Saturday, June 25, 2011

Sexual Assault Prevention Tips poster puts blame where it belongs

"I'm not saying you shouldn't use common sense and watch out for signs of danger, but the ultimate honus (sic)* to keep from committing a crime fall on (duh,) the person who is actually thinking of committing the crime, and I think we need to be reminded of that more often." -- Jamie Peck,

I don't think I need to say any more about this poster.  Thanks to my Facebook friend KK for sending it to me.
*(The correct word is onus, meaning burden or blame -- cwr.)

Friday, June 24, 2011

June 24, 1972: "I Am Woman" debuts

Helen Reddy in 1972
"I realized that the song I was looking for didn't exist, and I was going to have to write it myself."  -- Helen Reddy on her hit "I Am Woman."

Thirty-nine years ago today, America first heard Helen Reddy sing her signature hit "I Am Woman."  The song that would go on to become the anthem of the women's movement in the 1970s was not an immediate hit, but by December of 1972, it was No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100. 

Reddy co-wrote the song with Ray Burton when she could find no other songs that expressed her new-found positive sense of self she found when she joined the women's movement. 

"I Am Woman" earned Reddy a Grammy Award for "Best Female Pop Vocal Performance."  In her acceptance speech, Reddy thanked God, "because She makes everything possible."

Reddy was also the first native Australian to top the U.S. charts and also win a Grammy. She went on to record, perform and act in the years to follow.

Reddy in 2010
She officially retired from show business in 2002 and is now a practicing hypnotherapist in Australia.

In 2006, she penned her autobiography titled "The Woman I Am."

In an interview with California-based Daieda Magazine in 2010, Reddy, 69, said she has no regrets about leaving show business, and emphatically states she has no plans to return.

"I have no regrets about leaving show business when I did.  I have to say that the last 10 years have probably been the happiest of my life," she said.

Reddy also told the magazine that she is still involved with feminist causes "in as much as it's possible to be."

"I'm still involved with battered women's shelters and things like that.  Feminism was a big threat to a lot of guys when it came out.  I was upsetting the applecart with 'I Am Woman.' I remember after I gave my Grammy speech and thanked God 'because She makes everything possible,' one woman wrote in and said, 'If you think God is a woman, then she and the Virgin Mary must be lesbians.  Is that what you believe?'

Reddy believes there is still much to be done in the name of feminism, despite its negative connotation in today's media.

"... it's very hard to fight the media and the media's representation of feminism and feminist issues.  The media turned feminism into a dirty word.  So much hard work was undone and so many gains were lost in the eighties.  Now there's a whole generation of young women who want the benefits of feminism but don't want that word.  They don't want to say they're feminist or associate as part of a feminist cause."

Reddy also revealed her one guilty pleasure:  "Chocolate.  It's my one sin."

Listen to Helen Reddy's classic "I Am Woman" here, lyrics included:

Related links:

Read Helen Reddy's Daeida interview in its entirety.

Helen Reddy's official website.


Wednesday, June 22, 2011

There's two sides to every SlutWalk

Once upon a time in Toronto, a cop said something like, "If women don't want to be victimized, they shouldn't dress like sluts."

"This is victim-blaming mentality," said the women of the city.  So, they dressed in their finest provocative clothing and took to the streets. And it became their mission was to send a message that a particular mode of dress is not justification for sexual assault or other abuse.  Soon, other women took up the cause around the world.

Slut Walk in Austin, Texas photo by Rhettwp All rights reserved
They've walked in Canada, the United States, Europe, Australia and even India, and now they are coming to Detroit, "to bring awareness and to stop slut-shaming, no one deserves to be raped, assaulted, or harassed."

Organizers told MOTORCITYBLOG, "We want all Sluts AND Allies there-- dress as you please, whether it's a corset and fishnets or sweatpants and a t-shirt. Because victim-blaming affects people of all genders, and no matter what you're wearing, you don't deserve to be targeted for it."  

Originally scheduled for Saturday, June 25, the Detroit event has been postponed while organizers team up with "a major media outlet" to "gain more visibility in hopes of making SlutWalk Detroit as powerful as it can be."

Jennifer Martin, Ph.D., teaches women's studies at Oakland University in Rochester, Mich.  She describes the SlutWalks as "an organic, grassroots movement -- highly contentious in the women's studies community." 

"They have sprung up nationally as well as globally in response to dress based victim blame for sexual assault," Martin said.

"I see the 'slut' in Slut Walk as being implicitly placed in quotation marks, as irony.  Women should not be blamed for sexual assault, this is what they are trying to illustrate -- putting the issue into the public's view -- imploring people to face it."

Yet some fear the irony of the movement might be lost on younger women, adding to their confusion surrounding society's sexual double standard.

In their article "Slut Walk is Not Sexual Liberation," Gail Dines and Wendy J. Murphy say:

"While the organisers of the SlutWalk might think that proudly calling themselves "sluts" is a way to empower women, they are in fact making life harder for girls who are trying to navigate their way through the tricky terrain of adolescence ... They have been told over and over that in order to be valued in such a culture, they must look and act like sluts, while not being labeled slut because the label has dire consequences including being blamed for rape, depression, anxiety, eating disorders, and self-mutilation."

Yet, Lena Ellis, one of the organizers of Detroit SlutWalk says one of the SlutWalk's goals is to "reclaim the word slut."

She says, "I would love to see all hateful words gone from existence, but that’s not possible. The word slut has been used for years to scorn women and make them feel ashamed, but I feel by redefining it and reclaiming it we are giving power to the word in a positive sense."

But is it possible to assign any positive connotation to the word "slut?"  It's most basic meaning since the 15th century has been "a sexually immoral woman."

Also, "Slut" is a word that women use against other women to degrade, demean and devalue them.  Embracing the word does not take away its power in the "girl-on-girl crime arena," where it is incredibly powerful.  It's all about context.

Dines and Murphy say activists' time could be better spent, "exposing the myriad ways in which the law and the culture enable myths about all types of women – sexually active or "chaste" alike. These myths facilitate sexual violence by undermining women's credibility when they report sex crimes."

And further:

"Women need to take to the streets – but not for the right to be called "slut". Women should be fighting for liberation from culturally imposed myths about their sexuality that encourage gendered violence. Our daughters – and our sons – have the right to live in a world that celebrates equally women's sexual freedom and bodily integrity."

Here is one of the best SlutWalk discussions I've heard from NPR's "Tell Me More." Give it a listen:

Friday, June 17, 2011

It's time to restart the fire! Palin's history flub exposes our lack of history knowledge

 It's a story we all share.  It's what brings us together as a people, and yet, when it comes to the great American story, it turns out that we know so very little of it.

 Palin at Boston's Old North Church.  Photo by Mark Garfinkel
Sarah Palin's lack of historical knowledge was painfully exposed on her recent One Nation bus tour.  At the Old North Church in Boston, Palin gave details of Paul Revere's famous ride that erroneously included bells and gun shots.

And while the media and her critics were quick to point out her mistakes, Stephen Colbert put it in perspective when he said, "without her, no one would have checked into what actually happened."

A depiction of Revere's ride sans bells and gun shots.
But, Palin isn't the only one who's lacking historical knowledge.  Elementary, middle school and high school students don't fare much better. It seems that history is not a priority any more.

According to The Wall Street Journal,  "The results from the National Assessment of Educational Progress revealed that U.S. schoolchildren have made little progress since 2006 in their understanding of key historical themes, including the basic principles of democracy and America’s role in the world.

"Only 20% of U.S. fourth-graders and 17% of eighth-graders who took the 2010 history exam were "proficient" or "advanced," unchanged since the test was last administered in 2006. Proficient means students have a solid understanding of the material.

"The news was even more dire in high school, where 12% of 12th-graders were proficient, unchanged since 2006. More than half of all seniors posted scores at the lowest achievement level, "below basic." While the nation’s fourth- and eighth-graders have seen a slight uptick in scores since the exam was first administered in 1994, 12th-graders haven’t."

When I returned to college at midlife to pursue my journalism studies, a study of American history was one of the first things I included in my personal curriculum, regardless of university requirements.  It was quite simple.  I felt -- and still feel -- that a journalist should have a good basic knowledge of where America has been in order to understand its current role on the world stage and report on today's events in context.

My American history classes were well worth taking.  My overview of our common story became a timeline for my other studies.  I often referred back to my history notes for insights into women's studies, journalism, literature, law and ethics.

Back in the '80s, Billy Joel inspired a study of history with his hit song "We Didn't Start the Fire."  In the days just preceding wide access to the Internet, Joel, a self-proclaimed history buff, strung together historical events in a catchy, rhyming sequence that caught our attention and had us heading for our history books to find out what he was singing about.  I remember school children making elaborate time lines to match the song -- and they were loving it!

Is it possible to reignite that spark for knowledge?  I'd love to see Joel pick up where he left off and do an updated version of the song, and perhaps include a little HERstory for good measure.

Cherie's challenge:  Start naming significant events since 1989.  See if you can weave them into Billy Joel's classic tune.

Watch the "We Didn't Start the Fire" video here:

Related links:

"Don't blame Palin for lack of history" by Leonard Pitts Jr.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Religion, women and reproductive health

"Dispelling Myths:  Women, Reproductive Rights and Religion"
Wednesday, June 29, 2011
Offices of the National Council of Jewish Women
Greater Detroit section 
26400 Lahser Road, 
Suite 306 Southfield, Mich.
6 p.m. - 7:45 p.m.

Reproductive rights are in the public spotlight big time.

"Prochoice," "prolife," "antiabortion," "proabortion," and "Planned Parenthood," are terms we see in the headlines on an almost daily basis.

Reproductive rights include political, legal and medical issues.  Religion, morality and emotion add even more fuel to the fire.

To put religion and reproductive rights in perspective, the Oakland County chapter of the National Organization for Women, along with The Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice, the greater Detroit section of the National Council of Jewish Women and Planned Parenthood Affiliates of Michigan, will present an interfaith discussion "Dispelling Myths:  Religion, Women and Reproductive Health."

Speakers will be Rabbi Marla Hornsten of Temple Israel in West Bloomfield, Mich. and Rev. Rony S. Veska of the First United Methodist Church of Ferndale, Mich.

The event is free and open to the public.  Light refreshments will be served.

Related Links:

Oakland County NOW
Religious Coalition for Reproductive Rights
NCJW - Greater Detroit section
Planned Parenthood Affiliates of Michigan

"Rabbi Marla Hornsten is Proud to be Temple's Pioneer" -- from 12 March 2011.

I also found an interesting conversation with Steph Herold, a Jewish repro rights activist on

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Of Playboy bunnies and feminism

"A feminist protest in 2011 to the Playboy Bunnies is lame. Look around you - certain things of a sexual nature are everywhere now. Playboy and the Playboy clubs were the end of sexism.

"Women were being held bondage for hundreds of years, owned first by their fathers and then their husbands, Playboy helped to change all that."

-- Playboy founder Hugh Hefner,85, responding to feminist protests at the re-launched Playboy club in London.

Cherie on Southeast Michigan Dyke March 2011

Read the full story here.

Friday, June 3, 2011

Kudos to Washtenaw County Board Chairman Conan Smith for standing with Planned Parenthood


"Planned Parenthood proves every year and every cycle that the dollars we allocate go to provide the service that they have applied to provide and that they do it very well,"  --Washtenaw County Board Chaiman Conan Smith addressing citizen concerns about county money allocated to Planned Parenthood as part of a community-based human services program.

When I participated in the Breast Cancer 3-Day walk five years ago, I was surprised when a potential donor told me she could not give me a contribution because the Susan G. Komen foundation gives money to Planned Parenthood -- an organization that performs abortions.

I called my coach and asked if she had heard this before.

"Yeah, we get a couple every year,"  she said.

And yes, Komen does give money to Planned Parenthood.  The funds are earmarked for breast health programs and have nothing to do with abortion services.

My coach told me that Planned Parenthood reaches many women who live in under-served areas and might not otherwise have access to health care.

However, that perception of Planned Parenthood as a primary abortion provider still exists, as shown in a recent meeting of the Washtenaw County board of commissioners.

The board voted unanimously to allocate $1 million from the county's annual fund for community-based human services programs.

According to Ann

"Before the vote, several residents spoke out against the proposed use of taxpayer dollars to fund Planned Parenthood, one of several agencies slated to receive money. According to the plan approved by commissioners, the county will give the agency $53,040 for comprehensive prenatal care  — medical care given to pregnant women to ensure they and their babies are healthy and strong.

Multiple residents argued against funding an agency they consider immoral for promoting abortion, but county officials said none of the money is going to fund abortion services."

Some residents, "read graphic descriptions of abortions with accounts of the decapitation and dismemberment of fetuses."

The voice of reason was County Board Chairman Conan Smith, D-Ann Arbor.

He said, as did my 3-Day coach, that there usually is a handful of people who complain about the county's allocation to Planned Parenthood every year and added that any particular organization's mission is its own business — all the county is interested in is the outcome of the services for which it provides funding.

He added that Planned Parenthood does this very well.

Email or call Commissioner Smith and thank him for standing with Planned Parenthood.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Abramson named first woman editor at The New York Times

NEW YORK (Reuters) – The New York Times named Jill Abramson as its first woman executive editor, putting her in control of one the world's most respected newspapers as the industry struggles to keep advertisers and readers.

Abramson, 57, is the first woman editor to lead the Times newsroom in a new era for papers, when a generation of readers increasingly prefers to get news from online sources such as Twitter, Facebook and a host of websites.

Abramson, the paper's managing editor, will succeed Bill Keller, 62, who will become a writer for the New York Times Magazine and for the paper's Sunday opinion section.

Assistant Managing Editor and Washington Bureau Chief Dean Baquet will become managing editor.
Both appointments are effective September 6, the New York Times Co said on Thursday.

It was widely expected that Abramson and Baquet, 54, would rise through the ranks and that one of them would assume the highest editorial position at the paper.

Abramson worked as an investigative journalist and covered Washington. She joined the Times in 1997 from the Wall Street Journal, now owned by Rupert Murdoch's News Corp. She became the paper's Washington bureau chief in 2000.

Times Co Chairman Arthur Sulzberger Jr. said he accepted Keller's decision with "mixed emotions," and said Abramson was the best person to fill the role.

"Bill came to me several weeks ago and told me that he felt the time had come for him to step down from the role of executive editor," Sulzberger said in a statement.

Baquet rejoined the Times in March 2007 after serving as managing editor of the Los Angeles Times. He won a Pulitzer Prize, the nation's highest honor for newspaper reporting, while he worked at the Chicago Tribune.

(Editing by Robert MacMillan)

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Feminist Quote Bag

From More magazine

Eve Ensler
"You build an army of women ... They'll say, 'Uh-huh, we're not taking this any longer,' and put an end to this rape problem fast."  -- Eve Ensler (The Vagina Monologues) on the opening of a new leadership-training compound she spearheaded for Congolese women.

Stevie Nicks
"Onstage, I can't look like a 63-year-old grandma.  I have to keep my hair beautiful and my body pretty cool.  I have to wear something youthful but not age inappropriate, and I can stay young as long as I want to." -- Stevie Nicks, rock star and former member of Fleetwood Mac who just completed a 17-city tour with Rod Stewart and released a new solo album "In Your Dreams."

Patty Davis
"We bear witness to ourselves in mirrors.  They could be in our bathrooms, where we stand exposed or in gyms and department store changing rooms.  Whether we're clothed or not, the vulnerability is always there -- as is the awareness that there is also, deep within us, an internal mirror.  We are never completely finished with who we once were, and we meet that person every time we
stare at our own reflection."  --- Patty Davis,  (daughter of Ronald and Nancy Reagan) talking about changing body image and awareness at age 58.