Reauthorized Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) Passes House


I thought all of you would like to know that this Thursday, the House passed VAWA and the act will be reauthorized by President Obama, including the new provisions to better protect those in the LGBTQ community, as well as Native American and immigrant women.

The act was reauthorized thanks in part to the more than 1,300 women’s and human rights groups who signed a letter supporting the more comprehensive Senate legislation earlier this month.

Read the full article on The New York Times here.


Counting Your Service Learning Volunteer Hours

The other day before class, I overheard wondering with their group what exactly counts as volunteer hours for your service learning project. Hopefully, you’ve been remembering to record and get signatures the work you’ve already done. Here’s a list of some time well spent that you might not have considered:

  • Meetings with members of your organization (to discuss the march, research the organization’s history, brainstorm, or just see how they run and what’ on their agenda, etc.)
  • Helping your organization at their events (e.g., setting up chairs or tables, handing out materials, collating pamphlets, etc.)
  • Visiting the Purdue Writing Lab with documents you’re drafting for your organization (e.g., a letter they’re going to send out, or a new pamphlet, etc.)
  • Accompanying your community partner members to a city council meeting or other event to see what kind of work they’re doing. You can help them out by taking notes at the meeting.
  • Office work (e.g., collating, organizing, data entry), etc. at the organization.
  • And of course, working on your organization’s product for the march! Any time you spend making T-shirts, banners, etc., or running around or calling businesses to price-check printing costs  counts toward your volunteer hours.

Remember to make note of what your group meetings are about, as you’ll have to submit meeting notes attached to your volunteer hours sheet at the end of the project. These don’t have to be pages long – I just need to know what you all discussed or accomplished during a group meeting on a given day.

PBS Premiers First Documentary of the Women’s Movement: “MAKERS: WOMEN WHO MAKE AMERICA”

“PBS’s premier of MAKERS: Women Who Make America tells the remarkable story of the most sweeping social revolution in American history, as women have asserted their rights to a full and fair share of political power, economic opportunity, and personal autonomy. It’s a revolution that has unfolded in public and private, in courts and Congress, in the boardroom and the bedroom, changing not only what the world expects from women, but what women expect from themselves. MAKERS brings this story to life with priceless archival treasures and poignant, often funny interviews with those who led the fight, those who opposed it, and those first generations to benefit from its success. Trailblazing women like Hillary Rodham Clinton, Ellen DeGeneres and Oprah Winfrey share their memories, as do countless women who challenged the status quo in industries from coal-mining to medicine. Makers captures with music, humor, and the voices of the women who lived through these turbulent times the dizzying joy, aching frustration and ultimate triumph of a movement that turned America upside-down.”


You can watch the show tonight, February 26th, at 8:00pm ET on PBS. Or you can watch any of the three full episodes online at PBS.ORG for a limited time.

Upcoming Extra Credit Event: Talk about Ending Female Genital Cutting in Africa

gruenbaumThis Wednesday, Feb. 27th, Dr. Ellen Gruenbaum (Anthropology) will give a presentation titled “Accelerating Change: International Organizations Working to End Female Genital Cutting in Africa.” She just got back from a trip to Sudan, Africa, where she worked with various organizations to develop programs to put an end to the practice of FGC.


The talk begins at 6:00pm in RAWLS 1062.

As always, with an extra credit opportunity, write a one-page (double-spaced) response to the event and submit it to receive 5 points of extra credit.

Purdue’s One Billion Rising: Flash Mobs on Campus!

On Thursday, groups of Purdue students took part in the global movement One Billion Rising, spearheaded by Eve Ensler. At least one member of our class was able to take part in a flash mob (I may hear from ymore of you on Monday), and he appears in the following clip on Channel 18 news.

Read the story – and see the video! – here: “Group Uses Flash Mob to Bring Awareness to Violence Against Women”

OBR flash mob

Outcry Launches a Protest Movement in Response to Rape Case in India

Back in December, a horrific gang rape in India brought the issue of violence against women to the forefront. A 23-year-old woman, accompanied by a male friend, was brutally raped, disemboweled, and then thrown from a bus in Dehli. She was a physiotherapy student, the daughter of laborers and the first in her family to work toward a college degree – and in a country where many skimp on their daughters’ education, saving their money to educate their sons (this is also a class-based issue).

The protest movements that have risen in response have not only been outspoken but have also included a large number of men, something that doesn’t necessarily occur (at least not yet) in the western world.

Read the article from The New York Times and watch the short video, here: “Urging Action, Report on Brutal Rape Condemns India’s Treatment of Women.”


The Violence Against Women Act: Combating Rape Culture in the U.S.

For Wednesday, you’ll read Boswell and Spade’s article “Fraternities and Collegiate Rape Culture.” Read their argument carefully: they’re not blaming fraternities for rape on college campuses, but this pair of researchers is interested in which environments were safer for women and which environments made it easier for men to prey on women at parties. Take note.


In addition, listen to an episode of The Diane Rehm Show (see below for link) that recently aired this piece on the Violence Against Women Act: the last congress was the only congress not to renew VAWA since its introduction in 1994 (Bill Clinton signed it into law). It’s time once again for our new congress to decide whether or not to reauthorize the bill.

“The law provides police and other groups with money to help fight domestic violence and sexual assault. It’s been reauthorized every five years since it was first passed in 1994, but not last year. House Republicans objected to modifications which allowed for protections for gays and lesbians, Native Americans and immigrants.”

This radio show discusses VAWA and hosts callers who challenge the act, and Rehm’s guest, in rather stereotypical ways. (The show also features Phyllis Schlafly, the woman responsible in large part for recruiting other politicians to defeat the Equal Rights Amendment back in the 70s.)

Listen to this episode of The Diane Rehm Show on VAWA.

One Billion Rising: Protesting Violence Against Women on Feb. 14th, Flash Mob Style

one billion risingOn Feb. 14th, women all over the world will walk out into the streets and dance to celebrate life and to protest their rising up against global violence against women. Feminist activist and author of The Vagina Monologues Eve Ensler is behind the movement, and you can be part of it locally on our very own campus.


The Purdue Contemporary Dance Company is gathering with other dance groups and interested students at Purdue to perform a flash mob around campus throughout the day on February 14, 2013.   If you or anyone else wants to get involved, we have scheduled another teaching of the flash mob:

Wednesday, February 13 at 8:30pm in PAO 1179.

For more info, check out the Facebook page for Purdue’s One Billion Rising and find out how you can participate.

As of now, there will be four performance times on Valentine’s Day, all of which are during power hour passing periods:


With the help of dance department faculty member Sally Wallace, Amberly Simpson is organizing this event: she writes, “As a young woman who has been
directly affected by the type of violence that this organization is rising up to
prevent, I realize how incredibly important it is to increase this sort of
awareness and, most importantly, end it.  But I am not the only one, in fact, it
is likely that a third to half of your female students have had a similar


This protest movement is directly linked with our upcoming discussions about violence against women (starting Feb. 11th) and our engagement with social justice and activist tactics. If you participate in the flash mob and write a one page response about your experience in this event, you will receive 5 points of extra credit. I would also encourage you to have a friend record video or take pictures of you in the flash mob! I am happy to post them to our blog and they will also document your participation.

I hope that all of you will participate.

Philanthropy vs. Social Activism: "Patria Es Humanidad" (The Only [Real] Nation is Humanity)

“The world is full of miserable places. One way of living comfortably is not to think about them or, when you do, to send money.” – Tracy Kidder, Mountains Beyond Mountains

For many of us, particularly here in America, we sometimes equate activism, or at least action, with donating money to causes. What’s wrong with that?, you might ask. Donating money can absolutely be a lifeline for important causes and the organizations that endeavor to create change. Here’s a quote from a good friend of mine who works for a non-profit organization:

“I think [what matters] is how the money is ‘thrown’ so to speak. I work in the nonprofit world–and philanthropy literally saves lives. I think it really depends on how and where the money is invested. It is a complex problem…”

Yes, it is a complex problem: donating money without an understanding of the interested and effected parties and the institutions involved can sometimes actually dig the hole deeper. In other words, philanthropy can just as easily reinforce the “ideology of domination that permeates western culture” (Lorde again) by continuing to fund problematic institutions that are responsible for gender, race, and class oppression throughout the world.  So here is the most important distinction I want to convey: philanthropy, or donating money, is NOT the same as social activism though it is frequently offered to us as if it were a way for us to act in a world in which we feel disempowered.

For example, the “Swipe Out Starvation” campaign, which encourages us to spend money on food here to feed the hungry out/over there, encourages us to solve world hunger problems by engaging in more consumerism…which is part of what contributes to so much economic disparity in the world to begin with. While donating money helps those  who act on our behalf, it allows us to maintain a safe distance from the people that need our support and resources and from the situations that need real reform – and this can be understood as a form of privilege (just as not having to think about awful social problems like poverty or racism or gender-based violence is also a form of social privilege if we have the luxury of not being directly affected by such issues).

Activism, on the other hand, requires our direct and compassionate involvement with the people, communities, and problems at hand, and a complex understanding of our interconnectedness. In Grassroots: A Field Guide for Feminist Activism, Jennifer Baumgardner and Amy Richards define activism as:

“…consistently expressing one’s values with the goal of making the world more just. We use feminism as our philosophy for that value system; that is, we try to take off the cultural lens that sees mostly men and filters out women and replace it with one that sees all people. We ask, ‘Do our lifestyles reflect our politics?’…An activist is anyone who assesses the resources that he or she has as an individual for the benefit of the common good. With that definition, activism is available to anyone…we are challenging the notion that there is one type of person who is an activist–someone serious, rebellious, privileged, and unrealistically heroic” (xix).

Here, I think back to Mitch Daniels’ speech about Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., his introduction to Melissa Harris-Perry’s talk, in which he repeatedly invoked the ideology of the activist or social mover as the one-in-a-million, lone hero. But Harris-Perry began by challenging this ideology, offering a criticism of the new statue of Dr. King, which image draws on that same idea of the individual hero arising out of nothing (neither backed nor supported by anyone in particular).

King memorial

For Baumgardner and Richards, the activists of the world are not lone individuals, not the ones-in-millions but the millions themselves. Dr. King, Harris-Perry argued, was also one of those millions during his lifetime. He was the voice of a whole movement full of individuals who supported and facilitated his work, and who challenged and shaped his ideas.


Here’s a quote from Paulo Freire from his famous book Pedagogy of the Oppressed:

“Any attempt to ‘soften’ [or deny] the power of the oppressor [e.g., the wealthy] in deference to the weakness of the oppressed almost always manifests itself in the form of false generosity; indeed, the attempt never goes beyond this. In order to have the continued opportunity to express their ‘generosity,’ the oppressors must perpetuate injustice as well. An unjust social order is the permanent fount of this ‘generosity,’ which is nourished by death, despair, and poverty” (Pedagogy of the Oppressed, 44).

So the women from the Ladies Betterment League in Brooks’ poem unwittingly contribute to perpetuating the injustice of the poverty that they claim to generously aid; both the oppressors (here, the well-meaning wealthy women) and the oppressed (the poor living in slums) are caught in and ultimately dehumanized by this “charitable” interaction. While charity reinforces the idea of the privileged who “come down” to help the less fortunate, thereby demonstrating their own goodness, social activism works to help us realize the no one is served unless we are all served equally, unless we all have equal access to basic rights and resources.

So it’s deeply problematic, for example, whenever we enter into philanthropy with the mindset of “helping the less fortunate” without also calling into question how we may be part of or complicit in a system that ultimately keeps us separate from them, or that maintains a divide between the haves and the have-nots.