Tuesday, August 28, 2012

"What if your mother..."

By Shilpa Esther Trivedi

It was in the not too distant past that abortion, while a still a divisive issue, was not consistently divided among party lines. Believe it or not, groups like Republicans for choice and the WISH list still played a role in elections. Republicans like Olympia Jean Snowe, whose open letter concerning her decision to retire may be found here, still served as example for me as to what a politician and a strong woman ought to be, even if I do not personally agree with all of her policies. 

As recently as 2008, I spent some time campaigning and talking to pro-choice Republican women about why they should consider voting for Obama because of his record on supporting women. Many of these women were older, and they remembered the days prior to Roe v. Wade and the consequences of a world where woman do not have access to safe and legal abortions. The stories they told me were horrifying. One in particular, about a friend who was raped by her father as a teen and then was forced to marry an older friend of the father when she found herself pregnant, still makes me shudder.  But there were others: friends who were socially ostracized after procuring illegal abortions, cousins who were forced to adopt out children against their will.  (For anyone interested in reading about adoption in this era, I’d suggest reading Ann Fessler’s “The Girls Who Went Away”). 

Unfortunately, since 2008 this country has been overtaken by a huge rise in anti-choice legislation, which has almost exclusively been introduced by Republicans.  And when the Republican Party meets next week for their national convention it is likely they will agree to support a constitutional ban on abortion without exclusions for rape or incest.  This news is, while not entirely surprising in our current political climate, disheartening, to say the least.  More than 40 Republican House and Senate candidates currently support a ban on all abortions with no exceptions for rape or incest, including representative and current vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan.  Voting Republican now means casting a vote against women’s access to abortion, and the implications of that are frightening. Just this week a pregnant Dominican teenager passed away from cancer because she had to wait over 20 weeks for her government to debate the morality of allowing her to obtain an abortion prior to getting the chemotherapy she needed.  Just like China’s controversial one-child policy and recent stories of forced abortion, this is another clear illustration of what happens in the modern world when we allow government to interfere in a woman’s right to make personal decisions about her own body and reproductive health. News this week concerning reproductive health has been especially emotionally jarring, from absurd comments on how “legitimate” rapes do not result in pregnancy because women’s bodies have ways of preventing this (see Rep. Todd Akin R-Mass) to the pro-life activists who waited outside the home of a Planned Parenthood CEO in Florida to verbally attack her. I just want to scream. I’ve said it before on the Shesheet and I’ll say it again, we can never entirely know what another person is going through or what the best course of action may be for them when they are facing any impending major life event, including but not limited to a pregnancy. All we can do is support women and empower them by respecting their choices and defending their fundamental right to make these choices without outside interference. 

With all of this floating around in my head, I recently passed a church billboard with a sign that read, “What if your mother was pro-choice?”

It is an argument I’ve heard thousands of times over.  Before I ever volunteered or worked at pro-choice political organizations when I was a high school student at a diversity and leadership training, I heard a girl tell me that she was anti-abortion in all cases because her mother was raped and her mother’s family wanted her to abort.  Had her mother chosen abortion, she informed me, she wouldn’t have been here now. In my response I emphasized that I didn’t think her mother’s family should have tried to pressure her into an abortion, and that I absolutely supported her mother’s choice to have her. I pointed out that thousands of things can influence a child’s coming into this world or becoming the person he or she is today.  But that was all I said.  I don’t agree with the logic that just because something was right for one person’s particular situation that it should be the rule for others, so I couldn’t find the words to articulate a personal story—only one of the many stories about why women need access to abortion.

This week the following article (http://www.rolereboot.org/culture-and-politics/details/2012-08-i-wish-my-mother-had-aborted-me) gained a lot of critical attention, compelling me to again I revisit the “What if your mother” conversation.  In this thoughtful post, Lyn Beisner addresses those pro-lifers who call themselves survivors of abortion by describing how it would have been better for her mother had her mother had access to an abortion.  It is not that Beisner wishes she had never been born, only that she loves her mother and, detailing a childhood filled with poverty and horrific abuse, knows her mother would have had a better life had she opted to terminate her pregnancy while as a teen.

The attacks against Beisner have ranged from commentators asking her to kill herself, to a nationally recognized pro-life blogger who, without the qualifications to do so, diagnosed Beisner as clearly clinically depressed and suffering from feelings of low self worth based entirely off that blogger’s interpretation of the article. In one comment, a woman told the story of how she was walking home from school and was invited into an older man’s home.  This commentator said no, and, according to her therefore avoided an unwanted pregnancy.  According to this commentator, if you want to avoid getting pregnant as a result of rape, it is that easy: “Girls just need to learn to say no.” These are the constituents who the Republican Party seems to be listening to when they claim to be somehow supporting women by taking away their options.

So, with all this going around in my head this week, I wanted to share a personal story, or rather my mother’s personal story. 

Before I was born my mother and father were married and celebrating a very wanted pregnancy. Unfortunately my mother became very ill and needed to have an abortion to save her life. Without the legal right to that abortion my mother would not have lived.  Period. Yes, she would not have given birth to my brother and me. She also wouldn’t have spent years as a social worker working to do an incredible amount of good in a variety of communities. But what she did after, and even my existence is irrelevant here, the point is she would have simply been yet another woman sentenced to death because a bunch of strangers thought they had the right to dictate what would be best for her and many other women like her. My mother is ardently pro-choice.  For her, this means she wants all women to have access to comprehensive reproductive health care (or, for that matter, any form of health care they may need).  This means she trusts them to make decisions about their own bodies and that should any woman face an unintended pregnancy, she will support their right to decide to keep it, or not.  I feel incredibly lucky and thankful that my mother is pro-choice.  Not because she chose to keep me, but because I know she supports my right to make my own decisions. That is all that being pro-choice means, and I cannot imagine what it would be like were she anything else.

I keep driving by that church billboard and wishing that I could tell them that my mother is pro-choice, and that I am exceptionally thankful she had the legal right to make that choice, regardless of what happened to her afterwards.  I wish I could find the words to explain that if they really want to prevent abortions, the best way of doing so would not be to attack or make assumptions about another person’s situation. These same pro-life activists who are so against abortion are also often against making birth control available and affordable or providing safe sex education. They are also often against universal health care. Currently an unintended pregnancy is the number one reason why women fall into poverty in this country.  In other countries where universal health care is the norm, women are able to take longer maternity leaves, they don’t face the consequence of losing their insurance should they need to leave a job, and should a child be born with developmental difficulties, they have the guarantee that that child will receive medical care for their entire life. It seems so simple.  And yet a major political party just announced that women who get pregnant, regardless of the reason, should have their options dictated to them by strangers. They are telling us that women are not capable of deciding when to become pregnant, when not to be pregnant, and by extension how best to parent. Women do not deserve legislation that patronizes them, controls them, abuses them or trivializes their experiences. Too many of us unfortunately already know from personal experience that avoiding rape or an unintended and unwanted pregnancy is not as simple as just saying no. And it is time for us to stand up and remind the out of touch GOP that we are simply no longer going to stand for having our rights taken away. A famous woman who fought for our right to have a voice, Susan B. Anthony, once said, “no self respecting woman should wish or work for the success of a party that ignores her sex.”  Please remember that as we near fall 2012.

In closure, I want to draw your attention to the following open letter to Representative Trent Franks, which I strongly suggest everyone read: http://www.rhrealitycheck.org/article/2012/07/19/open-letter-to-representative-trent-franks-what-caring-about-women-and-babies-rea

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

An Invitation

By Katie Moon

As I have mentioned in one of my earlier postings I am a student here at Portland State, and I am writing in the context of a student in my senior Capstone "Sexual Assault on the College Campus." This class has been extremely insightful and educational for me, and so I would like to extend an invitation to you. I would like to offer an opportunity to you for a Senior Capstone you could take if you are looking for one. It is called "Sexual Assault Education Theatre." The link will take you to the website for the capstone so you can look more into it. This is a class that will not only fulfill your need for a capstone credit, but it will also fulfill you in your journey to do good for the greater public, and for our campus in general. Knowledge is power, and you can take this knowledge and help support the cause to end sexual assault! So take a look at the website, and decide for yourself! Also, if the theater aspect of the class scares you, the capstone I am in right now for the summer term is not a theater based class, so if that is more interesting to you, then wait for next summer!

It has been an honor to write for the Women's Resource Center, and I am so thankful for the opportunity to contribute to the educational awareness of ending sexual assault!


Friday, August 10, 2012

Life According to Pinterest

Pinterest is the latest popular social media site, and the WRC is all over it! So make sure to check out our Pinterest page, and feel inspired right along with us!

WRC's world according to Pinterest. Follow us!

Thursday, August 9, 2012

WRC Sponsored Bake Sale

Bake Sale

What: A bake sale with Gluten free chocolate cupcakes, and vanilla and chocolate regular cupcakes
When: Today!! From 11am - 1pm
Where: The stand will be set up between Smith MU, and Neuberger Hall
Why: Raising awareness for sexual assault, and all of the proceeds go to making SANE kits

**They are also selling raffle tickets with prizes such as concerts, and 1 free hour of tattooing**

So come out, buy a cupcake and support the WRC, and the fight to end sexual assault! 

Friday, August 3, 2012

Choosing Not to be a Mother

 By Katie Moon

I am currently taking a class right now called “Human Development in the Family Setting.” For our discussion this week we had to read an article titled, “The Women Who Choose Not to be Mothers.” I was asked to explain the reasons why I thought women were choosing not to become mothers, based on the number of these women going up in the last few decades. It is historical that women have been placed in the role as wife and mother since the beginning of time. It is no secret that a woman's worth was primarily founded upon her ability to reproduce. A King would marry and if his Queen could not reproduce or could not produce an heir (male child) he would be onto the next woman who could do so. This instilled the woman's worth in her ability to reproduce at a very early time in our history. Could you imagine if it were somehow placed as the man's burden to reproduce? How would our culture change if it were the man's job to reproduce? Would we still have placed the same level of importance upon it, and made it so that was what defined these men? It was so common though for women, and has been the way of life as we know it until more recently. It is becoming more common, and more accepted that women choose not to become mothers. Not only with the aid of birth control becoming widely accessible, but also due to more women being in the workforce. Women who are married or in a partnership of some kind are now depended upon to help with the income. A woman helping with the income for the household might find it difficult to also raise a child, and so she then decided motherhood is not for her. 

There are many skeptics out there trying to find some more substantial reasoning behind why a woman would not want to be a mother, because it's hard for them to understand it. They then come up with reasons such as, "she hasn't found the right person to raise a child with," or " eventually when she is more settled she will then want to have a child." As our Nation, and as our world grows and develops I think it is much more acceptable for women to not rear children. It doesn't make them any less of a woman because of it. Or does it? 

On the flip side we see working women who get little to no time off for maternity leave. Managers making it appear that their lack of understanding for maternity leave was some sort of punishment for these women becoming pregnant in the first place. In a recent article from the Huffington Post, a woman speaks out about the inner turmoil she experienced when deciding how much maternity leave she wanted. Often though, women are not given an option, and some are not even given their original job back after having had their baby. 

Both of these debates are becoming increasingly more talked about with the amount of women entering the workforce increasing each year. Read through the articles and tell us what you think?  Leave your comments/ opinions!

Friday, July 27, 2012

Just a Few Recent Reproductive Justice Issues Worth Noting

By Shilpa Esther Trivedi
Reproductive Justice Action Team Chair

A roundtable report by the Native American Women’s Health Education Resource Education Center found that thousands of Native American women do not have access to emergency contraception. These same women face a higher prevalence of sexual assault.  They also encounter far more barriers to receiving comprehensive health care and “due process” following an assault. The report, (which can be found here: http://www.nativeshop.org/images/stories/media/pdfs/Plan-B-Report.pdf ), includes the voices and perspectives of many Native women. 

In 2010, a pregnant woman in Indiana attempted suicide after her boyfriend abandoned her.  While she survived, her newborn died shortly after birth.  She has been charged with both murder and feticide. Recently, she turned down a plea deal which carried a sentence of 20 years. She is the first woman in Indiana to ever be charged with murder of her own unborn child. You can find out more about her story, which has been moving through the Indiana court system for the past couple of years and setting a dangerous precedent for other women here: http://www.rhrealitycheck.org/article/2012/07/16/bei-bei-shuai-rejects-plea-deal-she-wants-to-clear-her-name

In April, the National Center for Transgender Equality published a list of recommendations for improving transgender sexual and reproductive health care. Among the many things I learned while researching this guide was that, “One in three transgender people, and 48% of transgender men, have delayed or avoided preventive health care such as pelvic exams or STI screening out of fear of discrimination or disrespect.” (read more here: http://www.transequality.org/Resources/Factsheet_TransSexualandReproHealth_April2012.pdf)

Lastly, this video, about a couple whose wanted pregnancy was impacted by Arizona’s 20-week ban, brought me to tears this week

Olympics 2012: Year of the Woman

By: Katie Moon

It's about time right? The ever classic argument of whether or not women's sports are on the same level as men is both exhausting and annoying. Individual women athletes in the past have been recognized for their greatness, but women sports in general do not have the same respect that men's sports do. So perhaps with the opening of the Olympics today women really can show the world what they are made of this year?!

However, just as quickly as I get excited about what women are doing in the arena of sport, I am quickly discouraged by efforts of people who diminish women athletes immediately by sexist and or racist comments like those made of the Williams sisters in tennis on Twitter.

Take a look at the blog Womanist Musings to see what this author had to say about the different comments made about two incredible women athletes.

This seems like the perfect time to get behind these women in their fight for the gold medal in London! I wish the best of luck to the Williams Sisters, and to the other women athletes competing in the Olympics, may you play your heart out, compete to the best of your ability and have no regrets. Women: This is your year, 2012, London!

Thursday, July 26, 2012

It Starts With the Children

By Katie Moon

Two Sundays out of the month I volunteer in the toddler classroom at my church. Just this past Sunday we had our big church picnic out at Hillsboro Stadium where we had just about 30 toddlers ranging in age from 9 months to almost 2 years old. There were 7 volunteers in the classroom including myself, so we were quite outnumbered. I always had one crying baby in my arms that I would be trying to console in some way, but if I saw a little girl fall down and start crying I would immediately put the baby that was in my arms down to pick up and rescue the fallen child. I started noticing however, that my reactions were different if it was a little boy. My first instinct was to tell the little 1 year old boy, "Hey, it's ok you're fine, you're tough." I would play this reassuring game with him, and felt less need to go to him to coddle him. If a little girl fell down, I was immediately to the rescue, rocking her, and kissing her "boo-boo's." The funny thing is, I noticed that I was doing that, because I had just read about gender socialization in my Capstone Class: Sexual Assault on the College Campus. These instincts are born from gender socialization and the kind of environment we were raised in and the kind of media we consume which often supports the notions of men being tough, and men are independent and don't need to be coddled. Further it leads to the notion that violence is accepted, because these men are tough. It is a cyclical pattern that can quickly lead to unhealthy ideas of what a man is supposed to look like and act like and it starts at a young age... thanks to yours truly telling these 1 year old boys that they are tough, and they will be okay.

Attached below is a video of Jackson Katz touching on this topic of gender socialization specifically. Take a look at the video if you haven't already, it provides great insight into how we can better examine ourselves, and our culture, and help put an end to the violent nature of the men in our society. Leave your thoughts on the video and on the topic of gender socialization, I would love to hear what you think!

***Please note that I realize most men are good men, and I am referring to the men who are perpetrators of violence***

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Hey Daniel Tosh... Keep Digging

Daniel Tosh is not only known for his comedy on Comedy Central, but he is also known for delivering "envelope pushing" punch lines. insidetv.ew.com reports asking Daniel what kind of humor he uses and his response was, "I'm not a misogynistic and racist person... But I do find those jokes funny, so I say them." 

Recently Daniel Tosh was doing an evening comedy show wherein he made a comment about rape jokes always being funny. A woman in the audience raised her voice and spoke out saying, "Actually, rape jokes are never funny." Daniel Tosh's response to this woman was, " Wouldn't it be funny if that girl got raped by like, 5 guys right now? Like right now? What if a bunch of guys just raped her..."
Part of what I personally found the most shocking in this entire scenario is the part where the audience continues to laugh, even when the woman who spoke up left the comedy club that night in complete humiliation. This woman decided to stand up for what she felt was right in that moment, and was ridiculed for it. So should we point fingers at the comedians who try to find humor in something that leaves no smile on my face, or should we be examining instead the larger community of people who are continuing to support men like Daniel Tosh who make these jokes? Let us not be bystanders like the audience members, instead lets be more like the woman who spoke up when she could not sit down and listen any longer.

Daniel Tosh did go on Twitter apologizing for the joke he made, but a tweet he sent out immediately following his apology makes me question his sincerity..." The point I was making before I was heckled is there are awful things in the world but you can still make jokes about them. #deadbabies"

Below is a link to the blog post written from the perspective of the woman who spoke out that night at the club. This post gives further insight to the evening's events, have a read and re-post it to get the word out!

My question for you is... How far is too far? Should comedians be allowed to joke about anything they deem appropriate? Let us know what you think!

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

A Critique for Pop Culture

According to the U.S Department of Justice, one in five women experience sexual assault during their college career. This statistic is not only alarming, but calls great attention to the harsh realities of a college campus. Below is a link to the msmagazine blog, critiquing a movie trailer for poor use of a rape joke in reference to college students. Have a read, and leave a comment on your thoughts of the trailer.


Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Healthy Sexuality Website

By Malika Edden
Empowerment Project Coordinator

Those of you that know me know I love talking about sexuality!   I enjoy discussing it in the context of relationships as well as making sure we all have good information about protection.  A few months ago I stumbled upon the website Bedsider, which is operated by The National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy.  The focus of the website is contraception, so folks having sex with opposite sex partners would most benefit from this site, but anyone interested in contraceptive methods will find a great deal of information.  It’s about education and protection and not about judging or claiming there is one acceptable way to be sexual.   One of my favorite sections is called Frisky Fridays.  Each week an entry is written about sexuality and all it wonders!  One week might be about hot summer reads, feeling confident walking into a sex shop or having safe sex outdoors.   What will this week bring?   Check it out!  

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

For Carmen...

By Tonya Jones

I was shocked last week as I scrolled my Facebook newsfeed and saw farewell comments to
Carmen Anderson. What?! As I read further, my fears where confirmed. Carmen had passed
away a couple of days before. I stared at the screen in disbelief.

I meet Carmen a few years ago. I was taking post-back classes at Portland State University
(PSU). At the time Carmen was working as a graduate student at PSU’s Women’s Resource
Center (WRC). She was the Empowerment Project Coordinator. One of her roles was to lead
workshops for the group “The Sister Circle.” It was an opportunity for women of color students
on campus to get together and network. I attended one meeting and liked Carmen right away.
She was blunt and funny and always had her cute daughter with her.

A year later, I found myself applying for Carmen’s position as she prepared to graduate with
her Master’s degree. The WRC decided to open the job up as an AmeriCorps position. Carmen
encouraged me to apply. After a couple of months of the interview process…I did get hired as
the next Empowerment Project Coordinator. Carmen gave me all her contact numbers. She said
to call her at any time if I ever needed support or help with my new job. She also wrote me a
letters of recommendations for scholarships (as I prepared for graduate school).

It’s hard to believe Carmen is gone. After she graduated from PSU, Carmen decided to try her
hand at a lifelong dream…to be a comedienne. She soon began performing at local clubs in
Portland (often wearing her signature boa) and became a big hit. I had the opportunity to see
her a couple of times to see her work the stage. She was great. You could tell she had found her

Carmen passed away after struggling with cancer. She had created a one woman show “Helloooo
Cancer” a few years ago, tackling the serious issue with her warm comedy. I had hoped to
interview Carmen for a zine. Carmen was just one of another Black woman comedienne (Rissa
Ris) in Portland. I had wanted to hear her thoughts on being a woman of color performer in a
genre that tends to be dominated by men.

I will miss Ms. Carmen.

The Carmen T. Anderson Memorial Fund has been established for the support of Carmen's
children, Derric and Mae Gayle. Donations can be made at the memorial event or via any
OnPoint Credit Union branch or the PSU Women's Resource Center.

Broadous Entertainment and Blackstar Comedy Productions is having their first All Black
Comedy Line Up on July 27th at 8pm. it will be at Vertigo Theatre on 34th/SE Belmont. Carmen
Trineece will be a part of the show and a portion of the proceeds will go to her children's trust

Monday, June 18, 2012

“The Bro Code”

By Megan Coleman
Who just graduated from PSU!

How I met your mother is a guilty pleasure of mine. I would watch just about anything with Neil Patrick Harris in it and this show is no exception yet I consistently find myself cringing at the misogynistic undertones in the show. I’m not even really sure I should be calling them “undertones” because NPH’s character (as well as others in the show), Barney Stinson, makes it very obvious how he feels about women.

Throughout the show all the characters have their ups and downs and redeeming moments just like any other show. It’s definitely not all bad, and they usually show the consequences for the misogyny. How I met your mother even features two rather strong female main characters and although eccentric, they serve as a balance for the hyper masculine energy in the show.

The main thing I want to talk about, however, is “The bro code”. Barney has created a list of rules to which men must obey otherwise lose their “Bromanship”. This is supposed to be some sort of code of conduct for all bros, but the behavior encouraged by the book (especially if you identify as anything other than a “bro”) is far from ideal.

Although it is a made up code by the TV show’s Barney Stinson, they have actually published a book of the code. While at Powell’s I thumbed threw it and some of my favorite passages were,

     “Article 1: Bro’s before ho’s
          The bond between two men is stronger than the bond between a man and a woman because, on average, men are stronger than women. That’s just science.”

     “Article 2:
           If a bro gets a dog, it must be at least as tall as his knee when full-grown.”

     “Article 12:
          Bro’s do not share dessert”

     “Article 16:
          A Bro should be able, at any time, to recite the following reigning champions: Super Bowl, World Series and Playmate of the year.”

There is 60 rules altogether and yes the intention of this book is a satirical but unfortunately there are those in the world that take it seriously. I laugh at the book because the rules seem so absurd to me but the socialization of men and women in our society starts from a very young age. I think that it’s really important for us to be aware what messages we are sending when we laugh at and or encourage gender socialization because either way we are at risk of continuing the stereotypes.

Of course it’s important to have fun and laugh about things, for a lot of us it’s how we process information. I just think it’s important to understand why these things make us laugh. If you want to learn more about the effects of gender socialization there is a great film also called “the bro code” by Thomas Kieth. He explores how gender socialization can effect how we perceive the world. The Men in the Movement Action Team also does a great discussion and screening of this documentary. It’s a great film and I would highly recommend it to both men and women.

You can see the full code at: http://www.thebrocode.co.uk/thecode.cgi

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Sexy or Sexism?

By Megan Coleman
Student Projects Assistant
Office of the Dean of Student Life
Enrollment Management and Student Affairs
Portland State University

If any of you haven’t heard about the newish Documentary Miss Representation by Jennifer Siebel Newsom I would highly recommend watching it. This film debuted at the 2011 Sundance Film Festival and aired on the Oprah Winfrey Network: OWN in October. Jennifer explores the misrepresentation of women in the media and how it could be affecting women striving for positions of power and influence. You can visit the website www.missrepresentation.org for more information about the film.

Overall I think the film is great. It is a very powerful film that shows how the images of women in the media are affecting not only women’s self-esteem but their future aspirations. It contains interviews with young women who are struggling to find their place in today’s society as well as some very familiar faces including Condoleezza Rice, Katie Couric, Nancy Pelosi, Jane Fonda, and Gloria Steinem. Jennifer urges that the problem is not only the way women are portrayed in the media, but the underrepresentation of women behind the scenes making the decisions. She suggests that if more women felt driven to seek positions of power and influence that the atmosphere would be much different. If there was a more balanced power structure there would therefore be a more balanced portrayal of women in the media.

One of my favorite things to come out of the Miss Representation movement has been the “Sexy or Sexism” Campaign. The blog which highlights the ups and downs of women in the media, “Sexy or Sexism” is powered by the Women’s Media Center as well as www.missrepresentation.org (You can find this blog as www.sexyorsexism.org ). The goal of this blog is to redefine sexy and to identify sexism. This blog is centered on critiques and affirmations about how women are being portrayed in the media and I found it informative ad well as funny. Overall the posts are great; they give thoughtful critiques while still being aware of their own possible bias. I particular liked the blog post giving a graded scale to the new television shows this year on the “sexy or sexism” scale. I enjoyed that this blog wasn’t overly negative. While they do have critiques they also showcase shows that are doing great things and I thought it was nicely balanced.

I think that the goal of the Sexy or Sexism campaign is an admiral one. I especially like that they are not trying to define sexy necessarily but rather start a conversation about it. The aim is not to replace one definition of sexy with another but to broaden the very narrow scope of what television and movie producers have identified as the ideal image of beauty. Identifying sexism in the media is extremely important especially since so many of us are passively ingesting the images on the screen. Overall both these websites get a big thumbs up from me and if you have some free time and or are bored of the normal sites you frequent give these a try I don’t think you’ll be disappointed.

Monday, May 21, 2012

The War on Black Women's Bodies Again

Tonya L Jones
           So, about a week ago I am doing my morning ritual of scrolling the newsfeed of my Facebook page.  Instead of watching TV news, I like to find out about what’s happening in the world via social media. I have “liked” many groups on Facebook that I feel provide a better alternative voice for people who are often marginalized in mainstream news (POC, the poor, etc). My favorite page What About Our Daughters (a blog dedicated to the empowerment of Black girls and women), posted a scathing review on an article that had just been published in the New York Times.  The article was called “Why Black Women Are Fat” written by Alice Randall (a self-identified Black woman).  The article seemed like a well-meaning discussion on the issue of obesity in the black community, yet in the end it was just another mainstream piece to publically shame black women (it’s a known fact that the BMI is racially biased).  If Ms. Randall was truly concerned about the plight of “fat” Black women why not discuss it in a Black woman’s magazine like Heart & Soul (dedicated to the health of Black women). The mainstream newspapers don’t care about fat OR skinny Black women (I mean I haven’t seen any articles about missing Black women, have you?)
The writer of WAOD noted, “We get it, we’re Black, we’re a fat, we’re all gonna DIE!” I could relate to WAOD’s frustrations. Within the last year there seems to be a media obsession with all things Black women and not in a good way. We can’t get any man to marry us (as if that’s our biggest goal in life), we have the highest rates of herpes (the CDC had to retract that statement after claiming they “made a mistake” in their research), we only have $5 dollars to our name, and we are considered the ugliest of women (Psychology Today’s “Why Are Black Women Less Physically Attractive Than Other Women?”).  Dealing with issues of weight can be hard for Black women as we have to struggle against two standards of beauty, outside AND within the black community.  
Just as Eurocentric beauty standards can be damaging to a Black woman’s psyche (skinny, blonde, etc) so can black standards of beauty (if you don’t look like Beyonce or if your butt isn’t THIS big). It’s not surprising eating disorders are actually increasing with Black women (Google: “Breaking the Silence: Eating Disorders in Black Women”). I’m sure some of you have heard about the young black woman that recently died in surgery because of a desire to have a bigger bottom (Google: “Tragic bottom implant girl thought having illegal injection would make her a hip hop star”). Black women are being pressured to fit into two contradictory body types. While I will always bump Jennifer Hudson’s song “Spotlight” it’s becoming quite disconcerting to flip the channels and see her hollering at me to join Weight Watchers (as well as Mariah Carey and Janet Jackson). It seems Black women have become the new target to make money off of and what better way than to remind us about how undesirable we are.  
So, what’s my advice to Black women regarding weight? I feel you have to do what’s best for you. It’s a personal journey. If you feel it’s time to start being healthier then do it. If you are just concerned about living your life then do that too.