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Seattle Feminists Make Themselves Heard

Some 500 women and a few dozen men gathered on April 7 for the largest feminist rally in Seattle in several years. The sun was out, the music was fabulous, and the energy among women was exhilarating.

The Mobilize for Women's Lives rally, organized by a coalition of feminist, labor, and social justice organizations, centered around three demands: reproductive freedom for women, equal pay for equal work, and an end to violence against women. The many speakers were articulate in making connections between issues, and most kept their focus on women in particular.

Emma Cataque of the Asian Pacific Islander Women and Family Safety Center spoke movingly to the crowd about violence against women, the global slave trade in women, and its tragic manifestations in Seattle. Sarah Luthens of Out Front Labor Council/AFL-CIO argued that the labor movement is the main place for women to mobilize for economic justice.

Marcy Bloom of the Aradia Women's Health Center bravely spoke before the crowd despite the risk involved for people such as herself who work in abortion-providing services. "God wants us to do this work," she told the crowd amidst the harassing presence of anti-choicers.

She also acknowledged the Jewish community, since Passover began that evening, and spoke of Passover's roots in the need for liberation. (Organizers apparently didn't realize the importance of the holiday when scheduling the rally. Clearly the rally would never have been scheduled, for instance, on Christmas eve day.)

Marring the event were a half dozen men and one elderly woman who held giant pictures of dead fetuses behind the stage and around the crowd. Bloom reminded the crowd that clinics such as Aradia have to put up with this harassment every single week. Many pro-choicers followed the anti-choicers around and held their own pro-choice signs in front of some of the dead-fetus pictures. Unfortunately, the police told them they had to stop covering up the giant pictures. Fortunately, the police also threatened the anti-choicers with arrest if they didn't stop waving their banners behind the stage.

The music seemed to wipe out the noisome interference of the anti-choicers. Qui mesmerized the crowd with her chants in honor of Grandmother Earth. The Pinkos in clashing punk music took on the virgin/slut trap. Rebel Voices had the crowd in an almost revolutionary fervor as they performed "Friend of the Fetus" by Carol Rose Livingstone: "Once it's a baby I will not go near it, I will not feed it and I will not rear it, When it is crying I won't even hear it, For I have no room in my heart for a human."

After the rally, the protesters filled the streets, looking like thousands rather than hundreds, as one could not see the beginning or the end of the crowd. The group marched several blocks carrying a coffin to the city courthouse in a symbolic reminder of the days, not so long ago, when abortion was illegal.

A few weeks later, on April 22, thousands of women and men from across the country gathered in the other Washington for the largest nationwide feminist rally in the several years. They protested President Bush's reinstatement of the Global Gag Rule, and put out a warning to Congress not to support an anti-choice nominee to the U.S. Supreme Court.

—Adriene Sere


A Very Scary Place For Girls

A recent Human Rights Watch report exposed the widespread rape and sexual abuse of schoolgirls in South Africa — some girls as young as nine years old — at the hands of their male classmates and teachers. Among the list of horrors uncovered by the report is this quote by an unnamed teacher: "The department is not paying us enough money. So this is a fringe benefit. But Std 6 is too young. Std 9 and 10 is where we play." By "fringe benefit" and "play," he is referring to his constant sexual assault on the girls he is paid to teach.

The male sexual aggression against girls range from pressure to date (sometimes it's the only way to get an A) to assault and rape. Eight schools in three different provinces (cutting across racial and economic lines) revealed the same truth: 37.7% of school-age victims of rape who specified their relationship with the rapist were attacked by a schoolteacher or principal. Male classmates are just as bad, using sexual violence to gain control over girls. One girl prefect at a school caught some boys gambling. She later recounted that in order to force her to keep silent, they "said they would have someone rape me and they pulled down their pants."

A member of the Western Cape Education Department said, "We have a lot of sexual violence in the schools; we don't have a strategy." Seems like they'd better get one, and quick. The report's recommendations are a beginning. They include establishing guidelines about how to deal with allegations of rape or harassment, no longer permitting individuals convicted of sexual assault or rape to teach, and training teachers on issues of gender equity.

—Sue Scharff


Bright Spot In The Fight To Stop Rape

Some good news about rape prevention?! A men's group at the University of Virginia, "One in Four," is trying a new approach in raising male consciousness about rape, especially date rape.

One in Four, which takes its name from the estimated number of women who are victimized by rape, bills its program as one that prepares men on how to be helpful or supportive should a female friend come to them after being raped. It is also a men-only led program, which has left some women feeling silenced, but Foubert argues this is necessary for men in the workshop to be open and honest with one another.

Foubert believes that his program, which includes a videotape that opens with a graphic description of the rape of a male police officer, builds empathy in men, and thus reduces the likelihood that men will rape. Foubert says the video allows men to understand some part of what women experience during a rape. Mary Koss, professor of public health at the University of Tucson, explained that when male students in rape prevention workshops were shown a videotape that relayed a female victim's experience of rape, the males actually became more likely to rape because they found the description arousing.

Foubert responded to accolades for his male-only rape prevention workshops by pointing out that it was the many years of work on the part of tireless feminists that paved the way for what he is trying to do today. While his program has not yet been "scientifically" proven to reduce rape, he has found positive results in his own follow-up evaluations.

It's great that some men are finally taking responsibility for stopping what they start. Three cheers for John Foubert, Jonathon Stillerman of Men Can Stop Rape in D.C., and other men who are stepping up to the plate. Maybe they'll have better luck in ending the epidemic that plagues all of us — women and men.

— S.S.


They Just Don't Get It

Said It correspondent Sue Scharff was on the scene when the University of Washington group Action for Animals held a "Naked Chick" demonstration in downtown Seattle on April 14th.

The group had planned to have a couple of "naked 'chicks' in a cage to bring attention to the plight of egg-laying hens" (as stated in their email newsletter). The newsletter went on: "As people decorate Easter Eggs they rarely think about the horrific conditions endured by egg-laying hens…If you are female and are interested in being "naked" for this demo please call Dave ASAP at (206) 227-5752 or reply to this email." The two women who ended up posing in the cages were painted yellow and wore only panties, with pasties over their nipples. Needless to say, the rally raised little "consciousness" about the plight of animals. Many men leered at the women, and families passing by were offended by the nudity.

Penny Rowe, who alerted various feminist organizations about the sexist rally after blazing an email trail with an obnoxious Dave Bemel, leader of AFA, made this comment: "My take is that we should work together with animal rights organizations because fighting for animal rights and human rights are very similar goals…[T]he point should be that animals are like humans in important ways and thus shouldn't suffer. Instead, these degrading demonstrations say WOMEN ARE LIKE ANIMALS and since women shouldn't suffer, neither should animals." Another reminder that leftist politics do not necessarily equal feminist politics.

—S.S.


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