Remembering Wilma: The Cherokee Word For Water

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The Cherokee Word For Water, a docudrama directed by Wilma’s husband and longtime community development partner, Charlie Soap, follows a young Mankiller as she works to bring water to the rural, primarily Cherokee community of Bell, Ok. Due to tribal financial limitations, Mankiller and Soap had to convince community residents to lay 18 miles of water line by themselves in order to bring running water to their homes. Thanks in large part to Mankiller’s fierce determination, the community completed the project, improving their quality of life and strengthening their communal bonds.

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“The Bell project created a movement in the Cherokee nation for self help. Together we were able to instill pride and self confidence and actually make people believe they could do anything they wanted to do if they set their mind to it,” Charlie Soap told the Ms. Blog.

The success of the Bell Waterline Project vaulted Mankiller into tribal politics. She was elected deputy chief in 1983 and then principal chief in 1985, a position she held for 10 years. During that time she made great strides toward improved health, education, housing, utilities management and tribal government, as well as devoting time to civil rights work focused largely on women’s rights.

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Soap and the film’s co-producer, Kristina Kiehl, have chosen to forgo the traditional film distribution route and instead opted for a model in which people organize their own screenings. On reservations, screenings have evolved into forums for discussion about issues in Indian Country, boosting community organizing and activism. In that way, Wilma’s work continues through the film.

“We are able to control the message while creating community in the process, and local groups can use a screening as a fundraiser and double the impact.” says Kiehl, a feminist activist and longtime friend of Mankiller’s. The two became close while on the Ms. Foundation For Women with mutual friend, and Ms. co-founder, Gloria Steinem. When Kiehl first approached Mankiller about making a film, Mankiller was apprehensive. Said Kiehl,

Wilma did not want a story about her. She was very clear that she wanted it to be about community. The reason she agreed to do a film was her firm belief that public perception drives public policy, and that policy-makers in general have no experience with Indian people … She also felt, and we all agreed, that it was important to see a strong positive woman leader working in partnership with a strong male partner and both of them working in partnership with the community.

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More than three decades after work began on the Bell Waterline Project, native communities across the U.S. are still in need. A disproportionately large percentage of American Indians live below the federal poverty line, and issues such as sexual assault on reservations and inadequate housing still abound: More than one in threenative women will experience sexual assault in their lifetimes and at least 90,000 Indian families are homeless or under-housed. Despite the obvious need, the recent federal sequester cut $500 million [PDF] in federal funding for tribes. These cuts have devastated areas of Indian country that are already suffering from unemployment rates much higher than the general population.

The Ms. Blog also spoke with Kim Teehee, a longstanding advocate for Native American issues as well as a close friend and former intern to Mankiller. As Teehee, whose relatives worked alongside Mankiller to build the Bell Waterline, put it,

Wilma tapped into who Cherokees are fundamentally in order to get them to participate in that project, and when the budget cuts occur and tribes are without the ability to adequately provide for their communities, that impacts them because its so embedded in our culture to care for our people, our community … it’s impacting something greater, it’s impacting our traditional ways of life.

With Women’s History Month coming in March, the filmmakers are encouraging schools across the U.S. to host screenings. They’re also going to ask followers on Facebook and Twitter to share stories about how Wilma, or another women leader, inspired them. The Cherokee Word For Water will hopefully encourage collective efforts in other communities, as well as demonstrate the necessity of strong women in positions of power in our society.

“I think that the biggest legacy that Wilma has left us with is leadership,” said Charlie Soap.  “She inspired people.”

 

Join the movement by hosting your own screening today! For more information about the film or how to host a screening, visit www.cw4w.com, the film’s Facebook page and @WordForWater on Twitter.

Photos courtesy of Mike Heller, Shane Brown, and The Cherokee Word For Water. A shorter version of this story will appear in the Winter 2014 issue of Ms. magazine and this post was originally published on the Ms. Magazine Blog. 

 

 

 

 

13 Favorite Feminist Quotes of 2013

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Here are quotes from celebrated women in 2013 that made us glow with feminist pride! It’s been a year of both triumphs and defeats for women worldwide, but one thing for certain is that there are lots of inspiring women who will never give up the fight.

10731129725_22ce77cd9cI have a daughter and I have granddaughters and I will never vote to let a group of backward-looking ideologues cut women’s access to birth control. We have lived in that world, and we are not going back, not ever.

Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) in a Senate speech on the eve of the government shutdown

3912884901_6bc082b9dcWhy do we have to take a backseat [to men]? … Let’s face it, money gives men the power to run the show. It gives men the power to define value. They define what’s sexy. And men define what’s feminine. It’s ridiculous.

Beyoncé, in the HBO documentary Life is but a Dream

9316251223_42df8b2132I’m rising on the floor today to humbly give voice to thousands of Texans who have been ignored.

- Texas State Sen. Wendy Davis, beginning her 13-hour filibuster against Gov. Rick Perry’s draconian anti-abortion bill

 

_MG_2890.CR2At what point must a female senator raise her hand or her voice to be recognized over the male colleagues in the room?

- Texas State Sen. Leticia Van De Putte to the Texas State Senate president pro tem during the Wendy Davis filibuster, igniting the gallery into such rousing cheers that it was impossible for a vote to be taken before the midnight deadline.

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When I was at Baylor, I wasn’t fully happy because I couldn’t be all the way out. It feels so good saying it: I am a strong, black lesbian woman.

- WNBA star Brittney Griner, upon becoming the first openly LGBT athlete to be endorsed by Nike

10329594623_7146e4a142In Pakistan, when we were stopped from going to school, at that time I realized that education … is the power for women, and that’s why the terrorists are afraid of education.

Malala Yousafzai, in an interview with John Stewart on The Daily Show

5560750714_971ebcfe95I wanted to focus on creating a … new 21st century woman, someone who is not defined by her skin color or hair texture but by what she does for the community.

- Singer/songwriter Janelle Monáe on the TODAY show

4076573786_890c753fa8The fallacy in Hollywood is that if you’re making a ‘feminist’ story, the woman kicks ass and wins. That’s not feminist; that’s macho. A movie about a weak, vulnerable woman can be feminist if it shows a real person that we can empathize with.

Natalie Portman in an interview with Elle U.K.

2340620605_9c0cce0f47Of course [I'm a feminist]. And everyone I know is a feminist.

Chelsea Clinton to ABC News reporter Lynn Sherr

 7141042547_6682f53244It is really funny how even cool chicks are sort of like, ‘Our moms covered that feminism thing and now we’re living in a post-that world,’ when that just isn’t true.

Lena Dunham, creator and star of Girls, to Claire Danes in Interview

3610932135_5766f6deb9It is fair to write about the change in your magazines. But what I want to see is the change on your covers … When the covers change, that’s when culture changes.

-Lady Gaga At Glamour‘s 2013 Women of the Year Awards where she gave a sharp critique of her own recent Glamour photos, which were photoshopped

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I always get asked, ‘Where do you get your confidence?’ I think people are well meaning, but it’s pretty insulting. Because what it means to me is, ‘You, Mindy Kaling, have all the trappings of a very marginalized person. You’re not skinny, you’re not white, you’re a woman. Why on earth would you feel like you’re worth anything?

-Mindy Kaling in Parade magazine

8254956931_488230bd0dWe see this airbrushed perfect model … but you just have to look past it. … We [need to] stop treating each other like that, stop calling each other fat and stop with these unrealistic expectations for women. It’s disappointing that the media keeps it alive and fuels that fire.

Jennifer Lawrence in a Q&A with Yahoo

 

Photo of Elizabeth Warren courtesy of U.S. Department of Labor, Beyoncé photo courtesy offlickrphotouser2009, Wendy Davis photo courtesy of Denise Flores, photo of Brittney Griner courtesy of Sportiqe, Malala Yousafzai photo courtesy of Wheelock College, Photo of Janelle Monáe courtesy of Kayley Luftig, Photo of Natalie Portman courtesy of moviegoodsposters, Chelsea Clinton photo courtesy of William Patrick Butler, photo of Lena Dunham courtesy of David Shankbone, photo of Lady Gaga courtesy of Amalia Adina, photo of Mindy Kaling courtesty of Wikimedia Commons photo of Jennifer Lawrence courtesy of Trent Wolf,  all Flickr users via Creative Commons.

Originally posted on the Ms Magazine Blog

The Feminist Heroes of 2013

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It’s hard to not get discouraged at a time when women are still fighting for the right to control their bodies, same-sex relations are criminalized in 76 countries, rape culture and victim-blaming run rampant and women are still trafficked for sex and slave labor around the globe. However, it’s important to take a moment to appreciate the strong women who are fighting the good fight and giving us hope.

Here is a list of the feminist heroes of 2013 who have done just that:

9445288959_0ec19e0bcdWendy Davis: This Texas State Sen. staged a heroic 11-hour filibuster in response to Texas Gov. Rick Perry’s draconian anti-abortion bill. “They were asking for their voices to be heard. The results speak for themselves,” said Davis about the crowd inside the Texas State Capitol building whose raucous chanting helped ensure that the legislative session ran out of time before the bill could be passed. Currently, this women’s-rights protecting, pink-tennis-shoe-rocking, filibustering warrior is running for governor of Texas.

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Malala Yousafzai: This courageous teenage activist survived a gunshot to the head for speaking out for women’s education, but her near-death experience only added fuel to her fire. This year, the 16-year-old published a memoir, spoke eloquently at the UN,confronted President Obama about the use of drones strike when on a visit to the White House and was considered a strong candidate for the Nobel Peace Prize. She  will surely continue her fight for the global education of girls, saying “I want every girl, every child, to be educated.”

Gloria1WarburgGloria Steinem: “I would be crazy if I didn’t understand that this was a medal for the entire women’s movement,” said Ms. magazine cofounder Gloria Steinem at a National Press Club luncheon in Washington, D.C., the day before being award the highest civilian honor in our nation” The Presidential Medal Of Freedom.  This honor highlights Steinem’s decades of work in the fight for social justice and brings some much-needed attention to the continued efforts toward gender equality.

7982865475_e12692577eNadezhda Tolokonnikova: A member of the now-famous Russian feminist punk protest band Pussy Riot, Tolokonnikova spent the last year in a remote prison colony in Siberia. Along with two others, she was convicted of “hooliganism” motivated by religious hatred for an anti-Putin performance in an Orthodox church. In September, she released an open letter documenting the appalling abuses and human rights violations she has experienced and witnessed at her gulag-like prison work colony, declaring she would go on a hunger strike. Finally, because of an amnesty program that most think was a rather empty gesture by Vladimir Putin to diffuse pre-Sochi Olympics criticism of Russia, Tolokonnikova and fellow Pussy Rioter Maria Alekhina have been released. Still defiant, they plan to start a human rights organization.

Picture-5Kakenya Ntaiya: Ntaiya overcame genital mutilation and attempts to marry her off as a child to become the first woman in her Kenyan village of Enoosaen to leave and go to a university in the U.S. In 2009, she returned to establish the Kakenya Center for Excellence, which finally enabled girls there to attend primary school. In April of this year, the Feminist Majority Foundation honored Kakenya with aGlobal Women’s Rights Award, celebrating her hard-fought accomplishments. Kakenya has also been honored by National Geographic as an Emerging Explorer and this year CNN named her one of it’s Top Ten CNN Heroes. Check out her wonderful TEDX talk.

9077648653_6f6f5e6d2eJackieCropU.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) (left) and U.S. Rep. Jackie Speier (D-Calif.) have been leading the charge to protect women in the military from sexual assault. This year they introduced and pushed forward bills to change how the military handles sexual assault cases, especially to take the reporting of assaults outside the chain of military command.

Diana Nyad: On her fifth attempt, the 64-year-old endurance swimmer finally made a shark-cageless non-stop swim from Cuba 7824755526_a61a158d8dto Florida: 110 miles in 53 hours. Her wobbly-legged stumble onto a Florida beach was an empowering moment for women everywhere, and a reminder that age is just a number. Said Nyad just moments after reaching land, “I have three messages. One is, we should never, ever give up. Two is, you’re never too old to chase your dream. Three is, it looks like a solitary sport, but it is a team.”

Social Media Feminists: This year, many activists and feminists have taken the fight for equality to social media stage. There has been an outpouring of discussion surrounding two popular hashtags in particular: #SolidarityIsForWhiteWomen created by Mikki Kendall and#BlackPowerIsForBlackMen created by Jamilah Lemieux. Check out #TwitterFeminism to look for more trending feminist hashtags.

9196118655_d20a31504eEdie Windsor: Shortlisted for TIME magazine’s Person of The Year award and called “the unlikely activist,” this now-famed marriage equality plaintiff didn’t plan on taking on the Supreme Court in her 80s, but when her longtime partner (who she had married in Canada) Thea Speyer died and Windsor was levied with a huge tax bill that heterosexual spouses would not have faced, she took action. On June 26, 2013, the Supreme Court ruled in her favor, declaring the Defense of Marriage Act unconstitutional.

8651268191_658a958fa1Brittney Griner: At 6-8, this basketball star stands tall as a talented athlete, but also as fearless role model for LGBT people everywhere. She announced that she is a lesbian just before she was picked first overall in the 2013 WNBA draft. Griner has spent her first year in the pros tearing up the court for Phoenix Mercury and tearing down stereotypes off the court. She was recognized by GLAAD this year for helping raise awareness of issues around gender and sexuality.

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Fast-Food Workers: On December 5th fast food workers in hundreds of cities across the U.S. walked off the job to protest the multi-billion dollar industry’s paying of near poverty-level wages to its employees. They are demanding a $15-an-hour wage, a much-needed improvement on their national median wage of $8.94 an hour. As Ms. documents in our Fall issue, fast-food workers, who are predominantly women, struggle to provide basic needs for their families, and often times tax dollars go towards supporting the employees’ basic needs (through food stamps, etc.). Thanks to the hard work of these women and men, there is hope that future generations of workers may be better able to support themselves and their families

11291693604_29870b463aTatyana Fazlalizadeh: This Brooklyn-based artist’s public art series, “Stop Telling Women to Smile” took a stand against street harassment all across the country. Fazlalizadeh started by peppering the walls of her Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood with black-and-white drawings of brazen-faced women above slogans such as, “Women are not outside for your entertainment.” Recently, her Kickstarter raised more than double its goal, and she plans to use the funds to take her anti-street harassment art global. Says Fazlalizadeh, “I hope when women see them they’ll feel less alone in the streets.” Read more about Fazlaizadeh in the latest issue of Ms.

DreamersUnited We Dream is the largest immigrant youth-led organization in the nation. Made up of 52 affiliate organizations in 25 states, its participants advocate for the dignity and fair treatment of immigrant youth and families, regardless of immigration status. Many young immigration reform activists, referred to as “Dreamers” because of the DREAM Act of 2012, are taking a stand, including Reyna Montoya. Read about her plight here.

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Quvenzhané Wallis: In 2013, this child actor from Louisiana became the youngest-ever nominee for an Academy Award, one of only a handful of African American women to be nominated for Best Actress, and the first person born in the 21st Century to be nominated for an Oscar. At just 5 years old, she earned the part of Hushpuppy in the highly praised film Beasts of the Southern Wild. Around this time, she also became the subject of media attention because of an insensitive, derogatory and misogynistic tweet by The Onion. Quvenzhané handled the “satirical” attack, and the resounding outrage by the public, with grace and dignity.  Since then, she has appeared in 12 Years A Slave and most recently was cast as Annie in a remake of the Little Orphan Annie story.

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Leticia Van De Putte: This Texas state senator’s question to the Senate’s president pro tem, during the now-famous Wendy Davis filibuster, has become a battle-cry for pro-choice feminist activists: “At what point must a female senator raise her hand or her voice to be recognized over the male colleagues in the room?” The question caused the gallery to erupt into cheering that ran out the midnight deadline on the vote, essentially finishing what Senator Davis had begun. Van De Putte is running for lieutenant governor in 2014, alongside Davis, who is running for governor, thus making history again, as it is the first time in Texas that women will lead a major party’s ticket for the top offices.

1279906225_7a7c905bbcBarbara Lee: Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA) is a tireless supporter of women’s rights and has spent much of this year making important strides in pro-women legislation. The congresswoman recently introduced a bill (HR 3774) which would repeal abstinence-only program funding and support comprehensive sexuality education. In September of 2013, President Obama nominated her to be a representative of the United States to the United Nations, making her the first African American woman to hold that position. Congresswoman Lee currently chairs the Congressional Social Work Caucus, the Whip’s Task Force on Poverty and Opportunity, the Congressional Out of Poverty Caucus and the HIV/AIDS Caucus. She uses all these platforms to continue to advocate for women, particularly women of color.

The Women of Chime For Change: This charity organization, founded by Beyoncé, Frida Giannini and Salma Hayek, raises funds4447730018_b27068ee1d and awareness for girls’ and women’s empowerment around the globe. Launched in February with a London benefit concert,The Sound Of Change Live, it focuses on three key areas: educationhealth and justice. Thanks to the event, funds were sent to 210 programs working for the empowerment of women in 81 countries. Said founding committee member Salma Hayek,

I am proud to be joining the growing international movement on behalf of girls and women around the world. I believe that by working together we can change the course of history to ensure that girls and women are empowered to realize their potential and thrive.

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Nina Turner: This Ohio state senator and minority whip has fought for reproductive rights in her state, finding unique ways to point to the absurdity of bills aimed at restricting women’s rights. Turner, who’s now running for secretary of state in Ohio, has also proposed a bill to end the 20-year statute of limitation on rape cases.

That’s our list, but with so many women out there doing great things in the world, it would be impossible to name them all. Who would be on your list? Let us know in the comments below!

Wendy Davis photo courtesy of Alan Kotok, photo of Malala courtesy of The UN Seceretary General’s …, Photo of Steinem courtesy of Jenny Warburg, Photo of Quvenzhané Wallis courtesy ofilacami2, Pussy Riot photo courtesy of Playing Futures: Applied. . . , Photo of Kakenya courtesy of Vital Voices press kit and the Kakenya Center For Excellence, photo of  Sen. Gillibrand Third Way Think Tank, photo of Rep. Speier from Flickr user The Skyline View, photo of Diana Nyad courtesy ofTodo Gaceta, Photo Edie Windsor courtesy of Brian Webb, photo of Tatyana Fazlaizadeh courtesy ofHistory of Graphic Design, photo of fast food workers strike courtesy of Andrea Bowers, photo of Brittney Griner courtesy of sportiqe, photo of Leticia Van De Putte courtesy of Roberto Castillo,Photo of Barbara Lee courtesy of One Voice PAC, photo of Salma Hayek courtesy of salma hayek, Photo of Nina Turner courtesy of America SCORES Cleveland, all Flickr users on Creative Commons.

Originally posted on the Ms Magazine Blog.

TRICKED: A Chat With The Filmmakers

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A shocking 20.9 million people are victims of human trafficking around the world today—more than the populations of New York, Chicago, Miami, Houston and Los Angeles combined. In their new feature-length documentary TRICKED,filmmakers John-Keith Wasson and Jane Wells follow pimps, johns, sex-trafficking victims, parents and law enforcement agents in several U.S. cities, paying special attention to the arrogance and cruelty of the pimps and the broken system that criminalizes victims instead of perpetrators. The Ms. Blog recently spoke with these filmmakers, who are hoping to effect change with their most recent project.

Ms. Blog: When did the sex industry first come to your attention as a potential film topic?

Jane Wells: For me, via 3 Generations, a nonprofit I’m involved with. We were filming stories about survivors of sex trafficking, which I saw as an extension of the work we’ve been doing around human rights abuses generally.

John-Keith Wasson: I was working on a TV show where the whole plan was going into the nether regions of the U.S. [following] sort of everything illegal. I followed a coworker into this world of pimps and prostitution, but the angle the TV show had was very much an intrigue story, edging on how glamorous it all was, which is of course not the case. As I was there doing the work, I was thinking, ‘This show is completely missing the point.’

Was it difficult to get people to talk to you?

Wasson: It’s easy to get people to talk about it or extremely difficult to get people to talk about it. At some level, victims are going to willingly share a part of their story, but I think its very hard to get a full story. Its brutal what happens to them. Likewise, I think certain police [officers] or law enforcement officials are willing to talk to you if they think they’re doing some good, but in order to get to the true story, I think those are the parts where it’s hard.

Wells: We kept going back again and again and again and trying to dig deeper.

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How are these pimps not afraid of the legal repercussions of being filmed and admitting to what they do on camera?

Wasson: They do actually feel a little bit wary, some of them, and some others have clearly rationalized it in a way that makes going out in the public no big deal. Frankly, our pop culture feeds right into that, because it’s cool to be a pimp. There is this brazen attitude that goes along with it, a general arrogance, and they sort of feel above it all. Frankie [a pimp] in Denver is being handcuffed and yet he feels compelled to charm the camera, because he thinks at that moment—and in fact he was right—that he won’t end up going to jail.

Wells: They’re not experiencing shame about what they do and I think that they are very clever criminals as well. They are masters of manipulation and seduction. In most cases, even if the pimps are ultimately convicted of a crime, they are looking at relatively small sentences, probably with probation—much lesser sentences than if they were dealing drugs, for example.

What were your perceptions of the sex industry before you started filming and how did that change throughout the project?

Wasson: When we started doing the filmmaking we came in touch with victims, we came in touch with johns, and we came in touch with cops who were actually trying to make a change. Then we met these pimps, and it’s really hard to not let your blood boil. Imagine sitting there with a pimp, after you’ve just spent the last four or five days with victims telling their stories, and you hear all that faulty logic. Overall, I was [shocked] by how rampant sex trafficking is, how it affects all socio-economic groups. The internet is helping it get into every home in the country. Financially, we’re in some hard times, and younger people tend to be a little bit more interested in getting recruited because they believe in the idea of quick money. So it’s a horrifying perfect storm that we’re in the middle of. I had no idea how full-blown an epidemic it was when I began the film.

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Wells: It was like going down into a rabbit hole. At first I wanted to blame [trafficking] on the Internet, but I feel now that it’s a whole culture. I’ve also come to learn a lot more about how difficult it is for young men. The perception was that young men don’t get prostituted or didn’t have pimps, but I’ve come to learn that young men are just as vulnerable and manipulated by their pimps as the young girls are.

Did you come across people who thought that prostitutes were doing it out of their own will?

Wells: Absolutely. That is an ongoing battle.

Wasson: That’s the majority of people, you still have the myths of the happy hooker and Pretty Woman, but that’s certainly not the truth that we found.

What would you say to people who think that legalizing prostitution would be empowering to women? I know there are people who think that would eliminate the prostitute-pimp structure.

Wells: I’d say to them that that is an illogical and specious argument. First of all, where there are legal brothels, we know [women] in those legal brothels do, in most cases, have pimps anyway. Where there is potential for profit there will be people who want to profit off other peoples’ bodies. I don’t think there is anything empowering about being abused and manipulated or mistreated by people.

Wasson: When we began this film we wanted to give sex trafficking a clean slate. We tried to let go of preconceived notions and we tried to say, OK, there is an argument that [women] would be treated better if it were legal, so we did our due diligence and we went to Sweden and elsewhere and we looked into that as a possibility. And frankly, if we had a solution and it was that simple we would love to present it, but the truth is that isn’t the reality. Having said that, the laws need to change. In many ways the law is getting to where it needs to be, but it’s now the implementation of the law that’s the problem. The fact is that whatever the system, a pimp can certainly adapt, and so they’re going to be around just as much if it’s legal as if its illegal. The only difference is they’re probably going to have a bigger microphone with which to recruit.

How does our current system criminalize the victims more than the pimps or johns? Did you witness this negatively affect women who would have otherwise tried to escape these situations?

Wells: Yes, it’s a real shame. The laws are completely balanced against the seller of sex as opposed to the purchaser of sex. The penalties for johns at this point are so tiny in most cases: They are arrested and they get a ticket. There is no felony or even a misdemeanor.

Wasson: Part of the pimp’s game is actually using [the arrests of the women] to keep the women locked up [as prostitutes]. Suddenly all her other job opportunities are gone. Even getting a minimum wage job can be a challenge.

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So having a prostitution arrest on a woman’s record works in the pimp’s favor—it’s just another obstacle in the way of her reentering the population at large?

Wasson: Exactly. It’s the pimps’ game: One of the moves is to really alienate his victims from his or her support group, and one way is to get the victims arrested because then that means that the victim needs the pimp that much more.

Wells: These techniques are very similar to inducting people into cults. It kind of is a cult in a sense, with the isolation and alienation and manipulation—and then where do you turn?

What do you hope to accomplish with this film?

Wells: I hope that some young girls see this film and realize that that girl could be them, and think twice before they allow themselves to be seduced and manipulated into doing something they don’t want to do because of low self-esteem. And I hope that young men see the film and realize that they could be abusing girls in that way, and they can make a decision not to be a john or a pimp. I think that as a society we’ve been tricked into thinking that prostitution is the world’s oldest profession and there is nothing that we can do about it—that boys will be boys, and that somehow it’s always been this way so it should always stay that way. I think that’s the biggest trick of the lot, really.

TRICKED premiered last week at the Quad Cinema in New York City and will be released by film and video distributor Kino Lorber, Inc. For more information, visit www.trickedfilm.com

 Photos courtesy of TRICKED/10,000 Men Productions, LLC, Jane Wells and John-Keith Wasson. Originally posted on the Ms Magazine Blog.

A&E Takes Stand Against Bigotry

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7536149570_754a2581eaWe love it when powerful women stand up for what’s right, and A&E Networks President and CEO Nancy Dubuc did just that when she decided to suspend Duck Dynasty star Phil Robertson this week after he made homophobic statements comparing homosexuality and bestiality in an interview with GQ Magazine. It wasn’t an easy decision to make, with Duck Dynasty currently holding the position of highest-rated reality TV show on air, but Dubuc and A&E Networks made the right decision and stood by LGBT people everywhere, despite backlash from the popular show’s millions of followers and potential financial loss. Now, the rest of the Duck Dynasty cast is questioning whether they will continue to do the show without Robertson. So far, A&E isn’t backing down.

Yet another reason why A&E made the right decision is Phil Robertson’s extreme anti-abortion position that only serves to fuel the continued attempts to restrict women’s rights in this country. Although it hasn’t received as much media attention as his latest espousing of bigoted rhetoric, Robertson’s anti-choice views became public recently when he made a misinformed anti-abortion rant in 2010 at a church in Virginia and it went viral. Said Robertson,

And we debate whether some woman has the right to tear you out of there a piece at a time? Come on! You have a god-given right to live, and of all places, inside your mother?

A&E has received an outpouring of criticism about the decision, especially after talk show host Sean Hannity gave out the numbers of Dubuc and A&E chairwoman Abbe Raven on the air Thursday. We want thank you Nancy Dubuc and A&E for taking a stand against hatred and bigotry, so please join us in sending our support and urging A&E to stand by their decision. You can email the company at aefeedback@aenetworks.com, or reach out by tweeting @AETV and liking them on facebook.

Photo courtesy of Flickr user mipmarkets via Creative Commons. Originally posted on the Ms Magazine Blog.

Just Imagine How Educated Girls Could Save The World

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Tomorrow is international Human Rights Day, making this a good time to reflect on some of our most basic human rights: food, clean water, shelter and safety quickly come to mind. But one of the most transformative human rights is education, which we often take for granted in the U.S., but for many, many girls around the globe it’s just a dream they must fight for every day.

Recently, I sat down for a cross-continental conversation with some young rural women in South Africa. They’re part of Imagine Scholar, a four-year, after-school mentorship program for talented, disadvantaged youth across the Nkomazi, a municipality between Swaziland and Mozambique. This region faces a large unemployment problem, a prenatal HIV prevalence rate of 47.3 percent (as of 2010) and a poverty rate of 61.4 percent (as of 2011). A meager 6.7 percent of the residents there have received any higher education.

Imagine Scholar focuses on critical-thinking skills, character development and English language proficiency to prepare students for higher education. Currently, about 70 percent of Imagine Scholars are girls. Says the program’s international development manager, Nicholas Drushella,

The original goal of Imagine Scholar wasn’t to recruit more girls than boys from the area, but over time we found that girls excel in our curriculum and are suited to the program’s goals, because they tend to want to stay in their communities and fix the problems there.

As the recent documentary Girl Rising demonstrates, educating girls can be one of a community’s highest-returning investments. But there are still 31 million girls of primary-school age and 34 million female adolescents worldwide who are not in school. Yet studies show that educating girls is the smartest and most simple solution to many of our most daunting social issues, such as:

  • Teen pregnancy: 10 percent fewer girls under the age of 17 would become pregnant in sub-Saharan Africa and South and West Asia if they had a primary education.
  • Infant mortality: A literate mother has a 50 percent higher chance that her child will survive to the age of 5, and child deaths would be cut in half if all women had a secondary education, saving 3 million lives.
  • Child marriages: Girls with secondary education are 6 times less likely to be married as children, and if all girls had a secondary education there would be two-thirds fewer child marriages.
  • Illiteracy: Two-thirds of the 792 million illiterate adults in the world are female, and an educated mother is more than twice as likely to send her children to school
  • Poverty: A girl with an extra year of education can earn 20 percent more as an adult. If India enrolled just 1 percent more girls in secondary school, its GDP would rise by $5.5 billion.
  • Maternal Mortality: In developing countries, the #1 cause of death for girls 15-19 is childbirth. Maternal deaths would be reduced by two-thirds if each mother completed primary education.

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Queen: If I wasn’t part of Imagine Scholar I wouldn’t have been able to notice that I’m being manipulated or discriminated [against]. I learned to have the respect of being a woman … I just want to help the people around me and show them that

Nomthandazo-1being a girl doesn’t mean that you don’t have to go to school, that you must get pregnant and do all the chores. You can still go to school and do something with your life, because more people depend on you and you are to help them.

Nomthandazo: My mom saw the situation she faced because she quit school, so she told me that I must go to school and learn, because the things she’s come across, she doesn’t want me to come across. I just want to convince girls how important is education.

Zinzi: If I hadn’t joined Imagine Scholar, I think I would’ve been pregnant by now. I had bad friends and they would pressure me to do bad stuff and I would usually fall into their traps. I was

Zinzireally that dumb to believe them. Imagine Scholar just took my life and changed it for good.  It made me view myself as a woman and say This is what I want to be. I took ownership of my life, became the independent woman I want to be and with that I can go places, because I’m me, I’m a woman and I believe that I can still be that leader that I want to be. 

Tomorrow, on Human Rights Day, let’s take a moment to be thankful for rights we so often take for granted and to support continued efforts across the globe to make education a right for all, regardless of gender. When you educate girls in a community, you better the entire community and, eventually, the world.

Photos of Queen, Nomthandazo and Zinzi courtesy of Imagine Scholar. Originally posted on the Ms Magazine Blog.

ABQ Voters Reject Abortion Ban!

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photo-3-300x289Albuquerque voters have spoken!

On Tuesday, a city ballot measure that would have outlawed abortion after 20-weeks—without exception for rape, incest or the health of the mother—was defeated by a vote of 55 percent to 45 percent. About 25 percent of the city’s registered voters turned out for the special election—more than participated in the recent mayoral election.

This was a significant victory for supporters of choice, not only because Albuquerque is one of the few cities in the U.S. still providing later term abortions but also because it’s the first to attempt an abortion ban through a city election.

If passed, this measure would have set a dangerous precedent for using municipal governments as a tactic to get around failed attempts at abortion bans on the state and federal levels.

Said Feminist Majority Foundation president and Ms. publisher Eleanor Smeal,

This should serve as a wake up call to conservative politicians waging their war on women and women’s reproductive rights that the public—especially women and young people—are opposed to more restrictions to cut off access to safe abortion.

Anti-abortion extremists from all over the country came to protest outside voting centers and around the city in the weeks before the election. Among those extremist groups promoting the measure was Operation Rescue, which has targeted Albuquerque because of its Southwestern Women’s Options clinic. Affiliated with Operation Rescue is Survivors of The Abortion Holocaust, which in the weeks before the election launched a tasteless protest outside the New Mexico Holocaust and Intolerance Museum, claiming that aborted fetuses are  “victims” of the “American Holocaust.”

But city voters stood strong against increasing pressure from these organizations, despite attempts to disenfranchise pro-choice voters by removing polling locations from the two universities in the city. Organizations such as the Feminist Majority Foundation (FMF), ACLU and Planned Parenthood worked hard to help organize student activists, volunteers and other local citizens to oppose the legislation. The FMF sent a team of campus organizers to mobilize student voters, including joining with Young Women United and ProgressNow New Mexico to sponsor shuttles from local campuses to the polls. Dolores Huerta, FMF board member and cofounder of United Farm Workers, also campaigned with student leaders. Albuquerque students came out in droves on election day, many of them waiting in long lines for buses going to the polls.

Said Micaela Cadena of Respect ABQ Women Campaign, a coalition of individuals and allied organizations also working to defeat the measure,

Albuquerque families sent a powerful message today—they do not want the government interfering in their private medical decisions … Dangerous, unconstitutional laws like the one we rejected today have no place in Albuquerque, no place in New Mexico, no place anywhere in our nation.

 

Photo courtesy of Brooke Hofhenke of the Feminist Majority Foundation.

Originally posted on the Ms Magazine Blog.