Photo of Bill Moyers Bill Moyers Journal
Bill Moyers Journal
Bill Moyers Journal
Watch & Listen The Blog Archive Transcripts Buy DVDs


September 25, 2009

Women Making A Difference

(Photo by Robin Holland)

In this week’s JOURNAL, guest host Lynn Sherr talked with Kavita Ramdas, President and CEO of the Global Fund for Women, about women’s contributions to building a better world.

Ramdas said:

“People are realizing [that] women and girls are not just simply victims, but are really standing up and are leaders in their communities and are standing up to be able to stand by us, the rest of the world, to make change... I just have stopped using that term, ‘women’s issues.’ I really don’t know what that is. What issues should 51 percent of the world check out on? Do we not care about peace and security? Do we not care about health and education? I think what we are talking about is the right of every human being, including the 51 percent that hasn’t had much voice for the past millennia, to be at the table to make decisions about the changes that we want to see in the world... Women are not just waiting to be filled up with resources – they’re ready to put their resources on the table to be able to lead towards a different world.”

What do you think?

  • What unique contributions are women making in the fight for a better world?

  • Are there specific women that you believe deserve recognition for their efforts to advance women’s equality?

  • Ramdas said that she no longer uses the term “women’s issues.” Is the term relevant to you? If not, what would you suggest?

  • March 20, 2009

    The Cycle of Abuse

    (Photo by Robin Holland)

    In this week's JOURNAL, Bill Moyers spoke with Marta B. Pelaez, who runs an agency for women and children who have been victimized by domestic abuse. Moyers asked Pelaez why so many women go back repeatedly to partners that have injured them physically and emotionally.

    Pelaez said:

    “At the beginning, they don't see very well the level of trauma that they have sustained, and that has been progressive, over a lifetime, in many instances... We are, as human beings, beings of custom. We are accustomed to something. We have made some adjustments to adjust to a certain situation, as awful and as ugly as that may be. So it is difficult for them... If you stay in an abusive situation one year, the likelihood of your staying a second year grows exponentially... Why? Because the progressive nature of domestic violence is one that begins in a very subtle way... It's about isolating the person from the relatives, from friends, so that he can exercise more and more abuse. And then, eventually, it becomes the physical thing. It becomes the dramatic thing that we see on the newspapers. But in order to get to that point, the abuse has been going on for a long time."

    What do you think?

  • Does Pelaez’s explanation correspond with your own experiences and/or observations of domestic abuse? How?

  • Pelaez describes a progression of more and more dehumanization over time. Is this dynamic applicable to situations other than domestic abuse, such as business or politics? Explain.

    For more information, please visit our resources page on domestic violence.

  • December 11, 2007

    Bill Moyers Rewind: Susan Sontag (2003)

    In 2003 author Susan Sontag appeared on NOW WITH BILL MOYERS and discussed her experiences and writings about war, less than a month after the Iraq invasion:

    Ms. Sontag explains:

    We have a form of politics now in which we're told that our duty as citizens is to assent, to be supportive. United we stand. That's a very sinister slogan, as far as I'm concerned.

    Do you agree or disagree? Tell us your thoughts on patriotism and the inevitability of war.

    November 12, 2007

    Veterans of War, Veterans of Peace

    On this Veterans day, we invite you to take a look back at Bill Moyers' interview with author, Maxine Hong Kingston, originally broadcast on Memorial day of this year:

    For the past 15 years, Kingston has been working with veterans - more than 500 soldiers from World War II, from Vietnam, and now, from Iraq - as well as other survivors of war to convert the horrors they experienced into the words and stories that Kingston believes will help them cope and survive. Read excerpts from the collection of writings by veterans and their families.

    Photo: Robin Holland

    June 25, 2007

    Extended Interviews with Four Muslim Women

    As you saw in last week's interview with Imam Zaid Shakir, Journal Producer Candace White spoke with four Muslim women in the San Francisco Bay area about being a Muslim woman in America:

    Saliah Shakir is the wife of Imam Zaid Shakir. Like him, she converted to Islam during a tour of duty with the Air Force.

    Sadaf Khan studied at Zaytuna for four years and is now the Institute's Office Manager. She is also the Institute's fundraising coordinator and at the start of the 2007 school year, will assist in coordinating school curriculum.

    Marwa Elzankaly is a litigation attorney and currently a provisional partner in her firm. She earned her law degree from Santa Clara University in 1999 and passed the bar the same year.

    Uzma Husaini works as an editor in Zaytuna's publications department which includes SEASONS Journal and the Zaytuna Curriculum Series. She received her ijazah (license) to teach tajweed from Shaykh Muhammad al-Yaqoubi. She teaches a weekend class in Qur'anic recitation at Zaytuna as well as a class in Islamic studies at Las Positas Community College in Livermore, CA.

    For extended interviews with all four women, click here. And as always, please join the conversation by commenting below.

    June 22, 2007

    Growing Up Muslim in America

    Last month, the Pew Research Center conducted the first ever, nationwide, random sample survey of Muslim Americans, and some of the findings might surprise you. Here are a few key findings from the Pew Web site:

  • Roughly two-thirds (65%) of adult Muslims in the U.S. were born elsewhere. A relatively large proportion of Muslim immigrants are from Arab countries, but many also come from Pakistan and other South Asian countries. Among native-born Muslims, roughly half are African American (20% of U.S. Muslims overall), many of whom are converts to Islam.
  • Muslim Americans reject Islamic extremism by larger margins than do Muslim minorities in Western European countries. 51% of American Muslims are very concerned with the rise of Islamic extremism in the world today.
  • 62% of Muslim women believe that life is better for them in the United States than in Muslim countries.
  • But statistics never speak as loudly or clearly as first hand accounts, so we invited Eman Ahmed to speak further about her personal experience growing up as Muslim woman in America.

    A native New Yorker, Eman Ahmed is an attorney specializing in employment discrimination. She received her B.A. from St. John’s University, Suma Cum Laude, and her J.D. from New York Law School, where she also served as an editor at the New York Law School Law Review.

    Eman is an active member of the Network of Arab-American Professionals and is a member of the NYSBA Committee on Women in the Law. She appeared in the 2003 edition of Who’s Who Among American Law Students and currently appears in the Madison Who’s Who. Eman also blogs regularly on


    It’s funny how much has changed over the last 20 years. As one of the only Muslim students in a public elementary school in Staten Island that was strictly populated by Christian and Jewish students, I was seen more as a novelty than anything else. While the other students chowed down on cheese fries and hamburgers during lunch, I sat in my Social Studies teacher’s classroom during Ramadan, isolated from their stares and name-calling. To them, I was different and weird because for a month, I couldn’t eat or drink during the day. They had no idea what Islam was, except for the one day we learned about it in while studying the Crusades (which is a very skewed view of the religion as a whole to say the least!)

    Continue reading "Growing Up Muslim in America" »

    June 14, 2007

    Preview: Grace Lee Boggs

    Watch the video

    This Week on Bill Moyers Journal:

    Bill Moyers interviews writer, activist, and philosopher Grace Lee Boggs, who has taken part in some of the seminal civil rights struggles in U.S. history, about her belief that real change for democracy will come from the grassroots.

    “We're not looking sufficiently at what is happening at the grassroots in the country,” she says. “We have not emphasized sufficiently the cultural revolution that we have to make…in order to force the government to do differently.”

    Check Your Local Listings here and we'll see you on the blog after the show.

    June 11, 2007

    Christian Parenti Answers Your Questions...

    We'd like to thank Christian Parenti for taking the time to respond so thoroughly to many of your important comments and inquiries.

    Click here for a glossary of many of the terms mentioned in these answers.

    Please note that the views and opinions expressed by Mr. Parenti are not necessarily the views and opinions held by Bill Moyers or BILL MOYERS JOURNAL.

    Photo: Robin Holland

    After five years, what is the role of U.S. and NATO forces there? Are they combating terrorists, opium growers, or the Taliban? Is the military mission in Afghanistan as vague as it is in Iraq, only with less public scrutiny?

    Posted by: Bruce from Houston | June 9, 2007 07:24 PM

    The NATO mission is to stabilize Afghanistan. So they fight the Taliban and Al Qaeda and Hezb–e-Islami. After three years in Afghanistan, NATO got more serious about opium, mostly due to US domestic political pressure. The war is classic counterinsurgency: attacking the civilian base of the rebel population, kick in doors, look for weapons, search, arrest, infuriate all the men in the village while you do it. And later on the way back to base something goes bang under your Humvee. The Taliban have willing recruits but they also pay farmers to attack the NATO troops.

    I think it is all rather hopeless.


    I'm Canadian and our military folk have been in-country for a few years now. Word coming back to us seems to be that the mission of "bringing democracy" to Afghanis seems to be sufficient motivation. I'm not convinced that anyone (or any country) can, in fact, do that. I think societal evolution happens on its own time. I wonder if, in your research, you have come across any non-fiction examples of such foreign "imperialist" (if I might use the non-pejorative dictionary definition) interventions have actually had the publicly-stated intended result (after some "reasonable" period of time has elapsed)? (Understanding, of course, that NATO is not the only imperialist influence in-country).

    Perhaps the political geography of the region and what I, in my ignorance, understand to be a more-or-less constant stream of interlopers crisscrossing (and destabilizing) Afghanistan conspire against any sort of stable country, democratic or otherwise. Comments?

    Posted by: Ken Pantton | June 8, 2007 08:34 PM

    Dear Ken,
    You raise very central questions. I suppose settler colonialism after long periods of blood shed and oppression for native population tend to yield democracy and development, but other than that (and I am not endorsing settler colonialism) I think empire building is an unhelpful thing that tends only to serve the elite population (not even the majority) of the imperial power and rarely ever “the native”, as the Anti-imperialist Frantz Fannon would have put it.

    In many ways, Turkey, Iran, and Afghanistan were all rather similar at one time but Turkey had Atatürk, and Iran had Reza Shah. Afghanistan had a weak monarchy that was never able to subdue its rural landlords, bandits and tribes; it was never able to build a modern centralized state. After 1949 there was another problem: irredentist conflict with Pakistan. The Durand line, a border drawn up the British in 1893, translated into huge territorial losses for Afghanistan. It’s been a low level war between the two states ever since. You can lay that template on top of this war just as easily as upon the anti-Soviet Jihad, though each conflict also has its unique feature there is always this issue of the Durand line separating Afghanistan and Pakistan.


    Continue reading "Christian Parenti Answers Your Questions..." »

    June 8, 2007

    Ask Christian Parenti...

    Watch the videoSubmit your questions to journalist, Christian Parenti, who recently returned from his fourth trip to Afghanistan. Parenti is a regular contributor to THE NATION and has written several books, the latest being , THE FREEDOM: SHADOWS AND HALLUCINATIONS IN OCCUPIED IRAQ.

    Many have called Afghanistan, "The Forgotten Frontline," so here's your chance to learn more about this important and complicated region:

    • Curious what life is like on the ground in Afghanistan?
    • Confused about any of the many terms mentioned in the interview?
    • How does the conflict in Afghanistan compare with the war in Iraq?

    Submit your questions now as comments to this post and Mr. Parenti will answer as many as he can. We'll get you his answers next week.

    Photo: Robin Holland

    May 17, 2007

    Racism, Misogyny and Hip-Hop

    The recent firing of Don Imus for making racial slurs on the radio has stirred up much discussion about racism in America, particularly the role that certain derogatory words play in fanning the flames of social bigotry.

    Russell Simmons, founder of legendary hip-hop label Def Jam, has been at the forefront of this debate recently, pushing for a ban on the use of 3 words in hip-hop lyrics that he deems sexist and racist:

    "The words 'bitch' and 'ho' are utterly derogatory and disrespectful of the painful, hurtful, misogyny that, in particular, African-American women have experienced in the United States as part of the history of oppression, inequality, and suffering of women.

    The word 'nigger' is a racially derogatory term that disrespects the pain, suffering, history of racial oppression, and multiple forms of racism against African-Americans and other people of colour."

    --Russell Simmons

    But Melissa Harris-Lacewell, with whom Bill Moyers talks this week on THE JOURNAL, believes that banning certain words only serves to "cover over racism" and that truly facing the issue of bigotry in America today requires new tools:

    "I hope by the end of my class though, they would be saying, 'Look, we recognize that even if we got rid of every derogatory, racial utterance, even if no one ever, black or white, used the 'N' word again, that this would not actually end racial inequality in America.'

    I hope that my students have learned something about the structural nature of inequality and the way that racism gets perpetuated through our assumptions and our history and our culture, and not just through bad words or language."

    --Professor Melissa Harris-Lacewell

    What do you think? How important are words in fighting prejudice in America?

    Photo: Robin Holland

    A Companion Blog to Bill Moyers Journal

    Your Comments


    THE JOURNAL offers a free podcast and vodcast of all weekly episodes. (help)

    Click to subscribe in iTunes

    Subscribe with another reader

    Get the vodcast (help)

    For Educators    About the Series    Bill Moyers on PBS   

    © Public Affairs Television 2008    Privacy Policy    DVD/VHS    Terms of Use    FAQ