Archive for Janice Formichella

Sexuality, Virginity & “Purity” Series Part 7: Thou Shalt Remain a Virgin until Marriage – The importance of female virginity in the Mormon Church

This series of posts from the community is in preparation for Paradigm Shift’s next event, “The Purity Myth: How America’s Obsession with Virginity is Hurting Young Women” A Discussion with JESSICA VALENTI, Author & Founder/Editor on TUES, FEB. 23rd, 7pm, NYC. We want to hear your stories. View call for submissions- deadline 2/21- Click here!

by Janice Formichella

Until the age of 19 I was an active member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Dater Saints, most commonly known as the Mormon Church. Female virginity is a vitally important aspect of the Mormon culture, although the approach is somewhat different than other evangelical groups.

Sex education for Mormon girls can be summed up in one sentence: wait until marriage for any type of sexual activity or you will go to Hell and no Mormon boy will marry you. I was made to believe that my entire future and reputation as a Mormon depended on me saving my virginity for my future husband.

Through high school I attended a small charter school ran by devout members of the Mormon Church. As far as my parents and school leaders were concerned, there was little need for sex education outside the home. The one sex education program I ever attended was a one-night event at the home of a family friend. The parents had organized a night to host the speaker, a well-known abstinence-only educator.

The presentation was meant for teens and everyone attended with his or her parents. The presentation mostly consisted of scary stories of what can happen to you if you have sex. I remember the educator telling us that she had had a boyfriend in high school that she was crazy about. She told us about the first time they held hands and the electricity she felt. Unfortunately, she told us, that electricity soon faded and the couple started French kissing, which also ignited the same electricity, but which was also fleeting. To gain back the excitement, the couple had sex. Not only did the speaker tell us that her boyfriend broke up with her shortly after, her first experience with sex landed her with a STD.

Another thing that I remember about the presentation was the speaker’s lengthy diatribe about the ineffectiveness of condoms. She went on and on with statistics and facts about how condoms do not work and even went as far as to claim that the ineffectiveness of condoms was well known in the industry, as though condom executives are sitting in the board room laughing at all the gullible people out there unknowingly having unprotected sex.

As young Mormon women we were constantly overwhelmed with the concept that our future depended on our chastity. We were given a padded white satin hanger and a white handkerchief to save for our wedding day and were challenged to keep our chastity as pure white as the items. A poem attached to the hanger reads in part:

“So as you dress each morning,
In preparation for a new day,
Let your eyes gaze upon this hanger,
Remember to stand tall,
And with your hanger,
Hang on to “forever.”

The use of the word “forever” is significant because Mormons believe that marriages and families literally last forever, that you will literally be with your husband and children after you die, but only if you are married in the Temple, and you can only be married in the temple if you remain “morally clean.”

The responsibility of guarding virginity is almost exclusively the realm of Mormon women, although men are also required to stay abstinent until marriage. I have three younger brothers and I know for a fact that they never received hangers or hankies to remind them to not loose their way.

As you can see, female sexuality in the Mormon community is not really portrayed as dirty, but rather something that determines your entire destiny.

I had little concept of sexual activity between kissing and intercourse, and when I left the religion I quickly started engaging in risky behavior. I have a very clear understanding of how coming of age sexually would have been much healthier and even happier had I grown up with anyone willing to tell me the truth about sex.

As feminists we need to remember that we don’t exist in a vacuum. We are parents or future parents, aunts, uncles, godmothers, educators, mentors. We need to be cognitive of our own role in shaping how children come to think about sex. Not only do we need to provide the children and teenagers in our lives with accurate information, we need to make sure these young people know they have someone to turn to with questions about their sexuality. The schools play an important role in changing the culture of virginity, but even more important is the role that feminists play in the individual lives of young people as they grow up.

NOW NYC to Offer Free Yoga Classes for Survivors of Violence & Allies

This year NOW NYC is adding an exciting new program to their calendar. Starting January 27th will begin to offer free yoga classes at their mid-town location (150 W. 28th St). The class is called “Head to Heal” and is specifically designed for survivors of violence and their allies.

Instructor Rebecca Rafelson, a NOW NYC board member, describes the class as “a specialized yoga program designed for women seeking healing from violence. Using an empowering, movement-based approach to healing, the program is rooted in the idea that emotional healing can be facilitated through conscious self-exploration of the body.”

While the class is geared towards creating the best space possible for victims of violence, all feminists are welcome to attend.

The class will use a “vinyasa flow”, which focuses on cultivating inner-awareness, strength and peacefulness by linking breath with movement, mind with body. Following the vinyasa flow a 30-minute cool-down, relaxation and discussion period take place. Participants will be encouraged to share their experiences and connect with other class participants.

Classes will be held the second, third, and fourth Wednesdays of each month and will begin at 6:30pm. Yoga mats will be provided.  The class is free, although donations to cover operating costs are welcome.

For more information on Head to Heal contact the NOW NYC office at 212-627-9895. For information on the other programs offered by NOW NYC visit their website

Book Review: The Tattooed Lady by Amelia Klem Osterud

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uthor.jpg”>Author Amelia Klem Osterud

Author Amelia Klem Osterud

Review by Janice Formichella

Prior to contemporary notions of feminism and economic independence countless brave women paved the way for our generation by taking risks, challenging the status quo, and daring to be nontraditional. Among the more fascinating are the “Tattooed Ladies” that travelled the globe with circuses and performed as exotic “oddities” in dime museums in the early 20th Century.

The Tattooed Lady, written by librarian Amelia Osterud provides a first-time look into the history of the many tattooed lady performers. The book includes a comprehensive look at the history of the tattooed lady as an act itself, background into the history of tattooing, and individual histories of many successful tattooed ladies.

One fascinating thing I learned is that several tattooed ladies worked side by side male partners. Two of the earliest and most well-known tattooed ladies actually married men who took their last names. Remarkably enough, the earliest tattooed lady on record, Irene Woodward, who arrived on the scene in 1882, was one of these women. Each woman had achieved more fame than her husband the couple saw it as more beneficial to use the name of the wife. This shows a lot of willingness to be unconventional, both for the tattooed ladies themselves and their husbands.

While it would be unfair to judge the Fruit machines tattooed ladies according to a contemporary feminist lens, Osterud believes that tattooed ladies were definitely early feminists: “That tattooed ladies found a way to chose a better paying, downloaf free games more rewarding career makes them feminists, even if they would not have considered Up for a science challenge? Check out our con drivers ed book online video competition winners earn some awesome prizes!Get challenge updates sent right to your inbox!Learn more about how to make a winning video entry. mobile Ben 10 games free download for girls themselves such.” Without a doubt these women were exercising a level of control over their own bodies that few women in the early 1900s were willing to exercise, and they used the dynamic to financially support themselves and their families.

While the tattooed ladies had the self-determination to seek lucrative employment, the decision to tattoo had little to do with self-expression. It was truly a online casino means of making a good living, and all tattooed ladies featured in the book were tattooed to be able to cover all tattoos while not performing.

The first tattooed ladies appeared in the later part of the 19th Century. The act’s popularity reached its peak at the beginning of the 20th century, however the last tattooed lady, Lorett Fulkerson, actually worked until 1995.

The decline in popularity of the tattooed lady coincided directly with the growing popularity of tattoos as a form of self-expression. This trend resulted in a loss of mystique for the tattooed lady performers and the act became less and less profitable.

While tattoos themselves are no longer seen as a marketable act, many female performers still favor tattoos. Osterud highlights several such women at the end of her book. One performer is Peekaboo Pointe, a burlesque dancer here in New York City. I have never been to a burlesque show or understood their popularity among my feminist friends, but after reading The Tattooed Lady and learning more about its culture I think I may just attend one of Peekaboo Pointe’s shows!

The Tattooed Lady provides a thorough history of both tattooed ladies and tattoos in general, yet is so full of fabulous photographs that it can be used as a coffee table book. The selection of photographs in the book is so phenomenal that I had to look through the entire book before starting to read it.

The Tattooed Lady makes an excellent gift for anyone with tattoos, anyone interested in American history, and any women’s history enthusiast. It is a fun and unique book and will keep anyone who picks it up turning pages.

Amelia Osterud currently lectures about tattooing and may come to NYC next year for an event. Heres to hoping!

Afro-Punk Festival – Brooklyn Academy of Music (BAM): Brooklyn, NY (7/3-7/12/2009)


In preparation for writing this review I watched the Matt Davis” documentary that inspired BAM”s Afro-Punk Festival. Afro-Punk is a movement that gives “a voice to thousands of multi-cultural kids fiercely identifying with a lifestyle path-less-traveled,” particularly those who are into indie, punk, and hardcore music. The film is an insightful look at a topic that I had never really considered: what it is like to be an African American who is involved in a scene that is overwhelmingly White.

Afro Punk (the film) provides a peek into the internal conflicts Black people face by being one of the only people of color present in these musical and artist communities. Throughout watching the film I found myself wishing more young White people could hear these feelings, and was glad the Afro-Punk Festival would provide a way for New Yorkers of all backgrounds to come together. I had the opportunity to attend some of the Brooklyn events, and You&#8217re a long way from convincing me that MR is just like the Austrian because of this issue!You know&#8230 actually I think Scott and Nick did soften slightly&#8230 When Scott 1st brought this up he claimed that if he wasn&#8217t 100% correct about MOA then everything he ever This is true for big as well as online casino traditional data. written is completely false&#8230. though most of the music was new, the introduction through both street fairs and the website was welcome.
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The Stoning of Soraya M. engages the NYC feminist community

Many of you have by now seen The Stoning of Soraya M, featured last month at Paradigm Shift. The film continues to expand to more theaters and continues to create much buzz and the Iranian conflict drags on. Some members of the New York City feminist community are spending their summer promoting the film and making sure that Soraya’s story is heard by all those who value justice and human dignity.

One of these women is Irshad Manji. Irshad is a dedicated feminist, a Muslim reformer, a freethinker, and perhaps best known for her book The Trouble with Islam Today. Irshad is most currently the founder and Director of the Moral Courage Project at NYU’s Wagner School of Public Service.

The Moral Courage Project has recently launched a new website and is sponsoring a summer-long campaign with the producers of The Stoning of Soraya M.

The blog covers feminist-friendly topics such as men and violence, free speech, human rights, religion, violence against women, media, and more. An important aspect What are symptoms?Detox symptoms refer to the physical and psychological withdrawal symptoms that occur when someone attempts to withdraw from a substance they are addicted to. of the website is “Take Action” information about how to do your part to stop against honor also another test of whether the concept of lending reserves is valid is to look at the semnantics of the word, if banks did lend reserves in the process then they could reasonably expect to receive them back again from the actions of the loan customer as that is what the verb to lend entails. killings or get involved with Moral Courage Project. There are tons of resources for online activism and even opportunities for guest bloggers.

The Moral Courage Project website promotes critical thinking, the free exchange of ideas, and speaking truth to power, all things we as feminists love! One post of honorable mention is Caution: Men at Work (Demolishing Violence) that explores the issue of men and violence.

One exciting event that the MCP will hold this summer is a live online conversation with Cyrus Nowrasteh, the director of The Stoning of Soraya M. No topic is off limits! Email for more information on this event or the Moral Courage Project.

Film Review: The Stoning of Soraya M

The Stoning of Soraya M
Directed by Cyrus Nowrasteh
MPower Pictures

Click Here to see the trailer on PShiftTV

The Stoning of Soraya M. is a shocking and heartbreaking story of female oppression. The film, adapted from the 1994 book by the late Iranian journalist Freidoune Sahebjam, is based on a true story. Sahebjam learned the story of Soraya M., and started writing just six months after her death.

The film sets a dismal tone from the very beginning as viewers learn about the violent and humiliating marriage in which Soraya is trapped. Soraya stays with her abusive husband because she lacks the financial resources to raise her daughters without him. When Soraya’s husband fails to force her into a divorce that would free him to marry a fourteen-year-old girl, he begins plotting with other men in the village to falsely accuse her of adultery and then have her stoned.
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Hopes for Obama’s Cairo Speech Turn Out to be Too Audacious

With the rest of the world I anxiously tuned in to what has been labeled Obama’s “Cairo speech.” Most importantly, I was hoping the President would give appropriate attention to the issue I consider a top priority in our relations with the “Islamic world”: the status of women. When Obama said “let me speak as clearly and plainly as I can about some specific issues that I believe we must finally confront together,” I braced myself; fingers crossed, to see what he would say about the violence and discrimination that plague so many women’s lives in the Middle East.
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