I'm thrilled. Young women are leading the way on women's rights in Homer and in the world.
Zoe Story, 17, a Homer High School student, described how gaunt versions of girls and women in fashion magazines reduce self-esteem and encourage eating disorders like anorexia. In a Homer News Point of View piece, she pledged to stop reading Glamour magazine and challenged us to do the same (Homer News, Point of View, Dec. 5).
It's natural to want approval from your friends and to follow your culture's pressure on behavior whether you are 16 or 80. Zoe is a member of Promoting Health Among Teens, also known as PHAT, a peer education program to encourage teens to do what is best for them. If a young woman follows fashion slavishly, she may experience joint pain and disability in her 20s onward.
According to a national survey reported in the November 2012, Consumer Reports on Health, "80 percent of U.S. women suffer from foot pain. Much of the blame goes to high heels, which shift undue weight to the front of the foot."
Young women in the world outside of the United States and Western Europe face enormous problems. Members of the Pakistani Taliban shot Malala Yousafzai, 15, because she spoke for educating girls in October 2012. In February, Malala told Pakistani Geo News that she has recovered eyesight and the ability to walk and talk after surgeries and therapy in a British hospital. I saw a video of Malala speaking in a Pakistan town square before the shooting, saying, "The Koran does not forbid education for women."
She is prepared to risk her life again to promote girls' education in Pakistan.
March is Women's History Month and March 8 is International Women's Day. I hope you will join me at Kenai Peninsula College-Kachemak Bay Campus, Pioneer Hall, 533 East Pioneer St., March 7 and 8. We will:
1. Celebrate the progress in women's rights that has occurred since the 1850s; and
2. Examine ways to fight against forces that are working to roll back those rights.
Come see and discuss two documentaries, "Makers, Women Who Make America" about the women's rights struggles from the 1960s and 1970s onward to today, and "Half the Sky," which features women and men who are working to provide education, health care and protection against violence for girls and women across the world.
Kate Finn will lead a discussion based on her experiences in the Third World and invite others with foreign experiences to share their stories. I will speak on the "History of Feminism in Alaska" or on "Mimi, Prophet to Stop Female Genital Mutilation." Mimi is my friend from Ethiopia who may come to Homer to speak this summer. Zoe Story will speak on Promoting Health Among Teens.
We will discuss the most important organizations in Homer who help girls and women: The Kachemak Bay Family Planning Clinic provides ways for girls and women to make healthy choices, including checks for cancer. South Peninsula Haven House offers a safe place to go if a woman or girl is a victim of rape or suffers domestic violence; Haven House offers a program to help us know how to help if we witness physical violence.
One question to answer on International Women's Day: How should we respond to the plan by many legislators in Alaska to restrict women's rights to health care, including contraceptives and abortions?
Next week, the Homer News will print the final program. The tentative schedule is 6:30-8:30 p.m. March 7 and noon-5 p.m. March 8 at the Kachemak Bay Campus, Pioneer Hall, Room 202.
Call me if you want more information or have a suggestion including a meeting place for Friday evening. I can be reached at 235-6954.
You're never too young or too old to celebrate International Women's Day.
Amy Bollenbach is a retired college teacher who started the largest feminist group in Alaska, Anchorage Women's Liberation Group in 1970. She has lived in Homer for many years and still works for women's rights.