After hours upon hours of planning and stress lasts few months, the board of NOW GR sat back amazed as Then & NOW: Shattering the Glass Rotunda unfolded. We cannot believe the overwhelming support we received from our families, friends, communities, and fellow feminist activists. We could not have done this without all of you!
We’d like to send a special thank you to our underwriters, the GVSU Women’s Center, Ready to Run, and Planned Parenthood Advocates of Michigan, as well as to our many sponsors and donors. Your support has shown us that there is a wealth of opportunity in the Greater Grand Rapids Area for feminist activism.
We’d also like to thank the many women whose voices were used throughout the event. This year’s theme, “Shattering the Glass Rotunda – Progressive Paths to Politics,” came to life with the inspiring words of State Rep. Winnie Brinks, State Rep. Collene Lamonte, Ruth Kelly, Mary Alice Williams, and Candace Chivis.
Our keynote speaker, State Rep. Winnie Brinks, perfectly captured the challenges and possibilities of running for office as a progressive in West Michigan. A special thanks to Winnie, who dedicated her time to educating women on her experience running for public office. And to our award winners – The Progressive Women’s Alliance (PWA), STOP WOW, and Vernis Schad – you inspire us to do what we do. We thank you for the significant contributions you have made to the Grand Rapids community.
Finally, thank you to all who gave their time and energy to this event! We could not have asked for a more successful evening, and it’s all because of you. For those of you who were unable to attend or who simply want to enjoy the festivities again, the documentary we made for the event is now online! We hope you enjoy the event as much as we did, hope to see you next year!
Each year, the Grand Rapids Chapter of the National Organization for Women (NOWGR) hosts the annual Then & NOW event. This year’s event, Then & NOW: Shattering the Glass Rotunda, will be held Tuesday May 7, 2013 from 6:00PM to 8:30PM. The event features a wine and cheese reception, a silent auction, Then & NOW awards, and a multimedia presentation. Proceeds from the event and silent auction will support the activist work of NOWGR.
The event will celebrate the history and impact of feminism in our community. This year’s theme is progressive paths to political power, and NOWGR is thrilled to welcome Representative Winnie Brinks as our keynote speaker. In addition to the presentation by Representative Brinks, we will screen a short film featuring interviews with progressive political leaders and activists.
Tickets to this event are $25 with student and member discounted rates available. Purchase tickets online at thenandnow2013.eventbrite.com or mail a check to “NOWGR” at PO Box 6633, Grand Rapids, MI 49516.
March 22 – Two high school football players were convicted on Sunday, March 17, in Steubenville, OH, for raping a unconscious teenage girl at a party. After a review of the case, which included videos posted online of students at the party joking about the assault, the two boys were sentenced to minimums of one and two years in a juvenile correctional facility.1
We have all witnessed the huge media response to this case. While the attention has brought about increased awareness to sexual violence in the U.S., it has also revealed disturbing, underlying attitudes surrounding sexual assault in this country. CNN has received much criticism for sympathizing with the rapists, lamenting over the loss of their “promising futures,” and thereby making out the rapists to be the true victims of the situation.2
Perhaps more disturbing are the ongoing online conversations threatening the teenage girl. One girl tweeted: “You ripped my family apart, you made my cousin cry, so when I see you b—- it’s gone be a homicide.”3 Victim-blaming has been rampant, with online conversations asking what she expected being so drunk and scantily dressed.
Despite the media coverage of this case, it is not exceptional. One in six women in the U.S. are victims of attempted or completed rape in their lifetimes, with the majority of cases going unreported.# Our media and culture continue to teach women how to avoid being raped rather than teaching men not to rape. Around the country, communities have deliberately covered up instances of sexual violence in order to maintain treasured sports teams and coaches. We continue to celebrate a form of masculinity that stresses physical and emotional dominance.
So when people start to ask – how could this happen? I laugh. How couldn’t this happen? We have developed a world in which society does not recognize the seriousness of sexual violence. As an educated woman, it took me a long time to recognize that I should have conversations with my partner about rape. I should be clear with both myself and my partner about what is okay and what isn’t. Most importantly, I should never blame myself for abuse or be too ashamed to report harassment or violence.
The journey to that point is a tough one, but it shouldn’t be. The Steubenville case demonstrates that a clear victim is not necessarily viewed that way. Instead, the victim is scrutinized, criticized, and ultimately assigned partial blame for their assault.
On February 28th, the U.S. House of Representatives took up the Senate-passed bill to reauthorize the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA). This critical legislation passed by a bipartisan vote of vote of 286-138.
“Victims of violence and their advocates are breathing a collective sigh of relief today, knowing that this critical bill is on its way to President Obama for signature. We commend those who stood in support of victims and put the needs of those suffering from abuse ahead of partisan politics,” said Kim Gandy, President and CEO of the National Network to End Domestic Violence. “These Representatives, and the Senators who voted in favor of the bipartisan VAWA, have renewed our nation’s commitment to protecting victims of domestic and sexual violence.”
VAWA has been reauthorized twice since 1994 without much opposition. This most recent passage faced a much more difficult struggle. Advocates fought tirelessly to make sure that the legislation included protections that were initially opposed by some Republican lawmakers: protections for victims and survivors on Tribal lands, as well as immigrant and LGBT victims and survivors. The bill also preserves core funding for life-saving services and includes housing protections for individuals who have experienced domestic violence.
NOW’s official statement on the passage of VAWA:
With a resounding vote of 286-138, the House passed a bipartisan, inclusive reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act. This is a major victory for all women, including women in the LGBT community, Native American women, women on college campuses and immigrant women. NOW thanks the steadfast champions of VAWA in both the House and the Senate as well as the activists around the country who refused to give up on the countless women who will now be protected in this bill.
We should not have had to work so hard and for so long to get such a bill passed. Since its initial authorization in 1994, VAWA has rightly enjoyed bipartisan support — until the last Congress, which failed to reauthorize VAWA for the first time in the bill’s history. The House GOP leadership was responsible for this delay, introducing a regressive version of the bill in 2012 and again this year. But our friends on Capitol Hill would not back down, and we salute their courage and support.
While we celebrate today’s victory, we must begin immediately on the hard work of ensuring that VAWA’s authorized programs are fully funded. NOW calls on Congress to appropriate every last dollar authorized in this bill. Women’s lives are on the line. How could we settle for anything less?
Waves of protests have erupted all over India following the brutal attack of a 23-year-old student onDecember 16. Traveling home on a bus in central New Delhi with her 28-year-old male companion, the victim was grabbed by six drunken men who took turns raping her, attacked her with an iron rod, andthen threw her and her companion out of the moving vehicle. The victim passed away in the hospitalfrom severe intestinal damage.
Unfortunately, this is not simply an isolated incident. New Delhi is known as the rape capital of India,
with sexual attacks being reported every 14 hours. The extreme cruelty surrounding the death of this
young woman has brought thousands of protesters to the streets demanding greater protection. Women
hold signs proclaiming “Justice” and “Stop violence against women!”
Still, victim blaming remains a pressing concern in this case. The assaulters’ defense attorney, Manohar
Lal Sharma, went so far as to say, “Until today I have not seen a single incident or example of rape
with a respected lady. Even an underworld don would not like to touch a girl with respect.” To this
protesters simply respond – “Don’t tell me how to dress! Tell them not to rape!!”1
The six men have been brought to court on charges of kidnap and rape, both of which could lead to
the death penalty. Three of the suspects are pleading not guilty. The trials are closed to the media;
however, expedited hearings are expected due to the incredible amount of international and national
attention these cases have been receiving.
Protests are not dying down. Around India, women and men are gathering on the streets mourning the
loss of a bright young student. Vigils, silent parades, and mass protests are calling an often corrupt and
bureaucratic justice system to quick action.
According to the victim’s father, his daughter’s death has “brought an awakening to society.”2 The
thousands of women and students that have come out to protest all over India will not accept the law
ignoring them any longer.
NOW GR and the Planned Parenthood of West and Northern MI’s JET (Justice Engagement Team), STOPWOW, FSC Choice Fund, FSC Social Action Committee and Fountain Street Church are joining together to host a birthday party for Roe v Wade. Join us January 23rd from 6-8pm at Fountain Street Church for cupcakes and celebration!
Today, January 22, 2013, marks the 40th anniversary of the landmark Supreme Court case, Roe v Wade. Using the alias “Jane Roe,” Norma McCorvey claimed that Texas’s abortion laws were in violation of both McCorvey’s and other women’s constitutional rights, specifically the ninth and fourteenth amendments. Seven of nine Justices agreed, ruling that the constitutionally protected right to privacy includes every woman’s right to make her own medical decisions .
Despite continued public support for access to legal abortions, Michigan lawmakers continue to erode women’s constitutional rights to control their own reproduction. In spite of the potential dangers to women, Michigan lawmakers managed to push through some of the most restrictive anti-choice laws in the country during 2012’s lame-duck session.
With the 40th anniversary of Roe approaching, the danger of losing the right to control my own body looms. The political attacks on women’s healthcare are personal: it’s my body, my reproduction lawmakers are restricting. Continuing to fight for the right to make my own medical decisions is a choice I, and many other Michigan women, must continue to make in 2013 or we may very well lose the right to medically safe, legal abortions.
by Jeff Smith (GRIID)
We have received information from several groups in West Michigan and across the state that are working to pressure Governor Snyder to veto the various bills that are now before him that, if signed into law, would be a serious blow to reproductive rights in Michigan.
Governor Snyder received HB 5711 yesterday and SB 1293 and SB 1294 will be on his desk soon. Snyder has 14 days to either sign or veto HB 5711 (deadline is January 10th). He can also take no action, in which case the bill is dead, which is what is referred to as a pocket veto.
While some groups tried to work with the Governor’s office on this legislation to address some of the worst aspects of the bill, groups such as the Progressive Women’s Alliance believe that HB 5711 (S-3), “remains a terrible bill that shames women and their doctors.”
We asked the President of NOW GR, Dani Vilella, to respond to the bills that are now waiting for Snyder to either sign or veto. Vilella said:
“While there have been changes to HB5711 since its introduction in June, those changes do not go far enough. HB5711 along with SB 1293 & 1294, which ban abortion coverage in public and private insurance plans without a separate rider, do not protect women. They do not help to end the need for abortion, or reduce the unintended pregnancy rates in Michigan. They are punitive, plain and simple. They seek to restrict women’s right to make choices for their own bodies, health and lives.”
“NOW GR urges the Governor to veto these bills and asks the people of Michigan to reiterate this message by calling or emailing the Governor’s office as soon as possible.”
Along with NOW GR, Planned Parenthood, the Progressive Women’s Alliance and the ACLU of Michigan are all calling on people to contact the Governor’s office as soon as possible and demand that he veto these anti-choice and anti-reproductive rights bills.
Contact Governor Snyder and demand he veto HB 5711, SB 1293 & SB 1294
January 22 marks the 40th anniversary Roe v Wade, the landmark Supreme Court decision ensuring a woman’s right to choose. To commemorate Roe, the National Organization for Women Grand Rapids Chapter (NOW GR) and the Planned Parenthood of West and Northern MI (PPWNM) Justice Engagement Team (JET) will be compiling a short book about what Roe means to individuals.
Please answer the following questions: What does Roe v Wade and the Right to Choose mean to me?
Your submission should reflect what Roe means to you. Submissions can be in the form of an essay, personal narrative, poem, photograph or art piece. Please limit written responses to no more than 5 double spaced pages. To submit an art piece please send a photograph of the original in B& W or color. Submissions must be original and unpublished. If you are selected for publication, you receive a copy of the final publication.
The deadline for submission is January 12, 2013. To enter, please email your original submission to firstname.lastname@example.org with the Subject Line: Roe 40 or mail it to: PO Box 6633, Grand Rapids, MI 49516. Please include your name, email address, phone number and mailing address (this information is for contact purposes only and will kept confidential). Please also indicate whether you would like your First Name and last initial published with your submission or if you would prefer to be published anonymously.
All submissions will be considered for publication. This is not a contest. No winner will be declared. There is no guarantee of publication. First publication rights will rest with NOW GR and PPWNM. Writers may publish their submissions to other publications but NOW GR and PPWNM retain the right to reprint and distribute the original in perpetuity. There are no royalties from publication. All proceeds or donations will go to non-profits that support abortion rights.
Get involved with The Action Campaign by contacting email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org
As we near the end of the year, edging closer and closer to the fiscal cliff, U.S. Congressmen continue to put the interests of the wealthiest Americans before those of middle class families. For years, Republican representatives have defended the Bush Tax Cuts, which provide huge tax breaks for the wealthiest 2% of Americans, or those making at least $250,000 per year. Republicans claim that such cuts will inspire job creation and therefore cut back on national debt; however, the numbers reveal an opposite result.
The Action campaign is placing public pressure on Michigan’s Republican representatives to let the Bush Tax Cuts expire for the wealthiest 2% at the end of this year. Congressman Justin Amash has refused to compromise in Washington, and he continues to put CEOs and hedge fund managers over teachers, policeman, and pretty much everyone we know!
This is no longer a political issue – it is a family issue! We must recognize that tax cuts for the wealthiest 2% mean that an average, middle income Michigan family will be paying approximately $2,200 more in taxes in 2013. Few families can afford such a hike in taxes, and we as concerned women and activists, must look out for the struggling families of Grand Rapids.
Just days ago in Detroit, President Obama spoke up against tax cuts for the wealthy, saying “Our economic success has never come from the top down; it comes from the middle out.”
The Action campaign needs your help in defending America’s middle class!
We need volunteers who are willing to make phone calls to Congressman Amash, record video testimonials, write letters to the editors of local news sources, and attend The Action events and rallies. If you are interested in participating or need more information, please contact Jennifer Kinne at email@example.com
Below is a sample letter to Congressman Amash. Simply add your comments and email your letter to Jennifer Kinne at firstname.lastname@example.org. She will be delivering the letters to Amash.
Honorable Congressman Amash:
As a concerned citizen, I am appalled by the lack of compromise I am seeing within the U.S. House of Representatives as we near the fiscal cliff. Despite you and your conservative colleagues’ claims that tax cuts for the wealthiest 2% of Americans will stimulate job growth and cut back our national debt, we continue to watch debt climb as unemployment rates remain high.
While I am sure that a CEO making upwards of $250,000 per year can afford a tax hike, I absolutely cannot. Many middle class families in your district are struggling to afford basics such as rent, groceries, and tuition bills.
Despite all of this, you continue insisting that the wealthiest 2% in this country deserve tax cuts at the expense of middle class families. By placing the interests of the wealthiest 2% before mine and others like me, you are failing as my representative.
[Insert personal comments]
I urge you, Representative Amash, to allow the Bush Tax Cuts to the wealthiest 2% of Americans expire at the end of December.