Monday, October 31, 2011

Happy #7,000,000,000!

Happy birthday to the 7 billionth person walking Planet Earth.

With over half the world living in poverty, this really isn't a good thing. Compounding this problem is that obviously, population growth tends to be exponential.

It took over 100 years to reach 1 billion. It took only 12 to go from 6 to 7 billion.

Overpopulation is a huge drain on already scarce resources. So how do we curb this without implementing dangerously invasive laws like China's "one child policy?"

With ease. With education. Much of the population surge happens overseas where access to birth control (and knowledge of such things) is severely limited. "The UN estimates that there are 215 million women in the developing world who want to avoid a pregnancy, but who are not using a modern method of birth control" (CS Monitor). Two Hundred Fiften MILLION women. If we can help these women prevent unwanted pregnancy, perhaps we can stave off the 9 million mark (projected 2050 total - and that number keeps growing). Africa alone is expected to triple their population over the next century.

And stopping this excessive growth is as easy as teaching poorer villages about birth control methods, and providing access to these methods. Let's be honest here, even America, and its high teen pregnancy rate could do with more access to this knowledge and material.

It also wouldn't hurt if women were valued as daughters in some countries. Families with a first born daughter are more likely to have more children so as to breed a son (they also are more likely to abort any future possible daughters but that's irrelevant to population control).

Even with our current economic crisis, curbing this population surge needs to be more of a priority. More people drains the planet, including economically.

Plus, otherwise, we're looking at having to invade another planet (quite literally Earth cannot withstand too many billion people), and that will certainly be more costly than handing out a few condoms here or there.

So Happy Birthday to baby number 7 Billion. Hopefully you'll be the last billion milestone.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Double Standards

I don't believe in double standards. Not in any situation (as far as I can think of anyway). I don't think men should be rewarded when their number of sexual partners rises while women are chastised and demeaned.

Similarly, I don't believe women should stand up against victim blaming when a man murders his wife and claims abuse but stand silent when a woman does the same.

Recently, a man in Westchester who was apparently going through a divorce beat his wife to death, then shot his two kids and himself. Allegations of abuse from both sides flew. The man's friends claimed she was verbally abusive, and worked to turn their children against him. The woman's family claimed she had expressed fear of her husband, and wanted him out.

The feminist issue arose when one of Sam Friedlander (the murderer)'s friends told a reporter that if Friedlander had shot only his wife, not the children, "I would have baked him a cake with a file in it [to help him escape from prison]." People protested against the victim blaming. No matter what abuse he may have endured, they say, nothing justifies murder.

I agree. Especially when they're already going through a divorce. He was in the middle of getting out of this marriage when he "snapped." But where were these protesters when Barbara Sheehan shot her husband eleven times and argued self defense at her trial?

Why weren't people protesting that victim blaming? She shot and killed her husband while he was shaving in the bathroom, although allegedly, he had threatened to kill her with a gun he owned. She claimed years of abuse led her to this inevitable and irreversible decision.

Where is the argument against victim blaming there? Sheehan was acquitted of the murder charge because the battered wife case. The jury believed it to be the victim's fault that he died of unnatural causes. But if Friedlander hadn't killed his children or himself, no jury would acquit him. Because domestic violence against men just isn't accepted.

But it's real. Whether or not Friedlander or Sheehan were victims of years of domestic violence, I don't know. I'm not sure that anyone but the families themselves can really know. But clearly, domestic violence knows no boundaries. No gender, cultural, racial, class boundaries. No one is exempt from the possibility.

To deny men the right to a life free from violence while allowing a battered wife argument to hold sway in court is gender discrimination. It favors women, but it is still a double standard, and gender equality requires eradication of such policies.

Yes, it is victim blaming to say that someone caused their own murder. Should that stance, that belief, change with the gender of the victim?

Absolutely not.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Political Campaigns

Nicholas Kristof has been instrumental in raising awareness of the plight of women all over the world, and how being disallowed access to education and the workforce is leading to the global poverty problem we see today. Because even though women make up more than half of the world's population, we are still treated as a submissive minority group.

The United States has a maternal mortality rate of 8 per 100,000 births. Sounds low, but when compared to other countries of equal development, it is at the high end. Countries like Croatia, Norway, Singapore and Kuwait have lower rates than that. Theories as to why are based on our need to do things quickly. In such a fast paced, impatient society, labor is often induced - so childbirth happens before the body wants it. C-Sections are a common way of not only scheduling the birthday, but instead of being a last resort, it is presented as a viable alternative to birthing. A c-section, like any surgery is dangerous, with the possiblity of complications, and therefore, death.

But you won't hear about that in the news. Or in the presidential campaigns. Because women's issues are ignored. Even in this time of healthcare reform, healthcare as it relates to women is nowhere to be found. Democrats and Republicans both want to change the way the country accesses doctors and medicine, yet neither talks about how that access will affect the health and well-being on women, who are disproportionately afflicted by both physical and mental illnesses.

Presidential candidates might talk of poverty abroad, yet they don't address the probability that increased education geared toward women will help lower birthing rates and increase productivity, nor how they might go about doing that.

The Violence Against Women Act is supposed to help prevent sexual and domestic abuse and stalking, to help convict those who commit such crimes, and to provide services to the victims. Yet the rate of all these crimes is still way too high, and conviction rates are far too low. But no one addresses this failure. Creating a law doesn't do anything, unless it is enforced. While this Act was a great leap forward in raising awareness, it has done virtually nothing more since its creation.

What presidential candidate will come forward and stand up for the rights and needs of women? Who will be the voice for the women who suffer every day at the hands of a hypermasculinized congress?

I wrote a letter to every 2012 presidential campaign candidate I could find asking each of them these questions. Maybe one of them will hold the answers.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Obligatory Halloween Post

I went shopping for a halloween costume two nights ago because this year I just wasn't creative enough to make one out of things I already owned. And I remembered all over again why I hate this holiday.

The costumes are obviously divided into females' and males' to make it easier to find what you're looking for. I can understand that certainly. The only problem is the difference in actual costume.

For example, the first place I went to had a Captain America costume - one each for men and women. Yet they were very, very different costumes. The men's Captain America, of course, looked like Captain America (shocking!). The woman's version? A short skirt with a low cut top and knee high red boots (with heels!). The fireman's costumes? Men had an actual uniform, and in the picture, he was pouring a pitcher of beer. Woman's had again a short skirt with unbuttoned top and a come hither look. We don't like beer, of course, and we serve only to satisfy men's needs, not to fight fires.

Halloween is a joke. When did it become like this? When did it become okay for such obvious objectification? When did women stop respecting themselves? And why can't I get a costume, made for women (so as to fit a women's body), that actually has a bottom that covers my ass, and a top that covers my breasts? Why do I need to parade around half naked in freezing cold weather on this one random day? No thank you.

Another strange part was there seemed to be no unisex area. The beer bong and beer bottle were under mens, even though they could clearly fit on either gender. Even the Angry Bird (which was the costume I originally wanted) was under the men's section! I spent at least two hours at two different stores trying to find something to fit my body without conforming to society's standard of an appropriate dress for women on halloween.

it covers my body, and is a perfect representation of the character, yet somehow the title includes "flirty." Because you can't sell a costume without marketing the attraction to the opposite sex!

If anyone wore a bathing suit with fish nets out in public on any day except halloween weekend, they'd be labeled a slut/whore/dirty by anyone they came across. They'd be shunned by anyone of character and pounced on by desperate men looking for sex. It's inappropriate. Yes, halloween is about costumes, but it is not about marketing your body.

It's about creativity. It's about showing your character and your likes and who you are, because, really, what you wear on halloween speaks volumes about your personality. Do you conform, and market your body? Or do you show off your creativity, your likes in movies or tv shows, or games? Do you dress up as the "slutty witch" or the hot dog? Are you an attention seeking typical female, or are you a comic? Will you be the flirty nurse, or the doctor? (because nurse costumes don't exist for men, and i didn't see any doctor costumes for women)

And what are we telling young people about what women and men are all about? Do we want our kids to want to wear these short dresses and low cut shirts? Do we want young children to see those they look up to wearing such revealing outfits? Do we want them to aspire to be that?

I admit I do conform sometimes. It's hard not to. So I understand. I understand that when everyone around you is dressed the way they are, it's difficult to be the one to stand out in the duck costume (another one i almost went for). But I hope one day we can be stronger. I hope one day we can rise up this society created and ruled by men. I hope one day we can stop catering to their desires, and instead follow our one.

Halloween is a step back every year.

Maybe one day we'll break the cycle.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Awareness Month

October is...

Domestic Violence Awareness Month.

Somehow that seems to slip under the radar with all the hubaloo surrounding Breast Cancer. Breast Cancer affects 1 in 8 women. Domestic Violence affects 1 in 4. That's not to say one is more important than the other, but that both are incredibly pervasive. But only one gets the media's attention.

We have come incredibly far in raising awareness regarding domestic violence. In taking claims seriously, and in bringing justice to those who commit these emotionally and physically scarring acts. But there is clearly still so far to go.

I spent a couple of hours today manning a table for the Women's Center I volunteer for at a festival. I was amazed at how many people came forward with their stories of abuse, including one who's mother had used our shelter. I was grateful for the thanks I received for helping. I was even more grateful to the people who asked about donations and how to help out.

We have come a long way. But as long as people continue to have those stories, then there is still a long way to go. One woman listened politely to what our center offers, and told us luckily she didn't need any information on it. Yes, that is wonderful that she is in a good relationship. But she had two daughters with her. They need to know about it.

I'm always wary when children come up to the table and want an awareness ribbon. I'm afraid the parents will shoo them away, that I'll have to explain what domestic violence is, and I don't want to ruin their innocence. But when I told two young girls that the purple ribbon was not for cancer, but for domestic violence, which is a very pressing problem just like cancer, they nodded in understanding. That's when their mother told me how they sponsor a family in the shelter every year.

When I started dating, my mother gave me a talk on relationship abuse. I wrote it off at the time, but looking back I am so thankful that I have the kind of parent who understands abuse and its disregard for race, social class, intelligence, and culture. I wonder how many parents talk with their kids about what is acceptable in any relationship? We can barely get conversations on sex going - I doubt there's too much talk of violence.

There are bracelets, shirts, posters, bumper stickers, whatever, everywhere crying to "save the ta-ta's" and put an end to breast cancer. I'd like us to take it one step further. I don't just love boobs, I love the whole woman. And I'd like to save all of them from needless pain and suffering.

Whether it's from cancer, or domestic violence.

October is Breast Cancer and Domestic Violence Awareness Month.

Let's work to save women.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Social Media

Anytime someone tries to downplay the pervasiveness of misogynistic thoughts and beliefs that plague American society, just point them to social media. Facebook, twitter, and blogging have given the masses places to voice their every opinion. Including opinions that promote the violent crimes of sexual and domestic assault.

Facebook has multiple pages geared towards such things. Pages that spew hatred towards women, and invite rape and violence. Pages like earlier mentioned "Riding your Girlfriend Softly Cause you Don't Want to Wake Her Up," "Feeling bad after hitting your mom cause you thought it was your girlfriend," and "What's easier than raping a girl? Raping a dead girl."

Some choice comments:

Hayden Noel: Its not rape if they dont say no ;)
Ian Wood: It's not rape if it's a muffled "no" !!
Tobi Remnant: Just gag them so they can't say no.
Jamie Do-rag: i raped my girlfriend. She wasnt asleep or anything. Just refused to make me a sandwich

Actual admissions of committing a violent crime on facebook, and the social media giant turns a blind eye. And then there's twitter:

The Funny Sexist. This guy is really just hilarious.
"4 out of 5 women suffer domestic abuse during their life time. That means only 20% of women know when to speak. #YouNeedToShutUp"

ProSexTips: The main difference between computers and women is you can't rape your computer when its in sleep mode.

LondonKeyes: Rape! It's really just surprise sex :)

It's everywhere. Yes, these people are "joking," and no I don't honestly believe they believe what they're saying. But I fail to see the humor in advocating a violent crime which affects 25% of college aged women. Why does Facebook believe that a page where people claim they have raped their girlfriends (some even say by drugging them) is just offensive humor, instead of the hate filled illegal activity that it is?

How can people still believe that a feminist movement is unnecessary when the internet is filled with proof of the gender imbalance? For as along as people talk about raping and hitting women without thought to the profound effect these crimes have on society, then the feminist movement is not over.

The real issue is not each individual group, person, comment, or tweet.

But why aren't more people outraged by this?