Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Innocence in Alabama needs your help!

Via The Innocence Blog

Tommy Arthur has spent 25 years on Alabama’s death row for a murder he has always said he didn’t commit. Again this week, his lawyers filed court papers requesting DNA testing at the defense's expense. The filing requests a stay if the testing can not be completed by Arthur's scheduled execution date of July 31. The Innocence Project has consulted with Arthur's attorneys on the case, and thousands of supporters have sent emails to Alabama Gov. Bob Riley calling on him to order DNA testing for Arthur.

Visit the Innocence Project on-line to read more about Arthur's case. Click here to send an e-mail to Governor Riley asking that this request be accomodated. Possibly taking an innocent life will not provide justice and only serves to weaken our judicial system.

Missing: Camille Johnson

Via Deidra at Black and Missing but not Forgotten

A Cobb County mother needs your help finding her missing daughter.

16-year-old Camille Johnson was last seen around 9 p.m. Wednesday (June 18th).

Authorities said the teen has significant health issues and is on medication. They said the teenager suffers from hypoglycemia, which may cause her to black out.

The teen does not have her medication or asthma pump, according to her mom.

The missing teen is described as black, 5 feet 1, and weighing between 110 and 115 pounds. She has a small tattoo on her right calf, a belly ring, and brown and platinum blonde braids.

If you have any information on the teen’s whereabouts, call (678) 699-1216 or dial 911.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

FA and DV

There is a pervasive way of thinking in our culture today that seeks to undermine our fight for empowerment, and keep women in the shadows. Women are being attacked at every opportunity by messages designed to make them feel bad about themselves, in hopes that these women will then buy what the messenger is selling. At the Media Awareness Network, this problem is defined quite clearly.

Why are standards of beauty being imposed on women, the majority of whom are naturally larger and more mature than any of the models? The roots, some analysts say, are economic. By presenting an ideal difficult to achieve and maintain, the cosmetic and diet product industries are assured of growth and profits. And it’s no accident that youth is increasingly promoted, along with thinness, as an essential criterion of beauty. If not all women need to lose weight, for sure they’re all aging, says the Quebec Action Network for Women’s Health in its 2001 report Changements sociaux en faveur de la diversité des images corporelles.

It is important to remember that while this kind of shaming is a popular tactic across the gender spectrum, it is most often directed towards women.

The American research group Anorexia Nervosa & Related Eating Disorders, Inc. says that one out of every four college-aged women uses unhealthy methods of weight control—including fasting, skipping meals, excessive exercise, laxative abuse, and self-induced vomiting. Researchers report that women’s magazines have ten and one-half times more ads and articles promoting weight loss than men’s magazines do, and over three-quarters of the covers of women’s magazines include at least one message about how to change a woman’s bodily appearance—by diet, exercise or cosmetic surgery.

Television and movies reinforce the importance of a thin body as a measure of a woman’s worth. Canadian researcher Gregory Fouts reports that over three-quarters of the female characters in TV situation comedies are underweight, and only one in twenty are above average in size. Heavier actresses tend to receive negative comments from male characters about their bodies ("How about wearing a sack?"), and 80 per cent of these negative comments are followed by canned audience laughter.

So the message that is largely received by both women and girls from magazines, television, and film is that not only is something inherently wrong with their body, but that these "flaws" also constitute a personal moral failing which renders them deserving of any humiliation that comes their way.

In and of itself, there is nothing linguistically harmful about the word "fat". It is a generic descriptor much like tall, short, blonde, brunette, etc. The reason that "fat" is such a loaded term is that our culture has framed fatness as practically a crime against humanity, especially if the owner of the fat is female. We're taught from a very early age that fat is not a simple descriptive term, because fat is culturally synonymous with lazy, unpleasant, smelly, unloveable, etc. This correlation is made not only by many thin people, but often by fat people who firmly believe they deserve the disrespect being thrown at them.

Sandra Kiume on Psych Central wrote a letter to the editor detailing an event she'd witness where a man on the street demanded a woman he knew follow him and called her fat along with a few other insults. Kiume's response deftly illustrates why body image is a subject central to the fight against domestic violence.

First, she wasn’t fat. But all mean kids and abusers know that the easiest way to hurt a young woman’s self-esteem is to attack her body image, especially with that cruel three-letter “f” word. It’s verbal abuse in our thin-obsessed culture. The other two words he called her are just more obviously abusive.

Verbal abuse is just as damaging as physical or sexual violence–the American Psychological Association classifies all three as wartime torture methods. In their daily wars women come to view themselves as worthless and powerless and internalize the loathing. They may develop serious medical problems like depression, anorexia/bulimia, post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety, substance abuse and more, all while afraid to leave the abuser. A woman is ten times more likely to be murdered by her abuser in the six months after she leaves him. Those threats are dead serious, and they’re a means of control that answer the common and naïve question, “Why doesn’t she just leave him?”(Emphasis Added)

Fortunately, there is a movement that those of us in the fight against domestic violence can look to, to promote women's ability to feel comfortable and worthy in their own skin. Providing information about the inaccuracy of the obesity crisis and other weight-related scientific findings, shining a light on medical abuse, debunking of stereotypes about fat people, and creating a safe community for women to celebrate their bodies are just a few of the things the Fat Acceptance movement has to offer.
More specifically, Kate Harding in The Fantasy of Being Thin, thoroughly discusses the power of the myth that having a stereotypically perfect body is somehow attached to your ability to be a good or worthy person and the fact that many times the hardest part of accepting your body is that it means accepting and appreciating all aspects of yourself.

But exhortations like that don’t take into account magical thinking about thinness, which I suspect — and the quote above suggests — is really quite common. Because, you see, the Fantasy of Being Thin is not just about becoming small enough to be perceived as more acceptable. It is about becoming an entirely different person – one with far more courage, confidence, and luck than the fat you has. It’s not just, “When I’m thin, I’ll look good in a bathing suit”; it’s “When I’m thin, I will be the kind of person who struts down the beach in a bikini, making men weep.” See also:

When I’m thin, I’ll have no trouble finding a partner/reinvigorating my marriage.
When I’m thin, I’ll have the job I’ve always wanted.
When I’m thin, I won’t be depressed anymore.
When I’m thin, I’ll be an adventurous world traveler instead of being freaked out by any country where I don’t speak the language and/or the plumbing is questionable.
When I’m thin, I’ll become really outdoorsy.
When I’m thin, I’ll be more extroverted and charismatic, and thus have more friends than I know what to do with.
Et cetera, et cetera. Those are examples from my personal Fantasy of Being Thin, but I’m sure you’ve got your own

....The thin person inside me finally got out — it just turned out she was actually a fat person. A reasonably attractive, semi-outgoing fat person who has an open mind and an active imagination but also happens to really like routine and familiarity and quiet time alone.

Embracing our bodies for what they do for us rather than punishing them into submission is a long process, but the benefits are well worth it. For a powerful introduction to celebrating yourself and living in the now, check out Joy Nash's Fat Rant Video below.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Afghan runner goes missing

ESPN is reporting that Mehboba Ahdyar, a 19-year old member of the Afghan olympic track and field team, went missing from her training camp in Italy and may be seeking political asylum in Norway.
Mehboba Ahdyar, a 19-year-old runner who competes in the 800 meters and 1,500 meters, hasn't been heard from since leaving the training center in Formia last week. Her luggage and passport also were gone.
"The IOC accepts that athletes sometimes feel they have to make hard choices to improve their lives," International Olympic Committee spokeswoman Emmanuelle Moreau said Thursday. "It would appear this is what has happened in this case."

Ahdyar is the only woman on Afghanistan's track and field team. She competes in a headscarf and long pants. Nonetheless, the fact that she is a woman in a public space has sparked hostility from the Taliban groups that are regaining strength in Afghanistan. Ahdyar and her family have been repeatedly threatened.
Ahdyar's family of eight lives in a mud-brick house in one of the poorest parts of Kabul.
"We are scared, really scared about the security situation in our country and of the people who have negative views about my family," Ahdyar's mother, Moha Jan, told The Associated Press in March. "These problems cannot stop us from supporting our daughter."

While it contradicts the testimony of the Olympics officials in Italy, Afghanistan's Olympics Committee in Kabul claims that Ahdyar left camp due to a leg injury which has rendered her incapable of competing in Beijing. It is our hope that whatever has happened, Ahdyar finds happiness for her and her family, and that the rights of women continue to progress in Afghanistan despite the resurgence of Taliban forces.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Why Supreme Court Justices Matter

On Wednesday, June 25th in a 6-3 vote the Supreme Court ruled to overturn the murder conviction of Dwayne Giles . In the original trial, a police officer read the statements of Brenda Avie from a police report that was filed a few weeks before the murder in which Avie states that Giles had threatened to kill her. This action allegedly violated Giles' rights when he was not allowed to "confront" his accuser. Thanks to the Supreme Court, the reason for her absence is no longer a mitigating factor. David Savage of the Los Angeles Times predicted the ruling.
Although it sounds far-fetched, Giles's claim could prevail in the Supreme Court. The court took up of the case of Giles v. California to test the outer limits to the so-called confrontation right in the Sixth Amendment. It says, "In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right ... to be confronted with the witnesses against him."

Until 2004, judges usually allowed jurors to hear "reliable" second-hand accounts of what witnesses said if the witness was not available. For example, a police officer could report on what a missing witness had said. But in a case that year, Justice Antonin Scalia insisted this "hearsay" violated the defendant's rights under the Sixth Amendment. "Where testimonial statements are at issue, the only [test] of reliability ... is the one the Constitution actually prescribes: confrontation," Justice Scalia said at the time in Crawford v. Washington.

During yesterday's argument, Justice Scalia said the court should stick to a no-exceptions rule. He said Giles's rights were violated because a police officer had testified at his trial that the murder victim, Brenda Avie, had said Giles threatened to kill her.

And indeed, it is Justice Scalia who's majority opinion is being quoted.

Justice Antonin Scalia said in his majority opinion that domestic violence, though "an intolerable offense," does not justify "abridging the rights of criminal defendants."

The police report in question details an incident in which police were called to a domestic disturbance and found Brenda Avie and Dwayne Giles engaged in an argument. Brenda Avie appeared to have a "bump on her head" and told police that Giles had flashed a knife and threatened to kill her. Giles has confessed to shooting Avie and fleeing the scene but claims it was in self-defense. Justice Stephen Breyer echos in his dissent what this blogger feels about the ruling.

In dissent, Justice Stephen Breyer said the court should have ruled that defendants forfeit their constitutional right to confront witnesses when they are responsible for the witness' absence from trial. Wednesday's ruling, Breyer said, "grants the defendant not fair treatment, but a windfall."

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Infrequent Posting

I just wanted to apologize for the lack of posting and let everyone know that my contract with Women's Resource Center will end July 25th. Because of that I'm in wrap-up mode with all of the projects I started and so life will be kind of hectic from now until the end of my term. Unfortunately, that means that posts here will be infrequent until I'm done at WRC. I'm hoping to continue to post weekly for the next month.

However, once my contract is up posting should resume as a daily event. We appreciate your patience.

Monday, June 9, 2008

Giving yourself a break

Katherine Stone at Postpartum Progress has written a very personal and important post for any parent or guardian, not just those who have suffered from PPD. You should head over and read the whole thing, but I believe her conclusion sums it up quite nicely.
The truth is every mom does something (what's the present tense of wrought? wringing?) that could surely be used against her by her children someday in a therapy session. My son may be at a disadvantage in some way because of my illness. I'll never really know I guess. But I do know that I did my best. I do know that I sought help as soon as possible. I do know that I faked it til I made it. I do know that he's a great reader, a good swimmer, a nice big brother, a cool Lego builder, very witty and absolutely gorgeous. He knows I love him and I know he loves me, and that we're both pretty good people. That's all I've got and I need to keep hold of it. Let the chips fall where they may.