What’s at stake when women’s bodies are “evidence”

***Trigger warning for sexual assault, victim blaming***


Barbara Kruger created this famous poster for a women’s rights march on Washington in 1989.  That the message remains chillingly relevant is a testament both to Kruger’s talent and to the continuous, relentless attacks on women’s bodily autonomy….and just when you think you can’t be MORE shocked, MORE disgusted, or MORE outraged, you are.

A Minnesota NOW friend who wishes to remain anonymous wrote us this powerful account of her reaction to the news that a New Mexico legislator would criminalize abortions after rape on the grounds that it would be “tampering with evidence.”

No, your eyes didn’t just explode–that’s actually what Rep. Cathrynn Brown suggested in a bill she introduced on January 24.

From our friend:

At age 17 I was raped by a young man I knew, at age 24 I was raped by two men I knew.  At age 17 I had an abortion, at age 24 I was escaping a violent marriage. Unfortunately I had a miscarriage 5 months later in my parent’s bathroom. I had no idea I was pregnant, and was told she probably died at 3 months because of the beatings I took from my ex-husband.

A bill has been introduced that rape victims carry their rapists’ child as evidence.

If I had to carry my rapist’s child (my ex-husband would not have been named a rapist) his friend may have…. what would I have told my son, 18 months old.  What would I have told him about his sibling especially if it wasn’t his father’s? What would I have told my son about his sibling while I went to court? What would I have told my son about his sibling if my rapist wanted joint custody and his father didn’t? What would happen when my husband adopts my son, but isn’t allowed to adopt my rapist’s child because a rapist has more rights than my husband?

For the men introducing these bills on behalf of the religious organizations that supported you and the other pro-life organizations that endorsed you, I know you have been asked what if this happened to your daughter. Well that doesn’t matter because all of you can afford the back room abortions, while people like me, would have had to rely on a shop vac, coat hanger, or many other life threatening devices.

If I had to give my rights to my rapists, I tell you right now, I would have dropped my son off at my parents and drove out to the country and shot myself in the head. I would not have put my parents and my son through the blind, bogus, bigoted, treatment, which you decided to enact.

Rep. Brown has since attempted to clarify that the bill would charge the rapist with a third-degree felony for evidence tampering, not the impregnated rape victim herself, though this flip-flopping most likely reflects her embarrassment at being in the middle of a national news story, not a serious change of heart.

The War on Women is real.  Your body is a battleground.  We can’t stop fighting.


Contact Rep. Cathrynn Brown via the New Mexico state legislature (she has removed her direct contact information–gee, I wonder why?!): http://www.nmlegis.gov/lcs/contactus.aspx

Sign a petition demanding her resignation here: http://signon.org/sign/cathrynn-brown-should.fb23?source=c.fb&r_by=6899454

A feminism of unity, not exclusion

By Andrea Sand, Affirmative Action Chair


I am a feminist, and I am a trans woman. I, unlike some, do not find these two parts of my identity in conflict. 

This is to Suzanne Moore, and her associate Julie Burchill, as well as a plethora of those first- and second-wave feminists who are regrettably stuck under a mountain of a rock and believe me to be a ‘man’, something I’ve never been in my entire life. I am not a “bed-wetter with a bad wig”, I am not a ‘dick in chicks’clothing’ and intersectionality is not stalling any arguments.

You’re staring HRT inthe face and not flinching? I didn’t flinch either when I started HRT almost two years ago; well, except when the needle goes in every week. You’ve experienced a lifetime of sexual harassment? So have I, interspersed with experiences of black eyes, broken noses, split lips,and bloody wrists. I am not bullying you, or am I? I may be, in the same way all those pesky gays are bullying straights for the right to marry, or how all us women are demanding to be treated as equals are bullying our male (and apparently female) oppressors.

It is pure audacity that Burchill and Moore consider themselves writers and thinkers, when a cursory Googling reveals that “cisgendered” is for people like them as “transgender” is for people like me. Cis and trans are terms we use from ancient times, it is not because it sounds like “cyst” or “cistern”; trans oppression of cis-gendered women is about as incensing as the Sandy Hook truthers, with about as much sense.

When I identify with ‘my people’, I cannot speak in terms of skin tone because those of my own skin color routinely persecute my people. I do not speak in terms of religion, because I was brought up in a religion that taught me my gender and sexuality were reprehensible. I do not speak in terms of sex, because the sex I was born in to routinely objectifies my people.

I do not speak in terms of anything other than gender, because I have never received hatred for who I am from those who buck the gender-binary, and they are who I align myself with in utter solidarity; what you say to my sisters and brothers is as good as saying it to me.

I fully agree with Vice President Joe Biden’s stance of my people’s discrimination being the civil rights issue of our generation. I’m not a punchline. I am not a joke. I am a person. I am sick of being marginalized and ignored, I am done being neglected by people who call themselves LGBT allies because that term was bandied around so much and so often with so little true understanding that nobody remembers the “BTQA~” that comes after “LG”.

LGBT equality is more than just about sexual equality, it is, at its basest form, true feminism: we are all equals on every level and should be treated with accorded respect and dignity.


Help keep Minnesota NOW strong in 2013!


By Beth Anderson, Minnesota NOW Treasurer

My 2013 resolution? Working on my Minnesota NOW elevator speech.  This is the speech you give to people who haven’t heard of Minnesota NOW or don’t know why we are important.  It should be a speech that is short, (something you could share on a short elevator ride!), and engaging – making your elevator companions want to be part of this group.  I find my speeches tend to be too long, because I could go on and on about how cool Minnesota NOW is and what we have done over the years and plan to do in the future.

Just since our last communication (the October issue of the MN NOW Times), we have hosted our Sadie Hawkins Dance for Equality, helped defeat two constitutional amendments in Minnesota, participated in Take Back The Night in Minneapolis, spoke on campus with Pro-Choice Resources and kept up an active blog on issues of the day.  We attracted many new members through our Adopt-An-Activist Program.


In addition, we are gearing up for lobbying training for the upcoming legislative season, researching and writing legislation that we think should be introduced, and planning an awesome State Conference for 2013.  See, my speech goes on and on.

As a Minnesota NOW Fan, you are an important part of this organization.  We rely on your donations to keep our doors open and our activists active.  We have a spectacular “Love Starts Here” t-shirt designed to spread the word about Minnesota NOW that is your gift when you pledge only $5 a month to Minnesota NOW!


Sold? Great! Make your donation pledge online at our secure website!

If you need an elevator speech, try this:

“Minnesota NOW is an organization of brave, determined people who are not afraid to implement a vision.  We market our ideas through public action like picketing, public speaking, sponsoring issue forums, performing street theater and lobbying our legislators.  We implement the latest feminist theory by writing legislation, pushing policy changes and working in coalition with the vast feminist network in Minnesota.  Minnesota NOW is a feminist organization that acts as a spiritual and intellectual home to generations of women who envision a world where women are respected, their contributions honored, and are treated equally in all aspects of society.”


How was that?  Does it capture the reason you are a MN NOW member? Do you have an elevator speech that you use to introduce Minnesota NOW to your friends?

Still not convinced? How about this one:

“Minnesota NOW gives me the opportunity to be a part of cutting edge feminism in action.  We not only respond to attacks on women’s rights, but we lead the feminist community in our vision for the future.  We are made up of all generations of feminists and the excitement of learning from, and working with, young feminists keeps me engaged in the community and up-to-date on the issues facing us all.  I am also appreciative of the depth of history and accomplishments of previous feminists.  They inspire me to be as brave, as thoughtful, and as committed to taking action.   Minnesota NOW, as the premier women’s rights organization in the state, encompasses both ends of this spectrum and is a good place to put my time and money.  In the end, it’s about social justice, economic justice, a safe and secure environment, and a chance for all of us to live life fully with equal opportunity.”


Whatever your reason is for being a part of Minnesota NOW, we thank you!  Love does start here in Minnesota and we are on our way to showing the country what that looks like.  It looks like you – in a brand new Love Starts Here T-shirt.  Please send us your new year contribution today!


Robin Marty & Jessica Mason Pieklo Preview “Crow After Roe”



As part of the Minnesota Choice Coalition’s celebration of the 40th anniversary of Roe v. Wade, Minnesota NOW is thrilled to host Twin Cities-based writers Robin Marty and Jessica Mason Pieklo for a talk about the state of reproductive rights today.

This special event happens on Thursday, January 17, 2013, from 8-9 pm, at the  Ridgedale Public Library (12061 Ridgedale Drive, Minnetonka MN, 55305) The official, very shareable Facebook invitation: https://www.facebook.com/events/318790854897466/

Marty and Pieklo will offer a special preview of their book, Crow After Roe: How “Separate But Equal” Has Become the New Standard in Women’s Health and How We Can Change That. It will be published in April, but you can pre-order your copy now!

From the book’s Amazon listing:

2013 will mark the fortieth anniversary of Roe v. Wade, one of the most divisive rulings ever to shape American politics. In recent years, attempts to overturn Roe v. Wade have reached a fevered pitch. Since 2010 hundreds of bills banning or creating roadblocks to abortion access, contraception, and basic women’s health have been proposed across the United States, with nearly one hundred new laws going into effect. The goal is to create a law that will eventually be brought before the most conservative Supreme Court ever to occupy the bench, in order to overturn Roe v. Wade.

Crow After Roe: How “Separate But Equal” Has Become the New Standard In Women’s Health And How We Can Change That takes a look at twelve states that since 2010 have each passed a different anti-abortion or anti-women’s health law, and how each law is explicitly written to provoke a repeal of Roe v. Wade. The book will detail not just the history of the laws in question, but how they challenge Roe v. Wade and create a reproductive health care system that puts women—especially poor, rural, or those of color—into a separate class with fewer choices or control.

Robin Marty is RH Reality Check’s senior political reporter, focusing primarily on state legislation restricting women’s reproductive rights. Her political, women’s rights, and reproductive articles have appeared in Ms. magazine, Truthout, AlterNet, and BlogHer.

Jessica Mason Pieklo is the assistant director of the Health Law Institute at Hamline Law School in St. Paul, Minnesota. She covers law and politics at Care2.com and RH Reality Check. Her articles have appeared in Ms. magazine, Truthout, and AlterNet.

A New Year’s resolution to protect ALL children

By Andrea Persephone Sand

After the Sandy Hook tragedy, the NRA proposed armed guards and teachers in the school to prevent violence.  Really?  America would consider this, but we wouldn’t even entertain the thought of an inclusive bullying-protection policy?

We are more comfortable turning our schools in to something more akin to legitimate prisons where students are going to see guns and people looking at them suspiciously on a daily basis than we are with all students being protected from harassment and assault at the hands of their peers and authority figures?

Protecting children means creating a culture of tolerance, understanding and compassion, not arming everyone to the teeth.  In 2013, let’s resolve to do just that.

To adapt a phrase from the great leader for peace, Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King: a threat to children anywhere is a threat to children everywhere.

Newtown Memorial12

I wrote in late October that the East Aurora school board were cowardly and flopping about back and forth on the issue of protection for all of its queer students, not just the LG ones. A policy that was supposed to protect the safety of gender outlaw kids was vigorously opposed by the Illinois Family Institute, an organization deemed a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center–and the bigots won.

The East Aurora School Board formed a committee to better assess the situation and try to find a good solution–but in the face of constant harassment from the IFI, it has now been dissolved.

I attended a Catholic high school. I have read the Old Testament and New Testament, and studied it in depth. Jesus never spoke out against the queer community, but had plenty of things to say about hypocrites and the falsely pious. In his own words, “What you do unto the least of my brothers, you do unto me.”

According to the Transgender Discrimination Survey by The Taskforce, in the K-12 setting alone, 78% of students who expressed a “transgender identity or gender non-conformity” were harassed, 35% were physically assaulted, and 12% were victims of sexual violence. This harassment and these assaults come not only from our peers, but from our teachers and principals. Six percent are expelled just for being themselves, or 1:17. Harassment is so awful that 15% will drop out, or about a sixth. Suicide attempt rates are nauseatingly high, somewhere around 1:2 or 1:3.


There are, quite literally, children’s lives on the line with this debate–and these children can be saved not with a weapon of violence (like the Bushmaster .223 rifle that Adam Lanza used to murder 26 people), but with words of peace and inclusion.

Words like these:

It is the District’s goal to ensure the safety, comfort, and healthy development of the transgender or gender nonconforming student while maximizing the student’s social integration and minimizing stigmatization of the student.

The above is what the Illinois Family Institute objected to.

Someone’s little girl has to go to school every day and use the wrong everything and hear all sorts of awful names thrown at her by her peers and potentially her teachers. She has to face the risk of her teachers and authority figures turning blind eyes to her suffering. She has to face the risk of growing up to be a drug dealer or prostitute (16%) to make ends meet, and she faces the risk of she herself being a drinker or drug user to cope with the harassment (32%). Someone’s little girl isn’t getting the same opportunity as everyone else’s little girl.

There are other gender non-conformists in the school district, but I remember when this all started over a little girl wanting some pee-ce.  She is the visible, un-seen face of the gender outlaws of East Aurora. Her plight, and her victory, will bring attention and a much larger victory to all her classmates just like her. It will be a hopeful, reassuring whisper of “You will overcome this” that has been long over-due and been much needed.

Please sign and pass on this Change.org petition asking the board to reinstate its commitment to protecting ALL children:



And please contact East Aurora School Board (boardofeducation@d131.org) members:

Ignacio Cervantes: icervantes@d131.org

Mary Anne Turza:  turza.mary@sbcglobal.net

Raymond Hull: raymondhull@comcast.net

Annette Johnson (President): ajohnson@ciprianispasta.com

Richard Leonard: rleonard@d131.org

Stella Gonzalez (Vice-President) slg081404@sbcglobal.net

Anita Lewis (Secretary) alewis4244@msn.com