Monthly Archives: February 2013

House Leadership Blocking Inclusive VAWA. Again.

On Feb 12th, the Senate voted 78-22 to pass the Violence against Women Act.  TN senators Corker and Alexander voted with the 78 who voted to support this bill.  Please send them a thank you email.

 

But more work is to be done!  The House leadership is trying to block passage of an inclusive VAWA.  The new House bill excludes LGBT survivors and cuts existing programs for all survivors.  See NOW President Terry O’Neill’s statement (pasted in below) and write your representative, today!

 

Here is a sample email that you could revise to fit your own sentiments and send:

 

I am writing to urge you to co-sponsor H.R. 11, the Violence Against Women Reauthorization. 

 

This bill strongly resembles the Senate-passed bill, S. 47, and I urge the House of Representatives to take up this bill immediately.  Please contact Speaker Boehner and ask him to move the bill to H.R. 11 floor.

 

I believe in health and wholeness for all of us, including a home and world free from violence. This legislation builds on the past successes of VAWA, increasing effectiveness and reaching more victims and provides law enforcement with more tools for protecting victims from their batterers. 

 

I urge you to co-sponsor H.R. 11 and to work with your colleagues to bring this important legislation to the House floor.

 

Thank you.

In solidarity,

Phyllis Thompson

Women’s Studies Program

East Tennessee State University

Advertisements

The Necessity of Transition in College and Gender Essentialism

By Katharine

Last week, the New York Times posted article about more universities’ healthcare plans beginning to cover transition for transgender students, at least to some extent.  As someone who has long thought such measures needed to be implemented, I was pleased.

Unfortunately, a number of the universities involved, which is only a handful to begin with, only help to cover hormone replacement therapy, which is just one part of the equation necessary for health for many transgender individuals.  As the article notes:

“…since 2008, the American Medical Association has advocated the same thing, for treatment of gender identity disorder. Other medical groups, like the American Psychiatric Association, have taken the same position. Several major insurers have taken the stance that the treatment, including surgery, can be considered medically necessary. The Internal Revenue Service considers the expenses tax-deductible.”

Even though “gender identity disorder” has been removed from the DSM in an effort to stop “pathologiz[ing] all expressions of gender variance just because they were not common or made someone uncomfortable,” for transgender individuals, transition remains the only viable option for treatment of their gender dysphoria.  It is absolutely a medical necessity; the attempted suicide rates for transgender individuals are nearly 41% according to a survey by the Lesbian Task Force and the National Center for Transgender Equality.

Medical transition, usually including sexual reassignment surgery, an often prohibitively expensive procedure that is difficult to access even with sufficient funds, is also quite often required for transgender individuals to be legally recognized as being the gender with which they identify.  While universities are, on the whole, becoming more inclusive and accepting of transgender individuals, the lack of means to access proper identification that matches their identity and expression not only keeps the avenue open for uncomfortable situations and unnecessary hurdles that transgender students would have to face – not only on campus but after they graduate and enter the workforce.

At a time in their lives when most people are realizing their own identities, transgender individuals must come to terms with theirs in a social arena which has conditioned them to repress theirs, or feel shame because of it, or simply to deny it altogether.  The gains in equality at universities have been largely due to transgender visibility and transgender students asserting their rights to live fulfilling and healthy lives and to be safe in their environments.  The coverage of transition is thus not only a necessarily medical component of transgender health, but a necessary component of transgender inclusion in the university.

“It is often more a knowledge and will gap than a mechanics and cost issue,” said Deena Fidas, deputy director of the Human Rights Campaign’s workplace project. “You have to start with Transgender 101, if you will, and demystify.”

”Demystification” of the transgender experience, muddled by a social narrative in which gender variance is viciously stigmatized, ridiculed, and even made into a justification for violence, requires visibility, and for transgender individuals to be able to be healthy, comfortable, and visible as they are, they must have access to the healthcare that they need.  We have to close this knowledge and will gap, and part of that involves targeting the destructive narrative that stigmatizes gender variance in society at large.

We have to recognize the sexist gender essentialism in our discourse which stigmatizes the feminine, the rejection of a prescriptive, dominant form of masculinity, and forces women into narrowly defined patriarchal gender roles.  We have to stop the sexist objectification of women which reduces them to their sexual instrumentality, cis and trans women alike.  We have to combat the culture of sexual violence in which women, and to a greater extent transgender women, and to an even greater extent transgender women of color are likely to become victims. We have to value the gender expression and sexual orientation of all individuals, be they cis or trans, and work to end the gender policing which leads to bullying and hate crimes.  To “demystify” what we view as deviant we have to “demystify” what is familiar to us – which means understanding and analyzing it critically and in turn working to change the system.

The United Nations recognizes access to healthcare as a universal human right, and our universities of all places should aspire toward meeting that standard.  If we intend to better the world around us through promoting education, we have to make sure that we promote a safe and healthy environment for that education in the process.

NYTimes article: “College Health Plans Respond as Transgender Students Gain Visibility

“The Feminist Male”

The following was left anonymously in our office, and thinking that it was an attempt for the individual who left it to have their voice heard, we felt it appropriate to share on our blog.  In the future, however, we would ask that all submissions include a name so that we are able to provide proper attribution.  Also, if the author would like us to credit him, let us know and we will do so as soon as possible.

 

The Feminist Male

 

Before I Begin, I feel the need to tell a little bit about myself.  First off, I am male.  More elaborately, I am a white, middle-class, straight male who is currently working towards a college degree.  In many parts of the world, I would be among the few who have unfairly been selected to be one of the most privileged people in the world.  Despite the fact that I have more opportunities than most, I strive to bring equal opportunity to everyone.

 

Now that that’s out of the way, let me begin.

 

A few semesters ago, I found myself sitting in an introductory Women’s Studies course.  On the first day of class, the professor gave a simple homework assignment: we were to mention to at least five people that we were taking a women’s studies course, and then we would discuss the various reactions to the statement during the next class.

 

When beginning the first assignment, I expected to receive the extreme reactions from the appropriate stereotypes.  Thus, I did not hesitate when my hipster friends from art class responded with the anticipated nod of approval.  And I understood that the frat-ish guys were expected to respond with either a look of slight disapproval or a modest fist-bump indicating they approved of my assumed “elaborate attempt to meet women.”  And of course I expected the men throwing Bibles at people in front of the student union to condemn me to hell – which they did without hesitation.

 

Stereotyping, however did not prove to be entirely accurate.  I approached my incredibly independent female friend expecting to receive her standard high-five.  She, like me, was the age of a sophomore, but she was a few semesters ahead in school.  Outside of kicking ass in class, she was also working as the editor of a local magazine and getting published regularly in numerous nationally recognized ones.  It made perfect sense to me that this obviously progressive, intelligent woman would applaud my open-mindedness.  Much to my surprise, however, she instead responded to my simple statement with an equally simple one: “Fuck women’s studies.”

 

Her response threw me back for a moment.  Though she was content in abandoning the conversation with that conciseness, I was not content yet, so I asked her to please elaborate – I could not wrap my head around the idea of a white, straight male being more accepting of feminist values than an outwardly successful female.  In my mind, it was feminism which allowed her to get to where she is now.  But not only was she brushing the subject away absent-mindedly: she was condemning it more than anyone else I had come into contact with.

 

She matter-of-factly explained to me, “Chris, society’s had it out against women forever.  It’s about time for us to suck it up, quit bitching, and learn to work the system, already.”

Thus was my succinct introduction to post-feminism.

While I may see more value in feminism than my friend, she made her point understood.  In many circles, women have come a long way.  They are finally able to attend school, they can be taken seriously as writers and scholars, and they can hold positions of authority.  I am able to see and appreciate this battle.  What my friend failed to recognize is the fact that in more circles than not, women’s rights are closer to jokes than realities.

 

What I’m trying to get at is this: even if you think that the push for equality is coming to a close, just look around for a second.  You might be well off, but others aren’t quite as lucky.  Many women throughout the world are nowhere near as privileged as you are.

 

So please keep fighting for equal rights.  If I – a white, straight male – can admit that there’s still a need for women’s studies, I’m sure you can, too, if you look hard enough.

 

Womanism

“A Womanist is to feminist as purple is to lavender.”

– Alice Walker

As touched upon in an earlier post, feminism has not always been as inclusive and sympathetic to the struggles faced by black women and other women of color as a result of the intersecting oppressions of racism and sexism.  What exactly do we mean when we say “intersecting oppressions”?  GeekFeminism defines intersectionality as the following:

 “Intersectionality is a concept often used in critical theories to describe the ways in which oppressive institutions (racism, sexism, homophobia, transphobia, ableism, xenophobia, classism, etc.) are interconnected and cannot be examined separately from one another.”

The womanist movement, feeling left out by the mainstream feminism of the first and second wave, which was focused primarily on the struggles of white women, thus came into being.  Womanism focuses primarily on the struggles of women of color, but as racism affects all people of color, male or female, womanism also targets the oppression faced by black men as well.

When we look at womanism as a movement, we should make sure to not view it as a lesser movement beneath feminism.  To do so is to reinforce the marginalization of women of color and the hierarchy which elevates white women at their expense – the whole reason womanism came into being in the first place.  It calls attention to the historical and ongoing privileging of whiteness and disregard of people of color within feminism.

We should also be mindful that womanism is not merely a historical movement.  It remains as relevant as ever, despite more of a recent push for full inclusivity and diversity within the feminist movement.  The racist hierarchy which gave rise to womanism is a systemic imbalance of power whose persistence is evidenced in the unequal platform for women’s voices in even new media.  Thanks to the internet and the feminist “blogosphere”, women’s voices are louder than ever, but the voices which are amplified most remain those of white women.

“Blogs run by traditionally marginalised women do not attract the same attention by the media. When feminists are pulled from the internet for interviews, it is routinely the same white feminist voices representing the broad perspectives that are visible on the internet. Unlike academia, where the power dynamic between professor and student does not allow for radical confrontation, marginalised women have forcefully made themselves heard  through a series of boycotts, as well as critical essays confronting feminists of privilege regarding raceableism and transphobia.”

– via Renee Martin, “I’m Not a Feminist (and There Is No But).

If feminism is meant to be a movement that represents all women, all women must be viewed as equal players in that movement.  Womanism is an integral part of the movement while simultaneously being a movement of its own, equal in importance, whose concerns and goals should be the focus of all invested in achieving equality and social justice.  The struggles of women of color are not an addendum to the feminist struggle but they are the feminist struggle, not just one month in a year but at all times, inextricable.

One Billion Rising ETSU/Johnson City!

one-billion-logo-square-640x550Did you know?

ONE IN THREE WOMEN ON THE PLANET WILL BE RAPED OR BEATEN IN HER LIFETIME.

ONE BILLION RISING IS:

A global strike
An invitation to dance
A call to men and women to refuse to participate in the status quo until rape and rape culture ends
An act of solidarity, demonstrating to women the commonality of their struggles and their power in numbers
A refusal to accept violence against women and girls as a given
A new time and a new way of being

JOIN US:

This (alcohol-free) event will be held at the Galaxy Lounge in downtown Johnson City from 7-11pm.  Cover will be $5 and proceeds will be donated to Abuse Alternatives and the Crisis Center.

Time: Thursday, February 14, 2013 7:00 PM – 11:00 PM EST
Host: Casey Lawhon Walker
Location:
Galaxy Lounge (Johnson City, TN)

216 East Main Street
Johnson City, TN 37604

Women on Wednesdays

WOWFEB6Join us tomorrow for Women on Wednesdays! Come see Dr. Beth Bailey speak on Improving Pregnancy and Newborn health in Northeast Tennessee! 12:00 pm in Dining Room 3 of the Culp! Light lunch provided.

 

Dr. Beth Baily joined the Department of Family Medicine in 2003. She holds an undergraduate degree from the University of Michigan, and a Ph.D. in Developmental Psychology and Statistics from Wayne State University in Detroit. Her research interests are broad and include studying the long-term effects of prenatal environments, including exposure to drugs and alcohol, prenatal interventions, domestic violence, child psychopathology, and health disparities. Since at ETSU, she has implemented research funded by the university, the March of Dimes, HRSA, the National Institutes of Health, and has published papers on the findings.

Black History Month

Throughout the month of February, Black History Month, ETSU Women’s Studies will be highlighting the stories and achievements of black women, and celebrating the contributions of all black women in the struggle for equality.  It’s important to reflect upon the intersecting oppression that women of color have faced and continue to face in addition to that which all women face every day to ensure that in our collective struggle, their concerns are not ignored and they are not left behind.

The importance of spotlighting the history of black women is exemplified by Rosa Parks, whose narrative and active participation in shaping the civil rights movement has been obscured and made passive by a dominant male narrative as well as a dominant white narrative.  We should instead seek to approach history from her own perspective, highlighting her active contribution to the civil rights movement and her powerful belief in its cause.

Feminism should be an inclusive movement and we must remember that we are all working toward the same goal – ending oppression and achieving equality.  That goal cannot be reached until oppression is ended and equality is achieved for all.

During this very important month, we hope that you will join us in our celebration and recognition of the achievements of these extraordinary women.

Follow us on twitter:

http://twitter.com/etsuwomenstudy

%d bloggers like this: