Sunday, November 30, 2014

Blog #3 Dana

Thanksgiving is a time to be thankful and to be with family. I am so grateful for all of the wonderful things in my life, and I love my family. But Thanksgiving, and pretty much all family gatherings for that matter, aren't always the most enjoyable for survivors of sexual assault. I 'came out' to my parents about six months ago telling them that I was a survivor. While I know they try to be supportive, I feel them tip toeing around me like I might crack at any moment. Or they'll bring up something regarding sexual assault in the news ("oh if only she had been more careful!) - to which I silently pray for them to go back to tip toeing. All of the people in my life at Duke know my story and what I do on campus regarding sexual assault advocacy - and now my project with WomenNC. I feel loved, supported, and free. But this openness spoils me - my family deals with my 'situation' by ignoring it. Shoving it under the rug. A Facebook message from my Mom - "Did you mean to post that you're a survivor on Facebook? You know your grandfather might see it."

In the wake of the Rolling Stone article detailing a gang rape at UVA, I knew someone would bring it up at Thanksgiving. In front of the family members my parents have worked to make sure they know nothing about my past - as if it is something I should be ashamed of. Unsurprisingly, the article became hors d'oeuvres chit chat. There were a few moments of 'poor girl,' but very quickly treaded into victim blaming. My grandmother: "The way women dress these days, I mean it is unsurprising that they get raped." Too much alcohol. Not focused enough. Didn't fight hard enough. I eventually just left the room to go bang my head against a wall.

Spending time with my family only constantly reminds me of all the work we have left to do in the fight for gender equality - and for survivors of sexual assault. This may be perhaps best shown in my sister. She is 15 and has her first boyfriend. My parents' tune has always been "no sex before marriage." Our high school sex ed talks about mechanics and risks, and nothing else. I know that they are sexually active, and I am frustrated that I feel like I am watching a train wreck in slow motion. She can't talk to my parents because they will freak out (my mom told me that she was "so disappointed" by me when she found out). School isn't giving her any tips on how to navigate a sexual relationship. And she won't listen to me because there is some unspoken law that little sisters ignore older sisters entirely. I see the power imbalance in their relationship. She talks about wanting to be a good wife for him (remember, she is 15). She is entirely focused on his pleasure and happiness. This isn't exactly surprising - the average age of exposure to pornography is age 11, and that 93% of boys see porn before they turn 18. I remember my freshman year of high school when boys I hardly knew would flash their phone right in front of my face with pornography displayed on it, and laugh at my horror. Porn teaches that male pleasure is most important; it creates false expectations of women and of what sex is supposed to look like. I fear that my sister and her generation will, like I and others did before her, learn to think of sex in terms of porn - in terms of male satisfaction and pleasure.

When people perceive sex to be all about the man, people begin to think of sex as something that men deserve, need, or are owed. Which is an obviously problematic way of thinking that very easily descends into slut-shaming, sexual assault, and victim blaming. I, for the longest time, did not recognize my abuse because I saw it as something I deserved. His needs were more important, right?

Going home for Thanksgiving only made this project more personal for me as well as reminding me of how important it is. When we live in a society that treats consensual sex as dirty and preaches abstinence, we validate slut-shaming. We validate victim-blaming. I'm doing this project for me because the system failed me. I'm doing it for my sister because the system is failing her. And I'm doing this project for all of the people the system has and will continue to fail.

Mina's 3rd Blog

This Thanksgiving Break has hardly been relaxing. While it was nice to come home and see my family for a few days, I spent much of the time worrying about final research papers and starting my research as a UN CSW fellow. All of these projects revolve around similar topics and have required me to immerse myself in literature surrounding the prison-industrial complex, the punitive neo-liberal state, and the ongoing legacy of racism in the United States. That and along with the social unrest and politically polarizing climate following the events taking place in Ferguson, Missouri have left my activist, social-justice oriented self feeling pretty emotionally and mentally burned out. 

However, I do have much to be thankful for this week and in life. In all my endeavors, I know I have the full support of my family, who may not always understand my radical politics, but who still believe in me and my capacity to do great things in life. I have so much support from everyone at WomenNC and from the non-profit I’ve decided to partner with, InStepp, whose founder and director has proven her commitment to helping me complete this project by already setting up interviews for me with three former InStepp clients. I also have a lot of support from faculty advisors and professors at Duke University, some of whom have helped me begin my research project for my fellowship through helping me craft appropriate research questions and connecting me with even more sources. They have also allowed me to continue exploring all the unanswered questions I still have about the topics I’ve been studying through independent studies next semester. I also have my health and heaps of unearned privilege in life that I am also thankful for (and will utilize for the betterment of those without those privileges).

As I try to become more immersed in activism and more personally invested in the social justice issues I witness everyday, I need to remember that self-care is an important part of sustaining my passion and optimism as I continue to learn about all these systemic social issues. And remembering the many things in life I have to be grateful for is a necessary part of self-care.


Blog #3- Liv

CSW Blog 3-

In my search for reproductive and health care rights of female active duty and veterans of the United States Armed forces, I stumbled upon this article.  The power of the reality of this article rings loudly.  Having been a for-deployed Marine and experiencing an unplanned pregnancy I was more than able to relate to the policy discrimination in reproductive healthcare in the military.

The article begins with a relatable story of a young Navy family and their inability to receive and abortion.  They were forced to pay out of pocket as a result of the current Military Health System (MHS).  The small young family accrued more than $3,000 in debt as a result of this procedure.  Although the MHS does provide many healthcare centers, certain procedures that are legal state-side as a civilian, are illegal as an active duty service person regardless of where you are stationed (unless you pay out of pocket).  The major hiccup about paying out of pocket, is that many of the junior service persons who become pregnant are on the lowest end of the already meager pay scale and are also disadvantaged due to their naive and inexperience with such issues. 

In some cases, as I have personally seen, and as the article reinforces, many females are reprimanded for their admission of sexual activity when they go to the doctor.  Hippocratic Oath aside, many active duty doctors operate under their sworn oath to protect the US Constitution, and will inform local commands that a particular female sought their care concerning a pregnancy.  This is an abomination against the right to privacy.  Many active duty females live in fear of reporting sexually based offenses as a result of this dismissal of the Hippocratic Oath.  Many active duty females will never admit to wanted or unwanted sexual conduct as they face possible reprimand for something that they male counter parts are permitted to do.

One policy implementation that I was pleased to read about was the inclusion of emergency contraception (EC) that is now mandatory in MHS formularies.  According to the article, this only began in 2010 and was a result of and independent advisory panel of military doctors and pharmacists.  Why did it have to take until 2010 for for-deployed active duty females to have access to EC?  Males have regular and non-discriminatory access to condoms without the fear of reprimand or a marred record.  Although varied forms of birth control are more accessible to females, there is still the fear of “career damaging” consequences for receiving the birth control.

The article accurately hit the nail on the head as to why so many female active duty and veterans do not seek care or complain about the lack of care that they receive.  Many face harsh punishments, or further harassment, or even worse a direct denial of basic human rights based on antiquated rights to life laws… Most of which were actually over turned in Roe v Wade in 1973… yet have been ratified through the Hyde Act and 10 USC Sec 1093(b), which prohibits the use of a medical facility or other facility of the Department of Defense (DOD) to perform abortions.  While still legal in the US, abortions are not permitted on a US medical facility or cannot be performed by the DOD.

Looking at the annual income rates of active duty service members who are in their first 1-2 years of service, they do not generate enough income to safely “go out in town” to receive a safe and proper abortion procedure.  It is these same “noobie” service members that are statistically more likely to become impregnated.  How is this fair?  How does this help with mission preparedness? How does this protect the reproductive rights of the same women who sore and oath to protect the US Constitution?  …. A constitution that will not protect them?

Blog #3 - Dina Shehata

As Thanksgiving Break comes to an end, I want to tell you a little bit about the events of this past week. I spent time with my family which is always amazing and much needed. As I’m writing this blog I can’t help but be thankful for all the blessings I have. I spent the end of the break helping my family and friends plan a baby shower for a close family friend. I realize how lucky we are to have access to anything and everything the baby will need, to be able to provide her with gifts that will help her in taking care of her newborn. Women all over the world aren’t as fortunate and it is our duty to raise awareness for these women and their newborns. It is our duty to help these women and their families in any way we can. Thanksgiving is a time when everyone gets together with their families and not only enjoys each other’s company but also really think about what they are thankful for. I have a lot to be thankful for and I hope that when reading my blog, you take the time to think about what you are thankful for and what you can do to help those in need.

As for my partner organization, I will let talk more about where I stand with my choice. I still have not decided between three organizations that I have been in contact with. I have meetings set up with all three organizations to talk more about what they do so that I can have all the information I need to choose the “best practice model.” All three organizations focus on empowering women through different venues. I am very excited to meet with each of them and to participate in their events.

This upcoming week will be my final week of the semester for my graduate program. I will be done with the semester on December 8th which is coming up very quickly. I can’t believe how fast time has gone. I am so glad my program advertised the WomenNC CSW Fellowship and I am so happy that I was selected. I will be taking this week to finish up final papers and preparing for finals. The week after that will be when I will continue my research and research paper for the fellowship. I can’t wait to continue working!

Gratitude - Alison's third post

As is appropriate for the time of year, I want to focus this post on gratitude. First, I am grateful for my friends and family. On Thursday, after stuffing ourselves with pie and turkey, my friends and family sat around my living room talking. I tried to explain WomenNC, the purpose of my fellowship, my research and the importance of creating advocates out of students. I don’t think I adequately conveyed my passions, possibly because when I said “women in labor” people thought I meant women giving birth! We got a good laugh out of that, and I was thankful for this learning moment—I need to come up with a better way of describing the necessity of WomenNC and our research. Now, I could blame my bad explanation on my food-induced coma, but I definitely want those I love to understand why I care about WomenNC and our work.

Second, I am grateful for the amazing contacts with which WomenNC connects me. On November 18, my mentor Maureen, WomenNC’s founder Beth and I met with MaryBe McMillan, NC’s AFL-CIO secretary-treasurer. She is the only woman to have held elected office in the state’s AFL-CIO and has been in her position since 2005. McMillan actually became involved in the labor movement as a student at NC State, organizing on precisely my research topic: housekeeping workers. Thanks to her, I have more contacts now throughout North Carolina and the US. I am grateful for the opportunity to talk to various leaders fighting for the rights of working women and men and their generosity of time to help me engage in my research.

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Third Blog Post--Giving Thanks (Justine)

I’m writing this after eating a massive meal, with apple pie in my lap and Christmas ads in the background—as it is currently Thanksgiving! I got inspired to do my biweekly blog post tonight rather than tomorrow or Saturday, because spending the day giving thanks certainly got me thinking about how thankful I am for this fellowship, despite losing confidence earlier this week.
After my last blog post, I felt more lost than I was willing to admit—unsure of how to dive into my research fully and complete the first major component of this fellowship. As I struggled to reach contacts and hit dead ends, I realized the best way to get unstuck was to swallow my pride, contact my mentor, and make a plan.

With the help of my mentor, Anuja, I regained my footing (and my confidence in my selection as a CSW Fellow!) and developed a plan for the new few weeks to solidify my research and prepare to write my advocacy paper, to be completed by January 11th. That date feels far off now, but I know it will sneak up quickly. Anuja helped me brainstorm some contacts, most of which I have gotten in contact with already, and also find virtue in asking for help! It was incredibly helpful to hear that I don’t have to be ashamed by asking for help.

For now, I am enjoying this break dedicated to giving thanks and relaxation. Over the next two weeks, I will be completing my semester finals and consolidating my research, so that I’ll be able to write my paper over winter break. After everything that’s transpired in the last few days, I have to say—I’m more than a little excited. Above all, I am thankful each and every day for the chance to complete this fellowship and travel to the United Nations in March.

Until next time,

Justine Schnitzler 

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Tea Reception, Workshop #2, and Feminist Research Methods

Last Sunday was fantastic - it was so cool to meet WomenNC alums and supporters and get the chance to talk with them over tea. I left feeling inspired (and with several new contacts and book recommendations).

After the reception, we moved on to our second workshop, where we discussed such topics as paper logistics, techniques for reaching out to potential partner organizations, and the nuts and bolts of advocacy research.

For me, though, the most interesting workshop segment was our discussion of feminist research methods. Feminist research is fraught with ethical dilemmas, many of which revolve around the issues of informed consent and the possibility of causing harm to research subjects.

This week's reading elaborated on some of these dilemmas, including the importance of recognizing differences in lived reality - the notion that individual variations in personal background (including race, social class, ethnicity, sexual preference, etc.) should be taken into account when attempting to understand a group's experiences.

Because the other fellows and I are exploring complicated and contentious issues in marginalized communities, many of the points brought up in our reading for this week were directly relevant to the work we'll be doing through the CSW program.

Particularly important, I think, is the practice of reflexivity - examining how our own backgrounds and biases can influence the research we do.

There's a surprisingly significant body of research on the ethics of research with sex workers. Though I've just started to delve into the literature on this subject, I've noticed several recurring themes.

Many of the articles I've read note the challenges involved in designing ethical, nonexploitative research projects with sex workers. One challenge is the difficulty of finding a representative sample. Because membership in a 'hidden population' like this involves oftentimes stigmatized or illegal behavior, concerns regarding participants' privacy and confidentiality, too, are paramount in protecting sex workers' rights.

I just got ahold of a book called "Ethical Research with Sex Workers: Anthropological Approaches," a slim volume published in 2013 that provides a comprehensive overview of the ethical issues faced by contemporary sex work researchers, as well as specific 'best practice' recommendations for those seeking to conduct their own ethically sound research. Because it was written by researchers who have spent years conducting ethnographic fieldwork with sex workers, it should prove incredibly useful in helping me to articulate the goals of my project and develop a solid framework to conduct ethically aware research.

It was a little terrifying to realize that our next workshop won't be held until after the rough drafts of our papers are due, but I am so, so excited to get started.

Alison blog 2

This week, I felt fully immersed in and energized for my WomenNC experience. First, on Sunday the tea and speech by Katie Starr served as a great introduction to the WomenNC community and life beyond the fellowship. Katie’s call to “carry this experience with us,” and her example of global leadership as a Peace Corp Volunteer highlighted, for me, the pivotal role this fellowship has in all fellows’ lives.

Throughout the week my mentor Maureen and I corresponded about different possible resources for my research in women and labor—many groups have worked to further women’s labor rights in North Carolina and the US for decades. Hopefully I will get to talk with or learn about a wide range of them!

Yesterday, I met with a previous UNC Student Action with Workers leader. Our wide-ranging discussion covered how to build worker power in the most anti-union state in the country and how students can contribute to this. Learning about the on-campus struggles of interactions with management, organizing across racial and linguistic lines and logistical challenges demonstrated how labor issues affect all aspects of women’s lives. I think women’s human rights are uniquely qualified to address women and labor because human rights can address all of these aspects—from health to discrimination to socio-economic conditions.

This conversation encouraged me to dive into my research and the opportunity for expert feedback helped me narrow my topic. Now, I think I will focus my research on UNC housekeeping and female hospitality workers nationwide and globally.

Liv Blog 2

What a great start to this program.  I enjoyed the WomenNC Tea last Sunday.  It was a wonderful opportunity to meet with everyone involved "behind the scenes" and to become more acquainted with those interested and involved with the organization.  In addition to meeting those involved, it was fantastic to hear the messages of the Key note speaker.  Her experiences gained through the CSW Fellowship truly shined through her words.
After the tea we regrouped at Meredith College for an informative session on the ins and outs of our research papers.  I am thankful for this opportunity as there were many questions swirling around my mind regarding what to include in the paper, and how to organize it. One of the most important points covered was where specifically my topic of research aligns with the Beijing Platform.  Low and behold, my topic falls under Women and Economics.  I never would have thought that women's health and mother's rights in the military would align with economic reasons. I had read three or four of the platforms, but never considered Women in the Economy as an option.  I was thrilled when I read how closely this part of the platform described what I am advocating for.  Although small, it felt like a major break through.  It is always nice to find the missing link that connects all of your thoughts and ideas.

Over the next few weeks, as I finish my next to last semester in grad school, I hope to delve deeper into the healthcare that women in other countries receive.  I am interested in learning what and how countries who have compulsory service react and respond to the specific needs of mothers who wish to stay in and persue both the role of mother and active duty service person.  There are many countries who have voluntary services as well. I wonder if there is a difference between compulsory and voluntary service requirements and a connection between mother's rights.  This will be interesting to discover and compare to how active duty mothers are treated in the United States.