Over the past year, Academy Award-nominated documentary The Invisible War has shone a spotlight on the issue of sexual assault in the military. Politicians and civilians alike are talking about this problem more than ever. While progress is slow, it seems the military will make some change. I spoke with Coast Guard veteran and rape survivor Kori Cioca, one of the film's main subjects, to see what she thinks about the film, her experiences in the military, and her life since the documentary's release.
Navy Seal Kris Beck deployed 13 times during her more than 20 years in service and earned both a Bronze Star and a Purple Heart. However, if she tried to join the military today, Beck would be swiftly rejected. Beck is transgender—and the military has made it clear that though gay and lesbian Americans can now join the military, transgender folks are still not welcome.
This past week, the news broke that New York City began to instruct its police officers this winter that to make sure they act accordingly to legality of women going topless in public. It's easy to dismiss this law with a punch line, but the truth is that instructing all of New York's police force to leave topless women alone is groundbreaking and part of a long running movement lead by women who have fought for topless equality.
Are you a criminal? Let me be specific: have you committed the civil offense of working in the United States without papers? Have you thwarted our nation of laws through heinous acts of unauthorized fruit picking? How about using your degree from UC Berkeley to perform renegade statistical analysis? Are you one of the 11 million undocumented immigrants living in the United States?
Today saw not one, but two politicians toss offhand comments about appearances at women involved in politics. One of those men is the chair of a South Carolina county's Republican Party, which, well, no surprise. But the other is President Barack Obama. Obama! Step it up.
This week, we're all hoping that the Supreme Court will rule on the side of all that is fair and good and affirm the rights of gay and lesbian people to be married.
But while we've got our thumbs on champagne corks, anxiously waiting to celebrate, let's just take a breath for a minute and recognize that while marriage equality is just major step forward toward equality for same-sex couples, it's just a step toward equality for all in America. We've got to look beyond marriage to the other ways gender, sexuality, and love will still be regulated by the government, even if gays can finally tie the knot.
While I was watching regrettable late-night TV recently, an interview caught my attention: Ultra-conservative Florida Senator Marco Rubio discussing his admiration of the music of Tupac Shakur and NWA.
This isn't breaking news; Rubio has been openly discussing his love of hip-hop since a December 2012 GQ interview. To be clear, Rubio says he only knows about Wu Tang from The Dave Chapelle Show, which I am pretty sure is the main reason why Chappelle stopped doing that show in the middle of its third season.
It's entirely possible that Rubio is just pandering to a younger crowd by proclaiming his love of rap. It's no secret that the GOP has high hopes that Rubio will be their Barack Obama in 2016. Obama loves Jay-Z, so maybe Rubio's banking on dropping Tupac's name to win youth votes.
Supporting survivors of domestic violence should be an easy political issue. And yet! For months, the reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act has been derailed by Republican opposition to the bill's plans to expand protections for Native American, LGBT, and immigrant communities.
In our most recent print issue, writer Maya Dusenbery spells out why violence against women is such a crucial issue for the government to address—but why focusing efforts primarily on putting abusers in jail is problematic:
While ostensibly committed to building a "coordinated community response" to violence against women, the law privileges a pro-criminalization strategy. The original legislation was wrapped in the largest crime bill in U.S. history, and more than half of the initial funding was allocated to law-enforcement efforts. This focus means, for example, that U visas are only available to undocumented survivors who are willing to cooperate with a criminal investigation. Critics of the legislation have argued that relying on the state to protect women from violence can be counterproductive, particularly for poor communities of color. As Angela Davis asked in 2000, "Can a state that is thoroughly infused with racism, male dominance, class-bias, and homophobia, and that constructs itself in and through violence act to minimize violence in the lives of women?"