There are two links in this post I urge you to contribute to, one being the fund for the recovery of the Garden District robbery and rape victim, the other for the Metropolitan Center for Women and Children. Read on to see why.
More and more, I’m finding it cannot be avoided, no matter how hard women try. We are still surrounded by people who would put us in what they think is “our place,” a position that tends to be highly restrictive on any and all physical and mental levels.
Tell me I’m crazy. Go on and talk down to me, I dare you.
…the out-and-out confrontational confidence of the totally ignorant is, in my experience, gendered. Men explain things to me, and other women, whether or not they know what they’re talking about. Some men.
Every woman knows what I’m talking about. It’s the presumption that makes it hard, at times, for any woman in any field; that keeps women from speaking up and from being heard when they dare; that crushes young women into silence by indicating, the way harassment on the street does, that this is not their world. It trains us in self-doubt and self-limitation just as it exercises men’s unsupported overconfidence.
I wouldn’t be surprised if part of the trajectory of American politics since 2001 was shaped by, say, the inability to hear Coleen Rowley, the FBI woman who issued those early warnings about al-Qaeda, and it was certainly shaped by a Bush administration to which you couldn’t tell anything, including that Iraq had no links to al-Qaeda and no WMDs, or that the war was not going to be a “cakewalk.” (Even male experts couldn’t penetrate the fortress of their smugness.)…
…Credibility is a basic survival tool. When I was very young and just beginning to get what feminism was about and why it was necessary, I had a boyfriend whose uncle was a nuclear physicist. One Christmas, he was telling–as though it were a light and amusing subject–how a neighbor’s wife in his suburban bomb-making community had come running out of her house naked in the middle of the night screaming that her husband was trying to kill her. How, I asked, did you know that he wasn’t trying to kill her? He explained, patiently, that they were respectable middle-class people. Therefore, her-husband-trying-to-kill-her was simply not a credible explanation for her fleeing the house yelling that her husband was trying to kill her. That she was crazy, on the other hand….
Even getting a restraining order–a fairly new legal tool–requires acquiring the credibility to convince the courts that some guy is a menace and then getting the cops to enforce it. Restraining orders often don’t work anyway. Violence is one way to silence people, to deny their voice and their credibility, to assert your right to control over their right to exist. About three women a day are murdered by spouses or ex-spouses in this country. It’s one of the main causes of death in pregnant women in the U.S. At the heart of the struggle of feminism to give rape, date rape, marital rape, domestic violence, and workplace sexual harassment legal standing as crimes has been the necessity of making women credible and audible.
Events and discussions will occasionally converge that lead me to a boiling point on this subject…
Why it’s disgusting and ignorant of you to imply that a woman caught large Mardi Gras beads in a risque manner, for instance. Yeah, it’s one of the oldest, sexist, dumbest Carnival tropes, but it does get tiring after a while. I caught huge, LSU-emblazoned beads just from being at the start of the Thoth parade route. Next Carnival season, I’m gonna ask the next guy I see with giant beads on what he flashed for them.
The horrific news about the murder of paraplegic Olympic sprinter Oscar Pistorius‘ girlfriend, Reeva Steenkamp, who was an advocate for victims of sexual abuse.
Controversy over the Eve Ensler-organized One Billion Rising Campaign, which I only just heard about today, but I also wonder about its premise…as do many other women around the world.:
I recently listened to a Congolese woman talk in a speak-easy setting of radical grassroots feminists. She was radiantly and beautifully powerful in her unfiltered anger towards the One Billion Rising movement, as she used the words “insulting” and “neo-colonial”. She used the analogy of past crimes against humanity, asking us if we could imagine people turning up at the scenes of atrocities and taking pictures or filming for the purposes of “telling their story to the rest of the world”. Take it one step further and try to imagine a white, middle class, educated, American women turning up on the scene to tell survivors to ‘rise’ above the violence they have seen and experienced by…wait for it…dancing. “Imagine someone doing that to holocaust survivors”, she said.
I had occasion to speak with someone about the recent kidnapping, robbery, beating, and rape of a young woman in the Garden District, and large chunks of the conversation revolved around the same tropes that come up whenever something like this happens to any woman. It all came around to our living in a world where women are taught “not to be raped,” and the suspicion that comes up is generally directed first against the woman who is the victim rather than the perpetrators. When a victim’s first move is to tell her would-be comforters and shelterers “Don’t touch me. I’m evidence,” then we know who the burden of proof is on.
This hasn’t ended with the capture of the criminals and their upcoming trial. Though a large amount of funds has been raised thus far for the victim’s rehabilitation, she will need far more than that – keep contributing here. This friend of a friend of mine will be grateful.
I ask you to also consider that state budget cuts will likely destabilize what structures there are to assist women who have been victims of domestic violence as well – among them New Orleans’ own Metropolitan Center for Women and Children. They accept donations of time or money here.
Know of any other needy organizations in the city or state that help female victims of abuse, rape, or violence? Please contribute names and links in the comments. It’ll be the best Valentine’s Day gift you give. Honest.
For some, it will seem like something that we automatically do — without much thought — every four years. For others, particularly first time voters, there will be a certain pride felt in exercising this right that so many people in the history of America have fought to have, keeping in mind that many people have fought for us to have this right, too.
For me, however, I will think about Amir Hekmati.
Amir Hekmati was born in Arizona. He grew up in Nebraska and Michigan. He served in the US Marines. And now he is languishing away in Ward 209 of Iran’s notorious Evin prison in Tehran. Last January, he was sentenced to death by an Iranian court for being a spy, a claim that his family and the US government denies. They also charged him with Corruption of the Earth and Waging War Against God –charges that are hard to understand, particularly from a Western point-of-view. The death sentence was the first for an American in 33 years, since the Iran’s 1979 Islamic Revolution. Fortunately, in March, his death sentence was overturned and a new trial was ordered. Unfortunately, since then, there has been no retrial. In fact, there has been very little movement at all, leaving Amir in solitary confinement without contact with his family in Michigan. Even letters sent to Amir do not reach him.
His attorney in Iran, one appointed and approved by an Iranian court, has been given little or access to Amir. Diplomats acting on behalf of United States interest have been denied visits. His relatives in Iran have also been turned away.
Today, when I vote, I will also think about history. I will think about the hostages taken 33 years ago, held for 444 days. Amir has been held for 436.
I will think of Amir, who only wanted to visit his aging grandmother. I will think back to my own grandparents, all residing in different countries while I was growing up. I will try to imagine what it must be like, being a citizen of America, and being arrested simply for wanting to see my Nan before she would pass from this world to the next. I will think of other people held as political prisoners, past and present, with their human rights stripped from them for no reason at all.
I don’t know who Amir would vote for today, if given the opportunity. I am certain, however, that Amir would vote. So, today, when I cast my vote, it won’t only be my vote. It will be Amir’s vote, too. It will be a vote I make in hopes of bringing Amir home. Soon.
For more information on Amir, please visit www.freeamir.org.
I’ll admit a couple of things, first off.
Last night, I didn’t watch the second presidential debate. I’ve sadly become cynical about this election. I already have a darned good idea of how I’ll be voting, and it won’t be for the guy talking about…what was it again?…
Women in bondage?
A book of mail-order brides?
Great bookmakers (pun intended and not intended) who happen to be women?
Well, no, I mean this:
ROWLEY: Governor Romney, pay equity for women?
ROMNEY: Thank you. And important topic, and one which I learned a great deal about, particularly as I was serving as governor of my state, because I had the chance to pull together a cabinet and all the applicants seemed to be men.
And I — and I went to my staff, and I said, “How come all the people for these jobs are — are all men.” They said, “Well, these are the people that have the qualifications.” And I said, “Well, gosh, can’t we — can’t we find some — some women that are also qualified?”
ROMNEY: And — and so we — we took a concerted effort to go out and find women who had backgrounds that could be qualified to become members of our cabinet.
I went to a number of women’s groups and said, “Can you help us find folks,” and they brought us whole binders full of women.
I was proud of the fact that after I staffed my Cabinet and my senior staff, that the University of New York in Albany did a survey of all 50 states, and concluded that mine had more women in senior leadership positions than any other state in America.
I want to believe that the man had some good intentions. It would be nice, after the past couple of weeks (hell, couple of months, couple of years, couple of millenia – take your pick…but I digress) that women around the world seem to be having.
I need you to get out of bed and go to school this morning for Malala.
Grumbles and a slight roll over from the bed.
Hala. I need you to get out of bed today, without any whining, without complaining for Malala.
…and then a grumpy, whiny voice comes from under the blankets.
Mom, what are you talking about, what is Malala.
No. Not WHAT is Malala…WHO is Malala.
Malala is a girl, just like you. She lives in Pakistan. And all she wants to do is go to school and learn. She wants to get out of bed every morning and learn. And the other day, she was coming home from school, and horrible men who think she should NOT be allowed to learn shot her. They shot her because she is a girl who dares to think she deserves an education. She dares to think she is just as smart as boys. She dares to think she should get to read every book and do every math worksheet and write every paper and do every report and learn and learn and learn just like every boy in Pakistan. But some of the people there do not believe that girls should learn. Malala stood up to those bullies. She stood up to the mean, horrible men who believe girls should not be allowed to go to school. And she went to school. So you, you will get out of bed, and you will go to school without one whine, without one moan, without one complaint…because you are lucky to live in a country where you CAN.
Slowly my daughter got out of bed. Looking at me with confusion. She got dressed with me watching, and we went into my room where she brushed her teeth and continued to get herself ready for school. So far, she hadn’t said a word. She was still processing everything I had told her. The silence was deafening.
I wasn’t sure I was going to tell her. She is only seven. A seven-year old should be not burdened by the evil in this world. But she is also old enough to understand that she is extremely fortunate to be able to get an education in a world that still does not treat its females with the respect and reverence it treats its males.
Would that this were confined only to Pakistan. It’d be easier to dismiss it as something belonging to another country, or another religion. Another religion…ohhh, I wish I had that smokescreen. While the Obama-Romney debate was finishing up, however, I got this news from a member of the Jewish clergy:
On the eve of the Jewish New Month of Cheshvan, 16.19.12, at 11:00 PM Anat Hoffman, Chair of Women of the Wall, was arrested while leading a prayer along with members of Hadassah, some of whom have travelled to Jerusalem from all over the world to celebrate Hadassah’s centennial convention. Over 250 women joined Women of the Wall for a late night prayer which started off beautifully, until Hoffman was detained during the Shema prayer. Hoffman was held in police custody for over 12 hours, much of the time in handcuffs and has sustained bruises from violent and aggressive treatment while detained.
This morning, 17.10.12, at 7 AM, while Hoffman was still detained, Women of the Wall gathered for the monthly new month prayer service. Though the services went smoothly and quietly with no disturbance, police arrested Lesley Sachs, Director of Women of the Wall and board member Rachel Cohen Yeshurun, in the middle of prayer. The two women were detained and questioned for several hours. Upon release, the women were asked to admit to the crime of disturbing the public order, which they refused.
In court proceedings today, following her detainment, Anat Hoffman was accused of disturbing the public peace for singing out loud at the Western Wall. She was finally released and issued a restraining order from the Western Wall for 30 days.
The leadership of Women of the Wall remain committed to their struggle to gain the right of all women to pray at the Kotel, each according to her own custom, with Torah, Tallit and voices raised in song. Violence, intimidation and threat will not deter the group of women from joining together and praying together to celebrate every new Jewish month at the Western Wall.
Rosh Hodesh, the celebration of the new month, is sacred to Jewish women. So is their right to pray, to take on the obligations of prayer (tallit, kippot, tefillin) so long reserved only for men, to say the blessings that were meant to be said only by men, to gather and read Judaism’s most sacred text at Judaism’s most sacred site. Their only crime at the Kotel? Doing those things as women.
And then we go right back to Romney.
Sure, I laughed over “binders full of women.” So did most of the internet. So did Tumblr. Hell, I may have helped create the Sacred Krewe of Binder Femmes as a marching bunch via Twitter. Look for lots of 36-to-48-to-50+ inch bindered broads come Halloween in New Orleans.
My question once all our giggles die down…
When do we do something other than make jokes about these acts and these lies?
I know where I can keep on keeping on on all of this. In the voting booth next month.
It’s late and I’m tired and about to go to bed but first I’m posting this photo and a link to a piece on Sociological Images, Women’s Media Visibility in Egypt’s Protests.
Have you, like me, wondered why we aren’t seeing women in the recent protests in Egypt? Find out.
Here’s another excellent piece on Women’s Voices For Change.
Art for Art’s Sake is rolling this week-end and one of NOLAFemmes favorite sisters is participating in a photo show on Magazine Street. New Orleanian Laura Bergerol is a world-renown professional photographer who contributed to our Katrina Photo Project this year with several of her beautiful and haunting photos of homes in the city. Laura and Boise based photographer Stacy Ericson created Images Without Borders in the wake of the Haitian earthquake in an effort to supply humanitarian aid through their talent as photographers. They enlisted other photographers to join the cause and now you can view and purchase their stunning photographs this week-end at a showing at The Shop of the Two Sisters, 1800 Magazine Street during Art for Arts Sake. All proceeds with be donated to Doctors Without Borders, less the cost of printing, and are limited edition prints that will be retired after purchase.
Laura was kind enough to give NOLAFemmes access to the photographs in the show so we could share a few of them with our readers. So, if you’re out and about for this event Saturday evening, be sure to stop by The Shop of the Two Sisters to catch Laura’s show between the hours of 6 and 9 p.m. Here is a listing of participating Magazine Street merchants.
I have a habit of watching CNN on the television, while having BBC or Al-Jazeera English running on my computer through Live Station while I read newspapers online, check out my Google alerts and have my morning coffee. This morning when I turned CNN on,extended reporting aired about a link between the release of the Lockerbie bomber, Abdelbaset Ali al-Megrahi, and deals made in regards to BP. Annoyed, I turned to MSNBC and what was being discussed on The Morning Joe? A connection between BP and the release of al- Megrahi. Fox News? You guessed it, the possible connection between BP and al-Megrahi release.
What’s all the noise about?
Politicians in the United States are now calling for an investigation into a possible connection that exchanged al-Megrahi release for big oil contracts in Libya for BP.
My question is why, after eighty-some days of obscene negligence, dishonesty that cannot be described any other way than profane, irresponsibility and fleecing of Louisiana’s working class, is this now becoming an issue being reported on the mainstream American media and receiving attention by those powers that be in the US when this information has been available for some time? Like a few years.
In 2007, the rumblings of a BP-influenced deal with Libya began making rumblings shortly after images of Tony Blair and Muammar al-Gaddafi shaking hands (see above photo) appeared in the media. Shortly after this photo-op, it was announced on May 29, 2007 that BP would be going into Libya after a 33 year absence. This was a 900 million dollar deal that gave BP rights to oil exploration and prospecting. United States publications like the New York Times also briefly covered this story. (As well as endless British mainstream publications such as The Telegraph, The Times, The Guardian and The Independent)Is one to believe that the US was just made aware of the information connecting BP with the Lockerbie trade? Heck no! The Washington Post published this article on August 31, 2009 on the connection. MSNBC published this report on August 29, 2009. There are many others.
So, why is it now that US politicians are calling for an investigation into the connection between these two entities? Was it easier to look the other way when Big Oil was filling politicians pockets without consequence or possibility of guilt by association? Is it because we still live in a society fueled by Bush Administration fear of the elusive boogeyman – the terrorist and for a company to have made a trade for a terrorist is just not acceptable? Is it because now it is trendy to speak ill of BP? Or is it because it is a slow news week, with stalled progress on domestic or foreign policy, not to mention the clusterfuck between BP and the Feds in dealing with the oil spill and the mainstream media clan are puppets and report only what each other are reporting, without doing any sort of research or looking for ledes in important stories such as the oil spill? Or perhaps it is because finally we have caught another country red-handed and just as guilty as the US for allowing oil to influence our domestic and foreign policies?
Whatever the reason, this isn’t a new development, folks. This isn’t a new discovered secret deal uncovered by intelligence agencies or leaked documents. This has been there, right under most of our noses, hidden on the back pages of newspapers for at least three years. Don’t fall for the hype. Demand more.
This is just another example of our suffering and tragedy in the Gulf being hijacked by politics to help build someone’s career.
Watching the tragedy unfold this past week brought back vivid memories of August 2005. Its terrible especially since Haiti, despite being one of the poorest countries in the west, was experiencing a renaissance of late. It hurts to the soul to see the human suffering and feel the helplessness of the situation.
The very least one can do is donate to the relief effort. I remember the Red Cross presence in New Orleans for months after the disaster – donating funds to those in need, help with medical needs and blood drives and the many food trucks passing out meals around town. If you feel compelled to get involved, consider donating to the American Red Cross.
Red Cross picture slideshow