Correct. Protect. Respect. Promoting Economic Security with Safe Workplaces

By Donna Addkison
Wider Opportunities for Women

Women work. A lot of women work, making up 47% of the American workforce today. Two out three do so to provide the sole or a substantial part of a household income.  Yet women in the workforce continue to be the targets of unwanted, unwelcome sexual harassment in the workplace.  While the EEOC  handles 10-12,000 cases every year, we know this is just the tip of the iceberg. Sexual harrassment threatens women’s ability to provide financial support and economic security for themselves and for their families.

Ever heard the story of the woman on the road as a corporate trainer who had company salesmen appear at her hotel door in the nude?  Or the one about the mid-level manager with a boss who continued to ask her out again and again and again in spite of her saying no?  And the one about the woman working in construction who was subjected to physical intimidation along with the more subtle forms like ‘pin-ups’ of naked and nearly naked women in the onsite office?  Probably not – estimates suggest that only 5-15% of incidents of sexual harassment are reported.

Why?  The answers are as simple as they are complex.  When your paycheck puts a roof over your family, food on the table, and gas in the car, how do you take on the bad behavior of those who have some level of authority over your work life?  Do women sacrifice their jobs or their dignity?  Or both?

While women struggle to get a strong foothold in industries and careers with good pay and benefits, they often face the specter of sexual harassment in the workplace.  How many women do you know who have their own stories to tell?  How many mothers, sisters, and daughters have faced or fallen victim to sexual harassment?  How many is enough?

Men and women – both bring value to the workforce.  Let’s create safe working environments where men and women are respected at work, protected from sexual harassment, and afforded opportunities to climb career ladders that lead to economic security for themselves and for those who depend on them.

Part of the #HERvotes blog carnival.

In Mississippi, and in Every State, We ARE a Pro-Choice, Pro-Birth Control Nation


By duVergne Gaines

I just returned from the front lines in Mississippi, where students on campuses across the state united and mobilized to defeat the so-called “personhood” amendment. In the beginning, many political pundits made it sound as though Initiative 26 was a fait accompli. From the day I landed in Jackson to stay at my Aunt Patsy’s house and began working with our national campus organizing team and student leaders to launch Students Voting No on 26, we were told Mississippi voters were different–more conservative, more religious, more anti-abortion. Polling data seemed to confirm this notion. Our student leaders, however, knew otherwise.

The Feminist Majority Foundation‘s national Choices Campus team divided up and fanned out across the state to work with hundreds of Mississippi student leaders, as well as the statewide coalition against Initiative 26, Mississippians for Healthy Families, and the only remaining clinic providing abortion services, the Jackson Women’s Health Organization. A testament to our visibility was that our campaign signs and stickers, which read “Vote NO on 26, Save Women’s Lives” were featured in local and national news outlets, including The New York Times and the Mississippi Clarion Ledger.

Everywhere we traveled in Mississippi, from Alcorn to Columbus, from Oxford to Hattiesburg, students, faculty and community members grasped the terrible consequences of Initiative 26 and embraced our message. The campaign in Mississippi proves yet again that conservatives and liberals of all colors, young and old, know that women’s lives must and do come before fertilized eggs. Although the state elected a Republican governor and attorney general, the so-called “personhood” amendment was handily defeated by 58 percent to 42 percent.

A tremendous number of young people, in particular young women and African Americans, went to the polls to defeat the dangerous initiative. “We probably picked up more than 40 percent of the vote in the last two weeks,” says Feminist Majority Foundation President Eleanor Smeal. “Although we started from behind, as soon as the public learned of the harmful impact, we soared in the polls.”

Many say if we can win in Mississippi, we can win anywhere–especially with a campaign that mobilized to victory in three weeks. But there is another lesson to be learned here: Access to safe, legal abortion and birth control is universally and overwhelmingly supported in this country. No matter how much money organizations like the American Family Association are able to pump into completely inhumane and misogynist initiatives like 26, ultimately voters believe in birth control, fertility treatments, good medicine, abortion access and, yes, women’s lives.

If passed, Initiative 26, which proposed to give constitutional rights to a fertilized egg, would have banned emergency contraception, birth control pills, and IUDs as well as all abortions, even in cases of rape, incest or to save the life of the woman or girl. The amendment would have even gone so far as to eliminate critical medical choices for women, including some cancer treatments and in vitro fertilization. Frighteningly, it could have allowed the state to investigate and even prosecute a woman for a miscarriage.

Anti-abortion and anti-birth control extremists indicate they intend to put similar measures on six state ballots in 2012. So far, reproductive-rights supporters have defeated personhood amendments twice in Colorado–in 2008 and 2010–and now in Mississippi in 2011. If necessary, I have no doubt we can and will defeat them again.

Photo of “No on 26” cookie box courtesy of the author.

The Women of “Women, War and Peace”


By Michele Kort

The remarkable five-part PBS series Women, War and Peace concludes on tonight (Tuesday, November 8th) with War Redefined, the capstone piece that brings together the issues brought up in the previous films about conflicts in Afghanistan, Colombia, Liberia and Bosnia. Narrated by Geena Davis, the film touches on, among other things, how the proliferation of small arms has changed the nature of international conflicts; how women have too-often in recent years become the targets and casualties of war; and how women are emerging as peacemakers. We hear testimony from no less than three former and current U.S. Secretaries of State—all women!—along with others such as Liberian 2011 Nobel Peace Prize winner Leymah Gbowee, Clark University scholar Cynthia Enloe and Major General Patrick Cammaert, the commander of UN peacekeeping forces in the Congo.

The Ms. Blog spoke with the producers of the series—Abigail Disney, Gini Reticker and Pamela Hogan—about how the series came to be and what they hope viewers will learn from it.

Ms. Blog: What was your purpose in creating this series?

Pamela Hogan: As we were talking about [a possible film], I happened to go with my family to Paris and we spent the entire day at the war museum there. At the end of the day I turned to my son and said, “Do your realize that we haven’t seen a single image of a woman?” One of the things we’re trying to represent in the film is a shift not only to look at women’s experiences [in war] but to recognize them as strategically important.

Abigail Disney: There’s a long history of stories of war, which have changed very little and have included women very little—and that’s always been to women’s detriment. Women have been ignored even though they have had a role in war. Not just as victims, but as fighters sometimes, and certainly as sexual rewards, pieces of property to be traded or [conquered] on the behalf of men on each side.

So we’ve always kind of underestimated women’s importance [in war], but there was a shift at the end of the Cold War. Part of it involved the proliferation of small arms in black markets. Part of it involved the way that the stasis that had been enforced by the Cold War had been lifted, and so a lot of smaller, smoldering, difficult-to-solve conflicts between ethnic groups and political entities started to break out. Also, globalization made it a lot easier to trade the resources that were the heart of some of these wars.

All of that fed not just more war, but a style of war which included people who had not been trained, who were not well-versed in the Geneva Convention, who very often were under 18, under 16, even under 12 or 13. This has led to an environment that has been explosive and much more difficult for women than ever on record. And then add to it that you have climate change creating yet greater pressure on land than we’ve ever had, and so many of these wars are about just taking populations and moving them to other parts of land. So you have massive population dislocation, and sometimes 75 or or 90 percent of these displaced populations are women and children. Again, an extraordinarily heavy level of the burden is placed on a woman’s shoulders.

The important thing [in making the film] was to stop telling the story as though women were just objects being acted upon. Shift the frame of reference and make sure that we spoke about them as subjects. How do they figure in the way these wars are fought, and how do they figure in politically viable, sustainable ways to get out of conflict?

And that’s where you get into issues like impunity. Does it matter if a person has been raped in wartime? Was that rape inevitable? Is someone accountable for that rape? And if those rapes are never prosecuted and there’s never any kind of justice for them, is it possible to rebuild a sustainable peace in a culture? I suspect that it’s not. So a woman’s involvement in post-conflict [resolution] starts to seem incredibly important as you build out of these incredibly ferocious  conflicts that go on for, sometimes, generations.

Gini Reticker: In Pray the Devil Back to Hell, one of the most remarkable things that the women in Liberia did was actually maintain the peace. The mothers knew which of their sons were fighting in the war and where the guns were. They got a copy of the peace agreement and made sure every day that whatever was supposed to happen, did happen.

PH: The UN has now recognized that what happens to women in war is actually a security issue, not a humanitarian issue. It’s a small but very important shift.

How will that shift change policy?

AD: For instance, if you’re with the UN and you walk into a refugee camp, [you can] set up your job with an understanding that women have already probably gone about the business of answering the questions of, “Where is the water? Where is the firewood? What shall we do with the children?” There’s already a government in exile in almost every refugee camp in the world, made up of women. If the international community were to understand women as subjects, not objects, it would come in and work with that government in exile and perhaps be more effective and less prone to waste. That’s just one way of thinking about how things shift when you put women in the foreground.

GR: Patrick Cammeaert, who was with UN Special Forces in Bosnia and then again in Congo, says that so often the standard approach to conflict resolution is to try to lure men off the battlefield with promises of money—they turn in their guns, they get money. But then the men who [were in battle] are being rewarded, while the rest of the community is getting nothing. Instead, if you took that same amount of money and gave it to the women (granted, you may have to pay off the male elders  because that’s just the way the world works) to decide what that community needed to rebuild and how that money would be best spent, they would take care of the ex-combatants and also be sure that everyone who had been wronged in that community  would be taken care of. That would be a tremendous policy shift. There’s not one single war that’s going on today where there are two standing armies of different nations fighting each other; we’re really talking about a different kind of warfare. So who do you negotiate with at the barganining table? A lot of times thugs with guns get to set the terms of the peace. I think that policy will change in many ways if you include the voices of half the population.

If women had more power in their governments, would there be less war?

GR: Let’s give it a try! If women had 50 percent of the power, it’s hard to say what would happen, but it’s not something we’ve tried before. There are women in conflict zones all over the world who have perpetrated killing and genocide. But all of the research shows that when there are diverse decision makers, better decisions are made

AD: Wherever I go out with Pray the Devil Back to Hell, I’d always get the same type of pushback:“Are you trying to imply that women are peaceful, men are warlike?” No, that’s not the point. I can go through the Margaret Thatchers and Benazir Bhuttos and the Golda Meirs, but you can always count on people to name the same five, six or seven women. But look, hasn’t history given us a few hundred thousand men to name as opposed to these six women? While there are exceptions, there’s never been a human activity more gendered than war and aggression. To point at the handful of exceptions only proves the rule. While I’d never argue that women are better than men or more capable, inherently, than men, let’s not pretend that there isn’t this enormous millennia of history to show us the difference.

The other thing is, I don’t know a single woman peacemaker who is pushing to have a bargaining table made up strictly of women; they’re asking for their place. All different kinds of men aren’t at that table any more than women are. The bargaining table is made up of a very narrow strip of men who tend to use masculinity to reinforce their position. If we could push women in critical mass to these bargaining tables, what might they also make possible for men to be? What might they change in the way masculinity comes to be expressed around war and aggressing? It’s not that anybody is  pushing for women to run the world; they’re pushing for women to run the world side by side with all different kinds of men.

And how did you get three Secretaries of State—Condoleezza Rice, Hillary Clinton and Madeleine Albright—to be involved in the film?

PH: We told each of them that the other had said yes. [laughter]

The final segment of the Women, War and Peace series, War Redefined, airs Tuesday, November 8. Check your local PBS listings.

Photo from; all rights reserved.

This post originally appeared on the Ms. Blog.

The Real Story of Margaret Sanger

By Ellen Chesler

Birth control pioneer Margaret Sanger is back in the news this week thanks to GOP presidential candidate Herman Cain, who claimed on national television that Planned Parenthood, the visionary global movement she founded nearly a century ago, is really about one thing only: “preventing black babies from being born.” Cain’s outrageous and false accusation is actually an all too familiar canard—a willful repetition of scurrilous claims that have circulated for years despite detailed refutation by scholars who have examined the evidence and unveiled the distortions and misrepresentations on which they are based (for a recent example, see this rebuttal from The Washington Post’s Glenn Kessler).

It’s an old tactic. Even in her own day, Sanger endured deliberate character assassination by opponents who believed they would gain more traction by impugning her character and her motives than by debating the merits of her ideas. But when a presidential candidate from a major U.S. political party is saying such things, a thoughtful response is necessary.

So what is Sanger’s story?

Born Margaret Louisa Higgins in 1879, the middle child of a large Irish Catholic family, Sanger grew into a follower of labor organizers, free thinkers, and bohemians. Married to William Sanger, an itinerant architect and painter, she helped support three young children by working as a visiting nurse on New York’s Lower East Side. Following the death of a patient from a then all-too-common illegal abortion, she vowed to abandon palliative work and instead overturn obscenity laws that prevented legal access to safe contraception.

Sanger’s fundamental heresy was in claiming every woman’s right to experience her sexuality freely and bear only the number of children she desires. Following a first generation of educated women who had proudly forgone marriage in order to seek fulfillment outside the home, she offered birth control as a necessary condition to the resolution of a broad range of personal and professional frustrations.

The hardest challenge in introducing Sanger to modern audiences, who take this idea for granted, is to explain how absolutely destabilizing it seemed in her own time. As a result of largely private arrangements and a healthy trade in condoms, douches, and various contraptions sold under the subterfuge of feminine hygiene, birth rates had already begun to decline. But contraception remained a clandestine and delicate subject, legally banned under obscenity statutes, and women were still largely denied identities or rights independent of their relationships with men, including the right to vote.

By inventing the term “birth control,” Sanger brought the practice — and by implication, women’s entitlement to sexual pleasure — out into the open and gave them essential currency. She went to jail in 1917 for opening a clinic to distribute primitive diaphragms to immigrant women in Brooklyn, New York, and appeal of her conviction led to a medical exception that licensed doctors to prescribe contraception for reasons of health. Under these constraints she built a network of independent local women’s health centers that eventually came together under the banner of Planned Parenthood. She also lobbied for the repeal of federal obscenity statutes that prevented the legal transport of contraception by physicians across state lines, which were struck down in federal court in 1936.

Sanger sought and won scientific validation for various contraceptive methods, including the birth control pill, whose development she supported and found the money to fund. In so doing, she helped lift the religious shroud that had long encased reproduction and secured the endorsement of contraception by physicians and social scientists. From this singular accomplishment, which some still consider heretical, a continuing controversy has ensued.

Sanger always remained a wildly polarizing figure, which clarifies the logic of her decision after World War I to jettison “birth control” and adopt the more socially resonant term “family planning.” This move was particularly inventive but in no way cynical, especially when the Great Depression brought attention to collective needs and the New Deal created a blueprint for bold public endeavors.

Some have falsely charged that Sanger defined family planning as a right of the privileged but a duty or obligation of the poor. To the contrary, she showed considerable foresight in lobbying to include universal voluntary family planning programs among public investments in social security. Had the New Deal incorporated basic public health and access to contraception, as most European countries were then doing, protracted conflicts over welfare and health care policy in the U.S. might well have been avoided.

Having long enjoyed the friendship and support of Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt, Sanger also had ample reason to believe the New Dealers would fully legalize and endorse contraception as a necessary first step to her long-term goal of transferring responsibility and accountability for voluntary clinics to the public health sector. What she failed to anticipate was the force of opposition family planning continued to generate from a coalition of religious conservatives, including urban Catholics and rural fundamentalist Protestants, that held Roosevelt Democrats captive much as today’s evangelicals have captured the GOP.

The U.S. government would not overcome cultural and religious objections to public support of family planning through its domestic anti-poverty and international development programs until the late 1960s, after the Supreme Court protected contraceptive use under the privacy doctrine created in Griswold v. Connecticut. At this time, Planned Parenthood clinics became major government contractors, since there were few alternative primary health care centers serving the poor. Today, one in four American women funds her contraception through government programs, many of them still run by Planned Parenthood—a number likely to rise under the Affordable Care Act.

Sanger’s eagerness to mainstream her movement explains her engagement with eugenics, a then widely popular intellectual movement that addressed the manner in which human intelligence and opportunity is determined by biological as well as environmental factors. Hard as it is to believe, eugenics was considered far more respectable than birth control. Like many well-intentioned reformers of this era, Sanger took away from Charles Darwin the essentially optimistic lesson that humanity’s evolution within the animal kingdom makes us all capable of improvement if only we apply the right tools. University presidents, physicians, scientists, and public officials all embraced eugenics, in part because it held the promise that merit would replace fate—or birthright and social status—as the standard for mobility in a democratic society.

But eugenics also has some damning and today unfathomable legacies, such as a series of state laws upheld in 1927 by an eight-to-one progressive majority of the U.S. Supreme Court, including Justices Oliver Wendell Holmes and Louis Brandeis. Their landmark decision in Buck v. Bell authorized the compulsory sterilization of a poor young white woman with an illegitimate child on grounds of feeble mindedness that were never clearly established. This decision, incidentally, was endorsed by civil libertarians such as Roger Baldwin of the ACLU and W.E.B. Dubois of the NAACP, both of whom Sanger counted among her supporters and friends.

For Sanger, eugenics was meant to begin with the voluntary use of birth control, which many still opposed on the grounds that the middle class should be encouraged to have more babies. She countered by disdaining what she called a “cradle competition” of class, race or ethnicity. She publicly opposed immigration restrictions and framed poverty as a matter of differential access to resources like birth control, not as the immutable consequence of low inherent ability or character.

As a nurse, Sanger also understood the adverse impacts of poor nutrition, drugs, and alcohol on fetal development and encouraged government support of maternal and infant health. She argued for broad social safety nets and proudly marshaled clinical data to demonstrate that most women, even among the poorest and least educated populations, eagerly embraced and used birth control successfully when it is was provided.

At the same time, Sanger did on many occasions engage in shrill rhetoric about the growing burden of large families of low intelligence and defective heredity—language with no intended racial or ethnic content. She always argued that all women are better off with fewer children, but unfortunate language about “creating a race of thoroughbreds” and other such phrases have in recent years been lifted out of context and used to sully her reputation. Moreover, in endorsing Buck v. Bell and on several occasions the payment of pensions or bonuses to poor women who agreed to limit their childbearing (many of whom enjoyed no other health care coverage), Sanger quite clearly failed to consider fundamental human rights questions raised by such practices. Living in an era indifferent to the obligation to respect and protect individuals whose behaviors do not always conform to prevailing mores, she did not always fulfill it.

The challenge as Sanger’s biographer has been to reconcile apparent contradictions in her beliefs. She actually held unusually advanced views on race relations for her day and on many occasions condemned discrimination and encouraged reconciliation between blacks and whites. Though most birth control facilities conformed to the segregation mores of the day, she opened an integrated clinic in Harlem in the early 1930s. Later, she facilitated birth control and maternal health programs for rural black women in the south, when local white health officials there denied them access to any New Deal-funded services.

Sanger worked on this last project with the behind-the-scenes support of Eleanor Roosevelt and Mary McLeod Bethune, founder of the National Council for Negro Women and then a Roosevelt administration official. Their progressive views on race were well known, if controversial, but their support for birth control was silenced by Franklin’s political handlers—at least until he was safely ensconced in the White House for a third term, when the government rushed to provide condoms to World War II soldiers.

Sanger’s so-called Negro Project has been a source of controversy first raised by black nationalists and some feminist scholars in the 1970s and later by anti-abortion foes. Respecting the importance of self-determination among users of contraception, she recruited prominent black leaders to endorse the goal, especially ministers who held sway over the faithful. In that context, she wrote an unfortunate sentence in a private letter about needing to clarify the ideals and goals of the birth control movement because “we do not want the word to go out that we want to exterminate the Negro population.”  The sentence may have been thoughtlessly composed, but it is perfectly clear that she was not endorsing genocide.

America’s intensely complicated politics of race and gender has long ensnarled Sanger and all others who have sought to discipline reproduction. As many scholars of the subject in recent years have observed, much of the controversy proceeds from the plain fact that reproduction is by its very nature experienced individually and socially at the same time. In claiming women’s fundamental right to control their own bodies, Sanger remained mindful of the dense fabric of cultural, political, and economic relationships in which those rights are exercised.

In most instances the policies Sanger advocated were intended to observe the necessary obligation of social policy to balance individual rights of self-expression with the sometimes contrary desire to promulgate and enforce common mores and laws. She may have failed to get the balance quite right, but there is nothing in the record to poison her reputation or discredit her noble cause. Quite the contrary.

The Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr. may have put it best in 1966, when he accepted Planned Parenthood’s prestigious Margaret Sanger Award and spoke eloquently of the “kinship” between the civil rights and family planning movements. Here is what he said, since it bears repeating:

There is a striking kinship between our movement and Margaret Sanger’s early efforts. She, like we, saw the horrifying conditions of ghetto life. Like we, she knew that all of society is poisoned by cancerous slums. Like we, she was a direct actionist — a nonviolent resister… She launched a movement which is obeying a higher law to preserve human life under humane conditions. Margaret Sanger had to commit what was then called a crime in order to enrich humanity, and today we honor her courage and vision; for without them there would have been no beginning.

This piece originally appeared at New Deal 2.o.

Photo from Wikimedia Commons.

#HERvotes Blog Carnival Takes on Health Care

Welcome to the third #HERVotes Blog Carnival! This time, the focus is on women and health care. The blog posts below share personal stories and details about the new benefits from the health care reform law, while also offering original insights on what’s at stake for women and health care. You’ll also find personal stories and analysis delving into the health care services we’ve all gained–and will gain–through the passage of the new health care reform law.

Some of the most impactful new health care services for women and families that have come about because of the new health care reform laws include:

• All new health care plans now must cover certain preventive services such as mammograms and colonoscopies without charging a deductible, co-pay, or coinsurance.
• Young adults are now allowed to stay on their parent’s health care plan until they turn 26 years old.
• Insurance companies are now prohibited from imposing lifetime dollar limits on essential health care benefits, like hospital stays.
• Insurance companies now cannot deny health care coverage to children under the age of 19 due to a pre-existing condition.

These new benefits are just the start of the increased coverage that will come about as a result of the new health care reform law. And to find out more about developments in coverage, go to for the most updated answers to your enrollment and coverage questions.

Last but not least: Since many of these resources and stories will help moms and families looking for information about health care coverage, please be sure to share the link to this blog carnival on Facebook and to follow our Twitter conversation at #HERvotes.

Enjoy reading the many thoughtful and eye-opening blogs below!

This blog is part of the #HERvotes blog carnival.



Personal Stories


For Saudi Women, Voting Win Masks Driving Crackdown

By Trish Calvarese, 9/26/2011

In a national TV address Sunday, Saudi King Abdullah declared an end to the de facto ban on women’s suffrage. Beginning in 2015, women will be able to vote and run in local elections.

This seemingly good news, heralded by the AP as “a major advancement for the rights of women,” overshadowed disturbing developments that have not made the news at all.

The day of the king’s announcement, a woman named Najla al-Hariri was brought in for questioning about her ongoing driving campaign by the Authority of Prosecutors Committee.

Though there is no law prohibiting women from driving, al-Hariri was detained by police for driving once before, in August. However, in a historic first, she was then released despite her refusal to sign a pledge never to drive again.

This time, she was forced to sign the pledge and, in an alarming move against Saudi women drivers, now faces trial months later–even though she broke no law. She does have a lawyer representing her.

Al-Hariri recently appeared in televised interviews about the Saudi women driving issue, during which video of her driving in the streets of Jeddah was broadcast.

“We believe this is the reason why she is being called upon and we denounce it and think it is completely unacceptable, shameful as it is dangerous,” read a statement from a new Saudi women’s initiative, MyRight2Dignity.

The statement by MyRight2Dignity also updates the case of a Saudi woman who in July drove herself to the hospital because she did not have access to alternative transportation and was alone and severely bleeding. Despite these emergency circumstances, the woman, still unidentified, was arrested and told upon her release to a male guardian that she would face trial. According to MyRight2Dignity, she has thus far been required to attend three unofficial sessions” at the district court in the city of Jeddah. There has been no media coverage of the proceedings. In fact, the city newspaper Al Madina denies there is a trial at all.

However, Jeddah’s other major newspaper, Okazreported her less-than-humane treatment. At one point prior to a session, she was forced to wait for three hours in a room with poor air conditioning in the sweltering Saudi heat–despite the fact that she needed emergency medical attention just two months earlier.

A third, unidentified woman who drove in the Women2Drive moment has also been detained for trial, according to an anonymous activist source. The woman is too afraid to hire a lawyer, fearing that she will draw attention and thus a negative outcome.

The AP reported Sunday: “Saudi authorities went relatively easy on the women … who took to the roads earlier this year.” But that is simply no longer the case.

“We need the whole world to know the truth …it’s so horrible that the [Saudi] religious men break the laws to prosecuted women who did not violate any law, we need the world to talk about this,” says an internal Saudi Women2Drive advocate, working closely with the group’s organizer, Manal al-Sharif. She requested that her identify be kept a secret for her own protection.

The source reports that there seems to be a secret underground push by Saudi religious authorities to detain and persecute any woman who drive in Saudi Arabia. She said that the outlook is very grim in the case of the woman who drove herself to the hospital: “They might beat her. This is the frightening reality.”

“We are all very scared that they’re going to arrest every one of us,” she adds. The source emphasizes that this persecution is the effort of “religious extremist” conservative Saudis and not the king himself.

“What is happening to our women today is unfortunate and violates the rule of law and legal rights and is contrary to the reformist direction that was launched by The Custodian of the Two Holy Mosque,” stated Right2Dignity.

Like suffrage, the right to drive has been promised to Saudi women by the king.

Similarly, the UN Committee on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) urged [pdf] Saudi Arabia to take immediate action in 2008 to end for good the sexist system of male guardianship, which gives men authority over women’s lives.

Saudi Arabia pledged in 2009 to meet that and other UN recommendations. But like the promise that women would be permitted to drive, these words were not followed by action.

“We declare [once again] that there is no legal provision that criminalizes women for driving their cars, and which if found, would legally be considered a flagrant violation of women rights and would infringe treaties and conventions that was signed by the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, such as CEDAW,” Right2Dignity said.

The Right2Dignity subsequently announced its initiative to provide lawyers for any woman sent to trial for driving.

“We shall continue this until The King hears our voices,” said Right2Dignity.

“We are going through this underground persecution, but we are going to continue…if we can vote, we should be able to drive ourselves to the polls,” says the anonymous Women2Drive activist.

Go here to email world leaders and urge them to support Saudi women’s right to drive.

*** If you support Saudi women’s right to drive, participate in the viral Honk for Saudi Women video campaign. Say you support Saudi women’s driving rights, honk, upload the video to YouTube, and send the link to Your video will join others from supporters worldwide on the channel ***

ABOVE: Photo of Manal al-Sharif from Facebook.

This post originally appeared on the Ms. Blog.

HERvotes Takes On the Jobs Crisis

This post originally appeared on the Ms. Blog

Our first #HERvotes blog carnival was so successful, we’re doing it again! On August 25-26, to mark the anniversaries of the passage of the 19th amendment and the March on Washington, Ms. joined with 21 women’s organizations to collectively publish 77 blog posts with a single harmonious message: We must mobilize women voters in 2012 around preserving women’s health and economic rights.

Since then, #HERvotes has had a growth spurt: Our numbers have risen to 31 organizations and counting. We welcome YWCA USA, the General Federation of Women’s Clubs, the National Asian Pacific American Women’s Forum, the National Conference of Puerto Rican Women, the Coalition of Labor Union Women, the Business and Professional Women’s Foundation, NARAL ProChoice America, the National Association of Social Workers, SisterSong and Advocates for Youth!

Now, #HERvotes is launching a second blog carnival around the topic that’s on every mind: jobs and the economy. Dr. Avis Jones De-Weever, Executive Director of the National Council of Negro Women says,

As poverty increases, and high unemployment persists, there is perhaps no more critical time for women to ban together on behalf of demanding the enactment of a jobs growth strategy desperately needed by women and families throughout the nation.

MomsRising Executive Director Kristin Rowe-Finkbeiner adds:

Recently released data from the U.S. Census Bureau revealed serious declines in women’s economic status, including the highest poverty rates in 17 years for women. This shocking and troubling trend makes it abundantly clear that it’s time to come together to fight attacks on women’s economic and health security, and to help rebuilt our nation’s economy. Our nation didn’t become strong by putting women and families last.

Eleanor Smeal, President of the Feminist Majority Foundation and Publisher of Ms., concludes,

HERvotes is because women’s groups are outraged by the attacks on women’s advances and the laying off of women workers. We are mobilizing women voters and are sounding the alarm that we want action to save women’s advances and jobs.

Let’s band together to alert women them to the high stakes of the 2012 election! Our first carnival reached millions–help us do it again by sharing the posts below and Tweeting with the hash tag #HERVotes.

… stay tuned for more!

This blog is part of the #HERvotes blog carnival. Read more HERvotes posts by Ms. and other women’s groups.

Photo from Flickr user smiteme under Creative Commons 2.0.


HERvotes: President’s Job Plan Benefits Women

By Ellie Smeal, Feminist Majority Foundation

The president’s job plan would have a positive impact on women’s jobs, woman-owned small businesses and small- to medium-sized non-profits. It also includes payroll tax savings for some 78 million employed women and an extension of unemployment insurance for those out of work, who include some 2.6 million unemployed women.

Many of the proposals for job creation, job retention, job training and tax breaks for which women’s groups have been advocating are included in President Obama’s jobs plan. For example, we have been urging bold steps to prevent teachers’, social workers’ and nurse’s layoffs. Moreover, we have worked to make sure non-profits, which employ many women, be included wherever possible in any tax breaks. The president’s plan addresses these concerns.

If enacted, the president’s plan would prevent about 280,000 teachers’ layoffs. Women comprise about 78 percent of elementary and secondary school teachers.

Some 900,000 women-owned small businesses and numerous non-profit organizations whose workforces are largely comprised of women would benefit from a 50 percent cut in employer’s payroll taxes. This tax cut, tailored to favor small businesses and small non-profits, would only apply to the first $5 million of an employer’s payroll. Moreover, small businesses would be given tax cuts for hiring new employees.

The president’s proposal also includes:

  • some $25 billion for modernizing and refurbishing about 35,000 public schools—or about 1/3 of our nation’s public schools
  • $5 billion in modernizing community colleges whose faculty and student bodies are comprised mostly of women
  • $15 billion in refurbishing hundreds of thousands foreclosed homes and businesses.
  • $50 billion for highway, mass transit, passenger rail, and aviation projects.

Also in these construction and building projects is $50 million in 2012 to “enhance employment and job training opportunities for minorities, women, and socially and economically disadvantaged individuals…” Moreover, throughout the proposal are reforms to increase access to federal contracts for minority- and women-owned businesses.

Cover of Ms. magazine Winter 2009. All rights reserved.

This blog is part of the #HERvotes blog carnival. Read more HERvotes posts by Ms. and other women’s groups.

HERvotes: Women Must Be a Part of Our Recovery


By Linda Hallman, AAUW

Getting America back to work is of paramount importance. As the president and Congress argue over the best way to jump start a slowing recovery and stagnant unemployment figures, they must hear this: Job creation and economic opportunity are critical issues for women. Many struggle with economic insecurity and wage discrimination. While the recession may have led to more lost jobs among men, women have borne the brunt of a slow recovery.

The last few years have been particularly unkind to American women. Between June 2009 and May 2011, women lost 218,000 jobs and saw their average unemployment rate increase 0.2 percent. By contrast, men gained 768,000 jobs, and their their unemployment rate dropped by 1.1 percent. According to the Pew Research Center, “Employment trends during the recovery have favored men over women in all but one of the 16 major sectors of the economy.” Even in fields traditionally associated with women, such as education and health services, men gained jobs at a faster rate than women.

To promote economic recovery, the president and Congress must focus on creating jobs, training our workers, and ensuring those jobs are good ones — the kind that pay equitably and provide economic security. After all, a stimulus is our taxpayer dollars at work. Going forward, many workers will need to access training to upgrade their skills to fit new demands, especially if Congress passes job-creation legislation that increases the need for workers in certain sectors and in certain areas.

AAUW strongly believes that access to high-wage, high-skill jobs should be a right for women and girls from diverse racial, ethnic, socioeconomic, age, and disability backgrounds and that access includes training for nontraditional jobs. Additionally, any job creation legislation must promote equal pay — women who work full time earn about 77 cents on average for every dollar men earn. Since women are increasingly the primary breadwinners in their households, the wage gap undermines families’ economic security. With 71.4 million women in the workforce as of July 2011, wage discrimination hurts the majority of American families.

Too many Americans are unemployed, and too many women have seen their jobs disappear even since the economic recovery began. Congress can alleviate the pain and suffering of families, but temporary job creation that focuses on male-dominated industries and leaves out training and access for women will not ensure that workers find economic security for themselves and their families.

Photo from Flickr user Sue Peacock, under Creative Commons 2.0

This blog is part of the #HERvotes blog carnival.

HERvotes: More Women Face Unemployment as Public Sector Jobs Are Targeted

by Rachel Sandler, NOW/PAC Intern

She sits staring at the wall in front of her, and all she feels is emptiness. Its white glow is ominous and blank, like her future. She has lost her job. She asks herself how she will pay the rent, how she’ll put dinner on the table, how she’ll pay for child care, how she’ll even find the strength to get out of bed in the morning. She wants to know, after years of taking care of others as her job, who will take care of her.

While the recession was particularly tough on men, the economic “recovery” has been extremely unkind to women. Since the recession officially ended in June 2009, women have lost 345,000 jobs and counting. The job gap between women and men is now 1.5 million, with women’s unemployment rate growing while men’s declines. Simply put, the jobs that have been created since the recession are for men, and the jobs disproportionately held by women are in jeopardy. Already, women lost nearly three-quarters of the public sector jobs that have been cut.

She is your mother, your sister, your aunt, your friend. She works tirelessly to ensure we are taken care of as children and in old age. She is there when we are sick. She dedicates her life to educating our young. She is there to help a woman affected by domestic violence get back on her feet. She is the light in the darkness. She is one of the women disproportionately represented in service, health care, child care, education, social work, or in non-profits. We couldn’t exist without her, yet her job hangs in the balance.

On average, a woman is paid only 77 cents to a man’s dollar; if she is African-American she is paid just 68 cents; and if she is Latina she is paid 59 cents. This wage gap results in the loss of an average of $380,000 over a woman’s career, so how can she possibly be prepared for an economic crisis? Where is her security? Where is her financial freedom? Without equal pay for equal work, she is left without a safety net when her job unceremoniously disappears.

What this country needs is an aggressive jobs plan for women. We need creation of jobs in the sectors that are disproportionately filled by women, and we need these jobs to be seen for what they are — the cornerstone of our society. Without educators, healers and caregivers, our society would fall apart. They are the glue that holds it together. We need these women to be paid livable wages so they can provide for themselves and their families.

Don’t let her fade into the darkness. Let her keep her job, and know she is safe. Let her be needed and rewarded. Let her reach her potential. Vote in the next election. Vote so you can help advance legislation like Jan Schakowsky’s Emergency Jobs to Restore the American Dream Act. Stand up for your mother, your sister, your aunt, your friend. Yourself.

Photo from Flickr user aflcio under Creative Commons 2.0

This blog is part of the #HERvotes blog carnival. Read more HERvotes posts by Ms. and other women’s groups.

A Loss for Dolores Huerta, And the World

By Eleanor Smeal

I was distraught to learn last night of the unexpected death of Richard Estrada Chavez, the life partner of my dear friend Dolores Huerta, who serves on the Feminist Majority Foundation board of directors.

Richard was the younger brother of Cesar Chavez, who cofounded the United Farm Workers (UFW) with Dolores. Richard was a tireless activist in his own right, working throughout his life for social justice for all people and the labor rights of countless farm workers. For decades, the three of them were the driving force behind the farm workers movement, which has had a lasting positive impact upon the lives of millions throughout the U.S.

“As the nation’s labor secretary, I see every day the benefits of his work, as well as the continuing need for it,” wrote Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis today in a tribute.

Richard designed the famous UFW logo of a stylized Aztec eagle, which symbolizes dignity. A skilled carpenter and builder, he oversaw the development of La Paz Farm Workers Complex outside of Delano, Calif., which included a union office and hall, a health clinic, as well as housing for farm workers and organizers, among other structures. After retiring from the UFW, Richard remained an active board member of the Cesar Chavez Foundation and the Dolores Huerta Foundation.

When I close my eyes and think of Richard, it’s as Dolores’ Rock of Gibraltar, always there for her at each critical moment. This was literally true a decade ago when Dolores suffered a life-threatening tear in her aorta—if Richard had not rushed her to the emergency room, she would have died. He stayed steadily by her side through the weeks and months of her recovery.

A strong supporter of women’s rights and the work of Dolores, Richard attended many Feminist Majority Foundation events, together with their children. I’ll always remember Dolores and Richard dancing together on the Ms. Cruise, surrounded by their family. It was profoundly evident the joy they took in life together.

The Feminist Majority Foundation family will miss Richard and his strong presence in the fight for social justice—and our hearts go out to Dolores in her time of loss.

To express your sympathies to Dolores and continue Richard’s work for social justice, you can donate to the Dolores Huerta Foundation. And we will share any comments you post below with Dolores.

All photos courtesy of the Dolores Huerta Foundation.

Reprinted from the Ms. Blog.


Voice Your Support for Teen Birth Control Access!

By Jessica Stites

It’s been a refreshing week of sanity around birth control. First the Institute of Medicine announced that birth control should count as “preventive care” and be covered by insurance at no cost. And now, in response to a Good Morning America segment on the “debate” about whether mothers should let their teen daughters access the Pill, Huffington Post readers are proving there’s not really much to debate. Over 80 percent of respondents believe teenagers should have birth control access.

Add your voice here!

Reprinted from the Ms. Blog.

Photo from Flickr user M. Markus under Creative Commons 2.0

Orlando Update: Clinics Remain Open in Face of Anti-Abortion “Siege”

By Christie Thompson

The weeklong Operation Rescue/Operation Save America (OR/OSA) “siege” of Orlando has just two days left, and area women’s health care providers have successfully remained open and operating throughout. The anti-abortion extremist group targeted seven different clinics over the course of the week, surrounding offices and harassing both staff and patients.

Organizers from the Feminist Majority Foundation (FMF)–publisher of Ms.–and pro-choice supporters have been working closely with clinics to ensure their safety, providing on-site assistance at targeted facilities, and reporting threats, harassment and trespassing by OR/OSA followers to local law enforcement officials.

On Thursday, an FMF organizer stopped known extremist Nicholas Heald of Wichita, Kan., as he attempted to invade a clinic. Heald had a pocket knife on his person, but it is unclear whether he intended to use it for violence. Heald was cited by police but not arrested. Heald is ‘friends’ on Facebook with some of the anti-abortion movement’s most extreme individuals, including Army of God adherent Neal Horsley and Operation Rescue President Troy Newman.

In addition to demonstrating outside clinics, extremists are targeting abortion providers at their private residences or at the homes of their family members. At least five physicians and clinic administrators have been harassed in their homes, but no arrests have been made so far.

Reprinted from the Ms. Blog.

Image of OR/OSA protestors from Flickr user marklyon under license from Creative Commons 2.0

100,000 Have Told the FBI That Rape Is Rape. Have You?

By Annie Shields

Nearly 100,000 people have signed onto the Ms. and Feminist Majority Foundation (FMF) campaign to change the FBI’s definition of “forcible” rape. After a Ms. investigative report found that the FBI’s fundamentally flawed definition excludes hundreds of thousands of rapes from the yearly Uniform Crime Report, Ms. and FMF started a petition urging the FBI to fix the outdated definition. The petition has amassed over 95,000 signatures–and counting–over the past few days.

For 82 years, the FBI has defined “forcible” rape as “the carnal knowledge of a female forcibly and against her will.” This means that rapes using fingers or an object aren’t counted–as well as non-consensual anal and oral penetration. The rapes of men, boys and transgender people also fall outside the legal definition. What’s more, the emphasis on “forcible” means that other categories of rapes often aren’t counted, either: those of victims who were unconscious, unable to consent because of physical or mental disabilities, or those where drugs or alcohol were used to gain control over the victim.

The Feminist Majority Foundation, Ms.‘s publisher, has long been advocating for a change in the definition. In testimony before the U.S. Senate last year, FMF President and Ms. publisher Eleanor Smeal explained,

The undercounting of rape, in comparison with other major crimes, naturally reduces the allocation of resources for sexual assault enforcement. If the common perception is a problem is much smaller than it actually is, it will result inevitably in fewer resources being allocated to it.

The FBI’s annual Uniform Crime Report is used to judge police departments across the country and determine federal funding for violent crime prevention. In 2007, when the UCR listed 91,874 rapes, experts estimated that the true number could be as much as 24 times higher. In 2009, the UCR counted only 88,097 rapes.

If you haven’t yet signed the petition, you can do so here.

The campaign is spreading like wildfire, and with good reason. “If law enforcement agencies are underestimating how many rapes occur, they’re also underestimating the resources needed to prevent sexual assault and bring rapists to justice,” says Shelby Knox, Women’s Rights Director of Organizing at “The [over 95,000] people that signed on to this campaign are sending a clear message to the FBI that rape must be taken seriously.”

If you’ve already signed the petition, help spread the word by sharing it with your friends, family and social networks, so the FBI hears the message loud and clear: Rape is rape!

Reprinted from the Ms. Blog.

ABOVE: Women’s Rights Director of Organizing Shelby Knox at an anti-rape demonstration in New York City. Photo courtesy of Flickr user WeNews under Creative Commons 2.0.

A Preventive Health Care Game-Changer for Women

By Kari Paul

In a huge victory for women’s health, an Institute of Medicine (IOM) report today advised that birth control and seven other women’s health services should be considered “preventive care” and be covered by health insurance with no co-pay.

The institute’s recommendations for no-cost coverage also include yearly preventative-care visits; lactation counseling and equipment; gestational diabetes testing; STI, HPV and HIV screening; and screening to detect and prevent domestic violence. The birth control recommendation covers all FDA-approved contraceptive methods, including sterilization and the “morning-after pills” Plan B and Ella.

The report was commissioned by the Obama administration to determine what preventative health services are essential to women’s wellness and should be co-pay-free. The IOM, the health-care arm of the National Academies, “works outside of government to provide unbiased and authoritative advice to decision-makers.” The institute’s opinion is generally considered unimpeachable; authors of this report include some of the most respected national experts in gynecology, women’s health and public health.

The recommendations will be reviewed by Department of Health and Human Services, and could be approved as early as August 1.

“These recommendations are historic,” says Feminist Majority Foundation President and Ms. Publisher Eleanor Smeal, “They’re the result of more than 40 years of persistent advocacy by the women’s health movement—as well as the improved status of women and the leadership of the Obama Administration.”

Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebellius, too, called the report historic, saying, “Before today, guidelines regarding women’s health and preventive care did not exist.” If she approves and posts these guidelines, after a one year waiting period new insurance plans will be required to cover these preventative health measures for women, including birth control coverage at no additional cost. By 2018, the rules will be applied to all insurance plans.

Despite what’s been reported by some over-jubilant media outlets today, this doesn’t truly amount to free birth control. Yes, insurance will cover all birth-control costs, but women still have to pay for insurance. (That’s in contrast to countries like France, which gives out direct vouchers for free birth control).

However, once the Obama health care plan takes effect, the percent of insured Americans is expected to go from 82 percent to 95 percent by 2016. That’s a lot more people with no-cost birth-control access, and a game-changer for women’s rights.

Photo from Flickr user blmurch under Creative Commons 2.0

A Reprieve in South Dakota; Bad News Everywhere Else

By Kari Paul

In a challenging time for reproductive rights in the U.S., it’s a relief to occasionally read a bit of good news. So here it is: Late last week, a federal court blocked South Dakota’s new anti-choice law, which would have required women to wait 72 hours–the longest, most extreme waiting period in the country–before getting an abortion. It would also have forced women seeking abortions to first attend counseling at an anti-choice crisis pregnancy center (CPC).

The bill had been signed into law in March by conservative Gov. Dennis Daugaard, but was challenged (PDF) by Planned Parenthood Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota (PPMNS), along with the ACLU. PPMNS President and CEO Sarah Stoesz called it a “blatant intrusion by politicians into difficult decisions women and families sometimes need to make.”

The language of the bill was right out of 1984:

An Act to establish certain legislative findings pertaining to the decision of a pregnant mother considering termination of her relationship with her child by an abortion, to establish certain procedures to better insure that such decisions are voluntary, uncoerced and informed, and to revise certain causes of action for professional negligence relating to performance of an abortion.

In order to make a voluntary decision, women must involuntarily visit an anti-abortion center? The federal court didn’t buy that logic. Judge Karen Schreier wrote:

Forcing a woman to divulge to a stranger at a pregnancy help center [CPC] the fact that she has chosen to undergo an abortion humiliates and degrades her as a human being. The woman will feel degraded by the compulsive nature of the Pregnancy Help Center requirements, which suggest that she has made the ‘wrong’ decision, has not really ‘thought’ about her decision to undergo an abortion, or is ‘not intelligent enough’ to make the decision with the advice of a physician. Furthermore, these women are forced into a hostile environment.

Unfortunately, South Dakota is but one front in a growing state-by-state war on women’s rights. Last Tuesday, the Heartbeat Bill (HB 125) was passed 54-43 in the Ohio House, banning abortion of fetuses with detectable heartbeats–which can be as early as six weeks into a pregnancy. Earlier this year, a nine-week-old fetus “testified” in support of the bill. Said Democratic State Rep. Robert Hagan of the bill, which makes no exceptions for rape or incest, “A fetus now has more rights than a woman.” The bill will now move to the Republican-controlled Senate, and if passed there will go to Republican Governor John Kasich’s desk.

In another blow to a woman’s right to choose, Florida’s mandatory ultrasound law officially went into effect last week, requiring pregnant women to receive an ultrasound before going through with their planned abortions. Women can opt out only if they can prove they were victims of rape, sex-trafficking, incest or domestic violence–hence the nickname “proof-of-rape bill” given to it by pro-choice proponents.

A similar law passed in Texas is being challenged by the Center for Reproductive Rights. It would require a woman planning an abortion to have an ultrasound, to have the fetus she’s carrying described to her in detail and to also be forced to listen to the fetal heartbeat.

These laws are imposed on top of other existing roadblocks to safe, legal abortions. And new strategies for dimming the legal rights granted by Roe v. Wade without actually overturning the Supreme Court decision continue to be rolled out. In Kansas, as Ms. reported last week, the latest angle is to come up with ridiculously stringent facility requirements in an effort to shut down the state’s three remaining abortion clinics. Fortunately, as in South Dakota, the court has put those requirements on hold with a temporary injunction. But stay tuned.

Ms. magazine will continue to follow these stories as they develop. Read more about new draconian anti-abortion legislation in the upcoming Summer issue, available on newsstands August 2, or delivered right to your doorstep.

Photo from Flickr user Redjar under Creative Commons 2.0.

North Carolina Defunds Planned Parenthood

By Amanda Litman, 6/15/2011

Today, North Carolina’s Republican-led Congress voted to override Democratic Governor Beverly “Bev” Perdue’s veto of the $19.7 billion, two-year state budget–making North Carolina the third state to defund Planned Parenthood.

In one short sentence at the end of the budget, Republican lawmakers have banned the North Carolina government from making any grants or entering any contracts with Planned Parenthood of North Carolina (PPNC). Planned Parenthood has nine clinics across the state and provides services to about 25,000 men and women each year. Prior to this budget, it received about $473,000 in state funds through programs aimed at preventing teen pregnancy and providing birth control to low-income women.

State money was typically targeted to serve specific needs: A clinic in Wake County received a $32,000 grant to provide long-acting contraception to low-income women, and a $100,000 grant supported a teen pregnancy prevention program in Fayetteville. Melissa Reed, the vice president of public policy for Planned Parenthood Health Systems in North Carolina, says that every state dollar spent on PPNC saves taxpayers $4 by preventing pregnancies for women likely to rely on government services.

Without the state funding, PPNC says it will have to cut its teen pregnancy prevention and adolescent parenting programs, and force low-income patients to pay for services out-of-pocket. Low-income, uninsured women who don’t qualify for Medicaid will be left out in the cold.

The Congressional debate over the funding included a shocking moment when Republican state Rep. Pat McElraft told of a harrowing experience her nephew and his girlfriend had at Planned Parenthood 14 years ago:

They went to Planned Parenthood and asked them what her choices were. They told her she would have a deformed baby because of her drug use, her only option was abortion. He went with her to what she describes as a very dark house. In that dark house, a nurse attended to her. My nephew asked the nurse if she could at least see the ultrasound. The nurse said, ‘I can’t do that, I’ll get fired.’

The only problem? McElraft’s frightening story turned out to be false–not only did the incident take place in Georgia, not North Carolina, but the facility was not a Planned Parenthood clinic.

In a silver lining for the organization, PPNC has already seen an influx of donations. Reed told The Huffington Post that “beginning at 7:30 a.m. this morning, we had donations coming in.” Planned Parenthood of Indiana got a similar response, taking in $116,000 in donations after it was defunded in May. Like Indiana, PPNC is likely to pursue litigation against the state.

This is the first time a North Carolinian governor has vetoed a budget, and only the second time the legislature has ever overturned a veto.

Cross-posted from the Ms. Blog.

Photo from Flickr user WeNews under Creative Commons 2.0

Are You Supporting Saudi Women This Friday?

This Friday, June 17, women in Saudi Arabia will risk arrest by doing something many of us do every day: driving a car.

Sign this letter to key Saudi and U.S. decision makers, sponsored by the Feminist Majority Foundation, to help Saudi women win the right to go wherever they choose, on their own.

The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has a long history of female oppression. Saudi women cannot vote. They cannot leave the country without the approval of a male guardian. Less than 15 percent of the kingdom’s workforce is female. In the neighboring United Arab Emirates, by comparison, women make up more than half of the labor force.

And Saudi Arabia is the only country in the world where women are not allowed to drive.

When IT security consultant Manal Al Sharif posted a YouTube video of herself behind the wheel last month, her punishment came swiftly. She was arrested and held for five days. Her detention was later extended by another four days for “further investigation”–even though her 5-year-old child was in the hospital, and even though police had all the evidence they could have wanted: Not only did the video show Al Sharif driving, but it showed her explaining why she was breaking the driving ban.

The Women2Drive movement is organizing the June 17 act of civil disobedience. Stay up to date by following Women2Drive on Facebook and Twitter.

In addition to sending the letter, there are plenty of other ways to take action. You can take a video of yourself behind the wheel (safely, of course) and honk to show your support for Saudi women! Send your YouTube video links to The videos are posted to their YouTube channel. Or Attend the Washington, D.C. Women’s Drive to Drive Rally at the Saudi Embassy on Wednesday, at the Royal Embassy of Saudi Arabia.

And please join us in showing that the whole world will be watching when Saudi women exercise their right to drive.

Ms. Magazine Website Makes Forbes’ Top 100 Best Website for Women


No one can succeed on her own. Even the savviest women need help along the way. To that end, with the help of the ForbesWoman community, we’ve searched the Web for the most dynamic, inspiring and helpful websites for women. We’re delighted to present this list of ForbesWoman’s Top 100 Websites for Women.

To determine which sites and blogs made the cut we looked for compelling and decidedly female-oriented content, outstanding design, an active community and frequent updates. In short, sheer clickyness.

Why 100? As it turns out, we couldn’t go with less.

Ms. Magazine: The Web presence of feminist frontrunner Ms. Magazine, the website boasts the most extensive coverage of U.S. and international women’s issues.