Social Media Attacks on Women: Rape Culture at Penn State and Kappa Delta Rho

Picture of a sign at the Window of Opportunity rally that says "End Rape Culture."

The theme of the Window of Opportunity Rally and March. This informal coalition was created last week as a “window of opportunity” to impact town and gown policies and programs to reduce/eliminate sexual assault, stalking, and harassment in our community.

A little over two weeks ago, Penn State University’s Kappa Delta Rho fraternity was suspended by the national fraternity’s office and by the university after it was announced that the State College police were investigating the fraternity for possible criminal activity related to hazing, drug use, and the sexual exploitation of college women though the use of a private Facebook page.

The town and gown are now in an uproar.  Once again, the university is in the national spotlight for another instance of sexual misconduct.  This time via the use of social media.

So far two rallies have been held protesting the rape culture that pervades this town and campus.  One of the rallies was held yesterday. It included a speakout and then a march from the entrance gates of the University Park campus to Fraternity Row where the Kappa Delta Rho House is located.

I was the first speaker at the rally.  The following is the written version of my speech. Thank you to Michele Hamilton, NOW Mid-Atlantic Region Board Member, Vice President of Pennsylvania NOW, and President of Ni-Ta-Nee NOW and Marian Bradley, NOW Northwest Regional Director and Past President of Montana NOW for their assistance in putting these ideas together.

Once again, PSU has garnered a national demerit in the public’s view due to allegedly inappropriate sexual misbehavior.

We’re concerned that this mistreatment of women continues to happen in the PSU community.

These actions by KDR have resulted in the appropriate suspension of the fraternity. It also resulted in both police and campus declarations to further investigate what and how this happened. We applaud the University and the national office of KDR for taking these actions. We also applaud the State College police for their pro-active investigation.

We also believe that these types of sexist activities need to be reviewed within the greater milieu of the Penn State environment. This review needs to determine what additional policies and protocols should be implemented to prevent such future acts by members of the community and to hold perpetrators accountable for their misogynistic actions.

The PSU President’s Task Force on Sexual Assault and Sexual Harassment was charged by President Barron to “[combat] sexual misconduct and to [engage] all employees and students in a direct call to action.”   We call on PSU to add this social media bullying type of assaults to this review.

In addition to calling upon PSU to review their policies, we are also asking the public here and across the country to view these actions within the larger scope of online harassment of women. Here’s what we are talking about.

Gamergate. Doxing. Revenge Pornography. Swatting. Posting of pictures of hazing and of nude and unconscious women without their consent. Threats of rape and death via social media. These are all forms of cyber bullying that we have recently heard about across the country. And most of the victims have been women.

In light of these social media attacks, Pennsylvania NOW and Ni-Ta-Nee NOW ( the local NOW chapter) have signed on as organizational supporters of Representative Katherine Clark’s (D-MA) “Dear Colleague” letter sent to her Congressional colleagues in an effort to highlight concerns about gender violence on all forms of social media. This letter, through Congress’ oversight and review process, urges the US Department of Justice to “intensify their efforts to combat cyber stalking, harassment, and threats.”

After the speak-out, we marched to the Kappa Delta Rho House about 12 blocks away.  During the march several reporters came up to me for additional comments.  One of the reporters – Hannah Sarisohn for the PSU Daily Collegian asked me about the Task Force appointed by President Barron that I mentioned in my speech.

During our conversation, she asked me what I thought of the make-up of the student portion of the oversight committee. She told me that the only two student representatives are a sorority sister and a fraternity brother.  No other part of the student community is represented on this task force.  I said, “that’s not right. That’s not enough.”  She then used part of what I said in the article she wrote:

Joanne Tosti-Vasey, resident of Bellefonte and regional director for the Mid-Atlantic region of the National Organization for Women, said while the task force is a good step, more than fraternity life needs to be looked in to.

“We have students not in greek life who need representation. [Undergraduate students, graduate students, students of color,] LGBTA students and students with disabilities, everyone needs representation,” Tosti-Vasey said. “The task force needs to include people from all of these backgrounds.”

Finally, here are some of the pictures I took at the Rally and March:

Signs at that protest rally that say "Kick down rape culture" and "This is not satire."

The protest started and ended at the entrance gates to the Penn State University. About 50 people participated. These are a few of the signs seen at the rally.

picture of more protesters and signage at the Window of Opportunity Speak Out and March

More protesters and signage at the Window of Opportunity Speak Out and March

Picture of a toddler and her mother carrying a sign that says, "I want to grow up in a town what I know I am safe."

The youngest protester (three years old) at the rally carried her own sign on the shoulders of her mother. Here she is with her mother Gina Thompson of Bellefonte, PA who is speaking to one of the reporters that covered the event.

Picture of protesters shouting "Shame on You" in front of the Kappa Delta Rho House in State College, PA

After the speak-out, most of the protesters marched about 12 blocks to Fraternity Row to bring our protest to the front door of Kappa Delta Rho, the fraternity whose members created the online Facebook page that is now under investigation for potential criminal activities. Afterward we marched back to the Gates at PSU to wrap up the rally.

Dueling Gun Bills in Congress

civilrightsactivist:

I agree totally with the last two sentences of Nel’s New Day blog posting:

The Second Amendment: “A well regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed.”

The meaning of the Second Amendment: you can bear your arms, but you need to be trained, and carrying those arms is to be regulated by the government.

“Well regulated” means that you balance the safety of the community with the right to keep and bear arms.

I believe that the 2nd Amendment provides for an individual right to own and use firearms but that we need to balance that right with the safety of our families. I believe that common-sense laws help create a safe environment for all. This includes laws encouraging the use of trigger locks and laws like the Brady law that require background checks for the purchase of firearms and prohibitions of having a gun in the home when under a protection from abuse order,

This article by Nel gives a good summary of the issue of gun safety regulations and the bills currently being proposed in Congress on both sides of the issue.  Do we have an unsafe free for all or do we had a rational set of gun safety rules?  I believe in the latter.

Originally posted on Nel's New Day:

Proposed gun laws have been mostly flying under the radar with the wild debacles of the new GOP-controlled Congress, but congressional members on both sides of the issue are proposing gun laws. Former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-AZ), whose career took a radical shift after she was seriously wounded by a shooter four years ago, went Capital Hill to support reintroduction of legislation in the House to strengthen background checks for gun buyers.  Co-sponsor Peter King of New York has been joined by three other Republicans.

The federal bill would require background checks on private sales at gun shows, over the Internet, and through classified ads, transactions during which a check is not usually run through the National Instant Criminal Background Check System. It would also strengthen the National Instant Criminal Background Check System by providing states with incentives to improve reporting of criminals and people with dangerous mental illnesses to be included in…

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10 Female Revolutionaries That You Probably Didn’t Learn About In History class

civilrightsactivist:

The one woman whom I recognize in this list of ten is Asmaa Mahfouz. She helped spark the Egyptian uprising in January 2011. Which one of these forgotten female revolutionaries do you recognize?

Originally posted on Central Oregon Coast NOW:

10 Female Revolutionaries That You Probably Didn’t Learn About In History class.

By Kathleen Harris / whizzpast.com

We all know male revolutionaries like Che Guevara, but history often tends to gloss over the contributions of female revolutionaries that have sacrificed their time, efforts, and lives to work towards burgeoning systems and ideologies. Despite misconceptions, there are tons of women that have participated in revolutions throughout history, with many of them playing crucial roles. They may come from different points on the political spectrum, with some armed with weapons and some armed with nothing but a pen, but all fought hard for something that they believed in.

Let’s take a look at 10 of these female revolutionaries from all over the world that you probably won’t ever see plastered across a college student’s T-shirt.

Nadezhda Krupskaya

Many people know Nadezhda Krupskaya simply as Vladimir Lenin’s wife, but Nadezhda was a…

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Universal Health Care: Let’s Do It!

I am not an economist. But I am a strong advocate for universal access to healthcare in the United States. See why here.

A couple of days ago, Thom Hartmann at The Big Picture RT posted a YouTube video on why economists are demanding a universal national healthcare plan. In this video he reports that more than 100 economists sent an open letter to Vermont’s Governor Peter Shumlin (D) after Shumlin “bailed” on implementing Vermont’s state-based single-payer healthcare plan.

Governor Shumlin stated that he was stopping the implementation process because he believes that “This is not the right time” for enacting single payer. He stated that there were too many costs associated with the program and could not go forward with the plan “at this time.”

The economists argued otherwise:

As economists, we understand that universal, publicly financed health care is not only economically feasible but highly preferable to a fragmented market-based insurance system…. Public financing is not a matter of raising new money, but of distributing existing payments more equitably and efficiently. Especially when combined with provider payment reforms, public financing can lower administrative costs, share health care cost much more equitably, and ensure comprehensive care for all.

We support publicly and equitably financed health care at federal and state level, and we encourage the government of the state of Vermont to move forward with implementing a public financing plan for the universal health care system envisioned by state law.

Hartman then goes on to say that part of the economic concerns about Vermont’s single-payer healthcare plan arises from its small population base. He believes that the economy of scale makes it harder for a small state to go it alone in “innovating” new healthcare plans as allowed by the Affordable Care Act starting in 2017. Then he goes on to urge the federal government to expand Medicare to all citizens over a 10-year period of time.

I agree that it would be great to have universal Medicare for All across the United States. But I also believe that the only way that will happen is if some states implement single-payer healthcare at a state level to concretely show that a universal healthcare plan is economically viable and distributes existing healthcare payments more efficiently and equitably while lowering administrative costs WITHOUT raising the overall cost to individuals, businesses or communities. In fact, in many instances, cost would be lower.

Studies on how this might happen have been done by well-known economists across the country. For example, Dr. Gerald  Friedman, Professor of Economics and Department Head at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst has done several of these studies, including one for Pennsylvania, one for Maryland, and one for expanding Medicare to all at the national level. Every economic impact study on implementing universal healthcare plans that I have read indicates that “A single-payer health care finance system would produce substantial health and economic gains” when implemented at either a state or the national level.

At least 14 statesCalifornia, Colorado, Hawaii, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Minnesota, Missouri, New York, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Vermont, and Washington—have community advocates and state legislators working towards implementing a state-level form of universal healthcare. And advocates across the nation continue to work for Medicare for All at the national level.

Whichever way comes first is fine with me. We just need to get moving and create healthcare for all in the USA.  Let’s make it sooner rather than later.

The Women’s Movement Is for Everyone

Feminism is for Everyone

Credit: Art Crimes on Flickr, under Creative Commons

This is Women’s History Month.  And today is International Women’s Day.

In celebration of these two events, Women’s eNews Commentator Mary S. Hartman wrote an article entitled “This Women’s Movement, Now, Is for Everyone | Womens eNews.”

In this article, she links Betty Friedan’s views on the early days of the National Organization for Women and the Feminist movement to today’s movements and actions.

In her 2002 interview with Hartman, Friedan was asked what she envisioned the women’s movement to look like mid-century.  She said,

Well, I hope that by then our focus will not long have to be on women as such, or women vis a vis men… [that] we will have achieved what at the moment we seem to be achieving — real equality between women and men.

Friedan then went on to say that we needed “something larger,” namely a “people’s movement” with “diverse leaders of both sexes acting together and championing not just women’s rights but civil rights, unions, youth movements and more.”

I believe we are moving in that direction with coalitions, with the Occupy and Ferguson movements, and with people coming together on social media to raise our collective voices for civil rights.

What do you think? Read Hartman’s article and then comment.

Happy International Women’s Day and Women’s History Month!

Black Women’s History 40 Question Challenge

Originally posted on Central Oregon Coast NOW:

As Black History Month (February) comes to an end, and Women’s History Month (March) is about to begin let’s check our knowledge of Black and Women’s History!

Created by Margaret Zierdt, National Women’s History Project Board Member

  1. Who was head of National Council of Negro Women for 40 years and received the Presidential Medal of Freedom and the Congressional Gold Medal for her work for social equality?
  2. Who was an advocate for civil rights, a fund raiser for NAACP, and the first black person to sign a long-term Hollywood contract in 1942?
  3. Who was member of Harlem Renaissance, an anthropologist, and author of many books, including “Their Eyes Were Watching God”?
  4. Who was the first American woman to win three gold medals in track and field – in the 1960 Olympics for the 100 and 200 meters and the 400 meter relay?
  5. Who was denied permission to sing in…

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The Supreme Court, the ACA, Healthcare.gov, and an Alternative Plan

The US Supreme Court will be hearing a case – known as King v. Burwell – this coming week on whether or not the federal healthcare exchange program, known as Healthcare.gov, is legal. The question before the Court is whether or not the Affordable Care Act (ACA) allows for subsidies for healthcare premiums in any of the 34 states that refused to set up their own healthcare exchanges under the ACA.

The plaintiffs – four people from Virginia – argue that the federal government misinterpreted the ACA in regards to the subsidies. They argue that the law only allows for subsidies in states that set up a state-based exchange. Virginia in one of the 34 state who opted out of a state-based exchange. These four individuals, who don’t want to purchase insurance, say that without the subsidies, they would not have to either buy insurance or pay a penalty since they do not make enough to afford healthcare without the subsidy*. The Obama administration argues that this is a politically motivated argument to narrowly interpret a couple of words found in the ACA in order to gut it.

If the US Supreme Court invalidates the Healthcare.gov websites in all of the states that refused to set up their own healthcare exchanges, everyone who gets a subsidy to purchase their health care through the exchange will lose that subsidy. According to the Washington Post, this type of ruling would affect about eight million people across the country. That’s about 87% of all Healthcare.gov users nationwide in the 34 states that did not set up a state-based exchange receive. In Pennsylvania, somewhere between 70-84% of all users of healthcare.gov receive these subsidies.

The subsidies in Healthcare.gov currently reduces healthcare premiums by up to 72% of the full premium, depending on the size of one’s family and family income. So if the Court holds that subsidies within the Federal Healthcare exchange are illegal, premiums for individuals needing these subsidies will dramatically increase; out-of-pocket premium increase could amount to an average increase of 256%. This increase could begin in as little as 25 days after the ruling is made in June 2015. OR the Court could set a date further in the future to allow some time for transition.

What would the end of these subsidies mean?

Healthcare in the 34 states in the federal exchange program would destabilize. The predictions include lots of people – mostly the young and the healthy – ending their insurance, insurance companies pulling out of the exchanges in these states, lots of layoffs, and a return to uncovered people attempting to get care in hospitals without any coverage. Those left in the exchanges after the young and healthiest leave are the older and the sickest individuals. Insurance companies will begin to feel the pain and start to pull out of the exchanges as participation in the exchanges would no longer be financially viable. With fewer people seeking care on the federal exchange, thousands of people hired by the insurance companies and by the federal exchange system will likely face layoff. In addition, hospitals will once again see a surge in the uninsured arriving on their doorstep for care.

Here’s how the Kaiser Family Foundation summarizes this issue:

People Leaving the Market Followed by Premium Increases for Those Who Remain. As a result, the elimination of the subsidies would destabilize the individual insurance markets in states not running their own marketplaces. Under the ACA, insurers would still be required to guarantee access to coverage irrespective of health status and prohibited from charging sick people more than healthy people. Even without the subsidies, many people who are sick would likely find a way to maintain their insurance in the face of substantial premium increases. However, people who are healthy would likely drop their insurance.

Insurers in the affected states would immediately find themselves in a situation where premiums revenues were insufficient to cover the health care expenses of the remaining enrollees, who would be far sicker on average than what insurers assumed when they set their premiums for 2015. This would trigger a classic adverse selection “death spiral,” where insurers would seek very large premium increases, which in turn would cause the healthier of the remaining enrollees to drop coverage….

Insurance Companies Leave the Market and Layoff Employees…Under ACA regulations, premiums for insurance sold inside the marketplaces are locked in for a full calendar year. So, the earliest those premiums could change would be January 1, 2016, though even that would be tricky since insurers will have already submitted proposed 2016 premiums to state insurance departments by the time the Court issues a decision. Depending on state laws, premiums for products sold outside of the marketplaces could potentially be increased more quickly. And even if insurers could adjust rates, establishing stable and sustainable premium levels in this type of environment is extremely difficult, because as rates move higher, more of the relatively healthy enrollees drop their coverage.

Because this may all happen very quickly, it is possible that many or all insurers would choose to exit the individual markets in these states rather than facing significant losses in a quickly shrinking market. Insurers that remain in the market risk being one of the only carriers continuing to guarantee access to coverage to people in poor health (since people who lose coverage from exiting insurers have special enrollment periods to choose new coverage).

Since it is unlikely that Congressional opponents to the ACA would be willing to craft a law allowing for subsidies within Healthcare.gov should the Court overturn this portion of the ACA regulations, the burden of the fix falls upon each of the 34 states. Some of these 34 states will allow the healthcare exchange to die with the dire predictions quickly coming to fruition. Others, in advance of the Court’s hearing and decision of this case, are starting to talk about alternatives should the Court outlaw the subsidies in their states.

One of these states attempting to deal with this possibility is Pennsylvania, where I live. The insurance companies and hospitals throughout the state, fearing for their livelihood, are lobbying the PA General Assembly to set up a state-based exchange system. Tom Wolf (D), our new Governor, has said he is interested in setting up a state-based exchange.

The question then becomes, where would the money for the set-up of a state exchange come from in a state that has a large budget deficit since federal dollars for such a set-up are no longer available.

Might this be a great time to lobby for a universal health care plan for Pennsylvania? As well as in the other 21 states currently working towards such a solution as well?

Healthcare for All PA, in conjunction with some of our state legislators, are working on re-introducing the Pennsylvania Health Care Plan. This bill, if it becomes law, would

…create one insurance plan that has one single payer, to cover all Pennsylvania taxpayers.  The premiums for The Pennsylvania Health Care Plan would be a flat rate of 3% of income for individuals and 10% of payroll for businesses.  The Pennsylvania Health Care Plan would place you and your healthcare provider in charge of you and your family’s healthcare. The plan will be a public/private hybrid with the insurance function provided by the state government and the medical care would be privately delivered.

It’s cost effective. It covers everyone. It’s comprehensive in that it covers all medical treatment, dental care, eye care, physical therapy, mental health treatment,  hospice care, treatments for addiction, long-term care, access to wellness programs, prescription drugs and emergency transport. And you won’t need an army of navigators in either a state- or a federal-based healthcare exchange to help you interpret your plan.

Check out Healthcare for All PA for more information on this bill and become a citizen lobbyist for comprehensive health care that allows you access to the healthcare you need and want without bankrupting you, your family or your neighbors.

_________________________________________

*NOTE: The four plaintiffs in this case before the Supreme Court–David King, Douglas Hurst, Brenda Levy and Rose Luck—appear to be either ideologues and/or guinea pigs for the libertarian Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI). CEI is an organization committed to overturning the Affordable Care Act. If the subsidies are overturned, all four of these individuals may not even be affected by the Court’s ruling according to a February 9 article in Mother Jones. Three of the four – Levy, King and Hurst – are now or soon will be fully eligible for Medicare. Two of them – King and Luck – already qualify for a hardship exemption from purchasing healthcare and/or paying a penalty due to their relatively low-income levels. However, the issue of “standing” (the legal argument that they would actually be harmed if the law were to continue), for some reason, has not been raised in this case by the Obama administration and will not be considered when the Court hears the case next week.

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Abortion ‘Hostility’ Depends on Your Zip Code

civilrightsactivist:

If you live in the South, your access to reproductive health services is greatly reduced. The same is true for a few other states, like Ohio, Indiana, North and South Dakota, and Wisconsin. Why? Because the legislators in 27 states have decided to place themselves and their misogynistic beliefs between the decisions you would normally make about your reproductive health in consultation with your medical care provider. And in 18 of these states, the legislators are considered to be “extremely hostile” to women’s healthcare.

It’s gotten significantly worse in the last four years. State legislators have placed restrictions on access to abortion as well as on family planning and related services.

The 18 most hostile states are:

  • Alabama
  • Arizona
  • Arkansas
  • Florida
  • Indiana
  • Kansas
  • Louisiana
  • Mississippi
  • Missouri
  • Nebraska
  • North Dakota
  • Ohio
  • Oklahoma
  • South Dakota
  • Texas
  • Utah
  • Virginia
  • Wisconsin

Here’s more to this story.  Read below and then check out the full report at the Guttmacher Institute.

Originally posted on :

From 2011 to 2014, the number of legislative restrictions against abortion rights skyrocketed to 231, quadrupling the number of restrictions within just three years. In 2014 alone, legislators enacted 26 brand new measures to restrict access to abortion rights.

According to a new report by the Guttmacher Institute, the number of measures enacted are not just surging, but the severity of these ‘hostility’ classifications is alarming and threatening to women’s rights.

The same 18 states keep introducing these measures, and all of these states lie in the South and Midwest. According the report, thirty-eight percent of the country is now considered to be extremely hostile to abortion rights.

Screen Shot 2015-01-07 at 11.53.32 AM

What does it mean when a state is “extremely hostile towards abortion”? 

It means that states can grant ‘fetal personhood’ in lieu of a pregnant woman’s rights, thereby prioritizing fetal rights over women’s rights. (Ahem, Tennessee.) It means that a pregnant woman…

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Happy Valentines Day

To all my friends, colleagues, readers, and fellow advocates, I’d like to share the Valentine’s Day card and sentiments my husband sent to me this morning.

picture of the Earth shaped like a heart

Happy Valentine’s Day to you and the world. Thanks for all you do for equality and fairness here at home, across the country and around the world.

Thank you for your support, your advocacy, your concern for others, and your willingness to speak out on the issues you are passionate about.

PS if you would like to learn more about this actual heart-shaped Werner cartographic map, click here and here.