Category Archives: Reproductive Rights

Rewriting our Story: The Struggle to Empower Women

Women in the Media

The illustration above showcases some of the recent organizations, writings, studies and statistics that have come to the front page of main stream news. Many previous authors have have written about how the internet has accelerated and in some ways, revived feminist organizations, movements and collaborations. I agree, with the access to knowledge and information we see the global widespread discrimination, violence, misogyny against women, as well as the successes, educational attainment, military inclusion, and role of women in the workplace.

With nearly 70% of women experiencing violence (physical or sexual) in their lifetime – this astounding and overwhelming UN Report demonstrates the need to rewrite our story.  A majority of women, girls, mothers, wives, sisters, cousins and friends encountering violence more than likely at the hands of men. This stat makes the violence experience seem inevitable. As a result, our culture incorporates “empowering” choices to help keep women safe. For example, think back, at what age did you receive or have you given the following advice:

  • Don’t go into dark alleyways or streets alone at night
  • Don’t walk alone at night, anywhere, even in your own neighborhood
  • Park under the street light or in the parking ramp closest to the exit
  • Take a taxi from a bar instead of public transportation
  • Bring friends with you if you use public transportation
  • What time are you coming or going?
  • Are friends going with you?
  • Call me when you arrive.
  • How well do you know him?

All of these seemingly helpful hints or advice are simultaneously disadvantageous to the feminist movement – because they target young women. The “advice” tells women that we can make the right choices and bad things will not happen. For some that is true, but for many of us, the choice may not be in our hands.

For many of us, it is men who make conscious, manipulative, unhealthy and violent choices that shape our lives forever.

Where are the efforts and campaigns to change men? Sure, we have heard about them, but unlike these mainstream efforts highlighted in the illustration, we are still “empowering” women. (NOTE: I am not advocating we do not have safe plans or take caution and I agree there are “sensible” things anyone can do.)

So; where are the questions to men about why would you chase a women alone? Why is intimidating her rewarding? How drunk was she — that doesn’t seem cool? Why are women the sole or primary providers in families — is this really evidence of women’s advancement in the workplace or is it because so many men walk out on women and families?

What do these organizations and statistics have in common (referenced in the illustration)? It seems that the effort of modern day feminism – to support equal rights, safety and empowerment for women – is increasingly becoming part of daily news, charitable contribution and donation efforts.

This is an applauded effort but, unfortunately, the men who rape, beat, humiliate, harass women in the world are not the strange scary psychos that we can spot, fear and lockup. They may not be the weirdos, or creepy men, the stereotypical men we avoid. They are less likely to be strangers, and most likely to be our current, former partner, acquaintance or in all simple form – a man we know.

These men are brothers, gay friends, cousins, fathers, husbands, friends, uncles, god fathers. They know us and we know them. They make conscious choices, manipulative choices, choices out of misogyny, privilege and wealth. We as a society have to recognize that with astounding numbers like 1 in 3 military women will be sexually assaulted and 1 in 5 civilian women, that there is an epidemic, a conscious epidemic, that enables men, for centuries to repeatedly abuse, manipulate, hurt and walk out on women.

Until men can identify, understand and change their choices, actions and language that routinely negatively impact women on a daily basis, and therefore, the family, the stats will remain a reality.

What does it mean? It means we have to rewrite the story. We have to think, talk, live, play and work differently with the men in our lives. It means we have to hold men accountable, at every stage – at the small jokes that seem harmless, at the movies they watch and quote, no matter how seemingly funny or “normal.” It means we cannot be embarrassed or protect the ego and the “system.” It means we must have the uncomfortable conversation with the male friends we have known for years, and even those we may admire most, like our fathers and brothers.

To rewrite our story, we need men to engage in choices, decisions and opportunities that empower women.

What are your thoughts? Check out the movements and reports in the illustration by selecting the links below.

Chime for Change

College Enrollment by Gender

Domestic Violence Hotline

2013 US State Department Report on Human Trafficking

An Open Letter to Facebook: Take a Stand on Gender Violence & Hate

The Pixel Project

One Billion Rising

Reproductive Rights for Women

Why Society Still Needs Feminism

Women in Combat: Sexual Violence

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This pain is not new

trayvon martin

(Art by Ricardo Levins Morales)



What has happened in the past two weeks isn’t new. It’s not new but it’s unbelievably scary. An innocent 17 year-old black boy, Trayvon Martin, was murdered by someone who deemed him suspicious because of the color of his skin, let’s not pretend it is any way not related to race. If you believe race was not a factor in both the murder and the verdict, you are kidding yourself. On the night of Saturday, July 13 Martin’s murderer George Zimmerman walked away a free man with a verdict of not guilty. I was outraged, disgusted and ashamed. I attended a rally later that evening beginning at midnight where around 200 people gathered to demonstrate support for the Martin family and utter disgust in our failed “justice” system. The evening ended with a gathering where individuals had a chance to share their feelings, calls to action and a general open platform for sharing. One theme across the speeches were that this is not new, black bodies have historically been devalued in our country and as one woman at the rally put it, “seen as disposable.” Every 28 hours a black male in this country is killed by the police or a vigilante, yet Trayvon Martin is one of few cases that have been at the center of media attention. We have normalized the death and criminalization of black men. This history carries over since Africans were forced into this country as slaves and the history of white supremacy is drenched in all walks of this country.

Something else not new, men trying to control women’s bodies. Texas Senator Wendy Davis delivered an incredibly brave 11-hour long filibuster to stop an anti-abortion bill in the State of Texas. Thousands of people in the state of Texas gathered to tell politicians to STOP attacking women’s bodies. A few weeks later, Gov. Rick Perry signs this atrocious bill into law and now there has been an introduction to a 6-week abortion ban in Texas. A six-week abortion ban is de-facto banning abortion as many women will not know they are pregnant before six weeks. This all comes down to an attempt to control women’s bodies, something that has occurred for centuries. It is difficult to create change when we are constantly fighting just to keep the basic right to choose when to have a child. When we have to fight to just keep clinics that provide abortions open we are wasting so much time not working on other problems in our country. I go back and forth if for some individuals their feelings against abortion are truly because they see it as murder. I honestly think this might be true for some but it is difficult for me to believe that this is the agenda of male politicians pushing anti-abortion measures. The United States has the largest income inequality in the world and yet our politicians are talking time and time again about abortion, this is a way to intimidate and control women.

What was most depressing these past few weeks is that given the set up of our democratic system, our voices are still not heard. Thousands and thousands of people took to the Texas Capital, took to their social media accounts and raised their voices in support of the work of Wendy Davis and still this law passed after 13 hours of Wendy Davis standing, not going to the bathroom, not eating, nothing. Voices were dismissed and those with seemingly more power won, patriarchy won. White supremacy won in the case of Trayvon Martin and left a blood stain on our nation. I’ve found it difficult to feel much hope these past few weeks. I’ve found hope in anger though. I’ve found hope in the questioning. I’m hoping that this anger means something new, not more of the repeated history of oppression.

This article is the most powerful thing I have read on the topic of Trayvon Martinm, I highly recommend reading it:

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