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Ms. Magazine exploits women in prisons and domestic violence shelters to fundraise

Date: July 15, 2008

Just received a “Special Message” from Gloria Steinem at Feminist Majority that invited recipient to make donations to the “Prison and Domestic Violence Shelter Program” to send imprisoned and battered women copies of Ms. magazine. Big letters stated: “tens of Thousands of women in prison and domestic violence shelters need your support!” Below is an email I sent to Feminist Majority / Ms. magazine in response.

Hello Feminist Majority,

“Tens of thousands of women in prison and domestic violence shelters” definitely need our support, but I do not believe that sending them copies of Ms. magazine is the best use of my or any feminists’ resources if that were the only concern. With all kinds of other, more immediate needs, I seriously doubt that Ms. magazine ranks high in any imprisoned or battered woman’s wishlist.

I suspect that the true purpose of this campaign of yours is for Ms. magazine (and Feminist Majority Foundation) to gain greater volume and reach, and that you are cynically exploiting the plight of women in prisons and domestic violence shelters without a genuine concern for their best interest or wishes.

There is nothing intrinsically wrong with trying to sustain the magazine and the organization, but you need to do so transparently and non-exploitatively. You could have pitched it differently, such as “help Ms. and FMF while giving a gift of Ms. magazine to women in prison and domestic violence shelters,” so that you would not be misrepresenting the women’s needs and wishes.


Emi Koyama

1 Comment »

  1. I never read this letter as being an exploitation, especially as I have known several people who have ended up in jail and/or prison over the decades. It gets boring there, and for women who are likely to return to an abusive situation because of a lack of support, or for those who are feminists w/out much sympathy or reading material, I HIGHLY believe reading MS. – or any pro-woman, pro-family reading material — can be a wonderful experience.

    As a pagan priestess, I’ve also met a number of non-Abrahamic religious practicioners, and like other women facing a similar sentence, they need the help of women who care more about them than the way a bulletin is worded. Sending them letters of support and reading material is really helpful, especially as there are so many forces at work against them.

    Please, reconsider your comment, and take into account the level of distrust, pain, hatred, disgust and poor treatment women in prison (or those who have had to rely on shelters) can experience. Also take into account the lack of education of some of the inmates, who could greatly benefit from having their rights — the rights of all women and indeed all humans — explained to them in a dignified manner.

    Comment by SueBee — August 13, 2010 @ 9:28 pm

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