It’s Vagina News Link Madness!

Holy cow, there’s a lot going on. Time to play catch-up. Ready? Let’s go:

  • I just finished a free online class in International Women’s Health and Human Rights through Stanford (they’re going to offer it again, and I HIGHLY recommend it – get on the list here). I learned a lot about the history of these issues in the UN, and specifically about the Millennium Development Goals. Last week, the 2014 Commission on the Status of Women ended “with an agreement that called for the acceleration of progress towards achieving the millennium development goals, and confirming the need for a stand-alone goal on gender equality and women’s empowerment in the set of international targets that will be introduced once they expire in 2015. The agreement also said gender equality must underpin all other goals.” The details are interesting and encouraging, and very much worth a read.
  • Last week also saw the Hobby Lobby case argued before the Supreme Court. The craziest part of the case, IMHO, is the fact that the entire argument is based on an objection to ACA coverage of IUDs and the morning-after pill, based on the belief that they cause abortion – which they absolutely, undeniably DON’T. (They prevent conception. Hence the word “contra-ception”. Spermy no meet eggy.) Yet this case has risen all the way to the Supreme Court because the owners of Hobby Lobby (and another company) BELIEVE they cause abortion, and that would violate their religious beliefs (never mind that a corporation can’t believe anything.) Anyway, I bring it up to introduce this great piece on our three female Supreme Court Justices, which pounds home the importance of gender parity in all levels of government.
  •  Buzzfeed isn’t just lists of .gifs… They’ve done some important reporting on campus sexual assault; specifically, legal violations serious enough to prompt the federal investigation of a school less than a mile from where I’m sitting right now.
  • Jimmy Carter has a new book out, ‘A Call to Action’, and in it, he blames selective application of religious dogma for the unconscionable treatment of women and girls around the world. “The most serious and unaddressed worldwide challenge is the deprivation and abuse of women and girls… This claim that women are inferior before God spreads to the secular world to justify gross and sustained acts of discrimination and violence against them… This is not just a women’s issue. It is not confined to the poorest countries. It affects us all.”
  • And finally, a great article from the Money section of The New York Times about how gender discrimination affects women’s salary negotiations in the workplace. Like most contemporary manifestations of sexism, it’s not overt; rather it’s a combination of learned behavior and double standards that make everyone complicit. The article is a solid step toward becoming aware of how we may be participating unknowingly, and how to stop.
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Diana, Huntress of Bus Drivers

Vagina News usually covers the United States, simply because that’s where your host lives, and the US provides more than enough that warrants attention. But we’re breaking that rule today.

I’ve been watching The Bridge, a drama about US and Mexico police working together to solve cases involving the disappearance and murder of several women in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico. It’s based in truth; Ciudad Juarez has been known for years as the “capital of murdered women”; home to the disappearance, rape, torture, and/or murder of hundreds of women since 1993, with little effort by law enforcement to catch the perpetrators. Many activists and others believe the Juarez murders are an example of femicide, or the killing of females by males because they are females. (The term is also used to refer to the impunity with with perpetrators are allowed to operate.)

The area is home to dozens of factories and assembly plants – of maquilas – owned and operated by multinational corporations, that draw women from all over Mexico who are looking for work; many of the victims were employees. The maquilas often operate 24 hours a day, and the women employed there live in remote areas with no electricity or public transportation, so they often wait in dark, isolated areas for a factory bus.  There have been several theories and arrests over the years, one of the most recent being that the women of Juarez are being preyed upon by factory bus drivers. Which brings us to last week.

Continue reading

In Texas, a new level of stupid

The fight over abortion access in Texas continues, and it is big. There is no better demonstration of Republican legislators pushing an ignorant ideology against the will of the people – and at midnight tonight, we find out who wins.

The bill in question is being promoted by a female legislator – State Representative Jodie Laubenberg – who thinks rape victims don’t need access to legal abortion because “In the emergency room they have what’s called rape kits, where a woman can get cleaned out.”

Cleaned out. Texas women are being governed by someone who thinks rape kit = abortion. 

If you’re not up on the details of this story, WATCH THIS VIDEO

 

Link Roundup – Get it Together, Government

I’ve got a TON of Vagina News saved up, so I’m going to put together related links with abbreviated commentary until we catch up.

To begin, GET IT TOGETHER, GOVERNMENT:

– Reset the ‘Days Without a GOP Rape Mention’ counter and tell Todd Akin to put his shiny shoes on, because Arizona House Representative Trent Franks apparently woke up from a coma today and said, “the incidence of rape resulting in pregnancy are very low.” Deja vomit.

By way of response, let’s revisit ‘The Worst States for Pregnant Rape Victims.’ 

– Next time you see your gynecologist (or anyone else’s) give them a hug, because this week the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists issued a statement castigating state governments for initiating an unprecedented number of bills aimed at restricting women’s reproductive rights. 

– And finally, the Air Force has put Major General Margaret Atwood (that’s a woman, for the record) in charge of the branch’s efforts to curb military sexual assault. Atwood is four steps higher in the chain of command than her predecessor, Lieut. Colonel Jeffrey Krusinski, who was arrested last month for – say it with me – sexual assault. 

 

The Paradox of Secrecy

One of the reasons I’m strict about who can access this page is so we can talk about things like today’s Vagina News.

Yesterday, a reader and dear friend sent me a story about video and photos circulating online of US soldiers raping Iraqi women in the course of conducting military operations. I watched enough to know that it’s a) a really important story, and b) a HUGE risk for both triggering and exploitation. 

(Anyone interested can find it pretty easily. Please be warned, every article I found contained photos and video, much of it above the fold and on autoplay.)

I feel trapped. This is the kind of crime that breeds through secrecy and darkness and desperately needs the disinfectant of widespread public attention, especially in light of the larger conversation happening right now about rape culture in the military. 

BUT… There are significant risks in making this kind of material widely available, both in retraumatizing victims, and in fueling people and groups that would exploit it for sexual gratification and/or profit. 

So that’s my question for you. What do we do? How do we tell the truth about what’s happening and ensure these crimes are witnessed without adding to the trauma and exploitation they’ve already caused?

 

Good Vagina News – Plan B, Rape Kits, and Military Baby Steps

I’m happy to report that there’s a lot of good Vagina News today.

– A federal appeals court has defied the Obama administration and sided with the FDA in making Plan B One-Step emergency contraception available over the counter with no age restriction. (An appeal is pending.)

 

– Detroit prosecutor Kym Worthy, who since 2009 has been raising outside funds to test the city’s backlog of 10,000+ untested rape kits, has finally gotten some help – in the form of $4 million from the state attorney general. 

“Of the 569 kits that have been tested so far, 136 of those have yielded hits in the Combined DNA Index System maintained by the Federal Bureau of Investigation… Thirty-two of those hits have been identified as serial rapists.” 

(That means it costs about $27k to identify a serial rapist – basically the price of a new car – which may be the best deal in government spending I’ve ever heard.)

 

– We’ve taken the first baby steps toward addressing military sexual assault. 

A provision has been added to the 2014 National Defense Authorization Act (which funds military spending) that stops military commanders from being able to reverse rape convictions, as notoriously happened in a case earlier this year. 

Provisions were also added to make it easier for victims to get legal counsel, quicker access to disability benefits for PTSD associated with rape or sexual assault, and to guarantee that convicted military sex offenders will be discharged or dismissed. 

But we have to end on a sour note, because we still have not addressed the core issue; The current structure – which leaves investigation and prosecution of military sexual assault cases solely at the discretion of superior officers – is a disaster. It fails to meet our responsibility to victims, and rewards perpetrators, who are allowed to continue to serve “honorably”, and then sent back into the general population. Until that is addressed, the other changes will have little effect. 

I probably don’t have tell anyone here that last night was pretty great for vaginas.

Let’s get into the details.

  • For starters, the obvious. We have a pro-choice,
    pro-equality President for the next four years. We also have four Supreme Court
    justices well over the age of 70. (I predict we will see far fewer
    anti-abortion laws floated on the state level, because the pro-life movement’s
    hopes of one of those laws making it to the SC and being used to overturn
    Roe v. Wade just got turned upside-down.) http://articles.latimes.com/2012/oct/30/opinion/la-oe-chemerinsky-scotus-future-20121030
  • A record number of women will serve in the US Senate next
    term; 20, up from 17 this term, and more than double the number that served 15
    years ago. The new senators include the first openly gay woman (Tammy Baldwin,
    Wisconsin), the first female combat veteran (Tammy Duckworth, Illinois), and
    the first Asian-American woman (Mazie Hirono, Hawaii) to serve in the Senate.
  • All six female Senators who were running for reelection won; Maria Cantwell
    (Wash.), Dianne Feinstein (Calif.), Kirsten Gillibrand (N.Y.), Amy Klobuchar
    (Minn.), Claire McCaskill (Mo.) and Debbie Stabenow (Mich.)
  • Female Senate candidacy broke records as well; Almost half of the 33 Senate
    races this year had serious female candidates, and in two races, both final
    candidates were female.