Wednesday, March 30, 2011

2nd Annual Rock Against Rape: Tomorrow!

April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month, which means it’s time for the second annual Rock Against Rape! The Women’s Resource Center and The House CafĂ©, in conjunction with several local bands, are raising awareness of sexual assault by hosting a benefit concert. So help us kick off Sexual Assault Awareness Month and enjoy some great music by socially conscious musicians and support a good cause! All proceeds will go to PAVE (Promoting Awareness, Victim Empowerment). Time: 6:00–10:00 p.m. Location: The House, 263 E. Lincoln Highway Cost: $5.00 Co-sponsors: PAVE, Alpha Phi Gamma

Friday, March 25, 2011

The Girl Effect

Recently I’ve been doing a lot of academic work around the devaluing of girls globally. Basically, in places all over the world female children are valued less than male children, so they are treated differently. This includes a lack of education and choices for girls. Because they are denied education and other things that male children have, they grow up differently and are subsequently valued less as adults. This means that female children are less likely to be enrolled in school or to complete school, and more likely to be married and have children at an earlier age. USAID reports that “of the 72 million primary school aged children who do not attend school worldwide, 57% are girls, in addition, girls are 4% less likely than boys to complete school.”

The devaluation of girls causes them to be more vulnerable to poverty, gender based violence- including trafficking, and disease. Suddenly, this has become a global problem affecting more than just the girls, but everyone. How can we work to fix this?

The Girl Effect is an organization that is offering girls the opportunity to change their circumstances by going to school and earning a living; and changing the world one girl, one family, one village at a time.

I think that The Girl Effect is a great model. They’re working on the ground to change the lives of girls and increase their societal value. How much better could we do than that?

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Rutger's Residence Halls

After a freshman living in the residence halls at Rutgers University committed suicide after being bullied by his roommate for being gay, Rutger’s is rethinking its residence halls policies. The freshman, Tyler Clementi jumped off of the George Washington Bridge after his roommate and his girlfriend videotaped Tyler having sex with his male partner.

Rutger’s is now starting a pilot program in the fall for students who wish to participate in gender-neutral room assignment. It’s only available in select halls, and only open to 100 students (about 50 rooms). Students who receive gender-neutral rooms will be able to request the sex of their roommate. Rutgers says the program is also open to heterosexual students as well, and will not ask the sexual identity of its students.

Kudos to Rutgers. I hope all universities start implementing residence hall policies such as this one.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Woman at Point Zero

I re-read one of my favorite books recently, Woman at Point Zero by Nawal El-Saadawi, and it is better than I remember it being the first time.

The novel’s narrator, Firdaus, is on death-row in Eygpt and her execution is set in one week. For the rest of the week, Firdaus recounts her life and how she ended-up on death row. She starts with her childhood; she was born to parents who didn’t love her and was given off to her uncle who married her off to an awful man who abused her.

After a particularly rough night with her husband, which ended in him raping her, Firdaus left her husband promptly. Suddenly Firdaus had to provide for herself in a culture that did not value women’s independence and most jobs were not open to women. So Firdaus decided a career in one of the very few jobs open to women – prostitution.

It proved to be a very luxurious job – FIrdaus owned her own body, something few women could say. She was able to use a word she wasn’t able to, even in her marriage: “no.” She denied men she wanted to, even men who were not accustomed to being denied by women, and got great satisfaction from it. She made good money from being a prostitute, and owned her own apartment and lived very comfortably.

After a few years, Firdaus decided to work at a factory, doing a conventional job. Oddly enough, Firdaus thought the factory was oppressive, not prostitution. She said, “These women are more afraid of losing their job than a prostitute is of losing her life.”

This book changed my perception of prostitution – for better or worse. It’s a slim novel, about 130 pages, and well worth the read. The author, Nawal El-Saadawi is a rad woman, and her biography on Wikipedia is worth a look.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

When Do I Get to Vote on Your Marriage?

NIU’s Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender (LGBT) student organization, Prism, has recently formed another organization called the Prism Activist Movement (PAM). PAM focuses on advocating on behalf of the LGBT community on campus and is currently hosting a fundraiser to raise money for future Prism events and Equality Illinois. Equality Illinois is an organization for marriage equality in the state of Illinois that does really great work; they were instrumental in passing the Illinois Civil Unions Bill and have created positive change in the lives of LGBT people all over the state.

PAM is selling “When do I get to Vote on YOUR Marriage?” buttons for $1 each today in Wirtz from 9am to 3pm. Buttons will also be available in the LGBT Resource Center (located on the 7th floor of the Holmes Student Center) today. So come out and help support PAM and Equality Illinois!

More information can be found here.

For more information about the Prism Activist Movement, visit PAM’s facebook page.

What is Consent?

When I was first introduced to the topic, sexual misconduct and consent, I wasn’t sure how to respond without being too opinionated. So, I decided to do a little research before blogging to see what society defines consent as. While researching I came across a site This site discussed the issue of consent on college campuses and identified the idea that most campus codes of conduct explain what consent is not, but not what consent is. Intrigued by this fact, I decided to find the definition of consent.

According to, consent is defined as - to permit, approve, or agree; comply or yield (often followed by to or an infinitive): He consented to the proposal. We asked her permission, and she consented.

A person must give permission and or agree, before consent is formally given. Armed with this knowledge I decided to delve deeper into NIU’s definition of consent in the student code of conduct. According to NIU’s code of conduct, chapter three article 1.3a and b, Sexual Misconduct includes sexual harassment and assault.

NIU’s code of conduct states the following:
Sexual Harassment: Behavior that may include but is not limited to unwanted fondling or touching of a sexual nature, directly or through clothing; indecent exposure; or lewd behavior; any of which demeans, intimidates, coerces, threatens, or has the effect of creating a hostile or offensive environment. Such behavior may include the use of mail, telephone, or electronic communication to convey messages that are obscene or intimidating to the recipient.

Sexual Assault: Any actual or threatened sexual contact against that person’s will or where the victim is incapable of giving consent.

So once again I was given the answer to what consent is not, but not what it is. Given this information how can one truly understand the issue of sexual assault and consent, when it is not clearly stated in the campus code of conduct?

It’s about time “consent” is defined clearly and plainly so that it is accurately understood. Here’s my advice to all out there, if you have to question it then you shouldn’t be doing it.
Written by guest blogger, Jalen

That's Gay - Sissy Commercials has a great special called “That’s Gay” hosted by Brian Safi who is always spot on with his commentary. One of the best episodes I’ve seen is Safi highlighting commercials put out by big name brands (Old Spice, Snickers, Miller Lite and others) that use macho masculinity and compulsory heterosexuality to sell their products to their target audience.

True, some marketers may make ads targeted specifically at gay men, and put them in gay magazines. However, most advertisements that have some sort of homophobic undertones are in the mainstream media.

As Safi points out, marketers are missing something vital: they are insulting and alienating consumers that have more disposable income for their products. As gay couples, specifically gay male couples, historically have not had children to care for (and to budget for), they have had more disposable income. So why would companies want to insult such a demographic? Perhaps they are making a social statement. Perhaps they feel 7%- 10% of the overall population is not large enough to be concerned about. Whatever the reason, the homophobia is off-putting to gender-conscious consumers.

I know I blacklist brands (and their parent companies!) that use advertisements full of homophobia, racism, sexism, etc. More than that, I consciously support brands that actively work against those said prejudices by buying their products and telling my friends.