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Happy belated Love Your Body Day!  Celebrated this year on October 15th, this day was created by the National Organization for Woman in 1998 in an effort to speak out against negative, offensive and disrespectful ads that cause most of us to feel not so great about our bodies.  This day was created to encourage everyone to love their body for all of its beauty and all of its “flaws” and to truly accept your body for the amazing thing that it is.  Since its initial success ten years ago, this day has grown to be a true national day of recognition for the rockstar bodies that we all have and to embrace more positive marketing that encourages us to love ourselves. 

Locally, the Chicago chapter of NOW celebrates this awesome day by sponsoring an essay contest for high school girls around the city.  This year’s theme is “Why I Love My Body”.  A panel will choose 3 essay winners and honor them at our annual meeting.

Many in the blogosphere are celebrating by publishing their own letters to their bodies for all to see.  So, in the spirit of celebrating an amazing day, here is my own letter:

Dear body,

It’s been a rough week, I know.  But we really kicked some ass this weekend at the marathon.  I know that I’ve been pushing you a lot these past few months, but wasn’t it all worth it when we passed the finish line?  I’m sorry I wasn’t listening to you the whole time and caused us to get so dehydrated.  But, in the end, we came out pretty great, right?  This running thing is a whole lot of fun, and I’m looking forward to doing a lot more with you.

Thank you for being such a rock star body that can support an intense 4-month marathon training.  We really pushed ourselves to the limit, that’s for sure.  Thank you for withstanding that and standing up to the challenge and helping me grow stronger.  And thank you for letting me know when I wasn’t taking care of myself enough during training.  The extra pounds I put on were a little disconcerting, but once I found out that I wasn’t treating you right, I made sure to take better care.

We’ve had a rather rocky relationship, I know.  There are times when I still struggle to be at peace with us.  But I think I’m getting better.  Day by day, I can feel myself moving more towards a healthier place where I stop comparing us to everyone else and am just happy with how original and unique we are.   Sometimes I slip, but I think that I’ve come a long way from that poem that I wrote as a teenager.  And we’ll get there, I know we will.  It just may take some more time.  But I’m working on it.

But, because I’m in a good place right now in this moment, let’s take some time to appreciate us.  I love our blue eyes.  I think we have a rockin’ rack.  I appreciate our strong runner’s legs, our sturdy feet, and our healthy lungs that get us running in the mornings.  I think we sport our ink quite well and plan to adorn us much more with such beautiful art.  Apparently, we’ve got a pretty nice backside, too, and I promise to try harder to believe it when people tell me. 

I love you, body, and I promise to keep working on remembering how awesome we are when I get down as long as you promise to keep holding me up.

Love,
Shayne

Here’s more info on what you can do as well as facts on body image issues and Love Your Body Day.

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“Feminism has never been about getting a job for one woman. It’s about making life more fair for women everywhere. It’s not about a piece of the existing pie; there are too many of us for that. It’s about baking a new pie.”

Gloria Steinem, Los Angeles Times 9/4/08

Another article worth reading from Salon.com

Thanks to the updates I get from the ONE Campaign, I found this awesome new movement and video that I think everyone should take 2 1/4 minutes to watch. I don’t know much about this campaign quite yet, but from what I see, I’m really digging it. You gotta love these kinds of videos that don’t use the fancy shmancy effects, don’t use the celebrity endorsements, just facts given in a way we can all understand. I’m Too Young for This, an awesome young adult cancer group, also masters this art in their PSA’s.

Now, dig a little deeper, and you’ll find that The Girl Effect is financed by the Nike Foundation, and I think we all know how I feel about Nike. One can’t help but notice the irony in Nike supporting a campaign like this when they more than likely subject these same girls to awful sweatshop conditions. Could this all be just one big PR campaign to make people forget about their past sins? I’m not sure. With other powerhouses like the NoVo Foundation behind it, it gives it a sense of legitimacy.

Regardless, it offers some sobering facts:

• When a girl in the developing world receives seven or more years of education, she marries four years later and has 2.2 fewer children.
• An extra year of primary school boosts girls’ eventual wages by 10 to 20 percent. An extra year of secondary school: 15 to 25 percent.
• Research in developing countries has shown a consistent relationship between better infant and child health and higher levels of schooling among mothers.
• When women and girls earn income, they reinvest 90 percent of it into their families, as compared to only 30 to 40 percent for a man.

Check it out and share your thoughts.

…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.

I’m sure most of you know what today was- the swearing in of the 110th Congress, which is pretty historic in its own right (1st Democratic majority in what, 12 years?). However, the most important part of this day would definitley be the election of Nancy Pelosi as the Speaker of the House (Check out her inspirational speech here). Did anyone catch the fact that she’s the first woman to hold this position?

Guess what that means? That’s right. She’s third in line for the presidency. Now, I know that there has never been an instance where the Speaker has had to assume the position of the President, but with so many organizations formed solely to impeach both Bush AND Cheney, it really makes you think. I know that these organizations have very, very, very little chance in succeeding to impeach both Bush and Cheney, especially with only 2 years left of this reign of terror, but there’s still that question lingering in the air: Is America ready for a female president?

An interesting note: Hillary voted for the war in Iraq. Unlike other Dems like John Kerry, she has never expressed regret over it or a wish to change her vote. Some say that it’s because she’s a woman who may be running for president. If she says she regrets the decision or wishes she could change her vote, that paints her as a big wishy-washy woman. Chew on that.

I’m working on a big Hilary vs. Barack blog, but I’m gonna wait until one (or both) actually declare candidacy. Until then, I’ll leave you with my gut feelings so far: At this point, it’s not a question of whether or not America’s ready for a female president. It’s about whether or not America is ready for Hilary Clinton as president.

…feminist, activist, vegetarian, Return Peace Corps Volunteer, Chicagoan, agnostic, adoptee…woman. When someone is asked to describe themselves on the most basic level, I’m sure that one of the first things that comes to mind is “male” or “female”. (Of course, some don’t have the luxury of being born of both the same sex and gender, but that is definitely for another post.) The point I’m trying to make is that this blog here is being written from the woman in me. I’m not writing this as a scientist or a theologian. I’m sure I could do hours upon hours of research about abortion coming from a scientist’s or theologian’s view and come up with support for both sides. But, I’m neither of those. Many aspects of my life affect my view on abortion, but first and foremost, I’m a woman. That’s where I’m writing this from. So, when you read this, know that I don’t know the scientific facts about fetuses and pain and I won’t be able to quote any scripture that supports or condemns it. This is coming straight from the ovaries.

On December 4, the House of Representatives is expected to vote on what they call the “Unborn Child Pain Awareness Act.” Basically, this act would force physicians to provide brochures to women seeking abortions at 20 weeks or more after fertilization. The content of these brochures has been scripted by anti-abortion legislators, not actual physicians, and says that the woman’s “unborn child” will experience pain while “being killed in an abortion”. The physician is then required to offer the woman anesthesia to be administered to the fetus. The physician is liable to up to a $100,000 fine for refusing to take all of these steps. A second offense will cost the physician $250,000.

Not only does this extremely biased act promote using scare tactics and intimidation against women who have all made a very difficult choice, but it also makes it even more difficult to get an abortion: By requiring anaesthesia to be offered, doctors are forced to cover the costs of the service as well as the insurance and training involved in it. Abortion clinics, even those associated with such well-known groups as Planned Parenthood, are barely staying afloat as it is. Thus, the cost of an abortion will go up, making it even less viable for so many women who are already in dire financial situations.

Let’s not forget the fact that the term “unborn child” is used instead of “fetus”. This isn’t the first time that a fetus has been referred to as an “unborn child” in our legislation: In 2004, President Bush signed the Unborn Victims of Violence Act of 2004, which provides that “any person who causes death or injury to a child in the womb shall be charged with a separate offense, in addition to any charges relating to the mother.” This act is better known as “Laci and Conner’s Law”, referring to the 2005 Scott Peterson case where Scott Peterson was convicted of murdering his wife, Laci Peterson, and their unborn son, who was already named Conner. Connecting this act to a heinous crime made it much easier to swallow, as it garnered much praise while questions over how a fetus can have human rights and whether a repeal of Roe v. Wade was next fell to deaf ears.

Women’s rights are being snipped away with tricky wording and the pulling of America’s heartstrings right and left. Last month, the Supreme Court began hearing oral arguements in two different cases addressing the “partial birth abortion” ban that Bush signed in 2003. And although the South Dakota abortion ban was defeated this past November, Roe v. Wade is in danger of being overturned. The Dems have control of Congress again, but our Supreme Court still consists of a majority of conservatives.

If abortion were to become illegal, it wouldn’t go away. It would just relocate to back alleys and dirty rooms. Women would die from the procedures, or face terrible disease and infections. A woman has a right to her body, period. If we were considered to be alive and human beings at the beginning of conception, then 3 months after we were delivered, we’d be 1 year old. There’s a reason that the day we’re delivered is called our birthday. And, to steal from George Carlin, if we are alive and human beings in the womb, then why don’t we hold funerals for miscarriages?

Say what you want about whether you personally would be able to have an abortion or not. Even if you don’t think you’d be able to, even if you don’t agree with abortion as a form of birth-control, you can still be pro-choice and honor a woman’s right to her body. Think about it.

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Post-Script: On December 6, the Unborn Child Pain Awareness Act failed to pass in the House. Thank goodness!

As the holidays roll around, I’m sure we’re all starting to scratch our heads and ponder what to get our loved ones. I’d love to blog all about the holidays and consumerism, but I’m going to save that for another day. Besides, it would totally defeat the purpose of what I’m about to tell you!

So, as we’re all constructing our shopping lists and checking them twice, please consider buying gifts from socially-concious shops. There are so many organizations that offer beautiful gifts that are handcrafted by men and women all around the world. Not only that, but the proceeds of those purchases go towards helping those less fortunate- be it formerly incarcerated women, men and women in third-world countries, fair-trade farmers or domestic abuse survivors. I know it’s so easy to run to Target or your local super mall to grab everything you need for a cheap price and save some cash for the holidays. But please take a moment and think of those less fortunate than you. Think of the environment. Think of the future.

Have I inspired you yet? Check out the plethora of sites available. I really just scratched the surface, thanks to Britt Bravo of the awesome Have Fun, Do Good blog and some of my own basic research:

The V-Day Shop– Remember the Vagina Monologues? Well, the movement that started that, V-Day is still going quite strong and has a small shop where you can buy a few items to help support the movement to end violence against women.

Women and Children First– This is a fantastically fabulous woman-owned and run bookstore, specializing in women’s issues and LGBT issues. They’re an independently owned bookstore, which is definitely an endangered species, so all the more reason to shop there! You can order online or check out their shop in Andersonville. Bonus: They donate 10% of their proceeds to a different women’s or LGBT organization every month.

Oxfam America– Oxfam is an international organization dedicated to making positive change for the poor by focusing on three main areas: development, emergency relief and campaigning. Their American site offers lots of great ideas for holiday shopping. Buy a cow for a family in a developing country and help provide an entire economic support system. You can also buy other animals and gardens, irrigate a farmer’s land for 2 months (for only $20!), help support indigenous women or small business owners or provide gender rights training for community activists. They’ve also got a great list of other great ways to help the poor through your shopping, including fair trade products as well as a list of groups around the US who offer homemade foods and crafts and support rural communities.

Women’s Bean Project, Inc.– This Denver-based initiative teaches workplace competencies for entry-level jobs through employment and by teaching job readiness. They employ women with histories of poverty, unemployment, a lack of education, single mothers, etc. They sell mostly food such as soups, cookie mixes, and spice rubs.

The Enterprising Kitchen– Very much like Women’s Bean Project, but this one is Chi-town based and they offer natural soaps, candles, and other fun bath products. The women here have the opportunity to work in all aspects of an enterprise: manufacturing, customer service, direct sales, assembly, production and shipping and receiving. I’ve actually been here and seen the warehouse in action, and it is mighty impressive.

Thistle Farms– Similar to the previous two groups, but with a little extra- Thistle Farms is the cottage business of Magdalene, a two-year residential community in Nashville, TN for women with a criminal history of addiction and prostitution. They offer natural and organic handmade healing products which reflects their desire to heal themselves.

The Nest– A non-profit that supports women artists and artisans of the developing world by helping creat sustainable entrepreneurial businesses. They provide micro-credit loans (all the rage these days) that are used for purchasing necessary supplies and materials for beginning/maintaining arts and crafts-based businesses. They raise this money through the sales of merchandise exclusively produced by both well-known artisans as well as the recipients of the micro-credit loans as repayment for their loans.

Rosie’s Place– The mission of Rosie’s Place is to provide a safe and nurturing environment for poor and homless women in the Boston area. They introduce women to craft skills and the basics of merchandising and offer a source of income to the artisans through their Women’s Craft Cooperative. Check out what they can make out of beautiful buttons!

Ten Thousand Villages– A non-profit group that sells handcrafts from artisans all over the world and gives them the profits. Novel idea, right? There are stores all over the country, but for you Chicagoans, there’s one in Evanston and one opening soon in Oak Park, not to mention 2 in the ‘burbs (Glen Ellyn and Grayslake).

Global Girlfriend– A fair-trade boutique selling specialty hand-made gifts and goods made by numerous women’s non-profit programs, women’s cooperatives worldwide and products that benefit women’s human rights.

The Lime– For the eco-friendly loved one. I’ve just recently discovered this site, but here they offer a number of eco-friendly ideas for every type of person in your life as well as mention other sites to check out with similar lists.

Of course, if there’s nothing you can find in these sites, peruse at your own leisure. There are plenty of great organizations out there that offer some fabulous gifts that in turn make this world a better place. Maybe you’re no into the whole physical gift thing. That’s cool. Instead, donate to an organization that benefits someone you know or an organization that works for a cause that your loved one holds dear, such as UNICEF (you can buy greeting cards, too) or the Make A Wish Foundation.

Still can’t find anything cool? The least you can do is try and shop local.

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 🙂

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!

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