Women in Conflict Zones

Rape and sexual violence are commonly used as weapons of war. Women and their families living in these war and conflict zones are vulnerable to such violent attacks. Displaced individuals find themselves cut off from both medical and everyday resources, such as food and water. Common trips to fetch water become terrifying journeys where one could risk being raped, tortured, or even killed during times of war.

Together with my fellow classmates, we came up with two suggestions geared towards United States feminist groups that might help to aid these women and their families suffering in areas of conflict. We sought to address the basic necessities within these community that could be immediately addressed and expanded upon to further help women in crisis.

Our first idea was to establish a mobile community organization, similar to a “watch” group, that could walk women and children to and from sources of food and water as well as direct them to established “safe spaces” within their area of conflict. We hope to use social media to connect these citizens through blogs and Twitter, if they are available in these areas. If not, we would operate through safe organizations, such as places of worship, to distribute information on our community.

Our second idea, would be to establish a mobile medical unit that could reach women and their families in areas of conflict. This mobile medical unit would provide needs such as STD testing, rape treatment, pregnancy screenings, birth control, prenatal care and psychiatric treatment for PTSD.

In the hopes that our community would grow both within the area of conflict and the United States feminist organization we would be working with, we would seek to work with embassies in order to establish a demilitarized safe, neutral zone in the area of conflict. We hope to establish onsite grassroots activism as well as work with organizations outside the conflict zone to promote peace and safety for those living in these areas.

Women of Color’s Bodies in the Media and Online

How are women of color and their bodies portrayed in the media and online? Do you often (if ever) think of this question? Throughout the years, women have worked diligently to gain representation or even just be seen within the public sphere. The fight over gender equality and representation to be seen as something other than a object or stereotype is one that far from over. Within this battle, we notice the subset intersections of race and gender and must stop to think about how these intersections are presented within our society?

With millions of women logging online and tuning into media outlets everyday, our social world is expanding and connecting us at a rate in which we have never seen before. There isn’t just one idealized type of woman who can log on or tune in – so why are we seeing so many stereotypes and misguided representations of women of color and their bodies in the public media sphere?

Especially within the marketing world, women of color find themselves caught in a homogenous grouping of racialized, stereotypical, and often false representations of self and race. They have been whitewashed to conform to an idealized conception of what it means to be beautiful, or extremely stereotyped in order to appeal to their specific racial demographic. Either way, women of color are extremely homogenized in both cases. So where does the individual go?

In the video posted above, we chose to further examine some of the ways in which women of color and their bodies have been publicly portrayed online and in the media. What we found was that women of color, have constantly been seen for their color and that is the form of identification which supersedes all others. These women are not only seen as women, but Black women, Asian women, Latino women… And whereas racial individuality should be recognized and celebrated, we see it played out as a ridiculous stereotype within the public sphere.

Fortunately, we live in an age of social media and can revoke these forms of racial inequality amongst women of color and their bodies to demand a more equal form of representation via personhood.

Hollaback! and Street Harassment

Have you ever walked down the street and heard “God Bless You” even though you didn’t sneeze? Or been called “Mommy” when you are, in fact, not a Mommy? Street Harassment is a very common epidemic in New York City and across the world. Unfortunately, many people view Street Harassment as just one of the downfalls of being a woman or LGBTQ person and often discredit its seriousness.

It’s not exactly breaking news to inform you that Street Harassment has been normalized by our society. But there is one activist group in particular who refuses to accept Street Harassment as just comme d’habitude. Hollaback! is a movement founded by Emily May dedicated to ending Street Harassment. Local activists in 54 cities, 19 different countries, and in 12 different languages are fighting to end this form of aggressive violence towards women and LGBTQ people with Hollaback! and their organization continues to grow by the day.

What Hollaback! and other similar organizations (Stop Street Harassment, Incite Blog) are doing is addressing the problem (street harassment) as a problem. For years, women have have deterred themselves away from a low-cut top, or mini-skirt for fear that they might invite unwanted attention from leering eyes and harsh sentiments. But regardless of what a woman wears or any LGBTQ person wears in public, it does not invite unwanted attention and by no means should an outfit be an excuse for harassment or assault.

Because we live in an age of exploitation, we can exploit these offensive acts quite easily and advocate for change. I urge, beg and plead for people who find themselves victims Street Harassment to capture a picture or video and post it online, either at Hollaback!, another Street Harassment site, or better yet – start your own online campaign! Let others know that this is not okay. Call it what you will, cat-calls, jeers, whistles, or stares – Street Harassment is not allowed. It’s time we picked our heads up from the pavement, snapped a picture or video and became our own united front. After all, who says you need a cop present to police a perv?

Video Proposal for a Potential Feminist Health Clinic

Our focus on menstruation was initially conceptualized as a response to the second-wave feminism described in Morgen’s Into Our Own Hands. The gynecological self-awareness of Our Bodies, Ourselves and Carol Downer’s cervical self-examination movement struck us most powerfully, and we saw parallels between the ignorance of and shaming of women’s genitals in the 70s and the ignorance and shaming of menstruation today. We initially wanted our clinic to be broader in scope, providing information about birth control and counseling for eating disorders, but as we became more excited about removing the taboo on periods, the other issues fell by the wayside, to be picked up by other clinics.

Anyone who has seen “Carrie” knows how traumatic a person’s first period (menarche) can be. We wanted our information to reach children before they began menstruating. Because we have known children who began menstruating as young as nine years old, we decided to start educating eight year-olds. We could not rely on anyone that young coming to our clinic, so to educate children and preteens, we needed to design an outreach program. We also knew that we would be working with limited resources, so we limited the scope of our clinic to pubescent, who experience the most dramatic bodily changes and have not yet accepted menstruation as mundane. We selected twenty-one as the tail-end of puberty, based on how late in life we noticed puberty-related changes in our own bodies, and had our target demographic’s age. We decided to include all genders and sexes in order to choke off the ignorance and superstitions surrounding menstruation before it transformed into silencing and harassment of menstruating individuals.

What really caught our attention, as you can probably see in the video, was the unavailability of feminine hygiene products. Menstruation is a part of daily life, the products for managing it should be part of the daily landscape. However, we only ever see bathrooms with empty lack tampon dispensers or lack them entirely. Legislation seemed like the best way to unilaterally fix this problem, and we started working on the beginnings of a lobbying campaign.

The funding/payment part of the clinic was the trickiest bit. We didn’t want to be a publicly funded clinic because of the risk of being shut down. Knowing that government-funded programs are at the mercy of bureaucracy, we preferred to be funded through private donations, and being paid on a sliding scale. This would eventually lead to getting sponsored by companies that sell products related to the menstrual cycle, like Tampax, Kotex, Midol, and Always. Being privately funded we would give us a better chance of lasting longer.

“Unashamed” – A Proposed Feminist Health Clinic

No one really wants to talk about menstruation. “Bertha.” “The Curse.” “On the rag.” “Surfing the Crimson Wave.” A million other words and phrases have been employed when verbalizing experiences associated with a woman’s period.

Unfortunately, all of this side-stepping leads to negative social stigma and shame. Somehow the woman, and not the period, becomes a burden on society. Think about it: when was the last time you saw a fully functioning tampon/maxi-pad machine in a public restroom? Or even in a women’s restroom? How many times have you heard the ridiculous excuse for why we haven’t had a woman president be “once every month we would bomb a country”?

We wanted to work towards changing this negative association. We (“we” meaning myself and two of my Honors 201 Classmates – Catie Watson and Eduardo Galarza) devised a proposal for a feminist health clinic which focuses on the early stages of menstruation, concentrating on education, awareness, advocacy and outreach. Below is our proposal video for this clinic. Enjoy!