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.

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.

Not convinced that we need sex ed?

March 11, 2010 § 2 Comments

Then hit play on this video (by The Sexist’s Amanda Hess) to watch grown men stumble as they try to explain how various methods of birth control work. Highlight: repeated use of the word “ladybusiness” as a substitute for “vagina.”

Sorry, can’t find a transcript. Via Girldrive.

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!

THESE LADIES

February 5, 2010 § Leave a comment

ARE HOT.

Because their little ditty encompasses pro-life, anti-bullshittery sentiments. And because, well, they’re raging grandmas, and that is always hot. So sit back, relax, and let these ladies’ voices TAKE YOU HIGHER.

On a serious note, though, it is fucked up that the Super Bowl will be airing anti-choice ads from that stuuuuuupppidd right-wing group Focus on the Family. Whack. Although, the Super Bowl ads don’t exactly have the best track record when it comes to equality…

It’s just sad that people would get outraged at Janet Jackson’s publicity-stunt nip slip, yet be okay with millions of children (and adults!) being taught an anti-choice message. Priorities?!?!

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!

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