Tag Archives: female genital mutilation

Thanksgiving 2012

Since 2005, we’ve been writing posts about news to be thankful for. This year, we have a lot to celebrate.

The bulk of our good news this year (but not all of it!) comes from the U.S. elections, but before we get to that, here’s breaking good news.

Israel and Hamas have agreed to a ceasefire, brokered by Egyptian president (and Muslim Brotherhood member) Mohammed Mursi, bolstered by Barack Obama’s and Hilary Clinton’s efforts to get Israel to give the plan a try. It’s brand-new, it may not last, and it isn’t a harbinger of solutions to this horrible conflict. But it does mean at least a break in the warfare, and Israeli troops standing down from marching into Palestine.

We know the next section is very American-centric. Obama is not a progressive and there’s a lot to worry about in his next four years. But still, here’s the inimitable Rachel Maddow’s list of things to be thankful for after the November elections (and we could add more).

“We are not going to have a Supreme Court that will overturn Roe v. Wade.”

There are not going to be any Antonin Scalias and Samuel Alitos added to this court.

We are not going to repeal health reform.

Nobody is going to kill Medicare and make old people in this generation or any other generation fight it out on the open market to get themselves health insurance. We are not going to do that.

We are not going to give a 20% tax cut to millionaires and billionaires and expect programs like food stamps and expect programs like food stamps and kids’ health insurance to cover the cost of that tax cut.

We’re not going to make you clear it with your boss if you want to get birth control under the insurance plan that you’re on.

We are not going to redefine rape. We are not going to amend the United States Constitution to stop gay people from getting married.

We are not going to double Guantanamo.

We are not eliminating the Department of Energy or the Department of Education or Housing at the federal level.

We are not going to spend $2 trillion on the military that the military does not want.

We are not scaling back on student loans because the country’s new plan is that you should borrow money from your parents.

We are not vetoing the DREAM Act. We are not self-deporting.

We are not letting Detroit go bankrupt.

We are not starting a trade war with China on Inauguration Day in January.

We are not going to have as a president a man who once led a mob of friends to run down a scared gay kid to hold him down and forcibly cut his hair off with a pair of scissors while that kid cried and screamed for help, and there was no apology, not ever.

We are not going to have a Secretary of State John Bolton.

We are not bringing Dick Cheney back. We are not going to have a foreign policy shop stocked with the architects of the Iraq War. We are not going to do it.

We had the choice to do that, if we wanted to do that as a country. And we said no, loudly.

Good news from around the world:

January 13, 2012 marked India’s first year with no new polio cases. In 2009, India had among the largest number of new polio cases in the world.

Later in the year, a new treatment started showing great promise in reducing malaria.

Young people in Africa are showing up as tech wizards. First, there were the Ethiopian kids who got proficient with their “One Laptop Per Child” laptops, which were dropped off with no instructions.

“I thought the kids would play with the boxes. Within four minutes, one kid not only opened the box, found the on-off switch … powered it up. Within five days, they were using 47 apps per child, per day. Within two weeks, they were singing ABC songs in the village, and within five months, they had hacked Android,”  [Nicholas] Negroponte [founder of One Laptop Per Child] said. “Some idiot in our organization or in the Media Lab had disabled the camera, and they figured out the camera, and had hacked Android.”

But that news was dwarfed by the Nigerian girls who invented a urine-powered generator, which can turn one liter of pee into six hours of electricity.

While African teens are fixing the world, other things are also getting better on that continent, specifically a sharp decrease in female genital mutilation.

Back in the United States, before the Republican rape apologists started opening their mouths and losing elections, the FBI redefined “forcible rape” to include all nonconsensual penetration, instead of the old definition which only applied to women and was far less stringent. This took far longer than it should have, but it does open up possibilities for a lot of horrible abuses to be appropriately charged and tried.

Eleven countries and parts of two others (Mexico and the U.S.) have legalized gay marriage. In the U.S., gay marriage is legal in nine states and the District of Columbia. Three of those U.S. states were just added to the list in November, and one more (Minnesota) voted down a Constitutional amendment that would have made gay marriage illegal in the state.

Since it’s always a good time to remember our foremothers and the folks whose thought, work, and activism have helped us get here, let’s include Anna’s American feminist literary canon. Who wants to help make a more global one?

On the more radical front in the U.S., thousands of Americans march in the streets on May Day, a holiday which America usually ignores. Union activity is ramping up for the end of the year. The folks from Occupy Wall Street have covered themselves with glory in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy: “We’ve been building neighborhood assemblies and community support networks,” [organizer Justin Wede] said. “So this relief is a natural response for us, where communities band together to reach out and support each other.”

Debbie has been involved with Occupy Oakland Foreclosure Defense Group’s DefendJodie action, which has currently helped keep Jodie Randolph in her home for more than two weeks after the moving truck and evicters were due to show up on Election Day.

And perhaps the most exciting Occupy-related news of all: Rolling Jubilee launched on November 15, just five days ago. Taking advantage of (and showcasing) the absurd ways in which banks will sell your debt for pennies on the dollar (just not to you!), Rolling Jubilee has already raised enough money to buy up and then forgive over $7.5 million in medical (and other) debt owed by Americans. The system is so rigged that they can do this with $375,000 in contributions. Debt forgiveness is random, and comes with a letter from Rolling Jubilee explaining that you no longer owe the money. The organizers of Rolling Jubilee and their related organization Strike Debt (“a coalition of Occupy groups looking to build popular resistance to all forms of debt imposed on us by the banks”) have positioned themselves to change the relationship of Americans to the powers that keep us in debt.

As we said at the beginning, much of the good news this year is U.S.-centric. But lots of that news has the potential to be felt around the world.

Too Many Interesting Topics!

Laurie and Debbie say:

We were going to write our usual single-topic post today, but we kept sending each other too many interesting options. So here are a bunch of body image articles that we hope will interest you as much as they interest us:

Sins Invalid is a performance project on disability and sexuality. Sparkymonster linked to this post at Dis/positional featuring excerpts from Matt Fraser’s performance at the 2009 performance series in San Francisco.

It’s really good art and a powerful expression of the issues. We really want to see what he does next!

In the same post, Sparkymonster points out American Able, artist Holly Norris’s social commentary pastiches on a series American Apparel ads. Norris, and her model Jes Sachse, “intend to, through spoof, reveal the ways in which women with disabilities are invisibilized in advertising and mass media.” Norris has protected her work against reproduction around the Web and the blogosphere, so be sure and click through and take a look.

The whole feminist blogosphere is talking about the horrific procedures being done through the Medical College of Cornell University, in which babies who have large clitorises are subjected to surgeries and very very nasty follow-up procedures as young girls to “determine that they still experience sexual sensitivity.” (Very triggering information at the link.) Not only is this wrong in all the ways we’re sure you can imagine, it also (in the case of some of the young girls) disguises the reality of intersexuality into a vague and unfocused “abnormality” which is, without data, considered a “psychological risk.” Bird of Paradox, in one of many fine responses, focuses on the intersexuality issue.

I have to say that I’m completely mystified why the writers of any article detailing such shocking treatment and human rights abuses against intersex children should feel it necessary to leave out the salient fact that the subjects of the research are intersex. But one thing is clear: if we, as a society, are going to condone the treatment of intersex people like worthless lab rats and then deliberately airbrush them out of high-profile news stories about the injustices they’ve suffered, then how are we ever going to be able to start making amends for the human rights abuses inflicted against them in the name of medical science?

On a related note, professor and novelist Nnedi Okorafor writes about African reactions to her new novel, Who Fears Death, which approaches female genital cutting from a different perspective.

I am very proud of my Igbo-ness. However, culture is alive and it is fluid. It is not made of stone nor is it absolute. Some traditions/practices will be discarded and some will be added, but the culture still remains what it is. It is like a shape-shifting octopus that can lose a tentacle but still remain a shape-shifting octopus (yes, that image is meant to be complicated). Just because I believe that aspects of my culture are problematic does not mean I am “betraying” my people by pointing out those problems.

If you don’t think all bodies are beautiful, does that mean you have to think some of them are ugly enough to decapitate and replace with advertising? Interbest Outdoor Billboards has a new campaign to fill their billboard space that Shakesville finds especially disturbing.

picture of a white supersize woman in profile, wearing a white bra and panties. The photograph is cropped at the top so you can only see the tiniest bit of her chin. The caption is "The sooner you advertise here, the better." On the right, the same picture in the distance, on a billboard.

What we notice here is that despite the snapshot quality of the photograph, for anyone who can shed their preconceptions, she’s attractive. One of the two other photos in the campaign (which you can see at the link) is a white man with his hands behind his back, so that his hairy chest and not-terribly big potbelly show over his white briefs. The photograph is cropped below his shoulders. He looks just fine to us. The campaign also includes a third photo, which is a close-up of an unshaved man picking his nose which, as Melissa at Shakesville points out, implies that “being fat is just a bad habit you don’t have the will or courtesy to break.”

Last week, Debbie posted about Neli, the young man who was arrested for being autistic and black. In the comments of that post, his mother pointed to this video, in which Neli tells his own story.

On the occasion of New York’s Gay Pride Day, the New York Times published a feature on Storme DeLarverie,, now in a nursing home in Brooklyn, “who fought the police in 1969 at the historic riot at the Stonewall Inn in Greenwich Village that kicked off the gay rights movement.” The article gives us some background on Ms. Delarverie and also reminds readers that “the first gay pride parade in 1970 was not a parade at all but a protest marking the one-year anniversary of the Stonewall uprising.”

Let us close with a fat-positive U.S. government stamp. There’s a nice short biography of Kate Smith at this link.

Kate Smith, famous singer, wearing an evening gown, and smiling at the camera