From the January-February 2021 issue of News & Letters
In December, Lenn Keller, a Black Lesbian feminist activist, historian, and documentary photographer, died of cancer at age 69. Arriving in San Francisco in 1975, she collected pamphlets, flyers, posters and other memorabilia of the thriving political and social Lesbian community, creating the Bay Area Lesbian Archives in 2014. Especially documenting the lives of Black Lesbians and other women of color, she was always taking photos, five of which featured in the 2019 group show “Queer California: Untold Stories” at the Oakland Museum of California. She interviewed 80 Lesbians for her unfinished documentary “Persistent Desire.” She stated: “Marginalized histories are not often documented. This means that all of us have a distorted sense of who we are…This history…helps us understand how we got to where we are and helps us understand how to deal with the challenges.”
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In December, a group of women brought a $600 million child pornography lawsuit against MindGeek, the company that owns Pornhub, the internet’s largest porn website. The representative of the group, The Children of Pornhub, states a video of her rape at age 12 was posted to the site, which ignored her pleas to remove it. In December, 40 women sued MindGeek for $80 million for making millions from a sex-trafficking scheme using Pornhub. The site purged over 10 million videos, claiming to crack down on illegal content, although activists found violent videos still on the site. Some credit card companies finally ended or limited services for the site due to pressure from activists.
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In October in Chile, a year of mass protests for wide-ranging reforms resulted in a popular referendum. Citizens voted to replace their dictatorship-era constitution, and in an even more unusual victory, the new one will be written by an assembly of citizens with no politicians. Thanks to the tireless demand of feminist activists, “Never Again Without Women,” half this assembly will be composed of women, setting a groundbreaking global standard for women’s inclusion in government. In December, when men in Congress balked, women protested outside the chamber, chanting “We Want Half!” The constitutional convention will also reserve seats for Indigenous peoples, whose lands had been stolen by the government. Activists projected the word “Rebirth” onto the walls of buildings in celebration.
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In November, over 400 Canadian women were notified that they are part of a class action lawsuit to restore their membership and that of their children in First Nations bands. The Indian Act of 1876, with the genocidal intention of assimilating Indigenous women into white culture, gutted their Indian status and membership in First Nations bands upon marriage to a non-status man. In 1985, Canada’s federal government found it discriminatory since the same rules did not apply to men. It amended the Act, retroactively restoring status to Indigenous women and their children, but many bands refused to honor it, claiming it interfered with their self-government. Plaintiff Bonnie Bruno brought the suit 14 years ago because her mother had lost status and membership in the Samson Cree Band, causing loss of federal benefits and rights to profit from oil and gas revenues. Other women describe devastation to generations from loss of the right to live on the reserve, causing loss of culture, poverty, homelessness, addiction, and alienation due to racism and loss of family.