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The Problem with Walking Out

On March 27th, Former Vice President Dick Cheney came to my alma mater, American University, to discuss Russia, Iran, gay rights, and his life in politics. Sure, an interesting choice for the Kennedy Political Union, and for AU in general, but still makes perfect sense – after all, American is often ranked as the number one politically active school in the nation, and is based on Washington, D.C., and is home to a student body remarkably impassioned, inspired, and interested in politics.

Which is why I was so incredibly disappointed to hear about what happened on Thursday.

As I had expected, a number of students gathered outside of Bender Arena, where Cheney was speaking, holding protest signs and really epic protest attire (Seriously, I didn’t even know they still made “Dick Cheney in prison uniform” costumes anymore. Kudos, AU student body).

(via The Eagle)

This protest was the American University students that makes me proud to be an alumni – they respectfully obeyed the rules, kept their signs and protest outside the event; in a way that was respectful of the rules, the event, and still got their point across.

Then I saw this video, of American University students screaming during Dick Cheney’s speech, and walking out:

And then I was disappointed. My time at American taught me to keep an open mind, hear the other side, be an informed, knowledgeable member of society. What these students did was the opposite. While I’m sure I wouldn’t have agreed with many of the things Vice President Cheney said, I would have either protested outside or sat in on the discussion, politely listened, come up with a few questions to ask at the microphone at the end of the speech, taken a moment to consider his point of view, and channeled my outrage and frustration into activism on an issue, volunteering, or even just plain old writing a blog. The answer to an open discourse and solving our country’s problems isn’t angrily screaming and walking out – it’s asking informed questions and taking action.

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Feminist Friday Fun: Kids Pose as Iconic Figures in Women’s History

Enrique Jones has expanded his “Because of Them, We Can…” series to Women’s History Month, and the results are wonderful.

A few highlights:

New post up on Grrrl Beat!

It’s on Paul Ryan, his views on abortion/rape, and the agony of short media attention spans. Read it here.

Ah, Rush. So We Meet Again.

I’m sure you’ve seen Rush Limbaugh’s face all over the news yet again this week – this time, for saying:

“What does it say about the college coed [Sandra Fluke, Georgetown University law student scheduled to testify before congress on contraception] … who goes before a congressional committee and essentially says that she must be paid to have sex? It makes her a slut, right? It makes her a prostitute. She wants to be paid to have sex.”

Now, this is not out of the ordinary for Rush. He has quite the history of saying degrading, patronizing, and downright disgusting things about women in the past. And Rush apologized, as he has rarely done before. But this time is different, and I’m not going to lie to you – I’m pleased as punch about it.

Limbaugh is not being let off the hook this time. Oh, don’t get me wrong – the right-wing media rushed to his defense as always, and Rush was as defiant as ever when the scandal first broke. But as time went on, the incident didn’t just blow over – people fought back.

President Obama called Sandra Fluke to make sure she was okay after the extremely slanderous and personal attacks, the Georgetown University President condemned Limbaugh, and Fluke herself spoke up and  essentially outlined why Limbaugh’s comments were so ridiculous; nothing that she expected some criticism over the issue but nothing on the scale of personal attacks that Rush had issued against her; and many articles noting that this kind of language was the kind used to keep women down and “in their place” for centuries. And best of all? Advertisers began pulling out. And that got through to Rush.

Limbaugh finally issued an apology on Saturday, defending his comments as “humor”. But even Ron Paul saw right through him, noting that the apology came only because he was too concerned with his “bottom line”. The apology was too little, too late – many of his advertisers decided to still pull their ads from his show.

Aside from the ability to do a little happy dance over the news that Rush is getting a little less money to gold-plate another microphone or huge seat or something with his name on it, I am absolutely thrilled that we finally have an instance where public attention and outcry around an offensive comment from a conservative radio show host has made a difference. HALLELUJAH! Let’s keep it going – keep writing letters to businesses sponsoring shows like Limbaugh’s that focus on derogatory comments towards women and minorities, posting links to the crazy things these people say, and encouraging an intelligent debate on issues instead of just screaming one-sided into a microphone.

UPDATE: 46 advertisers have pulled out of Rush’s show, and he closed his first hour with dead air this morning. The sweet sound of silence! 3/8/12

Disgusting news of the week: Dominique Strauss-Kahn case to be made into a Porno

Apparently, the details of Dominique Strauss-Kahn’s sexual assault case are now the inspiration for a film coming soon to an adult video store near you.

This is the most aggravating thing I’ve heard all week. The porn culture in general is overall very degrading to women, but this is a whole new level of gross – the idea that a sexual assault case can be interpreted to become a sexy and desirable thing is offensive, and completely delusional. Sexual assault may have the word “sex” in it, but it is anything but sexy. I can’t believe it, but I think that PORN just hit a whole new level of skeeze.

Is Occupy Wall Street lacking focus?

When Occupy Wall Street started a month ago, I was thrilled. The top 1% in this country has most of the country’s wealth, and in our democracy, money speaks. I was thrilled when 2,000+ people showed up in New York to protest the irresponsible actions of the world’s banks, and excited about the potential of a clearly large movement to change economic policies in our country. The “We are the 99%” stories are compelling and real, and you feel the pain everyone is suffering in this economic climate. The world-wide protests this weekend were phenomenally powerful, and the Times Square crowds were huge and inspiring. The more the movement gathers steam, the more impressed I am with its organizers and participants.

But as the days and weeks pass, I worry that Occupy Wall Street is losing some of its initial focus. I went down to the protests on Friday at Liberty Square (and did a little dancing in the rain), and once I went home it hit me that there was so much about the movement I didn’t know – what their core goals were, etc. So I did a little research. And when I was clicking around their website this weekend, I could find no evidence of what protesters were looking for – the most I found was this:

Our nation, our species and our world are in crisis. The US has an important role to play in the solution, but we can no longer afford to let corporate greed and corrupt politics set the policies if our nation.

Important for sure, and a fantastic goal, but a bit lofty and broad for the highly specific nature of our laws and culture. In order to enact real change, leaders should come up with a solution that they would find acceptable. Because it’s not enough to complain, no matter how warranted and overdue the complaints are. We need to also take action.

The claims made in the conservative media that Occupy Wall Street is just a bunch of dirty hippies is flat-out wrong, and their claims that protestors don’t know what we want or what we’re talking about is also wrong. But in order to fully shake that image, the leaders of the Occupy Wall Street protests need to come up with a list of clearly stated and written demands and goals. When that happens, it’ll be impossible to ignore the 99% any longer.

Edit, 10/27: Dahlia Lithwick over at Slate published an interesting piece on whether or not OWS needs to define its purpose further, and she makes a pretty compelling argument.I still think a little more definition wouldn’t hurt, but  she’s right – their message shouldn’t necessarily have to be put in 1 minute sound bytes — it should be defined on their own terms.

Welcome to the 21st Century, Saudi Arabia!

Woo-hoo! Today the Saudi king announced that he was giving women the right to vote for the first time in the 2015 municipal elections. It’s hard to believe that in this day and age, there’s still a country left where women have no say in their government — and Saudi Arabia wasn’t the last one. in Brunei, women are only allowed to vote in local elections. In Lebanon, women are permitted to vote – but it is mandatory for men and optional for women; and women must present proof of an elementary education. In the United Arab Emerites, both men and women have very limited suffrage, but that may be expanded upon soon.

When we talk about the Women’s Suffrage movement in America, we often discuss how shameful it is that it took us as long as it did; that women should have had a say far before 1920. It’s hard to believe that nearly 100 years later, women are still fighting for suffrage around the world. We should celebrate our victories – like the announcement regarding Saudi Arabia – but remember that until every single woman has the right to vote in her country’s elections, our fight is far from over.