This week at the Guardian (and in the national news media) there’s been much attention paid to the role of private contractors in our intelligence and military operations, after an NSA employee leaked classified documents about U.S. spying to Glenn Greenwald. I’m using my column this week to talk about a different kind of privatization in American security: The privatization of our prison system, which turns the building and management of prisons over to corporate entities. Of course, even non-privatized prisons in the U.S. are rife with abuses. But privatization creates strong financial incentives for increased incarceration; the actors who are incentivized are particularly powerful, politically connected and monied. There’s also little oversight and regulation of private prisons, as attempts to do so are met with significant push-back. A part of the column (content warning: the text below and particularly the linked column include descriptions of violent prison abuses):...read more
Today marks the 46th anniversary of the Loving v. Virginia decision, the Supreme Court decision that declared Virginia’s anti-miscegenation statutes unconstitutional and ended all similarly discriminatory laws across the country. Mildred and Richard Loving were each sentenced to a year in prison for marrying in violation of Virginia’s Racial Integrity Act after police raided their house late at night in response to an anonymous tip. In 1967, the U.S. Supreme Court overturned the conviction on the grounds that Virginia’s statute violated the Due Process Clause and the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment....read more
I’m sure many Feministe readers have been closely following the story of Beatriz, a young Salvadoran mother with lupus who was pregnant with an anencephalic fetus. The pregnancy, which was doomed because the fetus had only a brainstem but no brain, was killing her. Her kidneys were shutting down, and the longer they were under stress, the higher the likelihood that if she didn’t die, she would need to be on dialysis for the rest of her life — a major hardship and almost definitely a life-shortener for a woman living in rural El Salvador with very limited access to health care. Doctors said Beatriz needed an abortion, but El Salvador has some of the strictest pro-life laws in the world, and their courts refused her the procedure under the logic that her life wasn’t imminently threatened (apparently since she would die in a few days or weeks, not minutes) and that it’s never ok to prioritize a woman’s life over a fetus’s life. Doctors in El Salvador got around the law by waiting until the 26th week of pregnancy and then performing a Cesarean section — a procedure everyone knew would result in the death of the fetus (which it did) but which can be construed as a “birth” instead of an abortion, even though the end result is the same. Of course, a C-section is significantly more dangerous than an abortion (and especially more dangerous than an earlier abortion, which Beatriz could have had two months ago if she didn’t live in a “pro-life” nation). C-sections are invasive surgical procedures, which are significantly more complicated than early abortions, and pose much higher risks of infection or complication, especially when performed on someone whose health is already compromised by lupus and potential organ failure. They take longer to recover from, and they’re more expensive. Beatriz, thankfully, seems to be doing fine. But she was still legally compelled to undergo a more dangerous, invasive and complicated procedure — and forced to have her body suffer through declining health — so that ideologues could feel better about the intent of a more dangerous procedure that everyone knew would have the exact same outcome as an earlier, safer one....read more
Ezekiel Gilbert contracted for services with Lenora Ivie Frago, an escort he found on Craigslist. At the end of their Christmas Eve engagement, he paid her her $150 fee, and she walked out — which angered him, because he’d assumed that sex was included as part of the package. Gilbert shot Frago in the neck, paralyzing her; she died of her injuries seven months later. His defense before the courts? That his actions were justifiable because she was stealing the $150 — and under Texas law, he was acquitted....read more
[Trigger warning for domestic violence]
These good people, these people whom, albeit in different industries and capacities, are each individually working to make the future a better place than the present, do nothing. They, of relative privilege, watch the aforementioned horror unfold. Some are stunned. Some don’t notice. Some shake their heads. It’s a shame, they think. It’s fucked up, they think. It makes my blood boil, they think. But they do nothing. They hold their girlfriends tighter. They back their friends away from the scene. They try to break their stares. They go get more drinks. These are good people. But they do nothing. They are silent.
A few try. Three university age young women try. They do as their friends tell them. Go get security, they say. But security does nothing. This is between a husband and a wife, they say. Please go back inside, they say. The young women beg their friends and the bar security to do something. They do nothing. Get away from the car, they say. There is nothing you can do, they say. You’re going to get hurt, they say. You’re being irrational, they say. It’s not our fight, they say....read more
If there had been laws to protect me from his actions—laws that forbade the use of deception and manipulation to lure someone into dangerous and unwanted sexual situations—perhaps this wouldn’t have happened to me. At the very least, if it had happened, I would have had some legal recourse. As it stands, there is no prosecutorial action I can take regarding his loathsome behavior in the state of Virginia—and I’m not sure I could take such action anywhere else, either. But we can’t let the subtlety of this issue of consent confuse us from recognizing it as the violation it most certainly is. If someone were to ask William*, even now, if I would have consented to sex with him had I known the truth, his answer would be an unequivocal, “No.” He knew it then, just as he knows it now: He was having sex with me against my will.
People lie all the time. There is no law against it. But lying becomes criminal when it is used to coerce others into sexual acts. “Why is deception tolerated in the context of sex? What protection does society provide to a person’s sexual integrity…? It is time to remove deception from the realm of sexual interaction in American society. Its tolerance promotes an unseemly status quo in our social fabric that denigrates the most intimate of relationships” (Decker and Baroni, 2012, p. 1167-1168)....read more
I’m writing about Amanda Bynes’ very public breakdown at the Guardian, and what the media coverage says about American views on beautiful women:...read more
Stories of discrimination against pregnant women in the workplace are all too common, and that’s why we need the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act (PWFA), which was introduced in Congress today.
Despite the passage of the Pregnancy Discrimination Act over 30 years ago, which prohibits discrimination based on pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions, some employers continue to deny pregnant women the minor job modifications that could protect not only a woman’s pregnancy but also a family’s economic security, forcing pregnant women out of their jobs.
The PWFA would make it crystal clear to employers that they can’t treat pregnant women worse than other workers who have certain job limitations and instead must make reasonable accommodations if doing so doesn’t pose an undue hardship on the business....read more
Writing about adoption and Kathryn Joyce’s The Child Catchers: Rescue, Trafficking, and the New Gospel of Adoption in Al Jazeera this week, and looking at the ways the Evangelical claims of an orphan crisis hurt kids and families. A bit:...read more
Content note: Rape threats.
Dean Saxton, a student at the University of Arizona, is hanging out on campus with a “You Deserve Rape” sign. Because you’re dressed like a whore, of course, so you’re asking for it. The University says there’s nothing they can do, because he hasn’t violated the student code of conduct. I would suggest that maybe it’s time to rewrite the student code of conduct?...read more
So we know that Beyonce’s numerous sins include dressing sexy, being married, and saying that girls run the world when that isn’t technically true. But did you also know she’s singlehandedly responsible for luring young girls into sexual exploitation?...read more
This is a guest post by Lenora M. Lapidus, Director, ACLU Women’s Rights Project, and Ariela Migdal, Senior Staff Attorney, ACLU Women’s Rights Project. The ACLU Women’s Rights Project (WRP) is dedicated to ensuring that all women can lead lives of dignity free from violence and discrimination, including discrimination based on gender stereotypes....read more