Monthly Archives: August 2013

16 posts

Miley Cyrus & Modern Day Minstrelsy

This post is written by Cynthia, CT NOW board member. Its views express her own and are not indicative of anyone else’s on the Board nor does it represent CT NOW’s official stance on any issue.

I’ve never watched the VMAs and never had the desire to. I didn’t understand why they were such a huge deal, but even I heard about how  this year’s, in particular, caused an explosion on the internet due to Miley Cyrus’ performance.

So for those of you who don’t know what happened, Miley took the stage in a rather bizarre looking outfit that blended in considerably with her skin, and proceeded to prance around with a background entourage of Black women. There were several moments where she then used their bodies as props, ranging from ass slaps/grabs to simulating other sex acts with these women.

White feminists: Yes, I know that there was an immense amount of slut-shaming over Miley’s outfit. Yes, I know she should be able to wear whatever the hell she wants and that it’s immensely unfair that nobody’s judging Robin Thicke, when really, we should all be judging the hell out of him.

But people who focus solely on that are missing a HUGE elephant in the room, and it’s WHY IS SHE JUST GOING AROUND GRABBING AT BLACK WOMEN? Like seriously? No one sees that this was egregiously wrong, due to oh, the HUNDREDS OF YEARS OF APPROPRIATING BLACK WOMEN’S BODIES? Of the stereotypes and caricatures of Black women being animalistically sexual? Of Black women being violated? This portrayal of Black women hearkens back to the minstrel shows of not too long ago, and it’s incredibly frustrating that again, no one in the mainstream (read: white feminists) are really talking about it.

As a WOC feminist (but not Black), it’s been weird sometimes when issues like this or the #solidarityisforwhitewomen hashtag pop up. Because I’m fairly privileged in terms of my education, economic background, and have grown up around white feminists, taught by white feminists, and have read works by white feminists, I sometimes realize that I inadvertently overlook injustices facing other WOC, even ones of my own ethnicity or race. Also, since one of the common criticisms launched against NOW is that it seems to be a “white” woman organization, I thought it’d be especially appropriate to write it here.

For more reading about this issue (as this is what inspired me to write this post), go here, where Tressie McMillan Cottom talks about this from the point of view of a Black woman.

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Miley Cyrus & Modern Day Minstrelsy

This post is written by Cynthia, CT NOW board member. Its views express her own and are not indicative of anyone else’s on the Board nor does it represent CT NOW’s official stance on any issue.

I’ve never watched the VMAs and never had the desire to. I didn’t understand why they were such a huge deal, but even I heard about how  this year’s, in particular, caused an explosion on the internet due to Miley Cyrus’ performance.

So for those of you who don’t know what happened, Miley took the stage in a rather bizarre looking outfit that blended in considerably with her skin, and proceeded to prance around with a background entourage of Black women. There were several moments where she then used their bodies as props, ranging from ass slaps/grabs to simulating other sex acts with these women.

White feminists: Yes, I know that there was an immense amount of slut-shaming over Miley’s outfit. Yes, I know she should be able to wear whatever the hell she wants and that it’s immensely unfair that nobody’s judging Robin Thicke, when really, we should all be judging the hell out of him.

But people who focus solely on that are missing a HUGE elephant in the room, and it’s WHY IS SHE JUST GOING AROUND GRABBING AT BLACK WOMEN? Like seriously? No one sees that this was egregiously wrong, due to oh, the HUNDREDS OF YEARS OF APPROPRIATING BLACK WOMEN’S BODIES? Of the stereotypes and caricatures of Black women being animalistically sexual? Of Black women being violated? This portrayal of Black women hearkens back to the minstrel shows of not too long ago, and it’s incredibly frustrating that again, no one in the mainstream (read: white feminists) are really talking about it.

As a WOC feminist (but not Black), it’s been weird sometimes when issues like this or the #solidarityisforwhitewomen hashtag pop up. Because I’m fairly privileged in terms of my education, economic background, and have grown up around white feminists, taught by white feminists, and have read works by white feminists, I sometimes realize that I inadvertently overlook injustices facing other WOC, even ones of my own ethnicity or race. Also, since one of the common criticisms launched against NOW is that it seems to be a “white” woman organization, I thought it’d be especially appropriate to write it here.

For more reading about this issue (as this is what inspired me to write this post), go here, where Tressie McMillan Cottom talks about this from the point of view of a Black woman.

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What Does the Phrase “Ugh…Women” Mean?

I had an interesting encounter with a gentleman today while waiting in line to grab lunch at a popular local restaurant. The gentleman was in front of me and I was patiently waiting my turn. Suddenly, his cell phone rang, he stepped aside to answer it and a few minutes later reclaimed his place in line. While doing so, he turned to me and uttered, “Ugh…women.” I was surprised and replied with, “You are talking to the wrong person, since clearly I am a woman.”  Then, it was his turn to order and the conversation ended and we parted ways. 

The purpose for taking the time to tell this anecdote is because as I walked back to my office from lunch I started to think about all of the things that simple phrase he uttered implies in our society. Most people will immediately comprehend what this gentleman meant by his comment. I am sure many of you are thinking of adjectives like difficult, confusing, emotional, irrational etc.

I acknowledge that he may have meant no harm by it and simply needed to vent to someone in his moment of frustration. Yet, I cannot help but wonder why of all people he would think it would be ok to turn to a woman for validation. I know that this kind of societal stereotyping and gender bashing is not one sided. Women are just as guilty of taking out their frustrations on men in similar ways. 

From this anecdote I would like everyone to think about moments in their every day life when they have made a comment that may have played into gender stereotypes. Was there a better, more constructive way to phrase the comment? Did the comment have the potential to offend anyone? Most importantly, I would like to hear from you regarding what CT NOW can do to combat gender biases and stereotypes! 

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How Will You Keep the Fight Going?

Today is the 93rd anniversary of women’s suffrage.  This was a first step toward equality for American women; and 93 years later, we still have many more to go.

Will you keep your celebration of this right to only today? Or will you use it as a way to strengthen today’s fight for equality going?  There are a number of things you can do to engage:

Get 5 women, who don’t normally vote, to vote in November.  

Help a woman run for office.

You run for office.

Take a pay negotiation seminar.

Volunteer for a women’s organization.

Mentor a young woman.

Teach your niece, cousin, sister, mother, grandmother, daughter, goddaughter, friend’s daughter, godmother, aunt, roommate, or neighbor what it means to be a feminist.

Teach your nephew, cousin, brother, father, grandfather, son, godson, friend’s son, godfather, uncle, roommate or neighbor what it means to be a feminist.

 

GO TO THE CT NOW NETWORKING HAPPY HOUR TOMORROW, 5 – 7 PM AT BESITO, 46 SOUTH MAIN STREET, WEST HARTFORD!

 

How will you keep the fight going?

 

 

 

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Failing at Intersectionality: Why We Need To Do Better

The following is a guest blog post by Tess Koenigsmark. Tess is a recent graduate of the University of Connecticut, where she double majored in Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies, and Political Science. She was heavily involved in sexual assault prevention and reproductive justice activism and hopes to build on those experiences by pursuing a career in social justice.

Please note that views expressed by guest bloggers represent solely their own. CT NOW believes in open dialogue and multiple perspectives and welcomes (civilly worded) thoughts different from our own, but we do not necessarily endorse any writing done by the author elsewhere.

Failing at Intersectionality: Why We Need To Do Better

By Tess Koenigsmark

There’s been a fair amount of discussion happening recently, especially on Twitter, about intersectionality in our movements, both feminist and others. While many feminists have realized that intersectionality- the idea that oppressions such as racism, sexism, classism and others are not separate, but overlapping – is essential and continue to give lip service to the idea, as a movement we often fail to walk the talk. A perfect example of this is the recent collaboration between Christine Quinn, New York City’s Council Speaker and a mayoral candidate, and Hollaback!. Hollaback! is a non-profit organization that describes itself as “a movement to end street harassment powered by a network of local activists around the world”.  Their popular smart phone app allows victims of street harassment to instantly share their experiences online. They’ve now partnered with Quinn to release an app that collects information about incidents of street harassment, including location, in a systematic fashion. Users also have the option to send their reports directly to the New York City Council.

The issue with this partnership is that Quinn is also in favor of the city’s stop-and-frisk policy. Stop-and-frisk, which gives police the right to stop and search anyone without a warrant, is a type of street harassment itself; it’s just performed by police instead of civilians. Worse, it’s typically black and Latino men who are targeted. Since 2003, over 80 percent of the people stopped each year have been black or Latino (and many years it’s closer to 90 percent). By partnering with Quinn, who will likely use this collaboration to court the female vote in her campaign, Hollaback! is putting the safety of white women before that of women of color and their families.

This latest example of feminist failures in intersectionality comes hot on the heels of the controversial #solidarityisforwhitewomen hashtag on Twitter. The hashtag started to protest the continued support by many white feminists of Hugo Schwyzer, an academic regularly commissioned to write for feminist websites despite a shady history that included using his position to harass women of color feminists. On the thread, many women of color expressed their frustration at what they felt was a continued lack of support from white feminists for racial issues. The news about Hollaback! is a stinging reminder that they’re right.

If we truly want feminism to be inclusive of all women, we have to acknowledge that gender discrimination is not the only, nor even necessarily the most salient, oppression that many women face. And this isn’t just about race.

In discussions about the #solidarityisforwhitewomen hashtag, I also read comments from disabled women who questioned why they should care about racial issues when feminists of any race don’t care about disability issues. We all have to make a commitment to intersectionality, to sticking our necks out on issues where we may not speak from first-hand experience (while still deferring to those who do). Of course, there’s a lot more to be said on how to do this effectively, and many others have covered it better then I can. The important thing to keep in mind is that as awkward and forced as those attempts may feel at first, they’re critical to the success of our movements.

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August 18-25 Weekly News Round Up

Weekly News Round Up 

A roundup of current news story on the state and national level, with a focus on feminist issues

By Tess Koenigsmark

An Oklahoma judge has blocked a law that would require women under 17 to have a prescription to purchase Plan B, the emergency contraceptive commonly referred to as the morning-after pill. As Oklahoma demonstrates, even though Plan B has finally become available over the counter, there’s a still a lot of work to be done before the medication is truly accessible.

NARAL California has released its report from their two-year long undercover investigation of crisis pregnancy centers. One the many terrifying stats from the report is that 70% of CPCs told women that abortion increases the risk of breast cancer.

Another CT NOW blogger has already laid out the issue with most media reactions to Chelsea Manning expressing her desire to transition from male to female. But the most horrific response to date is the much talked about Daily Beast article which dismisses prison rape entirely, and has the audacity to claim that being gay or trans* in prison is a walk in the park (definite trigger warning for rape apologism and transphobia).  Prison Culture discusses the actual reality of prison rape, and gives some suggestions for how you can let the Daily Beast know their actions are unacceptable.

Connecticut legislators will vote next week on whether to approve regulations for medical marijuana. While CT has already passed a law that will allow for people with debilitating diseases to use marijuana and for marijuana dispensaries to set up shop, regulations still need to be approved to govern the implementation of the new law.

Federal budget cuts will mean that fewer CT children from low-income families will be able to enroll in preschool this year. There is already a large disparity in early childhood education, as children from higher income families are much more likely to attend preschool. It also means that many working parents will have to find another form of childcare, which isn’t cheap.

An influx of state money will allow UConn to hire more faculty and tackle new construction projects on campus. Almost all of the new faculty will be in the STEM fields, but President Herbst claims that coming changes will benefit the humanities as well. As a former UConn humanities student who often tired of the continual special attention STEM received (I get that STEM is important, it’s just not everything!) I remain skeptical.

CT has passed new laws meant to provide greater protection to victims of sexual assault and domestic violence. One part of the legislation attempts to relieve the financial burden on victims by forcing the offender to provide temporary financial assistance. This addresses the fact that many women are unable to leave an abusive relationship because their abuser controls the finances. However, while the intent is good, I wonder how many women will reject this option out of fear of further angering their abuser.

The CT NAACP is considering a class-action lawsuit against local hospitals after survey results showed that area hospitals employ very low percentages of African Americans as doctors, nurses, and contractors, as well as have few African American members on their boards of directors.

Hilary Clinton will visit CT in October to deliver an address at her alma mater, Yale Law School. I once ate mini-muffins left over from a batch Hilary Clinton had been served, so I basically know her.

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Cool Justice Opinion: Meriden Cop Gets $5,000 to Resign, Alleged Rape Victim Insulted

Cool Justice Opinion: Meriden Cop Gets $5,000 to Resign, Alleged Rape Victim Insulted

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Chelsea Manning and the Treatment of Trans*People

So the Internet has been all aflutter recently due to the announcement that Chelsea Manning, the convicted and sentenced Wikileaks whistleblower, was planning on transition from male to female. For those who had been following the case, this shouldn’t have come as a surprise, as she has mentioned wanting to transition since 2010. A transition in our society is difficult enough without including the fact of being a controversial figure. Due to Manning’s charges, people have very strong feelings about her, and many of these feelings are being expressed as a result of her transition.

Thus the extremely transphobic nature of a lot of mainstream journalism comes to light. I did a quick Google search of “Chelsea Manning” and the results are quite depressing. Take a look for yourself:

Notice the transphobic wording of many of these links

We’re not talking about the Daily Mail or NY Post (both notorious for the salacious nature of their “news”), with the titles of ‘I am Chelsea Manning’: Bradley Manning announces that she is a…’ for the Mail and ‘I am Chelsea Manning. I am female’: Army leaker Bradley Manning… for the Post, which is surprisingly not AS bad as some of the ones for sites that are supposed to be more “reputable journalism.” Both CBS and the Chicago Tribune have the cringeworthy headline, “Bradley Manning: I want to live as a woman named Chelsea,” as though she had said that she wanted to live in an apartment in Chelsea, or wanted to live wearing pajamas, as though she were making a simple “hmm, let’s try out this newfangled fun activity” instead of having finally making a decision regarding the gender dysphoria she’s been struggling with. The LA Times, Today.com, ABC news, had the equally as disturbing “Bradley Manning Wants To Live as a Woman.”

Seriously, people. I understand the necessity of including Manning’s former name in articles as she is such a high-profile person, but there is certainly a better way to frame it than saying, “Bradley Manning Wants To Live as a Woman.”

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10 Rules for Brilliant Women

I was looking through my Facebook feed the other day, and I came across a posting on a friend’s page, “10 Rules for Brilliant Women.”  Ok, so I thought, I know lots of brilliant women… I think I’m pretty brilliant myself… I’m tired of the dating rules, so what can this teach me.  And yeah, I’m into reading inspirational stuff to get me through the day. (a little TMI there)

Well, this did not disappoint and felt I needed to share beyond my Facebook page.

I went to the author’s “about” page and read the following:

“Most brilliant women don’t see their own brilliance and are “playing small” and they know it: not speaking up, doubting themselves, seeing themselves as “not yet ready” to launch the big idea, the organization, to put themselves at the table. The 10 Rules, and the other work I do with women leaders are about learning how to quiet self-doubt, clarify purpose, and become comfortable with taking bold action in the workplace and in the world. That is what I teach, and I love to teach it because I’m still learning it myself.”

This really struck me, because often times, believe it or not, I often doubt myself and feel hesitant to speak up.  Or, if I do, I often get the vibe of, “here she goes again”.

When I read these 10 rules, number 10 struck me the most. I don’t think women pat other women on the back enough, or say good job, or I’d like to learn from you.  It could be me, and where I am in my life at the moment, but I often feel that women feel they are in competition with one another, or become critical of another woman if her style doesn’t jive with the other woman’s leadership style.  I think this lack of support among fellow sisters can also lead women to feel a bit hung up on striking the right balance of being cautious of others’ feelings and assertive in her decisionmaking and presentation.

While I feel like I just fell into my own trap, I would just like to take this blog space to advocate for random acts of sisterhood.  When you come out of a meeting and a female colleague made a good point, let her know.  If you serve on a board, and a female colleague rocked the organizing of an event, let her know.  If your mom made you awesome blueberry pancakes for breakfast, let her know.  If you’re walking down the street, and you see a new mom struggling to keep it all together, let her know she’s amazing.  If you have been working toward a goal and meet it, take some time to do your “hells yeah, I’m pretty fabulous” dance.  It’s a movement that can start with you.

How do you think women can show other women their brilliance?  How do you think women can show other women their support?  Which one of these 10 rules strikes you??

10 RULES FOR BRILLIANT WOMEN
b
y Tara Sophia Mohr

I coach brilliant women, lots of them. Dedicated, talented, brilliant women.

Most of the time, they don’t know their brilliance. They are certain they “aren’t ready” to take on that next bigger role. They are more attuned to the ways they aren’t qualified than to the ways that they are. They are waiting for someone to validate, promote or discover them. Sound familiar?

It’s time to step up, brilliant women. Here are ten principles for owning your brilliance and bringing it to the world:

1–Make a pact. No one else is going to build the life you want for you. No one else will even be able to completely understand it. The most amazing souls will show up to cheer you on along the way, but this is your game. Make a pact to be in it with yourself for the long haul, as your own supportive friend at every step along the way.

2–Imagine it. What does a knock-the-ball-out-of-the-park life look like for you? What is the career that seems so incredible you think it’s almost criminal to have it? What is the dream you don’t allow yourself to even consider because it seems too unrealistic, frivolous, or insane? Start envisioning it. That’s the beginning of having it.

3–Gasp. Start doing things that make you gasp and get the adrenalin flowing. Ask yourself, “What’s the gasp-level action here?” Your fears and a tough inner critic will chatter in your head. That’s normal, and just fine. When you hear that repetitive, irrational, mean inner critic, name it for what it is, and remember, it’s just a fearful liar, trying to protect you from any real or seeming risks. Go for the gasps and learn how false your inner critic’s narrative really is, and how conquerable your fears.

4–Get a thick skin. If you take risks, sometimes you’ll get a standing ovation, and sometimes, people will throw tomatoes. Can you think of any leader or innovator whom you admire who doesn’t have enthusiastic fans and harsh critics? Get used to wins and losses, praise and pans, getting a call back and being ignored. Work on letting go of needing to be liked and needing to be universally known as “a nice person.”

5–Be an arrogant idiot. Of course I know you won’t, because you never could. But please, just be a little more of an arrogant idiot. You know those guys around the office who share their opinions without thinking, who rally everyone around their big, (often unformed) ideas? Be more like them. Even if just a bit. You can afford to move a few inches in that direction.

6–Question the voice that says “I’m not ready yet.” I know, I know. Because you are so brilliant and have such high standards, you see every way that you could be more qualified. You notice every part of your idea that is not perfected yet. While you are waiting to be ready, gathering more experience, sitting on your ideas, our friends referenced in rule five are being anointed industry visionaries, getting raises, and seeing their ideas come to life in the world. They are no more ready than you, and perhaps less. Jump in the sandbox now, and start playing full out. Find out just how ready you are.

7–Don’t wait for your Oscar. Don’t wait to be praised, anointed, or validated. Don’t wait for someone to give you permission to lead. Don’t wait for someone to invite you to share your voice. No one is going to discover you. (Well, actually, they will, but paradoxically, only after you’ve started boldly and consistently stepping into leadership, sharing your voice, and doing things that scare the hell out of you.)

8–Filter advice. Most brilliant women are humble and open to guidance. We want to gather feedback and advice. Fine, but recognize that some people won’t understand what you are up to (often because you are saying something new and ahead of your time). Some people will find you to be not their cup of tea. Some will feel threatened. Some people will want to do with your idea only what is interesting or helpful to them. So interpret feedback carefully. Test advice and evaluate the results, rather than following it wholesale.

9–Recover and restore. If you start doing the things that make you gasp, doing what you don’t quite feel ready to do, and being more of an arrogant idiot, you are going to be stretching out of our comfort zone–a lot. Regularly do things that feel safe, cozy, and restorative. Vent to friends when you need to. Acknowledge the steps you’ve taken. Watch your tank to see how much risk-taking juice you have available to you. When it’s running low, stop, recover and restore.

10–Let other women know they are brilliant. Let them know what kind of brilliance you see, and why it’s so special. Call them into greater leadership and action. Let them know that they are ready. Watch out for that subtle, probably unconscious thought, “because I had to struggle and suffer on my way up…they should have to too.” Watch out for thinking this will “take” too much time — when the truth is it always has huge, often unexpected returns.

Clear a path by walking it, boldly.
—Tara

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August 12-18 Weekly News Round Up

Weekly News Round Up 

A roundup of current news story on the state and national level, with a focus on feminist issues

 Access Health CT, Connecticut’s health care exchange, is holding several “Healthy Chats” in the next few weeks to answer residents’ questions about the healthcare exchange. The first was held in Meriden on Tuesday. If you currently don’t have insurance or are paying too much for your coverage and want to know how you could benefit from the exchange, consider attending one of the upcoming conversations.

A new study by the Kaiser Family Foundation shows that many people will see significant savings in the new health care exchanges enacted by the Affordable Care Act. On average, federal subsidies will reduce the cost of premiums by a third.

Mark Greenberg, a GOP candidate challenging Representative Elizabeth Etsy for CT’s 5th district seat, is apparently unconcerned with running a clean campaign. A recent fundraising letter for Greenberg’s campaign alleges that Congress (including Representative Etsy) has been granted an exemption from the Affordable Care Act. Trashing the Affordable Care Act in an attempt to rile up conservative voters has become a go-to strategy for the GOP, but Greenberg’s accusations are an epic distortion of the bill.  “Spin” is one thing, outright lies are quite another.

Some other developments in CT’s electoral races: Danbury mayor Mark Boughton has launched an exploratory bid for governor, and is describing himself as the Republican candidate who’s more in touch with the middle class.  State Representative Penny Bacchiochi is running for lieutenant governor unattached to a gubernatorial campaign.

Senator Blumenthal has partnered with a Norwich veteran to demand that the Department of Veteran Affairs provide equal benefits to same-sex spouses of veterans. Carmen Cardona, an 18-year veteran of the Navy, is suing the VA after she was denied a monthly increase in her disability compensation because she is married to a woman. The Defense Department announced Wednesday that same-sex spouses of current military members will begin  receiving benefits, making the VA’s refusal to provide same-sex benefits to veterans all the more baffling.

The transfer of prisoners from a federal women’s prison in Danbury has been delayed after a group of senators, including CT Senator Chris Murphy, voiced concerns.

Last week, I talked about NARAL Virginia’s undercover investigation into crisis pregnancy centers. This week, an intern sent undercover gives a heartfelt account of her disturbing experiences.

Ohio lawmakers are seeking to reintroduce the “heartbeat bill”, which would ban abortion after the fetal heartbeat can be detected. This can be as early as six weeks into a pregnancy, before many women are even aware they’re pregnant, meaning that the bill’s passage would effectively be an abortion ban. It goes without saying that the bill is a complete violation of Roe v. Wade.

U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder has called for an end to mandatory minimum sentencing for nonviolent drug offenders, and for more low-risk offenders to be given rehab or community service in lieu of prison time.  Several CT organizations are praising the move. Holder’s announcements mark a much-needed change in direction from the “war on drugs” policies that have devastated communities of color.

In other awesome criminal justice reformation news, a judge has ruled New York City’s controversial “stop and frisk” law to be unconstitutional. While Mayor Bloomberg continues to insist that the law makes NYC safer, saying at a press conference, “I worry for my kids and I worry for your kids”, you have to wonder just whose kids he’s talking about. An astounding majority of the people stopped under the law are young black and Latino men, and I doubt “stop and frisk” is helping their parents sleep more soundly.

North Carolina has passed a voter ID/voter suppression law that reminds us exactly why the Voting Rights Act was so important.

The Dream Defenders leave the capitol after a month long sit-in, and mark the next chapter of their work with a march on Governor Scott’s home.

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