Gender & Sexuality

Watch Party Dispatch: At Howard University, Mentors Challenge Young Activists' Ideas of Victory

For the African-American community, given all the obstacles, an uptick in turnout can be a victory in and of itself.

(Ayanna Alexander)
Ayanna Alexander Signs decorate the Howard University meeting room where the National Coalition for Black Civic Participation and the Black Women's Roundtable gathered students for a midterm election results watch party on November 4, 2014 A s the midterm results rolled in, what was projected by the oddsmakers came to pass. Some mixed emotions, but mostly utter disappointment over the GOP takeover, filled all of my social media feeds. I took my solace in the National Coalition on Black Civic Participation's Unity Election Night and its "What Say You" political conversation on the campus of Howard University, the historically black institution where I attend college. Attendees ranged in age from 18 to 50-something, and each person in the room seemed determined to stay positive in her comments, despite any qualms about what the new political landscape could mean for America, and especially for the lives of African Americans. At the beginning of the evening, most of those gathered...

Watch Party Dispatch: Undaunted By Grim Outcomes, Pro-Choicers Gather to Plot the Future

They had hoped for a better night, but they're already thinking ahead to 2016.

(Kristen Doerer)
Kristen Doerer Young pro-choice Democratic activists gather at Local 16, a Washington, D.C., bar, to watch election results of the midterms on November 4, 2014. W alking into the Local 16 bar on U Street in Northwest DC, I was surprised to hear the buzz of an energized crowd. I was, after all, walking into a Women’s Informational Network, also known as WIN, Election Day watch party. The stormy forecast for Democratic candidates and the recent attacks on abortion rights doesn’t necessarily lend hope to WIN, a political and social network of young, pro-choice, Democratic women. Local 16, a popular weekend destination for young professionals, is a dimly lit bar. Red walls and warm orange lights resembling rustic chandeliers lent a cozy quality to the room. An overwhelmed bartender moved quickly behind the counter, taking happy hour orders. CNN played on two different screens, the sounds of which were drowned out by the hum of a crowded bar. With happy hour extended to 10:00 p.m., the WIN...

Anti-Choice 'Personhood' Measures Fail in North Dakota and Colorado

But in Tennessee, an anti-abortion amendment to the state constitution could go to the U.S. Supreme Court.

(AP Photo/James MacPherson, File)
(AP Photo/James MacPherson, File) On November 4, 2014, North Dakotans voted down a fetal personhood measure. In this March 25, 2013, file photo Kris Kitko, left, leads chants of protest at an abortion-rights rally at the state Capitol in Bismarck. T he 2014 midterm elections proved to be a routing for Democrats; they lost the Senate, gave up seats in the House, and even deep-blue Maryland elected a Republican governor. But despite the Republican wave, there were ballot measures whose results Democrats could celebrate. Throughout the nation, liberal initiatives fared way better than the candidates who support them—including gun control, minimum wage hikes, marijuana legalization and abortion rights. For the third time Colorado citizens voted on a personhood amendment but, unfortunately for anti-choicers, persistence won’t do the trick. Amendment 67 in Colorado would have amended the state constitution to define “person” and “child” in the Colorado criminal code and the Colorado...

GOP's Neo-Confederate Theocrat Wins Council Seat in One of Richest U.S. Counties

Voters were looking for something new when they elected Michael Peroutka to run as a Republican for a seat on Maryland's Anne Arundel County Council. What they got was something very old—like ante bellum kind of old.

(AP Photo/Kevin Rivoli)
(AP Photo/Kevin Rivoli) Michael A. Peroutka, the one-time presidential candidate of the theocratic Constitution Party, in a debate between third-party presidential hopefuls at Cornell University in Ithaca, New York, Wednesday, October 6, 2004. UPDATE, November 5, 2014 --The subject of this article, Michael Anthony Peroutka, running as a Republican, won a seat on the Anne Arundel County Council in the November 4 election, beating his opponent, by nearly 1,900 votes, according to the Baltimore Sun . The Baltimore Sun O n November 4, 2011, standing on a small stage with Bible verses splashed on the background behind him, Michael Peroutka told a small audience attending his lecture that “when you see and hear folks describe the earth as millions of years old, you know that they are either willfully anti-American, or they are ignorant of their own heritage and history. What I am saying is that the promotion of evolution is an act of disloyalty to America.” Three years later, on November 4...

Red State, Blue State: Polarization and the American Situation

The country is stuck but it is not stationary. Some things are changing—just not at the federal level.

(Map: Angr/Wikimedia Commons; Flag: AP Photo/David J. Phillip)
(AP Photo/David J. Phillip) A racing fan waves an American flag as they wait for the Formula One U.S. Grand Prix auto race at the Circuit of the Americas, Sunday, November 2, 2014, in Austin, Texas. This article appears under the title "The American Situation" in the Fall 2014 issue of The American Prospect magazine. A merica, it seems, is stuck—unable to make significant progress on critical issues such as climate change, rising economic inequality, and immigration. To explain that inaction, people often point to political polarization. Democrats and Republicans, liberals and conservatives, are now so sharply opposed to each other that they are unable to find common ground. But while the country is stuck, it is not stationary. Some things are changing; it’s just not at the federal level that the changes are emerging. Polarization leads to stalemate only under certain circumstances—when the two sides in a conflict are closely balanced, and political institutions and procedures (such...

We Know College Feminists Care About Sexual Assault. But What About Abortion?

For many students attending schools in East and West Coast states, the legislative efforts to restrict abortion access commonly found in red states can seem quite distant from their own daily gender struggles.

(Cori Austin, NARAL Pro-Choice Missouri)
I n the past three years, more abortion restrictions have been enacted in the United States than in the entire previous decade . At the same time, 85 colleges and universities are now under federal investigation for their handling of sexual violence. While these two issues are not divergent, campus feminists have devoted much of their energy to challenging their universities’ failure to adequately handle sexual assault cases—often at the expense of abortion rights advocacy. But the growing threats to reproductive justice— like the Texas law that could shut down most of the state’s abortion clinics, and looming ballot measures in Colorado, Tennessee, and North Dakota that could result in women losing their legal right to terminate a pregnancy—have catalyzed the ongoing efforts of national pro-choice organizations to invest in student leaders. Campus activist priorities and national women’s rights goals might finally be aligning—sort of. For many students attending schools in East and...

When Guns Trample Speech, Do We Have a Democracy?

(AP Photo/Rick Bowmer)
(AP Photo/Rick Bowmer) People protest on the campus of Utah State, Wednesday, Oct. 15, 2014, in Logan, Utah. Utah's campus gun laws are in the spotlight after a feminist speaker canceled a speech at Utah State University once she learned the school would allow concealed firearms despite an anonymous threat against her. School officials in Logan were set to go ahead with the event with extra police after consulting with federal and state law enforcement who told them the threat was consistent with ones Anita Sarkeesian receives when she gives speeches elsewhere. D on’t look now, but I think the Second Amendment just stomped on the First. Last week, the New York Times reported on the death and rape threats to which Anita Sarkeesian, a feminist cultural critic, has been subjected to for challenging the stereotyped images of women in video games. A number of the malignant little dweebs upset by her criticism of the violent sexism that characterizes some games have waged what the Times...

Abortion Without Apology: A Prescription for Getting the Pro-Choice Groove Back

Only by reclaiming abortion as a fundamental right and normal part of health care can the pro-choice movement hope to win, writes Katha Pollitt in a lively new book.

(AP Photo/The Monitor, Joel Martinez)
(AP Photo/The Monitor, Joel Martinez) People protest in front of the Whole Women's Health clinic Saturday, Oct/ 4, 2014 in McAllen, Texas. Abortion-rights lawyers are predicting "a showdown" at the U.S. Supreme Court after federal appellate judges allowed full implementation of a law that has closed more than 80 percent of Texas' abortion clinics. This book review is from the Fall 2014 issue of The American Prospect magazine. Pro: Reclaiming Abortion Rights By Katha Pollitt 258 pp. Picador. $25 I n August, a swarm of police officers was dispatched to the scene of a miscarriage at a Dallas high school, after a dead fetus was found in the girls' lavatory. Police officers combed the school in search of a female “suspect.” The investigation concluded only when the authorities satisfied themselves that the miscarriage had been spontaneous. We might have known it would come to this. Abortion access has decreased dramatically in Texas since the state’s restrictive anti-choice law went into...

Will the Right's Relentless War on Women Prove a Boon to Dems in the Midterms?

Nine Senate seats remain toss-ups. Republicans need six of those seats to win the Senate. Women voters could keep that from happening, but only if they show up to vote.

(AP Photo/David Goldman)
(AP Photo/David Goldman) A member of the crowd is greeted by First lady Michelle Obama speaks at a voter registration rally, Monday, Sept. 8, 2014, in Atlanta. O n Thursday, the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals refused to reconsider the Texas law that shut down thirteen clinics in the state, leaving only eight abortion clinics open in a state where 5.4 million women are at reproductive age. The Center for Reproductive Rights, the American Civil Liberties Union, the ACLU of Texas, and Planned Parenthood challenged the original ruling last Tuesday on the basis of the constitutionality of a provision in the law that abortion doctors must have admitting privileges at a hospital within thirty miles of the abortion clinic—a measure many doctors claim is unnecessary. The measure effectively closes most abortion clinics in Texas. This law is just one of the latest attacks on women’s rights in the Republican war on women. But will it, and all of the anti-woman legislation and court decisions...

How Gay Marriage Could Cause the GOP Major Headaches In 2016

Every GOP candidate is going to have to take a position on the threat posed by this kid. (Flickr/Alan Light)
After yesterday's dramatic ruling from the Supreme Court effectively legalizing same-sex marriage in 11 more states (that now makes 30, plus DC), you would have thought conservatives would be expressing their outrage to anyone who would listen. But their reaction was remarkably muted. "None of the top House GOP leaders (Speaker John Boehner or Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy) issued statements. Ditto the RNC," reported NBC News . "And most strikingly, we didn't hear a peep about the Supreme Court's (non)-decision on the 2014 campaign trail, including in the red-state battlegrounds." The only one who issued a thundering denunciation was Ted Cruz. Even though the GOP's discomfort with this issue has been evident for a while, with the unofficial start of the 2016 presidential campaign just a month away (after the midterm elections are done), the issue of marriage equality is going to become positively excruciating for them. Many people saw the Court's denial of cert in the five cases they...

Is Nationwide Marriage Equality Now Inevitable? Almost, But Not Quite

Flickr/Victoria Pickering
As you've heard by now, the Supreme Court today declined to hear a set of five cases involving state bans on same-sex marriage, from Virginia, Utah, Oklahoma, Indiana, and Wisconsin. In all these cases, the appeals court had overturned the state's ban, and now same-sex marriages are legal not only in those states, but also soon in the six other states covered by the 4th, 7th, and 10th Circuits (Wyoming, Colorado, Kansas, West Virginia, North Carolina, and South Carolina). Like many other people, I've already written today that the legal argument over marriage equality is now all but over. The way it presumably will play out from this point forward is that one of the more conservative circuit courts will issue a ruling upholding a state ban on same-sex marriage, and the Supreme Court, presented with this conflict between circuits, will take the case to settle it. And in the wake of today's ruling, it's hard to see how they (and by "they" I mean Anthony Kennedy) would rule that state...

How the Koch Brothers Helped Bring About the Law That Shut Texas Abortion Clinics

It may be a panel of judges that shut most Texas abortion clinics, but the law the court upheld began with a flood of money to antiabortion forces from the billionaires' network of "free enterprise" groups.

(Whole Woman's Health -AP Photo/ The Monitor, Delcia Lopez, File/Anti-choice protester: AP Photo/Eric Gay)
This article has been updated. (AP Photo/ The Monitor, Delcia Lopez, File) In this March 6, 2014 file photo, over 40 people hold a candle light vigil in front of the Whole Women's HealthClinic in McAllen, Texas. The clinic will close on October 3, 2014, along with 12 others in Texas after the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals reinstated part of sweeping new Texas abortion restrictions that also shuttered other facilities statewide six months ago. The state has only 8 remaining abortion clinics in operation. I n Texas politics, abortion is front and center once again—and so is the role of so-called “free enterprise” groups in the quest for government control of women’s lives. Yesterday, there were 21 abortion clinics available to the women of Texas, the second-largest state in the nation. Today, thanks to a decision handed down from a three-judge panel on the federal 5 th Circuit Court of Appeals, there are eight. But the story really begins with the U.S. Supreme Court's 2010 decision in...

Listen Up, Ladies: Republicans Understand You

A lady-type expressing her disgust with the idea of voting Democratic.
Political ads, as a rule, are terrible in every way. Lacking in anything approaching subtlety, creativity or production values, they usually achieve their impact through numbing repetition—you may be skeptical upon hearing that "Candidate Smith doesn't share our values," but once you've heard it 50 or 60 times, the theory goes, it should sink in. But every once in a while, one stands out, as is the case with this little gem trying to tell ladies to vote for Governor Rick Scott of Florida. It's actually one in a cookie-cutter series , with the names of other Republican governors and Democratic candidates substituted in.) The thinking behind it seems to be that if you want to relate to ladies, what you've got to do is talk about wedding dresses. Take a look: It's a takeoff on the reality show Say Yes to the Dress , which I haven't actually seen, but I gather involves wedding dresses, and saying yes to them. While pop culture references are always a good way to grab attention, the...

Tragedy, Privation and Hope: Joy Boothe's Inspiring Journey to Moral Monday

Horrifically orphaned and raised with prejudice, she built a house and a new life with her own hands. Now hers are among many building a movement for justice.

©Jenny Warburg
©Jenny Warburg Joy Boothe (in black pants) at a sit-in outside the office North Carolina Senate President Pro Tempore Phil Berger in June 2014, protesting Republican education cuts. W hen Joy Boothe showed up at last week’s Moral Monday rally in her hometown of Burnsville, North Carolina, she was fighting both sleep- and sun-deprivation. Boothe had just driven in from Asheville, 35 miles away, where her husband was recovering from a double knee replacement. “Despite my fears of leaving my husband’s hospital room for the first time in four days,” she told the small crowd gathered in the town square, “I’ve come to stand with you today. It’s that important. It’s that important. ” Boothe, a vice president of the local NAACP branch, was referring to the ongoing political upheaval in Raleigh, the state capital, four hours east of this small mountain town. There, an emboldened Republican legislative majority had cut unemployment benefits, turned away federal Medicaid funds, slashed education...

In Political System Disconnected From Society's Ills, Remedies Pushed to Fringes of Public Debate

(Kike Calvo via AP Images)
(Kike Calvo via AP Images) More than 100,000 people march through midtown Manhattan on Sunday, Sept. 21, 2014 as part of the People's Climate March, a worldwide mobilization calling on world leaders meeting at the UN to commit to urgent action on climate change. F or half a century beginning with Franklin Roosevelt, there was a direct connection between the problems that afflicted American society and the remedies on offer from our democratic system. High unemployment? The New Deal, the World War II mobilization, and the postwar boom took care of that. Stagnant wages? With unions, growing productivity, minimum wage laws, and other regulation of labor standards, American real wages tripled. Education? The G.I. bill, massive investment in public universities, community colleges, and later in public elementary and secondary education produced a better educated and more productive population. And until the 1980s, public higher education was practically free. The exclusion of blacks from...

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