Behold the squabbling activists

June 24, 2010 § 4 Comments

You might have heard about the Reproductive Health Act. In fact, I hope you have, because I’ve been writing about it incessantly since the beginning of this blog. It’s an awesome and necessary bill that I, personally, me, this person right here who is in high school and not a paid lobbyist, have been invested in for the past two years.

The bill will update New York State’s abortion law for the first time since Roe. It will remove abortion from the criminal code, where the right to choose is stated as an exception to homicide, and put it into the public health code where it belongs. Perhaps most importantly, the bill will permit late-term abortions not only if a woman’s life is in danger, but also in cases where her health is threatened. When the RHA is passed, New York’s women will no longer have to rely on federal legislation to protect our fundamental right to choose; no matter what happens on the national level, our rights will be covered.

People have been talking about the RHA a lot recently because the state legislative session is likely to end soon, as soon as the state budget is passed. (Once the session ends, the senators won’t come back to work until January.) Though the budget is top priority, the senators have been discussing and passing other legislation in the meantime, so it’s not unfeasible that the RHA might be introduced before the end of the session.

There’s another layer of complexity with this bill: different advocacy groups have different ideas about the most effective lobbying methods. Some groups, like NARAL Pro-Choice New York (which — full disclosure — I volunteer with and love), are calling for the bill to be introduced as soon as possible, even if it doesn’t get passed during this session. The idea behind this is that pro-choice organizations and voters will know where their representatives stand on choice issues, and hold accountable those who say they are pro-choice but vote otherwise. This is especially important because this fall is election season. Other groups, most notably Family Planning Advocates of New York State, would rather wait to introduce the bill until it is very likely to pass.

Interesting, yes! Very political, slightly exhausting, undeniably nuanced.

Nuance! It is great. Here is something that is not nuanced: the title of Nicholas Confessore’s New York Times City Room blog post on this issue.

Abortion Rights Supporters Squabble Over Bill.

Squabble.

Squabble.

Here, if you are wondering, is a reliable dictionary definition of that heinous word, squabble: “to engage in a disagreeable argument, usually over a trivial matter.” Fascinating! Because do you know what is not, in fact, a “trivial matter”? WOMEN’S AUTONOMY AND CONTROL OVER OUR OWN BODIES. And do you know who, in fact, might agree with me? MORE THAN HALF THE POPULATION OF THIS FINE STATE.

Fuck this shit.

The media loves to focus on “squabbling” women because it is so easy! It is so fucking easy to get a reader’s attention by writing “Hey! Look at these silly catfighting ladies!” instead of delving into complex political issues. That’s lazy journalism, and entrenched sexism. It’s part of a larger social pattern of framing conflicts between women as desperate and catty, while positioning male conflicts as stoic and totes serious. It’s part of a widespread attempt to delegitimize women’s extremely legitimate political frustrations.

I find this article absolutely hilarious. Because do you know who is actually squabbling? The fucking State Senate! You know, the people who we pay to get important shit done, like, you know, the budget for the entire state of New York. And who we rely on to keep their shit together, not, you know, act like “feuding junior high schoolers.” Have people forgotten about that outrageous, embarrassing, and illegal COUP that happened last June? I remember. I can’t forget.

New York’s women have waited long enough for the Reproductive Health Act. We’re not squabbling. We’re demanding what we deserve.

Pro-Choice New Yorkers…

May 7, 2010 § 1 Comment

…we need you!

Firstly, NARAL Pro-Choice NY is hosting a series of phone banks in support of the Reproductive Health Act, an important bill that we’re pushing to pass this legislative season.

I have been personally connected to this bill for the past two years. I’ve collected petition signatures at street fairs, hand-delivered hundreds of signatures to my state senator Eric Schneiderman, written letters to my representatives, and called voters all across the state to rally support for the bill.

And I’ve been overwhelmingly outraged at how fucking long it’s taken to pass this thing — thanks in no small part to our childish state senators! Now is the time to pass the Reproductive Health Act. Join NARAL in calling voters to transfer them directly to their representatives and reiterate support for this bill. Details are below; visit their events page for more information.

Secondly, NARAL is welcoming new volunteers into its Activist Leadership Circle, a committed and absolutely inspiring group of advocates that I’ve been part of since its inception in January 2009 (coincidentally, right around the time that Women’s Glib was created!).

The anti-choice movement gets a lot of attention for its organizing strategies. But you know as well as we do that pro-choice activists are impassioned, excited, and eager to get out there to enact our pro-choice values.

The Activist Leadership Circle is NARAL Pro-Choice New York’s core network of highly active volunteers, trained by our community organizing staff to help guide our advocacy efforts. The Activist Leadership Circle meets once a month to discuss current reproductive health issues, learn about opportunities to participate and lead upcoming advocacy efforts, and develop new initiatives and campaigns.

After attending our four-part series of new member trainings, members of the Circle join one of three Action Groups: Outreach Action Group, Political and Legislative Action Group, and Reproductive Health Education Group. Our new member welcome and training kicks off on Wednesday, May 12. Join us!

Below is the complete new member training and event schedule:

Wednesday, May 12, 6:00-8:00 p.m.: “Welcome & NARAL Pro-Choice New York 101”
Wednesday, May 19, 6:00-8:00 p.m.: “How to Talk about the Issues and Take Action”
Thursday, May 27, 6:30-8:30 p.m.: “Pro-Choice Action – Phone Bank”
Wednesday, June 2, 6:00-8:00 p.m.: “Graduation and Welcome Party”

For more information and to RSVP, please contact Lalena Howard at lhoward@prochoiceny.org or 646-520-3506.

NYAAF Words of Choice Event

April 26, 2010 § Leave a comment

Do you know about NYAAF, the New York Abortion Access Fund? It’s pretty damn cool: people donate to a central fund that pays for all or part of an abortion procedure for low-income women. They work across New York State, and beyond — they have brought women “from as far away as Texas, Utah, and Bermuda to access safe legal abortion in New York.” The best part? It has an all-volunteer staff, so any contribution you make goes directly and entirely to women in need.

You can donate directly to NYAAF at any time, but you can also get involved with their fun fundraising events. On Sunday May 2, NYAAF will host Words of Choice, a night of dynamic pro-choice theater.

Words of Choice is performed by an ensemble of actors and weaves together the words of many writers…These are stories from the heart: humorous and serious; poignant and riveting, from theater, spoken word, comedy, poetry, oral history and journalism.

Cost: $20
Chow Bar, 5-7:30pm

Happy hour prices are from 5-7pm and entail wine for $5, beer for $3, and Chow Bar cocktails are half price at $6.

Remember that your $20 entrance fee goes directly and entirely to low-income women in need of abortion funding.

For more information, RSVP to the Facebook event.

Breastfeeding, Bodies, and Choice

April 16, 2010 § 2 Comments

Ruth‘s mom, a lactation consultant, passed along this fascinating article on breastfeeding and gender equality.

Breastfeeding, like any practice that involves women’s bodies, is highly political. The simple act of feeding your child is prey to a whole host of issues. Class prevents many women from breastfeeding, because it often requires a carefully planned schedule for feeding and pumping milk; for some women who work full-time, taking breaks to pump milk is not an option. Further, cultural biases sometimes dictate that women who can’t or don’t breastfeed their children are bad moms. On the flip side, another stigma maintains that women using their breasts for any purpose other than men’s visual pleasure is absurd and disgusting.

So yet again, we see many conflicting cultural standards and ideals — and policing women’s bodies is the mechanism we use to hash through them. Just like the Stupak amendment, women’s lives and livelihoods are irrelevent: it wasn’t abortion that was a problem, but healthcare reform overall. Yet again, women are the playing cards, and rarely do we win a hand.

Dr. Paige Hall Smith, Director of the University of North Carolina Greensboro’s Center for Women’s Health and Wellness and Founder/Co-Director of the annual Breastfeeding & Feminism Symposia (a partnership between UNC Greensboro and UNC Chapel Hill) says that although breastfeeding is seen as a “lifestyle choice” oftentimes, making some women out to be the “better mothers” and others made to feel guilty for their choices, in truth, “these choices are made within a constrained environment.” Smith says, instead, that we need to look not just “at the decisions made but the constraints and structures in society that shape women’s decisions” in order to understand more about why women do or don’t breastfeed for extended periods of time.

My own mother breastfed me exclusively for many months, and after that supplemented my regular diet with breastmilk until I was three years old. And she was very privileged. She was only 26, just starting her career, whereas my dad was 40 and had a great, stable job, which meant that she took more than a year off from work to stay home with me. She loved breastfeeding; she felt proud that she was able to offer me the healthiest feeding option, and the act of feeding brought us physically closer in my first months of life.

I too plan to breastfeed when I have kids. I look forward to the shared experience we’ll have. But I absolutely do not expect all women to do the same — nor do I bemoan the choices that they make about their own bodies. That’s a fundamental part of being pro-choice.

Dr. Smith says, “We need to give women control…That’s the bottom line. We must create structures in society that give women more control over their bodies. Women who have control over their lives, body, time and space [and I'm talking about private, public and work space] are more likely to breastfeed than those who don’t have that same kind of control.”

It’s the feminist answer — work towards equality and justice and we’ll allow women to make decisions they feel are right for themselves.

So…

March 9, 2010 § 2 Comments

… according to myriad sources, the MTA will display some 2,000 anti-abortion ads across the NYC subway system this month. Visuals of the massive ad campaign haven’t been released yet, but apparently they show either a woman saying “I thought life would be the way it was before” or a man saying “I often wonder if there was something I could have done to help her.”

Quoth Samantha Levine of the lovely NARAL-NY: “The campaign suggests that feelings of sadness and self-harm are the universal experiences for someone who had an abortion. And there’s no evidence to suggest that that’s true.”

From what I understand, the campaign is sponsored by the apalling “organization” Abortion Changes You. (Psst — abortion does change you! It makes you not pregnant anymore. Most people know that already; you probably didn’t need to go to all this trouble to get that message across.)

Can we talk about how much money this campaign costs? I don’t have the numbers, but I’m guessing the sponsors paid a pretty penny for 2,000 ads. Can you imagine what else they could have done with this money?

Pro-choicers know better than to spend our money on disrespectful and invasive ad campaigns. We don’t blow $2.5 million on a 30-second commercial. Instead, we donate to help low-income women pay for their abortion, to provide teenagers with real sex education, and to create progress for economically disadvantaged queer people.

If pro-lifers really gave a shit about women’s woes, they’d use this enormous sum to HELP WOMEN. They could provide healthcare to uninsured kids. They could pay the hospital bills of teen mothers. They could rally for sex education — you know, the kind that prevents unwanted pregnancies — in our schools. But truly, they couldn’t care less about our lives or well-being.

This campaign reveals what the pro-life sect is all about: demonizing women and demoralizing the choices we make about our own damn bodies.

Back Up Your Birth Control

March 3, 2010 § Leave a comment

Wednesday March 24 is 2010’s Back Up Your Birth Control NYC Day of Action, hosted by an organization I love to talk about on Women’s Glib — NARAL Pro-Choice NY. Shira and I participated in the Day last year and had a blast. During the event, volunteers stand outside NYC subway stations, handing out free condoms and information about emergency contraception. (This is an especially fun way to volunteer since you’ll get virtually no backlash — in my experience, everyone loves a free condom.) You can join a group of NARAL volunteers at certain stations, or organize at your own stop — it’s up to you (they’re big on choice at NARAL).

Here are the deets for this year’s event:

BACK UP YOUR BIRTH CONTROL NYC DAY OF ACTION
Wednesday, March 24, 2010
Create your own shift anytime between 7:30am — 7:30pm

If you are organizing at your own subway stop, please RSVP by Wednesday, March 17 to ensure that there is enough time for us to mail you the materials and condoms. NARAL staff will bring materials for all those joining us in Union Square or Herald Square.

NARAL STAFFED STOPS and TIMES:
14th St. Union Square, 12:00 – 2:00 pm
34 St. Herald Square, 5:00 – 7:00 pm

To RSVP contact Lalena Howard at lhoward@prochoiceny.org, with your stop, shift, and contact info for all members of your group. Also check out the Facebook event page.

Happy volunteering!

RHA (Phone) Call to Action

January 23, 2010 § 3 Comments

Hey, New York State residents! Have you heard about the Reproductive Health Act? It’s pretty awesome.

According to NARAL Pro-Choice New York, the bill:

  • gives women control over their reproductive lives — including the right to choose or refuse birth control and the right to continue or end a pregnancy;
  • amends the NY State health code to make abortion a matter of public health, not an exception to criminal law;
  • states for the first time in state history that abortion must be seen as an option at any point during pregnancy if a woman’s health is in danger.

Apropos of yesterday’s Blog for Choice Day event, dedicating to dissecting what it means to “trust women” (especially in light of the 2009 murder of Dr. Tiller), NARAL-NY will be hosting an informational conference call about the RHA next Wednesday, January 27.

Join us for the Reproductive Health Act (Phone) Call to Action. We will educate our members and supporters on the bill and share opportunities for all pro-choice New Yorkers — from Buffalo to Staten Island — to get involved.

Wednesday, January 27
6:30-8:00 p.m.
Call in toll-free from anywhere in New York State

RSVP to Lalena Howard at lhoward@prochoiceny.org or 646-520-3506 today. Conference call number, agenda and materials will be provided when you RSVP.

I plan to call in, and you should too!

Intersectionality Saturdays: Choice in a Cultural Context

January 16, 2010 § 3 Comments

It’s been a really long while since I’ve posted on here, but I’m back for a weekly cross-post between Women’s Glib and my new blog on Jewish feminism, from the rib?. This column will focus on intersectionality – the connection of oppressions and liberation movements – and how it affects my life. Here’s edition #1:

Yesterday, I was talking to a girl in my Biology class who just returned from a semester abroad in Israel. She asked me the broadest yet incredibly popular question: “What do you think of Israel?” After living in various parts of Israel for five weeks this summer, I left more confused than when I arrived. When I arrived at Ben Gurion Airport, I was ignorant. I left realizing just how many diverse and seemingly unrelated topics there are to be ignorant about. Because of that ignorance, I like to gently lead people away from pre-supposed political answers and into topics I feel comfortable forming opinions about. These usually concern sexism and feminism.

Academically and socially, I feel authorized to speak on sexism and feminism. At times, I feel like I live and breathe books, blogs, and performances of feminist work. I am also a woman and recognize the exploitation of my own gender in the media, as well as what “society” (the largest abstraction of all) expects of me. Culturally, however, I feel like a feminist without a cause. Growing up as a white member of the middle class in liberal New York City with a mother whose income is greater than my father’s, the education of my choosing, and occasionally attending egalitarian synagogues, I am privileged and, on a superficial level, I have nothing in my own life to fight for.

So back to the conversation that got all these thoughts whirling. I redirected it to the treatment of women in ultra-Orthodox Israeli societies. While I was supposed to be researching viral causes of cancer cells, I spoke of the horrible treatment of women in education, in synagogue, and in the home. The girl in my Biology class responded that she does not see suffering amongst women in the ultra-Orthodox communities she has visited. Their roles are what they have been brought up with and it is what they want to continue with because they have never known anything else. It is their lifestyle.

My immediate response was that it is because they have not been shown an alternative. These women do not know they are oppressed because they have never experienced having equal opportunities. And then my Bio buddy threw at me one of the most provocative questions I could be asked: “How do you know your way is better?”

How do I know my way is better? I believe I know what equality is. I am proud to be a woman. I am proud to be a feminist and fight not only for my rights but for the rights of us all that are so interconnected. My way is what I have grown up with and has stemmed from the privilege I was raised with and the beliefs I have had the freedom to foster. I believe in choice and I believe that all women should be able to choose their own way in life, be it sexist or feminist through a traveler’s eyes. If a woman is happy and fulfilled singing lightly in the background of a synagogue or receiving an education different from her husband’s or forgoing occupational opportunities and chooses to do so, that is not sexist. She has chosen it for herself.

What does choice mean in a cultural context? Where is the line drawn between advocacy and – I’m going to make up a word here because we are speaking in a feminine lexicon at the moment – maternalism? How can we enforce a right to choose in communities where women do not know what choice is? And who on earth am I to say they do not know what choice is?

Call for Participants

January 15, 2010 § 1 Comment

I am thrilled to announce that my Senior Keystone project — a culmination of my high school work — is underway. I have decided to focus my project, tentatively titled Beyond Juno: The Birth Mother Project, on how social stereotypes about birth mothers compare with their identities and lived experiences.

Beyond Juno: The Birth Mother Project
Call for Participants

SEEKING: Birth mothers, first mothers, women who have placed a child for adoption from the New York City region, TO BE INTERVIEWED AND PHOTOGRAPHED for a feminist art/activism project.

PARTICIPATION REQUIRES: A physical meeting with me (roughly an hour and a half long), where I will conduct an informal interview regarding the participant’s life and experiences with adoption, as well as capture some portrait photographs. The final product will be a compilation of transcripted interviews and portraits. The aim of the project is to give voice to birth mothers and to encourage discussion around their experiences and identities.

PLEASE NOTE: It is certainly possible for a participant to remain anonymous; a woman’s name can be changed and her face obscured if she prefers.

All prospective participants should CONTACT BirthMomProject@gmail.com. You can also contact me there if you have any questions about the project.

Please forward widely. Thank you!

Eighteen

January 6, 2010 § 12 Comments

I turned eighteen today. I can now vote, buy cigarettes, porn, sex toys, and lottery tickets, and join the military. (Still can’t drink, though.)

I can now get an abortion or purchase emergency contraception anywhere in this country without my parents’ notification or consent. And GOSH, am I glad I couldn’t do either of those things yesterday!!! I was just a child then. That one day, the one magical day where I transformed from a naive and agency-deprived baby girl into a strong, full-grown woman really made a difference.

Seriously?

What changes when you turn eighteen? Something in your brain clicks, and then you can be absolutely sure you’ll make the right reproductive health decisions for yourself? Bullshit.

Teenage women have the right to make decisions about their own fucking bodies. We don’t take these decisions lightly, and we don’t make these difficult choices just for funsies — we go behind our parents’ backs when our lives depend on doing so.

It feels good to be eighteen — but I can’t say I feel any stronger or wiser than I did 24 hours ago.

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