January 22, 2012

Loose Garments: Fighting for the Genuine Voice of Women

With our blog Loose Garments we aspire to promote genuine women’s voices worldwide. We want to celebrate the fact that all women are unique, and allow this diversity to be more public. Some women love boxing or fashion, while others adore cooking or math. There is nothing wrong with this variety and, in fact, it is awesome! We want to celebrate the many complex layers that make up femininity, and rejoice the vast diversity of women.

We also want to empower women worldwide to help others in need. We feel that bringing awareness to women’s rights issues creates a sense of community, and ultimately contributes to progress: women can feel supported by a global network.
We are tired of the promotion of unrealistic and stereotyped portrayals of women, as it promotes mistreatment and violence against us. Gender is a complex and continuous variable, which has been forced into two simplistic dichotomies. Think about how ridiculous that actually is! Not only does the polarization of gender restrict women, it restricts men and members of the LGBT community as well. There are around 3.4 billion women on this earth, and it is unrealistic to expect that across the many personality traits we can all be perfectly divided into 2 basic groups: Man or woman, aggressive or submissive, and gentle or powerful. The reality is that we all vary in our personality traits and preferences. Estrogen isn’t strong enough to change every aspect of our personality.
Social psychology and neuroscience findings actually indicate that most gendered behaviors are learned through positive and negative reinforcement (“what a big, strong boy” and “what a sweet, pretty girl!”) and the Smithsonian recently called biological gender differences one of the biggest myths of the brain. Yet, the majority of women are not being fairly represented in government, in the media, in film or in magazines. We hope that the world can become more honest about the fact that women are complex and equal in worth, and we hope to amplify their many diverse voices.

Thank you to the fabulous feminist bloggers at Loose Garments for sharing your amazing blog with the WCC community! Go check 'em out!

January 10, 2012

Human Trafficking Awareness Day 2012

January 11th is National Human Trafficking Awareness Day.  Are you aware of this?

What is human trafficking anyway?

Well, in short human trafficking is slavery.  Yes, modern day slavery.  More specifically human trafficking is the buying and selling of human beings across national and international borders for the use of labor and sexual servitude.  You may be thinking, "how can this be?"  Well, it is estimated that there are over 30 million slaves in this world - more than in any other point in human history.

There are numerous organizations, campaigns, films and advocates such as The Polaris Project, Soroptimist, Not for Sale II, NightLight, GEMS, and The Project to End Human Trafficking.  As well as resources such as 10 human trafficking videos in 2008 and 2009 and 10 essential human trafficking reads and action to take right now!


January 09, 2012

Volunteers Needed - Drop-In Program for Women in North Philly!

A year ago, the Community Center at Visitation (CCV) established a Drop-In Program for women actively engaged in prostitution in the Kensington Neighborhood of Philadelphia. The Drop-In Program provides an opportunity to reach out to, connect, and build relationships with women in this vulnerable situation of prostitution, poverty, and, usually, homelessness in order to invite each woman to look toward a next positive. The program is a front-line service, enabling women to address immediate needs while offering them connections to other services. The Drop-In is open Thursday and Friday evenings from 9:30pm-12:00am. As its second year begins, the center is committed to strengthening and expanding the program, particularly in adding Street Outreach on Thursday and Friday evenings around 6:00pm.

The Drop-In Program is foremost a venue where women, who are typically socially isolated, are welcomed into a judgment free community. From the Program, women have been placed in hospitals, shelters, and with families or friends. Women are able to receive a healthy meal and a warm greeting two nights per week. Women currently prostituting are on the periphery of society and work in a neighborhood that is, itself, an outcast from the rest of Philadelphia. In the sharing of food and stories in the center’s kitchen women know they belong and are heard, this societal belonging will bear an impact on women who are everyday isolated and used. The impact of the Drop-In is also on those who choose to serve. It is an opportunity, as one volunteer shared, to “be present with another in her humanity.”

The Drop-In Program is staffed primarily by committed volunteers and Social Work Interns and its basic supplies (a meal, hygiene products, and coats) are donated by other volunteers and center partners. We would like to invite you and your organization to take part in this developing and essential ministry. We provide training and policies meant to increase the safety of the women and the Program’s Volunteers. Please consider committing yourself to one night per month for either the Drop-In or Street Outreach and know that I am happy to meet with you to answer any questions. We look forward to working with you in this important endeavor.

Please contact me with any questions: kowens@visitationbvm.com or 215-426-9422 ext. 34203.


Sr. Karen Owens SSJ
Community Center at Visitation

January 08, 2012

Speaking Their Voices - Women and Girls of Beit Shemesh

Beit Shemesh is a neighborhood of approximately 80,000 in Jerusalem, Israel. It is home to an ultra-Orthodox sect of Jewish people, along with many other residents. With an increase of immigrants, especially of American expatriates, there are rising tensions between the ultra Orthodox and other Orthodox residents. Most recently, an uproar began over the establishment of a new national religious school for girls, Orot Banot. Upon the opening of Orot Banot, there were violent protests from the most ultra-Orthodox men who feel the students don't abide by the special extra stringent rules of dress and lifestyle espoused by the ultra-Orthodox community.  Many of these girls, as young as 7 years old, have been harassed, cursed at, spat on, and have had rocks thrown at them all in the name of what? God, real estate, "self-preservation"? This is mind boggling! Check out the video below.

Despite (and perhaps because of) these horrific offenses, women and girls in Beit Shemesh are speaking out! Their voices will not be extinguished. Anti-extremist rallies have also been held and hopefully will continue - if nothing else then to protect the right of our girls to live in a safe, violence-free world.