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Words to Live By

The Crunk Feminist Collective - 6 hours 23 min ago
June Jordan, Alice Walker, Lucille Clifton, and Audre Lorde at the Phillis Wheatley Poetry Festival in 1979.

June Jordan, Alice Walker, Lucille Clifton, and Audre Lorde at the Phillis Wheatley Poetry Festival in 1979.

I’m ready to say “don’t let the door hit ya where the good Lorde split ya” to the month of October. Is it me or was this past month just extra ridiculous? From the ongoing shenanigans in Ferguson, to the exploits of so-called white allies in the anti-street harassment movement, to the tomfoolery of Thug Kitchen (I knew they had to be white hipsters), to the yearly ritual of blackface that is Halloween–there has been a range of indignities big and small thrown at people of color that boggle the mind.

But wait, you say, that’s every month.

Right. You are absolutely right. (Sigh).

Even though I…you…we should be inured to this foolishness, some days it feels like the wounds are broken open anew and that this shit is too much to take. And for those moments I need the healing words of women I admire—the mentors and friends in my head—that help me move through the world with dignity and not just collapse under the weight of all the hatred and violence.  Here are some of my favorites in my mental arsenal.

When micro and macroagressions try to reduce my humanity on the daily, I remember the words of indigenous-rights activist Rigoberta Menchú:

“We are not myths of the past, ruins in the jungle, or zoos. We are people and we want to be respected, not to be victims of intolerance and racism.”

When I recognize the root of the fear directed at me as I move through the world, I remember the words of memoirist and trans advocate, Janet Mock:

“Sometimes people try to destroy you, precisely because they recognize your power—not because they don’t see it, but because they see it and they don’t want it to exist.”

When I’m feeling low about my work I remember the words of labor activist, Dolores Huerta:

“Every moment is an organizing opportunity, every person a potential activist, every minute a chance to change the world.”

When I’m feeling like taking care of myself has no room on my agenda—a constant struggle—I remember the words of our Lorde:

“Caring for myself is not self-indulgence, it is self-preservation, and that is an act of political warfare.”

When I’m meditating on the difficult work of moving through the world in love, I think of civil rights activist Grace Lee Boggs’ words:

“Love isn’t about what we did yesterday; it’s about what we do today and tomorrow and the day after.”

When I feel like my voice is too small, too unimportant to be shared or heard, I remember the words of my personal guru, Toni Morrison:

“If there’s a book that you want to read, but it hasn’t been written yet, then you must write it.”

And when I am making a way out of no way, I remember the words of my favorite poet, Lucille Clifton:

 won’t you celebrate with me

what i have shaped into

a kind of life? i had no model.

born in babylon

both nonwhite and woman

what did i see to be except myself?

i made it up

here on this bridge between

starshine and clay,

my one hand holding tight

my other hand; come celebrate

with me that everyday

something has tried to kill me

and has failed.

Take these words into November. I know I will.

Categories: Feminist

BitchTapes: Middle Eastern Queer Music

Bitch Media - 6 hours 24 min ago


This week's mixtape comes to us from Tel Aviv radio broadcaster Nitzan Pincu, who hosts a radio show dedicated to feminist and queer artists. Nitzan put together this mix of queer artists from around the Middle East.

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Categories: Feminist

Young women: Less voting, more Tinder. It’s for the best.

Feministe - 6 hours 33 min ago

Fox News’s “The Five” wants young women to know that you’re really too stupid right now to participate in public life. Not too stupid in general — someday, you’ll be old enough and conservative enough to vote or serve on juries. Just not right now. The Five discuss the age and gender gap as it could influence the midterm elections and then veers off to let young women know that right now, while you’re healthy and hot, you should just focus on Tinder and and let the grownups make the decisions.

The fun stuff starts at 2:25.

GREG GUTFELD. Well, to Bob’s point, he is right that married women tend to be more conservative. But that also correlates with age. And with age comes wisdom. And it’s a known fact that the older that you get, the more conservative you get, and I always tell young people, “You don’t have to wait to become a conservative –”


GUTFELD. “Don’t waste your time.” But the point is, a lot of women have also caught on to the big joke, which, it seems to be even more sexist to assume that women cannot take care of themselves because they’re women and therefore need the government to take care of them.

GUILFOYLE. Right! That’s the thing! But when you’re young like that, you think — The same reason why young women on juries are not a good idea, they don’t get it, they’re not in that same, like, life experience of paying the bills, doing the mortgage, kids, community, crime, education, health care. They’re, like, healthy and hot and running around without a care in the world.

BOB BECKEL. They’ve got every right in the world — They have every — They shouldn’t be on jur — They have every right in the world — They’re —

DANA PERINO. It’s the same when you’re choosing a jury.

GUILFOYLE. I didn’t say they shouldn’t be. I just think they can excuse them so they can go back on Tinder or

Women! Know your limits!

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Categories: Feminist

On Our Radar: Feminist News Roundup

Bitch Media - 7 hours 33 min ago

Here’s what’s on our radar today:

• Just how bad is California’s drought? These maps tell the story. [Mother Jones]

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Categories: Feminist

Women of Color in Tennessee Are United in Opposition to Amendment 1

Feminist Majority Foundation - 8 hours 4 min ago
Just days before the general election in Tennessee, a coalition of community leaders, clergy, and advocates led a press conference encouraging women of color to vote no on Amendment 1, a dangerous and far-reaching measure on the state's ballot.
Categories: Feminist

Minimum Wage in Five States Could Look Vastly Different After Election Day

RH Reality Check - 8 hours 19 min ago
Voters in Alaska, Arkansas, Illinois, Nebraska, and South Dakota will decide ballot measures, also known as initiatives or issues, on Election Day to increase those states’ minimum wage.

Voters in 42 states on Election Day will decide an assortment of ballot measures, also known as initiatives or issues, that cover various largely polarizing political issues. Voters in five states—Alaska, Arkansas, Illinois, Nebraska, and South Dakota—will decide ballot measures to increase those states’ minimum wage.

Each measure would increase the minimum wage above the federally mandated minimum wage of $7.25 per hour, but how far above that threshold and the timeline for the increases vary by state.

Illinois is the only state of the five where the ballot measure is not legally binding. The ballot measure would only advise the state legislature to take action and increase the minimum wage. The Minimum Wage Increase Question would potentially lead lawmakers to increase the minimum wage from $8.25 to $10 per hour.

If each measure is passed (and Illinois lawmakers acts on their constituents’ advice), it would increase the pay of at least 680,000 low-wage workers in those states, according to an analysis by FiveThirtyEight.

Only two states, Alaska and South Dakota, include language on the ballot measures that would mandate an annual increase in the minimum wage to adjust for inflation. South Dakota is the only state in which the measure also addresses workers whose wages are made through gratuity or tips.

Each measure was placed on the ballot through a ballot initiative process, with the exception of Illinois. In order for the measures to qualify to be placed on the ballot, activists in the four states gathered and verified a total of more than 200,000 signatures.

There are organized campaigns and political action committees actively working to support the measures in each state, but there is no similar organized opposition to the minimum wage measures. While there is a partisan divide between supporters and opponents, Republican candidates for governor and U.S. Senate in both Alaska and Arkansas have voiced their support for boosting low wages.

Alaska Ballot Measure 3

In Alaska, Ballot Measure 3 would increase the state’s minimum wage from $7.75 per hour to $8.75 per hour beginning January 1. The minimum wage would be increased again to $9.75 per hour a year later. The state’s minimum wage would be adjusted for inflation or increased by $1 over the federal minimum wage—whichever is higher.

While the median household income is above the national average and the percentage of residents living in poverty is also below the national average, the cost of living in Alaska is significantly higher than most other states. Alaska has the fourth highest cost of living in the United States, behind only Hawaii, New York, and Connecticut, according to a report by the Department of Labor.

Republicans in the state house last spring introduced and passed HB 384, which would have increased the minimum wage to $9 per hour on July 1, and to $10 per hour in 2015. Even though the bill would have increased the minimum wage by more than the ballot measure, Democrats opposed it because they claimed Republicans would simply repeal the law the next year as they had done before.

Alaskan Republicans passed a bill in 2002 to mandate that the state’s minimum wage increase with inflation. That same year Democrats had successfully placed a measure on the ballot to increase the minimum wage. Once the legislation was passed, the measure was by law forced to be removed from the ballot. The next year, Republicans passed legislation to remove the inflation adjustment from the minimum wage.

When the legislative session was adjourned in April, HB 384 died in the state Senate Finance Committee.

U.S. Sen. Mark Begich (D) has come out in favor of raising the state’s minimum wage, and has also co-sponsored legislation to increase the federal minimum wage. Begich’s Republican opponent Dan Sullivan initially opposed the minimum wage increase, but later changed course to support the measure.

A Public Policy Polling poll found that 58 percent of Alaskans surveyed support the measure to increase the minimum wage.

Arkansas Issue 5

The $6.25 per hour minimum wage in Arkansas is lower than the federal minimum wage, but is superseded by federal law. Issue 5 would increase the state’s minimum wage to $7.50 per hour on January 1. It would also increase the minimum wage twice more, to $8 per hour on January 1, 2016 and to $8.50 per hour on January 1, 2017.

Arkansas has the fourth highest percentage of residents living in poverty. The median household income, over the past decade, has been among the lowest in the nation, and has seen little improvement.

The ballot measure survived a court challenge, as the Arkansas Supreme Court issued a ruling Monday that it could remain on the ballot. Little Rock businessman Jackson T. Stephens challenged the measure on the grounds that the deadline to submit signatures was not met and that signatures submitted by supporters were invalid.

Stephens owns one of the largest private investment banks in the country and is board chairman of the conservative Club for Growth, a 501(c)4 that endorses and campaigns for far-right candidates.

Federal Election Commission filings show that since 2010, Stephens has contributed $1.4 million to the Club for Growth Action independent-expenditure super PAC.

The Club for Growth endorsed Rep. Tom Cotton (R-Dardanelle) for U.S. Senate in Arkansas and launched attack ads against incumbent Sen. Mark Pryor (D). Cotton has received more than $546,000 in campaign contributions from the Club for Growth, according to data from the Center for Responsive Politics.

Pryor and other Arkansas Democrats have made increasing the minimum wage a focal point of the campaign. Pryor criticized Cotton for his lack of support for measure. Cotton, who voted against increasing the federal minimum wage, announced his support for the measure, effectively blunting Pryor’s criticism.

Nebraska Initiative 425

Nebraska’s Initiative 425 would increase the state’s hourly minimum wage to $9 per hour over two years. The minimum wage would be increased from $7.25 per hour to $8.00 per hour on January 1, and then increase to $9.00 per hour at the start of 2016.

If passed, it will be the first time the state’s minimum wage was higher than the federal minimum wage.

The median household income in the state is just below the national average, but the percentage of residents living in poverty is also below the national average. Supporters of the measure claim the increase is needed in part because Nebraska had the second highest percent of hourly workers at or below minimum wage when compared with surrounding states.

Opponents this fall held a press conference and outlined their opposition to Initiative 425. They claim it would increase costs for small business and do little to help the working poor. The press conference was organized by the Platte Institute for Economic Research, a conservative think tank headquartered in Omaha that promotes right-wing economic policies.

The founder of the Platte Institute is Pete Ricketts, the Republican candidate for governor. Ricketts’ father, Joe Ricketts, is the founder of the online brokerage firm Ameritrade, and the founder of Ending Spending Action Fund, a 501(c)4 that has spent millions over the last few years supporting conservative candidates.

Ricketts has opposed raising the minimum wage on the campaign trail, while Chuck Hassebrook, the Democratic nominee for governor, supports raising the minimum wage.

South Dakota Measure 18

Measure 18 would increase the minimum wage in South Dakota from $7.25 to $8.50 per hour beginning January 1. It would also mandate an increase in the minimum wage each year to adjust for inflation. Workers who earn wages through tips would also see a wage increase, as the measure would increase their hourly pay from $2.13 to $4.25 per hour.

One in six employed South Dakota workers would likely see an increase in their wages if the minimum wage were raised, according to an analysis by the South Dakota Budget and Policy Institute. The analysis also found that one in seven children in the state have at least one parent that would be affected by the minimum wage increase.

The Lincoln Journal-Star endorsed voting for Measure 18, because the benefit of increasing the minimum wage outweighed the possible negative impact.

“Fears of negative economic impacts have proved exaggerated in the past when the minimum wage was increased,” the newspaper’s editorial board wrote.

Measure 18 appears to have significant support from South Dakota voters, as 60 percent of likely voters said they support the minimum wage increase, according to a recent SurveyUSA poll. Twenty-eight percent oppose the increase and 13 percent are undecided.

Image: Shutterstock

The post Minimum Wage in Five States Could Look Vastly Different After Election Day appeared first on RH Reality Check.

Categories: Feminist

All About That Catcalling Video

Ms. Blog - 8 hours 47 min ago

By now you’ve probably heard about the catcalling video co-created by anti-street-harassment group Hollaback! and Rob Bliss Creative.

The video features a woman who, while walking around New York for 10 hours, gets harassed by men more than 100 times; it’s been making its way speedily around the Internet and think-pieced in high volume.

While some have come out in favor of the video—The Awl called it “powerful and useful”—others, including Slate, The Daily Dot, Colorlines and Clutch, have critiqued it for its seeming racial bias: The vast majority of male harassers featured are men of color, mostly black and Latino.

“The racial politics of the video are fucked up,” wrote Roxane Gay, author of Bad Feminist, on Twitter. “Like, she didn’t walk through any white neighborhoods?”

Actually, she did, according to Bliss: Most of the video was shot in Midtown, a majority-white area. Bliss defended his work on Reddit, writing that the sample size in the video is small, and that two men—who “by chance were black”—take up most of the screen time. “We got a fair amount of white guys,” he adds, “but for whatever reason, a lot of what they said was in passing, or off camera.” And, for whatever reason, his creative team didn’t go back for another take after editing revealed a racial imbalance.

Hollaback!, for its part, issued a statement Thursday assuring viewers that it never meant to portray street harassment as a problem perpetuated only by non-white men:

We regret the unintended racial bias in the editing of the video that over-represents men of color. … It is our hope and intention that this video will be the start of a series to demonstrate that the type of harassment we’re concerned about is directed toward women of all races and ethnicities and conducted by an equally diverse population of men. Hollaback! understands that harassment is a broad problem perpetuated by a diversity of individuals regardless of race. There is no one profile for a harasser and harassment comes in many different forms.

The video may have been inspired by The Daily Show with Jon Stewart’s campaign against street harassment: The show recently aired a segment called “Jessica’s Feminized Atmosphere” in which correspondent Jessica Williams spends time walking around Manhattan, gets harassed, and convenes a group of women to discuss their experiences. One shares the harrowing story of a man who said he wanted to “take a dump” on her breasts.

One thing’s for sure: All the buzz created by the Hollaback! video—both positive and negative—has put street harassment front and center in everyone’s minds.

Tell us readers: What do you think of the Hollaback! video? Let us know in the comments. (And if you’ve ever wondered what it’s like to be a white man walking around in New York, Funny or Die has graciously shared a video of that experience).

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Stephanie Hallett is research editor at Ms. Follow her on Twitter @stephhallett.

Categories: Feminist

Book News: J.K. Rowling Exposes Origin Of Harry Potter's 'Twee' Nemesis

NPR Books - 9 hours 51 min ago

Dolores Umbridge, enemy of the boy wizard, gets profiled in a new story from Rowling on Halloween. Also: Goodnight Moon goes bilingual, and a campaign for diverse books turns to crowd-funding.

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Categories: Book News

GOP Candidates in Key Races Downplaying Anti-Choice Views

RH Reality Check - 10 hours 40 min ago
Overall, at least some Republican candidates appear to be trying to neutralize "war on women" criticisms to narrow the gender voting gap that favors Democrats among women.

As Election Day draws near, many Republican candidates in tight races are making public statements in support of women’s reproductive rights that seem to conflict with their records.

Some Republican candidates appear to be trying to neutralize the “war on women” criticisms to narrow the gender voting gap that favors Democrats among women voters.

Iowa’s Joni Ernst, a staunch conservative who narrowly leads Democrat Bruce Braley, said during a recent debate that she supports women’s access to contraception, as well as exceptions to save a woman’s life if abortion were banned.

Braley said Ernst’s words contradicted her policies; her support for a fetal “personhood” amendment, the Supreme Court’s Hobby Lobby decision, and repealing the Affordable Care Act would make contraception less affordable or even ban it entirely.

A “personhood” amendment, which defines a fertilized egg as a person, could ban all abortion without any exceptions, as well as many common forms of birth control and in vitro fertilization.

Hobby Lobby sets a precedent for unequal contraceptive coverage depending on the religion of a woman’s employer, and repealing the Affordable Care Act would mean women are no longer guaranteed no-cost birth control through insurance.

Ernst called it “laughable” that Braley would question her, a woman with three daughters, on the issue of contraception.

She said her support for Hobby Lobby “doesn’t mean a woman can’t get reliable, safe birth control. She can still go to her doctor and receive birth control.”

That wouldn’t necessarily be the case if Ernst’s “personhood” amendment had passed. And Ernst’s statements echo other Republican candidates who gloss over affordability issues and suggest the “access” debate is really about whether women are legally allowed to buy birth control at all.

Colorado U.S. Senate candidate Cory Gardner made headlines for advocating over-the-counter birth control while supporting the repeal of the Affordable Care Act.

Just like Ernst, Gardner supported a “personhood” amendment that he dismissed as a mere “statement” on his “pro-life” principles. Gardner, in a move that confounded supporters and detractors alike, also denied that the measure he supported existed in the first place.

Colorado, where voters will decide on Tuesday whether to pass a “personhood” amendment that could criminalize abortion, boasts two other Republican candidates who have made statements that clash with their records on women’s health.

In one of the closest House races of the year, Rep. Mike Coffman (R-CO) ran an ad that prominently displayed the logo of Planned Parenthood, which “surprised” a spokesperson from Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains since Coffman had previously voted to defund the organization.

Colorado Republican gubernatorial candidate Bob Beauprez has extreme anti-choice views, including support for a fetal “personhood” measure, and he has bragged about his “100 percent pro-life voting record.”

But voters listening to Beauprez on Colorado Public Radio might have thought otherwise given his statements about supporting women’s “choice of whether to use birth control or not,” and “people’s right to choose.”

Republican Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker has said he opposes abortion even in cases of rape and incest, yet he has run ads that use language about leaving the final decision up to a woman and her doctor.

In New Hampshire, Republican Scott Brown ran an ad earnestly defending his “pro-choice” record, but told reporters that birth control and equal pay didn’t rate as “issues that people care about.”

Brown also co-sponsored a bill that would have allowed employers to opt out of providing any kind of health coverage, including contraception, due to moral objections.

Image: EPG_EuroPhotoGraphics /

The post GOP Candidates in Key Races Downplaying Anti-Choice Views appeared first on RH Reality Check.

Categories: Feminist

Halloween Makes Us Think Of ... Diversity In Romance!

NPR Books - 13 hours 21 min ago

Romance guru Bobbi Dumas once worked at an international school — and she says the colorful world of the kids' Halloween costumes inspired her to think about diversity in her favorite literature.

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Categories: Book News

10 Things You’re Actually Saying When You Ignore Someone’s Gender Pronouns

Everyday Feminisms - 19 hours 43 min ago
 The Next WebOne of the most challenging parts of coming out as transgender is the resistance people have to changing the pronouns they use. Sure, some slip-ups are understandable at first. But when people actively refuse to use your pronouns, then that's a whole other story. Here are ten things that this refusal actually signifies to the trans person.
Categories: Feminist

Saying Feminism Shouldn’t Discuss Race Doesn’t Make Any Sense — Here’s Why

Everyday Feminisms - 19 hours 44 min ago
White FeminismThere is a long and troubled history of white feminists in the movement asking women of color to not focus on race. "Why do you need to divide us like that? Feminism is about ALL women, so we shouldn't focus on one particular group!" But there's a big flaw in that logic. Check out this comic for a wake-up call about how hypocritical it is to white-wash feminism.
Categories: Feminist

The Problem With That Catcalling Video

Everyday Feminisms - 19 hours 54 min ago
Weekly Feminist Round up 10/31Here's your Weekly Feminist Round-Up, a collection of the top sociopolitical news stories and creative justice-focused content from around the globe. This week: Janay Rice speaks out about those racist DV Halloween costumes, updates from the missing Nigerian girls, and the unspoken problem with that video about street harassment in New York City. Check it out!
Categories: Feminist

Spillover #22

Feministe - 20 hours 23 min ago

A red "Keep Calm" poster with the caption KEEP CALM AND STAY ON TOPICThe commenting period on the 21st #spillover thread is expiring, so it’s time for a new one. Some reminders:

  1. #spillover is part of our comment moderation system for keeping other threads on-topic. It is intended as a constructive space for tangential discussions which are veering off-topic on other threads. This is part of our blog netiquette, which has the general goal of making it as simple as possible for commentors to find discussions focussed on topics of particular interest without entirely stifling worthwhile tangents of sorta-related or general interest. #spillover is also a space for those ongoing/endless disagreements and 101 issues that just keep on popping up.
  2. Commentors are encouraged to respect the topic of each post and be proactive regarding inevitable thread-drift in long threads: we hope that commentors will cheerfully volunteer to take off-topic responses into #spillover so that each post’s discussion gets room to breathe and tangents can be indulged in a room of their own.

More detailed outline/guidelines were laid out on Spillover #1.
The Moderator Team will enforce topicality where necessary, and off-topic commentors who ignore invitations from others to take their tangents to #spillover are one of the reasons commentors might consider sending the moderators a giraffe alert.
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Categories: Feminist

PEN American Center Presents: Justin Vivian Bond on “How to Take a Flying Leap”

Lambda Literary - Thu, 10/30/2014 - 7:55pm

PEN DIY: Justin Vivian Bond on “How to Take a Flying Leap: No Word Is An Island”

On Monday, November 3rd at NYC’s Ace Hotel, PEN American Center presents its second DIY event featuring a conversation with the talented Mx Justin Vivian Bond.

The Lambda Literary Award winning author, singer, and performance artist, will deliver in a literary “How-to” in five steps. After V’s 20-minute original monologue, writer and satirist Mike Albo will join Bond for a conversation and maybe even a demonstration!

Building on oral traditions, parables, and the rich history of artists as unpretentious makers, PEN DIY celebrates how literature can be approachable yet unexpected, and how it can help us make sense of our lives

New talks by acclaimed writers and artists the first Monday of every month!

WHAT:  Original monologue—a literary “how-to” by one of today’s most celebrated artists

WHO:  Justin Vivian Bond: singer, performer, and writer, alongside satirist and writer Mike Albo

WHERE: Liberty Hall at Ace Hotel, 20 W 29th St. at Broadway, New York City

WHEN: Monday, November 3, 2014, 7:30pm doors & 8 pm start

The code ‘Lambda’ makes the tickets just $5. The Facebook page is here

Buy tickets here.


Founded in 1922, PEN American Center is the largest of the 145 centers of PEN International, the world’s only international association of writers working to defend free expression and to protect persecuted writers. PEN International was founded after World War I to dispel national, ethnic, and racial tensions and to promote understanding among all countries. PEN American Center works to advance literature, to defend free expression, and to foster international literary fellowship. Its 3,500 distinguished members carry on the achievements in literature and advancement of human rights of such past members as James Baldwin, Arthur Miller, Susan Sontag, and Alice Walker.


Categories: Book News, LGBTQ

The Pakistani Superhero Who’s Battling Polio

Ms. Blog - Thu, 10/30/2014 - 7:22pm

1012716_597170546980247_1264650530_nIn Pakistan, a woman superhero is saving the day on television screens, spreading awareness about women’s issues and fighting for gender equality. Launched last summer, award-winning animation Burka Avenger tracks Jiya and her titular alter ego. An agreeable schoolteacher by day, Jiya transforms into her superhero counterpart at night, donning a burka and kicking butt before sunrise.

In the midst of rising Taliban opposition to girl’s education, Pakistani pop star Aaron Haroon Rashid created Jiya, who was originally intended to fight for equal access to education. Since then, his brainchild has expanded thematically; the superhero now fights against discrimination, child labor and environmental harm.

This week she’s taking on Pakistan’s growing foe: polio.

While it may be naïve to think an animated cartoon can help eradicate a spreading disease, Burka Avenger‘s writers hope to at least spread awareness about the importance of the polio vaccine. Produced for World Polio Day on Oct. 24, the episode (which is available online) follows an evil magician who kidnaps a polio vaccinator and steals the vaccines. With the help of her friends, Burka Avenger must right this wrong. Framed in a lighthearted manner, the plot speaks to the real-life threats facing Pakistani health workers. “We always have a social issue or a social message that is the centerpiece of each show,” Haroon explained to NBC. “And of course, with the rising number of polio cases … the situation is alarming.”

The storyline on Burka Avenger mirrors what’s happening to real-life women in Pakistan: While polio is not specifically a women’s issue, it’s mostly women distributing polio vaccines in the country—and they’re putting their lives at risk to do it.

In early October, Pakistan logged its 200th new case of polio since January, the largest number of new cases in 14 years. Deemed a global public health emergency, polio is only endemic in three countries: Pakistan, Nigeria and Afghanistan. As Pakistan breaches the 200 mark, Nigeria and Afghanistan have both documented only small-digit figures (six and 10 new cases, respectively).

In Pakistan, resistance to the vaccination comes from the Taliban and other Islamist militants. Viewed as a Western ploy, the vaccination is misconstrued in two ways: as a scheme to sterilize Muslim children, and as a cover for U.S. spies (since information about Osama bin Laden’s whereabouts was gathered via a faux hepatitis vaccination program). Militant groups are targeting the health workers who administer the vaccines and collect immunization data, and since 2012, more than 50 anti-polio health workers and security officials have been killed in their homes or doing fieldwork.

The polio vaccination teams work across the country, convincing people of the vaccine’s value in face-to-face interactions, which requires health workers to trek from village to village, door to door. Women—perceived as less of a threat to parents—are more readily welcomed into a home, and so the burden of spreading the vaccination gospel has fallen on their shoulders. When extremist groups target the messengers, the violence therefore disproportionately puts women at risk.

Rotary International, which has been working to eradicate polio since 1985, is starting another new push for Pakistani immunization. The organization plans to increase the number of women involved in door-to-door work, and to give cell phones to midwives in order to track polio immunization data. 

While this reinvigorated campaign is crucial, the new policies put women’s lives in danger yet again. Burka Avenger is helping to dispel myths about the polio vaccine—which helped to successfully eradicate polio in many parts of the world by 1999—so that her real-life counterparts can spread awareness about the disease and stop polio once and for all.

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Photo courtesy of Burka Avenger.



Brianna Kovan graduated from the University of Michigan with a B.A. in English. She is currently an editorial intern at Ms.

Categories: Feminist

Five Black Sci-Fi Writers You Should Know

Bitch Media - Thu, 10/30/2014 - 6:28pm

 October is Black Speculative-Fiction Month. The month is drawing to an end, so it's time to stock up your bedside table with titles by Black women authors that you can spend the next 11 months reading. Here's my short list of great authors to introduce you to Black speculative-fiction. 

the cover of octavia butler's book

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Categories: Feminist

'The Book Of Strange New Things' Treads Familiar Territory

NPR Books - Thu, 10/30/2014 - 6:20pm

Michel Faber's best-seller, The Crimson Petal and the White, captured the feel of Victorian London. His latest is a literary science-fiction tale that might disappoint hard core sci-fi fans.

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Categories: Book News

Black Women Speak Out Against Tennessee’s Extreme Amendment 1

RH Reality Check - Thu, 10/30/2014 - 5:47pm
Early voting in Tennessee has begun and many residents have already taken to the polls to cast their ballots for Amendment 1, a highly controversial and extreme anti-choice ballot initiative.

Read more of our articles on the Tennessee ballot initiative here.

Early voting in Tennessee has begun and many residents have already taken to the polls to cast their ballots for Amendment 1, a highly controversial and extreme anti-choice ballot initiative.

The Memphis-based reproductive rights organization SisterReach on Thursday held a conference on Amendment 1, its impact for Black communities, and the need for Black women to get out to the polls in the next week.

“We stand today because pending legislation has the potential to send women back to the back alleys where we died from unsafe and unsanitary abortions,” SisterReach founder and CEO Cherisse Scott said. “It has the potential to exacerbate not only the mass incarceration of our men and boys. We assemble today to impress upon Black women and women of color, many of whom are heads of households, to get out and vote.”

If passed, Amendment 1 gives state lawmakers the power to enact, amend, or repeal state laws regulating abortion by writing into the state constitution language that includes, “nothing in this Constitution secures or protects a right to abortion or requires the funding of an abortion.”

A Tennessee Supreme Court decision in 2010 found that a law restricting abortion access violated the state constitution, which provides more explicit protection for abortion than the U.S. Constitution. By changing the state constitution to clarify that it does not protect the right to abortion access, Amendment 1 would likely open the floodgates for a wave of anti-choice restrictions, many of which other red states have already seen.

Though abortion restrictions affect everyone, women of color, and particularly Black women, are in a unique position: Black women in the United States are five times more likely to have an abortion than a white woman, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The evidence as to why this is the case is clear: It’s due to inequality. Lower incomes mean less access to health care and low-cost contraception, which leads to a higher rate of unintended pregnancy and in turn abortion.

Low-income women often have more unstable living conditions, which could contribute to lower contraceptive use; women who must focus on survival often can’t put contraception high on their list of priorities, according to the Guttmacher Institute.

Black women are also the target of racist anti-choice campaigns, which use Black women’s decisions to get an abortion as a jumping-off point for arguments for “pro-life” policy.

At least one Georgia anti-choice bill was mobilized by printed billboards across the state with the slogan “Black Children are an Endangered Species.” The bill was eventually quashed by a coordinated effort, primarily on the part of SisterSong, a women of color reproductive justice collective in the state.

“The voices of Black women are often demonized, marginalized and tokenized in many human rights discussions like abortion, mass incarceration, criminalization, sexual assault, domestic violence, and rape,” Scott said. “Our goal is to provide space for women most impacted to speak directly to the conditions we are expected to thrive in—conditions which have reduced us to mere survival instead of the ability to lead healthy lives, raise and provide for our families in safe and sustainable communities free from violence from individuals or the government.”

At the conference on Thursday, held in a church, reproductive rights activists were joined by faith leaders in the state, including the Rev. A. Faye London, who gave an impassioned speech.

“I stand here with Black women and declare that our voices do matter, our lives do matter, our stories do matter, our families do matter,” she said. “We must vote, because our lives matter, our lives are in our hands.”

Image: Tennessee state capitol via Shutterstock

The post Black Women Speak Out Against Tennessee’s Extreme Amendment 1 appeared first on RH Reality Check.

Categories: Feminist

Gardner Pushed for $110 Million in Abstinence-Only Education Funding

RH Reality Check - Thu, 10/30/2014 - 5:41pm
During his re-election campaign in Colorado, Democratic Sen. Mark Udall has spotlighted senatorial candidate Cory Gardner’s extreme anti-abortion positions, which opposed by most voters, but the congressman has also co-sponsored unpopular abstinence-only legislation.

Colorado U.S. Senate candidate Cory Gardner co-sponsored an abstinence-only federal grant program, which included a requirement that, in courses for teenagers, grant recipients include information about the benefits of refraining from sexual activity until marriage.

It also required education about sexual abstinence as the “optimal sexual health behavior for youth.” Gardner’s stance on abstinence-only sex education has received scant attention on the campaign trail in one of the country’s most competitive and important races.

Gardner’s bill mandating the $110 million program, known as the Abstinence Education Reallocation Act, was introduced on Valentine’s Day 2012, the same day Democrats introduced the Real Education for Healthy Youth Act, which aimed to “expand comprehensive sex education programs in schools and ensure that federal funds are spent on effective, age-appropriate, medically accurate programs.”

Gardner’s bill provided funds for “teaching the skills and benefits of sexual abstinence as the optimal sexual health behavior for youth; and teaching the benefits of refraining from non-marital sexual activity, the advantage of reserving sexual activity for marriage, and the foundational components of a healthy relationship.”

Gardner has apparently not commented publicly on the bill and an email to his office seeking comment was not returned.

Rep. Randy Hultgren (R-IL), co-sponsor of the Abstinence Education Reallocation Act, said he was concerned, as a parent, about his children contracting sexually transmitted diseases.

“This caught my attention because as a father, with two of my four kids in their late teens, I want them to avoid such risks,” he said, according to a report in The Hill. His solution was more federal funding for “risk avoidance education,” also referred to as abstinence education.

A survey by Advocates for Youth found that 70 percent of Americans oppose education programs focusing only on abstinence until marriage.

Social issues have played a prominent role in Colorado’s Senate contest, but the debate has skirted sexual education, focusing instead on birth control and abortion issues.

Gardner’s Democratic opponent, Sen. Mark Udall, has issued a steady stream of attacks on Gardner’s past and current support for “personhood” legislation at the federal level. Udall has also highlighted Gardner’s longstanding opposition to abortion during his political career.

Image: Cory Gardner for Senate/Youtube

The post Gardner Pushed for $110 Million in Abstinence-Only Education Funding appeared first on RH Reality Check.

Categories: Feminist
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