Posted by rogerhollander in Capitalism, Democracy, Hillary Clinton, Uncategorized.
Tags: 2016 election, capitalism, danielle norwood, feminism, feminist, hillary clinton, roger hollander, women's rights
Roger’s note: This article mentions the murderous policies of Clinton in Syria, Libya and Palestine. This is a short list. A more comprehensive one would include other countries in Africa and Latin America, not to mention the United States of America (where hubby’s welfare “reform” has condemned thousands of women and children to poverty and hunger). As a Latin Americanist I particularly abhor Hillary Clinton’s role in support of the military coup and the illegitimate rightist government in Honduras, which has resulted in the murder and oppression of indigenous, labor and other activist leaders, where women are often in the vanguard. Hillary Clinton’s “historic” nomination is no more a victory for women and social justice than were the victories of Margaret Thatcher and Indira Gandhi. The panic over a possible Trump presidency offers us as the alternative a well-paid shill for voracious corporate capitalist imperialism, truly a Hobson’s choice.
By Danielle Norwood, a co-founder of WORD
|Danielle Norwood speaks at Aug. 26, 2012, rally for Women’s Equality Day organized by WORD under the banner “Defend Women’s Rights: We Won’t Go Back, We Will Fight Back!”
In a new campaign video, Clinton uses imagery from the women’s movement to position herself as a feminist candidate and her candidacy as a step forward for women. Seemingly without irony or self-awareness, she uses the images of powerful women of color like Shirley Chisholm to sell her campaign to women, working people and people of color.
Many who identify themselves as feminist seem to believe that any progress made by an individual woman, particularly a wealthy white woman, translates into progress for the rest of us. It does not. Wealth does not trickle down, nor does societal power. Dismantling oppression just doesn’t work that way. A few token members of an oppressed group being allowed into the halls of power will not set the rest of us free, and it’s disheartening to see people in 2016 still looking to women like Gloria Steinem, Madeline Albright and Hillary Clinton as saviors of women.
As the ad continues, an image from a 2012 WORD (Women Organized to Resist and Defend) rally in Los Angeles is featured. Co-founder Peta Lindsay is onstage under our very first big purple banner, which reads: “We Won’t Go Back, We Will Fight Back!” If Ms. Clinton were familiar with WORD, she might know that later banners featured a slogan much more relevant to her campaign: “The Status Quo Must Go!”
I remember that day vividly because I am also one of WORD’s co-founders, and I put my heart and soul into organizing that rally. Seeing our hard work and struggle used, even for a moment, to help sell a vicious capitalist status-quo candidate makes me sick. So let me set the record straight.
We made that banner by hand. We made hundreds of placards and thousands of phone calls. We went to local schools, block parties, craft fairs, flea markets, concerts, grocery stores, and any other event we could think of to engage with the community and sign people up for our mailing list. We called on allies from other feminist and anti-war groups to join us in solidarity. We organized permits and a march route. We did all of this ourselves, for free in our spare time.
We didn’t do that work for applause or recognition. We didn’t get paid for our time or effort. We didn’t do it to “get out the vote” and instead talked to the crowd about how we can’t count on politicians of either party to fight for us. We certainly didn’t do it to support a rich warmongering white woman killing our sisters in Syria and Libya and Palestine.
We did it for ourselves, for each other and for our families. Our mothers and grandmothers who worked in factories and fields. Our children who inherit a system with no safety net. Our sisters who struggle to put food on the table. The families torn apart by deportation and mass incarceration. We did it to build a movement that allows us to come together and fight together, to join in common struggle against racism, war and capitalist oppression everywhere it rises.
Hillary Clinton does not represent us. She has never been part of our struggle, she has never supported our struggle, and she is not a product of our struggle. WORD denounces Hillary Clinton’s callous, self-serving propaganda, her deceitful tactics and her shameful politics. The struggle for women’s rights continues, and will continue no matter how many rich white woman get elected to public office.
Posted by rogerhollander in Civil Liberties, Human Rights, LGBT, Women.
Tags: abortion, birth control, Civil Rights, culture wars, gay marriage, gay rights, katha pollitt, legal abortion, lgbt, marriage equality, pro choice, reproductive rights, roger hollander, same-sex marriage, sexual freedom, women's rights
Roger’s note: god forbid anyone should promote a rivalry between different groups of the oppressed; that is tantamount to divide and conquer, the oldest political trick in the books, one that predated Machiavelli by centuries. Nevertheless, as this article points out, there is a complexity about the different dimensions of struggles for justice. Homophobia, racism and sexism are pernicious; and, as the saying goes, no one is free until we are all free. Nevertheless, homophobia, racism and sexism seem to have taken root to different degrees in North American society. An example that has interested me relates to Vietnam War opposition; that is, the difference in attitude towards celebrity opponents Jane Fonda and Muhammad Ali. The latter has risen to iconic hero status, whereas Hanoi Jane remains a pariah to many. Does this mean that misogyny is deeper than racism in our society? I don’t think that is exactly true, although to some extent it seems that the liberation of fifty percent of the population poses more of a threat than any particular race. This is a raw observation on my part, not to be taken too seriously I hope; and this article goes into a more rigorous analysis in the treatment of gay and women’s rights.
Are these two “culture wars” issues really that similar?
The media present marriage equality and reproductive rights as ‘culture war’ issues, as if they somehow went together,” writes Pollitt. “But perhaps they’re not as similar as we think.” (Image credit: Getty)
Why are reproductive rights losing while gay rights are winning? Indiana’s attempt to enshrine opposition to gay marriage under the guise of religious freedom provoked an immediate nationwide backlash. Meanwhile, the Supreme Court has allowed religious employers to refuse insurance coverage for birth control—not abortion, birth control—to female employees; new laws are forcing abortion clinics to close; and absurd, even medically dangerous restrictions are heaping up in state after state. Except when the media highlight a particularly crazy claim by a Todd Akin or Richard Mourdock, where’s the national outrage? Most Americans are pro-choice, more or less; only a small minority want to see abortion banned. When you consider, moreover, that one in three women will have had at least one abortion by the time she reaches menopause, and most of those women had parents, partners, friends—someone—who helped them obtain it, the sluggish response to the onslaught of restrictive laws must include many people who have themselves benefited from safe and legal abortion.
The media present marriage equality and reproductive rights as “culture war” issues, as if they somehow went together. But perhaps they’re not as similar as we think. Some distinctions:
§ Marriage equality is about love, romance, commitment, settling down, starting a family. People love love! But marriage equality is also about tying love to family values, expanding a conservative institution that has already lost most of its coercive social power and become optional for millions. (Marriage equality thus follows Pollitt’s law: Outsiders get access when something becomes less valued, which is why women can be art historians and African-Americans win poetry prizes.) Far from posing a threat to marriage, as religious opponents claim, permitting gays to marry gives the institution a much-needed update, even as it presents LGBT people as no threat to the status quo: Instead of promiscuous child molesters and lonely gym teachers, gays and lesbians are your neighbors who buy Pottery Barn furniture and like to barbecue.
Reproductive rights, by contrast, is about sex—sexual freedom, the opposite of marriage—in all its messy, feckless glory. It replaces the image of women as chaste, self-sacrificing mothers dependent on men with that of women as independent, sexual, and maybe not so self-sacrificing. It doesn’t matter that contraception is indispensable to modern life, that abortion antedates the sexual revolution by thousands of years, that plenty of women who have abortions are married, or that most (60 percent) who have abortions are already mothers. Birth control and abortion allow women—and, to a lesser extent, men—to have sex without punishment, a.k.a. responsibility. And our puritanical culture replies: You should pay for that pleasure, you slut.
§ Same-sex marriage is something men want. Lesbian couples account for the majority of same-sex marriages, but even the vernacular “gay marriage” types it as a male concern. That makes it of interest to everyone, because everything male is of general interest. Though many of the groundbreaking activists and lawyers who have fought for same-sex marriage are lesbians, gay men have a great deal of social and economic power, and they have used it, brilliantly, to mainstream the cause.
Reproductive rights are inescapably about women. Pervasive misogyny means not only that those rights are stigmatized—along with the women who exercise them—but that men don’t see them as all that important, while women have limited social power to promote them. And that power is easily endangered by too close an identification with all but the most anodyne version of feminism. There are no female CEOs pouring millions into reproductive rights or threatening to relocate their businesses when a state guts access to abortion. And with few exceptions, A-list celebs steer clear.
§ Marriage equality has cross-class appeal: Anyone can have an LGBT child, and parents across the political spectrum naturally want their kids to have the same opportunities other children have. Any woman might find herself needing an abortion, too, but she may not realize that. Improvements in birth control mean that prosperous, educated women with private doctors can control their fertility pretty well—certainly better than women who rely on public clinics—and if they need an abortion, they can get one. It’s low-income women who suffer the most from abortion restrictions—and since when have their issues been at the top of the middle and upper classes’ to-do list?
§ Marriage equality costs society nothing and takes no power away from anyone. No one has been able to argue persuasively that your gay marriage hurts my straight marriage. But reproductive rights come with a price tag: Government funding is inevitably involved. (“If you want to have a party, have a party, but don’t ask me to pay for it,” said one New Hampshire lawmaker as he tried to cut funding for contraception.) Also, contraception and abortion give power to women and take it from others: parents, employers, clergy, and men.
§In marriage equality, there is no loser. But many, including some who call themselves pro-choice, feel that abortion creates a loser: the embryo or fetus. You have to value women a lot to side with the pregnant woman, with all her inevitable complexities and flaws, over the pure potentiality of the future baby.
§ Marriage equality is a wonderful thing, an important civil right that brings dignity to a previously excluded group. Over time, it may subtly affect the gender conventions of straight marriage, but it won’t fundamentally alter our social and economic arrangements. Reproductive rights, though, are inescapably connected to the larger project of feminism, which has already destabilized every area of life, from the bedroom to the boardroom. What might women demand, what might they accomplish, how might they choose to live, if every woman had children only when and if she wanted them? “Culture war” doesn’t begin to describe it.
Posted by rogerhollander in Hillary Clinton, ISIS/ISIL, Israel, Gaza & Middle East, Libya, Saudi Arabia, Syria, War, Women.
Tags: Bashar al-Assad, clinton hawk, feminism, gaddafi, gaza massacre, hard choices, hillary clinton, libya, roger hollander, sophie stephenson, Syria, women's rights
Roger’s note: is it really necessary for me to post this article? Well, just in case you haven’t heard …
Consider the Women of Saudi Arabia and Libya
Hillary Clinton says she’s a feminist, and claimed, astonishingly, while promoting her book “Hard Choices” last year:
“Women and girls … [are] central to our foreign policy,” saying that countries that value the rights of women are “less likely to breed extremism.”
However this statement is completely at odds with her actions as Secretary of State, such as with Libya – of which it has been said was her own project rather than Obama’s – where she put her own vile agenda ahead of the rights of the nation’s women, which were until that point light-years ahead of most other Middle Eastern countries. Since the death of Gaddafi, the rights of Libyan women have been rolled back by decades, with them now having to leave the house covering their heads, if not also their faces. It should be noted that the leader of the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group (LIFG) – Abdelhakim Belhadj – whose group was backed by NATO air strikes and who afterwards had his photograph taken with Washington’s leading warmongers John McCain and Lindsey Graham, is now said to be leading ISIS in Libya.
Clinton was also central to the “Friends of Syria” group, an ironic name if ever there was one, which advocates for the violent overthrow of the country’s President Bashar al-Assad. Syria is also one of the few countries in the Middle East where women are treated as human beings. In November, Al Arabiya reported that nightlife has returned to the besieged ancient city of Aleppo. In the government-held half women dance the night away underneath the lasers, even on weeknights…whilst in the rebel-held part of the city, cafes and restaurants are divided into men only and family sections, and women do not leave the house without their husbands. Clearly following the example set by Saudi Arabia – perhaps the most oppressive country on earth in terms of women’s rights.
On the Israeli-Palestinian issue she has staunchly defended Israel’s massacres in Gaza, and has said that if she were the Israeli Prime Minister, she would not give up “security” in the West Bank – suggesting that she does not support a two-state solution.
Therefore, Hillary proclaiming herself a feminist, and her claim that women’s rights are important to the Obama administration’s foreign policy, is crude and absurd. As Kelley Vlahos wrote in The American Conservative last year:
Hillary Clinton just may prove to be what the defense establishment has been waiting for, and more. Superior to all in money, name recognition, and influence, she is poised to compete aggressively for the Democratic nomination for president. She might just win the Oval Office. And by most measures she would be the most formidable hawk this country has seen in a generation.
“It is clear that she is behind the use of force in anything that has gone on in this cabinet. She is a Democratic hawk and that is her track record. That’s the flag she’s planted,” said Gordon Adams, a national security budget expert who was an associate director in President Bill Clinton’s Office of Management and Budget.
Karen Kwiatkowski, a retired Air Force lieutenant colonel who has spent her post-service days protesting the war policies in Iraq and Afghanistan, is more blunt. “Interventionism is a business and it has a constituency and she is tapping into it,” she tells TAC. “She is for the military industrial complex, and she is for the neoconservatives.”
Clinton’s record as Secretary of State can be summarised by her response when asked about Gaddafi’s death in an interview: “We came, we saw, he died.” This was followed by a period of laughter that can only be described as giving the impression of her being in a state of pure ecstasy. Evidently, to Clinton, the brutal killing and sodomizing of Colonel Muammar Gaddafi – himself thinking he was surrendering under the safety of a white flag – was a foreign policy achievement to be proud of. If the African nation’s women and girls were central to her objectives in the now failed state that is Libya, Hillary Clinton is certainly no feminist.
Sophie Stephenson is an American History postgraduate student at the University of Edinburgh, with a particular interest in US foreign policy and relations with the Middle East. She can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Hillary Clinton Wants You to Call Her a Feminist
Washington’s Al Qaeda Ally Now Leading ISIS in Libya
The Military-Industrial Candidate
Sliver of Aleppo’s once thriving nightlife returns
Here is Hillary Clinton hanging with two of our foremost warmongers:
Posted by rogerhollander in Health, Right Wing, Texas, Women.
Tags: abortion, abortion clinics, abortion providers, anti-abortion, back-alley abortion, laura bassett, mexican abortions, misoprostol, morning after, pro-life, reproductive health, reproductive rights, right to life, roe v. wade, roger hollander, texas abortion, women's rights
Roger’s note: some years ago I attended an event designed to discuss the issue of choice with young people who were born after the Roe v. Wade decision. A retired physician, a practicing Jehovah’s Witness, spoke of his “conversion” to pro life while at the same time not abandoning his faith. As a young Resident at LA County Hospital he worked on a ward with hundreds of beds for women with septic infections, 99% a result of botched back alley abortions. That ward disappeared entirely once therapeutic abortion was decriminalized. He said that from time to time nowadays he is called in to consult on a rare case of septic infection because today’s medical students and physicians almost never see them. That will soon change in Texas and elsewhere in the United States. Thanks to the misogynist Catholic Church hierarchy and the right to death bigots and their scumbag allies in state governments.
In 1969, when abortion was completely illegal in Texas except to save a woman’s life, Karen Hulsey became pregnant.
She was 20 years old and living in Dallas at the time, and the diaphragm she was using for birth control had failed her. Her boyfriend, she discovered, was married, and refused to help raise or pay for a child.
“It was just at a time in my life where I knew I couldn’t take care of a child, and he wanted no responsibility,” Hulsey recalled in an interview with The Huffington Post.
Instead, the man offered to pay for her to travel to Mexico, where he knew of a clandestine abortion provider. She wrestled with the decision and was three months pregnant by the time she agreed to go.
“I was not only very afraid of the ramifications with God, but very ashamed and embarrassed,” said Hulsey, who was raised Catholic. “I struggled with the decision for a long time.”
Hulsey left Dallas at midnight on a chartered plane, with no idea where she was going, and landed in a field south of the border in the middle of the night. A woman Hulsey had never met before was waiting for her when she stepped off the aircraft.
“I was scared to death,” Hulsey said. “Of course, he did not go with me — I went alone,” she said of her boyfriend at the time. “That was the stipulation.”
From there, things only got worse.
“A car came and picked us up and took us to what was considered a clinic in a little bitty building with dirt floors,” Hulsey recalled. “Even at that age, I knew this was not a good thing. I had worked as a nurse’s aide at that point in my life, and I knew about sterilization and everything else, so this just mounted my anxiety and fears.”
Hulsey said the doctor put her feet in stirrups and performed a “very rough,” painful gynecological exam. He then sedated her for the abortion procedure.
When Hulsey began to wake up, she realized that the doctor was raping her.
“I was of course very drowsy, and the doctor was on top of me having sex with me,” she recalled. “I had just barely opened my eyes, and he was all involved in what he was doing, and I immediately closed my eyes, because I knew if I acted like I knew what was going on I’d probably get killed, never to be seen or heard of again.”
After the man finished assaulting her, Hulsey said she cautiously opened her eyes.
“I went ahead after a little bit of time and acted like I was coming out from under the anesthetic, and he told me I’d had a little boy,” Hulsey said, choking back tears. “I was given a Kotex and taken back to Texas with no further care.”
Hulsey discovered upon returning to Texas that she had not completely expelled the placenta — a possible complication of surgical abortion. She was rushed to the emergency room, hemorrhaging from the botched procedure.
Years down the road, when she was ready to have children, she had three miscarriages due to the damage the illegal abortion provider had caused to her cervix. She underwent surgery to make it possible for her to hold a baby inside her body, and even then, her daughter was born two months premature and weighed less than three pounds.
“I thought that I had sinned and was being punished for having gone to Mexico and done that, and that’s why I had a baby that was so sick,” said Hulsey. “I think that’s baloney now, and that’s why I’m willing to talk about it.”
Four years after Hulsey’s ordeal, Texas became the original battleground state in the fight for legal and safe abortion. The 1973 Supreme Court case Roe v. Wade arose out of a challenge to the Texas law that criminalized the procedure except to save a woman’s life. Dallas County District Attorney Henry Wade defended the abortion ban against a 21-year-old pregnant woman using the pseudonym “Jane Roe.” Roe had tried to obtain an illegal abortion near Dallas, where she lived at at the time, but found that authorities had already raided and shut down the clandestine providers nearby.
The Supreme Court ultimately ruled that states must make abortion legal at least until the fetus is viable, around 22 to 24 weeks into pregnancy. The Guttmacher Institute, a reproductive health research organization, estimates that before Roe, as many as 1.2 million women a year in the U.S. resorted to primitive, self-induced abortions or sought out illegal, amateur providers. Thousands of women ended up in hospitals each year with severe complications related to illegal abortions, and in 1965 alone, nearly 200 women died from those procedures.
The proliferation of well-trained, regulated, legal abortion doctors in the last 40 years has led to “dramatic decreases in pregnancy-related injury and death,” according to the National Abortion Federation.
Now, however, Texas and other states are reversing course. State lawmakers enacted more abortion restrictions between 2011 and 2013 than they had in the previous decade, a trend that appears likely to continue in 2014. The Guttmacher Institute estimates that nearly 300 anti-abortion bills are currently pending in state legislatures.
The new restrictions have had a significant impact on women’s access to abortion. A Huffington Post survey last year found that since 2010, at least 54 abortion providers across 27 states had either closed or stopped performing the procedure. Sixteen more shut their doors after Texas lawmakers passed some of the toughest abortion restrictions in the country last summer. A federal appeals court upheld two of the new restrictions in a ruling last week.
As a result, researchers and women’s health advocates say, women today are resorting to many of the same dangerous methods they relied on in the pre-Roe era: seeking out illegal abortion providers, as Karen Hulsey did, or attempting risky self-abortion procedures.
In 2014, four decades after the Supreme Court upheld a woman’s right to choose, pregnant women once again find themselves crossing the border to Mexico and haunting back-alleys in search of medical care.
Pedestrians walk past discount pharmacies in Nogales, Mexico, June 17, 2006. Today, women from the U.S. cross the border to Mexico to purchase misoprostol, a drug that can induce abortions. (Spencer Platt/Getty Images)
The situation is particularly dire in Texas. In 2011, the state had 44 abortion clinics, but more than half of them have since shuttered due to new anti-abortion laws. In September, when a state law requiring all abortions to take place in ambulatory surgical centers goes into effect, reproductive rights advocates expect 14 more clinics will have to close, leaving only six facilities to serve the nearly 75,000 women who seek abortions in Texas each year.
The poorest area of Texas, the Rio Grande Valley near the Mexican border, has no remaining abortion clinics. Women who live there have to drive roughly 240 miles to San Antonio for the nearest clinic, but many of them are Mexican immigrants with restrictions on their work visas that prevent them from traveling that far.
In addition, the state has slashed funding for family planning, forcing 76 clinics that offer birth control and other reproductive health services but do not perform abortions to shut down.
“It’s a horrible natural experiment that is taking place in Texas, where we are going to see what happens in 2014 when U.S. women don’t have access to legal, safe abortion,” said Dan Grossman, vice president of research for Ibis Reproductive Health, an international nonprofit.
Anti-abortion advocates say the idea of back-alley abortions returning is just a scare tactic their opponents use to try to keep abortion legal.
“That is a statement that’s been purported by those who are anti-life, but in actuality, we haven’t seen any evidence of that taking place here,” said Melissa Conway, a spokeswoman for Texas Right to Life.
But Grossman, who is part of a research team that is currently studying the effects of the new abortion laws and family planning cuts in Texas, said he is already witnessing the consequences of the new restrictions.
“It seems like [women] are becoming more desperate to find an option,” he said. “We’ve heard reports of women taking herbs or other substances, or intentionally getting punched in the stomach or beaten up — the same kinds of things they did before abortion was legal.”
Ironically, in the years following Roe v. Wade, Texas had been a beacon of hope for Mexican women seeking abortions, since the procedure is illegal in most of Mexico.
“Texas has always been a place where people in Mexico came to get safe abortions,” said Lindsay Rodriguez, president of the Lilith Fund, which helps women in need pay for abortions in Texas. Now, she said, “traffic’s going to start going the other way.”
Indeed, the lack of abortion access in Texas is already pushing pregnant women back across the border. At Mexican pharmacies, they can purchase misoprostol, a drug with the labeled use of preventing gastric ulcers — but which can also induce abortions.
In the U.S., misoprostol is available only by prescription from a licensed abortion provider. The drug, first manufactured by Pfizer under the name Cytotec, is prescribed in combination with another medication, mifepristone (labeled RU-486), for abortions in the first trimester of pregnancy. The FDA has approved this combination of drugs for medically induced abortions in the first trimester, which account for almost a quarter of all non-hospital abortions in the U.S. each year, according to the Guttmacher Institute. The medications are extremely safe and more than 90 percent effective when taken together.
American women are learning that if they don’t have access to an abortion provider, they can obtain misoprostol illegally and take a high dose of it on its own to end a pregnancy. The drug is 75 to 85 percent effective in completing an abortion when taken properly up to nine weeks into a pregnancy, according to Ibis Reproductive Health, but it is relatively complicated to self-administer. A woman has to put 12 pills under her tongue in specific time-intervals, and she needs to have access to follow-up care in case she has complications or the pills don’t work.
“I’ve seen women who have used 50 pills all at one time,” said Amy Hagstrom Miller, the CEO of Whole Women’s Health, a network of abortion clinics in Texas. “They put them in every orifice of their body, because they had no idea how to use it. That’s the scary part — using any means necessary to self-induce.”
Taking misoprostol under the wrong circumstances and without medical supervision, doctors and women’s health advocates warn, can lead to life-threatening complications. A woman who takes the pill with an ectopic pregnancy, for instance, risks heavy internal bleeding due to rupturing of the fallopian tube. If a pregnancy does not pass completely, meanwhile, women run the risk of infection, fever and sepsis.
“Those are the major complications we’re going to be seeing in these communities without clinics,” Miller warned. Hemorrhaging and infection, if not properly treated, can lead to death.
Still, misoprostol is generally considered a safer and more palatable alternative to more primitive methods of self-abortions, and demand is quickly increasing among women living in areas where abortion is illegal or impossible to access. Rebecca Gomperts, a Dutch physician and founder of Women on Web, a digital community of abortion rights supporters, has published instructions on her website teaching women to take misoprostol properly on their own. She told HuffPost that her team regularly receives calls from women all over the U.S. seeking information about where to find the drug.
“In the United States there are import restrictions on abortion medications, so we just need to help women get access to them,” she said in a phone interview. “Sometimes that means we refer them over the border to Mexico.”
The trip across the border is often risky for women because of heavy drug cartel activity on the highways. And Mexican pharmacies have capitalized on the growing demand for misoprostol by marking up the cost to $200 or $300 per box.
Women in the U.S. can also obtain the pills illegally at flea markets in South Texas, or for about $100 a box over the internet, but Gomperts said the black market is awash in dubious drugs masquerading as misoprostol.
“There are a lot of fake websites out there, and there are a lot of people who take advantage of women’s desperate need,” she said.
Women who try to obtain the pills illegally, either online or on the black market, also run the risk of getting arrested. What’s more, women in the Rio Grande Valley who have obtained the pills are too afraid to share their stories, even anonymously, because they don’t want the police to crack down on the places that sell them.
“When the media first covered the flea market, it got raided by police and people got arrested,” Miller said. “When people start to cover this stuff, then the women can’t even get black market abortions. The culture in [South Texas] is one of extreme fear and caution — the women are so afraid of being put in jail.”
Women outside of Texas face the same obstacles. Jennifer Whalen, a 38-year-old Pennsylvania mother, was charged with a felony in December after she ordered a package of misoprostol and mifeprestone online from an overseas pharmacy for her pregnant 16-year-old daughter. Abortion is difficult to access in Pennsylvania due to severe restrictions on clinics there, and the closest clinic to Whalen’s town was across state lines in New York.
Whalen was charged with one count of medical consultation and judgment after her daughter had to go to the emergency room to be treated for an incomplete abortion and a urinary tract infection.
“We know that prohibition and criminalization will never stop women from having abortions,” said Lynn Paltrow, executive director of National Advocates for Pregnant Women. “Illegal, self-abortions are a form of civil disobedience. Women will violate unjust laws and bear the health risks and the legal consequences, without causing harm to the people or institutions that make their decisions criminal.”
In addition to pushing women across the border into Mexico in search of misoprostol or other abortion solutions, the dwindling number of clinics in Texas and elsewhere has also revived the concept of “miscarriage management” — an idea that similarly harkens back to pre-Roe days, when doctors would quietly tell women to figure out a way to induce their own miscarriages so that they could legally intervene to treat the bleeding.
The New Republic reported that one of the last remaining abortion providers in Texas’ Rio Grande Valley, Dr. Lester Minto, resorted to the idea of “miscarriage management” when a law went into effect in November that prohibited him from providing abortions. Minto offered treatment to women who had already started their own miscarriages for $400, lab work and ultrasound included. The visit would last two to three hours at most.
“Nothing here is back alley,” Minto told the magazine. “We do follow-ups with everybody. We still treat them just like we always did.”
But even Minto’s practice is now closed, leaving women few options for follow-up care when they try to self-abort in the Rio Grande Valley. The treatment Minto was providing would cost $2,000 to $3,000 in a hospital, require a general anesthetic and take up an entire day, Miller told HuffPost, which is out of reach for many poor and uninsured women.
With so many doors closed to them, back-alley remedies may soon be all that are left for many women.
“The situation politicians have put women in right now is untenable,” said Jessica Gonzalez-Rojas, executive director of the National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health. “Making abortion out of reach only pushes women into the shadows.”
Karen Hulsey is particularly concerned about the situation facing women today. For five years in the 1990s, she worked as a physician’s assistant at an abortion clinic in Brownwood, Texas. There, she helped treat Mexican immigrants who had had traumatizing experiences similar to what she herself went through in 1969.
“I saw the effects of abortions on girls in Mexico who were raped, and the results of those abortions, as far as the shape of their vagina and their cervix,” she said. “It was just abhorrent, the scarring from the methods that were being used. I would not be surprised if the same thing were going on today.”
Hulsey, now 65, retired in 2000 after being diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder, which doctors said she developed after her abortion and rape in Mexico. Although she has two children now, she said she has had trouble holding down a healthy romantic relationship because of what she went through.
Now that Texas lawmakers are spending so much time trying to limit access to abortion, she said, she is reminded of her trauma constantly.
“There are very few weeks that I don’t think about the severity of what I went through, especially with it being so up front in the news right now,” she said. “Every time anything like that comes up, I think, ‘Oh you people just don’t have any idea what you’re doing. No clue what you’d be sending girls back to.'”
Reproductive rights advocates rally at the Texas State Capitol in Austin on July 1, 2013. (Erich Schlegel/Getty Images)
CORRECTION: A previous version of this story misstated Henry Wade’s position at the time of the suit as Texas attorney general; he was district attorney for Dallas County.
Posted by rogerhollander in Hillary Clinton, Women.
Tags: clinton bandwagon, clinton politics, democratic party, hillary clinton, hillary for president, hillary hawk, hillary pac, hillary policy, hillary presidency, hillary progressive, Ralph Nader, roger hollander, the clintons, women's rights
Roger’s note: Electoral politics in the United States is little more than a spectator sport. It certainly does not relate to the goals of social and economic justice in more than marginal ways. There are obvious differences between the two major parties, but when it comes to the military industrial complex and the corporate/bankster state, the differences disappear. After working full time on the 1964 presidential campaign to support the re-election of Lyndon Johnson and stop the war-mongering Barry Goldwater, I felt betrayed by Johnson’s escalation of the Vietnam War and became totally disillusioned with electoral politics. I spent my energies on political organizing and protest. I was frightened into voting again, this time for John Kerry in 2004 after four years of the neo-fascist Bush/Cheney administration and for Obama in 2008. Obama has confirmed my original estimation of the futility of electoral politics. I will watch the races for the nominations and then the 2016 general election mostly for its entertainment value. I do not expect the Democratic Party to nominate a genuine social justice candidate, in effect, an impossibility (many left Democrats are touting Elizabeth Warren, who is certainly a genuinely progressive politician; however, to win the nomination she would have to make the kind of deals that would bind her to traditional regressive politicians, politics, and policies). I post this article because Hillary Clinton has convinced so many that she is progressive and pro-woman, and also, quite frankly, because the Clintons with all their slick phoniness simply get under my skin. Enjoy.
(Cliff Owen/AP Photo)
The Hillary Clinton for President in 2016 bandwagon has started very early and with a purpose. The idea is to get large numbers of endorsers, so that no Democratic Primary competitors dare make a move. These supporters include Senator Chuck Schumer (D-NY), financier George Soros and Ready for Hillary, a super PAC mobilizing with great specificity (already in Iowa).
Given this early bird launch, it is important to raise the pressing question:
Does the future of our country benefit from Hillary, another Clinton, another politician almost indistinguishable from Barack Obama’s militaristic, corporatist policies garnished by big money donors from Wall Street and other plutocratic canyons?
There is no doubt the Clintons are syrupy political charmers, beguiling many naïve Democrats who have long been vulnerable to a practiced set of comforting words or phrases camouflaging contrary deeds.
Everybody knows that Hillary is for women, children and education. She says so every day. But Democrats and others can’t get the Clintons even to support a $10.50 federal minimum wage that would almost equal the 1968 minimum wage, inflation-adjusted, and would raise the wages of 30 million workers mired in the gap between the present minimum wage of $7.25 and $10.50 an hour. It just so happens that almost two-thirds of these Americans are women, many of them single moms struggling to support their impoverished children. Nearly a million of these workers labor for Walmart, on whose Board of Directors Hillary Clinton once sat. Words hide the deeds.
As a Senator on the Senate Armed Services Committee, Hillary had to start proving that women, just like the macho men, can be belligerent and never see a weapons system and its use that they didn’t like. Never did she demonstrate any ongoing interest in debloating the massive, wasteful, duplicative military budget so as to free up big monies for domestic public works programs or other necessities.
As Senator she also admitted that she didn’t have time to read a critical National Intelligence Estimate Report, which had caveats that might have dissuaded her from voting with George W. Bush to invade Iraq in 2003. War-mongering and wars of Empire never bothered her then or now. Just a few weeks ago, she was photographed giving the recidivist war criminal, Republican Henry Kissinger, a big, smiling hug at a public event. It’s all part of the bi-partisan image she is cultivating under the opportunistic banner of “cooperation.” (For more information, read the New York Times’ Collateral Damage and Nixon and Kissinger’s Forgotten Shame, or Seymour Hersh’s The Price of Power: Kissinger in the Nixon White House.)
As Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton accelerated the Department’s militarization, belting far more war-like, threatening assertions toward governments of developing countries than did the Secretaries of Defense. She loved to give speeches on “force projection,” the latest synonym for “the Empire,” and “the pivot” toward East Asia and against the asserted looming threat of China. Taking due note, the Chinese generals demanded larger budgets.
The Secretary of State’s highest duty is diplomacy. Not for her. Despite her heavy travelling, she made little or no effort to get the government to sign onto the numerous international treaties which already had over a hundred nations as signatories. These include stronger climate change agreements and, as Human Rights Watch reports, unratified treaties “relating to children, women, persons with disabilities, torture, enforced disappearance and the use of anti-personal landmines and cluster munitions.” These tasks bore her.
Much more exciting was military action. Against the wishes of Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, she pulled Barack Obama into the Libyan war. There were consequences. Libya is now in militia chaos, having spilled over into Mali, but without Gaddafi, its overthrown dictator who had disarmed and was making peace with western nations and oil companies.
As a Yale Law School graduate, she was not in the least bothered that the attack on Libya occurred without any Congressional declaration, authorization or appropriation of funds – a classic Madisonian definition of impeachable high crimes and misdemeanors.
Like Bill Clinton, she is an unabashed cheerleader for corporate globalization under NAFTA, the World Trade Organization and the proposed sovereignty-stripping, anti-worker Trans-Pacific Partnership Free Trade Agreement. Secretary of State Clinton, in the words of trade expert Jamie Love, “put the hammer to India when the government took steps to grant compulsory licenses on cancer drug patents.”
Even regarding the easy clampdown on waste and fraud, Hillary Clinton fired Peter Van Buren, a 24-year-Foreign Service Officer, who exposed such waste and mismanagement by corporate contractors in Iraq. (For more information, see http://wemeantwell.com/).
Foreshadowing this season’s headlines, former Secretary of State Clinton ordered U.S. officials to spy on top UN diplomats including Secretary General of the UN, Ban Ki-Moon, and those from the United Kingdom. She ordered her emissaries around the world to obtain DNA data, iris scans and fingerprints along with credit card and frequent flier numbers. Not only was this a clear violation of the 1946 UN convention, but after admitting what happened she didn’t even make a public apology to the affected parties.
Under her watch, the advice and status of the Department’s foreign service officers and aid workers were marginalized in favor of the militarists – and not only in Iraq.
Many Wall Streeters like Hillary Clinton. Expecting their ample contributions, and socializing with their business barons, it is not surprising that Hillary Clinton avoids going after the crooked casino capitalism that collapsed the economy, drained investors, pensions, jobs and taxpayer bailouts. Hillary Clinton is a far cry from the stalwart Senator Elizabeth Warren on this towering pattern of unaccountable corporate abuse.
The surreal world of Hillary Clinton is giving $200,000 speeches, collecting prestigious awards she does not deserve, including one from the American Bar Association, and basking in the glory of her admirers while appropriately blasting the Republicans for their “War on Women” – the safe refrain of her forthcoming campaign.
It is true that the Republican madheads make it easy for any Democratic candidate to judge themselves by the cruel, rabid, ravaging Republicans. But, is that the kind of choice our country deserves?
A Clinton Coronation two years or more before the 2016 elections will stifle any broader choice of competitive primary candidates and more important a more progressive agenda supported by a majority of the American people.
Full Medicare for all, cracking down on corporate abuses, a fairer tax system, a broad public works program, a living wage, access to justice and citizen empowerment, clean election practices, and pulling back on the expensive, boomeranging Empire to come home to America’s necessities and legitimate hopes are some examples of what the people want.
Maybe the sugarcoating is starting to wear. Columnist Frank Bruni, writing in the New York Times (Hillary in 2016? Not so Fast), reports her polls are starting to slump. Apparently, as Bruni suggests, she’s being seen as part of the old Washington crowd that voters are souring on.
As I wrote to Hillary Clinton in early summer 2008, when calls were made by Obama partisans for her to drop out, no one should be told not to run. That’s everyone’s First Amendment right. However, not voting for her is the prudent decision.
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 License.
Posted by rogerhollander in Health, Women.
Tags: ann kristin neuhaus, clarke davis, community health, george tiller, late-term abortions, operation rescue, pro choice, roger hollander, tiller murder, women, women's rights
Roger’s note: compare the work of this courageous, community minded physician and citizen with that of the hate-mongering, murderous, hypocritical and patriarchal anti-choice activists who call them selves right to life.
Ann Kristin Neuhaus, photo by Clarke Davis
by Clarke Davis
Ann Kristin Neuhaus has lost her license to practice medicine, but she is still engaged in the work of making people healthy on the community level.
Neuhaus, 55, fell victim to Operation Rescue and the anti-abortion political winds that blow in Kansas. She is the last link to Dr. George Tiller, the late-term abortion doctor of Wichita who was murdered one Sunday morning in his church.
The rural Nortonville woman’s license has been revoked by the state Board of Healing Arts but that action has been appealed and is now in the judicial system.
Neuhaus doesn’t know the outcome yet—it may be a couple more months—but she believes the judge will base his decision on the law and not on some political agenda.
As an associate to Tiller, her job was to render a second opinion on late-term abortions as required by state law. The law requires a Kansas physician for the second opinion and since 99 percent of the patients were outside of Kansas and from all parts of the world, he relied on Neuhaus.
No patient ever brought a complaint, but she was charged with “documentation inefficiencies” through the regulatory agency.
In other words a couple of papers weren’t signed or t’s failed to get crossed and i’s dotted.
“I was even accused of not having seen one of the patients, which was ridiculous,” she said.
Tiller’s abortion clinic and his murder have been national news and now the Neuhaus story has national circulation. The Nation and The Huffington Post have done stories on human rights issues and reproductive health and have brought sufficient recognition to her that people want to help and have established an online fund to help in her struggle.
A $93,000 goal was set on indiegogo.com and late last week the amount of donations was nearing $60,000. The Neuhaus story can be found at this location along with links to most all of the news coverage that she has received.
Why that amount? That’s the amount of the bill she was sent after losing her license by the regulatory agency. She is being required to pay for her own prosecution, of which most of the cost came with the state bringing in an expert witness from Washington, D.C., to testify.
The matter is now in the court system and that could be overturned on appeal. Nevertheless, Neuhaus and her husband, Mike Caddell, are struggling financially and trying to hang onto their rural home and 10-acre farm. Her lawyers are working pro bono.
Tiller had been brought up on charges as well, most of which had been thrown out of court and a jury quickly found him not guilty of the remainder. A month later the assassin’s bullet killed him.
Late-term abortions are fewer than 1 percent of the total number of those performed, Neuhaus said. Often it’s a child and of those 12 and under, it’s almost always a case of incest.
Neuhaus has moved on in her professional life. She went back to school to acquire a master’s degree in public health and is now employed as a research instructor at the University of Kansas Medical Center’s Department of Family Medicine.
“I’m working on six or seven different projects involving community health,” she said.
One is the development of an informational kiosk made available in medical clinics that tend to serve the poor. This is to help them educate themselves on the importance of a colonoscopy for cancer screening.
“We spend time on the Indian reservations in this area,” she said.
This is for the purpose of doing health screenings, dealing with diabetes on the community level, and checking on the general environment for all aspects of health care.
“Do they have access to good food?” she asked. “That’s something rural and urban people often have in common is the lack of access to good nutritious food.”
Her department works through the churches in the African-American communities. She noted that sometimes people are disenfranchised and fatalistic about health care and they don’t need to be.
If she could be a benevolent dictator for 10 years, Neuhaus said she would end obesity and the health problems that come with it. There would be no junk food, plenty of bicycle trails, and opportunities for people to grow healthy food.
“There are many social detriments to health that are often overlooked,” she said. She noted that crime and stress and financial difficulties add up to lots of health problems when the community is not healthy.
She said it does not help to have a preachy attitude from the affluent looking down and addressing them as “you people,” an attitude that is not helpful and lacks understanding.
Even in her years of private practice, Neuhaus was serving mostly those who could not afford health care and insurance. She credits her stepfather with shaping her opinions of the world and caring for others.
Her mother divorced when she was 5 years old and married a man in the foreign service. She lived in a number of European countries and at one point was schooled with the children of ambassadors from nations around the world.
Her stepfather took her to the Dachau concentration camp at the age of 5 and showed her the ovens used by the Nazis to burn corpses. His father had worked alongside Oskar Shindler in saving Jews from the Nazi terror.
“I never experienced prejudice or hate until I was 13 and living in southwest Kansas,” she said.
There were black people and Mexicans in Hugoton and she never could understand the racist attitudes she encountered.
“None of it ever made sense,” she said.
The generosity of people across the country donating to her cause is also overwhelming for Neuhaus.
“What people have done is over the moon,” she said.
Neuhaus and her husband intend to stay in their rural Jefferson County home where they are raising their son, Tristan, a junior at Jefferson County North High School.
The old house needs some paint and sometimes the well runs dry, but it’s home. It’s home for the three of them along with three horses, a goat, some chickens, and several dogs and cats.
With the donations of money they hope to preserve their rural home so it will be there for future generations.
“We are pretty well rooted here,” she said.
Posted by rogerhollander in Israel, Gaza & Middle East, Religion, Women.
Tags: abby zimet, female drivers, islam, Middle East, muslim cleric, roger hollander, saudi protest, women's rights
Roger’s note: I remember, growing up in New Jersey back in the 1950s, that when another car did something untoward or reckless on the road, the reflex reaction was to shout “woman driver!” So the Muslim clerics take this sentiment to the extreme. The opinion reported below is so hilariously absurd as to put a five star comedy writer to shame. But the reality of patriarchal oppression of women under fundamentalist Islamic regimes is not laughing matter.
10.16.13 – 9:09 PM
Gearing up for an Oct. 26 protest against their country’s de facto ban on female drivers – there exists no explicit law or Islam ban against it – Saudi women have posted scores of videos of themselves driving, often taken by a female Saudi filmmaker who helped organize the protest and was then briefly detained. In taking the wheel, women are thus defying a conservative cleric who claimed that driving would have “negative physiological impacts (as) medical studies show that it affects the ovaries and pushes the pelvis upwards,” resulting in children “with clinical problems of varying degrees.” Despite these grave if wholly unfounded warnings, over 15,000 people signed an Oct26Driving petition before the website was shut down. Here’s one driving video in which, as expected, no lightning descends from on high, no lady parts disintegrate, and nothing happens – except, charmingly, some drivers in other cars give them thumbs-up.
Posted by rogerhollander in Health, Latin America, Women.
Tags: abortion, abortion criminalization, Abortion restrictions, abortion rights, Access to abortion, catholic church, central america, cora fernandez anderson, Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Faith and Ideology, Health Systems, illegal abortion, Latin America, Law and Policy, life of the mother, Life of the Woman, Medical abortion, patriarchy, Pregnancy complications, reproductive health, reproductive rights, roger hollander, south america, Surgical abortion, women's rights
In light of the recent case of Beatriz, a 22-year-old Salvadoran woman and mother of a toddler, who, while suffering from lupus and kidney failure and carrying an anencephalic fetus, was denied the right to an abortion, it is relevant to discuss the restrictive abortion laws in Latin America and some of the reasons behind them.
Latin America is home to five of the seven countries in the world in which abortion is banned in all instances, even when the life of the woman is at risk: Chile, Nicaragua, El Salvador, Honduras, and the Dominican Republic, with the Vatican City and Malta outside the region. Legal abortion upon request during the first trimester is only available in Cuba (as of 1965), Mexico City (as of 2007), and Uruguay (as of 2012). In the rest of the continent, abortion is criminalized in most circumstances, with few exceptions, the most common of which are when the life or health of the woman is at risk, rape, incest and/or fetus malformations. However, even in these cases the legal and practical hurdles a woman has to face to have an abortion are such that many times these exceptions are not available, or by the time they are authorized it is too late. The consequences of such criminalization are well known: high maternal mortality and morbidity rates due to unsafe back alley abortions that affect poor and young women disproportionately.
The current laws ruling abortion in the region have been inherited from colonial powers. They are a legacy of the Spanish and Portuguese empires. While European women have already gotten rid of these laws many decades ago, Latin American women still have to deal with them. Why is this so?
As both scholars and activists know by now, women’s rights, like other human rights, are only respected if a movement organizes around them and puts pressure on the state to change unfair laws and policies. While feminist movements swept Europe and North America during the 1960s and 70s, Latin American countries were busy fighting dictatorships and civil wars. It is not that women did not organize, but rather they did so to oppose the brutal regimes and to address the needs of poor populations hit by the recurrent economic crises. Reproductive rights just had to wait. When democracy finally arrived in the region—in the 1980s in South American and the 1990s in Central America—feminist movements gradually began to push for reproductive rights. For example, the September 28th Day of Action for Access to Safe and Legal Abortion was launched in 1990 in the context of the Fifth Latin American and Caribbean Feminist meeting held in San Bernardo, Argentina. Since then, most countries in the region have seen mobilizations and protests around this date. However, by the time the movements began to focus on reproductive rights, the global context had changed and the conservative right had also set up a strong opposition to any change to the status quo.
The strongholds of the opposition to decriminalization lie in two places: first, the Catholic Church, and second, the ascendance of the religious right in the United States. The Catholic Church has historically been a strong political actor in Latin America, ever since its large role in the conquest and colonization of the continent by the Spanish and Portuguese crowns in the 16th and 17th centuries. The church’s influence among both political and economic elites is still a reality in the whole region with only a variation of degree among the different countries. However, the church’s strong opposition to abortion has not been constant. While the church has always condemned abortion, it used to be considered a misdemeanor and not a murder of an innocent human life, as in the current discourse. In addition, it was not until the late 1800s that the church considered that life started at conception. Until 1869, a fetus was thought to receive its soul from 40 to 80 days after conception, abortion being a sin only after the ensoulment had taken place.
Even in the beginning of the 20th century, when many Latin American countries passed their current legislation that allowed legal abortion under certain circumstances, the Catholic Church did not pose a strong opposition to these reforms. As Mala Htun explains in her research on South American abortion laws, at the time abortion reforms were passed by a nucleus of male politicians, doctors, and jurists. In addition, these reforms legalized abortion only in very limited circumstances and required the authorization of a doctor and/or a judge, and therefore represented no real threat to the dominant discourse of abortion being morally wrong. The church only began organizing against abortion decriminalization when feminist movements came together to claim the autonomy of women’s bodies threatening this consensus.
When John Paul II became Pope in 1978, moral issues such as abortion were given a priority in the church’s mission as never before. Having lived through the Soviet conquest of his home country, Poland, and experienced the repression of Catholicism and the legalization of abortion there, the Pope felt very strongly about these issues. Once many of the European Catholic countries achieved the legalization of abortion in the 1970s and 80s, Latin America, being the largest Catholic region in the world, became the battleground in which abortion policy would be fought and decided.
Together with this shift within the Catholic Church, a second stronghold of the opposition has come from the United States. Long past the days of Roe v. Wade, since the 1980s the increasing influence of the religious right within the Republican Party has implied that U.S. reproductive rights policies have been increasingly anti-abortion when this party was in office. How has this affected Latin America? Both directly, by banning federal funding for international NGOs involved with providing, advising, or even advocating for abortion decriminalization (known as the Mexico City Policy or the Global Gag Rule), and also indirectly, through the legitimacy and strength given to anti-abortion discourses, particularly during the George W. Bush administration.
Latin American politicians have not been indifferent to these trends and have thus sought the support of the Catholic Church and/or U.S. Republicans and anti-abortion groups to strengthen their chances of winning office. Unfortunately, in this context the future of Beatriz and many other poor and young women in the region remains politically uncertain.
Posted by rogerhollander in Health, Human Rights, Women.
Tags: angelina jolie, feminism, jodie gummow, rape culture, roger hollander, sexual assault, sexual violence, violence, violence against women, who, women's rights
The UN World Health Organization claims the problem is so widespread that it is now considered a global public health problem.
July 5, 2013 |
Violence against women is certainly not a new phenomenon. We are constantly flooded with stories in the media of heinous acts of violence perpetrated against women across the globe. This is subsequently followed by extensive dialogue on women’s rights by activists and political bodies alike attempting to find solutions to address the problem, most commonly resulting in the adoption of legislation as a quick fix to satisfy public outrage
While such legislative actions are commendable, necessary and timely, to date these measures have not led to a world free from violence—women continue to be subject to it, the media continues to report it, activists continue to fight against it and we end up in a perpetuating cycle of institutional inertia where recapping the problem seems like the only practical solution.
The question that remains unanswered is not what we can do to address it, but how such measures can be effectively implemented in order to change a climate of rape culture and impunity that is so heavily entrenched in our society.
According to a report released by the United Nations World Heath Organization (WHO), 35 percent of women around the world experience some form of physical or sexual violence, whether by an intimate partner or stranger, and the problem is so widespread that it is now considered a global public health problem.
The report is the first systematic study of global data on the prevalence of violence against women. The study found that violence committed by an intimate partner is the most common form of violence, affecting 30 percent of women worldwide. In addition, 38 percent of all women murdered globally are killed by their intimate partner; women who face physical and/or sexual partner violence are 1.5 times more likely to acquire a sexually transmitted infection and twice as likely to develop depression and alcohol-use problems.
The report comes amidst increasing international pressure in recent months for action to prevent violence against women. Last week the Security Council adopted a resolution to end impunity for perpetrators of sexual violence in armed conflict zones. In a compelling speech, Angelina Jolie, Special Envoy of United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, stressed that victims were not only suffering at the hands of their rapists but also from a culture of impunity:
“These crimes happen not because they are inherent to war. It is because the global climate allows it. That young Syrian rape victim is here because you represent her. That five-year-old child in the Congo must count because you represent her. And in her eyes, if her attacker gets away with his crimes, it is because you have allowed it.”
Following its adoption, the UN Security Council said the resolution sent a strong signal to perpetrators that they will be held accountable for their actions and that rape by armed groups and in conflict will not be tolerated. However, while such dialogue is welcome, without political will by state governments to implement such measures or a judiciary willing to apply such laws, the current climate of physical and sexual violence against women is unlikely to change. Moreover, the Security Council lacks any sort of police powers to enforce such global action.
There is no one-size-fits-all bandage that can be plastered over the issue in its entirety without addressing the underlying social and cultural factors, which underpin the problem. Certain violent acts committed against women are country specific and/or conflict specific and while solutions in one situation may be appropriate, they may not be applicable in another.
Likewise, here on American soil, we are not immune from such violence either as we continue to battle rhetoric which blames the victim and sympathizes with perpetrators. It was only in March this year that CNN, in its coverage of an Ohio high-school rape case, lamented about the promising future of the Steubenville rapists whose lives were now ruined because of their decision to rape a 16-year-old girl. There was no mention of the ramifications of the rape on the young woman.
The prevalence of such violence can be attributed to the rape culture embedded in our society. Consequently, it is necessary to identify what exactly constitutes a “rape culture.” According to Rebecca Nagle of Force: Upsetting Rape Culture, an artistic collaboration fighting against rape, the term denotes the existence of all myths in society about sexual violence which can be seen everywhere we look:
“Rape culture includes jokes, TV, music, advertising, legal jargon, laws, words and imagery, that make violence against women and sexual coercion seem so normal that people believe that rape is inevitable and cannot end. Rather than viewing the culture of rape as a problem to change, people in a rape culture think that the persistence of rape is a given and inevitable.”
Force believes the way to eliminate rape culture is by emphasizing the notion of consent, and honoring and elevating the stories and experiences of women who are victims of physical and sexual violence.
“People need to hear about rape,” Nagle says. “At present, victims are shamed and silenced and that silence is a block to having a more critical dialogue about the issue. In addition, we need to promote consent—people need to understand what consent actually means. Our culture does not value having to ask for anything. Rather, we live by a take-what-you-can-get motto. We don’t have a lot of positive models on consent and this is part of the problem.”
What’s more, it seems social media is exacerbating the issue. Facebook has come under fire recently for perpetuating rape culture through gender-based hate speech with pages such as: “What’s 10 inches and gets girls to have sex with me? My knife.” The social network site initially refused to take down the offensive page, saying it “was just a joke.” However, after 15 companies removed its advertisements, Facebook was forced to respond by deleting some of the pro-rape material that violated its terms.
Despite the proliferation of individuals and groups speaking out against rape culture, such efforts continue to be met with tough resistance. In an article last week titled, “If comedy has no lady problem, why am I getting so many rape threats?” Jezebel staff writer Lindy West explained that since a TV appearance in which she discussed the ethics of rape jokes in comedy, she has been the target of thousands of online attacks from individuals threatening to rape and kill her.
“…I do believe that comedy’s current permissiveness around cavalier, cruel, victim-targeting rape jokes contributes to a culture of men who don’t understand what it means to take this stuff seriously […] And how did they try to prove me wrong? How did they try to demonstrate that comedy in general doesn’t have issues with women? By threatening to rape and kill me, telling me I’m just bitter because I’m too fat to get raped….”
Similarly, 17-year-old Jinan Younis encountered a major backlash from her male peers when she attempted to tackle the issue of violence against women. In her article, “What happened when I started a feminist society at school,” she explains how her participation in a national project called “Who Needs Feminism” resulted in a flood of degrading and explicitly sexual comments from men. Younis writes:
“We were told that our ‘militant vaginas’ were ‘as dry as the Sahara desert,’ girls who complained of sexual objectification in their photos were given ratings out of 10, details of the sex lives of some of the girls were posted beside their photos, and others were sent threatening messages warning them that things would soon ‘get personal.'”
Other efforts to protect women from violence by encouraging the use of “anti-rape products” like hairy-leg stockings, electric shock underwear and a female condom with hooks that women insert called Rape-Axe which attaches to a man’s penis upon penetration, have been criticized for focusing prevention on the victim rather than the perpetrator. Moreover, such campaigns place women and men against each other, rather than in collaboration to solve the problem.
So how do we get men on board to help change this distorted perception of rape culture in society on the quest to end violence against women once and for all? According to Jared Watkins of Men Can Stop Rape, an international organization that encourages men to use their strength for creating cultures free of violence, the key to stopping violence against women is to view men positively:
“All men have the capacity and desire to play a positive role in creating a culture free from violence. Therefore, it is essential to approach men as allies rather than only as potential perpetrators. In order for men to have empathy for themselves and women, we must embrace the full range of emotions in men.”
Men Can Stop Rape tackles the issue of violence against women in a primarily preventative way through youth development programs. The Men of Strength Club is one such course aimed at middle-school students across the country designed to help young men understand how traditional masculinity contributes to violence against women and expose them to non-violent models of manhood.” Jared Watkins says:
“We don’t want to address rape and sexual assault after it has happened, we want to prevent it before it happens. We focus on masculinity because we believe that acts of violence, which are overwhelming committed by men, come from a toxic culture based on a dominant story of masculinity. Our main tool is to point out parts of our culture that encourage unhealthy dominant traditional masculinity, discourage all forms of violence and replace those behaviors with healthy masculinity—by assisting men to develop social emotional competences and provide them with advice to be pillars of strength.”
It follows that if such educational programs were backed by our politicians and implemented in state educational systems, at least on our own shores, we could make some headway in changing the current climate of violence against women. If girls have boys on their side early on in this fight, half the battle is won.
Watkins agrees. “Sexual assault is not a natural state for men,” he says. “In fact, it is often insulting when people say that men can’t control themselves or that men are made to rape. Men have a role in preventing rape and are better than their reputations. We can all be better men in the future. While most violence against women is committed by men, most men don’t commit violence against women. Therefore, we hope to engage the vast majority of men who don’t engage in violence, to speak up when they know something is wrong.”