What if the need for Women’s History Month became a thing of the past?

Just as the (ironic) goal of women’s studies is to do away with the need for women’s studies, so is the goal of women’s history month to be able to do away with the need for a “special month” set aside for women’s history. Just as gender (and the intersecting issues of race, class, sexuality, ability and so on) should be a part of academic studies generally, so should women’s history be included in EVERDAY curriculum.

As noted in a post I wrote last year, maybe we should make June “White Male History Month” and make the REST of the year about all-inclusive curriculum. (Note: I picked June as it is the end of the school year and I think it is high time white males came last for once. I think it is also important to point out that I am referring to the normative conception of white-maleness here — or middle to upper-class, Christian, heterosexual, able-bodied, right leaning, “properly masculine” white males who must, of course, like sports.)

Sadly, though, we still need a month set aside to remind teachers and others to honor important women past and present. As the joke goes, “If February is Black History Month and March is Women’s History Month, what happens the rest of the year? Discrimination.”

This year, the theme for National Women’s History Month is Writing Women Back into History. As noted at the National Women’s History Project website, “The history of women often seems to be written with invisible ink. Even when recognized in their own times, women are often not included in the history books.”

To do my small part to rectify this history that is too often rendered invisible, I will be posting sporadically throughout the month about women who need to be written (back) into history.

Happy Women’s History Month everyone – and here’s to a day when all people’s history is included all year long!

What if you want to focus on something else besides crazy James Dobson’s cult commercial on Superbowl Sunday?

There has been excellent and inspiring critique around CBS’ heinous decision to air the anti-choice ad bankrolled by Focus on the Family. I really like NARAL’s call to use social networking sites to spread the word about the importance of NOT focusing on this add tomorrow. (To read the call about updating your facebook status and twitter feeds with posts showing your support for pro-choice, go here.)

During the superbowl, I will choose not to focus on CBS, the football machine, nor FonF’s anti-choice ad. Instead, I will focus on spending time with my kids and ensure we discuss the importance of reproductive justice and pro-choice legislation/activism. My daughter deserves the right to make choices about her body and its reproductive capacity. My son deserves to live in a world where all humans are supported to make the best reproductive choice for their bodies and futures.

I do have to admit that Like Elizabeth Gilbert of Mother Jones, “I have a general, albeit sometimes irrational, distaste for quarterbacks.” She explains her distaste as follows: “There’s something about their deified status, the fact that they’re often positioned as Great White Hopes on mostly black teams…”

I agree, and would add that my distaste includes all of football, not just quarterbacks. My dislike is fueled by the history of rape, sexual assault, homophobia, misogyny, and violent masculinity linked to the football machine. It is also fueled by my personal history – I was dragged unwillingly to all my older brother’s football teams as a kid.

I realize my stance lands me in the “anti-American” camp according to some. (That’s ok, because I don’t put much truck in nationalistic patriotism…) I imagine I am in the minority for insisting my son NOT play football – I don’t want him ending up with serious injuries like my dad, brother, nephew, and cousin. Neither do I want him to be part of a sport that too often seems to glorify aggression and the “tough guise.”

So, like Gilbert, I am happy to weigh in on the Superbowl add abortion debate and come down on the side of this-is-yet-another-reason-football-sucks…

As Gilbert notes, the poster boy of the anti-choice ad, Tim Tebow, is known for “declaring his virginism and etching bible passages into his eye-black for every game.” Charming.

The ad is sponsored by the scary, scary Focus on the Family cult, headed by the anti-choice deity James Dobson.

The ad will reportedly include testimony from Tim’s momma who will wax emotional about how wonderful it is she chose life – or chose to have the now mega money making handsome Timmy. I would wager (did I just use a Palin word?!?) that the ad will NOT include details about maternal mortality rates or other icky details about how “choosing life” often also means choosing generational poverty let alone frames future children’s lives as more important than the lives of existing women.

The ad is even more odious considering it features a woman who “disregarded the advice of her doctors and risked death to give birth to the Football Messiah” (as noted in this excellent post). What else the ad probably won’t share is that Pam Tebow had constant medical care, something most of the worlds mamas-to-be don’t share (especially if they don’t share Pam Tebow’s white skin privilege).

The controversial ad was made even more contentious with the news CBS refused to run an ad from ManCrunch, a gay dating site. As Michael Rowe writes at Huffpo,

“The network’s rejection of it merely highlights the obvious: that CBS had already decided where its ethical priorities lay when they accepted the commercial from Focus on the Family last week. Those priorities clearly don’t lie with women, or with progressives, or with any group that happens to find itself on Focus on the Family’s no-fly list.”

No, their priorities lie way, way, way on the right side of the bed, on the same side as Focus on the Family. I don’t wish to sleep anywhere near that side of the bed and I sure as heck wish it wasn’t so crowded.

I am reminded of the childrens song “Ten in the Bed.” I wish we could all roll over and knock this ad out of CBS’ bed, that’s for sure. Let’s at least keep airing our voices and proudly share our support for a woman’s right to choose. Let’s focus on creating families where female lives and choices are valued just as much as those of football heroes…

What if we aimed Haiti relief/aid efforts with gender in mind? Or, It’s not about hating men, it’s about helping Haitian women

If one can wrangle any positive shards from the rubble that now pervades Haiti’s landscape, I would say that it would be the tremendous outpouring of concern and aid. Unfortunately, such concern tends to aid and aid donations shrivel once the media moves onto its next story.

Once the Haiti earthquake is merely a blip on the mental desktop of most Americans (like Hurricane Katrina before it), the situation for the majority of Haitians will not have changed for the better. Rather, especially for women and children, the situation is likely to be even worse. This is why some organizations are targeting their aid at women and children.

As reported by Tracy Clark-Flory, the “women and children” first aid model some organizations are taking makes sense due to the fact that women and children “are typically the ones most vulnerable in the wake of a catastrophe.”
Before the earthquake, Haitian women were already dealing with extreme poverty, lack of adequate healthcare, high rates of HIV/AIDS, and huge infant and maternal mortality rates. They live in a country that only made a rape a criminal offence in 2005, where at least 50% of women living in the poorer areas of Port-au-Prince are raped. And, as reported by the UK’s Times Online, in post-earthquake Haiti, rape is rife in the makeshift camps in and around Port-au-Prince.

Haiti also has a serious child trafficking problem and huge numbers of girls working as domestic servants. The number of women and children trafficked from Haiti will likely rise post-earthquake. In fact, the UN reports children going from hospitals in Haiti, suggesting trafficking as the likely cause.

Even before the earthquake,  Haitian mothers, as detailed by the International Childcare organization, had to “cope with the fact that one in eight Haitian children never live to see their fifth birthday due to infectious disease, pregnancy-related complications, and delivery-related complications. In Haiti, the poorest nation in the Western Hemisphere, many parents cannot afford to send their children to school, give them proper medical care, or even guarantee that their children will have safe drinking water.”

For all of these reasons, Haiti needs what Lucinda Marhsall calls “Gender-Responsive Aid.” As she notes,“there are needs that are specific to women, particularly for pregnant women and mothers with new babies and the need to address the added vulnerability to violence that women face when government infrastructures are dysfunctional.” Yifat Susskind of MADRE  confirms this argument, noting “”One of the things we know is everywhere there’s this kind of disaster there’s a stark rise in violence against women in…When men deal with very, very difficult stresses, one of their outlets is violence against women.” In addition to the tendency for increased violence against women in the aftermath of a disaster (as also noted here), women are already economically disadvantaged in Haiti (due in large part to what is commonly known as the feminization of poverty).

As noted by MADRE,

“…women are often hardest hit when disaster strikes because they were at a deficit even before the catastrophe. In Haiti, and in every country, women are the poorest and often have no safety net, leaving them most exposed to violence, homelessness and hunger in the wake of disasters.

Because of their role as caretakers and because of the discrimination they face, women have a disproportionate need for assistance. Yet, they are often overlooked in large-scale aid operations. In the chaos that follows disasters, aid too often reaches those who yell the loudest or push their way to the front of the line. When aid is distributed through the “head of household” approach, women-headed families may not even be recognized, and women within male-headed families may be marginalized when aid is controlled by male relatives.”

Further, to make matters even worse for Haitian women, when the earthquake hit, Haiti’s Ministry of Women was holding a meeting. Almost everyone there was killed or injured. So the very people interested in helping Haitian women were lost to the community. (For the full story, see here).

However, despite the fact women and children were ALREADY disproportionately disadvantaged in Haiti, despite the fact that Haiti has lost numerous women’s rights leaders, men’s rights activists have taken up the “you all are a bunch of man-haters” rallying cry.

For example, Robert Franklin suggests that calls like the one made by Clark-Flory “ignore men or boys in need in favor of women and girls.” Accusing her of misandry, he makes similar arguments to those put forward in the “Amidst Haiti Disaster, Women’s Groups Seek to Deny Relief to Men” article at Spearhead. Claiming that “women’s groups are heading to a disaster area with the same anti-male agenda with which we are so familiar,” pieces such as these ignore the gendered realities of our world – realities that put women at greater risk.

Such articles also ignore the fact that women get pregnant (current reports estimate that the earthquake has put at least 63,000 pregnant women at risk in Port-au-Prince alone) and also (as humorously pointed out here) fail to recognize that menstruating women require tampons and pads.

For the global mamas in Haiti, for the women and children of this, the poorest country in the Western world, we need to ensure that aid organizations are aware of gendered realities. It’s not about hating men, it’s about recognizing a gendered response to this disaster is necessary.

What if the preamble to the US Constitution read “We the corporations of America…”?

This week proved the disastrous effects of a Bush-appointed supreme court, or, to put it another way, welcome officially to the United States of Fascism.

As Rural Woman Zone argues, “The Supreme Court’s Decision this week to remove campaign finance restrictions for corporations means the end of participatory democracy.”

In another good post on this catastrophe, Rodrigue Tremblay of Dissident Voice argues we are now a plutocracy, or a “political system characterized by ‘the rule by the wealthy, or power provided by wealth.’”

As Tremblay continues, “the Roberts Court has thus abolished the laws governing American electoral financing and removed limits to how much special money interests can spend to have the elected officials they want. The government they want will largely be ‘a government of the corporations, by the corporations, for the corporations.’”

People have been warning that the US is moving further and further away from democracy, a move that Naomi Wolf warns will be “The End of America” (the same title as her 2007 book, which she discusses here.)

Listening to talk about the recent Supreme Court decision on the radio and around the blogosphere, the following notion rules the (right) airwaves “we can’t limit the first amendment rights of a corporation because that would be un-American.” This argument is based on the faulty notion, writ into law ages ago, that a corporation IS a person and deserves the same free speech rights as a person. Stephen Colbert mocks this idea, noting “corporations do everything people do – except breathe, die, and go to jail for dumping 1.3 million pounds of PCBs in the Hudson River.”

One of the best anti-corporate sources of information I can recommend to those worried about the increasing corporatization of our world is the Canadian documentary The Corporation.

The clip below is especially pertinent to the supposed personhood of corporations:

As Noam Chomsky notes in the above clip, corporations have no moral conscience (unlike most humans, Bush excluded). Would you want Exxon Mobil, General Electric, Wal-Mart, or Citi-Group making moral decisions on your behalf? Would you even want them as a Facebook friend? Hell no!

A corporation is not a person!!! Corporations are ruled by the “bottom line,” or how to make as much profit as possible. They could care less about the environment, social justice, or your Facebook status update. Due to their profit-motives, they tend to lean to the right or very far right and their political contributions will aim to make the US as anti-progressive as you can imagine.

As a dear friend joked recently,

“How do you spell fascism?”

“F-a-c-s-i-s-m” I replied.

“Nope,” he quipped. “U-S-A.”

If you’re worried about this ruling (and if you are not, you should be), go here for a petition and other activist links.

What if…? Short Takes 1/14/10

  1. Want to help the people of Haiti? The SOA Watch website, an organization dedicated to closing the School of the Americas,* has donation options listed, as does The F Word. I am wary of the Red Cross after all the 9/11 and Katrina rumors about their corrupt and discriminatory practices. You may want to avoid having your donation dollars go toward credit card company profits though, as HuffPo warns of here. Also, for a good article on why women and children will be disproportionately affected by the disaster, see Tracy Clark Flory’s article here.
  1. Post-racial society my ass! For scary coverate of the rise of white power groups in the US, see “White Power USA: The Rise of Right-Wing Militias in America.”
  1. Sick of hearing about the “mancession” when you only make 73 to 78 cents to the dollar for every man or when being female results in chronic under and un-employment? For a good take on why the term “Mancession” is inaccurate go here.
  1. Check out the intro post for my new guest column at Womanist Musings, “Monstrous Musings.” Posts on all things monstrous will come out every other Thursday.

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*The SOA, as the SOA Watch website explains, the School of the Americans “is a U.S. Army training school that trains soldiers and military personnel from Latin American countries in subjects like counter-insurgency, military intelligence and counter-narcotics operations. Under Department of Defense jurisdiction, this school is funded by U.S. taxpayer money.”

What if jeans are a weapon? On Levi’s sexist, war-happy advertising…

Last week the Levi’s Dockers “wear the pants” ad campaign received quite a bit of feminist critique for its obvious sexism. (For example, see here and here.)

Not happy with promoting misogyny alone, Levi’s has another ad using Walt Whitman’s “Pioneers, O Pioneers” that promotes battle-happy manifest-destiny.

Wow, who knew pants could be such a rallying cry.

Using the text of Whitman’s poem, which celebrates Westward expansion and the American “children” who stomp their way across the globe, the Levi’s commercial celebrates wild, angry youth. They bang things against fences, rage against constraint, dance around raging fires, rip off their shirts and march west in triumph.

How ironic the commercial celebrates youthful rebellion and anarchy in order to ultimately promote conformity – conformity to buying into a corporate brand, a normative style, and into the idea that FIGHTING is the answer. Yes, buy your over-priced jeans and you too can “bear the brunt of danger” and celebrate American imperialism. Woo-hoo!
If you feel like writing a letter to Levi Strauss to tell them where they can stick their pants, go here.

For a letter campaign opposing the Docker’s ad, go here.

What if PETA joined forces with AFEW (Animals For the Ethical Treatment of Women)?

PETA, or People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, has an ugly habit of sexualizing women in its campaigns (as in their latest ad below). Thus, I am suggesting they need to take on the message of a group just formed by my dog and cats– AFEW, or Animals For the Ethical Treatment of Women.

Here are my cats, suffering from headaches after viewing the new Christian Serratos image:

cats
MeOWWW, my head hurts now.

As female felines who love fur, they nevertheless were insulted by the suggestion that sexualizing women is ok (Madeline, the one on the right, named after Roald Dahl’s feisty feminist character) was further appalled that the picture was an obvious attempt to advertise for the New Moon release, while Matilda (on the left) felt the woman pictured could really use a sandwich…

As for my dog Eloise, this is what she looked like before seeing the latest PETA ad:

ellie
Happy go lucky!

This is her after, sad and pensive and wondering why a group that claims to care about all animals does not care about female human animals…

CIMG1784
So sad...

Capitalizing on female nudity is a norm for PETA, as regularly and brilliantly noted by Renee of Womanist Musings. As she writes of PETA, “exploiting women is their stock and trade.”

Posting a number of their ads, including ones of women in cages and wrapped in saran and labeled as meat, Renee asks:

What more evidence could possibly be needed of PETA’S willingness to exploit women to send their message about animal cruelty. It says that they believe that the only purpose women have in this movement is to supply the tits and ass.  These images are demeaning and reductive.

The ethical treatment of animals is a very important cause, but so is the ethical treatment of women. Commodifying and sexualizing women’s bodies (even when said women are “willing” participants) is not something I can support. I love animals – human, dog, canine, feline, etc – but I don’t agree that the end justifies the means in PETA’s case. They need to find better ways to spread their message – ways that do not rely on the unethical exploitation of women.