Young Americans…have sex?!?!!

March 9, 2011 § 2 Comments

by MIRANDA

Students at Wesleyan created this flippin’ fantastic video in response to the attacks on Planned Parenthood. Watch!

Emergency contraception and the FDA

February 10, 2011 § 2 Comments

by MIRANDA

I’ve written quite a lot about emergency contraception, and in particular about the shady age restrictions that dictate who can and can’t buy it over the counter.

The Center for Reproductive Rights has an excellent recap:

The Center sued the FDA in 2005 for failing to grant over-the-counter status to emergency contraception (a.k.a Plan B) against the advice of its scientific experts and in violation of its own procedures and regulations. In 2006, the FDA agreed to make Plan B available without a prescription, but only to women 18 and over and only behind the pharmacy counter.

Plan B is now available over-the-counter for anyone age 17 or over, but remains inaccessible to those under 17 even though “medical and scientific consensus provides no rationale for age restrictions on Plan B.”

Today, emergency contraception is available without a prescription, but only for women age 17 and older. Pharmacies and clinics must keep it behind the counter and anyone seeking to buy it must show government issued identification proving their age in order to buy it without a prescription.
These intrusive restrictions, unprecedented for drugs with over-the-counter status, make it harder and more stigmatizing for consumers to get the contraception during its most effective window.

These restrictions are undeniably motivated by political and social pressures that seek to legislate sexuality. (I’ll quote myself: “It’s more than obvious that the conservative movement to restrict access is not about the health and safety of teenage women, but about legislating who is and isn’t allowed to have sex.”) Never mind that the political leaders who restrict Plan B access, which prevents conception after unprotected sex, are the same people who restrict abortion access — abortion being what women might logically turn to when faced with an unplanned pregnancy that using Plan B might have prevented in the first place.

But this morning brought some good news:

Moments ago, Teva, the manufacturer of the emergency contraceptive (EC) Plan B, announced that it filed an application with the FDA requesting that EC be available over-the-counter without a prescription for women of all ages.

While it’s phenomenal that Teva has put this pressure on the FDA, their request will only affect restrictions on their specific emergency contraception product. In an email, the Center for Reproductive Rights emphasized: “We want the FDA to know that it is still required to obey the law and end all restrictions once and for all –- not on a piece meal basis.”

They have a petition to pressure Dr. Margaret Hamburg, the FDA Commissioner of Food and Drugs, to end senseless age restrictions on all forms of emergency contraception. Please sign here.

Disgruntled Adolescent Complaint Department

January 8, 2011 § 6 Comments

by KATIE E.

Something has been irking me for the past couple of days.

I thought maybe I was over-reacting. Maybe that I should have just kept my mouth shut. But, I can’t stop thinking about it. So here it goes:

I do not want to be a part of a feminist movement that conflates youth with a lack of intelligence.

I am, in particular, referring to this. Don’t get me wrong, there is a lot of misogyny in the piece from the Catholic League, and it deserves to be written about, but not only is it problematic to only pick on the writer’s grammar, it is absolutely infuriating to blame it on supposed youth, even as a “joke.”

You do not get to take your anger about misogyny out on young people. Period. There are many young people (including myself and my co-bloggers) who do not feel that way. Recognition of that is past due.

This is not the first time I’ve seen something like this and been mad, though. This one just wins the honor of putting me over the edge. I can’t deal with so-called feminists who don’t show an iota of respect to young people anymore. I can’t deal with feeling like I’m a sub-par feminist writer just because I’m under 18 anymore. My opinions, ideas, and writings are no less legitimate than any adult blogger, so please stop making me feel that way, thanks.

One thing I hear entirely too much about in feminist circles is the so-called “generational divide” between second and third wave feminists. I hear a lot of complaints particularly (though not exclusively) from 20-something feminists who were too young for the height of either about how they’re not taken seriously, oppressed, ignored, whatever you want to call it.

I’m not going to be a jerk and say that isn’t true. It has only been very recently that younger (emphasis on the fact that they are youngER, not the youngEST) feminists have gotten the respect they deserve. And there are still occasional comments from some older, legendary feminist about how 20-somethings/college students/young people in general/whatever either aren’t feminists or aren’t doing it right. And I feel the sting of those comments, too, and I think the complaints are completely legitimate and should be heard.

But, seriously? It is not the same being a younger feminist and one of the youngest feminists. Not. At. All. There is little to no discussion given to feminists under 18 in these “generational divide” discussions, and feminists who are claiming they are not taken seriously for being born in the 70s or 80s are helping to perpetuate that. The ageism that victimizes you may be real, but that doesn’t mean you aren’t keeping the cycle going in another way. The voices of feminists who aren’t yet adults are silenced even more than yours are, yet you ignore us.

I am betting now that multiple people are going to claim that starting a whole discussion about the generational divide and ageism against youth stemming from one teeny Feministe post is overreacting, but it is not. Language is how this cycle keeps going, and language is where I feel it the most.

So, please, if you have any respect or support for myself, my younger co-bloggers, and other feminists who are teenagers or younger: stop equating a lack of intelligence, misogyny, or anything else that you hate with us. We are not like that, and you effectively erase us by doing it.

Boy With Disability Unable To Leave Apartment

November 19, 2010 § Leave a comment

by KATIE E.

due to a broken elevator.

Jaime Roman has missed 17 straight days of school. He can’t leave his apartment for anything. All due to the resistance of his apartment’s administration to “get the part ordered.”

This is blatant ableism. Why was the elevator not fixed ASAP? Why was the “part” not ordered as soon as it was reported? The leasing office had to be aware that had at least one person in a wheelchair in their building-not to mention considering people with non-evident disabilities who may have trouble with the stairs.

Denial of accessibility is a widespread issue for people with disabilities. Jaime’s education and right to leave his apartment is seen as trivial to the leasing office, but it is very, very important. Why should he be treated as a second-class citizen? Why don’t all people have a right to education?

Unfortunately, the article does not voice Jaime’s exact opinion on the situation-and it is obvious from the reference to his “I Love School” pictures that he has one. He is being denied a voice, something he deserves.

But, of course, he is disabled and a youth-i.e., his voice is seen as meaningless and unnecessary in a kyriarchal world. He’s reduced to a prop we’re supposed to simply feel awful for, instead of actually listening to him and taking action.

This story was published at the beginning of the month, and I have yet to find an update. If anyone has one or information about contacting the apartment, it would be greatly appreciated. This denial of basic human rights cannot keep happening.

On Ageism and Social Justice: An Introduction, and Women That Are Doing It Right

October 10, 2010 § Leave a comment

by KATIE E

I recognize the general mouthfull-ness of the title, but trust me, it’s all in here.

How often do you think critically about ageism? How often do you think about how it intersects with other forms of oppression? How often do you consider it one of your privileges/things that oppress you, and, to bloggers, how often do you write about it? How often do you refer to comment trolls as “acting like a bunch of children” as an insult, and how often are you amazed that something written here/The Fbomb/Zero at The Bone/Teenagerie/any other young woman’s space was written by a teenager?

I think about those things a lot. I suppose it’s inevitable. I don’t want this series to be all about me and my experiences, but I’m sixteen, I write for a medium-ished sized social justice and feminism blog that aimed at young woman, and I frequently read and participate in discussions on various womanist, feminist, and gender/social justice blogs. I am completely open about and own up to the fact that I am, by all legal and dictionary definitions, a child. I’ve seen ageism happen. I don’t think it is the biggest issue affecting the social justice (I’m still talking about all of the types of blogs I’ve listed before, but for the purposed of the series, I’m going to abbreviate it to social justice. This does not mean I don’t care about and want to acknowledge all of the varieties of social justice out there, it means I have mild carpal tunnels syndrome) by a mile. There are a few posts I’ve read and gone “Wow, that was completely offensive to teenage girls like myself, or to age group X that I don’t belong to,” but ageism does show up in the SJ blogosphere, and I see it typically manifesting in three ways:

1. Word and Phrasing Choice

2. Silencing

3. And, most importantly, Neglect of Issues

I plan to begin a series addressing these matters, from the viewpoint of a ver young woman. Ageism is a unique form of oppression in that no one is really immune. It is not 100% an us vs. them thing. For example, a thirty-five to forty-year-old woman will have her opinion respected than a lot more of other woman of much younger or older ages, but if she chooses not to be married, she will face ageist attacks. A forty-five to  fifty-year-old man will be treated like he has a lot of valuable life experience, whether or not he truly does, but will be attacked if he chooses to act or dress in a typically “young” way.

However, I will not deny that there are factions of ageism that are an oppressed vs. oppressors kind of thing, and this series will focus on the fact that people under the legal age of majority are oppressed, and the ones doing the oppressing are the adults. I do plan to write about how younger people oppress older people eventually, but for the time being, I am choosing to write about something that has deeply impacted my life, opinions, and writing.

I’d like to begin this series on a positive note. I’m going to share with you five posts by social justice bloggers who wrote about teenaged women in a respectful, positive way. These are all by legally adult women, as seeing a grown-up person write in this manner is much rarer than seeing a young person do so, and I offer my greatest thanks to these writers, and I hope they will continue to write in this manner. I’m sure there are many more, and I’d greatly appreciate links in comments, these are just five posts I remembered reading recently.

Teen Pregnancies on The Rise for The First Time In Over A Decade, by Miriam, Feministing.

Despite what the title might make you think, this is not your typical “let’s prevent this horrific tragedy” moral panic piece. Miriam does an excellent job actually acknowledging that some teenagers want to be pregnant, especially when there are class and/or racial issues involved, and that they, along with pregnant teens in other situations, deserve our upmost respect. She also states, and I quote “I don’t think being young makes you a bad parent,” which should not be even remotely considered a radical statement, but in our society, unfortunately is, and I applaud her for making it and sticking up for it, despite the extremely ageist remarks in the comments section.

It’s Not About Me, by Guest Blogger Jay, Feministe

Five beautiful words: Parent denying ownership of child. Thank you Jay, for reminding us that nobody is entitled to anyone else’s uterus, even when the uterus in question belongs to your nine-year-old daughter.

Bill Cosby Tells Black People Off Again, by Renee, Womanist Musings

This post is not entirely about ageism, or even mostly about it-and that’s 100% fine. I commend Renee for pointing out the ageism in a statement made by Bill Cosby, along with many other problematic things about it that are correct, something that many bloggers may have ignored. She acknowledges that young woman are affected by slut-shaming in a completely different way than older woman, something that, again, I frequently see ignored.

Dan Savage’s It Gets Better Project: A Counter Response, by Ms. Jacks, The Bitter Buffalo

This is a brilliant argument supporting point number two about ageism: silencing. Young women’s voiced are so often cut off in favor of what older people think they should feel, and Ms. Jacks points out to use that we need to cut that out if we want to be effective social justice advocates.

Teenage Girls and Internalized Sexism, by Rachel McCarthy James, Deeply Problematic

Beautiful. I love this post. Someone acknowledging that they have thought negative things about teenagers and is trying to stop is, again, something that shouldn’t be radical, but is. This is one of the few posts I’ve seen a self-identified feminist adult write entirely about ageism, and it may be the only one confronting personal ageism. An internet standing  ovation for RMJ, who is probably my favorite social justice writer.

I really hope you read these posts, and think about the questions I asked in my opening paragraph. Coming up soon will be part two, on how language and phrasing choices can promote ageism.

Jezebel: Still Not Progressive

September 1, 2010 § 1 Comment

by KATIE E.

Nope. Unless your idea of busting the kyriarchy involves heteronormative, classist, ageist, woman and sexuality shaming, pro-rape bullshit.

Overall, the entire piece fails due to its insistence that the only “real virginity” is man’s penis into women’s vagina. It makes no reference at all that might not be true for people who are trans,  non-gender binary conforming, bi/pan/asexual, lesbian, gay, and/or queer identified. Plus, it effectively erases people who simply choose not to have PIV sex, or don’t want to count it as “losing their virginity” due to rape/assault/other trauma, or the belief that oral/anal/something else was their “first time.” And what about people who can’t or can’t comfortably have PIV sex due to sexual dysfunction or a similar condition?

None of these people exist in Jezebel-land.

You know who else is apparently a figment of my silly feminist imagination? Twenty something virgins. Instead of respecting the fact that someone couldn’t or didn’t want to do it before they hit 21, let’s talk down to them and insist they need a “a solid core of female friends to guide you through the first-time sex experience” or “Get out of town. Preferably Paris, France. Pick an attractive, mysterious European stranger who doesn’t speak a word of English and is totally inappropriate for your real life, but perfect for this occasion.” You know, I really have no problem with one-time sex with someone you don’t know, even if it’s your first sexual experience. Nothing wrong with that. But doesn’t the idea of picking someone who can’t understand the language you speak scream with consent issues and sound a little like rape? Or actually, sound exactly like rape because that’s what it is?

Besides, how many twenty-somethings (or anybody, really) can afford random European vacations? Not a whole lot, yet the piece  normalizes it and doesn’t offer solutions for the many people who can’t do it.

The entire piece just perpetuates the culture of  shaming women for not having their first sexual experience go a certain way, something that conservatives are regularly called out on. Jezebel would refuse to publish a piece telling women the best way to have first-time sex is after the wedding, but they are fine telling women they need to have a party or be drunk. While their isn’t a huge culture of shame forcing their advice, it’s still the same concept: telling women they don’t know how to handle their own sexuality. It’s time that all of us-conservative, progressive, or somewhere in between-trust women enough to know if, when, and how their first sexual experience will take place.

Pregnant Teens Get Clothes, Moral Panic Ensues

August 3, 2010 § 12 Comments

by KATIE E.

Dear Stephanie Hallett,

Just stop. Really.

Stop the moral panic. Stop calling yourself a feminist unless you decide you want to support all women.  And please, stop promoting the epic fallacy that if we don’t provide maternity clothes at a store aimed at women under thirty, pregnant teenagers will suddenly disappear.

“How about information on pregnancy options, counselling and pre- and post-natal care? Not trendy clothes.”

You know, that’s lovely and all, and I really do support it, but I believe pregnant people are still required by law to be clothed during all that counselling and prenatal care.

And somehow, I don’t think that F21 selling (I kid you not, this is the entire “line”) two modest dresses, two plain shirts, two gray cardigans, two pairs of neutral leggings, one of those belly supporters, and a chiffon thing that I don’t quite understand but is floral and quite unexciting in maternity sizes is going to suddenly end all help for pregnant people who want/need it. And, even in my capacity as a non-fashionista, I’d hardly call that “trendy.” Nice looking, affordable, okay for some jobs and parties, but pretty bland for F21. With the way she phrases it, I was expecting bubble mini-dresses with I AM THE COOLEST PREGNANT TEENAGER EVER emblazoned on the front in rhinestones or something. Not that there would be anything wrong with that, but it sounds much more like something of the traditional F21 cannon.

Furthermore, why shouldn’t pregnant teenagers have trendy clothes? If you are pregnant before society says it’s okay, does that mean you should feel too much shame to dress the way you like?

“Linda Chang, Forever 21′s senior marketing manager, can claim they’re simply trying to appeal to a new demographic, and not exploiting the outrageously high number of teen moms with little money in the U.S., but the point is that a 20-something model in maternity clothes isn’t even shocking anymore. It’s an integral part of the “raw-capitalism-as-spectacle-a-go-go” model that F21 has founded its business on. It doesn’t matter who’s shopping, only that they’re buying.”

I get that Forever 21 is infamous for the whole “fast fashion” phenomenon, but the whole “raw-capitalism-as-spectacle-a-go-go” you’re describing here just sounds a lot like…capitalism. I’m no fan, but the idea of discovering you have a market (young women who’ve always loved fast and cheap clothes who coincidentally become pregnant) and making a product that will appeal to that market (fast, cheap maternity clothes) is hundreds of years old

And exploitive? Really? Please go talk to one of the millions of pregnant people who couldn’t afford maternity clothes  and as them if a twelve dollar, slightly less than flawless quality dress makes them feel exploited. Frankly, only someone from a place of privilege could believe pregnant people are exploited by cheap maternity clothes.

Why should a 20-something model in maternity clothes be a shock, anyway? The average age of a first time mom is now 25, and it’s only gone up in the past forty years. Besides, I thought you only wanted to shame pregnant teenagers here. Is it just the phenomenon of pregnancy in general that makes you so mad?

“But as a company whose audience is made up mostly of girls under 24, Forever 21 has the option to behave responsibly and not perpetuate a very destructive norm.”

Is the fact that most (65%) of F21’s customers are under the age of 24 supposed to make me panic or something? This may shock you, but 18-23-year-olds are women. Adult women. And 65%, while a definite majority, is not a radically high figure.

Not that any of that should matter. I would think that a feminist would recognize how extremely problematic referring to anyone who’s pregnant as “a destructive norm” is. Isn’t it Anti-Kyriarchy 101 that there is nothing wrong with anyone who is keeping a pregnancy, and any problems that arise from it are the fault of our racist, sizeist, ageist, sexist, cissexist, classist, heterosexist society?

“How about we offer proper sex ed to American youth?”

Excellent idea, but I fail to see how this will completely erase pregnant people and the need for them to have proper clothes.

“How about we talk about what it’s really like to be a mom–the money it takes, the time it takes, the effects on a young woman’s body–instead of making teen pregnancy a mere fact of life in the US with shows like 16 and Pregnant?”

Here we go with the “pregnant teenagers are silly and don’t know that babies cost money and can change your body!” meme. I happen to know that Women’s Glib, being Women’s Glib, has a high readership of people who are currently teenagers, so I’ll invite all of them to answer this question:

You know being pregnant costs money and time and changes your body, right?

It wouldn’t be a classic teen pregnancy shame fest without a reference to 16 and Pregnant. Really, how many people do you know who watch 16 and Pregnant who have not done all of the following:

1. Called any of the girls “slutty” or something similar.

2.  Doubted the girl’s intelligence.

3. Referred to the couple that gave the baby up for adoption as being the only one’s who were smart, responsible, and/or mature.

4. Insisted that it is a great way to prevent teenaged girls from having sex and keeping pregnancies.

16 and Pregnant is hardly “acceptance” or “normalization” of teenaged pregnancy.

As much as it clearly pains you, Ms. Hallett, teen pregnancy is a mere fact of life, and it always has been and always will be. Some teens use contraception and it fails. Some teens can’t afford contraception. Some don’t know how to use it. Some are raped. Some are victimized be reproductive coercion. Some plan pregnancies. Many will choose or be forced into carrying the pregnancy to full-term. All deserve our respect and support. And that includes affordable, nice clothes that they can wear.

Ms. Hallett, what you’ve written here is one of the major reasons why mainstream feminism frequently disappoints me. A feminist should support all women and girls, but I see less and less realizing how much our society fails pregnant people and mothers who don’t fit the kyriarchal norm. Pregnant teens and teenaged parents are not a tragedy or destructive, but society (including you) is set on continuing to perpetuate conditions and ideas that make it seem that way.

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