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Silvia Federici je známa najmä ako jedna z vedúcich postáv v hnutí Mzdy za prácu v domácnosti v 70. rokoch, v uplynulom desaťročí sa známou stala jej kniha Caliban and the Witch. Women, the Body and Primitive Accumulation (Kaliban a čarodejnica. Ženy, telo a pôvodná akumulácia, 2004). Na bratislavskom stretnutí v sobotu 18. mája 2013 na dvore klubu Obluda hovorila najmä o genéze hnutia za Mzdy za prácu v domácnosti (Wages for Housework), o svojom feministickom „prebudení“ aj o potrebe budovania commons, akýchkoľvek prírodných a kultúrnych zdrojov, ktoré sú spoločným majetkom všetkých.
„Stávanie sa feministkou“ je v každej z nás opradené rôznymi príbehmi, vzťahuje sa na články, knihy, priestory, niekto dokonca vie situovať svoje feministické „nahliadnutie“ do jedného momentu, ktorý bol pre ňu či pre neho zlomovým. Silvia Federici na konci 60. rokov odišla z Talianska, Padovy, do USA, aby tam pracovala na svojej dizertačnej práci. Až v USA sa zoznámila s talianskym operaistickým hnutím a začala sa podieľať na preklade jeho základných dokumentov do angličtiny. Práve pri práci na antológii textov operaizmu na jar 1972 sa zoznámila s prácou Mariarosa Dalla Costy a Selmy James Power of Women and the Subversion of Community (Moc žien a subverzia komunity), ktorá na ňu zapôsobila ako zjavenie. Zanedlho potom sa s Dalla Costou stretla s ďalšími ženami začali formovať kolektív, ktorý stál za kampaňou Mzdy za prácu v domácnosti (Wages for Housework).
Silvia Federici v prednáške aj v diskusii odpovedala na to, ako vôbec mzdy za prácu v domácnosti chápať. Sú tieto mzdy podivným nápadom, ktorý zruinuje existujúcu ekonomiku? Možno. Aká má byť ich výška, treba ich presne vyrátať, zahrnúť do štátneho rozpočtu? Možno. Mohli by byť niektoré sociálne dávky druhom miezd za prácu v domácnosti? Možno.
Jednou z lekcií sobotňajšej prednášky Silvie Federici je ale pochopenie miezd za prácu v domácnosti ako politickej požiadavky, ktorú vznášajú ženy voči štátu. Je to požiadavka, v mene ktorej sa formuje subjekt žien a bez toho, žeby sa snažil zapojiť do štátneho rozpočtovania a rozmieňal svoju požiadavku na drobné, sa dožaduje ocenenia za svoju prácu v domácnosti znova a znova.
Feministické heslo osobné je politické v materialisticko-feministickej analýze Silvie Federici a ďalších nadobúda iné významy. Nejde len o to, že sa politizuje a verejne tematizuje to, čo bolo skryté v súkromnom priestore. Osobné je politické znamená, že reprodukcia v domácnosti sa koniec koncov podieľa na kapitalistickej výrobe.
Od 70. rokov k významnejšiemu oceneniu reprodukcie nedošlo, súčasná kríza na ženy ako jej neprirodzene „prirodzené“ vykonávateľky kladie stále väčšie nároky. Ale v reprodukcii je ukrytá veľká moc, moc reprodukovať seba, členov domácnosti, komunity, v ktorých žijeme, inak. Ako zdôraznila Silvia Federici, cieľom kampane Mzdy za prácu v domácnosti nebolo a nie je bojovať proti členom domácnosti, deťom a mužom, ale spolupracovať na ich oslobodení. Vzhľadom na skúsenosť s reprodukciou v hnutí Occupy Wall Street Silvia Federici hovorila o komunitách starostlivosti, v ktorých by dochádzalo ku kolektívnemu privlastňovaniu (často vyvlastnených a komodifikovaných) prostriedkov reprodukcie a v ktorých by ani starostlivosť o jednotlivé členky a členov hnutia nebola chápaná ako podružná.
Women make up almost half the workforce today, and, if they become pregnant, most will work throughout their pregnancy. Given this reality, you probably think the stories below are works of a bygone era. Well, you’d be wrong.
—A woman was 16 weeks pregnant and worked as a cashier at a large retailer in New York City. One day she fainted and was taken to the emergency room. Despite doctor’s orders that she remain vigilant about drinking water, she was severely dehydrated. When the physician asked why she was not drinking enough fluids, she said that her boss would not allow her to drink water while working at the cash register.
—When Shelly (not her real name) became pregnant, she was working two jobs in Indiana to support her family: the overnight shift stocking shelves for a major national retail chain and the day shift packing items to ship for a medical supply company. Her doctor advised her not to lift more than 20 pounds. The medical supply company immediately accommodated these restrictions, but the major national retailer refused to modify her duties. She experienced a lot of pain while doing the heavy lifting and miscarried shortly thereafter.
—An airline ticket agent in Louisiana was told by her doctor not to lift anything heavy at work. Her employer refused to provide her with a “light duty” assignment and told her that she would be placed on unpaid leave if she brought a doctor’s note. Not having an income wasn’t an option, so throughout her pregnancy she continued to lift heavy bags and spent 10- and 12-hour days on her feet. Toward the end of her pregnancy, she suffered stress-induced toxemia and went into labor prematurely. Her child suffered numerous health complications.
—Julie worked as a full-time driver at UPS. The work can be physically exhausting. When she became pregnant, she requested a light duty position, just as she had done when she had been injured on the job. But UPS refused to accommodate her and put her on unpaid leave for the rest of her pregnancy.
Stories like these are all too common, and that’s why we need the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act (PWFA), which was introduced in Congress on Tuesday.
Despite the passage of the Pregnancy Discrimination Act more than 30 years ago, which prohibits discrimination based on pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions, some employers continue to deny pregnant women the job modifications that could protect not only a woman’s pregnancy but also a family’s economic security, forcing pregnant women out of their jobs.
The PWFA would make it crystal clear to employers that they can’t treat pregnant women worse than other workers who have certain job limitations and instead must make reasonable accommodations if doing so doesn’t pose an undue hardship on the business.
Even though Mother’s Day is over, do one more thing for your mom and all the other moms out there: Call your members of Congress and ask them to co-sponsor the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act today. You can find the phone number for your representatives here and your senators here.
Vania Leveille is legislative counsel, ACLU Washington Legislative Office, and Lenora M. Lapidus is director, ACLU Women’s Rights Project
Crossposted from ACLU Blog of Rights
Although technology was, on one hand, a tool maliciously used for prolonging the harm done by the now-infamous Steubenville, Ohio, rape (via texts, tweets and shared photos), it was, on the other hand, also where public outcry fueled the case that ultimately saw the two teenage perpetrators convicted in March. And, once again, frustrated justice-seekers are turning to the web to try and affect change in Steubenville—this time in the form of petitions to have the high school’s football coach, Reno Saccoccia, fired.
During the rape trial against two of Saccoccia’s players, 17-year-old Trent Mays and 16-year-old Ma’lik Richmond, text messages and witness testimonies suggested that the coach was told about the August incident in which Mays and Richmond sexually assaulted a 16-year-old girl who was passed out after a night of drinking.
One text sent by Mays and read at the trial by a state investigator, said, “I got Reno. He took care of it and sh– ain’t gonna happen, even if they did take it to court.” Another text suggested that the coach had joked about the assault with the player.
In a town where football rules supreme and the winning coach is a local idol, it may not come as a surprise that Saccoccia continues to be employed at the school despite this information. But last month, the Steubenville school board extended his contract as director of administrative services for another two years—suggesting that a winning football coach can be rewarded for such behavior. (His five-year football-coaching contract, which he’s three years into, is separate.) NEWS9 in Ohio spoke to Superintendent Michael McVey, who said that the extension of Saccoccia’s administrative contract had nothing to do with his coaching position.
This decision, which reeks of a lenient “boys will be boys” attitude that feeds rape culture, has not gone over well online, where others have had to become watchdogs for Steubenville’s apparent ignorance of how to handle a rape.
A grand jury convened on April 30 to look into the rape case further. The jury was adjourned for three weeks on Thursday, May 2, to allow investigators to conduct further interviews and analyze more evidence. Ohio has a law on the books that makes it a crime not to report a felony, such as a rape, which could implicate those who witnessed the incident, knew about it and/or circulated evidence of it. How much Saccoccia knew and what he may have done or not done about it could come to light in the investigation.
In the meantime, there are some who continue to come to the coach’s defense—as of this writing, 734 people had signed a petition on Change.org called “The Big Red Nation: Stand up and support Coach Reno Saccoccia.” About a month ago, one signatory left a comment saying,
Coach Reno has been a cornerstone of this community for three decades. He is responsible for a legacy that is now respected on a national level. His integrity should not be called into question, due to the irresponsible behavior of two (or more) individuals. At the end of the day, he has always been about the success, discipline and well-being of the student athlete.
The irony of the latter part of that remark—that Saccoccia “has always been about the … well-being of the student athlete”—is that, while attempting to defend the coach, the commenter further proves where the priorities in Steubenville may lie: with the athletes, not with anyone who may jeopardize the team. The situation isn’t unique: This is just the latest in a long line of examples of sexual assault being covered up in athletic circles (Jerry Sandusky, anyone?). As CBS local reporter Tim Baffoe in Chicago writes in his recent satirical piece about the almighty football coach’s continued employment, the issue of unaddressed sexual assault in sports persists because “we love sports more than we love rape. Or hate rape. Whichever.”
However, legions more people are turning to online petitions to demand that Saccoccia be sacked.
More than 136,000 people have signed a petition on Change.org that directs the simple plea “Remove Reno Saccoccia from his position at Steubenville High School” to Superintendent McVey and Daniel Ross of the Ohio High School Athletic Association (OHSAA). The petition was amended after its creation to include OHSAA, arguing that Saccoccia has violated OHSAA bylaws by not reporting what his players appear to have divulged to him.
Another, this one on the pro-women’s movement petition site UltraViolet, cropped up in late April in response to the school board’s extension of Saccoccia’s administrative contract.
The entreaty, titled “Seriously, Steubenville?!? Fire Coach Saccoccia,” reads:
It’s unacceptable to extend the contract of a coach who took two months to punish team members who raped a 16-year-old girl, and who may have even helped them cover up the crime. The world is still watching Steubenville, we’re still angry, and we want Coach Saccoccia fired.
According to UltraViolet co-founder Shaunna Thomas, the petition has gathered more than 78,000 signatures since it was started on Wednesday, April 24. A joint effort with Credo Action, UltraViolet’s petition is the latest in their effort to mobilize people via technology in order to “create a cost for sexism,” says Thomas.
Among their many victories since launching in February 2012, UltraViolet’s recent petition against Reebok-sponsored rapper Rick Ross, who had lyrics about raping a woman, garnered almost 100,000 supporters and helped lead to Reebok’s dismissal of Ross.
UltraViolet turned the spotlight on Steubenville in January with a petition to the attorney general asking that the rapists be prosecuted and by creating a moving billboard that read, “The World Is Watching.” Says Thomas,
Steubenville seemed like an important moment and a really important opportunity for us to demonstrate that what happened in Steubenville is not unique. It is representative of a rape culture that you can find anywhere in our country. If something like that can happen there, it can happen where you live.
We were trying to expose what was going on there to make it difficult for them to let these boys fly. They were setting an example that you can rape an unconscious girl and get away with it.
Thomas hopes that after the grand jury investigation there won’t be the need for Steubenville-related actions, but says UltraViolet is prepared to keep the spotlight on the case as long as is necessary.
Of course you’ve heard that actor/director Angelina Jolie went public this week with an op-ed piece in The New York Times about her decision to undergo a double mastectomy in the wake of finding out that she is positive for the BRCA1 genetic mutation, which dramatically increases her risk of developing breast and ovarian cancer.
The news has generated a staggering amount of media attention, with bloggers and medical experts and pundits of all stripes weighing in on Jolie’s decision. The overwhelming reaction to the news seems to be one of support and admiration for a highly public figure who’s been forthright enough to go public with a very personal story in the hopes of raising awareness about BRCA and women’s options in the face of it, and confident enough to assert that her surgery (which included breast reconstruction) will not in any way detract from her success in the film industry, her role as a parent to six children, or—let’s face it—her status as a contemporary icon of female sexuality and beauty.
There has been been, rightly, a sizable amount of grumbling about inequalities in health care coverage: The genetic test for BRCA alone costs in the range of $4,000, which puts it far beyond affordable for the average citizen, especially those without health insurance to cover the test. Prophylactic mastectomy and reconstruction cost many times that, arguably making these procedures the purview of the 1 percent. The discussion has also brought to light that a private company, Myriad Genetics, holds the patents to the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genetic mutations and can therefore exclusively dictate the testing options (and price) for women who potentially have the gene, as well as research into it. (A case before the U.S. Supreme Court is challenging these patents, with a decision expected in June.)
What I haven’t seen, however, in my admittedly inexhaustive review of the reactions to Jolie’s disclosure, is much in the way of discussion about another surgery the actor/director alludes to: oophorectomy, or the (preventive) surgical removal of her ovaries. Jolie notes that she has a 50 percent chance of developing ovarian cancer. “I started with my breasts,” she says, “as my risk of breast cancer is higher than my risk of ovarian cancer, and the surgery is more complex.”
It would seem that Jolie is planning to have her ovaries removed at some point, in a procedure that, while less medically complicated than her breast surgery, is—in my opinion at least—equally, if not more, significant.
And my question is this: In the event that Angelina Jolie has her ovaries (and likely her uterus) removed, will we care as much as we do about her breasts?
Oophorectomy, while not as readily “visible” as mastectomy, is a radical procedure, thrusting women into immediate surgical menopause. In addition to the obvious negation of fertility, the sudden and dramatic change in hormone levels can have several side effects, including changes to sex drive and function, metabolism, mood, bone density and muscle mass, and cognitive function. The surgery and its potential effects are a big deal—but we wouldn’t know that by the amount of ink and bandwidth devoted to it in relation to Jolie.
Maybe that’s because Jolie’s oophorectomy is only a hazy future event, while her breast surgery is here and now. Maybe it’s because her risk of breast cancer is higher than ovarian cancer.
But I’m not so sure. I think that our focus on Jolie’s breasts as opposed to her ovaries speaks volumes about the ways in which we continue to overvalue the external when it comes to women’s bodies. Put simply, the world is so interested in Angelina Jolie’s breasts because they’re pretty to look at and pleasing to men. (Full disclosure: They are also pleasing to me and, I’m sure to many other women, gay or straight.) Angie Jolie is cutting off her boobs? How brave! Don’t worry, though—she’ll still be as sexy as ever due the miracles of reconstructive surgery! She’ll even get to keep her nipples!
But ovaries? No one sees those. You can’t touch those. You can’t “enhance” (much less restore) them surgically, or click on a button to increase their size the way gamers do with Lara Croft in Tomb Raider (Jolie portrayed the busty Croft her in the 2001 feature film; rumor has it that several Internet “patches” have been designed to remove the character’s clothing in the game). Tucked away inside her body, or removed surgically, Angelina Jolie’s ovaries are about as appealing as her gallbladder.
But ovaries are a crucial part to women’s reproductive, sexual and overall health. With no reliable test to detect it, ovarian cancer is often discovered too late and can be deadly. If and when Angelina Jolie undergoes prophylactic oophorectomy, she may feel no different (or even better) afterwards, and I hope that’s the case. On the other hand, the surgery poses the risk of several significant side effects.
If and when she decides to have the surgery, and if and when she writes about it, let’s hope we care as much as Angelina Jolie’s ovaries we do about her breasts. Because they’re no less an important part of her.
Susan Goldberg is a writer, editor, and blogger based in Thunder Bay, Ontario. She was tested for the BRCA1 mutation after her own mother, a carrier, died after several battles with both breast and ovarian cancer, and created a 2006 radio documentary about the process. You can read more at www.mamanongrata.com.
Last fall, researchers in Missouri caught the attention of public health experts and advocates across North America. Some 9,000 St. Louis women had been offered their choice of contraceptives for free in a study that has since been called an “Obamacare simulation.” Two years later, the teen pregnancy rate was at 6 per 1,000 instead of the U.S. average of 34. The abortion rate was less than half the rate of other St. Louis women.
Why did they get such dramatic results? The free birth control triggered a technology shift in a microcosm. When presented with simple, accurate information and a buffet of no-cost options, a majority of the study’s participants, almost 75 percent, switched from old contraceptive technologies like the Pill, condoms and other barrier methods like cervical caps to state-of-the-art “long acting reversible contraceptives” (LARCs).
Unintended pregnancy rates in the U.S. have not gone down for decades, hovering around half of all conceptions. Now, health advocates and community health agencies are eyeing a potential technology tipping point that could radically change the equation. What would it take to make the St. Louis results the new norm? And what might that mean for Cascadia, the nickname given to the Pacific Northwest where I live?
If a set of things go right, Cascadia could become the St. Louis experiment writ large. But there are a number of ifs. If the Northwest states and Washington, D.C., implement the Affordable Care Act’s provisions for mandatory free contraception—not exempting a patchwork of procedures or employer health plans. If better information about state-of-the-art contraception flows from experts through primary care “gatekeepers” to youth and women. If conversations about LARC methods become standard practice in adolescent medicine and maternity care. If access points in community and school-based clinics are expanded. And if state and provincial governments protect family planning services when making near-term budget cuts.
If we in Cascadia meet these conditions, and long acting contraceptives become the norm, the region’s unintended pregnancy rates among teens and adult women will plummet, budgetary pressure will ease, and more parents and children will flourish. Oh, and the abortion rate will fall, too.
Currently Washington has an unintended pregnancy rate of 48 percent, close to the national average. Oregon’s rate is almost identical. These pregnancies add to public medical costs. In 2006, Oregon spent $72 million on births from unintended pregnancies. But the public costs don’t begin or end at birth. In Washington, during fiscal 2012, Medicaid paid $700 million for prenatal, delivery and infant care. When surveyed by the state’s Department of Health, approximately half of the women who received this care said that they would have preferred to get pregnant later or not at all.
Mostly, by the time “go-with-the-flow” babies like these arrive, their families welcome and love them. But some unintended pregnancies stack the odds against both children and parents. Maternal drinking or poor nutrition in the weeks right before and after conception may increase birth defects. Even families of healthy babies may struggle to stretch resources like time and money and space and emotional energy. When parents get too depleted, marriages can strain or break. Poor families may not be able to afford the same level of education for four kids as three or two. In many cases, families find the resources. They adjust and adapt and get help, and kids flourish. But in other cases, they don’t get help, and kids and parents alike flounder. Adding one more Jenga block to a precarious stack crashes the whole thing—and kids get neglected or rejected or abused.
During the teen years in particular, unplanned childbearing can have far-reaching consequences for a mother and her children, and for their community. Each year in King County, Wash., alone, 15- to 17-year-old girls give birth to more than 300 babies. That’s enough kids, once a few years have passed, to keep several primary schools full. Those children come into the world with the odds stacked against them. Most will grow up in poverty. Fewer than half of their mothers will finish high school, and only 2 percent will get a college degree by age 30. A disproportionate number will experience learning or mental health problems, or end up as teen mothers themselves. Their struggles will contribute to the complicated web of challenges they and their communities face: strained social services, stretched public resources, crime and an education system overwhelmed with special needs.
And King County has one of the lower teen birth rates in Washington State, around 10 per 1,000 girls aged 15-17. The highest county rate in Washington is 55 per 1,000 girls, and the averages for Washington and Oregon are 27 and 28 respectively. (The national average is 34.)
The sheer impact of these numbers on the state budget is daunting, in large part because of the challenges faced by the children of teen mothers. Between 1991 and 2008, approximately 143,000 teens gave birth in Washington, at a taxpayer cost of $3.3 billion. The public tab includes maternal and child health, childhood welfare support and a higher than average rate of incarceration during adolescence and young adulthood.
All of this makes those numbers from St. Louis look particularly interesting at a time when Northwest families and governments are trying to do more with less. Giving women better tools to fulfill their pregnancy intentions—empowering parents so they can decide when they are ready to bring a child into the world—may offer a partial upstream solution to some of the region’s most pressing concerns: affordable health care, better educational outcomes, strong and stable families and balanced budgets.
Valerie Tarico, Ph.D., is a psychologist and writer in Seattle, Wash. She is the author of Trusting Doubt and Deas and Other Imaginings and the founder of WisdomCommons.org. Her articles can be found at Awaypoint.Wordpress.com.
“When women like Beyoncé proudly proclaim feminism, they tend to invite more debates than affirmation.”
That’s one of the provocative statements that kicks off Janell Hobson’s cover essay on popular culture icon Beyoncé Knowles-Carter, our fierce feminist cover woman for Spring 2013.
The new issue of Ms. magazine, now on its way to subscribers, is also available as a digital download for iPhones, iPads and Androids.
Hobson, an associate professor of women’s studies at the University of Albany, State University of New York, sparks a discussion among other pop culture critics about female empowerment, combining feminism and “traditional” roles, and the “politics of respectability” for black women. At the end of the piece, it’s up to the reader to decide: Why do we even question her feminism at all?
The new issue of Ms. isn’t all Beyoncé, of course. We also cover:
– 10 things to know about health insurance reform
–Why fracking is a feminist issue
–An excerpt from Eve Ensler’s new memoir
–A report on how the rampant problem of military sexual assault may have reached a tipping point as women enter combat roles.
And much more!
Carry Ms. with you wherever you’re going this spring, whether on your phone, tablet or in the traditional print format. As Bey would sing, “Who run the world? Girls!”
When Ayesha was 13, she fell in love with a man who promised to marry her and nurture her singing aspirations, but instead turned out to be a sex trafficker. He took her far away from her family and village in Bangladesh to Kolkata (also known as Calcutta), India, where he promptly sold her to a brothel. Young and alone in a huge city, Ayesha tried in vain to escape; instead she was sexually exploited for years, suffering repeated rapes and beatings by her “owners.”
Ayesha gave birth to three children while in captivity. When it became evident that the local pimps wanted to prostitute her oldest daughter, Ayesha knew she had to protect her family. With the help of Apne Aap, a local NGO working to empower girls and women to resist and end sex trafficking, Ayesha was able to get support for her children and eventually exit prostitution. Instead of becoming another victim, her daughter received professional training and now supports her family through her job as a gas station supervisor at the first all-women run petrol pump in Kolkata.
In January 2013, amidst an outcry to end violence against women in India, a committee led by recently-deceased former Indian Supreme Court Chief Justice J.S. Verma, released an investigative report that noted the high prevalence of sex trafficking of women and girls in India. While actual numbers are difficult to obtain, government and NGO reports suggest that hundreds of thousands to millions of women and girls are prostituted in India (median age of entry is 11 years old), many of whom are victims of sex trafficking. However, despite the high prevalence, very few cases of sex trafficking are actually reported and prosecuted. In 2011, the arrest rate for people accused of “kidnapping and abduction of women and girls” was an incredibly low 3.7 percent, according to the latest report by the National Crime Records Bureau of India.
On the recommendation of the Verma Report, the Government of India recently adopted anti-trafficking provisions in the Indian Penal Code (IPC) through the Criminal Law (Amendment) Act of 2013, to conform to the internationally-recognized definition of the crime of trafficking as outlined in the Palermo Protocol. However, India’s other anti-trafficking legislation, which includes more comprehensive anti-trafficking laws, the Immoral Traffic (Prevention) Act (ITPA) of 1956, has not been changed in nearly 30 years. Therefore, Equality Now and Apne Aap are calling on the government to amend the ITPA by including specific provisions that will improve anti-trafficking efforts, protect children and survivors and address other shortcomings still remaining. Amending this Act will put India in line with its international legal obligations under the Protocol. The provisions are:
- Legal protection and removal of criminal sanctions from women and children in prostitution.
- Criminalization of pimps and brothel keepers, not women or children in prostitution.
- Punishment of those who pay for sex.
- Strict liability for traffickers and buyers of a minor regardless of whether the perpetrators knew the victim’s age.
- Establishment of a fully government-funded Trafficking Victims Rehabilitation and Welfare Fund.
You can help spread awareness of this campaign by signing an online petition that urges the Indian government to amend their Immoral Traffic Prevention Act with the above provisions.
Some of the world’s poorest countries are getting price cuts for vaccines that protect against 70 percent of all cervical cancers. The two companies involved, Merck and GlaxoSmithKline, announced recently that their vaccines (Gardasil and Cervarix) would be sold to those countries for $4.50 and $4.60, respectively. These prices are an improvement from the previous $13 per dose. But is it enough to help poorer countries make commonly available the vaccination against certain strains of human papillomavirus (HPV), the sexually transmitted infection which can cause some cervical cancers?
The Pap test was the first step in reducing cervical cancer deaths: after its introduction in 1950, the U.S. experienced a significant drop in cervical cancer deaths (almost 70 percent from 1955 to 1992). The HPV vaccine could be the next big step in preventing cervical cancer deaths: The National Cancer Institute believes the vaccine could reduce these deaths worldwide by as much as two-thirds. Currently the disease still kills an estimated 275,000 people every year, with 85 percent of those deaths in developing countries.
The lowered prices are made possible by the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunizations (GAVI) Alliance, created in 1999 with funding from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, which negotiated with Merck and GlaxoSmithKline. Before the price reduction, the series of three shots needed cost a woman a total of about $39; now they’ll cost more than $25 less—a big difference for women living in poverty.
However, the price is still too high. The international poverty line is set to those who live on less than $1.25 a day and, in 2008, 1.4 billion people lived under that line. For one out of four people in developing countries, it would take more than three days to earn enough to get one dose of the HPV vaccine, and more than 10 days to have enough for the full three-dose treatment. And that assumes they don’t need money for anything else, like, say, food.
Kate Elder, vaccines policy adviser to Médecins Sans Frontières, an association operating immunization programs around the world, believes Merck and GlaxoSmithKline are still maximizing their profits at the expense of the people in poorer countries. She says,
This vaccine is critical for millions of girls in developing countries, where cervical cancer is the main cause of cancer deaths among women. The price is unjustifiably high and will add to the already spiraling vaccination costs faced by low-income countries. … It’s a lost opportunity to negotiate for a truly low price.
Although it’s not yet enough, the price drop is at least a step in the right direction. The new prices for the vaccine will first apply to a few million doses going to Kenya, Ghana, Laos, Madagascar, Malawi, Niger, Sierra Leone and Tanzania as a part of demonstration projects.
HollabackPHILLY, a branch of the anti-street harassment organization Hollaback!, hasn’t taken many breaks in the last few months. They’ve placed campaign posters on Philly subway trains, have met with companies about removing pro-harassment messages from their advertising and, last Thursday, the group sent their newly finished anti-street harassment comic book to the printer.
Hollaback! started in 2005 and now has chapters in 64 cities and 22 countries. It fights against street harassment by encouraging people to document incidents and not to just “walk on” but to “hollaback!” The group also teaches people to take street harassment seriously, and not dismiss it by saying something like, “Well, boys will be boys.”
The 24-page comic book, called Hollaback: Red, Yellow, Blue, is written and drawn by Erin Filson (one of the current leaders of HollabackPHILLY, along with Rochelle Keyhan and Anna Kegler) and features characters who deal with street harassment. One of the story lines features Blue, Red’s boyfriend, who begins to realize the impact street harassment has on girls and women. He then struggles with how to respond when he overhears harassing behavior. Besides the printed book, the group will offer an e-book option and plans on putting up an interactive (“choose your own adventure”) comic on their website.
The Philadelphia Hollaback! crew has plenty of personal experience with harassment. Keyhan, who’s originally from Southern California, remembers an instance in which men blew kisses and made crude gestures at her when she was just 12 years old and walking home from school. Now 28, she says she still witnesses street harassment all the time, as have her Hollaback! counterparts. “It’s rampant, it’s everywhere. You just expect it, almost, when you’re walking around,” Filson says.
If you live in the Philadelphia area, you may have seen examples of Hollaback! in anti-street harassment campaign posters in subway cars. These posters and the comic book point out the difference between a compliment and harassment (as in the poster below):
“We want to get people to recognize [street harassment] as a problem that can actually be solved,” Kegler adds.
The first move is getting people to realize street harassment shouldn’t be inevitable. In an effort to find new ways to increase awareness, the group raised more than $8,000 to create the comic book, and they’re planning to use some of that money to distribute it at national conventions, such as the 2013 Philadelphia Wizard World Convention and the 2014 Comic Con in San Diego. Harassment isn’t a problem limited to the streets: Complaints of harassment at comic conventions are posted online after many events, mostly coming from women who attend in costume. The San Diego Comic Con, one of the world’s largest comic conventions, does not have formal anti-harassment policies or officials who are looking out for harassment, so HollabackPHILLY is pushing to change that. The message, says Filson, is “cosplay [short for costume play] is NOT consent.” She explains:
You’re dressed as these characters that everyone fantasizes about … there’s this idea that, ‘I can talk to or touch this person and photograph them in any way I want and not treat them like they’re still an everyday person.’
One of the main goals of Hollaback! and its Philadelphia branch is to help women, especially, and those in the LGBTQ community to find and amplify their voices when faced with harassing behavior. As Keyhan puts it,
Hollaback! doesn’t necessarily mean in the moment shouting at the harasser. Find your voice and let us help you do that, even [by] just acknowledging, ‘That was harassing behavior that just happened and we’re not going to just ignore it.’
The comic books will be completed in time for Philadelphia’s Comic Con, where Keyhan, Filson and Kegler plan to distribute the Hollaback! message to as many comic-book fans as they can.
Image from comic book and photo of subway campaign courtesy of HollabackPHILLY.
I’ve been a proponent of telling personal stories to make a political point for as long as I’ve worked in women’s health. I’ve seen firsthand how powerful a story can be. I’ve told my own stories and encouraged other women to tell theirs. But I’ve never seen a President introduced by someone who started by telling her story. That’s what I saw a few days ago at the White House, and wow, was it powerful.
The White House staff invited about 100 of us who work in women’s health to hear the President give a speech about health reform. I figured that he was going to use Mother’s Day as a hook to talk about how health reform helps women, and he did. But I didn’t know until I got in line to go through security that the President had decided to surround himself with women who have told their personal stories about how health reform has helped them and their families.
I saw a woman I’d been in touch with via email, and another woman whose video I’ve watched more than once on HealthCare.gov website. These women (Robyn Martin and Alycia Steinberg) are both active with the Maryland Women’s Coalition for Health Care Reform (one of two dozen local organizations working with Raising Women’s Voices for the Health Care We Need). Robyn and Alycia and many other women like them have told their stories to help make health reform real for women across the nation.
The President was introduced by Carol Metcalf. She said “I am here today to share with you the profound effect the Affordable Care Act has had on my family” and then went on to explain how her son Justin, a 22-year-old college grad and traumatic brain injury survivor with a rare genetic lung disease, faced insurance denials and caps because of pre-existing conditions until the ACA made it possible for him to stay on the family’s health insurance. After Carol finished, she introduced President Obama.
The President spoke for nearly 15 minutes, explaining how health reform helps women and families, with frequent references to the women standing on stage with him. He shared Alycia’s story and waved hello to her 3-year-old daughter Avey, whose health care coverage for leukemia would have been capped had it not been for the Affordable Care Act.
The President told us, “I am 110 percent committed to getting it done right.” He encouraged everyone to get the facts about health care reform and know what’s coming: He explained how people who currently don’t have insurance will be able to enroll in new plans starting this fall. He spoke directly to women who have been concerned about the cost of health care, encouraging them to learn about the new coverage for preventive services, as well as how they can get help in paying the premiums. And he thanked all the women who’ve had the courage to tell their stories, and to fight for change.
P.S.: Later this month, Ms. magazine will publish my article, “We’ve Got You Covered: 10 Things Women Need to Know About Health Reform” to help women get the facts.
Subscribe now to Ms. digital and/or the print magazine and get the magazine sent right to your doorstep (either actual or in cyberspace!).
UPDATE: The L.A. Times reports that, according to a Disney representative, the company has no intention of abandoning its “sexier” new depiction of Merida, which will illustrate a limited run of products, including backpacks and pajamas. The rep said that the previous version of Merida would still be available on other Disney products.
Bravery comes in all shapes and sizes. Wait, scratch that: Bravery comes in a size 2.
Disney fans have been up in arms this week over Princess Merida’s sexy makeover. After her official induction into the elite princess clique, Merida, the hero of the animated feature Brave, appeared on Disney’s website with a whole new look—a look, many feel, that contradicts Merida’s entire character.
In her new design, Merida, who would probably roll her eyes at the prospect of a princess coronation, is minus a few pounds, her trademark bow and her tomboyish charm: “Her eyes are wider, her waist is smaller, her hair is sleeker, and her dress is sparkly as shit.” It’s as if Disney traded her in for a Pirates of the Caribbean wench. Brenda Chapman, the film’s writer and co-director, was outraged about the change.
[Merida is] strong inside and out—she’s not just a simpering pretty face waiting around for romance! She was created to turn that whole ideal on it’s head!
Disney seems to have taken note. As of yesterday, the company silently replaced its website’s controversial new Merida with the original Pixar design. The consideration for fans’ concerns is a relief, but Disney has yet to confirm whether “sexy” Merida is scrapped for good. What made Disney think it could get away with the makeover in the first place?
Merida’s story has been a refreshing change of pace for the Disney Princess franchise. Prior to Merida, with her fiery mane and matching personality, Disney was still churning out tales of heternormative romances for children to adore and absorb. Conventionally beautiful, thin-waisted ladies have been running into the arms of their male counterparts from Snow White (1937) to Rapunzel (2010). There have been exceptions to the standard, hyper-feminine Disney girl who spends most of her screen time flirting—Mulan’s cross-dressing, China-saving badassery comes to mind—but all ten members of the Princess Club, including Mulan, land a boyfriend or husband before the final credits roll. That is, until Merida, a tomboy whose affections are reserved for her beloved bow.
Bravery is not an unfamiliar quality for Disney princesses—most, if not all, of its princesses challenge their comfort zones to explore “a whole new world,” and in this respect Merida’s title trait isn’t exactly mold-shattering. Her single status, however, is: Merida is the first princess to go adventuring sans dude. No Flynn Ryder by her side, no Aladdin or John Smith pushing her to test new waters (or land, if you’re a mermaid).
The young Scottish princess in Brave adamantly rejects her parents’ plans for marriage and decides to “shoot for [her] own hand.” Not only does she rebel against impending coupledom, but she’s clearly a better archer than all of her suitors. Like Mulan, Merida proves that she is just as competent as a man, if not more so. But unlike Mulan, Merida has zero interest in sharing her accomplishments with a (male) partner.
Furthermore, instead of focusing on the relationship between a princess and her prince-to-be, Brave denies any man the spotlight in Merida’s life, instead developing the relationship between two women: Merida and her mother, Queen Elinor. After a long line of hetero-romantic predecessors, Merida’s solo journey to understand herself and her mom can be considered a feminist step away from common female tropes—such as the one that states a woman’s journey isn’t really over until she gets hitched. Quite simply, Merida finally gives us the option of a princeless princess.
So did Disney compromise progress by giving Merida a princess makeover? Mostly, yes. But in some ways, not as much as you’d think.
Merida’s original looks aren’t doing much to add to the diversity of women in film to begin with, and we need to keep this in mind when critiquing female representation.There’s a lot that changes between the two Disney images, but both designs still feature a thin, white, attractive girl who is easily read as feminine—long, flowing hair and all (however unkempt). It’s Merida’s story and personality that define her uniquely independent strides in princess history. Her appearance, on the other hand, hasn’t done much to rock the representation boat. If we really want to expand Disney’s representation, then how about a princess who is fat? Queer? Disabled?
At the same time, though, it’s still important to recognize that the new get-up could only contribute to the trend of sexualizing women in film—animated or not. After all, Merida wasn’t alone in her makeover: Disney recently revamped all its princesses to look sexy-chic, which is a little creepy for characters who are not even 20 years old. But what’s sad about Merida’s new look in particular is that Disney had successfully designed a girl who didn’t conform to the male gaze, and instead of leaving her alone they ended up suggesting that maybe, post-movie, she could have a heternormative fairy-tale ending like all her partnered colleagues if she just bats her thick new lashes hard enough. Disney slipped back into comfortably outdated sexist imagery, then scrapped the design without apology or reflection (so far).
Still, the Merida fiasco provides an example of how interacting with media can change what we see. With female representation in American film at its lowest in five years, we need to be critical of who makes it to the big screen and how they’re depicted. If criticizing sexy Merida can make Disney think twice, maybe we can fend off more harmful tropes in mass-produced films.
Are we one step closer to a fat, queer, disabled princess—or at least a Black princess devoid of racial stereotyping? Maybe. When you wish upon a star…
Image courtesy of Huffington Post
Transgender students in California could soon enjoy more rights and protections. A bill was approved Thursday in the California Assembly that would allow transgender students to participate in sex-segregated school programs and activities. This means that athletic teams that are all girls or all boys will be open to students who identify with either gender.
The bill also stipulates that public schools allow restrooms and locker rooms to be open to any student who identifies with that gender, regardless of what gender is listed on school records. The bill will now go to the state Senate, where it is expected to garner a lot of support.
State laws already prevent public schools from discriminating against students based on gender identity, but this new bill, spearheaded by Assemblyman Tom Ammiano from San Francisco, will go further in giving transgender Californians the security they need in school and ensure uniformity in school districts across the state.
We have heard from scores of parents concerned that their children are at risk for dropping out of school merely because they are transgender. It breaks my heart to see our youth excluded from activities at school simply because of who they are. This bill is urgently needed to ensure that every student has a fair chance to fully participate and graduate.
The California Assembly passed this bill on the heels of another recent bill that would make it much easier for trans people to change the name and gender on their birth certificate and other documents without having to get a court order.
The issue of transgender rights has picked up speed in recent years, as several states—including Washington, Colorado and Massachusetts—have created policies or guidelines that allow students to participate in activities that correspond with their expressed gender. Similarly, the NCAA has adopted bylines to protect trans athletes who were born male but then later identified as female and wanted to play women’s sports.
In addition to school sports and programs, trans students can also face obstacles when using school restrooms and locker rooms—places that can turn into sites of terror and bullying. The California Assembly’s decision to push forward a bill that would protect trans students’ equal access to these school facilities is a move being mirrored on college campuses as well: More than 150 universities, from UCLA to New York University, now have gender-neutral restrooms, and even more schools are in the process of implementing policies on restroom access.
Even in Arizona, where the state legislature recently tried to introduce laws hostile to trans people and their use of bathrooms, the progressive University of Arizona implemented a bathroom policy that grants all students the right to use facilities that correspond with their expressed gender.
These nationwide pushes in schools and universities to bolster the rights of trans students demonstrate the growing zeitgeist of inclusion surrounding trans people, and a broadening of the public consciousness on gender identity.
Opponents of the California bill said that, since puberty can be a confusing time, other students may feel uncomfortable with students who seem to be of a different gender using restrooms and locker rooms. But Assemblyman Ammiano, who is gay, argued:
Because someone is uncomfortable is not a reason to discriminate. I can walk into many of your districts and many of your constituents would be uncomfortable with me.
Kölner Schildergasse demonstriert. Die Frauen fordern: gleiche Rente für alle Mütter. Und dafür sammeln sie nun Unterschriften, die sie an die Bundesregierung schicken wollen. Denn bisher ist die Rente gesetzlich folgendermaßen geregelt: Mütter, deren Kinder vor 1992 geboren wurden, bekommen für die Erziehungszeit nur einen statt drei Entgeltpunkte angerechnet. Das macht einen Unterschied von mindestens 56,14 € pro Monat. Das muss sich ändern, findet Brigitte Neuss. Weiterlesen
Lawyer and activist Barbara Brenner led the organization Breast Cancer Action to national prominence, demanding not just “awareness” of the disease but research into causes and prevention. Although she overcame breast cancer herself, she died last week from amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) at age 61.
Barbara Brenner put up her final Healthy Barbs blog post earlier this week. I will miss her fierceness, passion and uncompromising intelligence.
I got to know Barbara as the head of Breast Cancer Action; back then, as I recall, the organization’s motto was, “The Bad Girls of Breast Cancer.” I liked that.
It often took me years of conversations to catch up with Barbara’s thinking. She was the one who first talked to me about the over-promise of mammography. She also talked about the lack of centralized data on cancer patients and cancer research. That just sounded wonky to me, but now I finally get how critical that work is.
Barbara may be best known for coining the term “pinkwashing” (again, years before anyone really “got it”). Pinkwashing is when companies claim to care about women and breast cancer by sporting the pink ribbon while at the same time producing products linked to the disease or other threats to public health. There are legions of examples. In my recent Times article I wrote:
Having football teams don rose-colored cleats, for instance, can counteract bad press over how the NFL handles accusations against players of rape or domestic violence. Chevron’s donations to California [Susan G.] Komen affiliates may help deflect what Cal OSHA called its “willful violations” of safety that led to a huge refinery fire last year in a Bay Area neighborhood.
Barbara was first diagnosed with breast cancer in 1993 at age 41; about three years later, she had a local recurrence. Then, after 15 years of breast cancer activism, she contracted another disease—ALS. Often (and incorrectly as she would tell you) called “Lou Gehrig’s Disease,” ALS is a fatal degenerative neuromuscular illness. Barbara wrote a post about this outstanding PSA, put together by supporters of football player Steve Gleason to raise needed awareness, and how it differed from the typical pink-ribbon feel-goodism:
Discussing the two illnesses on Healthy Barbs, Barbara wrote:
The issues are both different and remarkably similar.
How I think about this illness and how I react are influenced by my years as a breast cancer activist. How people deal with me now makes me think about how people deal with others who are ill. The purpose of this blog, Healthy Barbs, is to encourage people to learn to think in new ways about illness and health and to prompt them to be critical of the mainstream coverage of health issues.
It’s not meant to be comfortable. It’s meant to make people THINK!
That is Barbara: It’s not about making nice. It’s about understanding, thinking, getting stuff DONE.
The last communication I had from Barbara was on May 7 in the comments to my previous post about Nancy Brinker’s 64 percent pay raise. Barbara wrote: “Actually, Brinker is still the CEO [of Susan G. Komen]. She will have that title until Komen hires her replacement. Who in their right mind would take that job if Brinker is still involved? Got me.”
On May 8, just one day later according to her Caring Bridge site, Barbara decided to stop taking nourishment. She continued to take liquids.
I hope she won’t mind that I’m copying part of her final post here:
I have been blessed to lead a rich life, full of love and culture and travel and work that had meaning for me. I have no regrets except that I got ALS in the first place.
I have met amazing people both in person and on-line. Everyone I have come in contact with has had something unique to offer the world. The world is a better place because these people are or were in it. Some of these people I have mentored (and you know who you are), others have taught me. What I know about all of these people is that I have been blessed to know them, and that they will succeed at what they set their hearts and minds to do.
In the Jewish tradition there is a Priestly Blessing. I copy below it because it is what I wish for all readers of these words:
May the Lord bless you
and keep you;
May the Lord make his face shine on you
and be gracious to you;
May the Lord turn his face toward you
and give you peace.
Barbara, you have made a difference in my life—and in that of so many others—as well as in my work. Your voice and spirit will always be in my heart. I love you. I will miss you.