An Open Letter from American Feminists (And a Raised Fist From Me)

| Thu Jan. 17, 2008 3:55 PM EST

A while back, I gave the world the finger about it's dissing of mainstream feminism for not being all things to all people on every corner in every village at every moment everywhere on the planet even as misogyny reigns unchecked. Katha Pollitt, at The Nation, agrees; we're both fed up with Cro Magnons trolling to see which feminist hasn't denounced, and single handedly ended, the atrocity of the day. She's circulating the below open letter which I proudly signed. Last count, she was at about 500 names. I hope it reaches a million. No, writing open letters doesn't save a raped woman from Sharia law in Nigeria. They just tell you to kiss off while we work on it, which is a hell of a lot more than the folks at National Review are doing. Hell no, I won't link to them.

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An Open Letter from American Feminists

Columnists and opinion writers from The Weekly Standard to the Washington Post to Slate have recently accused American feminists of focusing obsessively on minor or even nonexistent injustices in the United States while ignoring atrocities against women in other countries, especially the Muslim world. A number of reasons are given for this supposed neglect: narcissism, ideological rigidity, reflexive anti-Americanism, fear of seeming insensitive or even racist. Yet what is the evidence for this apparently now broadly accepted claim that feminists don't support the struggles of women around the globe? It usually comes down to a quick scan of the home page of the National Organization for Women's website, observing that a particular writer hasn't covered a particular outrage, plus a handful of quotes wrenched out of context.

In fact, as a bit of research would easily show, there are dozens, if not hundreds, of US feminist organizations involved in promoting women's rights and well-being around the globe -- V-Day, Equality Now, MADRE, the Global Fund for Women, the International Women's Health Coalition and Feminist Majority, to name some of the most prominent. (The National Organization for Women itself has a section on its website devoted to global feminism, on which it denounces a wide array of practices including female genital mutilation (FGM), "honor" murder, trafficking, dowry deaths and domestic violence). Feminists at Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and the United Nations have moved those organizations to add the rights of women and girls to their agenda. Feminist magazines and blogs-- Ms, Feministing.com, Salon.com's Broadsheet feature, womensenews,com (which has an edition in Arabic) -- as well as feminist reporters and commentators in the mainstream media, regularly report on and condemn outrages against women wherever they occur, from rape, battery and murder in the US to the denial of women's human rights in the developing or Muslim world.

As feminists, we call on journalists and opinion writers to report the true position of our movement. We believe that women's rights are human rights, and stand in solidarity with our sisters who are fighting for equal political, economic, social and reproductive rights around the globe. Specifically, contrary to the accusations of pundits, we support their struggle against female genital mutilation, "honor" murder, forced marriage, child marriage, compulsory Islamic dress codes, the criminalization of sex outside marriage, brutal punishments like lashing and stoning, family laws that favor men and that place adult women under the legal power of fathers, brothers, and husbands, and laws that discount legal testimony made by women. We strongly oppose the denial of education, health care and equal political and economic rights to women.

We reject the use of women's rights language to justify invading foreign countries. Instead, we call on the United States government to live up to its expressed commitment to women's rights through peaceful means. Specifically, we call upon it to:

- offer asylum to women and girls fleeing gender-based persecution, including female genital mutilation, domestic violence, and forced marriage;

- promote women's rights and well-being in all their foreign policy and foreign aid decisions;

- use its diplomatic powers to pressure its allies -- especially Saudi Arabia, one of the most oppressive countries in the world for women -- to embrace women's rights;

- drop the Mexico City policy--aka the 'gag rule'--which bars funds for AIDS-related and contraception-related health services abroad if they provide abortions, abortion information, or advocate for legalizing abortion;

- generously support the UN Population Fund (UNFPA), which supports women's reproductive health including safe maternity around the globe, and whose funding is vetoed every year by President Bush;

- become a signatory to The Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), the basic UN women's human rights document, now signed by 185 nations. The US is one of a handful of holdouts, along with Iran, Sudan, and Somalia.

Finally, we call upon the United States, and all the industrialized nations of the West, to share their unprecedented wealth, often gained at the expense of the developing world, with those who need it in such a way that women benefit.

Signed,

Katha Pollitt, writer

Marge Piercy, writer

Susan Faludi, writer

Alix Kates Shulman, writer

Julianne Malveaux, President, Bennett College for Women

Anne Lamott, writer

Mary Gordon, writer

Linda Gordon, historian, NYU

Judith Ezekiel, historian, Wright State U/U de Toulouse

Jennifer Baumgardner, writer

Ruth Rosen, historian

Jane Smiley, writer

Anna Fels, MD, psychiatrist and writer

Debra Dickerson, writer/blogger, MotherJones.com

Margo Jefferson, writer

Jessica Valenti, writer/blogger, www.feministing.com

Dana Goldstein, The American Prospect

Karen Houppert, writer

Gloria Jacobs, The Feminist Press

Carole Joffe, Sociology, UC Davis

Janet Afary, Middle East Historian, Purdue University

Barrie Thorne, Chair,Gender & Women's Studies, UC, Berkeley

Catharine R. Stimpson, Dean, NYU

Lakshmi Chaudhry, writer

Rosalyn Baxandall, chair, American Studies SUNY-Old Westbury

Naomi Weisstein

Alisa Solomon,writer

Barbara Bick

Amy Swerdlow

Kathryn Scarbrough

Bea Kreloff, Drucilla Cornell, prof., political science, women's studies,comp lit, Rutgers.

Sonia Jaffe Robbins, writer/editor

Laura X, activist

Linda Stein, sculptor

Stephanie Gilmore, historian, Trinity College

Ariel Dougherty, Media Equity Collaborative, co-founder of Women Make Movies

Amie Newman, Associate editor, RH Reality check

Merle Hoffman, Choices Women's Medical Center and On the Issues magazine

Adele M. Stan, columnist, American Prospect Online

Michelle Goldberg, writer

Agnieszka Graff, scholar, writer and activist, Warsaw, Poland

Margaret Morgenroth Gullette, Women's Studies Research Center, Brandeis

Eleanor Bader, writer and educator

Eileen Boris, Hull Professor, Women's Studies UCSB

Cynthia L Cooper, "words of choice"

Jennifer Pozner, Women in Media and News

Dolores Hayden, prof, Yale

Kelli Zaytoun, English and women's Studies, Wright State U

Laura Ross, liaison, Indigenous Women's Political Caucus

Melody Berger, writer

Donna Schaper, Senior minister, Judson memorial church

Carol Sternhell, professor of journalism NYU

Mari Matsuda, law professor, PLACE TK

Michele Barry, professor of medicine and global health yale

Meredith Tax, writer, president, Women's WORLD

Estelle Freedman Robinson Professor, History, Stanford University

Annie Laurie Gaylor, Freedom from Religion foundation

Heather Nijoli Robinson, Equal Access Fund of Tennessee

Anna Clark, writer

Colleen Kelly Johnston, activist for owmen and peace

Emily Apter, literary theorist, NYU

Laura Zimmerman Co-founder, Center for New Words

Diane Wahto, Chair, Peace and Social Justice Center of South Central Kansas

Rev. Linda Pashby Kaufman, Unitarian Universalist Community Minister, Seattle,

Deanna Zandt, Media Technologist

Linda Ann Wheeler Hilton, artist and writer, Arizona

D. H. Melhem, Ph.D., poet & writer, New York City

Barbara Winslow, Women's studies and school of Ed., Bklyn College

Courtney E. Martin, Brooklyn-based writer and teacher

Lucinda Marshall, Founder, Feminist Peace Network

Jill Filipovic, feministe.us/blog

Alison Redford, homemaker & civic volunteer, Wellington, Kansas

Vickie Sandell Stangl, Wichita State University, Political Science Dept.

Meredith Michaels, philosophy dept, Smith college

Muriel Dimen, writer and Psychoanalyst, NYU

Susan Yanow, MSWReproductive Health Consultant Cambridge, MA

Nancy Folbre, Professor of Economics, University of Massachusetts Amherst

Judy Norsigian, Executive Director, Co-author Our Bodies Ourselves

Kathleen Gerson, sociologist, New York University

Amy King, Poet and Educator, SUNY Nassau Community College

Ana Bozicevic, Poet, New York City

Debbie Rogow, Co-Director, Rethinking Sexuality Education Project, Population Council Program on Poverty, Gender, and Youth

Katherine Ellis, Rutgers

Dr. Suellen Miller, Director, Safe Motherhood Programs Women's Global Health ImperativeUCSF

Janine Jackson, program director, FAIR

Lise Vogel Professor Emerita of Sociology, Rider University

Lisa Jervis, bitch

Nora Bredes, Director, Susan B. Anthony Center for Women's Leadership

Emily Gordon, writer and editor

Sophie Pollitt-Cohen, writer and student

Naela El-Hinnawy, ethnographer

Joan D. Mandle, Colgate University, Emerita

Esther Newton Women's Studies, University of Michigan

Marti Copleman, lawyer, board member Women for Afghan Women

Liza Featherstone, journalist/author

Vivian Gornick

Dorothy C. Miller, D.S.W., Director

Flora Stone Mather Center for Women & Clinical Associate Professor Mandel School For Applied Social Sciences Case Western Reserve University

J. Goodrich, blogger, "Echidne of the Snakes"

Victoria Rosenwald, RN MPH

Sonali Kolhatkar, Co-Director of Afghan Women's Mission

Beccah Golubock Watson, Legal Momentum

Veronica I. Arreola, Ctr for Research on Women & Gender, U Ill- Chicago

Jane Mansbridge, Kennedy School of Govt

Patricia Thorpe, writer

Sheila Weller / writer

Amy Richards, Soapbox, Inc

Joanne Landy Co-Director, Campaign for Peace and Democracy

Cynthia Carr, writer

Sigrid Nunez, wrier

Mary Kay Blakely, author and essayist, Missouri School of Journalism

Jennifer Ball, PhD Assoc. Prof of Economics Washburn U School of Business

Barbara R. Bergmann Professor Emerita of Economics, UMd and American U

Andrew I. Kohen, Professor of Economics & Women's Studies James Madison U

Gish Jen, writer

Laurie Stone, writer

Susan Feiner, prof econ and women's studies, USM

Elizabeth Kendall, prof, Eugene lang College

Erica Jong, poet and novelist

Atina Grossman, historian, Cooper Union

Patricia Beninato Webmaster, ImNotSorry.net

Ulla Grapard, economist, director of women's studies, Colgate University

Kay Trimberger, scholar & writer, Berkeley, CA

Dr. Sandra Morgen, Prof Women's Studies, Penn State U

Carol Anshaw, writer

Neva Goodwin, Co-director Global Development And Environment Institute, Tufts

Rosalind C. Barnett, psychologist

Winifred Breines, Professor of Sociology Northeastern University

Jan Clausen Poet, novelist

Mary Ann Caws, Distinguished Prof. English, French, Comp Lit, Grad Ctr, CUNY

Lyn Mikel Brown, educator/author, founder, Hardy Girls Healthy Women.

Michele Naples, Economics, The College of New Jersey

Deborah Billings, Researcher, Ipas (www.ipas.org)

Roberta L. Salper, Women's Studies Research, Brandeis

Rickie Solinger, historian, curator

Nanette Funk, Professor of philosophy, CUNY

Kate Daniels, writer, Vanderbilt University

Leila Hessini, ipas,org

Susan Yankowitz, playwright and novelist

Lee Ann Banaszak, Political Science and Women's Studies Penn St U

Ana Victoria Soady, Chair, Modern and Classical LanguagesValdosta St U

Honor Moore, writer

Fahima Vorgetts, Director, Afghan Women's Fund

Vicky Lovell, policy researcher

Amy Erdman Farrell, Women's Studies and American Studies, Dickinson College

Brigitte Bechtold, Professor of Sociology and Director, Center for Research on Poverty, Central Michigan U

Marty Jarrell, communications director ipas

Laura Kipnis, Northwestern University, writer

Abby Scher, Political Research Associates

Deb Hoskins, PhD, Women's, Gender, and Sexuality Studies, Uwisc- La Crosse

Rachel M. Brownstein, CUNY

Lisa M. Amoroso, Roosevelt College of Business Administration, board member,IMPACT Chicago

Virginia Sole-Smith, writer

Monica J. Casper, Dir, Women's and Gender Studies,Vanderbilt

Marianne T. Hill, Economist, Mississippi Center for Policy Research

Amy Reid, Assoc Prof of French/Coordinator of Gender Studies, New College of Florida

Jane O'Reilly, writer

Catherine Haustein, Department of Chemistry

Ellen Leopold, writer

Cathleen Schine, writer

Heather M. Dalmage, Director, Mansfield Institute for Social JusticeProfessor of Sociology Roosevelt U

Sarah Hernandez, Sociology, Associate Professor

Erika Munk, writer

Betsy Damon, Eco activist, artist

Joan Ferrante, Professor Emerita of Comparative Literature, Columbia

Vivian Stromberg, (Executive Director) MADRE

Yifat Susskind, (Communications Director) MADRE

Leora Tannenbaum, writer

Martha Thompson, Professor Emeritus, Sociology and Women's Studies. Northeastern Illinois University and Director, IMPACT Chicago

Anna Lena Phillips, poetry editor, Fringe magazine

Elizabeth R. Stark, editor, Fringe magazine

B. Ruby Rich Professor, University of California, Santa Cruz

Christina Pacosz, poet, writer, retired teacher, Kansas City, Missouri

Alice K. Turner, editor/ writer

Lyndi Hewitt, Ph.D. Student, Department of Sociology Research Assistant, Global Feminisms Collaborative Vanderbilt University

Claudia Angelos, prof law, NYU

Natalia Deeb-Sossa, assistant prof Sociology, UC Davis.

Bonnie Miller-McLemore, Professor of Pastoral Theology, Vanderbilt Div School

Randy Albelda, economist, UMass-boston

Nicole Hollander, creator of cartoon strip Sylvia

Susan O'Malley, activist, CUNY

Nikki Keddie, Professor Emerita of History, UCLA

Julia Alvarez, Writer & Teacher

Claire Keyes, Professor EmeritaSalem State College

Barbara Katz Rothman, Professor, CUNY

Miranda Spencer, Writer

Janet Spitz PhD, Assoc. Professor of Business, Albany NY

Dorothy Allison, writer

Pamela Grossman, writer and editor

Rayna Rapp, NYU, anthropologist

Eileen Boris, historian Uc-SB

Amy Hoffman, Editor in Chief Women's Review of Books

Rev. Katherine Ragsdale, episcopal priest, executive director, Political Research Associates

Katharine Baker, Visiting Faculty Religion & PhilosophySouthwestern U

Laura Dickinson, Prof, International Human Rights Law, U Conn School of Law.

John Exdell, Department of Philosophy, Kansas State University

M. V. Lee Badgett, economist, University of Massachusetts Amherst

Carol Gilligan

Glenna Matthews, Visiting Scholar, Starr King School for the Ministry, Berkeley,

Marjorie C. Miller, Professor of Philosophy, Gender Studies, Asian Studies, Purchase College, SUNY

Celia Gilbert, poet

Prof. Nina Pelikan Straus, Humanities, Purchase College,SUNY.

Beverly R. Voloshin, Professor of English, San Francisco State University

Rebecca Traister, journalist

Julia Henderson, Art Editor/Webmistress, Fringe Magazine

Nancy K. Miller, English, The Graduate Center

Martha Vicinus

Eliza M. Mosher, Distinguished University Professor, Department of English University of Michigan

Margaret Willson, International director, Bahia Street

Nancy Bacon, Program director, Bahia Street

Carol Ann Dalto, Chair, Psychology, Merrimack College

Jill M. Wood, Women's Studies, Penn State University

Estelle Jelinek, Ph.D., writer, Berkeley, CA

Loretta J. Ross, National Coordinator SisterSong Women of Color Reproductive Health Collective

Deirdre English, Director Felker Magazine Center Graduate School of Journalism University of California, Berkeley,

Haley Swenson, writer

Judith E. Johnson, Professor Emerita, English and Women's Studies at SUNY-Albany. Editor 13th moon press

Trude Bennett, Maternal and Child Health, UNC-Chapel Hill

Demie Kurz, Co-Director Women's Studies &The Alice Paul Center, U Penn

Su Friedrich, filmmaker, professor, Princeton University

Gillian Bell, artist and reproductive rights activist

Katie Buckland, Exec. Director ,California Women's Law Center

Aimee Thorne-Thomsen, (executive director, Pro-Choice Education Project)

Pat Schneider, Writer

Jacqui Ceballos, President - Veteran Feminists of America

Ariel Levy, writer

Bobbie Birleffi, Producer/Director

Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz, Professor Emeritus, California State University

Kate Gordon, Lawyer and policy wonk

Sheila Collins, professor,Political Science William Paterson University

Carmen Gimenez Smith, English, New Mexico State University

Maxine Kumin, poet

Alice Echols, Associate Professor, eng, USC

Dr. Robin Andersen, Prof Communication and Media Studies, Fordham

Rhoda Unger, Women's Studies Research Center,Brandeis

Alice Radosh, psychologist/volunteer fire fighter

Barbara Garson Playwright

Marcia Ann Gillespie, writer

Gail Pellett, Documentary film director, writer, producer

Gloria Feldt, author, activist

Rosalind Petchesky, Distinguished Professor, Hunter College & Graduate Center, CUNY

AliceJ Wolfson, co-founder, National Women's Health Network

Sara M. Evans, Historian University of Minnesota

June Millington, musician/songwriter, Artistic Dir. IMA

Bettina Aptheker, Professor Feminist Studies,UCSanta Cruz

Melanie Kaye/Kantrowitz,,Visiting Prof,Jewish Studies, Comp Lit, & History Queens College/CUNY

Leslie Cagan, National Coordinator, United for Peace and Justice

Marta Murray, Close Graduate student in economics University of Michigan

Karen Judd, UNIFEM

Blanche Wiesen Cook, distinguished professor, John Jay &The Graduate Center, CUNY

Ophelia Benson, writer and editor, Butterflies and Wheels

Toni Armstrong Jr., editor/teacher/organizer/musician

Orit Schwartz, Occupational Therapist, Chicago Public Schools

Betsy Reed, The Nation

Catherine Daly, writer

Katherine Drabek PhD

Nina Carroll MD, Gynecologist

Robin Morgan

Maxine Hong Kingston

Marilyn Myerson, Ph.D., Graduate Director, Women's Studies Dept., University of South Florida.

Micaela di Leonardo, Professor Anthropology, Performance Studies Northwestern University

Heather Fowler-Salamini, Bradley University, History and Women's Studies

Julie R. Enszer, writer

Dr. Paulette Olson, Department of Economics, Wright State University

Phyllis Ewen, Artist

Madeleine M. Kunin, former Governor of Verrmont

Noreen Connell, former president of NOW-NYS and NOW-NYC

Yvette Koch, board of NNAF

Karen Lindsey, writer, adjunct in women's studies, U.Mass.Boston

Dr. Lorraine Dowler, Dept of Geography and Women's Studies Penn State University

Diana Strassmann, Editor, Feminist Economics, Professor of the Practice, Rice University

Judith Stacey, NYU

Susan Meiselas, photographer

Lisa Kahane, photographer, NYC

Elaine Tyler May, Regents Professor Departments of American Studies and History University of Minnesota

Yvonne Daniel

Robert Drago, takecarenet.org

Joanne Edgar, writer, editor

Sharon Arslanian, prof. Greenfield Community College, Greenfield, MA

Sondra G. Stein, educator, former director, Equipped for the Future

Cynthia Enloe, political scientist, Clark University

Mary Thom, Editor, The Women's Media Center (website)

Yvonne Payne Daniel, Ph.D.Professor Emerita of Dance and Afro-American Studies,Smith College

Brenda Wineapple, writer

Laurel Long, student and writer

Marcia Folsom, Harvard University

Lynne Phillips, writer, cartoonist

Dorothy Sue Cobble, Rutgers University

Florence Howe

Charlotte Bunch, Executive Director, Center for Women's Global Leadership, Rutgers University

Helen Hardacre, Edwin O. Reischauer Institute of Japanese Studies, Harvard University

Jann Matlock, university professor (and American citizen), University College London

Ellen DuBois, Professor of History, UCLA

Ellen McGrath Smith, English/University of Pittsburgh

Mary Schweitzer, Ph.D., economic historian

Ellen Moody, teacher, literary scholar, George Mason University

Joan Korenman, Professor Emerita of English and Women's Studies, UMBC

Anna Stange, folksinger

Leila J. Rupp, historian, University of California, Santa Barbara

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