You are currently browsing the category archive for the ‘Chicago’ category.

Besides the obvious presidential election, which I voted early for already, there are a few other elections and states that I’ve got my eye on this year:

  1. Back in May, a California Supreme Court judge ruled their gay marriage ban unconstitutional.  One month later, hundreds of couples (including Ellen Degeneres) got their marriage on.  This, of course, infuriated conservatives, who then garnered enough signatures to take it to the voters, resulting in Proposition 8.  Proposition 8 states that marriage should be between a man and a woman.  This will make for a confusing ballot- those who believe in marriage equality have to vote no on Prop 8, while those who disagree have to vote yes.  Conservatives are pulling out all stops to make this proposition pass, including cyber attacking the No on Prop 8 website.  Check out some awesome videos encouraging people to vote no here.
  2. Another cause near and dear to my heart- animal rights.  Once again, California is taking the lead in reform and has drafted Proposition 2, an animal rights proposition that would outlaw certain types of animal confinement crates, such as gestation crates and battery crates. 
  3. The magic number right now is 60 for the Democratic Party to have a fillibuster-proof majority over the Senate.  There are 12 GOP seats up for election this year, and a few very close races:
  • Ted Stevens, the Republican senator from Alaska, was convicted of corruption charges and ethics violation, yet he still claims to be staying in the race.  Here’s hoping that Alaskans maybe see that whole ethics violation as a bad trait to have in a senator and instead go for Anchorage Mayor Mark Begich.
  • Former SNL star and political writer Al Franken is running for a US senate seat in Minnesota against incumbent Norm Coleman and seems to be taking the lead.
  • In North Carolina, incumbent Elizabeth Dole seems to be losing her steam while Democratic candidate Kay Hagan is moving forward.  It’s really tight at this point, but Dole may very well lose her seat.

This is a pretty big election year, for so many obvious and not so obvious reasons.  Let’s keep our fingers crossed for an amazing Election Day and a joyous Wednesday, November 5th.  As for me, I’ll be partying down at Obamapalooza in Grant Park on the night of November 4th.

Chicago has become the third city in the US to consider having a specific LGBTA friendly high school, after New York’s Harvey Milk High School and Milwaukee’s Alliance School.  The school would be open to all students, but cater specifically to the needs of LGBT students and allies.  As the Chicago Board of education considers this school to be added to the Chicago Public Schools in 2010, Mayor Daley has expressed his hesitation in such a school, citing concern over segregating students:

“You have to look at whether or not you isolate and segregate children. A holistic approach has always been to have children of all different backgrounds in schools. When you start isolating children and you say, ‘Only 50 percent here, 40 percent here’ — same thing we went through with the disabled — then you want to do that when they’re adults.”

Something that caught my eye in the Sun Times articleon this issue (even though it’s no longer available in the article) is that they initially talked about how baffling it was that a mayor, so well known for his support of LGBT rights (helping fund Center on Halsted, supporting the Chicago Gay and Lesbian Hall of Fame, supporting the Cook County domestic partner registry, appointing a liaison to LGBT issues) could take this kind of stance. 

Really??  I just don’t understand why someone would find Mayor Daley to be unsupportive of LGBT rights just because he is wary of this project because of the segregation it would cause.  Oh yeah, did I mention that Rick Garcia of Equality Illinois completely agrees with him?  From the Sun Times article:

“There’s no doubt there’s violence and bullying of gay kids and something has to be done, but segregating them is not the answer,” said Garcia. “It doesn’t stop bullying at other schools. And if a kid is different and the object of scorn or bullying, instead of addressing it, the teacher might say, ‘Send him to homo high.’

“Instead of a school for gay kids, maybe we need a school for the bullies. Gay kids are not the problem. Bullies and teachers and administrators who don’t stop the bullying are the problem,” he said.

I completely agree with Rick.  Taking LGBT students out of a bullying situation will make them temporarily safer, but it does nothing to help change the stereotypes and the prejudice that the bully has.  So, once the students leave high school, they’ll be faced with the same situation.  Think of the millions of dollars it would cost to build a new school.  Wouldn’t that money be much better spent creating tolerance programs, anti-bully initiatives, harsher punishments for bullies, or after-school programs? 

I know the stats about the higher drop out rates and lower average grades of LGBT students.  I fear for these students and the intolerance they may face.  Something absolutely needs to be done.  But segregating the students?  I just don’t think that’s the answer.

…to make Illinois the safest state for women and girls?

That’s the question that the Chicago Foundation for Women (CFW) is going to be asking all year long with their What Will It Take? campaign. Thanks to a hefty grant from good ol‘ G-Rod, CFW has $2 million to spend to help ask that question. They kicked off their initiative on March 8th (International Women’s Day in every country but the US) and have been going strong ever since, already having hosted seven town hall meetings around the state (including places like Champaign, Macomb, and the south side of Chicago) and doling out $1 million in grants to organizations helping ask and answer the question, “What will it take?”

There are many amazing things about this campaign, and I’d like to go through just a few of them. First of all, the idea of having an initiative that asks a question instead of giving an answer is amazing. They’re stimulating dialogue throughout the state and really trying to get as much input as possible to answer that question. They hope to reach 4 million people by the end of the campaign, and with such a rigorous schedule, I’m confident they will. They launched an intense ad campaign, putting posters on public transportation, producing PSAs for both the radio and television, and taking out full-page ads in many of Chicago’s print media. They’re getting in our faces about it because it seems like such a silent question- everybody’s complaining about it, but nobody’s facing up to the fact that the answer to that question is us. We are what it will take to make Illinois the safest state for women and girls, and we are what will make this world safer for women and girls. We just need to own up to it.

Another amazing aspect of this initiative is that they have an entire Men’s Initative included in it. CFW feels that men have not really been considered allies in the fight against gender-based violence, and they’re right. We are such a victim-blaming society (What was she wearing? Was she drunk? Was she leading him on? Did she deserve it?), that the perpetrators, who are mostly men, are never considered. So, CFW wants to change that by taking the question to men and boys as well. They’re asking men what will it take, and they’re reaching out to boys to show them early on that gender-based violence is unacceptable. By reaching them earlier, it helps instill the message before they are bombarded by mainstream media and other forms of influence in this society.

I attended one of their town hall meetings the other night and was so impressed with the program. There were multiple performance artists there to speak about different issues in women’s lives, such as body image, sexual assault, prostitution, and even men’s views of women’s issues. They then opened the floor up to everyone in the audience to voice their own concerns and comments about the issues in their lives regarding women’s rights. It was great to hear so many men and women talk about what they see the biggest concern is in the fight for women’s rights and to hear the different challenges and hopes that exist.

As Hannah Rosenthal, the fabulous executive director for Chicago Foundation for Women said, “Asking a question begs an answer.” So, please check out the website for What Will It Take? . Attend a town hall, attend their events, give them your ideas and comments, get involved. Let’s all start asking the question; to ourselves, to our friends, our family, our coworkers, strangers on the street, everyone around us. Let’s start shouting the questions, screaming the question, until we start coming up with answers and actions that will help make Illinois the safest state in the country for women and girls. Because once we do that, the next step is the country, then the world.

For those of you in the Chicago area, you may or may not know about Women and Children First. It’s one of the world’s largest feminist bookstores, and it’s located right here in Chicago, in the heart of Andersonville. This book store is absolutely amazing: the owners and staff are incredibly helpful and always willing to give suggestions. They host a number of different monthly book clubs, including an Inter-generational Feminist Book Club, A Teen Feminist Book Club, and a Religious Feminist Book Club. They host readings from well-known authors, both local and national, and Eve Ensler, my absolute idol and the founder of the V-Day movement and the Vagina Monologues, has spoken there multiple times. They are true supporters of Chicago non-profits. Every month, they sponsor a different non-profit that affects women’s lives and not only set up a display of information about that organization, but they also donate 10% of their profits from that month to them.

But, as many of you may or may not know, local bookstores are in a total crisis right now. Due to super bookstore conglomerates like Barnes and Noble, Borders and Amazon.com, people have forgotten about their local bookstores, which were there, providing books loooooong before Barnes and Noble or Borders ever set up shop (Hey, wasn’t there a movie about this?)

Here’s an excerpt from an article in the amazing Windy City Times:

“People don’t know perhaps the breadth of our stock. They may well find things that they don’t expect to,” said co-owner Ann Christophersen. “Our identity has shifted a bit since moving to Andersonville. We still are a specialty—a feminist store. We carry a lot of books by and about women in a depth and breadth that you just won’t find at other general bookstores. But, since moving to this location, we’re functioning more as a neighborhood bookstore and Women & Children First doesn’t quite capture that fact. It just shows our focus, but not our entire store.”

Underscoring that statement is the fact that the store’s customer base is about 40 percent men. W&CF has a diverse stock of books, including some sports titles that, no doubt, would appeal to male consumers. W&CF also has a deep selection of contemporary politics and loads of fiction titles.“We certainly have a lot of male customers these days. Heck, there are times when there are only male [ customers ] in the store, and that wasn’t the case in the early days,” Christophersen said. “Our male customer-base has risen significantly over the years because we carry a very diverse selection of books.”

The staff at W&CF includes two full-timers, including Bubon, as well as six part-timers. The staff is knowledgeable, helpful and friendly. One thing that has affected independent bookstores over the past few years is a decline in sales—and W&CF is no exception. “At the end of the 1990s, we were at a good place [ financially ] ,” Bubon said. “We maintained [ that level ] for the first few years [ of the 2000s ] , but the last three years have been a downward trend in sales.” One factor hurting sales at W&CF is competition, of course. Borders Books & Music, for instance, has four locations—all within four miles of W&CF. The Internet is also a significant factor because it’s made book-shopping simple and cheaper, especially for those who know exactly what they want. “It’s extremely hard to compete with [ the Internet ] ,” Bubon said.

W&CF was one of the first Chicago-area bookstores to sell online, and it still does.“We’re working as smartly and operating as smartly as, frankly, we know how to,” Christophersen said. “We have done everything we can think of to cut our operating costs, including my salary.” Things have gotten so bad at W&CF that both confirm the store must now plan month-to-month, not long-term. And the possibility that W&CF might close before the end of the summer is very real, they confirmed. “What it ultimately comes down to is: whether people in the community, and the city as a whole, decide it matters enough that we exist and then make their shopping decisions based on that,” Christophersen said. “We want people’s support, and we need it now. By that we mean, that they buy their books here. “What we offer that none of the Internet sites offer is: an actual place where people can look at books they may be interested in, see other people, and hear book suggestions.”

Here are some helpful tips from one of the owners on how to save this store:

1. Choose to shop at our store. Besides great books, we also carry a hand-picked selection of new release independent music by women, jewelry, buttons and bumper stickers, all the cool magazines, and a children’s section we are famous for.

2. Talk us up to your friends, or, better yet, bring them in.

3. When you attend free programs at our store, please buy a book! This not only supports our programming endeavors, it also supports the writer and tells the publisher that it is worthwhile to send their authors to us.

4. Sign up on our website for our free e-newsletter to keep up to date with what’s happening at the store: www.womenandchildrenfirst.com

5. Be our MySpace friend and subscribe to our MySpace blog for same reason as above.

6. Become a bookstore member. Annual membership costs $25 and gets you 10% off of all your book purchases, plus inclusion in the annual member’s-only sale and a free subscription to More Books For Women(a $35 value!), a monthly round-up of recommendations from feminist bookstores around the country. Keep up with the latest new releases!

7. Show your love: put us in your top “My Space” friends.

8. If you are in a position to do corporate gift giving, consider our “Books by the Box” program. We offer direct to business delivery and substantial discounts on 20 or more copies of a single book.

9. Support the Women’s Voices Fund, our not-for-profit programming arm, which helps sustain our active free programming schedule. Donations of over $50 are tax deductible when made out the the Crossroads Foundation (they manage the Women’s Voices Fund). This also helps insure the future and diversity of feminist programming in Chicago!

10. We can offer bulk discounts to libraries, social service organizations, schools, and more. If you have a bulk book order to place, come to us first.

11. Tell us what we need to do to be your dream bookstore. If there is anyway that we can serve you better, let us know. Your opinion matters to us. Our ability to meet your needs is essential right now to our survival. Help us make that happen!

12. For birthdays and holidays tell your friends and family that you want a Women & Children First Gift Card!

13. Repost this with your own testimonies, and share this info with your friends, colleagues, classmates, and strangers on the street.

My life in Chicago would be drastically different if it weren’t for Women and Children First. This is just as much a local business and sustainability issue as it is a feminist issue. Please, try and help a struggling star stay burning bright admist the vast array of shiny, cold corporate supernovas.

Treat yourself this holiday season! Kick off your holidays with festive, feminist fun and join the women of Chicago NOW’s Lesbian Rights Team at Early to Bed for our third Wine and Cheese soiree. Meet the women of Chicago NOW’s Lesbian Rights Team! Shop at a sex-positive, feminist-owned sex toy store! Learn about all of the nifty toys that are on the market. Come for the free nibbles and wine and stay for the company and raffle prizes. The event is free and open to the public although donations are encouraged. Mistletoe not included! Happy Holidays!

Come have some fun and find the perfect Christmas/Hanukkah/Solstice/Kwanzaa gift for that special someone in your life 🙂

For two years, I lived in a country where corruption ran rampant. Unlike here in the US, it was poorly hidden. Elections were very obvious indicators of this. I was lucky enough to be present during a shot-gun presidential election (the then-president had died tragically in an airplane crash) as well as a parliamentary election AND a referendum. I remember hearing about scare tactics by all parties, extremely biased election judges, and constant ballot box stuffing. While it was disheartening to hear of such raging scandal in a country that I grew to love so dearly, I expected it. It was, after all, a “developing country.”

I now live in Chicago, and we all know the slogan here: “Vote early, vote often!” I had my first experience with the Chicago voting system on Tuesday and was a little surprised at what I found:

I entered the Days Inn Hotel around 12:30 on Election Day, excited to take part in such an important mid-term election. As it was only my second time voting in person, I was a little nervous, but confident that I could maneuver my way around a voting booth. I stepped up to the table, voter card and ID in hand as well as a piece of mail from my current address (my drivers license still has my old ‘burbs address on it). I greeted the kind-looking election judge in front of me, proudly stated my name and extended my hand to give him my voter card.

“Oh no, we don’t need that. You look like an honest face,” the older gentleman told me with a chuckle.

WHAT?! So, does that mean that I could have given any name of anyone that I knew who was registered to vote in my precinct as well as go to any precinct and give any name, as long as I have an honest face? I confusedly took my voter card and proceeded to rock the vote, all the while a little troubled by how easy it apparently is to screw the system.

Funnily enough, it seems as though this election faced the same voting fraud and issues as 2004. Will we hear as much ruckus about it now as we did then? Probably not. Now, don’t get me wrong- I was unbelievably upset at the 2000 and 2004 outcomes and was one of the many liberal voices complaining (although, unfortunately, not doing much else to help solve the problem). Now that the election seems to have gone in favor of the Left, will there be as much of an outcry? Even there is, it doesn’t seem like much is being done about it. In the end, the result was more favorable to the majority, but does that excuse all of the problems that happened on the way to getting that result?

This all begs the question that’s been floating around in my head since Tuesday: Is our voting system really much better than that of the “developing countries” that we dismiss so easily?

I don’t think so.

Now it may be a little early to start talking about the election while a few crucial races are still being tallied and, unfortunately, may not be determined until December, thanks to Virgina recount laws. But, here’s my recap of the so-far surprising victories, upsetting loses and everything in between (with a special emphasis on IL):

The House

Congratulations to Democrats for gaining (as of 7:15 am CST) 28 seats, which is well over their needed 15. Hooray for Nancy Pelosi becoming the first female Speaker of the House. You know what that means? Only two higher positions left never to be held by a female: vice president and president. (Hillary 2008, anyone? We’ll save that for another day- I’m still undecided.)

Melissa Bean was able to hold her seat in the IL 08 district, my former hometown district. I was shocked at how close the vote was 2 years ago when she was running against Phil Crane, so I’m equally as shocked to see that it wasn’t as close of a race this time around. Nevertheless, I’m glad to see that she gets another 2 years to prove her worth.

As for the bad, unfortunately Tammy Duckworth from the IL 06 district was unable to clinch a victory for that seat. I thought she was a pretty cool chick, but that was a tough campaign from the start. But, on the bright side, losing by about 4,000 votes is pretty darn close.

The Senate

Not much to say about that for now. Still waiting on Montana and Virginia.

Illinois Gubernatorial Race

I am only slightly glad to see Blagojevich win a second term.

I voted Green on this one. No, I didn’t throw my vote away OR take it away from Blagojevich. It was never his to begin with- it was and always will be my vote to do with it what I want. Obviously, Topinka was never a question for me- she does not represent my beliefs nor do I feel that she is any less corrupt than any other politician in Illinois. That led me, at first, to decide to vote for Blagojevich. He’s done some great things for the state, including universal health care for all children and extending health care benefits to same-sex domestic partners of state employees. However, he is unbelievably corrupt, and I just didn’t feel good voting for corruption. So, after realizing that *gasp* there is another option, I checked out Rich Whitney and was really happy with what I saw: an environmentalist, a human rights activist (he’s a civil rights attorney), a HUGE supporter of LGBT rights and the only candidate who was an active supporter of same-sex marriage. I was absolutely thrilled to see this third option and quickly became a Whitney supporter.

No, I never expected him to win the election, but winning 11% of the vote is pretty freaking awesome for a third party candidate. This also means that he surpassed the 5% minimum needed to have a permanent ballot line in Illinois elections. I see this as a win for multi-party politics.

The Terribly Depressing

I’m going to try really hard not to just go off on America right now. It will take a lot of self-restraint. At this point, 7 of the 8 states with gay marriage bans on their ballots decided that it was a fantastic idea to write discrimination into their constitutions. Thank you Colorado, Idaho, South Dakota (more on you later- we may still be friends), South Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia and *sigh* Wisconsin for pushing this country even further into the depths of human rights violations. Wisconsin has truly hurt me the most as I thought that there was a very good chance that enough people outside of Dane County (a pretty obvious win) would vote against this terrible ban. I spent some time canvassing in Madison with Fair Wisconsin last weekend and was mistakenly emboldened by the positive support against the ban that was found there. Unfortunately, a state can’t be judged solely by its liberal college town.. The thing that really grills me, though, is that 26% of those who voted in favor of the ban consider themselves liberal. 26%?!?!?!?! I’m sorry, but if you are a supporter of writing discrimination into your state’s constitution, you are not a liberal. I understand that some liberals may have moral objections to same-sex marriage, but there is a difference between moral objections and declaring it illegal.

However, there is one small shining light of hope coming from Arizona. It’s not positive, but with 99% of the vote in, it looks like Arizona could become the first state to successfully defeat a gay marriage ban. You know, all states can’t be as rock star as Illinois, which wouldn’t even stand for the idea of a same-sex marriage ban being put on the ballot.

The Surprisingly Delightful

I can’t even begin to say how surprised and thrilled I am to see that South Dakota rejected the abortion ban on their ballot. I was almost convinced that it would have been passed, but South Dakota has pleasantly surprised me. Way to go!

Of course, this doesn’t mean that a woman’s right to choose is protected. One day after elections, the Supreme Court will hear two different cases regarding “partial-birth” abortions. With the current makeup of the Supreme Court (4 conservative, 4 “liberal” and 1 moderate conservative swing), I’m a little nervous.

OK, folks, that wraps up this morning’s Day-After Election Day thoughts. More will come as we all scramble to get the latest news, by either frantically refreshing the CNN homepage or gluing ourselves to the TV. More to come soon!

Not to beat a dead horse, but please please please vote! Here is some vital information for Illinois and Chicago voters:

—> Don’t know where your polling place is? I didn’t either. When I was a resident of Lake County, they printed it on my voting card. Not so lucky in Cook County. Thankfully, the Board of Election Commissioners for the City of Chicago can help you here.

—> Wanna know what your ballot will look like? Check out Vote-IL.org for a preview of what will end up on your ballot.

—> Too many referendums to count? This lovely pdf gives you all of the referendums on the ballot for Chicago, and it’s broken down by ward and precinct. If you don’t know your ward and/or precinct, you’ll get that info at the Board of Election Commissioners site.

Big thanks to the unknown guys on the Chicago Critical Mass listserv who sent out this info.

What Is This Girl Talking About??