The Supreme Court order you may have missed

The Supreme Court’s rulings two weeks ago on the Affordable Care Act and marriage equality have had a profound and immediate effect on Americans. But so has the Court’s less-discussed order to delay the implementation of a Texas law that would have effectively shut down all but ten Texas abortion clinics, leaving nearly one million women at least 150 miles away from their closest abortion clinic.

Map of 60-mile radius access limits around Texas abortion clinics, under the suspended law. (Credit: @MetricMaps / Wikimedia)

Map of 60-mile radius access limits around remaining Texas abortion clinics, under the suspended law, versus female population density. (Credit: @MetricMaps / Wikimedia)

The Texas law in question initially grabbed the nation’s attention thanks to a pair of pink sneakers and State Senator Wendy Davis, whose passionate filibuster lasted long enough to avoid the passage of the bill…for the day. Despite Senator Davis’s efforts, the bill passed in July 2013, as part of a second special session, by a margin of 19-11.

The first part of the bill took effect 90 days after it’s passage; it prohibited abortions after 20 weeks and required all doctors performing abortions to have admitting privileges at a local hospital.  The Supreme Court’s order delays implementation of the second part of the bill, which requires all abortion clinics to meet the standards of an “ambulatory surgical center” – a set of stringent regulations on staffing, equipment, and the building itself.

Fund Texas Choice notes that 14 of Texas 36 abortion clinics closed due to the provision requiring doctors to have admitting privileges at a local hospital and only 10 clinics currently meet the standard of an ambulatory surgical center.

Some Texas lawmakers insist that these changes are designed to protect women’s health, while opponents have deemed it a thinly veiled effort to restrict a woman’s right to choose in the Lone Star State.

Abortion is an extremely safe medical procedure.  A recent study in Obstetrics and Gynecology notes that women are 14 times more likely to die during or after childbirth than from abortion.  In fact, in 2010, only 1 in 625 women who received in abortion at Planned Parenthood required an emergency room visit or blood transfusion.  Still, Texas is one of 24 states that the Guttmacher Institute reports has regulations that go beyond what is medically necessary for patient safety.

The Supreme Court order is only temporary, however, and will expire if the Court decides not to hear the case during their 2015 season.

It is still unclear if the Court will hear this case, but if they do, a woman’s right to choose is sure to be in the crosshairs of the 2016 presidential election, and rightfully so: the problem is a lot bigger than Texas, as the other 23 states with similarly restrictive laws proves.

Despite the fact that half of Americans identified as pro-choice in a May 2015 Gallup Poll, states across the country continue to enact abortion restrictions in record numbers.  During the years of 2011-2014, states passed 231 restrictions on abortions, limiting access to safe abortions from sea to shining sea.  To put that in perspective, 189 restrictions had been passed in the ten years previous.

The increasingly stringent regulations on abortion access make it clear that women need a champion to protect the rights afforded to them by the 1973 Roe v. Wade ruling.  That champion may come from the Supreme Court, or we may need to change the tide of state politicians.

This Texas law and the drastic effect it has on the number of abortion clinics in the state calls into focus the severity of medically unnecessary restrictions on abortion and the reality that they effectively limit access to safe abortions for many American women.

June 18, 2015 – Arsenal For Democracy 132

Posted by Bill on behalf of the team.

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Topics: Charleston Shooting; Women’s World Cup. People: Bill, De Ana, and Nate. Produced: June 22nd and 23rd, 2015.

Discussion Points:

– Charleston: Media narratives, campaign contributions, Confederate Flag
– Women’s World Cup: How U.S. women’s soccer became a major force and how the rest of the world caught up.

Episode 132 (51 min):
AFD 132

Related Links

AFD by Greg: “How we talk about the racists among us”
The Guardian: “Scott Walker to forfeit donations from group cited in Dylann Roof ‘manifesto'”
NBC Sports: “For Colombia, Women’s World Cup performance a chance to advance role of females in sports back home | ProSoccerTalk”

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The Oscars and the Pitfalls of White Feminism

After the initial controversy about the lack of diversity in the nominations for the Academy Awards, you would think that the awards show and everything associated with it would have done a better job of keeping away from controversy. Yet it seems the opposite.

Despite their extensive advertising coverage featuring videos of Lupita Nyong’o, Kerry Washington, and Viola Davis being their elegant selves at previous shows and rehearsal recordings — as if to say “Hey! We do have black friends!” — it seems that the show couldn’t help but make one misstep after another. The host, Neil Patrick Harris, opened the show with a very awkward attempt to make fun of just how White this year’s nominees were, and later on baited David Oyelowo into making yet another unnecessary joke about Quvenzhané Wallis’ name. Sean Penn also made an extremely racist joke about Mexican director Alejandro González Iñárritu that would not have been made about any European, British, or Canadian nominees.

Another terrible incident that happened was some of the comments made about one of the attendees. In an Oscars Pre-Show, Giuliana Rancic made comments about the faux dreadlocked hairstyle that actress Zendaya wore for the awards. In her comments about the actress (which was later revealed to be actively scripted) Giuliana stated that Zendaya’s dreads made her look like she smelled of “weed and patchouli.” Giuliana later apologized for her statements after Zendaya released a statement addressing the disparaging comments. This comes just weeks after several blog posts praising Kylie Jenner and her faux dreads as edgy and innovative.

Although the aforementioned incidents are ghastly themselves, another incident is equally offensive though it tried to hide itself in a positive speech. Patricia Arquette during her acceptance speech called for wage equality for women, a speech that excited many of the folks watching. Backstage, when she received the award and was asked by the press to elaborate, Arquette stated that “men who love women, gays and people of color that we’ve fought for need to fight for us now” (video). She didn’t explain who “us” were, but in her initial speech she was speaking about wage equality for women and in the press conference she seems to be listing the people outside of that group who she believes should be allies, so it’s not a huge leap to assume that in Ms. Arquette’s mind she was referring to White women.

Pictured: Patricia Arquette, file photo. (Credit: HeartTruth.gov / Wikimedia)

Pictured: Patricia Arquette, file photo. (Credit: HeartTruth.gov / Wikimedia)

I’ve written before about what does and does not get to be seen as Women’s or Feminist issues in society, and this is a new case of that classic problem. Wage equality for women is definitely a challenge, but to say that gays and people of color “need to fight” for wage equality ignores the fact that they’ve been doing it all along. Solidarity is important, but you add insult to injury when you ask people who are already working towards change to work harder. Calling for solidarity makes sense, but it’s insulting to demand solidarity from those already showing it and from those who are themselves part of the movement.

Moreover, Women of Color have always had a particularly strong disadvantage when it came to work and wages. Even today Black, Native American and Latina women make less money than even White women, earning $0.64, $0.59 and $0.54 respectively for every dollar a White man makes. In contrast, White women make a total of $0.78 per dollar a White man makes. While that still is unequal, it doesn’t make sense to turn around and tell those less fortunate to help you make it to the full dollar when you may or may not have helped them get only halfway there and seem to believe their struggle is complete.

It’s a shame. In the year 2015, Women of Color, especially Black women, are still not considered part of the movements that should include us. Our fashion and style is considered unique and interesting only when it’s not on our bodies, and our hard work is only used to help folks with more than us to get ahead while we suffer in the background. This shouldn’t be happening — not in media or in any other fields we get into. It’s a shame. It’s a travesty. And it needs to stop.

American History: Ida B. Wells and Intersectionality

If you’ve been on Facebook for more than 5 minutes, you’ve probably come across one of two specific types of articles: the “Is Beyonce/Nicki Minaj/Rihanna a Feminist?” article — which criticizes those celebrities, usually for their scantily clad music video performances — or the “Why Lady Gaga/Miley Cyrus/Katy Perry is a Feminist icon” article — which lauds those celebrities, usually for their scantily clad music video performances. These two article types are very popular, especially after major award shows or the release of new music videos.

But the thinly veiled racism behind who gets to be a Feminist Icon, and whose feminism gets questioned has been receiving a lot of pushback on other social media sites. Women of Color are especially vocal, pointing out that much of mainstream feminism ignores the intersections that race, class, sexual orientation and gender identity play in the lives of anyone other than White women.

This fight isn’t new. In fact, Black women in the US have been talking about the intersection between race and gender for a very long time.

ida-b-wellsOne woman who was a very outspoken voice for the rights of Black women was Ida B. Wells, a writer, businesswoman, activist, and suffragette. Ida B. Wells’ work is often framed around race, not just because she was such an outspoken anti-lynching advocate, but also because she was not afraid to speak against the racism she saw happening in the female-dominated Suffrage and Temperance movements for women’s voting rights and alcohol limit laws respectively.

Wells was especially vocal about Frances Willard, a prominent figure of the Women’s Christian Temperance Union. Willard used racism to try and sway US Southerners towards Temperance and Suffrage. In order to gain Southern support Willard played to their fear of Black economic success, stating that liquor was at the center of it. Willard also claimed that liquor caused Blacks to be aggressive, which could endanger White women and children.

At the time, Black men purportedly being dangerous and aggressive was the reason given for lynchings in the South, but after tireless research and personal experience, Well’s had already known that Black economic growth was one of the main reasons for the lynchings. Wells also knew that Black women as well as Black men were being lynched in the South. In 1893, while both Wells and Willard were on tour in Europe, trying to garner support for anti-lynching and Temperance respectively, Wells exposed Willard’s racism to Europeans who previously couldn’t believe Willard would do such a thing.

This wasn’t the only time Wells had to deal with racism in women’s movements. In 1913 during the World Suffrage Parade, Black women were asked not to march in the parade with White Suffragettes because of fear it would set back progress Suffrage had made with Southern states. Instead, Black Suffragettes were asked to march after several other groups. Although many of the Black Suffragettes agreed to the segregated march, Wells did not. Wells initially was going to boycott the parade, but instead waited in the crowd and joined the parade after it started, making sure to join with the White Suffragettes.

Although the idea of intersections in Feminism may seem new, in reality it isn’t. And although many will tell you that the relationship between major Feminist movements/activists and Women of Color has gotten better, it hasn’t. Wells was considered a “radical” in her time by bothering her contemporaries in issues of race and gender, many of whom disliked the way she fought for her causes — or the fact that she spoke up at all about the issues that she faced as a Black woman.

Nowadays, with the rise of blogs and the internet generally, Black women are given far more access to spaces where they can speak about their issues with people who aren’t aware — and also with each other. The downside, of course, is that with this new access also comes new opposition. But despite all of that, Black women still speak out, just as Ida spoke out.

You can’t invade your way to women’s rights

U.S. Marines in Afghanistan in November 2001. (US Marine Corps Photo)

U.S. Marines in Afghanistan in November 2001. (US Marine Corps Photo)

We’ve had compelling, public evidence for at least five full years that the minuscule progress achieved for Afghan women just after the invasion had already been rolled back to essentially square one by about 2008.

Nevertheless, over the past five years, Afghan women have been rhetorically — usually not even visually or in person — trotted out as props to justify a continued (failed) U.S. presence. Even now, women are cited as the only reason the U.S. invasion and occupation was a justifiable success, despite the fact that this is itself a blatant lie.

Here’s an article on the pseudo-feminism of the American war effort, by Rafia Zakaria, a columnist for Pakistan’s “Dawn” newspaper.

ISIS and the irreversible rise of Kurdish female fighters

Global coverage of the Kurdish struggles with ISIS in northern Syria and northern Iraq has included a pretty strong focus on the role of women in the Kurdish paramilitaries. Several weeks ago, Marie Claire of all places published a lengthy freelance piece featuring photos and interviews with Kurdish women fighting ISIS.

(Slightly outside the topic of Kurdish fighters, we also saw the viral rise of a photo by Zmnako Ismael of Runak Bapir Gherib, a 14-year-old Yazidi girl determinedly packing a Kalashnikov gun half her height to protect her fleeing family from ISIS, despite a look of pure exhaustion. It’s one of the most powerful photos of survival that I’ve ever seen)

Some of the coverage of the Kurdish women in combat has perhaps been a bit skewed toward the overly dramatized wondrous-curiosity angle of “Hey look at this unusual thing and how unusual it is” or toward the morbid.

Granted, ISIS hasn’t exactly been doing itself favors with either the ladies or media coverage, by issuing proclamations like this:

“We will conquer your Rome, break your crosses, and enslave your women,” read an article in Dabiq magazine, attributed to ISIL spokesman Mohammed al-Adnani and addressing those who do not subscribe to the group’s interpretation of Islam.

“The enslaved Yazidi families are now sold by the Islamic State soldiers,” another Dabiq article read. “The Yazidi women and children were then divided according to the Shariah [Islamic law] amongst the fighters of the Islamic State who participated in the Sinjar operations.”

 

This past week, however, the Wall Street Journal tried to put the stories more in context with a long profile of who some of the women are, why they volunteered, what they’ve experienced, what role this fits into in existing Kurdish society, and what impact it will have on future Kurdish society. The current conflict is one of the most high-intensity wars to involve the Kurds since the breakup of the Ottoman Empire began about a hundred years ago, and it will likely be a defining moment for generations to come. One way it could define the culture might be in gender roles.

Here are just a few of the highlights from the piece:

“When I walk with my gun, the men who haven’t volunteered keep their eyes down around me,” said Dilar, who didn’t want to give her family name. “My bravery shames them.”
[…]
Women in battle shock many in traditional corners of the Middle East, but among Kurds the female warriors have drawn acclaim in poems and on Facebook.

Kurdish society is hardly a bastion of feminism, but across the wider region, Kurds—who are ethnically and linguistically distinct from Arabs or Turks—are relatively progressive. That is partly a reflection of the leftist and Marxist political ideology that has influenced the Kurds’ decades long struggle for independence in Turkey and Iraq.

Many Kurdish women’s rights activists have criticized Mr. Ocalan and other Kurdish leaders as only paying lip service to their cause, pointing to the male-dominated military and political hierarchies of Kurdish society that in practice keep women shut out from leadership positions. Now, the prowess of Syrian and Iraqi Kurdish women fighters is straining, if not breaking, that glass ceiling.
[…]
If she survives the battle for Kobani, Ms. [Afsin] Kobane [a 28-year-old commander and former kindergarten teacher] said she knows her battlefield experience will alter her life forever. “After this, I can’t imagine leading a life of a traditional Kurdish woman, caring for a husband and children at home,” she said. “I used to want that before this war.”

 
Flag-of-Iraqi-Kurdistan

October 1, 2014 – Arsenal For Democracy 101

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Topics: UAE and Russia milestones for women in air and space, illegal contraception co-pays in the US, death penalty in Kenya case, Big Ideas in voting and internet technology, Thai government’s food robot. People: Bill, Persephone, Nate. Produced: September 29th, 2014.

Discussion Points:

– The 1st UAE female combat pilot, the 4th female cosmonaut, CVS charging illegal co-pays on contraception, and more
– Big Idea: Could the U.S. use the goal of secure internet voting as a moonshot project to strengthen internet security in general? What interim measures should be taken to make voting easier?
– Why Thailand’s government is trying to build a robot to measure Thai food authenticity

Part 1 – UAE, Russia, US, Kenya:
Part 1 – UAE, Russia, US, Kenya – AFD 101
Part 2 – Big Ideas in Voting Tech:
Part 2 – Big Ideas in Voting Tech – AFD 101
Part 3 – Thai Food:
Part 3 – Thai Food – AFD 101

To get one file for the whole episode, we recommend using one of the subscribe links at the bottom of the post.

Related links
Segment 1

AFD: Russia & UAE: A big week for women in air and space
Gawker: Fox News Host Calls Female Fighter Pilot “Boobs On the Ground”
House.gov: Congresswoman Speier Discovers CVS Illegally Charged 11,000 Women for Contraceptives
AFD: Kenya sentence an urgent reminder of the need for legal abortion

Segment 2

Wikipedia: Electronic voting in Estonia
ThinkProgress: Georgia State Senator Complains That Voting Is Too Convenient For Black People

Segment 3

New York Times: You Call This Thai Food? The Robotic Taster Will Be the Judge
The Globalist: Exporting Japanese Food Culture

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