How Well-Intentioned Public Health Campaigns Can Wind Up Shaming Women [#quickhit: link]

We can all agree that fetal alcohol syndrome is a tragedy. But although American public awareness campaigns about the dangers of drinking while pregnant have good intentions at heart, recent media initiatives have deployed tactics that shame moms while ignoring bigger issues. Instead of helping improve the lives of women and kids, these public action campaigns veer into borderline Handmaid’s Tale territory.

Because addressing each and every fetal alcohol syndrome awareness organization state by state would be a book-length endeavor, for the purposes of this article I’m going to focus on a nationwide group, the National Organization on Fetal Alcohol Syndrome, and the organization in my own state, the Minnesota Organization on Fetal Alcohol Syndrome.

For a good example of these campaigns’ paternalistic rhetoric, there is this post from the Minnesota Organization on Fetal Alcohol Syndrome. which repeatedly refers to “women of child-bearing age,” be they “pregnant or not-yet-pregnant.” Being not and never-will-be is not an option, apparently. The organization advises healthcare providers to ask “all women of childbearing age… every woman, every time” about their drinking habits. This is the type of attitude that leads to the sorry scenario in which a non-pregnant patient goes to the doctor for an issue concerning her own health and ends up getting grilled about her lifestyle over the prospective well-being of a hypothetical fetus, regardless of how likely or willing she would be to conceive one and carry it to term. (It has happened to me, and I wouldn’t be surprised if it has happened to you, too.)

Rest: Bitch Media.

Racism cannot be separated from feminism [#quickhit: quote]

Last week I gave up buying a bottle of Coke because I didn’t have the heart to carry one that asked those around me to share a glass with “Siobhan”. This, the name I have been called (even written to me in email with the spelling of mine clearly above it) by those who rather can’t be bothered to learn my “strange” name.

Last week I spent an afternoon responding to the familiar questioning of casual-racists, “Where are you from? No, where are you really from? Where are your parents from?” – only this time from the passport office, when renewing my British passport.

Last week I read sixteen articles in national newspapers that were xenophobic, Islamaphobic or both. I filled a doctors’ form stating my ethnicity as “other” and was consequently reminded that it’s not worth sparing an identity simply because it’s not the preferred one. Last week I moved train carriages when a man stared at my Arabic necklace and shook his head with a scowl.

All this time my experiences of sexism were present, but they paled in comparison to the racism. Last week as a woman of colour, the focus rested itself – much like the practices that had occurred around me – on the “colour” part.

On: Racism cannot be separated from feminism, The Independent.

‘Pushy’ Is Used to Describe Women Twice as Often as Men [#quickhit: link]

During her three-year tenure, former New York Times executive editor Jill Abramson was described (anonymously, of course), as many things, including “brusque,” “condescending,” and of course, “very, very unpopular.”

But none of these attributes seemed to sting women as a whole quite like the one used by another anonymous source in an interview with the New Yorker’s Ken Auletta.

After Abramson was fired last week, Auletta wrote that Abramson had long believed she was being paid less than her male predecessor, Bill Keller, and that she had both asked for a raise and hired a lawyer to look into the disparity:

“She confronted the top brass,” one close associate said, and this may have fed into the management’s narrative that she was “pushy,” a characterization that, for many, has an inescapably gendered aspect.

In the ensuing media storm, writers (including me) seized on the word “pushy,” arguing that it’s unlikely a man would have been thus described for his aggressive tendencies.

On theatlantic.

America’s prison population: Who, what, where and why [#quickhit: link]

But it also underscores something we’ve written about before: America locks up too many people for too many things. The number of federal laws has risen from 3,000 in the early 1980s to over 4,450 by 2008.

On the economist:

THE United States not only incarcerates a lot of people, it also has a bewildering array of places to put them. There are, of course, jails and prisons: jails are usually run by local jurisdictions (cities or counties) and house either convicted criminals serving short sentences or people awaiting trial. Prisons, or penitentiaries, are run by states or the federal government, and house convicts serving longer sentences. But there are also juvenile-detention facilities, military prisons, immigration-detention and civil-commitment centres (used for court-ordered treatment of the mentally ill; they can be inpatient or outpatient) as well as jails and prisons in Indian and overseas territories, most of which are administered by different government entities. This keeps data on the overall size of America’s incarcerated population, as well as information about their crimes, quite fragmented.

Yesterday the Prison Policy Initiative (PPI), a criminal-justice research and advocacy group, released a report and chart that draws on various data sources to present a fuller picture of precisely who is behind bars, and for what reason. It’s not happy reading. PPI reckons the United States has roughly 2.4m people locked up, with most of those (1.36m) in state prisons. That is more than the International Centre for Prison Studies estimates, but it’s in the same ballpark.

Rest: The Economist.

Men aren’t entitled to women’s time or affection. But it’s a hard lesson to learn [#quickhit: quote]

In recent months, it’s been hard to escape the spectacle of other men talking about what they deserve – and what women have supposedly taken from them. In May there were the grisly Isla Vista killings, perpetrated by Elliot Rodger, who called his violence a “day of retribution” for the women who had rejected him. There is increased talk of “men’s rights” forums, websites predicated on the serious belief that men are greatly disadvantaged by women’s empowerment. Last month, a speaker at a men’s rights conference in Michigan postulated that feminism was leading to a future without love.

- , via Men aren’t entitled to women’s time or affection. But it’s a hard lesson to learn

Elsewhere, there’s the less ominous and more omnipresent discussion, online and in pop culture at large, of things like the “friendzone”, a term coined a decade ago on Friends to describe a scenario in which a man is attracted to a woman who only seeks a platonic relationship with him. Women tend to call that kind of partnering “friendship” – but, to many men, “friendship” doesn’t capture the degradation they apparently feel at the prospect of spending time or being emotionally intimate with women who are uninterested in having romantic relationships with them.

The sexism of China’s love and dating scene – “leftover women” [#quickhit: link]

For many of today’s Chinese youth looking for a partner, love takes second place to parental pressure, moving up the social ladder and a heavy dose of fear drummed into women that they will end up as “leftover.”

These aspects and others relating to love, dating and women’s status in the Middle Kingdom will be examined on Saturday in a China-inspired version of “The Vagina Monologues,” a Broadway hit exploring womanhood that got actresses voicing women’s most intimate feelings to packed theaters.

In “The Leftover Monologues,” Chinese and foreign women — and a few men — will tell their own stories of searching for a partner, their observations of love and sex, and the panic aroused by the thought of becoming a “leftover woman” — defined by a women’s agency linked to the Communist Party as a single urban female over 27.

Rest: bigstory.

Whiteguymageddon? Calm down, dears [#quickhit: link]

This is actually beautifully funny.

Quite rightly, the appearance of the rampaging hordes of women whom David Cameron has promoted has been criticised. They do not look like men. They are not in navy suits. What are these “new girls” thinking while strutting their stuff on the Downing Street catwalk? Why have they not done away with their own bodies and hair and all their awkward woman-type things? What are they thinking? Well certainly not about policies. They are there to smooth over and sell what has already been decided. Maybe that is why I don’t much care about the painted nails of the handmaidens of privatisation.

But, really, we were led to believe there would be more of this monstrous regiment, hordes of these devil women. Actually, two and a half were promoted to cabinet. I count Esther McVey as half because she kept the same job but can now attend cabinet. Cameron’s 2010 cabinet had four women; four years later, we have seven. And a half. I ask you, can this feminist madness ever stop?

Rest: The Guardian.

 

Research: new study finds girls view sexual violence as normal [#quickhit: link]

Citation: Hlavka, H. (2014). Normalizing Sexual Violence: Young Women Account for Harassment and Abuse. Gender & Society, 28(3), pp.337-358.

Abstract:

Despite high rates of gendered violence among youth, very few young women report these incidents to authority figures. This study moves the discussion from the question of why young women do not report them toward how violence is produced, maintained, and normalized among youth. The girls in this study often did not name what law, researchers, and educators commonly identify as sexual harassment and abuse. How then, do girls name and make sense of victimization? Exploring violence via the lens of compulsory heterosexuality highlights the relational dynamics at play in this naming process. Forensic interviews with youth revealed patterns of heteronormative scripts appropriated to make sense of everyday harassment, violence, coercion, and consent. Findings inform discussions about the links between dominant discourses and sexual subjectivities as we try to better understand why many regard violence a normal part of life.

Link to full article page on Sage.

HT to lipmag:

A new study titled ‘Normalising Sexual Violence: Young Women Account for Harrassment and Abuse’, published in Gender & Society, has found that girls and young women will rarely report incidents of sexual violence because they view them as ‘normal.’

The study analysed interviews conducted by the Children’s Advocacy Center with 100 young women between the ages of three and seventeen, who may have been sexually assaulted.

According to the findings of the research, it was common for the young women to trivialise their experiences of sexual harassment or assault, and that ‘objectification, sexual harassment, and abuse appear to be part of the fabric of young women’s lives.’

Incidences of assault or harassment appeared to be so ingrained into their experiences that they didn’t see them as particularly unacceptable or inappropriate.

The study concludes that ‘young women often held themselves and their peers responsible for acting as gatekeepers of men’s behaviours; they were responsible for being coerced, for accepting gifts and other resources, for not fending off or resisting men’s sexual advances…’

While the results of the study are disgusting and eye opening, they are unfortunately not very surprising for those who continue to speak out about and struggle against the rape culture that exists in Western society. (lip magazine)

While Ireland may no longer be such a harsh place for unmarried pregnant women, the stigma persists [#quickhit: link]

Agnes always assumed that her mother would be supportive if she got pregnant, but just as she was working up the courage to break the news, her father was diagnosed with terminal cancer. Now there is so much stress at home that she knows there will never be a good time to drop the bombshell and so she refuses even to think about it.

Eileen sometimes wishes that people would stop talking about the mother and babies scandal because she is in a black hole and the constant handwringing and recrimination on the radio is making her feel overwhelmed.

Her recently laid-off husband has stopped opening the bills, her teenage son has stopped asking if he can go to college, and she can’t face the prospect of another baby at 42.

Every so often, Ireland is transfixed by revelations and reminders of the mothers and babies so cruelly treated by a society with no place for women who got pregnant outside marriage.

But amid all the tut-tutting, hundreds of Irish women continue to hide pregnancies. “Concealed pregnancy has not gone away: it just has another face,” according to Sylvia Murphy Tighe, a former midwife and public health nurse who has been told stories similar to those of Agnes and Eileen.

On The Irish Times.

John Oliver Uses Puppets To Explain US Prison System Is ‘A Lot Racist’ (VIDEO) [#quickhit: video]

How Germany fought human trafficking by empowering sex workers [#quickhit: link]

Whether you think such sexual transactions are a good thing or a bad thing, the fact remains that criminalization makes things more expensive. And price drives pimps to find new ways to satisfy demand. Prices matter for trafficking because it costs a lot to kidnap someone and hold them against their will.

Legalising sex work and protecting workers seems to be a solid argument. It does nothing to diminish the buying of a woman’s body for cash, and all of the patriarchal misogynistic trappings that go along with that, but it might protect women. As such, it becomes a battle between principles and practicality.

On the last day of my recent trip to Germany, I’d wanted to check out Deutschland’s brothels. The focus of my writing on sex work has been U.S.-centric thus far. So I wanted to speak to someone participating in sex work in a country where it’s legal. I was running out of time and euros, but it just so happened that the quickest route to my hotel after drinks with locals included an area known for its ladies of the night.

As we walked down a hookah-bar-lined street, the sex workers looked more empowered than any I’ve seen stateside. Tall and healthy-looking, with thick hair and thin waists, beautiful corsets shaping hourglasses, they certainly didn’t look oppressed—except perhaps by four-inch platform Lucite heels. (Those oppress any wearer.)

On our walk I learned that Germany’s decision to legalize prostitution not only helped sex workers, but actually decreased the number of human trafficking victims in the country. But on our stroll, one of my companions told me that German feminists are trying to recriminalize sex work. This is a mistake, she argued. Legalization has improved sex workers’ lives.

Turns out, she was right. According to the data, violence against sex workers is down, while sex workers’ quality of life is up. And after testing began, post-legalization, researchers discovered no difference in sexually transmitted infection rates between sex workers and the general population.

Opponents claim legalizing prostitution has actually increased human trafficking in the country. But the data don’t support that claim. In fact, they show the opposite. From 2001, the year the law legalizing sex work in Germany was passed, to 2011, cases of sex-based human trafficking shrank by 10 percent.

On The Freeman, Foundation for Economic Education.

#Twitterpurge is revenge porn: We need laws to stop the non-consensual posting of naked pictures. [#quickhit: link]

Over the weekend, under the hashtag #twitterpurge, users took to Twitter to “expose” the nude photos they had of other people, with or without consent. The so-called purge primarily targeted girls and women. In other words, it was revenge porn.

As an attorney who helps clients remove revenge porn from the Internet, I recently got a call from a mother whose daughter had been contacted by a reporter for an interview. The 22-year-old learned from the reporter that four nude selfies of her had been featured on a site specifically for this kind of thing for nearly eight months and accumulated over 30,000 views. They had been posted with her full name, the name of the town where she lived, and with links to her Facebook and Twitter accounts. Above all of this information was a screed calling her a “cunt” and a “whore” and a “sick, suicidal bitch.”

That’s typical revenge porn; it’s bullying. “Porn” is a misnomer since it draws the focal point to the wrong spot, at least from the victim’s point of view. Victims have lost jobs, dropped out of school, moved, changed their names, attempted suicide, and more, after having their photos posted without consent. The nonconsensual exposition of privately taken or acquired images of a person, particularly nude images, coupled with assaultive language amounts to deeply damaging abuse.

On #Twitterpurge is revenge porn: We need laws to stop the non-consensual posting of naked pictures. (slate)

#WomenAgainstFeminism, Feminist Critique and the Replication of Patriarchal Abuse [#quickhit: quote]

Critiquing the #WomenAgainstFeminism tag doesn’t require insulting the appearance & intelligence of the women posting on it. It doesn’t require replicating misogynistic language or insults. It requires an evidence-based answer – such as those pointing out the battle for women’s suffrage, rape laws, equal pay acts, maternity rights, reproductive freedoms and the ability to have your own bank account. It is feminism that one these rights for women. Feminism didn’t achieve any of these goals by being obnoxious to other women.

Feminists should understand that systemic misogyny within the capitalist-patriarchy makes it very difficult for women to see the reality of our oppression. Even naming male violence as an oppression results in women being belittled, abused and harassed online and off. Our education system is designed to teach children to pass exams – not to question authority. Our media is owned and dominated by white men who have a vested interest in preventing women from accessing knowledge.

This isn’t to say that the women who started this tag aren’t causing harm to other women. Of course they are but we don’t need to replicate patriarchal patterns of silencing against women who are blinded by their privilege or too afraid to speak out. This is the true demonstration of the power of the capitalist-patriarchy: using women to silence and control other women. We can challenge these women with kindness or with anger. but we do not need to engage in abusive language.

Louise Pennington, My Elegant Gathering of White Snows.

Feminist Times can be proud of what it did in promoting a brand-free feminism [#quickhit: quote]

More on the closure of the (current incarnation) of Feminist Times:

An anti-brand, non-brand not-for-profit that tried to monetise anti-capitalism. With what could be mistaken for Orwellian doublespeak but with the purest of ideals, Charlotte Raven’s Feminist Times wanted to save women from advertising and in doing so ensured its own downfall. After 12 months of being run as an online alternative to the glossies – with no advertising or big-brand partnerships and while paying its contributors (unlike many others) – Feminist Times was yesterday put on ice. The problem is that today’s mainstream feminists are no longer suspicious of advertising; in fact we are in an era where feminism is becoming advertising.

I was the Editor of Feminist Times for its last seven months. I’m too young to have been a libber or a Marxist feminist before the wall came down, and yet I’m pretty old-fashioned in my capitalist scepticism. I just don’t trust big business. I have this instinctual feeling that big business is bad for women. It undervalues us, sells ruthlessly to us and takes no prisoners in the name of profit or progress. Yet I am a massive hypocrite, because while I can spend hours watching disturbing Youtube videos of industrialised farming practices there’s nothing I love more after a couple of pints than a Big Mac. It’s like some knowing joke – yes I know I’m being bad, but because I know, that makes it all right. Doesn’t feel so right the next morning.

Deborah Coughlin: Feminist Times can be proud of what it did in promoting a brand-free feminism, The Independent.