Just for Funsies…

September 9, 2009 § Leave a comment

HAPPY 200th POST!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

I was going to save this one for Miranda but I’m in the library right now and thought I’d take a little study break.

Hi everyone! My new obsession at Grinnell is becoming a peer counselor at the Sexual Health Information Center. I’ve been working really hard on my application, so I figured I might share it with you all. That way if I don’t get it (ewwwww) I will have SOMETHING to show for it:

(I’m not posting the questions, but most of them you can figure out.)

1.As a result of having experienced several badly-executed sexual health classes in high school, I am familiar with examples of how not to approach sexual health education For instance, the classes I attended have all been centered on heterosexual issues, usually skirting the topic of gay sex entirely. Classes were entirely fact based, with homework assignments requiring students only to fill in the blank with one or two word answers. The lack of discussion was counter-productive. My goal, should I become a peer counselor, would be to foster as much open discussion as possible. Students can be educated about sexual health only when they’re asked to think about the issues and consider them in personal terms. I think this is in line with Grinnell’s approach to education (both academic and social) in general.

Although I have never participated in a program as a counselor or peer educator I have some experience communicating ideas of sexual health education reform through my contributions to the blog Women’s Glib (http://www.womensglib.wordpress.com). This experience has proven quite useful in forcing to me to think about how best to communicate about sexual topics.

The blog, started by my good friend, has become quite successful in a short time. It has received attention from feminist authors (such as Jessica Valenti, and the bloggers for “Feministe”) The blog was also recently featured in Mother Jones magazine. Connections to these resources could be extremely beneficial to SHIC.

2.I am interested in becoming a peer counselor because I have become interested in exploring the field of public health as a career. I firmly believe that health and medicine are important social issues, and that everyone should have access to information on these subjects. My interest is partly due to an eye-opening experience this summer, attending an amazingly successful sexual health class which took a very different approach than classes I had attended previously. Student participation made all the difference. When teenagers opened up to each other the fear and the stigma of “the sex talk” disappeared. We even got to a point, as a class, when we were debating heavy ethical issues passionately and quite comfortably. I think that peer counseling helps create a much more laid back atmosphere in an otherwise notoriously uncomfortable (though it mustn’t be) situation.

Before I found out about SHIC, I had been planning my own sexual health education club for Grinnell. It was my intention to partner with a local hospital and high school and have Grinnell college students teach sexual health classes to teenagers in the community. When I heard about SHIC, it seemed like an obvious choice for me. I would love to gain experience as a peer counselor, helping students at Grinnell first and then to taking my knowledge to the community. Perhaps at some point later on SHIC can expand to the community level.

Another project I would like to pursue is to create an SHIC blog, with as much sexual health information on it as possible, as well as discussions about health education reform, etc. This could be in conjunction with Women’s Glib, or stand on its own. The internet is too good of a resource to neglect, and SHIC could probably benefit from utilizing it if it has not already.

(Skipping 3 because it’s about my schedule. Boring.)

4.Confidentiality is obviously of the utmost importance for an organization like SHIC. Without the promise of confidentiality, no one would come for help. Confidentiality is the basis of trust and respect between counselors and students, values which SHIC could not exist without. I see confidentiality as somewhat black and white. Anything that is said in the SHIC stays in the SHIC. Obviously, I will adhere to any SHIC or Grinnell College rules about reporting violence or any other kind of sexual misconduct, but ultimately I believe that as adults, we are all entitled to make our own decisions.

5.I think I am a strong candidate for a peer counselor position because I am a very open and talkative person. I would imagine that my primary role as a counselor is to listen and assess, but I think I can make people very comfortable with talking about whatever they need to discuss. I welcome new people quite well, and really love to discuss sexual health. This, I think, shows in most of my conversations on the topic. I think my biggest weakness is the fact that I wouldn’t ever want to give people advice or information that they don’t want to hear. This is obviously something I would have to do, and I’m fully prepared to deal with that. With time it may get easier, but it can be pretty heart breaking sometimes to be the bearer of bad news. My only method of compensating for this is to grit my teeth and deal with it in as sensitive a manner as possible. This weakness should really only affect my comfort level, not whomever I am counseling.

6.I think the hardest counseling session would be with someone who is unwilling to make their own decisions, and unwilling to divulge important information. A counseling session should, in my opinion, be a dialogue. When it is one sided it is impossible to tell how effective a counselor you are. A counselor’s job is not to make decisions for their peers, but to talk things through, listen, and aid the student being counseled in his or her decision making. I would assume that that as a counselor, my primary goal would be to aid my peer in the whatever way he or she needs, within reason. If that means, talking about stuff other than sexual health to break the ice a little, or listening to them vent about their relationships, so be it. I would also try to stimulate the conversation by asking the student to come in with a list of possible solutions, or questions he or she might have to get things moving.

7.I think that the most important thing to learn about sexual health is that it should in no way be a taboo topic! Obviously all the facts about STIs and birth control methods etc. should be available. However, I think discussing the societal aspects of sexual health is equally important. Lastly, I think it is absolutely necessary to convey the idea that sex is fun, and you are supposed to feel good when engaging in any sort of sexual behavior. Sex should not be a commodity under any circumstances. These values are absolutely necessary to pass on to anyone who is willing to listen.

History of Infant Feeding in the US

July 31, 2009 § Leave a comment

Hi AGAIN! I’m on a roll.

This is a paper I wrote last semester for my US Women’s History class. It’s a little stiff (because I was dying to graduate) but I find the subject matter extremely interesting. Also, I cite my mommy, lactation consultant Bev Solow!

Enjoy!

Choices: Abortion

June 30, 2009 § Leave a comment

Coming up next week is another of NARAL Pro-Choice New York’s Choices events.

Choices: Abortion
Wednesday, July 8th
6:30 PM- 8:30 PM
NARAL Pro-Choice New York
470 Park Avenue South, 7th Floor, NYC

NARAL Pro-Choice New York and the National Institute for Reproductive Health in partnership with co-sponsors the New York Abortion Access Fund and Exhale presents Choices: Abortion.

Presenters will share the work they do each day to provide financial assistance to low-income women who cannot afford to pay for an abortion, support and counsel women after they have an abortion, ensure that all women have the health care coverage and access necessary to obtain reproductive health care, and work on the legislative and political levels to ensure that all people have access to safe and legal abortion.

Presenters include:

Event is free and open to all with RSVP to Lalena Howard at lhoward@prochoiceny.org or 646-520-3506. Event space is wheel-chair accessible.

I hope to make it, and I’d love to see lots of people there!

Our State Senators, the “Feuding Junior High Schoolers”

June 26, 2009 § 3 Comments

It’s been two and a half weeks since the feud in the New York State Senate began up in Albany. The Times broke the news on June 8:

Republicans apparently seized control of the New York State Senate on Monday, in a stunning and sudden reversal of fortunes for the Democratic Party, which controlled the chamber for barely five months.

A raucous leadership fight erupted on the floor of the Senate around 3 p.m., with two Democrats, Pedro Espada Jr. of the Bronx and Hiram Monserrate of Queens, joining the 30 Senate Republicans in a motion that would displace Democrats as the party in control.

The quite possibly illegal coup has had ramifications for many legislation, including a proposed bill to legalize same-sex marriage that has been stalled indefinitely. It has also suspended a vote on the Reproductive Health Act, a bill that will codify Roe v. Wade into New York state law and establish political standards for reproductive health legislation.

Kelli Conlin, president of NARAL Pro-Choice NY and the National Institute for Reproductive Health, writes:

With passage of this legislation, every woman in New York would have been assured that her fundamental right to choose abortion would be protected. Critically, the Reproductive Health Act would also have clarified that a woman would be allowed to have an abortion if her health or life was endangered. The bill, which has been loudly debated for three years, was going to be voted on quietly and respectfully so that each senator could fully vote his or her conscience.

But two days earlier, the Republicans — with the help of Sen. Pedro Espada and Sen. Hiram Monserrate, both Democrats, ostensibly — engineered a coup that took down the pro-choice Senate leadership and attempted to reinstate the same anti-choice Republicans who’ve been blocking pro-choice legislation for 40 years.

This maneuver appears to have effectively derailed the bill — ironically, as both Monserrate and Espada are co-sponsors of the Reproductive Health Act.

One would think that Monserrate, of all people, might want to make women’s issues a priority. One would think Espada, whose health center serves low-income women, might want to make women’s health a priority. One would think that Sen. Dean Skelos, who really ought to be noticing the national trend away from Bush-era extremism, might want to make women’s issues a priority.

Women’s health and rights matter in New York. Polls have repeatedly shown that nearly three quarters of New Yorkers (across all party lines and demographics) support the Reproductive Health Act.

Yet the anti-choice Republican leadership has maintained a stranglehold on the Senate, kowtowing to fringe interests.

The RHA is near and dear to my heart. In fact, as part of my volunteer work with NARAL over the past year and a half, I’ve been collecting petition signatures in support of the bill at street fairs and calling voters to transfer them directly to their district representatives. The week before this free-for-all began, I walked over to my state senator’s district office to hand-deliver almost a hundred petitions from my district alone. Soon after, he signed on as a co-sponsor.

I have been working to make this bill a law because it’s fun, it’s empowering, and it will have incredible consequences for New York’s women. But my commitment to action and dialogue has been completely silenced, while the people we’ve elected to represent us get paid to act like children.

New York did not have one State Senate on Tuesday [June 23]. It had two.

Democrats sneaked into the Senate chamber shortly after noon, seizing control of the rostrum and locking Republicans out of the room. Republicans were finally allowed to enter about 2:30 p.m., but when they tried to station one of their own members on the dais they were blocked by the sergeants-at-arms.

So then something extraordinary — and rather embarrassing — happened.

The two sides, like feuding junior high schoolers refusing to acknowledge each other, began holding separate legislative sessions at the same time. Side by side, the parties, each asserting that it rightfully controls the Senate, talked and sometimes shouted over one another, gaveling through votes that are certain to be disputed. There were two Senate presidents, two gavels, two sets of bills being voted on.

…and again just a few days later:

This feckless bunch in Albany, a k a your state senators, can’t even scuffle properly. Just when you thought they couldn’t embarrass themselves any further, they reduced themselves this week to “my gavel is bigger than yours” gamesmanship and to nyah-nyah name-calling.

“You’re out of order,” cried George H. Winner Jr., a Republican senator. No, shouted back Ruth Hassell-Thompson, a Democrat, “you’re out of order.”

And people think high school students are immature?

Quotes That Are Deeply Disturbing: Coulter on Murder

June 25, 2009 § 1 Comment

The one millionth way that Ann Coulter simultaneously terrifies and disgusts me:

“I don’t really like to think of it as a murder. It was terminating Tiller in the 203rd trimester.

– Ann Coulter on The O’Reilly Factor on June 22, 2009

And may I ask — what the fuck is an “abortionist,” or even an “abortion doctor”? Ann, you can save those extra syllables and just call them doctors — you know, the kind who go to medical school, get certified, and save lives.

via a NARAL Pro-Choice America email.

School Strip Search Was Illegal

June 25, 2009 § Leave a comment

This is a victory for students and members of the general public who are partial to logic:

The Supreme Court ruled Thursday that a school’s strip search of an Arizona teenage girl accused of having prescription-strength ibuprofen was illegal.

The court ruled 8-1 on Thursday that school officials violated the law with their search of Savana Redding in the rural eastern Arizona town of Safford.

Redding, who now attends college, was 13 when officials at Safford Middle School ordered her to remove her clothes and shake out her underwear because they were looking for pills — the equivalent of two Advils. The district bans prescription and over-the-counter drugs and the school was acting on a tip from another student.

“What was missing from the suspected facts that pointed to Savana was any indication of danger to the students from the power of the drugs or their quantity, and any reason to suppose that Savana was carrying pills in her underwear,” Justice David Souter wrote in the majority opinion. “We think that the combination of these deficiencies was fatal to finding the search reasonable.”

Amen. I’m not totally down with the idea that students’ civil rights can be restricted once they step into a school building — or even outside, if they are representing the image of their school — but I am absolutely, fervently against any rights-limiting policy that doesn’t even pretend to be in the interest of someone’s safety. Hell, even if Redding had had two ibuprofen in her frickin’ underwear — who the fuck cares? The priorities of the public school system are sometimes so baffling to me.

Via Feministe.

“With Plan B, they can do it now and deal with it later.”

May 3, 2009 § 12 Comments

Hey, Mike Galanos? Shut the fuck up. Your “commentary” on the tyranny of 17-year-old girls (a.k.a. me) having access to emergency contraception is naive, elitist, and contrived.

In a matter of weeks, teenage girls, just 17 years old, will be able to get their hands on the “morning after pill” without ever talking to a doctor and without their parents ever knowing or being a part of this major decision.

The pills are in my HOT LITTLE HANDS! And one day I will rule the world with them.

Think of a 17-year-old girl. Most of the time she’s a high school senior, still living at home with Mom and Dad. She still needs her parents in the tough times. But they will be cut out of a traumatic situation. All thanks to U.S. District Judge Edward Korman. Korman stated in his order, “The record shows that FDA officials and staff both agreed that 17-year-olds can use Plan B safely without a prescription.”

Why oh why would Korman say that it’s safe for teens to use emergency contraception without a prescription? Gee, maybe because there was no medical evidence from the start that the pill could be dangerous to women under the arbitrarily chosen golden age of 18. 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.

I’m very much like the ghost girl Galanos describes: I’m 17, not a senior but a junior (gasp! so young!), and yes, I do “still need my parents in the tough times” (gotta loathe that Lifetime-esque word choice). But here’s the difference between me and Galanos: I trust young women. I know that we are the only ones who can be sure if our parents are trustworthy, if they’ll support us through whatever “major decision” we make. In an ideal world, of course we’d talk to our parents, not just if we needed to take Plan B, but about all that messy sex stuff: attraction, consent, myriad birth control options, pleasure. But our world is far from ideal. Far too many parents are abusive or just inconsiderate for Galanos’ mandate to hold any value in real life.

And the larger point is, society must help parents, not undermine their rights by keeping them in the dark on their child’s life-changing decision.

Oh, word? You’re playing that card? It works both ways, Galanos. I vote for a culture in which the rights of parents and teenagers are respected, where each side is honest and informed and open-minded. I vote for a culture in which the person in the hot seat – the young woman, in this case – has the ultimate right of choice.

The [pill] is 89 percent effective in preventing pregnancy when it’s taken within 72 hours of unprotected sex. It’s no surprise that Planned Parenthood applauds the now broader access to this drug, calling it “a strong statement to American women that their health comes before politics.” I question that, when we are cutting a doctor out of the decision to administer a powerful drug. Timing is essential to the drug’s effectiveness, Plan B supporters say, so getting parents and doctors involved would unnecessarily delay the teen’s ability to pop the pill the “morning after.” Does it really take that long to get a prescription?

Uh…YES. If I get sick, there’s a good chance that my pediatrician can see me within a few days on short notice, but not always. If I needed an appointment to get an EC prescription – if time was a particularly important factor – I’m pretty sure they’d rush me in, but this is a private practice with affluent clients. Who knows what the situation is like for other women? I certainly don’t – but unlike Galanos, I don’t make huge assumptions about that sort of thing. Galanos is effectively asking, “Why are we expanding quick access, when it’s somewhat likely that most women will probably be able to get a prescription within the very small time slot?” What he should be asking is, “How can we make this powerful option available to every single woman who might want it?”

But let’s get back to the first point: We are making it available to high school girls. We’re enabling teenagers to act carelessly with an easy way out. During a recent discussion on my show, Jackie Morgan MacDougall, supervising producer of the Web site Momlogic.com, said it best. “Teenagers are known for thinking they’re untouchable and here we are saying that they can continue to do that and that there aren’t any consequences.” With Plan B, they can do it now and deal with it later.

Don’t tell me high school dynamics won’t play in here. The boyfriend will talk his girlfriend into unprotected sex with the promise of buying the “morning after pill” the next day. Any 17-year-old boy will be able to buy this drug, just as any 17-year-old girl will.

Yes, this could encourage unprotected sex and that means a greater risk for sexually transmitted diseases. What about the 17-year-old girl who may get Plan B for her 15-year-old sophomore friend? These are the kind of decisions high school girls will make.

Korman didn’t stop there. He asked the FDA to consider making Plan B available to girls of any age. That’s a slippery slope and what’s worse, the ones who will fall are our daughters.

Dear readers, I wish I had a witty antidote to this sexist, ageist, slut-shaming, sorry excuse for logic. Unfortunately, I’m only human.

via Feministing.

Quick, Awful Hit

April 25, 2009 § 2 Comments

The Dominican Republic has outlawed abortion. As Cara reminds us, women will die because of these “pro-life” policies.

The Spermicide Search

April 23, 2009 § 2 Comments

A few days ago I was in a drugstore looking to buy some over-the-counter birth control. It was a store I’d never been to, medium-sized, and I looked all over but couldn’t find the aisle where contraceptives and condoms are kept.

Finally I found what I was looking for, all the way in the back of the store on the side of the pharmacy counter – that is, about a foot and a half off the ground. I didn’t know exactly what I wanted to buy, so I sort of bent over, trying to get a better look at the options. But they were so low that I eventually just put myself on the floor in a combination sit-kneel.

I said to my boyfriend, “What the fuck? Why are these things so out of the way?” He agreed. The store apparently has the space to put dozens of bottles of chocolate syrup at eye-level in a regular aisle, but lacks the decency to put life-saving products in a remotely convenient place. The incident really got me thinking about people, like me, who are looking for condoms or BC but who, unlike me (thanks to a good deal of feminist awakening), don’t have the courage to face judgment by asking an employee where to look. My boyfriend pointed out that this policy would particularly affect teenagers, who in my experience want to be as inconspicuous as possible in situations like these.

So as I was paying, I spoke to the manager, who was totally nice and charming and respectful about it. I said, “It took a while for us to find this, and when we did we noticed that the condoms and spermicide products were located all the way in the back and pretty low to the ground. I basically had to sit on the floor to decide what I wanted to buy. It seems like you’ve got a lot of space here. I’m sure a lot of people come here looking for the same thing I was, so I think you should consider moving the products to a more obvious display.” He said he would look into it, and seemed very sincere.

Me: “That felt so badass!”

Boyfriend: “Changing the world, one store at a time.”

Doctors for Teens

April 14, 2009 § 2 Comments

Hey folks – my posting has been light this week since I’m in San Francisco visiting family. But here’s some quick information passed on by Tara from NARAL Pro-Choice New York (one of my fave organizations!).

I thought you’d be interested in this new resource for teens in NYC that NARAL Pro-Choice New York and the National Institute for Reproductive Health are unveiling: Doctors for Teens. This website helps teens find providers they can talk to openly and honestly, who specialize specifically in adolescent needs, and who will respond to teens’ needs confidentially and without judgment. Teens can search by borough to find which providers near them offer things like low-cost service, birth control, HPV testing, and primary care. The site is also available in Spanish.

Unfortunately, it can be very difficult for young women to speak without shame about sex. If you’re uncomfortable talking to your parents or regular doctor about sex, these websites are fantastic resources.

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