Category Archives: The Feminist

Just how seriously should we take #Gamergate?

 

 

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It started with a jilted lover and a vengeful post. It then spun off into what is arguably a rabid hate group against what they perceive as ideological corruption. Since its inception in August, #Gamergate has led to at least three women leaving their homes in face of death threats over Twitter, Intel pulling their ads from gaming website Gamasutra, and a shooting threat at Utah State University. Gamergaters claim to be ethical crusaders; their opponents say they are at best trolls, at worse digital terrorists.

I’ve stared into the abyss – the endless feed of #Gamergate and #StopGamerGate2014 tagged posts, online imageboard 8chan and gaming forums, in an attempt to find what is the common thread in this movement. And what, in fact, is #Gamergate.

A confused and angry bunch

If it can be said that #Gamergate has a “base”, it is internet message board 8chan (a.k.a. “hatechan,” as 8chan users themselves call it), which came to be after the far better known imageboard 4chan started curtailing doxxing (the public release of personal documents to facilitate harassment) attempts – mostly focused on female game producers, critics and journalists. In itself, 8chan is contradictory: they claim to be a free-speech site, yet use their speech in attempts to censor so-called “Social Justice Warriors” – feminists, LGBT activists, anti racism activists, etc; its users claim they are not misogynists, yet the site contain numerous boards dedicated to harassing women, and to “destroy feminism”.

8chan is central to much of the #Gamergate movement; users are referred to as “Leaders of gamergate”, its largest board is “/gg/” – dedicated solely to #Gamergate – and may users see it as their safe haven against “political correctness”. Their worst fear is the end of gaming as they know it due to pandering to “feminazis” and the creation of a Comics Code Authority-style censorship board. Some of them seem sincere enough in their claims against “corruption in gaming journalism” – the problem is what they perceive as corruption.

A recent example of thier incongruity came after the release of Bayonetta 2. In response to the website Polygon’s less-than-stellar review of the Wii U title, which noted issues regarding objectification and over sexualization of women as problematic, #Gamergate started a campaign to get the gaming website blacklisted by Nintendo. In a way, their notion of corruption is “discourse I don’t agree with” – while ethics mean cronyism, as Polygon ought to be punished for the “crime” of not giving a perfect score to an AAA game (a large budget, mainstream title). Meanwhile, older and well known cases of actual corruption in gaming media – such as the firing of Jeffrey Gertsmann over his negative review of “Kane&Lynch” in 2007, which suggested a cosy relationship between news outlets and gaming companies – are ignored in the name of those perceived cases of ideological corruption. In fact, one of their main gripes is with the criteria set for game reviews. In short terms, they want “objective, unopinionated and impartial reviews” – a complete oxymoron. Another point of major contention is the alleged collusion of journalists with feminists and minorities to “fix the system” and “force their political agenda” onto the game market. . 

“A hate group”

The targets of gamergaters harassment are well known by now: Game developer Zoe Quinn, feminist critic Anita Sarkeesian, who’s been on their radar for the past two years, and game developer Brianna Wu. The movement started with the harassment of Zoe Quinn over her alleged sexual misconduct.

Quinn had already faced harassment earlier this year, when her award-winning game Depression Quest became the target of a harassment campaign led by “wizardchan” – an online imageboard frequented by male virgins who blame “society” and “feminism” for their inability to have a relationships, who claimed Zoe was exploiting depression and mocking their pain. Then, in August, her ex-boyfriend Eron Gjoni came out with “thezoepost”. In this 9000 words blogpost, Gjoni claims Quinn cheated on him with five people connected to the gaming industry and the gaming press, to “ascend in her career”. One such partner supposedly was gaming journalist Nathan Grayson – whom according to Gjoni, she slept with to get favorable reviews of Depression Quest. The fact that Grayson never reviewed Depression Quest nor ever wrote about the game was seen by most gamergaters as irrelevant.

While maintaining their main concern was about ethics, gamergaters have discussed, judged, and condemned Quinn’s sex life, genitalia and behaviour. All three were forced to leave their homes over concerns for their own safety.

As a whole, the movement alternates between denying responsibility for the threats and harassment, denying the latters’ existence, or even claiming the victims themselves created the threats. While recently condeming doxxing on twitter, 8chan has at the same time being used to expose the id and home address of those women who #Gamergate perceive as enemies.

Other women have been caught in this debacle, too. Social researcher Jennifer Allaway was targeted by what she calls a “hate group” in late September. While conducting a study on the importance of diversity in game content, she was targeted by gamergaters with attacks and insults. “If members of gamergate took my study seriously, I would have welcomed them. The fact that they used my own study to mock the purpose of it and harass me shows that, to them, anything or anyone asking questions about diversity deserves mockery,” she said.

The whole environment has become “exhausting”, Allaway noted: “I have multiple friends in the game industry who have faced far worse harassment than I, and seeing what they go through makes me want to speak out more. The worst is seeing your friends leave. Women have worked so hard to make the industry a safe space for themselves, and now that feels threatened.” Among those who have quit due to the harassment, is award winning journalist Jenn Frank, who abandoned gaming journalism after being repeatedly threatened, insulted, and having her personal info posted online following an article she wrote for The Guardian regarding the harassment faced by Zoe Quinn and Anita Sarkeesian.

More than a vocal minority

The persistence of threats and harassment brings into question whether the angry and hateful side of the movement is simply a minority. Game developer Molly Carroll has doubts on how “minor” is the hatred in #Gamergate. While she notes that the official cause of #Gamergate is indeed worthy, as gaming journalism is in need of refinement, she is skeptical of whether people are truly in it for that cause. As she notes, the hatemongers have gained prevalence over whatever rational segment there ever was: “Sadly, one cannot deny that the actions of the anti-women portion of Gamergate have outnumbered and gained attention over that of any other,” she says.

Due to the way things progressed and escalated, as the focus increasingly shifted from claims about “ethics” to the position of women in gaming, #Gamergate was joined by women-haters and neo-nazis, who used it as an outlet for their hatred: “It isn’t even about games any more, its just an outlet for these kinds of people [to act] without consequence,” Carroll claimed.

#Gamergate in itself, in her perception, has accomplished nothing. At least, not anything the movement aimed for. “I suppose the situation has offered food for thought, but an actual tangible effect? No. At least not yet, and I highly doubt anything will come from it,” she said. If anything came out of this, is that the treatment of women is gaining more attention and sympathy than ever before. However, as Allaway noted, one must not keep silent over #Gamergate: “Silence is acceptance. If we are silent against the actions of #gamergate, then we are saying that we consent to the threats and harassment to our community. They have the ability to impact our culture if we do not put a stop to them.”

A “Culture War”

Some gamergaters themselves are no longer defining their “war” as one against corruption in gaming journalism, but as a “culture war” to keep gaming culture unaltered, to curtail any attempts at moving it towards a more inclusive environment, and to end critique of it – all the while maintaining they are the ones being oppressed. A recent post on 8chan read:

“Gamergate is about drawing a line in the sand and stating that ‘We will give up X freedoms to make you comfortable, but that is all we will ever give you.’ Freminists [sic] are demanding games be more inclusive for women. Black action groups are demanding games have more black protagonists. Gays are demanding more gay characters, and Trans are demanding trans characters.

The point of gamer gate is us stating that we have a culture independant [sic] of other cultures. That we will maintain our culture despite newcomers asking for more and more stipulations and changes to it. They have taken our right to speak freely in public. They have taken our right to debate freely in acadamia [sic]. They have taken our right to pubic [sic] expression and art. We are drawing the line at the edge of the internet and any one who tries to further force us to concede our freedom of expression will face us there.”

This kind of claim is nothing new: it harkens back to moral outrages over minority rights, and the reversal of blame so common in them. To Allaway, this indicated a “knee-jerk reaction” by people that until now were the only ones being catered to. “This is of course ridiculous, because there will always be games that cater to them more than women and other minorities” she addsed, “but they fear what this dialogue will do to games as a whole, and are willing to silence anyone who is a part of changing that.”

According to Carroll, another leading factor are misconceptions as to what is causing changes in gaming. “Currently some of the bigger figureheads spearheading these efforts and getting the most media attention are women. So naturally people assume that its women who are changing games in what they see as a bad way”, she noted, adding that those changes are still very slow. “For every step they [gaming companies] take forward, such as the removal of booth babes – skimpy clad women used to promote products in events and conventions –  from gaming events, there is a step back,” she said.

The “War” narrative has been used before, in an interview conceed by Zoe Quinn’s ex-boyfriend Eron Gjoni (the author of the “zoepost” and arguably, the catalyst to #Gamergate) to Buzzfeed, Gjoni claimed he “quit his dayjob” as waging “internet warfare” took too much of his dedication. Nowadays he focuses mainly on coordinating #Gamergate – and says he would do it again – although in the same interview he said he regrets the harassment. According to him, the threats against his ex girlfriend are not his faullt: she should’ve done more to prevent that. Sadly, is another feature of some gamergaters: shifting the blame unto the victim, while portraying themselves as the ones being persecuted.

An online “war” over games might seem like a silly thing – and in many ways, it is – yet since its inception #Gamergate, either intentionally or by irresponsibility, has led to fear, harassment and aggression online. Whatever they think their intentions might be in theory, in practice their behaviour is little more than that of an angry mob – and should be treated as such.

 

Written by Pedro Leal

Image credit: gamergate365

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The pitfalls of Italy’s abortion law

ON PAPER, Italy’s law on abortion seems flawless – but reality is much different due to the existence the loophole known as conscientious objection.

Abortion was illegal in Italy until May 1978, when Law 194 was passed and introduced the right to terminate a pregnancy safely and with the minimal risk for women’s health. By law, any woman is allowed to terminate a pregnancy on request during the first 90 days for whatever reason they see fit. Once obtained proof as to the state of the pregnancy, all that it takes is making an appointment with a structure authorized to terminate the pregnancy. This may be either a public hospital, where the whole procedure is free of charge, or in a structure authorized by the regional health authorities. Should carrying the pregnancy to term endanger the woman’s life or health, or should the foetus’ health turn out to be seriously compromised – thus putting strain on the mother’s emotional and psychological state – the termination can be carried out up to 20 weeks after conception.

All in all Law 194 seems flawless, allowing women to terminate an undesired pregnancy with minimal risk for their health. Reality, however, is quite different. The most obvious loophole is that of conscientious objection: the possibility for any doctor to refuse performing an abortion on ethical or religious grounds. As a result, while Law 194 grants women the right to a safe abortion, doctors are also allowed to refuse performing it.

The volume of objection

What raises an issue is the sheer amount of conscientious objectors. While the percentage varies depending on the region, it only goes below fifty percent in one region. In several regions conscientious objectors are 80 – 85% of the medical personnel qualified to perform abortions. These numbers are at odds with people’s general attitude toward the issue: in 2012 a Censis report found that only 26% of individuals interviewed were against the right to abortion, with 60% being pro-choice.

As a result of the high percentage of objectors, booking an appointment can be far more difficult than it should be – with the risk of getting past the time limit of 90 days after which a pregnancy can only be terminated under special circumstances. While any attempt at changing the situation has been rejected by Catholics and pro-life movements as an attack to the medical personnel’s conscientious freedom, Claudio Crescini – of the Italian Association of Hospital Obstetricians and Gynecologists – says that it often isn’t a matter of personal belief.

“Abortion is overused in electoral and political debates, and there’s a lot of pressure on us,” he says.“While it’s not explicitly stated, someone who’s not an objector doesn’t have the easy career an objector makes – and they’re often forced to perform nothing but abortions.” In short, conscientious objectors have less of a work load than non-objectors with no risk of damaging their career by avoiding a loaded issue. It’s no wonder that many choose not to perform abortions for convenience rather than because of a religious or ethical issues.

An even bigger obstacle comes from those who take their right to conscientious objection well past what the law allows. Objectors have the right not to personally perform an abortion – but that’s all. Emergency contraception, like the morning-after pill or RU-486, isn’t covered by the right to objection; there is no right for the doctor to refuse prescribing it, or for any medical professional to refuse giving it to a woman who asks for it.

At what cost ? 

And yet that’s precisely what happens and women’s right to safely terminate or avoid a pregnancy is constantly under attack. Despite it being against the law, many doctors downright refuse to prescribe emergency contraception. Last week in Voghera, a town in Lombardy, a nurse kept two young women from accessing to the hospital when they said they wished to get a prescription for the morning-after pill. It’s not uncommon for objectors to try guilting women into not terminating the pregnancy, adding strain to what’s already a stressful situation. Some were even left alone through part of the procedure because the doctors and nurses who started their shift were objectors. As a result, women have to leap through fire hoops for a chance to terminate a pregnancy – a right granted by Law 194. Some doctor go as far as refusing to certify their state, knowing that without a certificate they cannot terminate a pregnancy without medical proof that there is indeed a pregnancy. The practice is so widespread that Nicola Zingaretti, President of Lazio, had to introduce new rules in his region stating that medical personnel in public structures could not refuse to certify a state of pregnancy or to prescribe emergency contraception.

This raises the question of what pro-life movements precisely hope to accomplish by trying to force women into carrying undesired pregnancies to term. If they think it would make abortions stop, they’re sorely mistaken: history and common sense tell us it wouldn’t be the case.

A 2000 survey by Istat – the Italian National Institute of Statistics – estimates that at least 20,000 illegal abortions were carried on every year prior to 1978, when Law 194 was passed and abortion became legal. The fact most illegal abortions were obvious carried on in secret makes it difficult to give exact figures; Istat doesn’t rule out the possibility their estimate may be lower than the truth.Before Law 194 abortions had been happening under wraps in the entire country as illegal, unsafe procedures that could easily result with the woman’s death due to haemorrhage and infections. Fear of social stigma would lead many unmarried women to risk their lives to terminate the pregnancy; fear of punishment would keep them from seeking medical help afterwards. Even for those who sought help, it was often too late.

This is what comes out of taking away women’s right to choose whether or not to carry a pregnancy to term: not only it fails to keep abortions from happening, but it also puts women in the position to risk their own health and lives to terminate a pregnancy.

So much for pro-life.

Written by Allessandra Pacelli 

Image Credit: Paolo Margari 

 

 

 

Emma Watson’s speech was remarkable, but nowhere near game-changing

THINKING OF FEMINISM, how many see women marching in the streets compared to performing in TV shows and conferences? Feminism has usually been a bottom-up movement, its arguments brought to public attention by grass-roots activists. However, recently an increasing amount of celebrities have become spokespersons for the feminist cause. Beyoncé brought the word and its definition to the houses of millions of Americans (especially young Americans) during the VMAs last August, and last week Emma Watson delivered a powerful speech at the UN.

Given the hostility that many self-proclaimed feminists face online and in real life, the British actress recent speech at the UN was remarkable. Even if she did not speak for everyone, she spoke candidly and openly to everyone. Her speech was significant not just for the way it put feminism even more in the (positive) spotlight, but also because it touched upon a crucial, often debated issue in feminism, the role of men: “Gender equality is your issue, too,” she said.

Celebrities’ involvement does not fail to raise criticism, as they are accused to portray a more “mainstream” version of feminism than the one advocated by “radical” feminists. To some, Watson’s speech was diluting the essence of feminism, to others the idea of “HeforShe” reiterates the idea of women needing men’s support and protection. Yet, showing that men suffer from gender stereotyping does not necessarily mean prioritising their issues or putting them at the centre of the movement, it simply means showing that feminism is a movement that men too can and should embrace. Watson firmly called for ceasing to see gender as binary, and appreciate it as a spectrum instead.

Her words are fair, her intentions are good, and she should receive the media attention that she has, but she’d probably be the first one to reject the idea of being a “game-changer.” In fact, many of what some magazines consider her “best quotes” are things that a lot of people have been saying for a lot of time already. Given the audience and the attention receive, Watson actually missed an opportunity to properly discuss the issue at the heart of the fight for gender equality worldwide: the idea of privilege, both in terms of gender, and also in terms of social class.

Watson started one of her sentences with the words “I am from Britain…” and went on to explain how lucky she was to grow up in a society that valued her development as much as that of a man. The emphasis on her country of birth was problematic because it suggested that the Britain, a developed, Western country, was somewhat of an oasis of equal opportunities. Having access to equal opportunities though, is often not a matter of where you are born, but of which family you are born into.

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In fact, while many so-called developed countries, including the UK and the USA, face gender inequality issues of their own, high barriers to good education, health services, and good jobs hardly allow the same opportunities to all citizens. Ms. Watson comes from a background that allowed her to attend private schools and receive the best and most exciting possible education. Actually, children born out of prosperous families in developing or less developed countries also share these same privileges. If Ms. Watson had been born from a family of a different social background, this may not have been the case, or her path to success would have likely been steeper.

The acclaimed “genius response” of the 15 year old boy who wrote a letter to The Telegraph in support of Watson’s speech is no better in this sense. Its opening sentence is “We are lucky to live in a Western world where women can speak out against stereotypes.” Granted, he’s only 15 years old, but even then, he should consider what happens to those women, in the West as in everywhere else in the world, who speak out against stereotypes. They get bullied, they get harassed, they suffer violence. Some women in fact are not that free to speak out to begin with. Not everyone is a Beyoncé, or an Emma Watson.

The recognition of privilege and the fight against it is essential in moving towards a more equal society, one that truly grants equal opportunities in the sexes and within those sexes, too. Emma Watson’s speech is a timid step in that direction, but hopefully one that will encourage more and more people to look at these issues, and to move on from there to dismantle the ubiquitous system of inequality together. That, is what feminism is all about.

Written by Sofia Lotto Persio
Picture Credits: UN Women Gallery 

Fighting sexual harassment in Egypt


WOMEN ARE HOUNDED everyday while walking down the street, or even at home where they suffer from harassing phone calls. Sexual harassment is one of the main problems within post revolutionary Egyptian society. Years ago this was a taboo topic, not for men –the stalkers– but for women who were ashamed of making something like that public. The silence was broken after the Arab Spring when a CBS journalist was raped during the protests in Tahrir Square.

When Mubarak got the power in 1981 nothing really changed. And it didn’t so with the elaboration of the new constitution after many demonstrations in 2011, despite the active role of women in the revolution -as in social media as in the streets-. Women were still excluded from the public sphere. However, they weren’t intimidated and kept fighting for their rights. A few weeks before the coup d’etat that toppled Mubarak and established Al-Sisi as president, women taking part in Tamarrud movement (known in the West as Rebel) were collecting signatures with the aim of requesting a referendum.

Little by little the fight against sexual harassment was getting stronger, reaching the big screen in the launch of the movie Cairo 678. Social media was also a very important platform to be heard. ‘Cocoons’ or ‘echo chambers’ were created on Facebook, as well as ‘HarassMap’ and ‘Voice of Egyptian women’. Organizations like International Amnesty and Dignity Without Borders also raised their voice; the last one launched a campaign against “sexual terrorism” where children (boys and girls) were inquired in front of the school about their opinions on sexual harassment.

These answers showed that the country of pharaohs needs a deep social change. Fortunately, a men movement created after the Arab Spring became aware of their sisters, mothers and all Egyptian women situation. Some people already talk about the ‘new Arab man’ that instead of fighting against women achievements in terms of social rights, support them. Men and women fighting shoulder to shoulder has transformed this issue into a real and shared problem by the whole Egyptian society.

Another example of it is the role of social and mass media to spread the image of what many people call “sexual terrorism”. The last public case of sexual harassment took place once again in Tahrir Square during the celebration of Al-Sisi’s victory for the presidential elections. A witness filmed with his phone the sexual aggression of a woman by a group of men. The video went viral, first in social media and later for the rest of the world.

http://english.alarabiya.net/en/webtv/reports/2014/06/10/Seven-arrested-after-Egypt-sex-assault-video.html

 

A few days later, the elected president visited the victim of the brutal sexual assault at the hospital and this event was publicly condemned for the very first time in the history of Egypt. He gave flowers to the woman and his apologies: “We are sorry, we are not God. I am apologizing to every Egyptian woman (…) Our own flesh is being assaulted on the streets and that is unacceptable”, reported on Egyptian Streets

Afterwards, seven men were arrested. Overall, this is not just a case apparently condemned by society: this is an offense, punishable nowadays by law.

 

Words by Andreyna Valera.
Edited and translated by Ana Escaso.
Feature Image: rouelshimi.

You’re ‘against’ Feminism? Let’s think about that

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We need to re-contextualise feminism in order to stop spreading nasty rumours about it.

Believe it or not, but a bunch of young women decided to join a Tumblr campaign called Women Against Feminism, started by an anonymous creator. The website features different women photographing themselves with a piece of writing that explains why they do not need feminism.

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As Ruby Hamad on DailyLife.au beautifully explains in 5 succinct examples, these women are a confirmation of the fact that feminism is needed and, in some cases, has actually won battles.

All seemed well and harmony was restored in the online debate. Despite this Miles1984 felt the need to write this comment in response to Ruby’s article:

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Mark these words, dear reader, because this is the quintessential argument against feminism, or, in fact, any kind of movement fighting to achieve equal rights in a struggle with a dominant social class. Perhaps it will be useful to better understand the misinformation and ignorance in Miles1984’s opinion if we changed it around and replaced feminism with “civil rights movement.”

Feminism is in essence a civil rights movement, though the latter became associated mostly with the fight of African-Americans to demand the end of separatism and equality between ‘races’ and the protection of everyone’s rights, not only white people’s. Feminism’s fight is similar as, between other things, it aims at ending discrimination on the basis of gender and the protection of everyone’s rights, not just male’s.

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Admittedly, the “between other things” remain a bit of a blurry and fuzzy cloud of all sorts of claims made by all sorts of definitions of feminists. Feminists do not agree between themselves on a many issues, like pornography, sex workers, etc., but still a common area can definitely be found on the idea of ending gender-based discrimination. Just like the African-American civil right’s movement struggle to end race-based discrimination.

Miles1984’s comment in relation to African-American civil rights movement would sound like this:

“Civil rights movement does NOT represent all African-American people and never actually has. Civil rights movement can only really speak for African American civil rights activists, NOT for all African American people. Civil rights movement is not truly about equality. It fights for African-American people’s rights, not really white people’s. Sure there may be some side issues that are put behind white people’s issues. But African-American civil rights movement cares for African-American people. It does not give priority to both races. It is not equal. It is as divisive as its name. I don’t see much future for civil rights movement, tbh.” – Ridiculous, right?

Feminism is not a political ideology. It fights for all women’s rights. Not all women may decide to make use of laws allowing them to fight in the military’s frontline, but a few of them wanted to do so, and then were allowed to do so because of an ongoing fight to give women the same employment opportunities as men.

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Feminism does not fight for men’s rights in the same way as African-American civil rights movement were not fighting for white people’s rights, but a) white people were still welcome to join civil rights movement and protest just as much as males are welcome to support feminism and b) feminism’s fight for women’s rights will also produce benefits for men as it is a widely accepted economic principle that more empowered women will contribute to society’s growth and development.

And let’s get one last thing straight, no matter what the Women Against Feminism or Shailene Woodley may think: feminists do not hate men nor do they want to ‘take their power away’. Feminists condemn the patriarchy, which is an abstract concept to indicate society’s norms and customs that discriminate against women. Enforcers of the patriarchy are, in fact, both men and women, yet feminists do not hate these people, they merely think that their actions are detrimental to a vast percentage of the world’s population.

So if feminism is eventually just a movement for societal change as much as the civil rights movement, why does it have such a bad reputation? Is it because of angry women who were burning bras a few decades ago? And what exactly was wrong with that? Women did and do have a right to be angry just like any other part of society which sees itself diminish, discriminated, and in some cases even threatened by the dominant group – just like African-American people were ( and to some extent, still are). Some resorted to violent action, like those who joined the Black Panthers. As far as I know, feminism on all its forms has, to this day, remained peaceful. That’s because feminists, contrary to some people’s beliefs, do not hate other human beings.

When Caroline Criado Perez started a campaign to have more women featured on British currency, she did not hate the Bank of England, or her own country. She simply thought that not enough women were sufficiently commemorated on the British banknotes.

Jane Austen is expected to replace Charles Darwin in 2017. But no one hates Charles Darwin or belittles what he has accomplished. Figures on banknotes periodically change. It is time to remind the world that women have a place in our countries’ histories, too. Otherwise, we may run the risk of people forgetting about their contributions and taking for granted the rights we continue to enjoy because of their work.

By Sofia Lotto Persio
Photo Credits:Knight_Before and women against feminism tumblr

Hillary Rodham Clinton: Woman of Steel


Hillary Clinton is no rookie in the game of D.C. politics.

Her interest in civil rights and social justice were sparked during the Vietnam War. After hearing Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. speak in 1962, she began working in politics for Republicans and Democrats alike.

Clinton went on to become president of her class at Wellesley college and later attended Yale Law School.

Enter, Bill Clinton.

While Hillary went on to hold numerous prestigious titles: lawyer, women’s activist, chair of many national committees, first female senator from New York and Secretary of State, the title most Americans associate her with is First Lady.

After dealing with the very public affair of her husband and a White House intern, Hillary chose to forgive him. It’s been 16 years since the humiliating incident and Monica Lewinksy’s name still comes up in interviews with the presidential hopeful.

You would think feminine qualities like mercy and forgiveness would help her be viewed as a woman and not a robot, right? Think again.

Since then, the former Secretary of State has been called names by those in the media from both sides of the aisle. Ironically enough, the only mention to her gender is when they criticize her appearance. Go figure.

Here are just a few of my personal favourites:

Carlos Gomez

“Will Americans want to watch a woman get older before their eyes on a daily basis?”

-Rush Limbaugh, conservative radio host

 

 

“Political experts are now saying that to win the presidency in 2008 a candidate has to get hot at the right time.

Carlos Gomez

After hearing this, Bill Clinton said, ‘Hillary’s doomed’.”

-Conan O’Brien, late-night talk show host

 

 

 

“She’s not looking good these days. She’s looking overweight and very tired.”

-Ed Klein, author, The Life of Hillary

The best part about Hillary’s major critics is they’re all middle-aged, white men. Who are they to talk?!

After the stress she’s undergone, both personally and professionally, I hope I look as good at 66 years old.

Pollsters agree that it’s the press, not the public that cares about what Hillary looks like.

“I haven’t heard anyone mention her hair or her makeup for probably a decade,” Democratic pollster, Celinda Lake, told USA Today in 2012. “It’s not the voters driving this at all, they could care less. It’s reporters.”

Despite all the backlash she’s received over the years, what really amazes me about Hillary is her resiliency. She dons a suit of armor every day in the bureaucratic battlefield known as America’s capital.

Hillary doesn’t keep her secrets of political vitality to herself, she often shares them with women around the country. In February of this year, she told a crowd of ambitious young women at NYU, “It’s important to learn how to take criticism seriously, but not personally.”

“Critics can be your best friends if you listen to them, and learn from them, but don’t get dragged down by them.”

In the spirit of the World Cup, a football analogy seems fitting.

Preparing for another run at presidency in 2016, Hillary Rodham Clinton is like a goalie during a penalty kick: cool, calm and collected.

Written by Kayla Brandon
Picture credits: Angela Radulescu and Carlos Gomez

Refusing choice of birth control to employees is not ok

IT SEEMS SILLY in 2014 to still have to explain why an employee’s right to choose her contraceptive has to be protected. Yet, recent events show that this is still not an accepted and respected principle.

 

The Supreme Court of the United States, creatively called SCOTUS in Washington slang, ruled on June 30 that Hobby Lobby, a company with more than 500 shops across the USA owned by hardcore Christian Green family, has the right to refuse paying for certain kinds of contraception under the Affordable Care Act (ACA), to its employees if these contrast its religious beliefs. The ACA already allows an opt-out option to non-profit and religious organisations.

 

The sentence on the case Burwell v. Hobby Lobby Stores Inc., was approved with a majority 5-4, with all female judges voting against it. It effectively allows for-profit companies to refuse coverage of healthcare plans on religious grounds, and could be use as a precedent to actually opt out of any other law, except tax laws, were it to interfere with religious beliefs.

 

This ruling carries heavy economic, political and cultural implications, and none of these are good news for those who do believe in freedom of choice. Under the ACA, contraception is seen as a necessary provision included in the healthcare plan employers have to guarantee their workers. The reasons for this seem obvious, as family planning is not only beneficial for the economy, but it also protects a woman’s health, allowing her autonomy in deciding what to do with her life, and effectively decreases the number of abortions, since contraception prevents unwanted pregnancies. Not all contraceptive are the same, however, and some people have a hard time understanding this.

 

The birth control pill is one of the most common form of contraceptive but it is not the only option, and it does not suit everyone. Other women prefer IUDs, which are instead inserted internally to prevent fertilisation of the egg. Those, along with the morning after pill, are part of those contraceptive opposed by Christian believers, including Hobby Lobby ‘s owners, because they are “abortifacient,” as in they expel the fertilised egg to prevent pregnancy, a fact absolutely not supported by science.

 

In fact, all contraceptive, including the morning after pill, work with the principle of preventing the attachment of the egg to the uterus wall, which may or may not happen even when having unprotected sex. The religious grounds to reject contraception are, from a scientific perspective, virtually non-existent, unless the real matter at hand is not abortion, but having sex for reasons other than procreation.

 

Let’s get one thing straight: women of all ages and relationship status use some form of contraception when they are sexually active, fertile and want to avoid pregnancy or using condoms. Providing the free contraception of choice is not about helping 18 years old sleeping around, but it means helping 40 years old women with two children working two jobs to enjoy a healthy relationship with their husbands without having to worry about putting into this world a new mouth to feed.

 

It is simply not acceptable for a for-profit company to refuse women their right to choose the most suitable form of contraception. The SCOTUS ruling allows a private, money-making business to dictate employees’ individual, private choices. Internet commentators on conservative websites pointed out that Hobby Lobby is not an evil company, but actually offers a minimum wage higher than the national one – a whole 14$ an hour instead of 7.25$, and suggest that the negative comments regarding the ruling are negatively affecting the image of a company that does hold its employees’ best interests as high as its religious principles.

 

Apparently, employee meetings start with a prayer from the Bible, and interpersonal conflict are solved by looking at the Bible, and generally speaking the Green family runs its business according to principles in the Bible. No doubt that a book written more than two thousand years ago is a great blueprint to run a business in the digital 21st century world, but it is unclear how highlighting the ways in which the Green family imposes its religious beliefs on its employees does much to defend its image.

 

Regardless, offering a higher minimum wage than normal is not a reason to look the other way when basic individual rights and freedoms are at stake. Workers’ rights in the US are much less protected than in Europe, but there should be at least an understanding that working for a company does not mean embracing the company’s values as your own just because they pay you at the end of the month.

 

You are not selling your soul, you are merely employing your skills for the profit of a business. Your job should not define who you are and what you do when you are not working there. Having your boss decide whether you have access to healthcare plan is pretty much the farthest thing there is to ensure human dignity and justice.

Written by Sofia Lotto Persio
Image credit: American Life League