When Will Lawmakers Stop Surveilling Women’s Bodies?

Women claimed an outsized voice last week in the first national elections since the #MeToo movement went viral—but we have a long way to go in reclaiming our bodies.

Lorie Shaull / Creative Commons

A record number of women ran for political office this year, and a record number will be seated in Congress, but the numbers of women in political office are still depressingly low. Internationally, the U.S. ranked 104th for female representation before the midterms, and the latest elections are just a nudge up. Women will still fill less than a quarter of the seats come 2019, and only nine governors will be female.

Gender parity in politics matters—because our rights and our bodies are on the line. An insidiary and often unnoticed rise in the surveillance and control over women’s bodies is happening right here and now. Some of the strategies are familiar; others are creative and even absurd.

A recent story from Tanzania about the expulsion of pregnant girls from school—a practice recently revived from the 1960s—might be read with curiosity, but seem remote, to those of us living in the U.S. After all, girls here aren’t taken from class and made to pee in a jar for compulsory pregnancy tests twice a year. But several weeks ago, the Virginia prison system did ban visitors from using tampons.

You read that correctly: The state of Virginia wanted to make it so that visitors to prisons in the state revealed to be using a tampon by a body-scan machine would be turned away, and their future visitation privileges “reviewed.” Prison officials claimed this was part of an effort to reduce fatal overdoses from drugs smuggled into prisons. The ACLU and other advocacy groups disagreed, and pressured the prison system to reverse course. Their intervention allowed women to escape this latest surveillance, but some effects remain. The body scans of visitors will still reveal tampon use—which remains intrusive, not to mention creepy.

Women these days are engaged in a constant game of whack-a-mole against attacks on their reproductive rights and health. As women candidates scored victories in the midterms, Alabama voters approved a measure to recognize the rights of the unborn—laying the groundwork for an outright abortion ban if the landmark decision in Roe v. Wade, now more at risk than ever, was ever be overturned.

Vigilance, it seems, is now required to simply hold on to rights that we thought were already secure. Take, for example, the contraception wars—which many of us felt were settled in the 1960s and 70s, but, then, suddenly weren’t. Rush Limbaugh called law student Sandra Fluke a slut for advocating for contraceptive coverage during debates over the Affordable Care Act, and it was only an opening performance of what was yet to comer. Soon thereafter, employers stated they were willing to cover birth control pills for health reasons, but not to avoid pregnancy—and that to determine the difference, women would have to explain themselves.

Nicole Mone Arteaga was denied access to critical care in June by a Walgreens’ pharmacist in Arizona, who refused to fill a prescription needed to manage the miscarriage of her very-much-wanted pregnancy. He was able to do so because an Arizona “conscience” statute permits pharmacists to refuse to fill prescriptions for emergency contraception, abortion medication and drugs that prevent implantation of a fertilized ovum. Arteaga later said that, after explaining in front of her seven-year-old child and five nearby customers that the fetus she was carrying had failed to develop, she left without the prescription “in tears, ashamed and feeling humiliated by a man who knows nothing of my struggles but feels it is his right to deny medication prescribed to me by my doctor.”

Arizona is not the only state where women like Arteaga aren’t in control of their bodies. The list of intrusive regulations nationwide goes on and on, as does the fight to stop them. But with each one of these proposed policies the goalpost of what might become normalized is moved—even if they’re staved off in legislative session or the courts intervene to protect women’s bodies.

In the name of women’s “right to know,” North Carolina requires physicians to display and describe the results of a mandatory ultrasound before an abortion, which requires a vaginal probe in many cases—and claimed it was enough that a patient who didn’t enjoy the process could avert her eyes or cover her ears to make do. A court reviewing the law sympathized with the patient lying “half-naked or disrobed on her back,” but ultimately struck the law down because it infringed on the physician’s rights; the requirement was “quintessential compelled speech,” “forc[ing] physicians to say things they otherwise would not say,” even though the compulsion experienced by the physicians inevitably pales in comparison to that experienced by the patients. Today, similar “speech and display” ultrasound laws remain in effect in Louisiana, Texas and Wisconsin.

Virginia’s tampon ban was not defended as a means to limit contraband for the sake of prison control—it was defined as an effort to save prisoner’s lives. Really? Instead of beginning with the vagina, perhaps we could try adequate medical care staffing and emergency response, or drug and mental health treatment programs.

Nature makes it hard enough for girls and women to consistently exercise comfortable control over their bodies: we have periods, we get pregnant, we lose wanted pregnancies. It isn’t fair, just or right that we must also continue to face down boys and men each day who assert their own prerogatives over our bodies—and it’s scary that the government increasingly, incrementally and, under the guise of apparently noble but ultimately shallow justifications, is also attempting to take more and more control over our decisions and our destinies.

It’s clear now more than ever that our constitutional rights are an imperfect shield—one around which intrusive laws can peer, poke and prod. The midterms were a strong first step toward taking back our power to decide and determine our own futures—but we must be ready to vote, mobilize, run for office and pack up our pink hats and posters until we’re certain that our bodily integrity is safe.

Lois Shepherd is Professor of Law, Professor of Public Health Sciences, the Wallenborn Professor of Biomedical Ethics and Co-Director of Studies in Reproductive Ethics and Justice at the University of Virginia. She is a Public Voices Fellow with the Op-Ed Project.

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‘Crazy Ex-Girlfriend’ star Rachel Bloom wrote a song skewering women’s magazine covers

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Crazy Ex-Girlfriend star Rachel Bloom has been skewering unrealistic expectations of women (set by both men and women) and debunking sex myths for years. But now, the actress, singer, and comedian has a new platform: a musical magazine cover.

For the cover of the fall issue of Allure, Bloom wrote a superb song about the male gaze, the reality of female orgasms, and the fact that no magazine “tips” will get you Angelina Jolie’s tresses.

It’s pretty bold of Allure to run Bloom’s superb lampooning of women’s magazine covers, as a women’s magazine publishing how-to beauty and sex tips.

In an accompanying article, Allure said they asked Bloom “to produce a song that sheds light on the countless misconceptions surrounding cover shoots and expectations versus reality without shaming the beauty processes themselves, since plenty of us simply love doing them for ourselves.” Read more…

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Dsquared2 Revamps the Brand’s First Fragrance and Introduces a Women’s Version  

TIM-BER!: “We’re not killing trees anymore,” said Dean Caten of Dsquared2 at the exclusive launch of the brand’s revamped Wood fragrance, which no longer has wooden packaging.
The men’s and women’s fragrances — brown for the boys and pink for the girls — now takes the shape of a hefty beer bottle.
The 30-ml. bottle sells for 44 pounds and the 100-ml. bottle sells for 75 pounds. The fragrance launches at Harvey Nichols on Monday and the Caten brothers expressed the importance of launching exclusively with the department store.
“It’s important to give an exclusive to somebody because it makes it more important as opposed to coming out everywhere. It’s more intimate this way,” said Dean.
In May, Dsquared2 inked a licensing agreement with Euroitalia for the production and distribution of the brand’s fragrances, and Wood is the first perfume to be relaunched under this new partnership.
The men’s fragrance has been reworked while the women’s is a completely new scent created by perfumer Marie Salamagne. Both incorporate similar base notes such as white wood and ambrox.
“We’ve scrapped all of our other perfumes and since Wood was our first fragrance and our bestseller, we’re relaunching with this,” said Dan.
While the fragrance has been divided into men’s and

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Rest in Power: Feminist Filmmaker Audrey Wells Brought Women’s Lives to the Big Screen

Last week, after a courageous and years-long battle with cancer, feminist filmmaker and activist Audrey Wells passed away at 58 years old.

Wells was a screenwriter for The Hate U Give, in theaters now. The film, an adaptation of an Angie Thomas novel, is about a young black woman who is called to action after she watches police officers unjustly kill her best friend. Discussing such serious issues through her work was no new task for Wells, who always focused on representing characters multi-dimensionally and writing strong female leads. (Wells was perhaps best known for writing and directing the 2003 film Under the Tuscan Sun, which followed a woman intent on rebuilding her own life as she traveled to Italy for solace.)

Wells began her life as Audrey Ann Lederer. Born in San Francisco, California, in 1960, she grew up in a loving home with her parents who sparked her imagination and passion for learning. She received an undergraduate degree at the University of California, Berkley, and held jobs in radio before pursuing film; she ultimately obtained a graduate degree from the University of California, Los Angeles.

Creative, innovative, unique and progressive are some of the words that were often used to describe her films and Wells herself—but words alone cannot do justice to her work or her passion for social justice. Wells was an outspoken feminist intent on changing culture through her art, and a vocal supporter of feminist organizations. She was known in her field for leveraging a feminist lens in her work and using media to stand up for what she believed in.

Wells is survived by many family members, including her husband and daughter. Instead of flowers and cards, her family has asked that anyone grieving the loss of her life send donations to organizations including the Feminist Majority Foundation, which publishes Ms.

Miranda Martin is a feminist writer and activist and an editorial intern at Ms. She has written for a variety of publications and been published by The Unedit and Project Consent. Miranda recently graduated from University of Wisconsin La Crosse with a major in Interpersonal Communications and a double minor in Creative Writing and Women, Gender and Sexuality Studies. She loves to travel, read, exercise and daydream about the fall of the patriarchy.

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Why Investing in Black Women’s Art is a Power Move

The social climate has always impacted the art world. Currently, women’s issues are at the forefront of politics and social justice; in turn, the art industry is affected—particularly its women. Research conducted by the National Endowment for the Arts found women artists, who account for 51% of all visual artists, make only $ 0.81 to every dollar earned by their male counterparts. This data matches, eerily, the national gender wage gap reported by the Bureau of Labor Statistics and speaks sorely to the sign of the times.

However, on the flip side of grossing significantly less than men, women are having a profound influence on art sales, breaking records now more than ever. According to the New York Times, “last spring in New York, auction sales records were shattered for the works of 15 female artists.” Among them, artist Cecily Brown’s sale topped the bunch at $ 6.6 million. Of the group, only two women were black—Lorna Simpson and Xaviera Simmons—whose sales came in unsurprisingly lower at $ 350,000 and about $ 30,000.

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Xaviera Simmons, “A Country Built On Free Labor.’ Print (sothebys.com)

 

But even a few black women realizing success at the auction level is a major inspiration for others.

“I celebrated when I read that Lynette Yiadom-Boakye’s portraits of black figures sold for a total of $ 2.5 million last year and Njideka Akunyili Crosby reached $ 3.4 million earlier this year,” expresses Tracy Murrell, an Atlanta-based artist. “I am a huge fan of both artists and to see the work of black bodies by black female artists at that level of the art world is symbolic validation that there is a place in the high-end art world for what I create.”

Traditionally, a lofty auction sale results in an increase of value for a given artists’ work and their visibility as well as the opportunity to exhibit in art institutions and become part of their collection. So  this news should have a trickle-down effect: recognition and an uptick in sales for other women artists. At least that is how it worked for white male artists throughout history. However, along with gender disparity, race disparity is reflected in the art market.

Artnet performed an analysis which explores how African American artists fare financially at auctions using the volume of sales. It was discovered black art sales at auctions are on the rise, yet “of the contemporary American artists selling for over a million dollars at auction, a mere one-tenth are black,” and of the top 100, only two are women—Kara Walker and Mickalene Thomas.

The upside is that the disparity makes it a good time to consider a serious investment in women’s art— and particularly black women’s art.

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Lorna Simpson, ‘Ultra Blue.’ Mixed Media (mutualart.com)

 

This is where art collectors and enthusiasts can effect change. Aside from the personal financial gains, investing in black art establishes greater market value for an otherwise underrecognized demographic and contributes to the black economy. Lauren Harris, gallery manager and curator for Zucot Gallery explains:

“Investing in art created by black women is something we all should be doing. There are two main reasons: our narratives and our worth.”

“In my 10 years of being in the art world, black women have had the truest and most unapologetic voice personified in their art,” Harris says. “From Lorna Simpson to Kara Walker and more recently Njideka Akunyili Crosby and Simone Leigh, black female artists break the mold, driving ‘cultural shifts’ in the market.”

If you’ve been considering investing in art created by black women, Harris suggests the timing is right:

“Now that artwork by black women are ‘trending’ in the mainstream art world due to high sales at auctions and acquisitions by notable collectors, there can come a time when their work is less attainable. The same way Amy Sherald shot to fame after being revealed as the artist behind former FLOTUS Michelle Obama’s portrait for the National Portrait Gallery, can apply to the many working professional black female artists from all over.”

Harris warns: “Invest now, so you won’t be sorry later.”

The value of art is typically stable; the average annual return on art investments is +7.6%, according to Artprice. And if that doesn’t get your coins twerking, check these five black women artists for motivation:

black women artists

Samella Lewis, ‘Field Hand.’ Watercolor on paper (Pinterest)

 

black women artists

Beverly Buchanan, To ‘Prudence Lopp,’ Mixed Media (nyartbeat.com)

 

black women artists

Tamara Madden, ‘Vanquisher,’ Acrylic on canvas (Pinterest)

 

black women artists

Tracy Murrell, ‘For Sloan,’ Mixed Media (tracymurrell.com)

 

black women artists

Deborah Roberts, ‘Not on me,’ Collage (deborahrobertsart.com)

 

black women artists

Harmonia Rosales, ‘The Virgin,’ Mixed Media (harmoniarosales.com)

Harmonia Rosales, ‘The Virgin,’ Mixed Media

On Thursday, Oct. 4, Swann Gallery, which is one of the only major auction houses for African American artwork, is holding their autumn auction. This is a fine time to get in on investing in fine art from artists ranging from Thelma Johnson Streat to Elizabeth Catlett. Bidding starts at 2:30 p.m. ET. You can attend in-person or livestream on the gallery’s website.

The post Why Investing in Black Women’s Art is a Power Move appeared first on Black Enterprise.

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