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Posted by Meliss Arteaga

A new documentary finally tells the story of Dolores Huerta’s life-long fight for justice and equality.

Dolores (2017)

Her career as an activist began alongside Cesar Chavez and, at age 87, Dolores Huerta continues to advocate for the common good. See the film that explains her influence, impact — and why you may have never heard her name before. Dolores comes to theaters across the U.S. this fall. doloresthemovie.com/screenings

Posted by Dolores on Monday, July 24, 2017

Dolores Huerta has been a force for social change for decades, and her work laid the foundation for the modern labor rights and racial justice movements. She began her life in social justice movements by devoting her early work to fight for better economic conditions for farm workers, and ultimately co-founded the United Farm Workers (UFW) with Cesar Chavez. Despite her accomplishments as a leader in the labor rights movement and immigrant rights community—including negotiating the first contract between farm workers, leading the national Delano grape strike boycott that led to a historic three-year bargaining agreement with the UFW in 1970 and coining the rallying cry “¡Sí, Se Puede!” (which would later be known as President Obama’s campaign slogan “Yes We Can!”)—her legacy has largely been overlooked in the historical record.

At 87, she is still one of the most defiant feminists of the 20th century, but Huerta’s journey to the feminist movement and tireless advocacy for women’s equality has also been too often overlooked. DOLORES reclaims Huerta’s narrative, telling a more complete account of her life’s work. Director Peter Bratt’s award-winning film displays Huerta’s continuous fight for justice in an intimate way, revealing personal sacrifices she made to fully devote her life to social change.

“After interviewing farm workers, scholars, politicians, feminists, labor historians and 10 of her 11 biological children, one thing became crystal clear: her erasure from the historical record was deliberate,” Pratt wrote in a statement. “In this consolidated, never-before-seen collection of personal memories, historical documentation and compelling first-person narrative, Dolores Huerta emerges as more than just a footnote to 20th century America—she proves to be a true American hero.”

Huerta empowered a generation of farm workers, immigrants, feminists and people of color to stand up for their rights. Pratt delivers a provocative and engaging documentary that challenges the previous one-sided history with powerful storytelling.

DOLORES will be released in September in New York and Los Angeles. Find a screening near you.

Meliss Arteaga is an editorial intern at Ms. She studied at California State University Northridge and has a Bachelor’s Degree in journalism and minor in gender and women studies.

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The post The Untold Story of a Feminist Legend: DOLORES Sheds New Light on an Activist Icon appeared first on Ms. Magazine Blog.

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Posted by Libby Anne

You can learn a lot about an organization from the questions it asks in polls---in this case, we're talking about the Republican Party. The GOP is conducting an online poll they're calling "Listening to America"---a poll that also gives us a snapshot of the Republican Party's current goals, viewpoints, and priorities.Click through to read more!

Reading the New Testament in 89 Days

Thursday, 27 July 2017 05:00 am
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Posted by Richard Beck

I recently discovered a Bible reading plan from the Eastern Orthodox tradition. This plan has you reading through the entire New Testament in 89 days.

The idea is simple. Each day read one chapter from the gospels, starting in Matthew 1 all the way through John 21. It'll take you 89 days to do this.

For the epistles, read two chapters each day, starting with Acts 1 all the way through Revelation 22. Two chapters from the epistles each day gets you through them all in 86 days.

So that's the plan. Each day, one chapter from the gospels and two from the epistles for 89 days.

Chinese Synesthesia

Thursday, 27 July 2017 02:49 am
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Posted by Victor Mair

Xiaoyan (Coco) Li, a native Chinese speaker with synesthesia (self identified, never formally tested), happened to come across this Language Log post:

"Synesthesia and Chinese characters" (3/9/17)

She wrote to me saying that she experiences some of what Leo Fransella (quoted in the earlier post) referred to as "'non-trivial' Chinese synaesthesia".  For him "trivial" Chinese synesthesia is associated with or stimulated by the letters of the Pinyin used to spell Chinese words, not from the characters used to write them.

Coco explains [the romanizations and additions in square brackets are by VHM]:

My synaesthesia tends to be less phoneme-color related, but almost completely grapheme-color based. For Chinese, the characters' colors are somewhat affected by their radicals. A more trivial example of this would be that characters with ⺮ [bamboo radical] are more likely to be green-hued, since this radical has the meaning of plants. A less direct relationship would be that characters with the radical 辶 ["walk"], which is grey by itself, are also likely to be more grey than their other components. 这 ["this"] is a faded pastel yellow, whereas 文 ["script; literature"] is a more saturated orange-yellow, although both characters are not direct grey scales of another.

I also took Japanese, so I'll talk a bit about how synaesthesia affects how I see Japanese kana versus kanji. I haven't seen any kanji that have different colors than their Chinese counterparts, though traditional Chinese characters tend to be darker/more saturated than simplified Chinese characters — 爱 (aì) ["love"] is a less saturated red than 愛 (ai あい), but 他 (tā) [third person pronoun] and 他 (hoka ほか) ["other"] are the same color. However, kanas have distinct colors that may differ between hiragana and katakana depending on how different they look, and these colors can differ from their kanji as well. For example, kaze かぜ ["wind"] is red/rust (か) and dull military green (ぜ ) whereas 風 (kaze) ["wind"] is a bright green character, and kaze カゼ ["casein"] is yellow (カ) and transparent green (ゼ, similar to ぜ because of their visual similarity). When I hear kaze かぜ I think of the bright green, however, because the kanji is the first grapheme representation that "pops into my head" rather than its kana. I could also talk about how kanas that are voiced/unvoiced (for the lack of better generalization for the dots and circles on kanas) change color if anyone is interested. Furthermore, vowels tend to be the same colors across languages — a (English/French etc.), as well as the pronunciation of 啊 and あ, are all red).

Since I do not experience this type of graphemic synesthesia, it would be hard for me to comment meaningfully on Coco's observations, but perhaps there are readers who do experience such sensations who may wish to weigh in from their own standpoint.

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Posted by Ciarra Davison

It is no secret that unfettered access to education—a basic human right—not only drastically increases one’s chances of leading a successful and financially stable life, but increases the well-being of one’s country as well. This fact is especially pertinent to the millions of girls all over the world who are unable to access education safely and consistently

It has been shown that if they receive seven full years of education, on average, girls will marry four years later and have 2.2 fewer children. By attending just one additional year of secondary school, it is possible for their lifetime wages to increase by up to 20 percent, thus increasing their countries’ GDPs by billions of dollars.

The sad reality is that many girls’ abilities to access education is hindered for various different reasons. For too many girls, that reason is puberty.

Photo courtesy of Action India

In developing countries throughout the world—including Afghanistan, Uganda and India—between 25 and 57 percent of adolescent girls miss school or drop out all together because of their periods. As a result of a lack of education and overwhelming stigma and taboo surrounding the topic of menstruation, women and girls around the world also do not have access to safe or hygienic period products. In India, many girls do not even know what menstruation is.

The Oakwood chapter of Girls Learn International (GLI)—a project of the Feminist Majority Foundation that focuses on educating and empowering girls throughout the world—has become increasingly invested in this issue. They knew that they did not wish to simply raise money and send period products to girls in India—rather, they wanted to address the issue at its core and figure out sustainable ways to empower women and girls so that this issue can be eliminated entirely.

Influenced by Arunachalam Muruganantham, who invented a machine that manufactures sanitary pads out of natural, locally-sourced materials at the low cost of just five cents per unit, the GLI girls decided they wanted to set up a pad machine in villages in India to not only provide them with vital period products, but to also give employment opportunities to these women—thus was born The Pad Project. They are currently setting up a pad machine in the village of Kathikhera, located in the Hapur District.

Hapur Chapter of GLI

Through a serendipitous series of events, GLI Oakwood has collaborated with Rayka Zehtabchi—a 23 year-old Iranian-American filmmaker who graduated from USC with a degree in film production in 2016—who also felt compelled to raise awareness of this issue and to help create a solution. Though she has not been in the industry for very long, she has already won various awards for her short films and established a clear vision for herself as a filmmaker and the impact she hopes to make on the world. Now, she is working on a documentary about The Pad Project with the help of the fundraising and awareness efforts of the GLI girls.

Ms. spoke with Zehtabchi to discuss her role as both an activist and filmmaker, how The Pad Project came to be and how she envisions wrapping the project—and helping women obtain the necessary independence to live out the lives they want, regardless of their periods.

How did you first hear of The Pad Project and how did you know this was something you needed to become involved with?

I originally did not know about The Pad Project. I didn’t even know about the issue. I was actually in line about to board a plane to Scotland when I got a call from a father of one of the Oakwood GLI students. He essentially told me about the issue and said: “This is what is going on all over the world, this is what the program is, this is what Feminist Majority Foundation is. We’re trying to make a documentary about the issue. Are you interested?” And I remember I was in line boarding the plane and I just started crying. I’m a very emotional person, and I know that usually when I have an emotional response to something—especially if I don’t even have that much information about it—it is important for me to consider and work on. So I thought about it for about a week while I was in Scotland and everything was just telling me that making this film was the right thing to do.

I’ve noticed that many of your other films are very powerful as well. Did you have similar integral moments like the one you just described when you decided to work on your other films? Would you say you have a particular vision for yourself as a filmmaker that you are reminded of in moments like that?

Absolutely. I had that feeling with the first project that I directed as well. Again, it was an emotional response. I really believe in following your gut. Especially as a filmmaker, you have to make a million decisions per day and some of those decisions are: what is the project I’m going to be working on for the next six months to however many years? So you definitely need to have a gut response to whatever it is you’re going to be working on. It’s something that I follow and that I’ve learned to follow and that has taught me about the kinds of films that I am interested in making. I am just very interested in doing things for a cause. I want to make sure that as a filmmaker, I’m being proactive and productive in our society and that whatever I’m making is not just solely for entertainment, but is actually educating an audience and doing something for the world.

So would you say that your relationship between your activism and your filmmaking is something that evolved pretty naturally throughout your career?

Definitely. And I feel it is more of a responsibility. I know that might sound a little cliché, but really, it drives every single decision that I’ve made so far as a filmmaker. Especially as someone who makes documentaries, everything that I’m thinking about is: How truthful are we being? How accurate are we being? Are we sensationalizing this? And all of these things are very important. I just want to make sure that whatever we’re doing is honest and productive.

What was the most shocking or surprising thing that you learned throughout the filmmaking process?

I don’t want to sound selfish but I think it really taught me a lot about myself. I grew up sort of thinking I was always mature and worldly in a lot of ways. And I think I realized when I went to India—when I was exposed to this whole issue—that I really don’t know anything about the world. I know very little and it’s not enough just to talk about it. You have to see it. You have to experience it in order to really tolerate it and in order to really understand people’s struggles. Like I said earlier, I had no idea this was even an issue. I had no idea that women didn’t know what menstruation was or what was happening to their bodies. I had no idea that the rest of the world wasn’t using pads and tampons just like I was growing up. And that’s because I never had to think about that. It’s never even a thought that crossed my mind because I never had to think twice about whether or not I was going to make it through a month without getting a pad because for me, it was just as convenient as getting toilet paper. So that simple fact is pretty remarkable and telling of how immature and ignorant I was in a lot of ways.

What is your favorite part about working with the Oakwood GLI students?

I think what’s so admirable about the Oakwood students and the path that they were laying before we even started talking about a documentary is that they are so concerned with making sure that they’re not just putting a band-aid over this issue. They don’t just want to donate money and buy the girls a pad machine. They want to go there. They want to speak with the women. They want to understand what the situation is from a first hand experience. They want to install this machine and make sure that we’re giving the power entirely to them to create these pads and to become empowered and independent. They didn’t want to just hand over a package of pads and hope that that will last for the month. So I just think that’s so admirable. Some of these girls are 15 and 16 years old and I just think they are eons ahead of me and many other people I know in terms of maturity and tolerance and compassion.

Oakwood Chapter of GLI

How do you envision wrapping the rest of the project?

I’m about a year out of USC film school, so I haven’t been directing for all that long, but the past two projects I have directed have been narrative short films, so I’ve sort of come into this learning narrative—it’s a lot more structured and a lot more organized so coming into documentary for the first time was kind of a shock because you realize how little control you really have. It can be both liberating and shocking at the same time. So for me going into it, I think we all had this sense that the film should be surrounded around this village of young women in India, specifically in the village where we’re installing a pad machine. And going there, it became more and more clear to me that really the specific thing I want to focus on is how this pad machine is affecting these women’s lives—the ripple effects. And that encompasses everything from taboo surrounding the topic of menstruation, to education, to educating people on feminine hygiene and the importance of it and how we can lower the risk of so many health conditions by maintaining feminine hygiene, to general empowerment for the women. Going there, I realized there’s a really big issue with women feeling like they have no voice and have no say in things. That this machine could actually grant them the opportunity to wake up every day and work towards a cause that they care about and that affects them personally is pretty incredible. Those are all the themes I want to focus on in this documentary. Whether that ends up being in one character or another, that’s always hard to say with documentary. You can do your best to prep and focus on the things you want to focus on, but when you go there—as I learned last time—things always tend to naturally take a slightly different course, and I’m prepared for that.

Currently we’re seeking $47,000. Not just for the documentary, but half of that would go towards the remaining production of the documentary and post-production, as well as the machine itself and making sure that it’s fully functional.

What advice would you give to fellow young filmmakers who might feel overwhelmed or intimated in terms of establishing their presence in the film world?

I think the real word of advice is work really really damn hard. I think there are always going to be obstacles. There are always going to be people that think you’re either “too young,” “too diverse,” or that your vision isn’t fresh enough. There’s always going to be some sort of negative side to it and I think really, you just have to listen to your gut and again, work really damn hard. That’s really all it is. You gotta want it and you gotta work for it. I think if there’s a will, there’s a way. You figure it out.

You can give to The Pad Project through the Feminist Majority Foundation to support the documentary and help fund a year of operation of a pad machine in India.

Ciarra Davison is an Editorial Intern at Ms. and an undergrad at UCLA, where she studies English and writes for the Politics section of FEM Newsmagazine. She dedicates her time to standing in solidarity with all oppressed groups and individuals and fighting for equal rights. She also enjoys traveling and dancing while cooking.

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The post Because a Period Should End a Sentence, Not a Girl’s Education appeared first on Ms. Magazine Blog.

I can’t remember all the lines that you said

Wednesday, 26 July 2017 11:24 pm
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Posted by Fred Clark

"Rediscovering an Evangelical Heritage" of opposing Indian Removal (and then of opposing those who opposed it). Plus: The rules of the pop-culture ranking game; Colorado codifies what shouldn't need to be codified; and the "Wicked Problem" of palliative pastoral care.
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Posted by Julie Enszer


I carried a 550-page book with me on vacation and loved every minute of it.

Rachel Kadish packs every page of The Weight of Ink, her third novel, with interesting facts, musings and revelations—and every ounce of the book was worth its weight on my shoulders as I hefted it around my 10-day excursion.

At the center of this yarn is Ester Valesquez, a young Jewish woman living in London in the seventeenth century. Ester is the scribe for a blind rabbi. Her writing becomes to a powerful reading habit as she rifles the bookstalls of London; then her own philosophical meanderings extend to letters to prominent philosophers of the age, including Spinoza. Scholar and historian Helen Watt and her young, brash assistant, Aaron Levy, unearth Ester’s story through a cache of documents found during a home renovation. Like any sweeping novel wanting to rivet women readers, these characters all have love interests, though Kadish’s attentions to love are never syrupy nor inspired by Hallmark or Harlequin. Rather they are profound meditations on the nature of what it means to be human. In one passage, Ester thinks:

How could desire be wrong—the question seized her—if each living being contained it? Each creature was born with the unthinking need to draw each next breath, find each next meal. Mustn’t desire then be integral—a set of essential guideposts on the map of life’s purpose? And mightn’t its very denial then be desecration?

Desire for Ester and Helen and even the Lothario, Aaron, is not only about sexuality and carnal pleasures—it is also about intellect and the desire for a meaningful and fulfilling life of the mind.

In addition to explore the natures of love and desire, Kadish’s characters unearth exciting histories. The Weight of Ink illuminates the world of Jews in Amsterdam after their flight from Spain as well as Jews return to London in the seventeenth century, and Kadish’s approach to history is as nuanced as her approach to sex. She explores questions of how individuals respond to exile, persecution and violence through her characters with compassion and passionate interest. The tensions between individual desire and community demands simmer beneath the surface. The rabbi asks Ester, “What sort of life is possible—with no ground beneath one’s feet except the logic of one’s own mind?” The ballast to this question is a modern day aphorism shared between Helen and Aaron: “Never underestimate the passion of a lonely mind.”

Yes, I thought long and hard about carrying the heavy book with me on vacation, but once I started reading, I was riveted. As I neared the final pages of The Weight of Ink, I feel both satisfied and sad. The bottom line is: drop everything and dive into this book for the best summer read.

Philosophically provocative, historically rich and interesting, The Weight of Ink is the perfect summer novel—balancing richly drawn characters with a driving, compelling plot.

p1030388-150x150Julie R. Enszer, Ph.D., is a visiting assistant professor of women’s studies at the University of Maryland. She is writing a history of lesbian-feminist presses from 1969 until 2000 and is author of Sisterhood and Handmade Love. She is editor of Milk & Honey: A Celebration of Jewish Lesbian Poetry, a finalist for the Lambda Literary Award in Lesbian Poetry. She has her MFA and Ph.D. from the University of Maryland. She is the editor of Sinister Wisdom, a multicultural lesbian literary and art journal, and a regular book reviewer for the Lambda Book Report and Calyx. You can read more of her work at www.JulieREnszer.com.

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English Verb-Particle Constructions

Wednesday, 26 July 2017 02:59 pm
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Posted by Spencer Caplan

Lately I've been thinking about "optionality" as it relates to syntactic alternations. (In)famous cases include complementizer deletion ("I know that he is here" vs. "I know he is here") or embedded V2 in Scandinavian. For now let's consider the English verb-particle construction. The relative order of the particle and the object is "optional" in cases such as the following:

1a) "John picked up the book"
1b) "John picked the book up"

Either order is usually acceptable (with the exception of pronoun objects — although those too become acceptable under a focus reading…)

1c) "John put it back"
1d) *"John put back it"

For something like (1a) and (1b) the semantic interpretation seems largely the same, and so the "optionality" refers to the grammar allowing the generation of more than one syntactic variant. In practice however, even if multiple syntactic arrangements are permitted only one can actually be produced at a given time in a given context. Acceptability judgments tend to be more delicate or varied than would be desired here. So if we'd like to investigate what factors govern the production of one form (particle-first) over another (object-first) we may examine the overall rates of use of either variant in a corpus under different conditions. Much has been written about these sorts of phenomena, including particle placement in particular (Stefan Gries has written a whole book on the topic), yet technical constraints often limit the scope of such investigations.

For instance, two factors which have been found to correlate with/against particle-first order are the heaviness of the DP-object (heavy objects tend to follow the particle), and whether or not the object had been recently referred to in context (discourse familiar objects tend to precede the particle). Stefan finds these effects over a few hundred sentences, but because the space of lexical combinations is so large there's simply not way to control for word-level effects which may be co-variate to NP-heaviness of discourse familiarity.

To get around this I wrote a script which extracts instances of verb-particle constructions from the spoken portion of COCA and tags them for particle-order. This requires a few hand-written heuristics so as not to erroneously include prepositional phrases whose order is in fact not option (e.g. "Walk down the path" is possible but not *"Walk the path down"), but nothing too technically involved. Overall, I find a particle-first rate of approximately 60% over a very large sample of roughly 50,000 such sentences. This is in line with previous work dating all the way back to the late 1970's on this topic. However, if we zoom into rates within various predicates, things appear far more varied on a lexical level. Below is a plot showing the rates of particle-first order for the twelve most frequent verbs (each verb appearing in a few thousand sentences in my sample.) The red vs. blue colors simply represent the particle-first ratio being below/above 50%.

Some verbs (Pick, set) show nearly categorical particle-first order, while others (help, get) are majority object-first.

Subsequently zooming in to look at the behavior under "bring" (since it shows a good split around 70/30), the picture remains varied. For instance, there is a near categorical gap in ordering for "bring about" compared to "bring over".

Notice that "bring back" is roughly 50/50, so conditioning on that and splitting over the head of the object DP there is again frequently categorical split in particle ordering. There are between 10 and 100 sentences for each condition below.

None of this of course explains what's driving these large, lexically conditioned gaps, but it would be interesting to keep digging into it.

Party in the Park – August 5th!

Wednesday, 26 July 2017 01:34 pm
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Posted by Circle of Hope

I know I’m biased when I say this, but Circle of Hope Northwest is co-hosting what might be the event of the summer in Northwest Philly. On Saturday August 5, ...

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Women Are The Key to Lasting Peace in Afghanistan

Wednesday, 26 July 2017 01:00 pm
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Posted by Megan Corrado

When the U.S. came under attack on September 11th, it took the fight to the perpetrators and the bloody regime that protected them—Al Qaeda and the Taliban, respectively. In the process, the U.S.-led coalition released the Afghan people from the brutal grip of the Taliban—and for the first time in decades, Afghans were able to exercise their basic human rights. Indeed, no one group of people were more impacted than women by this liberation.

Decades of conflict left Afghan society with systemic gender inequality, discrimination, violence and poverty. Yet, since the 2001 intervention, Afghan women have made phenomenal gains. Girls have gone back to school. Women are working as ministers, lawyers, doctors, soldiers and engineers. Women’s average lifespan has increased by over 20 years. A new generation recognizes women’s rights as human rights. The 2004 Constitution enshrined gender equality—unlike many democracies—and legislation, including the Law on the Elimination of Violence Against Women and the Anti-Harassment Regulation, created unprecedented overtures toward the unimpeded exercise of women’s rights and participation in Afghan society.

As the U.S. reconsiders its Afghanistan strategy, the discourse has been disproportionately focused on military escalation. While this will certainly support Afghan troops and create space for a political solution, there has been shockingly little mention of the key to durable peace—women.

UN Women / Creative Commons

In states subject to conflict, the equitable presence of women at the negotiation table is essential to address women’s specific needs and assets, as well as to the establishment of a stronger, more stable society. During times of conflict, men and women experience war different. Women are often subject to gender-based violence, sexual assault and rape as instruments of war—as well kidnapping, torture, exploitation, slavery, forced marriage, displacement and starvation. They face the increased likelihood of widowhood, conscription of their children into armed forces and family disruption. These traumas impact every aspect of the social fabric and must be recognized in the creation of accountability and reconciliation mechanisms in peace agreements.

In places like Afghanistan, women’s empowerment must be present at the most nascent stage of peace negotiations in order to establish the critical role women play in building a better future and to shift entrenched cultural attitudes towards gender inclusion, which will institutionalize the elements of a thriving democracy.

Americans have invested tremendously in blood and treasure. Although stability remains elusive, we must be cognizant of the successes. However, with the 2014 troop withdrawal, the uptick in violence and resurgence of the Taliban have caused a dangerous backslide in Afghan women’s ability to exercise their rights and the enforcement of their legal protection and empowerment.

Gains made by Afghan women and girls must be safeguarded and expanded. This can only be achieved with a holistic approach that encompasses military, political, economic, development and diplomatic strategies. The military alone cannot stamp out extremism and usher in a golden age of democracy. In the end, the only path to enduring peace in Afghanistan will be political, and must be led by Afghan women and men. We all must recognize that the empowerment of women needs to be a quintessential component of any strategic formula for continued U.S. engagement aimed at establishing durable peace, security, stability and democracy in Afghanistan.

Megan Corrado is the Advocacy Manager for Women for Afghan Women, the largest women’s non-governmental organization—operating 32 facilities in 14 provinces—providing vital protection and services to victims of gender-based violence, including pro bono legal, vocational, educational, mediation, healthcare, childcare, counseling and housing. WAW’s Advocacy Office campaigns for continued international support for peacebuilding in Afghanistan and for Afghan women and girls’ rights to ensure that the hard-won social, political, and economic gains of Afghan women and girls are preserved, and to ensure Afghan women participate in policy-making at all levels of decision-making processes.

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Posted by Libby Anne

I grew up hearing two things about race—first, that my (white) community was “colorblind” and did not see race, and second, that black people who succeeded and achieve likely did so only because of affirmative action. Even my parents told me that color did not matter, that we did not “see” race, my father simultaneously disparaged a black colleague, insisting that she was incompetent and had surely only got the job because of affirmative action.Click through to read more!

Gender, conversation, and significance

Wednesday, 26 July 2017 10:11 am
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Posted by Mark Liberman

As I mentioned last month ("My summer", 6/22/2017), I'm spending six weeks in Pittsburgh at the at the 2017 Jelinek Summer Workshop on Speech and Language Technology (JSALT) , as part of a group whose theme is "Enhancement and Analysis of Conversational Speech".

One of the things that I've been exploring is simple models of who talks when — a sort of Biggish Data reprise of Sacks, Schegloff & Jefferson "A simplest systematics for the organization of turn-taking for conversation", Language 1974. A simple place to start is just the distribution of speech segment durations. And my first explorations of this first issue turned up a case that's relevant to yesterday's discussion of "significance".

In Neville Ryant and Mark Liberman, "Automatic Analysis of Speech Style Dimensions", InterSpeech 2016, we found systematic differences among individuals and contexts.

In that paper, we found that speech segments generally tend to be shorter in spontaneous/conversational speech than in fluent reading. The graph below compares density plots for speech-segment duration in three sources of read text and three sources of conversational speech. The largest read collection is  LibriSpeech, 1,571 hours of text reading by 2,484 speakers. The distributions for Bush and Obama are from their weekly addresses, about 14 hours in total. From spontaneous/conversational speech, we have  8.5 hours of the interview program Fresh Air, with the data for the guests and the host (Terry Gross) plotted separately; and 14 hours from YouthPoint, a radio program produced by students at the University of Pennsylvania in the late 1970s.

This should not be a surprise — there are several sources of shorter speech segments specific to spontaneous/conversational speech, including backchannels and evaluations ("mm-hmm", "yeah", "right", "I know", "no kidding", "OK", "maybe", …), and pauses that reflect the process of composition, often with repetition or self-correction across the gap.

If we look more closely at individual conversations, we see some where the participants' distributions of speech-segment durations are pretty much the same, and others with significant differences. Here are the distributions for two two-party conversations from the Fisher (English) collection:

In the second case, Speaker A is doing most of the talking: 412.5 seconds in 200 segments, compared with 269.9 seconds in 213 segments for Speaker B.

This reflects an asymmetry in conversational roles — much of the dialogue is like this:

103.70 110.54 A: (( )) here and we have i think it's more healthy too you know the fat and more veggies greens
110.99 111.52 B: yeah
111.65 112.52 B: yes yeah
113.07 115.40 B: certainly more so than like the fast food
116.02 119.18 A: yeah i mean i i gained here uh
119.47 125.98 A: how many like thirty poun- uh pounds or so but then i started on this diet eating
123.29 123.62 B: yeah
126.33 127.96 A: in a at home and
128.39 129.89 A: lost lots of weight even i'm
130.02 130.76 A: thinner than
131.08 132.65 A: than when i came here you know
132.77 133.08 B: yeah

This naturally raises the question of how to quantify such differences, and how to relate them to individual characteristics and social or conversational roles. The Fisher collection is fairly large (23398 conversational sides) and relatively uniform in interactional context (short telephone conversations between strangers on assigned topics). There's no variation in interactional role, and our information about individual characteristics is limited (sex, age, years of education, region), but some of those characteristics are stereotypically related to speech styles.

The simplest way to parameterize the distributions of speech-segment durations is just to look at their means or medians. And if we look at the median length of speech segments by sex in the Fisher dataset, we see something interesting.

The mean value of the median speech-segment durations of women talking with women is longer than the comparable value of men talking with men. This difference is highly significant (in statistical terms), p-value = 6.734e-05 according to Welch's t-test, or less than one chance in ten thousand that the difference is due to sampling error. But the speech-segment durations of women talking with men and men talking with women are essentially the same by this measure (p-value = 0.2211):

And the differences between the Same Sex and Cross Sex conditions are also "significant". At this point we could wave our hands at various gender stereotypes and talk about accommodation theory.

But if you've looked at the numbers on the y-axis, you'll realize that this is an excellent object lesson in the difference between "(statistically) significant" and "meaningful", as discussed a couple of days ago. The differences, although unlikely to be the result of sampling error, are tiny — and also are small relative to within-group variance.

If we re-plot everything with a y-axis that starts at 0, this become clearer:

There's plenty of interesting and meaningful structure in conversational dynamics — but the effect of speaker and interlocutor sex on the distribution of speech segment durations is not a good example.


The Wicked Problems of Jails and Prisons

Wednesday, 26 July 2017 05:00 am
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Posted by Richard Beck

Many thanks to Kim for pointing out to me an article at ABC's Religion and Ethics. "Can Systematic Theology become 'Pastoral' Again, and Pastoral Theology 'Theological'?" is written by Sarah Coakley, and in it she shares some of her reflections about the need for more rigorous theological reflection in pastoral locations like jails and hospitals.

The article is a reflection on the disjoint between pastoral and systematic theology, and a call for pastoral theology to become more rigorous so that it can tackle the "wicked problems" we face in our penal and health care systems.

Kim was interested in how my experiences in prison lined up with Coakley's.

This part of her essay caught my attention:
I was struck that in my time in the Boston jail I was up against a nexus of issues which no one seemed adequately to have probed in relation to one another - or at least no one seemed to have probed theologically. There was the harsh legal response to minor drugs offences; the racialized policy of policing in the "black" area of Boston; the deliberate brutalizing and further criminalizing of young men in impossibly cramped cell conditions in the jail; and the scarcely-veiled threat by the jail authorities towards chaplains and other well-wishers that any dimensions to their ministry that might be construed as politically subversive would be harshly riposted and repressed. 
One of Coakley's points in the article is that when pastoral theology focuses on emotional and therapeutic issues, in either hospitals and jails, it fails to give theological attention to the systemic causes of suffering in the world.

Simply stated, when pastoral theology reduces itself to the emotions of the inmate or patient, it becomes a form of palliative care.

And if you need a reminder, here's the definition of palliative: "relieving pain without dealing with the cause of the condition."

And so, Coakley argues, pastoral theology should strive to give more than palliative care. Pastoral theology should attend to how the system creates suffering.

But the trouble in my experience, as Coakley notes in the last sentence of the quote above, is that if a chaplain attempts more than palliative care, and begins to offer theological reflections on the justice of the system, they risk being labeled as politically subversive and kicked out of the jail/prison.

So the point I made to Kim is that the disjoint between pastoral and systematic theology, at least in the prison, isn't only due to the historical developments Coakley describes in her article. The disjoint is produced by the system itself, forcing the chaplain to make a wicked choice. Here's a bit of what I shared with Kim:
I have a friend who was doing prison work in Tennessee. Very justice-oriented guy. He got kicked out of the prison because he was helping the prisoners organize. So now he can't go inside a prison anymore.

So the system forces you into the pastoral position--helping the men "cope" with their lot (i.e., submit to their punishment). Anything that has the men question the justice of their condition is risky. If I address these issues I may never see the men ever again, or be allowed to work in a prison again. In short, the principality and power of the prison forces you to divorce the pastoral from justice.

You have to pick your fight. Do you want to be inside, with the men, or forever exiled to the outside? That's the wicked problem.
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Posted by Juana Rosa Cavero

I was already racked with stress when the organization I had been working for shuttered. My husband was in his last year of graduate school, and I was suddenly unemployed. What was supposed to be exciting news of my first pregnancy abruptly became anxiety when faced suddenly with having very limited and costly health care insurance options.

This was my reality just a few months before the Affordable Care Act (ACA) was enacted, and I was hardly alone.

Today the provisions of the ACA protect women in my situation to ensure that they are not cut off from health care insurance if they become unemployed, and that coverage will include basic health services including maternity and reproductive health care coverage.

What changed for me and millions of women with the ACA were provisions that expanded Medicaid to cover more low-income individuals (known as Medicaid Expansion); created health insurance marketplaces where individuals and families could shop for and purchase health coverage, in many cases with federal subsidies to help bring down the cost of premiums and cost-sharing and provided protections for specific vulnerable groups such as young people, women, and people with preexisting conditions.

California lawmakers and agencies worked hard to make the ACA work for our state. Because of their efforts to fully implement the ACA, California reduced its uninsured rate by more than half, from 17 percent to 7 percent—the biggest drop of any state in the nation. Because of these efforts to provide broader access to high-quality, comprehensive health care, women now make up just over half—54 percent—of the 13.4 million Californians enrolled in the state’s Medicaid program, Medi-Cal.

Medi-Cal covers more than half of all births in the state as well as 83 percent of the state’s publicly funded family planning services. The expansion of Medi-Cal alone provided health care coverage to more than 1.8 million non-elderly adult women. In addition to insuring more people, the ACA has also provided more robust consumer protections against discrimination in health care—something women, communities of color and LGBTQ people have long faced.

Now with its so-called Better Care Reconciliation Act of 2017 seemingly doomed in the Senate, Republican leadership is now vowing to repeal the ACA. We know that a viable replacement plan is unlikely. There are simply too many hard right conservatives in Congress who have stated over and over again that their goal is to “let the ACA fail,” and how better to accomplish that goal than repeal the ACA with no replacement, regardless of the very real on the ground impacts that such repeal would have for tens of millions of Americans?

Repeal of the ACA would disproportionally harm women in California and nationwide. The California Coalition for Reproductive Freedom (CCRF), which I lead, has urged our state’s congressional delegation to stand against any effort to gut Medicaid funding or repeal the ACA. In a letter, we note that if the ACA were repealed, more than 4 million Californians “stand to lose their health care coverage, the California health system would lose tens of billions of federal dollars, consumer protections would be eliminated, and everyone would see increased health care costs.” Moreover, according to the California Department of Health Care Services, by 2027 the state would lose $30.3 billion annually in federal funding. More than 20 state and national groups working to promote reproductive health and health care rights signed on to our CCRF letter.

Access to quality health care is a right for all Californians, not a privilege merely enjoyed by the well-to-do. Politicians pushing or supporting these extreme attacks on Medicaid and the ACA must be called out for attacking the nation’s social safety net. My reproductive healthcare coverage and the coverage of tens of millions of other Californian women should never be a political pawn.

Originally posted at the CCRF blog

Juana Rosa Cavero is the Director of the California Coalition for Reproductive Freedom.

The post Repealing the Affordable Care Act Would Decimate the Social Safety Net for California Women appeared first on Ms. Magazine Blog.

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Posted by Fred Clark

Résumés are forever. A year from now -- five years, 10 years, 30 years from now -- everyone who sees your résumé will see where you were and what you did in July 2017. They will not be able to ignore this or forgive this, and you will not be able to excuse it. But you can change that. You have a chance -- one chance -- to turn July 2017 into a badge of honor instead of an indelible mark of shame.
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Posted by Madeline Kim

Saudi Arabia has lifted its ban on sports for women and girls in public schools, increasing important access to physical activity in a country with stringent limitations placed on women. The education ministry announced earlier this month that, beginning in the fall 2017 school year, physical education programs will be offered at girls’ schools.

yasser zareaa / Creative Commons

This recent announcement marks a large step forward in gradual progress toward increasing women’s access to sports—access which has thus far been harshly limited, with negative consequences on the health of Saudi women and girls. Human Rights Watch (HRW), which has been documenting the refusal of access to sports for women since 2010, released a report in 2012 revealing that no government sports infrastructure existed for women, and until August of 2016 women could not attend or participate in national or state-organized sports competitions. From 2009 to 2010, the Saudi government closed private gyms for women. Women are forbidden from attending men’s sports events as spectators.

The exclusion of Saudi women from sports culture is rooted in the conservative belief that women participating in athletic activities would lead to the development of their immorality. Saudi leaders believe that sports participation will result in women dressing more immodestly, leaving their houses more than necessary and spending time with men, and some believe that by causing women to develop muscles and appearing more “masculine,” playing sports will cause women to contradict their original “nature.”

These beliefs and their consequent limitations put the health of women and girls at significant risk. Obesity and diabetes rates in Saudi Arabia have increased, particularly among women and girls. The new implementation of physical education in schools is part of Saudi Vision 2030, a plan of the kingdom’s future goals created by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, which reported that only 13 percent of Saudi individuals exercise at least once a week.

Recent years have seen women making progress in the realm of sports, with two women athletes sent to the 2012 Olympic Games in London and four sent in 2016 to Rio de Janeiro. Private schools were permitted to offer physical education to female students four years ago, and some government schools began offering the program to girls before the official announcement. A female department was created within the General Sports Authority with Princess Reema bint Bandar al-Saud as its head, and the licensing of women’s gyms was authorized earlier this year.

However, several obstacles still remain in the way of physical education for women and girls in schools. Girls’ schools currently lack the resources for physical education programs, as most do not have sports facilities or female gym teachers, and it remains unclear whether the program would be mandatory or parental permission would be required. In addition, the male guardianship program in Saudi Arabia, which requires that women obtain the permission of a male guardian to perform basic transactions, also prevents women from reaping the full benefits of physical activity. Since Saudi women cannot drive, finding transportation to sports practices and tournaments poses an additional challenge.

Despite these remaining difficulties, the lifting of the ban on sports in public schools marks some progress for Saudi women and girls, who can now reap health benefits and access that they did not have before. “This overdue reform is absolutely crucial for Saudi girls,” says Minky Worden, HRW’s director of global initiatives. “This important step forward can advance human rights and health for women despite the daunting legal hurdles that remain in the country.”

Maddie Kim is a freshman at Stanford University and an Editorial Intern at Ms. Her poetry and prose has been recognized by the Norman Mailer Center, Princeton University, The Sierra Nevada Review and the Adroit Prizes. She is a prose reader for The Adroit Journal, and when she’s not writing, she likes tap dancing and taking blurry photos of her dogs.

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The post Saudi Women and Girls Can Now Play Sports in Public Schools appeared first on Ms. Magazine Blog.

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