Tubman on the Twenty!


Leaders of the grassroots movement, Women on 20s, in front of an artistic image of the Tubman Twenty: Photo credit, Women on 20s

I’m sure you’ve already heard the news: Harriet Tubman will be the face of the twenty! Move over genocidal Jackson; make way for lady humanitarian/abolitionist Tubman! It all started with a grassroots movement about a year ago, called Women on 20s. (Back in 2015, I reported on the movement here, when it was first gaining momentum.) More than half a million people voted to have a woman on the twenty dollar bill and to have a woman occupy visual space in our economy and modern world. The importance of having women represented in all facets of life, and not relegated to the background, cannot be understated. And so, having the amazing Harriet Tubman on the twenty, matters that much more. What is especially fitting is the fact that Tubman was paid twenty dollars for her service in the Civil War.  Also, the back of the new ten will feature an image of the suffragette icons. 

There is only one article of opposition getting attention, titled Keep Harriet Tubman, and all women, off the $20 bill, which just makes me think more about some women who have pushed women’s rights backwards, throughout history. The author states reasons such as “American capitalism historically has been used to oppress and disenfranchise women and people of color.” Exactly! That is why it is so powerful for women, particularly women of color, to occupy that space and take control of it. The more representation women have, in a positive way, in mainstream society, the more we can do to create a better world where no-one is disenfranchised.

At first, the U.S Treasury, headed by Jack Lew, basically said, we hear you, half a million people! We’ll put a woman on the…. ten. The leased used bill. And frankly, it was an insult. But when TIME ran an article headlining “The Back of the Bill is Like the Back of the Bus for Women” The U.S Treasury backed off, basically saying, Ok OK! Crap you’re right, here’s the twenty. And so the fight was won! But, what is bizarre, is that they will keep an image of Jackson, a slave holder, on the back. THAT I do not understand. 


Creating Anti-Rape-Culture In the Midst of Yet Another Montana Rape

[Editors note: I wrote this in February]

I’ve got some ideas for creating anti-rape-culture, which I will describe in a moment. But right now, my blood is boiling and my stomach is wrenching in knots. I’m sure you’ve now heard of Missoula, Montana, the town where the mishandling of rape cases which took place, and drew attention to the national epidemic of campus rape. Well, another rape has taken place, this time on the iconic M trail overlooking the town on Tuesday [Feb 16.]

As Judith, a Fulbright Scholar teaching at the University of Montana simply put it, with regards to the fact that rape is more about power than sexual desire, and the fact that this took place in broad day-light on a busy hiking trail, “It’s as though this rapist is shoving it in our faces.”

The Kaimin, the University of Montana’s newspaper in Missoula, reported, “Three witnesses found the victim stumbling and bleeding from her head on the trail… The victim was off the mountain and en route to the hospital in an ambulance by 5:30 p.m.”

I have not felt this way before, but lately, when I’m in Missoula, this case has made me live fearfully. You can see the M trail from nearly everywhere in town. And now… I look at it differently. Whenever I drive under the shadow of the mountain where the trail is clearly displayed, these days, my stomach churns thinking about the man who raped a woman up there, over the city, in broad day-light. (I can hear contrarians saying, “but you weren’t there so you don’t know if it really happened.” To that I say, look at the research: 90-98% of rape allegations are found to be real,  meaning false allegations are, in fact, extremely rare.)

This is the very same town that John Kraukauer, author of Into Thin Air and Under the Banner of Heaven, wrote a book titled Missoula, about the rapes  that created a national outcry. And now our town is again in turmoil over another devastating case of a man raping someone. But remember, what’s worse, is that this isn’t a problem unique to Missoula: Horrifically, it is the norm. But now,  our town needs to become the model for how to make positive change. Already, Missoula has improved how it handles rape cases: Both qualitative and quantitative reports show major progress and the police department has vowed to not backslide. Our town has potential to be a role model for how to turn things around for the better. But here we are again.

The Missoulian, the city’s newspaper, stated the woman reported she was raped on the M trail by a male-acquaintance. A male-acquaintance. Time and time again we see this. The rapist is someone they know. Why? Well, because it is rooted in our grander society’s culture.

Rape culture can be seen in the fact that violence against women in porn has gone way up, and so has viewership, meaning more and more people are getting-off to watching women get beaten and forced to vomit. That is rape culture. We see rape culture in questions like “what was she wearing” and in the “pick-up artist” Daryush Valizadeh, who said, “Let’s make rape legal.”  We see rape culture in the fact that the phrase “non-consensual sex” exists. There is no such thing. She or he did not consent? That’s rape.

But another crucial, often overlooked, piece of ingrained rape-culture is the absence of the perpetrator in speech and text. We say things like, “a woman was raped,” instead of “a man raped a woman.” Did you notice a shift in conscious thought in that second phrase? It’s a seemingly subtle difference, but it gets into your mental process, which affects how you think, talk, and act on issues. In English and Spanish grammar, constructing a sentence by saying something WAS done to someone is called a no-fault construction. Think about that: Grammatically, no one was at fault. This is an act of making the victim very visible, while making the perpetrator invisible. I see it as part of the reason so many of the considered causes of rape aren’t directed at the rapist. Because the rhetorical power and blame cannot rest on the rapist, if they are rhetorically absent from the conversation.

To shift blame off of the victim, I think we need to use “perpetrator-first language” when discussing rape: So that perpetrators are blamed first instead of victims. As Camille Perry, Portland activist and musician said, when we were discussing the term, “This is not to say that our focus should drift from supporting the victim. On the contrary, this lingual shift helps spotlight the horrific person to person nature of these instances.”

News of the man raping a woman on the M trail came a day after other devastating news: Jordan Johnson, the rapist in one of the Missoula rape cases that garnered national attention, (and the rapist discussed in Krakaur’s book) has been awarded 245,000 dollars based on supposed “predetermined guilt.”  He’s been awarded money. Are you kidding me…

I would be speechless if I weren’t so incensed, angry, frustrated, and fed up with this rape-culture we are all surrounded by. When will it stop? How will it stop?

We need to construct anti-rape culture. Here are some ideas about how to accomplish this:

We all need:

  • To continue speaking up, rallying, blogging, fighting and having difficult conversations with people who don’t get it.
  • To use perpetrator-first language to further prevent victim-blaming from ensuing: So perpetrators are blamed first, not survivors.
  • To have laws prohibiting violence against women in porn and/or, at the very least, accessible porn sites that are not-violent-against-women. Is that too much to ask? (Because as it is now, it appears most accessible porn sites have violent, degrading porn interspersed with other porn.)
  • To demand judicial systems that adequately penalize the perpetrators of violence against women and a system that does not cause further harm to survivors.
  • To construct an educational system for current and future generations that teaches consent-culture and exemplifies a critical eye on media.
  • To require comprehensive sex education including the obligation of teaching consent.
  • To ensure boys are taught to internalize the fact that masculinity is not rooted in taking power.
  • To enable men to teach each other that nurturing isn’t a stigmatized, “female” trait, but an important, human quality.
  • To develop an educational system that teaches emotional literacy, media literacy, and empathy.
  • To ensure the media does not promote power-taking as the only acceptable masculine trait, and instead, ensure the media values the whole-man and exemplifies what it means to fully respect women as people.

What are other ways we can construct anti-rape culture? A thought provoking blog posted on Dating Tips for the Feminist Man says the opposite of rape-culture is “nurturance culture:”

“To heal rape culture, then, men [must] build masculine nurturance skills: nurturance and recuperation of their true selves, and nurturance of the people of all genders around them…To completely transform this culture of misogyny, then, men must do more than ‘not assault.’ We must call on masculinity to become whole and nurturing of self and others, to recognize that attachment needs are healthy and normal and not ‘female,’ and thus to expect of men to heal themselves and others the same way we expect women to ‘be nurturers.’”

Rape is not an intrinsic human, or male, characteristic. It is (and was) not as common in all cultures. Education and media are essentially assimilation systems. They can either continue rape-culture and assimilate people into it blindly, or, rape-culture can be eliminated and a new, better path can be created for everyone. Education and media can and should be used to promote consent-culture.

Rape-culture is a multi-faceted and complex, ingrained problem, and therefore requires equally complex solutions. We can, and will create anti-rape culture. But it takes time.

What if Missoula changed from rape-culture to consent-culture? Could we show the world how to change things for the better? Missoula has improved it’s process for for victims after rape crisis and is turning the corner for improvement. Maybe this is the storm before the calm…. I just don’t know.

But I do know humankind is better than this. Just as other seemingly unstoppable horrors have been abolished in history, I believe we can also eradicate rape. I have to believe in a world without rape. We need a paradigm shift.

Behavior is learned and it can be unlearned too.

U.S Woman’s Soccer Team Fights for Equal Pay

Photo credit: USAtoday

Headlines are emerging today that the U.S Women’s Soccer team has filed a lawsuit against U.S Soccer for wage discrimination based on gender. Looking at the facts, the women’s team is paid 1,400 dollars less, 6,816 less for bonus wins, and less for other bonuses and sponsored appearances. Overall, this accounts for women being paid 40% less than their male counter-parts.

Upon reading this you might think, incorrectly, “Well…..The women’s soccer team doesn’t have as many viewers as the men’s soccer team and they don’t take in as much revenue, so it makes sense the women’s team is paid less.” If you thought either of those notions, you would be drastically wrong, on both accounts: The women’s team generated more viewership in their most recent World Cup game and the women’s team generates  more revenue, particularly looking at projections into coming years.

As NPR states, the most recent women’s World Cup was watched by “23 million viewers, making it the most watched soccer game in American TV history.”   The most watched soccer game in American TV history: Not the most watched soccer game in women’s soccer: The most watched soccer game in U.S history. That means they exceeded viewership in the U.S of any male-soccer-game to date. In-fact, the women’s team far exceeded the most watched men’s game by 200,000 viewers. 

And secondly, the women’s team is projected to take in 5 million dollars of profit, whereas the men’s team is projected to actually lose money: 1 million dollars worth of loss to be exact.  And yet, the women’s team is getting paid significantly less.

As Hope Solo, the U.S Women’s Soccer team goalie, said “We continue to be told we should be grateful just to have the opportunity to play professional soccer, and to get paid for doing it..In this day and age, it’s about equality. It’s about equal rights, it’s about equal pay.”

Yeah…Women should just be grateful to be permitted, by the dominant class, to participate in the world around them. Well screw that! And hell yeah, U.S women’s soccer team, for fighting for the right be be equally compensated!

We also need to have conversations revolving around other sports as well. For example, in basketball N.C.A.A tournaments, as the New York Times reports, “the [men’s] winning team rakes in $1.56 million for its conference. By contrast, the N.C.A.A women’s tournament, which began in 1982, awards zero dollars for winning a game.”  Zero. Wow.

As we know, soccer is not a sport in which the men’s team draws more viewership: The women’s team in-fact draws in more, despite the wage disparity. But the New York Times discusses how indeed, there are times when men’s sports teams generate more viewership and therefore compensation can reflect that. That makes sense to me. But if women’s sports are continually belittled, and not accessible to watch on main stations, then women’s sports will continue to have less viewership. But lack of viewership in women’s sports, compared to the men’s version of the sport, as the New York Times  continues,  “…is not true for every sport. Women’s figure skating, for instance, has often drawn higher television ratings and bigger crowds than men’s figure skating.” I would be curious to see how much women figure skaters get paid compared to their male counterparts.

Paving the Way

Regardless of how you feel about Hillary Clinton, this is a revolutionary moment. For the first time in U.S. history, a woman was voted to be a major political party’s presidential candidate. That’s pretty big news, and no matter who you or I vote for, Hillary’s campaign is paving the way for future female candidates.

Looking back on history, simply voting has been an upward struggle, but thanks to women making strides, we have come a long way.

We can thank Kate Sheppard (pictured below) for securing women the right to vote, in the first country ever, in 1893 in New Zealand, 27 years before the United States.

Kate Sheppard

And we can thank Sirivamo Bandaranaike of Sri Lanka in 1960 for becoming the world’s first female leader of a country.

Prime Minister Sirivamo Bandaranaike    Photo credit: Kids.britannica





I think this ridiculous notion of Feminism being equated with “man-hating” is finally dying. Because just wanting women’s rights and equality should never be equated with something such as that. And, as this comic clearly points out, men are intelligent enough to realize the importance of equal rights and respect.


Michelle Obama on Women’s Rights

“In my lifetime, and I’m not that old, it was perfectly legal for empoyers to discriminate against women…women were not allowed to make fundamental decisions about their bodies. And practically speaking, many still can’t… And today, it is so easy to take for granted all the kinds of progress we’ve made on these issues. But the fact is, that today, so many of these rights are under threat from all sides. Always at risk of being rolled back if we let our guard down for a single minute…” -Michelle Obama.

Tampons Are Taxed in 40 States as a “Luxury Item”

These are all the states that have a tax on tampons and pads for being a supposed “luxury item.”

Graph credit: Fusion

Yep. 40 states charge women extra money for having periods. You’ll be interested to know that some states have some interesting things that are not categorized as luxury items, while menstrual products are. For example, in Louisiana, they have set aside weekends where you can purchase firearms tax-free. And in Texas, they set aside certain weekends for some school supplies and energy efficient machines to be tax free.  But necessary menstrual hygiene products? Nope. Women get to pay the luxury-item sales tax.

Screen Shot 2016-02-01 at 8.53.10 PM
Photo Credit: Screen shot from AJ+ based on the statistic from the hill.com

Cristina Garcia is a Democratic sponsor of a bill in California, (where taxpayers pay an estimated 20 million on the tampon tax) who is trying to remove the burdensome sales tax. She said, “Women have no choice but to buy these products, so the economic effect is only felt by women and women of color are particularly hard hit by this tax.”

The tax on menstrual products is a state-government issue, meaning it cannot be dismantled in one fell swoop by the federal government. Which means it’ll take each state passing laws to get rid of the tax. Luckily, people have already started petitioning their local representatives (and we can too) to get rid of the tax. But, as you can see, there are still 40 states that have the ridiculous tax on periods.

To me, this tax represents yet another occurrence in which women pay in our society, for being female.

Photo credit: Takepart.com

Ever heard of the pink tax? This refers to the extra amount of money women unnecessarily pay for a product that is the same as the male-counterpart, but is marketed towards women. The pink tax, in part, refers to a large scale study conducted by The New York City Department of Consumer Affairs that tested over 800 products with female and male analogs. The study found that overall, “…women’s products cost 7 percent more than similar products for men.”

So women have to pay more for the same products, and they get a “luxury item” sales tax imposed on them for needing to buy an item for natural, biological functioning. Thanksssss a lot. These oversights (and/or potentially deliberate actions) represent yet another way women pay for being female in our society.

Why Women?

Why do we still need to empower women, you might ask. To answer this question, I’ll leave you with this article I wrote, below, for you to get a senseThis is only the tip of the iceberg here in the United States. In other countries, there are further obstacles still, that leave women disenfranchised and violated.

But the potential for the whole world to benefit from women being empowered and given basic human rights is tremendous: Women’s empowerment is the key way to combat global poverty, it makes economic sense, and it is a fundamental human right, just to name a few reasons.

Whether you are new to understanding the need for women’s empowerment worldwide, or are already an avid seeker of justice, read onward and delve into new perspectives, serious events and sometimes funny yet poignant articles on this blog.

But first:

This is What U.S Society Looks Like When you Switch the Genders

As I pondered the inequities of our world, I thought: How simple, and informative, would it be if I laid out how our society currently functions, but switched the sexes? I figured this perspective could offer a window into the world we live in.

I decided to write this, keeping in mind my lovely guy friends, because they are all pretty feminist. But it is hard for them to see just how imbalanced societal structures currently are and the negative impact this has on women. Inequities range from sexual abuse to unattainable beauty standards. To some, the inequalities naively seem small. But as American Philosopher Marilyn Frye points out: It is not the single wire that cages the bird, but the multiplicity of wires. “If you look very closely at just one wire in the cage, you cannot see the other wires…It is only when you step back, stop looking at the wires one by one, microscopically, and take a macroscopic view of the whole cage, that you can see why the bird does not go anywhere… It is perfectly obvious that the bird is surrounded by a network of systematically related barriers.. [that] are as confining as the solid walls of a dungeon.”

My article is addressed to “you” or the hypothetical guy, because there appears to be a misunderstanding of just how intertwined these wires and social injustices are. Whether they range from big to small problems, each imbalance creates fractures in women’s daily lives.

[Side note: In this article I simplified it to just male and female genders, but keep in mind, gender, and sexuality, are a spectrum.]

I find it very demonstrative just how absurd our societal imbalance is today when you look at it from this perspective. So imagine this: no, really imagine this.

You live in a world where the overwhelming majority of politicians are women. Nearly all the doctors, lawyers, philosophers, police officers, religious leaders, historians, scientists, film producers, writers, musicians and journalists are all women. So, nearly all the most influential and powerful people on the planet are women while men are on the periphery.

The female politicians pass laws to regulate men’s reproductive systems; their vas deferens, semen, penis and testicles. Men’s private bodies become political debate. The female doctors are an authority over you. The female lawyers create laws that affect you and get the person who assaulted you acquitted. In-fact, the person who assaulted you goes free while everyone around you condemns you, calling you a liar.

The female philosophers have hypothesized that men are inferior to women. Some of the men even internalize this idea, and start to think that maybe they are inferior to women, even though this is not true. The female police officers sexually harass and grope you. The female religious leaders say God is female and men are the “other”. This is a particularly impactful part of society, yet is never acknowledged.

The female historians only write about their own lives and victories. The female scientists study men from afar, and treat the male body as strange. The female producers create TV shows and movies only about women’s lives, albeit sometimes throwing in a token male character (preferably a black male so as to have a token minority too.) Once in a while though, the female film producers will create a story about what they presume men must think or feel, known as a dick-flick. Otherwise, men only have female movies and TV shows available to watch. Everyone in the society consciously and subconsciously molds their perceptions around what they see in this female-dominated media.

Female writers write books about their perspectives and hypothesize occasionally what the “other” gender might think. Musicians sing songs and rap about man-hoes and how men are only good for licking pussy and taking out the trash. Meanwhile, the female journalists almost exclusively tell stories about important events revolving around other women. Men are indeed on the periphery.

All the while, as young boys grow up, they are told through persistent media messaging that the most important thing they have to offer to themselves and to the world is how handsome they are and how sexually attractive they are to women. Messages tell men that one day, they’ll need to land a wife, and she’ll want him to look perfect all the time. And he better not “effeminate” her by being smarter than her.

The craziest part: This is so normal in the society that men internalize these ideas in one way or another. Many men’s own personal thought processes begin to revolve around trying to look and act a certain way to please others to the point that there is hardly time for anything else. Many of the men are so consumed with trying to be handsome and to fit an ideal body type that they have very little time to make worldly accomplishments or even feel confident in who they are or how they look. While there is nothing wrong with men looking handsome or sexy, it becomes the only outlet for them to express themselves.

Amazingly enough, against all odds, the men start to think that maybe they too can be philosophers, scientists and historians, and write their own stories. The men start to speak up and demand respect for their human right to control their own bodies. They want to have a voice and place in the world outside the home too. But oddly enough, this feels strange to the women and they shut it down. Advancing in society is hard for men when they have to get past the Old Girl’s Clubs. The women, and even the men, take part in diminishing their fellow men, by condemning any terms associated with equality. Equal rights gets a bad rap and men continue to live in the shadow of women.

Look at how screwed up this would be. And yet, this is the world we live in. This shift in perspective shows the absurd societal imbalances of power that women face today. Both Men and many women are part of the problem, and both men and women can be part of the solution for creating gender equality.

There are massive changes that need to take place. It is a gradual and steady climb to creating balance. But once we obtain gender equality we can engage our full potential brain-power as humans (and not just the male half of the population) to better confront worldly challenges like climate change and poverty. But we cannot do it with an entire half of the world population being left out of the equation. We need to start with raising-up women. There needs to be a better balance in our societies, because, as you can see from imagining a world where women run everything, the imbalance that exists in reality, is a strange imbalance that needs to be addressed. Women need to be just as much a part of politics, science, history, religion, media and everything in between.

So what’s the fix? Replace toxic media messaging with empowering stories and images from both (and all) genders. Bring to light issues in inequality and nurture a society full of education. We need to value girls and women for their full potential and diverse interests and boys and men need to be brought up with internalizing the human value of women instead of making women the “other.” And most importantly, we need to demand, create and implement policies and educational systems that reflect this level of respect and equality so generations grow up with equality as the norm: This means, as a start, having history classes about women,  women’s and gender studies courses and education about toxic media messaging (and how to stop it.) We need comprehensive sex education! And men need to be valued for their full potential too: As nurturers and caregivers also.

All of these policies and educational systems need to become prevalent until it is normal for all sides to participate fully in society. After all, doesn’t that make sense? Both women and men (and everyone in between) deserve the right to control their bodies and have their voices heard. They deserve to be respected, participating members of history and society. It is shocking that such a societal imbalance persists to this day… but it doesn’t have to continue.

(Originally written by Julia and posted on Feministing.com)