Because We Need It: Timoclea

Sep. 22nd, 2017 11:02 pm
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Posted by Caperton

Politically, things seem to be getting worse, not better. There's been a deadly earthquake in Mexico, a deadly hurricane in the Caribbean -- no, not that one, the other one. No, not that one, the other other one. And in the middle of it all, Congress has decided to take another swing at destroying healthcare, and as one might expect, this verse is worse than the first. But when things get hard, we can always think about Timoclea of Thebes.
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Posted by Maya Dusenbery

Jen Brea was a 28-year-old grad student when her health began to deteriorate after a high fever. As she suffered from recurrent infections, profound dizziness that left her unable to stand, and eventually terrifying neurological symptoms, doctors told her that she was stressed, or just dehydrated, and finally that a repressed trauma was the source of all her ailments. 

Eventually, Brea was diagnosed with myalgic encephalomyelitis, more commonly known as chronic fatigue syndrome in the US. And now her documentary on the disease—which she directed mostly via Skype since she’s been bed-ridden for much of the last six years—is coming to select theaters.

I interviewed Brea and include her story in my forthcoming book on gender bias in medicine. It’s estimated that one million people in the US—and 17 million worldwide—have ME/CFS. Over 80 percent of them are women, and sexism played a large role in the public and the medical system’s reception to the disease.

In the US, the condition first came on the radar after a large outbreak near Lake Tahoe in the mid-eighties. But, unable to figure out the underlying cause, the medical community quickly suspected it of being nothing more than the psychogenic symptoms of neurotic women. The media derided it as “yuppie flu,” its sufferers stereotyped as burnt-out “educated white women.” (In reality, the disease, like many health problems, disproportionately affects low-income patients and people of color.) Meanwhile, myalgic encephalomyelitis, a name given to sporadic outbreaks of a similar-sounding illness that had occurred throughout the first half of the twentieth century, had already begun to be reframed as cases of “mass hysteria” on the basis that it was mostly women who were impacted.

Unrest, which tells Brea’s story, as well as the stories of a few other ME/CFS patients from around the world, discusses this history of neglect by the medical system for the last thirty years. After all, Brea is also an advocate. She co-founded #MEAction, a platform for ME/CFS advocacy efforts, that organized the Millions Missing protests to demand more funding for research on the disease (there has been unbelievably little) and recognition for the millions of patients affected by it (many health care providers continue to believe it’s largely a psychiatric condition).

The film itself isn’t heavy-handed or preachy though. It simply lays bare what life is actually like for severely ill ME/CFS patients. Brea initially began an iPhone video diary with no intention of turning it into a documentary; it was just an outlet for herself when she could no longer read or write. So much of the footage is extremely raw and painful. The film is rooted in a faith that if people truly understood what the disease did to its sufferers, it couldn’t possibly continue to be dismissed and minimized. As such, Unrest‘s greatest potential will come if people beyond those affected, directly or indirectly, by ME/CFS see it—especially those in the medical community who too often belittle it and those in the media who too often uncritically accept some of the bad science that’s been done on it.

So see it and also help spread the the word. While Unrest tells the very particular story of ME/CFS, the film will no doubt resonate with any woman who has ever had a doctor dismiss her symptoms as “stress” or who suffers from other poorly understood conditions that disproportionately affect women and have been similarly neglected—like fibromyalgia, interstitial cystitis, vulvodynia, to name a few. Which, sadly, is a whole lot of us.

If you’re in the NYC area, you can see Unrest at IFC this weekend. San Francisco, Chicago, Los Angeles—you’ll have a chance the following one. See all upcoming screenings here.

Bonus viewing: Check out Brea’s great TED Talk too.

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Posted by Reina Gattuso

Harvard’s been sucking this week, and this suckage provides an important reminder of why corporate higher education, for all its rhetoric about “innovation,” actually acts as a barrier to radical social change.

First order of suckage: Recently, despite the fact that the History Department had initially accepted her and that she is a prize-winning historian, Harvard administrators and some professors rejected an offer of admission the History Department had already approved to Michelle Jones.

Jones applied to the PhD program while serving a twenty-year sentence for killing her own child when Jones was a teenager. It should go without saying that the crime is deeply horrible; it should also go without saying that it’s not Harvard’s or anyone’s job to determine the punishment for someone a court of law has already punished. Jones’ rejection instead, argue faculty advocating her, flies in the face of any hope of transformative justice—an irony considering that her work is part of a recent push in the academy to take more seriously the history, politics, and material context of our carceral society.

Second order of suckage: Jones isn’t the only one who’s had an offer rescinded by Harvard recently. The university has also rescinded a fellowship they’d originally offered to Chelsea Manning, really rad lady, effectively deferring to the CIA. Meanwhile, they have offered the same fellowship to Sean Spicer, whose history of white supremacy the university clearly (and disturbingly) considers less troubling than Manning’s history of whistle blowing.

Third order of suckage: Harvard hasn’t only rejected people recently. It’s also continued its quest to reject graduate students’ efforts to unionize. In the most recent manifestation of Harvard’s resistance to this struggle, Harvard has moved to appeal to the Trump appointed (read: very right wing and anti-union) National Labor Relations Board (NLRB). That’s right, folks: The supposedly liberal bastion, which has been outspoken in its opposition to, for example, Trump’s stance on immigration and the repeal of DACA, is also a prime union buster.

So what gives? How is it that the most elite of colleges, characterized by the right as the quintessential arch enemy of their ideology, could make so many decisions that are so frankly regressive?

While Harvard and similar elite universities have admirably taken stands against the repeal of DACA—numerous Harvard professors were even arrested recently while protesting Trump’s proposed repeal—they have a notoriously bad line when it comes to issues affecting their bottom line.

Take the case of divestment. For the past several years, there has been a student movement across the country advocating for divestment from fossil fuels as a tool to stigmatize polluters and thus make headway against climate change. Despite coming out in support of other environmental efforts, Harvard University has staunchly refused to budge on this issue. The University President, Drew Faust, even released a nonsensical letter arguing that the endowment is not political and should not be politicized (ironically, for a historian, Faust seems to know very little about the history of the anti-apartheid divest movement).

Or take the issue of workers’ rights. During a recent strike of Harvard dining hall workers, the University administration dragged its feet; it took weeks of struggle by the dining hall workers to win a living wage for their labor. Not a good look for an institution which claims to be about encouraging educational access across class.

Viewed in this contexts, Harvard’s latest week of fuckery no longer appears so surprising. Rather, it continues a pattern of elite universities’ emphasis on their bottom line—and their reputation—above all else. Accepting the right of the graduate students to unionize will surely mean Harvard will have to pay them more. And accepting Manning and Jones may mean pissing off people with big pocket books.

And why shouldn’t this be the case? Harvard, like most elite universities in the United States, is a private entity with a corporate structure. It is a power broker, a place where the elite come to be consolidated—and where social mobility is possible, but often only along the terms of the system as is. It is a major feeder of employees to the government and an even larger feeder of financiers to Wall Street. Taking this into account, it becomes clearer to see how the liberalism claimed by elite institutions is mere veneer.

Ultimately, it comes down to the bottom line. Our higher education system has become overwhelmingly privatized and corporate, with tuitions which can soar above $200,000 for four year degrees, leading to student debt that can last a lifetime. As we know all too well, this has created debilitating systemic debt among students, many of whom are either left with debt and without job prospects, or who find themselves financially compelled to take higher-paying jobs in the corporate sector which they may not have wanted to take. 

The issue of student debt is also de-radicalizing, a disincentive for students to push for radical social change. If a student is expelled for protesting a university’s decision, for example, they may be very well left with an enormous financial burden and no degree. Finally, the specter of debt prevents many students from choosing lower-income paths, like activism, social work, or teaching.

At the same time, social media scrutiny and a corporate public relations model means that elite universities are intensely phobic of any perceived bad publicity. This fear can be leveraged by student movements for their own good: For example, in publicly shaming universities into becoming responsible for preventing and adequately addressing sexual violence.

Yet we can see in the cases of both Jones and Manning, a direct instance in which the appeal to reputation leads to deep conservatism. The New York Times writes, quoting one of the American Studies professors who raised objections to Jones’s admission:

“We didn’t have some preconceived idea about crucifying Michelle,” said John Stauffer, one of the two American studies professors. “But frankly, we knew that anyone could just punch her crime into Google, and Fox News would probably say that P.C. liberal Harvard gave 200 grand of funding to a child murderer, who also happened to be a minority. I mean, c’mon.”

What we’re missing here, of course, is that education should not be about PR and the bottom line. Education should be dangerous. I don’t mean this in the way that “free speech” advocates mean it, when they complain about coddled liberal “snowflakes” who are intolerant toward conservative views. I mean that the university should be a space of challenge to the workings of a capitalist system, a space where students have the time, space, and (government-provided) funds to remove themselves from the immediate pressures of the market and to build a radically different world. The university should be a risky place, where politically risky things are said and done. Where we have the freedom—from racism, from sexual violence, from debt, from the immediate pressures of the job market—to challenge the status quo.

And this, of course, is a status quo challenged by all three of the people and bodies Harvard recently rejected. It is threatening to a system of racialized, class-based mass incarceration to believe that people who have been cordoned off as criminals can not only rejoin society but thrive. It is threatening to a system of paranoid government “security” rhetoric to laud Manning as a whistleblower, rather than imprison her as a threat. And it is threatening to universities’ profit to acknowledge collective bargaining power and to acknowledge graduate students as the workers they are.

In face of this, it falls on the students, workers, and professors of the university to bring political dissent back into a system which more often produces elite conformity than radical politics. We should not let the university corporation reign without a fight. Our protests should make administrators tremble. Our polemic should make the internet light up with fear. Our unions should send university officials sprinting toward their lawyers.

Harvard may have rejected Jones and Manning, but students are ultimately the ones with the power to collectively reject the deep conservatism of places like Harvard.

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Posted by Brianna Suslovic

On Tuesday, former New York State Senator Hiram Monserrate narrowly lost a campaign for a seat on New York City Council. Despite his loss, the fact that voters were willing to forgive and forget Monserrate, a known abuser, at the ballot box is concerning.

In 2009, Monserrate sliced his girlfriend’s face with broken glass and then dragged her through the lobby of his apartment. Prosecutors charged that Monserrate — an ex-cop and ex-Marine — attacked his girlfriend Karla Giraldo after finding another man’s business card in her purse. Though Giraldo objected to the case moving forward, Monserrate was convicted of misdemeanor assault and sentenced to probation, community service, counseling, and a $1,000 fine. In 2010, he was expelled from the New York State Senate as a result of his assault conviction. In 2012, he was sentenced to two years in prison after misusing about $100,000 in public funds to help pay for a campaign. This campaign was the latest in a string of failed bids at public office.

Despite this history, Monserrate was able to garner 2,782 votes — 44 percent of the vote — in New York City’s District 21.  

Other than some minor media coverage by the New York Times and local publications like Gothamist, Monserrate’s history as an abuser remained largely obscured from the public narrative of his campaign. When brought up, such as in this interview about his newfound attempt at a political comeback, Monserrate framed his past violence within a redemption narrative:

I paid the price for that, I apologized for that… You can’t judge someone for an incident that occurred in their lives and try to use that incident to diminish them for the rest of their lives. None of us can live in the past.

Monserrate’s narrative is challenging for those of us committed to prison abolition and also to justice for survivors: how do we hold abusers accountable while envisioning a more whole form of justice? We know that abusers hold social and political capital in our country. We also know that incarceration is not the answer: it does not repair the harm done, places survivors in a vulnerable position within the criminal system, and feeds into the prison industrial complex where gender violence is rampant. How, then, are we to balance our desires for accountability with our desires for transformative justice? As far as we (and a sizeable portion of voters in Monserrate’s district) know, Monserrate has not engaged in any sort of public accountability. We don’t know whether he is still an abuser. Monserrate’s redemption narrative shies away from the past while also neglecting any commitments of his for the future — how do we know that he is accountable for his harmful actions, or that he will fight such violence in the future? This process need not involve jail or prison time. It could include various public acts of accountability — committing to supporting legislation that protects survivors, publicly demonstrating positive and healthy relationship norms in his current and future relationships, or committing to dialogue about violence prevention in his own circles, for example. Unfortunately, some voters have not held him to these standards, instead accepting Monserrate’s denouncement of the past as sufficient.

What does these voters’ acceptance of Monserrate’s redemption narrative without any indication that he’s claimed any public accountability for his actions — mean for survivors of intimate partner abuse?” There is trauma in seeing public figures abuse their partners, minimize the harm done, and then move on to their next movie, playoff, or election. This trauma is compounded by the treatment survivors receive for coming out: they are often victim-blamed, discredited, or even jailed by the prosecutors they go to for help. The public sends a dangerous message every time we vote for these individuals, watch their movies, and cheer on their teams: with these gestures of support, we are implicitly telling survivors that their humanity is less worthy than their abusers’. In a country currently governed by a known abuser, where survivors’ civil rights are routinely under attack, this can no longer be the message we endorse at the ballot box.

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Posted by Daniela Lapidous

In recent years, a person seeking an abortion in Missouri only had option: one Planned Parenthood clinic in St. Louis. This month, access will triple.

As the Riverfront Times reports:

“The number of abortion-providing clinics in Missouri is about to triple — from one to three. This month, for the first time in several years, the Planned Parenthood locations in Kansas City and Columbia will include abortion among their services, although only the Columbia clinic will offer the surgical procedure.

And that’s only the beginning. Clinics in Joplin and Springfield are still awaiting state inspections, says Jesse Lawder, a spokesman for Planned Parenthood of St. Louis and Southwestern Missouri. Those locations are expected to become the state’s fourth and and fifth abortion providers.”

This is remarkably good news considering Governor Eric Greitens is fighting tooth and nail to further restrict Missouri’s already-strict abortion laws. In July, Governor Greitens called a special legislative session specifically focused on abortion – and he passed a law that would require people seeking abortion to meet with a physician (not just a clinic staff member) 72 hours before the procedure. (Fun fact: these restrictions will be challenged in federal court this month by the Satanic Temple. They’re advocates’ unexpected new allies, arguing that Missouri’s anti-abortion requirements violate their religious belief in “the inviolability of one’s own body” and scientific principles.)

For now, the new clinics owe their ability to offer surgical abortions to a federal judge’s court ruling back in April – which struck down a different set of restrictions (the state wanted clinics to outfit themselves for “major surgery” and have local hospital admitting privileges). In ruling that the clinics could open without adhering to those burdensome requirements, the judge wrote that the restrictions were more likely to endanger health than protect it (by making abortion clinics inaccessible to the majority of the state).

For someone seeking an abortion, having access to a clinic within a reasonable distance is critical. It’s not enough to have the theoretical option of getting the care you need if it’s not practical (e.g. you would have to take time off of work and maybe have to pay for a place to stay or extra gas to get there).

Go Missouri organizers for fighting for abortion access in the Midwest!

Image credit: Camille Phillips, St. Louis Public Radio

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Posted by Meg Sri

On this day in 1889, in Clarendon Parish, Jamaica, Harlem Renaissance poet and delegate to the Third International, Claude McKay, was born. McKay’s radical poetry challenged white authority in America and expressed a strong disdain for racism and a “sense that bigotry’s implicit stupidity renders its adherents pitiable as well as loathsome.” McKay was also considered queer and was involved in queer communities around New York, with several of his poems containing references to his sexuality. In addition to being a poet, he was also an activist for civil liberties and racial solidarity, a journalist and an author of fiction.

McKay’s most celebrated poem, If We Must Die, is considered a “signature poem of the Harlem Renaissance.” It was a spirited, revolutionary poem full of solidarity and fighting spirit against the evils and violence of white supremacy. In McKay’s own words, it was a response to an atmosphere that was “morbid, full of details of clashes between colored and white, murderous shootings and hangings.” It was during those days, McKay said, that “the sonnet, “If We Must Die,” exploded out of me.”

In today’s era of heightened racialized terror and the resurgence of white supremacy and violence, remembering McKay’s words on his birthday is especially apt:

If we must die, let it not be like hogs,
Hunted and penned in an inglorious spot,
While round us bark the mad and hungry dogs,
Making their mock at our accursèd lot.
If we must die, O let us nobly die,
So that our precious blood may not be shed
In vain; then even the monsters we defy
Shall be constrained to honor us though dead!
O kinsmen! we must meet the common foe!
Though far outnumbered let us show us brave,
And for their thousand blows deal one death-blow!
What though before us lies the open grave?
Like men we’ll face the murderous, cowardly pack,
Pressed to the wall, dying, but fighting back!
You can read more about Claude McKay, and more of his poetry, here.
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Posted by Kasia Cieplak-Mayr von Baldegg

“The foundation of Trump’s presidency is the negation of Barack Obama’s legacy,” writes Ta-Nehisi Coates in his feature for The Atlantic’s October 2017 issue. In this animated excerpt from a recent interview with Coates about his article, the writer explains how tribalism and white supremacy paved the way for Trump. Gallup research shows that white voters overwhelmingly supported the candidate across demographics.

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Sep. 13th, 2017 09:00 pm
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Posted by Juliana Britto Schwartz

Bernie Sanders just introduced his single-payer bill with unprecedented Democratic support – and it overturns the Hyde Amendment, unapologetically including coverage for abortion.

The DOJ has chosen not to prosecute officers involved in Freddie Gray’s death due to “insufficient evidence.”

Edie Windsor has passed away. These old photos of Edie and Thea Spyer are a deeply moving portrait of queer love and desire.

8 ways you can help people of color recover from Hurricane Irma.

As Trump ignores pay discrimination, California Democrats aim to end it.

Make time to read Ta-Nahasi Coates’ incredible essay on Donald Trump, the First White President.

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Posted by aliciaswiz

In a year full of attacks on women, girls, and marginalized communities, one high school is taking steps to protect students’ right to learn – regardless of what they are wearing.

Evanston Township High School (ETHS) started the 2017-2018 year in typical back to-school fashion by unveiling a summer makeover. The public school, just north of Chicago, debuted a brand new dress code, paying specific attention to gendered and cultural stereotypes embedded in the former code and adding language that is inclusive of students’ nuanced, unique identities.

Using a template created by Oregon NOW (available for free download here) ETHS is creating a space where students’ education is paramount to sexist, racist and other oppressive clothing norms. The two-page section of the student handbook dedicated to the dress code ensures that:

School ​staff​ ​shall​ ​enforce​ ​the​ ​dress​ ​code​ ​consistently​ ​and​ ​in​ ​a​ ​manner that​ ​does​ ​not​ ​reinforce​ ​or​ ​increase​ ​marginalization​ ​or​ ​oppression​ ​of​ ​any​ ​group​ ​based​ ​on​ ​race,​ ​sex,​ ​gender​ ​identity,​ ​gender​ ​expression,​ ​sexual orientation,​ ​ethnicity,​ ​religion,​ ​cultural​ ​observance,​ ​household​ ​income​ ​or​ ​body​ ​type/size.

By acknowledging that dress codes are often harmful, in particular to women and gender nonconforming people of color, ETHS is redefining a rule system which has formerly relied on policing and shaming into one which explicitly avoids the oppressive ways dress codes can make students feel unwelcome at school and bar them from accessing the education they deserve. This has particular implications for young women who are often labeled as distractions and held to the sexist double standards dress codes cultivate.

The six point list of values clearly stated in the new policy uphold a commitment to students’ learning by prioritizing physical and emotional comfort. Rather than allowing administrators to simply “forbid students from wearing certain items,” as the Chicago Public Schools policy states, ETHS explicitly identifies what students may wear paying particular attention to controversial items.

For example, leggings, an item which were previously banned, are now included on the list of items student may wear. In an era when leggings have become as controversial as nipples, the garment is too often used as an excuse to police women’s bodies, and ETHS is right to buck that trend. Earlier this month, a principal in South Carolina made headlines for body shaming students who are not “a size two or smaller” for wearing leggings because they looked fat. This summer, while boarding their flight, two teen girls were called out by a United Airlines attendant who told them that their leggings were in conflict with the airline dress code. In spite of public outcry, United maintained their dress code policy.

Which is why the move by ETHS is a bold and necessary step towards creating a space for students to learn free from racist and sexist rules. The school understands that it’s the systems and policies that need to change, not the students. We can only hope that other schools will follow suit.

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Posted by Reina Gattuso

Donald Trump and his cadre of evil cronies sure have a way of making the worst decisions, always. A recent treat: DeVos’s announcement that she will roll back Title IX enforcement. This anti-survivor plan, cooked up after conversations with MRAs, has been deemed a terrible idea by at least 100,000 student activists.

The recent decision illuminates a fact we knew was true, but the Trump administration is proving without a doubt: In order to actually obtain equality for women, it’s not enough to get women into power.

It matters, instead, which women we get into power. Women will not always help women. Often, women will harm other women terribly.

At the end of the day, alas, lots of powerful women suck politically.

This of course is a truism by now, but at a moment when some of the top Trump cronies are women, it bears repeating and its implications for how we think about identity and representation require serious thought.

The Trump administration and some of their star supporters from the right wing have amply proven that female identity does not necessarily equal feminism. Ivanka’s false feminism is the stuff of legend – and grisly racist, sexist daily reality. Betsy DeVos and her civil rights assistant, Candice E. “90% of rape complaints are false” Jackson surely prove this fact. And of course, Kellyanne Conway’s rampant apologism and complete dismissal of feminism certainly counts.

This isn’t even to mention the lady stars of the alt right, whose advocacy for a white ethnostate is closely followed by their embrace of traditional gender norms.

And of course, there is a long history of less overtly horrible women making decisions that are ultimately horrible for women, or horrible for any woman who isn’t rich and white – from the racism of first-wave feminists like Elizabeth Cady Stanton to (yes, gotta say it) the militaristic violence promoted by Hillary Clinton.

Okay, we get it: Women in power don’t always help women and can often harm them. So what does this mean?

This should remind us that when we talk about identity politics, we can’t and don’t just mean identity in the sense of representation. Representation is, of course, important in and of itself: Those who have been excluded from power and have had their rights denied have a right to claim that power, period. But in our own political analysis, we need to pay attention to not only a person’s identity, but how that identity fits in a structure – and whether that person’s policies and politics will actually dismantle that structure.

A logic of pure representation – in which the only thing we care about is seeing marginalized people in any position of power – is very vulnerable to right-wing appropriation. To make an obvious example, the alt-right may contain some women leaders, but it is in no imaginable way feminist. And we can all name public figures from oppressed groups – whether they be women, people of color, or queer people – who actively work for an agenda which is frankly bad for people within that oppressed community, or which is bad for people within those communities who are oppressed in some other way. Ideology matters. Intersectionality matters.

And if we examine the history of identity politics as a concept, we’ll find the idea that identity politics merely means representation is a vast oversimplification of a politically powerful and nuanced concept. If we look, for example, at the Combahee River Collective statement – a landmark black feminist document which created “identity politics” as a political weapon – we find a much more complex conception of identity politics than the simplistic dismissals articulated on Fox News.

The Collective writes of experience as a source of knowledge, and of marginalized people’s self-awareness of their own oppression as a political weapon. They argue that they have a fundamental value as human beings. As they are the best people to recognize this value and to recognize the conditions of their oppression, they are also best equipped to fight for their own liberation through feminism, anti-racism, and socialism. They write:

There is also undeniably a personal genesis for Black Feminism, that is, the political realization that comes from the seemingly personal experiences of individual Black women’s lives. Above all else, Our politics initially sprang from the shared belief that Black women are inherently valuable, that our liberation is a necessity not as an adjunct to somebody else’s but because of our need as human persons for autonomy…This focusing upon our own oppression is embodied in the concept of identity politics. We believe that the most profound and potentially most radical politics come directly out of our own identity, as opposed to working to end somebody else’s oppression.

In an age where the right is appropriating language and concepts initially created by the left (safe spaces for Zionists, anyone?), we have to be on our toes. This includes remembering, every time, that our feminism needs to more complicated than simply getting more women to lean in to high-power positions. Let’s opt, instead, for transformation.

Image credit: NBC News

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Sep. 12th, 2017 09:32 pm
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Posted by Lori Adelman

RIP Edie Windsor, LGBTQ rights icon.

Screenshot of woman from "A Cuban Woman's Perspective"Read Feministing alum Mychal Denzel Smith on identity politics, intersectionality, and what liberals misunderstand.

Join us in welcoming Womanly Magazine to the feminist fold! Pictured left,  a screenshot from the original video “A Cuban Woman’s Perspective“.

Applications are now open for the 2018 Class of Women Deliver Young Leaders.

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Posted by Daniela Lapidous

As Hurricane Irma continues to push north just days after Hurricane Harvey, let’s finally recognize that doing anything less than connecting these disasters to climate change and injustice is a very political choice. It is a choice to value fossil fuel billionaires over poor people, people of color, and the Global South.

In case you missed it, from August 25th to 30th, the Houston area received over 50” of rain from Hurricane Harvey, the greatest amount of rain ever recorded in the lower 48 states from a single storm. Over 70 people have died, including rescuers, and over 40,000 have lost their homes. Recovery is projected to cost up to $190 billion (resources Houston’s low-income black and brown communities will least be able to recover on their own). And the storms aren’t over yet: Hurricane Irma has already caused 42 deaths in the Carribean and continental United StatesThe island of Barbuda was ripped apart by Irma — and then had to evacuate just four days later to avoid a third storm, Jose. Irma is the strongest storm ever recorded in the Atlantic Ocean. This is also the first time in history that the Atlantic has seen back-to-back-to-back hurricanes of Category 4 or higher.

This is not just happening in the Americas. The worst floods to hit India, Bangladesh, and Nepal in years have killed over 1,200 people this season and affected 40 million people.

It’s all terrifying, and it’s exactly what a climate-changed world looks like.

Though climate science doesn’t pinpoint whether a specific event would have happened at all or not, scientists tell us that climate change definitely made Harvey more severe. Our warming atmosphere — a product of the fossil fuels we burn — is expected to increase the frequency and strength of storms we experience. In other words, we can expect more Hurricane Harveys and Irmas.

Not only is climate change happening, but it is not merely an accidental side effect of industrial progress. The heads of fossil fuel companies including Exxon knew about climate change in the 1970s and purposefully started spreading a trail of misinformation rather than changing course on their businesses.

Climate change is manmade and preventable; so, too, are its disparate, human impacts.

In Houston, for example, city planners and government officials carry responsibility for the damage. Just a year ago, Houston’s head of flood planning called climate change studies “absurd,” refused to assess the effect of climate change on the region, and refused recommendations to mitigate future flooding (such as the twenty-seven trillion gallons of water from Harvey). This past summer, the Texas GOP state legislature voted to cut Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) funding (which they will likely be asking much more of now). ProPublica has done critical work showing how Houston’s unchecked development strategy has made the city uniquely vulnerable to flood damage.

In light of all of this, it is quite literally absurd that people who name these truths – that climate change is impacting us, and we really ought to do something about it – are accused of “politicizing a tragedy.” We’re told to instead stick to the topic of disaster relief and attend to the human suffering in front of us.

Let’s be clear then: the project of stopping climate change is an effort to prevent catastrophic levels of human suffering. And discussing the extreme weather events going on while actively choosing not to talk about climate change is also a political choice — one that is considerably more harmful.

It is a choice made in favor of fossil fuel corporations who have convinced the American public that we don’t have to do anything about climate change, so that they can rack up profits and continue being the most profitable industry in global history. It is a choice made in defense of billionaires like our Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, who literally used a secret alias to hide climate change-related conversations while heading Exxon.

And most importantly, it is a choice to abandon poor people, people of color, and those in the Global South who bear the brunt of climate change and who can’t afford to abandon their lives and rebuild without significant pain.

In a disaster, people tend to ask the same questions: Why did this happen? What can we do to make sure it won’t happen again? And how can we be better prepared when it does happen again? To avoid those questions is irresponsible. To avoid their answers because they would reveal some ugly truths about our systems of wealth and government is arguably criminal negligence.

We must talk about — and organize for – climate justice in the wake of disasters. It is the most meaningful thing we can do to support those already impacted as well as for ourselves, our kids, and our grandkids.

If you feel moved to support the victims of Hurricane Harvey and Irma, do two things today: contribute what you can to the Hurricane Harvey Community Relief Fund and the Hurricane Irma Community Recovery Fund. Each is administered by a collective of several grassroots, state-based organizations.

Then, join Sunrise Movement, a new youth-led movement working to make climate justice a decisive issue in the 2018 elections by asking whether we want representatives who will protect people or profits.

Header image credit: WIRED / Marcus Yam / Getty Images

[syndicated profile] feministing_feed

Posted by Sejal Singh

Last week, Betsy DeVos announced that she’s rescinding critical Title IX guidance that outlines student survivors’ rights under federal civil rights law. Our very own Dana, along with Feministing alum Alexandra Brodsky, published an important op-ed in the Washington Post raising the question, among others: has DeVos even read the guidance she’s revoking?

Here’s an excerpt:

The 2011 letter set out specifically that “sexual harassment of students, which includes acts of sexual violence, is a form of sex discrimination prohibited by Title IX.” It empowered campus sexual assault survivors like us to walk into meetings with school officials knowing that colleges couldn’t push us to withdraw from school until our perpetrators graduated. (One of us was told to drop out of school until her rapist finished his degree.) Our schools had to provide us the accommodations we needed to stay in school, such as free counseling, and help students switch out of class sections shared with the individuals charged with assaulting them. The letter outlined our right to learn alongside our peers, making clear to our schools that they could no longer count on our ignorance keeping us in the shadows.

DeVos misleadingly claims the guidance requires schools to deny accused students a fair investigation process. To be clear, I agree (just like Title IX activists everywhere) that school discipline must be impartial, procedurally robust, and fair to all parties. But I don’t believe for a second that the “Grab ‘Em By the Pussy” Administration is going to build a system that’s fair to both accused students and gender violence survivors – especially when DeVos’ speech included some highly misleading statements about the Dear Colleague Letter. Dana and Alexandra explain:

DeVos also misrepresented the guidance itself, arguing that the Dear Colleague letter gutted due process protections for the accused. That’s false. The letter reaffirms schools’ obligation to provide for the rights of all parties involved in campus sexual assault cases and already requires many of the protections critics demand. DeVos said that under the current system, accused students are denied proper notice of the accusation and access to the evidence against them. But those practices are expressly forbidden by the Dear Colleague letter, which plainly states: “the parties must have an equal opportunity to present relevant witnesses and other evidence. The complainant and the alleged perpetrator must be afforded similar and timely access to any information that will be used at the hearing.” . . .  If schools are failing to live up to their legal obligations to accused students, the solution is for the Education Department to enforce those obligations, not undermine them.

If DeVos wants to attack Title IX guidance protecting student survivors – who are organized as hell and already fighting back – she should do her homework first. Head over to The Washington Post to read Dana and Alexandra’s piece in full.

Photo credit: Know Your IX


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