In defense of the sanctimonious women's studies set || First feminist blog on the internet

Sanesha Stewart is dead and I have only tears and frustration for her

A man named Steve McMillian apparently stabbed Sanesha Stewart to death on Saturday morning. Who was she? She lived in the Bronx. She was tall and femme and well-liked by her neighbors. She was a client at the law project where I volunteer, but I never met her myself. Some of my colleagues helped her get her name legally changed more than a year ago. None of the above mattered at all to the news media, which handled this tragedy with the appropriate combination of sensitivity, respect for the victim, and a very cold eye for the man who the police dragged from her apartment, covered in her blood.

Oh no… wait one second and back up. There was no respect and no cold eye, none at all. I must be imagining some completely different universe where young trans women of color aren’t automatically treated like human trash. Where we all live, business as usual is to make a lot of comments about what the murder victim dressed like and looked like, reveal what her name was before she changed it, automatically assume she’s getting paid for sex, and to make excuses for the alleged killer.

And please note: “Cops: Ex-con slays Bronx transsexual ‘hooker'” is not the original headline of this NY Daily News article. The original one was “Fooled john stabbed Bronx tranny,” until pressure from the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation got them to change it. They are still suggesting that people take action by writing to the editors–follow that link for more details.

The Daily News also published a follow-up story in which Sanesha’s downstairs neighbor insists that she wasn’t getting paid for sex; the Daily News doesn’t offer any proof for their earlier assertion that Sanesha Stewart was a “hooker,” other than “police sources.” And as many trans people in New York City will tell you, the NYPD assumes that almost any young, Black or Latina trans woman walking around on the street, or going into an apartment building with a guy, is getting paid for sex work. Profiling is constant; women have been arrested around here simply for having a gathering in someone’s apartment, apparently it’s too suspicious. I mean why would any normal person want to hang out with one of THEM, right?

I don’t know if Sanesha Stewart was doing sex work or not, and I don’t think it really matters, other than the fact that the usual assumptions are being made. I don’t know what else to say. This kind of thing always leaves me at a loss for words, there’s not much to do but sit, and cry, and wonder how long it will be until the next murder. Until the next young, poor or working class, Black or Latina trans woman is murdered just for being trans, and then mocked by so-called journalists before her body cools.

Worst of all is the fact that even the newer article ends with a hint of what will undoubtedly be part of the next chapter of this story: the “tranny panic” defense.

Ramel C., 37, said McMillan had a girlfriend. He said his life-long friend must have been shocked to discover he was with a man.

“I’m not saying that’s a reason to kill anyone,” he said. “But I’m sure he was in some type of turmoil or shock.”

(Right, because no guy with a girlfriend has ever slept with or dated a trans woman.)

Read this, and then go look at some of the comments on those stories and the other news sources that megan_julca rounded up. The “trans panic” defense was used in the trials following the murder of Gwen Araujo, and those murderers got reduced sentences. We still live in a place and time where people think it’s “perfectly understandable” that someone would flip out and want to kill a trans woman just because they find out she’s trans. And those are the people who claim not to condone violent criminal reactions! Others are happy to step right up and say (at least on the anonymous Internet) that they’d react the same way and do the same thing. Trans people take the blame; trans people should be the ones walking around with prominent badges of shame, so all the “normal” people don’t make the wrong assumption. The question nobody ever seems to ask is, why would you automatically assume that the person you’re on a date with isn’t trans?

Read More…Read More…

Shocker: Women in a “Pro-Life” Nation Want Birth Control

Women in the Philippines, a heavily Catholic country with strong “pro-life” laws, are agitating for birth control access. They’re arguing that being unable to plan their families is having “a devastating effect on their lives … causing unwanted pregnancies, pushing them further into poverty and harming their health and wellbeing.” And what does a “pro-life” country like the Philippines look like?

The policy has hit poorest people the hardest, they say, forcing people to choose between a packet of pills or food for their families.

Several of the petitioners have had many more children than they wanted – some at the expense of their health – because they could not afford to pay for contraception.

The policy also exposed women to violence from husbands who did not want to abstain from sex, the rights groups found in an earlier report, and meant more women were resorting to illegal and unsafe abortions.

Mr Atienza is no longer mayor – he is now secretary for the Department of Environment – and his replacement Alfredo Lim is currently looking at the issue.

But EO 003 remains in place and there are no plans to start providing free contraceptives again – not even condoms for sex workers.

Unsurprisingly, divorce is also illegal in the Philippines. Almost 40 percent of men in the Philippines admit to beating up their wives. Between 1.8 to 3.2 million children in the Philippines are exposed to domestic violence. The lack of access to contraception and the unavailability of divorce means that many Filipina women are utterly trapped — which is exactly where “pro-life” groups think women should be.

Help Pretty Bird Woman House buy a permanent shelter

Pretty Bird Woman House, a domestic violence shelter on the Standing Rock reservation in South Dakota, needs help purchasing a house it’s put a bid on so it can have a permanent (and secure) home:

Jackie Brown Otter created The Pretty Bird Woman House after the brutal rape and murder of her sister, whose Lakota name means Pretty Bird Woman.

PBWH provides emergency shelter, advocacy support, and educational programs for women on the Standing Rock reservation who have been victims of domestic violence or sexual assault. It opened on January 5, 2005.

Recently, the Pretty Bird Woman House was forced to move out of its original location after a number of break-ins through the exterior walls left it in such bad condition that the women could not safely remain there. The staff are now sending women to 2 other shelters off the reservation, which reduces their ability to serve Standing Rock’s women and strains the resources of the other shelters.

PBWH really needs a permanent house for the shelter. There
happens to be a house for sale near a police station. The purpose of this fund drive is to raise enough money to buy it or another suitable one in a safe location. Won’t you help?

You can give at the link above, you can sign up at igive and designate PBWH to receive a portion of your online purchases, or you can send checks directly to:

Pretty Bird Woman House
P.O. Box 596
McLaughlin, SD 57642

If you’ve got some money burning a hole in your pocket…

Consider donating some money to Pretty Bird Woman House

Jackie Brown Otter created The Pretty Bird Woman House after the brutal rape and murder of her sister, whose Lakota name means Pretty Bird Woman.

PBWH provides emergency shelter, advocacy support, and educational programs for women on the Standing Rock reservation who have been victims of domestic violence or sexual assault. It opened on January 5, 2005.

Recently, the Pretty Bird Woman House was forced to move out of its original location after a number of break-ins through the exterior walls left it in such bad condition that the women could not safely remain there. The staff are now sending women to 2 other shelters off the reservation, which reduces their ability to serve Standing Rock’s women and strains the resources of the other shelters.

PBWH really needs a permanent house for the shelter. There
happens to be a house for sale near a police station. The purpose of this fund drive is to raise enough money to buy it or another suitable one in a safe location. Won’t you help?

They’ve put a bid on the house, but need money for the deposit and for the security systems they need to help prevent the same thing happening again.

You can pay by credit card at the link above, or send a check to the following address:

Pretty Bird Woman House
P.O. Box 596
McLaughlin, SD 57642

H/T: Julia.

I’d like to introduce you to my Romantic Companion

sweaterdog.jpg

The Winter/Holiday/Consumption Season is in full swing: ‘Tis the time to Partay. Whether you are going to the now-cliché, Clichéd and Tacky Christmas Sweater Party or the “We’re So Lefty But We Can Make Fun of Kwanzaa Anyways” Party, you’ll have to meet the “Significant Others” of your friends, family, and that co-worker whose name you can never remember. And, if your house-mates still haven’t let you get a dog, you might even have a Worse Half of your own in tow.

For somewhat obvious reasons, I find the whole “girlfriend”/”boyfriend” thing a little silly, but I also find the word “partner” annoying and confusing. When I’m introduced to someone’s “partner” I often don’t know if they mean “business partner” or “sexual partner”. I also find it a little sterile. I realize there are plenty of reasons to like the word “partner”– but I just can’t bring myself to say it. Its more a matter of taste than politics. I’ve consulted Thesaurus.com but my Confederate and I just can’t find a term we both agree on.

How do you introduce your Bedfellow? Other Sidekicks you’ve had? What was the best/funniest/most syllabic term for S.O. you’ve ever heard? If you wanted to make the worst impression possible, what term would you use?

16 Days of Activism Against Gender Violence

Today kicks off the 16 Days of Activism Against Gender Violence (h/t).

The days of action start with The International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women — which is today — and ends on December 10 with International Human Rights Day. I think that this is an absolutely amazing structure: beginning discussion relatively narrowly and then building up to a broader world view to remind people that gender issues are human rights issues.

This year’s theme is Demanding Implentation, Challenging Obstacles: End Violence Against Women, and you should read more about it.

I very strongly recommend that you check out Sokari at Black Looks for more information about the 16 Days and for information about the Carnival Against Gender Violence, for which submission are due December 6th. Personally, I can’t wait to see it.

If you happen to be in NYC, check out these events. For everyone, here is a great resource for suggested actions (pdf).

And as a blogger, I encourage all others to blog on the topic as much as possible for the next 16 days (and thereafter). Of course, blogging is neither the only nor most effective method of activism, but I also think that it plays an important role. If you read liberal blogs that don’t normally cover “gender issues,” strongly encourage them to participate (and demand answers if they won’t). If you run a non-feminist blog, or read other non-feminist blogs by writers that you know care about women, let them know and encourage them to blog about the issue, too. The issue of gender violence is an absolutely massive one, considering the many forms that violence can and does take and all of the intersections of race, sexual orientation, age, nationality, class, religion, location, etc. It has more dimensions than I imagine the combined efforts of every feminist blogger working diligently for the entire 16 days could fully cover. And that’s why it’s so important to say as much as we can. I will be covering the issue of gender violence as much as possible on my own blog for the 16 Days.

You can also download the 16 Days logo, which I encourage you to put in any posts that you write, in your sidebars, on your myspace page, etc. And don’t hesitate to create a “16 Days” tag so that your posts will be easier to find. Please, participate and let people know that you’re participating.

Forced Miscarriage = Murder?

I’ve been musing over this one for a little while and I’m eager to hear what you think. Recently, a Texas Court ruled that a fetus can be murdered, but not by abortion.

Texas laws allow the killing of a fetus to be prosecuted as murder, regardless of the stage of development, but the laws do not apply to abortions, the state’s highest criminal court has ruled.

The Court of Criminal Appeals announced the ruling Wednesday, rejecting an appeal by Terence Lawrence, who said his right to due process was violated when he was prosecuted for two murders in the killings of a woman and her 4- to 6-week-old fetus.

The court ruled unanimously that state laws declaring a fetus an individual with protections do not conflict with the United States Supreme Court’s ruling in Roe v. Wade that women have a constitutional right to abortion.

Now, I have made my feelings on sentences for the killing of fetuses very clear in the past. In this case, I’m very glad that the court ruled that violently causing the miscarriage of a pregnancy is different from abortion. It is different. But murder?

Read More…Read More…

Help the Pretty Bird Woman House

The Pretty Bird Woman House on the Standing Rock Reservation in South Dakota provides emergency shelter, aid, counseling, and a variety of other services to women in need. Unfortunately, it’s in dire financial straits after a series of attacks. South Dakota has ongoing problems with sexual assault and abuse, with Amnesty International reporting that:

High levels of sexual violence on the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation take place in a context of high rates of poverty and crime… The unemployment rate on the Reservation is 71 per cent. Crime rates on the Reservation often exceed those of its surrounding areas. According to FBI figures, in 2005 South Dakota had the fourth highest rate of “forcible rapes” of women of any US state.

The Pretty Bird Woman House has made a huge difference in the lives of hundreds of women, despite being staffed by only three people. In less than a year, these three employees have:

* Served a total of 614 individuals with education and services.
* Answered 397 crisis calls
* Provided emergency shelter to 188 women and 132 children.
* Helped 23 women obtain restraining orders, 10 get divorces, and 16 get medical assistance
* Provided court advocacy support for 28 women, and
* Conducted community education programs for 360 women.

Chip in and help them out.

Thanks to Kristen for the link.

Not funny.

660-stalkingembeddedprod_affiliate57.jpg

Does Walmart ever do anything that doesn’t totally suck? They’re selling this t-shirt in their stores, and some people don’t think it’s so cute.

For the past two years, this woman has been stalked until she feels like a prisoner in her own life. She has been spied upon, bullied and threatened with her life.

She has been in frequent communication with local authorities. Yet, because North Carolina has one of the most vague stalking laws in the nation (a bill is wending its way through the legislature to address that), her recourse has been limited.

So when she saw the T-shirts, clearly aimed for the teen-younger adult set, she didn’t see the humor.

“It’s reprehensible,” said the woman, whose story is well documented but who asked not to be identified for fear that her stalker might retaliate.

“People don’t realize how serious stalking is,” she said. “You constantly live in fear, look over your shoulder and suffer from psychological and physical symptoms due to the stress of the stalker.”

She wondered aloud: What’s next?

“Some say it’s rape, I call it hot sex”? Or: “Some call it domestic violence, I say I’m just teaching her a lesson”?

Of course, t-shirts like that do exist. They just aren’t being sold at one of the nation’s largest retailers.