Really Colorado, Really?

October 5, 2010 § 1 Comment

by ELENA

Two years ago, the state of Colorado voted down a proposed “personhood amendment”, which would declare that “the term ‘person’ shall apply to every human being from the beginning of the biological development of that human being.” Evidently, anti-choicers can’t seem to take “no” for an answer, and Amendment 62 is yet again on the ballot this November.

Choice USA’s video points does a better job of poking holes in Amendment 62’s logic than I ever could.

Colorado readers–please fight tooth and nail against this anti-choice, anti-woman, and just plain idiotic proposal.

(Via Feministing)

NYC High School Students…

September 24, 2010 § Leave a comment

by MIRANDA

apply to be a part of this ABSOLUTELY DOPE program!

Teen Outreach Reproductive Challenge (TORCH) is a program of NARAL Pro-Choice New York that will pay you to teach other students about sexual health.

TORCH is a nationally recognized peer education program that trains high school freshmen, sophomores and juniors who are interested in reproductive rights and related topics to give presentations to other youth groups throughout New York City.

Participants must be available to attend trainings in our Manhattan office from 4-6 pm on Tuesdays and Thursdays from December through June.

TORCH provides young people with a community in which to build their self esteem, learn leadership skills, discuss reproductive health issues, and educate themselves and others to make intelligent decisions.

The application deadline is October 18, 2010 so APPLY TODAY!

I truly wish I had known about TORCH before I got too old to apply. I encourage you to take advantage of this amazing opportunity! Apply here.

Sex, Lies, and Christine O’Donnell

September 16, 2010 § 2 Comments

by ELENA

Christine O’Donnell, a conservative “Tea Party Candidate” endorsed by Sarah Palin, has won the Republican nomination for Senate in Delaware.

Besides getting the “Mama Grizzly” seal of approval from Ms. Palin, O’Donnell has been getting a lot of publicity about her views on sexuality. Jezebel reported on her appearance in a 90’s MTV special, in which she spoke negatively about masturbation.

Jezebel also linked to an article on The Raw Story, on how O’Donnell compared sex education, specifically talking to kindergarteners about inappropriate touch, with “suddenly talking to the stranger on the playground with candy” in an appearance with former Surgeon General Jocelyn Elders on Fox News.

There are a lot of genuine reasons to not want O’Donnell elected to the Senate: Her lack of experience, many financial irregularities, and sex-negative views are enough to warrant a hope that she loses the general election. But Jezebel’s more recent article, which simply runs a quote from O’Donnell, under the headline “Christine O’Donnell May Be a 41 Year Old Virgin” goes too far.

I could care less about O’Donnell’s sexuality, or sexual practices. O’Donnell isn’t a terrifying figure because ghasp! She might not have sex! It’s because she seems hell-bent on forcing her very conservative views onto everyone else. As a senator, she would have the power to support abstinence-only legislation, which doesn’t work, and block legislation that guarantees rights to all members of the queer alphabet soup (LGBTQQIA), or increases funding towards AIDS research and prevention.

Or, as Jill over at Feministe puts it:

What we are talking about are Christine O’Donnell’s views on masturbation, which are relevant in a country where federal funds go towards sex education, churches, schools, health care organizations, etc etc, and where Christine O’Donnell is trying to get herself into a position where she will have some amount of power over those funds. Christine O’Donnell’s comments were not that she doesn’t masturbate, they were that masturbation is wrong and that we should teach young people that it is wrong. She has also said that fighting AIDS gets too much government money and that using condoms won’t work. And see, when she says that using condoms won’t work to fight the spread of AIDS and we (or I) say “That is a ridiculous comment!,” we are not talking about Christine O’Donnell’s personal use of condoms, of which we know nothing. We are talking about her very wrong viewpoint that condoms are useless and should not be promoted.

O’Donnell slut-shames other women when she says that masturbating, using condoms, and having premarital sex are wrong and immoral. However, when others use their high-profile platforms to invite a comment war on O’Donnell’s sexuality, we aren’t any better.

So, let’s not give O’Donnell any more ammunition than she already has, thanks to the Tea Party Express, and make sure she isn’t elected to Senate.

UPDATE: Jezebel isn’t letting go of this story, and republished an article from Talking Points Memo called “Christine O’Donnell’s Sexual Evolution“, which goes far more in depth about O’Donnell’s personal history and experiences, which lead her to be coming an antichoice, abstinence until marriage “crusader”. There is far more depth in this article than anything Jezebel has reported, but still an emphasis on focusing on her sexuality. After all, this article could have worked as “Christine O’Donnell’s Political Evolution”, or “Christine O’Donnell’s Religious Evolution”. But as a woman, all that matters is your sexuality. Obviously.

This Lady, Right Here

August 26, 2010 § 1 Comment

by MIRANDA

Remember this epic fail of an article from back in April, in which Newsweek posited that young voters, women in particular, are “lukewarm” on pro-choice politics and think abortion rights “don’t need defending”?

Ugh. If you’d forgotten, I’m sorry to bring it up.

The article relies heavily on commentary from Nancy Keenan, the president of NARAL Pro-Choice America. To be fair, there are not many direct quotes from her, but there are monumentally disheartening paragraphs like this:

NARAL president Nancy Keenan had grown fearful about the future of her movement even before the health-care debate. Keenan considers herself part of the “postmenopausal militia,” a generation of baby-boomer activists now well into their 50s who grew up in an era of backroom abortions and fought passionately for legalization. Today they still run the major abortion-rights groups, including NARAL, Planned Parenthood, and the National Organization for Women.

Ahem. Emphasis on the “they still run.” Young women, and particularly young women of color, are systematically kept out of the boardroom and away from leadership positions in non-profit and advocacy groups. Latifa Lyles’ campaign for president of NOW is a perfect example of this. Notes from the campaign in June 2009:

Both contenders [Latifa Lyles and Terry O’Neill] expect the election to be close, and both are promoting themselves as best able to bolster NOW’s membership.

“We are not the strongest grass-roots movement we can be — we both agree on that,” Lyles said. “The question is how we deal with that.”

Noting that she contrasts with NOW’s mostly white and over-40 membership, Lyles said she could help give NOW a new image of youth and diversity that would appeal to younger feminists and reinvigorate the broader movement.

“The profile of NOW is just as important as the work we do,” she said. “There are a lot of antiquated notions about what feminism is.”

Lyles, a 33-year-old black vice president of the organization, was edged out by 56-year-old white activist Terry O’Neill, despite an enthusiastic endorsement by NOW’s then-president Kim Gandy. Qualified, passionate, well-recommended… but not elected. Clearly it’s not for lack of interest that young women aren’t running the pro-choice show.

Back to Keenan and NARAL.

These leaders will retire in a decade or so. And what worries Keenan is that she just doesn’t see a passion among the post-Roe generation — at least, not among those on her side.

THIS SHIT IS OUTRAGEOUS. MY PRO-CHOICE GIRLS GOT PASSION RUNNING OUT THEIR EARS. For me, the cherry on top is that I have been volunteering at NARAL Pro-Choice New York, the state affiliate of the national NARAL, for years.

I just don’t know what we have to do to be seen and heard. Online activism isn’t taken seriously, apparently — even though groups like NARAL certainly rely on blogs and social networking sites to get the word out. But it seems that the hundreds of hours of in-person volunteer work that this lady, right here has contributed — collecting petition signatures for the Reproductive Health Act, calling voters in support of pro-choice candidates, distributing condoms and information about emergency contraception, blah blah blah — aren’t taken seriously either.

Jessica Valenti was so fucking right on when she wrote of this debacle last summer:

Who do you think has been making your photocopies and volunteering and organizing for these big organizations all of these years?

The work of the mainstream pro-choice movement is built on younger women’s labor — unpaid and underpaid — who do the majority of the grunt work but who are rarely recognized. And I don’t know about you — but I’m sick of working so hard on behalf of a movement that continues to insist that we don’t exist.

Where would NARAL Pro-Choice America or NOW be without the work done by younger women?

Who would do their outreach? Who would volunteer? Who would take unpaid internships? Who would carry their action items on blogs and forward them by email, Facebook and Twitter? Who would Blog for Choice?

Seriously, what would happen if young women decided they had enough of being ignored and started simply decided to stop working for these organizations? Even if for a month young women boycotted the organizations that refuse to acknowledge their hard work — the movement would fall on its ass.

And there’s the rub — young women don’t want to forsake this movement. We don’t want to let it crumble to the side of the road, because control over our own bodies is infinitely more important than “postmenopausal militia” doubt about our commitment. Dropping out of the race is counterproductive. We’re still running, we’re still working damn fucking hard, no matter what any president says.

Check out all the other entries in the THIS IS WHAT A YOUNG FEMINIST LOOKS LIKE blog carnival over at Fair and Feminist.

Edited for clarity on August 27.

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.

Where To Draw The Line

July 31, 2010 § 5 Comments

by ELENA

One of the ways in which people frequently judge women is regarding parenting. Women are judged by whether or not they have children, how many children they have, how they raise and take care of said children, and there seems to be quite a few rules and regulations that must be followed in order to be a Good Mother. And, as posts like Mai’a’s views on “child-free spaces” show, feminists can be just as judgemental about how parents (especially mothers) raise their children.

I think a lot of people have a difficult time when they are in the same space as a child is misbehaving, and don’t know when it is appropriate to say something to a parent whose child is acting out/misbehaving/otherwise acting like a child in a room full of adults.

I think this “I don’t want to be impolite, so I can’t say anything” impulse can be harmful during times when a child isn’t just being fussy, but genuinely in harm’s way.

About a month ago, I was hanging out at a friend’s house, which she rents with several other roommates. We were on the porch, when we noticed something disturbing going on at the next door neighbors house: A little boy ways trying to climb out of a first-floor window, and we didn’t see anyone come over to pull him back in. My friend (who is majoring in social work) went over to say “Go inside” in an attempt to coax him back in. She then knocked on the front door, and after a while, someone answered. She explained that the window was open, and that the boy was trying to climb out of it. After walking back to the porch, we saw the little boy attempt to climb out of the window, again. When she said that she was going to call Child Protective Services the next day, she asked us “Is that okay? Am I doing the right thing?” We all responded that yes, calling CPS was the right thing because it didn’t seem like anyone was supervising the boy, and if we had not noticed what was going on, he could’ve gotten hurt, or ran off without anyone knowing, and that whoever was at the house didn’t seem to notice/care that something was wrong. And she, as a social work student, had the best understanding about when living situations can be harmful to children.

I get annoyed when people freak out about how Angelina Jolie is raising her children. (Do I have some mixed feelings about how she can “magically” change a child’s life by adopting them? Yes. Do I think this makes her a bad mother? No.) I’m also annoyed when people assume that when a child is crying in a public space, the mother of that child is bad/stupid/selfish/should’ve gotten a sitter. There are times when I’ve gotten annoyed with the children around me (airplanes are one of those times, though a dingbat honeymoon couple who wouldn’t stop whining about a flight delay takes the cake for me, and for every crying child in a theatre, there has also been the adult who blithely uses flash photography, even when the house manager tells them not to). However, most of those times, the children were not causing any harm to themselves or others, and the parents were trying their best to calm down their children.

We have to ask ourselves: Is this child going to harm themselves or others? Do the parents intervene to prevent that from happening? Are the children being abused (physically/sexually/emotionally)? Are the children abusing others? And in those situations where outside interference comes from a response to a dangerous situation, we should not have to apologize for our actions.

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.

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