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.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

The Baby Trap

Why is it that Jennifer Aniston gets scrutinized for not having children yet, while other childless celebrities such as Oprah don’t receive the same scrutiny? The media portrays Aniston as a selfish person for not wanting to have children. They also blame her for the failure of her marriage to Brad Pitt. They say that he dumped her because she was not ready to have his children. They say Angelina was ready to settle down and have children and Jen was not. Apparently, Jen not wanting to start a family is what pushed Brad into Angelina’s arms, so to speak.

The fact that this gossip has taken a toll on Jen’s career is absurd. Even if Jen does not want children she could never express that in an interview because the media would bash her as a person. Why is it that in every relationship Jen has been in since Brad, magazines such as Star and People speculated about a potential baby bump? Also, recently there was an adoption rumor that got started. Bloggers and journalists said that she was going to adopt since she could not have any children biologically.

This entire obsession with her reproductive life is insulting and ludicrous. Why can’t she live her life as a happy successful actress instead of being portrayed as either selfish or infertile? The media should not scrutinize her decision to not have children just because she’s reached a certain age. I feel we need to leave Jen alone and let her enjoy life. If motherhood comes for her one day then it will and that will be her choice.

It’s interesting that older, childless male celebrities do not face the same scrutiny as female celebs like Jen.
Written by guest blogger, Sharnice

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Female Candidates Faulted for Being Female

Two female candidates for a Vice-President position of their college student association are being slammed for attempting to look like beauty pageant contestants, instead of respectable candidates. The college newspaper, The Concordian, had harsh words for the two women: “If you pass by a bulletin board in any Concordia academic building, you will likely find it congested with the over-sized, smiling faces of the ASFA candidates. I'm wondering — are these individuals running for student government positions or the chance to don a sparkly crown and sash?”

It’s not any secret, in fact it is generally accepted, that candidates attempt to look visually appealing. And surprise! Male candidates do the same. As pointed out, “[the candidates] look like they're dressed to go to class.” And as it is a college student association, you would think that would be appealing. Do they really look like they are dressed for a pageant? I mean, they are not wearing ball gowns or big hair-dos. They are wearing feminine, casual clothes.

If a male candidate used a photo of himself in masculine casual clothing, would that be newsworthy? Would there be an article in the school newspaper about how he appears to be riding on his good looks by way of getting votes? Of course not.

It is unfortunate the article is inherently sexist and yet masked with something as benign as clothing.

Unfortunately, the direct link to The Concordian has been removed. Perhaps a sign of regret? Here is the article I referenced written by

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Yes Means Yes

I read Yes Means Yes a couple of months ago and was blown away by the unique mix of accessibility and challenging/new ideas in the collection. I expected the book to be a collection of survivor stories, or family members of survivors, but I was in for a surprise. The book goes far beyond survivor stories, and delves into theories of consent, and an ideal world free of sexual assault, while the authors use their personal experiences as anecdotes to their ideas.

For instance, one author writes about her own relationships and how every act involving physical touch must be asked for and consented to every time. This ranges anywhere from a hug from a friend to sex with a partner. She writes how that model of consent allows her and her partner to have completely open lines of communication and how she has learned to not only accept/consent to touch, but also how to ask for touch that you want. She writes that she loved consenting wholeheartedly every single time.

I thought one of the most powerful pieces was the “Not-Rape Epidemic” by Latoya Peterson. In the essay, Peterson writes that we all learn about rape. From an early age, we understand what rape is. There are countless Lifetime films devoted to rape, lectures, speeches, etc. to promoting awareness of rape. What we don’t hear about too often is “not-rape.” Peterson defines not-rape as: being pressured into losing your virginity, not being able to remember what happened when you wake to find a family member in your bed with you, having an older family member’s boyfriend ask you for sexual favors, feeling boys grope you during school, among other sexual transgressions that don’t fit the definition of rape. Peterson even includes her own painful and personal experience of not-rape.

All of the essays in the book are extraordinary and powerful. Luckily, the WRC owns a copy of Yes Means Yes, which any NIU student/faculty member can check out from our library. You can look at our entire library collection here.

Monday, January 31, 2011

Street Harassment

Today, when I was walking from class to work, something happened. It happens rather frequently. You have probably witnessed it, or even have been a victim of it. So, what happened you might ask?

Street Harassment.

A car full of men shouted at a woman crossing the street asking her if she was a “hooker.” The woman continued walking, ignoring the car full of men. Those who heard it continued on their way, perhaps giving a glance at the car. Although, many people don’t think twice about it or even turn a head.

Many of us do this – namely, because we do not know how to react. We know that these instances of street harassment are not right but many of us are at a loss on what to do.

Fortunately, help is on the way. Anti-harassment expert Holly Kearl is coming to Northern Illinois University to discuss whether there should be legal repercussions for street harassment and how being cat-called affects women’s experience in public spaces. Join the Women’s Resource Center, Health Enhancement and the Campus Activities board while we welcome Holly, and learn more about combating street harassment.

Tuesday, Febuary 1st
Heritage room, Holmes Student Center

*This blog was written by WRC staff member: Lettie

Friday, January 28, 2011

"I'm Not Buying It"

As the Super Bowl quickly approaches, America is busy reppin’ their respective teams, placing bets on who will win, planning Super Bowl watch parties, and flocking to Texas for the game. However, die-hard football fans are not the only ones heading to Texas in mass amounts, thousands of people, including children as young as 10, will be forcibly transported to the Super Bowl for sex trafficking’s busiest weekend of the year. Jezebel reports that the Florida Commission against Human Trafficking estimated that “tens of thousands of women and minors were trafficked into the Miami area during the Super Bowl last year.” The expected increase in occurrences of human trafficking has both law enforcement and advocates gearing up to prevent and crack down on trafficking.

The Polaris Project and the Rebecca Project for Human Rights have released this ad, campaigning for the closing of the “Adult Section” of the Village Voice Media’s which has been used by some for child sex trafficking.

Traffic 911 has released a series of videos called “I’m not buying It” which feature a variety of people including trafficking survivors, hip hop artists, and football players talking about the sexual trafficking of children. The videos can be found here.

I'll admit that I’m not necessarily a fan of all of the content of the videos, especially the statement in one video which says “real men don’t buy sex.” I think it’s problematic to infuse anti-trafficking awareness with ideals and notions of “traditional” masculinity and “real” men; also it comes across as strictly anti-sex work. Although being anti-sex work is not necessarily bad, I think we need to remember that voluntary sex work, (if truly voluntary), is a completely different thing from underage children being sold for sex, and as such needs to be treated as adifferent issue. I do think that the ads are genuine in intent and I think it’s great that they will be shown during the Super Bowl. The videos will reach a huge number of people and are sending a message that isn’t often heard in mainstream society, I hope that the videos can serve as a conversation starter about human trafficking.

Human trafficking is a serious problem which is going to require tons of anti-trafficking awareness and support in order to stop or decrease, kudos to these groups to use one of the biggest events in United States to be pro-active about stopping human trafficking.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Blog for Choice Day

Last Friday, hundreds of bloggers across the country took to their computers to participate in national Blog for Choice Day. log for Choice Day is an initiative sponsored by NARAL Pro-Choice America to get “ more people reading and talking about reproductive rights online on one of the most important days surrounding a woman’s right to choose: the Roe anniversary. Plus, it lets your readers and the mainstream media know that a woman's right to choose is a core progressive value that must be protected. “

Saturday was the 38th anniversary of Roe V. Wade. This important decision legalized abortion, giving women the crucial right to decide what happens to their bodies, and ultimately saving women’s lives by removing the need to have dangerous back-alley abortions.

Although Roe V. Wade was decided thirty-eight years ago, the right to chose is still not solidified. States are passing more and more stringent regulations with the aim at making it impossible for abortion clinics to stay open, and its working. Many women do not have a choice, because abortion is available to them only at unfair burdens. Frontline: The Last Abortion Clinic does a great job at analyzing this ever-increasing problem.

It’s important that we affirm the right of women to choose. This means that we need to call awareness to the problem and work actively to fight against it. We cannot let the fundamental right for women to choose what happens to their bodies be taken away. I urge you to find out what kind of activism is going on near you and find a way to support it.

If you are interested in pro-choice and reproductive health activism at NIU, I urge you to check at Advocates for Choice NIU, it meets Wednesdays nightst at 6 pm at the Women's Resource Center.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Active Disability

We all recognize the universal wheelchair symbol. And for the most part, it has served pretty well. However, the standard wheelchair symbol might be changing. TJMaxx and other stores are using an image of a person in a wheelchair that depicts them being active and independent. I hope all wheelchair symbols will be replaced with this progressive image.

In the first image, it is often assumed that someone else will push their wheelchair for them. In the second image, the self-agency of the individual in the wheelchair is clearly defined.

Some wheelchair symbols don’t even explicitly define the person’s arms, let alone the person using them. That typical image has a passive, inactive, and dependent quality about it. And as the typical wheelchair sign is the universal symbol for those in wheelchairs, unfortunately, those passive, inactive, dependent qualities are transferred from just a sign to an actual human, and to a diverse group of individuals.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Let’s Do the Time Warp Again???

Returning to campus (which, after four weeks off of school was not an easy task) I really thought about all of the events that had happened in 2010 and so far in 2011. Several of the events that had rocked my year and some days included mostly civil rights topics (disclaimer: not every event I want to list is here because let’s face it, my blogs are generally long enough as is).

In February 2010 it was announced that women in the Navy will now be allowed to serve on submarines (that was still an issue?). March 2010 brought an Oscar Award to Kathryn Bigelow for Best Director. Kathryn was the first ever woman director to receive an Oscar in that category. President Obama also signs a comprehensive medical bill in March 2010 that will insure about 95% of all Americans (Wow, even the working poor can get some help in this country? Where am I?). 21 states announce in May 2010 that they will sue the government in order to repeal the comprehensive medical bill signed in March (Oh wait, yep, I’m in U.S). In July BP finally stops the oil spill in the Gulf Coast after it pollutes the water for 86 days (while the poor who are uninsured die out, we’ll kill the environment too… Now that’s what I call multitasking). August 2010 brought the conformation of Supreme Court Justice Elena Kagan (rock on Kagan!!!) and the decision in California that Proposition 8 (which banned gay marriage) was unconstitutional (Oh my. Really?). September-November brought law suits, repeals, and investigations into whether or not Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell should be repealed. December 2010, congress finally ends the bickering (say what????) and votes to repeal Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell to allow gay and lesbian service members to be open about their sexuality in the armed services. January 2011 brought a terrible shooting of a congresswoman in Arizona. Around the same time Glen Beck goes on record saying we need political tolerance (I don't even know how to respond to that).....

As we move into a new calendar year and the second part of the academic year, I can only hope we can forge through for the equality of men and women. But whatever I do, I simply can’t blink at any point this year! Doing so would make me liable to speed through the year without realizing all of the things going on around me. This would lead me to do the time warp, again.