27 February 2009

Report Reveals Shocking State of Sex Ed in Texas

Ms. Foundation grantee, the Texas Freedom Network, just released a report about the state of sexuality education in Texas, replete with revelations of horrifying distortions and untruths perpetuated through abstinence-only curricula. See Broadsheet's reaction in their posting, Texas: The state of sex (mis)education:
I wish this were a bad joke -- the unfair caricature of Texas that you might see on a Prius' bumper sticker -- but it isn't: A whopping 94 percent of school districts in the Lone Star State teach only abstinence, according to a new report. Worse yet, the review by two professors at Texas State University found that "sexuality education materials" used in the state "regularly contain factual errors and perpetuate lies and distortions about condoms and STDs." They also found that classes promoted gender stereotypes, sexual orientation biases, shame and fear. Oh, what fun!

Disturbing as they may be, those top-line summaries of the findings are nothing compared to excerpts included in the report (PDF) from actual teaching materials. Suicide is a favorite scare tactic: One program predicts non-virginal students' miserable future, "You know people talk about you behind your back because you’ve had sex with so many people ... Finally you get sick of it all and attempt suicide." There are fun skits about suicide, too. In one, titled "Jumping Off the Bridge," the moral of the story is put like so: "Giving a condom to a teen is just like saying, 'Well if you insist on killing yourself by jumping off the bridge, at least wear these elbow pads -- they may protect you some?'" (Got it: Handing out condoms = assisted suicide.) Read more
Go to the Texas Freedom Network's site to learn more about their "Just Say Don't Know" campaign, read the full report (PDF), watch their "Sex Ed...Texas Style" videos and sign their petition for responsible sex education.

24 February 2009

Join Gloria Steinem and Turn Your Outrage into Action!

And have fun doing it!

- More About Outrageous Acts
- Support Outrageous Acts with a Gift
- What is Outrageous?
- Outrageous Acts Suggestions
- How to Submit

- Host a party to celebrate Gloria Steinem’s 75th birthday. [Preview the House Party video.]

19 February 2009

"Unity in a movement situation is overrated. If you were the Establishment, which would you rather see coming in the door...

five hundred mice or one lion?"

Gloria Steinem, quoting Florynce Kennedy in "Far From the Opposite Shore," Outrageous Acts and Everyday Rebellions, New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 1983.

11 February 2009

"Women Are Joining the Unemployment Line, Too"

We invite you to read the post, "Women are Joining the Unemployment Line, Too," published by our friends at Womenstake, the National Women's Law Center blog. For months, journalists have reported misleading information about the impact of the economic downturn, emphasizing that it's been much worse for men while downplaying or omitting the equivalent if not disproportionate impact on women, especially low-income women and women of color.

Responding to the New York Times article, "As Layoffs Surge, Women May Pass Men in Workforce," Valerie Norton writes:
This recession, like most, hit the male-dominated housing, construction, and manufacturing sectors first. So, over the past year, men’s unemployment rose faster than women’s, climbing to 7.6 percent in January 2009. However, since September, as the recession has spread to the female-dominated retail and services sectors, women’s unemployment also rose quickly and actually rose slightly faster than men’s. This past month, women’s unemployment climbed to 6.2 percent, the highest rate in 16 years and the largest single-year increase in 33 years. Unemployment among women who head families -– who have no other income to fall back on and are especially vulnerable –- climbed to 10.3 percent. Read More

Happy Valentine's Day

This Valentine's Day, we at the Ms. Foundation for Women are filled with love. 

For our grantees, whose work to make the world better for women and girls is inspiring and courageous.

For our partners, whose support we deeply appreciate. With your generosity, we are able to build women's collective power to ignite social change.

For the renewed hope in our country.

We are happy to stand with you, working toward a society based on equity and inclusion -- a true democracy at every level and in every community.

Happy Valentine's Day!

Sara K. Gould
President & CEO

10 February 2009

Domestic Workers Hope 2009 is Year of Change in New York

Check out this article about Ms. Foundation grantee Domestic Workers United (DWU). With a shift in power at the state level and a stronger emphasis nationwide on issues of economic security, Women's eNews talks with DWU about the prospects for passing legislation that would finally expand labor protections for domestic workers in New York.

Rebecca Harshbarger writes:
Amid massive layoffs, domestic workers and advocates across the country are looking to New York to become the first state to extend legal protections for health insurance, overtime, severance and cost-of-living salary adjustments. Read more.

05 February 2009

Audio Available: From Economic Stimulus to Economic Reality: Where are the Good Jobs for Women?

In a conference call moderated by Ms. Foundation President and CEO Sara K. Gould, leaders addressed the impact of President Obama's American Recovery and Reinvestment Act on women. The recording of the 5 February 2009 call is now available. Featured in the call are:

Joan Kuriansky, Executive Director, Wider Opportunities for Women (WOW)
Carol Burnett, Executive Director, Moore Community House
Julie Kuklinski, Women In Construction Program Director, Moore Community House
Ellen Bravo, Coordinator, Multi-State Working Families Consortium and Prof. of Women's Studies at University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee

Sara K. Gould, President and CEO, Ms. Foundation for Women

Listen with the player below, or download the mp3 file.

04 February 2009

Community-Based Groups Protest Exclusion at Corporate Party

Our grantees are working across the country to address the impact of the economic crisis on women, families and communities. They're holding policymakers and other key actors accountable for their role in creating it and advocating for the inclusion of community voices and solutions that will stem the crisis and create economic justice for all.

For example, on Tuesday, Ms. Foundation grantees FIERCE, CAAAV: Organizing Asian Communities and other members of the Right to the City Alliance protested the "Future of New York City," a meeting held between Mayor Michael Bloomberg and corporate leaders to address the role of the city's business elite in ensuring economic recovery. Chanting, "This is what democracy looks like!" they called attention to the fact that this $249-a-seat gathering represented the systematic exclusion of low-income people, people of color, women, immigrants, youth and others from decision-making tables. Because they've been most affected by our current economic crisis and bear the brunt of harmful policies generated by the business and political elite, the leadership of these groups, protesters demanded, must figure prominently into how this crisis is solved.

Watch this video of the protest. Rickke Mananzala of FIERCE and Esther Wang of CAAAV speak fiercely towards the end (starting around 2:50).

FIERCE and CAAAV are both members of Right to the City (as are other Ms. Foundation grantees in Providence, RI and New Orleans), an alliance of community-based organizations, academics, lawyers and others from across the country working to build a national urban movement for housing, education, health, racial justice and democracy.

02 February 2009

Acts of Courage and Unwavering Commitment

New York Times columnist Bob Herbert shares his appreciation for the power of grassroots organizing as he reviews Pray the Devil Back to Hell and the campaign of women in Liberia to end the civil war and the reign of Charles Taylor. (The movie, which the Foundation presented in a special screening in October, was produced by Abigail Disney, a former Ms. Foundation board member.) Some choice excerpts (with my emphasis) from Herbert's column: "A Crazy Dream," describe the audacity of outrageous acts in creating change:

The movie, for me, was about much more than the tragic, and then ultimately uplifting events in Liberia. It was about the power of ordinary people to intervene in their own fate.

The filmmakers Abigail Disney and Gini Reticker show us how Ms. [Leymah] Gbowee not only rallied the women at her Lutheran church to pray for peace, but organized them into a full-blown, all-women peace initiative that spread to other Christian churches -- and then to women of the Muslim faith.

The moral authority of this movement that seemed to have arisen from nowhere had become one of the significant factors pushing the warring sides to the peace table. Peace talks were eventually held in Accra, the capital of Ghana, and when it looked as if they were about to break down, Ms. Gbowee and nearly 200 of her followers staged a sit-in at the site of the talks, demanding that the two sides stay put until an agreement was reached.

A tentative peace was established, and Mr. Taylor went into exile in Nigeria. The women continued their activism. Three years ago, on Jan. 16, 2006, in an absolutely thrilling triumph for the mothers and wives and sisters and aunts and grandmothers who had worked so courageously for peace, Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf was sworn in as the president of Liberia -- the first woman ever elected president of a country in Africa.

Liberia is hardly the world's most stable society. But "Pray the Devil Back to Hell" reminds us of the incredible power available to the most ordinary of people if they are willing to act with courage and unwavering commitment.

Find screenings for "Pray the Devil Back to Hell."

[See also: Join the Ms. Foundation for a Special Showing of "Pray the Devil Back to Hell"]