By Talia bat Pessi
For today’s young feminists, the name Phyllis Schlafly may be totally unfamiliar; if anything, it triggers a distant memory of a footnote in an AP US History textbook. Those activists who lived and fought during the Second Wave are, however, all too familiar with the uber-conservative activist.
Ever since the 1940s, Schlafly has preached that women should be barefoot, pregnant, and in the kitchen. She has said things like “By getting married, the woman has consented to sex, and I don’t think you can call it rape,” and has called Roe v. Wade “the worst decision in the history of the US Supreme Court.” She recently endorsed the candidacy of Todd Akin, of “the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down” infamy. In the 1970s, when states were voting on the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA), Schlafly waged the STOP ERA campaign. Although she believes womankind as a whole should be homemakers, she apparently doesn’t apply this rule to herself, considering she traveled around the country as part of STOP ERA. Her efforts were, unfortunately, successful; the ERA, which would ensure that “equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any state on account of sex,” was only ratified by 35 out of 38 states necessary. (Although the ERA was not passed in the 20th century, modern feminists have renewed interest in the amendment have resumed lobbying for its ratification.)
Given the above description, I think it’s impossible to call Schlafly a groundbreaker for women’s rights. For some reason, makers.com seems to disagree.
According to its website, makers.com is a “dynamic digital platform…showcasing hundreds of compelling stories from women of today and tomorrow.” There is also an affiliated documentary titled MAKERS: Women Who Make America that “will tell the story of the women’s movement through the firsthand accounts of the leaders, opponents, and trailblazers who created a new America in the last half-century.” One part of the website showcases “Groundbreakers,” whom the website defines as “firsts in their fields, visionary role models or frontline activists who sparked, and some who opposed, change for women.” To the amazement of feminists, Phyllis Schlafly is included as a Groundbreaker along with women like Gloria Steinem and Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.
My mentor, National Organization for Women (NOW) cofounder Sonia Pressman Fuentes, was extremely disturbed by this gross misrepresentation. She asked Betsy West and Dyllan McGee, the producers of makers.com and the filmmakers of the forthcoming documentary based on it, to remove Schlafly from the website and film. They refused, deciding to twice change the definition of Groundbreakers until they settled on the one quoted above. Although the newest definition of a Groundbreaker includes those who opposed women’s rights, it still makes no sense. “Since when are those who oppose progress considered groundbreakers?” Ms. Fuentes asks.
Additionally, although makers.com claims to include women alive today who were instrumental in changing women’s status during the last 50 years, the website and documentary do not include a single one of the nine living NOW cofounders. “This is unconscionable,” Ms. Fuentes said. When Ms. Fuentes complained about Schlafly’s inclusion and the noticeable dearth of NOW members, Betsy West offered to interview her several times in a clear effort to buy her off. Ms. Fuentes declined to be interviewed until Schlafly is taken off of makers.com, or at the very least switched from the status of Groundbreaker to something more accurate, like “opposition.”
To urge PBS and AOL (makers.com’s sponsors) to remove Schlafly from makers.com or, at least, remove her from the designation of Groundbreaker, Ms. Fuentes and I made an online petition. We’ve gotten a lot of support in a short amount of time, and that means so much to the both of us. However, to get the attention of makers.com, PBS, and AOL we need we need to make this thing huge. Sign the petition here. Send the link to your friends, family, neighbors, and any organizations with which you are affiliated or that you think would be interested in this issue. Understanding the history of women’s rights is essential to ending gender inequality. Unless we ensure herstory is preserved correctly in websites and documentaries like makers.com, how can we expect to learn from the past and improve the future?
Last Tuesday, Anat Hoffman, executive director of the Israel Religious Action Center and chairwoman of Women of the Wall was arrested when she took a group of over two hundred women to pray together in the women’s section of the Wall (see my article on women at the Western Wall here). Hoffman was arrested for “disturbing the peace” and “endangering the public good,” simply because she wore a tallit (prayer shawl) and said the Shema (a Jewish prayer) out loud. Hoffman and other members of Women of the Wall have been arrested many times before, but this arrest in particular has caused an outrage across the Jewish world because of its especially violent nature. Below is an excerpt Hoffman’s official statement in response to her arrest, released two days ago:
“It was a traumatic experience. I was pulled along the ground by my wrists, strip-searched, shackled by the hands and feet and left to sleep on the floor of a jail cell with nothing to keep me warm but my tallit.
The treatment I received was designed to make women scared of entering the Western Wall complex with a tallit. Women wearing prayer shawls are common all over the world. Only in Israel does this simple act meet with such intense pressure. You have to remember that when I enter a room of Israelis with my tallit, most of them have never seen a woman wear one before.
So why do I do it? The reason is simple: if women do not stand up for their rights the religious authorities in Israel will continue to push women further and further out of sight. Hopefully the more regular Israelis see me and other women wearing tallitot, the better they will come to understand that it is not religious subversion on our part.
I respect Jews who pray differently than me, and I understand that many women do not wish to wear a tallit. But there are millions of Jewish women who do wish to pray at the Western Wall with a tallit. Enabling them to do so in peace and safety was never meant to infringe on the rights of others. It simply means that there is more than one way to be a Jew.”
Though Women of the Wall and other organizations have made great strides towards gender equality in Israel, this incident makes it clear that there is still a long way to go. I hope that revulsion at this arrest will inspire people to fight for equality in Israel.
By Ruthie O via Sadie Magazine
A few years ago, my roommate told me about some article floating around in the gay community. This article suggested that Republicans who support same-sex marriage should be rewarded with a public showing of support. By voting for LGBT-friendly Republicans, other Republican candidates, hungry for more votes, would also begin to support same-sex marriage. You are reading this right: the article was calling upon the LGBT community to rise up and vote Republican for the sake of the LGBT community.
I am here to tell you that this logic is crap.
The flaw in this logic is how this article defined the LGBT community. The writer seemed to forget that the LGBT community consists of women who need access to domestic violence services, undocumented immigrants who deserve a path to citizenship, and transgender folks who, in most states, still need legal protection against employment and housing discrimination. If the LGBT community was only made up of white middle-class men with easy access to health insurance, then the argument may have been sound. But, in reality, the LGBT community is rich with diversity, and therefore, rich with diverse needs. Therefore, voting for a candidate who would vote for same-sex marriage, but who also supports the widespread deportation of undocumented immigrations would not actually be supporting the entire LGBT community.
My ranting and raving against this argument came down to one point: to truly advocate for justice, we cannot only advocate for our own individual special interests. Instead, we must acknowledge the pluralism of our communities and demand justice for all of our brothers and sisters.
This article has stayed with me over the years. I am an ally, not LGBT myself, but I have seen the same problematic liberation strategy manifest in my own community: the feminist community. Throughout the years, I have observed how mainstream movements tend to move towards easy—and often exclusive and narrow-sighted— solutions, rather than transformational justice. And this is especially true during election seasons.
Single-issue voters identity a self-serving political cause that drives their voting decisions. For the mainstream LGBT movement, the issue tends to be marriage equality. For mainstream feminist organizations, this issue is often abortion (and now, inconceivably, birth control access). Abortion seems like the quintessential women’s issue; after all, it literally is all about the vagina. And yet, if we look at abortion as simply an issue of vaginal autonomy, we miss a huge chunk of the complex web of power and oppression that surrounds reproductive justice. By simply framing abortion as a women’s issue, we ignore the leagues of transgender men who are directly impacted by anti-choice legislation. Same with people with disabilities, who fear that the rhetoric of the “justified abortion” will lead to the elimination of their very community.
My main point is this: voting for pro-choice candidates, regardless of their stance on other issues, may end up actually hurting members of our own community—the people who are most often brutally silenced and neglected by mainstream political discourse.
I am not writing this to promote for the Democrat party; this is not about supporting one party or another. The two-party system is heavily flawed, and both parties center on economic policies that are hurtful to the poor and people of color. No, this is about discovering our priorities and our alliances. After years of soul searching, I discovered that I needed more from a candidate than a pro-choice stance. Now, I want a candidate who opposes war, imperialism, inhumane immigration policy, tax cuts for the rich, and the corporate takeover of our social, economic, and environmental wellness. I want a candidate who supports fully funded public education at all levels, the DREAM Act, protection for abused, undocumented women, and funding for services for people with disabilities. I may be delusional, but I want it all.
Trickle-down liberation doesn’t work; it never has, it never will. Sometimes, that means I have to vote for an obscure third-party candidate. Sometimes it means I simply skip that part of the ballot. I will not sell out my undocumented students or my transgender friends so I can have access to birth control. I refuse to accept the premise that my issues are the most pressing political issues today. I am still not sure who I will vote for this November, but this I know for sure: I am not willing to sacrifice the diverse and dynamic community I love for the sake of political expediency.
I know this is old news by now, but I think this is a really great article and wanted to share it all with you all anyway! –Sophie
By Julia Gazdag via Hello Giggles (published on August 7th)
So what’s the big deal about this new part of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), aside from proving, once again, that some conservatives can’t handle big-science words like “menstruation” being uttered on the Senate floor? Well, for one thing, it acknowledges that women have actual health-care needs. More importantly, it does something about it in a very real, useful way. After all, for most of medical history, “the body” was actually just the male body, so things like ovaries and breasts and uteri weren’t really paid attention to all that much. For anyone appalled by the language in that previous sentence, I would just like to say: ovariessssssssssssssssss.
You would think that since women are the ones who make babies, the bodies and organs with which they make this happen would be valued enough to be cared for and not, I don’t know, stifled with all sorts of legislation. I don’t know if you’ve ever applied for individual health insurance, but just having that second X chromosome jacks up rates. If you’re planning on having children anytime soon, that’ll cost you an extra arm, leg, and firstborn child unless you can guess Rumplestiltskin’s name. Your ovaries are just too darn expensive!
Finally, last week, some sense was introduced into the system via the ACA, when its women’s health coverage bits kicked in. For 47 million women this means they can afford regular maintenance of their lady parts without going into debt and stressing over medical bills endlessly. Suddenly, a mammogram is not the Marc Jacobs bag of cancer prevention!
If you’re like me, you like lists. Here’s one with all 8 (EIGHT!) new prevention-related services that the ACA has handed women, that were problematic at best to come by for a giant chunk of American ladies:
- Well-woman visits.
- Gestational diabetes screening that helps protect pregnant women from one of the most serious pregnancy-related diseases.
- Domestic and interpersonal violence screening and counseling.
- FDA-approved contraceptive methods, and contraceptive education and counseling.
- Breastfeeding support, supplies, and counseling.
- HPV DNA testing, for women 30 or older.
- Sexually transmitted infections counseling for sexually-active women.
- HIV screening and counseling for sexually-active women.
Of course, religious institutions may not be comfortable with covering all of these services (like contraception-related anything), and they are exempt. I’m going to put away my own thoughts of judeo-christianity’s manifestation in this country and its attitude towards women and sex, and just acknowledge how open-minded and respectful it is of the ACA to purposefully stay out of religion’s business. This, of course, makes those fighting to make any of these services harder to obtain for women just look kind of silly. And by silly, I mean monumental jerks.
These services are vital for women. They protect us, our potential children, and enable us to be stronger and therefore contribute to society better. The biggest issue, of course, is contraception, because it always is. As religious institutions and houses of worship are exempt, however, hopefully we can move on to bigger and more relevant topics, such as, I don’t know, job creation and public safety.
One last note, just because it’s a personal pet peeve: the birth control pill needs a new name, you guys. So many women use it for non-contraceptive purposes that such a misnomer is detrimental to all of us. It’s a hormone pill. It treats ovarian cysts (eep), endometriosis (having your period on the outside of your uterus, crazy-painful), irregular periods and intense PMS. I don’t mean intense PMS like eating a whole pint of Cookie Dough. I mean fetal in a corner for days with blinding headaches and vomiting, which some women have and I can’t even imagine doing once, let alone every month.
Aside from the enormous amount of financial ease the ACA has just given women by making access to standard health care available, it also makes a huge statement. Everything, from covering PAP-smear and gyno co-pays to domestic violence counseling is sending the message that women are being taken seriously. The conservative right has been wreaking havoc on our rights in the last few years especially, pushing for invasive and unnecessary tests and, in some states, legally prohibiting doctors from removing a stillborn fetus (because animals do it), thus endangering the mother’s life. I can’t even make this stuff up, you guys, the basis for that law was literally that if livestock can do it, so can women. I don’t know about you, but I am not f*cking livestock, how dare you?
With that kind of attitude, it is a gigantic statement of support that the ACA is paying attention to what women need and making sure they can access it. In a Congress where medical terms like “vagina” and “menstruation” are met with balking, outraged reactions from the right, it’s clear that medical, humane health coverage is closely tied in with archaic patriarchal ideas of gender roles, which, frankly, won’t help much when a PAP smear could save your life but the co-pay cost has to go to feeding your kids. It’s nice to see that at least part of our government is being managed by adults.
By Becka Wall
Guys, forget Todd Akin. Paul Ryan is the real horror story for American Women.
At first, when the entire “legitimate rape” faux-paux of the century fell out of Todd Akin’s mouth, I was thrilled. I think I clapped and danced with glee (for future reference – my happy dance looks like Gob’s chicken dance in Arrested Development).
Political parties aside, I was just excited that we were finally – FINALLY! – going to have a real, open national conversation about rape and rape exceptions. And for a moment, we did. Mainstream media outlets looked at how rape is discussed around the world, the language we use around rape, incest and abortion. We talked about it as a contraceptive option (even if I hate the idea of circumstantial legal abortion – how about, what business is it of yours how I became pregnant, hmm? WHATEVER). President Obama even came out and strongly said “rape is rape”.
We’re talking about it! We’re discussing sexual abuse and violence, contraception, abortion – and the conversation seems to be going our way! Plus, even just talking about it PERIOD is a good thing, right?
But as the news cycle moved on to the Hurricane and the GOP convention, something MAJOR was able to escape the attention of the biggest news outlets:
When attention was first called to Akin’s comments, Republican politicians went on the defensive – particularly the party’s Presidential ticket. Paul Ryan came out saying that “rape is rape” in the face of comparisons to him and Akin – but what nobody caught was that Ryan turned right back around a couple of days ago, saying that rape is “just another means of conception” and that the method of conception doesn’t change the definition of life, and basically admitting that if he were numero uno up on that ticket, he’d be criminalizing abortion left and right. Which you could try to write off, until you realize – he’s going to be a heartbeat away from the Presidency.
Ryan and Akin are two peas of the same pod – co-sponsoring the Sanctity of Human Life Act, which would give legal rights to fertilized eggs from the moment of conception, and Ryan supported the No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act, which allows exceptions only for “forcible rape” – and that’s just the start of a laundry list of items designed to make it more difficult for me to get an abortion if I need one. How is it possible that this hasn’t gotten more media play!?
It’s great that we’ve started up a national conversation around rape, and called attention to the disgusting opinions a bunch of dudes in ties seem to have regarding my vagina and uterus. But it’s not enough to only pay attention and dig deep for a couple of days – we need to continually call attention to these things. Because if we don’t, sadly, the news cycle will simply move on and the topic will fade away.
By Sophie Rae
I just found this great infographic on Feministing and thought I’d share it with you all. Just some fun Sunday morning reading, ya know…
By Sophie Rae
On Saturday, thousands of people stood in solidarity with victims of sexual assault and rape in a SlutWalk march and rally in Union Square (read more about SlutWalk here). It was an incredible rally and I was amazed to see such a large and enthusiastic turnout. Especially given the recent assaults in Brooklyn (scarily close to where I live), it is reassuring to see so many people fighting for this cause and bringing attention to an often minimized and swept-under-the-rug issue. Just to make the day even more amazing, my new band, Claire’s Diary, had the honor of playing its first ever show at the rally!
Here are some photos from SlutWalkNYC! All photos by Isadora Schappell.