Tracy Barker, former Halliburton/KBR Employee
by Cheryl Lindsey Seelhoff, Women’s Space, May 4, 2008
Last January I blogged about Jamie Leigh Jones, a Halliburton/KBR employee in Iraq who was brutally gang-raped by co-workers after having had her drink surreptitiously drugged. She was so badly injured in the attack, she required surgery. She was seen by a doctor and a rape kit documented the rapes (though part of the rape kit mysteriously disappeared while in the “care” of Halliburton employees). After the rapes, Jones was imprisoned in a container for several days, deprived of basic necessities of life and was guarded by Halliburton/KBR employees to prevent her escape. She managed to gain access to a cell phone, called her father in Texas, and her father contacted a Republican legislator, Ted Poe, who secured Jones’ release and return to the U.S. Jones was in Iraq for only four days. Upon her return she retained attorneys, but Halliburton/KBR maintains, and Courts have so far agreed, that Jones must submit her claims to binding arbitration rather than filing a civil lawsuit because she signed a “binding arbitration clause” hidden in an 18-page employment contract she signed before she left for Iraq. Unlike civil and criminal court proceedings, arbitrations are private and confidential, not disclosed to the public.
Jones testified about the rapes before a Congressional investigatory committee (Youtube video of her testimony can be viewed at the link above to my January post.) The Department of Justice was subpoenaed to testify before the committee as well but declined to appear. As things stand, women employees of defense contractors in foreign countries may be, and are being, sexually harassed, sexually assaulted, battered and raped with impunity and their only recourse is private arbitration with their employers once they manage to escape what often amounts to captivity and are back in the U.S.
After I blogged about Jamie Leigh Jones, I began receiving e-mails and comments from relatives of another woman, Tracy Barker, who had also been employed by Halliburton/KBR, and who had also been raped in Iraq. Barker’s story seemed complicated and the e-mails and comments I received were sometimes hard to follow. I wasn’t sure what to make of what I was reading and knew I needed to do some investigation. I spent time today, finally — having yesterday received another comment to my blog on behalf of Tracy Barker – investigating the claims of those who have loved and supported her. I pulled up U.S. District Court dockets from the Southern District of Texas and the Eastern District of Virginia, read all of the relevant and substantive pleadings and viewed all of the exhibits attached to the pleadings. I read the comparatively few articles I could find online about Barker, a New York Times article, (also posted on Truthout), an article on People’s Speak Radio, a post written by another American woman blogger raped in Iraq, and the few comments to the posts, which I believe included comments by counsel retained by Halliburton. Barker’s story resonated and rang true to me, and I am convinced that she and her family members are reporting events which deserve as much public attention as can be gathered on her behalf. Barker, her husband and her family strike me as decent, honest and hardworking citizens who have repeatedly been shocked and stunned, as they should be, by the treatment Barker has received from her employer, government officials, attorneys, arbitrators, courts, corporate executives, HR personnel and news media they believed they could trust.
For the most part Barker has been silenced, prevented from telling her story. She was summoned to the same Congressional hearing to which Jamie Leigh Jones was summoned but was not permitted to testify. She had only two hours’ notice that she needed to board a flight to attend the hearing. She had just given birth to twins who were born prematurely and were in intensive care. Nevertheless, she traveled to Washington D.C. at her own expense of $1,300. In the Youtube video below, a somber Barker is visible seated behind the podium where Jamie Leigh Jones is speaking. Having traveled all that way immediately post-partum, she never got the chance to speak for herself before the assembled Congressional committee.
Tracy Barker is the daughter of a Vietnam veteran and the wife of a career Army soldier, Galen Barker, who has served on the Golden Knights Parachute Team for 24 years. She is the mother of five children.
Sexually Harassed and Threatened by Supervisors in Baghdad
Barker began working for Halliburton in 2004 in the “Green Zone” in Baghdad.
Shortly after her arrival in Baghdad, her supervisors, Crystal Daniel and Barron Marcee, began to sexually harass and threaten her. She observed that they were also threatening and sexually harassing Iraqi women who would at times cry and approach her for help. At one point one of these supervisors choked an Iraqi woman, “Sunni”, in a conference room as though attempting to kill her. Shocked and outraged, Barker reported these events through what she believed was a confidential program allowing employees to make complaints through Halliburton employees in Houston. But Barker’s complaints were not kept confidential; instead they were forwarded on to her supervisors, who then retaliated by stepping up the threats and sexual harassment. When she resisted, just as with Jones, Barker was imprisoned in a container where supervisors attempted to force her to sign a false statement that she was guilty of bad conduct and where she was denied any contact with the outside world, including her husband. She was not allowed to even use the bathroom except under the surveillance of Halliburton/KBR employees.
Pornography Papering Basra Office Walls
Barker was then transferred to Basra. When she arrived, a number of men were present and waiting for her. She was told by a manager the men were there to see how “good looking” she was. She shared a working space with several men. The walls and halls throughout were completely covered with pornography, including photographs of male coworkers visiting brothels in Thailand, as they frequently did, and photographs of animals copulating. Copies of these images on the wall above her desk are attached as exhibits to documents in the lawsuit she filed in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas, and I saw them. One of them depicted a supervisor in bed with the caption, “We try to get you into bed.”
“What Happens In Basra, Stays in Basra”
There was no HR department in Basra, so Barker complained about her supervisor, Sherman Richardson, to someone she understood to be an HR employee working for the State Department, Charles Hermanen. Hermanen said the woman Barker was replacing had complained of the same problems and had left because of them, and that other employees had complained about Richardson as well, but that “Sherman will be Sherman.” This was Barker’s introduction to the oppressions and abuses she would experience in Basra, where the motto, it was said, was “What happens in Basra, stays in Basra.”
At one point private meetings were held by the State Department in conjunction with Halliburton where women– soldiers, contractors and State Department employees — were told they were not safe in Basra because of the men’s behavior. They were warned NEVER to go anywhere alone. They were told of break-ins into women’s quarters, theft of undergarments, and peeping Toms. They were also told if they reported these meetings, they would lose their jobs.
Sexual Harassment by Basra Camp Manager Craig Grabein
As time passed, Basra Camp Manager Craig Grabein, a married man in his 40s from Texas, began sexually harassing Barker, knocking on her door at all hours of the day and night, telling her he would protect her from all of the other predators there if she would have sex with him.
Scared, Barker determined to get to Kuwait to report these events to the Halliburton/KBR HR office there. Every time she was scheduled to go, however, her name would be removed from the manifest at the last moment, so she couldn’t leave. When she was finally able to leave, she was followed, threatened, then left alone in a staging area in Iraq in the middle of a war zone. She hitched a ride to Kuwait on a food truck driven by a British soldier and rode 19 hours through a war zone, aghast as she passed starving children and insurgents all along the way. She arrived in Kuwait only to be told by Halliburton employees to return to Basra and to say nothing.
She returned to Basra and found that all of her belongings had been removed from her room.
She began talking daily by phone with a woman employee of Halliburton/KBR, but she was not allowed to travel.
Attempted Rape by U.S. Embassy Official Ali Mokhtare
Barker’s job in Basra was to see to it that equipment was functioning properly at the Basra camp or to see to it that it was replaced. One evening Ali Mokhtare (below), Deputy Regional Coordinator for the U.S. Regional Embassy Office in Basra, Iraq, the second highest ranking representative of the United States Government there, told Barker he was having trouble with his air conditioner.
Barker went to his quarters to investigate, but when she arrived, Mokhtare didn’t mention his air conditioner. Instead, he asked whether she would like to join him in having a Jack Daniels and Coke. Barker tasted the drink and found it very strong. Barker spoke with Mokhtare about other job opportunities for herself and her husband. But then, Mokhtare grabbed Barker’s blouse, told her he had been trying to see what was under her blouse all day, and attempted to kiss her. She fought him, and he wouldn’t allow her to leave his room. Instead he told her stories about “chop chop square” in Saudi Arabia where people lost their limbs and tongues and told her about a Filipino woman he heard of who had been raped repeatedly by a Saudi prince. The woman had killed herself when no one believed her story.
Barker was able finally to flee in terror with Mokhtare in pursuit, yelling at her in Farsi. A woman who saw what was happening and who spoke Farsi told Barker Mokhtare was threatening her.
Paraded Before Male Employees of Halliburton
Barker reported the attempted rape to Halliburton/KBR and State Department security and was again locked up for three days in a container and allowed no contact with anyone. When she snuck out and used a pay phone to call her husband, who was trying to contact someone he knew from Black Water who might be able to rescue her, she was caught and forced to stay in the container for another day. She spent her days in the locked container crying, pleading for help, and hiding under a bed holding a knife.
After she had been in the container three days camp supervisors forced her to put on the clothes she had been wearing when Mokhtare attacked her — a shirt, vest and trousers — and to parade through a common area filled with men so they could determine whether the men found her clothing sexually provocative.
Barker was consistently refused medical care and was not allowed to leave Basra.
Meanwhile, Mokhtare had been questioned by security personnel about the incident. This is what he said about the incident, taken directly from a Diplomatic Security Service Memorandum dated June 25, 2005, and filed as an exhibit in Barker’s Southern District of Texas lawsuit:
Subject [Mokhtare] stated that he and Barker had some initial job related discussions and the remainder of their conversation was professional. Subject said that Barker wore a buttoned vest with a white undershirt underneath. He claimed the vest and the shirt had plunging necklines. Subject further stated that Barker continually pulled at her vest and shirt as if to expose her breasts. Subject admitted that he pulled her vest and shirt opened (sic) and said to Barquer (sic) ”What do you have behind there?” [Investigator] asked subject if he thought Barker was interested in an advance or some type of romantic or sexual contact. Subject repolied in the negative. Upon further questioning… Subject said, “I admit it was an inappropriate move.” He also said, “I made a mistake and it was stupid.”
… Subject claimed he conveyed several stories about briefings he received of Saudi misconduct and observations of ”chop/chop square” where punishments such as cutting out tongues and chopping off limbs took place. Subject further stated that he told Barker a story abot a Saudi Prince who allegedly raped a Philipino woman who later committed suicide because no one believed her story….
[Investigator] asked what happened upon Barker’s departure. Subject said that as Barker got up to leave he stood and they hugged at which point he kissed her cheek. Subject further stated that Barker turned her hed towards his mouth giving him the impression that she wanted to be kissed. Subject admitted that Barker put her hand over her mouth and said no. Subject said he released the hug at that point and offered to walk her back to her accommodation trailer.
In other words, Mokhtare admitted he had attacked Barker and blamed her for his attacks. It is interesting– when Barker recounted the events of that night, she remembered touching the pendant on a necklace given to her by her husband that she wore all of the time, the kind of thing we do as women when we are scared and are attempting to comfort ourselves.
Mokhtare is still employed today by the State Department.
Raped by Camp Manager Craig Grabein
Hearing that a doctor had been stranded at the base, Barker contacted him, told him what happened, and ignoring the orders of her supervisors that she stay in Basra, the doctor placed her on a manifest to leave the next day. She was given sleeping pills. That night camp manager, Craig Grabein, the man who had been continually sexually harassing her, demanding sex from her in exchange for his “protection,” entered her room and raped her. She woke up to find him on top of her. She immediately reported the rape to the doctor and to authorities*. She left Basra the next day.
Silenced at Home
When Barker returned to the United States, she was told by a State Department investigator, Lynn Falango, that Mokhtare would be stripped of his security clearance and prosecuted. He never was. Later Falango called Barker to tell her what had happened to Barker in Iraq was being covered up and that Barker should hire an attorney. Falango said she had been told not to contact Barker again and that the case had been taken from her when she tried to get Mokhtare prosecuted.
A few months later Barker was surprised when she began receiving calls and correspondence from other women Halliburton/KBR employees who had also been raped in Iraq. These women said Falango had given them Barker’s name and number as someone who had gone through the same thing and might be able to help, apparently since no one else could! The inference is that one of the women who contacted Barker was Jamie Leigh Jones, although Jones’ name is not specifically mentioned in court documents as one of these women.
State Department Hush Money
In November of 2005, Barker received a phone call from Attorney Advisor, Henry Norcom, who worked with the Civil Rights Office of the State Department. He offered her $3,500 to drop the allegations against Mr. Mokhtare. Barker refused and was then told her case was closed.
EEOC Finds in Favor of Barker
Barker had filed charges of discrimination, sexual harassment and retaliation with the Houston Office of the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission once she got back to the U.S. I read the EEOC reports and they found in favor of Barker, and stated that Halliburton retaliated against Barker following her good faith report of sexual harassment, and that instead of addressing Barker’s complaint, they tried to orchestrate her termination. **
Civil Suits Dismissed
Barker filed a civil suit against Halliburton/KBR, Mokhtare, and others in the U.S. District Court for both the Eastern and Southern Districts of Texas. Her case was first moved from the Eastern to the Southern District, then was ultimately dismissed for lack of jurisdiction because of the “mandatory arbitration” clause Barker had signed with Halliburton/KBR. In issuing his order on August 16, 2007, Judge Gray H. Miller wrote:
All of these arguments address the wisdom of arbitration as a whole and more specifically arbitration of sexual harassment claims. Whether it is wise to send this type of claim to arbitration is not a question for this court to decide. District courts are bound to follow the precedents set by higher courts. And, that precedent is quite clear: Barker’s claims are included within the ambit of claims proper for arbitration. Sadly, sexual harassment, up to and including sexual assault, is a reality in today’s workplace. …Although Congress has expressly exempted certain types of employment claims from the reach of the Federal Arbitration Act, it has not addressed sexual harassment claims. …Therefore, unless and until Congress tells the courts that binding contracts to arbitrate do not include these types of claims, Barker’s policy arguments cannot prevail. For all of the foregoing reasons, Barker’s claims must be arbitrated pursuant to the arbitration provision of her employment contract. (Bolds mine).
I noted that within the past month, a motion for consideration (basically an appeal of the judge’s decision) brought by Barker’s attorneys was denied.
Judge Miller severed the complaints against Mokhtare and transferred them to the Eastern District of Virginia. Mokhtare attempted there to be granted “certification,” which would exempt him from prosecution based on the fact that he was acting as an employee of the State Department and hence was immune from prosecution. A couple of weeks ago, the Virginia judge denied Mokhtare this certification. The case continues.
In the meantime, Tracy Baker has been all but silenced. She was not allowed to tell her story to the Congressional investigatory committee. She was not allowed to tell the most important parts of her story to ABC’s 20/20.*** She has been told by a Texas judge that her only option is mandatory, private arbitration with Halliburton/KBR, the company that allowed and ignored her rape, battering, imprisonment and abuse for over a year. Hillary Clinton refused to help her because, said Clinton, Barker wasn’t a resident of the state of New York. She is being told that having been sexually assaulted by a top-ranking State Department official, raped by a Halliburton camp manager, and continually sexually harassed, imprisoned and tormented throughout her employment in Iraq are employment “grievances” to be resolved by arbitration. She suffers post-traumatic stress disorder and cannot work.
I don’t know why Jamie Leigh Jones, who spent only four days in Iraq, has received the amount of publicity and support she’s received, compared with Barker who spent over a year there in both Baghdad and Basra. I can’t help but wonder whether it is because, as Barker was told, “Gang rape sells, not sexual assault or ‘just’ rape.” I wonder whether it might be, in part, because Barker is French Basque/Spanish and is hence a woman of color, therefore not the kind of complainant the blonde American Jamie Leigh Jones is, or because Jones’s father was the kind of man who could gain the immediate attention of a Republican legislator with a quick phone call, securing his daughter’s release within three days of the attacks on her. I wonder if it might be, in part, because Barker is a mother of five, instead of a young woman in her 20s with no children. I wonder whether it was because Barker saw too much, knew too much, including about the attacks of Halliburton employees on Iraqi women as well as Halliburton employees. I wonder if, despite Mokhtare’s own admissions, Barker going to his room – even though as part of her job, it was up to her to address the problem he said he had with his air conditioner — made her claims less interesting or credible somehow. I suspect, in part, it might be because at times, Barker has seemed to castigate and blame herself, to express guilt and remorse for being unable in her drugged exhaustion to fight Craig Grabein off when he raped her, in the way, women often blame ourselves, as though it is up to us to keep men from raping us, instead of up to men to stop raping women.
Whatever the reason, the silencing of Tracy Barker is an outrage. Her story must be heard, and she must receive justice. To that end, I have written this post. Please, spread the word.
* When the doctor, Dr. Pakkal, who rescued Barker, was later questioned, he said he had seen so many women who had been raped in Basra, he couldn’t remember Barker specifically.
** The EEOC found that Barker’s supervisors in Baghdad were abusive to both men and women in their charge and so they did not find that the supervisors’ abuse was on the basis of Barker’s sex.
*** Both the State Department and Halliburton/KBR declined to discuss Barker’s case with 20/20.
Sources for this article:
One in 3 women and girls may be beaten, coerced into sex or otherwise abused in their lifetime. Shocking, isn’t it?
But what’s equally upsetting is that most women don’t denounce their abusers because they are afraid of further violence and of being stigmatized. Help us speak out for these women. Add your name to this rapidly growing book of names so it becomes a powerful lever to advocate for change. Be counted and let survivors of violence know that they can count on you.
The Third Carnival Against Pornography and Prostitution is UP over at Debs’ place! There is some very fine reading there, check it out!
Dear Stop Porn Culture Supporters,Last month, SPC was contacted by Groupe d’Action pour le Droit (GAD), a non-profit NGO in the Democratic Republic of Congo that advocates for the human rights of children, youth and women affected by sexual violence. They do counseling for survivors of sexual trauma and community education about the issue. The conditions that GAD is working in are horrendous to say the least. The United Nations characterizes the conflict in the DR Congo as “one of the bloodiest the world has known since World War II.” According to Amnesty International,
“Tens of thousands of women and girls have suffered systematic rape and sexual assault since the devastating conflict in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) began in 1998. Rape, sometimes by groups as large as twenty men, has become a hallmark of the conflict, with armed factions often using it as part of a calculated strategy to destabilize opposition groups, undermine fundamental community values, humiliate the victims and witnesses, and secure control through fear and intimidation. It is not unusual for mothers and daughters to be raped in front of their families and villages, or to be forced to have sex with their sons and brothers. Rapes of girls as young as six and women over 70 have been reported. Young girls are also regularly abducted and held captive for years to be used as sexual slaves by combatants and their leaders.”
You can read more about the rape epidemic in the DRC in this New York Times article from October 2007: ”Rape Epidemic Raises Trauma of Congo War.”GAD has identified pornography as a factor in these atrocities. GAD’s president, Kubuya Elie, has requested the help of Stop Porn Culture. He would like to come to our slideshow training in July. We are deeply moved that GAD believes we can offer them assistance: there are no women anywhere who need our help more.In order to bring Mr. Elie to Boston, we need your help. Besides the slideshow training, we plan to arrange meetings with human rights groups here that are working against trafficking and have resources for trauma victims. We estimate it will cost at least $4,000 to do this. As you know, SPC is an all-volunteer organization with an annual budget of zero. It can only happen if you make it happen. Please consider donating whatever you can to help us help GAD and the women of the DR Congo. The sooner you can do so, the sooner we will know whether we can make flight arrangements for Mr. Elie. No amount is too small to make a difference for the women enduring these conditions of sexual brutality and slavery.Please make checks out to Feminists Against Pornography, earmarked “for DRC.” And thank you for participating in this important work.In solidarity,Carol Corgan, Gail Dines, Matt Ezzell, Susan Falupel, Lierre Keith, Robert Jensen, Jesse Pierce, Denyse Snyder, and Rebecca Whisnant for Stop Porn Culture
Stop Porn Culture
PO Box 813
Northampton MA 01061
Stop Porn Culture will be offering our third training for our slideshow this July. The training will be twice as long, more in-depth, and can also be taken for college credit.Please post this information anywhere you can!Media Madness: The Impact of Sex, Violence and Commercial Culture on Adults, Children and Society A summer Institute for Educators, Students, Human Service Professionals, Activists and Parents
July 8-11, 2008, Wheelock College, Boston.
For the 14th consecutive year, Wheelock College is offering a very popular summer institute on the role that the media (television, magazines, advertising, pornography, video games and music videos) plays in shaping our gender identity, our intimate relationships, our children’s lives, and ultimately our culture. The institute is taught by Dr Gail Dines, author of Pornography: The Production and Consumption of Inequality, and Dr. Diane Levin, author of the forthcoming So Sexy So Soon
Participants in both tracks will learn:
- How media violence affects behavior and contributes to violence in society
- How media images perpetuate and legitimize sexism, racism,
consumerism and economic inequality
- How political and economic forces shape the media
- How media affects children’s ideas about sexual behavior and
relationships with others
- How to critically deconstruct media images and develop media literacy skills
- How to become active in advocacy, community building and grass roots
As a way to accommodate the needs of the participants, this year two days of the institute will be split into the following tracks:
1. Fighting the porn culture: how to think about and organize against the increasing pornification of our society. Lead by Dr. Gail Dines with guest lectures by Dr. Rebecca Whisnant, Lierre Keith and Matt Ezell, founding members of Stop Porn Culture.
2. Combating the hazards of media culture with children, families and the community. Lead by Dr. Diane Levin, author of the forthcoming book, So Sexy so Soon
The institute is available as a 3 credit graduate course or a non-credit course. Scholarships are available. Housing is available on the Wheelock campus.
For more information, please contact Gail Dines at firstname.lastname@example.org (write July Institute in the subject line)
Thanks to Lierre Kieth for sending this to me.
Mexico City has become the newest city to debut woman-only buses. While the city has long operated woman-only subway cars during rush hour, complete with police overseeing the segregating of the sexes on subway platforms, the woman-only buses are new, a response to women’s ongoing complaints of being harassed, sexually assaulted and mistreated by men. Reports say that women are thrilled with the buses and being able to ride safely without worrying about being accosted.
I went looking to see if there might be a Youtube video about the new buses and instead discovered yet another reason women need them. When I did a search on Youtube using the words “Mexico woman only buses”, one of the top links was to a a video made by a perp with a foot fetish who, unbeknownst to a woman bus passenger, videoed her feet and posted the thing to Youtube under the title, “Girl on Bus (Peep Toe & Toe Cleavage)”. How disgusting is it to have to worry not only about being groped, harrassed, assaulted, treated rudely, subjected to sexist commentary while commuting – last week during my own bus commute, I was subjected to a male passenger’s loud, obnoxious, animated, misogynist descriptions of his visits to a strip bar and his complaints (directed to the entire back section of the bus like he was a fracking entertainer or something) that he always manages to show up on days the “ugly girls” are working — we also have to worry about being surreptitiously filmed with the films posted to youtube for the enjoyment of perps, rapists and misogynists everywhere!
Here is the video I pulled up (I flagged it but don’t know what good that will do):
I’m aware of all of the arguments some feminists make against such buses, that they might make it easier for sexists to force women into segregated facilities. Nevertheless, I know of no woman personally who would not appreciate and use these buses if they were available. No woman wants to be sexually harassed, groped, abused or mistreated by men.
One night, I stay behind in the club, waiting to go home with the DJ. I wanted him. He had a reputation of hating women. I knew that he was the sort of man that I deserved.I thought I know how he would treat me. Oh, I was so naïve.
I can see it now. Now I see a teenager attempting to make sense of her world. She tries so hard.
I see her whenever I see “street-wise” kids out looking defiant. I can see their fear. I can feel their emptiness. As I see them now, now I can cry.
Then, I could not allow myself to think. I could not feel. All I knew to do was to keep moving.
I allowed him to take me to his flat. He never looked at me. After all, I was a whore. So far, so normal.
In his room, I was fascinated by all his posters. Pictures of women crawling to the camera on their hands and knees. Some were dragged along with chains, some in cages. I thought that I understood.
When he fucked me, it was so hard, so quick. I could hear somewhere that I was screaming. Only, I never made any noise. I could never show that much fear.
But he was hitting me, telling to stop screaming. He threw out of his flat. I had no time to think if I was in pain.
Only, I found that I could not stop bleeding. I just ignored it.
The bleeding went on for days. The pain would not fade. I could hardly walk. I fainted going down the stairs.
China has banned movie depictions of hardcore sexual activity and rape. Film studios producing hardcore sex movies risk losing permission to shoot films at all. In addition, erotic movie producers, directors and actors will be ineligible to compete for film awards or for taking part in any film awards. Also restricted are vulgar language and song lyrics and sound effects with sexual connotations.
I sometimes have read whinings that I do not allow dissenting points of view here. This is very true. There are certain “dissenting points of view” which will not find their expression on my blog. They are as follows:
The above “dissenting points of view” will not receive a welcome on my blog. Almost anywhere you want to go, read, write, on the internet, mainstream media, television, radio, newspapers, wherever, you can find all the information you want to find, all the discussions you may want to have, on everything listed up there.
While we may discuss the defenses commonly offered for the above in the course of critique or discussion, I am not going to engage in arguments here with people who are actively defending practices, ideologies, institutions which hurt human beings, animals or the planet.
Blonde whore forced to suck c*** then f***ed!!
This is the first of a series of posts I plan to do illustrating the intentions of, and reasons for, pornography. I get thousands and thousands of spam comments day in, day out, almost all of them advertisements for porn. Right now there are something like 4,000-plus ”comments” — links to pornography, primarily – in my spam queue. Most of it is as vile as can be imagined.
I’m tired of talking to pro-pornography, pro-prostitution people, male or female, about pornography. I think I’m done with doing that. Discussions with those who are vested in this stuff — who make a living by way of it, who use it all the time, who sell it, who perform in it — remind me of discussions I used to have in my old world with religious fundamentalists who could not be separated from their ideological fixations, obsessions and dogmas by love, money, cogent debate, force, or any combination of the above. They stood ready to defend their beliefs — and that’s about it. They were pretty much incapable of even considering the possibility that they might have missed something, might not be seeing something, let alone that they might be wrong. I always find it perplexing, the way the pro-porn side invokes the spectre of fundamentalism in its arguments or diatribes or propaganda. My experience is, if there are fundamentalists in this debate, they are on the pro-porn side.
The 11 words at the top of the page tell us what pornography is about. It is about men forcing their bodies inside of and onto the bodies of women. It is about men forcing women to do things they do not want to do. Especially, the words communicate the interest men have in watching women being raped. We all know a woman is depicted in the film those 11 words advertise, but she is a dehumanized woman. She has no name; she is a generic “blonde,” a generic “whore.” The understanding and agreement between the maker and advertiser and the consumer of pornography is that nobody cares about the names, identities or lives of “blondes” or “whores” or any other woman being raped by men in pornography and nobody wants to know any of that. The agreement is that the porn consumer should be free to order up a constellation of body parts and the pornographer should stand ready to provide them. The agreement is the pornographer will provide images of rape and violence which humiliate and degrade already-dehumanized women whose names we do not know. The agreement, especially, is that this will be sexually titillating and exciting to the consumer. This is what real men want to see: “blondes” and “whores” being raped. Available for cash, at the click of a link.
Comments, as always will be moderated. Men and women may comment, so long as they are anti-pornography. At some point, as anti-pornography activists, we are going to have to work to provide some sort of public counterbalance to the weight of the pornographic garbage passing for “discussion” and “debate” which we, and millions of others, find suffocating and deadly.
Image from our sisters at Friends of the Lolas
The world breaks open. Underneath the layers, transcending the past, making the present.
I have seen it written. In the hour of our forced surrender. The world will diminish as the time draws near.
Aching with the lost and ancient tidings, her beginning has come. Rekindling our magic. Lusty, wild and untamed. Recalling to us a time when freedom was a word that had meaning.
Do we have her power? This one that calls to us. Cries out long forgotten secrets. Screams our true names. Falling silent as the moon wanes. She is the one that tells us of the future.
She comes in before the dawn, when our power awakens from the stealthy sleep of those who can ill afford dreams. When half of our world is drowning beneath the man-made weather, whether, weather. When half our world is starving. Sacred ground as dry as dust.
Speak to me of your power. Speak to me in riddles, in a woman’s tongue. This day is coming into being and I need no translation. I can feel you breathing, sisters. The calm static before this long-awaited storm.
We have been without our rain and thunder for far too long…
I smell the tumult of our revolution, rising from the east…
Come to me then, in fury and in rage and with warmth. I will not let the cold decay of this bleaching rancour. I will not let this mindless, bloody, relentless torment hold me any longer. I am breaching the walls of this prison. My love, my heart, myself within my sisters. My sisters in me.
Even death cannot strip us of our elemental power. We sisters do not fear the earth.
Listen to the seasons. Listen to the earth beneath your feet. Breathe with the beauty of her. Sing it out. Sing our tempest into being. And as the storm of us gathers on the horizon, know this. We will not slumber until every woman wakes.
Let the rains come in with the tide. Beat out a rhythm in women’s time. And let us soar.
Allecto, whose beautiful writings I’ve published here before on Women’s Space, wrote the poem above to and for me. It meant so much to me, inspired, comforted and encouraged me. Thank you, Allecto! I offer it to you as the perfect beginning for:
The Fifth Carnival of Radical Feminists!
Women Deserve Better
Holly Ord has posted a rousing, passionate call to action entitled What We Deserve which may help us to begin to move beyond feelings of hopelessness or disgust, the consequences of our ongoing engagement with those vested in our subordination.
Women do deserve better, and what is better is within our reach. It’s to be expected that to the degree we threaten the “rule of the fathers,” to that degree threats, intimidation, and attempts to silence us will increase. It’s also to be expected that to the degree that we threaten the rule of the fathers, hope remains that we will in the end be able to save our own lives and all life on the planet.
Sexualized Violence as Silencing
In all of the sturm and drang over recent internet attacks on me, on Biting Beaver, on Laurelin, and on other radical feminist bloggers, Marcella Chester — way back on August 6 when the attacks were just beginning — wrote as intelligent and prophetic an analysis of the dynamics of ongoing attacks on radical feminist women online and in real life as I have seen so far. We aren’t “exclusive.” We do not “discriminate” against anyone. We are under attack and we have been under attack for a long, long time.
When people are being attacked from all sides … outsiders who declare “I come in peace, let me in” aren’t likely to be trusted or allowed in. This isn’t about discriminating against those outsiders, it’s about the natural consequences of non-stop attacks. When the attacks cease then inclusiveness will become a possibility. This is why those doing the attacking will try to repackage themselves as the group under assault — often while deriding others for playing the victim… The position that some people hold that they are only responsible for their own words online and therefore can blithely say and do nothing as those around them attack others, including on the blogs or forums they run, is a pro-attack position.
I guess the bottom line is this: Do you have a zero-tolerance policy against all forms of sexualized violence including the making of direct or backhanded threats of violence?
If you answer with something that begins with, “No, but …” then “No” is your final answer.
“Our Silence Is Our Dissent”
In a post entitled Dominator Tentacles posted at VeraCity, Vera notes that those involved in the recent attacks don’t target the sources of cultural and societal domination which affect and oppress all of us who are marginalized, oppressed or poor — big business, big government, Wal-Mart, the Pentagon. In fact, they are in league with these powers, with The Man; they do his bidding and dirty work, willingly and free of charge. In this, they are as conservative, or right-wing, or liberal, or left-wing — but above all as sexist — as the powers are.
As a result of the recent attack, there are fewer radical voices on the web. A few radical feminists have taken down their blogs; some will not be reopened. Others have made their Flickr photostreams private. At least one blog and one forum are now private; a muting of voices if not an outright silencing. Going private, having to hide: the parts of the radfem community that are still intact are no longer fully open, and no longer fully a part of the human conversation on the web. …
I don’t like it that radical voices, however unpopular, are being expelled from the human conversation by online thugs. I like it even less that it’s happening with hardly any notice, and without comment by more mainstream writers.
Vera’s statement above reminds me of something Andrea Dworkin wrote in an essay entitled “Against the Male Flood: Censorship, Pornography and Equality,” in Letters from a War Zone” (and this is especially for you, BB):
…writers are … people who by writing do something socially real and significant…writing is never peripheral or beside the point. It is serious and easily seditious. …Censorship is deeply misunderstood in the United States because the fairly spoiled, privileged, frivolous people who are the literate citizens of this country think that censorship is some foggy effort to suppress ideas…not something in itself– an act of police power with discernible consequences to hunted people…
Subordination can be so deep that those who are hurt by it are utterly silent. Subordination can create a silence quieter than death. …The Three Marias of Portugal went to jail for writing this: “Let no one tell me that silence gives consent, because whoever is silent dissents.”…The silence [of the women] is a silence over centuries: an exile into speechlessness. One is shut up by…abuse. One is shut up by the threat and the injury. …If what we want to say is not hurt me, we have the real social power only to use silence as eloquent dissent. Silence is what women have instead of speech. Silence is our dissent during rape … Silence is our moving, persuasive dissent during battery…Silence is a fine dissent during incest and for all the long years after.
Silence is not speech. We have silence, not speech. We fight rape, battery, incest, and prostitution with it.. But someday someone will notice: that people called women were buried in a long silence that meant dissent.
Women’s Art as Resistance
Postcards by Margaret of Margaret’s Wanderings
Close up of part of a quilt The Quilter created for a quilt exhibition she participates in to raise money for domestic violence victims.
Tears(top) and Bedouin(bottom) by Palestinian artist Salwa Arnous whose work, displayed in an art gallery in Texas, was recently condemned in the San Antonio Times as “anti-semitic.” She invites us to see for ourselves by watching the video below (allow a couple minutes for the video to load– it is well worth the wait).
Visions of Palestine by Salwa Arnous
Radical feminist poet and blogger Lynn Sweeting writes:
Shelter the young Saffron,
And save the garden,
Shelter the battered woman
And save the world.
For the young tree,
A circle of stones,
For the young woman,
A tribe of sisters
Staceyann Chin is the second to perform in the above video. She is one revolutionary woman; I have watched her perform the past two years on night stage at Michfest. This year she inspired all of us to new heights on opening night; she just gets better. It was an amazing thing to look across a sea of women’s raised fists as we all, across the boundaries of race, ethnicity, age, physical ability, heard our own stories, our own realities, in Chin’s words.
In Call for Action: Dua Khalil, Whedon, Nothing but Red, writing evolution discusses an upcoming anthology inspired by the recent stoning of Du’a Khalil and Joss Whedon’s blogging of his reaction to her death. (Whedon is the creator of the “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” series.) The anthology seeks to promote awareness regarding women’s issues, and particularly violence against women. The stoning of Khalil has inspired regular readers of Whedonesque to create their own memorial and feminist blogs, one of which is entitled I am Dua Khalil.
The Crisis Facing Iraqi Women — Honor Killings, Suicides and Misogynist Passport Rules is the title of a post at Feminist Peace Network which says:
The Taipei Times reports on the mind-boggling number of honor killings and suicides in Kurdish Iraq. According to one of their sources, Aso Kamal, there have been 12,500 women murdered for reasons of honor or who have committed suicide in three Kurdish provinces since 1991. There were 350 such deaths so far this year.
The Women’s Union of Kurdistan in Sulaimaniyah has recorded 83 cases of women burning themselves in the first six months of last year and 95 in the first half of this year.
Feminist Peace Network blogs tirelessly about the effect of the war in Iraq on women. In recent posts she describes the huge rise in maternal and infant mortality deaths and in the large numbers of girls and women being driven into prostitution as a result of the war and the deaths of so many of the women’s husbands and sons. In this post she blogs about the stoning of 11-year-old Sarah Jaffar Nimat, a fifth grader, and reports that 40 women and girls have been stoned since the stoning of Du’a Khalil. In this post Feminist Peace Network describes an e-mail exchange with Yanar Mohammed about the disappearances of Iraqi women and laments:
Yanar closed her email with this line–”Thank you for still standing with us.” I wish I felt that we were doing that in some sort of adequate way. Every day our media is filled with reports of soldiers being killed, insurgents, terrorists doing this that or the other act of violence. Our politicians blather on about whether to continue the war while they keep on funding it and make pious assertions that the Iraqis have to take responsibility for fixing the mess we made and the truth is that we totally ignore the plight of these women who are experiencing what women always experience in the aftermath of war.
Afghan women in camp of displaced people, July 2007, posted at Frida’ Notebook
Frida of Frida’s Notebook is an attorney documenting civil rights abuses and trauma in Afghanistan. In Tell your story she describes her struggle to find ways to honor the women she interviews as they tell her their stories:
Where is the time to simply listen? To listen to the story as the teller wishes to tell it. To let it be, perhaps, for today, explaining that I would like to document this story as a human rights case but that in order to do that I will need to ask more detailed questions. To ask if I could return to do that another day, once the storyteller has had time to think about what he or she wants to get out of telling the story to me. Where is the time to do that?
Some people might tell me to concentrate on my work as a lawyer and human rights monitor and not to stray to far from what I know into the complex territory of psychological responses to trauma. But I can’t see that boundary very clearly. More accurately perhaps, I see the boundary but the reality of work doesn’t not respect it. Stories are not always about facts and events, they are often about feelings and responses to those events. The remedies people seek are not always about justice, they are also about the acknowledged need for reconciliation in order to build a peaceful tomorrow. In Afghanistan our human rights work is always going to cross into the territoriy of ‘transitional justice’ and all the questions that come with that.
Poverty and Other Obscenities of American Capitalism
Barbara Ehrenreich has a fantastic post up, Smashing Capitalism, about the effects of Bush’s and the Republicans’ economic policies on poor and working class people, casting the impending record-high numbers of home foreclosures and accompanying economic difficulties as poor people’s “plot” to smash capitalism:
First they stopped paying their mortgages, a move in which they were joined by many financially stretched middle class folks, though the poor definitely led the way. All right, these were trick mortgages, many of them designed to be unaffordable within two years of signing the contract. There were “NINJA” loans, for example, awarded to people with “no income, no job or assets.” Conservative columnist Niall Fergusen laments the low levels of “economic literacy” that allowed people to be exploited by sub-prime loans. Why didn’t these low-income folks get lawyers to go over the fine print? And don’t they have personal financial advisors anyway?
Then, in a diabolically clever move, the poor – a category which now roughly coincides with the working class – stopped shopping. Both Wal-Mart and Home Depot announced disappointing second quarter performances, plunging the market into another Arctic-style meltdown. H. Lee Scott, CEO of the low-wage Wal-Mart empire, admitted with admirable sensitivity, that “it’s no secret that many customers are running out of money at the end of the month. “
When, for example, the largest private employer in America, which is Wal-Mart, starts experiencing a shortage of customers, it needs to take a long, hard look in the mirror. About a century ago, Henry Ford realized that his company would only prosper if his own workers earned enough to buy Fords. Wal-Mart, on the other hand, never seemed to figure out that its cruelly low wages would eventually curtail its own growth, even at the company’s famously discounted prices.
The sad truth is that people earning Wal-Mart-level wages tend to favor the fashions available at the Salvation Army. Nor do they have much use for Wal-Mart’s other departments, such as Electronics, Lawn and Garden, and Pharmacy.
In this post, Lo at Braless Living LA mocks — in satisfying fashion! — rich, white anti-war activists who think they are “conscious” with a heart felt letter from a downtown Los Angeles war activist (to a soldier in Iraq):
Thank you for being willing to die, so that I may continue to drive my car. I live in downtown LA. I recycle. I have a Porsche, but I only drive it on the weekends (it was a gift from my parents). I usually drive my Prius. I don’t own conflict diamonds. I am a good person. I hate Bush. I hate him so very, very much. I have a picture of him on a dart board. When I invite my friends over to have a pretend drive-in movie theatre on our roof top (most recently we had a screening of Inconvenient Truth, it was so educational) we play a drinking game before the movie and throw darts at Bush. I hope that doesn’t offend you, but you’re dying for nothing. I don’t even like driving. Traffic is so bad out here. The 405 was murder this afternoon.
All the poor people that I have every known, including my own family when I was young, do not routinely take vacations. Vacations are expensive even on the cheap. Most of the time poor people take vacations when it correlates with another task that involves something to do with their poor circumstances. For example, if someone has an extra clunker (or can no longer afford to maintain that clunker) and a family member needs it to survive, the errand becomes the vacation for the one driving the car to that person. Bus, train and plane tickets are expensive even when planned in advanced; however, most impromptu type vacations are not typically efficiently planned. In addition, having efficient means is a privilege in itself, having some money to save after the necessities are covered and having available credit for emergencies, etc.
“Large numbers of US local economies are predicated on a prison industry that pays rural whites to incarcerate urban blacks. But the bottom line is, the US makes policy choices that set the crime and incarceration rates — and makes them higher than any other industrialized country in the world.”
Woman Centered Birthing and Women’s Reproductive Rights
La Doctorita at unconventional beauty writes about the newly-released statistics about the alarming rise in US maternal mortality because of unnecessary c-sections in death from childbirth: it’s not just for “little house on the prairie” anymore.
Midwife: Sage Femme, Hebamme, Comadrona, Partera reviews Pushed: The Painful Truth About Childbirth and Modern Maternity Care, a book about women’s loss of agency and autonomy in hospital births, the large number of unnecessary c-sections performed which is causing rising maternal and infant mortality in the U.S. , and about the importance of women advocating for themselves and insisting that their birthing plans be respected. Some midwives accompany birthing moms during hospital births and act as doulas or advocates while doctors attend the births. Sage Femme disagrees with this practice, not only because of the double binds inherent in working both for patriarchal medical establishments and birthing mothers, but also because of the value she places on women advocating for themselves:
“a reader was surprised (negatively, is how I read it), that I just couldn’t do hospital births any longer as a doula. she says that this is [when] women need support the most. well, when you stand by and watch abuse happen, it feels like you are condoning it. again, it goes back to the idea that somehow a doula can protect a woman or prevent all this from happening. we cannot. they cannot. sometimes we can influence a woman’s choices and decisions – but even then we have to be careful not to create a bias, which is really, really hard. I think the more professional doulas weave themselves delicately through an almost impossible web of medicalized birth. for me, I was no good to anyone at a hospital birth if the things done stirred up feelings of disgust, victimization or even plain abuse and rape of women. believe me, it is much better that a doula move away when she feels like this.
…empowerment, like advocacy, MUST come from within. we cannot empower anyone. usually when women advocate for themselves and use their own voice, they are empowered. sometimes empowerment for women comes more from what we don’t do rather than what we do.”
The patriarchists never tire of finding ways to limit women’s reproductive rights, however. Feminist Law Professors writes that a Proposed Ohio Law Would Require Man’s Permission For Abortion. In response, in Support Law To Create Consensual Sex Registry at abyss2hope: A rape survivor’s zigzag journey into the open, Marcella Chester writes a tongue-in-cheek counter proposal.
In Abortion is the New Satanism. Activist Mommy writes about reproductive choices and the women she has known and comforted in their seeking and having of abortions, even though she herself is anti-abortion.
When I honour mothering in other women, it is not just an act of sisterhood. It is about honouring myself as a mother; and it is about honouring my own mother. It is about celebrating what mothers do. When I recognise and confront the darker, painful aspects of motherhood, it is not just an act of confession or truth-speaking. It is about sisterhood with all mothers, including my own, about acknowledging what it is like, how hard it is, and the sheer bloody strength of mind and will and body that it takes to keep soldiering on. And when someone obliterates the mother, erases her importance or her experience, silences her voice – it is as though it is myself that is obliterated, erased and silenced.
Making Feminist Knowledge
I see feminist diplomacy bringing an end to all that, an end to any desire to dominate, from the world to another being, human or otherwise. That is the road to more disaster, the sudden end of ability of this planet to sustain human life, perhaps all life. Men have to listen to reason, talk truce, or stand aside as women negotiate peace plans for wars around the world, end the war on terror, put forth ideas to stop the vicious cycle of retaliation. Men have gotten it wrong, more or less distorted or reversed, on just about everything, what they think they know notwithstanding. Most of that is based not on reality, but male theory, structured hierarchically on every level, which in practice glorifies violence, making it seem normal, casual, the expected way to solve an escalated conflict. Violence is only justifiable in self-defense or to aid self-defense, to stop or capture a violent criminal. Aggressive violence is never the only way or best way to resolve a conflict.
So, I went into the comments of the post and said something to the effect that, while I usually love all your pictures, I do not love this one. It’s racist. And his reaction was to change the picture immediately and then to comment on why he had used it, and what he was trying to accomplish, but that he definitely could make the same point with a different picture. Or something like that, this was a while ago. In making the decision to not just shake my head and move on, or to stay silent and probably seethe or to roll my eyes and think “oh well, par for the course” but deciding instead to bring this to his attention, come what may, and to believe (or at least hope) there would be no blowback from it… I was giving him the benefit of the doubt.
… one huge problem I have with current lesbian culture is that constant pressure to dichotomise, to decide whether you identify with “butch” or “femme” and to stick within the look and behaviours prescribed for that label.
Julie Bindel, in a post entitled My Trans Mission, begins an interesting post with the statement, “Sex-change surgery is the modern equivalent of aversion therapy for homosexuals.”
In the new radfem blog Sister Medusa’s Radical Lesbian Underground, Sister Medusa writes about the way words like “transphobe” are used to silence lesbian and radical feminists and the way this silencing prevents dialog and healing.
The recent controversy around Catherine Crouch’s film, The Gendercator, and the banning of Bitch from the Boston Dyke March are two prominent examples of a phenomenon that is taking place all over the country, and not just in August as a small group of people attempt to silence and take away the rights of Females to gather in private in the woods of Michigan. The word “transphobia” does not have any meaning to me because this far, no one who has thrown it out – to me, to Bitch, to MWMF, to Catherine, has been able to articulate what they mean by it, and why and how we, as Lesbians, have any power over transpeople.
Radical feminists acknowledge that for women (and men) to be who they truly are patriarchial capitalism has to cease to exist because it is oppressive in the extreme. One of the minor bastions of patriarchal capitalism is ‘feminine’ beauty standards.
Then move on to read There Is Nothing Rebellious Or Countercultural About Being “Pro-Porn” posted at Feminist Law Professors. So true! One question I have never heard answered persuasively or convincingly is this: Just what is alternative, progressive, countercultural, rebellious, and above all non-mainstream, let alone feminist, about being pro-pornography? There are men who identify as allies to feminists whose activism consists almost solely of advocating for the pornography industry. This is feminism precisely how?
Speaking of being pro-pornography, Packaging Girlhood has an interesting post up about the new Bratz movie (Bratz dolls, targeted for elementary-school-age girls, are pictured above, nod to Gingermiss):
No matter how they clean up the movie girlz to mimic every other perky wanna be a teen girl flick, it’s important for parents to see the sexualization that defines the overall Bratz package.
Gingermiss has a post up about the movie as well entitled Why Bratz Dolls Are Evil Incarnate and the questions she asks are right on:
Why can’t girls be assertive rather than ‘bratty’? Why can’t they have dolls that reflect something of what their lives are actually like? And, if they actually live lives like those of Bratz dolls, why would we encourage anyone to celebrate or idolize that mentality?
Ariadne by Monica Sjoo
I don’t often discuss or talk about my spiritual leanings on my blogs because for the most part, I think people make too much of it. I don’t care much for people who shove their spiritual or religious bent in my face and so I don’t do it to others. Even in passing. I am past the years where I need to wear my beliefs on my sleeve and past the time in my life where I feel the need to explain, justify or even label what my spirituality is. When I think of God or a Higher Power, I think of something feminine, distinctly womanly. Sometimes it is nature, sometimes it is life, sometimes it is a specific goddess, almost always referred to as the “Goddess”. It is, for me, what it is. And it is not static. It is fluid and evolves as I evolve. However, many years ago, when I was searching for a power greater than myself, I was not so sure. It was then when I found the Goddess. … At this time in my life, I explored women’s spirituality. I identified for years as a witch. I cast spells, maintained several altars in my home and studied all manner of pagan religion, trying each on, I suppose, to see how they fit. It was during this time that I discovered a new book called Ariadne’s Thread written by Shekhinah Mountainwater….I learned about the phases of a woman’s life and it was here that I first read about cronehood. Ariadne’s Thread helped to change my world and shape my spirituality.
Various and Sundry
I want to end this carnival in an inspiring and uplifting way. I believe we are living in a time of rapid change, standing in the center of a paradigm shift. It is a time of shaking and realignment, and we are feeling the strength and power in the changes.
I leave you with these images which remind us that as women, we are in the process of Re-Membering our Archaic Future, even though we may be aware of this only occasionally and dimly.
In Love and Sisterhood,
That concludes this edition. Submit your blog article to the next edition of carnival of radical feminists using our carnival submission form. Past posts and future hosts can be found on our blog carnival index page.
Misogyny bares its teeth on internet
August 21, 2007
A woman’s place isn’t in the kitchen these days but some malcontents are trying to make sure that it’s not on the web either. The internet is proving to be a hostile place for women.
Death threats, rape threats, verbal abuse, condescending and unwelcome comments about looks and intelligence are all par for the course for many female web users.
Last year a University of Maryland study found that web users with female pseudonyms are 25 times more likely to be harassed online than users with male or ambiguous pseudonyms. And, according to haltabuse.org, women make up 70 per cent of the victims of cyber harassment and stalking.
The internet is looking more and more like the Wild West than the decentralised utopia for which people might have hoped.
An internet war is being fought against the online feminist community by a hive of crackers and tech geeks who call themselves “Anonymous”.
Feminist forums have been hacked, passwords have been stolen, emails have been commandeered and used for whatever nefarious purpose the cyber miscreants wish. Websites such as Women’s Space and Gentle Spirit have been forced to shut down. One outspoken woman who blogged anonymously even had her photo put up on the net and a hunt was undertaken by members of “Anonymous” for her place of residence.
What many who engage in online “flamewars” – raids and attacks such as these – fail to see is that they’re messing with real people’s lives. The internet allows an incredible disconnect between reality and virtuality. Continue reading
I followed an incoming link to a new anti-pornography activist blog that looks great! Included on the side bar are links to anti-pornography conference videos, breaking anti-pornography news stories, links to anti-pornography books, articles, blogs and boards and upcoming anti-pornography events.
Welcome to the radfem neighborhood, Anti-Pornography Activist Blog! I will add you to the blogroll.
Girls face the double challenge of being female and being young, which can result in them having little opportunity to make decisions about their lives. Discrimination against girls is grounded in a series of traditions and norms, based on the assumption that biological differences between females and males justify that girls are denied access to rights, opportunity and voice. It is both systematic and widely tolerated. Emerging research commissioned by Plan in West Africa shows that, its manifestations, such as gender based violence, are deeply rooted in the inequalities between women and men, and girls and boys.
The Early Years
Discrimination against girls begins at birth, or earlier, through attitudes and patterns in behaviour passed down through generations. As this report demonstrates, the lower social status of a girl can have serious consequences for her health and well-being as she grows up and has children herself. By age five, most girls and boys have already internalised the gender role expectations communicated to them by their families, schools, the media and society as a whole. The next generation is then likely to repeat the same cycle. Despite progress in securing a number national and international legal standards designed to protect and promote the rights of girls, cultural and social beliefs about gender and the value of girls and boys have been much more difficult to overcome.
In many countries, particularly in South Asia and China, the birth of a boy is something to be celebrated and the birth of a girl a cause for commiseration, particularly where a marriage dowry requires the parents of daughters to make a financial offering. Much of this is to do with the fact that in some cultures, a boy will grow up and look after his parents, while a girl will be married into another family, and is therefore seen as a financial burden to her own parents.
The family is where children first learn about their potential. It is here that millions of girls are socialised to believe that they have a lower social status than boys. Women are themselves the keepers of much of the knowledge passed on to girls and boys in their early years. In order to ensure that girls can access their rights and have the same opportunities as boys, changes of attitude within the family are necessary.
Girls face discrimination in five crucial areas:
• Invisibility. This includes female foeticide, lack of birth registration, and public environments which discourage their visibility and participation.
• Capacity. This affects the ability of girls to benefit from all of their rights. Girls’ capacity can be impaired by educational curricula, which reinforce negative gender stereotyping, and by preferential access to nutrition for boys within the family.
• Physical and mental discrimination. This includes gender based violence and trafficking, temporary marriages, and judgemental attitudes to the sexual activity of girls limiting their access to preventative measures and health services.
• Family and household responsibilities. This includes discrimination caused by lower minimum ages of marriage for girls, and the sexual and economic exploitation of girls in work, in particular child domestic workers.
• Local and national customs and traditions. This includes embedded religious, judicial and secular traditions, which allow for inequality in inheritance and the creation of status offences discriminating against girls in the legal system.
Achieving gender equality and a better deal for girls requires a challenge to deep rooted attitudes across societies, and a new momentum for investing in girls’ education. An ambitious programme in Haryana in India aims to increase the value placed on girls by their families and prevent early marriage. A small sum of money is put into a savings account by local government for each girl at birth. If she is still unmarried at the age of 18, she can collect the amount plus the years of interest.
The Challenges of Adolescence
The social status that a girl occupies has consequences in all areas of a girl’s life, and in particular during her transition from girlhood into womanhood. This is a time of making the choices which will shape the remainder of her life. Education can make a huge difference to the lives of girls, particularly if they have access to quality, free, girl-friendly educational facilities. A host of academic studies, national and international initiatives and projects on the ground have proved the case for girl’s education.
Recent studies show a striking correlation between under-five mortality rates and the educational level attained by a child’s mother.
Progress in this area has been notable – recent progress in enrolments at primary school level has benefited girls in particular.
The reality for millions of girls in some of the world’s poorest countries is that they have to spend much more time on domestic, non-economic work than boys, and have less time for education and recreation. The rites of passage that determine the transition from girlhood to womanhood can themselves be challenging for girls. Female genital cutting and other initiation rites are customs which violates the rights of girls. Marriage while still in her teens, or younger, and early pregnancy usually has a detrimental impact on a girl’s right to education and to fulfilling her potential.
“To stop this inhuman attitude towards girls, there should be stringent laws against the practice of child marriages, and both the governments and the civil societies should initiate awareness raising campaigns at every community on gender equity and the evil consequences of child marriages.” B. Savitha, aged 14, India
The family is the place where girls and boys should feel safe, and where they learn how to grow into mature and responsible adults, where they form their first relationships and hopefully follow the positive role models shown by their parents. But it is also the place where millions of children, especially girls, face violence and abuse. Much of this violence is gender-based and perpetrated mainly by men against girls and women.
As a girl moves into adulthood, her education or lack of it, will have a significant impact on several areas of her life. There is clear evidence that knowledge, information and self esteem help girls to protect themselves from HIV infection, exploitation and hazardous child labour. Her children are more likely to be healthy and to go to school themselves if a young woman is educated. For example, children with unschooled mothers are 4.8 times more likely to be out of primary school in Venezuela, 4.4 times more likely in Suriname, and 3.4 times more likely in Guyana. An educated young woman also has a better chance of earning an income, which has a positive effect on her family and on the economy. Studies have shown that as a country’s primary enrolment rate for girls increases, so too does its gross domestic product per capita.
• Girls are discriminated against in the womb, before birth, as the growing practice of female foeticide and sex selective abortion in some parts of the world demonstrates. An estimated 100 million women are ‘missing’ as a result.
• 10.5 million children die before the age of five every year. There is evidence that more girls than boys die in the developing world.
• An estimated 450 million adult women in developing countries are stunted as a result of childhood protein energy malnutrition.
• Girls are less well-nourished than boys. Girls have more chance of getting diarrhoea than boys.
• Mothers pass on knowledge steeped in their own experiences as girls and women.
• As there is little in the way of enforced protective legislation in many developing countries, millions of girls are subjected to early marriage with its inherent risks to their education, physical health and economic prospects. 60% of girls aged 15-19 in sub Saharan Africa are married.
• It is estimated that about 140 million girls and women worldwide have undergone female genital cutting, with an additional two million girls undergoing the procedure every year.
• It is impossible to overstate the links between
health and education, especially women’s education – data shows a striking correlation between under-five mortality rates and the educational level attained by a child’s mother.
• 62 million girls of primary age are out of school. This is more than all the girls in North America and Europe.
• Girls will not remain in school if they are subjected to abuse and violence, and lack adequate sanitation facilities.
• Despite gains for girls in school achievement in the North, women are paid less than men for comparative jobs and are more likely to be in low-paid employment.
• Pregnancy related illnesses are a leading cause of death for young women ages 15 to 19 worldwide. Half a million women die of pregnancy related deaths every year.
• There is clear evidence that girls and boys form clear opinions about work which is deemed suitable for each gender from an early age.
• 90 per cent of child domestic workers are girls between 12 and 17 years old, and are at risk of both sexual and economic exploitation, violence and abuse.
Girls in Exceptionally Difficult Circumstances
• Gender discrimination – in the form of reduced access to education, healthcare, food and information, limited participation in communities and society, and defined roles in the household – means that girls are particularly vulnerable to a series of risks to their development and well-being, and less likely to attain their rights. At times of uncertainty and insecurity, these risks increase.
• 20-50% of girls have experienced violence from a family member.
• Girls from indigenous or minority groups and girls with disabilities are particularly vulnerable to violence and abuse.
From me, Heart:
–Heart, enraged over the status of girls in this world and fully committed to devoting the rest of my life to girls and women, female people, my own kind ♥
Thanks to “Duke University, the New York Times, HBO, and Full Frame Documentary Film Festival,” evidently, the world is blessed with a new “documentary” created by Larry Flynt, the man who has amassed a fortune selling hatred of women, racism and mistreatment of animals and by exploiting and cashing in on the most destructive and violent of human impulses and beliefs, then calling that “freedom of speech.” I think we know what free speech means to this man, whose daughter, Tonya Flynt, says he raped her when she was a child. Her voice is silenced as Flynt just keeps turning out these inane videos which present him as some kind of martyr. And there are plenty of people who take him seriously, including the New York Times, Duke University, evidently.
The candles on my altar are lit, my circle has been cast, and I am standing in solidarity with my sisters in Durham, North Carolina, from my home thousands of miles away.
I have been raped.
I have been battered.
I have been sexually harrassed, objectified and exploited.
Pornographic images have been used to harm me.
I have been beaten.
I have been verbally and emotionally abused.
I have been spiritually abused.
I have told the truth of my life and have not been believed. I have suffered in silence fearing — or knowing — I would be called a liar. I have kept the truths of my life secret to protect or spare people.
I have tried to forget.
I have run from the truth of my own life and sought refuge and peace where it could not be found because facing it head on was painful and risky.
I have made excuses for the inexcusable, have tried to forgive the unforgivable, have struggled to speak what is unspeakable, for the truths of our lives as women are not welcome in a world in which we are not valued.
No more. I will never hold back again. I will speak my own truth without apology so that other women and girls may take courage. And come what may, I will believe you, my sisters, when you speak your own truths.
In solidarity with my sisters in Durham and throughout the world,
Fall under a truck and die choking on your own blood.
That right there? That’s serious. And wrong. The person who wrote it knows who she is, and the persons who have applauded it or responded positively to it know who they are, as well. I will not be directing anyone your way via links. I am letting you know, though, that I’ve seen what you’ve written, I’ve saved off the thread which includes this particular violent imagery, and I will definitely haul it out the next time someone on the pro-porn side accuses radical feminists of “silencing” behaviors. I’ll also place it alongside the other saved-off threats of all kinds that I’ve received for opposing pornography and prostitution and will make note of it, or use it as an example, in my writing, complete with citations.
That up there? That’s what is called “silencing.” It’s those of us who oppose prostitution and pornography for whom that particular form of silencing is reserved. I’m posting this here because it’s something people reading ought to know about.
Comments are closed (this thread only).
Mahboubeh Hosseinzadeh (left), one of the Iranian woman activists freed from prison this past week has written an essay which is posted at the Change for Equality website entitled “All Women are Victims, not Just those in Prison”. Here is an excerpt:
“Our husbands are lying in enclosed graves and we are in open graves. We too ceased to live the very day that we killed our husbands.” These are the words of a woman who spends her nights on the three story bed across from me. Her nights are filled with nightmares about the death of her husband—a husband she stabbed to death.
This is Evin prison—the women’s ward. Nahid and I do not fully comprehend which national security we have undermined, nonetheless with this charge we spend our days in limbo in the midst of these women. Ten of the 16 women with whom we have shared a cell for over a week, are here on charges of murdering their husbands. These women, having lost faith in a legal system that offers no hope and no protection, weave their days to the darkness of the night that lingers behind the tall walls of Evin. If our laws had the capacity to defend women charged with murder, they would not be here now, spending their time idly in waiting for the day that would swallow them—a term used by female inmates to describe execution day.
These women, they all seem kind and patient to me. They are women forced into marriages they did not choose, women who were forcibly married off at the age of 13 and 14, women whose husbands were chosen by their fathers…one of these women was forced into marriage through physical violence bestowed upon her by her father, who slapped her repeatedly until she accepted her fate. Until she accepted to marry a man who was 45 years her senior. Another woman continues to have nightmares about that doomed day four years ago, when she took matters into her own hands and murdered her husband. She worries about her daughters whom she turned over the state welfare organization for care. Others too, have similar stories.
Woman, mother, requests for divorce, discriminatory laws, murderers…all but one of them is under 40 years of age. She asks “why doesn’t anyone listen to our problems or pains?” “Where was the judge when my husband forced me onto the streets, into prostitution, in an effort to earn enough money to support his habit of addiction? What is one to do? Which laws were meant to support me? Which laws were intended to save me? Why didn’t the judge listen to my pleas? I grew weary. The law provided me with no refuge. I defended myself. Yes! I killed him!”
Another woman explains “my father said that we will lose face. I cried. I asked my father didn’t you marry me off by force at age 13? Now I want a divorce. My father refused. But when I saw my husband that night with another woman, in my own bed, I could no longer take the abuse.” The victims are not just the women with whom I share a cell. The victims are all women in this land.
Read the entire article, as well as the article by Nahid Keshavarz (above right) , What will they do about the Growing Awareness Among Female Prisoners and their Guards?
As we have seen in living color this week as we watched what unfolded in a courtroom in Selmer, Tennessee, and followed the response to the testimony of Mary Winkler (center) about her preacher husband’s battering, sexual, emotional and spiritual abuse, despite beliefs to the contrary among American men, in particular, American women and Iranian women share much in common.
This is a battle that as women, we wage throughout the world, this battle to be free of the abuse of men, particularly the men with whom we live, whom we marry, with whom we bear children, or who are our fathers. It is a battle which too often goes unremarked, ignored, trivialized or dismissed, which is couched in terms which obscure its reality – “domestic violence,” “spousal abuse” — a battle for which, too often, women give their lives in one way or another.
It is heartbreaking and devastating to me that over 40 years post-consciousness-raising meetings in the U.S., England, Canada and other parts of the world, meetings in which women began to share their stories of abuse at the hands of male partners and family members, meetings which gave birth to the Domestic Violence/Women’s Shelter movement in the U.S., England, Canada and elsewhere, so little has changed! We continue to be abused, battered, murdered, raped, then blamed for it, punished over and over again for the crime of trusting, or loving, or submitting and obeying, or for being forced into relationships against our will, blamed, punished, imprisoned for fighting back when we can’t take it anymore.
For there is nothing covered, that shall not be revealed; neither hid, that shall not be known. .. whatsoever ye have spoken in darkness shall be heard in the light; and that which ye have spoken in the ear in closets shall be proclaimed upon the housetops. — Jesus of Nazareth, Luke 2:2-3 (For all of the Matthew Winklers and Mary Winklers reading here, who stand in need either of comfort or warning. — Heart)
These are the shoes Mary Winkler’s man-of-the-cloth husband, the good Rev. Matthew Winkler, wanted worn when he raped her, along with a short skirt, a tight shirt, and a black wig. Before he raped her, he got in the mood by watching pornographic movies, which he sometimes forced her to watch. These have been entered into evidence in her murder trial.
Over the course of her marriage, Matthew Winkler punched Mary in the face, pinched her, shoved her and beat her and the children with a belt. This, of course, in addition to raping her. A police officer called to testify desribed Matthew Winkler as a “Tasmanian devil.” Mary Winkler’s sisters have said Mary had to ask Matthew whether she could visit the family, and usually the answer was no. Mary describes her family as traditionally conservative Christian, Matthew large and in charge. Asked why she never told anyone, she said, “I was ashamed.” Asked why she didn’t divorce him, she said he refused to consider divorce and would have sought custody of the children (and probably would have gotten it).
Mary Winkler, I am standing with you. I support you. I feel you. No woman should ever have to live what you lived, suffer what you suffered, endure the kinds of torments you endured over years and years, silently, without complaint. I am so, so sorry. You didn’t deserve that, not any of it.
Anybody want to be forced into those shoes to have something your abusive husband calls “sex,” which amounts to rape, which he, and people in your world, are telling you is “sex” and “marital intimacy” which God requires of you as a Christian woman? Anybody know what it is for a woman to be tortured, tormented, methodically, deliberately, in this calculated way, by someone who says he “loves” you? Anybody know what it is to break, to find yourself unable to live this way anymore, unable to do it anymore?
I know exactly what it is. Many women, especially Christian or formerly Christian women, know what this is.
Here is one thing I have to say to all reading. Matthew Winkler didn’t develop a taste for forcing his wife into the torture devices depicted above and then raping her on his own, without help. That obsession began with pornography, with Matthew Winkler whacking off to images of other women forced into shoes like that, clothes like that, positions like that, to be fucked, and raped and used by men. Those of you who would say there is something “liberating” and “empowering” about wearing shoes like this for the entertainment of men, those who would say that women “choose” to wear this shit, may kiss my entire ass. Those of you who insist that pornography is just “fantasy” and “harmless” may go straight to hell. Those of us who, like Mary Winkler, have been directly harmed by it and by the views of people like you know better.
I am lighting a candle for Mary Winkler, her daughters, her sisters and father and mother, her friends, and the jurors who will decide her fate. I’m with you, Mary. If I could be there in that courtroom, I’d be right there with you.
While there are many folks who are rejoicing that Imus was fired, I fear that we may have won a battle but could have *temporarily* lost this relentless racist/sexist war against Black women in the United States. While most eyes were focused on the outcome of Imus’ fate, the accused members of the Duke Lacrosse team were exonerated. Very, very tragically, many of the same Black (overwhelmingly male) voices who were demanding the firing of Imus, haven’t said a peep about the recent dropping of charges against the accused members of the Duke Lacrosse team. Additionally, in the ongoing mainstream media discussions about Imus calling the predominantly Black women’s basketball team at Rutgers University “nappy headed-ho’s,” there hasn’t been any mainstream media correlation/analysis/commentary
/discussion about the fact that:
1. Some of the (White) Duke Lacrosse team members called the two (Black) women “niggers” and “bitches”;
2. One of the (White) Duke Lacrosse members threatened to rape them with a broomstick;
3. Another (White) Duke Lacrosse team member spoke of hiring strippers in an e-mail sent the same night that threatened to kill “the bitches” and cut off their skin while he ejaculated in his “Duke-issued spandex;” and
4. Another (White) Duke Lacrosse team member shouted to the (Black woman) victim as she left the team’s big house, “Hey bitch, thank your grandpa for my nice cotton shirt.”
Instead there were subtle and not-so subtle racist implications that hip-hop is the cause of Imus’ racist/sexist comments; and that the Black woman stripper/whore (not daughter, not mother, not college student, not sex worker) lied on/set up the innocent White Duke Lacrosse team members (who hired her and her colleague to perform for them).
So, in this very direct way the corporate owned media message to the American public is that Black people, especially Black women, are the perpetrators of violence against White men (and I would argue Black men too).
Based on the overwhelming deafening silence from mainstream Black (predominantly male) ‘leaders’ and organizations about the documented racist/sexist comments made by the White Duke Lacrosse team members, it’s clear to me that no one will speak for us– Black women–but ourselves. It doesn’t matter if you’re a rape survivor, a child sexual abuse survivor, a domestic violence survivor, a stripper, a prostitute, a lesbian, a bisexual woman, a heterosexual woman, a single mother (especially with several children from different fathers), on welfare, a high school drop out, college educated, working in corporate America, working at a minimum wage job with no health insurance, or working in the film/music/television entertainment industry. Yes, I placed what some people would view as very different/distinct categories of Black women in the same category because I firmly believe that if any of the aforementioned Black women are at the wrong place at the wrong time (which could be at any time), we, Black women, will be left to heal our very public wounds alone.
I was the young Black woman who in 1989, at 19 years old six weeks shy of my 20th birthday, said “Yes”, while on a study abroad program…I was the Black woman who broke the rules of the university where I attended by agreeing to sneak out, after hours, to meet the man who would become my rapist… I was the Black woman who after breaking the university enforced rules started to have second thoughts but was afraid to articulate them and was afraid to turn around because my friends were covering for me… I was the Black woman who paid for the hotel room where I was raped…I was the Black woman who said to my soon-to-become rapist, “I don’t want to do this. Please stop.” I didn’t “violently” fight back. I didn’t scream or yell to the top of my lungs” because I was afraid. I didn’t want to make a “scene.” I blamed myself for saying, “Yes”…for breaking the rules…for paying for the hotel room.
I am one of countless women, regardless of race/ethnicity/national origin, age, sexual orientation, class, religion who experientially learned that the (often unchallenged) punishment for women who use poor judgment with men is rape and other forms of sexual violence. And the reward for those same men who perpetrate the sexual violence that we (victim/survivors) experience is the opportunity to perpetrate again and in turn say “WOMEN LIE.”
“For all who ARE survivors of sexual violence…For all who choose to BELIEVE survivors of sexual violence…For all who KNOW WE CAN end rape culture…” come to Durham, North Carolina on Saturday, April 28, 2007. Join the numerous individuals and organizations from across the United States who will come to Durham, North Carolina on Saturday, April 28, 2007 to participate in “Creating A World Without Sexual Violence – A National Day of Truthtelling.”
This mobilizing event is organized by a coalition of organizations including North Carolina Coalition Against Sexual Assault, Ubuntu, Men Against Rape Culture, SpiritHouse, Raleigh Fight Imperialism Stand Together, Southerners on New Ground, Independent Voices, Black Workers for Justice, and Freedom Road Socialist Organization/OSCL).
Aishah Shahidah Simmons is a Black feminist lesbian documentary filmmaker, writer, and activist based in Philadelphia. An incest and rape survivor, she spent eleven years, seven of which were full time to produce/write/direct NO! (The Rape Documentary), a feature length documentary which looks at the universal reality of rape and other forms of sexual violence through the first-person testimonies, activism, scholarship, cultural work, and spirituality of African-Americans.
Following is a non-exclusive list of books by Black feminists who address Hip-Hop and Feminism
(There are many more books than those that are listed):
Pimps Up, Ho’s Down: Hip-Hop’s Hold On Young Black Women by T. Denean Sharpley-Whiting
Prophets in the Hood: Politics and Poetics in Hip-Hop by Imani Perry
When Chickenheads Come Home to Roost: A Hip-Hop Feminist Breaks It Down by Joan Morgan
From Black Power to Hip Hop: Racism, Nationalism, and Feminism by Patricia Hill Collins
Gender Talk: The Struggle For Women’s Equality in African American Communities by Johnnetta Betsch Cole and Beverly Guy-Sheftall
Thanks to Mekhit for sending this to me.