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WMC News: PWV Media Training, Trump Era, Colombian Indigenous Activism, Xenophobia, WMC Live & More

January 5, 2017

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The Women's Media Center's Progressive Women's Voices is the premier media and leadership training program for women in the country. Representing a range of expertise and diversity across race, class, geography, sexual preference, ability, and generation, participants receive advanced, comprehensive training and tools to position themselves as media spokeswomen in their fields, thereby changing the conversation on issues that fill headlines. Graduates join a network of alumnae who support each other in their media goals.

2017 Training Dates: May 5 -7 in Washington, DC and May 19 - 21 in Washington, DC.

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Fighting Sexual Violence in the Trump Era

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By Gail Spector | January 3, 2017

For the first 30 or so seconds after I awake in the morning, I live in a state of ignorant bliss. I look to see if my husband and dog are awake and start to assess the day ahead of me. Then it hits me. Each morning, before I’ve lifted my head from the pillow, the fog of sleepiness is replaced with a cloud of despair: A man who has condoned sexual violence is going to be our next president.

People tell me that I should get over the election of Donald Trump as the next president of the United States. What’s done is done, they say. Learn to live with it.

I’m one of the many women whose past trauma was triggered when I heard Trump boast about sexual assault. I had buried the incident somewhere deep inside me, never forgetting but also never feeling. Hearing Trump gloat that he could help himself to any woman he chose hurled me back in time, leaving me feeling groped all over again.

By dismissing his offensive and boorish words as “locker room talk,” Trump told millions of abusive men, self-doubting women, and impressionable children that objectifying women is OK. I don’t know how to learn to live with the knowledge that voters selected him to lead the country. More >>

Image description: Woman wearing a bra made out of caution tape holding a sign that reads "ATTENTION CAUTION: MY BODY should not be a CRIME SCENE" in yellow. 

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Trying to Shut Her Up: Indigenous Activist Facing Threats Stands Up for Peace in Colombia

Learning from the language level up, Mejía committed herself to finding ways to protect indigenous lands after threats forced her community to flee its village. (Witness for Peace)

By Alice Driver/Guest Blogger | January 3, 2017

On April 20, Marcia Mejía Chirimia, 28, an indigenous Colombian peace and women’s rights activist, received this text message from someone she believes is a member of a paramilitary group.

The message read:

I would like to remind Marcia Mejía and other fucking snitch Indians who block roads and are informers to the guerilla[s] that you will die. …You rats, we know where you are and you are a military objective. Watch out, there is no time left. You will die.

Shortly after receiving the threat, an unidentified man was found prowling around Mejía’s house when only her young son was at home.

These are just a couple of the several kinds of intimidation Mejía and other Colombians have experienced in their difficult careers as indigenous activists.

Born in the remote jungle of Valle del Cauca on the southwestern Pacific coast of Colombia, Mejía grew up with little formal education and spoke only Wounaan, a language she shares with her Sia indigenous community. Her life changed in 2010. Paramilitary groups in the area made threats against the leaders of her village and eventually forced them to flee in hopes of making a permanent land grab of the mineral- and resource-rich region. Mejía and 24 families relocated to the coastal city of Buenaventura, where for 11 months they lived in an abandoned warehouse. She was 22. More>>

Image description: Learning from the language level up, Mejía committed herself to finding ways to protect indigenous lands after threats forced her community to flee its village. (Witness for Peace) (UN Photo/JC McIlwaine)]

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For Female Detainees in Syria, Life After Prison Can Be Even Worse

A woman holds a gun during a protest against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in Idlib, Syria. Thousands of women have been detained by the Syrian government since the conflict first began in 2011. (Freedom House)

By Lizzie Porter/Guest Blogger | December 22, 2016

When Luna Watfa refused to reveal any information to her interrogators, they took her son, 17, and threatened to torture him. “They put my son’s hands behind his back, his T-shirt over his head, and they took him,” she says.

Watfa, now 35, was a law student when the popular uprising broke out in Syria in March 2011. But when she witnessed President Bashar al-Assad’s forces shooting at and beating protesters, she decided to devote herself to documenting what she saw. In January 2014, she was arrested on a Damascus street by a gang of men whom she quickly recognized as government officers. “There were three cars with 12 guards. They came only for me,” she says over Skype from her new home in Koblenz, Germany. The men escorted her to her home, demanded access to her laptop, and detained her son, threatening him too. “I tried to say that [they] had no right to take him,” Watfa says. “The officer looked at me and laughed. ‘I am the law, I can do anything I want,’ he replied.”

Mona Mohammed Aboud, 29, was a teacher at the start of the revolution and a vocal opponent of the regime. She has twice been a prisoner of Syria’s intelligence and security services network. During one 63-day period of detention, in 2014, she says she was subjected to torture including electrocution, beating, and starvation—and she still suffers physical pain as a consequence.

“There was no such thing as living. Just hell and hunger,” she says. “The security forces are not trying to kill you. They want to keep you alive—but only just.” More >>

Image description: A woman holds a gun during a protest against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in Idlib, Syria. Thousands of women have been detained by the Syrian government since the conflict first began in 2011. (Freedom House)

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On the Ground: An Interview With The Founders of Columbia University’s First South Asian Feminism(s) Alliance

The Founders of SAFA

By Vicki S | January 4, 2017

In the fall semester of 2015, the first ever South Asian Feminism(s) Alliance (SAFA) was introduced to Columbia University. SAFA founders and Barnard alumnae Sarika Kumar, Mallika Walia, and Kaavya Mahajan created the group to unite students on campus to engage in discussions and community action against sexism, misogyny, and patriarchy in the South Asian community.

In spring of 2015, CU Sewa, an on-campus, social justice-oriented group in line with the Sikh tradition Sewa partnered with the Muslim Students Association, the Organization of Pakistani Students, and the Indian Students at Columbia University to coordinate the panel “Transnational Feminism in South Asia: An embodiment of contradictions.” The event featured panelists including Aradhana Sharma, Afiya Zia, and spoken word artists Rupi Kaur and Ramya Ramana. The event received an overwhelmingly positive response which catalyzed recognition of the need for a brave space for South Asian women and non dominant gender identities. More>>

Image description: The Founders of SAFA

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Xenophobia and the American Identity

xenophobia: the word of the year

By Angela Liu | January 3, 2017

“Xenophobia,” which, according to, Dictionary.com is a “fear or hatred of foreigners, people from different cultures, or strangers” was Dictionary.com’s 2016 word of the year. The word can also refer to fear or dislike of customs, dress, and cultures of people with backgrounds different from our own. Put more simply, xenophobia is a fear of the “other.”

This word was likely so widespread this past year due in no small part to the United States’ presidential election, as well as the UK’s vote to leave the European Union (widely known as “Brexit“). This fear of the other has been made abundantly clear in the United States through the rhetoric put forth by the Trump campaign. Xenophobic campaign promises to build a wall along the US-Mexico border and start a Muslim registry may have sounded far-fetched and ridiculous to many, but they resonated with Trump’s voter base. Our president-elect actively drove away female and minority voters, but white nationalists heard hope for their particular way of life and belief system in his anti-immigration, anti-institution rhetoric. This group seemed particularly drawn to Trump’s stance on nationalism, nativism, and rejection of the so-called shadowy elites. More >>

Image description: Word map with the word "xenophobia" large and centered with caption "xenophobia: the word of the year".

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The Underlying Sexism of Playing An Instrument

I faced surprising sexism.

By Madeline Redell | December 30, 2016

I was the textbook definition of an awkward twelve-year-old. I had braces, wild frizzy hair, and tended to match my eyeshadow to the color of any one my assorted array of graphic tees. This was only made worse by the fact that everybody else around me seemed to have already begun their evolutions into their cooler and more stylish selves. The final nail in the coffin of my social status seemed to be my interest in joining the school band.

I was aware of the stigma associated with being in band before I even chose which instrument I wanted to play. Many classic teen movies and TV shows have depicted the band kids as “nerds” who are subjected to teasing and the objects of others’ laughter. In return, the band kids generally receive inadequate funding and empty seats at their concerts.

But despite this stigma, I was still attracted by what I saw as the reward of being in band: the gift of music and friends for life. My older siblings had all been in band, too, and I wanted to follow in their footsteps. So in sixth grade, I took the leap and joined. It was one of the best decisions I have ever made. More>>

Image description: Girl with long brown hair holding the opening of a trombone to her face with caption "I faced surprising sexism".

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I Fall In Love With One’s Soul, Not Their Gender

On being pansexual.

By Caitlin Templeton | December 28, 2016

When I looked into the eyes of the first woman I ever liked — loved, even — I felt like I finally understood the famous words attributed to Edgar Allan Poe: “the eyes are the window to the soul.” I didn’t just see her, but myself; I saw a reflection of my own soul within hers. It was like a breath of fresh air — or maybe it wasn’t even that. Maybe I was just then breathing for the first time. And, my god, I didn’t even know how I was living before.

But as seemingly simple as my realization for my love for her was, realizing that those feelings meant I was also pansexual wasn’t easy at all. I didn’t wake up one day and decide, “Today I’m interested in women as well as men.” In fact, when I first realized that I could have feelings for a woman — real, raw feelings — I drank so much alcohol I threw up. More >>

Image description: Black and white close-up of an eye with the iris colored by a rainbow gradient with the caption "on being pansexual".

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What “Sanctity of Life” Really Means

We must fight for our rights.

By Chloe H | December 26, 2016

As of December 19, 2016, Texas health care facilities that perform abortions must bury fetal remains instead of putting them in a sanitary landfill, like any other type of biological medical waste. Governor Greg Abbot of Texas, who proposed the state-level rule in July, has justified burying or cremating human and fetal remains by stating that he “believe[s] it is imperative to establish higher standards that reflect our respect for the sanctity of life.”

Unfortunately, Texas is not the first state to approve mandatory burial for fetal remains. Indiana and Louisiana passed similar measures this year but have not yet put the rules into effect. Indiana’s law was signed by Gov. Mike Pence, the vice president-elect of the United States — a fact that only underscores how necessary it is us for us to remain vigilant about the rising anti-abortion sentiments in the US government, and that making the protection of abortion rights more important than ever. More>>

Image description: Protesters with sign that reads "I trust women to make their OWN decisions" with "OWN" in pink.

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My Quest To Make Lady Diana Into A Feminist Monument

The Princess Diana statue

By Rikke Bank | December 23, 2016

We’re all familiar with equestrian statuary, or the full-sized equestrian statues that commemorate historic figures – most frequently emperors, rulers, or military commanders. These statues have existed since at least archaic Greece and ancient Rome and are presumably created to praise men who have honored their country by winning wars and conquering new land at the cost of a lot of lives. These statues are difficult and expensive objects for any culture to produce, so they’re hardly common. And yet, even though this discipline has existed for more than two thousand years, there are only 36 equestrian statues with female riders in the entire world.

When I started working with the Berlin-based artist Poul R. Weile, he told me his vision: to create an equestrian statue honoring Lady Diana (Princess of Wales). He wanted to use this classical discipline to reflect on today’s society. I initially failed to see the sense in this. Lady Diana died in a horrific car accident in 1997, the same year as I was born. I knew she was a media darling, on the front page of every magazine, her looks constantly praised, but that was basically it.

Shortly after, however, I started researching Diana and the history of equestrian statues, and started to understand Poul’s mission. I discovered Lady Di was so much more than “just another pretty face.” More >>

Image description: The Princess Diana statue

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WMC Live #191: Annie Laurie Gaylor. (Original Airdate 12/18/2016)

2016 year-end show. Robin's 5 effective, simple rebellions against Troll-Elect Trump. Guest: Annie Laurie Gaylor (Freedom from Religion Foundation) on women and atheism. Plus The Surrealism Corner, We Told You So, and an inspiring Solstice surprise! Listen here >>

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