Category Archives: Feminism

Kali Awakes Demanding Justice

A young medical student, future doctor who would have saved lives, was vandalized like a bombed church to the point where it’s questionable whether her survival would have been a mercy.


I understand the rage and deep despair of women in India. They have been living under a terrorist threat all their lives, and it does not come from without, but within. They walk the gauntlet every day, facing random crime and threat while those who should protect the public indulge in denial and victim blaming. Women are expendable. The mistake of the six men who thought they could get away with murder was in not choosing their victim more wisely. They never expected that schoolgirls would be holding signs calling for their public hanging.

Every society has crime. What has women and men demonstrating in the streets of India is the intolerable injustice. For too long, oppression of women on the margins has been ignored. Now the depth of the suffering of women is the shame of all, and the people are calling for justice. That justice will not be satisfied by a show trial, but by real change. That justice will not be satisfied until a woman can believe that she is equal under the protection of the law.

It was about 30 years ago the first Take Back the Night march was organized in Providence, Rhode Island. It was not a triumphal march. It’s no fun to have to walk the streets of your own city, chanting ‘No More Rape’. The rule of law should be responsible for public safety. But rule of law was applied selectively and atrocious crimes were being committed without consequences.

I think that thirty years on, we are less complacent, but an individual has a better chance of justice, whether she or he is of high status or low.

A friend of mine, in our women’s spirituality group– okay, it was a coven– told me a story.

She had been active with a Zen Buddhist center, and was going through a rough time emotionally. She asked one of the monks for spiritual advice.

When they were alone together, and she was in a vulnerable state, he steered the counseling session into a sexual encounter.

She left confused, but soon recognized that this man had betrayed her trust and taken advantage. It took her about a year to get up the courage to do something about it.

She said she prayed to the Goddess Kali to keep her anger alive. To keep her from falling into niceness and premature forgiveness. To give her the angry courage to tell this man frankly how much he had harmed her.

She said that when she had finished telling him how his actions had affected her, he thanked her. She said he kept saying, “thank you.” all the time she was telling him the truth. Maybe she really did get through to him.

A beautiful and useful concept that was developed in South Africa is ‘Truth and Reconciliation’. Before reconciliation there must be truth. And that truth must be taken seriously by those in power to construct and enforce the law. We are in a new millennium, and we cannot afford to lose the best contributions of half the human race in order to appease ancient prejudice. That challenge goes out to all the world, to the daily life and struggle of every woman no matter where she lives. Like the Unitarians say–the worth and dignity of every human being.

Thanks to Summer Anne Burton for her photos of Indians demanding justice.

(Creds to this site, 10 Most Powerful Hindu Goddesses for the fierce aspect of Kali.)

Endangered Manhood

Hey, what’s the use of working as a nurse for over 20 years if you can’t laugh about some of the crazy stuff people do. Like when you stay overtime to help a guy who is circling the drain for kidney failure and he tells his doctor he’s there for the condition Rush Limbaugh will be organizing a telethon for real soon.

Rush Limbaugh Thinks He Discovers a New Disease
It’s called DUD (Dwindling Unit Disorder), and this nurse explains why a man might think he is a DUD, when really he’s a WUSS.

Marilyn Monroe: Foster Child

This is a fascinating documentary — a window into a Marilyn Monroe who wanted a much fuller identity than this crazy mixed-up world would allow. It struck me with a new depth to realize she was a foster child, after many years of working with foster children and helping them form healthy identities. It’s amazing to see Marilyn striving for new levels of identity — to be taken seriously as an actress, a creative force in her own right, and not just a stereo-type of the Dumb Blonde, sexy, but ultimately empty. She also wanted to bring others to their fullest expression as artists, helping to get jazz singer Ella Fitzgerald into the realm of stardom. She also wanted to express her leader more, and started her own production company. Sadly, it really sounds like Arthur Miller did her in by not letting her continue in her partnership with Milton Greene. Of course there were many factors in her undoing, but this movie gave me more to think about in terms of how children with vulnerable identities get co-opted by “sharks in the pool” — relationship partners who are tyrannical in the level of control they must have over the other partner’s life.

EG Candidate Mark Co-Signed Father-Daughter Dance Letter To Cranston – East Greenwich, RI Patch

It seems that Cranston has once again become the epicenter for acting out a drama that is likely being repeated, on a much smaller scale, in communities all across the country. This time the hot now-in-the-national-news debate is about father-daughter dances and how we are now calling them family dances.

Sometimes I feel like we have a special talent here in Cranston for making an issue out of things that would make common sense for us all to agree on. I wish we all could have agreed to just take the “Heavenly Father” off the prayer banner and call it a school pledge. I wish we could agree to let this family dance be our clarion call of respect for our different ways of raising children in the community. Sometimes I wonder if we were having this conversation in the presence of the children whose fathers are not available for the dance, how many of us would make the right decision and say to the children, “This is a family dance, and all are welcome. You can bring anyone you want.” But as Bob Plain points out, we are still feeling the pain from out last go-around with the ACLU, which may be driving a certain amount of the posturing and outcry.

I can sympathize with people who want this name to go away. While the pictures could line our walls of my husband and our ever-growing daughters posed side by side for the father-daughter dance photos, it’s not right for children to feel excluded. I know from my practice of social work, these issues are particularly hard on children in other family constellations, such as being raised by grandparents, foster parents, single parents, or in families with two moms. Our school changed to from the Father-Daughter dance to the Family Dance last year, and reports from our parent-teacher organization were that it was a successful event and we raised money for the school.

Carolyn Mark, who is the president of the National Organization for Women in Rhode Island, and who is running for school committee in East Greenwich, co-authored the letter that prompted the change in nomenclature. Click through to read more about the issue, including the letter she wrote.

EG Candidate Mark Co-Signed Father-Daughter Dance Letter To Cranston – East Greenwich, RI Patch.

Please Joe, Say it’s The Onion

Joe. My. God. reports that Fifty Shades of Grey is a magazine.

Ew, I say. This is scarier than Marabel Morgan answering the door in Saran Wrap.

SIGHTING: There it was on the magazine rack at the Stop and Shop. I don’t get it, but I didn’t get Martha Stewart Living either. I guess it’s a phenom.

Bible Verses for Todd Akin

‘Gaffe’, how did this Frenchified word get into American politics? We needed a way to point out that someone smart who has to meet the public and give speeches for months of sleep-deprived campaigning will inevitably say something regrettable.

Here are the Merriam-Webster dictionary examples of ‘gaffe’…

He realized that he had committed an awful gaffe when he mispronounced her name.
committed a huge gaffe when she started drinking from the finger bowl

A cynic joked that a gaffe is when a politician tells the truth. There are slips, Freudian slips, and entire detailed statements where it’s hard to interpret the words to be anything but what they mean. Congressman Todd Akin’s outrageous statement about rape, and the weird idea that an innocent woman can’t be made pregnant against her will isn’t an accident– it’s a belief with a history in our culture and roots in the more extreme corners of the religious right.

These kinds of beliefs provide cover for rapists who use intimidation and prey on the vulnerable. Tina Anderson was only 15 when she was raped and made pregnant by a much older man in her church.

Fifty-two-year-old Ernest Willis of Gilford apologised on Tuesday saying he was ‘sorry and ashamed for this thoughtless act of sexual misconduct.’
But he did not admit to forcibly raping the teenager.

Miss Anderson, now 29, told The Associated Press she felt vindicated.
She said she was never really believed that the sex was not consensual until a court found him guilty.

The teen was forced to face hundreds of churchgoers at Concord’s Trinity Baptist Church and say sorry for getting pregnant.

She said: ‘I felt completely humiliated. I felt like my life was over.’

The then-pastor of the New Hampshire church, Chuck Phelps, arranged for her to move in with a Baptist family in Colorado and place her infant daughter up for adoption.

She said she believed ‘for years’ what the church leaders had told her which was: ‘The rapes were her fault and she must learn to forgive and forget.’

During cross-examination Anderson lashed out at defence attorney Donna Brown for ‘badgering her’ about discrepancies in her recollection of the sequence of events that summer.

She said: ‘You cannot remember when you are 15-years-old and scared out of your mind. It doesn’t mean I was lying. I felt like my life was over.’

The Old Testament Book of Deuteronomy 22 20 gives instructions on when a husband may have his wife stoned to death for being unable to prove she was a virgin on their wedding night. The penalty for getting raped in the city is death, because presumably the woman failed to call for help.

Imagine a woman forced to drink poison because her husband suspects she has been impure. Numbers 5 23:29

23 ‘The priest shall then write these curses on a scroll, and he shall [k]wash them off into the water of bitterness. 24 Then he shall make the woman drink the water of bitterness that brings a curse, so that the water which brings a curse will go into her [l]and cause bitterness. 25 The priest shall take the grain offering of jealousy from the woman’s hand, and he shall wave the grain offering before the Lord and bring it to the altar; 26 and the priest shall take a handful of the grain offering as its memorial offering and offer it up in smoke on the altar, and afterward he shall make the woman drink the water. 27 When he has made her drink the water, then it shall come about, if she has defiled herself and has been unfaithful to her husband, that the water which brings a curse will go into her [m]and cause bitterness, and her abdomen will swell and her thigh will [n]waste away, and the woman will become a curse among her people. 28 But if the woman has not defiled herself and is clean, she will then be free and conceive [o]children.

29 ‘This is the law of jealousy: when a wife, being under the authority of her husband, goes astray and defiles herself, 30 or when a spirit of jealousy comes over a man and he is jealous of his wife, he shall then make the woman stand before the Lord, and the priest shall apply all this law to her. 31 Moreover, the man will be free from [p]guilt, but that woman shall bear her [q]guilt.’”

Imagine the terror that woman would feel, drinking the cursed, dirty water. This is what is known as an ordeal. If she gets sick from the dirt or the power of suggestion– well that proves it. No mention of how many times a husband can demand this ritual, as often as the spirit of jealousy calls to him apparently.

The net is full of better writers than this one, once again explaining that rape is a crime. Brave women are coming out and talking about their own survival. This reminds me of the periodic emergence of Roman Polanski from his European bunker, forcing the woman who survived his assault as a child to once again ask the press to please go away. It should not be necessary to refute these bad ideas over and over, but here we are.

The Republican Party may be racing to distance itself from Todd Akin’s remarks, but it’s important to know that they are not his alone, and do come from an important part of the Republican base. He’s not the first to pass judgment on who is ‘really raped’ and who deserved it. His real gaffe was to expose the contradictions between the wing of the GOP that will frankly say that they would force a woman to continue a pregnancy caused by rape, and the much more moderate American public. When you breach the consistent position that abortion is forbidden in any circumstance, you open the door to circumstantial morality. If you believe, as I do, that life is circumstantial and that there are many hard decisions that belong to the people most affected, you can live with grey areas.

What is contemptible about Todd Akin’s statements is that he won’t face the reality that a rapist is not usually a deranged man jumping out of the bushes. That’s why Ernest Willis was able to prey on a child in a church and engage the pastor in covering up his crime.

And as Black Max at Daily Kos points out, if you believe the pseudo-science that a woman’s body has some contraceptive powers against rape, pregnancy proves that she was asking for it. In the old days, like about fifty years ago, the forces of law and order would just disappear the girls to reform school.

It’s only different now because so many brave women spoke truth in the face of personal destruction. Their witness stands against obstinate ignorance. Like they say, you’re entitled to your own opinions, but not your own facts. If anyone presumes to represent the people, they have to face the consequences when they slander half the population.

AN AGENDA: Emergency contraception is the standard of medical care for victims of rape. Too often this standard is not kept because of a mistaken idea that emergency contraception is a form of abortion. The belief that any victim of a violent crime should have to prove themselves by showing visible injuries, and that only ‘forcible rape’ is real, and that a victim of ‘forcible rape’ can’t get pregnant supports the agenda of denying contraception even in the most dire circumstances.

Here’s more from CNN on Congressman Akin’s views…

Akin, a six-term U.S. congressman, touted his socially conservative values on the primary campaign trail.
He opposes abortion in all circumstances and has said he also opposes the morning after pill, which he equates to abortion.

Believing that no decent woman would ever find herself in an emergency room needing emergency contraception is necessary to make these views seem less than oppressive.

The Rainbow vs Fifty Shades of Grey

This Saturday, Books on the Square hosted a reading by author Maureen D. Lee from her new book, ‘Sissieretta Jones,The Greatest Singer of Her Race- 1868-1933′. I couldn’t help noticing that the bookshelves behind Ms.Lee were lined with the bestselling Three Book Covers of Grey.

I kind of have to root for E.L.James, and any writer who makes it big, but I’m not buying her book. I read a Barbara Cartland romance once, which is two hours of my life I’ll never see again. And in my day, captains of industry were briefly out of fashion. But now bosses are Job Creators, who trickle opportunity down on workers who should be ever grateful. Maybe we should have banned Gov.Carcieri and the General Assembly from reading Harlequin Romance or Ayn Rand or whatever fantasy made them fall in love with Curt Schilling.

When I was young, every guy who wore a tie thought he was Donald Trump. I worked in just about every photofinishing lab in greater Providence. I was a ‘spotter’. That century-old craft of painting the white dust spots on photographs by hand, individually, has gone the way of film. But in the Reagan years you could make a living.

I worked in a small business run by a married couple. The bosses, ‘Lars’ and ‘Phyllis’ didn’t seem to get along, but they were constantly together. Phyllis confided in me that she would wake up at night and drink a strong cup of Swedish coffee, and she was rumored to be using sleeping pills. She was a nervous wreck. Lars was jovial and omnipresent.

“You know,” he said to me once in his thick Swedish accent, of the sculptor, Maya Lin, “she’s North Vietnamese.”

“She’s Chinese-American!” I shot back. Maya Lin, born in Ohio, was not the right shade of white to design the Vietnam Veteran’s Memorial. Even an immigrant like Lars knew that . This was before the internet, so Lars must have been on boss-net, or photofinishing psychic hotline. The occasional racist remark was a constant in all my jobs in the industry.

I wondered how long I would last. Painting out three dust spots on a thousand prints of one image– usually some piece of machinery, was not helping my mental health. My unused brain cells created vivid movies of all the possible dire fates that might befall me. Tedium is exhausting.

Though a dozen people worked there, there was no socializing. Phyllis and Lars so distrusted their employees that we were not allowed to take lunch together, lest we exchange gossip about them. Just once we all went out to a sandwich place at noon– as close to a job action as we ever got. Phyllis told me that they had stopped taking vacations. The last time they went away, their small dog was traumatized by the kennel. In any case, they had no one to watch the shop if they took a day off, so they didn’t.

Lars could get strange in the darkroom, I was told. He didn’t bother me that way, but he was kind of intrusive. One night I was lying in bed, sadly contemplating the approaching day of painting out dust spots. “This job is so boring,” I thought, “and Lars has such bad breath.”

A flashbulb of realization popped over my head. If I was smelling his breath, Lars was getting into my space. Though I was doing karate on and off, I only then realized that I needed to protect my zone.

The next time Lars, while rattling on about something, moved too close, I took a small step back. He looked startled for an instant, and I knew that this gentle and subtle gesture was an act of resistance he had not yet encountered. It was off-script.

And talk about bondage, Phyllis once shouted at Lars that she was going to call the libbers and tell them she was a battered woman. I don’t think that was strictly true, but they did seem chained together in mutual unhappiness. I eventually found out their secret.

Lars was colorblind. He saw the world in fifty shades of grey. Lars depended on Phyllis to do the color correction, a vital skill that would make or break the success of a commercial photofinishing lab. He trusted no one else, so they had to stay together.

I don’t know why we believe that we are mostly rational beings who react and decide on facts and logic. In our grand, romantic dreams, maybe. In reality, we make thousands of unconscious and half-conscious choices every day. The cultural water we swim in shades our perception of ourselves and others. The novelist, John Gardner, in his book ‘October Light’, has a hilarious take on how a trashy paperback influences a character’s speech and actions. Why do little boys tie towels around their necks and think they can fly? They don’t learn that in school.

It’s fair to ask why now, in an economic crisis, women are buying up a fantasy about a corporate master.

Cultural critic Lynn Parramore points out that this is not an original concept, or disconnected from other cultural myths. Janice Radway examined the contradictions in Reading the Romance, a dissection of the elements that make romance novels so addictive. Does the reader own the master when she can close him safely between the covers of a book? Yes and no.

You are what you read. Ayn Rand, a deceased author of critically panned novels has an outsize presence in American politics. Getting a job as a rich man’s mistress is seriously discussed as an option for paying college debt. We keep hearing about tax breaks for Job Creators, as if any human creates something from nothing. There’s an unexamined assumption that everything and everyone is a commodity. Where is the anger? Can’t smart college grads manage robbery or blackmail? Or rising up politically against the years of financial corruption that got us to this place? I’m nostalgic for the days when we talked about ‘sticking it to the man’, not humbly serving him.

Sissieretta Jones was the daughter of parents who survived legal, chattel slavery. I doubt she had any romantic illusions about that status. Fifty shades of sepia colored her fate, but her transcendent voice, talent and endurance allowed her to break bondage and practice racial integration in the South a hundred years before the Civil Rights Movement. Her life was a testimony to the subversive and liberating power of art, and also to the compromises artists make to survive. She was a gifted opera singer, and grew up in Providence, RI. But her hit song was ‘Swanee River’. That was what audiences expected and demanded.

Stories like this don’t get made into movies as long as we let the Grey guys suck up all the money and opportunity. In the Reagan years we watched ‘Dallas’ while the 1% were quietly carrying out their raid on the middle class. We basically had three TV networks then, and they all served Spam. The Internet has changed the game, but you still don’t get a major film made without corporate money.

I hope “Fifty Shades of Grey’ is x-rated, not some Disneyfied ‘Pretty Woman’ version. It should be what it is, and not ooze like an overturned can of Rustoleum into the general culture. Vain hope, I know. All I can do is spray rainbow graffiti on this tiny wall.

Not Tonight Dear, I’m Tweeting

Tracey Clark-Flory at Salon runs a skeptical eye over studies that prove that Americans value just about everything more than sex.

Incidentally, she uses some smart reading that should be applied to health and science headlines when shocking study conclusions seem contrary to common sense…

Take a survey finding that 43 percent of Canadians would choose bacon over sex – it was conducted by Maple Leaf Foods Inc., a bacon producer. Then there’s the one sponsored by the Better Sleep Council, a creation of the mattress industry, which found that 61 percent of American adults would choose a good night’s sleep over sex. See also: asurvey by mobile app company Telenav which found that — surprise, surprise – one-third of Americans would rather go without sex than their cellphone.

We boomers are the free love generation, but free time is precious. Between work, family and a thousand distractions it can be hard to even hear yourself think, never mind appreciate the love in your life. As we celebrate Independence Day, let’s not forget interdependence and the pursuit of happiness, and thank the founding mothers and fathers who sacrificed for the eight hour work day.

The Radical History of Mother’s Day | NationofChange

Enjoying the day here with the family, and thought this post was a good one for remembering the true intent of the holiday. Happy Mother’s Day to all!

The Radical History of Mother’s Day | NationofChange.

Occupy Sexism

Most likely there is not a Personal Goddess who favors Her worshippers with good weather. April 22 was one of those ‘cruelest month’ days.

The rally sponsored by the ‘Rhode Island Anti-Sexism League’ had been planned for City Hall Park, with a march through downtown, but rain changed the meeting place to the shelter of the tunnel under the skating rink. There, about 30 people assembled for a speak-out on economic injustice, inequality and violence against women, and men too, who get on the wrong side of gender roles.

The miracle, perhaps, is that a diverse group braved the chill and the damp to hear two hours of speeches. The miracle that this group comprised young and old, men and women, queer and straight, couples pushing strollers, students, teachers, workers and activists. This is the miracle I see at Occupy Providence– the reaching across lines.

The sad and frustrating thing is that we have to come to this place again. More than one speaker reminded us that equality for women will not be won in one generation.

The General Assembly of Occupy Providence has been meeting twice a week since leaving Burnside Park. I expect that in May the press will be reporting on the return of Occupy Providence. The truth is we never left.

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