Cartoon Controversy

Doaa Eladl is an Egyptian cartoonist. She started publishing her drawings in 2007 and is currently she works for a high circulation newspaper in Egypt.  She is also facing charges of blasphemy for publishing the following cartoon on female genital mutilation.

Doaa Eladl Cartoon on FGM

She did an interview with Clitoraid, a project that is working to “restoring a sense of pleasure and dignity. New Hope for victims of genital mutilation.”

See more of her cartoons here, and on her Facebook page.  You can also read a previous interview here.

What do you think about this cartoon?

More Concise Thoughts on VAWA

**Trigger Warning – this is not a sugar-coated post**

Earlier this month I posted that the Violence Against Women Act had failed to be reauthorized.  I know that this is “old news” in the internet world but I have been taking the time to come up with more concise thoughts on the matter.  My first post was a gut reaction coming off of a grave shift.  Considering the circumstances I did a fairly good job at expressing my feelings.

The Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) was first enacted in 1994.  The then Senator, now Vice President Joe Biden was one of the main players.  Since 1994 it has been reauthorized with support from both parties.  It really is a ground breaking piece of legislation that not only provides services for survivors but has tough consequences for perpetrators as well.  The combination makes this an incredibly holistic piece of legislation.  Each time it has been reauthorized new provisions and protections have been added.  Here are some things that VAWA has done:

  1. Created a federal “rape shield law” – this means that a survivors past sexual history and behaviors cannot be used against her in a rape case.  To some this may not seem necessary but considering the amount of victims blaming that goes on when a woman is raped it is absolutely necessary.  I’ve said it before and I will continue to say it.  Rape is not about sex.  It is about power.  The only person responsible for rape is the rapist.  Period.  It does not matter what the woman is wearing or what she behaves like, whether it is the day that she is raped, three weeks before, or three years ago.  It does not matter how many people she has had sex with, if she flirts at parties, or drinks alcohol.
  2. Strengthened federal penalties for repeat offenders.
  3. Survivors do not have to pay for the expense of an exam, after care, or getting a protection order.  Any survivor, no matter her income level or class, can go to the hospital and does not have to pay for a rape kit to be done.  This is so important.  Can you imagine if after a woman is raped she also has the additional financial burden of being able to take care of her body?  This includes wellness exams also.  A rape kit is looking for evidence should the case go to trial where as a wellness exam is just taking care of the woman’s body.  This often includes some sort of morning after pill.
  4. Training law enforcement and people who work within the legal system with the realities of domestic violence and sexual assault.  When the police are called to a home for domestic violence it can often times be the woman, the survivor, who is arrested.  Sometimes this is because she chose to fight back and therefore left visible marks, like scratches, on her abuser.  Bruises that she may have will not show up right away.  Another reason for this is that when the police show up often times the survivor is the distraught one and the abuser is calm.  He gains trust by calmly explaining his version of what happened; he is clear, concise, and in control.  This is why a survivor can have domestic violence charges on her record.  Trainings are specifically designed to help law enforcement identify who is the abuser and who is the survivor.
  5. Training for advocates to understand the complexities of domestic violence and sexual assault.
  6. Expanded access to services for survivors and establishing the National Domestic Violence Hotline which receives over 22,000 calls per month.  For many callers it is their first time reaching out for help.
  7. Bringing together different types of groups and organizations to provide holistic support to survivors whether it is medical, legal, mental health (counseling/therapy), victim advocacy, etc.
  8. Focusing attention on underserved communities such as immigrants, and supporting tribal governments in their work to support survivors by strengthening their capacity to protect Native Americans and Alaska Native Women.
  9. Encouraging women to report abuse.  Since its enactment more women than ever have reported domestic violence and sexual assault.
  10. States are taking violence against women more seriously.  Marital rape is not a myth or seen as lesser than stranger rape.  Stalking is a crime.  States have authorized warrantless arrests were the officer determines there is probable cause.  Criminal sanctions for violation of a civic order.  Many states have started addressing violence in the workplace.  For example to protect survivors against discrimination due to the violence they experience and unemployment insurance if they have to leave their job due to it.

These are just some of the provisions and changes that have come about because of VAWA.  The newest version included protections for women in the LGBTQ community, Native Americans, and Immigrants.  This once again was going to be ground breaking.

Abuse in the LGBTQ community is just starting to be widely recognized.  This partly stems from age-old gender stereotypes.  Man equals strong, big, proud, able to take care of himself.  Woman equals weak, emotional, caring, and in need of protection.  When a man is being abused by another man it can often be a difficult thing to admit.  He not only has to fight against his own sense of pride and shame but the shaming and disbelief of others.  When a woman is being abused by another woman it is not taken seriously.  Outsiders generally assume that women are not abusive and if they are it is not physical.  Physical abuse is thought of as the worst type of abuse, especially by people who have never experienced it.  I have talked to several women who have a hard time taking their abuse seriously because their abuser did not hit them.  Instead he hurt her in ways that were less visible.  Financial, sexual, emotional, mental, and spiritual abuse are very real, and in my opinion can be worse than physical.  When someone hits you, you have a provable mark on your body.  There is evidence that can be shown to another person.  Other types of abuse are not visible and therefore hard to prove.  I am not trying to say that women are not physically abusive.  Abuse, like rape, like sexual assault is about power.  It is about controlling another human being, not matter their age, gender, or sex.

Protection for immigrants is another very important piece.  Abusers will use a survivors legal status as way to prevent them from seeking services.  This added protection says that it does not matter if a person is here illegally.  Abuse is abuse.  Rape is rape.  Abusers will tell the person being abused that if they go to the police they will be arrested and/or deported.  This prevents that.  It takes away a part of the abusers power.  Can you imagine coming to this county only to be stuck in an abusive relationship or to be raped with no way to come forward, no way to seek protection or resources, and no way to seek legal recourse?

Protections for Native Americans is also important.  At this point in time if a non-native commits an act of violence, such as rape on native land he gets away with it.  The US government cannot prosecute because it was on native land and the tribal government cannot do anything as the person is not a member of the tribe.  1 in 3 Native women will be raped in their life time.  1 in 3.  Most will be raped by a non-native person.  The most recent version of VAWA would have given tribal governments the ability to prosecute these men.  As it stand there is nothing, nothing that can be done.  Pardon me for being crass but a non-native man could walk onto tribal land and repeatedly rape every woman there and walk away scott free.  How is this okay?  How is this something that we are okay with?

These last three points are the ones that House Republicans have a problem with.  They decided that illegal immigrants, lesbians, and Native Americans (that’s the kicker) are not people.  At least not people deserving of  the rights and protections provided other women in this county.  I firmly believe that it is our job as people of this country to protect each other, and especially to protect the most vulnerable amongst us.  I do not care who you sleep with, or where you are from, violence against women is wrong.  It is unacceptable that this was not reauthorized.  Not only did they not want to authorize it with the additional protections they wanted to take away provisions already in place.  I cannot even fully express to you how angry this makes me.  Seriously Congress get your act together.

 

Reauthorization of VAWA Fails

It’s official.  For the first time since the passing of the Violence Against Women Act in 1994 it has not been reauthorized.

As a survivor I am upset.  As a woman I am furious.  This is unacceptable.  I do not care where you are from, who you sleep with, or what your legal status is.  This should have passed.  Without question.  Domestic violence and sexual assault can affect anyone.  It does not matter what color your skin is, who you are attracted to, or what country you are from.  Violence happens in all kind of relationships.  This should have been a no-brainer.

Finding Light in the Darkness

The holiday season can be a time of rejoicing, reunification, and forgiveness for many.  For others though it is a time of sadness, emptiness, and loneliness.  While some are reminded of what they have to be thankful for, others are reminded of what they’ve lost.  As Christmas approaches we have heard many sad stories of loss.  In Oregon a shooter open fired on a mall full of holiday shoppers.  In Connecticut many young children and teachers lost their lives when another shooter went on a spree.  The small town where I went to college is hurting over a fire in their beloved pet store.  A friend is hurting over the unexpected loss of her husband.  These tales of sadness can seem overwhelming.

I do not want to dismiss these stories in any way but sometimes a story of hope is needed for balance.  We cannot forget that in all of these stories there were people who stood up and helped their neighbor, teachers who protected their students, and people who came together to communally support each other and grieve together.

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I was recently came across a project called “Your Holiday Mom” and I feel like now is the perfect time to share it.

“This season, supportive moms (and a few dads too!) have gathered to send a holiday message to all LGBTQ children, teens and young adults who are without family support and who would like a “stand-in Holiday Mom”–or 40! Knowing that not every parent is ready to accept her own LGBTQ child exactly as-is (as hard as this is for us to imagine), we have written to extend our love beyond that of our own family.”

Every day from Thanksgiving to New Year’s Day there is a messages of love and support.  I encourage you to check this website out.  It is beautiful and heart warming.  A little light in the darkness

Fox News and “The War on Men”

Oh Fox News, always a great source of entertainment (frustration), if not news.  Yesterday Suzanne Venker, niece of Phyllis Schlafly (who denies the existence of marital rape and endorsed Todd Akin), wrote an article for Fox called “The War on Men.”  In it she states that the battle of the sexes is indeed very alive, but not for the reasons that we all think.  In fact not even in favor of the gender we assume.  That’s right, according to Ms. Venker the battle of the sexes is being won by women all because “women aren’t women anymore.”  Women have messed up the natural order of things and have become too powerful, therefore emasculating men and driving them away.  I’d love to go further but I can’t stop banging my head against the wall.

Instead read these awesome responses:

And as a bonus the real reason men and women aren’t getting married (had me in stitches!): The War On Men AND Women

Sexual Harassers in Egypt get Spray-Painted

Which is bettter?  Violence and terror, or violence and terror?

In case you’re wondering, yes, that is a trick question.  I read an NPR news article today about vigilantes in Egypt who are “tagging” men who sexually harass women by spray-painting them.

Read the article here.

Street Harassment in Egypt

“A young Egyptian man grabs a woman crossing the street with her friends in Cairo. Vigilante groups are now taking to the streets and spray-painting the clothes of the harassers.”

Now, I hate street harassment as much as the next woman, but I don’t think this is the best way to deal with the problem.  In case you didn’t click on the link for the article let me summarize.  Men in Cairo have been forming vigilante groups to deal with sexual harassers.  They feel that the government is taking too long to do anything and instead have taken matters into their own hands.  Quite literally.  The only thing is, these groups are often reponding to the violence with violence, often holding the perpetrators down so that they can spray the word “harasser” on the back of their t-shirts and causing brawls.

“The methods used to combat harassment are not entirely nonviolent. Selim sees a man he thinks has touched a girl. He grabs him and slaps him in the face. A brawl breaks out. One of the volunteers yells to the others not to hit anyone unless they’re sure he harassed a girl….The scene was chaotic. The men looked terrified as the Be a Man volunteers pinned them down and spray-painted the word “harasser” on the backs of their shirts. Some were sprayed in the face.”

“Taymor says that because the police don’t want to act, it’s up to people like him to make a statement that touching women in the street is unacceptable.”

The idea behind this, from what I can tell, is public humiliation.  No matter what you think of this it is an excellent deterrant.  The problem lies in the fact that these men are becoming violent.  Fear and public humiliation are two very different things.  Just ask the woman who is afraid of going out alone.  The answer is not to make the perpetrator afraid.  What is this accomplishing other than placing the problem somewhere else?  Nothing is being solved, just shifted.  It does not address any of the underlying issues at play.  It is not addressing why men think they have a right to women’s bodies.  It is not addressing the power dynamics between men and women.

I agree that touching, grabbing, and sexaully harassing women in the street is unacceptable.  100%.   But as a woman who has been harassed in the street this is not the kind of justice I want.  This is not the kind of retaliation that will make me feel better.  Violence begets violence and answering it with even more violence perpetuates the cycle.  When we make violence the answer it only continues to escalate.  The problem only becomes bigger.

Malala Yousafzai: A Girl with a Book

Malala Yousafzai

“At the age of 11, Malala Yousafzai took on the Taliban by giving voice to her dreams. As turbaned fighters swept through her town in northwestern Pakistan in 2009, the tiny schoolgirl spoke out about her passion for education — she wanted to become a doctor, she said — and became a symbol of defiance against Taliban subjugation.”

This young girl, now 14, was shot by the Taliban on a school bus full of other children this last Tuesday for speaking out.  She is now in critical condition and faces continued threats of attack.

“She knew her voice was important, so she spoke up for the rights of children. Even adults didn’t have a vision like hers,” said Samar Minallah, a documentary filmmaker who has worked among Pashtun women.

Check out these links for the full story:

Taliban Gun Down Girl Who Spoke Up for Rights

Taliban Reiterate Vow to Kill Pakistani Girl

Malala Yousafzai, the Girl Shot by the Taliban, Becomes a Global Icon

A Girl with a Book

UPDATE: Ironically (terribly) this happened during the same week as International Day of the Girl.

**If you are wondering about my absence I have been taking a break as I get down to the nitty-gritty of applying for graduate school.  I broke the hiatus because I believe this girls story is important.  Also note that I started a Facebook page.  Feel free to click around on Facebook or in the archives as I study.

Samantha Bee Unveils the Truth at the RNC

The Daily Show’s Samantha Bee reports from the GOP National Convention asking the delegates how they feel about Romney’s stance on abortion.

“At the Republican National Convention in Tampa, Samantha Bee learns that government is meant to protect the individual liberties of everyone lacking a uterus.”

The Daily Show with Jon Stewart Mon – Thurs 11p / 10c
RNC 2012 – The Road to Jeb Bush 2016 – The Republican Platform
www.thedailyshow.com
Daily Show Full Episodes Political Humor & Satire Blog The Daily Show on Facebook

“My right ends where my uterus begins”

**I’m not sure why the video isn’t embedding properly.  Click on the video title and it will take you directly to the site.**

Insensitivity and Ignorance Abound

There is such a plethora of anti-women crap to chose from right now I don’t even know where to begin.  I just have to turn on my computer to hear about some idiot saying something ignorant, misinformed, or just plain cruel.  There’s this guy for example, who thinks comedy consists of threatening to gang rape a woman, or publicly inducing shame by sneaking up on women and “lightly touching their stomachs.”  He makes sure that you know it should be non-consensual, unexpected, and as embarrassing as possible for the intended victim.  Then there’s always aspirin between the knees guy, or Rush Limbaugh’s comments towards Sandra Fluke.  And more recently there is Todd Akin’s comment about “legitimate rape.”  By the way Eve Ensler, author of The Vagina Monologues, pens a beautiful and very well written open letter to Mr. Akin.  I highly recommend that you check it out.

With all this potential blog fodder how do I even know where to start?  The more I think about it the more I just find myself exhausted.  I can’t live my whole life angry.  It is good to be angry, and righteously so, at injustice.  You cannot let it consume you though.  There will always be ignorant people who either do not understand what is like to be a woman, or what it is like to be raped, abused, controlled, and taken advantage of.  I can explain the cycles of abuse till I’m blue in the face.  I can say that no one is responsible for anyone else’s actions, or a woman should be able to dance naked on a table and not be raped or taken advantage of all I want.  There are always going to be people who don’t get it.  There are always going to be people who will argue with me and I’ve hit my limit.  I’ve hit my rape and abuse limit.  My bullshit meter is in overdrive and I’m not the only one.  So, as I temporarily put aside the idiots who do not understand the complexities of rape, abuse, and domestic violence let’s find something else to be indignant about.

Back in April, Anchorage Alaska rejected Proposition 5, a gay rights initiative that would have created a law protecting residents from being discriminated against based on sexual orientation or gender identity.  This law and one’s like it are aimed mainly to protect the LGBTQ community.  This is a community that many people still fear.  They are misunderstood and have gross stereotypes still attached to them.  People who do not fit into gender norms are seen as predatory, threatening, and grotesque.  The following “vote no” ads focus on the transgender piece, portraying them as dangerous to be around children and as having ulterior motives:

These ads portray transgender people as laughable, unsightly, and in all honesty, stereotypically.  They are people to fear and keep our children away from.  This is historically true of people that are not like us.  People that are different are ostracized and demeaned.  In particular there is a fear that they will prey on children.

 “Ads that raise fears about transvestites teaching in the classroom have been used since the 1970s during ballot measure campaigns, and the Religious Right has been raising concerns about transgender women in women’s bathrooms since the late 1980s. These two ads from the Anchorage Proposition 5 campaign are among the newest additions to the long tradition of ads that rely on stereotypes of LGBT individuals as predatory, dangerous to have around children, and having ulterior motives.”  – Amy L. Stone

The conversation goes from being about rights of the LGBTQ community to the comfort of cisgendered and cissexual individuals.  Somehow every conversation becomes about making the “normal” people safe and comfortable.  This is what it means to be privileged.  Think about it.  I will never be second guessed if I walk into a daycare.  I may a sexual predator but because I look “normal” no one questions my motives.  I can take a child into the bathroom regardless of its gender.  People will not be wondering in the back of their heads if I’m a pervert.

Working in what is called a “low barrier” women’s shelter I see this all the time.  Anyone who identifies as a woman and is over the age of 18 can access the shelter’s services.  The number one question I get asked when I explain this is, “what about transgendered women?”  The related questions include things like, aren’t I worried that a man will dress up like a woman just to access services or to prey on the “real women”?  At first I found this an exciting opportunity to educate the people I talked to.  Now it just annoys me.  Let’s face it, discrimination and misunderstanding are alive and well.

**Something I’ve learned about blogging is that readers tend not to click on links.  I would encourage you to do so this time and check out some of the articles I’ve linked to in this entry.  It’s good stuff.  Read Ms. Ensler’s letter at the very least.