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You are a good person with a desire to help those in need. One day, after seeing a family in deep crisis, you help to set up a new home for them. Afterward, you maintain close ties with that family to ensure they settle into the home okay and that everyone is safe. After this, you feel a very special bond with them.

Shortly after they get settled into their new home in their new neighborhood, the area immediately surrounding their new home begins experiencing a lot of violent crime. You are fortunate to be in a financial position to offer the family further assistance, so you install a security system for them and get them a trained guard dog. The family is very appreciative of your efforts on their behalf, and the bond between you grows deeper.

Though the family is now safe from outside intruders, a member of that family decides to not only participate in the neighborhood violence but instigate it.  This causes great concern to the family because they are now all in danger because of the actions of that one person. In addition, because the family has been so vocal of their appreciation of you, your personal security is at risk because there is a chance the victim(s) of that one family member’s violent acts retaliate against you because of your long history of protecting their attacker.

You are able to reason with the family member who had gone rogue, and you persuade him to reign in the violent and aggressive actions in order to restore the family’s security. The turbulence is calmed, but there is lingering animosity in the neighborhood toward that family. You also feel some animosity for having been yourself put in danger for simply having continually helped a family in need.

You pass away, and so do the original members of the family and the residents of the surrounding neighborhood.  Over the years, as stories are passed down from generation to generation, the animosity in the neighborhood toward that family continues to grow. Generations of your descendants and generations of descendants of that family maintain the close ties you initially developed because they feel an obligation to maintain the alliance you forged. The family you helped is viewed by your descendants as an extension of your family because of the history of ties between you.

Personality differences, and divergent agendas, dilute the bonds between families – but the ties are easily nurtured in times of harmony. A resurgence of that family’s participation in violent episodes, though, (which, in the family’s defense, were instigated by residents of the surrounding neighborhood) cause a few “bad apples” in that family to perpetuate the discord and tarnish the reputation of the peaceful members of the family.  Despite fondness for those “good apples,” your descendants grow weary of defending the aggression of the “bad apples.” Still, they maintain ties in hopes of quelling the disharmony in the neighborhood – or at least riding it out unscathed.

Unfortunately, guilt is assigned by association. After repeated instances of aggression by the “bad apples,” their entire family starts to, rightly or wrongly, be viewed as war mongers. Your descendants’ longtime and well-known association with that family has placed all of your descendants harm’s way.  Through a dramatic and traumatic series of events, many of the members of that family and members of the surrounding neighborhood die – and some of your descendants are killed as a direct result of the actions taken either by that family or by your family’s defense of that family.

Your descendants then begin to re-think their commitment to the alliance you formed with the other family years ago, wondering if it is worth the loss of their own sense of security. They step back and ponder why it is they are still offering protection to a family that continues to act with aggression, in large part because they know your family will always be there to help protect them,

The patriarch of that family then, upon learning your descendants are backing away from unconditional support and considering placing limits on the amount of protection they are willing to offer, publicly admonishes your descendants for not offering enough assistance to keep his family safe from the violence in their neighborhood.

There is growing discord among your own descendants, some of whom feel a stronger bond with the other family than others. Your descendants begin to determine their next steps…when suddenly your cock-eyed descendant, “Cousin Eddie,” who loves to get involved in neighborhood rumbles to appear tough and compensate for the fact that he is a notorious cry baby, rolls up in his RV with the patriarch of the other family and says they are there together so you can have a family banquet with him at a public park.

Most of your descendants decide to go to a private restaurant for dinner to avoid being seen dining with the other family’s patriarch in public because his very presence puts all of them at risk for violence. They are also upset by his public lack of respect for your family, his sense of entitlement, and his complete lack of appreciation for the sacrifices your family has made for his family over the years.

At the banquet, the other family’s patriarch bonds with the 47 of your descendants who stayed for dinner, and he calls upon them to join him in an effort to disarm, by whatever means necessary, an adjacent neighborhood he views as an imminent threat to his family.  He persuades them to help him launch an all-out attack on the neighborhood adjacent to his – at a time when the descendants who went to dinner at a restaurant are trying to squelch any discord in the entire metro area.

A few days later, the 47 of your descendants who stayed at the banquet with the patriarch and “Cousin Eddie” cheer loudly as Eddie pumps the majority of the metro area’s respect for your family, built over generations, into the gutter through a tube. They these 47 members of your family jointly write a letter to the head of the neighborhood association that the other family’s patriarch had asked them to fight, telling them to ignore anything the rest of your peace-keeping descendants say and exclaiming that your family is declaring war on them; it is only a matter of time.

This puts all of your descendants, including “Cousin Eddie” and the 47 loose cannons, in grave danger of being unable to enact peaceful discussions with other neighborhoods – and find a way for they, themselves, to remain safe.

Welcome to the United States Senate.

Discuss
This week, I posted what now seems like a rather ironic tweet: “If you're tired of seeing SexualAssault cases in the news, GOOD! News of this epidemic is finally reaching people! UniteAgainstRape”  I tweeted it proudly, thinking maybe I in some small way helped to raise public awareness of the epidemic of sexual assault in our society through UniteWomen.org’s Unite Against Rape program, which I co-founded. The fact that reports of sexual assault are rising is welcome news to those of us who work to fight sexual assault. Instances of rape aren't increasing, but rates of reporting it are, which means we are making progress.

Then, I signed onto my computer today to find a retraction of the Rolling Stone story about an alleged gang rape at the University of Virginia due to what Rolling Stone editors now believe are discrepancies in the victim’s story.  My first thought was, “Oh, sh!t!”

Just when we have finally reach a spot where sexual assault is out from behind a veil of shame and secrecy - and it seems we are finally shedding a light on a problem that plagues our society - one of the most high-profile victims of collegiate rape in recent history has (rightly or wrongly) now been publicly deemed untrustworthy.  Whether trust was or was not “misplaced” in her by Rolling Stone is beside the point; either way, the legacy that will linger from this story is that women lie about rape.

The perception that “crying rape” is a common occurrence largely thwarts our efforts to stave sexual assault. In most cases, the assumption is that the victim is lying or seeking attention, as was suggested by George Will who asserted that being a rape victim is a “coveted status” on college campuses (to which I had a very strong retort).

Following Rolling Stone's retraction, Mother Jones published an almost immediate “let’s-not-lose-sight-of-the-bigger-issue” piece that is filled with statistics about sexual assault on college campuses.  Please read them.  They are staggering.

While false reports of a crime, any crime, are heinous, the public focus must remain on the genuine reports of sexual assault and (more often than not) those that are not reported at all.  For a moment, forget about Cosby; forget about Rolling Stone; forget about everything that has been in the media lately about rape - and let's think for a moment about one of the most common scenarios of sexual assault.

A young girl is at a party in Anytown, USA.  After getting separated from her friends, she finds herself alone and suddenly very drunk.  A seemingly concerned upperclassman puts his arm around her and says, “Let’s get you home.”  She feels appreciative, as it is clear she is ready to curl up and go to sleep.  The next thing she remembers is opening her eyes to find this man on top of her, having sex with her. She feels panicked but fades back into unconsciousness, still deeply affected by the alcohol (or the drug she was given).  The next thing she remembers is waking up at home alone, feeling terrified with a pit in her stomach and pain in her loins.

This happens every day. Every. Single. Day.  And THIS IS RAPE!  Above all else – is the message that I want everyone to hear: the most important fundamental aspect of a sexual encounter is that there must be consent.  If consent can’t be given, it is rape.

We indeed live in a culture that reinforces the acceptance of non-consensual sex, and our sense of right and wrong in these circumstances is often…misplaced.  While there are some who take joy in victimizing others, I honestly do not think that is the case in the majority of isolated (non-serial) rape cases.  The much larger problem is that the 8.4 % of men who account for 95% of the rapes, these perpetrators being serial offenders according to a Lisak & Miller study, choose not to understand or care care about the definition of rape and the importance of consent.

To all the men and women out there: if a woman is intoxicated, please make sure she is safe. Is it your personal responsibility? No. But why weigh one's legal responsibility against what is ethically right?  An argument I’ve heard countless times from men is, “If a woman wants equal rights, why should I then treat her with any kind of special care? Either you don’t need special treatment, or you do – but you can’t have it both ways.” An unfortunate extension of that line of thinking is, “Why should I take responsibility for a drunk girl’s well-being when I wasn’t responsible for her getting in that condition?”

Because it is the right thing to do - and if anyone out there doesn't know that, your parents did you a great disservice.  It’s on us, folks.  Teach your kids about consent.  Teach yourselves about consent. And practice it.

Shannon Fisher

Discuss
Link to Broadcast.  Show will air Sunday, August 31 at 8 p.m. EDT.

Leslie Salzillo – a pro-choice activist, political commentator, visual artist and music publisher – will be the Special Guest Host of The Authentic Woman on August 31.  She regularly contributes articles to Daily Kos and Liberals Unite, though political writing was never in Salzillo’s plans.

In 1989, she built an award-winning song publishing company. When time allowed, Leslie would embark on protest trips to Washington DC with NARAL and Planned Parenthood. In 2012, after hearing Rush Limbaugh call Sandra Fluke a “slut” on air for advocating insurance-paid birth control – and after witnessing hundreds of misogynist laws being passed around the country – Leslie jumped into politics, full force.

Leslie Salzillo’s Bachelor of Science Degree, from Middle Tennessee State University, prepped her in creating petitions and Facebook activist pages that promote the rights of women, minorities, and LGBT, as well as advocate gun sense, equal pay, raising the minimum wage, and lowering student debt. She founded FB’s Pro-Choice Liberals, was a core member of StopRush, and is a participant and advocate of Moral Mondays.  Leslie now runs the largest Rush Limbaugh Boycott Page on Facebook, with approximately 90,000 followers.

Salzillo asserts, “The key to reducing misogyny is to first expose it. Social media is an amazing vehicle. Through public awareness, we can seek and find solutions.”  On August 31, Leslie Salzillo will interview fellow women’s rights activists, Kimberley A. Johnson and Madison Kimrey, to discuss the upcoming  We Are Women Rally and social media activism.  Follow Leslie on Facebook.

Kimberley A. Johnson is a feminist blogger on Liberals Unite.  She is known for her outspoken stance on the need to enshrine women’s rights into the U.S. Constitution by ratifying the ERA. Johnson entered the women’s rights movement as the spokeswoman for RTSV United in 2012, and she gave a speech at the We Are Woman March at the Capitol Building in Washington D.C.  Kimberley A. Johnson is the author of three nonfiction books: The Virgin Diaries; Ain’t No Sunshine: Men Reveal the Pain of Heartbreak; and her recent release, AMERICAN WOMAN The Poll Dance: Women and Voting.  Also an actress, Johnson portrayed a police officer on the popular daytime drama Days of Our Lives for over seven years. Follow Kimberley on Facebook and Twitter.

Madison Kimrey is a 13 year old writer, activist, and actress from NC. She founded NC Youth Rock with the goal of restoring the opportunity for 16 and 17 to pre-register to vote. Madison is also passionate about LBGT rights, women's rights, and the humane treatment of animals. She is a Davidson Young Scholar Ambassador and recipient of her local NAACP chapter's Youth Social Justice Award. You can follow her writing on her blog, Functional Human Being, and on Liberals Unite.    Follow Madison on Twitter.

The Authentic Woman is a weekly radio show on the Authors on the Air Global Radio Network that is regularly hosted by women's rights leader, Shannon Fisher.  The show offers perspectives on the female experience through the eyes of her guests. The show delves deeply into the worlds of writers, artists, celebrities, and community leaders - discovering their personal inspiration and passions.  Shannon is a writer, civic leader, and social justice advocate. Named among the “Richmonders of the Year” in 2012 by Style Weekly Magazine for her activism in women’s rights, Shannon sits on the Board of Directors for UniteWomen.org, a national 501(c)(3) nonprofit advocacy organization. Follow Shannon on Facebook and Twitter.

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The Authentic Woman, a weekly radio show highlighting the wide variety of experiences women have in America, is airing a special edition on Sunday, August 24 at 8 p.m. EDT aimed solely at sharing information about all of the issues affecting women in America. The show will feature the presidents of two national women’s organizations: Terry O’Neill (National Organization for Women) and Karen Teegarden (UniteWomen.org).  The pair will highlight the economic, social, political and societal issues facing women in America today.

“Terry and Karen spend most of their waking hours dedicated to the betterment of the world for women,” said Shannon Fisher, host of The Authentic Woman. “I invited them as my expert panel on the topic of women’s rights due to the urgency with which we must address women’s issues within our national and local governments.”

Shannon Fisher, Host of The Authentic Woman
“Since 2010, there have been a number of bills supporting women that passed in the Senate but were blocked in the House, as well as some anti-women bills that passed in the House but were blocked by the Senate,” said Teegarden. “The legislative balance in Congress is very delicate; we need more candidates who support women in the House of Representatives and to make sure women-friendly legislators maintain control of the Senate. If the 2014 elections do not turn out in our favor, our fight for women’s equality will face even more virulent opposition.”

“Women continue to perceive the inequality and injustices in our society; much of which come from institutions actively working to keep women down,” said O’Neill. “This inequality and injustice are faced by people of color, the LGBTQIA communities – indeed all marginalized communities, and are felt even more strongly for those whose identities results in interlocking societal oppressions.”

Terry O'Neill, President of NOW
O’Neill continued, “There is an active cultural war with the intention of ‘putting women in their place,’ particularly demonizing single mothers. Conservative leaders are pushing the idea that all of women’s concerns would disappear if they would live in a nuclear family with traditional gender roles. Their only suggestion for access to health care, economic security and other concerns is marriage and dependency on a mate. It is crucial that we elect women-friendly candidates to halt this war.”

“There are several campaigns in this country that are organized with the intention of sending our society backwards in time into a patriarchal model that no longer fits the modern family and modern economy,” added Fisher. “Our legislatures need to pass legislation that is in keeping with society as it exists today, not as it existed in a time in history that can never be re-created. I am looking forward to this discussion with Terry O’Neill and Karen Teegarden to really reach our listeners and hopefully give them a wider perspective on many women’s issues.”

Karen Teeegarden, President of UniteWomen.org
“I am eager to talk about these issues and impart to the listeners how important the upcoming elections are at both the local and national levels. We are going to explain many topics in detail so women will understand why it is so important for them to get to the polls in November and vote!” said Teegarden. “We thought we got past this outdated ideology years ago, but it slowly crept back into the forefront of the public conversation around the country and has now reached a fever pitch,” she added. “Our young people have never experienced the cultural stereotypes from the 1950s that are being thrust upon us in legislative bodies all over the country in 2014. My hope is that they never do have to experience the lack of independence and autonomy that women experienced before the feminist revolution. We will address young people directly during the show and help them relate to the history that we are fighting to keep in the history books instead of the law books.”

“Most of the topics we will discuss in the show are not debatable in my mind, in regards to what helps women and what does not. And yet, opposition persists,” said Fisher. “I normally steer clear of political topics on The Authentic Woman, but the issues we will be discussing are so universally important to all women – regardless of race, socio-economic status, political ideology and marital status that I feel strongly compelled to have a public conversation about the State of Women’s Rights in this country right now. There seems to be a lack of compassion in society as a whole that must be addressed. Hopefully some listeners will have an ‘Ah-ha moment’ while learning about the manner in which women in all demographics are affected by legislation around the country.”

The show will air at 8 p.m. EDT on Sunday, August 24. Listen on Blog Talk Radio or link to the broadcast via the Authors on the Air, The Authentic Woman.   (UPDATE: The podcast of this powerful interview is now available using the same links.)

Pictured: Karen Teegarden, Krystal Ransome, Shannon Fisher and Terry O’Neill at the Suffrage Centennial Celebration in Washington, DC
Karen Teegarden, Krystal Ransome, Shannon Fisher and Terry O’Neill at the Suffrage Centennial Celebration in Washington, DC
About Terry O’Neill: Terry O’Neill, a feminist attorney, professor and activist for social justice, was elected president of NOW in June 2009. She is also president of the NOW Foundation and chair of the NOW Political Action Committees. O’Neill oversees NOW’s multi-issue agenda, which includes: advancing reproductive freedom, promoting diversity and ending racism, stopping violence against women, winning LGBTQIA rights, ensuring economic justice, ending sex discrimination and achieving constitutional equality for women.

O’Neill’s feminist activism began in the 1990s, fighting right-wing extremists in the Deep South, including David Duke. A former law professor, O’Neill taught at Tulane in New Orleans and at the University of California at Davis, where her courses included feminist legal theory and international women’s rights law, in addition to corporate law and legal ethics. She has testified before committees in the Maryland House of Delegates and has written federal amicus briefs on abortion rights for Louisiana NOW, Planned Parenthood and the American Civil Liberties Union. O’Neill holds a bachelor’s degree in French with distinction from Northwestern University and a law degree magna cum laude from Tulane University.

About Karen Teegarden: Karen Teegarden is the President and CEO of UniteWomen.org and UniteWomen.org ACTION. After having held 55 simultaneous rallies in 45 States as Unite Against the War on Women, to shine a spotlight on the influx of anti-women legislation and rhetoric around the country, Teegarden parlayed the event network into a national women’s rights organization, UniteWomen.org. She manages UniteWomen.org’s broad range of issues which include economic equality, reproductive justice, LGBTQ rights, violence against women, Unite Against Rape, voting rights, any type of injustice that affects women and their families, the environment and achieving full equality in our Constitution.

Teegarden’s passion for politics and fighting injustice was ignited while working with Barack Obama’s Presidential campaign in 2008 and the fans are still being flamed. Prior to founding and managing UniteWomen.org, Karen was President of Karen Teegarden & Associates, a marketing sales company based in Michigan. She is a graduate of the University of California, Berkeley, where she earned a B.A. in music.

About Shannon Fisher: Shannon Fisher is the host of the radio talk show, The Authentic Woman – Perspectives on the Female Experience in America on the Authors on the Air radio network. She is a biographer, profiling one person or group each week on her show, and a prominent women’s rights advocate – having been named one of the “2012 Richmonders of the Year” by Style Weekly for her activism in the Virginia General Assembly. Shannon is a member of the Board of Directors of UniteWomen.org, a national 501(c)(3) nonprofit advocacy organization, and she co-founded and directed that organization’s Unite Against Rape program, which made strides in raising public awareness of the issues of rape, human trafficking and violence against women.

Fisher is a graduate of both The College of William and Mary and the Sorensen Institute for Political Leadership at The University of Virginia. She has been writing and working in the fields of public and community relations since the mid-1990s. Her articles and essays have been published in newspapers, magazines, anthologies, news sites and blogs. Shannon has worked with Universal Studios, PBS, The Theatre of Note, The Music Theatre of Southern California, and the Authors on the Air Global Radio Network.

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The next three months on The Authentic Woman - a radio show focusing on women's issues on the Authors on the Air Global Radio Network and hosted by women's rights leader, Shannon Fisher - are going to be filled with special editions and guest hosts!  July began with a mini-podcast reading of the Declaration of Independence in honor of the Fourth of July.

On July 6, The Authentic Woman aired Authors on the Air’s Global Conversation on Human and Sex Trafficking.  This global conversation is a special event with a panel of experts including prosecutors, law enforcement officers, legislators who have worked to enact laws to combat human trafficking, victim’s rights advocates and survivors of the sex trade – all of whom share stories about the horrors they have witnessed and experienced. This $32 billion “industry” enslaves more than 300,000 underage girls (and boys) each year in America, selling them into forced prostitution. This informative and important broadcast shines a light on this topic that is usually kept in the shadows.

This Sunday, July 13, there will be an in-depth discussion of Autism Spectrum Disorder with a panel of experts: a developmental doctor, a developmental therapist and two mothers of children with autism.  This discussion will offer some excellent information about the early warning signs of autism, the indicators that parents should take their children for an assessment from a specialist, treatment options, the wide spectrum of symptoms of autism and solutions for living with autism into adulthood.

The July 20 show will be a discussion with Dr. Sheri Meyers, a regular contributor to ABC, NBC, CBS, CNN, television and radio talk shows, and the Huffington Post.  During the show,  we will discuss her book, Chatting or Cheating, which examines the shocking ease with which we can all slide down the slippery slope from an innocent online “friendship” to a full-blown affair in today’s technology-driven world.  

On July 27, The Authentic Woman will broadcast a live interview with legendary theatrical Artistic Director, Carol Piersol, whose name has been in the news quite a bit in recent years. We will be talking about her new company, 5th Wall Theatre.  The name of the company is a play on the concept of the audience being the “fourth wall” of the stage. The company intends to add the additional dynamic of a “fifth wall” to the audience’s consciences to provide insights into the human condition through theatrical expression.

One of the most compelling offerings of the summer will be a Four Part Series on Creativity with special guest host and renowned artist and creativity coach, Susan Singer. On the first Sunday of every month, starting August 3, Susan will interview women who have inspired her to discuss her guests’ unique talents and means of self-expression. Throughout the four-episode series, Susan will discuss ways to tap into our own creative talents and find inspiration to make the world a better place.  This should be a very interesting and enlightening series, so be sure to tune in to Susan’s guest spots!

Executive Producer and Owner of Authors on the Air, Pam Stack, will interview The Authentic Woman host, Shannon Fisher, on August 10 to discuss her current writing project,  an authorized biography of the late stand-up comedy great Steve Moore, Shannon's work in women’s rights and whatever other topics Pam has up her sleeve. It will be fun to turn the tables and have the host as the interviewee!

There will be a very special edition of  The Authentic Woman on August 24 that will highlight The State of Women’s Rights in the United States with a live interview with two very notable women’s rights leaders:  Terry O’Neill, President of the National Association for Women (NOW), and Karen Teegarden, President of UniteWomen.org.  During this broadcast, there will be lively discussion of the social and political issues affecting women today. This is an episode of The Authentic Woman that is not to be missed!

In September, we will air another special episode on the status of women: An Overview of Women’s History in America.  This show will feature prominent women’s rights leader, Renee Davis, as well as a noted historian.  This will be an opportunity for listeners to learn “what’s what” when it comes to how we got where we are today – and what lies on the road ahead.

There will be a plethora of other intriguing guest hosts, mini-podcasts and special events from July through October.  The Authentic Woman airs every Sunday night at 8 p.m. EDT!

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Shannon Fisher - host of the radio talk show, The Authentic Woman – Perspectives on the Female Experience in America, co-founder and past Director of Unite Against Rape and Board member of UniteWomen.org , a national 501(c)(3) women's rights organization - wrote a pointed letter to George Will in response to his June 6 opinion piece in the Washington Post, Colleges Become the Victims of Progressivism, in which he states that being a victim of sexual assault is "a coveted status that confers privileges."

The letter to Will reads as follows:

"First, I would like to annotate that rape is not a political issue.  To hurl the label of 'progressivism' at policies that clear the way for a victim of rape to report a crime, and to avoid having this report whitewashed by administrators whose primary concern is protecting an institution’s reputation, significantly diminishes the significance of the crime.  Supposing that only a progressive would support the punishment of perpetrators of this heinous crime suggests that a conservative would revel in having these crimes masked – and that is simply not the case.  Most humans with a developed sense of empathy would like to see those who violated their loved ones – mothers, daughters, grandmothers, sisters, sons, brothers, fathers – brought to justice.

"Rape knows no gender.  Rape knows no socio-economic status.  Rape knows no political party, nor any religion or ideology.  Rape is indeed ubiquitous, possibly the most ubiquitous human rights violation worldwide today.  It would stand to reason that, regardless of one’s political leaning, every ethical person would applaud ubiquitous reporting of such violations.  It appears your disdain for the rise in reports of sexual violence on college campuses is based on a contempt for progressive policies.  While I respect disdain for any political ideology and relish diversity of opinion, I take great issue with your implied correlation between political ideology and response to sexual assault...."

Read the entire letter to George Will at https://fishershannon.wordpress.com/...

Discuss

As most of you know, I became a women’s rights activist in 2012. I suppose I was what you’d call a free-lance activist last year, aligning with a variety of groups (which I still do) and working toward the cause of advancing women’s rights. I worked a bit with UniteWomen.org (then a fledgling women’s rights organization called Unite Against the War on Women) in 2012 in a state-wide capacity, but I was having some health challenges and the work proved to be too intense for me to make a continued commitment. So, I went about my way as a free-lance activist, contributing to the efforts of many local and national groups that were fighting the ultrasound and TRAP legislation in Virginia last year.

Then, in January of 2013 (as I continued to grow stronger physically), I was contacted by a women with whom I had worked closely leading up to the Unite Against the War on Women rallies (55 simultaneous women’s rights rallies in 45 states – I had worked on Virginia’s). The UniteWomen.org organization had organically and exponentially grown and was becoming a powerhouse of a national organization and network. They were building a national team to oversee the work in all of the state groups. She had been impressed by my work in Virginia and wanted me to be a part of their national team. It was an offer I couldn’t refuse: a chance to make a real difference by raising awareness and advocating for women on a national level. All of this work would be on a volunteer basis, of course – most human rights activism is, aside from a few longstanding national organizations who have established lobbying wings – but the knowledge that we are helping people and genuinely enacting change is all the payment most of us need.

Passion is what drives us, and it is also what sustains us when we grow tired.  Some people think we are nuts to be devoting so much time to this cause – and we do often find ourselves exhausted. The work is intense and seemingly endless, but that is precisely why we do it! If there is a bottomless bin of work to be done to bring about social justice and equality for all, we need to step up and get it done!  It isn’t just one cause. It isn’t just one organization. It isn’t just one method. And it isn’t just one goal. While many think of women’s rights as being all about reproductive choice, there are so many more women’s issues – and many other causes within the human rights arena – about which we are impassioned!

Gender, ethnicity, nationality, religion, sexual orientation, socio-economic status – all of these factors affect way the world views us, individually and collectively. And all of these factors spark fear, ignorance, hate and discrimination. There are many of us – in many different organizations with many different methods and just as many ideas – all working together to bring an end to a culture of divisiveness, contempt, obstruction, insolence, ignorance and disrespect.

We are a diverse community of activists seeking the end of the epidemic of rape, the profusion of domestic violence, a worldwide culture abetting violence against women, the human trafficking of young girls for sex trade, gender discrimination, economic inequality, lack of access to reproductive health services and dozens of other issues that desperately need our attention. We seek to end the injustice in the world stemming from discrimination, lack of equality, lack of respect and lack of access – and we are all working our tucchuses off to bring an end to the culture and practices that perpetuate these circumstances.

Behind the work that bonds us, and the passion that drives us, there is a palpable sense of understanding and acceptance. Within the activist community, there is a “come as you are” understanding. None of us is perfect, and nobody pretends to be. We do what we can, all working toward a common goal. We all are who we are – and that is all that we need to be. Everyone has a different perspective, a different history and a different method of accomplishing their goals. Nothing in the world can compare to the immense joy I felt in being accepted by my peers, just as I am, right off the bat, blemishes and all – and not only accepted, but revered, respected and admired. Through that openness and warmth, the connections I have made with women all over the country are incomparable to any professional connections I’ve ever made in the past. Words cannot truly express how grateful I am to have been guided to this place.

Every now and then throughout the year, when I would find myself working closely with leaders of many national advocacy organizations and legislators whose ears were perked to hear my voice, my ego would step in and I’d think, “Look at me, being all totally awesome and working alongside the power players!” But just as quickly as my head would swell, I would be reminded that each of us – every single person working for an agency or organization, in public service or individual citizens sitting at their computers sharing articles and graphics to their friends and family – is an integral part of bettering the world for us and for future generations.

There is no room for dissonance, and there is no time for pause. Occasionally, there are divisions within the activist community. Egos step in and individuals or organizations want to carve their own piece of the puzzle. But we all need to realize that activism that is engaged in the spirit of competition or contempt negates progress toward our greater goal – and the greater good. We can never be as effective in combating injustice carved into pieces as we can when we are joined together as a whole. So, to those few individuals and organizations who wish to battle over egos, personal disagreements or differences in methodology, I say – “Get over it, step up to the plate, join us and get to work!” To the amazing consortium of women and men joining forces for the betterment of humanity, I say – “Keep on keeping on! I’m very honored to know you.”

I’ve been so inspired by the strength and dedication of the people I have worked with all around the country. They inspired me and educated me. I continue to learn from new people each and every day about the plethora of injustices and exploitations we face that many in the general population do not even know exist. (One such issue is human trafficking, and Unite Against Rape is about to launch an awareness initiative on that very topic – write to me at awareness@unitewomen.org if you want to know more or participate in the campaign.) Let’s all share knowledge, combine resources, give whatever time we have to give and open the eyes of those in our lives to the things they can do to help enact social change. We need everyone to engage, even if only for five minutes a week, to share the knowledge they gain when learning of discrimination and injustice. The whole of humanity is counting on us. If not us, who? If not now, when?

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Fri Nov 29, 2013 at 08:21 AM PST

I Will Not Shop on Black Friday

by FisherShannon

I Will Not Shop on Black Friday

I will not shop on Black Friday.
I will not shop this mad, sad day.
I will not shop inside Wal-mart.
I will not push a shopping cart.
I will not elbow, push or trample.
I will not set a bad example.
I will not shop on Black Friday.
I will not shop this mad, sad day.

~ Shannon Fisher

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There seems to be a genuine collective resurgence of warmth in Western religion, and I like the direction we are heading.  More and more Christian leaders around the world are advocating inclusiveness, love, acceptance and humility – in lieu of the judgment, bigotry and separatism that has filled so many sermons in recent history. Deeply spiritual people, especially those with more left-leaning social views, have been actively fleeing organized religion for years, dismayed by what they perceive as hate speech being depicted as “God’s word” to millions of churchgoers around the world.

Two well-respected and admired Christian leaders, one Catholic and one Protestant, are speaking out against those practices and making grand gestures to bring those people of faith who feel disenfranchised back into the fold of the church – and it just might be working.

During a mass in mid-October, Pope Francis stated about ideological Christianity, “In ideologies there is not Jesus – in his tenderness, his love, his meekness. And ideologies are rigid, always – of every sign, rigid. And when a Christian becomes a disciple of the ideology, he has lost the faith; he is no longer a disciple of Jesus, he is a disciple of this attitude of thought.  For this reason Jesus said to them, ‘You have taken away the key of knowledge.’ The knowledge of Jesus is transformed into an ideological and also moralistic knowledge, because these close the door with many requirements. The faith becomes ideology – and ideology frightens.  Ideology chases away the people, distances the people and distances of the Church of the people. But it is a serious illness, this of ideological Christians.”

In an interview with America Magazine, the Pontiff declared, “We cannot insist only on issues related to abortion, gay marriage and the use of contraceptive methods. This is not possible. I have not spoken much about these things, and I was reprimanded for that. But when we speak about these issues, we have to talk about them in a context. The teaching of the church, for that matter, is clear and I am a son of the church, but it is not necessary to talk about these issues all the time. The dogmatic and moral teachings of the church are not all equivalent. The church’s pastoral ministry cannot be obsessed with the transmission of a disjointed multitude of doctrines to be imposed insistently. Proclamation in a missionary style focuses on the essentials, on the necessary things: this is also what fascinates and attracts more, what makes the heart burn, as it did for the disciples at Emmaus. We have to find a new balance; otherwise even the moral edifice of the church is likely to fall like a house of cards, losing the freshness and fragrance of the Gospel. The proposal of the Gospel must be more simple, profound, radiant. It is from this proposition that the moral consequences then flow.”

These ideas are also becoming more prevalent in the sermons of prominent Protestant ministries, as well.  During a recent Huffington Post Live interview , mega-preacher, Joel Osteen, said, “I do think that religion has turned a lot of people off. Part of it is because it was all about the rules and was political.  I think now people have a hunger for God, they want to have a relationship, but they don’t want to be called religious. I’m not trying to get them to join my religion, I’m just trying to plant a seed of hope in their heart.”

When asked by host Josh Zepps if that also applies to homosexuals, Osteen declared, “Absolutely! I believe that God breathed life into every person, and that every person is made in the image of God, and you have accept them as they are on their journey. I’m not here to preach hate or push people down. It doesn’t matter who likes you or doesn’t like you, all that matters is that God likes you. He accepts you, he approves of you.”

In a 2005 interview with Larry King, Osteen said, “I’ve always been an encourager at heart. And when I took over from my father he came from the Southern Baptist background and back 40, 50 years ago there was a lot more of that. But, you know, I just — I don’t believe in that [fire and brimstone, hell and damnation]. I don’t believe — maybe it was for a time. But I don’t have it in my heart to condemn people. I’m there to encourage them. I see myself more as a coach, as a motivator to help them experience the life God has for us….I don’t think abortion is the best. I think there are other, you know, a better way to live your life. But I’m not going to condemn those people. I tell them all the time our church is open for everybody.”

The people of faith who have been fleeing the ”fire and brimstone” ministry that has been prevalent in recent years have now perked their ears to listen to the loving, inclusive words of these religious leaders with open hearts and minds.  If these high-profile ministers continue to inspire love, warmth and joy into the hearts of humanity – in other words mirroring the true spirit of the life of Jesus – I think we will see a large resurgence of active, faith-based communities around the world.

I am an ordained minister with the Universal Life Church (I did not attend seminary, nor did Joel Osteen), and I highly encourage this resurgence of inclusiveness, acceptance and humility in Christianity.  Let us all follow our own hearts and our own callings wherever they lead us.  It is not our job as humans to judge others; it is our job to compassionately support one another with love and acceptance.  If that brings more people of faith back to spiritual practices, all the better.

God Bless You All,

The Reverend Shannon Fisher

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On Virginia Capitol steps March 3, 2012.  Photo by Scott Elmquist.
While I have been involved in politics for most of my life, my first foray into women’s rights activism began early last year thanks to the state-mandated transvaginal ultrasound legislation in the Virginia General Assembly. The ultrasound bill ultimately passed, but the word “transvaginal” was removed from the language because the revival of grassroots political activism in Virginia proved to be a strong force.

My initial leadership role in women’s rights was through a fortuitous series of events. Attendance was higher than expected at a demonstration, a march that was to begin and end at the Virginia State Capitol on March 3, 2012, that was organized to demonstrate the widespread opposition to the transvaginal ultrasound bill. Because I happened to be standing with the organizers at the moment that they realized more people were in attendance than could be handled by their group, they invited me to help them manage the crowd and briefed me on all of the details.

About halfway through the march, the organizers were detained to sort out a crosswalk issue. The march had stopped moving for several minutes, and the protestors were getting antsy. Having been briefed about the route and the plan from the organizers, I made a snap decision to get the show moving again. I marched right up to the front of the group and ended up leading the entire crowd of over a thousand protesters for several blocks through the streets of downtown Richmond until the organizers reconciled the traffic issues, regrouped at the head of the line and led us up the steep hill onto Virginia State Capitol steps.

Despite the peaceful protesting of a group of calm women and men wearing windbreakers and mom jeans, Capitol Police troopers dressed in full riot gear were called to clear us from the steps. Arrests were made of those who refused to leave the stairs, and early iconic photographs were taken of what was only just then being commonly deemed the War on Woman. On that day, a national movement was born.

An exorbitant amount of media coverage ensued after the protest at the Virginia Capitol. (In fact, a film documenting the struggle for women’s rights in Virginia last year, Political Bodies, was just named best documentary at the Austin Film Festival!) News of the arrests incensed people and added momentum to the fight against the barrage of anti-women legislation being proposed all over the country. Protests popped up everywhere. Women organized at local and national levels, and new organizations were formed. I went from showing up at a protest where I knew very few people to being the Vice President of Outreach and Public Relations for UniteWomen.org, a national 501 (c)(3) women’s advocacy organization, within a matter of thirteen months – all because more people than expected showed up at the Capitol on March 3, 2012.

The work of a women’s rights activist, most of whom volunteer their time (as I do), is extremely rewarding when we see the fruits of our labor. As election day looms for the Virginia Gubernatorial race, the candidate who stands strongly with women leads his opponent by 20 points with women in the polls. I can’t help but feel glee at the extent of the public awareness that has been raised by my fellow Virginia women’s rights activists and I within just 18 months. (Update 11/5/13: the candidate supporting women's rights, Terry McAuliffe, won the election, defeating the Tea Party candidate, Ken Cuccinelli.)

Virginia has led the nation in activism and in spirit.  Activists, advocates and voters have an important message to legislators who would try to enact laws that serve women poorly: a woman’s work is never done.

Written by Shannon Fisher  

@FisherShannon

Also posted on http://fishershannon.wordpress.com

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Wed Oct 23, 2013 at 07:22 AM PDT

Everyone Hates Rape…Right?

by FisherShannon

RAINN Day Unite Against Rape series
A piece I wrote about the collaboration between RAINN (the Rape Abuse and Incest National Network) and UniteWomen.org (a national 501(c)(3) nonprofit women’s rights organization) for a special RAINN Day series of Unite Against Rape graphics was just posted on the UniteWomen.org blog.  Please read the story and share the information about how to participate in the RAINN Day series of the Unite Against Rape campaign.

Link to story:  http://www.unitewomen.org/...

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As originally posted on Shannon Fisher's blog, Thoughts and Musings on Politics and the Universe (http://fishershannon.wordpress.com).

We can’t take flight
And ignore the plight
Of strong attacks from
The extremist right.
We must open our eyes
And shine a light
On the ardent fight for
Women’s rights.

Though the view from the ground
Is not as nice,
We cannot smite
Unless we’re downright
Defiant.

One city birthed
A renewed crusade.
On the national stage,
An icon made:
The Capitol Steps.
They swept us away that day,
As we protested mistakes
The General Assembly made.

But an awakening dawned,
And we spawned
A movement
Of modern-day
Feminism.

Issues of choice cause a great divide,
But we’re changing the tide
And leading the nation,
Which brings us great pride.
Ultrasounds and TRAPs
Started a fight
In which the government
Used their might.

But the power of the people
Found the side of right.
And while both sides fight,
We all would like:
Freedom.

Though political games
Are perpetually played,
We are not swayed
By the flex of their muscles.
We’ll scuffle and hustle
And increase our resistance
With great persistence
Until they are staid.

Though protest we may, I do contend
That in order to win,
We must end and
In all ways de-friend these
Legislators.

They passed poor laws
And kept their paws
In places they shouldn’t.
And though we couldn’t
Stop the close of clinics,
We did get the probe
Removed from the bill
Passed on Richmond’s Capitol Hill

But the most important
Pavement we can pound,
With our eyes open wide,
And our feet on the ground:
Vote.

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