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31 December 2012

Time to take rape victims down from the pedestal

In today's update on the New Delhi rape & murder case, Yahoo! News brings us more harrowing details of the night she was raped and left to die. Serious trigger warning!

As I read through the details, to bring my opinion of humanity to a new low (seriously, the men on the bus took turns driving so they could all rape her!), I skipped the section on the victim.

It's not that I don't want to know who she was, but I feel as if those sections are there to make us feel outraged that such a great person was taken from the world.


You don't have to be an honors student for me to feel outraged at your rape. I already know this young woman was amazing, her parents bucked tradition to send her to school, so they saw how amazing she was. That's all I need to know. I get to know a lot of young women who come to the USA for graduate education from India. One practically got off the plane to get to an interview a few years ago. I hired her and am now enjoying her updates from the fab tech company she is kicking ass at. The Indian women I know are all amazing and often arrive at my office eager to push women's rights forward. I imagine this unnamed young woman was just like them.

But I cry not just for her, but also for the unnamed women who are raped in India, the USA and around the world who won't be the apple of their parents' eye, who have made more than their fair share of bad decisions and who I might not think are good people. Rape is not a punishment. For anyone.

Perhaps 2013 will reveal a way for us to discuss rape without having to have "good victims" to tell people that rape is bad. 

30 December 2012

Time for Blog for Choice Day 2013!

As we take time to reflect on 2012, our wins and challenges, we should also look forward to 2013 and the work we still need to do. One great way is to participate in the 8th annual Blog for Choice Day! And don't forget it's the 40th anniversary of Roe v. Wade!!

It’s our personal stories that change hearts and minds about the importance of always protecting a woman’s right to choose. That’s why this year we’re asking you to share your story about why you’re pro-choice.

Sign up to let us know that you plan to write a blog post on January 22 about why you’re pro-choice. We will also promote your blog through our outreach efforts to our supporters.
  • Tag your posts with "Blog for Choice" to show all your readers that you're joining in.
  • Download a Blog for Choice Day graphic here to let your readers know that you're participating.
If you don't maintain a blog or personal website, you can still participate through Facebook or Twitter. Post the Blog for Choice Day graphic on your Facebook wall. Update your status with your story – it can be only a sentence or two. Tag your tweet with #Tweet4Choice.

17 December 2012

2012 Holiday Gift Guide

A bit late for early bird shoppers, but just in time for those of us who are last minute shoppers or are so busy that the holidays sneak up on us every year. I sorted out my recommendations into three areas: giving, reading & playing. Now just think of that person you need to buy for and put them in one of those boxes. Please note that book links are affiliate links, meaning I make a few cents from your purchase.

For me, giving is not just to charity in the traditional sense. I give money to nonprofits that produce independent media like Bitch Magazine (I'm a Honey Bee monthly giver) and CHIRP Radio.

Remember earlier this year when GOP men formed Team Rape and proved that they know nothing about how women's bodies work? Well, Our Bodies Ourselves have put together a IndieGoGo campaign (that ends soon!) to raise enough money to send a copy of OBOS to every member of Congress. 

While I am not a proponent of consumer philanthropy (for example: buying pink stuff for breast cancer research), there are some excellent non profits that also happen to sell items that are great for gift giving.
Of course my favorite organization to donate to is the Chicago Abortion Fund


This is my current read...and it is amazing. A full review will come after the new year, but for now this is topping my gift guide reading section.

For the past few years Arizona has made the rest of the country go, "WTF?!" And Jeff Biggers (disclosure: I've shared the stage with Jeff) gets right into what the hell has been happening, why, who is doing it, and (I hope) what we can do about it. So far I've learned that the Arizona Tea Party likes to be the trailblazer for xenophobic laws in the USA, that it wants its cake (being part of the Union), but wants to eat it too (ignore Federal civil rights when it pleases them). Seriously, I'm on page 9 (what? classes just finished on Wednesday!) and I've already learned so much about an issue I thought I was keeping up on. Get yourself or that civil-rights-minded person on your gift list a copy at Powells or IndieBound.

 Most of us who grew up in the 80s have a favorite member of Duran Duran and John was mine. So when I heard he was releasing an autobiography I wrote to his publisher and pleaded for a review copy. And I got one...in the middle of the semester. Unfortunately I haven't even come close to finishing, but what I have read I like. It's not Bronte, but if you are looking for a fun read that will transport you to when you baked cakes on John, Simon, Andy, Nick and Roger's birthdays, this is it. If your mom is in her 40s or 50s, I bet she'll love this. Buy at Powells or IndieBound. The Duran Duran site has links to John reading from the book & interviews. Alas, I missed him when he was in Chicago!

Another book that I did not get a chance to finish, but looks good is "Marie Curie and Her Daughters: The Private Lives of Science's First Family" by Shelley Emling.

The first few chapters are intriguing looks into the lives of the Curie women. Pierre, Marie's husband died when the girls were young, leaving her a single mother at a time when that was hard enough, but to add on to her role as a trailblazing woman of science..goodness!

Get a copy at Powells or Indiebooks.
I reviewed this book earlier this year and highly recommend it for gift giving. I'm sure this isn't my cup of tea and I think that the main character is not as much wimpy as pouty and whiny, but from what I can tell, he usually gets a good lesson on what it means to be a good friend.

Get a copy at Powells or Indiebooks

Another book that I reviewed earlier this year that is perfect for gift giving.

I highly recommend this for a thank you gift to your daughter's Girl Scout troop leaders and volunteers. It was a joy to learn more about the woman who started this great organization. Also a great idea for older Girl Scouts, especially if they are starting to think the organization is not-so-cool anymore. 

Buy a copy at Powells or Indiebound.

Creativity Courage Cards is not a book. It is a deck of cards with inspirational thoughts. Yes, some will think these are cheesy and I would normally count myself part of that crowd. But given the circumstance I find myself in, working on a PhD, I find myself more and more questioning my ability to do anything at all, much less be creative. So having a deck of these babies on hand to flip to when needed is not a bad idea. I highly suggest getting these for someone in your life who is going through some tough times and might need a pick me up in their stocking.


Crossword Picante is from Levenger. It's a board game without the board where you make words using red or white colored tiles. The twist to this game is that you can spell words in English or Spanish. We played it at home and I thought it was fun. My husband & daughter didn't so much. Perhaps a family that was more bilingual (we're not strong on our writing skills in Spanish) would have more fun with this. The tiles are also a bit flimsy - made of foam rather than wooden like Scrabble or sturdy plastic.


Get someone a handmade bag from my bestie, Cinnamon's shop, Poise. She makes purses, clutches & messenger bags. I have owned a lot of bags and I am NOT good to bags. I over-stuff them all the time and somehow her bags stand up and last for years. The bag pictured is the same one my husband uses. Plenty-o-pockets!
You can also check out my previous gift guides for additional ideas.

14 December 2012

16 Days Guest Post: A Step in the Right Direction

Thanks to BoricuaFeminist from Boston, MA for this 16 Days post. Again, this is late due to my schedule, not anything she did! You can reach her at Twitter.

Last weekend my best friend, my boyfriend and I participated in the Hot Chocolate Run in my hometown of Northampton, MA. The Hot Chocolate Run is an annual fundraising event where people run a 5k, or in my case walk 2 miles, to raise money and awareness for Safe Passage. Safe Passage provides, “shelter, peer-support, counseling, education, advocacy, legal support and community education,” to women and children who are domestic violence survivors.

It was an amazing sight to see 5,500 participating, and more community members observing, in an event to bring awareness to the issue of domestic violence. Many walkers/runners wore stickers with the names of loved ones they had lost due to domestic violence. Domestic violence is still silenced in many homes and communities. It is powerful to see women, men, children and families give voice to those who may not always have the power to speak up. It is important for organizations to raise money in order to continue to provide services, but it is also important to raise awareness and bring visibility to the issue as well. In a city with a population of less than 30,000 people, such a large turnout sends a message of support to those affected by violence in our community.

There is always more work to be done. Institutional barriers around gender, race and class are deeply intertwined with gender violence. However, the fight is vital and we must continue to bring awareness to gender violence in our communities. Gender violence is not a private issue, as demonstrated by the stickers worn by the walkers and runners, its affects are widely felt. Even though the 16 Days of Activism Against Gender Violence ended on December 10th, I will continue to make my voice heard on this issue throughout the year. I encourage everyone to do the same.

13 December 2012

16 Days Guest Post: Commercialization of Domestic Violence Awareness

Thanks to fellow Chicagoan, Ann Santori of Half-Way to a Mid-Life Crisis for this post in commemeration of 16 days. This is posted late due to my fault not Ann's. You can reach Ann on Twitter & Tumblr.

According to a 2005 World Health Organization study, at least one in every three women across the globe will be abused physically and/or sexually at least once in her lifetime. The UN designates November 25th as the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women and December 10th as International Human Rights Day. Since 1991, the intervening sixteen days have been designated for the 16 Days Campaign, which focuses on awareness of gender-based violence.

The 16 Days Campaign, by its nature, is critical in thought and tends to focus on the specific factors that create a culture of violence. This year’s theme, for example, “highlights the role militarism plays in perpetuating violence against women and girls” as the amount of small arms in private ownership rises and “research shows that having a small arm in the home increases the overall risk of someone being murdered by 41%; for women in particular this risk nearly triples.”

However, other anti-domestic violence projects are not always so evaluative. Indeed, it seems that the trend is a troublesome commercialization and sensationalism. The Avon Foundation, for all the awareness it raises around the issue, still maintains two product lines (No More and m.powerment by mark) as part of its fundraising initiative.

Much like feminist sentiment surrounding the ‘Pink-ification’ of breast cancer, Avon’s lines present a thorny moral dilemma. On the one hand, there is a benefit to being able to contribute quickly and easily on a micro level (sometimes very micro – with certain products only bestowing cents of their total retail price to the cause) to larger social campaigns. On the other, not only is the commodification of a social ill ethically questionable, it can contribute to a buyer’s sense of complacency. Why, after all, if I’ve bought an m.powerment necklace or a pink vacuum cleaner, surely these ladies will be feeling better in no time!

Likewise, while it certainly raises awareness, sensationalizing gender-based violence can both turn the viewer away and instill him or her with a false sense of reality. France’s ad agency BETC Paris recently launched its campaign, entitled “Bruises,” a combination performance art and print work. On November 25th, dozens of women painted with realistic facial bruises dropped to the floor near the Pompidou Center in Paris under a banner that read, “In a single year, 122 women die after experiencing domestic violence.” The published images of the campaign that accompanied the performance depicted close-up views of bruises captioned in imitation of formal art pieces – “Grave Green,” “Booze Brown,” and “Rape Red.”

While extremely viscerally powerful, the BETC campaign remains simplistic and devoid of the complexities that surround domestic violence prevention strategies. Where is the discussion on how to spot an abusive relationship before it turns physical, the resources to escape such a situation before it’s too late. Reducing women and their stories to fodder for a shock campaign is, again, ethically troublesome to say the least.

So, are any campaigns getting it right? While they can receive criticism (as we all know that men are not the only perpetrators and women not the only victims), the recent trend of targeting sexual violence prevention campaigns towards men (see the following campaigns: My Strength is Not For Hurting; Real Men Know The Difference; Don’t Be That Guy, etc.) is certainly a step in the right direction. Here we do have an exploration of the ‘grey areas.’ Is drunken consent actual consent? Is there such a thing as spousal/relationship rape? Can consent be withdrawn? (The answers, for all that are following along, are resounding (a) NO, (b) YES, (c) YES).

Confronting these myths by being brave enough to suggest that gender-based violence thrives on a culture of hyper-masculinity can be the beginning of a critical and crucial evaluation of the behaviors that have created a culture of placid acceptance of both the myths and realities surrounding this violence.

05 December 2012

16 Days Guest Post: Stop blaming women for VAW!

Thanks to Erin McKelle from Ohio and Fearless Feminism for today's post.

Gender based violence is such a huge problem in communities everywhere and it infuriates me that most refuse to acknowledge it. 1 in 3 women will be victims of domestic violence in their lifetime, 1 in 3 will be the victims of sexual violence and 1 in 4 the victims of sexual assault.
Women are told by society to be careful. To not be one of these victims, to protect themselves. We are told to not dress slutty and not get too tipsy. We are constantly being blamed for our own victimization. This message is seen everywhere and is internalized to make us fearful.

I think most women would agree that there is some level of fear going out alone at night or going to a rough neighborhood by ourselves. This comes from the media telling us to always be scared. That crimes happen randomly to women and that you'd better watch your back. The consequence is that women are living in constant fear and uncertainty. Their presence is made smaller, since they don't feel the freedom men do to come and go as they please. It is almost like we in the United States do live like those in what we consider to be gender oppressive countries (taking the spotlight away from our own) where women have curfews and can't be out past a certain hour. While this may not be a formal structure put in place, isn't it an informal one? If you see a woman alone walking down the street at 1 AM, doesn't it arose some sort of curiosity? Doesn't it make you wonder, at least a little?

We need to stop doing this to women. Making them the victims of our societies aggression problem is causing the deep-seated stress and fear in women everywhere. We need to wake up and realize we don't live in a progressive gender-equal society. If we did, we wouldn't have to tell women how to behave because there would be no fear of anyone getting hurt! Women would be women and men would be men and we'd be treated with the same respect and all have the same expectations from society. It's really as simple as that.

If you would like to submit a post for 16 Days, please use this handy dandy form. Thank you.  

04 December 2012

16 Days Guest Post: Home is not always a safe house

Thank you to R. Femme (mistakenly credited for yesterday's post...sorry) for this touching post about violence within one's family.

As I have never posted about such a personal topic on the internet before and this is my first involvement in the 16 Days of Activism Against Gender Violence, I hope that those who read this can appreciate my attempt to tell my own story as well as take a stance against gender violence.

I grew up in a dysfunctional household; my father was extremely abusive, not only to my mother but to myself, my sister and my brother. We never knew exactly why my father was angry but when he was, we all felt his wrath; he would scream, throw things, and all to often hit one of us. My mother was brave enough to protect us for the most part; she often put herself in between us and my father when he went into his spontaneous and uncontrollable rages. I lived with my father until I was fourteen when my mother decided to finally leave him; my mother and I moved in with my grandmother, while my brother and sister decided to remain with my father.

I was happy to be in a house with hot water and heat and a sense of normalcy which I had never experienced before. When I was ten or so, my father had decided to rip the insulation out of our walls and at the same time decided not to pay the heat bill, instead spending his paychecks on marijuana and his precious motorcycle. I no longer had to wear my winter coat inside or go to the community center for a hot shower.
Unfortunately at the same time, I was suffering from kidney disease and found out that I had to have major surgery that year. I was trying to maintain a relationship with my father, hoping that he would change because at that moment I needed him. He drove me to my appointments at my mother's behest but often complained about the trip and we were almost always late. When I went into surgery, my mother waited for the six hours in the waiting room while my father decided his time was better spent elsewhere. He came to visit me a couple of times during my recovery but never stayed long.

After my surgery, I maintained a relationship with my father for almost a whole year before the whole family fell apart. Upon finding out that my mother had moved on, despite having rejected her only months ago when she had begged him for a reunion, my father had my mother arrested on false abuse charges. I was interrogated at the local station about my parents' relationship and I told them as much as I could through my tears. As I left the station with my grandmother, I saw my father and I became very angry and didn't talk to him for almost three weeks.

When I eventually did talk to him, he only insulted my mother and blamed me for not telling him and I left for good. My brother and my sister were angry at me for different reasons upon my excommunication of my father; my sister didn't understand how I could "abandon" my own father, and my brother had been manipulated into believing every lie my father told him. Despite this tension, I was able to maintain a relationship with my siblings and still do to this day.

It has been over four years since I have talked to or seen my father; I moved away with my mother and I am attending university. My sister now understands why I have chosen to leave although she still lives with my father who still demeans her, but she refuses to leave him. My brother doesn't understand me though, he acts like my father and I am sad that he is going down the wrong path. My mother is the most important thing in my life and we have been through everything together, I also have a new sister who I love very much.
I grew up a witness and victim of gender violence in my household as well as a blatant sexist for a father; someone who believed women belonged in the kitchen and that a man had an obligation to punish. I have been told that I am destined to be abusive myself by various people; that I am like my father on the inside and that I have "run away" from my problems.

It is something that has shaped who I am today; part of the reason I am where I am, a part of my feminism, and a part of my whole family. Why I try so hard to help those in similar situations, the reason I want to be a good role-model for my baby sister, and the reason I am writing this right now.

I have encountered many people who believe that domestic violence is something of the past, something that doesn't happen anymore, but I want those people to be aware of reality. I want my story to be a part of that awareness, awareness that leads to action, action that leads to justice for all victims of abuse.

If you would like to submit a post for 16 Days, please use this handy dandy form. Thank you.  

03 December 2012

16 Days Guest Post: Walking a Mile in Her Shoes

Thanks to JennaMurphy47 from Ontario, Canada for this guest post.  This post is especially poignant coming so soon after the murder of Kasandra Perkins. 

I could spend days, weeks and even years discussing my outrage about acts of gender violence in my home country of Canada, as well as other countries all over the world, but I would like to talk frankly about an issue that is affecting my community right now.

I live in a small city in South Western Ontario and we are about to embark on our first annual Walk a Mile in Her Shoes® men’s march to stop rape, sexual assault and gender violence. Over the past few years I have been an active volunteer with my local women’s emergency shelter and when they had discussed launching this event in 2013 I couldn’t have been a stronger advocate.

My first experience with gender violence in my community was in 2002 when a 21 year-old woman was stabbed to death 58 times by her ex-partner in her parking complex. I was a young, naive 15 year-old girl at the time and while I was saddened by this murder, I was also too young to be aware of the misogynistic undertones of the comments that others were making about it. The murderer was a popular young athlete who had put our unassuming little hamlet “on the map” which led many to defend and make excuses for him. Murmurs around town, to this day, harken back to victim blaming and shaming that was characteristic of our culture decades ago. I have heard respected members of the community blame the victim because she was supposedly “unfaithful”, “an addict” or even that “she hit him too, ya know!” It wasn’t until I began my sociology program in University that I discovered how detrimental these attitudes were to the community and the cause.

The second experience occurred only two months ago when a woman was murdered by her estranged partner while her two children hid upstairs. This particular tragedy touched me in a very deep way. It caused me to dive in to my volunteer role with more feverous passion than I had ever felt before. This happened to her, to us, to our community and I wasn’t going to let it be another instance of victim blaming. I decided that in order for me to contribute to ending gender violence I would have to go out in to the community and TALK about it. I would talk to anyone and everyone who would listen and was willing to talk with me. Words are power, naming things is power. I wanted to delve deeper than saying in passing, “what a tragedy about that woman and her children.” It WAS a tragedy. It was devastating. Now let’s talk about why it happened and how we can prevent it from happening again.

It is time that we take hold of community events like Walk a Mile in Her Shoes® to get people talking and get people engaged. Domestic violence and sexual assault are NOT a private problem, they are a public issue. My organizing and recruiting efforts to date have been well received but I want you to open you ears not your wallets. Put yourself in her shoes and change your attitudes, beliefs and behaviors so that we don’t pass on a sexualized, patriarchal, misogynistic view of women and subsequently domestic violence to our future generations.

If you would like to submit a post for 16 Days, please use this handy dandy form. Thank you.


This blog is my personal blog and is not reflective of my employer or what I do for them.

What I'm Currently Reading

I Thought It Was Just Me: Women Reclaiming Power and Courage in a Culture of Shame
The South Side: A Portrait of Chicago and American Segregation
Gabi, a Girl in Pieces

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