WAM! Ladydinner

Remember Women, Action & the Media, the organization working with Facebook to change their approach to misogynistic hate speech?

Well last night, I attended WAM! Los Angeles‘s ‘Ladydinnner’, and had a ball. SO many badass women (and 1 kickass man.) Filmmakers, tv writers, journalists, organizers, activists, an editor from Ms. Magazine, the creators of The Big Feminist BUT comic book… And Mexican food. Just fantastic.

If you’re so inclined, check out their shiny new site and get involved in a branch near you (or start one!)


Steubenville Followup from The New Yorker

I’ve been swamped this week, Vagina News friends, but wanted to share this article.

It’s long, and problematic in lots of ways, but it does a good job of a few things:

  • Explaining what rape culture is, and that yes, it exists
  • Providing several examples of ongoing protectionism and victim-blaming in Steubenville
  • Illustrating the complicated nature of misogyny and rape culture, in which there are rarely clear ‘good guys’ and ‘bad guys’ 

I look forward to hearing your thoughts.

The Return of Mr. Douchehat

Ross Douthat (affectionately known to Vagina News readers as Mr. Douchehat) has written another piece of crap op-ed in the New York Times, this time about the virtue of Texas’s recently-passed restrictions on access to legal abortion.  (You may recall his previous screed on the “decadence” of women who choose not to have children. This guy and I would make quite a sitcom.)

One of many things he fails to mention in his defense of Texas’s new law is that it’s unConstitutional, as it restricts abortion at 20 weeks, at least 4 weeks earlier than Roe v. Wade.  He critiques opponents of the law for comparing apples to oranges in their warnings that the rest of the world has already shown us how such restrictive laws play out; But comparing it to our very own Constitution is apparently outside his scope.

He does mention an “inevitable court challenge,” but he leaves out the part about how that inevitability is driven by the law’s place amid a national anti-choice strategy to pass a glut of blatantly unConstitutional abortion restrictions, in the hopes that one will make it the Supreme Court in time to overturn Roe – at the cost of many tens of millions of taxpayer dollars.

Talk about decadent.

I know my play on his name is cheap. But so are his arguments, so let’s call it even.

Thank you Helen Thomas

Today, we learned of the passing of Helen Thomas. 

The most oft-repeated impressive fact about her career is that she covered every President from JFK to Obama. But there’s much more to celebrate. Here are a few articles detailing her accomplishments, and some of the praise she’s earned from Presidents and others over the years.

I just want to especially highlight a few achievements of particular importance to your Vagina News host.

She was the first female journalist to cover the President, rather than the First Lady and their children. She was the first woman admitted to the White House Correspondents Association. In 1962, she got then-President Kennedy to say he would not attend the Association’s annual Correspondent’s dinner unless it was opened to women for the first time. (It worked.) In 1975, she became the first female President of the Association.

It’s hard to overstate her role in opening the professional of journalism to women – and it’s even harder to overstate the impact of those women on the direction of news and public discourse in the 20th century.

Thank you, Helen Thomas, for your strength, intelligence, and tenacity. We honor you. 


Facebook Update

Remember the effort to get Facebook to stop ignoring content containing misogynistic hate speech?  Well, after seeing some disappointing reports about their progress, I reached out to WAM!, the organization working with Facebook to implement the necessary changes. They’ve provided an update which I found valuable, and I think you might too.

Onward and upward! 

Compton’s New Mayor

There’s a great article in this week’s LA Weekly (Los Angeles’s ‘indie’ paper, owned by Village Voice Media) about the new mayor of Compton – referred to as ‘the murder capital of the world’ and ‘America’s most dangerous city,’ epicenter of the 1992 LA riots, home of LA’s deadliest gangs, formerly run by a man who described himself as a “gangster mayor” who was spared from corruption charges because he didn’t know what corruption was.

Compton’s new mayor is Aja Brown, a 31-year old woman. 

Her grandmother was raped an murdered in 1973 in Compton. Aja Brown wasn’t raised there, but after earning a graduate degree in urban planning from USC, she moved back. 

It’s a long article, so I leave you to read as you wish. But allow me to draw your attention to a particularly salient post in the comments section:

Here’s that link if you want to read it. 


I need some good Vagina News, don’t you?

Well I happen to have some right here in my… Yeah.
Two weeks ago, NASA announced their next class of astronauts. There were 6300 applicants, NASA chose 8, and 4 are women. To quote the linked article:

Their names are Christina Hammock, Nicole Mann, Anne McClain and Jessica Meir…

Christina has engineering and physics degrees and a masters in electrical engineering, and has spent winters in places such as Antarctica doing research.

Nicole has a mechanical engineering degree and is a qualified pilot in the US Marine Corps, as well as a brilliant soccer player.

Anne is a pilot/command intelligence officer/rugby player/scuba diver that also has degrees in public health and international studies.

Jessica has degrees in biology, space studies and marine biology, is a pilot/scuba diver/ice diver, and is an assistant professor at Harvard medical school.

Basically they’re complete badasses, in ways that have nothing to do with what they look like or having babies. We don’t often hear about women like that, which can make it hard to remember that there are a LOT of incredible women who are incredible for reasons outside those we usually celebrate women for. 

So I’m celebrating these women for a change. Join me, won’t you? 


Massachusetts has figured out how to stop intimate partner homicide.

I have not been able to bring myself to post since this weekend’s awful verdict, and the retroactive attention it has brought Marissa Alexander (a Florida woman who was denied Stand Your Ground protection after firing a gun into the ceiling to scare off her abusive husband against whom she had a restraining order – she was given 20 years in prison. Google her name for more info.)

But friend & reader Reuven sent me something that has lifted me out of my slump.

Get this – Massachusetts is protecting women from intimate partner homicide by a) taking what they know about men who kill their partners, and b) monitoring and restricting the activity of men who match that criteria.


Anti-Choice is also Anti-Birth

Yesterday, the Texas Senate passed HB2, the bill Wendy Davis successfully filibustered last month. In the gallery, State Troopers confiscated tampons and maxi pads from protestors, as Lt. Governor David Dewhurst was afraid they would be thrown. Guns, however, were allowed. Really.

But in two other states, stories are playing out that remind us there’s more to choice than the right to a safe, legal abortion. 

Since the 1970’s, it has been illegal to pressure a woman to be sterilized, or to ask for consent for sterilization during labor or childbirth. But in California, at least 148 pregnant female inmates between 2006 and 2010 were sterilized by tubal ligation during childbirth, often after coercion by prison staff and without patient consent. None of the procedures went through the required approvals or oversight. 

In Pennsylvania, Tanya Williams – a 34-year-old homeless woman with a reported IQ of 65, has been sentenced to 9-18 years in prison for involuntary manslaughter and aggravated assault, after one of her 2 newborn twins starved to death in a homeless shelter. What could have been done to prevent the tragedy? Consider:
 – The twins were born in a Philadelphia hospital on October 21. Williams hadn’t had any prenatal care, and didn’t know she was carrying twins. Despite their low birth weight, the hospital released Williams, the twins, and her 4 other children to a homeless shelter 4 days later.

– The twins were deemed healthy by a city-funded caseworker 36 hours before the twin’s death. The same caseworker released Williams from participation in a voluntary parenting class. 

While the caseworker and another employee of Lutheran Children and Family Service were fired, Williams is the only person bring held legally responsible for her son’s death.

Being pro-choice is not just about protecting the right to choose not to have a baby. It  also means fighting for women’s right to get pregnant, stay pregnant, and raise healthy children without government interference. That includes women who are poor or in prison. We know the way to prevent abortion is not to restrict access to abortion, but to prevent unwanted pregnancy through education and access to contraception; Similarly, the way to prevent poor women from having babies they can’t support is not to punish them for getting pregnant, but to help them escape poverty.