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2008-2010 Posts

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Things Women Share In Common

As an American woman,  I have much in common with by far the majority of women throughout the world.  If I were to gather with women from the Middle East, from Southeast Asia, from Eastern and Southern Europe, from South America, Central America, were language no barrier,  and if we wanted to share our lives, we would find we shared much common ground.

  • As a female, girl and woman, all of my life, I have been  objectified, othered, and expected to serve men, over the entire course of my life, and punished in various ways for refusing.
  • Growing up in a family of immigrants and third-generation Americans who revered the ways of the Old Country, I learned my place as a girl child early on.  As a girl it was my job to cook and to clean for men, to serve them dinner and wash the dishes afterwards, to launder, fold, iron their clothes, to prepare their meals.  I was to smile, be kind, be friendly, be sweet, mind my manners, speak softly, dress femininely,  like dolls and pink and all of the things girls and women are supposed to like.  To deviate or challenge any of the above brought swift censure, shunning and punishment.
  • I am a survivor of rape, sexual assault, groping, both in public places and in private, “flashing;”
  • I am a survivor of battering, severe domestic violence.
  • I am a survivor of ongoing sexual harassment — in the streets, on the job, in my home, in the marketplace.
  • I have been spiritually, emotionally, verbally, mentally, and physically abused in fundamentalist religion.
  • I am a mother.
  • I have suffered miscarriages.
  • I have had an abortion.
  • I am the mother of 11 children, all birthed from my body.
  • I have breastfed all of my children.
  • I have suffered all of the indignities apportioned to mothers, in particular single mothers and mothers of very large families.
  • I have suffered the insults and indignities of patriarchal medicine.
  • I have worked two and three jobs simultaneously to support my family over, by now, 36 years.
  • I talk a lot about my magazine and my writing because I’m proud of that work.  But over the course of my life, to earn money to support myself I have also picked berries in local farms, weeded rich  folks’ yards and farms, cleared brush from farms, picked brush (look it up, it’s hard work), cleaned houses, both as a paid housekeeper and as the unpaid caregiver for my and others’ children and families, grown fruit, vegetables and herbs for sale, made soap and other products for sale, worked as a bus girl, a waitress, and a cocktail server, worked as an office clerk, a secretary, a caregiver to babies and children.
  • I have been coerced into marriage.
  • I have been excommunicated and subjected to discipline for disobedience to patriarchal religion.
  • I have been subjected to the patriarchal  indignities of the divorce process.
  • My worth has been consistently evaluated on the basis of my physical appearance.
  •  I have had to feed my family of 10 and 11 on less than $200 per month. (And I did it.)
  • I have had to find ways to keep my family warm without a source of heat in the house.
  • I have been fired because I was pregnant and not hired because I was pregnant.
  • I experience fear at night in dark public places when I am alone.

On Rejecting the Politics of Hate and Personal Attack

Starhawk, in the Washington Post, October 17, 2008:

“In the normal course of events, I’m a pro-anger kind of a gal. I came up through the feminist ranks in the seventies, when we were energized by the realization that all our lives, we women had been told to be ‘nice’, sweet, to placate the guys and not get them riled up. If we got angry, we either looked ‘cute’ or were unattractive raging b-words (rhymes with Witch). Anger was a rational response to the constrictions and dis-empowerment we faced as women, and it became a driving force in our efforts for cultural change. Ironically, one of those results is Sarah Palin’s candidacy. It is a triumph of feminism that we have so changed the culture in this country that the same kinds of reactionaries that wouldn’t have voted for a women in 1968 and would have opposed a woman voting in 1908 now have to turn to one to energize their base.

“Anger, however, is a dangerous emotion. Continue reading

“Homeland Security” Agents Raid Defense Contractor, Shackle Mothers and Children Together, Bus Them 1,000 Miles, No Due Process, No Attorneys, No Humanity

 Via Angela Valenzuela

[In early March], more than 500 armed homeland security officers descended upon Michael Blanco Inc. The owner of the factory, and a few of his senior staff, were arrested for hiring undocumented workers and creating false documents. They were out on bail and home with their families that night.

Approximately 350 employees, mostly mothers with young children, were swept up in the raid, shackled together in groups of three by their wrists and ankles and marched to buses bound for Fort Devens, 100 miles away. Without any legal representation or due process, these workers were asked for their immigration documentation and encouraged by immigration officers to choose voluntary deportation regardless of whether an immigration application was in process.

The irony of the story is that these employees were manufacturing the materials that keep US soldiers in Iraq safe from harm. Their skills as craftspeople served our country at a time of great need. Yet instead of being treated like heroes for their role in the war effort, they and their families are treated like traitors.

President Bush and his administration have decided to prioritize the detention and deportation of young mothers at taxpayer expense, and at the expense of our troops.

Read also Locking Up Family Values, a report about the prison-like conditions at Dept. of “Homeland Security’s” “facilities,” via the Women’s Commission for Refugee Women and Children, also courtesy of Angela Valenzuela.

Via Unbossed.com: Continue reading

Books for Children in Africa

In Sokari’s most recent blog post she links to blogger Chatoyance who links to The Individual Voice who recently posted the entire text of Doris Lessing’s acceptance speech after Lessing had won the 2007 Nobel Price for Literature.   Lessing writes about the hunger of Zimbabwean children and adults for books and of the crucial and central need for writers and publishers in Zimbabwe, throughout Africa and throughout the world.  Lessing said:

I have seen a Teacher in a school where there was no textbooks, not even a bit of chalk for the blackboard – it was stolen – teach his class of six to eighteen year olds by moving stones in the dust, chanting “Two times two is…..” and so on. I have seen a girl, perhaps not more than twenty, similarly lacking textbooks, exercise books, biros – anything, teach the A, B, C in the dust with a stick, while the sun beat down and the dust swirled.

We are seeing here that great hunger for education in Africa, anywhere in the Third World, or whatever we call parts of the world where parents long to get an education for their children which will take them from poverty, to the advantage of an education.

Our education which is so threatened now.

I would like you to imagine yourselves, somewhere in Southern Africa, standing in an Indian store, in a poor area, in a time of bad drought. There is a line of people, mostly women, with every kind of container for water. This store gets a bowser of water every afternoon from the town and the people are waiting for this precious water.

The Indian is standing with the heels of his hands pressed down on the counter, and he is watching a black woman, who is bending over a wadge of paper that looks as if it has been torn out of a book. She is reading Anna Karenin.

She is reading slowly, mouthing the words. It looks a difficult book. This is a young woman with two little children clutching at her legs. She is pregnant. The Indian is distressed, because the young woman’s headscarf, which should be white, is yellow with dust. Dust lies between her breasts and on her arms. This man is distressed because of the lines of people, all thirsty, but he doesn’t have enough water for them. He is angry because he knows there are people dying out there, beyond the dust clouds. His brother, older, had been here holding the fort, but he had said he needed a break, had gone into town, really rather ill, because of the drought.

This man is curious. He says to the young woman. “What are you reading?”

“It is about Russia,” says the girl.

“Do you know where Russia is?” He hardly knows himself.

The young woman looks straight at him, full of dignity though her eyes are red from dust, “I was best in the class. My teacher said, I was best.” Continue reading

Chief of Immigration Enforcement Awards Employee for Blackface Costume, References to Krome Detention Center

 

Published: April 9, 2008
WASHINGTON — The nation’s top immigration enforcement official ordered the destruction of photographs of an office Halloween party that showed a white agency employee dressed as a black detainee, according to a Congressional investigation whose report was released on Tuesday.

James Estrin/The New York Times

Julie L. Myers, an assistant secretary of homeland security, had a role in awarding a top prize to a white employee dressed as a black detainee for an office Halloween costume contest.

The Democratic staff of the House Committee on Homeland Security said Julie L. Myers, the assistant secretary of homeland security for immigration and customs enforcement, ordered that the photos be removed from a digital camera in a “coordinated effort to conceal” her role in awarding one of the top costume prizes to the employee.

The report said Ms. Myers, who was acting assistant secretary at the time, might have moved to cover up the events to avoid derailing her Senate confirmation.

The Congressional committee provided no evidence of an intentional cover-up.

Kelly A. Nantel, an agency spokeswoman, confirmed Tuesday that Ms. Myers had ordered that the photographs be deleted, but said she had done so because she belatedly realized that the costume was inappropriate and that it would be offensive if the photos were included in any agency publications.

But Ms. Nantel said that Ms. Myers never tried to cover up that the event had occurred. In fact, Ms. Myers sent a message to all agency employees two days after the party acknowledging that “a few of the costumes were inappropriate.”

“To suggest she somehow coordinated a cover-up is absolutely false,” Ms. Nantel said.

News reports about the offensive costume first surfaced last year, after an employee who attended the party at the agency headquarters filed a complaint with the homeland security committee.

Immigration and Customs Enforcement, which has 16,000 employees, enforces immigrations laws and operates detention centers holding about 30,000 people awaiting trial or deportation.

Ms. Myers had been a judge at the Halloween contest. The staff member who won the “most original costume” prize wore a dreadlock wig, what looked like a prison jumpsuit and black face paint.

“I’m a Jamaican detainee from Krome — obviously, I’ve escaped,” the employee, referring to a detention center in Miami, announced to the judges, provoking laughter, according to the Congressional report.

Ms. Myers then posed for photographs with the employee — whose name was not released — smiling for the camera.

The report said that, under orders from Ms. Myers, the employee was reprimanded after the party and told that he would be relocated from the agency headquarters to a field office. The Congressional committee staff said that the move was an effort to conceal the event.

Photographs of the winning costume were not, however, permanently deleted from the camera. Agency employees were able to recover them, and a picture of a smiling Ms. Myers next to the winner is in the report.

Ms. Myers’s nomination to oversee the immigration agency was delayed while questions surfaced about her qualifications and her ties to the White House and to some senior officials. Ms. Myers, a niece of Gen. Richard B. Myers of the Air Force, a former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, was confirmed by the Senate in December.

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