We have several tough news items this week. As always, we will power through them and end with that which is awesome.
This Week in Ladybits
An infuriating 43 laws imposing reproductive rights restrictions got passed in 2012 — the second-highest number in any year since Roe vs. Wade was passed. The year with the highest number of restrictions passed? That would be 2011, with 92.
Rachel Maddow reminded us all of the importance of paying attention — and being loud about it when we are displeased — on Wednesday night.
In case you can’t watch that at work or somesuch, the Governors of Virginia and Michigan snuck in anti-choice laws over the holiday weekend, apparently just to be dicks. Cowardly dicks, because they didn’t exactly do it while the media was on top of their game. The laws are designed to make it impossible for abortion clinics to operate even though abortion is, of course, legal.
So, yeah, we need to acknowledge the fact that all too many of our elected representatives are like toddlers: We need to watch them every second and make sure they can’t get near anything that’s for grownups, like electrical sockets or reproductive health. And, seriously, you can’t just watch them. You have to show the importance of using one’s words by calling and writing them regularly to let them know that if they keep doing that crap you will vote their butts into a permanent time-out. And then follow up on it.
Case in point? Texas ended funding for Planned Parenthood on January 1, leaving an estimated 50,000 low-income Texas women with nowhere to turn for preventive health care. Congratulations, Texas legislature and Governor Perry: You managed to be pro-cancer.
The owners of Hobby Lobby are also not great fans of reproductive care — the Christian chain says it would rather pay massive fines than comply with the law of the land and provide copay-free birth control.
But we’ll end with a bit of good news for nether regions: As of January 1, ladybits laws in California got a little saner. Registered nurses can now dispense birth control, and new rules will now make it easier for same-sex couples, low-income couples, and single women to use fertility services.
This Week in Awful
[Trigger warning for this entire section]
So there have been a series of stories over the last couple of weeks that I had been avoiding — not without a great deal of angst and re-thinking. As you’ve probably seen all over the Internet, India is reeling over a couple of horrific gang-rapes that have made international news. One teenage victim committed suicide last month because the police suggested that instead of prosecuting, she should try to get money from her rapists — or marry one of them. Another gang-rape victim in Delhi was assaulted so brutally that she died in the hospital Saturday morning. Five of her attackers have been charged with murder.
The country has a pervasive problem with rape and gang-rape, and attacks often aren’t reported, or those that are reported aren’t taken seriously. The two recent attacks, however, have struck such a chord with the Indian public that there have been waves of protests across the nation. There have also been proposals to shame attackers by publishing their names and photographs and to set up fast-track courts for sexual assault cases.
But, as the protesters well know, it’s going to take a change in the culture and the way the entire country views women and sexual violence. In fact, numerous Indian lawmakers have been charged with rape and assault themselves with no apparent political consequences. The leader of India’s Congress political party was arrested this Thursday morning on a rape accusation. Let’s hope some positive changes come out of theses abhorrent tragedies.
Meanwhile, The Atlantic continued to cover the reported systematic government use of rape in the conflict in Syria. The Women’s Media Center’s Women Under Siege project has also been charting attacks for months.
Lest we in the U.S. get too complacent about these sort of things happening to other people in other countries, Sarah Goodyear looked at safety issues on U.S. transit systems, Melissa Jeltsen of The Huffington Post reported on the shockingly high rates of sexual assault in the U.S. military, and the KnightSec arm of Anonymous released video of Steubenville high school athletes joking about the teenage girl who was reportedly dragged from party to party, sexually assaulted, and urinated on while unconscious.
The video is very hard to watch.
The loathsomeness of that video and the young men in it underscores an important point in all of these stories: It’s time to stop telling women and girls to raise more protective barriers and adopt more proscriptive behaviors and time to start doing a better job of teaching our boys and men to treat women as human beings. Because what we’ve been doing so far doesn’t seem to be working very well.
This Week in Politics
Illinois had some serious marriage equality drama on Thursday. At first reports came out that legalizing same-sex marriage was coming up for a vote, and then that the vote was blocked by Republicans. (In fairness, though, the chairman of the state Republican Party is in favor of same-sex marriage.) After two Democratic state senators who favor marriage equality had to go home to take care of family emergencies, reports went out that the bill didn’t have enough support. Then there was a report that marriage equality had been added as an amendment to a completely unrelated bill. Thursday evening, it looked like the bill would have to wait until the next legislative session, but the final word (I think) late Thursday night was that the bill had passed the state Senate Executive Committee and will come up for a vote on Tuesday.
Phew! Good luck, Illinois!
As a coda to all that, I’ll note that Cardinal Francis George of Chicago has been trying to stop marriage equality from coming to his state. In his letter, George says, among many other things, that “it is physically impossible for two men or two women to consummate a marriage.” Um. So based on that, let’s just agree that the Cardinal is not infallible and work from there.
Rhode Island is also taking a swing at marriage equality — a bill for same-sex marriage recognition has been introduced in the state General Assembly for the eleventh year in a row. Good luck, Rhode Islanders. We hope you join the rest of New England in civil rights deliciousness and epic wedding receptions.
In less heartening news, for the first time ever, the House failed to reauthorize the Violence Against Women Act. This used to be a bipartisan no-brainer. But the current version of the law would have allowed Native American women, members of the LGBT community, and undocumented immigrants to get help just like real people who might need help, and apparently that was too much treating people like human beings for the House GOP.
Wives, daughters, moms, sisters, aunts, and cousins of the House GOP, I call on you to badger and shame your family members until they cut this foul nonsense out. They should not be able to come home to dinner without consequences after damaging nonsense like this. I’m totally serious: Wives and girlfriends should be going on full-on Lysistrata and all hands on deck for the silent treatment. And Dowager Countesses of the GOP, it’s time to deploy some withering looks. You know what to do.
Grandmas and great-aunts of the GOP, I you have the most important job here: Letting your House Republican loved one know that you are not angry, you are disappointed. Or, hell, go with some anger too. This was a jerk move beyond belief.
Hillary Clinton is out of the hospital after being treated for a blood clot. Which means the weirdos who accused her of faking a blood clot have to think of a new nutball conspiracy theory. I’m looking forward to it. Fingers crossed for Communist Illuminati Bigfoot.
This Week in Thinky
You will be glad you checked out this New York Times story on the remarkable Beate Gordon, who wrote legal rights for women into Japan’s constitution. Yes, it’s worth knocking one off of that stupid monthly story ration thing. (Thanks to @Madabip for the link.)
This Week in Awesome
The Mary Sue showed us some playful yet helpful advice on how not to be a creeper at conventions.
Io9 reviewed Katya’s World, a young adult novel that doesn’t entangle its young female heroine in a romantic subplot. Because she is, like so many young male heroes before her, too busy with being kickass and getting things done. Nice.
The excellent io9 also called our attention to another YA novel, The Friday Society by Adrienne Kress. This one has a whole lotta steampunk and what looks like a gentle nod or two to the Violet Strange stories. Both books look like so much fun I’m trying to conjure up nieces to give them to.
BuzzFeed ran the heartening story of two guys who ran into a homophobe in the line for a pizza truck… And had the whole line stand up for them and the pizza guys too. May we all spend 2013 making jerkassery and hate of all kinds impossible to get away with in public.
Hey! The Sundance Film Festival has as many female directors as it has male directors in its U.S. Dramatic competition this year.
Have I mentioned before that I love Kate Beaton? (Yes. Because I love Kate Beaton. She’s a smart, hilarious feminist and you need go read everything of hers immediately.) The latest Hark! A Vagrant comic has some good Cinderella fun. (Yes, I know: Still het. But fun! Go lookie at the whole thing.)
The Mary Sue reports that Gail Simone is going to be writing for Batgirl again! I don’t understand it either! But it’s good! Let’s just roll with it! (Just in case you can’t wait for Batgirl, she’s also a really fun Twitter follow.)
Happy New Year to you all. May you spend 2013 getting all the recognition you deserve, but still remembering to dance like no one is watching.
Got a tip for Feminist Friday? Alert your humble correspondent on Twitter.