Then, I signed onto my computer today to find a retraction of the Rolling Stone story about an alleged gang rape at the University of Virginia due to what Rolling Stone editors now believe are discrepancies in the victim's story. My first thought was, "Oh, sh!t!"
Just when we have finally reach a spot where sexual assault is out from behind a veil of shame and secrecy - and it seems we are finally shedding a light on a problem that plagues our society - one of the most high-profile victims of collegiate rape in recent history has (rightly or wrongly) now been publicly deemed untrustworthy. Whether trust was or was not "misplaced" in her by Rolling Stone is beside the point; either way, the legacy that will linger from this story is that women lie about rape.
The perception that "crying rape" is a common occurrence largely thwarts our efforts to stave sexual assault. In most cases, the assumption is that the victim is lying or seeking attention, as was suggested by George Will who asserted that being a rape victim is a "coveted status" on college campuses (to which I had a very strong retort).
Following Rolling Stone's retraction, Mother Jones published an almost immediate "let's-not-lose-sight-of-the-bigger-issue" piece that is filled with staggering statistics about sexual assault on college campuses.
The Authentic Woman, a weekly radio show highlighting the wide variety of experiences women have in America, is airing a special edition on Sunday, August 24 at 8 p.m. EDT aimed solely at sharing information about all of the issues affecting women in America. The show will feature the presidents of two national women's organizations: Terry O'Neill (National Organization for Women) and Karen Teegarden (UniteWomen.org). The pair will highlight the economic, social, political and societal issues facing women in America today.
"Terry and Karen spend most of their waking hours dedicated to the betterment of the world for women," said Shannon Fisher, host of The Authentic Woman. "I invited them as my expert panel on the topic of women's rights due to the urgency with which we must address women's issues within our national and local governments."
"Since 2010, there have been a number of bills supporting women that passed in the Senate but were blocked in the House, as well as some anti-women bills that passed in the House but were blocked by the Senate," said Teegarden. "The legislative balance in Congress is very delicate; we need more candidates who support women in the House of Representatives and to make sure women-friendly legislators maintain control of the Senate. If the 2014 elections do not turn out in our favor, our fight for women's equality will face even more virulent opposition."
"Women continue to perceive the inequality and injustices in our society; much of which come from institutions actively working to keep women down," said O'Neill. "This inequality and injustice are faced by people of color, the LGBTQIA communities - indeed all marginalized communities, and are felt even more strongly for those whose identities results in interlocking societal oppressions." O'Neill continued, "There is an active cultural war with the intention of 'putting women in their place,' particularly demonizing single mothers. Conservative leaders are pushing the idea that all of women's concerns would disappear if they would live in a nuclear family with traditional gender roles. Their only suggestion for access to health care, economic security and other concerns is marriage and dependency on a mate. It is crucial that we elect women-friendly candidates to halt this war."
"There are several campaigns in this country that are organized with the intention of sending our society backwards in time into a patriarchal model that no longer fits the modern family and modern economy," added Fisher. "Our legislatures need to pass legislation that is in keeping with society as it exists today, not as it existed in a time in history that can never be re-created. I am looking forward to this discussion with Terry O'Neill and Karen Teegarden to really reach our listeners and hopefully give them a wider perspective on many women's issues. "
"I am eager to talk about these issues and impart to the listeners how important the upcoming elections are at both the local and national levels. We are going to explain many topics in detail so women will understand why it is so important for them to get to the polls in November and vote!" said Teegarden. "We thought we got past this outdated ideology years ago, but it slowly crept back into the forefront of the public conversation around the country and has now reached a fever pitch," she added. "Our young people have never experienced the cultural stereotypes from the 1950s that are being thrust upon us in legislative bodies all over the country in 2014. My hope is that they never do have to experience the lack of independence and autonomy that women experienced before the feminist revolution. We will address young people directly during the show and help them relate to the history that we are fighting to keep in the history books instead of the law books."
"Most of the topics we will discuss in the show are not debatable in my mind, in regards to what helps women and what does not. And yet, opposition persists," said Fisher. "I normally steer clear of political topics on The Authentic Woman, but the issues we will be discussing are so universally important to all women - regardless of race, socio-economic status, political ideology and marital status that I feel strongly compelled to have a public conversation about the State of Women's Rights in this country right now. There seems to be a lack of compassion in society as a whole that must be addressed. Hopefully some listeners will have an 'Ah-ha moment' while learning about the manner in which women in all demographics are affected by legislation around the country."
The show will air at 8 p.m. EDT on Sunday, August 24. Listen on Blog Talk Radio (http://www.blogtalkradio.com/authorsontheair/2014/08/25/the-state-of-womens-rights--terry-oneill-karen-teegarden-w-shannon-fisher) or naigate to the broadcast via the Authors on the Air website (http://authorsontheair.com/the-authentic-woman-host-shannon-fisher).
About Terry O'Neill: Terry O'Neill, a feminist attorney, professor and activist for social justice, was elected president of NOW in June 2009. She is also president of the NOW Foundation and chair of the NOW Political Action Committees. O'Neill oversees NOW's multi-issue agenda, which includes: advancing reproductive freedom, promoting diversity and ending racism, stopping violence against women, winning LGBTQIA rights, ensuring economic justice, ending sex discrimination and achieving constitutional equality for women.
O'Neill's feminist activism began in the 1990s, fighting right-wing extremists in the Deep South, including David Duke. A former law professor, O'Neill taught at Tulane in New Orleans and at the University of California at Davis, where her courses included feminist legal theory and international women's rights law, in addition to corporate law and legal ethics. She has testified before committees in the Maryland House of Delegates and has written federal amicus briefs on abortion rights for Louisiana NOW, Planned Parenthood and the American Civil Liberties Union. O'Neill holds a bachelor's degree in French with distinction from Northwestern University and a law degree magna cum laude from Tulane University.
About Karen Teegarden: Karen Teegarden is the President and CEO of UniteWomen.org and UniteWomen.org ACTION. After having held 55 simultaneous rallies in 45 States as Unite Against the War on Women, to shine a spotlight on the influx of anti-women legislation and rhetoric around the country, Teegarden parlayed the event network into a national women's rights organization, UniteWomen.org. She manages UniteWomen.org's broad range of issues which include economic equality, reproductive justice, LGBTQ rights, violence against women, Unite Against Rape, voting rights, any type of injustice that affects women and their families, the environment and achieving full equality in our Constitution.
Teegarden's passion for politics and fighting injustice was ignited while working with Barack Obama's Presidential campaign in 2008 and the fans are still being flamed. Prior to founding and managing UniteWomen.org, Karen was President of Karen Teegarden & Associates, a marketing sales company based in Michigan. She is a graduate of the University of California, Berkeley, where she earned a B.A. in music.
About Shannon Fisher: Shannon Fisher is the host of the radio talk show, The Authentic Woman - Perspectives on the Female Experience in America on the Authors on the Air radio network. She is a biographer, profiling one person or group each week on her show, and a prominent women's rights advocate - having been named one of the "2012 Richmonders of the Year" by Style Weekly for her activism in the Virginia General Assembly. Shannon is a member of the Board of Directors of UniteWomen.org, a national 501(c)(3) nonprofit advocacy organization, and she co-founded and directed that organization's Unite Against Rape program, which made strides in raising public awareness of the issues of rape, human trafficking and violence against women.
Fisher is a graduate of both The College of William and Mary and the Sorensen Institute for Political Leadership at The University of Virginia. She has been writing and working in the fields of public and community relations since the mid-1990s. Her articles and essays have been published in newspapers, magazines, anthologies, news sites and blogs. Shannon has worked with Universal Studios, PBS, The Theatre of Note, The Music Theatre of Southern California, and the Authors on the Air Global Radio Network.
On July 6, The Authentic Woman aired Authors on the Air's Global Conversation on Human and Sex Trafficking. This global conversation is a special event with a panel of experts including prosecutors, law enforcement officers, legislators who have worked to enact laws to combat human trafficking, victim's rights advocates and survivors of the sex trade - all of whom share stories about the horrors they have witnessed and experienced. This $32 billion "industry" enslaves more than 300,000 underage girls (and boys) each year in America, selling them into forced prostitution. This informative and important broadcast shines a light on this topic that is usually kept in the shadows.
This Sunday, July 13, there will be an in-depth discussion of Autism Spectrum Disorder with a panel of experts: a developmental doctor from Bon Secours Richmond Health System, a developmental therapist from the Faison School and two mothers of children with autism who contribute to websites that offer resources to parents with special needs kids. This discussion will offer some excellent information about the early warning signs of autism, the indicators that parents should take their children for an assessment from a specialist, treatment options, the wide spectrum of symptoms of autism and solutions for living with autism into adulthood.
The July 20 show will be a discussion with Dr. Sheri Meyers, a regular contributor to ABC, NBC, CBS, CNN, television and radio talk shows, and the Huffington Post. During the show, we will discuss her book, Chatting or Cheating, which examines the shocking ease with which we can all slide down the slippery slope from an innocent online "friendship" to a full-blown affair in today's technology-driven world.
On July 27, The Authentic Woman will broadcast a live interview with legendary theatrical Artistic Director, Carol Piersol, whose name has been in the news quite a bit in recent years in relation to her very public and controversial ousting from The Firehouse Theatre Project. We will be talking about her new company, 5th Wall Theatre. The name of the company is a play on the concept of the audience being the "fourth wall" of the stage. The company intends to add the additional dynamic of a "fifth wall" to the audience's consciences to provide insights into the human condition through theatrical expression.
One of the most compelling offerings of the summer will be a Four Part Series on Creativity with special guest host and renowned artist and creativity coach, Susan Singer. Susan was the founder of the highly acclaimed Beyond Barbie performance series in Richmond, which is now being managed by Shannon Fisher. On the first Sunday of every month, starting August 3, Susan will interview women who have inspired her to discuss her guests' unique talents and means of self-expression. Throughout the four-episode series, Susan will discuss ways to tap into our own creative talents and find inspiration to make the world a better place. This should be a very interesting and enlightening series, so be sure to tune in to Susan's guest spots!
Executive Producer and Owner of Authors on the Air, Pam Stack, will interview The Authentic Woman host, Shannon Fisher, on August 10 to discuss her current writing project, an authorized biography of the late stand-up comedy great Steve Moore, Shannon's work in women's rights and whatever other topics Pam has up her sleeve. It will be fun to turn the tables and have the host as the interviewee!
There will be a very special edition of The Authentic Woman on August 24 that will highlight The State of Women's Rights in the United States with a live interview with two very notable women's rights leaders: Terry O'Neill, President of the National Association for Women (NOW), and Karen Teegarden, President of UniteWomen.org. During this broadcast, there will be lively discussion of the social and political issues affecting women today. This is an episode of The Authentic Woman that is not to be missed!
In September, we will air another special episode on the status of women: An Overview of Women's History in America. This show will feature prominent women's rights leader, Renee Davis, as well as a noted historian. This will be an opportunity for listeners to learn "what's what" when it comes to how we got where we are today - and what lies on the road ahead.
There will be a plethora of other intriguing guest hosts, mini-podcasts and special events from July through October. The Authentic Woman airs every Sunday night at 8 p.m. EDT!
Her letter reads as follows:
"First, I would like to annotate that rape is not a political issue. To hurl the label of 'progressivism' at policies that clear the way for a victim of rape to report a crime, and to avoid having this report whitewashed by administrators whose primary concern is protecting an institution's reputation, significantly diminishes the significance of the crime. Supposing that only a progressive would support the punishment of perpetrators of this heinous crime suggests that a conservative would revel in having these crimes masked - and that is simply not the case. Most humans with a developed sense of empathy would like to see those who violated their loved ones - mothers, daughters, grandmothers, sisters, sons, brothers, fathers - brought to justice.
"Rape knows no gender. Rape knows no socio-economic status. Rape knows no political party, nor any religion or ideology. Rape is indeed ubiquitous, possibly the most ubiquitous human rights violation worldwide today. It would stand to reason that, regardless of one's political leaning, every ethical person would applaud ubiquitous reporting of such violations. It appears your disdain for the rise in reports of sexual violence on college campuses is based on a contempt for progressive policies. While I respect disdain for any political ideology and relish diversity of opinion, I take great issue with your implied correlation between political ideology and response to sexual assault...."
Read Shannon Fisher's entire letter to George Will at https://fishershannon.wordpres...
Then, in January of 2013 (as I continued to grow stronger physically), I was contacted by a women with whom I had worked closely leading up to the Unite Against the War on Women rallies (55 simultaneous women's rights rallies in 45 states - I had worked on Virginia's). The UniteWomen.org organization had organically and exponentially grown and was becoming a powerhouse of a national organization and network. They were building a national team to oversee the work in all of the state groups. She had been impressed by my work in Virginia and wanted me to be a part of their national team. It was an offer I couldn't refuse: a chance to make a real difference by raising awareness and advocating for women on a national level. All of this work would be on a volunteer basis, of course - most human rights activism is, aside from a few longstanding national organizations who have established lobbying wings - but the knowledge that we are helping people and genuinely enacting change is all the payment most of us need.
Passion is what drives us, and it is also what sustains us when we grow tired. Some people think we are nuts to be devoting so much time to this cause - and we do often find ourselves exhausted. The work is intense and seemingly endless, but that is precisely why we do it! If there is a bottomless bin of work to be done to bring about social justice and equality for all, we need to step up and get it done! It isn't just one cause. It isn't just one organization. It isn't just one method. And it isn't just one goal. While many think of women's rights as being all about reproductive choice, there are so many more women's issues - and many other causes within the human rights arena - about which we are impassioned!
Gender, ethnicity, nationality, religion, sexual orientation, socio-economic status - all of these factors affect way the world views us, individually and collectively. And all of these factors spark fear, ignorance, hate and discrimination. There are many of us - in many different organizations with many different methods and just as many ideas - all working together to bring an end to a culture of divisiveness, contempt, obstruction, insolence, ignorance and disrespect.
In contrast, Ken Cuccinelli's political career has been dedicated to denying women in Virginia access to abortion, birth control and preventive health care. "The ultimate goal is to make abortion disappear in America and make people want it that way," said the Republican candidate for Governor. He wants to insert himself into the private lives of women, and the women of Virginia are responding to that with a resounding, "No!"
Cuccinelli used questionable ethical practices to ensure the passing of TRAP regulations that are forcing abortion clinics to close around the Commonwealth. Knowing the clinics would be unable to afford alterations that would put them in compliance with the stringent new architectural guidelines, Cuccinelli bullied the Virginia Board of Health - by claiming they did not have legal authority and threatening to sue them - into reversing their own decision to grandfather existing clinics into the new regulations, thereby passing the TRAP regulations for all clinics in Virginia. This abuse of power has caused preventative health care services to be stripped from many women living in the communities that need them most.
The others on the GOP ticket are no better when it comes to women's rights. We stand against Cuccinelli, Jackson and Obenshain as fervently as we stand for McAuliffe, Northam and Herring.
My initial leadership role in women's rights was through a fortuitous series of events. Attendance was higher than expected at a demonstration, a march that was to begin and end at the Virginia State Capitol on March 5, 2012, that was organized to demonstrate the widespread opposition to the transvaginal ultrasound bill. Because I happened to be standing with the organizers at the moment that they realized more people were in attendance than could be handled by their group, they invited me to help them manage the crowd and briefed me on all of the details.
About halfway through the march, the organizers were detained to sort out a crosswalk issue. The march had stopped moving for several minutes, and the protestors were getting antsy. Having been briefed about the route and the plan from the organizers, I made a snap decision to get the show moving again. I marched right up to the front of the group and ended up leading the entire crowd of over a thousand protesters for several blocks through the streets of downtown Richmond until the organizers reconciled the traffic issues, regrouped at the head of the line and led us up the steep hill onto Virginia State Capitol steps.
Despite the peaceful protesting of a group of calm women and men wearing windbreakers and mom jeans, Capitol Police troopers dressed in full riot gear were called to clear us from the steps. Arrests were made of those who refused to leave the stairs, and early iconic photographs were taken of what was only just then being commonly deemed the War on Woman. On that day, a national movement was born.
And ignore the plight
Of strong attacks from
The religious right.
We must open our eyes
And shine a light
On the ardent fight for
Though the view from the ground
Is not as nice,
We cannot smite
Unless we're downright
One city birthed
A renewed crusade.
On the national stage,
An icon made:
The Capitol Steps.
They swept us away that day,
As we protested mistakes
The General Assembly made.
But an awakening dawned,
And we spawned
Issues of choice cause a great divide,
But we're changing the tide
And leading the nation,
Which brings us great pride.
Ultrasounds and TRAPs
Started a fight
In which the government
Used their might.
But the power of the people
Found the side of right.
And while both sides fight,
We all would like:
Though political games
Are perpetually played,
We are not swayed
By the flex of their muscles.
We'll scuffle and hustle
And increase our resistance
With great persistence
Until they are staid.
Though protest we may, I do contend
That in order to win,
We must end and
In all ways de-friend these
They passed poor laws
And kept their paws
In places they shouldn't.
And though we couldn't
Stop the close of clinics,
We did get the probe
Removed from the bill
Passed on Richmond's Capitol Hill
But the most important
Pavement we can pound,
With our eyes open wide,
And our feet on the ground is to
Election Day is Tuesday November 5.
I was asked to record my lyrical piece as it was meant to be experienced: in Spoken Word. (Text on the "flip.")
"The American people cannot find a way to come together as one."
But they must be mistaken. America is a perpetual haven
For freedom and opportunity to become a maven
Of whatever we desire - and it fuels the fire
That pulls us from the mire
Of poverty and oppression.
People are stockpiling guns, gas masks and survival gear.
What once seemed ridiculous is now very real.
It isn't our "enemies" from foreign soil that they fear;
It is the ranks within our own that threaten and sneer
The fabric of our Nation that must be sewn so tightly together
That the only matter able to reach us is the warmth of the sun
Or the kiss of the rain to nurture our bodies and replenish the plains.
Enough of fighting tyranny, only to become an enemy
Of others who would also fight for similar rights
And the freedom to choose whatever they'd like.
Harness the power of the collective to elect and reject.
Our votes and our letters will help to correct
The damage being done to rights and liberty
And keep our society on the right side of history.
Regardless of station, do we not all love our nation?
We cannot wear blinders and talk about "binders
Of women" while their rights are being attacked.
The time is now to open our eyes and see what lies ahead
And what we lack. Life as we know it is not so different.
Every Dick, Jane and Barry - none of us is ignorant.
Right and left together; we must not be belligerent.
With signs we march, and we make the cry,
As we try to correct what we fear might reject
The soul of this Nation so dear to our hearts.
Protestors are beaten and detained by the finest,
Who have sworn to protect us, respect us with kindness.
By ejecting the people with force and might,
They deny our free speech and assembly rights.
Where are these "protectors" when groups of hate
Gather in anger to put up a gate
Between men, women, blacks, whites, gays and straights?
We must uncover the sacred ground of agreement.
Cultivate it, debate it, discuss it and feed it.
Tear down the fences that elevate defenses.
If we must fight, let us fight to reunite.
But, as we try to become a nation of one,
Some feel the rules of a holy Son,
Whose ancient laws were written in sand,
Should be the practice of our precious land.
For freedom of religion, our founders fiercely fought - not for naught.
We must separate absolutely our Church and State
In order to maintain our Nation's great.
While we fear it might be impossible or senseless,
We must do our damnedest to reach a grand consensus,
Without resorting to legal or violent offenses, and
Understanding that we are all in the trenches,
That, under absolutely no pretenses, all of the people
Polled in our census love our dear homeland
And are willing to say while extending their hands,
"We are in this together, and we are committed to weather
Any storm comes our way, in the USA. Tomorrow and today,
Our brothers and sisters, we will not betray.
We will put aside this power play that leads us astray
And pulls us away from one another and a better day,
When civil liberties were promised to stay
And 'Freedom in America' was not a cliché."
We must erase laws and ideas that make our future hazy.
Stand up for something, stand up with your neighbor.
Gather your siblings, friends, father and mother.
Meet on your sofas, be sisters and brothers.
Meet to discuss in what ways we are able
To form bonds together. And then pledge that we
Will never again a civil war see.