Category Archives: Politics

New Year, New House: Understanding the 116th Congress’s Adopted Rules and What they Mean for the Freshman Class

By Rhian Lowndes

A new year and a new Congress. With 102 women sitting in the House of Representatives and 25 in the Senate, the United States is seeing unprecedented female power in our national government. Nancy Pelosi calls new members a “transformative Freshman Class” with over a third of House Democrats identifying as people of color and a (marginal but auspicious) growth in religious diversity as well.

With new faces comes change; the House of Representatives has adapted to its new found pluralism by adopting some rules and modifying others to ensure safety and opportunity to all members–maybe I’m giving away my naivety by saying I was surprised that a few of these regulations hadn’t already been established. Still, the following directives are a good sign for the 116th Congress.

  • Banning Discrimination on the Basis of Sexual Orientation or Gender Identity. While discrimination by any Member, Delegate, Resident Commissioner, officer, or employee of the House is already disallowed, the House has specifically extended the ban to consider prejudice based on sexual orientation or gender identity, creating a safe space for a new generation of representatives.
  • Banning Sexual Relationships Between Members and Committee Staff. Sexual relationships between members and their employees are not tolerated by House rules, but this now includes a prohibition of relationships between members and staffers who are not their direct employees, hopefully eliminating at least some ethical ambiguity surrounding power dynamics in these affairs.
  • Service of Indicted Members in Leadership and on Committees. To avoid leaving corrupt people in positions of power, the House has stated that indicted members, and those charged with criminal conduct for a felony offense punishable by at least two years in prison, should abdicate caucus or conference leadership roles and step down from any committee positions.
  • Requiring Members to Pay for Discrimination Settlements. Members have to pay the Treasury back for any settlement related a violation of sections 201(a)[1], 206(a)[2], or 207[3] of the Congressional Accountability Act of 1995. This makes members more accountable for their own actions within their government positions.
  • Mandatory Anti-Harassment and Anti-Discrimination Policies for House Offices. Each office within the House has to adopt an anti-harassment and anti-discrimination policy by April 1st.
  • Office of Diversity and Inclusion. The House has created an Office of Diversity and Inclusion. The Speaker and Minority Leader will select a Director (with recommendations from the Committee on House Administration) and within 150 days the Office must submit a diversity plan for approval. The diversity plan has to include:
    • “(1) policies to direct and guide House offices to recruit, hire, train, develop, advance, promote and retain a diverse workforce; (2) the development of a survey to evaluate diversity in House offices; (3) a framework for the House of Representatives diversity report; and (4) a proposal for the composition of an Advisory Council to inform the work of the Office.”

A House of Representatives diversity report at the end of each session of Congress is also required.

  • Title II. Select Committee on the Modernization of Congress. The House is creating a Committee to investigate and develop recommendations on the modernization of Congress. By “modernization” they mean they intend to develop a more efficient Congress, taking into consideration scheduling, recruitment, and technology, but it also means the preservation and advancement of diversity.

There’s much more to peruse among the legislation set for consideration in the new year, but it’s good to see that the House is making way for change. Hosting a vastly different staff from previous Congresses means the House is in a position to make an America for women and minorities, as well as groups who have prospered more easily in the past. Hopefully, these regulations will make that task easier, and we’ll see the difference in months and years to come.

 

https://www.usnews.com/news/politics/slideshows/116th-congress-by-party-race-gender-and-religion?slide=5 https://docs.house.gov/billsthisweek/20181231/BILLS-116hresPIH-hres6.pdf

https://docs.house.gov/billsthisweek/20181231/116-HRes6-SxS-U1.pdf

 

[1] prohibiting discrimination based on “race, color, religion, sex, or national origin,… age,…[or] disability”

[2] prohibiting the discrimination of veterans and/or denying them employment or benefits if they are eligible employees

[3] prohibiting the intimidation of employees who participate in hearings or proceedings

8 Feminist Instagram Accounts You Should Be Following

By: Naomi Gewirtzman

Recently, I decided to reassess the way I use social media. I found that, like all of my peers, I was wasting countless hours a day mindlessly scrolling through feeds that largely consisted of fashion and fitness “influencers,” and it was getting exhausting. Studies show that social media is detrimental to mental health, especially in girls, largely due to the tendency for women to compare themselves to what they see on social media. This toxic Instagram culture advertizes unattainable lifestyles and promotes unrealistic and unrepresentative beauty standards; and the pressure of comparison promotes unhealthy competition between women. I decided to make a change. I wanted to be more mindful and intentional with the media I was consuming, so I went through every account I was following, and considered whether it was benefiting me and reflective of my values. If it wasn’t, I unfollowed and replaced it with accounts belonging to an array of diverse women with positive messages. Now, my time spent on social media is informative, intersectional, and empowering. Here are some of my favorite feminist Instagram accounts.

 

  1. @liberaljane

 Caitlin Blunnie is a feminist activist who makes gorgeous pieces related to feminism. Her feed is filled with drawings of diverse women, and she educates her followers about feminist issues through her art.

  1. @ocasio2018

Alexandria Ocasio Cortes is not only killing it in our House of Representatives, but she’s also killing it on Instagram. Known for her livestreams in which she interacts with her followers and explains current events and the duties of congress members, this New York representative is the perfect example of a politically engaged, empowered woman.

  1. @bopo_blossom

Jillian Leigh is a Columbia student on a mission to tear down diet culture. Through her posts, she educates her followers about body positivity, building a healthy relationship with food, and how every woman of every shape, size, and color is beautiful.

  1. @nowthisher

NowThis Her is a media company that posts videos highlighting stories relevant to women from all over the world. Following this account is a great way to stay up to date on global women’s issues that are underrepresented in other news sources.

  1. @the_tinder_queen

The Tinder Queen posts submissions of some of women’s worst experiences on Tinder. She educates men on the app about feminism and consent, and teaches her followers how to use dating apps safely and respectfully.

  1. @sheratesdogs

SheRateDogs is “like WeRateDogs but the dogs are your exes.” She exposes toxic ex boyfriends through followers’ submissions, and encourages women to leave unhealthy relationships and to acknowledge their worth.

 

  1. @catcallsofnyc

 CatCallsOfNYC takes submissions of her followers’ experiences with street harassment and in New York City. She then goes to the place where the harassment occurred and writes the quote in chalk to bring attention to the issue of catcalling. 

  1. @florencegiven

Florence is another artist who empowers women through her pieces. I love the use of color and sass in her artwork while she brings important feminist issues to attention.

Dysfunctional Mitten

By Marie Cantor

With the end of the semester fast-approaching, I’ve been thinking a lot about home.  The breezy air from the Great Lakes, the bustling sounds of Ford Road, and the ruthless certainty that the Detroit Lions will never make it to the Super Bowl. I’ve lived in Michigan

Williams, Izzie. My Detroit. 2016. Instagram @livingizzie, Detroit.
Williams, Izzie. My Detroit. 2016. Instagram @livingizzie, Detroit 

an my whole life. I’ve gone through the lows of Kwame Kilpatrickand the highs of the slow revival of the automotive companies. My whole life I was told Detroit is good, bad, and ugly. Currently, domestic violence in Wayne County–– the most populous county in Michigan, within which Detroit is included–– is on the rise.

Wayne County’s population is approximately 1.8 million, and Detroit accounts for roughly 37% of that population, according to the 2017 census. By comparison, twenty-eight Bostons can fit in one Detroit. Wayne County’s prosecutor, Kym Worthy, reports a noticeable increase in domestic violence in 2017. She explains that in 2017, the cases neared 9,000––thats about 2,000 more cases than average.[1]

Williams, Izzie. Unnamed. 2016. Instagram @livingizzie, Detroit.
Williams, Izzie. Unnamed. 2016. Instagram @livingizzie, Detroit.

There are 72 organizations in Michigan that provide services to people experiencing domestic violence.[2]Recently, Wayne State University created a new program to help survivors in the Metro Detroit area. Of the 11,341 rape kits found in 2009, those that were tested by the Detroit Police convicted 152 rapists.[1]Pursuits to combat domestic violence in Michigan are all in full force and taken seriously. So why this sudden influx of abuse in Metro Detroit?

Worthy notes a trend she calls, “the CSI effect.” Alluding to the overtly dramatic television show by the same name, this effect makes clear the phenomenon that jurors in the Wayne courtrooms expect theatrics. Jurors want lawyers screaming, and eye-witnesses crying; the jury expects the courtroom to reflect entertainment from television shows.  Prosecutor Worthy says this causes difficulties in performing due process.[1]In our culture, there is a thin line between reality and what we see in the media.We watch shows like CSI and Law & Order, and expect to have the same experience in the real world.

The aforementioned theory still doesn’t explain the increase in cases of domestic abuse. The Detroit Police has not given any formal statements or information on the matter. Frankly, there isn’t much talk in general, except for casual slips of information regarding the increase in Wayne County. Even Prosecutor Worthy gave a small statement with no new information, and claims that the police department is  ameliorating such situations. Despite this statement, all I personally see is useless talk and little action.  I realize that feminist programs continue fighting to help survivors every day, but officials still shirk from solving issues sprouting from lack of communication.    

Williams, Izzie. The Beauty of the Broken. 2017. Instagram @livingizzie, Detroit.
Williams, Izzie. The Beauty of the Broken. 2017. Instagram @livingizzie, Detroit.

Detroit is not an outlier in this issue. In our society, there is an abundance of programs to help survivors, which is fantastic, but there is no education on how to prevent violence in the first place. The question still stands–how can you tell someone not to be an abuser?

Relationship education is not stated in the sex education obligations providing by Michigan Department of Education.[3]In early education, there needs to be a standard of instructing what a healthy relationship looks like. Instead teachers are instructed to stressabstinence from sex.

Where are the statements? Why are there no questions? Why is there more domestic violence? We claim “Detroit vs Everybody” but it seems we are only fighting ourselves. There is no point of promoting strength when we are still crumbling through the cracks. Detroit is trying to rebuild its economy with fancy bars and cute decorations. But the people of Detroit are being forgotten. 

      

 

 

 

[1]Jachman, Matt. “Wayne County Prosecutor Talks CSI Effect, School Threats, Domestic Violence in Town Hall Meeting.” HometownLife, 5 Dec. 2018, www.hometownlife.com/story/news/2018/12/05/kym-worthy-talks-csi-effect-school-threats-more-town-hall-meeting/2161061002/.

 

[2]“Michigan Domestic Violence Help, Programs and Statistics.” DomesticShelters.org, www.domesticshelters.org/mi/michigan-domestic-violence-help-statistics.

 

[3]“HIV/STD and Sex Education in Michigan Public Schools: A Summary of Legal Obligations and Best Practices.” SOM – State of Michigan, Department of Education, www.michigan.gov/documents/mdch/Michigans_Sex_Education_Laws_Summary_303019_7.pdf

Ruth Bader Ginsburg: A Force to be Reckoned With

Amid all the horrible things currently tearing apart our nation, we sometimes forget to appreciate everything beautiful in our lives. Let’s take a minute to bask in the glory of Ruth Bader Ginsburg, shall we?

Ms. Bader Ginsburg’s parents worked as a furrier and as a garment factory employee in the height of the Great Depression. Her parents emphasized the significance of education, although they themselves have not received university degrees. Unfortunately, Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s mother died from cancer the day before Ruth’s high school graduation. Despite this drawback, Bader Ginsburg completed her undergraduate degree at Cornell University. She met her husband, who was a Cornell Law School student, and started a family with him after she completed her undergraduate degree. Soon afterwards, Ruth Bader Ginsburg received her law degree from Harvard Law School. Upon graduating, despite her high qualifications, Bader Ginsburg was constantly faced with inequalities; she would always receive a much lower salary than her male counterparts and felt pressured to hide her pregnancy in fear that she would be fired.

Despite the countless sexist hurdles Ruth Bader Ginsburg faced, she still persisted. Ruth pursued civil procedure and then became a law professor at Rutgers University until she was hired by Columbia University, where she was the first woman to receive tenure. Former President Bill Clinton then appointed Ruth Bader Ginsburg as a Supreme Court Justice, where she continued her passion for advocating. She fiercely fights for women’s rights, and even wrote the majority opinion in United States v. Virginia, which argued that women should not be prohibited from joining the Virginia Military Institute.

The moral of the story is, know your female role models. Know what you want in life, and persistently fight for it. Understand female role models’ history, the struggles that they lived through, and appreciate their accomplishments. Internalize their strategies that allowed them to climb to success. After all, Ruth Bader Ginsburg did not grow up in a wealthy household, but she is now a Supreme Court Justice. Despite the immense amount of personal hurdles and academic hurdles that Bader Ginsburg faced—including when she battled both pancreatic and colon cancer—she never faltered. Ruth Bader Ginsburg has never missed a day of oral arguments, and proudly represents the feminist movement. Ruth Bader Ginsburg is my female role model, and I hope she is yours too.

 

Source: https://www.oyez.org/justices/ruth_bader_ginsburg

 

By: Eleni Constantinou

 

I’m angry. You should be too.

By Matthew Segalla

I’m angry at the state of our country. Angry at the decisions of those who hold authority. Angry for survivors who are not getting the justice they deserve. Angry that our country views minorities as “less than.” Angry that we live in a country where men are valued more than women. We are not just repeating history, we are moving backwards. A third of the men now serving on the highest court in our country have been accused of sexual assault. This is an issue that transcends party and politics, it is an issue of humanity and morality. Our country has never been perfect, nor will it ever be. In the same sense, those who run our country are not perfect and never will be, regardless of who they are or what they stand for. Nevertheless, sexual assaulters do not belong in our government, neither do those who have no respect for women. They don’t belong on our supreme court. They do not represent us or how we feel. They are sending a message to women. It’s not a good one. Women deserve so much more and so much better. This must change. We cannot stand for this. Keep fighting. Speak up. Keep fighting. Take a stand. Keep fighting. Make that change happen. Brett Kavanaugh does not belong on our supreme court, regardless of your political preference or beliefs. While I face challenges and prejudices of my own, I will never face or be able to fully understand the challenges that women are forced to overcome every single day. His victory is a loss for them. One day, we will get the justice that they deserve. Until then, all I can say is women, I am with you, I support you, I will do my best to defend you and fight for you, and without exception, I believe you. I believe all survivors. I believe women. I believe Anita Hill. And I believe Christine Blasey Ford. You should too.

Immigration and Family Separation: Hoochie’s Hoot

By Daniela Tellechea, Annie Jonas and Anto Rondón

I’m sure you’ve already heard about it. Families have been discriminated against, detached, and detained because of their immigrant status. According to the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), “more than 2,300 children have been forcibly taken from their parents.”

The vast majority of these children were brought to the U.S. by their parents in search of protection from the peril of their native countries. “Eighty-eight percent of detained families have demonstrated to a DHS asylum officer that they have a credible fear of persecution if deported,” reports the ACLU.

President Trump has never been a fan of immigrants — he has consistently shown apathy, disapproval and repudiation of people of color. He has attacked Latinos, Muslims, Black women and men, and other POCs. We cannot forget that a large part of his campaign to “Make America Great Again” included building a wall between the United States and Mexico. Then, it is not surprising to see stricter measures being taken at the border. When Attorney General Sessions announced the “zero-tolerance policy” — which presumed that every person coming into the border would be seen first as a criminal, and second as an asylum seeker/refugee — this led to the separation of children from their parents, and the administration gained immediate rejection worldwide, as well as immense national backlash.

At the time, President Trump blamed the Democrats’ unwillingness to approve the wall for the separation of families. On June 15th, 2018 he tweeted, “The Democrats are forcing the breakup of families at the Border with their horrible and cruel legislative agenda.” He continued, “Any Immigration Bill MUST HAVE full funding for the Wall, end Catch & Release, Visa Lottery and Chain, and go to Merit Based Immigration. Go for it! WIN!” These tweets foreshadowed the changes that would alter the course of many lives and change the face of American enactments.

After being pressed and criticized for days, President Trump issued an Executive Order on June 20th, stating he no longer mandated the separation of families; however, he is still pushing for stricter immigration laws and continues to make references to his beloved wall. Additionally, he has not addressed family reunification issues.

The order reads, “It is the policy of this Administration to rigorously enforce our immigration laws. Under our laws, the only legal way for an alien to enter this country is at a designated port of entry at an appropriate time. When an alien enters or attempts to enter the country anywhere else, that alien has committed at least the crime of improper entry and is subject to a fine or imprisonment…”

He has posted various tweets since then, condemning Democrats for interfering with his plan. His plan being to “cut the number of legal immigrants [entering] to the U.S. by 50% over the next 10 years” based on the proposals he’s backed, according to an article on BBC News posted on June 21st. Recently he jabbed at Democrats saying, “It is unfortunate that Congress’s failure to act and court orders have put the Administration in the position of separating alien families to effectively enforce the law.”

Measures have already been taken to make room for even more detention camps for immigrants, now on military bases. A report by BBC News published on June 23rd presents that the U.S. military “had been asked by the government to get ready to house up to 20,000 immigrant children.” These efforts actually add to the expenses that relate to immigration. The report stated, “The Navy memo estimates the force would spend $233 million (£175m) to run a facility for 25,000 people for six-months.”

However, the most difficult cost is the psychological cost children are paying. NBC News reported on June 28th, 2018 that even after the Executive Order to no longer separate families, “immigrant children as young as 3 are being ordered into court for their own deportation proceedings.” This seems inconceivable, but it “is not a new practice.”

More than 2,000 children will most likely be shuffled through court proceedings, despite the deep psychological trauma they have faced. This is especially dangerous because “the parent might be the only one who knows why they fled from the home country, and the child is in a disadvantageous position to defend themselves.”

The trauma that these children faced in their home country, followed by a most-likely difficult journey to the U.S., then a gruesome detainment and separation from their families, and now the burden of representing themselves in court make for a situation that Dr. Bernard Dreyer of the NYU School of Medicine deems “unconscionable.”

The NBC report explains a case of an attempt at policies of unification: “A federal judge Tuesday night commanded the White House to reunify families within 14 days if the child is under 5 and 30 days if the child is older. The Justice Department has not indicated whether it will appeal. Attorneys who are involved in the cases said it’s unclear how the judge’s order will work in practice, and when and how it could take effect.”

While there is certainly efforts being made by attorneys and judges to reunify children with their families, there is nothing being done by the President.

The Department of Health and Human Services reports that they are trying to unify a child with their parent or a sponsor, but did not specify how long this would take. “More than 2,000 children who were separated from their parents at the border have been dispatched to the far corners of the nation and to care facilities and foster homes,” the NBC report explains.

Moreover, becoming a sponsor for these children is an increasingly difficult feat, which leaves children abandoned and still separated. Rachel Prandini, an attorney apart of the Immigrant Legal Resource Center, explains that “finding a sponsor is more difficult now given recent fears that stepping forward to accept a child could trigger a sponsors deportation.” In April, the Department of Health and Human Services required that sponsors submit fingerprints and go through a criminal background check in order to “protect the child.”

The New York Times wrote a piece about José, a 5-year-old child whose “father had been arrested and taken away after they arrived at the United States border in El Paso.” José now stays with a foster family/sponsor.

José was “handed over” to a foster family, carrying “two small pieces of paper– one a stick-figure of his family from Honduras, the other a sketch of his father.” At the point of reunification between the child and his foster mother, Janice, “he refused to take her hand. He did not cry. He was silent on the ride ‘home.’” Janice explains that “the first few nights, he cried himself to sleep. Then it turned into ‘just moaning and moaning.’”

His foster family explains that “a day has not gone by when the boy has failed to ask in Spanish, ‘When will I see my papa?’” The family “tell[s] him the truth. They do not know. No one knows.”

The foster family explains that of the 12 children they have fostered in the last two years, “José is the first child who crossed the border with a parent, rather than alone, then was forcibly separated and left with no ability to contact them.”

The article reports that earlier in the week of it’s publishing, “José spoke with his parents for the first time since their lives diverged. The phone calls were separate: His father remains in detention, and his mother is in Honduras.”

Janice explains that although the calls were much needed, “they changed everything. Somehow, it had sunk in that there was no way of knowing when he would see his family. ‘It triggered all the separation trauma again’… [when] he erupted in anger, screaming and crying at the kitchen table for almost an hour.” Janice says that after he calmed down, “the boy collapsed on the kitchen floor, still sobbing ‘Mamá, Papá’ over and over.”

The pictures he drew of his family are below.

julio

julio 2

While the Department of Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen claims “there was no separation policy,” there clearly is a huge separation/reunification problem for immigrants and immigrant children right now. Even after the Executive Order to end family separation, there has been “‘no evidence of any system that has been put in place by the government,’ according to Wendy Young, president of Kids in Need of Defense, a group that provides legal assistance to unaccompanied migrant children,” reports USA Today.

Moreover, there is no real system to register the children or their families in order, which makes connecting children to their families almost impossible.

The USA Today report explains, “it wasn’t until last week that the federal government began issuing identification numbers to families being separated at the Border…” Before this process of assigning identification numbers, attorneys acted as “private investigators… look[ing] for clues, such as a child’s date of birth, or their alien-registration number, and start[ed] pulling those threads to find the parents,” Wendy Young explains.


 

As feminists, it is absolutely integral to uplift and empower not only women, but people. We bleed the same blood, speak the same languages, and have the same hopes and dreams. No human being is illegal. Period.

Hoochie stands with immigrant mothers, fathers, children, sisters, brothers, aunts, uncles, and grandparents. We disapprove of President Trump’s severe take on immigration and the racism, xenophobia and bigotry that fuel it.

We believe in unity, inclusivity, and human rights. We hope that you will join us in taking a stand against President Trump’s prejudiced agenda.

 

Ways you can help:

  1. Organize

Grab your friends, your family, your friends of your family, anyone. Get together to talk about the issues. A more informed, communicative society is a better society.

  1. Call

Call your local senator to defund the Department of Homeland Security which supports the detainment of families and ICE. Click below to go to a site that shows you how to do that step by step: How to Call My Senator to Defund DHS

  1. Vote

You CAN make change! Do it! Vote in any and all elections. It is our civic duty! Not registered?

Click Here to Register to Vote

  1. Donate

A great organization to donate to right now is the RAICES (Refugee and Immigrant Center for Education and Legal Services) Family Reunification and Bond Fund. Their efforts are helping and contributing to the reunification of families.

Click Here for More Information and to Donate

  1. Share

Share your thoughts and share the factual information you find (after verifying it), to spread the word to those around you.

 

Images:

John Moore

 

 

John Moore’s photo of a young girl crying as her mother was detained was edited and selected for the July 2nd, 2018 cover of Time Magazine. The photo includes the blurb “Welcome to America.”

 

 

 

 

Tom Kiefer, who worked as a Customs and Border Protection janitor for close to four years, began taking pictures of everyday objects thrown away or taken from detained immigrants. The photographs are part of an ongoing project “El Sueño Americano” (“The American Dream”), as reported by the New Yorker.

discarded during intake

 

 

“This stuffed toy, slightly soiled in the midsection, may have been used by its owner as a makeshift pillow while crossing the desert. All personal property considered non-essential is discarded during intake” (The New Yorker).

 

 

 

 

spare shoes

 

“Migrants often carry spare shoes. As with extra clothing, most personal property is considered non-essential and discarded” (The New Yorker).

 

 

 

 

 

potentially lethal

 

“The CBP considers rosaries to be potentially lethal, non-essential personal property, and agents dispose of them during intake” (The New Yorker).

 

 

 

 

 

sometimes essential items

 

“After being apprehended, a detainee’s belongings are either placed in a property bag or remain in the backpack that he or she travelled with. Sometimes, essential items such as wallets and personal identification are discarded” (The New Yorker”).

 

Appearance Does Not Define a Woman

By Kelsie Merrick

There is a universal theory amongst our society that the reason for fewer women running for political office is family concerns and responsibilities. In 2011, a study was conducted that surveyed a national random sample of men and women who were deemed “equally credentialed” in the four fields where political candidates commonly emerge. These are law, business, education, and politics. 62 percent of the men questioned admitted to having considered running for office whereas, only 45 percent of women had considered running for office. Jennifer Lawless, a director for the Women and Politics Institute at American University, analyzed this data and realized that family structure or family roles did not account for the 17 percent gap. She believes that “women are less likely to be encouraged to run and less likely to be considered as a potential candidate when a position opens up.” The negative self-perception and self-doubt among women is also a factor behind why they are not as involved in office races because of the scrutiny women are under once they enter the political field.

In the United States, during elections there is a tremendous problem with the media and the difference between how they judge female politicians in comparison to male politicians. When it comes to women, “media exposure is often belittling and irrelevant because newspapers and television newscasts focus on appearance and attire, rather than the candidate’s platform or attitudes about central issues.” Female politicians are acknowledged by their gender then by whether they can handle raising a family and being a politician at the same time as well as on their mothering styles. Then after the media is finished analyzing them on these two subjects, politics become the main focus. Men, on the other hand, are never questioned about their masculinity or family roles; they are immediately questioned about politics.

Two well-known female politicians that have had to endure the media’s crude comments are Sarah Palin and Hillary Clinton. They both ran during the 2008 presidential election and the media had a field day with sexist comments.

For Sarah Palin, there were plenty of topics for the media to critic her on while she was Governor of Alaska such as her defeat with big oil companies. Unfortunately, instead, she was “glorified over her participation in beauty pageants and cheerleading.” For this reason, the media immediately dismissed her as a serious candidate and continued to focus on her appearance, lack of seriousness, or lack of experience. She was also persecuted for her role as a mother. Palin, a mother of five with one child having special needs, “was constantly questioned if she would be able to devote enough time to the Vice-Presidency.” However, if she were to be a dedicated Vice-President, she then would have been labeled as a bad mother. Her credibility of a Vice-Presidential candidate was questioned even more when her seventeen-year-old daughter became pregnant. If a male candidate’s young daughter became pregnant, it is very unlikely that the media would have broadcasted it as much as they did with Palin.

Sarah Palin’s fellow female candidate during the 2008 race was Hillary Clinton. Unlike Palin, Clinton had an “impressive resume and strong qualities” but the media still “labeled her as old, worn down, and significantly less sex appeal than Palin.” Yet again, the media chose to focus on Clinton’s appearance rather than the extensive experience in politics she had. The media created a dynamic between the two women where Palin was the pretty candidate and Clinton was the powerful, manly candidate due to her “pantsuits and stout stature.” Clinton had to deal with comments about her “body, cleavage, choice of pantsuits, and speculation about cosmetic surgery.” Because of the continuous inappropriate attacks on her appearance and mannerisms, the public seldom saw any media coverage that was about her intelligence, experience or policies. Hillary Clinton being a Presidential candidate for the upcoming election has had to endure the same inappropriate critics she experienced in 2008. In April, Chelsea Clinton became a mother and this “set off speculation that being a grandmother would affect Hillary Clinton’s presidential ambitions” but Joe Biden, a man with five grandchildren, never once was asked about how it would affect his possible Presidential ambitions.

An article in the Huffington Post in 2013, spoke of Johanna Dunaway, an Assistant Professor of Political Science and Mass Communication of Louisiana State University, who conducted a research study that proved that the media covers female candidates running for office differently than men running for office. The research team employed in this study collected data from 9,725 newspaper articles from the Senate and gubernatorial races in 2006 and 2008. The team then looked at if the article focused on personality traits or political issues of those running and compared between the two genders. Their findings were that:

When only male candidates were running, stories focused on character traits 6 percent of the time and political issues 55.5 percent of the time. When only female candidates were running, the stories focused on character traits 9.4 percent of the time and issues 51.7 percent of the time. And when a mix of male and female candidates were running, the articles focused on traits 10.8 percent of the time and the issues 53.1 percent of the time.

The research team concluded that when there is a female candidate in a political race, the media tends to focus more on personality traits in general with an extra focus on the female’s personality traits over the male candidate.

How Gun Reform Will Help Women

By Kelsie Merrick

After every mass shooting, there is a heightened concern over gun laws and an increasing push for gun reform. But why does this conversation need to happen after a mass shooting? Yes, mass shootings are horrific; however, mass shootings do not even makeup half of the deaths by guns per year in the United States. One of our major issues in the gun industry is our lack of ability to guarantee background checks at every possible gun dealership, which creates a major risk for women against domestic violent threats. Compared to women in other high-income countries, women in the United States are eleven times more likely to be murdered with guns. What makes it worse is in 2011 an alarming 53 percent of women were killed by an intimate partner or family member.

A survey was conducted on women living in California’s domestic violence shelters. The results found that almost “two-thirds of the women who lived in households with guns reported that their partner had used the gun against them.” The most common ways were threatening to shoot or kill the woman. This study found that the addition of a gun in a domestic violence situation “increases the risk of homicide for women by 500 percent.”

If a domestic abuser has been convicted of a felony, federal law prohibits them from buying or possessing guns. However, if a state does not include a similar ban, “state or local prosecutors cannot bring state gun charges against the abuser.” Federal law also prohibits domestic abusers from buying or possessing firearms if they have been convicted of a “misdemeanor crime of domestic violence” or if they are “subject to certain domestic violence restraining orders.” In accordance with federal law, nineteen states and the District of Columbia have state laws in place preventing non-felony domestic violence offenders from having guns.

These laws may seem ridiculous to those who have never been affected by domestic violence, but, in my opinion, they are necessary. The FBI must agree since almost 16 percent of the total firearm transfer denials are based on domestic violence. On top of that, “convictions for domestic violence misdemeanors are the third leading basis for dealers to deny gun sales after running a NICS check.” I’m not saying that women should be the sole reason for ensuring better gun control, but when women alone make up “13 percent of victims of gun homicide nationwide” and between 2009 and 2014 they were “51 percent of victims of mass shootings” I think their safety should be a major concern to our government.

Sexual Assault Around the World

By Kelsie Merrick

On New Year’s Eve in Cologne, Germany, hundreds of women reported being sexually assaulted. I, along with many other people, heard about this and was quite disgusted. It was uncertain as to what would happen to these women and if, when the perpetrators were identified, what would the punishment be. Unfortunately, for them, no one will be held accountable for these actions. When I found this out, I was completely shocked because I know in the United States, for the most part, people are reprimanded for their sexual assault actions. I chose to look more into this topic and here is what I found.

Chantal Louis, an editor at Emma, one of Germany’s oldest feminist magazines, says, “the German law accepts that a man generally has the right to touch a woman, to have sexual intercourse with a woman. It’s his right unless the woman shows her resistance very, very strongly.” In the logic of German law, if touching of a woman’s breasts or vagina happens quickly, the law will not punish the perpetrator because the victim did not have enough time to resist the action. As far as the law is concerned, the issue is not verbal consent. The law requires that there be a “threat of imminent danger to life and limb.” That is, if a woman, or any person for that matter, cannot prove with their body (with bruises or other injuries) that they fought back, then the assault is not a crime. In Die Zeit, a German newspaper, a male German defense lawyer reported, “a woman must carry her ‘no’ through. We [men] can hardly know with a simple ‘no,’ whether she really means it.” According to national statistics, “between 7,000 and 8,000 rapes are reported every year.” BFF, a national association of women’s help groups based in Berlin, believes these numbers only represent 5% of the real number of cases. BFF also states, “only 13% of rape cases result in convictions.” One possible explanation for this is the law’s limitations.

Interestingly enough, in German workplace it is clear that “it’s not OK for someone to touch you, to try to kiss you, to lay a hand on your back.” This is called “sexual harassment at the workplace” and every women and man knows it is unacceptable. Heike Lütgart, a criminologist and career police officer with decades of experience investigating gender-based violence, says that not having a law outside of the workforce is a tremendous problem for women because they do not realize that they do not have this protection.

After reading about the laws in Germany surrounding sexual assault, I became curious about how the three most populated countries handled sexual assault. In China, they recently overturned a law that “mandated a more lenient punishment for men who had sex with girls under the age of 14 if they could ‘prove’ that they paid the girl for sex.” There is now a heavy mandatory penalty for this crime with the highest punishment being the death penalty. India passed a new Anti-Rape bill in April of 2013. This bill includes crimes such as acid violence, stalking, and voyeurism. Attackers can be charged anywhere between 14 years in prison to the death sentence for extreme cases. The bill states that even if the victim does not physically struggle, that does not constitute as consent. Unfortunately, marital rape is still legal, but the age of consent was raised from 16 to 18.

I then looked at the United States. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, nearly 30 percent of U.S. women experience some kind of unwanted sexual contact in their lifetime. The Model Penal code, the go-to documents for lawmakers rewriting their criminal laws, still allows for men to rape their wives, but this “marital exemption” has been outlawed in all 50 states since the 1990s. It was not until about the middle of the 20th century that victims needed to prove their chastity for their cases to be taken seriously. In the United States, forty-three states and the District of Columbia specify that unwanted sexual contact is prohibited. Five states have laws prohibiting battery, public indecency or “lewd and lascivious” behavior. Mississippi and Idaho, on the other hand, do not have “criminal laws that clearly forbid unwanted sexual touching such as groping and fondling.” In 2013, Mississippi’s Democratic state Republic Kimberly Campbell proposed a bill to create a misdemeanor crime called “indecent assault.” This bill would handle adult fondling cases, which could prevent future crimes by stopping the act early. The bill died due to the fact the bill was too vague with the explanation of intent and opponents feared that the bill could “criminalize accidental touching or bumping.” On the other hand, there has been an indecent assault law in Pennsylvania since the 1970s. Deputy District Attorney Janet Necessary says that she takes several dozen of these cases a year. Her office has used this law to prosecute cases involving supervisors who have sexually harassed their workers in a physical way.

We, the citizens of the United States, need to work together to first, create a universal law across all 50 states to protect unwanted sexual touching/assaults against women and men. Second, eventually, spread this idea to other countries so that no human being has to live through such an uncomfortable situation.

The Importance of Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt

By Kelsie Merrick

In 1973, Roe v. Wade was, and still is, a controversial case that passed through the Supreme Court. The ruling in Roe v. Wade legalized abortion nationally unless a woman was in the third trimester then the state had a right to enact abortion regulations to protect the fetus. The only exception to this rule was if the pregnancy was a threat to the mother’s life. Then in 1992 Planned Parenthood v. Casey reintroduced the controversy around abortion this time about whether consent from a spouse or parent and a 24 hour waiting period is necessary before an abortion. In this case, the court ruled that “states may not impose an ‘undue burden’ on access to abortion: a law is invalid ‘if its purpose or effect is to place substantial obstacles in the path of a woman seeking an abortion before the fetus attains viability.'” Now, abortion has reentered our court system with the Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt case.

In previous abortion cases, there has been a clear argument with two clear sides: pro-life and pro-choice. That is, the concern has generally been about the baby not about the mother, but with the introduction of Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt the conversation is shifting from the baby to the safety of the mother. This case began in 2013 when Texas created a law requiring “doctors to have admitting privileges at a hospital no more than 30 miles away, and set clinic standards that are similar to those of surgical centers.” Whole Woman’s Health, an abortion provider, argues, “the law isn’t medically necessary, is demanding and expensive, and interferes with women’s health care.”

Since 2011, “at least 162 abortion providers have shut or stopped offering the procedure” with at least 30 of those closures coming from Texas alone. One of the main reasons behind the closures was the new state regulations that have made these facilities too expensive to remain in operation. Texas is the primary case study of these new regulations and the repercussions of stricter regulations are already noticeable. According to certain providers, “full implementation of the law would leave almost a fifth of Texas women 150 miles or more from a facility.” Texas has already dropped from 42 to 19 clinics since 2013 and if the Supreme Court rules in favor of the new law, Texas would be left with nine abortion clinics. This is a problem for women who need an abortion, whether it is for personal or health reason, and are incapable of traveling that far. A more serious problem caused by the extreme distances of abortion clinics is that “more women would now die of complications from self-induced abortions.”

Another issue facing the abortion world is the discriminating views that then lead to the vandalism of buildings and clinics. Susan Cahill from Kalispell, Montana was unable to rebuild her practice after it was vandalized due to the cost of repairs. Planned Parenthood, one of the leading abortion clinics, has had their fair share of tormenting and vandalism from people protesting outside to fires being started at their facilities. About a third of the facilities that closed or stopped performing terminations were operated by Planned Parenthood. This is detrimental to Planned Parenthood’s operation as a whole since their main goal is not to give abortions but to education society, mainly young adults, about safe sex and contraceptives available to the public.

In 2012, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimated there were “210 abortions for every 1,000 births in the United States.” Even with abortions being almost one-fifth of the births that year, abortions are decreasing without implemented regulations. Since 2010, the Associated Press estimates abortions have decreased 12 percent. Possible explanations for this could be that teen pregnancy rates are decreasing which leads to the reason for more access to birth control. If abortion rates are already decreasing, is it necessary to regulate the clinics? On the other hand, verifying that clinics are safe and healthy and that properly trained doctors are performing the surgeries is also highly beneficial to women that need and want an abortion. Hopefully, the Supreme Court can figure out how to ensure women’s safety without the closure of abortion clinics.