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The controversial hydropower project which led to the murder of land defender Berta Cáceres has been halted as funders are forced to pull out due to years of indigenous-lead organizing.
Former NASA scientist releases a paper in support of a group of young plaintiffs who are suing the federal government for violating their rights by failing to stop climate change. The paper argues that we will need to not only reduce carbon emissions but remove carbon from the air in order for this planet to remain livable for future generations.
Washington just became the first state to pass a law that requires domestic violence victims know when their abuser has acquired a gun.
The piece describes a Honolulu domestic violence center operated by the prosecutor’s office. Rather than focusing on getting survivors and their kids to safety, the shelter seizes survivors’ cellphones and laptops, refuses to admit their kids, and will turn away anyone who won’t promise to testify against their abusers. Disturbingly, the city is prioritizing its conviction rate before its moral obligation to ensure survivors have a safe, welcoming place to go when they flee violence.
Gender-based violence is notoriously underreported; services must be available to the vast majority of survivors who just aren’t willing to testify against perpetrators. A model like the Honolulu shelter would literally leave them out in the cold, potentially forcing them to choose between being homeless and returning to an abusive partner. And I worry that if a survivor seeking help goes to a “shelter” that treats them not like a human being who needs help, but as a tool in a prosecutor’s strategy, they may be less likely to seek help in the future.
Even worse, some prosecutors are so hell-bent on securing convictions they are even willing to put survivors in jail to force them to testify against their abusers. McRary writes:
“Last year in Oregon, a woman who alleged she’d been sexually assaulted by a corrections officer was jailed on a material witness warrant to ensure she’d cooperate with authorities; she was held even though she told the judge she intended to testify. In Houston, Texas, former Harris County District Attorney Devon Anderson’s office jailed a rape victim for 28 days to force her to testify. “There were no apparent alternatives that would ensure both the victim’s safety and her appearance at trial,” said Anderson in a video statement defending the choice. In New Orleans, the practice of detaining domestic violence and sex crime victims to secure testimony is the status quo.….
In 2011, [Honolulu prosecutor Keith Kaneshiro] had a woman arrested at her graduation party to guarantee her testimony against an ex-boyfriend who’d allegedly abused her.”
Throwing survivors in jail, robbing them of their autonomy in the wake of violence, is the ultimate form of revictimization.
The likely result of this is that fewer survivors come forward to report. For survivors who, in the wake of trauma, are grappling with how to seek safety and healing, the possibility that you’d be locked up because you’re not ready to take the stand is one hell of a deterrent to coming forward.
It’s a harsh illustration of the priorities that underlie the criminal system: prosecution is fundamentally about vindicating the interest of the state, even when that’s at odds with the needs, well-being, and dignity of survivors. And it’s another reminder of why survivors need civil solutions to gender-based violence.
You can read McCrary’s full piece here.
Image credit: University of Idaho Women’s Center
In this short film, watch as three Pacific Islanders travel to visit and build solidarity with indigenous communities fighting tar sands expansion in Canada.
A new Arkansas law requires rape survivors to notify their attackers before getting in abortion.
Check out Elle’s favorite books of 2017 so far.
Nelsan Ellis’ True Blood character opened more space for Black queer TV representation.
Washington just became the fifth state to guarantee workers paid family leave.
Spotify has launched a project highlighting artists from 6 majority-Muslim countries affected by Trump’s travel ban.
Read Dave Zirin’s piece on how the treatment of Venus Williams’ car accident incident illustrates the horrific way in which the police treat black women in the U.S.
It’s approximately 7,000 degrees in DC this week (with humidity at a comfy 99%), and for many of us this means wearing as little clothing as possible in a desperate attempt to avoid spontaneous combustion.
But not everyone is on the same page – several days ago a female reporter was banned from entering the Speaker’s lobby (a room outside the House chamber where reporters often go to interview lawmakers) because her outfit was considered “inappropriate.” In this case, “inappropriate” means a sensible dress with no sleeves. Because, you know, lady-shoulders are Bad Things that Must Be Kept Hidden (blessed be the fruit).
As tempting as it is to blame this all on current Speaker of the House Paul Ryan and his phobia of female anatomy, the Speaker’s lobby has had an unwritten dress code in place for a while, presumably intended to maintain the formality of the chamber. But what’s become evident this week is that “formality” is defined very differently for men and women. Male reporters have been barred from entry before when they weren’t wearing a tie or a jacket, but for women, entry is solely based on how much of their body is visible at any given time. You could be wearing a dress that costs more money than all of Paul Ryan’s ill-fitting suits put together, but if your toes or shoulders are visible, you’re being disrespectful.
A professional adult was barred from doing her job not because she wasn’t ambitious, or driven, but because she wasn’t wearing sleeves. We can Lean In™ until the cows come home but if we can’t actually get into the room where we do our work, men are of course going to be able to accomplish more.
It would be one thing if this were just happening in stuffy old government buildings, but even little girls are held responsible for how other people react to their clothes. In elementary schools, girls whose clothes are deemed inappropriate are regularly taken out of classes, told to change, and in some cases even suspended or banned from dances or graduation ceremonies. But, in schools as in the Speaker’s lobby, the rules governing female attire are often vague, unwritten, or inconsistent. The more stories of dress code violations you read, the more clear it becomes that “inappropriate” just means “distracting to boys.” And like any form of sexism, this problem is exacerbated when mixed with racism, sizeism and classicism.
For women and girls, the message comes across loud and clear: your body is inherently inappropriate. No matter how smart you are or how hard you work, all you’re ever going to be is a distraction to boys.
So, what are we supposed to do exactly? When it’s unspoken rules that hold us back, the only thing to do is speak up. The female reporter in question literally ripped pages from her notebook and stuffed them into the shoulders of her dress to create makeshift sleeves and when she still wasn’t allowed into the lobby, the feminist internet spoke up.
Here’s to making a fuss over every single bullshit dress code policy keeping women out of power.
In the week following the news from Monticello that archaeologists had unearthed Sally Hemings’ bedroom, the internet has exploded with one important reminder: Sally Hemings was not Thomas Jefferson’s mistress.
Hemings had six children by Jefferson. Yet she was not Thomas Jefferson’s mistress because she was his slave, and as his slave she was treated by him, and the entire system in which they lived, as property. Someone without legal status as a human, subject to constant violent coercion, cannot consent to sex. Enslaved women who bore white men’s children, and especially the children of their owners, were not “mistresses” or “lovers”: they were victims of rape.
It’s an important discussion not only for retaining a clear-eyed vision of the racist foundations of American history—more important now, with professed white nationalists in the White House, than ever. It’s also an important discussion in recognizing the nature of consent, and the racialized sexual violence Black women experienced throughout slavery and continue to experience today.
The debate started when both NBC and, a couple months previously, The Washington Post, tweeted headlines referring to Hemings as a mistress. (They’ve both since revised their headlines.)
For decades they hid Jefferson’s mistress. Now Monticello is making room for Sally Hemings. https://t.co/YmeOCtWEx7
— Washington Post (@washingtonpost) February 19, 2017
Following the headlines, several writers penned critiques of the underlying logic.
Britni Danielle, at The Washington Post, situates the use of the word “mistress” as part of the same trend toward whitewashing histories of slavery, comparing it to textbooks’ dubbing of slaves as “workers” or Bill O’Reilly arguing that the slaves who built the White House were “well-fed”:
That same sanitization of history happened again with the Hemings news. On Twitter, some users defended the “mistress” label, suggesting, essentially, that Jefferson and his slave may have truly loved each other. One person even went so far as to wonder whether “Hemings’s exalted wisdom and beauty compelled Jefferson’s love” and whether “she was perhaps not a victim but an agent of change?”
Jefferson could have forced Hemings into a sexual relationship no matter what she wanted, though. And it’s impossible to know what Hemings thought of Jefferson. As with many enslaved people, her thoughts, feelings and emotions were not documented. According to Monticello.org, there are only four known descriptions of the woman who first came to Jefferson’s plantation as a baby on the hip of her mother, Elizabeth Hemings, whom Jefferson also owned.
Anthony Smith makes similar points at Mic.
Meanwhile, Michael Harriot at The Root challenges us to grapple with the racist evils at the foundation of the United States, asking why there has not been a sustained project of reconciliation for slavery:
There isn’t a second of any day that Germany isn’t trying to make up for the genocide it committed during the Third Reich. It caters its laws to that goal. It teaches that history to every person who comes through its borders. In Germany, minimizing those atrocities is a crime.
Like Germany, America participated in a holocaust. Unlike Germany’s, it didn’t last for a few years, or even a decade—it lasted for generations. It is not just a chapter in this country’s past—it is America’s foundation. Let’s be clear: The only reason America is the richest, most dominant economic superpower on the planet is that it was jump-started with 200 years of free labor.
Whenever we speak of America, we should honor that. Our Founding Fathers were intellectual giants who created a democracy out of thin air, and it is still going strong today. They were revolutionary thinkers and the framers of almost every liberty we enjoy. I would not be able to write this article without them.
But they were rapists, too.
The question raised here is, of course, an old one, and one that is near-impossible to answer in clear terms: How do we contend with the history and current reality of a nation built on anti-Black and anti-indigenous (as well as racialized anti-woman) violence?
What do we make of the “great men” who embody everything we despise?
What and how do we remember unspeakable violence?
I don’t have the answers, but here’s one thing I—and the writers above—know for sure: Healing history means confronting it, not glossing it over. And it means calling violence against Black women by its name, not romanticizing it to cover up an evil system.
Cover photo: Descendants of Sally Hemings and Thomas Jefferson