woman to suit their own purposes. I am proud to be an original sponsor of this legislation that is aimed at reducing the risk of women encountering unnecessary worry, anxiety and interference with getting the health care they need.”
Crisis Pregnancy Centers, or CPCs, are often owned and operated by churches or anti-abortion groups that pose as legitimate health centers in an attempt to trick pregnant women seeking abortion care. CPCs will provide medically inaccurate information and convey religious beliefs in an attempt to convince women to carry their pregnancies to term. To learn more about CPCs visit the Choices Campus Leadership Program’s Campaign to Expose Fake Clinics.
Media Resources: The Hill 5/20/2013; ThinkProgress 5/20/2013; Statement of Frank Lautenberg 5/17/2013
Portrait of a sad young woman looking at pregnancy test with bad news from Shutterstock
U.S. District Judge Susan Webber Wright of Little Rock granted the request of two doctors involved in the case to block the enforcement of the bill. In her decision she said, “I believe that there is a threat of irreparable harm, because these doctors… could face loss of their license… They also have established that their patients could suffer irreparable harm by not being able to have abortions post 12-weeks but during that pre-viability period.” The injunction will prevent the bill from going into effect until after Wright has heard closing arguments in the case and issued her decision. Currently, no date has been set to hear arguments in the case.
The “Human Heartbeat Protection Act,” or Act 301, bans abortion once a human heartbeat is detected using a standard abdominal ultrasound, usually at 12 weeks gestation. The bill was passed into law when the state legislature voted to override the governor’s veto. The ACLU and Center for Reproductive Rights have filed a lawsuit on behalf of two doctors in the state who are challenging the constitutionality of the pre-viability ban.
Media Resources: Associated Press 5/17/2013; Los Angeles Times 5/17/2013; New York Times 5/17/2013; Feminist Newswire 5/17/2013
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Here's what I'm reading today—what's the feminist news on your radar?
A coalition of more than two dozen activists launched a campaign Tuesday demanding that Facebook, the world’s largest social media website, be more responsive to gendered threats and violent speech targeting women and girls within its communities. The activists are asking users to put pressure on the company where it will hurt the most: on the company’s advertisers.
“We are asking Facebook users to contact advertisers whose ads on Facebook appear next to content that targets women for violence, to ask these companies to withdraw from advertising until you take the above actions to ban gender-based hate speech on your site,” explained the group in an open letter.
Spearheaded by Laura Bates of the Everyday Sexism Project, Jaclyn Friedman of Women, Action, and the Media, and writer and women’s rights activist Soraya Chemaly, the campaign seeks to draw attention to the double standard of the social network, which hyper-regulates content depicting female bodies while largely ignoring the violent speech and misogyny that runs rampant in some sectors of the site.
The activists hope the effort will ultimately force Facebook to reassess its position about what constitutes appropriate content. The site has been known to remove allegedly inappropriate pictures of breastfeeding women, women facing post-mastectomy recovery, and even pro-woman content like a drawing and description of female anatomy, while at the same time allowing groups and photos that denigrate women to proliferate.
In the wake of incidents like the Steubenville rape case, some women’s rights advocates have pointed to Facebook as a silent partner in the escalating culture of violence against women. “Every day people send me story after story about sexual abuse and domestic violence,” Chemaly told RH Reality Check. “Today, the Tampa Sun-Times ran a story about three teenage boys accused of raping a 12-year-old and posting their raping her on Facebook. Did Facebook rape this girl? Of course not. Did Facebook make it clear that laughing about rape, mocking victims, treating violence against women as a joke, and boasting about a rape on their site are just fine? Absolutely. Their entire approach literally turns the act of rape, including the rape of this girl, into a joke and emboldens rape apologists and violent abusers.”
“Obviously, rape isn’t a ‘Facebook problem,’ but the company, by virtue of its principles and guidelines, has made dismantling a culture of tolerance for rape and domestic violence one,” said Chemaly.
“It appears that Facebook considers violence against women to be less offensive than non-violent images of women’s bodies, and that the only acceptable representation of women’s nudity are those in which women appear as sex objects or the victims of abuse. Your common practice of allowing this content by appending a [humor] disclaimer to said content literally treats violence targeting women as a joke,” the group wrote in its open letter. “In a world in which hundreds of thousands of women are assaulted daily and where intimate partner violence remains one of the leading causes of death for women around the world, it is not possible to sit on the fence. We call on Facebook to make the only responsible decision and take swift, clear action on this issue, to bring your policy on rape and domestic violence into line with your own moderation goals and guidelines.”
Image: Women, Action, & the Media
The post Activists Demand Facebook Stop ‘Glorifying Violence Against Girls and Women’ appeared first on RH Reality Check.
I’d like to take a moment to state the obvious: The words “rape” and “sex” are not interchangeable. On this I hope we can all agree. While the word “rape” has jurisdictional definitions that vary, it generally refers to forcing someone to engage in sexual contact or penetration through physical force, by duress, or otherwise without consent. There is precious little agreement worldwide as to how to define the word “sex,” but I would argue that the participants’ consent to the activity is implied.
It was with this understanding in mind that I found myself listening to the Cleveland Police Department’s press conference in the immediate aftermath of the liberation of Amanda Berry, Gina DeJesus, and Michelle Knight from years of captivity. One reporter asked if the three women had been held as “sex slaves.” Later, a New York Times article covering the story also used “sex slave,” but it appears to have been quickly edited to remove the phrase (though there was no correction about that in the piece). In fact, a Google search reveals countless online references to these three women as “sex slaves.” Many of those references are from articles that were published after the women’s allegations of being raped repeatedly came out. The “sex slave” references also come after it was reported that suspect Ariel Castro is the father of Amanda Berry’s six-year-old child and after Michelle Knight’s statement that Castro impregnated her multiple times and forced her to miscarry through brutal physical abuse (which may lead to aggravated murder charges).
A search of the New York Post website demonstrates the publication’s preference for the phrase “sex slave” in articles and headlines (66 hits); the publication used it as recently as May 11 when covering the Cleveland story. The paper also used the phrase in reference to Jaycee Dugard, who was abducted at 11 years old and held for 18 years, during which time she was repeatedly raped and abused. The article, from the Associated Press, is headlined on the Post‘s site as “18 yrs. as sex slave nets $20M.” (Who knew victimhood could be so lucrative?)
The use of the phrase “sex slave” to describe someone’s rape experience poses many concerns, not only for survivors themselves but for society as a whole. It says something troubling about how we view perpetrators of sexual violence and how we view sex.
You don’t need to be an expert on Ohio law to know that victims of kidnapping cannot give meaningful consent to sexual activity. And while I acknowledge the word “slave” communicates force, I remain unconvinced that using it as a qualifier of the word “sex” makes for an accurate description of what these women allegedly experienced, which is rape. Calling them “sex slaves” conjures up images of 25-cent pulp fiction novels and bad pornography. “Sex slave” feels salacious, and a little bit dirty. It feels qualitatively different than labeling someone a “rape survivor” or “crime victim,” labels which evoke sadness, empathy, anger, and other appropriate emotions. And I strongly suspect it feels different for these three women, and for the people who love them. Consider how it would feel as a parent of a missing child to have that child referred to as a “sex slave,” as opposed to a “crime victim.” As a society, we should strive to do all that we can to avoid shaming survivors of sexual violence, in part by thoughtfully choosing the words we use to describe them and their experiences.
Another problem with this use of the phrase “sex slave” is that it the perpetrators of violence are let off the hook in some ways. It significantly minimizes the severity of their violation of societal norms and the law by putting uncomfortably little distance between what Ariel Castro is accused of doing (rape) and what most well-adjusted people engage in at some point in their lives (sex). This lack of distance makes it easier for people to dismiss a perpetrators’ behavior because it seems more like something they are capable of doing themselves. Naming the crime conveys more accurately the nature of the behavior being described, and appropriately transfers the shame and stigma from the victim to the perpetrator.
Conflating the word “rape” with “sex” demeans sex for all of us, but most especially for survivors of sexual violence. Elizabeth Smart, a survivor of similar horrors, recently spoke out about the damage done to rape survivors when we treat sex as something that ruins people. We do a similar disservice to rape survivors and to everyone who values sex when we refer to rape as a type of sex.
Image: CNN / YouTube
The post The Rescued Women in Cleveland Were Not ‘Sex Slaves’—They Were Raped appeared first on RH Reality Check.
It was certainly good news to hear in April that a 6-year-old Afghan girl, whose father previously intended to marry her to a 17-year-old boy, was no longer being forced to get married. The girl’s father received enough money from an anonymous donor to not have to sell his daughter to pay off a debt.
But despite one happy ending, child marriage remains a global nightmare.
A common occurrence in sub-Saharan Africa and parts of South Asia (PDF), child marriage is directly linked to poverty, as some parents sell their daughters into marriage in order to maintain enough money to get by. It’s estimated that nearly one out of nine girls in developing countries will get married by age 15. And recent studies have shown that, due to an increase in global crises and poverty, child marriages are on the rise.
Girls in many countries are married under the legal minimum age in their country. In Afghanistan for example, it is estimated that 16 percent of girls get married before age 15, while the legal minimum is 16. In some rural areas, up to 30 percent of families report having placed their daughters into marriage before 15. The majority of these families say they marry their daughters off for financial reasons.
The legal minimum age to get married varies from country to country—some countries have unclear laws, which allows prepubescent girls to get married. For example, while the legal minimum to get married in Iran is 16 for girls, another Iranian law states that a girl can enter into marriage once she hits puberty, if the parents consent. Because of this loosely worded and poorly enforced law, hundreds of families in Iran get away with marrying off even their prepubescent daughters each year.
In Niger, the country with the highest percent of girls married before 18, 12-year-old Takia reported to the United Nations Population fund (PDF) that she was married at 9 to a man who was around 50 years old—and at 11 gave birth. She told UNFPA,
One day my father told me I was to be married. I was never asked how I felt. It was my duty to respect his decision … I would have wanted to wait and find the one I love. But now it is too late. I prefer not to think about it. It is difficult for me, and for the whole country.
UNICEF is currently looking to increase awareness worldwide about child marriage and ensure legislation preventing child marriage is enforced. In a bit of good news, India passed the Child Marriage Prohibition Act in 2006, and as of late 2012 more than 5,000 villages in Senegal publicly declared their intentions to abandon the practice of child marriages. Unfortunately, unless major changes are made, it is predicted that worldwide there will be more than 100 million girls under 18 married in the next decade—that’s more than 38,000 girls getting married every day.
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