On the heels of an Australian decision that a couple were – in defiance of the facts – not guilty of breaking anti-abortion laws (because the laws are outdated and could be easily misinterpreted), Amanda Marcotte asks tough questions about the meaning of anti-choice legislation and its effect on women who become pregnant without being ready for motherhood: "What would happen to those women? Will anti-choicers, like cowardly Australian politicians, feel like it’s just fine for abortion to be going on as long at it’s officially condemned by the government and there’s a satisfying stream of women being sent to the emergency room because they inexpertly tried to self-abort? Or will they, like the cops in the Leach case, decide that it’s time to start sending women to jail for having the temerity to act as if they know their own situation in terms of readiness to be a mother better than strangers?" All good, hard, important questions. How will you answer them?
Although lovely, the Berkshire Mountains in Western MA may not be the sunniest part of America – but that doesn’t mean that women shouldn’t have just as much opportunity to feel the sun on their skin as men do. Katherine Gundelfinger of Pittsfield, MA has succeeded in getting a question on the ballot in her county, asking for support for legislation – not yet introduced – that will change the laws around nudity such that they are equally strict (or loose) for men and women. Pittsfield Mayor James Ruberto doesn’t think this is particularly important, saying “I just don’t think that the issue is worthy of discussion.’’ Of course, he’s allowed to sunbathe topless free of consequence – and there are plenty of people who don’t have that right, or who support the idea the everybody should, who think it’s definitely worth of discussion.
Lest you think that rape culture is confined to simply excellent institutions of higher education, Salon reports that Yale students pledging the Delta Kappa Epsilon fraternity were marched by women’s dorms chanting “no means yes, yes means anal.” Salon’s Tracy Clark-Flory writes:
Now, DKE President Jordan Forney has been forced to apologize for this blatant sexual intimidation by calling it “a serious lapse in judgment by the fraternity and in very poor taste.” But this sort of hateful crap isn’t a “lapse in judgment.” It doesn’t innocently happen that you’re guiding male pledges by young women’s dorms in the dark of night chanting about anal rape. It isn’t a forehead-slapping slip-up, it’s a sign that you need major reprogramming as a human being.
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A seriously misguided Indonesian legislator, Bambang Bayu Suseno, has proposed that access to public education be restricted only to girls who’re virgins. I wish I were exaggerating, but I'm not. According to a report by Jon Afrizal, Suseno asked, "Why are girls who lose their virginity allowed to go to public school?" Clearly, Mr. Suseno is suffering from a poor education in the matters of basic human rights, which guarantees every human being the right to access public education whether they are a virgin or not.
His rationale? "Parents are obviously afraid of their daughters being deflowered before the time comes, so [girls] can undergo the virginity test and automatically protect their dignity." Um. What about boys? And, human rights violations aside, exactly how virginity will be determined is unsurprisingly undefined. This is yet another example of the harm caused by sexist notions of purity.
The influential TED conference recently announced a one-off event called TEDWomen after mounting criticism that the TED stage is overwhelmingly male-dominated. CV Harquail says only 17% of TED speakers are women, and calls the TEDWomen conference a display of "simplistic, outdated, and unenlightened thinking." With a separate conference for women, she says TED "demonstrates the very discrimination it is supposed to address."
Indeed, separatism can easily be viewed as segregation. According to Harquail, "Once upon a time, it made sense to create separate conferences for women. Women thinkers and activists were so marginal, so subordinated, and so far from the public platform that separate conferences were virtually the only way to create space for women to present, discuss and promote their ideas." But for TED, she says it's inappropriate.
The root issue of gender inequality of TED speakers remains, but women-only spaces can still be valuable. Can TED have the best of both worlds?
A bill amending NY State Criminal Procedure Law could let victims of sex trafficking clear their prostitution convictions. If signed into law by Gov. Paterson, the bill would be the first of its kind in the US. Although she admits it's a huge victory, Cara says, "I find the need for such legislation in the first place to be very sad. […T]he thought of women being tried in a court of law and convicted for the 'crime' of having been repeatedly raped, since that’s what non-consensual sex work is…an utterly appalling system." That's why I call it the legal system, not the justice system.
Advocates from the Sex Workers Project helped draft the bill. "[H]elping to write a piece of important and passed legislation is a major success, and one that deserves to be celebrated and applauded," Cara says. But "the Feminist Majority Foundation didn’t seem to think so." Cara outlines how a major FMF publication, Ms. Magazine, "didn’t see fit as to so much mention the Sex Workers Project’s name."
Once again, Charlie Glickman offers a well-thought out summation surrounding the current debates over pornography issues, sexuality and the Internet. This time he speaks to the recent arguments between proporn and antiporn contingents, and between different factions of proporn folks. He points out that not all people nor all porn were in fact created equal, and it's true that some porn sometimes has a negative affect on some people—and some peoples' experiences with porn have been exclusively negative and even harmful. Glickman reminds us, however, that that being the case doesn't mean that all porn is always bad for all people, and urges people on both sides to consider that this might be one of those "both/and" issues. He also reminds us, once again, that neither hurling vicious and untrue accusations, fighting amongst yourselves, or attempting to engage with out room in your head for new ideas are helping anything either way. Right. Got it. Thanks!
Citing numerous studies, developmental psychology post-grad Jason G. Goldman writes, "in general both males and females report overall positive effects of pornography UNLESS they are not sexually fulfilled […] in which case they report negative effects." His research was sparked by claims to the contrary made by religiously-backed Stop Porn Culture, whose upcoming conference features Women's Studies Professor and character assassin Donna M. Hughes.
Goldman notes it's "impossible to infer causality" from current literature but "this data suggests very strongly that pornography is not a direct cause of aggression against women; rather, pornography moderates the relationship between sexual promiscuity/hostile masculinity and sexual aggression." According to him, "people who are meeting…to denounce pornography might redirect their efforts at improving the quality of sex education in our schools."