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Mainstreaming Pimpland in the NYC Subway System

Sun, 04/05/2020 - 16:09

Last February, the Metropolitan Transit Authority (MTA) plastered ads throughout New York City’s vast subway system that, unbeknownst to riders, promote prostitution. 

Bright, eye-catching pink and red posters urged New Yorkers to flock to a free pop-up exhibit “celebrating the global sex worker movement.” Activities and talks from March 10-16 would have burbled at the pop-up, had alerts about the deadly COVID-19 pandemic not shut it down a few days after opening. 

At first glance, the advertised event just seemed an innocuous celebration of a marginalized group that suffers in silence and isolation. In most countries, including every US state, people in prostitution are harassed and arrested by the police, shunned by society, incarcerated far too often. Women bought and sold in the few legal brothels in rural Nevada are immune to arrest but suffer stigmatization and exploitation.   

But that’s not the full story behind the pop-up and the movement it promotes. Which is why 14 New York City-based groups, mostly direct service providers, survivor-led groups, and women’s rights organizations, challenged the MTA for accepting advertising that violates its own internal rules prohibiting the promotion of illegal goods and activities, political messages or “sexually oriented business.”

So, what is the story? 

The phrase “sex work “is a euphemism for prostitution. Coined in the late seventies by the sex trade and its supporters to legitimize sexual exploitation as employment, the term is a creative stroke that has changed the way we talk about prostitution. 

The mediaacademiaHollywood, and the self-anointed progressive movement view prostitution exclusively through the lens of personal choice, autonomy and self-identity, not as a phenomenon rooted in histories of misogyny, racism, and colonization.

The sex trade functions like any commercial market, operating on the principles of supply and demand, driven by an incentive for profit. 

The “supply” here comprises the most vulnerable populations on the planet, primarily children and women who have endured childhood sexual violence, inequalities, displacement, foster care, and suffered from an appalling absence of socio-economic choices. 

New York is no exception. Disenfranchised women and girls, as well as trans youth, mostly people of color and overwhelmingly victims of sex trafficking, are fodder for the local sex trade. 

Their profiteers thrive online and off: pimps and traffickers; owners and managers of brothels, illicit massage parlors, strip clubs, escort services, sugar dating websites; and pornographers. These perpetrators generally enjoy impunity for the crimes they perpetuate to procure victims and keep them in check, using a variety of tactics, from vicious coercion to ritualistic violence to debt bondage. 

The invisible pillar of the sex trade, however, are the men who purchase sexual acts with quasi-blanket exemption from accountability. Since the novel coronavirus outbreak, a plethora of news articles are reporting about the decimation of brothelsand other commercial sex establishments and red-light districts. Almost none are talking about the men who create the demand for prostitution that hold the pillars of prostitution on their shoulders and foster sex trafficking.   Do the math: without this demand, the sex trade crumbles. 

The MTA defended the pop-up ad campaign as constitutionally protected free speech, promoting a cultural exhibit, not prostitution. 

Had the MTA conducted any research before accepting these ads, it would have discovered these were false assumptions. They would have recognized that the poster’s red umbrella is the universal logo of the movement to decriminalize the sex trade worldwide. 

The MTA might have found out that former leaders of the Global Network of Sex Work Projects (whose logo includes said red umbrella) were convicted of sex trafficking and are now serving prison sentences in Mexico and Argentina.

Had the MTA logged onto the @sexworkerspopup Instagram account, prominently noted on the colorful posters, it would have quickly seen linked pages with child pornography, which I cannot cite here. 

While the MTA claimed the ads didn’t promote political activities, five minutes of research would have yielded announcementsof talks at the pop-ups by elected officials and political candidates promoting the decriminalization of brothels, sex buying and sex tourism. 

Not to mention, the expensive ad campaign was sponsored by George Soros’ billion-dollar Open Society Foundations, which also endows the global movement to decriminalize, legalize, and deregulate the sex trade.

With this information, the MTA would have understood that celebrating the “sex worker movement” is not about helping those surviving the hell that is prostitution, nor about helping them exit, but about promoting the sex trade itself. Otherwise, this movement, which includes convicted pimps and sexual predators, would never ask governments to greenlight the commercial sex market.

And let’s not forget pornography, which sex trade survivors routinely describe as prostitution on screen. 

The sex trade is shifting further online. Pornhub, the largest digital warehouse of pornographic videos, is taking advantage of the COVID-19 crisis by offering free premium access to its platform, which includes documented rapes and the sex trafficking of children

Individuals can always “choose” to engage in dangerous activities that put their lives at risk and a tiny percentage of those in prostitution claim they entered the sex trade freely, as adults, without any third-party extorting every dollar. The “sex work” movement argues getting paid for sexual acts is simply labor and must be fully decriminalized. 

But the growing movement of survivors, fighting the normalization of the sex trade, is a powerful one. The truths these women (as well as a few men and trans women) share about their lived experiences in prostitution and pornography offer us meaningful solutions to combat the horrors sex buyers, exploiters, and prostitution imposes.

“Prostitution is the only ‘job’ where what you earn declines the longer you remain in it,” said Mickey Meji, advocacy manager at Embrace Dignity and the founder of Kwanele, a survivor-led network in South Africa when I asked her whether claims that prostitution is work like any other is rooted in reality. 

“In all other professions, experience offers you increased regard and higher earnings. Prostitution is the only ‘occupation’ where experience strips one’s dignity,” Meji added.

Will the worst health crisis in modern history end the sex trade or recreate it? 

Will COVID-19 lead states to finally recognize that people prostituted in the multi-billion-dollar sex trade are not only harmed, but also in urgent need of housing, medical assistance, and other services? 

Effective responses to these needs rests on laws and policies, such as those enacted in Sweden and France among other countries, which recognize prostitution as a dangerous system of exploitation steeped in acute discrimination and gender-based violence. 

New York and other U.S. states must pass laws that hold sex buyers and pimps accountable, fund necessary, comprehensive services for people in prostitution, and uphold principles of equality for all—rather than letting the MTA promote Pimpland.

“It seems to me that this pandemic of global consciousness is the right time to explain that body invasion by strangers is the most dangerous ‘job’ on earth — and why prostituted women and children have such a low survival rate physically — without even starting on social and emotional survival,” said author and feminist activist Gloria Steinem on steps needed to change the dominant narrative normalizing the sex trade. “Shouldn’t we seize the moment and get a global commitment recognizing that?” 

Taina Bien-Aimé is the Executive Director of the Coalition Against Trafficking in Women (CATW), one of the oldest international organizations dedicated to ending trafficking in women and girls and commercial sexual exploitation as practices of gender-based violence and discrimination.

“Innocent People Are Going to Die”: The Price of Presidential Narcissism and the Path of Peaceful Resistance

Wed, 04/01/2020 - 09:26

by LORI SOKOL, PhD, Executive Director, Women’s eNews

(This article originally appeared in Ms. Magazine, and has been republished with permission.)

Just two and a half years ago, the night of the 2016 Presidential election, I stood under the largest glass ceiling in the world in New York’s Jacob Javits Center, anxiously awaiting the arrival of our country’s first female president. 

Standing no more than fifty feet from the podium, I watched the big screen hovering above as Donald Trump was instead named the next president of the United States in what was a surprise to most of the nation.

Instantaneously, I whispered these six words to myself: “Innocent people are going to die.”

At the time, I was expressing concern for marginalized communities: women, people of color, the LGBTQ community, people with disabilities—any group to whom Donald Trump had shown contempt or complete disregard during his campaign. 

Just then, an elderly woman standing immediately to my right said just loud enough for me to hear, “I’m Jewish, I’ll guess I’ll now have to get a gun.”

How ironic, then, that under that very same roof, innocent people are going to die within the next weeks and months. 

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced Sunday that the Javits Center will become one of four temporary field hospitals constructed to treat New Yorkers experiencing extreme symptoms traced to the coronavirus. 

(As of Thursday, there are over 37,000 confirmed cases of the coronavirus in New York state, and the number of deaths is almost at 1200—per Johns Hopkins’s Coronavirus Resource Center.)

Gov. Cuomo hopes that 1,000 hospital beds can be accommodated in that sprawling glass building to assist those requiring critical care.

Surely, Donald Trump is not responsible for the start of the coronavirus, itself, nor that it spread to the U.S. from its original source in China. 

But he is responsible for originally claiming that it was a “hoax,” that it is “something that we have tremendous control of,” and, most recently, “Anybody that wants a test can get a test.” 

These are all lies. In fact, Trump told a total of thirty-three lies about the coronavirus crisis in the first two weeks of March.

But what is even more disconcerting, and worrisome, is that the Trump administration was warned about potential threats posed by a novel coronavirus since the early part of January—but those warnings were largely disregarded. 

This reminds me of another massive tragedy that hit New York City, almost two decades ago when another president chose to ignore viable warnings of the large potential loss of lives in the U.S. 

Bin Laden Determined to Strike the U.S.” is now infamously known as the ominous headline in the CIA’s Presidential Daily Brief which was given to then President George W. Bush on August 6, 2001. Yet, Bush chose to ignore it. 

A redacted copy of the Bin Laden memo.

Just over one month later, on September 11, close to 3,000 innocent people lost their lives during a series of terrorist attacks in the US, and mostly in New York City. 

I compare these two tragedies, and these two presidents, because there are a number of similarities between the two: Both men won the presidency but lost the popular vote; neither was thought by many to possess the intelligence, experience or heart to lead the country; and both exude many of the traits attributed to narcissists, a diagnosis that boils down to extreme selfishness at the expense of others, exacerbated by the inability to consider others’ feelings at all. 

So, as one would expect of a narcissist, George W. Bush stood on the smoking pile of ash at Ground Zero claiming that “If you’re not with us, you’re with the terrorists,” and used this tragedy to target an innocent country, Iraq, in an attempt to bring the country together by claiming they had “weapons of mass destruction”—which were never found. 

He did this, many surmise, to avenge his father. Geroge W. Bush, himself, even alluded to the fact that Saddam “had tried to kill his father” in the aftermath of the Gulf War.  For him, this war—started based upon a lie—was very personal, and didn’t take into account how many innocent lives would be lost in the process.

Bush used used the tragedy of 9/11 to target an innocent country, Iraq, in an attempt to bring the country together by claiming they had “weapons of mass destruction”—which were never found. (History.com)

A fellow narcissist, Donald Trump will also seek to use the coronavirus to sew up his own re-election later this year, regardless of the number of innocent lives lost. 

In fact, his tweet earlier this week has already set it in motion: “WE CANNOT LET THE CURE BE WORSE THAN THE PROBLEM ITSELF, AT THE END OF THE 15 DAY PERIOD”—which began a week ago, March 16—”WE WILL MAKE A DECISION AS TO WHICH WAY WE WANT TO GO!” 

Donald Trump already knows which way he wants the country to go. He is losing patience with the virus, which is severely impacting the economy and threatening his chances of reelection. 

He wants to get workers back into the workforce, to help bring back the economy, and doesn’t care if this only succeeds in spreading the virus and increasing the loss of innocent lives. 

As Vice President Pence signaled yesterday, even those who have been exposed can feel safe and secure by wearing a mask for a minimal length of time.

We must not let this happen. 

The only thing we are sure of is that there is a direct correlation between complete isolation and the reduction of the virus’ transmission—as leaders of other nations have publicly asserted based upon the rise and fall of the number of deaths in their own countries over the past weeks and months. 

So what are Americans to do? 

We only need to have a crash course in history to recall that many of the most iconic acts to alter dangerous governmental actions were accomplished through peaceful resistance. 

Who can forget how a 62-year-old Mohandas Gandhi led a band of 78 volunteers on a 241-mile walk over 24 days to the south of India in 1930, where he picked up a handful of salt—a mineral that was controlled by the British government at the time, in a gesture that started India’s movement toward independence?

Or who can forget Rosa Parks’s decision to refuse to give up her seat to a white man on December 1, 1955, in Montgomery, Alabama? Her arrest led to the Montgomery Bus Boycott, which resulted in the U.S. Supreme Court making segregated seating unconstitutional just one year later.


Or who can forget when 200,000 people gathered at the Lincoln Memorial on August 28, 1963 demanding equal rights for African Americans, and where Dr. Martin Luther King delivered his unforgettable “I Have a Dream’ speech advancing equal rights?

While it’s true that the Lincoln Memorial, and all memorials, are now closed in Washington, DC; that busses are continuing to run but with very few, if any, passengers; and that all of the beaches in the U.S. are now closed to pedestrians—there are other ways that the public can resist, and it can be done by remaining behind closed doors. 

Just remember another iconic peaceful protest, where one of the most revered messengers of peace, John Lennon, along with his wife Yoko Ono, held a ‘bed-in’ to display their strict opposition to the Vietnam War in 1969. It was then that Lennon recorded the historic song, “Give Peace A Chance,’ which became the unofficial anthem to ending that war.

In 1969, John Lennon and Yoko Ono held two week-long “Bed-Ins for Peace,” one at the Hilton Hotel in Amsterdam and one at the Queen Elizabeth Hotel in Montreal—intended to be nonviolent protests against wars, and experimental tests of new ways to promote peace. (Wikipedia)

With our government recently threatening to phase out self-isolating guidelines to open businesses while COVID-19 cases continue to increase, let’s be like John and Yoko, and Martin, and Rosa, and Mohandas. 

For peaceful resistance is the only defiant act that has ever worked, without losing any innocent lives in the process.

Photo by Eva Mueller

Lori Sokol, PhD, is the Executive Director of Women’s eNews and author of the upcoming book, She Is Me: How Women Will Save The World (She Writes Press, August 2020).


Mon, 03/30/2020 - 07:30

Women’s eNews would like you thank all of our Honorees, Chairs, and Readers for your patience as we worked on rescheduling our Annual Gala!

We hope to see you there, and in the interim, please stay healthy. We will need you more than ever as we celebrate this year’s ’21 Leaders for the 21st Century’ just one week before the 2020 Presidential Election!

Covid-19 Restrictions on Birth & Breastfeeding: Disproportionately Harming Black and Native Women

Fri, 03/27/2020 - 10:48

Shaine Garcia was planning for a vaginal delivery of her second child, a son, she wanted to name Grayson. She attended childbirth classes with her partner, Colton. They toured the hospital, planned the one-hour long drive from the Native reservation in Pueblo de Acoma, New Mexico where they live to the hospital in Albuquerque where she planned to deliver. Despite her first C-section with her daughter three years ago, she was confident this time could be the birth experience she wanted. 

But as the Corona virus pandemic widened and hospitals began to increase restrictions on visitors, Garcia and her partner grew anxious about having no support at the hospital, so under severe pressure she decided to have an elective C-section just days before her due date. 

“The knowledge that my support team would be so severely impacted completely coerced me into a decision I did not want to make,” Garcia said. “It would have been a drastically different decision and experience without these limitations on labor and delivery,” she added. 

Like Garcia, so many women and birthing persons are seeing their birth and breastfeeding plans upended by the current spate of drastic policy changes at birthing hospitals across the U.S. 

Doulas, who are recognized as essential health care personnel for birthing persons by several prominent medical organizations, are suddenly being deemed “visitors” by hospital administration and banned from attending births or entering hospitals. Immediately after birth, breastfeeding mothers are being separated from their babies, often without a medical reason. 

And in the most drastic move, two hospital systems in New York City, New York Presbyterian and Mount Sinai Health System, announced this week that no one could be in the hospital with a laboring person—not even a spouse or partner.  That decision affects 21 hospitals in the greater New York City area; no mention of what that means for surrogate or adopting parents. 

Women across the country are panic shopping doulas and midwives for home births and desperately calling birthing centers, overwhelming people and systems that are built on relationship-building during the pregnancy period, not last minute additions. Others are planning to travel across state lines where there may be more birthing center options or available home birth midwives. Mothers, many who didn’t have support to breastfeed or were told it didn’t matter, are now desperately searching for resources on how to re-lactate. All of it is frightening. 

Covid-19 is indeed a global public health crises, but it is rapidly turning into a maternal and infant health catastrophe. 

Let’s be clear, the failure of a timely and effective response from the federal government has dangerous and deadly trickle down effects. And while it is certainly understandable that we are in unprecedented and uncertain times and the need for an abundance of caution is clear when dealing with a novel virus, the reality and repercussions of hundreds of thousands of women going into birth alone within an already overstretched medical system, that has often failed to honor the bodily autonomy of women, is beyond troubling. Obstetric violence is on the rise. A recent study by the Birthplace Lab found that one in six women, regardless of race or experience, have experienced mistreatment by healthcare providers during birth.

To make matters worse, Black and Native women stand to lose the most by this unprecedented and perhaps unnecessary suppression of birthing rights.  “Among mothers with low socioeconomic status, 18.7 per cent of white women reported mistreatment compared to 27.2 per cent of women of color. Indigenous women were the most likely to report experiencing at least one form of mistreatment by health-care providers during birth, followed by Black and Hispanic women,” says the Giving Voice to Mothers study. 

The presence of doulas has been proven to improve birth outcomes for black women—who have the greatest risk for perinatal complications and, according to the CDC, are two to three times more likely to die during or after childbirth. In New York City, where doulas are being summarily dismissed, the Black maternal mortality rate is twelve times that of white women. Twelve! 

Black breastfeeding rates are also threatened. Peer-based programs that have helped increase breastfeeding rates among black women—from WIC peer counselors to local breastfeeding “clubs” like those created by the Black Mothers Breastfeeding Association in Detroit—must be shut down due to necessary physical distancing. Birth and breastfeeding research illustrates that Black and Latina women do better with social support, including actively engaging male partners and extended family members, including grandparents. History tells us that when breastfeeding in the black community is disrupted systemically, there are lasting impacts.  

“We know that the peer model, especially those rooted in community and culture, work best for black women,” says Kiddada Green, the founding executive director of BMBFA, whose club model can be licensed for use and is currently being replicated in three states. “Like others, we have quickly transitioned to a virtual model, but the impact of an abrupt suspension of in-person support to sustained breastfeeding rates among black women remains to be seen,” adds Green, a co-founder of Black Breastfeeding Week, who says the club has run without interruption in Detroit for 12 years.  

Physicians who are not properly trained in lactation management are now making broad stroke decisions, unnecessarily separating mothers and infants with no symptoms, while ignoring the World Health Organization’s recent guidelines for breastfeeding with Covid-19 (keep breastfeeding with protection) and disrupting the mother-baby dyad at its most vulnerable and critical time. Earlier this week the WHO announced any interruption of breastfeeding may actually increase the infant’s risk of becoming ill.

It needs to be clearly and repeatedly said that healthcare systems and professionals impeding breastfeeding while people are panic buying infant formula which is increasingly in scarce supply, is dangerous and short-sighted.

“Breastfeeding is the safest most reliable way of feeding infants in an emergency,” says Dr. Melissa Bartick, Assistant Professor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School, who has conducted groundbreaking research on breastfeeding’s impact on infant health

“We need to do everything possible to promote and prolong breastfeeding because it will protect infants and because there are shortages of formula in many places. We are nearly at the point of looking to help moms re-lactate who have stopped breastfeeding, especially where formula supplies are very scarce. So anything we can do to keep breastfeeding going is important,” Bartick notes.  

Additionally, no one is talking about the mental well-being and birth trauma of mothers and infants and what we will need to have in place to recover from this. The sudden jolt and surge of anxiety will certainly impact pre-term birth rates, C-section rates will soar and postpartum depression is likely to rise. 

Black mothers and other women of color, who are in the paid workforce at higher rates than white women, often rely on parents and grandparents as caregivers—creating a perfect disastrous storm now as older people are more vulnerable to the virus and need to be isolated, just as financial pressure intensifies as the economy tanks and job losses increase. There is an emotional and physical toll here. 

In my work building IRTH, the first digital platform to identify and address experiences of bias and racism in maternal and infant healthcare, I see and hear from Black women and birthing people of color who write heart-wrenching experiences of being dismissed, that their pain levels are ignored and are receiving general substandard care in hospital systems with normal capacity. I can only imagine how the stresses of the pandemic are exacerbating issues of unconscious bias, stereotypes, control and perceived compliance. Incidences of racism and bias in care will only get worse. 

While this pandemic will end, the trauma will linger—it embeds in our DNA and impacts future generations, including that generations’ birth outcomes. 

Meanwhile, as this pandemic lays bare the many gaping flaws in our healthcare system, we are forced to reckon with the root cause of this present crisis: the medicalization of birth along with the subsequent criminalization of midwives. The fact that women were forced into hospitals to deliver, when birth is not a medical event, is now reaping grave consequences for us all. To be clear, most births do not need to occur in a hospital setting. In fact, in almost every other industrialized nation in the world, women do not give birth with doctors and are not in an official hospital setting at all, unless there are complications or a medical necessity. The question we should be asking now is, why are we? 

At a time when the healthcare system is overly stretched, and the world is already at heightened anxiety, mothers need the people they were relying on to support them through their births. Remember, it was the hospitals who told us and sold us on the idea that home births weren’t “safe” and now that we have become dependent on them—they still make the rules—no matter the impact. 

“What we have right now are a set of bad options, including no legal basis for having someone with you at childbirth and a hospital system that has historically prioritized protecting itself (and avoiding liability) over the needs of women and birthing people,” explains Indra Lusero, a reproductive justice attorney at National Advocates for Pregnant Women (NAPW).  

“During this time, we recommend individuals look for local childbirth educators, doulas, lactation support providers, midwives and doctors offering digital support, information and resources that can reassure, connect, inform and support people,” adds Lusero, who is also founder of the Birth Rights Bar Association.  

We must do better. We need immediate accommodations such as video conferencing with doulas and other “virtual” support and tele-health options (Many doulas and lactation consultants are now offering virtual services).

We must decriminalize midwives immediately, especially home birth midwives, in all states and increase access to community childbirth centers. That should also include using all certifications of midwives to create temporary “birthing centers” in locations outside of the hospital for those who don’t have complications (Dutch midwives have set up birthing rooms in hotels to free up hospitals for only those who need obstetric care). There is so much that can be done. 

Make no mistake, there will be a price to pay. At some point, our lives will return to some variant of normal, albeit different. But the trajectory of birth and breastfeeding outcomes could be dramatically altered and possibly irreparably damaged if we don’t act now. 

For those of us who care about maternal and infant health, intentional restorative work lies ahead—which includes more perinatal mental health awareness and earnest attention to those working outside the systems and structures that have consistently failed all women, and black women in particular. Organizations like the Black Mamas Matter Alliance, the National Association of Professional and Peer Lactation Supporters of Color (NAPPLSC), and the National Association to Advance Black Birth (NAABB), along with events such as Black Breastfeeding Week will need our support like never before, including Latina and Native coalitions, groups and events. The work of legalizing midwives in all states and making birthing centers an option for every woman requires our intense policy and advocacy efforts. Any national, state or local emergency preparedness planning, anywhere, must always include pregnant and birthing people. This should be basic. It must be. 

It will be up to us to ensure that Covid-19 is not calamitous to mothers and babies and that the damage already done is never repeated. 

To listen to the Women’s eNews Live podcast, where Lori Sokol, Executive Director, interviews the author, Kimberly Seals Allers, please click here.

Kimberly Seals Allers in an award-winning journalist, nationally recognized maternal and infant health advocate and an international public speaker. The former editorial director of the Black Maternal Health Project at Women’s eNews, Kimberly is also founder of The Irth App, a digital rating and review platform that addresses bias in healthcare interaction, and the author of five books, including The Big Letdown—How Medicine Big Business and Feminism Undermine Breastfeeding.Follow her at @iamKSealsAllers on Instagram and Twitter. Learn more at KimberlySealsAllers.com

Shelter-in-Place: How it Impacts Sexual Violence

Thu, 03/26/2020 - 02:01

As millions of Americans are asked to stay home with “shelter in place orders” and social media is exploding with memes and quips about a “coronial” baby boom very little is thought about how staying at home may increase sexual violence.  The #MeToo movement grew stronger with the Harvey Weinstein verdicts but will the isolation and increased stressors of COVID-19 create a surge in sexual coercion

The National Coalition Against Domestic Violence estimates that nearly 20 people every minute are physically abused by an intimate partner in the United States.  Domestic violence also known as intimate partner violence (IPV) can span from physical and sexual abuse to less identified abuses that also center around intimidation and control.  One form of domestic and intimate partner violence that is still largely unknown and under-recognized is called sexual or reproductive coercion (RC).  Masked by the pretense of love, desire, and family; reproductive coercion is a potent powerplay in an abusive and sexually violent relationship.

Reproductive coercion occurs when an abusive intimate partner intends to maintain control in a relationship by using manipulation, guilt, intimidation, threats, acts of violence, or sabotaging contraception attempts in order to pressure a partner to become or remain pregnant.  Other non-violent forms of control such as economic control, social isolation, constantly discussing or negotiating having children, ovulation tracking, insisting on use of invitro fertilization (IVF), and any other behavior that can compromise the reproductive autonomy of an individual is considered abuse.  

According to reports, IPV and reproductive coercion is reported in 1 in 8 teen girls and anywhere from 25% of women on the National Domestic Violence Hotline to 53% of women seen in emergency rooms and family health clinics.  With IPV and RC creating significant physical and psychological effects on victims, and increasing US healthcare costs up to $12.6 billion annually, these abuses are already a public health crisis.

So how do you know if you or someone you love is a victim of IPV and reproductive coercion?  Look for signs of reproductive coercion such as missing or adulterated oral birth control, partner removal of IUD and vaginal contraceptives, tampering with or refusing to use condoms, and any other behavior that compromises the reproductive autonomy of the individual.  Victims also often experience stress-induced physical health effects such as direct injuries, increased incidence of sexually transmitted infections and HIV, long-term pain syndromes, and chronic conditions such as gastrointestinal disorders, diabetes, and asthma. Emotional and psychological effects to watch out for include post-traumatic stress, depression, anxiety, difficulty sleeping, and attempted suicide.

The COVID-19 isolation and “shelter in place” orders may be a door to identifying family, friends, neighbors, and acquaintances that are abusers.  Many abusive individuals have personality traits such as being charismatic, successful, charming, and “well-liked” while inwardly having low self-esteem and feelings of inadequacy or powerlessness.  Signs that an individual may have abusive tendencies can include inconsistent moods, hypersensitive or overreactive behaviors, being overly critical or narcissistic, and being controlling, jealous, or manipulative.  Other tools for recognizing abusive behavior include the Reproductive Coercion Self-Quiz, the National Center on Domestic and Sexual Violence Power and Control Wheel, and the Cycle of Domestic Violence

Reproductive coercion is sexual violence and its survivors deserve a voice especially during the COVID-19 pandemic. To support these unheard survivors, take this time to be more observant and have conversations with loved ones that you may not have had before. Organizations and institutions need more research to thoroughly understand the full impact while physicians, pharmacists, school nurses, healthcare providers and the general public need further awareness. It’s our responsibility to give survivors hope in this difficult time; so speak out to have reproductive consent respected, reproductive autonomy protected, and share that #loveisrespect.

Dr. K. Ashley Garling Pharm.D. is a Clinical Assistant Professor at the University of Texas at Austin College of Pharmacy and a UT Austin Public Voices Fellow of The OpEd Project.

SHERAPY: Coping with COVID-19

Tue, 03/24/2020 - 12:15

Sherry Amatenstein, LCSW is a NYC-based psychotherapist. In this episode of her podcast, Sherapy – Real Therapy with Sherry Amatenstein, she discusses coping with COVID19 and the STAY at HOME orders, while finding your true self. (This episode includes Sloan Smiloff, Amy Ferris, and Karen Hale):


Sherry portraits

Sherry Amatenstein is the author of The Q&A Dating Book, Love Lessons From Bad Breakups and The Complete Marriage Counselor (www.marriedfaq.com). She edited the anthology, How Does That Make You Feel: True Confessions From Both Sides of the Therapy Couch. Before becoming a therapist she spent two years volunteering at a suicide hotline. She was also an interviewer for Steven Spielberg’s USC Shoah, a foundation dedicated to taking audio-visual testimony from Holocaust survivors.

What to Expect if you are Expecting during the Pandemic

Sun, 03/22/2020 - 09:28

Over the past few days, all of us have been faced with the stark reality of what it means to survive in the midst of a pandemic. While stress levels are understandably through the roof, among the highest are those of expectant parents. As a former labor and delivery nurse, a certified nurse midwife, and a professor at Rush University Medical Center in Chicago, I have heard some recurring themes in the questions surrounding pregnancy and delivery during the Covid-19 crisis and can offer some advice. 

First and foremost — don’t panic. Mothers have been having babies since the dawn of time, through wars and famines and natural catastrophes. You have the creative power within you to have formed your perfect little person; you have the power within you to usher her or him safely into the world – even in the middle of a pandemic. 

What we know today about the coronavirus and pregnancy:

Of the case reports coming out from around the world of women who tested positive for the virus, and were ill at the time they gave birth, the babies born to those women have been born healthy, without any signs of infection. The babies have also largely tested negative for the virus.  There has been at least one newborn who tested positive, after being born to a woman who was positive at the time of the birth. 

Pregnant women are assumed to be at a higher risk because pregnancy puts women into an immunocompromised state. That means that the immune system, which is what fights off illness, is purposely suppressed during pregnancy. That said, from what we are hearing, the virus does not seem to be affecting pregnant women as severely as may have been suspected that it would. 

What to expect if giving birth during this time: 

Your provider may stretch your prenatal visits out a little further than you had planned. That’s okay; the traditional schedule of every four weeks up to 28 weeks, every two weeks up to 36 weeks, and weekly after that is really outdated. Research has shown that prenatal visits can actually be scheduled further apart, with no adverse effect on mothers and babies — and with the benefit of enhanced patient satisfaction 

       Many hospitals have implemented a restriction on visitors for all hospital patients in the midst of this health crisis. This is important for the safety of all hospitalized patients, many of whom are at significant risk if exposed to the virus. Though women having babies are healthy upon arrival, it is important to keep vulnerable newborns away from potential visitors who could be infected. One area exceptions have been made is in the labor and delivery units, where visitors may be limited to one support person only. Note that non-hospital employed doulas may well be considered visitors. To be mentally prepared, you may want to check with the facility where you plan on giving birth as to their visitor policy at this point. If you were planning on having a doula at your birth, one good strategy is to have your doula review some of the basic comfort techniques that she/he uses with your partner, so that she/he can have some “tools” in their bag to assist you. 

       If you were planning on an “elective” induction of labor on a given date (meaning a labor induction that is not done for any medical reason), know that depending on the hospital’s census on the labor unit – particularly if they have a heavier patient census of laboring women infected with the virus – elective inductions may need to be put off for some time, or rescheduled to a different day. 

       While many of the babies born to mothers ill with the virus have had no untoward effects, at this point it really isn’t known whether these babies have a higher risk of severe complications. There is still concern that babies may be infected via their mothers after birth. For that reason, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is recommending temporary separation of mothers (who have the confirmed illness) and babies until the mother’s transmission-based precautions are completed. Of course, the CDC notes that this should be done after a discussion of risks and benefits with the baby’s mother.

       Current figures  show that the virus is not transmitted from mother to baby in breastmilk. If mothers test positive for the virus, they can express breastmilk during separation from their baby to establish their milk supply. If a test positive mother and baby are rooming together, mothers should wear a facemask and wash hands well prior to putting baby to breast.

What you can do to help yourself: 

       If you had been planning on attending an in-person childbirth education class that will likely be cancelled (if not already), don’t despair; there are great online options. Rather than risk seeming to endorse any particular one, I recommend just Googling it; you will find a plethora! And don’t forget there are plenty of great books to get you into the mindset. 

       Be flexible… you have planned and looked forward to the big day for months; no doubt about that. That said, birth is a test for the rest of parenthood. Our mind’s eye pictures ourselves in a flowing white gown serenely rocking a cherubic faced angel to sleep while reality ends up with us stumbling around the room at 4am to find a diaper, exhausted after the fifth feeding of the night, wearing the same nightshirt we put on after a shower three (or was it four?) days ago, now nicely primed with the smell of baby poop and spit-up. Parenthood is full of unexpected twists and turns; this is the first of many. 

        Have confidence in your chosen provider to look out for your best interests. I know of home birth practices suddenly being inundated with transfer of care requests from women who are now afraid to give birth in hospitals because of the virus. Although I support home birth for many low risk women, not all who may want to change their care to a home birth practice will be appropriate candidates. Do your homework, make sure it’s right for you, and find a homebirth provider with whom you feel you can mesh. 

       One option I would steer anyone away from is making a plan to give birth at home without the attendance of a qualified midwife or physician (often called “freebirthing”). Labor and birth follow a normal course the vast majority of the time, but every woman needs — and deserves — a qualified birth professional to watch over and guide her through the journey, and to know what to do if problems do arise. 

       If you give birth in a hospital, think about asking for an early discharge home at 24 hours (if 48 hours is the standard where you are). The appropriate candidate for early discharge will have had an uncomplicated labor and birth, be nursing well, and have support at home. Having said that, many women are great candidates to be discharged at 24 hours.

       If you are the partner of someone who is expecting, know that she has enough on her hands just gestating. Be as supportive as you can; if you have to have a meltdown do it – maybe just not in front of her. Reassure her by participating in the labor and birth planning whenever possible; go to any provider appointments that you are able to; read what she is reading about the birthing process, and join in activities like the online childbirth classes. In short, walk as closely as possible next to her as she travels this path. This is scary for everyone, but less so with someone holding your hand through it.  

        Give handwashing its due diligence; it’s a simple message that can’t be said enough. At least 20 seconds (preferably 30) is needed to rid your hands of what may have found a home on them. 

        Keep yourself (and baby, once the little one arrives) out of the limelight. In some cultures, there is a tradition for new mammas and babies to be isolated from visitors for a period of time. That’s not a bad idea in general, and especially in the midst of a pandemic. Thank goodness for instant photos, phones that instantly transmit pictures and videos, and Facetime. Loved ones can track baby’s every move via technology; they can wait to hold baby. Your job as a new parent is to protect your baby… and no better time to start than at birth! 

       Breastfeed, breastfeed…and oh yes, breastfeed! The antibodies (virus and bacteria fighting proteins in your blood) are plentiful in breastmilk. Via breastfeeding you pass those super germ fighting properties along to your baby, enhancing their resilience to illness in a huge way. 

        One more time… don’t panic, parents; you got this!

 Michelle Collins, PhD, is a professor of nursing at Rush University Medical Center in Chicago, and a certified nurse-midwife with over 30 years of experience in the field of maternal-child health. She is also a Public Voices Fellow with the OpEd Project.

Sex Doesn’t End at 40, and Other Reasons to End Silence About Menopause

Wed, 03/18/2020 - 12:27

         When Gwyneth Paltrow’s Netflix show Goop Lab debuted a few months ago, it garnered plenty of media hate for its pseudoscience and self-promotion. But there’s one important bright spot in the show we should all pay attention to: 90-year-old sex educator Betty Dobson offering advice on sensuality. She’s living proof that sex doesn’t end at menopause—and that’s just one of the powerful lessons our culture needs to learn about post-reproductive years.  Our national silence on menopause has lead to misdiagnoses, mistreatment and needless suffering for millions of women. 

            On average, women live for about 78 years—of that, only about 15 years fall in the peak reproductive period (25-40).  Most women will spend far longer in the post-reproductive years.  And many know almost nothing about what to expect when those years end. We are ignorant because of chronic misinformation and silence. Our mothers did not typically have the tools to help guide us themselves. When I have surveyed women over the years in my practice less than 5% report That their mother or another significant female figure shared information about the menopausal years. 

This shouldn’t be surprising: For most of the 19th and 20th century, women’s body’s and health needs were regarded as less important than men’s.  As researchers at the Brigham and Women’s Hospital reported in 2014, “The science that informs medicine—including the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of disease—routinely fails to consider the crucial impact of sex and gender”

            As a gynecologist and author of a book on menopause, I’ve been astounded at the mistreatment of women that results from our culture’s silence on menopause. Just a few examples: Recently, a new 67-year-old patient came to me for severe vaginal dryness and pain with intercourse. She had been seen by at least two other medical providers.  One told her she should simply expect her sex life to suffer as she ages. That’s ridiculous.  Many therapies are available for dryness and pain, either over the counter or by prescription.  Another doctor offered her anti-depressants and sleeping pills.   She needed a doctor who understood menopause. I prescribed a combination of vaginal hormone therapy and CO2 laser tissue rejuvenation.  Three months later, she could resume sexual relations  with her husband and they now report intercourse twice weekly. It has changed their marriage.

            I see this all the time.  Women frequently hear that painful intercourse after menopause is all in their head, not an actual medical condition that can be treated

This is true of other symptoms related to menopause as well.  A fifty year old women with newly diagnosed anxiety and heart palpitations is likely to get a psychiatric and cardiology workup, despite the fact that she is experiencing some of the most typical symptoms of estrogen imbalance.  

            Even me—a 53-year-old gynecologist! I was so steeped in traditional (male) approaches and mindsets in medicine, that when I started feeling irritable, depressed,, had difficulty sleeping and experienced night sweats, I complete overlooked the fact that I was entering perimenopause,  the one-to -eight year period preceding menopause. Once I realized what was happening I treated my symptoms through integrative  approach. I changed my diet, focused on self-care, and eventually started hormone replacement therapy. 

But more importantly,  I realized that I was not going crazy.  Within weeks I was feeling better but it was a long journey to begin to understand how my body was actually changing. I realize that if a gynecologist could be this confused about this period in  her life, what must the average woman experience?

            Some of this comes from the same shame and silence that has historically surrounded the female body—but it’s even worse for menopause than other conditions.  Every woman knows where to turn if she is contemplating motherhood—sisters, girlfriends, best friends, obstetricians, and thousands and thousands of books. . Yet, of the hundreds of women I’ve talked to about menopause, less than 10% have told me that there were women (or sometimes men) in their lives who described menopause, what it was, or what to expect. With a lack of intergenerational conversations, we will always lack understanding of the unique experiences of women entering this transition. 

            While the Goop Lab may not survive its savage reviews, I fervently hope that the show’s willingness to explore taboo subjects—including menopause—continues.  But fortunately, we don’t have to depend on Netflix and Paltrow to continue that movement.  

            Women can change the narrative right now, by starting the conversation with their mothers, sisters, daughters, and yes, even their doctors. Transparent, evidence-based, unbiased healthcare should be the standard of care delivered by our health care professionals not only during a women’s reproductive years but also in the decades that follow. 

About the author: Arianna Sholes-Douglas is an OB-GYN and author of The Menopause Myth: What Your Mother, Doctor, And Friends Haven’t Shared About Life After 35

From the Executive Director: 21 Leaders for the 21st Century Awards Gala Rescheduled

Sun, 03/15/2020 - 17:57
Lori Sokol, PhD

Dear Women’s eNews Readers:

Women’s eNews has been closely monitoring the spread of COVID-19 in the US and particularly in New York City, where we host our annual ’21 Leaders for the 21st Century’ Awards Gala on the first Monday in May.

Due to the increasingly widespread community transmission of COVID-19 in New York City, coupled with the Center for Disease Control’s (CDC) recommendation yesterday that no events of more than 50 people take place over the next eight weeks, Women’s eNews has decided to reschedule its annual gala.

We believe it is critically urgent to adhere to guidelines for protecting vulnerable populations, as well as social distancing to help reduce the chance of transmission.

The Awards Gala will be rescheduled for the Fall, 2020. The new date will be announced later this month.

We also ask each of you to abide by recommended measures to minimize risk of infection, and protect others, as provided by the World Health Organization. By doing so, we can remain healthy and slow its spread.

As always, we thank you for your understanding and continued support, as Women’s eNews looks forward to honoring our ’21 Leaders’ and celebrating our 20th anniversary with all of you later this year.

In solidarity,

Lori Sokol, PhD

Executive Director

For International Women’s Day: Expand Your Voice

Sun, 03/08/2020 - 04:42

Women’s eNews has provided a consistent, bold and courageous voice for women and girls throughout the world since its inception, in the year 2000. As we celebrate our 20th Anniversary this year, and today, on International Women’s Day, we are introducing a new logo which not only embodies our voice, but emboldens it. While keeping with our founding colors, red and black, we have added the image of a retro vintage microphone which was designed approximately 100 years ago, around the same year that the 19th Amendment was ratified, enabling women’s constitutional right to vote.

Since then, and much more recently, women have been boosting their voices on the congressional floor as elected officials defending and advancing women’s rights, and via the #MeToo and #TimesUp movements, by calling out perpetrators of sexual assault.

But we need more, much much more — and time is of the essence.

While ratification of the Equal Rights Amendment has overcome some major hurdles in the last few months with Virginia becoming the crucial 38th state to ratify it and U.S. House removing the deadline for ratification, an increasing number of legal challenges are being made in attempts to block it. Women’s reproductive choice and health is increasingly on the line as Republican-led states, emboldened by the Supreme Court’s new conservative majority and the Trump administration’s anti-abortion policies, passed 59 abortion restrictions last year. The Violence Against Women Act, aimed at preventing sexual violence and assault, was stalled in the US Senate, and Title IX, the 1972 law prohibiting “discrimination based on sex in education programs or activities that receive Federal financial assistance,” is being reintroduced with proposed regulations that define harassment far more narrowly. It will also require schools to hold live hearings, while permitting cross examination by attorneys, which will only increase the victim’s trauma.

These are just a few of the reasons why the voices of women, and similarly-minded men, who support equal rights need to be broadcast everywhere from the home to the workplace, and in private and public gatherings, to ensure our safety is no longer endangered, and that gender equality becomes the law of the land!

And now, I’d like to introduce you to just a sampling of women who are devoting their work, and their lives, to supporting and advancing the rights of women, as our honorary ’21 Leaders for the 21st Century’ 2020. I hope you’ll join us in celebrating them in the evening of Monday, May 4th, in NYC. We need them, and you, more than ever!

In solidarity,

Lori Sokol, Phd, Executive Director

The End of Black History Month is Only the Beginning…

Tue, 02/25/2020 - 12:25

In celebration of Black History Month, below is a Q&A with Shellye Archambeau, one of Silicon Valley’s first female black CEO’s and black female executive at IBM. Archambeau has over 25 years of experience handling business and consumer relations, turned her failed businesses into overnight successes, and is a sought after speaker, coach and board member to Verizon and Nordstrom. Here, she shares her words of wisdom to other black businesspeople looking to climb to the top to achieve personal, professional and financial success.


How did you break barriers and ceilings as a black woman in a white male dominated industry?

I’m very goal oriented and disciplined. I decided I wanted to run a business before I even started my career. Ignorance helped, in that I wasn’t constrained by the reality of the challenge when I set my goal. Once I set it, I was determined to achieve it. I focused on excelling at each role I had, and looking for constant opportunities to demonstrate my leadership capabilities. I practiced servant leadership, focusing on supporting my teams and people around me to be successful.

I took risky jobs, cultivated allies, mentors and ultimately sponsors. I let people know what I wanted each step of the way. I made many, many trade-offs, moving my family numerous times, commuting long distance, and ultimately taking on the sole financial support for my family. Ultimately, I turned being an outsider into an advantage. I built a strong reputation and because I was different, people remembered me.

What was your biggest challenge you faced in your career growth?

I was a senior sales exec for IBM and was ready for a management role. I was a top performer and my boss knew my aspirations. But IBM was going through financial challenges and roles were being consolidated and eliminated. Whenever I asked about. Promotion I was told I had the talent, track record and performance, but there just weren’t jobs available. I was frustrated because I was doing what I was supposed to do and yet I was stuck.

After a year of this, I knew I was going to be off track with my personal career plan if I didn’t get the promotion soon. So I decided to look for the job I wanted outside of IBM. I interviewed and received a good offer. However, when I resigned my boss was shocked. Senior management rallied and found a promotion for me within the company. I stayed. The big lesson was goals aren’t good enough by themselves. They need to be time defined to truly drive your behavior.

What are your top tips on building your network and developing financial literacy?

Building a strong network isn’t collecting the most business cards. It’s creating relationships. My approach to building relationships is through giving. There are many ways to give. You can help people, inspire people, or educate people through advice. Now, you need to have people to give to. There are many ways to meet and interact with others. Get involved in areas of interest to you. Local alumni groups, professional organizations, book clubs, church committees, etc., you can also start your own.

When I moved to Silicon Valley, I didn’t have a network. I also didn’t have a lot of free time to pursue many different paths to creating my network. I was a CEO facing a major turnaround effort. So I created my own club by combing what I like to do. I enjoy entertaining, cooking, and wine. So I started a gourmet dinner club. As I encountered interesting people, I’d ask them if they liked to cook. If they did I’d describe the club I was creating and ask if they were interested. We had our first dinner with 12 people 9 months after we moved into our home. That club is now 16 years old with 50 members. It was the core of my initial network.

We don’t talk enough about money and I’m not referring to discussions about salary. I mean how to approach your finances. Research, commissioned by GuideVine — a service matching people with financial advisers — revealed over half of those polled (55 percent) feel lost when it comes to a long-term and stable financial plan. We have to personally educate ourselves with at least the basics: creating a budget, understanding the time value of money and compounding. Why? This understanding will help you make better choices.

I’ve always strived to create financial flexibility so that I’d have money for the important things in life. I worked all through college to pay for the portion of my expenses my parents didn’t cover and to build savings for a wedding that I would want one day. My parents helped with college, but let us know that wedding costs were on us. I ended up marrying soon after college graduation and was able to pay for the entire event.

Redemption: Not All Mistakes Are Created Equal

Tue, 02/11/2020 - 13:21

What does redemption mean and how does it happen?

Should we forever be defined by the worst mistake we’ve ever made?

In the new Podcast: Post-Coffee, Pre-Wine, author Amy Ferris and publishing veteran Teresa Stack talk about redemption and second chances, and finding peace – their peace. They share their own stories and share their truth, and by digging deep within themselves, you may find yourself doing the same…

You can listen by clicking onto any of the links below:

Who is Amy Ferris?
Amy Ferris is an author, editor, screenwriter & playwright. Her memoir, Marrying George Clooney, Confessions From A Midlife Crisis(Seal Press) was adapted into an Off-Broadway play at CAP21 Theater Company in 2012.
She created The Ovary Office (in collaboration with Women’s eNews) and recently co-authored a book Old School Love for Harper Collins,

Who is Teresa Stack?
Teresa Stack was the president of The Nation magazine from 1998-2016.  During her 30+ years in publishing, she was a long-time member of the Independent Magazine Advisory Group of the Association of Magazine Media (MPA) and a founding member of the Media Consortium,.Teresa is also a freelance writer whose work has appeared in The Boston Globe, the Los Angeles Times, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette 

A Monumental Week for Women: Right Here, Right Now!

Sun, 02/09/2020 - 14:20

Yesterday, Congresswoman Carolyn B. Maloney (NY-12) joined NYC elected officials and women’s rights advocates at the historic Roosevelt House at Hunter College to rally support for critical legislation expected to pass the House of Representatives this week. 

During this week, the House of Representatives is expected to pass  H.R. 1980, the Smithsonian Women’s History Museum Act and H.J.Res. 79 to remove the deadline to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment. Ahead of this monumental week, the coalition of women’s rights advocates came together to celebrate these historic milestones in the fight for women’s equality

“I have worked my entire career to make sure women are represented in the halls of Congress and in seats of power. This next week in Congress will be historic for women and a culmination of decades of advocacy. The passage of H.R. 1980 and H.J. Res. 79 is vital to celebrating women’s achievements in history, inspiring the next generation to make history themselves, and finally ensuring that women’s equality is enshrined in our Constitution. I am thrilled to take these next huge steps in the fight for women’s equality,” said Congresswoman Carolyn B. Maloney (NY-12).

“As the birthplace of the women’s rights movement, we have a moral responsibility to continue the fight for full equality,” said Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul. “In New York, we have taken action to protect the rights of women and all New Yorkers across our great state. We have accomplished a lot, but we still have more work to do. With strong advocates and partners like Rep. Carolyn Maloney, we must work together to secure equality for all and ratify the Equal Rights Amendment.?”?

“The time is right, now more than ever to pass the Equal Rights Amendment. I commend America’s Congresswoman, Carolyn Maloney, for her work and her leadership to pass the ERA for women and girls. At the New York State level, we are going to pass the Equal Rights Amendment to be added to the State Constitution. We can no longer stand by and watch our rights continue to be rolled back, so this is the year that we’ll make the ERA happen at state and federal level,” said Assembly Member Rebecca Seawright. 

Congresswoman Maloney is a longtime champion of the Equal Rights Amendment and it is exciting to see the ERA move forward. One hundred years after women’s suffrage, it is clear from pay inequity, gender-based violence, and so many other indicators that women and girls remain unequal in this country. The ERA will help end second-class citizenship. It is long overdue,” said Jessica Neuwirth, Co-President of the ERA Coalition,

“We are excited to join Congresswoman Maloney today as we announce that the fourth annual Campus ERA Day will take place on Monday, April 27 at 7pm. The ERA Coalition will work once again with the Grove Fellows at Hunter College to organize the annual event. Campus ERA Day will take on added significance this year now that the Equal Rights Amendment has satisfied all the requirements under Article V for inclusion in the U.S. Constitution,” said Carol Jenkins, Co-President and CEO of the ERA Coalition/Fund for Women’s Equality.  


Equal Rights Amendment (ERA)

  • Rep. Maloney is the lead sponsor of the Equal Rights Amendment and has reintroduced it in every session of Congress since 1997 (in the 105th Congress).
  • Congress passed the ERA in 1972, and was sent to the states for ratification. Unfortunately, by the time the deadline passed in 1982, the ERA was just three states shy of the thirty-eight necessary to amend the Constitution.
  • With Virginia’s vote to ratify the ERA in January, three quarters of states have now ratified the ERA, making the amendment eligible to be added to the U.S. Constitution
  • H.J. Res 79 would remove the deadline for the ratification of the ERA to clarify any legal ambiguities that may exist with regard to the deadline and reaffirm Congressional support for the ERA.

H.R. 1980: Smithsonian Women’s History Museum Act

  • In November 2016, a bipartisan Congressional Commission — created by a bill sponsored by Rep. Carolyn B. Maloney — issued a report recommending the creation of a new Smithsonian Museum dedicated to women’s history.
  • In March 2019, Rep. Maloney introduced the Smithsonian Women’s History Museum Act, to establish such a museum on the National Mall. The bill has broad bipartisan support with293 cosponsors in the house.
  • There is no comprehensive museum anywhere in the U.S. dedicated to the full story of women’s history.

Marriage Story: What Heterosexual Relationships Can Learn from Queer Divorce

Thu, 02/06/2020 - 08:21

As Marriage Story grasps for an Oscar, this weekend we are reminded that the story of a heterosexual couple going through a painful, cruel divorce is the unfortunate story of many in our country. And yet, it doesn’t have to be. We are active participants in the culture that benefits from and monetizes our own suffering.

As the child of heterosexual divorce and as a queer stepmother now, I was warned not to watch this movie. In an interview with Stephen Colbert, Adam Driver describes the movie as a love story told in the lens of divorce. Charlie and Nicole intend to have a friendly divorce, Driver says, but other people’s opinions, agendas and lawyers wind up propelling the legal battle in the end.

What I would add to Driver’s analysis is that the agenda and those opinions are rooted in heteronormativity, which is what allows the legal process to go from fact-finding and fair treatment to cruel performance art.

Heteronormativity is the notion that heterosexual coupling (and marriage) is the norm, and our culture should essentially be built to support it. Heteronormativity is the breeder (no pun intended) of the Hallmark Channel, daddy-daughter dances, “mancaves” and separating McDonald’s toys into “girls” and “boys” toys. Heteronormativity plays a role in domestic abuse and homophobia and the proliferator of painful and scarring divorces like Charlie and Nicole’s in Marriage Story.

During Nicole’s first visit with Nora, her lawyer says, “Once we have babies, we become the mom and they get sick of us.” Yeah, Nicole responds. During Charlie’s visit to the initial lawyer he speaks with, he is asked a series of questions intended to get at Nicole’s potential vices – to which Charlie responds with my favorite line of the movie, “She was addicted to Tums for a while.” The lawyer warns Charlie that he’s not going to win “if she’s the perfect mother.”

This is not a commentary on divorce lawyers. The lawyers are just using what’s already there – the heteronormative culture we have created and continue to willingly buy into. Despite the original wishes of Charlie and Nicole to keep it friendly, they got caught up too, as many heterosexual divorces do, and one of the very things that marriage is built on and cherished by our culture – parenthood – is also the thing that is turned against them during their legal battle.

Despite the fact that heteronormativity is a plague on our culture, it still privileges heterosexual couples on an everyday level, and therefore, the groundwork on which a same-sex marriage stands is already different from the ground on which a heterosexual marriage stands, and that makes the grounds of divorce different, too.

Heteronormativity is often dangerous for LGBTQ communities in general, and we’ve had to learn how to adapt, shift, hide and fight. It’s made us resilient, yes, but it’s also forced us to assemble and disassemble our relationships differently.

Due to the high rate of homelessness and familial rejection for LGBTQ youth, LGBTQ communities often bond together as each other’s families. These are not blood ties, these are heart ties, born from understanding the devastation and hopelessness that comes from the rejection from one’s family of origin. We continue to re-define the word “family,” unraveling the traditional definition that has betrayed us and instead, created a unit of people who sustain us as human beings to be loved, celebrated, protected and given another chance.

Additionally, same-sex couples are not bound to the same prescribed gender roles written by our culture and enjoyed by many heterosexual couples.

Of course, the frustrations of marriage do not discriminate completely along the lines of gender or sexual orientation, and someone has to do the dishes, bring in a paycheck or stay up all night with a sick child. And yes, there might be someone in the marriage in an unhealthy place and they wind up legally battling their partner during the divorce.

Moreover, there are people who have arranged their heterosexual marriages differently to be more egalitarian, and some early trends show that younger generations are putting off marriage to create more financial stability and effectively avoid the “first divorce.”

But in queer culture, the conversations about child custody are different, because LGBTQ people aren’t “supposed” to have kids in the first place. The financial discussions are different, because perhaps one or both partners don’t have family money to rely on due to estrangement, or underemployment because one partner is transgender. The property discussion is different, because perhaps there isn’t enough access to safe housing in the area for LGBTQ individuals. And because of those reasons, divorces look different for us.

For example: now as a queer stepmom, I knew when I married my wife, her ex-wife and their children were to become my family, too. I understood that the success and happiness of my wife’s ex- and their children was directly tied to me, individually and to the collective LGBTQ community. And to achieve that, it meant taking a different approach to raising the kids, finances and scheduling. Case in point: we switch the kids every day. And if that seems odd to you, that’s heteronormativity creeping up (i.e. the assumption that children need to stay with their mother for the majority of the time – but what happens when there are only mothers?)

But it should look different for heterosexual couples, too. You can see glimmers in Marriage Story pleading to get rid of the common constraints and allow the love of their relationship – regardless of its dissolution – to guide what’s best for all involved. There’s no need for the backstabbing betrayal or dragging your children through the mud just because the heteronormative fantasies that have been sold to you your whole life didn’t work out. We are all humans, despite who we love, and forcing us to conform to a set of constraints that create more suffering serves no one.

About the Author: Lauryn Bianco is Vice President of Operations and Philanthropy at Emerge Center Against Domestic Abuse in Tucson, Arizona, and a Public Voices Fellow with The OpEd Project.

Reflections on Davos: Through a Gender Lens

Thu, 01/30/2020 - 18:20

I’ll admit, I was feeling more skeptical than usual when planning our presence at the World Economic Forum’s annual meeting in Davos this year. It would be WEF’s 50th anniversary and my fifth time there, and it was initially hard to see our core issues — gender equality, and the health and rights of girls and women — substantially reflected on the formal WEF agenda. In addition, space for civil society organizations, including those working on gender issues, seemed limited due to the many heads of states and corporations arriving for the anniversary.
But off we went with heavy boots; gender lenses in the hand; facts, figures, and tested arguments in the bag; and a calendar full of events and meetings that got even more packed as the week progressed.
Coming down the Davos mountain after five days of working the floors, speaking from the podiums, and having both fly-bys at receptions and events, as well as substantive sit-downs and late night huddles with current and future partners, politicians and CEOs, inspiring young leaders and other agents of change, I am tired but definitely more hopeful than when we came up. Yes, the world is still on fire, and yes, there is a long way to go before we are on a proper path to sustainability, but there is also room for hope, and some good predictors that 2020 will be a super year of action both in regards to conservation and climate change, as well as gender equality and #GenerationEquality.

Here are some of my key points and takeaways:

  • Girls, women, and gender equality — not least pay and income equity, the need to get more women into leadership, or how gender equality drives sustainable development — while not prominent on the formal agenda, rose to the top of nearly every discussion we had and heard, sometimes organically, sometimes with a little nudge. In fact, several major media summaries of the week include both climate change and gender equality as key issues discussed at WEF.
  • Women Deliver helped fuel the focus on gender equality through the many great conversations and social media posts provoked by our ‘gender lens’ — a small magnifying glass we gave to leaders and influencers to bring down and apply to their businesses and lives — and through an infographic and a series of recommendations on male engagement in gender equality, which we launched with our partners Promundo and Unilever / Dove Men+Care.
  • There definitely wasn’t much of a queue at the ladies’ room when only 24% of the 2,700 formal participants are women. While that of course is way too little and something serious has to be done, it still was more than previous years. WEF has pledged to double female participation by 2030, and Women Deliver and other groups like Women Political Leaders are ready to help to speed it up.
  • Outside of the formal program and participants, there were 1,000+ more panel debates and events — on climate change, inequality, innovation, the economy, technology, research, etc. Gender equality and global health were well represented there. There even was a full house and stage dedicated to different issues under the gender equality umbrella. The Equality Lounge hosted by the Female Quotient was a wonderful place to come, speak, and listen to talks, meet fellow gender justice advocates from across the globe, and to recharge.
  • It was great to see young people unapologetically take the stage, the street, and social media channels. Greta Thunberg addressed the climate change crowd in the street and the participants in the conference center. On stage with her was Women Deliver Class of 2018 Young Leader Natasha Wang Mwansa, who many of you know from the opening plenary at the WD2019 conference, where she brought the audience and world leaders to their feet as she gave her speech. On stage at Davos, Natasha very eloquently wove together the arguments for addressing both people and planet, and for linking climate change, health, education, nutrition, water, human rights and meaningful youth engagement in the action that must happen. “The older generation has a lot of experience, but we have ideas, we have energy, and we have solutions,” she rallied (hear hear!).

Through it all, we and many others relentlessly urged participants to use their power for good, and take bigger and bolder action for girls, women, health and equality. And we did see companies and investors step up, speak up, and commit to hardwiring gender equality in the future of work. Even more brought the gender lens down the Davos mountain to apply it to their businesses, governments, and organizations — today, tomorrow, and always.

While of course more could have been done, and a lot more needs to be done, it was a good kickoff to the Decade of Action for the Sustainable Development Goals and 2020 — the ‘Super Year’ for gender equality — where we will mark the 25th anniversary of the Beijing Declaration with the big Generation Equality push.

About the Author: Katja Iversen is the President/CEO of Women Deliver.

Unbearable: Trump’s Travel Ban Against Women of Child-bearing Age

Mon, 01/27/2020 - 10:24

According to America’s Voice , policy and legal experts gathered on a press call yesterday to discuss the ramifications following Trump’s new rule that could ban women from visiting the U.S. just because they are pregnant or could become pregnant. In another attack on women’s reproductive rights, Trump and his administration have attempted to wield more xenophobic and misogynistic power to cast off women, particularly women of color, visiting from non-visa-waiver countries. 

Here are the opinions from leaders representing a number of major organizations regarding the new rule:

Ur Jaddou, Director of DHS Watch and former USCIS Chief Counsel, America’s Voice, said, “To be clear about the absurdity of this new and overly broad regulation, let me restate it. Under this new regulation, women, not men, just women, now have a higher burden to travel to the United States just because they look pregnant or may become pregnant. If the State Department was trying to contain the discrimination and absurd breadth of this new regulation through new policy guidance issued on Friday, they failed. The fact remains, even with the policy guidance, consular officers are still empowered with broad discretion to deny women visas to travel to the United States because of their bodies and their natural ability to have babies.” 

Ann Marie Benitez, Senior Director of Government Relations, National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health, said, “The Trump administration’s recently published pregnancy ban is just one more attack on the well-being of immigrants and women of color. Since the start of their term, this administration has been sending the message that those populations are not welcome here. A few examples of this: the rule expanding the definition of public charge has led to an increase in the number of families deregistering, and this leads to lasting impacts on their health and safety; another example is the detainment of pregnant women by ICE. These examples illustrate how this political climate is taking a toll on immigrants’ well-being. We believe immigrants are bestowed with inherent human rights – freedom of movement, health care, and the fundamental right to establish families with dignity and unity. Instead of these policies, we should have policies that respect the dignity and agency of immigrant women.”

Kristin Rowe-Finkbeiner, Executive Director and CEO, MomsRising.org, said, “Pregnant women already face an unconscionable level of discrimination in our workplaces and our society.  Trump’s new rule would codify pregnancy discrimination by turning our government into reproductive police who invade the privacy and assault the dignity of women seeking to enter the United States. As mothers, we cannot and will not stand by for this attack on pregnant women, women of color, and women seeking to enter the United States.”

Sung Yeon Choimorrow, Executive Director, National Asian Pacific American Women’s Forum (NAPAWF), said, “This ugly development is ultimately an issue of racial profiling of Asians. The Trump administration will go to any lengths to demean immigrant women. Millions of Asian people come to the U.S. to visit their families and targeting them because of their race or country of origin is discriminatory and wrong. This administration has a track record of detaining pregnant people and has made it impossible for victims of domestic violence and sexual assault to seek asylum. There is no justification for the harm they have done to immigrant women or for their xenophobic agenda.”

Dorianne Mason, Director of Health Equity, National Women’s Law Center (NWLC), said, “This policy does nothing more than penalize pregnancy and women. It is an invasion of women’s privacy that creates potentially insurmountable barriers to life-saving care. As with many of this Administration’s policies, its burden will fall most heavily on immigrant women of color; signaling yet again that if you are too brown, too black, or too poor, you are not welcome here. Women and girls have the right to dignity, autonomy and lives without discrimination. Pregnancy or potential pregnancy should not be weaponized to keep people out of this country. We condemn this repugnant regulation of women’s bodies.”

Dr. Ghazaleh Moayedi, OB/GYN and Board Member with Physicians for Reproductive Health, said, “As someone who holds the identity of a physician, a woman of color and a first-generation American, I am angry and horrified by this recent travel ban. This travel ban is the very definition of discrimination. Having cared for thousands of pregnant people, I know first-hand that pregnancy is not a national security threat. Being of child-bearing age is not a national security threat. Babies are not a national security threat. To suggest that our communities seek to deliver our children in this country only to groom them to harm Americans is not only baseless, but also dehumanizing. Pregnancy is never a reason to bar someone from entering a country. Pregnancy is only the concern of the person who is pregnant, and if they choose, their family and health care providers. The long line of attacks on immigrants has created a culture of fear and often keeps people from trying to access health care when they need it. I call for everyone, especially health care providers, to speak out against this rule.

The full recording of the call can be found here and via link: http://bit.ly/2t2jaOp

Frank Sharry is the founder and executive director of America’s Voice, an immigration reform group.


Mon, 01/13/2020 - 05:33

Women’s eNews is Pleased to Announce our 2020 Honorary Gala Chair, Loreen Arbus!!

Loreen Arbus, President of The Loreen Arbus Foundation, The Goldenson-Arbus Foundation and Loreen Arbus Productions, Inc

What Role will the “Disgusting, Clownish Behavior Factor” (DCBF) Play in the 2020 US Elections?

Thu, 01/09/2020 - 11:52

In 2016, most pundits thought that Donald Trump was finished when the infamous Access Hollywood tape was aired, in which ‘The Donald’ was bragged in gleeful delight that his stardom enabled him to grab women’s private parts with no dire consequences. His payoffs to a porn star and a playboy model to keep quiet about sexual encounters were documented by his (now imprisoned) lawyer, Michael Cohen. And the National Enquirer, purveyor of alien invasion stories, celebrity gossip and unusual crime headlines, (I Cut Out Her Heart and Stomped on It) joined the fray. The editor admitted to federal prosecutors that the Trump campaign asked him to “catch and kill” a story about the Playboy model; that is, to buy her story and bury it.

Trump’s behavior was already well known, but he won via the electoral college anyway, albeit by the very narrowest of margins. Many thought that he would move towards the center and become more ‘Mr. President’ than the guy from Celebrity Apprentice, but they were dead wrong. He immediately began using tweets like poison darts, and his targets were often women and people of color.

One of his major DCBF vocalizations occurred in August 2017, when hundreds of neo-Nazis invaded the campus of the University of Virginia in Charlottesville. They carried Tiki torches, chanting “Jews will not replace us,” and Trump referred to the marchers as “Very fine people.”

The next day, a 27-year-old neo Nazi drove his car into a crowd of anti-fascist protestors, killing 32-year-old Heather Heyer.

Alt-right guru Richard Spencer told the Atlantic: “There is no question that Charlottesville wouldn’t have occurred without Trump. It really was because of his campaign and this new potential for a nationalist candidate who was resonating with the public in a very intense way… He changed the paradigm and made this kind of public presence of the alt-right possible.”

Atlantic writer Ben Rhodes agreed.  “His whole brand is: I will say the things that the other guys won’t.

And while the “other guys” would not mouth slurs against Black women, Trump has no problems with that. The Guardian notes that “Trump had reportedly referred to Congresswoman Maxine Waters as ‘low IQ’ seven times in 2019, often at high-profile campaign rallies.” Additionally, Trump had called former White House aide Omarosa Manigault Newman, who is Black, a “crazed, crying lowlife” and a “dog.”

And CNN Opinion reported that Trump berated CNN correspondent Abby Phillip (“What a stupid question. But I watch you a lot. You ask a lot of stupid questions.”) He also said of April Ryan, a reporter and CNN contributor who has covered the White House for 21 years: “You talk about somebody that’s a loser. She doesn’t know what the hell she’s doing.” April Ryan has further been subjected to death threats in the wake of Trump’s verbal attacks. All of these women are Black.

Women, especially smart or outspoken ones, really bring out Trump’s DCBF. For example, he has called MSNBC  anchor Mika Brzezinski “dumb as a rock” , “Crazy”“low I.Q.”“bleeding badly from a face-lift”“had a mental breakdown while talking about me”, “crazy and very dumb”“very insecure”“not very bright”“neurotic” and “wild with hate”.

More recently. Trump attacked Democratic Congresswomen of color including Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York, Rashida Tlaib of Michigan, Ilhan Omar of Minnesota and Ayanna Pressley of Massachusetts. He implied in a series of tweets that the Congresswomen weren’t born in America and sarcastically suggested that, “They go back and help fix the totally broken and crime infested places from which they came.” Ocasio-Cortez, Tlaib and Pressley are natural-born US citizens, and Omar was born in Somalia and immigrated to the US when she was young. Omar became a citizen in 2000 when she was 17.

For much of his term, Trump has skated along with his DCBF intact, but things may be changing. The suburbs–especially suburban women–are slipping away.

The Denver Post reports that in more than three dozen interviews by the Associated Press with women in critical suburbs, “nearly all expressed dismay — or worse — at Trump’s racially polarizing insults and what was often described as unpresidential treatment of people. Even some who gave Trump credit for the economy or backed his crackdown on immigration acknowledged they were troubled or uncomfortable lining up behind the president.

In an upscale mall in the Denver suburbs, for example, 55-year-old Republican Kathy Barnes told reporters, “I did not think it was going to be as bad as it is — definitely narcissism and sexism, but I did not think it was going to be as bad as it is. I am just ashamed to be an American right now.”

Americans overall are more likely to approve of Donald Trump’s job performance (40 percent) than they are to approve of him as a person (34 percent). Ominously, in a recent Gallup poll, “Trump’s personal ratings were sharply lower than his performance ratings among two groups that are key to his base: Republicans and regular churchgoers — with less than half of the latter group approving of Trump as a person. This could put pressure on Trump to keep these groups satisfied through presidential actions and policies rather than the personal expressions he is known to make.” In other words, Gallup says, shut up and act like a president.

The good news for all the people Trump insults is that his DCBF is hardwired to his stubby, tweety trigger finger, and he is hopefully on his way to shooting himself right of out of the White House.