Thursday, September 29, 2011

J.C. Penney Has Decided Sexism is Awesome

Despite a massive public outcry over their sexist shirts, J.C. Penney has released this new commercial.

I guess they figure the clothes are so hideous, blatantly objectifying women is just the only way to go!

Didn't you learn your lesson, J.C. Penney?

P.S. If you shop at J.C. Penney, help them learn their lesson and boycott them!

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Why I Didn't Celebrate the Repeal of Don't Ask, Don't Tell


On September 20th, the military's "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy officially ended. The policy, which had been in place since 1993, banned openly gay men and women from serving in the armed forces. According to Zerlina over at, over 14,000 gay service members were discharged from the armed services under DADT, including many that never "told" anyone about their sexual orientation. Thousands more probably lived in fear of being outed and discharged at any moment.**

The policy was both horrible and homophobic, and enshrined into law the blatant discrimination of gays and lesbians. I believe that everyone - including gays and women - have the right to join the military and I am, therefore, glad to see that this discriminatory policy has been repealed. I am also thankful that those who serve in the military no longer have to live in fear, and I hope that by allowing gays to openly serve in the military those who work and fight alongside them come to respect and appreciate who they are as people.

I will not, however, celebrate the repeal of DADT because I do not support our military and our current wars. I will not call it a "huge historic victory." I will not hold a "Repeal Day" celebration. And I am surprised by the feminist community's ecstatic response to the repeal of DADT.

We cannot think about gay and lesbian access to the military as simply another issue of equal opportunity. This, as feminist scholar Cynthia Enloe argues, implies that, "the military is just one more employer, an employer that happens to measure success in terms of kill ratios rather than miles per gallon or rates of profit."** We cannot divorce military service from our current political location and the wars that we are fighting. "Combat" is not just a constructed notion of space, but a real place where people die -- perhaps at the hands of the gay soldiers whose service, recruitment, and desire to join the military so many are now celebrating.

Our military engages in a long list of atrocious activities, namely torture, the war in Afghanistan, arms deals with countries guilty of human rights violations such as Saudi Arabia and Israel, the exploitation of women, and a global basing system that couldn't be any more colonialist. If progress for gays is achieved through warfare and violence -- done at the expense of other people -- is it really worth it? 

Ultimately, I do not think the repeal of DADT will even dramatically advance gay rights or alter the culture of the military. The military is not a progressive organization and it makes decisions based only on what will help strengthen our military complex. I don't think it is a coincidence that the decision to repeal DADT comes at a time when our forces are stretched thin, when too many soldiers have done too many tours of duty, and public support is at an all-time low. The military desperately needs more soldiers, and the repeal of DADT is a way to ensure they get the manpower they need. And the military needs manpower, because the repeal of DADT precedes any policy that allows women in combat. They'd rather arm gay men than women.

If we look at the presence of women in the military (but not in combat), we find that their growing numbers have not had any positive effect on men's attitudes toward women and women's bodies. On the contrary, misogyny still runs rampant; over thirty percent of women claim they've been sexually assaulted by their fellow soldiers, and seventy percent claim they've been harassed.** Having women in the military hasn't (yet) produced any sort of large-scale feminist awakening, and I fear that having gays in the military won't profoundly alter the way most soldiers think about sexuality or gay rights.

Of course, any argument against joining the military reflects privilege. Many join the military because it is a way out of poverty, a way into a college classroom, and even a way to earn US citizenship. I understand that for many it is a good career option, if not the only career option, and that if offers economic security for them and their families. As feminists, however, I believe our focus should remain on a critique of our militarized system and culture, one where the military is often the best career option and killing is often the only way to afford college. 

I argue that it is also inherently privileged to celebrate one group's access to the military without thinking about how it will affect people around the globe. It is essentialist to argue that gays who join the military are somehow more peaceful than their heterosexual counterparts. Soldiers are soldiers, and all of them -- straight, gay, male, female -- have gone through an intensely militarized training process that teaches them to be warriors and killers.

A celebration of the repeal of DADT cannot simultaneously be a celebration of peace or a move toward demilitarization. On the contrary, I believe that these celebrations and even the repeal of DADT itself have distracted us from the problem of militarization by framing a large military in terms of progress and rights.

At best, the repeal of DADT is some progress for gay rights. It rightfully gives them equal access to the military and may have some impact on attitudes toward homosexuality within the US military and/or larger US culture. But a US soldier -- even a gay US soldier -- is participating in a system that does terrible things to people around the world. And we should be just as concerned with the human rights of these people, our sisters and brothers around the globe.

I'll save my celebration for peace.

** Note on terminology, I use "gay" in this post instead of the common LGBTQ because I am unclear how DADT relates to the rights of trans men and women.
** Cynthia Enloe, Does Khaki Become You?, 150.
** Helen Benedict, “The Nation: The Plight of Women Soldiers,” National Public Radio, May 6 2009, (accessed October 19, 2010).

Monday, September 26, 2011

Guest Post: Daphne On The Occupy Wall Street Movement and Police Brutality

I asked my friend Daphne, a writer who lives in NYC, to provide some information on the Occupy Wall Street Movement and describe the policy brutality she has witnessed.

Thank you so much for sharing this Daphne!

 For the past week and a half, people of all ages and all walks of life have been camping out in the financial district protesting the unaccountability of Wall Street banks and bankers under the self-titled movement Occupy Wall Street. Although I was aware of the protest, it honestly wasn’t something I was paying that much attention to--there had been little to no media coverage and to be perfectly frank, the demonstrations had little bearing on my day-to-day life. However, that all changed this past Saturday when, walking back from brunch in the Village, I saw a several hundred protesters being “kettled” (or pinned with nets) by the NYPD. My boyfriend Eric and I got there right when the police began to rush the demonstrators. It was an utterly frightening and completely confusing situation.

At first, there were only about twenty or so cops on the scene. Then, in a matter of moments, helicopters appeared and nearly 300 or so more officers arrived. At this point both protesters and bystanders had begun to join forces, chanting “let them go” and “let us go” but the cops kept expanding the nets to trap more and more people. It was at this point that things got ugly.

The new police that arrived on the scene either had less understanding about the situation than the officers who intitiated the sting or they were trying to provoke people to violence so they could make arrests. Thankfully, both protesters and bystanders did not resort to violence. However, that cannot be said of the police. The new officers acted as if there had been a bomb or mass murder, throwing people to the ground and up against walls. I saw at least a dozen women get thrown to the ground by 200 pound men. At one point, several women who had been separated from their group and who were clearly confused and upset, were maced for no reason by the NYPD. (video:

All while this was happening, Eric and I were trying to talk to the officers to get them to explain why a) these people weren’t allowed to peaceably assemble and march and b) why they were being shown such violence when this group clearly had done nothing to warrant such an extreme reaction. Most of the police either refused to speak to us or they told us that if we didn’t stop interfering, we would be arrested as well. There were, in fact, several bystanders arrested for trying to defend the demonstrators.

The most telling moment of the whole horrific afternoon was when, after empty city buses and paddy wagons arrived to serve as makeshift jails, a cop told us that just because “it says you can do something in the Constitution, doesn’t mean that it’s your right.” I think that sentiment really summed up the NYPD’s attitude because not only did they severely violate these people’s 1st amendment rights, they fundamentally disrespected them as human beings. It was disgraceful.

That said, the one positive and inspiring result of Saturday was that I now realize I cannot afford to be a bystander while these people and others around America bravely take a stand against our uninterested government, institutionalized economic corruption, deeply unjust justice system, and extreme and rampant poverty in the supposedly richest country in the world. I spoke with one woman Anna, both at the police raid and the next day at Liberty Square, and she was both hopeful and determined to keep participating and collaborating with this dynamic group. “I’ll be here every day,” she told me, “Because by being here we’re showing people that we are a force.”

The New York Times unfortunately called Occupy Wall Street an “unfocused” movement. That assessment is incredibly unfair because, while this movement started as an anti-oligarchy crusade, it’s base has grown to include people outraged by Troy Davis’ murder, people deeply concerned about institutionalized racism and patriarchy, and people incredibly concerned about America’s wars all over the world. Occupy Wall Street doesn’t need one “thing” to be galvanized over. It is working towards one goal: A better America.

On Saturday, the lines between social activist and casual bystander were blurred and everyone became a witness. I encourage anyone reading this to also be a witness--participate, tweet, facebook, write, blog, donate, and speak your mind. No one will do it for you.

For more information go to or #occupywallstreet/#occupywallst

Friday, September 23, 2011

Have a Great Weekend!!

This weekend is the Barnard Center for Research on Women's Activism and Academy Conference. I wish I could be there!

Since I'm not - I'll leave you with a few great quotes from the conference tweeted by all the fabulous feminists there:

Put a gendered lens on the world and you see the world more clearly and you see solutions to the world's problems more clearly. -- Ai-Jen Poo

What are you doing for the future of feminism? -- Sonia Alvarez

How do we go from writing to using the internet to make a change on the ground?

Thursday, September 22, 2011

1,100 Women Are Raped Every Day in the Congo

A study published by the American Journal of Public Health on Tuesday found that 1,100 women are raped in the Congo.

That means that more than 400,000 women between the ages of 15 and 49 were raped in a 12-month period (2006-2007). 

We've known for a long time that rape in the Congo was a problem, but this study puts the number of rapes at 26 times higher than a previous study done by the United Nations.

The study did not include the rape of men and boys, and did not include the rape of women younger than 15 or older than 49. I imagine that statistics for both of those age groups are high - particularly the "younger than 15" group.

Unfortunately, the study's statistics are probably already outdated. A recent Human Rights Watch report argued that rapes in the Congo more than doubled from 2008-2009. If the report is accurate, more than 1,100 women are raped every day. 

The findings are profoundly sad. But the real question is - what can we do about it?

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Save Troy Davis

Update: Troy Davis is dead. He was executed last night at 11:08 pm. The execution was about four hours later than planned, as the Supreme Court deliberated a request for a stay. In his final minutes - after the execution order had been read - Davis looked at MacPhail's family (MacPhail was the off-duty cop who was murdered) and said, "I am sorry for your loss. But I didn't take your son, father, and brother. I am innocent. I wasn't the one who did it. I didn't have a gun." He also told his family to, "dig deeper in the case and find out the keep up the fight."

I can't even imagine what Davis and his family felt as he approached death, particularly in those last four hours. Reports claim that Davis was strapped to the gurney when the decision from the Supreme Court was read to him. I sincerely hope that they didn't keep him on the gurney for the entire four hours while the Court deliberated.

Davis was aware of and moved by the international show of support for his case. An email from this morning read, "Davis was not alone when he died. Thank you for standing with him." If you called, wrote, or signed a petition on behalf of Davis - thank you for fighting for justice. Thank you for standing with him.

Of course, as Davis himself said, the terrible thing about this situation isn't just that Davis was killed by the state. It is that the criminal justice system is broken, that it doesn't actually promote justice. Throughout this whole ordeal, people have chanted "We Are Troy Davis." And we are. Everyone is. Because everyone in our broken prison system could be a Troy Davis. And really, anyone could end up in his position - wrongfully accused and on death row. Especially if you are a person of color.

We can't let these issues die with Davis' murder.

If you're interested in anti-death penalty advocacy, visit Amnesty International or The Innocence Project. To date, The Innocence Project has exonerated 273 people in the US through DNA evidence, including 17 on death row.

Today, Troy Davis will be executed at 7 pm. For a crime he most likely didn't commit.

Davis has been in prison for the murder of an off-duty policeman in Georgia for the past 22 years. Since his trial, seven of the nine eye witnesses have recanted their testimony. Beyond the eyewitnesses, there was no physical evidence. One witness claims he heard a man, Sylvester "Redd" Coles later brag that he had done the shooting himself. Coles remains one of the two eyewitnesses who still maintains that Davis is guilty.

On Friday, more than 630,000 letters asking asking the Georgia Board of Pardons to offer clemency to Davis were delivered by Amnesty International. They included pleas from former President Jimmy Carter, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, and former director of the FBI, William Sessions. Despite the international show of support, the Georgia Board denied him clemency yesterday.

This is the fourth time Mr. Davis has faced the death penalty. In 2007, they offered him clemency just 90 minutes before his scheduled execution, citing the lack of evidence.

Please sign this Amnesty International petition as soon as possible:

I also encourage you to call the Chatham County District Attorney, Larry Chisolm. He is the only man left who has the power to withdraw the death warrant: 912.652.7308.

It isn't too late.

For more information on Troy Davis, read the NY Times story. 

You can also read this great article by the Crunk Feminist Collective, which explores the racism in the case and locates it within the history of African American lynchings.

Feministing's Zerlina also writes about why this case demonstrates that our justice is broken over on Loop 21.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

World Bank's 2012 World Development Report on Gender Equality and Development - We Still Have Work To Do

The World Bank has released its 2012 World Development Report on Gender Equality and Development.

I've provided a very brief overview and highlighted some of the interesting findings, so you don't have to read the full 452 page report yourself (although if you'd like to, you can find it here).

To begin with, the report highlights the relationship between gender equality and development. Gender equality is a development objective in its own right, and part of the Millennium Development Goals. Moreover, the report argues that development initiatives can contribute to greater gender equality, and that gender equality can enhance economic efficiency and improve development initiatives. The latter claim is derived from a growing body of microeconomic studies that demonstrate that you have to reduce social barriers and support women in order to profit from their skills and labor (i.e. ensuring that women who graduate from school have equal access to the workforce) and that women spend their money differently than men - choosing primarily to spend it on their families and children. Putting money into the hands of women can, therefore, have a direct impact on things like child nutrition and health or school enrollment.

The report features some of the ways we've made progress. The good news is:

-- More girls are in school and literate than ever before.
-- In one-third of developing countries (45), girls outnumber boys in secondary education.
-- The average total fertility has declined from 5 births per woman in 1960 to 2.5 in 2008.
--There is little evidence of systematic gender discrimination in the use of health spending or health services.
-- Over half a billion women have joined the world's labor force in the past 30 years.

Now on to the bad stuff:

-- Nearly 4 million women go "missing" every year. They are either never born due to a preference for sons, die in early childhood due to a misallocation of resources (i.e. give more food to your son than your daughter), or die from a maternal-related cause.
--Over a third of women die in their reproductive years.
-- Women account for 58% of the world's unpaid labor.
-- Globally, only 10-20 of every 100 land owners is a woman.
-- Women are responsible for 60-80% of all house and care work.
-- Even though more women have joined the labor force, they still largely work in feminized professions, economic spaces that are deemed appropriate for women's labor.
-- Gender-differentiated patterns of employment mean lower incomes for women.
-- Many women still don't have equal control of household resources or equal access to resources. Some women lack access even to their own earnings. 

The report helpfully includes a series of recommended policy actions. These include:

-- Eliminating gender disadvantages in education where they remain entrenched.
-- Ensuring women have access to more economic opportunities and that they are not confined to traditionally feminized, low-paying fields.
-- Increasing access to child care and early childhood development initiatives.
-- Increasing the number of women in politics.
-- Ensuring that women have access to and control of their own money and household resources, both in marriage and divorce.
There is a great video about the role of the international community and the World Bank's recommended policies here. There is also a handy chart!

In all, the report is full of fascinating data and a bunch of really interesting charts. Hopefully, the policy recommendations are observed, and the World Bank's next report shows even greater progress.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Men at Work

Last Friday, I was driving to a conference on Educational Disparity and Minority Youth, and passed this sign:

I was really surprised by how blatantly sexist our road signs are.

To be honest, I have never really noticed how gendered these signs are before (which means I should probably be paying more attention to my surroundings while I drive instead of putting on epic country music concerts for my Hyundai). Apparently, however, there are federal laws saying that the signs must be gender-neutral, and some cities have taken them down and replaced the gendered ones once people complained. I highly encourage you to do this if you see sexist signs in your town!

Because women do construction work too. And these signs only make that work invisible and perpetuate the myth that construction is a male-only field. Moreover, they perpetuate the idea that men are the only ones capable of doing physical labor, and to an extent convey the notion that men are the only ones capable of doing labor outside the home. The only time I've seen signs that say "women at work," they're sold to be hung in a kitchen or they say, "mom at work" and are meant to be hung somewhere in the house. They assert that the home is the space where women work, and they claim that space for traditionally feminized work such as mothering and cooking. We're left with a paradigm where we see "Men Working" signs in public spaces, and "Women Working" signs in private.

Certainly, work within the home is work. But women also can and should do work outside the home (I'm late for that very work this minute!), and some of the women who work outside the home happen to work in construction. As of 2007, for example, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that 1.1 million women were employed in construction, about 9%.** These women deserve for their work to be recognized and made visible - just like all women's work, both outside the home and within it.

**I know I should have a more recent statistic for you dear readers, but have I told you yet that I'm late for work?

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Have a Great Weekend!!!

B and I went to a fun cook-out last night, where I had the best veggie burgers ever. Tonight, we're going to see Chekhov's Three Sisters at the Yale Rep and get drinks afterwards. Yale's theater is amazing - and they give the grad students super cheap tickets, dinner, and free beer and wine.  Thanks Yale!

Tomorrow, B has his first soccer game. I'm excited to get all cozy and enjoy the fabulous fall weather while watching him play. If you'd like to learn more about his soccer team, check out the FRONT PAGE ARTICLE the Yale Daily News ran about their three-year reign as champions. 

Brett is the one in the orange shirt. :-) Look at him go!!!!!

Action Shot!
Get it!!!!!
What are you doing this weekend?

Friday, September 16, 2011

J.C. Penney and Forever 21 Think You're Stupid

If you're a girl, that is.

Because girls suck at math! Getting an F is fabulous! And if you're pretty - stay away from serious things and let the boys do it. Or you'll never get a boyfriend because boys only care about your looks and don't want to feel threatened by any thinking that you do (the shirt doesn't say that, but isn't that kind of part of the message?)

Like the post-it says, don't buy these shirts. Smart girls are cool. 

P.S. I know this is old news for those of you that follow the feminist blogosphere. Due to the uproar, JC Penney has pulled the shirt and apologized. I think Forever 21 has done something similar. Which just goes to show - if you don't like something, say something.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Giving Back in Other Ways

Those of you that know me (and let's face it - the only people reading this are 'those of you that know me') know that when I start thinking about an issue, I think about it and think about it and think about it and talk about it talk about it talk about it until you wish I'd never thought about it in the first place!

That's kind of what I've been doing with Peter Singer's The Life You Can Save.

Because as I think about spending my money ethically, the first thing I think is "But I don't have any money!!!" And that, folks, is no big exaggeration.

I have less money than some, however, because I chose to take a job that works on improving the lives of women and children. It is an incredible organization, and I am so lucky that I get to work with such an amazing group of people - whose energy and passion for helping women start businesses, improving the quality of early child care and education, and eradicating the educational disparity amazes and inspires me everyday. The problem is that the world-saving type of jobs - especially the world-saving for women type of jobs - don't pay very much. And I'm fine with that. I knew that when I took this job, when I came to Yale to study Women's, Gender, and Sexuality Studies, and when I chose to major in Women's Studies way back during my sophomore year at Wellesley. I had no illusions that I was going to become a millionaire through Women's Studies. I knew I'd have to run over to the Economics Department and sell my soul to work for Goldman Sachs to do that.

But it was and is incredibly important to me to find a job that does some good in the world - that will make it a better place, especially for women. The unofficial slogan at Wellesley is "Women Who Will." I suppose it could be "women who will" almost anything. But I've always interpreted it to say, "Women Who Will Make a Difference in the World." And that is the motto for how I want to live my life. I'd be completely and utterly happy if on my tombstone it said, "Shannon Hill - A Woman Who Made a Difference In The World." **as an aside, Hillary Rodham Clinton recently said she wanted her tombstone to say, "I tried my damn best." I <3 Hillary! 

I hear people say sometimes that they learned a job paid x amount of money, so they decided to pursue it. Or I hear people tell their children, "oh hey! x job pays great - why don't you pick a college that can give you the tools to do that!"  This has always been incredibly sad to me. You're not picking a job based on your passion?! You're not picking a job that allows you to give back to the world?! You're literally going to base your entire life around what makes the most money?!

Obviously, I recognize that my position - that that is the wrong way to pick a career - is extremely privileged. I didn't have to pick a job that could support my parents and entire family. I don't have children. And I don't have hundreds of dollars to pay in student loans every month (thanks mom and dad!) But it always seems sad to me that people are basing what they study and what they do every day around a desire to make the most money.

Getting back to Singer's The Life You Can Save, I think it is important to not just give money, but to give your life. And if you give your life -- but give less money -- than so be it. There are other ways to give back.

That doesn't mean I'm off the hook for donating money or budgeting ethically. I realize that my "less money" is still "lots of money" to a great many people. But in thinking about how to make a difference in the world, I'm glad I work for it every day instead of just writing a check.

Megyn Kelly

The apocalypse must be near, because in this video Megyn Kelly of Fox News feels bad about all the hate toward the LGBTQ community.

I think something happened when she got called out for taking maternity leave and started talking about how the U.S. should offer paid maternity leave like the The scales fell from her eyes!

And just in case we need a reminder of where the U.S. stands in relation to the rest of the world re: parental leave, there is this handy little chart that shows the duration of paid parental leave (last updated 2004 - but our policy hasn't changed and some countries may have implemented even better policies):

Courtesy of the Clearinghouse for International Developments in Child, Youth, and Family Policies. Columbia University.

 We're at the very bottom!