The only way to stop the epidemic of violence against women in America is to empower them financially, physically, socially, culturally. Charging Castro with murder of fetuses does the opposite. If Castro can be charged with murdering fetuses, than a woman getting an abortion, even if that woman was raped Michelle Knight herself, she, too, would be “murdering” fetuses. Castro tortured, raped, and assaulted these women in multiple, horrific ways. Keep the focus on the women, not the fetuses, and bring Ariel Castro to justice for his evil crimes.
“The bottom line is, I have no tolerance for this,” Obama told reporters after he was asked about several recent military scandals, including the weekend arrest of the Air Force’s chief for sexual assault prevention on charges that he groped and attacked a woman in Northern Virginia. “If we find out somebody’s engaging in this stuff, they’ve got to be held accountable, prosecuted, stripped of their positions, court-martialed, fired, dishonorably discharged — period.”
Strong words but what will be the actions behind them? Why did he wait until he was asked to say something? Why doesn’t he take more of a lead on stopping the violence against women in the USA? When will he link up the stories and speak to the epidemic? What is his plan to end the violence against women in America?
Today, I got an email from Rep Jackie Speier asking me to sign a petition. Here it is:
Dear San Francisco MoveOn member,
Sexual violence in the U.S. military is a crisis. The Pentagon estimates that in 2010, there were 19,000 sexual assaults in the armed forces.
Making matters worse, each branch of the armed forces has its own judicial system, and it’s currently legal for base commanders to overturn a conviction at Aviano Air Force Base.
The STOP (Sexual Assault Training Oversight and Prevention) Act takes the prosecution, reporting, oversight, investigation, and victim care of sexual assaults out of the normal military chain of command—which has proven grossly ineffective—and places jurisdiction in an autonomous Sexual Assault Oversight and Response Office.
That’s why I started a petition to the United States Congress, which says:
I stand with Congresswoman Jackie Speier in support of the Sexual Assault Training Oversight and Prevention Act (STOP Act) to end military rape.
I am so happy that Speier is calling a crisis and crisis and taking the the initiative to do something about it.
It make sense that it Speier would be a leader here. I first heard about Speier years ago on an issue that may seem trivial. Speier noticed that when women went to the the dry cleaner, they were charged more than men to get the same garment cleaned. Speier called this out for what it was: gender discrimination. She spoke to how this institutionalized sexism, is one of the many ways women are manipulated into shelling out huge amounts of money for their appearance.
Fascinated, I found out more about Speier and she became one of my heroes. Here’s just part of her bio today:
Jackie Speier (pronounced SPEAR) has lived her entire life inside California’s 14th Congressional District and in April 2008 was elected to represent the district in Congress…
Nationally, Jackie is best known for her passionate and compelling speeches on the House floor, such as her spontaneous response to a congressional colleague who trivialized women who – like her – have had medically necessary second trimester abortions. She routinely speaks on the House floor about men and women in our armed forces who have been raped or sexually assaulted while in the line of duty. She has also taken a lead role in working with the veterans organizations to improve delivery of VA benefits to Bay Area veterans. In 2012 Newsweek named Jackie to its list of 150 “fearless women” in the world.
Locally, Jackie is known as a fighter. In 1978, as a staff member to then-Congressman Leo J. Ryan, she was shot five times while trying to rescue constituents from the People’s Temple compound in Jonestown, Guyana – an attack that left Congressman Ryan and six others dead and was followed by the mass murder-suicide of more than 900 Temple followers. Jackie tenaciously hung onto life for 23 hours on a dusty airstrip before aid arrived. It is this fighting spirit that defines her to her constituents at home…
Jackie was the first California state legislator to give birth while in office and, during her time in Sacramento, she authored more than 300 bills signed into law by both Republican and Democratic governors. These bills included the nation’s strongest financial privacy law and measures that expanded women’s access to reproductive health services and vastly improved collection of delinquent child support payments. She also led high-profile investigations of fraudulent and wasteful government spending and prison corruption, ultimately saving millions of taxpayer dollars…
I know you have a lot to sign and a lot to share, but please sign this petition. If you are disgusted and appalled by the violence against women in America, this is an action you can take to help stop it. This is a beginning. I believe that Jackie Speier will continue to be a leader on this issue and not let it go until the violence against women is over.
In 2005, Grimilda Figueroa, the ex-wife of Ariel Castro, the man who imprisoned, beat, and sexually abused three women for ten years, brought domestic violence charges against him. Court documents state that Figueroa suffered two broken noses, broken ribs, a knocked-out tooth, two dislocated shoulders, and a blood clot on the brain.
However, nothing could be done to protect Figueroa and her children as her lawyer didn’t show up for the court hearing, and the case was dropped. Apparently her counsel cautioned her against speaking for herself, and she didn’t make any objection to the judge’s decision to dismiss the protection order. Both Figueroa and Castro were judged to have “waived their right to any further hearing”, the case’s final document stated. Tragically, Figueroa died last year.
How did the judge decide to dismiss such a case for something so simple as a lawyer not showing up? Why don’t we have better legal resources for victims of domestic violence? How ill-equipped, poorly run, understaffed, and overworked must our legal system be to let a case like that slide? It’s infuriating and heartbreaking to yet again witness the ease with which such cases are dismissed.
America is failing half of its citizens. This violent man, Ariel Castro, was more protected by our legal system than the women he abused. In 2013, there is slavery in America’s backyard and we look the other way and just let it happen. Here are the stats one more time from National Coalition Against Domestic Violence):
One in four women (25%) has experienced domestic violence in her lifetime.
85% of domestic violence victims are women.
Women ages 20-24 are at the greatest risk of nonfatal intimate partner violence.
Nearly three out of four (74%) of Americans personally know someone who is or has been a victim of domestic violence.
On average, more than three women are murdered by their intimate partners in this country every day.
Domestic violence is one of the most chronically under reported crimes.
Only approximately one-quarter of all physical assaults, one-fifth of all rapes, and one-half of all stalkings perpetuated against females by intimate partners are reported to the police.
A new study on violence against women conducted over four decades and in 70 countries reveals the mobilization of feminist movements is more important for change than the wealth of nations, left-wing political parties, or the number of women politicians.
The study in the latest issue of American Political Science Review (APSR), published by Cambridge University Press for the American Political Science Association (APSA), found that in feminist movements that were autonomous from political parties and the state, women were able to articulate and organize around their top priorities as women, without having to answer to broader organizational concerns or mens’ needs. Mobilizing across countries, feminist movements urged governments to approve global and regional norms and agreements on violence.
The scope of data for the study is unprecedented. The study includes every region of the world, varying degrees of democracy, rich and poor countries, and a variety of world religions – it encompasses 85 per cent of the world’s population. Analyzing the data took five years, which is why the most recent year covered is 2005.
2005 also happens to be the year that Ariel Castro’s wife brought the charges against him and her lawyer didn’t care enough to show up in court.
Last night, I was glued to the television as Amanda Berry’s chilling, horrific story unfolded, watching the details of how she was able to get help and rescue her six year old daughter, along with two other prisoners, Gina DeJesus and Michelle Knight. The three of them were held captive, most likely as sex slaves, possibly by three brothers, for ten years.
Amazed by the courage and resilience of these women, I am baffled and disgusted that people ever dare to claim that we live in some kind of post-feminist wold. In 2013, 90% of violence worldwide is perpetuated against women. There is sex slavery and human trafficking in America’s backyard. And still, stopping this violence couldn’t be lower on the U.S. priority list. We actually had to fight to pass the Violence Against Women act.
Today, the pentagon is supposed to release a report that states there are more than 70 sexual assaults involving military personnel every day. Every day. The U.S. military. Where do you think this report is going to be in today’s news cycle? How long will it stay in the news? Who is going to keep it there? Which politicians are going keep bringing attention to the crimes against women? Who is going to lead the action to finally stop it?
The violence that happened to Amanda Berry, GIna DeJesus and Michelle Knight is all of our responsibility. These sex crimes and gender crimes are not perpetuated by the Taliban or some another foreign government but are happening right here in the USA.
Violence against women is an epidemic in this country: One in four women (25%) has experienced domestic violence in her lifetime and on average, more than three women are murdered by their intimate partners in this country every day. Every day.
Smart said she “felt so dirty and so filthy” after she was raped by her captor, and she understands why someone wouldn’t run “because of that alone.”
Smart spoke at a Johns Hopkins human trafficking forum, saying she was raised in a religious household and recalled a school teacher who spoke once about abstinence and compared sex to chewing gum.
“I thought, ‘Oh, my gosh, I’m that chewed up piece of gum, nobody re-chews a piece of gum, you throw it away.’ And that’s how easy it is to feel like you know longer have worth, you know longer have value,” Smart said. “Why would it even be worth screaming out? Why would it even make a difference if you are rescued? Your life still has no value.”
Thank God Elizabeth Smart has the courage to speak publicly about what happened to her. Thank God Amanda Berry had the courage to scream yesterday. It’s time for the United States to stop pointing the finger at everyone else and get a clue. Be the leader of the free world that you claim to be. Set an example. Stopping violence against women should be this country’s highest priority.
On Reel Girl’s Facebook page, Ana Campos shared a YouTube video by Marc Crilley, one of her favorite Manga artists. Crilley is an incredibly successful writer and illustrator of children’s books. The video is fascinating because Crilley takes you through the steps of how artists distort female anatomy. First, Crilley draws a regularly proportioned teenage girl. Then, he demonstrates the typical pattern and process of how artists exaggerate her proportions, drawing three well-known, female animated characters.
It’s troubling, really in a way that artists, maybe many of them male, have this way of reducing the width of the female waist when they’re drawing it to just ridiculously small proportions and you know, you do sort of fear that this contributes to women’s body image, this crazy idea of the super narrow waist, but nevertheless you see it again and again. Finally, the big difference here, the knees, the line of the knees, much, much higher than in real life. So what’s interesting is you see that the whole area of the waist is being raised up here so as to create these incredibly long legs as an exaggerated style. To me, its sort of like Barbie doll style legs…
While watching this video, I was thinking about the incredible influence of the artist to create reality. When you combine images with narratives, it can be so powerful, like being God. Not to mention repeating and repeating the same sequence to the growing brains of little kids.
“On May 11th Brave‘s Merida will be officially crowned as the 11th Disney Princess, the impact of which is that Disney will be selling more stuff with her on it, I guess? Anyway. Along with the “coronation ceremony,” to be held at Walt Disney World, Merida’s gotten a new redesign…”
Here’s one of my favorite pre-botox, pre-makeover Merida expressions.
Pithy analysis from Peggy Orenstein on the eventual fate of way too many of Disney’s female characters:
Because, in the end, it wasn’t about being brave after all. It was about being pretty…I’m especially creeped out by Belle who appears to have had major surgery… In addition to everything else, they’re pushing the brown girls slowly but surely to the edges…
I’ve always said that it’s not about the movies. It’s about the bait-and-switch that happens in the merchandise, and the way the characters have evolved and proliferated off-screen. Maybe the problem is partly that these characters are designed in Hollywood, where real women are altering their appearance so regularly that animators, and certainly studio execs, think it’s normal.
‘The surgery takes away their individuality and uniqueness and its sad. Most are beautiful without it but telling them that their Korean ethnic features are in fact lovely is as effective as screaming at a brick wall.
‘They wont believe you because they’ve been brainwashed to think westernization of their features is superior, I don’t think they want to look white, but a mix of white and Asian and definitely less Korean.’
This is how one “beauty” queen describes herself:
The student revealed her plastic surgery secret after photos emerged of her looking very different at school, but she said she hadn’t misled anyone.
But she defended her crown telling the Korean media: ‘I never said I was born beautiful.’
So sad because this generic look has absolutely nothing to do with “beauty” and everything to do with power, Westernization, capitalism, and status. TV host Stephen Colbert explained it well when he jokingly asked teen writer/ phenom Tavi Gevinson: “But if girls feel good about themselves, how will we sell them things they don’t need?”
How indeed? I was a huge Merida fan, as were my kids, and I bought my three young daughters several figures, books, and posters featuring her because she was cool. Here’s a framed poster over my four year old daughter’s bed so she can see her when she goes to sleep at night, along with her favorite Merida book.
Like Merida, my daughter, Rose, has wild, curly hair that she hates to have brushed.
I hope my daughter never feels that she has to look generic and homogeneous in order to be “beautiful.” I hope she always knows that her beauty comes from her spirit. That’s not some meaningless cliche. There’s nothing “attractive” about frozen-faced clones. Disney’s new, madeover Merida has absolutely nothing to offer my kids. I won’t be buying ANY merchandise with this awful, new image.
Reel Girl rates the new Merida ***SSS*** for major stereotyping.
Before I write about Reel Girl’s pick of the week, I’ll come clean on two issues: I never do this feature once a week, and I have not read The Doll People in full. I have read enough to know the book is charming and stars no less than three adventurous female characters. My six year old daughter is obsessed with the book, and finished it without me. I just bought her the two sequels. I’m inspired to tell you about now, because I just looked at her book report and it looks like a report made for Reel Girl. Here it Alice’s homework verbatim, worksheet questions in bold.
Title: The Doll People
Author: Ann M. Martin and Laura Godwin
How many pages? 256
Main characters? Anabelle, Tiffany, Auntie Sarah
The Best Part: is when they found Auntie Sarah. She was in the attic but her dress was stuck under a suite case. So Tiffany and Annabelle had to try to get her dress unstuck.
Did you enjoy the story? Yes
Why? Annabelle and Tiffany. They were brave a lot. They were very smart and read a lot of books.
Because I am one to judge a book by its cover, I probably wouldn’t have chosen this one. It’s about dolls and the one shown here has a pink skirt and a pink bow. This book came into our house because my older daughter’s friend, Calvin, gave it to her for her birthday when she was in first grade. I’m glad it found a way in past my prejudice.
What I love most about this book is that Auntie Sarah disappeared because she was so adventurous, she couldn’t stay safe, confined in her dollshouse home. Sarah’s niece, Annabelle, has the same spirit and this story is about how she gets the courage to follow her heart and how her family also comes to accept and admire her rebellious nature.
Based on Alice’s review along with sections I read, Reel Girl rates The Doll People ***HHH***
Someone commented on Reel Girl’s Facebook page: please note what age books are appropriate for. My daughter is almost seven. She loved it. It’s a chapter book. I think 6 – 10 would be ideal. Let me know if your kids have read it.
Women writers, have you ever been told that your female protagonist isn’t “likeable”? Ever been told that after you wrote an autobiographical novel? When my agent sent mine out, that was the response we got. The editors said, “Great writing, but that character, she’s not nice enough.” That response reminds me of strangers on the street, shouting out at me to me to smile. (I’m 44, when will that stop?) Author Ayelet Waldman said at a reading that she gets that same comment about likeability almost every time she writes. It was on Waldman’s Facebook page today that I saw this link to an excerpt from an interview with novelist Claire Messud in Publishers Weekly. Here’s to characters that are ALIVE.
I wouldn’t want to be friends with Nora, would you? Her outlook is almost unbearably grim.
For heaven’s sake, what kind of question is that? Would you want to be friends with Humbert Humbert? Would you want to be friends with Mickey Sabbath? Saleem Sinai? Hamlet? Krapp? Oedipus? Oscar Wao? Antigone? Raskolnikov? Any of the characters in The Corrections? Any of the characters in Infinite Jest? Any of the characters in anything Pynchon has ever written? Or Martin Amis? Or Orhan Pamuk? Or Alice Munro, for that matter? If you’re reading to find friends, you’re in deep trouble. We read to find life, in all its possibilities. The relevant question isn’t “is this a potential friend for me?” but “is this character alive?”
My four year old daughter loves Cheerios, and last night, my husband brought home a new box. Excited for breakfast this morning, we got it out. Here’s what we saw on the front: Shrek, Puss In Boots, and Donkey, 3 male characters from “Shrek.”
Besides “Shrek,” there are 3 other Cheerios collectible DVDs where we can “catch up with all our favorite DreamWorks characters.”
Unlike other cereal brands that have their own mascots, a cast of no less than 100% male characters, Cheerios borrows its crew from DreamWorks. But, apparently, these favorites don’t privilege females either, to say the least. “How to Train Your Dragon” pictures a boy and his male dragon, the two stars. We do see a girl riding bitch. Then, there’s “Kung Fu Panda” starring…Kung Fu Panda! And finally, Madagascar showing 6 male characters: the zebra, lion, and 4 penguins. Where is the hippo, the Minority Feisty in that movie?
Hippo does show up in the “fame game” on the reverse side of the box.
See, there she is down on the left. There are 8 characters and she is the only female. The game your kids play is “match each character to what they are famous for.” While characters are known for “Training the Furious Five” or “Being the Dragon Warrior,” what’s the hippo known for? “Loving a Giraffe.” No joke. Incidentally, my six year old daughter told me that hippo’s feelings are not reciprocated; giraffe never wants to dance with her.
See that little box to the right with the Croods character? He’s one the males from that movie too.
I write this a lot, but if this Cheerios box were one of many images kids see, it would not be a big deal. But again and again, kids see females go missing. It’s totally normal in their world. They don’t think anything of it and neither do we. But females are half of the population, so why are they presented as a tiny minority in kidworld practically everywhere outside of the Pink Ghetto? It’s an annihilation that acclimates a whole new generation to expect and accept a world where females go missing. Hey, Cheerios, can you make at least half of the characters on your box female? There’s no reason for the imaginary world to be sexist.