“Nothing About Us Without Us”: A Sex Worker-Made PSA

August 15, 2010

People who have done sex work or been involved in the sex trades -- and their experiences and their expertise -- are all too often shut out of the places where the quality of their lives and their rights are up for debate. Even among those working for public health, including sexual/reproductive health and rights, sex workers can be regarded as "vulnerable" populations, not leaders in their own health and in the well-being of our communities. Want a tool to share the concerns of sex workers with people who care about health, rights, and justice? Participants in Speak Up!, a video advocacy training conducted by Sex Work Awareness, produced a video to educate harm reduction practitioners and community health care providers about the goals that sex workers share with them. The PSA features Naomi Akers, executive director of Third Wave grant partner St. James Infirmary, the first occupational health and safety clinic in the United States run by and for sex workers. St. James Infirmary has been a leader in opposing the police practice of confiscating condoms as evidence from sex workers. In the video, Naomi asks:

If you are a service provider or health official concerned with disease prevention, we encourage you to work with sex workers to end these police practices.
The Speak Up participants have also created a toolkit for harm reduction practitioners who want to learn how to work with sex workers -- not just as a "target" population, but as critical allies in health and justice.

Posted in: d.i.y., Media, Movement Building

A Call To Weave Movements Together

August 11, 2010

We've been doing a lot of reflecting on the points of connection and intersection in our work: where reproductive justice meets and entwines with racial justice, economic justice, justice for LGBTQ people. This call from Dolores Huerta, co-founder of the United Farm Workers of America, could not come at a more perfect time. For her 80th birthday, she asks us to consider how we might become stronger by weaving our movements for justice together: (video: Democracy Now!)

Posted in: Blog, Community, Media, Movement Building

Celebrating Ada Lovelace Day

March 25, 2010

Jahajee SIsters, Third Wave grant partnerMarch 24th is Ada Lovelace Day, which is “an international day of blogging to draw attention to the achievements of women in technology and science.” This day was created in honor of one of the world’s first computer programmers, Ada Lovelace. To learn more about Ada Lovelace Day and the woman herself, you can check out this blog pledge page and Wikipedia. I’m honored to contribute to this day and to acknowledge some unsung heroes that contribute to a field that is oft prone to leaving out women -- especially young women and women of color. For this celebration, I want to write a little bit about one of our grant partners, Jahajee Sisters. Jahajee Sisters is a movement-building organization committed to building solidarity and fostering empowerment of women in the Indo-Caribbean community. They are working to introduce the concept of reproductive justice to young women in their community, and to cultivate the leadership potential of the next generation so they will work for change in the future. As a stepping stone to achieving this, they have held a Young Women’s Summer Leadership Institute, which includes media training for the participants to learn how to effectively use technology to raise awareness of reproductive justice within their community. With these skills, Jahajee Sisters wants their constituents to be able to stimulate dialogue around reproductive health and rights. I find this organization to be particularly amazing because this is a young organization that recognizes and addresses the needs of a marginalized community. In the 21st century, community organizing techniques have grown immensely to include new technologies for community engagement. I applaud Jahajee Sisters by not ignoring this facet of organizing and empowering their girls by teaching them how to be self-sufficient and learn how to use video on their own to reach justice in their community. They even provide the girls in their programs Flip Cams, giving them equipment which may have been inaccessible for them due to socioeconomic status. Technology is not just about sitting in front of computers and creating complicated code. We can make technology accessible for all women and use it to bring social change and justice for all.

Posted in: Blog, Grant Partners, Jahajee Sisters, Media, Movement Building

Chicago Abortion Fund: Anti-Choice Billboards Shame Black Women

March 29, 2011

Chicago Abortion Fund Opposes Racist Anti-Choice Billboard Featuring Obama's Face, Chicago (anti-choice billboard image via Feministing) Third Wave grant partner Chicago Abortion Fund released this statement today, denouncing a new series of anti-choice billboards targeting communities of color -- this time, in their hometown Chicago:

Chicago Abortion Fund (CAF) is against the billboard being unveiled at 58th and State Streets on the South Side of Chicago on Tuesday, March 29, 2011. The ongoing anti-choice movement to target women of color in cities across the country is both despicable and deplorable. Not only is the ad attempting to shame black women but placing a picture of the President Obama alongside the message stoops to a new low. CAF demands that elected officials and community leaders immediately reject this racist billboard campaign. Life Always, the organization responsible for the billboard, is just one of the many anti-choice organizations seeking shock value through a message that many don’t believe. These organizations and their billboard campaigns fail to address the social conditions that create the need for abortions, including poverty and a lack of access to contraception and reproductive health care. Says Gaylon Alcaraz, executive director of the Chicago Abortion Fund, “These people who insist on shoving down our throats their anti-women messages through lies and misleading information should be ashamed of themselves. Women have a legal right to access abortion services and should not be shamed regarding the personal choices they make. Abortion is a personal decision, not a political discussion. We will not be moved by this anti-choice attempt to hijack our communities. Only we, women of color, can speak for our communities. Only we, women of color, know what is best for our families.”
Last year, similar billboards first began to appear in Georgia. Third Wave grant partner SPARK Reproductive Justice NOW successfully mobilized their community and allies in Atlanta to denounce the billboards and speak to the truth of black women's fight for reproductive freedom. For more on the network of anti-choice organizations funding these billboards, check out Miriam Zoila Pérez's investigation at Colorlines. Update (March 30, 2011): Gaylon Alcaraz on NBC Chicago, at yesterday's protest against the billboards:

Posted in: Actions, Ads, Chicago Abortion Fund, Reproductive Justice

CNN Misses the Mark on Third Wave Feminism

June 4, 2010

Carol Costello of CNN had a segment a few weeks ago that is supposed to explore "what could be the 'third wave' of feminism, and why that's troubling." They invited Jaclyn Friedman, the co-editor of Yes Means Yes: Visions of Female Sexual Power and a World Without Rape, to come in and interview for the video. Sadly, the end result is a very short segment titled "Bad Girls a Dangerous Trend?" complete with an inaccurate interpretation of a female pop artist's song that supposedly "celebrates promiscuity and drinking until you pass out in a stranger's bathtub." (You can read a transcript at Shakesville.) The segment does not address third wave feminism (or any feminism) at all (if the title and introduction didn't already give it away). It is a 2.5 minute clip that talks about a pervasive "raunch culture" that is creating violent "bad girls" who curse and drink too much. CNN misquotes Friedman to give the impression that a reputable well-known feminist agrees with the sentiments they're trying to pitch (to read Jaclyn's response to the segment and what she really said during the interview, click here). CNN provides a tired, sexist narrative that seems to make its round regularly on mainstream media. Reporters shake their hands in disbelief of this "new" trend of young women who drink "too much" and say that this causes them to be raped. When Jaclyn was approached with this sentiment, she says that everyone should be encouraged to drink responsibly, not just women. Instead of bringing real information or a "new" point of view into the spotlight, Costello jumps on the bandwagon of victim-blaming and finding scapegoats. While blaming feminism for imaginary outbreaks in promiscuity from women is not new, I was surprised that CNN wasn't even aware of the third wave of feminism. I thought a part of journalism is being well-informed and I pause to wonder how the network managed to miss a decades-old movement for so long and then interpret the Wikipedia article of the Third Wave as "bad girls who drink alcohol, curse and get themselves raped!" I hope that someone will want to break free from the mainstream media's affinity for ignoring feminism 90% of the time and mislabeling it or straight-up lying about it 10% of the time. Should we wait for that day to come when feminism won't be demonized on the likes of CNN and FOX? Do we try to place feminists, womanists, activists, social justice enthusiasts into the major newspapers, magazines, and TV channels? Or should we continue with creating our own media, where we blog our hearts out at Shakesville and interview the Hulk about his feminism?

Posted in: Media

Double Standards: Congress Attacks Abortion and Families

May 12, 2011

In this segment from GRITtv, Paris Hatcher, Executive Director of SPARK Reproductive Justice Now, exposes the double standards at the heart of recent Congressional attacks on abortion and the rights of young people to parent:

"We're supposed to love life, right? And protect mothers and ban abortion because abortion is about ending babies lives, right? But then we see cuts to WIC, [Women, Infants & Children benefits], we know women are being chained to beds to give birth."

Posted in: Healthcare, Media, Reproductive Justice, SPARK

Empowered FeFes: Sex, Disability, and Videotape

August 28, 2010

The Empowered FeFes are dedicated to honing the leadership skills of young women with disabilities. Third Wave has supported them to in training other grassroots organizations led by disabled young women. In this new video, they show off some of their amazing work in peer-based sex ed:

Fe Fes educate themselves about sex from many angles by talking with activists and scholars. The viewer tags along on a date between a woman with a disability and her able-bodied boyfriend, exploring relationship issues of dating with a disability over a candle-lit dinner.
You can get your own copy from Beyondmedia Education. (via materialworld)

Posted in: Empowered FeFes, Media

How Anti-Choice Billboards & Crisis Pregnancy Centers Target Women of Color

April 13, 2011

Writing at, Chicago Abortion Fund's executive director Gaylon Alcaraz describes the scene at a protest against the new anti-abortion billboards in Chicago:

As black women gathered to protest and demand the removal of those signs, which were posted up in the darkness from the night before, black preachers and other Life Always representatives stood at the microphone explaining why they chose this neighborhood and the president’s image for their tag line: “Every 21 minutes our next possible leader is aborted.”  These three identical billboards placed side by side on a building that face evidence of poverty, neglect and despair is ironic.  The lot in which the press conference was held is littered with broken glass and garbage, with grass nowhere to be found.  It is this scene that provided the backdrop for this Houston-based group to advocate for “Life Always.”  Yet, these outsiders fail to see the irony in telling black women in this depressed neighborhood not to abort their ‘babies.’ By coming into poor communities of color in an effort to regulate and attempt to control women’s decisions about reproduction and reproductive health, the group is spreading fear, myths and falsehoods not only about abortion (one lonely woman of color stood on stage and talked about breast cancer and abortion) but also about what these anti-choice organizations actually do.  For example, one preacher yelled from the podium that they advocate for more crisis pregnancy centers that would help women.  Yet, we all know that these centers do not help women but attempt to shame through various tactics, such as propaganda films and shoving mutilated dolls in front of women. One of the women that sought funding from the Chicago Abortion Fund, Nicole Goss, found a crisis pregnancy center before she found our information.  She had this type of experience.  In fact, she stated that the center she found herself in attempted to do everything to force her not to have an abortion, even telling her she was too far along to have a procedure – which was not true!  These centers are deceitful but very dangerous as well.  Nicole had a second- trimester procedure which proved to be not only more risky but drastically more expensive  than if she had access to an earlier first-trimester abortion.  This is a clear example of the deceptive work of these centers for which the preachers are advocating.
Over on Chicago Abortion Fund's blog, their members shared their reactions to the billboards:
What Life Always should have done was invested the time, energy and funds they used to put up those billboards into these neighborhoods and their schools. Fund and advocate for comprehensive sex education in the schools. Provide us with employment resources. - Brittany
Abortion is a choice and i know everyone is entitled to the own opinion however i still being this billboard should be removed. growing up in this community many would be surprise to know what goes on and what woman have to endure so i feel that attempting to alter someone minds and choice is wrong. Allow these woman to make there own choices who knows a few years down the road they too could be the next possible leader.... - Dominique Perry
You can keep connected with Chicago Abortion Fund's work in support of reproductive justice on their blog, Twitter, and Facebook.

Posted in: Chicago Abortion Fund, Healthcare, Media, Reproductive Justice

How Criminalizing the Sex Trade Contributes to Violence

May 12, 2011

Writing at The Guardian (UK), Third Wave's Melissa Gira Grant argues that outlawing the sex trade has contributed to a social economy of violence against people who exchange sex for what they need to survive. In addition, she questions how anti-prostitution stings re-enforce race, gender, and class inequalities:

...women, men and transgender people who are targeted in anti-prostitution street sweeps and internet stings may be charged with breaking laws against solicitation, but not all sex workers face the consequences of the law equally. Those who can afford to find clients away from the street, who have a mobile phone or computer access, are less likely to interact with the police. For those who are arrested, if they are in possession of condoms, these may be confiscated and used to build a case for prostitution against them. False arrest – sometimes, simply for walking in an area known for prostitution – is not uncommon, particularly for young people, people of colour, LGBTQ people and people perceived as gender nonconforming. In this fashion, discrimination and economics regulate the sex trade in tandem with the legal system.

Posted in: Anti-Violence, Blog, Criminalization, Media

I Spy Subway Ads: Sexism or Strength?

January 8, 2010

Melissa spotted the following ad in a New York subway station and shared it with me: Oxford Health ad The ad for Oxford Health Plans features a woman’s body with no head, and encourages passers by to “look closer" -- and if you do, you'll see the following scribbles: “sexism,” “objectifies women,” “erotic,” “women can show off and be beautiful,” “don’t buy,” “no because then public viewing of sports would be sexist.” What do you think? Is that ad degrading and objectifies women, or is it showing a strong, athletic, female body? Use the comments to tell us what you would Sharpie on the poster.

Posted in: Ads, Blog, I Spy, Street