Joshua Witchger 07-31-2012

Big Olympic news today from Reutuers:

China has vehemently rejected suggestions of doping as a growing row over the astonishing performance of a Chinese swimmer threatens to overshadow Michael Phelps’s bid to become the most decorated Olympian of all time on Tuesday.

For those of you who don’t speak in sports lingo or Britishisms, that translates to “Chinese coaches reject claims that their star swimmer, Ye Shiwen, has been taking illegal, performance-enhancing drugs.”

Here’s the context. Yesterday, Ye Shiwen, a 16-year-old Chinese woman swam the 400 meter medley faster than all-star swimmer Ryan Lochte, a man from the U.S.A.

WHAT??!! Throw up the red flag! Women can’t be better than men at sports! Call in the drug dogs and blood tests. (The Twitterverse and other social media quickly echoed similar sentiments, rolling their collective eyes at outrage that a woman could break a man's speed.)

According to the report, Ye Shiwen went through "extremely thorough" tests from the World Anti-Doping Agency, and the British Chairman of the Olympic Association said she’s clean. 

"That's the end of the story. Ye Shiwen deserves recognition for her talent."


Julie Clawson 07-31-2012
Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images

Zoe Smith of Great Britain competes in the Women's 58kg Weightlifting in the London Olympics. Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images

I have a love/hate relationship with the Olympics. I love the pageantry and global drama of it all. And even as one who hardly ever watches sports (I make exceptions for Roller Derby and Quidditch), I nevertheless find myself glued to the screen whenever the Olympics roll around. At the same time I am uneasy with the neo-colonial aspects of the Games and the fact that one’s ability to win a medal increasingly depends upon how much money one’s country has (making the Games a vivid illustration of global economic injustice). Yet even as I have watched (and enjoyed) the London Games with conflicted emotions, I find myself more and more uncomfortable with the ways the presentation of the Olympics serves to reinforce harmful assumptions about women in our culture.

It started before the Games. As the world geared up for the Olympics, it was hard to avoid hearing some guy or another (from TV hosts to bloggers) saying that what they were most looking forward to watching was women’s beach volleyball. It was this strange inside joke insinuating that the real purpose of the Games was to give them an opportunity to see women diving around in bikinis. I even heard complaints about the new Olympic rule allowing women to compete fully covered (a concession offered to allow Muslim women to compete in the Games). It was uncomfortable to hear how nonchalantly women continue to be reduced to mere sexual objects, but I brushed it aside as typical of our culture. 

QR Blog Editor 07-18-2012

Writing for The Nation, Bryce Covert examines how state-level opt outs of Medicaid expansions will affect women:

"The Medicaid expansion is a crucial component of the law’s overall goal of extending coverage to over 30 million uninsured Americans by 2019, covering almost half of the total number of people the bill promised to insure. Originally, the law included a provision that the federal government could take away all of a state’s Medicaid funding if it refused to go along with the expansion, which all but ensured participation. But the Court ruled that such a maneuver was unconstitutional. Just a few days after the decision was announced, seven Republican governors said they would flat-out reject the money to expand Medicaid rolls, with at least eight more looking to follow suit. More have said no since then.

This could create a no-man’s land for those who earn less than 100 percent of the federal poverty line, making them ineligible for tax subsidies to help them buy insurance, but don’t qualify for their state’s (unexpanded) Medicaid program. These Americans are surely struggling to get by, but not quite enough to get health coverage promised to those above and below them."

Read more here

the Web Editors 07-14-2012

EDITOR'S NOTE: Melinda Gates talks to the Guardian (UK) newspaper about reconciling her Catholic faith  — the wife of Microsoft chairman Bill Gates says she attends mass regularly — with her work promoting family planning. Gates was in London this week to discuss promoting contraception in the developing world with UK government representatives. The Gates Foundation hopes to encourage donor pledges that will enable 120 million women to have access to contraceptives by 2020.

E. Ethelbert Miller 07-01-2012

A tribute to artist Elizabeth Catlett

Sandi Villarreal 06-22-2012
Overwhelmed man image, Rene Jansa / Shutterstock.com

Overwhelmed man image, Rene Jansa / Shutterstock.com

Five of my female Facebook friends had posted the article in a span of about two hours. The headline, “Why Women Still Can’t Have It All,” stared at me, daring me to respond.

Read it, first. Then come back here. Go ahead, take the half-hour (it’s a long one). Read the WHOLE thing.


OK, so there are some good points in there, right? If you want to be a political power player in Washington, D.C., forcing you to live long-distance from your husband and children, maaaaybe you’re not going to be the happiest person ever. Maybe you can’t “have it all.”

But why is that the question to begin with? Why does this topic of conversation perennially rear it’s head to make women feel like they’re not doing it right? And why is the question never asked of men?

Rachel Marie Stone 06-19-2012
Child's doll with tape measure, Peter Dazeley / Getty Images

Child's doll with tape measure, Peter Dazeley / Getty Images

So the ‘thinner-and-sexier evolution” series is kind of winding down, as there are (thankfully, I think?) only a limited number of consumer products that have been around long enough so as to be able to undergo some kind of thin-and-sexy transformation. Besides, at this point, it’s kind of "clicked there, browsed that," you know? Especially since every toy/image transformation does some basic variation on the theme of “thin down and sex up.”

Call it the Barbiefication of toys for girls.

Or, you could call it what the American Psychological Association does, which is sexualization. Sexualization, as opposed to healthy sexuality, is defined (by the APA) as any one of the following:

  • a person’s value comes only from his or her sexual appeal or behavior, to the exclusion of other characteristics;
  • a person is held to a standard that equates physical attractiveness (narrowly defined) with being sexy;
  • a person is sexually objectified — that is, made into a thing for others’ sexual use, rather than seen as a person with the capacity for independent action and decision making; and/or
  • sexuality is inappropriately imposed upon a person.
Sandi Villarreal 06-07-2012
Women illustration, Sandi Villarreal / Sojourners, Photos via Shutterstock.com

Women illustration, Sandi Villarreal / Sojourners, Photos via Shutterstock.com

No, I didn’t hit my head. I’m not suffering from amnesia. I’m just really confused.

I’m sorry — what year is it again? Running through my handy list o’ headlines, it’s a little bit difficult to tell. 

I give you the 10 reasons I don’t believe that it’s really 2012.


QR Blog Editor 06-06-2012

Yesterday, the Paycheck Fairness Act came before the senate, seeking to close the wage gap between men and women. And as expected, the bill failed to pass, resulting in only 52 supporters, short of the 60 needed. All Republicans voted against the measure and none discussed it on the Senate floor before yesterday’s vote.

“In 1963 we made 59 cents for every dollar that men made. Now it’s 77 cents,” says Barbara Mikulski of Maryland, chief sponsor of the proposed bill. “What does that mean? It means every five years we make an advancement of one penny. Oh no. No more. We’re not just going to take it anymore.”

See more in The Washington Post

Alessandro Speciale 06-04-2012
St. Peter's Basilica, Luciano Mortula / Shutterstock.com

St. Peter's Basilica, Luciano Mortula / Shutterstock.com

A long-simmering conflict between the Vatican and American nuns erupted again on June 4 when the Vatican's doctrinal office issued a scathing critique of a popular book on sexual ethics by Sister Margaret A. Farley, one of the first Catholics to teach at Yale Divinity School.

After two years of study, the Vatican's Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith published a “notification” on Farley's “Just Love: A Framework for Christian Sexual Ethics,” saying it contradicts Catholic doctrine on key issues such as gay marriage, homosexuality and divorce.

Coming just days after U.S. nuns rejected the Vatican's reasoning for a wholesale makeover, and a year after U.S. bishops sanctioned another nun theologian, the condemnation of Farley is the latest example of what critics see as a top-down attempt to muzzle women's voices and an obsession on sexual ethics.

Carrie Adams 06-04-2012
Stamp image: AlexanderZam / Shutterstock.com

Stamp image: AlexanderZam / Shutterstock.com

This anniversary may have passed you by, but on this day in 1919, The US Senate passed the 19th Amendment. Almost seventeen months after being introduced by the House of Representatives, women were given the right to vote.

It reads:

The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex. Congress shall have power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation.

And after the 15th and19th amendment passed, voting rights are signed, sealed, delivered, right?


Maria Riley 06-01-2012

Women's Concerns

Julie Polter 06-01-2012

We've come a long way, baby. Or have we? Is it too much to ask legislators to speak cogently about women's health?

Connie Jakab 05-23-2012

I am a bubbly extrovert who struggles with an enormous amount of anxiety when meeting new people.  

Sounds like an oxymoron doesn’t it?

This weekend, I ventured down to Chicago to meet a group of women I’ve been in relationship with via Internet for more than a year. Let’s just break that down for a minute:

  1. a group of women
  2. a group of women I’m meeting for the first time… alone
  3. a group of women who have a preconceived notion of who I am based on good pictures and thought-out witty comments I post online.
Megan Sweas 05-11-2012
A woman chanting at Bharat Soka Gakkai. Image by The India Today Group/Getty Ima

A woman chanting at Bharat Soka Gakkai. Image by The India Today Group/Getty Images.

LOS ANGELES -- Even though she met her husband through an arranged marriage, Pooja Sindhwani considers herself a modern woman. She worked in interior design in her native India for four years, and she and her husband spent a year getting to know each other before their wedding. When she followed her husband to Houston, she wasn't worried about adjusting to life in the United States.

"You feel you're going to a country that offers opportunities," Sindhwani said, "you expect that things will work out."  

Except when they don't.  

Unable to land a job in Houston, Sindhwani slipped into depression. Like thousands of Indian women, she was issued an H-4 "dependent spouse" visa that did not allow her to work.  

Sindhwani's husband was a highly skilled foreign worker, sponsored by a U.S. company on an H-1B visa. The Indian women who marry highly skilled workers also tend to be well-educated professionals. Many think it will be easy to transfer from a dependent spouse visa to a work visa.  

The constant rejections from companies that couldn't sponsor her work visa took a toll on Sindhwani. 

the Web Editors 05-10-2012

This Sunday is Mother’s Day. Here at Sojourners, we’re taking the entire week to celebrate not only mothers, but all women who have made an impact on our lives. For their strength, heroism, charity and wisdom, we honor them.

Joshua Witchger 05-09-2012

This week I came across a dynamic outlet for new forms of storytelling. MAKERS is a documentary project where dozens of short reflections and dreams are gathered to promote the ways a diverse collection of women are transforming the planet into a more holistic and habitable place. While most of these stories are non-fictional, rooted in a place that may not extend too far beyond their origins, the opportunity to zoom in on an impassioned way of living, thinking, and acting, is an encouragement for all people to continue acting out the worlds we desire. These many narratives of change and engagement craft a large and resounding story of the power of women.

LaVonne Neff 05-09-2012
Photo via LaVonne Neff

Photo via LaVonne Neff

With Mother’s Day just around the corner, I’ve been thinking about the matriarchal blessing—the moment when an old woman, staring death in the eye, communicates to a younger female relative or friend that life is good and love is eternal.

As far as I know, the only mention in the Bible of an older woman blessing a younger woman is when Elizabeth says to her young, unwed, pregnant relative Mary: “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb” (Luke 1:42). Elizabeth probably wasn’t the matriarch of her family, and she wasn’t about to die, but her Spirit-inspired words were still similar to a matriarchal blessing. She welcomed the new life growing in Mary, and her loving hospitality surely must have given courage to the baffled young mother-to-be.

Cynthia J. Martens 05-09-2012
Cynthia Martens with her mother, photo via Cynthia Martens

Cynthia Martens with her mother, photo via Cynthia Martens

Sharing stories of my own mother and the ways she taught and encouraged me feels like the best way to honor her on Mother's Day. To this day when I am thinking of expressing an uncharitable thought I can hear her voice “If you don't have anything nice to say, don't say anything.”

Although this may sound like a cliché, it is a teaching that I am relearning once again in a class called “Wisdom of the Desert” and finding that my mother's sensibilities had many similarities to that of the early Christian Desert Fathers and Mothers. Gratitude and hospitality, two huge teachings of the desert monks, were also lessons I learned from my mother.

Julie Polter 05-09-2012
Stop Violence Against Women word cloud, mypokcik / Shutterstock.com

Stop Violence Against Women word cloud, mypokcik / Shutterstock.com

Whenever there’s talk about honoring mothers and motherhood, I’m always looking for how we as individuals and a society will support the women—of any race, creed, or orientation--who have to scoop up their children and run for their lives or who feel forced to decide between enduring emotional and physical abuse and feeding their children.

The Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) has been one way that our country has acknowledged and worked to stop the abuse that occurs every day. As Lisa Sharon Harper wrote on this blog last week, the House of Representative’s version of VAWA would exclude certain groups from its protections.