Unite Against Hate – NOW Calls on Allies to Stand Up for Women of Color

Washington – – We are calling on the NOW grassroots movement and ally feminist organizations to join us in publicly denouncing all hate groups and

Source: Unite Against Hate – NOW Calls on Allies to Stand Up for Women of Color | National Organization for Women

Award will honor Depoe Bay woman

The Oregon Commission for Women (OCFW) recently announced its recipients of the 2016 Women of Achievement Awards, and one of those named is a Lincoln County resident.   Nancy Campbell Mead, of Depoe Bay, was selected for this honor because she “is a tireless champion for the rights of all woman and girls,” commission ocials said in a press release.  

After a distinguished career as a judge of the district and circuit courts for Washington County, working on domestic violence issues on behalf of vulnerable communities, Campbell Mead retired and moved to Depoe Bay, where she advocates full time for women’s equity on the local, state and national levels. After founding the highly successful Central Coast Chapter of the National Organization for Women (NOW) with community and educational services for women and girls, she joined the NOW national board with specific interests for promoting the national Equal Rights Amendment and ending mass incarceration. Her advocacy is inspired by her three granddaughters and her wish for an equitable future for them.  

The other woman selected for the award was Chanpone Sinlapasai-Okamura of Lake Oswego for her role as an advocate for the rights of immigrants and refugees. A partner with Marandas Sinlapasai, P.C., she represents clients on general immigration law matters and focuses her practice on assisting children who are survivors of domestic violence, serious crime and human tracking.  

“Each of these women is a dynamic leader and role model with a strong record of service to the on the local, state and national levels. We are pleased to honor these extraordinary women,” said Dr. Barbara Ramírez Spencer, OCFW chair.  

The honorees will receive their awards in a ceremony to be held March 8.   Since 1985, the Oregon Commission for Women has presented the Woman of Achievement Award to women in Oregon for leadership and success in their area of expertise, promoting the status of women in society, refl ecting a commitment to equity and diversity, and serving as exemplary role models.  

The Oregon Commission for Women was legislatively established in 1983 to work for women’s equality. The commission does this by advocating for women in the community, providing information on women to the governor and state legislature, serving as a link for women to state agencies, and providing services to individual women in Oregon.

Newport News Times, February 24, 2017, B4

NOW Rallying Cheer!

The Herstory-We were taught this song by our chapter leaders when we joined our  NOW chapter in 1989 I believe it was written after we lost the ERA. I don’t know who wrote the original words but I am most grateful she did. Please take up the challenge! Make and post your own version on YOuTube and Facebook! – Toni Van Pelt, Florida NOW

(2017 version of a NOW Rallying Cheer)

(sung to the tune of Hey Look Me Over)
song enthusiastically, if not in tune, by 
Sheila Jaffe, Toni Van Pelt and Joyce Smookler
Feb. 05, 2017 in Palm Beach, Florida
The Words
You screwed us over you’re going to pay.
We’re going to get you, come election day.
So don’t count your votes, boys, don’t feel secure.
We’re going to get you in the end… of this you can be sure.
We are here by the millions and you know it’s true.
Hang onto your hats, boys, we’re coming after you.
Here is the lesson we learned this year, on this you can rely
When we’re screwed we multiply!

“Women’s Rights Are Human Rights”

Statement by NOW President Terry O’Neill endorsing the Women’s March on Washington

December 7, 2016

Washington, DC – The National Organization for Women proudly endorses the Women’s March on Washington. On January 21, 2017, we will join with activists from across the country in a historic and necessary affirmation that women’s rights are human rights. There is no better place for us to deliver this message than Washington, D.C. on the first day of the new administration.

Dedicated to intersectional grassroots organizing to lead societal change, NOW stands in unwavering solidarity with our sisters whose communities have been insulted, demonized and threatened in recent months, including communities of color, LGBTQIA people, those with diverse religious faiths particularly Muslims, people with disabilities, economically impoverished people, survivors of sexual assault, and those who seek–and the caring professionals who provide–safe, affordable abortion care and birth control.

NOW’s activists and leaders will be on the front lines with our sisters in the struggle, supporting their leadership We will not trade away the rights of one group of women for the advancement of another. We unite with all women who seek freedom and self-determination, and join hands with all of the great movements seeking equity, parity, empowerment, and justice. We will not submit, nor will we be intimidated. But we will keep moving forward.

Our task ahead will be difficult and often painful. But the Women’s March will set the tone for a new upwelling of grassroots activism, advocacy, and resistance. Women will never go back. Together, we will fight back!

For Press Inquiries Contact

M.E. Ficarra, press@now.org, (951) 547-1241

National Organization for Women Turns 50: Building an Intersectional Feminist Future

Saturday, 16 July 2016 00:00
Written by 
Eleanor J. Bader By Eleanor J. Bader, Truthout | Report

2016_0715now_

Long considered the province of white, middle-class career women, NOW’s leadership seems eager to reach out and make connections with disparate activists. (Photo: Joe Brusky / Flickr)

 

Dr. Brittney Cooper, assistant professor of Gender and Africana Studies at Rutgers University and a co-founder of the Crunk Feminist Collective, does not mince words.

“There are real schisms in feminist movement building,” she told approximately 500 people at the 50th anniversary conference of the National Organization for Women (NOW) in late June. “Black women my age, mid 30s, don’t get along with white feminists that well. If we’re lucky and if we vote, we’ll have the first woman president in November, but Hillary Clinton has a dubious history. Black women have seen the impact of the incarceration policies pushed by the Clintons. We also understand that we have to confront white nationalism when it shows up.”

Cooper’s talk — delivered after she accepted the Olga Vives Award “to honor a woman who has demonstrated leadership on issues specifically impacting women of color, immigrant women, women with disabilities, and/or LGBTQIA individuals and communities” — received a standing ovation, even though many in the largely white, middle-aged crowd wore pro-Clinton tee-shirts and buttons. It might have been a tense or awkward moment — after all, NOW was one of the first national organizations to endorse Clinton — but it wasn’t, and despite the attendees’ near-universal support for the Democratic nominee, there was a general consensus that change happens from below and that vigilance and activism are necessary regardless of who sits in the Oval Office.

The recognition that laws and lawmakers do not necessary presage change at the grassroots reflected a shift in the organization’s focus and indicated the adoption of an intersectional politics — recognition that racism, sexism, homophobia, heterosexism and classism operate in tandem, rather than in isolation. This notion, developed three decades ago by feminists of color, served as a common thread in every address and conference workshop and linked seemingly disparate issues, from racism to sexual violence and union busting to immigrant-bashing, to the rights of trans people to the fight for a $15 or higher minimum wage.

The array of issues discussed at the 2016 confab was a far cry from the positions espoused by NOW in its earliest years and indicates a shift in organizational priorities. Long considered the province of white, middle-class career women, many progressive feminists and women of color have written NOW off as indifferent (and perhaps even hostile) to the issues impacting low-income communities, sexual minorities and immigrants. But after five decades of work, NOW’s leadership – and the many plenary speakers and workshop facilitators invited to speak — seem eager to reach out and make connections with disparate activists. While it remains to be seen if local NOW chapters will do the necessary work to make intersectional organizing a reality, or if national NOW can reshape itself and cede leadership to others by offering open a forum for open dialogue and self-critical conversation, the conferees took an important step toward inclusion and greater diversity.

Looking Back, Looking Forward

The three-day NOW event was part celebration, part sober reflection on the struggles ahead, and part development of a Strategic Action Plan to guide the organization’s work over the coming year. Each of the organization’s 550 chapters committed to three priorities: promoting reproductive justice and opposing state and federal legislation to limit access to abortion and contraception; activating members to push for ratification of the Equal Rights Amendment; and a newer priority: organizing to publicize and end the sexual abuse to prison pipeline, a system that funnels thousands of female victims of sexual assault — the majority of them of color — into the criminal justice system.

During a panel on the topic, Michele Hamilton, Chair of NOW’s Dismantling the Sexual Abuse to Prison Pipeline Committee, offered one scenario to illustrate the problem. In it, a 15-year-old girl sends her boyfriend several naked pictures. He forwards the photos to his male friends and the boys immediately start to taunt the young woman at the senior high they all attend. Humiliated, embarrassed and angry, she begins skipping school. Since truancy is a crime, after a few days, workers from Children’s Services show up at her home and order her to return to class. She does — but the harassment continues and she decides to arm herself with a box cutter for protection. School officials find the weapon and she is suspended. In many locales, she would also face criminal charges and stands a good chance of landing in juvenile jail.

“Under Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1977, a student should be able to find someone to talk to in her school about feeling unsafe,” Hamilton said during the panel. “But in schools with zero tolerance policies, the first issue, her safety, may never be addressed because the administration will only focus on the fact that she was caught carrying a weapon.”

And that’s not all. Hamilton adds that as a result of not being allowed to explain why she missed school or carried the knife, some girls will engage in self-harm or turn to alcohol or drugs.

Not surprisingly, the pipeline impacts Black and brown girls hardest, with girls of color six times more likely to be suspended from school and referred to the courts than Caucasians. “Girls of color are punished for displaying the symptoms of trauma,” Hamilton added, and although every school or school district is mandated to have a Title IX coordinator to help students in this type of situation, many do not have one.

Hamilton recommends that districts be investigated to see if a coordinator exists — and if no one has been appointed, urges community members to organize a campaign to force school administrators to comply with the law. If someone has been designated, that person’s name and contact information needs to be widely publicized so that students and their allies know where to take their complaints and problems. She also suggested that parents and education activists push for elimination of zero tolerance policies so that teachers and staff can ask questions and determine what’s really going on when a student acts out.

Lastly, Hamilton suggests that activists take steps to support expanded mental and physical health care for those stuck in the juvenile legal system. This is critical she says, referencing a recent study, conducted in Florida, which found that incarcerated girls who received mental health services were 37 percent less likely to return to lock-up.

“The policy of suspending, expelling, arresting and detaining girls, especially girls of color, for violating conventional norms of female behavior, subjects thousands of young women to punishment rather than the equitable education they deserve,” Hamilton concluded.

The workshop, a scant 75-minutes long, left many topics unaddressed, but by making the pipeline a national priority, local NOW chapters have an opportunity to deepen the conversation and put intersectionality into action, developing a concrete plan to combat racial disparities in sentencing for prostitution and other perceived offenses. In fact, it gives them a chance to contest the racism at the core of sentencing since the reality is that low-income women of color — whether trans, queer or heterosexual — typically end up in jail for solicitation at far higher rates than their white sisters. In addition, the policy opens the door to revisiting the still-contentious issue of sex work, a debate that pits those who see it as purely exploitative against those who argue that it can be a valid choice for the women who make it.

Sexism Drives New Feminists Into the Movement

Seventeen-year-old Hannah Wyatt, who will be a senior at Washington, DC’s Woodrow Wilson High School in September, addressed a different disparity – school imposed dress codes that apply to girls but not boys. Speaking on a panel that brought older and younger feminists together, Wyatt detailed the way female students are hassled, and sometimes sent home, for wearing shorts, mini-skirts or crop tops.

“This spring the administration started sending girls home for the day for violating the dress code. This got students wondering what was behind the dress code in the first place. We want to know why there is structural inequality since male students are never sent home and the administrators and staff never ask them about their clothing choices, or probe whether they’re trying to look hot or sexy,” Wyatt said. More than 200 students from Wilson, male and female, participated in a recent online chat and Wyatt hopes that they will form a high school NOW chapter come fall. “If we’re successful I want to expand into other DC public schools,” she said.

That dress codes remain an issue in 2016 and appalled most conferees. At the same time, they took time to celebrate advances.

Celebrating Incremental Victories

Kim Gandy, NOW president from 2001-2009, reminded the audience that in 1970, there was an 8:00 p.m. curfew for women at her college, Help Wanted ads were separated by gender, and employers were free to publicly refuse to hire women since there were no laws barring discrimination based on gender. There were no provisions guaranteeing women access to an equal education; abortion was not yet legal; and the term sexual harassment did not exist. “We called it going to work,” Gandy quipped. “It was just life.” Prosecution for rape was virtually unheard of, and the concept of marital rape had not yet been articulated. Domestic violence was similarly dismissed: If police were called because of battering, they would often walk the man around the block, and advise the woman to try not to piss off her husband or boyfriend. And, while Gandy knows that police still respond differently to domestic abuse complaints depending on one’s zip code, race, and gender identity, and emphasized that the issue still does not get the media attention it deserves, she noted that domestic abuse is now at least talked about as a social problem rather than simply accepted as a fact of life.

[Nonetheless, it is important to recognize that anti-carceral feminists take issue with many of the laws passed to address domestic violence since they have increased the policing of low-income communities, particularly those of color. Furthermore, new laws have led to harsh mandatory sentences, and, in some cases, have resulted in the complainant losing her home or being arrested herself.]

“How incredibly different the world is because of feminist activism,” Gandy said. “The level of change represents something to savor before we go out and take on so much more. Working for change is never a smooth path. We’ve made big progress but there is always more to be done.”

Few would disagree, but as Dr. Patricia Hill Collins, professor at the University of Maryland and author of nine books including Black Feminist Thought: Knowledge, Consciousness and the Politics of Empowerment, reminded the conference, “We need to be cognizant of the fact that there are cycles of visibility and invisibility in social justice work.”

This leads to frustration, of course, since change is often slow and rife with backsliding. That’s where self-care, as well as the celebration of victories, no matter how small, come in. After all, organizing has to be fun or activists will burn out and stop engaging.

That said, it’s also important to step back, assess what went wrong over the past half century, and begin to do the listening necessary to heal the many rifts that have divided women of different races, classes and sexualities.   As Brittney Cooper stated, “We need clarity, commitment and courage for the struggles ahead.” She further noted that electing Clinton, a NOW priority, is merely a starting point.

“We have to ask ourselves what kind of world we want to build. We have to determine which women we’re talking about when we speak of women and recognize that we need to fight for everyone or no one gets free. If we mimic corporatist power, we’re lost,” she said.

As Cooper made abundantly clear, NOW’s priorities have sometimes rankled women of color, injuries that will take honest and open-ended dialogue to repair.   But if NOW’s Forward Feminism 50th anniversary conference was any indication, the organization is more than up to the challenge.

Copyright, Truthout. May not be reprinted without permission.

Eleanor J. Bader teaches English at Kingsborough Community College in Brooklyn, New York. She is a 2015 winner of a Project Censored award for “outstanding investigative journalism” and a 2006 Independent Press Association award winner. The coauthor of Targets of Hatred: Anti-Abortion Terrorism, she presently contributes to Lilith, Rewire, Theasy.com and other progressive feminist blogs and print publications. 

Witnessing Herstory at the Golden Crown Literary Society Conference

Central Oregon Coast NOW Member and highly acclaimed lesbian author Lee Lynch is honored at the Golden Crown Literary Society Conference in New Orleans. Congratulations Lee!

By JD Glass on July 28, 2015

I suspect that back in late July of 1969, no one would have foreseen what a late July in 2015 would bring, less than 50 years later.

But some of the folks—some of the women—who were instrumental in seeding, agitating, and actively fighting for the changes we’ve seen and are grateful to have, were gathered in one room to celebrate both their achievements and the ones of the generations that have followed.

And I’m certain that none of them, nor us, would have imagined the Golden Crown Literary Society—both the organization, and its annual event this year—would be home to perhaps one of the most historic moments in modern queer history.

Yes, the Golden Crown Literary Society Annual Conference (held this year in New Orleans, next year will see it in DC), which includes an award and recognition night, was home to the regathering of queer icons:

Lee Lynch, whom I had the honor of presenting an award to for her non-fiction work, An American Queer; Dorothy Allison, author of Bastard Out of Carolina (as well as other titles), was not only the Key Note speaker, but also accepted the Trailblazer award for Joan Nestle—founder and original curator of the Herstory Archives; and Rita Mae Brown, who received the Lee Lynch Classic Book Award for her classic work, Rubyfruit Jungle.

Lee Lynch.  Photo by Sue Hardesty

Lee Lynch. Photo by Sue Hardesty

These women were quite literally at the forefront—the birth—of the queer rights and women’s movement.

What they went through both personally and professionally to not only tell, but live their truths, was outstandingly courageous, and especially considering that it was during a time that not only was being queer grounds for being jailed in so many places, but also women weren’t allowed to have things as simple as credit cards without either a husband or a father to get it for them.

To see them in this gathering of queer women—and some queer men—queer folks identifying, self-describing, proudly themselves, and gathered together—not to secretly gather, nor to plan tactics, but to openly celebrate our lives, our stories: our history, past, present, and future.

Part of that present and future history included an award given to Jacob Anderson-Minshall (in conjunction with his wife, Diane Anderson-Minshall, Editor-at-Large for The Advocate), making him the first out transman to receive a Goldie (as the awards are affectionately called) for their non-fiction work Queerly Beloved: A Love Story Across Genders

Rita Mae Brown was as passionate as the character she created and received the award for. “You’re alive—you fight. You keep fighting.” She reminded us all to continue to speak our truths, to tell our stories and that if we are “defined by our oppression,” then we are still oppressed.

Carleen Spry, Director of Outreach for the GCLS said, “We’ve seen history made this year on a national level. And we’ve seen history at the Golden Crown Literary Society 11th Annual Conference, in the gathering of these trailblazers. I felt privileged to experience and be a part of this historic event.”

Karin Kallmaker, author of 18th & Castro (among many others) presented the award to Joan Nestle. As she said, “It was inspiring and challenging to get such an amazing woman into PowerPoint. Joan broke ground for all of us.”

Dorothy Allison, in accepting the award for Joan Nestle, spoke about the beginning of the Herstory Archive, taking a moment to ask Lee Lynch if she remembered those magic moments in that living room/dining room.

“Oh children,” Dorothy said, looking out on us with wonder on her face, “I wish you could have seen that living room,” just as much as she wished Joan could have been with us at that moment to see what’s become of the movement she helped form.

As Sandra Moran, author of Letters Never Sent says, “Dorothy Allison’s work, both as an author and as an activist, has had so much impact on so many of the women at the Golden Crown Literary Society Conference. To have the opportunity to introduce her and to hear her speak with so much beauty and passionate intensity, was amazing. It was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that I don’t think any of us will forget.”

On the other side of the give-and-give love fest, Lee Lynch herself says, “The Golden Crown Literary Society is a powerful organization for lesbians. Attending is a rejuvenating, inspiring experience enhanced by the contact with other dyke readers and writers. I staggered home after a tsunami of love, gratitude and respect that washed over bright, talented and impassioned 350 women.”

But ultimately, Kris Dresen, graphic novelist and creator of Max & Lily – The Complete Collected Strips, sums it up best: “This was my first GCLS, let alone Goldie Awards. To find myself in a room with Rita Mae Brown, Dorothy Allison, and Lee Lynch as Joan Nestle was being honored was slow to sink in but mind-blowing to realize. A once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that I am so glad I was a part of.”

And I, like Dorothy Allison, wish we could have all been there.

Following is a list of all the winners; for further information about the Golden Crown Literary Society, visit them here and/or email to inquiries@goldencrown.org

Debut Author:

Just Intuition – Makenzi Fisk

Never Too Late – Julie Blair

Stick McLaughlin: The Prohibition Years – CF Frizzell

Romantic Suspense/Intrigue/Adventure:

The One – JM Dragon

Sharpshooter – Leslie Murray

Switchblade – Carsen Taite

Poetry:

Undone – EM Hodge

Kissing Keeps us Afloat – Laurie McFayden

Mystery/Thriller:

The Acquittal – Anne Laughlin

Left Field – Elizabeth Sims

The Consequence of Murder – Nene Adams

Young Adult:

Double Exposure – Bridget Birdsall

Riding the Rainbow – Genta Sebastian

Just Girls – Rachel Gold

Anthology/Collection (Creative Non-Fiction):

Queerly Beloved: A Love Story Across Genders – Diane Anderson-Minshall and Jacob Anderson-Minshall

An American Queer – Lee Lynch

Paranormal/Horror:

The Magic Hunt – LL Rand

The Devil You Know – Marie Castle

Dogs of War – Geonn Cannon

Erotica:

Heart’s Surrender – Emma Weimann

Best Lesbian Erotica 2014 – Rachel Windsor

Escapades – MJ Williamz

Dramatic/General Fiction:

The War Within – Yolanda Wallace

Loved and Lost – Stephanie Kusiak

Everything – Carole Wolf

Anthology/Collection (Fiction):

Wicked Things – Jae and Astrid Ohletz

Unwrap These Presents – Astrid Ohletz and R.G. Emanuelle

Historical Fiction:

Tangled Roots – Marianne K. Martin

Waiting for the Violins – Justine Saracen

The Bright Lights of Summer – Lynn Ames

Traditional Contemporary Romance:

Kiss the Girl – Melissa Brayden

Nightingale – Andrea Bramhall

The Midnight Moon – Gerri Hill

Science Fiction/Fantasy:

FutureDyke – Lea Daley

Return of an Impetuous Pilot – Kate McLachlan

Rabbits of the Apocalypse – Benny Lawrence

Tee Corinne Outstanding Cover Design:

Everything – Ann McMan designer

Ann Bannon Popular Choice Award:

Olive Oil and White Bread – Georgia Beers

Lee Lynch Classic Book Award:

Rubyfruit Jungle by Rita Mae Brown

Trailblazer Award: Joan Nestle

GCLS Directors Volunteer Award: Watty Boss

On the other side of the give-and-give love fest, Lee Lynch herself says, “The Golden Crown Literary Society is a powerful organization for lesbians. Attending is a rejuvenating, inspiring experience enhanced by the contact with other dyke readers and writers. I staggered home after a tsunami of love, gratitude and respect that washed over bright, talented and impassioned 350 women.”

But ultimately, Kris Dresen, graphic novelist and creator of Max & Lily – The Complete Collected Strips, sums it up best: “This was my first GCLS, let alone Goldie Awards. To find myself in a room with Rita Mae Brown, Dorothy Allison, and Lee Lynch as Joan Nestle was being honored was slow to sink in but mind-blowing to realize. A once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that I am so glad I was a part of.”

And I, like Dorothy Allison, wish we could have all been there.

Following is a list of all the winners; for further information about the Golden Crown Literary Society, visit them here and/or email to inquiries@goldencrown.org

Debut Author:

Just Intuition – Makenzi Fisk

Never Too Late – Julie Blair

Stick McLaughlin: The Prohibition Years – CF Frizzell

Romantic Suspense/Intrigue/Adventure:

The One – JM Dragon

Sharpshooter – Leslie Murray

Switchblade – Carsen Taite

Poetry:

Undone – EM Hodge

Kissing Keeps us Afloat – Laurie McFayden

Mystery/Thriller:

The Acquittal – Anne Laughlin

Left Field – Elizabeth Sims

The Consequence of Murder – Nene Adams

Young Adult:

Double Exposure – Bridget Birdsall

Riding the Rainbow – Genta Sebastian

Just Girls – Rachel Gold

Anthology/Collection (Creative Non-Fiction):

Queerly Beloved: A Love Story Across Genders – Diane Anderson-Minshall and Jacob Anderson-Minshall

An American Queer – Lee Lynch

Paranormal/Horror:

The Magic Hunt – LL Rand

The Devil You Know – Marie Castle

Dogs of War – Geonn Cannon

Erotica:

Heart’s Surrender – Emma Weimann

Best Lesbian Erotica 2014 – Rachel Windsor

Escapades – MJ Williamz

Dramatic/General Fiction:

The War Within – Yolanda Wallace

Loved and Lost – Stephanie Kusiak

Everything – Carole Wolf

Anthology/Collection (Fiction):

Wicked Things – Jae and Astrid Ohletz

Unwrap These Presents – Astrid Ohletz and R.G. Emanuelle

Historical Fiction:

Tangled Roots – Marianne K. Martin

Waiting for the Violins – Justine Saracen

The Bright Lights of Summer – Lynn Ames

Traditional Contemporary Romance:

Kiss the Girl – Melissa Brayden

Nightingale – Andrea Bramhall

The Midnight Moon – Gerri Hill

Science Fiction/Fantasy:

FutureDyke – Lea Daley

Return of an Impetuous Pilot – Kate McLachlan

Rabbits of the Apocalypse – Benny Lawrence

Tee Corinne Outstanding Cover Design:

Everything – Ann McMan designer

Ann Bannon Popular Choice Award:

Olive Oil and White Bread – Georgia Beers

Lee Lynch Classic Book Award:

Rubyfruit Jungle by Rita Mae Brown

Trailblazer Award: Joan Nestle

GCLS Directors Volunteer Award: Watty Boss

http://www.afterellen.com/people/444927-witnessing-herstory-golden-crown-literary-society-conference

Global Advocates to Amnesty International: Vote No on Policy to Legalize Pimps, Brothel Owners and ‘Johns’

NOW joined Over 400 Global Advocates Issue a Call to Amnesty International in Open Letter*

CATW InternationalJuly 23, 2015

Gloria Steinem, Eve Ensler, Meryl Streep Join Survivors of the Sex Trade on Campaign to Stand on Side of Human Rights and Women’s Equality

New York, July 23, 2015 – More than 400 national and international women’s rights groups, including the Coalition Against Trafficking in Women (CATW), human rights advocates, medical doctors, actors and directors, fashion designers, faith-based organizations and concerned individuals from over 30 countries signed an open letter to Amnesty International expressing their dismay at its policy proposal calling for the decriminalization of the sex industry. If passed at Amnesty’s International Council Meeting in Dublin from Aug. 7–11, this policy would in effect advocate the legalization of pimping, brothel owning and sex buying — the pillars of a $99 billion global sex industry.

Within 24 hours of learning about Amnesty’s proposed policy, scores of Hollywood stars and prominent individuals began to join an international grassroots campaign urging Amnesty to stand with those exploited in the sex trade, who are mostly women, rather than with their exploiters. Among the signatories are Oscar-winning actress, Meryl Streep, chef and activist, Alice Waters, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist, Anna Quindlen, author, Hannah Pakula, poet and human rights activist, Rose Styron and 2008 Amnesty International Human Rights Award winner, Lydia Cacho. Others include: Angela Bassett, Emily Blunt, Jonathan Demme, Grace Hightower De Niro, Lena Dunham, Anne Hathaway, Sarah Jones, Kevin Kline, Lisa Kudrow, Kyra Sedgwick, Emma Thompson, Kate Winslet and many more.

The response to the open letter issued by CATW was so exceedingly positive that it is now a campaign onChange.org and is open for more signatures.

As the letter states, campaigners firmly agree with Amnesty that those who are prostituted must not be criminalized or brutalized by law enforcement and governments. However, full decriminalization of the sex trade renders pimps “businesspeople” who sell vulnerable individuals, overwhelmingly with histories of poverty, discrimination, homelessness and sexual abuse, to buyers of sex with impunity.

“I hope and believe that Amnesty will understand the parallels with other forms of economically compelled body invasion — for instance, the sale of organs,” added Gloria Steinem.” The millions who are prostituted experience trauma and shortened lives. Legalization keeps pimps, brothel keepers, and sex-slavers in freedom and riches. Criminalization puts the prostituted in prison. What works is the ‘third way,’ the Nordic model, which offers services and alternatives to prostituted people, and fines buyers and educates them to the realities of the global sex trade.”

Extensive evidence shows the catastrophic effects of legalizing or decriminalizing pimping and brothels, demonstrated in Germany and the Netherlands, for example. With impunity for the commercial sexual exploitation of marginalized populations comes an increase in sex trafficking to satisfy the demand for prostitution. Studies and survivors’ testimonies demonstrate that the sex industry is predicated on dehumanization, degradation and gender violence that can cause life-long physical and psychological harm.

“A vote calling for legalizing pimping would in effect support gender apartheid, in which some women in society can demand protection from rape, discrimination and sexual harassment, while others, the most vulnerable among us, are instead set aside for consumption by men and for the profit of their pimps,” said Taina Bien-Aimé, CATW’s executive director. “This is far from what Eleanor Roosevelt envisioned for the world when she penned the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.”

http://www.catwinternational.org/Home/Article/617-over-400-global-advocates-issue-a-call-to-amnesty-international-in-open-letter

*Letter from Bonnie Grabenhofer, Vice President of the National Organization for Women (NOW):

“NOW’s position on prostitution supports the decriminalization of the sale of sexual services by women and condemns the sex trafficking of women and children such as recruitment, pimping, brothel owning, and sex buying.

 

The AI letter discusses the growing exploitation and violence against women in countries where total legalization of the sex industry has been established, especially noting that women of color, poor and homeless women, incest survivors, transgendered persons and other vulnerable groups are the ones who suffer the most under full legalization. It reports that “The German government, for example, which deregulated the industry of prostitution in 2002, has found that the sex industry was not made safer for women after the enactment of its law, Instead, the explosive growth of legal brothels in Germany has triggered an increase in trafficking.”

 

The AI letter refers to a 2014 European Parliament resolution which recognized prostitution as a form of violence against women and an affront to human dignity, urging its members to pass laws that decriminalize solely those who sell sex and criminalize solely those who purchase it. A number of countries, the letter further notes, have adopted a gender and human rights framework to protect the human rights of commercially sexually exploited individuals in order to provide comprehensive services and exit strategies — should they opt to leave the sex trade, and to hold their exploiters accountable. The letter, produced by the Coalition Against Trafficking of Women, has 400 signatories of both organizations and prominent women’s rights activists”.

Feminist activist found dead after fire in NY home

By Shawn Cohen and Laura ItalianoApril 15, 2015 | 2:32pm

Sidney Abbott, left, at a meeting of the Lions Club. Photo: Getty Images

Sidney Abbott, left, at a meeting of the Lions Club. Photo: Getty Images


Longtime NYC-based feminist and lesbian activist Sidney Abbott, 78, was found dead Wednesday morning after a fire in her home in Southold, Suffolk County.
The fire was discovered by her next-door neighbor, an off-duty volunteer firefighter who rushed to the burning Cape-style home and found the former member of the “Lavender Menace” and author of “Sappho Was a Right-on Woman” on the floor of her smoke-filled living room.
Tragically, the firefighter was beaten back by the intense flames.
“He was there instantly and tried pulling her out,” Southold Fire Chief Peggy Killian told The Post.
“He broke the door to get in there,” she said. But before he could pull her out, “the fire flashed over the top of his head, and it made him back out.”
The hero firefighter had to be hospitalized.
“He sucked in a lot of smoke — he didn’t have a pack,” the chief said.
Abbott was a force for gay women’s rights in New York and beyond since the ’70s, when she helped urge NOW not to ignore lesbian issues.
She had been wheelchair dependent in recent years, and had limited mobility, said Jacqueline Michot Ceballos, a friend for nearly 50 years.
“We were the earliest members of NOW, from day one in New York City, back in 1967,” said Ceballos, a former NOW-New York president and founder of the Veteran Feminists of America.
There were disagreements among the gay and straight members in those early days — famously, Betty Friedan warned about a “Lavender Menace” from the lesbian activists in their movement’s midst. But Abbott was always a mender of rifts within the larger feminist movement.
“She held no grudges and was truly a loving human being,” Ceballos said. “There was no anger whatsoever — It was very, very important to her to make sure we knew that there’s no big difference between us.”
Added VFA president Eleanor Pam, “Sydney Abbott’s contribution to modern feminism cannot be overstated. She was a brilliant, fearless trailblazer, an authentic pioneer in the women revolution and its struggle for equal rights.”
Longtime close friend and co-author Barbara Love spoke by phone with Abbott less than two hours before the fire. A home attendant had just left to do some shopping for Abbott, Love said.
“She was in good spirits,” said Love, who lived with Abbott in the ’70s and co-authored “Sappho,” which remains “a classic.”
“She’s very well known in the women’s movement,” Love said.
The Suffolk County ME’s office and local arson investigators were at the scene of the fire Wednesday, but found no initial indications that the fire was anything suspicious, officials said.
The cause of the fire has yet to be determined.

http://nypost.com/2015/04/15/feminist-activist-found-dead-after-fire-in-ny-home/