Category Archives: Social Justice

Drinking From The Same Well: White Supremacy, Misogyny, and the Fight for Justice in Solidarity

Director of Women’s Studies Alison Reiheld, an Associate Professor of Philosophy at SIUE, is on sabbatical leave this semester. Recent events, however, have driven her to think. And write. And keep acting.

CONTENT WARNING: gun violence, racist violence, anti-Semitic violence, gender-based violence. Where possible, images will honor the victims and will only show the faces of the perpetrators if they are obscured.

CONTENT REWARD: this is difficult, hard to read material. At the end, you will find some pictures of cute animals for relief.

“Understand that modern white supremacy, like many historical white supremacies, is anti-black, anti-Semitic, anti-immigrant, anti-woman, and more. Elliot Rodger, Dylann Roof, and the shooter in Pittsburgh drank from the same ideological well — a well we have to drain.” 

–Nicole Hemmer, tweetstorm on antisemitism and Charlottesville, Oct 27, 2018

Hemmer - white supremacy misogyny same well

Nine years ago on the 20th anniversary of the event, I learned about the massacre at Ecole Polytechnique in Montreal. In 1989, twenty-five year old Mark Lepine, armed with a rifle and a hunting knife, walked into a classroom at the university, separated the men from the women, claimed he was “fighting feminism” because it ruined his life, called all the women in the room feminists, and proceeded to shoot all nine women in the room, killing six before moving through the rest of the university where he killed more women and many men. In total, he killed 14 women, injured 10 other women and 4 men, and then turned the gun on himself. He chose Ecole Polytechnique because he had been denied admission and blamed feminists and women for taking a spot that he believed belonged to him by right. While searching his body, police found a suicide note and a list in his pocket of 19 prominent Canadian women including a journalist and a government minister. The note said that Lepine believed there was no place for women in engineering, that women were trying to take over men’s jobs, and that feminists were responsible for higher insurance costs. The Montreal Massacre remains the deadliest mass shooting in Canadian history and led to Canada’s current gun control laws. I had never heard of it.

Montreal Massacre victims

The 14 women engineering students murdered by Marc Lepine in Montreal, Canada at Ecole Polytechnique

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Favorite Feminist Heroes, Part 2: Gloria Anzaldúa

Our second installment in our Women’s History Month miniseries on Favorite Feminist Heroes comes to us from SIUE Director of Women’s Studies and Associate Professor of Philosophy Alison Reiheld. Don’t miss Part 1 from Sociology Prof Kiana Cox, and keep reading for more!

10-6-17 laughing

Alison Reiheld

My favorite feminist hero is Gloria Anzaldúa, who has been a big influence on me as a as my thinking has developed. Her identity as a queer Chicana feminist born and raised in the Rio Grand Valley on the US side of the border is reflected in her writing. Perhaps her most famous work, and certainly the one that most deeply affected me, is Borderlands/La Frontera: The New Mestiza. Another one not to miss is the anthology she co-edited called This Bridge Called My Back: Writings by Radical Women of ColorNot long ago, she even got her own Google doodle.   Anzaldúa considered the impact of crushing heteronormativity, of being perceived in America as Other, and the ongoing impact of colonialism on the lives of Mestiza women whose heritage includes both native peoples and European colonizers. She also worked from her experience of growing up with a chronic medical condition and provides food for thought for folks working in disability studies. As a result of these many intersecting identities, she felt that she lived in many worlds at once.  Rather than seeing this as a source of a fractured self, Anzaldúa developed the concept of border-crossing and bridge-building as metaphors for a productive way of existing in a diverse world with people from other groups and also across multiple group memberships. Border-crossing means being in deliberate contact with people who are different from oneself and working to understand their lives and needs, being able to live and be in community with many people.  Of course, there is a lot more to it than this, but we could all use a little mental border-crossing and bridge-building skill in this world of ours.

If you’re interested in how Anzaldúa’s work continues to live on after her death, check out the cool Podcast “Anzaldúing It” (“2 best friends + queer Latinx woes. Powered by echale ganas, tacos, cochinita pibil and Selena. Episodes come out every other Week!”) or this sweet half-hour long NPR show commemorating her work.  

 

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Favorite Feminist Heroes, Part 1: Maria Miller Stewart

It is Women’s History Month, and so time for a miniseries here on the SIUE Women’s Studies Blog!  In previous years, we have had a miniseries on gender and media and of course our most successful miniseries: our 15-day series on Feminist Songs with individual entries written by feminists from all over North America about songs from all over the world. It began with Loretta Lynn’s “The Pill”, included Peggy Seeger and Nancy Sinatra and Laura Mvula and Ani DiFranco and Beyonce and Palestinian rap group DAM, and ended with a SNL comedy song-sketch . Today, we kick off this year’s Women’s History Month miniseries on Favorite Feminist Heroes with an entry by SIUE Assistant Professor of Sociology Kiana Cox.

Kiana Cox

Dr. Kiana Cox

My favorite feminist is Maria Miller Stewart.  She is important to me for several reasons.  Often, feminism is viewed within various aspects of black nationalist ideology as a white invention; as something that is foreign and inconsistent with black freedom movements.  Likewise, popular stories of women’s political history in the U.S. often start with the “first wave” at the end of the 19th century.  However, Maria Miller Stewart was a free black woman living in Boston in the 1830s and the first American woman to give a public lecture on social justice issues to mixed race and mixed gender audiences.  This is important, given that elite black women of her day were consigned to literary or temperance societies if they wanted to do political work.  Stewart is important because she becomes a forerunner of the black feminist tradition that we usually locate in the 1960s and 70s.  In 1831, she published “Pure Principles of Morality” in the ladies section of William Lloyd Garrison’s abolitionist newspaper “The Liberator”.  (Note that Stewart knew and worked with Garrison in the abolitionist movement a full decade before Frederick Douglass met him).  In “Pure Principles”, Miller speaks directly to black women of her day, imploring them about the need for them to be leaders. She stated, 

Maria Stewart Miller

Maria Miller Stewart

Possess the spirit of independence. The Americans do, and why should not you? Possess the spirit of men, bold and enterprising, fearless and undaunted…   Continue reading

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Walk a mile in our shoes ….by learning about our actual experiences

Recently (yesterday), SIUE participated in the national event known as “Walk A Mile in Her Shoes.” As is typical of such programs across the nation, and as described in a press release from SIUE earlier today, “Men crammed their feet into red high heels and walked on the campus of Southern Illinois University Edwardsville on Tuesday,  Feb.13 to support women and to bring attention to gender-based violence.” While a post-event session offered by SIUE’s Prevention and Education Advocacy Center (PEACe) offered much more depth and a chance to really learn about being active bystanders and preventing violence, the event is often reduced in the public perception to being about the red shoes walk, itself. Our own Prof. Saba Fatima (SIUE Philosophy Department) reflects on this  public perception of these kinds of events–not necessarily the SIUE event itself–in a blog entry authored before the event took place. Note that this public perception is reflected in the way that the University’s press release covered the event even though the event itself contained a much richer opportunity to explore issues of gender, sexual harassment, and other aspects of sexism.

Walk a mile in her shoes 02-13-18 high heals

Men in pants stand on one foot and stick out the other, linking arms in a semicircle in front of the Cougar statue outside of SIUE’s Morris University Center. They are wearing bright red high heels. This is the public perception of what the event is about. This is also the image taken from the SIUE press release about the event. The picture was taken February 13, 2018. Shown in the center is Jeffrey Waple, vice chancellor for student affairs at SIUE, who led the march.

Across US campuses, men get involved in “Walk a Mile in Her Shoes” event an effort to raise awareness for violence against women. So on Feb. 13th SIUE men walked in high heels to literally experience what it feels like to walk in a woman’s shoes. The idea is an event that is a “playful opportunity for men to raise awareness in their community about the serious causes, effects and remediations to men’s sexualized violence against women.”

The whole point of ‘Walk a Mile Her Shoes’ is to get a glimpse of what women experience. The walk is generally followed by providing productive information that focuses on raising awareness about sexual violence. I think everyone that organizes & participates in it has their heart in the right place, but perhaps we need to rethink specifically the ‘high heels’ activity that accompanies this intent. I cannot help but think that there is something off about men walking in high heels to experience women’s experiences. Here are a few thoughts on it:

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Cool Link: Institute for Women’s Studies in the Arab World (IWSAW)

From the Director of Women’s Studies at SIUE, Alison Reiheld, comes this Cool Link.

The Institute for Women’s Studies in the Arab World (IWSAW) at Lebanese American University sent their Director, Dr. Lina Abirafeh, to be interviewed on MTVAlive on August 11, 2017.  The video has a few short segments in Arabic, but most of the interview is in English. I commend it to you as a source of information about this great program, about women’s and gender issues globally, and as a window into women’s studies in a part of the world to which folks in the United States don’t always have (or don’t always seek) exposure.  Among other topics you might not expect, the professor who is interviewed discusses sustainable development and a recent student product to make an animated video for a song on partnership and gender equity.

Check out the interview and the IWSAW. If the embedded video isn’t working, you can get it here.

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PEACe in: SIUE has a new Sexual Assault and Intimate Partner Violence Initiative

On the heels of our previous blog entry on sexual assault for April, which is sexual assault awareness month, we have good news from a new SIUE staff member whose job is entirely focused on this and related issues.  Meet Samantha Dickens. She has kindly provided her contact information at the bottom in case you want to get ahold of her.

Greetings, SIUe students, faculty, and staff!vawa bipartisan

SIUe competed for and was awarded the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) grant in October 2016, allowing us to create the Prevention Education and Advocacy Center (PEACe) and hire a program coordinator: myself, Samantha Dickens. The VAWA grant is facilitated through the Office of Violence Against Women (OVW), and the act has existed for over twenty years. During this time, OVW has refined the grant process based on research and critical analysis of that research, creating a three year grant with multiple structured trainings for the grant team and access to a point of contact with OVW and technical assistants who are experts in their fields of strategic planning, prevention education, cultural competency, and several other topics.

VAWA support

IMAGE DESCRIPTION: A young woman with shoulder length curly black hair, brown skin, dark eyes, and pink lipstick holds a white markerboard. She is smiling just slightly. On the board is written “I support VAWA because it funds and provides CRITICAL and LIFE-SAVING services.”

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A Brief List of Feminist New Year’s Resolutions

The Director of the SIUE Women’s Studies Program, Alison Reiheld, here offers a few of her own New Year’s Resolutions and those of some friends and feminist thinkers.

  1. I will wake up ready to fight, and have no truck with fascism.
  2. My feminism will be intersectional or it will be bullshit.
  3. I will take risks for what I believe in.
  4. I will use my power and position on behalf of those who don’t have as much.
  5. I will amplify rather than speak instead of or over.
  6. I will listen.
  7. I will be gentle with myself, and with others who are trying.
  8. I will be angry when I should be angry, in the right way, at the right time, at the right people, for the right reasons.
  9. I will do more calling in, as well as calling out.
  10. When I think of my own fleshy self, I will set my skeptical eye to watching for the filters of strange and damaging notions of what makes a body a good body.  I will focus on what my body does for me that I need it to do.  I mean, hell, it turns sleep and food and oxygen into motion and thought and water vapor and carbon dioxide. Behold it.
  11. Like Saba Fatima, I will stop backing down on what I know is right. I will not avoid confrontation to appease the powers that be.

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Solidarity and Activism Starter Kit

Regardless of aims, activist-and-solidarity movements from across the political and values spectrum face similar problems. The Southern Illinois University Edwardsville Women’s Studies Program Director and faculty have produced the following Solidarity and Activism Starter Kit. It is designed to help avoid some of the very real problems that happen within movements, to help people who haven’t been involved before get involved, and to help a group be effective. It is designed to enable the just pursuit of justice. It is not meant to be the last or only word. It is simply meant to be a starter kit. May it serve you well.

–Alison Reiheld, Director of SIUE Women’s Studies

solidarity

This image depicts solidarity by showing human hands of many skin tones, some with colorful bracelets, all reaching in to put their hands together.

We also have this available as a PDF document that prints on one sheet of paper, double-sided: solidarity-and-activism-starter-kit

1) LISTEN to hear and understand, not to formulate a response.  BELIEVE people when they speak of their experiences and concerns.

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“He said/She said” and the gendered dynamics of rape reporting

SIUE Criminal Justice faculty member Trish Oberweis has long been concerned with sexual assault, especially on college campuses. In this blog entry, Dr. Oberweis again takes up this long-standing concern. She wishes to thank former SIUE faculty member Carly Hayden Foster, now on the Political Science faculty of Luther College, for assistance in developing this consideration of a local sexual assault case and how it reflects light on taking women’s word for it.  Does presuming innocence on the part of the alleged perpetrator require presuming incompetence or malfeasance on the part of the alleged victim?

–Alison Reiheld, Director of SIUE’s Women’s Studies Program

This autumn, Missouri House candidate Cora Faith Walker alleged that Steven Roberts, Jr., another House candidate from a different district, raped her. They were strategizing legislation together, in anticipation of a future in which they would both be elected to the Missouri House of Representatives from their respective districts, and would be collaborating on various projects. It was a late meeting, and one that Walker asserts ended in violence.

cora-faith-walkerShe reported the crime to police, who investigated it. On October 25, 2016, the special prosecutor appointed to the case, Tim Lohmar, declined to press charges. “There simply wasn’t enough credible evidence that sexual relations between these two people were anything but consensual,” he said. In other words, it was a he said/she said situation. How can we possibly sort out that sort of situation?

Well, I am not convinced that it is really that difficult.

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Visibility & Piety

This blog entry comes to us from SIUE Philosophy professor Saba Fatima.  Dr. Fatima has published on social and political concerns as they pertain to the Muslim identity. Here, she combines her interest in Women’s Studies with her work on religion to reflect on an important topic: the presence of women in Islam.  Scholarship in history and in religious studies has long examined the role of women in Judaism, the Catholic Church, in protestant Christianity and in Islam.  Dr. Fatima joins that tradition by turning a careful gaze–one both critical and respectful–toward Islam and its varied forms. Being herself a Muslim, Dr. Fatima’s reflexive gaze comes from within  Islam.

Reservations

 I have been thinking about writing this blog for over a year. My reservation stemmed from the fact that for as long as I can remember, there has been a plethora of negative misconceptions about gender & Islam in the Western world, and I would hate to add any fuel to the fire.

Just recently, at the Republican debate in Miami on March 15, Donald Trump, the Republican frontrunner, stated: “There is tremendous hate. Where large portions of a group of people, Islam, large portions want to use very, very harsh means…Let me go a step further. Women are treated horribly. You know that. You do know that. Women are treated horribly, and other things are happening that are very, very bad.”

Such rhetoric (and its tamer forms) has been historically used to justify imperialistic wars against Muslim men, women, and children and has made the American public complacent to war crimes committed by Western governments. For some Americans, part of bombing the Middle East until ‘the sand glows in the dark’ is for their own benefit. To kill indiscriminately, in order to save their women from their men…. Or so the thinking goes.

This is all to say that when minorities are critical of certain practices within their own frameworks, the criticism is almost always re-appropriated to alien contexts by the dominant political frameworks in order to justify larger systemic harm to that minority. As a Muslim American woman, such flawed logic makes me very apprehensive.

Visibility and Piety 1

Muslim Americans praying in front of U.S. House of Representatives, Washington DC. Bodies kneel and bow, oriented toward the east face of the building looking over the National Mall, and thus facing toward Mecca.

That said, I also think Muslims have a lot to contribute to discussions on gender relations, and co-opting of internal-criticism by Western worldviews has often kept us, Muslims, from challenging the status quo; it has kept us on the defensive. However, if there are to be any challenges to the status quo, they have to come from an internal critical analysis. And I am Muslim, and I am a woman, and, yes, I do live in the United States. My critical outlook on issues that are systemic in nature and that I face, are situated from my particular social location. And thus, this blog appears in my university’s women studies program blog. The placement may appear as an external gaze, but I want to own my location as that of a Muslim, similar to if I had lived in a Muslim majority culture.

So what is it that I wish to write about, that required such a prologue?

I want to put some thoughts down about how much space women are allocated in the two most holy sites for all Muslims: Masjid al-Haram in Makkah and Masjid an-Nabawi in Madinah, Saudi Arabia.

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