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

Join Women on the Bridge

(Video transcript below the jump)

Chally recently posted a reminder about International Women’s Day coming up on Monday, March 8th. There are all kinds of events taking place all over the world, but I received an email about one particular set of events that I thought I’d highlight here.

As most blog readers are probably aware, due to war, women in both Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of the Congo face incredibly high rates of rape and other violent assault. On March 8th, Congolese and Rwandan women are taking action to demand an end to war and violence against women. Via the email:

On March 8, hundreds of Congolese and Rwandan women will unite on a bridge to demand an end to the violence that has caused 5.4 million deaths and hundreds of thousands of rapes. They will tie together banners of fabric on which they’ve painted their visions for a peaceful future.

To honor and support their resilience, Women for Women International is hosting a global campaign – Join me on the Bridge – which will replicate that meeting at bridges in different cities all around the world in a show of global solidarity. Already supporting the Congolese and Rwandan women in their call for war’s end will be thousands of women from Bosnia, Kosovo, Sudan, the UK and the US.

In New York City, we are rallying people to the Brooklyn Bridge at noon on Monday, March 8. Sponsors such as kate spade new york, Marie Claire and the ONE campaign are also joining us. Project Runway’s Tim Gunn will be in attendance. Self-organized bridge events will also be taking place in other cities, towns and schools nationwide.

Check out the Women For Women International website to see all of the events that will be taking place. The two largest events will take place in New York and London, but there will also be many, many events in other cities. Most are in the U.S. and U.K., but there are also events in countries such as Australia, Canada, India, Mexico, and Nigeria. Almost all of the events will be held on either March 7th (this Sunday) or March 8th (Monday). Please consider attending if there’s one near you.

Read More…Read More…

Remembering Dr. King

Martin Luther King, Jr. speaks in a church. He leans forward, eyes gleaming with intensity, a finger pointed with conviction out at his audience.

Some of us who have already begun to break the silence of the night have found that the calling to speak is often a vocation of agony, but we must speak. We must speak with all the humility that is appropriate to our limited vision, but we must speak. — Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Today is Martin Luther King, Jr. Day.

We still, I should hope it goes without saying on this particular blog, live in a world fueled by racism, white supremacy, and classism. With a lot of the reporting coming out of Haiti this past week alone, that much has been evident. We live in a world where Dr. King’s words are used and abused by those who like to tell us that race does not matter, and that we should all be “colorblind.” And we live still in a world where much of his work and activism — such as his anti-poverty and anti-war work — is ignored because it’s less simple to twist in a way that supports existing power structures, and where only the parts that make those with power and privilege feel good are typically remembered.

But it’s a much better world than it would have been, had it not been for Dr. King and the many, many other activists like him.

In the spirit of remembering that less publicized and less taught work, instead of posting I Have a Dream or I Have Been to the Mountaintop (two obviously phenomenal speeches), I’m posting the beginning of the less recognized speech Beyond Vietnam: A Time to Break Silence, a statement against war and about the interconnectedness of social justice struggles that still remains largely relevant, as well as moving and chilling.

The full text of Beyond Vietnam: A Time to Break Silence can be found here.

Also recommended are Jay Smooth’s video Ten OTHER Things Martin Luther King Said, and Renee’s post (already linked above) Dr. King: A Legacy Ignored.

No More Rape By Contract

Senator Al Franken passed a major piece of legislation today, a major warning for the defense contractors hired by the U.S. government and their disregard for their female employees. It’s notable that all women in the Senate, Democrat and Republican, voted in favor of the amendment while thirty Republican men voted against it.

In 2005, Jamie Leigh Jones was gang raped by her co-workers while working for defense contractor KBR/Halliburton in Baghdad, and was then detained in a shipping container for over 24 hours without food or water and told that if she sought medical treatment “she’d be out of a job.” Afterward, Jones was prevented from taking the case to court because her contract stipulated that any sexual assault allegations could only be heard in private arbitration.

The Franken amendment withholds contracts from these companies “if they restrict their employees from taking workplace sexual assault, battery and discrimination cases to court.”

The Department of Defense opposed the bill. Republican Sen. Jeff Sessions of Alabama was rather vocal about his opposition, maintaining that “Franken’s amendment overreached into the private sector and suggested that it violated the due process clause of the U.S. Constitution.”

Apparently because companies, not women, deserve due process under the law. And because corporations should be allowed to abuse and aid in the abuse of their employees regardless of all civil and criminal laws designed to protect them!

More power to designing protections for an individual’s rights as a citizen and worker, especially when the taxpayers are footing the bill.

Popular conservative website says a military coup would “resolve the Obama problem”

He’s careful to say he’s not advocating a military coup, he’s just saying

There is a remote, although gaining, possibility America’s military will intervene as a last resort to resolve the Obama problem. Don’t dismiss it as unrealistic.

America isn’t the Third World. If a military coup does occur here it will be civilized. That it has never happened doesn’t mean it wont. Describing what may be afoot is not to advocate it.

Thanks to Mind for the link.

Goodbye Goodbye

My last day as a guest blogger!  I want to thank the Feministe regulars for sharing your corner of the interwebs with me.  Thank you to the readers who read my posts, and especially thank you to those of you who posted thoughtful responses to them.

Like many guest bloggers before me, I leave you with many thoughts un-posted.  I have a half dozen half finished posts on my hard drive, posts on subjects ranging from Arabic hip hop to Zionism, veganism to 9/11.  Etc.  I’m gonna mash a few thoughts into this goodbye post.

First, I really want to talk a little bit about  Israel’s ongoing occupation of Palestine while I’m here.  I specifically want to talk about being a Jew who does anti-occupation activism and opposes Zionism.

When I say “Zionism” I am referring to a nationalist ideology holding that Jews have a right to a Jewish-majority nation state/”homeland” in historic Palestine.  Although over time there has been much debate about the definition of “Zionism”, I am using the meaning that carries currency currently on the global political stage.  Some Jews have more personal definitions of Zionism that are different; some may have nothing to do with nation states and refer instead to an important religious/spiritual connection to the land; I may not share such sentiments (I feel that Brooklyn and the Lower East side are enough of a homeland for me), but I certainly don’t object to them.  Such definitions are not being referred to when most people across the globe express objections to Zionism.

Along with anti-Zionists in general, I do not question the right of Jews to live in historic Palestine.  Jews have always lived there, often in peace with their neighbors.  There’s no problem there.  The problem is with the belief that Jews have more of a right to be there than anyone else, and that the “right” of a state with an artificially maintained Jewish majority to exist trumps the rights of all the people in the region.   These beliefs are racist, though it’s taboo to say that in most public spheres here in the United States.  Since the ’67 war (when the IDF proved itself to be very useful as military muscle), we’ve had a special relationship with Israel, supplying their military with an unprecedented amount of aid.  The US government also has a long history of supporting Jewish migration to historic Palestine, at least in part as an alternative to a feared massive arrival of Jews on our shores.

The US stands apart from world opinion in our official, unyielding support of Zionism and our active participation in the conflation of anti-Zionism and anti-Jewish politics.  I’m old enough to remember being appalled in 2001 when reps from the US and Israel walked out of the UN World Conference against Racism rather than discuss the relationship between Zionism and racism, slandering participants from every other country as anti-Semites.  Similar dynamics played out when the US pulled out of participating  in this years conference because Israel’s crimes were on the table.   This should raise red flags for those of us committed to fighting racism.  It is US and Israeli exceptionalism.

I view anti-Zionism as a logical piece of a broader anti-imperialist, anti-oppressive politic.  Of course I abhor anti-Semitism, but I am also disgusted at Jews (and fundamentalist Christians, and assorted other pro-Zionist factions) who exploit the historic persecution of Jews for their own political ends.  It in no way diminishes the horror of the Nazi Holocaust to suggest that the expulsion and murder of Palestinians in 1948 does nothing to honor its victims.  It is not anti-Jewish to resist Jewish colonialism.  The refugee crisis and ongoing oppression of those living in the Palestinian territories are not going away soon, and no amount of righteous anger at Hamas will shift the balance of power in the situation.  Those of us in the US-Jewish and not–are directly implicated, as our tax dollars fund the ongoing occupation.

The number of Jews who identify as anti- or non-Zionist is growing.  A 2006 study sponsored by The Andrea and Charles Bronfman philanthropies found that among non-Orthodox Jews under 35, only 54% are comfortable with the idea of a Jewish state. (as opposed to 81% of those 65 and older. ) Last year saw the launch of the International Jewish Anti-Zionist Network as well as an increasing amount of Jewish organizing against the ongoing Israeli occupation of Palestine within a specifically anti-Zionist framework. In 2008, I participated in the nation-wide No Time to Celebrate: Jews Remember the Nakba campaign, which sought to counter celebrations of Israel’s 60th anniversary with events commemorating and spreading awareness of the correlating “Nakba” (or “Catastrophe”) of 1948 which resulted in the death or displacement of hundreds of thousands of Palestinians.   This is a shift-it’s often controversial enough to criticize Israel at all, let alone dispute Zionist ideology.  But this controversy comes not from some kind of Jewish “consensus” on the matter (there never has been any such thing) but from which factions hold institutional power and the lengths they’ll go to silence their opposition.

I also want to plug my new favorite movie, Slingshot Hip Hop, a documentary chronicling the emerging Palestinian hip hop scenes and movement.  It is particularly interesting from a feminist perspective, as the consciousness around the need for women’s voices in Palestinian hip hop displayed by both male and female musicians in the film puts to shame the gender analysis of most music scenes I’ve ever been around. Please, order it and watch it if you haven’t yet.  You’ll laugh, you’ll cry, you’ll probably learn things, you’ll be left both angry and inspired.

What else.

It’s a little early, but September 11 is next Friday and I won’t be blogging here then.  This year I hope to get tickets to the big Jay-Z 9/11 benefit concert thing at Madison Square Garden.  That would be nice.  Not that most years I do anything, other than reflect.  It’s still a date on the calendar that provokes a visceral response from me.  On the morning of September 11 2001 I was at work at a phone sex call center in Manhattan.  I was on a call when the first plane hit the tower and yes, caller, you really will always be very special to me.  On 9/11 I thought I was maybe gonna die at various points.  Not to be dramatic, I wasn’t near the towers. There were initially rumors reported on the news that there was a third plane headed towards New York, and I was near other famous NYC stuff that people speculated might be a target.  Obviously the third plane didn’t exist.  No one I knew was hurt or killed.  Some I knew lost friends and family.

It was a really, really fucked up day.

The thing everyone says about the city coming together was true, in my experience.  I was unlike anything I had experienced before or have experienced since.  From the women at my job banding together and helping one another through those early, awful hours to just about everyone I saw after wards.  Strangers talking to strangers, asking each other how we’re doing, offering whatever aid or comforts we could.  I don’t have the words to express the power of experiencing that this is what happened to my city when hit with a crisis of such proportion.  We didn’t know what to do but try to help one another.

And then Bush and Giuliani got on TV and told us we needed to shop and “smoke out” the terrorists.  And suddenly the horror was constant and everywhere.  Attacks on Mosques and random people perceived as being Arab and/or Muslim.  The looming war.  A lot of us started having anti-war strategy meetings, back when opposing the war on Afghanistan was a fringe wingnut thing to do.  Now the majority of the country opposes it.

And yet, we’re still there.  In fact we’re sending 14,000 additional combat troops, on top of the increasing number of contractors from firms like Blackwater (excuse me, I mean the re-branded “Xe Services LLC.”) We’re still in Iraq, too, despite the popularity of Obama’s anti-Iraq war platform.   The horror marches on.  I wish I could see an end.

And on that cheery note…I guess I’m out?  You can follow my pop culture critiques, short videos, vegan recipes and political griping at my blog.  Hope to see you around the internet.

Abu Ghraib Abuse Allegations Include Rape

By now, you’ve likely heard of the most recent allegations regarding U.S. soldiers’ abuse of Iraqi prisoners: they include rape and other sexual assault, of both female and male detainees, and there may be photographs of the assaults among those which Obama has recently decided not to release.  You can read the details here — it probably goes without saying that they’re immensely disturbing.

It’s hard to know what to say to this.  I’ve spent the last day trying to figure it out, to come up with something intelligent.  Instead, all I can muster is seething rage, crushing sadness, and unbearable shame.  I’ve never been a patriot.  Honestly, I don’t even understand patriotism.  And I’ve certainly been ashamed of my country before.  But this is certainly a new low.  As a rape survivor myself, particularly.

I think that Jennifer Pozner hit the nail pretty much right on the head in under 140 characters on Twitter.  Rape is a part of war.  And U.S. soldiers have been raping the “enemy” ever since the U.S. military was established.  It’s one of the many reasons I oppose war.  That doesn’t surprise me, though it doesn’t lessen my rage, sadness or shame.

What is shocking (if not surprising), and only magnifies that rage and shame, is the fact that all of these abuses were seemingly sanctioned by our government.  The soldiers who committed other abuses at Abu Ghraib claimed that they were following orders.  While that in no way absolves them, seeing the government’s stance on torture, we also have little reason to doubt them.  And I see little reason to believe that these rapes and sexual assaults were somehow vastly different.  What’s shocking is that in the 21st century, the U.S. government is condoning and possibly even promoting rape as a war tactic.

Of course, the Obama administration is trying to deny that the photos exist.  The automatic response to that is, the only way we’ll ever know is if you just release them like you promised.  At the same time, Mark Leon Goldberg makes an excellent point that these victims have rights. And it is indeed pretty damn difficult to justify releasing photographs of rape and sexual assault to the public without the victims’ consent.

So I don’t know where to go from there, on any of this.  I guess I’ll just open up the floor to all of you.

ETA: Ashley has some good and difficult thoughts over at the SAFER blog.

Holy War

You’ve probably all seen those Rumsfeld intelligence briefings, but just in case you haven’t had the pleasure, click over and read this GQ article. This is the kind of stuff that, if you replaced Biblical quotes with Koranic ones, would be on every right-wing blog (not to mention network news) as evidence that crazy, irrational Jihadists are fighting a holy war. I have nothing more intelligent to say than that is some scary shit.