Chicago Foundation for Women's Weekly eUpdate

The week of Aug. 7-13, 2007

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"Peace will be lasting only if it is built on two solid pillars: social justice and democracy."
-Shirin Ebadi, 22nd Annual Luncheon speaker
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Who speaks like this?
“I maintain that nothing useful and lasting can emerge from violence.” 

“Violence is a choice. We demand nonviolent solutions to our common problems.”

“Human rights are a universal standard.”

Our luncheon speaker, that’s who. Hear more from Nobel Peace Prize winner Dr. Shirin Ebadi when she speaks here on Sept. 11. Buy your ticket—or better yet, a table—now.

OFFICER ANN MCDERMOTT stood up for women’s rights in a male-dominated field: the police force. When she joined the undercover gang unit in Chicago’s Albany Park district, her male colleagues began sexually harassing her, leaving pornographic photos in her mailbox and ridiculing her when she complained. After six months, she had enough and filed a federal law suit. Last Wednesday a federal jury awarded her $150,000 in damages and $500,000 in legal fees. Chicago Police now say they will revisit her complaints, which they originally dismissed.

“BLOGGING WHILE FEMALE” PANELISTS. At the recent blogging conference for progressives held here in Chicago, the Yearly Kos, it was painfully clear that women’s voices are not as loud on the internet as they should be. We think the Washington Post did a great job on this story, highlighting the one panel addressing gender online. But you can also read a discussion of the Yearly Kos versus the Blogher conference written by Jennifer Pozner of Women In Media & News.

FRIDAY: GRANT DEADLINE. Apply for a grant in our fall cycle. Visit our “Apply for a grant” page to see the paperwork required and to download the necessary forms. Everything must be submitted by 5 p.m. this Friday, Aug. 10 to be considered. If you have questions, email

WORK WITH US. We have two employment opportunities. Do you have what it takes to be our next Men's Initiative Coordinator or Leadership Councils Coordinator? Read the descriptions and apply today.

The women who worked at Novartis Pharmaceuticals were given the legal go-ahead to sue the company for gender discrimination, and up to 5,000 women could be counted in the complaint. Women at Novartis claim they are paid less than men in equivalent positions, passed over for promotions and unfairly dismissed with pregnant women, in particular, facing barriers. One male employee reportedly said, “First comes love, then comes marriage, then comes flex time and a baby carriage” when talking about why he did not hire young women. The suit might be in line to be the second largest class action suit on gender bias since the case against Wal-Mart, where 2 million women were included in the suit, which is ongoing in California.

Do you want in vitro fertilization? No problem—as long as you believe in the same things as your doctor. Guadalupe Benitez, a lesbian, asked two California doctors to artificially inseminate her, but they refused, citing their religion’s disapproval of Benitez’s sexual orientation. Another California woman was refused a routine physical exam to allow her to adopt because she was unmarried. In 2001, Benitez filed a discrimination suit against the doctors, who are using freedom of religion as their defense. Her case is finally before the California Supreme Court and oral arguments will begin in the next year or two. Jill Morrison, legal counsel to the National Women’s Law Center, says Benitez’s case is unusual because the doctors disapprove not of a service but of a patient. Doctors “can’t pick and choose” whom they treat this way, she says.

“The results of this 10-year experiment [in federal funding] are in. It’s time for Congress to spend its money more wisely.” The Chicago Tribune’s editorial yesterday lambasted federal funding for abstinence-only programs. In the past, the Tribune’s editorial board supported giving abstinence-only curricula a chance, but that stance has changed as independent studies confirm abstinence only doesn’t help children stay away from sex or choose safer sex. Abstinence should be part of a comprehensive sex education curricula because it has “a longer track record” and a “positive” one. We agree. Now tell Congress, again and again, this is not how you want your tax dollars spent. Take action on abstinence-only funding. And tell the Chicago Tribune editorial board they did a great job - send an email to

Bills and policies that need your energy. Vist our Action Center - quickly make a difference this week. 

Read the Voices for Illinois Children analysis of the Illinois legislature’s overtime budget talks for fiscal year 2008. Learn what compromises will help and which will hurt women, girls and families for the next fiscal year that began July 1.

Illinois women and girls - along with everyone else - need Illinois Covered. Tell your state legislators to vote YES on Illinois Covered. CLICK HERE TO TAKE ACTION NOW.

Congress may be in recess for the summer, but that doesn’t mean that your elected officials are on vacation. They are out and about in the district. So, now is a great time to tell them what you think they need to do once they return to Washington D.C. Chicago Foundation for Women will be giving you a few talking points in the coming weeks to keep the conversation going with your congressional legislators. This week’s topic is: food supplemental programs, such as Special Supplemental Food Program for Women, Infants and Children—better known as WIC— and the Commodity Supplemental Food Program (CSFP), which is a supplement for seniors age 60 and up as well as a smaller number of infants and children to age 6, pregnant and breastfeeding women. Discussion: The funding for both these programs is wrapped into the FY 2008 Agriculture Appropriations bill, which the House already passed and the Senate will consider when they return after the August recess. The President’s budget eliminated the latter and drastically reduced the former. As a result, according to the President’s the President’s Statement of Administration Policy, he may veto a budget that includes increased WIC funding or any funding for CSFP. Tell your Senators that food for women, children, seniors and pregnant women should not be a political game, it is a sound investment—every dollar put into WIC is saving up to $3.13 in Medicaid. CONTACT YOUR SENATORS NOW.

This week the House passed a funding increase for the State Children’s Health Insurance Program, or SCHIP (you know it as Kid Care in Illinois). The bill also provided for $50 million a year for the next two years for Title V—that’s the abstinence-only education fund. But there is a choice now with this bill—states can choose between teaching abstinence-only or comprehensive sex education with Title V money, as long as the curricula is medically accurate and proven to reduce pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections like HIV. We already told you what the Tribune said about abstinence-only and we agree—get rid of it. So, this compromise is good. Still, the President pledges to veto the House’s spending bill as well as the Senate’s version, slated for debate this week. As of now, there is not a veto-proof majority in either chamber. SPEAK UP NOW. Tell the Senate to support the $35 billion bipartisan plan and override an expected veto, and tell the President to get on board.   

President Bush has said he will veto a bill that would expand the definition of federal hate crimes to include gender sexual orientation, and disability status. He is kowtowing to the Christian religious right, who wrongly think this bill will limit free speech from the pulpit—even with a special amendment specifically excluding speech. In fact, the American Civil Liberties Union supports the legislation, though it has never backed a hate crimes law before. CLICK HERE TO CONTACT CONGRESS AND THE PRESIDENT NOW.
We add perspective to recent headlines

The story: A Women in Chicago’s Lakeview and Lincoln Park neighborhoods are on high alert after three assaults in just nine days, reports the front page story in the Red Eye. The article stresses vigilance so women stay “safe” and aware of their surroundings. A sidebar gives women tips on how to stay safe, such as:  “When alone, don’t wear headphones. Avoid talking on your cell phone for long periods of time.”
What is missing: Balanced reporting. The Tuesday Blast is angry. We have had issues with Red Eye in the past—and apparently, this Tribune-owned newspaper is above public discourse because we barely ever see letters published in this paper—and the Tuesday Blast has written several. This story is fear mongering at best, and some of the worst reporting Tuesday Blast has seen. The sidebar on how to keep safe doesn’t even have any sources. And it puts the onus for safety on women. First, there are no safe places. Setting this idea up, only makes it seem as though getting raped is the victim’s fault. Women are most at risk to be raped, not by a stranger on the street, but by someone they know--about 85 percent of all sexual assaults are committed by a known perpetrator. How about a discussion instead of why perpetrators, who are mostly men, continue to attack women? We know a story such as that will show a spike in women readers. And where was the big headline for Englewood? Doesn’t an attack on a woman who was raped on a South Side street in front of her 3-year-old child deserve coverage?  The Chicago Tribune wrote a good story but it was on the rally held to generate public outcry and it appeared in the Saturday paper—the day with the lowest readership. The media have to look at its own biases—not only white women on the North Side are being assaulted. It also has to focus on how violence, while it does not discriminate, disproportionately affects women of color, women with disabilities and immigrant women “We had the highest volume year we’ve ever had in 2007,” said Vicky DiProva, director of Rape Victim Advocates, told the Tuesday Blast. DiProva’s group received 11 sexual assault calls from Chicago-area hospitals in the third week of July, an unusually high number for this time of the year. When the Tuesday Blast asked, Chicago police could not provide any recent numbers. The Tuesday Blast reported these facts to you, because the newspapers did not bother to make the calls—relying instead on a story they did in 2005. . (Which by the way, was really a great series—but surprise, surprise, rape is still occurring and therefore, still should be considered news.) Let’s keep in mind, as DiProva said, “It’s not about making people afraid. It’s about making people informed.”  The Tuesday Blast now climbs down from its soap box.

The story: Ohio state rep John Adams introduced legislation requiring women seeking an abortion to obtain consent from the man who impregnated them, the Record-Courier reports. If the pregnancy resulted from rape or incest, the woman must provide a police report of the violence—or obtain the perpetrator’s permission. If the woman does not know the man’s identity, she must submit a list of potential fathers for paternity testing.
What is missing: You say parental, we say paternal. If it’s not one barrier, it’s another when it comes to a woman exercising her right to choose. Though parental consent or notification laws exist in 35 states, this law breaks new ground: Unlike other parental laws which target women under 18, this law targets adults. Or perhaps Mr. Adams forgot women are adults? Treating women like this is unacceptable—and comes eerily close to a satirical video released earlier this year by The Onion

AUG. 16: Executive director roundtable, 12-1:30 p.m.

SEPT. 11: 22nd Annual Luncheon and Symposium featuring Shirin Ebadi, 9 a.m.-1:30 p.m.

For more programs and events see our calendar page or the "What Will It Take?" statewide events page.

Catch up at our Press Room or our Past Events page at or our News page on
Speakers bureau: Want a free speaker to come and tell you or your organization about “What Will It Take?” Contact Laura Fletcher at (312) 577-2824 or More about the speakers bureau...

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