The Mormon church admits its founder had 40 wives

image via wikipedia
image via wikipedia

After 200 years of lying about it, the Mormon Church is finally admitting that its founder Joseph Smith had forty wives. If the Church can change its official line on the man they consider to be their prophet, they can surely update their sexist policy barring women from becoming priests.

To clarify, the news isn’t that Smith was polygamous, but rather that the Mormon Church, also known as the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints or LDS, officially admitted to Smith’s so called “plural marriage” in an essay it released on its website:

In biblical times, the Lord commanded some of His people to practice plural marriage—the marriage of one man and more than one woman. Some early members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints also received and obeyed this commandment given through God’s prophets. After receiving a revelation commanding him to practice plural marriage, Joseph Smith married multiple wives and introduced the practice to close associates.

Most of those sealed [married] to Joseph Smith were between 20 and 40 years of age at the time of their sealing to him. The oldest, Fanny Young, was 56 years old. The youngest was Helen Mar Kimball, daughter of Joseph’s close friends Heber C. and Vilate Murray Kimball, who was sealed to Joseph several months before her 15th birthday. Marriage at such an age, inappropriate by today’s standards, was legal in that era, and some women married in their mid-teens. Helen Mar Kimball spoke of her sealing to Joseph as being “for eternity alone,” suggesting that the relationship did not involve sexual relations.

While some are congratulating the Church, the revelation is most likely a smart PR move and not indicative of a significant shift in doctrine. Even Elder Steven E. Snow, the church historian and a member of the leadership explained, “There is so much out there on the Internet that we felt we owed our members a safe place where they could go to get reliable, faith-promoting information that was true about some of these more difficult aspects of our history.” In other words, it was impossible to keep Smith’s polygamy a secret anymore.

But let’s give the LDS the benefit of the doubt. If they were able to evolve on the way they present the very founder of the church, surely they can evolve on the way the church treats women. After all they were able to change their position on Black people, who were barred from being ordained as priests until 1978.

And yet, not only does the Church continue to ban women priests, but, as we covered, in June it excommunicated Mormon Kate Kelly, the founder of the organization Ordain Women, for questioning her Church’s sexism. Kelly appealed the decision to the regional leadership of the LDS Church but recently found out it was denied. She has vowed to appeal to the worldwide leadership next. We’ll have to wait and see what happens. But if the Mormon Church is interested in evolving and not just saving face, they’ll have to come to terms with their own treatment of women — not just their founder’s.

Originally posted on Feministing.

Vote today! Because Joan Jett says so

Still not convinced the mid-terms matter? Check out this great PSA video in which awesome people, including Joan Jett, Carrie Brownstein, Jemima Kirke, Lesley Gore, Tavi Gevinson, Tracee Ellis Ross, Sia, Hannah Simone, and Alia Shawkat, lip synch to Joan Jet’s 1980 hit Bad Reputation to get out the vote. 

In case the video isn’t enough, the Department of Peace, “an art collective geared toward creating consciousness-raising content and inspiring young people toward political participation and community-oriented action,” provides some scary statistics to show how “the most regressive, anti­-woman, anti­-voting, anti-equality laws are being passed on the state level.”

• 29 states in America allow a rapist to sue a women for custody and/or visitation of the child birthed from that rape.

• 87 percent of all US Counties have no abortion provider.

• 35 percent of American women will have an abortion by the age of 45.

• In 35 states, Medicaid recipients do not have abortion coverage.

• In 13 states, a pharmacist can legally refuse to disperse birth control, even if you have a prescription.

• 26 states have waiting periods for abortion; only 11 have waiting periods for guns.

• In 17 states, the government forces women to go to counseling before she can have an abortion.

• In 32 states, terminally ill women are forced to carry a pregnancy to term, regardless of her wishes or her living will.

• More than 50 abortion clinics were shut down by unnecessary laws from 2010­-2013. Not including the dozens that were shut in Texas in the last month.

And the song’s lyrics work pretty well!

Vote today! Because the GOP is really, really hoping you won’t
Vote today! Because reproductive rights are lost when Republicans gain control of state legislatures

Originally posted on Feministing

10 brilliant sexy Halloween costumes


Originally posted on Feministing

There are lots of terribleoffensive Halloween costumes on sale this year, as usual. While you’re figuring out a feminist costume this week, get inspired by some clever costumes by the feminist filmmaker Cheryl Furjanic, who has won awards for her documentaries and her costumes. 

Cheryl Furjanic‘s Back on Board: Greg Louganis, a new documentary feature about the gay, HIV+ Olympic champion is getting great buzz and won the audience award at Outfest. Furjanic’s previous feature documentary, Sync or Swim, about swimmers trying to get onto the all women’s synchronized swim team for the Olympics received numerous awards including a Billie Award for Journalism from the Women’s Sports Foundation. She also recently signed on as the Consulting Producer for the documentary Reel in the Closet.

But that’s not all! Furjanic’s Halloween costumes are a refreshing alternative to the “sexy [insert animal or profession]” available at a store near you. And, like her films, they’ve won awards, from the now closed Brooklyn lesbian bar Cattyshack. RIP.

I asked the New York-based Furjanic about her “process,” and she explained,

For as long as I can remember I’ve always loved Halloween. But sometime around middle school something shifted. My grandmother had given me a book of creative costumes that you could make yourself. That gave me an insight into costume construction and I started making costumes from the book. People responded really well to them and I just kept going. I outgrew the book at some point and spent a bunch of years making bizarre and/or elaborate costumes (I once dressed as Hanson, the entire boy band).

At some point I came up with the idea to dress as an idiom or a play on words and things kind of took off from there.  The living room of my apartment is  my costume workshop. It’s a real scene with foam and tape and glue everywhere.  Sometimes friends come over to hang out (or help) while I’m building. Often we’ll all make our costumes together and then go out together. The best part for me is walking around the city  and having people guess what I’m dressed as. And my friends are always eager to find out what I’m going to be that year.

When I asked Furjanic if she had ever felt pressure to wear “sexy” or “pretty” costumes, she responded, “Depends on your definition of pretty/sexy. I’ve absolutely never felt pressure to dress in a revealing costume. But I find smarts and a sense of humor to be pretty sexy. So my version is a clever costume where I can’t fit through doorways and have trouble sitting down.”

Check out some of Furjanic’s costumes below. See if you can guess what they are. I put the captions under the photos so don’t cheat!
Check out the Costumes

RIP Elizabeth Peña, actress who defied stereotypes about race and gender

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(Image via)

Elizabeth Peña, who died Tuesday night at the age of 55, was more than a prolific and exceptional actress. She was an exceptionally talented woman who changed the way Latina women are represented in film and challenged notions of race and gender.

Peña was born in New Jersey to parents who immigrated from Cuba. Her father was an actor, writer, and director and her mother was the executive director of The Latin American Theater Ensemble in New York. Peña and her family returned to Cuba when she was a baby but wound up moving to New York City, where she attended the prestigious High School of Performing Arts, of Fame fame and studied with Lee Strasberg.

Peña’s acting career, which spanned five decades, kicked off with the Spanish-langage film El Super (1979) and included roles in films like Tortilla Soup, La Bamba, TransAmerica, Batteries not included, Down and Out in Beverly Hills, Jacob’s Ladder, as well as TV shows like Resurrection Blvd. Modern Family, and Matador

Peña directed episodes of YlseThe Brothers Garcia, and Resurrection Blvd., becoming only the fourth Latina member of the Director’s Guild of America when she joined.

Peña was prolific but chose her roles wisely, once saying, “There are a lot of jobs I’ve turned down because they wanted me to play what I call ‘Miss Cuchifrito’ types.”

Peña rejected the way all Latinos and Latin Americans were presented as a monolith: “In the United States, all Spanish-speaking people are lumped into one category… But we’re all so different. Argentinians are completely different from Mexicans. Mexicans are completely different from Cubans. Cubans are completely different from people from Paraguay and Uruguay.”

There are two films, in particular, that offered roles that defied stereotypes.

Director Georgina Garcia Riedel’s debut film, How the Garcia Girls Spent Their Summer (2005), which also stars Lucy Gallardo and America Ferrera, focuses on one summer in the lives of three generations of Mexican women living in an Arizona border town. In an interview about the film, Peña praised the way the movie actually acknowledged sexuality in women over 35:

In American cinema and in television for that matter—with the possible exception of Desperate Housewives—women over, literally, 35 are non-sexual, except for getting raped or beaten. They don’t write roles for women that express and explore older women’s sexuality and I found [Georgina’s script] so fantastic; to have a 70-year-old woman have sex, y’know? I loved the character of Lolita obviously, I loved her on the page; but—once I started to embody her—it was rough because she’s such a frustrated lonely person that it was quite challenging to play that consistently. I actually started grinding my teeth again when I started shooting that movie.

Lone Star (1996) is one of my favorite movies from the 1990s and one of my favorite John Sayles film. It has an amazing cast, including Chris Cooper, Joe Morton, Kris Kristofferson, and pre-fame Matthew McConaughey. The mystery takes place in a border town in Texas and explores racism, immigration, family, relationships and history. Peña’s performance as Pilar, a teacher and single mother, won her the 1997 Independent Spirit for Best Supporting Female Actress.

Peña was thrilled to work with Sayles, who she calls a “Director/God” and whose films, which include Men with Guns, Brother From Another Planet and Passion Fish, raise important questions about gender, class, race, ableism, and colonialism: ”This is an amazing role… Its a real role for a woman… I was home and the phone rang. It was my agent saying John Sayles has a movie that he’s doing and he’d like you to be in it and I said fine, great close the deal.  And he said, `Wait a minute.  Don’t you want to read the script.’  I’m going no if it’s John Sayles, I want to do it.  I don’t care what it is.  And then I got the script and I said my God, bonus!”

And to prepare for her role in Lone Star, Peña honored the diversity of Latina women and eschewed the lumping together she described above. She worked hard to capture the unique reality of the women who live in border towns: ”I crossed the border a whole bunch to collect a lot of history. I would sit for hours looking at the women, how they dressed. I talked to people. I hung out. I shopped at the stores to see what kind of clothing was there and what food was eaten.”

Peña should be remembered for her outstanding talent and historic trailblazing. Eva Longoria tweeted, “Rest in Peace Elizabeth Pena … you paved the way for so many of us!!” And she would know.

Originally posted on Feministing

Fracking company honors the victims of the breast cancer they help cause with pink drill bits

Screen Shot 2014-10-08 at 4.04.15 PM

No… this isn’t The Onion. It’s an unbelievable case of pinkwashing, greenwashing and whitewashing. As we mentioned yesterday, the Susan G. Komen Foundation–which you’ll recall tried to pull funding for cancer screenings at Planned Parenthood a couple years ago–is teaming up with the fracking company Baker Hughes to distribute 1,000 drill bits around the world. Fracking is extremely dangerous and has been linked to several cancers, including breast cancer. But, at the same time, the drill bits are pink. So that totally empty color-based symbolism more than makes up for it. 

In order to understand the mind-blowing irony and dishonesty of the campaign, let’s quickly review what fracking is. Fracking is actually the adorable nickname for hydraulic fracturing, a drilling technique used to extract oil or gas from deep underground. A high-pressure mix of water, sand, and chemicals is injected into the ground, which fractures the rock, creating fissures and cracks through which the gas or oil comes out. Fracking harms the environment and our health. It releases methane gas that contributes to global warming, requires the use and transport of huge amounts of water–millions of gallons of water are used in just one fracking operation–and triggers earthquakes. The chemicals used in fracking include known carcinogens and endocrine disruptors which poison the water, the land, and the air. According to Breast Cancer Action, at least 25 percent of the more than 700 chemicals used in fracking are linked to cancer.

To see the dramatic effects of fracking, watch this excerpt from the Emmy Award-winning and Oscar nominated documentary Gasland:

So, how beautiful for the Baker Hughes Company, which made $22.4 billion fracking last year, to donate $100,000 to Susan G. Komen. Komen has previously pinkwashed everything from toxic perfume to guns and now, as it explains on its website, Baker Hughes “will paint and distribute a total of 1,000 pink drill bits worldwide. The pink bits serve as a reminder of the importance of supporting research, treatment, screening, and education to help find the cures for this disease, which claims a life every 60 seconds.”

In an appropriately snarky press release–because it’s better to laugh than cry–Breast Cancer Action praised the partnership between Susan G, Komen and the Baker Hughes company as “the most ludicrous piece of pink sh*t they’ve seen all year.” Continue reading “Fracking company honors the victims of the breast cancer they help cause with pink drill bits”

Why a bill outlawing forced sterilization had to be passed…in California…in 2014

The good news is that forced sterilization is now illegal in California. The bad news is that the bill was necessary because up until now, coerced tubal ligations were happening.

Last Thursday, California Governor Jerry Brown signed a bill which banned using sterilization as a form of birth control for female inmates in all jails, prisons, and detention centers. While the new law is a victory, it is a response to a tragedy and an outrage. As we covered last year, the Center for Investigative Reporting revealed that 148 women had undergone tubal violations which violated prison rules between 2006 and 2010. A state audit from June of 2014 find that over a quarter of the procedures, at least 39, had been performed without the required consent. In 18 cases, the mandated waiting period after consent was violated.

Crystal Nguyen was an inmate at the Valley State Prison who worked in the prison’s infirmary in 2007. “I was like, ‘Oh my God, that’s not right,’ ” Nguyen, 28, recalls. “Do they think they’re animals, and they don’t want them to breed anymore?”

“As soon as he found out that I had five kids, he suggested that I look into getting it done.” Christina Cordero, 34, who was in prison for car theft, remembers being pressured by the prison doctor to undergo tubal ligation: “The closer I got to my due date, the more he talked about it… He made me feel like a bad mother if I didn’t do it.” So she got the procedure. But, Cordero adds that, “today, I wish I would have never had it done.”

Of course, the over 140 cases are just the most recent examples in a long history of forced sterilization of prisoners–in California and elsewhere in the US. Between 1909 and 1964 approximately 20,000 men and women, who were disproportionately of color, poor, disabled, mentally ill, and incarcerated, underwent forced sterilization in California. Though the practice was banned in 1979, it continued in prisons.

The law, which will go into affect January 1, outlaws any sterilizing operations, including tubal ligations and hysterectomies. In the case of life-threatening circumstances, inmates must undergo counseling from independent doctors not under contract with the prison. Local jails and state prisons will be required to keep track of and report the surgeries online. And employees who report violations or abuses will be protected from retaliation. Continue reading “Why a bill outlawing forced sterilization had to be passed…in California…in 2014”

Canada’s first national survey of sex workers shows most are satisfied with their jobs

sex work is work
(Photo credit: Bertrand Langlois/Getty)

Canada’s conservative government is poised to pass a bill which would criminalize sex work. But a new national study disproves many of the paternalistic stereotypes and assumptions behind the legislation.

According to Canada’s Justice Minister Peter MacKay, Bill C-36, which aims to abolish sex work, is based on the fact that “the vast majority of those that sell sexual services do not do so by choice. We view the vast majority of those involved in selling sexual services as victims.” The proposed bill would punish not just those who buy the services but the alleged victims, as well. Punishing victims doesn’t exactly scream sound policy. But on top of that, the characterization of sex workers as victims is problematic, to say the least.

Canada’s first nation-wide survey of sex workers has some interesting findings the government should, but probably won’t, listen to. Over the five-year study, which was funded by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research, researchers interviewed 218 sex workers, 1,252 clients, 30 spouses or intimate partners of sex workers, 61 managers of escort or massage businesses, and 80 law enforcement officials in six cities throughout Canada. The study did not, however, look at undocumented sex workers or children, and probably captured neither the best nor the worst of the industry. As one of the study’s lead authors, Cecilia Benoit, explained, “If you think of the sex industry as a continuum, there are people over here who have a lot of control and make a lot of money, and you have people over here who are forced… Our study probably got people in the middle and towards the ends, but not at the extremes.”

Though the bill presents sex workers as victims, the study found that 82 percent of workers felt appropriately rewarded, 70 percent were satisfied with their jobs, and 68 percent felt they have good job security. According to Benoit, “Sex workers are average Canadians. They’re Caucasian, in their 30s and 40s, and have education and training outside of high school. Most of them don’t feel exploited, they don’t see buyers as oppressors…. They are people trying to do the best they can with the tools they have to live their lives.” Researcher  Mikael Jansson added, “They talk to us about the amount of control they have over their work situation… They have a lot more control over the timing of their work, the pace of their work than journalists.” And researcher Chris Atchison reported that, “What we’ve found from the data is when it comes to workers, clients and their interaction, sex workers set the terms and conditions of the service… Clients come to them and say ‘Here’s what I’m looking for.’ A sex worker then says ‘I’m either willing or unwilling to provide that.’” Continue reading “Canada’s first national survey of sex workers shows most are satisfied with their jobs”

Statistic of the Day: 1 in 5 American men admit to domestic violence

domestic-violence1People are justifiably outraged by Ray Rice’s treatment of his then-fiancee Janay Palmer. But what’s even scarier is that one out of five men admit that they’ve committed domestic violence against a partner or spouse. A new nationally-representative study by the University of Michigan asked 500 men the following question:

 Over the course of your relationship, how often have you ever done any of these things (pushed, grabbed, or shoved; threw something; slapped or hit; kicked, bit, or hit with a fist; beat up; choked; burned or scalded; threatened with a knife or gun) to your current spouse/partner?

Nineteen percent, or one out of five men, admitted to doing so at least once. And, of course, these were just the men who were willing to report it to the researchers, which means that the phenomenon is likely ever more common. The lead author of the study, Vijay Singh, explains, “If men could enter responses in a private way, (the percentage) could have been even higher.” The rate would also go up if it included other kinds of abuse: “It did not ask about emotional abuse. It did not ask about sexual abuse,” Singh said.

But even one out of five is unacceptably high. To put it in perspective, domestic violence is more common than diabetes. Continue reading “Statistic of the Day: 1 in 5 American men admit to domestic violence”

Media manages to make Senator Gillibrand’s teachable moment about sexism all about her mistakes

The media never ceases to amaze me. Its victim-blaming knows no bounds. Whether its Ray Rice’s then-fiancé who got herself attacked by not taking the stairs, or female celebrities responsible for getting hacked because they had naked photographs of themselves, the women who are assaulted and/or violated are always the focus.

This victim-shaming is so egalitarian and so equal-opportunity, it applies to extremely powerful people — like Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY). Yet again, as Senator Gillibrand tries to raise the issue of sexism within the Senate, the media responds by blaming her for the way she’s doing it. Because… it’s a Tuesday. 

As we’ve covered before, Gillibrand’s new book, Off the Sidelines, recounts how she had to deal with comments about her weight and physical appearance, as well as touching, from her male colleagues. And, as we also covered, several politicians and pundits have responded by casting doubt on her claims, or by shifting the focus onto what Gillibrand is doing wrong. Today, MSNBCS’s Morning Joe show joined this cacophonous chorus. And remember, MSNBC is supposed to be the progressive channel. Host Joe Scarborough is, perhaps, the token conservative, but he is meant to be balanced out by co-host Mika Brzezinski, who is supposed to represent the liberal perspective and the woman’s view (problematic as that concept is…but that’s for another post).

Brzezinski did not hold back in accusing Gillibrand of doing the wrong thing: “Why wouldn’t you name names here?” Gillibrand tried to explain, “I want to elevate the debate. It’s not about a specific insult about one person… What this is about is how we elevate the debate to talk about these broader challenges.” Mika then replied by asking, “Wouldn’t you elevate the debate by naming names?” And Gillibrand said, “I want to talk about the bigger challenges, the fact that we don’t have equal pay in this country.” Continue reading “Media manages to make Senator Gillibrand’s teachable moment about sexism all about her mistakes”

The Daily Show takes on sexist attacks on Senator Gillibrand

Masters of Sexism on The Daily Show
It was infuriating and depressingly unsurprising to hear some of the sexist, inappropriate comments male members of Congress have made to Senator Kirsten Gillibrand. As we learned last week, colleagues told the Senator she was pretty even when she was “fat” and urge her not to get “too porky.” But The Daily Show‘s take down of the Senate’s sexism will let you laugh and cry (Watch the full clip here).

Citing the “Don’t get too porky” comment on the one hand, and the “I like my girls chubby” on the other, Jon Stewart quipped “Even when it comes to shitty sexism, the Senate is gridlocked. They can’t get anything done.” He also remarked on the irony of congressmen and senators discussing Gillibrand’s appearance when they themselves “look, on a good day, like a bowl of dried fruit.”

Stewart was especially on-point in his critique of the people criticizing Gillibrand for not naming the men who made the comments. After a clip of conservative CNN contributor Ben Ferguson saying “you’ve got the guts to write about it. Have the guts to name names,” Stewart responds, “The grown-up version of the rich kid from every ’80s movies has a point…. Why wouldn’t the woman making a larger point about the general culture of Washington not turn this into a narrow personal attack on the people she sees at work every day?”

Stewart also shows a clip of Andrea Mitchell, saying that she knows from experience that there are some politicians you don’t want to be alone with in an elevator. He then reflects, “Right. We all have our stories about which person, elected by voters in their state to a six-year term, vested with the powers to advise, consent, and declare war, you would not trust in the three to five seconds it takes to go from two to L.”

The episode also looks at the responses expressed on the Fox News show Outnumbered, which range from “boys will be boys” to the claim that women embrace catcalls as flattering.

The Daily Show certainly won’t run out of material any time soon.

Originally posted on Feministing.