Category Archives: Informative

A start: 16 days of awareness of violence against gender based violence

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Today starts the annual campaign 16 days of activism against gender-based violence.  It is a start, but honestly, not enough.  It is amazing how intertwined ideas of violence against women are in our society and how often they are seemingly invisible and accepted.  Let’s start with some information from Rutgers:

What is Gender-based Violence?
Violence against women is a pervasive human rights violation, a public health crisis, and an obstacle to equality, development, security, and peace. The terms “violence against women” and “gender-based violence” are used to refer to the range of abuses committed against women that stem from gender inequality and women’s subordinate status in society relative to men. Violence against women, including during war, is used to drive fear, and terrorize and humiliate women, their families and communities.

In 1993, the United Nations Declaration on the Elimination of Violence against Women defined violence against women as “any act of gender-based violence that results in, or is likely to result in, physical, sexual, or psychological harm or suffering to women, including threats of such acts, coercion or arbitrary deprivation of liberty, whether occurring in public or in private life.” This definition includes violence occurring in the family, within the general community, and violence perpetrated or condoned by the State.
Forms of gender-based violence include, but are not limited to: domestic violence, sexual abuse, rape, sexual harassment, trafficking in women, forced prostitution, and harmful practices. These forms of violence can result in physical, mental, sexual, and reproductive health and other health problems. In addition, women’s multiple and intersecting identities based on factors such as class, race, ethnicity, religion, age, sexuality and citizenship status can serve to increase their vulnerability to violence.

This year’s theme is: From Peace in the Home to Peace in the World: Let’s Challenge Militarism and End Violence Against Women! It is a great theme and something we need to talk about.  Still, I was even more heartened to see Albania taking a slightly different take: Boys and men, part of the solution – Show you are against violence!  Too often discussions about gender-based violence take place in a woman filled vacuum.  Men and boys are left out of the equation and demonized.  The truth is that the patriarchy is damaging to both sexes and true change only comes when both women and men are involved in the process.

Photo: Karolidesign

Photo: Karolidesign

And, finally, some resources:

No Name Calling Week

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I first heard about No Name Calling Week over at Lesbian Family. I thought the idea was great.

I have been thinking about bullying and what I want to say about it. This is a hard topic for me. I was bullied. But I was lucky– I have the personality and a strong support system that allowed me to walk away only slightly damaged. I certainly see how it affected and affects some others deeply. I worry about how my daughter will be treated and seen. So, this week, I am going to try and talk about bullying. Wish me luck!

About No Name-Calling Week

Coordinated by GLSEN in collaboration with over 60 national education organizational partners, No Name-Calling Week is an annual week of educational activities aimed at ending name-calling of all kinds and providing schools with the tools and inspiration to launch an on-going dialogue about ways to eliminate bullying in their communities.

***This is part of a series on bullying.  Check out the other posts: Friends vs. Bullies, Physical Violence, They reached their peak, and researching LGBT teen suicide..

Human Trafficking Awareness Day

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Being that I work overseas, you might expect that I would use today to talk about Trafficking in Persons in the country I live in currently (Albania). Or, the country I just came from (Kazakhstan). Or, the country where I did research on human trafficking (Chile). Or, the country where I knew children who were trafficked (Moldova). But, today I won’t do that. I want to talk about human trafficking int he country I call home (USA).

The sad truth is that human trafficking continues to be a problem in the US.  Yes, in large cities: New York, LA, Boston.  But also in rural areas of the country, small towns, suburbia.

A few jobs ago, I worked with some victims of human trafficking.  Men who were lured to the US with promises of jobs and money to send home and instead ended up working in slave like conditions in Middle America with their passports confiscated and the door to the house they lived in padlocked from the outside.  After several months, someone put in a tip and they were freed.  They were freed, but they weren’t compensated for their losses.  They were free, but they still had to explain to wives and children what happened to them.  They have been free for years now, but I am sure their experience still haunts them.  Honestly, their stories still haunt me.

An estimated 14,500 to 17,500 foreign nationals are trafficked into the United States each year. The number of U.S. citizens trafficked within the country is even higher, with an estimated 200,000 American children at risk for trafficking into the sex industry. (U.S. Department of Justice Report to Congress from Attorney General John Ashcroft on U.S. Government Efforts to Combat Trafficking in Persons)

These numbers are staggering and the realities are bleak. However, in the US, there are places you can report suspected cases of trafficking.  Polaris Project suggests:

If you see any of these red flags, contact the National Human Trafficking Resource Center hotline at 1-888-3737-888 to report the situation. Click here to learn more about reporting potential human trafficking situations. This list is not exhaustive and represents only a selection of possible indicators. Also, the red flags in this list may not be present in all trafficking cases and are not cumulative.

Common Work and Living Conditions: The Individual(s) in Question

  • Is not free to leave or come and go as he/she wishes
  • Is under 18 and is providing commercial sex acts
  • Is in the commercial sex industry and has a pimp / manager
  • Is unpaid, paid very little, or paid only through tips
  • Works excessively long and/or unusual hours
  • Is not allowed breaks or suffers under unusual restrictions at work
  • Owes a large debt and is unable to pay it off
  • Was recruited through false promises concerning the nature and conditions of his/her work
  • High security measures exist in the work and/or living locations (e.g. opaque windows, boarded up windows, bars on windows, barbed wire, security cameras, etc.)

Poor Mental Health or Abnormal Behavior

  • Is fearful, anxious, depressed, submissive, tense, or nervous/paranoid
  • Exhibits unusually fearful or anxious behavior after bringing up law enforcement
  • Avoids eye contact

Poor Physical Health

  • Lacks health care
  • Appears malnourished
  • Shows signs of physical and/or sexual abuse, physical restraint, confinement, or torture

Lack of Control

  • Has few or no personal possessions
  • Is not in control of his/her own money, no financial records, or bank account
  • Is not in control of his/her own identification documents (ID or passport)
  • Is not allowed or able to speak for themselves (a third party may insist on being present and/or translating)

Other

  • Claims of just visiting and inability to clarify where he/she is staying/address
  • Lack of knowledge of whereabouts and/or do not know what city he/she is in
  • Loss of sense of time
  • Has numerous inconsistencies in his/her story
To request assessment tools and for more information about reporting trafficking click here. For resource packs on human trafficking and how to recognize the signs click here.

Men talking about being taught

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I hear women talk about feminism. I, as a woman, talk about my experiences. I am shaped by them. Feminism is a a piece of a road out that I hope I can build for my daughter.

Too rarely do I hear men talking about feminism, about the female experience.  There are exceptions– my own father being one of those– where men talk about the importance of feminism in their lives and about the way men are hindered by gender roles and segregation.

On Saturday, the annual 16 days of activism against gender based violence began.  Usually my posts revolve around how gender based violence effects women.  And it does.  Hugely!  Do you know that violence kills and disables as many women around the world as cancer does?  That is staggering.

This year, however, I want to start by talking about how gender roles and the way we inflict them on people negatively affects our boys and men.  They may not be victims of violence in the same way— but they certainly are victimized as well.

I came across this video and wanted to share.  Tony Porter is self-reflective, articulate, charismatic, and right.  Please watch.

Educating girls through TV

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Let’s face it: TV influences and educates children. Looking at TV programming, I can only worry about the messaging my daughter will receive. There are so many more Daphnes then Thelmas and even Thelma is second to Fred and Scooby. Where are the bright, hip, self-sufficient heroines that aren’t obsessed with boys, clothes, or being a princess?

Apparently, I am not the only one to see this. Check out the video (yes, it is old, but I just found it):

The Great Return: Lesbian Family dot com

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In 2006, Liza was pregnant and in search of other mothers to answer her questions.  She yearned for a one stop shop for lesbian moms to gather.  Not finding quite what she wanted, she created it. Thus, lesbianfamily.com was born.

In 2007, I started writing for Lesbian Family.  At the time I was living in Chile and trying to find other LGBT friendly-folk.  The blogging helped me find a whole tiny world of lesbian bloggeras (that would be the Spanish for blogging women).  I helped add a Spanish speaking section to the original page and am so proud to say that Julieta has agreed to be part of the reincarnation of LesbianFamily.com.

As a bisexual woman, married to a man, mother to a daughter (little elephant), and sole bread winner— I haven’t yet rejoined the ranks of Lesbian Family.  I am, nonetheless, so excited for the new content and new voices.  Check it out.  Lesbian family is not just for lesbians.  It is a great place for allies and gay dads and trans parents and anyone else who is interested.  It is a wonderful space for parents who want to discuss raising allies, feminist parenting, and getting toddlers to eat broccoli.

Happy internet-ing.

 

Also, in case you haven’t voted yet— go do it!

Because my niece stopped pretending to be a doctor

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My sister is an outspoken, strong, independent woman who I know has worked to empower her daughter in every way possible to move beyond gender stereotypes. And, in some ways, she is winning that uphill battle; however, a visit to Milwaukee’s Discovery World, a museum for children, 7 years ago still haunts me.

My niece must have been about 5. The museum has lots of hands on toys and activities. In one section, about how the body works, there are lab coats for children to wear while they pretend and while they learn. Little Niece happily donned hers. I cheerfully told her she looked great and could be a real doctor like our friend Dr. Die (this is a nickname that has to do with our friends real name and not anything that has happened in her professional life). She grinned back at me and said, “No, I am a nurse”. I argued. She was steadfast. She was a nurse. Well…. she was a nurse until she was a Doctor’s Assistant.

From another child, I would have been convinced that she was getting poor messaging from her parents about her gender’s role in this world. Only, I knew the parents and I knew that this is not what they were teaching or advocating. In fact, they actively pushed back against these stereotypes. Where was she getting it from?

With my own daughter, I am hyper-aware of all the negative messages she gets and all the gender specific roles she is silently (and not so silently) asked to perform. How can I, just one person, be louder than all those other voices around her?

Today a friend posted an article in The Atlantic called “Can a Kids’ Toy Bring More Women into Engineering“. It basically was talking about the idea that in the toy store, the boys aisle, all bedazzled in blue, is filled with chemistry sets, engineering games, and robotics; while the girls toy aisle, drenched in pink, is all about beauty and princesses.  In response, Goldie Blox has been created.  Or rather, it will be if they get enough financial backers through kick stock.

The product takes the approach of “meeting girls where they are at”.  In other words, incorporating all the gender messaging they have received (pink, that they are caregivers, using materials that are warm colors and soft to touch) but encourages them to build, thus supporting nascent engineering skills.

As a social worker, I have been indoctrinated in the importance of meeting the client where he or she is at.  This helps him or her grow. It makes intervention and success more possible.  It recognizes that all of us as individuals are shaped by the world around us and our personal experiences.

But coupling this with acceptance of gender messages in society aimed at children makes my stomach turn a little.

The Atlantic article explains:

Does it somehow undermine the goals of gender equality and girls’ empowerment to engage them in engineering by buying into and relying on so many stereotypes about girls in the first place? Cunningham says we need to keep in mind, by the time they’ve reached the age of five (the youngest age GoldieBlox is recommended for), many girls will already have well developed gender identities, and oftentimes that identity will be quite, for lack of a better word, girly. “How can we take the places that girls are and develop the same kinds of innovative problem-solving skills? … We’re very much based in, ‘what is the reality of the now?’ And how do you work with that? Are there small ways you can push the meter to bring in these kinds of skills?”

I get the argument.  And, frankly, I support the product.  I can’t just wish away a world of messaging because I don’t agree.  I can’t protect my daughter from all the things the world will teach her despite my efforts.  And, while I will continue to refuse to adhere to gender normity in choosing toys for her, in buying clothes for her, and in crafting activities; I want her to be able to find a social group that equally accepts that— mainstreaming engineering toys for girls, even if the toys are specifically pink to target girls, may not a bad first step.

What do you think?

Without a Net

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WITHOUT A NET will have its theatrical premiere at DocuWeeks in LA and NYC! Catch a screening at the Laemmle in North Hollywood (Aug 10-16) or the IFC Center in NYC (Aug 17-23)!

While I am not in the US, I can’t wait for it to come out on DVD next year. The director/producer/cinematographer/co-editor is actually someone I know. She did her Fulbright research the same year I did— this is the culmination of her Fulbright. I wish I had as much to show for it.

The movie has gotten great reviews. For example:

“WITHOUT A NET is a great example of the type of social justice documentaries the Berkeley Film Foundation supports. This intriguing story of circus training for poor residents in a favela in the heart of Rio deserves a wide and enthusiastic audience, which we hope it will find at DocuWeeks and beyond.”

-Abby Ginzberg, President, Berkeley FILM Foundation

More info here at the Official Website.

 

Kind of embarrased

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I received an email from NAACP yesterday, asking me how much I know. The answer: embarrassingly little.

Questions centered around race and politics and questions included:

  • More than 2,000 men and women have served as Senators in the United States Senate, how many of them have been black?
  • Do you know what percentage of African Americans voted in the 2008 election?
  • 96-year-old Dorothy Cooper may be unable to vote for the first time in 50 years because she lacks which of the following documents?*

    A copy of her lease
    Her voter registration card
    Her birth certificate
    Her marriage certificate

There are only 10 questions and the quiz takes just a few minutes.  Once submitted, you are given the correct answers.  I was shocked and dismayed by some answers. Outraged, at one.  Filled with hope by others. Mostly, I was ashamed of how little I know and how little I have thought about the intersection of race and politics— that is saying a lot since it has been a big topic since Obama started running for president. Are we in a post-racism period?  No.  Should we be looking a little more in depth about the consequence of racism in our lives? Probably.

Test and expand your knowledge here:
http://action.naacp.org/take-our-quiz