Women, Action, and the Media (WAM!) is organizing its first-ever social media initiative today around content promoting gender-based hate on Facebook, targeting companies like Dove, American Express, and Audible.com. Read the Open Letter to Facebook and visit the WAM website for more information. Judging from the responses from advertisers, the campaign is already a huge success.
Cross-posted from UN Women
To run as a political candidate in Iraq demands courage and determination – even more so for a woman. Fourteen candidates, including one woman, were murdered in the run-up to local elections held in April – the first elections to be run by the Iraqis themselves without any international help since 2003.
Maryam Abdulla, 31, was recently elected to the regional council in Kut, southern Iraq. She is proud of her success and pleased that training from UN Women helped her achieve more votes than predicted.
Women candidates and their election trainer following a recent training in Kut. Pictured from left to right: Sanaa Isaa, candidate from the Iraq of Wealth and Giving coalition; Radhiea Ali Salim, candidate of the Gathering of Loyal Hands party; Sanaa Al-Taai, trainer; and Sajida Nezer, Al-Ahraar coalition. Sajida Nezer won her seat with a total of 1,495 votes. Photo courtesy of the Iraq Foundation
“The training provided by UN Women to us as women candidates was a good and positive step to broaden the women’s culture. We as women need to work more, especially in the south of Iraq where we have to break through the tribal layer. We need more training to be able to change people’s attitudes,” said Maryam, sounding sprightly and positive despite the obstacles she faced.
Maryam is one of approximately 300 women candidates from five governorates who were trained by the Iraq Foundation and their local partners in the run-up to the local elections in Iraq on 20 April. Supported by UN Women, the three- to five-day sessions covered issues like dealing with the press, how to put together a campaign, presentation techniques and self-management. All political parties were asked to nominate their women candidates for training, but not all did.
“Today women face more challenges. I’m always asked by other women how did I break through the tribal layer, my answer to them is it was possible through dialogue and improving myself to convince them that I understand women issues and I can be a leader,” said Maryam.
According to the UN’s Women in Iraq factsheet, women “represent one of the most vulnerable segments of the population and are generally more exposed to poverty and food insecurity as a result of lower overall income levels.”
Despite the large peak in violence in the run up to the elections, election day itself passed off without incident; approximately 50 per cent of the population turned out to vote, of which 40 per cent were women.
Some electoral gains
A voter searches for her polling station location during Iraq’s last parliamentary elections, on 7 March, 2010. Photo credit: UN Photo/Rick Bajornas
The initial results for women in Iraq are mixed. There will be two fewer women on the Wasit regional council than in 2009 and there will be fewer women in Baghdad too. However, other councils have seen an increase in women’s representation.
Zahra Al-Bajari was elected for a second time as a council member in Basra, southeastern Iraq. Nine women won seats out of 35, which is an increase in the number of women elected since the last elections.
“I recently observed a phenomenon where in some communities they only wanted to cast their votes to women because they believe that women take their work seriously and are usually characterized by integrity and want to prove their presence more through hard work,” said Zahra. “So they decided to cast their votes to women because according to their beliefs men don’t work but for their own interest.”
But she added that the elections in Iraq and in Basra in particular are challenging for women, especially since tribes are headed by men that represent clans, and a clan can’t be represented by a woman.
In Iraq, women are guaranteed a minimum of 25 per cent of seats in Parliament due to a quota law introduced in 2005. While the law does not apply at the local level, in the run-up to the recent regional elections, the Iraqi High Electoral Commission passed a decree ensuring that at least 25 per cent of the representatives on every regional council would be women. In 2009, approximately 25 per cent of seats in local councils were occupied by women. Initial results from the recent elections suggest there will be a slight increase to 26 per cent.
As recently as 2012, according to the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU), Arab States had the lowest average proportion of women in Parliament in any region of the world, with only 10.7 per cent of women in lower and upper houses combined. But representation of women is slowly improving, as recent election results in Algeria and Tunisia have helped change what was once a dismal picture. As of April 2013, female parliamentary representation in Arab States had reached 13.8 per cent, still the lowest in the world, but improving.
For the time being, the women elected to the regional councils in Iraq are rejoicing in their victories and looking forward to their new responsibilities.
“Political participation is an area where women can make a profound impact on decision-making in Iraq,” said Frances Guy, UN Women Representative in Iraq. “The power of 81 women MPs in Parliament is significant if they could find better ways of working together on key issues of concern to women. UN Women will continue to work with those recently elected and those who have been in power for longer to improve the role of women in politics in Iraq.”
She said UN Women Iraq will seek to mentor and coach all successful women candidates and fund further training through the Iraq Foundation for women running for seats in the Kurdish regional parliamentary elections to be held in September.
The New York Times has a short documentary up exploring the construction of the “crack baby” epidemic – an epidemic that was largely built on racist media hype and flimsy science.
This week’s Retro Report video on “crack babies” (infants born to addicted mothers) lays out how limited scientific studies in the 1980s led to predictions that a generation of children would be damaged for life. Those predictions turned out to be wrong. This supposed epidemic — one television reporter talks of a 500 percent increase in damaged babies — was kicked off by a study of just 23 infants that the lead researcher now says was blown out of proportion. And the shocking symptoms — like tremors and low birth weight — are not particular to cocaine-exposed babies, pediatric researchers say; they can be seen in many premature newborns.
What was just a very preliminary observational study turned into a widespread social panic about “crack babies,” children who would supposedly suffer extreme physical and cognitive deficiencies as a direct result of the use of crack cocaine. Ultimately, this was found not to be the case at all – rather, other issues correlated with drug use (such as lack of access to healthy foods, for example) were the main culprit in the health complications these babies faced. But the story fed into the racialized narrative of the war on drugs, and because crack use was most prevalent in urban communities of color, the media, legislators, and the general public quickly demonized low-income mothers of color struggling with substance abuse. Legislators enacted some of the harshest penalties for low-level drug offenses for crack, and to this day there is a huge disparity between sentencing for crack vs. powder cocaine – a drug much more prevalent with wealthy white users. Though the Fair Sentencing Act reduced this disparity and eliminated the five-year mandatory minimum sentence for possession of crack in 2010, the fact that there is a disparity at all is indicative of the ways that class and race play out in the drug sentencing and the criminal justice system.
Today, the legacy of these policies remains. Recent studies reveal the ways that these narratives, along with anti-choice policies such as fetal personhood initiatives, have resulted in widespread arrests and forced interventions among pregnant women – disproportionately low-income women, women in the South, and black women. Drug use still largely remains in the public imagination as an issue to be treated with punishment rather than health care, and harm reduction policies are controversial despite clear clinical evidence of their success as public health initiatives.
Go take a look at the ten-minute documentary, and stay updated on the work of organizations like National Advocates for Pregnant Women, who are working on the issues faced by drug-addicted pregnant women.
By Taja Lindley
Originally posted on the Strong Families blog
Know: these are lies.
In the U.S. we have been conditioned to work to survive, to get by, to pay bills, to stay afloat, living a day-to-day and paycheck-to-paycheck existence. We have been conditioned to work most of our lives so we can enjoy pleasurable activities in our free time, pre-determined holidays, limited vacation and, if we’re lucky, during retirement. The U.S. “reduces work to a travesty of necessities, a duty by which we earn bread or oblivion for ourselves and those we love.”
Listen closely: when policymakers, public figures and the media talk about the current status of the economy and high unemployment, the discussion revolves around jobs. As it should: people are looking for work. But when the narrative around jobs is unconcerned with how work connects to the passion, purpose, ambitions and talents of workers, our economy does a disservice to our humanity and our creativity. The conversation reinforces a narrative that implies that any job will do. What about purpose? What about passion? Yes: we’ve got to feed our families, we’ve got to keep roofs over our heads, and there are bills to be paid. Survival is a primary need.
But we are so much more than our basic needs. In a world of haves and have nots, with widening disparities in wealth and income, the travesty of our global economy makes pleasurable work challenging to access. An economy organized in this way serves only the elite and powerful, whereby the majority of workers are employed and/or exploited to fill the vision and pockets of those who are already in power.
In short: systemic inequality makes pleasurable work more accessible for some than others.
As a policy and research fellow at a grassroots economic justice organization, I witnessed first-hand how this played out for long-term unemployed people on public assistance in New York. The sentiment that “any job will do” pushed many people on welfare into low-wage jobs with few (if any) benefits, and with little to no room for upward mobility. Case-workers were generally uninterested in helping people find the professional development and training programs that could help them move into the careers of their choice, opting instead to fulfill short-term goals of job-placement. Many case-workers were informed by stereotypes of the “undeserving poor,” their job responsibilities informed by public policies concerned with getting people off public assistance, not into satisfying work.
In her essay “The Uses of the Erotic,” Audre Lorde explains that the erotic is neither frivolous nor a luxury. She defines the erotic as:
a measure between the beginnings of our sense of self and the chaos of our strongest feelings… an internal sense of satisfaction to which, once we have experienced it, we know we can aspire. For having experienced the fullness of this depth of feeling and recognizing it’s power, in honor and in self-respect we can require no less of ourselves.
Erotic autonomy, as suggested by Audre Lorde in her essay, is to live a fully embodied life where we are living our purpose and passions, and creating from our unique talents with an undeniable feeling of satisfaction. The erotic is the lens we use to scrutinize our choices so that we make decisions that support the fullest expressions of who we are.
So when we talk about the erotic as it applies to our work, it is about (re)claiming power over our lives and how we operate in this economy. It is a radical notion that values the talents, creativity and contributions of everyone, even those who have been marginalized and deemed unworthy of pleasurable work. Work that satisfies our internal desires and financial needs.
Wealth and purpose-driven hustles are not mutually exclusive. Imagine how different our world would be if people did work they were excited about, and not what they thought they had to do to get by. How might our economy change? What would be the meaning of work? How might there be more support for innovation and entrepreneurship, even amongst historically and currently marginalized and exploited communities?
Check out Flip The News, a tumblr that flips the gender or race of the subjects in news articles. The site explains, “The point here is to shine some light on the way news organizations write about people and strive for more balanced, respectful narratives.” In one of the first posts, the author gender-flips this Atlantic article on childless women who search for surrogate children to mother. As you might imagine, it’s pretty impossible to imagine the gender-fliped one actually running.
Alan, 46, of New York City found an outlet for his unconscious desire to nurture closer to home. Like many men his age, he had a moment when he realized that kids were absent from his otherwise full life.
“I never made having kids a priority,” he says, reminiscing on past relationships and would-be fathers to a child that never was. “At 39 I thought—maybe I should have kids. I thought about having them with a gay friend, or adopting or using an egg donor, but I wasn’t seriously considering it. I wished a relationship had happened that would have made it possible. If I had met the gal I’m with now 10 years ago we would have had kids,” he says.
Instead, Alan has had a strong, lifelong relationship with his nephews—now ages 22 and 25. “I saw my nephews through all their milestones.” When Alan’s nephews both chose to attend his alma mater, he was very gratified. “It was like the way a kid might follow in their parents’ footsteps—but they wanted to follow my path,” he says. “They are like surrogate children to me.”
Eighteen-year-old Kaitlyn Hunt was expelled from school and is being charged with a felony for having a lesbian relationship with a fellow student.
Another horrible rape documented on social media. (Trigger warning)
Great piece by Tamara Winfrey Harris on Beyonce and feminism.
The Virginia GOP nominee for AG previously introduced a bill that would have required women who miscarry to report it to the police within 24 hours or risk going to jail.
The quick and dirty breakdown of one of the most significant laws affecting our generation in 90 seconds.
Update: Transcript after the jump thanks to commenter Katie.
“The healthcare law is here to stay. We are nurses and we care for our patients. So we are here to give you all the facts. The law offers more affordable healthcare, for hard-working, middle-class families and protects every American from the worst insurance company abuses. Now young adults can stay on their parents’ plans until age 26. Now insurance companies are required to provide preventative care, like mammograms and cancer screenings, at no additional cost. Now many seniors are getting big discounts on prescriptions. Insurance companies can no longer deny children care or charge more for pre-existing conditions and in 2014 the same will be true for all adults. Small businesses with up to 50 employees are receiving tax credits for providing healthcare. Also, by 2014, middle-class families and individuals will be eligible for tax credits to buy insurance and there will be an onlie marketplace where insurance companies have to compete so you can do one-stop shopping for the plan that’s best for you. Insurance companies can no longer put an annual or life-time dollar limit on your health coverage. Women cannot be charged more for men for the same plan. They can’t cancel your coverage if you or a family member becomes sick. Insurance companies are now required to spend at least 80% of their premiums on actual healthcare, not CEO bonuses. The law will reduce our nation’s budget deficit. No more excuses. No more delays. Politicians need to be standing up for middle-class Americans so we have basic healthcare security, not standing in our way. To learn more and contact your elected officials, go to HealthLawBenefits.org.”