News you can relate to

Some stories that caught our eye this week:

The Abuse Of ‘Feel-Good’ Cop Videos “These videos, combined with the countless videos of black men and women and children shot dead by cops, serve to remind us that we should both fear and love them if we want to survive. And if we don’t survive, we have nobody to blame but ourselves—see how capable of not killing us they can be? Anybody who has been in an abusive relationship will recognize this behavior. It’s a raised hand that might be a slap but then lowers for a pat on the shoulder.”

President Barack Obama Says, “This Is What a Feminist Looks Like” “Yes, it’s important that their dad is a feminist, because now that’s what they expect of all men.”

Middle School Students Push For a Gender-Neutral Dress Code—And Win “The loss of educational time disproportionately targets girls,” says Carlson, who’s now 14. “It’s a very embarrassing and shaming moment, to get dress-coded. We’re still doing that to girls in school right now? We’re still measuring their clothes and telling them to change? That seems ridiculous.”

Nosotros el pueblo (We the people)

Los Estados Unidos han sido mi hogar por los últimos 14 años. Es el país de mi hijo, el lugar que me dió la oportunidad de reinventarme, de iniciar una nueva etapa en mi vida, de ser madre, de desarrollarme profesionalmente. Este país me recibió con los brazos abiertos y cada día me da nuevas oportunidades y libertades para continuar mi crecimiento en todo aspecto. De las cosas que Constitution_We_the_Peoplemás me gustan y respeto de este país es el cómo se formó. Esa esencia donde el respeto a la libertad de creencias, y el respeto a las leyes son principios fundamentales, entre muchos otros el “We the people” (Nosotros el pueblo).

Desafortunadamente la experiencia de millones de inmigrantes en este país, no se compara con mi experiencia como inmigrante. Muchos confrontan abuso y explotación; las familias están siendo separadas, y viven con miedo a ser deportados. Estas familias como la mía, estamos aquí con sueños de ofrecer un mejor futuro para nuestros hijos. Las familias indocumentadas apenas pueden satisfacer las necesidades básicas de sus hijos y el estrés con el que viven ejerce presión en sus relaciones haciendo a veces difícil tener relaciones amorosas y saludables. Nuestro sistema de inmigración es un sistema que no funciona correctamente, simple y llanamente necesita ser reparado o reinventado.

El Presidente Obama, el mes pasado, emitió una orden ejecutiva donde una gran mayoría de inmigrantes que no han tenido la opción de legalizar su estadía en este país puedan hacerlo y así dejar de vivir con el miedo a ser deportados. Con esto, pienso que el Presidente está retomando los principios fundamentales con los que se fundó este país.

La orden ejecutiva es un pequeño paso, un pequeño comienzo de algo que puede convertirse en un verdadero cambio. Es la oportunidad de unirnos y hacer de los Estados Unidos un país aún más rico de lo que ya es. Todos podemos tener creencias y culturas diferentes sin perder nuestra individualidad. Dejemos a un lado el racismo, los prejuicios, y la necesidad de que las cosas tengan que verse de una sola manera.  Cada uno de nosotros tiene un papel importante que ejercer para que este cambio se dé en su plenitud. No nos olvidemos que aquellos que se encargan de aprobar las leyes y hacer este cambio trabajan para nosotros. Vamos a continuar a lo que el Presidente Obama nos hizo favor de iniciar.

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The United States has been my home for the past 14 years. It is the country of my son, the place that gave me the opportunity to reinvent myself, to start a new phase in my life, to grow professionally. This country welcomed me with open arms and every day gives me new opportunities and the freedom to continue my growth in every aspect. The thing that I like most and respect about this country is how it was formed, with a foundation of respect for freedom of beliefs and respect for the law as fundamental principles. “We the people.”

Unfortunately the experiences of millions of immigrants in this country do not match mine. Many face abuse and exploitation, are separated from their families, and live in fear of being deported. These families, like mine, are here with dreams of providing better futures for their children. But when families are undocumented, they can barely meet their children’s basic needs. This stress puts pressure on their relationships making it sometimes difficult to have loving and healthy relationships. Our immigration system is a system that does not work correctly, quite simply it needs to be repaired or reinvented.

Last month President Obama issued an executive order that allows a large majority of immigrants who previously did not have the option to legalize their stay to now do so and stop living in fear of being deported. By doing this I feel the president is returning to the fundamental principles on which this country was founded.

This executive order is a small step, a small beginning of something that can become a real change. It is an opportunity to unite us and make the United States an even richer country than it is already. We all can have diverse beliefs and cultures without losing our individuality. Let’s leave aside racism, prejudice, and the need for things to look alike and be just  one way. Each of us has an important role to play in order for this change to happen. Let’s not forget that the people responsible for passing laws and making these changes work for us. Let’s continue what President Obama has started.

Equal Pay Day is no holiday

Design by Andria Waclawski
Design by Andria Waclawski

Last week we marked Equal Pay Day. It is the day that represents how many days into 2014 women must work to make as much as their male counterparts did in 2013. And as this day came around again, I just had to say: sigh.

In 1963 we passed the Equal Pay Act. Then, women were making on average 59 cents for every dollar a man earned. I’m here to tell you that we have made progress. Today a woman earns on average 77 cents for every man-dollar. So it’s taken over 50 years to close the gap by $0.18! Wow. We MUST do better.

This year on Equal Pay Day, President Obama signed two executive orders to help expose wage discrimination. That’s a step in the right direction. But the very next day the Senate failed (again) to pass the Paycheck Fairness Act, with some claiming unequal pay is a myth and political tactic. It’s true that lower wage jobs often employ more women, and women’s pay—more often than men’s—is affected by taking leave for the care of children. This accounts for some of the gap, but not all of it. Even in occupations where women are the majority of employees, the men in those occupations Make. More. Money. What?! Gender discrimination happens on the job, whether it’s about wages or hiring and promotion practices.

I’d like to live in a world where women can make decisions about their relationships without regard to the financial impact of those decisions. A world where no one must choose to stay in a relationship they would otherwise end because staying means having a warm place to sleep and food for their kids. When we ensure that women have equal pay, are treated fairly at their jobs, and have opportunities to compete for higher paying jobs we create safe and peaceful communities.

An extraordinary day

At our conference last week, we celebrated the passage of the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) and honored Deborah Parker for her strength and leadership. The following is from a speech given by our Executive Director, Nan Stoops.Homepage-Graphic-Conference2013

On February 28 of this year, Congress passed a bill that renewed the Violence Against Women Act. What might have been a somewhat ordinary day on the hill was an extraordinary day for survivors and advocates across the country. We had gone 500 days without VAWA. Not much changed during those 500 days, and yet, in my mind, everything changed.

In my 35 years of doing anti-violence work, I have witnessed and participated in periods of incredible hardship and divisiveness. Times when we compromised and then looked the other way. Times when we failed to listen to each other. Times when we could not, or would not, build the bridges that we say we want and know we need.

Not this time. This time we got it right. This time we were willing to wait 500 days. And in those 500 days, I think we realized that we would go another 500 if we had to. Because we developed the political will and principled strategy that we knew would eventually prevail. We stopped building protections for some at the expense of others. We acknowledged the unique challenges experienced by LGBT and immigrant survivors. And we finally recognized tribal authority over non-tribal members when they commit domestic violence on tribal land.

The legal precedent with respect to tribal sovereignty is significant. So too is the humanity of it. With the passage of VAWA, we broke with the tradition of this country. We were led by our Native sisters and brothers, and we joined with countless organizations to create a pathway for securing the sovereign rights of the indigenous people of this country.

I watched CSPAN on the morning of February 28th. I followed the procedural maneuvers, and I watched the roll call vote. When it was apparent that there were enough votes, I texted Grace (our public policy coordinator) to confirm, and then I just sat there and whispered “wow.” It was as if all of the years and all of the work converged into a moment. We had stayed on the side of “justice for all,” and we had won.

State and federal laws addressing violence against women start with the courage of survivors. The 2013 reauthorization of VAWA was no exception. There was significant leadership from our state. Our policy coordinator, Grace Huang worked practically full time drafting and analyzing the 800 pages of VAWA. All of you responded whenever we asked you to make calls. And when the bill failed to pass, you called again. And again. And again.

But in the end, there is one woman who made all the difference, and we honor her today.

At this time, I’d like to invite our Native sisters and brothers to join me on stage. We are fortunate to have here with us the woman whose courage, truth-telling, vision, and determination paved the way for the historic passage of the Violence Against Women Act. I am profoundly honored to introduce the Vice Chairwoman of the Tulalip Tribe, Deborah Parker.

The Washington State Coalition Against Domestic Violence recognizes Deborah Parker, Vice Chair of the Tulalip Tribe for your strength, courage and leadership.

“This is your day. This is the day of the advocates, the day of the survivors. This is your victory.” – President Barack Obama, March 7, 2013

The bare minimum

Since Labor Day, I’ve been reading a lot about our country’s minimum wage. This is probably not a newsflash (but just so we’re clear), it’s at $7.25, and is not a livable wage. Even here in Washington State, where our minimum wage is the highest in the country at $9.19, it falls short for many working families. The Self Sufficiency Standard calculates what it actually takes to make ends meet in each county. It takes into consideration things like household members’ ages, and cost of housing, food, and childcare. For example, a single mother with 2 kids in Seattle needs to make $26.94 an hour to meet the needs of her family. That same mom in Pend Oreille county needs an hourly wage of $16.33. Even for two working parents, the minimum wage doesn’t work. In Seattle, two working parents with two kids would each need to make $14.58 an hour. In Pend Oreille, more than $10 an hour each.

Back in 1963, one of the things protesters who marched on Washington demanded was a $2.00 minimum wage. Adjusted for inflation, that would be $15.26 today. Recently we have again seen workers rise up against inadequate wages. Fast food employees are asking for a $15 minimum wage. President Obama has mentioned raising it to $9 and some members of Congress have proposed over $10. I’m not one to regularly read the Bloomberg report, but I came across this article from a self-described Capitalist who fully supports a significant minimum wage hike. He argues that “the fundamental law of capitalism is that if workers have no money, businesses have no customers. That’s why the extreme, and widening, wealth gap in our economy presents not just a moral challenge, but an economic one, too.”

Some argue against this, claiming these are “entry level” jobs that are starting points, not places to stay long-term and support a family. But when we look at who is earning minimum wage, we see that the vast majority are adults and most of those adults are women. minimum-wage-chart

We have to ask ourselves, what do we value? If you (and your partner) work, should you be able to afford the basics for your family? If you’re in an abusive relationship, should you be able to earn enough so that money doesn’t factor in to whether you stay or go? A higher minimum wage could mean freedom, safety, and security for those experiencing abuse. And I’m all for that.

Why aren’t they restricting condoms?

Not exactly on point, but I got what my teenager was asking. Even she gets the double-standard of the Obama administration’s position on emergency contraception. She asked, “If they think that making it easy for girls to get emergency contraception means that they are going to have more sex, then why do boys get to buy condoms without any problems?” This is mind-boggling coming after President Obama’s speech at the Planned Parenthood Conference: “When it comes to a woman’s health, no politician should get to decide what’s best for you.”condoms

Why do I have a problem with the government policy? Because of all the barriers: you must be 15, you must have a government-issued or photo id (not something all schools provide), you must purchase it in a store that has a stand-alone pharmacy (rare in rural and remote communities), and it is expensive—even though Medicaid covers other over-the-counter medicines like condoms.

We have plenty of evidence-based scientific studies proving that emergency contraception is safe, prevents ovulation, and cannot terminate an existing pregnancy. We have research that shows the dramatic decline in unintended teen pregnancy and abortion rates when teens learn how to use contraception more effectively.

We also know that teens who are abused experience birth control sabotage, pressure to get pregnant, and significantly higher rates of unintended pregnancy. Emergency contraception is important because negotiating birth control methods is awkward in any relationship, but it’s nearly impossible if you’ve got an abusive partner who wants control.

Thank you Mr. President

President Obama is finally out of the closet. Last week, after years of dropping hints, he became the first president to declare his belief that “same sex couples should be able to get married.” New clarity and leadership is especially welcome as North Carolina becomes the thirtieth state to adopt a constitutional amendment banning marriage between same sex partners. So it seems like a good time for a refresher on why gay marriage matters (not just for gays!), and why Washingtonians should be paying attention.

  1. For better or worse (get it?), marriage is a really important civil and cultural institution. Denying GLBT people access to the civil right to marry cuts deeper than the rights themselves. It communicates that GLBT people are not equally valued or protected by law. And that makes us more vulnerable to violence at home and on the street.
  2. The anti-gay agenda is not just anti-gay. In North Carolina and 19 other states, the marriage amendment not only bans same sex marriage, but any type of civil union that is not marriage. Among other lost benefits, domestic violence and stalking protections may no longer apply to unmarried partners, gay or straight. When Ohio passed a similar amendment, courts denied domestic violence protections to survivors for two years until the state Supreme Court settled the issue.
  3. We’re all being played. Strategy memos from the National Organization for Marriage don’t mince words: “The strategic goal…is to drive a wedge between gays and blacks — two key Democratic constituencies.” This isn’t just about defeating gay marriage; it is about using homophobia and racism to keep people divided from each other and politically weak.

Marriage equality is likely to be on the ballot in Washington State this November. We have the chance to be the first state to defend marriage equality by popular vote. I’m ready for us to make history.

Unite – not for a party but to work

photo via http://www.sideofsneakers.com

I was taken aback by the celebratory reactions to Osama bin Laden’s death. I watched people chanting U-S-A in sportsman spirit and rejoicing outside the White House. Unfortunately, in some parts of the country, messages of hate were directed towards Muslims. While President Obama was clear in his message that bin Laden’s death was not an attack on Islam, post 9/11 government policies on immigration and “counter-terrorism” have had a huge undertone of racism.

So were the celebratory chants of vengeance appropriate? Some certainly don’t think so.

In trying to sort out what bin Laden’s death means, I found myself saddened by the “us vs. them” reactions. “Us vs. them” doesn’t get us where we want to go. As Nelson Mandela said upon his release from prison:

We enter into a covenant that

we shall build a society in which all South Africans,

both black and white,

will be able to walk tall,

without…fear in their hearts,

assured of their inalienable right to human dignity

– a rainbow nation at peace with itself and the world.

Nelson Mandela’s release could have caused a backlash for white South Africans. But instead, he urged all South Africans to work together to build a diverse and stronger nation.

In Mandela’s words, I found some clarity. Bin Laden’s death does not mean that we return to a pre-9/11 world. What it means is that we need to move past “us vs. them” and work together.

We have to unite with citizens and immigrants alike in the fight for immigrant rights; and

We have to unite with Muslims and non-Muslims alike in the fight for religious freedom; and

We have to unite with LGBTQ people and straight allies alike in the fight for equality; and

We have to unite with men and women alike in the fight for gender equality and relationships without violence.

Because uniting to protect each others’ rights does not threaten or diminish our own.