#YesAllWomen: Responses to violent masculinity and rape culture

My last two posts for VaNOW have been of a series on #BringBackOurGirls. It’s not a coincidence that at about the same time the webisphere started the conversation #YesAllWomen. The problem of “religious” extremists going to the lengths of enslavement and murder to prevent Girls from becoming educated women, and the problem of the constant and ubiquitous threats of intimate and sexual violence against women in the West are just two peas in a pod.

Related hashtags: #YesAllWhiteWomen, #NotAllMen, #NotOneMore, #YesAllWomen #NotAllMen (a double #) :– these are complicated conversations.*

Both of these daily kinds of violence create a world where masculinity is defined in part (even largely) by access to women bodies and control over women’s lives and permission to do great violence to achieve either one. That’s called Patriarchy. And terrible as it is, the webisphere and these heinous situations, most recently noticed in California, the history and theory that feminists have collected, studied, made for the last several decades is now becoming regular public conversation:– in this we have every reason for great hope and continued persistent work.

My social media has been on fire with posts on these instances of the problem. Some of them are so good, and so useful, that I want to be sure you have them all in one place. They are like a lesson plan for people who still don’t get it, and a reminder for us that good feminist work is being done everywhere.

From The Good Men Project, a father’s reflection on who Girls are taught from childhood to accept male violence (click).

Over on Tumblr, VampMissEdith, offered a memory about a boy who wanted to date her little sister, both in 8th grade, who brought a handgun to school to shoot her for not saying yes (click).

Just pause and remember that in the 1990s, in Jonesboro AR, a boy in 4th grade took a rifle to school and committed a mass shooting. It was underreported at the time, but his reason for doing it was that the Girl he had crush on would not be his girlfriend.

UpWorthy has reblogged this vlog on sex and relationship education (and excellent source if you live in an abstinence state) SEX +. Here Laci Green reminds us that 70 of the last 71 mass shootings have been committed by white males who felt owed (sex, a promotion, good marks on their dissertation, whatever) and turned their dissatisfaction outward (click).

At The Nation, the marvelous Jessica Valenti has written a long piece on global male violence and its toll on women everywhere. It is one of the most concise and rock solid articles I’ve seen in the popular press on this issue in a long time. “A Rape A Minute, a Thousand Corpses a Year” (click). — I thank The Nation for their recent focus on rape culture. They are taking this problem very seriously indeed.

In the 1980s, a physics student rejected by his preferred graduate program, rounded up the women in the program, complained that it was their fault that he did not get into grad school just because he was a man, and killed all 12 women.

Men have been killing women for being women forever. We are, at last, in a position to push the hard cultural and psychological work of changing the dynamics that make this fact terrible, but not at all surprising.

Men, you need to remember a bit of wisdom we were given by Maya Angelou, may she rest in the bosom of her God.

“You alone are enough. You have nothing to prove to anyone.” #MayaAngelou.

Patriarchy convinces you that you are not enough. You are never king-enough, alpha-enough, strong-enough, sexed-enough. This is how it controls you. And some of you get tired and angry, and some of you are pathological narcissists like the shooter at UCSB in Isla Vista, and you shoot lots of people — often women — to get even.

“You alone are enough. You have nothing to prove to anyone.”

Women, Girls, Men, Boys:– let us make this a mantra of the new world.

#YesAllWomen are suspicious of every man they meet, because a few of you are very, very dangerous indeed. As @ashedryden put it: “Imagine a bowl of M&Ms. Imagine 10% of are poision.” How would you deal with M&Ms???

You can get used to it, or you can help us change it.

*These links were shared by: Margaret Howard  her organization and Carrie Tilton-Jones. Thanks for your good eyes!
*Sorry the hashtags are not linked. I am hvaing a bad technology day where some Andriod apps make it really damn hard to create/share links. These tags are all active on Twitter right now. Easy to find.

Carry on,
Simone Roberts
Web Editor/Historian

Hashtag Activism, Identity Politics, and Surrounding a Problem : (2) Identity Politics

 Intersectionality is fabulous as a political and cultural strategy. It is our only hope. So, we can’t keep each other strangers and intersect at the same time. Our traditions must be shared, mixed up, mashed up, allowed to intermingle and create new ways of being human or we will never, not ever for a minute, form the depth of human bond and assured political solidarity necessary to make a new world.

#BringBackOurGirls by any means necessary.

Identity Politics is patriarchal and divisive and ultimately violent. Stop it.

There, I said it. You can get mad at me or be disappointed in me now. I am expecting it. I know this is not the prevalent view because so, so many people practice identity politics daily.

When Boko Haram says that Western Education is the enemy of Islam (a claim that they know much about Islam) they are not being awesome post-colonial defenders of their lands and culture. They are political insurgents, seeking to undermine Nigeria’s economy and government in order to take power for themselves.

 They are devastation.

And they use Identity (their targets: Christians and Muslims who like modernity) to choose their victims to kidnap and the villages they will decimate. Much of the north of Nigeria, the south of Niger, and swathes of Chad fall under their control.

When Hutus started their genocide by machete against Tusti’s in Rwanda, they were working on the premises of identity politics: starkly defined ethnic group + privilege difference = rape and slaughter. The West stayed out of that one. No one could find a compelling national interest. The West was rightly condemned, by Africans, for that moral failure. That genocide was really only about power, which the only thing that patriarchy is ever really about — the establishment and maintenance of power/control. Identity politics makes that process much, much easier. 

 I’m not even going to talk about Somalia or ethnic tensions (synonym for identity politics) in Ethiopia, because you know.

The US military could not have a base or bases in Africa without the permission of the African Union. And, they are operating in countries that have invited them because colonialism/empire/colonizers left these nations in a bad way, and they are often caught between the extremist insurgents and the Chinese. The CIA is doing what the CIA does everywhere, and that has always been very problematic. But, they are also trying to help choke groups like Al Qaeda in the Maghreb and Boko Haram.

As I write this post, Reuters publishes this article: Boko Haram attack kills 31 Nigerian security personnel.

Nigeria will never, and didn’t try to, get these Girls back on their own. They are out-gunned.

Boko Haram has been destroying villages and especially Girl’s schools for the last FIVE YEARS. Life in northern Nigeria is a misery.

Finally, some brave families said enough of being attacked, enough of government too corrupt and kleptocratic to bother about them, and they went to Twitter to get some help. They’re on Facebook, too.

Meanwhile, in the West, we are using identity politics in another way. We dogmatically and reflexively use it to shame each other. To censor. To divide. Across the gender spectrum, among ethnic groups, between religions, between kinds of feminists, and regions of our nation we draw lines in the sand and defend them all over the media and in the streets with insult, and bullying, and very real violence. And as long as we do that to ourselves in the name of tradition and identity, THEY will stay in power. They don’t even have to try.

 Intersectionality is fabulous as a political and cultural strategy. It is our only hope. So, we can’t keep each other strangers and intersect at the same time. Our traditions must be shared, mixed up, mashed up, allowed to intermingle and create new ways of being human or we will never, not ever for a minute, form the depth of human bond and assured political solidarity necessary to make a new world.

Identity is not a thing. It’s not a commodity or a possession, it’s not a object you or I can own and lock up somewhere. It’s a thing no one can take from you by imitation or appropriation. It can only be taken from you by long programs of culture domination and erasure — which many peoples have suffered at the hands of people who look like me — like the forbidding your language or religion. We did specialize in this in Europe. You have a point.

But, that’s political history, mostly. Identity is infinite and flexible and pretty fluid. Mine is St. Patrick’s Day. Yours is belly-dancing. Mine is French baguettes. Yours is algebra. Mine is Texas style bar-b-que. Yours is gumbo. Mine is clogging. Yours is yoga. Mine is building empires. Yours is genital cutting. Mine is frat house rape culture. Yours is gangsta rap. Mine is One Direction. Yours is Gangnam Style. 

Need I go on? Lots of people who are not even a little bit French buy and eat baguettes all the time.

Dogmatic identity politics leave otherwise very smart people vulnerable to those who would maintain the status quo in Nigeria like this article recently circulated in response to #BringBackOurGirls. The author wants the West to stay out of it, to let Nigerians handle their own business, to let them work out their own democratic process. There is no genuine democratic process in Nigeria, and if we had listened to this author and folded our hands before the keyboard to pray for forgiveness at overstepping our identity border


The author of this article has no interest in those Girls or their rescue. His agenda is much less honorable than that. And he knew that he could drop this into the conversation and hopefully slow things down. It kind of worked.

The US does have an expansionist agenda in Africa, especially in nations that are not holding up so well under the pressure of the expansionist agendas of terrorist organizations and China. We are an empire. We are in denial about that, but we are. Feminist in the US do work against imperialism, but that is a longer process than a mission like this.

The better critique is here. Feminists in the West should take more interest in how our governments meddle in the business of African nations, and should pressure our governments to behave ethically.

And we do. Every single day. We work for ethical business practices and international respect wherever we can. We write to our legislators to tell them that drones in Pakistan are not flown in our names, that we do not support this warfare.

You can see what good that does. Sometimes both hashtag activism AND traditional political methods can fail abysmally when they come up against the desire of the military-industrial complex and the NSA. There are some things in the world cannot be changed by use of public opprobrium and moral shaming or even praise for good deeds– which is what the Internet is good at.

The world might do this one thing right. Just this one. And I will not fold my hands at the keyboard because I’m white, and Western, and well educated. Those are terrible reasons to refrain from any action. Especially this tiny one, which requires millions of other people to take this action too, in order to have any effect at all. It is ALL I can do in this instance.

Respect, I believe that living in an intersectional world requires respect before almost any other moral and social value. But respect and a distant silence, peering at my others from too far away to shake hands with you – those are not the same thing.

There are a total of 80 troops in Nigeria. They’re probably Special Forces. They do the subtle work. There is no danger whatsoever of thousands of US military tromping all over Nigeria (or any other precarious African nation) and taking the place over.

It is respectful of these Girls to bring them home. Their mothers called on us. We answered.

Because we identified with them. With their fear, and frustration, and pain. We don’t know it exactly, but we do know what fear, and frustration, and pain are like. Many of us know what it is lose our children to slavery, to the streets, to war, to death. And we did not want to leave these women to the disinterested devices of their own government.


For a view of what African Feminist are doing in their countries and cultures, here are a few sources of good reputation:


Be good to each other and carry on!

Dr. Simone Roberts
Web Editor/Historian

Governor Orders Review of TRAP

Last week, Governor McAuliffe took a bold first step in directing the Board of Health to review burdensome regulations on Virginia’s health centers (also known as Targeted Regulations on Abortion Providers, or “TRAP”). The purpose of this review is to determine if the regulations should be repealed, changed, or upheld – and the Board of Health’s first meeting is June 5th!

Join us at the Board of Health meeting on June 5th to show support for regulations based in medicine, not politics!

What: Board of Health Meeting to review TRAP
Where: 9960 Mayland Drive, Richmond, Virginia 23233
When: Thursday, June 5th, 9:00am

This is the first step in the review process, and it’s critical that we show support for keeping Virginia’s health centers open and accessible. Please join us, and stay tuned for more information when the public comment period opens on June 16th!

With your help. June could be a great month for Virginia women.


Hashtag Activism, Identity Politics, and Surrounding a Problem, Part 1

Out of Niger — and as a bothersome aside to the real work of rescuing and healing the kidnapped Girls — has come another instance of the debate about hashtag activism, liberal ego, and how to deal with terrorists or bigotry like “marriage protection” and “religious protection and restoration.” But attached to this quandary are matters of intersectionality, alliance, identity and post-colonial politics. And then, well, there’s the matter of geopolitical strategy.

That is a tall order, so I’ll break it down in the first ever Virginia NOW Online blog series.

Spoilers, darlings, most readers of this blog will like part one, be aggravated by part two, and then like part three.

Let’s begin with two facts that I take as the ground for my thinking here.

  1. John Stewart (click here) is correct that these young women are some of the bravest people on the Earth. They live in a country (one of many in the Middle East and North Africa now) where they know, every morning, that they are risking their lives to go to school. Malala Yousafzai (click here) and these young women are not, by far, the only cases of Girls being punished for their desire to learn, to determine their own lives, to become “too Western.” Calling anyone “Girl” after knowledge of these events is only the highest compliment to their character and fortitude (props to you John). In fact, so much a compliment that I’m going to capitalize that word from now on: Girl. Girls.
  1. If the ‘net were not an effective tool for political and social change, the NSA would not be storing/reading everything we write and say to each other. Which, they are (click here). Glen Greewald’s new book, No Place to Hide, should remind us that what we’re up to is very interesting.

That is: Net Activism Works, and It Works Really Well.

The voices I have encountered so far who boo-hoo / harrumph /hate on #BringBackOurGirls are of two kinds: social/political conservatives who want us to leave the status quo be (both here and in Niger, but more on that in part two), and people who are pretty sure that everything white folks participate in is self-justifying at best and damaging at worst (also more on this in part two). George Will, everyone at Fox News, and lots of people who prize some commodity they call “identity” over any kind of effective coalition, I am not on your team.

How does internet activism work then? Like this: Arizona does not have a law that lets bigots refuse (click here) to serve lunch to the objects of their bigotry. This did not happen because of tweets and posts sent TO the legislators/bigots in AZ. It happened because tweets and posts calling a spade a spade created a social climate (click here), a conversation that:

informed millions that AZ was trying to pass such a (clearly unconstitutional) law

and then that

the internet buzz got the attention of some famous gay people (you rock George Takei) outside AZ who upped the ante by using their massive numbers of followers to bring some (shame) social pressure on corporations that might do business in AZ

and then that

so many people tweeted and posted their willingness to boycott companies that tacitly supported AZ’s dingbat bigotry

that then

a bunch of really big corporations told AZ “no conferences, no cooperation from us”

and that finally

Governor Brewer was like “Well, hell, this isn’t the good idea I figured it for.”

And TA-DA!, no law in AZ permits otherwise unconstitutional bigotry to masquerade as “religious freedom.”

So, net activism works. But it does not work in the frontal assault / patriarchal way that most of us are used to. It works in a more indirect, contextual, and frankly feminist way of increasing transparency (raising consciousness of problems), and then changing the whole social climate / economics around an issue by the use of both shame and praise for behavior that does not increase the dignity and well-being of humans. It works more like non-violent civil disobedience in that the mechanism is moral, but it also works like plain old peer pressure (which is why it’s not a wholly trustworthy method).

Sometimes the effect is slower and more diffuse, and more married to pre-internet political/policy work. Courts and attorneys general all over the country are letting “marriage protection” die in order to create marriage equality. The Human Rights Campaign and many other organizations have worked on extending the civil rights of marriage to the LGBTQIA communities for a long, long time. But, social media allowed tens of millions of ally voices to be heard in both concerted and itinerant ways to say Love Is Love and Rights Are For All Humans. We said this with petitions, and posts, and shares, and re-blogs, and memes, and avatars, and hashtags. We made it clear that most of us really do happily accept that Adam and Steve and Eve and Alice are human and love like humans. And that change in the apparent social climate is having its effect, here in Virginia and all over the country. Praise be!

Caveat: Now, are there elements of net activism that are just self-exculpating, and lazy, and really about garnering some fake social esteem for re-tweeting a hashtag or passing on a petition or changing an avatar and then going back to watching terrible vampire movies on Netflix? Oh, yes. That’s why we spend a good deal of time curating our social media feeds/pages/privacy settings. A lot of day-to-day posting and sharing is about saying to the world This Is Who I Want You To Think I Am — but then, that’s 90% of all social interaction. We should not expect the ‘nets to be any different. But, even that surface flow of image and persona and branding is relevant. That why it matters to us when Rush says, well, nearly everything Rush says. He is the fountainhead of a still mighty current in our society. Ahhh, well. Peer pressure only runs in the direction the peers are running.

Are there instances of net activism not being effective. Yes. Arizona SB 1070 (click here) is still on the books, if modified to allow local cops to act as ICE agents only during other law enforcement interactions:–  so net activism hasn’t worked (yet) for Hispanics and Latinos in AZ. I’m sure many causes don’t get the support and energy they fully deserve. Preserving Net Neutrality and Unraveling the Security State are two I wish were kicking a little more political ass. Social acceptance of trans* people doesn’t seem to be catching on the way it should. WIWWP?

#BringBackOurGirls is working. It is doing exactly what the families of these Girls wanted it to do: get governments more powerful and (frankly) caring than their own to come in to Niger and at least try to find the Girls before too much damage is done to them or they’re sold on the slave market and lost forever to whatever horror their new owners dream up to inflict on them.

The Nigerian military knew the attack was coming and sat on their hands. The president tried to pretend nothing happened,and then he and the general who’s running against him for office (check and link) both claimed that all but 8 had been rescued when not one Girl had been seen or heard from. These families were completely on their own against a terrorist organization run by a genuine madman (link) and a government that could not be bothered. So, they called us, on Twitter, and asked The World to bring the pressure that might get them some help.

And it worked. Help is coming, efforts are being made, and there’s a little hope and a reason to pray and to keep tweeting about it.

The hashtag is not #GiveBackOurGirls, George Will, because while we are sure that Boko Haram does read Twitter, no hashtag campaign could bring them around to mercy or decency. It’s just not their thing. The hashtag is #BringBackOurGirls because the mothers and fathers and siblings and all of us who bothered about it want those with the skill and ability to get in there and get these Girls home.

Time for a new hashtag: #ThankYouNigerCoalition for getting together on the fly to do the right thing. May all the Gods, the Force, and the Mother be with you. You might not succeed totally, but you are — at least — doing the right thing.

(I’ll probably post Part 2 this weekend, got a really busy few days coming up, folks.)

Be good to each other.

Dr. Simone Roberts
Web Editor/Historian


Why We Need the ERA – Diana Egozcue’s Testimony (delivered Feb. 7, 2012)

Virginia NOW President, Diana Egozcue, delivered this testimony about the Equal Rights Amendment to the Senate Privileges and Elections Committee Tuesday, Feb. 7, 2012.

“Good afternoon,

I am Diana Egozcue, Virginia NOW President, Fredericksburg resident and a constituent of Senator Vogel.  I am here to testify for the Equal Rights Amendment.

The ERA simply states:  “Equality of Rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any state on account of sex.”  At this time, the only guaranteed right women have in the Constitution is the right to vote under the 19th Amendment.  There are laws and acts which give us some rights, but these can be repealed or amended at any time.  The ERA acts as a blanket insurance policy or a firewall for all laws passed for women such as the Lily Ledbetter fair pay act and Titles 7 and 9 in the Civil Rights Act.  Title 9 once disappeared for four years due to a Supreme Court decision, and Congress had to pass it again.

I hear the worn out old arguments all the time that it is dead, it will bring same sex bathrooms, the draft for women, and abortion on demand.  We already have unisex bathrooms, women can be drafted at any time if Congress wishes to do it, and it will not bring abortion on demand.  Twenty-two states have ERA amendments or clauses in their Constitutions including Virginia, and it has never brought abortion in these states.  In three cases brought in the states, the judges have thrown out the cases because men can’t have abortions.

As for being dead, the Congressional Research Service in reports to Congress said:  “The ERA is still legally held timely or contemporaneous, viable, fair and just.”  The Virginia Attorney General, in 1995, in a letter answering Delegate Marshall’s query said the ERA is not dead.  The Supreme Court in Coleman vs Miller said regardless of a time limit, Article V of the Constitution said states still have the power to ratify the ERA.  It is up to the states to give an up or down vote, but not to determine its viability.  The time limit was in the proposing clause and not in the body of the amendment.  There have been seven amendments accepted back by Congress after a time limit has passed including habeas corpus.  The Madison Amendment, the 27th Amendment, was accepted back after 203 years.  It counted 9 of the 13 original state votes in its 38 total needed for passage.  This amendment nullified the time limit argument.

Why do we need the ERA?

  1. As I said before, the only guaranteed right we have in the Constitution is the right to vote.  Some say the 14th Amendment covers women, but if you study the history of the debate, it was never intended to cover women.  The Supreme Court in 1972 said in a decision that the 14th did cover women, but this has often been ineffective to support women’s constitutional authority.  Justice Scalia said in a law review last year that it does not cover women or give equal rights because there is no ERA.  Only the ERA will give the courts strict scrutiny to decide a case, and that’s why they could not find for Lily Ledbetter.  This is an umbrella insurance policy for women or a firewall.
  2.  Forty-seven percent of women support their families.  With the ERA, we will be guaranteed equal pay for the same work.  We now make 77 cents in Virginia for every dollar a man makes in the same job with the same experience.  What this means is that in old age, women receive less Social Security if they never married or (in the case of their ex-husband’s Social Security) if they have been divorced less than a certain number of years.
  3. If we make pay equal, we will increase the tax bases locally, in state coffers, and federally.  Women will have more to spend to grow the economy; more women will not need welfare, Medicaid and food stamps; and there will be a positive impact on infrastructure and other projects.  None of this includes the intangibles such as self-esteem, role models for children and other women, and better housing, which affects children and their learning environments.

Article I, Section 11 of the Virginia Constitution states in the last three lines:  “…that the right to be free from any government discrimination upon the basis of religious conviction, race, color, sex, or national origin shall not be abridged….”  I have to ask the question, if this was written in the 1950’s before the passage out of Congress of the ERA in 1972, why hasn’t Virginia extended the rights guaranteed in the Virginia Constitution to the women of the United States?

We have women fighting and dying in Afghanistan and Iraq.  They are fighting for a Constitution that affords them only the right to vote.  Last week, an all-female fighter squadron flew the first all-female mission from the US Carl Vinson.  The military knows the value of women.  Think of your mothers, wives, daughters, and granddaughters.  What if your daughter or granddaughter marries a man who leaves her with children to support?  Guarantee them the right to make an equal wage to support their families.

Opponents of the ERA say, we have bogus arguments, but give no reasons why they oppose the amendment.  Their specious arguments from the past are worn out.  We have same sex bathrooms, women can be drafted at any time, they serve in combat, and nowhere has abortion on demand been passed into law in the twenty-two states that have ERA amendments or clauses.  Time has marched on and attitudes have changed, but women are still waiting to be granted full citizenship under the US Constitution.  This is about the sex you are, not the sex you do.  A recent survey showed that over 86 percent of Americans agreed we need the ERA.  This is a civil rights issue.  This is a fairness issue. After waiting forty years, I would like to be a full citizen with guaranteed rights in the Constitution.  Thirty-five states have passed this, why not Virginia?

This is a matter of RESPECT.  Respect us enough to give us our rights and make us full citizens, not a 1/4, not a 1/2, but full citizens with the rights men enjoy.  I’ve heard male legislators say that they are protecting us.  No you’re not, not without the power of the law to guarantee our rights.  Again, respect us: that is all we are asking.”


Tuesday, Feb. 7, 2012


Go Diana!  She has since spoken on the floor many times on the importance of the ERA’s ratification.

Your Chance to Stand for Marriage Equality

We mean really stand. Equality Virginia will host a rally for marriage equality.

Details, links:

Next Tuesday, May 13th, the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals will hear oral arguments in the case challenging Virginia’s ban on marriage.

  • Equality Virginia are organizing supporters for marriage equality to join the rally at 8:00am at the Commonwealth Park Suites Hotel (right around the corner from the court house).
  • Rally participants will meet in a conference room of the hotel, and then Equality Virgina will lead a short march to the location outside the courthouse.
  • We’d like as many people as possible to be there standing for marriage equality!
  • More information can be found at Facebook Event announcement: http://on.fb.me/1iyJvQY.
  • Please register if you’re coming to the rally, as Equality Virginia needs to prepare appropriately for the crowd: http://bit.ly/1rBpHSm.

Thank you so much for your great support – hopefully, we’ll see you next week!

Note: see also http://www.equalityvirginia.org/.


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