Reproductive Coercion, Immigration Reform, & more

Obama Administration Considers Bypassing Congress on Immigration

ProPublica: “The Obama administration, anticipating that Congress might not pass comprehensive immigration reform this year, is considering ways it could act without congressional approval to achieve many of the objectives of the initiative, including giving permanent resident status, or green cards, to large numbers of people in the country illegally.”

When Teen Pregnancy Is No Accident

The Nation: “A new study has found that among 71 women aged 18-49 with a history of intimate partner violence, 74 percent reported having experienced some form of reproductive control, including forced unprotected intercourse, failure to withdraw as promised or sabotaging of condoms. Women who became pregnant were coerced to proceed in accordance with the wishes of their partners, who in some cases threatened to kill them if they had an abortion.”

Is Your Last Name Arab? Hope You Don’t Want A Facebook Account

Gawker: “Over the weekend, Rex Brynen of the Palestinian Refugee ResearchNet tried to create a Facebook page for his group. Only, he was prevented from doing so by a rogue moderating process that was blocking the word ‘Palestinian’ from page titles. Facebook fixed the process and, to their credit, apologized to Professor Brynen.” Continue reading

This Week: Abortion as homicide, Girls Gone Wild, & more

HIV in Poor U.S. Neighborhoods as Intense as Developing World

Colorlines: “Researchers looked at HIV prevalence, or the share of a given population that is infected. They found HIV prevalence in high-poverty neighborhoods to be more than double that of the nation overall. Moreover, within high-poverty neighborhoods, prevalence among people living below the poverty line was double that of those living above it. If silence equals death, so does poverty.”

How the Media Should Treat the Sexual Assault Allegations Against Al Gore

The Nation: “The media outlets that bothered to report on the story have hardly reported the story. With one dubious exception, I couldn’t find a single source that did what any reporter with the most basic questions about the charges should have done: interview an expert on sexual violence who might be able to provide context and comment on the likely credibility of the story.”

Six Women Convicted of Homicide for Having Abortions

Latin American Herald Tribune: “‘Of these seven cases, one was a spontaneous abortion, two others were undertaken because of rape and the rest were for accidental pregnancies,’ Cruz said.  ‘All the men that got them pregnant abandoned them and accused them’ of getting the abortions,’ said the activist.” Continue reading

This Week: Same-Sex Marriage in Argentina, the Tea Party, & more

Argentina approves landmark gay marriage bill

Reuters: “We’re now a fairer, more democratic society. This is something we should all celebrate,” Maria Rachid, a leading gay rights activist, said as supporters of the law hugged each other and jumped up and down after the vote.”

US President announces national HIV/AIDS strategy

Alternet: “At a time when AIDS deaths are largely preventable, the government has provided only minimal leadership in making knowledge of HIV serostatus an essential social norm in the most heavily affected communities. And even though the face of AIDS in America is typically Black or brown, most people with HIV are forced to seek medical care from health providers who neither look like them nor understand the challenges they face.”

‘Immigrant List’ sets off fears

New York Times: “Several people on the list expressed anxiety that their personal information had been released, and said they were concerned about their safety and that of their families. Some of those on the list said the heightened pressure could force them from the country.” Continue reading

Defense of Marriage Act Ruled Unconstitutional

On July 8th, 2010 the District Court of Massachusetts held that the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) is unconstitutional. DOMA was signed into law by President Bill Clinton in 1996. It defines marriage, federally, as the union between one man and one woman, and blocks the possibility of gay marriages being recognized on the federal level. It was created because of fears that Hawaii would legalize gay marriage. Five states now have gay marriage, the first being Massachusetts. Hawaii (after a recent veto by it’s governor) is still not one of them.

Judge Tauro found that the case did not even survive rational basis review (the lowest level of scrutiny which is used to determine constitutionality of laws and cases). The Judge made his decision based on the 10th Amendment, stating that DOMA infringes upon states rights by not allowing them to provide same sex marriage benefits when they do apply. The benefits which Massachusetts wishes to give their same sex married couples includes the federal health plan (for government employees) and social security. Continue reading

This Week: Women of the Tea Party, SB1070 & more

Why Women Dominate the Right-Wing Tea Party

AlterNet: “Some of these women are drawing national attention because they have embraced a religious ‘conservative feminism.’ Among them are evangelical Christians and, according to a recent cover story in Newsweek magazine, they view Sarah Palin — who ran for the vice presidency in 2009, has five children and a supportive husband, describes herself as a feminist, gave up the governor’s office in Alaska to become a celebrity and millionaire— as the leader, if not prophet of the Tea Party.”

Mapping the Spread of SB1070

COLORLINES: “…even if none of the SB 1070 copycat bills make it out of the legislatures, the simple fact that politicians, including a Democrat in who sponsored the bill in Rhode Island, are using immigrants’ lives as political footballs tells us a lot about the state of American politics; mainly that the fringe has moved to the center and is rabidly latching on.”

Federal Government Sues Over Arizona Immigration Law

New York Times: “The Arizona law would also divert critical law enforcement resources and would cause the ‘detention and harassment of authorized visitors, immigrants and citizens’ who do not have to carry identification papers, the department said. Some immigration provisions provide exceptions to illegal immigrants on humanitarian grounds, whether the individuals were fleeing natural disasters or political persecution, the Justice Department added.” Continue reading

This Week: Elena Kagan, the G20, & more

Questions Not to Ask People With Chronic Conditions

Womanist Musings: “Not only do the differently abled have to deal with gatekeepers who think they know what it is like to live with our disease because they have studied it, we constantly have to deal with questions from the general public, because a differently abled status is constantly up for a debate.  It is not enough for someone to say my body does not function like yours.  We must explain why and prove that we are worthy of taking on the label of disabled.”

Economy Hurts Government Aid for H.I.V. Drugs

New York Times: “The weak economy is crippling the government program that provides life-sustaining antiretroviral drugs to people with H.I.V. or AIDS who cannot afford them. Nearly 1,800 have been relegated to rapidly expanding waiting lists that less than three years ago had dwindled to zero.”

Kagan Hearings: Gags, God, Guns, and Gays

RH Reality Check: “Kagan went on to talk the special case of ‘partial birth abortion bans,’ which she encouraged Bill Clinton to support while he was president. ‘Partial birth abortion’ isn’t even a medical term. It’s a marketing term coined by anti-choicers in their bid to chip away at Roe v. Wade. For pro-choicers, it’s disappointing to see Kagan uncritically buying into that frame.” Continue reading

NAGPRA, A Human Rights Statute

by Ben Hunter

Personal photo of Maria Pearson/Ames Historical Society

In 1971, highway crews in southwest Iowa uncovered 28 human remains. The remains of the 26 white individuals were reburied; the remains of a Native American woman and her baby girl were boxed and sent to the State Archaeologist.  Maria Pearson, an outraged Yankton Sioux activist, visited the State house to see Iowa Governor Robert Ray.   Ray credits Pearson for drawing the government’s attention to the discriminatory treatment of Native American human remains in Iowa.  The ensuing debate over new burial legislation led to the passage of the Iowa Burials Protection Act of 1976. The Iowa legislation served as a model for graves protection reform.  Pearson and other graves protection activists went on to lobby for federal graves protection reform and eventually succeeded with the passage of the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act (NAGPRA).

NAGPRA was signed into law in November of 1990. The statute requires that museums, federal agencies, and any institutions that receive federal money create an inventory of any human remains or funerary objects in its collection. The institution must consult with lineal descendants, Indian tribes, and Native Hawaiian organizations to determine if there is a known cultural affiliation of the remains or funerary objects. After the consultation, the institution makes a determination whether the remains are either culturally affiliated or culturally unidentifiable. If the museum determines that the remains or funerary objects are culturally affiliated to a tribe, then the remains must be offered to the tribe for repatriation. Continue reading

Feminism & Creativity

by Stephanie Land

Tara, Brooklyn, New York. All images by Stephanie Land.

To be left alone on the tightrope of youthful unknowing is to experience the excruciating beauty of full freedom and the threat of eternal indecision.

- Maya Angelou, I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings

I sketched this quote in pencil on my bedroom wall when I was 16; it was tucked away by my desk, around a field of flowers I had painted. It may have been the beginning of my feminist experience, without even knowing it. Maya Angelou’s writings got me through and out of my very young and traumatic abusive situation with a high school boy.  While studying photography at Columbia College Chicago, I officially found a haven in my discovery of feminism. I found adopting a feminist ideology gave me the opportunity and sense of security I needed in order to express my anger, shave my head and let my hair grow in other places that weren’t considered feminine. I didn’t want to be called pretty, and I fought any kind of denigrating remarks made about women, whether on the street or in the workplace. I used the medium of photography to discover new insights. Continue reading

Fat Porn Breaking Beauty Ideals

by Monica Stancu


In The Desirable Body, Bound and Gagged and Sex for Sale, Jon Stratton, Laura Kipnis and Ron Weitzer offer a critical analysis of the commodification of the body, especially the female body within the capitalist American society. Thanks to the advent of mass reproduction techniques such as photography and video, the public can buy easy access to images of female sexuality. The female body has been transformed into a spectacle for the male gaze in exchange for money. Furthermore, these new technologies have served to promote and impose ideals of beauty by transforming women into docile bodies whose social and financial success depends on being able to conform to these standards.

However, pornography can also be used as a tool to cater to the people whose tastes and bodies do not reflect mainstream standards. “Fat porn” is a form of sexual expression through which non-conforming bodies are celebrated. For instance, the website http://www.porncity.net included the self-portrait of a naked chubby woman. While she may be ignored or stigmatized because her body type does not conform to contemporary ideals of beauty, in the virtual world, her body is potentially desirable. In fact, the word “fat” is not used: instead she is described in more positive terms: she is called a vixen with “naughty curves” and a “huge rack.” Moreover, the website where more of her pictures are posted is called www.mebeautiful.com. Continue reading

Dorothy Height: Unsung Hero of the Women’s Movement and Civil Rights

by Erika Stump

Photo credit: David Kohl, AP

Dorothy Irene Height died on April 20, 2010.  She was 98.  Although not a common household name like her dear friend, Rosa Parks, Ms. Height was a fundamental force of the civil rights movement and an icon in the struggle for women’s rights. Not to mention her role as an impeccable model of style…oh, those hats!

Born in Richmond, Virginia in 1912, Ms. Height’s displeasure with racial inequality began early in her life. The Pittsburgh YWCA refused to let her swim in their pool when she was a child.  Then, at nine years old, a white girl said they could no longer be best friends because Dorothy was black. As a young adult, Height was admitted to Barnard College, but when she arrived, she was told she could not enroll as the two seats for black students had already been filled.  Given her renowned resilience, she immediately hopped on a subway and registered at NYU, where she earned both a Bachelor’s and Master’s degree in five years. Continue reading