Happy Back Up Your Birth Control Day!

March 25, 2009 § 6 Comments

Today is National Back Up Your Birth Control Day! It is a day dedicated to awareness, action, and education about Emergency Contraception (EC). Today, pro-choice activists around the nation will be fighting for women’s rights to birth control and for equal access to responsible choices. 

This year’s Back Up Your Birth Control Day is especially momentous because two days ago, the Supreme Court ruled that EC can be obtained over-the-counter for women ages 17 and up, progress from the previous ruling that required prescriptions for minors wishing to obtain EC. 

Thanks to some fabulous NARAL training, I was able to be educated on EC and all the myths that various sources have instilled in my brain were dispelled.

Emergency Contraception gives people a second chance to prevent pregnancy after unprotected sex by delaying or inhibiting ovulation. It contains the same ingredients that are in normal Birth Control Pills, minus the estrogen. 

As for the dissipating falsities…

1. Myth: EC is the abortion pill. Reality: EC cannot have any effect if the woman is already pregnant. The abortion connotation of the pill simply comes from anti-choice unscientific groups that recoil (shocker!) when women are given accurate information with which to access reproductive health services.

2. Myth: EC is the morning after pill. Reality: Although EC is commonly referred to as the “morning after pill,” this is a medical misnomer. An EC expert said in the training that it should actually be called “the morning after and the morning after that and the morning after that and the morning after that and the morning after that pill” because it can be taken up to 5 days after unprotected sex, though the sooner the better! Because saying “morning after” five times fast might prove a tongue twister, just go with the medically and choice-accurate name: EC.

3. Myth: EC has extreme side-effects. Reality: It has been proven that the side effects of EC are similar to PMS.

4. Myth: Teenagers can’t access EC. Reality: To access EC on their own, teenagers need a prescription or they need an adult (anyone over the age of 18) to pick it up for them. It is not illegal for an adult to buy Plan B and give it to a teen. 

It is so important that these myths stop perpetuating because they interfere with women’s individual choices. To see where you can access EC in your neighborhood, visit the Book of Choices.

Miranda and I will be handing out information on EC in front of the subway today (as she mentioned yesterday). All it takes to make a difference in the world of choice is to educate others.

What will you do to spread the empowerment?

Styles Section Enlightenment: “Teenage Girls Stand By Their Man”

March 19, 2009 § Leave a comment

Once again, NY Times Styles section, thank you for providing the fodder for intense feminist criticism. Today, the front page of the Styles section featured an article that detailed how teenage girls are dealing with their first bout of extreme violence against women in the media.

Even after they saw a photo of Rihanna’s bloodied, bruised face, which had raced across the Internet, they still defended Mr. Brown. “She probably made him mad for him to react like that,” the other ninth grader said. “You know, like, bring it on?”

Should he be punished? No, said the girls, whose names were withheld at the request of the school. After all, they said, Rihanna seemed to have reconciled with Mr. Brown.

“So he shouldn’t get into trouble if she doesn’t feel that way,” one girl said. “She probably feels bad that it was her fault, so she took him back.”

Her friend nodded. “I don’t think he’ll hit her like that again,” she said.

Wow. This is basically gross. Who are these girls? Where do they come from? Because my faith in humanity is not great enough to denounce Jan Hoffman, who wrote the article, as a fabricator of evidence, I believe that there are teenage girls like us out there who genuinely pity Chris Brown. But how? How can they justify violence? How can they pass off the pictured bruises as mistakes? And how can they blame the victim, knowing nothing about her situation except for what is featured in the tabloids?

I’ve got news for you, featured teenagers and NYT: not all teenagers think like you. I, for one, am fiercely against violence, especially when it results from patriarchal inequality that ubiquitously shows up in bruises, broken necks, and, for too many, death. I am not alone in this opinion. For every Chris Brown sympathizer you give me, I’ll give you a protector of women’s — of human’s — rights who is not willing to let this injustice be dealt with through the pens of tabloid reporters.

Why is the masculine androgynous?

March 18, 2009 § 2 Comments

Warning: This post is a bit of a wordy stream-of-consciousness rant. Read at your own risk.

Pants are androgynous; they are worn by both women and men. Women, however, have the options of wearing pants, skirts, or dresses. According to a gendered society, men may wear only pants. Thus, pants are both masculine and androgynous. While a woman is socially permitted to wear pants in a setting that is inclusive of both genders, when she wears pants in a setting in which she is the only woman, she is ostracized, called “butch,” “revolutionary,” or even — goodness forbid — a feminist.

Hillary Clinton is famous for her pantsuits. A few years back, I saw the First Ladies exhibit at the New York Historical Society. There was a clear definitive statement made by juxtaposing Dolly Madison’s petticoats next to Hillary Clinton’s infamous pantsuit (the only one black fashion item featured in the exhibit, I might add). 

My mom works for a community center and she wears a pantsuit to work almost every day. I have not heard anyone comment on her clothing choice, let alone name her a member of “the sisterhood of the traveling pantsuits.”

I realize that my mom works in a coeducational facility, when Hillary Clinton, a US senator and former presidential nominee works in an old boy’s club. The pantsuits, a symbol of both masculinity and androgyny (i.e. social and political power). Pantsuits are androgynous; they can be worn by both men and women on a regular basis yet there is an exception when women enter “men’s clubs.” These include patriarchal institutions such as government, the military (America’s eyes have not gotten used to seeing women in uniform), and Wall Street. In these “men’s clubs,” the androgynous becomes masculine because there cannot be androgyny when only one gender is represented in these institutions.

Then, when a woman finally discovers the password to one of these men’s clubs, the masculinity that can be construed as androgyny is so deeply rooted that anyone (like Hillary Clinton) who invades that men’s club as an non-accepted member becomes a source of shock. This shock factor does not stem from the fact that she dresses like men; it happens when she dresses in a way that men happen to dress in as well.

Men do not have an exclusive claim on pants. They have no claim over this piece of clothing just as they have no claim over the institutionally sexist occupations they may inhabit. 

The patriarchy sets up a society so that what men do/wear/customize is the standard. For women, this standard is fooled into being androgynous, though it is in fact a patriarchal setup to make women feel included. However, whenever women include themselves in this standard, they are considered impostors, the only ones in costumes at a sexist Halloween party.

Michael Kimmel, in “Masculinity As Homophobia,” writes “We think of manhood as innate, residing in the particular biological composition of the human male, the result of androgens or the possession of the penis.” 

Androgens are the hormones that control the development of masculine characteristics. The common root of this hormone and the term “androgynous” is not a coincidence. Androgens literally contain everything that, without society’s interference, biologically differentiates male from female. Androgynous, the embodiment of both male and female characteristics, is in its social reality the comparison of female characteristics to the standard of male ones. 

Is this comparison fair? Must masculine be the standard for women to live up to and then be ostracized by? Can’t all people be accepted for who they are and with the choice to be who they want to be?

A Proposal to End the Proposition

March 15, 2009 § 3 Comments

Like Miranda, I wrote an editorial for our English class. Mine is a direct address to the voters of Proposition 8, an issue that I hope will get the attention it needs from all of the feminist community. This concerns equality. In my book, that means it’s a feminist issue worthy of some action and blogging!

SCENE.

November 4th, 2008. Election Day. Same-sex marriage, which was legalized in California less than six months before, is banned once again.

END SCENE.

Proposition 8, a ballot measure, passed with a surprising 52 percent of the voting population. 18,000 same-sex couples married in California in those six measly months and now, because of that extra three percent of the population, that number shall not rise.

In the past, California has been a hub for national progress. Innovative politics such as the unionization of migrant workers have spread from cities like Berkeley and Oakland to New York and Connecticut. California, the state where Harvey Milk became the first openly gay man elected into public office, has now banned same-sex marriage. This act will effect the rest of the nation. Its legacy was already enacted when Arkansas and Florida passed ballot measures that took away rights from same-sex couples on that same day, but there is more injustice to come. Proposition 8 reflects the values of the 52 percent of people who voted for the elimination of civil rights for a group of people on the basis of who those people love.

The people who voted for Proposition 8 are not bad people. They are not uneducated or uninformed. The difference between them and me is that I, a liberal New Yorker who believes in equal rights, do not have my vision clouded by a popular myth. What myth clouds the vision for equality these 52 percent of voters have the potential to see? It is the age-old myth of the sanctity of marriage.

When innumerable churches, synagogues, mosques, and individuals deem that allowing same-sex couples to marry destroys the sanctity of marriage, I wonder where this ubiquitous myth comes from. In the bible, sex is ordained as a method for reproduction. To have sex without the intention of reproducing is biblically considered sodomy. If marriage is the key to holy sex, to sex that is approved by God, to sex in fidelity, marriage is therefore a union for the purpose of reproduction…according to religious interpretations, that is. Therefore, same-sex marriage does not have a purpose if same-sex couples cannot sexually reproduce. If same-sex couples got married under the same rights that opposite-sex couples married under, would neither union be considered holy? This means that if same-sex couples could not get married, the sanctity of marriage would be restored to American society, right?

WRONG. To think that there is any sanctity of marriage in this country in the first place is preposterous. Marriage is definitely not a holy union in a country where that union is broken 50 percent of the time. Marriage is not a holy union in a country whose lawmakers make headlines with stories of their own infidelity. To consider marriage as holy does not promote the definition marriage anymore; it now abases the definition of holy, of sanctity.

In the U.S. Constitution there exists a separation between church and state. This separation exists in order to grant everyone, as stated in the Declaration of Independence “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” When the Bible is quoted to deny rights to a specific group of people, the principles upon which this government is founded are defiled. To use religion as an excuse to ban same-sex marriage is an abuse of power and of privilege. The people creating these ballot measures are often heterosexual and follow the word of the Bible literally. To pursue their religious agendas via government power is anti-democratic. It is revealing of how a dominant ideal that has vast representation in the government can take away the rights of a minority that deserves the representation they seldom obtain.

In order to dispel this myth of sanctity, look at where this myth of marriage as a holy union between a man and a woman comes from. When it comes from a religious document that is not adhered to by all, how can it dictate the fates of loving couples that embrace their right to marriage? Why should a right that has been granted to opposite-sex couples for centuries be denied now to those wishing to marry someone of their own sex?

Now, let’s get some perspective here. Forget all that I have said for a moment and answer these questions truthfully. Have you looked at an American history textbook recently? Have you seen the documented legislation that said a white person could not marry a black person? This was the case in 1967, when the Supreme Court questioned the Constitutional value of religious beliefs. “The fact that [God] separated the races shows that he did not intend for the races to mix,” said a Virginia judge regarding interracial marriage in 1967, before his ban was overturned in the federal Supreme Court case Loving vs. Virginia. Does this sound familiar? Can we replace “races to mix” with “same-sex people to marry?” Are the unjust mistakes of history repeating itself?

Is this legislation not provided under the Civil Rights section, taught to billions of students as emblematic of this country’s injustice? Are gay people next? Will you see men marrying men and women marrying women on the pages of your child’s textbook in that same Civil Rights section? Will these same-sex couples be shouting, “Ha! We finally got justice! We are equal in union under the law!” just as those interracial couples do now?

Same-sex couples are not only next in line to covet these textbook pages, but their fight for civil justice has already begun. Proposition 8 was received by same-sex couples as living, breathing proof that injustice is fighting its way through the marginalized in society. What makes this denial of a universal human right to a certain group of people different from the racist acts of the past?

The California Supreme Court is currently considering overturning Proposition 8, though a just verdict is unlikely. The protests, articles, and commercials have yet to permeate the hearts of those who believe their definition of marriage is holier-than-thou, “thou” being the human beings persecuted for whom they love. I have a question for you, 52 percent of voters for Proposition 8. Is it in the interest of the sanctity of your country, your Church, even your karma, to deny your fellow human beings the universally respected right to have their love recognized?

The White House Council on Women and Girls

March 12, 2009 § Leave a comment

Dear President Obama,

Thank you. Thank you for creating the White House Council on Women and Girls. Thank you for breaking this country’s pattern of ignoring discrepancies in the advancement of women. Thank you for recognizing this nation’s potential to be a source of pride for American women and a safe haven for women suffering worldwide.

Thank you for describing what a women’s issue is, for informing America that women’s issues do not only effect women, but that also effect men, boys, girls, and everyone in between. Thank you for committing to make your own cracks in multiple looming glass ceilings. Thank you for understanding a cause worth fighting for.

Thank you for identifying family leave, equal pay, healthcare, childcare, and domestic violence as women’s issues that effect everyone, but, as no clear outline is in place yet, here are a few more issues I would like addressed:

  • Funding for women’s/gender studies programs throughout education.
  • Mandated violence against women prevention measures for both genders.
  • Securing a woman’s choice for her own reproductive health and privacy.
  • Increased funding toward girls leadership and mentoring organizations.
  • Awareness programs for gender inequity abroad (sexual warfare in the Congo, objectification in the Middle East, FGM).
  • Government-funded programs dedicated to helping Americans volunteer at domestic violence shelters and AIDS orphanages cross-nationally.
  • Increased policing of our own military so that women soldiers will not be raped, assaulted, and not listened to.
  • Increased investigation and prosecution for child prostitution offenders.
  • Research grants for the implementation of equal rights policies that exist in other nations, such as Sweden and France.

I am in awe of the revolutionary priorities you made public on International Women’s Day. I sincerely wish that this commitment toward gender equality will extend through your administration to a commitment toward equality on the basis of sexuality, race, class, ethnicity, religion, and beyond. I now have faith in the potential of this country to fight for equality.

With newfound hope,

A Feminist

NY Times Style Section: Where to Pass the Torch?

March 8, 2009 § 3 Comments

There’s a fascinating article in the Sunday Styles section of the New York Times today that basically asks us (otherwise known as Generation B) if we are up to the task of becoming the next abortion activists our country needs. 

But here is the question: As Ms. Baker’s generation approaches retirement — women whose commitment to abortion was forged in the pre-Roe v. Wade days — will younger women take their places at the clinics?

“We worry about that a lot,” said Sally Burgess, executive director of the Hope clinic, who is also chairwoman of the National Abortion Federation, the main professional support group for abortion providers. “Younger women have always had access to abortion care, they don’t fully appreciate the battle that was fought to have it available to them. And more important, I don’t think they know how precarious the option is at this point, even with Obama’s election.”

As an amateur abortion activist of this so-called Generation B, I believe that my pro-choice peers and I are up to the task of not only knowing “how precarious the option is,” but of battling the anti-choice forces out there to maintain and create choice. We have the power of knowledge of those who came before us. For me, that is a huge part of the beauty of third wave feminism. Us third wavers can learn from the trials and tribulations of those in the first and second waves. If Sally Burgess was talking about us pro-choice activists of the third wave when she expressed her hesitation, she has very little to worry about. Though we have had more access to abortion care than her generation, we are not ignorant of what it took to get us that care. Growing knowledge of the history of abortion rights has been made available to us and my hope is that us feminists are paying close attention to what has worked and has not worked in the past. That way, we can use the knowledge of the abortion activists of the ’60s and ’70s to aid us in our own actions.

You’re such a woman!

March 2, 2009 § 2 Comments

I’m a feminist who is a vegetarian and loves to knit, bake, do yoga, and be around babies.

I have been told by numerous people (both male and female) upon mentioning any of these habits, “You’re such a woman!”

“You’re such a woman” is not an offensive statement. Far from it, I am proud of my womanhood. I, however, am offended by the tone that accompanies this statement. It is usually said as an accusation or as a fact that belittles my feminism.

When I ask the accusers why these parts of me make me such a woman, they have responded by saying:

“Because you’re so domestic,”

“That’s what housewives did in the ‘50’s,”

“You’re caring,” and, my personal favorite,

“It’s stuff you do for others.”

These are all sexist. Blatantly sexist. How?

  1. They take (mostly) positive attributes and apply them only to women, thereby implying that men are incapable of caring and doing for others.
  2. They make both women and men who practice vegetarianism, knitting, baking, doing yoga, and/or baby-loving feel guilty for pursuing their own happiness.
  3. They narrow the definition of what it means to be a woman/man in a society that has questionable values.
  4. They narrow the definition of what it means to be a feminist in today’s world.

My personal definition of feminism is the promotion of everyone’s right to choose, as long as an individual’s choice does not interfere with the prosperity of others. Only if that freedom of choice exists can we have equality. When I am told I am “such a woman” in a condescending, volatile tone, my choice to do these “domestic” activities is taken away. The difference, my accusers, between me and a reluctant “’50’s housewife” – besides the obvious – is that I choose to do these things because they make me happy.

I choose to be a vegetarian because I am much happier knowing exactly where my food comes from. I choose to knit because it takes my mind off of the day-to-day drama of my life. I choose to bake because I love the simplicity of following a recipe. I choose to practice yoga because it makes me strong and my body empowered. I choose to be around babies because it makes me happy seeing new lives blossom.

So you know what? I am such a woman (and proud of it), but not for the reasons you, my accusers, deem.

Doesn’t everyone deserve the choice to their own happiness without sexist connotations/criticism?

Teenage Girl’s Guide to Surviving Sex Slavery

February 19, 2009 § 1 Comment

Here’s Eve Ensler’s video from the Turning Pain to Power tour stop at the 92nd St Y:

Speechless.

Turning Pain to Power: V-Day

February 15, 2009 § 2 Comments

Wednesday night, I was so fortunate to see Eve Ensler and Dr. Mukwege on their Turning Pain to Power tour at the 92nd St Y. Eve Ensler, a rape survivor and celebrity activist who has for years been turning her own pain to power, met Dr. Mukwege, a gynecologist from the Congo who runs the only hospital for victims of sexual warfare, and the two of them began to change the world. 

There is so much I could say here so I will probably make this post one of many about this topic and V-Day (I know, V-Day was yesterday so bear with the tardiness). For this one, I really want to get my initial reactions down so get ready for the summarizing.

What’s happening in the Congo:

What is now the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) has been subject to imperialism since the 19th century. Once it was decolonized, various groups and regimes competed for the Congo’s mineral wealth. Many severe wars ensued, making the Congolese people victims of not only neighboring areas stealing their wealth and raping women and children, but of their own Congolese military doing so too. There is a local war for mineral resources going on right now, a war that is raping the greatest resource of all: women. Sexual violence is used as a way to control and displace communities, breaking their domestic structures down from the inside out.

Why it matters to us:

“Women, children, are being orphaned from their bodies. They don’t have their homes, they don’t have their families, they don’t have their bodies.”

“When you see women who have such a desire to fight, you can only be on their side.”

         ~ Dr. Mukwege, February 11th, 92nd St Y

You cannot look at all these atrocities happening all over the world and not think they are somehow connected to us.” ~ Eve Ensler

What we can do

according to the V-Man himself:

There’s only so much medicine can do. I feel most hopeless when women don’t understand that they have lost something they can’t take back.

A huge problem is where these women go after they leave the hospital. Panzi hospital acts as a safe haven for these destitute women. This is why V-Day is creating the City of Joy, a community for victims of sexual violence to recover on both a physical and psychological level once they leave the hospital. 100 women at a time go into transition to learn to be leaders. 

HOW TO HELP:

  1. Talk about it. Write about it. Call about it. Text about it. Blog about it. Get angry about it.
  2. Talk to your leaders.

For a youth-specific action plan, go to this page!

Stay tuned for the monologue Eve opened with on Wednesday!

It’s a terrible war of rape, a war against women, but what V-Day does is that it gives hope. V-Day spreads the hope of change and of turning pain to power for these courageous women.

Starting at Home, Iran’s Women Fight for Rights

February 13, 2009 § 1 Comment

NY Times has a great article today on Iranian women’s rights:

Women’s rights advocates say Iranian women are displaying a growing determination to achieve equal status in this conservative Muslim theocracy, where male supremacy is still enscribed in the legal code. One in five marriages now end in divorce, according to government data, a fourfold increase in the past 15 years.

And it is not just women from the wealthy, Westernized elites. The family court building in Vanak Square here is filled with women, like Ms. Qassemi, who are not privileged. Women from lower classes and even the religious are among those marching up and down the stairs to fight for divorces and custody of their children.

Increasing educational levels and the information revolution have contributed to creating a generation of women determined to gain more control over their lives, rights advocates say.

Continue reading!

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