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3/18/1997 - Kennedy School of Government Grapples With Hate Mail

Following the distribution of white supremacist and anti-homosexual hate mail in student mailboxes at Harvard University's Kennedy School of Government, faculty and students conducted a "teach in" on March 17 to condemn the acts of bigotry and intimidation. Two separate fliers from a group whose name contains a slur against gays and lesbians; the first flier was given to four students who called for diversity in the faculty and curriculum in a co-authored student newspaper op-ed article. The second letter, which contained slurs against lesbians and gay men as well as people of African, Jewish, Asian, and Hispanic descent, was put in the mailbox of the op-ed editor of the student newspaper, The Citizen. Some have pointed to the overwhelmingly white faculty and student body at the school and a curriculum that does not address issues of lesbian and gay rights or of race as the context in which the hate mail should be considered. The second letter asserted, "We are all in favor of a white, heterosexual school...Our members have been seated both in the faculty and student body for years." Dean Joseph S. Nye Jr. has ordered campus police to conduct an investigation.


3/16/1997 - Supreme Court Allows Clinic Injunction Against Protesters to Stand

In a 6 - 3 decision, the United States Supreme Court has allowed a California state order requiring anti-abortion protesters to keep across a four-lane road from a California abortion clinic. Christine Williams and Citizens for Life had challenged the 1991 permanent injunction, but the California Supreme Court let it stand. The U.S. Supreme Court did not rule, but upheld the California Supreme Court’s ruling by refusing to take the case. Lawyers for the Planned Parenthood Shasta-Diablo clinic in Vallejo had urged the court not to hear the appeal, pending since 1995, because the protesters carried out "a pattern of harassment and intimidation of (the clinic’s) patients and staff."

The case is Williams v. Planned Parenthood Shasta-Diablo, 95-576.


3/16/1997 - Gender Gap Emerges in Book Buying

Publishers have noticed that within the past five years, women have increasingly out bought men at bookstores. A 1994 Gallup Poll found that women made up 59 percent of the fiction bookbuyers and 53 percent of the nonfiction book buyers. Further, women are demanding that books they read contain strong female characters. As a result, of the 10 hardcover fiction titles on The New York Times bestseller list, seven feature central female characters and an eighth features a storyline targeted at a female audience.

Women writers are finding an increased audience. Jane Rosenman, the executive director at Scribner recently commented, "When I think of the novelists of our parents’ generation, it was the Mailers and the Roths and the Bellows. In the last 20 years there’s been an absolute burgeoning of first-rate women writers." The increasingly female market has also had a strong effect in the publishing industry’s job market; a Time Warner spokesperson says that approximately three-quarters of Time’s editorial and sale executives are women. The spokesperson noted, "I think it’s fair to say publishing is a business where the editors buy from their gut. And if those guts are female, the odds are you’re going to be getting a greater mix of books with female sensibilities."


3/16/1997 - Howard University Coach who Won Title IX Dispute Creates Championship Team

In 1993 a District of Columbia Superior Court jury award Howard University’s female basketball coach, Sanya Tyler, $2.4 million in a discrimination suit against the university. Tyler had sued because the university failed to treat women’s and men’s teams equally as mandated by Title IX, federal legislation mandating sex equity in sports. The jury found that the women’s team got fewer and weaker resources and money than the men’s team. For example, the facilities for the women were much worse than the men’s, and the coaches did not receive either equal salary or support staff. Though a judge later cut that award to $250,000, Tyler gained a moral victory, and her actions have helped universities throughout the country. Tyler commented, "At the upper echelon of this university, they say they understand what this program brings to the table. What I’m waiting for now is to see if Howard really wants a winner, and, if so, is it willing to puts its money where its mouth is?"

Today, with determination and talent, Tyler has turned out a championship team which it ended this year’s regular play with 23 straight wins and subsequently won the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference tournament. Last year, team members wore a shirt Tyler had printed under game jerseys which read, "Destiny is not by chance, it’s by choice." This year, Tyler printed up t-shirts which read, "We are what we constantly do. Therefore, success is not an act, but a habit."


3/16/1997 - Howard University Coach who Won Title IX Dispute Creates Championship Team

In 1993 a District of Columbia Superior Court jury award Howard University’s female basketball coach, Sanya Tyler, $2.4 million in a discrimination suit against the university. Tyler had sued because the university failed to treat women’s and men’s teams equally as mandated by Title IX, federal legislation mandating sex equity in sports. The jury found that the women’s team got fewer and weaker resources and money than the men’s team. For example, the facilities for the women were much worse than the men’s, and the coaches did not receive either equal salary or support staff. Though a judge later cut that award to $250,000, Tyler gained a moral victory, and her actions have helped universities throughout the country. Tyler commented, "At the upper echelon of this university, they say they understand what this program brings to the table. What I’m waiting for now is to see if Howard really wants a winner, and, if so, is it willing to puts its money where its mouth is?"

Today, with determination and talent, Tyler has turned out a championship team which it ended this year’s regular play with 23 straight wins and subsequently won the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference tournament. Last year, team members wore a shirt Tyler had printed under game jerseys which read, "Destiny is not by chance, it’s by choice." This year, Tyler printed up t-shirts which read, "We are what we constantly do. Therefore, success is not an act, but a habit."


3/16/1997 - Women’s NCAA Basketball Tournament Update: Second Round Scores

East Second Round: North Carolina 81, Michigan State 71; Alabama 61, St. Joseph’s 52

West Second Round: Virginia 65, Utah 46; Georgia 80, Arizona 74

Mideast Second Round: Old Dominion 69, Purdue 65; La. Tech 74, Auburn 48

Midwest Second Round: Colorado 66, S.F. Austin 57; Illinois 85, Duke 67


3/16/1997 - Annie Oakley Star Gail Davis Dies

Actress Gail Davis, who portrayed the "gun-toting, pigtailed rancher" Annie Oakley in the popular 1950s show has died of cancer at age 71. In 1994 Davis, who created the first western to star a female, Annie Oakley, and who starred in many Gene Autry Westerns, received a "Golden Boot" award for her contributions to Westerns. Davis was a skilled rider and crack shot who often did her own stunts.


3/16/1997 - Women’s NCAA Basketball Tournament Update: Second Round Scores

East Second Round: North Carolina 81, Michigan State 71; Alabama 61, St. Joseph’s 52

West Second Round: Virginia 65, Utah 46; Georgia 80, Arizona 74

Mideast Second Round: Old Dominion 69, Purdue 65; La. Tech 74, Auburn 48

Midwest Second Round: Colorado 66, S.F. Austin 57; Illinois 85, Duke 67


3/14/1997 - Peru Moves to Strike Law Allowing Rape Offenders to Marry Victims

The Peruvian Legislature moved on March 12th to pass a law which would strike down a a penal code section allowing men who rape women to escape punishment by marrying their victims. The law also allowed men involved in a gang rape to go free if one of the men married the woman. ``It was an important victory not only for women, but for all of Peruvian society,'' Gina Yang of the Manuela Ramos women's rights group told TV Frecuencia Latina after the committee vote. Congresswoman Beatriz Merino, who introduced the repeal measure, was quoted as saying in the government's Andina news agency that, "`A norm that for decades has offended the dignity of all women has been eliminated."


3/14/1997 - Superior Court Rules New Jersey Not Mandated to Provide Benefits to Domestic Partners

A three-member state appeals panel sitting in New Jersey unanimously has ruled that Rutgers University does not have to provide health benefits to domestic partners. The panel concluded that the state is only mandated to provide benefits to spouses of state employees under a law established in 1961. The law, however, does not cover live-in partners who are not married. The decision could ultimately affect all of the state’s 600,000 employees and comes at a time when the state legislature is considering two bills which would outlaw same-sex marriages. New Jersey Governor Christie Todd Whitman is opposed to same-sex marriages, but a spokeswoman said that the governor would not necessarily fight a law which would extend benefits to domestic partners. The state supreme court is not required to review the case because the opinion was unanimous, but parties on both sides of the issue say they expect the state’s highest court will grant review.


3/14/1997 - Operation Rescue Demonstrates in California High Schools

Operation Rescue anti-abortion activists have been picketing four high schools in California. Groups of three to twelve people have been picketing outside schools in the San Juan Unified School District. The protesters were part of a national campaign aimed at young people. But, so far, the tactic is backfiring. Shelley Benvenuti, a 16-year-old junior at Rio Americano commented, "I thought it was totally twisted. I was really upset about it. We are in high school and we know about abortion, and we come to our own conclusions about it. We don’t need people getting in our faces about it. It’s a disgrace." Pam Rubistky, who took her fourteen-year-old son out of school because of the protesters, commented, "I believe in freedom of speech, but I feel this is threatening to my child. If they want to teach my son something, they should go through the school board or the principal. This is totally inappropriate." Another student at Rio Americano, Sarah Campbell 17, commented, "I read the little book they passed out and it’s not factual. Plus, it uses religion in the wrong way. I’m against abortion myself, but I’m totally against this approach."


3/14/1997 - Department of Education Spells Out Sexual Harassment Guidelines

The Department of Education has released guidelines to all schools and colleges on what constitutes sexual harassment. The department called on school officials to use "judgment and common sense" when fighting harassment. The guidelines say that, "In order to give rise to a complaint, sexual harassment must be sufficiently severe, persistent or pervasive that it adversely affects a student’s education or creates a hostile or abusive educational environment." The guidelines give some examples of what does and does not constitute harassment. For example, a basketball coach hugging a player after a good game does not constitute harassment, but persistent and inappropriate hugging does. Students who tell homosexual students they are not welcome at a lunch table does not constitute harassment, but male students who target lesbian students for sexual advances are harassing the students.


3/14/1997 - Rape Drug Outlawed in Florida

A law banning the use of Rohypnol, the so-called "rape drug", has passed both Houses of the Florida Legislature. The drug is slipped into the drinks of unsuspecting sex-crime victims who become unable to resist an attack and often black out. Governor Lawton Chiles is expected to sign the bill because the drug, a sedative 10 times stronger than Valium, has no therapeutic use.


3/13/1997 - Study Finds Rape Victims Not Believed

The Florida Governor's Task Force on Domestic and Sexual Violence conducted a study which found that women in Florida are not often believed by hospital staff treating them for rape. The study found that the rape victims have only a fifty percent chance of being believed, even though national statistics show that the false report rate for rape is less than two percent. The study also found that hospitals often don't follow through on the proper procedure for collecting evidence and that hospitals charge up to a thousand dollars for investigations that truly cost only a few hundred. Robin Hassler, the executive staff coordinator of the study commented, "The fact that rape victims are not believed is common. There is a high prevalence of non-reporting because once they get involved in the system it can be such a horrible experience."


3/13/1997 - Herald-Leader Names First African-American Female Editorial Page Editor

The Lexington Herald-Leader has appointed Vanessa Gallman to serve as the paper's editorial page editor. Gallman most recently served as a reporter in Knight-Ridder's Washington Bureau where she covered welfare reform and national politics. She has also worked for The Washington Post and The Charlotte Observer. Gallman, who will become the paper's first African-American editorial page editor, commented, "I'm proud to be the first, and I guess the responsibility that carries with it is to be good at the job and open to all kinds of people and different ideas."


3/12/1997 - Annual Mammograms for Women Over 40 May Be Advised

The board of the American Cancer Society will vote during its March 17-22 meeting on whether or not to recommend that women over 40 have annual mammograms. Though scientists are in agreement that annual mammograms for women over the age of 50 significantly cut the number of deaths from breast cancer, the ACS’s current recommendations for women 40-49 are to have mammograms every year or two. A panel of 50 experts convening last weekend in Chicago has advised that more lives could be saved if women in their 40s had annual mammograms, and a spokeswoman for the society said it will likely approve the recommendation. In January, a panel commissioned by the National Cancer Institute failed to reach a recommendation and declared that women in the 40s should decide for themselves whether or not to have annual mammograms. Marilyn Leitch of the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, a panel member of the Chicago group, said, “The current average two-year interval between screens may be too long for this age group and their faster-growing cancers.”


3/12/1997 - Non-Invasive Alternative to Hysterectomy Presented

For women with uterine fibroids, non-cancerous growths that cause pain and bleeding, there has not been an alternative treatment to the surgical removal of the uterus, a hysterectomy. At a medical conference in Washington, DC on March 11, doctors presented an alternative procedure called embolization that involves making a quarter-inch incision and using a catheter to cut off blood flow to the fibroid. For eight of ten patients on whom the procedure was performed symptoms improved significantly, and fibroids shrank to a third of their size. Another patient had a decrease of bleeding, and another eventually needed to get a hysterectomy. Mifepristone (formerly known as RU 486) is also being tested as a non-surgical method of treating uterine fibroids. See Feminist Majority Foundation Factsheets for more information


3/12/1997 - Bank of America to Offer Health Benefits to Domestic Partners

Beginning in January 1998, San Francisco-based Bank of America will extend health benefits to same-sex or opposite-sex domestic partners or to one under-65 dependent adult relative of its employees. Enrollment for the medical, dental and vision coverage will begin this fall. Partners are required to have been in “committed relationship that has existed for at least six months, and must be responsible for each other’s welfare on a continuing basis.”

The third-largest U.S. bank, Bank of America spokesman Dennis Wyss said he believed that Bank of America was the only major U.S. bank to offer extended health benefits. Wyss said that one factor in Bank of America’s decision was the San Francisco governing board of supervisors passage of a local law requiring companies doing business with the city to provide equal benefits for married employees and employees with domestic partners. However, Wyss maintained the company had considered extending benefits before the San Francisco ordinance was introduced.


3/12/1997 - Developing World Childbirth Mortality Rates High

According to estimates released at the first world childbirth mortality congress opening on March 10, more than a million women and 8-10 million babies die in childbirth around the world every year. Poor childbirth conditions also result in another five million infants being handicapped for life. Congress president Dr. Daniel Weinstein of Israel said that hemorrhaging was the leading cause of death, accounting for 25% or 140,000 of the 585,000 childbirth deaths occurring in the 78 countries studied. One hundred thousand cases resulted from blood poisoning or septicemia, 75,000 from clandestine abortions and hypertension, 40,000 with obstruction of labor. The remaining 20 % of deaths resulted from indirect causes including anemia, diabetes, malaria and heart disease. Noted among the risk factors were access to emergency medical car, insufficient time between births, and age over 35. Weinstein also noted that girls receive less food than boys in some cultures where food is scare.

The disparities between childbirth mortality rates in different countries are great. The risk of death at childbirth of a Somalian woman is one in seven while the risk for a Spanish woman is one in 9,200. The risk in the U.S. is one in 3,500 compared to one in 7,700 in Canada. The World Health Organization and the United Nations’ Children’s Fund released the figures, compiled in 78 countries that comprise about one-third of the world’s population.


3/11/1997 - Congressional Hearings Held on D&X; New York State Senate Votes to Ban the Procedure

The full Senate Judiciary Committee and the House Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution held a hearing on the D&X abortion procedure on March 11. Participating in the panel were Kate Michaelman, NARAL President; Gloria Feldt, Planned Parenthood President; Vicki Sapporta, National Abortion Federation Executive Director; National Coalition of Abortion Providers President Renee Chelian; Dave Johnson of the National Right to Life Committee; and Helen Avare of the National Conference of Catholic Bishops in addition to an anti-choice doctor, two women who had the procedure and one who did not. The Senate and House have reintroduced bills that would ban this form of abortion except in cases where no other procedure would save the life of the woman. President Clinton vetoed the ban in April of 1996 because it made no exception for the health of the woman. On March 12, the House full Judiciary Committee is expected to mark up HR 929, referred to as the “partial birth abortion” ban bill.

Opponents of choice are taking up the debate on the state level as well. Republican-controlled New York State Senate voted 40-19 on March 10 to pass legislation banning the D&X late term abortion procedure. Doctors who performed the surgery would face up to four years in prison unless the life of the woman was threatened. Health Committee Chairman Assemblyman Richard Gottfried said he expected the measure to be defeated in the Assembly where most members of the Health Committee oppose the ban. Assembly speaker Sheldon Silver said he would leave the fate of the bill in the hands of the Health Committee and that it won’t be considered unless exceptions are made for the life and health of the woman. Proponents of the measure have said they will push for a vote by the entire house to force the measure to the Assembly floor. Opponents of the ban maintain that its wording is vague enough that it could potentially ban other types of abortions including a procedure used during the second trimester to save a woman’s health. Gov. George Pataki has said he would sign the measure.


3/11/1997 - Preventative Anti-HIV Gel in Testing Phase

Procept, Inc., a pharmaceutical company in Cambridge, Massachusetts, has announced the development of a antiviral drug that has the potential to provide women with a more effective means of protection against HIV and other STDs than current available methods. PRO 2000 is a topical microbicide that forms a chemical barrier against the entry of HIV and other viruses into a woman’s cells. An odorless, tasteless gel containing PRO 2000 would allow women to prevent disease transmission even in situations where negotiation is difficult or dangerous. Clinical trials of the microbicidal gel on healthy female volunteers are underway in both Belgium and England.

The World Health Organization estimates that nearly half of AIDS cases are among women. One of the major problems in the prevention of further infection is the lack of effective, female-controlled protection methods. Though male condoms are effective in blocking the transmission of STDs, they are under the control of men, and women cannot protect themselves without first negotiating with a male partner. The recently introduced female condom is expensive and cannot be used without the partner’s knowledge. There is no method currently available that is completely under the control of the woman.


3/11/1997 - Citadel Punishes Nine, Expels One for Hazing, Harassment

Officials at South Carolina’s military school the Citadel announced Monday, March 10 that one male cadet had been dismissed and nine others punished for participating in the hazing and harassment of female cadets Kim Messer and Jeanie Mentavlos who left the school in December because of the treatment. The school held private hearings on the actions of 11 male cadets on March 1 but did not release the results for over a week. Interim Citadel President Clifton Poole stated, “The college made mistakes and individuals broke rules. We have gotten the facts, we have heard the evidence and we have punished those cadets who violated regulations.”

Though three of the 11 cadets could have faced expulsion, only one cadet, accused of telling another cadet to set fire to Mentavlos’ sweatshirt, was dismissed. Another cadet received the maximum school penalty short of dismissal: restriction to campus for the rest of the semester and 120 tours of marching for one hour with a rifle in the barracks courtyard, along with reduction of rank. Eight others were handed lesser punishments such as demerits, confinement to barracks, marching tours and reduction of rank. One cadet was cleared. In December, three other male cadets accused of hazing resigned and a fourth was punished.

Messer and Mentavlos alleged that the male cadets set their clothes on fire, forced them to drink tea until they were sick, forced them to drink alcohol and stand in a closet while being shoved and kicked, and put cleanser on their heads. The FBI and the State Law Enforcement Division are also investigating the allegations of harassment and hazing, but no criminal charges have been filed.


3/11/1997 - Justice Department Sues States for Abuse of Female Prison Inmates

Alleging that female inmates in state prisons have been sexually assaulted and subjected to unlawful invasions of privacy, the Justice Department sued Arizona and Michigan on March 10. The lawsuits, which seek a court order requiring the states to protect female inmates from rape, sexual assault and other improper sexual conduct, come after investigations of complaints of alleged sexual misconduct made in Michigan in 1994 and Arizona in 1995. The court order would also ensure that state-run prison inmates and staff not engage in sexual relations, and the department would also try to ensure appropriate privacy for female inmates when using showers or toilet facilities.


3/10/1997 - California Abortion Clinic Firebombed

Early on Friday, March 7, a firebomb of flammable liquid was thrown through the window of the North Hollywood, California Family Planning an Associates Medical Group clinic. No injuries were incurred, but damage to the facility was estimated at $1,000. The fire started by the bomb extinguished itself before firefighters arrived. No arrests had been made the following day.


3/10/1997 - California Abortion Clinic Firebombed

Early on Friday, March 7, a firebomb of flammable liquid was thrown through the window of the North Hollywood, California Family Planning an Associates Medical Group clinic. No injuries were incurred, but damage to the facility was estimated at $1,000. The fire started by the bomb extinguished itself before firefighters arrived. No arrests had been made the following day.