SpeakOut is Truthout's treasure chest for bloggy, quirky, personally reflective, or especially activism-focused pieces. SpeakOut articles represent the perspectives of their authors, and not those of Truthout.

This story about the Arizona State University professor offering extra credit to her students if they don't shave keeps appearing on my news feed. Apparently, the story was pretty popular, as it already got re-posted, or re-written in Salon, Jezebel, Policy Mic, Huff post and probably everywhere else, and got thousands of clicks. The basics: a group of college women motivated by an extra credit project didn't shave for a while, and realized that having body hair caused social stigma because they were not conforming to gender norms. This is news?

I am seriously scared at the amount of attention this post got because it reflects directly on what is going on in the mainstream world regarding gender issues. It makes me think that mainstream media feminism still has a long way to go, as the feminist angle in this story leaves out anyone who is not cis-gendered.

Jul 18

International Scholars' Statement on Gaza

By David Palumbo-Liu, SpeakOut | Open Letter

On July 10th, Richard Silverstein, Joel Beinin, and I exchanged emails deploring the situation in Israel-Palestine, and began thinking about writing a public statement together. Composing amongst several people is always challenging, but even more so when the topic is as urgent and as complex as this one. This challenge was augmented by our varied perspectives on the issue, which, while not radically different, had certain nuances. Finally, we also wished to take into account the viewpoints and preferences of the people we approached and asked to sign on. What you have before you is the product of these deliberations and debates amongst ourselves and with several others.

We gained many signatures; we lost a few. Yet even those who decided not to sign showed the same resolve as the rest of us—there was no disagreement whatsoever in the belief that Israel's attacks on the West Bank and Gaza are immoral, illegal, and reprehensible, and need to stop. Furthermore, we firmly believe that steps toward long-term restorative justice need to be taken, and that in order for that to be possible, the world community must weigh in.

Jul 17

Does Uncle Sam Have a God Complex?

By Norman Solomon, Norman Solomon | Op-Ed

As a matter of faith, some people believe that God can see and hear everything. But as a matter of fact, the U.S. government now has the kind of surveillance powers formerly attributed only to a supreme being.

Top “national security” officials in Washington now have the determination and tech prowess to keep tabs on billions of people. No one elected Uncle Sam to play God. But a dire shortage of democratic constraints has enabled the U.S. surveillance state to keep expanding with steely resolve.

Last week Wednesday, after three consecutive years of severe drought and a failed call for residents to reduce water usage, California officials proposed to issue fines to those who overuse. Fines can be up to $500 and may be incurred if water is:

  • Sprayed onto outdoor landscapes in a manner that causes runoff such that water flows onto adjacent property, non-irrigated areas, private and public walkways, roadways, parking lots, or structures.
  • Sprayed onto any hard surface, including but not limited to driveways, sidewalks, and asphalt.
Jul 17

Treating Prisoners as Well as Farm Animals

By Falguni A. Sheth , SpeakOut | Op-Ed

The legislature in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts is now considering passing Bill S.2232. Officially entitled, "An Act to ensure continued humane animal care in Massachusetts," this commendable bill is designed to prevent cruelty and ill-treatment to farm animals. Here are some key excerpts:

The purpose of this section, subject to exceptions, is to prohibit the confinement of farm animals in a manner that does not allow them to turn around freely, lie down, stand up, and fully extend their limbs.

There’s a lot to love about America and its people: their pioneering spirit, their entrepreneurship, their ability to think outside the box, their passion for the arts, etc.  Increasingly, however, as time goes by, I find the things I don’t like about living in a nation that has long since ceased to be a sanctuary for freedom are beginning to outnumber the things I love.

Here’s what I don’t like about living in the American police state: I don’t like being treated as if my only value to the government is as a source of labor and funds. I don’t like being viewed as a consumer and bits of data. I don’t like being spied on and treated as if I have no right to privacy, especially in my own home.

Jul 16

In Palestine the Time Is Now

By Kristian Davis Bailey , SpeakOut | Op-Ed

One of the many reasons I care so much about Palestine is because I locate it within a struggle for liberation of all colonized or formerly colonized people. All of historic Palestine (the West Bank, Gaza and Israel) is colonized land. I cannot and will not side with a colonizing force or with people who support a colonizing force: that is the equivalent of condoning the genocide of indigenous Americans, enslavement of African Americans, apartheid against blacks in the US and South Africa, genocide of the aborigines in Australia or Herero and Nama people in Namibia

Occupied and colonized people have every right to resist their occupation and move towards decolonization. All of our movements for liberation have been watered down and none of our groups yet knows what justice or self-determination feels like. Just look to the poverty of the reservations, to the millions of incarcerated black Americans, or the fact that the majority of South Africa's black population is poorer than they were 20 years ago. 

Though the fatalities in the latest flare up between Israel and Hamas – about 200 Palestinian deaths so far – dwarf those in other conflicts, the American public needs to pay particular attention to what's happening there. The United States is not merely an onlooker: we are directly involved in militarily supporting the Israeli side to the tune of $3 billion per year. And the prognosis is not good: the UN estimates that more than three-quarters of those killed in the Israeli raids – largely using US arms – over the past week are civilians.

These figures are a Godsend for terrorist recruitment. Unfortunately, any terrorist backlash against Israel will also very likely be directed at the United States since US munitions on US-supplied planes – paid for by US taxpayers – are often used in the raids.

“Borders are scratched across the hearts of men, by strangers with a calm, judicial pen, and when the borders bleed we watch with dread the lines of ink along the map turn red.” -Mayra Mannes, American Writer and Novelist
Before detailed maps and during Europe’s Age of Exploration, the location of “new” land was made by ship pilots and their rutters. A rutter was a description of how long they should sail in which direction. Using a magnetic compass, it measured courses between ports and capes, headlands and channels, the pattern winds, what currents to expect and from where, the time of seasonal storms, and where there were shoals, reefs, tides and havens. It even noted the sounding and depths and color of the water and the nature of the seabed. Basically, rutters established everything necessary for a safe voyage,  or “how one got there and how one got back.” Since control of these rutters belonged to the state that explored them, rutters were considered more valuable than a ship’s cargo, including human lives. Pilots were actually killed for their rutters. Because of this, forged rutters were common, as were deliberately designed ones for the purpose of confusing other states and their pilots. A rutter was also only as good as the pilot who wrote it, the scribe who hand-copied it, the very rare printer who printed it, or the scholar who translated it. In other words, “a pilot never knew for certain until he had been there himself.”

The current Israeli onslaught on Gaza which so far resulted in 120 dead and counting, as Israel is attempting to deliver a final blow to Hamas after many failed attempts, appears to have been planned in advance, regardless of developments on the ground. Following the abduction of three Israeli youth and their subsequent murder several weeks ago, Israel laid the blame on Hamas, although the latter denied responsibility and said it wants calm with Israel.

After assigning culpability, Israel conducted a major crackdown on the movement in the West Bank and arrested over 500 people. Israel is now launching a massive aerial bombing campaign on Gaza, claiming its goal is to eradicate Hamas. Hamas was a convenient target for the Israeli government that has been fretting over the fact that it joined a unity government with the PLO, which received international recognition. By framing Hamas as the culprit initially, Israel probably sought to disrupt the government and chose escalation at a time when it was faced by increased international criticism as peace talks with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas collapsed.