Texas Women

Keeping you in the know about issues affecting Texas women.


Did You Know . . .

. . . that since the Nobel Peace Prize was first awarded in 1901, only 12 women have been given the award? 80 men and 12 organizations have won the Nobel Peace Prize.

There is this pretty neat project, 1,000 Women for the Nobel Peace Prize 2005, which has nominated 1,000 women collectively for this year's peace prize. 37 women are from the U.S. Check out this article here to read more about some of the U.S. nominees. My favorite one mentioned is from right here in Texas, Rev. Mother Mary Elizabeth Thunder.

People, We Need to Care Again!

I have some friends whose eyes glaze over everytime I mention an issue I care about. I can just see them thinking "oh, no! Not more politics! Plleeeaaase, anything but that!" And to me this isn't only politics, or even mostly politics, this is something I really care about (like choice, or domestic violence, or sexual assault) and it is bigger than the political sphere. Just watching my friends reactions both depresses and scares me.

I recently read a book about civil society and democracy. And, finally!, I can pinpoint why I get scared and depressed. We have to CARE about something and PARTICIPATE in something. When we stop paying attention because it seems like we're always on the losing side or because we think that everything is fixed and nothing that we do will matter, we're giving up on more than just an issue. We're giving up our freedoms and weakening our democracy. So my plea to everyone is: CARE again! Get involved again! Stand up, speak your mind, tell your friends about it, form groups, get to know your neighbors, volunteer, VOTE!, help take responsibility for our country and world.

And I promise to get off my soapbox now.



When I was in high school, I used to get so mad when I read about how different cultures treated women-- everything from concealing clothing to female circumcision REALLY made me angry! And then a teacher I really respected asked me if the issue was more complex than my current moral code. She asked me to start thinking about what seems wrong because it's not the way we do it in the US, and what seems wrong because it really is fundamentally wrong. We had a semester of debates and conversations. At the end of it all, I walked away knowing that it is relatively easy to identify the extreme cases, but it is infinitely more difficult to judge those that lay closer to the line between right and wrong. So, female circumcision = WRONG, concealing clothing = maybe. The circumstances and cultural environment are as important in determining right from wrong.

However, there is no doubt in my mind about the unjustness of what happened to Mukhtar Mai! Her village council had this woman gang-raped as punishment for a crime that her 12 year-old brother allegedly committed. Now, several years later, it appears that she will be given justice. Her willingness to confront her attackers is nothing short of heroic in a country where most women never speak of rape for fear of losing their families. Since her attack she has become an activist for women's rights! I'm grateful that she has given voice to the treatment of women in rural parts of Pakistan and very, very sad about the violence that brought her to this point. You can read the full article here.


Another Good One

Yahoo closed down all of its user-created chat rooms. Why, you might ask? Because of reports that older men were using some of these chat rooms to lure children into sexual encounters. In order to determine which are the offending chat rooms, Yahoo closed all of them. Yahoo's policy requires that users not "harm minors in any way" and, while they do not monitor site content, they will remove sites when complaints are made.

Kudos also goes to KPRC-TV in Houston who ran a report on these sites and the advertisers, PepsiCo Inc., State Farm Insurance, and Georgia-Pacific Corp, who pulled their advertising from Yahoo in order to bring attention to these sites! Check out the full article here.


One of The Good Guys

There are isolated pockets of sunshine amongst the bleak landscape that characterizes the fight for equal rights for gay men and lesbians. The US Episcopal Church's ordination of a gay bishop and support of gay unions is one such pocket.

The US Episcopal Church ordained a gay bishop earlier this year and it definitely drew a lot of criticism from Anglican churches around the world. In fact, this action is in direct opposition to official church policy that declares gay sex "incompatible with Scripture" and opposes gay ordinations and same-sex blessings. There has even been talk that this debate could lead to a permanent split within the Anglican Church.

Yet the US church stuck to their convictions and defended their decision at this week's Anglican Consultative Council. They presented a 130-page document titled "To Set Our Hope on Christ." In it they argue that "members of the Episcopal Church have discerned holiness in same-sex relationships and have come to support the blessing of such unions and the ordination or consecration of persons in those unions." You GO! Read the full article here.


Them Crazy Teenagers

There has definitely been a lot of yelling from both sides of the debate over sex education. With people protesting for or against abstinence-only sex ed and arguing over the inclusion of homosexuality in sex ed, we've managed to drown out the voices of the students receiving the education. I realize it's a novel concept, but shouldn't we be asking these teenagers what they think is needed in a sex ed class? In this article, one student said "You can take the sex out of the curriculum, but it's still going to be in society." Teenagers already know about sex; they are already talking about sex. Did you know that by senior year in high school 3 out of 5 young people have had sex, and that 1 out of 5 of those have had sex with four or more people? You may look at these statistics and feel appalled. But the way to change them isn't to stop telling kids about sex, that cat is already out of the bag. Instead we need to talk to them and give them all the facts so that they can make safe, informed decisions. Ignoring an issue doesn't make it go away and most of the time it just turns it into something infinitely worse.


Military Madness, Take Two

Well, what can I say? The appeals court reinstated the arrest warrant for the rape counselor, Jennifer Bier, who won't turn over her records. I honestly did not expect that to happen. By way of explanation the judges said, "The military justice system is more than adequate to address (Bier's) concerns." Obviously not, since she felt she had to pursue this in civilian courts!

And some may say that this isn't a big deal. The judge is going to review the records and decide if they are relevant-- they aren't going straight to the defense and my never be given to them. But really, does it matter who sees them? Even if only one person who falls outside the established therapist-patient relationship sees them, it's still one too many. How exposed would you feel if a stranger was privy to your thoughts and fears? Kind of like standing naked in the high school cafeteria. Bier has said that she won't hide from the US marshals coming to arrest her and that she would rather go to jail than turn over a patient's records. Yeah for her! Though it's sad that it has even come to this point-- her patient had already been violated once, but apparently now it's the justice system's turn. Read the full article here.


You Have Just Entered . . . The Military Zone

A military judge ordered a civilian therapist to turn over a patient's records. Now, this patient is a sexual assault victim and the records are being subpoenaed by her attacker's lawyers. After the therapist refused to provide the court with the records, the judge ordered her arrest. And now it's being duked out in the federal courts. Apparently the military does "protect privilege", but this case is an exception. (Check out the article here.) Can you hear the eerie music yet?

Let's think about this. Would you go to a therapist if you knew the records of your sessions could be made available to the courts? And if you did, how honest could you be? And if you can't trust the confidentiality of your therapist, how helpful will the therapy be? Are we going to force women to choose between reporting a crime and getting timely help for themselves? In a world like the military where past treatment of women has been suspect and crimes are probably under-reported as is, let's go ahead and put one more roadblock in front of women. Come on, everyone likes a good obstacle course! And on a side note, if we're "exporting our brand of democracy" (and the primary delivery method so far has been our military) shouldn't we first make sure that our military respects those same rights and protections we're enforcing on others?


School Bus Dangers

Frequently I find myself reading the news with humor. Because let me tell you, if I didn't laugh at most of it, I'd cry. But today I read this article. And there was nothing even remotely funny about it. Apparently there has been an increase in the number of sexual assaults on school buses. And they aren't talking about high school age kids or bus drivers abusing kids; they're talking about kids in middle school AND elementary school abusing each other! I didn't actually know that this was a problem, so that was a shocker as well. Reading this article, I just got so angry. But, really, who do you blame? Is it the kids for behaving like this, the school for not providing better supervision, the parents for raising kids who can do this, the media for its images of women and its continued sexualization of younger and younger girls, or is it our society which is so uncomfortable with sex that we can't even talk about it? I don't know. All I can say is, talk to your kids about this. Don't let it be something else that we ignore.


Women, HIV, and AIDS

My mom was the best. We had the sex talk so many times that I can't even remember all of them. When I was 16, we had a more specific talk. I ended up walking away with the reminder of "Tell me first, but just in case . . ." and a bag full of condoms. Now while I didn't need the condoms for a couple of years, my mom also kept me supplied. In turn I passed them around to my friends who couldn't or wouldn't talk to their parents. I have to admit I was baffled by that fact since, in this age of AIDS, STDS, and teen pregnancies, I just couldn't imagine my mom NOT talking to me about it-- even if I didn't want to hear. I was also sad, because the sex ed offered by our public school didn't come close to giving all the info my mom did. So, for everyone whose parents didn't talk to them, their info came from friends who really didn't know anymore than they did. That made practicing safe sex really difficult.

Today women make up half of all people living with HIV/AIDs. In Travis County, the most common way for HIV to spread to women is by sex with a man. Even scarier, in the US the group with the highest HIV infection rates is African Americans. In Travis County, African American women are 17 times more likely to contract AIDS and 13 times more likely to contract HIV. Isn't it time we start telling every teenager about safe sex? Not telling them doesn't stop them from having sex, it just increases the likelihood that they'll have unsafe sex. The Statesman is doing a two part series on HIV/AIDS. This first article is an indepth look at the impact of HIV/AIDS on the African American and Hispanic community. It's a pretty good article, but, when you think about what these facts and figures mean for a segment of our population, it gets kind of scary.


Seems Like the Saved the Best for Last

What do we have for the man who:
1. Sought to strike down parts of VAWA;
2. Wanted to eliminate protections in FMLA, the Americans with Disabilities Act, Age Discrimination in Employment Act, the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and the Endangered Species Act;
3. Opposed the enforcement of the Clean Air Act;
4. Opposes women's reproductive rights;
5. Thinks that laws that discriminate against gays are Constitutional; AND
6. Opposes the separation of church and state in favor of "restoring [America's] Christian perspective"?!?!?

Why, it's a Senate confirmation for a lifelong appointment to the federal bench! Come on down, William Pryor, and claim your prize. Yes, the last of three justices who were part of the "nuclear compromise" was confirmed yesterday in a vote of 53 to 45. Check out this article for more info about his confirmation.

Gettin' Something Right, For a Change

Our legislature may have done some crazy things this session (and there were definitely times I wished some of them would get lost on their way to work), but there were a couple of things they got right. Allowing women to break their leases without penalty in order to escape an abusive relationship is definitely one of them. Check out this article. Now women can get out of an abusive situation without having additional worry about finding housing in the future. Thank you Senator Jane Nelson (and thanks to everyone else who voted for the bill).

Of course, now we just have to see if Perry will sign it.


Takin' 'Em Out While They're Young

As if high school wasn't hard enough with hoping your clothes are "cool enough", stressing about college or jobs, wondering when everyone else will realize what a huge dork you are, and navigating your way through all the cliques, let's just add one more pressure for gay teenagers and see what happens. It'll be a fun experiment, come on!

Teenagers can be vicious all on their own (and if you don't think so, it's just because you don't remember); there is no need to give them further ammunition. In an effort to "curb the indoctrination of the youth" by gays and lesbians, Religious Right groups are going all out to ensure gay teens find no support in their schools. Check out this article. This targeting of such a vulnerable population seems to fall in line with other efforts to marginalize and alienate the gay population.

When Partisan Voting is Okay

Back when the "nuclear option" really began to get press and long before the bi-partisan compromise, I emailed my two Senators- Kay Bailey Hutchison and John Cornyn. Now, Cornyn never responded (and I have to admit that I didn't expect him to since we didn't share the same position). KBH, on the other hand, did. It was merely a form letter that I'm sure was sent to many people, but I liked the gesture (though she could've saved paper and postage by responding via email instead). The gist of the letter was that the Democrats were not using the filibuster as it was intended to be used-- it wasn't designed as a partisan tool-- and, since Democrats were misusing it, the time had come to get rid of it.

Ah ha! Obviously, this was not a ruse to bypass minority rights. It was a stand against partisanship! Yet, when Brown was confirmed yesterday with a vote of 56 to 43, the only person who "crossed the aisle" was a Democrat. (Check out the article here.) What happens to the stance against partisanship when it works for you? Apparently it doesn't matter so long as you "win" and get to confirm a justice who has a record of opposing protections for the elderly, workers, the environment, and victims of racial discrimination.

It seems that both sides rail against partisanship when it works against them, and are quick to talk about the "voice of the majority" when it works for them. Argh! I just wish the Senate had had the wisdom to oppose Brown, regardless of political power plays.


Starts out Dumb and just gets Dumber

A Ft. Worth police officer is on trial for: sleeping with a prostitute (DUMB) who was only 16 (DUMBER)!

What ever happened to PROTECT and serve? You're a cop, you see an underage prostitute, what should you do? A) Ignore it, B) Have sex with her, or C) Take her into custody to get her help, either through family or CPS. Please tell me the majority choose C.

Officer Ortega chose B, allegedly. Now he's charged with sexual assault of a child under 17. To further the warm fuzzies, his defense lawyer has called the victim a "prostitute crack whore." First, isn't the use of the words prostitute and whore a little redundant? Second, she was 16 (and now she's 18), so do you really need to vilify the woman? Oh, I guess you do . . . because if it doesn't convince people she's a liar just maybe it'll convince them that what happened didn't matter because she's not really a "good girl." Check out the article here.

Shoo, Your Kind Isn't Wanted Here

Now I wasn't there on Sunday when Perry gave his speeches and signed those bills, but I've definitely read enough about the whole affair to turn my stomach. I thought it was bad enough when Perry said that protestors who were chanting "Separation of church and state" simply didn't want "people of faith to be involved in this process."

But then you hear that an African-American minister told homosexuals "don't compare your sin with my skin" in an argument about why the gay marriage movement cannot be compared to the civil rights movement. Let's see, in both cases there were cases of legal and social discrimination against a minority group, but apparently only one of those groups deserved it! At that point you think that you've hit the bottom, surely it wasn't any worse.

SURPRISE! Oh yes, it seems the single worst moment was when Perry told gays and lesbians to LEAVE THE STATE!!! In a quote in this article, Perry said "Texans have made a decision about marriage and if there is some other state that has a more lenient view than Texas then maybe that's a better place for them to live." I think I'm actually going to be sick now.


Justice Cornyn?

Sounds just a little bit crazy, right? I thought so too, but apparently there are people out there who think he could be on the President's short list. (Check that out here.) Considering his stance on women's rights he would not be one of my favorite choices. Talk of short lists and judicial appointees brings to mind the Senator's comments from this past April about judicial activism and violence against judges. (The full article can be found here.) He was condemning of "judicial activism", but I wonder if his stance would change if he was part of the judiciary again? Would judicial activism become constitutional interpretation?


Awww . . . Those Poor Male Athletes

See, now I've heard it all. Male athletes and discrimination. It seems that by enforcing equal opportunities for female athletes through Title IX, federal officials have been causing "sweeping injustices and discrimination in colleges nationwide!" Yeeeaaaah, sure.

A lawsuit was filed that claimed Title IX has caused a decrease in the number of men's sports at colleges. (Thankfully the Supreme Court refused to reinstate the lawsuit. Check out the full article here.) Hmmm, it's kind of interesting that while there has been a drop in the number of sports like track, swimming, ice hockey, and wrestling, there has also been a rise in the number of football teams. Maybe colleges just prefer their football. Maybe that's where they want to add players and money. Maybe . . . . football is the black hat in this scenario! Or, maybe not.

It just gets me a little riled when I see men claiming discrimination in sports. How many men's sports have professional leagues? How many men get full ride scholarships? How often are they encouraged and praised for their athletic ability? How often are assumptions made about a man's sexuality because he's an athlete?


Brown, then Pryor, and then what?

Well, Frist is getting his "straight up or down" votes on both Janice Rogers Brown and William Pryor. And I don't mind telling you that I hope they both get resounding NOs (though I would settle for a barely no as well). Both of them have scary judicial records. Brown consistently favors the corporation over the individual and the environment. And she has a record of hostility to victims of discrimination. Brown thinks Roe v. Wade is an "abomination" and thinks it should be legal to jail gay men and lesbians for having sex in their own homes! Scared yet? You should be; judge's like this could destroy the future of women's rights. (Check out this site if you want to do something about it.)

And Bush is going to be nominating even more of these types of judges. His take on the nuclear compromise is that it really doesn't change anything, it is "vague enough for people to interpret the agreement the way they want to interpret it." It seems like the "nuclear option" will still be used as a stick when the parties differ on what "extraordinary circumstances" mean. Check out the full article on future nominees here.

Perry Goes to the Gym

There seems to be some squirming and deflecting in the Perry camp about the bill signing at the Calvary Cathedral. Everything was set up as the perfect campaign event. The church, the people, the film crew, and two bills that are highly popular with the Religious Right. Now it seems like Perry got a little burned and so decided to pull back to a safe distance. Check out the article here.

Where earlier Perry was staging a "ceremony at Calvary Cathedral", now he's having an "event in the school gymnasium." Hmmmm. Oh, and that film crew? Cancelled-- they've "got enough footage." And just in case this (re-)clarification of points isn't enough? Throw some accusations out there and see what sticks. Any criticism of the event is an attack on "people of faith" by those who "don't want [them] to have any voice in politics or government."

Notice how they very skillfully place every religious person on their side and all the god-less heathens on the other? Makes me want to get up and say NO, not every religious person is on your side! Hey, I'm a PK and I definitely don't want you signing bills in a church (or a religious school) and in fact I'm actually opposed to the bills you're signing. HA!


Perry Goes to Church

And takes along some bills to sign! Okay, I was all ready to start focusing on other things now that the legislative session is over, but OMG what is that man thinking? According to the article, Perry will be signing the parental consent bill and setting a date for the gay marriage amendment vote at the Calvary Cathedral. I have to say I'm completely baffled on this one. Did he just wake up one morning and think "bill signings, church what a great combo!?" And if he didn't and instead it's some political ploy, then I'm just scared.


The Cult of Ana?

Okay, I have to admit it, my obsessive checking for news about the Texas legislature and the filibuster fight left me a little out of the loop on other things. However, now that the session has ended and the nuclear option has resulted in a compromise (at least temporarily), I've turned my attention to the other news items I've been missing. And all I can say is WHAT?

When did eating disorders become hip? Have I been that out of touch? Anorexia is now Ana, Bulimia is Mia, and in general eating disorders are Ed! Yep, gave 'em nicknames, just like you would a friend. I remember watching a friend's older sister waste away and I was scared. And now Ana is a "role model to some, a goddess to others -- the subject of drawings, prayers and even a creed." (Check out the full article here.)

It's scary. And at first you ask why? But just look at the super skinny women who grace all of our magazine covers (some of whom look like they HAVE an eating disorder and are praised for it!), look at the attention Anna Nicole got for dropping weight so quickly, and look at Kirstie Alley put herself down as the "Fat Actress." I just wonder where I was looking when the disease became a deity.

Say Good-bye to the Lege

Yep. It all ended on Monday. Except Perry may still call a special session in order to avoid being the governor who couldn't fund public education, in which case we'll see all of our legislators back here this summer.

Looking back at the past 5 months, you can see that the legislature did some good things, like expanding Medicaid coverage for women and standardizing care for sexual assault victims-- oh, and August 26 is now Women's Independence Day, and some bad things, like passing parental consent and the amendment to ban gay marriage. Yet it's not just what the legislature did that matters, you also need to look at what they couldn't do while they were busy with nonsense bills.

The legislature spent time trying to ban gay foster parents, define "too sexy" for cheerleaders, and pass school voucher legislation instead of trying to fix the law that requires doctors to lie to women about a link between breast cancer and abortion or actually tackling PUBLIC school reform that would benefit ALL students instead of just a few.

Yep, looking at this legislative session is enough to make you despair about the future of our state. But let's try to remember all of those legislators who fought for women and our rights. Those legislators who introduced the good bills and fought to have them heard; those who wouldn't sit down and be ignored when attempts were made to steamroll awful legislation through! Say thank you! to those representatives and senators and let's do all we can to increase their numbers next time around.