Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Schwarzenegger Vetoes Bill That Prohibited Shackling of Pregnant Prisoners

This is outrageous.  If you are pregnant and in a California jail, you just might be shackled when you are transported between facilities.  AB1900 would have ended this practice.  In fact it faced no opposition and passed the Legislature without a single no vote.  According to Governor Schwarzenegger, the bill was outside the scope of the duties of the Corrections Standards Authority (CSA)Schwarzenegger said:
CSA's mission is to regulate and develop standards for correctional facilities, not establish policies on transportation issues to and from other locations.

It seems that transporting prisoners would be a part of operating a correctional facility and by extension would be a necessary aspect of the regulations and standards they develop.  In any case I have never understood the logic of this practice.  It seems unreasonable to assume that a pregnant woman will just magically escape her guards. 

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Women in the Labor Movement

Last week I attended a press conference at the Albuquerque, New Mexico office of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers.  From my seat I had a great view of a beautiful mural and it got me thinking about the labor movement. 

You may have heard of César Chávez co-founder of the National Farm Workers Association, which later became the United Farm Workers (UFW).  If you do not recognize his name, I know you’ve heard his slogan: "Sí, se puede.” 

Who you may not have heard of is Dolores Huerta, Chavez’s co-founder. 

Huerta was born Dolores Clara Fernandez, on April 10, 1930 in northern New Mexico.  Her father, Juan Fernández, was a farm worker, miner and union activist who would be elected to the New Mexico legislature in 1938.  In the mid-1930s Juan and Dolores’ mother Alicia Fernández divorced.   Huerta then moved with her mother and siblings to Stockton, in northern California's San Joaquin Valley.

In 1955, Dolores co-founded the Stockton chapter of the Community Service OrganizationThrough her work she met CSO Executive Director, Cesar Chavez.  The two soon realized that they shared a common vision:  to organize farm workers.

In the spring of 1962, César and Dolores resigned from the CSO and launched the National Farm Workers Association.  Dolores’ organizing skills were invaluable to the development of the organization.  Despite her hard work, the obstacles she faced as a woman did not go unnoticed.  In a letter to Chavez she joked…”Being a now (ahem) experienced lobbyist, I am able to speak on a man-to-man basis with other lobbyists.”

In 1965 Huerta directed the United Farm Workers’ national grape boycott, which launched her into a fast-paced period of negotiating contracts, lobbying, organizing boycotts and strikes and spearheading farmworker political activities.

She now serves as President of the Dolores Huerta FoundationYou can read more about her organizing work here and you can find out more about women in the labor movement here.

The Latest in Transphobia

I am really upset whenever I hear someone was a victim of transphobia, but it especially saddens me when they are so young and are being marginalized by supposed grown-ups who are supposed to care about them.

A Michigan teen was voted homecoming king by his classmates, but his school then stripped him of the title. Their rationale: he's still registered as a girl.

According to Wood TV, Mona Shores High School in Muskegon, Michigan had in some ways accepted seventeen-year-old Oakleigh "Oak" Reed as a boy. Says Reed, "They let me wear a male tux for band uniform, and they're going to let me wear the male robe and cap for graduation." Teachers, he adds, "call me Oak, and they say, he, him, his." And when he campaigned for homecoming king (by simply posting the message "Vote for me for homecoming king" on Facebook), he won. But then he was summoned to the principal's office. Says Reed, "They told me that they took me off because they had to invalidate all of my votes because I'm enrolled at Mona Shores as a female."

Sunday, September 19, 2010

NYTimes Highlights First Openly Gay Minister

Before reading today's article in the NYT about Rev. James Stoll, one of the first openly gay ministers, I had never heard of him. His story is an inspiring one. It is also a reminder that a lot of people who devote their lives to making the world a little fairer are forgotten and/or not appreciated enough in their lifetimes.

So please, take a moment to read the story. Then take a moment to thank someone in your life who is working to make the world better.

Saturday, September 18, 2010


My name is Kyle and Amelia has graciously invited me to contribute to Female Impersonator. Before I post anything substantive I wanted to introduce myself and make a note about privilege.

I know you are wondering because our culture teaches us to categorize people. So yes, I am female. And you do pronounce my name like the boy's name. Now that we have that out of the way, I can give you some background about me!

I am a Michigander and I attended the University of Michigan for undergrad. After graduation I moved as far away from snow as I could get. I spent the next five amazing years in Austin, Texas where I earned my law degree. And just recently I moved to New Mexico which definitely deserves its nickname: The Land of Enchantment.

I've helped organize productions of The Vagina Monologues, served on the board of directors of an abortion fund, and co-founded a chapter of Law Students for Reproductive Justice.

The opportunity to attend college and grad school, not to mention participate in all the activities listed above, are just some indicators of the unearned privilege I have in our society. I am a white, cisgender, middle class, presently able-bodied, American citizen by birth. This means I will make privilege-induced mistakes. It also means I welcome correction and criticism even though I know it isn't anyone else's responsibility to educate me.

I am quite excited to contribute to the discussion on this blog and I hope you all enjoy reading my musings.

Cheers for now!

Awesome Women Testify to End Archaic Definition of Rape

Rape is a famously underreported crime. This is for many reasons, but one of them can be easily fixed: the Uniform Crime Report (UCR) definition of rape("the carnal knowledge of a female forcibly and against her will") only applies to very specific instances of rape. This means that even when someone reports their sexual assault it may not be counted in rape statistics because it does not fit into this particular category.

Luckily, some awesome people
have testafied before a Senate subcommittee in an effort to make the UCR definition all-encompassing.

Eleanor Smeal, president of the Feminist Majority Foundation, testified today before the Senate Committee on the Judiciary, Subcommittee on Crime and Drugs at its hearing "Rape in the United States: The Chronic Failure to Report and Investigate Rape Cases" and called for national reform in the reporting and investigating of rape crimes. Moreover, Smeal advocated the adoption of new federal policies to encourage the recruitment of law enforcement personnel with specialized education and skills in dealing with sexual assault and the recruitment and retention of more women in law enforcement.

"Yesterday, the federal government once again released a report citing a decrease in the incidence of rape. But American women should not be fooled," explained Smeal. "The narrow and out-dated definition of rape ("the carnal knowledge of a female forcibly and against her will") in the Uniform Crime Report, first adopted in 1927, results in a significant undercounting of the actual number of rapes that are reported."

"The upshot of this narrow, archaic definition," continued Smeal, "is that many rapes are excluded from the Uniform Crime Report statistics - including forced anal sex and/or oral sex, vaginal or anal fisting, rape with an object (even if serious injuries result), and other injurious and degrading sexual assaults that would be considered rape by any rational adult." It also excludes statutory rape and omits rape by men against men and any rape by a woman. Moreover, this out-dated definition of rape excludes the use of drugs or alcohol to subdue a victim, a common tactic used today.

The National Crime Victimization Survey of the Bureau of Justice Statistics also significantly underreports rape. Although the NCVS definition is somewhat broader, it excludes rapes committed against victims under the age of 12, which some experts believe to be about 25% of all rapes.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Report: LGBTQ students face harassment, but we can help

A recent study revealed some unsurprising, but nonetheless saddening data showing what hardships LGBTQ students must deal with.

...Nine of 10 [LGBTQ middle and high school students] reported experiencing harassment at their school within the past year based on their sexual orientation or gender identity, and two-thirds said they felt unsafe at school because of who they are. Nearly one-third skipped at least one day of school within the previous month because of concerns for their safety. Perhaps not surprisingly, locker rooms and bathrooms were locations of particular worry for LGBT students. Surely we as a country can and must do a better job of protecting these students and ensuring their rights to a first-class education free of fear of discrimination and harassment.

The report also included a list of factors in schools that have been shown to lead to better educational outcomes for LGBT students, as well as reductions in harassment, including the presence of supportive student clubs like GSAs, inclusive curriculum (a discussion of important LGBT figures in history, like Harvey Milk, for example), and supportive educators.

Despite the fact that LGBT students remain a particularly vulnerable population in schools, there is no explicit federal prohibition against discrimination and harassment of students based on sexual orientation or gender identity. Similar protections already exist for students based on race, color, sex, religion, disability or national origin, and it is long overdue for Congress to act to protect LGBT students.

Fortunately, there is legislation currently pending in Congress — the Student Non-Discrimination Act — that would protect students from discrimination and harassment in public schools based on their actual or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity and would provide victims with legal remedies. And the bill includes protections against anti-LGBT harassment, which is particularly important in light of the findings in the latest National School Climate Survey.

To find out more info as well as how to contact your member of Congress to encourage her or him to support the Student Non-Discrimination Act, click here.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Feminism is International

First of all, I apologize for my lack of posting. I have been preparing to go abroad, then going abroad, and am now in Europe with internet and will resume posting.

In honor of my European adventures, I am encouraging our readers to get informed about some
feminist legislation that could have a global impact.

This fall, the International Violence Against Women Act of 2010 (I-VAWA) is before Congress. This legislation is groundbreaking and needs our efforts to pass.

I-VAWA presents a critical opportunity for the United States government to aid other nations in protecting, defending and empowering the world’s women. As we feminist-minded social justice activists know, it is often the case that other nations’ sociopolitical climates have been influenced by some past or present U.S. policy or action. Call it reparations, call it consciousness-raising–I-VAWA is a ray of hope for certain parts of the globe.

The law would integrate violence prevention into U.S. foreign policy and support international in-country programs. As is the cases of Haiti, Darfur, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Pakistan, incidents of extreme violence against women and girls in Guatemala goes largely unpunished.

To encourage your representative to support I-VAWA, click here.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Quick Blog Note


Just wanted to stop by and leave a quick note explaining that school has once again begun for me. It's my senior year at Knox College, and that means lots of 300-level classes and lots of hours of work to save up money to pay off impending student loans.

In addition to all that, I'll be working on several feminist projects on my campus all year. I may not be able to write as frequently as I have in the past, but I will be behind the scenes moderating comments and the like. And don't give up! You may very well hear from some of my other amazing co-bloggers.

And I already have a few post ideas brewing in my head, so maybe I will get those written sometime in the near future. Check back!

Lastly: If you're interested in blogging here, whether it's a one-time deal or a more permanent position, let me know [amelia(dot)impersonator(at)gmail(dot)com]. I would love to include more voices in this space, so if you have the time and the desire to contribute, we'd love to have you on board.

I wish the best to all our readers!

Friday, September 10, 2010

Federal court rules "Don't ask, don't tell" unconstitutional

"Don't ask, don't tell," a policy that bars gays and lesbians from openly serving in the American military, was found unconstitutional by a federal court in California.

Via CNN:

"Plaintiff has demonstrated it is entitled to the relief sought on behalf of its members, a judicial declaration that the don't ask, don't tell act violates the Fifth and First Amendments, and a permanent injunction barring its enforcement," concluded U.S. District Judge Virginia Phillips, a 1999 Clinton appointee.
"The act discriminates based on the content of the speech being regulated," Phillips wrote. "It distinguishes between speech regarding sexual orientation, and inevitably, family relationships and daily activities, by and about gay and lesbian servicemembers, which is banned, and speech on those subjects by and about heterosexual servicemembers, which is permitted."

While this ruling is likely to be in the appeal process for a while, Congress is still in a position to repeal DADT and make this ruling a reality in the military.


Thursday, September 9, 2010

Alaska's Parental Notification Law

This story has been making the rounds in the feminist blogosphere for awhile now, but I somehow missed it until my sister brought it to my attention a few days ago.

Apparently, in Alaska, if a woman is under the age of 18 she does not have the right to her own uterus.
The state [Alaska] also became the 35th state to require some kind of parental notification or consent for a minor to obtain an abortion. As Alex Gutierrez reported from the state itself, this measure was controversial. The total expenditures to fight and promote the measure combined totaled more than $1 million —that’s more than $2 per registered voter in the state.


Parental consent and notification laws are one of those things that are politically popular among conservative — and even moderate — voters. What I find dangerous about the law is that it taps into a stereotypical parental protective instinct, sort of a mom- or dad-knows-best mentality. Fundamentally, though this simply isn’t practical or good policy.

In some instances, girls and young women seek abortions because they have been sexually abused by one of their parents. A law that requires both parents to consent could potentially put a minor in an abusive relationship in danger. Opponents of the new Alaska law fear the new law cause confusion and teens seeking an abortion might see the restriction a straight-up ban. For some teens, seeking an abortion is terrifying enough without piling on restrictions. Furthermore, Alaska is an extremely remote place — getting to another state with better abortion access might be particularly difficult and expensive.

It seems to me that if advocates of this law were truly concerned about young women having someone be aware of the procedure in the event of complications, then they should require that she have an emergency contact person (not necessarily a parent). What this law is really saying is that a woman under the age of 18 does not have the mental capacity to decide to terminate her pregnancy on her own and therefore has to clear it with her guardian first. This is not only problematic for the reasons above, but because a woman has the right to choose whether or not she is ready to carry a child to term and she has the right to make that decision any way she chooses- which means with or without the go ahead from her parents.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Dean Loses Job for Marrying Partner

This is so infuriating.

According to, Christine Judd was athletic director and dean at Cathedral High School in Springfield, Massachusetts — until she married her partner last month. At that point the Roman Catholic Diocese of Springfield gave her a choice — quit or be fired. Says diocese spokesman Mark Dupont,

Without being specific to this matter, it should be clear that all employees of our Catholic schools are made aware of our policies and regulations. This includes language that clearly states that whenever by public example, an employee engages in or espouses conduct which contravenes the doctrine and teaching of the Catholic Church, that employee may be subject to disciplinary action. To do otherwise would be in contradiction to the values we believe in and are teaching in these same schools. So while we certainly want to be compassionate and understanding, we must be true to who we are.

Judd says that she's "still exploring her legal options," and that "she questions if there are lay persons who work for the Catholic diocese who divorce and remarry without an annulment, or employees who use birth control, or men who have had vasectomies, or individuals who are pro-choice on abortion."

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Denver Women's Correctional Facility Abuse

**Trigger Warning for abuse of female prisoners**

Yuck. Female prisoners in Colorado are now expected to lift their outer labia while "officers search for contraband–sometimes with a flashlight, with faces only inches away from their genitals." This is not only worse than most strip search policies in the U.S., but women who were not suspected of carrying contraband have been submitted to this search. According to prisoners who have been forced to undergo the procedure, they have been "forced to sit or stand in front of an officer and lift their outer labia and clitoral hoods to prove an absence of contraband." These "labia lifts" are especially ridiculous because thorough cavity search policies were already in place before this policy was instated.

Luckily, the ACLU is
on it. They have sent a letter to the Colorado Department of Corrections citing the unconstitutionality of the practice as well as the potential for the searches to produce trauma. Trauma is especially likely to occur among women in prison as approximately 80 percent of incarcerated women survived domestic violence and physical abuse before their conviction.