The feminist magazine of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
table of contents editor's letter
THE GOP'S RE DEFI NITION OF RAPE the legislators who attempted to create the term "forcible rape"
WOMEN, SEX UALITY & SPACE one young feminist's encounters with Muslim women while studying in Syria
by laura barrios
by audrey ann lavallee
PROTECTING WOMEN'S HEA LTH AROUND THE WORLD a Chapel Hill-based nongovernmental organization brings safe abortion care to women
WOMEN, GUN LAWS AND THE NRA a feminist reflects after working for the National Rifle Association
"UNDER CONSTRUCTION" a Lab! Theater production challenges notions of gender and sexuality
by amanda maclaren
by olivia blanchard
by stephanie najjar
RACISM, CLASSISM AND THE POLITICS OF GOINGTO A DEVELO PING COUNTRYa critique of the trendiness of humanitarian work abroad by laurence deschamps-laporte
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THE POLITICS OF FEMINIST ACTIVISM ARTS & ENTERTAINMENT CONTEXTUALl ZlNG FEMIN ISM
10 PERSPECTIV ES a conversation on female body hair 20 COMMUNITY VOICE Jan Allen, Lillian's List
THE SIREN RESPONDS cover photo by tizzy haze/tine
The Siren isastudent-produced publication ofUNC-Chapel Hill that promotes afeminist perspective on issues surrounding gender, identity, sexuality and human rights. We provide readers aresource for discovering, developing and challenging their self identities and lifephilosophiesby exposing the daily world tothe glaring examination offeminist critique. Inthis way, we aimtoaddress the challenges ofinequality not only globally and nationally, but particularly withinthe UNC-CHcommunity.
I love food. I've been told by multiple people, independent of each other, that they've never met anyone who loves to eat as much as I do. And I eat strategically: Always the best for last. In the last two years, I have aimed to compile content that you would consume voraciously, with the messiness that can sometimes alarm people who don't share our passions. I hope that this fourth and final issue of The Siren under my editorship will be the last, delicious morsel of a reading journey for you - as it has been for me, as an editor. The inspired young writers of this staff have put together a worldly and provocative snapshot of current issues this spring, with an emphasis on politics and reproduction. We revisit the horrifying attempt to invalidate victims and survivors of sexual violence by legislating "forcible" into a narrow definition of rape (7) and reflect on media coverage of women politicians in the last few months (22). We are also honored to share with you a conversation with Jan Allen, co- founder of Lillian's List North Carolina, a political action committee that supports pro -abortion rights political candidates (20). Learn more, also, about a Chapel Hill-based organization that provides women on four continents with safe abortion care (14). Join a staff writer in Syria as she recounts her experiences with Muslim women in Syria (8) and explore the gender dynamics of gun discourse with a feminist who worked with the National Rifle Association (16). And if you're a pop culture junkie, you'll love our reinterpretation of recent "gay anthems" (23). Here's to savoring the best and the last - and to looking forward to new beginnings!
L Anqi Li Editor-In-Chief
â€˘ In Greek mythology,theSirens were enchanted creatures sporting thehead ofawoman and thebody ofa bird.With their irresistible songs, theSirens lured sea mariners toward land and rocky graves.We learn in "The Odyssey"that theSirens'songs, while deadly, were also full ofwisdom. Hearing this, the hero Odysseus decides totry his fate by tying himself tothe mast ofhis ship, but not before haVing his sailors put wax in their ears toprotect them. Courage and restraint enable Odysseus tohear and learn from the Sirens' songs. He is then empowered tochange his destiny. He makes itpast theislands safely. We atThe Siren want tohelp change our future for thebetter aswell. At first our message, like that oftheSirens; may evoke fear.The terms feminism, women'srights, gender equality, gay rights and civil rights may cause many people toturn a deaf ear, like Odysseus'sailors. But ifyou take thetime toread our stories, you'llfind our songs full ofwisdom and experience, too.We wish you good reading and hope our songs might inspire you aswell.
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the politics of feminist activism:
taking actvism beyond campus BY LEAH JOSEPHSON
With visio ns of Vietnam War protests in my hea d, I remember th in king as I sta rted my first year at Carolina tha t college wou ld be the pe rfec t time to become an activist. After jus t one week in August, I quit my new position as a staff reporter for the university desk of The Daily Tar Heel. The campus newspaper's conflict of interest policy wouldn't have allowed me to get involved with some politically focused student groups I was interested in. My adviser for the Schoo l of Journalism and Mass Communication tu rn ed up his nose at my decision at our meeting a few weeks int o th e semester. He told me IO be losing valuable jo urnalistic experience and could hinder th e realization of my dream of becoming a copy editor. Despi te h is lack of confidence, I followed my gut an d began attending meetings for the Young Democrats, Plan ned Pare nthood's cam pus ou treach group and Students for a Democratic Socie ty. I liked feeling like I was a young person mak ing a difference. I especially loved wor king with Planned Parenthood, and whe n I sta rted tak ing women's studies co urses
Tangled (201 0) directed by Nathan Gren and Byron Howard After hearing that the movie 's promotional materials had been changed to appeal to male viewers , I was skeptical of Disney's new animated film "Tangled :' But in reality, "Tangled" presents the story of a teenage girl breaking free and discovering the world for the first time, a pos itive message for young girls. Kidnapped as a baby, Rapunzel is told she must stay alone in a high to wer because she is "fragile as a flower:' She is warned that "me n with poi nty teeth" await he r if she asserts her agency. Eventually Rapunzel's desire to see t he world overcomes her desire to please, and she successfull y deve lops an egal itarian romantic relationship with a man , Eugene, a nd is reunited with her family.
-4 THE SI"-EN
my sop homore year, I realized IO been sucked into fem in ist activis m for good. I got invo lved with all kinds of wo me n's advocacy efforts on campus. I stopped calling everyone "guys:' I started reading Iezebel - religiously. One day, I woke up an d realized that feminist activism had beco me so ingrained in my mind, I cou ldn't see myself doing anything else. Plans for a copy ed iting career were ancie nt histor y, although my grammar skills remained pre tty impeccable. Feminism had beco me a lifestyle, and th e camp us community (along with my in kling of intuition my first year) had helped me to find my calling. As I pre pa re to graduate, plan ning to get a mas ter's degr ee or try for an entrylevel position at a femi nist advocacy gro up, I've realize d that my view of act ivism, and its relati onsh ip to my life, has evolved significantly. Activism isn't just for college students. It's no t just sit- ins and peace pro tests and a little too muc h pot. Instead , activism is a way of life. I know I'll always be involved with wo me n's issues activism, wh eth er it's th rou gh aca demia, polit ical advocacy, com munity
BlackSwan (2010) directed by Darren Aronofsky "Black Swan;' a psychological thriller about a ballerina named Nina, has many problematic elements. Thomas, the ballet company's director, sexually assaults Nina before giving her the production's lead role, and many women are portrayed in a sexist manner. However, I believe "Black Swan"is more positively a story of a woman facing inescapable demands for perfection.The film exemplifies the virgin-whore dichotomy, as Thomas demands Nina be both the black and white swans; simultaneously passionate and chaste. "Black Swan" clearly shows that such demands are capable of destroying women, and in many ways Nina's eventual suicide is a form of violence against women.
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education or just simple conversations with the people I care about. Even if someday I find myself wearing a suit to work every day, a small cog in a huge corporate machine, I'll always remember my feminist values. I'll always question whether I'm being paid fairly. I'll always watch romantic comedies and cringe at the gender stereotypes. I'll regularly donate money to causes I care about. I'll work to make my relationship with my partner egalitarian, and I'll teach my children about equality and privilege. In recognizing feminism as a lifelong commitment, recently graduated college students can help shape the future of our world in both big and small ways. With a critical eye on problematic aspects of our culture, we can approach adulthood with a goal in mind: achieving progress by deliberately integrating our values and societal understanding into our daily lives. We can and should decide to continue working to change the world, just as we've done for the past four years in BlueHeave1
"Glee;' Season 2 Unfortunately, th is season of FOX's"Glee" is replete with sexist, homophobic, and transphobic humo r.The new football Coach Beiste (Dot Marie Jones) is the target of countl ess transphobic and homophobic remarks because of her unconventional gender performance. Before the season prem ier ended, Coach Beiste was falsely accused of sexual assault by another character, student Brittany. Although Coach Beiste does not identify as queer, the accusation is clearly motivated by a perceived queer identity, Furt hermore, this situation reinfo rces a rape culture in which wom en are not believed when they accuse someone of sexual assault, and survivors of sexual assault are afraid to come forward and report attacks. Sadder still, the show 's message of libe ral "diversity" draws in a w ide audi ence and reinforces oppression und er th e gu ise of inclusion.
Kl.VnZ AND KHLI JOYCE
"Born This Way;' Interscope Records, 201 1 "She rolled my hair and put my lipstick on ... There's nothing wrong with lovin 'who you are;' opens Lady Gaga's newest single "Born This Way:' Unfo rtunately, Gaga seems on ly w illing to accept one's sexual orientat io n or racial status-gende r is left out of the picture entirely. As the lyrics above demonstrate, Gaga's construction of gender is anything but progressive. Not on ly do es her overly processed image on the single's cover promote tra dition al beauty norms, her repeated emphasis of western beauty pract ices tells her listeners that if they are women, how they 're born simply isn't good enough and must be absolved through conformity to sexist beauty standards .
"S&M;' Def Jam Recordings, 2010 Rihanna's latest album "Loud" prov ides some d isturbing mater ial, but her single "S&M" is by far the most regressive piece on the album. Although its themes would be harmful from any singer, they are especially damaging when sung from a survivor of interpersona l violen ce. Rihanna sings of a love for pain and violent sexuality. Her cho rus includes, "Sticks and stones may break my bones, but chains and wh ips excite merSadly, this song not only reinforces broade r sexual violence against women but also reinforces racist stereotypes of women of color and their supposed sexual deviance-further promulgating a racist rape culture.
"The Biggest Loser;' Season 10 The Biggest Loser" is a weight loss reality show that airs on NBC. While the show is ostensib ly intended to promote healt hier eating and exercise hab it s, "The Biggest Loser" has often used patriarchal shaming tact ics on women contestants in the name of motivation. For example, whi ie men's achiev ements on the show are usually described in te rms of thei r physical abil ity, women's successis shown by discussing the size of clothing they can wear. Instead offocusing on help ing cont est ant s achieve health at any size,"The Biggest Loser" both draws on and reinforces unattainable beauty standard imposed on women. FALL 2010)
living and loving as a feminist BYAN QJ Li
Last fall, I reflected on the potential strugg les of living with and th rou gh fem inism . This spri ng, a friend called to ask for my th ou ght s on some issues that arose for her, as a feminist who is in a romantic relation ship with someo ne who neither ide ntifies as femini st nor has been exposed to femin ist thought. I believe it is reason able to say that such tension between femini st and non -fem in ist partners is not un common . Granted, my reflections her e are based on three femin ist, heterosexual , non -whit e women's experiences. I do not speak for all femini sts, or even most. I hope only to provide ideas for those who might encounter similar issues in their relationships. I want to address three possible form s that thi s tension can tak e, and then draw so me (ho pefully) helpful conclusions about alleviating that tension . First, the dat ing phase: "He won't let me pay for anythi ng when we go out, and I think he might have so me really traditional views of women's roles:' Bringing up femin ist critique can be difficult, but it can also be an opportunity to gauge a par tner's ideologi cal flexibility. Whether your par tner seems receptive to the idea of splitting a dinner check, however, isn't necessarily com parable to his or her openness to dual incom e households. Balancing realistic evaluations of a par tner with optimis m about her or his openness can make first date s less daunting. People are capable of astoni shing degrees of adaptability, in my experience, especially when it comes to som eone they care about. Second, the new relation ship : "He read s everythi ng I send and listens to everything I
stff 6THE 51"-EN
ANQJ LI editor-in-chief LEAH JOSEPHSON managing editor OLIVIA BLANCHAR.D treasurer LIZZY HAZELTINE web coordinator
have to say, but some times I feel like I sho uld n't have to teach him the se things:' Fem inism cha llenges identity and place. These are facto rs fund amental to th e sense of self each individual cultivates. It could be th at your partner is afraid of up setting you, and his or her app arent lack of resistance is (ironically) invalidating. Fem inism, after all, sho uldn't be easy to embrace. Inviting your partner to chall eng e and actively engage with feminist theory might lead to a feeling of pro cess rather than instruction . O f course, every femini st mu st judge individually how much energy he or she can devote to thi s process before it becom es burdensome - and whether that burden is something worth bearing at all. Third, th e long-term relationship : "We agreed a while ago th at porn and strip club s have no place in our relation ship , so bringing it up again might seem insulting or mistrustful:' It's cliche for a reason : Communication is key. As a passionat e anti-pornography consumption femini st, I had this discussion early in my relation ship. It took a couple of painful revelation s and conversations for my partner and me to realize that addressing such deep -seated issues once is not enough, no matter how wellintentioned we are at a given mom ent. Wh ether it's online pornography or strippers at a bachelor party, the temptation of patriarchal instituti ons is strong. It is imp erative to say to each oth er, "We can revisit th is when we need to:' I have learned that my partner do es not need to embrace the label "femi nist;' as lon g as we adhere to compatible world views. Everyo ne, however, mu st grapple with the se issues
STAFF WR.ITER.S amanda maclaren audrey ann lavallee-belanger
michelle bellamy stephanie najjar kerri kearse laura barrios
CONTRJBUTOR.S billy kluttz kelli joyce lee storrow laurence deschamps-laporte
the GOP's attempted redefinition of rape BY
Republican members of the House of Representatives presented the "No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act" in late January 2011. New House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) has called the bill, which is co- sponsored by 221 mostly Republican members of the House, a top priority in the new Congress. The bill notably originally contained a provision that would have redefined the definition of rape and incest in abortion cases. The provision redefined as "forcible rape" any rape and incest exemptions in federal laws that restrict the use of government funds to pay for abortions. This stipulation would have excluded cases of incest in which the victim was over 18 years old or victims who were raped when intoxicated, for example. The definition of "forcible rape" is que stionable in and of itself, as this phrase not only does not exist in any federal criminal code, but is extremely ambiguous, making it difficult to implement on any level. After strong backlash and pressure, author of the bill Rep. Chris Smith (R-NJ) , decided to remove the "forcible rape" language from the bill and instead revert to language used in the existing Hyde Amendment. Despite the removal of this terminology, it is still important to explore why the very consideration of such a redefinition was not only a step backward, but an incomprehensible attack against women. Attempts to implement new terminology and adjectives for rape are troubling because they beg the question: Is there such a thing as rape that is not forcible? "Forcible rape" attempts to classify, categorize and differentiate the meaning of rape based on its context. For example, if in an act of sexual assault proof exists of physical violence, the victim would be allowed to access government funds in the event of an abortion. But if the vict im were instead drugged and raped, then that right would be taken away. This inconsistency emphasizes the physical violence of rape as more significant than its psychological brutality. Such a framing of rape is consistent with an archaic time in which rape was only recognized as something that occurred out of nowhere late at night, carried out by a stranger holding a knife to the victim's neck. Thus , an even larger issue emerges: The ways our society often tries to negotiate and
House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) public domain, accessedon Wikimedia Commons
Representative Chris Smith (R-NJl public domain, accessed on Wikimedia Commons
stereotype the reality of rape . It should be common knowledge that all rape s, no matter the context, are violent acts, and the GOP's efforts to degrade survivors as well as limit a women's right to choose are deplorable. The attitude behind "forcible rape" is unacceptable in terms of both abortion rights and survivors' rights no matter what the context of the act was, because rape is rape. Categorizing and qualifying it is unacceptable. Despite th e removal of the terminology, the message of this bill is ultimately that it is acceptable to dismis s, deny and demean th e most vulnerable among
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路a conversation on female body hair l'v'\ ICHELLE BE LLAMY AND STEPHANIE NA))Af!....
The history ofhow fema le body hair is pe rceived by society isfu ndamental in unders tanding why an d how wome ns attractiveness and fe m ininity standa rds have evolved. W hat are the imp lications and repercussions of societys normalization of a hairless wom an? Rem oving un wan ted body hai r on the legs and undera rms has become customary in Western cult ure. It is also a sign of sexua l mat urity. This practice became popu lar as women s clothi ng sty les changed, allowing m ore skin to be revealed. "The Great Underarm Camp aign," as it was adve rtised in 1915, featu red a woman wit h the new ly fas hionable strapless dress and shaved underarm s. Gillette razors and other razor companies contin ued to stress the correlation between a fashionab le lady and a hairless lady as decades progressed, eventually adding hairless legs, or "limbs," to the list of app rop riate grooming practices. It was the woma ns dut y to please m en by her appearance or else risk infidelity or the feeling of inadequacy amongst other wome n. Almost one hun dred yea rs later, body hair has come to represent a division betwee n genders, parti cularly amo ngst whi te people, and a reinforcemen t of the societal notion that wome n aren't attract ive the way they are.
MB : MB: Wh y has hairlessness becom e a criterion for femininity? I think it's because at th e start of "The Great Hairlessness Campaign;' men , as they stilI do now, controlle d mu ch of the businesses and med ia of the time. The easies t way for men to expa nd their busin esses would be to find new audie nces to target. Women, naturally, would be th e next targ ets for razors. Suggesting that it's possible for wome n to be more att ractive through bod y altering practices no t only rein forces wom en's oppressio n, but also demeans wom en by insinuating th at the y're less natur ally accepta ble to soc iety. The cons truc ted image of a lady through her dr ess and demean or is responsible for th e disgust many women today feel for their own body. SN : The hairless woman as th e pinnacle of att ractio n and sexual appeal has become the no rm th at most Western women follow. This norm is predom inantly not iceable in Western societies where women reveal mu ch more of th eir bod ies than in othe r cultures. The standardization of hairlessness as a funda mental criterion for attractiveness and seductio n is such an established construc t in our society th at ma ny women will say they feel disgusted with their bod y hair and want to get rid of it as fast as possible. They thu s believe
that the hair -removal proc ess is for th eir own good, so that they feel mor e attrac tive and com fort able in th eir bod ies. Why do women have to go against th eir nature to please both men and society? Removing female bod y hair implies that wom en are not goo d enough th e way th ey are. M B: Women are meant to be delicate, soft beings who, iron ically, actually mim ic a young child's bod y rath er than a grow n ad ults when fully shaven. I remember desperately wanting to grow up as qu ickly as my peers did so th at I could shave like a woman was suppose d to. It's interesting th at as my womanly features develop ed, it was the rem oval of th ese features that would make me feel like a woman . Feeling like a woman really meant feeling as though men would find me attractive if I gro omed myself properly. Appealing to men by bod y alteration, whethe r it be weight loss, makeup , restr ictive undergar ment s, etc., are all probl ematic for the self-worth and selfappre ciation of women. SN : Interestingly eno ugh, in non -Western countries, hair rem oval was never an ingrained custom. Altho ugh thi s is slowly changing today as cultures all over the world are being imp acted by Americ an and Western media,
Hispan ic, Indi an and Arab wome n did not grow up in an environment that pressur es wom en to rem ove the ir hair when th ey are mature eno ugh to appeal sexually to others. This differen ce shows that th e percept ion of female bod y hair is a cultura l construc t. And th e beaut y industry plays a major role in perpetu ating and establishing th is constru ct in th e West. Indeed, a whole industry has develop ed to sell hair-removal products th at remove hair fast, painle ssly convincing wom en th at it does not take mu ch effort or pain to be attractive. Tod ay, razo r companies have norm alized hairle ssness even in the way that th ey market razors. Wom en's razors are smaller in pastel colors, softer with more grip s, and are advertised by whit e wom en in th e shower sm iling happily as they glide th e razor up their leg. These advertiseme nts tell us that there's noth ing wrong with person ally wanting smooth legs. On the contrary, th e beauty industr y convinces women that th eir products are essential to them and is a way of boo sting their confide nce and level of attractiveness. }vi B: Everyo ne know s shaving is not th e onl y hai r remo val method. Waxing , foam s, creams, pluckin g and laser rem oval are all alternative (and sometimes painful ) ways of removing hair. Reason s for shaving span a number of categories: enjoying th e feel of smo oth skin, liking th e attention th at smo oth skin receives from men , feeling th e need to do so to maint ain a job in corpo rate America, feeling personal disgust if you don 't shave your legs, or runn ing the risk of being called a lesbian or a man. While gende r roles and the definiti on of femininity could be another discussion entirely, it's fascinating to note the direct correlation many make between hair and masculinity or lesbiani sm.
amo ng America's many races. Much of th e statistics and data concerni ng body hair revolve around Western not ion s of beauty and Caucas ian women's disgust with their own hair. For example, some African American wom en choose not to shave th eir legs simply because the ir ancesto rs weren't placed und er th e same socie tal rest rictions th at whit e women's ancestors were, and so the pressures concerni ng image aren't th e same. Skin color and th e ability to actually see leg hair is ano ther possible reaso n why some African America n women don't shave. }vi B: Exactly. Atti tudes toward s und erarm and leg hair differ, th ough. And the prevalence of sex and pornograph y in our society can also be blamed for men 's insistence on a hairl ess woman . The smoo th, shiny women are prizes to men , and sadly, th e more wom en are willing to alter their natural appearance, the better they will do in a male- dominated business aimed at providin g pleasur e for other men. Body hair removal is ano ther issue plaguing wom en's self-esteem and feelings of beaut y.
SN : Wom en should have th e right to refuse to choose wheth er th ey want to remove their body hair or not, and th ey should not be judged for th eir choice . It is a hard choice to mak e, and it takes a great deal of courage because wom en who do not remove th eir hair are not con sidered as attractive as hairless wom en. The strict and fixed cr iter ia for attracti veness is a form of oppression as women are forced into fitting an impractical and painful ideal that breeds disgust with their own bodies in th eir natural state and a low self-esteem. Removing hair is a per son al preference , and no wom an sho uld be judged for her choice: beaut y lies in the eyes of th e
razor-hOlde' l SN : It's also interesting to see th e
differences in the attitude toward s bod y hair
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A20-year-oldstudent shares personal accounts ofMuslim womenshemet while studying abroad in Damascus, Syria.
BY AUDR..EY AN N LAVA LLtE路 PHOTOS BY AU DR..EY ANN LAVALL EE AND CHLOE BILLEB AULT路 DESIGN BY ANQ] LI
hile studying in Syria at the University of Dama scus, I met Muslim women of all ages and nationalities, from all social classes. Their stories are testimonies to the diversity of ways to practice Islam, often regulated by factors out side of religion itself. My encounters help decon stru ct the essentialist conception of Muslim women and their alleged boundaries so often projected in the West. ln chaallah (If God wills).
Between Heart and Sea I met Lam is on my flight connection from London to Damascus. With her gentle but confident voice and alm ond -colored hair and eyes, she stru ck me as a special bird of unusual strength. She earned a scholarship from the government after scoring the highest grades for her bach elor's degree. She was now temporarily back in Dama scus to see her 8-year-old son , whom she left behind with her mother to undertake the thre e-year Ph.D program in England. Lamis is mutafaouaqa, "superior;' and proudly showed me an article from a nati onal newspaper she saved about herself. I did not recognize her at first because she wore a hijab. She explain ed to me th at she do es not wear the
10 TH E SIR..E N
In front of Damascus University during a break between classes. Top row, left to right: Xzarina Nicholson, Hawa Mahmoudi. Bottom row : Audr ey Ann Lavallee, Tati Bornwell
veil at work or in England, but she may wear it when she goes out. Wearing a hijab was not only a per sonal choice, but her views on when and where to wear it seemed motivated by a mixture of personal taste, etiquette and politic s. Indeed,
such ambivalence for the veil seems less present in America. The accessory has become mainly a marker of religiosity for those of the minority who choose to wear it. Women there have less freedom in deciding their own parameters compared to Syria. That night, Lamis invited me to sleep over in her modest Arab house in Yarmouk, a Palestinian settlement just out side Damascus. I learned that Lamis was divorc ed and undertook higher education studies to ensure her child a better future after gaining his custody. In the family law of Syria, custody favors mothers and their families . I asked Lamis if divorce was still taboo in Syria. She replied that, of course, people around her "judge at times:' but her family supports her and the situation is changing. "Cases like mine are becoming more common." I felt privileged to witne ss the warm embrace of a mother and her son, after six months spent apart. "You are so much taller than when I saw you last time:' Lamis says.
her English hu sband, who converted to Islam to be with her. A mother of three, she found the time to open a Greek restaurant and bu y nine proprieties around Shelsea. She also started a schoo l in Indonesia, which she personall y visits annually to implement new pro grams fund ed with the money she mak es from hostin g exchange students in London. Tati attracted many cur ious looks wherever we went. What was thi s mature Muslim woman doin g with a bunch of young. Westerners? Wh at did her hu sband think of her whereabouts? She explained that she preferred to travel on her own because she and her hu sband did not like the same things. She felt the need to stay home when her children were young because she wanted to give them the best edu cation . But now that they were older, she felt free to discover the world again . "God did not say that wom en needed to stay at home and not go out :' she says. I asked her if she found it difficult to raise her children in England with her Muslim values. She replied , "I did my best to explain to my children why they should not do some things. such as drinking alcohol. I did my job as a mother; whether or not they listened to me is anothe r story that is beyond my control."
At 60 years old, Tati came to Syria alone to learn Arabic so she could understand the Ou'ran.
Simply Tati On my way to registration a week later, I met Tati. At 60 years old, Tati came to Syria alone to learn Arabic so she could understand the Qu 'ran . A devout Muslim , she proudly wears her turquoise hijab , which highlights a cute, round face, deep brown eyes and soft smile. Over the course of a month, we became friends, and Tati told me she left her native Indonesia at age 30 in search of a better life in London. There, she met
Tati Bornwell strolls through the Citadel of Aleppo, an Islamic landmark in Aleppo Syria, recognized by UNESCO as a World Heritag e Site in 1986.
Mass-tourism defining gender boundaries A week later I went to Palmyra, a desert town with extremely well preserved ruin s from the Byzantine era . The manager of my hotel , Mohammed, introduced me to his sisters in their typical Arabic living room with cushio ns around the walls, a low coffee table at th e center, and an antique gold tea set. The visitors wore the hijab and a manteau (long black coat covering th e arms and legs) and discussed the latest gossip. Maisa'h, one of th e sister s, poured me a tasty cup of Arabic coffee. In thi s family of 15, four sisters work inside the hous e and two sisters are in school finishing their high school diplomas while the seven brothers work in the tourism bu sine ss. Palmyra is famo us and attracts tourists year-round. Boys are taken out
Naima'h, Audrey Ann and Maisa'h visit a realtive at ho me for a cup of tea.
of school at an early age to work from dawn to du sk selling bracelets or camel rides near the ruins . The gend er boundari es in Palmyra remain extremely rigid. The division of space and labor in this famil y was less defined by religion as by a mixture of econo mics and tradition . In traditional Bedouin societies, women are discouraged from talking to men outside thei r family circles. The mass touri sm that engulfed Palmyra for the past 40 years preserved thi s tradition by providing mo st men with enough revenu e to keep women inside their home s. "My moth er used to have to work with my father in our gard en;' Mohammed says. Needless to say, revenue s do not come from mere bracelet selling. As confirmed by my host, th e "interaction" betwe en female foreigners and local men is also an imp ortant part of revenu e. Henc e, connections between our Western sexuality and its imp act on boundar ies of women in oth er places of the world can be question ed.
Souq Hamidiyya Boundaries are complicated simply by walking in the Souq Hamiddiya, a roofed market leadin g into th e old city of Dama scus. In thi s souq, especially on Thursday afternoons, women shop for clothes, jewelry and undergarments. Sur prisin gly en ou gh, th e vendors of female
undergarm ent s in th e specialized boutiques are exclusively men. The exchange between a 20-year-old male sho pkeeper and middle-aged women look ing for new bra s is not uncommon and reminded me once again of th e complexity of gendered relation s. In the West, men do not have access to what is considered a private female sphere. One possible explanation lies in what aspect s are considered publi c and private. Is the matt er (undergarment) or th e place (market) th e sacred place ?
Pages Cafe Some rules differ with social class rath er than religion . Pages Cafe, a cafe with live mu sic, attracts th e creme de la crem e of Dama scus. Most Arab people I met there were fluent in English or French and had traveled or lived overseas. Wom en there are, for the mo st part, uncovered. They smoke cigarettes and belt Jame s Blunt's "You're Beautiful" along with the entertainer, Ali, a professional multi -lingual singer. With its $6 cover on Music Night , Pages is not for everyon e. Every Tuesd ay, th e small cafe is packed with a select group of young and old people who share a similar socioeconom ic background and passion for old Arabic songs. The cafe is in itself a boundary: upon stepping out of th e isolated room , each person goes back to living with a majority of the people who do not have access to spaces that are not gendered. I am cur rently stationed in Turkey for the next four months. As I watch a Muslim couple exchanging a passionate kiss during a mu ezzin chant, I remind myself of gender boundari es and question the nature of their con struction.
Special thanks to Ali Alzein, Chloe Billebaut, Tat! Bornwell, Tayser Ghazol and Lamis Hamm oucl
The exchange between a
20-year-old male shopkeeper and
middle-aged women looking for new bras is not uncommon and reminded me once again ofthe of gendered relations.
BY AMANDA MACLAJ<...EN DESIGN BY ANQJ LI
For almost four decades, Ipas has pledged to help underprivileged women access safe and affordable reproductive health care. Today, this nongovernmental organization serves women on four continents - and it'sbased in Chapel Hill.
around the B
etween the stress of day to day activities, coupled with money worries and personal troubles, even a female student at UNC-Chapel Hill can forget that she is privileged not only to be able to attend such a prestigious university, but that her human rights are being fought for every minute of the day. This country is far from perfect, but there are thousands of organizations that are trying to improve it. One such organization is not only looking out for the well-being of women in the United States, but is moving beyond the nation's borders to fight for women's health and reproductive rights all over the world . Ipas, a global nongovernmental organization, works to provide women with safe abortion care, as well as counseling and distribution of
contraceptives. Ipas was founded in 1973 and is headquartered here in Chapel Hill, but it has offices on five continents. Its presence is felt in more than 20 countries, where it works to put safe abortion laws into place. Ipas ensures that health care workers are equipped with th e necessary tools and knowledge for performing safe abortions and suppl ying adequate care and counseling. According to Kirsten Sherk , senior associa te for media relations at Ipas, Chapel Hill was a natural choice for the headquarters of the organization. "It wasn't such a random spot;' Sherk says. "The Triangle is such a center of global health work. Between Family Health International and the Carolina Population Center, it was not at all illogical. If you are goin g
to create it anywhere , create it here :' From 1973, Ipas has gro wn not on ly th rough its prese nce in other coun tries, but also th rough the broadened the scope of its mission. Ipas was initia lly created to comp lete th e developm ent of a medical instru men t that could be used to tr eat women who have complica tio ns from unsafe abortions. "Tha t was a very nar row goal;' Sher k says. "Develop the instru ment, get it into th e field, get it into th e hands of doc tors and nurses, and make sure they know how to use it:' Ove r th e years, Ipas has added mu ch mo re than abo rtion technology development and train ing to its missio n. It now helps women thro ugh healt h care research and repr odu ctive rights advoc acy, as well as throu gh pro grams targeted towards young peo ple and victims of sexual violence. "Ove r the years;' Sherk says, "it really is a bro ader understand ing of what could be and extending beyon d just traini ng health care provi ders to do one thi ng to engaging health care providers and th e health systems to imp rove policies and services to save women's lives:' That extensio n has led to significant accomplishme nts in cou ntries aroun d th e world , many of which are far behind in safe abo rt ion services as well as health care in general. In Ethiopia, for instance, Ipas has been worki ng with the health care system to imp rove trea tment for hea lth effects of un safe abo rtions. Within just a few years, Ethiopia has reform ed its abo rtio n laws to the point th at wom en are now comi ng into clinics asking for med ical abortio ns, which up unti l abo ut 5 years ago weren't even readi ly available in the United States. Abo rtio n was legalized in South Africa after Apartheid ended . For the past 10 years, Ipas has been training health care officials and working with trai ning gro ups to ensure th at women know their rights and have access to th e best care. In Nepa l, a largely ru ral nation , Ipas also quick ly impleme nted a collaboration pro cess between med ical exper ts, govern ment and hu man right s exper ts to improve and impl ement laws. Nepal removed its abo rtio n ban in 2002, and now Ipas is contin ually expanding women's
Dr. Kiros Terefe, right. t rains Dr. Dereje Keb ed e at a safe abor t ion care clin ic conducted by Ipas staff. They pract iced on pelv ic mod els and papayas.The cli nic was conducted by Ipas staff in th e Adamm a Oromia reg ion of Ethiop ia in Octob er 20 10. ph ot o courtesy and copyright of lpa s 20 10
reproduct ive rights to make sure wom en know how, when and where to get information on safe abo rtion services . Despite being such an intern ation allyfocused organizatio n, Ipas still looks out for wom en in the United States and in North Carolina speci fically. Ipas partners with El Pueblo, anoth er non -profit advocacy and publ ic policy organizatio n th at is based out of Raleigh. El Pueblo's goal is to stre ngthen the Latino com mun ity on a local, state and national level. "Latino teens in North Caro lina are more
It's young women and young men who have the opportunity to stand up to the hypocrisy and the
stigma that surrounds abortion
and to be people who feel they need to make this choice. likely than their black or white peers to have an unplanned pregnancy in their teens;' Sherk says. "So we've been working with EI Pueblo to incorporate reproductive health education into their peer education program." Ipas hopes that its efforts with EI Pueblo will encourage other policymakers and public health officials to become more aware of the need for reproductive rights and health care access for Latino communities and that they will implement its model into their own organizations. To Sherk, abortion is stigmatized, but in identifying the commonality of the experience, that women across the world are making decisions about abortion for their own futures and for their future familie s, she hopes that more people will support women in their decisions. "If you walk down the street, you are going to pass women who have had abortions, who made their decision for good and important reasons , which maybe only they know;' Sherk says. "But any woman is not alone when she is faced with an unwanted pregnancy:' The statistics regarding unsafe abortions are staggering. 330,000 women die every year from pregnancy and one of the most common causes is unsafe abortions. 47,000 women die every year from unsafe abortion procedures. Millions of women are hospitalized because of complications of unsafe abortions. "It is one of the most preventable causes of maternal death;' Sherk says. "It's easy to treat, it's easy to prevent, and it's less complicated to treat if doctors have the equipment to do so." And , according to Sherk, the solution to this easily preventable
problem is people, especially young people , standing up and talking about these issues. "When we look at enforcing making abortion harder to get in the United States, at lpas, this is what we see in front of us: we see those deaths, and we see the women who come to health centers around the world , and we get very worried;' Sherk says. "It's young women and young men who have the opportunity to stand up to the hypocrisy and the stigma that surrounds abortion and to be accepting of people who feel they need to mak e this choice:' Just consider for a moment the effects if tomorrow the reproductive rights of women in the United States were eradicated, and the decision to have an abortion became a life or death decision . That is the situation for millions upon millions of women in the world. But with organizations like Ipas, and supporters of women's reproductive rights across the world, those numbers can be reduced, one woman at a time. To learn more about Ipas and how to help supp ort womens reproductive rights, "like" its Facebook page and follow the organi zation on Twitter at @IpasOrg. Watch lpas's movie "Not Yet Rain" at www.notyetrain.org to learn more about the abortion challenges in Ethiopia and to join the
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FA LL 20 10
EN N LA AND THE NRA As gun lawsbecome increasingly controversial, one woman reflects on the implicationsof women and the NRA for feminist theory. BY OLIVIA DESIGN BY ANQJ LI
hile firearms and the Second Am endment have been touchy subjects in Am erica for decades, the recent atte mpted assassinatio n of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords has imbued the debat e with a new sense of urgency. On one side, those who have histor ically favored stricter gun laws see Jared Lee Lough ner's alleged shooting spree as more obvious evide nce that guns must be controlled; on the other hand, gun right s activists have generally repeated some version of the slogan, "Guns don't kill, people do:' At th e heart of gu n rights activism is the National Rifle Associ ation , which is one of the most powerful lobb ying forces in America and bo asts more than 4 million members. NRA lobbi es tir elessly on Capitol Hill in orde r to, from its perspective, defend the Seco nd Amend me nt from th ose who would trample upon it. Polit ician s - even liberal s - are loath e
16TH E SI
to cross the NRA, because its membership is incredibly vast, geographically diverse, and politic ally-m inded. However, NRA lists do zen s of national orga nizations with stro ng member ship th at have "anti-gu n" policies, including th e American Fede ration of Teachers, the Anti -D efamation League, and the National Organization for Wom en . Indeed, it is widel y per ceived that women, in general, prefer stricter gun laws than men do, and the NRA itself is often seen as a kind of fierce, activi st men's club for middleAmerica hunter type s. From my own experience working at the NRA as a media relat ions intern, though, I have found that the gender divide on gun issues is not as clear -cut as it ma y seem. Whil e the NRA is known primarily for its politi cal might in Washington, lobbying is actua lly only one small part of its operations:
NRA's Institute for Legislative-Action handles all of its activism, and for tax purposes (since the organization is a non-profit), the rest of the Association is legally prohibited from politicizing firearms . Although on TV the stereotypical NRA member comes across an oddball survivalist who proudly owns 12 guns for the purpose of paranoid "self-protection" when the aliens come, this type of person is not the typical NRA member. Rather, NRA includes people from many different walks of life - men , women, and even children - who are enthusiastic about the Second Amendment insofar as it allows them to enjoy their guns. Admittedly, the idea of "enjoying" guns was not familiar to me before last summer; I had never shot before, had never been hunting, and could hardly tell a rifle from a revolver. But in talking with many different people about their experiences with guns and their reasons for joining NRA, one thing quickly became clear: using guns - collecting them , shooting them , and hunting with them - is a passionate hobby for a large sector of American society. In recent years, NRA has made a conscious effort to make women feel welcome, and NRA's Women's Programs division oversees women's shooting competitions, hunting trips, and college scholarships. Many feminists seem to favor stricter gun laws because their commitment to social justice seems naturally linked to limiting violence in society as much as possible; this is certainly an understandable viewpoint, since guns are an ideal tool for someone wishing to inflict deadly force. However, while working at NRA and interviewing some of the women who are directly involved in the Women's Programs division, I saw an unmistakably empowered attitude: These women feel stronger and safer in the knowledge that they can use a gun if they have to, and they take pride in beating as many men as possible in shooting competitions. Granted, from a sociological perspective, women should not have to arm themselves in order to feel safe in society. Perhaps if guns were less available in America , gun violence would be much less of a threat, and women would feel indifferent towards them . Isn't embracing guns for the purpose of self-defense somehow
becoming complicit in the culture of violence? These points are certainly valid, but on a practical level, the wome n particip ating in NRA's competitions and clinics feel personally safer and stronger in the knowledg e that the y know how to defend themselves. One might argue that NRA itself creates this need for self-defense, but for gun enthusiasts, protection is hardl y ever the only consid eration. Rather, perhaps the main reason that NRA's Women's Programs are so popular is the fact that women genuinely enjoy them; NRA's official blog quotes program coordinator Beth Hellman explaining the appeal: "While shooting is often perceived as a male-only sport, Women On Target proves that women enjoy it just as much as men, and for the same reason men do: It's fun ! There's nothing like the feeling of empowerment that comes with learning a new skill, especially one that is a little off the beaten track for most women :' Indeed, perhaps some of the fun for participants is the subversive implication of gender inversion . Since the media and other cultural forces tend to stereotype women as fundamentally weaker and less capable of selfprotection than men, it can understandably be a powerful feeling to wield a gun just like a "real man:' Women On Target Instructional Shooting Clinics are held nation-wide and with increasing popularity, as participants appear to appreciate learning to shoot in a women-only setting . Many women immediately become enthusiastic about shooting, and some of them even go on to teach Refuse To Be A Victim courses, which are personal safety seminars that are open to both men and women but largely associated with NRA's Women's Programs division. On a theoretical level, feminism's commitment to social justice is perhaps inherently opposed to the wide availability of firearms. After all, if gun violence becomes so Widespread that everyone needs a gun for self-defense, no one is truly empowered. But on the practical level, million s of women feel personally stronger in their ability to shoot like a man , and as long as our culture's standard for strength and power is male, this proactive independence looks, to me, like something approaching
gender and sexuality in "U nder Construction" BY 5TEPHANIE NAJJAR.. PHOT05 COUR..TE5Y OF LAB!路THEATE R..
Dramati c art and English major Erika Edw ards performs in a scene in which a name less preg nant woman picks up toys, w hile telling th e aud ience about her sex life as a married wo man.
1e5\H E 51 R..EN
Playwrig ht Charles Mee anticipated that people perfo rmi ng his play "will want to th row ou t some of these scenes, change th e order of thi ngs:' Constantly cha nging th e str ucture of the play, he said, guarantees th at, "like America;' th e play remains perm anently "under construction:' "Under Co nstruc tio n" is indeed abo ut America, American values and how they are cha nging. The LAB! Theater student produ ction of this play engaged themes relating to mores and attit udes in flux in America today, such as the perce ptio n of homo sexuality, relatio nships, gender dynam ics, family struc ture and sexuality. Dramatic art major [eb Brinkley di rected "Under Cons truc tio n;' which ran Feb. 10-14. The two-and -a-half-hour production presented a collage of scenes in a sequence th at can appear disjoint ed. The contro versial and cru de observatio ns made on American soc iety in each scene, however, unified th e whole. Assistant director Colin Warren-Hicks says, "Under Co nstruc tion' wasn't a classic play because the re wasn't a cohesive struc ture ." Colin adds th at the who le team had a say in how the play was going to be take place. "[eb would ask the cast: What do you think? And everybody would contribute to th e construction of a given scene. It was a real gro up effort;' says Warren -Hicks. The collage of scenes was mostly set in th e aftermath of World War II, at a time when America's midd le class gained enor mo us econo mic and political power. Scenes captured a period whe n America was braced for huge socia l upheavals on th e eve of th e counterculture. At the same tim e, ma ny episodes, some banal or burl esqu e and others extremely controve rsial, reflected the deg ree to which American values have evolved over the past five decad es. Warren -Hicks says th e pro duction sought to highlight the cultura l gap between th e two eras. The evoluti on of sexuality and what society defin es as acceptable sexuality seemed to be a downbeat of "Under Co nstruc tion:' With a focus on women, the depiction of sexuality in the play became a prism th rou gh which the audience was able to construct an idea of American values in the 1950s. From suppressed sexual impul ses to sexual ema ncipation, rape to prostitut ion . teenage pregnancy to contraception , the play's focus on sexuality showed the extent to
Dramatic art major Amand a Baldiga portrays a sex wor ker, businesslike and we ll off, w ho is shop pi ng for fun .
which Ame rica n socie ty since the 1950s. In one scene, a sex wor ker dr essed in a business suit bou ght useless items at the superma rket, as if to show how wealthy and successful she was. Yet, on th e pho ne, she complained abo ut her job non chalantly. This representatio n of a sex worker as a successful, empowered and indepe nde nt business woma n de fied th e stereotype th at sex workers are poor, vuln erabl e and und ign ified. A scene that caused a lot of com mot ion in the audie nce, making some laugh and others gape , depicted a blond woman in skimpy lingeri e holding three almos t-na ked men by a leash in one hand and a whip in th e other. Ordering th em to cross th e stage on th eir knees, she con stan tly sho uted, "Faster, faster !" Wh ile th ere was an element of shoc k value in this scene, th e subversio n of th e tr ad ition al sexual roles challenged th e audience's und erstan ding of gender dynami cs. Ano the r scene came close to depicting rape on stage: A woma n com plained and whined as a man tri ed to approach her, but finally ceded to him as th e stage sudde nly went dark . "This scene is intended to show th e possibility of sexual assault, even und er th e guise of a soc iety often viewed as a 'Leave it to Beaver' paradise;' said Warre n-Hic ks. The experimental an d avant-garde techni qu es used in th e play, such as differing viewpoints and lack of narr ative, gave th e audience freedo m to int erpret th e scenes. Depe nding on the para digm in which the audience chose to place itself each scene could be analyzed in different ways. Sexuality and gende r dynamics is one possible way of lookin g at how societal values in America have evolved since th e 1950s, but family stru cture, relation ships. hom osexuality and class are other salient th emes of "Un de r constructi01
racism, c1assism and the politics of going to a developing country BY LAUR..ENCE DE5CHAM P5-LAPO R..TE
Fall break in Haiti, summer in Kibera, spring break in Honduras. We privileged North American students love to go to developing countries. We love to dress in traditional garb and take pictures with innocent-looking children whose names we ignore . We blog about malar ia, dirt , slum s, sun , Africa as a country, and use words like "timeless;' "guerilla" and "tribal:' Upon our return home, our pictures with African children become prim e Facebook profile picture material. I may sound critical. I am, because I have been there too. I have some of these pictures, and I have used some of these words in my blog posts. To put it in the words of the writer of the well-known Tumblr blog "Gurl Goes to Africa": "You go to one of those fabulously elitist schools where everyone talks about privilege, classism, racism, sexism, etc. as if they don't practice it in real life. But in order to really see the world, they decide to go somewhere where they can understand what their privilege looks like. So they choose AFRICA! Yay! A whole continent dedicated to helping white people understand what it means to be poor and undeveloped:' Our American campuses encourage pseudohumanitarianism. Working in orphanages around the world is well regarded. After graduation, your summer in Uganda is a resume-builder that will touch your interviewer 's heart . Travelling and experiencing other culture s is necessary, but we need to do it with an open mind . We should reflect on the assumptions we make and observations we share about the people we meet. We cannot think that our presence will change anyone's life, except perhaps our own. Last fall Ian Birrell reported for The Guardian on the harm some volunteers do abroad. Many unlicensed orphanages have sprung up, and most children in them are not orphans. Rather, they are left at the facilities by their parents to beg from tourists. Volunteers passing by cuddle with anonymous children and bring their pictures home , leaving gifts and money. Volunteerism, according to Ian Birrell, is one of the fastest growing industries in Africa. He concludes that "the harsh truth is that 'volunteerism' is more about the self-fulfillment of westerners than the needs of developing nations. Perhap s thi s is un surprising in a world in which Madonna thinks it is fine to take children from African fam ilies:'
Another tend ency on our camp us is the popul ar ity of getting involved in "women's empowerment" projects. Some of these efforts involve giving lecture s to women in English abou t female genital mutilati on s, do mestic violence, sexual education or microfinance. But the reality is that 18-to -22-year-old privileged, often Caucasian, fem ale college students are for the most part not qualified to teach tho se subjects. We should not be teaching our own culture to accomplished women and mothers in African countries. We, who have typically never given birth , have no real experience in microfin ance, HIV /AIDS prevention, or household management, sho uld probably stop perpetuating colonial patt ern s of "empowerment:' We have mu ch to learn from these self-reliant women and should scratch the term "empowerment" from our vocabulary. In Spanish, French , and many other languages , there is no word that translates to "empowerment:' Rather, these languages use the term "emancipati on ;' which entails finding strength within oneself, and overcoming barriers independently. This term is usually associated with the histor y of slavery in the United States, but perhaps it can also be used in differen t contexts. Empowerment mean s that one can give inner strength to someone else. It insinuates that th e problem is not resource s, colonialism or corruption, but rather the lack of resilience and motivation of the se women . Thus, the not ion of young Ame rican college stude nts empoweri ng African women is abhorrent. Instead of participating in empowerment projects, we should work to brin g down the barr iers to their emancipation . African s are kept poor and hu ngr y by the international trade system, sick by pharmaceutical lobbies and servile by corporations. Often we may be more efficient working from our homes to unveil the systemic oppression of people in developi ng countries. Nevertheless, if we decide to go abroa d, instead of calling these excur sion s "service trips ;' "humanitarian work" or "development;' we should talk about cultural exchanges or international cooperation. Such term s imply that the visitor want s to learn from the host community, and receive - not just pain t schools, dig wells and blog about weird food and the keen African sense for rhythm and dan: !
FA LL 2010
': Jan Allen, co-founder of Lillian's List North Carolina BY AMANDA MACLAR..EN PHOTO COUR..HSY OF JAN ALLEN
Lillian's List of North Carolina is a statewide political action com m ittee devoted to electing Democratic pro -choice wom en to the North Carolina General Assembly. The Siren sat down with the co-founder of Lillian's List, Jan Allen , at Cafe Carolina to talk about how she got involved in politi cs and fo rmed Lillian's List. Allen predicted what she thinks thefuture holds f or wom en in North Carolina.
(an you explain alittlebitabout your historyand how you became interested inthese issues? I was working, and I was with IBM at the time , so I never really had a lot of free time. We needed three more states to rat ify the Equal Right s Amendment, and we [North Carolina] were one of the targ et states . There was a deadline in 1982 to pass it, and as one of the targeted states, there was a lot of activity starting up. And that was when I got involved . I took vacation tim e, for instance, for the two weeks the amendment was appealed in
the Senate , and that's really what motivated me. When I got downsized [in 1995], I spent about a year debating about what I wanted to do. And the two things I'm mo st passionate about are emp owering women - getting more women in po sitions of power - and reproductive rights, protecting a woman's right to choose. I started looking at non -profits, and th en I realized if you work for a regular non -profit , you really can't be politi cal. And I had realized that what I wanted to do was be political.
The name "lillian's list" originated with lillian Exum Clement, the first woman toserve in the N.C. General Assembly. But when itcame tothe founding oflillian's list, what was the primary motivation for its creation? I went to an Emily's List Majority Council, a conference that they have every year, and I started thinking about, possibly, could we do that in North Carolina with the General Assembly? So I started talking to people, and that's when I met Laura Edwards . She had hosted a reception for Emily's List two years before, so I called her, and we got together, and I told her [about the idea], and I said, "Well, what do you think? " And she said, "Oh, I'd be glad to help:' And that's how it got started. We started making a list of who might be interested and we formed a local work group. It really had a lot to do with timing. It was really clear that we had very few women in the General Assembly. When they had to fill a vacancy it was always a man , so clearly the focus was not on women.
What makes the work lillian's listdoes so important? It's made electing women more of a focus. So now, when there are resignations, they are much more likely to appoint a woman, and that's what we look for. What we've been saying we're trying to do is "change the face of politics ." We've now changed that to "changing the face of power:' And now we have a female governor. Our primary focus has always been women running for the first time, because they need to develop lists of people to ask for money. And we support incumbent Democratic women too those who are being targeted. There were quite a few targets this last election, and we lost some of them .
mostly concerned about at this point is that the legislation that's going to pass and may have a veto -proof majority is going to be devastating. It's the agenda of anti-choice bills that I'm really concerned about. And I'm concerned about the constitutional amendment banning gay marriage. I think it's the destruction of all of the gains we've made so far that the agenda of the legislature is going to be so devastating. If anything illustrates the need for more pro-choice women in the General Assembly, thi s is going to do it.
How can young women (like UNC-Chapel Hill students) get involved in lillian's list? One of the things is that when we have local events, we always need volunteers to help. The main thing to do would be to contact the executive director, Carol Teal, to see if there is going to be an event locally, and help with the event.
What would you say toyoung women who might be hoping to one day be these pro-choice Democratic women looking toget elected into office? I hope that people will be aware of what's happening and aware of the restrictions being placed in the legislation. I think that we definitely need more women to run for public office. The problem with our state legislature is that it sort of becomes a full time job when it's in session . You need to be able to make a living, and they don't pay that much . But I would urge all women to at least think about it. Just start paying attention to what's actually happening from their local view and talk to their legislators. And come to Lillian's List even' l
What were some ofthe successful results ofthis recent election? We did have some new candidates win. It wasn't like we lost all of them . But what I'm
what we've always wanted? a review of women politicians' increased visibility BY KEf(..f(..! KEAf(..S(
Sarah Palin speaks at a fundraiser in Anaheim , CA, on Oct . 10, 2010. photo courtesy of Neon Tommy. Wikimedio Commons
Representative Michele Bachma nn (R-Mi nnl addr ess a tea party rallyers in front of th e Minnesota state capitol bu ilding on Apr il 8, 2010. photo courtesy of Fibonnaci Blue, Wikimedia Comm ons
Dur ing last November's m id-term elections, fema le can didates and pu nd its received unpreced ent ed me dia cove rage. Ch ristine O'Donnell, Sharon Ang le an d Mic hele Bachman n were th e pri ma ry wom en wh ose nam es and plat forms were plu cked fro m virtual an on ym ity and thrust to the forefro nt of th e publi c's atte ntion by the media. Sarah Palin's various activities, political and otherwise, were also cove red nearl y con stantly. Thi s increased attentio n ma y seem like a dream come true. Finally, women are be ing taken seriously as political figures and are receiving equ al coverage in th e media. While women are gett ing mor e attention, unfortunately it's not th e kind that the fem inist com mu n ity was hop ing for. Those who are attracting the not ice of th e viewing public and who are be ing looked to as the voices of modern American wome n are all m embers of the tea party. The tea party's platform is str ictly anti -choi ce and anti-gay marriage. The movement ha s demonstrated racist tendencies. These policie s and opin ions ar e largely incongruent with th ose held by the majority of Am erican wom en , but becau se the tea party is 55 percent fem ale, th e media construe
speNd i WfJ "CUT TaXes C II -t tNt itl eMeNts .I
it as a "wo me n's movement ;' an asse rtion as absur d as sayi ng that a club of 100 m emb ers is a "wome n's group" because 55 of its member s are wome n. Wh at is forgott en is th at th e tea part y is st ill a fringe orga niza tion. It is not a third party but rath er a sma ller, mor e co nse rva tive faction of th e GO P.The opin ions held by gro up members aren't repr esent ative of mo st of th e Republican Party, and certai n ly not m ost of Ame rica. Furthermor e, tea party wom en bill th em selves as feminists despite suppo rt ing radically anti -feminist polici es. For exa mple, Palin attempted to pa ss legislation th at would have cha rged rap e victims over $1,000 for th eir own rap e kit s during her tim e as gove rnor of Alaska. The problem is th at the se wom en are willing to reap the ben efits of th e femin ist mov em ent by running for public office, yet th ey seek to undermine or di smantle core feminist value s with their ide ology. Despite th e hype, thi s was not th e "Year of th e Woman." In fact, it was th e first tim e in 30 years th at th ere were not more wom en elected to publi c offi ces than in the prev iou s electi on . Fema le Am eri can voters recogni zed th at th e voices of tea party women didn't spea k for them , and th ey cast their ball ot s accordingly. They realized that the primar y reason th ese women were gett ing so mu ch att enti on was because th ey were a part of th e tea party, and that th e med ia have figured out how to play to Am eric a's fasci nation with th e ecce ntricities and radi cal op ini on s of th e gro up. They were nov elty acts; not just for th eir freque nt gaffes, but also becau se the y were wom en against women's rights. Wh at's ne eded is a compreh en sive repr esentation of women on th e politi cal stage, Main str eam news outlets sho uld sto p focu sing on th e frin ge groups and tak e noti ce of wom en on both sides of the aisle wh o are mor e awa re of wh at Am eri can wom en want fro m th eir government. As far as femin ists are co nce rned, we are "ill waitin g for our
gay anthems: reconsidering the messages in pop songs BY LEE
Lady Gaga speaks out against "Don't Ask, Do n't Tell;' in Portland, Maine, on Sept. 20, 2010. The U.S. Cong ress passed t he repeal of DADT on Dec. 18. photos courtesy of Curt Fletcher, Wikimedia Commons Katy Perry perfo rms at th e MuchMusic Video Award s o n June 20, 20 10. photo courtesy ofJeff Denberg , Wikimedi a Com mons
world , including two young gay men who kiss Over the last six months, I've notic ed a at a high school part y. "Firework" is beloved by shoc king number of songs, largely by female artists, that feature me ssages about emp owerment , man y men in the gay co mmunity and is played with subtle (and some not -so -subtle) undert on es nightl y at gay clubs - from Chapel Hill's Vespa abo ut gay equality. Pink's "Raise Your Glass" and on a Friday night to Twin Peaks in San FranKeshas "We Are Who We Are" both have mu sic cisco's Castro District. But sho uld it? videos featuring gay or lesbian characters, and Perry ha s rocky relation sh ip with th e gay community. Her first single, "You're so Gay:' the sing ers have commented that their songs are dedic ated to th eir gay fans and have a message of . describes a young teenager's ex-boyfriend. The speaker lists off th is man's traits th at align empowerm ent for sexual minorities. Cur rently, Lad y Gaga's "Born This Way" sits with stereotypes of gay men : "I hop e you hang at the top of th e Billboard charts. With lyrics like yourself with your H&M scarf/ W hile jacking "No matter gay, straight or billesbian, tran soff listening to Mozart /You bit ch and moan gendered life/I 'm on the right track, baby/I was about L.A.lWishing you were in th e rain read ing Hemingway:' The song imp lies th at no st raight born to sur vive:' it's hard to ignore that Gaga man could like Hemingway, wear makeup, or is making an explicit statement about LGBTIQ acceptance. However, not all "gay anthems" (nor be a vegetarian. It rein forces noti on s of what it art ists) arc created the same . means to be a straight man and wh at it mean s to be gay. Some may claim th at th e so ng is satirica l, On e song that is often lumped into the gayand should n't be taken serio usly. Perry he rself anthems-o f-20 I l craze is Katy Perry's "Firework ." Like Kesha, Perry sings about accepting has commented that th e so ng was not intended to be hom oph obic, but instea d "It's not , 'yo u're yourself and feeling empowered, and the mu sic video feature s misfits finding thei r place in th e so gay: like, 'yo u're so lam e: but the fact of th e matt er is th at th is boy shou ld've been gay. I totall y understan d how it co uld be miscon strued or what ever ... It wasn't stereo typing anyon e in particular, I was talking about ex-boyfriends." Perr y seems to only have a marg inal un derstand ing about th e power of language, and no com prehension of th e d iversity of men who ide ntify as gay (and straight, for that matt er). In femini st circles, th e mean ing beh ind another one of Perr y's songs, "I Kissed a Girl:' has been discu ssed tim e and tim e agai n. Count me in the camp that thinks the so ng reinforces notion s of lesbian wom en as playth ings for straig ht teenage male fant asies. So what do we do with "Firework?" Props to Perry for attempting to expand her horizon, Signaling a new maturity. But does one music video that featur es two min or gay charac ters mean that Perr y has redeemed herself? Sho uld she be grouped together with Lady Gaga, who has repeatedly and publicl y spo ken about the importan ce of gay equality? I vote n1
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Cam pus Health Services 966-3650 • 966-2281 (after hours) • <campush ealth.unc.edu> Offers confidential health care for UNC students. includ ing evidence collection. screening and treatment of sexua lly transmitted diseases and emergency c o ntra c e p tio n.
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For information & more resourc es, see:
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