Monday, January 21, 2008

Today's Action Alert

Would you like to sign an Open Letter From American Feminists? Katha Pollitt has written one, an important one. This one:

An Open Letter from American Feminists

Columnists and opinion writers from The Weekly Standard to the Washington Post to Slate have recently accused American feminists of focusing obsessively on minor or even nonexistent injustices in the United States while ignoring atrocities against women in other countries, especially the Muslim world. A number of reasons are given for this supposed neglect: narcissism, ideological rigidity, reflexive anti-Americanism, fear of seeming insensitive or even racist. Yet what is the evidence for this apparently now broadly accepted claim that feminists don't support the struggles of women around the globe? It usually comes down to a quick scan of the home page of the National Organization for Women's website, observing that a particular writer hasn't covered a particular outrage, plus a handful of quotes wrenched out of context.

In fact, as a bit of research would easily show, there are dozens, if not hundreds, of US feminist organizations involved in promoting women's rights and well-being around the globe — V-Day, Equality Now, MADRE, the Global Fund for Women, the International Women's Health Coalition and Feminist Majority, to name some of the most prominent. (The National Organization for Women itself has a section on its website devoted to global feminism, on which it denounces a wide array of practices including female genital mutilation (FGM), "honor" murder, trafficking, dowry deaths and domestic violence). Feminists at Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and the United Nations have moved those organizations to add the rights of women and girls to their agenda. Feminist magazines and blogs– Ms,,'s Broadsheet feature, womensenews,com (which has an edition in Arabic) — as well as feminist reporters and commentators in the mainstream media, regularly report on and condemn outrages against women wherever they occur, from rape, battery and murder in the US to the denial of women's human rights in the developing or Muslim world.

As feminists, we call on journalists and opinion writers to report the true position of our movement. We believe that women's rights are human rights, and stand in solidarity with our sisters who are fighting for equal political, economic, social and reproductive rights around the globe. Specifically, contrary to the accusations of pundits, we support their struggle against female genital mutilation, "honor" murder, forced marriage, child marriage, compulsory Islamic dress codes, the criminalization of sex outside marriage, brutal punishments like lashing and stoning, family laws that favor men and that place adult women under the legal power of fathers, brothers, and husbands, and laws that discount legal testimony made by women. We strongly oppose the denial of education, health care and equal political and economic rights to women.

We reject the use of women's rights language to justify invading foreign countries. Instead, we call on the United States government to live up to its expressed commitment to women's rights through peaceful means. Specifically, we call upon it to:

* offer asylum to women and girls fleeing gender-based persecution, including female genital mutilation, domestic violence, and forced marriage;

* promote women's rights and well-being in all their foreign policy and foreign aid decisions;

* use its diplomatic powers to pressure its allies — especially Saudi Arabia, one of the most oppressive countries in the world for women — to embrace women's rights;

* drop the Mexico City policy–aka the 'gag rule'–which bars funds for AIDS- related and contraception-related health services abroad if they provide abortions, abortion information, or advocate for legalizing abortion;

* generously support the UN Population Fund (UNFPA), which supports women's reproductive health including safe maternity around the globe, and whose funding is vetoed every year by President Bush;

* become a signatory to The Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), the basic UN women's human rights document, now signed by 185 nations. The US is one of a handful of holdouts, along with Iran, Sudan, and Somalia.

Finally, we call upon the United States, and all the industrialized nations of the West, to share their unprecedented wealth, often gained at the expense of the developing world, with those who need it in such a way that women benefit

If you agree and wish to be included in the list of signatures, send Katha an e-mail at kpollitt at thenation dot com. Include the name you prefer to use and a descriptor of what you do, i.e., your relevant identity or your job or whatever characterizes you best. If you work for an organization that is relevant, include that, too.