Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Professor believes Diallo treated fairly, credits feminist scholars

Professor Kutz
"I think she was treated extremely fairly at the beginning. There's evidence that she was -- her complaint was taken as seriously as it could possibly be.
And I think that's a tribute both to the professionals in law enforcement, and I think also to a generation of particularly feminist legal scholars and activists who've made -- who've changed the way in which we understand the charge of rape." -- Professor Christopher Kutz, University of California, Berkeley

Sex crime charges against former IMF chief Dominique Strauss-Kahn have been dropped, but a civil suit against him by his accuser, Nafissatou Diallo, a hotel housekeeper, remains a possibility

So, was Diallo treated fairly and taken seriously by law enforcement officials?  Law professor Christopher Kutz of the University of California at Berkeley thinks so.  On PBS' Newshour, Kutz credited feminist legal scholars and activists "who've changed the way in which we understand the charge of rape."

Later, Kutz added he believes that Strauss-Kahn was also treated fairly. "He got a chance to present his defense, at least indirectly," Kutz said.

In the same Newshour segment, PBS' Ray Suarez asked former federal prosecutor, Allison Leotta if "there (has) been a shift away from the old days, when a woman might have been under attack from the get-go and questioned as to why and wherefore in the encounter with a man, to almost the burden being on the other side now?"

Leotta said that there has been a shift away from the laws of the 1960s where rape charges could not be brought by the victim alone.  In those days, "There had to be corroboration from another eyewitness. Now, obviously, it's not the type of crime that takes place in crowded restaurants, so that alone took out a lot of the rape cases that might have been brought."

She continued, "At the same time, when victims come forward, they are trusted, they are believed, but the prosecutors must look and see where they're coming from. What are her reasons for getting into the case? Is she coming forward because something terrible happened to her, and she wants to tell the truth and bring justice, or is she coming forward for other reasons, to get money or revenge or any number of reasons? "

Watch the PBS segment on the Strauss-Kahn case here:

Watch the full episode. See more PBS NewsHour.

And yet, feminist scholars and activists are still fighting to change how rape is defined at the federal level of criminal justice.

According to Ms. Magazine's Ms. Blog, "Since 1929, the FBI has defined “real” rape exclusively as “forcible” rape. Its definition is the only one that exists at the federal level, and it discounts most types of rape, including oral and anal rape; rape of men; rape with an object, finger or fist; and, for most police departments, rape of unconscious women, physically or mentally disabled women and those under the influence of drugs or alcohol."

Ms. Publisher Eleanor Smeal says it's time for a change because, "The FBI needs a modern definition of rape that reflects a popular understanding of the crime and doesn’t exclude the vast majority of rapes. Rape is rape. Period. Without an accurate definition we won’t have accurate statistics about rape, and without accurate statistics we will never have adequate funding for law enforcement to solve these crimes and stop violence against women."

Ms. Magazine, along with the Feminist Majority Foundation, launched the No More Excuses campaign in April demanding that the definition be changed to reflect modern realities.  Read more and join the campaign here.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Oakland County NOW president receives feminist award

Kimberly Beebe
Kimberly Beebe, president of the National Organization for Women, Oakland County Chapter will be honored on Friday, Aug. 26 for her contributions to the area's feminist community.

Beebe, a resident of Ferndale, will receive the Betty Friedan Award from the Wayne County chapter of NOW.

The chapter's past president Gerrie Barclay said, "Kim has reinvigorated the chapter, infused several extremely successful events with her enthusiasm, organizational skills and passion.  Kim has reached out to people and diverse groups in Oakland County and has included them in the rubric of the Oakland Chapter."

In 2010, Beebe was chosen as a feminist liaison by Natalie Mosher, 11th District Congressional candidate. She is also serving on the advisory commission of the Women's Commission for Oakland County.

Other award recipients include Gloria House, the Harriet Tubman Award; Gilda Jacobs, the Loretta Moore Award; and Rosemary Robinson, the Susan B. Anthony Award.

G. Asenath Andrews, principal of the Catherine Ferguson Academy and artist Mary Luevanos will also be honored.

The Awards will be given on August 26 at NOW’s celebration of Women’s Equality Day. All are invited to attend. The celebration begins at 5 pm and runs until 8 pm. It will feature a dinner al fresco along the Detroit River just a couple doors down from Manoogian Manor. The price is $35. Please RSVP

Thursday, August 18, 2011

This day in HERstory

In 1920, Tennessee became the 36th state to approve the 19th Amendment to the Constitution which guaranteed women the right to vote.
Courtesy of the Detroit Free Press

National Women's Equality Day is Friday, August 26.  Learn more at the National Women's History Project's website. 

Take the NWHP's Equality Day Quiz here.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Feminist Quote Bag

From Us Magazine:

"I need glasses now when I read my scripts. I wear them -- but I'm happy to wear them, and happy I still get to read my scripts. So it's not been so bad. They scared me. They told me, 'Forget it.  At 30 it's over for you.' And that has not been the case."  
--Actress Selma Hayek, 44

"When you tell people you're 40 in Los Angeles, they act like you survived cancer."  
-- Comedian Sarah Silverman, 40

"I don't find the whole cougar
word offensive ... A cougar is someone who takes care of herself and goes out with younger guys.  She doesn't need a man to take care of her."
 -- Actress Courteney Cox, 47, star of the ABC series "Cougar Town."

"Gloria: In her own words" airs on HBO

Gloria Steinem + The Women's Movement + Ms. Magazine = Feminism.

For many people, that's the formula for feminism then and now. Although feminist scholars know there are many more factors on both sides of the equation.

Yet there's no denying Gloria Steinem's involvement and influence in women's movement of the 1960s and '70s that reverberates in liberal feminist circles today.

To that end, HBO presents a documentary titled "Gloria: In her own words." It airs tonight at 9 p.m. EST and continues to replay throughout August. Check listings in your area for days and times here.

Whether or not the tenets of liberal feminism still apply today is subject to debate, but here is a great historical perspective: